"I remember the days when the singers just sang and left it all in the stories they'd tell, But these days we're in AM country heaven and FM country hell."
Those lyrics are offered up by Mississippi-born and Texas transplant Jason Eady, part of the title track off his fourth album AM Country Heaven.
Truer words have never been sung.
The current state of the music scene in Nasvhille is one where pop and hip-hop influences are morphing country music into something the slips further and further away from its roots.
You'd be hard pressed to find anything resembling a traditional sound on FM country radio today. While that may be just fine for the "new" country fans who've come on board with the influx of the pop-country sound it does nothing for the traditional ear.
There is a wealth of great country music out there just waiting to be discovered. If you're familiar with the Texas and Oklahoma-based Red Dirt music scene, you'll be familiar with a good many of the atists we'll be profiling 'Keepin' it Country' moving forward.
If not, be ready to open your ears, your mind and your wallet to a whole world of music you might not have known even existed.
With that, it's fitting we dive into Eady's AM Country Heaven first.
Eady admitted that this album was a departure from his normal musical stylings. It began as a side project with friend and legendary producer Kevin Welch whom both shared a love of that old-time country sound.
But as the project progressed, more artists and musicians lent their talents to get in on the act. Soon, a full-fledged album began to take shape.
The title track bemoans the current sound eminating from Music Row. As Eady writes, it's "all too damn clean, and polished like stone and they won't sing about cheating or lies."
From liberal use of autotune to laundry-list style songs that serve more as a checkoff of what one must have to be considered "country," a lot of today's lyrics lack substance.
That's not a problem for Eady on this album.
The tempo may be slowed down. The arrangements may be simplified to the bare essentials. But the words and the feeling are far from it.
Take "Old Guitar and Me" for example. Eady sings as man who's finally come to grips with the direction he wants to take in his life. He's figured out the 9-5 race is not for him. He's not out to make money. He longs to be free and all he needs are his guitar, a few songs and a place to play.
The guitar intro screams 70s country.
"Man of the Mountain" is a bluegrass number that features the unmistakable voice of the great Patty Loveless joining Eady in a duet about a man and woman from two different worlds trying to find some common ground and be together.
The more up-tempo trancks on AM Country Heaven are few and far between. But the few found within are keepers.
Take "Sober on the Weekends," with a sound reminiscent of a rocking blues number with a message about a woman who loves her drink but puts it down come the weekend to love on her man. It's not a gripping story, but it's a fun song and a segway to the pain that follows.
If you want emotion in your lyrics, this is the album for you.
From "Lying to Myself" and "Tomorrow Morning" to "Longer Walk in the Rain" you can feel the emotion fill your ears from Eady's vocals.
The pinnacle, and perhaps the best song on the album, is "Wishful Drinking." It's about a man whose gone through countless women and drink to get the one that got away off his mind. But tonight, he's drinking and thinking about her, wondering if she's doing the same for him.
Who hasn't been in that spot. It's easy to relate. The whole album is easy to relate to.
Eady's delivery is smooth throughout. You don't have to strain to hear his vocals over the music. He doesn't have to strain his singing to get his point across. It's effortless.
Just close your eyes and you can picture Eady sitting on a porch, picking the strings and letting his feelings flow seemlessly out through every note.
The album is 12 songs in length and there's not a bad song in the lot. Some are better than others but you'd be hard pressed to find a song you simply don't like.
The Top 5 in my opinion are:
1. Wishful Drinking
2. AM Country Heaven
3. Sober on the Weekends
4. Old Guitar and Me
5. Long Walk in the Rain
But give Eady a listen. You won't regret it.
If you want a sample, head to YouTube and check out his accoustic version of Wishful Drinking. That's how I came to discover Eady's sound.
Then, once you're hooked, head over to www.jasoneady.com and learn more.
Hughes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org