About Vickye

Vickye was born and continues to live in England, and discovered country music at the age of 13 through the internet. She loves Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton among others, but Taylor Swift is a secret guilty pleasure because she used to be a proper fangirl! She's in her final year of doing 'Popular Music Studies' at college, loves reading country music academia and has her own blog on country music, For The Country Record. She hopes one day to finally visit Nashville.

Why Sad Songs Are The Best

Why Sad Songs Mean The Most To Me! If I were to bring out a ballpark figure, I’d say that 90% of my favorite songs are sad, or negative in some way. That’s not a reflection on me as a person! I’m probably one of the happiest and smiliest people you’ll meet, but I don’t think I’m alone on this one. Country music was borne out of hard times and heartbreak, serving the needs of the forgetten, underappreciated and non-privileged working class of America, and coming into its own during times such as The Great Depression. For me, part of the appeal of country music is its dedication to being just about the most depressing, most lonesome music you can find. Sad music tells you that you are not alone in how you’re feeling. Sad music indulges you and helps you cry, making yourself feel better. Sad music puts you in the frame of mind that allows you to dwell on the problems in your life and your own inner heartbreak, which you would otherwise ignore and suck it up for the outside world. Sad music makes us more thoughtful human beings. I’ve also found that sad lyrics are some of the most beautiful around. Negative emotions are almost always complex, and the lyrics which reflect that are the most observant yet poetic and artistic that I have yet to come across. While simplicity in music is welcomed, as a big fan of language, I love the way it can be used to delve into the very heart of emotions, to both convey and understand them in equal parts. But sadness isn’t the only negative emotion. Angry songs can provide you with the confidence to stand up for what it right, and allow you to rent your frustrations. For women, angry songs about sexism and poor treatment can give them the strength to rise above it, in addition to producing feisty, sassy songs that on another level are tons of fun. Even hope is a negative emotion. It is, ultimately, dissatisfaction leading to pondering the possibilities of a life lived without that dissatisfaction. When you say “I hope”, you are wishing for something better than what currently exists. But some hope is more determined than others. Often it is frail and a desperate attempt to outlive the dissatisfaction without it deepening into depression; this is a key characteristic of country songs. Take the Pistol Annies latest record, ‘Annie Up’. Songs like ‘Unhappily Married’ and ‘Being Pretty Ain’t Pretty’, perfectly summarize this chronic dissatisfaction, but instead of fighting for better they find a kind of resigned peace in their situation. Kacey Musgraves’ recent release ‘Same Trailer Different Park’ also looks at the lives of ordinary people, but tracks like ‘Silver Lining’ actively strive for better, with even the pessimistic ‘Blowin’ Smoke’ being full of characters who spend their lives dreaming of a different existence. Still, they are all songs of negativity. It is no coincidence that the song often awarded “best Continue reading

The Problem With Award Shows: The Artists Who Should Win And Don’t

Country Music Awards: Who Isn’t Winning That Should? Every time the nominees list for a country award show is announced, there’s always a little bit of controversy. Each fan gets angry if their favorite hasn’t been included, for example the snubbing of Carrie Underwood at this year’s ACM Awards for Entertainer of the Year, or when an artist gets nominated that people feel haven’t earned their place, for example Kacey Musgraves for Female Vocalist of the Year at the very same awards. Everyone has their own idea about who deserves that coveted award, because it’s a simple matter of aesthetics. However, for me, there are a few that pop up again and again as snubbed, and they are as follows. This is just a small selection of a few artists I would like to see winning or being nominated for major awards, and you are welcome to suggest more in the comment section below! Too Many Men? The problem with mainstream country is that the scene is crowded with male solo artists. In comparison, the female and group categories are not picking from such a huge list of artists, and thus we get a very similar selection for each awards show. The duo categories are usually so lacking that Sugarland, who haven’t released an album since 2010, continue to be nominated in each award show on a near-constant basis. They’ve been on hiatus for a good year or more, yet is there any other major label duo who is a clear choice for that nominee spot? True, the award shows should be about good music period, but the fact is they’re part of the corporate machine, and there is simply no other duo that springs to mind to fill that position. However, the male categories are always crowded, and well-known yet still smaller acts like Lee Brice get somewhat forgotten among the rabble. Then there’s a personal favorite of mine, Eric Church, who is now beginning to be recognized, but still encounters the problem of often being nominated and rarely winning. Acts such as Darius Rucker who are hitting #1 on Country Radio get ignored entirely (to my knowledge Darius didn’t even go to this year’s ACMs). Not the Right “Sound”? As for women, Miranda Lambert seems to be on a roll of late winning awards, and clearing up at last year’s CMA Awards. But the Pistol Annies, the band she’s a member of, remain firmly in her shadow, and as far as I know they haven’t been nominated for a single major country award yet (correct me if I’m wrong!). In fact, I feel if it weren’t for Miranda, they wouldn’t be invited to every show, and they certainly wouldn’t have performed with Blake Shelton at the ACMs in April. Ashley Monroe too, also a member of the Pistol Annies, perhaps explained by her more traditional-orientated output, is hugely critically acclaimed and not awarded. But if we’re looking for less traditional sounds that are more likely to be nominated, Continue reading

Eric Church at The Forum, London, April 2013 – Review

Eric Church Brings His Rock and Roll Country LIVE to London – Show Review. If you are a country music fan living in the UK, or know any, it will have been hard to escape the buzz that has been building leading up the Eric Church live show for months. But it was no ordinary country gig buzz; this is the first time he has ever played in the UK, following the fast increasing line-up of acts who have suddenly visited this side of the Atlantic in the past twelve months. Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, The Band Perry, and the inaugural Country to Country festival; yet for many Church was the first less commercial (but still mainstream) country artist to visit, and that was important. There was no support act, so excited fans filled the theater, waiting (perhaps impatiently), until 8:45pm when Eric graced the stage, although they enjoyed screaming at the various sound guys who milled about beforehand. Eric began with ‘Creepin’’, which really got the crowd going, singing along enthusiastically and holding their hands and drinks in the air. About half of the songs played were from his award-winning 2011 album Chief, but he made sure to include older tracks from his previous two albums, like ‘Pledge Allegiance To The Hag’, ‘Lotta Boot Left To Fill’ (which was a huge crowd pleaser in particular), ‘How ‘Bout You’ and ‘These Boots’. During this song half the standing section of the audience took off one boot and held it in the air, two people even throwing theirs on stage. Continuing in the revelry, Eric held the boots in the air during the remainder of the song, and then signed them before throwing them back, no doubt really making someone’s day! Eager and fully enjoying themselves, the crowd were really behind Eric during the show, getting 100% involved in tracks like ‘Keep On’, ‘Sinners Like Me’ and ‘Drink In My Hand’. In response, Eric barely stopped grinning, and seemed genuinely surprised and ecstatic when the audience were screaming every word, a sea of movement as they danced. Although deciphering his Southern drawl was difficult at times when he spoke to the crowd (the microphone blurred his words) he was very interactive, riling everyone up into a huge party, although he kept simply talking to the crowd a minimum, focusing on the music and getting as many songs in as possible. The band disappeared for the acoustic set, that included the 2013 ACMs version of ‘Like Jesus Does’, which was beautiful, and ‘Two Pink Lines’. It really showed Eric’s prowess as a genuine country musician behind all of the crashing guitars and drums, that sometimes gets lost. The atmosphere throughout was incredible, and was brought to an absolute peak when he performed the final song of the night, ‘Springsteen’. I have known nothing like it at any gig I have been to, and many I spoke to afterwards said it was the best show they’d ever seen. Every member of Continue reading

My Top 3 Country Artists and Why I’m A Fan For Life

Guest Post: My Top 3 Favorite Country Artists and Why I Will Be A Fan For Life! For this week’s feature, my editor suggested I write about my top 5 favorite artists. This proved more difficult than I could have imagined; not only to pick them but to limit what I said – we’d be here for hours if I didn’t! My list of favorites go on, but here is a snapshot into my musical loves. I hope you enjoy. 1. Miranda Lambert Several years ago, when I was about 15, I watched a special on the Biography Channel on the women of country music (who knows why they were showing that the in the UK!), and among others, they showed Miranda Lambert, then a bright young star with an attitude and a recent sophomore release. Upon the further advice of friends I checked out her music, and fell in love with the headstrong but vulnerable nature of Kerosene, her debut major label record. ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ was edgier, and it took a while for me to get used to it, my previous favourite artist being Dolly Parton, and it contrasted with Miranda’s self-titled independent release, a far more traditional country effort. But with versatility like that, I was in my element. I was pretty shy in my teens, and Miranda’s attitude, determination and rebelliousness so appealed to me when I was too scared to come out of my own skin. She was feisty, curvy and beautiful, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who disagrees. I have remained a huge fan of Miranda over the years. She does things differently. She’s at the top of the tree but still experiments with new sounds, ideas and technology that’s a little to the left of the mainstream, whilst remaining commercially relevant. I believe every word she sings even though half the time she’s not even written it, and to me that’s worthy of my devotion any day. 2. Brad Paisley In November 2007, the CMA Awards aired in the UK (they haven’t done so since). I was watching for Taylor Swift, but when she was dancing alongside this man playing guitar with another favorite Kellie Pickler, I sat up and took notice. The song Brad was playing was ‘Online’. I instantly went out and bought the album ‘5th Gear’, and it remains one of my favorite albums to this day. Not only is Brad an amazing (too many superlatives) guitar player, he was the first artist I discovered who knew how to incorporate comedy into his songs, and as someone who likes to spend most of the day laughing, this was a big hit with me. I loved his love songs too; the quirky nature of ‘If Love Was A Plane’ and ‘Little Moments’, totally sold me. I now have Brad’s entire album collection, and his CMT Crossroads with John Mayer helped me bond musically with the man I now share my life with (as he has a massive mancrush on John Continue reading

Dolly Parton: What She Taught Me About Being A Woman

Dolly Parton and Everything She Taught Me About Being A Woman! I’ve learned a lot from Dolly Parton. As a woman, I don’t think I’m alone in searching for a role model who accurately represents my own struggles and my sense of overwhelming ambition to escape the confines of a life unsatisfied. Dolly’s ‘rags to riches’ life certainly seems to fit that mold, and you’d be hard pressed to find an interview or public appearance where she doesn’t mention it in addition to its influence in a great deal of her songs. Dolly as a Model of Success. While I haven’t had a personal interaction with the rural experience that Dolly describes, she has been inspiring to me in the motivation to find your way out of a difficult situation, and to want to strive for better. She worked extremely hard to get where she is today, and as someone who was unhappy where I began in life, I find her example very powerful. To view the things she has achieved in comparison to her origins, why should I, with a better start in life than her, not become successful? Dolly as a Star On Her Own Terms. In addition, she has been able to become a global star, be accepted by Nashville but also by legions of fans of other genres, and at times transcend the limitations of country, where perhaps it might have negative perceptions, for example the UK. She has been able to do exactly what she wants, and never appears to have gone by a rule book. I mean, she left a national syndicated television show at the height of its success, only to write one of the biggest selling songs in music about it, become a movie star in her own right and then open a hugely successful theme park. I could list all her crazy achievements here but I might just go beyond my word limit. Dolly as a Rule Breaker. So she has taught me you don’t have to follow the rules, and that brings me to my main point – Dolly taught me so much about being a woman. The thing that’s so remarkable about her success, particularly as a businesswoman, is that she is a woman. To have managed that during the 1970s and 1980s when women were still burning their bras and feminist scholars were abstaining from sex in protest, Dolly dressed up like a small town prostitute and became one of the most respected women in the industry. It is this that taught me the most. Dolly exploited the male perception of female beauty, by exaggerating it, mocking it, and taking the power into her own hands. On the one hand she was selling herself as a sex symbol, yet at the same time shifting the power from men to women and exposing the farce of expectations of female beauty for what it really was. Feminist is perhaps seen as an ugly word (although it shouldn’t be), but Dolly Continue reading

Country Music Delivers Beyond the South

Why I Love Country Music: Reaching Beyond Borders. I have a confession to make: I wasn’t raised on country music. No, it’s not that I just lived in New York and one day took a vacation to Nashville and it was all there in front of me. I mean I’ve never actually been to America. I have lived in England all my life, and being still in my early twenties I have never been able to afford to travel outside Europe. I discovered country music through watching American Idol, the artist who introduced me being Carrie Underwood. Although I tend to dislike country pop now, I still love her and hold her music dear because of the nostalgia I feel for the music I grew up with, through my teenage years. I was 13 at this point; a pop music fan as any young girl is, but being a bit of a social outcast and not really being interested in the rock that my few friends listened to (it was just too aggressive for me), country seemed to hold a happy medium of sorts. To me, the country/pop that I was exploring held more lyrical meaning for someone who was writing songs at the time, and had a lot of pent-up emotions, than pop music did. In addition, it was friendlier than rock music; the hyper-male aggression that that involved just didn’t suit me, being a young, timid, middle class teenage girl. But the more country music I heard, the more it seemed to speak to me; I found Dolly Parton when I was 14 and her girliness yet honed craft of emotional songwriting, combined with her feminine pride and exploitation of conventional female beauty, made sure that she became my idol. She also introduced me to so much other music, particularly that pre-2000 that I had no idea about. I knew nothing of the poverty she had suffered or her rags to riches story in relation to my own life, I knew nothing of life in the South or the kind of middle-of-nowhere small towns that inhabit them. In England, even small towns and villages are no more than an hour or so’s drive away from a city. The geographically extended community of country music was alien to me, yet it was this precise extended community feeling that attracted me. I didn’t connect with many of the people at my school. Isolation is a key component of country music’s appeal; it brings together like minded people who are otherwise miles apart. I felt like I suddenly belonged somewhere, and on the internet nobody is going to judge you. Or at least, it doesn’t feel like they are. With the internet now, increasingly country music fans (particularly the younger ones) are from wider walks of life. Country has lured them because it has promised a friend, something to support them in their toughest times and offer a song to cry to. Online forums and social media are perpetrators of this, Continue reading

Lady Antebellum Downtown New Single Review

Review: Lady Antebellum Offer Up Sassy New Single Downtown! Anyone who knows me knows I am not the biggest fan of Lady Antebellum, it’s just not my kind of music. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I listened to newly released single “Downtown.” The new tune will be featured on the trio’s brand new album set to release later this year. Modern Country and Sass! I can’t say that this song is terribly country but then that’s not what I expect from Lady A anyway. It does, however, have a modern country beat and a lot of tone-y electric guitar work, particularly in the solo, that gives it a swaying bluesy feel. In this respect, it is a great song for the bars and clubs to get people up dancing, and I can see it being hugely popular there. Hillary Scott takes the lead vocals on this one with Charles Kelley backing up, and I think this was the correct decision, as his husky vocals can seem a little too laid back for this kind of track. Instead, Hillary brings out some so far unnoticed sass that a lot of people have been complimenting her on. I mean, we need more sassy females right? This adds a certain sexiness to the song which I’m sure isn’t going to hurt its sales and airplay at all. Smooth Vibe and Punchy Beat. Musically, we have a bassy guitar riff, simple yet effective, and it’s underlying the verses really enhances it, and let’s it fester as an earworm. The pre-choruses strip down to begin anticipation for the release of the chorus, which delivers, with a punchy drum beat, incorporating a variety of bluesy ornaments and flairs. From here, we run into the more interesting second verse, which in true modern country style builds on the drum part, with more decoration and a fuller mix. We also get some counterpart going on with the spoken vocals of the boys showing their appreciation in between Hillary’s vocals and beats of the second pre-chorus. The song appears to be trying to combine a smoother vibe and a more punchy one, if you listen to the way in which the instruments are used; I would say they pull it off. One thing I think country fans will have an issues with, however, is the vocal effects used on Hillary at the end of each chorus. I’m not technically- minded enough to explain what they used, but it does bother me a little and pushes the song more towards the pop domain. Appealing Lyrics! Lyrically the song reminisces of a love where they would always go out Downtown, and party, and hang out, and now their life together is boring and the song’s narrator is itching to get out again, be shown off, and generally have a good time. The line “you might be tired, but I’m not” pretty much sums up the song, and as previously mentioned Hillary’s sass really works here. Maybe this is for the Continue reading

Carrie Underwood Two Black Cadillacs Video Review

Carrie Underwood’s Two Black Cadillacs Video Takes Fans Down A Strange and Winding Road. I’m pretty disappointed in Carrie Underwood‘s new video for single, “Two Black Cadillacs.” Yep, I said it. The song was released as the third single from her most recent album Blown Away back in November, with the video reportedly being filmed then too, but even just two weeks ago Carrie was claiming on Twitter that they were still editing, trying to make it perfect. So as a result, there were pretty high expectations for this video! …And then I watched it. Too Long. At 5 minutes 47 seconds, this is a long music video, but it had been announced that it’d be shot as a short film. S,o I was prepared for the standard couple-of-minute-long intro without music, plus maybe a section around the bridge where the music cut out for another short scene. This is a formula that has been tried and tested and it works. However, what proceeded was not as it should have been. It begins dramatically and suspensefully with expected scenes of winter and a lonely Cadillac come into view. There’s some creepy piano music that I don’t think was necessary but it works okay within the context. However, instead of allowing the suspense to linger and to draw it out properly to instigate a mood, the song kicks in just 20 seconds into the video, and you’re left wondering what they’re going to do with the time. Too Confusing. Much of the first half of the song is filled with multiple-angled shots (including many close-ups) of Carrie driving the Cadillac, the wintery desolate environment, and the funeral. As it progresses, we get a few brief shots of the Cadillac in a different setting, at night, driving down an alley in a city with the headlights beaming on a couple meeting for an embrace, presumably the cheating husband and mistress. Carrie plays the mistress, with another similar-looking actress playing the wife. There’s some lovely scenery, good graphics, great outfits (Carrie is a vampy mistress), nice close-up shots and some well-timed interplay between the two opposing scenes. However, for me, it’s far too slow, there’s too much of the same thing, and I feel like there should be a lot more content. Slowly but surely, we get some plot narrative, with the briefest of shots depicting the wife chasing her husband in one of the Cadillacs during the night scene. It is implied that due to the blasé attitude of the mistress when the Cadillac turns up that Carrie is a decoy for the wife to corner the cheater. Too Strange Suddenly, however, after the end of the third chorus, the music dies down and the sinister piano music from the beginning returns. Although we don’t see the cheating husband being run over, it is implied and there’s even a token ‘crash’ sound against a black screen. I’m already feeling that they’ve ruined the momentum of the song at this point. The piano Continue reading

Jana Kramer Whiskey Video Review

Jana Kramer Releases Official Video for Whiskey: Worth the Wait? Jana Kramer’s second official single from her self-titled debut album, “Whiskey” has been heard over the airwaves for quite some time without any real video. There was a video posted a couple of months ago to her channel, called ‘Kickin’ It With @Kramergirl’, and many websites and blogs assumed THAT was the video for ‘Whiskey’. And, while it’s a nice video, it is rather simple (in fact it’s just one camera shot with nothing much going on in the scene), so I’m glad Jana has released this video too, to let us get to know the song on a deeper level. And that has happened, I think. I was a little surprised by the nature of the video – I just expected it to be about your slightly runaway small-town heart breaker, but instead the video shows scenes of something entirely different. From Jana meeting the guy in a bar, their eyes doing that “I want to sleep with you” thing, and then the guy being ‘called’ (ha, clever play on the lyrics) by another man, only to start punching this other man and getting into a brawl, the rowdy and passionate nature of the relationship is clear. Jana obviously looks shocked at first, but as soon as her love interest returns to her after his brawl, back comes the flirty smile and they go off together. Err, huh? Just an interjection, but I don’t care how cute a guy is, if he starts fights I’m not going to go home with him. Seems like sound advice, as the video ends with said lover being arrested in the middle of the night from the trailer where he and Jana are sleeping. Jana looks betrayed and slams the trailer door as her lover gets put into the police car. Finally, she gets it. Between this start and end scenes we get a lot of Jana looking gorgeous, yet sad and dramatic in various scenes, lying down in her trailer, sitting in the woods with a shawl wrapped round her, it’s standard music video stuff, and I wouldn’t have expected anything less from someone who is also partly selling her sex appeal alongside her music (we have to admit it’s a marketing tactic for many). There are some very obvious interpretations of the lyrics, such as the lover drinking copious amounts of Jack Daniels straight from the bottle, in front of a campfire, symbolizing the fire of the relationship. Something interesting to note about this video is the amount of time it focuses on the passionate kiss between Jana and her on-screen lover. Country music is still a rather traditional medium, so to have this and a brief showing of them taking each others’ clothes off, is quite risqué, especially considering the criticism Shania Twain received in the nineties for showing her midriff. You could say country music has moved on, but there’s still a lack of openly sexual visuals in country Continue reading

Easton Corbin All Over The Road Single Review

Single Review: Easton Corbin All Over The Road, Has It Got The Staying Power? I have to say apart from “Lovin’ You Is Fun” I had never really listened to Easton Corbin. So when I first heard this song, I was bowled over by how purely 90s it sounded (I’d like to clarify that I mean that positively!) Although I don’t listen to any particular artists from the 90s, sometimes I put on 90s country internet radio just to relax with, and if I had heard this song play on it, I wouldn’t have been any the wiser. Easton’s voice has that tonal quality to it, and the production that surrounds it, to make it a real tribute to that sound from 20 years ago. Tribute to 90’s Country, but Modern Too. However, despite the musical era it’s rooted in, there are elements of modernity. For example, the guitar solo reminds me of the songs of some of the biggest stars in Nashville right now. When the final chorus kicks in, the instrumentation is suddenly stripped back to the acoustic guitar playing a melody-based pattern, something which has often been used and is very effective. As expected, the drums then kick in, and the steel guitar and other instruments join it to complete the song as it began. Relaxing Quality But Is That Enough? As a song it’s fairly simple, it’s foot-tapping, head-bobbing, and is perfect for the car radio, or perhaps a bar. However, the beat is slower than other songs of its type, and doesn’t encourage liveliness. Rather, it’s a cheerful, fun song that asks you to chill with a beer for a bit. The melody is simple and easy to sing along to, there’s not a huge range of notes, and it perfectly functions as something to have on while you’re relaxing. Lyrically it repeats a lot of the ideas recycled again and again in country music, about driving with his girl, getting a little frisky, high on life, and not being able to wait until he can get her home. May Not Have Staying Power. This is well and good and I like the song, but it’s not a song I can get very excited about. It doesn’t hit me in any sort of which way, and unfortunately, it feels a little average. Songs to ‘have on in the background’ aren’t necessarily the ones to stick around. ‘Lovin’ You Is Fun’ Easton’s previous release, did so well because it had that catchy hook. Whilst this song has kind of catchy elements, it blends into the wallpaper of country music far more, and I fear it will get lost among the rest. I think it will do fairly well in the charts because Easton’s star is growing, particularly after his previous single being the 8th top selling country song in all of 2012 (according to Billboard’s end of year charts), but it won’t be one that people remember particularly, not as far as I can see. Looking Continue reading