In the last month or two , have been playing a small number of albums in rotation – a few of these are by a select group of excellent contemporary songwriters (Jason Isbell, Jamey Johnson and Mary Gauthier), while the others are by more established artists like Randy Travis and John Anderson.
To start with, Jason Isbell’s Southeastern stands out as one of the very finest albums of recent times. At its best (on songs like ‘Travelling Alone” and ‘Elephants’, it has an emotional candour and raw honesty, which bears comparison with Mary Gauthier’s finest work. Here is one of the other fine songs from that album:
Have only recently discovered Jamey Johnson’s work, but it already seems clear to me that he is one of the best ‘real’ country songwriters in a long, long time. The best of his work combines the emotional candour which was/is central to the work of great country songwriters like Hank Williams and Merle Haggard with a contemporary edge – ‘the smell of tofu’, ‘depression pills’ and ‘cocaine’ in this fine song, for example:
While Mary Gauthier’s new album, Trouble and Love may not be up to the standards of her very best work, there are, nonetheless, some fine songs on it. This one stands out for me:
In recent times, have also been listening a lot to two fine compilations. The first,’ Three Wooden Crosses, showcases Randy Travis skills as a country gospel singer. The title track which could have been merely mawkish in other hands is magnificently performed here:
To finish up here is that superb country vocal stylist John Anderson’s great environmental song, Seminole Wind – one of the very few great songs in that vein which this avowedly ‘conservative’ form of music has produced. Go figure, as they say…