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Carrie Underwood, 'Greatest Hits: Decade #1

forthecountryrecord.com

Fans are impatient creatures. The 'Carebears' (as they call themselves) waited nearly three years for Carrie Underwood's fourth studio album 'Blown Away', and after final single 'See You Again' finished its chart run in early fall 2013, the anticipation for a new record was big. It was originally expected in early 2014, but Carrie's participation in The Sound of Music Live for TV meant that writing and recording schedules got pushed back, and she claimed she wasn't in any rush to get things done. She seemed to spend much of this year working on the fifth album, but on Labor Day announced that she was pregnant, soon after that revealing the release of her first Greatest Hits record and that new material would follow late in 2015. That would make it nearly four years that fans would have had to wait for new music.

Of course, in the interim Carrie has released a new single from the Greatest Hits album, originally intended as part of the new collection of songs, but now 'Something In The Water' has caused a storm at country radio and on the sales charts, hungry fans buying it and requesting it like crazy. As Brantley Gilbert has proved, making fans wait longer for new music results in inflated sales figures when the record does actually come around, but in between it's perhaps unfortunate that Carre's pregnancy (obviously entitling her to some time off from the promotion and touring that a brand new record would bring) has halted new releases from her. This is due to the increasing lack of females at country radio, with Taylor Swift now at pop and Miranda Lambert in a state of limbo after 'Somethin' Bad' (her duet with Carrie) failed to be the huge hit it wanted to be, and her team are delaying releasing a new single to radio ('Smokin' And Drinkin' is the official one, but negativity surrounding its release has pushed back any official add date). In short, country radio needs new material from Carrie and plenty of it, and although 'Something In The Water' is a brilliant song and deserving of all the attention it's getting, the lack of superstar women at the format may have contributed to its high level of success.

So when I delved into the Greatest Hits record, I was a little disappointed. I was under the impression that aside from "Something In The Water' there’d be a few new songs, but the only new one that actually appears is 'Little Toy Guns', with afterthought additions of her famous performance of 'How Great Thou Art' with Vince Gill and writing session worktapes of 'So Small', 'Last Name' and 'Mama's Song'. Nonetheless interesting and enjoyable to unwrap for die-hard fans and even for the more casual listeners, but not a the best substitute for new songs (especially as these particular renditions are so similar to the end product that they might as well just be standard acoustic performances, with the exception of 'Last Name' that is rife with fun mistakes). I am not a super-fan personally but I do have all of Carrie's back catalogue, so for me this double disc record doesn't offer much other than an excuse to peddle something before Christmas and push her back on radio while she's pregnant.

As for the new track 'Little Toy Guns' well there's obviously no denying that Carrie Underwood has the pipes to kick ass. Much of her most celebrated material over the years has utilized that asset in droves, and while she can certainly stomp all over the competition in that respect, some critics have yearned for a softer delivery from the diva. 'Something In The Water' sort of provides that as she drops down to a whisper for the pre-hook, but all the magical effect of that is kind of put into perspective by the big dramatic belting affair that the rest of the song is.

'Little Toy Guns' (written by Carrie, Chris DeStefano and Hillary Lindsey) as usual has a big chorus with verses that built drama and suspense with a hurried, passionate delivery, and by all accounts this is a song that goes for maximum explosion. Built from a combination of hard-hitting 80s rock and early 00's pop production (particularly where the vocal is concerned), there is little country involved here (even with the definition of the term stretched) with the focus instead on a rhythmic style aided by plenty of inter-rhymes. In truth, it's a very well-written song lyrically and Carrie sings the hell out of it, detailing the plight of a young girl whose parents are fighting, and her wishes that words instead were like little toy guns and didn't hurt like they do. Carrie has done the innocent child sympathizer before and it's obviously something that's very important to her, and I welcome any commentary on the subject (as well as this being a generally greatsong), but lately it would be nice to hear something from her that isn't a part of a big pop/rock affair. I understand that the track needed the desperate drama that this mix brings, but it doesn't stop me wishing for more sonic variety at this point when little new material is available.

So 'Greatest Hits: Decade #1' is a little disappointing for me. Sure, she needed a bridge record, but an EP would have done the job just the same. I just hope we won't have to wait too long to hear that long-awaited fifth record.

The Single

Underwood released the album's lead single, 'Something in the Water,' in September. The song is an unabashed message of Christian faith: 'Couldn't fight back the tears, so I fell on my knees / Saying God, if you're there come and rescue me / Felt love pouring down from above / Got washed in the water, washed in the blood.'

The Songs

Underwood's new collection will showcase her past hits, including 'Jesus, Take the Wheel,' 'Before He Cheats,' 'Just a Dream,' 'Temporary Home' and more. It features two new songs - 'Something in the Water' and 'Little Toy Guns,' which Underwood co-wrote with Chris DeStefano and Hillary Lindsey - as well as four songs in never-before-released versions. 'How Great Thou Art' features Vince Gill, recorded live at ACM Presents: Girls' Night Out, while So Small.'

'Last Name' and 'Mama’s Song' are all presented in the original work tapes from the writing sessions.

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Rae Lynn: Me

tasteofcountry.com

The wonderful thing about RaeLynn's debut EP 'Me' is that she makes no apologies for who she is. The five-song release is diverse, original and absolutely sure to further upset haters that were quick to take aim at her after 'The Voice.'

Her fans will love it. In fact, they'll want more. Approach this talented newcomer with an open mind and you'll find sharp songwriting, clever melodies and a needed new female voice for country music to embrace. Aside from the single 'God Made Girls,' the signature song is 'Better Do It.'

"I'm not the cry type / I'm not the whine type / I'm not the wait around a little while you find time type / I'm not the pretty please / Don't leave me / I'm the one that takes the bull by the horns," she sings during this funky, guitar-driven groove that doesn't back off from modern production techniques.

"Ain't no girl in the USA / That wants a little boy who's always afraid / I'm gonna get to leavin' / Better figure out what you're feeling."

Joey Moi is at the helm, showing some range himself. His arrangements leave plenty of air - he's truly tailored a sound just for her.

The divisive 'Boyfriend' returns. 'Kissin' Frogs' and 'Careless' are the other two songs, the latter being the safest of the five. The songs that are missing stand out. Miranda Lambert's tour opener has been playing nearly a dozen songs live and had previously hinted the emotional 'Love Triangle' (about her parents' divorce) would make the cut. She told ToC her next single will not come from this EP, however, so there's hope that beautiful song will find the ears it deserves soon enough.

Key Tracks: 'God Made Girls,' 'Better Do It'
Did You Know?: RaeLynn co-wrote all five songs.

….and….

RaeLynn's 'blondetourage' is growing! The 'God Made Girls' singer has added another yellow furry friend to her household.

The 20-year-old already had one sweet little pup that goes by the name of Dolly (after Dolly Parton). The chihuahua mix is 2 years old and a blonde, just like her mom. This summer, Dolly broke RaeLynn's heart when she went missing near Nashville, but luckily, the chihuahua was found by two local mall workers who took good care of her until she could be returned to the singer.

It didn't take RaeLynn long to realize Dolly needed a friend - another chihuahua, in fact. After eyeing one little boy, who just so happens to be Dolly's brother, the singer knew she had to get him. Of course, also had to give him a country legend's name.

"Dolly loves other dogs and I've been wanting to get her a friend," RaeLynn tells Taste of Country. "I saw Waylon and he was from the same parents as Dolly and he needed a home. I couldn't resist."

Judging by photos and videos on the singer's Instagram, the puppy brother and sister are already fast friends. The two play together and even have their own Instagram account. Waylon, who looks like a lot like Dolly, is irresistible with his big blue eyes.

"It's a blondetourage at my house," adds 'The Voice' star.

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Florida Georgia Line: Anything Goes

There's been no shortage of eyes on Florida Georgia Line as they prepared 'Anything Goes,' their second studio album. The duo rocketed to superstardom on the strength of 'Cruise' and several other hits from 'Here's to the Good Times,' so fans - and haters - wondered if they'd be able to capture lightning in a bottle twice.

'Anything Goes' features 12 songs from well-known and not-so-well-known songwriters. Joey Moi is back to produce, and sonically, he brings what he's famous for: heavy guitars wrapped in club-inspired rhythms and reverb soaked vocals. That said, Florida Georgia Line sample plenty of new styles that will surely surprise fans.

During the past year, Hubbard and Kelley have promoted a "Why not?" lifestyle. They're even said to be beginning a Can't Afford Not To clothing line, based on a hashtag they often use. 'Anything Goes' is reflective of this news, and the songs are reflective of an open-minded approach to creating a truly unique second album.

'Dirt' was the first single from 'Anything Goes,' and Hubbard and Kelley don't downplay it. "That song is a song I think we moved to Nashville to write," Kelley tells the Tennessean. "We didn't write it, but we knew immediately that was our song." The duo explain to Taste of Country that releasing a song with more emotional depth wasn't critical at this point in their career, but it's tough to imagine their popularity not waning without a different style for fans to lean into.

'Sun Daze' seems primed to be the second single. The laid-back, marijuana-friendly reggae groove introduces yet another new style from Florida Georgia Line. "All I wanna do today is wear my favorite shades and get stoned," they sing. The duo tell ToC the word "stoned" may be replaced with "home" for a radio edit.

The Remaining Songs:

'Anything Goes' (Felix McTeigue, Chris Tompkins, Craig Wiseman) - The title track sets the tone for the next chapter of FGL's career. It's "setting the standard of no rules" Hubbard says to 'Today.' Find one of two Alabama name-checks in the very first second of the song. "Victoria's Secret ain't no secret no more," Hubbard sings later on during this riverside party song.

'Good Good' (Hubbard, Kelley, Cary Barlowe, Sarah Buxton, Jesse Frasure) - 'Good Good' is most similar to songs from the duo's first album. "Sippin' seven and seven is seven jeans," they sing, name-checking Shania Twain early on. "Go on and shake your thing like a leaf / Nobody gonna see it but the moon and me."

'Smile' (Chris DeStafano, Dallas Davidson, Ashley Gorley) - Sonically this song stands out with a banjo introduction that leads into producer Joey Moi's favored mix of rock, country and electronica.

'Sippin' on Fire' (Clawson, Matt Dragstrem, Cole Taylor) - Hubbard urges an ex to forget about her boyfriend for a night. There isn't much heartbreak on 'Anything Goes,' but one finds shadows of it here.

'Smoke' (Josh Kear, Tompkins) - Piano and female vocals allow this song to stand out as unique. After the intro, it's sonically similar to many of the others on the album, although the whine of the steel guitar is remarkable. "She'll always float, back through my mind like smoke," Hubbard sings.

'Bumpin' the Night' (Bart Allmand, Tompkins, Clawson) - Kelley takes lead again during parts of this mellow groove. "Two bottles of Bud / Two speakers in the truck / Two people in love just bumpin' the night," FGL sing at the chorus.

'Angel' (Clawson, Hubbard, Kelley, Ross Copperman) - The second half of 'Anything Goes' is packed with mid-tempo and slow love or lost love songs that still pack energy. Lyrically, this song is about as easy to wrap your mind around as any the duo has released.
'Confession' (Clawson, Copperman, Matt Jenkins) - It'd be a shame if 'Confession' didn't end up as a single. The songwriters penned a chorus that's both emotional and sonically satisfying, and Moi does a fine job in amplifying the message. "This is just a moonlight soaked / Ring of smoke / right hand on a cold one confession," Hubbard sings.

'Like You Ain't Even Gone' (Tompkins, Hubbard, Kelley, Clawson) - This track begins with an eruption of emotion from Hubbard. The songwriting team put together a true breakup song that drips with hurt.

'Every Night' (DeStefano, Gorley, Hubbard, Kelley) - The most electro-infused track on 'Anything Goes.' After a half-dozen more subdued songs, FGL finish with one that's sure to sound good near the end of their live set.

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Garth Brooks, 'Man Against Machine': Everything You Need to Know

tasteofcountry.com

Details of Garth Brooks' new studio album had been coming in nibbles until the singer shared all 14 songs with media on Halloween. 'Man Against Machine' is out November 11, and fans shouldn't have trouble getting their hands on it. It's be available at places good music is found, and at GhostTunes.

Album art, tracklisting and which stores will carry it were a few of the details revealed.. Here is everything there is to know about 'Man Against Machine,' Brooks' ninth studio album. He also shared the names of songwriters, and the stories behind why he chose the 11 songs he didn't have a hand in writing.

The Title:

Brooks' reason for naming his first studio album in 13 years isn't subtle. "Music has always been a reflection of where mankind is at the time," he says. "For 14 years, I have watched heart and soul, dreams and individualism, fighting for their very existence in a world of increasing technology. This album is a reminder to all those who dream, work, and fight for what they believe; do not give up your vision."

The country icon has himself taken on the "machine" in recent years, refusing to turn his music over to iTunes or participate in social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. He keeps it real with old-school ways of sharing news; good old-fashioned press conferences and an email newsletter have served as Brooks' favored modes of communication.
During the Oct. 31 press conference he also revealed that the specific "machine" he's staring down in the album's cover photo is a music industry that's become increasingly reliant on technology. Right now the industry makes it hard on itself he says, and songs like the title-track make it clear he's out to fix that.

Sony Nashville

The Single:

The feel-good singalong 'People Loving People' was Brooks' first offering to radio in 2014. The initial response was overwhelming, with nearly every radio station in America spinning the surefire hit for listeners. Since its "street week," the momentum has slowed, but the inspirational mid-tempo track continues to be played with regularity.

"It's people loving people / That's the enemy of everything that's evil / Ain't no quick fix at the end of a needle / It's just people loving people," Brooks says at the chorus. The easy-to-embrace anthem may not be what fans were expecting from such a legendary storyteller, but it's true to the message this singer has been preaching for years.

The Songs:

'Man Against Machine' (Larry Bastian, Jenny Yates, Brooks) - For the first time Brooks named an album after one of his songs. The album's opener is a blue-collar anthem that name checks John Henry during the chorus. Right away fans know he's out to make a statement.

'She's Tired of Boys' (Amanda Williams, Brooks)

'Cold Like That' (Steven Lee Olsen, Melissa Peirce, Chris Wallin) - A tough ballad Brooks thought could have been a Nickelback song. "I could be the train for a change you could be the one tied to the track," he sings.

'All-American Kid' (Craig Campbell, Brice Long, Terry McBride) - The title track almost tells the story, but one has to listen to this tale of a boy growing up on a football field only to choose his country over his dream to feel the impact. It's more conventional Garth Brooks.

'Mom' (Don Sampson, Wynn Varble) - A rip-your-heart-out conversation between God and an unborn baby that's nervous to be introduced to the world. "She'll put you on a path that will bring you back to me," he sings. The singer has a hard time holding himself together while performing this song. He brought the room to tears during a recent performance on 'Good Morning America.'

'Wrong About You' (Adam Wright) - "You were right about so many things that I'm starting to think I was wrong about you," Brooks sings during this love song. It's another straight-forward country love song that's easy to embrace.

'Rodeo and Juliet' (Bryan Kennedy, Brooks) - The uptempo swinger is about a young girls love of the rodeo.

'Midnight Train' (Peirce, Matthew A. Rossi) - Actual train samples add to the drama of this swirling country song. It's about a guy who can't outrun the memory of an ex lover. She haunts him while he sleeps. Brooks called this song "an epic piece for me."

'Cowboys Forever' (Varble, John Martin, Dean Dillon) - Brooks' required cowboy song. There's one on each album, but the singer says this one may be one of the 10 best songs of his life.

'People Loving People' (Lee Miller, Wallin, busbee) - See above. As is true of all of Brooks' music, a streaming version of this song is not available online.

'Send 'Em on Down the Road' (Marc Beeson, Allen Shamblin) - A ballad about raising kids. "You can't cry for 'em / Live and die for 'em / You can help them find their wings but you can't fly for 'em / 'Cause if they're not free to fall, than they're not free at all / And though you just can't bare the thought of letting go / You pick 'em up / You dust 'em off / And send 'em on down the road," he sings.

'Fish' (Wallin, Varble) - A relaxing story about why it's important to keep it simple. It mirrors the well-told story of the Mexican fisherman.

'You Wreck Me' (Stephanie Bentley, Kevin Kadish, Dan Muckala) - Brooks works the high end of his vocals on this song. It begins with a strong piano riff.

'Tacoma' (Caitlyn Smith, Bob DiPiero) - The final song on 'Man Against Machine' may be Brooks' favorite. It's a soulful story he says he feels blessed to sing. Fans who enjoy his old-school rhythm and blues yearnings will appreciate 'Tacoma.

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