Drive Me Wild (1999) – Sawyer Brown
Likable enough pop country that will stay in your head for exactly the duration of the album and no longer. One strange exception: 800 Pound Jesus, which is not exactly a modern hymn, but has a nagging groove and a surprisingly effective pay-off.
Sings 22 Favorite Hymns (1983) – Tennessee Ernie Ford
One either has an affinity for this style of gospel or one doesn’t. I don’t particularly. All soothing organs and soaring choirs, it tends to put me to sleep, so utterly reverently dull is it. But Ford’s voice is nothing if not distinctive and his delivery actually saves a few of the arrangements. His Abide with Me in particular is a keeper, though it doesn’t replace Judy Collins’ version.
The BBC Sessions (2000) – The Who
These BBC Session albums just keep blowing my mind. Everyone’s probably heard the Zeppelin and Hendrix editions, but don’t forget Cream, which may be the best. Also no slouch? This one, which features The Who performing some great stuff live in the BBC studio. Thing you never knew you wanted to hear: Boris the Spider turned into an ad jingle. Live takes brim with energy, old standards come roaring back to life and, yeah, they do Substitue and Dancing in the Street back to back. Call me crazy, but that’s what you’re looking for, right? Get this album.
Shock’n Y’all (2003) – Toby Keith
I confess to finding the title of this album kind of great. None of the rest of the album is really much good. Keith is a bit too hardcore redneck for me. There’s Outlaw Country and then there’s Obnoxious Country and Keith is the latter, not the former, no matter what he thinks. Most of the songs are stupid, including the huge hit I Love This Bar. If I Was Jesus is what passes for a gospel song in Keith’s world and it’s not much of one. There are a couple of surprising moments; American Soldier is a surprisingly clear-eyed look at sacrifice; “I don’t want to die for you,” the titular character says at one point. And The Taliban Song is a completely strange artifact written from the perspective of an Afghani husband and wife who are glad to see the Taliban gone. It’s better than Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue, I give it that. On the whole, this album is one you can painlessly skip.
The Judgment (1989) – Kingsmen
Not the garage rock band that had the hit with Louie, Louie; the southern gospel quartet that does southern gospel about better than anyone else ever has. When they hit, as on this album, no one does it better. Up-tempo, southern style gospel music that delivers a good time. This album is a favorite from my teen years. Rediscovering it, it holds up. It’s maybe their best album.