Juke Joint Jumpin’ is a recurring feature in which we loosely go through some of what has been in our listening rotations lately, with the primary purposes being to discuss various eras in country music history, offer recommendations, and to talk anecdotally about why these songs connect with us.
Hey, y’all, Andy here. Thrilled to be joining Zack here at TMD. You may remember me from our days at Country Music Minds back in 2016-2017. You may also know me from places like Twitter and Pulse Music Board over the years as the guy with the fox for his avatar. With that out of the way, let’s get at it!
(Editor’s note from Zack: I’m thrilled to be writing with Andy again and hope y’all enjoy his contributions to TMD. Juke Joint Jumpin’ was inspired by his own Classic Cuts from the aforementioned Country Music Minds, so it’s a perfect full-circle moment!)
John Prine – We Are The Lonely (written by Gary Nicholson & John Prine)
One thing I’ve always been bad at is being a completist and listening to all of an artist’s output, even for my very favorites. I thought I had listened to all of John Prine’s work, but I somehow overlooked 1995’s Lost Dogs + Mixed Blessings until recently. I instantly fell in love with this album and regard it as one his very finest. While there are almost certainly “better” songs in the collection like the exquisite “Lake Marie”, I confess it is the irreverent, zany humor of tracks like “Quit Hollerin’ at Me” and “We Are The Lonely” that really tickle my pickle. “We Are The Lonely” is one of Prine’s heaviest, rock-leaning tracks, and the lyrics detail a bunch of strange, flawed people who are all lonely in their own way. A line like “worthless ruthless toothless man, wants wealthy woman with a plan” is something that could only ever be found in a John Prine song, and his sardonic delivery is pitch perfect.
Larry Jon Wilson – Ohoopee River Bottomland (written by Larry Jon Wilson)
I saw the excellent Heartworn Highways documentary a few years ago, and one of the few artists featured in it I did not recognize was Larry Jon Wilson, a cult figure in country music history if there ever was one. He released four well-regarded albums in the 1970s, quietly retired from the music industry, only to return and release one last album in 2008 two years before his death. This opening title track from his debut album puts me in a great mood instantly. With Wilson’s low, smooth, growling vocals and a groovy country-soul-funk sound, “Ohoopee River Bottomland” is an infectiously good time.
Suzy Bogguss – Picadilly Circus (written by Paul Kramer)
2003’s Swing is not exactly the most essential entry in Suzy Bogguss’s discography, but it’s an album I always turn to when in I’m the mood for a light, breezy affair. Bogguss departs from her usual country-folk style and releases a set of pop-jazz swing tunes, of which “Picadilly Circus” is my favorite. I just love the imagery of strolling around London during a romantic rainy night, visiting the circus, falling in love and having a night you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Musically, probably not a song for all country fans, but one I happen to like.
Bradley Walker – Love’s Tombstone (written by Carl Jackson & Jenny Yates)
I’ve seen people rave about Walker’s 2006 debut album Highway of Dreams every now and then over the years, and I just checked it out for the first time recently. So many modern traditional releases leave me with a “been there, heard it done better before” feeling, but I have to say the material here is decidedly superior to most. “Love’s Tombstone” is a fantastically written and performed stone cold country heartbreak ballad about drinking away and eulogizing a love that has died. It’s in the vein of classics like “Don’t Our Love Look Natural” and “The King is Gone (And So Are You)”.
Mandy Barnett – Now That’s All Right With Me (written by Kostas & Tony Perez)
As I write this, Mandy Barnett has just been invited to be the newest member of the Grand Ol’ Opry. Possessing a fantastic voice reminiscent of Reba McEntire and Patsy Cline, she never received the radio success her talent warranted, but her albums are widely considered to be hidden gems by those knowledgeable of ’90s country. Her debut album, released when she was all of twenty, draws material from top-shelf writers like Jim Lauderdale, Jamie O’Hara, and Willie Nelson. I particularly enjoy this uptempo pop-country number penned by Kostas & Tony Perez. An exalting expression of love with an earworm chorus, it’s a mystery to me how this wasn’t a big hit. It was also recorded by Chris LeDoux and Ronna Reeves.