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Rootin Tootin: So long, partner

Graphic by: LJ VP LaFiura

I don’t think anyone saw this country music review series getting past its first accidental installment, but here we are, number six. A quick shoutout to our last two outstanding Arts & Entertainment editors, Payton and Abi for making this delirium a reality. 

With this being the last issue for our seniors and a time for farewells and sendoffs, I thought, what better way to go out than by discussing some of the best final albums released by country artists. Below is a collection of retirement tributes and ends to eras as well as nods to things that may have flamed out too soon. Enjoy listening to them and thinking of the great times.

American IV: The Man Comes Around - Johnny Cash

We start this off with one of the most legendary country albums of all-time. American IV: The Man Comes Around was released in November, 2002 less than a year before Cash’s passing in September, 2003 making this his last release that’s not post-humanous. While most of the album was covers, Cash’s vocal style and commitment to artistry make each and every song his own. The perfect example of this is “Personal Jesus”. Originally recorded by Depeche Mode, a version iconic in its own right, Cash and his team turned the song into a bluesy acoustic experience that I see as more versatile in listening mood and greater than the original.

To rave about “Personal Jesus” is not to exclude some other great songs, like “The Man Comes Around,” and above all others “Hurt”. In “Hurt” Cash creates the most gut-wrenching cover of an already deeply emotional song. These tracks set the tone for a very solemn, and cynacally reflective album about looking upon life when you’re older. Given his life story, it wouldn’t surprise many if he had this in mind as his last ever album and if so, what a way to go out.

How They’ll Remember You (EP) - Rascal Flatts

This extended play is an example of how endings can ruin a great thing. How They’ll Remember You dropped during the summer of 2020 following a fall 2019 announcement of the band’s breakup, the title song’s release as a single. “How They’ll Remember You” received plenty of love, topping at number four in the country airplay charts, but most of the marketing went towards the single and their final tour, which caused great songs like “Warmer” “Sip Away” and “Quick, Fast, In A Hurry” to go to the wayside on an EP that peaked at number 35. 

Much of my love for this EP comes from the timing, with me leaving high school behind at the same time a childhood favorite band was walking away from the game. Regardless, this work has a great blend of every style Rascal Flatts could want to play with on the way out, and the title song is a touching remark on what legacy truly means.

Red - Taylor Swift

I don’t feel well educated enough to start discussing “eras,” but I can say this was the beginning of the tonal shift in Swift’s work and effectively the death of “country Taylor”. I could go on and on about how great an album this is, (Who knows? Maybe I’ll get bored this summer and write “Rootin Tootin: So Long Partner (LJ’s Version) (10 Minute Version)”) but let’s just focus on the feel. Whether intentional or not, Swift created the perfect metaphor for how you should be when you depart a major part of your life. The past parts of your life should always be a part of you, but you have to step into new, uncharted waters to grow. This album is no different, blending great country songs like “Red” “Stay Stay Stay” and “All Too Well” with amazing pop numbers like “22” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

On that note, this album is significant for what it did for her later work, creating one of the greatest dynamic duos that music has ever seen, Swift and producer Max Martin. An industry legend in his own right, Martin worked on the two aforementioned pop numbers and “I Knew You Were Trouble” before writing and producing most of 1989 and Reputation with Swift. In both’s incredible careers, it is clear that Swift got the best out of Martin and Martin out of Swift leading into Lover.

Just like it was a wrap for these artists in their country music careers, this it for me. It’s been a pleasure to share so much amazing music with you all and to get into the weeds a bit. I’m sure these columns have at least saved my roommates from hearing some major rants about obscure music topics. Enjoy these and many more. So long partner!


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