Album Review: The Shotgun Seat 

Michael Monroe Goodman’s ‘The Flag, The Bible and Bill Monroe’ is Traditional Country Gold 

By: Markus Meyer 

Recently emerging in the underground world of country music is traditionalist Michael Monroe Goodman. Hailing from Louisville, Kentucky, Goodman has constructed an album filled top-to-bottom with rich, well constructed traditional country music. Each track represents a throwback to the days of dominant steel guitar, and flows cohesively into the next. 

The Flag, The Bible and Bill Monroe is an album that is both parts fun and serious. It’s a well-balanced project that introduces Goodman as an artist to keep an eye on, as well as one that is fit for repeat listens. Between the abundance of traditional country instruments, and Goodman’s superb vocals, this is a project that reminds us of what country music truly is, and what it should strive to be. 

The album’s best moments are the low-key ones; the heart wrenching ode to his mother who left the family young, “She Was Mine; the simple yet effective “Tinkerbell Love Song”; the autobiographical title track, which depicts sources of hope and inspiration for the narrator. Each one tells a different story, and yet feels completely at home among each other. With well constructed lyrical content, a strong production and brilliant storytelling courtesy of Goodman, they’re all brilliant tracks that come highly recommended. 

The instrumentation also stands out as especially strong throughout, with different sounds showcased throughout. The jaunty “Drunk Again” relies heavily on the banjo, “It Never Rains” features the ever-underrated harmonica, while the steel guitar is a star throughout “If She Knew”. It demonstrates a respect for the roots of the genre, and helps in the developing the cohesiveness of the album. 

This isn’t to say however, that the uptempo’s don’t work. Despite some songwriting that hardly comes off as brilliant, the undeniably country instrumentation as well as Goodman’s enthusiasm elevate them to be tracks more than worthy of a thumps-up. The bouncy “Yay! Friday” and “Maple Inn” are decently written compositions that, while not among the album’s high points, are very much worthy of recognition. 

In fact, what’s perhaps most impressive about the collection is with just how much proficiency each song is done. Whether it be the uptempos or ballads, Michael Monroe Goodman performs each one with tremendous skill. That type of versatility is a rare ability among country performers today, which only further help Goodman establish himself as a standout, even among the underground world. 

When it comes down to it, The Flag, The Bible and Bill Monroe is a well-sung collection of well-written songs that are produced well. There’s no studio bombast, no flashy guitar solos, and the results speak for themselves. This album is what country music should be: well-written, well-sung songs held up by a simple, traditional production. Goodman stripped the music down to it’s origins, and what we got was an album well worth paying attention to. 

In an industry that finds many relying on extravagant tricks and stunts for attention, this kind of music needs to be heard and appreciated. With The Flag, The Bible and Bill Monroe, Michael Monroe Goodman has established himself as a musical force, and someone to watch going forward. He could have big things coming in the future.

Saving Country Music's Most Influential Albums of 2015 

In no particular order, aside from the first dozen or so records being considered the “Most Essential,” here are the 50 albums Saving Country Music deems it necessary you at least give a sniff if you want to get the full musical experience in 2015. That doesn’t mean these are the only worthy country music albums. They are presented in the spirit of filling in the holes between what you may already know about, not to reinforce how you already feel about certain albums or artists. As always, readers are strongly encouraged to share their thoughts on 2015’s most essential albums below.

PLEASE NOTE: This list only includes albums that have been reviewed so far. There are a more good and important albums from 2015 that have yet to be reviewed, and that will hopefully be reviewed shortly and added to this list if deemed fit.

PLEASE NOTE: None of the Album of the Year Nominees are included on this list, so look over there before complaining about omissions.

MOST ESSENTIAL – John Moreland – High on Tulsa Heat

john-moreland-high-on-tulsa-heatFor those tragic songphiles who were done with popular music by late adolescence, started rummaging through their parents’ record collections and taking suggestions from older siblings and cousins about what was cool, and seem to be engaged in a lifelong pursuit of the essence of the listening experience this is the manna, this is the potent stuff that still makes you feel like a listening virgin when you’ve built up such an insatiable tolerance and addiction over the years so that only the purest stuff will puncture you with its raw emotion.

John Moreland is a great songwriter, and High On Tulsa Heat is a great album that will be hard to top in songwriting in 2015. And that’s why it’s worth criticizing, and why Moreland’s music is worth an extra effort to have it be heard. (read full review)

MOST ESSENTIAL – Michael Monroe Goodman – The Flag, The Bible, and Bill Monroe

michael-monroe-goodman-the-flag-the-bible-and-bill-monroeThe Flag, The Bible, and Bill Monroe isn’t a bluegrass album, it is a Michael Monroe Goodman album. Like all albums that distinguish themselves from the herd, Goodman draws from his own narrative for the inspiration, story lines, and the sound in what turns out to be a deep and compelling work, while still overall resulting in one hell of a good time.

With harmonious lead guitar lines, the super tasty steel guitar, some really well-placed female harmonies in a couple of spots, Goodman really went all out on this one and really up’d his game as someone folks show be paying much closer attention to in the classic country realm. It also helps that he’s such an astute guitar player himself. From the heart, from the home, and from old Kentucky, The Flag, The Bible, and Bill Monroe marks one of the standout classic country efforts in the entirety of 2015. (read full review)

MOST ESSENTIAL – Sarah Shook & The Disarmers – Sidelong

sarah-shook-disarmers-sidelongSometimes it takes a bad seed to make good country music. That’s just the way it is. Just how bad Sarah Shook is probably depends on your perspective, but she was born into a good Christian home and raised in a wholesome manner that taught her to do everything in virtually the exact opposite way she eventually did it. Home schooled and only exposed to worship music at an early age, Sarah rebelled when she got the chance and her first band was named “Sarah Shook & The Devil.” Sorry mom and dad, but there was something inside Sarah that had to come out, and though this isn’t devil music by any stretch, it’s certainly not scriptures.

Who knows what whims govern the exiled ghost of authentic country as it scans the fruited plain looking for souls to possess? But it found Sarah Shook in North Carolina, and her destiny was inescapable. Sidelong may find itself in a dark and troubled place much of the time, but it’s good old country music at its heart. (read full review)

MOST ESSENTIAL – Jason James – Self-Titled

jason-james-album“Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” was the question George Jones once asked. Well he may only have two feet, and those might be mighty big shoes to fill and there’s plenty of pairs of them laying around to boot, but Jason James isn’t afraid to try and slip his hooves into some vacated footwear, or at least make music that reminds us of the many greats who’ve passed on and whose legacies are slowly growing dim in the minds of many.

Jason James isn’t afraid to to pen a song in a traditional style and then challenge himself to sing it with the same heart and passion as one of the old greats. Nobody will ever replace George Jones or ‘Ol Hank, but that doesn’t mean others can’t try to reach for that same level of excellence, and pay forward the traditions of country to a new era of listeners who still find value in the classic modes. This is what Jason James does, and with an almost eerie expertise at evoking the styles and sounds of the old greats. (read full review)

MOST ESSENTIAL – Daniel Romano – If I’ve Only One Tim Askin’

daniel-romano-if-ive-only-one-time-askinDaniel Romano delivers the classic country gold in the present day context just as good, if not better than anyone else around can. And when I say “classic country gold,” I’m not talking hard-twangin’ honky tonk, I’m talking Golden Era Countrypolitan stuff

Maybe Daniel Romano is a Canadian weirdo who veers towards having a superiority complex and only shops organic fair trade. But screw it, I don’t care. His music hits on things many of those hard country twangers can’t touch, and like the Golden Era classics he looks to emulate, Daniel’s music has the quality necessary to be timeless. (read full review)

MOST ESSENTIAL – Jamie Lin Wilson – Holidays and Wedding Rings

jamie-lin-wilson-holidays-and-wedding-ringsIf your perspective of the world is run through the thematic view of American mainstream country music, you will come to the precise conclusion that life starts at age 16, and ends abruptly at 24. Whether it’s celebrating those years with mindless and self-absorbed partying, or reminiscing back on those times in sepia regurgitations of Seger and Mellencamp, mainstream country makes sure to let you know that once you wear the cap and gown at college graduation, slip on a wedding ring, or see the plus sign on a paternity test, you’re irrelevant.

Life tends to transpire over a span of 80 years, not just eight. And every moment, every era can be marked by enchantment, discovery, and the poetry of life being recited to the soul as it unfolds in a never ending ribbon of emotional moments. This is the wisdom shared and won by listening to Jamie Lin Wilson’s Holidays & Wedding Rings. (read full review)

MOST ESSENTIAL – Rachel Brooke & Lonesome Wyatt – Bad Omen

lonesome-wyatt-rachel-brooke-bad-omenLike an ancient family photo happened upon in an old box in an attic, with gaunt faces from the late 1800’s all Stoic and staring forlorn into the distance with blurry eyes from being unable to sit still as the exposure took, Bad Omenleaves you with a foreboding feeling well after you’ve left its presence simply from the knowledge that such a haunting thing exists. It unsettles you, but in an way you strangely crave from the juices it stirs.

Aside from some warnings about feyness, this album comes very recommended, and might set the standard for country music artistry in 2015 after all applicants have been heard. Rachel Brooke and Lonesome Wyatt uphold the standards they set with their first record, while evidencing growth as part of the new effort as well. (read full review)

MOST ESSENTIAL – Roo Arcus – Cowboys and Sunsets

roo-arcus-cwoboys-sunsetsBeneath the surface of Australian country, traditional artists still fight for attention and find it amidst both Australian and international listeners. Roo Arcus is one of those traditional country artists, and one who can quiet American naysayers arguing an Australian can’t birth authentic country songs, and not just from the songs that his life has inspired, but the country lifestyle Roo Arcus leads.

Forget the country of origin, Cowboys and Sunsets is one of the best traditional country albums released so far this year, and reminds you of a time when country music gave you a warm feeling, not just from nostalgia, but through speaking straight to your heart about life’s joys and obstacles in a manner that will never go out of style. (read full review)

MOST ESSENTIAL – Blackberry Smoke – Holding All The Roses

blackberry-smoke-holding-all-the-roses-coverYes, yes, and yes. Blackberry Smoke comes rip rearing out of Atlanta, GA with their asses on fire, delivering this power packed, rockin’, country-fried brand new offering called Holding All The Roses that doesn’t let up, doesn’t give in, and keeps spitting out flavorful hooks, delicious riffs, and infectious grooves one after another, all adding up to one hell of a good time worthy of immediate repeat and strong recommendations to friends and loved ones.

Maybe not as much country as some will hope for, but as many good times and as much good music as you can expect from any outfit, Holding All The Roses stands out as simply one of the most enjoyable listens this cantankerous and hard-to-please critic has had the pleasure in listening to for a long while. (read full review)

MOST ESSENTIAL – Ryan Bingham – Fear and Saturday Night

ryan-bingham-fear-and-saturday-night1Fear and Saturday Night might be Bingham’s best album yet. This is an album of all peaks and no valleys. As the perfect experience for the classic rock buff hiding in every country and Americana fan, Bingham scrapes the grime off the sweaty denim of 70’s Stones and douses it with a little Dylan poetry set to grooves left in the residue of a Faces studio session and articulated with riffs that awaken the spirit of a freer time in music. Though more interpreting than original musically, Bingham puts a personal stamp on the material by bringing his own experiences to the lyricism, while the infectiousness of the guitar licks make just about everything hard to hate.

It’s hard to not think of Ryan Bingham as new because he comes from the next generation of Americana performers. But he’s proven over the last eight years, he’s not an upstart anymore, he’s a stalwart of the subgenre. (read full review)

MOST ESSENTIAL – Kacey Musgraves  – Pageant Material

kacey-musgraves-pageant-materialRegardless of how you feel about Kacey Musgraves, her music, her politics, or the ideologies she espouses, she symbolizes nothing short of a victory in the effort to save country music. To have a major label artist release an album like Pageant Material, full of traditional country leanings and songwriter-based material, is a sizable leap forward for the genre. And this is not just from some 2nd or 3rd-tier star who is destined to be on the wrong side of seeing the attention she deserves come to fruition. Forget about mainstream country radio, Kacey Musgraves is a perrenial Female Vocalist of the Year candidate now, and a former winner for Album of the Year and Song of the Year from the industry’s highest institutions.

Pageant Material feels like the album Kacey Musgraves wanted to make. No compromise, no half measures. Pageant Material is a solid effort, and delivered slightly above expectations. (read full review)

MOST ESSENTIAL – Brandi Carlile – The Firewatcher’s Daughter

brandi-carlile-the-firewatchers-daughterThe Firewatcher’s Daughter is the best album Brandi Carlile has ever released, and one of the best albums of 2015. Chalk it up to finally having the unfettered creative freedom of an independent label partner, the lapse in time between releases that reached its most elongated point in her now decade long career to allow the songs to maturate naturally, or just blame the fire of inspiration burning brighter than ever, but this record is an energetic and engaging effort of songwriting and spectacular performances and production from cover to cover. It’s a career-defining record.

The Firewatcher’s Daughter may not be classified as country, but it could be, and probably should be, or at least should set a standard for how to take country and roots music in a new direction without clipping the ties to the original roots of the music, and doing so in a way that inspires and enhances the feelings of life, instead of automating them into mundane audio patterns. (read full review)


Saving Country Music Review of FBBM album 

Saving Country Music

In music, there’s these little cracks and crevices where certain artists or albums tend to fall and get lost, or hide from ears that would be eager to hear them if they only knew they were there. As music continuously becomes more cluttered from the endless choices and the advent of being able to stream virtually every song ever recorded at any moment, this problem becomes even more compounded. Some of what you find in those forgotten crevices are like the refuse in between couch cushions—old popcorn kernels and bubblegum wrappers. And other times you unearth a gem.


Some artists like the Outlaw-leaning Jackson Taylor seem to fit into numerous scenes, but ultimately tend to get overlooked by all of them, almost to a comical level. Neo-traditionalist throwback Michael Monroe Goodman fits in a similar classification. The Kentucky native gives up nothing to his fellow artists doing their part to preserve the roots of classic country music. His 2013 record Unbreakable Heart was an excellent effort, but Saving Country Music had a devil of a time getting anyone to pay attention.


Perhaps it’s because Goodman isn’t out there for 280 dates a year hitting the honky tonks, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t spending plenty of time on stage reviving the spirit of country music. Along with being a musician and songwriter, Michael Monroe Goodman is a stage actor. Previously starring as Johnny Cash in the famous Million Dollar Quartet production, he now reprises the Man in Black in Chicago’s award-winning Ring of Fire musical, which finds Goodman leading the cast.


Michael’s last effort was a mix of traditional country and rockabilly, just like the early career of Johnny. But this new effort, The Flag, The Bible, and Bill Monroe centers around a country legend that hits a little closer to home. Michael’s middle name of “Monroe” is no coincidence. His parents were friends of the Father of Bluegrass, and they received Bill’s personal blessing to give Michael his middle name. Goodman spent many weekend nights backstage at the Opry while growing up—even if he was too young to know what a privilege it was to be in the presence of such greats at the time.


michael-monroe-goodman-the-flag-the-bible-and-bill-monroeBut The Flag, The Bible, and Bill Monroe isn’t a bluegrass album either, it is a Michael Monroe Goodman album. Like all albums that distinguish themselves from the herd, Goodman draws from his own narrative for the inspiration, story lines, and the sound in what turns out to be a deep and compelling work, while still overall resulting in one hell of a good time.


On his previous record, one possible flaw was it was hard to tell where Goodman the actor ended, and Goodman the musician began. That’s why there’s always an element of suspicion when an actor turns to music. Is it just an extension of a persona? Is the musician just acting, or is this their true self? With The Flag, The Bible, and Bill Monroe, Goodman leaves absolutely no room for questioning his intentions.


In moments he’s brutally honest about his history. “Drunk Again” is about his father, and finds Goodman ferreting out personal family flaws for use as inspiration. It’s only topped in emotional draw by the brutally candid, yet beautifully touching “She Was Mine” about his mother. By being so courageous and frank about her failings, he does greater honor to his mother than all the meaningless platitudes ever uttered by sons do cumulatively since the beginning of time.


Just like Daniel Romano and some other neo-traditionalists, Michael Monroe Goodman is gifted with that classic sense of perspective that allows him to see the world through the eyes of the 60’s era, and then use that to interpret modern, and eternally-relevant themes. “I’m Just Country” is a damn anthem, and “Concerts in My Underwear” is a song that would have become a standard if it had been released in the Countrypolitan era. However when Goodman sings a song like “The Flag, The Bible, and Bill Monroe,” you don’t have to second guess if you’re hearing the irony of a hipster. This is straight from his heart.


And the music and production are excellent. With harmonious lead guitar lines, the super tasty steel guitar, some really well-placed female harmonies in a couple of spots, Goodman really went all out on this one and really up’d his game as someone folks show be paying much closer attention to in the classic country realm. It also helps that he’s such an astute guitar player himself.


From the heart, from the home, and from old Kentucky, The Flag, The Bible, and Bill Monroe marks one of the standout classic country efforts in the entirety of 2015.

Two guns up.

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Syracuse Article on My Faith 

'Ring of Fire' actor/musician finds greater purpose in performance through faith

American music icon Johnny Cash renewed his Christian faith after a long battle with alcohol and drug addiction. According to "Johnny Cash: The Biography" by Michael Streissguth, the reemergence of religion in Cash's life electrified the musician's artistry. From then on, Cash started working on gospel-oriented projects such as the book, "Man in White"; a film, "The Gospel Road"; and an album, "The Holy Land".  

Actor/musician Michael Monroe Goodman in Syracuse Stage's "Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash", is also a man of Christian faith. Similar to Cash, Goodman faced many challenges growing up, an alcoholic father and emotionally distant mother due to mental illness, and turned to religion as a means to survive hardship.  
"I grew up with a lot of confidence and support issues," said Goodman. "My mother was clinically depressed and was never there for me. And though my father was a Godly man, he wasn't able to be the father he wanted to be because of his alcohol addiction."

As a result, Goodman spent most of his youth navigating life on his own, looking to religion for the support and confidence he desired.  

"It was only because of my faith that I was able to come into my own as a person and performer," said Goodman. "When I was a teenager I didn't have any social skills because of my toxic home life. It wasn't until I reached my 20s, that I really started studying the gospel and developing a relationship with God that helped build a confidence within myself to overcome the kind of negative stigma I grew up with. It was through my relationship with God that I felt like I could hold my head up high and live through my struggles."

Goodman further explained how his faith gave him the encouragement to pursue a career in music and entertainment.  
"Once I realized that I could sing I felt like I was in sync with what God wanted from me," said Goodman. "A lot of times as humans we get caught up in our own thinking, as if we somehow know all of the answers to everything, especially about our purpose in life. But many times the answers haven't formulated yet, so to me, my faith helps guide me towards those answers."
After spending many years as a musician in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, Goodman moved to Chicago to study acting, improv and comedy at 30 years old. Chicago was also where the aspiring performer pursued musical theatre and was first cast in "Ring of Fire." The Chicago production of the show won six Jeff awards (the equivalent of a Tony Award in Chicago).
Goodman said he believes it's an individual's personal journey that shapes his or her own faith. For Goodman, that meant finding self-assurance in who he was as a performer.

"Everyone's relationship with God is different," said Goodman. "You don't have to attend a certain style of church or practice a certain type of tradition to have a personal relationship with God. I know for me, I always knew I had a gift to be an entertainer, but often found it difficult to believe in myself. But once I found my faith, I really started believing in the gifts God had given me and gained the courage to look towards taking bigger steps in my career."

Those bigger steps, according to Goodman, involve continuously seeking opportunities in music and performance. Goodman explained that performance and music are what connect him to his faith.

"I always feel like I'm closest to God when I'm performing," said Goodman. "It's similar to being a preacher who feels compelled to speak about a certain aspect of the bible, someone in the congregation always ends up touched by it, and so by performing I'm also touching other people's lives and brightening their day somehow."

"Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash" runs through June 25. Tickets are available at, by phone 315-443-3275 and in person at the Box Office.