Porkchop

Porkchop’s Catch of the Week

 

porkchop karate

February 8, 2017

Mac Wiseman is one of the legendary voices in bluegrass and country music. After starting as the bass player with country singer Molly O’Day, he moved on to play guitar as a member of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs new band when they left Bill Monroe. Then, Wiseman joined Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys for a time before hitting the road as a solo artist. He also saw great success during the folk revival of the 1960’s. Wiseman’s outstanding career lead to him being inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Nothing need be added to Wiseman’s extensive discography. However, the new album I Sang the Song (Life of the Voice With a Heart) takes a new approach to add to the story of Mac Wiseman.
I Sang the Song (Life of the Voice With a Heart) sprang out of conversations that Mac Wiseman had with songwriter Peter Cooper and Thomm Jutz. Wiseman told stories from over 90 years of life, and Cooper and Jutz paid attention. They penned ten songs that were written directly from the stories that Mac Wiseman shared with them. From the opening track, “The Guitar”, which tells the story of Mac getting his first guitar from Sears, Roebuck & Co., to “Simple Math”, a song that drives home the difficulties of a farming family trying to survive, Cooper and Jutz make you privy to those weekly conversations and recollections of the music legend. In addition to Peter Cooper, Thomm Jutz, and Mac Wiseman, the likes of Alison Krauss, John Prine, Shawn Camp, Sierra Hull, Justin Moses, Jim Lauderdale, Junior Sisk, Sonya Issacs Yeary, Becky Issacs Bowman, Buddy Melton, Milan Miller, Andrea Zohn, and Ronnie Bowman add their talents to this outstanding album.

All of the tracks on I Sang the Song (Life of the Voice With a Heart) gives us an album of all new songs , with the exception of the 1950’s Wiseman tune “‘Tis Sweet To Be Remembered”. I admire the work of Peter Cooper and Thomm Jutz in transforming Mac Wiseman’s life stories into a wonderful collection of songs that brings the 91 year old legend back into the spotlight. I encourage you to explore not only I Sang the Song (Life of the Voice With a Heart), but also Wiseman’s huge discography. God Bless Cooper and Jutz, and God Bless Mac Wiseman.

 

February 1, 2017

WhitneyRose-SouthTexasSuite

I first heard Whitney Rose on one of my many musical treasure hunts, when I discovered her album Heartbreaker of the Year. Her voice and the musical arrangements of that album elicit the sounds of yesteryear. It definitely helped to have The Mavericks’ Raul Malo, a purveyor of the sound of the 1950’s and ’60’s, producing Heartbreaker of the Year. Since the release of that critically acclaimed album, Rose has relocated from her native Canada to Austin, Texas, and become a regular of that town’s legendary music scene. Rumors of a new album have persisted for over a year, and now the wait is over.
Whitney Rose’s EP South Texas Suite showcases her talent’s, not only as a singer and songwriter, but as a producer. This six song EP is a love letter of sorts to her new home. Many times when you admire someone, or in the case, some town from a distance, it is a let down when your finally have your first encounter. It is evident that Whitney Rose’s admiration of Texas has lived up to all her expectations.

“Three Minute Love Affair” is about the magic of a trip around the dance floor, complete with the Tejano accompaniment. “Analog” is a declaration to Whitney Rose’s affinity of the way things used to be, and still are for her. “My Boots” is a fun, steel guitar fueled, sassy song about keeping it real. “Bluebonnets for My Baby” is doo wop meets country song that is perfect for a slow dance with your favorite dance partner. “Looking Back on Luckenbach” is another song drenched in steel guitar that’s sound is pure Texas. “How ‘Bout a Hand for the Band” is an instrumental featuring Rose’s talented band.
South Texas Suite is a great follow-up to Whitney Rose’s critically acclaimed Heartbreaker of the Year. I recommend giving South Texas Suite a listen, and, like me, you may fall in love with Whitney Rose’s musical love letter to the Texas.

 

January 25, 2017

the-infamous-stringdusters-laws-of-gravity-album-cover-art
If you are at all familiar with the Infamous Stringdusters, you know they are a hard group to classify. They use instruments that are associated with bluegrass music. However, to put the Infamous Stringdusters in that box would be not only wrong, but also difficult, and a disservice to the talent that has been documented in their previous seven albums. They have tackled many genres in their discography, including the soulful 2016 release Ladies & Gentlemen. The latest release from the Stringdusters, Laws of Gravity, finds them going back to a much more stripped down songs rooted in bluegrass.
However, I want to make it clear that Laws of Gravity is not a straight bluegrass album. The Stringdusters still do what they always have, and that is stretch out musically, with non-traditional chord changes and syncopation that are reminiscent of a jam band. Songs like “Black Elk” highlight just that. Make sure to watch your speed if listening to “Sirens” while driving. “A Hard Life Makes a Good Song” is the most traditional bluegrass song on the album. “Maxwell” is a song about a hard life, and it does indeed make a good song. The laid back tempo of my favorite song on the album “Back Home”, draws me in. I keep going back to this song when I put on the album. Another great song is “I Run to You”. It puts me in mind of the New Grass Revival, and is a great way to close out the thirteen song album.
I have been an admirer of the Infamous Stringdusters. There exploration of sound throughout their history is not only admirable, but enjoyable. Some fans that like the envelope being pushed in the Stringdusters music, may not enjoy this stripped down presentation. I think there never has been, nor will there ever be, an envelope that can contain the Stringdusters. I find it refreshing to hear the music on Laws of Gravity. I believe it highlights the immense talent of the Infamous Stringdusters, and, most of all, it is an enjoyable ride.

 

 

January 18, 2017

natalie-hemby-puxico

In years past there was much discussion about the role of female artists in country music. We have seen the rise of strong female artists like Carrie Underwood. Then we saw the rise of the female singer-songwriters like Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves. 2016 saw some great albums from female singer-songwriters: Lori McKenna (The Bird and the Rifle) and Brandy Clark (Big Day in a Small Town) just name a few. 2017 is off to a good start in trying to keep up the pace with Natalie Hemby’s Puxico.
If you read liner notes like I do, you may recognize Natalie Hemby’s name. She has written songs for Miranda Lambert (“White Liar” and “Automatic” ),Little Big Town (“Pontoon” and “Tornado”), and Toby Keith (“Drinks After Work”). With the relase of Puxico, the name of her hometown in Missouri, Hemby has served notice that she is more than a writer.
The album has a similar theme, small town life, as other albums of late from female singer-songwriters (see Brandy Clark’s Big Day in a Small Town, and Kacey Musgraves’ Pageant Material). The album starts with the laid back “Time Honored Tradition”. This song about small town life is a great start for this project. “Cairo, IL” is a haunting, beautiful song about a place not to awful far from Puxico, Missori, that is gone, but still lingers in a ghost-like stage. It has my favorite line in the whole album, “nothing moves, but nothing stays”. “Ferris Wheel” has a very traditional country sound. It features a steel guitar throughout. This is my favorite song on the album. “This Town Still Talks About You” is a beautiful song about how small town legends are never forgotten. Again, the steel guitar work on this song is outstanding. “I’ll Remember How You Loved Me” sings the praises of love. When other things have been lost and forgotten, the fingerprints of love remain.
One thing that makes this album different than many other singer-songwriter albums is the use of effects on Hembry’s vocals. This has drawn criticism from some reviewers. Normally, I like a more dry sound to vocals, especially from a singer-songwriter. However, for some reason, this time it doesn’t bother me. At the risk of sounding like a music snob, I think it gives it a feeling of memories recalled in a daydream. It is real, can be felt, but is in the distant past. There are nine tracks in all on Puxico, and I don’t hear a bad song among them. As I have hoped in the past, my wish is that Natalie Hemby’s album be given a chance on mainstream country radio. I do not know if that will happen or not, but I do not think you will regret adding Puxico to your personal music collection.

 

January 11, 2017

dale-and-ray

I was very excited when I read that traditional country disciple Dale Watson and the Western Swing banner carrier Ray Benson were working on a duet album. I am not only a fan of traditional country and Western Swing, but I like the fact that Dale and Ray are rebels. They are not rebellious in an aggressive, in your face kind of way. They don’t really care if Nashville pays them any attention. However, there are a lot of folks that are paying attention.
Their is a lot of humor on the album, Dale and Ray, including the opening track on the album, “The Ballad of Dale and Ray”. There is a lot of name dropping, but Dale and Ray have actually rubbed elbows with the stars they mention. “Feelin’ Haggard” is a beautiful tribute to Merle. You don’t hear a lot of peppy heartbreak songs, but the cover of the Louvin Brothers’ “I Wish You Knew” fits the bill perfectly. “Bus’ Breakdown” is another funny song, lamenting the popular mode of transportation for a touring country artists. They cover Willie’s song , “Write Your Own Songs”, about writing songs and dealing with the critics. “Cryin’ to Cryin’ Time Again” is a new song that references the Bakersfield hits of yesterday. I like “Forget About Tomorrow Today”. It is a great reminder to not worry about the future so much, but enjoy the moment. “A Hangover Ago” is a stone cold country honky tonker that would make any traditional country fan smile. Ray’s love of Western Swing can be heard in “Nobody’s Ever Down in Texas”. “Sittin’ and Thinkin’ About You” sounds like Texas meets Honolulu. The interplay between the guitar and mandolin are outstanding.

The album, Dale and Ray, is everything I expected it to be: Honky Tonk meets Westwern Swing, tons of fiddle and steel guitar, and loads of fun. I know there is more to come from Dale Watson and Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson in their respective careers. However, it is nice to see these two musical rebels join forces to promote great music, and most of all, to have fun while making music. Sometimes music is taken so serious by fans, me included, that the fun tends to be forgotten. Thanks to Dale and Ray for reminding us of that. Long live the Dale and Ray!

 

December 21, 2016

loretta-lynn-white-christmas-blue-1476726333
It is rare for me to review a Christmas album. It is unheard of for me to review 2 Christmas albums in one season, but that is what has happened this year. Earlier I reviewed Kacey Musgraves’ A Very Kacey Christmas, and now it is time for Loretta Lynn’s White Christmas Blue. Let me state for the record that I am not against Christmas music. As a matter of fact, I love it! However, most holiday recordings seem like they are being done for the sake of making a seasonal record. It sounds like they are phoning it in. That is not the case with this year’s choices.
I have enjoyed Loretta Lynn’s 1966 Country Christmas album for years. It still holds up. On White Christmas Blue, produced by Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter Cash, she revisits some of those earlier recordings with songs like “To Heck With Ole Santa Claus”, “Country Christmas”, and classic Christmas songs like “Away in a Manger”, “Jingle Bells”, and “Blue Christmas”. Recording material that has been covered again and again could have ended badly. However, there is something fresh and honest in Loretta’s take on these songs. In addition, the title track, featuring co-writter Shawn Camp on harmony vocals, is a great new song to kick of the album. In total, there are 12 tracks including Loretta’s recitation of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”.
From year to year, I don’t add many new Christmas songs to my collection. This year I have added two albums, including White Christmas Blue. Loretta Lynn is in a very creative and productive place in her career. With her album Full Circle and now White Christmas Blue being such quality projects, it makes me look forward to what is next for Loretta Lynn.

 

December 14, 2016

ned-ledoux-forever-a-cowboy

LeDoux-It is a name that country music fans from my generation first heard Garth Brooks utter in his song “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)”. That was in the days before the internet, so i could not just enter the name into a search engine, and find out instantly who this mystery man, LeDoux, was. Luckily, it was not long until a record company came calling, and we were blessed with “Whatcha Gonna Do with a Cowboy”, “Cadillac Ranch”, and “This Cowboy’s Hat”. Eventually we discovered that Chris LeDoux had been recording since the 1970’s, and, by the way, he was an honest to goodness cowboy, winning the 1976 World Bareback Riding Championship at the National Finals Rodeo. By 2000 he was dealing with illness, and 2005 he left this world. His music holds a special place in the hearts of country music fans that were seeking authentic songs of the west. There were and are still folks singing that brand of songs, but he was their ambassador to a mainstream audience.
Now there is another LeDoux that is making music, and it is a welcome sound to those fans. Ned LeDoux, Chris’ son, has released his first EP on the Thirty Tigers label, Forever a Cowboy. Ned’s mother gave him a stack of his father’s unfinished songs. Ned worked with famed Nashville songwriter and producer Mac McAnally to finish and record the songs. Ned sounds a lot like his father, not just in his vocals, but also in the delivery of the lines. It gave me goosebumps when I heard the first song on the project, “We Ain’t Got It All”, one of two songs co-written by Ned, Chris and Mac, the other being the title track. “Brother Highway”, a song penned by Ned and Mark Sissel, will make you want to hop in a truck, point it west, and drive. A song written solely by Chris LeDoux, “Johnson County War”, tells the story of a real conflict between ranchers and large cattle companies in Wyoming during the late 1800’s. You almost feel like you are there. The final song on the EP is “The Hawk”. This song , written by Ned, is about life after his father’s death, and how even though he is gone, he feels like Chris is still watching over the family.
They say the apple does not fall far from the tree. I would say that is the case with Ned LeDoux. He inherited his father’s vocal chords and ability to paint western scenes in our minds. I hope we hear more from Ned LeDoux in the future. If I still had a tape player, I believe Ned LeDoux’s would be worn out just like Chris’. Once you take a listen to Forever a Cowboy, I believe you will want to add it to your music collection.

 

December 7, 2016

sturgill-simpson-a-sailor

With the announcement yesterday Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth was nominated in the Country Album and overall Album of the Year categories for the 2017 Grammy Awards, I thought it would be worth revisiting the critically acclaimed album.
When a friend of mine introduced me to Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, my mind was blown. I had never heard such a mixing of genres: Waylon-like vocals, outlaw country music and psychedelic sounds. I could not stop listening to the album. I kept the CD in my car’s player for well over a year, taking it only a handful of times. The more I listened to his music, and read about his career, it was apparent to see that Sturgill was doing things his own way, and would continue to do so. A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is a prime example of Simpson’s independent spirit. Instead of taking the safe route, and producing an album that is similar in style to Metamodern Sounds.., he ventured out to tackle a concept album, complete with soulful organ fills, R&B horns ,and orchestral string swells.
The album serves as a letter, if you will, to Sturgill’s young son. The opening song, “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog), is just that; an honest greeting from a father to his son. The next song, “Breakers Roar”, is a beautiful lament and warning that life is, “all a dream.” The musical arrangement almost sounds like a lullaby. “Keep It Between the Lines” is a funky number, that is a father’s warning to his son about some of life’s pitfalls to avoid. It is told from a place of experience. “Sea Stories” is a sailor’s tale of traveling the Far East for the first time. Although a little different than the stories that my grandpa told, it is familiar enough to bring a smile to my face. The much talked about cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” is not just daring, but a great interpretation. It is one of my favorite tracks on this album. For the earlier songs that lay out warnings about struggles you may face in life, “Brace For Impact (Live a Little)” is a father’s encouragement to enjoy life. It reminds me of the speech many of us have heard to have fun, but not too much. I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but toward the end of the song, the guitar sounds like a passing police car with blaring siren. Maybe it’s a warning of things to come if you have too much fun. “All Around You” is a foray into southern soul matched with steel and slide guitar, and strings. Wow, what a sound! “Oh Sarah” is a beautiful, honest love song. “Call to Arms” is a rebellious number that questions the truthfulness of authority. This is a great rocking, R&B number to end the album.
If you were expecting Sturgill Simpson’s next album to be Metamodern Sounds 2, you are in for a surprise. That being said, I respect that he is marching to his own drum. Simpson wrote every song except the Nirvana cover on the album. He also produced the album, his first attempt at that great feat. For me, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is a complete success. The writing is outstanding, the music goes in a different, daring direction, but not for the sake of a new sound. It supports the lyrics. The southern soul, string arrangements, country steel guitar and Sturgill’s voice fit together like perfect puzzle pieces to form this wonderful concept album. I encourage you to take a listen to Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to the Earth.

 

November 30, 2016

brandy-clark

This week I revisit one of the best albums of the year, Brandy Clark’s Big Day in a Small Town. Coming off of her acclaimed 12 Stories album, and earlier success as a songwriter ( Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart” and the Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two”), Brandy Clark put her pen and voice to work on her latest album Big Day in a Small Town. The album has Clark combining her efforts with fellow songwriters Jesse Jo Dillon, Luke Laird, and Shane MacAnally, with whom she wrote five songs on this album. This album deals the themes of small town life.
The album starts with “Soap Opera”. This song is a hilarious look at the drama in a small town, and it is definitely takes an ensemble cast to make this show go. “The Girl Next Door” is the most like the sound Nashville is producing right now, but has the sass and spunk of a Loretta Lynn song with lines like ,”If you want the girl next door/Then go next door”. The feeling that so many people experience when life hits them hard after their high school days are over is expressed in “Homecoming Queen”. Living and praying from paycheck to paycheck is something that so many of us can identify with, and it addressed in “Broke”. “You Can Come Over” is one of my favorite songs on this album, with It’s beautiful piano and soulful organ supporting Clark’s wonderful vocal delivery. It is a song about someone trying to set boundaries with an old flame. “Love Can Go to Hell” uses a clever turn on a phrase to describe what can happen when you are in a relationship that goes bad. “Big Day in a Small Town” is a funny companion song to “Soap Opera”, telling about the stories that make the rounds in the local gossip circle. “Three Kids No Husband” gives a real look at someone who might be the subject of small town gossip, but in reality should be praised for her perseverance. If you are a prude, “Daughter” is not for you. I am not a prude, so this is right up my alley. Wishing a heavy dose of karma on an bad ex-lover made me belly laugh out loud. If there was ever the perfect song title for a country song it would be “Drinkin’, Smokin’, Cheatin'”. It’s from the perspective of someone that tells of all the stuff they don’t do, but if they did do those things, then this is how they would do it. “Since You’ve Gone to Heaven” is a beautiful, but painful song about how life has come crashing down after the death of a loved one.
Brandy Clark has delivered a gem in Big Day in a Small Town. It should satisfy fans of modern country sounds, as well as the fans of thoughtful, well crafted songs. The songs deal with the troubles that can be experienced in a small town. Although some of the characters in the songs seem to be looking for a way out of the small town, I never get the impression that Clark hates small town life. Big Day in a Small Town may be one of the best albums of 2016, when all is said and done.

 

November 23, 2016

ronniedunntattooedheart

There are very few artists that are able to put out albums that are true to the sound and style that made them a star, while continuing to sound modern and fresh. Ronnie Dunn is one of those artist. His latest album, Tattooed Heart, showcases Dunn’s recognizable voice on songs that are in the tradition of songs from an earlier time in his career.
The album is full of great songs, from “Ain’t No Trucks In Texas” to “I Worship The Woman You Walk On” . The title song, an Ariana Grande song suggested to Dunn by his daughter, is one of the most daring ideas in recent memory by a country artist. To cover a song by such a well known non-country artist could have crashed and burned. However, Dunn owns the song. Also there are also guest appearances by former musical partner Kix Brooks on “Damn Drunk”, and former tour mate and collaborator Reba on “Still Feels Like Mexico”. Some other highlights on the album includes “Only Broken Heart In San Antone” and “She Don’t Honky Tonk No More”, a couple of songs that could have been recorded by Brooks and Dunn in the early part of the career.
I enjoy seeing stars from an earlier time in country music making new albums. I always try to give them a listen, and there have been some great albums this year from those types of artists ( see Vince Gill and Steve Wariner, to name a few). Ronnie Dunn’s album Tattooed Heart deserves a listen, not only by the fans, but by radio station music directors across the country. Ronnie Dunn should be played side by side with the stars of today.

 

November 16, 2016

kacey-musgraves-christmas

 

Although I haven’t started playing Christmas music around the house yet, it will not be long. It is time to start looking for new Christmas albums to add my already extensive yuletide collection. This year there are many new albums, but the one that really stands out to me is Kacey Musgraves A Very Kacey Christmas. The album includes several holiday classics as well as four new songs written by Musgraves.
The album features a little bit of the sounds of Hawaii, a little soul, a little bit of the classic sounds of Christmas songs of the 1940’s-1960’s, and a lot of Texas country. Kacey Musgraves tackles standards like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, the Alvin and the Chipmunks’ classic “Christmas Don’t Be Late”, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, and “Feliz Navidad”. There are cameos from Willie Nelson (“A Willie Nice Christmas”), the Quebe Sisters (“Let it Snow” and “Mele Kalikimaka”), and Leon Bridges (“Present Without a Bow”).
There are 12 tracks in all on A Very Kacey Christmas, and this is an album that I will not select tracks off of, and add piece meal to my playlist. This album will be played completely through, and all the way through the holiday season, including New Year’s Eve (it includes “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”). Add this album to your list, check it twice, and have yourself A Very Kacey Christmas.

 

November 9, 2016

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There are many great songwriters in our time. In my opinion, one of the greatest of all time is John Prine. With nearly fifty years of songwriting that has inspired untold numbers of other writers and performers, it seems odd that I would be reviewing a Prine album that is full of covers. However, his latest album, For Better, Or Worse, a collection of duets with his own list of handpicked female collaborators, showcases the longevity of the songs from other songwriters, including Hank Williams, with the honest vocal delivery.
The freedom to select the songs and collaborators is nothing new to John Prine. He has been recording on his own label since the 1980’s. Even without knowing that you can sense it in just listening to For Better or Worse. The names of Prine’s collaborators includes Iris DeMent , Miranda Lambert , Kacey Musgraves, Morgane Stapleton, Amanda Shires, Kathy Mattea, Lee Lee Ann Womack, and his wife Fiona Prine. Some of the standout songs on the album includes
“I’m Telling You” with Hank Williams granddaughter Holly Williams, the Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn song “Who’s Gonna Take Your Garbage Out” with Iris Demint, Hank Williams “Cold, Cold Heart”with Miranda Lambert, a duet with Morgane Stapleton on Vince Gill’s “Look At Us”, and “My Happiness”, a beautiful duet between John and his wife, Fiona.
If you are not familiar with John Prine’s earlier, original work, I encourage you to check it out. Start with his very first album and work your way through his career. Even though For Better or Worse is not a project of original Prine compositions, it is a shining example of great songwriting and Prine’s wonderfully honest vocal delivery. Take a listen to For Better or Worse. You will be the better for it.

 

 

November 2, 2016

steve-wariner

There are some great pickers in Nashville, but some guitar pickers just stand apart from the rest, especially if you are a C.G.P (Certified Guitar Player). That designation was created and awarded by guitar virtuoso. Chet Atkins. As far as know only four people were given the award by Chet: John Knowles, Tommy Emmanuel,Jerry Reed , and Steve Wariner. This Catch of the Week comes to us from one of the C.G.P.’s, Steve Wariner.
The title of Wariner’s 20th studio album, All Over the Map, has a double meaning. Taken literally, it is a nod to his travels to every state in the Union and all of Canada. Many of his travels came from his time touring and playing bass with Dottie West and Chet Atkins. The album title is also an indication of what to expect on the project. There are many different sounds on this album: country, jazz, blues, rock and folk.
Of the albums 12 tracks, 7 of them are instrumentals, including “Nashville Spy-line” featuring the legendary Duane Eddy, and “Down Sawmill Road” with the mandolin playing of bluegrass and country star Ricky Skaggs. There is also “Meanwhile Back in Austin” with Eric Johnson, and Steve’s son, Ryan, on “The Last Word”. Steve also pays tribute to his father with the tune “Mr. Roy”.
If you are a fan of Wariner’s wonderful voice, there is no need to fear. His golden voice, complete with complimentary jazz scat singing, can be heard on songs like “C.G.P.” (featuring Tommy Emmanuel and John Knowles), the boogie woogie laced “Drop Top” (featuring Jack Pearson), and “Way It Goes (featuring Greg Martin).
All Over the Map puts me in mind of some of the Chet Atkins albums I used to purchase Chet’s album, bring it home, and play it all the way through without skipping a track.Then I would repeat the process over and over again. That is what I am going to to do with All Over the Map. I love how seamlessly Steve goes from one genre to another. I recommend you pick up All Over the Map today, and enjoy the journey.

 

October 26, 2016

jim-lauderdale

 

You never know what your going to get with an album from Jim Lauderdale. Well, you do know that you are going to hear quality songwriting, singing and playing. However, you don’t know what style it is going to be: country, bluegrass, soul, gospel, and singer-songwriter. With Lauderdale’s latest album, This Changes Everything,  he is in a honky tonk mood straight out of Texas, Austin to be exact. Lauderdale assembled a great band for this album, including pedal steel player Tommy Detamore, pianist Floyd Domino , bassist Kevin Smith , drummer Tom Lewis , and Chris Masterson.

Although this is the first album of this style, Lauderdale  is not a stranger to Texas country music.  He has written many songs that George Strait, including “We Really Shouldn’t Be Doing This”, a Top 5 hit for King George. Jim includes that song on This Changes Everything, along with a collection of songs that give you the feeling that you are listening to a band at a Texas dance hall. Each song is drenched with steel guitar and fiddle, with the occasional drizzle of piano. From the Texas Swing “You Turned Me Around” to the shuffle of the title track and  “I’ll Still Be Around”, from the tug of the heartstrings in  “It All Started and Ended With You” and the sentimental “Nobody’s Fault”, Lauderdale truly captures the sound of Texas music.

Lauderdale may be one of the few artists that can visit different styles of American music with no flaws. This non-native nails the sound of the Lonestar state as well as he has has tackled bluegrass, soul,  and gospel on his 28 other studio albums.  Don’t be fooled by the album’s title, This Changes Everything. Sure, it is his first attempt at a completely Texas country music sound, but some things never change, like Lauderdale’s expert songwriting and soulful singing.

 

October 19, 2016

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I have to admit that I was not familiar with Brent Cobb, although I should have been. He moved to Nashville to try to make it as a songwriter, and he has had his songs recorded by the likes of Luke Brian, David Nail, and Kellie Pickler. However, Cobb has struck out on his own as a solo artist. His album Shine On Rainy Day was recently released. It is one of the smoothest albums to come out this year.
Shine On Rainy Day, produced by Brent’s cousin Dave Cobb, producer of albums for Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson, is an album that has a the feel of the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. It in not a nostalgic sound by any means. The songwriting and sound is honest and pure. It is also very laid back. Some critics are not fans of the laid back feel. However, with songs like “Solving Problems”, “South of Atlanta” and “Country Bound” being standouts on the album this is one of my favorites of the year.
I hope folks will sit up and take notice of Shine On Rainy Day. Brent Cobb is already known in Nashville for his songwriting, and now for being Dave Cobb’s cousin. Maybe with the new album, folks will recognize him as a performer, too.

 

 

September 28, 2016

 

dwight-yoakam-swimming-pools-movie-stars

Dwight Yoakam has always marched the twang of a different guitar. That is why it is no surprise that his latest album, the much ballyhooed bluegrass based Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…, is , if nothing else, 100% Dwight. I guess I didn’t get the memo that the album was to be filled with bluegrass covers, mostly from Yoakam’s catalog. That is by any means a knock on the album. It just when I heard about this project, and with Dwight’s Kentucky roots, I assumed we would hear Dwight covering Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, and the Stanley Brothers, but you know what happens when you assume.
Dwight covers songs like “What I Don’t Know”, “I Wouldn’t Put It Past Me” , “Two Doors Down”, “Guitars, Cadillacs” with Appalachian harmonies and a who’s who of bluegrass pickers, including Bryan Sutton (guitar), Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Scott Vestal banjo) and Adam Steffey (mandolin). One of the most interesting and talked about songs on the album is Yoakam covering Prince’s “Purple Rain”. If I were not familiar with the song, i would have thought it was a song written to be performed as a bluegrass song.
If you are looking for the bluegrass style that is the norm in modern bluegrass music on Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…, you won’t find it. Again, that is not a knock against the album. Rather, it is a fact that you should know. What I can say about the album is it is a fresh, Appalachian inspired album of cover songs that sounds great. I don’t think that Dwight has ever put out a bad album, and there is no point in starting now.

 

 

September 21, 2016

 

willie-nelson-ray-price

Willie Nelson and Ray Price are two giants in the history of country music. These giants were also friends, and they had worked together over the years. Ray Price recorded the Nelson penned “Night Life”, Willie joined Price’s band, The Cherokee Cowboys, and played bass for a time in the 1960’s. Later the two would be tour mates, and would release the San Antonio Rose album in 1980.
Prior to Price’s death in 2013, he began working on his final album, Beauty Is…. .The legendary Fred Foster was enlisted to produce the album. When Willie Nelson decided to pay tribute to Ray Price, he called on Foster to produce the album.
For the Good Times/ A Tribute to Ray Price features music from his entire career, both the honky-tonk and the more string based pop side. The honky tonk style songs, complete with the Ray Price shuffle, features The Time Jumpers, the western swing based group that includes Vince Gill and Paul Franklin.
The complete listing for Willie Nelson’s For the Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price Track Listing:
1. “Heartaches by the Number” (featuring the Time Jumpers)
2. “I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)” (featuring the Time Jumpers)
3. “Faded Love”
4. “It Always Will Be”
5. “City Lights” (featuring the Time Jumpers)
6. “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me” (featuring the Time Jumpers)
7. “Make the World Go Away”
8. “I’m Still Not Over You”
9. “Night Life”
10. “Crazy Arms” (featuring the Time Jumpers)
11. “Invitation to the Blues” (featuring the Time Jumpers)
12. “For the Good Times”

Sometimes tribute albums feel rushed and forced. That is not the case here. Willie Nelson, the Time Jumpers, Fred Foster, and everyone else involved in this album took a lot of care in offering up this tribute to a country legend. I recommend giving a listen to Willie Nelson’s For the Good Times/ A Tribute to Ray Price.

 

September 14, 2016

 

time-jumpers-kid-sister

I am a huge fan of Western Swing, and therefore I am a huge fan of the Time Jumpers. The group consists of 10 members: Vince Gill (vocals, electric and acoustic guitars), “Ranger Doug” Green (vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar), Paul Franklin (steel guitar), Brad Albin (upright bass), Billy Thomas (drums, vocals), Kenny Sears (vocals, fiddle), Larry Franklin (fiddle), Andy Reiss (electric guitar), Jeff Taylor (accordion, piano), and Joe Spivey (fiddle, vocals). Their latest album, Kid Sister , is in a lot of ways a tribute to former member, the late Dawn Sears, who died of cancer in December 2014.
Actually, Dawn makes her last appearances on this album with “My San Antonio Rose”, as a duet with Dawn’s husband Kenny Sears, and singing harmony on “I Miss You”, a Vince Gill/Ashley Monroe song. Kenny sings the Gill penned “This Heartache”, a song inspired by Dawn’s passing.
The fun “We’re The Time Jumpers” introduces the band. It is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Another song that Gill wrote,
“Honky Tonkin”, ,not be confused the Hank Williams song of the same name , is a great song about someone trading in their old life and settling down.
The Time Jumpers expertly tackle the classic 1950’s song “I Hear You Talkin'”. The “Table For Two” moves away from the Swing to a classic country ballad . They stay with the ballad styling with “The True Love Meant For Me”.
“Ranger Doug” Green’s heartbreaker “Empty Rooms”, and the funny “Bloodshot Eyes” are perfect additions to this album. The latter made me laugh out loud.
The jazzy “Blue Highway Blue” and blues drenched “Sweet Rowena” offer a nice change of pace to the album .
Paul Franklin instrumental “All Aboard” is a great reminder of why he is a perennial nominee for CMA Musician of the Year.
When I heard that the Time Jumpers were coming out with a new album, I could not wait for it to be released. It was definitely worth the wait. Give Kid Sister a listen, and be prepared to tap your toes.

 

 

September 7, 2016

JoshWilliams-ModernDayMan

There have been a lot of albums that have been released in the last few weeks. They are good albums, but, not to sound like a music snob, they don’t meet up to the standards that are required for my recommendation. I take the Catch of the Week very seriously, and will only recommend the best new albums. That is why I am going back to spring of this year to grab this week’s Catch.

(orignaly published May 5, 2016)

Josh Williams is known for his role as the guitarist with the award winning Rhonda Vincent and the Rage. Although a guitarist for the chart topping bluegrass band, Williams, much like Vincent, are also fans of traditional country music. Josh Williams seamlessly blends the two genres on his latest album, Modern Day Man. It should not be such a big deal to blend the bluegrass and country music, but in this day and time it is not done very often. Many in the bluegrass world have an isolationist policy when it comes to their music, probably because they have seen what has happened to country music. They want to hold on the core of music. I can’t blame them. However, the traditional country sounds are a close cousin to bluegrass that have been heard together over the years on recordings by the likes of The Osbourne Brothers and J.D. Crowe and the New South. Bluegrass fans, please sit down. There are drums on this album. Hold on! It is subtle, and does not interfere with the rest of the instruments or vocals. From “Queen Of The County Fair” to “Great Divide” to “Another Town” to “Mordecai”, with the help of producer J.D. Crowe, Josh Williams flawlessly lives in the worlds of bluegrass and country. Although, I do not think that this album should be looked at as bluegrass or country, I know people tend to classify music. If you are going to classify Modern Day Man I think you should classify it as “outstanding”.

 

 

August 31, 2016

 

sturgill simpson
With all the coverage of Sturgill Simpson’s Facebook comments about the ACM Merle Haggard Spirit Award, I thought we would revisit Sturgill’s breakthrough album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. As many of you know, I am a big Sturgill Simpson fan. However , I am not featuring his album as way of giving his most recent comments an amen. Rather,this is a way for those that have not checked out his music to be properly introduced to it. Once you listen to this album, check out his latest album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Now here’s my review from back in 2014:
A friend of mine turned me on to Simpson. I was late to the party, but better late than never. I was not familiar with Simpson or his 2013 debut album, High Top Mountain.
For his sophomore release, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music , Simpson and his band cut an album that has the sound of the Outlaw Movement of the 1970′s, but it sounds fresh. Not a direct impersonation, but rather similar in style, Sturgill Simpson’s voice has a Waylon Jennings quality. Simpson’s songwriting may be the strongest element of the album. I love quality, fresh material, and this album is full of it. Some of my favorite tracks are the Simpson penned “Living the Dream,” and “Life of Sin.” Simpson’s rendition of the Charlie Moore’s and Bill Napier’s trucker anthem “Long White Line” is excellent. He has recently received a lot of attention for the song “Turtles All the Way Down”, which he played on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. But it and all the other songs are pure Sturgill Simpson. .
This album won’t be for everybody’s taste, but if you are a real fan of the Outlaw Movement of the 1970′s, I would recommend at least giving Metamodern Sounds in Country Music a try.

 

 

 

August 17, 2016

 

Cody-Jinks-Im-Not-The-Devil

 

I was turned on to the music of Cody Jiinks by a couple of WLHR listeners. His previous albums have been great, and I have been looking forward to the release of his latest album, I’m Not the Devil. Jinks has been doing things his own way. He writes, sings and plays his the songs he performs. With an outlaw spirit this Lone Star poet has released a true artist’s album. Here are my thoughts on the tracks on I’m Not the Devil:

“The Same”- This song is a great start to the album. It’s a classic broken heart song. Time has moved on, but, good or bad, he is still the same.
“I’m Not the Devil”- Co-written with Ward Davis, this song is title track, first single, and best track from the album. This was written in studio in about an hour. Amazing!
“No Guarantees”- This is one of the few upbeat songs on the album. Despite the title, the song offers one guarantee, and that is “It is going to get hard before it gets easy”.
“No Words”- Some people would say this is a song of cynicism. I think it is a song of learned truths. It’s brutal, honest, and real, concerning everything from disappointment to love.
“Give All You Can”- This is a great song of encouragement. Give what you have to help others. What other reason is there for living?
“She’s All Mine”- I love the steel guitar in this song. This is a love song from deep in the heart of Texas.
“The Way I Am”- A wonderful cover of this Merle Haggard tune. Jinks sounds like he should be singng this tune.
“Chase That Song”- A honky tonk burner with a boogie woogie piano. Chasing the Muse can be as exciting as the story in the song.
“Heavy Load”-Mix fiddle, steel, and twangy, Spaghetti Western guitar with the lyrics in the this song, and you have a memorable songs about living with regret. Oh yeah, add a Bible scripture from Revelations about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Wire Tombstone and cue Wyatt Earp.
“Grey”- This is a stripped down song with just acoustic guitars. Remember, things aren’t black and white. Most times they are grey.
“Church at Gaylor Creek”- This is a great cover song from Billy Don Burns. It’s a trip down memory lane to a simpler time, and one you wish you could really go back to.
“Vampires”- We have all had the kind of thoughts that are addressed in this song. When you look back over your life, there are a lot of broken dreams and what if’s?”.
“Hand Me Down”- If there is one song that typifies why Jinks is classified as Outlaw country, this is it. You may be bombarded by what you’re supposed to do, like or accept, but you don’t have to take it. Make your own decisions, and don’t be afraid to question the norms.

Because Cody Jinks does things his own way, it means no outside interference from a label executive. It can be a double edged sword. You don’t have the publicity that comes with a large record company, but you are allowed to be grow as an artist. I’m Not the Devil showcases an artist that stays true to his country roots because that is what he wants. It’s not to break into mainstream country radio or find success on the charts, but rather to put out a quality album that an artist can be proud of. With that being said, a lot of people have already purchased the album, and there seems to a groundswell of support for I Am Not the Devil. Maybe with the success of artists that are doing things there own way (Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell), hopefully we will see Cody Jinks added to that list.

 

 

August 10, 2016

lori mckenna

It is a doggone shame that talented artists and songwriters practice their craft for many years with very little recognition. That is the case with Lori McKenna. Although recognition has come with the success of songs she has penned, Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” and Tim McGraw’s “Humble & Kind”, McKenna is not a household name, although she should be.
Her latest album, The Bird and The Rifle, was just released. The project sees McKenna team up with producer Dave Cobb, who has worked with likes of Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell. The album includes ten songs that were written or co-written by McKenna.
The songs on this album deal with real subject matter: A troubled marriage (“Wreck You”, “If Whiskey Were a Woman”, and the title track), the realization that things never stay the same with a nostalgic look back (“Giving Up on Your Hometown”and “We Were Cool”), some people never change (“Old Men Young Women”), getting over a bad breakup (“Always Want You”), and looking for a meaningful relationship (“Halfway Home”). Add to that a love song (“All These Things”), and her version “Humble and Kind”, and you have a great record.
McKenna’s ability to tell stories with her writing, and deliver those stories with stark honesty makes The Bird and The Rifle a great album. However, that is allowed to come through because of Dave Cobb’s expert ability to stay out of an artist’s way. The focus is on the stories, and McKenna’s voice. In a world of homogenized, over produced music, albums like The Bird & The Rifle gives me hope about the future of music.

 

 

August 3, 2016

Volume 5-Drifter

As many of you know, I am a fan of bluegrass music. With that being said, you can look back at some of my previous editions of Porkchop’s Catch of the Week and see the bluegrass sprinkled in with the country albums. One of the very early reviews I wrote was on Volume Five’s Voices. I have been waiting on their new album just after that review was posted. Volume Five’s latest album, Drifter,  is here! Just as with all their previous albums, Drifter is a prime example in how to be contemporary while sounding traditional, and that is not an easy thing to do. A little too much in either direction, and you can alienate a portion of the intended audience.
Volume Five consists of Glen Harrell (fiddle & vocals), Harry Clark (Mandolin), Colby Laney (Guitar),Patton Wages (banjo/guitar & vocals),and Chris Williamson (upright bass & vocals), and the guys move effortlessly from one song to another, tackling speedy bluegrass songs like 95 Years, then gently deliver “Because of You”. They also cover the Bill Monroe classic “Tall Pines” and really deliver on the only instrumental tune on the album, “Lucky Seven”.
With Harrell’s smooth lead, and each member’s expert musical skills, Volume Five continues to be one of the most consistent bands in today’s bluegrass roster. I feel as if Volume Five is sometimes overlooked in the world of bluegrass. Year after year, and album after album, Volume Five proves that they deserve to be ranked as one of the top band of the genre. Check out their new album, Drifter, today.

 

July 27, 2016

kree harrison

 

You may be familiar with the name Kree Harrison. She was runner-up on American Idol in 2013. Usually after a high finish on American Idol, you see an artist pushed into the studio for a quick album, so as strike while the iron is hot. Well, that is not what happened with Kree. In fact, I am not exactly sure what happened, but we did not see a quick album turnaround. I, for one, am glad that never happened. I don’t know for sure, but I feel the album would have been a homogenized, pop country CD that would have ended up on my desk as a drink coaster. Now, we have a new album from Harrison that is a quality product, with great writing, playing and singing. Good things come to those that wait.
This Old Thing, Kree Harrison’s new album, is an honest, amalgamation of styles that highlights her great voice, and songwriting skills (she had a hand in writing 9 of the albums’ 13 songs).
From the R&B influenced title track to the steel guitar and fiddle drenched “Something Else”, Harrison is a fresh presentation of music from the Music City. Maybe the fact the album was recorded outside of Nashville, North Carolina to be exact, gives this project the fresh sound.
Kree Harrison’s This Old Thing is a country album that also draws on other influences. As we have seen with other artists that are putting out albums that end up with a country label, This Old Thing highlights a strong influence from the old school R & B side of things, especially horn arrangements (also see Sturgill Simpson). I guess it would be more appropriate to place these albums under the American umbrella. It is a wide umbrella, that includes so many styles of music that are played by musicians on instruments, and not loops created by a slick producer. Long time country music fans want a couple of thing: music with soul, and lyrics that evokes emotions. You will definitely find both of those things in Kree Harrison’s This Old Thing.

 

July 20, 2016

 

earls of leciester rattle and roar

 

Nearly two years since the Earls of Leicester released their self titled, debut album, they are back at as they roll out Rattle & Roar. Just as with their first project, the new album features songs from the Flatt and Scruggs songbook performed by the likes of Dobro player Jerry Douglas, guitarist and singer Shawn Camp, banjo player Charlie Cushman, Jeff White on mandolin (replacing Tim O’Brien from the first album), fiddler Johnny Warren, and longtime Alison Krauss bassist Barry Bales. Rattle & Roar features sixteen songs, not including the “Steel Guitar Blues Intro”.
Here is the track listing for the Rattle & Roar:
1) The Train That Carried My Girl from Town
2) Why Did You Wander?
3) All I Want Is You
4) Steel Guitar Blues Intro
5) Steel Guitar Blues
6) You Can Feel It in Your Soul
7) A Faded Red Ribbon
8) Just Ain’t
9) Mother Prays Loud in Her Sleep
10) I’m Working on a Road (To Glory Land)
11) Will You Be Lonesome Too?
12) Flint Hill Special
13) What’s Good for You (Should Be Alright for Me)
14) The Girl I Love Don’t Pay Me No Mind
15) Branded Wherever I Go
16) Buck Creek Gal
17) Pray for the Boys

There is a variety of songs on this album. You hear the instrumental prowess of the Earls on tunes like “Steel Guitar Blues”, “Flint Hill Special”, and “Buck Creek Gal”. Gospel sounds can be heard on songs such as “You Can Feel It In Your Soul” and “Mother Prays Loud in Her Sleep”. Then there are the stories of heartbreak that are common in bluegrass music in “Why Did You Wander?” and “The Girl I Love Don’t Pay Me No Mind”.
You will not normally hear me praising a group of performers for playing nothing but cover songs. However, there is something different about the Earls. It is not just because I am a fan of bluegrass music. There is something else that makes their albums, and performances interesting and exciting. However, I cannot put my finger on it, but when I hear the music, I am completely engaged to the sound. Pick it Earls!

 

 

07/13/16

MarkChestnut

Fans of traditional country music are going to be pleased with this Catch of the Week. Mark Chestnutt’s latest album, Tradition Lives, tells you what

this album is about from it’s title. This album is soaked in tradition: crying steel guitars, walking honky tonk bass lines, and soaring fiddles.

The album kicks off with a honky tonker, “I’ve Got a Quarter in My Pocket”. The song should get folks on the dance floor pretty quickly.
What country album is complete with a cheating song? “Is It Still Cheating” comes from a collaboration between Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser and Jerrod Niemann.
Some of my other favorite tracks on the ablum include “Lonely Ain’t the Only Game in Town” with it’s honky tonk shuffle, the heartbreakers “Oughta Miss Me By Now” and “So You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore”, the hilarious “Look at Me Now”, “Hot”, a jazzy song that we can identify with during our current heat wave, and the message to Music Row in “Never Been to Texas”. The album features a bonus track titled “There Won’t Be Another Now”, which is a tribute to Merle Haggard.
It has been four years since Chestnutt’s last album, and seventeen years since his last number 1, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”. He was hesitant to cover the Aerosmith song, and, according to reports, Chestnutt left his label after they wanted his next single to be another pop based song. Since then, Mark Chestnutt continued to record albums, and tour, although it was an uphill climb without the support of radio airplay. He has put out some great projects in the subsequent years.
Music is constantly changing. Unfortunately, it changed so drastically from the early 2000’s to current that artists like Mark Chestnutt get left in the dust, through no fault of their own. I, for one, am glad to hear new music from Mark Chestnutt. He has always been one of my favorite country singers. There is no pretense with him. Whether in his songs or an interview, you get honesty. I feel we will never go back to a purely traditional sound on country music radio, ,but you can bet your boots that you will hear it on stations like 92.1 WLHR next to the hits of today. Tradition not only lives, but thrives in the music of Mark Chestnutt.

 

 

07/06/16

edgar loudermilk

 

After stints with Rhonda Vincent and The Rage, Marty Raybon and Full Circle, and Adkins & Loudermilk, Edgar Loudermilk struck out on his own with this current band. I have been anticipating the album from Edgar Loudermilk since I heard the first single, “My Kentucky Home”. Georgia Maple does not disappoint. This album highlights the talents of The Edgar Loudermilk Band, featuring Loudermilk (bass), Jeff Autry (guitar), Zack Autry (mandolin), and Glen Crain (dobro), not only on their respective instruments, but also with their voices.

“My Kentucky Home” was the first single from Georgia Maple. This upbeat number is a great way to start the album. The next song, “Homesick Blues”, has a much darker sound. It is enough to send a chill down your spine. Perhaps my favorite song on the album is “Dreaming Enough to Get Me By”. There is something about the chord progression and lyrics of this song that grabbed me from the first time I heard it. “Georgia Maple” is a classic song that takes us down memory lane. Memories are also what drives “My Home in Caroline”. There is no place like home! The jazzy “I’ll See You in My Dreams” happily swings, and will set your toes to tapping. “Harvest of My Heart” catches your attention from the get go with the harmony lead work from multiple instruments. Talk about smooth as silk! It was great to hear the cover of Don Williams “It Must Be Love”. Yes, kids, before Alan Jackson recorded it, Don Williams was known for this song. Glen Crain’s dobro work on this song is outstanding. You will also hear some great instrumental work on “Blues Ain’t Coming Through My Door”. “Trains Can’t Turn Around” is a traditional bluegrass burner, featuring tight harmonies, and expert picking. “Until Your Love Brings Me Back” is a beautiful love song, and reminds you of the many different sounds and styles that you experience with Edgar Loudermilk’s music. What bluegrass album is complete without a song about the realization that mistake has been made, and is trying to be rectified. You find that theme in “The Letter”.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been anticipating the release of this album since I first heard “My Kentucky Home”. I recommend you giving a listen to Edgar Loudermilk’s Georgia Maple. I also want to encourage you to go out and see The Edgar Loudermilk Band featuring Jeff Autry when they are around our area. You will be glad you did.

 

06/29/16

 

sturgill simpson- a sailor

Usually around Independence Day I take a look back at the albums that have been release this year thus far. We have reviewed some great albums this year including the from the likes of Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, Mary Chapin Carpenter, producer Dave Cobb’s Southern Family and Brandy Clark (be sure to scroll down on this page and read all the reviews for albums from this year). However, if I had to choose one that stands out it would be Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. I thought I would post my review of that album again here at the unofficial halfway point of the year:

 

When a friend of mine introduced me to Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, my mind was blown. I had never heard such a mixing of genres: Waylon-like vocals, outlaw country music and psychedelic sounds. I could not stop listening to the album. I kept the CD in my car’s player for well over a year, taking it only a handful of times. The more I listened to his music, and read about his career, it was apparent to see that Sturgill was doing things his own way, and would continue to do so. A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is a prime example of Simpson’s independent spirit. Instead of taking the safe route, and producing an album that is similar in style to Metamodern Sounds.., he ventured out to tackle a concept album, complete with soulful organ fills, R&B horns ,and orchestral string swells.
The album serves as a letter, if you will, to Sturgill’s young son. The opening song, “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog), is just that; an honest greeting from a father to his son. The next song, “Breakers Roar”, is a beautiful lament and warning that life is, “all a dream.” The musical arrangement almost sounds like a lullaby. “Keep It Between the Lines” is a funky number, that is a father’s warning to his son about some of life’s pitfalls to avoid. It is told from a place of experience. “Sea Stories” is a sailor’s tale of traveling the Far East for the first time. Although a little different than the stories that my grandpa told, it is familiar enough to bring a smile to my face. The much talked about cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” is not just daring, but a great interpretation. It is one of my favorite tracks on this album. For the earlier songs that lay out warnings about struggles you may face in life, “Brace For Impact (Live a Little)” is a father’s encouragement to enjoy life. It reminds me of the speech many of us have heard to have fun, but not too much. I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but toward the end of the song, the guitar sounds like a passing police car with blaring siren. Maybe it’s a warning of things to come if you have too much fun. “All Around You” is a foray into southern soul matched with steel and slide guitar, and strings. Wow, what a sound! “Oh Sarah” is a beautiful, honest love song. “Call to Arms” is a rebellious number that questions the truthfulness of authority. This is a great rocking, R&B number to end the album.
If you were expecting Sturgill Simpson’s next album to be Metamodern Sounds 2, you are in for a surprise. That being said, I respect that he is marching to his own drum. Simpson wrote every song except the Nirvana cover on the album. He also produced the album, his first attempt at that great feat. For me, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is a complete success. The writing is outstanding, the music goes in a different, daring direction, but not for the sake of a new sound. It supports the lyrics. The southern soul, string arrangements, country steel guitar and Sturgill’s voice fit together like perfect puzzle pieces to form this wonderful concept album. I encourage you to take a listen to Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to the Earth.

 

06/22/16

 

Dolly Shine

I am always discovering new artists and groups as I look for albums to review for the Catch of the Week. This week I discovered a group called Dolly Shine. The group gets it’s name from a Spanish phrase used in south Texas, “Dale Shine.” According to their website, the terms means to “give it shine”, but today it “give it gas” or “go for it.” That is just what this band does on their latest album Walkabout. Now, this is not their first album. Dolly Shine actually has a full length album, Room to Breathe, and an EP, All In, under their belt. The group’s latest effort is as pure an Americana sound as there is: lots of country, mixed with bluegrass, rock and blues.
The band describes the album as a concept album of sorts. Each song is individual story, but all from the perspective of a drifter. From the rocking country number, “Blackbird”, to the song of bumping into an old love in “Come Out Swingin'”, from the classic tale of knowing what results will come because of your actions with “Twist the Knife”, to the story of drugs and death in “Snakeskin Boots”, Dolly Shine tells stories that keep your attention, all backed by some of the best roots music this side of the Rio Grande.
I will not use this time to rant against modern country songs that are either about partying, or have their stories covered up by annoying drum loops. There is room for all kinds of music under country music’s umbrella. In my opinion, the umbrella needs to cover more than just Nashville. As it always been, the music scene in Texas survives and thrives behind Nashville’s back (i.e. Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Lyle Lovett). The modern scene has produced some great new music from the likes of Aaron Watson, The Randy Rogers Band and Aaron Einhouse. I can add Dolly Shine to that list, and you should, too. Sit back today, and take a listen to Walkabout.

 

06/15/16

 

brandy clark
Coming off of her acclaimed 12 Stories album, and earlier success as a songwriter ( Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart” and the Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two”), Brandy Clark put her pen and voice to work on her latest album Big Day in a Small Town. The album has Clark combining her efforts with fellow songwriters Jesse Jo Dillon, Luke Laird, and Shane MacAnally, with whom she wrote five songs on this album. This album deals the themes of small town life.
The album starts with “Soap Opera”. This song is a hilarious look at the drama in a small town, and it is definitely takes an ensemble cast to make this show go. “The Girl Next Door” is the most like the sound Nashville is producing right now, but has the sass and spunk of a Loretta Lynn song with lines like ,”If you want the girl next door/Then go next door”. The feeling that so many people experience when life hits them hard after their high school days are over is expressed in “Homecoming Queen”. Living and praying from paycheck to paycheck is something that so many of us can identify with, and it addressed in “Broke”. “You Can Come Over” is one of my favorite songs on this album, with It’s beautiful piano and soulful organ supporting Clark’s wonderful vocal delivery. It is a song about someone trying to set boundaries with an old flame. “Love Can Go to Hell” uses a clever turn on a phrase to describe what can happen when you are in a relationship that goes bad. “Big Day in a Small Town” is a funny companion song to “Soap Opera”, telling about the stories that make the rounds in the local gossip circle. “Three Kids No Husband” gives a real look at someone who might be the subject of small town gossip, but in reality should be praised for her perseverance. If you are a prude, “Daughter” is not for you. I am not a prude, so this is right up my alley. Wishing a heavy dose of karma on an bad ex-lover made me belly laugh out loud. If there was ever the perfect song title for a country song it would be “Drinkin’, Smokin’, Cheatin'”. It’s from the perspective of someone that tells of all the stuff they don’t do, but if they did do those things, then this is how they would do it. “Since You’ve Gone to Heaven” is a beautiful, but painful song about how life has come crashing down after the death of a loved one.
Brandy Clark has delivered a gem in Big Day in a Small Town. It should satisfy fans of modern country sounds, as well as the fans of thoughtful, well crafted songs. The songs deal with the troubles that can be experienced in a small town. Although some of the characters in the songs seem to be looking for a way out of the small town, I never get the impression that Clark hates small town life. Big Day in a Small Town may be one of the best albums of 2016, when all is said and done.

 

 

06/08/16

Mary-Chapin-Carpenter-The-Things-That-We-Are-Made-Of-1024x1024

 

Mary Chapin Carpenter is back with a new album. The Things That We Are Made Of has Carpenter working with critically acclaimed producer Dave Cobb, known for his work with Chris Stapelton, Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell. The thing that makes Cobb’s work as producer stand out is his ability to get out of the artists way, and let them showcase their talents. I have always been a fan of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s singing and songwriting, and this album places those two things at the forefront of it’s presentation.
This album is a reflection on life’s positive and negatives that shape who we are.
“Something Tamed Something Wild” is an exploration of just that; the duality of good and bad in our lives. “The Middle Ages” is not only a reflective song, but one of pondering what the future holds. “What Does It Mean to Travel” and “Livingston” are songs that deal with the solitude, and, sometimes, loneliness or a journey. “Map of My Heart” is a song of perseverance, and strength. It can only be sung by those that have truly been through life’s ups and downs, and come out on the other side. “Oh Rosetta” is a song that deals with the feelings of doubt of everything we do in this life. and ourselves. Other tracks on the album include the contemplative “Deep, Deep Down Heart” , the beautiful and powerful walk down memory lane in “Hand on my Back”, the song about being really being connected to someone with “The Blue Distance”, “Note On A Windshield” is a song of overwhelming vulnerability versus the strength to take action now, and the reflective title track, “The Things That We Are Made Of”, rounds out the album
The Things That We Are Made Of catches Mary Chapin Carpenter doing what she does best: singing and songwriting. She is at her best when she is telling the stories that songwriters tell. The stories that come from personal experience, or at least close observation. This is an album that won’t find it’s way on to commercial radio, but I hope that it finds it’s way into your music collection. It will definitely be in mine.

 

 

06/01/16

Mountain Heart

 

I have followed Mountain Heart from their beginnings as a strictly bluegrass band. They have morphed over the years, and with their latest album, Blue Skies, Mountain Heart has transitioned once again. The group features Mountain Heart veterans Josh Shilling and Aaron Ramsey, along Jeff Partin, Seth Taylor, and fiddler and vocalist Molly Cherryholmes (you may recognize her from the group Cherryholmes). Mountain Heart has always pushed the limits in the bluegrass world, incorporating tunes from the Allman Brothers, Bruce Hornsby and Stevie Wonder into their concerts. However, this sees Mountain Heart performing original songs in many different styles. Mountain Heart seems to move effortlessly from style to style. Here are my thoughts on the tracks from the album Blue Skies:

The album starts with the laid back, toe tapping title track “Blue Skies”. Sometimes it is tempting to put a blistering song as the first track on an album. I like this laid back song as the album opener. It set’s the tone for the rest of the project.
The piano style and vocals on “Miss Me When I’m Gone” puts me in mind of Bruce Hornsby. It is a bluesy, rootsy song
Mountain Heart puts out a nice version of Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm”.
“No One to Listen” is a stripped down, lonesome, songwriter’s ballad. The line “even gypsies need a friend” sticks with you from the first listen. This song shows the diversity of sounds that Mountain Heart possesses.
“She’ll Come Back To Me” is a soul drenched offering from a sad, heartbroken case that is trying to come to grips with the loss of a lover.
“Addicted” is a roots based pop number that agains showcases the many genres the group is able to live in. It will have you chanting “Oh, oh, oh”.
If you didn’t know it by the what you have heard already, “The Bad Grounds” shows that Mountain Heart, as a band, is full of instrumental juggernauts.
“Have You Heard About The Old Hometown” has a southern spiritual sound, and laments the death of a town.
Boogie woogie mixed with jazz featuring bluegrass instruments and a piano is what you will find on “I Can’t Get Over You”. I am a sucker for boogie woogie, so this is quickly becoming one of my favorite tracks on the album.
“Hurting” is a piano ballad dedicated to the many people that experience the pain and disappointment of dealing with real life situations of the world that has changed around them. and not for the better.
In a genre driven musical landscape, it may be hard for some people to get behind Blue Skies, an album that includes so many musical styles, and, in fact, creates it’s own genre. I have no problem with it. If the music is good, and moves you, makes you tap for toes, clap your hands, close your eyes and soak it in, then I am all in. The sky is the limit for Mountain Heart.

 

05/25/16

the honeycutters on the ropes

 

The Honeycutters released one of my favorite albums in 2015 with Me Oh My. It showcased the band’s unique style, identified as Appalachian honky tonk, featuring Amanda Platt’s singing and songwriting style, Rick Cooper on bass, Tal Taylor on mandolin, Josh Milligan on drums, and Matt Smith on pedal steel, electric guitar, and dobro. Now they have released a new album, On the Ropes. It holds true to the standard established on Me Oh My, and in some ways surpasses it.
With the exception of their rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, which is beautiful, all the other songs are written by Platt. I believe her songwriting places her in the day’s upper echelon of writers. I love the interplay between the mandolin and steel guitar, with an organ and piano interwoven as a musical backdrop for the album. It is part of The Honeycutters’ signature sound that carries over from their previous album.
The opening, title track is song’s opening line, “I’ve been making something out of nothing for a long time now”, grabs you from the get go. This song is about someone who has been through tough times, and because of those experiences, is prepared to face tough times again.
“Blue Besides” is a song of encouragement. It reminds us that failures will happen, but do not let failures keep you from getting back up.
“Golden Child” tells of someone that has lived a lot of life, and experienced it’s ups and downs. It does not mean they are ready to get off of life’s roller coaster. Fasten your seat belts.
“The Handbook” is a humorous look at most women’s expectations, or what the handbook says they want. This song features a great piano line, intertwined with Hawaiian steel guitar, and catchy backing vocals.
“The Only Eyes” is a sad love song, expressing the feelings of want when it comes to love. Wanting a better, not perfect, relationship.
“Back Row” has a great harmonica part. The rest of the music on this songs reminds me of a Fleetwood Mac song. It’s not a imitation, especially with the harmonica. The lyrics, as on all the other songs, are outstanding.
“Useless Memories” has a sound from yesterday, but is not a revivalist piece. It is fresh. It a nostalgic look back at things that, when they are recalled, bring some comfort and happiness.
“Piece of Heaven” is a beautifully sad song, in the spirit of country songs of by-gone era. Bartender, I’ll have another.
” While “Let’s Get Drunk” is a perfect song to follow “Piece of Heaven”. It is a toe tapping honky tonk song. There is a no truer statement than, “And if I’m gonna live with with my choices/I expect that I’ll regret at least a few”.
“500 Pieces” is a bitter sweet heart breaker. “Baby, it ain’t hard to see/in the warm glow of the TV screen/ You’re more than the mess they made of you.”
“Ache” is a stripped down, haunting song of pain and loss. I hate to repeat myself, but this is a beautifully sad song.
“Barmaid’s Blues” is the lament of someone working in a late night place, trying to keep the hope alive that things will one day change for the better.

You never know what the next album holds after a previous project gains widespread attention, as Me Oh My . With that apprehension, I was also optimistic that we would receive another dandy from The Honeycutters. Thank goodness that feeling was right. On the Ropes is an album, that offers familiar, but fresh sound that will make you want to listen to it again and again.

 

 

05/18/16

aaron einhouse

 

 

This Catch of the Week was a nice surprise. I have to admit, I was not aware of Aaron Einhouse’s work. However, when I discovered the Austin, TX born and raised singer-songwriter’s new album , It Ain’t Pretty, it set my toes to tapping, and my soul flying.
The music is a mixture of bluesy country, soul and rock and roll. Einhouse’s gruff vocals remind me of other outlaw singers, especially Sturgill Simpson. The songwriting stands out, too. The title track, co-written with Hal Ketchum, that says, “life ain’t pretty but it’s real,” and “I’m here to tell you that it’s all wrong/I’ve been lied to by fairy tales and songs.”What country album would be complete without a cheating song. “My Susannah” is that song for this album. “The Richest Man” is a classic warning song from an older person who has lived enough to offer warnings about life’s pitfalls. My favorite songwriters are those that can tell a story that is easy to see through their words. “The Fall Are of Eli Wilde” paints the picture of a wild, tough man that meets his match in a woman.
Aaron Einhouse’s It Ain’t Pretty captures a singer-songwriter at the top of his game: great songwriting, delivered with great vocals, backed by killer musicians.

 

05/11/16

Aubrie-Sellers

 

I am not perfect. My wife already knows this, and now everyone else does, too. I have to admit that I overlooked this album when it was released. It was not an intentional. I guess the album got lost in the shuffle of the other releases that came out around the same time. I am glad that I did eventually find Aubrie Sellers’ New City Blues.
There is an interesting combination of sounds on this album. Sellers has been quoted as called her music “garage country”. That may the perfect explanation of New City Blues. The music, at it’s core, is traditional country. Sometimes I hear the sounds of the late 1950’s early rock/country crossovers seeping through. Add to that the guitar work, which is sometimes a little on the grungy side, and sometimes a little twangy side.Then there is Sellar’s outstanding voice. She has a pure country sound, that displays a great deal of emotion, which is a requirement in country music. She is definitely making her own way in the music world, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that she is daughter of singer Lee Ann Womack and songwriter Jason Sellers. Also, her step dad is producer Frank Liddell, who also produced this album.
Enough about her lineage. Sellers is standing on her on. In fact, when I first listened to the album, I had no idea of who her parents were. Therefore, it had no bearing on my impression of this album. It is just a great listen! There is not a track on New City Blues that I dislike, however there are a couple that stand out to me: “Sit Here and Cry” and “Liar, Liar”. The unique “garage country” sound of Aubrie Sellers’ New City Blues needs to come out of the garage and into the light, so everyone can hear. Give it a listen today, and spread the word.

 

 

05/04/16

 

JoshWilliams-ModernDayMan

Josh Williams is known for his role as the guitarist with the award winning Rhonda Vincent and the Rage. Although a guitarist for the chart topping bluegrass band, Williams, much like Vincent, are also fans of traditional country music. Josh Williams seamlessly blends the two genres on his latest album, Modern Day Man. It should not be such a big deal to blend the bluegrass and country music, but in this day and time it is not done very often. Many in the bluegrass world have an isolationist policy when it comes to their music, probably because they have seen what has happened to country music. They want to hold on the core of music. I can’t blame them. However, the traditional country sounds are a close cousin to bluegrass that have been heard together over the years on recordings by the likes of The Osbourne Brothers and J.D. Crowe and the New South. Bluegrass fans, please sit down. There are drums on this album. Hold on! It is subtle, and does not interfere with the rest of the instruments or vocals. From “Queen Of The County Fair” to “Great Divide” to “Another Town” to “Mordecai”, with the help of producer J.D. Crowe, Josh Williams flawlessly lives in the worlds of bluegrass and country. Although, I do not think that this album should be looked at as bluegrass or country, I know people tend to classify music. If you are going to classify Modern Day Man I think you should classify it as “outstanding”.

 

April 27, 2016

 

del and woody

 

A group of recently discovered songs from the pen of a legend, recorded by well known modern artists. We have seen this before, sometimes with amazing results. Del and Woody is one that will go down on the side of amazing results. The “Del”is Del McCoury, the legendary bluegrass singer, and the “Woody” is the iconic American songwriter and singer of the 1930’s and ’40’s. The album features songs that Nora Guthrie, daughter of Woody Guthrie, unearthed. Although the songs were completed lyrically, they were never recorded. So, we can only guess what tune Woody had in mind for the songs. That is where Del comes in. Nora saw The Del McCoury Band perform in the early 2000’s, and decided that Del would be the perfect person to record her father’s music.
If you have a limited knowledge of Woody Guthrie (“This Land is Your Land”, a sticker on his guitar that read “This Machine Kills Fascists”, and his influence on a young Bob Dylan), it may surprise you that these songs are not protest songs. In addition, these songs fit in the bluegrass vein perfectly. The thing to remember is that many of Guthrie’s songs and many bluegrass standards have one thing in common; they are songs of, by, and for the common man, especially hard working, country folk.
Songs like “New York Trains”, which complains of the problems of traveling in the big city, “Ain’t A Gonna Do”, a song about a poor person’s meal and the desire for a lady’s love, and “Californy Gold”, which reminds the listener that money does cannot rid one of this world’s problems, have themes that are very familiar to a bluegrass audience. It does not hurt that a voice like Del’s is delivering these songs.
Trying to collaborate can be a daunting task. It can even be more difficult across decades of time, but Del’s bluegrass drenched voice and Woody’s well written words fit together, hand in glove. Although Woody was no doubt influenced by the music of the Carter Family, his songs are not covered in bluegrass circles like those of the Carter’s. Del and Woody shows us that why they should be.

 

 

April 20, 2016

 

sturgill simpson- a sailor

When a friend of mine introduced me to Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, my mind was blown. I had never heard such a mixing of genres: Waylon-like vocals, outlaw country music and psychedelic sounds. I could not stop listening to the album. I kept the CD in my car’s player for well over a year, taking it only a handful of times. The more I listened to his music, and read about his career, it was apparent to see that Sturgill was doing things his own way, and would continue to do so. A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is a prime example of Simpson’s independent spirit. Instead of taking the safe route, and producing an album that is similar in style to Metamodern Sounds.., he ventured out to tackle a concept album, complete with soulful organ fills, R&B horns ,and orchestral string swells.
The album serves as a letter, if you will, to Sturgill’s young son. The opening song, “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog), is just that; an honest greeting from a father to his son. The next song, “Breakers Roar”, is a beautiful lament and warning that life is, “all a dream.” The musical arrangement almost sounds like a lullaby. “Keep It Between the Lines” is a funky number, that is a father’s warning to his son about some of life’s pitfalls to avoid. It is told from a place of experience. “Sea Stories” is a sailor’s tale of traveling the Far East for the first time. Although a little different than the stories that my grandpa told, it is familiar enough to bring a smile to my face. The much talked about cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” is not just daring, but a great interpretation. It is one of my favorite tracks on this album. For the earlier songs that lay out warnings about struggles you may face in life, “Brace For Impact (Live a Little)” is a father’s encouragement to enjoy life. It reminds me of the speech many of us have heard to have fun, but not too much. I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but toward the end of the song, the guitar sounds like a passing police car with blaring siren. Maybe it’s a warning of things to come if you have too much fun. “All Around You” is a foray into southern soul matched with steel and slide guitar, and strings. Wow, what a sound! “Oh Sarah” is a beautiful, honest love song. “Call to Arms” is a rebellious number that questions the truthfulness of authority. This is a great rocking, R&B number to end the album.
If you were expecting Sturgill Simpson’s next album to be Metamodern Sounds 2, you are in for a surprise. That being said, I respect that he is marching to his own drum. Simpson wrote every song except the Nirvana cover on the album. He also produced the album, his first attempt at that great feat. For me, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is a complete success. The writing is outstanding, the music goes in a different, daring direction, but not for the sake of a new sound. It supports the lyrics. The southern soul, string arrangements, country steel guitar and Sturgill’s voice fit together like perfect puzzle pieces to form this wonderful concept album. I encourage you to take a listen to Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to the Earth.

 

April 13, 2016

 

hayes-carll_lovers-and-leavers_sq-5e0bb88de6df25e7987fdc84d743cdd828eb8182-s800-c15

 

If you are a fan of songwriters, then you know the name Hayes Carll. He is known for his humorous turn of a phrase, and folk rock sound. That is why some fans may wonder what happened to those types of songs on Carll’s new album, Lovers and Leavers. This album is much more stripped down than previous albums, almost entirely acoustic, and the mood of the songs a little more dark. Some music critics have said the mood of this album is sad. I guess you can say that. I think it is more along the lines of realism; Dealing with life’s ups and downs, like a divorce, through the cathartic process of songwriting.

Carll collaborates with many great songwriters on Lovers and Leavers, including Jim Lauderdale (“Drive”), Allison Moorer and Jack Ingram (“The Love That We Need”), Will Hoge (“Good While It Lasted’) and J.D. Souther (“Jealous Moon”). My favorite song on the album “Sake of the Song” is a co-write with Darrell Scott. That song is about the craft of songwriting. Fantastic!

For all the Hayes Carll fans concerned about the very different direction of Lovers and Leavers, I may be wrong, but I believe that we will see him go back to the style of his earlier projects in the future. However, if he doesn’t, I won’t complain. To me, this album is just as important as any of his others. You can feel the pain of loss and the apprehension of beginning a new romance from a songwriter’s perspective. Ultimately, my favorite song from the album reminds us the reason that Hayes Carll does what he does, “it’s all for the sake of the song.”

 

 

April 6, 2016

 

southern family

 

One thing that stood out to me about this album was the fact that the vocals were not fighting with the music. The vocals, and lyrics, were prominent. The storytelling is what Southern Family is all about. The music actually supports the singer, and waits it’s turn before laying out a lead line or a break.
The lyrical mastery shown on this record is remarkable. Jason Isbell’s “God is a Working Man”, Jamey Johnson’s “Mama’s Table”, Zac Brown’s “Grandma’s Garden”, and Brandy Clark’s “I Cried” are some of the best examples of this lyrical acumen. By the way, it is not just the lyrics that stand out. The delivery is just as important. Kudos to each of the artist for their treatment of the songs, and to Cobb for his production. In fact, the best thing about the production on Southern Family is that it is not overproduced.
Miranda Labmbert sounds great on “Sweet By and By” (not be confused with the gospel song with a similar name). The song that has been getting the most internet buzz is Morgane and Chris Stapleton singing the classic, “You Are My Sunshine”. By now, we are all familiar with Chris Stapleton, but it was nice to see his wife, Morgane, step out front , and sing lead. She sounds great. Add those vocals to the bluesy guitar, and you have one very powerful song.
I really enjoyed Anderson East’s “Learning”. It has the mixture of Muscle Shoals and Memphis sounds, and although much louder than most of the rest of the album, for me, it fits perfectly. Also, Rich Robinson’s bluesy “The Way Home” includes the gospel sounds of a choir, and is a perfect way to end the album.

Dave Cobb and all the performers on Southern Family made this album one of my favorites of 2016. To deliver a project that is not pretentious, as some concept albums are, or disjointed, as some compilations are, is an amazing feat. The songs on Southern Family may not reach the top of the charts, although I believe they should, but they reach out and move the listener, reminding them of situations that are easy to identify with. Moving the listener In today’s musical climate is a special thing. That is why you need to give Southern Family a listen.

 

 

 

March 30, 2016

 

william michael morgan

 

You may have heard of William Michael Morgan because of his song “I Met a Girl”. It had 30,000 downloads and reached #34 on the Country Airplay Chart. Maybe you haven’t heard of him. A virtual unknown, the 22 year old Morgan was trying to crack a modern country music scene with his more traditional sound. Although “I Met a Girl”, written by Sam Hunt, received some airplay, it was not widespread. Now we have a better sample of his vocal delivery with the release of the William Michael Morgan EP.
We get the afore mentioned “I Met a Girl”, a song about that magical feeling when a guy meets a girl, and the way he views the world around changes. “Vinyl” is a nice song. It’s arrangement and Morgan’s voice sound great. The one problem I have with this song is use of the word “girl”. If “girl” had been said one more time in the song, I would have screamed. “Beer Drinker” is a good song with a memorable hook.
“Lonesomeville” , with it’s heavy steel guitar, is a classic sounding song that is enough to make a teetotaler buy a beer so they can cry in it. “Cheap Cologne” is another throwback to the cheating songs of yesteryear. “Smelling honky tonk in her hair”, catching a whiff of cigarettes and cheap cologne, makes him wonder if his wife has been stepping out. “Back Street Driver” is a song about a father’s advice as his son moves on to face the world, perhaps leaving home for the first time.
This is a great debut from William Michael Morgan. I hope that other radio stations and fans across the country give this project a try. As I mentioned earlier, the musical arrangements on these songs, support, but don’t cover, Morgan’s outstanding vocals. I strongly encourage you to check out William Michale Morgan’s EP.

 

 

March 16, 2016

 

dave adkins self titled
Dave Adkins is a great songwriter, and has one of the biggest voices in bluegrass music. After combining those talents with the equally talented Edgar Loudermilk to form Adkins and Loudermilk,  the two recently ventured off to pursue solo projects. I have been looking forward to hearing both of their projects. We got a taste with singles from both Adkins and Loudermilk. Now we have a complete project from Dave Adkins.
The new, self titled album from Dave Adkins features not only his powerful vocals, but also great, bluegrass instrumentation, and expert songwriting. The first single from the album is the first track on the album, “Change Her Mind”. The single, one of five songs on the album that Adkins penned, has been performing very well, reaching #1 on the Bluegrass Today chart.
“Emmaline” is a pure Eastern Kentucky song, perfect for Dave. “Foolosophy”, written Larry Cordle and Chris Stapleton, is a classic country tear jerker. I love it!
“A Whole More To Tell” is a song Adkins wrote after a conversation with a man at a store near his home. The murder ballad “Russell Fork River” that ends with an interesting twist. Adkins cover of John Michael Montgomery’s “Sold” is solid. It makes me wonder why nobody in the bluegrass world, as far as I can tell, has ever covered this song.
The next two songs, “You Don’t Have To Go To Be Gone” and “It’s Not Over (Til I Get Over You)”, turn phrases to drive home their point. I am a fan of the turning of a phrase, and it is a tradition in bluegrass and country music. The latter song, co-written by Tom T. Hall, and recorded , but never released, by George Jones, is another song on this album that has a classic country sound, reminiscent of the late ’50’s and early ’60’s.
Truck drivers will love, “Turn And Burn” , an ode to gear jammers that keep our country moving. “Wasting Away” is a pure, bluegrass burner. If you are driving when this song comes on, take caution. It may give you a heavy foot, which may lead to a speeding ticket.
“Angel Song” is a very emotional song about someone missing a loved one that has passed away. It is one of the more unique sounding tracks on the album. I believe it will strike a chord with many people. The album closes out with a song that Adkins says he wrote for his wife, “One and Only”.
I encourage you to give a listen to Dave Adkins new, self titled album. With Dave’s strong vocals, expert songwriting (from Dave, Larry Cordle, Chris Stapleton, Tom T. Hall, and others), and great musicianship, this album is must have, especially for bluegrass fans.

 

 

March 09, 2016

 

loretta lynn full circle

 

I have been waiting for another Loretta Lynn album since 2004’s Van Lear Rose. Who knew if when, or if, we would see her put out another album. It was a pleasant surprise to hear the news at the first of this year that we would get another Loretta Lynn album. Full Circle is not a title of coincidence. This project takes us from Lynn’s childhood in Kentucky, through her career hits, to her interpretations of modern composition.
Produced by John Carter Cash, Johnny Cash’s son, and Lynn’s daughter, Patsy Lynn Reynolds, Full Circle is an album that actually started in 2007. It seems that the idea was to just go in the studio and record. There was not a real direction, as far as an album goes, but rather to just document the beautiful, country voice of Loretta Lynn.
The songs selection for Full Circle are perfect. From the traditional songs (“Black Jack David”, “In The Pines”, and “I Never Will Marry”), to remakes of her own hits (“Fist City” and “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven”), Loretta sounds as good as ever. She also takes on the classic “Always On My Mind” and “Secret Love” , and nails the T. Graham Brown penned “Wine Into Water”. Full Circle also features a new recording of the first song she ever wrote, “Whispering Sea”. Elvis Costello shows up in a supporting role on one of my favorite tracks on the album, “Everything it Takes”. The album closes with , “Lay Me Down,” a duet with Willie Nelson. Loretta and Willie have recorded duets before, and there voice blend perfectly.
Many folks may find this album to be very good, but not to the level of Van Lear Rose. I think this album holds it own. Having this almost 83 year old country legend cover so much musical ground, from childhood to present, is a great idea. I am going to enjoy this album for a while, but it won’t be long until I will be craving more, especially with the knowledge that Loretta Lynn has recorded more than 90 songs since 2007, and this album includes only 13.

 

 

March 02, 2016

 

willie nelson gershwin

Last year, Willie Nelson received the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. He was the first country artist to ever receive the award. Knowing about the award, Willie Nelson headed to the studio, and began work on Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin.
Buddy Cannon produced this album of 11 George Gershwin tunes. Although it instantly draws comparisons to Nelson’s 1978 Stardust album, Summertime is a bit different. Whereas Stardust was Willie’s take on classic songs, Summertime is Willie singing classics in a straightforward manner. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Willie performs the songs on Summertime in such a light, familiar way, that you can’t help but to tap your toes and sing along. The one thing I particularly like about the album, is the songs kept their standard, jazzy feel, while using Texas Swing to achieve the sound.

The project includes:
“But Not for Me”
“Somebody Loves Me”
“Someone to Watch Over Me”
“Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” (featuring Cyndi Lauper)
“It Ain’t Necessarily So”
“I Got Rhythm”
“Love is Here to Stay”
“They All Laughed”
“Embraceable You” (featuring Sheryl Crow)
“They Can’t Take That Away From Me”
and
“Summertime”

Although this album is tied to Nelson receiving the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, it stands on it’s on. More than anything, Summertime: Willie Nelson sings Gershwin reminds us that the only way to categorize Willie Nelson’s music is “American”. The selection, and presentation, of this group of mellow, laid back songs makes this album one that I want to add to my collection. When you have had a hard day, put on Summertime, and let your troubles drift away.

 

 

February 17, 2016

 

vince-gill-down-to-my-last-bad-habit

 

One of the most highly anticipated country albums of this year is Vince Gill’s Down to My Last Bad Habit. I thoroughly enjoyed Gill’s last album, Bakersfield, but I was excited to hear the first solo Vince Gill album that featured all original material in about 5 years. It was definitely worth the wait.
Although we do get a few stone cold country songs, the majority of songs on Down to My Last Bad Habit are infused with a heavy dose of country soul. The album consists of twelve songs that were written or co-written by Gill, and feature his tasteful guitar work. He does get some help from notable acts, including Cam on “I’ll Be Waiting for You” , and Little Big Town on “Take Me Down”. Vince even turns to trumpeter Chris Botti on “One More Mistake I Made”. Make no mistake, even with the help, this album is all about Vince Gill. He goes from the piano driven ballad “I Can’t Do This”, to the boldly frisky “Make You Feel Real Good”. There are a couple of tracks that put me in mind of the Eagles: the title track and “Reasons for the Tears I Cry”. It’s not a copy of them, but it is hard to miss their influence. It is especially noticeable with the passing of Eagle Glenn Frey being so fresh on my mind. I love the upbeat “Me and My Girl”. That song is made to turn on and cruise down the road. Gill closes out the album with a classic country sounding tribute to George Jones, complete with pedal steel. “Sad One Comin’ On (A Song for George Jones)” is a great song, and knowing of the close relationship that Vince had with Jones.
I have been waiting on this new album ever since I heard Vince Gill was making it. His songwriting, guitar work and voice are as good as ever on Down to My Last Bad Habit. I encourage everyone to take a listen to Down to My Last Bad Habit. So far, it is one of the best country albums to come out this year, and, when it is all said and done, it may end up being one of the best for 2016

 

 

February 10, 2016

 

charles kelley

 

While Lady Antebellum is on hiatus, the members are stretching their musical wings. Charles Kelly’s solo attempt, The Driver, was released on February 5th. Although a solo record, it would not seem right if The Driver did not include Kelly’s harmonizing with someone. The someones that show up on the album are an A-list of singers: Dierks Bentley, Eric Paslay, Miranda Lambert, and Stevie Nicks.
There are some great songs on this album, including all of the ones with guest artists. Some of the others are good songs, but did not really knock my socks off. That is not a knock on the album, just an observation. Some of the highlights includes
The title track features Kelly with Dierks Bentley and Eric Paslay. It has the feel of a song that the audience can learn quickly, and sing along in concert. Stevie Nicks joins Kelley on Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents”. Let me say that I really like Petty’s version of the song. Although I still enjoy Tom’s recording the best, this is a very nice rendition, especially with Nicks’ harmony vocals. “I Wish You Were Here,” has Miranda Lambert adding her vocals to Kelly’s. They sound great together, and the song has steel guitar throughout. Who would have thought we’d hear that? The album ends with “Leaving Nashville,” an ode to the struggling singers and songwriters that call Nashville home. Although this is opening solo record, it is nice to see an artist from an established group, like Lady Antebellum, step up and address the struggles of the folks that have made Music City famous. It doesn’t sound like an old fashioned song, but the subject matter is the same as a song from yesteryear (see Lacy J. Dalton’s “16th Avenue”).
The Driver is a good debut album for an artist trying to show his worth apart from an established group. I would like to hear more piano, acoustic guitar, and steel guitar, and less drum machines. An artist should do what they do best, and not try to fit in with the in crowd. Charles Kelly is at his best when his voice is put out front, instead of buried in the mix. The Driver is worth giving a listen.

 

February 3, 2016

 

Buddy Miller-Cayamo-Sessions-at-Sea-album-cover

This Catch of the Week stems from vacation. A cruise to be exact. The Cayamo Festival Cruise is a time for singer/songwriters to get together with some of their fans for music and fun, while cruising the Caribbean. Singer, songwriter and producer Buddy Miller has been a part of this cruise for several years, and started recording some of the sessions for his radio show, The Buddy and Jim Radio Hour, with fellow singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale. That process birthed Miller’s new album, Cayamo Sessions at Sea.
The album is features a who’s who of songwriters performing classic songs: Kris Kristofferson on “Sunday Morning Coming Down”, Kacey Musgraves with the Buck Owens classic “Love’s Gonna Live Here”, Shawn Colvin covers the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses”, Lucinda Williams on Gram Parsons’ “Hickory Wind”, Lee Ann Womack owns “After the Fire is Gone”, Brandi Carlile and The Lone Bellow performs John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery”, and Doug Seegers with the gospel song “Take the Hand of Jesus”, just to name a few.
Miller provides vocal accompaniment as well, as well as his great guitar work on each track. In additon to Miller, there is a top notch band of musicians on this album, including bassist David Jacques, Fats Kaplan on several instruments, and drummer Marco Giovino.
Cayamo Sessions at Sea gives us a peek into what it is like when fellow singer-songwriters sit around , and have fun performing some of their favorite songs. It also makes me, for the first time ever, want to go on a cruise. Well, the Cayamo Festival Cruise, to be exact.

 

 

January 27, 2016

cactus blossoms

 

I love my job! One thing I get to do as part of my job is introduce artists that have not been discovered to the masses. This week, I get to do that again. I had never heard of The Cactus Blossoms until this week. In my never ending search for the best new music out there, I stumbled across this group and their new album, You’re Dreaming. Wow! Brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum , despite the different last names they are, indeed, brothers, make up The Cactus Blossoms. It is obvious the brothers have been influenced by The Everly Brothers, but this is no tribute band.
The Cactus Blossoms only cover a few songs on You’re Dreaming, and those are not even Everly Brothers tunes. They are writing new songs in the style of Phil and Don, but the Cactus Blossoms are able to stand on their own. This album has a very organic, stripped down feel. It is definitely not over produced, and that is hard to do in this era of more bells and whistles than you can shake a stick at that are available to producers and artists. I also encourage you to also look up live performances by The Cactus Blossoms on YouTube, but don’t forget to chekcout their new album, You’re Dreaming.

 

 

January 20, 2016

randy rogers band

 

After a stint with a major label in Nashville, Randy Rogers is back home in Texas. The Lone Star singer-songwriter, along with his band, consisting of Geoffrey Hill (guitar), Brady Black (fiddle), Jon Richardson (bass guitar), and Les Lawless (drums) , just released their first album on new music in three years. Many were awaiting the release of the new album, Nothing Shines Like Neon, to see what direction the Randy Rogers Band would go, especially with the critically acclaimed Buddy Cannon producing the album.
Here are my thoughts on the tracks from Nothing Shines Like Neon:
“San Antone” – This is kind of what I expected to hear after the boys headed back across the Red River. This song oozes steel guitars, fiddles and Lone Star pride.
“Rain And The Radio”- A romantic jam, unlike many songs heard on mainstream country radio that go to far, that goes just far enough. You have an imagination. Use it.
“Neon Blues”- This is a classic country motif of a woman trying to drown her heartache in the bottle. That doesn’t mean it is boring or tired. Rather, it is a great song in that country tradition.
“Things I Need To Quit”-This is is song about moving on after a bad break. If you could only change those habits, then you could change your situation.
“Look Out Yonder”- The guys team up with Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski on this song that tells a sort of prodigal son story. The great arrangement and lyrics make this is my favorite song on the album.
“Tequila Eyes”- This song features a great fiddle melody. This is as classic country sounding as it gets!
“Taking It As It Comes”- This song features a duet with Jerry Jeff Walker. Look out! This one will get you going in a heartbeat.
“Old Moon New” – A love ballad about moonlight that doesn’t involve back roads, daisy dukes, or the good stuff up under the seat. It is the story of a guy trying his best to express his love. Refreshing!
“Meet Me Tonight”- A song about a desperate attempt to reignite an old flame, but that is easier said than done.
“Actin’ Crazy”-Jamey Johnson has become the go to guy for guest appearances on new albums. On this song, he shows out again. Clever lyrics and a great delivery make this one of the most fun songs on the album.
“Pour One For The Poor One”- Again, clever lyrics, fiddle, and steel guitar help to deliver a classic songs of a man dealing with unrequited love.

This album is a great way to start off the year for the Catch of the Week Segment. I am a huge fan of the instrumentation, song selection and the feel of this album. It feels new, while at the same time having a classic, broken in feel. The Randy Rogers Band is happy to be back in Texas, and you can hear that in Nothing Shines Like Neon.

 

 

January 13, 2016

 

mr misunderstood

 

While we are waiting for the first new releases of 2016, i thought we would take a look back at a 2015 album from Eric Church, Mr. Misunderstood. Do not lump Eric Church in with the Bro County crowd just because he is a new artist. Not only are his lyrics deeper than most songs that are delivered from Nashville these day, but you know an Eric Church song when you hear it. His delivery, and the way it is recorded is all his own.
Mr. Misunderstood includes the sounds of country, classic rock, swamp music, funk, and soul. It is not like those sounds are separated to one song or the other. It is integrated in a very natural sounding way that makes the album sound like, well, Eric Church.
The title track name drops Elvis Costello, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Jeff Tweedy, and Jackson Pollock. It is the story of a artistically aware outsider. The duet “Mixed Drinks About Feelings” with blues star Susan Tedeschi is a beautifully sad song. Eric and Susan sound great together. Also, be sure to check out “Record Year”. This one caught my attention because I am a huge fan of vinyl records. When you are able to offer all the references to great records, and dealing with heartache, you can count me in .
With all due respect to Church, I prefer Mr. Misunderstood to The Outsiders. Where as The Outsiders was intentionally bombastic, Mr. Misunderstood is not only a more laid back, but complete album. I recommend giving Mr. Misunderstood a spin.

 

January 6, 2016

 

Traditionally, the last few weeks of December, and the first few weeks of January are a slow period for new album releases. It makes sense. So many people are visiting family, exchanging gifts, getting indigestion, and saying hello to next year. Therefore, we don’t have any new albums to feature this week. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have something to say. I thought we would take a look at some highly anticipated albums that are scheduled for release in 2016.
Full Circle by Loretta Lynn-
This will be her first album in twelve years. Many younger fans were made aware of the legendary Loretta Lynn through records like Van Leer Rose. This new album will feature songs she sang as a child, as well as new recordings of some of her classic tracks.

Hymns That Are Important To Us -Joey + Rory:
Scheduled for release in February, the album will be an emotional release, as Joey stopped her cancer treatments late last year. The couple decided to proceed with releasing the album because it is an album of songs that are important to them. I believe it will prove to be important to many others, not only for the inspirational music included on the album, but also the inspirational couple performing the songs.

Jennifer Nettles-Unnamed Album
She has been touring hard, ahead of the release of her forthcoming album. Her single “Sugar” is already receiving airplay on 921 WLHR.

Hank Williams, Jr.-It’s About Time:
This album the 79th of Hank’s career, will be released in mid-January. Brad Paisley and Eric Church make guest appearances on this new album.

Lucinda Williams- The Ghosts Of Highway 20:
Expected to released in February, the album looks to concentrate on stories around the highway. I can’t wait to give this one a listen!

Vince Gill- Down To My last Bad Habit
One of the most revered, established stars in Nashville, Gill will put out an album in which he wrote, or co-wrote, every song. Vince will have a couple of vocal collaborations on this project, featuring Cam and Little Big Town. We should see this album by mid-February.

 

December 9, 2015

buck ownes

I am a great admirer of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, and the Bakersfield Sound. That is why I was so excited to hear about the latest release of a Buck Owens collection, Buck ‘Em: The Music of Buck Owens, Vol. 2. This second compilation of Buck’s music focuses on the years 1967-1975, and showcases the variety of sounds and styles that he was able to produce: “Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass” shows it’s psychedelic country combination, the bluegrass sound of the Osbourne Brothers’ “Ruby (Are You Mad)”, a rock and roll cover of “Johnny B. Goode”, and even an R&B tinged duet with Bettye Swann on Merle Haggard’s “Today I Started Loving You Again”. In addition to those selections, there are many live, concert recordings from Japan, Australia, Europe and U.S. venues (Las Vegas and the White House) of his hits. One of my favorite tracks on the album is the comedic “Las Vegas Lament”. The live performances are as strong as any live recordings I have ever heard from the country artists of that era.
This double album is a good representation of the second half of Buck and the Buckaroos career as they were riding high after his early chart success, and had moved on to television popularity with Hee-Haw, all the way through the untimely death of Buckaroo Don Rich, which Buck never really recovered. If you are a Buck Owens fan, I would recommend adding Buck ‘Em: The Music of Buck Owens, Vol. 2 to your collection, especially if you already have Vol. 1.

 

 

November 25, 2015

mac mcanally

You might recognize the name Mac McAnally. He recently picked up his 8th CMA Musician of the Year Award. He has been one of the most desired session musicians for years. He has played with almost anyone of any significance in Nashville since the early 1980’s. In addition, McAnally is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, writing songs for Alabama (“Old Flame”), Sawyer Brown (“All These Years”,”Cafe on the Corner”, “Thank God for You”) and Kenny Chesney (“Down the Road”). He has released his own albums over the years. His current album, A.K.A Nobody, is the 13th album of his career.
This album displays the diversity of styles that McAnally is not only capable of playing, but playing comfortably: From the gospel tinged blues of “Better Get the Story Straight” to the Django Rhinehardt-like jazz sounds of “Zanzibar” to the delta country sounds of “Mississippi You’re On My Mind”. He also calls on many of the friends he has made over the years to help with on this album: Fellow CMA award winner, Chris Stapleton, shares writing credits with McAnally on “A Little Bit Better”, Kenny Chesney co-wrote “Island Rain,” Zac Brown co-wrote “Last But Not Least “, and McAnally co-wrote “Coast Of Carolina” as a sequel to ‘Come Monday. By the way McAnally is, a longtime member of Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band.
This album is a songwriters album, but not for the obvious reason that McAnally wrote or co-wrote the songs. Rather, the songs that the penned for this album are of the storytelling variety. McAnally is a story teller, and he has always been one. Not everyone that writes a song, even from the perspective of a storyteller, is at the level of McAnally.
In a quote from his website, McAnally says, “William Faulkner once said something about wishing that it would be only the artist’s work, not the artist, who might be judged. I agree with him, so A.K.A. Nobody is what I call the album. It’s not that I think I’m uninteresting, but I have never been comfortable saying, ‘Hey, look at me!’ I just would like somebody to hear this music and say, ‘This is good work.'” If that is what McAnally was looking for, he’s got it. Check out the good work on Mac McAnally’s A.K.A Nobody.

 

 

November 18, 2015

 

Chris Stapleton

 

***With all of the attention that is being paid to Chris Stapleton after his CMA performance and victories, I thought I would go back and revisit my Catch of the Week from earlier this year for Stapleton’s Traveller.*********************

 

Digging for the best music let’s me know a little about how a prospector feels. Sifting through all the dirt, just hoping to find the gold. Sometimes I hear about a forthcoming album, and have to exercise great patience in waiting for it’s release. Well, it is finally here. Let me tell you, Chris Stapleton’s Traveller does not disappoint. Stapleton’s voice has been treasured since his time with bluegrass group The SteelDrivers. Add his potent pen that has produced such hits as  “Never Wanted Nothing More” for Kenny Chesney to the mix, and you have the ingredients for one of the strongest album to come out this year.

I am not going to run down each track on this album. You just need to listen to them and experience their full impact. Traveler will please those that are fans of traditional country, bluegrass, southern rock and blues music. With the exception of a few tracks, Stapleton wrote or co-wrote the songs on Traveller. He had some help writing the songs from the like of bluegrassers Barry Bales (Alison Krauss and Union Station) and Ronnie Bowman, pop songwriter Lee Miller, and country writer Jim Beavers, just to name a few. These songs are delivered with a soul, grit and pain that you don’t hear very much nowadays on any mainstream radio stations.
Because of the subject matter, musical arrangements and vocal styling, Traveller will draw comparisons to works of Jamey Johnson and Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. You know what? That’s is fine. I think people who are attracted to those sounds are looking for like minded artists anywhere they can find them. It is not a concerted effort by the artist to band together. They seem to be playing what is on their hearts and minds, and it strikes a chord with a lot of listeners who are left empty by most modern music. I am one of them. Finding a gem like Stapleton’s Traveller makes the digging and waiting worth while.

 

November 11, 2015

 

cox family

I was a fan of the Cox Family’s sound when I first heard their collaboration with Alison Krauss on the 1994 release I Know Who Holds Tomorrow.
They followed that up with 1996’s Just When We’re Thinking It’s Over. Then, everything, as far as their next record, went haywire. The Cox Family were dropped by their label when the country music industry experienced a slump. They had been working on an album, and had all of the music for the tracks completed, plus some of the vocals. Despite that setback, they found more success when they recorded a song for the soundtrack, and appeared in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?
However, not long after that , in 2000, family patriarch Willard Cox was paralyzed from the waist down after being involved in a traffic accident. Also, his wife, Marie Cox, was fighting cancer at the time. She would eventually lose her battle in 2009. The professional and personal problems brought the Cox Family’s group to, an almost, complete stop.
Fast forward 17 years, and we received good news. The masters of the album from 1998 were found, and work began on finishing the project. Alison Krauss, heavily involved in the 1998 sessions, was also involved in the project’s resurrection. Thankfully some of Willard’s vocals were found from the 1998 recordings. Then, add the vocals of Evelyn, Sidney, and Suzanne Cox, and you have one great album.
Although most of the album was recorded 17 years ago, Gone Like the Cotton has a fresh sound. Maybe it is the eclectic, but not forced, diversity of musical styles that makes the album evergreen. As with anything released from The Cox Family, you can find a healthy dose of country, a dash of bluegrass, a smidgen of gospel, and a pinch of blues. Even though Gone Like the Cotton was a victim of the music business, the music that the album contains has not been tainted. The music is pure. That may seem like a broad, cliched statement, but a fact is a fact. One wonders what kind of success The Cox Family would have had if the album had been completed and released in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s. I don’t have that answer. It is just a guess that it would have made them a much more well known act. I will not lament the tardiness of the arrival of Gone Like the Cotton, but rather say it is better late than never.

 

 

November 4, 2015

 

steeldrivers

The SteelDrivers have been known for walking the tightrope between traditional and progressive bluegrass. They have had the success of Nik Walenda on that tightrope. Their latest album, The Muscle Shoals Recordings, is another balancing act between old and new. I did not know what to expect when I saw the name of this album. When I think of Muscle Shoals, I think of Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The Muscle Shoals Recordings were recording in the vicinity of where the classic soul and rock and roll were recorded, but besides that there are no other similarities.
Some of my favorite tracks of the album include:
“Ashes of Yesterday”- This is a heart breaker in 3/4 time. Jason Isbell provides some slide guitar work on this song.
“California Chainsaw”- This is a great instrumental track that reminds us that The SteelDrivers are more than just singers. They can hang with most groups instrumentally.
“Brother John”- What bluegrass album is complete without a murder ballad. Jason Isbell shows up again on this song, slide in hand.
“Six Feet Away”- A sober reminder that life can be fleeting. So, you better make it count while you can.
“River Runs Red”- A chilling Civil War ballad that is the best track on the album. “The winners are losers when you count the dead.”
If you are a fan of The SteelDrivers, then you will enjoy this album. It features the strong lead vocals of Gary Nichols (who took over for Chris Stapleton when he left in 2010), and the harmony vocals and great instrumentation of Tammy Rodgers on fiddle, Brent Truitt on mandolin, Richard Bailey on the banjo and Mike Fleming on the bass. Though the music on this album is not classified as soul music, there is a lot of soul in the songs on The Muscle Shoals Recordings.

 

October 28, 2015

Jason isbell-something-more-than-free-400x395

 

Jason Isbell’s latest album, Something More Than Free, released this past July, is the much anticipated follow up album to his critically acclaimed album, Southeastern. While Southeastern was a stripped down, singer-songwriter type album, Something More Than Free sees Isbell re-united with his band, The 400 Unit, which includes his wife Amanda Shires, for a fuller sound. While Southeastern was an album dealing with just trying to survive, Something More Than Free goes beyond just surviving. It is an album of learning from , and growing because of past experiences. The redeeming of a life that at one time may have seemed a hopeless case.

Here’s my thoughts on some of the tracks on Something More Than Free:
“If It Takes a Lifetime”- This laid back ramble is about reaching the comfortable position of having harvested the crop of one’s wild oats, and finding some sort of peace in everyday occurrences. It has the feeling of a John Prine song. Not a copy by any means, rather an echo of influence.
“24 Frames” – The title is a reference to the number of frames to make one second of film. The sarcastic, cynical lyrics make this one of the more memorable tracks on the album. It is a reminder of the how real life works. Things happen that you cannot control, no matter your plans.
“Flagship”- Being in a relationship with someone should be more than just existing , like a old old building that has seen it’s better days. “Baby let’s not ever get that way/I’ll say what ever words I need to say/I’ll throw rocks at the window from the street/We’ll call ourselves the flagship of the fleet.” A wonderful, beautiful plan.
“How to Forget”- Trying to put your past behind you is easier said than done, especially with old friends who bring up, and remind you of decisions and actions that are now regretted.
“Children of Children”- This reflective song is from grown child of a young mother, thinking about “all the years I took from her just from being born”. It serves as an apology, but there is also an underlying gratitude. There is a great musical break at the end of the song, featuring slide guitar and strings.
“Life You Chose”- It features one of the most simple, yet profound lines on this album. “Are you living the life you chose? Are you living the life that chose you?” This very direct question, like the rest song, has a sting to it, and is delivered by someone that themselves has been stung.
“Something More Than Free”- The sentiment of this song is one that many a working man has held. Being slave to a routine that never changes: Go to work, home and back again. All the while, being thankful for the job you have, and looking forward to the day when you will gain eternal rest. And the people said, “Amen.”

“Speed Trap Town”-“Everyone knows you in a speed trap town.” Never a truer statement has been said. Most locals watch their speed in a speed trap town. That why when a crash happens, it is noticed by everyone.
“Hudson Commodore”- This song features Amanda Shires beautiful fiddle with an acoustic guitar. The chorus brings in thick, rich harmonies that make this my instant favorites.

“Palmetto Rose”- This song is about Charleston, SC. . The song is a sort of tribute to the workers of Charleston. It has a line that says,”Lord let me die in the Iodine State”. That is one of the old nicknames for South Carolina from the 1920’s. It was due to the high levels of iodine found naturally in fruits and vegetables grown in the state. By the way, a palmetto rose is fronds of the palmetto tree that are woven into the shape of a rose. It is an old tradition, and can be purchased in the Holy City.

Jason Isbell is one of the most talented lyricists of this generation. We already knew that. Something More Than Free proves Southeastern was not the pinnacle of his songwriting and performing career. It shows that Isbell, if not swallowed up by a major label, will continue to grow, explore and thrive, and , hopefully, provide us with more classics, like Something More Than Free, for years to come.

 

 

October 21, 2015

george strait cold beer conversations

George Strait never has to release another song to cement his place in country music history. However, he continues to release new material. By the way, his new songs are great! Cold Beer Conversation, Strait’s 29th studio album, is chock full of wonderful songs delivered as only he can deliver them.
Here are my thoughts on each track:
“It Was Love”- There is something about this song that would make it at home on modern country radio, while at the same time sounding like a song that Strait could have released in the 1990’s. His music is truly timeless.
“Cold Beer Conversation”- This is the second single from the album. A great follow up to “Let It Go”. It really covers the real topics that are only discussed among the boys.
“Let It Go”- This song is the first single from the album, and it was a great choice. It embodies the spirit of the album; a laid back approach to life.
“Goin’, Goin’, Gone”- A new working class anthem. The struggles of the work week are behind you when it’s quitting time on Friday.
“Something Going Down”- A passionate, romantic song that stops at the bedroom door. It’s a nice to hear a song that is full of passion and romance, without the gritty details. It may seem old fashioned, but I like it.
“Take Me to Texas”- Not the first song about a Texan’s love of his homeland, but it is as strong and real as any of those other Lone Star State tunes.
“It Takes All Kinds”- George Strait does Texas Swing about as good as anyone this side of Asleep of the Wheel. Ahhhh Haaaa!
“Stop and Drink”- I love the word change in the popular phrase,”stop and think”. Sure, you can contemplate all of the world’s problems, but what good is it going to do you.
“Everything I See”- This is a beautiful song about the loss of a parent. Even if it is not a parent that has passed away, most everyone can identify with the pain in this song.
“Paper, Rock , Scissors”- This is a very clever song about a relationship falling apart. I vote we need more cleverly written songs like this in country music.
“Wish You Well”- This is another well written song based on the familiar phrases “wish you well” and “wish you were here”.
“Cheaper Than a Shrink”- This humorous song promotes a thought I have used for many different things in my life. In my case, it is music, hunting and fishing that is cheaper than therapy.
“Even When I Can’t Feel It”- This song about God and love, among other things, could sound corny if delivered by someone other than Strait. His presentation of the song bears a genuine authenticity.
I know that George Strait has cut out full time touring, although he has added some select shows, including some in Las Vegas. However, I hope that we continue to see more albums from King George like Cold Beer Conversation . Whether or not country radio plays it or not,by the way they should, his many fans will continue to buy his albums, kick back, relax, and sing along to his songs.

 

 

 

October 14, 2015

dale watson

I am going to take another look at an album that was a “Catch of the Week” earlier this year, Dale Watson’s Call Me Insane. Dale Watson is a Texas honky tonk legend. In the “Music Capital of the World”, Watson is a member of the Austin Music Hall of Fame. He also founded a new genre of music, americopolitan, that encompasses many forms of roots music forms , including honky tonk, rockabilly, western swing and outlaw music. With all that being said, with Watson’s new album Call Me Insane, you get exactly what you would expect; pure, honky tonk drenched country.
“Day at a Time” – Dale hits the ground running with this song about hanging on till tomorrow, no matter what happens.
“Bug Ya For Love”- A song that just invites you to hit the dance floor with your sweetheart, or perhaps to try to find a sweetheart,
“Burden of the Cross”- a heart wrenching song that comes from Watson’s personal experiences.
“Everybody’s Somebody in Luchenbach, Texas”- This songs drops the name of the Texas location that was made famous by Waylon and Willie. A great honky tonk song.
“Crocodile Tears”- is a classic song that will make you cry real tears in your adult beverage. He even includes the required recitation to classify this as a tear jerker.
“Jonesin’ For Jones” – one of many tributes to the great George Jones that has surfaced since he passed away. This is a fun tribute. It starts with the sounds of the song “White Lightning”, includes the titles of the Possum’s hit songs as lyrics and Watson’s great imitation of George Jones.
“I’m Through Hurtin””- This song of regret features a wonderful steel guitar and harmony vocals that make it one of the highlights of the album.
“Call Me Insane”- The title track has a dark feeling that is aided by the horns and timpani drums. Add to that the chord progression and this song could have been released in 1965. This is my favorite track on the album.
“Heavens Gonna Have a Honky Tonk”- Watson’s view of what a heaven should be like for those that frequent honky tonk.
“Tienes Cabeza de Palo”- This Tex-Mex gem will make you want to Two Step, or do the Mexican Hat Dance…..or something. I know I started craving chips and salsa.
“I Owe It All to You”- The song features a shuffle that is infectious, and would make Ray Price proud.
“Forever Valentine”- This album would not be complete without a love song that is perfect for slow dancing. Beautiful!
“Hot Dang”- Song placement on an album may not mean as much in this world of hitting shuffle on your mp3 player. However, this is the perfect song to follow up “Forever Valentine”. A real toe tapper.
“Mama’s Don’t Let Your Cowboys Grow Up to be Babies”-This cover of the Tony Joe White song (which is a take off on “Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys”) is a great way to close out the album. It has the funk of Tony Joe mixed with Waylon. To borrow a quote from Mr. White, “UHHH!”
The thing I have always like about Watson is his ability to stick to his guns, stylistically, while producing music that is new and fresh. I can promise you that nobody will think you have lost your mind when you flip your lid for Call Me Insane.

 

October 7, 2015

 

flatt lonesome

This week we venture to the world of bluegrass for the Catch of the Week. Flatt Lonesome is an award winning group that features some of the tightest family harmonies found this side of The Issacs, along with outstanding instrumental skills. Their latest album, Runaway Train, is another great example of those traits, plus expert song selection, with everything from original songs penned by the band members, to covers of Gram Parsons, Merle Haggard and Dwight Yoakam songs.
Here are my thoughts on some of the tracks on the Runaway Train:
“You’ll Pay”- A straight forward bluegrass burner. This song tells a story of what goes around, comes around. This song features a great example of the tight harmonies I mentioned early.
“Still Feeling Blue”- This cover captures the spirit of the original from Gram Parsons. Once again, outstanding harmonies.
“You’re the One”- Wow! Another stellar cover song, this time from the Dwight Yoakam catalog. This song displays Flatt Lonesome’s appreciation of country music.
“In the Heat of the Fire”, “In the Morning”, “Casting All Your Cares on Him” – Fans of gospel bluegrass will be pleased with these songs. The picking, singing, and message in the song is very strong. Amen!
“Road to Nottingham”- This instrumental track really showcases the instrument talents of Flatt Lonesome, and their ability to not only throw down some hot licks, but also some tasty accents and rhythmic changes.
“Mixed Up Mess of a Heart”- This song always sounded more like a Buck Owens tune than one from Haggard. You can really hear the Buck Owens sound-a-like with Flatt Lonesome’s harmonies. What a great choice of a cover song.
“Letting Go”- A beautiful ballad, from the pen of the group members Paul and Kelsi Harrigill. The husband and wife team tapped into the classic sounds of country ballads from yesteryear. It is a sound that is sorely missed in mainstream country music.

This is an album that is pleasing to not only the bluegrass aficionado, but also the disciple of gospel and the fan of country music. They have so many ways, you are bound to like some of them. I believe you will flat love Flatt Lonesome’s new album. Hop aboard the Runaway Train.

By the way, Flatt Lonesome will be a part of the star studded lineup of the inaugural Anderson County Boograss Festival in Anderson, SC at the Civic Center of Anderson, October 29th – 31st. Along with Flatt Lonesome will be Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, The Lonesome River Band, The Boxcars, Adkins and Loudermilk and many others. For more details visit their website at http://www.boograssbashsc.com/

 

 

 

September 30, 2015

 

don henley

 

I didn’t know when, or if, we would see another Don Henley solo album. It has been 15 years since his last solo effort. He has been a bit preoccupied, what with touring the world with the Eagles, and all. Well, Don Henley has just released his latest solo album, Cass County, and it is a country album. I say that, not as a statement of shock, but just as a matter of fact. Now before anyone starts pointing fingers and Mr. Henley, and comparing his latest effort to those of rockers Steven Tyler or Bret Michaels , just hold your horses. No offense to Tyler, Michaels or anyone else that finds country music as a forgiving place to land your career, but Don Henley, especially in his work with the Eagles, has shown a well documented affection for country music.
Here’s my thoughts on some of the tracks from Don Henley’s album, Cass County:
“Bramble Rose” – The album starts with this Tift Merritt song. The songe features Miranda Lambert and Mick Jagger with Henley. When I saw the lineup on this song, I was curious how it would sound. I was pleasantly surprised by this combination of diverse voices. We all know that Miranda Lambert can sing country songs, but remember that The Rolling Stones went through their country phase in the early 1970’s. Plus, Jagger plays harmonica on this tune.
“The Cost of Living”- This duet with Merle Haggard is one of the best songs on the album. I don’t know that I have ever heard Don or Merle ever sing a bad duet. They are two of the best at performing with other singers.
“Take a Picture of This”- We hear the higher register of Henley’s voice that we have come love. This song’s chord progression, along with the timpani hits, remind me of a Roy Orbison tune.
“Word Can Break Your Heart”- We all know this too well. A great reminder of the power that is in the words we speak.
“Praying for Rain” -Everyone knows Henley’s stand on environmental issues, and after hearing the first few lines, I wondering if the song was going to be preachy. However, it turns into the type of song I have heard before. It is just the story of farmers looking to the sky for an answer to their prayers. It makes you realize that when you think that your views are so far away from someone else, you may be closer than you think.
“When I Stop Dreaming”- Henley picks another great duet partner in Dolly Parton. They nail this Louvin Brothers classic.
“A Younger Man”- The beautiful, sad words from an older man to a younger woman involved in a May/December romance. The thing I like about this song is that I can’t tell if this is a case of self-pity, cynicism or wisdom that is being bestowed upon the young lady.
“Train in the Distance”- The lure of what lies beyond one’s immediate surroundings pulls at many people throughout their lives. This is a beautifully arranged song, featuring mandolin, acoustic guitar and dobro.

We have heard the country sounds Don Henley over the years, especially in the early years of the Eagles. However, we have not heard this much country music from Henley since the Eagles’ Desperado album. While exploring his roots, Henley had a great supporting cast. If you look deeper than the guest appearances mentioned on the surface of the album, you will find that the likes of Lucinda Williams, Lee Ann Womack, Trisha Yearwood, Alison Krauss, Ashley Monroe, Bryant Sutton and Jerry Douglas. When you add that kind of support to Don Henley’s voice, you have the ingredients of a great project. If you are a fan of Don Henley, The Eagles or traditional country music, give Cass County a listen.

 

 

September 23, 2015

ward davis

 

I came across this album last week, Ward Davis’ 15 Years in a 10 Year Town. I knew I recognized the name, but couldn’t place it. As I read through the song titles on the album, I saw “Unfair Weather Friend”. Then, it hit me! Ward Davis was the co-writer of that song from Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s Django and Jimmy album. It is my favorite song on that album. If the rest of the songs were as good as “Unfair Weather Friend”, this was going to be a good album. They were, and it was.

Here are my thoughts on some of the tracks from 15 Years in a 10 Year Town:

“No Goin’ Home”- A modern take on a old west sound: harmonica, distorted guitar, the jingle of a tambourine that brings to mind the jingling of spurs as a cowboy walks down the street. The lyrics are that of an ominous warning. Davis’ voice is strong, and perfectly suits this song.
“More Goodbye”- A song of heartbreak and loss in a classic, barroom setting. This is a great country song!
“15 Years in a 10 Year Town”- The title track is one that many writers and wannabe stars can identify with. Keep on keeping on, brothers and sisters.
“Old Wore Out Cowboys”- This is the only song on the album not written by Davis. This Ed Bruce penned classic sounds as good as ever, with Jamey Johnson and Willie Nelson adding their voice to Davis’.
“The Overpass”- This is another song that benefits from Davis’ voice and delivery. It is a thought provoking song about the homeless of our country. It reminded me that the homeless were once like you and me. Then, due to circumstances, they wound up homeless.
“Unfair Weather Friend”- Davis does a great job on this song that is featured on Willie and Merle’s latest album. A beautiful song.
“I Got You”- This type of song runs the risk of coming across as corny, but not with Ward Davis. Having someone that takes the place of vices that could control your life is a story I have heard many times from people I know. Here’s to the calming influences in our lives.
“Skeptic’s Prayer”- I hope folks give this song a chance. I think it is an honest plea to the man upstairs. It seems to be about a person who is struggling to keep their faith.
It was a pleasant surprise to come across Ward Davis’ 15 Years in a 10 Year Town. For any fan of singer/songwriters, this album is a must have.

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September 16, 2015

whitney rose

 

This week’s Catch of the Week has a sound that hearkens back to the 1950’s and early 1960’s era of both country and rock and roll. Canadian singer/songwriter Whitney Rose does a beautiful job of capturing the spirit of the music from that generation, while at the same time sounding fresh. It doesn’t hurt that Rose has fellow admirer of the 1950’s and 1960’s music, The Mavericks’ Raul Malo, producing, as well as playing and singing on Heartbreaker of the Year.
When creating an album that has such a definite sound of an era of music, one would expect many cover songs. However, there are only 2 cover songs: The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and Hank Williams’ “There’s a Tear in My Beer”. Both of these songs have been completely changed. The former is a duet with Malo, while the latter is a slowed down version of the classic. It turns the song into a true tear jerker, instead of a parody.

 

The rest of the songs on the album are originals from Rose. “Little Piece of You,” has elements of the girl group pop sounds of the early 1960’s and the twang of 1960’s country, with steel guitar and piano.
One of my favorite songs on the album is “The Last Party”. It features the slip note style piano, a la Floyd Cramer, and the whine of a steel guitar. Add Malo’s background vocals, and you have a great song. This is the most out and out country song on the record.
Some other highlights on the album includes the western meets surf twang “Lasso” and the
“”The Devil Borrowed My Boots”, which has a beat and riff similar to Harper Valley PTA.

Whitney Rose delivers great lyrics and beautiful vocal deliveries on Heartbreaker of the Year. This combines 2 styles that I am very fond of. Sometimes when an artists sets out to combine genres, it can come across as fake. Not here. This is the genuine article, and although it brings to mind some recordings by The Mavericks and Chris Issak, Heartbreaker of the Year stands by itself as a fresh, unique look at country music.

 

 

 

September 9, 2015

 

dwight yoakam pic
We are going to take a second look at an album that I picked as a “Catch of the Week” earlier this year. It is from Dwight Yoakam.
It is always a big event for me when a new Dwight Yoakam album comes out. Ever since I first laid ears on his music, I have loved it. His sound is a cool conglomeration of American music wth a rebel edge, that is inviting, pleasing even, without seeming to care if you are pleased are not. The recording seems to be made for the sakes of the songs. Dwight Yoakam’s latest album, Second Hand Heart, is in that same vain. Whenever you talk about Yoakam’s music, you have to talk about the influences. They are again evident on this album. As with almost all of his records, Second Hand Heart shows the influence of the Bakersfield sound. However, it also shows shades of other influences. Some of the harmonies are reminiscent of the Beach Boys, while the overall sound shows hues of The Byrds or the Flying Burrito Brothers ,with it’s California country rock sound, and rock-a-billy sounds of Memphis. I have addressed the influences, now let’s talk about this album because it is 100 percent Dwight Yoakam

“In Another World” has a classic country sound, but the chorus reminds me of another California sound, The Beach Boys. It is a very interesting and cool combination of American sounds.
“She” also features The Beach Boys type harmonies, but also sounds a little like the Byrds.
“Dreams of Clay” has a nice steel guitar, underlying Yoakam’s lead vocals and harmony accompaniment. The chorus, again, features a Beach Boys type vocal swell.
“Second Hand Heart”- has great lyrics and just the right amount of reverb on the vocals. The song is a definite country rocker. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album.
“Off Your Mind”- is more of an old time country sounding song, except for the organ at the beginning. The song has a solid sort of Johnny Cash beat .
“Believe”- from the first chords, it sounds like a song from The Byrds. Vocal it strictly Dwight Yoakam, but the prominent electric 12 string guitar points to Roger McGuinn.
“Man of Constant Sorrow” a heavy rock-a-billy cover of the bluegrass standard, that saw a revival with the movie “O, Brother Where Art Thou”. The Kentucky native does a fine version of the song, combining the vocals that would be welcomed at any bluegrass festival with the rock and roll guitars.
“Liar”- This is another song that has a rock-a-billy feel, with Scotty Moore style guitar licks and hand claps. Add a bluesy harmonica break to that, and the crowd has to be up on their feet.
“The Big Time”-Another great rock-a-billy sounding song. Go cat go!
“V’s of Birds”-The most polished track of the album. This song, written by songwriter Anthony Crawford, features a great combination of mandolin, organ, piano and guitar on the musical breaks. It very much reminds me of The Band. This is another one of my favorites on the album.

This is another great album from Dwight Yoakam. He can still hold his own with the likes of today’s country stars. He recorded most of the album in between dates opening for Eric Church. That’s right! Yoakam recorded this album with his road band. Not many people have the faith, guts or heart to that. Dwight Yoakam has always done things his own way, and given us so many memorable albums, and this is no exception. Check out Second Hand Heart today

 

 

 

September 2, 2015

 

The Honeycutters

 

I want to revisit a catch from earlier this year. I am so glad I discovered this group  My catch of the week comes from mountains of North Carolina. The Honeycutters, from Asheville, are led by singer-songwriter Amanda Anne Platt. The rest of the band, consisting of Rick Cooper on bass, Josh Milligan on drums, Tal Taylor on mandolin, , and Matt Smith on everything else (pedal steel, electric guitar, and dobro) offer a musical sound that they have classified Appalachian Honky Tonk, and it is a great sound.I am glad I found them.
Here are a few of my favorite tracks on their latest album, Me Oh My
The opening track, “Jukebox”, has a light honky tonk feel that is a great way to start off the album.
“Lucky” is one of my favorites on the album. It has killer lines, such as , “I’m tired of the truth/ I’m tired of pretending/ I’m tired of smiling/ When my world is quietly ending. ”
“Edge of The Frame” has a catchy melody that draws you in before the deep lyrics hits you.

The title track is a song about the struggles of women in this modern society. Every guy needs to listen to this. Come to think of it, every women needs to listen to this, too.

“Carolina” is about leaving home with the fond memories of a life will soon be familiar but distant.
“Texas ’81” is a song of the inevitable end of an intimate relationship.
“Not That Simple” is a song of loving someone that you can’t have. Even though you tell yourself it will be better, it is not better now. In fact, it feels terrible.
The happy “Wedding Song” is about finding the person that reaches and understands you better than anyone else. As the song says, finding the person who “pieced me back together, kissed the hurting parts and made me new.”

“I’ll Be Loving You” is a song of hope that circumstances will be better come tomorrow. This is such an uplifting song that I didn’t even notice that the song is nearly six minutes long, and I bet you wouldn’t have noticed if I had not mentioned it.
“A Life for You” is a painful, yet beautiful song about the end of a relationship, but without the contempt that often follows a breakup. You can feel the pain in Platt’s voice. This is another wonderful song.
The Platt’s thoughtful, yet simple, songwriting, singing, along with the band’s musical arrangements, are a perfect match. I love the steel guitar lines , and how it is intertwined with the mandolin work. Me Oh My, I am happy

 

 

August 26, 2015

 

Chris Jones and The Night Drivers

 

This week, we turn to the world of bluegrass once again. This time, it’s Chris Jones & the Night Drivers’ new album, Run Away Tonight. The unmistakable, unique sound of Chris Jones and the Night Drivers shines through on this album. Run Away Tonight features six original songs from Jones and the guys.
Along with Jones, The Night Drivers consisit of Jon Weisberger on bass, Ned Luberecki on banjo, and mandolin player  Mark Stoffel.
Here’s my thoughts on the tracks from Run Away Tonight:

“Laurie”- A great way to start the album. A song that makes you wonder if things changed or was he left high and dry.
“One Night in Paducah” – One of my favorite tracks from the album. You know you have it bad it you have “neither love nor money”.
“Once You’re Gone”- This song is about pushing someone away from their comfortable surroundings, so they can chase a dream or fulfill their destiny. Who knows? Don’t look back. Keep going forward.
“Tonight I’m Gonna Ride”- This a great, uptempo train song. Even in these modern times, bluegrass music has a fascination with trains. I believe as long as their is bluegrass music, people will be singing train songs.
” She’s Just About To Say Goodbye”- You won’t hear a sadder song. The foreknowledge that a love is coming to an end does not make it any easier to handle.
“Dust Off the Pain”- A classic “I am not going to miss you anyway” song. At least try to keep a stiff upper lip. See you later, baby!
“Pinto The Wonder Horse Is Dead”- Chris and the guys do a great version of this song from “The Storyteller”, Tom T. Hall.
“Shelby 8″- Mark Stoffel’s instrumental is great, too. A very smooth instrumental. With most bluegrass instrumentals being at a blistering, melt your face speed, it is nice to have a change of pace.
“Thinking About You”- This Flatt and Scruggs songs comes to life in the skillful hands of Chris Jones and the Night Drivers. It a faithful rendition that hearkens back to Lester and Earl’s version.
“The Leaving Of Liverpool”- This classic folk song, popular in Ireland, Great Britain and the United States, has never sounded better.
“Bowties are Cool”- Ned Luberecki’s wonderful instrumental is , I assume, a tribute to Dr. Who. I wonder if he was wearing a fez, too?
“My Portion And My Cup”- This song, written by Jones and Donna Ulisse, is a beautiful way to close out the album.

Although Chris Jones is well known among folks in the industry, I don’t think he gets the credit he and The Night Drivers deserve for putting out great music. Give Chris Jones and the Night Drivers’ Run Away Tonight a listen. I believe you will take a liking to it.

 

 August 19, 2015

 

Lonesome River Band

 

This Catch of the Week is actually an album that was released last fall, The Lonesome River Band’s Turn on a Dime. The reason I have chosen it as my catch so long after being released is because the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Award nominees were released the other week, and the Lonesome River Band is nominated in several categories including, SONG OF THE YEAR for “Her Love Won’t Turn On A Dime” ; GOSPEL RECORDED EVENT OF THE YEAR for “Holding To The Right Hand” ; and INSTRUMENTAL RECORDED PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR for “Cumberland Gap” Sammy Shelor has also been nominated for BANJO PERFORMER OF THE YEAR. By the way, the IBMA Awards ceremony will be on October 1st.
If you just checked out the album for the songs that I already mentioned, it would be worth it, but there is a whole album (12 songs total). From the lonely “Teardrop Express” to the cover of Merle Haggard’s “Shelly’s Winter Love”, from “Bonnie Brown” to “Lila Mae” this is another in a long line of great LRB albums.
The Lonesome River Band’s includes Sammy Shelor on Banjo & Vocals, Brandon Rickman on Guitar, Lead & Harmony Vocals; Mike Hartgrove on fiddle, Barry Reed on bass, and Jesse Smathers on Mandolin and Lead & Harmony Vocals, and they really deliver on Turn on a Dime. Best of luck to the LRB on the IBMA Awards nominations.

 

 

August 12, 2015

 

django_and_jimmie-33248338-frntl

 

I wanted to revisit an album from earlier this year, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s Django and Jimmie.

It has been 32 years since Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard released the album Pancho and Lefty. When that album was released, many people believed it to be the beginning of the end of Willie and Merle’s careers. Boy, were they wrong. Their new album, Django and Jimmie, shows that they duo still have a lot to offer.

The title track is performed with such conviction that I thought Willie and Merle must have written it. However, the song was penned by Jimmy Melton and Jeff Prince. By the way, if you are not familiar with “Django” Reinhardt or Jimmie Rodgers, make a note to look them up.

“It’s All Going to Pot”, written by Buddy Cannon (who produced the album), Jamey Johnson (who sings harmony on this track) and Larry Shell, is a classic tongue-in-cheek, double entendre. The horns a very nice touch.

Buddy Cannon shows up again on the credits of the album, as he and Willie co-wrote several songs for this project: “Alice in Hulaland”, “It’s Only Money”, “Where Dreams Come to Die” and “Driving the Herd”. Cannon and Nelson teamed up for a great number of songs on Willie’s last solo album, Band of Brothers, with the same results. They work well together as songwriters to put out great new songs.

“Unfair Weather Friend”, written by Marla Cannon-Goodman and Ward Davis, is my favorite track on the album. This beautiful track is simple, yet powerful.

“Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash” is a fun tribute to the Man in Black. Written by Merle Haggard, Bobby Bare helps Hag and The Red Headed Stranger reminisces about Johnny.

“Live This Long” , like the title track, is a song that when I heard it sounded like a Willie or Merle penned song. Wrong again. Shawn Camp and Merv Green’s song fits Haggard and Nelson perfectly.

Willie and Merle cover the Bob Dylan classic “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”. The song has been covered by many people, including most recently Dolly Parton on  her album Blue Smoke. Every artist puts a little different take on it. Willie and Merle’s version is as smooth as silk.

It is not a surprise that Haggard and Nelson revisit some of their own classics on the album. “Family Bible”, “Swinging Doors” and “Somewhere Between” sound as good as ever.

The album closes out nicely with Haggard’s new song, “The Only Man Wilder Than Me”.

The thing I like most about this album is that Willie and Merle don’t try to hide their age. In fact, it sounds as if they embrace their age along the experience that comes with it. This album reminds me of sitting down with older folks and listening to them talk about their past. Sometimes there is a bit of sadness, but it is mostly  stories that are humorous and fun. If you are just now discovering Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, this is not the album you should start with. Listen to their vast catalogs before coming back to Django and Jimmy. If you are a long time fan like me, this is almost icing on some of the best cake you have ever tasted. Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard may be heading into the sunset, but they are taking their sweet time. Gentlemen, take as much time as you need.

 

August 5, 2015

 

Sam-Outlaw--Angeleno-album-cover

 

In my never ending search for the best new country albums, I undoubtedly will miss a few great projects. Luckily, with the help of listeners, friends and family, I am told about some great albums that I need to give a listen. My dad told me about a guy he saw on TV named Sam Outlaw. I thought it was a gimmick name. He assured me that I would enjoy his singing. So, I started to dig, and found out a little about this new act. First, the name Outlaw is actually his mother’s maiden name, and he uses it as a stage name to honor her memory. That explanation made me like him already. If you are tipping your hat to your mother, you are OK in my book. Then, I moved on to the singing. This southern California native’s EP was released in 2014. It caught a lot of people’s attention, including the legendary Ry Cooder. Cooder asked to produce Outlaw’s first full length project. That project, Angeleno, was just released in June of 2015. When you have legends asking to produce your album, plus the likes of Bo Koster of My Morning Jacket and Gabe Witcher of The Punch Brothers adding their talents to your album, it is a good indication that you are on your way.
Angeleno is an interesting album. It has elements of the countrypolitan sound, complete with strings that would rival a Glen Campbell song, matched with Mexican horns and guitars, and steel guitars.

Here are my thoughts on the tracks from the album:

“Who Do You Think You Are?” – As I just mentioned, the swell of strings at the beginning of this song reminded me of a Glen Campbell song. Then, there is the mariachi horn and southwestern guitars mixed with the Mexican shuffle of the percussion. Layer that with the steel guitar and you have a great love song. It is perfect combination of elements for an artist from southern California.
“Keep It Interesting”- This song has a more western sound, as in country and western. This is a song of dogged determination of perseverance in a relationship. Beautiful interplay between the fiddle and steel guitar.
“I’m Not Jealous” – This has a more classic country sound. This is a different look at a cheating song. Instead of the normal anger and sadness that is expressed in most of these types of songs, it embarrassment for the one who is cheating from the one being cheated on that is shown.
“Love Her for a While”- Outlaw’s voice is perfectly suited for this song. It is gentle and soft, yet when he sings he exudes a confidence that is matter of fact. It reminds me a little of a Paul Overstreet song.
“Angeleno”- The title track again goes back to the western and Mexican sounds mixed with strings. I think this is one of the strongest songs on the project.
“Country Love Song”- Here’s another love song on the album. A man out on the road wishing he were back home with his love. It is a beautiful song. I would normally be getting a bit queasy from this many love songs on one album, but it doesn’t bother me in the least. I think the way the songs are delivered (singing, music and production) make it enjoyable.
“Ghost Town”- If I had to pick one track for people to listen to, and try to convince them to check out the rest of the album, it would be this one. The ghost towns that he is going through are an allegory for his own past. This is a wonderful truck.
“Jesus Take The Wheel (And Drive Me to a Bar)”- A tongue in cheek, or better yet, bottle in hand song. It is so rediculous it is hilarious. These types of absurd songs are a country tradition that I am glad to see Outlaw is upholding.
“It Might Kill Me”- Another classic sounding song. We have all felt like this at sometime. We have gone through difficult times and you wonder if you will come out on the other side, or will you be a casualty to the hard time.
“Keep a Close Eye on Me”- This song is the most unique on the album. It has the sound of a gospel song, and not just because of the subject matter. The use of the piano in the song gives it a gospel feel.
“Old Fashioned”- It is a romantic look at romance. He is declaring his love for his lady to be of the old fashioned, stronger variety.
“Hole Down In My Heart”- This is up tempo song about being done wrong in love. Great echo on the voice. The harmony vocals really add a lot to this song. There is also an acoustic guitar break. Yes!
As I admitted earlier, you cannot judge a book, or in this case, a CD, by it’s cover, or by a performer’s name, to be exact. Sam Outlaw is worth checking out. It is a refreshing country sound that we don’t hear in today’s music, and I don’t know about you, but I need more variety in country music. Take a listen to Angeleno today.

 

 

 

July 29, 2015

 

ashley-monroe-400x400

 

Although Ashley Monroe has written hit songs for the likes of Miranda Lambert, as well as working with the Pistol Annie’s and a duet with Blake Shelton, The Blade may be the album that makes the public stand up and take notice of Ashley Monroe as a complete, solo artist. With the exception of one song, Monroe either wrote, or co-wrote, every song on this new album. Her co-writers include a well known list of wordsmiths, like Chris Stapleton, Miranda Lambert, Matraca Berg and Vince Gill (who also served as a co-producer on the album, Justin Niebank is the other ).
Here’s my thoughts on some of the tracks from The Blade:
“On to Something Good”- This is the first single off of the album. It has the sound of pop-country from years gone by. Maybe the early 1980’s. I can’t quite place it. When you hear this song, you defintley want to start tapping your toes.
“Bombshell”- A slow, straight forward, steel guitar drenched ballad. I love songs like this, and I think that many artists, for whatever reason, dodge songs like this. I also love that the ending of the song doesn’t resolve.
“The Blade”- “You caught it by the handle, and I caught it by the blade.” What a great and memorable hook.
“Winning Streak”- This has an early Elvis sound, complete with backing vocals that sound like the Jordanaires. Curl your lip and shake your hips!
“Dixie”- This is one of my favorites from the album. The song features these lyrics, ” It was the mines that killed my daddy, It was the law that killed my man, it was the Bible Belt that whipped me when I broke the fifth command.” Wow!
“if the Devil Don’t Want Me”- This is as classic as a love gone wrong, country song gets. Steel guitar and fiddles! Lord have mercy!
“I’m Good at Leaving”- Co-written with Miranda Lambert and Jessi Alexander, this song is a clever country tune in 3/4 time.

With all of the speed bumps and road blocks that Ashley Monroe has experienced in her solo career, it is nice to see that with her last album, Like a Rose and new album, The Blade,  she is finally getting some of the recognition that is due her. Although it does not hurt to have famous friends Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert singing her praises, Ashley Monroe’s work on The Blade stands on it’s on. I hope that Monroe receives  the same acclaim from fans and country radio as it already has from critics.

 

 

July 22, 2015

 

Alan-Jackson-Angels-And-Alcohol

 

After recording gospel and bluegrass albums in recent years, Alan Jackson has returned to his iconic country sound on his latest album, Angels and Alcohol. From the crying steel guitars, prominent fiddles, hot lead guitars, excellent writing and singing, this album will satisfy Jackson fans thoroughly.

Here’s my thoughts on the tracks from Angels and Alcohol:

-“You Can Always Come Home”-The slow, acoustic guitar intro drew me in. Then, it picks up into the sound of classic Alan Jackson. Having someone to encourage you to chase your dreams, while promising a safe, warm place to which you can return is the ultimate in support.
-“You Never Know”- This is a song that will get everybody up and dancing. It is the perfect combination of rockabilly, fiddle and steel guitar. “You never know when love’s gonna walk right through the door.”
“Angels and Alcohol”- The title track is as stone country as it gets. Although Jackson wrote this song, but I believe he drew heavily from Merle Haggard. Not only are the lyrics sharp, with no wasted words, but the musical arrangement echoes that of Merle.
“Gone Before You Met Me”- An ode to the rambler that has settled down. Even though from time to time he dreams of hitting the road, he comes back to his reality in the morning.
“The One You’re Waiting On”- A guy trying to let a girl know that he would not take her for granted like the one she is waiting on. The steel guitar work, mixed with the lead guitar and mandolin work set the mood nicely for this song.
“Jim and Jack and Hank”- Yes, sir! What a great lead single for this album. The title characters of this song being Jim Beam, Jack Daniels and Hank Williams will help him survive any rough spot he may encounter. He also mentions others that he can turn to at the end of the song: Jose , Willie , Merle, George and Tammy , Captain Morgan, Big John Cash, Jimmy Buffett, Hank Jr………
“I Leave a Light On”- Heartbreak in 3/4 time! Yes! “I leave a light on for your memory.” It is enough to make a deacon ask a lady, “Would you like to dance?”
“Flaws”- This is a fun song about what we all have. The flaws are what makes us unique, and makes life interesting.
“When God Paints”- This song reminds us to slow down and enjoy the simple mysteries of life. Beautiful.
“Mexico, Tequilia and Me”- This is a great way to end the album. Everybody is looking for a get away, but we don’t get to take those trips as often as we would like. So, we keep our hopes alive for future excursions with songs like this. Buenos Noches!

Alan Jackson wrote all but three of the songs on this album. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I am going to give him another swat. Modern country songwriters need to listen to this album, take notes and apply what they have learned. These songs mention drinking, heartbreak, God, love and hope, in no particular order. Some of these subjects are covered in modern country songs, but there is a difference in the way they are broached. I feel like modern songwriters are trying to convince everyone that they are country. So they mention the things they think are country: dirt roads, back roads, moonlight, tailgates, pretty girls, moonshine, etc. Then they repeat these key phrases, as if they mention them enough times we will believe that they are country. They need to ask themselves, “What Would Jackson Do?’ He would write, play and sing songs that are real, poetic and most definitely country, without one time reminding us that he is in fact a country singer. This is one of the best albums that Alan Jackson has ever put out. I would highly recommend giving Angels and Alcohol a try.

 

July 15, 2015

 

Jason isbell-something-more-than-free-400x395

 

Jason Isbell’s much awaited follow up to Southeastern, Something More Than Free will finally be available on Friday, July 17th. While Southeastern was a stripped down, singer-songwriter type album, Something More Than Free sees Isbell re-united with his band, The 400 Unit, which includes his wife Amanda Shires, for a fuller sound. While Southeastern was an album dealing with just trying to survive, Something More Than Free goes beyond just surviving. It is an album of learning from , and growing because of past experiences. The redeeming of a life that at one time may have seemed a hopeless case.

Here’s my thoughts on some of the tracks on Something More Than Free:
“If It Takes a Lifetime”- This laid back ramble is about reaching the comfortable position of having harvested the crop of one’s wild oats, and finding some sort of peace in everyday occurrences. It has the feeling of a John Prine song. Not a copy by any means, rather an echo of influence.
“24 Frames” – The title is a reference to the number of frames to make one second of film. The sarcastic, cynical lyrics make this one of the more memorable tracks on the album. It is a reminder of the how real life works. Things happen that you cannot control, no matter your plans.
“Flagship”- Being in a relationship with someone should be more than just existing , like a old old building that has seen it’s better days. “Baby let’s not ever get that way/I’ll say what ever words I need to say/I’ll throw rocks at the window from the street/We’ll call ourselves the flagship of the fleet.” A wonderful, beautiful plan.
“How to Forget”- Trying to put your past behind you is easier said than done, especially with old friends who bring up, and remind you of decisions and actions that are now regretted.
“Children of Children”- This reflective song is from grown child of a young mother, thinking about “all the years I took from her just from being born”. It serves as an apology, but there is also an underlying gratitude. There is a great musical break at the end of the song, featuring slide guitar and strings.
“Life You Chose”- It features one of the most simple, yet profound lines on this album. “Are you living the life you chose? Are you living the life that chose you?” This very direct question, like the rest song, has a sting to it, and is delivered by someone that themselves has been stung.
“Something More Than Free”- The sentiment of this song is one that many a working man has held. Being slave to a routine that never changes: Go to work, home and back again. All the while, being thankful for the job you have, and looking forward to the day when you will gain eternal rest. And the people said, “Amen.”

“Speed Trap Town”-“Everyone knows you in a speed trap town.” Never a truer statement has been said. Most locals watch their speed in a speed trap town. That why when a crash happens, it is noticed by everyone.
“Hudson Commodore”- This song features Amanda Shires beautiful fiddle with an acoustic guitar. The chorus brings in thick, rich harmonies that make this my instant favorites.

“Palmetto Rose”- This song is about Charleston, SC. . The song is a sort of tribute to the workers of Charleston. It has a line that says,”Lord let me die in the Iodine State”. That is one of the old nicknames for South Carolina from the 1920’s. It was due to the high levels of iodine found naturally in fruits and vegetables grown in the state. By the way, a palmetto rose is fronds of the palmetto tree that are woven into the shape of a rose. It is an old tradition, and can be purchased in the Holy City.

 

Jason Isbell is one of the most talented lyricists of this generation. We already knew that. Something More Than Free proves Southeastern was not the pinnacle of his songwriting and performing career. It shows that Isbell, if not swallowed up by a major label, will continue to grow, explore and thrive, and , hopefully, provide us with more classics, like Something More Than Free, for years to come.

 

 

July 8, 2015

 

alison moorer

 

I decided to revisit a pick from earlier this year because you don’t want to miss out on this album. This is one of the best albums to come out this year.

Allison Moorer has encountered a lot of changes in the last few years, all while trying to record her latest album, Down to Believing, including going through a divorce and having her son diagnosed with autism. Despite all of that, this is one of the best album’s that she has put out, ever.
The songs ring of her recent experiences. I would be tempted to tell my story through characters in each song, and there is nothing wrong with that. Both ways are cathartic. I think it takes a lot more guts and expert songwriting to tell your story without seeming trite. All these songs show Moorer’s vulnerability, but it shows here strengths, too.
Moorer comes out the gate very strong with “Like It Used to Be”. A strong declaration  to anyone that doubted that things had changed.
“Thunderstorm Hurricane” features Moorer’s beautiful vocal over a mixture of strings, heavy percussion and electric guitar. It is a very powerful combination.
“I Lost My Crystal Ball” is about the point of return in a relationship, where you don’t know what do next, but the only thing to do is destroy what you have known. This is a great track. The title track, “Down to Believing”, is a melancholy walk down memory lane in 3/4 time. “Tear Me Apart” sees the emotional tensions coming to a boiling point. The vocals explode in a statement of enough is enough, but ends with the question of ,”why do you want to tear me apart?”
“If I Were Stronger,” is a song of accepting the resolution of a relationship ending after every avenue of compromise has been exercised.
“Wish I” is a song of what ifs and should have beens that anyone who has been through a breakup can identify with. This track is very strong.”Blood” is a beautiful song about unconditional love of a family member. Moorer says that she wrote this song for her sister, singer Shleby Lynne.
I love the swampy sound of “Mama Let the Wolf In”. It almost sounds like a song that should come from the CCR catalog. The lead guitar licks are even reminiscent of John Fogerty’s style.Speaking of CCR, the only cover song on this album is a version of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” Moorer does a great job with her version, and it echoes the sentiments of the rest of the album. “I’m Doing Fine” is a song about leaving the old life behind and trying to move on.”Back of My Mind” is pop driven song that has an simple, infectious chorus .”Gonna Get Wrong” is a song of perseverance. This song features one of my favorite lines on the album; “Everything I do turns into don’t/ Still I stand/ Still I try/ And I know I’m gonna get it wrong/ but it’s alright.”

The final song is a great way to end the album. It wraps up the feeling of Down To Believing. Things happen in life that are  not fun, and doesn’t seem fair, but after all is said and done, she is still standing to face another day. As with many artists, the tough times produce some of the most beautiful and lasting masterpieces. Down to Believing is evidence of that very thing.

 

 

 

July 1, 2015

 

easton corbin

 

As many of you know, I am big fan of traditional country music. I wish all new country music had some elements of the traditional sounds that I am fond of, and I don’t mean random fiddles over electronic beats or six string banjos that are added to give it a country twang. I am no fool. I know music changes. It always has. It always will. However, when I hear an album that has those classic country elements that I grew up with, I am ready to gobble it up.
Easton Corbin’s third studio album, About to Get Real, is just the type of mainstream country album that people of similar tastes as mine will enjoy, while at the same time gain significant radio airplay and break through to the modern country listener.
You should recognize “Clockwork” and “Baby Be My Love Song” , the first two singles from the album. Both have done very well for Corbin.
Corbin should appease the modernist with songs like “Kiss Me One More Time”, “Yup” and “Guys and Girls”. It has enough modern elements, production and lyrics wise, while at the same time it is palatable for traditionalists.
“About to Get Real”- Another solid song on an album in which any of the songs could be a single. I am curious if this one will be released as single. I believe it should be.
“Wild Women and Whiskey”- This honky tonker, written by Ronnie Dunn and Terry McBride, is bound to make you want to hit the dance floor, with it’s fiddle, country lead guitar, steel guitar and piano. Who knows, you might even want to dust off the Boot Scoot dance in honor of the songs co-writer.
“Just Add Water”, with it’s content and sound, could have been a hit for Kenny Chesney. It is a very fun song.
“Are You With Me” and “Like A Song”- Praise the Lord! Country ballads that feature steel guitars and lyrics that sound like poetry. That is the way country love songs should be delivered.
About to Get Real is a very solid country album that merges the modern and classic country sounds (leaning a little more to the latter), and delivers heart felt ballads, and fun, up-tempo party songs. Although he has attained success in the past, I believe this album may push Easton Corbin into that next level of country super-stardom.

 

 

June 24, 2015

 

Kacey-Musgraves-Pageant-Material-2015-1000x1000

 

 

I have been anxiously anticipating Kacey Musgrasves latest album, Pageant Material, like the 2 finalist at Miss America waiting for the judges’ decision. I fell in love with her songwriting and vocal delivery on the album Same Trailer, Different Park. My love grows with Pageant Material ,and Musgraves songs of small town gossip, family problems and life delivered with a wit and satire that is noticeably absent in today’s country music. Although I am not putting her on the same level as Loretta Lynn, the humor and satire in Musgraves songs reminds me of early number by The Coal Miner’s Daughter.

Here’ my thoughts on each track of Pageant Material:

“High Time”- This is a song about returning to one’s roots. Not getting above your raising, so to speak. Beautiful classical, Spanish style guitar and string arrangements give this song a unique sound.
“Dime Store Cowgirl”- This continues in the Musgraves tradition of recording songs that are unapologetic for who she is. She not trying to keep up with the latest trends, rather trying to be herself, even if that may not meet some people’s standards.
“Late to the Party”- A love song delivered with a light pop sound intermixed with a steel guitar. Beautiful!
“Pageant Material”- This is another funny song about fighting through the expected template for a girl, especially in the south. The music sounds harkens back to the 1960’s.
“This Town”- A classic song of satire about small town gossip. The strings in this song reminds me of the strings in “Ode to Billy Joe”.
“Biscuits”- The lead single off the album has already grown on me. I was hooked at the title. A fat boy will at least tolerate a song that is named after food, but I more than tolerate the song. It echoes my own personal philosophy, and that of the Hank Williams, Sr., “mind your own business and you won’t be minding mine,”
“Somebody to Love”- I love the drone sounds of the fiddles at the beginning of this song. The lyrics makes generalities that actually apply to all of us. We are just trying to figure out life, but we are really looking for love.
“Miserable”- We all know someone like this. Heck, you may be that person. Not just the eternal pessimist, but the something more akin to Winnie the Pooh’s friend Eeyore. The line, “if misery loves company then I cain’t keep you company no more,” is words to live by. Try to cheer up someone, but you can’t dwell in constant negativity because it will bring you down, too.
“Die Fun”- Some people grow older, but never grow up. This song is a tribute to those that are able to accomplish this feat.
“Family is Family”- I laughed out loud when I first heard this song. She nails the feelings, albeit exaggerated, that we have all had about our kin folks. You got to love ’em.
“Good Ol’ Boys Club”- An anthem of doing things on your own, without backroom deals and slaps on the back.
“Cup of Tea”- You’ve heard the old saying , “You can’t please everybody.” This song reminds you that it is OK to make a mistake. Just don’t dwell on the failures. Pick up the pieces and keep going because life goes on.
“Fine”- A melancholy waltz about a faithful hearted person that has read the writing on the wall, but refuses to believe the situation is as it seems.

Wait for the hidden track, “Are You Sure” at the end of the album that features Hawaiian steel and the unmistakable picking pattern and vocals of Willie Nelson. Great day in the morning! What a way to end the album.

Pageant Material is a wonderful follow up, and I would even say a companion album, to . Although she has gained critical acclaim , I hope she gains more airplay on country radio. She deserves it.

 

 

June 17, 2015

 

steeldrivers

 

The SteelDrivers have been known for walking the tightrope between traditional and progressive bluegrass. They have had the success of Nik Walenda on that tightrope. Their latest album, The Muscle Shoals Recordings, is another balancing act between old and new. I did not know what to expect when I saw the name of this album. When I think of Muscle Shoals, I think of Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The Muscle Shoals Recordings were recording in the vicinity of where the classic soul and rock and roll were recorded, but besides that there are no other similarities.
Some of my favorite tracks of the album include:
“Ashes of Yesterday”- This is a heart breaker in 3/4 time. Jason Isbell provides some slide guitar work on this song.
“California Chainsaw”- This is a great instrumental track that reminds us that The SteelDrivers are more than just singers. They can hang with most groups instrumentally.
“Brother John”- What bluegrass album is complete without a murder ballad. Jason Isbell shows up again on this song, slide in hand.
“Six Feet Away”- A sober reminder that life can be fleeting. So, you better make it count while you can.
“River Runs Red”- A chilling Civil War ballad that is the best track on the album. “The winners are losers when you count the dead.”
If you are a fan of The SteelDrivers, then you will enjoy this album. It features the strong lead vocals of Gary Nichols (who took over for Chris Stapleton when he left in 2010), and the harmony vocals and great instrumentation of Tammy Rodgers on fiddle, Brent Truitt on mandolin, Richard Bailey on the banjo and Mike Fleming on the bass. Though the music on this album is not classified as soul music, there is a lot of soul in the songs on The Muscle Shoals Recordings.

 

 

June 10, 2015

 

dale watson

 

Dale Watson is a Texas honky tonk legend. In the “Music Capital of the World”, Watson is a member of the Austin Music Hall of Fame. He also founded a new genre of music, americopolitan, that encompasses many forms of roots music forms , including honky tonk, rockabilly, western swing and outlaw music. With all that being said, with Watson’s new album Call Me Insane, you get exactly what you would expect; pure, honky tonk drenched country.
“Day at a Time” – Dale hits the ground running with this song about hanging on till tomorrow, no matter what happens.
“Bug Ya For Love”- A song that just invites you to hit the dance floor with your sweetheart, or perhaps to try to find a sweetheart,
“Burden of the Cross”- a heart wrenching song that comes from Watson’s personal experiences.
“Everybody’s Somebody in Luchenbach, Texas”- This songs drops the name of the Texas location that was made famous by Waylon and Willie. A great honky tonk song.
“Crocodile Tears”- is a classic song that will make you cry real tears in your adult beverage. He even includes the required recitation to classify this as a tear jerker.
“Jonesin’ For Jones” – one of many tributes to the great George Jones that has surfaced since he passed away. This is a fun tribute. It starts with the sounds of the song “White Lightning”, includes the titles of the Possum’s hit songs as lyrics and Watson’s great imitation of George Jones.
“I’m Through Hurtin””- This song of regret features a wonderful steel guitar and harmony vocals that make it one of the highlights of the album.
“Call Me Insane”- The title track has a dark feeling that is aided by the horns and timpani drums. Add to that the chord progression and this song could have been released in 1965. This is my favorite track on the album.
“Heavens Gonna Have a Honky Tonk”- Watson’s view of what a heaven should be like for those that frequent honky tonk.
“Tienes Cabeza de Palo”- This Tex-Mex gem will make you want to Two Step, or do the Mexican Hat Dance…..or something. I know I started craving chips and salsa.
“I Owe It All to You”- The song features a shuffle that is infectious, and would make Ray Price proud.
“Forever Valentine”- This album would not be complete without a love song that is perfect for slow dancing. Beautiful!
“Hot Dang”- Song placement on an album may not mean as much in this world of hitting shuffle on your mp3 player. However, this is the perfect song to follow up “Forever Valentine”. A real toe tapper.
“Mama’s Don’t Let Your Cowboys Grow Up to be Babies”-This cover of the Tony Joe White song (which is a take off on “Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Babies”) is a great way to close out the album. It has the funk of Tony Joe mixed with Waylon. To borrow a quote from Mr. White, “UHHH!”
The thing I have always like about Watson is his ability to stick to his guns, stylistically, while producing music that is new and fresh. I can promise you that nobody will think you have lost your mind when you flip your lid for Call Me Insane.

 

June 3, 2015

 

django_and_jimmie-33248338-frntl

 

 

It has been 32 years since Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard released the album Pancho and Lefty. When that album was released, many people believed it to be the beginning of the end of Willie and Merle’s careers. Boy, were they wrong. Their new album, Django and Jimmie, shows that they duo still have a lot to offer.

The title track is performed with such conviction that I thought Willie and Merle must have written it. However, the song was penned by Jimmy Melton and Jeff Prince. By the way, if you are not familiar with “Django” Reinhardt or Jimmie Rodgers, make a note to look them up.

“It’s All Going to Pot”, written by Buddy Cannon (who produced the album), Jamey Johnson (who sings harmony on this track) and Larry Shell, is a classic tongue-in-cheek, double entendre. The horns a very nice touch.

Buddy Cannon shows up again on the credits of the album, as he and Willie co-wrote several songs for this project: “Alice in Hulaland”, “It’s Only Money”, “Where Dreams Come to Die” and “Driving the Herd”. Cannon and Nelson teamed up for a great number of songs on Willie’s last solo album, Band of Brothers, with the same results. They work well together as songwriters to put out great new songs.

“Unfair Weather Friend”, written by Marla Cannon-Goodman and Ward Davis, is my favorite track on the album. This beautiful track is simple, yet powerful.

“Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash” is a fun tribute to the Man in Black. Written by Merle Haggard, Bobby Bare helps Hag and The Red Headed Stranger reminisces about Johnny.

“Live This Long” , like the title track, is a song that when I heard it sounded like a Willie or Merle penned song. Wrong again. Shawn Camp and Merv Green’s song fits Haggard and Nelson perfectly.

Willie and Merle cover the Bob Dylan classic “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”. The song has been covered by many people, including most recently Dolly Parton on  her album Blue Smoke. Every artist puts a little different take on it. Willie and Merle’s version is as smooth as silk.

It is not a surprise that Haggard and Nelson revisit some of their own classics on the album. “Family Bible”, “Swinging Doors” and “Somewhere Between” sound as good as ever.

The album closes out nicely with Haggard’s new song, “The Only Man Wilder Than Me”.

The thing I like most about this album is that Willie and Merle don’t try to hide their age. In fact, it sounds as if they embrace their age along the experience that comes with it. This album reminds me of sitting down with older folks and listening to them talk about their past. Sometimes there is a bit of sadness, but it is mostly  stories that are humorous and fun. If you are just now discovering Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, this is not the album you should start with. Listen to their vast catalogs before coming back to Django and Jimmy. If you are a long time fan like me, this is almost icing on some of the best cake you have ever tasted. Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard may be heading into the sunset, but they are taking their sweet time. Gentlemen, take as much time as you need.

 

 

 

May 27, 2015

 

 

john anderosn

 

I have always been a fan of John Anderson. From his early hits like “Swingin'”, “I’m Just and Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday)” and “Wild and Blue”, to his 1990’s resurgence with songs like “Straight Tequila Night” and “Seminole Wind”, I have been on the bandwagon. The thing that I love is that his songs hold up despite the changing times. They are poignant, fun and memorable and musically in a particular style that I am fond of. It’s called country. Add to that his recognizable voice and he can’t miss.
I got charged up when I read that he would be releasing a new album at the end of the May. Well, here it is! John Anderson’s Goldmine is a collection of 13 new songs, all written or co-written by Anderson.

 

The opening track “Freedom Isn’t Free” is a rocking way to start the album. It is a song about America and the freedom we have. It is quickly pointed out that it is not perfect, but it’s the best place to be because of the freedoms we enjoy in this country.

 

The next song, “Magic Mama” is a playful song that John delivers expertly. I have always believed that not every singer can deliver a humorous song. It takes a special talent to deliver those songs (see Roger Miller and Johnny Cash). John Anderson does a fine job with this song.

 

“I Work A Lot Better,” the first radio single from the album. Anderson co-wrote this song with singer Josh Turner. “I Work A Lot Better” is another fun song. It is reminiscent of earlier Anderson songs, such as “Money in the Bank”.

 

“Back Home” is a song that will bring tears and goose bumps. I will not give away the story in the song because I do not want spoil the experience of hearing it for the first time.

 

The gospel tinged “I Will Cross O’er The River” and “Don’t Forget the Lord” are great songs of faith that you don’t hear as much now a days as you used to in country music.
“Song the Mountain Sings” features a beautiful fiddle and 3 part harmony vocals that will make any fan of bluegrass music sit up and take notice.

For all the heartbreak songs that are prevalent in country music, there are great love songs as well. “Happily Ever After” is a simply said expression of love from a husband to his wife.
“Goldmine” continues in the same vein (no pun intended). It says he hit the jackpot when he met the love of his life.

 

“Holdin’ On” is a song in which most listeners will be shouting, “Amen!” Everyone has had the feeling of struggling to hold on and somehow keep going.

 

“On and On and On” is about the process of forgiveness of someone that you were once close with.

 

“You Are All Beautiful,” rounds out the album. It is John Anderson’s tribute to his loyal fans.

 

Sometimes when an artist that you grew up with puts out a new album, it is not very good. It can be a rehashing of old songs, or, Lord forbid, the artist trying to change their sound to fit modern music tastes. That is not what you will find here. John Anderson has always stuck to his style of music, and I appreciate that. The songs on Goldmine are as good as anything that John has ever released. Eureka! We have struck it rich with John Anderson’s Goldmine.

 

 

 

 

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May 20, 2015

 

 

 

 

gretchen peters
This week I am going to revisit an album from earlier this year that you may have missed. Gretchen Peters’ Blackbirds is an album that will be instantly appreciated by not only your everyday listeners, but also by songwriters, and not because of Peters’ writing creditinals ( Trisha Yearwood, Pam Tillis, George Strait, Martina McBride, and Patty Loveless). This album features songs full of moving poetry set to chord combinations that seem to have been saved by the gods just for this particular album. That may be far fetched. There are only so many chords and combinations of said chords that can be administered to any collection of songs. Sometimes it seems that every combination is perfect, as on Blackbirds. Peters visit different genres with each song, and it is not for the sake of being eclectic. In fact, the style that is chosen for each tune is done to support the song.
“When All You Got Is a Hammer” is a heavy song that tells the story of a war veteran who comes home, and cannot adjust to everyday life. On this song, Jason Isbell provides harmony vocals and Jerry Douglas adds dobro.

 

“Pretty Things” is a a haunting song, melodically and lyrically, that made the hair on my arms stand up the first time I heard it.

 

“The House on Auburn Street” has a much lighter approach that reminds me of the – songwriters of the late 1960′s and 1970′s. It is the storyteller’s recollection of bittersweet memories of friendship and pain.
“When You Comin’ Home,” is a beautiful duet ,with Jimmy LaFave, about a couple torn apart by an all too familiar problems of hard living and substance abuse.
“Jubilee” is a song that will surely bring tears to your eyes. It is from the perspective of someone saying farewell to this world, and embracing death. Besides Peters’ voice, a piano and a cello provide the only music on this powerful song.
“Black Ribbon” is a Cajun flavored folk song that deals with the event that forever changed Louisiana, Hurricane Katrina. This song sounds much older, and could be about any of the numerous hurricanes that have slammed the Gulf Coast. This is a very haunting song.
“The Cure for the Pain” deals with someone in a hospital room that has just about reached the end of the line. I don’t like to compare songs because I believe each one stands on it’s own. However, from time to time, a song will put me in mind of another song. The honesty of this song reminds me of the stark lyrics of Jason Isbell’s “Elephant”.
The 2 versions of “Blackbird”, the opening track and the reprise at the end, is a chilling murder ballad. What a way to bookend this album!
Gretchen Peters is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame for a reason, and you can hear that reason on Blackbirds. This album leaves me wanting more from Gretchen Peters. Until we are graced with more songs, I will savor Blackbirds again and again.

 

 

May 13, 2015

 

 

rodney crowell and emmylou harris

 

 

Emmylou Harris has said that the first time she and Rodney Crowell met in 1974 they agreed to cut a duet album together. They did just that, but it was not until 2013’s Old Yellow Moon. Now they have followed that up with another album. Unlike the 2013 offering which featured songs penned by other great songwriters, the just released The Traveling Kind features six tunes that Crowell and Harris co-wrote, thus putting their stamp on not only the expert vocal delivery, but also in the creation of stories through the lyrics.
Emmylou Harris has been singing Rodney Crowell’s songs for many moons. Even when he was a member of Harris’ Hot Band and provided not only songs, but vocal harmony and instrumental backup that produced great albums and stage performances over the years, it did not have the same feeling as this album. The Traveling Kind is something altogether different. I hesitate to throw an overused label on this album, but I think it could be described as a true Americana recording. The rock and roll and blues sounds of Memphis can be heard on some tracks, while classic country sounds can be enjoyed on yet other songs.
What I enjoyed about this album is the straight forward manner in which it is delivered. There are no tracks that seem to be included just to please the brass at the recording companies. Nor are there tracks that are forced to be artsy for the sake of being artsy. Rather, I think The Traveling Kind is an example of two friends collaborating on a project that showcases their wonderful talents. Attention Music Executives: We need more albums like this. That is all.

 

 

 

May 06, 2015

 

Chris Stapleton

 

Digging for the best music let’s me know a little about how a prospector feels. Sifting through all the dirt, just hoping to find the gold. Sometimes I hear about a forthcoming album, and have to exercise great patience in waiting for it’s release. Well, it is finally here. Let me tell you, Chris Stapleton’s Traveller does not disappoint. Stapleton’s voice has been treasured since his time with bluegrass group The SteelDrivers. Add his potent pen that has produced such hits as  “Never Wanted Nothing More” for Kenny Chesney to the mix, and you have the ingredients for one of the strongest album to come out this year.

I am not going to run down each track on this album. You just need to listen to them and experience their full impact. Traveler will please those that are fans of traditional country, bluegrass, southern rock and blues music. With the exception of a few tracks, Stapleton wrote or co-wrote the songs on Traveller. He had some help writing the songs from the like of bluegrassers Barry Bales (Alison Krauss and Union Station) and Ronnie Bowman, pop songwriter Lee Miller, and country writer Jim Beavers, just to name a few. These songs are delivered with a soul, grit and pain that you don’t hear very much nowadays on any mainstream radio stations.
Because of the subject matter, musical arrangements and vocal styling, Traveller will draw comparisons to works of Jamey Johnson and Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. You know what? That’s is fine. I think people who are attracted to those sounds are looking for like minded artists anywhere they can find them. It is not a concerted effort by the artist to band together. They seem to be playing what is on their hearts and minds, and it strikes a chord with a lot of listeners who are left empty by most modern music. I am one of them. Finding a gem like Stapleton’s Traveller makes the digging and waiting worth while.

 

 

April 29, 2015

 

 

william clark green

 

 

 

William Clark Green’s Ringling Road is an album I knew that I would pick as my Catch of the Week as soon as I heard it. Green, a singer-songwriter, is known, especially in Texas, as a rising star in country music. This album may help him gain more attention, not only inside the Lonestar state, but also across the country.
Here’s my review of the tracks on Ringling Road:

“Next Big Thing”- This is Green’s attempt to talk about his career, and not it an arrogant way. Folks have called him the next big thing for a while now, but as Green points out, accolades will not fill the gas tank.

“Sticks and Stones”-We have all gossiped, been gossiped about, or, most likely, both. This song says that he is not worried about the gossip that is being spread about him.

“Creek Don’t Rise”- This the most traditional county song on the project. It features a prominent fiddle, and is about a relationship that is trying to bounce back from a tough time.

“Ringling Road”- This is the strangest track on the album. You will either love it or hate it. I love it, but I do like unusual songs. This one is about the dysfunctional lives of circus entertainers and freaks. Great word play in this song!

“Final This Time”- Green sings with the song’s co-writer, Dani Flowers, on this song about a relationship that is over. In this fast paced world, I hope people give songs like this one enough time to develop. It is worth the wait.

“Fool Me Once”- This is a song about a lady’s man that is looking for a little security in a relationship, even if it is a ruse.

“Sympathy”- This is a rocking song about karma. After being dumped, he takes delight in seeing the same thing happen to his ex.

“Hey Sarah”- Sarah has quite a hold on the singer, and he will use any and everything to get over her.

“Old Fashioned”- William Clark Green talks about simpler times in Austin, TX. Now he says that Austin has been turned into L.A. This is not a new subject. People of have talked about the good ole days since, well, since the good ole days. It is something most folks can identify with, and and may even give him an “amen”.

“Going Home”-After being away from home, out on the road, Green is ready to get back home and see his lover. A beautiful song.

“Still Think About You” – This one will tear out your heart. An honest confession of the mistakes that have been made that brought them to this point, where the relationship is over. Great use of the piano on this song to bring about the right mood.
Ringling Road is worth giving a listen. It is as good as ,and maybe better than, anything that can be heard on country radio. It is time to step right up and hear William Clark Green’s Ringling Road.

 

 

 

 

April 22, 2015

 

The Honeycutters

 

My catch of the week comes from mountains of North Carolina. The Honeycutters, from Asheville, are led by singer-songwriter Amanda Anne Platt. The rest of the band, consisting of Rick Cooper on bass, Josh Milligan on drums, Tal Taylor on mandolin, , and Matt Smith on everything else (pedal steel, electric guitar, and dobro) offer a musical sound that they have classified Appalachian Honky Tonk, and it is a great sound. I have to admit, I had not heard this group until I was researching this week’s releases. I am glad I found them.
Here are a few of my favorite tracks on their latest album, Me Oh My
The opening track, “Jukebox”, has a light honky tonk feel that is a great way to start off the album.
“Lucky” is one of my favorites on the album. It has killer lines, such as , “I’m tired of the truth/ I’m tired of pretending/ I’m tired of smiling/ When my world is quietly ending. ”
“Edge of The Frame” has a catchy melody that draws you in before the deep lyrics hits you.

The title track is a song about the struggles of women in this modern society. Every guy needs to listen to this. Come to think of it, every women needs to listen to this, too.

“Carolina” is about leaving home with the fond memories of a life will soon be familiar but distant.
“Texas ’81” is a song of the inevitable end of an intimate relationship.
“Not That Simple” is a song of loving someone that you can’t have. Even though you tell yourself it will be better, it is not better now. In fact, it feels terrible.
The happy “Wedding Song” is about finding the person that reaches and understands you better than anyone else. As the song says, finding the person who “pieced me back together, kissed the hurting parts and made me new.”

“I’ll Be Loving You” is a song of hope that circumstances will be better come tomorrow. This is such an uplifting song that I didn’t even notice that the song is nearly six minutes long, and I bet you wouldn’t have noticed if I had not mentioned it.
“A Life for You” is a painful, yet beautiful song about the end of a relationship, but without the contempt that often follows a breakup. You can feel the pain in Platt’s voice. This is another wonderful song.
The Platt’s thoughtful, yet simple, songwriting, singing, along with the band’s musical arrangements, are a perfect match. I love the steel guitar lines , and how it is intertwined with the mandolin work. Me Oh My, I am happy

 

 

 

April 15, 2015

 

dwight yoakam pic

 

 

 

It is always a big event for me when a new Dwight Yoakam album comes out. Ever since I first laid ears on his music, I have loved it. His sound is a cool conglomeration of American music wth a rebel edge, that is inviting, pleasing even, without seeming to care if you are pleased are not. The recording seems to be made for the sakes of the songs. Dwight Yoakam’s latest album, Second Hand Heart, is in that same vain. Whenever you talk about Yoakam’s music, you have to talk about the influences. They are again evident on this album. As with almost all of his records, Second Hand Heart shows the influence of the Bakersfield sound. However, it also shows shades of other influences. Some of the harmonies are reminiscent of the Beach Boys, while the overall sound shows hues of The Byrds or the Flying Burrito Brothers ,with it’s California country rock sound, and rock-a-billy sounds of Memphis. I have addressed the influences, now let’s talk about this album because it is 100 percent Dwight Yoakam

“In Another World” has a classic country sound, but the chorus reminds me of another California sound, The Beach Boys. It is a very interesting and cool combination of American sounds.
“She” also features The Beach Boys type harmonies, but also sounds a little like the Byrds.
“Dreams of Clay” has a nice steel guitar, underlying Yoakam’s lead vocals and harmony accompaniment. The chorus, again, features a Beach Boys type vocal swell.
“Second Hand Heart”- has great lyrics and just the right amount of reverb on the vocals. The song is a definite country rocker. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album.
“Off Your Mind”- is more of an old time country sounding song, except for the organ at the beginning. The song has a solid sort of Johnny Cash beat .
“Believe”- from the first chords, it sounds like a song from The Byrds. Vocal it strictly Dwight Yoakam, but the prominent electric 12 string guitar points to Roger McGuinn.
“Man of Constant Sorrow” a heavy rock-a-billy cover of the bluegrass standard, that saw a revival with the movie “O, Brother Where Art Thou”. The Kentucky native does a fine version of the song, combining the vocals that would be welcomed at any bluegrass festival with the rock and roll guitars.
“Liar”- This is another song that has a rock-a-billy feel, with Scotty Moore style guitar licks and hand claps. Add a bluesy harmonica break to that, and the crowd has to be up on their feet.
“The Big Time”-Another great rock-a-billy sounding song. Go cat go!
“V’s of Birds”-The most polished track of the album. This song, written by songwriter Anthony Crawford, features a great combination of mandolin, organ, piano and guitar on the musical breaks. It very much reminds me of The Band. This is another one of my favorites on the album.

This is another great album from Dwight Yoakam. He can still hold his own with the likes of today’s country stars. He recorded most of the album in between dates opening for Eric Church. That’s right! Yoakam recorded this album with his road band. Not many people have the faith, guts or heart to that. Dwight Yoakam has always done things his own way, and given us so many memorable albums, and this is no exception. Check out Second Hand Heart today.

 

 

April 08, 2015

 

 

will hoge
Many songwriters, authors and poets have written about the small town experience in a negative way. The small town was looked upon as a starting point that you only want to come back to for a visit. It was also viewed as an nearly inescapable quagmire, not a place you want to be very long. Songwriter Will Hoge’s latest album, Small Town Dreams, takes a look at life in a small town, but, for the most part, with a more positive view.
Hoge is no stranger to the who’s who of singers and songwriters . He has written songs that have placed in the charts (Eli Young Band’s #1 song, “Even If it Breaks Your Heart”) and toured with the likes of ZZ Top, Needtobreathe, Jason Isbell and Lisa Loeb. Because of all of Hoge’s previous records and his role as an outsider, this may album may be hard for longtime fans to accept. Small Town Dreams is his most country album, and commercial sounding album to date.
Some of my favorite tracks on the album include:
“They Don’t Make ’em Like They Used To” is a tribute to family members (grandparents and parents) that paved the way for future generations, despite having very little money and possessions to offer as an inheritance.
“Just Up the Road” is a country ballad that features <gasp> a steel guitar! Don’t get me wrong, there is a rocking guitar in the mix, but it sounds more like a song from the 1990’s or early 2000. Why is this song not being played on country radio. I believe people would like this song, and others on this album, but the public is never offered this music. Instead, you have to dig and dig for music like this.
“The Last Thing I Need” is a bluesy, country number that offers Hoge’s soulful voice is as much an instrument as the slide guitar and organ that are featured in this song.
“Till I Do it Again” is a sinner vs saint song that rocks. It has shades of Steve Earle and John Mellancamp.
I love the fact that this is a complete album. It’s not a concept album, but it has a definite theme: life in a small town. An album can be great without having a theme. However, I love the idea of an album having a theme, being a project, that can elicit thoughts and feelings of a life you are familiar with. The album is very pop tinged at times, but the singing and songwriting is as good or better than some of the songs that are receiving significant spins on country stations across the nation. Will Hoge’s Small Town Dreams deserves to be given a listen.

 

 

 

 

April 01, 2015

 

Aaron Watson

 

 

How can an artist that had his most recent release top the Billboard County Album Chart be considered an underdog? I bet most of you have never heard of Aaron Watson. Who? Exactly. His Underdog album topped the chart for the week of March 7, 2015. How does someone that most country music fans have never heard of accomplish such a feat? It was done through word of mouth, social media and a strong, loyal fan base for the Texas/Red Dirt style music. Watson has been working at this for over 15 years and 12 album, so he is not a new kid on the block.
I will not mislead you. This is not the best album of the year, but this album is as enjoyable as anything I have heard in the past 6 months. This an album that you can just put on and enjoy it without much critical thinking. Many of the sounds from Underdog reminds me of the country music that was coming out in the 1990’s. Other times I can hear shades of Chris Ledoux. Yet again, I hear some of the modern sounds in current country music that would please the newest country convert.
Here are a few of the highlights from this 15 track album:
“The Prayer” is about a man’s spiritual struggle. This is very reminscent of Chris Ledoux.

“Wildfire” is a John Mayer song. This is the same song that has been covered by Rascal Flatts. The chorus of Watson’s version is very catchy with very stipped down instrumentation, and just a lot of hand claps. Don’t confuse this with bro country. The words and melody flows as freely as country creek.

 

Please don’t classify “Freight Train” as a country rap song. It is not. It is a spoken/auctioneer style that has a tradition in country music (ex. “I’ve Been Everywhere”-Hank Snow, “The Auctioneer”-Leroy Van Dyke, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”-The Charlie Daniels Band and”Grundy County Auction”-John Michael Montgomery).

 

“Bluebonnets (Julia’s Song)” is a beautiful song that reminds us all of what we already know; life is short and should not be taken for granted. “That’s Gonna Leave a Mark” has a Texas sound that I love: walking bass line, smooth fiddles and steel guitars.
The title track, “Underdog”, is a song that could be from the Brad Paisley songbook. Hey, if you are going to emmulate someone’s songwriting, it might as well be one of the best.

 

“One of Your Nights” is a romantic song that tells you everything you need to know without telling you everything. Everyone knows what he is talking about without using the phrases like “naked in my bed”. Hallelujah!

 

“Rodeo Queen” has a more modern beat, but uses the humor that has been all but absent in current country music.

 

“Fence Post” is a great way to end the album. It embodies the spirit of the underdog. It has some killer lines: “I do have a problem with someone that can’t even play a D chord on a guitar/Telling someone with a dream that they won’t get far”, “God knows I would never sell my soul to rock and roll/ or rap or wear those tight skinny jeans”, and “I would rather be an old fence post in Texas than the king of Tennessee”.

 

If the Nashville brass would pay attention to Underdog, they would find the compromise that many longtime coutry fans have been looking for. It sounds current, but is familiar enough to seem like an old friend. Aaron Watson looks country, the music is country and the subject matter of the songs (many of which he wrote) are country. Who could ask for anything more? Well, I could ask that you give this album a listen. Then, tell your friends. Maybe they will tell a few friends, and maybe, just maybe, Music Row will have to give the underdog his day.

 

 

 

March 25, 2015

 

 

alison moorer
Allison Moorer has encountered a lot of changes in the last few years, all while trying to record her latest album, Down to Believing, including going through a divorce and having her son diagnosed with autism. Despite all of that, this is one of the best album’s that she has put out, ever.
The songs ring of her recent experiences. I would be tempted to tell my story through characters in each song, and there is nothing wrong with that. Both ways are cathartic. I think it takes a lot more guts and expert songwriting to tell your story without seeming trite. All these songs show Moorer’s vulnerability, but it shows here strengths, too.
Moorer comes out the gate very strong with “Like It Used to Be”. A strong declaration  to anyone that doubted that things had changed.
“Thunderstorm Hurricane” features Moorer’s beautiful vocal over a mixture of strings, heavy percussion and electric guitar. It is a very powerful combination.
“I Lost My Crystal Ball” is about the point of return in a relationship, where you don’t know what do next, but the only thing to do is destroy what you have known. This is a great track. The title track, “Down to Believing”, is a melancholy walk down memory lane in 3/4 time. “Tear Me Apart” sees the emotional tensions coming to a boiling point. The vocals explode in a statement of enough is enough, but ends with the question of ,”why do you want to tear me apart?”
“If I Were Stronger,” is a song of accepting the resolution of a relationship ending after every avenue of compromise has been exercised.
“Wish I” is a song of what ifs and should have beens that anyone who has been through a breakup can identify with. This track is very strong.”Blood” is a beautiful song about unconditional love of a family member. Moorer says that she wrote this song for her sister, singer Shleby Lynne.
I love the swampy sound of “Mama Let the Wolf In”. It almost sounds like a song that should come from the CCR catalog. The lead guitar licks are even reminiscent of John Fogerty’s style.Speaking of CCR, the only cover song on this album is a version of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” Moorer does a great job with her version, and it echoes the sentiments of the rest of the album. “I’m Doing Fine” is a song about leaving the old life behind and trying to move on.”Back of My Mind” is pop driven song that has an simple, infectious chorus .”Gonna Get Wrong” is a song of perseverance. This song features one of my favorite lines on the album; “Everything I do turns into don’t/ Still I stand/ Still I try/ And I know I’m gonna get it wrong/ but it’s alright.”

The final song is a great way to end the album. It wraps up the feeling of Down To Believing. Things happen in life that are  not fun, and doesn’t seem fair, but after all is said and done, she is still standing to face another day. As with many artists, the tough times produce some of the most beautiful and lasting masterpieces. Down to Believing is evidence of that very thing.

 

 

 

March 18, 2015

 

 

 

Asleep at the Wheel

 

 

Asleep at the Wheel has almost solely  kept Texas swing in front of country music fans since the 1970’s. They have produced two previous tributes to the music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys (A Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys and Ride with Bob). Those albums along with their latest offering, Still the King: Remembering the Music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, is to Texas swing music what the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s three volumes of Will the Circle Be Unbroken is to country music. Ray Benson and crew have invited old Friends like Merle Haggard and George Strait along with new stars, such as Old Crow Medicine Show and The Avett Brothers to participate in this tribute.
Some of the highlights of the album include:
Amos Lee’s bluesy performance of “I Hear You Talkin'” . It sounds as if he has been singing Texas swing his entire career.
Poky LaFarge delivers an excellent performance of “What’s a Matter With the Mill”.
Willie Nelson and the Quebe Sisters sing “Navajo Trail”. Willie’s one of a kind of delivery is enough to make this song enjoyable. Add to that the Quebe Sisters’ harmonies, reminiscent of the Andrews Sisters, makes this song sound as if it could have been recorded in the 1940’s by Bob Wills, himself.
Bluegrass stars The Del McCoury Band perform “Silver Dew on the Bluegrass Tonight” displays that Texas sing and bluegrass are kindred musical spirits.
The Time Jumpers tackle one of the most famous Bob Wills songs, “Faded Love”, and they do so with expert instrumental and vocal delivery.
“South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)” features the mariachi horns mixed with fiddles and steel guitars. Throw George Strait lead vocal with Ray Benson’s harmony and you have an excellent song. I won’t refer to George Strait as King George because Bob Wills is still the king, as far as this album is concerned.
Brad Paisley exercises his fingers with some hot licks on “My Window Faces South”. He isn’t a bad singer either.
Speaking of a guitar workout, the “Twin Guitar Special” features Brent Mason, Tommy Emmanuel and Billy Briggs mixed in with some scorching saxophone solos. This song will get you moving.
These are just some of my favorites, but let me tell you, there is not a bad track on Still the King: Remembering the Music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys  . It features a lot of other names you will recognize, including Jamey Johnson, Robert Earl Keen, Shooter Jennings, and Lyle Lovett. It is a must have if you are as big a fan of Texas swing as I am. All hail the king……AHHHH, HAAA! YES! YES!

 

 

March 11, 2015

 

 

MI0003834557

 

 

I am still catching up on reviewing albums that were released a few weeks ago during the winter weather. This album was released on February 17th, although an EP consisting of 5 of the songs featured on the most recent recording was released in September 2014. Glen Campbell’s I’ll Be Me, the soundtrack to  the documentary of the same name, features the final recordings of the country superstar. Campbell who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, decided to document his final tour.

The film’s soundtrack album features Campbell on only six of its ten tracks. “I’m Not Going to Miss You” , is featured twice on the album, as bookends. The opening version features the Wrecking Crew, a group of L.A. studio musicians, of which Campbell was a member. The Wrecking Crew played on many albums in the 1960’s and 1970’s, including The Mamas and Papas, The 5th Dimension, The Beach Boys, and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. ”
“I’m Not Going to Miss You”, co-written by Campbell, deals with his condition directly. It’s sad and somber tone sets the mood for the remainder of the album.
Glen Campbell’s other offerings on the album includes, “All I Need is You”, ” The Long Walk Home”, along with “A Better Place” and “Wichita Lineman”, recorded live at the Ryman Auditorium.
The remainder of the album features Campbell’s daughter, Ashley, on “Remembering” and “Home Again”. She co-wrote both songs, which showcases her beautiful singing voice. I hope to hear more from her in the future. The Band Perry provide two versions of the John Hartford penned, Campbell classic, “Gentle of My Mind”, which has received airplay on country radio. Their poppy, rootsy interpretation of the song is surprisingly enjoyable.
I’ll Be Me reminds of us of how important music was and is to Glen Campbell’s life. Already knowing the situation that Glen Campbell and his family are going through did not lessen the feeling of watching a friend slowly fade away, in song, no less. Many people have watched family members and friends fight the losing battle with Alzheimer’s. Just as with those loved ones, Glen Campbell may lose his memories, but history will never forget.

 

 

 

March 4, 2015

 

gretchen peters

 

Gretchen Peters new album, Blackbirds, is an album that will be instantly appreciated by not only your everyday listeners, but also by songwriters, and not because of Peters’ writing creditinals ( Trisha Yearwood, Pam Tillis, George Strait, Martina McBride, and Patty Loveless). This album features songs full of moving poetry set to chord combinations that seem to have been saved by the gods just for this particular album. That may be far fetched. There are only so many chords and combinations of said chords that can be administered to any collection of songs. Sometimes it seems that every combination is perfect, as on Blackbirds. Peters visit differents genres with each song, and it is not for the sake of being eclectic. In fact, the style that is chosen for each tune is done to support the song.
“When All You Got Is a Hammer” is a heavy song that tells the story of a war veteran who comes home, and cannot adjust to everyday life. On this song, Jason Isbell provides harmony vocals and Jerry Douglas adds dobro.

 

“Pretty Things” is a a haunting song, melodically and lyrically, that made the hair on my arms stand up the first time I heard it.

 

“The House on Auburn Street” has a much lighter approach that reminds me of the – songwriters of the late 1960’s and 1970’s. It is the storyteller’s recollection of bittersweet memories of friendship and pain.
“When You Comin’ Home,” is a beautiful duet ,with Jimmy LaFave, about a couple torn apart by an all too familiar problems of hard living and substance abuse.
“Jubilee” is a song that will surely bring tears to your eyes. It is from the perspective of someone saying farewell to this world, and embracing death. Besides Peters’ voice, a piano and a cello provide the only music on this powerful song.
“Black Ribbon” is a Cajun flavored folk song that deals with the event that forever changed Louisiana, Hurricane Katrina. This song sounds much older, and could be about any of the numerous hurricanes that have slammed the Gulf Coast. This is a very haunting song.
“The Cure for the Pain” deals with someone in a hospital room that has just about reached the end of the line. I don’t like to compare songs because I believe each one stands on it’s own. However, from time to time, a song will put me in mind of another song. The honesty of this song reminds me of the stark lyrics of Jason Isbell’s “Elephant”.
The 2 versions of “Blackbird”, the opening track and the reprise at the end, is a chilling murder ballad. What a way to bookend this album!
Gretchen Peters is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame for a reason, and you can hear that reason on Blackbirds. This album leaves me wanting more from Gretchen Peters. Until we are graced with more songs, I will savor Blackbirds again and again.

 

 

February 25, 2015

 

 

Shawn_Lane_6pan1t

 

 

 

Many of you know that I love all genres of music, but I am especially fond of bluegrass music. In addition to that I am huge fan of great songwriting. That is why Shawn Lanes’ Mountain Songs is my Catch of the Week. You may know Shawn as a member of the bluegrass group Blue Highway. Their work has highlighted Lane’s lead and harmony singing, as well as his instrumental prowess. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Lane’s Mountain Songs does the same.
On this solo project, Shawn Lane receives help from family, including his brother Chad, wife Gracie, and sons Grayson , and Garrett Lane. He also calls on Barry Bales, Patton Wages, Marcus Smith, Jimmy Stewart, Josh Miller  and, Rob Ickes to add musical support to the project.
Mountain Songs features tunes that speak of family, history and religion. Ten of Twelves of the project’s songs were written or co-written by Lane. He receives help with the writing duties from Gerald Ellenburg on “Charlestown” and “Journey of a Soldier”, Ronnie Bowman on “A Mother’s Prayer”, and Jimmy Stewart on “It’s Time to Roll”.
It is hard for me to pick a favorite track off this album. Some of the songs grabbed me instantly include, “Charlestown”, “Just Not Today”, “We Must Be in Heaven”, ” A Little While” and “Journey of a Soldier” and the smooth, jazzy cover of the Toy Caldwell penned “Texas on My Mind”. Many of the songs on the album pays tribute to the music of yesterday, while at the same time having a modern sound to it. This is very hard to describe, but you will know it when you hear it, and you can hear it throughout this album.
I recommend giving my Catch of the Week, Shawn Lane’s Mountain Songs, a try. You will not regret it.

www.shawnlane.net

 

 

 

February 11, 2015

 

doug-seegers

 

 

The story sounds like a Hollywood script. A singer/songwriter who tried to make it in Nashville for almost two decades, playing on the streets, recently homeless, discovered by a Sweedish country star, and, eventually, finding success in Nashville via Sweeden. However, this is not a Hollywood creation. It is as real as it gets. It is true story of Doug Seegers.

 

The 62 year old Seegers’ debut album, was recorded in just three days at Cowboy Jack Clement’s Sound Emporium. According to a review on All Music, all of the vocals on this album are scratch vocals. That means no overdubs; just raw, real singing. Going Down to the River showcases Seegers’ writing skills, with 10 of his original compositions included on the recording. The words stand on their own, but add that to his life drenched, soulful, country voice, and you have a classic.
The title track is the song that brought him fame in Sweeden . The bluesy, gritty sound of “Going Down to the River” brings the listener down to the banks of the river, ready for a dip in the renewing, redemptive waters, Seegers’ honky-tonk infused “Hard Working Man” and Hank Williams influenced “Pour Me” recall sounds of early eras of country music, but it’s is not a take-off on retro music. Seegers’ has two covers on this album: Hank Williams’ “There’ll Be No More Teardrops Tonight” (featuring his friend Buddy Miller on guitar) and the Gram Parson/Emmylou Harris song “She”. Harris steps back into her role on the song, singing with Seegers’.
The songs on Going Down to the River are as breath taking and eye opening as straight whiskey shots.
Call it gritty. Call it raw. Call it real.

– See more at: http://www.921wlhr.com/breakfastwithporkchop/#sthash.gNqzsvve.dpuf

The story sounds like a Hollywood script. A singer/songwriter who tried to make it in Nashville for almost two decades, playing on the streets, recently homeless, discovered by a Sweedish country star, and, eventually, finding success in Nashville via Sweeden. However, this is not a Hollywood creation. It is as real as it gets. It is true story of Doug Seegers.

 

The 62 year old Seegers’ debut album, was recorded in just three days at Cowboy Jack Clement’s Sound Emporium. According to a review on All Music, all of the vocals on this album are scratch vocals. That means no overdubs; just raw, real singing. Going Down to the River showcases Seegers’ writing skills, with 10 of his original compositions included on the recording. The words stand on their own, but add that to his life drenched, soulful, country voice, and you have a classic.
The title track is the song that brought him fame in Sweeden . The bluesy, gritty sound of “Going Down to the River” brings the listener down to the banks of the river, ready for a dip in the renewing, redemptive waters, Seegers’ honky-tonk infused “Hard Working Man” and Hank Williams influenced “Pour Me” recall sounds of early eras of country music, but it’s is not a take-off on retro music. Seegers’ has two covers on this album: Hank Williams’ “There’ll Be No More Teardrops Tonight” (featuring his friend Buddy Miller on guitar) and the Gram Parson/Emmylou Harris song “She”. Harris steps back into her role on the song, singing with Seegers’.
The songs on Going Down to the River are as breath taking and eye opening as straight whiskey shots.
Call it gritty. Call it raw. Call it real.

– See more at: http://www.921wlhr.com/breakfastwithporkchop/#sthash.gNqzsvve.dpuf

I have had a lot of folks contact me recently about Doug Seegers. They want to hear his music and want to know where he is from. Since so many people are asking, I thought I would revisit a Catch of the Week from last October.

 

The story sounds like a Hollywood script. A singer/songwriter who tried to make it in Nashville for almost two decades, playing on the streets, recently homeless, discovered by a Sweedish country star, and, eventually, finding success in Nashville via Sweeden. However, this is not a Hollywood creation. It is as real as it gets. It is true story of Doug Seegers.

 

The 62 year old Seegers’ debut album, was recorded in just three days at Cowboy Jack Clement’s Sound Emporium. According to a review on All Music, all of the vocals on this album are scratch vocals. That means no overdubs; just raw, real singing. Going Down to the River showcases Seegers’ writing skills, with 10 of his original compositions included on the recording. The words stand on their own, but add that to his life drenched, soulful, country voice, and you have a classic.
The title track is the song that brought him fame in Sweeden . The bluesy, gritty sound of “Going Down to the River” brings the listener down to the banks of the river, ready for a dip in the renewing, redemptive waters, Seegers’ honky-tonk infused “Hard Working Man” and Hank Williams influenced “Pour Me” recall sounds of early eras of country music, but it’s is not a take-off on retro music. Seegers’ has two covers on this album: Hank Williams’ “There’ll Be No More Teardrops Tonight” (featuring his friend Buddy Miller on guitar) and the Gram Parson/Emmylou Harris song “She”. Harris steps back into her role on the song, singing with Seegers’.
The songs on Going Down to the River are as breath taking and eye opening as straight whiskey shots.
Call it gritty. Call it raw. Call it real.

 

 

 

 

 

February 4, 2015

 

 

t graham brown

 

 

Forever Changed, is T. Graham Brown’s first album in over eight years. This album is a collection of inspirational songs. Now before you let that turn you off, let me say most of the songs are not beat you over the head with the Bible religious songs. Many of the songs seem to be delivered from very deep personal experiences and seem to more like a helping hand than a sermon.
Speaking of labels that may be deceiving, this album is classified as country. We all know that T. Graham Brown’s music is heavily influenced by R & B and soul, and Forever Changed is no exception. That is not meant to be a knock on the album. Some people are hung up on labels, so I thought I would address it. I would say that this album, like all of his music, is gloriously T. Graham Brown. Simply, it’s great songs, great music and the great, soulful voice of Brown. He also gets some help from some of his friends, including Vince Gill, Sonya Isaacs, former Statler Brother Jimmy Fortune, Leon Russell and the Oak Ridge Boys
The first single released off the album, “He’ll Take Care of You”, a duet with Vince Gill, is receiving significant air time on my morning show, the Breakfast with Porkchop Show, on 921 WLHR. It’s a great song, with an uplifting message. I love the song “Soul Talk”. It has a very heavy R & B groove that will get you clapping your hands about 5 seconds into the song. The Oak Ridge Boys go back to their gospel quartet harmony roots on “How Do You Know”. There is also a remake of Charley Pride’s “Power of Love”, and the Curtis Mayfield classic “People Get Ready”, featuring gospel singer Jason Crabb, The Oak Ridge Boys, Leon Russell and former Booker T and the M.G.’s guitarist Steve Cropper.  Brown also revists his own 1998 song “Wine Into Water”, with help from Jimmy Fortune.
Forever Changed was recently nominated for a Grammy. It is deserving of the nomination. I like this album for the fact that T. Graham Brown doesn’t pull any punches. He doesn’t try to change his style to fit a current trend and sell records. The album leaves me feeling uplifted and a little happier after listening to it. Pick up Forever Changed today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 28, 2015

 

 

Volume 5

 

As many of you know, I am a fan of bluegrass music. I am not one that draws a line at traditional or progressive. If the music is good, it is good. Well, the music on the the latest album, Voices, from Volume Five is very good.
If you are familiar with Volume Five, you know about their expert playing and singing. It goes without saying that any project from the group will highlight their vocal prowess and muscianship. However, the selection and delivery of songs on Voices sets them apart from many other acts.

There are many types of songs. My favorite type of song is one that tells a story. This album is full of story songs. From the opening track, “King of California” to Hal Kethum’s “Strangest Dreams” to Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner’s “Daddy was an Ole Time Preacher Man” (featuring Rhonda Vincent), the songs are delivered with an emotional connectivity that draws you into each story.

 

“Dream Softly My Love” is a beautiful, Randall Hylton classic that V5 makes their own. “Faithfully” has the feeling of song from a different time, and is about subjects as old as time itself: love, hate , rage and revenge.
There are also songs that present a creepy vibe: “Satan’s Ridge” and “Crazy Night”. From the pen of Jeff Partin, the songs will send a chill down your spine. The latter tells the story of someone that is restrained, chained to his bed, but you don’t know why. He tells of being in pain and hearing voices around him. The source of the terror the man experiences is never revealed. Is he in prison, a mental institution or has he been kidnapped? It is left to the listener’s imagination.
I can’t leave out “Sam’s Gap”, the only instrumental track on the album. Most groups use an instrumental track to feature the instrumental expertise of it’s members, and this song does show that. However, each song on the album showcases the musical abilities of Volume 5.

 

Emotional vocals and expert musicianship delivering well written songs, Volume Five’s Voices is a fulfilling, complete musical experience. Add it to your music library today.

 

http://volumefivebg.com/

 

 

 

 

 

December 9, 2014

 

willie and bobie nelson

 

Willie and Bobbie Nelson have been playing music together for decades. This brother and sister performed in church as youngsters, and the pair has performed on the road together since 1973, with Bobbie being a member of The Family Band. I believe that Bobbie’s contribution to Willie’s musical presentation is under appreciated by the casual Willie Nelson fan. The new album, December Day: Willie’s Stash Vol. 1, showcases her contribution, and the musical interaction between Willie and Bobbie.
Although a great number of Willie’s recording have a laid back feel, this project is even more so. It gives me the impression that I am relaxing in Willie’s house or bus, and he and Bobbie are just jamming. As usual with any Nelson album, there is no boundaries. It is just good music, and if I had to name the genre it would by “Willie”. What I really love about December Day is how much Bobbie’s piano is put on display.
There is 18 tracks on this album. Some of my favorites include the first track, Irving Berlin’s “Alexander’s Rag Time Band”. Bobbie’s rollicking piano with Willie’s unique vocals draw you into the album. Another Berlin number, “Always”, is a favorite. A new song from Willie’s pen, “Amnesia”, is a song that should strike a chord with every want to be wordsmith. “Sad Songs and Waltzes” sounds as good as ever.
December Day: Willie’s Stash Vol. 1, is a must have for any Willie Nelson fan. Even if you are a casual fan, give this album a listen, and see if you don’t get the feeling that you are sitting in on a family jam session.

 

 

 

November 18, 2014

 

kurtfortmeyer3
On his Reverbnation page, it is said that Kurt “plays real music, by, for, and about real people. Amen.” No truer statement could be said of this Nashville singer-songwriter. Fortmeyer is a veteran of the Nashville music scene, making appearances all over town, including the famous Bluebird Cafe. His latest album, called One More Night In Nashville, is excellent. His writing style has shades of Roger Miller and Shel Silverstein in songs like ” (I Got My Heart) Broke In” and “Better Hearts Than Yours”, while other songs use humor to talk about familiar, tough situations like “(All You Taught Me How To Do Was) Drink”. He pulls at heartstrings with “Inside That Box”, a story of grandfather and grandson. Fortmeyer’s song “Dickel, Strait and Jones” is how a country song should sound. When I heard it I went into a fiddle induced trance complete with visions of neon lights.

 

When I hear songwriters like Fortmeyer, it makes me wonder if the Music City record executives ever leave their offices. How can so many great wordsmiths, like Fortmeyer, be overlooked, while mediocre songs are shoved down our throats. If you are tired of the steady diet of bland gruel that is being served up from the Nashville music cafeteria, do yourself a favor and get Kurt Fortmeyer One MoreNight In Nashville today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 11, 2014

 

 

zac brown band

 

 

A greatest hits album is usually worth a mention, but not an entire review. However, The Zac Brown Band’s Greatest Hits So Far is the exception. It features 14 singles the Zac Brown Band released between 2008 and 2013, in chronological order. The album includes the Number 1 hits “Chicken Fried,” “Highway 20 Ride,” “Free,” “Toes,” “As She’s Walking Away,” “Colder Weather,” “Knee Deep,” and “Keep Me in Mind”. The songs highlight Brown’s expert songwriting, showcasing his ability to have a catchy melody and thoughtful, emotional words. Many times in music, you get one, but not the other. Brown’s writing style reminds me of the writers from the golden age of country music: Kristofferson, Haggard and Tom T. Hall.
This album shows the Zac Brown Band’s ability to produce great records that feature wonderful musicians, and a top of the line lead singer. This album should be played and enjoyed, but let’s not forget that the Zac Brown Band is one of the best live acts touring today.
Instructions for listening to Greatest Hits So Far:
Play, listen, and enjoy. Repeat this process as often as possible for optimum listening pleasure.

 

 

 

November 4, 2014

 

 

sturgill simpson

 

 

There is only 1 new album out today. It is a Doobie Brothers tribute, Southbound,  featuring country artists.  One thing I will say about it is that they did not try to change the song arrangements. That is very smart. The songs are so recognizable that messing with them would have spelled disaster. With that being said, it is not one I am going to add to my collection. It is good but not great. So, I will recommend an album that has been out for a little while. Sturgill Simpson’s . A friend of mine turned me on to Simpson. I was late to the party, but better late than never. I was not familiar with Simpson or his 2013 debut album, High Top Mountain.

 

 

For his sophomore release, “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music”, Simpson and his band cut an album that has the sound of the Outlaw Movement of the 1970′s, but it sounds fresh. Not a direct impersonation, but rather similar in style, Sturgill Simpson’s voice has a Waylon Jennings quality. Simpson’s songwriting may be the strongest element of the album. I love quality, fresh material, and this album is full of it. Some of my favorite tracks are the Simpson penned “Living the Dream,” and “Life of Sin.” Simpson’s rendition of the Charlie Moore’s and Bill Napier’s trucker anthem “Long White Line” is excellent. He has recently received a lot of attention for the song “Turtles All the Way Down”, which he played on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. But it and all the other songs are pure Sturgill Simpson. .
This album won’t be for everybody’s taste, but if you are a real fan of the Outlaw Movement of the 1970′s, I would recommend at least giving “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” a try.

 

 

 

October 28, 2014

 

jason isbell

 

 

The new albums that came out today just did not strike my fancy. So, I am going to recommend an album that was released in June of 2013, prior to the beginning of this feature, Southeastern by Jason Isbell.
I am late in learning about Jason Isbell, but better later than never. In case you are like I was and are  in the dark , here’s some information about him. Jason Isbell was a member of the Drive-By Truckers, which featured 3 excellent songwriters: Isbell along with Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. Isbell left in 2007 for a solo career. It seems that many expected his solo projects to sound similar to his work with the Truckers. Instead, his songs sounded more like that of a singer/songwriter, albeit with more of an edge than you usually associate with singer/songwriter.
On Southeastern, Isbell really strips the songs down to a level that we have never heard from him before. The subject matters are real, dealing with the beauty and ugliness of life in such a way that you almost feel like a voyeur. There is not a bad song on this project. I can listen to this from beginning, but some of my favorites include, “Travel Alone’, “Different Days,” “Elephant,” and “Live Oak.” I do want to warn you that there is some adult language on this album. I issue that warning because I know some of you play music around your children, which is wonderful, but preview this album prior to playing it when they are present.
As a side note, Isbell recently sold our a 3 night engagement at The Ryman in Nashville. Folks are finally catching on that there is still country music that tells believable stories, instead of silly fabricated tales of moonlight, tailgates and dirt roads.

 

Don’t delay. Get Jason Isbell’s Southeastern.

 

 

 

 

October 21, 2014

 

phil leadbetter next move

 

 

Bluegrass dobro player Phil Leadbetter’s latest release is The Next Move on Pinecastle Records release.
If you are familiar with the dobro playing, Leadbetter’s story, you may think that my pick is sentimental. Leadbetter has been diagnosed with cancer, and has been fighting it on and off for several years now. By the way, at last report, everything looks Ok for Phil. I assure you, my picks are never sentimental. Sometimes sentimental choices are not easy on the ears. Not to sound like a music snob, but I take this responsibility seriously. If an album is not up to snuff, then I won’t recommend it. That is why you can know that when I recommend The Next Move, it is a great album.
The Next Move  features an all star cast. Normally I am wary of such gatherings of pickers and players, but this collection of pickers and singers will make you want to jump for joy: vocals from the likes of Shawn Camp, Marty Raybon and Joe Diffie, “Sweet Georgia Brown”, featuring Buck White on piano Béla Fleck on banjo, Sierra Hull on mandolin, Steve Thomas on fiddle, Mike Bub on bass and Kenny Smith on guitar; former members of the New Grass Revival, John Cowan and Sam Bush, playing and singing on Ramblin’ Rolling Stone; Jerry Douglas and Rob Ickes swap dobro licks on Just Joshin’.
Your next move should be to get Phil Leadbetter’s The Next Move.

 

October 14, 2014

 

 

angaleena presley

 

 

 

The last of the Pistol Annies , Angaleena Presley, delivers her own solo record, American Middle Class. You won’t find the attitude or slick Nashville production of fellow Pistol Annie, Miranda Lambert, on this album. That is not a knock on Miranda, but more of an indicator of what to expect. American Middle Class is more direct and to the point than albums from many other country singers of this era, with a light, airy vocal delivery that lulls you into a comfortable place, and then jolts your senses with the issues that Presley covers. Humor is used throughout this album, but it is hard to tell if it is an out and out joke or laughing rather than crying at one’s circumstances. Presley’s expert songwriting skills are highlighted on this album, having wrote or co-wrote many of the songs on American Middle Class. Two of my favorites on the album are “American Middle Class”, a song of the struggles of most Americans, and “Dry County Blues”, the story of a life of mistakes and addictions. It is well worth the wait for this album from the final of the Pistol Annie’s to release a solo project. Angaleena Presley hits the bull’s-eye with American Middle Class.

 

 

October 7, 2014

 

doug seegers

 

The story sounds like a Hollywood script. A singer/songwriter who tried to make it in Nashville for almost two decades, playing on the streets, recently homeless, discovered by a Sweedish country star, and, eventually, finding success in Nashville via Sweeden. However, this is not a Hollywood creation. It is as real as it gets. It is true story of Doug Seegers.

 

The 62 year old Seegers’ debut album, was recorded in just three days at Cowboy Jack Clement’s Sound Emporium. According to a review on All Music, all of the vocals on this album are scratch vocals. That means no overdubs; just raw, real singing. Going Down to the River showcases Seegers’ writing skills, with 10 of his original compositions included on the recording. The words stand on their own, but add that to his life drenched, soulful, country voice, and you have a classic.
The title track is the song that brought him fame in Sweeden . The bluesy, gritty sound of “Going Down to the River” brings the listener down to the banks of the river, ready for a dip in the renewing, redemptive waters, Seegers’ honky-tonk infused “Hard Working Man” and Hank Williams influenced “Pour Me” recall sounds of early eras of country music, but it’s is not a take-off on retro music. Seegers’ has two covers on this album: Hank Williams’ “There’ll Be No More Teardrops Tonight” (featuring his friend Buddy Miller on guitar) and the Gram Parson/Emmylou Harris song “She”. Harris steps back into her role on the song, singing with Seegers’.
The songs on Going Down to the River are as breath taking and eye opening as straight whiskey shots.
Call it gritty. Call it raw. Call it real.

 

 

 

September 30,  2014

 

marty stuart

 

 

Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives’ new double album Saturday Night /Sunday Morning, addresses the dichotomy of activities on those back to back days that causes so much heartache and hope. This is not a new idea. In fact, Dr. Ralph Stanley released a double album with the same name in the early 1990’s that included songs of partying to piousness. The songs on the Saturday Night are brilliant new versions of classic country songs that are expressed in honky tonk, rockabilly and blues forms, that don’t feel stale.
For me, the highlights of Saturday Night are the Chuck Berry styled ,“Geraldine” (with a guest harmonica break from Mickey Raphael), the harmony driven , Stuart penned, “ When It Comes to Loving You,” the Hank Williams/Bill Monroe number “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome,” and the George Jones’ tune, “Old Old House.”
Sunday Morning combines the sounds of blues and soul based black gospel with country gospel in a way that has not been done too often. The opening song “Uncloudy Day,” is directly inspired by the Staple Singers. In fact, Mavis Staples accompanies Stuart and the Superlatives in a moving version of the song. The recognizable riff of John Lee Hooker provides the base for “Boogie Woogie Down the Jericho Road,” and “The Gospel Way” could be perceived as gospel or blues, according to the listeners ears.
Marty Stuart has made it clear through the years that he loves all roots music. Saturday Night/Sunday Morning reminds us of his love, not only of the music, but for the journey of the pilgrims that sing the music, whether it be the excesses and heartache of Saturday Night or the repentance and redemption of Sunday Morning.

 

 

September 23, 2014

 

lee ann womack

 

 

 

Again, there are three new albums this week to pick from, and again, you can’t go wrong with any of the three.
Big and Rich’s Gravity is the first on their new record label. The album is classic Big and Rich, with both of the performers contributing songs that they penned. However, it does not sound like a re-hash of old material. This album sounds fresh. Gravity is a must for Big and Rich fans.
Kenny Chesney’s The Big Revival, is proof that he is still able to cut the mustard when it comes to producing hits. “American Kids” is already a hit. I predict there will be at least one more hit from The Big Revival. This album rings of early Kenny Chesney, with it’s ring of classic rock guitars and his distinctive voice, while at the same time keeping up with Aldean’s and Bryan’s of the world, with sampled loops and beats. You can’t please everyone all the time, but Kenny Chesney puts forth his best effort with The Big Revival.

 

My catch of the week is from Lee Ann Womack. Many have been awaiting the release of Lee Ann Womack’s The Way I’m Livin’, her first album since 2008’s Call Me Crazy was shelved by MCA due to the lack of chart success of the singles from that album. After that decision by the record label, Womack patiently waited for her contract with MCA to end. The two went their separate ways in 2012. She signed with 2014 with Sugar Hill Records, and, ever since that announcement, fans have been waiting for this comeback album.
It is a comeback album, of sorts, but not a comeback for chart success. That is not a negative. It could be the best thing to happen for the artist , as well as the listener. Womack’s husband, Frank Liddell, produced The Way I’m Livin’. Recently, Liddell has produced recordings by Miranda Lambert, Pistol Annies, and the Eli Young Band. Womack and Liddell seem to have forgotten about chart success, instead,focusing on just performing, and that is something she does expertly.
It is difficult for me to pick a favorite track on the album. Every song is wonderful in it’s on right, but I think this is an album that needs to be listened to in it’s entirety. I would not recommend grabbing a song or two for your mp3 player. The Way I’m Livin’ will take you from damnation to redemption. Hallelujah! We have been given salvation from Nashville’s cookie cutter sounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 16, 2014

 

There are 3 new albums out this week that you may want to add to your collection.

 

 

 

tim mcgraw
The first is Tim McGraw’s second album on Big Machine Records, Sundown Heaven Town.
The freedom that McGraw has found in his association with Big Machine is evident in this album, which sounds like it could have been released in the earlier in his career. That is a good thing. Artists develop and change throughout their career, and I support that. However, I believe sometimes, whether through the artistic desire for new musical ventures or pressure from record labels,the decision for change is not a wise one. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
This album features the hit single “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s.” This is a sentimental song that doesn’t cross over into the cheesy lane. Two of my favorites are “City Lights” and “Shotgun Rider”. Although this is a keeper, it is not my catch of the week.

 

 

earls of leciester
Bill Monroe is cited as the father of bluegrass, as he should be. However Flatt and Scruggs are as responsible for the expansion of bluegrass as anyone.
Dobro player Jerry Douglas, guitarist and singer Shawn Camp, banjo player Charlie Cushman, mandolin player Tim O’Brien, fiddler Johnny Warren, and longtime Alison Krauss bassist Barry Bales combine their forces as the Earls of Leicester (a take off on Earl and Lester) to pay tribute to Flatt and Scruggs on this self titled album.
This album features 14 songs from the classic Flatt and Scruggs songbook in the traditional style. Although the pickers and singers assembled for this project are some of the hottest pickers around, this is not an album that features much exploration. It seeks the old paths, finds them, and stays on that straight and narrow from beginning to end.
To some this may be a disappointment, but I think the Earls of Leciester have accomplished what they set out to do; pay tribute to the musical giants of Flatt and Scruggs, and, perhaps, point younger fans of bluegrass back to the early stars that laid the foundation for this music genre that is growing in popularity among young people. It is also appropriate that the album is released on the anniversary of Monroe first recording with Flatt and Scruggs, as well as Chubby Wise and Cedric Rainwater in 1946. That collection of men, “The Bluegrass Boys”, are considered the history’s first bluegrass group. Pick it Earls!

 

 

 

george strait
My catch of the week is George Strait’s The Cowboy Rides Away: Live From AT&T Stadium.
Recorded at Strait’s final concert on June 7th, 2014, this album reminds us of what the concert scene will be missing when it cranks up next year: King George.
He is joined by a who’s who of country singers: Jason Aldean, Ray Benson, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Sheryl Crow,Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride).
Each one of the familiar hits that is featured on this 20 track CD sounds as good as when I first heard them. One thing is for sure, George Strait never sold out for the sake of selling records. He stuck to his Texas style of country music and the only thing he sold out was concert after concert, year after year in his rise to the top of the country music world. Long Live the King.

Here’s the complete track listing for The Cowboy Rides Away: Live From AT&T Stadium.

1. Check Yes Or No
2. The Love Bug (with Vince Gill)
3. Fool Hearted Memory (with Jason Aldean)
4. Arkansas Dave (with Bubba Strait)
5. Cowboys Like Us (with Eric Church)
6. That’s What Breaking Hearts Do
7. Marina Del Rey
8. Here For A Good Time (with Sheryl Crow)
9. I Can Still Make Cheyenne
10. Jackson (with Martina McBride)
11. A Showman’s Life (with Faith Hill)
12. Murder On Music Row (with Alan Jackson)
13. The Chair
14. Give It All We Got Tonight
15. Run (with Miranda Lambert)
16. I’ll Always Remember You
17. Ocean Front Property (with Kenny Chesney)
18. Troubadour
19. All My Ex’s Live In Texas (with Jason Aldean, Ray Benson, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Sheryl Crow,
Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride)
20. The Cowboy Rides Away

 

 

 

September 9, 2014

 

billy joe shaver
This is the rare occasion that I recommend an album that is already available. This album escaped my radar and although there are new albums that you need to check out from Lee Brice (I Don’t Dance), Dustin Lynch (Where It’s At) and the Brothers Osborne (Brothers Osborne {EP}), the latest from Billy Joe Shaver is my catch of the week.

Billy Joe Shaver was a member of the 1970s outlaw country movement. In fact, the majority of the songs on Waylon Jennings’ album, Honky Tonk Heroes , considered by many to be the first outlaw country music album, was written by Shaver. However, he never became a recognized name like Willie Nelson or Waylon Jennings, but I bet you do recognize some of his compositions: “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train,” “Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me,” and “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Some Day)”
The new album, Long in the Tooth, features ten new Shaver penned songs, including 2 that were included on Willie Nelson’s 2014 album Band of Brothers: “Hard to Be an Outlaw” (a duet with Willie Nelson) and “The Git Go”. The album also features humorous songs such as “Checkers and Chess” and the storytelling “Music City USA”.
Billy Jo Shaver will probably never be a household name, but his catalog of songs and this new album , Long in the Tooth, reminds us that he is one of the best songwriters in country music history.

 

 

 

 

 

August 19, 2014

 

randy travis

 

 

We have not heard very much from Randy Travis since his health scare last year. Hopefully, one day, we will see him back on stage. Until then, we can enjoy his music, including his latest album, Influence, Vol. 2: The Man I Am.
The second installment in the Influence series is much more varied than Vol. 1, which was Merle Haggard heavy. That is not a complaint, just an observation. You can never have to much of The Hag. Randy Travis does tip his hat to Merle with his version of “Are the Good Times Really Over,” plus a cover of Lefty Frizzell’s “That’s the Way Love Goes”, which was covered by Haggard. Travis also covers Jimmie Rodgers’ “California Blues, Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On” Ernest Tubb’s “You Nearly Lose Your Mind”, Waylon Jennings’ “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line” and the Kris Kristofferson penned “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and “For the Good Times”.
Randy Travis doesn’t pull any punches with this album. It is stone cold country covers of songs by his musical heroes. However, Influence, Vol. 2: The Man I Am is not an album of country karaoke covers. It is a collection of classic songs, made famous by musical masters, placed in the hands of a reverent admirer and fellow master.

 

 

 

 

 

August 5, 2014

 

Sammy-Kershaw-Do-You-Know-Me-Cover-Art
In a recent interview with Billboard , when Kershaw was asked to name his favorite singers he said, “I have four heroes – Hank Williams, George Jones, Mel Street, and the late Ronnie Van Zant,” he admitted to Billboard, though he stressed “If someone made me put them in order, it would be George Jones at the top.”
Kershaw worked with Jones over the years, and his influence on Sammy was evident from the first time I heard him sing.
I am not a big fan of impersonators or tribute artists. Some of them are great, but it is not my cup of tea. However, the album, “Do You Know Me? A Tribute to George Jones,” is an exception. The singer covers “Walk Through This World With Me”, “The Race is On” and “ The Grand Tour” along with many other classics from The Possum. . He also shares the spotlight with Georgette Jones, George and Tammy’s daughter, on “Near You,” a number-one hit for her parents in 1977. “The Route That I Took”, written by Kershaw, is a perfect song in the George Jones style, although it was never recorded by Jones.
If you are a George Jones fan, I would recommend that you make sure this one shows up in your music collection.

 

 

July 29, 2014

 

reggie starrett

 

 

 

 

I am staying at home for this week’s catch. Sand Therapy by local singer, songwriter, Reggie Starrett, is the perfect summertime companion on the lake, at the beach or where ever you happen to be daydreaming. Reggie is one of the most well liked artists in our area. Anytime he performs, the crowds show up. This album is an example of why the masses follow Reggie. Sand Therapy displays not only Reggie’s performing ability, but also his songwriting skills. He is able to grab that summertime, island feel that puts a smile on your face. His music is a lot of fun, along the same lines of the music of Jimmy Buffett.
Speaking of Buffett, Reggie is playing on a regular basis at Margaritaville in Pigeon Forge, TN. Plans are for him to be visiting various Maritaville’s around the country very soon. The crowds there will find out what we have known for while, that everybody deserves Sand Therapy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 22nd, 2014

 

 

dave adkins

 

Again, this week there is not many new albums to speak of. So, I will recommend an album that has been out for a little while. Dave Adkins’ “Nothin’ to Lose” is a solo record from the soulful singer that was released earlier this year. Adkins produced this album with band mate Edgar Loudermilk. I complain all the time about modern country music artist trying to convince the rest of the world that they are really country by talking about dirt roads in the moonlight while drinking moonshine. Well Adkins, a Kentucky native, sings about those subjects it is believable. It seems like a matter of fact, instead of a stretch. This album features the hit single “Pike County Jail”, a song about making moonshine and going to jail. It doesn’t get any more country than that.

 

If you are not a fan of bluegrass music, I would recommend giving this album a try. Adkins’ version of “Tennessee Whiskey” would surely make George Jones smile. Also, Dave’s soulful voice is a breath of fresh air in the bluegrass world. I am bluegrass fan, and I love the traditional sound. However, it is nice to get a little different vocal sound in the genre. It is the same feeling I got when Chris Stapleton was singing with the The SteelDrivers.

 

I had a chance to see Dave Adkins perform with Adkins and Loudermilk recently in Hartwell and The Bluegrass Express. It was a great show, and Adkins’ solo album is an excellent example of the energy and soul that you will experience at one of his live performances. I recommend giving Dave Adkins’ “Nothin’ to Lose”, and catching an Adkins and Loudermilk show as soon as you can.

 

 

 

July 15th, 2014

 

sturgill simpson

 

Well, there is not a lot of new albums out this week in the Country Music field. So, I will recommend an album that has been out for a little while. Sturgill Simpson’s . A friend of mine turned me on to Simpson. I was late to the party, but better late than never. I was not familiar with Simpson or his 2013 debut album, High Top Mountain.

 

 

For his sophomore release, “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music”, Simpson and his band cut an album that has the sound of the Outlaw Movement of the 1970’s, but it sounds fresh. Not a direct impersonation, but rather similar in style, Sturgill Simpson’s voice has a Waylon Jennings quality. Simpson’s songwriting may be the strongest element of the album. I love quality, fresh material, and this album is full of it. One of my favorite tracks is the Simpson penned “Living the Dream,” which at times sounds like a country song, and at times a classic rock song. But it and all the other songs are pure Sturgill Simpson. However, I am not cover, and There are a couple of covers on the album. In particular, Simpson’s rendition of the Charlie Moore’s and Bill Napier’s trucker anthem “Long White Line” is excellent.
This album won’t be for everybody’s taste, but if you are a real fan of the Outlaw Movement of the 1970’s, I would recommend at least giving “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” a try.

 

 

 

July 8, 2014

 

BlackHawk-Brothers-of-the-Southland

 

 

 

We haven’t heard anything from the group Blackhawk since 2002’s “Spirit Dancer”, but they have returned in a big way. The album “Brothers of the Southland” is a solid outing . They have not tried modernizing their sound on this album. Rather, their sound, as it as always been, is unique. With Henry Paul’s one of a kind vocal delivery, Blackhawk delivers an album that stands out. It is not just for the vocals, but also in the fact that the album is not produced in the cookie cutter way that is so popular in Nashville at this time that helps “Brothers of the Southland” stand apart. The rich vocal harmonies are a refreshing sanctuary from the muddled, over produced albums that are being released from today’s hit factories.
The title track pays tribute to Southern rock’s fallen heroes, like Ronnie Van Zant and the other members of Lynyrd Skynyrd who died in a 1977 plane crash, the Marshall Tucker Band’s Tommy and Toy Caldwell, Duane Allman; and the Outlaws’ Hughie Thomasson, Frank O’Keefe and Billy Jones. The song is not an attempt to name drop to be recognized. Lead singer Henry Paul was a member of The Outlaws, and toured alongside the people mentioned in the song. It is a heartfelt salute to gone but not forgotten friends. Many country music fans are also fond of Southern rock. The song will remind you of a cross between Charlie Daniels Band’s The South’s Gonna Do It Again and George Jones’ Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes, bring out pride in the music and it’s roots, and sadness that the moment may never in musical history may never be replicated.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking that this album is more rock than country. It is country as cornbread.  For those that liked “Goodbye Says It All” or any of their other hits of the 1990’s, Blackhawk’s “Brothers of the Southland” is a definite keeper.

 

 

 

 

 

June 24, 2014

 

don williams

There is not a lot of new music coming out this week, so I am going to make my catch of the week an album that you might have missed. Don Williams, new album, “Reflections” , is as good as anything the silver throated baritone has ever released. It is a rare thing to be able to listen to every track on an album and not be tempted to skip at least one track. That rarity is accomplished in “Reflections”.

Don Williams covers songs by songwriting giants Townes Van Zandt (“I’ll Be Here In the Morning”), Guy Clark (“Talk is Cheap”) and Merle Haggard. His version of Haggard’s classic”Sing Me Back Home”, is somehow different than the original. Making such a well known song your own is very hard to do, but Williams does it with such ease.

 

It is always good to see a legendary artist still performing. It is even better to see that legend producing new material that holds the standard of their previous work. If you are a fan of Don Williams, or just great singing,I recommend picking the album up today.
For June 17, 2014

 

Willie_Nelson_Band_of_Brothers_cover

 

 

Willie Nelson became well known as a singer and guitarist in the 1970’s. Keep in mind, that Willie is the fellow who wrote hit songs for Ray Price, Patsy Cline, Billy Walker, and Johnny Cash, but he hasn’t flexed his songwriting muscle on an album since 1996. Let the muscle flexing begin. Willie Nelson’s new album, Band of Brothers, includes nine new songs by Willie and a handful of fine covers.

 

“Bring It On” is a song that inspires the listener, not with a dreamy story of overcoming obstacles. Instead, it is a song of outlasting the trouble with a gritty determination that only a person who has experienced life can display.

 

Willie’s “Wives and Girlfriends” is an irreverent song that rings to an earlier era, when songs like this were more widespread in country music.
Willie covers two Billy Joe Shaver on. “Hard to Be an Outlaw” and “The Git Go,” a duet with Jamey Johnson”, as well as a cover of Vince Gill’s “Whenever You Come Around.”

 

Band of Brothers sounds retro. It is clean recording, not the muddy sound of noisy that you sometimes experience today in all genres of music. You can hear every instrument: Willie’s Trigger,electric guitars, steel guitar and Mickey Raphael’s harmonica fills.
Band of Brothers serves notice that not only can Willie still deliver a song with a great vocal and guitar style, but there is still ink in his pen.

 

 

 

For June 10, 2014

Clay PageHomemade

 

photo(18)
The catch of the week is Clay Page’s “Homemade”.

 

The 4 track EP is homemade by local artist, Clay Page. He wrote the songs, played, sang and produced the entire album. His abundence of talent is evient in every song. Don’t be fooled by the beginning of “You Gone”. The song starts with the recording quality of a home tape recorder. It is by design. A nod to the title of the album.

 

 

 

Pick up Clay Page’s “Homemade” . It is available on itunes and on http://claypagecountry.com/

 

 

 

Here are some other releases of note for this week-

Toby Keith5 Rounds

 

 

 

toby-keith_5-rounds

This box set rounds up five albums from Toby Keith:
2008’s That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy,
2009’s American Ride,
2010’s Bullets in the Gun,
2011’s Clancy’s Tavern,
and
2012’s Hope on the Rocks.
This box set includes the hits “God Love Her,” “American Ride,” “Made in America,” “Red Solo Cup,” and “Beers Ago”. This is a great way to get some of Toby Keith’s later albums in on place and at a good price.

 

 

David Allan Coe-The Illustrated David Allan : 4 Classic Albums 1977-1979

 

 

david allan coe
This double CD includes 4 albums from Coe:
“Tattoo” (1977),
“Family Album” (1978),
“Human Emotions” (1978)
and
“Spectrum VII” (1979).
It also includes a bonus track from the “Compass Point” (1979).

This is from Coe’s time on Columbia records. Coe recorded for Columbia Records.
Early in his career, his music was raunchy and not for the general public, but by the mid-70’s he’d proven to be one of Music City’s most sought after songwriters:Tanya Tucker’s version of ‘Would You Lay with Me (In A Field Of Stone)’ and Johnny Paycheck’s version of ‘Take This Job And Shove It’ went to number 1.
This collection also includes all of the original liner notes from each album.

 

For June 3, 2014

 

Miranda Lambert- Platinum

 

miranda lambert platinum

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t seem like that big a risk for Miranda Lambert to name her latest album Platinum since all four of her previous projects have reached platinum sales status. Still, Miranda insists there’s more to that title than selling a million records, though.
While she’d love to see this album go platinum, Miranda says, “It’s a lifestyle kind of thing. It’s about blondes and Airstreams and platinum jewelry. Once I had that in my head, Platinum, for the title, there was no going back. I couldn’t think of anything else that would fit. So, we just went with it.”
Because Miranda Lambert has already made it, she is free to explore musical interests that new artists are not allowed by their record companies. Lambert effortlessly jumps from one style to another on Platinum: from honky tonk to rock and roll to western swing to blues to modern hip hop country sounds.

 

Platinum features Miranda’s duet with Carrie Underwood on “Somethin’ Bad.” Although the duet with Underwood will get a great deal of interest, it is not the best track on the album. It is hard to say which track is the best, but the current single, “Automatic” is in contention. It pulls the older listener into a walk down memory lane, and at the same time sends younger fans to their smart phones to look up “Sun Tea”
It is said that you can’t please all of the people, all of the time, but Miranda Lambert gets pretty close in doing just that with her new album, Platinum. Because of that I believe you will see Platinum go platinum very soon.

 

 

 

 

For May 27, 2014

 

tammy wnette

 

 

There’s not a lot of new music out this week. We will get to new music in just a moment, but first, there’s a new box set out from Sony Music that features the music of Tammy Wynnette.

This box set covers the most prolific years of Wynette’s career (the 1960’s and 1970’s), and includes her hits “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” and “Stand By Your Man” as well as others. This 4 disc set is definitely something that classic country music fans would want to add to their collection.

 

Jamie O’Neal – Eternal

jamie o'neal

 

Best known for her hits “There Is No Arizona” and “When I Think About Angels,” Australian songstress, Jamie O’Neal returns with her first album since 2005’s “Brave” . One has to be brave to tackle songs that were made famous by country legends.

 

Jamie O’Neal aptly covers the songs with a powerful vocal range that only a few current female singers could match. Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride come to mind.  O’Neal’s new album “Eternal” is a collection of songs from a diverse group of singers, including: Born To Run (#3 hit for Emmylou Harris in 1982), Golden Ring (w/ Andy Griggs) (#1 hit for George Jones & Tammy Wynette in 1976) “I’ve Done Enough Dying Today (Top 10 hit for Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Bros. in 1978) ,  Just One Time (#2 hit for Connie Smith in 1982),  “Leavin’ On Your Mind (Top 10 hit for Patsy Cline in 1963) , “Help Me Make It Through The Night (#1 hit by Sammi Smith in 1970; #4 hit by Willie Nelson in 1979).

 

The album does have one new song, Wide Awake, co-written by Jamie and her father, James Murphy). She says ,  “I wrote this funny song with my Dad. It’s an ode to everyone out there who sleeps next to a snoring moose every night.”

All in all, it’s a good album. “Eternal” is no average, run of the mill, karaoke album of covers. However, “Wide Awake” left me craving more original offerings from Jamie O’Neal. Hopefully, soon, we will see such an album.

 

 

 

 

For May 20, 2014

 

 

Brantley GilbertJust as I Am

 

Brantley Gilbert Just as I am

 

 

 

If you are a fan of Brantley Gilbert, you will love this album. I am not a huge fan of Brantley Gilbert. One thing you can say about Gilbert is that he doesn’t seem to care what people think of him. Sure a lot of people say this, but he means it. He is not out to offend you, but if you don’t like his music, he would probably tell you to go jump in the lake. His rebel spirit shines through in his latest album, “Just as I Am”. Despite his stand alone attitude, there are plenty of fans that are willing to take Brantley Gilbert just as he is, as this album has already produced the number 1 single “Bottoms Up” and his current single “Small Town Throwdown” featuring Justin Moore and Thomas Rhett is starting a steady climb up the charts.

 

 

 

Hank ThompsonSongs for Rounders/At the Golden Nugget

 

Hank Thompson Songs for Rounders

 

 

I normally reserve this space for new releases, but this is such a great re-release , I can’t pass up the chance to mention it. Hank Thompson’s music was a little Texas swing and a little honky tonk. In some ways, his music is the connecting link between the music of Hank Williams and the outlaw movement. Don’t misunderstand , Thompson’s music was his own. He was no Williams imitator, nor a long haired rebel that left Nashville. However, his songs are a little bit grittier than the polished music of his outstanding backing band, the Brazos Valley Boys, would indicate. On both of these recordings, Hank Thompson’s voice has an aire of rebelliousness and edginess that many country fans may have forgotten about.
“At the Golden Nugget” is the first live album by a solo country artist of any significance. It features the expert guitar of Merle Travis, including a couple of Travis standards: “John Henry” and “Nine Pound Hammer”.

 

Two rebels from two different eras. Old or new, there’s a little bit of something for everybody this week with Porkchop’s Catch of the Week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 13, 2014-
Dolly Parton – Blue Smoke

 

 

 

Album Artwork
If you ask folks how to describe Dolly Parton’s music, it would be hard to define to one style. Of course she is country, but within that framework, Dolly is mountain with songs like “Coat of Many Colors” and “Jolene”, and  she is pop with songs like “9 to 5”. Dolly is all things to all fans. Most importantly, she is Dolly, with a genuineness that is sometimes hard to find in the overproduced world of music today.
Blue Smoke is not eclectic for the sake of being eclectic. Dolly’s stardom has allowed her to express herself and branch out and paint the canvas that is Blue Smoke with strokes as different as a bluegrass version of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice”,recent duets with Kenny Rogers “You Can’t Make Old Friends”, the title track from Rogers’ 2013 album and “From Here to the Moon and Back” from Willie Nelson’s 2013 duets album, “To All the Girls…”, to the traditional “Banks of the Ohio”, to “Lay Your Hands on Me” the Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora penned rock number.
When you hear these songs, it is almost as if you are hearing them for the first time. Dolly’s interpretation of the songs on Blue Smoke makes them sound as if they were written for her. She owns them, and you should own them. Blue Smoke hits the shelves today, May 13th.

 

 

Album Review:

Don Williams’ Reflections

 

 

don williams

 

The Gentle Giant, Don Williams, new album, “Reflections” , is as good as anything the silver throated baritone has ever released. It is a rare thing to be able to listen to every track on an album and not be tempted to skip at least one track. That rarity is accomplished in “Reflections”.

Don Williams covers songs by songwriting giants Townes Van Zandt (“I’ll Be Here In the Morning”), Guy Clark (“Talk is Cheap”) and Merle Haggard. His version of Haggard’s classic”Sing Me Back Home”, is somehow different than the original. Making such a well known song your own is very hard to do, but Williams does it with such ease.

 

It is always good to see a legendary artist still performing. It is even better to see that legend producing new material that holds the standard of their previous work. If you are a fan of Don Williams, or just great singing,I recommend picking the album up today.

 

Remember, you can contact me via email at

porkchop@gacaradio.com, by facebook at

https://www.facebook.com/921wlhr or by calling me Monday -Friday from 6-10am at 706-356-WLHR (9547).

 

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