Album Feature – Chris Stapleton – Starting Over

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Nov 132020
 

By Joshua Wallace

Chris Stapleton has returned with the follow up to 2017’s dual releases of From A Room : Volume 1 and Volume 2.  His new album is titled Starting Over and it finds him back at   Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A with Producer Dave Cobb.  Aside from the typical lineup of Morgane Stapleton (vocals, tambourine), with longtime bandmates J.T. Cure (bass) and Derek Mixon (drums), this record features performances from former Heartbreakers Mike Campbell (electric guitar) and Benmont Tench (Hammond B3 organ) along with the legendary Paul Franklin (pedal steel).  That is one incredible lineup for any record and Chris Stapleton makes the most out of it.  I feel like Stapleton has created the best record of his career with Starting Over.  Let’s take a deeper look at some of these tracks.

The album’s first track and first single is “Starting Over” which is a simple acoustic melody that is super catchy.  It reminds me a bit of Volume 1’s “Broken Halos” but more upbeat.  The next track is “Devil Always Made Me Think Twice” which appeared on Hailey Whitters album The Dream earlier this year.  Stapleton’s version kicks things up a notch with a thick blues riff and the entire vibe of this track is a jam.  This is a stark comparison to Whitters more mellow version that takes you more to a smoky blues room rather than a bigger dance hall.

The track “When I’m With You” is a nice country ballad that highlights Stapleton’s voice.  It serves as a nice mellow moment around some of the record’s heavy hitters.  Speaking of heavy hitters, the track “Arkansas” is a southern rock romp full of grit and soul.  It’s a track inspired by a trip to the state of Arkansas and it’s good enough it might inspire some tourism to the home of the Razorbacks.  “Hillbilly Blood” is another favorite that kind of reminds me of if you crossed “Death Row” with “Outlaw State Of Mind”.  It has that kind of vibe and I dig the thick groove on this track.  

“Maggie’s Song” is a tear jerker and one of Stapleton’s best written tracks.  This song will make anyone cry, especially pet lovers.  “Whiskey Sunrise” is a country blues track that builds slowly to a crushing guitar solo that I hope is extended live because in both instances, the solo ends just as it sounds like it’s getting started on the record.  “Watch You Burn” is a heavy track co-written by Mike Campbell and inspired by the 2017 Las Vegas shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival.  Stapleton wasn’t there as he says on the song, but he puts enough fire and passion behind this track for all of those who were.  Finally, the album ends with “Nashville, TN” which features Paul Franklin on the pedal steel guitar.  It’s a song about leaving and at the same time serves as a criticism of how the town treats singers and songwriters who go there with a dream.

There is a lot to unpack with this album and it is one of the best country records of the year and one of the best overall records of the year.  Chris Stapleton has put together a collection of songs that are both timeless and meets our current moment in history.  There are a few covers on this record with two Guy Clark songs and a John Fogerty track.  I highly recommend getting a copy of this record as it will be high on many album of the year lists including my own.  You can look forward to Chris Stapleton’s “All American Road Show” tour to resume next year when it is safe to do so.  You can find out information about that on his website.  Starting Over is out everywhere as of November 13th, 2020.

Favorite Tracks : Starting Over, Devil Always Made Me Think Twice, When I’m With You, Arkansas, Hillbilly Blood, Maggie’s Song, Whiskey Sunrise, Watch You Burn, Nashville, TN

 

Chris Stapleton – Starting Over (2020)

  1. Starting Over
  2. Devil Always Made Me Think Twice
  3. Cold
  4. When I’m With You
  5. Arkansas
  6. Joy Of My Life (John Fogerty)
  7. Hillbilly Blood
  8. Maggie’s Song
  9. Whiskey Sunrise
  10. Worry B Gone (Guy Clark)
  11. Old Friends (Guy Clark)
  12. Watch You Burn
  13. You Should Probably Leave
  14. Nashville, TN

Album Feature – The Cadillac Three – Tabasco & Sweet Tea

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Oct 282020
 

By Joshua Wallace

The Cadillac Three have returned with their second album of 2020 and this album is a game changer for them.  The band has leaned more into the funk side of their sound and dropped any notion of getting played on country radio.  There has also been an instrument change as Kelby Ray has dropped the lap steel in favor of bass to give The Cadillac Three’s new sound a proper low end.  It’s a sonic shift that in my opinion has created their best album yet.  Let’s check out some of these tracks on The Cadillac Three’s fifth album.

The album kicks off with a great guitar riff on “Tabasco & Sweet Tea” before settling into a funky danceable groove that immediately lets you know what you’re in for on this record.  Jaren Johnston’s crooning on this track is just the right kind of funky for the vibes here also.  “Sweet Southern Spirit” starts off with an old school hip hop drum beat before the guitar kicks in and brings in the funk.  This is a great track about the kind of woman that is “on a country boy bucket list”.  TC3 name checks Lynyrd Skynyrd here on this track that has a great funky guitar solo that you can get down to.  

“Devil’s Lettuce” brings a funky rap spin to a track about getting high on devil’s lettuce.  It’s a funky kind of hip hop feel here but you still get the killer guitar riffs that TC3 are bringing all over this record.  It reminds me of what ZZ Top did with “I Gotsta Get Paid”, but leaning more into the funky aspect of that kind of track rather than the dirty blues that ZZ Top employed on their song.  “Money Ain’t Shit” is another track that brings a killer guitar riff right up front and center with a cool back beat and smooth crooning from Johnston.  This track and the next are big indications that The Cadillac Three are not pushing hard for radio friendly songs anymore.  The next song is “Turn The Radio On” which is a straight up country radio protest song.  It speaks to how hard it is for artists to make it if they don’t get played on country radio.  It’s always great to hear an artist in the position of someone like The Cadillac Three acknowledge this.  They have had their own struggles with getting played on the radio and air it out here.

The Cadillac Three have created what I consider to be their best album yet with Tabasco & Sweet Tea.  If you haven’t been a fan or have been on the fence about them, I highly suggest giving this record a listen as it is a different style for them.  They have dropped any pretense of making music to get played on country radio and just went to make the funky country record they wanted to.  It’s a sound that just works for them and I hope this is what we get from TC3 going forward.  Tabasco & Sweet Tea is out everywhere as of October 23rd, 2020.  As a special note, digital copies are $3.99 for a limited time on the band’s website.

Favorite Tracks : Tabasco & Sweet Tea, Sweet Southern Spirit, Devil’s Lettuce, Money Ain’t Shit, Turn The Radio On, Sabbath On Cornbread

The Cadillac Three – Tabasco & Sweet Tea (2020)

  1. Tabasco & Sweet Tea
  2. Stop That Girl
  3. Head Over Wheels
  4. Sweet Southern Spirit
  5. Road Soda
  6. Bridges
  7. Devil’s Lettuce
  8. Crispy
  9. Money Ain’t Shit
  10. Turn The Radio On
  11. Sabbath On Cornbread

Album Feature – Rachel Brooke – The Loneliness In Me

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Oct 232020
 

By Joshua Wallace

Rachel Brooke might be newer to some fans of more current traditional country music, but she has been around making good traditional country music for well over a decade now.  Her last full length solo album was 2012’s A Killer’s Dream which was a personal highlight of 2012 for me.  I highly recommend you seek that one out if you have not heard it.  Rachel Brooke’s voice has a haunting quality to it and serves to add to the running theme of loneliness and the things that go with it.  Let’s take a look at some of the tracks on this record.

The album kicks off with “It Ain’t Over Till You’re Crying”.  From the haunting opening line through the slow waltz style track, this song sets a vibe for the record with a song about getting a measure of revenge on a former lover. The pedal steel is thick on this track and I dig that.  Another favorite is “The Hard Way”.  This is another slower ballad that features Rachel’s lower range that still has a bit of a haunting quality to it.

“The Loneliness In Me” picks up the pace a bit with some rocking guitar.  I love songs that are upbeat but the lyrics are not.  It creates a great juxtaposition where you’re rocking out to someone singing about everything going wrong but their loneliness is what gets them through.  I love the conversational quality of the lyrics on this one.  “Ghost Of You” is another great track with a haunting melody.  It’s a song about how love sticks around because a lover’s ghost can linger after they’re gone.  Finally, “The Awful Parts Of Me” has a really great retro string section that makes this track sound like something off 60’s country radio.  It’s a twisted love song that fits in with the overall theme of this record perfectly.

Rachel Brooke has created a modern country throwback classic with a twisted lyrical twist that will catch listeners off guard but in a good way.  The album has a haunting quality about it that Rachel Brooke has always brought to her music.  If you’re a newer listener, I highly recommend checking out Rachel’s previous albums, especially her records with Lonesome Wyatt of Those Poor Bastards.  The Loneliness In Me is out everywhere as of October 23rd, 2020.   

Favorite Tracks : It Ain’t Over Till You’re Crying, The Hard Way, The Loneliness In Me, Ghost Of You, The Awful Parts Of Me

Rachel Brooke

Rachel Brooke – The Loneliness In Me (2020)

  1. It Ain’t Over Till You’re Crying
  2. Great Mistake
  3. The Hard Way
  4. The Loneliness In Me
  5. Picture On The Wall
  6. It Won’t Be Long
  7. Ghost Of You
  8. The Lovells Stockade Blues
  9. Lucky And Alone
  10. The Awful Parts Of Me
  11. Undecided Love
  12. I Miss It Like It’s Gone

Album Feature – Sturgill Simpson – Cuttin’ Grass – Vol. 1 (Butcher Shoppe Sessions)

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Oct 162020
 

By Joshua Wallace

Sturgill Simpson has released Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 1 (Butcher Shoppe Sessions) as the follow up to last year’s rock record Sound And Fury.  This album turns to bluegrass and re-works 20 of Sturgill’s original tunes into bluegrass tracks.  What really makes this album is that these are totally re-arranged to be bluegrass and not just his old songs played in this style.  It really helps that Sturgill has put together an amazing bluegrass band of some of the best players today with Stuart Duncan, Mike Bub, Sierra Hull, Scott Vestal, Tim O’Brien, Mark Howard and Miles Miller on the record.

There really isn’t a bad track on this album, and it’s the first record I have reviewed here where I recommend the whole album.  Some standouts include a few Sunday Valley tracks with “All The Pretty Colors”, “I Wonder” and “Sometimes Wine”.  I hope we get a few more of these on the potential Vol. 2.  Other high marks include a total re-working of “The Storm” from the mid-tempo track on High Top Mountain to a thunderous and fast bluegrass track that will have concert halls dancing for sure.  “Turtles” is also slightly sped up for the bluegrass style and it has a totally different feel to it vs the cosmic styling of the Metamodern track.  “Life Of Sin” goes from being a guitar forward twangy country jam to a fiddle forward country flavored bluegrass track.  Indeed, it is the new arrangements for these familiar tracks with some of the best bluegrass players you can put together that makes this much more than a greatest hits album.

Sturgill has done it again with this one and has made what could be another genre defining masterpiece.  This time he has done for bluegrass what Metamodern Sounds In Country Music did for traditional country back in 2014.  Bluegrass is in a resurgence with artists like Billy Strings, Molly Tuttle and others leading the way.  Now Sturgill joins the pack with this collection.  Time will tell if we get a Volume 2 with the rest of his songs and hopefully a bit more Sunday Valley and a bit of Sound and Fury too.  I don’t often review records like this, but this is more than a Greatest Hits album.  These are familiar songs done in a new way with some of the best pickers you can find.  I highly recommend giving this record a spin and I hope we get a bluegrass tour with Sturgill and this band.  Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 1 is out everywhere digitally as of October 16th, 2020 with physical releases later in December.  

Favorite Tracks : The Whole Thing

Sturgill Simpson – Cuttin’ Grass – Vol. 1 (Butcher Shoppe Sessions) (2020)

  1. All Around You
  2. All The Pretty Colors
  3. Breakers Roar
  4. I Don’t Mind
  5. I Wonder
  6. Just Let Go
  7. Life Ain’t Fair And The World Is Mean
  8. A Little Light
  9. Life Of Sin
  10. Long White Line
  11. Living The Dream
  12. Old King Coal
  13. Railroad Of Sin
  14. Sitting Here Without You
  15. Sometimes Wine
  16. The Storm
  17. Time After All
  18. Turtles All The Way Down
  19. Voices
  20. Water Down The Well

Album Feature – David Adam Byrnes – Neon Town

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Oct 142020
 

By Joshua Wallace

Every now and then you see a random new artist and decide to check them out and it blows you away with how good they are.  This was my experience with David Adam Byrnes new record Neon Town.  I was not familiar with him at all until it dropped this past Friday, but now I am a fan.  A little bit of research revealed that this is the follow up to his 2011 album Premium Country, but you really should treat this as a re-introduction.  A move from Nashville to Texas provided some new inspiration and artists like Cody Johnson showed him what Texas country could be.  That’s where the album Neon Town comes in and it is pure country music gold.  You might not find a better Texas country album this year.

The album kicks off with “Neon Town” and it’s a straight banger.  It’s a classic honky tonk song that gets you in the mood to dance.  This is a track that wouldn’t be out of place on a George Strait album.  Another favorite is “Old School”.  I love the groove this track cuts.  It’s a funky track about how chivalry is still alive even if it is old school.”Tequila, Salt and Time” is a typical feel good country music island jam, but similar to “Old School”, this song has a groove that makes you just want to dance and that danceable aspect is something that makes this record stand out among 2020’s country music releases.

“Beer Bucket List” kicks things off with a great fiddle riff.  This is another great banger of a track about the escapism that beer can provide from the typical 9 to 5 lifestyle.  “In My Arms” is a great ballad that I feel like would have gone to number one on country radio in the mid to late 90’s.  It has that smooth kind of melody and simple guitar and fiddle harmony that made those kinds of songs popular.  Regardless of the decade, it’s still a great tune.  The album closes out with a killer cover of classic country tune “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Loud Music”.  It’s a very stripped back cover and closes the album out on a familiar note.

David Adam Byrnes has released one hell of a record full of great danceable country songs which is something we haven’t had much of in 2020.  There are tracks for honky tonks that are bangers and there are tracks that make you want to slow dance the night away.  It’s a good album.  I highly recommend checking this one out and I hope to be able to see David Adam Byrnes live sometime in the future.  Neon Town is available everywhere as of October 9th, 2020. 

Favorite Tracks : Neon Town, Old School, Tequila, Salt and Time, Beer Bucket List, In My Arms 

David Adam Byrnes

David Adam Byrnes – Neon Town (2020)

  1. Neon Town
  2. I Can Give You One
  3. She Only Wanted Flowers
  4. Old School
  5. Signs
  6. Tequila Salt and Time
  7. Beer Bucket List
  8. In My Arms
  9. I Ain’t Seen It Yet
  10. Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Loud Music

Album Feature – Brent Cobb – Keep ‘Em On They Toes

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Oct 022020
 

By Joshua Wallace

Brent Cobb has released the follow up to his 2018 record Providence Canyon.  While that album revealed a more rocking side of Cobb’s music, Keep ‘Em On They Toes goes back to the more mellow rootsy vibe of 2016’s Shine On Rainy Day.  With four albums under his belt, Cobb is proving himself to be one of the premier songwriters in country and Americana music.  Let’s check out some of the tracks in this new record.

The album kicks off with the inspirational and quotable track “Keep ‘Em On They Toes”.  It’s a feel good anthem about walking to the beat of your own drummer and not letting other people get to you.  It’s a great message that a lot of people need to hear right now.  “Good Times and Good Lovin’” is another great track.  I love the interplay between the fiddle and the slow piano on this track.  It’s a smooth ballad that I’m sure will be a lot of folks’ favorite song.  

“This Side Of The River” is a great song about loving what you have and celebrating the simple life.  It’s got a smooth vibe that flows well with the rest of the album.  “Don’t Sweep Your Dust Under My Rug” is a song about those people that are quick to judge other people they don’t understand.  It’s basically saying “I live the way I do, I don’t mess with you, don’t mess with me.”  It’s a simple message that a lot of people can relate to these days.  “Soapbox” feels like the kind of song the world needs to hear about stepping off your soapbox and trying to get a long.  It’s another great track for this record and I love Nikki Lane’s feature here.

Brent Cobb has released a great record that speaks to a lot of the current conditions of the world without being tied to any particular point in time.  While a song like “The World Is Ending” feels like a 2020 song, it doesn’t feel stuck in 2020.  Good songs should be timeless and this record has that.  Brent Cobb has been playing some of these songs live over the past year or so, but I can’t wait till I’m able to hear some of the newer stuff in a live setting with a full band.  You can find out more of what Brent Cobb is up to on his website.  Keep ‘Em On They Toes is out everywhere as of October 2nd, 2020.

Favorite Tracks : Keep ‘Em on They Toes, Good Times and Good Lovin’, This Side Of The River, Dust Under My Rug, Soap Box

Brent Cobb – Keep ‘Em On They Toes (2020)

  1. Keep ‘Em On They Toes
  2. Shut Up And Sing
  3. Good Times and Good Lovin’
  4. Sometimes I’m A Clown
  5. This Side Of The River
  6. Dust Under My Rug
  7. Soapbox (feat. Nikki Lane)
  8. When You Go
  9. The World Is Ending
  10. Little Stuff

Album Feature – Matt Woods – Mornings After EP

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Sep 152020
 

By Joshua Wallace

Matt Woods has released the new Mornings After EP.  This record is a companion piece to his 2019 album Natural Disasters.  You can find a review for that one here.  This EP was recorded during the same sessions as the 2019 album and with the same band.  This companion piece helps to add depth to an already great album experience.  Let’s take a look at some of the tracks here.

The album kicks off with “Tomorrow’s All We Have” which is a slower bluesy rock kind of tune.  I love the keys on this track and the guitar solo takes you back to a small smoky dive bar.  This also has one of Matt’s signature power vocal performances similar to his song “Deadman’s Blues”.  I also love the track “Getaway”.  It has a bit of an island rock sound on a track about the need to get away from your normal life.  I love the slide guitar on this one.  Finally, “Sunshine” is another slow bluesy track on this record.  Like the opening track, it has another great vocal performance from Woods.  I dig the guitar riffs going throughout this one.

Matt Woods has released a great companion EP to his 2019 full length album Natural Disasters.  If you were a fan of Natural Disasters or his previous work, I highly recommend checking this release out.  There are some great vocal performances on these songs for these to be tracks that were left off an album.  I kind of wish we could get a deluxe package with both Natural Disasters and Mornings After in the same release as these tracks add some depth to the original LP.  Check out everything Matt Woods has going on through his website here.  Mornings After is available everywhere as of September 4th, 2020.  

Favorite Tracks : Tomorrow’s All We Have, Getaway, Sunshine

Matt Woods – Mornings After EP (2020)

  1. Tomorrow’s All We Have
  2. Take It Slow
  3. Getaway
  4. Sunshine
  5. California Shakes

Album Feature – Tennessee Jet – The Country

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Sep 092020
 

By Joshua Wallace

Tennessee Jet is back with his follow up to his 2017 album Reata.  The Country is Jet’s third full length LP and it is my favorite of the albums he has released so far.  Tennessee Jet recorded this record in California with Dwight Yoakam’s touring band.  It also features the likes of Paul Cauthen, Elizabeth Cook, Cody Jinks and Mickey Raphael on this record.  Let’s take a dive into some of the tracks on this one.

The opening track “Stray Dogs” reminds me a bit of “The Road Goes On Forever” by Robert Earl Keen but in a good way where this song echoes the style and feel of that classic tune.  “The Raven And The Dove” is Tennessee Jet’s version of the tune he wrote that Cody Jinks recorded on his 2019 album The Wanting.  This version is more somber than Jinks version of the tune and the pedal steel and guitar get to shine more in the instrumental here.  An absolute highlight of the track is the grungy “Johnny” which is a tribute to Johnny Horton as the song covers the topic of his death.  It plays like a grungy classic Nirvana tune and somehow it just fits right in the middle of this record of solid country gold.

Following that is Tennessee Jet’s version of “Pancho & Lefty” which features Cody Jinks, Elizabeth Cook and Paul Cauthen.  This song has been done many times, but there is something about this tale of outlaws that always draws me in.  This one is no different.  Another highlight is the title track “The Country”.  It’s a slow moving ballad that features guitar and fiddle but it has my favorite line of the entire album.  I love the slow build to the line “I miss you like the country radio don’t play no more”.  It’s a tune that has to be heard to be fully appreciated.

Tennessee Jet has released what is in my opinion the best record of his career.  The Country has some good variety in the record throughout from solid country gold to folk leaning rootsy tracks to a grungy rock epic about a country legend.  You will find a bit of everything here.  I hope to catch Tennessee Jet live sometime in the near future as I have not been able to see him live yet.  You can follow Tennessee Jet on his website.  The Country was released everywhere you can find music as of September 4th, 2020. 

Favorite Tracks : The Raven And The Dove, Johnny, Pancho & Lefty, Hands On You, The Country, She Talks To Angels

Tennessee Jet – The Country (2020)

  1. Stray Dogs
  2. The Raven And The Dove
  3. Johnny
  4. Pancho & Lefty
  5. Off To War
  6. Hands On You
  7. Someone To You
  8. The Country
  9. She Talks To Angels
  10. Sparklin’ Burnin’ Fuse’

Album Feature – Zephaniah OHora – Listening To The Music

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Aug 282020
 

By Joshua Wallace

Zephaniah OHora is back with his second LP release following his stellar 2017 debut This Highway.  With This Highway, Zephaniah set out to prove that good country music could come from anywhere, even Brooklyn, NY. Now he’s releasing an album that solidifies his Bakersfield by the way of Brooklyn sound.  If you told me this was a record of lost Merle Haggard tunes. I don’t think most people would question that.  But no, this is an original record written by Zephaniah OHora except for a few cases where he has some co-writers.  Let’s take a deeper dive and see why this is likely going to end up one of my favorite records of 2020.

The album kicks off with “Heaven’s On The Way” which immediately displays some amazing pedal steel guitar from Jon Graboff.  The pedal steel is all over this record and it surely is a highlight whenever you hear it.  “When I’ve No More Tears To Cry” is a great lost love ballad that features and is co-written by Dori Freeman.  I particularly dig the electric guitar solo in this one.  Another highlight is “All American Singer” which sounds like something that would come off a Merle Haggard greatest hits record.  It’s a song that calls out the injustices of the day, but in the end recognizes that music is there to bring everyone together.

The track “Living Too Long” covers the classic country theme of how the good days are behind us.  It’s a bit more of an upbeat track, but Zephaniah OHora still gets the bluesy nature of the subject matter across. John Shannon’s electric guitar is a highlight here, and this is one of his co-writes.  I love how the track slows down a bit toward the end and has some great honky tonk piano over the last verse. “Riding That Train” is another upbeat track that has a sort of western swing sound to it.  It’s a great train song and you don’t hear as many of those these days

Zephaniah OHora has created one amazing record with Listening To The Music.  This album is much better than his stellar debut This Highway.  I was a fan of that record, but this album has more tracks that I’m drawn to and there really isn’t a bad cut here.  I hope to one day see Zephaniah OHora live, but you can follow him on his website.  Listening To The Music is out everywhere as of August 28th, 2020.    

Favorite Tracks : Heaven’s On The Way, When I’ve No More Tears To Cry, All American Singer, Listening To The Music, Living Too Long, Riding That Train, You Make It Easy To Love Again

Zephaniah OHora – Listening To The Music (2020)

  1. Heaven’s On The Way
  2. Black & Blue
  3. It’s Not So Easy Today
  4. When I’ve No More Tears To Cry
  5. All American Singer
  6. Listening To The Music
  7. Living Too Long
  8. We Planned To Have It All
  9. Riding That Train
  10. Emily
  11. You Make It Easy To Love Again
  12. Time Won’t Take It’s Time

 

Album Feature – Colter Wall – Western Swing & Waltzes And Other Punchy Songs

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Aug 262020
 

By Joshua Wallace

Colter Wall is back with his third full length record titled Western Swing & Waltzes And Other Punchy Songs.  This album is following his 2018 release Songs Of The Plains.  It leans further into the western motif Colter Wall has been going for in recent years.  It is also the first full record to feature his band The Scary Prairie Boys and to be produced solely by Colter himself.  Over the past few years Colter Wall has become one of the premier acts singing western and cowboy music and this record solidifies that even further.  This record features both original cuts and some choice covers from deeper into the cowboy songbook.  Let’s take a look at what you will find in this roughly 33 minute album.

The album kicks off with “Western Swing and Waltzes” which is a perfect intro for this record.  It’s a cowboy tune written by Colter Wall set to western styled waltz.  I particularly dig the harmonica work on here from Jake Groves.  A good harmonica player is key if you’re doing cowboy and western tunes.  Another favorite is the cover of the Marty Robbins hit “Big Iron” from the 1960 record Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs.  I heard Colter’s version of this live and was a big fan of it then and it is perfectly reproduced on the record.  I love Patrick Lyon’s pedal steel work on this one and Jake Groves contributes some bass harmonica which you don’t hear often.

Another favorite is the Colter Wall original “Henry and Sam”.  It’s a cleverly written tune about a gunslinger with guns named Henry and Sam.  It’s a fine example of why Colter Wall is considered one of the best country and folk songwriters going today.  Another original tune is “Talkin’ Prairie Boy” which is a bit of a different style for Colter as it is a talking blues song.  It’s a story about someone who has never been out west past Ohio and it shows.  There is something about the talking blues style and the way Colter tells this story that just grabs you and keeps your interest till the end.  It’s a fun departure from the rest of the album.  I also love Colter’s cover of Stan Jones’s “Cowpoke”.  Colter adapts this tune to his style and I love the interplay of the pedal steel and harmonica on this track.  You get to hear Colter Wall yodel here and that is always a highlight as Colter is a great yodeler.  Finally, another great original tune is “Rocky Mountain Rangers” which is a tale about a short lived cavalry who were not ready for the dangers of patrolling the wild frontiers.

Colter Wall’s new record cements him as a premier act in western music. This is also Colter’s debut as a producer and he got to make all of the decisions on the record.  I hope this is a trend that gets to continue because Colter’s current band The Scary Prairie Boys are a perfect match for his western style and seasoned baritone voice.  I highly recommend streaming or getting a copy of Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs when it becomes available everywhere on Friday August 28th, 2020.  You can find all the information you need on Colter Wall and the record at his website.

Favorite Tracks : Western Swing & Waltzes, Big Iron, Henry and Sam, Talkin’ Prairie Boy, Cowpoke, Rocky Mountain Rangers

Colter Wall – Western Swing & Waltzes And Other Punchy Songs (2020)

  1. Western Swing & Waltzes
  2. I Ride An Old Paint/Leavin’ Cheyenne
  3. Big Iron
  4. Henry and Sam
  5. Diamond Joe
  6. High And Mighty
  7. Talkin’ Prairie Boy
  8. Cowpoke
  9. Rocky Mountain Rangers
  10. Houlihans at the Holiday Inn

Album Feature – Jeannie Seely – An American Classic

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Aug 142020
 

By Joshua Wallace

An American Classic is the seventeenth studio album from Jeannie Seely and her first since 2017’s Written In Song release.  This collection is a mixture of new songs and some re-recorded classics.  The new songs sound like they would fit right alongside the classics.  Jeannie Seely takes you back to the days of listening to the great American classics on AM country radio in the 1960’s or 70’s.  Let’s check out some of the highlights of this set.

The album kicks off with “So Far So Good” featuring The Whites.  This track has a bit of a western swing sound to it and I love the addition of The Whites here.  It’s a great way to start the album on a high note.  Another favorite is “If You Could Call It That” featuring Steve Wariner.  This song was written using a journal of unfinished songs by Dottie West.  Steve Wariner helped with a co-write on this track.  One of the re-recorded classics on this album is Jeannie’s 1973 hit “Can I Sleep In Your Arms Tonight, Mister”.  The original tune made it to #6 on the country charts and was recorded by Willie Nelson for his Red Headed Stranger album.  This new recording is closer to Jeannie’s original version than Willie’s minimalist version that most folks would know from Red Headed Stranger.  Speaking of Willie Nelson, he appears on this record in a duet with Jeannie on a new track written by Dallas Wayne called “Not A Dry Eye In The House”.  This is a great ballad and it features a great vocal performance from Jeannie and Willie.  I love the strings and piano on this track.  It sounds like it would fit in on a 1960’s country radio station.

Another great duet is the classic tune “Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You) featuring Waylon Payne.  This duo does a great job with one of my favorite classic country love songs.  Waylon Payne matches Jeannie’s soulful voice easily on this cut.  Finally, we have “That’s How I Roll”.  This is a rocking number featuring Lorrie Morgan on vocals and the one and only Vince Gill on guitar. The piano is really awesome on this track and I love how well it plays with Vince Gill’s guitar solo.

This album is another great release from country legend Jeannie Seely.  Whether you know her as a star and regular at the Grand Ole Opry or are a new fan, this record is highly recommended.  It also has a great list of guest artists from names like Rhonda Vincent to Ray Stevens to Waylon Payne and Willie Nelson.  I have personally seen Jeannie Seely at the Opry a couple of times and I hope I get the chance to again in the future.  In the meantime, “An American Classic” is available everywhere as of August 14th, 2020.  You can find out more information on Jeannie’s website here.  

Favorite Tracks : So Far So Good, If You Could Call It That, Can I Sleep In Your Arms Tonight, Not A Dry Eye In The House, Old Flames, That’s How I Roll, Dance Tonight

Jeannie Seely – An American Classic (2020)

  1. So Far So Good (w/ The Whites)
  2. If You Could Call It That (feat. Steve Wariner)
  3. To Make A Dream Come True
  4. Teach Me Tonight
  5. Can I Sleep In Your Arms Tonight
  6. All Through Crying Over You (with Rhonda Vincent)
  7. When Two Worlds Collide (with Bill Anderson)
  8. Not A Dry Eye In The House (feat. Willie Nelson)
  9. Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You) (with Waylon Payne)
  10. That’s How I Roll (with Vince Gill and Lorrie Morgan)
  11. Don’t Touch Me
  12. Dance Tonight (with Ray Stevens)
  13. Peaceful Waters

Album Feature – Daniel Donato – A Young Man’s Country

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Aug 112020
 

By Joshua Wallace

Now this is what I call a guitar record.  Daniel Donato comes in hot with his debut album called A Young Man’s Country.  He calls his brand of country music “cosmic country”.  When you cover the likes of John Prine, Waylon Jennings and Grateful Dead on a debut record, you better bring it and Daniel Donato does.  This record is honky tonk blended with psychedelic sounds.  Daniel Donato has a great signature guitar sound that fits the tone he’s going after and he rocks the house on just about every track.  Here are some of my favorites.

The album kicks off with “Justice” which is a fun love song.  The chorus sounds like something you would hear on the radio in country music’s golden age.  When you combine that with Daniel’s signature guitar licks, this song is a great preview for the rest of the album.  Another favorite is “Meet Me In Dallas”.  It’s one of the longer songs of the record clocking in at almost seven minutes so you know it’s a jam.  The song starts off as a ballad about being alone before it goes into a trippy interlude that leads into a long multi-layered jam session that is sure to be a fun extended live jam.  Daniel Donato gives similar treatment to Grateful Dead’s “Fire On The Mountain”.  He uses this track to showcase how his brand of cosmic country can apply to the more rock side of this sound and it’s a killer jam.

Another straight banger on this album is “Diamond In The Rough”.  It has a similar feel to “Justice” in that it was made for radio but decades ago.  It’s a toe tapping number that actually gets to stretch its legs out a bit.  I love how the band seems to kick it up a notch at different points in the song till the solo comes in and breaks out into another multi layered jam that builds to a stunning crescendo before bringing in the final chorus.  Finally, we have Daniel Donato’s Waylon Jennings cover “Ain’t Living Long Like This”.  It’s an amped up version that applies Daniel’s signature sound to the Waylon classic.  This song brings something different to the table with some killer honky tonk piano in the mix.  It adds another layer to the jam session at the end of this one.

This may be his debut studio album, but Daniel Donato and his band come across as a well seasoned country jam band.  They dabble into southern rock and psychedelic elements that add layers to their jam sessions on record.  I can’t wait to hear what some of these songs sound like live where I’m sure the band plays much longer than what you get here.  A Young Man’s Country is available digitally everywhere you can buy and stream music as of August 7th, 2020.  You can find out more information on Daniel Donato’s website here.        

Favorite Tracks : Justice, Meet Me In Dallas, Fire On The Mountain, Diamond In The Rough, Ain’t Living Long Like This

Daniel Donato – A Young Man’s Country (2020)

  1. Justice
  2. Always Been A Lover
  3. Meet Me In Dallas
  4. Fire On The Mountain
  5. Luck Of The Draw
  6. Broke Down
  7. Angel From Montgomery
  8. Sweet Tasting Tennessee
  9. Diamond In The Rough
  10. Forgotten Days
  11. Ain’t Living Long Like This

Album Feature – Charley Crockett – Welcome To Hard Times

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Aug 052020
 

By Joshua Wallace

I have been a fan of Charley Crockett’s for a long time.  He has become quite prolific and has produced five albums since 2017’s Lil G.L.’s Honky Tonk Jubilee.  Earlier this year he produced an album called Field Recordings, Vol. 1.  It’s steeped in old time music with plenty of traditional and a few original tunes as well.  Welcome To Hard Times is an album of mostly original tunes with a cover of Red Lane’s “Blackjack County Chain”.  This is Charley Crockett’s best album yet and I’m here to tell you why.

The album kicks off with the title track “Welcome To Hard Times”.  I love this song.  The piano riff is simple, catchy and takes you straight to the old spaghetti western movies.  This album goes for that psychedelic western motif a lot and it helps to tie the entire thing together.  Another great tune is “Run Horse Run”.  It picks up the gambling theme and runs with it a bit on a song that sounds like a train going down the tracks.  This one is sure to be fun to hear live.  “Don’t Cry” is a song about leaving that was co-written by Dan Auerbach and Pat McLaughlin.  This tune is a song about a man who is always bound to leave, but promises his girl that he’s always coming back home.  It’s a great ballad that continues the western themes that run throughout this album.

“Lily My Dear” is a song that sounds like a traditional banjo tune but it was written by Charley with Vincent Neil Emerson, Colin Colby and Tyler Heiser.  It’s a song about a woman who visits a man who is down on his luck in prison.  It’s a great tune.  “Paint It Blue” is another great tune about an outlaw on the run who is missing the woman he left behind. I love the pedal steel throughout this track.  Nathan Fleming does a great job on pedal steel throughout this album.  “Blackjack County Chain” is another great tune that is a cover of a Red Lane song made famous by Willie Nelson.  Willie Nelson saw some success with it, but this song was eventually removed from radio play because of the lyrics about slavery.  Charley Crockett does a great job with this one and it fits right in on an album with tunes about outlaws, drifters and gamblers.  Finally, “The Man That Time Forgot” is a song that sounds like it came right from an album out of the 60’s or 70’s with it’s superb pedal steel and solid country gold sound. 

Charley Crockett comes off as someone with a deep knowledge of country and old time music.  There’s lots of piano driven honky tonk here mixed in with solid country gold and pedal steel.  This album is full of stories of outlaws, prisoners, gamblers and ramblers and all of them have some kind of heartbreak.  It’s my favorite record of 2020 so far.  Charley Crockett is definitely on my short list of names to see live when live shows start happening again.  In the meantime, you can follow Charley on his website here.  Welcome To Hard Times came out on July 31st, 2020 and is available everywhere you can find good music.

Favorite Tracks : Welcome To Hard Times, Run Horse Run, Don’t Cry, Lily My Dear, Heads You Win, Paint It Blue, Blackjack County Chain, The Man That Time Forgot

Charley Crockett – Welcome To Hard Times (2020)

  1. Welcome To Hard Times
  2. Run Horse Run
  3. Don’t Cry
  4. Tennessee Special
  5. Fool Somebody Else
  6. Lily My Dear
  7. Wreck Me
  8. Heads You Win
  9. Rainin’ In My Heart
  10. Paint It Blue
  11. Blackjack County Chain
  12. The Man That Time Forgot
  13. The Poplar Tree

Album Feature – S.G. Goodman – Old Time Feeling

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Jul 232020
 

By Joshua Wallace

Old Time Feeling is the debut album of western Kentucky native S.G. Goodman.  This debut is a record that presents itself as Americana on the surface, but there are dashes of country, alt rock, blues and some psychedelic flares throughout that keep you listening and you will not want to skip a track.  It’s an impressive debut and I highly recommend checking it out if you have not already.  Here are a few highlights of the record.

The album opens up with “Space and Time”.  It sounds like something you would find on a 1960’s country radio station.  It’s a slow almost psychedelic love ballad.  I love the subtle tempo change in the lone verse of the song, it’s a nice touch to the overall sound.  Up next is the bluesy rocker “Old Time Feeling”.  S.G. Goodman’s vocals feel at home over the rock beat here and I wish there was more like this on the album. It’s one of the better tracks and serves as a break from the slower ballads throughout.

“The Way I Talk” features a chugging guitar and drum beat that sounds a bit like indie folk amped up and put through an alt country filter.  The track is innocent enough till it slides into a feedback heavy rock solo at the end that just works with the overall groove of this album.  “Burn Down The City” starts out as an electric folky track and morphs into an alt rock groove.  It starts out subtle, but the guitar slowly gets more distorted till it turns into a chugging alt rock riff that eventually gets the whole band involved.  I dig the transitions in this track.  Finally, “Kitchen Floor” is a track leaning more to country music and has thick pedal steel throughout.  There is a slow waltz-like pace to the drums and when that is mixed with the high lonesome vocals and the pedal steel on this track it creates an amazing soundscape.

S.G. Goodman has created a record that carries an interesting mix of sounds throughout and you can hear her southern influences clearly.  Folk, country, alt rock and blues are all mixed in here with artistic flares of psychedelic and retro sounds throughout.  It’s a promising debut that should sound amazing live.  S.G. Goodman is currently scheduled to open for John Moreland on his 2021 tour and I’m planning on making it to one of those shows when shows are happening again.  In the meantime, you can check out S.G. Goodman’s website here and Old Time Feeling was released everywhere as of July 17th, 2020.

Favorite Tracks : Space and Time, Old Time Feeling, Tender Kind, The Way I Talk, Burn Down The City, Kitchen Floor

 

S. G. Goodman – Old Time Feeling (2020)

  1. Space and Time
  2. Old Time Feeling
  3. Supertramp
  4. Tender Kind
  5. Red Bird Morning
  6. The Way I Talk
  7. Burn Down The City
  8. It Ain’t Me Babe
  9. Kitchen Floor
  10. Big Girl Now

Album Feature – Kyle Keller – All It Does Is Rain

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Jul 162020
 

By Joshua Wallace

Kyle Keller has released his debut full length LP with All It Does Is Rain.  This is straightforward acoustic folk music.  This album is raw and real with no bells and whistles.  Just a man and his guitar and a few other instruments spread throughout.  This album is full of lost love, sad songs and some good songwriting.  That’s what it pretty much comes down to with a record like this.  Does the artist’s singing voice grab your attention and is the songwriting good? Both are true in this case.  Kyle Keller has a gritty and sometimes deep singing voice that gets the emotions across in every song.

The album kicks off with “Memories & Scars”.  It’s a good introduction to the album in that you know what to expect from here on out.  It’s a good heartbreak song in an album full of heartbreak songs.  “The Devil’s Hammock” changes things up a bit in a ballad where the narrator wishes the black water would carry his worry out to sea.  This song has always been one of my favorites to hear live and I’m glad he has recorded it here.  There is a sense of urgency as the narrator almost begs the sea to take his worry away but leave his flesh and bones.  It’s a great track for anyone who has seen darker times.  “I’ve Known Love” is another favorite about losing that special kind of love.  At the same time, it’s also about knowing all kinds of love, both good and bad.  This is one of two tracks that features Laurence Kingston on piano and that simple addition adds to the production of this track.  Finally, the album closes with “The Spark”.  This song was inspired by events that happened in Charlottesville, VA a few years ago, but it still rings true with events that are currently in the news.  I always lean more to protest songs that while they are inspired by certain events can stand the test of time and be applied to similar things in the future.

Kyle Keller has released one great raw and gritty folk album.  I highly recommend giving this one a spin if you’re a fan of sad songs of all colors.  There’s a bit of variety throughout this record to keep it interesting throughout and you will almost surely find something that draws you back for further listens.  I also have to give a shout out to Abe Partridge for the killer cover art on this one.  You should check out his art if you enjoy the album cover.  Kyle Keller is based out of Gainesville, FL and will be playing shows in that area when they re-start.  Until then, you can find him on Facebook or Twitter and his album is for sale on Bandcamp.  All It Does Is Rain is available everywhere you can stream music as of June 27th, 2020.

Favorite Tracks : Memories & Scars, The Devil’s Hammock, Singing Down In Georgia, I’ve Known Love, Susannah, The Spark

Kyle Keller – All It Does Is Rain (2020)

  1. Memories & Scars
  2. I Hope You’re Gone
  3. I Don’t Love You Anymore
  4. Mama Please
  5. The Devil’s Hammock
  6. Singing Down In Georgia
  7. I’ve Known Love
  8. Susannah
  9. Diamond Eyes
  10. Afraid Of Change
  11. The Spark

Album Feature – Joshua Ray Walker – Glad You Made It

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Jul 152020
 

By Joshua Wallace

Joshua Ray Walker is back with his second solo album following his stellar 2019 release Wish You Were Here which landed at number four on my 2019 Albums Of The Year List.  Where Wish You Were Here was mostly full of slower songs and sad country tunes, this album picks up the pace and is much more of a rocking country record.  It still features Joshua’s amazing vocals and songwriting but this time there is more variety in the soundscape and that makes for a better record this go round.

The album kicks off with “Voices” which is one of the slower tracks on here.  The high lonesome cries on the chorus of this track are a great showcase for the amazing vocals you can find throughout this album.  Another favorite is “Bronco Billy’s”.  It’s a honky tonk tune that starts off slow and builds to a fast pace with some killer pedal steel work from Adam Kurtz who is on pedal steel throughout this album and is a true standout in the band featured on this record.  “Boat Show Girl” shows off some of Joshua Ray Walker’s songwriting ability on a track about a girl who wishes someone would look at her the way people look at the boat she is trying to sell.  

Another great track is the bluesy rocker titled “User”.  There are some great blues riffs with some killer slide guitar work and even a horn section.  You wouldn’t think a horn section would work on a track about blues rock track about substance abuse, but it does.  “Loving County” is another slow track that features some great yodeling and an almost cosmic soundscape with some trippy guitar throughout.  It’s a fitting sound for a song about going to one of the most lonesome off the grid places you can think of.  Finally, the album ends with the rock number “D.B. Cooper”.  The lyrics are a short two verse song about D.B. Cooper after his escape.  The slower backdrop gives way to some thick riffs that are bound to be a rocking jam live.

This album really slaps.  It features a huge variety in sound that goes from high lonesome ballads to honky tonk bangers to thick riffs and jam worthy rock n roll.  If you felt Wish You Were Here was a bit one note with a lot of ballads, this album won’t do you wrong.  I highly recommend giving this one a spin as Joshua Ray Walker has released another album of the year contender here.  Glad You Made It is out everywhere as of July 10th, 2020.  While Joshua Ray Walker can’t tour anywhere right now, you can get yourself a copy of this record on his bandcamp page

Favorite Tracks : Voices, Bronco Billy’s, Boat Show Girl, User, Loving County, D.B. Cooper

 

Joshua Ray Walker – Glad You Made It (2020)

  1. Voices
  2. True Love
  3. Cupboard
  4. Bronco Billy’s
  5. Boat Show Girl
  6. User
  7. Play You A Song
  8. One Trick Pony
  9. Loving County
  10. D.B. Cooper

Album Feature – Kyle Nix – Lightning From The Mountain and Other Short Stories

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Jun 302020
 

By Joshua Wallace

I know a lot of folks are big fans of Turnpike Troubadours and you will be familiar with Kyle Nix from his fiddle work with the band.  While there is plenty of good fiddle work showcased on this album, we have never heard Kyle Nix as a singer-songwriter or as a frontman of his own band.  I was excited about this album from the moment it was announced.  The premise of an album treated as a collection of short stories had me intrigued.  Then you throw in the fact that his backing band are fellow members of the Turnpike Troubadours.  I had a strong feeling that this record would turn out to be a highlight of the year and I’m here to say that I was not disappointed.  Lightning From The Mountain and Other Short Stories delivers some good fiddle driven, knee slappin’ and story centered country music.  

The first single released from the album was the title track “Lightning From The Mountain”.  This is a story of revenge after a bad deal over some bootleg liquor.  It’s a fast track with some great fiddling that you would expect from a fiddle player as good as Kyle Nix has shown he is on the Turnpike Troubadour records.  This song also features some great storytelling and it’s a good introduction to Kyle Nix as a singer and songwriter.  Another favorite from this record is the track “Graves”.  I love the opening riff and the track almost has a gothic sound to it.  There is more nice fiddling on this track.  I love the line “ Pretty girls make graves / But a fool will dig his own”.

The track “Shelby ‘65” brings forth rightful comparisons to the Jerry Reed classic “Eastbound and Down”.  It’s another banger of a track on this record and it’s got a killer banjo riff mixed in with some hot guitar licks.  It’s a song about a couple on the run in the titular hot rod.  This one is bound to be lots of fun live.  Another great track is “If Ruby Ain’t Happy”.  There are plenty of songs about Ruby in country music.  This song is about a man trying to make Ruby happy.  I particularly love the line “She don’t like them country songs that run down her name / She catch you singin’, Oh Lord, it’s Judgement Day!”.  This song has an old time country feel to it with more of the great fiddle playing you have come to expect from this album by now.  Finally, I will touch on “Lonesome For You (Widower Pt. 1)”.  This song opens up with an amazing 40 second pedal steel intro that leads into one of the slower songs of the record.  It’s a song about how a widower remains lonesome for their lost love and it truly captures those emotions in this great track.

Kyle Nix has released an amazing debut record that puts him as a front runner for album of the year in my opinion.  I could go on about every song on this album as there is not a bad one here.  Every song tells a short story and the album is successful in delivering on that promise.  I can’t wait to see Kyle Nix live once bands are able to tour again.  In the meantime, you can find everything Kyle Nix is up to on his website.  Lightning From the Mountain and Other Short Stories is available everywhere as of June 26, 2020.

Favorite Tracks : Lightning From The Mountain, Graves, Shelby ‘65, Little Miss Jones, If Ruby Ain’t Happy, Lonesome For You (Widower Pt. 1)

Kyle Nix – Lightning From The Mountain and Other Short Stories (2020)

  1. Intro
  2. Manifesto
  3. Lightning From The Mountain
  4. Sweet Delta Rose
  5. Prelude : Meet Your Match
  6. Graves
  7. Blue Eyes
  8. Shelby ‘65
  9. Josephine
  10. The Wolf At The Door
  11. Little Miss Jones
  12. Good Girl Down The Road
  13. If Ruby Ain’t Happy
  14. Woman Of Steel
  15. Lonesome For You (Widower Pt. 1)
  16. Old Joe Clark
  17. Reprise : Hacia El Ocaso 

Album Feature – Blackberry Smoke – Live From Capricorn Sound Studios EP

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Jun 182020
 

By Joshua Wallace

Blackberry Smoke are releasing a Live From Capricorn Sound Studios EP that honors the history of southern rock.  If you’re not familiar with Capricorn Sound Studios, the studio is in Macon, GA and has hosted many of the greatest southern rock bands including but not limited to The Allman Brothers, The Marshall Tucker Band and Wet Willie.  It’s a great companion piece to their planned Spirit Of The South Tour which is scheduled to start next month in St. Louis, MO.  The tour is going to be a celebration of southern rock music with support from The Allman Betts Band, The Wild Feathers and an appearance by original Allman Brothers Band member Jaimoe.  Due to COVID-19, these plans are currently up in the air at the moment.  This release will have to do until we can see the live celebration as it was intended.

The album kicks off with a killer rendition of The Allman Brothers’s hit “Midnight Rider”. A really cool feature with this cover is that Charlie Starr gets to play Duane Allman’s iconic Goldtop Les Paul guitar in this new version.  Another highlight is the band’s cover of The Marshall Tucker Band hit “Take The Highway”.  This track features current Marshall Tucker Band member Marcus Henderson on the flute.  While there have been some good Marshall Tucker Band covers without the flute, you kind of need a flute on the record to truly match the Marshall Tucker Band sound.  I’m glad that we have that here.

Another favorite is “Grits Ain’t Groceries” which was originally done by Little Milton and covered by southern rock act Wet Willie.  I am happy to see Wet Willie featured here as they are often overlooked in the discussion of great southern rock acts.  Another Wet Willie song featured on this album is their track “Keep On Smilin’”.  This track features Wet Willie vocalist Jimmy Hall and it was recorded some 46 years after the original, in the same studio.  If you would like to check out more Wet Willie, my favorite records of theirs tend to be Wet Willie II and Keep On Smilin’.  Finally, this record features a cover of Little Richard’s hit “Southern Child”.  This track along with a few others on the record features backing vocals from The Black Bettys.  It also features Jimmy Hall on the harmonica.  There is lots of great solo work with this one and it is a great tribute to Little Richard who passed away this year at 87.

This EP is a great homage to the history of southern rock.  I’m glad to see a lesser known band like Wet Willie have such a big feature on this album.  The Spirit Of The South tour sounds like an amazing show for fans of Blackberry Smoke and southern rock in general.  I hope it has a chance to happen sooner or later.  You can keep up to date on everything Blackberry Smoke on the band’s website.  The new EP Live From Capricorn Sound Studios is available everywhere June 18th, 2020.

Favorite Tracks : Midnight Rider, Take The Highway, Grits Ain’t Groceries, Southern Child

Blackberry Smoke – Live From Capricorn Sound Studios EP (2020)

  1. Midnight Rider (The Allman Brothers)
  2. Take The Highway ft. Marcus Henderson (The Marshall Tucker Band)
  3. Keep On Smilin’ ft. Jimmy Hall and The Black Bettys (Wet Willie)
  4. Grits Ain’t Groceries ft. The Black Bettys (Little Milton & Wet Willie)
  5. Revival ft. The Black Bettys (The Allman Brothers)
  6. Southern Child ft. The Black Bettys (Little Richard)

Album Feature – Craig Gerdes – Tough As Nails

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Jun 092020
 

By Joshua Wallace

I have been a fan of Craig Gerdes since his 2018 release Smokin, Drinkin and Gamblin.  That record featured some good rockin’ country music with some great songwriting on tracks like “Dead In A Box In Kentucky” and “Red Neck Sonsaabitches”.  His new record Tough As Nails picks up where that one left off with plenty of hot guitar pickin and good country songs.  Let’s take a dive into some of these new tracks.

The title track “Tough As Nails” starts off acoustic with focus on Gerdes’s vocals.  It’s the calm before the storm though as the full track kicks in hard with driving guitar riffs that echo the rocking country sounds of the late 70’s or 80’s.  Be sure to check out the alternate bonus track version with longer jams.  Up next on the album is a cover of the Roger Alan Wade cut “If Guitars Were Guns”.  This song appeared on the 2012 Roger Alan Wade album Southbound Train and it was a favorite of mine off that record too.  Gerdes takes the mostly acoustic Wade track and turns it into a barn burner that honors the spirit of the original while keeping it in the style of this record.  Be sure to check out the extended 7 minutes plus bonus track version of this one also.

Another favorite is “Highwayman” which is an ode to life on the road.  I particularly dig the guitar solo on this track and can imagine it being a longer affair when played live.  The sound changes up a bit on the country blues inspired “The Hard Way” which is about the rougher side of a country singer’s life.  The solo work on this one is a highlight with it’s bluesy sound and great pickin.  The song “Tonight’s Not The Night” is another great rockin honky tonk tune that starts out with a hot guitar riff and doesn’t let go, just like the rest of the album.               

This is a record that will be fun to hear live when live shows start up again.  A lot of these tracks would play well in a live honky tonk setting with a rowdy crowd.  The album has two bonus tracks that are extended versions of album tracks.  I like that these songs get this kind of treatment, however I get the feeling that you could extend most of these songs with longer solos and jams with alternate arrangements.  I can’t wait to see Craig Gerdes live again with some of these songs.  Until then, you can support the band at their website with this link.  Tough As Nails is out everywhere as of April 24th, 2020.

Favorite Tracks : Tough As Nails, If Guitars Were Guns, Highwayman, The Hard Way. Tonight’s Not The Night

Craig Gerdes – Tough As Nails (2020)

  1. Tough As Nails
  2. If Guitars Were Guns
  3. Between The Cradle And The Grave
  4. Pennies, Feathers and Dimes
  5. Highwayman
  6. The Hard Way
  7. Most Times I Lost
  8. That Little Girl
  9. Tonight’s Not The Night
  10. Only The Road Knows
  11. Tough As Nails (Bonus)
  12. If Guitars Were Guns (Bonus)

Album Feature – Mike and The Moonpies – Touch Of You – The Lost Songs Of Gary Stewart

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May 262020
 

By Joshua Wallace

You might know the music of Gary Stewart from such hits as “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinking Doubles)” or “Drinkin’ Thing” which both appeared on the same album called Out Of Hand.  If you haven’t heard that one, I highly recommend checking it out.  You can hear Gary Stewart’s influence on Mike and The Moonpies music and when you do, you will know that they were the perfect band for a project such as this.  Here we have 10 unrecorded songs co-written by Gary Stewart during the late 70’s and 1980’s.  These were songs that for whatever reason, did not make it on any recorded albums.  The band worked closely with Stewart’s daughter, Shannon Stewart, and his best friend Tommy Schwartz to compile the tracks for this project.  This album was meant to be released later in the year, but the band was able to finish it remotely during the recent “stay-at-home” orders.  Let’s check out some of the tracks they came up with.

The album kicks off with a straight up honky tonk number in “Bottom Of The Pile”.  It’s a song about the rowdiest honky tonk you’ve ever been in and it’s sure to get some dance floors moving at your next live Moonpies show.  Switching things up, we have the duet of “Smooth Shot Of Whiskey”.  Mike trades lines and harmonizes with Mark Wystrach of Midland.  It’s a smooth (no pun intended) ballad.  This sounds like it would fit right in on an early 80’s country radio station.  Another favorite is “Dance With Barbara”.  Every bar has a Barbara, and all of the guys want to dance with her.  This one is sure to make the dance floors shuffle.  I love the interplay of the pedal steel and lead guitar on this one.  

Another great dance floor tune is “The Gold Barstool”.  It’s a great shuffle with more killer lead guitar work, however it is the songwriting that is the star here.  If you work at a company for a long time, you typically get a gold watch or something for working in a place for 20 years.  Well, at this bar you get a gold barstool for drinking there for 20 years.  How’s that for celebrating good times?  It’s songs like this that show how great of a songwriter Gary Stewart could be.  Slowing things down a bit, we have the bluesy number called “I’m Guilty”.  The guitar work is smooth and awesome here, but I love Mike’s vocal performance on this one as it’s one of his better tracks over the years.  Finally, we have “Heart At Home” which is a bit of a different style for Mike and The Moonpies.  Some slow piano work by Dave Perceful kicks off the track before it goes into a smooth easy listening country ballad.  It’s a great change of pace as you don’t often hear this style of country these days.

Mike and The Moonpies have put together a great tribute to the talent that is Gary Stewart.  It’s a treat for longtime Gary Stewart fans who have new songs to dig into.  It’s also a treat for newer Gary Stewart fans who are discovering his music through Mike and The Moonpies.  While it’s still very much a Moonpies record, the band also taps into sounds from Gary Stewart’s era of late 70’s and early 1980’s country that fans don’t get to hear much of these days. I cannot wait to hear some of these songs live as it sounds like a good live record.  Touch Of You – The Lost Songs Of Gary Stewart will be available everywhere at 12:01 AM on Thursday May 28th, 2020.  This record is only available digitally at first, however there will be physical items to pre-order in the future.  Check out the band’s website for more info soon.

Favorite Tracks : Bottom Of The Pile, Smooth Shot Of Whiskey, Dance With Barbara, The Gold Barstool, I’m Guilty, Heart At Home

Mike and The Moonpies – Touch Of You – The Lost Songs Of Gary Stewart (2020)

  1. Bottom Of The Pile
  2. Smooth Shot Of Whiskey (feat. Mark Wystrach of Midland)
  3. Touch Of You
  4. Life’s A Game
  5. Dance With Barbara (feat. Courtney Patton)
  6. The Gold Barstool (feat. Zac Wilkerson)
  7. That’s Life
  8. The Finished Product
  9. I’m Guilty
  10. Heart At Home (feat. Jamie Lin Wilson and Courtney Patton)

 

Album Feature – Caleb Caudle – Better Hurry Up

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May 192020
 

By Joshua Wallace

Better Hurry Up is the follow up to Caleb Caudle’s 2018 album Crushed Coins which was a favorite here at Gary Hayes Country.  While that album was more Americana leaning, this album takes Caleb Caudle in a more funky and soulful direction while still keeping things grounded in Americana.  I would go as far as saying that Better Hurry Up is the best Caleb Caudle album yet.  Read on and find out why.

I dig the groove in the title track “Better Hurry Up”.  It sets the stage for a funky and soulful trip throughout this record.  Another favorite is the track “Dirty Curtain”.  It’s a track that takes you down the road of country music’s dark side with plodding drums and haunting pedal steel.  It’s about a place you don’t want to go, but sometimes you have to and you have to encounter life’s more seedy and dangerous elements.  Finally, “Let’s Get” is a catchy and more mellow tune.  I really dig the piano’s groove on this track.  The harmonica is also a nice touch.  This entire album has a nice range that goes from funky to soulful while still keeping things country and Americana and I dig it.

This truly is the best Caleb Caudle album yet.  I cannot wait for the day when I can hear some of this album with a full band.  I was going to potentially catch him live in Macon, GA last month but everything suddenly changed.  This record came out April 3rd, 2020.  Check it out and you can find out everything Caleb is up to at his website.

Favorite Tracks : Better Hurry Up, Dirty Curtain, Let’s Get, Monte Carlo, Reach Down

Caleb Caudle – Better Hurry Up (2020)

  1. Better Hurry Up
  2. Call It A Day
  3. Regular Riot
  4. Dirty Curtain
  5. Let’s Get
  6. Monte Carlo
  7. Feelin Free
  8. Reach Down
  9. Front Porch
  10. Wait A Minute
  11. Bigger Oceans

Album Feature – Ashley McBryde – Never Will

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May 192020
 

By Joshua Wallace

I have been a big fan of Ashley McBryde ever since her hit song “A Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega” came across my radar way back in 2017. 3 years later we’re getting the follow up to the 2018 album that contained that song with her new record titled Never Will.  This album continues where Girl Going Nowhere left off with a mix of solid country gold and 90’s country influenced tracks.  This album is sure to be a favorite and will likely land at the top of many country fan’s album charts when 2020 is all said and done.

The first song anyone heard from this record was “One Night Standards.” It’s a great track with a smooth sound meant for the radio.  It’s an interesting twist on classic cheating songs that you don’t often hear these days.  Another interesting track is “Shut Up Sheila”.  It’s a very simple guitar track with some interesting percussion in the background.  It’s a song about not letting go of who you are, even in the toughest of times.  I dig the rock riff that comes in in the final third of the song.  Another great song is “First Thing I Reach For”.  From the awesome opening riff, you know this is a great country track.  I love the pedal steel throughout this one.  It’s all about how we keep going back to the things that we shouldn’t, especially in relationships.

My favorite track on this record comes in the revenge murder ballad “Martha Divine”.  It’s a great story telling song with a classic rock and 90’s country inspired sound.  You don’t always hear murder ballads that are this dance-able.  I love how the title track of both of Ashley McBryde’s major label albums have been about how she has denied critics throughout her career.  This song in particular is about not selling out to get where she is and how she “Never Will”.  Finally, the last song on the record is a fun and different kind of song to end the album on.  It’s the only song she didn’t write on the album and it is written by Randall Clay.  It’s a funky song and she kind of raps the verses but it works because it is a bit of a silly tribute to “Styrofoam”.

This album is the perfect follow-up to Ashley’s great 2018 album Girl Going Nowhere.  It features the same classic country mixed with 90’s country and classic rock sound.There is some good songwriting here and I love how she tells a story that can center around a place, an object or a person.  I can’t wait to hear some of these songs live and see what is next for Ashley McBryde.  Never Will is out everywhere as of April 3rd, 2020.  You can support Ashley McBryde and find out everything she is up to on her website.    

Favorite Tracks : One Night Standards, Shut Up Sheila, First Thing I Reach For, Martha Divine, Velvet Red, Never Will, Styrofoam

Ashley McBryde – Never Will (2020)

  1. Hang In There Girl
  2. One Night Standards
  3. Shut Up Sheila
  4. First Thing I Reach For
  5. Voodoo Doll
  6. Sparrow
  7. Martha Divine
  8. Velvet Red
  9. Stone
  10. Never Will
  11. Styrofoam

Album Feature – Jessi Alexander – Decatur County Red

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Apr 022020
 

By Joshua Wallace

Decatur County Red is Jessi Alexander’s third record following her 2014 album titled Down Home.  This is actually my first time listening to Jessi Alexander and you might be saying the same thing as it has been six years since her last album.  However you possibly know her music as she has written several songs that have been both great deep cuts on mainstream albums and country radio hits.  She has written songs for the likes of Dierks Bentley, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton and even newer artists like Travis Denning. While she has written for a good list of top country radio names, this record is more in the traditional country realm and it has a really good sound in that respect.  Let’s take a dive through some of the cuts on this album.

First up is the first single from the album titled “Mama Drank”.  This is a great songwriters song that makes great use of setting and character to tell a story.  The song has a bit of fun with the subject and I dig the low key electric guitar riff on this track.  The next track is a song that originally appeared on a Tim McGraw album by the same name called “Damn Country Music”.  I wanted more from McGraw’s cut of the song when I heard it and Jessi Alexander has delivered what I was hoping for here.  The McGraw cut of the song sounded like something was lost in translation. However, you feel it here and Alexander’s cut has the solid country gold sound you would want from a song called “Damn Country Music.”

The album isn’t afraid to have fun either.  The cut “Country Music Made Me Do It” featuring Randy Houser is a fun tongue in cheek duet about the influence of country music on good or bad decisions.  It’s a fun and dance-able track that is fun to throw on during your living room quarantine dance parties. Finally, the song “Lonely Out Of Me” is a great vocal performance from Jessi and it’s a slower track that takes you back to classic country songs of the 60’s and 70’s.

This entire record is solid country gold and at only eight tracks you only get the good stuff.  Jessi Alexander’s career up to this point may be defined by the songs she has written for others, but this is a top notch record that deserves to stand on its own.  I hope that I get to see her live at some point in the future. In the meantime, you can check out her website and social media to find ways to support her during these crazy times.  Decatur County Red is out everywhere as of March 27th, 2020.         

Favorite Tracks : Mama Drank, Damn Country Music, Country Music Made Me Do It, Lonely Out Of Me, How I’m Going Out

 

Jessi Alexander – Decatur County Red (2020)

  1. Decatur County Red Feat. Johnathan Singleton
  2. Mama Drank
  3. Damn Country Music
  4. I Should Probably Go Now
  5. My Problem Is You
  6. Country Music Made Me Do It Feat. Randy Houser
  7. Lonely Out Of Me
  8. How I’m Going Out

Album Feature – Porter Union – Loved & Lost

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Mar 242020
 

By Joshua Wallace

Porter Union are husband and wife duo Cole and Kendra Porter.  We were a big fan of their 2017 debut self titled record here at Gary Hayes Country and this new record Loved & Lost is no different.  This album continues the strong traditional country sound that recalls some of the great duo records of the 70’s and 80’s. There is an honesty and real quality to the songwriting you’ll find with their ST debut and Loved & Lost that cannot be found in many of today’s albums.  Loved & Lost is a more upbeat affair overall and I really dig a lot of the performances on this record.

The album has a fun opener in “We Got It Right” and this song really gives you that classic country duet feel.  It’s all about how they’ve both got things wrong before so many times they know when something is right. It’s a fun and upbeat country jam with two amazing performances.  Another favorite performance on this album is “River”. Cole Porter is great on this track about the typical southern small town that has seen better days. Kendra has a similarly great moment with “Laundry”.  It’s a stripped down track about a woman discovering her significant other is cheating on her by doing the laundry. The song is clever in that it takes a lot of common relationship issues about a woman doing everything and not feeling appreciated at the same time and she makes a discovery that changes everything.  Finally, “Curb Appeal” features a guest vocalist in Kayla Ray on a fun song about how things aren’t always how they seem. I particularly love the pedal steel solo on this track.

While their debut album featured slower tracks, this new record Loved & Lost finds Porter Union picking things up with more upbeat songs.  I love that this duo is switching things up on this record. If you wish to support Porter Union, you can find their website here and buy merchandise directly from them.  Loved & Lost is available everywhere as of March 06th, 2020.

Favorite Tracks : We Got It Right, River, Pennies, Laundry, Curb Appeal, Where Are You

Porter Union – Loved & Lost (2020)

  1. We Got It Right
  2. Loved & Lost
  3. Leave As Lovers
  4. To Have and To Hold
  5. That’s The Spirit
  6. River
  7. Pennies
  8. I’ve Got You Covered
  9. Banded Together
  10. Laundry
  11. Curb Appeal (feat. Kayla Ray)
  12. Looking For Love
  13. Where Are You

Album Feature – The Panhandlers – The Panhandlers

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Mar 232020
 

By Joshua Wallace

The Panhandlers are a Texas country super group featuring William Clark Green, Josh Abbott, John Baumann and the front man of Flatland Cavalry Cleto Cordero.  This project was produced by Bruce Robinson and it marks the first outing of this mega collection of Texas and Red Dirt country singers. This album was cut live straight to analog and done in a very lo-fi fashion so the production values might not be what you’d expect, but it is a very good record with lots of great performances. Whether you’re a fan of these four singers or not, you’ll find something to like here.

The album kicks off with “West Texas In My Eye” which is a love letter to west Texas where these singers are from.  All four of the singers trade verses on a track written by west Texas songwriter Charlie Stout. It’s a great mellow start to the record and I dig the pedal steel here on this one.  The title track “The Panhandler” is another great track that tells the tale of a panhandler. The banjo that rings throughout this track makes it a great upbeat number. I also love the harmonies on the chorus for this one.  Finally, “This Is My Life” is an ode to the life on the road that these four singers live year round. It’s extra special because of everything going on in the world right now that is preventing these singers from living the life they describe in this song.  I particularly love the final verse where Josh Abbott goes through and talks about all 4 of the singers on the record including himself.

The Panhandlers has been one of our most anticipated records of 2020 and it lives up to the hype.  The lo-fi straight to analog production gives the album a live in the studio feel and these four singers live up to their billing of being a part of a Texas country super group.  Time will tell if this ends up being a side project for these four or something they revisit from time to time. I hope I get the chance to see this band live as it seems like it would be a fun show.  Check out The Panhandler’s website for ways you can support the band by buying merch straight from the band. The Panhandlers is out everywhere as of March 06th, 2020.

Favorite Tracks : West Texas In My Eye, No Handle, West Texas Girl, The Panhandler,  This Is My Life

The Panhandlers – The Panhandlers (2020)

  1. West Texas In My Eye
  2. This Flatland Life
  3. No Handle
  4. Panhandle Slim
  5. West Texas Girl
  6. The Panhandler
  7. Lonesome Heart
  8. The Panhandler
  9. This Is My Life
  10. Caprockin’

Album Feature – Sadler Vaden – Anybody Out There?

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Mar 162020
 

By Joshua Wallace

You might know Sadler Vaden as the guitar player for Jason Isbell’s band The 400 Unit.  You might even know him as a former member of Drivin’ N Cryin’. However you know his music, you should check out his solo work.  His latest album is titled Anybody Out There? and it’s a follow up to his self titled 2016 debut. This record is actually my first exposure to his music as a solo artist and I’m digging it.  He reminds me a lot of Tom Petty and the country leaning rock sound that he often brought. He also brings the same thought provoking lyrics that Petty often brought to the table. However you are familiar with Sadler Vaden, this is one record you should check out.

The opening riff to “Next To You” kicks off like a long lost Tom Petty B-side.  It’s a fun classic American rock song that gets you pumped for the rest of the album.  The second track “Don’t Worry” slows things down a bit. I love the smooth guitar work that is a direct contrast to the opener.  I love the line “Honey, wake up and see the dawn / ‘Cause that amber sky, it don’t last long”. It’s a song about taking time to appreciate the small things and not letting stuff bog you down.  It’s a great track that is an example of simple songwriting you don’t see much these days.  

The title track “Anybody Out There” has a bit of a trippy vibe to it.  The song starts off with some drums that have some spacey effects to them before settling into a great rock rift.  The track “Peace + Harmony” opens with more great riff work and it settles into a groove that is smooth and rocking at the same time.  “Be Here, Right Now” is a smooth slow track with some nice slide guitar throughout. This one adds to the country/folk vibe on the album and it’s about getting away and being here, right now.  The solo reminds me of something out of Tom Petty’s playbook.

This whole record has cool vibes all over it.  If you’re missing the brand of country-ish and southern fried rock n roll that Tom Petty used to bring to the table, this album from Sadler Vaden hits the spot.  This is where I would normally tell you how to find tour dates, but with everything up in the air on that front, I will direct you to Sadler Vaden’s merch store where you can buy this record and other items.  Anybody Out There? is available everywhere as of March 06th, 2020.

Favorite Tracks : Next To You, Don’t Worry, Golden Child, Modern Times, Peace + Harmony, Be Here, Right Now


Sadler Vaden – Anybody Out There? (2020)

  1. Next To You
  2. Don’t Worry
  3. Golden Child
  4. Anybody Out There?
  5. Curtain Call
  6. Modern Times
  7. Peace + Harmony
  8. Good Man
  9. Be Here, Right Now
  10. Tried And True