NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Blackberry Smoke – You Hear Georgia
By Joshua Wallace
Blackberry Smoke have released their seventh studio album with You Hear Georgia following 2018’s excellent Find A Light record. But this is no seventh inning slump my friends. This is their best record since 2014’s Holding Down The Roses. I don’t know if the band was inspired by the thick humidity in Georgia, but this album is thick with riffs. If you have been waiting for the return of the riff in modern southern rock, Blackberry Smoke has got you. This album is full of good songwriting and it even has a couple of great features with Jamey Johnson and Warren Haynes. Let’s take a deeper dive into what makes this record great.
The album kicks off with “Live It Down” and from the moment you press play you know you’re in for a riff heavy rock n’ roll ride through the south. A thick and punchy riff greets you and has you rocking through a song about making the most without having much. The guitar solo on this one is short, but just enough to get you into it. I love the pause after the solo before the chorus kicks back in. Up next, is the single “You Hear Georgia” and it’s kind of the anthem for the record. This song features another killer riff that has a slower groove. I can hear this one being a live favorite for years to come.
“Lonesome For A Livin’” is a great country ballad that breaks up some of the more riff heavy songs on the record. Jamey Johnson is a good feature for this tune and his voice mixes well with Charlie Starr. If Jamey Johnson being on this record is one of your inspirations for picking it up, you won’t be disappointed. “Morningside” is a track that brings back a guitar riff as thick as the darkness the song is about. I love the lyric “I’m not stumbling in the darkness, I’m just waiting for the morning-side.” Finally “All Over The Road” is a fun rock heavy track that is one of my favorites on the record. It goes hard and heavy from the start and doesn’t let up. Even the mellowed out bridge keeps the vibe going before the solo kicks in. I love this song and it’s probably going to be a new go to Blackberry Smoke tune for me.
This record does not disappoint. Lots of great heavy southern rock tunes, thick riffs and good song writing. If you’ve been a fan of Blackberry Smoke over the years, or a big fan of modern southern rock in general, I highly recommend picking this one up. Blackberry Smoke has released what I feel like is their best album in years, and it’s an album that brings the rock back to southern rock in a big way. You Hear Georgia is out everywhere as of May 28th, 2021. You can catch Blackberry Smoke on tour and this fall they are running their delayed “Spirit Of The South” tour and I’m hoping we can have coverage of one of those dates. In the meantime, check out the band’s website for tour dates and all of your Blackberry Smoke merch needs.
Favorite Tracks : Live It Down, You Hear Georgia, Ain’t The Same, Lonesome For A Livin’, Morningside, All Over The Road
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – The Steel Woods – All Of Your Stones
By Joshua Wallace
The Steel Woods have come back with the follow up to their stellar 2019 album Old News. However, it’s no longer old news that this band kills it every time they release a new record and All Of Your Stones is no different. This album does release on a bit of a sad note as it is the final record that will feature Jason Cope on guitar following his untimely passing earlier this year. Jason Cope was not only the lead guitar player for this band, but a founding member and he was a lot of the drive behind their creative process. The band will carry on though and Tyler Powers is a great successor for Jason on lead guitar, but it is a heavy loss going forward. The band saw this record as a major release for them before Jason’s passing and now it serves as an honor to his memory and a foundation for the band moving forward without him.
The album kicks off with a tune written by Jason Cope as an autobiographical song called “Out Of The Blue”. It’s a song about overcoming demons and coming “out of the blue”. I dig how it starts off slow and builds to a headbanging guitar solo before going back to a slower pace for the finale. Another favorite is the acoustic “Ole Pal” which is written like one friend writing to another and keeping him up on everything that has been happening “since you’ve been gone”. It’s a touching track that leans more to the country side of The Steel Woods sound. “I Need You” is a great cover of the classic Lynyrd Skynyrd song. It’s a live show favorite and it’s nice to have it on record here. Ashley Monroe is a nice feature on the track and only ads to an already great tune.
“Run On Ahead” is a song that I’m sure has a totally different meaning for the band since Jason Cope’s passing this year. It’s a great song that anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one can relate to. Finally, the album ends with what I think is one of The Steel Woods best songs in “All Of Your Stones”. It’s a great song and I can easily hear it being a sing-a-long at live shows with bigger crowds. That main riff is also just addicting and it makes you want to put that song on repeat.
This is another great record for The Steel Woods and further solidifies them as a cornerstone band in modern southern rock music. While this record will forever be thought of as the last record with Jason Cope as their original guitar player and founding father, it shouldn’t be overlooked as the crowning achievement that it is. It’s a great southern rock record and I highly recommend giving this one a listen. All Of Your Stones is out everywhere as of May 14th, 2021. Check out the band’s website for more info on tour dates and to pick up some merch.
Favorite Tracks : Ole Pal, I Need You, Run On Ahead, Aiming For You, All Of Your Stones
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Dallas Moore – The Rain
By Joshua Wallace
Dallas Moore is back with the follow up to his 2019 album Trying To Be A Blessing. This new album is titled The Rain and it’s a great collection of tunes that I highly recommend you check out. This album was born out of the downtime created by the global pandemic that caused a massive cancelation of what is typically a year spent on the road for Dallas Moore. That down time must have done some good because this is Dallas Moore’s best overall record to date. There honestly isn’t a bad track on this album, but I’m going to hit some highlights in this review.
The album kicks off with “The Rain” which is a super catchy and toe tappin’ title track. The band is on point on this track and it’s a killer honky tonk anthem. Speaking of honky tonks, “Every Night I Burn Another Honky Tonk Down” is a highlight of this record. Mr. Honky Tonk himself does it again with another anthem made for rooms with dim lights and sawdust on the floors. Crank this one to eleven and get ready to boogie.
Another favorite is the somewhat pandemic inspired “Locked Down And Loaded”. We’ve had a lot of songs about being locked down in the past year, but this is a good one that can help you pass the quarantine blues. “Ride Down By The River” is a slower tune where the band gets to stretch its legs a bit. This song has a solo you can really lose yourself in and I dig that. You get solos from pedal steel, guitar and even keys on this one and it just takes you away which is what a good long solo should do. Finally, “In My Last Days” closes out the album with an acoustic track that shows the more somber side of Dallas. I love how the band slowly kicks in behind the initial guitar and fiddle to eventually become a full band affair. It’s a good album closer on a record that is mostly a more rowdy affair.
I highly recommend giving The Rain a listen if you’ve been a fan of Dallas Moore or if you’re just checking him out. This is his best record to date, so it’s a good spot to jump in. I also highly recommend checking him out live if he happens to come to a city near you. Dallas is back on the road already in 2021. The Rain came out everywhere as of April 9th, 2021.
Favorite Tracks : The Rain, Every Night I Burn Another Honky Tonk Down, Locked Down and Loaded, Ride Down By The River, Blue Jean Jesus, In My Last Days
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Morgan Wade – Reckless
By Joshua Wallace
It feels like I’ve been hearing about the name Morgan Wade for a couple of years now. Whether she was opening for someone or had a buzzworthy YouTube video or a couple of singles on Spotify, Morgan Wade was always someone who was part of the conversation as an upcoming country artist to watch out for. Well, that time is now. She is about to release her debut album Reckless and I’m here to tell you, this is a good one. This record is produced by Sadler Vaden and if you don’t know him, he’s the guitar player for Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit and a critically acclaimed solo artist in his own right. That being said, this is a great guitar record. You can’t always say that for a country album, but this one is. Morgan Wade has a voice that would fit in with alt country or alt rock. Her voice goes from smooth to a raspy growl that works well on a guitar record such as this.
The album kicks off with “Wilder Days” which is a fun song about wishing you had known a lover back when they were wilder. It’s a good track to kick off the album as it straddles the line between country and rock like a lot of the record does. “Other Side” is another great track that reminds me of a mellow 90’s alt rock song like something Matchbox 20 would release. It’s a song about seeing a relationship through the good and bad and coming out on the other side. I dig this vibe and it’s nice to hear songs like this on a good country record. Another favorite is “Last Cigarette” which to my ears is a song that could play on mainstream radio as a crossover hit. It’s a strong track both lyrically and the catchy instrumental takes it to another level. It’s a track that compares the high of having a last night with a soon to be ex lover with the high of a smoker’s last cigarette before they quit. The track “Met You” is a strong country ballad that acts as the album’s finale. It’s about finding someone special at a low point in your life and I feel like it’s one of the best vocal performances in the album.
If you’re like me and have been hearing the name Morgan Wade over the past few years and have been hoping for a full album, this debut doesn’t disappoint. It’s a country record that brings a strong rock vibe across it’s ten tracks. Producer Sadler Vaden had done an amazing job capturing how Morgan Wade is a singer who can meet the tender moments of country music, but still rise to the occasion with some souring alt rock vocals. There isn’t a bad song on this record and I highly recommend giving it a listen. Reckless is out everywhere as of March 19th, 2021 and I can’t wait for everyone to hear this one.
Favorite Tracks : Wilder Days, Other Side, Don’t Cry, Mend, Last Cigarette, Northern Air
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Bobby Dove – Hopeless Romantic
By Joshua Wallace
This is a breath of fresh air in a year that has so far been void of great releases. Bobby Dove has released their second LP in Hopeless Romantic. It follows the also great 2016 release Thunderchild. I must admit, this is my first experience with Bobby Dove’s music. I saw this release recommended several times on Twitter and when I finally listened to it, I was blown away. Great traditional country music here with good song writing, some variety and yes, it has pedal steel. Read on to find out why this is the first record I’m writing a review for in 2021.
If you like twang in your country, the opening title track to Hopeless Romantic will be all you need to hook you. I love Bobby’s vocal range on this track and the instrumental is tight and fun. The interplay with the pedal steel and lead guitar is great. I love lyrical turns like “I’m a known assassin // When it comes to killing years // My heart’s been stranded // And I’ve been branded //A hopeless romantic”. This track has everything you need to get you into the groove for this record.
Another favorite is the upbeat “Gas Station Blues”. Once again, Bobby shines with great vocals on this track that is built around classic blues characteristic of repetition with variation. Each opening line gets repeated with some variation in the second. I dig the guitar solos after each short verse too. It’s a song I can’t wait to hear a live version of as I’m sure it will be a jam. Also be sure to check out the ballad “Haunted Hotel”. It’s a story song about an unrequited love affair between two singers. It explores the ups and downs of such a relationship and the lonely feelings that can come with it. I love the haunted sounds of the pedal steel as it plays off the piano in this track.
Another track you should check out is the Spanish language “El Hormiguero”. It’s a slow haunting ballad about a love that destroys you to the point that you have an out of body experience and get to look down at your experiences like it were an “ant hill” which is what the title translates to. I love the whining pedal steel on this track and it’s a great ballad with strong Spanish vibes. Finally, you need to check out the acoustic number “Golden Years”. It’s a highlight of the record with great guitar playing and vocals from Bobby. It’s a song about questioning how you made it so far and how you’ll make it to your “Golden Years”. It’s a very good and simple track that deserves a listen.
Bobby Dove’s new release is a bright spot in these dark times. If you like good traditional country sounds, I highly recommend checking this one out. If you like good pedal steel and a healthy dose of twang on your songs, I highly recommend checking this one out. I have to give props to the pedal steel player Burke Carroll and piano player Steve O’Connor for their exceptional playing on this album. The entire band is great, but they are certainly highlights that will have listeners coming back for more. Hopeless Romantic was released independently on February 12th, 2021.
NewsComments Off on Joshua Wallace’s Top 50 Albums of 2020
By Joshua Wallace
By all measures, 2020 was an insane year, however it was an amazing year for country music releases. I could have made a Top 100 list this year, but I stuck with tradition and did a Top 50. With that in mind, some of your favorites might be left off here. Don’t fret, they’re still good albums, it’s just that there were a ton of good releases this year. It seemed like every band was releasing their best work even when they weren’t able to fully tour on it. I could make a case for every record in my Top 10 to be my album of the year, however I went with American Aquarium’s Lamentations. Lamentations was my most anticipated album going into 2020 and it’s still my favorite album here in December. It’s no secret that American Aquarium is one of my favorite bands and when they release an album this good, it’s going to be hard to top. I’ll give my thoughts on each of the Top 20 and provide links to listen to the rest of the list. I encourage you to check out every record on this list as you might just find something new and that is my biggest goal in doing all of this.
**ALBUM OF THE YEAR** 01. American Aquarium – Lamentations **ALBUM OF THE YEAR**
When American Aquarium announced late 2019 that they were going into the studio with Shooter Jennings producing, I knew this album would be something special. I just didn’t know how special it would turn out to be. Songs like “The Long Haul”, “Starts With You”, “A Better South” and even the tear jerker “Six Years Come September” helped define my 2020. It is worth noting here that their last album which was 2018’s Things Change was my favorite record of that year too. I can only imagine that the next album they release will either top or come close to the top of this list in that year. This band is very consistent in that they keep getting better with every release. I can’t wait to hear what is next.
Chris Stapleton – Starting Over
Chris Stapleton has quite possibly the best voice in modern country music. This album further solidifies that with performances like “Cold”, “Devil Always Made Me Think Twice”, “Watch You Burn” and more. This whole record is great top to bottom and it came very close to being my number one album of the year. It features Stapleton’s signature mix of rock, blues and country anchored by his amazing guitar playing throughout. This record features guests like former Heartbreaker Mike Campbell and the amazing pedal steel player Paul Franklin. I highly recommend giving this album a good listen as Chris Stapleton is 4 records in and only shows signs of getting better.
Charley Crockett – Welcome To Hard Times
There was a period this year where this album was slated as my #1 record of 2020. It’s that good. Charley Crockett put out the best record of his career with Welcome To Hard Times and it hit all the right buttons with the psychedelic bend to it’s sound and a neo-western theme. The title track is one of my favorite jams of the year and I still love that piano riff that opens it. Check out “Welcome To Hard Times”, “Run Horse Run” and “The Man That Time Forgot”.
Muscadine Bloodline – Burn It At Both Ends
I have been a fan of Muscadine Bloodline since “WD40” was making the rounds as a single a few years ago. This highly anticipated debut full length album delivers on all of the promise the band showed early on and then some. As for their sound, they kind of straddle the line of being polished for country radio and rough around the edges for the independent country crowd. It also helps to feature the likes of BJ Barham, Brent Cobb and Adam Hood on your debut record to give you a bit of a boost. Check out “Ain’t Just A Van”, “Good Chunk Of Change”, “After Midnight” and “Drunk Tattoo” for a few choice cuts from this one.
Mike and The Moonpies – Touch Of You : The Lost Songs Of Gary Stewart
Mike and The Moonpies have released another great album with this collection of lost Gary Stewart songs. While you won’t get a cover of “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinking Doubles)” on this set, you will get some awesome Gary Stewart tunes that have never been recorded before. 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. The band worked closely with Stewart’s daughter, Shannon Stewart, and his best friend Tommy Schwartz to compile the tracks for this project. The finished product is a great Moonpies album that slides in at number five in our countdown.
I told you this was an insane year. We got not one, but two great Sturgill Simpson albums this year. I’m lumping them together here because they’re essentially one long piece split into two. Sturgill promised fans that if they hit a certain goal on a charity drive he was doing that he would cut 2 albums this year. He came through with two sets of bluegrass versions of practically every song in his solo catalog. The only things missing are the covers from each album and “It Ain’t All Flowers”. He also threw in some Sunday Valley tunes and a new song he wrote with the late Merle Haggard titled “Hobo Cartoon”. I highly recommend giving these records a spin as a lot of these aren’t just re-recordings in a different genre. There are some new arrangements of old favorites here that I think anyone would enjoy.
Ward Davis – Black Cats And Crows
Ward Davis has finally given us the follow up to 15 Years In A 10 Year Town and it was well worth the wait. This is a darker collection of songs with lots of heavy guitars setting the mood throughout. There are a couple of murder ballads on this record that I highly recommend. We also get Ward Davis’s version of Colorado a couple of years after Cody Jinks released his version on the album Lifers. Give this album a listen and you won’t be disappointed.
Colter Wall – Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs
Colter Wall is finally giving us a full band western swing record and I am here for this. From amazing covers like “Big Iron” to originals like “Henry and Sam”, this record is all killer from top to bottom. This record puts Colter Wall up there with some of the premier western acts going today. Check it out.
Ashley McBryde – Never Will
Ashley McBryde is back with her second major label album and another major hit with “One Night Standards”. This album is full of great songs and I highly recommend the murder ballad “Martha Divine”. Throw in some traditional country cuts like “First Thing I Reach For”, “Sparrow” and “Velvet Red” and you have one amazing album. I can’t wait to hear what is coming next.
Zach Bryan – Quiet, Heavy Dreams EP
I initially had Zach Bryan’s Elizabeth record in this spot, but this EP is Zach Bryan’s first professionally recorded music and I had to include it here. With songs like “Birmingham”, “Crooked Teeth” and “November Air”, Zach Bryan is certainly going to be around for a long time. I hope to be able to see him live sometime in the near future, and with albums like this, I have no doubt he’ll be able to tour widely once it is safe to do so again.
Joshua Ray Walker – Glad You Made It
Joshua Ray Walker’s sophomore record Glad You Made it improves on the working formula he created with 2019’s Wish You Were Here. Songs like “Voices” show off his incredible vocal range while deeper tracks like “D.B. Cooper” show a bit of experimentation with the soundscape Joshua Ray Walker is using on this record. Give it a listen and see why it’s in at number 11 on this list.
Hailey Whitters – The Dream
Hailey Whitters album The Dream took a bit to grow on me, honestly. But it grew on me and I came to really enjoy a few tracks from this record. Check out “Janice At The Hotel Bar”, “Loose Strings”, her version of Stapleton’s “Devil Always Made Me Think Twice” and her version of “Happy People” which was also recorded by co-writer Lori McKenna on her 2018 album The Tree. This record is a fun album that deserves to be heard by more people. I hope I get the chance to see her live very soon.
Brent Cobb – Keep ‘Em On They Toes
Brent Cobb has released another great album in Keep ‘Em On They Toes. I really love the title track and it quickly became one of my feel good favorites of 2020. Other highlights include the timely “The World Is Ending”, “Soapbox w/ Nikki Lane” and “Good Times and Good Love”. This album is a nice change in pace back to the slower country and folk songs of 2016’s Shine On Rainy Day.
Kyle Nix – Lightning On The Mountain & Other Short Stories
While this year was rough for fans of Turnpike Troubadours, we got a bit of a reprieve in the form of a Kyle Nix solo album. I had a feeling this one would be special from the moment it was announced and I was right. Some favorites include “Graves”, “Shelby 65”, “If Ruby Ain’t Happy” and “Lightning On The Mountain”. This album is highlighted by some great fiddle playing and good songwriting. I really hope Kyle Nix gets to tour on this one soon as I would love to see these songs live.
The Panhandlers – The Panhandlers
When I first heard about this super group of Texas Country talents, I knew we had something special coming. All four of these men are great with their own bands, but together they are a force to be reckoned with. “West Texas In My Eye” and “This Is My Life” are two highlights on this one for me. Give this one a listen if you haven’t, you won’t be disappointed.
Parker McCollum – Hollywood Gold EP
Parker McCollum had a strong 2020 with some great single releases leading up to this EP. “Pretty Heart” actually got a lot of radio play and I really dig “Like A Cowboy”. I knew Parker McCollum was one to watch after 2017’s strong Probably Wrong LP. This EP is so good and it solidifies my opinion that he is destined for bigger things. Be on the lookout for his next full length as I belive that one will go places.
Josh Abbott Band – The Highway Kind
I have been a fan of Josh Abbott Band since 2012’s Small Town Family Dream album and it has been a fun ride watching this band grow. They get better with every release and The Highway Kind is no different. Highlights include the title track, “Settle Me Down”, “24-7-365” and “Real Damn Good”. Give it a listen.
Aubrie Sellers – Far From Home
While I wasn’t as much of a fan of Aubrie Sellers’s 2016 record New City Blues, this album blew me away. I dig the mixing of grungy garage rock and country music and it works here. Check out favorites like “Glad”, “Troublemaker”, “My Love Will Not Change w/ Steve Earle” and the title track.
Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen – Hold My Beer, Vol. 2
With Hold My Beer, Vol. 2, Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen have put together two amazing country duo albums. This record is full of solid country gold. I love the comedy of “Rodeo Clown” and we finally get a title track for this collection with “Hold My Beer”. Also check out “Mi Amigo” with Asleep At The Wheel and “Speak To Me Jukebox” for more highlights.
David Adam Byrnes – Neon Town
This record from David Adam Byrnes was one of those unexpected gems that you hear about and when you finally get around to listening to, it blows you away. Neon Town is just good Texas country and I can’t wait yi hear what is next.
Corb Lund – Agricultural Tragic
Waylon Payne – Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me
Bella White – Just Like Leaving
Jaime Wyatt – Neon Cross
Scott H. Biram – Fever Dreams
Jessi Alexander – Decatur County Red
Brennen Leigh – Prairie Love Letter
Lori McKenna – The Balladeer
The Wilder Blue – Hill Country
Tennessee Jet – The Country
Elizabeth Cook – The Aftermath
Margo Price – That’s How Rumors Get Started
Ray Wylie Hubbard – Co-Starring
Dalton Domino – Feverdreamer
Zephania Ohora – Listening to the Music
Marcus King – El Dorado
Sunny Sweeney – Recorded Live at the Machine Shop Recording Studio
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Ward Davis – Black Cats and Crows
By Joshua Wallace
Ward Davis is finally back with his second full length album titled Black Cats and Crows. This is his first full album since 2015’s stellar 15 Years In A Ten Year Town. This record was well worth the wait although I hope it doesn’t take another five years for a third full length Ward Davis. This collection has a bit more of a rock sound to it with plenty of heavy guitars throughout, but it is still firmly a country record and it’s one of the best country records to come out in 2020.
The album kicks off with “Ain’t Gonna Be Today” which is co-written by Kendell Marvel. This song gives you a bit of a rocking feel that sets you up for the rest of the record. “Black Cats and Crows” was the first single from the record. It’s a ballad with a darker tone that was co-written by Cody Jinks and Tennessee Jet. I love the slow build with the Ward on the keys and the solo on this one is awesome. Speaking of amazing solos, none other than Anthrax’s Scott Ian plays on the track “Sound Of Chains” and it’s a heavy rocking country murder ballad. Scott Ian’s playing adds a lot of muscle to this track and it has to be heard to be truly appreciated.
I think Ward Davis has the better version of “Colorado” here. This song is written by Cody Jinks and Ward, and it previously appeared on Jinks Lifers album. This version is smoother and I feel like the emotion of the song carries through a bit more here. It’s a great song either way you listen to it though. Another murder ballad here is “Papa and Mama” which is a great Ray Scott tune. Ward takes Ray Scott’s dark and bluesy number and turns it into more of a gothic country murder ballad. Finally, “Good and Drunk” closes out this record. I’m happy to see this stand out track from 2018’s Asunder EP finally appear on an actual album. It’s a nice closer and fits the overall darker mood of the record.
Ward Davis has turned in a great follow up to 2015’s 15 Years In A Ten Year Town. With these two albums under his belt, Ward Davis has cemented himself as one of the top independent country music acts. I cannot wait to hear some of these songs live sometime very soon. Black Cats and Crows is out everywhere you can listen to music as of November 20th, 2020.
Favorite Tracks : Ain’t Gonna Be Today, Black Cats and Crows, Sounds Of Chains, Get To Work Whiskey, Colorado, Papa and Mama, Lady Down On Love, Good and Drunk
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Chris Stapleton – Starting Over
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
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – The Cadillac Three – Tabasco & Sweet Tea
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
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Rachel Brooke – The Loneliness In Me
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
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Sturgill Simpson – Cuttin’ Grass – Vol. 1 (Butcher Shoppe Sessions)
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.
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – David Adam Byrnes – Neon Town
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
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Brent Cobb – Keep ‘Em On They Toes
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
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Matt Woods – Mornings After EP
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
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Tennessee Jet – The Country
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
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Zephaniah OHora – Listening To The Music
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
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Colter Wall – Western Swing & Waltzes And Other Punchy Songs
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)
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Jeannie Seely – An American Classic
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)
So Far So Good (w/ The Whites)
If You Could Call It That (feat. Steve Wariner)
To Make A Dream Come True
Teach Me Tonight
Can I Sleep In Your Arms Tonight
All Through Crying Over You (with Rhonda Vincent)
When Two Worlds Collide (with Bill Anderson)
Not A Dry Eye In The House (feat. Willie Nelson)
Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You) (with Waylon Payne)
That’s How I Roll (with Vince Gill and Lorrie Morgan)
NewsComments Off on Concerts In The Time Of COVID-19
By Joshua Wallace
Billy Strings at the Exit/In July 25th, 2020 (Streaming Strings Tour)
Sometime around the second week of March 2020, the live concert industry shut down. Major tours and festivals canceled or pushed their dates back one by one. Venues across the country shut down and canceled all future events. The COVID-19 pandemic effectively shut down the live music touring industry right before the start of it’s busy season over the summer. Many artists were shocked with this sudden turn of events, but a lot of them have been working to make the best of this bad situation. This article is a look at the things I have observed over the past few months with the touring industry shut down.
Almost immediately, many artists started doing live streams. These live stream concerts were often solo acoustic performances. The quality of these shows varied from artist to artist as it relied on the artist setting up their own streaming equipment and connection, however many artists found what worked for them pretty quickly. It would not be out of the ordinary to see ten or twenty different artists in any genre doing a live show any given night of the week. The free live streams were often accompanied by virtual tip jars with various links to donate to the artist. As artists figured out the set up that worked best for them, the quality of live shows increased. Some even started doing live streams with the requirement of a virtual ticket purchase to watch the stream. The ticket prices for these early ticketed shows were often low or pay what you want so the artists could get as many people as they could watching the streams.
Solo performances eventually became duo and in some cases, full band performances. Some artists opted to do full band performances over zoom, while others who lived close enough together, were able to secure a space to send out virtual performances. Some artists took their full band performances to actual venues to give their fans a full concert experience. Billy Strings did this with a 9 date tour across various venues in Nashville, TN to a great success. In recent weeks, I have noticed more mainstream acts like Tim McGraw pick up the virtual concert gig. This is going to be more popular as this pandemic goes on.
Another option many bands are taking advantage of is the drive in concert. I have seen these done in a couple of ways. Some concerts have the actual band set up on a stage with people parking in front of the stage to see the show. Other bands have set up either a recorded concert or a live stream concert to be sent out to various theaters nationwide. A couple of larger examples of this have been Garth Brooks and Metallica. These drive in concerts are often expensive. I have seen prices ranging from $100 to $250. This is per car load and these concerts often assume you have up to 6 people in a car. I have not been to one of these personally, but I am not a fan of the concept. It is very expensive unless you have a large group, and even then in most cases, you are watching the band from a screen and listening to a localized FM broadcast in your car. This seems to work for some people because the Garth Brooks concert took in millions of dollars in one evening.
It’s a weird time for the live music industry and many artists are trying their hardest to find what works. A select few are actually still playing shows, but these shows are often at smaller venues at half or less capacity. Plus, artists run the risk of online backlash when images show up of fans not practicing social distancing at their shows. For me, some of the best setups have been artists who have been able to run live streams at an actual concert venue. These are often shot professionally and help maintain that real concert feel you get when you go to an actual show. Sure, solo live performances can be a much more personal medium with the feeling of one on one interaction with the artist, and drive in shows actually get you out of the house. However, live streams from actual venues feel like a happy medium that you get to enjoy in the comfort of your own setting. Plus it helps keep the band’s crews at work and it helps support the venue at a time when live venues desperately need support. We have seen too many concert venues closing during this pandemic already and I support anything that supports their cause.
However you choose to enjoy concerts in this time of COVID-19, I hope that you do so safely and responsibly. I will personally be back to reviewing live shows as soon as I am able to. I look forward to the time when I get to experience concerts in a post pandemic setting. Until then, I will keep posting album features here and we will keep you up to date with things as we can.
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Daniel Donato – A Young Man’s Country
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
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Charley Crockett – Welcome To Hard Times
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
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – S.G. Goodman – Old Time Feeling
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
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Kyle Keller – All It Does Is Rain
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
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Joshua Ray Walker – Glad You Made It
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
This has been a strange year to release a new record in, but that hasn’t stopped folks from releasing some great albums. Here is a list of my Top 20 Albums of 2020 So Far. I know I could have included more artists here, but I am working on a Top 50 list that will be published at the end of the year. I have included links to previous coverage of albums when we have it. Check these records out and support these bands while they cannot tour for their new records by buying merch or tipping during a livestream.
1. Kyle Nix – Lightning On The Mountain And Other Short Stories
NewsComments Off on Album Feature – Kyle Nix – Lightning From The Mountain and Other Short Stories
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)