Florida Welcomes Josh Ward at Jack Rabbits in Jacksonville, FL

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Aug 212019
 

By Joshua Wallace

Photography By Joshua Wallace

This past Thursday evening on August 15th, 2019, I had the pleasure of finally seeing Josh Ward live.  I have been a fan of his since his 2015 album Holding Me Together. I was a big fan of his 2018 release More Than I Deserve.  I have been waiting for a long time to see him come through Florida. He opened for Cody Johnson in the state before, but this was the first date of his first true headlining run in the state.  The crowd for the evening was somewhat small at around 50 – 75, but they showed up for some good Texas country music and that is what they got.

J.R. Ward opened the evening with a set of mostly original tunes.  This was my first time seeing J.R. Ward and I was impressed. He played some songs I recognized from Spotify such as “90 Proof Sunrise” and “Turn Your Eyes To Jesus”.  Tom Bennett backed him up on keys. J.R. mentioned that he’s not a usual feature in his live show but I thought Tom did a fine job on it. There were a couple of Waylon Jennings covers sprinkled in the originals.  All in all, it was a good set and a good first impression. I hope to see more of J.R. Ward in the future.

Josh Ward wasted no time in kicking off his own set shortly after J.R. left the stage and everything was swapped out.  He kicked the set off with a song from his Holding Me Together record “You Don’t Have To Be Lonely”. This track set the pace for a rockin’ night of good country music that did not disappoint.  He followed that up with one of my favorites “Home Away From Home” from his More Than I Deserve album. Up next was another favorite in “Whiskey and Whitley”. This was one of many ballads throughout the night.

A bit later in the set he got to a couple more favorite songs of mine back to back. Both are highlights from the More Than I Deserve album.  “All About Lovin’” was a rockin’ number for the ladies and he slowed it down a bit with “A Cowboy Can” which was well received by the live crowd.  I must point out the pedal steel player whose name I missed during band introductions. He was a highlight throughout the evening and a joy to watch play.


Another highlight of the evening was the band’s live rendition of “The Devil Don’t Scare Me”.  This is probably the best cut on the More Than I Deserve record and it’s chart performance shows that.  Josh mentioned how proud he was of this song and pointed out that the guy who wrote it, Jason Hursey was in the crowd.  This track is every bit as good live as it is on the record. This band does not disappoint.

The band closed out the night with two more favorites.  First up was a rocking rendition of “Highway” from the Holding Me Together album and finally the band closed the night out with my favorite Josh Ward tracks in “Promises”.  From the first song to the end, this band was on point and in the mood to bring some good Texas country tunes to this crowd. The crowd wasn’t as big as what they would expect in Texas, but they brought it and surely made the band feel like they were back in Texas with the responses they from the crowd.

Josh Ward is always on the road.  He just wrapped up his first headlining run through Florida and Josh is constantly on the road.  You can see his current tour dates at the band’s website.  However, if you can’t make it to a live show, he did just release  his own contribution to the Live At Billy Bob’s Texas series and I highly recommend you check it out.

Sunny Sweeney at Ashley Street Station In Valdosta, GA

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Mar 062019
 

By Joshua Wallace

Photo Credit : Joshua Wallace

On February 23rd, 2019 we were lucky enough to have Sunny Sweeney down here in Valdosta, GA at the local dive bar called Ashley Street Station.  I had just seen her open for Cody Jinks at a sold out Florida Theater in Jacksonville, FL for nearly 2,000 people and this was a much different show.  This was a much more intimate, more rowdy and more rockin’ set.  Ashley Street Station holds around 200 or so on a good day and this was a good crowd.  The night opened with W.D. Miller playing some original tunes followed by local singer Jen Anders.  Following that, Sunny came on and rocked the house for about 2 hours straight and it was a good time.

W.D. Miller 

W.D. Miller started the evening off and played a few tunes off his 2018 album “Burnt Bridges and Broken Hearts”.  He played originals such as “Samael (My Name Is Sam)”, “Barroom For A Shelter” and “How In The World”.  One of the highlights was during “Samael (My Name Is Sam)” when W.D. went off mic and his voice filled the room with song.  Jen Anders followed with another short set.  Her set contained mostly cover tunes mixed in with an original or two.  The covers Jen did were all in her acoustic style and she got the crowd ready to go with her acoustic renderings of familiar songs.

Jen Anders

Sunny Sweeney took the stage shortly after Jen Anders and got straight into it with the first new song of the night called “Tie Me Up”.  She played about 5 new songs in this set list and each of them sound amazing.   I for one cannot wait for her next album.  She also got to some highlights from her last album Trophy with tracks such as a couple of favorites of mine, “Pills” and “Pass The Pain”.  I love the stripped down guitar version of “Pass The Pain”.  It’s a different sound from the original and I like when bands can bring something different live.  She also did a great cover of Don Williams’s “Tulsa Time” which I enjoyed.

Sunny Sweeney and Harley Husbands lead guitar, Adrian Myers drums, Dillon Sampson bass guitar

At some point in the set, the band requested tequila shots.  This is a common occurrence at a dive bar, so nothing new here.  At some point later, shots turned into bottles, again nothing unusual around these parts.  Things got interesting when the band discovered a scorpion in one of the bottles of Jose Cuervo.  Sunny challenged a member of the audience to drink it for a free t-shirt.  You know what? Someone actually did and it was crazy.  These are the kinds of things that can happen when you see someone at a small dive bar such as Ashley Street Station.

Sunny Sweeney and a bottle of tequila on the floor

The band got to some other newer songs on the set list as well including “Body In A Box Car” and “I Drink Well With Others” which will appear on her next album.  She also got to some deeper tracks like “Uninvited” from her Provoked album and “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving” from her 2011 release Concrete.  This deeper set was heavy on tracks from her Trophy album as the band also got to “Bottle By My Bed”, “Better Bad Idea” and “Nothing’s Wrong With Texas” to name a few.  It wouldn’t be a Sunny Sweeney show without the radio hit “From A Table Away” which is also one of my favorite tracks.

Sunny Sweeney brings new tracks to Ashley Street Station

One of my favorite newer tracks that Sunny is playing live now is called “Poet’s Prayer” and she dedicates it to artists playing out on the road.  On this night, she dedicated it to W.D. Miller who opened up the show.  She ended the set with a great rendition of “Bad Girl Phase” from Provoked.

I highly recommend seeing Sunny Sweeney live in a setting like this while you still can.  Her stock is rising and it won’t be long before she is headlining big theater shows like Cody Jinks is.  She is actually just starting a run of opening dates for Bob Seger’s final tour.  After that, she is always on tour and you can find her current dates at https://sunnysweeney.com/.  I hope you get out to a show.