Live Review – Atlanta, GA’s ATLive welcomes Eric Church, Luke Combs and more

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Nov 212019
 

By Joshua Wallace
Photography By Joshua Wallace

This past Sunday November 17th, 2019, I had the opportunity to see Eric Church, Luke Combs, Brothers Osborne and Caylee Hammack live at the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA.  This was the second night of the ATLive concert series promoted in Atlanta by Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s AMB Sports and Entertainment. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, this night was a sell out with 52,414 fans.  This was one of the biggest crowds I have ever been a part of for a music concert and it was an amazing night of good country music.

Caylee Hammack opened the night.  She was probably the most pop oriented singer of the evening.  She didn’t get a very long set and maybe did 5 songs. She did originals like “Preciatecha” and “Family Tree”.  She also did covers of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”. I came out of her set feeling sort of indifferent to her music as she did some good covers, but her originals didn’t really grab me.  I was however, pumped for the rest of the night.

The Brothers Osborne mentioned that this was their last show of the year and they couldn’t have picked a bigger crowd to do it in front of.  The band kicked off their set with “Drank Like Hank” which is one of my favorites off their last studio album. They rely heavily on long jams during their set and John Osborne is one hell of a lead guitar player in that respect.  The longer jams help space out their more pop leaning songs through their set. During the nearly hour long set, they got to songs like “Shoot Me Straight”, “I Don’t Remember Me (Before You)”, “Burning Man” and wrapped it up with “It Ain’t My Fault”.  This last song was a killer jam that I feel like lasted at least past the 15 minute mark. There was an epic keyboard solo followed by John’s longest solo of the night. This song is one of those epic closing songs that will make anyone a fan that sees this live, even if you were on the fence throughout the rest of the set.

Luke Combs was the first double headliner for the night.  He played an hour and fifteen minute set full of hits and songs from his new record that are sure to be hits in the future.  This wasn’t a full set you would get at one of his own concerts, but I feel like we only missed a small portion of his usual set.  He came across very humble on stage and very real. The band kicked the night off with one of my favorite tracks from his first album titled “Honky Tonk Highway”.  He then immediately went into the hits with one of his biggest in “When It Rains It Pours” and you could hear the entire stadium singing along. In fact, it was like this the whole set for Luke Combs.  

Some highlights included the hit song “1, 2, Many” where after the line “So whatcha say we shotgun one?” he actually paused for a bit to shotgun a beer before going back to the song.  He performed “This One’s For You” largely acoustic before the band came back out to finish the song with him. He did one of my favorite tracks off the new record titled “Angels Workin’ Overtime” and I’m sure that one will be a hit at radio.  

Speaking of radio hits, Luke Combs announced that “Even Though I’m Leaving” is his 7th straight number 1 at country music radio.  That is an amazing run for any singer, let alone someone who is only on his second full album. He closed the set out with a Brooks and Dunn cover of “Brand New Man” and “Beer Never Broke My Heart”.  Before playing his final song, he announced that due to a bet with his keyboard player who was from Atlanta, he had to wear an Atlanta Falcons jersey for the final song of the night. Atlanta played his time the Carolina Panthers and beat them soundly earlier that day.  This was the first time I had ever seen Luke Combs live and this set only made me a bigger fan. I can’t wait to see him again but hopefully more up close next time.

The final act of the night was Eric Church.  I had seen him perform previously on the “Holdin’ My Own” tour in 2017 where he performed two sets in one night so I knew we were in for a long evening still.  He kicked the night off at the front of the stage on acoustic guitar doing a rendition of “Drowning Man” from his latest record Desperate Man. Eric Church’s live band brings a heavier rock and roll sound to the proceedings so it’s no surprise that he does things like add a tease of Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf” to the end of “Smoke a Little Smoke”.  He also did an exceptional version of “Creepin’” from his The Chief album with his lead guitar player Jeff Hyde handling the dobro for the song. Before he got to one of his older hits “How Bout’ You”, he discussed playing a smaller venue in Atlanta called Wild Bills and how crazy it was to be at a sold out Mercedes Benz Stadium on this evening. Also, during “How Bout You” he did a full cover of Waylon’s “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” and a tease of Ram Jam’s “Black Betty” before closing out “How Bout You”. 

He performed one of my favorite songs called “Mr. Misunderstood” largely acoustic before the band joined him again halfway through the song.  It is my strong opinion that Eric Church is at his best in a more intimate acoustic setting. Following that, he kicked off a series of a few of my favorite songs of his.  He did a great tease of an “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” cover. Then he went into a string of songs that included “Cold One”, “Record Year” and “Round Here Buzz”. He did a spot during “Record Year” where he signed vinyl records that fans had around the stage.  He held up each one to the camera, including a vinyl record of Bruce Springsteen’s famous Born In The U.S.A. album which he signed. Before “Homeboy”, one of his guitar players came up front and did an awesome metal interlude with the band that was the heaviest bit of music of the night.  The set also heavily featured the vocal talents of his back-up singer Joanna Cotten. She was featured on the track “Mixed Drinks About Feelings” which features Susan Tedeschi doing a verse on the album cut. We got an amazing dueling guitar solo during the closing moments of a rousing rendition of “Pledge Allegiance To The Hag” that was awesome.  He closed out the night with “These Boots” where he signed a bunch of boots around the stage and one of his most popular songs in “Springsteen” which he says is his ode to a moment and the influence music can have on that moment and the power of a song to take you back to a specific moment in time. I know many people who were at this show will go back to this particular moment in time when they hear any of these songs that were played this night.  He came back out for a one song encore of the Jackson Brown song “The Load-Out” which is a perfect encore song for any band.

This was an amazing night of performances and while no one got to do a full set, it was a full night of great music.  Eric Church and Luke Combs were of course the highlights, but Brothers Osborne was awesome as well. I didn’t really get a chance to hear much of Caylee Hammack with her short set.  Overall, this was a great night and I can’t wait to hear many of these artists again. You can find out a full tour itinerary for all of the artists involved in this show on their respective websites.

Live Review – Ward Davis, Lucero and Cody Jinks in Albany, GA

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Nov 122019
 

By Joshua Wallace
All Photography By Joshua Wallace


Ward Davis

This past Thursday on November 7th, 2019 I had the chance to see Cody Jinks live with Lucero and Ward Davis as opening acts.  I arrived at the Albany Civic Center shortly after 6pm.  That was the time printed on the ticket and on everything on social media, so I assumed it meant doors were at 6pm.  Nope, the show started at 6pm and I could hear Ward Davis already going as I got my ticket at Will Call. I walked into the Civic Center as Ward was playing “Old Wore Out Cowboys” from his 15 Years In A Ten Year Town album.  This song normally features Jamey Johnson and Willie Nelson on the record, but this time we had an early guest appearance from Cody Jinks who graced the stage for a verse in the song. The crowd was still filling in at this point as like me, I assume most people thought the show started at 7pm.


Ward Davis feat. Cody Jinks

Ward Davis put on a good set this evening with tracks like “Get To Work Whiskey” and his cover of “Big River”.  He also got around to “Good and Drunk” which is my favorite track off the Asunder EP he released last year. He rounded out the set on the keys playing tracks like “15 Years In A 10 Year Town”, “I Got You” and a rousing rendition of The Eagles hit “Desperado”.


Ward Davis

Lucero was up next and I admit, I’m not the biggest fan of theirs and I was hoping to get a better feel for the band in a live setting, but it didn’t work out that way this evening.  Between Ward and Cody, they were kind of the odd band in the sound mixing department and I don’t think that worked in their favor. I did pick up on a few songs they played like “On My Way Downtown” which is my favorite track from the 2012 Women and Work album. Ben Nichols did a stripped down version of what I think was “The War” from the 2005 release Nobody’s Darlings.  They also did “Texas & Tennessee” from their 2013 EP of the same name. They also played a newer song called “Hello My Name Is Izzy” which has been released as a single. They finished the set with a track from the 2002 release Tennessee titled “The Last Song”. I hope to be able to catch this band live again soon and catch a full set next time.


Lucero


Ben Nichols

You could tell this crowd is ready for Cody Jinks by the time he hit the stage.  Before we get into Cody’s set, I have to commend whoever was playing music before Cody came on.  They mixed classic country hits with songs from current artists like Paul Cauthen, Alex Williams, Whitey Morgan and others who many in this crowd might not have heard of as Albany, GA is a fairly new market for Jinks.


Cody Jinks

Cody Jinks started right away with music from his new records.  He kicked the set off with “Same Kind Of Crazy As Me” from The Wanting.  This set was heavy on new tunes, but he plays a long enough set list that you still get everything you want.  Speaking of the set list, he is doing something interesting with his set lists as of late. He has lines with two songs listed instead of one.  It seems like these are parts in the set where he has two songs in the same key lined up and can select either one. This is a very cool way of doing things.  It gives the band flexibility to read the room and it potentially gives fans a different experience each night instead of just having the same old set.

Jinks then went on with the title track off the Lifers album and followed that up my personal favorite off that record “Big Last Name”.  More new songs followed with “Tell Em What It’s Like” and “The Wanting”. After those tracks we got into “I’m Not The Devil” which had a special appearance from Ward Davis who sang a verse.  Albany, GA was also the site of the very first live version of “Where Even Angels Fear To Fly”. I really dig this one live and it is quickly becoming a favorite of mine off The Wanting album.


Cody Jinks feat. Ward Davis

We also got another favorite track of mine off The Wanting album with “Which One I Feed”.  I was especially looking forward to this one as it was one of my favorite preview tracks leading up to the albums release.  More new music soon followed with “Ain’t A Train”. This song is huge for the fiddle solo that hits you hard every time it drops in the song.  Well, the live band does not have a fiddle player so Austin “Hot Rod” Tripps grabs a dobro instead. While it’s a good track live, it’s just not the same without that hot fiddle solo.  Jinks mentioned that this is one of his most upbeat setlists he’s ever done before going into one of his biggest tear jerker tracks in “David”. It still hits hard in a live setting.


Cody Jinks and The Tone Deaf Hippies

Another new track followed with “Wounded Mind”.  This isn’t one that I had anticipated hearing live, but it’s a good one.  It’s a very good deep cut from The Wanting. Up next we had “Holy Water” from Lifers and “Think Like You Think” from After The Fire.  There is a bit of irony singing a song like “Think Like You Think” in front of a drunk and rowdy crowd on a Thursday night, but it’s a damn good song live.  “Cast No Stones” was one of the highlights of this night for me. It’s one of my favorite Jinks tracks overall, but this is especially good live as he brings the house lights up for an extended sing-a-long with the crowd.  “Must Be The Whiskey” and “Hippies and Cowboys” closed out the regular set. “Must Be The Whiskey” is a huge fan favorite off the album Lifers and it feels like a hit every time I hear it live. Jinks came out for a two song encore which included the acoustic leaning “The Raven and The Dove” and one of his biggest fan favorite songs “Loud and Heavy”.

This was my third time seeing Cody Jinks live and his show never disappoints.  From seeing him at the Ryman a couple of years ago to this show, he keeps getting better.  He’s upped his showmanship a lot recently. He picks out kids in the crowd and gives them guitar picks and acknowledges signs and interacts with the crowd in a meaningful way.  A lot of independent artists don’t do this level of crowd interaction but it is a must for bigger stages and crowds. Cody Jinks is riding high and the sky’s the limit. He’s always on tour and I can’t wait till the next time I get to see him live.  You can find out if he’s coming to a town near you at this link.

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.