Suwannee Spring Reunion Festival 2019

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Apr 032019
 

By Joshua Wallace

Photos By Joshua Wallace

This year I had the pleasure of attending Friday and Saturday night of the Suwannee Spring Reunion Festival. This festival actually ran March 21st – 24th, 2019 which is Thursday through Sunday so I did not get to go to the entire festival, but I still had an amazing time with all that I saw. This was actually my first experience at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park with a festival. I live within 45 minutes of the park but I have only had the chance to visit them around Christmas time for their amazing drive through Christmas lights display. This year I was able to correct that error and I had an amazing couple of days at the Suwannee Spring Reunion.

Town Mountain Jamming

I arrived Friday afternoon and took a minute to get my bearings. The site for the festival is huge and sports a total of 4 music stages plus a 5th stage that is mostly various workshops. The two main stages are the Amphitheater Stage and the Porch Stage which alternate all day long. There is a Florida Stage, which is a tent stage in a nearby field, and a Music Hall where you can enjoy various acts in an in-door setting. The workshop stage is called the Music Farmer Stage. I focused most of my time between the two main stages and the music hall. This festival is scheduled so that bands have 2 or more sets throughout the weekend so if you miss one set, you’ll be able to catch another later on. The only band that did not repeat was Marty Stuart and he had the Saturday night headlining slot.

Town Mountain

When I arrived, the first band I saw was Town Mountain. They were playing on the Amphitheater stage and I arrived in time to catch some of my favorites from them. They did “Down Low” and “New Freedom Blues” from their new record, but also took the time to do some of their older tunes like “Law Dog”. The band’s second set on Saturday afternoon at the Porch stage saw them going deeper through their catalog. I was really impressed with this band live and hope to see more of them in the future.

The Shawn Camp Band

Next, I went into the Music Hall area and caught a bit of Shawn Camp and his band. I was not familiar with much of his music before seeing him but I enjoyed what I saw. He played songs I knew like “Bad News” which is covered by Whitey Morgan and “I”m Dying For Someone To Live For” which he co-wrote with Loretta Lynn for her 2018 album Wouldn’t It Be Great. I did not get to spend much time with this show, however I enjoyed what I heard and look forward to hearing more in the future.

Steep Canyon Rangers

The next band I saw on the main stage was Steep Canyon Rangers. I was looking forward to seeing this band live as I had never seen them before, but I have been a fan of theirs since they first recorded with Steve Martin back in 2011. Between their two Amphitheater Stage sets, one on Friday and one on Saturday, the Steep Canyon Rangers hit most of the songs you would want to hear from them. One of the highlights for me was an extended version of “Radio” which changed mid song into a full version of Tom Petty’s “Running Down The Dream”. They also hit deeper songs such as “Tell The Ones I Love” and “Out In The Open”. That track actually featured a nice long harmonica solo from Graham Sharp. As I said, this was my first time seeing this band and I’m looking forward to seeing more. Their form of bluegrass is a bit more rocking than other groups, and I dig it. It fits well into the longer jams often heard at the Suwannee festivals.

Steep Canyon Rangers on one mic

The Grass Is Dead

Speaking of longer jams, I went over to the Music Hall to catch some of The Grass Is Dead. This band takes songs from the 70’s rock band Grateful Dead and does their long jams in bluegrass style. Jerry Garcia played in some bluegrass bands during his time, and that influence sometimes crept into his music with the Dead so a bluegrass tribute band to the Dead is not a stretch by any means. While I am a fan of the Grateful Dead, I’m not familiar enough with their catalog as a whole to go through everything the band played. I do remember “Alabama Getaway” and “Samson And Delilah” during this set. Another highlight was that this set got a lot of people dancing and moving their feet which is always nice to see at these festivals.

People Dancing with The Grass Is Dead

Billy Strings with Evening Light Show

After The Grass Is Dead, I finally sat down at the Amphitheater Stage for one of the highlights of the festival. I have always heard about Billy Strings and how amazing of a guitar picker he is and seeing him live certainly blew me away. He played a good hour and a half long set on Friday night and a slightly shorter set on Saturday. Both sets had some nice extended jams which highlighted his guitar picking and the talents of his band as a whole. A highlight on Friday night was an extended “Meet Me At The Creek” which went for almost 15 minutes. Then on Saturday he stretched “Dust In A Baggie” out to almost 11 minutes. There were plenty of other long jams during his set and the crowd loved his style of blazing fast flat-picking. I will most certainly be seeing Billy Strings more often in the future as these two sets made a lifelong fan out of me.

Billy Strings Rocking Out

Jim Lauderdale

Saturday, I saw two country music legends on stage. First up was Jim Lauderdale and his band. I have been a fan of Jim for a while and this was the first time I was able to see him live. Some highlights for me of this set included a Odie Blackmon Co-write “Two More Wishes”. This song actually appears on the new George Strait album and Jim stayed close to what is performed on that record. I also enjoyed hearing the track “Wild On Me Fast” from his latest record Time Flies. Finally, he also did the title cut of the Wait ‘Til Spring album he did with Donna The Buffalo who also perform at this festival regularly.

Jim Lauderdale Jam Session

Marty Stuart and The Fabulous Superlatives

The finale of the Suwannee Spring Reunion Festival for me was Marty Stuart. I’m a huge fan of Marty and his show with The Fabulous Superlatives is one of the best country shows you can see. Marty was in good spirits for this fest as he praised the Suwannee and Florida throughout. I loved hearing “Tear The Woodpile Down” from his Nashville, Vol. 1 album. He also got to more recent tunes from his Way Out West cd like “Time Don’t Wait” and “Whole Lotta Highway”. He also mentioned that his 1999 album The Pilgrim would see an extended release this year and played a song that was meant for that album but he couldn’t finish until recently. I can’t wait to hear the expanded edition of this album. He surprised the crowd with a great rendition of “Bonanza” and did an amazing solo “Orange Blossom Special”. I love that song more every time I see Marty do it. I have seen Marty perform many times and this was one of the best that I have seen him. I hope he’s back in the lineup next year.

Marty Stuart

Marty Stuart Solo

The Suwannee Spring Reunion Festival featured many acts I didn’t get to see a full set of or missed. I did catch some of Donna The Buffalo, The Pigeon Kings and Cicada Rhythm throughout the festival also. This was my first time experiencing the Suwannee Spring Reunion Festival and I cannot wait to go back. I am looking forward to it’s sister festival the Suwannee Roots Revival in October. For more information on the Suwannee Spring Reunion, check out the festival’s website.

Album Feature – Jacob Bryant – Practice What I Preach

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Feb 072019
 

By Joshua Wallace

I first came across Jacob Bryant’s music with his 2016 Up In Smoke EP.  He impressed me then and has continued to impress me with every EP and single release since.  Fast forward to 2019 and Bryant is finally releasing his first full length album. While the Jasper, GA native might draw comparisons to more traditional mainstream vocalists like Eric Church, Brantley Gilbert and Luke Combs, Bryant takes things a step further with this album.  Let’s take a dive into some of these cuts.

The song “25 In Jail” first appeared on one of Jacob’s Unplugged EPs, however the version that appears here is full band.  I love how this tune pays tribute to Haggard and manages to keep things original. Bryant’s love and respect for Haggard really shines through in this tune.  Another favorite is the track “Pain Pain” which another hard driving country rock tune. This one is a break up tune with Bryant longing to ditch the pain caused by a hard break-up.  I really dig the vocals on this tune as Bryant gives the traditional country break up tune a bit of a harder edge with his southern tone.

An early favorite on this record is the long rocking track “Pour Whiskey On My Grave”.  This track makes a push to be a modern southern rock / country anthem with it’s killer riffs and even better solos.  Don’t sleep on this one if you like your country rockin’. On Another note, we have the slower ballad of “Hot Mess”. This tune is about the hard work and strife that a single mother is put through.  It’s a highlight of the excellent songwriting on the album with it’s great storytelling. Finally, a big favorite here for me is “When I Get On A Roll”. I really enjoyed this tune by Tony Stampley when Mickey Lamantia recorded it last year, however Jacob Bryant takes it to another level.  The tune is filled with pedal steel and heavy guitars that take you to your favorite honky tonk. This is also one of Jacob’s stronger vocal performances on a slower track for this record. If the right folks who make these decisions are reading this, this track should be a single.

2019 has come out of the gate hard with some strong music releases and this is just another one.  Jacob Bryant has a sound that can both get play on mainstream radio and find a home with traditional country music fans like myself.  Give this one a shot and you might just agree. Practice What I Preach is available everywhere you can find good music on Friday February 8th, 2019.

Favorite Tracks : 25 In Jail, Pain Pain, Pour Whiskey On My Grave, Hot Mess,  Practice What I Preach, When I Get On A Roll

Jacob Bryant – Practice What I Preach

  1. More Than One Year
  2. 25 In Jail
  3. Best Part Of Me Is You
  4. Bring You Back
  5. Pain Pain
  6. Pour Whiskey On My Grave
  7. Sometimes I Pray
  8. Wrong Way Home
  9. Hot Mess
  10. Practice What I Preach
  11. When I Get On A Roll
  12. One More Night With You

Album Feature – Joshua Ray Walker – Wish You Were Here

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Jan 242019
 

By Joshua Wallace

It’s not often when I hear a new album in January that makes me think it’s an album of the year contender, and even less often when that album is from a new artist.  You might be familiar with Joshua Ray Walker as he has already opened for names such as Colter Wall, American Aquarium and James Hand. He’s out of Dallas, TX and frequently plays shows in that region.  If you’re not familiar with Joshua Ray Walker, prepare to hear his name often as this is a record that will be on many favorite album lists. At the age of 28, Joshua Ray has vocal control and a songwriting ability to match those twice his age.

The album kicks off with a monster of a track called “Canyon”.  Joshua Ray blows you away with his lyrics right from the start. “I’m a big big man, not just in size or in stature, in terms of space that can’t be filled, I’m a bottomless Cayon without a drop to spill”.  Such emotion is in these lyrics and I love the tune behind this one as well. It has some amazing pedal steel work. Another great tune on this album is “Lot Lizard”. The highlight of this one is the yodeling, it gets me every time.

Another favorite track is “Burn It”.  This one changes things up a bit and goes for a bluesy electric feel.  Joshua nails it even though it’s not his typical style proving he has some strong vocal chops.  “Keep” is a great sad bastard country song about the sorrow of a man who is trying to kill himself because his woman left him.  Van Darien provides vocals for the other side of this relationship on this can’t miss track. “Love Songs” is a Tejano inspired track about why Joshua doesn’t write love songs.  It’s another great highlight that shows the diversity of the album. Finally, “Last Call” ends the album with a track about the woman you hook up with at the end of the night. The kind of one time hookup that neither party parts ways happy about.

Joshua Ray Walker has a way with lyrics, whether it’s a sad bastard country song or an ode to truck stop prostitutes.  I’m really liking what I’m hearing on this album and I can’t wait to hear more from this Dallas, TX singer. I can assure you, this album has earned a spot on my 2019 Top 50 Albums of the Year.  The album is out tomorrow (01/25/2019) on State Fair Records and is available everywhere good music is sold.

Favorite Tracks : Canyon, Trouble, Lot Lizard, Burn It, Keep, Love Songs, Last Call

Joshua Ray Walker – Wish You Were Here (2019)

  1. Canyon
  2. Trouble
  3. Working Girl
  4. Pale Hands
  5. Lot Lizard
  6. Burn It
  7. Keep
  8. Love Songs
  9. Fondly
  10. Last Call

Album Feature – The Steel Woods – Old News

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Jan 222019
 

By Joshua Wallace

The Steel Woods have released their second album and it’s a banger.  Clocking in at 68 minutes, this 15 track epic features 9 originals and 6 covers.  It feels like two projects in one but the entire package works. In my opinion, this record is a southern rock tour de force.  It pays respects to those that came before and moves the genre solidly into 2019. Let’s take a deeper dive into some of this huge record.

Right off the bat, The Steel Woods come out swinging with “All Of These Years”.  It’s a blazing southern rock track that will get you on your feet in your living room, the back of your truck or wherever you happen to be listening to the album.  That blazing solo lets you know what you’re in for real quick. The track “Blind Lover” goes into more bluesey southern rock territory, but still southern rock at its core.  Just like “All Of These Years”, this track features some killer guitar work. “Compared To A Soul” continues the bluesey southern rock trend. I dig the riffs on this one and it’s another solid track worth checking out.

The song “Anna Lee” switches and takes the band into almost bluegrass and country territory.  The acoustic guitars are just as blazing fast as the electric and this track really showcases this band’s depth and range.  If you want to see some more of the band’s range, look no further than their second Black Sabbath cover in “Changes”. It’s a slower track, but they nail it just like every other cover on this record.

Digging more into the covers, I really like the Wayne Mills cover “One Of These Days”.  The world can never get enough Wayne Mills and while I’m waiting for someone to record a worthy cover of “Last Honky Tonk”, this will suffice.  The band also does a good turn of Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents” and Townes Van Zandt’s “The Catfish Song”. However, if you want the grade A prime cut of the album, look no further than “Whipping Post”.  Friends, this song blew me away the first time I heard it live. Those guitars had to be smoking. Does the recorded version live up to the live cut? While I will admit, it doesn’t pack the same punch as hearing the band do it live, it does inspire some serious headbanging.

Ladies and gentlemen, The Steel Woods have arrived and are here to stay.  This is one mammoth and epic album that is sure to satisfy any southern rock or traditional country fan.  If you want some more coverage of The Steel Woods, I know for a fact that my buddy Gary Hayes attended both nights of their shows in Nashville, TN with Josh Card as the opening act.  He will have a post up on that very soon. We will also be covering The Steel Woods as a part of this year’s Tumbleweed Country Music Festival. It’s gonna be a good time. Old News is available everywhere good music is sold or streamed.  Get yourself a copy and prepare to have your face melted.

Favorite Tracks : All These Years, Blind Lover, Compared To A Soul, Anna Lee, One Of These Days, Whipping Post, Southern Accents

The Steel Woods – Old News (2019)

  1. All These Years
  2. Without You
  3. Changes (Black Sabbath Cover)
  4. Wherever You Are
  5. Blind Lover
  6. Compared To A Soul
  7. Old News
  8. Anna Lee
  9. Red River (The Fall Of Jimmy Sutherland)
  10. The Catfish Song (Townes Van Zandt Cover)
  11. Rock That Says My Name
  12. One Of These Days (Wayne Mills Cover)
  13. Are The Good Times Really Over (I Wish A Buck Was Still Silver) (Merle Haggard Cover)
  14. Whipping Post (Allman Brothers Cover)
  15. Southern Accents (Tom Petty Cover)

Album Feature – Alice Wallace – Into The Blue

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Jan 222019
 

By Joshua Wallace

Alice Wallace has released her fourth album Into The Blue and her first for Rebelle Road Records.  This record finds Alice embracing the sound of California country throughout. It helps her paint a landscape with songs like “Echo Canyon” and “Santa Ana Winds” that puts you right into California as you listen to this amazing record.

One of my favorite tracks is the western twangy tune of “Desert Rose”.  The song sounds like it’s straight out of a spaghetti western and the storytelling on this track is top notch.  Highly recommended if you check out this album. Another favorite is the atmospheric “Echo Canyon”. The music on this track evokes the vastness and loneliness of the canyon.  I love the whine of the pedal steel guitar on this one and it compliments Alice’s vocals very well. If you’re a fan of good yodeling, check this one out. Finally, I really dig the track “Top Of The World”.  Here, Alice takes the listener to the top of the world lyrically and sonically. She is able to really stretch out her vocal ability on this track and I dig it.

Whether you’re new to Alice Wallace or a long time fan, this is a good record to pick up.  I look forward to the ability to catch her live at some point, but until then, this will suffice.  If you’re lucky enough to be out west, be sure to check her out on one of her current tour dates. Into The Blue is available now wherever you can find good music.

Favorite Tracks : Santa Ana Winds, Desert Rose, Echo Canyon, Motorcycle Ride, Top Of The World

Alice Wallace – Into The Blue (2019)

  1. The Lonely Talking
  2. Santa Ana Winds
  3. Elephants
  4. The Blue
  5. Desert Rose
  6. When She Cries
  7. Echo Canyon
  8. The Same Old Song
  9. Motorcycle Ride
  10. Top Of The World
  11. For Califa

Album Feature – Snake Blood Remedy – The Duval Blues

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Jan 032019
 

By Joshua Wallace

Snake Blood Remedy have released the follow-up to their 2016 self titled album.  This album is more in the realm of honky tonk and The Duval Blues finds a band that has honed their sound and is tighter than ever.  Lets dig into some of the tracks on this album.

The title track, “The Duval Blues” quickly sets the pace for this record with a fiddle and dobro heavy honky tonk tune about big city blues.  The album features Brett Bass as a guest on the dobro. You might remember him as the front man for Grandpa’s Cough Medicine, but now he’s in a new band called Brett Bass and Melted Plectrum.  This album is a good feature for his musical abilities post Grandpa’s Cough Medicine. Further on the album, I really dig the dark and slower tune “Bitter Seed”. I love J.D. Cook’s vocals on this track as they fit the mood perfectly.  

Another favorite is the equally dark tune “3 To 5 Years” about the struggle of the outlaw life and how getting away from it for 3 to 5 years might not be so bad.  Finally, we come to the surprise of this track. There might not be many people familiar with the name Jake Cox, but he is a talented currently residing in St. Augustine, FL.  Snake Blood Remedy have done a fine job with one of his best tunes “Cruisin’ In The Left Lane” and it’s a high mark of the album for me. It also features Jake Cox in a guest spot on the track.

Snake Blood Remedy’s sophomore effort shows a band that is coming together nicely.  I highly recommend this album if you’re looking for a good honky tonk record to start off the new year.  You can even preview the entire album on the band’s website which is where you can also pre-order a copy.  I hear it will eventually find its way to places like Spotify as well. Be sure to check out this North Florida based band on the road somewhere if they come near you.        

Favorite Tracks : The Duval Blues, Bitter Seed, 3 To 5 Years, Cruisin’ In The Left Lane

Snake Blood Remedy – The Duval Blues (2019)

  1. The Duval Blues
  2. Money Can’t Buy Happiness
  3. Bitter Seed
  4. Lonely Road
  5. Life Like Mine
  6. 3 To 5 Years
  7. Cruisin’ In The Left Lane
  8. Dog Gone Dog
  9. Say You’ll Stay