Review: Old Crow Medicine Show "Tennessee Pusher"

Old Crow Medicine Show have relentlessly toured and made their name as a hardworking folk and old time-style country band with musicians who were influenced by the MTV generation. While "Tennessee Pusher" is a very good album, Old Crow Medicine Show's grueling tour schedule probably kept this album from actually being great.
Although it didn't reach a level of greatness, the news is not all bad - quite the contrary. Famed producer Don Was (Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan) ensures that OCMS shines brightly, and the performances rendered are often reminiscent of the band's very famous and rollicking live shows. However, the tight production may have taken away some of the spontaneity of the band's previous albums.

Nevertheless, "Tennessee Pusher" is a very good album indeed, and the band's influences of 1980s and 1990s radio is readily evident - and even surprising at times. Old Crow Medicine Show is not your dad's folk or country band. Songs like "Methamphetamine" prove that. Plus, Don Was ensures that "Tennessee Pusher" never serves up any throw-back pablum.

Old Crow Medicine Show's best cut on "Tennessee Pusher" is actually the first song on the album, "Alabama High-Track." It is an irreverent and upbeat song that demands the listeners attention with its fast-paced lyrics. Also, "Humdinger" provides a catchy melody that is among the most hummable on the project.

"Tennessee Pusher" definitely delivers the musicality, fun and thought provoking lyrics for which OCMS is known. It is a good album that proves this band more than deserves their thousands of adoring fans. CountryChart.com

About Old Crow Medicine Show

From busking in the streets of Nashville to headlining the historic Ryman Auditorium, Old Crow Medicine Show (OCMS) have come full circle playing their own brand of American roots music with a rock and roll attitude. The quintet met in New York state and hit the road, traveling city to city in a van and eventually settling for a year in North Carolina, where they ran into a bit of good fortune while playing in front of a local pharmacy to an impressed Doc Watson; the folk icon promptly scheduled the band to play at his MerleFest.

Soon after, OCMS relocated to Nashville and found themselves gracing the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, opening for Dolly Parton, touring with Merle Haggard and regularly appearing on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion. They caught the attention of Nettwerk Records in 2003 and signed on to release their debut album O.C.M.S, which they recorded at RCA’s legendary Studio B and Woodland Sound Studio with producer/guitarist David Rawlings (Gillian Welch, Robyn Hitchcock) at the helm.  O.C.M.S was released in 2004 to critical acclaim; the New Yorker said of the album, “Heartbreaking, plunky ballads and unfastened fiddle tunes charged with youthful vigor,” while the Village Voice predicted, “Fame will soon lift her skirt for the band."

Their sophomore album, Big Iron World, was released in August 2006 and combined traditional American standards (including Woody Guthrie’s ‘Union Maid’) with OCMS originals that blended American roots, folk, blues, gospel, bluegrass and a little bit of gritty rock.  Again produced by Rawlings, the album caught the attention of critics from Billboard to Vanity Fair and the first single, a cover of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Down Home Girl,’ quickly became the #2 most added song at Triple A radio.  Combined, the two albums have gone on to sell over 200,000 units.

Much of OCMS’ success can be attributed to their relentless touring schedule. Between headlining shows and countless festivals (Bonnaroo, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, New Orleans Jazz Festival, etc), the band is constantly on the road and thrives off of their fans and live shows.

OCMS--Critter Fuqua, Kevin Hayes, Morgan Jahnig, Ketch Secor, and Willie Watson--have made a name for themselves as energetic performers with an infectious spirit.  Not only have they enjoyed success in North America, including appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the soundtrack for the Oscar nominated film Transamerica, but the band has also toured the UK several times; highlights include an appearance on Later with Jools Holland (BBC) and the Cambridge Folk Festival.

Review: Charlie Haden "Rambling Boy"

Charlie Haden is known as one of the greatest jazz bassists in music, but he returns to the folk and bluegrass music of his childhood in his new Americana gem which is aptly titled "Rambling Boy."

This album shines a bright light on Haden's musical heritage and is reminiscent of the sound and feel of the "O Brother Where Art Thou" projects. Like the aforementioned albums, "Rambling Boy" also brings to the forefront his illustrious set of friends, including Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Elvis Costello, Pat Metheny and Bruce Hornsby along with members of his prominent family such as The Decemberists' Petra Haden and Tanya Hade and her husband, actor Jack Black.
The album starts out strong with an irresistibly toe-tapping cut titled "Single Girl, Married Girl" and ends with one of the best versions of "Oh Shenandoah" ever recorded. Of course, with Haden's vast access to the world's best musical talent, the production is flawless.

As a boy, Charlie Haden listened to his parents favorite folk, bluegrass and country music on the radio, and "Rambling Boy" hearkens the listener back to simpler times when good music was enjoyed together as a family huddled around a single radio. Petra Haden's vocals sparkle on the Irish-tinged folk song "The Fields of Athenry." The rest of the CD is a mixture of bluegrass, soul, folk and country mixed with a little gospel.

In "Rambling Boy," Charlie Haden has fully utilized his most precious assets - his great talent, accomplished friends and close-knit family. By combining all of these elements, what you get is a fun recording that constantly surprises the listener while reminding us of our layered, American musical legacy. CountryChart.com

About Charlie Haden

Born in Shenandoah, Iowa, Charlie Haden began his life in music almost immediately, singing on his parents’ country & western radio show at the tender age of 22 months. He started playing bass in his early teens and in 1957, left America’s heartland for Los Angeles, where he met and played with such legends as Art Pepper, Hampton Hawes, and Dexter Gordon.
In 1959, Haden he teamed with Ornette Coleman to form the saxophonist’s pioneering quartet (alongside trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Billy Higgins). In addition to his still-influential work with Coleman, Haden also collaborated with a number of adventurous jazz giants, including John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny.
In 1969, Haden joined forces with pianist/composer Carla Bley, founding the Liberation Music Orchestra. The group’s self-titled debut is a true milestone of modern music, blending experimental big band jazz with the folk songs of the Spanish Civil War to create a powerfully original work of musical/political activism.

An acoustic bassist of extraordinary gifts, Haden’s talents as a musicain have been in constant demand by his fellow artists. As a result, he has collaborated with a genuinely stunning array of musicians, including Hank Jones, Don Cherry, Dewey Redman, Paul Motian, Jack DeJohnette, Michael Brecker, Kenny Barron, and Pat Metheny (with whom Haden shared a 1997 “Best Jazz Instrumental Individual/Small Group” Grammy® Award for their Beyond the Missouri Sky) .
Haden’s love of world music has also seen him teaming with a variety of diverse international players, including Brazilian guitarist Egberto Gismonti, Argentinean bandoneon master Dino Saluzzi, and Portuguese guitar giant Carlos Paredes. In addition, Haden has explored diverse streams of American popular music with both his acclaimed Quartet West, as well as on such recent collections as 2002’s inventive alliance with Michael Brecker, “AMERICAN DREAMS.”
Charlie Haden who was invited to establish the jazz studies program at California Institute of the Arts in 1982, has earned countless honors from around the globe, including and the Los Angeles Jazz Society prize for “Jazz Educator of the Year”, two Grammy Awards (alongside a multitude of nominations), myriad Down Beat readers and critics poll winners, a Guggenheim fellowship, four NEA grants for composition, France’s Grand Prix Du Disque (Charles Cros) Award, Japan’s SWING Journal Gold, Silver and Bronze awards and the Montreal Jazz Festival’s Miles Davis Award.

Review: Chris Knight "Heart of Stone"

Until now, there was little argument that the masterpiece of Chris Knight's five-album career was his debut self-titled offering "Chris Knight." Although his first album probably still comes out on top due to its piercing lyrics and haunting melodies, any Chris Knight fan or reviewer could make a compelling case that "Heart of Stone" is the best record of his career.
As a songwriter, Chris Knight is truly without many equals in country music, but he is still one of the country's best kept secrets. While Knight is from Kentucky, he is a star on the vibrant Texas music scene. But most mainstream country fans probably know him more for his songwriting with songs like "It Ain't Easy Being Me." Even though he was once almost always compared with Steve Earle, Chris Knight has moved past these comparisons and crafted a true work of art that he painstakingly and passionately presents in "Heart of Stone."

Although Knight's first album explored the more angry elements of a hard life with songs like "Framed," the tone of "Heart of Stone" is a somewhat more positive. The music is loud and lyrics are thought provoking. As usual with Knight, the production is excellent with Dan Baird (also the producer) and Mike McAdam both on guitar. What's different about "Heart of Stone" is that Knight has carefully crafted a complete work that is satisfying from the first appetizer of "Homesick Gypsy" to the very delicious dessert of "Go On Home."

Every cut on this set tells a story. Upon first listen, the lyrics of the 12 cuts on "Heart of Stone" might seem simple and straightforward, but repeated listens illustrate the complexity and layers of the stories intertwined with music and lyrics combined with an earnest voice that is among the most memorable in music today.

Without a doubt, "Heart of Stone" is one of the best records of 2008 in any genre. This year, there have been many well produced albums with good songwriting, an excellent band and a superb vocalist, but Chris Knight's "Heart of Stone" is different. This record is a rockin', bluesy, country treat that defies genres and dares it's listeners to repeatedly think about their problems, life and loves. But "Heart of Stone" never overplays its hand and is therefore a compelling and complete piece of entertainment that is destined to be a classic. CountryChart.com

Single Review: Pat Green "Let Me"

Pat Green's vocals soar with the new single "Let Me." Green offers up a stellar performance and upbeat delivery that makes this track one of the most memorable and well-produced songs on country radio in the last few months.
Although the romantic lyrics of "Let Me" are more suited for an average Kenny Chesney country fan rather than Pat Green's original Texas music audience, this song is a winner that can be appreciated by both groups of fans. His romantic lyrics include:
"Let me be the one who sets your feet up on a road where you've never been, oh and baby then, you can let me take these arms and wrap you up inside a night that will never end."
Like Jack Ingram, Pat Green has found a second life in mainstream country music, and this single could certainly catapult him to even further success.

While "Let Me" will certainly appeal to women, Pat Green has created a country love song with enough of an edge that men will enjoy it too. In short, just about everyone can find something to like about "Let Me" That's no small feat these days.

Review: Wade Bowen "If We Ever Make It Home"

Wade Bowen scores big with a healthy, Red Dirt meal full of new Texas country classics in his new album "If We Ever Make It Home."

Bowen's first single is a classic country heartbreak song that is surprisingly bright and uptempo. And it has already become a hit on Texas radio. Wade Bowen's positive, romantic theme continues with "From Bad To Good" and "Turn On The Lights" which reference his wife, Shelby, and her struggle to overcome postpartum depression.

"Missing You," “Ghost In This Town” and the hard rocking “Nobody’s Fool” offer advice on moving on after a relationship ends while "Daddy and the Devil" and "Trouble" offer warnings about temptation.

The key to Wade Bowen's success is his pure country voice that distinguishes his music in the crowded country field. The emotion of the lyrics ring true and the production is flawless as usual.

Wade Bowen has done it again. This is a Red Dirt album with red meat waiting to be devoured by his ever growing and well-deserved Texas country music audience. CountryChart.com

About Wade Bowen

Ask Wade Bowen what distinguishes his music, and after mulling the notion for a minute, his answer is basic and direct: “Intensity.” That’s because Bowen sings and writes with passion and fervent commitment about the matters that count in life with a depth of thought and palpable emotionality that hits listeners where they live and feel. And that fervor is matched by rich melodies and lyrical and musical hooks that grab the ears and imagination and don’t let go.

It’s a talent that’s made Bowen a leading light on the thriving Texas music scene and launched him into realms beyond with a sound built upon a rock-solid country foundation that also draws inspiration from the wide spectrum of music he loves, be it rockers like Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith or critically-acclaimed roots singer-songwriters like Patty Griffin and Paul Thorn or his personal musical icon Bruce Springsteen. And now with If We Ever Make It Home, Bowen delivers a tour de force collection of songs of inspiration, hope and deep feeling.

If We Ever Make It Home begins with an upbeat twist on the heartbreak song on “You Had Me At My Best,” the album’s first single. A bracing as well as touching positivism informs such songs of abiding love and emotional support as “Turn On The Lights” and “From Bad To Good,” both of them drawing from Wade and his wife Shelby’s struggle to overcome her postpartum depression. The haunting “Ghost In This Town” and the rocking “Nobody’s Fool” and the bright nightlife lights of “Missing You” offer prescriptions for overcoming departed lovers and heartache while “Trouble” and “Daddy and the Devil” offer cautionary tales about life’s temptations. The sweet first kiss of “Why Makes Perfect Sense” brings out Bowen’s romanticism, and the title track and “Somewhere Beautiful” cap the set with transcendent song prayers for peace and happiness. As its title implies, If We Ever Make It Home is a lyrical and musical journey that is as fulfilling as the end result of the destination.

“My last album, Lost Hotel, was about soul searching and finding a new direction in my life,” Bowen explains. “This record is about being happy with your life, even within all that’s going on inside and around us. It reflects my hope that there’s a better future for us all and finding a better place, a peaceful place, while the world seems as if it’s going in the other direction. It’s not a record you can listen to once and get everything it’s about.” On it, Bowen collaborates with writers like hit-maker Jim Beavers and fellow Texans Radney Foster and Randy Rogers and also ropes in numbers written by some of his favorite fellow songwriters.

Produced by J.R. Rodriguez, If We Ever Make It Home matches Bowen’s strongest set of songs yet with musical contributions by guitar stars David Grissom (known for his work with John Mellencamp and Joe Ely) and Jedd Hughes and such Music City A-plus team session players as Tom Bukovac, Kenny Greenburg, Dan Dugmore and Aubrey Haynie, as well as guest vocal appearances by acclaimed singer-songwriters Ashley Monroe on the title cut and Chris Knight on “Daddy and the Devil.” It’s music that enriches the lives and souls of those who hear it as much as it does for its creator, providing a perfect soundtrack for both Saturday night out on the town delight and Sunday morning contemplation and reflection.

Born and raised in Waco, Texas in a family that loves music, Wade Bowen’s creative imagination was captured early on by his father’s Guy Clark albums as well as his mother’s love for Elvis Presley and the mainstream country music that his sisters enjoyed. Although he wrote poetry and prose from an early age and was always singing to himself, it was sports that dominated his high school years: football, baseball, track, golf and swimming, “everything that they would let me play,” he recalls.

Given his first guitar at age nine, Bowen finally picked it up in earnest at 17 when the depth of Guy Clark’s songwriting and the work of rising Texas star Robert Earl Keen “hit me like a brick in the face.” From then on his guitar became his new best friend, and he immediately began writing his own songs. Once he hit college at Texas Tech University to study marketing, it was only natural that he followed “the old school rule of rock’n’roll — get some friends together and start a band,” as he puts it. The resulting group — dubbed West 84 for the highway Bowen traveled between home in Waco and school in Lubbock — were soon packing his fellow students into the bars, thanks to the appeal of his budding songwriting talents. By the time Bowen graduated, his band matriculated into the booming Texas music movement and quickly repeated their success across the Lone Star State.

Eventually becoming known under the banner of his own name, Bowen eschewed grabbing for the brass ring of stardom to instead build an enduring relationship with his listeners by playing some 250 shows a year, which he continues to do today. “It seemed to make much more sense and be so much more fun to me to have some success by playing on the road. It’s such a great way to do it and it shows you every aspect of a career,” he notes. “I’m a big fan of Bruce Springsteen and how he did it before he became nationally known. It’s fun to build it from ground zero and watch it grow.”

His self-released 2002 album Try Not To Listen consolidated his Texas success as its title tune went Top 10 on the Texas Music Chart. The statewide sensation generated by his live shows led the following year to The Blue Light Live, an in-concert album that spent most of the next two plus years as a Top 10 selling disc on LoneStarMusic.com, the leading online retailer in the Texas music scene. Earning Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year honors in 2004 from MyTexasMusic.com, Bowen’s burgeoning success won him a deal with Sustain Records.

With Lost Hotel in 2006, the groundswell Bowen had stroked in the Lone Star State took his single “God Bless This Town” to the top of the Texas Music Chart while its video was a Top 20 debut on CMT and spent several weeks at #1 on CMT’s Pure Country 12 Pack countdown in the company of such stars as Alan Jackson and Brad Paisley. The vibrant buzz he had started in Texas also spread further as he hit the national road on the Lee Ann Womack and Friends tour and expanded his fan base for his live appearances into the Midwest and Southeast.

Bowen’s prowess as a songwriter led to co-writing “Don’t Break My Heart Again” with Pat Green, the lead single from Green’s Top 10 Lucky Ones album, and “When It All Goes Down” with his brother-in-law Cody Canada of Cross Canadian Ragweed on the band’s Garage album. He has also collaborated as a writer with Texas legend Ray Wylie Hubbard — who made a cameo appearance in Bowen’s “God Bless The Town” video — and Nashville-based Texpatriate Radney Foster as well as such fellow rising stars on the Lone Star music scene as Randy Rogers, Brandon Rhyder and Bleu Edmondson. His writing talents also recently won Bowen a publishing deal with Sea Gayle Music.

Living on the cusp of the Texas Hill Country in New Braunfels and now the father of two sons, Bowen is determined to stick to his guns and create music with meaning and continue to sharpen his aim for getting to the heart of any matter that inspires him personally and creatively. “I feel like what I am good at is taking something that’s in my head or that I want to write about and creating music that means something to people,” he explains. “I like for everything to not be taken for granted. But I’m also not always serious, and when I play live, I want the audience to have as good a time as I do making music for them.”

And it’s all a lifelong endeavor that’s embedded in Bowen’s heart. “I just keep doing what I am doing and stick to it,” he concludes. And in the process he brings us all back home alongside him.

About "If We Ever Make It Home"

Ask Wade Bowen what distinguishes his music, and after mulling the notion for a minute, his answer is basic and direct: "Intensity." That's because Bowen sings and writes with passion and fervent commitment about the matters that count in life with a depth of thought and palpable emotionality that hits listeners where they live and feel. And that fervor is matched by rich melodies and lyrical and musical hooks that grab the ears and imagination and doesn't let go.

If We Ever Make It Home begins with an upbeat twist on the heartbreak song on "You Had Me At My Best", the album's first single. A bracing as well as touching positivism informs such songs of abiding love and emotional support as "Turn On The Lights" and "From Bad To Good", both of them drawing from Wade and his wife Shelby's struggle to overcome her postpartum depression. The haunting "Ghost In This Town" and the rocking "Nobody's Fool" and the bright nightlife lights of "Missing You" offer prescriptions for overcoming departed lovers and heartache while "Trouble" and "Daddy and the Devil" offer cautionary tales about life's temptations. The sweet first kiss of "Why Makes Perfect Sense" brings out Bowen's romanticism, and the title track and "Somewhere Beautiful" cap the set with transcendent song prayers for peace and happiness. As its title implies, If We Ever Make It Home is a lyrical and musical journey that is as fulfilling as the end result of the destination.

With If We Ever Make It Home, Bowen delivers a tour de force collection of songs of inspiration, hope and deep feeling.

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