Single Review: Mark McKinney "Stompin' Ground"

Red Dirt fans have an extra reason to celebrate with the single release of Mark McKinney's Texas Music anthem "Stompin' Ground." This track just hit the Top 5 and is from Mark McKinney's widely acclaimed debut album "Get It On." McKinney had already charted an impressive 3 singles on the Texas Music Chart. And, now, he's taking a victory lap with his fourth hit, which is a rowdy, meat and potatoes country masterpiece.
As usual with Mark McKinney, "Stompin' Ground" is a well-written song with a memorable hook. But this track is special. The lyrics and hard-driving beat take the listener back in time and allow us to relive the best moments of our past. He sings:
"This is where I discovered love...where I was young and crazy. This is where I became a man. I faced those demons and I took my stand...This is where it all went down. This is my old stomping ground."
The single is authentic and wears well with repeated listens, so "Stompin' Ground" should hold the test of time in your music collection. Just this evening, I was discussing my favorite pair of boots with some family at a Christmas party. The boots are old and kind of worn out but they hold a lot of memories. I'm so afraid that one day they're just gonna give out and I won't ever be able to wear them again. Funny thing is, "Stompin' Ground" has the same kind of impact. It reminds us of better days - the years before the daily grind, Wall Street meltdowns and Jessica Simpson singing country.

The single "Stompin' Ground" deserves a wide audience, and the track hits on all cylinders. It's a hit that actually deserves to be hit. Right now, Mark McKinney is in the studio working on his sophomore CD. He faces high expectations for this new project simply because his first album was just so darn good. If the new album shows any of the lyrical and musical quality of "Stompin' Ground," then I have a feeling Mark McKinney is going to keep making Texas music fans proud.

About Mark McKinney
 Mark McKinney’s music evokes good times, plain and simple. Whether going to a backyard kegger, painting the town red with your rowdy friends, or simply being with those people who know you better than anyone else, Mark McKinney’s music takes you there. Equipped with a positive outlook and a true passion for creating and sharing music, McKinney is bursting onto the scene and having the time of his life.

For his debut solo album, Get It On, McKinney took from his own experiences (as well as those of his closest friends and family) to produce a collection of songs that has been appropriately described as “foot-stompin’, sing-a-long, ornery country with a strong melody.” The album is, in Mark’s own words, “a journey through the mind of a Southern man.” And yet something in the fun and honesty applies to everyone – we can all relate to and take a little something from his music. McKinney, born and raised in Big Spring, TX, distinguishes himself from the typical “rockin’ country” artist by drawing from a wide range of influences. He credits his father for instilling in him an appreciation for upbeat, energetic songs. He blends his musical tastes as easily as drinking beer and eating barbecue, and he admits to a diverse musical background. “Although I grew up listening to country legends like Willie Nelson and Charlie Daniels, I was also heavily influenced by rock and pop.” This blend of influences has helped secure Mark a unique place on the Texas scene – and helped keep him from getting boxed into one genre.

For Get It On, Mark teamed up with his best friend, Nashville-based producer Rob Dennis (Lynyrd Skynyrd,the fray,Cross Canadian Ragweed) who, along with producing Get It On, recently formed the independent record label Super Loud Music – the label Mark now calls home. In preparation for Get It On’s completion, Mark had been busy shuttling between Nashville and Austin – stopping only long enough to rock Texas country fans with his live show.

While working on his debut CD, Mark teamed up with Kevin Fowler. Together the pair wrote a song called “What's Your Point,” which is slated to appear on Fowler's own upcoming record. Mark's live show can best be described as a high energy, full throttle experience. He is constantly changing his live show and playing a full schedule of dates across Texas and Oklahoma. Mark is a star on the rise with the experience and attitude needed to bring great new music to the masses. Mark McKinney is blazing onto the scene in a big way, and bringing the good times with him.

Enjoy A "Drive" With Jamie Richards

We were pleasantly surprised to find a copy of Jamie Richards' fine 2007 release "Drive" waiting for us in the office mail last week. So, of course, we listened to the D Records release most of the day and were thrilled to hear that the third single from the album, "Back To Bein' Me," has been released to radio. This comes on the heels of Jamie's success with his title track,"Drive," which vaulted to Number One on the Texas Music Chart and the Texas Regional Radio Report earlier this year.
As many of you know, Jamie Richards is an Oklahoma boy who grew up working on a dairy farm. We can't think of any finer upbringing for a future Texas country star who eventually found his way to Curb Records as a staff writer. Like the title from one of Jamie's songs, his life was a "Country Song Waiting To Happen."
Jamie Richards is a traditional country artist who confidently sings the lyrics he writes while rejecting pop-influenced country. Since some people are only just discovering "Drive," we recommend this CD as a perfect gift for any classic country fan.

"Back to Being Me" is an upbeat tune that is perfect for this season and upcoming New Year's resolutions. As we take inventory of our lives, Jamie song encourages us to find ourselves and be true to ourselves.

If you don't know Jamie Richards, take a little time to get to know him. And be sure and request "Back to Bein' Me" on your local radio stations.
About Jamie Richards
Jamie Richards is not a man who fears the machine or cares what “they” think.  With boldness, Jamie dares to go where most have drifted from; traditional, honest, down right real country music.  With his sophomore release, Between These Lines, he exposes a little bit of his soul and turns out a masterpiece that reflects the road he has traveled.

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Jamie grew up on a working dairy farm owned by his family.  He cut his teeth on gospel music singing with his mother while she played the piano.  “I got my talent and love of music from my mother and my bulldog mentality for never giving up from my dad,” says Jamie.

After eight years of getting his musical education in Oklahoma honky-tonks, Jamie ventured out East to Music City.  With little more than a couple hundred dollars and a lot of pride, he rolled into Nashville but found that the city doesn’t always welcome real country singers with open arms.  Everyday Jamie watched great singers leave town, discouraged by the corporate nature of Music Row and the pop-influenced sound that was being made mainstream. Unaffected by the manufactured nature of Nashville, his bulldog mentality and perseverance paid off.  His mastery of the songwriting craft caught the attention of Curb Records who offered him a position as a staff writer.

For almost five years, Jamie played the part of prolific staff songwriter for the mega publishing company, securing cuts with major label artists and several motion pictures.  During his tenure, he was offered several record deals.  All of the opportunities started out with the same promise but ended with the fear that Jamie was “too country.”  Never one to compromise his beliefs, he dismissed their ideas of turning him into another cookie cutter country hat act.

“I feel I understand what country music is; it’s not just a passing fad for me.  I don't do what I do because I'm trying to be like anyone else.  I do it because it’s all I know, and I love it.  My singing and writing reflect that.  I never just woke up one day and decided to be a country singer.”

At the same time that Nashville was turning up its nose at traditional country music, a legendary record label in Texas, D Records, was looking for the next voice to bring back the roots of country.  In 2000, Wes Daily reactivated the label, hoping to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.  “Pappy" Daily, founder of D Records, was famous for launching the career of George Jones.  Jamie fit what Wes was looking for to a “T;” straight-up, life-telling, soul stirring country music.

Jamie’s debut album, No Regrets, was an instant hit, producing two Texas Music Chart top ten singles.  He found his home in the camaraderie of other Texas/Oklahoma artists, collaborating or performing with artists like Kevin Fowler, Walt Wilkins, Jason Allen, and Cooder Graw.  With open arms and warm hearts, Texas has embraced his honest and edgy songwriting approach.

In Walt Wilkins, also a Curb writer, Jamie not only found fellowship, he found a man who had traveled a similar road and whose soul was also being summoned home.  In the fall of 2003, they began work on Jamie’s new album, Between These Lines. Though stylistically the writers differ, their shared Nashville experience coupled with their TX/OK upbringing brought the two together.  Walt not only co-wrote four of the tracks on the album, he also co-produced the album with Tommy Detamore at Cherry Ridge Studio in Floresville, Texas.  Of Jamie, Walt says, “He is my favorite singers, period.  End of discussion.”

The album’s tracks range from rowdy, like the debut single, “Wasted” to the beachy feel of “Someday.”  Written with Wilkins, “Someday” speaks about the desire to getaway; in this case, the Gulf of Mexico.  In Jamie’s more serious “Back in Oklahoma,” his father’s memories take him back in time on a journey through his father’s life.
“I believe things that happen in my life drive me to write.  I always feel better when I get it out and down on paper.  Writing is just something I have to do.”
“Every Single Day” stands as Jamie’s self-portrait and most revealing piece.
“Every Single Day.  I’m out here runin free.  Just waitin’ for someone to come and rescue me.  I get so damn tired.  Of bein’ on my own.  And I’m hopin’ I won’t always be alone.  Every single day.”
Finally, after the years of struggle and disappointment, Jamie has found a place that craves the art he creates.  He may not be at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, but he’s played the Opry in Texas they call Gruene Hall.  It’s a refreshing change of scenery from the cut throat trenches he’s lived through.  He may have taken a longer detour than most to get here, but this Oklahoma story teller’s music finally found a home.

Review: Matthew Ballard "Midnight Drive"

Singer-songwriter Matthew Ballard offers up a heaping pile of honky-tonk magic in his sterling sophomore release - "Midnight Drive." The album is a polished mixture of the best Americana and Alt-Country. Plus, "Midnight Drive" is one self-produced album that could be mistaken for a major label release.

Ballard wrote all 11 songs on the album. The project starts out strong with the song "Run Away With Me" that should be getting major spins on Texas radio. But the best track on the album is titled "Chains." Any Chris Knight fan will immediately warm to this outstanding cut which blends a real-life story with a great melody and good vocals.

The album itself is laid back and almost never over-reaches. But the real key to Ballard's success on "Midnight Drive" is that almost every cut has a memorable hook. For instance "Clear Blue Skies" would be instantly welcomed by any fan of the Randy Rogers Band or Wade Bowen.

Not every track is perfect on "Midnight Drive." But all things considered, this is a major achievement from a new artist that deserves some attention. Matthew Ballard asks "Where Do I Go From Here?" on the reflective final cut of his CD. Based on the evidence provided here, the future looks bright.

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