Review: Ben Kweller "Changing Horses"

The album "Changing Horses" is a revelation and a major surprise, because Ben Kweller is known as a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter and this is his first foray into country music. But "Changing Horses" proves that Kweller's first departure into country music should definitely not be his last. In fact, Ben Kweller's "Changing Horses" is an instant country classic.
Growing up in a small East Texas town meant that Ben Kweller came naturally to country music because he he was surrounded by it. As a kid, Garth Brooks and Travis Tritt ruled the radio in Greenville, Texas. Kids in cowboy hats were as common in Greenville as taxis are in New York City.

One of the finest songs on the album is the first single "Fight." Kweller's country vocals are perfect and the instrumentation rivals that of any country artist working today. One of the most unexpected elements of "Changing Horses" is the realization that Ben Kweller was born to be a country musician. The lyrics are among the most intimate and piercing of any country album released in the last few years, and the passion in Kweller's voice mixed with the excellent production and instrumentation create a potent masterpiece.

No detail is left to chance on Ben Kweller's "Changing Horses." Even the record packaging perfectly compliments the music. But it's the music that matters most to Ben Kweller. The three best songs on the album are "Things I Like To Do," "Homeward Bound" and the first single "Fight." The track "Things I Like To Do" is highly hummable with seemingly simplistic lyrics that are actually very textured, personal and revealing. The cut "Homeward Bound" is passionately performed and showcases Kweller the storyteller, who offers a vocal performance that is remarkably nuanced and quietly confident.

Ben Kweller's "Changing Horses" is one of the best country albums of the last few years. This piece of work can confidently stand beside classic country albums. Moreover, this sparkling country recording heralds the arrival of a refreshingly unique new country star.  CountryChart.com

Review: Dierks Bentley "Feel That Fire"

"Feel That Fire" is an appropriate title for Dierks Bentley's new album. That's because his fifth album from Capitol Records Nashville is smokin' hot and the best album of Dierks Bentley's career.

The first single from Bentley's album is the title track "Feel That Fire" which has been a country chart sensation. But Dierks Bentley was not always on the fast track to success. Only a few years ago, Bentley was singing in Nashville bars for tips, but his constant commitment to his craft helped this country boy with no music industry connections land a major label record deal.
One of the best songs on the album is titled "Beautiful World" and features Patty Griffin. Bentey's authoritative and earnest vocals are flawless and combine nicely with Patty Griffin's rich, raspy vocal delivery. Together, Bentley and Griffin have created a musical masterpiece that is destined for the country charts.

The finest song on the album is "I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes," and Dierks Bentley's careful vocal performance on this cut is well suited for the slow melodic tune and sentimental lyrics. The best upbeat song on the album is "Last Call" which will be played in honky-tonks across the world for years to come. Bentley is joined on "Last Call" by Ronnie McCoury & Friends, so the musical backing on this cut is excellent.

To say that Dierks Bentley's "Feel That Fire" is a good album is a major understatement. Dierks Bentley has methodically crafted a project of the highest caliber. And "Feel That Fire" will only cement his status as a country superstar. CountryChart.com

Review: Bruce Robison "His Greatest"

Growing up in Bandera, Texas gave Bruce Robison a perspective that shaped his views on the world, life and love. These small-town, southern values permeate every word of every song written by Bruce Robison, and "His Greatest" shows why this country troubadour is an American musical treasure and one of the greatest songwriters of his generation.
Robison's songs are widely sought after by the top artists of the day, and "His Greatest" includes newly recorded versions of #1 Hits Robison wrote that were recorded by others. These include: "Wrapped" (George Strait), the stellar "Travelin' Soldier" (Dixie Chicks) and "Angry All The Time" (Tim McGraw and Faith Hill).

Bruce Robison's vocals are unique in country music, because he has a knack for conveying an almost understated intensity that focuses listeners' minds on his always outstanding lyrics. It is Robison's everyman persona that endears him to his large and loyal group of fans who compare him to other celebrated country songwriters such as Townes Van Zandt, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett.

On "His Greatest," Bruce Robison doesn't disappoint. As always, his vocal interpretation, band line-up and production show the professionalism for which he is known worldwide. Choosing a favorite track among the ten masterful hits on the album is difficult. The best upbeat song on the album is probably "Poor Man's Son" which will get your blood pumping. However, the best track on the album is Robison's "Not Forgotten You" which is sung with a relaxed passion that perfectly compliments the heartfelt lyrics.

Bruce Robison is one of the most gifted storytellers alive today. His music reaches deep down and shares the narratives of small-town Texas combined with his other unique life experiences. Indeed, Robison's "His Greatest" could have easily been titled "The Greatest." That's because the tremendous quality of this fine collection of country masterpieces is virtually without equal. CountryChart.com

Review: Terri Hendrix "Left Over Alls"

Terri Hendrix is no shrinking violet. She is a talent powerhouse and a mighty savvy businessperson as well. But in the end, it's all about the music. Thankfully, that's what Terri Hendrix does best, and her new album "Left Over Alls" is a testament to good country music vocals and skilled instrumentation.

The 13 songs on the "Left Over Alls" collection are fully representative of the depths Terri Hendrix's soul and her passion for good music. This collection is so diverse for a reason: "Left Over Alls," as the title suggests, includes old and new songs Hendrix had been saving that had never made it onto one of her many albums.

One of the most pleasing songs on "Left Over Alls" is the self-penned second cut, "Wallet" which perfectly blends her vocals with Henrix's always perfect instrumental skills. It must be said that Terri Hendrix is one of the best musicians working today. Her skill with the harmonica, acoustic guitar, mandolin and papoose combined with her amazing vocals ensure that she is virtually without equal among her peers.

The people of San Marcos, Texas are lucky to have such a talented member of the community. Early on in her career, Terri Hendrix made the decision to create her own record company and therefore own the masters of her music (and promote her own recordings). This decision was questioned by many early on, but the success of Terri Hendrix has proven she made the right decision. Hendrix also has a long association with Texas music legend Lloyd Maines, and they often perform as a duo.

Terri Hendrix writes most of her own songs. Her lyrics give listeners a glimpse of her fun personality in some instances while highlighting her journey through womanhood on others. Songs like "Hole In My Pocket" showcase her more vulnerable side, and this is her finest moment on the 13-song collection.

The album "Left Over Alls" is a superb, stunningly original collection of of Americana brilliance from Terri Hendrix. Anyone who enjoys intelligent and sincere singer-songwriters will treasure this recording for years to come. CountryChart.com

Review: Willie Nelson & Asleep At The Wheel "Willie And The Wheel"

Two major artists have combined to create a Western Swing tour de force with "Willie And The Wheel," which teams the legendary Asleep At The Wheel with Willie Nelson. The famed, late music executive Jerry Wexler had championed this project for 30 years, and thankfully he got to hear this new Western Swing classic before his death.
Indeed, the genre of Western Swing gets a major shot in the arm with this crisp and original album that will introduce legions of new fans to a musical genre that is as American as apple pie but rarely gets enough attention. Jerry Wexler, known mostly for R&B, had been a personal fan of Western Swing classic artists such as Cliff Bruner, Bob Wills and Milton Brown who were popular when he studied journalism in Kansas City. His vision for this concept album was a masterful stroke of genius that we can all enjoy today.

As an album, the 12 songs on "Willie And The Wheel" all work together to ensure that listeners once again rediscover the brilliance of the Western Swing genre. The best song on the album is the effervescent "Corrine Corrina" which perfectly blends the vocal talents of Willie Nelson with the always perfect instrumentation of Asleep At The Wheel. Produced by Ray Benson, the entire album's production is outstanding.

The highlight (and biggest surprise) of the album is "South" which pairs Paul Shaffer and Vince Gill along with their heroes, Willie Nelson and Asleep At The Wheel. The song works on many levels and is a standout performance in the careers of all the aforementioned artists.

"Willie And The Wheel" will be treasured as a new Western Swing classic, and it can stand proudly among the great Western Swing albums of the past. This is a landmark recording that deserves all the praise and lauding it will no doubt be receiving for years to come and is a career highlight in the already critically acclaimed music catalogs of Willie Nelson and Asleep At The Wheel. CountryChart.com

Review: Don Edwards "Heaven On Horseback"

With "Heaven On Horseback," singer-guitarist Don Edwards has created the definitive cowboy gospel album of this generation. Edwards' 14-song album is completely filled to the brim with the real-life spiritual journey of cowboys past and present in what can only be described as a career defining recording.
Don Edwards is America's preeminent western musician, and he drew international acclaim after appearing with Robert Redford in "The Horse Whisperer." People who have followed Edwards know that he never fails to impress or surprise. "Heaven On Horseback" blends the old with the new. Hank Williams and Kris Kristofferson are offered along with traditional hymns like "Amazing Grace" and traditional cowboy classics.

One of the best performances on the recording (and the biggest surprise) is the melancholy "Drift Along Lonely Cowboy" followed by "A Cowboy's Prayer/Dim Narrow Trail" which showcases a narration by Don Edwards. But it is "Make Me No Grave" where Edwards' star shines the brightest. It is a masterful performance.

Don Edwards is no musical or academic lightweight. He knows his craft, and he is an expert in his subject matter. Edwards' fans understand and respect his authenticity. In fact, Edwards is a historian, author, musicologist and one of the nation's most respected purveyors of cowboy lore.

The richness and purity of Don Edwards' voice and guitar skill have ensured that "Heaven On Horseback" will have a lasting place in the history of cowboy country and country gospel as well. This album should bring new fans to Don Edwards and be a constant joy to his current loyal listeners. Most importantly, Don Edwards can rest easy, because he can be sure that his hero, Gene Autry, would be proud.  CountryChart.com

Review: Stevie Tombstone "Devil's Game"

Stevie Tombstone grew up in the New Hope, Georgia, but he was not your typical Deep South church kid. In fact, his earrings and hair were different from the other musicians in the church he attended. And, basically, he only played guitar in the church band to meet girls. Nevertheless, those church days paid off, and his early country and gospel influences shine through in the album "Devil's Game."
This album is a collection/compilation of Stevie Tombstone's well received "Acoustica" and "Second Hand Sin" projects. These albums received significant airplay on US, European and Australian radio.

Stevie Tombstone's style is hard to definitively describe. In some instances, his sound is vintage Mellencamp or Springsteen while other tracks have a country gospel and Texas country sound. The term Americana is probably the best way to describe Tombstone's slightly scratchy and highly emotive vocal style, and this artist truly sings with passion.

The crowning achievement of the album is the Texas-country style track, "Sympathy." Likewise, the live cut of "Til The Day I Die" probably best encapsulates Stevie Tombstone as a performer. His raw vocals never falter, and he sings with the perfect amount of forcefulness mixed with the vulnerability of a man sharing his most intimate feelings with the woman he loves. This is followed by a Dylanesque live version of  "I Didn't Mean To Hurt You."

On "Devil's Game," Stevie Tombstone offers 17 tracks of thought-provoking music with rich  layers and textures that channel everything from Jerry Jeff Walker to the Ramones. This collection is a vivid illustration of the varied musical heritage of America that can be enjoyed and appreciated by music lovers of virtually any genre of popular American music. In other words, it rocks. CountryChart.com

Review" Trent Willmon "Broken In"

Trent Willmon is an optimistic, country storyteller who has created one heck of an album with the terrific "Broken In." For his third studio album, Trent Willmon focuses our attention more closely on his excellent songwriting talent and spot-on country vocal skill. In short, this country boy has chops.
Trent Willmon wrote the Montgomery Gentry hit "Back When I Knew It All." And on "Broken In," Willmon records some of his own songs that offer glimpses of his past and remind listeners to embrace their country heritage.

Indeed, Willmon is at his best when performing his own music. Two of the finest songs on the album are "Dry County" and the unforgettable "The Good Ol' Days Are Gone" (where he is joined by Kevin Fowler and Roger Creager). But it is the stirring anthem "How A Cowboy Lives" that illustrates Trent Willmon's vocal talent the most.

The rousing, rockin' "Little Set Of Horns," which is Willmon's pet name for the woman in his life, provides a sanguine, musical treat for his fans. And Willmon's diversity is proven again with the haunting melody of "Tumbleweed Town" and the classic country love song "I'll Love You Anyway." This self-penned love song is the best track on "Broken In" and deserves to be a major hit.

With "Broken In," Trent Willmon shows that he is a uniquely skilled country artist destined for continued success - both as a singer and songwriter. Willmon scores big with a diverse collection of songs that carefully thread a country theme leading to the album's finale, which is the soaring, gospel-tinged track titled "There Is A God." And Trent Willmon more than proves God's existence with his abundance of southern charm and full display of raw, God-given talent. CountryChart.com

Review: Mike Runnels "Jukebox Boulevard"

He has the mysterious persona of Roy Orbison, a voice reminiscent of Hank Williams mixed with a little Billy Joe Shaver and music that is old-time, classic country. His name is Mike Runnels, and he's not out reinvent the wheel. You see, Mike Runnels' goal on "Jukebox Boulevard" is to showcase traditional country music. By the way, he's good at it.
When you first listen to Mike Runnels, one word comes to mind: purity. His pure heart, pure emotion (as evidenced by his brilliant lyrics) and his pure, unadulterated love of his craft. With today's country music being inundated with "country pop" and bubble-gum lyrics, the traditional styling provided by "Jukebox Boulevard" is a breath of fresh air.

On "Jukebox Boulevard," Runnels'  provides a wonderful tapestry of old-fashioned country aimed at country purists who love George Jones and Merle Haggard. One of the best songs on the album is "Just Kiss Me Again" which is performed perfectly and has a memorable melody and outstanding lyrics. But it is the surprisingly straightforward break-up song "Tonight's Our Last Night" that is the best track on the album. Runnels sings: "Tonight's our last night, I'll be gone in the morning."

Raised in Beaumont, Texas, Mike Runnels encourages listeners to sit back, think about the old days and reminisce about life and love. Indeed, love is a constant theme in Runnels' music. The first two songs, "Too Good To Be True" and "Come Home Darling" actually deal with heartbreak in a refreshingly straightforward way.

Mike Runnels writes and performs music on "Jukebox Boulevard" that is meant to remind us of country music's rich heritage that has too often been pushed aside by radio programmers in recent years. This album is a major accomplishment that should be warmly embraced and appreciated by any fan of traditional country music. CountryChart.com

Review: Micky & The Motorcars "Naive"

What is the best Texas country album of the last six months? The answer is definitely "Naive," which is the hard rocking, 12-track country music masterpiece by Micky & The Motorcars. This album has the perfect mixture of great lyrics, fine production quality and authentic country vocals.
"Naive" is a worthy follow-up to the band's previous albums "Careless" and "Ain't In It For The Money." With "Naive," Micky & The Motorcars strike a confident tone from start to finish and, therefore, cement their status as leaders of the Texas country music movement.

Burning up the country music charts has become commonplace for Micky & The Motorcars, and "Naive" is filled with hits. The band also add a few elements to their trademark style. The hardest rocking cut on the album is "Bloodshot," which is followed by the excellent, traditional Texas country song titled "Seashell."

The best song on "Naive" is the track titled "Let's Split Out Of Here" which showcases Micky & The Motorcars' perfect country vocals combined with the right music and a killer hook. "Long Enough To Leave" also offers listeners a flawless performance that is destined to be a mainstay of Texas country radio for years to come.

Micky & The Motorcars prove that they have truly arrived with "Naive." And any country band foolish enough to challenge these guys right now would be, well, a little bit naive. CountryChart.com

Review: Bob Simpson "Bob Simpson"

If you ever wondered how Eric Clapton would have turned out if he grew up in West Texas, then meet Bob Simpson. This singer-songwriter is a triple threat: Guitar skill, vocals reminiscent of Marty Robbins mixed with a little Hayes Carll and, finally, a knack for writing heartfelt and penetrating lyrics. The combination makes this album a winner.
Simpson's debut album has a folk/country/Americana groove that would allow it to be enjoyed by both country and mainstream fans. The mood of the album is a unique mixture that is sometimes melancholy but always earnest. But the feeling in Bob Simpson's vocals and instrumentation on the guitar is intense without being overbearing.

However, it is the hopeful "Angel On My Shoulder" where Simpson gives his finest performance. Tracy Chapman had "Fast Car" and, now, Bob Simpson has "Angel On My Shoulder." The catchy melody, memorable lyrics and perfect harmonica interludes introduce a song that could be a hit on multiple radio formats, including Texas country and even Christian/Gospel radio.

"Ballad Of A Breaking Heart" is another winning track that mixes a little Cat Stevens with some John Prine and a little Elton John. Bob Simpson is a student of good music, and it shows. Self-taught on the guitar, Simpson utilizes his instrument to complement his lyrical and musical style that bridges the old with the new.

Bob Simpson has created an interesting and thought-provoking work of art with his "Bob Simpson" project. While it's not easy for a debut album to live up to a grandiose first song title like "Good As Gold," Bob Simpson has come really, really close. CountryChart.com

Review: Luke Olson "Red River Blue"

For a young guy, Luke Olson has had an awful long career. That's because he started in the music business at the age of 8. "Red River Blue" continues his unique brand of casual country that has made him a popular concert draw. Plus, Olson has also appeared with everybody who's anybody in the Texas country music scene.
Luke Olson's songwriting is country through and through. His lyrics are straightforward and to-the-point. And the San Antonio native shines in the fun, country anthem "Gone Fishin." Two other standouts are also songs written by Olson titled "Everyday" and "Hello My Old Friend."

But it is the cover version Chris Knight's "Me And My Road" that showcases Luke Olson's country-tinged vocals the most. This is an excellent track that should be released to country radio.

The production quality on Olson's "Red River Blue" is sterling, and the pitch-perfect vocal performance was obviously honed from his constant touring schedule and the fact that this is the fifth album of the Texas Tech graduate.

The final track of Luke Olson's album is "Tryin' To Make The Yellow Lights." And this excellent album proves that Luke Olson is more than capable of encountering a long string of green lights in what promises to be a long career ahead. CountryChart.com

Review: Cory Morrow "Vagrants And Kings"

Cory Morrow makes a bold statement of faith in his new album "Vagrants And Kings." Morrow, a veteran of the Texas music scene hits his stride in what might be the best gospel-themed, country album ever produced by Texas country artist.
Cory Morrow begins the album with the excellent "He Carries Me," which finds the famed Austin singer in a reflective mood. It is evident that Morrow has had a spiritual revival in his own life, and he wants listeners to embark on this soul-seeking journey along with him. He follows with the superb songs "I Can Wait" and "All Is Said And Done." The latter track has an anthem-style quality that has made it a fan favorite already.

"Love Finds Everyone" is the kind of song that has made Morrow a Texas star. It has a great melody, memorable lyrics and includes the album's title. He sings: "Love finds everyone, Vagrants and Kings, and in between."

The rest of the album finds Cory Morrow in a storytelling mood with songs like "Ten Mile Road" and "My Baby And Me." The final song "Worth It" provides a fitting end, because taking the time to buy and listen to this album is definitely "Worth It."

Some of Cory Morrow's longtime fans may be perplexed by the spiritual subject matter covered in "Vagrants And Kings." But they should appreciate the fact that an artist of the caliber of Cory Morrow has taken the time to provide a road map to where life has taken him in the last few years. "Vagrants And Kings" shows the personal journey of Cory Morrow and should be a great source of encouragement and enjoyment for his many fans. CountryChart.com   

Review: Eric Hisaw "Nature Of The Blues"

The new millennium has been kind to Eric Hisaw. This talented singer-songwriter debuted in 2000 with "Thing About Trains," and he hasn't looked back since. Today, the number one thing you can say about Eric Hisaw's new album "Nature Of The Blues" is that the music and the artist are 100% authentic. That's rare these days.
Born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Hisaw moved to Louisiana at age 17 and settled in a condemned trailer for 80 bucks a month. From there, he took off to Memphis  (towards Millington on Highway 51) in a vintage Airstream. Needless to say, Eric Hisaw's country-blues lyrics draw on rich, and, yes, authentic, personal experiences.

The style of "Nature Of The Blues" is earnest, yet laid-back. It's a good combination that makes this album a must-buy for fans of Steve Earle, Chris Knight and Stevie Ray Vaughn. In fact, subtle elements of each of the aforementioned artists can be detected in Hisaw's musical style.

Eric Hisaw's lyrics are reminiscent of the gritty, old-style country songs by Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings with some literary flourish added with Hisaw's fondness for the short stories of Raymond Carver, Larry Brown and Sam Shephard combined with his fascination for Faulker and Steinbech. Hisaw's fine songwriting is showcased in the best (and most potent) song on the album titled "Carnival."

In "Nature Of The Blues," Eric Hisaw tackles real life with a conversational, even laid-back tone that belies his piercing and carefully nuanced lyrics. "Nature Of The Blues" is a tremendous achievement for Eric Hisaw, and it deserves a wide audience. CountryChart.com 

Free 12-Song Album Download: Brett Crenshaw "Another Late Night"

Brett Crenshaw and his band have the answer for tough economic times: A free download of their entire late 2008, 12-song album titled "Another Late Night." Thanks to Brett and the boys for the great gift!

Click here to enter your email address at Brett's site and receive the MP3 zip file download link. It will be delivered almost instantly. Ours came in less than a minute. There are no catches, and the website never even asks for your name or any other personal information.

Offering a free album download is an absolutely brilliant marketing idea by this new, rocking' Texas country band. "Another Late Night" offers 12 new recordings of Brett Crenshaw and his band. By giving away a free digital album, the band will certainly welcome many new fans. And this should increase attendance at his already packed shows.

Brett Crenshaw entered Texas A&M in 2004 with a goal of becoming a veterinarian. Then, he met his now close friend, Rich O'Toole - a popular Texas country artist. O'Toole encouraged Crenshaw to pursue his music, and Crenshaw began to appear at local open mic nights in College Station. Brett Crenshaw's life was forever changed when he formed his band that now has a large and dedicated fan following.
On the album, "Another Late Night," Brett Crenshaw and his band shine on the ballad "Maybe It's Best." But it is the hard-driving Texas country songs where Brett Crenshaw and the boys seem the most comfortable and are at their best. Songs like "Tryin' To Keep Up," "Opened Up My Eyes" and "Cuttin' Loose" all show a new band that deserves a hard look by any true country music fan.

Brett Crenshaw will certainly get attention by giving listeners a free digital copy of the 12-song Texas country album. This will definitely pay dividends in the years to come as this special offer will be certain to create some lifelong fans who will always remember the first time they heard Brett Crenshaw and his talented band. CountryChart.com  

Single Review: Christen Lee Sawyer "Crazy"

Christen Lee Sawyer is a 20-year-old woman on a mission: She wants to become a country star. And Christen Lee Sawyer's new single, "Crazy," shows that she is well on her way.

Christen, who writes many of her own songs and hails from Sugar Land, Texas, is a sophomore at Texas A&M majoring in economics. But her true passion is music. This passion took her to Nashville to record a 3-song EP titled "The Sampler" that includes the single she wrote titled "Crazy." Click here to listen to "Crazy."

Christen Lee Sawyer said her major musical influences are Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Eli Young Band, Martina McBride, Dolly Parton and Faith Hill. Like her taste in music, Sawyer's style blends today's country with a little Texas country that makes her unique for new, country female artists.

In her single "Crazy," Sawyer sings with a relaxed country tone combined with a little Miranda Lambert attitude. It's a good combination. And with the right songs and career choices, Christen Lee Sawyer could very well succeed in her mission of becoming a country star.

Christen Lee Sawyer's single, "Crazy," is taken from her EP titled, "The Sampler," which is available on iTunes. CountryChart.com

Review: Brandon Jenkins "Faster Than A Stone"

Brandon Jenkins is already a well-known singer and accomplished guitarist with 8 albums under his belt. But "Faster Than A Stone" is the artist's finest album to date. That's saying a lot since Jenkins has also produced creative gems like "Unmended," "VII" and "Down in Flames."
Brandon Jenkins is not an artist that can easily be pigeonholed. For instance, this album offers great blues with "Big Mama's Kitchen," southern rock with "Faster Than A Stone" and red dirt with "Just Like California." And that's just the first third of the album.

The musical talent on display in the album "Faster Than A Stone" is amazing. Jenkins songs and vocals are perfectly complemented by the artist's mastery of the guitar. Likewise, the other musicians on the record, including backgrounds by Stoney Larue on four songs, are also top-notch.

One of the best songs on the album is the final track "Got To Be." Ironically, "Got To Be" is unique for Jenkins because it is an old-style, country song with only some sparks of progressive country that make it fresh yet still familiar. Releasing this song as a single could draw some new fans to Brandon Jenkins.  Another standout is "Till The Morning Comes."

Listening to Brandon Jenkins "Faster Than A Stone" is like taking a country-blues-southern rock masterclass.On the next to the last song, Jenkins sings "Help Me Jesus." But observing the quality of "Faster Than A Stone" shows that Brandon Jenkins doesn't need any help at all. CountryChart.com

Single Review: Whiskey Myers "Lonely East Texas Nights"

There's only one way to describe Whiskey Myers - a cool , red dirt band. And their latest single "Lonely East Texas Nights" dutifully showcases these rising stars from East Texas in a track that is probably autobiographical.
As a song, "Lonely East Texas Nights" is perfectly suited for country radio. The vibe is relaxed and the music is a nice mix of country and southern rock. Whiskey Myers style is a hybrid that mixes a little Allman Brothers and Led Zeppelin with some Randy Rogers Band and early Pat Green. It's a combination that works.

The boys started the group by writing songs in a rent house in small Elkhart, Texas, but they eventually became a mainstay in the Tyler, Texas area and built up a rabid fan base. The group's modest beginnings have helped craft music that has rich layers of personal experiences which are expressed in the heartfelt vocals and piercing lyrics.

The single "Lonely East Texas Nights" is taken from Whiskey Myers excellent album "Road of Life" which is a must-buy. The track "Kyle Hope" from the album would be a good choice for the next single for the band. "Kyle Hope" offers a cornucopia of sounds that echoes work from artists such as Mellencamp, Tom Cochran and Reckless Kelly. It's a unique and winning track.

For Whiskey Myers, "Lonely East Texas Nights" is the right song at the right time. If "Lonely East Texas Nights" is any indication of the kind of music the band will be producing in the future, we suspect that there will be no more lonely East Texas nights for the boys of Whiskey Myers. CountryChart.com

Single Review: Josh Abbott Band "Buried Me"

The Josh Abbott has produced one of the best Texas music songs of the last year or so with the stellar "Buried Me" The single is successful on all levels and provides a powerful musical punch with thought provoking lyrics and strong vocals.
Founded by fraternity brothers on the campus of Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, the Josh Abbott Band (also known as JAB among fans) has had a fast rise in the Texas Country scene. Their combination of country rock, a lead singer with a great voice, good instrumentation (drums. electric guitar, acoustic guitar and banjo) and little comic relief make JAB unbeatable in the the country scene.

If you just read the lyrics, you would think "Buried Me" is a dark song. But there's more to it than that. Yes, the track is rife with emotion, but it still successfully manages to provide a rocking beat that is perfect for country radio. Anyone who has ever been through a bad break-up or had a love-hate relationship will instantly identify with this song. This is powerful stuff:
Go ahead and arrange the flowers,
And prepare my eulogy,
Call my brothers to be my pall bearers
Cuz what you did already buried me.
"Buried Me" was one of the first songs the Josh Abbott Band recorded, and the song was on their self-titled EP, but the band decided to release the song on their new "Scapegoat" album. This was a good decision.

The single "Buried Me" is a winner. It is a risk-taking track that is full of raw emotion, and the Josh Abbott Band is gonna make it a hit.  CountryChart.com

Review: Tom Cheatham "Restless Soul"

Tom Cheatham's debut album "Restless Soul" is the biggest surprise of the year so far. Although the country and Americana artist's project was released in December 2008, we suspect that 2009 will be the year country music fans discover Tom Cheatham.
Fans of Wade Bowen, Chris Knight or Adam Carroll will find an instant bond with Tom Cheatham, whose lyrics reach deep into his soul and performance is smooth and remarkably polished for an indie debut.

The most radio friendly song is either the title track "Restless Soul" or "Runnin' Back To Texas" which should be released to Texas radio as soon as possible. But the best track on the album is the second to last song titled "Small Town Girl," This song has definite hit potential with its potent story and memorable melody. Plus, Cheatham's performance on "Small Town Girl" is a near-perfect country vocal.

Tom Cheatham's distinctive voice should be a benefit as radio listeners will learn to easily identify his slightly gravelly, country-tinged voice combined with lyrics that mix a little Steve Earle with Reckless Kelly.

As an artist, Tom Cheatham has succeeded in crafting a remarkably reflective and personal album that should be warmly welcomed by country and Americana radio. Remember the name Tom Cheatham, it may be around for a good long while. CountryChart.com

Review: Billy Joe Shaver "Everybody's Brother"

On "Everybody's Brother," Billy Joe Shaver sings: "If you don't love Jesus, go to hell." This is certainly a fitting sentiment for the country gospel themed album titled "Everybody's Brother" which features Shaver on his own and with country music luminaries such as Johnny Cash, Tanya Tucker, John Anderson, Kris Kristofferson and Marty Stuart.
Even though Shaver has some powerful duet partners on the album, it is Billy Joe Shaver's solo performance of his classic "When I Get My Wings" that still sends a shiver down the spine. And the aforementioned and rocking "If You Don't Love Jesus" also shows that Shaver is still an outlaw at heart.

No one ever said life was easy for Billy Joe Shaver. He lost a few fingers in a lumber mill accident. Since then, he has had more family and personal issues than virtually any of his contemporaries.

The song "No Earthly Good" resonates with its strong lyrics and confident yet vulnerable performances by Shaver and Kris Kristofferson. Shaver's wife and mother were lost in 1999 to cancer, and his son died of a heroin overdose a few months later. So you can feel Billy Joe Shaver's true emotions about these loved ones come through as he sings about the promised land. For instance, the contemplative "To Be Loved By A Woman" is a heartwrenching ode to his beloved Brenda.

Billy Joe Shaver has created and crafted a full album with no filler and not one bad or mediocre song on the entire album. There is no doubt that "Everybody's Brother" will retain its relevance as a gospel-tinged country masterpiece and a benchmark in the legendary carrer of Billy Joe Shaver. CountryChart.com

Single Review: Charlie Shafter Band "Not My Girl"

The boys in the Charlie Shafter Band don't take themselves too seriously. But when it comes to their music, these guys are awful hard workers. All the proof you need is in their album "17th And Chicago" and their new single "Not My Girl" which mixes Texas country with a little Goo Goo Dolls/Lifehouse style. This combination is infectious - in a good way.

"Not My Girl" is a contemporary country song that fits well on radio and showcases the band's laid back style. The music is upbeat and the lyrics are reflective without trying to be too deep. In short, it's a perfect, catchy country radio tune.

Since Charlie Shafter and drummer Joel Dreistadt hail from Illinois, the band doesn't classify itself as Texas country. The Charlie Shafter Band's music crosses genres and can be appreciated by fans of both Bob Dylan and Ricky Skaggs. Indeed, the first single "Big City Baby" has a great Marc Cohn-goes-country vibe that masterfully succeeds.

The Charlie Shafter Band's album shows that the band is just on the cusp of finding its footing and perfecting its sound. It is truly wonderful to listen to "17th and Chicago" all at once because the album is, in many ways, an experimental album for the band. This group (which also goes by the monicker Charlie Shafter and The Gnomes) is not afraid to take chances.

The single "Not My Girl" more than proves that the Charlie Shafter Band has a future on country radio, and the album "17th and Chicago" provides more than enough evidence that these guys will be surprising us with sparks of genius in the years to come. CountryChart.com


Review: Jason Allen "The Twilight Zone"

If real country music is what you want, then Jason Allen offers it up by the bucket load in his new album "The Twilight Zone."One of the unlikely standouts on the album is a cover of Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called To Say I Love You." Amazingly, Jason Allen makes the R&B track sound like a traditional country classic by crafting a smooth vocal performance combined with great country musicianship from the band.

It is Jason Allen's pure country voice that makes him shine brighter as a country star than many of his contemporaries. Allen never struggles to hit the right note and his vocals never seem strained. It's like Allen is channeling the voice of George Strait from the 1980s or early 1990s.

One other major success on the album is the track "He's Still Dancing With Her" which Allen wrote after watching his father on the dance floor. It's a touching and genuine song that pays tribute to the successful partnership that heavily influenced the life of this singer-songwriter.

Jason Allen and his band have produced a traditional country album in "The Twilight Zone" that is relevant in today's market while still having timeless qualities that will make it a popular album for many years to come. CountryChart.com

Single Review: Rich O'Toole "In A Minute Or 2"

Rich O'Toole had four hit singles with his debut album "Seventeen," and Texas country music fans were thrilled to accept O'Toole's new album "In A Minute Or 2" and its uptempo title track that has a killer hook and great lyrics.
In the single "In A Minute Or 2," Rich O'Toole offers up another memorable hit record and promises "In a minute or two, I'll come back for you." which will certainly thrill his large and growing fan base.

Rich O'Toole wrote "In A Minute Or 2" right after "Seventeen" was released, and O'Toole says he had a hard time waiting to release the song. O'Toole said his music is about "surviving the real world." Certainly, this hit record proves that this twentysomething artist is definitely a survivor, and the single seems to reflect his own real life and loves.

O'Toole grew up in Houston and turned to music after a baseball career was sidelined by injury. So Rich O'Toole packed up his guitar and auditioned at any open mic nights he could find. He fast developed a substantial following and still managed to get his college degree.

"In A Minute Or 2" is an anthem that is a worthy follow-up to Rich O'Toole's previous four hit singles. The lyrics, driving beat and spot-on vocals all illustrate that Rich O'Toole will definitely be around for alot longer than a minute or two. CountryChart.com

Review: Bleu Edmondson "Live At Billy Bob's Texas"

Bleu Edmondson is a great live artist, and the limited edition CD/DVD combo of "Live At Billy Bob's" showcases the live performer in good form. And the DVD by itself is worth the full price of the 2 disc set.
At his heart, Bleu Edmondson is a talented singer-songwriter who began writing songs at age 19 and later started a band when he was 22. His career was forever changed after he wrote a letter to Lloyd Maines who welcomed him into his country music family. Maines gave Bleu Edmondson the industry credibility he needed to start his career.

Edmondson's
first album "Southland" produced two of his signature tracks "50 Dollars And A Flask of Crown" and "Travelin' Man" which are highlights of "Live At Billy Bob's Texas. Three other top tunes on the album are taken from Edmondson's "Lost Boy" album including "American Saint," "Jesus Is Crying" and "The Echo (Maybe Tonight)."

The raw emotion on this album is what makes it most interesting. Bleu Edmondson's voice has a more scratchy, raw quality to it than is heard on his other albums. It gives you a sense that the artist just hopped off the tour bus and stepped to the mic to give a concert to a few friends. This quality adds new resonance to some of the songs we've heard before, like "Resurrection" and "Back To You."

On "Live at Billy Bob's Texas," Bleu Edmondson oozes songwriting talent and Americana charm. On the song "Last Call" Edmondson sings: "Last call, we all fall down." And Bleu Edmondson may be right, because country music fans will probably be falling all over each other to get tickets to his high energy live show that is brilliantly showcased on this limited edition CD/DVD set. CountryChart.com


About Bleu Edmondson
Bleu Edmondson began writing songs at the age of nineteen, got his first guitar on his 21st birthday and formed a band at twenty-two.  Now 30, Bleu has not looked back since as he and the Bleu Edmondson Band have sold tens of thousands of records and amassed a rabid fan base on the hot Texas music scene.  Building on a tireless tour schedule throughout Texas and the Midwest and the brilliance of the late 2007 release “Lost Boy”, the Bleu Edmondson Band now stands perched at the edge of a national breakthrough.

As a relative unknown in 2000 and with little money to his name, Bleu wrote a letter to legendary producer Lloyd Maines asking him to take a chance and produce a record for him.  Maines took immediate notice of Bleu’s songs and took the young artist under his wing, producing his debut Southland in 2001, and follow-up The Band Plays On in 2002.  Maines was instrumental in guiding Bleu through the development process any artist experiences and Bleu is grateful for his help.  “Lloyd was a great teacher in every way.  He was such an important part of my learning experience as an artist. I am so honored to have gotten the opportunity to work with him.”

Maines’ unique ability to help craft a record played a major role in Bleu’s rise to prominence on the Texas Red Dirt scene, and behind the strength of hits “50 Dollars and a Flask Of Crown” and “Travellin Man” Bleu’s place was cemented on the Texas music charts, while word of mouth of the band’s live shows spread and ignited the groundswell that continues today in their home state.

In 2007 after several years of heavy touring and over four years removed from The Band Plays On, Bleu felt it was time to come off the road and head back into the studio.  After the musical and personal growth he’d experienced over the past four years, he knew that the next project had to be extraordinary.  “I really wanted this record to be my best work yet.  We had been touring so long and hard and developed such a great relationship with the fans that it was important to me to make this record special,“ he said.  The result was his recently released CD, Lost Boy, a collaborative effort with producer Dwight Baker which has garnered critical raves, topping the Texas New Music and Americana charts. 

Fusing country, rock and Texas soul, Bleu’s music offers a fierce, independent spirit while drawing on such influences as Robert Earl Keen, Waylon, Bruce Springsteen, and the Rolling Stones.  The record features eleven songs that detail Bleu’s life on the road for four and a half years.  Songs like “Jesus Is Crying,” “American Saint,” and “The Echo (Maybe Tonight)” are evidence of Bleu’s amazing gift of honest songwriting.  While cuts “Last Last Time” and “Another Morning after the Night Before” (co-written with Ray Wylie Hubbard) prove that real country music is NOT dead - A message Bleu Edmondson is the perfect evangelist for.

Review: Johnny Cash "Johnny Cash Remixed"

Johnny Cash is introduced to a new a generation of music fans with "Johnny Cash Remixed," an album where top DJs remix classic Johnny Cash tunes which were licensed from the legendary Sun Records. And the album succeeds in maintaining Cash's real-man persona and charm while sampling and mixing his vocals with new beats.
Of course, the legacy of Johnny Cash has had an impact on virtually every music genre, including rap, rock and soul. The first song on "Johnny Cash Remixed" showcases the unlikely combo of Snoop Dogg and Cash on "I Walk the Line." The song is interesting, but the mistake is that Cash's vocals sound like they are coming from a boombox while Snoop's rap is at normal volume.

Thankfully, producers decided against offering any supercharged dance or electronica-styled remixes, and the style of most of the music is more of an ambient style that will allow longtime fans of Cash to at least appreciate this album enough to offer it to their kids or grandkids who might only know Johnny Cash from the hit film "Walk the Line."

The best track on the album is "Country Boy" Sonny J Remix. The mix of the vocals and the music is perfectly done, and it is certainly worth an iTunes download. "Folsom Prison Blues" Pete Rock Remix is also excellent and has a bluesy, rock dance background that works surprisingly well.

"Johnny Cash Remixed" is not your grandfather's Johnny Cash LP, but it's definitely worth a listen for any Johnny Cash fan open to hearing to hearing Cash's music in a new way. CountryChart.com

Review: Derek Sholl "Here"

Derek Sholl expected to have a career in baseball after being drafted by the Kansas City Royals, where he discovered his love of country music stars like Alan Jackson and Randy Travis. After an injury sidelined his baseball dreams, he got serious about a country music career and ended up with a successful Las Vegas country stage show. To top it off, he became a friend and opening act of Jay Leno at the Mirage.
Derek Sholl's album "Here" features the former pro-baseball player's strong, polished vocals and songwriting skill. The album's title cut and current single seeks to showcase the classic country voice of Derek Sholl, and it succeeds. Like many new male country artists, the musical influence of Alan Jackson is also evident on some of the tracks. And that's a good thing.

The hard-rockin' "Pour Me A Double" is among the best songs on the album and gives listeners a glimpse of the power and energy they will find at Derek Sholl's popular live shows. The first track "Even If It Kills Me" also provides proof of Sholl's vocal chops.

The surprising thing about Derek Sholl's album is just how darn good he sounds singing country ballads. "One More Round," "The Dash" and "Need More Proof" could be major hits for Derek Sholl. His reassuring, confident yet vulnerable voice perfectly fits the mood on the standout ballad "That Was Something," which deserves a wide audience. This song should be released to radio immediately.

Derek Sholl proves to country music fans (and country radio program directors) that he truly is "Here" with his great new album. On the surface, Sholl has everything going for him - good songs and the looks of a country star. But looking deeper at his music, Sholl's album shows that he is a gifted songwriter with a huge drive, a skill for marketing and, most importantly, an amazing new country voice that is definitely just warming up. So move over Randy and Alan, the name of the next batter is Derek Sholl. CountryChart.com

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