Review: Buster Jiggs "Heartache Jubilee"

Buster Jiggs is no ordinary Texas country band. This uniquely-named group from Hondo, Texas is releasing its first album for Fort Worth's Smith Entertainment titled "Heartache Jubilee." With a female lead singer and a band mascot consisting of a little red devil playing guitar, Texas music fans will find that Buster Jiggs' new album offers classic Red Dirt musical stylings along with a devilish sense of fun.

The band formed ten years ago with a male lead singer, and Kristen Muennink only became Buster Jiggs' lead singer in 2007. Her husband, Scott, is the band's drummer. "Heartache Jubilee" begins with "She's Gonna Break Your Heart." Kristen offers a rich, full-bodied Red Dirt vocal performance that is never forced. Texas music rarely offers exceptional female solo artists or lead singers, and Kristen's fine vocals set Buster Jiggs apart from the current crop of Texas bands.

"Addicted To You" is an infectious musical treat that puts the talented musicians in the band on full display. "Ain't It Sweet" is an immensely pleasing, traditional country song, but the album really picks up with the rockin' country tracks "You Don't Have To Be Lonely" and "Once Again."

The biggest surprise on the album is the Americana song "Pretty White Wings." This song has an ethereal quality that totally encompasses the listener. The lyrics, vocals and instrumentation are perfectly tailored into a tight musical package that might prove to be a chart hit on Americana radio. "Heart Of Mine" and the roadhouse-style "Down Country Loving" also have definite radio potential.

The best song on the album is the hard rockin' "Madhouse." This track has a fast beat, stellar guitar solo and flawless vocal harmonies from the lead singer and Heath Childs. Radio program managers should take notice of "Madhouse," which also showcases bass player Cody Scherer. The cut "When I'm Dreaming" and "Everything You Need" also deserve special attention from radio.

Buster Jiggs' new album "Heartbreak Jubilee" will take Texas music aficionados completely by surprise with its disarming sense of fun combined with a talented band, outstanding vocals and tight production. Buster Jiggs is so sinfully good that you'll definitely need to go to church twice a week after you've been sucked in by the seductive charms of Buster Jiggs.

Review: Jason Eady "When The Money's All Gone"

Jason Eady's strong baritone vocals sparkle and surprise on his third album "When The Money's All Gone." Each song is as socially relevant as the album's title, and the Mississippi native's new project is the most musically innovative of his career with elements of soul, gospel, blues, country and Cajun music.

The album's cover art shows a long stretch of power lines with what appear to be empty factories in the background. The concept of the album "When The Money's All Gone" is perfect for the tough times we're living in, but Jason Eady's music doesn't seem to dwell on the negative. In fact, the album starts out with a New Orleans-style, gospel party song "God Fearing Blues." It's almost impossible to stop yourself from clapping your hands and tapping your feet when listening to the opening song.

The title track, "When The Money's All Gone" is a more sober affair, and the lyrics offer a life lesson. Eady's lyrics say that when finances diminish, people need to work harder by growing their own food and finding new sources of income. And Eady's hard-edge vocals provide tough love for people who simply feel sorry for themselves and do nothing to change their circumstances.

The biggest surprise on the album is the terrific "Evangeline" featuring the Band Of Heathens. This track has an old-fashioned sound - like the music our grandparents enjoyed around a campfire. It's a unique mixture with a country-gospel style combined with some elements of Cajun music. Jason Eady has truly perfected this unique blend into his own signature sound.

The best song on the album is "Everything's Gonna Be Fine," which deserves to be a chart hit. After he's carefully given tough life lessons on "Judgment Day""Cry Pretty" and the other previously mentioned cuts, Jason Eady seeks to reassure listeners that their hard work will pay off and life in coming days will be better. The singer's voice has never sounded better, and "Everything's Gonna Be Fine" has a bluesy, Red Dirt edge that should garner additional Texas music fans for the already popular Jason Eady. The outstanding, classic country track "Promises In Pieces" also deserves special mention for Eady's understated, country vocal performance

"When The Money's All Gone" is the right music for the right time. Jason Eady hit the ball out of the park and, for that matter, way over the power lines shown on the album cover. Bravo, Jason.

CMA Music Festival Tonight On ABC 8/7C

Be sure and watch the CMA Music Festival tonight (August 31) at 8/7c. It's gonna be a great program jam-packed with classic country music performances.

This year's country music line-up includes Kellie Pickler, Julianne Hough, The Zac Brown Band, Kid Rock, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, John Rich, Reba McEntire, Jamey Johnson, Martina McBride, The Judds, Trace Adkins, Jake Owen, Lady Antebellum, Jason Aldean, Darius Rucker, Brad Paisley, Brooks & Dunn and Dierks Bentley.

The 2010 Country Music Association Festival is June 10-13. If the 2009 show is any indication, the 2010 show should not be missed.

Review: Willie Nelson "American Classic"

Willie Nelson's new album will soothe the soul. In a world currently filled with Ponzi schemes, home foreclosures and plunging retirement accounts, "American Classic" provides listeners with a vacation from reality that reminds them of years gone by and better days ahead. In the tradition of Willie Nelson's critically acclaimed "Stardust," "American Classic" is one of the best albums of the year in any genre.

"American Classic" marries Willie Nelson's pure country voice with some of the best songs ever written. The result is musical magic that casts a spell that won't let you go. The album begins with the terrific "The Nearness Of You." Willie Nelson performs the classic track with an understated elegance. The album picks up the pace with "Fly Me To The Moon," which is a toe-tapping delight.

The biggest surprise on the album is Willie Nelson's reinterpretation of his classic "Always On My Mind." Nelson offers a contemporary twist that adds freshness and new life to the song, and the superb performance allows listeners to reconsider the excellent lyrics. "If I Had You" featuring Diana Krall also dazzles, and the combination of the artists' talent provides a sultry masterwork.

The best song on the album is Willie Nelson's duet with Norah Jones titled "Baby It's Cold Outside." The instrumentation and vocals are musical perfection, and the chemistry between Jones and Nelson is electric. "Since I Fell For You," "Because Of You" and "Ain't Misbehavin'" also sparkle, and the album has a terrific pace with top-notch production.

Willie Nelson famously had his own financial difficulties. On the "American Classic" album cover, Willie Nelson is holding a microphone to one side but looking confidently in the other direction with his head held high. It provides a subtle but powerful visual reminder that Nelson himself survived seemingly insurmountable financial pressure and came out of it a stronger man. No doubt, Willie Nelson's "American Classic" will help his fans do the same thing.

Review: Grant Langston "Stand Up Man"

Grant Langston is an enigma. He has the sardonic wit of David Sedaris and the musical sensibilities of a combination of Ryan Adams and Waylon Jennings. Surprisingly, it works. Indeed, this Alabama native turned Los Angeles musician has created his own unique blend of rock and irreverant country. Sure, there are hundreds of rockabilly music acts across the United States, but Grant Langston and his band, The Supermodels, are different from all of them.

The album begins with the title track "Stand Up Man," which is reminiscent of early Dwight Yoakum songs. "Stand Up Man" is a carefully produced and melodic track that shows Grant Langston is no musical lightweight. It's followed by the terrific "Burt Reynolds Movie Brawl" which should be immediately released to Texas country radio. "Burt Reynolds Movie Brawl" has the potential to be a Number One Texas country chart hit. Country fans will eat it up like homemade vanilla ice cream at a church social.

Another standout song is "Shiner Bock And Vicodin," which has lyrics that can be taken as a humorous romp or serious social commentary that is particularly relevant following the deaths of Billy Mays, Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger and DJ AM. The track "30 Days" is full of what Grant Langston calls his biting "witticisms" such as his no-holds-barred message to the woman who left him: "I don't miss the meals you cooked us. I'm pretty handy with a pan."

The best song on the album is the fast-paced, classic country track "Damn Good Day." It's impossible not to break into a great big smile when you hear Grant Langston spewing out lyrics faster than the Barenaked Ladies with a traditional country melody. "Call Your Bluff" also deserves special notice for its brutal honesty as tells Grant Langston proceeds to tell his woman exactly what he thinks of her.

By the way, Grant Langston's pricing structure for his new album "Stand Up Man" must be seen to be believed. The prices range from a free download of the entire album (for a limited time) when you join his mailing list to a $10,000 package that includes, among other things, a CD, an iPod and a concert in your own backyard with Grant Langston and his band.

After glowing reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, Grant Langston might be well on is way to world domination. In all seriousness, the musical wit of Grant Langston does deserve critical praise. And with music and lyrics as captivating as the twelve songs found on "Stand Up Man," ten thousand dollars for a backyard concert with Grant Langston and the band is quite a bargain. Plus, he accepts PayPal. 

Download John Fogerty "The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again"

The new John Fogerty album "The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again" will be released tomorrow. But you can download it today - a day early. This twelve song collection has a classic, traditional country sound combined with John Fogerty's classic style. It will be a welcome addition to your music collection. One listen to his terrific cover of "Heaven's Just A Sin Away" or the melodic "When Will I Be Loved," and you'll be hooked like a catfish on stink bait.

Review: Scott Miller & The Commonwealth “For Crying Out Loud”

Times are tough for everyone, and musicians at all levels are feeling the financial pressure of decreased concert attendance and lower merchandise sales. So Scott Miller had an idea. He pressed 1,000 CDs full of fresh demos he produced himself on a home computer titled "Appalachian Refugee Demos," and he promised each buyer handmade cover art. The albums sold out quickly on his website, and every cent was used to produce Scott Miller & The Commonwealth's stellar new album "For Cyring Out Loud."

Considering how the album was financed, "For Crying Out Loud" begins with the appropriately titled "Cheap Ain't Cheap (For Crying Out Loud)." This track is an amalgamation of styles that is unusual for Scott Miller, but this rockin', sing-along anthem works by providing relevant social commentary for Americans trying to decrease their spending.

Scott Miller's signature Americana style returns with the terrific second track "Sin In Indiana." This toe-tapping cut is infectious from beginning to end. It's followed by the rollickin' "Iron Gate," which is a bold country rock treasure. However, the best track on the album is the country and bluegrass-infused "Let You Down." This song is a revelation that finds Scott Miller at the top of his musical game. If the band created an entire album of similar material, it would sell like cotton candy at the fair.

"For Crying Out Loud" offers several surprises. The most compelling track is "Appalachian Refugee" which shows a more reflective side of Scott Miller with thought provoking lyrics. "Appalachian Refugee" oozes pure, unadulterated Americana goodness. "I Can't Dance" is another standout, which offers superb instrumentation and a catchy melody that will be popular with fans at Scott Miller concerts.

Scott Miller has crafted a diverse Americana classic with his album "For Crying Out Loud" that can be appreciated on different levels by both grandfathers and grandchildren. In the music industry, that's a unique accomplishment. Scott Miller & The Commonwealth's new album succeeds because the band members refuse to compromise, and the result is a diverse and wonderful thirteen song collection that will make you want to run - not walk - to the next his concert. But bring some extra money, because Scott Miller might decide to add a fuel surcharge or something like that to finance the next album. And we'll all pay it, too.

Review: Kendel Carson “Alright Dynamite”

Kendel Carson is a beautiful blonde with a gorgeous, Americana voice. For the last two years, she's performed all over North America and Europe following the release of "Rearview Mirror Tears." And if Kendel Carson's unique blend of rock and country won't get you going, absolutely nothing will. This woman is destined for great things, and her new album "Alright Dynamite" proves it.

The album begins with the sultry "Oh Baby Lie Down," which has a killer melody, compelling harmony and soft instrumentation. It's followed by the terrific, upbeat "Belt Buckle" which shows the influence of Americana giants like Lucinda Williams. However, "Alright Dynamite" really hits its stride with the tender "Lady K." The song begins softly and builds to a mesmerizing crescendo.

Kendel Carson is not your ordinary 24-year-old woman. Her remarkable voice has a raw passion and energy, and it's obvious she's an "old soul" with wisdom beyond her years. "Cowboy Boots" is a good example of this. In the hands of virtually any other artist, this song would fall flat. But with the capable talents of Kendel Carson, "Cowboy Boots" is a musical triumph.

The biggest surprise on the album is the rockin' country cut "Submarine" with an infectious chorus, inspiring guitar solo and bold vocals. However, the best song on the album is the simple Americana track "One Blue Dress On The Line." This song is an amazing achievement, and Kendel Carson offers a Grammy-worthy performance in one of the best Americana songs of the year.

Kendel Carson's lack of a super-sized ego and authentic personality come across in her music, and it's crystal clear this classically trained young woman loves her craft. "Alright Dynamite" is a music lover's dream with multiple layers of Americana goodness. It's hard to imagine future Americana albums being as good as "Alright Dynamite." But if anyone can do it, it's the musical firecracker herself.

Review: Shane Howard Band "Out Of Control"

Shane Howard likes to talk about his tiny hometown of Riesel, Texas near Waco. No doubt, this small town of less than a thousand people gave Shane Howard hundreds of song ideas. For instance, the bluesy track "Rumors Fly" is appropriate for any resident of small town America.

Riesel gave Shane Howard a good childhood, and the life lessons he learned in Riesel have been set to music in the Shane Howard Band's new album "Out Of Control." Howard pays tribute to his town in the appropriately titled "My Town." He sings: "You ain't been nowhere until you've been to my town."

The title track "Out Of Control" shows the Shane Howard Band is an interesting mixture of Texas country and rock. Howard's music and vocals show that he has been influenced by a diverse group of musicians, ranging from 80s hair bands to Red Dirt. Shane Howard's vocal performance is intense, and, as a singer-songwriter, he feels every lyric.

The best song on the album is the terrific "1953," which chronicles the destructive Waco tornado of that year. Shane Howard carefully researched the storm, and the result is a Texas music classic. This track is carefully produced, and the Shane Howard Band should release a whole album of similar material. "1953" deserves to receive major airplay on Texas radio.

The Shane Howard Band's obvious devotion to its musical craft, and the band's decision to honor its hometown makes "Out Of Control" a winner. To get to the next level in the music business, it really only takes one great song. Something good emerged from that terrifying tornado, because "1953' might just be that song.

Review: Ben Tyler Johnson And The Hired Guns EP

Ben Tyler Johnson and his band, The Hired Guns, are bursting with Texas energy and raw emotion on their new self-titled EP. After making a name for himself in his home of Smithville, Texas, Ben Tyler Johnson is ready for greener pastures and country music success.

The five-song EP begins with "Trouble Was My Middle Name," which is a dark, brooding Texas country cut. Although he's just barely over the legal drinking age, Ben Tyler Johnson has the voice of someone much older, and he gives the impression that only a few years ago "trouble" really was his middle name. As a songwriter, Ben Tyler Johnson has a willing audience ready to listen to his stories in song about his more rebellious years.

The biggest surprise of the album is the tender ballad "Whiskey Kiss." Slow songs show the mettle of a singer, and "Whiskey Kiss" proves that Ben Tyler Johnson has the vocal chops to move forward as a Texas country artist. With a little tighter production and a slight increase in tempo, Johnson could put "Whiskey Kiss" on the Texas music charts. "Get Away" is a fine cut that offers a Chris Knight-style story in song. Ben Tyler Johnson offers intense vocals and thought provoking lyrics.

"What's This All About" will resonate with many people Johnson's age who are struggling with money problems and the big decisions of life. This track successfully marries rock with Texas country in a unique way that could become a signature sound for Ben Tyler Johnson and the Hired Guns. But the band shouldn't give up traditional country and bluegrass altogether, because "Weathered And Rusted Old Man" is a feast for the ears and is a tribute to the band's musical heroes like Cody Canada and Robert Earl Keen.

The EP "Ben Tyler Johnson And The Hired Guns" deserves to be purchased and enjoyed by fans of Texas country. Yes, this is a young band who still has a lot to learn, but these musicians are bursting with energy and talent. Their new five-song album proves that they have many great days ahead. So get in on the ground floor of a band might just be the next big thing in Red Dirt music.

Review: Mark Wayne Glasmire "Life Goes On"

Mark Wayne Glasmire is in his early 50s, has a name that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue and looks like your next door neighbor. Throw all those supposed liabilities in the mix, and Mark Wayne Glasmire is still the best up-and-coming Americana artist in the United States today.

One listen to Glasmire's fantastic new album "Life Goes On" will make you scratch your head and wonder why this mild-mannered, Arlington, Texas singer-songwriter isn't already a household name. The album begins with the beautiful ballad he wrote "True Love Knows," which has an interesting Lonestar meets Darius Rucker sound. The next track, "You Opened My Eyes," has a refreshing contemporary country sound mixed with a vocal style reminiscent of John Denver.

"Shelter From The Storm" has a harder, Texas country edge combined with a winning melody. "Shelter From The Storm" should be released to Texas radio, where it deserves to be a major chart hit. The rockin' country track "Ain't Love A Funny Thing" proves that Mark Wayne Glasmire has the ability to shake a concert hall, and the melodic, bluegrass-style "This Must Be Love" will also be a crowd favorite.

The best song on the album is the current single "Everything Is Gonna Be Alright." It has every element necessary to make it a hit. Mark Wayne Glasmire's vocals are pitch-perfect, the instrumentation is stellar and the song has a memorable (and hummable) melody. Also, the lyrics and overall theme of "Everything Is Gonna Be Alright" is socially relevant in these days of mass foreclosures and government bailouts.

The fact that he's not already an Americana music heavyweight doesn't seem to bother Mark Wayne Glasmire. You can feel an inner peace in his voice and in the quiet confidence he exudes on every note of his brilliant new album "Life Goes On." Indeed, Mark Wayne Glasmire deserves a wide audience for his nurturing, feel-good blend of Americana and country music. His music is food for the soul, and you can't ask more from an album than that.

Review: Collin Raye “Never Going Back”

After a long and successful music career including fifteen number one country chart singles, Collin Raye could certainly afford to retire. But his new album, "Never Going Back," proves that Collin Raye's best days are yet to come.

The title track, "Never Going Back," presents Collin Raye's vocals in fine form. On this song, Collin Raye has combined his signature sound with a little Don Henley light rock that suits him well. But the next two songs, "Take Care Of You" and "Don't Tell Me," are sincere and nurturing. They mark a return to the Collin Raye style that is known and loved around the world.

The biggest surprise on the album is Collin Raye's beautiful and heartfelt Christian song "The Cross." This track is the best Christian country song since "Three Wooden Crosses" from Randy Travis. The memorable melody, touching story and stellar vocals create a true musical treat. Likewise, the uplifting "The Only Jesus" offers the album's best vocal performance by Collin Raye. However, the personal track "She's With Me" is easily the most memorable cut.

The rockin' current radio single "Mid Life Chrysler" deserves to be a major country chart hit. The bold lyrics and hard-edge country sound create a toe-tapping classic. Just this song alone proves that Collin Raye has only gotten better as his voice has matured. Throughout the years, Collin Raye has shown us glimpses of his personality in his brilliant songs, but "Never Going Back" is the most revealing of his career. Plus, it shows that he's comfortable in his own skin.

The song lyrics on "Never Going Back" prove that Collin Raye is not afraid to let us know about his own insecurities, deep love for his family or overflowing affection for God. Indeed, the album's title signals that Collin Raye has moved to a new chapter in his life. And in no uncertain terms, Collin Raye is telling us that he's "Never Going Back." With an album this good, that's fine with us.

Review: Brandon Kinney "Smells Like Texas"

Any red-blooded Texan would want to share a beer with Brandon Kinney. This country boy looks like Texas, sounds like Texas and, yes, smells like Texas. In fact, Kinney's new album, "Smells Like Texas," is an odoriforous, rollickin' good time.

With songs like "Pull My Finger," it would be easy to write Brandon Kinney off as a country comedy act. But that would be a mistake, because Brandon Kinney is a prolific songwriter who's written tracks for Randy Travis, Lonestar, and even has a new song (Ain't Goin' Down On Brokeback Mountain) on Willie Nelson's new album "Lost Highway." By the way, "Pull My Finger" is actually a melodic, surprisingly hummable classic country track.

Brandon Kinney flexes his Texas country muscle with his current radio single, the feel-good "Hicks" which he co-wrote with Trent Willmon. This cut is making it's way up the Texas country charts and deservedly so. Kinney has a unique, country voice that resonates authenticity and fun. "Hicks" has a killer melody that has an anthem-like quality which will make it a popular sing-along song at live concerts.

The biggest surprise on "Smells Like Texas" is the album's final track - a tender ballad "Rough Crowd" with guest vocals by John Anderson. This song allows listeners to get a more complete picture of Brandon Kinney the man. Sure, Kinney is probably the most fun-lovin' guy you'll ever come across, but, at the end of the day, even Brandon Kinney stays true to his West Texas roots by respecting faith and family. Kinney sings:  "I thank God, Jesus runs with the rough crowd." Amen to that.

Brandon Kinney's "Smells Like Texas" is remarkable for its singular focus on no-holds-barred honesty. He sings about the things - very personal things - that friends and lovers talk about in the privacy of their own backyards and bedrooms. While Brandon Kinney uses humor to initially disarm listeners, each track offers a country life lesson. So get out a clothespin, because "Smells Like Texas" deserves a permanent place in your truck's CD player.

Review: Seth James "That Kind Of Man"

Let's be honest, Seth James seems like a tough guy. On his new album cover, Seth James has the expression of a man looking for the guy who stole his wife. In reality, Seth James is looking for you - yes you. He's daring you to pick up his CD, and give it a spin. If you do, you'll be instantly hooked on "That Kind Of Man."

The Texas musical pedigree of Seth James is as solid as they come. His grandfather was a honky-tonk pianist from the 1940s to the 1950s and his dad an accomplished drummer who gave his son his first guitar (a Gibson Southern Jumbo). Seth James' musical skills are put to good use on the rockin' first track "Thing For You," which has a great Phil Vassar meets Stoney LaRue vibe.
The current radio single "Leaves Of September" introduces Seth James' strong, rich country voice. Two songs he co-wrote showcase his soulful pipes even more. The bluesy "Cigarettes, Anger And Wine" is terrific, and the love song "Again" shows an authentic and passionate intensity.
The biggest surprise on the album is "It Ain't Me." This song offers heartfelt lyrics and a vocal performance that is reminiscent of a Texas country Ray Charles. But the best cut on the album is the hard-rocking "Two For Tuesday." This Texas country anthem was made for radio, and it's destined to be a major country chart hit for Seth James.
Wichita Falls should be awfully proud of native son Seth James, because the country singer's new album "That Kind Of Man" contains the best, soulful Texas country music you've ever heard. So pick up the CD or download the album. You won't be disappointed. Plus, you seriously don't want to get on Seth James' bad side.

Review: Watermelon Slim "Escape From The Chicken Coop"

If you like your music hard and fast with a slightly cheeky sense of humor, then Watermelon Slim's new album "Escape From The Chicken Coop" should be at the top of your music wish-list.

With songs like "Skinny Women And Fat Cigars" and "It's Never Too Hard To Be Humble," this Norman, Oklahoma native and Vietnam War veteran has crafted a unique, signature album that will be enjoyed and appreciated for years to come. Primarily known as a legend of Blues music, Watermelon Slim has conclusively provided his country music "bona fides" with the terrific track "Hank Williams You Wrote My Life." Watermelon Slim's brilliant vocal performance will make true believers out of even the most skeptical country music aficionados.

Truck drivers will especially appreciate fine music like "18, 18 Wheeler" and "Truck Driving Songs." The cut "Wreck On The Highway" is a winning combination of southern gospel and blues, and the poignant "300 Miles" is a country and blues masterpiece. Watermelon Slim's vocals have never sounded better.

The hard driving "Caterpillar Whine" deserves special notice for being so much fun it should be illegal. The instrumentation, music and production perfectly compliment each other to create a song that will drive concert audiences wild. The most surprising track on the album is Watermelon Slim's upbeat, country/bluegrass-style duet with Jenny Littleton titled "You See Me I See You."

Country fans have good reason to celebrate, because "Escape From The Chicken Coop" offers the outstanding outlaw country track "Should Have Done More" and the melodic, George Jones-style "America's Wives" But the best song on the entire album is the "The Way I Am." This track deserves to be a major country radio chart hit.

Watermelon Slim's "Escape From The Chicken Coop" has a heartfelt, spoken-word track titled "Friends On The Porch." Indeed, intimate moments like "Friends On The Porch" are what makes Watermelon Slim's new album so darn special. "Escape From The Chicken Coop" progresses like a phone call to a long lost friend which offers both funny and sentimental stories about life's highs and lows. Thankfully, we're all invited to eavesdrop on this most remarkable conversation.

Review: The Jeremy Miller Band "Way Too Fast"

The talented Austin, Texas musicians who make up The Jeremy Miller Band chose the perfect title for their new album "Way Too Fast." That's because the album's ten songs prove these country boys are going places - fast.

The album begins with the title track "Way Too Fast," a rockin' Red Dirt anthem with major country radio chart potential. The song, which is reminiscent of the best tracks of Cross Canadian Ragweed and Reckless Kelly, sets a positive tone for the album, and it's followed by the even better "Take A Look." This breezy, reflective song offers great lyrics, a memorable melody and a positive life lesson. The next cut "Sorry" also strikes the right balance of emotion and passionate intensity to make it a winner.

The Jeremy Miller Band have covered all its bases on "Way Too Fast." There's something for everyone. For instance, "17 Wheels" is a heartfelt cut that has a Randy Rogers vibe. "Reckless" is a powerful, feel-good gem that deserves to be a Texas Country chart topper. The production and instrumentation on "Reckless" is also flawless, and it's the best track on the album.

The lyrics of every Jeremy Miller Band song tell a story. "Life I Lead" chronicles the problems that come with drugs and alcohol while "Lil Bit" provides classic country vocal harmonies in the form of compelling story in song. The exceptional "Cry" is a truly beautiful love letter to the woman he loves. The cut builds to a rousing crescendo with a superb guitar solo. Indeed, guitarist Sonny Bihl and bass player Seth Tobin deserve special kudos for outstanding musicianship throughout the entire album.

Let's face it, the members of the Jeremy Miller Band probably only reluctantly let us see the more intimate side of their personalities on tracks like "Cry." What they really want to do is rock a concert hall, and it shows with "No More." This hard-pumping track can't help but bring smiles and infectious toe-tapping to any audience lucky enough to hear it live.

The upbeat, Wade Bowen-style "Getting Away" does a good job of combining all the elements that make The Jeremy Miller Band a successful musical group. The tune is upbeat, the lyrics address a love-hate relationship, the melody is memorable and the vocals are impeccable. "Getting Away" should be more popular with Texas radio than Miller Lite at a Dallas Cowboys game.

The Jeremy Miller Band have crafted a deeply personal, rockin' Texas country album that should be on the shelf of any person who calls himself a Red Dirt fan. "Way Too Fast" is way too good to be overlooked.

Review: Casey Donahew Band "Moving On"

The Casey Donahew Band is a perfect example that hard work pays off. With "Moving On," Casey Donahew has embarked on a new chapter of his slow climb up the ladder of country music success. The band quietly became a force on the Red Dirt scene by relentlessly touring small bars and honky tonks across Texas beginning when Casey Donahew was a student at Texas A&M. Now, with tens of thousand of fans, this Burleson, Texas country boy isn't looking back.

The Casey Donahew Band is a family affair. Casey Donahew's wife, Melinda, manages the band and reaches out to fans with a personal touch. But at the end of the day, it's the music that matters. "Moving On" is the band's fourth album, and the previous efforts included the self-titled "Casey Donahew Band," "Lost Days" featuring the cut "Stockyards" and the hard-pumping "Live, Raw, Real In The Ville" with the hit "Crazy" (co-written by Casey Donahew and Melinda Donahew). However, the band's star shines brightest on the new album "Moving On."

The album begins with the terrific, current radio single "Ramblin' Kind." This track is a mixture of Texas country and traditional honky tonk music that succeeds mightily. The upbeat single has a memorable melody and strong lyrics. Plus, "Rambling Kind" shows that Casey Donahew's vocals have never been better. Donahew's intense and powerful delivery also make "Burn This House Down" and "California" two of the best tunes on the album.

"Moving On" is chock-full of potential hits. "Next Time" is a track Texas radio will eat up like hush puppies at a fish fry. "Breaks My Heart" is a love song that illustrates the softer side of The Casey Donahew Band with great success, and it could also be a big hit. "Breaks My Heart" will stike a particularly strong chord with the band's many female fans. Likewise, "Angel" offers heartfelt lyrics that might also find a receptive radio audience.

The title track "Moving On" shows the harder country side of The Casey Donahew Band, and the instrumentation on the cut is the finest on the entire album. "Broken" and "Break Me Down" are both top-notch Wade Bowen/Randy Rogers-style Red Dirt tracks that only get better with each listen. In particular, "Break Me Down" is irresistibly catchy and will be a concert favorite. Another tune, "Strong Enough" is a good ole' country track that discusses the traditional country themes of love and loss.

But the two best songs on the album are "Let Me Love You" and "Nowhere Fast." The latter ("Nowhere Fast") is country music perfection and offers a great melody with a killer hook, exceptional musicianship and lyrics that provide a compelling story in song. The other track, "Let Me Love You," offers touching, reflective verses in a musical package that will please just about every segment of country music.

It's not just luck that allows the Casey Donahew Band to sell out venues that hold thousands of fans. You see, Casey Donahew's music provides a deep glimpse into the soul of an authentic Texan who wants to share words and music that personally touch each listener. This album is special because it perfectly harnesses all of Donahew's considerable charm and talent into twelve cohesive songs that make "Moving On" a country music classic that deserves every morsel of praise and recognition it will undoubtedly receive.

Review: Sons Of Bill “One Town Away”

Bill Wilson is either a very lucky man or the world's greatest dad. As a tribute to their father, sons Sam, James and Abe formed the band "Sons Of Bill." The three Wilson brothers joined with bandmates Brian Caputo and Seth Green to create "One Town Away," which is one of the best Americana albums of the year.

Besides bucket loads of talent, the band members obviously have no shortage of persistence. After sending demo recordings to producer Jim Scott (Whiskeytown, Tom Petty, Wilco), the famed engineer for Rick Rubin called the Charlottesville, Virginia band to offer his time. The result is a tightly produced, Americana gem.

"One Town Away" begins with "Joey's Arm," which is a hard-luck song in the vein of Chris Knight. The pace picks up with the breezy "Broken Bottles" The lyrics are heartfelt, and the lead vocals have a charming authenticity. But the standout track on the first half of the album is "The Rain," a hard rockin' cut that shows the "Sons Of Bill" at the height of their musical powers. However, it is "Rock And Roll" where the band proves that they can drive an audience wild, and this cut is sure to be a concert favorite.

The biggest surprise of the album is "The Song Is All That Remains" which offers reflective lyrics and a passionate vocal performance. The Wilson brothers' father, Bill, teaches philosophical theology at the University of Virginia, and his influence has obviously allowed the band members to reach deeper inside themselves than most musicians in their mid-to-late 20s.

The best song on the album is the classic country track "Charleston," which offers perfect harmonies with a Red Dirt edge. "Charleston" deserves to be a country chart hit. "So Much For The Blues" and "Going Home" should be released to Red Dirt and Texas Radio and also have major chart potential. "Western Skies," "In The Morning," and "Never Saw It Coming" are also exceptional tracks.

Sons Of Bill hail from one of the most historic areas of the United States, and the band's music on "One Town Away" brilliantly chronicles life's daily struggles with a clear artistic vision. "One Town Away" is a must-buy for any country or Americana music fan who enjoys a youthful spirit combined with a respect for the past. This historical reverence is proven in the lyrics of every song, but it is most poignantly conveyed by the Wilson boys lasting tribute to their dad in the band's name. Long live Bill Wilson. And long live the Sons Of Bill.

Review: Yim Yames (Jim James from My Morning Jacket) "Tribute To" EP

Jim James of My Morning Jacket offers a raw and sincere tribute to George Harrison with the stellar new EP "Tribute To." Recording under the name, Yim Yames, he covers two tunes from the Beatles and four tracks from Harrison's "All Things Pass" in a masterful performance that will be remembered for years to come.

The EP starts strong with the beautiful, understated "Long Long Long." The voice of Yim Yames has an ethereal quality that brings the lyrics into crisp focus. The multi-layered vocals on "Long Long Long" are highly effective, and sometimes Yim Yames sings in a whisper. It is almost like Yim Yames is telling you - and only you - a guarded secret in the most melodic way possible.

The pace picks up slightly with "Behind That Locked Door" The quiet intensity in the voice of Yim Yames indicates that the artist feels a special kinship and affection for George Harrison. "Love To You" has a great country vibe and features superb instrumentation.

"My Sweet Lord" shows the spiritual side of Harrison channeled through Yim Yames. This passionate track was a hit for Harrison on both sides of the Atlantic, and Yim Yames offers a respectful and effective cover that will be appreciated by fans of both Harrison and My Morning Jacket.

But the best track on the EP is "Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)." The true artistry of Yim Yames comes into sharp focus, and he is at the height of his musical powers on this amazing display of musical talent. Fittingly, "Tribute To" ends with the classic "All Things Must Pass." This track has a minimalist sound that frames the lyrics perfectly.

With "Tribute To," Yim Yames has truly created an artistic work that is a worthy reminder of the significance of the musical contributions of George Harrison. At the same time, Yim Yames has also carved out a special contribution on his own that deserves to be celebrated in its own right.

Review: Musikanto "Ghost Pain"

Musikanto's debut album 'Ghost Pain" is an alt-country and Americana music lover's dream with lush melodies, thought provoking lyrics and breezy, uplifting vocals.

Musikanto set out on a solo career after growing up on and Chicago's northside and most recently performed with the Windy City's Sleeper Car. But with "Ghost Pain" it is clearly obvious that Musikanto was born to be a solo act. Musikanto's father enjoyed hard-to-find roots rock and folk music, and this influence shows. But Musikanto's musical style is an interesting amalgamation of the music his father loved combined with elements of soulful British rock, 90s pop/rock and Ryan Adams-style alt-country. This is a powerful and winning combination.

The album begins with the melodic "Misty Morning." For someone who has never heard Musikanto, the first song will be a revelation. The artist's name "Musikanto" might indicate the music is soul or R&B. Likewise, the cover suggests the music might be experimental rock - not the best album the Drive-By Truckers never made. That's why a publicity photo of a laid-back Musikanto with his shirt open strumming a cosmetically imperfect guitar is probably a better representation of the man and his music.

The second song on "Ghost Pain" is "I Ain't Your Rock" which deserves to be major radio hit. This track illustrates the best elements of Musikanto. You see, Musikanto's music will be eaten up like hot dogs at a Cubs game by the masses, but they lyrics and musicianship can be also be enjoyed, appreciated and disseminated by individuals who are more intense music aficionados.

The final song "I Know Something's Going On" is a beautiful ballad. Musikanto wrote every song on "Ghost Pain," and it's clear that this musician knows how to construct a ballad that touches the heartstrings of both men and women - a rare talent. "Atomic Walls" also showcases Musikanto's songwriting skill. But the best track on the album is the haunting "To See You One More Time." The vocal performance is understated and flawless. Plus, the music is stripped bare in a way that highlights the lyrics to maximum effect.

One of the best songs on "Ghost Pain" is the upbeat "Howl." Musikanto can rock a concert hall, and this track proves it. "Take It On Will," "Flowers And Stinging Bees," and "I Don't Even Know About It" all have anthem-like qualities and should also be fan favorites. "I'll Hold You Back" is one of Musikanto's most uniquely wonderful songs, and it succeeds mightily.

Musikanto's "Ghost Pain" is a towering achievement that is not easily compartmentalized into one or two genres. In these days of overly packaged pop princesses using harmonizers and studio wizardry, it is downright refreshing to bear witness to the debut album of an artist who strips his soul bare and presents it on a platter in such a melodic and compelling way.

Review: Kat Moore Band “Big Texas Sky”

It's clear that The Kat Moore Band treasures the lasting legacy of country music legends, and the band's debut, "Big Texas Sky," embraces classic country and adds a unique, rockin', bluesy vibe that captivates listeners from beginning to end.
Lewisville, Texas native Kat Moore was raised by musician parents and has been a fixture on stages across Texas (especially in Dallas-Fort Worth) since the age of 11. The years of experience show in Moore's confident vocal performance on "Big Texas Sky." Kat Moore is a singer whose voice demands attention, and her band's album is especially relevant because it will broaden the minds of listeners who have a more narrow view of the definition of country music. The message of the album is clear: The Kat Moore Band loves to have fun playing country music with a little added rock and blues, and the band wants you to have a good time, too.

The album starts off strong with the catchy honky tonk track "Roll With Me" with great vocals and some fine piano instrumentation. "Without You" and "Hard To Let Go" explore love and loss. The title track "Big Texas Sky" offers beautiful harmony and thoughtful lyrics.

But the album really picks up steam with the fine track "Dance All Night." This is a sparkling cut that is deserving of the widespread radio airplay it has received. But the biggest surprise on the album is the terrific new single "Let's Make It Up." This is a classic country track that is performed with passionate intensity. Kat Moore feels these lyrics in her soul. "Let's Make It Up" deserves to be a country chart hit.

The most socially relevant song on the album is "Bruises And Broken Dreams." The song's lyrics focus a bright light on the problem of domestic abuse. This is a story in song that tears at the heart strings and should provide comfort to women who are (or have been) in this tragic situation. "I Cry" also explores a different form of heartache in a refreshingly honest way.

Another standout track is "Love Is Never Easy." This song shows The Kat Moore Band at its best. The melody is memorable and the band's musicianship is superb. Kat Moore's husband, Dave Moore, leads the band, and he is a talented musician in his own right.

The tune "No Friend Of Mine" is the hardest rockin' country track on "Big Texas Sky." Once again, The Kat Moore Band spotlights a problem with a man from a female perspective. The importance of relationship troubles being viewed from the woman's point of view is very unusual in the Red Dirt and Texas music genre. So The Kat Moore Band has a unique place in Texas music. The album is rounded out with the beautiful "Thank You" and "Love Is Never Easy."

"Big Texas Sky" shows The Kat Moore Band is truly something special with a unique perspective that is uncommon among Texas country musicians. Combine that with the band's superior instrumentation, Kat Moore's sizzling vocals and a knack for writing socially relevant songs, and you've got a band that is going to have to get used to seeing the sky in places outside of Texas as the The Kat Moore Band's career continues to get bigger and bigger.

Review: Matt Stell & The Crashers "The Sound And The Story"

Matt Stell & The Crashers' new release "The Sound And The Story" was released regionally a few months ago in Southern and Central Missouri, Central Arkansas and Western Kansas where the band has received widespread radio airplay and toured extensively. Now, Matt Stell & The Crashers are ready to expand their territory to the rest of the USA with their own fiery brand of Red Dirt music.
Matt Stell is either really lucky, a good salesman or one heck of a charming guy. You see, Stell only began playing music while he was a sophomore in college. Within a few months, he became buddies with the owner of a famous local honky tonk in his Missouri college town who then introduced him to his future bandmates.

Now, when they're not headlining their own sold out shows, Matt Stell & The Crashers open for major label acts like Jason Boland, Cross Canadian Ragweed and The Eli Young Band. But it wasn't just luck that made Matt Stell a success. He wrote every song on "The Sound And The Fury." Plus, the high level of professionalism displayed on the album combined with the Stell's extensive touring schedule prove that this Arkansas country boy has an overabundance of talent, strong work ethic and enough country charm to make he and his band members country music stars.

The album's first national single is titled "Shirt." Matt Stell and his bandmates, Adam Freitas, Joey Rowlett and Matt Richardson, offer a stirring and soulful track that is a major success and is poised to move quickly up the country charts. On "Shirt," Stell's vocals are refreshingly authentic, and he sings with a quiet, but intense energy that is uncommon for new country acts.

"Plowboys Song" is a melodic, country gem. This track clearly shows the range of influences on the band, including traditional country, classic Southern Gospel, blues and Americana. During some points, Stell's vocal interpretation is similar to early Chris Knight tunes presented on "The Trailer Tapes" and "Trailer II." And that is a high compliment, indeed. Another classic country track, "Raining On The Inside," is a special treat that should be popular at Matt Stell & The Crashers' concerts.

But the best song on the album is the terrific "Sheepskin Road." This song deserves to be released as a single, and it presents every element necessary for a hit record. The track "Sheepskin Road" works on all levels: The vocal performance is impeccable, the instrumentation is almost perfect and the production is top-notch.

"The Sound And The Story" starts off strong with the rockin' and bluesy "King Of Caldwell County." The second track, "Meantime," is a soft, Sister Hazel-style cut. Later, the album picks up pace with the breezy "Troubles," which presents Matt Stell's vocals in fine form. "Troubles" is a catchy tune that has a Dave Matthews vibe which will make it popular with college audiences. "Southbound" has a similar style and could be described as Jason Mraz meets Stoney LaRue.  The interestingly titled "Cajun Army" and the folksy "Downhill" are also winners.

"The Sound And The Story" ends with the intensely soulful "Make Believe Man." However, one thing is certain to anyone who hears them perform: Matt Stell & The Crashers aren't "make believe" men. They're talented guys with a killer sound and an engaging story. So, on second thought, maybe Matt Stell is a quadruple threat with luck, talent and country charm combined with some good marketing skills. That's a combination that served Garth Brooks well, and it just might work for Matt Stell & The Crashers.

Review: The Kyle Bennett Band "Grey Sunrise"

The Kyle Bennett Band's self titled debut album, known by fans as "The Red CD," was a bestseller. It introduced a bold and confident Red Dirt, Texas music band ready to take on the world. Today, it's clear that The Kyle Bennett Band, which was formed in 2004, is a little older and a little wiser. Indeed, "Grey Sunrise" takes us on the band members' journey toward maturity - both as musicians and as country boys living in a world of double digit unemployment and substance abuse. Even the album's cover offers a subtle warning about the dangers of carnal temptation.
First of all, The Kyle Bennett Band (KBB) is not a one horse act. Kyle Bennett founded the band with John Siedler, and the band is finished out with guitarist Jon "Fish" Hunt, drummer Beau Brauer and bass player Rody Molder. The five men of the group all have unique strengths and undeniable country music talent. Certainly, the band's blend of fun and professionalism shines through on the classic bar song "Time To Switch To Whiskey." This track offers a memorable a melody and superb lyrics.

However, the album really picks up steam on the current single "Should've Listened." With this cut, The Kyle Bennett Band achieves a commercial mixture of the styles of Tim McGraw and The Randy Rogers Band while still maintaining its signature Red Dirt sound. There's good reason that "Should've Listened" is already a Texas music chart hit.

"The Road" is the first track that seems to chronicle the journey of the band over the last few years, and the sound is similar to the one successfully introduced on "The Red CD." This is feel-good, Texas music, and it presents KBB at its best. "Devil's On My Trail" is an upbeat, outlaw country cut that illustrates good boys can go bad with a couple of wrong decisions. Likewise, "Empty Barrels" is a brutal, masterpiece that shows how the emotions of love and hate can intersect in a dangerous way. The track "Blackbird" also successfully chronicles love and loss.

The title track "Grey Sunrise" is an upbeat, cheerful, Wade Bowen-style song that every Texas music fan will eat up like peanut patties at the county fair. There's no doubt that this tune will be released as a single. And it should be.

But the best track on the album is the perfectly crafted "Crescendo." This is a song with heart that offers sincere lyrics and an intense vocal performance from The Kyle Bennett Band that hits on all cylinders. However, "Everything To Lose" is a close second in the "best song" category. This passionate track is an ode to the woman who is her man's "Everything To Lose."

The Kyle Bennett Band's "Grey Sunrise" is rounded out with the melodic "When The Lights Go Down," a story in song titled "Jimmy & Josie," "One Light Town" and "Still In Love With You." The latter tune is a contemporary love song with a twist. "Still In Love With You" could have a long life on the country music charts.

The Kyle Bennett Band's debut album showed that these country boys could play with the best in Texas, but "Grey Sunrise" chronicles how life has changed for the band members as they walk confidently into manhood - even though there are challenges and struggles along with way. Not only does "Grey Sunrise" offer rockin' Texas music with great lyrics, but this album pushes the band to the next level by offering relevant social commentary mixed with the band's signature sound. There's no gray area here: "Grey Sunrise" is destined to become a Texas music classic.

Review: Deryl Dodd "Together Again"

Authenticity has been the key ingredient for Deryl Dodd's success in country music. And after more than thirteen years since he released his first album with Columbia Records, Deryl Dodd is back with "Together Again," a deeply personal album that might be his best yet.

Deryl Dodd's path to solo country music success began when he worked as a guitar player and back-up singer for Martina McBride. After a successful run in Nashville, Dodd moved back to Texas and was asked to record an album for Smith Music's landmark "Live At Billy Bob's Texas" series of albums. This was followed by "Stronger Proof" and "Full Circle."
But with "Together Again," something seems to have changed in the life and the music of Deryl Dodd. The country music artist seems to be in the midst of rediscovering his musical roots and his connections with loved ones of years gone by. This makes for a compelling album, and "Together Again" is a must-buy for any lover of traditional country music with a Red Dirt edge.

The album starts off strong with the title track and current single "Together Again," which is a remake of the Buck Owens classic from 1964. This is one heck of a good song, and the musicianship and vocals by Dodd take you back to the simpler times in America. The next track "Back To The Honky Tonks" is a pleasing, classic country tune.

Deryl Dodd's songs and lyrics reflect issues facing average, blue collar men and women. "Death, Taxes and Texas" captures the struggles Americans are feeling in today's rough economic climate. "Beer And The Belly" tackles our love of food and alcohol in a compelling way, and "Life Behind Bars" focuses on the struggles faced my the hundreds of thousands of men in US jails and prisons. "Life Behind Bars" has definite potential to chart on country radio, and program directors should take notice of this track.

But the best song on "Together Again" is the terrific "You're Not Lookin' For." This tune has thoughtful lyrics, beautiful vocal delivery by Dodd and a hummable melody. "You're Not Looking For" shows Deryl Dodd at the very top of his game and the strength of his winning personality as a country musician. "It Don't Take Much" is another top tune and is reminiscent of classic Doug Stone songs. This should also be a crowd pleasing, sing-along song at Deryl Dodd concerts.

"Things You Don't Know" and "Lost Highway" tread more familiar country ground, and the tracks are successful. The biggest surprise of the album is "All I Know," which is another track with chart potential.

The influence of gospel music has been significant on Deryl Dodd, and he pays tribute to God and his spiritual mentors with the upbeat classic "I'll Fly Away." And as a special treat, Dodd includes a 1959 home recording of "John The Revelator" featuring his grandparents, Lewis and Gladys Dodd. After hearing this cut, there is no doubt where Deryl Dodd got his talent.

It is very good fortune for the entire state of Texas and music lovers everywhere that Deryl Dodd grew tired of pre-fab Nashville and its fascination with pop country. With "Together Again," Deryl Dodd has fully turned the page on his Nashville country music career and embraced a more interesting and personal Texas music career that respects the traditions of his Texas roots, shines a spotlight on his love of faith and family and vocalizes the concerns of average, blue-collar men and women. This is Deryl Dodd 2.0, and it works.

Review: Jack Ingram "Big Dreams & High Hopes"

Jack Ingram didn't take the easy route to mainstream country music success. He spent years touring the Texas music circuit and had his ups and downs along the way. However, his perseverance has paid off in a big way, because Jack Ingram's seventh studio album, "Big Dreams & High Hopes," is his best yet.

The project starts off strong with the breezy "Free" by Jay Knowles and Trent Summar. "Big Dreams & High Hopes" also features the heartfelt Top 20 hit "That's A Man," which offers a compelling story in song. The terrific new single "Barefoot And Crazy," which was co-written by Rhett Akins, offers a rockin' beat, guitar solos, crisp lyrics and a pitch-perfect vocal performance from Jack Ingram.
The biggest surprise of the album is the poignant "Seeing Stars" featuring the vocals of Patty Griffin on a track Ingram wrote with Chris Tompkins. The voices of Jack Ingram and Patty Griffin provide glorious harmony in an understated performance that has a quiet intensity which builds to a crescendo at the end of the cut. Likewise, the second biggest surprise is the somewhat experimental alt-country track "In The Corner," which Ingram wrote. Ingram took a risk by ending the album with "In The Corner," but the song is a triumph.

Jack Ingram explores more familiar and satisfying country territory with "King Of Wasted Time," "Heartache" and "Man In Your Life." It's clear that the title track "Big Dreams And High Hopes" is autobiographical and especially meaningful for Jack Ingram, who said "big dreams and high hopes" can come true when he won his first Academy of Country Music Award in 2008.

Dierks Bentley joins Jack Ingram on the hard-pumping "Barbie Doll," which was written by Ingram and Todd Snider. But the best song on the album is "Not Giving Up On Me." This cut fully deserves to be Number One on the Billboard Country Chart. It offers truly passionate lyrics, soaring vocals and the same country charm of Ingram's #1 hit "Wherever You Are."

Jack Ingram and his label head, Big Machine Records' Scott Borchetta, have every right to breathe a huge sigh of relief and break into a great big smile with the landmark release of "Big Dreams & High Hopes." For years, Jack Ingram deserved the success he is enjoying today. The partnership with Big Machine finally allowed Ingram to harness all of his considerable talent and energy in the most compelling way possible.

On the title track "Big Dreams & High Hopes," Ingram sings about being led through the hard times and being shown where to go. Thankfully, with an album as good as "Big Dreams & High Hopes," there is no doubt that this cowboy is riding to the top of the country chart.

Review: Sean McConnell “The Walk Around EP”

Occasionally, even a jaded music journalist is caught off guard. A few weeks ago, our business office received a rather average-looking EP from a new artist named Sean McConnell. On the cover of the EP, McConnell is wearing what appear to be vintage Ray-Bans and a facial expression that makes him seem somewhat aloof - almost like he's hiding something. After pumping up the volume and waiting to be underwhelmed, Sean McConnell's secret was revealed. The magic moment he opened up his mouth, Sean McConnell unleashed his massive lyrical and vocal skills.
The first track of Sean McConnell's “The Walk Around EP” is the terrific "Hold On" which begins with a quiet intensity and slowly builds to a crescendo worthy of the best country and rock musicians. The lyrics are bold, and the tune has a contemporary rock vibe with a great melody. McConnell's songwriting talent is mind-blowing upon first listen, but a little research shows that Sean McConnell has written songs for Meatloaf, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisely, Wade Bowen and the Randy Rogers Band. Plus, this Boston, Massachusetts native, who grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, comes from a family full of musicians.

The second track "Say, Say, Say" offers brilliant lyrics, and the vocal performance sparklingly channels a Nashville version of Gavin DeGraw. The title track "The Walk Around" is a country rock gem that is an ode to Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. It's sure to be a concert crowd-pleaser.

The biggest surprise of the EP is the passionate "Reckless Love." Sure, we just learned that Sean McConnell is a great songwriter and country rock singer, but ballads truly strip vocalists naked and allow listeners to fully examine the range of a singers' vocal abilities. "Reckless Love" proves that Sean McConnell has great chops. As we say in Texas, this guy can "saaang."

"Bob Dylan (They Say No)" is a more experimental Ben Folds/Jason Mraz-style cut that shows the more quirky side of Sean McConnell. This track could be a hit on college radio and even garner mainstream radio airplay as well.

Besides "Hold On," Sean McConnell's finest moment comes on the track "Our Love And Our Souls." McConnell, who has probably earned a good living writing songs for major major music acts, opens up his heart and lays bare his emotions about the true meaning of life: "Money is just money. It comes and it goes...Ain't nothing last forever, except our love and our souls."

"The Walk Around EP" is an exceptional musical study that gives a well-rounded glimpse of the complexities of Sean McConnell's diverse personality and musical talent. It takes some artists two or three box sets to give us as much heart and soul as Sean McConnell presents in only 23 minutes. Buy it. Or better yet, download it now and get a ticket to his live show when his busy tour schedule stops in your town.

Review: Adam Hood “Different Groove”

In the tradition of John Prine and Warren Zevon, Alabama native Adam Hood stands head and shoulders above the rest of the new crop of roots singer-songwriters. In fact, "Different Groove" illustrates Adam Hood's love affair with rock and country music treasures of the past while still breaking new artistic ground.
With ten studio tracks accompanied by a band and three acoustic cuts, Adam Hood's "Different Groove" starts out strong with the blues-infused country track "22 Days Too Long" and is followed by the love song "Shelly" which offers a unique Gavin DeGraw meets Darius Rucker vibe.

The biggest surprise on the album is the classic country track "Late Night Diner." This is an amazing nod by Adam Hood to the pioneers of country music. Indeed, the lyrics are thought provoking, and Hood's vocal performance is pitch-perfect. But the album's finest moment is the cut "Whole Town Talking." The track has beautiful instrumentation and feels as comfortable as your favorite old tennis shoes and as wonderful as ice-cold lemonade on a hot summer day.

The album's final three songs are the acoustic tracks "22 Days Too Long," "Different Groove," and "Fool Of An Honest Man." These songs provide a fitting conclusion for the album and leave you wishing you could hop in the car and drive all night to get to the next Adam Hood concert. In particular, "Fool Of An Honest Man" shows a new, more contemporary acoustic style for the artist, and the success of the track lies in his unique acoustic interpretation.

In these tough economic times, Adam Hood's music is comfort food for the soul. And with another three or four albums as good as this one, Adam Hood is bound to secure his place as a country music legend. No, this Alabama country boy doesn't need a different groove, because the one on display here is working just fine.

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