Exclusive Miranda Lambert MP3 & Video: "What Are You Gonna Do" & "White Liar"

Miranda Lambert just released her new album "Revolution." To celebrate the album's release, you can download the exclusive, non-album track "What Are You Gonna Do" free of charge. Plus, watch an exclusive acoustic performance of "White Liar."

"What Are You Gonna Do" is a beautiful traditional country ballad with elements of Miranda Lambert's hard-edged, signature country style. "What Are You Gonna Do" has a memorable melody and lush instrumentation. The free download will play on almost any MP3 player, including iPod and Zune. The offer is available for a limited time.

"White Liar" was written by Miranda Lambert with a friend, and she says it was influenced by the music of Buddy and Julie Miller along with other bluegrass musicians. The video is an upbeat feast for the ears and the eyes. You can watch the acoustic video of "White Liar" or buy the entire "Revolution" CD.

"Revolution" features fifteen classic country songs that will excite new listeners and thoroughly please old ones. Miranda Lambert has created a classic country album with "Revolution," and fans all across America will want to have the entire album after they hear the sizzling non-album track "What Are You Gonna Do" and watch the acoustic video performance of "White Liar" CountryChart.com

Review: Derek Sholl "Derek Sholl"

Derek Sholl's self-titled album "Derek Sholl" ttention he's been receiving over the last year or so. Indeed, the thirteen songs on "Derek Sholl" will thrill new listeners and be warmly embraced by Derek Sholl's growing legion of fans.

Chasing a dream is nothing new for the rising country music star. Before beginning his country music career, Derek Sholl was a success in his first career of professional baseball and signed with the Kansas City Royals. But a wild pitch on his first day with the team broke his knuckle, and Sholl began to serenade his fellow teammates with his authentic country songs.

Later, a fastball broke his arm, and a torn Achilles tendon finally ended his career in professional baseball. Because he started to entertain while he was on the injured list, his teammates urged Sholl to pursue a country music career. Derek Sholl found fast success by becoming the opening act for Jay Leno's Las Vegas shows. Leno is still a friend and fan of Sholl.

The album begins with the traditional country love song "Just Because You Can." Derek Sholl offers a sizzling vocal performance in this melodic country gem. "Just Because You Can" could be a mainstream country chart hit.

The current single "When They Come Back" discusses the challenges of military men and women returning from war, and it has received widespread press attention. Likewise, Derek Sholl has gone above and beyond the call of duty by offering his time for military charities. The song offers powerful lyrics and a storyline that touches the heart. Sholl's vocals show a passionate intensity that slowly builds to a rousing chorus.

The best song on the album is the terrific "But It Was." Derek Sholl knows how to produce a country ballad, and radio program managers should take notice of "But It Was." The track has a memorable chorus, and Sholl's subtle vocals perfectly compliment the heartfelt lyrics. "That Was Something" and "The Dash" also deserve attention from radio.

The biggest surprise on the album is "One More Round" which blends a traditional country style with elements of Texas country. Derek Sholl wrote "One More Round," with Tim Johnson, and the song illustrates his significant songwriting talent.

Derek Sholl's self-titled album "Derek Sholl" is a deeply personal musical offering that shows all sides of this rising country music star. "Derek Sholl" deserves a place in the music library of any country music fan who enjoys sincere vocals mixed with some of the best lyrics of any country album this year. CountryChart.com

Review: Zac Brown Band "The Foundation" Exclusive Cracker Barrel Special Edition With 3 Live Tracks

Don't be surprised if you get a few hunger pangs as you listen to the Zac Brown Band's Special Edition for Cracker Barrel of it's hit record "The Foundation."

To celebrate 40 years of homestyle cooking with dishes that include its famous meatloaf and chicken fried chicken, Cracker Barrel has joined forces with the Zac Brown Band. The partership is a natural fit: Cracker Barrel is America's top restaurant for southern cooking, and the Zac Brown Band is the music industry's most popular new group with the Billboard chart hit "Chicken Fried"

"The Foundation" Special Edition is available exclusively from the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store at Cracker Barrel restaurants nationwide and online at CrackerBarrel.com for only $11.99. It features the most recent #1 hit "Whatever It Is" as well as "Chicken Fried." But the special edition also offers three new live tracks, and they're not to be missed.

The first Cracker Barrel exclusive song is the melodic "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." This live cut captures all the country goodness of a Zac Brown Band concert. Listening to music this good will make you crave food that is equally tasty - like a Cracker Barrel takeout order of Chicken n' Dumplins.

"I Lost It" is a toe-tapping sing-along song that is a popular concert track for good reason. The harmonies of the Zac Brown Band have never sounded better. But the best exclusive track is "I Shall Be Released." The warm and sultry vocal performance sizzles.

"The Foundation" Cracker Barrel Special Edition also features "Where The Boat Leaves From," "Free," "Mary," "Different Kind Of Free," "Highway 20 Ride" and "It's Not OK."

With "The Foundation" Special Edition, Cracker Barrel and the Zac Brown Band have crafted a perfect musical recipe for success. Fans of the band will want to run - not walk - to the nearest Cracker Barrel to enjoy the delicious chicken fried chicken as well as the satisfying "Chicken Fried" music. CountryChart.com

Review: Kris Kristofferson "Closer To The Bone"

Kris Kristofferson never disappoints, and his new album is no exception. "Closer To The Bone" is the most intimate album of his career. It also might be his best.

Grammy award winning producer Don Was produced Kristofferson's last CD, and he also took the helm of "Closer To The Bone." Kris Kristofferson's new album proves that this legendary actor, singer/songwriter and outlaw has lost none of the passionate intensity that made him a star in the first place.

The album begins with the title track "Closer To The Bone," which reminds listeners of Kristofferson's Highwayman days. His voice has never sounded better, and Kris Kristofferson's songwriting talent is more than deserving of the BMI Icon Award he will receive later this fall.

The most personal track on the album is the quiet "From Here To Forever," which Kristofferson wrote for his children. It's a love song and tribute that any child would treasure for the rest of their life. "Hall Of Angels" also showcases Kristofferson's iconic voice, and the lyrics penetrate the soul.

The best song on the album is "Starlight And Stone," because it has a raw emotion that allows Kris Krisofferson to discuss his well-known hard-living ways in the form of a love song. The  lyrics also showcase his more vulnerable side. He sings" "Be who you are; just as long as you can. Know in your heart I'm still your man." The track "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" is also a terrific musical work.

The biggest surprise on the album is "Sister Sinead," which is an Americana gem with stripped-down instrumentation and wise words of advice in the lyrics. "Let The Walls Come Down" is a melodic sing-along song that works on all levels. Other successful tracks include "Good Morning John," "Tell Me One More Time" and "Holy Woman."

Kris Kristofferson and producer Don Was deserve high praise for creating a classic album that transcends musical genres. The heartfelt lyrics and warm vocal performance by Kristofferson on "Closer To The Bone" make this one of the best albums of the year.

On the album cover, Kristofferson is shown wearing a black shirt with his right hand resting casually on his guitar. He's also wearing a very satisfied smile. You'll be wearing the same satisfied expression every time you listen to "Closer To The Bone." CountryChart.com

Review: The Avett Brothers "I And Love And You"

The Avett Brothers offer satisfying performances with heartfelt lyrics on "I And Love And You." Seth and Scott Avett's unique fusion of Americana and roots along with the capable skills of famed producer Rick Rubin make this the band's best album to date.

The Avett Brothers didn't start out to be the saviors of Americana music, and the brothers developed their signature sound after a not-so successful foray into hard rock music. But these grandsons of a Methodist pastor soon found their calling with a sound that blends elements of rock with bluegrass and country. They have been touring on the indie music scene for more than decade, and "I And Love And You" is The Avett Brothers major label debut on American Recordings/Columbia Records.

The album begins with the hauntingly beautiful title track "I And Love And You." The Avett Brothers offer penetrating lyrics and lush instrumentation. The song has an anthemic quality, and the vocal performance is authentic and sincere. "January Wedding" is a simple, bluegrass love song that builds to a rousing crescendo.

The Avett Brothers rock music background is showcased on "Head Full Of Doubt /  Road Full of Promise." The melody is memorable, and, once again, the musicianship perfectly compliments the vocal performance and lyrics.

The biggest surprise on the album is the rockin' "Slight Figure Of Speech." which takes rock, country and even rap music influences to create an addictive and fun cut. "Kick Drum Heart," "Tin Man" and the Beatles-esque track "And It Spread" are also album surprises that work on all levels. The ethereal "Laundry Room" also deserves special mention.

The best song on "I And Love And You" is the album's final track "Incomplete And Insecure." This song  is complete musical bliss, and this is the recording The Avett Brothers were born to make. The lyrics tackle the deep unspoken insecurities faced by people every day. It deserves to be a major radio chart hit. The next best song is "It Goes On And On," which could be an AC or rock chart hit.

The Avett Brothers know how to craft the perfect ballad, and "The Perfect Space" is a sentimental song that makes the listener reflect on their past and future. "Ten Thousand Words" is a stripped-down song with a powerful message, and "Ill With Want" showcases the band's brilliant vocals.

The Avett Brothers and producer Rick Rubin have created a musical masterpiece with "I And Love And You." Seth and Scott Avett have made the album of their career and it is a love letter to their fans. Take the word "and" out of the title and you get: "I And Love And You." Indeed, this is one love letter you'll never grow tired of reading. CountryChart.com

Review: James McMurtry "Live In Europe" CD & DVD

Live albums are a mixed bag. Usually, they're either not-so-good or somewhat mediocre. However, James McMurtry's new CD & DVD "Live In Europe" defies expectations. It's a barnburner from beginning to end. This is the first time fans can purchase video footage of James McMurtry, and the two discs  - clocking in at about 40 minutes each - share only two of the same songs. So it's a great value.

Actually, the success of "Live In Europe" should not be that big of a surprise, because James McMurtry's terrific 2004 release "Live In Aught-Three" proved that he knew how to make a successful live album, but "Live In Europe" even trumps the 2004 release because of his sincere vocal performance.

The CD begins with the rockin' "Bayou Torture" and is followed by the new classic "Just Us Kids." James McMurtry's live version of "Just Us Kids" shows a new side of the track, and his passionate intensity is on full display.

"Hurricane Party" has beautiful instrumentation that eloquently showcases McMurtry's lyrics, and it's the best moment for the band. But the CD's biggest surprise is "Fraulein O," which was especially well received by European audiences. "Live In Europe" was recorded in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Geislingen, Germany. The best performances from these two locations were used for the album and DVD.

The CD's best track is "You'd A' Thought (Leonard Cohen Must Die)." The song is perfect in almost every way, and it's also one of James McMurtry's best performances on any live or studio album. "Ruby And Carlos" showcases James McMurtry as a world-class storyteller. The rest of the CD is a rollicking good time with the upbeat cuts "Restless" and "Freeway View."

The DVD includes an almost ten-minute version of "Choctaw Bingo" and an amazing live performance of "We Can't Make It Here." Jon Lee Graham joins McMurtry on "Laredo" and the DVD is rounded out by an extended version of "Too Long In The Wasteland." The production of the DVD is excellent and should please both new fans and old.

James McMurtry's "Live In Europe" is a towering achievement and sets a new standard for live Americana and country albums. Americana music aficionados are already hoping that a "Live In America" album is on the horizon. CountryChart.com

What's New: James McMurtry "Live In Europe" CD & DVD

James McMurtry's new CD & DVD set "Live In Europe" just arrived at the Country Chart office.  A special edition vinyl LP set is also available. Our full review of James McMurtry "Live In Europe" is coming soon.

From the press release:
James McMurtry’s recent studio albums, 2005’s Childish Things and 2008’s Just Us Kids, earned him formidable accolades. The Village Voice called him “a poet of the people.” Stephen King, writing in Entertainment Weekly, pronounced him “the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation.” 

Yet a lot of current McMurtry converts were introduced through the 2004 release Live in Aught-Three. Live albums aren’t typically greeted with rave reviews, but McMurtry’s rockin’ treatments of songs like “Choctaw Bingo” and “Out Here in the Middle” in concert made an uncanny translation to record. The Austin Chronicle proclaimed, “This is no-frills, freak-flag rock. Turn it up!” PopMatters called it “a snapshot of where McMurtry is now, [marking him] as a legitimate inheritor of the Texas songwriting tradition.”

Now, on October 13, 2009, Lightning Rod Records will release Live in Europe, a document of McMurtry’s first European tour, on which he was joined by keyboardist Ian McLagan and fellow Texas songwriting legend Jon Dee Graham. The set will be available as a CD with a bonus DVD, or as a deluxe vinyl LP package with a CD and DVD insert.

What's New: Derek Sholl "Derek Sholl"

Derek Sholl's new self-titled album "Derek Sholl" just arrived at the Country Chart office. The current, military-themed single "When They Come Back" is touching people all over the country. Our full review of Derek Sholl "Derek Sholl" is coming soon.

From the press release: 
 Sometimes it takes the rough hand of fate to send a man chasing his true calling in life. As a kid, Derek Sholl dreamed of making it to the big leagues, to feel the incredible power of a ball park cheering for his team, and to knock one into the cheap seats with the game on the line. A common dream, but uncommonly, it came true. Out of high school, this charismatic Southern Californian signed with the Kansas City Royals.

On his fist day as a pro, a wild pitch broke one of his knuckles. While on the injured list, he entertained his teammates by singing the country songs they loved to hear. He soon adopted the passion of the music he imitated, and could be found strumming a guitar in the dugout, doing his best impressions of Alan Jackson and Randy Travis.

Review: Mark McKinney "Middle America"

Mark McKinney's debut album "Get It On" was one of the best Texas country albums of the last few years. And let's be honest, most sophomore albums just don't quite cut it. But fans of the Big Spring, Texas native can rest easy, because "Middle America" is McKinney's best album yet. In fact, this new Red Dirt classic is going to be devoured like steak at the Sizzler by hardworking men and women not just in middle America, but up and down each coast and east and west of the Mississippi.

On the album cover, Mark McKinney looks every bit the Texas country star he's become, and "Middle America" shows his significant maturity as an artist. "Get It On" had four well-received country chart singles and "Middle America" could have more.

The album begins with the ferocious"On The Run," which is a classic southern rock anthem that could find a home on mainstream radio stations that spin Kid Rock records. "On The Run" is really the story of Mark McKinney's life over the last few years as a "twenty-first century cowboy on the run" who often wishes he was back home.

The current single "Middle America" is a rockin' Texas country track that discusses the hard economic times facing blue collar men and women. "Trouble" is the hardest rockin' cut on the album, and the instrumentation from the band deserves special mention. "When You Get A Chance" offers hope for people having tough times and encourages people to make the most of a good opportunity.

The biggest surprises of the album are Mark McKinney's masterful country ballads. "Long Night Coming On" has a passionate intensity that is heightened by McKinney's authentic country voice that builds to a rousing crescendo at the end of the track. The production is flawless, and Mark McKinney has never sounded better. "Long Night Coming On" could be a mainstream Top 10 country hit. "Sleeping Alone Tonight" should also find chart success and offers a memorable chorus and superb lyrics.

"County Line" featuring Kevin Fowler is a whole lot of fun, because Fowler and McKinney have a good musical chemistry and sound like old friends having a good time. "Wasting Time" is a breezy song that should be released as a single next spring, and it could be a radio favorite during the summer of 2010.

The best song on "Middle America" is "As Good As It Gets." Mark McKinney fires on all cylinders in this mid-tempo Texas country gem with a terrific melody. Fans will also enjoy "Safe Place To Be Me," and "Highly Recommended" will be a popular, upbeat concert tune.

The eleven songs on "Middle America" represent a significant achievement for Mark McKinney, because he and his country music friends have crafted an album that will stand the test of time. If you want a good gift for the country boys and girls in your life, grab a few copies of Mark McKinney's new album. It can be your own country music stimulus package that's destined to lift the spirits of the fine folks in middle America and beyond. CountryChart.com

Review: Cracker “Sunrise In The Land Of Milk And Honey”

The rock and roll life must suit the hard-working members of Cracker, who have long been known as one of America's best bands. On Sunrise In The Land Of Milk And Honey," Cracker only enhances its already sterling musical reputation, and "Sunrise" is Cracker's best album in well over a decade.

The album begins with the spirited "Yalla Yalla (Let's Go)." Cracker only gets better as time goes by, and "Yalla Yalla" is a tasty musical treat. The upbeat mood continues with the stellar "Show Me How This Thing Works."

Cracker released "Turn On, Tune In Drop Out With Me" to radio with much success, and the song shows a new, more introspective side of Cracker that is immensely appealing. This track has alt-country and Americana appeal, and the sparkling lyrics and top notch vocal performance create a sizzling record. A full album of similar material would be a chart hit for Cracker.

The biggest surprise on the album is the punk and rock-n-roll influenced "Hand Me My Inhaler." Cracker flexes its country muscle with "Friends," which deserves to be released as a single to Texas country radio. It's a success on all levels with heartfelt lyrics, expert musicianship and an unforgettable appearance by Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers.

Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows joins Cracker for the hauntingly beautiful "Darling One." And John Doe helps give a punk edge to "We All Shine A Light." But the title track is the best song on the album, because it brings the band full circle to the inventive music that made Cracker famous in the 1990s.

"Sunrise In The Land Of Milk And Honey" proves that Cracker is back. The award-winning band has created an album full of diverse and entertaining songs that will delight current fans and create new ones. Rock and alt-country devotees often don't like to wake up too early, but this is one sunrise you won't want to miss.  CountryChart.com

Review: Tori Sparks “The Scorpion In The Story”

To call Tori Sparks sultry is a bit of an understatement, because Sparks is a beautiful musical firecracker that is bursting with raw, alt-country energy that is on full display with her new release "The Scorpion In The Story."

The album begins with the roots-infused "Tall Flowers," which has a great Lucinda Williams meets Shania Twain vibe. But the best song on the album is "Leaving Side Of Love." Tori Sparks sings the lyrics with passionate intensity and sincerity.

"The Scorpion In The Story" was conceived as a concept album, and Tori Sparks created a collection of experiences from her travels across North America and Europe. "Penny On A Rail" is the biggest surprise on the album, and it showcases the playful style of Tori Sparks.

"Merry Go-Round" is the song which offers the most fun, and Tori Sparks takes the listener on a ride they won't soon forget with a glorious vocal performance. "Little Wrecking Ball" is Sparks' best alt-country moment, and it proves she has a Alannah Myles-style rock edge that could be explored on future albums.

Tori Sparks has crafted an album that will surprise and delight listeners from beginning to end. "The Scorpion In The Story." gets better with each additional listen. You, too, will soon be sucked in by the seductive charms of Tori Sparks. CountryChart.com

Review: Tommy Webb Band “Heartland”

Tommy Webb has a beautiful and authentic bluegrass voice that is a breath of fresh air in the music industry. The Eastern Kentucky native's new release "Heartland" is a joyous celebration of life in the heartland of America, and it's an exciting and surprisingly satisfying musical adventure.

The album begins with a traditional country song "Teardrop Inn." This track showcases a brilliantly understated vocal performance from Tommy Webb combined with superb musicianship. In the tradition of Ricky Skaggs, Tommy Webb has significant crossover potential to have both country and bluegrass chart hits.

Tommy Webb's true Kentucky bluegrass roots are on full display with the toe-tapping "Everything You Do." Tommy Webb was born to make good music, and this song is one of his best. "A Hard Row To Hoe" from Webb's first album was included on "Heartland," and it was recently sent to radio where it was warmly received.

The biggest surprise on the album is the gospel track "River Of Jordan." The strong faith of Tommy Webb is clear on this cut, and it proves Tommy Webb should someday produce a full gospel album. Southern and country gospel audiences would eat it up like peach pie at a church social.The up and coming bluegrass star also has a great since of humor that is shown on "If It Weren't For Bluegrass Music (I'd Go Crazy)." But the best song on "Heartland" is the passionate "No Room Inside Your Heart." Tommy Webb sings with heightened intensity, and he clearly feels the lyrics on a deep level. Radio program managers should take note of "No Room Inside Your Heart."

The title track "Heartland" is a socially responsible song that has lyrics which highlight the plight of farmers in today's rough economic climate. The song says what farmers around the nation have been thinking over the last few years. "What Weren't You Thinking Of" also offers thought provoking lyrics in the form of a melancholy story.

Tommy Webb has received lots of praise from bluegrass aficionados over the past few years for good reason: He is one of the top new artists in a long time. Grammy voters are bound to soon take notice of this authentic troubadour from the "Heartland." CountryChart.com

Review: Pamela Danzy "Let Me Be Me"

Pamela Danzy is an Austin-based country singer who loves to perform, and her passionate delivery and strong country voice on "Let Me Be Me" have brought her many fans in Texas and beyond.

The album begins with John Hiatt's "Lovers Will." Danzy offers confident vocals and a passionate delivery. "Cryin' Days" is a Texas country-style song that delivers, but the best song on the album is "Save Me." This slow melodic gem shows the true caliber of Danzy's vocal talents.

"Your Love Stays With Me" showcases the crossover potential of Danzy. Country stars like Taylor Swift, LeAnn Rimes and Shania Twain have had success in both pop and country markets with tracks like "Your Love Stays With Me."

The biggest surprise on the album is "One Less Monkey," and it's a blues-infused musical treat, but the album ends with the terrific "When The Day Is Done." Pamela Danzy is at her best with slow, ballads that allow her to interpret the lyrics with her pure country voice.

"Let Me Be Me" proves that Pamela Danzy is a country artist ready to take on the world. CountryChart.com

Review: Richard Shindell “Not Far Now”

The world of folk and Americana music has missed Richard Shindell. You see, it's been more than five years since he last released an new project full of original songs. "Not Far Now" was worth the wait, because Richard Shindell's beautiful lyrics, lush instrumentation and quietly confident vocals have never sounded better.

Richard Shindell is a master storyteller who has a unique talent of telling compelling stories that are seemingly simple but often show deeper meaning upon repeated listens. He also brings new meaning to the songs of others as evidenced by his terrific 2007 covers album "South Of Delia."

The album begins with the country-infused "Parasol Ants," which offers a memorable melody and excellent lyrics. Richard Shindell the folksinger returns on the quiet "A Juggler Out In Traffic." It succeeds on all levels.

"One Man's Arkansas" is even better, and this track is a compelling tale about dishonest property developers. The serious topics continue with "State Of The Union" which chronicles alcohol addition, and the lyrics paint a crystal clear picture of the heartache involved in the process of attempting sobriety. "Bye Bye" and "Get Up Clara" also deserve special attention from listeners.

But the best song on the album is the beautiful "Gethsemani Goodbye." Richard Shindell has the voice of an angel, and his soaring vocals will fill up any room. The biggest surprise of the album is "Balloon Man" which offers a more pop/contemporary mix that suits Shindell's vocals perfectly. "Balloon Man" has an anthemic quality that makes it a perfect choice for radio stations. In fact, it should be already be in heavy rotation on Sirius-XM's Coffee House channel. "Mariana's Table" has many of the same qualities.

If Tracy Chapman and James Taylor had a love child, he might have the voice of Richard Shindell. That's a high compliment, indeed, but the praise is more than deserved. Richard Shindell is a musical presence who was born to entertain. "Not Far Now" is a triumph of the highest level, and any fan of Americana, folk or country music should run - not walk - to the nearest music store to buy this amazing album. We can only hope that a new Richard Shindell album will be released "not far" from now.  CountryChart.com

Review: Otis Taylor "Pentatonic Wars And Love Songs"

Otis Taylor has a full, rich voice so full of bluesy soul that it could melt butter, and Taylor's new release, "Pentatonic Wars And Love Songs," will also melt your heart.

Fans of roots and Americana music enjoy Otis Taylor because of his signature sound which emotes passion and intensity even in low-key tracks such as the album's first song "Looking For Some Heat." Otis Taylor feels the lyrics, and at some moments he channels Barry White with some blues-infused Americana. Plus, Taylor is an accomplished instrumentalist, and his skills on guitar are breathtaking.

Country fans may have first discovered Otis Taylor on "Recapturing The Banjo," which is his stellar 2008 release that examines the banjo's African roots. "Pentatonic Wars And Love Songs" takes an entirely new direction and explores all elements of love.

The biggest surprise on the album is the melodic and ethereal "Silver Dollar On My Head." Otis Taylor has never sounded better, and it's followed by the excellent "Lost My Guitar" and the enchanting "I'm Not Mysterious."

But the best track is the terrific "Country Boy, Girl" which features rich instrumentation and simple, but thought provoking lyrics. Another standout is "Sunday Morning" which offers vocals from Taylor's daughter, Cassie Taylor, as well as Otis Taylor's subtle musicianship.

"Mama's Best Friend" is a musical feast with a steady beat and heartfelt vocals. "Maybe Yeah," "If You Hope" and "Walk On Water" also deserve special attention. However, Otis Taylor is at his best with the stripped down "Dagger By My Side" and "Young Girl Down The Street."

Otis Taylor is an artist who knows how to make music that will make you feel emotions you didn't even know you had. Let's be honest, most people don't know what the word "pentatonic" means (the pentatonic scale is a musical scale with five pitches per octave). But that doesn't matter one bit, because Otis Taylor's "Pentatonic Wars And Love Songs" will make you feel some "pentatonic" passion deep in your soul. CountryChart.com

Review: Landon James Band "Like It Or Not"

The Landon James Band wants you to think that they don't care whether you like them or not. To prove the point, they put a man in a chicken suit with a corded leaf blower on the cover of "Like It Or Not." But it's hard not to like these country boys from New Braunfels, Texas.  After one listen to "Like It Or Not," you'll almost certainly be in the "like" - or maybe even the "love" - category.

The four members of the Landon James Band (Landon James, Mike Scholze, Brandon Lee Singleton & John Schaefer) are bursting with youthful Red Dirt enthusiasm that is infectious. "Like It Or Not" begins with the melodic "Writings On My Wall," which showcases James' clear country vocals.

The best track on the album is "Waiting To Be Found," which offers penetrating lyrics similar to the Randy Rogers Band and a passionate performance from Landon James. But the best chance for country chart success is the hard driving title track "Like It Or Not." Radio program managers will eat this song up like pizza at a school lunch counter.

The cut "Try" is an authentic Red Dirt track that shows a more mature side of the Landon James Band with its fine instrumentation and thoughtful lyrics. "Before You Missed Me" is another track with Texas chart potential, and it has a great melodic chorus.

"Last Shot" is a southern rock track that showcases the instrumentation of the band better than any other cut, and the album ends with the blues-infused "Blues Kickin' Blues." Concertgoers will be crazy about this hard, Texas country party song.

The members of the Landon James Band are just on the cusp of major country chart success, and "Like It Or Not" is a giant leap on the ladder of success. The fact that a man in a chicken suit is the one climbing the ladder makes the album's success even more interesting. CountryChart.com

Review: Hunter McKithan & The Offenders "Lee Road Sessions"

Hunter McKithan & The Offenders have managed to have a successful Texas country career in just a few short years since their 2007 debut release, "Shape Of It All." And "Lee Road Sessions" continues the upward trajectory of an an artist who never fails to impress.

The five song EP begins with the rockin' "Nowhere To Go," which showcases the authentic southern rock voice of Hunter McKithan. It's followed by the melodic "Momma Save Me," which deserves to be a major Texas country chart hit. Hunter McKithan & The Offenders deliver a near-flawless performance with great lyrics written by McKithan and Shawn Camfield.

The pace slows down with the love song "Back To You" written by McKithan and Jason Nelson. This track oozes Red Dirt passion. "Solid Ground" has a great Wade Bowen meets Johnny Cooper vibe that succeeds on all levels.

The biggest surprise on the album is "Baby Roll On," and the fine musicianship of The Offenders deserves special attention. Likewise, Hunter McKithan's vocals have never sounded better.

"Lee Road Sessions" is a triumph of Red Dirt musical skill for Hunter McKithan & The Offenders. Plus, for a recording that costs less than five dollars, it's the best bargain of the year. Indeed, "Lee Road" is a place you'll want to visit again and again. CountryChart.com

Review: Jeremy Steding "A Damn Good Ride"

Jeremy Steding has a deep, rich country voice that evokes memories of country music stars like Johnny Cash. It takes supreme confidence to title your album "A Damn Good Ride," but Jeremy Steding pulls it off.

The album begins with the title track "A Damn Good Ride" which has a winning Josh Turner meets Johnny Cash sound that will be popular with both Texas country and traditional country music aficionados.  "Can't Slow Me Down" is a tasty country treat that will be one of Jeremy Steding's most popular songs at live concerts.

Jeremy Steding started out on the Texas music scene in April, 2007 with his self-produced album "Whiskey Songs And Prison Songs." Without the help of professional radio promoters, Steding's single "Auburn" became a hit on the Texas Music Chart. Thankfully, "Auburn" is included on "A Damn Good Ride." This song could still be a major mainstream country chart hit.

The best song on the album is "Let The Band Drink Whiskey" which begins with a beautiful "Dixieland" intro. Jeremy Steding gives a remarkably nuanced and understated vocal performance with passionate intensity

The upbeat "The Day To Day, Today" is perfect for America's tough economic times and shines a bright light on the financial problems facing hardworking men and women without dwelling too much on the negative. "The Sand Panther Medicine Show" and "South Texas Blues" also deserve special mention for providing upbeat traditional country lyrics and musicianship.

The biggest surprise on the album is the terrific "A Long Drive Home" which mixes Jeremy Steding's signature style with elements reminiscent of Marty Robbins and Lyle Lovett. "Can You Teach Me How To Dance" and "One Way Ticket" are tender Red Dirt love songs that work on all levels

Jeremy Steding wrote every song on a "A Damn Good Ride," and it proves that he's a remarkably well-rounded songwriter who is equally comfortable with all facets of Texas country music. In fact, Jeremy Steding's unique brand of classic country melodies with a Red Dirt edge is one ride you don't want to miss.  CountryChart.com

Review: Meat Raffle Road “Eaten By Crows”

Meat Raffle Road's music really isn't alt-country. In fact, it's probably best described as "alt-alt-country" or post-punk Americana. Whatever you want to call it, Meat Raffle Road's debut album "Eaten By Crows" is "awful good eating" to borrow a country phrase. No, it's not exactly pot roast at Sunday lunch. Its more akin to fried frog legs at your second cousin's house. Delicious, but different.

Reverend Horton Heat blazed the trail for punk and ska bands to more seriously embrace elements of country music, and the two members of Meat Raffle Road have taken their long background in punk and combined it with the roots and Americana music of their childhood to create a new genre of country - a punk-country fusion that is both trailblazing and startling with added elements of humor.

The album begins with the dark, ethereal "Thunder God," and it's followed by the best song on the project, the title track "Eaten By Crows." The vocal performance is subdued and perfectly suits the stirring lyrics. But let's be honest, the music of Meat Raffle Road is meant for good times, and these guys know how to party.

Songs like "Flavor Flav," "Pacifist Jew" and "A**hole 'gainst A**hole" push the limits of country music. Even though the latter track offers racy, radio unfriendly expletives in the lyrics, it's the best example of a true fusion of hardcore punk and alt-country. Unbelievably, "A**hole 'gainst A**hole" is a major success. Likewise, the sing-along anthem, "Sh**faced," is another winner. Against all odds, "Sh**faced" is an infectious, traditional country gem.

The biggest surprise on the album is Meat Raffle Road's ultra-unique stab at a love song titled "Tossing And Turning (For You)." These post-punksters know how to create a melody, and the chorus of this track is terrific.

Meat Raffle Road is probably a band you'll either love or hate. But the band's songwriting talent and consistently memorable melodies cannot be ignored. These punk rockers turned country boys have the talent to create a follow-up album with country chart hits in the vein of Big & Rich. Indeed, Meat Raffle Road is a band to watch. There's something big in this band's future - whether it involves a penthouse or a penitentiary is the only question left to answer. CountryChart.com

Review: Drew Tichnell “Within My Soul”

Drew Tichnell is a beautiful blonde country singer in her early twenties. While these qualities may seem like a winning formula for country music success, Nashville is littered with attractive women who've tried and failed to land a big break. However, Drew Tichnell is different. This East Texas native is one of the few up-and-coming female country vocalists that could boast a catalog of more than 100 songs before the age of 21.

Tichnell, who released the album "Within My Soul" in 2008, is a loving mother to identical twin daughters, and she's been performing in the Austin area for several years with her five-piece band. Most importantly, Drew Tichnell has a unique voice that can best be described as southern rock meets Texas country. With a surprisingly rich, country rock voice and immense songwriting talent, Drew Tichnell could be the next big thing in country music.

Tichnell is in pre-production for her new album, which will probably be released sometime in 2010. But her album "Within My Soul" deserves a second look by radio program managers and record company songwriting talent scouts. With a tighter mix and minus the vocal runs, the melodic "Long Helpless Fight" could be a mainstream country #1 hit for either Tichnell or another top female country artist. The memorable and powerful chorus penetrates the soul.

"Goin' Out Tonight" also has radio chart potential, and it's a song that should be on country radio playlists every Friday and Saturday night. "Let It Go" is another fine display of Drew Tichnell's songwriting talent. The lyrics are amazingly mature for someone so young, and the sound of "Let It Go" can be best described as Colbie Callait meets Carrie Underwood. With the nation's tough economic times and rampant job layoffs, "Let It Go" offers a poignant message that is relevant in today's social climate.
Motherhood came for Drew Tichnell after the release of "Within My Soul," and this new life experience should provide wonderful songwriting material. However, "Within My Soul" is a success, because it proves that Drew Tichnell has heart and God-given raw talent. This is the stuff stars are made of. So remember the name Drew Tichnell. You'll be hearing it again soon. CountryChart.com 

Review: Phil Lee “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You”

Phil Lee has had a long professional career in the music business. He began as a drummer in the 1960s and has performed with everybody who's anybody over the last few decades. But Phil Lee has had no finer moment than his terrific new album, "So Long, It's Been Good To Know You."

On the album, Phil Lee is sometimes a sardonic, rockabilly Bob Dylan. In other moments, he's a country Tom Petty performing his unique lyrics with a wink and a nod. However, Lee's best asset is his signature sound and authentic country voice that never fails to impress. This is an artist who could sing your third grader's book report and make it sound like an Americana classic.

The album begins with the personal story "25 Mexicans" and is followed by "Sonny George" which has a winning Chris Knight meets Charlie Daniels vibe. But the biggest surprise of the album is "We Cannot Be Friends Anymore," which has a big sound and lyrics that paint a vivid picture of a relationship gone bad.

The best song on the album is the country gem, "Last Year, Pt. 2 (Killing Time)." If there was any doubt that Phil Lee is a country boy, this track proves it. Moreover, the track could and should be a major Texas country and Americana radio chart hit. Phil Lee's vocals have never sounded better, the production is crisp and the melody is extraordinarily memorable.

The serious side of Phil Lee is illustrated with the tender "I Hope Love Always Knows Your Name" which is one of the most beautiful Americana songs recorded in the last few years. Radio programmers should take particular notice of "I Hope Love Always Knows Your Name," because listeners will eat it up like peach pie at a church social.
Phil Lee has created a rich and vibrant album that is successful on all levels. Plus, Lee's uniquely wonderful voice is the perfect instrument for the fine lyrics which offer new insights upon each additional listen. "So Long, It's Been Good To Know You" is the album Phil Lee was born to make. Hopefully, the title of the album is not a goodbye to his many fans, because it is way too early to say "so long" to Phil Lee. CountryChart.com

Review: D.C. Bloom “Simpler Times A Wastin’”

D.C. Bloom has a way with words. However, to fully understand his music you first have to know that this former FBI speechwriter left Washington, DC for the rolling hills of Texas late in life.

"Simpler Times A Wastin'" is D.C. Bloom's debut album, and his lyrical prose and passionate love of music shines through on every track. Indeed, Bloom often quotes Bonanza's Hoss Cartwright, "It's better to bloom late than to never bloom at all."

D.C. Bloom has a traditional country sound mixed with a little mischievous fun in his superb lyrics. "Simpler Times A Wastin'" starts off strong with with the melodic "Acres To Plow," which showcases Bloom's harmonies with Terri Hendrix along with Texas music legend Lloyd Maines on steel guitar.

The biggest surprise of the album is the tender "Precious Memories." It's evident that D.C. Bloom feels the power of his faith in the lyrics while he remembers his childhood and beloved family members who have already passed.

The most fun on "Simpler Times A Wasting" is the humorously titled "Headturner From Texarkana," which provides shout-outs to many fine cities in East Texas and Central and Southern Arkansas. This song will be a definite crowd-pleaser. D.C. Bloom's true strength lies in his interesting, intelligent lyrics, and this singer-songwriter is a born entertainer who loves country music at the core of his being.

"Simpler Times A Wastin'" is not a slick, pre-fab Nashville album. It's just good, old-fashioned country music with a little bit of humor in the mix. Here's hoping D.C. Bloom provides us with at least another album (or two) that makes us sit back and say: "Ah, for the simpler times." CountryChart.com 

Review: Spring Creek "Way Up On A Mountain"

"Way Up On A Mountain" proves that Spring Creek is the best new band in bluegrass music.  In fact, the Lyons, Colorado-based group has crafted an album that showcases near-perfect harmonies and the best picking of any up-and-coming bluegrass band in recent memory.

The project starts out strong with the title track  and current single "My Love Is Way Up On A Mountain." This cut is well deserving of all the radio airplay it has received. However, the best song on the album is "Tangled In The Pines" which vividly illustrates the band's stellar vocal talents and fine instrumentation.

The biggest surprise is the throwback "Lonesome Town." This song will make you want to sit on the porch, put your feet up and remember days gone by. However, the hard-driving "In Despair" will actually improve your spirits if you're feeling blue, because it offers fast-paced lyrics and upbeat music that succeeds on all levels.

Spring Creek was the only group to ever win the band competitions at RockyGrass and Telluride in the same year (2007), and "Way Up On A Mountain" shows that this was no fluke. That's because Spring Creek is one of the most talented bluegrass bands in America, and songs like "'Til You Come Back To Me" and "Under The Gun" are consistent with a mastery of musical skills that is virtually unheard of among new bands taking the national stage.

Plain and simple, "Way Up On A Mountain" is a must-buy for any fan of bluegrass. It's impossible to not be captivated by the musical charms of Spring Creek, a band whose time has come. CountryChart.com

Review: Owen Temple “Dollars And Dimes”

Owen Temple has created a Texas country masterwork with "Dollars And Dimes." This gritty concept album comprised of eleven songs is perfectly tuned to the tough economic times facing Americans today.

The success of "Dollars And Dimes" is due in large part to the perfect, low key vocal performance of Temple combined with masterful lyrics reminiscent of the best songs of Chris Knight. Indeed, Owen Temple is the working man's Tom Petty.

The best three songs on the album are the first track "Broken Heart Land," the reflective "Golden Age" and the melodic "Black Diamond." In particular, "Broken Heart Land" has all the ingredients for a Texas country chart hit with brilliant lyrics and a memorable melody.

The rockin' "I Don't Want To Do What I Do" is the biggest surprise of the album, and it shows the harder edge of Owen Temple that will be a popular at live concerts. "City Of The King" also has radio chart potential that successfully blends a bluesy vibe with Texas country. The title track "Dollars And Dimes" and the final cut "Winnipeg Waltz" also deserve special attention and offer heartfelt lyrics.

As a concept album, Owen Temple has hit the ball out of the park, because "Dollars And Dimes" is an album that is both socially and musically relevant. It deserves a prominent place in the music collection of anyone who appreciates quality Americana, Folk or Texas country music. With an album this good, Owen Temple deserves to make enough "dollars and dimes" to allow him to continue making music for the next few decades or so. CountryChart.com

Review: James Hand "Shadow On The Ground"

If you're tired of over-produced country music that sounds like it should be on the pop charts instead of the country charts, then you'll love Waco, Texas native James Hand's stellar new album "Shadow On The Ground." James Hand is an authentic country musician in the tradition of Hank Williams, and his album will remind you why you became a fan of country music in the first place.

James "Slim" Hand is a Texan through and through, and his heartachingly real depiction of country life will surprise and delight you. Hand's debut national release in 2006 at age 53 ("The Truth Will Set You Free" on Rounder Records) was a landmark in Texas music, and it gave hope to every Lone Star musician waiting for their moment to arrive. Before taking the national stage, James Hand began singing in honky tonks at age 12, but he had to find work as a truck driver, rodeo rider and horse trainer to earn additional money.

All the hard work paid off with "Shadow On The Ground." James Hand has never sounded better, and the album starts off strong with the traditional country track "Don't Want Me Too." This cut will make you want to break out in a great big country smile, and it's followed by the album's biggest surprise, the classic "Mona Lisa."

Co-produced by Asleep At The Wheel's Ray Benson and Texas music legend Lloyd Maines, the production on "Shadow On The Ground" is flawless. The best song on the album is "Midnight Run," which showcases James Hand's pure, authentic country voice. It's followed by the terrific "Leaving For Good" which should be a country chart hit.

James Hand doesn't just sing - he creates Americana musical art with passion and intensity. After listening just once to "Shadow On The Ground," you'll instantly know that this album will never leave your truck's CD player, and you won't be able to resist telling all your friends about it. In these days of iPhones, social media and fast food on every corner,  James Hand's music will make you want to take the day off and enjoy a night with your wife under the stars. You can't offer any higher praise for an album than that. CountryChart.co

Review: Steve Azar "Slide On Over Here"

Steve Azar has produced the best  album of his career with "Slide On Over Here," which offers meaningful, soul-searching songs along with other tracks just meant for good times. The Greenville, Mississippi native recently settled into a new home a few miles south of Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and three kids that includes a home recording studio. No doubt, his stable family life and easy studio access helped Steve Azar create an album that is a true country gem.

"Slide On Over Here" starts off strong with the melodic track "I'll Find Me," and Azar tackles the nation's financial crisis with his current single, the rockin' "Moo La Moo." Two other hard-driving tracks, "Sinkin' Or Swimmin' (With You)" and "Sweet Delta Chains," also deserve special mention.

However, Steve Azar's star shines the brightest on his most tender tracks, such as "Sunshine," "Take Your Time (Ryan's Song)," "Beautiful Regret" and the excellent "Back To Memphis." But the best song on the album is the beautiful ballad "All I Need," which should be released as a single. Azar's voice has never sounded better, and "All I Need" has all of Steve Azar's charm mixed with a Texas country edge reminiscent of the best songs of Robert Earl Keen and Jack Ingram. "All I Need" should be a major country chart hit.

The track "Hard Road" shows a different side of Steve Azar with a traditional country sound combined with a small dose of the alt-country style common in Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yoakam's music. "Startin' Today" is a song that will strike a chord with everyone who promises to start dieting or quit smoking "starting today." Steve Azar offers a low-key vocal performance that adds resonance to the powerful lyrics.

"Let Go Of The Rope" gives Steve Azar the best chance to showcase the type of music that made him a country star. But the biggest surprise on the album is "Apart At The Seams." This track should also be released at the single, and country music radio will eat it up like donuts at a police station.

"Slide On Over Here" is a well-rounded, mature album that captures the heart and soul of average Americans mixed with a little bit of fun. The album is chock full of songs that will strike a chord with just about everyone. So "slide on over" to one of  Steve Azar's many concert appearances and give him a big pat on the back for releasing one of the best country albums of 2009. CountryChart.com

Review: Ricky Stein & The .44 “Crazy Days”

Ricky Stein's new album "Crazy Days" will sneak up on you like a few too many shots of whiskey.

The cover of "Crazy Days" shows Ricky Stein to be an average Texan with a relaxed expression, windswept hair, checked shirt, jeans and boots. However, the album will catch you off guard, because there's nothing common about the bluesy, country talent of 25-year-old Ricky Stein. And it's obvious that Stein has immersed himself in the wealth of live music found in his native Austin, Texas.

The album begins with the blues-infused "One And The Same," which illustrates that Ricky Stein can rock a concert stage. It's followed by the terrific "Don't Leave Me Hangin' On." But the album really comes into its own with the Americana track "Keap St (We've Come A Long Way)," which shows the musical influence of artists like Townes Van Zandt and the Traveling Wilburys. The music is infectious, and Stein's authentic vocal performance of the thought-provoking lyrics proves that this is the type of music Ricky Stein was born to make.

The biggest surprise on the album is the title track "Crazy Days." In a subtle and emotional performance, Ricky Stein reflects on his past and future. In fact, the song brings the concept of the album's cover art into full focus. You see, Ricky Stein is taking a personal moment to look for the meaning in his life, and the the title track offers intimate and intriguing musical moments that succeed mightily. Band members of The .44, including Phil Morris, Stuart Burns, Nathaniel Klugman and Josh Weinholt, also deserve special recognition.

At the end of the album, Ricky Stein ends his soul searching musical journey with the hopeful "We're Gonna Make It," which has particular resonance in these hard economic times. He sings: "Every day is a new disaster - always something that you gotta master." On "Crazy Days," it's clear that Ricky Stein has survived the storms of his life through the mastery of  his own unique style of bluesy Americana. And listening to Ricky Stein's "Crazy Days" is bound to lift your spirits, too. CountryChart.com

Review: Corb Lund "Losin' Lately Gambler"

Born to a family which boasts many generations of ranchers, Corb Lund is well-known in his native Canada for his classic country and western songs that each tell a compelling story. The Juno award winner has teamed with New West Records for his latest album, "Losin' Lately Gambler," and it's Corb Lund's best recorded work to date.

Listeners can easily connect to Corb Lund's lyrics that discuss true western topics such farming, ranching, riding steers and gambling. He even showcases the work of his veterinarian father on "Horse Doctor, Come Quick" and "Talkin' Veterinarian Blues." What makes Corb Lund special is that he writes honest lyrics that share he and his family's own experiences. This makes his contribution to Americana and country music entirely unique and wonderfully entertaining.

"Steer Rider's Blues" is a perfect example of Lund's considerable talent. The song is a detailed story of a young steer rider whose only desire is to ride a bull. In the hands of a lesser artist and songwriter, this story could fall flat. However, Corb Lund paints a brilliantly woven picture with his penetrating lyrics and engaging vocal performance.

The album's first single, "A Game In Town Like This," is the best song on the album. In fact, it's a country and western masterpiece with a highly memorable melody, and Corb Lund's voice on the track is laid back and never forced. His authenticity as a citizen of rural Southern Alberta shines through, and the song deserves to be a hit on both the Americana and country music charts.

Lund's talents as a lyricist extend to his interesting song titles. The hummable "It's Hard To Keep A White Shirt Clean" is a revelation for its sheer simplicity, and "Devil's Best Dress" has a great Marty Robbins style. The biggest surprise on the album is "This Is My Prairie," which is a reflective and serious song about real-life problems facing people who work on the land.

While Corb Lund is well-known in his native Canada, he has yet to become a household name in the US. But that's about to change. With his classic western sound, a pure country voice and effortless mastery of song lyrics on "Losin' Lately Gambler," Corb Lund is destined for great things. "Losing" has never sounded so good. CountryChart.com

Taylor Swift Releases Fearless Platinum Edition With 6 New Songs & DVD

Taylor Swift has released the follow-up her bestselling album "Fearless" with an all-new special edition titled "Fearless: Platinum Edition." The special edition CD/DVD dual set includes 6 new songs and a DVD filled with photos and extra features. "Fearless" has been a fixture on the Billboard country charts and has already sold more than 4 million copies. In  total, Taylor Swift has sold more than 10 million albums.

"Fearless Platinum Edition" contains new music and video extras, including exclusive new behind-the-scenes photos shot by Taylor’s brother (Austin K. Swift), new music from Taylor and her video collaboration with T-Pain on “Thug Story.”

“Taylor’s fans have an incredible appetite for her new music and her ongoing life experiences," said Big Machine Records President Scott Borchetta . "The two million-plus fans who bought Fearless within weeks of release last year are screaming for new Taylor music, and Taylor has delivered.”

Swift's huge fan-base will enjoy "Fearless: Platinum Edition." for its new songs and special features. “There are six new songs, all of the videos from all of the hit singles, a beautiful new collector cover, over fifty new photographs from the Fearless Tour 2009, tons of new Taylor video footage," Borchetta said.  "The fans are going to love this.” 

Taylor Swift’s Fearless Platinum Edition includes:
CD (new tracks notated with **)
1. Jump Then Fall **
2. Untouchable **
3. Forever & Always (Piano Version) **
4. Come In With The Rain **
5. SuperStar **
6. The Other Side Of The Door **
7. Fearless 
8. Fifteen
9. Love Story
10. Hey Stephen
11. White Horse
12. You Belong With Me
13. Breathe 
14. Tell Me Why
15. You're Not Sorry
16. The Way I Loved You
17. Forever & Always
18. The Best Day
19. Change
DVD  (sequence not final)
1. “Change” Video
2. “Love Story” Video
3. “White Horse” Video
4. “The Best Day” Video
5. “You Belong With Me” Video
6. “Love Story” On The Set-Behind The Scenes
7. “White Horse” On The Set-Behind The Scenes
8. “You Belong With Me” On The Set-Behind The Scenes
9. FEARLESS 2009 TOUR Behind The Scenes exclusive photos; Photos courtesy of Austin K. Swift
10. FEARLESS 2009 TOUR Behind The Scenes at the First Show webisode
11. “Thug Story” Video

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