Howard Stern Writes Country Song

Radio personality Howard Stern came up with a catchy country tune on his Sirius-XM radio show "The Howard Stern Show."

While discussing former NBC head Grant Tinker (who fired Stern from radio), the radio titan called Tinker a "Country Club A**hole" and sang it several times with a memorable melody. He predicted it could be a major music chart hit. He could be right. Indeed, any country artist would be advised to pick up the challenge and take the song to the charts.

Stern has a history of discussing country music personalities in provocative ways, and he does not shy away from controversy. He recently suggested that country music star and former American Idol alum Carrie Underwood was too self-important and should be more humble.

However, Howard Stern is the King Of All Media for good reason, and his idea for a song titled "Country Club A**hole" would definitely be a barnburner that could turn into a major country music chart hit.

Album Review: Susan Cowsill "Lighthouse"

Susan Cowsill has one of the most wonderfully unique female voices in music today. Thankfully, she decided to record a follow-up to her 2005 solo debut ("Just Believe It") with the new album "Lighthouse" on Threadhead Records.
Of course, Susan Cowsill is best known for her work with The Cowsills. But "Lighthouse" shows Susan Cowsill as a multi-dimensional solo artist with diverse musical influences. The album begins with the hummable "Dragon Flys." Cowsill's vocals have never sounded better.

"Avenue Of The Indians" is a reimagining of traditional cowboy country songs that hits on all cylinders. "You And Me Baby" is another track that can be embraced by country audiences. It's a tender love song that exudes emotion. Next, the album's beat picks up with the contemporary "River Of Love."

"Sweet Bitter End" offers a beautiful, bluesy vocal performance with uplifting lyrics. The song highlights the survivor mentality of Cowsill after she encountered the horrors of being displaced by Hurricane Katrina and the deaths of her brothers Billy and Barry. She also addresses the tragedy of Katrina with great effect on "ONOLA."

However, "Lighthouse" really hits its stride with the quiet title track. The lyrics of "Lighthouse" pierce the heart, and the ethereal instrumentation is perfect. If you close your eyes while listening to "Lighthouse," you can feel the penetrating emotion pouring through Susan Cowsill's veins. This is an intimate musical treasure.

"Galveston" offers a new side of Susan Cowsill that can best be described as a blend of the finest music of Amy Grant and Shaun Colvin. "The Way That At Goes" and "Could This Be Home" have much of the same charm.

"Real Life" is the most commercially relevant track on the album. It has a cool vibe that is immensely popular on radio today that program managers should warmly embrace. "Real Life" deserves a wide audience and will win Susan Cowsill new fans. It has an uplifting quality that lifts the listener and builds to a rousing chorus. The final track "Crescent City Sneaux" is the album's biggest surprise. It is a reflective, quietly confident gem that ends with a bold and energetic singalong.

Susan Cowsill has created an understated musical masterpiece with her heartfelt album "Lighthouse." When taken as a whole, it's almost as if Cowsill penned a series of twelve private and confidential letters - meant only for you. This is a "Lighthouse" meant for one, and it's a beautiful place to be.

Review: Brandon Rhyder "Head Above Water"

Brandon Rhyder has been known for solid Red Dirt standards that stand the test of time. Now, the Austin, Texas country singer is ready to spread his wings and see if Texas country fans are willing to accept a bold concept album. Yes, Rhyder has made a major career departure with "Head Above Water." But the proof is in the pudding, and it still tastes darn good.
The album begins with a bold, radio-ready anthem "Rock Angel." However,  the album comes into its own with the hummable "You Can Count On Me." Rhyder channels his inner Rob Thomas to create a track that audiences from all genres will find irresistible.

"You Burn Me" is a Roy Orbison-style song that offers a pulsating beat and notably intense lyrics. However, the best song on the album is "Like It Was The Last Time." The song builds to a rousing crescendo with a cool Darius Rucker vibe. "Like It Was The Last Time" could be a mainstream country chart hit for Brandon Rhyder and deserves a wide audience. Moreover, the ballad "Battery" is another potential country chart hit that highlights Rhyder's terrific songwriting skills.

"I'll Take You" plows more familiar Texas country ground, and is pleasing on all levels. However, the purest country track on the album is "It's The Country That Saves Me." It's a winner that concert audiences will lap up faster than Budweiser on a Saturday night. "Breathe" should also get crowds going.

The tender "Last Swan Song" is a contemporary country masterpiece. "Ultimate Deceiver" offers many of the same positive traits as the latter cut, and Brandon Rhyder's vocals have never sounded better. "You Like Me Again" also deserves special listener attention.

The title track "Head Above Water" is the album's biggest surprise. It is a multi-genre, ethereal musical treat that showcases Brandon Rhyder as a true artist worthy of attention from mainstream music press of all genres. In addition, the album's cover art (by Pixel Peach) is amazing, and it hints at the unique musical package waiting for listeners.

Finally, the album has a toe-tapping hidden track that will evoke strong opinions - both pro and con. It's titled "Queen Of My Roost," and it's quirky, inventive and fun. Rhyder deserves credit for pushing the envelope in his musical performance and songwriting.

Brandon Rhyder's "Head Above Water" is a thought provoking and melodic album that will make you rewrite all of your preconceived notions about Red Dirt music. With an album as interesting as this, Rhyder can rest assured that he's kept his musical career above water. But it may be a sign that he's floating around looking for a bigger pond. Or maybe he's just trying to make us wonder what he's going to do next. If so, it worked.

Album Review: RayTaylorSounds "Country Birthday Song Album" Featuring Cal Baker & Rachael Williams With Songs By Ray Taylor

As a student of popular music while growing up in the San Francisco area, Ray Taylor attended concerts at the famous Fillmore Auditorium and was trained in classical music. As he progressed through life as a songwriter, Ray Taylor discovered country music. It's a good thing, because "Country Birthday Song Album" is proof that his decision to "turn country" was a smart one.
The album begins on an upbeat note with the terrific "What Can I Do" performed by Rachael Williams. She sings Taylor's authentic country lyrics with conviction. Close your eyes, and you'll think you're at the Grand Ole Opry.

However, the main attraction on the album is the title cut: "Country Birthday Song." Cal Baker has a soothing country voice with a laid-back style that showcases Ray Taylor's music to its fullest. The album offers a female version of the song by Rachael Williams as a bonus cut, and her performance offers the song from a new perspective that works.

Baker gives a tender performance with "Loving Bev." It is a touching tribute that any woman would be flattered to receive. Baker also offers a traditional country and western performance on the cowboy song "My Sweet Texas Bed."

The biggest surprise on the album is "Designer Girl." In fact, this song could find a willing radio audience, and program managers should consider this track for their playlists.

Ray Taylor's songs are performed with conviction and ease by two accomplished singers who understand and properly interpret Taylor's lyrics. Indeed, anybody having a birthday should have a copy of "Country Birthday Song Album."

Album Review: The Brison Bursey Band "Expectations And Parking Lots"

 A quick glance at the cover art of  "Expectations And Parking Lots" shows a solitary double parking meter in front of a weathered wall that could come from any small town in the USA. Neither the front cover art or back cover give listeners a clue that The Brison Bursey Band are actually a carefree group of country boys with the cohesive sound of a band twice its age. Indeed, the low expectations give way to a delicious surprise (and a big musical payoff) with "Expectations And Parking Lots."
The album begins with the laid-back, Wade Bowen-esque "Solid Ground." It's followed by the stellar "Hearts To Break" which offers penetrating lyrics and a killer melodic hook courtesy of songwriters Bursey and band member Justin Tocket.

Brison Bursey grew up about 80 miles from Wichita in a small town named Quanah. And Bursey's early beginnings in a "yes, ma'am" and "no, sir" town was the perfect All American upbringing for the singer-songwriter. He became active in FFA, music and Texas high school football, and Quanah also allowed him to see modern country life from top to bottom. This resulted in his most notable achievement - creating the Brison Bursey Band with friends Robert Morton, Justin Moore, Derek Watkins and Justin Tocket.

The third song on the album takes a new and interesting direction with "California Can." The Brison Bursey Band (or BBB as fans call them) showcase a unique blend that is reminiscent of a brilliant mixture of The Fray and Mickey And The Motorcars. However, the best song on the album comes next with "Look At You Now (Wedding Gown)." It is a surprisingly touching love song that will tug at the heartstrings of every female fan (and probably a few sensitive males, too).

"Save Me" is a contemporary country gem that builds to a heartfelt chorus which reminds us of friends and even well-known celebrities (such as Lindsay Lohan and Tiger Woods) who seem to be destroying their lives with a wide range of addictions and self-destructive behavior.

"Walking Away" offers a great vocal performance and might be the perfect choice for a summer 2010 radio single. It could very well be a Texas country chart hit. If Uncle Kracker recorded Red Dirt music, he might just choose "Walking Away." The anthemic "It Ain't Always Easy," "I've Been Waiting" and "Some Time" also have mcuh of the same charm.

"Doin' My Time" is a classic Texas country track that concert audiences will eat up faster than homemade coleslaw at the church barbecue. However, the country hoedown is saved for the end with "Balloon" which offers a killer piano interlude and a vibrant old-time country sound mixed with Red Dirt sensibilities. Fans will also enjoy a beautiful acoustic hidden track at the end of the album.

The Brison Bursey Band deserve much credit for creating a surprisingly well-rounded, mature album with "Expectations And Parking Lots." Moreover, the album shows that the band is fully willing to take risks and think outside the box. Parking lots are a dime a dozen, but this is one where you'll want to spend a heck of a lot of time.

Single Review: Michael Sarver "Ferris Wheel"

Sulphur, Louisiana native Michael Sarver has a deep, rich country voice that will win him fans both in and out of country music. However, even a singer with vocal talent needs the perfect song, and "Ferris Wheel" is a winner.
As a Top 10 contestant on the eighth season of Americana Idol, Michael Sarver has been exposed to millions of music fans. With "Ferris Wheel," Sarver channels his inner Josh Gracin to create a memorable country song that radio stations will eat up like cotton candy at the county fair.

The upbeat cover art showcases an artist who is comfortable in his own skin, and Sarver's new, contemporary look should help encourage younger country fans to jump on the Sarver bandwagon. Likewise, the silver cross around his neck shows Sarver is unafraid to hide his deep religious conviction.

Michael Sarver's voice has only gotten stronger since his Idol days, and "Ferris Wheel" is the song that will successfully give Michael Sarver a major country chart hit. Country music fans, take notice: Michael Sarver has arrived.

Album Review: Bart Crow Band "Heartworn Tragedy"

Whether in concert or on recorded tracks, the Bart Crow Band never, ever disappoints. The band's new album "Heartworn Tragedy" is no exception. Indeed, the project supplies more hard-edge Texas country than any Red Dirt fan could possibly desire.
The album begins with the rockin' title track "Heartworn Tragedy." The heavy lyrics pulsate with intensity, and Bart Crow's vocals have never sounded better. However, the tone of the album softens with the melodic "Saying Goodbye" which has already been warmly embraced by radio.

The hard pumping Red Dirt love song "Traded It All For Love" showcases the best elements of the Bart Crow Band, which include Paul Russell, Matt Slagle, David Fralin, Brian Smith, and, of course, Bart Crow.

The best cut on "Heartworn Tragedy" is the reflective "Run With The Devil." The sincere lyrics and memorable hook draw in the listener and paint a vivid picture of the hardly-seen sensitive side of the Bart Crow Band.

Texas rock is more than adequately represented with "Shadow Dancer" and the anthem "Should've Stayed Away" which has a great melodic hook. Likewise, "Rock 'N Roll Dreamer" is a love song about a country singer longing for his mate. This tender country love song will be a favorite with female fans.

The Bart Crow Band's "Broken" might be the best Wade Bowen song that Wade never recorded, and it could also have country chart potential. The low key "Satisfied Heart" has a successful Red Dirt vibe that should win new fans for the Bart Crow Band. And the album ends on a major high with the terrific Texas track "Surrender." The chorus ebbs and flows as comfortably as any Texas track released in the last 12 months.

Within the course of 10 songs, the Bart Crow Band lays bare personal and family tragedies of the past. Somewhere along the way, tragedy turns to triumph.

Album Review: Matt Harlan "Tips & Compliments"

If Chris Knight had a son with Lucinda Williams, he might - just might - turn out to be as good a musician as Boerne, Texas native Matt Harlan. That's a high compliment, but Matt Harlan's new release "Tips & Compliments" deserves all of the accolades it can collect.
The album begins with the Americana gem "Elizabethtown." The lyrics and music penetrate the soul and build to a rousing chorus. The next track, "Skinny Trees Of Mississippi," proves to be a winning demonstration of Harlan's significant vocal chops. Like Chris Knight, Harlan paints a full and complete picture of his surroundings, thoughts and feelings in his accomplished lyrics.

Traditional country music is well represented with the stellar "Something New," "Over The Bridge" and "Warm November." Of the three, "Over The Bridge" has the best chance to be a major Texas country chart hit. Harlan's vocals fire on all cylinders, and the instrumentation is perfect. Texas radio program directors should add this song to their playlists immediately. The title track "Tips And Compliments" could also prove to be a popular radio single.

The most bluesy track on the album is the appropriately-titled "Suitcase Blues." It is followed by the best track on the album "Driving Song." Harlan's vocal performance oozes sincerity for the woman he loves. "Everybody Else" is a classic singer-songwriter cut that could easily find a home on Sirius-XM's The Loft.

"Waiting For Godot" is a winning mixture of country, folk and bluegrass, and listeners should take special notice of the reflective "Walter." The best pure country folk track is the remarkably serene "You're Just Drunk," which might have the best lyrics of any cut on the album. The project ends with the heartfelt love song "Dresses."

Matt Harlan's "Tips & Compliments" is an Americana gem that heralds the arrival of a major new music talent. In almost an hour, Matt Harlan shares the most intimate and interesting portions of his life in a musical package that deserves a wide audience. Matt Harlan certainly deserves a big heaping plate of compliments for his new album, and hopefully he'll be rewarded with a overloaded pocket full of tips, too.

Review: Kyle Park "Spring 2010" EP

Let's face it, the music industry is rough these days. However, Kyle Park is nobody's fool, and his new EP "Spring 2010" proves it. In fact, Kyle Park's unassuming country grin belies the fact that he is probably one of the smartest good ol' boys on the Red Dirt music scene.
You see, Kyle Park is releasing several EPs over the next year to let fans vote on which cuts will make his new album to be released in 2011. It's a brilliant move, because fans get a voice and a constant stream of new music. Indeed, Kyle Park is forging a new path in Texas country that is likely to be replicated by others.

The "Spring 2010" EP begins with the country ballad "I'm Missing You." The lyrics travel familiar country ground with a fresh perspective that builds to a rousing chorus. The rockin' "Prove It To You" is Texas country through and through. This cut will rock the rafters in Kyle Park concerts and should prove to be a fan favorite.

However, the best tracks are saved for last on the EP. "Just A Fake Smile" shows Kyle Park's wickedly ironic sense of humor. This song is destined for the country charts, and the lyrics will remain ingrained in the memories of listeners for months (or years...) to come.

"Any Day Or Night" may be Kyle Park's best chance for a mainstream country chart hit. The instrumentation is pure country music perfection, and Park's vocals have never sounded better. The cut tugs at the heartstrings, and the song is one of the strongest ballads Kyle Park has ever recorded. In short, "Any Day Or Night" is a major Texas music triumph.

Kyle Park's "Spring 2010" deserves major fan support for a Red Dirt artist that continues to showcase innovative and rockin' country music that is impossible to ignore. Now, it's up to the voters, but a good case could be made for all four terrific tracks. Keep 'em coming, Kyle.

Review: Jay Hart "Breaking Down In The B-Town EP"

Jay Hart is a name that country music aficionados should remember. On "Breaking Down In The B-Town EP," he has the musical sensibilities of Ryan Adams and the pleasing vocal tone of James Blunt. He's also traveled the world with acts as diverse as Spiritualized and Billy Jo Spears. Likewise, he's played Glastonbury and the Viper Room. And, oh yeah, he's British.
In country music, geography matters, but listeners should not hold that against Jay Hart. The first cut, "Time On Our Hands," shows an earnest alt-country singer baring his soul. The production is stellar, and Jay Hart gives a winning vocal performance.

"What's Wrong" mixes guitar rock with today's country. Think Matt Nathanson meets Keith Urban. But it works on all levels. Jay Hart has a compelling vocal presence that draws in the listener. The vocal power is reminiscent of Stereophonics lead-singer Kelly Jones.

The country quotient rises with "Spending Time Wasting Time." Hart's lyrics talk about classic themes of country music, and the instrumentation will pull in country fans of all ages. The bluesy "Inside And Out" might appeal most to college-age crowds that will no doubt turn out in vast numbers for this rising singer-songwriter.

Jay Hart is a unique artist who has crafted thought provoking tracks that bridge the gap between country and alt-country while still being easily digestible for pop audiences. In short, Jay Hart is an artist to watch. Indeed, music fans on both sides of the Atlantic may soon be "breaking down" to Jay Hart's radio chart success.

Album Review: Bo Phillips Band "Dirt Road"

The members of the Bo Phillips Band are students of Red Dirt music who hail from Stillwater, Oklahoma. However, Bo Phillips was born in Houston, and his Texas roots shine through with his band's terrific new album titled "Dirt Road."
Unpaved roads are usually kind of bumpy and unpredictable, but the Bo Phillips Band's "Dirt Road" is filled with heartfelt ballads and rockin' Texas country. The album begins with the soulful "Never." This song has a memorable melody and winning lyrics. The aptly titled "Perfect Girl" is equally pleasing. This radio single is the kind of country song that will make cowgirls dance the night away.

The bluesy "Cornfed" provides worthy guitar performances, but the album really hits its stride with the title track "Dirt Road." This cut could and should find its place on the country chart. It's a pleasing mix of Texas country with mainstream sensibilities and a superb vocal performance by Bo Phillips. In addition, Chris Booth (bass), Nick Tate (lead guitar) and Chris Hempfling (drums & harmony vocals) deserve special attention, because their hard work shines through on every song.

"Tip Jar" gives a shout-out to hard working service people, and it's an unlikely anthem that is inexplicably catchy. But the most fun cut on the album is the bluegrass-infused "Hitchhiker." Bo Phillips channels a young George Strait in this hard-pumping song that causes uncontrollable toe-tapping. "What Do They Know" should also be a concert favorite.

The best track on "Dirt Road" is "Peace On Earth." The lyrics tug at the soul, and the chorus utilizes every element necessary for a successful country song. "Peace On Earth" deserves to be a Number 1 chart hit for the Bo Phillips Band, and radio program directors should take notice.

The members of the Bo Phillips Band love women, and the songs "Love Like That," "More To Me" and "Love Me Tonight" show a sentimental side of the band. The most unique track is saved for last. At over ten minutes in length "Friends Like You / Downtown" seems to be a thank-you note to the friends and family who have supported the band members over the years.

Clocking in at just under an hour, the Bo Phillips Band's "Dirt Road" is an album that shows hundreds of hours of sweat and tears. But it is a major success and might go down as a classic recording of Texas Music. Indeed, the dirt roads of Stillwater have the well worn tire tracks of the Bo Phillips Band. Thankfully, they left the rest of the country some great music tracks, too.

Album Review: Mike Runnels "The Tender Years"

Mike Runnels never fails to impress with his understated country music vocals. And Runnels' new album, "The Tender Years," continues his tradition of country music excellence with ten tracks that impress on all levels.
The album begins with the melodic "Cheatin' Side Of Town" which deserves country radio attention. The equally pleasing "We'll Find A Way" is also a toe-tapping delight.

However, Mike Runnels shines on slow ballads like "Last Date" and "Now You Know." The Roy Orbison-esque "Just Say So Baby" is Mike Runnels' shining moment on the album. It oozes easy-going musical confidence and could warm the hardest of hearts.

Mike Runnels channels an alt-country vibe with "Sweetheart." Likewise, "I Love You More" has a cool Dwight Yoakam meets Hank Williams sound that works. "Do You Feel The Same" and "Fourteen Karat Gold" are also solid efforts.

One of the best performances is saved for last with the cut "This Time." What's great about this track is that Runnels combines the finest elements of his considerable talents to create a song that will stand the test of time.

Mike Runnels "The Tender Years" is not for everyone. You see, many of today's "country fans" seem only to want prefabricated pop stars with a cowboy hat. If that's your taste, stay far, far away from "The Tender Years." But if you like country legends of the past with timeless lyrics meant for today, then Mike Runnels "The Tender Years" should definitely be on your musical radar.

Album Review: Anne McCue "Broken Promise Land"

The closing track of Anne McCue's stellar new album explains the artist in a nutshell: "Rock N' Roll Outlaw." But that seemingly simplistic title doesn't completely do justice to McCue's new, 10 track album, "Broken Promise Land." That's because she shows vulnerability and musical passion in a hard-edge package that is irresistible to the ears. In short, Anne McCue deserves to be a roots rock superstar.
The first track "Don't Go To Texas (Without Me)" is a radio friendly gem that glides as naturally as your favorite pair of sneakers. "Ol' Black Sky" ventures into a darker, more ethereal place reminiscent of the best music of Alannah Myles. "Cruisin' Paradise (Tenerife)" and "God's Home Number" are also bluesy pleasure points.

McCue's roots rock edge returns with "Lonesome Child." The instrumentation and lyrics on the track deserve special mention for setting the perfect mood on the cut. However, it is the stripped-down, anthemic "The Lonely One" which showcases McCue's vocals the most. Anne McCue has never sounded better, and the cut deserves the attention of radio program directors.

Rock lovers will shout with joy after hearing the hard-pumping title track "Broken Promise Land." The pace slows down with "Motorcycle Dream" and "The Old Man's Talkin'." But the aforementioned final track ends on the most pleasing of notes with "Rock N' Roll Outlaw."

Anne McCue has crafted a deliciously charismatic and diverse musical treat with the album "Broken Promise Land." Promises are made to be kept. But if broken promises sound this good, we'll be happy to take some more from Anne McCue.

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