Review: Mars Arizona "High Desert"

Nicole Storto and Paul Knowles make up the duo known as Mars Arizona, and the musicians' new album "High Desert" is chock full of rich instrumentation and stellar vocals. In short, "High Desert" deserves "high" praise.
The album begins with "Glad To Be Here," which has a cool Tom Petty meets Wade Bowen vibe that works on all levels. It's followed by the gospel-infused "Jesus Ain't Coming Back (That Way)" which offers beautiful harmonies and a powerful melody.

The title track "High Desert" begins with a sparse and haunting vocal that builds to a rousing crescendo. The biggest surprise on the album is a heartfelt cover of Robert Hunter's "Must Have Been The Roses." Paul Knowles offers an award-worthy vocal performance that is perfectly complimented by Nicole Storto's beautiful vocal tone and the musicians' expert instrumentation. A cover of the Rolling Stones' "Sweet Virginia" is also a winner.

However, the best song on the album is saved for last. "What's Wrong With My World?" explores the depths of human emotion and leaves the listener with a powerful question to ponder. Likewise, the best pure country song is the bluegrass meets Texas country "Made Off Blues." This cut proves that Mars Arizona could make a tremendously successful pure country album. The folk and country flavored "Alabama Bound" also deserves special mention for its memorable melody.

The San Francisco Bay Area musicians of Mars Arizona have lovingly crafted a delicious musical treat that deserves to be enjoyed with your favorite six pack or a good single malt whiskey. For a country music reviewer, that's a high compliment indeed.

Album Review: Laura Monk & High Cotton "Pictures"

Americana and folk-country act Laura Monk & High Cotton have a high-energy and upbeat attitude combined with terrific lyrics and beautifully crafted instrumentation on the band's latest release "Pictures."
The album begins with the terrific "Songs For A Mountain Weekend" and is followed by the country-flavored "Crazy To Sing."

However, the album really begins to come into its own with the beautiful title track "Pictures." Laura Monk's vocals have the earnestness of Karen Carpenter and the depth of Trisha Yearwood in this winning musical performance. "Music City Lights" has much of the same charm.

The song "12 - String" has a cool Shawn Colvin meets Lucinda Williams vibe that works on all levels. But the biggest surprise on the album is the melodic and memorable "Dollar Store." Concert audiences will eat this song up faster than Slurpees at 7-11.

Not everyone wants to look at other people's pictures, but music lovers will continue to visit Laura Monk & High Cotton's "Pictures" over and over again.

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