Review: The Classic Imperials "Still Standing"

In the world of Christian music, there is no group that can match the long and fabled history of the Imperials. The group began with Jake Hess, later performed with Elvis and then successfully morphed into a pioneering force in the burgeoning contemporary Christian music (CCM) scene. After all that, some of the most famous members joined together in 2010 to form The Classic Imperials" with the new album "Still Standing." Indeed, the 11 terrific songs prove that the Classic Imperials are rock solid and standing tall.
The album begins with the bold anthem "Live My Life." The passionate vocal performance and instrumentation is a perfect package to reintroduce the Classic Imperials. However, the group really shines on the country track "No More Looking Over My Shoulder," which deserves radio airplay on both country and gospel radio. "Brighter Day" is a modern, upbeat praise and worship song that will manage to surprise both current fans and younger listeners who were not even born when the Imperials ruled the CCM charts.

Founding member Armond Morales (bass), Paul Smith (tenor), Dave Will (baritone) and newcomer Rick Evans (tenor) have joined with remarkable results. It must be said that Armond Morales makes coming out of retirement look easy, and the Nashville-based group has a tight sound that embraces new elements of contemporary music while somehow keeping the best parts of the Imperials' signature sound.

The country gospel track "Heaven" is a throwback to the Imperials of years gone by, and it works on all levels. The melodic "God's Got Something Good For Me" has much of the same charm, and "Been Through The Water" is a beautiful Christian story in song that builds to a rousing crescendo.

"Ebeneezer" is a uniquely wonderful, hard-edged track that blends gospel, Christian rock and country with a great result. "There's No God" is a retro CCM track that reminds listeners of the history represented by the Classic Imperials. The best track on the album is "Love Speaks For Itself," which could best be described as Newsong meets the Imperials' "Sing The Classics" album. The final track "Something's Wrong With The World" is a Carman-esque song with a powerful message and driving beat.

The Classic Imperials have done what seemed impossible and improbable just a few years ago with the release of "Still Standing." For a Christian group that was founded in 1964 to return to the music scene with a relevant and focused project that sounds fresh and of the moment is a towering achievement that actually would be unthinkable for just about any other group - except the enduring Imperials.

Review: R.W. Hampton "Austin To Boston"

The world's number one cowboy country singer is back with a new collection of songs that will thrill existing fans and bring in thousands of new ones, too. R.W. Hampton's "Austin To Boston" is a terrific example of an artist who is comfortable in his own skin and is not afraid to venture outside traditional country and western song selections.
Every fan of cowboy country already knows that an R.W. Hampton album will have top notch production and stellar vocals, so the biggest surprise is the album's uniquely wonderful song choices. "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" was an inspired choice that Hampton dedicated to his wife and kids. Likewise, "Shortgrass" was written as a tribute to Hampton's son Cooper (and Cooper's best friend, Dawson) who decided to join the Marines while in high school. The two buddies have now traveled the world, and their service to the USA has been honored in perpetuity by R.W. Hampton's memorable song.

R.W. Hampton's friend Brad Johnson introduced him to the Michael Bublé song "Home," and the cowboy crooner's vocal interpretation puts the lyrics in a whole new perspective. As you hear Hampton sing, you imagine a cowboy sitting on a horse among a vast stretch of land wishing for the woman he loves, and "Home" definitely has radio potential. The Cindy Walker track "You Don't Know Me" also deserves special mention for its superb instrumentation and arrangement.

The surprises continue, because the best song on "Austin To Boston" was written by Hampton's son, Colter Hampton. The title of the album comes from Colter's song "Rodeo Man," and it is an inspirational cowboy anthem that is performed by his father with passion and intensity. The lyrics sizzle with heartfelt emotion, and the song will likely stand the test of time.

Hampton's powerful arrangement of "Danny Boy" will also turn the heads of new fans and old. At the same time, "Cowboy's Prayer" will also be readily embraced by both cowboys and other workers (or businessmen) who are forced to spend long amounts of time away from home. "Dream On Little Dreamer," which was performed with his daughter Gina in mind, could also be a radio single. Program directors should take notice.

The fourteen songs on "Austin To Boston" represent a tremendous achievement for R.W. Hampton. Not content to rest on his sterling reputation, Hampton has created a remarkably diverse collection of songs that have been sequenced and performed perfectly. This is no easy feat, but we would expect no less from a hard working cowboy.

Review: Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez "The New Bye & Bye: The Best Of The Train Wreck Years 2002-2007"

Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez are one of the top 10 country duos of all time. When the partnership amiably disbanded, no one expected the two to ever record new music, but Taylor called Rodriguez about releasing a greatest hits record, and the pair decided to record four new songs for the album "The New Bye & Bye: The Best Of The Train Wreck Years 2002-2007."
"Your Name Is On My Lips" is an especially fitting title for the first new song on the disbanded duo's album. On the cut, they both sing: "It is a good thing." They're only half right, because the song is better than good - it's great. Taylor's understated vocals are heartfelt, and Rodriguez has never sounded better. As usual, the instrumentation on the track is near perfect.

The tender "On An Island" showcases the restrained musicianship of two master musicians. Another new song, "Play It Again Sam," offers powerful insight into human emotion and love. The lyrics pierce the soul, and, at times, Taylor sings at a level only slightly above a whisper. But it works on all levels.

The title track "The New Bye & Bye" is bold Americana gold with a tinge of gospel flavor. The cut highlights the best elements of the Taylor-Rodriguez musical partnership, and it will only serve to make listeners long for future collaborations.

The other tracks on the album feature the greatest songs of Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez, and it starts with the upbeat "Sweet Tequila Blues." "All The Rain" and "Let's Leave This Town" also have much of the same charm. As expected, every song was chosen with care, and there is not a questionable selection in the bunch - quite the contrary. However, the live version of "Angel Of The Morning," which was written by Taylor, deserves special mention and is one of the best live recordings of the year. It is followed by a joyous rendition of Taylor's famous song, "Wild Thing."

"The New Bye & Bye" from Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez is a stunning musical masterpiece that deserves to be savored and enjoyed like a perfectly aged scotch whiskey. In country music, that's as big of a compliment as you can get.

Review: Dave Caley "Live This Life"

Dave Caley loves good, old fashioned country music, and Caley's newest album is a sensational look into the mind and heart of a God-fearing country boy. Dave Caley's biggest hit to date is "God's Grand Ole Opry," which celebrates the traditional country greats of years gone by. However, Caley advances his own career with the new album that blends traditional country with cowboy country and gospel.
Dave Caley's parents probably never imagined that their son would become a country musician when he was born in Blackpool, England. Caley claims Michigan as his home state, and he is in the Michigan Country Music Hall Of Fame. However, Caley and his wife, Christina, now call Kokomo, Indiana home.

The album begins with the title track "Live This Life," which has a cool, retro vibe. The country quotient rises considerably on the gospel-tinged "Chosen One," but Caley's star really shines on the ballad "Hard To Be Honest." Caley's vocal performance is so stunning that the female background vocals only distract from the powerful track.

The current single "Redneck Love Gone Bad" is a fun, campy country song that should be popular on both radio and in country honky tonks around the USA. Once again, it is another slower song where Caley shines. "You Were Mine" is a sentimental country music treat that will please listeners of all ages. Radio program directors should take notice.

"Sunset Boulevard" has a hard-edged, Texas country sound that suits the singer, and Caley more than does justice to "Nothing To Die For," which was made famous by Tim McGraw. However, the biggest surprise on the album is "Jesus Was A Fisherman," which clearly proves that Dave Caley could have a bright future in the southern gospel and country gospel genres. It's a toe-tapping delight and should be released to gospel radio immediately.

"Live This Life" from Dave Caley is remarkable for its diversity, and the album deserves a spot in the music collection of any fan of traditional country music with a gospel flavor. Dave Caley is living his life to the fullest, and he's helping listeners enjoy their lives with a lot of talent mixed with a heaping helping of country charm.

Review: Andy Meadows "Give Me The Microphone"

Andy Meadows immediately surprises and impresses listeners from the very start of his terrific new album "Give Me The Microphone." You see, the album cover featuring the young and smiling Meadows does not give the slightest hint that this country boy possesses a deep, rich, Josh Turner-esque voice that bolts out of the speakers upon first listen.
The album begins with "Forbidden Bliss" and is followed by the stellar title track "Give Me The Microphone." This cut proves that Andy Meadows has a distinctive country music sound that would be instantly recognizable on country radio.

On "Inspiration," Andy Meadows successfully performs a beautiful country music ballad and proves that he's no one trick pony. However, it is on the next track "Jenna's Song" where Andy Meadows shows he has true star quality. Meadows' lyrics are honest and deeply personal when he confesses that the thought of Jenna is driving him insane. On his website, Meadows is even more honest. He said he met his first prostitute in Dallas who later became a girlfriend of three months. Then, Meadows seems to confess an assault on a drive-thru attendant with baby oil, and that's not all. Indeed, his personal experiences could probably fill a jukebox.

The cut "How Bad It's Gotta Be" has a killer melody and engaging lyrics that could make it a major country hit. However, the song needs to be retooled with Randy Rogers-style instrumentation, tighter production and a faster speed to be a radio hit. With a producer of the caliber of Lloyd Maines, "Hot Bad It's Gotta Be" could be a Number One for Andy Meadows.

"I Don't Want To Know" provides a near-perfect vocal performance from Meadows, and the instrumentation is pitch-perfect. "Fatherly Advice" illustrates the more reflective side of Meadows, but nothing can prepare the listener for the Americana track "Dying Man's Prayer." Andy Meadows' stark and vulnerable performance is radio ready and could win over even the most skeptical music critic. "Never Be The Same," "Kindred Soul" and "Through" round out the album. "Through" is a lyrical gem that could use more of the anger and soul shown in the wonderful "Dying Man's Prayer."

Most of the songs on "Give Me The Microphone" offer flashes of genius but a few others play it too safe for an artist who obviously has a significant gift and an unusually sardonic wit. Andy Meadows can and should be a country music star, but he's never going to be a cookie-cutter country artist. That's a good thing, because the songs he is most passionate about are easily identifiable on the album. There definitely is a country and Americana music star within the soul of Andy Meadows. He proved it on "Dying Man's Prayer." The real test is whether he can be true to himself and bring that musical honesty to the recording studio and the stage.

Review: Adam Holt "The Sunday Troubadour"

The state of Alabama doesn't always get the musical respect it deserves, but up-and-coming country artists like Adam Holt prove that the Gulf Coast state is a hotbed of musical talent. On "The Sunday Troubadour," singer Adam Holt runs the musical gamut of rock 'n' roll, blues, soul and country. And it's darn good.
Holt chose the right song to lead off the the album, because "Door #1" is a bold country anthem with a memorable melody that allows the artist to showcase his most positive country music credential: his golden country rock voice. "Door #1" deserves to be a Top 10 country radio hit, and "Sideways" has much of the same charm.

The next cut "Big Girls" is another bold country cut that pays tribute to a large segment of country music fans who will eat this song up faster than free samples of bacon at the Piggly Wiggly. Holt channels his inner Darius Rucker on the next track "Cheaters Never Win," which also has country chart potential.

Radio program directors should take notice of "Where I Belong," which is a superb ballad. To have a long and successful country career, singers usually need to be equally comfortable with honky tonk style tracks and ballads. "Where I Belong" will take away any doubts of Adam Holt's viability as a contender in country music, and it is definitely the best song on the album. The final cut, "Mr Hollywood" also deserves special mention for its biting lyrics and confident vocal performance from Holt.

The only slight criticism of "The Sunday Troubadour" is the title of the album. You see, in only ten songs that clock in at just over 36 minutes, Adam Holt conclusively proves that he belongs on the largest country music stages. So the title should have been the album's best track: "Where I Belong."

Review: Justin McBride "Live At Billy Bob's Texas"

World champion bull rider Justin McBride knows how to work a ranch, and "Live At Billy Bob's Texas" proves that he can also work the crowd of the most famous stage in Texas country music. McBride is a natural and charismatic entertainer who has a big future in country music.
McBride starts by saying "Hello, Texas" and immediately begins the song "Tonight Ain't The Day," which is a traditional country song that is performed with passion. The outlaw country track "That Was Us" showcases the best aspect of Justin McBride. As a former PBR champion bull rider, McBride has an instant cowboy tough guy appeal that will be massively popular with country music fans. "Don't Let Go" has much of the same charm and a memorable melody.

The cut "Beer Drinkin' Songs" (featuring J.W. Hart) is especially appropriate at the world's largest honky tonk. At the same time, the bull riding champion saved the best track for last: "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" is country music gold, and this song is proof positive that Justin McBride has the skills to tackle traditional country music. The musicianship of the song is also stellar.

Four studio tracks round out the end of the album's 19 tracks and feature a studio version of Buddy Owens' "Tonight Ain't The Day," which is the current radio single. The other studio tracks "God's In Oklahoma," "Lived Past Dying" and especially "Cadillac Cowboy" are toe-tapping musical treats.

Justin McBride's "Live At Billy Bob's Texas" is a revelation and boldly announces the career aspirations of a true contender for the next-big-thing in country music. Most country artists who are previously known for another career often have a hard time successfully endearing themselves to country music audiences and recording the right songs. But like bull riding, Justin McBride makes it look easy.

Album Review: Richard Craine "The Essence Of My Life"

Classifying the music contained in Richard Craine's "The Essence Of My Life" is no easy feat. The Bristol, England singer-songwriter would probably best be described as alt country in America. But that label is too simplistic, because it would seem that the essence of Richard Craine's life can be found in the nooks and crannies of the album's ten songs.
"Phoenix Eyes" has  a cool Americana and folk rock vibe that oozes with intensity. The next track, "The River Stroll," will catch listeners off guard, because Craine's intelligent lyrics satisfy the soul.

The most surprising track is the classic rock 'n' roll cut "Mistrust, Mistreatment And Misunderstanding," which has a cool retro vibe. The best chance for a radio chart hit is probably "Simple Things," which offers a memorable chorus and an engaging story. "I Love You" also has chart potential.

"The Essence Of My Life" is an eclectic album that will challenge listeners to think outside the box of ordinary alt country albums. However, the leap of faith pays off due to Richard Craine's determined style and sheer will to win over the listener. Indeed, the artist's unique perspective and passionate performance make this album a winner.

Album Review: Brian Burke Band "Unraveled"

The Brian Burke Band is brand new to the Texas music scene, but you wouldn't guess it from hearing the new album "Unraveled." If Brian Burke can create an album this brimming over with raw talent in only a few months, then he and the boys might be duking it out with the Randy Rogers Band in no time.
Burke briefly attended Blinn College in Bryan, Texas and later Texas State University. His experiences there and a chance meeting with Cory Morrow at a private concert eventually led to a 5 song ep, a move to Fort Worth and, ultimately, the album "Unraveled" beside bandmates Clark Kaupke, Jake Williams and Brian Kirkpatrick.

The first track is "Shore To Shore," which has a pleasing contemporary country sound. However, either "Hope You're Gonna Be Mine" or "Break For You," might have been the best choice for the album's first song. "Break For You" has confident vocals and tight production that build to a rousing crescendo. Likewise, the album's most promising cut, "Hope You're Gonna Be Mine," is deserving of mainstream and Texas country radio airplay. It's also the album's best song.

"Country Girl" will please female fans with its memorable chorus, and BBB proves it can effectively tackle a country ballad with the superb "Just Me And You." The memorable chorus of "Near My Bed" also deserves special mention, and "Bartender" showcases Burke's skills with a classic Texas country honky-tonk cut.

At the end of the day, it's the little things that matter most on an album, and the bluesy, vocal prowess Brian Burke displays on the southern rock track "Little Things" bodes well for albums to come. "Unraveled" is an unqualified success for an up-and-comer like the Brian Burke Band. Get out the autograph books - these boys are destined to be country music stars.

Review: Marshall Chapman "Big Lonesome" & "They Came To Nashville"

Nowhere is Marshall Chapman's influence greater than in Nashville, Tennessee, and stories from the lives of her famous friends are the basis of Chapman's compelling new book "They Came To Nashville" and album "Big Lonesome." The book chronicles the lives of country stars you know, and the CD offers her personal reflections on the loss of a musical soulmate.
Chapman recorded almost all of the album "Big Lonesome" after her best friend in music, Tim Krekel, died in June 2009. However, the title track was recorded shortly before Krekel's passing, and he provided the cut's terrific vocal harmony. The title track - recoded using ADAT -  had been lost, but it was later found in steel player Tommy Spurlock's Austin garage and faithfully restored using ProTools. The cut is a fitting tribute to a master musician. In addition, Marshall Chapman has rarely sounded better.

"Down To Mexico" was recorded after a flight to Mexico six days after Krekel's death. The song is a somber love letter to her musical partner. "Going Away Party" and "Tim Revisited" travel much of the same musical path, and the latter is particularly stirring.

"Falling Through The Trees" is the finest song on the album. The lyrics combined with Chapman's stellar vocal performance provide evidence that even though the dreams of her friend died, Chapman realizes that she must pick herself up, cope with the loss and move forward.

The best chance for a radio chart hit might be "Riding With Willie." Marshall Chapman spent three days with her friend Willie Nelson while she interviewed him for her new book "They Came To Nashville" (Vanderbilt University Press). The book is an amazing walk through the lives of Chapman's famous Nashville musician friends, and the song "Riding With Willie" deserves to become an Americana and country chart hit. At the same time, Marshall Chapman's book is essential reading for any musician wanting to have a successful and fulfilling career in country music. The interviews contained in the book provide golden nuggets of information for both music fans and industry insiders.
After almost a dozen critically acclaimed albums, Marshall Chapman deserves to be called a living legend with the release of her new book and album. Although "Big Lonesome" is the name of her stellar new album, her precious musical gift and gracious southern personality ensure that Chapman never meets a stranger. 

"Big Lonesome" ends on a positive note with an unreleased live track called "I Love Everybody." Chapman's unbridled joy while being on stage is electric. While she's singing "I Love Everybody," it's obvious that the fans in the audience that day and the listeners of the album are all thinking the same thing: We love you, too, Marshall Chapman.

Album Review: Fiery Blue "Fiery Blue"

Mix a talented New York City singer with an Austin music producer and a San Diego songwriter and you get a spine-tingling sound that blurs the edges of rock, folk and alt-country. Indeed, the self-titled album "Fiery Blue" is a revelation of musical restraint and carefully harnessed talent that will hopefully lead to many more musical collaborations for the talented threesome.
Singer Simone Stevens does a lot of the heavy lifting on the album with an effortless vocal style that is truly pleasing to the ear on the carefully produced first track "Hide Away." However, the album's uber-cool style is obviously due to the hard work of producer Gabe Rhodes.

One of the biggest surprises on the album is the beautiful "Wild Bird," which deserves to be an alt-country chart hit, and Simone Stevens gives her most vulnerable performance here. "Wild Bird" would be a perfect addition to the playlist of Sirius-XM Radio's Coffeehouse channel and a number of Americana radio stations across the USA and Europe.

"Where They Are" has much of the same charm as "Wild Bird," and the sound is part Lucinda Williams and part Tracy Chapman. That's high praise. Radio program directors should take notice. "Diamond Ride" is also a uniquely wonderful song that envelopes the listener and won't let go. "Funland" also deserves special mention.

With 18 songs, "Fiery Blue" by Fiery Blue could have actually been two albums. Half of the tracks have an alt-country vibe while the other songs have a soft pop-rock musical feel. However, the talent on display here could probably fill up a jukebox or two.

Album Review: Wil Forbis & The Gentlemen Scoundrels "Shadey's Jukebox"

No one would call Wil Forbis average. If fact, it would probably be fair to say that Wil Forbis and The Gentleman Scoundrel's new alt-country CD "Shadey's Jukebox" is one of the two or three most eclectically entertaining albums of the year.
Besides being a musician, Forbis is also a well-known San Diego pop culture commentator on his site Acid Logic site. However, the album proves that he obviously enjoys exploring all elements of music from pop, to metal to his new-found genre of alt-country. Surprisingly enough, it works.

The project begins with the high-energy "Let's Get High On Jesus." While this song will never be mistaken for gospel music, the track has country charm and could be an alt-country and Americana chart hit.

The next track, "Hope Kills," is a bluesy country rock cut and "Where There's A Will There's A Way" is a big-band style musical treat. Forbis' country juices begin flowing again on "Larelay (Take The Long Road)" and "Fin Fang Foom." Both offer interesting lyrics and superb instrumentation.

"Shadey's Jukebox" is a solid effort by one of the most interesting California musicians to ever enter the alt-country music scene. If Wil Forbis could harness all of his creative energy to make an alt-country album as consistently good as the cut "Let's Get High With Jesus," it would not be too far fetched to imagine a major music prize for this uniquely talented blogger and musician.

Album Review: Circe Link And Her Discount Candy Family Band "California Kid"

The talent of Circe Link bursts to the surface on her new album "California Kid." The album is brimming over with vibrant energy and engaging lyrics, and the artist and her Discount Candy Family Band make a bold impression on all 11 tracks.
The album begins with "Salvation," which showcases Circe Link as an artist who sounds like she could be the love child of Miranda Lambert and Steve Earle. (Don't laugh, because it's truly a high compliment.) The next track "Random Act Of Kindness" offers the softer side of Circe Link with great artistic flourish.

Circe Link used to describe her music as "cowboy jazz," but even she recognizes that this moniker is too simplistic. The Los Angeles, California resident is obviously heavily influenced by the flourishing California music scene, and it shows on "Getting High (On Your Own Supply)." The intimate title track "California Kid" is also a winner.

The softer side of the artist is shown on "Home Isn't Home Without You" and "Taking It Light." These two cuts are proof positive that Circe Link could have a major Nashville career if she so desired, and "Home Isn't Home Without You" could be a country chart hit today with a tighter edit and more traditional country instrumentation. Upon repeated listens, "Taking It Light" could also have chart potential.

"California Kid" is an album that will shock and surprise many Americana and country fans who have yet to familiarize themselves with Circe Link And Her Discount Candy Family Band. Radio program directors take notice, because Circe Link is an artist that will please fans of all ages. If Circe Link could harness all of her significant energy to produce a 100% country album with her signature style, she could be the next big thing.

Album Review: Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band "Legacy"

The trailblazing bluegrass legend Peter Rowan is back under the careful supervision of mega-producer Alison Brown. "Legacy" harkens back to the style Peter Rowan learned as an apprentice of Bill Monroe more than 45 years ago. As you might expect, Rowan and his Bluegrass Band deliver in spades.
The album begins with the intensely memorable cut "Jailer, Jailer" and is followed by the piercing lyrics of "The Family Demon." The instrumentation and vocal performance are faultless. However, the album really comes into its own with the understated and beautiful "Father, Mother."

The album's biggest surprise is the Americana country track "So Good," which could easily find radio chart success in multiple formats. The country lullaby "The Night Prayer" has much of the same charm and could win over even the most skeptical critic of bluegrass music.

The gospel tinged "Let Me Walk Lord By Your Side" is a traditional bluegrass musical treat that fires on all cylinders. But the best song on the album is "Turn The Other Cheek," which showcases an award worthy vocal and musical performance.

Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band's "Legacy" is the best bluegrass album of the year, but it's better than that. This album should not be missed by any music fan of any genre. In fact, "Legacy" is the perfect title for an album that should be lovingly handed down to future generations.

Album Review: Tommy Alverson "Texas One More Time"

Tommy Alverson has a golden country voice that is the perfect compliment to a cold beer. That's high praise in Texas. Indeed, "Texas One More Time" continues the fine musical tradition of the Texas country music legend. Not that we would expect anything less.
The album begins with the outlaw country title cut "Texas 1 More Time" and is followed by the beautiful "Don't Mind If I Do" and the radio-ready musical gem "Broken Hearted People."

Tommy Alverson never cheats his fans, and "Texas One More Time" offers a jam-packed 14 songs, including the traditional country gem "Sweet Love." However, the best track and biggest surprise on the album is the new Tex-Mex classic "Move To Texas."

The elder statesmen of the indie Texas music scene proves he knows lots about his love for beer on the self-penned track "I Wish I Didn't Love You." Likewise, the blues-infused vocal performance on "All Of These Things" also deserves special mention. But Tommy Alverson saves the best for last with "Stoned, Slow 'N' Rugged" which the country bar crowd will eat up faster than free hot wings during happy hour.

Tommy Alverson's "Texas One More Time" is one of the best country albums of the year - of any genre. The 14 songs that make up the album satisfy the soul and offer a welcome respite from the pop-country songs that permeate today's country music scene. No one will ever call Tommy Alverson a sell-out, because he once again proves he is steady, consistent and always ready to deliver "one more time."

Album Review: No Justice "2nd Avenue"

There's a good reason that Stillwater, Oklahoma's No Justice is at the top of the Red Dirt heap, and "2nd Avenue" proves it one more time. Plain and simple, "2nd Avenue" shows these country boys are as good at rocking the speakers of your pick-up as they are at pumping the country crowds during sold-out shows.
The album begins with the upbeat "Goin' Nowhere" which offers a memorable melody. However, the second track is the album's biggest surprise. "WW II" is hard-driving Red Dirt rock track that could find success with both Southern rock and Red Dirt fans alike.

The intense title cut "2nd Avenue" is a radio-ready country hit. But the best song on the album is the powerful "5 More Minutes." It offers a stellar vocal performance and deserves to be a radio chart hit in multiple formats. Program directors should give this OAR meets the Randy Rogers Band cut a spin on their playlists.

The musical excellence continues with "Just Get Going" and the blues cut "Coming Up The River." The Wade Bowen-esque "Love Song" will be popular with most female listeners, and the final cut "Heart On A Chain" returns No Justice to its humble musical roots. The powerful lyrics combined with the top notch instrumentation make it a musical feast for the ears.

"2nd Avenue" is a landmark album that pushes the Red Dirt genre to a new level of excellence. Indeed, No Justice has reinforced its sterling reputation for musical innovation and hard-edged country by working as hard or harder than just about anybody on the country music scene.

Album Review: Long Woodson "Robyville"

Contemporary Texas country has found a new hero in Long Woodson and his brand new CD "Robyville." Woodson's comfortable vocals and outlaw country attitude make for compelling listening that will leave listenters wanting more.
The album begins with "Jimi" which has a retro-cool vibe reminiscent of Hayes Carll. Woodson's vocal perfomance is confident without feeling forced. At first listen, "Jimi" would not seem to have country chart potential, but on repeated listens the cut has indelible charm and a memorable chorus.

"Creole Man" showcases Long Woodson's obviously mixed love affair of classic rock and classic country. The lyrics are the star of the show. The third track "Nikki" shows Woodson's technical skills as a vocalist and could be enjoyed in both coffee houses and saloons. Likewise, the title track "Robyville" is an eclectic musical treat.

The biggest surprise is the country bar crowd anthem "Horny As Me." While this song might not work for family night at the community center, there is no doubt this song has hit potential. "Chicago" also surprises with its understated charm.

"Robyville" is a truly original and innovative country music album from rising star Long Woodson that should not be missed.

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