ALBUM REVIEW: Chelle Rose "Ghost Of Browder Holler"

With a hard-edged Americana sound and tight production (courtesy of Ray Wylie Hubbard), Chelle Rose bursts back onto the country and Americana music scene with a 12-song selection of fresh tracks that will quench the thirst of music lovers tired of pre-fab country pop on her new album titled "Ghost Of Browder Holler."
The album begins with the terrific "Browder Holler Boy," which has cool Lucinda Williams meets Chris Knight vibe that fires on all cylinders. Chelle Rose's seasoned vocal performance is pitch-perfect, and the slide-guitar instrumentation also deserves special mention.

The sparse and bluesy "Caney Fork Tennessee" continues the album's dark theme with winning results, and the memorable melody works. However, Chelle Rose is ready for a party, and it begins on the rockin' third cut "I Need You." Rose and her band have produced a track that will make even the least musical person on the planet start to tap his toes and groove to the beat.

However, the mid-tempo Americana song "Weepin Willow On The Hill" emerges as a contender for the album's best song. Indeed, Rose's intense and restrained vocal performance lends credence to the sincerity of the lyrics.

The biggest surprise on the album is the sing-a-long cut "Leona Barnett." The lyrics and music allow Chelle Rose to perform with an infectious and unbridled energy. Rose is definitely at the top of her game here, and "Alimony" has much of the same charm.

The restrained "If I Could" just barely beats "Weepin Willow On The Hill" as the best song on "Ghost Of Browder Holler." Describing the pure joy of this delicate track is almost indescribable, and radio program directors should take notice of this understated Americana gem, which offers a Grammy-worthy performance from Chelle Rose.

Speaking of radio, programmers should also seek out the insanely hummable "Rattlesnake In The Road" and the next to last track "Shady Grove Gonna Blow." The album ends on a quiet and winning note with "Wild Violets Pretty," which is a sparse and beautiful cut.

"Ghost Of Browder Holler" will ease the mind of country and Americana music fans who sometimes lose faith in the overly commercial pop sounds of many artists on country/Americana radio today. Yes, there is an alternative to the forgettable sound of a progression of popular but uninspiring artists. Her name is Chelle Rose, and Ray Wylie Hubbard has produced an album that won't let you forget it.

ALBUM REVIEW: Family Reunion "Family Album"

If you have brothers or sisters that live far away, you probably talk at least a few times a year - maybe every couple of months or more. However, cousins who live in different parts of the country rarely speak - except for the yearly Christmas card. That's what makes the success of Family Reunion's new album "Family Album" all the more special. Six cousins - yes, the number six - have created a band that records its one-of-a-kind brand of country songs using alter egos to protect their serious day jobs (such as accounting). Indeed, the Family Reunion band is somewhat like the British group Gorillaz - except with a few more jokes and some country attitude.
The album begins with the working-class anthem "Blue Collar King," which laments the anonymity of blue collar workers to white collar bosses. Likewise, the track confronts the sense of gloom facing many Americans since the US economy became turbulent at the end of the Bush term and throughout the Obama administration. The female lead vocals on the next cut "A Hard Man (Is Good To Find)" immediately lets the listener know that the song could be the Viagra theme song. Surprisingly, it works.

Cousins JD, Carrie, Barbie, Hollywood, Tex and Slim are the alter ego identities that form the band Family Reunion, and they live in the states of Virginia, Tennessee, Texas and California. In fact, they call themselves a "truly country-wide band."

The quiet "Judy My Dear" showcases a powerful, laid-back vocal performance that is both surprising and refreshing. "The sound of your laughter I hear," croons the singer. The cut "Beautiful Judas" has much of the same charm, and the song discusses a woman who abandons her man from the male perspective.

The song "Yes" has a cool vibe reminiscent of the best duets of Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. Both cousins give powerful vocal performances, and "Yes" emerges as the album's best produced track. Indeed, the cut could have wide appeal for multiple genres of country music, and radio program managers should consider introducing the song to its listeners. At over five minutes, the song might be a bit too long for radio, and a special edit could certainly make it better while still retaining its unique musical intensity. The duet "Hey Broken Hearted" could also interest some radio program managers.

The traditional cut "Delores" is a slow, story-in-song that is surprisingly touching, and "Runnin'" picks up the pace. However, the band might have a real radio winner with "Peas Porridge Cold." The actual song itself is country gold and could be a major mainstream Number One country chart hit in the able hands of a country star such as Blake Shelton or Luke Bryan. However, the retro country sound and "ooohhh" background vocals of the track do somewhat of a disservice to a song that has the potential to be a country blockbuster. It's a great cut as it is, but it's current state could be akin to having a beautiful wife that only wears jeans and t-shirts when she would look significantly more attractive in the right dress. In short, "Peas Porridge Cold" needs the perfect mix.

While the band Family Reunion is a group of six cousins who are shown as cartoon characters, don't want to use their real names due to serious day jobs and could have the song that could help Cialis gain more market share, the band is no joke. "Family Album" showcases a group of serious musicians who should be proud to show their faces. Maybe the next album should be called "Family Photo."

ALBUM REVIEW: Aaron Owens "Troublemaker"

Aaron Owens has a deep, rich voice that immediately commands attention, and his raw talent has earned him awards and critical praise, such as being named 2011's Arkansas Country Artist Of The Year. While awards are great, it's the music that matters, and Aaron Owens newest CD "Troublemaker" proves that this LA country boy is ready for the big stage. By the way, in Owens' world, LA stands for "Lower Arkansas."
The album begins with the melodic country tune "Before Forever" that has a cool Josh Turner meets Trace Adkins vibe. However, "Good Place To Start" is actually a better showcase for Aaron Owens' unique vocal talent, and radio program managers should take notice. Interestingly, the influence of Waylon Jennings is present throughout the track, and Aaron Owens makes a star turn on this stunning cut.

The title track "Troublemaker" is a dark and earthy song that succeeds, and "Let It Play" has much of the same charm. The honky tonk song "Sounds A Lot Like Me" is pure upbeat country fun. Owens softer side is shown on the quiet "Time," but the album's biggest surprise is "I Turned Her On," which purports to be a song about a woman discovering Merle Haggard and George Jones. However, concert audiences will eat up the double entendre faster than peach pie at the county fair.

The album abruptly moves to a story in song with the cut "Scars," which has a social and political message, and the album ends on a high note with the quirky "Redneck, White And Blue." Aaron Owens croons: "I'm a hillbilly with a bright red neck; blue collar country with a southern dialect; a God fearing, hard working, party loving son of a gun...making my momma proud and playing my music loud." In short, "Redneck, White And Blue" offers old fashioned, corn-fed lyrics that will please country fans on every level.

"Troublemaker," from rising country star Aaron Owens, shows exactly why this well-rounded country artist is winning awards and fans. They say you shouldn't go looking for trouble, but in this case you really should.

ALBUM REVIEW: Sons Of Bill "Sirens"

Sons Of Bill, whose members hail from the great state of Virginia, are back in top form after a long, long wait with the new album "Sirens." After the American gem "Far Cry From Freedom" and the even better "One Town Away" brought the band critical and commercial acclaim (read review by clicking here), "Sirens" proves to be a worthy follow up and definitely worth the wait.
The album begins with the lead single "Santa Ana Winds." Immediately, it is clear that producer and Cracker frontman David Lowery worked with the band to carefully craft its new, more contemporary sound that takes the group's successful Americana sensibilities and mixes it with alt rock fervor. Surprisingly, it works. The lyrics are interesting, and the instrumentation and melodic chorus are compelling. "Santa Ana Winds" deserves to be a great big, multi-genre hit, and the supporting video (watch below) should help on this front.

The thoughtful "Find My Way Back Home" highlights the band's pitch perfect vocal harmonies, and the toe-tapping chorus is infectious. The pace and intensity of the next cut "Siren Song" is reminiscent of today's best pop and country offerings. Indeed, "Siren Song" provides compelling evidence that Top 40 radio could be a second home for the Sons Of Bill. "Siren Song" should be released as a single and deserves to find much success.

The band's namesake Bill Wilson will probably be more comfortable with the traditional "Angry Eyes" that has a dark but intensely interesting story line. Once again, the Sons Of Bill's melodic sensibilities are on full display.

The quiet retro track "The Tree" is the album's biggest surprise. The punctuated lyrics and nuanced vocal performance is both mesmerizing and pleasingly perplexing. "Turn It Up" has much of the same charm.

A celebration of a ruined life has never sounded better than "Life In Shambles," which seems to revel in the subject's misery with great effect. The band's advice: "Take a shower, call your mom, you ain't living like you should." However, "The Losing Fight" returns to the band's new sound, and the vocal performance mixes diverse elements reminiscent of both Bryan Adams and Steve Earle.

Americana music fans will enjoy the reflective "Radio Can't Rewind," but it is "Last Call At The Eschaton" that emerges as the album's best cut. The intense vocals and subdued instrumentation slowly builds to a chorus that offers pure melodic bliss. Finally, the country tinged "Virginia Calling" offers a tribute to the state the band calls home. The song is also the purest example of country music on the album.

"Sirens" turns out to be the perfect title of an album that announces the Sons Of Bill to a new audience with a bold and inescapably interesting musical perspective. While the musicality and lyrical intentions present on the previous albums "Far Cry From Freedom"  and "One Town Away" are different than "Sirens," a clear musical progression is readily evident. Yes, "Sirens" is different, but it is a masterful musical work. At the same time, it's clear that the Sons Of Bill are the same down to earth, good ol' boys that have made Bill Wilson proud since the day they were born.

ALBUM REVIEW: Moot Davis "Man About Town"

If you love old fashioned country music with a new twist, Moot Davis' new album "Man About Town" may just be your next favorite album. That's because this earnest and hard-working singer has crafted 13 songs that will excite even the most subdued music fan.
The upbeat "Rags To Rhinestones" begins the album with a bang. The song discusses aspects of love mixed with authentic talk of financial troubles that will ring true to any person who has lived through the tumultuous financial times of the 2010s. Indeed, Moot Davis croons about reversal of fortune: "When I was on top, everyone called me friend...I was the toast of the town. Now they kick me out of bars on Broadway"

The uniquely wonderful "Day The World Shook My Hand" offers a cool retro vibe that works, and the track's instrumentation is stellar. The next cut "Rocket" has much of the same charm, but it is the Roy Orbison-esque "Fade To Gold" that emerges as the album's best song. Moot Davis gives a nuanced vocal performance that highlights the piercing lyrics. "Fade To Gold" deserves radio and fan attention and could find the artist new fans.

"Queensbury Rules" offers Davis the opportunity to let loose, and the song showcases the fun to be had at a Moot Davis concert. The memorable "How Long" has gospel fervency and is irresistibly catchy. "Rust" showcases Moot Davis' bluesy side, and "Only You" highlights the artist's obvious respect for traditional country music.

However, the album surprises with the dark and wistful "Memory Lane," and the vocal performance is award-worthy. Unusually, the title track is saved for last, but it was a sound choice. The song "Man About Town" is a thoughtful and sincere track that blends the best bits of Moot Davis numerous musical influences into one solid cut.

The album "Man About Town" showcases Moot Davis as an interesting artist with eclectic tastes. On the record, Davis fully utilizes a winning mixture of talents that combine the soul of a musician with the charisma of a gifted actor - no small feat. And once you hear the 13 songs offered by Davis, you'll certainly want to move to this man's town.

SINGLE REVIEW: Bo Phillips Band "Red Dirt Girl"

Red Dirt musicians don't come any better than the boys of Stillwater, Oklahoma's Bo Phillips Band, who have created a scorching new album titled "Fishin' With Grandpa" that highlights lessons and stories about growing up. However, the band has the potential of a barnstorming, mega-hit with the anthem "Red Dirt Girl," which could propel the Bo Phillips Band to a whole new level.

Bo Phillips grew up with his two brothers (Red Dirt musician Stoney LaRue and Stephan Phillips) without much money, but the brothers' rich family heritage created a unique work ethic that is proven by the superb new album that begins with the hit single "Front Porch."

Despite their relative success, "Red Dirt Girl" steals the show on the band's new album, and the Bo Phillips Band have likely found its signature song with the lighter waving track - which is performed with a piercing sincerity that is palpably earnest. Indeed, both male and female concertgoers who may not have known of the Bo Phillips Band may find their way to concerts just for the song "Red Dirt Girl." Along they way, they are bound to discover the other great music they've missed. Country Chart Magazine also offered a rave review to the band's previous album: "Dirt Road." (Read review by clicking here).

"Red Dirt Girl" is a slow-building cut that gradually rises to a pulsing chorus. Indeed, the track deserves to be a #1 country music chart hit for the Bo Phillips Band.  The song will also get a further push from Texas/Red Dirt radio because of its uncompromising lyrics.  Bo Phillips wrote the song and began the cut with the lyrics: "She don't like the way the music is born in Tennessee. Says that they all sound the same to her, with nothing new to see."

The song also name checks classic country stars such as Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings among others. Interestingly, Bo Phillips ties these legends musical legacies to Texas country stars such as Brandon Jenkins and Jason Boland - who will no doubt be flattered by the comparison.

"Red Dirt Girl" is the right song at the right place at the right time as dissatisfaction continues to grow with the Chesney-esque brand of country music within some groups of fans. Yes, the Bo Phillips Band have truly made a mark in the country market with a true country (not just Red Dirt) classic song. And, by the way, who doesn't love a Red Dirt girl?

ALBUM REVIEW: The Oak Ridge Boys "It's Only Natural" (Cracker Barrel exclusive)

The Oak Ridge Boys teamed up with the fine folks at Cracker Barrel to produce an exclusive album with 5 brand new songs and a load of other favorites. While the 12-track album dropped a few months ago, there is no greater Mother's Day or Father's Day gift than "It's Only Natural" from the Oak Ridge Boys.
The album begins with "What'cha Gonna Do," which has an upbeat, melodic sound that deserves to be a major country chart hit for the Oak Ridge Boys. "Before I Die" is another new song that has radio potential. The sincerity of the vocal performance is mesmerizing. "The Shade" has much of the same charm.

However, the best new song on the album is "Wish You Could Have Been There." The song has cultural relevance and an uplifting chorus that is both memorable and heartwarming. The bluegrass infused "Sacrifice … For Me" brings the Oak Ridge Boys back to their country roots, and the story in song has a political message that will resonate to patriotic American country music fans.

A re-recording of the classic Oak Ridge Boys hit "Elvira" is performed with a gospel-tinged fervency that is palpable. The classic "True Heart" showcases the group's melodic brilliance, and the hard-edged country blues track "Gonna Take A Lot of River" ups the fun quotient in a major way. Concert audiences love this track, and it helps this recorded album sparkle as well. Likewise, the classic Oak Ridge Boys vocal blend is front and center with "No Matter How High" and "Lucky Moon." 

"It's Only Natural" is a top-notch, creative country album from the veteran Oak Ridge Boys. Indeed, the boys prove that there's a lot of life left in the group, and the evidence presented here shows that the band could  possibly find their way back to the top of the country chart with the right song. Yes, "It's Only Natural" might be a great gift, but you'll also want to head out to Cracker Barrel and grab a copy for yourself as well.

SINGLE REVIEW: The McClymonts "I Could Be A Cowboy"

Female country trio The McClymonts have gotten tons of press ink in the American country music press following the group's meteroric rise in popularity in their native Australia. "I Could Be A Cowboy" proves why these country girls have achieved superstardom Down Under and deserve to be big stars in the USA too. 
"I Could Be A Cowboy" is an unlikely title for a winning country ballad, and The McClymonts probably needed to show the American market the group's softer side. Sam McClyomont said: "You can choose to be independent and strong but sometimes you just need love and to be in someone else's arms.”

The piercing vocal performance combined with the terrific lyrics make "I Could Be A Cowboy" a must download for country music fans everywhere. At the same time, the track highlights the trio's tight harmonies and flawless production.

The McClymonts released their album "Wrapped Up Good" last year in America, and the album was released earlier in Australia. Surprisingly, the album managed to be the fifth most popular country album there last year - beating country megastars such as Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw and Alan Jackson.

"I Could Be A Cowboy" was released to radio several weeks ago, and it deserves to be a Top 10 US country chart hit for the talented Australian girl group. The McClymonts have a bright future in country music, and cowboys and cowgirls everywhere will be dancing the night away to their hot country tracks for years to come.

SINGLE REVIEW: Casey Donahew Band "Let's Not Say Goodbye Again"

When Casey Donahew announced his band's new single, "Let's Not Say Goodbye Again," to a screaming crowd at the oldest live music venue in Arkansas, a hush went through the crowd as the mixture of hard working blue collar men and women stopped clicking bottles and partying with upper middle class University of Arkansas undergraduates long enough to give a good listen to the new track. The assembled concertgoers seemed to know the words to almost every other song, but not this one. However, it was clear that the crowd took to the song faster than catfish attacking fresh bait as the chorus of "Let's Not Say Goodbye Again" kicked into overdrive. Yep, they were hooked.
The new single "Let's Not Say Goodbye Again" hit radio a few days later, and you can bet that hundreds of people who have caught the Casey Donahew Band's sold-out shows contacted their local radio stations to hear the new song.  The track begins with a Texas country vibe, but the upbeat love song would fit comfortably on mainstream country radio.

However, the real strength of "Let's Not Say Goodbye Again" lies in the aforementioned hook. Donahew croons: "You remember when I said I love you. How long has it been? Well, I don't want this to end; let's not say goodbye again." Donahew's smooth country vocals ooze sincerity, which lends credence to the lyrics.

The band builds the excitement slowly, and the cut ends in a rousing crescendo of the chorus that masterfully brings the energy down to a thoughtful instrumental close. "Let's Not Say Goodbye Again" is a future Number One track for the Casey Donahew Band, and it will definitely bring the band new fans in the general country market along with the traditional support these country boys already receive from Red Dirt aficionados.

"Let's Not Say Goodbye Again"  is featured on The Casey Donahew Band's new hit album "Double Wide Dream," which features 10 songs - all written by Casey Donahew - a self confessed "redneck at heart." However, this is one good ol' boy you'll want to keep around. As the Arkansas crowds will attest, nobody - and I mean nobody - wants to say goodbye to Casey Donahew.

Grab our button

Top Country Albums - iTunes