ALBUM REVIEW: Homespun Remedies "Great Depression"

Debuting at Dallas' famed Poor David's Pub in 2007 to a near-sellout audience, DFW-based Homespun Remedies soon released its self-titled debut and followed with the band's newest album "Great Depression" - which was released in June 2011. Through some quirk of the US mail, the review copy of "Great Depression" sent to Country Chart Magazine only just arrived a few days ago. Indeed, this is one Post Office miracle that is deserving of sainthood - yes the music is that darn good.
The album begins with the quiet introduction "Leave This Town" and is followed by "What's Goin' Round," which is mellow Texas country gold. The careful vocal performance and harmonies sound new but definitely pay homage to the past.

"Empty Pockets" has a retro-cool vibe while the next cut "Make Believe" is the album's biggest surprise. It is a folksy story in song that carefully blends Americana with classic country, and the result is music magic.

The upbeat "Good To Hear Your Voice" is a toe-tapping hit, and "Elegant Lie" offers a carefully nuanced vocal performance that works. It must also be mentioned that the instrumentation by Homespun Remedies is terrific on every track, but the musicians and their instruments may have been used most effectively on "Elegant Lie."

The album's best track is "Black Cloud," which has a singer-songwriter vibe and carefully builds to a rousing crescendo. The bluegrass-infused "Two Dollar Bill" is totally infectious fun, and "Wide Is The River" is an interesting story in song.  The album ends with a Red Dirt cut appropriately titled "Parting Shots." The throwback style of the track is terribly interesting, and the vocal performance showcases passionate intensity.

No one is going to accuse Homespun Remedies and its terrific album "Great Depression" of being boring. Quite the contrary, the album is at times a musical masterclass that challenges the very concept of Texas country music. The only great depression to be suffered here is that the Post Office waited so long to deliver this CD and the fact that fans must wait for another album (hopefully coming soon) from these good ol' Dallas boys.

ALBUM REVIEW: Doreen Taylor "Magic"

Casting a spell on the country music world all the way from upstate New York is the captivating voice of Doreen Taylor, and the songstress' new album "Magic" might just be the perfect potion for country chart success.

The 11-song album begins with "Last Call (for Alcohol)," which has a retro cool Olivia  Newton-John vibe that works. The melody is super-catchy, and Taylor's powerful vocals sparkle. It must be mentioned that Doreen Taylor is 1) not a musical novice 2) not the typical new country artist. That is because she hails from the Great White Way - yes, Broadway. Indeed, Taylor has been performing on and off Broadway for years - most notably opposite Davis Gaines in Phantom Of The Opera (playing the female lead role of Christine).

With a Master's Degree in opera, Taylor has surprisingly strong country music chops. "Another Rainy Night In Memphis" is a nuanced and powerful vocal performance that evokes memories of a mixture of Bonnie Tyler and Crystal Gayle. The upbeat "K.I.S.S." has much of the same charm.

"Music's My Magic"  is the album's biggest surprise as it highlights Doreen Taylor as a musical storyteller. "Heartbeat" is a darker cut that has a sultry vibe that works, but it is the quiet "Perfect For Me" that steals the show. Doreen Taylor utilizes her amazing vocal talent to its full effect in an award-worthy performance. Bravo.

The Gretchen Wilson-esque "Better Call Me A Lady" is an authentic track that tackles the hard times women face in a time of recession. However, Taylor's diversity is best shown on the classic "Summertime," which has a uniquely wonderful arrangement that blends blues and country with a remarkably pleasing effect.

"Magic" is a polished and carefully crafted album that deserves attention. Move over Taylor Swift, there's a new Taylor in town.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Piedmont Boys "All On Red"

South Carolina's hilly Piedmont region is full of salt-of-the-earth people - you know the humble and unprententious citizens that make America great. So it's no wonder that a few hard working rabble rousers decide to shake things up in Greenville, SC. Enter The Piedmont Boys and the band's new release "All On Red."
To get a sense of the unpredictable nature of the band, you have to know where the title "All On Red" came from. Founding band member Greg Payne, a Kernersville, North Carolina native, told Country Chart Magazine that the name originated following a show in Grande Ronde, Oregon: "After our show, they paid us $1600 for two nights of playing," Payne said. "I took all the money...and put it on red at the roulette table. We were so broke anyway, I figure I'd take a chance...I WON."

The Piedmont Boys aren't just winners at the casino. The album "All On Red" delivers ten diverse and interesting songs beginning with "Bettin' On Bein' Alright." The track has a wide variety of musical influences with the major ones being traditional country and honky tonk. "Bettin'On Bein' Alright" puts a bright focus on America's tough economic times: "Ain't got a dime to my name and it's a crying shame, but I'm betting on being all right."

The next cut, "Free Spirit," has a cool, retro-country vibe that works, and the track that follows, "35," has much of the same charm - including superb instrumentation. However, the album charts new territory with the tender "Gypsy Soul," which is quiet and restrained in all the right ways. Indeed, the Chris Knight-esque song is remarkable for its simplicity.

"Hell Danielle" is the biggest surprise on the album "All On Red." The track's quirky chorus and laid back vocal performance make this cut supremely entertaining. However, The Piedmont Boys get back to normal form on the honky-tonk track "White Line Mercy," which will have audiences dancing, tapping and humming.

The Americana-influenced song "Blood Brothers" oozes passionate intensity and might be the album's best cut. Radio program managers should take notice of "Blood Brothers," which showcases a darker side of the band.

Everybody loves a fishing trip, and The Piedmont Boys are no exception. The cut "Fishing Trip (2011)" is a toe-tapping success. However, it is the final two live cuts that showcase the supreme talent of The Piedmont Boys. The first, "Bocephus" is a musical tour de force, and the other track, "Rice Beans"also showcases the band's gritty life experience. It describes living a life where food costs are kept low (rice and beans) to offset the cost of cocaine and cheap whiskey. "Rice Beans" will not be everyone's cup of tea (...or Jack and Coke), but it is real life that is portrayed as harmless fun by The Piedmont Boys.

"All On Red" is a surprisingly entertaining album that will keep you guessing from start to finish. The musicality is strong, and the topics being discussed are not always politically correct. That's why the band and its new album "All On Red" are a breath of fresh air in the increasingly paint-by-numbers country music scene. With all the cookie-cutter, black and white music on today's charts, The Piedmont Boys are unashamedly adding a little red to the mix.

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