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Showing posts from September 13, 2009

Review: Richard Shindell “Not Far Now”

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The world of folk and Americana music has missed Richard Shindell. You see, it's been more than five years since he last released an new project full of original songs. "Not Far Now" was worth the wait, because Richard Shindell's beautiful lyrics, lush instrumentation and quietly confident vocals have never sounded better.

Richard Shindell is a master storyteller who has a unique talent of telling compelling stories that are seemingly simple but often show deeper meaning upon repeated listens. He also brings new meaning to the songs of others as evidenced by his terrific 2007 covers album "South Of Delia."

The album begins with the country-infused "Parasol Ants," which offers a memorable melody and excellent lyrics. Richard Shindell the folksinger returns on the quiet "A Juggler Out In Traffic." It succeeds on all levels.

"One Man's Arkansas" is even better, and this track is a compelling tale about dishonest property develo…

Review: Otis Taylor "Pentatonic Wars And Love Songs"

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Otis Taylor has a full, rich voice so full of bluesy soul that it could melt butter, and Taylor's new release, "Pentatonic Wars And Love Songs," will also melt your heart.

Fans of roots and Americana music enjoy Otis Taylor because of his signature sound which emotes passion and intensity even in low-key tracks such as the album's first song "Looking For Some Heat." Otis Taylor feels the lyrics, and at some moments he channels Barry White with some blues-infused Americana. Plus, Taylor is an accomplished instrumentalist, and his skills on guitar are breathtaking.

Country fans may have first discovered Otis Taylor on "Recapturing The Banjo," which is his stellar 2008 release that examines the banjo's African roots. "Pentatonic Wars And Love Songs" takes an entirely new direction and explores all elements of love.

The biggest surprise on the album is the melodic and ethereal "Silver Dollar On My Head." Otis Taylor has never so…

Review: Landon James Band "Like It Or Not"

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The Landon James Band wants you to think that they don't care whether you like them or not. To prove the point, they put a man in a chicken suit with a corded leaf blower on the cover of "Like It Or Not." But it's hard not to like these country boys from New Braunfels, Texas.  After one listen to "Like It Or Not," you'll almost certainly be in the "like" - or maybe even the "love" - category.

The four members of the Landon James Band (Landon James, Mike Scholze, Brandon Lee Singleton & John Schaefer)are bursting with youthful Red Dirt enthusiasm that is infectious. "Like It Or Not" begins with the melodic "Writings On My Wall," which showcases James' clear country vocals.

The best track on the album is "Waiting To Be Found," which offers penetrating lyrics similar to the Randy Rogers Band and a passionate performance from Landon James. But the best chance for country chart success is the hard driv…

Review: Hunter McKithan & The Offenders "Lee Road Sessions"

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Hunter McKithan & The Offenders have managed to have a successful Texas country career in just a few short years since their 2007 debut release, "Shape Of It All." And "Lee Road Sessions" continues the upward trajectory of an an artist who never fails to impress.

The five song EP begins with the rockin' "Nowhere To Go," which showcases the authentic southern rock voice of Hunter McKithan. It's followed by the melodic "Momma Save Me," which deserves to be a major Texas country chart hit. Hunter McKithan & The Offenders deliver a near-flawless performance with great lyrics written by McKithan and Shawn Camfield.

The pace slows down with the love song "Back To You" written by McKithan and Jason Nelson. This track oozes Red Dirt passion. "Solid Ground" has a great Wade Bowen meets Johnny Cooper vibe that succeeds on all levels.

The biggest surprise on the album is "Baby Roll On," and the fine musicianship…

Review: Jeremy Steding "A Damn Good Ride"

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Jeremy Steding has a deep, rich country voice that evokes memories of country music stars like Johnny Cash. It takes supreme confidence to title your album "A Damn Good Ride," but Jeremy Steding pulls it off.

The album begins with the title track "A Damn Good Ride" which has a winning Josh Turner meets Johnny Cash sound that will be popular with both Texas country and traditional country music aficionados.  "Can't Slow Me Down" is a tasty country treat that will be one of Jeremy Steding's most popular songs at live concerts.

Jeremy Steding started out on the Texas music scene in April, 2007 with his self-produced album "Whiskey Songs And Prison Songs." Without the help of professional radio promoters, Steding's single "Auburn" became a hit on the Texas Music Chart. Thankfully, "Auburn" is included on "A Damn Good Ride." This song could still be a major mainstream country chart hit.

The best song on the al…

Review: Drew Tichnell “Within My Soul”

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Drew Tichnell is a beautiful blonde country singer in her early twenties. While these qualities may seem like a winning formula for country music success, Nashville is littered with attractive women who've tried and failed to land a big break. However, Drew Tichnell is different. This East Texas native is one of the few up-and-coming female country vocalists that could boast a catalog of more than 100 songs before the age of 21.

Tichnell, who released the album "Within My Soul" in 2008, is a loving mother to identical twin daughters, and she's been performing in the Austin area for several years with her five-piece band. Most importantly, Drew Tichnell has a unique voice that can best be described as southern rock meets Texas country. With a surprisingly rich, country rock voice and immense songwriting talent, Drew Tichnell could be the next big thing in country music.

Tichnell is in pre-production for her new album, which will probably be released sometime in 2010. …

Review: Phil Lee “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You”

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Phil Lee has had a long professional career in the music business. He began as a drummer in the 1960s and has performed with everybody who's anybody over the last few decades. But Phil Lee has had no finer moment than his terrific new album, "So Long, It's Been Good To Know You."

On the album, Phil Lee is sometimes a sardonic, rockabilly Bob Dylan. In other moments, he's a country Tom Petty performing his unique lyrics with a wink and a nod. However, Lee's best asset is his signature sound and authentic country voice that never fails to impress. This is an artist who could sing your third grader's book report and make it sound like an Americana classic.

The album begins with the personal story "25 Mexicans" and is followed by "Sonny George" which has a winning Chris Knight meets Charlie Daniels vibe. But the biggest surprise of the album is "We Cannot Be Friends Anymore," which has a big sound and lyrics that paint a vivid pi…

Review: D.C. Bloom “Simpler Times A Wastin’”

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D.C. Bloom has a way with words. However, to fully understand his music you first have to know that this former FBI speechwriter left Washington, DC for the rolling hills of Texas late in life.

"Simpler Times A Wastin'" is D.C. Bloom's debut album, and his lyrical prose and passionate love of music shines through on every track. Indeed, Bloom often quotes Bonanza's Hoss Cartwright, "It's better to bloom late than to never bloom at all."

D.C. Bloom has a traditional country sound mixed with a little mischievous fun in his superb lyrics. "Simpler Times A Wastin'" starts off strong with with the melodic "Acres To Plow," which showcases Bloom's harmonies with Terri Hendrix along with Texas music legend Lloyd Maines on steel guitar.

The biggest surprise of the album is the tender "Precious Memories." It's evident that D.C. Bloom feels the power of his faith in the lyrics while he remembers his childhood and belov…

Review: Spring Creek "Way Up On A Mountain"

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"Way Up On A Mountain" proves that Spring Creek is the best new band in bluegrass music.  In fact, the Lyons, Colorado-based group has crafted an album that showcases near-perfect harmonies and the best picking of any up-and-coming bluegrass band in recent memory.

The project starts out strong with the title track  and current single "My Love Is Way Up On A Mountain." This cut is well deserving of all the radio airplay it has received. However, the best song on the album is "Tangled In The Pines" which vividly illustrates the band's stellar vocal talents and fine instrumentation.

The biggest surprise is the throwback "Lonesome Town." This song will make you want to sit on the porch, put your feet up and remember days gone by. However, the hard-driving "In Despair" will actually improve your spirits if you're feeling blue, because it offers fast-paced lyrics and upbeat music that succeeds on all levels.

Spring Creek was the only…

Review: Owen Temple “Dollars And Dimes”

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Owen Temple has created a Texas country masterwork with "Dollars And Dimes." This gritty concept album comprised of eleven songs is perfectly tuned to the tough economic times facing Americans today.

The success of "Dollars And Dimes" is due in large part to the perfect, low key vocal performance of Temple combined with masterful lyrics reminiscent of the best songs of Chris Knight. Indeed, Owen Temple is the working man's Tom Petty.

The best three songs on the album are the first track "Broken Heart Land," the reflective "Golden Age" and the melodic "Black Diamond." In particular, "Broken Heart Land" has all the ingredients for a Texas country chart hit with brilliant lyrics and a memorable melody.

The rockin' "I Don't Want To Do What I Do" is the biggest surprise of the album, and it shows the harder edge of Owen Temple that will be a popular at live concerts. "City Of The King" also has rad…

Review: James Hand "Shadow On The Ground"

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If you're tired of over-produced country music that sounds like it should be on the pop charts instead of the country charts, then you'll love Waco, Texas native James Hand's stellar new album "Shadow On The Ground." James Hand is an authentic country musician in the tradition of Hank Williams, and his album will remind you why you became a fan of country music in the first place.

James "Slim" Hand is a Texan through and through, and his heartachingly real depiction of country life will surprise and delight you. Hand's debut national release in 2006 at age 53 ("The Truth Will Set You Free" on Rounder Records) was a landmark in Texas music, and it gave hope to every Lone Star musician waiting for their moment to arrive. Before taking the national stage, James Hand began singing in honky tonks at age 12, but he had to find work as a truck driver, rodeo rider and horse trainer to earn additional money.

All the hard work paid off with "S…

Review: Steve Azar "Slide On Over Here"

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Steve Azar has produced the best  album of his career with "Slide On Over Here," which offers meaningful, soul-searching songs along with other tracks just meant for good times. The Greenville, Mississippi native recently settled into a new home a few miles south of Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and three kids that includes a home recording studio. No doubt, his stable family life and easy studio access helped Steve Azar create an album that is a true country gem.

"Slide On Over Here" starts off strong with the melodic track "I'll Find Me," and Azar tackles the nation's financial crisis with his current single, the rockin' "Moo La Moo." Two other hard-driving tracks, "Sinkin' Or Swimmin' (With You)" and "Sweet Delta Chains," also deserve special mention.

However, Steve Azar's star shines the brightest on his most tender tracks, such as "Sunshine," "Take Your Time (Ryan's Song),&…