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Showing posts from April, 2010

Album Review: Susan Cowsill "Lighthouse"

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Susan Cowsill has one of the most wonderfully unique female voices in music today. Thankfully, she decided to record a follow-up to her 2005 solo debut ("Just Believe It") with the new album "Lighthouse" on Threadhead Records.
Of course, Susan Cowsill is best known for her work with The Cowsills. But "Lighthouse" shows Susan Cowsill as a multi-dimensional solo artist with diverse musical influences. The album begins with the hummable "Dragon Flys." Cowsill's vocals have never sounded better.

"Avenue Of The Indians" is a reimagining of traditional cowboy country songs that hits on all cylinders. "You And Me Baby" is another track that can be embraced by country audiences. It's a tender love song that exudes emotion. Next, the album's beat picks up with the contemporary "River Of Love."

"Sweet Bitter End" offers a beautiful, bluesy vocal performance with uplifting lyrics. The song highlights t…

Review: Brandon Rhyder "Head Above Water"

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Brandon Rhyder has been known for solid Red Dirt standards that stand the test of time. Now, the Austin, Texas country singer is ready to spread his wings and see if Texas country fans are willing to accept a bold concept album. Yes, Rhyder has made a major career departure with "Head Above Water." But the proof is in the pudding, and it still tastes darn good.
The album begins with a bold, radio-ready anthem "Rock Angel." However,  the album comes into its own with the hummable "You Can Count On Me." Rhyder channels his inner Rob Thomas to create a track that audiences from all genres will find irresistible.

"You Burn Me" is a Roy Orbison-style song that offers a pulsating beat and notably intense lyrics. However, the best song on the album is "Like It Was The Last Time." The song builds to a rousing crescendo with a cool Darius Rucker vibe. "Like It Was The Last Time" could be a mainstream country chart hit for Brandon …

Album Review: RayTaylorSounds "Country Birthday Song Album" Featuring Cal Baker & Rachael Williams With Songs By Ray Taylor

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As a student of popular music while growing up in the San Francisco area, Ray Taylor attended concerts at the famous Fillmore Auditorium and was trained in classical music. As he progressed through life as a songwriter, Ray Taylor discovered country music. It's a good thing, because "Country Birthday Song Album" is proof that his decision to "turn country" was a smart one.
The album begins on an upbeat note with the terrific "What Can I Do" performed by Rachael Williams. She sings Taylor's authentic country lyrics with conviction. Close your eyes, and you'll think you're at the Grand Ole Opry.

However, the main attraction on the album is the title cut: "Country Birthday Song." Cal Baker has a soothing country voice with a laid-back style that showcases Ray Taylor's music to its fullest. The album offers a female version of the song by Rachael Williams as a bonus cut, and her performance offers the song from a new perspective…

Album Review: The Brison Bursey Band "Expectations And Parking Lots"

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A quick glance at the cover art of  "Expectations And Parking Lots" shows a solitary double parking meter in front of a weathered wall that could come from any small town in the USA. Neither the front cover art or back cover give listeners a clue that The Brison Bursey Band are actually a carefree group of country boys with the cohesive sound of a band twice its age. Indeed, the low expectations give way to a delicious surprise (and a big musical payoff) with "Expectations And Parking Lots."
The album begins with the laid-back, Wade Bowen-esque "Solid Ground." It's followed by the stellar "Hearts To Break" which offers penetrating lyrics and a killer melodic hook courtesy of songwriters Bursey and band member Justin Tocket.

Brison Bursey grew up about 80 miles from Wichita in a small town named Quanah. And Bursey's early beginnings in a "yes, ma'am" and "no, sir" town was the perfect All American upbringing fo…

Single Review: Michael Sarver "Ferris Wheel"

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Sulphur, Louisiana native Michael Sarver has a deep, rich country voice that will win him fans both in and out of country music. However, even a singer with vocal talent needs the perfect song, and "Ferris Wheel" is a winner.
As a Top 10 contestant on the eighth season of Americana Idol, Michael Sarver has been exposed to millions of music fans. With "Ferris Wheel," Sarver channels his inner Josh Gracin to create a memorable country song that radio stations will eat up like cotton candy at the county fair.

The upbeat cover art showcases an artist who is comfortable in his own skin, and Sarver's new, contemporary look should help encourage younger country fans to jump on the Sarver bandwagon. Likewise, the silver cross around his neck shows Sarver is unafraid to hide his deep religious conviction.

Michael Sarver's voice has only gotten stronger since his Idol days, and "Ferris Wheel" is the song that will successfully give Michael Sarver a major…

Album Review: Bart Crow Band "Heartworn Tragedy"

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Whether in concert or on recorded tracks, the Bart Crow Band never, ever disappoints. The band's new album "Heartworn Tragedy" is no exception. Indeed, the project supplies more hard-edge Texas country than any Red Dirt fan could possibly desire.
The album begins with the rockin' title track "Heartworn Tragedy." The heavy lyrics pulsate with intensity, and Bart Crow's vocals have never sounded better. However, the tone of the album softens with the melodic "Saying Goodbye" which has already been warmly embraced by radio.

The hard pumping Red Dirt love song "Traded It All For Love" showcases the best elements of the Bart Crow Band, which include Paul Russell, Matt Slagle, David Fralin, Brian Smith, and, of course, Bart Crow.

The best cut on "Heartworn Tragedy" is the reflective "Run With The Devil." The sincere lyrics and memorable hook draw in the listener and paint a vivid picture of the hardly-seen sensitive si…

Album Review: Matt Harlan "Tips & Compliments"

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If Chris Knight had a son with Lucinda Williams, he might - just might - turn out to be as good a musician as Boerne, Texas native Matt Harlan. That's a high compliment, but Matt Harlan's new release "Tips & Compliments" deserves all of the accolades it can collect.
The album begins with the Americana gem "Elizabethtown." The lyrics and music penetrate the soul and build to a rousing chorus. The next track, "Skinny Trees Of Mississippi," proves to be a winning demonstration of Harlan's significant vocal chops. Like Chris Knight, Harlan paints a full and complete picture of his surroundings, thoughts and feelings in his accomplished lyrics.

Traditional country music is well represented with the stellar "Something New," "Over The Bridge" and "Warm November." Of the three, "Over The Bridge" has the best chance to be a major Texas country chart hit. Harlan's vocals fire on all cylinders, and the ins…

Review: Kyle Park "Spring 2010" EP

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Let's face it, the music industry is rough these days. However, Kyle Park is nobody's fool, and his new EP "Spring 2010" proves it. In fact, Kyle Park's unassuming country grin belies the fact that he is probably one of the smartest good ol' boys on the Red Dirt music scene.
You see, Kyle Park is releasing several EPs over the next year to let fans vote on which cuts will make his new album to be released in 2011. It's a brilliant move, because fans get a voice and a constant stream of new music. Indeed, Kyle Park is forging a new path in Texas country that is likely to be replicated by others.

The "Spring 2010" EP begins with the country ballad "I'm Missing You." The lyrics travel familiar country ground with a fresh perspective that builds to a rousing chorus. The rockin' "Prove It To You" is Texas country through and through. This cut will rock the rafters in Kyle Park concerts and should prove to be a fan f…

Review: Jay Hart "Breaking Down In The B-Town EP"

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Jay Hart is a name that country music aficionados should remember. On "Breaking Down In The B-Town EP," he has the musical sensibilities of Ryan Adams and the pleasing vocal tone of James Blunt. He's also traveled the world with acts as diverse as Spiritualized and Billy Jo Spears. Likewise, he's played Glastonbury and the Viper Room. And, oh yeah, he's British.
In country music, geography matters, but listeners should not hold that against Jay Hart. The first cut, "Time On Our Hands," shows an earnest alt-country singer baring his soul. The production is stellar, and Jay Hart gives a winning vocal performance.

"What's Wrong" mixes guitar rock with today's country. Think Matt Nathanson meets Keith Urban. But it works on all levels. Jay Hart has a compelling vocal presence that draws in the listener. The vocal power is reminiscent of Stereophonics lead-singer Kelly Jones.

The country quotient rises with "Spending Time Wasting Tim…

Album Review: Bo Phillips Band "Dirt Road"

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The members of the Bo Phillips Band are students of Red Dirt music who hail from Stillwater, Oklahoma. However, Bo Phillips was born in Houston, and his Texas roots shine through with his band's terrific new album titled "Dirt Road."
Unpaved roads are usually kind of bumpy and unpredictable, but the Bo Phillips Band's "Dirt Road" is filled with heartfelt ballads and rockin' Texas country. The album begins with the soulful "Never." This song has a memorable melody and winning lyrics. The aptly titled "Perfect Girl" is equally pleasing. This radio single is the kind of country song that will make cowgirls dance the night away.

The bluesy "Cornfed" provides worthy guitar performances, but the album really hits its stride with the title track "Dirt Road." This cut could and should find its place on the country chart. It's a pleasing mix of Texas country with mainstream sensibilities and a superb vocal performance…

Album Review: Mike Runnels "The Tender Years"

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Mike Runnels never fails to impress with his understated country music vocals. And Runnels' new album, "The Tender Years," continues his tradition of country music excellence with ten tracks that impress on all levels.
The album begins with the melodic "Cheatin' Side Of Town" which deserves country radio attention. The equally pleasing "We'll Find A Way" is also a toe-tapping delight.

However, Mike Runnels shines on slow ballads like "Last Date" and "Now You Know." The Roy Orbison-esque "Just Say So Baby" is Mike Runnels' shining moment on the album. It oozes easy-going musical confidence and could warm the hardest of hearts.

Mike Runnels channels an alt-country vibe with "Sweetheart." Likewise, "I Love You More" has a cool Dwight Yoakam meets Hank Williams sound that works. "Do You Feel The Same" and "Fourteen Karat Gold" are also solid efforts.

One of the best perform…

Album Review: Anne McCue "Broken Promise Land"

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The closing track of Anne McCue's stellar new album explains the artist in a nutshell: "Rock N' Roll Outlaw." But that seemingly simplistic title doesn't completely do justice to McCue's new, 10 track album, "Broken Promise Land." That's because she shows vulnerability and musical passion in a hard-edge package that is irresistible to the ears. In short, Anne McCue deserves to be a roots rock superstar.
The first track "Don't Go To Texas (Without Me)" is a radio friendly gem that glides as naturally as your favorite pair of sneakers. "Ol' Black Sky" ventures into a darker, more ethereal place reminiscent of the best music of Alannah Myles. "Cruisin' Paradise (Tenerife)" and "God's Home Number" are also bluesy pleasure points.

McCue's roots rock edge returns with "Lonesome Child." The instrumentation and lyrics on the track deserve special mention for setting the perfect mood …