Showing posts from May 15, 2011

Review: Stacy Grubb "Hurricane"

Rising artist Stacy Grubb released her debut album "Hurricane" many months ago. Lucky for us, a copy managed to turn up at the Country Chart office, because this accomplished debut by Grubb is a pleasant surprise that includes backing from some of the finest musicians America has to offer.
The album begins with the bluegrass-infused "Hurricane" featuring harmonies from the famed Dailey & Vincent plus Ron Block's always perfect banjo talent. Grubb has a clear bluegrass voice, and the track's production is superb.

The album is not entirely bluegrass and features music country fans will enjoy as well. However, Grubb's style seems to be heavily influenced by mountain music, which leads to reflective tracks such as "Baby Dear" and the tender "Appalachian Rain."

Grubb's home state gets a major shout out with "West Virginia Wildflower," which is sung with passion and features a sparkling melody. However, the artist's …

Review: Kevin Deal "Seven"

A clear, authentic Texas country voice and hard-driving lyrics are the most important factors that make Kevin Deal's new album "Seven" such an unqualified success.
The album begins with the outlaw country track "200 Cops" which has a dark storyline and superb instrumentation. Kevin Deal's music speaks most sincerely to the blue collar crowd - hard working men and women who know what it's like to struggle to make ends meet. The melodic "Behind The Shield" is a poignant tribute to some of our hardest working public servants.

The hard-rockin' "Cactus Flower" mixes Red Dirt and southern rock with great success, but it is the Americana cut "Guard My Heart" that is the album's biggest surprise. Deal showcases his tender side in a cut with a memorable melody and pitch-perfect vocals. Americana and roots radio program managers should take notice of "Guard My Heart." The current single "If You Hurt The Ones …

Review: Jeff Talmadge "Kind Of Everything"

Folk and Americana music maestro Jess Talmadge is back with "Kind Of Everything," which is an apt description of an album that successfully manages to address everything from weather to love to the solitude of the Holiday Season. To borrow a phrase from the project's second song, this album  is "a hell of a ride."
"Kind Of Everything" begins with the carefully-paced "If It Wasn't For The Wind," which has a country rock, Tom Petty-esque vibe that works. However, the star of this album is the second cut "Hamburg Violin," which is country music gold. Talbridge's simple melody and powerful lyrics will play over and over in the heads of listeners. The memorable track deserves a serious look by radio program directors from country and Americana stations.

The title track "Kind Of Everything" is a reflective story-in-song with a compelling melody, and the folk cut "One Spectacular Moon" is the album's most …

Review: Louisa Branscomb "I'll Take Love"

Bluegrass songwriting diva Louisa Branscomb has a smokin' pen that has fired off more than 90 recorded bluegrass and acoustic songs. Indeed, Branscomb's unique gift is once again on full display with her 9th project "I'll Take Over," which showcases the world's best bluegrass singers and musicians taking on Branscomb's powerful songs.
The album begins with Claire Lynch and Jim Hurst's rendition of "I'm Gonna Love You." Branscomb's lyrics sparkle, and Lynch has never sounded better. However, the album's best track is the upbeat "Wearin' The Blues" from Josh Williams with Dave Peterson. The accomplished instrumentation and confident vocals will fill the heart with joy.

The quiet "Your Amazing Grace" from Claire Lynch with Jim Hurst has a quiet intensity that slowly simmers to a melodic chorus. The retro-cool "State Line" from Dave Peterson with John Cowan is also a toe tapping delight.

The gospel-…

Review: Susan Gibson "Tightrope"

Singer-songwriter Susan Gibson may be a name that is unfamiliar, but you have definitely heard her music ("Wide Open Spaces" performed by the Dixie Chicks). However, Gibson makes the job of music critic very difficult on her terrific new album "Tightrope," which is a surprisingly heartfelt trip through the life of Susan Gibson. The album begins with the beautiful "Evergreen" that is performed with a quiet intensity by Gibson and sparse instrumentation that perfectly suits the track. The chorus of "Hope Diamond" hits the musical sweet spot, and "It's Raining Outside Today, Horray!" shows a more soulful side of Gibson.

However, Gibson's true talent shines through most on songs like the title track "Tightrope," which is performed with confidence and ease. The song's lyrics are both thought provoking and accessible. No easy feat.

The best song on the album is "Lonely When You Cry" which mixes nuanced vocal …

Review: Tejas Brothers "Rich Man"

Middle class men, dirt poor men and, yes, even the top one-percent can't help but love the new release "Rich Man" from the artistic and always entertaining quartet called the Tejas Brothers. The Tex-Mex masters showcase their full range of emotions in an album that will make you blissfully happy from start to finish.
The CD begins with the easy-going "Say It Again" and is followed by the equally pleasing Randy Newman-esque cut "Diamond In The Rough." The latter track is musical perfection with terrific instrumental interludes.

The Tex-Mex quotient rises with the upbeat "This Little Feeling" and the passionately-performed cut titled "The Castle." However, it is the immensely hummable "Wiggle" that offers the fun that the Tejas Brothers are known for most.

The bluesy "Long Way To Texas" is a winner, but the track "How I've Been" is the album's best musical moment. This heartfelt story in song fi…

Review: Jackson Taylor & The Sinners "Let The Bad Times Roll"

If Red Dirt music had a "Storyteller-in-Chief" the most obvious candidate would be rule-breaking singer-songwriter Jackson Taylor, who along with his friends The Sinners are happy to "Let The Bad Times Roll" on their new album of the same name. However, listeners will soon discover that there are actually many good times to be had on this hard rockin' album which comes complete with a parental advisory sticker that is somewhat of a rarity in the Texas music genre.
The ten songs on "Let The Bad Times Roll" start off with the uncompromising track "Old Henry Rifle," which highlights the frustrations of hard working country men and women across the country who are directly affected by the economic downturn and distrust bankers and politicians. The next track "No Show" offers an updated take on traditional country for which Jackson Taylor is well-renowned.

No doubt Jackson Taylor & The Sinners have experience with women who like &q…

Review: Emory Quinn "See You At The Next Light"

Creating a unique sound is easier said than done, but Texas country band Emory Quinn has managed to make it look simple. In fact, Emory Quinn's inventive amalgamation of blues, southern rock, Texas country and Americana is perfectly showcased on the band's new album "See You At The Next Light."
EQ's remarkable third studio album begins with "Hand In Hand," which offers a laid-back vibe along with an anthemic chorus. Indeed, the band's growth is illustrated in its melodic improvement over the band's 2008 effort titled "The Road Company" and 2006's "Letting Go."

However, the album truly comes into its own with the rapturous guitar work on the cut "Moving On," which also features charming lyrics and a pitch-perfect vocal performance. "Heart In Your Mind" shows the softer side of Emory Quinn (EQ), but it is the "country-licious" cut titled "Finds Danger" which is the album's bigge…

Review: Old Californio "Sundrunk Angels"

Old Californio is a band that defies generic musical labels. Indeed, with "Sundrunk Angels" the Pasadena, California band has meticulously crafted a melodic and hard driving album with spiffed-up lyrics and dazzling art-pop beats that will be surprisingly appealing to Americana, folk and country music audiences while also finding fans in other genres as well.
For about six years, the kaleidoscopic band of old friends has been making music in various forms, and the 10 song "Sundrunk Angels" was mastered and mixed by praised engineer Alfonso Rodenas and recorded live as a five piece band at a home studio.

The album begins with the easy-going "Learn To Cheat," which features bouncy lyrics and stellar production. The next track "A Cool Place In The Light" will delight fans of roots and Americana music. Country fans will also find much to love about the melodic "Better Yet."

"Dark Fire" begins with a cool New Orleans vibe that of…

Review: Bart Crow Band "Brewster Street Live"

Corpus Christi, Texas' Brewster Street Ice House played host to one of the best live Texas country albums ever recorded when the Bart Crow Band stormed the stage for "Brester Street Live." The mesmerizing and confident vocal and instrumental performances exude sweet country goodness.
The album begins with the upbeat and melodic "Driftin' In The Wind" and is followed by the hard-driving current hit single "She's The Only Reason." However, the concert album showcases its musical mastery most on the reflective "Run With The Devil," which offers sublime musical styling.

However, the best track is the passionately-performed "Hollywood" which builds to a rousing crescendo. Heartache has never sounded so appealing. The Bart Crow Band channels its nonchalant charisma on "Say'n Goodbye."

The final four songs continue to impress. "I Still Think About Her" is a confidently performed track that mixes nuanced el…

Review: Hayes Carll "Kmag Yoyo (& Other American Stories)"

No one can accuse Hayes Carll of being a shrinking violet as his notorious video and radio single "She Left Me for Jesus" proved. The brash country boy's new album drives home the point even further with the interestingly titled "KMAG YOYO," which, in case you don't already know, stands for: Kiss My Ass Goodbye. You're On Your Own. Not exactly Sunday morning fare.
The album begins with the retro-cool, toe-tapping cut "Stomp And Holler" The feisty country rocker follows with the more laid-back "Hard Out Here," which more adequately shows the artist's substantial country charm.

However, the best track on the album is the sparse and haunting "Chances Are." This formidable track pulls at the heartstrings. The casually confident "Grand Parade" is buttery smooth and could be a major summer radio chart hit. The title track KMAG YOYO channels Elvis in the best possible way and is followed by the terrific duet (with C…

Review: Andy Friedman "Laserbeams And Dreams"

Andy Friedman's sparse vocals and quiet guitar hit the heart like a silver bullet on his intellectually stimulating new release "Laserbeams And Dreams."
The unassuming musical muscleman carefully ponders life's questions with "It's Time For Church," which helps the album to mosey out of the barn on  a winning note. Friedman is no post-iPad musician, and this is a compliment of the highest order. His quiet reverence for his craft is best observed on the soulful "Motel On The Lake," which provides vivid lyrical imagery.

The quiet "Nothing With My Time" provides insight into Friedman's calculations of infinity in a supersized song that causes listeners to deeply ponder life. However, the singer-songwriter picks up the pace with the melodic and fun "Old Pennsylvania" which oozes folksy charm and should be immediately released to Americana and Roots radio stations.

The most surprising song on the album is "Roll On, Joh…

Review: Hudson Moore "Fireworks"

The title of Hudson Moore's new album "Fireworks" is entirely fitting, because this artist's career is starting to light up like a firecracker. Indeed, the twenty-something Fort Worth singer-songwriter should be applauded for creating such an accomplished 11 song album.
The project begins with the laid-back title track "Fireworks," which offers a story-in-song reminiscent of the best work of current young country artists. However, Moore really hits the musical sweet spot with the terrific "When I'm With You" which has a cool Mat Kearney meets the Randy Rogers Band vibe. "Not Giving Up" has much of the same charm.

Moore offers his most confident vocal performance on "Keep On Moving" where he delivers a sharp sound with emotional impact that includes gospel-style backing vocals. The biggest surprise of the album is Moore's move into Jason Mraz territory with the bluesy "My Baby." However, his voice is better su…

Review: Ted Russell Kamp "Get Back To The Land"

Some musicians have the ability to transform seemingly simple lyrics into a powerful force that sends heartache packing. Ted Russell Kamp is one such artist that manages to channel his working class roots into his new project "Get Back To The Land."
The album begins with the radio-ready "California Wildflower" that is immensely memorable, and the charismatic artist sells the song with every ounce of his being while maintaining his laid-back demeanor. The pace increases on the old-school, rock inspired "If I Had A Dollar."

However, Kamp manages to successfully marry the best elements of rock and country on the melodic "Lonelytown," which should draw excitement from radio program directors in multiple genres. The most surprising track on the album is the hard-edged "God's Little Acre" and the quiet "(Down At The) 7th Heaven," which allows Ted Russell Kamp to showcase a pitch-perfect vocal performance.

"Georgia Blue&qu…

Review: Jesse And Noah "Landfall"

Country and rock mix together better than Jack Daniels and Coca-Cola on the completely self-produced album "Landfall" from country rockers Jesse And Noah.
Brothers Jesse and Noah Bellamy (yes, their dad, David, is one of those Bellamys) were born and bred on a ranch in the South that formed both their work ethic and their love of music. The brothers' craft was more firmly cemented when they converted a hay-barn into a music studio.

The album begins with the rock-infused "Tow Truck" and is followed by the charming country cut "Tryin' To Keep It Real." This song has the potential for radio chart success as does the grittier "Waiting On An Echo."

The song "Buried In Blue Jeans" penned by Jesse Bellamy screams for a new arrangement. With the right instrumentation and vocals, this cut could be a major country chart hit. An artist like Trace Adkins or Blake Shelton could take this song to Number One. However, the musical arrangement o…

Review: Hunter McKithan & The Offenders "Not Broken Yet"

As the saying goes... if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Red Dirt music's best brain-for-hire Hunter McKithan and his friends The Offenders have chosen to do just that with their pulsating new album "Not Broken Yet."
The album begins with the title track "Not Broken Yet" that mixes Texas country with subtle rock elements reminiscent of Maroon 5 that surprisingly work. It is followed by the bluesy "Haight Street Blues" which offers a pitch-perfect vocal performance and tight lyrics.

The deliciously slinky "Dirty Little War" is a radio-ready country gem that deserves to be released as a single to country radio. The slow-burning "Wasted Day" is a satisfying musical treat that will please concertgoers, but it is the hard rockin' "Elevator" that surprises the most. Hunter McKithan & The Offenders have emerged as a musical force on the Red Dirt scene, and this cut conclusively proves it to any doubters.

The strip…

Review: Red Dog Ash "Red Dog Ash"

A surprisingly fresh and exciting bluegrass band named Red Dog Ash from central California has crafted a well-rounded, self-titled album that has a touch of old-soul country mixed with classic mountain music. The band has produced all original tracks, and vocalist and guitarist Jason Winfree said Red Dog Ash was inspired by uncontrolled coal fires.
The album begins on a winning note with the toe-tapping "Rambler's Mind" and is followed by the terrific "Hey Little Boy" which features blissful bluegrass harmonies.

The cut "Clock On The Wall" features laid-back country charm, but the biggest surprise of the album is the upbeat "Long Shot Girl" that features superb instrumentation and sharp vocals.

"Once Is Good As Never" begins with a beautiful acappella intro, and the quietly confident "Sweet Rain Redemption" ends the album on a reflective note. This hushed track slowly burns and continues to build intensity leading to l…

Review: J. Collins "Green Means Go"

Country musicians don't come more authentic than J Collins, who looks and sounds every bit like a country star for the 2010s. However, there's nothing pretentious or subtle about his new album "Green Means Go," and that's a major compliment.
As a singer-songwriter, J Collins is top notch, and he proves it with the terrific "Party Our Hats Off," which deserves to find airplay from radio program directors in multiple country genres. The title track "Green Means Go" is a rollicking good time that illustrates J Collins' raw vocal talent. This cut also serves as a convincing showcase of Collins' songwriting talent.

The laid-back "Dying From Livin'" is a well-produced musical gem that could also excite country radio. A perky and memorable chorus that slowly builds to a pulsating crescendo along with pleasing female guest vocals from Loriann adds to the pleasurable experience.

"Outta My League" is a classic country tr…

Review: Zane Williams "Ride With Me"

Zane Williams excavates his past in the terrific album "Ride With Me," which offers indelible melodies and satisfying lyrics.
The album begins with the immensely hummable "'87 Chevy 4x4" and is followed by the equally pleasing title track "Ride With Me." The story in song "What You Do With What You Got" is a treat, but the album really comes into its own with the remarkably tender "Born Into Love." Zane Williams offers a Grammy-worthy performance on the heart-wrenching cut that hits every mark.

The uptempo "Fall In Love Tonight" is also a musical delight, and Zane Williams proves his traditional country credentials with the retro "High Hopes And Low Expectations."

The bluesy and confident "Livin' In The City" oozes the type of country charm made famous by John Anderson, and the album ends with the contemporary country track "The Long Way Around."

Put simply, "Ride With Me" is a…

Review: Jim Anthony "Good To Be Me"

With charmingly self-incriminating lyrics and a melodic country sound, Jim Anthony has a cool Phil Vassar meets Josh Gracin sound that deserves a spot on the country music charts. Indeed, this southern Minnesota country boy offers ten heartfelt (and sometimes rockin') songs on his new album "Good To Be Me."
Anthony begins the album with the radio-ready "Harding Avenue" with a powerful melody and an intense vocal performance. With more than fifteen years in the music business, Jim Anthony is a man overstuffed with talent and five albums to prove it.

The Texas country anthem "With You" shows the more sensitive side of Jim Anthony, but it is the title track that steals the show. The cut begins at a slow pace and builds to a rousing crescendo that oozes authenticity.

"Blue Skies" is a Wade Bowen-esque song that fires on all cylinders, and "Like No One Ever Has" reinforces Anthony's reputation as a musical storyteller. "Scarr…

Review: Jackie Bristow "Freedom"

New Zealand native Jackie Bristow has a uniquely wonderful country music voice, and her album "Freedom" proves that while she was not born in her new home of Austin, Texas - she definitely belongs in the Lone Star state.
The title track "Freedom" leads off the album with a superb vocal performance by Bristow. However, the backing vocals get a bit tiresome with the background singers' too loud and seemingly endless chant of "freedom."

The passionate "Running" showcases the best elements of Jackie Bristow with the song's sultry chorus and instrumentation. "Pray For Love" slightly more effectively uses background vocals in a track that has all the elements for a radio chart hit.

However, it is the quiet "River" which provides Bristow's best musical moment and is the album's best song. Everything about it is perfect - except for the slightly too prominent backing vocals that distract from Bristow's clear cou…

Review: Neil Getz "Factory Second"

Debut albums rarely sound as sweet as "Factory Seconds" from the feisty and down-home Neil Getz, who has a natural musical gift mixed with perky charisma. Indeed, this is one top quality 'second' filled with folksy musical treats.
The album begins with "Bad Case Of Passion," which offers Queen-like harmonies mixed with intriguing lyrics. The title track "Factory Second" is a top-notch folk/Americana track that fires on all cylinders, and the song's melody hits the musical sweet spot.

The laid-back "Heart So Steady" provides a winning musical moment, but it is the country cut "Not In Love, Just Falling" that is the most smile-inducing track on the album. Radio program directors should also take notice.

Discussion of women is prominent on the album, and "Jenny Lee" is probably the album's biggest surprise. Getz offers a nuanced vocal performance that works. Likewise, the artist sings with unbridled passion on &…