Showing posts with label Album Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Album Reviews. Show all posts

Oct 25, 2019

Album Review / Ottoman Turks (s/t)


By Matthew Martin

Ever wondered what it would sound like if Iggy Pop and the Stooges had been born south of the Mason-Dixon line?  Well, look no further than Fort Worth, Texas's Ottoman Turks.  With a sound as much garage rock as it is country, this seems like that kind of band that could win over the staunchest of Dads who don't "get" their kids' taste in music.  From the apathetic Southern drawl to the snaking slide guitar and driving drum beats, this is definitely music for Saturday nights.

The Ottoman Turks first came to my attention due to some posts by their guitarist who happens to be the incomparable Joshua Ray Walker.  The band had been playing on and off together for the last few years but due to a few conflicting schedules never really did anything more than play a few shows whenever they got back together.  However, in the last year or so they decided to finally get this album out there.  And for that, I couldn't be happier.

The album starts with the perfectly named and played, "Apathy."  With the slide guitar slinking around the whole song, it's hard not to feel entranced.  It's the kind of song you want to open up a beer and just let it wash over you.  The album then breaks into my personal favorites- "Snake Song" and "Glass Bottles."  These are perfect encapsulations of the Ottoman Turks.  You can hear the party in the songs and you can hear the slight danger.  But, you can also sense that note of that sadness that makes country music so endearing and relatable.  


Then there's the almost pure garage rock "OCP."  A song about fighting.  A song definitely more at home on Funhouse than Ol Waylon but feels so uniquely Ottoman Turks.  This song even has a pretty sweet drum solo.  What's not to love?!  Seriously, the last half of this album is one long party.  It's worth the price of admission.

The whole album more or less bleeds into each other almost feeling like one long live set. It's a production technique that I am quite fond of. For a band with one album, I feel they have pretty distinct sound.  If I were to turn on the radio and hear more garage rock country, I'd immediately assume it was Ottoman Turks.  I can only guess what these songs would sound like live.  I imagine the smell of sweat, booze, and cigarettes.  I imagine dancing and all around rowdiness.  But, most of all, I imagine an awesome time.  I hope these dudes make it up to D.C. sometime.  And, if you live in the Fort Worth area, you oughta go see em.  Until then, go get the album and crank that shit up loud.

Ottoman Turks is available on Amazon, Apple Music, etc.

Oct 11, 2019

Album Review / Chris Knight / Almost Daylight

By Travis Erwin
Somebody killed somebody songs. That’s the foundation of Chris Knight’s reputation as a songwriter and we’ve all seen the memes. They are funny and bring a smile, but those of us who call ourselves fans of Knight’s work can appreciate the truth of that reputation, as well our realization he routinely brings so much more than death and despair to his music. Under the layers of grit and Kentucky sweat, there is an authenticity that makes Knight’s words relatable. In that vein, his songs often offer the idea of hope, springing  from places of desperation. 
That said, Chris truly is “The Dark Knight of Country Music” and no contemporary delivers such heavy brooding emotion with such captivating integrity. His new album, Almost Daylight delivers a whole bunch of what we expect out of Knight, and a few surprises as well. 
Vocally there is that signature gruffness that has only grown more pronounced in the seven years since his last release, but given that Knight was never exactly a crooner in the first place, the influences of time upon his voice only intensifies the hardscrabble emotion of his work. Do I think this is his best work? No, for me the album was good, but never quite delivered the emotional hook of Knight’s best works. That is not to say, Almost Daylight is not a quality album, though for me, the songs often fell just short of their potential. 
The album opens with “I’m William Callahan” and this is the type of song that Knight has made a career of -- A hard luck character digging for purchase in life. This track does not stray far from that though it does feel a bit more dependent on guitar melodies and arrangement to deliver the mood rather than the emotional imagery Knight has done so well cultivating in the past. 
Like weeds sprouting from a windblown crack of earth, “Crooked Mile” is song is about a couple of so-called bad seeds who will grow just fine, if only the world will leave them alone. The imagery is great and the song memorable, though in the end, I found myself wishing for more to their story. 
The third track is called “I Won’t Look Back,” and leaving the pain of the past is the theme. Just as the title states, the character plans to leave without looking back. The writing is sharp and feels like vintage Knight, which stands in contrast to the following track. “Go On” is as close to a motivational tale as you’re likely to find from Knight, and though it toes the line the track stays just shy of sappiness in the chorus.  
These are indeed divided times we live but even with that fact at hand, the fifth track on the album seemed oddly out of character. Knight has used his talent as a songwriter to often uncover commonalities among us. Dark and light, these collective truths of humanity are delivered from his brand of storytelling as delivered by the downtrodden and fallen. There is no denying the world we live is full of lies these days, and yes, that is the “The Damn Truth,” just as Knight sings. However, it is impossible see truth when viewing the world with only our right, or left eye. This track didn’t offer any real truths, only more divisive political pandering in a society already ripe with too much of that.
The album gets back on track with “Send It On Down” featuring Lee Ann Womack. This is the tale of a man lost in his hometown. A place he doesn’t quite fit in anymore. If in fact, he ever did. 
Anyone that has ever had a long hard night of too much thinking and wondering has sought the solace of daybreak, hoping for the sun to chase away the demons of the night. The title track plays with that idea as well as life on the road and the importance of having someone waiting back home. While it did take me a few listens to get the full effect of these lyrics, ”Almost Daylight” is easily the best song among the eleven. Nuanced and complex, this is a set of lyrics that will mean many things to many different people. It is this kind of writing and nod to universal emotion that has made Knight one of the best songwriters going for over two decades. 
“Trouble Up Ahead” is classic Chris Knight tale of doom, despair, and desperation. You can feel the Kentucky sweat on the back of your neck, and the grit on your teeth after listening to this track. The harmonica on “Everybody’s Lonely Now” adds to the melody which for Knight is almost upbeat. 
Chris Knight is not a man who does many covers, but his take of Johnny Cash’s “Flesh and Blood,” feels fresh and authentic. Knight does a great job of making the track feel as if it is one of his own creations. For me, this is the second best cut on the album.
Closing with another cover, Knight joins yet again with John Prine on a version of the latter’s 1973 classic, “Mexican Home.” Together, Knight and Prine, make the strong imagery come alive as they transport the listener to a different time and place.
My takeaway is this … Almost Daylight is a solid album that will speak to longstanding Chris Knight fans, and deliver what they have come to expect while also presenting a few new variables to his writing. I am not sure the album will do much more than that, as it falls short of the high standards Knight has set in the past. Outside of the title track, I am not sure any of these cuts will be regarded among his best.
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Travis Erwin is a fiction writer, lyricist, and music critic. A native Texan, Travis now calls the West Coast home. His fiction can be found anywhere books are sold, and you can reach him on twitter @traviserwin or via comment on this post.

Sep 27, 2019

Whiskey Myers: A Self-Titled Masterpiece

By Kevin Broughton

When Whiskey Myers front man Cody Cannon got the call last year, the band was in the studio working on what would become their fifth, self-titled album. The pitch: Would the group like to appear in Kevin Costner’s Yellowstone? Not just on the soundtrack, but in an actual scene? 

It was a no-brainer, and a decision that had nearly immediate – and retroactive – benefits for the Palestine, Texas-based Red Dirt rockers, as noted by Saving Country Music:

In the aftermath of the episode, the band’s most recent album, Mud, went to No. 1 on the iTunes country chart, and Top 20 all-genre on the hourly-updating aggregator. Also, their album Firewater came in at No. 3 in country, and the album Early Morning Shakes came in at #9. On the iTunes country songs chart, the song “Stone” was in the Top 10.

In an ever-evolving music business, independent artists often find a shot in the arm of exposure from film and television; Colter Wall, Chris Stapleton and Scott Biram all got boosts from appearing on the soundtrack of the Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water. But Whiskey Myers’ catapult ride from relative obscurity to the forefront of commercial success was almost otherworldly. The Yellowstone appearance landed three previous records – dating back seven years – in the country Top Ten. That momentum set the stage perfectly for the band’s self-titled album released today. 

Their two previous offerings, 2016’s Mud and Early Morning Shakes from 2014, were both helmed by all-world producer and Grammy machine Dave Cobb. For their fifth release, though, the band decided to produce it themselves. Lead guitarist and multi-instrumentalist John Jeffers emphasizes how a sense of collaboration and experimentation really defined their whirlwind eighteen days of recording at the Sonic Ranch studio, outside of El Paso. “There’s never a right or wrong answer when it comes to ideas,” he says. “We would run every single idea from everyone — some work and some don’t, but we give them all a shot. And then there’s that magical moment when the whole band hears it, your eyes get a twinkle — ‘That’s it, that’s us!’”

Their do-it-yourself result is a Southern rock masterpiece.

The album kicks off with “Die Rockin’.” Cannon’s raspy, proud vocals are right in your face – and you definitely feel the influence of co-writer Ray Wylie Hubbard. 


Over the course of fourteen tracks, though, songs expand, moods change and songs like “Bury My Bones” and “California to Carolina” explore different stories and emotions. “You want an album to be like a rollercoaster,” says Jeffers. “Does it really take you for a ride, with ups and downs and some loops and sometimes you’re upside down?”

There are indeed shifts in the album’s momentum and flow. “Bitch” is the best indictment of Bro-country you’ll ever find

Collaborative writing with Adam Hood (“Rolling Stone”) and Brent Cobb (“Running”) provide balance and country texture. Ultimately, however, this is a Southern rock album in the very best tradition of the nearly forgotten genre. “Houston County Sky” channels The Marshall Tucker Band, and “Little More Money” and “Bad Weather” are right out of Dirty South-era Drive By Truckers. “Hammer” is a sultry, swampy reminiscence of early Black Crowes.

Whiskey Myers has positioned itself on the cusp of rarified air; can they enjoy widespread mainstream success without benefit of commercial radio in the way, say, Jason Isbell has in recent years? We’re about to find out. This album is a triumph. 

Whiskey Myers is available everywhere you consume music today.

Album Review / Michaela Anne / Desert Dove

By Megan Bledsoe

It can be alarming sometimes to hear an artist talk of expanding their sound. In mainstream country, it's usually a not-so-subtle hint that the artist wants to abandon his or her roots in favor of some ill-advised EDM singles in a misguided effort to stay relevant. It can make independent fans cautious too, as their favorite artists move further and further away from what captured these fans in the first place (Sturgill, anyone?).

But then there are those times when such expansion really works, bringing artists to their full potential and capturing their music better than ever before. Such is the case with Michaela Anne and Desert Dove, as she left Nashville behind for California and a more alt-rock vibe. But though it leans more toward rock than country, the arrangements are more polished, with sweeping strings to make the whole thing mellow and lonesome like the deserts of the West. Sam Outlaw's fingerprints can be felt all over this record, as everything sounds so elegant and polished. But this is not nearly as sparse or as quiet as an Outlaw album, and this atmospheric production is the record's greatest strength, bringing the desert to life in mood more so than in lyrical content.

In the lyrical sense, this is somewhat reminiscent of Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour. This may seem like a strange comparison at first, and the similarity is not stylistic; rather, it's in the way that this album, like Golden Hour, operates under the assumption that less is more, going for simple lyrics and instrumental breaks rather than elaborate stories and deeper songwriting.

There's a wistfulness running through this record that is captured by both the production and the lyrics. The whole thing comes across as Michaela Anne journeying through the desert searching for something tangible. She calls herself "everybody's temporary friend" in "Child of the Wind" as she drifts from town to town. In "Tattered, Torn, and Blue and Crazy," she's convinced that her current lover will one day leave her, as if it's impossible to imagine anyone ever staying, anything ever being permanent. "One Heart" conveys a similar feeling, as she seems to believe that love has ended before it's begun but chooses to go down this road anyway. "Run Away With Me" sees her on the move yet again, albeit this time not alone. She always seems to be searching, and unfortunately, nothing is ever resolved; she never really finds what she's looking for by the end of the album.


Despite the sweeping arrangements, Michaela Anne's voice is still the focal point. She's never drowned out, and this is fortunate because her vocals are certainly a strength of this record. Her melodies also work really well with the open, atmospheric vibes and enhance the wandering feeling.

This shift in sound has worked excellently well for Michaela Anne. These songs fit her voice nicely, and this style suits her lyrics. The decision to record this in California with the inspiration of the desert and the coast really paid off. If you enjoy records with a western feel, you'll definitely love Desert Dove.

Desert Dove is available today everywhere you buy or stream music.

Sep 26, 2019

The Melancholy Sounds of Chris King and The Darkness 

By Robert Dean

There’s “Texas Country,” and then there’s Texas Country. The Lone Star State pumps out an impressive number of bands and artists, that absolutely change the game, but there’s a lot of stuff that sucks beyond words, too. We’ve got the red dirt and the outlaw thing down to a science, but ho-lee-shit, the pop stuff people try to pass off as legit ain’t exactly what someone would call a “good time.” Texas is a prominent place in the country music lore. There are a lot of conflicting ideas of what the state should sound like - we’re overrun with dorks in an oversized dress shirt and a bad cowboy hat try to get people excited about tailgating in a field. Because we’ve not heard that scenario in song form over a bazillion time. 

Thankfully, we’ve got a healthy center of gravity with acts like Scott H. Biram, Dale Watson, Black Eyed Vermillion, and Chris King holding it down.

On Chris King’s new record, Lone Rats, the central Texas singer-songwriter taps into some of the tried and true Texas themes while keeping far away from the tired bullshit. The songs are stripped down, honest, flawed, and raw – precisely what one should expect from a solo singer-songwriter. These songs tackle those issues we think about lying in bed, wondering where we fucked up, how it all went wrong, and in those fantastic, and rare cases, what we did to make it go right. 


Lone Rats is all over the place, it’s got some uplifting tunes about flowers, and it dwells a little long in the darkness, it’s a lot of colors, but that’s what makes this collection fun. King recorded it in the back of the furniture shop he works at with a bunch of other musicians in the middle of the night, in the dark. Which is a fitting vibe for the sound of the songs. King also played all of the instruments on the record, which also gives it an interesting flair. 

If you’re in the mood to experiment, check this collection of jangly Texas tunes. Give Chris King a listen or at least talk shit to him on Twitter about college football. Whatever road you take, get him on your radar. There might be a little mud on the tracks, but they ain’t some high-dollar Nashville bullshit. 


Lone Rats is out October 4.

Aug 20, 2019

Penguins with Knives Have Come For Your Daughter, Chuck

By Robert Dean

Penguins with Knives is a goofy name for a band. But you know what's not goofy? The jams these dudes from New Orleans crank out.  The band's debut record Those People Are Dead, PWK is a subtle mix of bands like DOWN, Acid Bath, ZZ Top, and a little Memphis soul all wrapped in a filthy, dirty gas rag. 

There's some experimentation going on throughout the record, but the identity of the music never waivers off into unfocused territory. Instead, what PWK do is level an attack that's balanced and heavy, but also palatable thanks to how the vocals are phrased. Despite being four guys used to hammering back some whiskey shots with plenty of Pabst Blue Ribbon chasers, the sounds on the record are a solid batch that offers a lot of promise. The New Orleans spirit comes through via the sonic grooves stitched throughout the album, giving frontman Benjamin Deffendal plenty of chances to capture his moods across the songs showcased. 

"Pickpockets and Loose Women" is a New Orleans sludge banger with all of the requisite head-bobbing riffs one needs while keeping their beer close. The smoke-infused intro with its wailing feedback is straight from the Eyehategod playbook, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. "Tale of The Wandering Witch" is distorted, nasty and heavy but keeps the groove at the center of the song, always keeping its foot on the gas.  


Trying to stand out in a town like New Orleans is hard. When you do breakout, you become canon immediately, it's just how serious people take the metal that comes from the Crescent City; it's dirty, it's flawed and always fucked up, but it's also delicious. Penguins with Knives is no expectation. If they continue to make more music, this is an excellent starting point, it can only get weirder, darker and sludgier from here. And you know, what? The world needs more bands that make you want to hoist your drink while making the nasty doo-doo face while you silently whisper to yourself, "fuck yeah, that's sick." 

Check out Penguins with Knives on Bandcamp today. Don't be a cheapass, buy the record. They put some elbow grease into it. 

Aug 19, 2019

Album Review / Tyler Childers / Country Squire

By Matthew Martin

A few months ago, Tyler Childers released the first single ("House Fire") from his upcoming album Country Squire along with the trippy cover art.  It was perfect, in my mind.  I loved everything about the song- from the simple, understated start to the whirring, fuzzed-out ending.  I knew this was going to be an album every bit as good as his previous album (Purgatory). 

But then I heard the next single- "All Your’n”- and my excitement dipped a bit.  It seemed decidedly not Tyler Childers.  I wasn't sure what to think of the upcoming album after that song.  Here we have a raucous first single with some crazy artwork followed by a nice, but not all that exciting follow-up single.  But, I was hoping that my instincts were wrong; that it would all make sense in the context of the album.  I mean, Sturgill was a producer for the album and he's got a pretty good track record.  

Then the album came out.  And, let me tell you something, it's everything I wanted from a Tyler Childer release.  It's fiery.  It's full of innuendo.  It's sweet.  It's 100% pure-Tyler Childers.  The difference we have here is that he's taken on a bit of that Sturgill-like tendency to make a compelling, complete song-cycle.  While not every song is thematically related, the songs are all tethered together with no real beginning or end to each; only the fade out into the next song.  

While it is one cohesive album, there are clear standouts to me on this album.  "Country Squire," "Bus Route," "Gemini," and "House Fire" being my favorites as of right now.  "Bus Route" takes me back to my days growing up in rural Tennessee where I also had a bus driver who didn't put up with shit (Mr. Morris was scarier than hell).  "House Fire" has gotten a little backlash because of the mix, but I think the mix is just about damn perfect.  The only time I think his voice fades a bit is in the second half of the song when all of the instruments are all blending and weaving in and out of each other.  I think of his voice as an extension of the instruments and it works incredibly well.  My wife, after listening to "House Fire" for the second or third time looked at me and said, "This song feels like it's always been around."  That's it.  That's the perfect song.  Timeless and new all at once.


Even when you get to "Ever Lovin' Hand" (you know, the song about self-love), you might giggle at the first or second listen, but then you realize that it is actually pretty sweet.  I dunno, maybe I'm just a sucker for a sweet song, but this one got to me.  If you would have told me Tyler Childers would make a song about masturbation that I'd tell you was sweet, I would have laughed in your face.  But, that's the genius in Childers.  He approaches these topics with humility and humor.  He doesn't try to make fun of anything, it seems.  These are things that happen day in and day out, and as they say, ahem, write what you know.  And as for "All Your'n" I dig it now.  It works totally within the album.  I wouldn't change a damn thing about it or the album.  I apologize profusely for doubting this song.  


Last time I saw Tyler Childers, he was in a small venue up here in D.C. called Rock and Roll Hotel.  It holds around 400 folks.  When he comes back in December, he'll be playing at The Anthem.  It holds 6,000 people and it's already sold out (I'm bummed that I missed out on getting tickets to this one...).  Tyler Childers is here and everyone has caught on to his genius.  His new album is a continuation of everything we've grown to love about the Kentucky redhead.  But, there’s also growth.  He tried something new on this album, and damn, it worked.  I'm already dying for more new music.  Go buy everything you can from Childers and go see his incredible band live.  You won't be disappointed.

Aug 2, 2019

Album Review / Elaina Kay / Issues

By Megan Bledsoe

The best way to describe Elaina Kay’s Issues in one word would be "interesting." It's intriguing from the moment she starts singing on the opener, unashamedly telling us all about her "daddy issues," or perhaps the daddy issues of this character. It's certainly an interesting way to open an album and perhaps even more of a statement on the opener of a debut. It unfolds into an engaging little eight-track album that's a solid foundation for Elaina Kay.

The greatest strength here is the sound. It's a nice mix of country and rock elements, with The Texas Gentlemen as the backing band. There's quite a lot of energy packed into this, with fun, up-tempo numbers like "Rodeo" and "Pull Your Own Weight," and this is balanced well with quieter moments like "Cheating me Out of Love" and "Lose a Little."

The songwriting is solid and fresh throughout, always holding the listener's attention, but there's not really a particular moment of lyrical epiphany. Instead, this album leans more heavily on the melodies and the hooks to make its points, and Elaina Kay is a fine melodic composer. As for the strongest song lyrically, it's probably "Cheating Me Out of Love," with the simple honesty in lines like, "I can't get over this, at least not as quickly as you want me to. I wanted to, I wanted you." It paints a nice picture of the feeling of wanting to forgive someone, knowing you should, wanting things to be right again, but not being able to forgive in spite of yourself.


The vocals are stronger on these quieter, more introspective moments, where the production is scaled back a little to showcase the writing. The production can drown out Kay in places on some of the more upbeat tracks which can in turn occasionally make her harder to understand. This is something that can be ironed out on subsequent records, as Elaina Kay begins to fine-tune her sound.

For fans of that awesome blend of country and rock sensibilities, this is certainly worth checking out. Issues is a fun little record and a solid start for Elaina Kay.


Jul 26, 2019

Straight From the Bottle: A Review of Gethen Jenkins’ Western Gold

By Travis Erwin

A throaty, whisky burnt growls kicks off Gethen Jenkins new album, Western Gold, (out today) and straight off you know what to expect, as the opening track is drenched in Honkytonk nostalgia. Call it a throwback or call it traditional, this album is pure old, drinking-your-heartache-away country, with a dose of pissed- off I don’t give a shit served as a chaser.

Born in West Virginia and raised on steady pour of Outlaw and Honkytonk tunes, Gethen is also influenced by his time as a Marine as well as his two decades of life in California, and every last one of these influences shows up at one time or another on this album.

Slide guitar goodbyes and dancehall defiance define the first track, “Bottle In My Hand.” A barroom anthem to drinking her away that gives way to the more melancholy, “Heartache Time.” This second track captures the emotion after that first round of I don’t need her bravado. The booze infused emotion continues with “Whiskey Bound,” which continues the up and down ride through the emotional train wreck of life.

The album finds a new energy with “Maintenance Man,” a tune that is the musical equivalent to a Penthouse Forum letter. The rebellious tone continues even on the slower tempoed “Restless Ways,” and “Waiting” which come back-to-back in the middle of the of these eleven tracks. A pair of songs those are both reflective and reaching in nature.

 “Western Gold,” kicks off the back half of the album, and as the title track, it carries the banner for a collection of songs that speaks of the fleeting nature of humanity. This particular tune does so with an unflinching honesty that says, “Yeah I’m leaving, but hey we are both here now so let’s make the most of it.”

Lord knows it ain’t easy loving the restless kind, and “Strength Of A Woman,” takes the emotion of that and distills it down for those who dare try to tame the wild wind of a rambling man.

Imagine David Allan Coe penning a song specifically for Jerry Lee Lewis and you will have a solid idea of how “Basket Case” sounds long before you hear the ninth track of the album.


“While I’m Away,” returns to that fleeting nature of relationships, with an ode to uncertainty and insecurity. Easily the most vulnerable of any song on the album, it is also perhaps the most well-written. The last track, “Me My Bottle And Nothing But Time” recaptures the IDGAF spirit of the beginning of the album, with yet another alcohol soaked set of lyrics that scream barroom jukebox.

Like a lone shot of whiskey, the collection of songs that is, Gethen Jenkin’s Western Gold feels rowdy and raw when consumed singularly, but taken as a group, that burning edge is not nearly as prevalent, leaving you to notice the complex subtleties in both flavor and emotion. 

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Travis Erwin is a fiction writer, lyricists, and music critic. A native Texan Travis now calls the West Coast home. His work can be found anywhere books are sold, and you can reach him on twitter @traviserwin or via comment on this post.

Jun 25, 2019

Album Review / Taylor Alexander / Good Old Fashioned Pain

By Megan Bledsoe

Good Old Fashioned Pain. What a fitting name for a traditional country record, indicative of the reality of heartbreak and struggle that has always been a part of our beloved genre. It suggests an album of hurt and heartache accentuated by fiddle and crying steel, and Taylor Alexander delivers here both musically and lyrically.

We can spend weeks discussing what qualifies as country, but we all know it when we hear it, and this is solidly, unashamedly country. As traditional as this record is, though, it still sounds fresh and energetic. The instrumentation is simple but not sparse, and the production works well with each song. It's country thematically and sonically, but without becoming simply an interpretation of the traditional style, country for country's own sake. The songs feel true to Alexander, a genuine reflection of his story rather than a purposeful attempt to perfect a particular sound. The album also avoids the pitfall common to so many Americana projects of becoming too dark or sleepy with upbeat moments like "Passing Lane" and "Break my Heart Tonight."


The pain itself arrives in different forms. There's the heartache and self-reflection expressed in "Real Good at Saying Goodbye," the financial struggle highlighted in such excellent detail by "Hole in the Wall," and the reality that we're responsible for our own happiness, as told in "I Never Ask For Nothin'." But Alexander cautions himself and his listeners in "Wishing my Life Away," reminding us that although hardship is ever-present, we can miss the blessings of this life by constantly looking forward to something "better." This track provides hope and perspective to a dark record, a gentle reminder that joy is as real as pain and often exists alongside it if we're paying attention.

Good Old Fashioned Pain is an excellent album, great for traditionalists but also accessible, a record to play for your friend who hates the genre or who hasn't explored country beyond the radio dial. Strong songwriting, nice vocals, and that undeniably traditional sound. A fine record, and a promising debut by Taylor Alexander.

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Megan Bledsoe is a proud Oklahoman who has been immersed in music most of her life, from writing it to performing it to just appreciating the power of a good song. She is the founder and editor of countryexclusive.com, where she has been writing about great music since 2015.

Jun 5, 2019

Say 'How Do' To Austin's The Barnyard Boys

by Robert Dean

Definitely not taking themselves too seriously, The Barnyard Boys have dropped their debut e.p. Barn Yesterday, that covers everything from taking out the trash to just hanging out drinking some beers. And you know what? It's sweet as hell.

While most of the stuff we write about is always super serious and driven by artistic integrity, The Barnyard Boys ain't having any of that. It's fun to hear a band that patently doesn't give a fuck, that isn't chasing stages or streams, instead, these are the kinds of dudes psyched to play their local bar for some friends and drinking plenty of beers in the process. If The Barnyard Boys were a drink, they'd be a cold tallboy of Lonestar; it's accessible, goes down smooth and you can always grab another to keep the party going.  

There are tunes about tractors, getting laid, recruiting new members via song and a whole bunch of other lighthearted concepts. But, while the lyrics aren't serious, the musicianship is top notch. The Boys' don't miss a lick and continue to keep the listener's attention, no matter what rabbit hole they venture down. 

If you're around our fair city of Austin, Texas, you'll probably catch The Barnyard Boys stomping around a local brewery somewhere, or maybe just out playing you know… in the barn. 

Apparently, they play in it every weekend. They even wrote a song about it. Just be sure to bring enough to drink for everyone, it seems like that's their vibe. 





Jun 3, 2019

Album Review / Willard Gayheart & Friends / At Home in the Blue Ridge

Dori Freeman isn't the only person in her family with chops; apparently grandpa has them too

By Robert Dean

In the random goodness section of Farce The Music, I was given the link to check out Willard Gayheart's new record, At Home in the Blue Ridge. While it's straight ahead, down-home bluegrass, that's entirely capable of captivating even the most stringent of fans, what's endearing about the project is that this is Gayheart's first record, and he's 87 years old. 

Gayheart is a famed visual artist in the small town of Galax, Virginia and has been in the bluegrass scene throughout the Blue Ridge Mountain area, but At Home in the Blue Ridge is a substantial collection of songs that is nothing but a sweet surprise. Gayheart should have released a solo record decades ago considering how well the songs are put together. 

The songs on the record are clearly rooted in the Appalachian traditions as well as respect for the local culture. Despite playing in bluegrass bands throughout the years, Gayheart hadn't flexed his songwriting muscles, till it became a family affair as At Home in The Blue Ridge features his granddaughter, the Americana songstress Dori Freeman, her husband Nick Falk, plus Dori's dad Scott Freeman. The record was produced by Teddy Thompson, who's long been a collaborator with Dori.


What gives At Home in The Blue Ridge it's unique and inviting tone is that it was recorded live in Willard's frame shop where he proudly displays and sells his pencil drawings. How homespun is that? One of the most endearing things about Gayheart's songs are the stripped down, honest themes of the bygone days of Appalachia, good times and bad when people still scraped livings from the mountains themselves, growing what they had to eat and sharing what they grew. 

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At Home in the Blue Ridge is available on Amazon and other music sites.

May 31, 2019

On Poem, Jeremy Squires Has Finally Found His Sound

By Robert Dean

Jeremy Squires never disappoints. One of the better voices creeping out from the backroads of North Carolina, Squires is back with his new record, Poem. And once again, it’s a slow-burn stunner that reminds listeners of backyard bonfires, and tall tales told over tall boys of PBR in quiet confidence. 

Poem is moody and takes what’s considered “Americana” by its ear and dares us to explore what works within the confines of genre. Much like how Lucero dove on Among the Ghosts and Jason Isbell did with The Nashville Sound. What works about Poem is that it feels like Squires set aside what he couldn’t do, but instead, focused on what was possible by testing what he was capable in the studio. 

Poem is dreamy with haunting guitars that aim more towards My Bloody Valentine or Radiohead than what Squires country-inspired contemporaries are focused on and it’s imprinted all over the record. "Stargazer" and "A Calm Around" aren’t bangers but float through the collection of tunes in a haze, which is perfect considering the vibe of the record overall.


It’s also refreshing to hear songs that that feel earnest instead of trying to catch a wave or appeal to an audience that might not exist. On Poem, Squires has found much more of himself than on his previous releases, which were also solid, but this time around, this batch isn’t as self-serving, this is a man comfortable in his own skin, but also satisfied with what he does. For a lot of us, we’re always chasing that dragon that might never land, and we could all be so lucky to finally our moment as Squires has. 

The back half of the record is decidedly more country but holds its presence nonetheless. If anything, the second half sounds a little more Tom Petty country than it does hard Nashville. 

One thing to definitely take note of is the record’s cover. Whoever did it rules. It’s got this metal well of skulls thing going on. Super cool. Thank you for not wistfully staring out at the sunset or body of water, Jeremy. 

Poem doesn’t go overboard, and no track overturns the applecart, but instead, the songs are dreary, rainy day bummers, which will forever have their places as long as people get sad and need someone else to feel their pain. 

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Poem is available on Jeremy’s Bandcamp page and most everywhere you consume fine music.


May 30, 2019

Album Review / Ian Noe / Between the Country

A Name to Noe: Ian Noe’s Debut Album, Between The Country Is More Than Worth Your Time
Review by Travis Erwin

Hailing from Western Kentucky, Ian Noe’s voice sounds strikingly similar to that of John Prine - to the point a casual listener might initially confuse the two. Musically, Noe’s upcoming album, Between The Country utilizes a variety of melodies and sounds, but my prevailing take away is that young Mr. Noe was heavily influenced by The Flying Burrito Brothers, and the lineage of country rock bands that followed. 
This fusion of undeniably Kentuckian vocals, and the guitar heavy country rock that sprang from California back in the late 60s, works quite well and it is this combo that does the majority of the lifting. No band capitalized on that sound more than the Eagles, and on more than one track I was left thinking this reminds me of the Eagles, but with a ton more emotion and grit.
The blend of vocals and melody left me wishing Prine and Linda Ronstadt had given the world a love child. Actually, Ian Noe might very well be that love child. Okay, not biologically of course, but certainly by way of his music.
Noe flexes his timeless songwriting craft throughout the album, with a collection of stories about the downtrodden, the desperate, and the degenerate. The characters in his songs feel honest and real, and through them, the listener has little choice but to empathize as we share in their pains, their hopes, and their inevitable falls.
The album opens with the prodigal daughter, “Irene (Ravin’ Bomb),” arriving drunk and on her momma’s front porch. A ballad of addiction, it sets the tone for the rest of the tracks. 


“Barbara’s Song” offers a montage of characters headed for their doom aboard a train, bound for nowhere. The calm before the end brings home the unfolding tragedy. I struggled a bit to wrap my head around “Junk Town” a song full of sorrowful harmonies and a rusty metaphor for the coming end that never fully materialized for me, though the pair of songs contrast in that one is a look at sudden death while the second sheds light on the emotion of a long, slow passing.
Love is served up in the next few tracks. “Letter To Madeline” as an outlaw writes to his beloved for what no doubt will be the last time. “Loving You” pulls in elements of the blues and the strong tradition of old, sad country songs to bring out the heartache most of us have been hit with at one time or another.  
 “That Kind of Life” rides the easy vibes of the dog days of summer to showcase a laidback lifestyle that often goes unappreciated. This smooth song of people living and getting along gives way to the slow roll of dark and murky storytelling in “Dead On The River.”
We’ve all been told of the thin line between love and hate, but the eighth track on Between The Country walk a different line. Proving the gap between hope and despair is indeed narrow, “If Today Doesn’t Do Me In” is perhaps my favorite track among the ten offerings.  


The next to last track drags us even deeper into the dark side of society. “Meth Head” is a term bantered about in communities across the country and at this point no further explanation is needed to conjure a mental idea and image but on this track Noe gives us the intimate look at those who have fallen prey to this bathtub and back room concoction.  
The namesake single is the final track of Between The Country. Laying out a bleak look at the urban side of Western Kentucky complete with a line to go with the imagery of the cover the songwriting is full of powerful lines that go with what is a powerful and dark debut for Noe. His musical influences merge and blend to give us a talented new voice and writer on the scene.
Overall, the album takes a hard truthful look at a place that has seen plenty of hard difficult times. Sure there are glimpses of hope and happiness, but the album gives us a look at what happened to Western Kentucky after Mr. Peabody hauled paradise away.
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Travis Erwin is Texas boy now living the life of a free-spirited writer in sunny Southern California. A long time music blogger and sports writer, Travis is the author of a comedic memoir titled, THE FEEDSTORE CHRONICLES, and a pair of novels, TWISTED ROADS and WAITING ON THE RIVER. His latest release is a joint, short story/EP collective with singer/songwriter Dan Johnson, titled HEMINGWAY. 

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Between the Country is available tomorrow everywhere.

May 24, 2019

Album Review / Frankie Lee / Stillwater

By Megan Bledsoe

Unsatisfied with the glamor of all the larger studios he had investigated, singer-songwriter Frankie Lee went home to Stillwater, Minnesota, and made a record of the same name. And just like its name might suggest, Stillwater is a mellow, easy listen, simple and laidback like Lee's hometown and so many other small towns across America and the world.

This album is simple, yes, but far from sparse or minimalistic. This is largely due to the richness and detail in instrumentation which serves to give variety to a mostly mid-tempo record. Upright piano features heavily on Stillwater, adding color to tracks like "Only She Knows" and providing the backdrop for the closer, "Ventura." There's lively harmonica on "Broken Arrow" and "Blinds," and a healthy amount of steel guitar sprinkled all over the album to add a more country flavor to what is an otherwise folk/Americana affair. And the flute comes out of nowhere in the opening track, "Speakeasy," to make this one of the most interesting moments on the whole thing. It might seem like a strange component in a country or Americana song, but it fits perfectly here and makes me want to hear more artists try to incorporate it into their songs. A little more variety in tempo could have helped this record go from nice and pleasant to really great, but these arrangements make up for that pretty well.


If you only pick one track to listen to from this album, make it "Downtown Lights" or "Blinds." The former was the first song released from the album and is said to be inspired by the commercialization of Stillwater and other small towns like it, as little towns lose their identities in favor of tourism and commerce. The latter is just one of those songs where the melody, the instrumentation, and the lyrics come together to form a really special musical moment.

This record isn't going to be for everyone because of its mellow, gentle nature. Some will find it sleepy, and it's indeed a mood record, for a lazy Sunday afternoon. It's a project which will inherently sound better in October than in May. This is an album for those who appreciate quieter, introspective moments, and for the right audience, it's a comfortable listen with a lot to enjoy.
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Megan Bledsoe is a proud Oklahoman who has been immersed in music most of her life, from writing it to performing it to just appreciating the power of a good song. She is the founder and editor of countryexclusive.com, where she has been writing about great music since 2015.

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Stillwater is available today here and all the other usual locations.

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