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

Apr 9, 2021

Album Review / Dallas Moore / The Rain



By Matthew Martin

There's something comforting about hard hitting country music. It feels like comfort. It feels like the songs are oddly specific to you or about you. Maybe I'm just projecting but, for me that's how it feels. It reminds me of home, of hearing someone like Hank Jr. or Marshall Tucker Band blasting from the pick-up trucks of either my high school or my Granddad's farm. Dallas Moore picks up the reigns from those 80s/90s artists who so deftly mixed honky-tonk country with just enough rock and roll to get the blood pumping.


Dallas Moore's lyrical abilities are on display on The Rain. Sure there are the same old country tropes of drinking and having a good time, but this album is so specific to this time and place we are in that it really feels brand new. On the title track, Moore uses water and rain to signify rebirth and starting over. It's a hell of a catchy tune and sets the tone of the rest of the album. It feels like after the year we've all had, a rebirth is necessary. We're going to return to normal hopefully very soon and it's going to really be something else. 



Where I think Moore's songwriting prowess truly shines are on the back to back songs "Better Days" and "Locked Down and Loaded." "Better Days" shines a light on the rather interesting people that we all have in our lives- the doom and gloom people, the conspiracy theorists, and the eternal optimists. Moore stares down these folks and recognizes there's room in the middle and there's always reason to keep pushing forward. Again, it feels like this song comes from a place of longing to be back to normal after the past year. This rolls into the next song, "Locked Down and Loaded." This is probably my favorite song on this album. The anxiety and fear of the unknown are all over the song. Not knowing exactly what is happening and the constant change in tone and medical advice near the beginning of the pandemic really had an effect on everyone. Moore paints his picture of being locked-down in Las Vegas vividly. I can't stop listening to this song.


Moore also sings about not having an exact place in this world, of being a drifter so to speak. I think "California Highway" and "Ain't No Place In The Sun" are songs that Moore uses to celebrate his status of not being part of the in-crowd. These are songs you can't help but believe are going to sound better on a hot, Summer day with the windows down. 


Lastly, on "In My Last Days" Moore really tugs at the heartstrings with a song from the point of view of a man who is on his deathbed and is trying to live out his last days as best he can, telling everyone how he feels and doing things he may have missed out on in the past. It is an incredibly effective song and it's hard to not get a little choked up on this one. We've all lost something or someone in the past year and the song just ties everything together in a beautiful melody of peace and acceptance.


I think the best thing about music is that we can all interpret it in many different ways. Maybe The Rain isn't so much steeped in the pandemic world we live in right now. But, it certainly feels like it to me. And I can't help but feel comforted by that. By knowing that we're all affected in one way or another, but we're all going to figure out a way through because that's just what we do. 


The Rain is available today everywhere you purchase or stream music.


Apr 2, 2021

Senora May's Second Release Has Her Dipping Her Toes Into Darker Water

By Robert Dean


Senora May's new record All of My Love is light years departed from her prior effort, 2018's Lainhart. I don't know if the pandemic affected the mood of this release, but let's say it's plenty darker, whereas its predecessor was relatively light and, well, homey. Weaved throughout All of My Love is a definite through-line of tangible atmosphere offering the listener a glimpse into the real songwriter, which May gives us that when things feel a little bleak, she delivers the goods. 

 

No two songs on All of My Love sound the same. It's always fascinating to hear an artist take risks, play with styles and see what sticks. The record has a variety of flavors with some Very Good Country Music. But, by and large, the darker songs on the record are the ones that shine, despite their inherent murk. The album's intro, "Intertwine," is haunting, moody, beautiful, and easily the album's strongest song. This is the Senora May I want to hear more from.



"Love you More" features a dirty guitar that conjures up Grunge-era feelings, and it works. It’s got serious “child of the 90’s vibes” and I’m here for that all day. Senora May's wheelhouse is playing with the songs that aren't so downhome country, but instead, the more she drifts into the rock and roll, the darker melodies, there's a sense of real identity. "Colors" is another strong track on the record, with its Cure-like guitar riffing. 


Again, playing outside of the lines is when May does her best work. The record is strong. Experiencing whatever void May is capable of sticking her toes within allows the listener to make an unspoken agreement of “Yes, I know that feeling, too,” and that space is something we all can universally relate to, given the year we’ve all day. Some sunny music is great and all, but we’re still shaking off the frost and it’s going to take a little bit before we’re all feeling 100% human again. Till then, those bitter pills can taste like a candy we need. 

 

Whenever Senora May is allowed to get out there and play this new batch of songs live, I'm positive they'll jump, All of my Love is a solid record. But, moving forward, I'd love to see Senora May release a few e.p. 's dabbling, just giving us a taste of what her darker side is capable of offering. I bet the results would be incredible. With a few hints present on All of My Love, we could be experiencing the crucial stepping-off point for a flower that grows in the moonlight.


All of My Love is available everywhere you consume music.

Mar 18, 2021

Album Review / Morgan Wade / Reckless


Review by Trailer

Buzzing, passionate, vibrant. That’s what Reckless sounds like to me. There’s an indefinable quality to Morgan Wade’s music that goes beyond those three descriptors. Just a certain something going on between her voice and my mind…an electricity…an “it” factor. She’s got it in spades. 


The opening song “Wilder Days” kicks off the album with a yearning. It’s a really early song-of-the-year contender that finds Morgan intrigued by her man’s past. While she doesn’t necessarily want to find out every detail, just knowing he used to be a wild one invigorates the present relationship. The song falls somewhere between Americana and late-90s alt-rock to these ears, and that’s an ‘in the wheelhouse’ space for me.



“Other Side” is almost literally the other side of that song’s coin. She sings of a friend or lover who’s seen the crazy days with her in tow. It’s reassuring knowing someone has seen you at your lowest, knows all your flaws, and still has your back. 


The closing track “Met You” strips back the electric buzz and it’s just Morgan and little else. It finds her in one of those dark moments, alone and regretting someone left behind, and considering what that’s driven her to. “I’m well aware that I might not ever find glory, but like Hemingway and Hadley, it’s not the end of our story” she sings, keeping hope alive. 


There are notes of Lucinda and Elizabeth Cook …and Garbage and Matchbox 20, oddly enough, in Morgan Wade’s presentation, and I can’t get enough of it. There’s a knowing tone of confidence mixed with a questioning undercurrent of sadness all through the album. She’s enough of the way through the journey of finding herself to have an air of comfort taming the tension. The balance of those two feelings makes Reckless a real winner.


Reckless is available everywhere you buy or stream music tomorrow.

Feb 12, 2021

Album Review / Mac Leaphart / Music City Joke

Wry Smiles for this Serious Album -- Music City Joke by Mac Leaphart


by Travis Erwin

 

I’ll start this review with a confession. I had never heard of Mac Leaphart when I took the assignment to write this review. I took the assignment and frankly put off diving in until he eleventh hour of my deadline. Three tracks in I regretted my procrastination because I could have first listened to this album weeks before I did. 

Music City Joke is an album that is sneaky good with simply intelligence and honest observation at the heart of the writing and a traditional sound to the music. “El Paso Kid” is a classic storyteller song delivered in that tender space between spoken word and Folk ballad. There are hints of John Prince and Robert Earl Keen in this story of an abandoned baby which ushers in this album quite well. Leaphart’s vocals are not going to wow those looking for the shiny, but it will wrap around those who appreciate honest emotion. 

Remind me of Jason Isbell singing an old Mac Davis track, “The Same Thing” is a nicely written unpretentious song from a songwriter who knows what he wants to say. The whiskey burn of a classic 70s Country song, and the smooth delivery of a songwriter’s intellect will quench your thirst on the track, “Blame On The Bottle.” The Honky-Tonk vibes give way to more a Hillbilly Rockabilly with a dash of Zydeco on “Honey, Shake!” This faster tempo track would be welcome on any dance floor come Saturday night, and while this track comes with a bit more vocal grit, it still feels like the kind of fun that you regret the next morning.

I tempted to describe “Ballad of Bob Yamaha or A Simple Plea in C Major” as Hayes Carll meets Blaze Foley, but the fact is Mac Leaphart sounds like so many different artists at once that you have no choice but to realize he is an artist all to his own. Sure, the influences are there but it is the overlapping, swirling whirls of these venerated influences that produces Mac Leaphart’s own voice and style. This is a track that will both make you smile and think, and in fact you can say the same for most of the songwriting on this album. 

Music City Joke” utilizes the power of honest observation and a genuine point of view to deliver words that talented writers make seem so simple but are in fact, ever-so-hard to distill down in a meaningful way. Leaphart does with ease through the album and here on the namesake track. “That Train” is the most commercial song on the album, but also my least favorite cut on the album. I think perhaps the metaphor and glory days of the train have been tackled in so many songs that it is a tough land for me personally, but for others this relatable metaphor will no doubt be their favorite as it is the most likely track to gain radio play. 



The writer in me, fell hard for the imagery and metaphor of “Window From The Sky.” This is the kind of truth we all need to hear from time to time as we avoid flying after and into the wrong thing. The grind of daily life is a toll we all pay and “Every Day” is relatable because of that. The smooth progression and emotional turning of the wheels gives this track a pulse uplifting in its honest relevancy. The entire album has a Kristofferson kind of vibe and it is especially strong on this track. Even if you’ve never been to Nashville’s actual “Division Street,” you can appreciate this track about chasing your shiny dreams in a place where the sparkle is hard to find by the harsh glare of morning light. We all tend to fool ourselves that the underbelly of what we want is all too often a reality rather than a mere speed bump. 

I do regret the weeks I could have been listening to this album and it is an early favorite here in 2021. I love hearing threads of influence from so many of my favorite artists, and I appreciate Mac Leaphart’s ability to tip his hat to them, without losing his own voice and style. This is an album I will listen to for years to come and that makes him far from a Music City Joke in my eyes.  



Music City Joke is available everywhere today.





Nov 17, 2020

Teddy Thompson Got Screwed This Summer


By Robert Dean 

 A few months back, Teddy Thompson dropped his latest record, Heartbreaker Please, and damn, we all slept on it. Look, we don’t have to rehash all the COVID garbage. We’re living it. What sucks is that many fantastic records were tossed into the pile of “stuff” no one got to when they came out. And that’s a crime against all of this new music. Teddy Thompson should have had significant juice this summer because Heartbreaker Please is a well-grounded, groovy record that’s got its feet in doo-wop, rock and roll, and rockabilly. It’s got finger snaps, hand claps and is primed as a perfect summer record. I like to think about the records you can crank up after a few sodas, drunk in the kitchen, the ones you and your sweetheart can shuffle to barefoot, and Thompson has it.

   

 Thompson has a cadre of releases, all of which are rooted in Americana. But, there’s something about Heartbreaker Please that’s got mojo. It’s not filled with bummers, and the danceable stuff has a lot of feeling to the songs like he wasn’t trying to be different for the sake of doing so and nothing else. 

“Brand New” and the opener “Why Wait” are two standouts among a collection of songs that deliver time and time again. Give this record a shot. If you’re in a garbage mood and need a pick me up, this one is perfect for cooking dinner or just trying to feel anything. And right now, we could all use a little humanity added to our day. 

Oct 23, 2020

Album Review / Stephanie Lambring / Autonomy

By Megan Bledsoe


"Everything is a little less worse when someone sees you like a person.” This line from the eighth track of Stephanie Lambring’s debut album tells the record’s whole story. Appropriately titled Autonomy, the album is defined by a sense of independence, the right of Lambring and her characters to tell their own unique stories and the acceptance of responsibility for their own actions and opinions. Lambring gives a voice to the downtrodden and forgotten throughout this record, the least of these who rarely see their stories told, even in country and Americana music where heartache and loneliness can be eased by a mournful melody and the knowledge that someone else has endured the same pain. These are the tales of outcasts, of the misunderstood and ignored, of those who long to just be seen as people. Stephanie Lambring sees them, and she has arrived to empathize with them and show compassion, and through her words, to help us see them also.


Empathy is what sets this album apart and makes these songs resonate. Social commentary in music only works if the artist can not only look out at the world, but can also see within and be vulnerable. Lambring gets this exactly right by opening the album with her most personal songs, describing her shortcomings in detail on “Daddy’s Disappointment” and singing the painful story of her lifelong desire to be "pretty” on the track of the same name. “Pretty” reflects a struggle that so many women and girls go through and never completely get over, and this song does a great job of sending an encouraging message without resorting to empty platitudes and clich├ęs about how we are all perfect.


Even when she’s not telling her own story, Lambring’s relentless attention to detail brings these characters to life and provides vivid illustrations. In “Mr. Wonderful,” she expertly explains how a woman can get caught up in an abusive relationship, from the beginning where she’s swept off her feet to the times he makes her feel guilty for wanting a night out with friends to the troubling dream she’s been having in which she’s on the couch with his hand over her mouth. Everything is a gradual process, until the woman is trapped in a reality she can’t escape and left wondering whether she’s partly to blame. On “Birdsong Hollow,” Lambring documents the last moments of a man’s life before he commits suicide, even down to him taking out the recycling. There is neither judgment of his decision nor of the parents who lost him, just a quiet reflection to remind us of the internal struggles faced by those around us which we often overlook. “Old Folks Home” might be the most heartbreakingly beautiful song here, as we learn about three residents who came here for different reasons, all feeling lost and forgotten by the world. Now they are alone in “God’s waiting room,” as people all around them keep asking when they’ll get to go home and then eventually stop asking when they realize the awful truth. It is here where that defining lyric of the record is found, where Lambring expresses their common desire to just be treated like people once again.





For all the heartbreak, however, somehow there is hope in these stories. Albums like this one can sometimes be a depressing listen and beg for a moment of levity. And indeed, “Fine” does add a lighter touch to this project to counter this concern. But even aside from this, the album is far from depressing. It is less about the circumstances of these characters and more about the fact that Stephanie Lambring recognizes them as people and values their stories, and as she so eloquently puts it, this makes everything a little less worse.


It’s that intangible desire for autonomy which makes this record universal and compelling. Maybe we have never been sent to a camp to correct our behavior like the gay teenager in “Joy of Jesus.” Maybe we have never been left in a nursing home and stripped of our dignity. Maybe we have never known what it is to be  trapped in the bonds of an abusive relationship. But we all share the same need and desire to be seen as people, and too often we lose sight of this when it comes to others. Stephanie Lambring gives us a gentle reminder here through her songs and challenges us all to live with a little more love and understanding in our hearts.


Autonomy is available today everywhere, including Stephanie’s website.


Oct 9, 2020

Album Review / Great Peacock / Forever Worse Better


 By Matthew Martin


On Great Peacock's third outing, Forever Worse Better, they have finally created what they've been looking to create for the past few years. This is revitalized Heartland Rock. The band is tighter on this release. Everything seems to be in sync, making for a hell of an album.


The album is a much more personal effort for Andrew Nelson who has described some of the self-doubt and relationship failures that were the muses for some of the better songs on the album (and the best of GP's career). With songs like, "Heavy Load" and "All I Ever Do" there is a clear growth in songwriting both lyrically and musically. It takes a lot to be able to put to words the emotions that come with those feelings and relationships that just always seem to be pulling us down. 


But nowhere on the album is the clear growth of Great Peacock more evident as "High Wind." This is the standout song on the album for me, and quite frankly, I think this is the best song of their catalog (subject to change). From the opening kickstart of the drums to the chugging of the guitars, musically this song is a barnburner. I hear it and immediately feel like I'm hearing my favorite Petty song but not a cheap imitation. And the lyrics are a perfect encapsulation of the album. On this singular song, Andrew laments not only his aging but also his relationship problems. But, there's hope in the song. You know we all have these problems, but the most important part is doing the most while you can. Live it up. In these weird, covid fever dream times, it's a song that feels so pertinent.





The album is full of these songs- "Rock of Ages" and "Learning to Say Goodbye" are beautiful, meaningful, and triumphant. These songs are a testament to the band and their ability to have taken these songs out on the road and truly fine-tune their sound. The soft songs are sonically textured in a great way. The rockers are there. And, the intertwining of Andrew and Blount Floyd's guitars and voices is something to behold. Frank Keith's basslines are tight and keep everything together. This is a group hitting their stride, finding their voice as a band, and hopefully they have a lot more left in them.


Go buy the album and support Great Peacock any way you can.


———


Forever Worse Better is available today on Bandcamp, Amazon Music, etc. 


Aug 28, 2020

Album Review / Zephaniah OHora / Listening to the Music

By Megan Bledsoe

Music Row is rife with country artists either obsessed with proving their Southern street cred or lamenting the restrictive boundaries of country music and forsaking their musical roots in the name of evolution. Across town in east Nashville, the Americana world has been flooded in recent years with musicians and songwriters who are more concerned with making records that sound old rather than records that sound timeless. And all across the country, more and more artists are taking political stances which are alienating their audiences rather than seeking to speak to us all and change hearts through artistic expression. Somehow, Zephaniah OHora manages to be the antithesis of all of this at once, the cure for every issue plaguing country music in 2020. This record comes out of New York City, and yet it’s more country and more authentic than the majority of the music coming from Nashville. And OHora is not looking to divide, but rather is proud of being "an all American singer,” as he announces on the track of the same name. For so many reasons, this is the album we desperately need in this moment.

It’s hard to believe this really came out in 2020. Whereas OHora’s first album felt like it came straight out of the 1960’s countrypolitan era, this one feels a bit more reminiscent of a few years later, mixing the best of both the Bakersfield and Nashville sounds. The writing and in some cases the vocal delivery recall vintage Merle Haggard, and a song like “Black & Blue” could have been a long-lost Merle album cut. Yet the production is clean and polished, and although the songs could have been written fifty years ago, the recordings are stellar, thoroughly denouncing the idea that purposely producing a record poorly somehow adds authenticity or quality to the project.



The obvious concern when writing and recording within these boundaries and when trying to perfect the classic country style is that the songs may feel more like an interpretation of the style rather than a true representation of the artist and revitalization of the sound within a modern context. But Zephaniah OHora does a nice job keeping these songs relevant to the modern ear. The best example of this and indeed the album’s greatest strength lies in a trio of tracks in the heart of the record. “All American Singer,” as mentioned above, takes the radical position of taking no political position, but rather seeking to unite all people through the music. Some may say this is OHora choosing to "shut up and sing,” as many people on social media have unfairly asked artists to do, and OHora himself says that he’ll get "back behind the guitar” rather than on a soapbox. But this song is more about Zephaniah OHora making the choice to reach out to all people and recognizing music’s power to do so. This is further evidenced in the next song, the albums title track, as he declares that in a time of "evil that plagues the earth, it’s hard to find anything of worth” and that music is his escape from all the pain of this world. We can all certainly relate to these sentiments, as well as those expressed in the next track, “Living Too Long,” wherein OHora reflects on the times changing and local bars shutting down. Regardless of our backgrounds or political stripes, we can all understand this uncertainty, particularly this year. Life is hard, and we all have days where we feel like we’ve been living too long. Music, and especially country music, is unique in its ability to speak to us and sustain us through these times of trouble, and as the album’s title suggests, this is what OHora is seeking to accomplish with this record, and in so doing, he makes these songs and these ideas as relevant and important in 2020 as they would have been in 1970.

The one thing missing from OHora’s excellent debut album was a bit more variety in tempo, and this record provides that. This album embraces a little more of the Bakersfield flavor, and that is certainly an asset. “Black & Blue” and “Living Too Long” are instantly replayable, lively numbers that add an intangible dose of color to the album, as well as another dimension for listeners who may prefer this style over the smoother countrypolitan sound. It will be interesting to see if Zephaniah explores this sound further in the future.

Listening to the Music is a refreshing record on several levels. For one, its incredible to hear something this country being released in 2020. This is not country rock or country pop or Americana or Red Dirt; it’s just stone cold traditional country—and credit to a guy from New York to be the one to show us all what it means to stay true to your roots and not abandon the traditional sound on subsequent projects. This album knows exactly what it is and pretends to be nothing else, and this is a beautiful thing. But beyond all that, it’s just simply a fine album. The production is flawless, and the songwriting is strong. In a world of turmoil, Zephaniah OHora quietly reminds us that we still have music, and though everything around us may seem uncertain, music remains unchanging in its ability to bring us escape, unity, and healing.
-----
Listening to the Music is available today on Bandcamp and everywhere else.

Aug 4, 2020

Welcome Back From the Netherworld, Joey Allcorn

By Robert Dean

Joey Allcorn is a walking ghost. Stuck between the ether of our compromised reality, and a netherworld surrounded by spirits, Allcorn is a mystic, soothsayer, and as he's always said, born a few decades too late. 

The music he writes isn't concerned with the current, what popular culture considers "country" whatever side of the traditionalist aisle you adhere to, instead, Allcorn, is a living relic. This man seeks out the forgotten players, who can tell you the names of the folks who etched their names in the walls of country music long ago. He's a historian and someone who keeps the keys to the past in his back pocket. 

On his new e.p, The State of Heartbreak, Allcorn doesn't disappoint, because he's incapable of doing that, but instead leads the listener toward the dark halls of what we're looking for, internally. That's why his music works. You can hear it with your grandparents, believe it in a room full of buddies, but it's also malleable. It has depth. It's not a sad rehash like so many country traditionalists. Allcorn will always get the Hank Williams comparisons, but where's the harm in that? If you can yodel and howl, then yodel and howl, this music is from the back hills and the hollers, don't let the repressions of radio fool you, this is music that's appeared within the bacteria of his gut lining, the DNA twisting through his genome.


On this release, Allcorn toys with some Kris Kristofferson, some Leadbelly, and with a little Faron Young. Allcorn has never been shy about who he looks to as an influence, and all of his selections work in the spirit of The State of Heartbreak. It's hard to even have a critical ear toward Allcorn, you know what you're getting, and it's always consistent. He's like the video of the guy throwing basketballs two-handed and never missing. The timbre, the attitude, and the intent are forever stitched into the music, Allcorn is a perfectionist in that he's incapable of putting out a dud. He'd rather hide in the shadows. 

For a while, Allcorn disappeared. He'd occasionally pop up on social media, reminding us through his various channels like "Honky Tonk Heroes" or his direct feed that he can rattle off more about country music that half the people whose names are hanging on the walls of the Opry. Having him back is fitting for the culture, he pays attention, he throws events, and his heart is always in the right place. Joey Allcorn is a hell of a singer and musician, but at the core of all things, he's a blue blood ambassador of country music who's done countless things to show old men they're not forgotten or to continually exercise the wrongs of the past.

We're lucky he's back in the saddle, the music needs more yodeling cowboys like him. 

Grab a download of The State of Heartbreak off his site: joeyallcorn.com 

Jul 10, 2020

Album Review / Ray Wylie Hubbard / Co-Starring

By Megan Bledsoe

It’s either a hilarious coincidence or an intentional and profound irony that the first line of this album is: “Don’t get any on you if you go to Nashville.” Certainly that is the concern when our favorite independent artists sign to a mainstream label; we’re all happy they got the recognition they deserved, but we’re hoping Nashville won’t change what made them cool artists in the first place. As bizarre as 2020 has been, it seems almost natural that this year brought about the wildly unusual development that Ray Wylie Hubbard would release an album on Big Machine. The seventy-three-year-old artist has long been deserving of more of an audience, but the alliance between Hubbard and the label that produced Thomas Rhett and Florida Georgia Line was one none of us saw coming. It’s not the first time Scott Borchetta has signed an unexpected artist, but this is no doubt the farthest into left field he has yet ventured, and the coolest thing about this partnership is that it has culminated in Co-Starring, a Ray Wylie album that is better and more infused with life than his  recent records.

There’s an energy in these songs and in Hubbard himself that wasn’t as present on his last couple of albums. The hooks and melodies are more infectious, the material is generally more lighthearted, and the parade of cool artists who contributed to the album all did their part to enhance these tracks. Perhaps most importantly, Ray Wylie is clearly having a blast with every line and guitar lick, and that vibrancy shines through and brings the album the life so often lacking on Americana albums these days. All of these factors serve to give these songs lots of replay value, and ultimately, that mileage is what matters most; it matters little how deep and profound a song is on first listen if you’re not compelled to listen to that song months and years later.


There is no crown jewel of the album; rather, Co-Starring has three. “Rock Gods,” featuring Aaron Lee Tasjan, certainly hits the hardest of the three, as Hubbard sings with sorrow about Route 91, Tom Petty’s death, and the brokenness and sadness permeating every corner of our world today. The opener, “Bad Trick,” featuring Ringo Starr, Don Was, Joe Walsh, and Chris Robinson, with its many great observations and little pieces of advice like the line about Nashville, remains the most infectious track on the album. “Drink Till I See Double,” featuring Paula Nelson and Elizabeth Cook, claims the honor of having the most brilliant hook, with “I’m gonna drink till I see double, and take one of you home.” This one is also easily the most stone cold country, for all you strict traditionalists out there.

It’s exciting to see Ray Wylie Hubbard getting his just due and to see such a rootsy album being released and promoted by a label like Big Machine. But the greatest aspect of it all is that Ray Wylie Hubbard didn’t get any on him when he went to Nashville, and hopefully, this record will see him enjoying even more of the recognition and success he has always deserved.

Co-Starring is available today everywhere.

Jul 9, 2020

Album Review / Joshua Ray Walker / Glad You Made It

By Matthew Martin

We all have those things that bring us comfort. When we are feeling a little out of sorts or we are at a crossroads of any kind, we know exactly what to reach for to bring us a little joy or a little comfort at our most insecure moments. For me, as is the case for many people, that comfort has always been music. The kind I tend to gravitate towards when I'm feeling unsure of my reality usually is played in a minor key. But, whether or not it's in a minor key, I want the lyrics to hit home for me. I want to feel like I've been in the songwriter's position before, or know someone who has, or might be on track to be there at some point. I want to feel it.

Joshua Ray Walker has a knack for this type of song. He has a way with words that I can't get enough of. There's humor, sadness, and a sense of joy in his music- sometimes in the same song. On his last album, Wish You Were Here, it felt like lightning in a bottle. Starting off an album with a song as good as "Canyon" seems criminal. To come out of seemingly nowhere and be that devastating in a song had me hooked and wanting more. I devoured that album and became a big, big fan of Joshua Ray Walker's. I did not want to have to wait the typical 2 or so years to have to hear new music from Walker. And thank god I didn't have to wait that long. 

Released a year and a half later, Joshua Ray Walker's Glad You Made It picks up right where his last album left off. These songs stand up right up there with the best of his debut. Those characters are still deeply flawed, deeply unapologetic, and deeply vibrant. They are covering up scars and bruises, They are wondering how the hell they got where they are. But, again, most of all, they are trying to stay alive, like REALLY ALIVE, for one more night.

One thing that stuck out to me about this album is that it is definitely a more rocking, honky-tonking affair, e.g. "User". This album feels like a twisted 70s Capricorn Records cousin (for those that don't know, Capricorn was home to The Dixie Dregs, Marshall Tucker Band, and The Allman Brothers). The cast of musicians playing on this album very clearly were having a fun time. It shows in every song. From the organ-laced rocker of "D.B. Cooper" to the nearly bluegrass "Play You A Song" every song is loose and perfect sounding. The notes intertwine with Walker's interesting, unique twang. Speaking of his twang, I'm not sure there's a voice as unique as Walker's, complete with his falsetto notes and yodeling. And, I absolutely love it.


Where Walker really shines is when he slows it down to explore some demons- whether or not they're his own is not all that explicit. On "Voices" Walker explores lost love, hurt, and deep depression, even pondering his own death. It's an affecting song. It's dark. But, it's incredible. It's required listening. Yeah, it's sad, but music is supposed to make you feel. It's supposed to make you confront some of those demons you've been neglecting so you can become a better person. At least, that's what I like about music. Then there's "Boat Show Girl" which has that humor that I mentioned earlier, with the imagery of a "redneck Statue of Liberty." This is a character study that Jonny Corndawg/Fritz would be proud of. 

I can't wait until we can see live music again, because I know these songs are going to be absolute killers live. This album is going to be in deep, deep rotation for me. It should be for you. Go buy this album and Walker's first album. You won't regret it.

———
Glad You Made It is available Friday everywhere.

Jun 26, 2020

Album Review / Kyle Nix / Lightning on the Mountain & Other Short Stories

By Megan Bledsoe

In these divisive and uncertain times, one thing we can all agree on is our collective longing for the triumphant return of the Turnpike Troubadours. In fact, the world has seemed to spin more and more out of control ever since that fateful day in May 2019 when the most beloved band in all of independent (country) music announced their indefinite hiatus. Their departure left a hole in the hearts of many and an even bigger chasm in the world of live music, where no band could quite capture their magic. And then, nearly a year later, Turnpike fiddle player Kyle Nix came barreling down the mountain to ease that ache in our hearts, with cases of bootlegged liquor and the promise of a debut record on the way. The backing band would be none other than the Troubadours themselves, and indeed, this album gives us our Turnpike fix in terms of sonic consideration, especially when it comes to the heavy doses of fiddle applied all over this project as one would expect. But more importantly, this is not a Turnpike album, and Kyle Nix makes a case for himself here as not just a fantastic fiddle player, but also a singer and songwriter in his own right, with plenty of stories to tell and a compelling voice to deliver them.

Inspired by his love for Ennio Morricone and spaghetti westerns, Nix set out to make a record with a front cover and back cover, played out in two instrumental numbers, with a collection of stories in between. It’s a concept record, yes, but instead of one overarching tale, this feels like a group of highly developed, sometimes loosely interwoven episodes, more like something musically equivalent to Pulp Fiction than to a spaghetti western. Sometimes these stories feel extremely personal to Nix, like the album’s second track, “Manifesto,” where he sings of occasionally feeling like his accomplishments are nothing compared with those of a grandfather who fought the Nazis and a father who served in Vietnam; ultimately, he comes to recognize their sacrifices as helping to allow him to choose his own path as a musician and songwriter. More often than not, however, these tales are of other characters and events, little snapshots into these people’s lives written down in order to tell us a story and to convey something to us about the human condition.

The commonality in all of these songs is how intricately crafted they are, how each story is brimming with little details that help us to relate to these characters. It’s a seventeen-track opus, and yet none of these selections are underdeveloped; nothing could be called filler. “Woman of Steel” is such a simple song on the surface, merely painting the picture of a man in a once happy marriage who has now found himself living with the "woman of steel.” But this song is so much more poignant as each detail is revealed, from the family coming into the house in fours and fives for Thanksgiving dinner to the way he tries to touch his wife’s waist in the hallway, only to have her pull away from him in indifference. It’s such an honest picture, drawing the listener in to sympathize with this poor man. Similarly, we are captured by the narrator of “Good Girl Down the Road,” who pines for his best friends wife and has been in love with her since 1991, as he lovingly tells us little things about her like her "dust bowl twang” and her capacity to drink whiskey even while swearing she disapproves of it. The title track elicits such a vivid image when the red-faced man lights everything with his cigar that we can certainly see why Billy wants to take his revenge, or as Billy himself so eloquently puts it, why "tonight that son of a bitch is gonna light his cigar with the help of hellfire.” The same vivid imagery can be attributed to all of these episodes; Kyle Nix certainly has a gift for storytelling, and not only that, for telling a story in three or four minutes and yet capturing a specificity and poetry rarely found among even veteran songwriters. Story songs have been so important to country music over the years, and it’s wonderful to see such a natural storyteller picking up the torch.

Sonically, as previously mentioned, this is very much like a Turnpike release. It’s brimming with fiddle, and not just melodic solos and licks, but also rhythmic fiddle helping to drive the beat, as is the case on any Troubadours project. There are plenty of upbeat songs like the title track and “Shelby ‘65” which draw sonic comparisons to Turnpike songs such as “Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead” or “The Winding Stair Mountain Blues,” along with steel-soaked ballads like “Lonesome For You” to appeal to the lovers of a more traditional country sound. A couple of bluegrass numbers find their way onto the record as well, serving to separate Kyle Nix’s solo sound a bit from that of the Troubadours.

Overall, this separation from Turnpike Troubadours is the most important takeaway from this excellent album. It’s great to hear these guys making music together again, but more than that, Kyle Nix has come racing down the mountain to make a name for himself independent of this band. This is not just some side project or lark while Turnpike remains on hiatus; rather, this is the debut record of a fine songwriter with an arsenal of stories to share with us all. And if there is one blessing that has come out of all this uncertainty, it’s that we had the opportunity to discover the tales and talent of Kyle Nix.

----
Lightning on the Mountain is available everywhere you consume fine music.

Jun 25, 2020

Album Review / Will Hoge / Tiny Little Movies

Hoge’s Latest, Tiny Little Movies Offers a Few Plot Twists to Go Along with the Tried and True


By Travis Erwin

Will Hoge has long been the kind of songwriter that reveals big, bold, and immersive emotions, with lyrics that pour forth from out of way places, seemingly inconsequential lives, and a dialed in small story approach. Hoge’s new album, Tiny Little Movies is perhaps the perfect way to sum up his body of work, because few songwriters can render such powerful engagement from the microscope of everyday life.
Hoge has always managed to convey a truth and honesty which often manages to feel both bleak in its stark reality, and hopeful in the satisfaction of a hard day’s work kind of way. No matter how sore or tired you may be when the sun goes down, that satisfaction of knowing you have done something, and done it right is a kind of pride that is hard to match. That is the kind of pride Hoge instills with his songwriting even though he’s done the heavy lifting and all we’ve done is listen and go along for the ride.
All of that said, Tiny Little Movies left me feeling mostly different than my previous encounters with Hoge’s work. I say mostly different because a few of the tracks certainly delivered the expected emotional punch including the opening track, “Midway Motel.” The harmonica and Hoge’s trademark grit and gravel both in voice and songwriting tone get the album going. Knowing Hoge’s tendency to take a stand, I found myself wondering if the motel in question was a metaphor for those trying desperately to hold middle ground in these tumultuous times.
The second track on the album leaves no question to what Hoge is thinking. Though sonically it does hold some surprises. “The Overthrow” is pure rock and Hoge’s vocals came with hints of Ozzy and Black Sabbath. Lines like … slow dancing with a straw man, and Darth Vader with a spray tan draw a clear line in the sand.
“Maybe This Is Okay” comes with a slower, more soulful start before ramping up for the chorus. The track has a live music feel and is the kind of track you feel more than you hear. “Even The River Runs Out Of This Town” is the kind of down and dirty emotion that I have came to expect from Hoge and true to form, the simple yet poignant writing conjures forth complex thoughts and feelings, giving us yet another track bringing forth the beauty and power of Hoge’s songwriting and emotive vocal style.
At nearly six minutes, “My Worst” takes you for a long ride that includes a heavy heart full of regret, and a soaring, almost gospel like backing that lends the track a two-songs-in-one kind of vibe. There is a nice jam to the middle of the track and overall, this cathartic tone about letting go is a soul cleanser if you let it wash over you a few times.
“That’s How You Lose Her” feels a bit more commercial than most of the other tracks on the album. Lyrically it has a late 80’s early 90s country kind of feel about it, though Hoge’s gritty vocal delivery keeps it closer to Steve Earle’s “Guitar Town,” so in the end it doesn’t not feel like the biggest departure on the album. That honor goes to the next track.
Riding an almost punk sensibility, “Con Man Blues” is a hard-charged track that lets the music do the talking as much as the lyrics, and I honestly would never have guessed was Hoge was on the other side of the microphone had I heard this track out in the wild. That is not to say it is a bad track, only that it is almost unrecognizable as Will Hoge.
The eighth track on the album returns us to a more expected sound. “Is This All You Wanted Me For” is a punch in the gut track for those left in the wake of a user and a taker. An anthem for anyone who has been hurt by those who enter our lives take more than they ever give back. “The Likes Of You” is a melodic ballad that relies on a repetitious build to convey the progression of love and how it changes us in steps. Steps that we often don’t see or feel coming.
“The Curse" proved to be my least favorite track of the eleven making up the album. I struggled to stay with this rhythm and vocal cadence even though it all felt familiar, not in a nostalgic way, but in an … I’ve traveled down this road before manner that just did not keep me dialed in.
The album closed with easily my favorite track. “All The Pretty Horses” delivered that yearning emotion tinged with both hope and despair that is prevalent in so much of Hoge’s work. This tangible takeaway from much of his music is what I’ve always loved best about his songs, and here on the final track, you can feel it layered within the cleverly crafted lyrics.
Tiny Little Movies is another accolade for Hoge. The diversity in sound and subject matter makes it stand out and showcases the depth of his songwriting talent as well as versatility on stage or in the booth.
Like all great songwriters, this is not an album you can digest fully in a single sitting. The nuances and flavors are brought out with each listen, and that makes it certain this album will be added to my best of 2020 list because I know for certain I will be listening to it time and time again.
Tiny Little Movies is available tomorrow.
 -----
The author of numerous works such as WAITING ON THE RIVER, TWISTED ROADS, and HEMINGWAY, Travis Erwin is best known for his comedic memoir THE FEEDSTORE CHRONICLES. Find links to all of his work, including other music reviews via his Twitter @traviserwin.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails