Showing posts with label Drew Kennedy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Drew Kennedy. Show all posts

Dec 31, 2013

FTM's Favorite Songs of 2013

1. Matt Woods - Deadman's Blues
From earlier review:
...almost painful to hear, in the best of ways. It's like we're the accidental witnesses to a late night confessional and I can't help feeling a little guilty finding so much beauty in such a raw disclosure. And those vocals… it's a masculine delivery with a tear deeply embedded; then he rips your heart out when he lets it all go in the final seconds.

2. Jason Isbell - Elephant

3. Arliss Nancy - Vonnegut

4. John Moreland - 3:59

5. Shooter Jennings - The Gunslinger

6. Brandy Clark - What'll Keep Me Out of Heaven

7. Sturgill Simpson - You Can Have the Crown

8. Ashley Monroe - Morning After

9. Austin Lucas - Splinters

10. Todd Farrell Jr. and the Dirty Birds - Pawn Shops

Beyond the Top 10 (no specific order):

The National - I Should Live in Salt

Run the Jewels - Sea Legs

Queens of the Stone Age - If I Had a Tail

Kasey Anderson and the Honkies - Some Depression

Drew Kennedy - The Poet at 33

Kacey Musgraves - Follow Your Arrow

Wade Bowen - Songs About Trucks

Son Volt - Angel of the Blues

Two Cow Garage - Mantle in '56

J. Roddy Walston and the Business - Heavy Bells

Ha Ha Tonka  - Lessons

Chris Stapleton - What Are You Listening To?

Gary Allan - It Ain't the Whiskey

Valerie June - Tennessee Time

Buffalo Gospel - Mule

Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck - Inside Joke

The Mavericks - Come Unto Me

Chris King - Antler Inn Ballroom

JJ Grey and Mofro - 99 Shades of Crazy

Water Liars - Wyoming

Will Hoge - Home is Where the Heart Breaks

Lindi Ortega - This is Not Surreal

Phosphorescent - Song for Zula

Chance the Rapper - Cocoa Butter Kisses

Dec 30, 2013

FTM's Favorite Albums of 2013: 1-20

1. John Moreland - In the Throes
John Moreland writes razor edged lines that grab your attention and tear your heart out. Next time you listen to the same song, you'll notice that the following line was just as good - you just happened to miss it marveling at the previous one. In fact, there's hardly a throwaway line on the whole of In the Throes, and nary a song worth skipping. The mood of the record certainly wasn't right to be my album of the year (it's been a rough one), but the best is the best, regardless of tempo or context. In the Throes is pretty low-key and gray in emotional content, but it's just too good to be denied. Moreland has distilled all his strengths (with the exception of his rocking side, which is also very strong) into this stunning work of great craft and heart which stands deservingly as FTM's #1 album of 2013. Standouts: All of them, but if I must pick, 3:59 and Blacklist.

2. Jason Isbell - Southeastern
Southeastern is a modern classic. This is an inescapable truth arrived at by a tidal wave of critical approval and fan appreciation. Jason Isbell is Americana's Entertainer of the Year and Southeastern is the Album of the Year; I don't care what any official organizations say. Isbell has done more positive for the genre than anyone else, including the folk-renaissance dudes who actually got radio play. "Elephant" is incredible and if it didn't mist your eyes at some point this year, I don't know …maybe your heart is way too tiny, Mr. Grinch. "Traveling Alone" is remarkable and romantic. "Relatively Easy" is insightful on a personal and wide scope. Southeastern is a masterpiece and what's scary is that Isbell is probably just getting started.

3. Sturgill Simpson - High Top Mountain
Sturgill Simpson may not be the savior of country music, but he sure looks and sounds the part. This laid-back Kentuckian has the voice of an outlaw country god to go alongside his witty and insightful writing style. His songs are sorrowful, heartfelt, clever and self-deprecating, sometimes within the same tune. He probably gets a bit tired of the Waylon comparisons, but if there's a modern incarnation of that legend, Simpson has the talent and grit to at least make a valiant go at filling those shoes. High Top Mountain is an essential edition to any fan of real country music's collection. Standouts: You Can Have the Crown, Old King Coal.

4. Arliss Nancy - Wild American Runners
There is female frontal nudity on the cover of Arliss Nancy's stellar Wild American Runners. That it took someone pointing that out for me to even notice it speaks to the substance over style aesthetic of this hard-rocking, hard-living band. Sliding into the punk meets country standard-bearer position of early Lucero, the already musically strong Arliss Nancy has taken their songwriting to a new level with their 3rd release. "Vonnegut" and "Nathaniel" are among the best songs released in any genre this year. The former's "Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt" is one of the most affecting codas I've ever heard.

5. Drew Kennedy - Wide Listener
Full disclosure: I consider Drew Kennedy a friend. He's a good dude who I've had the opportunity to hang out with before, during and after a few shows here in Mississippi. That said, I've never let that affect my reviews or feelings about his music.  As much as I've listened to him ( says I've played his songs 1,654 times), I still always find his songs to take some time to "get." Maybe it's Drew's poetic style or his unique vocals, but every time I hear his music, it's a new experience. To me, that's the mark of a great artist, and Wide Listener is his strongest and most layered work to date. The fact that he brought in a few co-writers this time around doesn't change the artistic vision or stylistic voice of Kennedy's work. Standouts: Hello Goodbye, Jackson Square.

6. Run the Jewels - s/t (still free!)
Killer Mike and EL-P's last albums were among my favorites of 2012. Putting two of my favorite rappers together on a full album sounds like a no-brainer, but chemistry isn't guaranteed, even between two creative artists with similar takes on hip-hop. Thankfully, Run the Jewels may even be better than the sum of its parts… and its respective parts are already cream of the crop.  This is a party album with a ton of boasts and brags, but it never plays to the "bling and booty" crowd. It's a smart take on culture and good times that's full of memorable lines, but also cohesive songwriting. The production is dirty, raucous and bass-driven, but never aggressively off-putting (like that of a certain rapper on top of everybody's else's lists). I've listened to this album more than any other in 2013 and it looks like 2014 will be another year of RTJ as they've already announced a follow-up.
Standouts: Sea Legs, Banana Clipper

7. Brandy Clark - 12 Stories
Brandy Clark may not be the savior of country music but… wait, this sounds familiar. In country's "year of the woman" (critically not commercially, unfortunately), Clark stood at the forefront, at least for me. Kacey Musgraves might be the most recognizable face of the movement, but Clark is the most vital part of it. Her songwriting is superb, from the knowing ache of "What'll Keep Me Out of Heaven" to the smart-assed wit of "Stripes," she knows her way around a hook and through the ins and outs of the human condition. She's not the stone country throw-back that a Sturgill Simpson is; Clark is what country music should sound like in 2013 if it had evolved without so many greedy influences mutating the DNA. 12 Stories is a progressive work of heart and humor that honors its predecessors while gracefully arching towards the horizon.

8. Austin Lucas - Stay Reckless
Austin Lucas was a drain on my emotions this year. His post-divorce album, Stay Reckless, is mostly a shaded journey through loneliness and acceptance. There are great rockers like "Alone in Memphis" but again… alone. Lucas never sounded better, his voice aching with expression most singers could only dream of. "Splinters," an exploration of the uncertain reasons for the end of a relationship, is a deflating but gorgeous way to end the album on the saddest note possible.
Thanks a lot, Austin.

9. Fifth on the Floor - Ashes and Angels
Fifth on the Floor is the quintessential southern rock band working today. Theirs is a powerful, distinct and gritty take on a sub-genre that has become increasingly tiresome in the hands of less skilled bands. Ashes & Angels mostly steers clear of cliche with strong lyrics, modern attitude, and a mission to bring the rock. Lead singer Justin Wells is a mountain of a man with a voice to match and his cohorts are all excellent players. From the raucous "Whiskey" to the soulful "Angels in the Snow" to the excellent My Morning Jacket cover, "One Big Holiday," Ashes & Angels is an excellent entry from the premier band still carrying the southern rock flag.

10. Ashley Monroe - Like a Rose
Nine songs wasn't enough unless Ashley Monroe's plan was to leave us wanting more. On that count, Like a Rose is a job well done. Monroe's earthen angel vocals and gracefully edgy writing made this an album to return to over and again. Confessional and universal at once, Like a Rose gave us modern sentiment wrapped in a timeless package. Monroe covers regret, crime, drinking, lost love and a marriage in need of a little spice. What more could you need in a country album? More songs maybe…  Standouts: Morning After, Two Weeks Late

11. The National - Trouble Will Find Me

12. Kacey Musgraves - Same Trailer, Different Park

13. Shooter Jennings - The Other Life

14. Queens of the Stone Age - …Like Clockwork

15. Ha Ha Tonka - Lessons

16. Son Volt - Honky Tonk

17. Guy Clark - My Favorite Picture of You

18. Possessed by Paul James - There Will Be Nights When I'm Lonely

19. Vince Gill and Paul Franklin - Bakersfield

20. Todd Farrell Jr. and the Dirty Birds - All Our Heroes Live in Vans

Sep 27, 2013

YouTube Gems: Drew Kennedy - Rose of Jericho

From his masterful new album, Wide Listener, here's Drew Kennedy with "Rose of Jericho."

Best Albums of 2013: 3/4 Report

1. John Moreland - In the Throes

2. Jason Isbell - Southeastern

3. The National - Trouble Will Find Me

4. Drew Kennedy - Wide Listener

5. Austin Lucas - Stay Reckless

6. The Band of Heathens - Sunday Morning Record

7. Run the Jewels - s/t
(free if you click "Get It Now")

8. Ashley Monroe - Like a Rose

9. Shooter Jennings - The Other Life

10. Fifth on the Floor - Ashes & Angels

Sep 10, 2013

Album Review: Drew Kennedy - Wide Listener

Wide Listener is Drew Kennedy's most accomplished and satisfying album yet. Drew's already excellent songwriting is augmented this time around by co-writes from such luminaries as Lori McKenna, Josh Grider and well-known sportswriter, Wright Thompson (!?). Of course there's also Kennedy's uniquely expressive vocals (which are stronger than ever) to draw you in. 

"Good Carpentry" is a thinking man's "my woman done left me" ballad, somehow successfully equating solid craftsmanship with the memory of a lost lover. On paper (blog), it doesn't sound like it would work, but Drew makes the metaphor go over smooth as caramel on cheesecake.

"Hello Goodbye" and "Jackson Square" are probably the two cuts with the best shots at (Americana) airplay, blending immediate hooks with soulful undercurrents. They take me back to a time (late 90s) when earnest singer-songwriters with folk leanings were played alongside alt-rockers, pop-punkers and boy bands on Top 40 stations.

Those nostalgic feelings are deftly pulled along by the thread of traveling and things/places/people left behind that Kennedy weaves through the album. Not that it's all wistful; on "Love on the Highway," the trip isn't taken alone.

"The Poet at 33" closes Wide Listener with an introspective but welcoming look into the creative soul. It easily foregoes the usual yawns induced by songs of this ilk with honest lyrics and a melody that will stick with you long after the album is over.

Wide Listener is the sound of a man who's found the sweet spot - where creativity, passion and talent all overlay each other on the venn diagram. Drew Kennedy may never be the best known singer-songwriters in the world, but with albums like this, we can rest assured he'll always be known as one of the best.


Wide Listener is available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes, Drew's site and Lone Star Music.

Jun 28, 2013

Country Day June '13: DAC, Hunter Hayes, Chris Young, etc.

Another shortened edition of Country Day this month. Everything slows down in the summer (even FTM, as I've reduced the amount of posts for a time), including the album release schedule (thus, less covers to farce), so this will likely be the norm through fall.

May 25, 2013

Drew Kennedy: MMA Fighter

Drew's gonna have to work on his muscle tone if he wants to stick around the MMA game for long.

Aug 22, 2012

Drew Kennedy's New Video: "Stars in California"

And now for something worthy of your time. Here's Drew Kennedy with his new video for "Stars in California." Honestly, it's one of the more beautiful videos I've ever seen if not for the beardy dude getting in the way of the shots all throughout.

Drew Kennedy - "Stars in California" (Official Music Video) from M. Andrew Barrera on Vimeo.

May 17, 2012

The Pastures of Madison County

I was able to make it back to this year's incarnation of Pickin' in the Pasture, a family and friends event in Madison County, MS starring Fireman John's BBQ, Drew Kennedy's beard and usually Josh Grider and/or Matt Skinner, after I missed 2011. I won't do a big write-up like I did in 2010, but it was another great show. Our three heroes, along with Josh Grider's lovely wife, a lovely bassist named Chris and a lovely drummer named (___?) played a full band/four singer concert for the family, friends, dogs and a blogger. They took turns trading solo tunes (Drew Kennedy did "Vapor Trails" among others), cover songs (Josh Grider and his wife did a great version of Johnny and June's "Jackson") and co-writes (Matt Skinner did both an electric and an acoustic version of the haunting Corb Lund co-write "One Left in the Chamber"). It was a fun time and here are the pictures to prove it!

Matt Skinner, Josh Grider and Drew Kennedy tuning up pre-show.

Josh Grider accompanies his wife on guitar.

Drew Kennedy has a wallet chain. Remind you of anybody??

The band in reverse.

Matt Skinner tearing it up on guitar. 

The tall and handsome Josh Grider is now a Nashville songwriter. Please don't write about trucks, Josh!

Josh Grider with two future bluegrass or country superstars. Seriously, they were great!
Sidenote: Josh has gotten really good on the guitar.

Electric show-closing barn-burner "Ain't Livin' Long Like This"

The beginning of the late-night acoustic jam.

Annnnd, this isn't from Pickin' in the Pasture, but here's a video of Matt Skinner performing the awesome tune "One Left in the Chamber."


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