Showing posts with label Kelcy Salisbury. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kelcy Salisbury. Show all posts

Nov 18, 2016

Album Review: Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward - Bomber Heights

By Kelcy Salisbury

Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward have been present in the Texas Music Scene, for lack of a better term, for the better part of 15 years now. They've recorded sporadically, are best known for a Bruce Springsteen cover, and haven't ever been quite at the leading edge of the attack. What they've recorded has been pretty stellar, but much like another of my personal favorites, Javi Garcia, they haven't had the output of the leaders of the scene.

What sets Rodney Parker apart from the pack in Texas is his ability to pare a song, a verse, a line & a phrase, to its bare essentials in order to achieve maximum impact.

In a way it seems fitting that Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward are best known for their cover of the Springsteen classic, "Atlantic City," because Parker's style is reminiscent of Springsteen at his best. It's been said that a picture can say a thousand words, but in the hands of the gifted writer, a few phrases can create an entire movie. Parker has always been remarkable at creating memorable scenes with just a phrase or two. The lines from "Tell Me What It Is" come to mind, " hour back and forth, just to tell me she's in pain, girl why are you screaming it, you know I know my name..." To me, this is pretty masterful songwriting, that evokes a cinematic quality.

With Bomber Heights Parker and his band, 50 Peso Reward, have created a masterful, literary, cinematic statement.

The album begins with "Steppin' Into Sunshine."  The song offers a series of visuals such as "...there is a priceless work and a box knife" that contrast images of beauty and destruction, light and darkness, before the quietly triumphant line "I'm steppin' into sunshine".  It sets up the album perfectly.

"Skin and Bones" follows as a prequel to Megaphone, which is found on The Apology Part II.

The next major highlight of the album is "The Road Between None and Some," another masterpiece of cinematic lyricism that is (according to my own highly unscientific poll) the best loved song on the album.  The bass line and laid-back pacing of the lyrics belies the dark subject matter, and it works to perfection.

"Night In My Hand" features the loud distorted guitars that have been a hallmark of past Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward albums.  It serves as a fine change of pace before the heavy subject matter of "Ballast," which also could function as a companion piece to "I'm Never Getting Married" from 2003's The Lonesome Dirge and "The Day Is Coming" on Bomber Heights.  "Ballast" again showcases Parker's incomparable ability to create vignettes that are as true to life as anything I've ever heard.  If "you were out like a light of my life" doesn't hit you in the heart you might be missing yours. 

The album concludes with the dreamy "Moon," a song I see as akin to "Space Oddity" in that it uses the imagery of a man in space (or on the moon as it were) who is to far away to ever return home to the innocence of childhood.

I suggest Bomber Heights for anyone who is a fan of Texas Country, roots rock in general and well written lyrics.  The musicianship by Danny Skinner (Guitar, Banjo & Accordion), Brooks Kendall (Bass), Zach Galindo (Lead Guitar) & Grady Don Sandlin (Drums) is nothing short of first rate. 

My only wish is that Rodney Parker & 50 Peso would put out more music, but the truth is, you don't write & play like this without being a perfectionist & this album is fairly near perfection to my ears.


Bomber Heights is available on iTunes, Amazon, Lonestar Music, etc.

Jan 4, 2016

FTM's Best Albums of 2015: Individual Top 10 Lists

The votes were varied this year, but coagulated well enough to form a consensus. 
Here are our individual voters' ballots featuring such far flung choices as High on Fire, Courtney Barnett, and Titus Andronicus, so hopefully you can find even more cool music to spend your holiday gift cards on. I'm just including top tens since everyone sent in at least ten. Some voters had more than 10 selections and some of those votes outside the top ten were used for tiebreakers 
(ties were only broken inside the overall top 10).

1. Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear
2. Chris Stapleton - Traveller
3. Whitey Morgan - Sonic Ranch
4. Turnpike Troubadours - s/t
5. Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free
6. The Honeycutters - Me Oh My
7. Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen - Hold My Beer, Vol. 1
8. Jonathan Tyler - Holy Smoke
9. James McMurtry - Complicated Game
10. Ray Wylie Hubbard - The Ruffian's Misfortune

Matthew Martin
1. James McMurtry - Complicated Game
2. John Moreland - High On Tulsa Heat
3. Turnpike Troubadours - Turnpike Troubadours
4. Lucero - All A Man Should Do
5. Great Peacock - Making Ghosts
6. American Aquarium - Wolves
7. Titus Andronicus - The Most Lamentable Tragedy
8. Thunderbitch - Thunderbitch
9. Craig Finn - Faith In The Future
10. Chris Stapleton - Traveller

Jeremy Harris
1. William Clark Green - Ringling Road
2. Whitey Morgan - Sonic Ranch
3. Chris Stapleton - Traveller
4. Benton Leachman - Bury the Hatchet
5. Whiskeydick - The Bastard Sons of Texas
6. Stoney Larue - Us Time
7. American Aquarium - Wolves
8. Eric Church - Mr. Misunderstood
9. Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free
10. Dallas Moore - Dark Horse Rider

Kevin Broughton
1. James McMurtry - Complicated Game
2. Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free
3. Jonathan Tyler - Holy Smoke
4. Turnpike Troubadours - s/t
5. The Yawpers - American Man
6. The Pollies - Not Here
7. Son Volt - Trace (20th Anniversary Reissue)
8. John Moreland - High on Tulsa Heat
9. Ray Wylie Hubbard - The Ruffian's Misfortune
10. Rhett Miller - The Traveler

Kelcy Salisbury
1. Jason Boland and the Straggers - Squelch
2. Ray Wylie Hubbard - The Ruffian's Misfortune
3. American Aquarium - Wolves
4. Turnpike Troubadours - s/t
5. The Yawpers - American Man
6. Lindi Ortega - Faded Gloryville
7. JEFF the Brotherhood - Wasted on the Dream
8. Courtney Patton - So This is Life
9. High on Fire - Luminiferous
10. The Deslondes - s/t

Chad Barnette (Tiebreaker votes)
1. Allison Moorer - Down to Believing
2. Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free
3. Turnpike Troubadours - s/t
4. Alan Jackson - Angels and Alcohol
5. Ashley Monroe - The Blade
6. The Yawpers - American Man
7. Chris Stapleton - Traveller
8. Cody Jinks - Adobe Sessions
9. Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
10. Dirty Streets - White Horse

Sep 4, 2015

Album Review: The Damn Quails - Out of the Birdcage

The Damn Quails - Out of the Birdcage
by Kelcy Salisbury

A few years back Norman, OK musical outfit The Damn Quails released an album, Down The Hatch, that shook up the musical scene throughout their home state, their neighbors to the south, & beyond.  The album was roundly praised - it was actually the first album I reviewed for this site (and was FTM's #1 album of 2011) - and the bands trajectory appeared poised for a major breakthrough.  A year passed & the album was still selling relatively strongly, and soon two years were gone with little word of any pending projects.  The band continued to tour,  I continued to poke fun at Bryon White on Twitter,  but it seemed like the idea of another studio project was distant at best & the strain of trying to make a living in the music business in this day and age seemed to be pulling the band apart.  Eventually word broke that there was an ongoing legal dispute with the record label that had released the debut album, but little was allowed to be said about it, aside from promises of future music once the dispute was resolved.  This went on for quite a while, long enough that when the band announced a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new album, I wondered if enough people still cared enough to fund the project (Full Disclosure: yes, I did what I could.), that question was answered in short order as the band easily passed their stated goal & the project was begun.

Usually I try to hear whatever new stuff is available from bands I enjoy, whether it be YouTube videos or whatever.  This time around I intentionally avoided hearing any of the new music until I could listen to the entire album.  So I waited, until one day last week, when Out Of The Birdcage arrived in the mail, which was slightly more exciting than the Harbor Freight advertisement next to it. 

The album opens strong, with the title track leading the way.  The harmonies are strong, sounding exactly as the prior album hinted at as a signature sound for The Damn Quails.  Lyrically there are few, if any punches pulled, and although the story told may or may not be a metaphor in places, this just sounds like a band that is absolutely thrilled to be working together again in the studio.  It is the perfect opener & sets a raucous tone to an album that winds it's weigh through considerable emotional territory in it's 12 tracks.  Not everything is as expected though, and that's a good thing as well.  I hear a lot more traditional country instrumentation on a few tracks, most notably the fiddle work on "Woody Guthrie (From The Dust)," and the steel on "Just A Little While."  One of my favorite things about Down The Hatch was the variety of instrumentation from song to song, and the subtle use of harmony as an instrument, all packaged with gut-punch songwriting.  That appears to be fleshed out on Out Of The Birdcage, from the swooping organ on "Give It Some Time," the Stones-like groove on "Tightrope Walker," or the lyrical picture painted in "Man In The Mirror (Girl On The Plane)."

I'm not sure if it's fair to compare one album to another subjectively, and I wouldn't know how to say that one Damn Quails album or another was "better", but I am certain that both are exceptionally honest looks into exactly who the band is musically at that point in time.  Down The Hatch sounded exactly like an exceptional group of musicians with diverse influences, making exactly the music they wanted to make.  Nothing else sounded quite like it, and they had the live skills to build on the songs in a concert setting.  This sounds like the exact same thing, just an election cycle further into life.  Very few bands at any level can survive on so little promotion for so long, and they sure can't do it if they don't have the musical chops to keep drawing people into the live shows without having a new product to sell.  To do it in this age of short attention spans & shorter shelf lives, speaks as loudly to the talent & heart of each member of The Damn Quails as anything I can say.

If you're reading this & you contributed to the Kickstarter, thank you for helping make this album happen.  If not, the album will be out on all the usual outlets today.  If you've heard Down The Hatch but waited on this one, buy it.  If you don't like it, Bryon White will personally give you a lifetime supply of nothing & Gabriel Marshall will probably come do your dishes too.  If this is your introduction to the band, it comes as a great starting point. 

Out of the Birdcage will obviously be an early contender for a top year-end rating, so I guess I'd better put some kind of number on it.  So give it 5/5 coveys. And go buy it.  Seriously.

(Also, now that Swompfyst Records is actually a thing, assuming that one of their head honchos might see this, you really need to get with Javi Garcia & get a logo drawn up & some merch out ASAP.  You're welcome for the literally several dollars this idea will surely send your way.)


Available at all the typical depots, including iTunes, Amazon, Lonestar Music, and Pornhub. Okay, not that last one.

Sep 2, 2015

Top Albums of 2015: Kelcy's 2/3 Report

*Editor's note: I'm too busy at work to actually edit and fact-check this, other than one date, but it needs to be posted today, so here's the raw info with no links and such. Kelcy's back and talking some great music, so go track 'em down if it sounds interesting!

by Kelcy Salisbury

There's been a ton of good music released this year, so much that a number of sources have compiled half-year "Best Of" lists.  Since my mom cut off the internet to the basement, my version of the list will be a 2/3 year list.  Also, work. 

So here are a few things I've really enjoyed & some more that I'm looking forward to.  This is not a ranking, but anything here, could be at or near the top of a year-end list.

Best of the first 2/3 of 2015 (and other years)

1. The Deslondes.  I know the whole "vintage" look/sound combo is beyond overdone & worn out, but these guys will make you believe it, and cover enough ground on their self-titled album to prove that they could only have come from New Orleans. 

2. Lindi Ortega. 
She just dropped an album, Faded Gloryville, that is drawing rave reviews from all over, including from me, if I can find time to write it.  She made an epic, mic-drop moment statement about the whole situation with women in mainstream country music, and really the music business as a whole.  She is a darling of what few gatekeepers appear to remain in place, and she looks poised for a huge career boost. 

3. Jackson Taylor & The Sinners. 
The most reinvented band in the business might have dropped the most fun album of 2015 so far, a statement that seems far removed from where this band has been.  Cantina Diablo sounds like Elvis & Johnny Cash spent an afternoon in a rural Mexican cantina circa 1955, or at least what I would want that to sound like.  The material isn't new but it doesn't need to be.  There is a lot to be said for a musician that makes the music he wants to make, and Jackson Taylor has always strived to.  Word is that Jackson will be moving off bass and back to rhythm guitar for the band, they continue to tour heavily, cementing a following in the upper midwest that rivals that of much bigger names. Check out the new album, and catch a live show from one of the hardest working bands on the road today.

4. Whitey Morgan & The 78s.  Sonic Ranch was a revelation.  So much of the album was covers, but it didn't matter a bit.  A handful of tattooed bearded dudes from the country music mecca of Flint, Michigan were getting press from Rolling Stone & other mainstream outlets because they made one of the finest country records in recent memory.  Their spaghetti-western take on Townes Van Zandt's classic "Waiting Around To Die" is incredible.  The buzz that they've built with their live shows is remarkable & they too are poised to grab a bigger piece of attention.

5.  Cody Angel.
  I hadn't caught a Jason Boland & The Stragglers live show since last September, and in the mean time, Roger Ray had left the road being replaced by Cody Angel.  I stopped by George's Majestic in Fayetteville,AR to catch up with The Stragglers in late May, and the first person I saw was this kid that looked about 19 (I think he's 22) getting off the bus & I thought "That's cool.  That kid was probably a big fan & getting to hang out with the band made his day."  Then he strapped on a guitar & made me feel like a moron for close to two hours.  He doesn't play like Roger, but he's not intimidated by the shoes he had to step into, and he has earned his spot.  If there are any non-believers left at this point, go see a show.  Cody Angel is awesome.  

6. Shinyribs.  I have been hearing about this band, and seeing them praised by folks like Cody Canada piqued my interest.  Okra Candy is the current album, released earlier this year, but there is a string of albums out there, and they are all very strong.  Okra Candy is well worth a listen, will likely be on my year-end list, and comes highly approved for dance-ability by toddlers, which is a story for another day.  Shinyribs isn't just some Gourds side project.  Kevin Russell is all-in on this one & if you're a fan of the funkier stuff coming out of New Braunfels these days you'll enjoy it.

7. Charlie Robison.
  I know High Life was not released this year, but I didn't listen to it last year (Editor's note: or 2013, when it was actually released :)), because frankly, I thought the Live At Billy Bob's album fell a little flat & Charlie's voice hadn't sounded great to me in a little while.  When I finally did listen to High Life it pretty much blew me away.  He nailed it from A to Z & I was wrong. 

8. Jason Isbell.  I'm sure opinions vary, but I like Something More Than Free better than Southeastern.  Both are absolutely essential listening, and right now there may be no more important voice in independent music than Jason Isbell, even though he didn't audition for The Voice.

9. Mike & The Moonpies.  When I saw Jason Boland & The Stragglers this May, these guys were the openers.  I wasn't planning on checking out their set, but Brad Rice has never steered me wrong musically, and he said I'd like it.  He was right.  Straight ahead country music, with no frills but plenty of clever songwriting, an engaging stage show & a name just goofy enough to be memorable.  Highly suggested if you like Boland, Jarrod Birmingham, etc.

10. Courtney Patton.  So This Is Life is a great album.  Until this year I had mostly only heard Courtney's work on harmony vocals with her husband, Jason Eady, but she grabbed my attention.  It's an embarrassment that women don't get a fair shake at country radio, and Courtney Pattons work throws the quality of what little does get radio play into sharp contrast.  She may have 2 strikes against her since she also makes actual country music, along with being female, but this lady deserves a much larger audience.

11. Jamie Lin Wilson.  As a member of The Trishas I was already familiar with Wilson, but her new album, Holidays & Wedding Rings, is a slam dunk of a solo project.  Much like the prior entry on this list, Wilson may have 2 strikes against her, but it hasn't hurt her artistic output.  Everything I just said about women in country music goes double for Jamie Lin Wilson.

Some Things I'm looking forward to:

1. Squelch.  New Jason Boland & The Stragglers.  Thoughtful songwriting, and yet another masterful album from a band with few peers.  Comes out October 9th.  Go pre-order at Jason Boland & The Stragglers Band - Home.

2. Lindi Ortega.  I will be catching a live show in a few weeks.  Can't wait to hear the best female voice in country music today live. 

3. The Damn Quails.  I know I already have Out Of The Birdcage & have reviewed it (coming soon), but it doesn't release until Friday.  It is good to have the Quails back making new music.

4. Turnpike Troubadours.  The self-titled album is coming soon.  What I've heard of it sounds great.  One or more songs are remakes from the little known Bossier City release, I keep expecting this band to make a big break-through a la Sturgill Simpson or Kacey Musgraves.  Maybe this album is the one.

Feb 2, 2015

Album Review: American Aquarium - Wolves

by Kelcy Salisbury

American Aquarium is a band that's been building tremendous buzz off the strength of their relentless touring and their album Burn, Flicker, Die for the past couple of years. We've all heard the story ad infinitum about how that album was supposed to be their goodbye. It was the end. Its success seemed like the beginning of a fairy tale ending, a Behind The Music episode in reverse.

So let's skip that part of the story & talk about the new album, Wolves.

I never do track by track reviews, but this deserves one. Problem is then I'd have to pick a favorite & I can't do it. I doubt I ever will.

This is as perfect of a country-fried, southern rock album as I can imagine hearing in the present time.

To say the musical arrangements are daring & a departure from past albums is true. Yes, the same basic structure is there, the skeleton is intact enough to keep the loyal fans sated. But BJ Barham & the boys take risks here. The lush "Man I'm Supposed To Be" could be something Chet Atkins produced, but the darkness that lurks in this most honest of love songs somehow makes the song even more powerful.

The opener, "Family Problems," strays into psychedelic, Turtles-esque territory in places & again the song is more powerful for it.

"Losing Side of Twenty-five" contains a riff that will lodge itself into your brain and likely be stuck there for the remainder of 2015. It doesn't hurt that the song is damn good too, giving an autobiographical account of the life of a late-20's guy who chose the road life over settling down. "I might never have a mansion, hell I might never own me a home…" sings Barham, laying bare the realities of the path he's chosen.

I never would call American Aquarium a straight ahead country band in the vein of those modern bands who are simply aping tradition. They have become one of the bands who've taken country music in the direction it needs to go & that's why I think that this album & this year are the most important of their careers. Based on what I know about their history, the incredible growth from strong album to utterly breathtaking album, and the tides seeming to be slowly turning in Nashville, I believe that this is one of the bands that is going to be the crest on the wave that rejuvenates true country music - with a truly modern touch - for the masses.

If you want to see them with the other band I've given similar accolades (a bit over a year ago I believe), catch one of their dates with Turnpike Troubadours. Truly the two best younger bands in any genre right now.

American Aquarium has been extremely generous in their willingness to make their music available to stream for free for years now. Now is the time to pay them back. Wolves is an album to buy. Seriously, it's as good as anything I've heard in 6 months at least. Probably much longer.

If you've agreed with my recommendations in the past, you know what to do. If not, I may have been out of sync with your tastes before, but this album is different enough from their past work that you should give it a try anyway.

You can buy Wolves tomorrow (Feb. 3, 2015) from iTunes, Lone Star Music, and all the usual retailers.

Jan 9, 2015

Kelcy Reflects on 2014, Chris Knight, Babies, etc.

Things I'm Glad I Experienced or Discovered in 2014:
by Kelcy Salisbury


2014 was a momentous year for me in a lot of ways, personally & professionally. These are the best things that I experienced, discovered, or rediscovered in the past year, in no particular order.

Jason Boland & The Stragglers with Chris Knight live at Joe's on Weed Street.  

Joe's has a lot of history in "TX/Red Dirt" music, especially for a venue in Chicago. This past summer I checked 2 firsts off my list: I saw a show at Joe's & I saw Chris Knight. It was everything I'd hoped for & then some. I met Chris Knight - he killed a bunch of people in song - but I'm still here for now.

Ray Wylie Hubbard live was everything I'd hoped for & then some. Ray put on a great show in a really cool room, was gracious enough to put me on his guest list though we'd never met, and was just about the coolest cat to talk to that you'd ever hope to meet. Ray Wylie Hubbard is exactly who you think he is, only better.

I finally started listening to American Aquarium & now I'm sad that Burn, Flicker, Die didn't make it into my best of 2013 list. These guys are going to lead the charge to take back country music right alongside Turnpike Troubadours. They're the truth.

I discovered Fistful Of Beard a few months too late to ever see a live show, which is quite a shame, but they left behind one really good album.

I finally got around to listening to John Fullbright's solo stuff around the time my daughter was born. She's 10 months old & Song For A Child might be her favorite song.

I rediscovered, through my daughter, how much FUN music is supposed to be. She already loves music & she already knows how to find John Fullbright, The Trisha's, Jason Boland & Brandy Clark on my phone whenever she's feeling like an impromptu dance party. Her favorite dancing song is probably Mike Ness (of Social Distortion) covering I Fought The Law, and if you've never seen this child jam out to that song, I feel bad for you. 

Jan 6, 2015

Kelcy Salisbury's Top 10 Albums of 2014

There was so much great music released this year that I really couldn't keep up with all of it.
You'll note this list excludes Sturgill Simpson's masterpiece, Metamodern Sounds In Country Music. Much like Jason Isbell's Southeastern last year, that album has gotten so much coverage that there's really nothing to add. It's a potentially genre redefining masterwork.

That said, these are the albums (out of what I heard this year) that topped my personal list.

10) Lydia Loveless - Somewhere Else
Call it alt country, call it country rock, call it whatever you like, just call it good! Loveless has a wonderfully smoky vocal quality, the music is well done, but the songwriting really sets this apart. "Verlaine Shot Rimbaud" may be a bit too obscure a literary reference for the pop-country crowd, but Loveless doesn't seem to care. She throws it all out there with a tale-it-or-leave-it attitude & that's the biggest appeal of this album that in any other year would likely be in my top-5 or better.

9) Shooter Jennings & Waylon Jennings - Fenixon
I will admit to being a huge Waylon Jennings fan, so just the opportunity to hear his voice on some (kind of) new tracks predisposed me to want to listen to this album. In Waylon's autobiography he mentioned that his son was a fan of 90s industrial bands such as Ministry, and that he too had developed an appreciation for that sound. Now we finally get to hear the project that a then-16 Shooter made with his father back in the 90s. It's not a country album by any stretch, it's an industrial album of mostly Waylon tunes & it works. Standout tracks include the Shooter-penned I Found The Body & White Room, but the whole thing is a really cool passion project that worked on a level I never expected.

8) Jackson Taylor & The Sinners - Live At Billy Bob's Texas
I reviewed this one earlier in the year, so I won't spend a ton of space on it other than to say that it's one of the top 3 Billy Bob's albums ever made, in my opinion. It captures the band at the height of their Rance Cox period & it's raw, real, energetic & in-your-face. Jackson's Social Distortion meets Billy Joe Shaver sound is at it's zenith here & the DVD is also killer.

7) John Fullbright - Songs
I got into Johns solo work a little late, though I'd seen him as a member of Turnpike Troubadours in the earliest days of that band. This isn't really a country album & it's not a folk album either. It's just an album of songs & some pretty fine ones. The One Who Lives Too Far is absolutely amazing songwriting, and the whole album is just effortlessly cool.


6) Stoney LaRue - Aviator
There are divorce albums & then there is this one. The most brutally honest lyrics of Stoney's career accompanied by lush, if subtle harmonies make this a beautiful yet still bold artistic statement.

5) Tyler McCumber Band - Saracene Sessions, Tape 2
Unfortunately this album is not yet readily available. Physical copies can be purchased through Tyler's Facebook page, but it's not on iTunes yet. That's an incredible shame because this is music that needs to be heard. Old Crow & Monsters truly stand out.

4) Micky & The Motorcars - Hearts From Above
The younger Braun brothers have made a statement that perhaps surpasses even Reckless Kelly. It's primarily an album of love songs, but retains the driving, whiskey-soaked feel of previous MMC albums. There's not a weak track; be sure to listen to the whole thing. 

I've previously reviewed the album & while I don't really have anything new to say, it's held up remarkably well through repeated listens. This one can be purchased on iTunes, luckily.


2) Brandy Clark - 12 Stories
(*Editor's note - This is a 2013 release but I'll let it slide since he said "best I've heard this year")
This album gives me more hope for the future of mainstream country music than anything I've heard in a while, including Kacey Musgraves. It's been covered ad infinitum in other places, so I won't go track by track, suffice to say it's hands-down the best mainstream country album I've heard all year. If you have to sample tracks check out Hungover & Take A Little Pill.


1) Matt Woods - With Love From Brushy Mountain
I'm a sucker for songwriting. I'll admit it. If you've got something to say, something that HAS to be said, something with some urgency to it, I'm going to listen more closely.

That said, nothing I heard all year packed the same gut-pinch intensity of Matt Woods tour-de-force, With Love From Brushy Mountain. Woods singing voice might not be for everyone, and I don't see how anybody can maintain the level of intensity that this album contains for the long term. But even if Woods never records another song, Dead Mans Blues, Lying On The Floor & the title track could be the future benchmark for intensity in songwriting. Do yourself a favor & give this one a couple of very hard listens.

By Kelcy Salisbury

Nov 7, 2014

Kelcy Defends Stoney LaRue's New Album

The new Stoney LaRue album, Aviators, is out & critical reaction has been a mixed bag, from what I've seen. To all those who've not been favorable to the album I'd like to say: give it another listen after you read this.

I've always liked Stoney, but he was never a huge favorite. This album changes that for me.

This is a concept album, make no mistake. Plenty of artists have made "divorce" albums before. Some have been good, a few have even been great. This one is the most brutally honest thing I've heard in years.

Basically, Stoney lays out the blueprint, the big picture as it were. From there we hear Stoney document every stage of his grief, try to put himself in his spouses shoes & say goodbye to the future he thought existed, all in the poetic lyrical style, laid back vocals & beautifully layered instrumentation we came to expect starting with Velvet. (Hats off to collaborator Mando Saenz.)

This album needs to be listened to in full, as intended. "Still Running" is a good starting place if you must buy a single, but listen to it as an album. Please.

by Kelcy Salisbury

Aviators is available on iTunes, Amazon, Lone Star Music, etc.


I also highly recommend the album, as does SCM's Triggerman. I personally haven't read any negative reviews, but I've seen several 'disappointed' comments from fans. It's a pretty melancholy album, but it's not boring... the melodies are subtle... the kind of subtlety that becomes unexpectedly powerful after a few listens. It's an emotional and mature record that peels back the artist and shows the real man. Give it a shot! -Trailer

Aug 6, 2014

In Defense of Chinese Democracy Era Guns N' Roses

By Kelcy Salisbury

The breakup of the original lineup of Guns N' Roses is a well documented piece of musical history. Musically, I'd argue that it happened a while before the band itself broke up, and by extension, Chinese Democracy and the new lineup of the band should not be judged so harshly. 

Listen to Appetite For Destruction and try to argue that it's not a top 3 rock album of all time. The anthems are timeless. The whole album sounds like a sloppy bar band on a magical night & somehow they managed to hold that chemistry together for long enough to record as perfect a hard rock record as can be made. I can't think of a more perfect one, and I can't think of a band less equipped to continue to make material at the same level, mostly because no band makes more than one perfect album. 

If the band was to exist as more than a flash in the pan things had to change fast, the entire band was a walking train wreck, and in some ways, that's what the world wanted to see. But the world shouldn't expect its rock stars to die for our entertainment and the band members just weren't ready to change personally. 

Sonically, things changed before the classic lineup disappeared. Use Your Illusions I & II were huge. Sales were through the roof. But the sound had changed. It wasn't the sloppy, dirty, ever aggressive guitar of Slash leading the way throughout. Oh, he had his moments to shine, especially on the radio hits, but his sound didn't permeate the deeper tracks on either disk. It had become Axl's band & Axl's direction.  Ballads like November Rain weren't in the same vein as Sweet Child Of Mine. Lyrically things had gotten even more personal & contemporary. Axl was telling us what was going on RIGHT THEN, and it wasn't riding the Nightrain. This schism of sound is what killed the band. You can hear it coming in the lyrics of many songs, especially on UYI II. 

That is why Chinese Democracy should be considered Use Your Illusion III. It wasn't the album that fans of bluesy guitar driven, straight-up rock n roll wanted. And it was panned mercilessly in the press in many quarters. Sales were mediocre (if you want to call 2.7 million albums mediocre).  But it was the exact album Axl had wanted to make at least as far back as the late 90s. It was the spiritual follow-up to the Use Your Illusion set. It just happened to take him 15 years & countless lineup changes to make it happen. 

The proof is in the pudding though. I challenge you to listen to Use Your Illusion I & II back to back. Then, go straight to Chinese Democracy & say it's not a natural extension of those records. The musicianship is there in spades. Axl still has the vocal chops to pull it off: yes his voice has changed but it's still in very good form. 

Maybe this really is the record Axl wanted to put out in the late 90s but couldn't. Maybe it took 15 years to get the sound right.  Based on the high bar set by the first 3 GNR albums (disregarding GNR Lies & The Spaghetti Incident), there was a difficult standard to follow. 

Yes the songwriting, especially subject matter has changed, but that could be a function of age. 

It's not the best GNR album, not more than 5th best. But Appetite, UYI I & II and Lies are ridiculously lofty levels to aspire to.

It's not the horrible record it was largely received as. Had it been released under any other name I suspect it would've received fairly positive reviews & hailed as brave, given the current musical climate. 

I gave it a couple of spins recently, and came to the realization that it is nothing more or less than Use Your Illusion III. This is the album Axl Rose was just bull headed enough to want to make from the get go, but once he drove away the rest of the original band through a well documented series of insane behavior & an insistence on moving into new sounds that represented a large break from the blues based hard rock of Appetite For Destruction (still possibly the greatest rock album ever), it required time (lots of it apparently) to find the right players for the sound Axl wanted. 

Make no mistake, Chinese Democracy is an Axl Rose project, but not much more so than either Use Your Illusion disc. 

So what about the songs? "Better" is an interesting combination of David Bowie circa Rebel Rebel, with a bit of the old school GNR  style guitar work. "Street Of Dreams" is something ripped straight from the Illusion sessions with its heavy reliance on piano & Axl's vocals. These two songs are clearly the highlights of the album. While the entire album feels like an unplanned cobbling together of songs from the Illusions sessions, Axl has done a great job of putting together the right musicians to create the monster he wanted. It may be sacrilege to say, but the current incarnation of the band may be more talented (at least for pulling off the bombastic sound of this record) than any previous iteration of GNR. From what I've heard about their Vegas shows of late, the newest set of players, especially guitarist DJ Ashba, is more than capable of playing the entire GnR catalog flawlessly. 

Axl's voice has aged, no doubt, but it retains the same dangerous quality and the entire album showcases its remaining power and edge quite nicely. 

All in all it's not the joke of an album it's been portrayed as by some.

Recommended for fans of either Illusion record. Not recommended for the crowd that still is trying to carry the torch of the "real" Guns N Roses. 

Apr 24, 2014

On Garth's Comeback

Garth Brooks Comeback
& How On Earth Did Everything Get This Weird?
-Kelcy Salisbury

This was a reply I made to a non-country music loving friend of mine on Facebook. It's unedited so I take responsibility for all typos & nonsense. Thank you Kelly Manning for pushing this to the front of my mind. 
Garth Brooks looks like a St Bernard that wears a cowboy hat. But yeah, he was kind of a big deal I guess. I'd still trade him & Clint Black to get Chris LeDoux (the guy Garth pretty well copied his live show from & that's not meant as a slam on Garth) back on this earth. 

I'll admit, after I saw your post, I actually watched a good bit of it. I was a little disappointed that he basically only played snippets of songs, but he was personable & engaging & wasn't wearing girl jeans or earrings (cough, Luke Bryan, cough Jason Aldean) and he wasnt using AutoTune, and he carried a show with just him, a guitar & whatever chemical assistance was used...I mean seriously dude, you should NOT be that excited about Jackson Browne! There's some Bolivian Marching Powder involved in that. Jackson Browne doesn't get that excited about his own songs! 

I'm pretty interested to see what his next career move is, whether he ever actually drops a new album & what it sounds like. Commercial country music is flailing & drowning in red ink, thus the increasing willingness to throw gimmicks out there & desperately hope one sticks. I'm sorry but Jawga Boyz, FL/GA Line, and about 3/4 of the content on any given hour of CMT programming is not country music, or even anything resembling good music. There's talent in the genre, but it's largely pop talent marketed as (sort of) country (Taylor Swift), relegated to the sidelines because the record companies will not allow them to make & release to radio the music they want (Jamey Johnson) or reduced to making ridiculously bad country-rap parodies (PLEASE tell me that "Boys Round Here" is a parody) like Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan (who is a world class jerk & has an unnerving fetish for dry humping drum kits in a drunken fit of mid-concert copulation fever), Jason Aldean or nearly any male star not named George Strait or Zac Brown.

Folks might not be aware of it, but radio playlists have gotten smaller as Clear Channel has snatched up stations, removed local DJ talent from the equation & created a monopoly of terrestrial radio. As the value of radio airplay dwindles the industry has basically shot itself in the foot (with #00 buckshot) by promoting as stars people who can't sing without computer assistance or engage a crowd or do many other things a star should be able to do. When people are exposed to the true musical talent of even a mediocre musician like Garth (GREAT showman & marketer though), it makes the posturing & pandering of the current Nashville wasteland look every bit as hollow & silly as it is. 

When an artist like Jamey Johnson can have the track record of success that he had with That Lonesome Song & The Guitar Song but he STILL can't get into a contract that allows him to choose 100% of his own material there is a huge problem, it's 1970 Nashville all over again & the outsiders are still out there, ready to make people care about country music again. It's coming, and while the standard bearers of the movement (The Great Divide, Bob Childers, Pinto Bennett on through Reckless Kelly, Jason Boland & The Stragglers, Ragweed & a few others) are either no longer performing together or not ideally positioned to be the next wave of truly great country music that achieves commercial success, there is a second generation ready & waiting & they are gonna make some noise when they get on the dance card. The current structure of commercial country music is so far overdue for collapse that it could implode in the next 10 seconds & nobody would be surprised. This means that bands that are accustomed to owning their own material, beating down the highway & playing live 200 nights a year are going to be ideally positioned for success. My money would be on Turnpike Troubadours as probably the smartest bet. They've got the chops, they're still quite young, and their grassroots following stretches world wide & grows daily. There will be plenty of competition, and it could be that they won't even want the crown, should it be offered, I just find it amazing that we have actually reached a point where GARTH BROOKS of all folks could be the tipping point that moves country music in a direction that's better for the music & the artists. If this comes to pass I will personally get a Chris Gaines poster for my office. 

Apr 17, 2014

Fenixon (Waylon and Shooter Jennings)

This sounds interesting. Waylon & Shooter circa 1997, doing a heavily NIN influenced "I Found The Body." I'm pretty sure a lot of traditional country fans will express anger at Shooter for releasing this, but don't count me among them. My recollection from Waylon's autobiography is that he enjoyed & was proud of the bit of involvement he had in Shooter's industrial/alternative rock projects. To me this song is kinda the equivalent of watching any dad getting involved in what his teenage son is into, and there's nothing to be ashamed of there. If this had the feel of a cash grab by Shooter I'd be unhappy I guess, but from what I read he is only pressing 1000 white vinyl copies of this for Record Store Day. 

This song also appears (in much different form) on Waylon Forever, recorded with Shooter & The 357s. That's also a very fine album, containing my personal favorite version of Waymore's Blues. 

-Kelcy Salisbury 

Apr 11, 2014

Album Review: Jackson Taylor & The Sinners - Live at Billy Bob's Texas

By Kelcy Salisbury

Billy Bob's Texas has long been an outpost where independent musicians & their fans could gather. It's a unique place. Not a perfect venue but by far the most prominent (nationally speaking) venue that most non-Nashville country artists could reasonably hope to play. In the 1990s, Smith Music Group began to issue a series of live recordings from the legendary Ft Worth bar/tourist attraction. In conjunction with the Minnick family (Sam Minnick, former PRCA bull rider, stock contractor & judge. Pam Minnick, former Miss Rodeo America, and long-time rodeo television personality are a major part of running the bar, which has featured live bull riding for years.) the folks at Smith have created a brand within a brand in the music industry. Early releases were mostly mainstream country stars on the backside of their popularity such as David Allan Coe & TG Sheppard. Some time around the turn of the century Sam Minnick seemed to begin to have more of a hand in selecting the artists who were featured.  Sam's long-time friendship with Tuff Hedeman led to the decision to record seminal "Red Dirt" act Cross Canadian Ragweed (At the time Ragweed was frequently the featured entertainer at after parties on the Professional Bull Riders tour, of which Hedeman was president until 2004). The album was ground breaking in many ways, and led to more acts from farther outside the mainstream being selected to record an album for the Live At Billy Bob's series. Jason Boland & The Stragglers released perhaps the most critically acclaimed disc in the series in 2003. In 2009 Micky & The Motorcars became the first "TX/Red Dirt" (I despise the labeling) act to release a CD/DVD combo (the album is fantastic by the way). There have been missteps along the way, most notably the internet fan voting that led to a Shy Blakeman album recording that is rumored to have happened a couple of years ago, but overall the series has consistently offered fans a very consistent product. 

Last year it was announced that Billy Bobs & Smith had agreed to record what I believe to be the most outside-the-mainstream album in the series when Jackson Taylor & The Sinners were announced as the newest Live At Billy Bob's Texas artist. Now, Jackson is far from a newcomer, having released something like 11 albums over more than a decade & toured extensively, including sharing the stage with Jason Boland & many other artists who've frequently played Billy Bobs. There is no doubting Jackson's music, but he is just about the farthest thing from the mainstream that exists. He isn't really "Texas Music" although TX is very supportive of his music. Taylor's sound owes much more to the west coast, it's a heavy dose of the Bakersfield Sound run through a punk rock filter & liberally splashed with Social Distortion before being served up in all it's raw glory. In other words, it's what the modern evolution of country music should sound like, and probably would if not for monolithic corporations controlling the product. 

The album kicks off with "Jack Is Drunk Again", which aside from being the party anthem it is on the surface is also an affirmation of why Jackson Taylor won't be signing a Nashville record deal any time soon. There are 16 songs on the album, mostly old favorites that have (in some cases) been released on two or more albums in the past. Very little new ground is broken, but it really doesn't matter. The sequencing is pretty near perfect, and the band is on its A-Game. My only complaint is that (at least in the cd format) there are a couple of songs where the vocals sounded a bit buried in the mix to me (Blue Agave in particular) but overall the audio cd is a very solid addition to the Billy Bob's series. I don't think that it's the strongest album in the series, an honor that probably belongs to Jason Boland (more on that in a bit) but it's definitely a top 5 effort. Personally I'd rank it just below Boland & Micky & The Motorcars efforts. It could've been stronger due to the omission of the encore which left some of Jackson's strongest songs off the record. But there's still plenty here to love & it's a fine introduction to Jackson Taylor & The Sinners. 

The DVD is where this album truly shines though. All 16 tracks on the cd are found here, in the same sequence but this time the stage banter is left intact. The impact of "Old Henry Rifle," "Blue Agave" and "Bare Feet On The Dash" is greatly aided by this. The cover of "Ball & Chain" sizzles to life, even without Jason Bolands guest vocals. The Sinners' musicianship becomes more apparent & easy to appreciate, at least for a layman such as myself. 

The most fascinating part of the whole package though is the interview with Jackson that is interspersed between tracks on the DVD. We get Jackson's take on politics (surprise, he's VERY independent!), stories of his musical influences (especially Mike Ness of Social Distortion fame), his feelings on the recording of this album, and his gratitude towards two men who have made his career possible in some ways (Paul, to whom "Blue Agave" is dedicated & Jason Boland - who Jackson mentions as his "best friend" and a major influence several times). It's an interesting look at the thoughts of an artist who has truly been everywhere. 

Jackson is no cardboard cutout outlaw. He's lived the songs he sings, been to the edge & back more times than seems possible, and somehow is still here & making the best music of his career. He sounds like a man who has made peace with his past & is ready to make peace with the world. 

The absolute highlight of the album is the one new song, "Faulkner By The Dashboard Lights," a story about Jackson's father & childhood that does much to explain the man himself. If there was any kind of justice in the world this would be a hit single on country radio, so I'm pretty sure it won't be. 

Overall I'd suggest this album over even "Live Locked & Loaded At The Longhorn Saloon" as an ideal starting point for those unfamiliar with Jackson Taylor. I'd recommend the DVD as an absolute must-have if you're buying the album, and I'd hope that maybe someday soon we can see Jackson Taylor & The Sinners sharing a stage with Jason Boland & The Stragglers (a pairing that played a big role in Jackson's early days touring TX in particular) once again. 

The album begins with JT&S being introduced as the "greatest honky tonk band in the universe". That may be debatable, but I'd suggest that they are certainly the epitome of honky tonk.


Live at Billy Bob's is available at Lone Star Music, Amazon, iTunes, etc.

Mar 21, 2014

Album Review: Tyler McCumber Band - Saracene Sessions: Tape 1

Tyler McCumber Band - Saracene Sessions: Tape 1

By Kelcy Salisbury

I just got a copy of the new Tyler McCumber Band album, Saracene Sessions: Tape 1. This is the first release I've heard from McCumber since Catch Me several years back. 

Now to be fair, I would consider Tyler a friend although I've yet to meet him in person, so let me give a brief review of my impressions of Catch Me to put my thoughts of it in perspective to my feelings about this new release. 

Catch Me had moments that hinted at talent and a well honed musicianship that seemed like there was SOMETHING there. What it was was difficult to pin down. Was McCumber a Kevin Fowler-esque slightly hackneyed self of "White Trash Farm" or was he the Randy Rogers type "Music Man" with a dash of Wade Bowen on "Hollis, OK" or was he the he the Hayes Carll type of "Uncle Sams Gun?" There were a lot of approaches but none seemed completely his OWN. 

On Saracene Sessions: Tape 1, the total opposite is true & it's the best possible thing that could have happened. 

Tyler refers to his music as "Rural Rock" and it truly is. Yes, it will hopefully and deservedly get airplay on TX Country radio. But it's not Texas country. It's no more country than Cross Canadian Ragweed in their Red Dirt heyday or Ray Wylie Hubbard at his greasiest. 

This is the record The Tyler McCumber band had in them all along & I had my doubts until this week. McCumber isn't blessed with the greatest pipes in this business. His band isn't the musical titan of the scene (they are no slouches by any means either). 

The record is the purest combination of storytelling songwriting, musicianship and production that I've heard all year. It may be the most perfect I've heard in 5 years. 

I can't say the record grabbed me at first listen. I was preoccupied with family matters and listened to it only as background music. When I finally had the chance to pay attention tonight and really listen to it a couple of times through: HOLY BARKING SPIDERS BATMAN!

I can't really describe the album but to say that you can hear influences of many artists though it owes much more to ZZ Top than any traditional country influence. That is to say, it is funky, full of soul, garnished with blues elements, just country enough to garner country airplay and dripping with songwriting that tells of stories you can't disbelieve. 

It's Texas music beyond a doubt, but the regional references aren't the clich├ęs. There are dark stories aplenty but there is a message of positivity lying beneath the surface. This is a rare skill & one just being honed on Catch Me.  There is nothing trite or hackneyed on this album. 

"Whisky Shots & Stitches" is an early contender for Song Of The Year. 

There is no doubting the stories McCumber tells & there is no question in the listener's mind that they are hearing the truth. 

His voice fits the material perfectly and the production, while not perfect is just right for the music, if that makes any kind of sense. 

The "political" songs "Don't Blame The Gun" & "Roughneck" ring of Charlie Daniels and Jason Boland, respectively, but the sound is all his own. 

I don't know that I've heard a band or a songwriter grow this much between two albums any time in a decade or more and that's a huge part of my opinion. Tyler McCumber is a GREAT songwriter. Javi Garcia once told me so [Editor's Note: NAMEDROPPER!], but based in Catch Me I had my doubts. Those are erased. 

Early contender for album of the year? Absolutely. Check Tyler OUT on Facebook or search for copies. itunes soon I hope. This deserves to be heard. 

This is an album I hope my daughter appreciates in 20 years. Granted, that may sound like hype, but it's the highest praise I can give an album of such great songwriting & Saracene Sessions: Tape 1 is deserving of all that. 


Saracene Sessions: Tape 1 is available for preview/purchase at CD Baby and Amazon.


Related Posts with Thumbnails