Showing posts with label Scott Colvin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scott Colvin. Show all posts

Jan 8, 2019

Scott's Top 20 Albums of 2018

Last one! I promise. ~Trailer

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by Scott Colvin

1. Larkin Poe – Venom & Faith
Rebecca and Megan Lovell (formerly of the bluegrass band The Lovell Sisters with older sister Jessica) are mostly “known” as touring musicians for the likes of Kristian Bush and Elvis Costello…among others. On their fourth full-length album, the sisters absolutely hit the sublime with their powerful brand of roots rock and blues. Rebecca’s sultry and soulful vocals blend perfectly with Megan’s hot bluesy slide guitar licks for one of the finest albums in recent memory.

2. Brandi Carlile – By The Way, I Forgive You 
Brandi’s finest album since The Story (which will always be in my Top 10 of all-time). “The Joke” is simply gorgeous and a song of the year contender. This Dave Cobb produced platter got some serious Grammy nom love and for good reason. 

3. Jamie Lin Wilson – Jumping Over Rocks

4. Whitey Morgan and the 78s – Hard Times and White Lines 

5. Lindi Ortega - Liberty

6. Joshua Hedley – Mr. Jukebox

7. Ashley McBryde – Girl Going Nowhere 

8. Superchunk – What a Time to Be Alive

9. Shooter Jennings – Shooter

10. Blackberry Smoke – Find a Light

11. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers – Years
It’s not often I can look to my hometown for music pride. Let’s be honest, until Sarah Shook came around Foreigner’s Lou Gramm might be Rochester, NY’s most notable artist (C’Mon, admit it, “Jukebox Hero” and “Urgent” were freaking awesome). Shook is a total badass and this album proves it. 

 12. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

13. Dillon Carmichael – Hell on an Angel

14. Eric Church – Desperate Man

15. I’m With Her – See You Around

16. Muncie Girls – Fixed Ideals

17. Thunderpussy – S/T
This female foursome delivers with some serious 70s rock goodness. To be honest their debut EP Greatest Tits was a tighter effort, but since those songs are all on this LP it makes my list. 

18. Rhett Miller – The Messenger

19. Cody Jinks - Lifers

20. Holly Golightly – Do the Get Along

Jul 9, 2018

Show Review / Lori McKenna / Ram's Head Onstage

by Scott Colvin

As much as I like to think of myself as someone adept at “discovering” new music, it never hurts to have friends and family with good taste to turn me onto something that I might have missed due to whatever sub-genre I’m overdoing at the moment.

In junior high my older cousin taped me (dating myself big-time) Metallica’s Ride the Lightning when it came out. That blew my mind way more than the poodle haired safe for radio “metal” I knew at the time. Years later in high school, I was into 10,000 Maniacs and R.E.M. when some older friends clued me into to Jane’s Addiction and The Smiths (to name a few). A whole new world opened. And of course now we all have Trailer who introduced most of us early on to that Sturgill fella (and many other real country artists that makes us all swoon…thanks, bud).

Sometime in the early 00s I joined a CD trading community called Lala.com (RIP). Artist suggestions on the site’s message board were more prevalent than half-finished PBRs at a Blake Shelton concert tailgate. One “friend” knowing that I had an affinity toward women singer/songwriters asked me if I heard of Lori McKenna and particularly her new album Bittertown. Sheepishly, I said, “no, but I’ll check it out,” which in “Scott speak” means, “I’ll get to it as soon as I listen to the 20 or so CDs I have but haven’t listened to yet, learn how to finally play mandolin and naturally cure cancer.” But, I trusted the dude enough and gave it a whirl. And that’s when I fell in love with not only Lori’s aching voice, but the voice inside her head that wrote the most gut-wrenching songs I’ve ever heard. “Stealing Kisses,” a song that Faith Hill regrettably drained all of the angst out of on her Fireflies album, was and will always be one of my most cherished McKenna songs.

I was lucky enough to see McKenna on her tour for 2007’s Unglamorous and again in 2011 for Lorraine (where she played another personal favorite that would appear on 2013’s Massachusetts, “Make Every Word Hurt”) at the intimate Rams Head Onstage in Annapolis, MD. Both were fantastic shows that played up her catalog.

Good fortune reared its head on June 29 as McKenna returned to RHOS on the first night of her tour in support of her new album The Tree (out on July 20).

Going into the show, I fully expected and anticipated hearing a steady dose of new music, songs she co-wrote for others that became big hits (although part of me thought it would’ve been amusing if she would’ve covered those artists instead…like imagine her singing “Truck Yeah” or “Pontoon”…in her distinct heartbreaking style…but I digress), and a smattering of her older fan favorites.

I was mostly right, but also partly wrong, which had me days later a little bummed after some reflection (AKA looking at my concert notes while sober), even though I left the show on a total concert high (and a little drunk). Don’t get me wrong, the songs she played were brilliant tales of love and loss, with dynamic twists at the end (the story arcs in her songs are anything but predictable), and impeccable musicianship by her band. Her banter with the crowd was lighthearted, informative and endearing. 

What was missing though was a musical acknowledgment of her extensive back catalog (her set consisted solely of new songs, a few off her previous album “The Bird and the Rifle (such a great record by the way), and a cover. I can understand “sticking to the new stuff” for artists who tour often, but she really doesn’t these days, focusing more on her songwriting craft (she is one of the most sought after co-writes in Nashville these days). I can also see why an artist would want to focus on the now and not the past, but when the new album won’t be released for weeks it can make for a long night of not hearing anything “familiar.” It’s a minor/spoiled music fan gripe indeed, as fortunately, the new songs sounded sublime and I can already predict that the Dave Cobb produced album will sit atop many top 10s at the end of the year.

Of the new songs she played “The Tree,” “Young and Angry Again,” “Mother Never Rests,” “The Lot Behind St. Mary’s,” “The Fixer,” “Like Patsy Would,” and the album’s first single “People Get Old.” As mentioned, she also played songs from her previous album The Bird and the Rifle including the title track, “Old Men, Young Women” and naturally, the stunning “Humble and Kind” that Faith’s hubbie turned into one of the finest songs on pop country radio in recent years (I still would’ve killed to hear her take of “Truck Yeah”).

McKenna and her band had a “rock-out” moment with “Happy People” written by McKenna and made famous by Little Big Town. During the encore her band provided transcendent harmonies to another song LBT recorded and sprouted from the mind of McKenna, 2015’s most ubiquitous radio song, “Girl Crush.”

The concert concluded with a cover by another American songwriter hero Tom Petty, as they played a stellar version of “Room at the Top.”

In the end, Lori McKenna live, as on record, is a treasured storyteller that country fans who prefer swimming in the deep end of country music’s pool can thoroughly appreciate.  



Jun 18, 2018

Live Review / Kelly Willis / Annapolis, MD



by Scott Colvin

Over the years, I’ve been to a handful of Sunday matinee shows at Annapolis’ Ram’s Head on Stage and one thing I’ve learned is that many touring artists are not used to being “on” for a 1 pm performance. Don’t get me wrong, Cracker, Rhett Miller, Robyn Hitchcock, and Lydia Loveless nailed their respective performances, but all joked in their own ways about not being used to playing so early in the day (kudos to Loveless at her show opening for Cracker as she was battling the flu).

That said, country vet Kelly Willis and her terrific band didn’t seem phased at all during their stellar early afternoon performance on Sunday June 10 where fans were more likely imbibing on bloodies and screwdrivers instead of the venue’s fine selection of their own microbrews (I was definitely in the screwdriver mood on this particular day). Yeah…

Willis, touring for her wildly regarded Back Being Blue (her first solo album in 11 years) made the most of her 90 minutes on stage focusing primarily on songs from the new platter and 1999’s What I Deserve, all the while peppering in songs from her nearly 30 years in music.

The title track from her new album, “Back Being Blue” kicked off the show. It was a perfect start to highlight her aching vocals that has clearly charmed FTM Grand Poohbah Trailer, who has already publicly stated it’s one of his favorite songs of 2018. 

Willis immediately threw out a “bone” to older fans with an Easy track, the honky-tonkin’ rumbler “If I Left You” which featured killer guitar licks from guitarist/pedal steel guru Geoff Queen who spent the night seamlessly switching between electric guitar and pedal steel while adding subtle harmonies. Queen’s harmonies would come into play a few songs later during “What The Heart Doesn’t Know,” a song Willis admitted was her attempt at writing a 50s “country girl duo” song which she not only accomplished but added about her harmonist “Geoff does a good job being my back-up girl” which got a good laugh from the crowd.

Throughout her career Willis has had the good fortune to write with or perform songs from some of the finest writers in country music. She featured many in her set this afternoon including the title track to What I Deserve (Gary Louris of the Jayhawks), “Wrapped,” and “Not Forgotten You” by her husband Bruce Robison, “Sweet Sundown” by Damon Bramblett, “Find Another Fool” by Marcia Ball, and “Get Real” by John Leventhal. 

One of the funnier moments of the performance was during the introduction of the country rocker/revenge song “Take It All Out On You” which was written by her first husband Mas Palermo and current husband Bruce Robison (who at the time of the song’s inception was on “a break” with Kelly at the time). She’s told the story many times over the years while touring with Robison and it still gets a good laugh as she explains that it’s the “song that qualifies me to be a country singer.”

Willis closed out her set with the last song off her new album, “Don’t Step Away,” which had boots a-tappin’…well her boots for sure…as most in the crowd were sporting flip-flops or sandals on a balmy spring day in our pleasant drinking town with a sailing problem. 

Willis and her band triumphantly returned to the stage moments later to play What I Deserve’s “Cradle of Love” and the old-school rocker “Whatever The Wind Blows” by the legendary Marshall Crenshaw. 

Kelly Willis is one of country music’s finest artists who sadly gets overlooked. She’s not glossy, stylish, or pandering to the masses. She’s the epitome of class with a sweet temperament that wows audiences with every achingly beautiful, twangy, bittersweet vocal. Her songs can elate as much as they can rip your heart out. And you should openly and freely let them do both when experiencing her music, whether it be in a live setting or listening to her records at home, because they are simply good for one’s soul.




Editor's note: You'll never get an unbiased review outta this guy. :)

Jun 11, 2018

Live Review / Mastodon / MECU Pavilion


by Scott Colvin

There’s something to be said for ritual. Oftentimes ritual becomes an “obligation,” like holidays with family or school reunions. There are some rituals that are not only sacred, but necessary. For me and two of my friends, our ritual is an annual Mastodon concert. While we see each other often during the year based on our respective jobs, we know there is one day of the year* (see post script) where we hang out, drink, beer and sometimes good tequila, and throw up the horns for the best metal band going today.

Mastodon returned to Baltimore, MD (this time at the recently-named MECU Pavilion (formerly Pier 6 Pavilion) on Saturday June 2nd for a crushing metal performance that no act could truly follow. The poor souls that had to follow Mastodon on this occasion were Primus. To be perfectly honest I’ve never liked Primus and this performance 20-some years after I first saw them didn’t change my mind. Good for Primus though, they’ve probably made more money off South Park royalties than I’ll ever see. Thankfully, 30 minutes into Primus’ set, our one friend who actually wanted to see them was either really bored by the slow-moving, meandering jams that sounded the same, or was agitated that the venue stopped alcohol sales. Probably a bit from Column A and a bit from Column B. Regardless, I was happy to bail early as I had to wake up at 6:30 for work the next day.

Onto the awesomeness that is Mastodon.

Coming off the heels of two Grammy noms (one win) for 2017’s epic Emperor of Sand (my personal 2017 album of the year), the Georgia-based band focused on the new, while satiating old fans with a splattering of sick songs from their vast catalog. FTM side-note, Robert Dean wrote one of my favorite articles of 2017 about not “getting” Mastodon and having old fans try to explain the cosmic appeal to him upon every release. While I disagreed with him, it was the most brilliant article I read all year and he deserved an online Pulitzer for Music Writing, if such a silly thing exists (if it did, I’m sure it’d be as meaningful as a CMT Award). And speaking of old fans and only slightly more off topic than my last rambling tangent, I’ve been one of those old fans Robert talked about in his article (seriously, read it). What I failed to realize before my first Mastodon show five years ago was drummer/vocalist Bran Dailor went to my high school (a year younger than me). Like, I had no idea until a mutual friend mentioned it to me. 

Anyway, off Emperor, the band opened with the relentlessly punishing “Sultan’s Curse” and closed with the mythic and at times psychedelic “Steambreather.” In between they played “Ancient Kingdom,” “Roots Remain,” the pulsating “Precious Stones,” and the head bangin’, head bobber, “Show Yourself.” 

Definitely a nostalgic moment for Baltimore Mastodon fans was the bands’ performance of “Ember City” which they dedicated to the dozens of fans who would see them regularly play at the legendary Ottobar back in the day (those shows must’ve been crazy bonkers to see in such a small venue).

As for their older stuff, they played a solid mix from their decade-plus career, including “Divinations,” “Crystal Skull,” Bladecatcher,” “Black Tongue,”  “Megalodon,” “Andromeda,” “Toe to Toes,” “Sleeping Giant,” “Ghost of Karelia,” and “Mother Puncher,” all of which were equally powerful and divine and solidified Mastodon’s place in metal’s pantheon of greatness. 


*P.S. Three days after this show, Mastodon announced an upcoming show in Silver Spring, MD with 80s, 90s, 00s indie rock Gods -- Dinosaur Jr. Looks like there is a new Mastodon ritual for my crew in 2018.
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Here's like... 30 minutes of the show... if you wanna watch it:



May 11, 2018

Show Review / Lindi Ortega / @RamsHeadOnStage

By Scott Colvin

Lindi Ortega’s penultimate concert on the U.S. leg of her world-wide Liberty Tour came to the intimate Ram’s Head On Stage in Annapolis, MD on April 25th. While the venue wasn’t at capacity (it was a Wednesday, so let’s cut the artist and venue some slack) the fans who were there were presented with a thrilling performance by the Canadian country torch singer with one of the finest albums of 2018.

While the majority of the show focused on songs from her striking new album Liberty, Ortega led off the night with a pair of tracks from her “recognized” debut album Little Red Boots -- “Dying of Another Broken Heart” and “All of the Angels.” Both songs (hell, one can say this about most of her songs) were flush with Ortega’s aching vocals and steadied by drummer Ryan Brewer and “Champagne” James Robertson’s jangly guitar playing. “Demon Don’t Get Me Down” off Cigarettes & Truckstops came up next and was a rollicking ride of country attitude and featured a fantastic slide guitar solo by Robertson.

Among the songs from Liberty, Ortega played “In The Clear,” a reflective song about weathering a personal storm, the head-bobbing title track with very western guitar licks, and the slow and sweet “Lovers In Love” a song she said was “one of the first real love songs she’s written” (marriage will do that). 

She also played Liberty’s musically and vocally intense “Comeback Kid,” the album’s first single, featuring Brewer’s ominous drumming which added a certain danger to the song. Ortega celebrated her Mexican/Spanish speaking heritage with “Pablo” and the lovely “Gracias a la Vida” by Chilean composer Violetta Parra which was the encore’s first song. 

Ortega closed out the set with a song about “backstabbers,” “You Ain’t Foolin’ Me” where she slinked and slithered on stage, selling the song while showing her fun side.

Two of the finest moments of the night came when Ortega sang the brilliant Nashville underdog song-writer song “Tin Star” and probably her most known song, the transcendent “Cigarettes & Truckstops.” 

Lindi Ortega is an adept storyteller in melancholia.  There is a pain, power and lucidity in her voice that is absent from today’s party-hardy, feel-good scene (which has nothing to do with real country music) and is certainly welcome and admirable.  


Obligatory shot of Scott and Lindi

May 4, 2018

Show Review / Delta Rae / Rams Head On Stage, Annapolis

by Scott Colvin

Delta Rae cannot be pigeonholed into a specific genre. They are unapologetically country, gospel and pop and have created a sound all of their own without compromise.

What makes Delta Rae special is the vocal diversity among the principle singers (Liz Hopkins and siblings Brittany, Eric and Ian Hölljes) and their impeccable ability to adhere and advance each other’s preferred style, whether it being Hopkins’ spirited country sensibilities, Brittany’s powerful gospel vocals and the singer/song-writer leanings of Ian and Eric. 

Regardless of whose song it is, the close-knit Delta Rae “family” (which includes Mike McKee on drums and Grant Emerson on bass), is a singular unit working together to spread their collective love – Music. And they certainly have a good time spreading that love.

Upon hitting the stage at Annapolis’ Rams Head On Stage (one of the finest under 300-seat listening rooms in the country) they dove right into a groove–laden version of their popular single “Long And Happy Life” featuring Hopkins’ dynamic vocals and the band’s trademarked four-part harmonies; perfectly setting the tone for a night of joyous music.

Throughout the night each singer took their turn to invigorate the sold-out audience. Brittany took the crowd to church with gospel-infused songs such as “Seven Bridges Road,” and “No Dry Eye in the Chapel” (the latter featured fantastic stage interactions between her and Hopkins). On the empowering new song, “Hands Dirty” Brittany channeled her inner Beyonce on a soulful piano-driven tune. The night’s most powerful and poignant moment came when she introduced “All Good People,” inspired by the Charleston, SC church shootings. Before playing the haunting song with a thundering bass drum (played by Emerson) Brittany proclaimed “Raise your voices…it’s not about politics…it’s about right and wrong.” Later in the set Brittany played what she called the “southern gothic folk tale” “Bottom of the River” which employed well-placed call and response vocals, ominous bass drums and theatrical lighting.

Besides the ebullient “Long and Happy Life” Hopkins delivered the goods on the effervescent “I Moved South,” the intense “Chasing Twisters” which found her voice soaring, the high energy “Ain’t Love,” which she explained is about how love is awesome, but pretty scary, and a tremendous version of Chris Stapleton’s “Broken Halos.” The entire vocal contingent surrounded Hopkins on the stunning “No Peace in Quiet” written by Eric who explained that the crushing post break-up song was too hard for him to sing, “So he asked his good friend Liz to sing it” and Liz replied “And I said yes.” You can hear the story behind the song on the music video here. 


Before playing their first break-out song “If I Loved You” Brittany asked, “Hey Liz, can you sing us an upbeat breakup song?” And sing it she did. It’s still one of the finest bittersweet, yet, glorious songs. 

Not to be outdone, the Hölljes brothers Ian and Eric had their moments in the sun with a new song by Ian, “Only in America,” a spirited and catchy mid-tempo song. Eric’s song of California wanderlust despite knowing North Carolina is home “The Wrong Ocean,” and “Morning Comes” reigned as  celebrations of hope. Ian closed out the night and had the appreciative crowd on their feet (typically a no-no at this particular venue, but the rules at Rams Head go often go out the door as the night progresses) with the invigorating “Dance in the Graveyard” which turned into an 80s party as Hopkins danced with crowd members singing Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”

In the end, Delta Rae are a celebration of hope, joy and love with brilliant lead vocals, harmonies and music that warms and invigorates the soul. Even the most cynical person cannot deny their music and message. If you never have a chance to see them perform do so and be healed. 

(Not Scott's video, but from the show he attended)



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