Porkchop

Porkchop’s Catch of the Week

 

porkchop karatePorkchop’s Catch of the Week

______________________________________________________________

December 4, 2019

This week we turn to Asheville, NC for the Catch of the Week. Amanda Anne Platt and the Honeycutters claims Asheville as their home base, but their acclaim have reached much further. Known for Platt’s expert songwriting, and a musical style they call Appalachian Honky-tonk (a combination of country, folk, and bluegrass), the Honeycutters made me an instant fan from the moment I discovered them. I was excited to see news of their latest release, an EP called Christmas on a Greyhound Bus.

The project starts with a wonderful version of Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper”, and ends with a non Christmas tune, a cover of Elvis Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”. That last song, as you probably already know, is not a Christmas tune. However, I believe the strategic placement of the first and last song are meant to send you on a holiday journey. “Pretty Paper” is a song of loneliness, even hopelessness. The last song is one of hope, and a challenge to make the future better. There is also a cover of Buck Owens’ “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy”. All of the cover songs are great, but the outstanding tracks are the original songs, “Christmas on a Greyhound Bus” and “One for the Ages”. Not that we needed reminding, but both songs are proof of the songwriting prowess of Platt. She paints a picture so vivid that you can almost smell the diesel fumes and feel the highway’s every bump.

If you are not familiar with the music of Amanda Anne Platt and the Honeycutters, check out their complete catalog. Their songwriting and musicianship is outstanding. You will not be disappointed. However, since we are in the Christmas season, start with their latest EP, Christmas on a Greyhound Bus.

 

November 27, 2019

Stoney LaRue is a name that mainstream country fans may not be familiar with. However, he is someone that is familiar with the Red Dirt music scene. For the past 20 years LaRue has been a regular on the touring circuit. He has released 7 albums in his career, and now he has released his 8th album. Onward showcases Larue’s songwriting talent. He wrote or co-wrote 10 of the album’s 13 tracks.

Onward features some great songs, including “Falling and Flying”. I recognized the song, but could not place where I had heard it before. After a little research, I was reminded that the tune was sung by Jeff Bridges in the movie Crazy Heart. It is a great way to kick off the album. Some of the other tracks that stand out on the album includes, “You Oughta Know Me By Now”, a song co-written with Shawn Camp. “Hill Country Boogaloo” is a salute to his native Texas. “Meet Me In The Middle” is a gritty duet with Tanya Tucker. I can’t think of a better singer than Tucker for LaRue to team with on this song. “Worry Be Gone”, a Lee Roy Parnell tune, sounds great, especially with Mickey Raphael’s harmonica accompaniment. There is also a great honky tonk driven cover of Merle Haggard’s “Let’s Chase Each Other Around The Room”.

It is great to see Stoney LaRue’s new album. It has been a while since he released his last album. It was refreshing to see LaRue still has it, as a singer and songwriter. If this is your first time hearing about Stoney LaRue, check out his new album, Onward, but be sure to check out the rest of his catalog.

 

 

November 20, 2019

Miranda Lambert is one of today’s most versatile, mainstream country music singers. She can tear out your heart, stomp it flat, and leave you wiping tears. Lambert’s songs can be fun and playful. Other tunes from Miranda’s catalog show a feisty side, and remind you that she is not to be crossed. Her latest album, Wildcard, encompasses all of Miranda Lambert’s different attitudes that we have come to know and love.

Wildcard is musically heavier than most of Miranda Lambert’s music. Jay Joyce produced this album. He has produced albums for Eric Church and Cage the Elephant. There are 14 songs on Wildcard. Some of my favorites includes, “White Trash”, “It All Comes Out In The Wash”, and “Way Too Pretty for Prison”. These clever songs put a smile on my face. “Holy Water” is a gospel drenched tune about problems we are currently facing, both political and religious. “Tequila Does” is my favorite song from this project. I don’t know if it will be released as a single, but it should.

Miranda Lambert continues to release albums that entertain the masses, please the critics, and, it seems, make her happy, too. As is the case with each of her albums, as soon as I was done listening to Wildcard I was ready to start it all over again. I recommend giving Miranda Lambert’s Wildcard a listen today.

 

November 13, 2019

When it comes to Christmas albums, I have said for years that most of them are really good or really bad. There is no middle ground. My problem is that the majority are chocked full of covers of classics. I love Christmas classics: “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty The Snowman”, and “Jingle Bells”. However, I don’t need another Christmas album of almost nothing but covers. That is why I was excited to listen to The Oak Ridge Boys latest album, Down Home Christmas.

You can tell that much thought went into the song selection for Down Home Christmas. There are 9 Christmas songs on this project. On many of them you can hear their gospel roots coming through, such as “Family Piano”. There are also some fun holiday tunes, like “Reindeer on the Roof” and “Don’t Go Pullin’ On Santa Claus’ Beard”. In addition to the Christmas songs, The Oak Ridge Boys added their version of “Amazing Grace”, the song they sang at President George H.W. Bush’s memorial service.

The Oak Ridge Boys deliver a Christmas album that is full of the holiday spirit, and is sure to warm you up like a cup of hot apple cider. I must mention that Dave Cobb produced this album. He has produced several albums for The Oak Ridge Boys, and is one of the most sought after producers in Nashville. A big tip of the hat to Cobb and The Oak Ridge Boys for producing and creating this wonderful Christmas album. I recommend giving Down Home Christmas a listen today.

 

 

November 6, 2019

Cody Jinks has been slowly gaining fans at an ever increasing pace, especially since his 2015 release, Adobe Sessions. Jinks struck a chord with fans that were fed up with the over produced Nashville offerings. He has followed up with other critically acclaimed albums, I’m Not The Devil and Lifers. Jinks has shown his talents as a singer and songwriter with those projects. When word came out that he was going to release new material in 2019, Cody Jinks’ fans were buzzing with excitement in anticipation of the new project. It turns out that he released two projects, After the Fire and The Wanting, within weeks of each other. Both projects are great, but we will focus on After the Fire.

I believe this album is the best at highlighting Cody Jinks as a singer and storyteller. It is a very personal, introspective project that showcases the breadth of Jinks as a performer. Tracks like the title track, “Yesterday Again”, and “William and Wanda” puts the aforementioned talent on display. He co-wrote every song on the album. There is not a bad track on After the Fire. There is also a good uptempo, honky tonk number, “One Good Decision”, and a western swing instrumental, “Tonedeaf Boogie”, to help balance out the album.

Cody Jinks fans should be happy with After the Fire. It puts Cody Jinks’ talents as a singer and songwriter front and center. I believe that people that have just discovered him through this album will soon be converts to the army of Cody Jinks fans. I recommend giving Cody Jinks’ After the Fire a listen today.

 

 

October 30, 2019

Volume Five is one of the most outstanding bands in bluegrass music today. Their string of albums have turned the heads of many bluegrass aficionados, and gained many fans in the process. They are one of my favorite groups. Volume Five has a history of excellent musicianship, singing, songwriting, and song selection that places them in the top tier of current bluegrass groups. Their latest album, For Those Who Care To Listen, continues in that tradition.

Volume Five had some lineup changes recently. They added award winning mandolin player Adam Steffey to the lineup, and Jacob Burleson switched to guitar. The lineup is rounded out by Glen Harrell on fiddle, Patton Wages on banjo, and Jeff Partin on bass and dobro. The group recorded this album at Everett’s Music Barn in Suwanee, GA. To be accurate, it was recorded in the house in front of Everett’s Music Barn. If you have ever been to Everett’s, you may know the house as the location of jam sessions that happen every Saturday night. The song selection on this album is outstanding. Some of my favorite tracks include, “The 15th of October”, “All The Way To The Bottom”, “The Army Vet Song”, “Somewhere”, and “North Carolina Moon”.

Volume Five’s has a legacy of making great albums. For Those Who Care To Listen continues that tradition. Again, the song selection and writing, singing, and musicianship is superb. I recommend giving Volume Five’s For Those Who Care To Listen a try today.

 

 

October 16, 2019

We have all been told to not judge a book by it’s cover. However, it is human nature to have a first impression when you see or hear something new. A look at the cover of Jason James album made me wonder if I had typed in the artist’s name incorrectly, or maybe there was more than one artist with that name. No, in fact, I was staring at the cover of a stone cold country album, even though Mr. James was wearing a suit and tie. This is not his first album. Unfortunately, I was not familiar with his previous work, but after listening to his new album, Seems Like Tears Ago, you can bet that I will be giving it a listen.

From the first song, the title track, it is obvious that Jason James is a fan of George Jones. His voice is the closest thing you will hear to George’s this side of heaven. Something to note about that song, and all the rest on Seems Like Tears Ago, is they are new songs. That’s right! This 10 song project features original songs that are sang, played, and recorded in a style that would make any classic country music fan smile. Some of the tracks that stand out are “Coldest Day of the Year”, “Simply Devine”, “Seems Like Tears Ago”, “Achin’ Takin’ Place” and “Cry on the Bayou”.

Jason James is not just a George Jones sound alike, although he does sound a lot like “The Possum”. This album show the diversity and range in style that James possesses. In addition to his vocal skills, the production of these new songs is straight forward. There are no bells, whistles, or studio tricks that are so tempting to use in today’s recording studios. I recommend giving Jason James’ Seems Like Tears Ago a listen today.

 

 

 

October 9, 2019

 

Jon Pardi has been a breath of fresh air since gaining national attention with his 2016 album, California Sunrise. He is not a throwback, nostalgia act. He sounds modern, but is firmly grounded in the country music that came before him. Being able to pull off the feat of pleasing younger and older fans is difficult. However, Pardi does it with ease. His latest album, Heartache Medication, finds Jon Pardi delivering music that will please a wide variety of country music fans.

Heartache Medication is a 14 track album that is full of steel guitar, fiddle, and a healthy dose of honky tonk sounds. Pardi has already found significant airplay with the title track. “Me and Jack” is a clever song that tells the story of a man’s relationship with Jack Daniels whiskey, and how it changed his life. “Ain’t Always the Cowboy” is a song about a relationship ending when a cowboy’s sweetheart leaves him. If this is released as a single, I believe it will be a big hit. “Don’t Blame the Whiskey” is a great duet with Lauren Alaina that is gaining traction with fans. “Tied One On” is another humorous song that carries on a country music tradition of twisting an existing phrase to meet the song’s need. “Call Me Country” will be a favorite with fans of classic country, with lyrics that mention whiskey and freight trains, name drops artists like Haggard, and makes references to the classic country song lyrics.

I am glad that room has been made for artists like Jon Pardi. He has a style that draws on many earlier influences, but he puts his own touch on every song. I enjoyed each track on this album. I do not have that experience near as much as I used to. I recommend listening to Jon Pardi’s Heartache Medication.

 

 

October 2, 2019

 

The much anticipated album from The Highwomen has finally arrived. The group’s name is a twist on the name of the Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings group, The Highwaymen, which took their name from the Jimmy Webb penned song, “The Highwayman”. The Highwomen is a female supergroup that includes Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby. All of the members are heralded singers and songwriters. Also, It must be mentioned that Shires is a phenomenal fiddle player. As news of this group’s first project started to circulate, it was met with excitement by some, and trepidation by others. The excitement was for the chance to showcase the sometimes overlooked female musical artists and their abilities. The trepidation was rooted in the worry that this project would be nothing but an opportunity to bash men. The fact of the matter is that The Highwomen’s self titled project is an excellent example of four artists, regardless of gender, that are at the height of musical craft.

The one thing that is obvious about this album is that it is definitely a country album. It is rooted in songs and styles that will be familiar to all ages of country music fans. There are great story songs included on the album, like “Cocktail and a Song”, which deals with someone viewing their father in his last days. “Wheels of Laredo”, a song written by Brandi Carlisle, is one of my favorite songs this year. The song was also recorded by Tanya Tucker for her latest album, While I’m Living. Everything about this song is outstanding, from the lyrics to the arrangement. But it is not all serious business for The Highwomen. There is plenty of humor injected into the album on songs like “Redesigning Women” and “My Name Can’t Be Mama”. The twelve song project from The Highwomen is truly a showcase of the talents of Carlisle, Shires, Hemby, and Morris.

I want to point out that one thing about the press coverage that this album is receiving. I feel like a lot of music critics are anointing this project as some sort of coming out party for women in country music. Those critics are obviously not fans of country music, and the wealth of female country artists that have been writing songs, recording albums, and hitting the highways to tour in a male dominated genre. I do not get the impression that the members of The Highwomen are promoting themselves as some sort of country music phenomenon. I hope that the press The Highwomen have received for this outstanding album will lead listeners to investigate other female country music artists that are sometimes overshadowed by their male counterparts. We all know Miranda Lambert, but let’s not forget the other country female supergroup that she is a part of, The Pistol Annies. That group includes Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe, two artists that have released their own outstanding solo albums. There is Carrie Underwood and Kacey Musgraves, but let’s not overlook Ashley McBryde, Kim Richey, Sunny Sweeney, and Brandy Clark. Enjoy The Highwomen’s self titled album, and look around at all the great works that female artist have contributed to the tapestry that is country music.

 

 

September 25, 2019

 

If you remember the Sesame Street segment called, “One of These Things Are Not Like The Other”, there would be four squares shown on the screen. Three of the squares featured people that were alike in their actions and dress. One square had someone doing their own thing. Even as a child, it was easy to spot the one person that didn’t fit in. I was reminded of this childhood memory when I first heard Midland. Their debut album, On The Rocks, featured sounds that hearken back to yesteryear. However, their presentation seemed completely new. Midland also looked different than anyone else in mainstream country, wearing sequined jackets that seemed they came from the wardrobe of Porter Wagoner or Hank Snow. They continue taking their own road to country success on their new album, Let It Roll.

Midland has already gained significant success with their single “Mr. Lonely” off of Let It Roll. The album is more than just that single. It is full of classic sounding country songs about drinking, cheating, truck driving. Songs like “Every Song’s a Drinkin’ Song”, “21st Century Honky Tonk American Band”, “Fourteen Gears”, and “Cheatin’ Songs” will keep you from skipping any songs on this project. Every tune, even the uptempo ones, have a laid back, cool approach.

After the success of their first album, any critics wondered if Midland was going to be a flash in the pan. It does not seem that will be the case. Midland’s new album has a sound that will please fans of more classic country sounds. The band’s confidence and coolness in their delivery of the songs will keep younger fans excited. There is something for everyone on Midland’s Let It Roll.

 

 

September 18, 2019

 

There is a debate today about what is and isn’t real country music. The arguments are nothing new. It is hard to define what is essential to a song to classify it as country. Part of this has to do with the fact that country music is an amalgamation of so many different elements: fiddle tunes from Europe, gospel music, and blues from former slaves in the American south, just to name a few. A dash of this, a pinch of that, stir it all together, and let it simmer. Everybody has a little different recipe, and the arguments for particular flavors of country music can be as heated as those dealing with which region’s barbecue is the real deal. Ken Burns traces back all the variables that combined to make this beloved American art form in his latest film, Country Music. Songs from that film are included in a five disc soundtrack.

This set contains 105 songs from the film. Noting the beginning of what we call country music , there are songs from the Carter Family and Jimmy Rodgers. It continues to the new sounds of western swing from Bob Wills, and bluegrass from Bill Monroe. It covers Hank Williams, Charley Pride, Eddie Arnold, and Ray Price. Burns highlights music from the women of country music with songs from Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and Kitty Wells. It moves through the outlaw sound of Willie and Waylon. Then, it includes artists, like Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, and Dwight Yoakam, that moved into the future, carrying with them the country music’s tradition.

As with any project of this magnitude, some people will point out an artist that was not covered adequately. However, with a subject as large as country music, I believe Ken Burns has done an outstanding job. Whether you are a fan of country music and it’s history, or a novice that is wanting to know more, look no further than Country Music and it’s soundtrack.

 

 

 

September 11, 2019

 

Tracy Lawrence is one of the most successful artists during the 1990’s into the early 2000’s. He has 8 #1’s, 14 more Top 10 songs, and several platinum albums to his credit. I have always liked Lawrence’s music. One of the things that is missing in today’s music are artists with a recognizable voice. Their is no mistaking his voice with anyone else. Even though his popularity has waned on country radio, Lawrence has continued to make new albums that sounds as good as any of his early projects. His latest, Made in America, is no exception.

Tracy Lawrence has songs on this album that reaches back to the style of his early releases, like “Givin’ Momma Reasons to Pray”. The title track has been gaining regular airplay on my show, and is popular with the listening audience. A funny song that is included on this album is “Work On My Willie”. It is a great tune about Lawrence’s admiration for the “Red Headed Stranger”. For those fans that may want something that sounds a little more like the modern sounds found in country music, your desires should be satisfied with “Just the South Comin’ Out” and “Chicken Wire”. Lawrence doesn’t forget the songs of heartbreak that are a country music staple, with “First Step to Leaving”.

Tracy Lawrence is still making great music, as is evident on Made in America. He is not the first artist that, for whatever reason, is cast aside by country radio when a new flavor of the month comes along. It is a shame because artists, such as Lawrence, Joe Diffie, Vince Gill and Tanya Tucker, just to name a few, have recently released some great projects. On the Breakfast with Porkchop Show, I can guarantee you will be hearing from these artists that paved the way for today’s stars. Give Tracy Lawrence’s Made in America a listen today.

 

 

September 4, 2019

 

Vince Gill is the epitome of a successful country music career. He has a string of chart topping hits, he is a great songwriter, and an outstanding guitar picker. He has achieved success as a solo artist, in duets, with the likes of Reba McEntire, and as a member of groups, like Pure Prairie League, The Time Jumpers, and touring recently with the Eagles. In addition, he is a member of the Grand Ole Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame. It also seems that Gill is a real encouragement to new artists to Nashville. He is not only a country music living legend, but also a leader in word and deed. His latest album, Okie, sees Vince Gill leading the way in addressing issues that have become part of what we see on the evening news each night.

Country music has never backed away from talking about tough subjects, but Okie faces the issues in the most timely way. The song “Forever Changed” has been getting the most attention of the album’s songs. It deals with sexual abuse and assault. Gill tackles teenage pregnancy with “What Choice Will You Make”. The song “Black and White” deals with the notion that things were better off, as people say, good ole days. In the song, the lyrics, “Some days yes, some days not quite,” will make you think. “The Red Words” and “When My Amy Prays” are songs of the faith in God’s word, and a loved one’s prayers. Gill also includes songs to two of his musical heroes, Guy Clark (“Nothin’ Like a Guy Clark Song”) and Merle Haggard (“A World Without Haggard”). One thing of note, that is quite unusual for a Vince Gill album, is there are no extended guitar solos. I thought I would miss that, but the songs are so well written and performed, that a solo may have detracted from the albums effectiveness of conveying it’s messages.

 

Okie has a message, but, I want to point out, not in a preachy way. It is a person thinking long and hard about these tough subjects that we as a society are facing, and what we can do to stop these things from happening. Gill also has a message of hope. That people can learn, grow, and change attitudes to make a difference, not only in their own lives, but in others as well. I recommend giving Vince Gill’s Okie a listen today.

 

 

 

 

August 28, 2019

 

I have always believed that Tanya Tucker has been overlooked in the pantheon of country music legends. I suspect it is because she is a woman. There have been plenty of male country singers that have dealt with their share of bad decisions and battles with demons, and they have rebounded, sometimes with their star shining brighter. I could be wrong about that hunch. Nonetheless, she has been making great records since 1972, with 15 reaching #1. However, we have had to wait 17 years for a new album from Tucker. Her latest project is While I’m Livin’.

Tanya Tucker’s new album features 10 songs. Of those songs, 7 were co-written by Brandi Carlisle, who also serves as co-producer on the project along with Shooter Jennings. Tucker sounds as good as ever. The lyrics and her voice displays an independent spirit that we have come to expect from Tucker. Some of my favorite tracks on While I’m Livin’ includes, “Mustang Ridge”. What a great way to come out swinging! “The Wheels of Laredo” is some of the best storytelling I have heard in a long time. This song gave me chills the first time I heard it. “Seminole Wind” is another outstanding track. It is the song of a rambler that longs for home. Tucker also covers Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me”, changing the narrator of the song from the adult child to the mother. What a great way to record a familiar song, and almost make it a complete new song.

It is great to have a new album from Tanya Tucker. This album is new and vibrant, but Brandi Carlisle, Shooter Jennings, and all the other folks involved in recording this project have done a great job of making these songs sound like classic Tanya Tucker songs. From the background vocals, to the way the drums were recorded, certain songs on this album put me in mind of 1970’s Tucker hits. Of course, you could not have that sound without Tanya Tucker. I believe this album will satisfy longtime Tanya Tucker fans, and introduce her to new listeners. I recommend giving Tanya Tucker’s While I’m Livin’ a listen.

 

 

August 21, 2019

 

 

Texas has long stood out for its roster of entertainers and songwriters that have Lone Star roots. The list includes names like Bob Wills, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Buddy Holly, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, and Guy Clark, and that does not even scratch the surface. One of the contemporaries of Clark, Van Zandt, and Earle is Rodney Crowell. He is honored as the wise, experienced songwriter laureate of Texas, and is inspiring a whole new generation of wordsmiths. His latest album, Texas, is a musical ode to his native state.

Rodney Crowell shows off his writing skills on this album, especially on songs like “The Border” featuring John Jorgenson. Some other outstanding tracks on Texas are “Flatland Hillbillies” featuring Randy Rogers and Lee Ann Womack, “Caw Caw Blues” featuring Vince Gill, “Brown & Root, Brown & Root” featuring Steve Earle, and “What You Gonna Do Now” featuring Lyle Lovett. Lee Ann Womack shows up again on the album along with Willie Nelson and Ronnie Dunn on “Deep in the Heart of Uncertain Texas”. There are also appearances by Ringo Starr and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.

There is something mystical about Texas. It is just a large, odd shaped swath of land on the U.S. map. However, there is something special about the Lone Star state that cannot quite be explained, but you know it is true. Texas has produced a list of songwriters that add to the Texas legend. Rodney Crowell is one of those writers that has been blessed to have Texas roots. Those roots extend far outside of the state, and influence writers everywhere. The influence continues on Crowell’s latest album, Texas.

 

 

 

August 14, 2019

 

This week’s selection was suggested by a listener. I always take a listen to recommendations made by the audience. The album they told me to check out was Gethen Jenkins’ Western Gold. I recognized the name, but I didn’t know much about him. I listened to the album, and was hooked from Track 1’s first guitar notes.

Gethen Jenkins is a well traveled man. He was born in West Virginia, raised in Alaska, served in Iraq with US Marines, and now resides in California. After listening to his music you would swear he was a Texan. He is not a newcomer to performing. He has opened shows for Billy Joe Shaver and Dale Watson, just to name a few. Now that you know more about him, let’s talk about the album.

If you had to classify Western Gold it would be labeled Outlaw Country. The album is so much more than a typical album from that subgenre. You get drinking, honky tonk, heartbreak songs,  such as  “Bottle In My Hand” and “Whiskey Bound”, and those songs are great. However, you get songs that have a different level of emotion with “Waiting” and “Strength of a Woman”. On this project, Jenkins wrote or co-wrote every song. The instrumentation and arrangements of the songs are excellent. Jenkins vocals are sincere, and obtains a level of credibility that listeners will latch on to. If you are a fan of traditional country music, give Gethen Jenkin’ Western Gold a listen.

 

 

 

August 7, 2019

 

Most of the time, I look at a list of albums that are scheduled to be released when planning what projects may be a potential keeper on the Catch of the Week. This week was a little different. I stumbled across an album from Merle Monroe, and I honestly did not know anything about them. It turns out that they are a new group led by vocalist Tim Raybon, brother of Marty Raybon of Shenandoah fame, and banjoist Daniel Grindstaff. Along with the other members of the group, Merle Monroe combines country and bluegrass together seamlessly on their debut album, Back to the Country.

The album consists of an even split of six original songs and six covers. The six originals were written by Raybon, and include “Whippoorwill”, “Blessed City”, “The Kindest Man”, and “Beautiful Kentucky”. Raybon is a talented writer, and his talent is on full display on Back to the Country. The cover songs are well selected to suit the group. They include Merle Haggard’s “Movin’ On” and “Mama’s Hungry Eyes”, Roger Miller’s “This Town”, Skip Ewings’ “Dad”.

Merle Monroe’s ability to combine bluegrass and country music is effortless. Tim Raybon’s songwriting, along with the selection of just the right cover songs are outstanding. Add to that the musical talent and singing ability that is showcased on this album, and you have a home run first project. Check out Merle Monroe’s Back to the Country.

 

 

 

July 31, 2019

 

You may know Gena Britt as a member of the bluegrass supergroup, Sister Sadie. However, her resume includes so much more than that. She is one of the most respected current bluegrass banjo players. She has been a member of Lou Reid & Carolina and Grasstowne. In addition, Britt has done work with The Lonesome River Band, Balsam Range, and Alecia Nugent, just to name a few. She has just released a new solo project, Chronicle: Friends and Music.

Gena Britt’s new project is just what it’s title implies, an album featuring great music from her and her friends. Those musical friends are recognizable names, including Brooke Auldridge (“On and On” penned by Bill Monroe), Marty Raybon (“Traveling Poor Boy” penned by Brent Cobb), Dale Ann Bradley (“You Don’t Get Over That” penned by Tim Stafford & Steve Gulley), and Alicia Nugent (“Get Up In Jesus’ Name”). Add to that songs written by Tim O’Brien (“Untold Stories”) and Eli Johnston (“Over and Over” and “Looking Forward to the Good Life”), and you have a quality project all the way around: singing, performing, production, and songwriting. One of my favorite tracks on the album is the instrumental “Soldier’s Lament”. It seems to be the flip side to the upbeat, old fiddle tune, “Soldier’s Joy”.

There are 13 tracks on Chronicle: Friends and Music. I noted the guest vocalist that appear on this project, but I must mention that Britt sings lead on 6 songs. I would be remiss if I did not mention at least some of the other folks that lent their talents to this album: Jason Barie, Tina Adair, Darren Nicholson, Zak McLamb, Deanie Richardson, Scott Vestal, Alan Bibey, and Keith Garrett. Even if I did not know the title of this project, the album has a feeling of friends gathering to play great music, just shy of a jam session. I recommend giving Gena Britt’s Chronicle: Friends and Music.

 

 

July 24, 2019

Aaron Watson is one of the most successful independent country music artists today. He is the first solo male performer to have a Number One album on the charts without being signed to a major label. He gained a lot of attention with that album, Underdog, but Watson was no stranger to making albums. In fact, he first project was released in 1999, and, with his new album, Red Bandana, he is up to his 15th release.

Red Bandana has a staggering 20 tracks instead of the 10 to 12 tracks we are used to seeing on most albums. All of the songs were written by Watson, and they include a wide variety of styles and topics. “Kiss That Girl Goodbye” was released as the lead single from the album. Some of my favorite songs from the album include, “Ghost of Guy Clark”. This song shows Watson’s admiration for Clark, and his approach to songwriting. “Am I Amarillo” sounds like a song from the catalog of George Strait. “Country Radio” is another in a long line of Watson songs that shows respect to previous country performers that have paved the road on which current singers navigate. “Riding With Red” is a beautiful song that paints a picture as only a songwriter can.

That only scratches the surface of Red Bandana. This is an album that you may have to divide in two in order to digest all 20 tracks. It is amazing what Watson has been able to accomplish as an independent artist. He continues to keep up an incredibly busy tour schedule, make quality albums, and add fans to his long list of admirers. Give Aaron Watson’s Red Bandana a listen today.

 

 

 

July 17, 2019

Larry Sparks is a living legend. He has been performing for over 50 years, and is a member of the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame. Sparks has connections to other legends, such as Dr. Ralph Stanley. He performed with Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys in the mid 1960’s before forming his own band, the Lonesome Ramblers. With all of the accolades in his historic career many have suspected, some even suggested, that Larry Sparks kick back and retire. However, he is still going strong, as is evident in his new album, New Moon Over My Shoulder.

There are 12 songs on this project. Some of the stand out tracks include, “I Only Exist,” a song Sparks first recorded during his stint with Stanley. There is also “Down in Union County”, a Roy Acuff tune, and “New Moon Over My Shoulder”, a song popularized by Tex Ritter. Another great song on this album is “Henry Hill,” a song about a solider during the Battle of Manassas in 1861 during the American Civil War. Sparks also revisits “New Highway” and “Green Pastures in the Sky.”

New Moon Over My Shoulder upholds the standard of what to expect from a Larry Sparks album. His voice is as soulful as ever. Add to that the great instrumental work, vocal harmonies, and song choices, and you have proof that Larry Sparks is not ready to hang it up just yet. I recommend giving New Moon Over My Shoulder a listen today.

 

 

 

July 10, 2019

 

We are at the half way point of the year, and it is time to take a look at my favorite 2019 Catches of the Week, thus far. These are listed in order in which they were reviewed. The full reviews can be seen further down on this page.

Balsam Range – Aeonic (reviewed January 10th)

 

Balsam Range has a history of making great albums. You can add their new album, Aeonic, to that list. The song selection and interpretation is outstanding. The lead and harmony singing is as strong as any act in bluegrass music right now. Add to that the expert musicianship that each member brings to the table, and that is the complete package that you are looking for in purchasing a new album

***********************
Dee White – Southern Gentleman (reviewed March 13th)

Although only 20 years old, White’s music is akin to earlier music. It is not a direct impersonation of other artists, but style wise, there are musical similarities to the music of the ’70’s. Maybe it’s his laid back style of singing that leads me to draw that comparison. It is much different than the majority of modern music. Add to that Dee White’s songwriting skills, and you have a great album.

**********************************
Shawn Lane and Richard Bennett – Land & Harbor (reviewed March 20th)

Listening to these songs make me feel as if I am sitting in on a jam session with some of the greatest musicians you will ever find. Although lacking a banjo, mandolin, and bass, Lane, Bennett, and Largent posses a power in their presentation that makes you not miss the other instruments.

**********************************************

George Strait- Honky Tonk Time Machine (reviewed April 3rd)

 


One thing that can always be said about George Strait is that he is authentic. Nothing seems forced about the music, singing, or productions. It is just an honest presentation of what makes country music great.

*********************************************

Dennis Parker – Songs Under the Air Condtion Ing Unit (reviewed April 10th)

 


This album alternates between Parker singing songs and telling stories about his life. The stories run the emotional gamut of sorrow, regret, and joy. Parker also exudes a genuine excitement that the listener will find contagious . There are many things that you can take away from Parker’s new album, but the main thing I received was the encouragement to press forward in all of life’s pursuits. It does not matter where you have been, or what you may be going through at the present time, stay focused on your destination.

**************************************************

Reba – Stronger Than the Truth (reviewed April 17th)


Stronger Than the Truth finds Reba revisiting the country music stylings from her earlier career. Just like George Strait’s latest album, Reba is able to reach back to those early sounds, apply them to new songs, and make it sound vibrant and fresh. In addition to Reba vocal prowess, and song selection for the album, it must be mentioned that Buddy Cannon produced this album. He knows how to capture an artist in their full glory and power. From the sound of Reba’s latest album, Stronger Than the Truth, Reba has no intention of slowing down any time soon.

******************************************
The Cactus Blossoms – Easy Way (reviewed May 15th)


Their musical style is also from yesteryear. Yes, the music on this album seems to have moved from the late 1950’s to the 1960’s. However, their songwriting includes modern topics of conversation. They are more than able to use older musical styles, and combine modern, fresh songwriting.

*****************************************

Luke Combs – The Prequel (reviewed June 12th)


You can can find lyrics that resonate with listeners over modern country sounds and alongside steel guitars. I think the most appealing part of Luke Combs music is his authenticity. It comes through in his songs. It seems that the industry has not yet tried to change Combs’ presentation. Good move! Hands off! Everyone is reaping the benefits of that wise decision: the artist, the label, and, most importantly, the listener.

 

 

 

July 3, 2019

 

 

If you are a fan of the rockabilly sounds of Sun Records, then you may be familiar with the neo-traditionalist group, BR-549. Chuck Mead, the former lead singer with BR-549, has ventured out on his own. For his latest project, Close to Home, Mead turned to producer Matt Ross-Spang, head engineer of Sam Phillips Recording Studios, to oversee the album. As expected with any project featuring Mead, you get plenty of rockabilly sounds. However, Close to Home covers some new ground for Mead.

This album consists of 11 tracks. The first track o the album, “Big Bear in the Sky”, has a distorted vocal sound that is unusual for Mead. That is not meant as a knock on the project, but rather as an observation. This track rocks! There are other diverse sounds, including the reggae beat of “I’m Not the Man for the Job”, and “Daddy Worked the Pole” which has a definite Chuck Berry vibe, “Tap Into Your Misery”, “Close To Home” and “There’s Love Where I Come From” all have a definite straight country feeling. “My Baby’s Holding It Down” has a sound that reminds me of the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street recording.

It is great to have another project to enjoy from Chuck Mead. It treads on some new musical territory that you do not normally associate with Mead. He stretches out, and proves that he is more than capable of tackling styles outside of rockabilly. I recommend giving Chuck Mead’s Close to Home a listen. Make sure you wear your dancing shoes. Even if you do not plan on cutting a rug, this album may inspire you to start moving.

 

 

June 26, 2019

 


The Energizer Bunny doesn’t have anything on Willie Nelson. The legendary 86 year old “Red Headed Stranger” keeps going and going. It is not just the fact that he continues touring and making new albums that amazes fans, but the quality of what he does. Since joining Legacy Recordings in 2012, Nelson has released project after project. His latest, Ride Me Back Home, is his 13th since he joined forces with Legacy. The album finds Willie continuing his partnership with producer and co-writer, Buddy Cannon.

There are eleven tracks on Ride Me Back Home. Nelson and Cannon co-wrote 4 songs on the project. The title track, a great song, was a collaboration between Willie and Sonny Throckmorton. There are also some notable covers on the album, including Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” and Mac Davis’ “It’s Hard To Be Humble” (with Lukas and Micah Nelson). Two of my favorite tracks on the album are covers of songs penned by Guy Clark. Pairing Willie’s delivery with Guy’s words is golden on “My Favorite Picture of You” and “Immigrant Eyes”.

With each album that Willie Nelson releases, some fans ask in a whisper if this is the last one for Willie. Only the good Lord knows. I do not worry about such things. I try not to think about a future without Willie Nelson releasing new projects. That day will occur in the future, but that day is not today. Give a listen to Willie Nelson’s Ride Me Back Home.

 

 

 

June 19, 2019

 

Blue Moon Rising should be ashamed of themselves. It is not fair that they have a band that boasts such a talented lineup of singers and pickers. The lineup includes, Keith Garrett (mandolin), Chris West and Randall Massengill (guitar), Justin Jenkins (banjo), Brandon Bostic (resonator guitar), and Tim Tipton (Bass). Not only are they talented singers and pickers, but the group is also full of great songwriters. All of those talents are used on their new project, the 7th album from Blue Moon Rising, After All This Time.

“Louisville Rambler” and “Fallen Star Saloon” have already been released as singles from the album. Both of those singles have already proven to be hits for Blue Moon Rising. There are lots of other great songs on After All This Time. It is hard to pick favorites from such a complete album, but some of my personal favorites include, “Dollar Bill Blues”, from the pen of Townes Van Zandt, the Buddy Holly tune “It Doesn’t Matter Any More”, the Jimmy Driftwood composition “He Had a Long Chain On”, and “Gun That Never Was For Sale”, which was penned by members of the band.

One thing I have noticed about all of the albums from Blue Moon Rising is there is never a throw away track. Some bands will record songs for the purpose of filling up an album. That is not the case on After All This Time. Blue Moon Rising is careful in their song selection, and thoughtful in their songwriting, singing, and playing. I recommend giving Blue Moon Rising’s After All This Time a listen.

 

 

June 12, 2019

Luke Combs is riding high. He is the first country artist in history to have their first five singles reach number 1. Combs has proved many the critics wrong that wondered if he could maintain his single, “Hurricane”, hit the top of the U.S. Country Airplay chart. Add “When It Rains It Pours”, “One Number Away”, “She Got the Best of Me”, and “Beautiful Crazy” to the list of chart toppers. Luke Combs latest single, “Beer Never Broke My Heart”, is climbing the charts at the time of the writing of this review. That single is from his recently released project, The Prequel-EP.
The new release consists of five songs, all co-written by Combs. The songs have a variety of musical styles. There is everything from the sentimental (“Refrigerator Door”), southern rock (“Lovin’ On You”), tearjerkers (“Even Though I’m Leaving”), love song (“Moon Over Mexico”), and what may be country music’s song of the summer, “Beer Never Broke My Heart”. As with Combs’ previous songs, the variety of styles are not forced. It seems like they are part of the Luke Combs style of music.
Luke Combs is one of the few modern, mainstream country artists that is liked by younger fans, and more than tolerated by traditionalists. You can can find lyrics that resonate with listeners over modern country sounds and alongside steel guitars. I think the most appealing part of Luke Combs music is his authenticity. It comes through in his songs, and, according to concert goers, his stage performance. It seems that the industry has not yet tried to change Combs’ presentation. Good move! Hands off! Everyone is reaping the benefits of that wise decision: the artist, the label, and, most importantly, the listener.

 

June 5, 2019

 

After a few years off, Della Mae is back, and in a big way. Since the all female group was founded in 2009, they have released three albums, and gained legions of new fans. Della Mae is made up or Kimber Ludiker (fiddle), Jenni Lyn Gardner (mandolin), Celia Woodsmith (guitar), and Zoe Guigueno (bass). They all contribute vocals with Woodsmith taking the lead vocals. Della Mae’s new project, The Butcher Shoppe EP, is their first release since 2015.
As you can tell from the title, the project is not a full length album. That is my only problem with this release. I wanted to hear so much more from Della Mae. However, I will take whatever they are willing to give us, and what they have given us is outstanding. This EP includes six songs that are very high energy. I would not recommend listening to this album until you are on I-85 because you are bound to hit the gas pedal. The swinging style of “Bourbon Hound” kicks off the EP in a flurry of precise notes and tight vocal harmony. “No-See-Um-Stomp”, “Sleep With One Eye Open”, and “Bluebird Blackbird” are definite toe tappers that will please lovers of bluegrass music. Della Mae’s cover of “Sixteen Tons” is excellent! Della Mae also takes on the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post”. I heard Mountain Heart cover this song in concert a few years ago, and I did not know if I would hear another act match the energy and feel on “Whipping Post” that they delivered, but I was wrong. Della Mae’s version of “Whipping Post” is phenomenal!
It is good to see Della Mae back in the studio. As I mentioned earlier, the only problem I have with this project is that it is an EP. Hopefully, we will soon get a full length project. Everyone has been well aware of the talents of Della Mae. The Butcher Shoppe EP is a reminder of just how talented they are. I recommend giving it a spin.

 

 

 

May 29, 2019

When I think of the Asheville, NC music scene, one of the first performers that comes to mind is Amanda Ann Platt & The Honeycutters. The group was founded in Asheville in 2007, and has called The Land of the Sky their homebase ever since. The Honeycutters have released five albums, the first in 2009, and have gained a dedicated fanbase that stretches far outside the mountains of North Carolina. When they decided to record a new album, Amanda Ann Platt & The Honeycutters looked no further than their hometown, and the popular music venue, The Grey Eagle, as the place to make the project.

Live at the Grey Eagle finds Amanda Ann Platt & The Honeycutters front and center. They perform songs from their previous projects in front of a hometown crowd. This is a crowd that knows the songs and music of The Honeycutters, and, as always, the music and songs of Amanda Ann Platt and The Honeycutters is outstanding. You also get the feeling that they are not only playing for fans, but friends. The banter from the stage is an added bonus. One of my favorite non-musical parts of the album is Platt’s announcement that someone needs to move their car because it is getting ready to be towed. Those moments between songs like “Jukebox” and “Better Woman” endear the group to the listener, and gives us a little more of the group’s personality. I have stated in previous reviews that live albums are either very good, or very bad. In my opinion, there is no in between. This album is in the very good category.

There is no set formula as to what makes a group successful, and grow their fanbase. However, Platt’s songwriting has been one of the things that has attracted many fans. The award winning writer has a style that is all her own. Add to that the musical talents of The Honeycutters have developed since their inception, and you have a complete act that makes fans of Americana jump to their feet with excitement. I know that Americana is a large umbrella that has room for many diverse musical styles that do not fit inside a small, tidy box, but I suggest giving Amanda Ann Platt & The Honeycutters’ Live at the Grey Eagle a listen, and enjoy what has been described as Appalachian Honky Tonk.

 

 

May 22, 2019

Molly Tuttle has been playing guitar since she was 8 years old. She quickly became recognized for her extraordinary talent on the acoustic guitar, performing on stage for the first time at the age of 11 with her father, Jack. Tuttle’s songwriting skills were evident at an early age, winning the Chris Young songwriting competition at MerleFest. She also received a scholarship in 2012 to Berklee School of Music. Tuttle also has the distinction of being the first woman to win the International Bluegrass Music Association Guitar Player of the Year Award in 2017. For an encore, she repeated as the 2018 award winner. She has received all of those honor and accolades without ever having recorded a complete solo album. Now, that has changed, as Tuttle has just released her first album, When You’re Ready.

Although Tuttle’s career is rooted in bluegrass, it has been obvious on her previous collaborations and EP that she is not bound by genre. She is comfortable adding her own touch to each song she performs. Therefore, it is no surprise that here first solo album sees Tuttle spreading her wings, and soaring to new heights. The album is still grounded in her acoustic guitar prowess, but it has pop sensibilities that allows this album to played comfortably in many other musical genres besides bluegrass. There are many great tracks on this album, including Million Miles,” a song written started by Jewel and Steve Poltz, and finished here by Tuttle. The song features harmony vocals from Jason Isbell. “Making My Mind Up” is ethereal song that highlights her wonderful vocal talent. “Sleepwalking” showcases a songwriting ability that is well outside of traditional bluegrass framework. Producer Ryan Hewitt, known for his work with artist like Cody Jinks, works very well with Tuttle on When You’re Ready, allowing the artistry of Tuttle take flight.

The 11 songs on this album is a showcase of so much more than just Tuttle’s guitar skills. She wrote or co-wrote every song on this project. Her vocals may draw comparisons to Alison Krauss, although Tuttle has a much different delivery than Krauss. Her combination of country and pop can be mentioned alongside Kacey Musgraves. Don’t be confused by those comparisons. Everything that Tuttle does is purely her own. If you are not familiar with her previous work, give those a listen, too. However, try When You’re Ready, and enjoy the work of Molly Tuttle.

 

 

May 15, 2019

I came across the brother duo, The Cactus Blossoms, and their album You’re Dreaming. The Cactus Blossoms are brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum. Despite the different last names they are, indeed, brothers. The brother’s harmony blew me away. It was obvious that The Cactus Blossoms were influenced by The Everly Brothers. Even with sibling harmony, having vocals that draw immediate comparisons to The Everlys does not happen often. Those stellar harmonies are still evident on The Cactus Blossoms’ new album, Easy Way.

Because The Cactus Blossoms’ harmonies are the first thing that you notice, it can be easy to not dig a little deeper to find that all the songs are originals. They wrote the majority of the albums’ songs, with The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach co-writing two of the songs, including “Got a Lotta Love”. Some of my favorite songs on the album, includes “Don’t Call Me Crazy”, which has a little heavier edge than their previous material. The title track slows things down a bit, and has a dreamy sound. “Downtown” evokes Petula Clark’s song of the same name. “See it Through” may be my favorite song on the album. It has a little bit of everything with twangy (almost surf) guitar , crying steel guitar, a prominent snare drum (no machine needed), and the strum of the acoustic guitar.

Some critics may be surprised by the new sounds from The Cactus Blossoms. They may even call it modern. Their sound is definitely not modern. The Cactus Blossoms’ sound is still rooted in the sibling harmony that is not heard today. Their musical style is also from yesteryear. Yes, the music on this album seems to have moved from the late 1950’s to the 1960’s. However, their songwriting includes modern topics of conversation, like low wages and technology. They are more than able to use older musical styles, and combine modern, fresh songwriting. I recommend you to sit back, relax, and press play on The Cactus Blossoms’ Easy Way.

 

 

May 8, 2019

In recent years, I have been a fan of Chris Jones & The Night Drivers have been one of my favorite bluegrass groups. The musical performances, songwriting, song selection, and Jones’ vocals on their albums paints scenes that are easily envisioned in my mind. It all sets a mood that is perfect for each song. That tradition continues on their new album, The Choosing Road.
The band’s current roster includes Chris Jones (guitar, vocals), Jon Weisberger (bass, vocals), Gina Furtado (banjo, vocals), and Mark Stoffel (mandolin and vocals). With the exception of a cover of Steve Winwood’s “Back in the High Life Again”, each song is written by the band members. They range from the laid back “I Can’t Change the Rhyme” to the speedy “Your Remarkable Return”. In addition to the aforementioned songs, other highlights on the album include the country flavored “Own The Blues” (complete with steel guitar), the upbeat “Bend In The Road”, “Looking For The Bridge”, the instrumental tune “Nyhan’s Regret”, and the Civil War tune “Letters To Brendan”.
Chris Jones & The Night Drivers continues their tradition of making great music. Their wonderful harmonies, excellent songwriting, and expert musicianship is present on this new project. Bluegrass purists may find fault with the boundaries that been crossed on The Choosing Road. I am speaking specifically about the use of drums on the album. However, I am quick to point out that the such revered artists as The Osborne Brothers, J.D. Crowe, and, more recently, The Lonesome River Band have used drums on their albums. Their is no mistaking that Chris Jones & The Night Drivers’ The Choosing Road is most definitely a bluegrass album, and a very good one at that. I recommend giving it a listen today.

 

 

 

 

May 1, 2019

Brooks and Dunn is one of the most successful duos in country music history. They have twenty Number 1 hits,and nineteen more Top 10 hits. Those songs inspired a whole generation that are now country music stars. Many started their performing careers with the songs of Brooks and Dunn added in their setlists. Now those artists have a chance to sing the songs with the legendary Brooks and Dunn on Reboot.
The artists that are enlisted on this twelve track album is a who’s who of modern country chart supremacy. Kacey Musgraves, Luke Combs, Kane Brown, and Thomas Rhett are just a few of the stars that add their voices to those of Brooks and Dunn on Reboot. Some of the outstanding tracks on the album include, “Hard Workin’ Man” featuring Brothers Osborne, “Red Dirt Road” featuring Cody Johnson, “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” featuring Ashley McBryde. “My Next Broken Heart” featuring Jon Pardi and “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” featuring Midland are the two tracks that are my favorites on the album.
Brooks and Dunn do not seem to have lost a step. They sound as strong as ever, keeping pace with the younger stars of today. The songs have held up as well. Reboot may also introduce more of Brooks and Dunn’s catalog to new listeners. That would be a good thing. The tree of country music continues to grow. It is good that the branches basking in the sun remember the roots that went before them, and support their continued growth. I suggest giving Brooks and Dunn’s Reboot a listen.

 

April 24, 2019

Steve Earle is a Renaissance man. He is a singer, songwriter, actor, and author. If you had to pick one area that is his strong suit, it would be as a singer-songwriter. His works have an honesty that places him in a realm with some of the best. Of course, he has a natural talent for songwriting. However, that talent was sharpened by hanging around with the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. Earle is very aware of the influence that other writers have had on his craft. He has paid tribute to Van Zandt in 2009 on the album Townes. Steve Earle’s latest album, Guy, is a tribute to the aforementioned Guy Clark.

Guy Clark was a songwriter’s songwriter. He could paint a picture with words as good as anyone that has ever put pen to paper. In the mainstream music world, Clark is best known for his songs “Desperados Waiting For a Train” (The Highwaymen), “Heartbroke” (Ricky Skaggs), and “L.A. Freeway” (Jerry Jeff Walker). Steve Earle cover those Guy Clark songs, as well as many other gems. There are 16 songs on Guy, including “The Last Gunfighter”, “Out in the Parking Lot”, and one of my favorite Clark songs, “The Randall Knife”.

Steve Earle’s Guy is an excellent tribute to Guy Clark. Earle presents each song with respect and care. You would not expect less from a man that honed his craft in the presence of a master songwriter, Guy Clark.If you are not familiar f with the music of Guy Clark, use this album as a starting point to explore Clark’s catalog. I recommend giving Steve Earle’s Guy a listen.

 

 

April 17, 2019

In the music industry, Reba McEntire has done everything. She has conquered the country music charts (gaining 42 number one songs), had album sales that makes her one of the most successful artists of all time (more than 75 million albums sold), garnered critical acclaim (the Kennedy Center Honor, and multiple ACM, CMA, AMA, and Grammy Awards), and is a long time member of the Grand Ole Opry. Never resting on her laurels, Reba found time to act in movies, star in her own TV show, and perform on Broadway. If she wanted to kick back and take it easy, no one would blame her. However, she continues to create meaningful, entertaining, artistic performances. Reba’s latest endeavor, her album Stronger Than the Truth, is a continuation of McEntire’s excellence.
Stronger Than the Truth finds Reba returning to her musical roots. The opening track, “Swing All Night with You”, is a song that sounds like it could be on one of Reba’s earliest albums, with twin fiddles, steel guitar, and piano that would make Bob Wills proud. Do not settle in for a dance hall kind of album, as the title track, “Tammy Wynette Kind of Pain”, and “Cactus in a Coffee Can” will take things down a bit. Those well written songs placed in the care of Reba McEntire results in recordings that make the listener feel for the stories’ characters. You can put yourself in the song, and experience the ride on an emotional rollercoaster. It is a talent that is not seen in country music to often these days. You find that same feeling in “In His Mind” and “You Never Gave Up on Me”. “Storm In a Shot Glass” is an upbeat song about a woman dealing with lost love. “No U in Oklahoma”, co-written by Reba, Ronnie Dunn, and Donna McSpadden, goes back the western swing heard on the album’s opening track.
Stronger Than the Truth finds Reba revisiting the country music stylings from her earlier career. Just like George Strait’s latest album, Reba is able to reach back to those early sounds, apply them to new songs, and make it sound vibrant and fresh. In addition to Reba vocal prowess, and song selection for the album, it must be mentioned that Buddy Cannon produced this album. He is one of the best, having produced albums for the likes of Willie Nelson and Kenny Chesney. Cannon knows how to capture an artist in their full glory and power. From the sound of Reba’s latest album, Stronger Than the Truth, Reba has no intention of slowing down any time soon. I recommend giving it a listen today.

 

 

April 10, 2019

This Catch of the Week is a most unusual album. Projects usually feature songs. Nothing more. Nothing less. A good song needs no introduction or explanation. Well crafted lyrics performed by an expert singer is all you need. However, I am a fan of the story behind the song, and discovering more about the performer. That is why I was so excited to learn about Dennis Parker’s new album, Songs Under the Air Condition Ing Unit , and, yes, that title is spelled correctly.

I had two friends contact me on the day the album was released to tell me that I had to  take a listen. I did, and the album kept my attention from beginning to end. Songs Under the Air Condition Ing Unit alternates between Parker singing songs and telling stories about his life. The stories run the emotional gamut of sorrow, regret, and joy. Parker also exudes a genuine excitement that the listener will find contagious . The song selection includes Mo Pitney’s “Behind This Guitar”, Jon Prine’s “Paradise”, Glen Campbell’s “By The Time I Get to Phoenix”, Tim McGraw’s “I Do but I Don’t”, and the Porter Wagoner’s “Satisfied Mind”. Dennis Parker’s vocals have a similarity to James Taylor. You can hear it on each song, but it especially evident on his cover of Taylor’s “Song For You, Far Away”.

Dennis Parker has tremendous talent. It has been on display for years, and can be seen these days as a member of Ricky Skaggs band, Kentucky Thunder. There are many things that you can take away from Parker’s new album, but the main thing I received was the encouragement to press forward in all of life’s pursuits. It does not matter where you have been, or what you may be going through at the present time, stay focused on your destination. I recommend giving a listen to Dennis Parker’s Songs Under the Air Condition Ing Unit .

 

 

April 3, 2019

George Strait has been making music that has pleased country music audiences for almost forty years. Although he is no longer taking on long tours, he is still performing select dates, having done so recently in Atlanta. He is also making new music. His 30th studio album has been released, and it continues in Strait’s tradition of making great albums. Honky Tonk Time Machine is as classic anything that King George has ever released.

The album features thirteen tracks that makes you feel like you are in a Texas honky tonk listening to George Strait, complete with fiddles and steel guitars. There is not a weak track on Honky Tonk Time Machine. From the first single, “Every Little Honky Tonk Bar”, to his salute to law enforcement officers, “The Weight of The Badge”, Strait shows his full force as one of country music all-time greats. His cover of the Johnny Paycheck’s “Old Violin” is a gem. The new song “Sing One With Willie” is a funny song featuring Willie Nelson. The title track will have folks heading to the dance floor in a hurry. “Sometimes Love” is bound to have your beverage of choice filled with tears. Many of the songs on the album were written by Strait, his son, Bubba, and the legendary Dean Dillon. They are quite a formidable trio of songwriters, and this album is proof.

Although George Strait has never strayed to far from the style we heard on his first albums, this album feels like a return to tradition. Honestly, it is strange to even say that about Strait, but Honky Tonk Time Machine is in the mold of his earlier projects. Another thing you have always been able to say about George Strait is that he is authentic. Nothing seems forced about the music, singing, or productions. It is just an honest presentation of what makes country music great. I recommend giving Honky Tonk Time Machine a listen today.

 

 

March 27, 2019

Dale Ann Bradley has been busy lately. In addition to touring on her own,The five time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year award winner, has been touring and recording with supergroup Sister Sadie. I had heard last year that she was working on a new project. I do not know how she found the time to work on a new album with her busy schedule, but I am glad she did. Her new album, The Hard Way, has arrived. It features recordings of new songs, from murder ballads to love songs, and covers of songs not normally found in bluegrass repertoires, from the catalog of Journey, Jim Croce, and The Grateful Dead.

The Hard Way consists of ten songs. Some of the highlights on the album includes, “The Hard Way Every Time”, a Jim Croce song that is the inspiration for the album’s title. When an artist covers a song from a performer with such a recognizable style, like Jim Croce, it can be difficult to make the song your own, while staying true to the original recording. Dale Ann Bradley does a great job on this song. In this day and time, writing a murder ballad that does not sound like every other one out there can be difficult. Bradley and her brother wrote “Pretty, Dark Hearted Emma Brown”, and it is as good as any in that style that you will ever hear. Bradley’s cover of Journey’s “Wheel in The Sky” sounds as if it was always meant to be a bluegrass song. If you twisted my arm and made me choose a favorite on this album, I would pick “One Good Wiper Blade”. The vocals and musical arrangement creates a mood from the beginning of the track, and you are immersed in the story immediately. “The Likes of You” is an up-tempo, love song that will set your toes to tapping. Bradley covers Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” with the vocal grace we have become accustomed to. “Because He Loved Me”, a song written by Georgia native Morris Stancil, is bound to draw an “amen” or two. The album concludes with “Ripple”, a Grateful Dead tune, that Bradley makes sound as if it were written just for her.

I have never been disappointed with any Dale Ann Bradley recording. The Hard Way is no exception. With a mixture of new songs, covers, and gospel songs, Bradley shines on The Hard Way. Whether with her own backing band, or with Sister Sadie, do yourself a favor, and attend one of her shows. Also, pick up her latest album, The Hard Way, today.

 

 

 

March 20, 2019

 

Shawn Lane and Richard Bennett each have a long track record of making great music. Lane is a member of the group Blue Highway, and has won 28 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awards. Bennett, a member of the group Flashback, has performed with JD Crowe and the New South, and toured with artist like Mike Auldridge and Wyatt Rice, and backed Bobby Osbourne on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Both men are not only world-class musicians, Lane and Bennett are great songwriters. In fact, they have been writing together for several years. After collaborating as songwriters, Shawn Lane and Richard Bennett decided to make an EP together, and the results can be heard on Land & Harbor.

Although their roots are in bluegrass, this EP does not feature all of the traditional bluegrass instruments. We have Lane and Bennett on guitar throughout, with the exception of “Mussel Shell”, which finds Lane playing fiddle. They are joined by Gaven Largent, of Dailey and Vincent, on dobro. Land & Harbor includes five songs, and every one is excellent. The project lines up like this: “Shady Grove”, “Nautical Song”, “Harmon’s Den”, “Charlestown”, and “Mussel Shell”.

Shawn Lane and Richard Bennett will play select shows in support of Land & Harbor, while continuing to perform with their current groups. It would be well worth the time to look up those dates, and trying to make one of their shows. This album reminds me of some of the projects that Tony Rice has released over the years. Listening to these songs make me feel as if I am sitting in on a jam session with some of the greatest musicians you will ever find. Although lacking a banjo, mandolin, and bass, Lane, Bennett, and Largent posses a power in their presentation that makes you not miss the other instruments. In the future, I hope to hear more from this duo. Take a listen to this Catch of the Week, Land & Harbor.

 

 

March 13, 2019

This Catch of the Week not only features a new album, but a new artist. Dee White is a 20 year old Alabama native that has a storybook start to his music career. As a teenager, White hones his writing and singing skills. In his late teens, White was introduced to Harold Shedd, famed producer for the group Alabama. Shedd liked what he heard, and introduced him to some folks in the industry, and White was off and running. His first album, Southern Gentleman, has just been released, and it is already getting a lot of attention.

The first half of this album was released as an earlier EP, Side A, with the remainder of the tracks being added to finish Southern Gentleman. Some of the standout tracks on the album include, “Rose of Alabam”, a song about a man cheating on his love with a new woman. “Bucket of Bolts” is a nostalgic song, with every recalled memory somehow attached to his car. This song, as well as several other on the album, feature Alison Krauss singing harmony. Harmonica player Mickey Raphael, known for playing with Willie Nelson, adds his recognizable sound to the album. Also, singer Ashley McBryde duets with White on “Road That Goes Both Ways”.

Although only 20 years old, White’s music is akin to earlier music. It is not a direct impersonation of other artists, but style wise, there are musical similarities to the music of the ’70’s. Maybe it’s his laid back style of singing that leads me to draw that comparison. It is much different than the majority of modern music. Add to that Dee White’s songwriting skills, and you have a great album. I recommend giving Southern Gentleman a listen today.

 

March 6, 2019

This generation of country music fans know Trisha Yearwood. Many know her from her popular cooking show, or as Garth Brooks better half. Some may know she is a singer. However, I do not think many of today’s younger fans realize the lady showing you how to make a tasty dish in the kitchen is one of the most powerful voices in country music. After making a splash in the early ’90’s with songs like “She’s In Love With The Boy”, Yearwood was recognized as one of the best singers in country music. With her new album, Let’s Be Frank, we are reminded that she still is.

Not to brag, but I did not need the reminder of how much talent Trisha Yearwood possesses. I am a huge fan of her music, and have followed her career since she first hit the national scene. She has released some wonderful projects over the years, and her latest album, although a departure from country music, is outstanding. Yearwood pays tribute to the music of Frank Sinatra. There are twelve songs from the catalog “Ol’ Blue Eyes” that she covers. All of the tracks are excellent, but a few that stand out include, “One More for My Baby (and One More for the Road)”, “Come Fly With Me”, and “The Lady is a Tramp”.

I had heard rumors that Trisha Yearwood was working on a new album. I was hoping for a country album. However, this new album does not disappoint. Yearwood shows that she is comfortable singing any style of song. I believe she could sing the names and numbers in the phone book, and it would sound great. So, kick back, relax, and give Let’s Be Frank a listen.

 

 

February 27, 2019

Not too far away from here, Brevard, NC, is the home base for Carolina Blue. This group waves the banner of traditional bluegrass music. They not only play the part musically, but they also dress the part, wearing clothes in the style of the 1940’s and 1950’s, complete with suits, two toned shoes, and Stetson hats. I have had the pleasure of seeing Carolina Blue live, and talking to them afterwards. Let me tell you, their traditional attire and song choices are not just a clever gimmick to try and set them apart from other current artists. Carolina Blue loves traditional bluegrass music, and it shows on their latest project, I Hear Bluegrass Calling Me.
Band members Bobby Powell (guitar and vocals), Timmy Jones (mandolin and vocals), Reese Combs (bass and vocals), James McDowell (banjo and vocals), and Aynsley Porchak (fiddle) paint a picture of life that bluegrass audiences will be familiar with. Some of the tracks that stand out on I Hear Bluegrass Calling Me include, “Cold, Lonely and Blue”, a bluesy song done in the style of Flatt & Scruggs. “Mary Do You Wonder” is a beautiful song that features a great female harmony vocal. “Glorybound Train” is a speedy, gospel number, and, after you hear the chorus the first time, you will find a vocal part, and be singing along. No bluegrass album is complete without an instrumental tune, and “Fried Taters and Onions” will leave you hungry for more. My favorite track on the album is “Dark Mountainside”. This song is In the legacy of the murder ballads, but this song has a bit of a different twist. I will not give the story away, however, it is bluegrass storytelling at it’s very best.
Carolina Blue uses the canvas created by Bill Monroe. Flatt & Scruggs, and The Osborne Brothers. At the same time, they create a picture that is full of their own brushstrokes. The band is full of great singers, instrumentalists, and songwriters. The majority of the album is made up of new material written by the band members. If you get a chance, go and see Carolina Blue in concert. You will not be disappointed. That also goes for their new album, I Hear Bluegrass Calling Me. Give it a listen today.

 

 

February 20, 2019

When I think of Dale Watson, I think of Texas. He has been a fixture in the music scene of Austin, and an ambassador for everything the Lone Star state offers musically. It came as a shock to many fans when he recently made a decision to buy a home in Memphis, TN, splitting time between there and Texas. Watson’s latest album, Call Me Lucky, finds an amalgamation of the honky-tonk sounds associated with his previous work, and the music of Memphis.

11 of the 12 tracks on Call Me Lucky were recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis, not to be confused with Mr. Phillips’ earlier Memphis Recording Service of Sun Records fame. One of the first things that is different about this project compared to Watson’s earlier works is the use of horns. Songs like “Who Needs This Man”, “Inside View”, and “Tupelo Mississippi & A ’57 Fairlane” are a perfect mixture of honky-tonk, rockabilly, and the R&B sounds of a horn section. Dale Watson’s deep voice backed by the boom-chick a-boom sound is bound to bring to mind the sound of the legendary Johnny Cash, who got his start in Memphis. Some examples of this are “You Weren’t Supposed to Feel This Good” and ” The Dumb Song”, The latter features the drumming of W.S. “Fluke” Holland. He played drums for both Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. “Run Away” could have been a hit in the early days of rockabilly music. Dale Watson enlists Mickey Raphael, known for his time as a member of Willie Nelson’s band, to add his signature harmonica sound to “Johnny and June”. The song is a beautiful, classic sounding duet with Celine Lee.

Dale Watson continues to do things his own way. That independent spirit shines through on Call Me Lucky. Tinkering with a formula that has made Watson an admired Texas music figure for decades would seem risky. Maybe for some artists, but not for Dale Watson. Stand back, and give the man some room to work. This is a great mixture of musical styles I admire: Texas honky-tonk, rockabilly, and Memphis R&B. I recommend giving Dale Watson’s Call Me Lucky a listen today.

 

 

February 13, 2019

I feel fortunate to work for a station that has listeners who are as into trying to find the best music available as I am. Several listeners alerted me to the music of Cody Johnson, and I was not disappointed. His voice is authentic. You can tell if someone is trying to add a country flavor to their voice. Johnson’s drawl and twang is real. His music is a welcome change from the modern tastes of Nashville. His latest album, Ain’t Nothin’ to It, is a throwback to the sounds of ’90’s country, without sounding like a nostalgia act. It sounds vibrant and fresh.

Some of the outstanding tracks on the album include, “Fenceposts”, “Honky Tonk Mood”, “On My Way To You”, “Where Cowboys are King”, and the title track. Johnson’s tribute to The Hag, “Monday Morning Merle”, is another nice track. He also covers Charlie Daniels’ “Long Haired Country Boy” and Roger Miller’s “Husbands and Wives”, the latter being a bonus track. Johnson closes the album, as he has done on his last two projects, with a heartfelt gospel number, “His Name is Jesus”.

It is nice to see someone with a authentic country drawl releasing new music. Cody Johnson is the genuine article. You get real life, everyday genuine subject matter covered in this album. You have songs about love, romance, loss, kicking up your heels, country life, and even a gospel song. Prop up your boots, sit back, relax, and enjoy Cody Johnson’s Ain’t Nothin’ to It.

 

 

February 6, 2019

Mississippi, whether the state or the river, evokes strong images and emotions tied to the story of America: The freedom of travel on the river, the restrictions of slavery and segregation, and the music that would shape modern American music. Although not from Mississippi, Eric Brace, Peter Cooper, and Thomm Jutz have released a new album, Riverland, that pays tribute to the trials and triumphs of one of the great American crossroads. The album also features Mark Fain (upright bass), banjoists Terry Baucom and Justin Moses, Mike Compton (mandolin), Lyn Williams (drums), and Tammy Rogers (fiddle) to help paint the picture of Mississippi.

Some of the tracks that stand out on this album include, “King of the Keelboat Men”. It is the story of the latter years of keelboat legend, Mike Fink. “Southern Mule” is a look at the changes that have happened through history from perspective of the aforementioned beast of burden. If you are telling the story of Mississippi, the Civil War has to be addressed. The account of the Siege of Vicksburg is told in “Down Along the River”. There have been many floods that have caused much devastation in the history of the Mississippi. Some stand out in history above others. The Great Flood of 1927 is the subject of “Drowned and Washed Away”. “Old Tom T. and Brother Will” is based on an story shared with Brace, Cooper, and Jutz by the legendary songwriter Tom T. Hall about a conversation that he and Baptist minister Will Campbell shared while building a still. Campbell supported integration in the 1950’s, and shared the gospel with everyone regardless of color. “Mississippi Magic” follows that song, and is connected to the previous song by a recording of Brother Will speaking on the racial unrest of the 1960’s. The song was written by Campbell, and is the only cover on the project.

Eric Brace, Peter Cooper, and Thomm Jutz have done an outstanding job in capturing in song a historical look at Mississippi. Riverland is available for download. However, I would recommend buying a physical copy because it comes with a booklet that includes the lyrics, and the stories behind the songs. I suggest giving Riverland a listen today.

 

 

January 30, 2019

We look west for this Catch of the Week. California is where you will find Alice Wallace. I have to admit I was not familiar with her before I discovered her new album, Into the Blue. In a world of sound alike singers, Wallace’s voice stands out. She is able to convey the emotions of the lyrics in her vocal delivery that makes you pay attention to the story that is being told. Speaking of the story in the songs, Wallace is an expert songwriter. You truly find the complete package on Into the Blue.

There are eleven tracks on Into the Blue. Some of the songs that stand out on this project include “Santa Ana Winds”, a song about the fires that plague California year after year. It paints a picture of the destruction that the follows the fires in the Golden State. “Elephants” deals with a woman’s experiences in a man’s world. “Desert Rose” is the story of striving for a better life, and highlights Wallace’s vocal break in her voice, just shy of a yodel, that is reminiscent of artist like Linda Ronstadt. However, “Echo Canyon” showcases her full yodel, painting a picture of a lonely landscape while telling a sad tale. Another example of expert storytelling is on display in “Motorcycle Ride”.

It seems that many music listeners and consumers are looking for something different than what is being offered to them by Nashville. They tend to want deeper storytelling in the songwriting, and voices that have more texture and personality. You will find all of that tinged with a California country sound on Alice Wallace’s Into the Blue. Give it a listen today.

 

 

January 23, 2019

Ronnie Milsap is a country music legend. His 40 number 1 hits, 6 Grammys, and his membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame are proof of his legendary status. It has been many years since he has had a hit. However, Milsap has continued to tour and release records that showcase his immense talent. He has just released a new album, Ronnie Milsap: The Duets, that finds Milsap revisiting some of his biggest hits with help from many other country stars.

Many times a duet album can be disappointing. It feels like the singers are going through the motions. I did not get that feeling on this album. It feels like Ronnie and all his guests are putting everything they have into the song. Some of the highlights from the album include “Smoky Mountain Rain” featuring Dolly Parton. They decided to change the perspective of the lyrics to have Dolly and Ronnie telling both sides of the story. “Houston Solution” featuring George Strait, “A Woman’s Love” featuring Willie Nelson, and “Prisoner of the Highway” featuring Jason Aldean are some other tracks that stand out. My favorite song on the album is “No Getting Over Me” featuring Kacey Musgraves. It sounds like Kacey has had this in her repertoire for years.

It does not seem that Ronnie Milsap has no plans of slowing down. He is keeping a full tour schedule, and with the release of Ronnie Milsap: The Duets shows that he is still able to put out great albums. Although it will probably not happen, I would love to see new artists record some of Ronnie Milsap’s hits and release them as singles (I’m looking at you Jason Aldean and Kacey Musgraves). His songs are written so well that they still hold up today. I recommend giving Ronnie Milsap: The Duets a listen today.

 

 

January 16, 2019

One of the most common complaints I hear about modern country music is many of the songs and singers sound so similar that you can’t tell one apart from another. There are a few exceptions that are mentioned. Kip Moore is one of those exceptions. His raspy voice is instantly recognizable. I believe Moore’s unique voice is one of the main reasons for his success. When you hear it, you sit up and pay attention to what he is singing. Kip Moore’s latest project, Room To Spare: The Acoustic Sessions, focuses even more on his distinctive voice, with the music being given the lighter, acoustic, for the most part, treatment.
Some of the tracks that stand out on Room To Spare: The Acoustic Sessions include, “Tennessee Boy”. This song could be overblown with the modern musical tastes of Nashville. However, the acoustic style fits this song perfectly. Another track that stands out is “It Ain’t California”. It should be noted that this song is not strictly acoustic, but the arrangement is light. The song is about trying to get through everyday life without that special someone. Also, “Part of Growing Up” is another stand out track. It is about looking back at how things change when you become an adult.
For those looking for music that is not made in Nashville’s cookie cutter fashion, Kip Moore’s Room To Spare: The Acoustic Sessions fits the bill. With his unique raspy voice on display, this EP is modern, while not sounding like anything else that is currently on country music’s menu. I recommend giving a listen to Kip Moore’s Room To Spare: The Acoustic Sessions.

 

 

 

January 10, 2019

This week we turn our attention to Balsam Range. This award winning group consists of Buddy Melton (fiddle, vocals),Tim Surrett (bass, Dobro, vocals), Darren Nicholson (mandolin, vocals), Caleb Smith (guitar, vocals), and Marc Pruett (banjo). Balsam Range’s multiple International Bluegrass Music Associations Awards have come on the strength of six great albums. In addition, their heavy touring schedule continues to add to their loyal fan base. Balsam Range continues their legacy of releasing great music with their seventh album, Aeonic.
This eleven track album features songs from a variety of sources.In previous albums Balsam Range have relied on many songs written by the band’s members. However, this album sees them turning to other writers. “Get Me Gone” by Walt Wilkins and “The Girl Who Invented the Wheel” by Adam and Shannon Wright are two outstanding tracks on Aeonic. Balsam Range also covers songs from The Beatles (“If I Needed Someone”) and Ray LaMontagne (“Hobo Blues”).
Balsam Range has a history of making great albums. You can add their new album, Aeonic, to that list. The song selection and interpretation is outstanding. The lead and harmony singing is as strong as any act in bluegrass music right now. Add to that the expert musicianship that each member brings to the table, and that is the complete package that you are looking for in purchasing a new album. I believe you will see Balsam Range nominated for many IBMA awards this year on the strength of this album. Give Aeonic a listen today.

 

January 2, 2019

This edition of Porkchop’s Catch of the Week brings together the voice of Glen Campbell and the songs of Elvis. However, it is not a lost album of Campbell covering Presley’s hits. It a recently discovered collection of demo recordings that Campbell was hired to make for Elvis that have now been released as an album, Sings For The King. These recordings were cut from 1964-1968. During this time period Presley was in the midst of making a string of movies, and had met Campbell, a member of a group of legendary studio musicians known as “The Wrecking Crew”, as he was working on the “Viva Las Vegas” soundtrack. Later, Campbell was picked to record demos of songs that were being pitched to Elvis because Campbell could sing in the same key as “The King”. Campbell also could emulate Elvis’ inflection and vocal style, and this could help Presley have an idea of what could be done with the song. Most of these songs were recorded prior to Campbell’s breakthrough as a solo performer.
There are eighteen tracks on this album. With the exception of the first track, “We Call on Him” ( a song featuring Elvis and Glen Campbell versions of the song that has been spliced together as a reference to their similarities in style and range), the other seventeen are strictly Campbell singing. With the exception of “Clambake”, the other tracks on this project may only be familiar to die hard Elvis fans, although Presley did record twelve of the songs that are heard in demo form on this album.
This album will be of great interest to Glen Campbell and Elvis fans. Campbell fans will be impressed to hear his vocal talents on display. His ability to lower his voice in certain parts of songs to sound like Elvis is amazing. Elvis fans will be interested to hear these songs as they were pitched to “The King”. This may not be an album you add to your everyday playlist, but it a must for music history fans. Give Sings For The King a listen today.

 

 

December 26, 2018

 

 

As we approach the end of the year, it is time to take a look back at the best of Porkchop’s Catch of the Week from 2018. It was a great year for new albums. This is part 2 of the review. We will list the albums based on their review date:

 

Lori McKenna-The Tree (July 25, 2018)

McKenna’s ability to tell stories with her writing makes The Tree a great album. It must be pointed out that with the wrong producer, this album would not be as impactful. Dave Cobb serves as the producer on The Tree, and shows again that he has an expert ability to highlight the talents of the artist he is working with. The focus is on the credibility of McKenna’s voice, and her ability to tell stories and sing songs that are relatable.

 

 

Cody Jinks-Lifers (August 1, 2018)

 


After releasing seven independent albums, he has just released his first album on a major label, Rounder. The album is called Lifers, and includes 11 songs (Jinks had a hand in writing 9 of those songs) that will serve as a good introduction to people who are just finding out about Cody Jinks.

 

 

Mountain Heart-Soul Searching (August 15, 2018)

It seems that Mountain Heart has been trying to discover themselves musically over the last few years. Building on all of their personal influences, and cutting their own path, It seems that they have truly found themselves, and are comfortable with what they have discovered. The name of the album, Soul Searching, could be referring to that period of discovery. Add to that the introspective lyrics on this album, and the album is perfectly named.

 

 

Shooter Jennings-Shooter (August 22, 2018)


More than likely, you will not hear this style on Shooter Jennings’ next project. He is comfortable making music that crosses the boundaries of musical genres. I admire Jennings’ tenacity in making his own way, and doing what he wants to do. I am glad that he wanted to do record a more straightforward country album.

 

Sister Sadie-II (August 29, 2018)

All of the members of Sister Sadie(Dale Ann Bradley-guitar, Tina Adair-mandolin, Gena Britt-banjo, Deanie Richardson-fiddle, and Beth Lawrence-bass) have their own careers to attend to. However, I am happy that they have carved time out of their schedules to tour, and record a new album. The vocals, instrumentation, songwriting, and song selection on this new album makes for a most enjoyable listening experience.

 

King of the Road: A Tribute to Roger Miller (September 5, 2018)

King of the Road: A Tribute to Roger Miller is a wonderful album that applauds the talent of one of America’s great songwriters. If you are a fan of Roger Miller, or an aspiring songwriter, give this album a listen. It will inspire, break your heart, and make you smile. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the genius of Roger Miller.

 

The Earls of Leicester –Live At The CMA Theater In The Country Music Hall of Fame (October 3, 2018)


Through their previous albums, it is well documented that The Earls of Leicester are experts at presenting the music of Flatt and Scruggs and The Foggy Mountain Boys. For those that have not had the pleasure of attending a concert by The Earls, it is now on record that they are just as good live as they are in the studio. The Earls of Leicester’s ability to capture a sound so similar to that of Flatt and Scruggs’ Carnegie Hall record is amazing. Give a listen to Live At The CMA Theater In The Country Music Hall of Fame. Pick it Earl……I mean Charlie!

 

Colter Wall-Songs of the Plains (October 17, 2018)


Colter Wall has one of the most unusual, recognizable voices today. The 23 year old Canadian’s baritone voice sounds much older that his years. The songs on Songs of the Plains, match his voice perfectly. Wall’s delivery of this 11 song project paints a picture of the west, whether on horseback, riding the rails, or sitting around a campfire.

 

 

Pistol Annies-Interstate Gospel (November 7, 2018)


There have been several years between The Pistol Annies’ last album and their new album, Interstate Gospel, and it was well worth the wait. The Pistol Annies exhibit a wild streak in the writing and performances on Interstate Gospel that we have all come to know and love. However, this album gives a feeling that Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley, and Ashley Monroe, the ladies that make up The Pistol Annies, have matured, and, in turn, The Pistol Annies have grown.

 

 

Rodney Crowell-Christmas Everywhere (November 14, 2018)


As we approach the Christmas season, music fans have many choices of new albums to add to their holiday collection. Most of the time, you get a nice album from an artist that is a rehash of Christmas classics, and a few new songs for a little added flavor. I like originality, and that is why I always look out for new sounds of the season each year. If, like me, you are in need of something more than the traditional Christmas tunes, may I recommend Rodney Crowell’s Christmas Everywhere.

 

Rosanne Cash-She Remembers Everything (December 5, 2018)

She Remembers Everything finds Rosanne Cash at the top of her game. She uses her own experiences, good and bad, to inform her songs with stark realism that is thought provoking, intense, and refreshing. There are ten tracks on this project, and, according to how you purchase your music, three bonus tracks. I do not say this lightly, but every track is a masterpiece. Rosanne Cash, like wine, get better with age. With age comes new, complex notes that only life’s ups and downs can bring. Some people let the experiences make them sour by concentrating on the tough times. Others will ignore the tough times, and exude a fake, sugary demeanor. Rosanne Cash is well balanced, influenced by all that life has thrown her way.

 

 

 

December 19, 2018

 

As we approach the end of the year, it is time to take a look back at the best of Porkchop’s Catch of the Week from 2018. It was a great year for new albums. This will be a two part review with the second part coming next Wednesday at 8:40 am. We will list the albums based on their review date:

 

Mary Gauthier-Rifles and Rosary Beads (February 7, 2018)


Mary Gauthier is one of the preeminent song writers of our times. Each song tells the story of someone touched by war, whether the veterans, or their families. Rifles and Rosary Beads gives voice to the veterans, and reminds us that sometimes just a pat on the back and a word of thanks for their service, although appreciated, is not enough medicine to treat those wounds that sometimes never heal. God bless America, and God help the veterans, and their families, that lived through hell on earth, so we can enjoy our milk and honey.

 

Volume Five-Milestones (February 14, 2018)


Although I like all of their previous efforts, Milestones is my favorite Volume Five album. It is their most complete album, and much like Voices and Drifter, it has the Volume Five sound. The vocals, instruments, and song selection all aid their signature sound.

 

Kim Richey-Edgeland (April 4, 2018)


In her first album since 2013, singer-songwriter Kim Richey is back in the strongest way possible, showcasing her expert songwriting and singing. She has always seemed to be on the outside of Nashville. With Richey being on the fringes of the Nashville scene, it is appropriate that the album is titled Edgeland. Maybe that is a good thing. It allows us to be blessed with great songwriting that is not whittled down to fit the mold of Top 40 Country radio.

 

John Prine-The Tree of Forgiveness (April 18, 2018)


This is Prine’s first album of original material in over a decade, and it finds him a bit older, but still making high quality, poetic songs. As a person gets older, they spend a lot of their time reflecting on what has already happened, and pondering death. For many, those thoughts can be filled with regret and fear, but John Prine seems to handle it with a bit of humor, no grudges, and just rolls with life’s punches.

 

Ashley Monroe-Sparrow (April 25, 2018)


Ashley Monroe has released another gem in her latest album, Sparrow. She is able to combine country, folk, and pop effortlessly, and create music that is truly her own. With the success of The Blade, and the positive reviews for Sparrow, Ashley Monroe has cemented her place as one of country music’s premier singer-songwriters.

 

Brent Cobb-Providence Canyon (May 16, 2018)


Providence Canyon is a great album for many reasons. The writing is outstanding. Add to that Brent Cobb’s vocal delivery, which is never in a hurry, paired with the powerful, gritty background vocals of Kristen Rogers, and you already have the makings of a outstanding album. Include the expert instrumentation, along with the genius of producer Dave Cobb, and you have one of the most enjoyable albums of the year.

 

Gretchen Peters-Dancing With the Beast (May 23, 2018)


Songwriter Hall of Famer Gretchen Peters follows up her critically acclaimed, award winning 2015 album, Blackbirds, with another stellar project, Dancing With the Beast. As with Peters’ previous albums, Dancing With the Beast is full to brim of outstanding storytelling. I will be listening to this album for a long time, but I know not much time will pass until all of Gretchen Peters’ fans will be clamoring for more songs from her magic pen.

 

 

The Travelin’ McCourys- The Travelin’ McCourys (June 13, 2018)


The Travelin’ McCourys new album reaffirms that they are a force to be reckoned with. They are rooted in bluegrass, but are not afraid to explore music from outside sources. After having many great guitarist fill in on their gigs for years, adding Cody Kilby has cemented their sound. This is a phenomenal album, and I will continue to play this album for a long time to come.

 

Joshua Hedley-Mr. Jukebox (June 20, 2018)


If you are looking for something to cleanse the musical palate, I recommend giving Joshua Hedley’s Mr. Jukebox a listen. Although he is extremely talented, one cannot tell if Hedley’s recording and performing an older style will further his career. I believe there are enough people that are fans of the sound provided with Mr. Jukebox, including me, Joshua Hedley will find, and keep an audience.

 

 

 

December 12, 2018

As we get closer to Christmas you hear the sounds of the season more often. With the frequency of Christmas songs you may want to add some new tunes to that holiday playlist. In fact, I have had a couple of listeners call and ask what new albums are available for this year’s Yuletide. I thought I would just give you a overview of what is new this season with this Catch of the Week.
I have previously written about Rodney Crowell’s Christmas Everywhere and Dailey & Vincent’s The Sounds of Christmas, and you can read those reviews on this page. Let’s get to the other new Christmas realeases for 2018. Tracy Lawrence does not stray far from his sound with his new Christmas album, Frozen in Time .The title track is one of my favorites from this project. Aaron Watson’s An Aaron Watson Family Christmas features music with a touch of Texas from Aaron, his wife (Kimberly), and children (Jack, Jake, and Jolee Kate). If you are a fan of the classic Christmas sounds of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, as I am, you will love Brett Eldredge’s Glow(Deluxe Edition) and Martina McBride’s It’s the Holiday Season. Another album that draws on the holiday sounds of yesteryear is Chely Wright’s EP Santa Will Find You. You will find the styles of Sinatra, The Carpenters, and The Ronettes. There also a few Christmas singles that have been released this year, including Lonestar and Phil Vassar ( “Not So Silent Night”), Runaway June (“Sleigh Ride”),Maren Morris & Pentatonix (“When You Believe”), and Mason Ramsey (“White Christmas”).
I hope this guide will give you some idea of the new Christmas music available this year. There are a lot of different styles represented in this year’s holiday offerings. Give them a listen, and see if there is something you might want to add to your playlist. Merry Christmas!

 

 

December 5, 2018

Whenever Rosanne Cash is written about, her famous father will be mentioned. Being the child of a legend like Johnny Cash has to be a tough thing to deal with. The one comparison between father and child that has stood out to me is the fact that they both blazed their own trail. Their music, although classified as country, is truly hard to place inside a box. They created their own unique sounds and lyrical styles. Since her breakthrough in the early 1980’s, Rosanne Cash has shown to be not only an expert lyricist, but great performer. She has a long list of critically acclaimed albums that prove that fact. You can add to that list her new album, She Remembers Everything.
Rosanne Cash delivers a matter of fact look at her world. You will not find a sugar coating on these songs. The are open and honest in a way that many modern performers shy away from. Much of the album deals with loss. Songs like “The Only Things Worth Fighting For”, “Everyone But Me”, and the title track deals with that subject. Cash is also not afraid to tackle a controversial subject, like gun violence, in the song “8 Gods of Harlem”. The song features Kris Kristofferson and Elvis Costello trading verses, and singing together on the chorus. It is an observational account of the naked facts that confront our society. In “Particle and Wave”, Cash balances the happiness and despair that fills life. My favorite song from this project is “The Undiscovered Country”. It is about the struggle in our society of women to find a place of real equality. The old advertising slogan says, “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby”, but there is still a long way to go. It is full of rich lines, such as , “Shakespeare and my father/kicked up dust in my dreams”, and “The ghosts have had there moment and they fade into the sun/Shining like a carousel when summer’s just begun”.
She Remembers Everything finds Rosanne Cash at the top of her game. She uses her own experiences, good and bad, to inform her songs with stark realism that is thought provoking, intense, and refreshing. There are ten tracks on this project, and, according to how you purchase your music, three bonus tracks. I do not say this lightly, but every track is a masterpiece. Rosanne Cash, like wine, get better with age. With age comes new, complex notes that only life’s ups and downs can bring. Some people let the experiences make them sour by concentrating on the tough times. Others will ignore the tough times, and exude a fake, sugary demeanor. Rosanne Cash is well balanced, influenced by all that life has thrown her way. I recommend giving She Remembers Everything a listen.

 

November 28, 2018

This time of the year, many people are searching for a perfect gift Christmas gift. If you have a country music fanatic on your Christmas list, let me recommend an album that would make a great gift. The Louvin Brothers’ Love and Wealth: The Lost Recordings features never before released 1950’s demos from one of the most revered country duos.
There has always been a fascination with the dichotomy of The Louvin Brothers. Many admirers wonder how the Louvins could make such powerful gospel songs, and turn around and sing about murder and drunkenness. There are many other artists from that generation that followed that exact pattern. I believe that the  fascination with the duality of the Louvin Brothers can be attributed to the strong conviction and emotions heard in their recordings. You can hear the wide range of subject matter on Love and Wealth: The Lost Recordings. This set features demo recordings from 1951-1956. You will recognize many of the songs from later recordings from the brothers: “Preach the Gospel”, “Insured Beyond the Grave”, and “The Sons and Daughters of God”. There are other songs that were recorded by other artists, including “Streamline Heartbreaker” by Roy Acuff, “Are You Missing Me?” by Jim & Jesse , and “Take My Ring From Your Finger” by Johnny & Jack. Of course, any Louvin Brothers recording will be full of glorious harmonies that only a few other groups have been able to attain. There is also banter between the brothers that is unlike anything else in the Louvin’s catalog.
If you are fan of the Louvin Brothers, this is a must have for your music collection. You will enjoy the tight family harmony that the Louvins are known for. Plus, the wide variety of subject matter, from the spiritual to the sinful. I know that many people download all of their music. However, I would recommend buying a physical copy because it comes with notes on these recordings. Give Love and Wealth: The Lost Recordings a listen today.

 

 

November 21, 2018

 

Last week, I told you about a very non-traditional Christmas album, Christmas Everywhere from Rodney Crowell. Many people told me that they enjoyed the album. However, I received a few messages and phone calls that like traditional Christmas better. For those wanting a dose of the familiar songs of season, this Catch of the Week will bring a big Christmas smile on your face. Dailey & Vincent’s The Sounds of Christmas is the perfect album to add to your Christmas music collection.
Dailey & Vincent’s roots are in bluegrass, but they have shown that they can incorporate many other styles in their shows and albums. In addition to bluegrass, you get country, gospel, and more from the Grand Ole Opry members, Dailey & Vincent. You have all of that and more on The Sounds of Christmas. This album is full of excellent vocal harmonies, horns, strings, pianos, guitars, steel guitars, and lots of jingle bells. You will find classics like “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”, “Carol of the Bells” , “Let It Snow”, and “Go Tell It On The Mountain”. Bass singer Aaron McCune shines on “Mr. Grinch”. “Road to Bethlehem”, a new song, written by Jeff Bates and Country Music Hall of Fame member Jimmy Fortune (The Statler Brothers), finds Dailey & Vincent teaming with Dolly Parton. There are two bonus tracks that are only available at Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores. One of those bonus tracks features Ricky Skaggs with Dailey & Vincent with their take on Alabama’s “Tonight It’s Christmas”.

The Sounds of Christmas reminds everyone of what Dailey & Vincent is the best at, and that is being top notch entertainers. That is why they retain their place among bluegrass acts, but have added fans outside that niche genre. This album will have you singing along from the moment you play the first track. You will easily learn the new songs, and tunes you are not as familiar with, and on subsequent listens you will be singing along to those, too. Give The Sounds of Christmas a try today.

 

November 14, 2018

 

As we approach the Christmas season, music fans have many choices of new albums to add to their holiday collection. Most of the time, you get a nice album from an artist that is a rehash of Christmas classics, and a few new songs for a little added flavor. I like originality, and that is why I always look out for new sounds of the season each year. If, like me, you are in need of something more than the traditional Christmas tunes, may I recommend Rodney Crowell’s Christmas Everywhere.

I will warn you that you will not find happy scenes of snow covered streets, beautiful Christmas lights, and warm family moments on Christmas Everywhere. I believe the reason that this album can be full of songs that are not full of holiday cheer, but still be something that you would want to listen to is the fact that there is full of reality. It also helps that there is a bit of humor in Crowell’s delivery. If you were to watch him while he was recording this album, you may have been able to see a twinkle in his eye. Another reason that this album is so palatable is the fact that, although Christmas is generally viewed as a happy time of the year, many people deal, on different levels, with frustration, loneliness, and sadness. There is sadness on songs like “Merry Christmas From an Empty Bed”. You will find grumpiness in songs like “Christmas in Vidor”. “Christmas In New York” and “Come Christmas” is full of longing for better Christmas days, and, as a matter of fact, all the rest of the days of the year, too. The only song that offers a truly upbeat message is the toe tapping “Very Merry Christmas”. No matter the mood of a Rodney Crowell song, you can be guaranteed that the writing will be rich, and his vocals will paint a picture. It might not be Currier & Ives, but it will be as a vivid as if you were there when it happened.

Do not misunderstand me. I love the traditional holiday favorites, and I always will. I will always sing along with “Jingle Bell Rock”, “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”, and “Frosty the Snowman”. They are set in place as standards of the Christmas season. I always like to remind myself that at one time those were new songs. I do not want to cast those songs aside, but I want to make room for more songs. That is why I am recommending giving Rodney Crowell’s Christmas Everywhere a try this Christmas season.

 

November 7, 2018

Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley, and Ashley Monroe are powerhouses on their own. They each posses powerful voices, and are each great songwriters. When they combine their forces as The Pistol Annies, it is a really something special. Plus, it is guaranteed to be a party. The Pistol Annies are back with an all new album, Interstate Gospel.

As with their previous albums, The Pistol Annies take on different personas: Lonestar Annie (Lambert), Holler Annie (Presley), and Hippie Annie (Monroe). They reprise their roles on Interstate Gospel, but this album finds the ladies are letting their actual personalities shine through on songs like “When I Was His Wife”. Although there is a cheekiness to the tune, it seems that “Got My Name Changed Back” has some of their true feelings shining through There is already a very funny video to go along with this song. One of the most unique, yet enjoyable, songs from Interstate Gospel is “5 Acres of Turnips”. It is unusual, and may not be to everyone’s liking, but you don’t know until you try it, a lot like actual turnips. “Best Years of My Life” is one of my favorites from the new album. The mood of the song is forlorn, but there is a beauty in the sadness.

There have been several years between The Pistol Annies’ last album and their new album, Interstate Gospel, and it was well worth the wait. The Pistol Annies exhibit a wild streak in the writing and performances on Interstate Gospel that we have all come to know and love. However, this album gives a feeling that Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley, and Ashley Monroe, the ladies that make up The Pistol Annies, have matured, and, in turn, The Pistol Annies have grown. Give Interstate Gospel a listen today.

 

October 31, 2018

Asleep At The Wheel have been waving the banner for Western Swing music for decades. There are other artists that perform in the style of music that made Bob Willis famous, but Asleep At The Wheel has been the face of Western Swing. They have paid tribute through multiple albums to Mr. Wills. However, they have also tipped their hats to other performers, and recorded new material, too. That is the direction of the new Asleep At The Wheel album, New Routes.
The Western Swing sound is inspired by many different styles: country, jazz, folk, and blues. Sometimes one of those particular styles that influence Western Swing come through stronger than others. On New Routes many of those different styles shine. You get a heavy dose of jazz on songs like “Jack, I’m Mellow”. Then, you get a rocking version of Moon Mulilcan’s “Seven Nights To Rock”. There are new, original tunes like “Call It A Day Tonight” and “Pass The Bottle Around”. One of the most interesting songs on the album is a cover of Guy Clark’s “Dublin Blues”. Scott and Seth Avett make a guest appearance on the funny “Willie Got There First”, a song about Willie Nelson extensive catalog.
It needs to be pointed out that there are five new members of Asleep At The Wheel. With those new members, especially fiddler, singer, and songwriter Katie Shore, we have a much more diverse sound on New Routes. It is great to hear Asleep The Wheel highlighting the styles that make up Western Swing. I recommend giving New Routes a listen today.

 

 

October 24, 2018

Jason Isbell is lauded as one of the this generation’s preiminent songwriters. Since his time as a member of The Drive By Truckers, the world has seen Isbell grow as a songwriter and performer. He has been on quite a streak since the release of Southeastern (2013), and continuing with Something More Than Free (2015) and The Nashville Sound (2017). During that time, Isbell has won 4 Grammy Awards and multiple Americana Music Honors and Awards. Another accomplishment that he has achieved is selling out Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, The Mother Church of Country Music, more than dozen times. The shows from his 2017 run at the historic venue were recorded, and those recordings make up the new album from Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, Live from the Ryman.
Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit cover thirteen songs from Isbell’s growing song catalog. Although The 400 Unit was not listed on Isbell’s albums until The Nashville Sound, but the musicians that make up the band were a part of Isbell’s solo projects. The 400 Unit is comprised of guitarist Sadler Vaden, keyboardist Derry Deborja, fiddler Amanda Shires (Isbell’s wife), bassist Jimbo Hart and drummer Chad Gamble. It is interesting to hear Jason Isbell’s more acoustic, solo songs given a complete band treatment. Here is the list of song from Live from the Ryman: “Hope the High Road”, “24 Frames”, “White Man’s World”, “Flagship”, “Cumberland Gap”, “Something More Than Free”, “The Life You Chose”, “Elephant”, “Flying Over Water”, “Last of My Kind”, “Cover Me Up”, “Super 8”, and “If We Were Vampires”. The songs represent the different phases of Isbell’s career, from The Drive By Truckers through his work with The 400 Unit.
Live from the Ryman is a great documentation of the powerful presentation you can experience at a Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit show. The album has a different feel than other live recordings. It is missing the banter that you sometimes get with live albums. I prefer to hear some banter on live projects, but the way the album is presented works very well for Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit. However, I believe this was done intentionally. I cannot say what the reason is, but, if I had to guess, I suspect it is to highlight the outstanding lyrics set inside the musical framework provided by The 400 Unit. I recommend listening to Live from the Ryman today.

 

 

 

October 17, 2018

Music, like all other forms of art, is continually changing. Sometimes for better, other times for worse. No matter how many changes occur, there are always artists that revere musics roots. However, there are very few that not only revere the roots, but are also able to perform comfortably in those earlier styles. One of those rare performers is Colter Wall. His latest album, Songs of the Plains, is a throwback to an earlier time in Western and folk music.
Colter Wall has one of the most unusual, recognizable voices today. The 23 year old Canadian’s baritone voice sounds much older that his years. The songs on Songs of the Plain, match his voice perfectly. Wall’s delivery of this 11 song project paints a picture of the west, whether on horseback, riding the rails, or sitting around a campfire. It is difficult to pick out my favorite song. Rather, I think this album should be enjoyed as if are sitting around a campfire listening to someone sing at the end of long day. I do not know if I have ever heard an artist more perfectly synced with an older style. There are plenty of artists that do a good job at paying tribute to music’s roots. However, Colter Wall sounds like he is from that earlier time period. It makes you wonder if a time machine has transported Wall from the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.
Songs of the Plain is the most stripped down project of Wall’s career. The album features just a few instruments along with Wall’s voice. Add to that the expert touch of producer Dave Cobb, and you have one the most pure folk albums in the past few years. This album will not receive much airplay because the style is so far from today’s norm. Nobody knows where Colter Wall will go with his next album . However, I hope that you will give it a listen, and appreciate the roots music, and baritone voice of Colter Wall.

 

 

October 10, 2018

Eric Church is one of the few modern artists that has achieved critical acclaim while also gaining significant airplay. Many times what pleases the listening public does not suit the fancy of critical ears. Some say Church’s success can be attributed to him being allowed to do things his own way. There is a genuine rebelliousness in his music that attracts many people. In an era where many singers voices sound similar, many listeners point to Church’s unique voice as a reason for his success. All of those are good points, but I believe his ability to record songs that tell stories as the main reason for Eric Church’s ability to remain one of the today’s top country music stars. His latest album, Desperate Man, looks to continue successful streak.
Eric Church delivers a variety of styles on Desperate Man. You get a gritty, dark, blues number with “The Snake”, a conversation between a rattlesnake and a copperhead. There is a dose of the soulful, swampy sounds akin to Tony Joe White on “Hanging Around”. “Heart Like a Wheel” oozes soul. The country based “Monsters” is song about childhood memories of being afraid of monsters that hide under the bed once the lights are turned out. This is one of my favorite songs from this album. “Hippie Radio” is a nostalgic, folksy tune about listening a child listening to the radio. The sentiment puts me in mind of Church’s song “Record Year”. The title track has already done very well for Church . Although not a copy of The Rolling Stones “Sympathy For The Devil”, the inspiration for the sound of “Desperate Man” is evident. Church includes a drinking song on this album with “Drowning Man”. I want to mention that unlike other artists that bounce from style to style on a project trying to prove how eclectic they are, Eric Church flows smoothly through the styles because he is eclectic. It is from the heart, and it shows.
Eric Church’s career is full of unique, memorable songs. He continues to deliver those types of songs on Desperate Man. You will find great storytelling delivered with Church’s one of a kind voice and rebel spirit.The one thing that comes through in all of his music is the fact that Church makes music that he enjoys. Many artists make music just trying to find the next hit, and they lose the authenticity that you find with Eric Church. I recommend giving Eric Church’s Desperate Man a listen.

 

 

October 3, 2018

Over the years, Flatt and Scruggs and The Foggy Mountain Boys have inspired many bluegrass performers. A great many of the inspired have tried to emulate them as well. None has done a better job at capturing the sound than the Earls of Leicester. The group includes Shawn Camp (lead vocals and guitar), Charlie Cushman (banjo), Barry Bales (bass), Jerry Douglas (Dobro), Johnny Warren (fiddle) and Jeff White, who replaced Hot Rize’s Tim O’Brien after the first album, (mandolin). The Earls first started their stellar tribute to Flatt and Scruggs and The Foggy Mountain Boys in 2014, and have released two top selling, critically acclaimed albums. The Earls went on to win a Grammy and four International Bluegrass Music Association Entertainer of Year awards. One thing The Earls of Leicester had not done is record a live album. In the spirit of the famed Flatt and Scruggs Live at Carnegie Hall, The Earls of Leicester can check making a live album off of their list with the release of Live At The CMA Theater In The Country Music Hall of Fame.
The Earls of Leicester include twenty three songs on this outstanding project. The set includes the Flatt and Scruggs standards “Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms”, “I’m Gonna Sleep With One Eye Open”, “Salty Dog Blues”, and “White House Blues”. Although The Earls keep it traditional with instrumental tunes like “Black – Eyed Suzy”, “Earl’s Breakdown” and “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”. I was tickled pink that “Let The Church Roll On” was included on this album. It is great to hear Charlie Cushman playing the guitar on the classic “You Can Feel It In Your Soul”. No tribute to the music of Flatt and Scruggs would be complete without a gospel song (“Reunion in Heaven”) and a few words from the sponsor (“Martha White Theme”).
Through their previous albums, it is well documented that The Earls of Leicester are experts at presenting the music of Flatt and Scruggs and The Foggy Mountain Boys. For those that have not had the pleasure of attending a concert by The Earls, it is now on record that they are just as good live as they are in the studio. The Earls of Leicester’s ability to capture a sound so similar to that of Flatt and Scruggs’ Carnegie Hall record is amazing. Give a listen to Live At The CMA Theater In The Country Music Hall of Fame. Pick it Earl……I mean Charlie!

 

September 26, 2018

It has been 6 years since Kathy Mattea has released a studio album. The reason we have had to wait for new music from her was that Mattea had vocal problems. At one point, Mattea thought she was losing her voice completely. However, with the help of voice coaches, Mattea’s voice has settled into a lower register, and she has released a new album, Pretty Bird.
Kathy Mattea has always been great at interpreting songs. Pretty Bird features diverse styles in this twelve song presentation. From her take of Joan Osborne’s “St. Teresa” to Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe”, Mattea is at home singing each song. One of the outstanding tracks on this album is “Mercy Now”, a Mary Gauthier composition. Longtime collaborator Tim O’Brien served as the producer on Pretty Bird, and does a great job in that capacity.
The fear of losing your voice is the biggest fear of any singer. I hate that Kathy Mattea had to endure that threat. However, she has re-emerged better than ever. I will always think of “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” and “Love at the Five and Dime” when Kathy Mattea’s name is mentioned. I hope that people will listen to Pretty Bird , and realize that she has lot of songs left to sing.

 

September 19, 2018

Willie Nelson is not only one of the all time greats in country music, he is one of greatest American recording and performing artists. Willie is grouped in the country genre, but his music catalog is full of many other styles. He has turned to the Great American Songbook on many occasions: Stardust (1978), American Classic (2009), and Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin (2016). Nelson goes back to that songbook for his new album, My Way.
My Way could be subtitled “The Red Headed Stranger Meets Ol’ Blue Eyes”. All of the songs on the album are associated with Frank Sinatra. As with similar albums, Willie is not afraid to tackle well known songs, and put his own spin on them. That may be one of Nelson’s greatest strengths. Willie is one of the most underrated vocal stylist and guitarists in American music history. Willie’s voice and his licks on Trigger is more akin to that of jazz performers than anything considered country music, and it fits perfectly with this selection of songs. On My Way, Willie covers eleven songs, including “Fly Me to the Moon”, “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)”, “Young at Heart”, and the title track. One of my favorite tracks on the album features Nelson singing a duet with Norah Jones on “What is This Thing Called Love”.
Willie Nelson teamed up again on My Way with the production duo of Buddy Cannon and Matt Rollings. They have worked so well together on past Willie Nelson projects. That team has produced another gem with My Way. Much like his previous albums, Stardust and Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin, you can press play, sit back, and enjoy. The music of the Great American Songbook is timeless. So is Willie Nelson. I recommend giving My Way a listen today.

 

 

September 12, 2018

 

Although he had been performing for over a decade, I was not aware of Aaron Watson’s music until his 2015 release, The Underdog. That album was the first by an indpendent male artist to debut at the top Billboard Country Album chart. His loyal fans brought attention to his Texas/Red Dirt style music. Watson’s next album Vaquero debuted at #2, and included a song that landed inside the Top 25 on the country charts, “Outta Style”. Although his albums contain great music, his fans say that Aaron Watson’s concerts are the best way to hear his music. For those of us that have not had the pleasure of attending an Aaron Watson show can now get an idea of what that experience is like with the release of Live at The World’s Biggest Rodeo Show.
The album was recorded at the 2017 Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show. Watson covers many songs from his early albums. The album includes fourteen tracks, including “Outta Style” and “Getaway Truck” . I am glad that he included the beautiful  “Bluebonnets (Julia’s Song)”. It was also good to see “Fence Post”, his musical rebuttal to Nashville’s initial rejection of his music, on this album.
I encourage everyone to give this album a spin. You should also go back and listen to Aaron Watson’s complete catalog. Live at The World’s Biggest Rodeo Show captures the full energy of an Aaron Watson concert. After listening to it, I definitely want to catch an Aaron Watson show. I think after listening to Live at The World’s Biggest Rodeo Show, you will want to head to an Aaron Watson show, too.

 

September 5, 2018

Roger Miller is one of the most loved and revered songwriters in American music history. His ability to pen songs that ranged from heartbreaking to absurd cemented his place as one of the great American songwriters. Miller charted twenty one Top 20 songs, including two #1’s: “King of the Road”, “Dang Me”, and “England Swings”. Four of the songs he penned hit #1: “Billy Bayou” for Jim Reeves, “Tall, Tall Trees” by Alan Jackson, “Don’t We All Have the Right” for Ricky Van Shelton, and Brooks and Dunn’s “Husbands and Wives”. Miller also won 11 Grammy Awards (five in 1964, and six in 1965), a Tony Award for Best Score (1985 for Big River), and is enshrined in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. It has been nearly 26 years since Miller’s death, and a long overdue tribute has just been released.

King of the Road: A Tribute to Roger Miller, co-produced by Miller’s son, Dean, is a thirty seven track, double album that includes a many artist from many different genres, including Brad Paisley, Loretta Lynn, Ronnie Dunn, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Rodney Crowell, Ringo Starr, Lyle Lovett, Shooter Jennings, Jessi Colter, Cake, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Jamey Johnson, and Emmylou Harris, just to name a few. There are a several tracks that stand out. “Chug-a-Lug” is covered by Huey Lewis and Asleep at the Wheel. Lewis sounds great on this song. Kacey Musgraves makes “Kansas City Star” her own. Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson perform the beautiful “Old Friends”. “Oo De Lally” from Walt Disney’s Robin Hood gets a new spin by Eric Church. Bluegrass group Flatt Lonesome’s recording of “When Two World’s Collide” is a study in harmony singing. “The Last Word in Lonesome is Me” by Dolly Parton (featuring Allison Krauss) is one of the many reminders on this album of Roger Miller’s songwriting skills. Robert Earl Keen’s version of “Do Wacka Do” will have you singing along in no time at all. Actor John Goodman is also included on this tribute, as he sings “Guv’ment” from the musical Big River, the show that helped launch his Hollywood career. I also have to mention that there are several tracks from Roger Miller, both from live concerts, and banter from the studio. These tracks help to remind you about the humorous man behind the songs.

King of the Road: A Tribute to Roger Miller is a wonderful album that applauds the talent of one of America’s great songwriters. If you are a fan of Roger Miller, or an aspiring songwriter, give this album a listen. It will inspire, break your heart, and make you smile. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the genius of Roger Miller.

 

August 29, 2018

The all female supergroup Sister Sadie made quite an impact a few years ago when the friends got together to perform a one-off show at Nashville’s Station Inn. The buzz that followed led the performers (Dale Ann Bradley-guitar, Tina Adair-mandolin, Gena Britt-banjo, Deanie Richardson-fiddle, and Beth Lawrence-bass) to record a project, and perform select tour dates together. They were so well received, Sister Sadie has continued to tour, and record another project. Sister Sadie have now released their sophomore album, II.

Some of the highlights on II include the first single from the album, “Losing You Blues”. Tina Adair co-wrote this song, and shows off her great lead vocals. Dale Ann Bradley’s delivery on “No Smoky Mountains” is wonderful. This song is a realistic look of true love that hangs on through the hard times. “Something to Lose” has Gena Britt singing lead on this beautiful love song. “Raleigh’s Ride” highlights the instrumental prowess of Sister Sadie. Don’t listen to this one while driving down the road because it may lead to a speeding ticket. Sister Sadie does a great rendition of the gospel classic “Since I Laid My Burden Down”. My favorite song on the album is “900 Miles”. The lone instrument on this song is the fiddle, which produces a very drone tone throughout the song. Add to that Sister Sadie’s harmonies, and prepare yourself for the goosebumps that will follow.

All of the members of Sister Sadie have their own careers to attend to. However, I am happy that they have carved time out of their schedules to tour, and record a new album. The vocals, instrumentation, songwriting, and song selection on this new album makes for a most enjoyable listening experience. Give Sister Sadie’s II a try. You will not be disappointed.

 

 

 

August 22, 2018

Shooter Jennings comes from Country royalty. His parents, Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, were the first couple of the Outlaw movement. Many country fans expected to see Shooter follow in his father’s footsteps, and sing exactly the same kind of songs that Waylon became famous for. If you know anything about the offspring of rebel country singers, it is that they respect the path that has been blazed by their parents, but they carry on the family tradition of cutting their own trail. We see prime examples of this pattern in Hank Williams, Jr., Hank III, and Lukas Nelson. Shooter Jennings has this same independent streak. He has been part of a rock band, released solo recordings, acted, and produced music for other artist, most notably co-producing Brandi Carlisle’s critically acclaimed album, By The Way I Forgive You, with Dave Cobb. Shooter Jennings has just released a new album, Shooter, that sees him teaming up again with producer Dave Cobb. They have a long history that dates back to Jennings’ 2005 debut, Put the “O” Back in Country, which Cobb produced.

Shooter features 9 tracks, all written or co-written by Jennings, that are a mixture of Waylon, Willie, Hank Jr., and Lynyrd Skynyrd, but one hundred percent Shooter Jennings. Some of the highlights from the album include the opening track, “Bound Ta Git Down”. It features a rocking boogie woogie sound, complete with a horn section, that will make Hank Williams Jr. proud. “Do You Love Texas?” is a fun song full of Lone Star pride. It includes background vocals from Texas artists, like Kris Kristofferson, Ray Benson, Kacey Musgraves, Jason Boland, Whiskey Myers and Randy Rogers. “Living in a Minor Key” is a great country ballad that showcases Shooter’s ability to go from a heavy style to a much gentler approach. “Rhinestone Eyes” is my favorite song from this project. It has the infectious beat of the highway, and sounds like a song that Waylon would have recorded.

Do not get the wrong idea. More than likely, you will not hear this style on Shooter Jennings’ next project. He is comfortable making music that crosses the boundaries of musical genres. I admire Jennings’ tenacity in making his own way, and doing what he wants to do. I am glad that he wanted to do record a more straightforward country album. Give Shooter a listen today.

 

 

August 15, 2018

Mountain Heart is a group that has changed dramatically since it’s inception in 1998. They started out as a straight forward bluegrass band. They quickly showed they were not afraid to tackle songs outside the genre, with an energy seldom matched in bluegrass music. Through the years the members have changed, as well as their style. In fact, with their previous album, Blue Skies, it was obvious that Mountain Heart would not be defined by any genre. The current lineup of Josh Shilling (piano, guitar), Aaron Ramsey (mandolin, bass), Seth Taylor (guitar), and Jeff Partin (dobro, bass) draw on their many influences to create a sound that is unique, but at the same time familiar. Bluegrass, blues, rock, and country sounds help to paint the pictures in each of the 11 songs featured on Mountain Heart’s new album, Soul Searching.
If you have ever heard Mountain Heart, you know the power of Josh Shillings vocals. That power is on display on songs like the New Orleans tinged “No Complaints” and the bluegrass flavored “You Can’t Hide a Broken Heart”. I have to mention that there are moments on this album, as well as Blue Skies, that remind me of Bruce Hornsby. I don’t know how big an influence he is on Josh Shilling, but, if I had to guess, I would say it was more than just a passing interest. The harmony singing on this album is superb on songs like “More Than I Am” and “Soul Searching”. Jeff Partin’s voice takes center stage on two beautiful songs, “Restless Wind” and “Stars”. Aaron Ramsey takes the lead on “Curly Headed Woman”, a syncopated bluegrass tune that features lead piano break by Shilling. “Amicalola Falls” is a wonderful instrumental that showcases the band’s talents. It is worth noting that Stuart Duncan, Kenny Malone, Ronnie Bowman, and Scott Vestall make appearances on Soul Searching.
It seems that Mountain Heart has been trying to discover themselves musically over the last few years. Building on all of their personal influences, and cutting their own path, It seems that they have truly found themselves, and are comfortable with what they have discovered. The name of the album, Soul Searching, could be referring to that period of discovery. Add to that the introspective lyrics on this album, and the album is perfectly named. This is an album that I will be listening time after time. Give Soul Searching a listen.

 

August 8, 2018

One of the most overlooked individuals in the history of bluegrass music is John Duffey. How can a man that has been inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame twice be overlooked? Sure the accolades are there, but when I discuss the greats in bluegrass music with the bluegrass pickers of today, John Duffey is rarely mentioned. Perhaps this Catch of the Week will direct people back to Duffey’s work with The Country Gentlemen and The Seldom Scene, and the impact that those groups had on bluegrass music.
Epilogue: a Tribute to John Duffey is a collection of recordings that spans nearly 20 years, and pays tribute to John Duffey. When I read that this album was compiled from recordings over that time frame I was concerned that it would sound disjointed. However, that is not the case. These 17 recordings fit together very well, and includes over 50 artists. Some of the highlights from the album includes, “Sad and Lonesome Day”. Randy Waller (son of the late Charlie Waller of The Country Gentlemen) and Lou Reid provide the two part harmony on this John Duffey classic. Dudley Connell, of The Seldom Scene, takes the lead on a wonderful rendition of “Lonesome River”. Sam Bush and Belá Fleck deliver on the instrumental “Sunrise”. Also, John Cowan’s version of “Some Old Day” is outstanding. We hear great harmonies on “Cold Wind a Blowin'” featuring Ronnie Bowman and David Parmley. No John Duffey tribute would be complete without “Bringing Mary Home”. John Starling evokes Duffey’s vocalization on the song that I think is one of the spookiest songs I have ever heard.
There is many other artists included on Epilogue: a Tribute to John Duffey, including Fred Travers, Tom Gray, Ronnie Simpkins, Ron Stewart, Jerry Douglas Amanda Smith, Jimmy Gaudreau, Bill Emerson, Eddie Adcock, and Don Rigsby, just to name a few. An interesting tidbit about this album is that John Duffey’s Gibson F-12 mandolin is played throughout the album. Sometimes tribute albums, although well intentioned, are not very good. Epilogue: a Tribute to John Duffey is an exception. There is loads of outstanding singing and playing on this loving tribute to John Duffey.

 

August 1, 2018

Cody Jinks has been one of the heroes of the modern day outlaws. He has been seen as a trailblazer in the world of the country music rebels. There is an ever increasing number of Nashville outsiders, and many have people like Cody Jinks to thank for banging the drum, and bringing attention to the alternate forms of country music. After releasing 7 independent albums, he has just released his first album on a major label, Rounder. The album is called Lifers, and includes 11 songs songs (Jinks had a hand in writing 9 of those songs) that will serve as a good introduction to people who are just finding out about Cody Jinks.
Some of the highlights of Lifers, include the opening track, “Holy Water”. It mentions turning down whiskey, and all the other things associated with hard living, to get a shot of holy water to fight personal demons. “Somewhere Between I Love You and I’m Leavin’ ” is a beautiful, yet sad, love song. “Colorado”, one of the three songs from the album that were co-written with Ward Davis, is full of memories, both good and bad, that are ever present. “Can’t Quit Enough” is a song about habits that you just can’t shake. It reminds me of a song that Waylon Jennings could have recorded. I think that “Head Case” is one of the most interesting, and best songs of Cody Jinks career. It is written in a stream of consciousness style. That is not an easy style to pull off in songwriting, but Jinks does it with ease.
If you are just discovering Cody Jinks through this review, listen to Lifers. Then, go back and listen to his previous albums, especially I’m Not the Devil, Less Wise and 30. There is an authenticity in all of those recordings that makes Cody Jinks stand out from many of the other musical rebels. There are some artists that find themselves outside of Nashville that are trying to hard to convince everyone that they are outlaws. Cody Jinks does not have to convince anyone of where he is coming from. It is evident in all of his albums, including Lifers. Give it a listen today.

 

July 25, 2018

Lori McKenna is well known, and respected, as a songwriter. She has written hit songs for many artists, becoming the first woman ever to win the CMA Song of the Year Award two years in a row (2015’s Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” and 2016’s Tim McGraw’s Humble and Kind” ). In 2017, McKenna also was the first female to be awarded the ACM Songwriter of the year. Although she has been recognized as one of the preeminent country music songwriters of our time, she is largely overlooked as performer. Her 2016 album, The Bird and The Rifle, was a breakthrough album, as it garnered three Grammy nominations. Lori McKenna has just released her tenth album, The Tree, and her songwriting and singing talents are on full display.
Some of the highlights on the album include, “A Mother Never Rests”. This song paints a vivid picture of the never ending to-do list in the life of a mother, with great lines like, “She only sits for a minute/She’s a hummingbird in the living room”. “You Can’t Break A Woman” is about a woman that is in a bad relationship, but is not looking for a way out. The album has several songs with that deal with aging. “Young and Angry Again” is about an older person wishing for younger days. “People Get Old” is about the cycle of life. Where your parents were when you were a child, is where you are now, and your parents have moved into another phase of life.

McKenna’s ability to tell stories with her writing makes The Tree a great album. It must be pointed out that with the wrong producer, this album would not be as impactful. Dave Cobb serves as the producer on The Tree, and shows again that he has an expert ability to highlight the talents of the artist he is working with. The focus is on the credibility of McKenna’s voice, and her ability to tell stories and sing songs that are relatable. I recommend giving The Tree a listen today.

 

July 18, 2018

This week we are highlighting Rough and Ready Heart, the new album from Blue Yonder. The Charleston, WV trio, made up of John Lily, Robert Shafer, and Will Carter, are veteran performers that mix have a sound that is a little country, jazz, and western swing. Add to that the vocal arrangements, which remind me of the harmonies heard in bluegrass and ’50’s and ’60’s country, and you have a recipe that is sure to please.
Rough and Ready Heart consists of 12 original songs. The lead vocals of John Lilly reminds me a bit of Peter Rowan. I think it’s the break in his voice. It is not a yodel, but in the same ballpark. The guitar work on this album has tinges of Roy Nichols . A couple of the tracks that stand out include, “Standing by the Side of the Road”. The song opens the album with a song that gives the feeling of being in the story as a traveling companion. The title track features great harmony singing, well placed steel guitar, and bending lead guitar licks that would make Merle Haggard proud.
Although their sound cannot be exactly pegged as one style or another, there is something so familiar about Blue Yonder. The songs are original, but you will promise you have heard them before. I don’t know if it is the subject matter of the songs, the vocal harmonies, or the lead guitar work that lends itself to the familiarity, but after giving them a listen, you will be singing along to their songs like you have always known them. Give Blue Yonder’s Rough and Ready Heart a listen today.

 

 

 

 

July 11, 2018

When I got word that The Boxcars were calling it quits, I was stunned. Then, I wondered what would become of the fine musicians that made up that group? Well, my question has been answered with the formation of a new group, The Highland Travelers. Now, before you get the wrong idea, this group is not just The Boxcars under a different name. Although some members of that group (Adam Steffery-mandolin and vocals, Keith Garrett-guitar and vocals, and Gary Hultman-dobro and vocals), are members of The Highland Travelers, this feeling of this album is different than The Boxcars. The Highland Travelers are rounded out by former members of Junior Sisk’s backing band, Ramblers Choice (Jason Davis-banjo, and Kameron Keller-bass and vocals). The Highland Travelers have released a self titled project, the band’s first album.
There are 11 total tracks on The Highland Travelers debut album. Some of the highlights include, “Kentucky Gambler”, a #1 song for Merle Haggard, that was penned by Dolly Parton. Merle Haggard’s songs are often covered by bluegrass bands, and this is another dandy from that category. The Roger Miller and Faron Young song “World So Full of Love” is sprinkled with bluegrass juice, making the song a bit more up tempo than the original. However, the feeling of the song is still there. “The Little Tennessee” is a great story song that deals with damming of the river by the TVA. It is one of the strongest songs on the album, as evident by it’s chart success when it was released as the first single from the album. Nobody does a dark, sad bluegrass song than Adam Steffey. He showcases his singing talent on “The Girl That Loved Me”. Add that to a long list of Steffey classics. The Highland Travelers stretch their musical muscles on the Jason Davis composition “Poplar Knob”. Don’t listen to this while driving down the road, or you just might get a ticket.

Although it is classified as bluegrass in genre, the self titled album from The Highland Travelers has a lot of country feeling. It has enough of that feeling to satisfy traditional country music fans that do not generally listen to bluegrass, and definitely enough grass to please hard core bluegrass fans. I recommend giving a listen to The Highland Travelers.

 

 

July 4, 2018

This week we look at an earlier review from this year, Caitlyn Smith’s Starfire, originally published on January 31, 2018

*************************************

This week we have another artist that has gone the route of releasing an EP, testing the waters, then releasing a full album that includes material from the previous EP. This formula seems to work very well for other artists, like William Michael Morgan and Ned LeDoux. This time it is singer-songwriter Caitlyn Smith that has followed that pattern. Smith is a successful songwriter, having had her songs recorded by country artists Garth Brooks, Rascal Flatts, and Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton. She also wrote “Like I’m Gonna Lose You”, which was a number one song on the Adult Top 40 chart for Meghan Trainor featuring John Legend. Although her writing skills have been known, and appreciated for many years, it is amazing that we are just now hearing her vocal prowess. Her first album, Starfire, showcases all of her talents.
Caitlyn Smith is able to tell a story through her songs that you do not have in most modern country music. There are always exceptions, and I will not list them here because you know who they are. Smith is able to paint a picture with songs like “This Town is Killing Me”, “East Side Restaurant”, and “Scenes From a Corner Booth at Closing Time on a Tuesday”. You may recognize “Tacoma” from Garth Brooks album ‘Man Against Machine’. Those are just a few of the highlights from Starfire, however, every song on the album is outstanding.
I have to mention the production quality of this album. It feels like each song has some space to breathe. It is not a solid brick of noise, like most modern albums. You can hear the individual instruments, and the vocals are not lost in the mix. Starfire is solidly in the pop country side of the genre. You may be wondering why I am praising this type of album when it is obvious that I am a fan of traditional country sounds. The reality is that I fancy a well written song that is expertly performed. That is exactly what you have with Starfire.

 

 

 

June 27, 2018

Red Dirt musical act Jason Boland and The Stragglers have been making music since 1998, releasing 8 albums. They have burned up the roads in support of their music, and have a loyal fan base. Jason Boland and The Stragglers have just released their ninth album, Hard Times Are Relative. If you have to categorize this album, it would have to be a traditional country album. What I mean by that is the album is full of steel guitar, fiddles, and lots of storytelling.
Some of the highlights from Hard Times are Relative include, “I Don’t Deserve You” (w/Sunny Sweeny). It is a great way to start the album, with Boland and Sweeney interweaving their voices on this toe tapper. The title track is an example of storytelling that is missing in today’s modern offerings. “Right Where I Began” name drops various brands of alcohol, and country singers to set the mood of a man spending  time with his “friends”. “Do You Remember When” wish for the way a town used to be, when it had character, instead of being sterile, and just like every other town. One of my favorite songs on the album is “Going, Going, Gone”. It is a clever song, using phrases about the game of baseball to paint of picture of a situation outside of America’s pastime  .
For a 20 year veteran of the Red Dirt music scene, Jason Boland is still recording great songs. The great thing about Red Dirt music is that the only people the artist has to answer to is the fans. No record label executive is able to squelch the artist’s interpretation of the songs. Having that sort of free environment, we have seen Jason Boland and The Stragglers grow and change at their own pace. If you are looking for a change of pace from the cookie cutter sounds that Nashville produces these days, give Jason Boland and The Stragglers’ Hard Time Are Relative a listen.

 

June 20, 2018

As country music has expanded in recent years to include new sounds and influences, many fans of a particular style congregate with like minded people: modern country in one corner, and traditionalist in another. Because the styles are so disperate, it can be hard, though not impossible, to find a middle ground. Today’s selection is definitely on the traditional side. Joshua Hedley’s Mr. Jukebox is directly from the country music sounds of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
Joshua Hedley has been performing for many years, primarily as a side man, backing other artists. However, Mr. Jukebox, from Thrid Man Records, finds Hedley out front, and performing in a classic country style that is a welcome change of pace compared to today’s modern sounds. Not only does his voice have a great tone, his phrasing is directly from a bygone era. The musical arrangements are also from that same era. I would like to point out that unlike many artists who pay tribute to a style or era of music from yesteryear while adding modern twists, Hedley puts himself in the middle of an older Nashville sound, and thrives there. The album features new, original songs that you swear were from the pen of Willie Nelson, or the catalog of Ray Price.
If you are looking for something to cleanse the musical palate, I recommend giving Joshua Hedley’s Mr. Jukebox a listen. Although he is extremely talented, one cannot tell if Hedley’s recording and performing an older style will further his career. I believe there are enough people that are fans of the sound provided with Mr. Jukebox, including me, Joshua Hedley will find, and keep an audience.

 

 

June 13, 2018

 

 

If you have heard The Del McCoury Band, then, basically, you have heard The Travelin’ McCourys. Well, almost all of them. The Travelin’ McCourys are basically the backing band of Del McCory, plus one. Del’s sons Ronnie (mandolin), Rob (banjo), Jason Carter (fiddle), Alan Bartram (bass) are all members of The Del McCoury Band. Guitarist Cody Kilby, formerly of Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, rounds out the Travelin McCourys’ lineup. The group started at the behest of Del, as a contingency plan in case something should happen to him. That was 10 years ago. Del is still performing, and The Travelin’ McCourys have been travelin’ and playin’ ever since, too. Their new, self titled album shows how The Travelin’ McCourys have continued to stay grounded in their bluegrass roots, while exploring, and recording songs by artists outside of the genre.
The album includes “Let Her Go”, a pop hit from British artist Passenger. Their take on this song makes it seem as if the song was always meant to be a bluegrass tune. The McCourys also tackle Waylon Jennings’ “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean”. It also works well as a bluegrass song, with Jason Carter taking the lead vocals. Another cover on the album is Nick Lowe’s “I Live On A Battlefield”. Again, the McCourys take a song from outside the bluegrass genre, and make it sound like a standard. “Natural To Be Gone” is a cover of a bluegrass song from the catalog of John Hartford. They stay true to the original recording, adding the harmony vocalization made famous by the McCourys. With The Del McCoury Band being veterans of Bonnaroo, and other music festivals, it is not a surprise that The Travelin’ McCourys tackle two Grateful Dead songs, “Cumberland Blues” and “Loser”. It is cool to hear the sound of The Dead mixed with The McCourys. I believe Jerry Garcia would be proud. They take on Doc and Merle Watson’s “Southbound” with a Watson-like accuracy. However, the album is not all cover songs. Ronnie wrote or co-wrote three songs for the album: “The Days I Wish I Had” (with the Gibson Brothers), “Freedom Blues” (with Mountain Heart’s Josh Shilling), and “Crowhop”, an instrumental (written by McCoury).
The Travelin’ McCourys new album reaffirms that they are a force to be reckoned with. They are rooted in bluegrass, but are not afraid to explore music from outside sources. After having many great guitarist fill in on their gigs for years, adding Cody Kilby has cemented their sound. This is a phenomenal album, and I will continue to play this album for a long time to come.

 

 

June 6, 2018

We are just shy of half way mark of the year. I thought it was time to take a look back at my favorite 2018 Catches of the Week, thus far. These are listed in order in which they were reviewed. The full reviews can be seen further down on this page.

 

Mary Gauthier-Rifles and Rosary Beads (February 7, 2017)

Mary Gauthier is one of the preeminent song writers of our times. Each song tells the story of someone touched by war, whether the veterans, or their families. Rifles and Rosary Beads gives voice to the veterans, and reminds us that sometimes just a pat on the back and a word of thanks for their service, although appreciated, is not enough medicine to treat those wounds that sometimes never heal. God bless America, and God help the veterans, and their families, that lived through hell on earth, so we can enjoy our milk and honey.

 

Kim Richey-Edgeland (April 4, 2018)

In her first album since 2013, singer-songwriter Kim Richey is back in the strongest way possible, showcasing her expert songwriting and singing. She has always seemed to be on the outside of Nashville. With Richey being on the fringes of the Nashville scene, it is appropriate that the album is titled Edgeland. Maybe that is a good thing. It allows us to be blessed with great songwriting that is not whittled down to fit the mold of Top 40 Country radio.

 

 

John Prine-The Tree of Forgiveness (April 18, 2018)

This is Prine’s first album of original material in over a decade, and it finds him a bit older, but still making high quality, poetic songs. As a person gets older, they spend a lot of their time reflecting on what has already happened, and pondering death. For many, those thoughts can be filled with regret and fear, but John Prine seems to handle it with a bit of humor, no grudges, and just rolls with life’s punches.

 

 

Ashley Monroe-Sparrow (April 25, 2018)


Ashley Monroe has released another gem in her latest album, Sparrow. She is able to combine country, folk, and pop effortlessly, and create music that is truly her own. With the success of The Blade, and the early positive reviews for Sparrow, Ashley Monroe has cemented her place as one of country music’s premier singer-songwriters.

 

 

Brent Cobb-Providence Canyon (May 16, 2018)

Providence Canyon is a great album for many reasons. The writing is outstanding. Add to that Brent Cobb’s vocal delivery, which is never in a hurry, paired with the powerful, gritty background vocals of Kristen Rogers, and you already have the makings of a outstanding album. Include the expert instrumentation, along with the genius of producer Dave Cobb, and you have one of the most enjoyable albums of the year.

 

Gretchen Peters-Dancing With the Beast (May 23, 2018)

Songwriter Hall of Famer Gretchen Peters follows up her critically acclaimed, award winning 2015 album, Blackbirds, with another stellar project, Dancing With the Beast. As with Peters’ previous albums, Dancing With the Beast is full to brim of outstanding storytelling. I will be listening to this album for a long time, but I know not much time will pass until all of Gretchen Peters’ fans will be clamoring for more songs from her magic pen.

 

May 30, 2018

Del McCoury is one of the most respected, and recognizable figures in bluegrass music. The 77-year old singer’s list of accomplishments warrant the praise he receives. He was a member of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, he has recorded with a plethora of artists, including Doc Watson, Mac Wiseman, and Steve Earle. McCoury has recorded more than 30 albums, is a member of the Grand Ole Opry and the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame, and has won multiple Grammy and IBMA awards. His first solo album was 1968’s Del McCoury Sings Bluegrass. McCoury’s latest album’s title, Del McCoury Still Sings Bluegrass, is a tip of the hat to that earlier album.
As with any Del McCoury album, there is a wide variety of subjects covered: love (discovering and losing), murder, and God. Some of the highlights of Del McCoury Still Sings Bluegrass includes the album’s opening track, “Hot Wired”. Written by Shawn Camp, “Hot Wired” is delivered in a style that only Del can deliver, and really accentuates the lyrics of this unique, funny song. “Bottom Dollar” sends a chill down my spine. Del lays out the loneliness of the central character of this song so thick that you can wear it like a coat. Del covers Jerry Lee Lewis’ “To Make Love Sweeter for You”. Mountain Heart’s Josh Shilling tickles the ivories to set the tone for the song, and it is a perfect pairing with The Del McCoury Band. Del McCoury also covers Carlene Carter’s “I Fell In Love”. I do not know why, but I had never considered this song being recorded by a bluegrass band. However, it works so well that, if you did not know any better, you would think it was written as a bluegrass song.
Del McCoury Still Sings Bluegrass contains 14 songs, and each one is a perfect fit for Del. Add to Del’s voice the outstanding musicianship of Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), Rob McCoury (banjo), Jason Carter (fiddle), and Alan Bartram (bass), and you have a memorable project in an extensive catalog of Del McCoury albums. Give Del McCoury Still Sings Bluegrass a listen. Not only is Del still singing bluegrass, but you will be searching for a harmony part and singing along.

 

May 23, 2018

Gretchen Peters is one of great songwriters of our times. Her songs have been recorded by the likes of country artists George Strait (“Chill of an Early Fall”), Pam Tillis (“Let That Pony Run”), Patty Loveless (“You Don’t Even Know Who I Am”), and Martina McBride (“Independence Day”). Peters is known outside of country music, with her compositions being recorded by Bonnie Raitt, Etta James and Neil Diamond. Her talents have led to her becoming a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Peters’ award winning 2015 album, Blackbirds, received critical acclaim, and had fans eagerly wanting more tunes from her pen. Her fans have to wait no longer. Gretchen Peters’ new album, Dancing With the Beast, has been released.
As with Peters’ previous albums, Dancing With the Beast is full to brim of outstanding storytelling. Here are my thoughts on some of the songs from the album. “Arguing With Ghosts” starts off the project with great lines, like ‘the years go by like days/sometimes the days go by like years/and I don’t know which one I hate the most’. Like all the songs on this album, I can picture in my mind the story the lyrics tell. “Witchita” is a chilling tale of a young lady with some sort of malady, in a situations nobody should have to deal with, that makes a definitive stand against a predator. “The Boy From Rye” is a song that captures the feeling of doubt and changes that creeps into a young woman’s life when the competition begins in order to gain a boy’s attention. “Disappearing Act” is a song that even the most optimistic person can identify with. Everyone has had the thought that everything they do is for naught. It will all disappear one day, so what is the point. “Lowlands” is not only an excellent song, it is proof to every so called songwriting guru that songs do not have to have two verses, a chorus, verse, bridge, and chorus. There is no chorus in “Lowlands”. Take note, and heart, songwriters. “The Show” has one of my favorite opening lines of any song I have ever heard, ‘freight train plays a major 7th chord’. “Truck Stop Angel” is a song about a prostitute who finds herself surviving in a dangerous place, but hopes for an escape, either by the highway or by way of the hereafter. “Say Grace” is a thought provoking song, painting a picture of the downtrodden and disadvantaged, and how we treat them. “Love Makes a Cup of Tea” closes the album. According to Peters’ website, she wrote the song after having a dream about her mother, who passed away in 2016. In the dream, her mother reassuringly said , “You know, honey, there is love that makes a cup of tea,” and that is the seed of this beautiful, and hopeful song.
I must take a moment to mention the personnel that contributed to Dancing With the Beast: Barry Walsh (piano, Wurlitzer, Fender Rhodes, pump organ, background vocals), Dave Roe (bass), Doug Lancio (synth, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, banjo, drum program, 10 string guitar, pump organ, background vocals), Will Kimbrough (electric guitar, mandola, charango), John Gardner ( drums and percussion), Jerry Douglas (dobro), and background vocals from Lisa Oliver-Gray, Matthew Ryan, and Kim Richey. It is worth mentioning these instrumentalists and vocalist because their performances help promote the mood of Peters’ songs perfectly. I will be listening to this album for a long time, but I know not much time will pass until all of Gretchen Peters’ fans will be clamoring for more songs from her magic pen. If you are a fan of great storytelling in song, you must listen to Gretchen Peters’ Dancing With the Beast.

 

 

May 16, 2018

Georgia native Brent Cobb’s talents has been known to Nashville’s elite for a decade, writing songs for the likes of Little Big Town, Miranda Lambert, and Luke Bryan. His 2016 major label debut, Shine On Rainy Day, put not only his songwriting talents, but also his singing skills, on display to a wider audience. Since that album was released, Cobb has opened for artists such as Blake Shelton, and he will soon be on tour with Chris Stapleton. Shine On Rainy Day also received a nomination for Best Americana Album at the 2018 Grammy Awards. There has been much anticipation for Cobb’s follow up album, and It is now available.
Providence Canyon was recorded at the legendary RCA Studio A in Nashville with his cousin, award winning producer, Dave Cobb. If there is one thing we know about Dave Cobb’s production style, it is the fact that he allows the artist to shine through on the finished product, minus the unnecessary bells and whistles. That is exactly what you will find on Providence Canyon.
The album starts with a swirling steel guitar on the title track. The song talks about one of those almost perfect nights with friends that are so rare that it burns itself into your mind forever. “King of Alabama” has a groovy, swampy sound, and pays tribute to a personal music legend that has passed away. “Mornin’s Gonna Come” also has a swampy sound that is part Lynyrd Skynyrd, and part Jerry Reed, and gives the warning to not party too long. “Come Home Soon” is a laid back tune about being homesick. “Sucker For A Good Time” is a bluesy, slow stompper about a hard luck man that lets the pleasures of the world sets him back two steps for every step he takes forward. “High In The Country” is a beautiful song that has a sound that is reminiscent of the music of the 1970’s. “If I Don’t See Ya” is a southern rock style that lays down a rockin’ boogie that is sure to have you tapping your toes. “.30-06” is a funk filled song that warns a rounder to not mess with another man’s woman. “Lorene” is a gorgeous song that reminds us that some things can be left to tomorrow. Just take a break, and live for the moment. “When The Dust Settles” is bound to have everybody singing along, and tapping your fingers on the steering wheel while cruising down the road. “Ain’t A Road To Long” wrap up the album with rapid fire lyrics in the verses over a funky bass line, percussion grove, rockin’ guitars, and a soulful organ.

Providence Canyon is a great album for many reasons. The writing is outstanding. Add to that Brent Cobb’s vocal delivery, which is never in a hurry, paired with the powerful, gritty background vocals of Kristen Rogers, and you already have the makings of a outstanding album. Include the expert instrumentation, along with the genius of producer Dave Cobb, and you have one of the most enjoyable albums of the year. I highly recommend you give Providence Canyon a listen. If it does not get your toes tapping, and your head nodding to the music, you may want to check your pulse to see if you are still among the living.

 

May 9, 2018

This week I will review an album that is different than just about everything that is being recorded these days. The Roe Family Singers’ Songs of the Mountains, Song of the Plains,on Pinecastle Records,  steps back in time to the days of the early recordings on American music. Kim & Quillan Roe have been performing for over 15 years, and playing the songs that are the bedrock of folk, bluegrass, and country music. This album features many songs that I have heard, and sang, in elementary school music class. What is interesting about this project is that the Roe Family Singers are creating new songs in the style of early recorded American music. Their original songs sound as if they could have been recorded by The Carter Family.
Songs of the Mountains, Song of the Plains has a plethora of instruments that are not widely played anymore: autoharp, musical saw, washboard, jug and kazoo. Add that the guitar, banjo, fiddle, and bass, and you have a unique sound in today’s music marketplace. This project includes classic songs like “Pretty Fair Maid in the Garden”, “Ida Red” and “Ol’ Rattler”, as well as songs from A.P. Carter (“Dixie Darling” and “Sweet Fern”), Bill Monroe (“Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine”), Woody Guthrie (“This Land is Your Land”), and Albert Brumley’s “Rank Strangers”. As I mentioned earlier, The Roe Family Singers adds their own songs, written and performed in an older style, including “O Young Lovers”, “John the Messenger”, “Peter Tosh”, “I’m Falling For You”.
If you are looking for something different to add to your music collection, The Roe Family Singers’ Songs of the Mountains, Song of the Plains is an album you need to purchase. This is a great way to hear the songs that spurred on the explosion of American recorded music, and new songs performed in that style. I am a big fan of music history, and this is music history performed in the here and now. Give Songs of the Mountains, Song of the Plains a listen today.

 

May 2, 2018

One day Willie Nelson will stop touring and recording. That day is not here yet. Willie just turned 85, is still touring, and has released a new album, Last Man Standing. The title of the new project is an indicator of theme of the album. Many of the songs deal with the situation of being one of the last of a special breed of performer. However, there is not a lot of sadness in this album. In fact, there is a great deal of humor, and matter of fact lyrics.
Some of the stand out tracks on Last Man Standing include the title track. It name checks Willie’s friends that have already left us (Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, and Merle Haggard), and the lingering question of why are they gone, and he is still here with lyrics like, “they lived as fast as me”. “I’ll Try to do Better Next Time” revisits the subject of reincarnation that was heard on “Highwayman”. Willie says he has tried to love everybody , “So I’ll throw a kiss to the ones that I missed and I’ll try to do better next time.” “Me and You” addresses the divide that is prevalent in the U.S. “Bad Breath” is my favorite song on the album. Willie has included humorous songs in his recent albums, and this is one of the best. The hook “Bad breath is better than no breath at all,” seems like such a simple line that songwriters everywhere are wondering why they did not think of it.
When you have a huge catalog of iconic songs, it is hard to match earlier success. As I have said before, Willie’s albums from the latter part of his career stand on their own. His most recent offerings find Willie paired with producer and co-writer Buddy Cannon. Together, they have created songs, and recorded albums that find Willie comfortable with his age, and all that comes with it. The voice sounds older, the subject matter is from the perspective of a person reflecting on all of life’s experiences, but their is still a rebellious streak that will never go away. Here is hoping that Willie Nelson with be the last man standing for a long time to come.

 

April 25, 2018

Ashley Monroe is one of the most overlooked singer-songwriters in country music. Her lyrics set a mood that her voice delivers with a feeling that is largely lacking in what Nashville offers us. Her album The Blade, gained critical acclaim, but not much radio time. That project was evidence of how talented Ashley Monroe is. She reminds us again on her latest album, Sparrow.
One of the most notable elements of Sparrow is the string arrangements. The strings add a depth to the already deep subject matter. Ashley Monroe wrote or co-wrote every song on the Sparrow, and with the help of producer Dave Cobb, they have created an album that finds Monroe exploring subjects that are absent in most of today’s mainstream country music. Some of the highlights of Sparrow include, “Orphan” addresses the struggles that orphaned children encounter, comparing them to sparrows that have been left to fend for themselves. “Mother’s Daughter” is a song about the fear of inheriting a parent’s bad habits and lifestyle. “Hands on You” is a sultry song about longing for unfulfilled desires. “Rita” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Many songs are left up the listener to interpret. That is the case with this song. There is no way to understand the back story, but there is a longing in this song that cannot be missed. “Daddy I Told You” looks back at promises made by a child to their father, and is a kind of report card from a child that has grown up.
Ashley Monroe has released another gem in her latest album, Sparrow. She is able to combine country, folk, and pop effortlessly, and create music that is truly her own. There are only a few other current artists that can match that effort (Lee Ann Womack and Kacey Musgraves). With the success of The Blade, and the early positive reviews for Sparrow, Ashley Monroe has cemented her place as one of country music’s premier singer-songwriters.

 

April 18, 2018

Since releasing his self titled debut album in 1971, John Prine has been heralded as one of the great songwriter-poets in modern American history. His lyrics vary from the funny, to direct to the heart serious, with a voice that has an ever present, mischievous smile. He has been through some health scares over the years ( lung cancer and squamous cell cancer), that left his voice with a lower pitch, and a bit gravely. However, he has continued to record and tour. His latest album, The Tree of Forgiveness, is his first album of original material in over a decade, and it finds Prine a bit older, but still making high quality, poetic songs.
I love all the songs on The Tree of Forgiveness. Each one is pure John Prine, but I wanted to mention a few of the songs that stood out. “Egg & Daughter Nite, Lincoln Nebraska, 1967 (Crazy Bone)” is a look back at the good ole days. Some people when they think about the days gone by become sad, wishing things were the way the used to be. There is some of that in this song, but it is more of a happy ramble through the memories. “When I Get to Heaven” finds Prine making plans for the afterlife as only he can, including opening a nightclub, and smoking a cigarette “nine miles long”. One of the more dark songs on the album is “Caravan of Fools”. It warns to be careful of the company you keep. “Summer’s End” is a beautiful song that is about forgiveness. The song never addresses the story behind the plea to “come on home”.
It is worth mentioning that Dave Cobb is the producer of The Tree of Forgiveness. Again, he gets out of the way, and lets the artists showcase their talents. It is also worth noting that Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires and Brandi Carlile add background vocals on the album. As a person gets older, they spend a lot of their time reflecting on what has already happened, and pondering death. For many, those thoughts can be filled with regret and fear, but John Prine seems to handle it with a bit of humor, no grudges, and just rolls with life’s punches. I recommend giving John Prine’s The Tree of Forgiveness a listen.

 

April 11, 2018

Ned Hill is no stranger to the music industry. Along with his band, Ned Van Go, Hill has spent 15 years performing and recording. Now he has decided to take a run at a solo project. The sound on Six Feet Above Ground, is not totally different than previous albums from his band. Some of the harder edges are removed, and Hill’s singing and songwriting is on display.
Some of the highlights of Six Feet Above Ground include the opening track, “Half Alive”, complete with complimentary acoustic and electric guitar licks, laid back percussion, and strings. It talks about the feeling of trying to continue living after splitting with someone that, at the risk of sounding cliche, made you whole. “Detroit City (You’re One Tough Town)” is a tribute to the Motor City, and the hard knocks that it has gone through. “Revival” is a rollicking song that references many familiar Bible stories, and might make you want to shout. “Street of My Hometown” is an ode the small town American life that has died in many places across the U.S.
One of the things I like about Six Feet Above Ground, is that there is no attempt to polish Ned Hill. You get his gritty voice with no bells and whistles, or studio tricks added. It is real. As real as his lyrics. I am a huge fan of producers highlighting an artist’s talent, and getting out of the way. Big kuddos to producer for Dave Coleman for doing just that. I encourage you to not only listen to Six Feet Above Ground, but delve into the albums of his band, Ned Van Go. My Catch of the Week is Ned Hill’s Six Feet Above Ground.

 

 

 

April 4, 2018

 

 

Kim Richey is a name you may have heard of, but you may not know much about her. The singer-songwriter has had success penning songs for Radney Foster and Trisha Yearwood. However, she has not found the success she deserves as a performer. Her latest album, Edgeland, is an example of Richey’s talent. In her first album since 2013, Richey is back in the strongest way possible, showcasing her expert songwriting and singing.
Some of the highlights of the album include, “Red Line”, a song missing a train, and instead of watching “the world go by” from the window of a train, observing it pass from the train station. Also, “Chase Wild Horses”, a song about a glimpse back at the reckless abandon that comes with youth. Another outstanding song on this project is “Pin a Rose”, a song about a bad, perhaps abusive, relationship. “Dear John” is about a man that works on a boat on the Ohio River, and his attempt to avoid reading a Dear John letter. “Not for Money or Love” is a haunting song written from the point of view of a person’s soul that died before they had time to realize the joys of raising a family and old age.
It is good to have a new album from Kim Richey. She has always seemed to be on the outside of Nashville. With Richey being on the fringes of the Nashville scene, it is appropriate that the album is titled Edgeland. Maybe that is a good thing. It allows us to be blessed with great songwriting that is not whittled down to fit the mold of Top 40 Country radio. Give Kim Richey’s Edgeland a listen today.

 

 

March 28, 2018

If you are a fan of Emmylou Harris or Linda Rondstadt, then you will love the music of Courtney Marie Andrews. At times, her voice reminds me of each of those artists, in both her delivery and timbre. Her latest album, May Your Kindness Remain, puts Andrews’ voice at center stage. Even if she were just humming, the record would be worth a listen. Add her great songwriting talent to those vocals, and you have a project that is worth buying. Maybe buy two copies, and give a copy to friend.

Some of the albums highlights includes”Two Cold Nights in Buffalo” paints a picture that is so clear that you can feel the coldness and loss in the air. “May Your Kindness Remain” starts with Andrews’ soft, but powerful voice sliding from one phrase to another with a slight, almost yodel. Particularly on this song, her vocals remind me of those of Linda Rondstadt. “Rough Around the Edges” is a lament of someone who has lived a lot in her time, and it has made her a bit more cynical about life. “Border” sings the plight of those seeking a better life in the U.S. It is a current topic of conversation, but not a new one. This could be about immigrants at any time in American history. The song is a reminder that there are people, not just numbers in a news story, involved in this conversation. “Kindness of a Stranger” is a beautiful song, with a perfect balance between the lead and background vocals, piano, organ, and guitar. “I’ve Hurt Worse” is wonderfully sarcastic song about the things some people put up with from the one they love. “Long Road Back to You” is a great way to close out the album. This song about a journey has an almost gospel feel with the piano and background vocals, adding a reverent soulfulness.

Courtney Marie Andrews’ songs are just not well crafted, they are storytelling at it’s best. Although the 27 year old singer-songwriter has been performing and recording for many years, this is the first time most of us have heard of her. Man, what a way greet the music listening public. With her vocals and lyrics taking the listener up, down and through familiar emotions and situations, Andrews’ gift in connecting with her audience should make her a success for many years to come. May Your Kindness Remain is a Catch of the Week that you are going to want to hang on to for a long time.

 

 

March 21, 2018

The Oak Ridge Boys have nothing left to prove. With over 50 years of singing professional under the belts, they could sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor. However, The Oaks are still going strong, performing a vigorous schedule of concerts across the country. In addition, they are still recording as well. On their latest recording, 17th Avenue Revival , The Oak Ridge Boys go back their gospel roots to deliver an outstanding album.
17th Avenue Revival , produced by Dave Cobb, starts with the traditional southern gospel sounds of “Brand New Star” . It is sure to get your toes tapping. The piano glides through “There Will Be Light” and brings to mind the southern gospel sounds of the 50’s and 60’s. “God’s Got It” is a classic quartet vocal style of southern gospel groups like The Statesmen, which drew heavily on black gospel arrangements, and features Joe Bonsall’s energetic lead vocals. Then, The Oaks then present a beautiful rendition of the George Bev Shea classic “I’d Rather Have Jesus”. Fans of the bass singing of Richard Sterban will love “Walk In Jerusalem”. I have heard “Where He Lead Me I Will Follow” many times over the years as a song on invitation of a church service, and The Oak Ridge Boys deliver as moving a version of this song as I have ever heard. “Pray to Jesus” is a funny song that has the musical feel of 1950’s rock and roll. They do a soulful version of “If I Die”, and close the album with a slow starting, then rollicking “Let It Shine On Me”.
The Oak Ridge Boys have their roots in gospel music. Even when The Oaks became a country act, much of their success can be attributed to the gospel, four part harmony from their earlier career. If you are a fan of The Oak Ridge Boys, you will love 17th Avenue Revival . If you are fan of gospel music, this is an album you need to give a listen. 17th Avenue Revival is proof that The Oak Ridge Boys are still going strong. Hallelujah, and God Bless The Oak Ridge Boys!

 

March 14, 2018

Dave Adkins has one of the most recognizable voices in bluegrass music. His powerful, slightly raspy pipes can be picked out without any prior knowledge of who the artist is, whether on recordings with Adkins & Loudermilk, The Dave Adkins Trio, or on his latest solo project, Right or Wrong. The Kentucky native has found success with songs like “Pike County Jail”, which led to Adkins being featured on bluegrass festivals across the country. You can add Right or Wrong to his growing resume of bluegrass victories.
There are ten tracks on this new album, and , in addition to Adkins, features an outstanding lineup of musicians, including Adam Steffey (mandolin), Terry Baucom (banjo), Justin Moses (fiddle and resonator guitar), Mitchell Brown (bass), Kyle Leapard (guitar), Tim Crouch (fiddle). The one thing that is consistent with a Dave Adkins project is the variety of songs that he includes. Right or Wrong is no exception. You will find hard driving tunes like “Blue Blue Rain”, and gospel songs, such as his take on MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine”. The first single from the album, “Blood Fued (Hatfields and McCoys)”, co-written with, and featuring veteran singer-songwriter Larry Cordle, has already moved to the top of the charts. The song is based on the real life story of one of the most famous fueds in U.S. history. “Goodbye Caroline” is an outstanding slow tempo, tune about leaving home, and the uncertanity that comes with change. “Him and West Virginia” is a great song about a lady that leaves behind her love to chase her dreams. “Cold in the Ground” starts out slow, then kicks into high gear, and tells about a man trying to outrun his troubles, but with little success.
Every time Dave Adkins sings, he delivers a certain soulfulness that cannot be faked. His voice delivers an emotion that gets right down to the heart of each song. With the success of the first single, “Blood Fued (Hatfields and McCoys)” Adkins has cemented his name among the best singers in bluegrass today. The rest of the songs on this project are a good reminder, as well. Give Right or Wrong a listen today.

 

 

March 7, 2018

There is not much more that needs to be said that has not already been uttered about the greatness and importance of Doc Watson. In his life, the North Carolina born, guitar picking legend made many memorable albums, and I have a great number of them. When he passed away in 2012, he left us with a catalog of more than 50 studio albums, plus several compilations. You can now add a new album to that long list of recordings with the release of Live at Club 47.
Live at Club 47 was recorded in 1963 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and features Doc Watson in top form as a solo artists near the beginning of his career. Another album, Doc Watson at Gerdes Folk City, released in 2001, featuring live recordings from 1962 and 1963, is similar to Live at Club 47. However, in addition to featuring many songs that became part of Doc’s repertoire for many years, Live at Club 47 features a lot more of Doc talking to the audience between, and during, the songs. For those that never got to see him in concert, this new album gives a more complete idea of what it was like to see a concert featuring Doc.
The album finds Watson not only famously picking fiddle tunes and old time music on his guitar, but also playing harmonica, banjo, and autoharp. He covers songs by the Carter Family, Merle Travis, the Delmore Brothers, Pete Seeger, as well as spiritual and folk songs that are synonymous with the folk music revival of the 1960’s: “Deep River Blues”, “Wabash Cannonball”, “Billy In The Lowground”, “Little Margaret”, “I Am a Pilgrim”, and “Black Mountain Rag”.
There are no highlights on the album. Rather, the entire album is the highlight. The best way to listen to the album is straight through, as if you were a member of the audience at Club 47 in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1963. It does my heart good to hear the newly released, old recordings from Doc Watson. If you are a fan of Doc’s, I feel sure that Live at Club 47 will bring a smile to your face, and set your toes to tapping.

 

February 28, 2018

Singer-songwriter Caleb Caudle is a music veteran, with his latest album, Crushed Coins, being his eight project. Before we talk about the new album, let me recommend listening to his previous releases. He is a great songwriter and performer. The new album finds Caudle’s talents on display. His expert songwriting, and straightforward vocal delivery is framed by perfectly selected instrumental placement, especially the steel guitar and strings.
Some of the highlights on the album includes, “Headlights”, a song about the disappointment that sometimes happens when a dream is realized. “Empty Arms” is about a relationship between a performer on tour and the one he loves at home. It is a mixture of country, distorted guitar, organ, and piano. The organ sometimes has the vibe of The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever”. “Stack of Tomorrows” is about putting in the work now, so you can spend the future with his better half. “Six Feet From the Flowers” is a beautiful, but sad song about trying to carry on after the death of a loved one. “Love That’s Wild” is a love song that strips away all the fairy tale elements that are sometimes associated with life and love songs. However, at it’s essence, love is still a magical, almost explainable thing. You know if you have it, or have lost it.
I recommend checking our Caleb Caudle’s Crushed Coins. His ability to craft songs, and present them is true art. His voice cuts through the recordings with a delivery that demands you sit up and listen because what he is singing is important. Add to the outstanding storytelling, the expert arrangements and instrumentation make Crushed Coins a definite must listen album.

 

February 21, 2018

This week we revisit Lee Roy Parnell’s 2017 release, Midnight Believer. If you grew up during the 1990’s, as I did, you may be familiar with Lee Roy Parnell. The Texas born and raised singer, guitarist, and songwriter hit the country charts with songs like “What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am”, “Tender Moment” , and “A Little Bit of You”. He was one of my favorite artists from that era, as much for his singing as his guitar playing. continued to record and tour into the 2000’s. Parnell has now released Midnight Believer, his first album since 2006, and it is evident that he is still going strong.
As with most of Parnell’s previous work, many musical styles are included: blues, country, soul, and gospel. From the soulful “Too Far Gone” to the bluesy “Hours in Between”, from the country tinged “Pontchartrain” to the slow and beautiful “Sunny Days” (complete with a guest appearance from The Fairfield Four), your ears will experience one of the great mixing of musical styles released this year. There are a total of ten songs on this album, and each one is as enjoyable as another.
It is good to see Lee Roy Parnell releasing new music for the first time in over a decade. For our younger listeners, I encourage you to check out not only Parnell’s latest project Midnight Believer, but also his earlier work. He is one of the most talented, underrated, and underappreciated artist of our times. If you doubt what I am telling you, take a listen, and you will soon be a believer.

 

February 14, 2018

Volume Five is a group that has been that I have been aware of for many years. It seems that the rest of the world has just recently become aware of this collection of talented musicians and singers. Last year they were given two awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA): Emerging Artist of the Year and Song of the Year Award for “I Am A Drifter” written by Donna Ulisse and Marc Rossi. Volume Five’s members are Glen Harrell (lead vocals and fiddle), Colby Laney (guitar and vocals), Patton Wages (banjo and vocals), Chris Williamson (bass and vocals), and Jacob Burleson (mandolin and vocals). Volume Five have released great albums over the years, including Voices and Drifter. Their latest, Milestones, may be there best album to date.
Milestones is full of great songs. Some that stand out to me include the lead single from the album, “Now That’s a Song”, a tune that notes the things in life that are sometimes overlooked, but are the makings of a good song. “Haley” is a powerful song. I can feel the emotions of the narrator of the song. The song tells a story without many details. In fact, there are some gaping holes in the story. I think that is what makes this song so strong. The listener can fill in the blanks, and draw their own conclusions. “The Lamb, The Lion, and The King” is a cover of from The Crabb Family’s catalog. For years, I have thought this song needs a bluegrass treatment. What a great job by Volume Five on this modern southern gospel classic. “Looks Like Losing You” is a classic, well written song about a lost love. “North Dakota” is the tale of a man trying to make a living for his family in North Dakota, and feeling that his better half deserves better than what they have. “Lonesome Cry of the Whipporwill” is a lonesome bluegrass tune that will be a favorite of traditionalist. Volume Five even covers a CCR song, “Looking Out My Back Door”, and they do a fine job with the tune.
Although I like all of their previous efforts, Milestones is my favorite Volume Five album. It is their most complete album, and much like Voices and Drifter, it has the Volume Five sound. The vocals, instruments, and song selection all aid their signature sound. I encourage you to listen to Volume Five’s Milestones today.

 

 

February 7, 2018

Mary Gauthier is one of the preeminent song writers of our times. She is able to tell stories that are rooted in her own experiences, no matter how painful they can sometimes be. On her new project, Rifles and Rosary Beads, she has combined her talents with the stories of military veterans and their families. The album came about through work with the group SongwritingWith:Soldiers, a non profit group started in 2011 that puts soldiers with professional songwriters together to put their stories to music, and to help with the struggles of having served, and trying to return to their everyday lives stateside.
At this point in my review I usually point out some of my favorite songs of album. This time I will not do that. Each of these songs should be listened to, and listened to again. Each song tells the story of someone touched by war, whether the veterans or their families. It would be an injustice for me to point you to one song because I feel it could be distracting you from all the stories, each one important, that are being told. Again, listen to Rifles and Rosary Beads, and listen to it again.
Each song on Rifles and Rosary Beads, gives a glimpse into the weight that U.S. veterans and their families carry each day, sometimes for years. A recent study shows that more than 7,400 current and former members of the U.S. armed forces meet their demise at their own hands. Rifles and Rosary Beads gives voice to the veterans, and reminds us that sometimes just a pat on the back and a word of thanks for their service, although appreciated, is not enough medicine to treat those wounds that sometimes never heal. God bless Ameica, and God help the veterans, and their families, that lived through hell on earth, so we can enjoy our milk and honey.

 

January 31, 2018

 

This week we have another artist that has gone the route of releasing an EP, testing the waters, then releasing a full album that includes material from the previous EP. This formula seems to work very well for other artists, like William Michael Morgan and Ned LeDoux. This time it is singer-songwriter Caitlyn Smith that has followed that pattern. Smith is a successful songwriter, having had her songs recorded by country artists Garth Brooks, Rascal Flatts, and Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton. She also wrote “Like I’m Gonna Lose You”, which was a number one song on the Adult Top 40 chart for Meghan Trainor featuring John Legend. Although her writing skills have been known, and appreciated for many years, it is amazing that we are just now hearing her vocal prowess. Her first album, Starfire, showcases all of her talents.
Caitlyn Smith is able to tell a story through her songs that you do not have in most modern country music. There are always exceptions, and I will not list them here because you know who they are. Smith is able to paint a picture with songs like “This Town is Killing Me”, “East Side Restaurant”, and “Scenes From a Corner Booth at Closing Time on a Tuesday”. You may recognize “Tacoma” from Garth Brooks album ‘Man Against Machine’. Those are just a few of the highlights from Starfire, however, every song on the album is outstanding.
I have to mention the production quality of this album. It feels like each song has some space to breathe. It is not a solid brick of noise, like most modern albums. You can hear the individual instruments, and the vocals are not lost in the mix. Starfire is solidly in the pop country side of the genre. You may be wondering why I am praising this type of album when it is obvious that I am a fan of traditional country sounds. The reality is that I fancy a well written song that is expertly performed. That is exactly what you have with Starfire.

 

 

 

January 24, 2018

 

 

 

I try to keep up with the all of the new music releases in the world of country music, and neighboring genres. However, I am not an expert. Many times listeners will alert me to a new group or recording. Walker McGuire is one of the acts that I was told about by our listeners. Their song “Til Tomorrow” took off on my show, getting a great number of requests. That song is included on their new, self-titled EP.
The Walker McGuire EP consists of five songs. The aforementioned “Til Tomorrow” is very familiar with most listeners, as it has landed on the charts inside the Top 40. Other songs on this EP include “Lost”, song about the desire to remain young, but feeling lost without that special someone in your life. Also, “Mysteries of Life” is a great love song that ponders many of life’s unanswered question, such as the destination of  socks in the dryer , and, most importantly, how he ended up with the girl of his dreams. “Best Kinda Bad” is about a subject that has been a constant in music, movies and literature for many years; wanting to be with a person that you, and everybody else, knows is not good for you. “18 Forever” toasts the days of our youth, when young and dumb described just about everything you did.
It is impossible to please everyone. That is true, but Walker McGuire’s new EP will please many people. It is a modern project mixed with traditional musical elements, featuring strong harmonies, clever writing, and radio friendly hooks. There is something here for everybody. I encourage you to take a listen to Walker McGuire’s self-titled EP today.

 


 

January 17, 2018

 

This is the time of the year when not many albums are released, but we don’t have to wait very long for new music. So, this week’s for The Catch of the Week, we are going to look ahead to albums that will be released in the first part of 2018:

 

Walker McGuire- Walker McGuire EP – January 12th
On the strength “Wait Til Tomorrow”, Walker McGuire’s EP has just been released. This country duo’s harmonies are bound to please traditionalist as well as fans of modern country music.

 

LANCO – Hallelujah Nights – January 19th
This upcoming release should do well for LANCO, riding high on the success of their single”Greatest Love Story”. The 11 track album is produced by Jay Joyce (Little Big Town, Zac Brown Band and Emmylou Harris).

 

 

Moe Bandy – Lucky Me (Book) – January 26th
Although there is not album, I thought it worth mentioning. This Moe Bandy autobiography should be an interesting read, and make folks check out the discography of this country legend.

 

Montgomery Gentry – Here’s To You – February 2nd
Prior to the death of Troy Gentry in a helicopter crash in September the duo had recorded new music for this upcoming album. There have been rumors circulating that Eddie Montgomery may actually do some shows in support of the album.

 

John Oates – Arkansas – February 2nd
One half of the Hall and Oates, John Oates is trying his hand at a more stripped down, acoustic approach. From what I have heard with the title track, this is not a rock star attempting a money grab in country music. It actually sounds genuine and sincere.

 

Eric Church – 61 Days in Church – April 21st

This has been released to fan club members, and as a pre-order. This will be a collection of live recordings that showcase Church’s much talked about concerts. For more details check out www.61daysinchurch.com .

 

 

January 10, 2018

LeDoux-It is a name that country music fans from my generation first heard Garth Brooks utter in his song “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)”. That was in the days before the internet, so i could not just enter the name into a search engine, and find out instantly who this mystery man, LeDoux, was. Luckily, it was not long until a record company came calling, and we were blessed with “Whatcha Gonna Do with a Cowboy”, “Cadillac Ranch”, and “This Cowboy’s Hat”. Eventually we discovered that Chris LeDoux had been recording since the 1970’s, and, by the way, he was an honest to goodness cowboy, winning the 1976 World Bareback Riding Championship at the National Finals Rodeo. By 2000 he was dealing with illness, and 2005 he left this world. His music holds a special place in the hearts of country music fans that were seeking authentic songs of the west. There were and are still folks singing that brand of songs, but he was their ambassador to a mainstream audience.
Now there is another LeDoux that is making music, and it is a welcome sound to those fans. After releasing his first EP, Forever a Cowboy, Ned LeDoux, Chris’ son, has released his first album, Sagebrush. The EP is incorporated into this broader album. Ned’s mother gave him a stack of his father’s unfinished songs. Ned worked with famed Nashville songwriter and producer Mac McAnally to finish and record the songs. Ned sounds a lot like his father, not just in his vocals, but also in the delivery of the lines. It gave me goosebumps when I heard the the song “We Ain’t Got It All”, one of two songs co-written by Ned, Chris and Mac, the other being the title track. “Brother Highway”, a song penned by Ned and Mark Sissel, will make you want to hop in a truck, point it west, and drive. A song written solely by Chris LeDoux, “Johnson County War”, tells the story of a real conflict between ranchers and large cattle companies in Wyoming during the late 1800’s. You almost feel like you are there. Another song  on the EP is “The Hawk”. This song written by Ned is about life after his father’s death, and how even though he is gone, he feels like Chris is still watching over the family. Some of the standout tracks on Sagebrush that are not included on the original EP include “Some People Do”, “Another Horse to Ride” and “Better Part of Living”. “Some People Do” is a tribute to the people who choose to live in the harshest of conditions under the western sky. “Another Horse to Ride” is another song of perseverance. Although it has a cowboy theme , the lesson can be applied whether you are a roper or not. “Better Part of Living” is a song that deals with the working man’s philosophy; the best things in life are not money or material possessions. There is also an excellent cover of Chris LeDoux’s “This Cowboys’ Hat” that features Chase Rice along with Ned.
They say the apple does not fall far from the tree. I would say that is the case with Ned LeDoux. He inherited his father’s vocal chords and ability to paint western scenes in our minds. If I still had a tape player, I believe a tape of Ned LeDoux’s would be worn out just like Chris’. Once you take a listen to Sagebrush, I believe you will want to add it to your music collection.

 

 

 

January 3, 2018

I thought I should look back through the albums of 2017 to see if I had missed anything. It turns out that I had. Mississippi’s Aaron Vance released an album in 2017 called My Own Way. I was not familiar with Aaron Vance’s music, so I started digging. He is, to borrow from Alan Jackson, “chasing that neon rainbow”. It is an uphill climb for Vance. He is singing a style of country music that is , at the moment, not hip. On top of that, the odds are stacked against him as an African-American country singer. Outside of Charley Pride and Darius Rucker, it is hard to find another successful black country music artist. Despite all of the obstacles in his path, Vance is pushing forward with his latest album, My Own Way.
Some of the highlights on the album include the title track, which announces that he will continue to make music his own way. “Where Did Music Row Go Blues” is a song about the current mood in Nashville towards tradition. We all know that things change, but to change so drastically with nothing but a name drop in a song does not cut it. I love it! Another stand out track is the love song “Diamond Kind of Love”.
I can’t help but cheer for the underdog. That is what I am doing here. Aaron Vance is unapologetic in his approach to following his country music dream. I hope to see someone give him a shot. That is all any artist needs is a shot. If the shot does not work, so be it, but let the public decide. Stick to your guns, don’t forget your roots, and good luck Aaron Vance. Give his album My Own Way a listen today.

 

 

 

December 20, 2017

You might be familiar with Summer Brooke & The Mountain Faith Band from their run to semi-finals on “America’s Got Talent” in 2015. Since that national introduction, the North Carolina based bluegrass band has been busy making record and touring. They decided to combine the recording and touring in their latest album, The Sounds of Christmas. The album was recorded in front of a live audience at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin, N.C.
The album covers many standards of the season, while adding their own touch to these classics. Some of the holiday favorites you will recognize include “Winter Wonderland”, “Jingle Bell Rock”, and “Sleigh Ride”. They also include Christmas hymns “Joy to the World”, “Silent Night”, and “Carol of the Bells”. The song “Christmas in Heaven” will give some solace to those that are missing loved ones that have passed on. “Santa Train” will get your toes tapping, and help get you in the Christmas spirit. “Also, their rendition of “Come On Ring Those Bells” is wonderful, and includes an Irish whistle that sets this version apart from others.
This only scratches the surface, as The Sounds of Christmas has 16 songs of the season. To record a Christmas album, and make it sound different than the dozens of other holiday musical choices is quite a feat unto itself. Add to that the fact that this is a live album, and it is even more of accomplishment. Summer Brooke and The Mountain Faith Band’s The Sounds of Christmas is an album you want to add to your holiday music collection.

 

 

December 13, 2017

 

 

Porkchop’s Albums For the Music Lovers on Your Christmas List

                         (in no particular order):

Chris Stapleton- From a Room: Volume 1 and Volume 2
Lee Ann Womack- The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone
Midland- On the Rocks
Radney Foster- For You To See The Stars
Lee Roy Parnell- Midnight Believer
Sara Evans- Words
Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters- Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters
Rhonda Vincent and Daryle Singletary – American Grandstand
The Secret Sisters – You Don’t Own Me Anymore
Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit- The Nashville Sound
Angaleena Presley – Wrangled
Willie Nelson – God’s Problem Child
The Mastersons – Transient Lullaby
Natalie Hemby – Puxico
Alison Krauss – Windy City
Rodney Crowell – Close Ties
Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives – Way Out West
Whitney Rose – South Texas Suite
Sam Outlaw- Tenderheart
Aaron Watson -Vaquero
Chris Jones and The Night Drivers- Made to Move
Tyler Childers- Purgatory

 

 

 

 

 

December 6, 2017

Earlier this year, Chris Stapleton released the critically acclaimed, and Grammy nominated From A Room: Volume 1. With the title of that album, the cat was out of the bag, there would be a Volume 2. I have been waiting for the follow-up since I finished listening to the final track of Volume 1. The “A” in the album’s title refers to the famous Studio A in Nashville, where the project was recorded. Just like the first album, From A Room: Volume 2 , is co-produced by Stapleton and Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell),and features tunes that combines elements of country, blues, and rock and roll.
Volume 2 is a bit more sparse musically than Volume 1. There is no steel guitar or harmonica that was prevalent on the first installment. I have no problem with that, but it noticeable. Chris and Morgane Stapleton’s voices are like instruments themselves, so you don’t need much more than their powerful harmonies and a guitar to make a tune enjoyable. These songs are well written, and I would not expect anything else from Stapleton. A couple of the songs have been recorded before (“Drunkard’s Prayer” by John Michael Montgomery and “Midnight Train to Memphis” by the Stapleton era version of The SteelDrivers). The album starts with “Millionaire”, a beautiful love song about a poor man’s riches found in his better half. “Hard Livin'” has a Waylon Jennings musical feel. Add that to Stapleton’s powerful voice, and, son, you are in for a foot stomping road tune. “Scarecrow In The Garden” is one of my favorite songs on the album. I am a sucker for a story song. It is the history of a Irish immigrant family through the years, and it sounds like this part of the family line will end soon. “Nobody’s Lonely Tonight” is a slow bluesy number that is perfect for Stapleton’s voice. “Tryin’ To Untangle My Mind” is song about tyring to understand at the poor choices that have brought to you present situation.
“A Simple Song” is just that. A song about the struggles and simple pleasures that a common man experiences. “Midnight Train To Memphis” is a rocking rendition of the aforementioned version from The SteelDrivers. I like both versions, and it would be hard for me to pick a favorite. By the grace of God, I have never been an alcoholic. However, I have talked to many people that have been through that struggle, and many of their stories echo this song. The bottle has a strong hold on them, and even though they cry out to heaven, for whatever reason, they can’t seem to stop drinking. This song is done in a stripped down style with just Stapleton and an acoustic guitar. It reminds me of something that Willie Nelson could have recorded.
“Friendship” is a bluesy, almost gospel styled song about true friendship. You may recognize the song as a Pop Staples regular. When I heard this song, mental pictures of my friends that are true blue came to mind, and brought a smile to my face.
From A Room: Volume 2 was worth the wait, and not a disappointment. I have read some music critics reviews of this new album, and they criticize how it sounds too much like Volume 1. I don’t know what anybody expected. It is not like it there was a long time between these album. Plus, they are done in a certain style that Studio A captures. Besides, everything on Top 40 County radio sounds so similar that I cannot tell one artist from another. I can definitely tell Chris Stapleton apart from everyone else. The songwriting, singing, playing, and production is outstanding, and it lets the artist’s talent shine through. You do not need fancy production tricks or Auto-Tune when dealing with Stapleton. If you go to a show, he can recreate these songs just as you hear them on the album. As I said in my Volume 1 review, I would recommend that everyone leave Chris Stapleton alone, and let him continue to release great albums.

 

November 29, 2017

Unlike in sports, where someone can be deemed the best through the measure of yards,and the number of points and wins, it is unfair to say someone is the best in a subjective field, like songwriting. Everyone knows who the great songwriters are, and if you are included in that short list, you can be argued to be one of the best. Kris Kristofferson is in that elite group. His songs are not just well crafted, but his style of writing changed Nashville forever. The 81 year old legend was paid tribute to in a 2016 concert at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena by country music stars from many generations. The concert was recorded for posterity, and released as the album The Life and Songs of Kris Kristofferson.
The stars that joined in the celebration is a who’s who: Reba, Martina McBride, Lee Ann Womack, Jessi Colter, Jamey Johnson, Alison Krauss, Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Willie Nelson, Hank Wililams, Jr. , and Eric Church. All of the tracks our wonderful, and fitting tributes to Kristofferson. For me, the standout track on this recording is Lady Antebellum’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night”. The harmonies and vocal trade offs are phenomenal, and highlights the talent off Lady Antebellum, and the songwriting prowess of Kris Kristofferson.
There is a little bit of sadness with The Life and Songs of Kris Kristofferson. He is 81 and is having serious health problems. However, there is a smile through the tears because of the great catalog of songs that Kristofferson has given the world. It made me happy to hear the songs of a living legend, especially because he is a LIVING legend. To have Kris Kristofferson participating in this legendary concert is the best thing about the recording. To have the opportunity to be heralded by some of the best in the business has to be gratifying. Take a listen to The Life and Songs of Kris Kristofferson, and enjoy this once in a lifetime talent.

 

 

 

Remember, you can contact me via email at

[email protected]dio.com, by facebook at

https://www.facebook.com/921wlhr or by calling me Monday -Friday from 6-10am at 706-356-WLHR (9547).

 

Porkchop

Porkchop Pic Logo