Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Retro Album Spotlight: Badlands: Badlands

Badlands made up of former Ozzy guitarist Jake E. Lee and former Black Sabbath vocalist Ray Gillen along with bassist Greg Chaisson and current KISS drummer Eric Singer made one of the best hard rock albums ever with their 1989 self-titled debut.

Unless you already have a copy of the CD, you probably have never heard the band. Due to lawsuits and circumstances I'm not fully versed in, the album is OOP (out of print), not available on streaming services. But there is still ebay and youtube.

The record is a Zeppelin-esque, bluesy hard rock masterpiece. Ray Gillen's vocals are right up there with the great rock singers of all time. Unfortunately his passing in 1993 denied future generations of this talent. Many are familiar with Jake E. Lee's guitar prowess on Ozzy's Bark At The Moon and The Ultimate Sin albums.

If I'm still listening to it over twenty five years after it's release, then it stands the test of time.

Here is "Dreams In The Dark":

And now "Winter's Call":

And just to prove it wasn't all studio creations, here is "High Wire" live:

Monday, October 17, 2016

Does Country Music Need Saving, Does Radio Matter and The Rise of Americana

There have been a few pieces on the country music blogosphere about whether or not country music needs saving. And whether or not country radio matters. And the rise against mainstream country in the form of Americana.

I draw a huge distinction between country music and country radio. Country music is alive and well, just not on country radio. If you are reading this, you have access to the Google machine and can find all the country music you want. Just turn off your radio and do five minutes worth of digging. It's there.

Country radio is the labels playing a game of three card Monty. Find the good song among the utter and absolute garbage. Keep listening. We'll play it eventually. In the mean time, here's a steady diet of crappy EDM and puke-inducing creepy misogynistic tripe. But you'll keep listening, until you won't. And that's happening more and more.

Fred Jacobs wrote an interesting piece on the power of the passion of music. And he's 100% right. There is a morning show that I like locally. There is no passion in the music they play. In fact more than one cast member has admitted they don't really like the music the station plays. I have six presets on my radio, whenever they play music, I find another station.

Gone are the days when a DJ can make a hit out of a B-side like they did in Detroit when a DJ flipped over a KISS 45 and played "Beth". Think of the power radio had then. Now it's just background noise.

When the people playing the freaking music would rather be playing something else, what does that say? I don't understand how radio works, but that seems to be a bad model.

That being said, is it any wonder why this week Americana outsold country? And I don't even really know what Americana is. It seems to be older country artists, country artists who are not signed to major labels and older and recent singer/songwriter types. Whatever, most of it is good.

When I don't post about new music here, it's not because there is no good new music coming out, it's because nothing has really touched me. The past two weeks have had some great releases, but nothing moved me to write. That also doesn't mean I won't find something later that was released the past two weeks. I can only listen to so much.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Retro Album Spotlight: RATT: Dancin' Undercover

RATT's third full length album, Dancin' Undercover, is my favorite RATT album. Not saying it's their best or most important, just my favorite. Glam metal purists and RATT diehards, come at me.

Out of the Cellar and Invasion of Your Privacy are more iconic, but there is something about Dancin' Undercover that resonates with me. A lot of it has to do with time and place, but the music holds up.

The entire album had groove. The title was apropos. Had a lot of rockers dancing undercover. The only negative for this album is that "Way Cool Junior" was not on it.

Of course, it starts of with the song "Dance", which sets the mood for the album: it's gonna be a fun party record. RATT never went for anything heavy socially, just fun. And this record is the epitome of that. Want a fun party record? This is it. And it makes this old rocker want to move, much to my daughter's chagrin.

No social commentary, no introspection, just fun party rock.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Kevin McGuire - Country Music Fan

I get it. College Gameday has had more than a fair share of Nashville pop stars. And Kenny Chesney, while a real fan, is overdone. I'm on Kevin McGuire's side in that aspect.

But, you know, why take it there, Kevin? Unless that's what you really believe. If you, Kevin McGuire genuinely think all country music sucks, then I pity you. But, hey, in the meantime, find me some shoe gazers and emo punk and EDM artists that know anything about college football. I'd be more than happy to hear from them on Gameday.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Artist Spotlight: Aaron Lee Tasjan

I've been hearing some buzz around Aaron Lee Tasjan and his new album, Silver Tears, coming out October 28. Tasjan has released two singles in advance of the full album. I will not listen to them because I want the full album experience.

However, I did delve into his previous releases, 2015's album In The Blazes and 2014's five-song EP Crooked River Burning.

What did I find? Excellent songwriting, first of all. But what intrigued me more was the growth between to the two releases. While the EP had all the the signs of a first release of an artist finding his way, In The Blazes found the singer/songwriter settling into a comfortable groove.

The songs are better. Crooked River Burning was steeped in Americana yet In The Blazes skews more towards the roots rock of Butch Walker and Ryan Adams. And it just sounds like someone coming into their own as an artist.

I could be burned by the new album, but even so, that doesn't take away from what came before. And In The Blazes is worth your time.

Here is a live acoustic version of "E.N.S.A.A.T." For those that need prompts, that comes from the line in the chorus, "Move out to East Nashville and write a Song About A Train".

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Jason Aldean Gives Idiots A Bad Name

Horrible rapper and wannabe EDM artist who somehow finds space under the country umbrella Jason Aldean would never be confused with someone of even average intelligence. However, the old adage "Better to let them think you're and idiot than to speak and remove all doubt" certainly applies to Mr. Aldean more than anyone in recent memory.

His cringe-worthy interview in The Guardian revealed many things about Mr. Aldean. Namely his disdain for "songwriterly" and clever songs. Well, kudos, I guess, for coining a new word in "songwriterly". He goes on to say "If it’s something I have to go back and listen to over and over again to figure what it says, it’s too much work for me." Well, that explains the banal simplicity of his efforts. Too much work to do something of substance.

That's enough to get all the country music people worked up. Then he takes a shovel and digs a deeper hole with the following: "There’s not any cool rock bands any more. All those guys we go watch now were big back then. That’s a reason why Guns N Roses can go on tour this year and sell out every night. They’re badass, but there’s not bands like that no more."

Poor syntax aside, this is an idiotic statement. Especially the first sentence. Now, I agree that rock music in not in the best place right now, especially if you consider what passes for rock in the mainstream. But if anyone thinks there are no cool rock bands anymore, they are not paying attention.

There are two of the coolest rock bands residing right under Mr. Aldeans's nose in Blackberry Smoke and Whiskey Myers, the torch bearers of Southern Rock in the 21st century. I guess they are not cool enough for Mr. Aldean.

Want glam? Check out The Struts. Want 70s inspired, grunge influenced rock? Monster Truck, Crobot. Want Southern Rock with a British sensibility? The Temperance Movement. Hey, check out Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown, currently opening for AC/DC. All of those bands ooze more cool than Mr. Aldean could muster in 10 lifetimes.

And that's not even counting the bands that this mysogynistic dipwad would never consider. Female fronted or all female bands like Halestorm, Dorothy, The Dead Deads and The Amorettes.

I'm sorry, idiots, Jason Aldean gives you a bad name.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Album Spotlight: Kate Vargas: Strangeclaw

Sometimes you hear a voice that is so unique that it just draws you in. Not because of soaring vocals or technical virtuosity, but because it has a quality that you won't find in any other singer. Such is the case with Kate Vargas.

Sometimes you hear an album that you can't define, but you just like it. One that weaves in and out of a variety of styles but stays true to the artist. That's what Strangeclaw is.

Kate Vargas' second album Strangeclaw is jazzy, torchy, trippy, hipster-ish, quirky, kitschy while not losing the southwestern roots that Kate came from. The New Mexico native, now residing in New York, has put together eight songs that take the listener on a journey, not just through the album, but sometimes within a song.

I'll be the first to admit that Strangeclaw will not be everyone's cup of tea. Some may not like Kate's unique vocals, but if you're a fan of John Hiatt or Stevie Nicks, there's something there for you. The instrumentation is simple and stripped down. Nothing big or bombastic, but not always subtle either.

As for me, I'll take unique and interesting over formulaic and stale anytime.

Here is "Bella Tell":

And an acoustic version of "Call Back the Dogs":

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Album Spotlight: Whiskey Myers: Mud

Mud is the perfect title for Whiskey Myers' fourth album release. Mud is dirty, it's gritty, it's grimy, it's greasy and it's swampy. So, yeah, it's muddy. Mud is not slick and polished, it's not saccharine and glossy, it's not good times and parties. It is real and raw and hard times and making do and living in the good times.

Although honing their skills on the Texas Red Dirt scene, Whiskey Myers is not a country band. They are a Southern rock/hard rock band with country leanings. They recently wrapped up the Carnival of Madness tour with Shinedown, Halestorm and Black Stone Cherry. They are another entry into my "Rock Ain't Dead" campaign.

The torch of Southern Rock is in good hands with Whiskey Myers, who, along with Blackberry Smoke, have re-lit it and have it burning brighter than it has since the early 80s. Just as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker, Charlie Daniels, The Allman Brothers, etc. all had their own unique sound within Southern Rock, Whiskey Myers borrows heavily from the pioneers while still sounding uniquely Whiskey Myers.

Produced by Dave Cobb, as was the previous album Early Morning Shakes, Mud seems to have Whiskey Myers and Dave Cobb hitting  the sweet spot together. Mud is, in my opinion, the best Whiskey Myers album yet, edging out 2011's Firewater by a slim margin.

The album closes with "Good Ole Days", a collaboration by Cody Cannon with Brent Cobb. It's a fun acoustic song, but what got me was the baseball allegiances revealing themselves in the final verse.

Here are couple songs that show the diversity of the album, "Mud" and "Stone".

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Michael Sweet Condemns Rockers For Trying To Go Country

Michael Sweet, lead vocalist and guitarist for 80s Christian hair metal band Stryper has taken rockers to task for attempting to "go country".

About his new single "Radio", Sweet told Loudwire "I wrote the song ‘Radio’ based on my history in country music and on what seems to be a surge of rock stars trying to become country stars. I’m a metal head at heart and always will be."

Sweet continues, "Just as metal is a life style, country is as well and you have to live it, not just wake up one morning and decide you’re gonna be a country star and have the respect of the country world.”

In conclusion, Sweet says "Country music, just like rock, is a lifestyle rich with history and authenticity and each genre should be treated with great respect. You can’t fake it. You can try, but the fans will see right through it."

Here is the video for "Radio".

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Album Spotlight: The Dead Deads: For Your Obliteration...

Weaving in and out of and around and through punk, metal, pop, rock, bubblegum, grunge, Americana and all things in between, sometimes in the same song, sometimes in the same verse or chorus, The Dead Deads refuse to be pigeonholed into anything.

The Dead Deads' latest release, For Your Obliteration... is one of the most interesting albums I've heard this year.

Lead vocalist Meta Dead (Leticia Wolf) can go from a sweet bubblegum voice to heavy metal growling to punk attitude to melodic hard rock seamlessly and often. I have no doubt that she could sing in any genre she wanted.

For Your Obliteration... is bottom heavy much of the way through. This is to be attributed to the the heavy pounding of drummer Billy Dead (Angie Lese) and the bass playing of Daisy Dead (Mavis Turner). They lock in together form a formidable foundation for the soundscapes of Hella (Mandy Wolf) and Betty Dead's (Erica Sellers) keys and guitars.

Want a label? Rock. They rock, unabashedly and unashamedly. Enough words, here is some music. "Animals", which is my favorite song on the album: