Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Album Spotlight: Sass Jordan - Racine Revisited

About a month ago I wrote about Sass Jordan's Racine when I found out she was releasing a newly recorded album of the original songs on the 25th anniversary of the original album entitled Racine Revisited.


I'll admit, I was skeptical. Why re-record such a good album? What can you possibly do to make it better?

I'll also happily admit that my skepticism was vehemently slapped away. What Jordan and her hand-picked group of musicians did on Racine Revisited is fantastic.

Racine Revisited is fuller, warmer, swampier and better played than the original. It was recorded old-school. All the musicians in the same room, nothing digitized, over a two day period, by professional musicians.

After 25 years, Jordan's voice is a bit road weary, but she doesn't miss a note. And the road-weariness actually adds to the sound of the record. And, dammit, you can just hear the fun on the record, like everyone there was having a great time. I know that can't be quantified, but it's one of those things that you know it when you hear it.

Here's the recreational bass player in me coming out. What really struck me about this album is that it is a clinic in bass/drums locking in and being spot on every single time. With Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, etc.) on bass and Brent Fitz (most notably Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators) on drums, this is just a well done, tight album.

Twenty five years later, good music is still good music. When you make it better, that is impressive.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Album Spotlight: Janet Gardner

Janet Gardner released her first solo album a few weeks ago.

A little history is in order here. Gardner was the lead vocalist for the band Vixen. While following trail blazers like Heart and Pat Benatar and Joan Jett and others, Vixen followed that trail and trudged forward in the realm of 80s hard rock, or, as many know it, hair metal.

Vixen, one of the few all female or even female-fronted bands of that time, resided on the pop side of the hair metal explosion. Big hair, big choruses. Tight clothes, tight melodies. Just like the guys.

They had the misfortune of coming on the scene in the late 80s/early 90s when that style of music was being phased out by grunge.

Gardner's debut solo album is much harder than anything Vixen ever put out. Not to compare bands, just sounds, much closer to Halestorm than Vixen. It's aggressive and at times angry. It's also a great hard rock album. If you're looking for 80s era big rock, big choruses, well, it's got some of that, but mostly it's just a good hard rock record.

And here is "Rat Hole". Enjoy.



And for those without context, here is Janet Gardner in Vixen:


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Q&A with Bri Bagwell

Photo Courtesy of ColoredLion.com
I had the to opportunity to conduct a Q&A with Texas country artist Bri Bagwell. It was not supposed to, but it took four months to complete. Bri opened up on a myriad of subjects, from her high school volleyball career, to her time playing with her brothers, to her time at the University of Texas, to her first solo gig, to Texas music festivals, to playing overseas, to what she has planned next.

It's always a joy to interview someone who is open.

We ended this before Harvey hit Houston and the rest of southeast Texas. She is now playing as many benefit concerts as possible, as are many artists.

To find Bri Bagwell:


The Cheap Seats: When I met you, you were taller than I expected. Then I read where you chose to go to the University of Texas so you could be a part of the Austin music scene rather than pursue volleyball. How good of a volleyball player were/are you? Did you receive scholarship offers and if so, at what level?
Bri Bagwell: Ha! I love this question. Volleyball was my passion before I fell in love with songwriting and playing live music. I never really talk about my sports accomplishments unless prompted. I had an amazing high school senior-year season that left me feeling like it was the perfect time to hang up the spandex and pick up the guitar...
I was named All-District, All-State, 5AAAAA Player of the year, and Gatorade Player of the Year for the State of New Mexico, in addition to being the co-captain and winning our high school's first ever State Championship game. It was a magical year, as I had switched positions from Outside Hitter to Setter, and we started the season 0-3 (yikes). It taught me a lot about overcoming losses and challenges...
I had a few official visit offers to schools across the country (and one in Alaska!), but I only went on one at New Mexico State University (which has an amazing D1 program) . I think I knew I wanted to go to a bigger school away from home, one of them being my dream school: The University of Texas at Austin. When I got accepted, I knew that I had to go. It was the perfect combination of academics and a city centered around music.
I still play sand volleyball when the opportunity arises.


You actually graduated from UT with a degree in business. Has that in any way helped you with the business of music?
My business degree was in Marketing, with a minor in Management. Being completely independent (minus a booking agent), I market and manage myself everyday! I absolutely loved my business classes, and they can be used for anything...even this crazy music business, because it definitely IS a business. I feel like I could've done without those microeconomics classes though. ;)
I just received a Facebook fan study that says my audience is half female, half male, and with 75% of them between 30 and 60 years old. It makes for a very interesting target market (and a totally non-specific one), which reminds me of all of the case studies we did in my upper-level classes. Even though college presents a long-term debt expense, the friendships and the life lessons I learned in and out of the classroom I wouldn't trade for anything in the world.
Also, dad would be upset if I didn't tell you that I graduated with honors. Haha.


Yes, we will include the part about you graduating with honors. You're welcome, dad.
In regards to that fan study, did the results surprise you? Did you have any preconceived ideas about the outcome going in?

I guess that I always have assumed my supporters are just like me: twenty-somthing girls going through relationship ups and downs while enjoying Mexican Beer... Ha! It's neat to see the males being just as supportive as the female fan base. I think that is super cool, and really unique according to the people who did the study. Also, I suppose as I have gotten older, so has my fan base. We've grown up together, so to speak.

How did you get your start in music?
I have two brothers, identical twins actually, who both play and sing. We started our first band together when they were twenty-one and in college, and I was fourteen and in high school! I've been hooked on live music and "entertaining" in the honky tonk scene ever since. Much before that, I grew up singing in a very musical Christian daycare that put on programs twice a year. At three years old I made my stage debut, and haven't looked back. I also was in choir for a few years, but have never really had any formal music training. My parents are both very musically talented (whether they admit it or not), as is much of my extended family. I really think it's just in my blood (not to mention Johnny Cash and my grandmother were second cousins)!

Your brothers, being seven years older, I imagine shaped your musical preferences quite a bit. What kind of music were you playing in the band with your brothers? And, do they still play?
We (On Tap was our name) played 90% cover tunes, from OAR to the Rolling Stones to Pat Green! We played a lot of crowd favorites, too. Some people frown upon playing cliche covers, but at a young age I enjoyed the audience responding so enthusiastically to a song! It was still even better to play my original music for people, even at the young age of fourteen, I was hooked on showing the world my heart.
My brothers play now for fun, at Christmas, and whenever I'm close enough to drag them on stage. They have three kids each and are both really successful in their careers (accounting and financial advising), and I look up to them so much, and not just because they're 6'5". ;)


Did On Tap last through your high school years, or did you get too busy with volleyball and such?
We played pretty often, and I would even play Thursday nights till closing time at the bar and wake up to go to Volleyball practice Friday morning. Even though that schedule was crazy, I wouldn't have traded it for anything. Actually, thinking back, it prepared me for the future and the lack of sleep that I continue to experience on the road today!

Once you got to Austin and the University of Texas, how long was it before you started playing that scene, or was it immediate?
I didn't start playing live music in Austin until about 3 years after I arrived at UT. For starters, I didn't play guitar (only piano), and actually didn't pick up a guitar until college. Once I found that I knew a few chords from just watching my brother play, and realizing that the instrument was much more portable, I knew that it would be essential to playing live music on the run (while still in school)! I went to see a friend play at Mother Egan's Irish Pub on Sixth Street, and he invited me up to sing a song. The bar manager offered me my own show that night, and that's how I got my first solo gig in Austin at the age of 21.

First solo gig. How nervous were you? Or did all that time playing with your brothers, being on stage, etc. calm you?
I was really nervous for that first gig; mostly because I had not played the guitar for very long, and definitely not for that length of time by myself. I still remember my fingers being too sore to type on my computer the next day! That was back before the calluses developed and the night-after-night playing that I do now. I also couldn't play a bar chord to save my life, which limited the songs that I could write and play.

So, you were three years in Austin before playing and then get a regular gig. I'm guessing it wasn't too long before you graduated (with honors, Dad). Was it head first into music full time, or did you pursue something degree related?
I actually had a day job doing marketing (and a little bit of everything) for a health and beauty website startup company in Austin, TX. It wasn't long though, before I was struggling to get out of bed for 9am meetings because I'd played a late night gig the night before. It was obvious that I wasn't going to be able to do both; luckily enough, I met my first booking agent soon after that, which allowed me to quit the day job. However, I loved working. I would still be happy in a 9 to 5 job; I love the different kind of hustle that comes with a "normal" job - just not as much as I love this music thing, of course.

This was pretty much solo acoustic stuff, right? How did the Banned come together?
When I was in my band with my brothers, we had a young bass player named Chaney Rabon that went on to attend South Plains College in Levelland, TX. He introduced me to my first guitar player and bass player that were graduating from the music school and were wanting to play music full-time. Those members were Justin Lusk (who was with me three years, and is now in an amazing band called Copper Chief) and Nathan Sebesta (who is still in my band today, after six years)! We found a drummer, Miles Stone, from a band that was breaking up; Miles was with me for two years before going to join the Cody Johnson Band, where he still is today. I'm proud to say I'm still very good friends with every original member of The Banned, and every member since!

Which came first, the band or the Banned? Of course I'm referring to the song "Banned From Santa Fe". And how much of that song is a true story?
The song "Banned From Santa Fe" came first, and is actually how The Banned got their name. I wrote the song about breaking a boy's heart in a small town, and feeling like you can't go back because of the gossip and evil eyes... That is a true story, but the town was not Santa Fe; it just sang well, so to speak!
I was sitting with my friend Craig who was with the Scooter Brown Band at the time, and I was just starting to put my band together! I was thinking of names out loud, and thought what about Bri Bagwell and the BAND from Santa Fe? Which was an interesting play on words, I thought. Craig said, what about just The Banned (which was an even better play on words)? The rest is history! :)

Photo courtesy of ColoredLion.com

We're doing this throughout the summer, which is also peak festival season. You have been vocal on social media about the festivals you have played and are playing, partly in response to a podcast that took issue with the low percentage of female artists represented at many festivals. I have noticed, as well, that most festivals are heavily male dominated. I don't know if she coined the phrase, but the first I heard it was from Sunny Sweeney; "Breaking up the sausage party". I don't really have a question here, but would like for you to express your thoughts.
The female artist "thing" is always a tough subject to approach. First of all, there are less females out there playing music than males in the scene. So to want a 50/50 male to female representation at festivals is not the expectation on my end, at least. But there are times where there are NO females on the big festivals, and to not have a single one is disheartening, especially when there are solid women bands/acts that would be a good fit. People will be at the festival for the headliner/headliners regardless of the opening acts, so those choices for the opening bands are strictly those of the festival creators. If I look at a lineup and feel that every band on there has a bigger name and/or more success than any female act that I know (including me), I am one hundred percent okay with it. I know I don't deserve a festival spot just because I am a woman; I too have to earn it. But, a three day festival with 30 bands and not a single female act, is absolutely absurd. I've been so happy to play almost all of the big music festivals, so my next obstacle is fighting for a good time slot. A lot of times I feel like some festivals put the female first, but "ladies first" doesn't always need to be true... ;)
I think the best way to advocate this weird territory is to put on the best possible shows at the festivals that I play; I try to send a message that we can hold our own as an act, regardless of gender. We've played Steamboat Music Fest, Larry Joe Taylor Fest, Crude Fest, Lone Star Jam, Zeigfest, and many more, with Medicine Stone coming up in the fall as well. I think the awareness is there and the tide is turning, and we are seeing more and more females where they deserve to be - and now it is not just because promoters feel like they "have" to be on there. We'll get there. I have faith in the badass female acts and the festivals.


Very well said. I agree that there shouldn't be a female artist just for the sake of having a female artist, but while it used to be almost impossible for a female artist to break into the Texas/Red Dirt scene, now there are plenty of options. As you said, if it's a three-day 30 band festival and there are none or one or two, then that's a problem. Most people are there for the headliners, but if the exposure is not there, regardless of time slot, then growth is stagnated.
That leads me to this. How has the Texas music scene changed, in your opinion, since you started playing to today?

VERY well said. Exactly.
I think the scene has changed in many ways than when I started full band in 2011; first of all, I think there are so many MORE bands out there, male and female. This is good to drive up competition and quality of live shows, but can be bad for our income (i.e. a bar can pay a new band next to nothing if they are eager/excited to play). It's definitely "cool" to start a Texas Country band, so you see a lot of them come and go. On the positive, there has a been a shift towards welcoming female performers. I remember when I started there were a handful of bars who wouldn't book me solely because "females can't sell tickets". I haven't heard that lingo in awhile. I don't hear that I'm crazy and out of my mind for wanting to pursue a career in this genre anymore, either. It's totally alright to be me. And that rocks.
This just brings up something in my brain that I want to say as well... One thing that has NOT changed about the scene is the amazing camaraderie among the bands/artists. There isn't enough time in the world to tell you all of the good deeds the other music buds have done for me. I tear up thinking about it. 6 years later, that is still the same.


If you don't mind and without naming names (unless you want to), can you give an example of the good deeds? So much divisiveness and negativity going on out there right now, it's refreshing to highlight the good stuff.
My favorite story is the week that I realized my contract with publisher Sony ATV in Nashville wasn’t going to be renewed. I wasn’t getting fired, but I wasn’t getting “rehired” either - so, it was kind of a bummer and a frustrating ordeal altogether. I saw Wade Bowen randomly out on the town that day in Nashville, and I told him what happened. He said, “welcome to the club!” and gave me a hug. He had been in the exact same situation. He gave me a little pep talk, and asked for my address. He mailed me a book, with a note inside. It was the perfect book for what I was going through; and not only did I feel more inspired, I didn’t feel so alone in that moment. I thought that was an incredibly thoughtful gesture from one of my heroes.
Josh Abbott, Casey Donahew, Randy Rogers, Wade Bowen, Kyle Park, and countless other larger acts have given us handfuls of cash after opening gigs when they knew our pay was less than great. Josh Abbott sold out Whitewater Amphitheater and gave all the opening acts an enormous bonus - and I sobbed when his tour manager handed us the cash, because we were needing it so badly. I never really advertised their generosity, because I know that’s not why they do it. But I do wish everyone to know the outpouring of love and help from our scene-mates.


Thanks for sharing. I'm sure they are going to hate this. I think it's important for people to know that, while it can be cutthroat, artists support other artists.
What was your worst gig? The one when you walked in and looked around and thought "What the hell have I gotten myself into?" Or the one that just went horribly wrong.

There's been more than a handful of bad gigs, but I'd have to say this one takes the cake: I was playing at a restaurant. Not only was nobody paying the slightest attention to me, but there was a little kid in the front row that was throwing macaroni and cheese at me. It stuck to my guitar in the middle of and song, and the parents were too drunk to notice or just didn't care. At that moment, I seriously thought about unplugging my guitar and symbolically unplugging my dream all at once and walking out…


On the flip side, when have you had a bad feeling about a gig that turned out to be great?
We played in France, and I thought that there was no way they were going to like our set. We play a LOT of originals in our set and we hadn't really had time to change that before France to include more covers. But, there were over 7,000 people there, and they yelled and screamed the entire time, even if they'd never heard my songs. :)

You mentioned France. I've noticed that a lot of Texas/Red Dirt artists play in Europe. There seems to be a following over there. Or at least a thirst for that type of music. Was the French gig a one off for you, or have you played Europe more? If so, what has been the response?
We traveled all the way to France for only one show at a big festival, but The Banned and I opted to stay a few more days to enjoy the wine - I mean sights - and it was a truly wonderful experience! My booking agent and I have been discussing the other options about playing overseas, and I definitely plan to do more. I haven't done it a whole lot out of the US (except for Mexico three times), but the people there ADORE country music. In France, they made up two line dances to my tunes; it was really neat to see a custom line dance to "My Boots" and to know they were very excited to show it to me. I love watching my sales reports each month and seeing people streaming/buying music in other countries. There are people worldwide who follow the Texas charts, and that's incredible to me.
My favorite story of international fans is that I didn't realize the glitch in my website shop (that I run) that allowed any country to buy my CDs autographed for $13 (INCLUDING shipping). I was spending much more than $13 to get my records to all of these other countries until I figured out how to add the correct shipping charges for overseas. Too funny! Losing money to get the music out there was worth it, though.


That's a good story to end on as I've taken up way too much of your time already. Thank you so much for doing this. However, you have the floor for one last word. What do you want people to know about upcoming stuff? Words of wisdom? Bad jokes? Anything. Go as long or short as you want.
If you insist….! Haha.
I’m in the middle of a new record, which will be out sometime in the next ten years or so… (Wink! Hoping for February, assuming time and money line up.) I’m experiencing every feeling on this project - I’m honing in on my sound, picking the best songs out of a hundred or so, writing new ones, getting back to my roots while trying countless new things, and delivering a completely different album from any before it. It keeps me up at night wondering if the fans will hate it or reject it because it’s different than what I’ve done previously. I cringe when people say they liked the early *insert any artist name here* but not their newer stuff; I think it’s important that fans know that an artist evolves and changes. We grow up, or go backwards, or go through a life changing event, or go out on a limb with a new producer, or want to showcase a different side of ourselves… I constantly battle with these changes while also wanting to please my audience. Ultimately, I’m going to make the music that I want to make, but my fans are everything to me; knowing they might not agree with my choices is scary. It’s a confusing task to trust your gut when it’s telling you a million different things. I want everyone to know that I’m working hard as hell on this record. I’m putting my own harmonies on the tracks, being careful with every lyric, limiting tuning and computer corrections, and taking my time. Lots of blood/sweat/tears/dollars/airplane miles/frustrations/smiles/high fives/deep breaths have gone into this, and I’m only halfway completed. *Note: Rachel Loy is one of the most amazing and talented producers I’ve ever seen throughout my years in many different studios.
I’ve funded two of my records via Kickstarter. I’ve slept on people’s couches and used their washing machines and ate their food. Strangers have left $100 bills in my hand during a handshake expecting nothing in return but a smile. For every person that has been cynical and negative about a female pursuing a Texas Country dream, I’ve had 1,000 people encourage me. The fans and people of this genre are, for the most part, the greatest and most loyal people. Just because I’m not on XM (yet, it’s gonna happen!) or the CMAs, does not mean that I am unhappy with my current status. I love my life. I’m content in this space. And when I’m not, there’s whiskey! (Kidding, mom.)
I’ve been reminding myself of my absolute favorite sentence about music while writing lately. It’s very true, but also lighthearted (which we all need a little of in this business). It was something I heard Ray Wiley Hubbard say at a show. It was something like: Be careful what you write, because you’ll have to play it for the rest of your life…
From the girl that’s making a new record and gonna play 180 shows this year: Amen, Ray!




Friday, September 1, 2017

Album Spotlight: Elles Bailey - Wildfire

I don't have expectations that cannot be met. That seems to be a healthier way to live life. I'm not saying to lower the bar, but don't make your expectations beyond the realm of probability. Maybe I was a little too excited for the new Elles Bailey album. Her 2016 EP The Elberton Sessions had my hopes up.
After hearing that, I couldn't help myself.

Then she drops her first full-length album, Wildfire.

Well, my expectations, as high as they were, turned our to be low. Wildfire is a great bluesy rock album with some country elements. It's bluesy and swampy. Bailey's voice is smokey and torchy and powerful. The instrumentation and production are impeccable. It's true to course and also diverse.

Here's the thing. It's pretty much a modern 70s rock album coming from a current British female artist. Not so much in lyrical content, but sound.  There's a cover of Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" that I didn't recognize until the second spin because it is so different.

Though rooted heavily in the blues, Wildfire is so much more than just blues. There is something to be appreciated for fans of any genre that values real instrumentation and vocals over electronics and autotuned vocals.




Saturday, August 26, 2017

Album Spotlight: Lilly HIatt - Trinity Lane

I was alerted to Lilly Hiatt about a year ago. I listened to her stuff and thought that it was pretty good, someone to keep an ear on for future projects. So when Trinity Lane came out, I was definitely going to give it a listen. However, I was not prepared to be  blown away.

As I've said before, there never has been, nor do I foresee there ever being a perfect album, and Trinity Lane is not, but damned if it doesn't strive to be. Not a bad song among the twelve on this album.

The natural twang in Lilly's voice could make some think this is a country album. It's not. Are there county elements? Sure. But there is also so much more. Some rock, some blues, some soul, some swamp.

Trinity Lane takes on real adult themes and Hiatt pulls them off with wit, camp and maturity. What makes this album great to me is that there is no pandering to anything. It's just real stories with great music and smart lyrics.

We still have a few months left in 2017, but I can't see enough good stuff coming out that knocks this out of my top five. It's that good.

If you are reading this, you have access to the Google machine and can read about the history of Lilly Hiatt, however since I wrote about him recently, she is the daughter of singer/songwriter John Hiatt. Not relevant to this post or her music because each piece of music stands on its own, but just an interesting note.

Probably my favorite song from Trinity Lane, though that may change tomorrow:



And the title song.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Retro Album Spotlight: Sass Jordan - Racine

One of the great things about fantastic music is that it doesn't have an expiration date. Music made that plays to the trends is usually disposable after a few years, but if an artist makes a great album, it will stand the test of time. That's what Sass Jordan did 25 years ago with Racine.

On the 25th anniversary (not to the day, but the year) of Racine's debut, Sass Jordan is releasing Racine ReVisited on September 15, which is a total re-recording of the album with hand picked musicians. You can read more about that on Jordan's website, and you should.

Here's a short teaser of said album.



Being totally transparent, I readily admit I was not aware of the original album until I ran across something about Jordan doing a 25th anniversary remake. Sure, I was aware of Sass Jordan, have heard a few songs, but never really spent any time with her music. Like I said in the opening, there is no expiration date on good music. So listening to Racine was like listening to a brand new album. And what an album it is, very worthy of a remake, if only the remake can hold up to the original.

Racine is a rock album, borrowing heavily from the blues with a sprinkling of country and honky tonk thrown in. For those that read regularly, yes, there is swamp. Jordan's vocals are in the vein of Melissa Etheridge, Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin. And for a British born Canadian, there seems to be some inexplicable twang at times.

I don't know Jordan's influences, but there is a heavy Rolling Stones vibe to a lot of the songs.

Racine ReVisted will be her first album since 2009's From Dusk til Dawn. And I understand why established artists don't spend the money to record new music with the way the industry is nowadays so this will be an interesting study because Racine ReVistied is not just a remastering or remix, it's a full fledged re-recording of the album.

I'm also very compelled by Racine ReVisited because it wasn't re-recorded to be current, it was re-recorded 70s style, according to Jordan.

In the meantime, get to know the 25 year old original. Here are a couple of my favorite tracks.




Thursday, August 17, 2017

New Video: Jane N' The Jungle - Killed Someone

Great song, great video by Arizona-based Jane N' The Jungle. If you don't get it, you need to get more in touch with what is going on in the real world.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Album Spotlight: Robyn Ludwick - This Tall To Ride

Texas music artist Robyn Ludwick's latest album This Tall to Ride was released on May 9. It took me a while to come around on this one. Not because I didn't like it upon first listen, but I kept getting distracted and never had the chance to go on a deep dive. And it's not easy to write about.

It's an adult album dealing with adult subjects. Nothing about it is hooky or catchy. The vocals don't soar. The instrumentation is not unique or out of this world.

The album title, This Tall to Ride, serves as warning: Don't get on if you're not ready for the experience. Hookers. Drugs. Debauchery. Love. Redemption. Bars. Alcohol. (Not in that order.)

Tangentially, this album would have hit me harder earlier if it had been released in November or February. It's not a fun summer album. However, it's still great. It just took me a while to get there.




Saturday, August 5, 2017

Bad Conflation Between Sports and Music

This is not a rant or complaint. Just observations relating to real life experience.

I'm in a pretty good space with this blog. I write about what I want, when I want. I receive no income and I do this mostly for my own amusement. If people read and enjoy it, great. If not, whatever. At least I have the archives to see where I was at some point in time.

I mostly focus on music here, but I'm a big sports fan. Recently the University of Texas, Louisiana State University and Notre Dame have come out with how reporters can cover the teams. Limiting tweets and other social media until a specified time. To me, this is a huge pile of something.

This sucks for the media outlets. They depend on getting content for the teams in order to sell. The institutions hold all the leverage unless...

And this would take a huge collaborative effort with all media members. If every and all media not team affiliated would stop covering the team, they would cave. Just shut it down. Not going to happen, because content.

I've had the opportunity to do Q&A's with several interesting artists. In all but one instance I've been able to contact the artist directly. When I have to go through a third party (manager/publicist/etc) I've pretty much been stonewalled.

If you have read any of my Q&A's, I'm not looking for dirt. I just like interesting people. But I am not compromising what I know works for some manager/publicist. I could have had a great Q&A but was shut down by management. Or I could have had a boring Q&A.

I know where I stand. I'm not delusional. Katy Perry has not responded to any of my requests. Nor should she or her team. But it would be great if she did. I have questions.

When I contact an artist and am immediately referred to a management company/manager I know i'm not getting that one. All I do is ask. Shot down or ignored more times than not, but the one's that agreed, I have some good stuff.

I know I'm small time. But hey, even if your manager/publicist doesn't think it's worth the time, your fans will.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Venues, Artists, Social Media and the Web

Music venues in my town are horrible at social media and their own websites leave much to be desired. If I were an artist, this would not sit well with me. However, artists themselves could do more.

Venues

In a town with a population of about 100,000 we have at least 20 venues that have live music on a regular basis, probably more. I don't know all of them because some I don't care for the music they feature. To be fair, there are a few that do a good job of promoting shows, but there are far too many who don't. If you're a regular at said venue, then you know what's going on, otherwise it's a crap shoot.

A newer venue has artists every weekend. Their website makes no mention of shows. I was in the other day for lunch and was asking for details from the waitress. I mentioned the poor website and she said they were working on it but to check Facebook because it's all there. Checked Facebook, clicked on upcoming events, nothing. There was one post that indicated live music on Friday and Saturday with the names of the artists. ONE POST. They don't have a Twitter account.

Another venue, which is predominately a restaurant, has a pretty cool outdoor music vibe.Their Twitter account is nothing but food pics (which is ok, but who is playing?) The website has no mention of who is playing.

Surely at some point a venue has a bartender or a server who has been around long enough to have gained trust. Pay them some extra money to promote on social media. They're probably already active there anyway.

Or maybe there is a market for social media managers on a small scale, I don't know. But do something.

Artists

This is much less of an issue. Most artists today promote themselves through social media. Here's the rub: If i don't know who you are, I'm not following you on social media. BandsInTown is a great tool. Last weekend there were more live shows in town than I knew about. Friday night had three artists on BandsInTown. There were probably  4X that many shows.

I don't know what it takes for an artist to use that app, but for a music fan, it's free and useful. Especially if the venue sucks at promotion. If I don't know you're in town, I'm only going to find you by accident (which has happened, but it's a crap shoot). 

You may think it doesn't matter. So maybe one person knows we're playing tonight. It may only be that one person on that particular night, but if that one person goes and likes what they hear/see, then you have a fan that will promote you the next time you're in town. It all matters.




Thursday, July 20, 2017

My Appetite For Destruction Story

So, Guns N' Roses debut album Appetite For Destruction was released 30 years ago. I contend that it is the best hard rock album ever made from start to finish. But that is not the point of my story.

I was in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area that summer (I was in college at the time) and listening to the now defunct (I think) Z-ROCK which had mandatory Metallica every hour (played one Metallica song every hour).

I kept hearing this song by this new band Guns N' Roses. Never heard of them, but, damn, that song was good. That trip also introduced me to Faster Pussycat, apropos of nothing.

I knew I would be entering radio wasteland on my trip home, so before I left I stopped by a record store and purchased Appetite, on cassette (I wore out two of those before I got a CD player).

Four hour drive and it played the whole time. I was so enamored with this album. I played it a lot the rest of the summer and when I returned to college was excited to share it with my buddies. Their reaction was pretty "meh". Whatever. There were a few of us that really dug it and listened to it all the time.

Fastforward a year. "Sweet Child O' Mine" was released as a single in August of 1988. MTV blew it up. Suddenly all the "meh" people had a copy of Appetite. At that point I was already on my second cassette.

Did I feel vindicated? Maybe, a little. I was just happy that this masterpiece of an album was being appreciated.

Side note: Slash's and Izzy's rhythm parts are not stereo. Slash is on the right and Izzy on the left. Slash's solos are stereo, Izzy's solo in "Think About You" is only on the left. So, if you're a real music nerd/audiophile, you can hear two different albums.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Album Spotlight: ZZ Ward - The Storm

The new album from singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Zsuzsanna Eva Ward, better known as ZZ Ward is an amalgam of all things blues, alt-rock, R&B, Americana, smokiness, and swamp. The Storm brings all that together in an 11 song album that works.

If you're a regular reader, you know I prefer interesting and unique. Starting with Ward's voice, this whole album encompasses both interesting and unique.

It's not hard to tell when an artist is making music they want to make and when an artist is going through the motions. The Storm is the former, bringing in all of Ward's influences in which every song feels like she means what she's singing and the instrumentation backs it up, whether sparse or layered or anywhere in between.

The 11th song, a bonus track from "Cars 3", is a fun song featuring Gary Clark, Jr. How can that be bad?

All in all, The Storm is a complete album. There's some fun, there's some heavy, there's some heartbreak, there's some snark and sass. And there is lots of ZZ Ward.




Sunday, June 25, 2017

Joe Bonamassa vs Tina Guo

I'm going to preface this by saying I don't listen to any classical or orchestral music. So, I'm sure there are other cello players on the planet who could have done this, but they didn't.

During an acoustic show at Carnegie Hall, Joe Bonamassa dueled with Tina Guo, Joe on guitar, Tina on cello. The winner was anyone who gets to listen to this fantastic piece of musical genius.

I'm just a big fan of musicianship on all levels. This is at the top level. Enjoy.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Retro Album Spotlight: Queensryche - Operation: Mindcrime

Concept albums generally don't play well in today's music world. It was even a risk in 1988 when Queensryche released Operation: Mindcrime.

If you like 80s progressive hard rock and care to follow a story, nobody did it better than Queensryche with this album.

Sex, drugs, religion, politics, anarchy, unrest, brainwashing, redemption. It's all there.

Then there are the characters: The angst-ridden, fix-seeking late teen/early twenties Nikki. The evil mastermind behind the flawed revolution, Dr. X. The "whore from the underground" turned sympathetic sexually abused church-going counter counter culture heroine, Mary. And then the sadistic priest, Father William.

I'm not going to lay out the storyline here. If you are intrigued, listen for yourself and take it in as your own.

Operation: Mindcrime was the fourth output from Queensryche, one EP and two full length albums which never broke them through. So putting out Mindcrime at that juncture in the arc of the band was risky, kind of their 2112.

It didn't hurt that Queensryche landed the opening bill for Metallica's ...And Justice for All tour. All this led to the followup album Empire being a big hit with songs such as "Silent Lucidity" and "Jet City Woman". So the gamble paid off.

The songs on Operation: Mindcrime don't just further the story, they hold up on their own merit. Geoff Tate is a phenomenal vocalist. Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton's twin and/or dueling guitars are some of the best of that era, Scott Rockenfield is a monster on the drums while Eddie Jackson holds it all down with the bass.

I'm not going to embed a video because it's not about one or two songs, it's about the album. If you're reading this, you have a google machine and can listen to the entire album, which is the only way it can be appreciated.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Album Spotlight: Vandoliers - The Native

From the first line of the first song, "I was born September 1st, in a little town outside Fort Worth" to the album closer "Weclome Home" the new Vandoliers album The Native is Texas through and through.

If you want to know what Texas music is all about, this album is a crash course. It takes snippets of Red Dirt, Southern Rock, Tejano, mariachi, Rockabilly, Texas swing, honky tonk, country, 80s pop rock, punk and beach/island music to create a diverse 10 song journey. Some of it may be a bit too inside baseball to resonate with everyone, such as the song "Pantego", but hell, if Cairo, IL can get a couple of songs recently, why not Pantego?

The Vandoliers are self aware and The Native never takes itself too seriously. Sure, there is some introspection and some nostalgia, but all in all, it's just fun summer fare with a perfect release date, the Friday before Memorial Day, which kind of indicates the beginning of summer in the United States.

The Native may not be for everyone, and frontman Joshua Fleming's vocals are unique, but they fit perfectly in the context of these songs.  The instrumentation and playing is spot-on throughout the album. This is just a fun album and these guys sound like they'd be great live.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Album Spotlight: Biters - The Future Ain't What It Used to Be

Everybody reading this has access to the Google machine. If you want history and context, look it up.

The new album from Biters is great. The Future Ain't What It Used to Be is 70s British glam, 80s Sunset Strip sleaze and Southern Rock all rolled into a fairly eclectic package.

Biters hail from Georgia, so the Southern Rock connection is easy to digest. The British glam ala The Sweet, T-Rex, Ziggy Stardust is not a natural connection. Then there's the 80s sleaze reminiscent of L.A. Guns and Faster Pussycat.

Somehow, it all works.

And here's the thing. There is no one song that makes me perk up and say "That is great!" On the other hand, there is not one bad song on the album, no filler. It all just flows.

Because of where my wheelhouse is, I'm going with my favorite 80s influenced song here: "Vulture City".


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Album Spotlight: John Mellencamp - Sad Clowns and Hillbillies

John Mellencamp's new album Sad Clowns & Hillbillies is an odd collection of songs; two covers, two songs he recorded in the 80s, two songs in which he gets songwriting credit for basically finishing a song, five duets with Carlene Carter, appearances by Martina McBride and Izzy Stradlin. All that may make it seem as though the album would be disjointed, but it turns out to be a very cohesive effort.

You may be wondering why I'm covering a John Mellencamp album at all, since I stay away from mainstream anything. Well, Mellencamp hasn't been anywhere near mainstream music in about two decades.

This started out as project between Mellencamp and Carter that was born out of their collaborations on other projects and playing together each night on Mellencamp's last tour, which Carter opened. They wanted to do an album of old time country gospel songs, but in the writing process it evolved into something quite different.

Sad Clowns & Hillbillies starts out with a cover of the 1971 Mickey Newbury song "Mobile Blue" which fits exactly into Mellencamp's American roots rock wheelhouse.

I'm not going to go song by song here, but just want to point out some stuff that stood out to me. "Grandview" was written in the early 90s by Mellencamp's cousin Bobby Clark and features Martina McBride on one verse and original Guns 'n Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin on guitar.

"All Night Talk Radio" was originally recorded for possible inclusion on the 1995 album Mr. Happy Go Lucky. New elements were added to the version on the current album including backing vocals by Carlene Carter.

On the newly recorded tracks (which is most of the album) Mellencamp's voice shows the wear and tear of years of smoking cigarettes and drinking. That doesn't detract from the quality of the songs here. Hell, he sounds like John Hiatt has always sounded.

Start to finish, Sad Clowns & Hillbillies is one of the best albums I've heard this year.

Here is "Grandview":



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Album Spotlight: Dalton Domino - Corners

Hailing from Lubbock, Texas, Dalton Domino's latest album Corners come out of the gate and straight into the swamp with the album-opening song "The River". That's both a bold move and a statement. A bold move because most people are expecting a Texas/Red Dirt album. A statement by letting it be known that this is not your run of the mill Texas/Red Dirt album.

Not my usual style, but I'm going to take this one almost song-by-song because it's diverse enough where there is no over-arching statement to be made about the album.

"The River" is a swampy, dark song with interesting instrumentation, replete with strings (or at least synthesized strings). After that the album settles into more of the pocket that you would expect from a Texas artist for a bit with the Southern Rock influenced "Decent Man", the modern Red Dirt of "Corners" and the easy pop country leanings of "July".

"More Than You" is an interesting musical journey. It starts out with the grit and groove of a Ray Wylie Hubbard song. Then it moves to a bluesier feel and ends up almost Motown, horns and all, while not changing the beat or tempo. In its texture, it's sublime.

"Rain" is a subtle, stripped down song about loss. Great in it's simplicity.

The funky guitar tone of "Sixteen Years" drives the verses of this Southern Rock-tinged song.

"Mine Again (I'd Be a Fool)" is the closest thing that comes to a skip-worthy song on the album, but it's really just too catchy to fall into that category. It kind of has a an 80's pop rock feel to it.

With "Sister" Dalton takes us back to the swamp with an almost "Juke Box Hero" verse vibe throughout the entire song. Then he stays there with the album closer "Monster" but brings in a Pink Floyd-like prog element.

Corners is the kind of album that always interests me. Diverse, and you never really know what to expect next. I know that some people want something with a more consistent sound. If so, this album is probably not for you. But, hey, here are a couple of songs, decide for yourself.




Monday, May 1, 2017

The ESPN Cuts and Radio

I mostly write about music. And that's why you read this blog. But today I'm going to write about something only tangentially related to music.

As a sports fan, I'm well aware of the cuts that were made by ESPN last week. A lot of good people were let go. All people in sports media were touched in some way or another by the cuts. I'm not going to get into any of the reasons or perceived reasons behind the cuts. There are more than enough articles out there that can explain it better than I. What I want to talk about is the radio aspect of the cuts.

I listen to a lot of ESPN's radio programming (mostly through podcasts). When you spend an hour and 45 minutes (pod time, three hours real time) with someone everyday, they become familiar, almost like you know them.

Ryen Russillo was on vacation when the cuts happened. One of the cuts was his radio partner, Danny Kanell. Russillo addressed this on his radio show today (5/1/17). One of the things that hit me was when he said that radio is more intimate. Now, he was speaking specifically to his work relationship in which he would spend four to five hours a day, five days a week with his co-host. But this also extends to the listeners.

I had a brief Twitter exchange with Sarah Spain after one of her co-hosts on The Trifecta, Jane McManus, was a victim of the cuts, about the intimacy that radio provides. She agreed that it doesn't happen with TV or print. Radio is different. It's more personal.

Scott Van Pelt is great. I catch his late night SportsCenter from time to time. I miss him on the radio when it was the SVP and Russillo show. That show coincidentally, really got me hooked on the intimacy of radio. It became familiar and if one listened long enough, the inside jokes became inside jokes that you get.

The best radio not only lets you get a piece of the hosts' lives, but also introduces a cast of characters that make the show seem even more intimate. When the producers and board ops are given an occasional voice, or become a part of the show, it makes it feel almost familial.

I first got in tune with the ensemble dynamic listening to SVP and Russillo with Stanford Steve, Quinnipiac Steve and Outsider Mike (now best known as Mikey C). Then I found the Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz and the shipping container. Music snob/producer Mike Ryan is doing his own show with music rejoins. Each member has their own role.

i don't have the same connection with the reporters and SportsCenter hit people. I don't wish for anyone to lose their job, but the radio people hit me more than others.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Album Spotlight: Angaleena Presley - Wrangled

With the release of her second solo album Wrangled, Angaleena Presley has nailed it. For me anyway. I've noticed that this record has been fairly polarizing. People either love it or wanted American Middle Class (her first solo album) part two and didn't get it.

Presley has been writing songs for years and gained notoriety as one third of the Pistol Annies along with Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe. That's just for context, the important thing here is that Wrangled is an amazing piece of work.

My purpose here is to spotlight albums that I find great, unique and, most importantly, have only one or fewer skip-worthy songs according to me, not to review a whole slew of albums and give my opinion. I'll get to the great things about Wrangled in a moment, but I first want to focus on the only skip-worthy song on the album for me. It also happens to be the most polarizing song on the album.

"Country" featuring Yelawolf, in and of itself, is a terrible song without context. Even with context, as a song, it still does nothing for me. It's a protest song about the current state of mainstream country (radio in particular) and music row. Maybe the point was to make an unlistenable song, I don't know. If it was, Angaleena and Yelawolf succeeded. It's just a bad mashup of punk and rap done poorly. I listen to music to enjoy music, not for social commentary (although if you can combine the two, I'm not opposed to that).

Good for Presley for getting people talking about this song, I guess. Not my thing.

Now, on to the rest of the albums, which is fantastic. Angaleena spends the rest of the album tackling a myriad of subjects with depth and humor. At times pairing dark subjects with upbeat music, sometimes the reverse. The listener doesn't exactly know what to expect from track to track, other than Presley will keep it real.

You may love it, you may hate it, you may not know exactly what to make of it, but you won't be indifferent. I think, as an artist, that's the best you can expect unless you're universally loved. And we all know, that really doesn't happen.

Here is my favorite track from Wrangled.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Album Spotlight: Night Ranger - Don't Let Up

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you already know, if you're new, let me enlighten you. I only write about stuff I like. I don't have the time to listen to, much less, write about stuff I don't like. That being said, Night Ranger's new album Don't Let Up is excellent. Now I'm going to go off on a tangent before I get back to that album.

I grew up in the 80s, and by that I mean twelve to 22 years old. That's growing up time. Night Ranger always fell into a strange place in music. Historically they might get lumped in with the hair/sleaze/glam bands of the time. But it always felt like they were not at home there. They also weren't at home with other stuff that was popular at the time, Flock of Seagulls, Eurythmics, etc. They fell into a weird place between metal and techno (not that they ever came close to techno, but that's where they fell).

There were a lot of bands in that grey place, Bon Jovi, INXS, The Cult, Duran Duran, Def Leppard, etc. The 80s get a bad rap, but go back and listen to the music, there was a lot of good there.

While never reaching the commercial success, I've always thought Night Ranger was comparable to Bon Jovi: guitar driven hard rock that was softened enough to be palatable to the masses.

Fast forward to 2017. Night Ranger is still making that kind of music. Great songs featuring guitar, big choruses, big harmonies. This album Don't Let Up, along with their 2014 album High Road may be the best they've done in their career. Not that anyone will pay attention.

I just commend Night Ranger for putting out new music when so many of that era just tour based on their track record, which Night Ranger could certainly do. Hell, people would probably come out just to hear "Sister Christian".  But they are so much more than that.

Sure, age has taken its toll on Jack Blades and Kelly Keagey's vocal chords, but even though a bit gruffer, still sound excellent. The musicianship just keeps getting better. And that's saying something since guitarist Brad Gillis could have had a gig with Ozzy had he chosen.

35 years after the release of their debut album Dawn Patrol, Night Ranger are still bringing it and staying true to what they do. More mature? Sure. What you would expect. Rocks? Yep. And they keep expanding their boundaries. One song that stands out is the honky-tonk/Southern rock sound of "(Won't Be Your) Fool Again".

With so many bands not making new music because there is no money in it now, I commend the one's who still have to scratch that creative itch. Buy, stream, download, whatever you do, this album. It's good. Is it great? Probably not, but there is not a bad song to be found. And really, isn't that what we want in an album? No skipworthy songs?

Here's a taste of the new album:


Saturday, March 25, 2017

EP Spotlight: Delta Rae - A Long And Happy Life

As the weather warms up in late March, it is the perfect time for light, fun music. With their latest EP A Long And Happy Life, Delta Rae delivers.

A Long And Happy Life is just four songs, but four very good songs. Including the slower, more introspective "No Peace In Quiet". The other three are fun, upbeat and perfect for the changing of the season.

Is there anything groundbreaking here? Nope. Just four excellent songs that I've had on repeat for the past two days. There is just something infectious about the songs and the twin lead vocals and interplay of Britanny Holljes (pronounced "Hole-Jess) and Liz Hopkins.

Do I prefer nine to eleven song albums? Yes. But if you're going to make a four song EP, do it like this or like Lindi Ortega's. Make sure every song is killer and you have my attention.

Find A Long And Happy Life here:

itunes
Google Play
Amazon
Spotify


Monday, March 20, 2017

EP Spotlight: Lindi Ortega - Til the Goin' Gets Gone

I first found out about Lindi Ortega and her 2015 album Faded Gloryville. A great album. With Ortega's latest release, a four song EP Til the Goin' Gets Gone, there is none of the quirky playfulness found on  Gloryville or her previous release, Tin Star.

Ortega went through some stuff, moved back to her native Canada, leaving Nashville behind. From what I understand, she almost quit music altogether. The four songs on the EP are dark, brooding, somewhat cynical, introspective. There is some real heavy stuff packed into a small package.

And you know what? This is Lindi Orega's best work. I don't know where she goes from here. Maybe it's a catharsis which leads to something else. Maybe it's a farewell. Whatever it is, it needs to be listened to and celebrated.

The closing song is called "Final Bow". I hope it's not.

I can't equate this to anything, really, but I hope it follows the same trajectory as Butch Walker. Afraid of Ghosts was similar in it's introspection and darkness, then followed by the upbeat Stay Gold.

Who knows what is in store for Lindi Ortega going forward, but we will all be poorer if this is the last music she makes.

I purposefully didn't go into specific songs. Everyone needs to relate to them in their own way, but every song will relate to you in some way.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Album Spotlight: Sunny Sweeney - Trophy

There's not a lot I can write about Sunny Sweeney's latest album Trophy that hasn't already been written. But I'll do my best anyway.

Sweeney dabbled in Nashville in few years ago and had a bit of a radio hit with "From A Table Away" from her 2011 album Concrete. Now shes' with the indie artist friendly label Thirty Tigers and back in Texas recording the songs she wants.

She had quite the co-writers on the Trophy, but the one constant is Sunny Sweeney herself. She co-wrote all but two of the ten songs on Trophy, one being a cover.

Sweeney's previous effort, 2014's Provoked is very good, but on Trophy, she seems to put everything together to give listeners the full Sunny Sweeney experience. The biting sarcasm and humor is there. The introspection is deeper and more pointed.

I have been quite critical of the trend lately to put 13-16 songs on an album, and then it seems like there is too much filler when a nine to eleven song album would have been great and leaving the listener wanting more. Sweeney does this. Trophy is ten excellent songs and then when it's over, you want more. I'm an album guy, so this is perfect for me.

As far as the songs themselves on Trophy, there is traditional country, there is some swamp, some Southern rock influence, but what resonates throughout is that it seems to be all Sunny Sweeney all the time. Sweeney is never going to be known for soaring vocal prowess, but her voice and vocal stylings fit perfectly in the context of her songs. That authentic Texas twang is not forced. It's the way she talks as well. Full of sass and vulnerability at the same time.

Go buy the album, whether by download or a physical copy. Support the people who make good music.




Saturday, March 4, 2017

Retro Album Spotlight: Meat Loaf - Bat Out Of Hell

In October of 2017 it will be 40 years since Meat Loaf's debut album Bat Out Of Hell was released.

At that time, I was nine years old, so when it was initially released it had no effect on me or my musical tastes. Several years later, when I discovered what I really liked in music and started getting into hard rock, the revelation of Bat Out Of Hell was a game-changer. Not that it changed my taste in music, but that it changed how rock music could be viewed.

Was Bat Out Of Hell a rock album or a rock opera? Or did/does it even matter? Was it a concept album or a collection of songs that told stories? Was it both? Was it an epic opus or a story of teenage sexual repression and exploration?

It was probably parts of all of that. Or none. But what it was, was something no one had ever heard before. What songwriter Jim Steinman and singer Me)at Loaf (Michael Aday) did on that album broke ground in the rock scene that is still evident today.

I'm sure a lot of people re-discovered or found out for the first time about Bat Out Of Hell when Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell came out in 1993 with the big hit "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That), but even that was almost 25 years ago.

Meat Loaf and Steinman had a hell of a time selling this album 40 years ago in 1977. They'd have no chance now, although they could just record it and see what happens in 2017.

If you are vaguely familiar with Bat Out Of Hell, I would implore you to listen to the whole album. It may not be your thing, but there is no denying that it is one of the most unique pieces of American music in the past century.




Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Album Spotlight: Beth Hart - Fire on the Floor

Grammy-nominated and doing vocals for the likes of Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamassa and Slash, Beth Hart is not the kind of artist you are accustomed to seeing spotlighted in this space. That being said, how many of you are actually familiar with her work?

I'll admit, I was not until I stumbled upon a video a couple of months ago on YouTube. Then I dropped the ball on the February 3 release date of Fire on the Floor.

Fire on the Floor is not a straight up blues album, though the blues threads heavily throughout, along with jazz, pop and rock. Doesn't really matter though as Hart's sultry, smokey, alluring voice carries the album from start to finish.

Beth Hart can sing anything if she wanted, I'm convinced. On Fire on the Floor, she almost does. Where her voice really shines is when she booms the lower register. So powerful.

This is thirteen songs for grown-ups, with grown-up subjects, dealt with in grown-up ways. No pettiness, no fluff, just real songs about life.

Fire on the Floor is not for everyone, and that's okay. All music is not for everyone, but all music is for someone. But for those that get it, this album is fantastic. Beth Hart has outdone herself with this one.

Official Lyric Video for "Fire on the Floor"


Live version of "Fat Man"

Monday, February 20, 2017

Album Spotlight: Eliza Neals - 10,000 Feet Below

There is no such thing as a perfect album. But there are good albums and great albums. Eliza Neals' 10,000 Feet Below falls into the latter category.

Neals' latest record is 11 songs of fantastic music. 10,000 Feet Below is a rocking blues album with more texture and nuance than you would expect. Neals' powerful, sexy, sultry voice is complemented by a wide array of excellent musicians to make a cohesive yet diverse album of musical genius.

If you even only think you might like blues, check this record out.

This was one album I was genuinely looking forward to this year. So many times, I'm disappointed. 10,000 Feet Below exceeded all expectations. Seriously, I don't know what songs to choose to put here, so I'm just gonna put out a couple that resonate with me the most (and of course, they won't be the traditional ones).




Monday, January 30, 2017

Album Spotlight: Cris Jacobs - Dust to Gold

A veteran of the Baltimore music scene with his former band The Bridge and then as a solo artist, Cris Jacobs is no newcomer. My fist introduction to Jacobs was his most recent album Dust to Gold, released in late 2016 and finding my ears in early 2017.

Jacobs' smooth vocals compliment perfectly his musical style that is reminiscent of The Guess Who and a laid back Allman Brothers.

The big take away from this album? It's good songwriting combined with excellent vocals and fantastic instrumentation.




Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017

Album Spotlight: Susto - & I'm Fine Today

There is some heady stuff on Susto's most recent album & I'm Fine Today. I'll leave that for listeners to parse out. I'm not qualified to comment on social commentary.

Musically and lyrically, it's a mess. And I mean that in good way. Susto lilts their way through difficult subjects, making one think while not coming across as preachy or divisive or angry. Maybe it's in the way the lyric is delivered, Much of it deadpan and nonchalant.

And then you have the music, which is all over the place. Not just throughout the album, but within songs. Just when you think you're locked into a song, it takes a hard left and takes you to another place.

You have to be an album listener to fully appreciate & I'm Fine Today. One or two songs won't do it.

Where does & I'm Fine Today fit in the today's music spectrum? Hell if I know. It checks off the one line that matters to me; good music. Other than that, I don't know, Americana? maybe. But that seems too much of a catchall. I'll just say this; if you like Houndmouth and HoneyHoney, then this album is for you. If you don't know who they are, just listen and decide for yourself.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Album Spotlight: Caroline Reese and the Drifting Fifth - Tenderfoot

Photo by Lisa Boehm
Tenderfoot is the fourth release from Pennsylvania native and independent artist Caroline Reese, either as a solo artist or with her band the Drifting Fifth. To be quite honest, I had never heard of her until a week ago. I'm sorry I have missed out.

Ranging from hook-laden pop rock to introspective acoustic singer/songwriter songs, Tenderfoot is a great listen from start to finish. From the atmospheric "Stormchasers" to the stripped down acoustic "Unlocked" to the catchy "Airshow" to the swampiness at the end of "Beast", Reese and her band deliver an interesting journey through and amongst genres that all flows and never seems disjointed.

Fans of pop rock, Americana, and country can all find something to like, but the real winners fans of good music, because Tenderfoot is chock full of good music.

Check out some music:






Sunday, January 8, 2017

Retro Album Spotlight: Stevie Nicks: Bella Donna

Stevie Nicks' first solo album Bella Donna was released in 1981, 36 years ago in July. I listened to it again recently and wanted to revisit how good it actually is and how the music landscape has changed so much in the past 35 years.

Bella Donna went platinum (one million album sales) within three months of its release and has sold over six million worldwide since its release. What different times we live in now.

Bella Donna also spawned four songs that hit the top 40 or better of the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Listening now, this album would be thrown into Americana, because it belongs nowhere else in today's musical spectrum. It was pop rock in 1981. And believe it or not, it's too country for country radio in 2017.

All the songs on the album were written or co-written by Nicks except for the Tom Petty duet "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" (written by Petty and Michael Campbell) and seven of the 10 songs penned exclusively by Nicks.



Then there was the other duet on on the album with the iconic Don Henley, "Leather and Lace".



"After the Glitter Fades" was the fourth single released from Bella Donna and later covered by Glen Campbell. This is the vibe of most of the rest of the album, save "Edge of Seventeen" (see below) and I'm surprised it hasn't been covered more by country artists.



And finally, probably the most known song from Bella Donna, at least among people who listen to classic rock radio, "Edge of Seventeen". I could put the official video here, but this live version from 2011 is twelve minutes long and features long time Nicks guitarist Waddy Wachtel. Gotta give some love to the musicians.



Thursday, January 5, 2017

Album Spotlight: Eliza Neals: Breaking and Entering

If I had 2015 to do all over again Eliza Neals' Breaking and Entering may have made one of my year end lists. Unfortunately, I didn't hear this album until a couple of days ago. That's the beauty of music, there is no expiration date on good. Whether it be 2015 or 1995 or 1965, good music is good music. And that's what Eliza Neals provides: good music.

Hailing from Detroit, Eliza Neals borrows heavily from the Mississippi delta and combines it with the upper midwest blues style with just a touch of rock. Neals has vocals reminiscent of Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Nicks. That combination makes for an enjoyable listen for those that like the blues but not too pure.

Listen to this, and tell me I'm not right.