Monday, December 22, 2014

What Music I Take From 2014 Into 2015

I've always been a lover of music. Guess I always will be. In the last 18 to 24 months I've really gotten into discovering new music. And I'm pretty pleased with what I have found.

Thanks to sites like Saving Country Music, Farce the Music and Bring Back Glam my interest in new music has been rekindled and I'm no longer just relying on the classic stuff.

There are plenty of lists about the best of 2014, the worst of 2014, etc. My take is a bit different. I'm going to give you the five albums that I discovered (not necessarily released) in the past year that I'll be listening to going into 2015 and beyond. Because that's what really matters.

I'm not saying they are the "best" records, but the one's that resonated with me that I will continue to listen to going forward. In no particular order:

Night Ranger - High Road
This is probably the best record of their career and will get no airplay or recognition. It's also the most diverse and heaviest record they've recorded. The guitar work by Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra is unbelievably good. The songs are good. It's the kind of record you listen to in your car with the windows down (top down, preferably) blasting for all nearby to hear. Good 80's-style hard rock.
Here's my favorite track from the album, as will be the case all the way down:

Whiskey Myers - Early Morning Shakes
If you like your Texas Country to sound like Southern Rock, Whiskey Myers delivers. Along with Blackberry Smoke, they are keeping the tradition of Southern Rock alive and well. They're not Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker, et al. They are Whiskey Myers. And they are good.

Orianthi - Heaven in this Hell
This was released in 2013. I discovered it in 2014, so it makes the list. This native Aussie is a guitar-playing genius. She was plucked to play on Michael Jackson's last tour that never happened. She has been in Alice Cooper's touring band. She has recently hooked up Richie Sambora. That's a good resume, but irrelevant to this discussion. The album rocks. So many textures and nuances in the guitar work. Plus the songs are good, which is paramount.

Koritni - Welcome to the Crossroads
Another Aussie entry, this one from 2012. This band sounds a lot like 80's hard rock. A lot. They have the chops and the hooks. I find myself going back to this record time and time again. It's an easy listen.

Sunny Sweeney - Provoked
Or maybe this album should be called Breaking up the Sausage Party. She had the first single to reach the top of the Texas Country charts by a female performer since, I don't know, a very long time. And the single that charted was not one of my favorites on the album. Poignant and sarcastic and at times funny, this record has something for everyone. Unless you just can't stand anything county, because it's definitely country.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

College Football Committee Rankings

Ok, so the committee came out with their penultimate rankings on Tuesday. Everybody is up in arms from Waco to Tallahassee.

There is still a very interesting weekend of football to be played.

But here's where the committee got it wrong. Florida State should not be in the top four. Yep, they're lucky to still be there. And what's funny (or hypocritical) is that the many of the same pundits decrying the Seminoles' rank are the same one's that dismissed past undefeated teams such as Boise State. Their mantra at the time was that Boise would not be undefeated had they played an SEC schedule. So, apparently the same doesn't apply for FSU.

Hey, this is uncharted ground for everyone. Let's see what happens.

If I were a Baylor fan, I'd be pissed. Head to head should matter. But it doesn't and never has. Ask Longhorns fans.

All I'm saying is that the committee got it mostly right. As of today. We'll see what happens after this weekend's games. They only really have to get it right once.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ron Keel: Metal Cowboy

Sometimes you just stumble upon something by accident that you really weren't looking for, but was exactly what you needed to find. That's what happened to me a few days ago.

Anyone who was deep into 80's hard rock, otherwise known as hair metal, knows of the band Keel, led by lead singer Ron Keel. We've probably all tried to scrub this video from our memories:

And there was this over-choreographed cover of "Because the Night". The song itself is not bad, but the video.....

Ok, enough of that. I have a good song/bad video series. This is about Ron Keel's solo release in early 2014.

It's an interesting mix of Southern Rock, 80's Hard Rock and Country. And surprisingly, it all works. Personally, I think the country stuff works best. Here's a live acoustic solo performance of "Just Like Tennessee".

This is probably one of the most traditional country songs I've heard in 2014.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Don't Compare Bro-Country to Hair Metal

I've read/heard it many times: Bro-Country is country music's version of Hair Metal.

Well, a tweet from @FarceTheMusic sent me down a Cinderella (the band, not the book/movie) wormhole that ended with a thorough exploration of the music of my high school years.

The actual tweet: Cinderella's "Heartbreak Station" is one of my favorite alt-country ballads ever.

Of course I went back and listened. He's right. And that's what sent me down the wormhole. There are many Cinderella songs that are very country-tinged. But what other 80's Hard Rock bands were doing the same thing? Not exactly the same thing, but stuff that would be considered a different genre 25-30 years later.

Here is Cinderella's "Heartbreak Station".

Cinderella was always more hard blues rock than Hair Metal anyway. They, along with some of the others I will post just kind of go lumped into the category, fair or not. I could post a few more Cinderella songs here, but I want to diversify.

LA sleaze rockers put out some really good Americana type songs in the 80s. One I really like is Faster Pussycat's "House of Pain".

Another sleaze rock band with this type of song was LA Guns. "Ballad of Jayne" is a great song.

Even the ultimate Hair Metal band had several songs of substance. Here is Poison's "Something to Believe In".

Great White got pegged into the same Hair Metal category, but like Cinderella, they were always more bluesy hard rock. I had a hard time choosing which song of theirs to go with, but I chose "House of Broken Love".

Did I cherry pick? Of course I did. But these songs were all released as singles. I didn't dig deep into album cuts. I just get tired of people dismissing Hair Metal and now referring to it as "Butt Rock". It's 80s hard rock and lot of it stands the test of time. I admit, there was a bunch of crap, especially towards the end, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

And everyone should be reading Farce the Music. Funny, snarky and fantastic.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Good Song, Bad Video: Billy Squier: Rock Me Tonite

This one should really be titled Decent Song, Career Killing Video.

The video will speak for itself, but I'll offer a little history here.

Billy Squier was well on his way to becoming a hard rock/pop metal superstar in the early 80's. After two iconic albums, Don't Say No and Emotions In Motion Squier had hits that have become classic rock staples like "The Stroke", "Lonely is the Night", "Everybody Wants You" and "My Kind of Lover". His next album Signs of Life came out in 1984 and Squier was ready to take the rock world by storm. And then the video happened.

In Squier's own words, "I was playing to half-houses. I went from 15,000 and 20,000 people a night to 10,000 people. Everything I’d worked for my whole life was crumbling, and I couldn’t stop it. How can a four-minute video do that?"

How can a four-minute video do that? Oh it's bad. It's really, really bad. But career-killing bad? I'll let you be the judge.

Don't cry for Bill Squier, he's made millions from being the most sampled artist by the hip hop industry.

This, recorded in 2009, shows that Squier still rocks. And this is also more along the lines of the video Capitol Records should have released in 1984.

Just to show those moves in the horrible video for for "Rock Me Tonite" are not out of character, watch this live recording from 1983 for "Everybody Wants You". Much cooler with a guitar in hand.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Good Song, Bad Video: Journey: Separate Ways

Journey was huge in the 80's. And it wasn't because of their videos. I think we all tolerated the videos just to hear the songs.

Set in a shipping yard (for no apparent reason), "Separate Ways" features really bad air guitar, air drumming and air keyboarding (is that even a thing?). There's the obligatory good looking female. Then at the end, it appears all to have been a dream.

If this video were ironic, it might make sense. But given the timeline and the advent of MTV, I think it's just bad. Judge for yourself.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Good Song, Bad Video: Scorpions: Rock You Like a Hurricane

For this edition of "Good Song, Bad Video", we take on the German metal machine known as Scorpions (and no, it's not the THE Scorpions, just Scorpions, for those scoring at home).

"Rock You Like A Hurricane" was one of their bigger hits and came out at just the right time to have a video full of cliche and cheese and nonsense.

It starts out cliche enough with cages and attractive women, only with a twist, this time the band is in the cage. And there are leopards (or some spotted jungle cats).

Then it just gets a bit weird. There are what appear to be sleep pods from which lead sing Klaus Meine is the only one who truly emerges. But there are five of them, so it's safe to assume that the other four house the rest of the band. Klaus is met by some masked woman and proceeds, uh, somewhere, where there are strange robed beings fiddling with something. They quickly exit as Klaus stumbles through.

You thought this was going somewhere? Not really. The next couple of minutes are Scorpions playing in the cage interspersed with live concert clips.

Then right after the guitar solo, we get another 80's hard rock video cliche: the dark narrow alley/cave/hallway/dungeon type scene. This one is tad more imaginative in that it has Aliens-like qualities.

The poorly constructed cage that encloses the band is falling apart at the seams by the end of the song, but the only one who breaks into the inner sanctum is one of the hot chicks who bends the bars even though any fat man could walk through at any time.

Then the band makes it back to the pods. And at least one of the hot chicks or maybe five. But there are still only five pods. It makes no sense and perfect sense all at the same time.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Album Review: Melissa Etheridge: This Is M.E.

I was a huge fan of Melissa Etheridge in the late 80's/early 90's. Here first three records, Melissa Etheridge, Brave and Crazy, Never Enough, are still some of my favorites. The raw energy and attitude of those albums were great.

Then came the breakthrough Yes I Am followed by Your Little Secret which both contained the biggest hits of Etheridge's career. For me, it became a little too polished. So I kind of checked out.

Since I'm back into music heavily, searching out good stuff, when I noticed Etheridge had a new record out, I had to check out. I'm so glad I did.

Now, I don't know what she's been doing since Your Little Secret, but This Is M.E. is fantastic.

This Is M.E. starts off with a whimper. The first song, "I Won't Be Alone Tonight" is pop schlock. But then things start to pick up. "Take My Number" takes me back to the first album. Instrumentally anyway.

"A Little Hard Hearted" is also reminiscent of Etheridge's earlier stuff. In places.

Then things really start to good and swampy. The next six songs are Melissa Etheridge at her best. Raw, emotional, real and just a little bit different from what I've heard before. Those six songs are the record for me.

"Do It Again" starts out as a country-tinged ballad then Ehteridge channels here inner Janis Joplin in places, especially the pre-chorus, which is kind of unexpected. There's also what sounds like some lap steel in there.

Then she goes really deep into the swamp with "Monster". Sparse instrumentation, gospel choir-like backing vocals and some blues harp. It's all good.

With "Ain't That Bad" we're staying in the swamp. And it's still all good.

"All The Way Home" is just plain double entendre fun. In a good way. No pink umbrellas here.

The next song, "Like A Preacher", leaves the swamp, but it has classic Melissa Etheridge vocals, like the kind found on the first album.

And back to the swamp with "Stranger Road", which may just be my favorite track on the record. The vocals in the verses may be a little forced, but everything else about the song more than makes up for it.

For me, the last two tracks are forgettable.

Here's the official video for "Take My Number"

And then stuff like this is what made me a fan in the first place. Just Melissa and a 12 string Ovation.

Melissa Etheridge on Amazon.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Good Song, Bad Video Y&T: Keep on Runnin'

Time for another edition of Good Song, Bad Video. And this time I may have found the best/worst.

From Y&T's 1984 album In Rock We Trust comes the great song "Keep on Runnin'" accompanied by an atrocious video.

Y&T has never gotten the credit they deserve for all the fantastic music they have put out over the years. They, unfortunately, never caught on big during the 80's hard rock heyday. Maybe they weren't pretty enough. Maybe they were a little too stripped down. Maybe they were a little too hard. Or not hard enough. Maybe they weren't polished enough. I don't know, but they rocked.

The video for this song, however, should live in infamy forever. You can't blame the band. Their part in this whole production was faux playing the song on a stage. It's the whole storyline, horrid special effects and bad acting surrounding them that make this cringeworthy.

The story is familiar. The nerd asks the popular girl to go to show. She shoots him down and goes off with the popular stud jock. Nerd goes home and pops a Y&T cassette into his walkman (sorry kids, look those up, you know how to use the google machine). The guitars crank and something magical starts to happen.

This is where it starts to go off the rails. The kid starts to turn into the metallic figure on the In Rock We Trust album cover.

That in and of itself might not be too bad. But the result ends up looking like a cross between Iron Man and the Michelin Man.

As would be expected, the popular, hot chick and the stud run into trouble on wherever they are going. Stud boy ends up running off and leaving the hot chick at the mercy of this very unintimidating group of three....hooligans? gang members? I don't know. The MetalMichelin Man, while flying through the air, finds this scene and rescues the hot chick.

Then there's a bit of a twist, and I give someone credit for this because if you know Y&T, they never get the girl in their songs. The hot chick freaks out and leaves MetalMichelin Man confused and shedding a tear (oil drop?).

Whatever passes for special effects are disastrous throughout. But remember guys, this was before CGI, at least nothing beyond infancy. And this was the early days of MTV when bands/labels really didn't know what they were doing. But this is disastrously delicious. Judge for yourself.

I just can't leave it there. Y&T is one of my favorite bands of all time. Dave Meniketti is one of the best lead singer/lead guitar combo guys alive. And they are still doing it live. While original bassist/songwriting partner Phil Kennemore passed away in 2011 from lung cancer Dave and the band continue to melt faces. Here's a shoddy video but with good sound from a show in 2013.

Y&T on Amazon

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Album Spotlight: Ryan Adams: Ryan Adams

I probably should have heard of Ryan Adams before now. But just within the past couple of years did I start searching out new music again. And it's been challenging and rewarding.

Adams has been putting out records for years; solo, with Whiskeytown and the Cardinals. I'll probably delve into his earlier work at some time, but right now I want to focus on his self-titled new release.

I don't want to compare Adams and this album to anyone, but if you like Tom Petty, John Hiatt, Dire Straits, John Mellencamp, the Traveling Wilburys, Robert Plant (solo stuff) or Chris Isaak you should find something to like on this record. That's some pretty heavy company.

Groovy at times, sparse at times, more often than not melancholy, this is not your party album. It's more of a stay-at-home-hang-out-on-the-porch-with-a-glass-of-wine record. But each song is so good in it's own way, once you put it on, you just want to get lost in the Ryan Adams experience.

I know there are still over three months left in 2014, but Ryan Adams Ryan Adams is the leader in the clubhouse for the best album I've heard this year.

At 11 songs and 42 minutes, you are left wanting more. But that's what a good record should do.

Here a couple of cuts. The first song of the album, "Gimme Something Good" starts it off on the right note. Plus the video features Elvira, so there's that.

And here's an acoustic version (the album version is mostly acoustic, but does have some more instrumentation) of "My Wrecking Ball".

Ryan Adams on Amazon.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Eric Johnson: Cliffs of Dover: Happy Music

With all the crap going on in the world, here's some happy music. Nothing to see in the video, just put in your earbuds and enjoy "Cliffs of Dover" by Eric Johnson. If this song doesn't brighten your mood, you're hopeless.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

NFL Has Turned Its Attention to Fleecing Someone Besides the Fans

I haven't been an NFL fan for years. I'm still a fan of my favorite team. But will I consume anything the NFL shoves down my throat? Nope. Not even close.

I kinda pay attention to what's going on throughout the league, but that's only because I'm in a Survivor Pool.

The NFL has been fleecing fans for years. Especially the season ticket holders.

Hey, maybe they should pay a fee for the privilege of being fleeced. Seat licensing? Check.

Those two home exhibition games that are pointless and poorly attended? Let's build that into the season ticket package. Check.

Football is best consumed on your couch or in your recliner on a nice TV from the comfort of your own home. Best television show going. That's a problem because you're not spending two weeks worth of grocery money on two beers and a hot dog. If those ingrates aren't gonna show up in person for the game, we won't let them see it at all. Blackout rules? Check.

Can we bilk them out of a little more? There's parking fees. Check.

What else? Whoa. They seem to catching on. Let's move on (until they forget). Hey, did you realize that ratings for the halftime show were better than overall ratings for the game?

Yeah, but it was a crappy game by the 2nd half. Many had tuned out. Keep that under your hat, there's another revenue stream to be had here. These artists get a boost in sales after the Super Bowl (it won't sustain, but it's real). They already play for free, but they should be paying us.

Don't you think ratings were so high during halftime because of who the artists are? I mean, we don't get the garage band from down the street.

You're fired!

Yep, that's right. The NFL wants to make the halftime talent make a "financial contribution" to the NFL. That's just a bit grotesque.

You know who I want to see at the 2015 Halftime Show? An empty stage. I know it won't happen. Someone will cave. But a guy can dream.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Good Song, Bad Video: Bon Jovi: Runaway

Bon Jovi is one of my favorite bands. "Runaway", off the self-titled debut album, is the first song of theirs I ever heard. And still one of my favorites.

But, oh my, what a bad video.

From this video, we can glean that hair metal, along with lavender leather pants, emerged from some post-apocalyptic nuclear accident from the '50's. At least that's what I'm getting.

For all the female fans, Jon shakes his ass. And has great hair. Enjoy.

Previous Good Song, Bad Video submissions:

Dokken: Breaking the Chains
Motley Crue: Looks That Kill
Def Leppard: Foolin'

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Motley Crue - Full Review

I posted a knee-jerk quickie review on the Nashville Outlaws Motley Crue tribute record when only one minute snippets were available. I have now had the chance to listen to the record in its entirety. While I've had some slight changes of opinion after listening to the whole songs, I will say that my quick hits were fairly spot on.

With 15 songs all done by different artists, this record can't be judged as an album, but rather the individual songs deserve to be critiqued on their own individual merits. Because this thing is all over the map, I'll do a song-by-song breakdown.

First a little background. While I'm not the biggest Motley Crue fan in the world, I grew up listening to hair bands and sleaze rock. The Motley songs that I really liked, I judge the covers a little differently than the songs I thought were meh. I'm also a fan of country music. So I come at this from both angles. Or maybe neither. Or a combination.

I wouldn't even bother with this if it had turned out to be the trainwreck I initially thought it would be when first hearing of the project, but there is some really interesting stuff on the record. Let's get to it.

If you can get past Rascall Flatts' "Kickstart My Heart", things get better. I promise. It's not that it's awful, it's just that there's nothing original there. It's a straight-up cover of the original. With Gary Levox on vocal. The studio musicians are good. But as in most of the straight covers, they should have consulted Mick Mars on how to get that bathtub guitar sound. It's just bland and pointless.

I really don't like saying nice things about Florida Georgia Line, but although they did a pretty straight cover of "If I Die Tomorrow", it sounds pretty good. After the first verse the singer loses some of his drawl and it starts to sound real. Wisely, they didn't try to replicate Mars' guitar sound and infused some banjo?, mandolin?, but it doesn't sound out of place. I would be much happier if FGL would stick to this kind of stuff and leave the EDM and rap somewhere else.

Odd song choice for Lee Ann Rimes with "Smokin' in the Boys Room". Which is actually a cover of Motley's cover of the old Brownsville Station song. While I initially didn't care for this song at all, the bluesy, jazzy vibe is kind of cool. The problem is that Rimes stretches the song out about two minutes too long. It just starts getting tiresome at the end.

The lead single from the record, Justin Moore's "Home Sweet Home" with Vince Neil is a watered down version of the original. All 80's power ballads translate easily into country music. So, it makes sense. This was just unnecessary. The original was all that was needed.

While Cassadee Pope's "The Animal in Me" doesn't stray too far from the original, it's interesting to hear the song with a female voice. It's obvious she feels comfortable in this type of music, although it's not much different from what she puts out for country radio now. I do like this one.

Now we get to something truly original and interesting. Aaron Lewis turns "Afraid" into a very classic sounding country song. I really didn't care that much for the original song. If anyone didn't know this was originally a Motley Crue song, they might think it was an Aaron Lewis original. Let's take a little time here to give a little credit to Nikki Sixx as a songwriter in general and lyricist specifically. I mean, just listen to lyrics in "Afraid". Lewis took those lyrics and constructed a very country song around them. This may be my favorite track on the record. May be.

Big and Rich's "Same Ol' Situation" just doesn't do it for me. That may be just

because I really liked the original so well. Or it may be because the cover is crap. I will give them credit for not going straight cover. I really can't say it's bad, it's just not for me. Moving on.

"Without You". Another 80's power ballad. Again, easy transition. But Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio do it as a duet. And pretty much acoustically. And it works. This is one that after hearing the full version, I've changed my opinion. I like it. It really has more of an Americana feel than country. It's well executed.

The Eli Young Band's "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" is another straight cover that is pointless. I'm sure Eli Young's fans will think it's great. It's not bad. It's just not anything other than a cover.

That brings us to the second really big departure from the original, Lauren Jenkins' "Looks That Kill". Lauren Jenkins has that kind of smoky Kim Carnes voice. And a definitive musical style that she does not depart from. I think this is genius. A lot of people are going to hate it. The melody is recognizable, but the instrumentation is totally divergent. This is another of my favorites.

"Live Wire" by The Cadillac Three, I hated the first time. It's grown on me, just a little bit. It's just a bit sludgy and swampy. Just the subject matter of the song, not to mention what the original was, lends itself to more energy. "Live Wire". Electricity. This was when Motley was wild, young and living free. This sounds a bit like grandpa's version of "Live Wire".

OK, so I said "Afraid" may be favorite track. The Mavericks' "Dr. Feelgood" is right there. The Mavericks take this cautionary tale from the dark alleys of Los Angeles and transport it to Miami. Musically anyway. It feels just a real as the original, but in a very different way. I really like interesting covers. This is very, very interesting. And good.

Brantley Gilbert does "Girls, Girls, Girls". Of course he does. This is a sleazy song about strip clubs. And Gilbert manages to just make it creepy and uncomfortable.

Gretchen Wilson's "Wild Side" is another straight cover. It shows that Gretchen has metal pipes on par with Lzzy Hale and Doro. Little else.

Lastly we come to "Time For Change" by Darius Rucker. Give Rucker credit, he's been doing Hootie for a long time. He gives this song the Hootie treatment. And it works. If you're a fan of Hootie and Blowfish and/or Darius Rucker, you'll like it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Album Spotlight: Sunny Sweeney: Provoked

For my 2.5 readers, sorry I've been away for a while. But I'm back with a strong recommendation.

Sunny Sweeney's latest album Provoked is nothing short of brilliant. I tweeted earlier "Smart, witty, poignantly funny at times." That's the short version. And that could be the entire version and be accurate.

Let's get this out of the way early, Sunny Sweeney does not possess the soaring vocal capabilities of Carrie Underwood or Ann Wilson or Lzzy Hale. But she does have the ability to convey plenty of emotion in the songs that she wrote. And what a fantastic songwriter she is.

Heartache, heart break, the other woman, the flawed partner, the bad girl, the snark, sarcasm and playfulness. And a lot of real life. It all comes together seamlessly.

We are almost to September, and this is in my top two records this year.

I don't know if this is my favorite track on the record, or just my favorite lyrics. But either way, I like "Second Guessing".

This next song is on the record, but it's just more fun in any live setting. There are plenty of youtube videos of it as she has been doing it for over three years, that I know of, maybe longer. I like this one.

Sunny Sweeney on Amazon.

TheCheapSeats on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


I haven't posted much lately. I've been busy with life, but more importantly, with family.

In the past three weeks, we have been to family reunions with my wife's family and my family.

I know. Many people have horror stories of family reunions. Or at least uncomfortable stories. And a lot of families are not like our families. I understand, and that's okay.

My wife's family had a reunion this year for the first time in a long time. There were some members there that I have known for a long time. There were some that I met for the first time.

At my family reunion, which has been rekindled for the past several years, we had semi-estranged family members re-connect.

Both families are dysfunctional, but in today's world, whose aren't?

I look forward to my family's reunion every year. Some can make it, some can't. We always have a good time.

I hope my wife's family will continue with their reunion in future years.

You can pick your friends, but you're stuck with family. I'm happy to be stuck.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cinderella Deconstructed

Cinderella, one of my favorite bands from the 80's, apparently have no plans of getting back together and making new music. But that hasn't stopped the individual members of the band.

Tom Keifer, lead vocalist, lead guitarist and chief songwriter for Cinderella put out a solo album a while back and has just released a new lyric video for the song "It's Not Enough". It sounds like Cinderella, well, because Tom had the voice of Cinderella and was the main songwriter. No mystery there. I like it.

Guitarist Jeff LaBar recently released his own solo project with a corresponding video for "No Strings". I'm guessing Jeff never got enough credit for the Cinderella sound because this is pretty good, except for the vocals. It's kind of akin to the Ace Frehley solo stuff. Good songs, suspect vocals. Maybe Jeff should lay off the cigs or hire a singer. That's my only qualm, otherwise it's a good song.

Bass player Eric Brittingham has teamed up with Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns) and Rikki Rockett (Poison) and some singer named Eric Gibbs to form an 80's glam supergroup of sorts called Devil City Angels. They have a single out called "All My People". Not great, not horrible. Would like to hear more from them before making a judgement.

I don't know what drummer Fred Coury is doing. I'll take what I can get, but personally would love to see all the guys get back together and record another album as Cinderella.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Album Review: Night Ranger: High Road

If your familiarity with Night Ranger begins and ends with "Sister Christian", well, you're not alone. And that's a shame. While "Sister Christian" is the quintessential ballad of 80's hard rock, Night Ranger is, and always has been so much more.

Night Ranger released their 11th studio album last month, High Road. It may just be their best effort yet. Over 30 years after their debut release Dawn Patrol, Night Ranger is still bringing it. While years of hard living and age have taken something away from Jack Blades and Kelly Keagy in the vocal department, the musicianship has only improved.

This is probably the most diverse record Night Ranger has put out. From classic 80's-style rockers to KISS meets Loverboy to a Styx/Kansas/Deep Purple 70's style mashup, it's all good.

Here's the shame of it all: Nobody outside of hardcore Night Ranger fans and good music archaeologists is going to hear it if left up to traditional outlets.  If you're reading this, you don't rely on traditional outlets, so I'm going track-by-track here.

The record starts off with the title track "High Road". Fun summertime song. Big chorus. "You don't need us, you need a mind of your own." Favorite line from the song. Roll down the windows and blast this one.

"Knock Knock Never Stop" is pure 80's-style fun. Catchy chorus. Big guitar solo. Which is a good time to mention guitarists Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra. Killer guitar riffs throughout this record.

"Rollin' On" brings on the heavier side of Night Ranger. This is the KISS meets Loverboy song. If you don't see the connection, listen to more music.

"Don't Live Here Anymore" is a 70's style ballad the evokes the sounds of Styx and Kansas with a touch of Deep Purple and Lynyrd Skynyrd. This may be my favorite song on the album, but I may change my mind tomorrow. There are so many layers to the song. Lyrically it's mature and introspective. Musically it goes so many places, and all are good.

"I'm Coming Home" is a classic country lyric set to Thin Lizzy style rock music. Or maybe it's just reminiscent of Thin Lizzy. It's catchy and it rocks.

"X Generation" falls a bit flat, especially lyrically, but the guitar work almost makes up for that.

"Only For You Only" is the kind of ballad Night Ranger made famous. It's not bad. It's not great. There's no place in current rock radio for it to find a home, but it would be better than 90% of what's being played on current country radio. And no, it's not a country song. But neither is mainstream country radio.

"Hang On" is a very Classic Rock sounding song that would be very much at home on an early Foreigner record. But it doesn't sound dated.

"St. Bartholomew" starts out with the chug of early Judas Priest, but seamlessly transforms by the chorus into a melodic rock track.

"Brothers" is very Beatles-esque. I don't know how else to describe it. Probably my least favorite track. But it's not horrible.

"L.A. No Name" ends the record and is very un-Night Ranger like. It's an acoustic guitar instrumental. And it's fantastic.

Night Ranger on Amazon.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Will There Ever Be a New Wave of Hard Rock?

I have been searching out new music that has in-your-face guitars, melodic vocals, good musicianship and is just a little over-the-top. Pretty much, 80's-style hard rock. I'm not talking about hair/glam/pop metal. Though I'm not dismissing that either. I'm talking about the hard rock that dominated the 80's with such acts as AC/DC, Scorpions, Motley Crue, the Cult, Guns 'N Roses, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Cinderella, etc.

There is some good stuff out there. And I have a theory as to why: Now is the first generation of musicians that have 80's hard rock as an influence. They are far enough removed from the atrocities that became of hard rock in general and hair metal specifically to be able to connect with the quality stuff that did exist. Also, they had parents who grew up with this music. And they have probably played with older musicians who played this type of music. It all rubs off.

I doubt there will ever be a new wave of hard rock, but for those of us that enjoy fun, loud guitar-driven rock, there is hope.

The members of Australia's Koritni, named after lead vocalist Lex Koritni (and let's just get this out of the way: horrible name) make no bones about naming Motley Crue, GnR, RHCP among others as influences. Listening to their most recent studio album Welcome to the Crossroads, the influences can't be denied. You can hear the Cult, Aerosmith, Tesla and the funk of RHCP or maybe more accurately, Extreme.

Million Dollar Reload, hailing from Northern Ireland, have definitely taken hold of the dirtier, sleazier side of the 80's rock scene. Reminiscent of Faster Pussycat, early GnR, L.A. Guns, but also holding onto an Aerosmith and AC/DC vibe. M$R knows how to write a hook as evidenced by songs such as "Wicked" and "Tatoos and Dirty Girls".

Unfortunately, I don't see this type of music taking hold in the United States anytime soon. But as long as there are thriving rock and metal communities in Europe and Australia, then we can at least get our hands on it.

Both of these bands bring the old sensibilities while not sounding dated, in my opinion. Judge for yourself.

Koritni on Amazon.

Million Dollar Reload on Amazon.

TheCheapSeats on Twitter.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Good Song, Bad Video: Def Leppard: Foolin'

Def Leppard's Pyromania still stands as one of the best hard rock albums ever made. I don't know if there was really a bad song on the entire record. And Def Leppard came along at just the right time to take advantage of MTV becoming, for all intents and purposes, the world's biggest radio station.

Back in the days when Rick Allen was not the one-armed wonder and Phil Collen still owned shirts, Def Leppard graced us with one of the cheesiest videos ever with "Foolin'".

While this is mostly a performance video set on a cheap soundstage, this video gets high cheese marks for the inane, disjointed imagery interspersed throughout.

It starts off, for no apparent reason, with some strange harp player engulfed in flames. This harp player returns a couple of times throughout the video, again for no apparent reason.

When we move on to the pre-chorus, Joe Elliott is strapped to what appears to be some triangular shaped torture device. It's a recurring theme in the video. But the torture aspect is lost on me. Unless, of course, we count the torture of having to endure this.

The second verse introduces us to some sorceress witch-like character who apparently through her crystal ball is the one behind Elliot on the triangular torture device. Or maybe she is the one who sets Joe free. We never see her again.

Then there's just cheesy explosions following Joe Elliot through a poorly constructed narrow hallway of sorts.

Oh, then we have the band rising out of some pit with angel of death and skull imagery. That is just SO Def Leppard.

It's a great song from a great band and I probably spent way more time deconstructing this video than what was put into crafting it. Judge for yourself.

All in all, good fun. Back in the day it made for good video viewing. Now it makes for good fodder.

Monday, July 14, 2014

My Texas Rangers at the All-Star Break: It's Not Pretty

Yes, I included "my" in the title of this post. I've been through a lot as a fan of the Texas Rangers over the years. Yes, this is bad right now. Losing 9 of the last 10 and 22 of the last 25, there are no
two ways about it, they are pitiful right now. Firmly in last place of the AL West, behind (gasp) Houston.

But for all of you Johnny-come-lately's who have bandwaggoneered your way into becoming a Rangers fan the past four years, this is how it used to be on a regular basis. And without all the injuries.

I turn on the TV and see a bunch of guys I've never heard of donning Rangers gear. And some of them will be gone the next day.

But here's the thing. This organization has done things the right way and this is just a blip. Hopefully. The Rangers have used approximately 432 pitchers and 157 position players before the All-Star break. I think both are records. This is a lost season.

Look on the bright side: plenty of good seats available at the Ballpark. And no matter how bad the team is, a bad day at the Ballpark is better than a good day at work.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Natalie Stovall and the Drive

I have heard that country music is the most popular form of music in the United States right now. If that's the case, then by definition, country music is pop music, right?

Natalie Stovall and the Drive are a pretty good pop rock band that you just might hear on mainstream country radio or CMT and GAC.

Stovall fronts the band and plays a pretty mean fiddle. The strength of the Drive is the musicians. With James Bavendam on drums, Zach Morse on bass and guitarists Miguel Cancino and Joel Dormer, The Drive is a jam band of the highest quality. Evidenced by this medley of mostly classic rock songs, Natalie Stovall and the Drive excel in the live setting. And that's a good thing as sales of physical forms of music as well as digital downloads are on the decline, being replaced more and more by streaming.

Stovall and the Drive released a self-titled, six-song EP in late 2013. They are currently working on a full-length record slated to be released sometime this year. A single from that EP was released accompanied by the video for "Baby Come On With It". Country, it ain't. But it is some good fun pop rock.

Natalie Stovall and the Drive on Amazon.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Quick Thoughts on Nashville Outlaws Motley Crue Tribute

OK, so I haven't listened to the entire record, only the one minute snippets available to preview on iTunes. But that's enough to know that Nashville Outlaws - A Tribute to Motley Crue is not the massive train wreck I expected it to be.
There is some good, some meh, some bad and a couple truly inspired tracks.

Pretty much, every artist that tried to do a standard remake of a song just came off as a watered down version of the original: Rascall Flatts' "Kickstart My Heart", Justin Moore's "Home Sweet Home", Eli Young's "Don't Go Away Mad", Brantley Gilbert's "Girls, Girls, Girls", Gretchen Wilson's "Wild Side" and Darius Rucker's "Time for Change".

Florida Georgia Line actually sounds like a good Southern Rock band with their version of "If I Die Tomorrow". If they would stay in that pocket they probably wouldn't be the butt of so many jokes that they are today.  And Cassadee Pope stays pretty true to the original on "The Animal in Me", but I like way she does it.

Some artists decided to stray off far from the original, with mixed results. Lee Ann Rimes' "Smokin' in the Boys Room" is just....odd. And not quite right. Clare Brown & Sam Palladio on "Without You" just falls flat. Big and Rich's "S,O.S." is ill-conceived and boring.

But.....and wait for it, there are three gems on this record.

Aaron Lewis, lead singer of the band Staind turned a pretty bad Motley song into a pretty damned good country song. His version of "Afraid" might be the largest departure from the original, but also the most successful.

Lauren Jenkins (don't know who she is) but her version of "Looks That Kill" is pretty killer in it's own right.

Finally, the Mavericks' doing "Dr. Feelgood" is just about genius. It takes the original out of the streets of Los Angeles and transports it right into Miami. It feels very "Miami Vice". And it doesn't feel wrong.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Good Song, Bad Video: Dokken: Breaking the Chains

Dokken was never one of my favorite bands, but I do like the song "Breaking the Chains" from their debut album of the same name.

This video is so epically bad it's fantastic. I don't blame the band or anyone else for that matter. This was made during the infancy of the video age and nobody knew what they were doing.

You should immediately notice George Lynch's unfortunate two-toned mullet. Then there is a preening walk down a narrow hallway. Then we get to some of the "performance" footage in the video and take particular notice of the synchronized, death-defying leap off the 2 1/2 foot riser by Lynch and Jeff Pilson at around the 54 second mark.

There is some pretty bad green screen usage with the estranged female super-imposed. There is fire and chains in a dungeon-like setting. Then of course the power of the guitar solo, by the guitar hero breaks them all out of their chains.

Now we go to what may the most disturbing part of the video, wearing some kind of martial arts top masquerading as a robe, a pants-less Don Dokken is laying chained to a bed. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I'm not saying there aren't any cheesey videos out now, but the early 80s are a goldmine. Enjoy.

Dokken on Amazon.

TheCheapSeats on Twitter.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Working Women's Wednesday: Dolly Parton

Yeah, I know. Last time Stevie Nicks, this time Dolly Parton. Nothing groundbreaking in featuring these two icons.

But a lot of people don't know of their greatness, their contributions, their legacies. And that's a shame. If I can educate just one person, I've done something.

Dolly Parton has recently released her 1,497th album. You might want to fact check's just an estimate. Blue Smoke came out in the U.S. in May of this year and hit #2 on the country album charts. You probably won't hear any of the music on mainstream country radio.

How does Dolly stay relevant, other than the fact that she is Dolly freakin' Parton? Why not commission the boys from Bon Jovi to re-write "Lay Your Hands On Me"? Sure.

Playing to a huge crowd at Glastonbury, England, accompanied by estranged Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, Dolly killed it, as only Dolly can.

This performance overall, not this particular song, has come under some scrutiny as being lip synced. While I don't believe this song was, you can read more about it here at Saving Country Music.

Whether solo or with Porter Waggoner or Kenny Rogers, Dollly Parton has always commanded attention. I would be remiss to not include some version of "Jolene".  So here you go:

Monday, June 30, 2014

Good Song, Bad Video: Motley Crue: Looks That Kill

I'm old enough to remember the time when MTV was actually Music Television and played videos. And play videos, they did. Good videos. Bad videos. Any videos.

So let's revisit some of that. There is a plethora of content out there.

We'll start with a band that can take it. Despite this ill-conceived, misogynistic video, Motley Crue has withstood the test of time.

I don't fault the Crue, or anyone else in this series, for these atrocities. It was a part of the times.

From Shout at the Devil, here is "Looks That Kill".

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Southern Rock is Alive and Well

OK. So we are all annoyed by the guys yelling out "Play some Skynyrd" or "Freebird". And, yeah, that still goes on. The band doesn't appreciate it. Most of the patrons don't either.

But, you know what? There are plenty of bands out there keeping Southern Rock alive. Do they all play "Freebird"? Nope. Do they rock in the spirit of Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker, Molly Hatchet, ZZ Top, the Allmans, Charlie Daniels, etc.? A resounding yes to that.

In the past I've been more than willing to say "Today's music sucks".  Well, yeah, some of it does. But some of it is really good. Here are some bands doing Southern Rock justice.

Whiskey Myers: My personal favorite. And, as a caveat, I can be swayed by the fact that they hail from Texas. Their latest record Early Morning Shakes is pure, unadulterated Southern Rock, no matter how it's categorized now.

Blackberry Smoke: I have to give them proper credit.  They were my gateway into looking for more modern Southern Rock. I first heard them and was intrigued. Are there really still Southern Rock bands out there? Yes, yes there are. And Blackberry Smoke is at the pinnacle.

Preacher Stone is pretty unknown but they bring it. Although they don't want to be known as a Southern Rock band, but rather a rock band from the South I'm including them anyway.

There are many more. And that excites me. Search, dig and find the music you like. Don't let anyone else dictate what you listen to.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Brooke Ansley: Nothin' Fancy Demo

Courtesy of reverbnation
I really don't know much about Brooke Ansley other than this one time she was Miss Maryland, so there's that. (Her words not mine). Actually, you can check her out on her website.

What I do know is that the one-time Miss Maryland has written and recorded a demo of a fantastic country song. It has a story. It has a melody. It has a hook. And I like it.

And here it is:

Original Soundcloud version:

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Retro Album Spotlight: Night Ranger: Dawn Patrol

Inarguably, Night Ranger's greatest success came with the release of 1983's Midnight Madness with the anthemic "(You Can Still) Rock in America" and the prototypical power ballad "Sister Christian". However, their 1982 debut Dawn Patrol, still stands as one of their best, and my personal favorite.

I've found that debut albums are often some of my favorites. Why? The artist/band has had their whole lives to construct 10 good songs. After that, they have a year or two to put a record together. Granted, a lot of bands go on to make better records, but there is still something special about that first one, both as a consumer and an artist.

Dawn Patrol is one of those special records.

It starts out with the minor hit "Don't Tell Me You Love Me", which gives you a good idea of what Night Ranger is all about: Hair Metal before it was a thing.

The next track, "Sing Me Away" is kind of forgettable. Then we have "At Night She Sleeps" in which we get a taste of the lyrical genius of Night Ranger (tongue planted firmly in cheek here). But they really did have some interesting lyrics: "She's seals her fate in a car on a date with some loser from Birmingham". (Sorry Alabama or England, however you wish to interpret). 

"Call My Name" is one of my favorite songs of all time. And the 2nd verse has some of my favorite lyrics of all time:
"Your silhouette always appears in my window
I close my eyes and hear
The applause of at least a thousand different strangers
Every one seems sincere
Or did you notice?
Was it you that I hear?"

Okay, so it's not high brow poetry. But I like it. And that's all that matters.

This album came out in the cassette era (saddens me that kids today will never know the side one/side two element) and ends with "Eddies Comin' Out Tonight". The chorus is a bit trite, but the verses are quite interesting.

Side two (yeah, I'm still in cassette mode) opens with three standard rockers, "Can't Find Me A Thrill", "Young Girl in Love" and "Play Rough". While they are not throwaways or filler, they are not among my favorites. Others may disagree. And that's fine.

The next song, "Penny", is not that distinguishable from the previous songs, other than I like it better.  That's just personal preference.

The record ends with the eponymously named "Night Ranger'.  It's not bad, it's not great.

No, this is not an iconic record. It's just good. And underrated in the Night Ranger lexicon. 

My favorite song, enjoy before YouTube crashes everything.

You can still Rock in America. At least today.

Night Ranger on Amazon.

TheCheapSeats onTwitter.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Soccer/Futbol: I'm All In on the World Cup

For me the World Cup is an Olympic-like experience. It happens once every four years and I'm all-in behind the Americans.

Hey, it's a big-time event. The entire world is watching, with passion.

Big-time events are fun. The Super Bowl. The World Series. The Stanley Cup. Wimbledon. The Masters.

Big-time events that happen once every four years? That is something every sports fan can get behind.

This whole soccer thing, in the last eight years, has become more than a once-every-four-years event. It seems to have become, in the words of Scott Van Pelt, a "movement".

There are passionate fans here in the United States. The twentysomethings who grew up playing the game and understanding the game. It's taken a while for this to come to fruition. But I believe it has arrived.

I know more about soccer than most of my fortysomething peers in West Texas. And that's just because I helped coach my daughter's team when she was eight. You know how it goes, the head coach that actually knows what he's doing needs someone to assist. The parents all check out their shoes at this point. I actually spoke up and said "I know nothing about soccer, but I can be here." Boom. Assistant coach.

I learned a lot in those three years. I can appreciate the game. I actually know things to look for. I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. But I'm kind of invested in the American outcome in this World Cup. And I will also be watching intently when the women play next year.

Just don't ask me to care that much the rest of the time. Hey, it's a start.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

RIP Richard Durrett

The internet in general and social media specifically can be a very cruel place. It's very easy to hide in the anonymity it provides.

It also can be very uplifting. And tear-inducing. And poignant. And good.

Richard Durrett passed away today of a brain aneurysm. He's younger than I am. He leaves behind two young children and a wife.

I never knew Richard Durrett personally. He was a baseball writer, covering my Texas Rangers. All I knew about him was from his writing and appearances on radio. Until tonight.

Of course I follow many baseball writers and DFW sports people on twitter. With the news of Durrett's passing, there has been a flood of tweets about him. Not one negative word has been written. You wouldn't expect anything negative to be said so soon, but these were glowing remembrances of the man. Of the father. Of the colleague. Of the acquaintance.

Yes, there are times when I hate what social media does. Then there is tonight.

RIP, Richard Durrett. And prayers for those loved ones left behind.

Working Women's Wednesday: Stevie Nicks

Whether with Fleetwood Mac, solo or dueting with the likes of Don Henley or Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks possesses one of the most unique and instantly recognizable voices in all of music. There's not anything of real substance I can add in words, so let's just revel in the greatness that is Stevie Nicks.

From 1976 performing the classic Rhiannon with Fleetwood Mac.

With Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 2006 with "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" from Stevie's first solo album Bella Donna, a record I still listen to today. Many good songs on that one from this one to "Edge of Seventeen" to the Don Henley duet "Leather and Lace" plus many more.

"Gold Dust Woman" from a 2011 concert in Chicago. Still has the voice and I love this extended version of the song.

Stevie Nicks on Amazon.

Fleetwood Mac on Amazon.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Artist Spotlight: Cinderella

Cinderella (the 80's hard rock band, not the Disney character/movie) had the unfortunate luck to come along just at the right time to become hugely successful.

That statement will confuse most people, but hear me out. Cinderella's debut album Night Songs came out in 1986  at the height of the hair metal explosion. And they played it up, initially. Just look at the album cover to the right.

They had the look, the hair (including bassist Eric Brittingham's perfect blonde waterfall 'do), the synchronized guitar spins, and the attitude. MTV ready and willing. But they also had the chops, especially lead vocalist/lead guitarist/bandleader Tom Keifer. And the songs. Cinderella was much more akin to AC/DC than Poison.

Cinderella was lumped in with the hair bands. And that was fair. Check out this video. They played the part.

What wasn't fair is that Cinderella and a handful of other quality bands from that era were swept under the rug with everything associated with Hair Metal. I've heard the story where Keifer was shopping new songs to labels and upon hearing the songs, the execs were intrigued. When they found out who it was, they dismissed it.

Had Night Songs come out 10 years earlier, or maybe even five, then the career narrative would have been different. Cinderella is much bluesier and much more diverse than the pigeon hole in which they've been relegated. Fortunately for us, Tom Keifer is still creating music and Cinderella is still performing.

"Shelter Me" is much more representative of what Cinderella was all about. Excuse the bad video and Little Richard cameo.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Working Women's Wednesday: Various Artists

I had intended to make to make this a weekly feature. I got through one week and then life kinda happened. Or maybe I just dropped the ball. Either way, it's my fault.

There are many women, both in rock and country, that are not getting enough exposure. Pop music tends to treat the ladies much better. My goal is to feature those that I like.

To re-kick this off, let's just take a look at some of the ladies I've written about previously:

Samantha Fish. Bluesier than rock, but rocking more than straight-up blues:

Orianthi: Pedigree includes playing guitar for Michael Jackson and Alice Cooper. Currently teaming with Richie Sambora. Guitar virtuoso.

Maggie Rose: She falls into the country genre, but is so much more.

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Album Spotlight: Preacher Stone: Paydirt

Hailing from Charlotte, North Carolina's Preacher Stone does not want to be identified as a Southern Rock band, but a "rock band from the South." Okay. Whatever. I'll roll with it.

Their latest record Paydirt, released in March of this year, borrows liberally from other "rock bands from the South" such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker, the Allman Brothers, Charlie Daniels and Georgia Satellites. There are also hints of Classic Rock bands like Bad Company and Edgar Winter. There's also some very Country-like tendencies on the record.

Throw that all together and, in Preacher Stone, you get a very familiar yet unique sounding band. With Blackberry Smoke and Whiskey Myers, Preacher Stone is doing Southern Rock the right way. Even if they're just a rock band from the South.

Here is "Me and Mine" from the Paydirt album.

Preacher Stone on Amazon.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

CMT Music Awards:Eric Church and Lzzy Hale: That's Damn Rock & Roll

Image from
I wrote about the Eric Church and Halestorm pairing before. I though it was an interesting, maybe even good, idea. Although that had to do with Halestorm opening for Church on his current tour.

At the CMT Music Awards this idea went a bit further when Church performed with Halestorm frontwoman and leader Lzzy Hale on Church's song "That's Damn Rock & Roll".

And it was damn rock & roll. Nope, wasn't country, but that ship left port a long time ago. The best country performance was put in by LeaAnn Womack and Kacey Musgraves in their Alan Jackson tribute. But I digress.

Full disclosure here. I'm a big fan of Halestorm and Lzzy Hale's vocals specifically. While Church is a good enough vocalist in his own right, he could never bring to that song what Hale did: soaring, powerhouse, straight up rock vocals.

Right now what I'm most disappointed about is that the Halestorm leg of Church's tour gets no closer than 13 hours away from me.

And if the YouTube video gets taken down, here's a link to their performance at the CMT Awards.

TheCheapSeats on Twitter.

Monday, June 2, 2014

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

Listening to Saracene Sessions: Tape 1 by the Tyler McCumber Band, I hear southern rock and country. I hear Merle Haggard and Bob Seger. I hear Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top. That's all good.

But what I hear mostly is Tyler McCumber. And that's even better.

Saracene Sessions is not going to be anyone's go-to summer feel-good record. No party anthems to be found. There's nothing wrong with that, this just isn't one.

Sometimes dark and brooding, this record has remarkable songs in the almost lost art of storytelling. And stories, it does tell.

You're not going to put this on the playlist for your BBQ or crab boil party. This is the record you put on while sitting on your deck/balcony/etc. with a glass of wine or bottle of craft beer and just take it in.

Here is "Don't Blame the Gun".

Dont Blame the Gun from Tyler McCumber Band on Myspace.

Tyler McCumber Band on Amazon

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Artist Spotlight: Y&T

Y&T was one of the most underrated hard rock bands of the 80's. They have always been one of my favorites from that era. Personally I never understood why they didn't get swept up in the wave of Motley Crue, Whitesnake, Poison, Def Leppard, etc.

Maybe bad luck. Maybe never at the right place at the right time. Maybe an unfortunate twist of fate. Maybe bad karma. Whatever, it was never meant to be. Oh, sure, they had their one unfortunate hit with "Summertime Girls", but that was never what Y&T was. They were always much more than that.

Staunch Y&T aficionados will disagree with me, but I feel 1983's Mean Streak is their best work. I won't disagree with those who have an affinity for Earthshaker and Black Tiger, both fantastic albums, but I have a visceral connection with Mean Streak as it was my first introduction to Y&T, so it holds a special place in my heart.

Lead vocalist/lead guitarist/lead everything for Y&T, Dave Meniketti is one of the best combo vocalist/guitarists (along with Tom Keifer) in hard rock. Along with longtime partner in crime Phil Kennemore (RIP), Y&T never wavered from their particular brand of hard rock.

If you never heard them, here's a bad 80's video of a great song:

Y&T on Amazon

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Artist Spotlight: Maggie Rose

I must have been hiding under a rock not to find this gem until now, but Maggie Rose's Cut to Impress is a fantastic album. Released in early 2013, it's now almost a year and a half old, but better late to the party than to let it pass you by altogether.

Billed as country, I think it is now a fool's game to try to pigeonhole anything but the most obvious. While there is plenty of country throughout the record, there are also hints of funk, rock, R&B and obviously pop. Cut to Impress keeps you interested for the entirety of the album with a lot of unpredictability. After the first three cuts, I was waiting to see what style would come next.

Maggie Rose does not possess the greatest vocal chops, but her delivery is very believable no matter if singing about murder or love or heartbreak or lust.

One thing that stands out is the storytelling on a number of tracks. The storytelling aspect has almost become a lost art. This is especially prevalent on the first track, "Preacher's Daughter" and the latest single "Looking Back Now".

I've listened to entire record several times, but "Preacher's Daughter" keeps drawing me back. It's swampy and dark in the vein of Warrant's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" or Tanya Tucker's "Blackwater Bayou" or "The Night that the Lights Went Out in Georgia". Here is a live recording of that song.

Maggie Rose: Cut To Impress on Amazon

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Working Women's Wednesday: Pat Benatar, Rock Icon

Pat Benatar is one of the iconic female voices of our time in rock music. The diminutive vocalist with the huge
voice faced a lot of adversity and broke a lot of barriers en route to becoming a sensation in the '80's. Sure, she was fortuitous to come along at the perfect time, but that doesn't diminish anything she has accomplished.

Getting pushback from traditional rock radio, Benatar benefited heavily from the first global "radio" station, MTV. The fledgling television station that played nothing but music videos (some of you may be too young to remember, but that was actually what MTV was in its inception) needed content and Benatar was perfect for the format. Of course, there were many artists in the beginning days of MTV that didn't stay around for longer than a fleeting moment, but the one's with talent stuck around.

Along with guitarist turned husband Neil Giraldo, Benatar rocked to her way to classic status, epitomized by this 1982 release from the Get Nervous album, "Shadows of the Night".

Monday, May 26, 2014

Artist Spotlight: The Winery Dogs

Released almost a year ago (July 2013), I have been remiss in not mentioning the self-titled debut by The Winery Dogs. Debut is a bit misleading since all the members of the band have multiple albums under their collective belts, but this is the first one under the Winery Dogs moniker.

Comprised of veteran hard rock/metal musicians, a supergroup of sorts, this trio has put out an album worthy of their combined experience and proficiency, which is not always the case in these collaborations.

Guitarist/lead vocalist Richie Kotzen (Mr. Big, Poison), bassist Billy Sheehan (David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, Steve Vai) and drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) have created a record that hearkens back to the days of classic rock while not sounding dated.

Kotzen, mostly noted for his guitar work, proves to be an amazing vocalist as well. I was impressed upon hearing this.

Three musicians of this aptitude getting together could easily turn into a self-indulging pissing contest or grandiose posturing. This, however, does not. Good, melodic songs performed by amazing players. It's worth a listen.

The Winery Dogs on Amazon

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Think Music Sucks? Are You Part of the Problem?

Personally, I find very little on the radio that I care to listen to. When MTV, VH1, CMT and GAC actually do play music, there's very little there that I'm interested in.

I do, however, find a lot cool new stuff on the internet. I frequent sites that deal with country music and hard rock music. I have received some great leads. Found some really cool artists.

I also do my own digging. Found some cool stuff that way as well.

What I have found is that people, especially people around my age and older, bemoan the current state of music, regardless of genre. My question is: What are you doing about it? Other than complaining, that is.

Are you supporting the artists you like? Are you attending live shows? Are you buying CD's? Are you paying for downloads? Are you sharing your finds on social media?

If your answer is "none of the above", then quit complaining. The kids are doing that, probably most of the time on their parents' dime, but they're doing it.

I know when I was growing up, my sister and I did most of the music purchasing in our household. My parents were content to listen to the radio and complain about how there was nothing good being played.

I try to promote good music on this blog, or at least music that I like. I'll throw up a link to a video on facebook, do some stuff on twitter. I see a lot my peers putting up links to music that they grew up with, music that is nostalgic to them. Sometimes with a comment like "they don't make them like this anymore." That statement is false. They do make 'em like that now. It's just not easily accessible. You have to dig for it.

As easy as it to blame Nashville or Hollywood or Rolling Stone or whatever, ultimately the blame falls to consumers. Or better still, the blame falls on the non-consumers, the complainers, the bemoaners. If you're dissatisfied with the current state of music, vote. With your wallet. That's what changes things.

There is never going to be another Guns 'N Roses. There is never going to be another George Strait. Or Beatles. Or Elvis. Or Patsy Cline. Or Rolling Stones. Or another anything. But there is going to be something new and exciting, if you choose to be proactive and find it. Or you can choose to let terrestrial and satellite radio dictate what you listen to.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, and Genre Bending

If you read this blog at all, you know I don't really deal in negativity. Especially when it comes to my music posts. I like to feature good stuff that I've found. But what happened at the Billboard Music Awards Sunday night bears comment.

I'm talking about the Carrie Underwood/Miranda Lambert 70's Aerosmith/bad anthem mashup. It was, quite frankly, poor execution of a less-than-mediocre song. "Something Bad", it was. Don't believe me? Here's some video proof. Judge for yourself.

Don't get me wrong. I like both Carrie and Miranda. I'm just disappointed that this is what they came up with in collaboration. It's beneath both of them.

But that brings me to a bigger subject. This is a rock song. At least what I grew up knowing as rock. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that. In fact 70's, 80's and 90's style rock and pop has been co-opted by country music. For me that's a good thing. I like that kind of music.

But on the flip side, there seems to be no room for what is considered traditional country. And that's a shame. I was watching the top 20 on GAC or CMT (can't remember which) this past weekend, and there was not one song that even resembled traditional country. Most of the songs would be in heavy rotation on MTV or VH1 a few years ago.

Right now, there's no room for rock in pop, and no room for traditional country in country. I don't know where it goes from here, but some think that there may be a split in country music, which makes sense to me.

Eric Church is taking hard rock Grammy winners Halestorm out on tour with him for a few dates. That pairing makes more sense to me the than Dwight Yoakam, who will be on the whole tour. Since we're talking about Halestorm and Carrie Underwood, a couple of songs they recorded are practically interchangeable.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Where Do You Find Good Music These Days?

I'm really not sure how those that only listen to traditional radio find anything worth listening to, much less anything good, new and exciting. And before anyone crows about satellite radio, I'm not sure that's much better. Sure you can find what you want to listen to, but are you discovering anything new, or just listening to what you already like?

Let's just take a look at the past 12 months + and what I'm listening to and where I discovered them.

Halestorm: From a website totally unrelated to anything music.

Whiskey Myers: From a radio station. But a local Red Dirt/Texas station.

Blackberry Smoke: From a "Related Artists" search on Spotify.

Orianthi: From twitter. A country artist from Ohio who's a fan of VH1 Classic's "That Metal Show" tweeted about her.

Houndmouth: From a "Related Artists" search on Spotify.

Samantha Fish: From a YouTube search for the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers" covers. (Don't ask)

Nikki Lane: From the website

Tyler McCumber Band: From the website

Unless you are actively searching for non-mainstream music, you are not going to find it. And you are missing out on a ton of good stuff. I'm not saying that the above artists are your cup of tea, just saying that if I hadn't gone outside of what the conglomerates had decided what we should listen to, I would not have been able to enjoy their music.

I would hate to be an up-and-coming artist in this day and age. It's got to be tough. Radio is a vapid wasteland. The so called music channels (MTV, VH1, CMT, GAC) have all gone headlong into "reality" based programming.

Most people won't take the time or put forth the effort it takes to find music they truly enjoy. And face it, in today's world, it takes time and effort.

I'll admit it, I'm a bit of music nerd. The kind of music I've always liked has never been easily accessible except for brief periods. That's not to say that hasn't been a lot of more mainstream music that I have enjoyed, but for the most part, I've had to do some research to find my music. I'm okay with that.