Saturday, December 31, 2016

Album Spotlight: Shelly Fairchild - Buffalo

Apparently Shelly Fairchild had released a couple of albums in the past. And had some minor success. Of course this was between 2005 and 2011, a dark time when I had relegated myself to listening to pretty much classic rock only (not that classic rock is bad, just that I wasn't seeking out new stuff).

Therefore I had never heard of her before a few days ago. Fairchild's latest album Buffalo made my year end honorable mentions and might have been higher had I known about it earlier. It's that good.

There is a lot of early Miranda Lambert attitude on Buffalo with more years of introspection. There's also the bluesy, swampy, Southern rock sound that you know I like. And then you get the hymn-like vibe on a song about addiction with "Unholy Spirit".

Buffalo is eleven tracks, two of which are remakes from her 2005 debut, "Ready to Fall" and "Down Into Muddy Water" (which is repackaged as just "Muddy Water"). Both remakes are edgier and dirtier, and in my opinion, better.

The new tracks are all swampy, edgy, torchy and fabulous.

For me, the only misstep on the record is "Start Walkin'". It just feels out place on an album with such feeling. Antiseptic and formulaic.

Other than that, the album delivers.

Here is my favorite song from the album, "Mississippi Turnpike":

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Honorable Mention Albums For 2016

These are the albums from 2016 that did not quite crack my top ten. Don't read anything into the order, because I didn't even order the top 10. Everything here is number 11.

These are non genre specific. Just albums that I heard and liked during 2016. A mainstream album will never make my top ten even if it is the best, because that's not what I do. But mainstream albums can make the honorable mentions list.

Also, it's my list. It's not right or wrong, it's just my list. And if I left out your favorite, it means one of two things, either I haven't listened to it or I didn't like it that much. If the latter, just my opinion, not a judgement.

Lori McKenna - The Bird and The Rifle
This is a good album. There is no reason it should not make a lot of country/Americana lists, just not mine. Oh and that Tim McGraw song "Humble and Kind"? Yeah, that's really a Lori McKenna song which is on this album.

Monster Truck - Sittin' Heavy
In my quest to prove that "rock ain't dead" Monster Truck exemplifies what I mean. They borrow from the 70s, 80s and 90s hard rock scenes and meld it all together in something that sounds classic but not dated.

Bonnie Bishop - Ain't Who I Was
A return, a redemption, a reinvention. Whatever. It's a heartfelt, soulful album. And if you like music, good music, you'll like this.

Dolly Shine - Walkabout
If this is indeed the swan song for Dolly Shine, they went out with their best album to date. Walkabout is a fantastic red dirt country/Southern rock album. I had dismissed their earlier stuff as generic red dirt, which it was, this album was not. Hope these guys come back in some incarnation.

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

Chelle Rose - Blue Ridge Blood
There are more aesthetically pleasing albums released this year. Rose's Blue Ridge Blood has no soaring vocals or slick production or flashes of instrumental virtuosity. What it does have is grit and groove and Appalachian swamp. Blue Ridge Blood is too real to be comfortable, too good to be ignored.

The Amorettes - White Hot Heat
The Amorettes second album White Hot Heat is a lot like their previous album Game On. And that is not a bad thing. When you hit upon something that works, why deviate? AC/DC has been doing it for years. The Amorettes are a trio from Scotland that has stripped everything down to guitar, bass and drums. And attitude. Straight up, no-frills, punch-you-in-the-face rock. For anyone old enough to remember, think Fastway. It's got that kind of vibe.

Diana Rein - The Long Road
Diana Rein's The Long Road is blues. It's rock. It's sultry. It's sweaty. It's unashamedly and unabashedly all Diana Rein all the time. It's good music. If you're a blues purist, this won't be for you, but if you're like me and like a little rock and pop and country in your blues, your can't go wrong with this album.

Shelly Fairchild - Buffalo
This is a late entry that almost didn't make because I didn't hear it until a couple of days ago. Released in late November, there will be an album spotlight coming out on this in a few days.

And finally, a couple of mainstream/well-know artists who released outstanding albums in 2016:
Eric Church - Mr. Misunderstood
Metallica - Hardwired...To Self-Destruct

Friday, December 23, 2016

Almost, But Not Quite: My Next Five Albums of 2016

Just like for my top 2016 albums these next five don't come from the mainstream.  Before anyone gets upset, they are all number six, just missing the cut for my top five.

In no particular order:

The Struts - Everybody Wants
Glam. In the classic sense like T-Rex and The Sweet. With a touch of grandiose a la Queen. Hey, they're British. Seriously, The Struts' debut album Everybody Wants is good. And a fun listen. Good music, catchy hooks and very much classic glam rock.

The Wild Feathers - Lonely is a Lifetime
The Wild Feathers are... a rock band? Probably, but when I think rock, I think AC/DC. Pop? Pop tendencies, sure, but you can't have an eight minute song and be pop. Americana? Not really, though you could make an argument for that on some songs. But what Lonely is a Lifetime definitely is, is a collection of 11 really good songs. An really, can't we all use more eight minute songs in our life?

The Dead Deads - For Your Obliteration...
Weaving in and out of and around and through punk, metal, pop, rock, bubblegum, grunge, Americana and all things in between, sometimes in the same song, sometimes in the same verse or chorus, The Dead Deads refuse to be pigeonholed into anything. The Dead Deads' latest release, For Your Obliteration... is one of the most interesting albums I've heard this year.

The Temperance Movement - White Bear
Southern psychedelic grunge rock. It took me a while to find the right descriptors for The Temperance Movement's new album White Bear. This is another in my quest to prove that rock is indeed not dead. Living on the harder edge of Southern Rock, White Bear takes you on a psychedelic rock journey that makes a lengthy stop in Seattle for some Soundgarden/Alice in Chains inspired 90s rock that ends with a very Eagles-inspired "Time Won't Leave".

Wynonna and the Big Noise
I didn't really know whether or not to include this because Wynonna Judd is a big name, but since this never had any chance on radio and not many but her hardcore fans even know about, it gets in. Mostly because it's just that damned good. Is it country? Not really, but there are country undertones throughout. Is it rock? Not so much. But it does. Is it blues? Somewhat. If you expand your definition of blues. Is it Americana? I guess. Mostly because that term lends itself to interpretation. Is it good? Most definitely.

The Five Albums You Need From 2016

I'm going to preface this with that I don't really listen to mainstream or  established artists. So these albums are of the independent/non-mainstream nature.

I was going to do a top 10 or 20 or 17 or whatever, but you know what, for me it's these five albums. There will be another post with many deserving albums to follow. What I found in 2016 was five albums that really, really resonated with me. And my criteria is pretty simple: No skip-worthy songs. I'll include a youtube of my favorite song from the album where available.

In no particular order (not even alphabetical, just random) here are the albums:

The satirical album title belies the fact that Dorothy does rock. And rocks well. Band namesake and singer Dorothy Martin is a treasure for rock fans. Her vocals are bluesy, sultry, smokey and at times slutty. But don't discount this band as a one woman show, the band has a sound straight out of the swampy south. I don't care how a Los Angeles based band gets there, but it works. For me this is one of the most complete rock albums put out recently. It holds up against Guns' Appetite For Destruction and Halestorm's The Strange Case of... in recent memory of  an album that you don't skip songs.

Elizabeth Cook - Exodus of Venus
I knew of Elizabeth Cook. I enjoyed her work. Then she just blew it out of the water with Exodus of Venus. It's a departure from what you have heard of her before, and the departure resulted in her best work, by far. There is not a bad song on the album. Yeah, I know, that's a requirement for this list, but if you can disagree, then talk to me, I'm willing to debate, and I think I'll win.

Whiskey Myers - Mud
Mud is what Southern Rock sounds like. In 1977 or 2016. It's Southern Rock through and through. There are many sensibilities that won't play on the coasts. As a band that cut their teeth on the Texas country circuit, Whiskey Myers definitely shows their roots, but if you listen, they are more of a 70s Southern Rock/jam band than Texas country. And that's a good thing.

Rob Baird - Wrong Side of the River
This is my big album on what the hell genre is this? Yeah, it's got some rock. It's got some country. It's got some Americana (whatever the hell that is). But really what it is, is a fine collection of damned good songs. This is the album you put on and just listen. Taking a road trip, on your front porch/balcony, with friends, with musicians, with rockers, with country music fans, with anybody. It's that kind of record.

Butch Walker - Stay Gold
Butch Walker put out one the best albums of 2015 with Afraid of Ghosts. It was dark and poignant. Stay Gold is fun and nostalgic. I prefer both. But I just like good music. Butch Walker consistently makes good music. There is a bonus for those of my generation in that the nostalgia includes S.E. Hinton.  You either get that reference or you don't. And that's OK.

Agree or disagree. It's all good. And all opinion

Monday, December 5, 2016

Year End Lists

So everybody does year end lists. Nothing original there. And I'll do mine. Doing some heavy listening right now to decide.

I do one list: top 10 albums. That's it. Some like to do song lists as well, I'm an album fan. If the album doesn't do it for me, that one song doesn't deserve mention. Others also include worst lists. I don't have the time nor energy to listen to stuff I hate, much less write about it.

And my list has criteria. No mainstream or popular artists. They don't need my recommendation. There will be no Metallicas or Eric Churches on my list (I'm actually having a dilemma on this because of a once popular artist that is no longer played on radio has one of my favorite albums this year). And this may seem obvious, but it is limited to albums I've actually listened to. Several times.

My list is by no means meant to be a "Best of", just the albums I've listened to in 2016 that resonated with me. There will be country-ish stuff, Americana (whatever you want to define that as) and various forms of rock. It's just music I liked in 2016 wrapped up in one tidy year-end package. That's all.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Q & A With Billy Dead of The Dead Deads

I had the opportunity to conduct a Q and A with Billy Dead, drummer for the Dead Deads via an email exchange. We discuss the Dead Deads most recent album For Your Obliteration..., weather conventions and Texas hold'em, among other things.

The Cubs have since won the World Series since this interview was conducted, so some of the information is a little outdated.
Billy Dead (Angie Lese) photo courtesy of JeffCrespiRocks

How did you get started playing drums?
I started playing drums in college. My uncle had a drum set in his basement when I was growing up, and I sat down at it once and was able to play a few beats without ever having sat at a kit before. So it's always been in my blood I think. Years later, I decided to buy a drum kit out of the blue and teach myself how to play.  That was in my late college years.

How long after that did you start playing with other musicians and what was your first real band experience playing in front of an audience?
I didn't start playing with other musicians until I moved to Louisville in 2005.  Probably a year later, I started playing in a weekend warriors program and that got me playing around town in little clubs.

Was the ensuing move to Nashville strictly because of work, or did you have a say in that because of the music scene?
The move to Nashville was strictly for a job promotion, but the music scene was definitely in the back of my mind.  I was in a band called CatFight with Betty Dead at the time before I left Louisville, so if I had not gotten the Nashville job at the time, who knows when/if I ever would've moved.  I'm really thankful for that promotion

So, CatFight was a Louisville band with both you and Betty?
Yes, I met Betty through a mutual musician friend in Louisville and 2011, I believe. We hit it off and eventually formed CatFight with two other local musicians.  We released an EP through Little Heart Records in early 2013. I was already living in Nashville, and I had convinced Betty to move down there in late 2013. I had already been jamming with what would become the Dead Deads, and Betty joined us in November 2013 and that's how the band was finalized.

I know that the Deads Deads were formed off of what was supposed to be a one off Halloween show. So, in your words, how did that transformation go from being a one off show to a full fledged band?
That was an easy transition because we wanted to keep playing together. We just didn't want to keep playing somebody else's music haha. So we decided, "Hey this is fun, why don't we try our own stuff, but keep the "dead" part of the name (then, the Dead Milkmaids, tribute to the Dead Milkmen) and the "XX's?"  Everyone had the "dead something's" or the "something" dead, so we thought The Dead Deads was funny and not taken yet haha.

We'll get back to the music timeline momentarily, but I've always wondered: Your fans are known as the Dead Corps and everyone has their own "Dead" name. Who in the band is responsible for the names or do y'all have some kind of an evil "Dead Name Generator"? Even though I'm a fan, not an official member of the Dead Corps but I was given a name and it was eerily spot on.
That's mostly Daisy because she is generally the one running our Twitter account. She'll do a quick but good job of stalking their accounts, and see what each person is into...she does a great job of coming up with an appropriate dead name. :). Anyone can have a dead name, they just have to tweet @thedeaddeads with #WhatsYourDeadName attached.  That's how we can reference past names :)

Now that you've mentioned Daisy, the bass player, you two make up what has been traditionally called the rhythm section. Bass and drums. Y'all are tight on For Your Obliteration.... How long did it take for the two of you to click? To find the groove, so to speak?
Well when we were recording For Your Obliteration, and for most bands in the studio, the drummer lays down their tracks first. So all of my drums were recorded before Daisy had to record her bass lines. So we're totally synced up on the album because of her. :) Live, it depends on the sound in the room. But we both make sure that we can hear each other really well in the monitors, and I feel like we have a great stage relationship.  We complement each other's playing styles really well.  She makes it easy :)

What is your standard drum set up, and is it different from studio to stage?
I think it's important to make sure the live show sounds like the studio sessions.  Obviously it looks a lot different because I'm really active during the live shows, but I like to play the same set up, same drums, same cymbals as much as possible. And as real and raw as I can deliver.  There's a tiny bit of auxiliary percussion used on FYO, but I can replicate it live if I want to.  Sometimes I choose not to because it's a rock show after all.  :)
I use a 4-piece (one rack tom, one floor, kick and snare) DW kit now, but soon to be a 5-piece TAMA (extra floor tom).  I use hi-hats, 2 crashes, a ride, china, a splash and a double-kick pedal.  

Any chance of Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull inspired flute on future recordings?
Dammit!  I can't escape my flute past. Hahaha, nah I doubt it. I think my flautist days are over. :)

Hey, you can't accuse me of not doing my homework.
I liked the Dead Deads debut album, Rainbeau, but it seems like the band has evolved quite a bit between Rainbeau and FYO. FYO is more diverse and eclectic. Is that a fair assessment and if so, how does that progression look from the inside?
FYO is just a better production, overall.  We found out we were going on tour with Halestorm back in late August of 2014 and thought, "Well, guess we better put together a CD to sell."  Haha, so we wrote the rest of what would be Rainbeau and recorded that album live to tape.  It's gritty, it's raw, and contains no less love than "For Your Obliteration" does.  Actually, I still can't decide which album I like better!  You never forget your first, right? Ha. FYO was recorded the "right" way...drums first, every instrument and vocals in different rooms, to a click, and mixed/mastered over a few weeks.  We're better musicians now than we were during Rainbeau, and this time around, I think we really thought about the path of each song..."that drum beat would work there, but there's a better one...let's find it."  That sort of thinking.  And again, we didn't have a lot of time to really tear apart each song and try to make it perfect...that'd lose the love, and our producer Page (Hamilton of Helmet) wouldn't have let us do that anyways - he liked us keeping the songs we wrote as much "as is" as possible.  I think our sound has progressed to a more grown-up sound accessible to all ages and genres, if that makes sense.  I think we had a bit more metal/punk sound on Rainbeau, but songs from FYO could probably be played on any radio station, rock or pop.  Even though I think that, I still feel like we're on a slightly more concentrated direction with our music, but I think our albums to come will still have a song that makes you go, "Where the f*** did that come from?!"  Our albums will always be diverse and eclectic because all five of us have such different tastes in music and writing styles that we'll always have a unique sound unmatched by other bands.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't FYO recorded both in Los Angeles and Nashville? If so, what effect, if any, did that have on the final product?
Yeah, that's right.  We recorded five songs in LA, thinking that it would be an EP.  But then we went ahead and finished the record in Nashville in June, six more songs.  I think the sound is slightly different between the LA and Nashville songs, but I bet that only us girls in the band could really notice that ha ha.  I noticed that my drums and cymbals sound a bit different, but that might sound intentional to an active musician-type listener. That happens, though, for indie bands...there can be a lot of time between recordings that could affect sound, and certainly different studios will do that.  I think that adds to the character of an album.

So, there is basically two different EP length records combined into one LP. Did Page Hamilton produce all the songs, or was the Nashville portion different?
Sort of I guess, yeah. But yes, Page produced all of the songs on FYO.

The band has pretty much been do it yourself all the way. How much of a boost was it for you to land the opening slot for Halestorm?
Oh that was incredible. They're one of the greatest bands, and probably the nicest people you could ever imagine. It was first of all quite the honor just to be on the same bill with them, but knowing that they actually liked our music ha ha, that's even more humbling. They are our friends, they're our mentors.  And being able to learn from them on that tour was basically like the greatest band camp ever. That definitely put us in the mindset of thinking, "Hey we may be able to actually do this."  That definitely boosted our confidence and motivation, and we gained so much experience from that, as well as new fans. They put us on the map, for which we are forever grateful!

I'm guessing that recognition put you on on the map for the cruise gigs and also your shows with Bush. On the cruises, how much did you play the fan part? Because there were some heavy hitters on those ships. And conversely, how much did you realize that there were fans there to see you and that other artists were singing your praises?
Well knowing Halestorm definitely gave us the recognition that we needed to get our foot in the door in some places, but getting onto the Motorboat Cruise is kind of a funny story. I'm persistent, and I just asked if we could play on that cruise via their website.  Halestorm happen to be playing at the Ryman a few weeks later, and the two guys that booked that Motorboat Cruise noticed that they gave our lead singer a shoutout on stage. They found her and said, "Did you ask us about playing on the cruise?"  And that's how that started haha. But yeah especially on Motorboat, we had opportunities to just be fans since we were the newbie band on the cruise. And what legends to watch!!  It was a lot of fun to interact with everybody else. But we were a little bit bigger on the Shiprocked cruise, and there was less time for that. But that led to us meeting Page Hamilton of Helmet, and you know where that led. It was actually the rest of Helmet that saw us play and said we were their favorite band on Shiprocked. So that validation was one, awesome to hear and two, the reason why Page worked with us.

Enough with this band stuff. You are a freaking meteorologist. That's not the normal gateway into punk/metal/space/grunge. Or is it? I'm guessing you have some crazy stories to tell about those freaky meteorologists to dispel the widely held narrative
You would be surprised at how many drumming meteorologists there are ha ha. Drumming is actually pretty scientific and mathematical, so it really complements my former career. And don't let us nerds fool you; meteorologists are among the craziest people I've ever known!  At a weather conference years ago in New Orleans, I remember Zydeco artist Rockin' Dopsie Jr was playing to a crowd of about 1000 meteorologists, and somehow I ended up on stage drumming with him!  :). That was the tame part of the week haha!

Are you a sports fan, and if so, what teams do you root for?
I'm a huge Chicago Cubs fan. My dad took my brother and I to a game when we were really young and I've been a fan ever since.  This is the year!  I'm a huge baseball fan. I'm also a 49ers fan, but it is Not our year ha ha.  I grew up a big Notre Dame fan, too, but I went to Purdue University, so I root for both of those teams.  And this doesn't really count as sports, but since they show it on ESPN I really do love Texas hold'em.

Congrats to you and your Cubs. This may be the year. So, are you a gambler or do you just like the drama of Texas hold 'em?
I like to play most any card game, and I'm decent at hold'em, but I hardly ever gamble.  Maybe a house game on average every year. I love to play, though, and I almost always win haha.  I think it's because it's a male-dominated game and men have trouble reading women in their regular the hell are they supposed to at the poker table?!  :)

Speaking of men, there has been a lot in the news lately about powerful men abusing that power in regards to women. The more I read, the more it seems that many women have suffered from similar situations. Many, many more than we will ever know about. You have lived a diverse life thus far, college, career, band/music. How prevalent do you think this is?
Actually, I think it's extremely prevalent, but honestly I don't necessarily think that it's always intentional. I've been in music and many girl bands, and my career was heavily male dominated. And both of those instances, you're dealing with people that are sometimes socially awkward, and don't have a lot of experience having work relationships with females. I'm one to speak my mind because I'm confident in the words that are coming out of my mouth, so I have been called a bitch more times than I can count only because I have confidence and passion backing my words.  Men can walk into a room as a musician or as a scientist, and the audience will trust them to do their job correctly. That's unfortunately not the case for females... we have to sort of prove we are worthy to an audience and let them know that we are actually capable of the same things ha ha. There's been several studies on that, as well.  I think the unintentional sexism is pure ignorance, and that falls on the responsibility of the trainers/managers above you to help correct that. But there are several instances from many friends, and me personally, where we have experienced the intentional abuse of power, and it's really frustrating, sometimes scary as you could expect. If I ever get famous, I'm definitely going to use that platform as a means to speak out against sexism.

Do you consider using gender qualifiers to be unintentional sexism? For example, female drummer, female-fronted, all female, etc. when referring to musicians/bands.
Yeah I think so. It's like saying a girl band or a female fronted band sounds a certain way. It shouldn't define the music. And female drummers get the reputation of being awful, but there's just so few of us compared to men, and some don't hit hard - we're immediately labeled as being bad musicians. I think I can help break down that stereotype and help shed light on the sexism. I'm a good drummer AND female. I really just think it's a numbers thing. There's plenty of bad male drummers out there, but no one seems to talk about that.

I'm a big sports fan as well as being into music. Therefore I follow a lot of sportswriters/broadcasters on twitter. So I hear a lot of how the females have to prove that they know what they're talking about where their male counterparts get the benefit of the doubt. Another thing they also get is the guys who are intimidated or uncomfortable that the "girls" have invaded the guy's club. Is this something that you experience in the the type of music that the Dead Deads play? In other words, the world of hard rock/metal/punk has been predominately a male playground. Do you get any pushback on that?
As far as the type of music we play, I don't really see the pushback if there is any.  In the sports broadcasting realm, I believe the men likely feel threatened because someone might know more than them and she happens to be female - that's intimidating as hell. I've had male musicians give me hell before where they felt compelled to back up their claim of talking down to me ("I've worked with so and so for this many years so I'm smarter" kind of talk...). I've just learned that if you're good, respectful, humble and friendly, then good things happen and it won't matter if you're male or female.  I'm gonna come across many male and female drummers and some may be better than me. That's my opportunity to learn from them instead of becoming jealous or threatened. It's better look for everyone :)
I don't think there will be a lot of pushback in this industry. I think rock needs us...rock fans, especially young music fans need to feel energized and alive. I really think we can do that, and I'm glad we're female. It's important to show people that you can dominate an industry no matter the sex.

You say that "especially young music fans need to feel energized and alive." I don't disagree with this other than the word "especially". I'm old. I think that "especially" older fans, fans of classic rock and 80s hard rock need to feel that there is still something out there for them. The people that I know from my generation are mostly listening to the local classic rock station or SiriuXM's Hair Nation. The problem seems to be that most of them don't know where to find stuff like y'all, Halestorm, Crobot, The Struts, etc.. etc., etc. I guess, I should ask a question here. What do the Dead Deads do to appeal to that crowd, or do you even try?
You're right! And I will say that we tend to have fans from 10 to 60 so it may be that all rockers are looking for something. I really think if you put the Dead Deads on a major late night show or major pop radio stations, that'd be it. We'd be set, and I say that out of pure humility. I just believe in our sound. It's difficult for anyone, even us, to describe it. But for as interesting as our music is, it's as catchy. That's what I've always looked for in music I it fun, catchy and does it have a good beat?  Yeah we have good lyrics and an interesting look, but above all, people seem to really like our music. I can see it in the crowd's faces...they don't have a clue who we are but they're paying attention. That's a movement, and I'm excited to see where it's headed.
But speaking of being seen/heard, unless you have Sirius octane, it's difficult to find out about new rock music because the kind of rock that's mainstream right now wouldn't appeal to the rock/pop audience.So it's played on selective outlets. There needs to be a rock crossover band that makes rock noticeable again. I think the Foo Fighters have it mastered But I think bands like the Struts, Halestorm, and maybe our band can grab the attention of fans of all genres and ages (that's my mindset every time I play the drums). I really think we have a few songs that'll do that, too. But we just need to work to get those opportunities. :) It helps touring with bands like Bush, Chevelle, Halestorm, etc. I think there's more street cred needed in the rock genre than pop, but it's all hard. It's all hard work, but we're on a mission from space haha. :)

Photo courtesy of Gary Pahlow
I'm a fan of many different types of music. Rock, metal, blues, country, Americana, pop, etc. I think this is the best time to be a music fan with so many options available if one chooses to use them. I hear a lot of people complaining about how mainstream radio is horrible. I tell them to turn off the radio and find what they like. But most people don't even know where to start. I find new, interesting stuff I like via blogs and social media. That's how I, West Texas, became aware of The Dead Deads, a space/punk/grunge band from Nashville. In today's music climate, how important is social media to a DIY band?
I think it's key. If you're in a DIY band, it's too difficult to get air play...nearly impossible quickly. That's why social media is so important...that, and touring are the only ways really for a DIY band to get the universe on board haha. I want us to get on mainstream radio, but a DIY band definitely has to put in the hard work to get there. That means lots of social media promoting, but also and more importantly, connecting to the fans. We work really hard at developing Dead Corps relationships, and I think that sets us apart. We want to know the fans because we'd be stuck in a basement going nowhere without our fans really caring about us. They're as much a part of this ride as we are.

Let's play "Overrated, Underrated or Properly Rated". I'll give you something and you decide which it is. Then expound on your choice.

John Mellencamp
Depends if you mean his voice or his music!  Ha I'd say properly rated because his songs serve the working class properly.  But for me personally, "Cherry Bomb" and "Paper and Fire" were big songs for me because my dad played them a lot and that was a bonding experience I loved. :) So I may lean slightly underrated because of that ha.

Axl Rose
His voice is incredible but I'd say overrated only because he's cancelled a lot of shows in the past repeatedly and I expect more from a professional. So from a professionalism stand point, I'd say overrated.

The Indianapolis 500
Extremely overrated. But that may be because I've gone before and it's not for me at all.  ZZZzzzzz haha.

The movie "Hoosiers"
Underrated, and if someone thinks that's a bad movie, they're nuts.

If you could answer it just one time and be done with it, what is the question that you get asked often enough that it annoys you? And what is said answer?
The question that's most annoying is "who is this band?" when people are standing at our merch table and we're at it, too, and our business cards and tees have our faces on them haha. Or "oh...YOU'RE the band?!  Haha

I'm curious, as probably are most fans, how did the band come up with their dead names, and did each member choose their own?
Yeah, we each came up with our own names, or the group helped pick them. I picked Billy because I make a similar Billy Idol sneer when I play the drums.  :)

Dream band. Vocals, guitar, bass, drums, rhythm guitar or keys.
Ok, dream bands are usually bands I'd die to play in, but honestly I'm not a fan of supergroups. Ha, so I'll just name my faves regardless of they'd actually gel together.
Drums:  Taylor Hawkins or Keith Moon
Vocals:  Pink or Alanis Morissette or Prince
Bass:  Mike Dirnt
Guitar:  Angus Young
I guess Prince could be a guitar candidate too :)

Anyone throughout history, who are the three other people you're having at your table? And why?
Prince because he's the perfect musician.
Robin Williams because he's a genius comedian.
Pink because I wanna be her friend and play drums for her haha.
And my late gf Brooke because I'd love to hear about the "other side." :)

Your sexuality is no secret. You just mentioned your late girlfriend. There is a “coming out” story for everyone. Some traumatic, some benign. If you don’t mind, would you share yours?
It's not like I wave a flag, but I certainly don't hide who I am. I didn't come out until later in life...I was 28. It was hard even though I was a successful adult already, but for my family response, it was pretty simple. My older brother is gay and came out in high school so that made it easy for me. I just didn't realize who my real self was until so late. I'm a lesbian. I'm a drummer. I'm also a meteorologist, a spiritual person, etc. It's one part of me, but doesn't define my every move. However, I'm a strong believer in equal rights, so I don't usually stay quiet when it comes to that.

I grew up and still live in west central Texas. Not exactly a place known for tolerance (of many things). Growing up and even later, I made some, shall we say, insensitive comments about gays and lesbians. I'm not proud of that. But I have since become more informed and have had many more life experiences.
What I thought at the time were "just jokes", I now know are much more than that. In my opinion, the more people, at least most people, know, the better it gets. When things get more humanized and less stereotyped, the better.
Like you said, the less we know, the more afraid people are and that is why gays etc. are hated on.  If people stopped being ignorant and would learn, the world would be such a better place. People spend so much time being angry at certain lifestyles, and it's just a waste of energy. And makes them a shitty human being.

What's on the horizon for the Dead Deads as a band and for Billy Dead personally?
For the band, we just want to tour hard at the moment. We have some big potential tours in early 2017, so fingers crossed there. Otherwise, for me, since I'm now a professional drummer, I'd like to seek out other opportunities on the side to keep me busy. I'd like to do some session work or even fill-in here and there for bands that need it (if I have time).  I always want to get better, and expand my talents. Plus, the more I get out there, the more I'll have a voice. Given recent politics, I feel like the more popular I get, I can help spread words of encouragement, rage alongside others who feel scared, etc. My mission has always been to play the drums in front of whatever crowds I can get, but now I feel an underlying mission of equality for all, and I really think I'll get to be a voice for those struggling.

Any parting words? The floor is yours.
This has been fun! Thanks for the great questions.

Humanity has a long way to go, but I hope I'm in a position to play music for life and fight for what's right along the way.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Retro Album Spotlight: Badlands: Badlands

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

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

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

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

Here is "Dreams In The Dark":

And now "Winter's Call":

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

Monday, October 17, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Retro Album Spotlight: RATT: Dancin' Undercover

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Kevin McGuire - Country Music Fan

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

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

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Artist Spotlight: Aaron Lee Tasjan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Jason Aldean Gives Idiots A Bad Name

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Album Spotlight: Kate Vargas: Strangeclaw

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

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

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

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

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

Here is "Bella Tell":

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Album Spotlight: Whiskey Myers: Mud

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Michael Sweet Condemns Rockers For Trying To Go Country

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

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

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

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

Here is the video for "Radio".

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Album Spotlight: Butch Walker: Stay Gold

I was hooked when I first heard the chorus to Butch Walker's "Stay Gold":

     "You gotta stay gold, now Ponyboy"

That line comes from the book The Outsiders, later made into a movie of the same name, a book I first read while in junior high school. The first song brought out a sense of nostalgia in me that stays throughout the album Stay Gold.

Walker's last album, Afriad of Ghosts, was introspective, dark, melancholy and at times, a hard listen. Stay Gold is nostalgic, lighter while still introspective and every bit as good. Really, it's just a good rock album with some country-ish Americana leanings.

Much of Stay Gold reminds me of, though not derivative of, the music from the 80's movie Eddie and the Cruisers. It has that same kind of vibe. In fact the album really has an overall 80's music kind of vibe, you know the good stuff like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty.

There is something for country music fans with "Descending", the duet with country singer Ashley Monroe, with the line "I just want you to worry about me, every once in a while / I just need a sign of life to get me by."

Overall, it's just a great record to put on and drive, or sit on the patio with friends and adult beverages. No skips necessary.

Here's the lyric video to the title track, check out the dude in the back with afro, ironically not dressed in gold.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Album Spotlight: Blackfoot: Southern Native

Blackfoot has a new album called Southern Native. Rickey Medlocke.

That sentence and that name probably mean nothing to 99% of Americans. Probably 99.9999% of the world.

Blackfoot was a 70's Southern Rock band, heavy on the rock. Contemporaries with Lynyrd Skynyrd, though never nearly as popular. Blackfoot co-founder Rickey Medlocke is now the touring lead guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Medlocke put together a new Blackfoot with four new musicians. He produced the album and wrote or co-wrote much of it and played on it. But he's not a member of the band (Gene Simmons, take note).

However they got to this point, and whatever convoluted thread they hold with the original Blackfoot, Southern Native is a good album. In fact, if you grew up with 70s rock and Southern Rock, it's a great album.

I don't know if the new Blackfoot has legs going forward, but if you like Southern Rock with a harder edge, check this one out.

Album Spotlight: Monster Truck: Sittin' Heavy

Released way back in February of this year (2016), Monster Truck's latest album Sittin' Heavy is another prime example of why *rock ain't dead.

Sittin' Heavy by this Canadian quartet is heavy, with melody; rough around the edges but tight. Monster Truck combines 70's arena rock (Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple) with 90s hard rock (Soundgarden, Alice in Chains) in a way that fans of both eras would be pleased.

*There are sites dedicated to saving country music and bringing back glam. My musical tastes are too diverse to dedicate to one thing, but I will be featuring good rock music, always.

Here is "Don't Tell Me How To Live" from Sittin' Heavy:

Saturday, August 20, 2016

New Video: Beth Hart: Fire On The Floor

Don't really know much about Beth Hart other than she did some stuff with Joe Bonamassa. I stumbled across this new song of hers, "Fire On The Floor" and it's too good not to share. Bluesy, smokey, sultry, torchy and swampy.