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".