Thursday, September 24, 2015

A musical dream come true

Yes, it's another post about Home Free. What can I say other than my name is Kim and I am a Home Freeaholic. Not only can I admit that, I do so with pride. Good thing too since I'm pretty positive that there is no cure for this. Now, I first wrote about these guys back in March. You can read that post in its entirety here if you wish, but here's a rather pertinent excerpt:

"Home Free is also like Little Big Town in that they favor more intricate harmonies over basic ones and said harmonies are rock solid. Neither of these groups would work anywhere near as well if anyone was missing. Each person is great on their own, but their true strength lies in the combined sum of their parts. I truly believe that if you like one of these groups, you'd probably like the other as well. Especially if you enjoy any of the LBT albums that Wayne Kirkpatrick produced. Just because Home Free sounds closer to how LBT did then. I also believe that Home Free needs to cover at least one Little Big Town song at one point. I'm just saying.

Well. Guess what? Turns out Cinderella was right when she sang that "If you keep on believing/ The dream that you wish will come true." That's right. Ladies and gentlemen, Home Free has covered a Little Big Town song! Okay, so it's not the entire song and it is mashed up with another song. Namely "Fishin' in the Dark" by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. But even still. Home Free has covered a Little Big Town song. Dreams can come true, y'all. I'm not sure I can adequately describe how thrilled I am about this, but I am sure going to do my darnedest. In doing so, you'll also get an idea of what exactly both of these groups mean to me. As such, with absolutely no disrespect to Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, I'm not going to be focusing on "Fishin' in the Dark" other than to say that I really like the way Home Free blended these songs together. They work so well together! 

But first, I need to clear something up that has been driving me insane. This mashup is listed as "Fishin' in the Dark/Down in the Boondocks". So many people seem to be under the impression that Little Big Town remade a song by Billy Joe Royal that *is* called "Down in the Boondocks" and that *that* is the cover. Those people are wrong. That is another song completely. Little Big Town doesn't even have a song called "Down in the Boondocks". Their song? Simply called "Boondocks". Just "Boondocks". It is not a remake; it is an original Little Big Town song. Not only that, it is their signature song. Seeing it referred to as "Down in the Boondocks" makes the LBT fan in me twitch a little. Now, it's important to note that Home Free is aware of the mistake, but by the time anyone realize it, the liner notes had already gone off to the printers. These things happen. In the meantime, just remember: "Boondocks". Just "Boondocks". 

Whew. I feel better now. So without further ado, take a second and watch the awesomeness that is "Fishin' in the Dark/Boondocks".

"Boondocks" just got funky. Let's talk about it.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The lullaby of Broadway

September 17th, 2014. Unbeknownst to me, a group that I had never heard of uploaded a video that I wouldn't come across until sometime in January of this year. The group? VoicePlay. The video? Their ACA Top 10 Broadway countdown. Confession: I originally started this about a month or so ago and was going to use it as a way to explain my love of musicals. Upon realizing that the one year anniversary of its release was approaching, I determined that this would become more of a tribute. One in which I'm going to dissect a bit in an effort to explain why I like it so much. Now this countdown was not my introduction to VoicePlay; that was "Survivor", their collaboration with Home Free. That video made me like VoicePlay enough to watch their other videos. Starting with this one. The one that made me love them. It remains my favorite of all their videos, which is saying something since I like all of them. Seeing it performed live was worth the price of the tickets to the Sing Off tour. I'm serious.

Why do I love it so much? Three main reasons and they are as follows.

Reason #1: it's a fantastic piece of music, plain and simple. Everything works. It shouldn't; I knew all but one of these songs prior to watching this and they shouldn't fit together this well. This is what great arranging looks like, folks. This is how it sounds. I have no idea how long it took Layne Stein and Geoff Castellucci to arrange this, but it had to take a fair amount of time and thought. If it didn't, well, these guys might just qualify as musical genuises. Which they might anyway. In any event, they picked great songs, stuck them in the right order and chose the perfect guy to sing lead on each. Every member of the group gets their moment to shine and they all take advantage of it. If you've never heard them before, this is a great introduction. You get a good feel for what they can each do individually and what they can do as a group.

Reason #2: it hits me on a surprisingly personal level. I've seen versions of all but two of these and multiple versions of a couple. I do have cast recordings of each though. I've been moderately obsessed with a couple of them and others were live versions of movies I loved as a kid. Listening to this countdown has brought back a lot of memories. It puts me in a happy place. Largely due to the songs and shows themselves, but also due to VoicePlay's performances. They're always entertaining, but they take it to another level here.

Reason #3: it does a pretty terrific job of summing up what's so great about musicals. All while helping me notice some similarities between them and the country music genre. See, they both revolve around people and their stories. People tend to write them off without ever having actually seen or listened to them. People seem to believe that once you seen/heard one show/song that you've seen/heard them all. The reality is that just like there are various sub-genres that exist under the country music umbrella, there are all kinds of musicals out there. Every show is not Oklahoma. Not trying to knock Oklahoma here; the point is that different shows use different styles of music. They speak to different kinds of audiences and do so in different ways. Don't believe me? Watch the countdown. No, seriously watch it.

Watch it so you have a frame of reference when I dissect it after the jump. Here:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Oak Ridge Boys + Home Free = Vocal Event of the Year material

A few months ago I thought the Home Free fan universe might explode when Home Free and the Oak Ridge Boys started teasing about a possible collaboration. Now understanding that these things don't always come to fruition, it was even more exciting when we found out this one actually would. Both groups very graciously kept the fans up to speed on all developments. We knew when they were going to record. We knew when they were going to shoot the video. And then we had to wait for what felt like forever.


Guys. Girls. Men and woman of all ages. 

The wait is over. The video is here. It is here and it is glorious. The stars aligned and brought us a collaboration that country music didn't know it desperately needed. Country music royalty joining forces with country music's first a cappella band to bring us "Elvira". How could it not have been "Elvira"? One of country music's most iconic songs, of course it was going to be "Elvira". There's been some great collaborations in recent years and this one blows them all out of the water. That is not something I'm saying lightly. 

I'm imagining that considering all the country sites that are posting this, many of you will have watched it already. But if you haven't? I'm totally judging you...okay, that's completely untrue. Judgment free zone here. But you're going to want to get on it and see what all the fuss is about. Seriously. Headphones are an absolute must so go ahead and put them on. Get good and comfortable. And brace yourself. Awesomeness is coming. 

Are you ready? Are you? Are you? I don't think you are.

Here we go.

Yep. That actually happened. And now I need to talk about in greater detail. Join me after the break.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

August Favorites

Here we are in the middle of August. It's been crazy hot in some places and there's been days where the humidity has been practically suffocating. There's people longing for fall to arrive and I'm one of them. Bring on the cooler temperatures and beautiful foliage. You know what else happens in the fall? The return of hockey. Yep, I recognize that people are generally a lot more excited about football, but I'm much more of a hockey girl. In any event, summer isn't going anywhere just yet. So with that in mind, I'd like to tell y'all which songs I'm currently loving. Songs that were made for these summer months. You know the kind I mean.

Songs that make you want to crank the volume up and roll the windows down. The songs that make you want to dance, possibly like an idiot. Maybe especially like an idiot. It's okay. You do you. No judgment here. These songs are more about fun than anything else. Most of them are country; a few are not. Some are currently on the radio and others aren't. Some are pretty news and others have been around for a while. You'll recognize some artists and may be introduced to others. As you may have gleaned from all this is that there wasn't exactly a strict criteria in place for choosing these songs. These are really just the songs that I've been listening to the most. If the song has some kind of video, it'll be included. If not, they'll just be a link to listen/buy.

We're going to kick this off with....

Saturday, July 25, 2015

EP Review: Welcome to Cam Country by Cam

It makes me chuckle when people talk as if there aren't that many women in country music. It's amusing because that's so far from the truth. There are so many up and coming female artists out right now. Not even getting into women who have been in the public eye for years and are still putting out great music. We'll talk about some of them later on. Today it's all about an up-and-comer. Namely...

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Album review: Not so Black and White by Rachel Potter

Full disclosure: a while back I decided that I was going to stop doing album reviews. Out of everything I write, album reviews take me the longest to complete. Plus there's been some debate about whether album reviews are still relevant or not that factored into this decision. I've clearly changed my mind on this issue. This album being one of the reasons why - this is honestly one of the best albums I've heard in a while. I knew I had to write about it. Even more so in reading all of the responses to what is now being referred to as SaladGate. I'm not going to waste time getting into all of that right now, except to say that I feel like Keith Hill's comments were blown out of proportion and that most people completely missed the valid point he was making. We need to do a better job of supporting female artists. Period. If you ask me, there are three key ways to do that. Buy their music. Go to their shows. Talk about them.

So with those things in mind, I'm going to make a point of highlighting as many different female artists as possible from here on out. There's so many women making great music right now. Rachel Potter being one of them. If you've never heard of Rachel Potter, she was on X-Factor a couple of years ago and has performed on Broadway. You listen to her sing and you understand how she got there. There's no beating a Broadway-caliber voice, in my opinion. They voices have an excitement in them that captures you and Rachel is no exception. Not so Black and White is her first full length country album and was released about three months ago. Now, country music has always been present in my life, but I didn't start really loving it until high school. This was in the late '90s/early '00s, a great time for women in country music. Women like Faith Hill and Shania Twain, Martina McBride and Sara Evans, Lee Ann Womack and Leann Rimes - all making waves in the genre. Not to mention Reba, Trisha and Wynonna. It was kind of a golden age for women. Why am I bringing this up? Easy. Listening to Not so Black and White throws me right back to that time. 

It's a very strong album. Honestly, it's kind of hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that this is a debut album. This tells me that Rachel has a very clear vision of who she is as an artist and what she wants to say as an artist. This is something that I feel a lot of singers struggle with, particularly in the beginning of their careers. Sometimes it take a while for an act to find their true voice, but not here. This album feels very real and genuine to me. It seems honest in a way that an average album isn't. The lyrics are solid throughout and downright clever at times. Musically speaking, there's some really lovely playing on here. Great production; her voice is never overshadowed by the music. Although with a voice like hers, I'm not sure that's even possible. This woman's got some pipes, is what I'm saying. This brings me to my next point about the control Rachel has over her voice. Sometimes people who are capable with singing with this much power over-sing for no other reason than they can. Just because you can blast out a vocal doesn't mean that you should. There are, of course, times when it's warranted. Some lyrics simply demand to be belted out, but others require a soft touch. A good singer can hit the notes. A great singer can sing at many different levels. But it's a special kind of singer that knows when and how hard to push. Who knows when and how much to pull back. Rachel Potter is one of those singers. She sings these songs the way they need to be sung. It makes listening to them that much more enjoyable. 

I am going to address each song individually so anyone interested in that can keep reading. If you just wanted a short read, well, this might be goodbye for now. Your homework? Do your ears a favor and buy this album. It'll make them happy and, really, who doesn't want happy ears?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The best songs that weren't singles: Little Big Town edition

The summer of 2005. The first time I ever heard Little Big Town. It was during CMA Fest or whatever it was called then and we were sitting pretty far from the stage and off to the stage so we really couldn't see them all that well. It was a few months before they would release The Road to Here. Little did I know that this group was going to end up making a huge impact on me. I had no idea how many roads I would drive on, how many Little Big Town miles I would tack onto my car over the next few years. Thousands. It has to be in the thousands. I've seen many acts more than once, but none anywhere near as much as I've seen them. I didn't know back then that I would end up meeting them time and time again and how much those meetings would mean to me. How much these four people would mean to me. Little did I know how frustrated I'd end up getting, wondering why they weren't more popular than they were then.

Things have changed a bit. I've watched these guys and gals go from playing clubs and fairs to headlining arenas and winning awards. Their popularity has sky-rocketed. Took everyone long enough. I'm just saying. Their music has changed over the years; they've pushed themselves in directions I never would've guessed they'd go. One of my biggest hopes is that the people who have become fans in the
past couple of years either already have or will go back and check out their earlier albums. It is that hope paired with my love for these four people that fueled my decision to make them my next featured artist in this series. You can bet your bottom dollar that they will be featured again. As was the case with Chris Young, it was so hard narrowing it down to just five, but I did it. So without further preamble, let's talk about some of my favorite LBT album cuts.

Starting with...