Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Artist you should be listening to: Home Free

The musical thunderbolt. Partly inspired by an episode of The Golden Girls, this is what I've taken to calling those times when you basically love a singer or band from the very first time you hear them. I don't know about the rest of you, but it generally takes me a while to love an artist. Even if I like them from the beginning. The love usually comes in later. Usually. My assumption is that it's like this for most people most of the time. Which makes getting hit by the musical thunderbolt so powerful. It's like the stars have perfectly aligned themselves to bring you the perfect act at the perfect time.

To date I have had this happen six times. Rascal Flatts was the first. Little Big Town, Eric Church and Chris Young were the next three. Then there was Parmalee and now? Now there's Home Free. I've always said I was a sucker for harmony and I think this kind of proves it. It's been about a month since I first found out about Home Free, but they've already made a pretty significant impact on me. I'm loving music in a way I haven't in a long time thanks to these five guys. So let's talk about them.

First the basics. Home Free is an a cappella country group. You know what that means, right? No instruments. The exception to this being a song on their Christmas album that features a guest violinist. But everything else you hear? Just their five voices and the occasional hand clap. These guys were not only featured on NBC's fourth season of The Sing Off; they won it.

The line up. I find it slightly ironic that the last time I was hit by the musical thunderbolt was with Parmalee. Why? Because both they and Home Free include a pair of brothers, one of whom is responsible for the drums and percussion. Parmalee has the brothers Thomas and Home Free has the brothers Rupp. Chris and Adam Rupp to be exact. So what are their roles in the group, you ask? Find out after the break.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Favorite Christmas Originals

So we've covered Christmas carols and Christmas standards and now it's time to focus on originals. And by that I'm really talking about Christmas songs that you may have heard, but that aren't anywhere near as well-known as the carols and standards. Starting with...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Favorite Christmas Standards

Ah, the Christmas standards. You really can't have Christmas without any of these. It wouldn't be the same. So what are my favorites? Keep reading and find out.

Favorite Christmas Carols

Well, it's the middle of December and y'all know what that means: Christmas is right around the corner. Which means that we've all been listening to Christmas music since about Thanksgiving, if not sooner. I've gotten a few new Christmas albums recently and it occurred to me that my collection of Christmas music is fairly large. So I've been listening to all the different versions I have of a bunch of these songs and decided that it might be fun to write about my favorites. Guess what this is?

This will be divided into three categories and thus, three posts. This one focusing on traditional Christmas carols, as it states in the title. The other two? Christmas standards and original Christmas songs. Please note that these are in no particular order and not every artist listed is a country act. Most of them are, but not all. There are a bunch of songs to get to and respecting that, I'm not going to go into too much detail about why I picked each song. I'll also include a link to go check the songs out on iTunes, if you're so inclined. Or if the song/album is not on iTunes, I'll add a link to somewhere you can purchase the song/album if possible. Let's jump in.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Great Albums from 2013

I don't know about anyone else, but I can't believe that it's February. There's been some new albums already released by country acts this year and I'm probably going to be writing about a few of them in the next couple of weeks. But first, I want to revisit 2013. I do have a top 13 albums of 2013 post coming. Better late than never, eh? I must say that I didn't realize how hard it would be to narrow it down to 13. I got a lot of albums last year and loved a bunch of them. I had to make some tough choices. So who made the cut? Well, you're going to have to wait for that. For now I want to take some time to highlight some other albums from 2013. Three to be exact.

Now, hold on, you might be thinking. Why would I take the time to write about these albums when they didn't make the top 13? Here's the thing: I loved all three of these albums. Enough to want to give them a little love. But it didn't seem fair to include them in my top 13. Why? Because all three of these albums are full of songs that have previously been recorded. You know how many albums I bought last year? 69. Most of them country, some bluegrass and a couple of Americana albums thrown in there. And more to this point, most of the songs on those albums were original songs. Save for a few remakes here and there. I decided that it was only right to keep my top 13 reserved for albums featuring original songs. But it also seemed right to take the time to highlight these three albums. Because they were all fantastic and deserve some attention.

What are they? Well, keep reading to find out.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Album review: Feels Like Carolina by Parmalee

I don't think I can properly express how excited I am to be reviewing this. I'm been wanting this album for a while now and it's finally here. I'll be getting to the review shortly, but I wanted to take a second to announce that I'll be doing a giveaway over the next few weeks. I haven't done one in a while and it's safe to say that this'll be the biggest one I've ever done. I bring it up here because Feels Like Carolina is going to be one of the albums included. More details to come sometime over the next few days.

So. Feels Like Carolina. Right off the bat I give Parmalee credit for doing the bulk of the writing on the album and for cutting and/or writing songs with lesser known songwriters. I have absolutely nothing against all the popular songwriters out there, but it's great to see acts who are willing to give other people a shot. There's so many fantastic songwriters out there so I love seeing writers I've never heard of get cuts. The result is a collection of songs that take some familiar country themes and tweaks them. Not so much that they're not still familiar, but enough to make you see them in a different way.

Continuing with this idea, let's talk melodies and how great it is when people care about them. There's so many songs out there that sound exactly like other songs and it's one of my musical pet peeves. Another? When you know what the next line is going to do or be before it happens. I like when songs take me by surprise either lyrically or musically and the songs on this album do both.

Okay, Parmalee's doing good so far. Checking off some of the things I want in an album and here's another one: flow. As in, this album flows nicely from one song to the next. Another item to check off? Energy. As in, it can be found throughout. A lot of the reviews have been focusing primarily on the vocals. But I want to focus on something else first: Scott Thomas. You know, that dude on drums that no one ever seems to talk about? Sure, people talk about their incredible backstory and we praise them for never giving up and for not letting adversity stop them. As we should. But can we take a moment to appreciate Scott's skills as a drummer? So much of the energy comes from the drums and percussion. That's the heartbeat. It matters. And it's so present on this album. So let's give the drummer a bit of love, shall we? He's more than his backstory.

Now the vocals. Solid harmonies that never overpower the lead vocal? Check. In the same vein, harmonies that help showcase both the lead vocal and the lyrics? Check check. A lead singer who knows the proper way to deliver a lyric? Check. Staying on that path, a lead singer who makes you believe what he's singing? Check! People are focusing on Matt's vocals for a reason. His voice is a great mixture of warmth, grit and affability. Not to mention that I believe every word he sings.

So do I like this album? Eh, it's okay.

No, I don't actually like this album - I love this album! It's such a solid album and one that is worth every penny.

Let's take a peek at each song individually.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

CMA Predictions: Part 2

I was just skimming over the list of all the performers for the show this year and it looks like this is the year of the collaborations. There's always a few, but it seems like there's more than usual this time. Zac Brown Band will be joined by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, Hunter Hayes will be performing his new single with Jason Mraz, Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert are singing their new duet and Taylor Swift will be performing with Vince Gill and Alison Krauss among others. And then Alan Jackson and George Strait will be teaming up to honor George Jones. There'll also be a special tribute to Kenny Rogers that will include Rascal Flatts, Jennifer Nettles and Darius Rucker. I don't know; just seems like more than usual this year. Should be interesting.

In any event, in Part 1 of my predictions I talked about Entertainer, Male Vocalist, Female Vocalist, New Artist, Group and Duo. Now it's time to shift focus a bit. Starting off with…