Friday, May 27, 2016

Video spotlight: "Story of My Life" by The Piano Guys

I first came across The Piano Guys a few months ago, thanks to Peter and Evynne Hollens who had filmed a wonderful video for "What Are Words" with them. Since then, I've watched some more of their videos, though I don't believe I've seen them all. When I started this video spotlight series, I figured that I'd be featuring them at some point. I had another of their videos in mind for the first one I'd write about and was set to start writing about it. But then I watched this video and that was that. I don't think you can go wrong with any of these videos, but this one seemed like such a great introduction to the group. What I love about these guys is that they take classical pieces of music and pair them with recent hits in some fashion. I'm such a fan of this concept because I think it builds a nice bridge between different kinds of music and I always enjoy when people do that successfully. For those who may find classical music to be somewhat inaccessible for some reason, this will change that. On the flipside, there may be some who hate some or most of today's music, but it's amazing what an arrangement can do. I've said it before, but it really does all come down to the arrangement.

"Story of My Life" is a One Direction song and I imagine for some of you, seeing that might make you want to run for the hills. Don't. Trust me. The Piano Guys have done something wonderful with it. Their arrangement, which was done by Al van der Beek and Steven Sharp Nelson, was inspired by a piece by Saint-SaĆ«ns' called "Aquarium". This is part of his "Carnival of the Animals" Suite. If you watch this video on YouTube, The Piano Guys have included a link to that piece in the video description and I think it's worth checking out. You may have heard "Story of My Life" before, but I'm going to guess that you've never heard it performed like this. Not to mention that this is also among the best music videos I've seen in a while. It's so beautifully done. 

But maybe we should back up and talk about who The Piano Guys are first. There's a whole team behind them, but The Piano Guys are: producer and videographer Paul Anderson; pianist and songwriter Jon Schmidt; cellist and songwriter Steven Sharp Nelson; and music producer and songwriter Al van der Beek. For more information on how the group came together, check out their biography on their website which you can find here.

Now sit back and watch a lovely story about a boy, a girl and a very special tree.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Video spotlight: "She Used to Be Mine" by Evynne Hollens

Evynne Hollens has become one of my favorite singers lately. She has such a Broadway voice, one that's a pretty perfect blend of technique and emotion. Watching this woman sing feels kind of like watching a vocal master class. In fact, Evynne has a voice lessons series on her YouTube channel that I really like. She explains things very well and is always so much fun to watch. Plus she's so encouraging that in a way it's like getting lessons from a friend. Aside from that, I believe everything she sings, which is wonderful.

If I have any problem with Evynne, it's that she puts out so many great videos so consistently that it's nearly impossible to pick which one to write about. I want to write about them all, especially the ones she's been doing lately. She's actually got me thinking that I might do a couple of weeks devoted strictly to Disney related videos. It'd have to be a couple because between her and her husband, Peter, there's so many great ones to choose from. And they're just two of the people making great Disney videos. It's not so much a question of if this'll happen, it's a question of when. I know exactly which video will start it off, though. It's an Evynne video and one that features a Disney princess or fourteen. It's pretty impressive. 

Today's video, however, is not a Disney video. "She Used to Be Mine" is from the brand new musical Waitress, music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles.  Waitress is based on the 2007 film of the same name and made its Broadway debut on April 24th to rave reviews. It's been nominated for several awards and is up for four Tony's. Two of the nominations being for Best Musical and Best Original Score. Not too shabby. The soundtrack to the musical will be available digitally on June 10th while physical CDs will come out on July 1st. Evynne uploaded this video this past November after Sara released an album of her singing songs from the show earlier in the month. Evynne has talked a lot about how Sara is one of her favorite artists. That, paired with Evynne's love of musical theater, meant that it would only be a matter of time before Evynne covered one of the songs from the show. What a song this is, too. I've been listening to Evynne's beautiful cover of "She Used to Be Mine" a bunch lately. 

Take a look.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Video spotlight: "Everywhere You Look" by VoicePlay

Hear ye, hear ye!
I have an announcement.

The talented men of VoicePlay have been quite the busy band of a cappelling bees as of late. There's their new Partwork series in which part of the group gets together to do a video. This allows them to create and release more content. There's been two videos in the series thus far. The first was a cover of Justin Bieber's "Love Yourself" featuring Eli and Geoff. Today's video is the second. This time, instead of double the Geoff, we have double the Layne. And instead of having triple the Eli, we have triple the Earl. Leaving one member of the group who has yet to be featured in Partwork. That would, of course, be Tony the Tony who has presumably been busy doing various Tonyish things. I'm guessing that we'll see him in a Partwork at some point. At least I - and all VoicePlay fans, I suspect - hope so. 

Aside from Partwork, VoicePlay has also been doing 1 Minute Musicals. These are exactly what it sounds like - musicals that happen in roughly a minute. There have been three so far. The newest one came out a few days ago and my goodness. Never did I imagine I'd ever hear them utter the phrase "hey y'all!" as a group, but they did and it was magical. In an odd and wonderful kind of way. I've loved each of their musicals so far though. Enough that I've decided to dedicate a week to writing about them. This will most likely happen towards the end of this month or the beginning of June. So be on the lookout for that.

Now that that's been announced, I'm going to ever-so-kindly shove Eli, Geoff and Tony off to the side. Because it's Earl and Layne time. As is generally the case when writing about VoicePlay, things are about to get goofy up in here. In 5...4...3...2...1.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Video spotlight: "Mom" by Home Free

Mother's Day is this Sunday and what better way to pay tribute to all of the wonderful moms out there than with a sweet Home Free video? This is their beautiful cover of "Mom" by Garth Brooks. A word of warning: if you are a mom or have or had a great mom, you might want to grab some tissues before watching. This is one of those.

Watching this makes me think not just of my mom, but all of the others moms I've had in my life. For my mom, who is not just my mom but is also one of my best friends. One of my main concert buddies and one of the reasons why I love to read and, by extension, write. For Babi, my dad's mom, who we lost way too soon. She called me Kimbe and we had a special bond. Some of the best memories from my childhood are from when we'd drive down to Chincoteague Island in Virgnia to see her and also go to their annual Pony Penning. For my grandmom, who was not exactly what you'd call a soft woman. She was strong and tough, but there was never a time when I doubted her love for us. When I think of her, I think of playing with Barbies in her office or watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy up in her apartment when she babysat me. She always had the best snacks too.

And for my great-grandmom, who I'm so happy I got to have in my life for as long as I did. Though it wasn't for long enough. She is what I think of when I hear the word lady. She was from France and never quite lost her accent. She wore high heels regularly and I can't remember ever seeing her without her nails done and lipstick on. She is the reason why I started taking French in 7th grade instead of Spanish. I ended up taking it for eight years total and those first two were rough. My fondest memory of her is having lunch at the family restaurant, just me and her, and she was teaching me the French words for everything. As it turned out, French ended up being one of my best subjects.

So yes, I guess you can say that I was blessed in the mom department. I dedicate this post to all of them. So much of who I am today is because of those four women. Three of whom are no longer with us, but who I trust are up there in heaven keeping an eye on things. So to those three in heaven and especially to my mom, I say thank you and I love you all. And as the aunt to three awesome nephews and two adorable nieces, I also want to give my sisters-in-law Allison and Diana a shoutout for doing such a great job with them. Along with all of my friends who are great moms. There's a lot of you now!

But really, this song and video is for all of the moms out there. From all of you soon-to-be moms and news moms up to the grandmothers and great-grandmothers and beyond. This is for all of you.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Video spotlight: "From The Ground Up" by Dan + Shay

I have to start by saying how much I love that songs like this are still being written. We've been inundated with so many hookup songs over the past couple of years. So many songs about how hot a guy thinks a girl is, as if that's the only thing about her that matters. Society no doubt plays a part in this. You look at Hollywood where marriage is little more than a punchline more often than not. Or at all the people out there who would rather end a relationship instead of trying to repair it. People who bail on the person they claimed to love as soon as something bad happens. Who settle for shallow and meaningless relationships because they don't want to put forth the effort to create something real that lasts.

"From The Ground Up" was written by Dan (Smyers) and Shay (Mooney), along with Chris DeStefano. They used their grandparents' marriages as inspiration for the song and I'd say that it's a beautiful tribute. Both to their grandparents and to that kind of everlasting love that seems so rare these days. The kind that you fight for instead of throwing away. The kind that can withstand all the hard times that inevitably come. I imagine there are those who will dismiss the words as sappy which I take as a sad commentary on the mindset so many people have. The love that "From The Ground Up" describes is the only kind of love that truly matters.

Check out the video.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Video spotlight: "High Class" by Eric Paslay

I had the pleasure of going to the UMG showcase at the Ryman during the Country Radio Seminar (CRS) week back in February. It is one of the coolest events I've ever been to and an interesting peek into the business. It was a star-studded lineup that featured one great performance after another with a few that managed to outshine all the others. Not an easy thing to accomplish at this showcase! One of these standouts was Mr. Eric Paslay. Now I saw Eric at 3rd and Lindsley here in Nashville a few years ago and really liked him. Great voice, great songwriter and comes across as a cool guy. I was looking forward to seeing him again, even if it was only one song. As is the case at the UMG showcase. All but one of the perfomers (Keith Urban being the exception; he did a second song to close out the show) only did one song. The whole point of the showcase is to entice radio to play all these artists. It's kind of part concert and part boardroom meeting. It's a pretty fascinating event to attend.

In any event, I was looking forward to seeing Eric. I figured he'd be good. I did not expect him to completely blow my mind. Nor did the majority of the audience. There were a whole lot of people buzzing about it afterwards and for good reason. The song was "High Class". The performance was high energy. And the audience lost their minds. Turns out that Eric Paslay's got some moves! My jaw actually dropped. There's some videos of the performance floating around online and they're worth looking for, but they only give a taste of what the crowd reaction was like. Y'all, he lit that place up! I can't even describe just how much fun it was to watch. I was thoroughly entertained and didn't want him to leave. He had that audience in the palm of his hands and there's a lot of artists out there who could learn a few things from that. Namely, that incredible things happen when you project energy into the audience. Not just to the first few rows either, but throughout the entire venue. It's so infectious. Energetic performers will always be my favorite kind. Always.

Given the energy of both the song and Eric himself, I was expecting this video to be a blast to watch and I was right. Check it out.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

EP Review: Two Story Road by Two Story Road

Two Story Road is the husband and wife duo of Brandon and Jamelle Fraley. Brandon has toured with Gretchen Wilson and Danny Gokey while Jamelle used to sing backup for Carrie Underwood. They met each other while they were both attending Belmont University and the rest is history. They released their self titled EP last December. The trouble was I first listened to it while I was listening to all of the other music I got in 2015. It sort of lost in the shuffle after having listened to so much other new stuff. Please note that that is in no way a reflection of the EP itself; I did like it quite a bit. It was more a case of listening too much new stuff too close together. I'm a little ashamed to say that I hadn't thought about it in a while until the opening song, "Arson", came on when I had my music of shuffle.

I'd had my music on in the background while focusing on something else so I hadn't really been paying too much attention to what was playing. At least not until "Arson" came on. The music grabbed my ear immediately and then I got completely caught up in the story that was unfolding. I had to go back and listen to it again. From there I had to go and listen to the rest of the EP which I ended up loving. So here's this great EP that's just been casually chilling out in my music library over the past few months. "Arson" coming on that day was like a musical slap upside the head. You need those every now and then. 

The past couple of days I've been spending some time not only listening to Two Story Road, but watching some of the videos they have on their YouTube channel and some on Facebook - as always, links to all of their socials will be included at the end of the post. But in watching their videos and hearing them talk about these songs, it's given me an idea of what they're like not just as artists but as people. And you know what? I like them a lot. There's something very endearing and charming about them. As a couple, they're kind of adorable. Musically speaking, their voices were made for each other. They remind me of Thompson Square that way, though their music has elements of Little Big Town and even Trick Pony to it. Considering how much I love all three of those acts, that is high praise indeed. So let's talk about each of the songs.