Monday, July 18, 2016

Video spotlight: "ACA Top 10 - Bro Country" by VoicePlay featuring Chris Rupp

Today we're going to kick things off with a stroll down memory lane to help convey just why I've been so ridiculously and overly excited about today's video. It was on March 13th, 2015  that I uploaded my first post about VoicePlay. It was the first time I'd dedicated an entire mini-novel post to a non-country act. But I just had to write about them, so I did. It was called Stepping out of the country with VoicePlay and included a few of their videos. Their ACA Top 10 Broadway countdown being the video I'm referring to in this first excerpt. 
...I'd like to take a second to talk about the very end of the video when Earl is talking about them wanting suggestions for future aca-countdowns. Notice how country was included in his examples...I'm so curious about what songs they'd include if they did one and what they'd do with the songs they chose...I'm going on record as wanting an aca-country countdown. I want it a lot. No, not want. Need. This is something I need in my life. Seriously.
I saw VoicePlay for the first, and so far only, time two days after uploading that first post. By the end of that month, I'd written up a review of the show. They did their version of "Elvira" during their set and that was what I was referring to in this next bit.
Did this satisfy my desire for them to do an ACA Top 10 country countdown? No. No, it did not. If anything, it made it worse. I'm so hoping it happens at some point down the road. I mean, they can sing country music and Layne and Geoff have arranged country music. I'm just saying...I'll even say please with extra Twinkies on top.
I was not alone in this wish; there seemed to be a bunch of people who wanted it. Well. Y'all. They did it. They actually did it! It's been two weeks since they uploaded it and I'm still excited about it. Positively giddy, in fact, which has manifested itself in what can only be described as VoicePlayish ways. Y'all, I've invented some new words. I've even invented a word for the invention of these new words. See for yourself. Click on the pictures to make them bigger. 

If you thought that was the end of the ridiculousness, you underestimated the power of this new countdown. Don't ask me why, but one of the times I watched this, I got to thinking about a song from Les Mis. So it was that a parody was in the works, but then it turned into something else. See what happens when you take Les Mis ("ABC Cafe/Red and Black") and combine it with The Nightmare Before Christmas ("What's This") and a little Brooks & Dunn ("Put a Girl In It") in a little parody medley...thing. The medley that no one wanted, but that got created anyway. Kind of sums up my initial thoughts about ACA Top 10 - Bro Country.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Arthritis Awareness: Music Therapy, Part 3 - Faith edition

As I've said, when it comes to dealing with my rheumatoid arthritis, there's a lot of things that help. Then there's the big guns: my faith and music. Sometimes you need a combination of the two. This is why all of the videos featured in this third installment of this series are by Christian artists. You know, there's been so many horrible things happening lately. It seems like there's not a day that goes by where you don't hear about some new tragedy. I read an article the other day about how Christians should stay silent when terrible things like the senseless killings of the Dallas police officers happen. This makes absolutely no sense to me. If anything, it's times like this where Christians need to be more vocal.

Why? Because in times like this, people need hope. They need to look away from the tragedy; they need to look above. As a Christian, I believe in Jesus. The one true God. The source from which all good things come. There may be people who will be offended by my saying that, but that doesn't make it any less true. I often water down my faith when I talk about it on here because I know it's off putting to some. Well, no more of that. Not when the post in question is all about it. If you don't believe, that's between you and God. This post, however, is more about God in general. About me and God. About my faith and my beliefs and so today? Today, they will not be watered down.

As a nation, we have turned our backs on God. People try to force Him out of everything, but the second something horrible happens ask where He is. They ask why would a supposedly loving God allow these things to happen. As if He wants these things to happen. He doesn't. This is not how it was supposed to be. But He loved us enough to give us the gift of free will. He loves each and every one of us, so much so that He wanted to give us a choice. And you know what? We make a lot of bad choices. Bad things happen because people choose to do bad things.

That answer will be unsatisfactory to a lot of people, but it's the truth. God will never force Himself on us. Does that mean that He's not still there? Absolutely not. He's always there and when bad
things happens, it is God who weeps the most. Yes, He's there and he's waiting. Waiting for us with arms wide open. Waiting for us to realize how much we need Him, how much the world needs Him. So many people have been asking what we have to do to make things better and miss the glaring reality that we need help. We need God. We need a revival. We need to return to Jesus. As a nation, we've tried living without Him and guess what. It's not working. Don't believe me? Turn on the news. In turning our back on God, we have created quite the playground for the enemy. We've created a breeding ground for evil. Don't believe me? Again I say to watch the news. Horrible things are happening. Innocent people are losing their lives. People are suffering. It's time for everyone to realize that our ways of trying to solve all of our problems aren't working. If anything, we create more problems trying to solve the initial problems. It's time for people to understand that the only real solution is Jesus. He is the answer.

So, in keeping with that theme, I have chosen songs that I think will help. Let's get started.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Video spotlight: "Roots" by Parmalee

Last week I got to see Parmalee at the Grand Ole Opry for the first time in well over a year. That's way too long, in my opinion. I didn't realize just how much I'd been missing those boys. Suffice to say, it was great seeing them perform again and this was the first time I got to see them perform three songs at the Opry. The other times I've seen them at the Opry, they only got to do two. It was a good set, with their new single "Roots" in the middle. I'd heard the song and really liked it, but it occurred to me that I somehow hadn't gotten around to watching the video which came out last month. And I call myself a fan. Tsk tsk.

So I watched it, finally, and the fact that it's getting a video spotlight should be some indication of how much I like it. Honestly, I've been meaning to do a video spotlight for one of their videos for a while and couldn't decide which one. After watching "Roots", it became evident that this was the clear winner. Both because it's the newest, but more so because it's so good. The message of the song is simple, but powerful. As any good country song should be. It's about how no matter where we go or what happens to us, we can't outrun our roots. We can't escape the things that helped make us who we are. It's a solid single and a great lead off single from their upcoming second album. 

Check out the video.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Video spotlight: "God Bless the USA" by Home Free

Ah, the Fourth of July. The day that we Americans celebrate our independence from the British. The day we celebrate our freedom. I read an article the other day talking about how we've made it more about the date instead of the actual reason for the holiday. We do that with a lot of things. That writer argued that we should get back to calling it what it is: Independence Day. It's a valid point. After all, people gave their lives for the sake of freedom. Freedom that we still enjoy today, freedom that some would try to take away from us. All the more reason to remember the significance of the day. It's not about the fireworks or the food. Not that there's anything wrong with either of those. There isn't. They're some of the ways we celebrate; not what we celebrate. Note the distinction.

These days it sometimes seems like a crime to have pride in your country and that is a crying shame. I would hope that everyone would be proud of their country, be they my fellow Americans or otherwise. It's okay to love your country. I promise. Tomorrow, I hope that all Americans take a moment to reflect on what it means to be an American. What it means to be free. What it took for us to become free. What it takes to keep us free. Take a moment - shoot, take several - to remember and honor our wonderful veterans. To be grateful for their sacrifices. For the sacrifices that are active service men and women make every day. The sacrifices their families make. May they never be forgotten and may God keep them and theirs safe.

Need some help with your patriotism? Never fear, Home Free is here with their stunning rendition of the Lee Greenwood classic "God Bless the USA". This has got to be one of the most beautiful cover of theirs and that is saying something. The video for which has been a long time coming, considering that founding member Chris Rupp did the arrangement 16 years ago. He did an outstanding job arranging it and the group did an outstanding job singing it. I'm so happy that Chris is in this video; it's so fitting.


Friday, July 1, 2016

Video spotlight: "Miley Cyrus" by VoicePlay

We've come to the third and last of the 1 Minute Musicals. Three different subjects. Three different styles. As I said in my "Stuck in Traffic" spotlight, I think these are a great introduction to VoicePlay. They give you a good taste of their versatility and their talents as both a group and as individuals. My hope is that at the end of this one that those of you previously unfamiliar to the group are inspired to check out their other videos and albums. These three musicals are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what they can do. They're all so talented and I believe in them so much and want others to as well. It is in that spirit that I'm going to be serious for a bit before embracing the silliness that's coming. It's VoicePlay singing about Miley Cyrus; of course, there's silliness ahead.

It's July 1st which means that today is my birthday. I've spent the past couple of days thinking a lot about my life. About what these five guys have meant to me in the relatively short amount of time I've known about them. Above everything else, what they've been is a source of joy. They released "Miley Cyrus" a couple of months ago and it was when I was in the midst of a terrible RA flare up. I was in a lot of pain and didn't want to smile, let alone laugh. Well, they made me laugh. They're good at that. They make me happy. One thing I've learned is that when something makes you happy, there's two things you should do about it. Treasure it and pass it on. Because these are crazy times we live in. Just watch the news. Bad things happen to good people, every single day. So why wouldn't you want to hold on to the people and things that make it better? Why wouldn't you want to pass it on?

That's why I write about these guys so much. They're a source of joy to me and others I know. Musically speaking, I find them to be one of the most interesting acts around today. You could never accuse these fellas of taking themselves too seriously, but you know what they do take seriously? Their music and their commitment to their fans. They recently made a few little tweaks to their Patreon campaign. We found out about said changes a video update from Geoff - not in an email like most everyone does. Not that there's anything wrong with sending an email. It's just that they made a point of doing a little more than just what's expected. These are the kinds of things that set the good acts apart from the great ones. It's a great way of showing respect. Plus that message wasn't just informative, it was actually pretty sweet too. These bass singers, man. All of them seem to have hearts as big as their voices are deep. Geoff's a good dude, y'all. They're all good dudes. 

I know. Someone call the schmaltz police already. I just needed to establish the love, respect and admiration I have for them all. For the bass man. I needed to do that because now? Now, I need to call him out. That's right. I'm calling him out.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Video spotlight: "Lightbulb" by VoicePlay

I'm starting this one off with a question: are kids of today familiar with Schoolhouse Rock? I bring it up because that's actually one of the first things I thought of when I saw this for the first time. That got me thinking about the use of music in education and how helpful it can be. Especially when it comes to helping to remember things. For example, Animaniacs is why I know all of the state capitals. Facts are just easier to learn in song form. At least for me and I'm guessing a lot of other people. That and music can also teach you about life in general. For instance, "Stuck in Traffic" taught me that belting out your swears is extremely cathartic. Seriously, I recommend it. Maybe not so much when other people are around. 

One of the other things I thought of after watching this for the first time? It got me thinking about what I remembered about learning about electricity and such in school. You know how much I remember? Very little. Maybe if my teachers had made up songs about it I would have. I'm just saying. Luckily, I have the guys of VoicePlay to shed some light on the development of the light bulb. Ah, the light bulb. Without which we'd be crashing into things all the time. Yes, the light bulb. A glorious invention that is indeed worthy of its own 1 Minute Musical. It is Eli Jacobson who is credited with both the music and lyrics for "Lightbulb" and so it is Eli who we'll be mainly focusing on. After watching the video.


Monday, June 27, 2016

Video spotlight: "Stuck in Traffic" by VoicePlay

It's here, it's here. 1 Minute Musical week is here! Later than originally planned, but here. I figured that since I hadn't written about any of them, I'd give them their own week. There are three 1 Minute Musicals and they've all been great. I've said it more than once, but I love this idea. It's a great concept and one that's showcased talents that I didn't know these guys had. For instance, the music and lyrics for "Stuck in Traffic" were done by Layne Stein and Tony Wakim. I didn't know either of them wrote songs. Not just them, either, the other two 1 Minute Musicals were written by Eli Jacobson ("Lightbulb") and Geoff Castellucci ("Miley Cyrus").

In any event, the 1 Minute Musicals have been helping VoicePlay shine in new and intriguing ways. Honestly, if you've somehow never heard of VoicePlay, this is a great time to learn about them. It's been pretty fantastic to be a VoicePlay fan over these last few months. Not that it wasn't great being a fan of theirs before, mind. But they've really taken things up to a new level, really ever since they launched their Patreon campaign last November. Unless I'm mistaken, the 1 Minute Musicals were not Patreon funded, but the point stands. I really believe that the videos they've released since joining Patreon are easily some of their best to date. This tells me that they didn't make the decision to join Patreon lightly. It's proven to be a wise choice and I'm excited about what this means for the future.

Aside from the fabulous 1 Minute Musicals, they have their fun new Partwork series. The third of which was just released this past Friday and it's another winner. They debuted their wonderful cover of "My Shot" from Hamilton at the beginning of the month. Lemme tell y'all, if I didn't already love them, that video would've completely won me over. It's so good! They even put out a brand new ACA Top 10 at the end of May. It's just been a constant shower of musical yumminess from these guys and I'm all for it.

As you may have surmised from the title, "Stuck in Traffic" is all about being stuck in traffic and all the emotions that go with that. I don't know of a single person who enjoys traffic and so this outta be pretty relatable. I now live in Nashville, but was born in Washington, D.C. and spent most of my life living just north of the city in Maryland. Meaning that I've wasted a decent portion of my life stuck on the horror that is the DC beltway. I would be very happy if I never had to travel on that God forsaken ring of asphalt ever again. There may well be worse roads to drive, but that's the worst I've been on.

Now it's been said that art inspires art. I was watching this in preparation to wait about it and y'all, I found myself inspired. Be afraid, y'all. I took part of a well known song and reworked it to try and quickly sum up the beltway experience.  I'm not sure that what I came up with qualifies as art; in fact, I'm pretty sure it doesn't. Chris Stapleton I ain't. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Driving on the beltway
Will surely ruin your day
When often is heard
A creative curse word
And the birds are a-flippin' all day

Yes, that just happened. And yes, you're welcome. Meanwhile, the other day I saw a report from a Vanderbilt doctor declaring that Nashville traffic is bad for your health. I agree that Nashville would greatly benefit from a rail system. The thing with Nashvillians is that they are generally a very polite, kind group of people. This is delightful most of the time. You know when it's not? When you're stuck behind someone at a four way stop and they want to let everyone and their cat go first. Or stuck in a parking garage where they'll pull out of a space and let everyone in front of them go first. People, this is not effectual! Nashvillians also spend a fair amount of time fixing to go instead of you, know, actually moving. That said, I'll take Nashville traffic over DC traffic any day of the week. Easily. 

Now that I've effectively raised my blood pressure thinking about that blasted beltway, I think I'm going to take some deep breaths while you watch "Stuck in Traffic". It's a good one. One that features what might just be my favorite VoicePlay group moment to date. Enjoy.