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…

Saturday, November 2, 2013

CMA Predictions: Part 1

Well it's that time again. Less than a week until the CMA Awards and everyone's been busy making their predictions and sharing their thoughts. So I figured I better hop on that train before time runs out. Remember: the CMAs are on ABC this coming Wednesday (November 6th) at 8/7 Central. This year the CMA will be doing a live stream of the press room, starting at 5/4 Central over on http://www.cmaworld.com/cma-awards/. Might be worth checking out.

I've done prediction posts a few times and I never seem to do them the same way twice. Oh, they all amount to the same thing. My thoughts on who I think will win and who I want to win and why. But I always seem to tweak the posts in some way or another. This time I'm going to be including a list of who I would've nominated if I was able to. Because like so many of you, I don't agree with every nomination and you know what? That's okay. Never let anyone tell you that you need to be in perfect agreement with the CMA. I bet we all have artists that we wish would've gotten nominated and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Who do you think got snubbed this year? Out of the people nominated, who do you want to see win? 

How about performances? I always look forward to just about every performance, though if I had to pick the three I was most looking forward to? That would be Eric Church, Little Big Town and the George Jones tribute that will be done by Alan Jackson and George Strait. The CMAs better give said tribute the amount of time it deserves. This is George Jones we're talking about here, one of the greatest voices that country music has ever known. Arguably the greatest. He deserves a proper tribute, wouldn't you say? On paper it looks good: I think Alan Jackson and George Strait are perfect for this. But they need to give them a good amount of time. Or I will not be happy and I don't think I'd be alone.

Also, in case you missed it, I want to give you a chance to be featured on here as a guest blogger. You can check out the post with all the details here. Scroll on down to the fifth point.

Now: time for some predictions.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review: Let Hope In by Pete Wilson

At its heart country music is, and always has been, about the lyric. It's everyday life set to music. Our everyday lives are full of so many different kinds of things. Different experiences, different emotions, different relationships and so on. And country music goes into all of it. There is a country song for just about any situation you can think of. A lot of it's about good times. Good experiences and emotions. But I think that the best country songs - the best songs, in general - are the ones that speak to the heart. Oftentimes those are the ones about not so great times.

You know, those times when something happens that leaves you reeling. Someone you love dies or your relationship falls apart. You lose your job or you get diagnosed with some life-threatening or chronic disease. Maybe it's not you; maybe it's a friend. You struggle with an addiction or some kind of disorder. And so on. These kinds of things make for a great country song, but when we're going through it ourselves? These are the kind of things that can cripple us. That can take away our joy and steal our hope and leave us feeling anxious or depressed. Scared or angry. You get the picture. Sometimes we feel this way for years at a time and it never seems to get any better. So what do we do about it?

If you follow me on twitter or Instagram or Pinterest (I'm countrymusicatk on all of them), you may have seen me talking about a book that's coming out on October 1st called Let Hope In. And that's what I'm going to be talking about today. You can watch the book trailer here.