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...

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The best songs that weren't singles: Chris Young edition

One of the biggest mistakes we can make as fans is assuming that the songs that get released to radio are the best songs that an artist has to offer. Now don't get me wrong. There are plenty of instances where the best songs on an album become singles. It does happen, just not all the time and not often enough. What people need to keep in mind is that most of the songs that get released as singles are ones that the record label believe will do well on radio. Now there are times where an artist will feel strongly enough about a song to fight for it to get released even if it's not the kind of song that normally gets played. But the truth of the matter is that some of the best songs never make it to radio. Speaking for myself, many of my favorite songs are album cuts. This leads me to yet another of my musical pet peeves which is when people think that they can properly determine who an artist is strictly by the songs of theirs that go to radio. Now I understand that if you don't like the singles, you're most likely not going to go out and buy the album. But you can also never completely understand and appreciate an artist until you hear the songs that never got released. I believe you learn more from the album cuts than you do from the singles. 

This is why I wanted to start this series. To shed some light on some of these songs. Each installment will feature the songs of one singer or group. Each installment will include five songs because that felt like a good number. This means that there will most likely be artists who end up getting featured multiple times, especially considering that new music is coming out all the time and thus, more songs to love. When I decided to start this, I instantly knew who was going to be up first. A man with a rich and golden country voice. A man who is horribly underrated and doesn't get the respect and appreciation he deserves from the industry. A man who has yet to release a song that I don't like. Just as easy on the eyes as he is on the ears, he is also one of the nicest singers I've ever met. Who am I talking about?  This guy.

Mr. Chris Young. It was hard to narrow it down to just five, but I did. Keep reading to see what I picked and why. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Sing Off Tour: Part 2 - the show itself

Quick heads up: this post will be fairly media heavy. There's some of my pictures from the show and there will be some of their videos included for your viewing pleasure. Please be advised that one or more of these songs might end up stuck in your head and could stay there for quite a while. Infectious music is infectious. If you missed part 1, it's just some thoughts I have about a cappella music in general. You do not need to read that in order to read this, but if you want to check it out you can find it here.


The Exchange. VoicePlay. Street Corner Symphony. They are what this post is about, but before we get to that I'm afraid that I have a serious confession to make. My name is Kim and I am an a cappellaholic. Yes, I have what you might call an aca-addiction. I'd say I suffer from it, but that would be a lie. The truth is that I enjoy it. Which is good since I'm pretty sure I'm beyond help by now. If I've learned one thing lately it's that once you go a cappella, there's no going back. I say this for two reasons. The first is to offer up a warning that if you choose to keep reading, if you choose to watch all these videos, than you too might develop an aca-addiction. Don't say I didn't warn you.

The second reason I bring this up is because I've recently realized that there's two people in particular that I can blame thank for this. VoicePlay's Geoff Castellucci and Layne Stein. Everything kind of revolves around VoicePlay here for me. They were my original reason for wanting to go to the Sing Off tour in the first place. I was introduced to Street Corner Symphony through a video they did together to promote the tour. The tour that introduced me to The Exchange. If you read my article about Home Free (found here), you might remember my mentioning that finding them was kind of like falling into a magical rabbit hole into the magical world of a cappella music. I blamed them for this since liking them is what led to my VoicePlay discovery, but turns out it wasn't entirely their fault. 

See, Home Free just released a  hauntingly beautiful cover of Jake Owen's "What We Ain't Got" - which you need to check out if you haven't already done so because it's stunning. Afterwards it occurred to me that I'd been kind of neglecting them since falling into what will henceforth be known as the VoicePlay vortex. I decided to remedy this some by going back to my a cappella Snow White i.e, the one that started it all. The first Home Free video I ever saw: their CMA 2014 Single of the Year Medley. Don't ask me what made me look in the description box as I usually only read it the first time, but look I did. Most of Home Free's arrangements are done by either Tim Foust or Chris Rupp. Not this one. This one was evidently done by, you guessed it, Geoff Castellucci and Layne Stein. Seems I've been stuck in the VoicePlay vortex from the beginning and didn't even know it. Their medleys, people. That's how they get you. Prior to getting into a cappella music, my main two musical weaknesses? Country and Broadway. My first Home Free video: the CMA medley. My first VoicePlay only video: their Aca Top 10 Broadway medley. Clearly I never had a chance. Geoff and Layne are some kind of musical evil geniuses. 

We'll get back to them and their cohorts later, but first: The Exchange. Out of the three main groups, I knew the least about these guys going in. I did watch a couple of their videos before the show, but those didn't prepare me for what they'd be like live. What were they like? Two words...