Thursday, December 27, 2012

Song review: "Beer with Jesus" by Thomas Rhett

Going to start off by saying that I hope had everyone had a very Merry Christmas! And here's wishing everyone a better year in 2013. If you've caught my tweets on twitter, you may have seen me mention coming up with my top artists and albums of 2012. I'm still thinking about it and deciding who and what I want to include. In addition to my top artists and albums, I'll also be coming up with a list of which new/relatively new artists to keep an eye on in 2013. And maybe they'll be some other lists in there too. I haven't decided. I'm open to suggestions if anyone has any. But now it's time for a song review.

I usually try to review songs pretty soon after they get released to radio or, in some cases, when the video comes out. "Beer with Jesus" has been out of radio for a couple of months now and the video came out just over a month ago, if I remember correctly. I was debating not reviewing it because of that, but obviously changed my mind. For a few reasons. One being that I really wanted to write about it. And another being due to all the controversy it's apparently sparked. Controversy that I find pretty ridiculous, to be perfectly frank with you all. I understand not liking a song and people are, of course, free to have their own opinions about it. This post isn't in response to those who simply don't like the song. It's in response to the people who say that they are offended by this song or even outraged by it and it's so silly to me. We can have songs about getting drunk or popping pills and that's fine, but sing about drinking with Jesus and we have a problem. For the record, I'm not trying to condemn songs about getting drunk or popping pills. I just find it odd that I never seem to hear about controversies surrounding those kinds of songs.

Here's the thing about this song: the problem is not that there's a song about drinking with Jesus. It isn't. The problem here is that the people who are so outraged have completely missed the point of the song. This is not a drinking song. People want to focus solely on the beer and in doing so they miss the message. If this song had been titled coffee with Jesus, no one would be complaining. But it's not. So I come across discussions where people are arguing that Jesus deserves more respect. Saying that Jesus would never sit down and have a beer with someone. It is that argument that's making me do something I never imagined myself doing in any of my posts.

Fasten your seat belts, ladies and gentlemen. It's about to get Biblical up in here. Slightly so. I'm not going to be quoting verses or anything like that. Just putting things in a different light and getting a little theological. So if you're cool with that, keep on reading.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Song review: "Don't Ya" by Brett Eldredge

I've decided that Brett Eldredge is my new Chris Young. And now you may be wondering if I've lost my mind. Let me explain.

I was first introduced to Chris Young when he was on Nashville Star in 2006. I liked a few of the other contestants that season, but the week he did "Drinkin' Me Lonely" he became my favorite. So I was so happy when he won and was fully expecting him to take off. And he didn't. It wasn't until 2009 when he got his first #1 with "Gettin' You Home" and things have been going pretty good for him since. So what does any of that have to do with Brett Eldredge you're wondering?

Easy. I spent so much of the time just waiting for Chris to have that hit that would launch him into the next level of his career. I had so much faith in him as an artist and I just knew that he was a superstar in the making. He had everything - a great voice, a great personality and, as his female fans would probably agree, he's pretty easy on the eyes. He was the total package as far as I was concerned. And so's Brett. He too has a great voice, personality and looks. I've loved every song of his that I've heard and that faith I talked about having in Chris, I have in Brett.

My introduction to Brett was his video for his very powerful first single "Raymond". That song was so beautifully written and seemed to hit such an emotional chord with listeners. I was expected him to really start taking off from there. That was in 2010. We're now fast approaching the end of 2012. "Don't Ya" is Brett's third single and he has yet to release a debut album. It feels like he has a lot riding on this single, much like ever other newcomer out there. The good news? This song seems to be getting a very good response based on what I've seen and a video is on the way.

So what do I think of the song? Well, keep reading to find out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Album review: Christmas with Scotty McCreery by Scotty McCreery

First things first, I'm wishing everyone who celebrates a happy Hanukkah! Perhaps that's a strange way to kick off a review of a Christmas album, but it wouldn't have felt right not to include it. And really, when you really think and learn about what each holiday is about you see that in a way the first Hanukkah is one of the things that made Christmas possible. So once again, happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate.

Those of you who have read my album reviews know this, but the way I do album reviews is to give my overall opinion and then look at each song individually after the cut. Which means that album review posts can get pretty long. Just a warning.

This album came out back in October, but I never listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. Hence why there hasn't been a review until now. So what do I think? I think that releasing Christmas albums can be a little risky. The majority of these songs are so well known and loved already. They've been recorded by who knows how many artists over the years. There's a need to know when to stay close to the original and when you can take these songs in a different direction. This is where I feel Christmas albums are most likely to go wrong. And then if you're going to include originals, well, they better be good and they better be sincere. No one appreciates a phony Christmas song. Scotty is still a pretty new artist and some might argue that it was too soon for him to release a Christmas album. I feel like there's a bunch of ways this album could've gone wrong. But you know what?

It didn't. Quite the opposite in fact. I think that this is a great album from start to finish. Great collection of songs, each one placed right where they belong. Christmas with Scotty McCreery features two original songs and I loved them both. The production is basically perfect; I've listened to it a lot by now and there's really nothing for me to nitpick on that front. I have to give all the musicians a lot of credit because I absolutely love the playing on this! There's really some beautiful playing on this album. Not to mention it's full of strong solos and a solid energy. As far as Scotty himself? Vocally, I'd say he's grown since his first album. What impressed me the most, however, wasn't so much the vocals themselves as the delivery. I really enjoyed the way he sang these songs. He sang them with so much sincerity and even warmth, which might be an odd word to use but is one that kept coming to mind as I listened. I put this in my albums that get better with each listen category and it's one I'd strongly recommend.

Now, to talk a little bit about each song separately.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

My CMA Picks: Music Video of the Year

Well. We've arrived at the last category in this series. If you recall from my introductory post, I decided against making a pick for Musician of the Year. Mainly because I'm not familiar enough with a couple of the musicians nominated and knew I wouldn't be able to come up with much to say about them. And that didn't seem fair. It's easier to write about artists you don't know too well than it is to write about musicians. Why that is, I'm not sure. Most people seem to be calling this for Mac McAnally (guitarist) and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that he's won it for the past four years. Not a bad track record, I'd say! My love of the steel guitar makes me hope that Paul Franklin might take this one. But honestly, all five of the men nominated would deserve it. I don't have to know all of their playing well to know that they all deserve it  because I know how strong the talent pool is in Nashville. These five gentlemen being chosen out of all of the fantastic musicians eligible means something.

Now, time to focus on Music Video. Starting off with the list of nominees:
"Come Over" by Kenny Chesney, directed by Shaun Silva
"Over You" by Miranda Lambert, directed by Trey Fanjoy
"Pontoon by Little Big Town, directed by Declan Whitebloom
"Red Solo Cup" by Toby Keith, Michael Salomon
"Springsteen" by Eric Church, directed by Peter Zavadil

My pick for Music Video of the Year? "Springsteen" by Eric Church, directed by Peter Zavadil.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My CMA Picks: Musical Event of the Year

Starting off with an FYI for those who may haven't heard: the winners of both this award and Music Video will be announced on Good Morning America tomorrow morning. I'm sure that they'll mention who won at some point during the CMA Awards, but I wanted to bring it up just in case anyone had any interest in seeing them announced live. 

This is one of the first years where I've actually heard all of the songs nominated in this category. I listen to a ton of music and try to listen to as much new stuff as possible, but there's usually one or two songs nominated that I've never heard. This category is strange that way. Meanwhile, odds are that this will be one of the shortest posts I've done in this series because I just don't have a lot to say about any of these songs. 

The nominees:
"Dixie Highway", Alan Jackson featuring Zac Brown Band
"Feel Like a Rock Star", Kenny Chesney duet with Tim McGraw
"Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die", Willie Nelson with Snoop Dogg, Kris Kristofferson and Jamey Johnson
"Safe and Sound", Taylor Swift with The Civil Wars
"Stuck On You", Lionel Richie with Darius Rucker

My pick for CMA Musical Event of the Year? "Dixie Highway", Alan Jackson featuring Zac Brown Band

"Feel Like a Rock Star", probably the favorite for this award. I think this song has a huge chance of winning because of how big it was. It's Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, two of the biggest names in country music. The song got a lot of radio play and I feel like I've seen the video about 200 times. I didn't really care for it. I thought it sounded too much like some of Kenny's other songs.

"Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die". I'm having such a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that Snoop Dogg is up for a CMA. I mean it's Snoop Dogg, for heaven's sake. That alone made me not want to pick it. That and the fact that I just don't like it. I have a lot of respect for Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, two of the legends in country music. And I really like Jamey Johnson. But this song doesn't do anything for me. It probably has a chance since it's Willie Nelson and they are doing a tribute to him during the CMAs. Which would be a good time to have them announce that they won.

"Safe and Sound". Another strong contender. Written by Taylor, The Civil Wars and T-Bone Burnett for the Hunger Games soundtrack, this song was quite a departure for Taylor. It fit the feel of the movie very well and Taylor and The Civil Wars made for a very interesting trio. Perhaps the most unique song nominated.

"Stuck On You". Nice remake of a good song. I really like how well Lionel Richie and Darius Rucker's voices blend together on this. But I don't really think it's going to win based on the fact that I heard this one the least. I don't think it had anywhere near the impact of a couple of the other songs.

I pretty much picked "Dixie Highway" because I really like the playing found on it. That and I would love to see Alan Jackson win another CMA. It'd be a cool win for Zac Brown Band too, of course, but it's been so long since Alan won anything. This is kind of a hybrid of some other Alan Jackson songs, but it works. I think it's a fun track to listen to and easily my favorite song of the bunch. I'd like to see it win, though I'm not sure it can. I'd say that they have a better chance of winning than Lionel and Darius do. But still not as big of a chance as the other nominees have. 

My CMA Picks: Song of the Year

I want to take a moment and say that my thoughts and prayers are with everyone who was affected by Hurricane Sandy, particularly those in New Jersey and New York. The pictures and footage they've been showing are just heartbreaking. They have a long road ahead of them and it's not going to be easy. Let's not forget about these people in the days to come. And of course, let's say a few prayers for all of the firefighters, police officers and all the other emergency responders in these places, along with all the crews that are going to be working to restore power to those who lost it.

I know there's a lot of information out there about ways we can help, but I thought I'd provide some links here as well:
The American Red Cross:
World Vision:
The Humane Society:
Samaritan's Purse:

Those are just a handful of places where you can donate. I'm sure there's many others - just make sure that you give to a reputable charity if you do decide to donate.

Now, to talk about Song of the Year. Remember that this award is given to the songwriter(s). This is usually a pretty tough category and this year is no exception. I think I could make an argument for any of them.

The nominees:
"Even If It Breaks Your Heart", written by Will Hoge and Eric Paslay
"God Gave Me You", written be Dave Barnes
"Home", written by Dan Wilson, Brett Beavers and Dierks Bentley
"Over You", written by Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton
"Springsteen", written by Eric Church, Ryan Tyndell and Jeff Hyde

My pick for CMA Song of the Year? "Home", written by Dan Wilson, Brett Beavers and Dierks Bentley.

"Even If It Breaks Your Heart" is a strong contender. This song struck a chord with fans and artists alike, a song encouraging people to follow their dreams. Even when it's painful, as it often is. This song went all the way to #1. Proving to be the perfect follow up to Eli Young's previous single "Crazy Girl".

"God Gave Me You", the only song written by just one person. This is a beautifully crafted song and was very successful. I couldn't pick it, however, due to the same reason why I didn't feel right picking it for Single of the Year. It was released and went #1 last year and I can't get over my belief that Song of the Year should go to a song that was actually a single at some point of 2012. But it is a lovely song.

"Over You". One of the strongest in this category and probably the best song on Miranda Lambert's Four the Record CD. Written by Miranda and Blake about Blake's brother, this song hit fans on an emotional level. I'm sure that many will consider this to be the favorite and the fact that it was written by Miranda and Blake is going to be hard for the voters to ignore. But it wasn't my choice. I'm in the minority and well aware of it, but the more I heard it the less of an emotional punch it had. The opposite was true for a while, in the first couple of months after it was released. But it just didn't hold up as well  for me for some reason. It wouldn't surprise me if it won though. As again, I'm pretty positive I'm in the minority.

Another song I wouldn't be surprised to see win is "Springsteen". This was my pick for Single of the Year after all and you could pretty much take what I said about it in that post and apply it here. This song hit a major nerve with fans. A song celebrating the magic of the right song. It was so nicely crafted and got its point across so well. There's a reason why people connected so much with it and I would have no problems whatsoever if Eric and the other two writers, Ryan Tyndell and Jeff Hyde, took this one.

Ultimately, I had to go with "Home" and I'll be honest and admit that a tiny part of that decision comes from my wanting to see Dierks win something. But a large part, the biggest part, is that I really believe that it's the best written song in the category. I say this acknowledging that every song nominated is extremely well written; I understand why each got nominated. I definitely don't want to take anything away from any of the other songwriters in this category. I'd say it has a good chance, a much better chance here than it does for Single. In saying that I kind of feel like this might be the underdog in the category or at least the most understated. That's part of its charm, I think.

See I think songwriters have to be careful when they write a song like "Home". Songs praising the United States tend to do well in country music, but a lot of those songs come across as trying too hard. Like the song is trying to beat you over the head with how patriotic it is - and in doing so, misses the point. It's not about proving anything. It's not about taking sides, as so many of these type of songs can be. This is a song that any and every American can relate to. I think the beauty of "Home" is that the songwriters don't try to pretend that our country is perfect. It doesn't take cheap shots at the country either. It's about loving the country, flaws and all. It's about taking pride in our country and caring enough to want to try to make it better. It's about remembering how we got to where we are; never forgetting those who fought and sacrificed to make this country what it is. It's about knowing that it's okay that we're not all the same and it's okay that we have our problems. Because that's part of what makes this country so great.

Lyrically speaking, there is not a weak spot to be found in the entire song. This was a beautifully crafted song and the music fits it so perfectly. There's something very majestic about it and that's not a word I generally use to describe songs. I've been listening to it as I've been writing and trying to decide what lyrics to include and it's so difficult because it's so strong. I'll go with this segment, "Brave, gotta call it brave/ To chase that dream across the sea/ Names, then they signed their names/ For something they believed/ Red, how the blood ran red/ We laid our dead in sacred ground/ Just think, wonder what they'd think/ If they could see us now". That's some fantastic songwriting right there.

And of course, "It's been a long hard ride/ Got a ways to go/ But this is still the place/ That we all call home/ It's been a long hard ride/ And I won't lose hope/ This is still the place/ That we all call home". Beautiful. My pick for Song of the Year.

Monday, October 29, 2012

My CMA Picks: Album of the Year

Ah, Album of the Year. One of the biggest awards of the night, second only to Entertainer in my opinion. My choice for Album was an easy one. Another category where I was able to make my pick right away.

Without further ago, here are the nominees for Album of the Year:
Chief, Eric Church
Four the Record, Miranda Lambert
Home, Dierks Bentley
Own the Night, Lady Antebellum
tailgates and tanlines, Luke Bryan

And my choice for Album of the Year?
Chief, Eric Church. No question.

What do I think of the other nominees?

Starting off with what I'm sure many will consider one of the favorites for this award, Miranda Lambert's Four the Record. This album has gotten a whole lot of praise from critics, fans and other artists alike. But in all honestly, I'm just not feeling this one. I think Miranda is a lot better than this album. In fact, I know she is. I loved Kerosene, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Revolution. This album was a bit of a disappointment and one that makes me wonder what we'll see from her in the future. I'm not saying it's a bad album, I just don't think this is Album of the Year worthy. I kind of feel like Miranda is to this category what Kenny Chesney is to Entertainer. It seems like they both keep getting nominated because people think they should be. But that's not a good enough reason to nominate someone. It's just not. That said, she definitely has a shot at winning. Not going to deny that.

Home. I love that this album got nominated because it's so strong, but I hate that it had to go up against Chief. Dierks Bentley doesn't get anywhere near the attention he should and I'd be pretty stunned if he walked away the winner in this category. But it's one of the best albums in the group and perhaps the best he's ever put out. This nomination was very well deserved. If nothing else, I hope that his sales spike after all this. Right now I just don't think enough people are familiar with it, but it's great to see him get a nod at least.

I'm going to lead off by saying that I like Lady Antebellum. They have a few songs I absolutely love and they seem like cool people. But that said, I think that Own the Night is their weakest album to date. I find it forgettable. There's a couple of songs I like, but I couldn't tell you anything about the others. Their last two singles, "Dancin' Away with my Heart" and "Wanted You More" were interchangeable for me. They're better than this. It did manage to win Best Country Album at the Grammy's and they've had a great touring year, so I'd say they have a shot. But just like Four the Record, I don't think this is Album of the Year worthy.

tailgates and tanlines. I was pleasantly surprised that this got nominated and I can't help but feel like people are underestimating Luke's odds. This is a great album, one that's given us "Country Girl (Shake It for Me)", "I Don't Want This Night to End", "Drunk on You" and his latest single "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye". And the thing about it is that as good as all of those songs are, there's really not a bad song on the album. It's a very solid album from start to finish. My favorite song is probably "You Don't Know Jack" and I'd strongly everyone to look it up. Luke's is so popular right now and I love that it's paying off in the form of some well deserved nominations. Among other things. I don't know if he'll win it or not, but I think he has a chance.

So that's everyone else. Now let's talk about Chief. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My CMA Picks: Single of the Year

I'm going to start this off with mentioning that the eligibility period for this years CMAs started on July 1st, 2011 and ended on June 30th, 2012. I point this out because I was pretty surprised by a couple of the songs up for this award. Not because I don't like the songs, but because it seems like it's been so long since they were released. Come to find out, when a song comes out doesn't really matter. What matters is when it reaches its peak chart position - which has to be somewhere in the top fifty. So there we go. I still think it's weird that a couple of these songs are in the running, but then, I am not a member of the Country Music Association.

For anyone interested in how the voting process works and what the criteria for all the awards is, you can read about it here. That all said, my picks have more to do with my own personal preferences and factors that I think should be considered. That should go without saying, but I wanted to make it clear.

Meanwhile, while I'm clarifying some things, I know some people get confused about the difference between Single of the Year and Song of the Year. Well, Single is awarded to the artist and their producer(s) while Song of the Year is given to the songwriter(s). Chart position and radio play seem to get taken into consideration in both cases. My understanding is that Single tends to look more at the overall impact a song had, with Song focusing more on the quality of the song itself. I could very well be wrong about that last point, but that's how I chose to think about it when I made my picks.

So now that that's all out of the way, let me review the songs nominated:

"Dirt Road Anthem" by Jason Aldean and produced by Michael Knox, Broken Bow Records
"God Gave My You" by Blake Shelton and produced by Scott Hendrinks, Warner Bros. Records
"Home" by Dierks Bentley and produced by Brett Beavers and Luke Wooten, Capitol Records
"Pontoon" by Little Big Town and produced by Jay Joyce, Capitol Records
"Springsteen" by Eric Church and produced by Jay Joyce, EMI Records

This was a tough one because I really like all of the songs nominated. Not to mention the artists themselves. But my choice for CMA Single of the Year? "Springsteen" by Eric Church.

"Dirt Road Anthem" is one of the songs nominated that surprised me. It was released in early February 2011 and reached #1 in the last week of July. Now, I haven't exactly kept my love of Jason Aldean and his music a secret around here. I like "Dirt Road Anthem" quite a bit, though it's not one of my favorite songs of his overall. My reason for not picking it is because I kind of feel like the song that wins should be a song that was a single at some point of 2012. But it would be foolish to count it out. The song was huge for Jason. How huge? Well, it's been certified triple platinum, if that gives you an idea. It gets a great response live and may have made the biggest overall impact of any of the songs nominated. And Jason's current popularity can only help him here.

And so does "God Gave Me You" by Blake Shelton. This is a beautiful song with an equally beautiful video. It was released in July of last year and became Blake's fifth consecutive #1 in October. And so, that is why I didn't pick it. But even still, I would not rule it out.

Dierks Bentley's "Home" is a wonderful song that was inspired by a terrible tragedy. I'm of course talking about the shooting last year in Tuscon, Arizona that killed six people and critically wounded U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. "Home" is probably the best written song in the category, but I think it has a better chance at winning Song of the Year.

"Pontoon". The song of the summer of 2012. Proof that you never know what kind of song will completely take off and take off this did. The was Little Big Town's very first #1 and considering how much radio play it got and continues to get, that came as no surprise. "Pontoon" was my second choice in this category and was a very close second. This song has a huge chance of winning, in my opinion.

But ultimately, I had to go with "Springsteen". Because it too had a big impact and that impact was felt on a more emotional level. This song isn't about Bruce Springsteen and at its heart, it's not about a lost love. Rather, it's about the power of a song. Not just any song, but the right song. The kind of song that can instantly transport you to another place or time. Even somewhere you haven't thought about in who knows how long. My favorite line in "Springsteen" is this one, "Funny how a melody sounds like a memory". It's true. We all have those songs. And I love that we have this song to celebrate that. So yeah, I had to go with "Springsteen".

My CMA Picks: Duo of the Year

The nominees:
Big & Rich
Love and Theft
The Civil Wars
Thompson Square

I kept going back and forth between a couple of them, but ultimately my pick for CMA Duo of the Year? Thompson Square.

My thoughts on the other nominees?

First up is Big & Rich. After taking a break for the past few years to pursue individual projects, they're back to making music together. Their new CD, Hillbilly Jedi, came out last month and the lead off single from said CD "That's Why I Pray" became a top 15 hit on country radio. But I really don't see them having a shot here.

Love and Theft. My second choice. As I said in my pick for new artist, I really believe that they have a huge chance of winning this. They just had their first #1 with "Angel Eyes" and have really been making a name for themselves lately. They've put on a great show every time I've seen them. I really like these guys and I'd have no problem whatsoever if they managed a win.

Sugarland. It'd be silly to rule them out, so I won't. It's been quite a while since they've released a new single and their last CD, Incredible Machine, came out two years ago. Now Jennifer is pregnant and going to be having her child sometime next month and I have to wonder what that means for Sugarland. My instinct is that it could be a while before we hear new music from them. But they had a strong touring year, perhaps the strongest of the bunch. They're also the reigning champions, having won this award for the past five years. That's going to be hard for the voters to ignore. But, much like group, this category is in a rut. There was the great Brooks & Dunn, who formerl dominated this category, winning a total sixteen times. And now Sugarland has won five times. It's time to let someone else win, especially since it's been so long since we've had new Sugarland music.

The Civil Wars. This duo has received a lot of praise from critics and fans alike and they've deserved all of it. But they're the least known of all the nominees and I don't think they have a chance. It's pretty interesting that they got the nomination though. And that's really all I have to say about them.

So why Thompson Square? Well, for starters there's the fact that they won Duo at the ACMs this year, providing what was seen by many as the biggest upset of the night. That's something that should be taken into consideration. Their latest single "Glass" made it into the top 15 and they had a very solid touring year, opening for Lady Antebellum and doing some dates with Rascal Flatts. Vocally speaking, Shawna Thompson is the most traditionally sounding country singer in this category and that's not going to hurt them. Especially not at the CMAs, who can be known to lead a little more towards the more traditional artists. So her voice is only going to help. Not to take anything away from Keifer, mind. The real magic of Thompson Square is how well their voices complement each other, after all. That combined with the obvious chemistry that comes from them as a couple. It's something that sets them apart from the rest of the nominees. It would not surprise me in the least if they walked away with this one.

And there you have it, my pick for Duo. This one was a bit on the shorter side for me, but that's okay. The next category up is Single of the Year and then we get to one of the biggest awards of the night, Album of the Year. Followed by Song of the Year, Musical Event of the Year and finally, Music Video of the Year. Of course, I write this as Hurricane Sandy is making its way towards the East Coast and, seeing as how I'm currently in Maryland, this may pose a problem. Hopefully not. But we'll have to see. In the meantime, I'm going to try to get the next couple of posts up later today (Sunday) before anything major happens.

And that said, to everyone out there who may also be affected by Hurricane Sandy, please stay safe and be careful. I will certainly be keeping everyone in my thoughts and prayers.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 26, 2012

My CMA Picks: Vocal Group of the Year

After the difficulty of the category, this one felt like a breeze. One of the categories where I instantly knew who my pick would be. Makes this a whole lot easier, lemme tell you.

The nominees:
Eli Young Band
Lady Antebellum
Little Big Town
The Band Perry
Zac Brown Band

My pick for CMA Vocal Group of the Year?
Little Big Town

Before I talk about the other nominees, I just have to say once more how ridiculous I think it is that Rascal Flatts didn't get a nomination this year. Biggest snub of the CMAs, in my opinion. Though that's probably a sign of how tough this category could become. What with all the groups currently doing so well in country music. There was a time when you always knew who'd get nominated in this category because that's all the groups there were. Now in addition to the nominees and Rascal Flatts, we have Eden's Edge, The Farm, Pistol Annies and Gloriana. And then there's Lonestar, who are going to be putting out a new album at some point with Richie McDonald back on lead vocals after taking a break from the group. I've also been seeing a lot about the Canadian group High Valley, who have just released their first single here in the United States. I have a feeling there's a group I'm not thinking of and if any of you think of one I didn't mention, please let me know. My point being that nominations in this category are no longer a given. Who knows what this'll look like a year from now.

But for now there's just five groups I want to focus on and of course I'm going to start with Eli Young Band. I believe that they have a shot at this award, if only a small one. Their two last singles "Crazy Girl" and "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" were huge for them, the latter of which being nominated for Song of the Year. They've been one of the openers on the Rascal Flatts tour and have just released a new single "Say Goodnight". The response for which seems to be pretty positive based on what I've seen. Is that enough to give them a win? My instinct says no, but there's no doubt in my mind that they deserved the nomination.

Lady Antebellum. Perhaps the favorite for this award. They are the reigning champions, after all, and their tour this year was a big success. They had a whole lot of sold out shows and did a string of shows in both Europe and Australia. Those are going to be hard facts for the CMA voters to ignore. It shouldn't surprise anyone if they win. But I think it's time for the torch to be passed to another group. Honestly, this category feels a little stale to me, largely because of what I talked about earlier. How you could always predict the nominees because there weren't as many groups to pick from. There's a desperate need for a shake up here and I'd love to see it happen this year.

The Band Perry. I really don't have much to say about them, aside from the fact that their nomination confuses me a little. I know they've been on the road with Brad Paisley, on what was another huge tour. And from all accounts, they got great responses from the crowds. Their latest single, "Postcard from Paris", was a top ten hit. But still, this one kind of threw me. And I don't say that to be insulting towards them in anyway. That was just my reaction. I don't think they can be counted out; they probably have a chance here.

Zac Brown Band. I don't have much to say about them either. They had a solid year, released a new album Uncaged and had yet another successful tour. I don't think they have much of a shot. They always seem to get nominations, but it rarely results in them winning. But who knows.

And now, it's time to talk about Little Big Town.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My CMA Picks: New Artist of the Year

This one was a tough one for me. Another one where I've changed my mind multiple time. But as evidenced by the existence of this post, I've finally made my decision.

First the nominees:
Lee Brice
Brantley Gilbert
Hunter Hayes
Love and Theft
Thompson Square

And my pick for CMA New Artist of the Year?
Lee Brice.

If you've been reading this series, you know the drill by now. I'm going to talk a little bit about each of the other nominees before I explain why I went with Lee.

Starting with Brantley Gilbert, who has had a pretty solid few years. First, scoring two cuts on Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party album. Two cuts that of course became very big singles for everyone involved and came with the added benefit of getting Brantley's name out there. He'd had a very loyal following before that, but those cuts made him known among the general country fans who hadn't heard of him previously. As an artist, he has two #1's under if his belt. Namely "Country Must Be Country Wide" and "You Don't Know Her Like I Do". He's just released a new single "More Than Miles" so we'll see how that does for him. Meanwhile, he's currently in the midst of his first tour as a headliner and from everything I've been seeing about it, it will no doubt be a big success. Brantley has one of the most passionate fan bases I've ever seen - I've witnessed it live and still can't believe the response he gets. That all said, I wonder about his odds at the CMAs. He certainly can't be counted out, but he may prove to be a little too rough around the edges for the CMA voters.

Hunter Hayes. I spent most of my time going back and forth between Hunter and Lee for my final pick here. This was after finally managing to rule out a couple of the others. I came thisclose to picking Hunter and I'll be perfectly happy if he wins this. Hunter seems to be on a roll lately. What with "Wanted" going all the way to #1 and being certified platinum. He was recently inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame - something that I wasn't aware of until today. At 21 years old, Hunter is the youngest person to ever be inducted. Right now Hunter is on the road opening up for Carrie Underwood on her Blown Away tour. A gig that surely isn't going to hurt him any. Aside from all of that, Hunter is the only nominee to not only have written or co-written every single song on his debut album, but he also played every single instrument on the CD. He sings every vocal part and even co-produced it. Pretty impressive, I'd say. I saw him at the Grand Ole Opry a few months ago and the response he got was just incredible. I've never seen that many people head to the front of the stage for an artist there before! This guy is very talented and there's no telling what he's going to do. It's my belief that we've just seen the tip of the iceberg of what he's capable of.

Love and Theft. I have to admit that I was pretty sad when it was first announced that they were changing from a trio into a duo, but it would appear that that move was a good one. Their career is really starting to take off and "Angel Eyes" was one of the biggest songs put out by any duo this year. I'd say they have a fair shot of winning Duo of the Year, but that's another post all together. I've had the pleasure of seeing them live more than once and they always put on a good show. I really like these guys and yeah, I'd have no problems with them taking this one.

Thompson Square. Oh Thompson Square. It pained me to eliminate them from my top two picks because I love them. They, along with Love and Theft, have added some much needed new blood to country music duos. There just aren't enough of them for my liking, so I love that we have new duos coming out and doing as well as they're doing. Thompson Square has gotten to do some big tours in the past couple of years. The most recent being Lady Antebellum. And they'll be joining Luke Bryan on his first headlining tour next year, which is bound to be huge. If Luke's rising popularity is any indication. This is such a great tour for Thompson Square to be on and I'm very happy for them. Them and fellow opening act Florida Georgia Line. This tour should do big things for everyone involved. Getting back to Thompson Square, they had a top twenty single this year with "Glass" and are fixing to release the debut single from their upcoming new album on the 30th of this month. You can go hear a preview of the song of their website, ,if you are so inclined. I have a good feeling about this one; hope it does well for them.

So there's the other nominees and yes, it's a tough category this year. I really feel like I could make an argument for why any of them deserve to win and it's going to be interesting to see who gets it. But I didn't pick any of them. I went with Lee. Wanna know why? Keep reading.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Interview with Shane Morgan

Well, this post is a first: my first interview with an up and coming artist. Actually it's my first interview with an artist period. This isn't something I imagined I'd be doing, but when the opportunity came up I knew I had to do it. And it's something I'd like to do more often. So, that said, if you are an artist and would be interested in doing an interview, let me know! You can get in touch with me here, on twitter or Facebook or you can email me at 

This interview is with a guy currently working to make it in country music, Shane Morgan. Shane can be found on twitter at @OfficialSMorgan, on Facebook at or and you can also check out his official website here. He has a CD available on either CDbaby, You can also purchase his album on iTunes, So be sure to go check him out on any of the above sites if you want to learn a little more about him. 

Now let's get to the interview, shall we? 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My CMA Picks: Male Vocalist of the Year

This category kills me. It was so easy to choose my picks for Entertainer and Female Vocalist - I knew what my pick was the first time I saw the nominees. But then we get the Male Vocalist and I really like all five nominees. Three of whom are my favorite artists right now; not just in terms of male artists, but period. And the other two aren't terribly far behind. In all honesty, I wouldn't have much of a problem with any of them winning. It'll be a mixed reaction no matter what. Happiness for the winner and sadness for the losers. More so than any other category for me. This choice was a tough one and I've changed my mind more than once. A lot more than once, in fact. But after so much consideration, I have finally made my final decision.

The nominees? Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Blake Shelton and Keith Urban.

My pick for CMA Male Vocalist of the Year? Eric Church.

First, my thoughts on the other nominees. Starting with Jason Aldean, who I'd argue has probably had the best year of any of them. His record breaking My Kinda Party tour sold out every single date, selling 1.9 million tickets. His newest single "Take a Little Ride" is his 6th consecutive #1 and his new album Night Train is coming out in just a few days. When I wrote about why I believe he deserves to win Entertainer of the Year I said that I believed that this album would be his best to date. Well, iTunes has the entire Night Train up for free streaming until it's released and after listening to it, I have to say that my belief was correct. This is the best album he's ever done and I have a feeling it's going to be huge. All of that makes him a tough competitor in this category and hard not to pick. But seeing as he's my choice for Entertainer, it didn't seem right to pick him here too. Besides, my guess is that he could easily walk away with one of them, but not both. It'd be one or the other and I'd much rather see him get Entertainer.

Luke Bryan. I'll be honest and admit that I spent most of my time going back and forth between Luke and Eric. I love that they were both nominated, as both are deserving and this category needed some new blood. They shake things up nicely. Luke is crazy popular right now and seems to be getting more popular all the time. He's grown so much as a performer this year, though that's not to say that he wasn't always a good one. "Country Girl" just put him on a whole new level. Not just in terms of his success, but in terms of his confidence. He has such a great stage presence and I would not be surprised if he starts getting Entertainer nominations. It's only a matter of time. He's been on the road with Jason Aldean all year and no doubt has contributed to the overall success of the tour. Luke will be headlining his own tour next year, bringing Thompson Square and Florida Georgia Line along as openers. I have a feeling that that tour could be huge for him. Vocally speaking, he has more range that people may realize. He has a good shot at winning this.

Blake Shelton. The reigning Male Vocalist of the Year and, in my opinion, the best singer of the five nominees. If this was just about the vocal, it'd have to be Blake. But really, the title of this award is misleading. It's not all about the voice; other factors have to be taken into consideration as well. I feel like this year was more about him being on 'The Voice' than it was about him as an artist. Not to say that he hasn't been doing well as an artist; he's had a strong year overall. It'd be silly to rule him out for this award which is why I'm not. I believe that other nominees had better years than he did and honestly, I want to see this category get shaken up. Which is why I couldn't pick him.

Keith Urban. First I have to say that I can't believe that this is the only award he's up for. He should at least be in the running for Entertainer since his live show is incredible. Lately he seems constantly overlooked at awards shows, for reasons I just don't understand. I have a lot of love for Keith, but I don't think he has much of a chance here. He's sort of laid low this year, touring wise, though he's of course been busy doing other things. 'The Voice' in Australia and now 'American Idol'. And you know, getting inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, which trumps everything else in my opinion. That's something that I hope gets taken into consideration when the CMA voters vote. But still, I just don't see him getting this one. Not this year anyway.

So that's the other guys. Now let's talk about the Chief.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My CMA Picks: Female Vocalist of the Year

The nominees:
Kelly Clarkson
Miranda Lambert
Martina McBride
Taylor Swift
Carrie Underwood

My pick: Carrie Underwood. This was a pretty easy choice for me, for a number of reasons. But before I go into those, let me talk about the other nominees.

Kelly Clarkson. She's a great singer, but I don't understand why she got nominated in this category. Yes, her duet with Jason Aldean was a huge song for both of them. Sure, she released a country version of a song that had already been a single on pop radio. And yeah, she's good friends with Reba McEntire. But none of that makes her a country singer. Her inclusion in this category makes absolutely no sense. If she ever does a fully country album and starts releasing country songs to radio - and country remixes don't count - than I would have no problems with her being nominated for country awards. She could do well in country music, but she needs to fully commit to a project instead of just flirting with the genre. 

Miranda Lambert. As the reigning female vocalist of the year, Miranda certainly can't be counted out. She's had a pretty good year this year and to say she has a good chance of winning again would be an understatement. I don't have much else to say about her honestly.

Martina McBride. Without question one of the best singers in music today. All music; not just country. The way I see it, her voice is so good that she'd deserve a nomination every year that she continues to make music. But I just don't see her winning this. Not this year anyway. Not when some of the other nominees have had the years they've had.

Taylor Swift. Her Speak Now tour was huge and her new album, Red, is coming out this month. There's been a lot of buzz about her lately, though that's not exactly a new thing. Taylor probably has a decent chance of winning. I'm not sure that her new single "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is going to help her out much. Because though there is a so-called country remix, it's a pop song. I'd also say that while she definitely seems to grow as a vocalist with each passing year, she's still the weakest vocalist in this category. But again, you never know. She might take this one home.

And then there's Carrie.

What can I say about Carrie? Well, for starters, her latest album Blown Away was recently certified platinum. Considering that it just came out in May, I'd say that's pretty impressive. The song "Blown Away" has become her 16th top 10 single and as I'm writing this is sitting at #2. Her Blown Away tour, which began in mid-September, seems to be off to a good start and I've been hearing and reading all sorts of rave reviews about it. Carrie may have stayed out of the spotlight before Blown Away was released, but as all of the above proves, she's back. And she's back in a big way.

Vocally speaking, she's one of the best singers in music today. She's singing better than she ever has and is making the best music of her career to date. Out of all of the nominees most recent albums, Blown Away is my personal favorite. My instinct tells me that this award is hers to lose. Sure, it could easily go to either Miranda or Taylor. And maybe they'll decide to throw a major curve ball and give it to Kelly Clarkson. But I just don't see that happening.

So yeah, I'm going with Carrie.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The continued case for Aldean. Because band members deserve attention too.

As my title states, band members deserve attention too. They deserve to be appreciated and loved by the fans as well. Especially when they're as involved as these guys are. I mean, you seem them in pretty much every video that Jason does and not just in the background either. They tend to get featured pretty heavily. And when you go see them live, it's the same thing. These guys are more than musicians, they're entertainers. Jason's right to use words like we and ours when it comes to their show because that's what it is: their show. Obviously Jason is always going to be the main attraction, but I promise you that you could focus on any of the band guys and still be entertained.

In fact, I'd recommend doing that. At any concert you go to. Take some time to watch everyone on that stage, if only for a little while. Musicians are pretty interesting to watch. There's so many different kinds of players out there. Different kinds of bands. So what kind of band is this one? Well, these guys are certainly capable of playing country music and playing it well. But I'd have to classify them as more of a rock band. And a true one, meaning that they play like a band instead of like a group of musicians. Confused? A band plays together whereas in a group of musicians it's every man or woman out for themselves. I'll take a true band like this one any day.

And now I think it's time to give each of the five some attention. Seems only fair, right? I'll be doing this doing this alphabetically by last name which means we're starting off with...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

My CMA picks: Entertainer of the Year. The explanation.

The case for Aldean...almost sounds like the title of a book or Lifetime movie, doesn't it?

My CMA picks: Entertainer of the Year. My choice.

Anyone who knows me well is not going to be surprised by my pick for this category. At least they shouldn't be. There's been a couple of categories where I really had to think about who I was going to pick, but in this case there was absolutely no hesitation. I knew what my pick was right away.

But before I reveal who that is, let me remind you of the five nominees: Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton and Taylor Swift. And my pick for CMA Entertainer of the Year? Georgia's own, Mr. Jason Aldean. Now I'm going to be presenting my case for why I believe he deserves it after the cut, but first I want to say a little something about each of the other nominees.

Kenny Chesney. Probably one of the favorites for this award. He's already won it four ties and the only other artist who has won this four times is Garth Brooks. So if Kenny wins, he will set a new record for most wins in this category since the awards began in 1967. Impressive. That fact alone makes him a strong contender, especially when we consider that he's been doing stadium shows for the past few years.

Brad Paisley. He's won this once before and his nomination came as no surprise to me. Brad always puts on a great show, a very visual one at that. If this a question of who has the most creative videos shown during the concert, he wins hands down. He's forever coming up with new things in this area and each tour he finds another way to change it up. That makes him my second choice to win.

Blake Shelton. This is his first nomination in this category. I realize I may be setting myself up to face the wrath of unhappy BS'ers when I say that I feel that his nomination in this category is a little premature. Not hating on him; I like him quite a bit. If this was a question of who the most entertaining person is, he'd be my pick.

Taylor Swift.  Another favorite for this category. She's already won twice and she's going to be hard to beat. Why? Well first, when you watch footage from her shows, it's almost like watching a Broadway play. Speaking in terms of the sets and costumes. Her show is massive. So massive that it took her to four different continents. Love her or hate her, you gotta admit that that's impressive.

Overall, a pretty strong group of nominees. I'm positive that anyone so inclined could make a strong case as to why any of them should win. If you'd like to give it a shot, make your pick and present your case in a comment. I'd like to read them. Now you know my choice. I've decided to leave this one here and give my reasons for my choice in the next post.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Song review: "Tip it On Back" by Dierks Bentley

Before I get to my review, I want to give a shout-out to the Dierks Bentley Congress aka the @dbcongress. They are members of the Dierks Bentley fan club dedicated to supporting and promoting Dierks any and every way possible. They have a blog page, found here, which includes links to their Facebook page and twitter account that you'll find to the right when you click on the link. If you're a Dierks Bentley fan and aren't following them, you really should be. They're pretty much my go for anything Dierks related - articles, interviews and so on. They also keep everyone updated on where his songs are on the charts and post all sorts of links to places to request or vote for his songs. Well worth the follow, I assure you.

Last month they had the opportunity to interview the three gentlemen who wrote "Tip It On Back" - Ross Copperman, Tully Kennedy and Jon Nite. I strongly recommend that you go and read it as it's a very enjoyable read. You can find it here. They asked a lot of interesting questions, some of which you never see anyone ask. So kudos Congress, and to the songwriters as well for being willing to answer their questions. Definitely go check it out.

Now there's just one more thing we need to do before I get to my thoughts on the song. This is going to require some reader participation, so work with me here. I want everyone to clear their minds and stop thinking about all the things you have to do. Stop worrying over the things you can't do anything about and not focus on anything that might be stressing you out. Just let it go.

Need some help? Try this: take a nice, deep breath, hold it for a few seconds and let it out on a big sigh. Repeat as many times as needed. Feel better? Good. Now let's talk about the song.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Song review: "Musta Had a Good Time" by Parmalee

The opening line: the single most important line of a song. Why? Because it sets the mood and feeling of the song. That first line should be so strong that it grabs the listener and gets them invested in the song. It can make the difference between actively listening or not. Every great song that's been written has had a great opening line. 

Some examples:
"He said 'I'll love you 'til I die"

"She put him out like the burnin' end of a midnight cigarette"

"A farmer and a teacher, a hooker and a preacher"

"It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty, Delta day"

"Hello darlin', nice to see you, it's been a long time"

"Cowboys ain't easy to love and they're harder to hold"

"Sara Beth is scared to death to hear what the doctor will say"

"It was all I could to keep from crying"

I could keep going, but I think you get the point. So let's look at the opening line to this particular song.

"Hey y'all, is that my dog up on the roof?"

Now granted, it may not be as poetic as a couple of the other lines I quoted, but that's okay. The point is that it gets your attention. Because odds are, you hear or see that line and want to find out where things are going. And if you're anything like me, you find yourself wondering if this is actually a thing. Like if anyone has ever asked this question, in total seriousness. For the sake of dogs everywhere, I'm hoping not. 

Remember what I said about the opening line setting the mood for the song? This is a very good example of a line doing just that. What we have here, ladies and gentleman, is a hangover song where our lead singer is trying to figure out what went on the night before. The details might be fuzzy, but the consensus is that they must have had a good time. Odds are that a lot of people are going to listen to this and relate, having had a similar experience one or more times themselves. 

Parmalee recently released the video for this song it's exactly what I was hoping it'd be. It was directed by Wes Edwards, who I love for two main reasons. One, he's great at picking the right treatment for the song in question. And two, his videos are always filmed in whatever style is best for the artist. As a result, his videos are among my favorites. The video for the song could not be more perfect. 

I'm going to go a little more into the song after the cut, but for those of you who maybe aren't all that familiar with Parmalee, I strongly suggest that you go watch this video. I wish more new artists made videos like this; it's a great way to let people know what you're about and where you come from. So go check it out. 

Going a bit deeper...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

2012 CMA's: Nominations and Thoughts

Well, it's getting to be that time again in the country music world. We are less than two months away from the Country Music Association Awards, more commonly referred to as the CMA Awards. The nominees have been announced and in the next few weeks, we'll no doubt be getting more and more information about the show itself. The CMA's will air on ABC on November 1st at 8PM Eastern and 7PM Central. Many of you have probably seen the list of nominees already, but for those of you who haven't you can find the whole list here.

Now, as some of you might remember, before the ACMs earlier this year I did a series of posts offering my predictions for the show. For the CMA's I've decided to change it up a little bit. First, instead of talking about multiple awards in a single post, each of the main awards will get a post of its own. Second, I'll still be saying who I believe will win, but this time I'm focusing more on my personal picks for each category. Which I did on a much smaller scale with the ACM's - the difference being that this time I'm going to be making much more of a case for why I feel the artist(s) in question should win. I'll be starting things off with my pick for Entertainer of the Year and then go down the list of categories as they appear on the CMA website. All but musician of the year because I'm really not familiar with a couple of the musicians. That said, my love for the steel guitar makes me hope that Paul Franklin will take it home.

Meanwhile, I don't know about the rest of you, but I was pretty surprised by a bunch of the nominees this year. On one hand, I love seeing new people get nominated because shake ups like that are good for the industry. If the same people always get nominated and if the same people always win, than the awards themselves become less and less meaningful. My opinion is that having won before does not necessarily mean you deserve to win again. The five nominees should be chosen because they were the five best at that point in time; not because they'd been nominated before. Artists should never be allowed to become complacent in their careers. The goal is not to stay the same; the goal is to evolve. The goal is to be better than you were last year and even better the next. Throwing new, deserving artists into the mix is a good way to make that happen. Nominations should never be a given or taken for granted. Artists should actively fight for those nominations.

How? By not settling. By not making the same album over and over again. By growing, but never abandoning what it was that make them stand out in the first place. By not being satisfied with how well their tour went last year and vowing to make the next tour better. By working harder tomorrow than they did yesterday. By understanding that being popular now doesn't mean they always will be. By realizing that they are countless others just waiting for an opportunity to take their place and that there is never an excuse to drop their game. Do all of that and then if the nominations come, they are well deserved. And if they don't come, at least they know that they did their best. The best artists will take the lack of nominations as more motivation to improve. So yeah, I support new people getting thrown into the running for awards.

That all said and being on one hand, there is that other hand to contend with. There were some nominations that left me quite baffled and some snubs that I just don't understand. The winner for the most baffling nomination has got to be the inclusion of Kelly Clarkson for female vocalist of the year. Now don't get me wrong: girl can sing. In fact I'd say she's a better singer than two of the other nominees in that category and about at the same level as the other two. The issue isn't her voice. Rather the fact that she's not a country artist. I'm sorry, but doing a duet with a country artist; releasing a country remix of a song previously released to pop radio; doing country covers in your live show and being BFFs with Reba McEntire doesn't make you a country artist. The fifth spot should've gone to either Sara Evans or Kellie Pickler. I'll accept Kelly Clarkson as a female vocalist nominee on a country awards show if she ever releases a fully country album with no country remixes of previously pop songs.

Biggest snub of the year is Rascal Flatts. No question. It's absurd that they didn't get a vocal group nomination. Ignore that vocally speaking they are one of the best groups in country music; they've had a very good year this year. Should've gotten the nomination over The Band Perry. Other than that I don't agree with Miranda and Lady Antebellum getting album of the year nods. At all. I do love that Dierks Bentley got a nomination in that category: that one is well deserved! Meanwhile, how did "Come Over" and "Red Solo Cup" get video of the year nominations? Ridiculous on both accounts.

This should go without saying, but all of this is of course my opinion. And this wraps up the first of many CMA related posts! Stay tuned for the first of my picks, Entertainer of the Year. I have a lot of album and reviews to get up so be on the lookout for those as well. And if you'd like to share any of your thoughts and opinions on this years CMA nominees, than please feel free to do so by leaving a comment. I'd love to know what you all think. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Album review: Edens Edge by Edens Edge

I've talked about how lucky I've been in that I've genuinely liked most of the things I've reviewed so far. That might be a little hard for some of you to believe - after all no one likes everything, right? But I don't know, there's been a lot of great music coming out lately. 2012 has been such a strong year for country music. So many artists are on the very top of their games, but even the ones who aren't are still putting out good music. Have I liked every single thing that's been released? No. But I have liked most everything I've written about. I've talked about Edens Edge before and if you saw those posts, you know I like them. So what about the album? Did I like it? No.

I adore it. Seriously, I realize that that might be an odd word to pick and it's not one I use all that much. In fact it's one I really don't use at all. So when I say that I adore this album, that's saying something. That's truly the best word to sum up my feelings. You're not going to find much in the way of criticism in this review. I've been listening to this a lot over the past couple of days and find new things to appreciate with each listen. This is a very strong album. Not just for a debut album, but in general. Everyone involved should be proud of themselves for helping to create something as good as this.

So why was it so good?

No weak songs. There's nothing on here that I'd call filler. I really believe they could release any of these songs to radio and all would have a pretty good chance of doing well.

Great production. I have absolutely no complaints there.

Wonderful playing by all the musicians all throughout. Good energy and from a strictly musical standpoint, everything fits. There's some great solos to be found on here as well.

The harmonies. Everything I mentioned previously is terrific and you can't have a great album without all of the above. But make no mistake: the vocals and harmony is what really makes Edens Edge shine. Both the group and the CD. First, we have Hannah Blaylock on lead. Hannah, who has quickly become one of my favorite leads. She has a beautiful, clear tone when she sings, but her real strength as a singer is her ability to sell a lyric. This album covers a bit of ground in terms of subject and mood, all of which is reflected in her delivery. She seems to be one who doesn't just sing her songs, she feels them. A quality that a lot of singers don't have.

Then we have Cherrill Green and Dean Berner. Adding not just their harmony, but their musical abilities. Cherrill plays the mandolin, banjo and guitar and Dean plays guitar and Dobro. Both prove to be wonderful musicians and their harmonies are flawless. They know when to step it up and when to fade more into the background, providing an extremely solid support system for Hannah on lead. Their three voices fit together so beautifully that if you didn't know otherwise you might assume that they were related for how strong they are.

So yeah. Take all of the above and that is what makes me adore this album. Time to consider each song separately for those of who who are interested. But first, how about a picture?

Taken at the Ryman back in February. If you're interested in seeing more, head on over to and check out my Edens Edge album. Naturally stopping to like the page if you are so inclined. I'm seriously considering doing a giveaway of sorts once I can get to 100 likes. So get to liking and you might just win something at some point. Just throwing that out there.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Album Review: Thirty Miles West by Alan Jackson

Steady. Consistent. Solid. Traditional. Class. These are just some of the words I would use to describe Alan Jackson and his music. He knows what his sound is and he knows what his fans expect of him and he delivers. Every single time. I've been reading a bunch of other reviews of this album and the general consensus seems to be that if you're an Alan Jackson fan, you won't be disappointed. I would absolutely agree with that. I'd also add that if you're a fan of traditional country music and haven't already purchased this album, than you need to do so. I have to say that I love that we have artists like Alan Jackson keeping this sound alive and well. It's very important that there's always some artists making straight up traditional country.

Now I'd like you to do me a favor and refer back to the five words I used at the beginning. In addition to all of them, I would say that this album feels very polished and familiar. Thirty Miles West is very much a typical Alan Jackson album, though there's a certain freshness about it that wasn't as present on his last CD. This was very nicely produced and features some terrific playing. The music tends to be understated at several times throughout the album and it's very effective. There really isn't anything that feels out of place here. It's a very solid collection of songs that fit together nicely. I'd consider this album to be money well spent.

There's the short version of the review for you. If you'd like to know what I thought of each of the cuts, you know what to do. Keep on reading.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Song review: "How Country Feels" by Randy Houser

So if you somehow have made it this far and never listened to Randy Houser, I would strongly urge you to start. Why? Because he's among the best male vocalists in country music today. And one of the most underrated. For some reason he seems to fly right under the radar of a lot of country fans and that's a shame.
He signed on with Stoney Creek Record, sister label of Broken Bow Records, earlier this year and "How Country Feels" is his first single with them. If I'm not mistaken, this was released a couple of months ago and seems to be making an impression. I've seen a bunch of good comments from other fans and can't help but feel that this song could do some very good things for Randy.

Why do I think so? Well, keep on reading and I'll tell you.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Song review: "Eighteen Inches" by Lauren Alaina

I'm going to start off this review by saying something that could very well make Lauren Alaina fans want to throw virtual tomatoes at me, so I'm going to ask that you all stay with me and keep on reading until the end. Because in order to fully appreciate this review, you should know where I'm coming from. I've always said I want to be honest and so I'm going to admit that they jury has been out on Lauren Alaina for me. I can't quite pinpoint what it is, but I just haven't known what to make of her.

It's not her voice. I've always thought she had a very good voice and it seems to get better all the time. I've watched various clips of her from the My Kinda Party tour, particularly of her singing "Don't You Want To Stay" with Jason Aldean and was impressed by how much she's grown as a singer. It seems like there's notes she's hitting a lot more easily and she seems more confident in her vocal ability. I love seeing growth, especially when it's someone I'm not sure about. It's a sign that they care about their craft and I respect that.

Is it her songs? Well I've pretty much only heard her singles, not so much the other cuts on her album. "Like My Mother Does" didn't do much for me though I thought it was still an okay song. I didn't care for "Georgia Peaches". That had less to do with Lauren and more to do with the fact that I never seem to like songs like that. I don't care who sings it; it could be my favorite singer in the world and I still wouldn't care for it. When I found out that she was releasing a new single I was very curious to see what I thought of it. I had a feeling that this song had the power to make me finally make up my mind on Lauren Alaina. 

Now in saying all that, my goal as a reviewer is to be as objective as possible. I try to judge a song on its own merit and do my best to leave my personal feelings of the artist out of it. Particularly when it's someone I'm not as sure about. I give every song a chance and that's something I wish all reviewers did. So I got this song and kept an open mind as I listened to it. And you know what? I like it. This is without question the best single she's released to date.

I'm going to wrap this up by giving my current thoughts of her as an artist, but first I want to go a little deeper and talk about why this song works for me.

Album review: Punching Bag by Josh Turner

I'll be getting to my review momentarily, but first I decided to take advantage of my ability to add pictures and include one of the man of the moment: Josh Turner, with his wife Jennifer, at the Grand Ole Opry in April. I unfortunately didn't get a lot of pictures of him, but if you'd like to see the ones I did get you can find them here on my Facebook page. Check them out and if you haven't already, I'd love for you to like the page while you're there.

Now. Punching Bag. This CD was released in the beginning of June and if there's one thing I can say about Josh Turner, it's that he's very consistent. This is his fifth studio album and is done in typical Josh  fashion. He knows who he is as an artist and stays true to that. Something I find admirable. You pretty much know what you're going to get with him: traditional country music with an emphasis on relationships and faith. All of the songs on this album fit very nicely with the rest of his songs. I'd imagine that any of the songs found on Punching Bag would fit in seamlessly with his live show. This is something I wish every single artist thought about because it's important. 

Punching Bag is a very solid album. I really like the production for the most part, save for a couple of things that I'll address when I look at each song separately. The playing on this is wonderful, it's very crisp and clean and musical. Josh always gives a great delivery on his songs and there's no exception here. This album has a very nice flow to it; every song is exactly where it should be. So yeah, a very good album that I'm sure anyone who likes Josh Turner will love. Or anyone who loves traditionally based country with a bit of a modern twist.

Now as far as each song individually, well, keep on reading.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Song review: "Better In A Black Dress" by Katie Armiger

You know, there are times when I can't help but get a feeling that an artist is about to reach a new level in their career. Their songs start doing better and better, more and more people start talking about them - there's a lot of signs that it's going to happen. And if you ask me, this is exactly where Katie Armiger is right now. Her last couple of singles have done pretty well and "Better In A Black Dress" is the fastest rising single in her career to date. That next level is right within her reach and this could very easily be the song to get her there. 

Yeah, I really like this song. Find out why after the cut.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Introducing: Steelshot

This post marks what I hope will be the beginning a new ongoing series. In this post I'm introducing you all to a group of guys who are based in Virginia who call themselves Steelshot. I've been listening to and reading about them a lot lately in preparation for this post and in doing so it made me think of all the bands and artists out there who are trying to make it in the music business. There's a ton of them out there and that's putting it mildly. I've noticed that I have several up and coming people following me on twitter, all at different levels in their careers. Some have music out and available for purchase, like the band I'm going to be talking about now. Others haven't gotten to that point yet. Some have been at it for years and others are just starting out. It's a hard road to choose, a tough dream to chase and it can be so hard for people to get themselves out there. And I've decided that I'd like to try and help these people out as much as possible.

So if you're reading this and you're trying to make it as an artist or know someone who is and would like me to write about you/them, let me know! Either through a comment on here, on twitter @countrymusicATK or you can email me at This post should give you a pretty good idea what you can expect. I'd write a little bit about you and what you're about and then a review of anything you might want me to review. Just know that I will be completely honest about what I think of the music and any criticism that I might have is always intended to be constructive. Not to say that I would automatically have any, but I wanted to get that out there. Thank you to Steelshot for planting this idea in my head. 

Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about the men of the moment: Steelshot.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Song review: "Too Good To Be True" by Edens Edge

I've liked Edens Edge from the first time I saw their video for "Amen" and was so happy when it was announced that they'd be joining the Changed tour with Eli Young Band, Little Big Town and, of course, Rascal Flatts. This is such a huge opportunity for them and coming at such a good time for them what with the release of their new single, "Too Good To Be True" and their self-titled debut album, which just came out a couple of weeks ago. I got to meet them on the 23rd of June and have to say that in addition to being great musicians and singers, they are very nice and sweet people. I really don't have enough nice things to say about them and want to encourage anyone who gets a chance to see them, to do so. I will be reviewing their album as a whole, but for now I'm just going to focus on the new single.

Here we go.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Song review: "Pontoon" by Little Big Town

When I get to the end of the month I always promise myself that I'll try to write more posts in the following month than I did in the one that's ending. As you can tell from the monthly post numbers, I haven't succeeded in doing that. I was pretty consistent from February through May and then June happened. I'm not going to get into specifics, but I will say that I just didn't feel up to writing much for a few different reasons. Hence the lack of updates. But as you can clearly see, I'm back.

That's a good thing since there's a lot to write about. Song reviews for new songs by Edens Edge, Randy Houser, Parmalee, Andy Gibson, Katie Armiger and Kip Moore to name a few. Albums reviews of Alan Jackson, Josh Turner, Edens Edge and Jana Kramer. A few other kinds of blogs about random things and I'll be introducing you all to a band of guys was are based in Virginia and call themselves Steelshot. All I'll say about them for now is that I don't believe I've ever heard anything quite like them before and I mean that as a compliment. So yeah, I have a lot to write about in the coming month or so and will be adding more to that list all the time.

But for now, it's time to talk about what is shaping up to be one of the biggest hits of the summer and may very well be the fastest rising single of Little Big Town's entire career. So let's get to it...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Album review: Blown Away by Carrie Underwood

Well, I’m going to start this off by thanking everyone who has been reading anything I write, but especially those of you who read the last album review I did for Josh Abbott Band’s new CD, Small Town Family Dream. Up until that point, my review of Scotty McCreery’s latest single was my most looked at post, by a lot. The Josh Abbott Band review shot past that one and set a new all-time high for me in terms of hits. Both for an individual post and for the amount of hits I’ve gotten in one day. Right now it sits at 549 page views, which I find kind of amazing. So thank you for that.

As you may have seen me mention in other posts, I’ve started a Facebook page for this blog which can be found here - I’ve been starting to upload some of the pictures I’ve taken over the years and will be adding new ones all the time. As of right now, I have albums for the following artists: Toby Keith, Eric Church, Kix Brooks, country music songwriters, Ronnie Dunn, Keith Urban, Little Big Town, Bill Anderson, Sunny Sweeney, Kip Moore, Edens Edge, Jerrod Niemann, Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, JaneDear Girls, Dierks Bentley, Jake Owen, Chris Young and Jason Aldean. Many of those will have more pictures added to them over the next few weeks and then there’ll be new ones made for other artists. So go check it out if you haven’t already and let me know what you think.

Now that that’s all said, let’s talk about Carrie Underwood’s new album, Blown Away. Or rather, I’ll write and you’ll read, if we’re being all technical about it. First I want to say that Carrie is one of those artists where I really only listen to some of their songs. I’m not sure why that is; I would consider myself to be a fan of Carrie’s, but I never seem to listen to any of her albums as a whole. Something that I expect will change with this album. I’ve listened to it quite a few times by now and I really believe that this is, by far, the best album that she’s ever done. This is not to insult any of her other albums, mind, just saying that I feel like she and her team really stepped it up with this one. Production wise, I’d go as far to say that it is pretty close to flawless. There are some cases where things sounds slightly overproduced to me, but that’s really me being nitpicky. I absolutely love all the playing throughout Blown Away. She has quite a group of musicians on this album, I’ll say that.

The first thing that struck me about Blown Away is how big it all is. This is a very big album; big in content, big in sound, big in terms of her vocal delivery and so on. This CD is already doing great things for Carrie and I imagine that it’s just going to keep doing great things for her. I predict that this is going to be her biggest album to date, in terms of success. It’s only beginning.

The other thing I want to comment on for this part of the review is how varied this album is in terms of sound. Some artists are perfectly content to stay in their respective genre, maybe stretching their boundaries a little bit but never straying too far from their genre of choice. Then there are artists who are less concerned with genre and more interested in exploring other musical paths. The latter kind of artist eventually transforms from a country artist, in this case, to simply an artist. These artists tend to be few and far between; this is the kind of thing that either works for a person or doesn’t. It takes a certain kind of artist to be able to pull it off and with this album, I feel like Carrie Underwood has pulled it off. Yes, there are songs on here that I’d classify as country and it is for that reason why I have no issues with her being considered a country artist. There’s always going to be some country in Carrie; I’d be stunned if she ever broke away from it completely. But there’s definitely multiple genres being represented here and somehow it all works. I’d consider this to be a very cohesive collection of songs.

So in summary, it you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to country and are looking for a straight up country album, this is probably not it. But I would definitely recommend checking it out with an open mind and seeing what you think. I’d venture to say that there’d be at least a couple that you’d like. It’s a very interesting album and for me, it was absolutely worth the money. This is the short version of the review. If you want to know what I thought of each song individually, keep on reading after the cut. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Album review: Small Town Family Dream by Josh Abbott Band

I'll be getting to the review in a moment, but seeing as I'm posting this on Memorial Day here in the United States I'd like to talk about that for a minute. I'm a very big support of our military; there's a quote I've seen floating around the Internet that  says " if you can't get behind our military, get in front of them". That's pretty much exactly how I feel about it. We owe so much to our military, they are the reason why we get to live the lives we do. They are the reason we're free and they deserve our utmost respect and appreciation. Their sacrifices are many and today we remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and honor those who have died. Hopefully at some point today, you'll take a moment or more to think of all the brave men and women in uniform and be grateful. For all of the fallen, for all of the veterans and for all who are actively serving their country as we speak.

And may we also take a moment or more to think of all of the military families out there as well. Many of whom will be no doubt thinking of their own fallen; for them, I hope that they can take some comfort in knowing that their loved one(s) may be gone but never forgotten. Not just by them, but by the rest of the country as well. For those out there who have a loved one or more currently serving in the military, I hope they feel the same. May we never forget about all the military families out there and may God bless them and, of course, their soldiers. And if any of out military, past or present happen to make their way here, I'd like to thank you for your service and sacrifice. You and your loved ones are in my thoughts and prayers, along who the thoughts and prayers of countless others. 

Now, I kept going back and forth on whether I wanted to review this CD or not. But as you can clearly see, I decided to. I'll be honest and admit that I have very mixed feelings about Small Town Family Dream. I'll start with the good and there are quite a few good things about this. The production is very nice on this, save for some minor issues.This album has a great flow to it. Musically, I really like the music on this all the way throughout. There's some great fiddle and guitar playing to be found here. Vocally, Josh Abbott is very solid. He has a pretty nice delivery for each song which is always a good thing in my book. He sounds a lot like Garth Brooks at times and that's just an observation of mine; nothing wrong with that.

Josh Abbott band is full of potential, but overall I wasn't really feeling this album and a lot of that has to do with the lyrics. There's some great lyrics on this CD, I'm not saying there isn't. Here's the thing: this album is Texas country, which in some ways is kind of like a sub-genre of country. I'm not overly familiar with a lot of Texas country artists, but from what I've heard, they seem to lean more towards the traditional. I have no problems with the sound; I enjoy the sound quite a bit, I like it. This album is very much pro-Texas and that's fine - I have no problems with Texas and would love to go there some day. The issue I have is that it's not only pro-Texas, but anti-Nashville and as a person who loves Nashville and a lot of the music coming out of Nashville, it began to get a little tiresome for me. This album would've benefited from backing away from all that. Though if you don't care for Nashville either, you'll more than likely really like this.

Would I recommend this album? I don't know. It's not a bad album by any means and I really like parts of it, but I don't see myself wearing it out either. Like I said, I have mixed feelings about this one. I believe that it's definitely worth checking out and seeing what you think of it. Everyone deserves a shot, after all.

Let's go song by song.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Album review: Hard 2 Love by Lee Brice

There seems to be a lot of hype about this album as someone who liked Lee Brice to begin with, I was very interested to hear it for myself. I’ve finally sat down and listened to the whole thing in its entirety. And before I go into what I thought of the songs, I want to take a minute and say how much I like his voice. He has a great quality to it and so much power behind it, which is something I’ve always known about him, but it just seems so much more here. I don’t know what it is, maybe he’s getting more confident as an artist or maybe it has more to do with the songs themselves, but I’m not complaining. This guy has a big voice that has a hearty heaping of soul in it that I like a lot. I really think that I could listen to him sing just about anything and enjoy it. This means that we’re off to a great start here.

Vocals and music aside, there’s just something very likeable about Lee to me in general. I almost want to say that there’s a kind of warmth or something to him that is very much present in his music. He sings with a lot of feeling which is great in a time where a lot of people don’t – and for the record, I’m referring to music in general and not just country artists. To be totally honest, I mean it more so for other genres. This might be something I explore a little deeper at another time, but for now I’m going to leave it at that and get back to the man of the moment, Mr. Lee Brice.

Overall, I really enjoyed this album and find new things to appreciate about it with each listen. The production is great and there’s a lot of interesting things going on musically for me. I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record by this point, but there’s some very good playing here. And as I know I’ve said it other places, I’ve come to expect it. Musically, the musicians do a great job of highlighting Lee and the lyrics. Everything just fits together in my opinion. Nothing feels out of place when it comes to the music.

As far as the songs, I will go into them a little bit more after the cut the way I always do, but I do want to say that this is an album full of well-crafted songs. Many of which make you think. These songs have a lot of heart to them. Lee wrote or co-wrote eight of the thirteen songs on here, but they all come across as songs he could have written. He just makes the songs feel so personal that you’re left feeling like you just listened to a little soundtrack of his life. Most of the songs are mid-tempo, which only a few up-tempo tracks. If an artist is going to release an album like this, than all of those mid-tempo songs better be good because otherwise the listener could get bored. This is the kind of thing that works or doesn’t and Lee got it right. The songs are so well done and fit together so well, that you don’t really think about it. At least that was the case for me.

So yeah, I really like this album and am not surprised at the praise it’s gotten.

Let’s look at each song by itself, shall we?