Monday, April 30, 2012

2012 ACMs: The Performances Part 4

Last post! I enjoyed the ACMs this year, but to be totally honest, I'm going to be happy to be done with them. I said I was going to write about every performance and that I have - took a little longer than I wanted it to, but  that's all right. I'm going to get to the remaining five performances shortly, but just a heads up for what's coming. In two words: album reviews.

I have a bunch in my list to do and am hoping to get at least four done this week, if not more. I'll be starting off with Craig Morgan's This Ole Boy, Amy Dalley's Coming Out of the Pain, Casey James by Casey James and Chase Rice's Dirt Road Communion. That's more than likely going to be the order I do them in. Also on the lineup: Changed by Rascal Flatts, Hard 2 Love by Lee Brice, Up All Night by Kip Moore and Josh Abbott Band's Small Town Family Dreams. I might do one where I review a handful of EP's since there's been some new ones put out lately as well. All of that and Carrie Underwood's new one comes out tomorrow (May 1st) as I'm writing this. Goodness. I have a lot of listening to do. I'll mix in some non-album reviews in there. But yeah, the goal is to do those first four done by the end of this week.

But not before I do some more watching. Turning my focus back to the 2012 ACMs for the last time.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Song review: "Shotgun Rider" by Neal McCoy

"Shotgun Rider" in a word? Infectious. I bought this song on iTunes a week or so ago and for whatever reason hadn't listened to it until now and I kind of love it. Neal McCoy is another of those artists seem to be just outside of that radar I keep talking about. I wonder why that happens; I'm sure it happens to everyone. I think there's a lesson to be learned here about not being so into your favorite artists that you don't listen to other people. Obviously, your favorites are your favorites for a reason and of course you're going to listen to them, but I encourage everyone to not develop musical tunnel vision as I'll call it. Don't be afraid to branch out some, listen to someone different whether they're new to the music scene or whether they've been around for a while. You might just come across someone else to like or if nothing else, discover some great songs you didn't know existed. I'm going to pose a challenge to everyone reading this: go to iTunes or wherever and buy a song by an artist you never listen to. I don't care who it is, look them up, listen to some snippets of songs and buy one. And if you actually go and do this, please let me know who and what you picked. I'm going to do this too, though I'm not sure who to go with. Suggestions are more than welcome and conversely, if you want a suggestion, let me know and I'll give you one.

To get back to the main subject at hand, you already know what my basic opinion of song is already so if that's enough for you, awesome. But if you want to look a little deeper, well, come on in.

Song review: "New to This Town" by Kix Brooks

It seems like there's a lot of people out there who believe that an artist needs to be living out the songs that they sing about. "New to This Town" has been criticized because it's about a guy who is trying to get over a broken heart and Kix has been married for over 30 years. Apparently that makes the song strange to listen to. It's a criticism I don't understand. Being a great artist isn't about only singing songs about whatever you may be going through at a given moment; being a great artist doesn't mean you have to be living your songs down to the letter. A truly great artist finds something to relate to in the songs they sing and is able to put themselves in the moment to make it feel real. Their job is the sell the song in a way that's believable, regardless of what their personal experiences may be.

As it is, Kix may have been married for over 30 years, but I'd be willing to bet that at some point in his life he's had his heart broken. I should point out that there are many things that can break a person's heart; it's not always a person who does it. Or if it is a person, it doesn't always have to be a person that you were involved with romantically. Yes, I think we can safely assume that it's a romantic relationship that our narrator is trying to get over, but my point is that there's all sorts of experiences that Kix could be pulling from here. And for a man who is embarking on a solo career after being in a duo for so many years, the title of this song seems very apt for a first single. No, he's not new to Nashville or to country music, but this is the beginning of a new phase of his career. 

So all of that said, what do I think about the song? Let's see.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

2012 ACMs Performances Part 3

11 performances left. Talking about six performances this time and then will do the remaining five in the next one. Jumping right in.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Song review: "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" by Eli Young Band

All right, so I'm so behind in my reviews and want to start getting caught up. This song has been out for a little while, but I still wanted to talk about it so that's what I'm doing. And you can obviously see. Getting right to it.

"Even If It Breaks Your Heart" was written by Will Hoge and Eric Paslay and is performed by the Eli Young Band. This is basically a song about holding onto your dreams even if it hurts. The idea is another well used one, but it's well used because people will always be able to relate to it. In this case, it's specifically about trying to make it in the music business, but can easily apply to just about any dream. I'll be honest and admit that I had to warm up to this one a little bit. For me, the first couple of times I heard it I didn't get pulled into the lyric and the song just didn't really resonate with me. This is one where you need to focus on the words, I feel like. I liked it more when I did that. 

It's nicely written and I seem to appreciate it a little more with each listen. I really like the last couple of lines of the first verse, "Every note just wrapped around his soul/ From steel guitars to Memphis all the way to rock and roll". It's a pretty unique way to describe what happens when music takes a hold of you like that, the first part is almost poetic. 

I feel like the ultimate weakness of this song might be the opening. Musically speaking, there's not much to grab onto. It doesn't get my attention right away and that's never a good thing. I think that's why I never focused on the lyrics at first; the music never stuck out to me. It's not bad necessarily; just not terribly interesting. I'm not a fan of the production on this either. I feel like it needed to be a whole lot bigger. It needed a lot more. There's honestly nothing that stands out musically for me here. The strength of this song is the lyrics themselves.Vocally, it's a very nice delivery by lead singer Mike Eli. I like the tone of his voice a lot; he maybe could've put a little more feeling into this. But still a nice vocal. The background vocals were practically nonexistent in this. 

I find this song very frustrating because with the right production, it could have been great. The lyrics are very solid and the band has the talent needed; it's like they had everything that they needed, but that somehow wasn't enough. I wanted to like this a lot more than I do. I hope that this is one that comes to life more when performed live because it needs it. Now the song is doing very well and seems to have struck a chord with fans. I like Eli Young band so I want them to do well. But this song just doesn't do a whole lot for me personally. As always, this is obviously just my opinion and should be taken with a grain of salt. 

2012 ACMs: The Performances Part 2 (long)

So. I had this all written and scheduled to post and when it posted, the only thing that posted was the title. Everything else: gone. I started a second post and had to save it to come back later and when I came back, everything was gone. I have no idea what's going on with blogger lately. If you follow me via email you may have gotten an alert about a review for "There She Goes" by the Dirt Drifters that I did a month or more ago - I can't explain it. Hopefully things get back to normal around this. Now I'm doing this one again and hoping that the third time will be the charm.

Jumping in.

Monday, April 23, 2012

2012 ACMs: The Performances Part 1

All right, so I'm finally getting to the performances from the 2012 ACMs. I've made up a list of everyone who performed and am pretty sure I have everyone. If you're reading this and think of anyone I missed, please let me know. By my count, there were twenty four performances which I consider to be a lot. Especially when you consider that there were only eight awards given out during the broadcast. Eight awards compared to twenty four performances. That's ridiculous. It is an awards show. But I've ranted about that already.

Moving on. These aren't going to be in any kind of order. I wasn't able to record the awards and have been relying on good ole youtube to watch everything again. So it's going to be in whatever order I think of them in and has nothing to do with what I may have thought of them. I'm going to be breaking these up into multiple posts because there's so many. I'm not going to be posting any of the videos for space purposes, but rest assured, if you have a strong desire to watch any of them again they can all be found online. The wonders of technology and the Internet.

So are you ready? Let's go.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Song review: "Til My Last Day" by Justin Moore

I always like when artists expand their horizons a bit and put out songs about a subject they've never sung about before. Or maybe they have done songs about said subject before, but have never released any as a single before. Or maybe they've put out songs about the same subject, but from a different perspective. Whatever the case may be I like when artists branch out some. Better to be diverse than to keep releasing songs that are essentially the same in sound and especially subject and mood.

Which is why I was happy to find out that Justin Moore would be releasing "Till My Last Day" as a single. He's had a handful of singles, some of which have done very well - "If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away" anyone - but he hadn't put out a love song. Until now. I like when artists do this because it gives them an opportunity to showcase another side of themselves, add another dimension to who they are as both a person and an artist. So automatically I have to give Justin props for branching out this way.

Going deeper.

Friday, April 20, 2012

2012 ACMs: General Thoughts

It's been a couple of weeks since the awards, but I still wanted to talk about all the performances on the show. This'll probably end up being multiple posts just because there were so many performances. Overall, I thought the show was pretty strong. Some great moments mixed with some not so great moments to things that flat out didn't work for me. Which is pretty much the case with every awards show. 

But first I want to share some general thoughts and observations. I'm guessing that at one point award shows were first and foremost about the awards themselves, but in the time I've been watching them it feels like the focus has shifted from being about them to being about the performances. This is true for just about every awards show these days. I understand it to an extent; a lot of times they'll be a ton of categories and there just wouldn't be enough time to air them all. I get why some awards would be done off air. Leaving some off the show is one thing; making the show about the performances is another and one I don't agree with. In the case of the ACMs in particular, there seemed to be twelve awards that they were promoting the most - all the ones I posted predictions about. Out of those twelve, only eight were given out during the actual show.

Eight. The total number of awards given out was eight. I may be in the minority here, but I would've rather had them cut two or three performances and seen those awards get handed out. Now granted, two of them were given to the recipients on the GAC red carpet special beforehand, or at least two of the three recipients. Video was given to Toby Keith and Vocal Event was given to Jason Aldean. Aside from them not happening during the actual show, I have two other big problems. Number one: the video of the year award should be given to the director or maybe both the director and the artist. Now, maybe the director did get an award as well, but if that was the case, I didn't hear them say so. Videos are so important to music today; they can give the director some recognition and attention. Problem number two: giving the award for vocal event to only one of the artists involved when the other one is in attendance. 

Duo of the year was given to Thompson Square at a special concert dedicated to the military that they were apart of, that happened the night before the awards. This is one of the biggest awards of the night, arguably, and is considered by many to be the biggest upset of the night. They're the third duo to get that award since 1991; it's a big deal. For TV purposes, that would've made for some great TV. And Thompson Square fans wouldn't have been cheated out of seeing them win. Finally, the last award that wasn't given during the show was songwriter of the year. They made such a big deal about how they were bringing that award back after who knows how many years and then don't bother to show it. In music, in country music especially, it all comes back to the songs. To the songwriters who are the true backbone of the genre. Without them, there wouldn't be a genre as there wouldn't be songs. I'd go so far to argue that not only should it be given out during the awards, it should be one of the last ones given. I find it that important. Awards shows should ultimately be about the awards. Period. 

Moving on - it felt like a lot of the artists were having a hard time hearing themselves and there's no telling how badly that can mess up a performance. I realize that it's live TV and that you never know what's going to happen, but this is a problem on every single awards show that tends to last for the entire show. This was the 47th ACM Awards and it's Las Vegas as well. Surely they can do better. 

I really don't like when artists get to perform more than once. There's so many people who never get to perform and I'd rather see them be given a chance than see an artist get to do more than one song. Especially considering that the people who get multiple songs are ones who pretty much always perform. Speaking of, it's high time they shake things up. If they must have so many performances, mix it up. Have only a third or so be made up of the people who perform all the time and give the newer artists a shot. How about mixing in some of the older artists even? Larry Gatlin was in attendance; they could've had him do a song. Just a thought.

Meanwhile, what was up with the lack of focusing on band members? The focus should of course mostly be on the artist(s) themselves, but it seemed like they were making a concentrated effort to not highlight any of the musicians. The only times you saw a close up of any musician was when they were right up next to the artist. I'm not asking for a lot; give me shots of anyone who might be doing a solo. They usually always do so this was odd. I'd rather see the musicians than reaction shots from the crowd. No reason you can't include both - they usually do. It was just odd.

Another thing that was odd? The whole wedding thing. Look, it was a beautiful love story and I'm happy for the couple, but the wedding during the show was weird. Especially since they cut up the song with it which made it very hard for me to get invested in either. I just didn't feel it and at the risk of sounding cold, it took away from more important things. 

Which brings me to my biggest problem with the show; with what I'd consider to be the biggest travesty of the night: the lack of an Earl Scruggs tribute. And no, adding Steve Martin to play along with Rascal Flatts during "Banjo" isn't good enough. They would have performed that anyway. I'll go into my thoughts on the performance later. This isn't about that. In a time where people are so quick to throw around words like legend and icon, usually in reference to people who are neither, it's amazing how little attention is given to those who actually fit that description. Like Earl Scruggs. A true legend; the man was an innovator, a pioneer in not only country music but music in general. And that deserves, at the very least, a video package during a country music awards show. I know they mentioned him and showed his picture, though I missed it. I know the performance was supposed to be a tribute and in a way it was. But it wasn't enough. I've heard it suggested that they just didn't have time and to that I say that for something like this, for someone like this, you make time. There's no acceptable excuses. They can fit in a wedding, but not a two minute video tribute? Really? Unacceptable.

Okay. Ranting over with. I'm headed to good old youtube to check out the performances. Any thoughts about my rant? Feel feel to share them. Thanks for reading. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Song review: Carrie Underwood's "Good Girl"

It seems like it's been forever since Carrie Underwood put out a new single. She sang with Brad Paisley on "Remind Me" last year and if I'm not mistaken, she didn't have any releases of her own. Well, no longer. "Good Girl" came out a couple of months or so ago and this review is perhaps a little late. I have read a couple of reviews and remember them as positive. The country fan reaction seems to be split. Based on comments I've seen, a lot of people love this song and a fair amount of people don't. This one seems to be slightly polarizing. I've actually put off reviewing this partially because of that fact.

But not for any longer as you can clearly see. Before I get into my thoughts about this song, I want to say that I like Carrie and think she's good for the genre. She has a lot of songs that I love and I wish I could say the same for this one. It's at this point that I'm going to remind everyone that reviews are meant to be taken with a grain of salt. This is just what I think about the song and as always, you might agree and you might not. My goal is to always be honest and so I will be. Let's get to it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Song review: Scotty McCreery's "Water Tower Town"

I have an odd relationship, or whatever you want to call it, with American Idol. I was interested when I heard about it and watched the first three seasons, got annoyed with the third season and didn't watch the next only to start watching again during the fifth season. I loved the show during its sixth and seventh season, but started getting annoyed with it in the eighth. Sometime between then and now I've gone from being annoyed with it to now hating it as I see it for what it really is. I could go into more detail about that, but I won't. At least not here; maybe at another time. I'm sure many of you are wondering why I'm bothering to bring it up in the first place.

Well, it's because I decided to do a review of "Water Tower Town" by the current American Idol for my next song review. Now, if you're a fan of American Idol, you might not like what I'm going to say next, but I ask that you stay with me because it'll end up being important. The past year I have felt like Scotty McCreery and runner-up Lauren Alaina were being crammed down my throat and I began to, perhaps unfairly, resent them for it. Part of it comes from being a fan of artists who have fought so long and hard to get anyone to care, many of which never get the attention they deserve. Another part of it being that I hate when people get pushed on me; I hate being told I need to like someone or something. The irony of me saying that while I'm writing a review is not lost on me, I assure you. I prefer to be shown instead of told. Having someone tell me someone is amazing will only irritate me; if they're so good they'll prove themselves. Now. Again I'll ask for any Idol and/or Scotty fans to stick with me here. 

I've liked who Scotty comes across as a person, he's done things that have impressed me - first example being winning the coin toss on Idol and deferring instead to Lauren. That showed a lot of class. I've also respected him for being so open about his beliefs. I can admire him for that. He's been very respectful towards the country music community which I appreciate; it's nice. I think he has a very nice voice as well. But honestly, the jury has been out of whether or not he has what it takes to sustain a long-term career in country music. His first two singles, while not bad, didn't do much to convince me on that front. That said, I hate when critics/reviewers let their personal opinion cloud their reviews and so when I decided to review this, I decided to do so objectively. Focusing on the song itself.

And you know what? In doing so I found that somewhere along the way I stopped thinking about him as Scotty McCreery, that guy who won American Idol, to Scotty McCreery, country artist. Let's go deeper.

Album review: Kellie Pickler's 100 Proof

Before I begin my review, I want to acknowledge that this one has been a long time coming as it came out a few months ago. I debated just not doing it since it's been out for a while, but that idea didn't settle right with me because this album is too good to ignore. And it's not like my opinions on the songs has changed since I heard it the first time right after it came out. So, here is my long overdue review of Kellie Pickler's 100 Proof.

First, I'm going to give my general thoughts about it before the cut if you want a quicker read. Feel like a long read? Well, then after the cut I'm looking at each song individually and going into a little more detail like I do in my song reviews. It does get kind of long in there, just to warn you. So really, I got ya covered whatever your reading preference may be at this time.

- In a nutshell, I feel like this is the strongest CD Kellie Pickler has done so far by a lot. I enjoyed her first two, especially her first one, but I kind of felt like Kellie was still trying to figure out who she was as an artist. Sometimes it takes a while and that's fine. I'm not trying to knock those first two as it's not like they were bad by any means. I feel like both of them gave the listener glimpses of who she was, but something was lacking in both. Something that is not lacking anymore.

- Which brings me to my next point. If Kellie didn't know who she was as an artist; if people were confused about who she was as an artist, they needn't be any longer. Because with 100 Proof she has landed exactly where she needs to be. This is one of the highest compliments I can give an artist. This is the most authentic she has been and it's wonderful.

- You know what else is wonderful? The traditional country sound she has going here. In a lot of ways this album feels like a throwback to classic country with some modern elements mixed in. In a time when a lot of artists seemed bound and determined to convince everyone that they are country, this just is. What's beautiful is that this album is representing a country sound that hardly any other current female artist has now.

- I really love the production of this album and the playing on it. I also believe that this is the best that Kellie's ever sounded. All the songs are very well written and fit together nicely. This album has a very nice flow to it.

- Yeah, I really do love this album and those are really the main reasons why. Now to look a little deeper at each cut individually after the cut.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Song review: Ira Dean's "Something 'Bout a Sunday"

Random fact #1: I've been fortunate enough to get to meet a bunch of country artists and the first ones I ever met were Ira Dean, Heidi Newfield and Keith Burns - formerly known as Trick Pony.

Random fact #2: Ira was the first in line so he's actually the very first country artist I'd ever met. This was roughly nine year ago, give or take.

Random fact #3: Remembering the latter part of the last fact is now making me feel old. Even though I'm not really.

It's been a while since Trick Pony broke up and it still bums me out that didn't get any bigger than they were. They had some great songs that I still love today and if you've never listened to them before, look 'em up. I feel very confident in saying that they'll have at least a handful of songs that you'd like. Some suggestions for ya: "Pour Me", "Just What I Do", "On a Night Like This", "On a Mission", "Love Be Still", "Sad City", "Cry Cry Cry" and "When I Fall". Yeah, I was a huge Trick Pony fan back then.

But as any Trick Pony fan knows, they had their share of problems and they seemed like they were fairly constant. Combine that with the fact that for whatever reason, the general country audience just didn't connect with them, and it was no surprise that they would eventually end up breaking up. First Heidi left and then the guys got a new female singer to join and it looked like those three would do something, but then the new girl left. I think Keith and Ira considered being a duo at one point, but it never happened and they went their separate ways. Heidi has been pursuing a solo career and Keith has become half of the country duo Burns and Poe which the other half being Michelle Poe who played in Dierks Bentley's band once upon a time.

As for Ira? Well in the past couple of years he's had some success as a songwriter writing such songs as "Beer or Gasoline" (Chris Young), "Feeling Like That" (Gary Allan), "One in Every Crowd (Montgomery Gentry), "Proud to Be Here" (Trace Adkins) and most recently "Friday" (Rascal Flatts). Just a few examples. Now Ira has released the first single off of an upcoming solo album. That single? "Somethin' Bout a Sunday".

It feels very appropriate that I would be writing this review not only on a Sunday, but on Easter Sunday. I can't think of a more perfect day to write about this song, especially in light of what today is all about. And before I jump into my review, I'd like to take a second and wish all of my readers a Happy Easter. I hope that you've all had a wonderful day.

Ready to jump in? Let's go.

Friday, April 6, 2012

2012 ACMs: Who I predicted would win and who actually won

So the ACMs have come and gone and I said I'd do a post about what I thought of the show and here's the first part of that. The first of two parts since I decided to do two posts about it, one focusing on how I did with my predictions and another about what I thought of all the performances. I've gotten so behind in my posting lately and am hoping to get a lot of new stuff out there over the next week and beyond. There's forever song reviews to be done and I have some album reviews to do as well, as long as that trivia contest I first brought up several posts ago. That's all coming and hopefully in a timely fashion. But for now: The 2012 Academy of Country Music Awards winners.

So how'd I do? Well, let's take a look.