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? 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Arthritis Awareness Month - Part 3

And now to conclude this series.

Arthritis Awareness Month - Part 2

I'd like to start off by thanking everyone who reads my blog, especially those of you who read the first part of this. I really appreciate that. This is now going to be three parts because there's a lot I want to get out there, but I'm trying to avoid having a super, crazy long monster of a post. I mentioned in my Kip Moore album review, but I now have a Facebook page for this blog, which can be found in the post below if you're interested. Thanks to those of you who have 'liked' it already!

Now to get back into the world of arthritis...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Album review: Up All Night by Kip Moore

Before I get into my review, I want to take a second and introduce the launch or whatever you want to call it off my Facebook page, which can be found here: It's still very much a work in progress, right now it's just links to all of the posts I've done so far, but I'll be adding to it. Lots of pictures and things like that. So go check it out!

First albums are a tricky business. I suppose you could say that for any album an artist releases, really. I’d imagine that every album brings its own problems and difficulties as I’m sure any artist would agree with. But in my opinion, the first album is a lot like the foundation of a building. This is the one that is going to give you a glimpse what kind of artist they are going to be. Now the best artists will be constantly growing and developing their sound as their career progresses and for many that will involve venturing out into a different direction musically. But that said, that first album will always be the starting point and I think that there’s a tendency to kind of play it safe. Meaning that sometimes you listen to a debut album and get the impression that you’re listening to who the artist or label or whoever thinks the artist needs to be. Does that make any sense? In other words, it feels more generic than genuine. My favorite debut albums are the ones that don’t feel like debut albums. I don’t want who anyone thinks someone needs to be; I want to feel like we’re getting an idea of who the artist actually is.

That all said, do I think that this particular album sounds like a debut album? No, I don’t.

Do I think we got something that is more generic than genuine? No, again.

Do I feel like we’re being told who Kip Moore as opposed to him showing us who he is? And once again, I have to go with no.

Do I think this is a good album? No.

Do I think it’s a great album? Yes.

There’s been so much praise for this album and I feel that it is well deserved. If I’d listened to this without knowing it was a debut album I wouldn’t have thought it was. I feel like a lot of work went into this and I got the impression that they made it a point to make it as genuine as possible. In addition to that, I feel like we’re really getting an honest idea of who Kip Moore is. And you know what? I like him.

For starters, I just really like the grit in his voice and find him to be a very believable singer. I listen to him and almost feel like he could sing anything and I’d believe this. This is a good thing. I like the production here. There’s really not much for me to nitpick in that respect. Lots of great playing happening on this as well, all of the solos and whatnot seem to fit in very nicely and musically. I should point out that Kip wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on the CD. Overall, it’s just a very solid album and I can honestly say that I like every song. I liked it the first time I listened to it and seem to like it a little more now that I’ve been listening to it for a while now. That is a wonderful sign there. This is one I would absolutely recommend.

I don’t know if all of this means that he’s making my job as a reviewer harder or easier. Off the top of my head, I really don’t have much to say in the way of criticism. This is a very solid album.

Let’s go track by track…

Monday, May 21, 2012

Arthritis Awareness Month - Part 1

Yeah, so as you may have guessed from the title this post is not country music related. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this post or not because of that fact, but have obviously decided to do it. As you may or may not be aware, May is Arthritis Awareness Month. This is something that is very close to my heart and so I wanted to do something in honor of it, to try and get some facts and information out to people who may not know much about it. This may be something I do every once in a while, a post about something completely unrelated to country music, but rest assured that this is still very much a country blog. I’ll be getting back to that when this is done. I’m hoping that you will all indulge me and keep reading.

I’m going to go into some facts and whatnot after the break, but before that I suppose I should explain why I wanted to do this and why it’s so important to me. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in the late fall/early winter of 2000 when I was a senior in high school. 17 years old and I had no idea that younger people could get arthritis; I assumed that that was something people got when they got older. Once the shock and denial wore off, I decided that I wanted to learn as much about it as possible. In the years since my diagnosis I’ve learned a lot about it and in the process have met some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, people I never would’ve met otherwise. They are the reason why I wanted to write this.

Before I continue it occurs to me that I really started to fall in love with country music around the time of my diagnosis. I’d liked it before then, but hadn’t loved it until around them. Which goes to show that I can find a way to connect country music to just about anything. Interesting the way that worked out. Now back to the issue at hand…

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Album review: featuring the deluxe tracks from Changed & reviews of EPs by Luke Bryan & Bradley Gaskin

This is a little different, but I'm going with it. Good to change things up some, right? Hopefully you already read the review of Changed by Rascal Flatts. If not, it's the post right below this one if you want to get caught up.

Picking up right where I left off...

Album review: Changed by Rascal Flatts

I think I'm renaming this month as album review month because that's all I've done. Trying to get caught up before even more albums come out. I'm going to get to this newest review shortly, but first, I'm going to take a second and give my readers a heads up about a new website that's going to get launched sometime next month, This Day in Country Music which will be found at once it's up. These are people who love music, who love country music and are very excited to get this site up. In the meantime, you can go check them out on Facebook,, or on their twitter @TDICountryMusic. They specialize in country music trivia, history and facts so if you love country music, they are definitely worth checking out. I've learned some pretty interesting things from them that I probably wouldn't have known otherwise. So yeah. See what you think and if you think it's cool, give them a like or a follow. Or both, why not? Meanwhile, if you have a country music themed website or twitter or whatnot and would like me to give you a shout out here, let me know!

Now. This next album comes to us from a group that I've personally been a fan of since "Prayin' for Daylight" came out in 2000, I believe it was. That was over a decade ago. A lot has changed since then, a lot has happened since then, but with this album I almost feel like Rascal Flatts have come full circle in a way. There is a freshness to Changed that makes me think back to their first album. They've grown musically speaking; I'm not saying that the two albums are the same in that respect. Rather that with that album they were breaking into the music scene and everything was just so new and fresh. This is not to knock any of the albums between then and now; I'm just saying that none of those had the same feel to them to me. Which is very understandable. Based of all the articles and interviews I've read, Rascal Flatts underwent all sorts of changes in the days leading up to Changed. Some of those changes pretty big ones, to say the least - evidently they almost called it a day and were ready to end the group.

But luckily for their fans, they did not. They got together, talked things out and decided that they weren't done just yet. They still had some music left in them. Now they seem tighter than ever and looking forward to their future as a group. And so, we end up with Changed. An album where all of a sudden a lot of things feel new again. There is a freshness and excitement to this album that hasn't been this present in a while and I love it. Sometimes I talk about songs having a definite pulse to them and in this case, I'd say that that applies to this album as a whole. There's such a wonderful energy all throughout, an energy that everyone involved in the making of this album helped to create. It's not just coming from Gary, Jay and Joe Don; it's coming from all of the musicians as well. Production wise, I have absolutely no complaints. Everything feels and sounds the way it should. Musically speaking, I really enjoy the playing on here. There's a lot of nice stuff going on. Vocally, again, they all sound great. The classic Rascal Flatts harmonies are not only present, but present in away they've never been before.  Yeah, I think this is a great album; I'd even go as far to say it's the best one they've ever done.

That's the short version for ya. Let's look at the songs themselves, shall we?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Album review: Dirt Road Communion by Chase Rice

Well, here's another album by someone who I'm really not terribly familiar with or at least wasn't before I did this review. I was looking on his site and he's done all kinds of things - you may recognize him from Survivor. He seems like a pretty interesting guy actually and I'm not going to get more into it, but if you're interested in learning more about him check out his website and see for yourself. The strange thing about him is that I honestly can't remember where I first heard of him. I've never watched Survivor so it definitely wasn't there; I want to say I saw someone talking about him on Facebook and then decided to look him up.

This review is going to be a pretty long once as there's a total of 17 songs on this, if you count the hidden track, which I did. So it'll be pretty long after the cut just so you know. Lot of songs and I had a lot to say. My general opinion? I really enjoyed this album and I feel like Chase Rice is going to be one to watch. This was an indie project and honestly, if I hadn't known that I never would've guessed. The album is very well done and features some very nice playing and production. Every now and then there'll be an artist who comes along and pretty much instantly makes me believe that they are destined for some big things. Before it's happened with people like Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Dierks Bentley and Luke Bryan. And now it's happened with Chase Rice. I have a feeling about this one and so it'll be interesting to see what happens. I definitely recommend checking him and this album out and seeing what you think.

All right, so there's the short version. Like I said, it's very long after the break. Maybe you've come to expect that from me, but I really felt a need to warn everyone about that beforehand. Feel up to it?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Albums worth owning: Thank You Beer by Dave Alexander

So, I've started work on my next album review which is for Chase Rice's Dirt Road Communion, but decided to take a little break from that to start off a new ongoing series I'll be doing. With all the time I've spent doing album reviews lately, I've been thinking a lot about great albums in general and how there's so much music out there that deserves to get heard. I have my reviews to talk about new albums, but thought it'd be interesting to write about older albums every now and then that I feel are worth having. Hence the title, albums worth owning. I already know of a few I'm going to write about at some point in the future, but the choice as to which one to do first was obvious. If you've been reading my blogs for a while and saw the post I did in February about why you should check out the Dirt Drifters, you might remember that I mentioned that my dad is a songwriter. Well, he's a songwriter who has a CD out and available for purchase entitled Thank You Beer. It seemed appropriate for that to be the first in this series.

I don't consider this to be a review; though I will be talking about each song individually after the cut. Focusing on what the song is about. But the idea of doing an actually full out review was just strange to me, given that it is my dad's CD. I'm going to go into some of the basic details about it before the cut, but before that I do want to say that I genuinely like all the songs on it. And I'm not just saying that because it's my dad's CD and he'll be reading this at some point. I really do like these songs. It's a strong, solid album.

Some facts about it for ya. Every song was written by my dad, Dave Alexander, with no co-writers. This album was recorded over four non-consecutive days. Three of those four days were spent in one or both of two of Nashville's fine recording studios with all the musicians (more about them in a second). The last (and bonus) song of the album was done by just my dad and the gentleman who served as the producer for two of those sessions in his home studio. My dad did all the lead vocals himself. Now the musicians? The guys who played on this record are the touring and/or studio musicians who have toured and/or played on the CDs for Jason Aldean, Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley, Trace Adkins, Elton John and way too many other artists to mention. Seriously, the amount of artists that this group has collectively toured or recorded or both with is insane! Absolutely insane. Trust me, you've heard them before and in some cases odds are you'd recognize them from the music videos their artist has put out. I'm so happy that I was able to be there for the sessions with them all because it was so interesting to watch them in action.

Which brings me to the announcement of a little mini-series I'll be doing that I think I first brought up in my very first post. Since my dad has decided to get back into songwriting full time, there's been so much that we've learned about the way that the music business works. Some of the inner goings on and I find it all so interesting. And I figure other people might as well. So I'm going to be writing a bit about it, talking about the general steps one has to take when pursuing a career in songwriting, some tips, why fans should respect studio engineers and so on. Have you ever wondered what goes on in a studio session? How the musicians learn the songs and just what the day is like? Well, I'm going to be telling you. My hope is that it'll give you all a greater appreciation for both how songs are created and for the people involved in said creation. I'm really looking forward to writing about that, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, getting back to this album and more specifically the guys who played on it. We were so lucky and blessed to get the opportunity to have these gentlemen play on this album. They are all such talented musicians and nice people to boot. One of the funny things about the sessions is that one or more of them would constantly go up to my dad between songs and ask if he liked what they'd played. It was cool that they'd ask because it showed how dedicated they were to making the songs the way my dad wanted them; funny because everything they played was always so good. I believe that the songs turned out exactly the way that they were meant to and that's a testament to the talents and abilities of these musicians. Not to mention our engineer who did all the mixing and whatnot. They got it right.

Ha, meanwhile note that I used words like 'we' and 'our' in that last paragraph when the truth is that I nothing to do with any of it. I was just there: listening, watching and acting as my dad's photographer. Though I did get to do the high harmonies for two of the songs, "Broken Heart-String Melody" and "Javu Day". And let me say that getting to record in a real, professional, honest to goodness Nashville studio was both awesome and terrifying. Mostly awesome. I thank God that we had the engineer we had because he's a nice guy who remained patient with me even though we had to do them, well, more than once. I'll leave it at that.

Anyway, the CD is available on iTunes for those of you who prefer to download your music and on for those of you who prefer having physical CDs. I'll include the links after the cut at the end. But first things first: let's take a little look at each song separately.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Album review: Casey James by Casey James

I have to say that out of everything I've reviewed so far, I was the least familiar with Casey James. I didn't watch Idol the year he was on and I'm kind of grateful I didn't because it gives me the chance to look at him like I would any other artist. I got his CD on iTunes around the time it came out, but never got around to listening to it for who knows what reason. I end up doing that a lot. Exceptions being new releases by my favorite artists. But yeah, this CD came in late March if I remember correctly, but pretty much completely new to me before I listened to it for this review, minus "Let's Don't Call It a Night".

So what did I think?

I think I have an interesting problem as a reviewer in that I've genuinely liked the majority of the things I've reviewed so far. Which is probably a good thing. This is the first debut CD that I've reviewed and that fact makes me happy that I liked it. Why? Because I take it as a sign that the genre is very much alive and healthy. New blood is good for the industry.

Right off the bat, the first thing I like about Casey James is the soulfulness of his voice. It's nice to listen to. So we're off to a good start. The album features different kinds of songs that highlight different aspects of his voice. Sometimes it's lighter and more carefree sounding, sometimes the soul is much more prominent and so on. He seems to have drawn from all kinds of different musical influences, like blues and bluegrass, which I like. The production is pretty good throughout, save for a few weak spots, like a couple of guitar solos that seemed a little too loud to me. That and I found the music a little underwhelming at times for some reason. The playing was very solid, I'll say that.

That said. If I'd heard this and not known it was a debut album, I'd be surprised to find out that it was. I'm not sure if that'll makes sense or not. It feels very polished to me, more like a CD someone might release later in their career. I'm not explaining it well, but it's a good thing. Pretty solid album overall and a nice introduction to who Casey James is as an artist.

Now to look at each song separately.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Album review: Coming Out of the Pain by Amy Dalley

So, in my last review I was wondering why Craig Morgan wasn't more popular and I'm going to start off this review by asking why Amy Dalley isn't more popular. Though in her case, it might be because she's pretty much under the radar. It may be a case of people not really knowing who she is. I remember seeing her video for "Men Don't Change" back when it first came out and really liked both the song and video. After that was a video for "I Would Cry", but she was on Curb Records at the time and they never put out a full album. She finally left them in 2008, as the good ole internet tells me, and her last two albums - this one and the one before, It's Time - were released on independent labels. And really, in listening to this, I'm going to say that I think Curb made a mistake. Because her music is good and deserves to be released and heard and I encourage any and everyone reading this to go look her up and check her out.

Maybe this was inferred by the above paragraph, but I really like Coming Out of the Pain. It's a very solid album with a lot of great songs on it. If I'm not mistaken, Amy co-wrote just about every track, if not all, and has proven to be a strong songwriter. There's a depth and relatability to this that I appreciate and respect; it's something I feel like music could always use more of. Particularly from the female artists since I feel like there can be a lack of one or the other and I don't like that. I prefer lyrics that speak to me on some level and these do. So if lyrics matter to you, you should check out this album. Musically speaking, I like the playing on this and think it was really nicely produced all the way through. Vocally, Amy has a tone to her voice that I like, though her great strength as a singer is in her delivery. I obviously never skip over songs when I review since, but in listening to this, I just can't see myself skipping over any songs. Everything works and flows together beautifully. In wrapping up the short version of my review, I definitely would recommend getting this. Good album.

Those of you who only wanted a quick read can back out now and I thank you for reading. But if you want a longer read and want to look at what I thought of each song individually, keep on reading after the cut.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Album Review: This Ole Boy by Craig Morgan

Okay, so after finishing my last blog, I decided to start listening to the first album on my albums to review list. And in doing so, I have a question that I'd like to ask all of my readers. I'm very curious about this, so if you have any insights, please share them with me. My question is why is Craig Morgan not more popular? I mean, he's not what I'd call unpopular and he's had his success certainly, but I just don't understand why he hasn't had more. I don't get it.

I think Craig is one of the more underrated vocalists in country right now. He has a unique tone to his voice and more range than you might expect at first listen. I've gotten to see him at the Opry a handful of times and am always struck by how good of a singer he is. So if you like listening to good singers sing, that's one reason to buy this album.

Maybe the voice isn't as important as the songs themselves. That's fine; in fact, as I've said before, in country music, it all goes back to the song. To the lyrics. That's where the heart of country music lies right there. Maybe you want an album full of songs so good that you don't want to skip over them when they come on. This is one of those, in my opinion, so that's another reason to get this album.

For me, one of the most important things about an album is how the songs go together and if it flows. Do the songs fit together? Does one song flow nicely into the next. How does the mood change throughout if it does? Is there a variety of both moods and speeds? That's a big one for me too. I don't want an album full of songs that sound the same. I want variety. I want the party songs and the love songs, the songs about life and the songs about loss. A great album will include all of those. And this one does. Which is another reason to get this album.

In short, I think this is an album worthy of anyone's country music collection. Those are my thoughts in a nutshell. Now I'm going to take a little look at each song individually after the cut.