Monday, February 29, 2016

Video spotlight: Survivor by VoicePlay & Home Free

This video holds a special place in my heart. It was the first VoicePlay video I ever saw and it was thanks to Home Free. This was near the end of 2014, about a year after it was released. I had seen my first Home Free video not long before - the CMA Medley, as it were - and it was love at first sight. I call it the musical thunderbolt. This led to me going on a Home Free video binge which is when I came across this one. Thus, kicking off my love for VoicePlay. Because when I come across a group of talented, singing zombies, I need to know more. I just do. What that says about me, I don't know. Probably shouldn't think about that too much.

As some of you already know, Home Free and VoicePlay competed in season 4 of The Sing Off which Home Free ended up winning. This was back in the December of 2013. It makes me a little sad that I didn't watch, especially considering that both of these groups were on the 2014 Sing Off tour which came to the Ryman. I remember seeing it on the Ryman schedule, even, but I didn't know any of the groups yet so I didn't go. Yep. Best not to dwell on that. Anyway, thanks to the wonder that is the Internet, I have been able to watch clips from their season of the show. The Sing Off, like other singing shows, had the bottom two groups compete in a musical battle to see who gets to stay in the competition. If you're interested in learning more about how that worked, VoicePlay has a video on their channel explaining which you can find here. This battle includes guest vocalist Honey Larochelle who joined VoicePlay on the show, but is not a regular member of the group.

Now that we got all of that out of the way, take a few minutes to watch the video. Lots I can talk about with this one! Austin Brown's teeth, man. Don't worry if you don't know which one is Austin; you'll figure it out pretty quickly. Promise. So watch, enjoy, and then? Pick your side. Team Zombie or team Hillbilly? Choose wisely. Your survival may depend on it.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Video spotlight: "Only God Could Love You More" by Jerrod Niemann

Throwing it back to 2013 with this one. Because Jerrod Niemann is, without question, one my favorite humans. He's a great artist who doesn't get half of the recognition he deserves. More than that, he's just an all around good dude with a good heart. I've been lucky in that most of the artists I've met have been very nice, but there's been a few standouts and Jerrod is definitely one of them. The first time I met him was at his joint fan club party with the equally loveable Lee Brice. He (both of them, actually) greeted each person with a hug and treated them more like a friend than a fan. I've gotten to meet him a couple of times since then and he's been the same every time. He's such a genuine person and the kind of artist that I don't believe I could ever get tired of seeing.

While I love his music in general, "Only God Could Love You More" is easily my favorite. It has such a beautiful message and Jerrod absolutely nailed the delivery. I love the music itself and the lack of background vocals. That might be surprising to anyone who knows about my love for harmony, but never underestimate the power of the human voice. Even if it's just one. In this instance, it adds more weight to the words and makes them that much more powerful. Sometimes the more simple something is, the more effective it becomes. The fact that this song failed to make it all the way to #1 is a travesty. Funny how with all the complaints about the lack of substance out there that a song like this can't get sufficient airplay. It's a shame. A downright shame. I do wonder if it would've done better if it'd been released last year instead, but that's a moot point now.

Bottom line is that it's a beautiful song with an equally beautiful video. Check it out.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Video spotlight: "The Truth About Cheating" by Steel Union

Should you happen to come across Steel Union's biography on either their Facebook or Twitter pages, you would see their names and that they like harmony and dobros. Well, I too like harmony and dobros. I've talked about what a sucker I am for great harmonies multiple times in the past, but haven't said as much about my love of the dobro. Ah the dobro, a very cool instrument that gets very little recognition these days. I feel like the only time you really see them anymore is as part of a bluegrass group. Another reason to appreciate bluegrass. But mainstream country music has seemingly turned its back on the poor dobro. So anytime it pops up is a cause for celebration. I somehow always forget how much I love that instrument until I hear it. This is a shame because I happen to own a dobro that I attempted to learn how to play a few years ago. My use of the word attempted should be a clue as to how well that endeavor turned out. But since discovering this trio, I've been feeling inspired to give it another shot. A better one.

You know, it's great when you find a singer or group that you like and even better when you find a new one to love. It's great to hear a song that makes you want to dance and even better to find one that touches your heart. Then there's times when you discover a new singer or musician that can inspire you to either develop a talent or try your hand at learning a new one. Or to go back to something you had abandoned. Finding someone like that is truly special. Even more so? Finding a group where each of the members inspires you in different ways. This is what I have found in Steel Union.

So who is Steel Union? It is a new country trio that has been compared to groups like Little Big Town or Lady Antebellum. They also remind me a lot of the now broken up Eden's Edge. Steel Union consists of the incredibly talented Rachel Potter, Donny Fallgatter and Josh Matheny. Both Donny and Josh were formerly part of the country band KingBilly. Rachel has performed on Broadway and been on musical tours. She released a solo country album last year, Not So Black and White, which was easily one of my top three favorite albums of 2015. You can find a review of said album here and my list of my top 16 favorite albums of 2015 here

I've been wanting to write about these guys since I first watched one of their videos a few months ago. My discovery of Steel Union started off where so many of my newest musical discoveries have come from: the wonderful world of a cappella music. First, there was Home Free and it was through them that I discovered VoicePlay. This introduced me to Rachel, who has done three videos with them to date. All of which will be featured in this series at some point because they are all wonderful. And of course, becoming a fan of Rachel's is what led me to Steel Union. Checking out the artists that the people you already like talk about is a great way to discover new music.

In the meantime, get nice and comfortable while you learn "The Truth About Cheating".

Monday, February 15, 2016

Video spotlight: "Everything Will Be Okay" by Home Free

It was only a matter of time before Home Free would be making an appearance in this series. I just can't seem to go too long without writing something about these guys. Anyone already familiar with them will undoubtedly be able to relate. Not only are they incredibly talented, but their music video game is strong. Very strong.

So strong, in fact, that it was hard to decide which of their videos should be the first to be featured. Given my general disdain for this time of year, I decided to go with a video that never fails to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. "Everything Will Be Okay" was filmed by the fine folks of FifGen films. It is a Home Free original - bass singer Tim Foust wrote this with Dave Guisti - with a message that we all need to reminded of every now and then. That no matter what's going on, no matter how bad things seem, sooner or later things will work themselves out. Sooner or later everything really will be okay.

So sit back, relax and just wait for that warm and fuzzy feeling to set in.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Video spotlight: ACA-Top 10 - Summer Hits 2015 by VoicePlay

Confession: I am not a fan of February. In fact, if forced to pick my least favorite month, it would without question be February. Why? Because by the time it rolls around, I'm officially over the cold. It's not so bad at first. Living in the South, the cold is initially a welcome relief after all the crazy heat of the summer. It's the perfect time of year to curl up with a good book, a soft blanket and a delicious cup of tea. Better if it snows - not that we usually get much here in Nashville. Snowfall is usually pretty wimpy and tends to disappear within a few hours. All the more reason to enjoy it when it appears. I will say that having grown up just north of D.C., watching the way Nashvillians tend to overreact to the tiniest amount of snow amuses me.

Anyway, by the time January hits, the novelty of the cold has worn off, but I don't hate it. Not yet. Then we get to February. Yet another month of the cold and this year seems colder than last. Of course, February also brings with it what is easily my least favorite holiday. Good ole Valentine's Day. Now look, I'm in no way down on love. I'm very much pro-love and, hey, if you've found love than I'm happy for you. Truly. I just think it's a ridiculous holiday.

I digress. The point is that I'm ready for warmer weather. More than ready. I long for the days I can go outside and not feel like I'm freezing to death. To be able to go outside without having my hands and face go numb from the cold. Those days are coming, but not soon enough. In the meantime, I figure that I can least find some videos that remind me of summer. What better place to start than with an ACA-Top 10 countdown from those oh-so-lovable VoicePlay gents? Their ACA-Top 10's are easily some of my favorites of all their videos. I love this series so much and can only hope that there might be others down the road. Forever hoping for a country one. Honestly, I imagine there'll come a point when they won't want to do them anymore and that'll be a sad day indeed. In any event, they've done two ACA-Top 10's of summer hits. One for 2014 and one for 2015. Today is all about the latter.

Check it out.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Video spotlight: "Burn" by Evynne Hollens

If you know me or have been following my blog than you know that last year I fell in love with a cappella music. I've been a music lover for as long as I can remember, but a cappella has made that love feel brand new again. This love has also led me to discover all kinds of different groups and singers. Some of whom have joined the ranks of my favorite artists. Evynne Hollens being the most recent addition to that group. There are few things better than listening to great singers singing great songs. Especially emotional ones. In a culture that seems to value flashiness and over the top stage antics, I sometimes feel as if many of us have lost the ability to truly connect with a lyric. Now don't get me wrong; I can appreciate a huge production. Some of the videos I include in this series will probably fit it that category. It can be fun to get lost in the spectacle of a big, showy number. But consider this: oftentimes the flashiness is just a way to cover up the lack of talent and substance. Take all that away and you're left with nothing of any true value. Not always, but often. Too often.

The best songs don't need much: a lone guitar or piano and a voice. Or perhaps only a voice. This is true for singers as well, the best ones can captivate an audience with nothing more than their voice. Combine the two - the song and the singer - and wait for the magic. The video in this post doesn't have a lot going on visually. The entire video consists of Evynne, pianist Nathan Alef and his piano against a black backdrop. That's it and you know what? It is phenomenal. The song is "Burn" and it from the Broadway musical Hamilton: An American Musical which is about Alexander Hamilton. This show is the hot show on Broadway right now and I had never heard of it until Evynne posted this marvelous cover. I, like apparently a lot of Americans, didn't realize just how little I knew about Alexander Hamilton. He's one of our founding fathers and yet most of is don't know anything about him. Something that this show is changing. I've since purchased the cast album and listened to it and holy smokes.

Lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda - who also wrote the book and did the music for the show - deserves a lot of credit. For his dedication to the story, for starters. He did his homework, wanting to make the story as historically accurately as he could. He did this while making it incredibly accessible to audiences of today. The music is largely hip-hop influenced, though there's elements pulled from various musical composers. Now hip-hop is not something I listen to all that much, but it's perfect for this show. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The lyrics are truly something - "Burn" being one of the best examples of this. In the show, this song is sung by Eliza Hamilton, the wife of Alexander Hamilton.  

I have more to say about this particular performance, but first, take a few minutes and watch the video.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Video spotlight: Loch Lomond by Peter Hollens

Ah, the music video. I have long believed in the power of the music video. I can't even tell you how many artists I discovered through their music videos. It is my love of said videos that inspired me to create this blog in the first place. Well, there's been a plethora of great new videos posted over the last few months and some older ones that I've just recently come across. As such, I've been feeling a need to spread the word about them. Hopefully in the process of doing so, you'll find some new artists to love. Or perhaps get reconnected with a former favorite. Either way, if you see something you enjoy, please hop on board and share it with your family and friends. It really is one of the best ways to support the singers you enjoy.

What with all of the wonderful videos that have come out as of late, I have quite a lot to choose from and there's brand new videos coming out all the time. Meaning that there's many, many video spotlights to come. It should have been tough to pick the one that would kick things off, but it wasn't. Not in the slightest. You see, once I watched this video I knew I had to share it. We'll get into why momentarily. But upon sharing it, two very cool things happened as a result. Things that I knew I had to share. So time to get to it. The artist? Peter Hollens. The video? "Loch Lomond".