Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"Long Road To Nowhere" Single Review

Micky & The Motorcars have a brand new single "Long Road To Nowhere" and a spectacular scenic video to accompany the song.  The video is a nice addition to the beautiful, rambling tune, shot in Idaho during the Braun Brothers Reunion in August.
"Long Road To Nowhere" is the second single from MMC's stellar "Hearts From Above" album, released last July (read my full review here http://gypsysoule.blogspot.com/2014/07/album-review-hearts-from-above-micky.html).  The song takes listeners on a journey from the viewpoint of a road-weary traveler who has lost his love.  The instrumentation weaves its way beautifully through the haunting lyrics, "...It's a long road to nowhere...with a million miles to go...I reach for you...I reach for your love...there's no one that knows me better than you..."  As the song progresses, it's evident that the relationship has unravelled into nothing but the memories that remain.  "...The road it moves in circles...the road it moves in songs...the saddest one's for you..."
The harmonies, the instrumentation, and the lyrics all combine to make this one of the best songs on "Hearts From Above."  Do yourself a favor and pick up this outstanding album.


Monday, February 23, 2015

"Trashy Side" Single Review

Kimberly Dunn's new single "Trashy Side" is a feisty female anthem currently climbing the Texas Music Chart.  The tune is full of spiteful lyrics that bounce along to Kimberly's fine vocals.  I stumbled upon this new song listening to Texas radio and at the time was not familiar with Kimberly's work.  I'm always searching for artists who are new and different on the scene.  Kimberly's music is refreshing in a field dominated by male artists.
The San Antonio, Texas native barrels through the song with fervor, making it clear to a home wrecker that she isn't going to back down without a fight when it comes to stealing her man.  It starts out ominously and builds into an all out fiery war of words, "...You're on display with a cheap price tag and all I see is a target on your back..." and "...Been a long time since I had to fight, but I'm betting that's just like riding a bike...girl you're stepping on these roots I hide...you're bringing out my trashy side..."

Not many females make it to the top of the Texas charts these days, but if a song is going to do it, this one has the potential to blow away the male competition with its fierce delivery and bitter lyrics.

You can find "Trashy Side" on Kimberly's full length debut album "Forever On The Run."  


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Best Albums Of 2014

Another year is almost in the books and 2014 produced some remarkable new music.  Many of these albums from established artists who's music was very much anticipated after outstanding prior releases.

One of the best of the year was released this Summer, "Hearts From Above" by Micky & The Motorcars.  After 2011's excellent "Raise My Glass," it was hard to believe this band could release a better album but "Hearts" may very well be their best to date.  Laced with a happier vibe than their last, MMC takes listeners on a blissful ride through the eyes of love.  For those of who dig heartbreaking songs, there's no lack of those, either.  Top tracks are "Once In A Lifetime Girl," "Long Road To Nowhere," "My Girl Now," "Tonight We Ride," and "From Where The Sun Now Stands."  My full review can be found here:  http://gypsysoule.blogspot.com/2014/07/album-review-hearts-from-above-micky.html

Lee Ann Womack's stunning "The Way I'm Livin'" is a long time coming from the Grammy winner.  Her last album was 2008's fine "Call Me Crazy."  This notes Lee Ann's apparent departure from mainstream country to the Americana genre. Lee Ann's music fits nicely here, as she's always cut songs from some of the genre's most well-known writers.  Standout tracks include "Chances Are," "Send It On Down," "Nightwind," "Don't Listen To The Wind," and the title track.

Another much-anticipated release was Wade Bowen's self-titled album in October.  Following 2012's major label "The Given," this new collection of songs is diverse and very different from his prior album.  The instruments and melodies are unexpected in certain songs, yet still sound perfect in placement around Wade's vocals and lyrics.  Key tracks are "Long Enough To Be A Memory," "When I Woke Up Today," "West Texas Rain," "My California," "When It's Reckless," and "Sweet Leona."

Sunny Sweeney's August release of "Provoked" was followed by the lead single's march up to #1 on the Texas Music Chart in October.  "Bad Girl Phase" was the song that took Sunny to the top of the chart, the first female to do so since 2003.  The first single from "Provoked" sets the stage for the sass and attitude that follows on the rest of the album.  Sunny is what country music should sound like, no topic is off limits and often her songs are a painful look at life.  Outstanding tracks include the lead single, "Front Row Seats," "Carolina On The Line," "Uninvited," "My Bed," "Sunday Dress," and "Used Cars."

Undoubtedly one of the most traditional country albums released this year was "Daylight & Dark" by Jason Eady.  Simple, stripped down, and earthy, this collection is a must have for anyone who's craving real country music.  The songs take a hard, realistic look at life between the bottle, heartbreak, and hope.  The finest of the bunch are "The Other Side Of Abilene," "Liars & Fools," "Lonesome Down & Out," "We Might Just Miss Each Other" (a duet with Courtney Patton), and the stunning title track.

Honorable mentions go to a couple of albums that do not feature new music but are must haves in any fan's collection.  Corb Lund's "Counterfeit Blues" is a Sun Studios recording of previously released material.  It's sort of a live greatest hits without the audience.  The album is raw, organic, and fresh, capturing the band's definitive sound.

Lindi Ortega's "iTunes Sessions" contains 6 original songs previously released, as well as 2 covers, including a smoldering version of "Ring Of Fire."  These 8 songs are stripped down versions, but still blow away the listener with Lindi's phenomenal vocals.

2014 offered these and other amazing albums, closing another year in music that continues to move and inspire the listener.  Here's to 2015 with what will no doubt be another extraordinary year for songs to fill the soul.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Album Review "Hearts From Above" Micky & The Motorcars

"Hearts From Above" is the 6th studio album from one of Americana music's best, Micky & The Motorcars, and is the much-anticipated follow up to 2011's stellar collection "Raise My Glass."  The new album of 12 songs has a much happier vibe than their prior but it does not disappoint in pulling at the heartstrings.  "Hearts From Above" is full of beautiful songs laced with the themes of travel, love, history, and a few rockers the band is known for.  A sound not heard for awhile on MMC's music is the addition of Cody Braun's (from Reckless Kelly) fiddle; it accompanies the Braun brothers' voices perfectly and hopefully this won't be the last time we hear fiddle on a Motorcars album.  Rounding out The Motorcars' sound is Joe Fladger on bass, Bobby Paugh on drums and percussion, and Dustin Schaefer on electric and acoustic lead guitar and slide guitar.

The title track and current single opens the album and sets the tone for the rest of the songs.  It's a mid-tempo love song featuring sterling harmonies from all of the Braun brothers.  It's a song about not only feeling love from across town, but from those who are looking down from above.

"Long Road To Nowhere" shows off a vulnerability in Micky Braun's voice I haven't heard since 2008's brilliant "Seeds."  The raw emotion in this road song is on full display and the melody is a bit melancholy in places.  The song bounces along teetering between heartache and hopefulness, conveying the desperation of the situation.

The album has a smattering of happy love songs but those are balanced with plenty of rockers MMC is known for.  "Hurt Again, " "Destined To Fall," "Fall Apart," "Southbound Street" and "Tonight We Ride" are all instant Motorcars classics.  "Tonight We Ride" is an intense anthem that has been humming in my head since the first time I heard it almost a year ago live.  The first two verses build into a soaring chorus about fighting for what you believe in.

"Once In A Lifetime Girl" takes the listener on a geographical love journey and it's a standout on the collection.  With Micky Braun's warm vocal backed by beautiful fiddle and heartfelt lyrics, the delivery is a simple yet lovely ode to the singer's girl.  It's one of the most traditional country songs found on this collection and one of my favorites.  

Another stellar composition is "My Girl Now," a mid-tempo shuffle that also leans heavily towards the traditional sound.  From the first verse of "I see you staring off into the distance...wasting wishes on every falling star...but they burn out just like every birthday candle...and you end up standing right back where you are..." to the last notes; it conveys the urgency to the singer's girl to stop looking around and be content where she is.  The melody is one of the prettiest in the bunch.

"You Led Me The Wrong Way" and "From Where The Sun Now Stands" feature Gary Braun on lead vocals.  The former written by Gary about an on again, off again relationship and the latter a stellar ballad about the plight of the Wallowa band of the Nez Perce.  Written by Gary and Willy Braun (from Reckless Kelly), the song takes listeners back to a time where the Nez Perce, led by Chief Joseph, were forced from their home in the Wallowa Valley, Oregon, to Idaho, then on to Montana.  About 40 miles from the Canadian border, Chief Joseph surrendered to General Miles and is reported to have said, "Hear me, my chiefs!  I am tired; my heart is sick and sad.  From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."  The lyrics of the song mirror that sentiment and make for a very powerful statement set to beautiful music.

"Sister Lost Soul" is the only cover of the album, penned by Alejandro Escovedo and Charles Prophet, but it feels at home to MMC's sound.  It's a fitting tribute to former MMC bassist, Mark McCoy, and to all who've been lost.  

Micky & The Motorcars continue to create amazing music all the while touring relentlessly.  I highly recommend this new album (as well as the others) and also seeing them perform live.  
"Hearts From Above" is available on July 31st in limited locations, everywhere on August 5.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Guest Post - "Cabin Fever" Album Review

          Corb Lund is an artist it took me a shamefully long time to discover, and then to like. Consequently, I’m very, very late in discovering all of his albums, most importantly his latest, “Cabin Fever”. As it was released in 2012, I’m over a year behind. However, this album is so refreshingly different that I feel it still merits talking about.

          The tracks on “Cabin Fever” are really varied. There are love songs, cowboy songs, drinking songs, and….even a cow song! It’s things like these that tell me how truly artistic Corb Lund is. The fact that he is able to do all these songs, and have none of them come off corny is amazing to me.
          The album opens with “Getting Down on the Mountain," a crazy mix of what-if apocalypse scenarios and thoughts that the country is the place to be. I’ve never heard a song like this, and I think it was done really well. Plus, it’s a very good showcase of Corb’s songwriting and overall sound, and it gets you in the mood to listen to a Corb Lund album.
          Then, there is “Dig Gravedigger, Dig."  And yes, it’s really about a gravedigger. No metaphors here guys, Corb really went there! It’s a cool song, with elements of blues and a good groove to it. “Bible On the Dash” features Hayes Carll, a well-known Texas country artist. The duet is all about getting pulled over by the police, and the Bible on their dash getting them out of some unsavory situations.

          One of my favorites from this album is   “September."  This is a really sad love song about a rural man losing his girl to the big city. I haven’t heard a love song like this in a long time, so it’s refreshing. This is no standard breakup song, it’s all about the divide between the country and the city, and how some people want different things in life. . The very amusing “Cows Around” is all about cows, and how they make life better…or not. “Drink It Like You Mean It” is a drinking song, but Corb’s drinking like a serious person, not one of those ironic, amateur drinkers. I love the musical arrangement of this song, and Corb’s lyrics in it are witty.
          Then, there are the story songs” “Priceless Antique Pistol Shoots Startled Owner” may be a long title for a song, but it really tells all. An unsuspecting antique gun owner gets shot by the person he was showing off his gun to. “Pour Em Kinda Strong” is a really big favorite of mine. The title is misleading on this one, and I didn’t realize that it was more of a story than a drinking song, at first. It’s a story about an outlaw, who just may have changed his ways had he not died in the end.

          Overall, this album is a must-have if you like country music, cowboy songs, or stories and humor in your music’s lyrics. “Pour Em Kinda Strong” is my favorite new story song, as far as outlaw and Western stories go. “September” is a beautifully sad love song that is also really unique. With his ability to convey many emotions, be it sadness or humor, this album is one of my favorite purchases in the last year. Add to all this that the fact that the deluxe edition of “Cabin Fever” comes with acoustic versions of all the songs on this album, and I’m extremely  happy that I’ve finally started liking the genius that is Corb Lund. 
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Guest Blog - Brianna's Best Albums Of 2013

I’d like to thank Kelli for allowing me to put my list of 2013 favorites on her blog. She’s got brilliant taste in music, and I'm honored that she offered to shared her awesome internet space with me today.  This year was so amazing for music. Not necessarily mainstream music, but for lesser-known artists, it was fantastic. It was so hard to choose my favorite albums, that this list will not be in order.

Sturgill Simpson: “High Top Mountain”
This guy is single-handedly bringing country back. Seriously, his album is full of amazing traditional country sounds, great songs, and wonderful Kentucky vocals. I’ve played this album out for months now, and still am not tired of it. It’s honky-tonk, it’s ballads, it’s country, it’s fantastic. If you want a new country album that doesn’t rely on cliche themes, look no further.

Medicine Springs(Live, Not On the Album)

You Can Have the Crown/Some Days (Live)

The Mavericks: “In Time”

I’m not someone who knows all that much about The Mavericks, or their work in the 1990's. What I do know is, this reunion album is amazing. It somehow manages to be rock, Latin, and country music  all at the same time. Whenever I listen to this album, it makes me incredibly happy, and the energy on it is just so infectious, you can’t help but replay certain songs. And dance. The fact that these guys manage to blend all these genres into one song, let alone an album is ridiculously amazing, and I definitely think anyone who likes any of these genres shouldn’t pass this one up. 

Come Unto Me (Live)

Back In Your Arms Again (Live)

Jason Isbell: “Southeastern”

I had never heard of Jason until this year, when  “Southeastern” came out. All of the buzz made me pay attention, go out, and get  this album. I am so happy I did, because it’s such a powerful one. It’s so emotional, with such amazing musical arrangements, I can’t help but love it. Some people may find it sleepy, but I love the acoustic sound that most of the songs have. It allows the lyrics and themes to shine. Not that Jason isn’t capable of rocking out, because he certainly does a wonderful job of it on Super 8. But honestly, it’s on those sad, wonderful ballads that this album is made. Through them, the listener experiences grief, personal struggles, the search for redemption, and many other things that you won’t want to miss out on, if any of this sounds even remotely appealing.

Cover Me Up (Live)

Live Oak

Jason Boland and the Stragglers: “Dark and Dirty Mile”

I am a huge Jason Boland and the Stragglers fan. I just love their hard country sound, and meaningful lyrics. This is my favorite album of theirs to date, and it has the usual sound and deep lyrics in spades. I have listened to this album for months on end, and I never tire of the important messages Jason embeds into his songs. This was a masterpiece of an album, and it definitely deserves more recognition. There are political messages, sad stories, and just amazing music that you don’t want to miss.

Lucky I Guess (Live)

Brandy Clark: “Twelve Stories”

I know that Kacey Musgraves is probably more popular than Brandy, and more people will like Kacey’s album, but me? I think Brandy’s is a bit better. I get bored halfway through Kacey’s album, and I only really like eight out of twelve songs on there. When I listen to Brandy, I never get bored. Yes, she has a lot of ballads, but Brandy is able to paint such vivid characters, you can’t help but be drawn to them. Even my least favorite song on the album “Get High”, makes me think, and I believe that is a sign of a great artist. This album really is twelve stories, and Brandy brings them into real life with her amazing songwriting. This is what country should be. Real, honest, simple stories about life.

Hung Over

Take a Little Pill

Reckless Kelly: “Long Night Moon”
I am a huge Reckless Kelly fan. Anything these guys put out into the world, I will buy. However, before you think me too biased, I did have my doubts about this album. When I first started listening, I didn’t think I would like it. Yes, Willy’s voice was wonderful as always, but the sound was more mellow, and I like my Reckless Kelly rock/country. Eventually though, I came to see the album for what it is. It’sa masterpiece that touches on home, traveling, and love. If Reckless Kelly have changed a bit over the years, so what? That’s a  sign of progress, and even if you are a fan of these guys and this album scares you, don’t let it. It’s worth your time and attention.

Didn’t Mean to Break Your Heart (Live)

City and Colour:  "The Hurry and the Harm"

City and Colour is definitely NOT country, but after debating for a while, I decided that my list wouldn’t be complete without this album. I played it out for months, almost nonstop. City and Colour are highly underrated and relatively unknown in America, and it’s a shame. City and Colour is really a moniker for Dallas Green, who used to be in a popular Canadian metal band. However, when he started wanting to write songs that were a bit softer and different, he called himself City and Colour, and started putting out albums of songs that were mostly just him and his guitar. All that began to change with 2011’s “Little Hell”, where he used a bit more electric guitar. This year, “The Hurry and the Harm” takes more of  a middle-of-the road approach. There are quite a few acoustic songs, but there is at least one rock song, and a couple others that have a full-band approach. Dallas Green has such a wonderful voice, and it’s showcased here beautifully on this album, along with his amazing songwriting skills. At this point, Dallas Green could sing the phone book, and I’d listen. However, that’s not what he chooses to do for “The Hurry And the Harm”, of course. Dallas sings songs about life, how our fast pace will hurt us in the end, how he feels about people hiding behind the internet and making mean comments, among other things. If you like great singing, a bit of acoustic music, and songs with important messages, definitely get this one.

Thirst (Live)

Of Space and Time (Live)

Holly Williams:  "The Highway"

I’d never heard of Holly Williams until this year. But I’m so glad I finally know who she is. She’s an incredible singer, who just happens to be related to Hank Williams…all of them. This album, The Highway, was an incredible collection of songs. It’s country, it’s Americana, and there’s even a story about Holly’s grandparents. The songs are really all kinds of styles, from country, to acoustic. It’s a wonderful album filled with stories, and lots of emotion.

Drinkin’ (Live)

Waiting on June (Live)

Courtney Patton:  "Triggering A Flood"

I’m so glad I bought this album. It took me a while to do so, and now I’m hitting myself for not getting with the program sooner. This collection of songs  is a great example of how an artist can do various styles of music, and make them all fit together on one album successfully. There’s country, soul, even a tiny bit of bluegrass influence. Courtney Patton herself has a wonderful, strong voice that she is quite capable of using to bring out her great lyrics. If you’re looking for more female artists, definitely give her a try.

Lamplight (Live)

As you can see, there have been tons of great albums released this year. The fact that my list of must-have albums contains nine of them is practically unheard of. With a year full of new discoveries as well as releases from bands I’ve previously loved, 2013 has been fantastic for the independent and lesser-known music fan. If you have yet to check out one or any of these artists, I definitely recommend you do. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Best Albums Of 2013

2013 has been a banner year for Americana albums.  Many leading artists from the genre released what are their best records to date; new artists released stellar debuts, making 2013 a year rich in fabulous music.

The highlight of 2013 was the release of Reckless Kelly's stunning "Long Night Moon."  

A lush, beautiful collection of ballads and rockers, this is some of the most superb writing of their career thus far.  I don't have a favorite song on this record because each one is its own little gem.  The theme of traveling weaves its way through the collection, mixed with heartache, loss, and social issues.  The music here is more understated than in past albums and the songwriting is impeccable.  Complex lyrics and the gorgeous instruments make this album a delightful listen time after time.  (Read my full review here http://gypsysoule.blogspot.com/2013/09/long-night-moon-album-review.html)

Another magnificent release from earlier this year is Jason Boland & The Stragglers' "Dark & Dirty Mile."  
A diverse collection of subject matter ranging from the Ludlow massacre to poignant love songs to sometimes not so subtle political references.  The Stragglers are deeply rooted in traditional country; Boland's songs are captivating and engage the listener on a level I've not experienced with any other artist.  Every song is a masterpiece, each has its own story to hypnotize the listener.  
Again, it's hard to pick favorites from this set, I love every song.

Ashley Monroe's outstanding "Like A Rose" was released in March and is a mega dose of traditional country served up with a wallop of modern themes.  Standout tracks include the exquisite title track, "Used," "Weed Instead Of Roses," "Monroe Suede," and "She's Driving Me Out Of Your Mind."  This is real, pure country music, Monroe has a lovely voice that has a ethereal sound.

"Same Trailer Different Park" is Kacey Musgraves' breakout major label debut also released in March to much anticipation.  Although the collection is full of simple melodies and beautiful vocals, it offers a heavy punch of small town realities and social issues.  
Topics range from positive anthems like "Silver Lining" and the infectious "Follow Your Arrow" to sad, heavy ballads such as "It Is What It Is" and "Keep It To Yourself."  Standouts include the first single "Merry Go 'Round," "My House," the clever "Step Off," and "Blowin' Smoke."  Musgraves sings beyond her years in a plaintive delivery of real life not heard much these days on mainstream country radio.  Musgraves is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale country format and is breaking down barriers one song at a time.

Courtney Patton's second album "Triggering A Flood" is a powerhouse of a collection, served up with a strong vocal and amazing songwriting.  

I'm a little late to the bandwagon, having just discovered Patton's music recently.  Standout tracks include "Twisted," "Better Man," "Lamplight," "Light Fades," "It's A Shame" and "It's Not Easy."  Patton has a traditional country voice and it shines here on these bitter songs about lost love and cheating.  Patton's profound lyrics and the instruments complement Patton's strong vocal beautifully.  

"Some Old, Some New, Maybe A Cover Or Two" by Cody Canada is an acoustic release recorded in Port Aransas, Texas earlier this year.  Although it doesn't cover any new material, it is a wonderful collection of tunes and stories.  The back stories are worth the price of the album alone.  
The songs range from classic Cross Canadian Ragweed to Neil Young to George Strait to Canada's current band The Departed.  There's something to be said about an artist who just has his guitar, harmonica, and voice to convey such emotion in every song.  Raw and real, this collection has something for everyone.

Go buy these fantastic records, you won't be disappointed.  2013 has been an incredible year for music and here's to 2014!
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