Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"Holidays & Wedding Rings" Album Review

Jamie Lin Wilson's new album "Holidays & Wedding Rings" is a fabulous second album from the Americana/indie country artist.  Jamie is known for her previous work with the Gougers and most recently, The Trishas.  On this new album (also check out 2010's EP "Dirty Blonde Hair), Jamie steps into the spotlight as one of the genre's finest vocalists, as well as a songwriter who's work is mature beyond her years.
"Holidays" starts off with the rollicking "Just Like Heartache," a pure Americana tune about knowing a relationship is over yet wanting to hold on to that person.  Meanwhile, "You Left My Chair" is a soaring ballad about a divorce and the only thing remaining among the weeds is the woman's beloved chair.
"She'll Take Tonight" and "Nighttime Blues" are barroom shuffles reminiscent of 80's Country with modern twists.  "Moving Along" flows beautifully telling a story of a person who has risen above past mistakes, "...Flying away above this tiny town with feathered wings and a shiny crown....until it's time to come back down...I'll take just one more look around...to check all the atmosphere...I'm wising up seeing clearer how I missed the little things like holidays and wedding rings..."  The entire song is full of lovely lyrics and is a favorite from this collection.
A highlight on the album is the achingly beautiful duet with Wade Bowen "Just Some Things."  The song is about two people who almost cheat but decide "...There are just some things you can't take back..."  It's a quiet song that builds in intensity, the words are heavy and one can feel the raw emotion in every lyric.

On the flip side of the stunning duet, the delightful banjo-driven "Yours And Mine" rolls along about a happy couple who revel in the simple pleasures in life.  The happiness doesn't last long, however, with "Seven Year Drought" a couple struggles to keep it together.  Meanwhile, "Roses By The Dozen" is a deliciously dark murder ballad.  Though the subject matter is somber, Jamie sings it as if she's apathetic to the man who she once loved.

"Holidays & Wedding Rings" is one of the best albums of the year.  Do yourself a favor and pick up this incredible collection of songs.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

"So This Is Life" Album Review

Courtney Patton's new album "So This Is Life" doesn't begin as most albums do.  Instead of starting with a fast paced song, it begins with a mellow waltz that sets the tone for the rest of the collection.  This is Courtney's highly anticipated 3rd album and includes some of her best songwriting to date.

"Little Black Dress" kicks off the album in fine style and from there, the songs only continue to be the beautiful, heartbreaking stories that will linger long after being heard.  Adding to the plaintive lyrics, Courtney's strong, distinct vocals are wrapped around understated instruments.  Even the cover photo is thought-provoking, just a taste of the 12 gems contained inside.

"War Of Art" is a lovely shuffle written for Courtney's children and the struggles parents go through trying to chase their dreams yet stay grounded at home.  Meanwhile the title track is about the singer's parents and their downward spiral into divorce.  It's a heart-wrenching, punch-in-the-gut look at what many families endure in the face of crumbling relationships.  

"Need For Wanting" is about the typical moves men make while trying to land a woman at the bar.  However, the twist at the end of the night puts a spin on the tune one doesn't expect from the strength of the character throughout the song.  The arrangements are lovely, framing the lyrics perfectly, "...You look like a lesson I learned long ago...and I know more than I care to say..."  If there was a perfect modern country song, this would be it and it's one of my favorites here. 

Another beautiful ballad is "Twelve Days," about the singer's husband (fellow musician Jason Eady) being on the road.  A simple yet stunning love song weaving fiddle around the heartfelt lyrics, "...You should be in Salt Lake and Stanley by sundown...to you it's just another show and to me...another far off town..."  The entire song is perfection and another favorite.

The closing track "But I Did" is an autobiographical song set to lush acoustics with raw, real yet inspiring lyrics, "...I was born a dreamer dead set on doing...shaking and a-moving far away from here...found freedom in a melody and the groove kept me grounded..."  Perfect words for dreamers, this is another favorite and really touches the soul.

Front to back, "So This Is Life" is a roller coaster of emotions set to gorgeous pedal steel and fiddle.  Courtney Patton is a brilliant songwriter and powerful vocalist who's music needs to be heard beyond the confines of Texas.  Do your ears a favor and pick up a copy of this stellar record.

Buy the album here:  http://www.lonestarmusic.com/CourtneyPatton or https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/so-this-is-life/id997536681


Monday, March 16, 2015

MyChelle Product Reviews

As a regular user of MyChelle Dermaceuticals, I was excited when they announced the release of 2 new products.  A cleanser and eye cream have been added to their fabulous lineup of skincare products and I was given the opportunity to test and review them.

What I love about MyChelle's products are that they're gluten and casein free (important to those of us with food allergies), as well as cruelty free and natural.  Many products are vegan and everything is made with high quality ingredients that work with the skin.  I've never used a MyChelle product I didn't like. 

The new Refining Sugar Cleanser I was a bit apprehensive about because I have dry skin and have been using an oil cleanser over the winter, as well as MyChelle's Honeydew Unscented Cleanser.  After the first use, I was amazed at how creamy the formula is after the sugar dissolves.  It gently exfoliates, hydrates, and softens all in one use, making it the perfect multi-tasking cleanser.  It removes makeup and is excellent for all skin types.  The scent is fantastic, very sweet but not overpowering and makes me feel like I'm being pampered every time I wash my face.  This is an excellent product I will continue to use and I highly recommend it.

The Remarkable Retinal Eye Cream is the other new product in MyChelle's beauty arsenal and it's a winner.  I'm always a bit hesitant to try products with retinal ingredients because of the potency and increased sensitivity to the sun.  However, this product is very gentle around my eyes and hasn't caused any redness or dryness.  In fact, it's very hydrating and diminishes the little lines beneath my eyes almost immediately.  The scent is a bit weird at first, it's almost minty but not offensive and fades quickly.  This cream is to be used at night because of the retinal.  A fabulous eye cream for the a.m. is MyChelle's Magnolia Fresh Eyes.  I've been using this for quite awhile and am loving the results combined with the Remarkable Retinal.  I'm looking forward to seeing the long term effects of this eye cream.  This is an excellent formulation to use for those who want brighter and more youthful eyes.

Overall, MyChelle's new products have exceeded my expectations.  They never fail to offer quality products that actually do what they claim to on the box.  If you're looking for a new skincare line or just wanting to try a few new products, the Refining Sugar Cleanser and Remarkable Retinal Eye Cream are a great place to start.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Artist Spotlight: The Black Lillies

I became familiar with The Black Lillies just less than a year ago when I saw they were added to the lineup at the 2014 Braun Brothers Reunion in Challis, Idaho.  Prior to seeing them live, I'd only heard one song "Gold And Roses."  That one song and their amazing performance at BBR made me take notice of this fabulous band from Knoxville, Tennessee.
"Runaway Freeway Blues"

The band formed in 2008 and have released 3 albums, 2009's "Whiskey Angel, 2011's "100 Miles Of Wreckage," and "Runaway Freeway Blues" followed in 2013.  They are currently working on a new album to be released this summer and fans can help out by going to http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/tbl2015.  The Black Lillies have a unique sound, best defined as Americana/Indie Roots Rock/Appalachian music with elements of traditional country and even jazz and blues.
"100 Miles Of Wreckage"

The Black Lillies are comprised of lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Cruz Contreras, harmony/lead vocalist Trisha Gene Brady, drummer Bowman Townsend, bass player Robert Richards, and pedal steel/multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Tom Pryor.  Earlier this month, it was announced that Robert and Tom are leaving the band for other endeavors.  With that said, it will be a new beginning in a chapter of The Black Lillies' story that really has just begun.
"Whiskey Angel"

The lyrics and instrumentation of the songs are at the heart of what makes The Black Lillies sound so distinct.  There aren't many bands that cover such a wide variety of topics, from gold mining to trucking to murderous love triangles and beyond.  Cruz's brilliant songwriting takes these themes and brings them to life.  The characters leave an impression long after hearing the melodies.  My favorites include the historical story songs "Gold And Roses" and "Shepherd's Song," as well as "The Fall," "Two Hearts Down," "Same Mistakes," "Midnight," and "All This Living."
Braun Brothers Reunion, Challis, Idaho, 8/9/14
The Black Lillies have been crisscrossing the country, bringing their genre-blending sound to old fans and new.  If they visit your town, be sure to attend a show and prepare to be blown away by this refreshing, remarkable band.


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.