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:

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. 
Gluten Free Lipstick, Lipgloss & Eyeshadow

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

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!
Gluten Free Lipstick & Lipgloss

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Braun Brothers Reunion & Idaho Vacation

The first full week in August of 2013 will be one I will never forget.  It was my first time venturing further west than Idaho Falls into the state and my first multi-day music festival.  The week was spent relaxing, sight-seeing, and jamming to the best bands in the Red Dirt/Roots Rock world.

We spent 3 days in Boise, relaxing, shopping, and enjoying the warm, sunny climate.  It is a cool city with a vibe similar to Austin.  Large enough to have everything yet unique.  There's a lot to see and do in Boise but it seemed like the time there was much too short.
Eagle, ID
Leaving Boise behind mid-week, we headed towards Stanley and the Sawtooth Mountains.  The drive up Idaho 21 is not for the faint of heart but the views are stunning.  The Sawtooths seem to jut up from nowhere and surround Stanley like a fortress.  Stanley is a quaint, very small village of 63 hardy citizens.  It's one of the coldest places in the Winter but the day we were there, it was a lovely 80 degrees.
Stanley, ID
From Stanley, the drive up Highway 75 along the Salmon River affords never-ending views of lush meadows, mountains, and valleys.  
North of Stanley, ID
Approaching U.S. 93, the landscape starts to change to more of a high desert climate, green changing to brown, and high peaks surrounding the valley.  Challis is a quintessential small town where they never really unroll the streets, except during the Braun Brothers Reunion.  Red rocks, foothills, and high mountains surround this small town and it was our home for 4 days while we were there for the area's premier music festival.

Challis, ID

videoThursday was the first day of the 2013 Braun Brothers Reunion.  Being the music fanatic I am, we were there as soon as the gates opened each day.  The first day kicked off with Muzzie Braun and the party went on through the night's last and best performance, Micky & The Motorcars.  In between there were shows from Suzy Bogguss and Dale Watson.  Being in the midst of the standing room only crowd near the stage for the Motorcars was pretty exciting on our first night at the festival.

Micky & The Motorcars
Friday brought another amazing day of performances at BBR, everyone from No Justice to the Randy Rogers Band.  My favorites from this night were Corb Lund and the Turnpike Troubadours.  Todd Snider's performance was backed by The Departed, which was an unexpected treat.  Corb Lund's performance was only 45 minutes, but in that short amount of time, he played to an attentive crowd and won over many new fans.
Corb Lund
 After his set, Corb did a meet and greet with fans.  It was great to meet him and get his autograph.  Corb is from Canada and is huge there.  He's won several Canadian Country Music Awards and has been gaining new fans in the U.S., especially in the West and Texas.  The Turnpike Troubadours put on a fine set, sounding even more amazing live than on record.  They plowed through hit song after song (every song they put out seems to hit #1 on the Texas Music Chart), and some fun banter in between.  These guys hail from Oklahoma and are the epitome of Red Dirt music and have definitely found a new fan in me.
Turnpike Troubadours

Saturday was the biggest day jam packed full of music all afternoon and deep into the night.  The music kicked off at 1:00 p.m. with Tom Nazz and Jay Nazz followed by Gary and Cindy Braun and rocked all the way to the 9:15 headliner Reckless Kelly.  A very special portion of the event is the Braun family guitar pull.  All of the Braun brothers, Muzzie and his brothers along with his 4 sons jammed together on stage.   video

Classics are sung, stories are told, and this is really the heart of the festival.  Saturday's events also meant meet and greets and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet and get autographs and pictures from The Departed, Micky & The Motorcars, and Reckless Kelly.  After those euphoric moments, it was time for more music from Wade Bowen.  
Wade Bowen
The Departed
Wade is a Texas country favorite and fed off the crowd's adoration, singing all of his hits.  The Departed took the stage at 7:45 and rocked the stage from the first to the last note.  As expected, these guys thrilled the audience with their hits and a few Cross Canadian Ragweed classics.  Little did anyone know that a few weeks later, it would be announced that Seth James is leaving the group in November.  All of us fans witnessed a little piece of music history in Challis, it being Seth's last show there with The Departed.  Being almost front row for their performance, as well as headliner Reckless Kelly, was not only fun, but crazy.  Fans of Red Dirt/Americana/Texas music are passionate about the music and know every word to every song.  Most of them are normally drunk by this time of the night but they still hang on to every lyric.
Reckless Kelly

Reckless Kelly came out of the chutes with "Real Cool Hand," a song from their new album "Long Night Moon" and rocked out all the way to the all-star closer of "Six Days On The Road."  Having a close view of the stage provided amazing photographs and the ability to watch the impressive musicians work their magic.  The mix of the hometown crowd and those of us who came hundreds of miles to attend were treated to a fantastic last blowout show of the 3 day festival.  RK blasted through many of their hits, a couple new songs, and a few remakes.  
Micky Braun, Willy Braun
Many of the artists who performed at the event joined in for a few songs and for "Six Days On The Road" almost everyone helped out, including Micky & The Motorcars, The Departed, Wade Bowen, and Todd Snider.
Todd Snider, Reckless Kelly, Wade Bowen, Micky & The Motorcars
The 3 day festival culminated with this spectacular show, leaving thousands of happy fans something to hang on to as they head back to their normal lives.

Willy Braun, Muzzie Braun, Micky Braun

Sunday morning we departed Challis for the 500+ mile trek back to central Wyoming.  Leaving the valley behind, miles and miles of mountains (including Idaho's highest, Borah Peak) gave way to lava fields, valleys, and more mountains.  Before entering Wyoming, Idaho leaves us with beautiful Swan Valley and Victor.

The trip to Idaho and the Braun Brothers Reunion was relaxing, exhilarating, and epic.  I highly recommend this music festival due to its location, beauty, and unparalleled acts BBR draws every year. Gluten Free Lipstick & Lipgloss

Monday, September 2, 2013

Long Night Moon Album Review

Love at first listen.  Heart-wrenching, longing, sadness.  These words do not even begin to describe Reckless Kelly's new album, "Long Night Moon."  From the first notes of the title track to the last "Idaho," listeners will be spellbound.  The common theme running through this record is that of traveling, lost love, and perhaps a bit of weariness on a traveling musician.

Many artists who have been on the scene as long as Reckless Kelly tend to make the same record over and over again.  Not the case here.  Every album RK releases has a unique sound, none sounding like the others.  This album is a study in subtlety, much more so than their previous records.  Reckless Kelly is David Abeyta (lead guitars), Cody Braun (fiddle, mandolin, guitars, vocals), Willy Braun (lead vocals, guitars, harmonica), Joe Miller (bass, bass guitar), and Jay Nazz (drums).  The instruments are a little more toned down from previous albums, letting lead singer/songwriter Willy Braun's warm, rich vocal shine through.

The album's title track "Long Night Moon" is a lush yet agonizing ballad sung with such conviction, it takes the listener on a trip to another world.  "...And I wonder why I keep torturing my soul beneath this urban sky...but in my mind I know I'll be home soon...surrounded by the Winter....beneath the long night moon..." With such a stunning opening song, a person wonders how the rest of the album can be any better, but every song here is a gem.

"Real Cool Hand," Every Step Of The Way," and "I Can't Stand It" are mid to up tempo rockers, having the classic Reckless sound.  "Every Step Of The Way" snarls its way through almost 4 minutes of hard-driving guitars and harmonica.  "The Girl I Knew" is a gorgeous mid-tempo shuffle that I have on repeat and has hit single written all over it, "Well I don't talk much to strangers...'cause there's no good news anymore...But you sure seemed glad to see me when you knocked on my front door..."  Addictive lyrics and a bouncy chorus I can't get out of my head.

The ballads take center stage on "Long Night Moon," every one leaving a person to wonder how music can be this breathtaking and heartbreaking at the same time.  Each song paints a vivid picture of crumbling relationships, saying goodbye, and an ode to the beautiful state of Idaho and home.

"Irish Goodbye" is a lovely, meandering tune that takes the listener to the Emerald Isle with a torturing sadness, "...Don't say goodnight, just turn out the lights...Irish goodbye..."  This may be RK's saddest song to date but also one of their finest.

"The Last Goodbye" is the lead off single from the album and it's a moody, bitter tune about letting go again, after several goodbyes.  Willy Braun's vocal is almost haunting at times as the song rolls along, a weariness, "...The last goodbye really had me going...pulling my strings all the while weren't leaving anytime soon...The last goodbye really had me running hot...You turned me into something I was not...You were determined to make me your fool..."  The song is currently climbing the Texas Music Chart and I predict a #1.

Never a band to shy away from social and political issues, "Be My Friend (In Real Life)" is an anti-social media anthem that many of us could take advice from.  In this technologically-advanced age where most of us communicate in every manner except the telephone and handwritten letters, the singer is simply saying, "...Put down your devices and live your life...Won't you be my friend in real life..."  A strong message driven home with a foreboding drumbeat.

"Didn't Mean To Break Your Heart" is the most exquisite song in the collection.  The play on words is impressive, short, and sweet.  Metaphors abound on this song, the engaging lyrics dance around the harmonica and fiddle.  The instruments accompany the vocal perfectly, never overpowering the sublime delivery of the lyrics.

No RK album is complete without a few road songs, which also happens to be one of my favorite subjects.  "The Only Home I've Ever Known" is a delightful fiddle-driven shuffle.  I can't say enough about the lyrics found on LMN, every song was written by Willy Braun; the songwriting becomes more brilliant with every album.  "...Surrounded by my fears and tortured by the miles...Drowned out by the cheers and all those empty highs..."  This is an exceptional song about a road-weary musician, another highlight on LMN.

A short but lovely instrumental reprise of the title track preludes into the album's closer, "Idaho."  It is the most splendid song I have ever heard dedicated to a state and a place where the Braun brothers hail from.  It is simply beautiful, like the state itself.  The song isn't just a nod to a home state, it's about being home, around the things and people you love, a feeling of being content.  We always leave home but there's a piece of it we keep in our hearts, no matter where we roam.

I highly recommend buying the physical CD.  Not only are lyrics included, but a fun, celestial game with a little light is included and it glows in the dark.  This is something RK has been doing for awhile with their albums.  Downloading provides instant gratification but possessing the actual CD is a lot more satisfying in the long run.

On September 3rd, find yourself running to the closest record store to buy the best album of the year.  This is what real music sounds like.