Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tony Logue Band Album Review

I recently discovered the Tony Logue Band through Twitter and have been enjoying their "Reckless Kind" album.  Upon first listen, I knew I was going to dig this CD.  I don't want to compare voices but the vocal reminds me a bit of Jason Boland and The Stragglers; however, these guys rock a little harder with a grittier sound.  All for the better, as this is real, rocking country music.

The Tony Logue Band consists of singer/songwriter Tony Logue, guitarist Dylan Driver, Jason Munday on drums, and Kyle Robertson on bass.  Formed in 2008, the band released a seven song EP titled "Calm Before The Storm" in 2009.  "Reckless Kind" followed in January 2012.

The album kicks off with "Down The Line."  A hard-driving anthem for those of us from small towns who yearn to get out.  This song introduces the Tony Logue Band as a group of guys who love singing about real life, love, and being on the road.

"Hangin' On" is a delicious, twisted love tune about being led on in a relationship that is going nowhere.  It doesn't cover any new ground, but it is radio-friendly with the uptempo beat.

The title track is a mini-movie that plays out about a man who has always been wild and crazy.  Reckless driving, drinking, fighting, and losing a love.  The song flows along beautifully despite the sad subject matter, a ballad that begs to be listened to over and over.

One of my favorite songs from this collection is "Nowhere USA."  "...I wonder if I'll ever break these chains...and I wonder if I'll ever get away...well I can't stay right here, stuck in in Nowhere USA..."  This tune describes those of us dreamers who are always looking for something better, somewhere bigger, a place where we can find ourselves somewhere other than the middle of nowhere.

"Dues" is reminiscent of Waylon Jennings.  The road-weary musician singing about the hard road life and urgency of delivery makes this sound like a live show favorite.

Another one of my favorites is "Road I Chose."  I'm a sucker for road songs and this mid tempo tune captures the singer's love of freedom; however, you feel the regret in his voice and the lonely guitar closing the door on the past.

"Burn It To The Ground" is about burning all of the memories left behind by a bad lover.  It's a dark song, it's almost as if the songwriter had no remorse about losing everything, trying to forget everything.

Another painful song about love gone wrong is "Walk Away."  The band sings this with such a forlorn, unvarnished feeling.  It's a simple tune that you would expect to hear on mainstream country radio, but it has raw emotion that unfortunately is missing in today's robotic song machines.

"State Line" reminds me of another Kentucky artist, Chris Knight.  An uptempo song about being poor, working hard, moonshine, and living with what you have.  The band entwines their vocal through the lyrics and rocking instruments to portray a rough and tumble region long forgotten by the rest of the world.

Closing out the CD is "Times Have Changed," a bitter love composition set to an energetic instrumental.  Short, sweet, and bad ass; a fantastic way to finish up this 10 song set.

The Tony Logue Band is still a little wet behind the ears but make no mistake, this band from western Kentucky is making awesome music destined to be heard.  Do your ears a favor and check out this CD.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Music Year End Review

With 2012 coming to a close, I've decided to write about my favorite songs of the year.  So many excellent selections, mainly coming from the Red Dirt and Americana genre; but also a few mainstream country songs that deserve recognition.

After #1, I'm listing in no particular order because it's too difficult to choose the best song.

1.  "Pennsylvania Avenue" by Reckless Kelly - Defines the year in regards to the election and our future.

2.  "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" by Eli Young Band - Smash hit, amazing lyrics and soaring chorus.
3.  "In The Mean Time" by Chris Knight - Raw, real, another song that is defining 2012 in its lyrics regarding government, God, and the economy.
4.  "Merry Go 'Round" by Kacey Musgraves - Plaintive, simple, this is country music.
5.  "Give It A Try" by Reckless Kelly - I'm biased.  Damn good song.
6.  "Love Don't Let Me Down" by Hayes Carll & Caitlin Rose - The most lovely duet I've heard in a long time.

7.  "Fastest Girl In Town" by Miranda Lambert - Edgy, fun, makes me feel like hitting the road.
8.  "Alabama Pines" by Jason Isbell - Splendid, flowing, pure Americana.

9.  "Touch" by Josh Abbott Band - A lush Texas country ballad.
10. "Waitin' On The Sky" by Steve Earle - Americana at its best.
11. "Fly Over States" by Jason Aldean - I love to travel, I love America, I love the fly over states.
12. "Stronger" by Kelly Clarkson - The female anthem of the year.  I'm not a pop/rock fan but I love almost everything the future Mrs. Blackstock sings.
13. "Hobo" by The Departed - I'm a sucker for traveling songs.
14. "Hell's Gates On Fire" by Josh Abbott Band - 2012 has been a year of drought and massive wildfires across the West.  Written about the wildfires in Texas a couple of years ago, but so fitting for those of us in the Rocky Mountain West this year.
15. "How Far I'll Go" by Micky & The Motorcars - Again, I'm biased.  Pretty ballad by one of my favorite Roots Rockers.

The crop of great mainstream country songs continue to decline year after year, meanwhile, down in Texas they continue to churn out stellar song after song.

I know I've missed numerous great songs, if I have, leave me a message.

Here's to 2013!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Adventus Album Review

"Adventus" is the brand new second album from The Departed.  This is their first album of all new songs.  Coming off their first stellar release "This Is Indian Land," they had some pretty tall shoes to fill and have done a fantastic job of doing just so.  Unlike Indian Land, though, this album rocks from start to finish.  Their debut release was a tribute to the Red Dirt songwriters mainly from Oklahoma and leaned more country.  "Adventus" is a rock record with a few glints of country and a lot of bluesy soul.

The Departed is Cody Canada (guitars/vocals), Chris Doege (drums), Seth James (guitars/vocals), Steve Littleton (keyboards), and Jeremy Plato (bass guitar/vocals).  If their sound is a bit familiar to you, it's because of Cody Canada's distinctive voice you know from Cross Canadian Ragweed.  After Ragweed parted ways a few years ago, Cody and Jeremy, along with the other members, formed The Departed.  Along with Seth's bluesy vocals, this rounds out the sound of the band.

The album kicks off with the first single, "Worth The Fight," a hard-driving rocker that sails along at top speed, "What am I doing...same old place... must be something in my way...I gotta keep moving...I can't help myself...I wanna be someone somewhere else..."  One can take the lyrics and apply them to just about any situation, making this an awesome song for fighting for what you believe in.

Something different this go around is the fact that Cody and Seth split lead vocals, as well as one sung by Jeremy, and an instrumental track.  It's hard to choose a favorite sung by Seth, as they are all equally good, but I think "Hard To Find" and "Prayer For The Lonely" are my favorites.

"Flagpole" just plain rocks, it's one of those songs you listen to with your windows rolled down speeding down the road.  Meanwhile, the very next track slows it down.  "Cold Hard Fact" is reminiscent of Ragweed with the harmonica and Cody's laconic delivery of the lyrics.

My favorite song on this collection is "Hobo."  Perhaps it's because of my gypsy nature and love of travel, but this is a gem!  Lead vocals this time from Jeremy Plato, the tune takes the listener on a trip, traveling along at perfect speed, driven by a sweet harmonica and Jeremy's fine vocal, "...Feel the sun shining on my back, see what I can find down the line..."  I love every part of this song.

The very poignant "250,000 Things" is a song written about having a ton of things to do but yet only wanting to spend time with family.  A very sweet ode to families everywhere and in light of the recent Connecticut tragedy, this is especially appropriate.

The album closes out with an instrumental-only tune "Mark It Wrong" and "Sweet Lord."  The latter is a gospel-tinged song that will have you thinking you've been to church just by listening to an album.

Something about Roots Rock/Red Dirt/Americana/Texas music that thrills me is the fact that there is no set sound.  One song can be completely straight ahead country such as "250,000 Things" while "Flagpole" or "Set It Free" leans more rock.  With that said, this is a solid album of impressive songs, one of the best releases of the year.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Raise My Glass Album Review

I'm choosing to blog today about an album that I can not stop listening to lately.  "Raise My Glass" is the latest CD from Micky And The Motorcars, released August 9, 2011.  "Raise My Glass" is an exquisite collection of songs that range from rollicking rockers to subtle ballads.  The songwriting on this album is superb, lead vocalist Micky Braun's voice wrapping around the lyrics like light rain falling in the Springtime.

For those of you not familiar with MMC, the band is comprised of Micky Braun (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Gary Braun (harmony and lead vocals, guitars, mandolin, harmonica), Dustin Schaefer (lead guitar), Bobby Paugh (drums, percussion), and Joe Fladger (bass).  MMC is neither country nor rock, but an excellent combination of Red Dirt, Americana, and Texas music with a blend of both country and rock sounds.  Personally, I think they are more country than 90% of the "country" artists on mainstream radio and a Hell of a lot better than anything played on your local station unless you're lucky enough to live in Oklahoma or Texas.

The album kicks off with the title track.  This song flows like a fine wine and as the title suggests, "...I raise my glass to every mistake...I raise my glass every time..."  It isn't a happy song but it's the sad songs that make me the happiest.  There's something about hearing heartbreak in the singer's voice that evokes such emotion.  This song is a standout on the album.

"Far From You" is a sumptuous shuffle about not wanting to leave a lover's side that builds to a beautiful ending.  What amazes me about these songs is that they're not your typical love, leaving, drinking tunes we normally hear (as in mainstream radio).  The lyrics are far more superior and the instruments much more subdued, they do not rule the songs; more so just accompany the singer in the journey of the song.

"A Thousand Tears" is the band's current single climbing the Texas Music Chart.  It is a mid tempo bittersweet tune about young love and should be a #1.

"Longer Walk In The Rain" is a raw ode to stumbling home drunk and a relationship crumbling.  It doesn't cover any new ground but I love the way it paints a picture of the heartbreak and the character knowing that there's a storm coming.

My favorite song on this collection is "Never Been Out West."  Written by brothers Micky and Willy Braun (of Reckless Kelly), it's a lovely tune crafted about the call of the West.  "Well they say that the mountains touch the sky...far away out west of the Great Divide...and there's fertile fields and valleys down below...and I'm telling you brother we'd be fools not to go..."  The arrangements, the lyrics, this is the perfect song about dreams, longing, and despair.

A little gem is "Big Casino."  Perhaps it's because we don't get to hear Gary Braun's voice very often in lead vocals, a rare treat.  An uptempo song about gambling, bad women, and "...this miserable city of sin..." It rocks with a fantastic drum beat backing Gary's strong vocals, the kind of song you sing to at the top of your lungs with the windows rolled down.

"Odessa Snow" is a fine ballad about being drunk before noon, snow closing the roads, and a "frozen oil rig town."  The song may be about Odessa, Texas, but it very well could be Casper, Wyoming, in regards to the subject matter.  Whatever the location, it's another outstanding track from "Raise My Glass."

The album closes with "St. Lucy's Eyes," a dark, moody song that reminds me of "Hotel California."  I try to refrain from comparing the two songs but it's more of a similarity.  The two definitely do not sound the same musically.  "...Shaking off a nervous dream trying not to think of anything...I'm giving everything I've got just to scare the demons off..."  A delicious song enveloped in mystery and darkness.

If you have never heard Micky And The Motorcars, go do yourself a favor and buy this album, as well as any of their other fine releases.  Check out their website for all the info.  I think there are more great things to come from this band.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Is Here

Election Day in the United States is finally here.  After all of the campaigning, America gets to choose who the next President is, as well as officials in the local and State levels.

As Americans, voting isn't just a right, it's a privilege.  It's a way for us to decide how our country is run.  Some people scoff at the idea of voting, they believe it doesn't matter.  Sure, with the Presidential vote, the Electoral College has a deciding factor, but so do we.  The majority of people I work with don't vote because they either don't care or think it doesn't matter.  This apathy towards our privilege baffles me.  Why wouldn't you want to take a stand?  Why wouldn't you want to voice your opinion, let the lawmakers know that you will fight for what's right?!  When I was a little kid, I remember going to the polls with my parents and watching them vote.  Even at that young age, I knew that they were doing something very important for our future.  I have voted in every election since I turned 18.  I love that fact that I get to vote and help make a difference.  Some folks think voting is a chore, just another thing on their to-do list for the day.  I don't see it as a chore.  I see it as a privilege, it's an event!  Stand in line and be proud to be an American!  It's all part of who we are!  We get to vote to help shape America's future!  For those of you who don't vote, WAKE UP!

With all Presidential politics aside, it's also important to vote because at the local level, you decide who runs your cities and counties, in addition to what gets built or what stays on the back burner for another election.  Voting one way or another can come down to whether you pay more property or sales taxes.

Bottom line...get out and vote!  It doesn't matter if you're Democrat, Republican, Independent, or none of the above; you need to have your voice heard.  Don't consider voting a chore, consider it a privilege to stand in line and know that you've made a difference in America's future.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

2012 CMA Awards - My Picks

With tonight's CMA Awards on the horizon in just a few hours, I thought I'd take a moment to choose who I'd like to see win.

There are some standout nominees this year in a few categories.  In others, I don't even have a choice because no one decent is nominated.

I would give Entertainer Of The Year to Blake Shelton.  I have never seen him in concert, however, based on the choices in this category, he is the best musically.

Male Vocalist Of The Year is a toss up between Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton.  Both amazing vocalists, both deserve to win.  Luke has had a huge year (and has the whitest teeth in country music), but Blake has had some major hits, as well.  If I had to pick just one, though, it would be Blake.

Female Vocalist Of The Year...there's no question to my allegiance to Miranda Lambert, she's my #1 pick.  The other ladies in this category are also fantastic vocalists, but Miranda never fails to please with her songwriting, fiery stage presence, and just plain kick-ass persona.

One of the closest categories this year is the Vocal Group Of The Year.  All of the nominees have had huge songs but my pick is the Eli Young Band.  They had one of the biggest songs of the year with "Even If It Breaks Your Heart."  They're from Texas, their music rocks, they haven't forgotten their Texas roots, they represent what's awesome right now in mainstream country music.

My choice for Vocal Duo Of The Year goes to Sugarland.  They haven't had much going on lately but Jennifer Nettles has one of the best female voices in the genre.

New Artist Of The Year....formerly known as the Horizon Award...and formerly had some amazing nominees/winners.  This year I'm very disappointed in the choices.  I don't care for any of the artists nominated and do not own any of their albums.  Former winners include Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, Dixie Chicks, Randy Travis, and Mark Chesnutt.  I don't know if this year's crop nominated is the future of country music, but if it is, thank goodness for Texas/Red Dirt/Americana music.

"Four The Record" by Miranda Lambert is without a doubt one of the best albums this year and my pick for Album Of The Year.  There isn't a bad song in this collection of tunes. 

When I think of Single Of The Year, I think of a more fun song, as opposed to Song Of The Year, which is more about the songwriting.  Given the choices nominated, my pick for Single is "Pontoon" by Little Big Town.  It was a big hit for LBT, a fun Summer anthem that everyone embraced.

"Even If It Breaks Your Heart" by the Eli Young Band is by far my choice for Song Of The Year.  The lyrics alone make this a standout song, I was in love the first time I heard the opening line, "Way back on the radio dial....A fire got lit inside a bright-eyed child..."  Written by Will Hoge and Eric Pasley, EYB put their unique sound to the beautiful lyrics and now those of us who have felt this way since childhood have an anthem to sing along to. 

Musical Event Of The Year has already been awarded to Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney for "Feel Like A Rock Star."  Not too many great choices to be had here.  Is "Oh, Tonight" by the Josh Abbott Band and Kacey Musgraves too old to be nominated?  That would be my choice.

Lastly, we have Video Of The Year, which has also already been awarded to "Red Solo Cup" by Toby Keith.  Miranda Lambert's "Over You" is the most beautiful of the nominees.  It's a sad song but the video reminds us there is always hope.  The stunning white horse in the video makes it winner enough for me.

I'm looking forward to watching the awards tonight, as always, and I'll be rooting big time for the Texas artists, Miranda Lambert and Eli Young Band.  They will show the rest of the country what REAL music is.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Presidential Election

With the upcoming Presidential election on everyone's minds (how could we forget with the media bombardment?), I thought I'd write about it for today's blog.

Whether you're Republican, Democrat, or Independent, we are all Americans and we all have the right to vote.  We all have different ideas about how our country should be ran, laws that are made, and where the country should head for the future.

Politics are very polarizing and tend to divide families, coworkers, and friends.  With that said, I'm not going to write about which side I'm on.  People are going to vote for whom they believe is going to be the best leader for our country.  Many politicians are not the most honest people so we have to vote for the lesser of the two evils.

Despite our differences, one thing we do have in common is love of country and the things that hold us together.  One thing that draws people together is music.  My passion for music and love of the USA has me extremely excited about Reckless Kelly's brand new song "Pennsylvania Avenue."  A truly all-American song, it speaks of voting the President out of office if he's not getting the job done that he was hired for.  It's a song for all Americans, whether you're conservative, liberal, or sitting on the fence.  Boldly sung with RK's trademark sound, it's a song that needs to be heard, blasted from rooftops, blaring from car radios, all the way to the White House.

Remember on November 6, YOU can make a difference.  VOTE!  Make your voice heard all the way to "Pennsylvania Avenue."  Vote and while you're at it, grab yourself a copy of Reckless Kelly's new single.  Your ears will thank you.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Texas/Red Dirt/Americana Music

As a long time fan of Texas music in various forms and stages, this sub genre of country music has made me even more passionate about music than ever.  I've always loved the various styles of alternative country, which in the 80's and prior, used to get played on mainstream country radio.  Now a person has to listen to local, regional indie stations to hear this beautiful music.  With the discovery of new artists in the genre, my passion for this type of music has been renewed.  And as mainstream radio continues to play the mundane, boring, truck/redneck/teenager themes, it's not hard to change the station or fire up my iPod.

As an introduction for those of you who may not know a lot about this alternative genre(s), Texas/Red Dirt/Americana often gets lumped together as alternative country, because Nashville doesn't know what to do with artists who don't fit their "mold."  Texas music isn't necessarily about Texas, but it's a sound.  It's country, it's rock, it's blues, it's a state of mind.  Red Dirt gets its name from the rich red soil that covers Oklahoma.  The sound is country, blues, rock, but what this sub genre is all about is songwriting.  The writers who hail from this area are some of the best but relatively unknown to the rest of the country.  Americana takes on a more folk, bluegrass, rootsy sound.  There is even a satellite radio station dedicated to the "Outlaw" sound on Sirius/XM for every artist who doesn't fit in at mainstream.

With that said, alternative country is very much alive and well, despite most artists not receiving much nationwide, mainstream radio airplay.  Texas and Oklahoma stations are the best places to find this amazing music and discover new artists.  These acts often tour nationwide and have large followings.  What they lack is the push from giant record labels promoting their latest songs and garnering national attention.  In a way, this helps the artist be the best artist he/she can be.  Many times Nashville pushes an image.  You will not find  this in alt-country.  Most artists have strong opinions and choose to speak their minds.  They dress as they choose, they sing about guns, drugs, and you certainly won't hear a song about butterflies and fireflies.  I find this unfiltered music refreshing, thought-provoking, and rocking.  It's raw, it's real, and there is such a variety it never sounds generic.  A few of my favorite regional radio stations include 92.1 KNBT, New Braunfels, TX (, 95.9 The Ranch, Ft. Worth, TX (, and KOKE-FM, Austin, TX (  

There are so many artists that deserve recognition and I think every person in America is missing out if they've never heard their fine music.  I will detail a few of my favorites, because I think they deserve to be heard.  Reckless Kelly (, Cody Canada And The Departed (, and Micky & The Motorcars ( are my favorites in the Texas/Red Dirt genre.  Hard to believe that two of these groups (MMC & RK) hail from Idaho and yet for me, embody the Texas sound.  The Departed have a unique Red Dirt/Oklahoma/Texas sound, thanks to Cody Canada's laid-back drawl and Seth James' straight-ahead bluesy vocals.  Because these acts deserve a more in-depth look, I will blog about them in the future.

There are still many good acts to be heard on mainstream radio.  However, if you are bored with the same 20 artists played every hour, give the Americana/Texas/Red Dirt genre a listen.  Your ears will thank you and the so will these outstanding musicians.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Casper Mountain Camping

This past weekend was the last time for camping in Wyoming, or so we believe due to the snow and cold due to arrive later this week.  So with that in mind, we decided last minute to make the most of the last weekend of Summer weather.

Friday evening started off with light rain as we set up camp.  It was no bother, however, as the precipitation is much needed after a very dry Summer.  After establishing camp, we took a walk in the light drizzle.

Aspen grove
Saturday morning brought gorgeous sunlight to Casper Mountain, warming the day up nicely.  After a morning of driving around the east end of the mountain to view the SheepHerder Hill Fire damage, we later hiked the trails.  Casper Mountain has a large cross country ski trail system that is available to hike, bike, & horseback ride in warmer months.  Also another short but beautiful trail is the Braille Trail that follows Elkhorn Creek.  The colors were almost past peak but still spectacular for leaf peeping.  After hiking, it was time to relax and enjoy the sights and smells of the forest, to relax and enjoy time away from life's stress.

On Sunday, it was time to pack up and head back to reality, but not before enjoying a leisurely breakfast and coffee time.  After packing up camp, we took one last walk before heading down the mountain.

It was a lovely, relaxing weekend.  Having a mountain nearby makes for a camping trip close by yet far away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Strube Loop

SheepHerder Hill Fire, east end of Casper Mountain burn area