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

Thursday 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.  

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.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


There has been a lot of buzz about Jason Aldean's new single "1994" which got me to thinking about the year itself.  Although this new song is the one of the worst ever written in history, 1994 as a year was a great one for myself and in music.

1994 was the year I graduated from high school and started college.  As the year kicked off towards graduation, my life was full of new experiences.  I was going to school, working, hanging out with friends, and listening to some awesome music on the radio.  The 90's may have had flaws in music, but nothing like these days where singers only know how to sing about trucks, beer, and girls.  The year kicked off in grand fashion with a soon-to-be superstar.  Faith Hill's debut "Wild One" hit #1 the first week of January. 5 months later she would hit the top again with "Piece Of My Heart."  Right about the time I graduated, her future husband, Tim McGraw, was at the pinnacle of the charts with "Don't Take The Girl."  My favorite song in the first quarter of the year, however, was "I Just Wanted You To Know" by Mark Chesnutt.  It remains one of my favorites by him.
1994 was all about saying goodbye to everything we knew as teenagers and embarking on new adventures.  Not before an awesome Senior trip to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, however.  A few days later, graduation took place on a sultry, hot Sunday afternoon.  I had 42 in my graduating class.  Living now in a city of considerable size for the geographic region, I miss those small town days.

As the Summer began, I remember enjoying the weather, being 17, and attending as many concerts as time would allow.  There was some awesome music that was coming out of Nashville in those days (now the majority of amazing music only comes out of Austin).  June 1994 brought one of Pam Tillis' best songs, "Spilled Perfume."  It peaked at #5 that month and is one of my all time favorites by the songstress.  It's a classic in my book and it appears on her "Sweetheart's Dance" album.

Rapper Aldean doesn't mention this next song in his ode to 1994, but the year held one of the biggest and most influential songs in modern country music.  "Independence Day" put Martina McBride on the map and created quite the controversy in its subject matter.  It was released in April and peaked at #12 later in the year.  Of all the songs of '94, this is my favorite.  It became an anthem for females everywhere and empowered women to seek help against domestic abuse.
As the Summer faded into Autumn, it was time to start college.  A bit frightening at the beginning for me, I did have some high school classmates join me in some of the courses, making my load a bit lighter and not as scary.  Once I got acquainted to the two campuses I took classes at, I realized college was more fun than high school.  It offered freedom, less structured classes, and various student ages which made for interesting learning.

With the Fall colors changing, as was the soundtrack to 1994.  Brooks and Dunn hit #1 in October with "She's Not The Cheatin' Kind" and Joe Diffie appeared several times with his lame songs about pickups and planets.  Perhaps this is why Jason Aldean's song is full of Joe Diffie cliches, but there were more memorable songs.  Mr. Mullet himself closed out the year with "Pickup Man."  It may have been a big hit, but little did we know it would spin off several truck songs almost 20 years later.

1994 closed out in November turning the big 18.  I remember being so excited to be able to vote in the Presidential election.  However, I had to wait almost 2 years to vote in the next election.  As I remember, though, I did vote for local and State representatives.  

I'm not sure that Rapper Aldean remembers much of 1994, except for Joe Diffie, as it is the only subject in the song.  However, I remember 1994 being full of firsts, as well as more fantastic music from some of my favorite artists, including George Strait, Clay Walker, and Pam Tillis.

Here's to 1994 and all of the fantastic opportunities it offered for my graduating class!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Red Apple Lipstick

Being the beauty junkie that I am and this being a month of new beginnings, I thought I would take a moment to write about a cosmetics company that is doing great things.  I discovered Red Apple Lipstick several months ago via Twitter and am hooked on their amazing products!

Red Apple Lipstick is based in Houston, Texas, and all of their makeup is gluten free.  Not only is it safe for Celiacs, it is also free of dairy, soy, and other major allergens.  For those who don't have food allergies but are worried about chemicals, Red Apple Lipstick is also paraben free and lead free.  I have several food allergies and do not like putting chemicals on my skin; therefore, Red Apple Lipstick is the perfect makeup for me.  I like that I do not have to read a tiny ingredients list to wonder if a product is safe for me to use.

Red Apple Lipstick offers lipstick, lip gloss, an amazing balm & exfoliating stick, lip pencils, and eye shadows.  Not a full line of cosmetics but they are working hard every day to create new items to add to their already fabulous line.  A foundation is in the works, which is very exciting, and I am hoping for a mascara soon.  

My first purchase of RAL was a lipstick.  Their lipstick is the creamiest, most moisturizing, full color I have ever tried (and believe me, I've tried numerous brands).  A person really doesn't even need a balm underneath.  

However, if you do use balm, Red Apple's Rallye Balm is the bomb.  Ultra-moisturizing, soft, SPF 8, and glides on like a dream.  It comes in a tube or tub depending on your preference.  Something new that I have tried is their Exfoliate Stick.  For those of us who live in a harsh, cold climate and have issues with flaky, chapped lips, this stick is awesome!  It rids your lips of the flakes, prepping and smoothing it for balm and lipstick.  This product is something I didn't think I needed until I tried it.

Red Apple Lipstick's eye shadows are long-lasting, rich and vibrant in color, and easy to apply.  I've been using loose mineral shadow for a long time so it was a little weird going back to a pressed version.  I love the colors and the ease of blending.  The shadows come separately in their own little pans or you can buy a palette and store your pans in it.  The pans are magnetic and clip into the palette.  A very neat idea and you can reuse the palette once your colors are used up, ready for new ones.  Red Apple really has thought of everything creating their fantastic products.

In addition to Red Apple Lipstick's revolutionary products, their online community is one-of-a-kind.  Their website ( is full of informative blogs, how-to's, customer comments, and more.  The Twitter (@RedAppleLipstic) and Facebook ( media sites are active every day with new product info, customer feedback, and more.  I have found the staff to be very helpful on Twitter in helping me pick out colors and combinations.  They even have a VIP Club for members to receive 20% off every month.

You can't find RAL in stores.  Right now they take online and phone orders.  Some people may find this inconvenient, but their products are well worth the wait.  For those of us with food allergies, it's peace of mind knowing that these products are safe, allergy free, chemical free, and vegan.

With this being January and a New Year full of promise, do yourself a favor.  Throw out all of your old, toxic makeup and treat yourself to some new and beautiful Red Apple Lipstick!

Monday, January 21, 2013

January 2013 State Of Country Music

As January flows along as slow as a frozen river, so does the state of mainstream country music.  With the New Year upon us, I had hoped that some new songs would be released worth listening to.  Never fear, however, because there are a whole slew of substantial releases on the Americana/Red Dirt/Texas side.

As I look through the Billboard Country Songs chart, I am disheartened by how many songs are about trucks, beer, and nothingness.  Given the amount of these types of songs being churned out of Nashville in the past few years, it does not help country's image.  The stereotype of simple, hayseed people will never cease if the genre continues to process this image.

I'd love to call out the horrible songs and artists on the mainstream chart, but I'd rather spend my time giving credit to the artists who are doing excellent work.  Songs that I'm digging on the mainstream chart are Gary Allan's "Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain)," "Merry Go 'Round" by Kacey Musgraves, 

"Say Goodnight" Eli Young Band, and "Mama's Broken Heart" by Miranda Lambert.

Looking at the Texas Regional Radio Report, the songs and artists are superb.  Reckless Kelly's excellent "Pennsylvania Avenue"

 is spending a second week at #1, followed by another fine entry "I'll Sing About Mine" by the Josh Abbott Band.  The latter is actually a song about the state of mainstream country radio.  

Other Top 10 favorites on this chart include "Worth The Fight" by The Departed, "Travelin' Kind" by Stoney Larue, Mike Ryan's "The Cold One," and the Eli Young Band appears on this chart, as well.  The Texas chart is full of exceptional compositions.  Chris Knight's "In The Meantime" checks in at #19, a tune that is about real people who live in the country, not the ones singing about trucks, tractors, and beer.  Kacey Musgraves checks in on this chart at #69 and one of my personal favorites, Micky & The Motorcars comes in at #72 with their brand new song "A Thousand Tears."

Some people in the Texas music industry feel that their genre is in a slump.  There are some less than stellar songs right now, but it's nothing like the depression going on over in Truckville.  Many of the Texas artists sound a lot like mainstream; however, the edgy artists who aren't considered "country" but more of roots rock/Americana, are doing the best work.  The Departed, Reckless Kelly, Micky & The Motorcars, Turnpike Troubadours, Josh Abbott Band, Chris Knight, Stoney Larue, the list is endless.  These artists don't sound like anyone else, their sound is unique, the songs are about real life, and they don't adhere to "rules" set by the Nashville music processing machine.

If you're in a mid-Winter funk, do something different and treat your ears to some new, refreshing music.