Category Archives: Album Reviews

STRIKING MATCHES JUSTIN AND SARAH WITH GUITARS FACING

STRIKING MATCHES SIZZLING GUITAR PLAY BREAKS THE SILENCE ON NEW ALBUM

   

Striking Matches – “Hanging On A Lie” – Nothing But The Silence

Download “Hanging On A Lie” through iTunes: HERE

  Sarah Zimmermann and Justin Davis are two singer/songwriter musicians who could easily have chosen separate paths in the music business and been wildly successful. As fate would have it, they were matched up in a college class as randomly as the choice you would make selecting a single match from a box of 100. Justin didn’t expect to be impressed with Sarah’s guitar playing, but her fingers on the instrument left the entire classroom standing in a backdraft of sound and skill. When the two decided to combine their musical talent, striking their guitars against each other, a flame was born. The depth of their combined play puts the heat in the music they make. Their dynamic vocals control the intensity of the lyrics, adding and subtracting friction through tight harmonies. With their new album, Nothing But The Silence, Striking Matches has created a live recording of songs that live and breathe in the moment and continue to take shape each time they’re heard. To classify it under any one particular genre would be a disservice to the creative process. When you strike a match, you get a single flame. Untouched, it will burn itself out very quickly. Touch that flame to another thing and you’ve just started a fire, whose possibilities are endless.

     Several of Striking Matches original songs have been featured on the television show, Nashville. The exposure has been good for them and their music. However, for a better example of who they are and what you can expect on their new album, watch the lyric video for “Missing You Tonight.” It is, by far, the most expressive, musically artistic lyric video I’ve seen. They worked with Dillon White on this and said he had a vision for it going in. He felt it was important that the two of them appear in the video and play on it. Rather than using a closed caption approach, the lyrics often appear directly on the bodies of Sarah and Justin, putting into words what their hearts were feeling. Sarah lights a match just as the lyric says, “I don’t wanna start a fire, and I don’t wanna start a fight.” Mirroring the two sides of a broken relationship, she and Justin appear on opposite sides of the wall between them. Sarah blows out the single flame, leaving Justin in a cloud of smoke. Guitars in hand, they pour out their feelings for each other through intense play. Giving in to the emotion, Sarah lights another match and starts a fire. Unable to fan the flames, they turn towards each other and meld into one as the video ends. The heat from this passionate union and the wreckage it can leave behind create the theme and content for their fiery new album.

     For Striking Matches, making an album is very much an organic process, inside and outside the studio. They were fully involved from the inception of each song to its recorded state on the album. The heart of their music comes from what these two create with the strings of their guitars, both solo and intertwined. It was important to them that the album sound like a live recording, a living representation of a moment in time, captured in raw form. Justin referred to it as an “auditory photograph.” In the studio, there were just four people and the producer, T Bone Burnett. Sarah and Justin agreed he is not a heavy handed producer, bringing out the best in them and making only subtle changes in sound or direction. What you hear on this album is what felt right at the time, whether it be how it was played or who sings which part of the song. With so much to say both musically and lyrically, I wondered what made them choose the title, Nothing But The Silence. They said they’d already put out a self-titled EP and wanted something that was a title and a message. The title track took a long time to write, and when it came time to record it, they said it just felt right. It was a light bulb moment when everyone in the studio realized they’d found their title. The 11 songs on this album hold a mirror to the vulnerabilities of the heart, exposing every tumultuous beat in the aftermath of a breakup. The heart doesn’t often heed storm warnings until its been tossed around and left on the brink of destruction. What remains in its wake is the silence.

     “Trouble Is As Trouble Does” opens the album with a relationship gone wild. It’s a fast-paced acoustic guitar chase that’s been mic’d and plugged into an amp to blend the sound of the two guitars. This one feels like you’ve just climbed atop a bull and when that gate opens, this is no eight second ride. It’s 3:50 of exhilarating guitar fun! Now it’s time to get serious. “Make A Liar Out Of Me” turns the heat up to inferno with a sultry intro and a sexy guitar that answers every breathless lyric. When Sarah comes in with her vocal, it slides easily into Justin’s, leading to the sexual tension that builds in the middle of the song with the intensity of the guitar playing. The blistering guitar solo at the end is a mixture of grinding and passion that brings this one to a climactic close. Recording this solo as a live moment made it tougher to do, but Justin said it’s an important part of who they are musically. There was pride and awe in his voice when he told me that Sarah did that solo all in one pass and in his words, “annihilated it.” Yes Justin, the girl can play!

    The title track, “Nothing But The Silence,” is a musical conversation between two broken hearts. Justin’s vocal dominates here, with Sarah’s taking the lower, softer track. The volume builds as these two hearts break their silence, then drops back to a whisper as they retreat to reconsider the risks. Most often when we hear the blues, it’s sung from a single perspective. Striking Matches taking this on gives us two hearts singing the blues in harmony. The duality creates a groove that ebbs and flows with the emotion of the lyrics. What they’ve created here is a palpitating piece of music. “Hanging On A Lie” will be the first single released to country radio, and this song holds nothing back. Sarah opens this one with some pointed accusations and a guitar that echoes the level of her aggression. This is the sound of a woman too pissed off to sing the blues. Justin’s vocal plays timid antagonist against Sarah’s demand to “open up your mouth if you’ve got something to say, don’t keep me waiting, don’t leave me STRIKING MATCHES JUSTIN AND SARAH BACK TO CAMERAhanging on a lie.” The driving guitar play towards the end is pure emotion meets instrumental. This is music therapy! “Never Gonna Love Again” is a song Sarah said changed tremendously from the demo they came in with to the recorded version on the album. When they worked on it in the studio, T Bone Burnett suggested a more tribal beat throughout. Initially, Sara said she thought it felt so wrong, but after the first pass, she was sold. It was one of those organic, unrefined moments in the recording process where they went with what felt right at the time. The tribal beat sets the pulse of the song, with the instrumental sections adding the mood. This captures the anguish of a broken heart perfectly.

    “When The Right One Comes Along” is a song written by Justin Davis, Georgia Middleman, and Sarah Zimmermann. It was featured on the television show, Nashville, sung by Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio. The song certainly fits the theme of this album. Sarah and Justin do a vocal slow dance here with the simplest of musical accompaniments. Sarah’s lead vocal is pure and stunning, with Justin adding a soft touch in just the right places. This is a breathtaking moment on the album that feels like you just witnessed the perfect union. Sarah and Justin work in vocal tandem on “What A Broken Heart Feels Like” to give an upbeat feel to a heartache song. It’s misery loves company that surprises in a feel good, sing-a-long song. Sarah and Justin taunt each other in the playful, “Miss Me More.” It’s acoustic with a flair that turns vindictive into fun.

    Sarah and Justin’s vocal flexibility gives them an advantage in the creative process that most artists don’t have. As a duo, they can add depth through perspective, strength to a character, or emotion to a lyric. It comes pretty easily to them who will sing what and that doesn’t change between writing and recording. The exception to that was “Like Lovers.” When they got into the studio to record this one, the story of the song seemed best told from a two-part person. Imagine a darkened stage with nothing more than a single spotlight on two voices. The music they sing to is just enough to remind you it’s a song. Listening to this, it feels like we’re eavesdropping on an intimate conversation. At times, the vocal is barely above a whisper. As they relate the passion that once was, the strength of the vocal increases with it. It burns itself out in the crescendo at the end, trailing off in soft resignation. On an album full of vocal gems from these two, this is as beautiful as it is powerful. An exceptional blending of voices by any standard. “Missing You Tonight” will be released as a single on AAA radio. You can watch the lyric video and learn the words to this rock-edged, guitar driven song. This one plays out on the strings of another era, when guitars were as expressive as the lyrics they accompanied and solos took on a life of their own. The only thing missing here is the turntable to play it on. 

     If the purpose of the final cut on an album is meant to leave you with a lasting impression, “God And You” is the gold standard. Justin said there was so much they wanted to say on this album that it felt like the last song was the ending of a novel. “God And You” felt like that epilogue moment, and it was engineered so that the last chord rings out, the resonance of a powerful message. If the soul could tell you how it was feeling, this is what it would sound like. Justin’s voice has a reverence in it here that perfectly suits the lyrics. Sarah’s harmonies add the object of his reverence. Their combined voices give this a spiritual tone. In April, Striking Matches will be heading to the UK for a few shows, one of which is in an old church. I can’t imagine a more perfect setting for this song.

    Striking Matches is one of those rare acts in music that is the same, yet never the same, no matter where you see them. The quality will always be at the View More: http://sarahbarlow.pass.us/strikingmatcheshighest level, but their intense connection to the music and extraordinary talent, give new life to their stage performances as the music is created in the moment. They believe that music changes as people do and it should be played against the elements that exist, whether indoors or out. When Sarah and Justin come together, both vocally and musically, they are two matches striking a stage that erupt into one flame. Their sound, like fire, has no boundaries. It will grow out of what feeds it and roar as it might until it burns itself out. All that remains is the concert experience in the smoldering embers, evidence of their living, breathing performance. When they leave the stage and the crowd goes home, there is Nothing But The Silence - a guitar driven, vocally intense music experience. The album drops March 24.

From WAY North of Nashville…….Bev Miskus

STRIKING MATCHES NOTHING BUT THE SILENCE

Pre-order Nothing But The Silence through iTunes: HERE

Visit Striking Matches‘ website: http://www.strikingmatches.com/

Watch the video for “Trouble Is As Trouble Does” (1Mic 1Take)

©2015Bev Miskus

CHESNEY, KENNY - THE BIG REVIVAL

KENNY CHESNEY: THE BIG REVIVAL

Music that resonates and rocks the soul.

THE BIG REVIVAL

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

     Kenny Chesney’s new album should come with a warning label. If you’re not prepared to hold a mirror up to your life, you probably shouldn’t listen to it. The Big Revival is about hearing the echo of an unfulfilling life bounce off the wall ofCHESNEY, KENNY - THE BIG REVIVAL your dreams and awaken your soul to the possibilities. It’s about hitting “Rock Bottom” and igniting the passion that drives you to bounce back. The song titles alone offer guidance and perspective and in their own way, caution us to drink responsibly. “Drink It Up” doesn’t encourage a backwoods binge. Kenny shows us the light in empowering the passionate soul as the ultimate intoxication. His just announced tour for 2015 will, no doubt, be as much a resurrection as it will be a reflective bus ride for him and his loyal No Shoes Nation.

    Kenny isn’t a scared young kid from Knoxville, Tennessee anymore, but his journey did start in November, 1993. This record wasn’t simply engineered in a production studio; it was lived and learned. The music reflects that and has CHESNEY, KENNY - THE BIG REVIVAL LINER NOTESthe power to awaken the soul because of it. You can’t rush time any more than you can rush great music and Kenny’s understanding of that is what makes this album the elixir for revival that it is. Instead of printing the words to the songs in the liner notes (yep – I bought this one old school), Kenny offers something to think about with each song title. Call it his reflections on what’s at the heart of each song. Usually when I review an album, I’m left to decipher the meanings myself and hope that I’ve captured the intent of the artist. Here, I instantly felt the music move me in exactly the way he said it should. That is a powerful feeling when the artist can communicate solely through the music as if connected by a shared experience. Music resonates when ordinary means of communication fail.

     I like it when an album starts with the title track, as this one does. “The Big Revival” starts with a jolt. Kenny’s filtered voice calls from afar, sounding like an alarm clock to awaken the fire within. There’s no gospel choir here or speaking in tongues. This is a marching band, guitar riff sermon from our revivalist preacher, Kenny Chesney. He’s gathered his No Shoes Nation of believers and challenged them to play with serpents, drink the kool-aid, and test their faith. Kenny’s gift of powerful music is bestowed upon us in this one with a kick of the drum, amen ending. If this one moves you, there’s only one appropriate response: “Praise the Lord and pass me a copperhead!” In “Drink It Up,” Kenny isn’t advocating that we go through life in a drunken CHESNEY, KENNY - THE BIG REVIVAL LYRICSstupor. The strong drum beat that leads this one is more of a wake-up call to the perpetually hungover. Don’t settle for the status quo because it’s cheap and easy. Reach for that feeling of elation that comes when you’ve found something really worth savoring. There’s a reason we toast the most special days of our life with champagne and view the bad ones through the bottom of a shot glass, or ten. This one ends on a high note after a high energy, “sling a little gravel goin’ through those curves” joy ride. “Til It’s Gone” is the second and latest single released from the album. Kenny has said the reason he chose this song as the next single was because he thought it speaks to the motto of his No Shoes Nation. It’s a big song with a big message. It begins as if it’s ending with the music fading and then bursts out loud and clear with a purposeful beat and a strong chorus. “One life…one chance…one ticket to the big dance.” Then it ends with Kenny’s voice trailing, “I don’t want to waste a drop,” and the echo of music as it fades into the distance, quite possibly with the rising sun.

    Kenny views “American Kids” as “a postcard from real life and a celebration of all the things that define us.” I was at a minor league baseball game in Southern Maryland this summer when this song was played over the loud speaker before the game. Immediately, as if Kenny himself had just appeared on a stage, I watched an energy lift that crowd and fans, young and old, begin to tap their toes, sing along, and get up and dance. As baseball is defined as America’s pastime, this song describes how we pass  time in other pursuits. It so happened to be the 4th of July that day and this song took its place right alongside the National Anthem. “We were Jesus save me, blue jean baby/Born in the USA.” Sorry Bruce. Kenny is the boss on this one. This was the first single released before the album came out with the picture of that brightly colored bus as its logo. Hearing the song and looking at that picture, it was pretty obvious that Kenny was planning a road trip that would revisit the places he’s been, where it all started, and lead to places he hasn’t yet imagined. If you grew up in the era that Kenny did, when our parents were convinced that MTV and cable would be our generation’s downfall, this one hits home. “A little messed up, but we’re all alright.”

    “Wild Child” is my personal favorite on the album, partly because of Kenny’s notes about the song. He teams up with Grace Potter again on this one and their duet provides the soft touch the lyrics need. In the liner notes, Kenny talks CHESNEY, KENNY AND GRACE POTTERabout there being so many ways to write songs about women. He finds a woman’s spirit to be the most attractive thing about her and he, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osborne captured that spirit beautifully in their lyrics. “Got a rebel soul with a whole lot of gypsy wild child.” It is  so nice to hear a song about a woman that does not include the terms “sweet Georgia peach” or reference her “daisy dukes.” Thanks for the unique perspective Kenny! “Beer Can Chicken” is one of those song titles that doesn’t give much of a clue as to where it might go. Thankfully, Kenny’s song notes explain its inception perfectly. If you’ve ever walked into a kitchen and smelled something that was slow roasted and then tasted that first bite, that sensation and appreciation for the simple highs in life is exactly what this song is about. “It’s the little things that make life worth livin’.” His use of acoustic interludes between the big guitar moments punctuates the message of slowing life down occasionally and living in the moment.

    Kenny shares his unique vision about hitting “Rock Bottom” in a song that demands you turn the volume up. There’s just something about turning the sound up loud on a thumping track that invigorates the soul and gives you the incentive to claw your way out of a hole. I tend to listen to this one when I need a “kick, kick, kick drum kicking my butt,” and the bonus here is Kenny’s voice telling you that it’s okay to drown a loss now and again but don’t make it your last play. Whether it’s Hank or Cash or AC/DC that motivates you, crank it up, stare down the bottom of that bottle, hit the floor, and bounce back. The big guitar ending will definitely inspire your resurrection. “Don’t It” is Kenny’s version of Amazing Grace. An acoustic ballad, this is where man and his guitar make music from the heart and it’s a simply beautiful revelation. “Live the night, miss the light, and I’ve been shown it/Life has its way of keepin’ you strong, don’t it?”

CHESNEY, KENNY - MY CHURCH IS AT THE FLORA BAMA

    The catchy chorus of “Save It For A Rainy Day” is enough to push you out of bed and pull you towards the sunlight. The moral of this one is: why waste a good day on a bad memory? “’Cause the sun’s too bright, The sky’s too blue/Beer’s too cold to be thinking about you/Gonna take this heartbreak and tuck it away/Save it for a rainy day.” The music here is just enough of an accompaniment to keep those good thoughts moving you along….directly to CHESNEY, KENNY - AT THE FLORA BAMAthe “Flora-Bama.” Kenny captured perfectly the feel of such a place that could be anywhere. Though the lyrics describe the one and only Flora-Bama, the feel of the song overrides the visual images. “Bout to open up a big old can of/Good times, unwind/Fall in and out of love in the same night.” That happens everywhere and it’s what makes this song universally relatable. “If This Bus Could Talk” is Kenny’s ode to life on the road and a career he could never have imagined in such colorful detail. It’s one of those songs that sounds like it should accompany a montage of  photographs from someone’s life story, which in essence, it is. “Many years of summers/And I hope it never ends/Been down so many highways/Full of twists and turns and bends.” Kenny’s words about this one pretty much say it all: “That Silver Eagle is still out on the road with us, just to remind everybody how far passion and a dream can take you. This song is simply a celebration of our journey and our intense connection to the fans!!” This is the perfect song to end the album with because it gives you the feeling that Kenny can’t wait to be out on the road again, “high from your applause.”

CHESNEY, KENNY - TOUR BUS THE BIG REVIVAL

    The Big Revival is about sights, sounds, and powerful words. It conjures up images  that have passed through our lives and some that hold a special place in our heart. Kenny’s No Shoes Nation has traveled this journey with him. They’re part of his dream and he encourages them to dig deep and reach for theirs. He’s come to a point in his life and his career where reflection is common and this album is his revival as much as it encourages ours. Kenny’s music has always made us feel things and this album takes it up a notch. When The Big Revival Tour sets its wheels in motion next year, Kenny will bring his stage show to cities across the country. It promises to be a spectacular revival of the songs the fans have loved and the singin’ and preachin’ he plans to do with the new ones. The lyric from “Wild Child” may best describe Kenny’s life on the road, the spirit of his No Shoes Nation, and the message of this album: “She’ll be here until she runs/Some just have to chase the sun.”

CHESNEY, KENNY - BEACH PIC

From WAY NORTH of NASHVILLE…Bev Miskus

Covering our #countrymusicnation.

CHESNEY, KENNY - TIL IT'S GONE ALBUM COVER

Get the new single, “Til It’s Gone,” through iTunes: HERE

CHESNEY, KENNY - THE BIG REVIVAL

THE BIG REVIVAL is just $7.99 NOW through iTunes: HERE

Kenny has already started to reveal tour stops for The Big Revival Tour 2015!

CHESNEY - ALDEAN TOUR

Visit his website for tour information:

https://tickets.kennychesney.com/

©2014Bev Miskus

BRICE, LEE - I DON'T DANCE DELUXE

LEE BRICE PUTS ON HIS DANCIN’ SHOES!

     Lee Brice‘s new album, I Don’t Dance, was released just a month ago with a #1 song as its title track and the first single off the album. The song, written by Lee Brice, Rob Hatch, and Dallas Davidson, is nominated for CMA Song of BRICE, LEE - I DON'T DANCE #1the Year. That’s a lot of horsepower to street a new record with and a heavy momentum to sustain on the 16 laps around the dance floor the deluxe edition takes. Lee doesn’t have his sights set on Dancing with the Stars, he puts on his dancin’ shoes to show us the art of the slow dance. Shy, and uncertain of his footing, he starts out with a disclaimer – “I Don’t Dance,” and then spins us around and around in a shot of Red Bull-laced slow dance, ending with the passion of a whiskey burn. To ensure that our slow dance experience is exhilarating, Lee took the lead in the production of this dance as a co-producer on the album and a co-writer on most of the songs. His two left feet turned just right for this dance, putting the listener in the palm of his hand for the captivating, I Don’t Dance.

     Lee Brice may not consider himself a leading man on the dance floor, but everything about the title track, “I Don’t Dance,” says otherwise. This is a song where even the written notes grip the page like an impassioned lover. None other than a heartfelt, passionate vocal and intense studio production would do this song justice. There was no assist on this one. Lee produced it himself. Starting out with the delicate strains of music  that come from the winding of a music box, it implies the vulnerability that comes with laying your heart in the palm of someone else’s hand. Having done that, Lee embraces the vocal completely and lays out his feelings in the tour de force performance he gives. The musical accompaniment lets his vocal passion shine on this one and never threatens to trip up his newfound dancing ability. The video for the song, which has been viewed over four million times, includes actual footage from Lee’s wedding. This deeply personal track sets the tone for the album and demonstrates why it gets no better than this.

     Clearly ebullient after this first dance, Lee can’t wait to share his happiness through song. “No Better Than This” may inspire him to really get his groove on. This head bobbing, toe tapping tune is a feel good drive with the top down, sun shining on your face. Listening to this one you can’t help but agree that life gets no better than this! Shy no more, Lee is ready to put his dancing shoes and his girl in the big city spotlight. “Show You Off Tonight” is a lost in the moment, gently swaying ballad. When something feels this good, you just want to share it with the world, and Lee conveys that perfectly here with a vocal that is full of pride but never boastful. “Always The Only One” has an alt rock vibe to it with a strong back beat. The strength of this one is the drive of the music that enforces Lee’s testament of love. When he switches to the spoken word over the music, it serves to further convey the depth of his feelings. “Good Man” has Lee demonstrating his rap technique, more as a means to speak directly to his love interest than a foray into the genre. He pleads his case through a powerful chorus that fits well between those fast spoken lines and wraps the two styles neatly together in a showcase of all he can be.

DRINKING CLASS”

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

     Lee goes from good man to every man with his latest single, “Drinking Class.” This is an anthem for the blue collar class that lives for the end of the work week. He raises an understanding glass in song to those who gather with friends BRICE, LEE - DRINKING CLASSon the weekend to blow off steam and have a little fun. When the airwaves are flooded with drinking songs, this one is unique because it isn’t. There’s a balance here between weekend fun and the responsibilities that come with the crowing of the rooster on Monday morning. Time will tell whether a mature take on the subject can still find its way to the top of the charts. “That Don’t Sound Like You” is a power ballad written by Lee Brice, Rhett Akins, and Ashley Gorley. This one is a wake up call that shows how love can change who you are for better or worse. The most carefree track on this album comes with watching “Girls In Bikinis.” As much as the female gender may roll their eyes at this one, it’s the plain truth in a summer fun song. Guys love to look and we wear ‘em because they do. Have a laugh and just roll with the slinky.

     Bringing that laugh to a screeching halt will be the sound of “Sirens.” This is the first of two songs in a row that play as a stress test for the heart. In Greek mythology, Sirens were dangerous, but beautiful creatures, who lured passing sailors in with their enchanting musical voices. The writers of this one (Lee Brice, Jon Stone, Rob Hatch, and Lance Miller) may have had that reference in mind when they penned this. Their Siren has “tan legs standin’ on the side of the road/Honda with the hood up covered in smoke/Thumb in the air with somewhere to go in a hurry.” From here it’s a full-out, high speed chase, on a collision course with “what the hell just happened?” If there’s a Bonnie and Clyde movie out there without a soundtrack, this should be it – with the emphasis clearly on Bonnie! From its gentle piano opening, you get the sense that “Somebody’s Been Drinking” is going to be a heart wrencher. This one’s all about doing what you know you shouldn’t but can’t help falling back into. When alcohol gets between the head and the heart, defenses are weak. Lee’s vocal is spectacular on this!

     The rest of the album finds Lee Brice in a reflective mood, taking stock of what he has, counting his blessings, and putting things in perspective. “Hard To Figure Out” describes one of those situations we’ve all found ourselves in when we’re complaining about something and run smack into a wall of reality. Lee sings this one like a gospel song and the music behind it is the choir backing him up. Amen! “My Carolina” is a southern rock, Carolina anthem from the heart of a country boy. This one grabs the soul and has the power to bring a native son back home. It may never reach country radio, but it is a must hear off this album. “Panama City” turns Lee Brice into the piano man and this one would make Billy Joel proud. Maggie Rose sings harmonies here in an angelic chorus that lifts this one to the heavens. What a beautiful musical memory of lost love. Stunning!

     The deluxe edition of this album gives us three additional songs and all are worthy of having made the cut. “More My Style” is Lee’s ode to his country boy lifestyle. Rather than adding a trendy clichéd topic to the record, he presents this as a biopic to the girl riding shotgun. Well, in that case, let’s roll… “Closer” pulls you in from the first intriguing notes. The music creates a mysterious feel that makes you want to know everything. The classic rock-like riff that repeats in this makes you want to stay until this mystery is solved. Awesome vibe to this! If the formula for a great concert set is to begin and end on a high note, this album stays true to that format. The nostalgic strings of the acoustic guitar accompany the “Whiskey Used To Burn,” each one producing a fond memory. Much like the music box we heard in “I Don’t Dance,” this one plays gentle on the heart while expressing the strongest of feelings. On an album of outstanding vocals, Lee may have saved the best one for last.

     The power of music to move us, body and soul, is what makes someone want to get up and dance. Moved by the power of love, Lee Brice put on his dancin’ BRICE, LEE - I DON'T DANCE LINER NOTESshoes for the first time and shared his experience on this record. From that life changing slow dance, came the reflection he shares in the tracks on this album, making music with the power to move. The emotion he poured into this project comes out in his vocals and in the nuances he put into the production. As singer, songwriter, and producer, this is unequivocally Lee Brice. This Carolina country boy saved his best moves for this album, so don’t let the title fool you. He does dance, albeit slowly, and so will you.

From WayNORTHofNASHville….Bev Miskus

BRICE, LEE - I DON'T DANCE DELUXE

Preview and download through iTunes: HERE

Visit Lee Brice’s website: http://www.leebrice.com/

©2014Bev Miskus

Maggie-Rose-2013-300

FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF @IAmMaggieRose…She’s CUT TO IMPRESS!

    MAGGIE ROSE – MOSTLY BAD – CUT TO IMPRESS

      They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. If that’s the case, Maggie Rose gets an ‘A’ for the impression she made with her debut album, Cut To Impress. Since its release in March of 2013, Maggie has had a year to tour with the album and leave a lasting impression wherever she went. I have no doubt she did just that. I haven’t had the opportunity yet to see Maggie perform live, but that is about to change. Since her singles have been playing on XM Radio, she’s been reeling me in one by one. Hearing a new artist in this fashion is like trying to make sense of a song when you’re only hearing every other line. So I bought the album. You don’t often see reviews written when an album has been on the market for over a year, but this one impressed me so much, I started writing. Being a new artist with a debut album is an uphill battle in the over marketed world we live in. Everyone has something to sell. It’s no longer planet Earth; it’s planet ebay! Maggie Rose is a name you should get to know. Her music is a force to be reckoned with. Let me introduce you to @IamMaggieRose!

     Even her twitter handle makes a statement. Most people simply use their name to identify themselves on twitter, but Maggie made a declaratory statement with hers. To me it says “I’m here! Get used to it!” When I read that Maggie was from Potomac, Maryland, I gasped. She knows why. It’s just down the road a piece from where I’m writing this and you probably wouldn’t even whisper about your love of country music there, much less sing it out loud. Think of it as the 90210 of Maryland. The fact that Maggie chose to sing country music tells me she has a mind of her own and she’s not afraid to speak it! Cut To Impress is a statement of its own identity. As the title suggests, these songs weren’t just recorded, they were cut into this album with the intention of leaving an impression. There isn’t a weak one in the bunch. All ten are equally strong and together they mirror Maggie’s unique reflection.

     When I first listened to the album, the impression I got was of Eric Church’s alter ego. After listening some more, I’d add Shania Twain and Bonnie Raitt to that. Maggie Rose adds her own degree of sass, depending on the song, and has a playfully good time doing it. The album opens with the hymnal sounding  “Preacher’s Daughter.” This one feels like the wrath of God is about to come down on you and you better be in church when it happens. It’s a powerful opener with a clear message. All secrets will be revealed in time so you might want to head to the confessional now to avoid an embarrassing public revelation. As an opener, this one makes you sit up and pay attention, just like you’re supposed to in church. The follow up, “Mostly Bad,” is a report card from the confessional. I can see Maggie emerging from that tell all to the preacher, waving her report card in her hand, tickled by the results. She may look like an angel, but that smile on her face says she’s about to raise some hell, and she hasn’t even left church yet! This is a girl on a mission. “Fall Madly In Love With You” is an up-tempo joy ride. Forget messing around in the slow lane, taking your time to get up to speed. Maggie is a pedal to the metal kind of gal and when she sees something she wants, she goes for it. Turn it up and have fun with this one!

     The next three songs on the album reflect the fallout of lost love and the strength it takes to deal with that. “I Know Better Now” is a song that proudly proclaims the adage “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Just don’t repeat the same mistakes. Maggie puts her empowering vocal on this one and you’ll want to sing along just for emphasis. “Put Yourself In My Blues” is the standout track on this album for me. Written by Stephony Smith, Shelly Fairchild, and Lisa Carver, the lyrics are a heart wrenching plea for understanding. This one has a contemporary blues feel to it but Maggie doesn’t sing this one from the bottom of a bottle. Her sorrow driven vocal demands that the guilty party feel the hurt they’ve caused. The strength in this one gives a new sound to singin’ the blues and Maggie is simply stunning here. This is perhaps a signature sound for her. “Better” was a single off this album and my first introduction to Maggie sings the blues. After I heard the song, I watched the video, and it put her rendition of the blues in HD. She’s fighting the bottle in this one after the death of her lover. It’s a classic struggle in overcoming loss, but one Maggie seems determined to win. There is such a power in the way she attacks a blues song that you can’t help feeling better after you’ve heard it. Call it Maggie’s way of saying “blues be damned!”

     “I Ain’t Your Mama” was the first single released from this album and the first song I heard. The sass with which it was delivered won me over instantly! This is a song any woman can relate to. Maggie’s classy, but sassy way of telling her man what’s what in this one is pure fun! Watch the video and cheer her on!

“Looking Back Now” isn’t really about regret. The lyrics to this one sound more like a Lifetime made for tv movie. I could be wrong, but it sounds more like the actions taken in this song were justified, or at least the thought of them was. If a man is dumb enough to brag about cheating on his wife when she’s holding whiskey and a gun…well, that would break her heart and since that organ is vital to survival…sounds like self-defense to me! I’m sure Maggie isn’t advocating killing anyone with this song. Just think of it as a warning shot. Oops! Hit him!

     “Hollywood” is Maggie’s way of unmasking that infamous town to reveal that those glamorous stars aren’t so different than the rest of us. This one is so fun to sing along to! The tongue-in-cheek approach on this song kind of pokes fun at both Hollywood and Dollywood, and the opinion each side has of the other. Perhaps the message on this one is we’re all messed up so get over yourselves! Drunk is drunk in any zip code! This one’s a hoot and I’m sure a crowd pleaser at concerts. The final track on the album is called “Goodbye Monday” and it’s a foot stomping, hand clapping, raise your glass anthem. It’s a great way to end the album with a let it all go, all seriousness aside, we’re just here to have a good time song. Call it a great last impression.

     When I think about Maggie’s hometown of Potomac, Maryland, the first word that comes to mind is ‘class.’ It wouldn’t fit into a typical country song these days because there are no dirt roads and good luck finding a pickup truck there. If you do, it will be top of the line and in no way jacked up. Maggie has chosen to make her own impression on country music and do it in a way no one else is. She’s classy, sassy, and the very image of a strong woman. She sings the blues in a way that projects that image. Mostly we think of singin’ the blues as a way to bare one’s soul and release the sorrow that’s dragging you down. When Maggie sings the blues, it’s empowering. She hints at vulnerability but challenges it with the strength of her determination, magnified by her powerhouse vocals. Cut To Impress is everything its title suggests and @IamMaggieRose is the class and strength behind that impression.

From WAY North of Nashville…Bev Miskus

     Maggie Rose is coming home this week. She’ll be in Baltimore on Thursday night at the Baltimore Soundstage and at WMZQ Fest on Saturday in Virginia. For all of Maggie’s tour information, please visit her website at: http://iammaggierose.com/#calendar Tickets to WMZQ Fest may be purchased through WMZQ here: http://www.wmzq.com/pages/wmzqfest2014/

Cut To Impress may be purchased through iTunes: HERE

 

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ELI YOUNG BAND – 10,000 TOWNS —AND A LOT OF FAMILIAR MILES

    Reviewing an album isn’t like reading a book and doing a book report on it. Generally you would only read the book once. When I review an album, I’ve listened to it 20 to 30 times over the period of a few weeks. I like to become familiar with the music I review and get a feel for the album in its entirety.  Sometimes I find there’s a common theme amongst the songs that relates to the title but not a single thread that must be followed for the story to make sense. The feel I get from Eli Young Band’s new album, 10,000 Towns, is one of familiarity. It feels comfortable, sometimes cozy. The picture on the album cover shows the band members in a nondescript setting that could be in any one of 10,000 towns anywhere in the world. Through the songs that make up this album, the story will become even more relatable. By the time you’re done listening to it, you’ll feel like you could sit down at that table with the guys from the band and have something in common to talk about.

     My association with this album started with the first single released from it, “Drunk Last Night.” I’d heard the song on the radio and loved it. I downloaded it through iTunes and put it in rotation on my ipod. Let’s just say after a particularly overzealous celebration of someone’s birthday, I picked up that ipod the next morning with the hope that music would soothe my death warmed over feeling. The first words I heard were from Mike Eli singing “I got a little drunk last night…” as if I needed a reminder.  As I said, relatable! The song is written by Laura Veltz and Josh Osborne and just the musical phrasing of the song suggests a repetitive pattern to enforce the lyrical reminder of past transgressions. Already I’m feeling at home with these guys and this journey has just started.

     The title track is a Rodney Clawson, Chris Tompkins, Craig Wiseman penned tune and it creates the setting for the album through the lyrical picture it paints. It has an easy, relaxed feel to it and invites the listener to settle in for awhile. If you’ve ever lived in a small town, “Dust” will strike a familiar chord. Who doesn’t dream about getting out of a small town to escape whatever’s holding you back? The songwriters, Jon Jones, James Young, Kyle Jacobs, and Josh Osborne, perfectly captured the feeling of flying down a highway, windows down, radio up, on your way to anywhere else – fast! It’s one of those songs you want to put on repeat because it feels so good to sing along to! Think of it as a musical get out of jail free card. It’s just fun!! “Angel Like You” is a love poem set to music, written by Heather Morgan, Liz Rose, and Mike Eli. Feels like something you’d slow dance to, a very sweet, gentle song.

     Jimmy Robbins, David Lee Murphy, and Jon Nite wrote “Let’s Do Something Tonight” and one of my favorite lyrics on the album. “I wanna take this conversation outta this neon situation” is a perfect example of taking a familiar feeling and expressing it in a way that makes it sound original. It’s a very romantic song with a dreamy feel to it. There’s a definite time and place for this one. Again, relatable! “Your Last Broken Heart” almost has a rhythmic heartbeat to it. It’s a catchy tune written by Mike, Jon, and James of EYB with Sean McConnell. I’d call it a serenade with a beat. Great idea! Those same four writers wrote the heartwrenching “What Does.” Mike Eli’s vocal on this one makes it one of the standout songs on the album. The emotion he captures in this power ballad is an exclamation point on the story the lyrics tell. Beautiful song. Spectacular vocal!

      “A Lot Like Love” is one of those looking in the rearview mirror songs written with a perspective-laden pen. Dylan Altman and Will Hoge wrote this one and somehow found a way to put a cool groove on a song full of regret. I love the up-tempo take on this one that makes it fun to sing along to. Who knew regret could feel so good? Will Hoge added another track to this album with co-writer Jon Randall. The two wrote “Just Add Moonlight,” a song that will make you want to get up and dance! This one is full of energy and Mike Eli’s vocal makes it come to life. It’s impossible to sit still for this one!

     When you title a song “Revelations,” you better have something big to say, and this one does! All four members of EYB together with Sean McConnell had a tale to tell here. The music suggests that this one might have taken place in an old west town. The vibe is a slow, cool burn. I’m not sure they’ll sing this one in church on Sunday but everyone would sure pay attention if they did. And after all that revealing, the album ends with a prayer. “Prayer For The Road” was a collective effort by Kyle Jacobs, Billy Montana, and the guys from EYB. Sounds like a town hall collaboration. The production on this one is pure heaven. It’s a beautiful soft ballad that brings the record to a close with an implied amen.

     10,000 Towns is a lot like comfort food. You can find it most anywhere you go and it satisfies just the same. The Eli Young Band has been together for awhile now. They’ve probably lost track of the number of towns they’ve played in and the miles covered are too numerous to imagine. I’d say they found a common thread in all those towns that made an impression on them and now manifests itself in their music. Their fans, no matter what town they come from, can relate to the songs on this album because they describe real life situations in real places. This is a common man’s album which makes a big statement in an understated way. No neon lights required. “I know everything’s gonna be alright, as long as this is goin’ on in 10,000 towns tonight.”

                          From WAY North of Nashville…..Bev Miskus

10,000 Towns is available through itunes: HERE

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Visit Eli Young Band’s website for tour information: http://eliyoungband.com/tourdates

Watch the video for “Dust!”


Download the song through iTunes:  HERE

 ©2014Bev Miskus

DAVID NAIL TRUE BELIEVERS TOUR with DARIUS RUCKER

DAVID NAIL – I’M A FIRE – YES HE IS!

    Listen to the hit single “Kiss You Tonight!”

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

      Album reviews come out in a flurry when new music is released. There is an urgency to be heard first and foremost. Some albums are so hyped prior to their release that the reviews are trampled in the rush to purchase and were largely irrelevant before they were written. Record labels like to see new albums drop into a vat of black ink, the result of incessant marketing and consumer hyperactivity surrounding this must have new music. Some of the best albums in music history didn’t open to record sales. It wasn’t until they’d been around awhile that their quality was appreciated, popularity spread, and sales turned from red to black. David Nail’s new album, I’M A FIRE, dropped with the intensity of a three-alarm blaze. After you sit with it for awhile, cozy up to it and listen repeatedly, you’ll feel the heat rise and find yourself calling for backup units to put out this backdraft.

      Certain albums are song driven. The success the record achieves is built upon hit singles. This is where iTunes is a marketing ally. I had purchased two of the songs off I’M A FIRE via iTunes prior to the album’s release. I had previewed the other songs and liked them, but the sound bites offered through iTunes didn’t put the pieces of this album together in any meaningful way. Shortly after the album dropped, I was surprised by an email telling me I had won a signed copy of  it in a contest I had forgotten I’d entered. What luck! When it arrived, I listened to it entirely. And then I listened to it again.  And again. As I felt this album pulling me in, the words I kept coming back to were passionate and sophisticated, neither of which came to me during my iTunes tour.

      I’M A FIRE is the title of a blueprint. This bonfire wasn’t thrown together haphazardly. It was carefully planned out and built to burn slowly with the use of accelerants in just the right places. It opens with the hit single, “Whatever She’s Got,” followed by the equally playful “Broke My Heart.” Both are fun songs to listen to with great grooves. The fire is lit and sparks fly. Roast your marshmallows here because tracks three through seven burn with the intensity of a firestorm. “Burnin’ Bed” opens breathlessly and will leave you panting. David delivers an incredibly passionate vocal on this one, tempting us to follow him into the flame. Little Big Town adds their powerful harmonies to the fourth track, “When They’re Gone (Lyle County),” to create one of the standout songs on this album. Together, David Nail and LBT provide the perfect blend of strength and smoothness to punctuate the lyrics and remind us why we won’t forget this song when it’s gone. “Brand New Day” is one of those songs that pulls you in from the first beat. Again, the vocals on this song are so intense that you can’t help but feel moved by it. It’s a beautiful song that relates the sadness of a bygone relationship and the hope of better days to come.

      Tracks six and seven reveal the pain of regret when a relationship ends that shouldn’t have. “Kiss You Tonight” is a heart-wrenching ode to lost love. It’s sung with the desperation we’ve all felt when something so right has slipped through our fingers. Perfect control of the vocal on this one. “The Secret” is one of those songs you can’t forget once you’ve heard it. It has a haunting quality about it in such a way that you’re just awed by the story it tells. David and Scooter Carusoe wrote this one and the lyrics are spellbinding. This is my favorite track on the album because of the absolute perfect union of singer and song. The only production needed here is simply letting David sing this one from the heart. It’s a stunner and a track not to be missed. “Countin’ Cars” is one of those waiting for something to happen songs. It’s got an anxious feel to it in a rhythmic way. Easy to sing. It’s tone makes it a good transitional song from the heat of the previous tracks into the less intense fire the next two bring.

      “Easy Love” is a turn it up, dance, celebrate good love song. It’s got a rock feel to it with a fun beat and some great guitar moments. This one plays like a joy ride on a sweet summer day. You just don’t want it to end. The title track, “I’m A Fire,” is a love song. It’s telling the one you love why they light up your world and fire up your heart. There’s a happiness in this song that cannot be denied. Great rhythm. Easy listening. After you’ve come through the intensity of the middle of this album, “I’m A Fire” feels like coming out the other side where the flames aren’t quite as hot and you can cozy up to the fire again. Picture a fire on the beach in late summer, and that brings us to “Galveston.” This song was written by Jimmy Webb and famously recorded by Glen Campbell in 1969. The original lyrics were intended to portray it as an anti-war song, but part of the lyric was rewritten to make the intent appear patriotic. Either way, the soldier and the girl who waits for him will need peace to bring them back together on that beach in Galveston. Lee Ann Womack joins David on this one and the arrangement makes it feel new again. It’s a fresh look at two people in love, separated by an ocean and conflict. For now, the waves have crashed upon the beach and put out the fire, but the tempo of the song indicates that doves will fly again and when these lovers are back together, their spark will ignite a new fire.

      I found this album a perfect example of how the format of iTunes can sometimes do an album a disservice. It’s like trying to evaluate something without all the information relevant to the product. As a single track, “Galveston” didn’t make sense to me. It felt like the odd man out. As part of the whole, it completes the album beautifully. It lends validity to the soulfulness of this album in showing that you have to have experienced certain things in life to fully appreciate where you’ve been and where you’re going. It’s light at the end of a tunnel. I’M A FIRE is a controlled burn. In order to appreciate it, you have to let it burn slowly. Listen to the album in its entirety and see how tempted you are to listen to it all over again. There’s just something about that flame that draws you in. David Nail sings new songs with an old soul. I would call this cutting edge country because it combines the artful storytelling of classic country songs with the sounds of country, pop, and rock blended together. Anyone can record an album. Very few can deliver a piece of art through music. Well done David Nail!

              From WAY North of Nashville…..Bev Miskus

NOTE: The strengh of the whole comes from the sum of its parts, therefore, I think it’s important to recognize some of the people who helped make this album what it is. The producers are Frank Liddell, Chuck Ainlay, and Glenn Worf. The AMAZING songwriters on this album are: Scooter Carusoe, Brandy Clark, David Cook, Bob Dipiero, Tom Douglas, Michael Dulaney, Brett Eldredge, Jaren Johnston, Jay Knowles, Shane McAnally, Lee Thomas Miller, David Nail, Jon Nite, Jimmy Robbins, Jonathan Singleton, Trent Summar, and Neil Thrasher.

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Preview and download I’M A FIRE through iTunes: HERE

Don’t miss DAVID NAIL this fall on his headlining I’M A FIRE TOUR!! http://www.davidnail.com/

Watch David’s acoustic performance of “Countin’ Cars!”

Songwriters: Lee Thomas Miller, Michael Dulaney, Neil Thrasher.

Watch this simply stunning acoustic performance of “The Secret!”

Songwriters: David Nail and Scooter Carusoe.


©2014Bev Miskus

PARMALEE DAYS OF GOLD TOUR with JAKE OWEN

PARMALEE – READY TO MAKE THEIR MOVE

     Guys from North Carolina usually know something about fast cars. This one is a 2000 Dodge Hennessey Viper Venom 800TT. It boasts 830HP and can go 0-60 in 2.4 seconds – in the rain. It is advertised as one of the “fastest roadgoing supercars of our time.” If you wanted to see what it could really do, would you test drive it in a Wal-Mart parking lot or find an open road?

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  “Don’t that just make you wanna Move” – Parmalee

     This car came out the year before the guys from Parmalee played their first gig together in North Carolina in 2001, and there was no fast track from there to Nashville. It’s been a slow, rough ride for these guys, but with the release of their debut album, Feels Like Carolina, it feels like they’re on the verge of a breakthrough year. They’ve got a full tour schedule this year which includes a spot on Jake Owen’s Days of Gold Tour beginning next month. Their latest single, “Close Your Eyes,” is spinning on country radio and climbing the charts. Most people probably haven’t seen Parmalee live yet and if they have, it was most likely at a small venue. Having seen a live feed from one of their appearances recently, it felt like I was watching this Dodge Viper, idling in neutral, just waiting to flex its HP on an open road. Unfortunately, the format didn’t allow them to demonstrate their capabilities.

      To find out what Parmalee is really capable of, let’s look at the engine they’re running on with their new album. Feels Like Carolina was produced by New Voice Entertainment, which means you’re going to get a finished product that is sleek, modern, and powerful. Lyrically, this is a country album, but musically, it’s a well-blended hybrid that leans heavily on its rock edge. “Musta Had a Good Time” is a party anthem that could have been the soundtrack for the movie The Hangover. It’s a morning after feel good song to clean up your mess by. The power of this track sets the tone for the album. “Day Drinkin’” and “Dance” will make you want to do both. Volume takes a back seat to the easy rhythms on these two songs which makes it irresistably inviting to follow the lyrics.

      “Carolina” was released as a single and became Parmalee’s first #1 hit. It has since been certified GOLD. The production here fits the feel of the song, making it the perfect choice as the title track of this album. The chorus on “Think You Oughta Know That” sounds like a power ballad and Matt Thomas is certainly capable of delivering that. The acoustic intro of the song builds beautifully into the heart-wrenching chorus and mimics the tug of heart strings the lyrics describe. Truly perfect production on this song! If there is such a thing as a country rock alternative ballad, “My Montgomery” is it. The sassy drumbeats and echo of the guitar that open this song give it a unique vibe that doesn’t fit neatly into a single genre, but whatever it is, it’s an original track that deserves a push of the repeat button.

      “Back in the Day” and “Already Callin’ You Mine” are fun songs to sing along to with great beats. “I’ll Bring the Music” could become their rock anthem. This song was meant to be played LOUD and with a lot of room to break the sound barrier. Stadium crowds will go nuts for this one and it might make a great song to open their set with someday. “Another Day Gone” brings the album to a close on a softer note than it opened but not without showcasing Matt’s vocal prowess in delivering the firm resolve needed to make these lyrics believeable. Looking back at the strength of the 12 tracks on this album, it’s hard to believe this is Parmalee’s debut. The experience they’ve gained over the years and the expertise brought to the production process by New Voice Entertainment has resulted in a killer first album that should launch these guys into the national spotlight.

      Now let’s get back to the image of that fast car. Just looking at it, you may underestimate the power it’s harnessing under that hood and the moves it’s capable of making. Listening to Parmalee on your ipod or at a small venue, you may do the same with them. The songs are great and the music still sounds good, but… The only song I haven’t mentioned on this album is the third track called “Move.” This is my personal favorite and every time I listened to it I felt the urge to turn up the volume. I have (had) a decent sound system at home and decided to take these guys out for a test drive to see just how much noise they could make. There’s a line in this song that says “Aw hell got the Jbl’s so loud you can’t think.” As irony would have it, this is the exact line on which my Jbl’s blew. Crackle, hiss, static…..oops! My husband had a different reaction to this experiment but I was thrilled to confirm my suspicions of how much power was in that song. It also strengthened my belief that Parmalee does not belong in small venues. Liken it to letting Motley Crue play at your child’s birthday party. Just shouldn’t happen!

      I’ll venture a guess that in the 13 years since they played their first gig they’ve logged more miles and played in more smoky bars than they can remember. They’ve overcome bigger obstacles and endured more adversity than any band should have to. 2014 looks like their year to step onto a bigger stage and show audiences what they can do. On tour with Jake Owen, they’ll get a chance to play some big venues that will do their sound justice. I would strongly encourage their management to invest in some powerful speakers to avoid a disastrous sound check. Feels Like Carolina has plenty of HP for them to hit the open road with and get those stadium crowds going from 0-60 in 2.4 – rain or shine. Aww…start it up!!

From WAYNorthofNashvilleBev Miskus

Bringing the stories of country music to life!

PARMALEE DAYS OF GOLD TOUR with JAKE OWEN

        

DOWNLOAD FEELS LIKE CAROLINA  HERE THROUGH ITUNES!

 

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Close Your Eyes” is Parmalee’s new single! You can download it HERE through iTunes!!

HARTMAN ARENA PARK CITY KS

Don’t miss Parmalee on the Days of Gold Tour with Jake Owen! It’s the hottest ticket of the summer! Click here to visit Parmalee’s website for tour info: http://parmalee.com/tour/

©2014Bev Miskus

MUSIC FOR GROWN UPS: DIERKS BENTLEY’S RISER

DIERKS BENTLEY I HOLD ON RISER

I HOLD ON” is a CMA nominated Song of the Year!

Songwriters: Brett James and Dierks Bentley

Download the song through iTunes: HERE

      Sometimes it’s hard to bridge that gap between being young and, well, not so young, but if there’s one thing that can cause trouble at any age, it’s getting out of bed. The reasons vary but inertia is an equalizer. Music is another source of common ground for people of all ages with the only difference being how we relate to it. Dierks Bentley’s new album, Riser, dropped with a purpose. The title alone tells me that Dierks didn’t roll out of bed with a hangover for this one; he got out of bed with a purpose, because there were some things he needed to do.

      It appears Dierks has hit that age where he’s seen that life can sometimes get in the way of your dreams and the paths you take may not be where you thought you were going. Riser is a passport to a musical journey that adults can relate to. In a world obsessed with youth and money, this album is about real life. Once those birthday candles start adding up and you realize that not every day is a party, music can still provide whatever pick-me-up you need that day. The songs on this album are sometimes fun and light-hearted, sometimes thoughtful and heavy. Each one is likely to strike a chord somewhere and have you reaching for the repeat button.

      “Bourbon In Kentucky” is not a drinking song; it’s a song to drown your sorrows by. With a little help from Kacey Musgraves, this one is a pour your heart out downpour. It’s a validation that sometimes life hurts and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it except to ride it out and find whatever helps you do that. “Say You Do” is one of those escape from life songs when you just want someone to tell you what you want to hear, even if it’s not the truth. Even adults need a bedtime fairy tale every now and again. “I Hold On” is an autobiography set to music. It’s an impassioned ode to what’s important in life and the reasons we hold on to those things. In these first three songs, Dierks gives us the passion your heart feels when life gets rough and his vocal on these puts the exclamation point on that passion.

      “Pretty Girls” and “Here On Earth” offer more of a reflective melody that plays in the back of your mind whether you’re remembering good times or trying to figure out what it all means. “Here On Earth” is an impassioned plea for an answer Dierks already knows he isn’t going to get. The vocal grit on this one drives home the helplessness we’ve all felt when things happen that defy reason. “Drunk On A Plane” is a much needed respite from life’s troubles when you know alcohol won’t solve the problem but it sure feels good going down. The turbulence Dierks creates on this flight makes the idea of a 737 “rockin’ like a G6” sound like fun!

      The vibe of the next three songs is an upbeat, determined resolution. “Five” and “Riser” are defy the  odds, try and stop me anthems. They’re not heavy-handed, get loud, thump your chest rock anthems, but the fire in the determination to conquer whatever life throws at you comes through in the lyrics and the vocals. “Riser” is the phoenix of this album. Whether you’ve taken a tumble from some of life’s high moments or you’re trying to resurrect yourself from the ashes, this song will see you through. The strength of this vocal gives anyone who listens to it the feeling that no trouble in life is insurmountable. Dierks is everyman in this song and it provides a pinnacle of relatability. “Sounds Of Summer” is a touch of nostalgia for everyone. As winter drags on and we long for those hot days of summer, this song reminds us of what we’re missing. There’s a reverie to the sound of it which makes you look back on the summers of your youth and at the same time look forward to the things summer brings at any age.

      “Damn These Dreams” is a reality check. This one makes you question the choices you’ve made in life against the responsibilites that are ever-present. The mantra of youth is to follow your dreams. In adulthood, it becomes a balancing act. Again, the vocal here makes this song the powerful track that it is. The push and pull Dierks describes here is evident in the way he delivers this one from the heart. The impact of these lyrics would be irrelevant if the singer wasn’t truly connected to the song. It appears this one haunts Dierks every time he walks out the door and every other parent who has experienced this same struggle. “Back Porch” is a cold beer on a hot day. It’s cheap entertainment on a suburban street or at a country farmhouse. It’s a reminder that the best things in life are BYOB. “Hurt Somebody” reminds us that life isn’t always simple and sometimes we’re going to make choices we probably shouldn’t. Just like that old truck Dierks holds on to, you have to have some miles on you to understand what this one’s all about. It may not make sense to anyone else but life is like that sometimes.

      It seems everything is marketed for youth these days. The targeted demographic is often 18-29 year olds. The music industry seems especially adherent to this practice. Radio stations, record labels and retail outlets will do anything to reign in that consumer group as if they alone drive the global economy. Everyone falls into that age range at some point and then you come out on the other side and find out that life doesn’t end at 30. Depending on how you look at it, life can get more interesting and/or complicated after 30, but the adventure continues and so does consumer spending. Your taste in music may change but love of music lasts a lifetime. The songs you loved growing up will always stay with you but it’s important to have songs that resonate at each stage of life. Bucking this trend of playing to the targeted audience is a very adult thing to do. Dierks Bentley isn’t 29 anymore and he sings with the voice of experience now. You can listen to the songs on this album in order or hit shuffle on your ipod. Life isn’t always predictable and the songs here reflect that. If there’s an advantage to getting older, it’s that we get to appreciate albums like this knowing what it took to make them. Riser is a superb effort by Dierks Bentley and one that might just earn him a Grammy. How nice it would be for his dad to see him holding on to that.

FromWAYNorthofNashville……Bev Miskus

Bringing the stories of country music to life!

RISER is a CMA nominated Album of the Year! To preview and purchase the album through iTunes, click HERE

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RIGHT NOW on iTunes, RISER IS JUST $7.99!! That is a steal of a deal on this award winning album!! Don’t forget, you can gift these to people too!!

DIERKS BENTLEY – DRUNK ON A PLANE – RISER

DRUNK ON A PLANE” is a CMA nominated Single of the Year!

Download the song through iTunes:  HERE

DIERKS BENTLEY DRUNK ON A PLANE

Drunk on a Plane” is a CMA nominated Video of the Year! WATCH!!

Visit Dierks’ website: http://www.dierks.com/

Learn more about how you can join Dierks’ DBCONGRESS: http://waynorthofnashville.com/dierks-bentley-for-president-his-congress-works/

 

©2014Bev Miskus

ERIC CHURCH THE OUTSIDERS

ERIC CHURCH – THE OUTSIDERS – Destined To Be A “Broke Record”

When it gets to the end I gotta play it again and again”

     On the surface, it would appear that Eric Church and Taylor Swift have little in common. Their careers briefly crossed paths as Eric was exiting a Rascal Flatts tour and Taylor was taking the stage as their new opening act. If there is a common thread to be found between them, it is that they are both prolific songwriters. I doubt they’ll ever write together or sing a duet, but there is one song that seems to speak for both of them. One of Taylor’s biggest hits from her recent album, RED, was a song called “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Though Taylor never reveals who her songs are written about, it’s safe to assume there is some guy out there who has no chance of ever winning her back. Ever. If you’ve listened to Eric Church’s new album, The Outsiders, it’s evident that he has cut something out of his life for good as well. Whether he’s talking about the way records used to be made in Nashville, the underbelly that is the Nashville recording industry, or someone specific, Eric’s voice on this album is clearly shouting “WE ARE NEVER EVER GETTING BACK TOGETHER. LIKE EVER!”

     After the chart topping success of Eric’s last two albums, Chief, and Caught In the Act (Live), anticipation was high for his new project. Little was revealed about what Eric had in mind for this one, but waiting for Eric to make his next move is like watching the most intense chess game ever. At the ACM Awards in 2013, Eric’s album, Chief, was recognized as the Album of the Year. This is the equivalent of the Academy of Country Music giving you their seal of approval. In an article written about that win, the writer surmised that Eric had taken a step into the embrace of Nashville and was no longer considered an outsider. The writer was even bold enough to state that Eric had entered the new “mainstream of Music City.” I don’t know how much press Eric reads about himself, but I imagine if he read that, this is where he decided to make his next move. Just when Nashville insiders officially welcomed him into the fold, Eric names his next project The Outsiders. CHECK.

     The first time I heard the song “The Outsiders” when it was released as a single, I was blown away by the power it gave off in its delivery. This was no acoustic lullaby, unless you’re used to falling asleep to Metallica. I kept playing it over and over, getting more excited about it each time I listened to it. No one unleashes a song like this as the first single off their new album unless they’re holding the dynamite to back it up. This move gave me the distinct impression that Eric was about to wage a war and this song was his opening shot. I was practically giddy thinking about what he had planned for this album. Looking back, I’m not sure what tickled me more, the thought of what might be on this album or Nashville’s reaction to it.

     Prior to the February 11 release date, two more songs from the album were released. “Give Me Back My Hometown” and “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young” were the next two warning shots fired. Another brilliant move on the chess board. Country radio was giving some airplay to “Give Me Back My Hometown,” giving it that mainstream Nashville seal of approval. Maybe they were thinking that Eric would ease off the throttle a little with the rest of this album and give them something they could put in rotation. Perish the thought! “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young” is one of those TKOs you don’t feel until you’re lying on the mat. I can’t think of a softer delivery of a song that has ever packed such a punch. The music here won’t knock you out, but the lyrics will. This one will flat out take your breath away. The winners of this match are Eric Church and Jeremy Spillman for their gloves off songwriting.

     When the rest of this album dropped at the stroke of midnight on February 11, seismic activity was reported in Nashville. Thank goodness for the secrecy of the iTunes download! Too bad there aren’t statistics available for the number of times this album got downloaded that night within the confines of the Music City zip code. Order up the champagne for EMI Records Nashville and pass the tylenol to those naïve academy members who thought their pat on the back would make Eric Church sit still and play nice. On that notion, The Outsiders dropped “Like A Wrecking Ball.” I decided not to download the album that night. Something this powerful, I wanted to hold in my hand, so I dropped my daughter off at school and drove straight to Target that morning. Suffice it to say that the speakers in my SUV got a workout on the drive home and had there been a cop following me, I likely would have been pulled over for driving erratically. Hey, it’s Eric Church! Practically in full out hyperventilation by the time I’d finished listening to it, I kept thinking that no one makes records like this anymore! Who is this guy? Members of the “27 Club” were flashing through my mind in the way they boldly made music in their time and unleashed it on a naïve and unsuspecting public. Albums from the 60s and 70s had a distinct sound to them and the music told a story. The songs unfolded like chapters from a book. That was the advantage of vinyl records. Skipping around on the album brought the danger of potentially scratching it and ruining your favorite songs. Albums were usually listened to in their entirety. Every album had songs that stood out of course, but kids who grew up during that time period can still easily call to mind their favorite albums. No one from this era wore out a song; they wore out albums from playing them over and over and over.

     Much has already been written about how different this album sounds as a whole, the range of sounds found in the songs on it, and how groundbreaking for a record made in Nashville it is. In the groundbreaking category I’d say it’s like taking a sledge hammer to the Grand Ole Opry. Not to say that Eric doesn’t appreciate the history of the place, I think he’s just decided to make a little music history of his own. There are a few songs on this album that will get some radio airplay and possibly be part of an Eric Church greatest hits album some day, but its greater impact will be felt in the album as a whole. This album succeeds in turning back the hands of time to a place where musicians created albums that were intensely personal and reflected who they were as a singer or as a band. If there was a message they wished to convey, they told it through the music. Album titles and cover art were as important to the project as every individual song on it. These albums revealed a thought process that is entirely lacking in much of mainstream music today. Many of the current hitmakers reveal nothing more than a dollars and cents approach to an endgame. In 50 years no one will remember these songs or the albums they came from. It’s been nearly 50 years since we lost Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin, and yet we’re still talking about them and the music they made. Each of these musical pioneers made bold statements with their music and took risks most people weren’t willing to take at that time.

     Fans of Eric Church are going to love this album. Music fans who might not necessarily be country music fans are going to like it too. It has a very broad appeal in its diversity. Credit should be given to the team of people who made this album, including Jay Joyce and Arturo Buenahora, Jr. who produced it, and the songwriters who created the pieces that make up this powerful story: Casey Beathard, Eric Church, Monty Criswell, Michael Heeney, Lynn Hutton, Luke Laird, Travis Meadows, Jeremy Spillman, and Ryan Tyndell. The quality of the songwriting on this album is what makes it the powerful statement that it is. I have no doubt that Eric Church was the mastermind behind this record and the passion he felt for the project is evident in the finished product. It says a lot about the musician and the man to feel strongly enough about something so personal to risk putting it out there for the world to hear and take a gamble on the reaction to it. At a time when money trumps all else, Eric Church made his move with this record and EMI Records Nashville saw fit to let him make it. If the music industry in Nashville is like a chess game with the powers that be moving their pawns at will, Eric Church made the winning move when it was his turn to play and won this game with the boldest move Music City has seen in a good long while. Winning a chess game requires putting your opponent’s king in a position where the threat you just made cannot be removed. I can imagine Eric sitting opposite the devil he talks about in this album, pondering his next move, hiding his intentions behind those aviator sunglasses, and making his decisive move only when he’s damn good and ready to. CHECKMATE “Devil, Devil.”

From WAY North of Nashville…..Bev Miskus

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To preview and purchase thru iTunes click this link: THE OUTSIDERS

ERIC CHURCH – THE OUTSIDERS – THE OUTSIDERS
©2014Bev Miskus