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Album Review: Florida Georgia Line ‘It’z Just What We Do’

I know, I look like I just made a big typo in the title, right? ha  No, but I’ll readily admit that you’ll see a typo from me on occasion no matter HOW much I proofread! 🙂 

‘It’z Just What We Do’ is the name of this brand new 5-song EP from up-and-coming country duo, Florida Georgia Line, comprised of Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard.  Released on iTunes just this week, it’s already doing quite well on the iTunes country chart and seems to be creating quite a buzz about this new duo.  There’s also sure to be more buzz created as they are embarking on the 2012 Country Throwdown Tour that features headliner Gary Allan along with Sunny Sweeney, Josh Thompson, Justin Moore, Eric Paslay, Rodney Atkins, and more artists.

This new EP is just plain fun to listen to.  It’s the type of music that is both catchy and just takes you away from your troubles for a bit.  I enjoyed the blending of their two voices together and found the album very easy to listen to.  Very radio-friendly.  I didn’t have to listen a second time to decide if I liked it or not, I just do and it immediately caught my interest.  I wouldn’t say the lyrics have deep emotional depth, but I found it to be very catchy combined with the excellent musicianship I heard on this new release.   There wasn’t a song that really pulled at my heartstrings, but overall I found this new release very enjoyable, filled with uptempo tunes, stellar production, and I imagine live that these guys are quite fun.   Plus, I’m sure all of the ladies will take quite an interest in them, too!

My favorite songs on the album are “Get Your Shine On” and “Tell Me How You Like It”.

Find them on iTunes and give them a listen!

Rated 4 out of 5 stars.

Check out this related article and listen to “Cruise” from the album HERE.

 

 

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Album Review: Marlee Scott, “Beautiful Maybe”

Marlee ScottBack during CRS time, we got to interview the lovely Marlee Scott (check that out here.) She’s a lot of fun and we had a great interview. (Thanks Marlee!) So naturally I was excited to hear her music, and she had just released Train Wreck to country radio.

I listened and didn’t like it. (Sorry Marlee!) And I mean, I really didn’t like it. I still don’t; it does nothing for me. What’s worse, I feel like I’m not allowed to dislike it: Sarah Buxton, a very talented singer/songwriter helped pen the song and (get this) Vince Gill is on background vocals!

HOWEVER… one song does not define an album, so when I got the full album, “Beautiful Maybe,” I dove in with an open mind, and I really liked it! (Yes, I just began an album review with “I liked it…” And somewhere, a music critic begins to cry.) Anyway, listen up:

The album is a great introduction to Marlee as an artist with an eclectic mix of songs. It feels like Carrie Underwood meets Shania Twain plus rock guitars, banjos and big melodies, all coming together to create “Marlee Scott.”

She’s got some sassy up-tempos (Train Wreck, I Love Hating You), several story-rich slower songs (Let It Rain, Life Is Not A Movie, Kiss Of Coming Home), and a number of songs that I could see being a hit on the radio (Beautiful Maybe, Jane Doe). She even has a Toby Keith-style talking/rapping song, Crazy For You.

Overall a very talented singer and a very good selection of songs. “Beautiful Maybe” will be released Tuesday, June 19th on Big Ride Entertainment, and is absolutely worth picking up to check out a great new artist.

For more information, visit www.MarleeScott.com.

Beautiful Maybe album track list:
“Beautiful Maybe”
“Jane Doe”
“I Love Hating You”
“I Won’t Love You Anymore”
“I’m Not Your Baby Anymore”
“Let It Rain”
“Planet Of Your Own”
“Rhinestone In The Rough”
“Crazy For You”
“Kiss Of Coming Home”
“Train Wreck”
“Life Is Not A Movie”

 

Train Wreck Official Music Video

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Album Review: Briana Tyson ‘Back To Me’

Brian TysonBriana Tyson  is our featured artist and track for the month of May.  Her new 5-track EP entitled ‘Back To Me’ is one of the best albums I have had the pleasure to hear this year! Her voice is not only powerful, but filled with such amazing depth and emotion.  If you have the chance to see Briana perform live, you’ll be drawn into her genuine spirit and her live performance will literally give you chills.  I had a friend who couldn’t stop talking about her over 2 weeks after he had seen her perform for the 1st time.  “Wow” was the word he used to describe her and how she gave him chills as she sang.  I couldn’t agree more! In a town filled with many incredible artists, it’s not easy to stick out like this, but she does! Briana has a very special quality about her and definitely worth a listen.  Both contemporary and traditional country music fans will enjoy her music.

Track by track review:

“When You’re Drunk”:  This is my favorite off the album.  It’s an uptempo, fun song with a twist at the end.  Briana starts off acapella–something that most would shy away from because might be a flaw in their voice.  However, no flaws her.  Just control and strength.

“Back To Me’:  A beautiful mid-tempo song about longing to be with a loved one.

“Head Over My High Heels”:  Another fun, mid-to-uptempo song.  I can almost see a legend like Patsy Cline singing this song at Tootsie’s on Broadway.  It’s contemporary but a bit of a throwback to an earlier time in country music.  Something that country traditionalists will love.  Then there’s a section with a trumpet solo where I could’ve sworn I just entered the French Quarter in New Orleans.  So, it even had a little jazz influence, too.

“Almost”:  A beautifully-written and sung ballad about missing a lost love.

“Left My Heart With You”:  This song will bring you to tears.  It did me.  It’s written from the perspective of the person who has passed away as they are watching over their loved ones and trying to give comfort to them from Heaven.

What’s pretty amazing is Briana is only 19 years old, yet her voice and songs have the maturity, emotional depth of someone older who has experienced so much more.  She even writes or co-writes all of her music and co-produced this album herself.  Be sure to find Briana on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/brianatysonmusic

You can buy this EP at iTunes for only $4.95.  Buy it now and support this amazing artist!

Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

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Album Review: Waylon: The Music Inside Vol. II

Waylon: The Music Inside Vol. IIIn December, Focus was able to cover the Waylon Jennings Tribute at the SiriusXM station in Nashville promoting the new tribute Album, “Waylon: The Music Inside Vol. II.” Well, now we got a chance to finally hear it! And it’s everything a true country fan could hope for.

Blending classic Waylon tunes with more contemporary production, the album features 11 songs covered by some great country names. Each artist pays wonderful tribute to the legend, while making the song distinctively his or her own.

One highlight of the album includes Mama by Jessi Colter, a heartfelt song she performed at the tribute that almost had Bocephus choking up. Jewel covers a beautiful version of Dreaming My Dreams with You, and Colt Ford puts his own rap spin on Only Daddy That Will Walk the Line.

Other standouts include Lonesome, Onry, and Mean by Dierks Bentley, I Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This by Justin Moore, and Love of the Common People by Josh Thompson. Each of these sounds as though the artist cut the original. I could certainly hear any of these songs making their way into these artist’s respective set lists.

Albums like this are a great way to introduce contemporary country fans to music they may not listen to. Sure, country has transformed over the years, but what better way to bridge the gap between the newer material and the material that paved the way. Not to mention, we’re keeping Waylon’s memory alive and well.

The album will be available for pre-order January 24, and in-stores February 7.

Waylon: The Music Inside Vol. II track listing: 

1. Lonesome, Onry, and Mean – Dierks Bentley

2. Waymore’s Blues – Hank Williams Jr.

3. Good Ol’ Boys (Dukes of Hazzard Theme Song) – Montgomery Gentry

4. I Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This – Justin Moore

5. Bob Willis is Still the King – Jack Ingram

6. Only Daddy That Will Walk the Line – Colt Ford

7. Rainy Day Woman – Pat Green

8. Love of the Common People – Josh Thompson

9. Mama – Jessi Colter

10. Dreaming My Dreams With You – Jewel

Bonus Track

11. A Long Time Ago – Wyatt McCubbin

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Album Review: Coldwater Jane ‘Marionette’

Well, I admit that I had only heard the name, Coldwater Jane, but had not had the chance to hear their music until this past Saturday at Puckett’s in downtown Nashville.  In a word: AMAZING!

Coldwater Jane is comprised of sisters, Brandon Jane and Leah Crutchfield, from Lucedale, Miss.  A small town with a population of 2,990. They are incredibly talented, genuine, and artists that country music fans will love if they just have more of a chance to experience them. Again, another shocker for me because up until recently they were signed to Mercury Records until they parted ways. SOMEONE at another label snatch them up quick! More people need to hear their music and they just need the right promotion behind them. I’m convinced they would be a hit!

I was immediately impressed with the uptempo, optimistic and just plain catchy “Bring On The Love”.  It’s my favorite and what made me a fan of their music instantly, but there is so much more to love about this album!

Coldwater Jane’s 11-track release entitled ‘Marionette’ is another album FILLED with hits and songs that will just make you feel good. They have some of the best harmonies out there and their music will not only appeal to the contemporary country music lover, but also traditional country enthusiasts AND even bluegrass lovers since there is certainly a bluegrass feel in such songs as the title track “Marionette”.

“Rock My Soul” another uptempo is another favorite of mine. Followed by “Marionette” and traditionalists will love “Drifting Heart”. I’m having a very difficult time picking a favorite because this album is wonderful! It is FILLED with such beautiful music loaded with lyrical depth and sung wonderfully from the heart by this amazing duo. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll head over to iTunes right now and grab yourself a copy for just $9.99!

Be sure to check out Coldwater Jane and find out more about them at: www.coldwaterjane.com. You’ll be glad that you did!

Full track listing:

“Marionette”

“Bring On The Love”

“You’re The Best Thing Since Jesus”

“If You Only Had A Heart”

“Devil Train”

“Rock My Soul”

“Drifting Heart”

“Mississippi Mud”

“Tough As Nails”

“What Now?”

“Old Black Ford”

Rated 5 out of 5 stars. Wonderful album and let me add a “plus” on to this rating, as well, since I can’t rate it any higher! 🙂

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Album Review: Jesse Lee ‘Come After Me’

Jesse LeeJesse Lee has GOT to be one of the most talented vocalists that I have come across in a long time.  She is what I would consider a vocal stylist with so much control and power in her voice.

Ever since I first heard her perform live a couple of years back, I’ve eagerly awaited her debut album from Atlantic Records and wondered why I hadn’t heard anything.  Come to find out she and Atlantic Records have recently parted ways, which I think is a terrible shame.  Somebody at a label with an ear for talent PLEASE pick up this artist.  Jesse Lee is incredible! I am shocked she’s not signed right this very moment.  Not only does she have this amazing voice, but she’s incredibly bubbly and fun.  I would think she would be a big hit with country music fans if they only get to be around her.  She’s very genuine, real, and her music needs to be heard by more people.

Luckily, her label let her keep her album to release herself.  This album is amazing and you can buy it right on her website for only $4.99, which is an absolute STEAL! This album is wonderfully-produced, great lyrics, track after track of hits sung by the incredibly talented Jesse Lee.  It is a MUST-HAVE for any country fan, in my opinion!

It’s very hard for me to pick a favorite because I absolutely love every song on this 9-track album entitled ‘Come After Me’! “Come After Me”, the title track sticks out to me especially.  This power ballad is filled with such emotion and just beautiful! “Cry Baby” is a fun, sassy, uptempo number.  “Ghost Of Us” is mid-tempo, powerful, and tugs right at your heart.  “Talk to Me” is another favorite.  This song will appeal to traditional country lovers, as well as, contemporary.  It’s simply beautiful and another power ballad filled with emotion. Really, I can go straight down the list of songs and from top to bottom tell you how much I love each.  Not a weak one in the bunch! There’s something here for everyone!

Buy it at www.jesseleemusic.com if you know what’s good for you and want to hear some amazing music!

Full track listing:

“Come After Me”

“Cry Baby”

“Ghost Of Us”

“Talk To Me”

“See A Little Difference”

“Just Like Yesterday”

“If I Were You”

“If I Could Anywhere”

Bonus track: “Love Chooses You”

You can, also, check out her video for “It’s A Girl Thing” right here, too: http://youtu.be/B36NaCTis14

Rated 5 out of 5 stars.  If I could give it higher than that, I would.  How about 5 stars plus? 🙂

 

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Song Review: “Wonders” By Steve Rutledge

“Wonders” is written and performed by Steve Rutledge.   Aside from being one of the most talented guitarist around (he was recently honored at 2011 NAMM’s All-Star Guitar Night), Steve is a talented singer and songwriter.  In fact, there’s not much Steve can’t do! He produces, plays guitar, bass, keyboard, sings, and writes.  He has played for audiences worldwide and shared the stage with artists like: Steve Holy, Trace Adkins, Reba, Emerson Drive, Jake Owen, Heidi Newfield, Trick Pony, Toby Keith, Monte Montgomery, Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, John Michael Montgomery, Montgomery Gentry, John Fogerty, The Eagles, Lonestar, Lee Ritenour, James Burton, Jack Pearse, Seymour Duncan, Rick Vito, Muriel Anderson, James Otto, Big and Rich, Gretchen Wilson, Keith Anderson, Mark Wills, Jo Dee Messina, Kelly Pickler, Taylor Swift, Michael English and many more.   Steve’s, also, a good friend of mine who has just released this new single to radio.

“Wonders” is an uptempo, optimistic song.  It’s the type of song that just builds and builds.  Ever since I first heard it 3 years ago, I have loved this song and hoped that more people could hear it.  Steve Holy did release it with has most recent album, but it’s good to hear Steve Rutledge‘s version.

This song is special to me for good reason.  It helped me through a very dark time in my life and gave me that little bit of hope that I needed at the time.  Honestly, I can’t help, but tear up each time I do hear it.  Not because it’s sad, it’s far from it, but because of what this song means to me. I’ve mentioned in the About section of this site that music has helped me through some difficult times in my life and why I do this music blog.  This is one of the reasons right here.  “Wonders” is a song that helped me through my darkest hour when I was diagnosed with MS back in May of 2009.  I’ll never forget when Steve performed at a benefit that was held for me and sang this song.  He and several other close friends came together to give me hope to get through that time by organizing a benefit for me.  So, it’s a very emotional and meaningful song to me.

Anyway, it’s well-done and I hope you’ll check it out. If you feel so inclined, be sure to check it out at radio!

To hear wonders, check it out right HERE!

Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

 

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Album Review: Kelly Lang’s ‘11.11’

Kelly LangOne thing that I appreciate most with an album is when the artist writes or co-writes their own songs.  Kelly Lang wrote or co-wrote 10 out of 11 songs on this album. That’s how you get a true feel of an artist.  Kelly, also, produced the album.  I do appreciate an artist that is this well-rounded.

I found this 11-track fully-produced album by Kelly Lang entitled ‘11.11’ to be enjoyable.  While I couldn’t see this release topping the country charts or garnering nominations for CMAs or ACMS because I don’t think it fits into what country radio is playing right now, I still found it enjoyable and I think traditional country fans would appreciate this album.  The songs flow and mostly traditional country.  Although, it is an eclectic mix of songs at times, it mostly leans towards traditional country.  The album as a whole is not going to “wow” you, but it’s still a nice listen.

“I Thought He’d Be here By Now” is a radio-friendly, uptempo song.   I wasn’t a big fan of the singing at the beginning of this song because it sounded a tiny bit flat to me, but as the song progressed, I really enjoyed it and the singing was good.   This song has a more contemporary feel and slight rock edge to it.  “On And On” is my favorite song from the album.  It is a ballad that flows musically, very traditional country, and soothing with great lyrics.  “I Was Wrong” is a mid-tempo, bluesy song that I enjoyed, but it didn’t quite fit with the rest of the album.  “If You Knew” is another mid-tempo, traditional country tune that I especially enjoyed the lyrics.  I, also, really enjoyed “If I’d Only Known”.  At the beginning, it had a very Irish feel to it.  Reminded me of  the score from ‘Lord Of The Dance’ and then flowed into being a traditional country, mid-tempo song about regrets with occasional rock guitar riffs.  “I’m done” was perhaps my least favorite of the album.  It was a mid-tempo song that had a little bit of a dated feel to me.  Not traditional country and classic, but more of a blend of 80s pop along the lines of Lionel Richie’s “Hello”.  It just didn’t quite fit with the rest of the album, either.  The last track on the album is “You Are My Sunshine”–the classic song that has been redone many times that Lang put a very bluesy twist on and I loved her voice on it.  I found this one to be a fun addition and nice way to end the album.

Rated 3 out of 5 stars.

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Album Review: Looking For America by Mark Wills

Mark Wills - Looking For AmericaMark Wills’ newest, Looking For America is… predictable. Not predictable in a “Mark Wills” kind of way – because frankly, I haven’t heard all that much of his stuff before. No, predictable as in a “country music beating a dead horse” kind of way. Every topic of each of Wills’ songs has been done before, over, and over… and over. The album as a whole is by no means bad, just… we get it.

Yes, Mark Wills is talented. Yes, there’s certainly a market for it. But how bout a little originality? Maybe it’s because I have been listening to country music forever, or maybe I just didn’t have my morning cup of coffee; but I found myself getting close to the end of many of the tracks and simply hitting next.

Before I explain myself further, I would like to point out that there is one original song that is an anomaly to my critique: Phantom of the Opry. I like the idea for that song.

But here’s what I mean: The first song on the album is Rockin’ The Country.  It featured such nauseatingly obvious lines as “Hey y’all, yee haw / Little bit of hillbilly, little bit of outlaw” and instrumentation that could be found in any old Jason Aldean, Craig Morgan or Rodney Adkins song.

I wasn’t optimistic going in to the title track, Looking For America. And sure enough, not only was it cliché with respects to America songs, it was cliché with respects to songs about the good ol’ days… the old one-two punch to the horse recently murdered by Rockin’ The Country. But just to make sure the “American” horse was truly dead, the next song is about a soldier! Ok, I actually really like the lyrics to this one; it would be an admiral song on a record with more diversity. However, given the circumstances, it didn’t reach it’s greatest potential. Not to mention, it’s on the album twice, the second time as an acoustic version.

Then we get into a song about forgetting your problems. Another good song lyrically, but it’s about dancing “like there’s no yesterday,” (just a tad corny) and nothing caught my ear about it. Following that were songs about heartbreak, being in love, heartbreak again, The Phantom of the Opry, and then heartbreak again. Actually all of these songs were well written, so for those who enjoy lyrics, this is a good album.

On that note, as you may know, an artist who writes his own music automatically jumps up several notches on my critiquing scale. Well, it’s no doubt this album has great lyrics; it features some of Nashville’s best… but Mark Wills isn’t one of them. He co-wrote one song, and it was the one I lost interest in. However, there are songs penned by Chris Tompkins (Before He Cheats, Voices), the Warren Brothers (Red Solo Cup, Anyway), Brett James (Jesus Take The Wheel, When The Sun Goes Down) and Lee Brice.

I would never turn anyone away from listening to this album, but it will quickly get lost in the shuffle.

Looking For America track listing:

1. Rockin’ The Country

2. Looking For America

3. Crazy Being Home

4. Like There’s No Yesterday

5. Rather Be

6. The Whole World

7. Smokin’ Gun

8. Phantom Of The Opry

9. Where Did I Lose You

10. Crazy Being Home (Acoustic Version)

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Album Review: Love Don’t Run By Steve Holy

Steve Holy - Love Don't RunA review on Steve Holy’s newest, Love Don’t Run is a few months overdue, but it took him about five years to follow up his last album, Brand New Girlfriend with this one, so I guess we have time. A compilation of good ol’ country songs, Love Don’t Run is a solid listen, but I don’t see any track that will launch the country crooner’s career into the stratosphere.

Now, “good country songs” is vague and subjective, so let me tell you what I mean: Love Don’t Run has a versatile mix of tracks with predictable country subject matters: lessons learned, heroes, and love (obviously). The songs are well written, some with similes and descriptives (Like I’m Famous, Wonders), some with funny plays on words (Hauled Off And Kissed Me), and some with romantic emotion (Until The Rain Stops, Help Me Make It Through The Night).

The single Love Don’t Run was a hit, making the top 20, but nothing that will last as a wedding song like Good Morning Beautiful (although an acoustic version of that song is included as a bonus track on this album) or a karaoke song like Brand New Girlfriend. To be clear, it’s a good album! Just don’t expect Holy to be in the hunt for a CMA Award.

Now, since I am a fan of the songwriting, the one criterion that could propel my respect of this album upward is if Holy wrote or co-wrote the songs himself. And (Please wait, while I check the album insert)… he wrote four of them. Ok, not bad. And to his credit, many of those songs were the ones that caught my ear.

For those wondering, he did not write either of his aforementioned charting singles from previous albums. However, on this album, names such as Rodney Adkins, Kris Kristofferson and (wait for it…) Kelly Roland from Destiny’s Child show up in the songwriting credits.

Wrapping this rambling up: I liked the album. It won’t find a permanent home in my CD player, but it’s already loaded on my iPod for when the Steve Holy mood hits me.

Love Don’t Run Track Listing:

1. If It Gets You Where You Wanna Go

2. Love Don’t Run

3. Hauled Off And Kissed Me

4. Until The Rain Stops

5. Heart Of A Hero

6. Everyday Should En Like This

7. Wonders

8. Let The Sun Shine In

9. Like I’m Famous

10. Help Me Make It Through The Night

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