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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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Album Review: Mark Wayne Glasmire Self-Titled Release

This new 7-track self-titled EP from artist, Mark Wayne Glasmire, is set for release on January 10th.

Mark Wayne GlasmireIf you’ve never heard of Mark Wayne Glasmire,  I would describe Mark’s music as a cross between Pat Green, Jimmy Buffett, and maybe even a little bit of Billy Joel thrown in there, too.

Track By Track Review:

“Last Of A Dying Breed”:  An uptempo, optimistic song that’s an anthem to the working class man and values that don’t seem to hold true for most anymore.

“I Like You”:  This fun, mid-tempo song put me in mind of a Jimmy Buffett song.  I could picture myself down in the Florida Keys listening to this song with a bit of a tropical feel to it.

“Going Home”:  This reflective, mid-tempo song reminded me a little of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”.  Especially right at the beginning, but really throughout the tune.  My favorite of the album about a man rethinking his decisions and a hint of an Irish feel.  Especially enjoyed his voice on this one and the lyrics.

“The Last Goodbye”:  This ballad was my least favorite on this album.  Just a little too sleepy for me.

“She’s Got It All”:  Another fun, uptempo song that I could picture played live in a bar in Texas with the beer flowing and crowds of people on the dance floor.

“Now I Believe”:  Mid-tempo, optimistic song about love .  Almost an Irish feel about the song, too.

“The Moment”:  Reflective, melancholy ballad about rethinking decisions of the past.

I would recommend this album to anyone who enjoys a compelling voice with meaningful lyrics and strong melodies.  I wouldn’t say that Mark Wayne Glasmire’s voice is the strongest or that he is the absolute best singer that I’ve heard, but there was something quite compelling and honest about this whole album.  I would say he’s more of a songwriter than a singer.  Very enjoyable to listen to.  Sung from the heart by someone that I actually believe has lived these experiences that most can relate to and who have reached a point in their lives, also, that they are rethinking decisions of the past.  Perhaps these are all decisions made by the young, rash man who has now grown a little older and wiser through his life experiences.  Seems to be the theme of the album.

It is a slightly eclectic mix of songs, but heavily-rooted in country, folk, and, yes, even a little Irish influence in the album.  Maybe that was just me hearing that, but that’s what I was put in mind of and since country was heavily-influenced by the Scotch/Irish settlers in the south, that makes perfect since.  I could envision myself possibly in an Irish pub listening to some of these songs on the album enjoying a nice, frothy beverage when I wasn’t hanging out in the Florida Keys.  Definitely worth a listen!

Rated 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

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Album Review: The Best Of Rascal Flatts LIVE

The Best of Rascal Flatts LIVEYou know the songs… now you get to hear them live whenever you want! Rascal Flatts has compiled a “best of” album of live hits; and although I would have preferred an entire set list to a random 10-song (with two medleys, so 12 and a half songs?) compilation, the album doesn’t disappoint.

I’ve never seen the superstar group live – mainly because I am not big enough a fan to dish out their asking price for tickets – but I’m such a fan of live music, I was excited to hear what they did with the songs.

The crowd sounds aren’t enhanced enough on the album to really tell what kind of show you’re listening to, but it’s pretty obvious many are taken from smaller shows, not arenas. A good idea, and a lovely setting for live recordings, but this is one of the biggest touring bands in the nation… give me arena energy. Having said that, the live versions really are enjoyable and the crowds are obviously in to it. Not to mention, the band sounds great and the guy’s harmonies are better featured here than in a studio.

As I said, there are two medleys on the album. The first is I’m Moving On, Skin (Sarabeth), and Feels Like Today… I don’t know what to think about that sample of songs. They are apparently just saving set list time by combining them. The second medley is their encore of classic rock songs: Boston’s Foreplay/Long Time, and Free Ride by The Edgar Winter Group. The thought of Gary Levox singing Boston had me questioning, but it’s fine… and Joe Don flat out shreds it on guitar.

They hit their big ones: Bless The Broken Road, What Hurts The Most, Stand, and their cover of Life Is A Highway. Missing from the album are Mayberry and Love You Out Loud, and I would have liked to hear Me And My Gang because I think that would be an awesome song live. That’s just me, but overall I think the song choices were solid.

One thing that can really turn me off from live albums is if the songs sound essentially the same as the studio recordings. Thankfully, this one gives so much diversity that it’s actually worth purchasing, even if you own every Flatts song already. Definitely worth listening to. Students earning online college degrees in music should add this to their collections.

5. Medley: I’m Movin’ On, Skin (Sarabeth) and Feels Like Today

6. Stand

7. These Days

8. What Hurts The Most

9. Life Is A Highway

10. Encore: Foreplay/Long Time, Free Ride

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Album Review: Mark Cooke ‘Living For The Weekend’

It took me a while to review this 6-track EP from Mark Cooke entitled ‘Living For The Weekend’.  Unfortunately, it fell under a big pile of things to do.

Well, I just have to say that I’m glad that it did not get lost in that pile for good! This album from new country artist, Mark Cooke, was well-written with great vocals that put me in mind of musical greats like Clint Black and George Strait.  In fact, I picked up a hint of Texas in this cd while listening.  Being originally from Texas myself, I couldn’t help but hear that, I suppose.  I just HAD to check his website to see where Mark is originally from.  Yes, Texas! haha  I just KNEW it! I guess you can take us out of Texas, but can’t take the Texas out of us, huh? 🙂  Anyway…see my track by track review below.

Track by track review:

“Any Way The Wind Blows”:  Uptempo, full of optimism, hope…really a great song!

“Living For The Weekend”:  Another uptempo, fun song.  Makes you want to get up and dance.

“Can’t Cheat In A Small Town”:  My favorite song of the album.  A mid-tempo song with a slightly dark feel to this song.

“Stay With Me Tonight”:  Beautiful, poignant ballad.  Even gave me chills a couple of times.

“I Love It”:  A great, uptempo song that would be just right for the summer.

“I’ll Take This Town”:  Mid-tempo, great vocals, well-written, and can easily visualize a video from this one.  Another great one for the summer.

I highly recommend this album from new artist, Mark Cooke.  If you like steel guitar, banjo, fiddles, well-written songs, excellent vocals with both a traditional/contemporary country fell, then this album is for you.  Check Mark Cooke out, he’s worth a listen!

 

Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

 

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