Friday, May 10, 2013
Meet Jesse Brewster. He has a cool new concept, called "March of Tracks," which he is using for the release of his new album. He is releasing one new song each month for twelve months leading up to his album debut. The best part is that he's sharing the songs for free for a limited time!
This month's single is World Closing In. It's a story of hopes and dreams crashing down ("If it's lonely at the top, there's no doubt it's lonelier at the bottom looking up.") But luckily for Jesse, he's found a love to help support him when his world comes closing in. Musically, Jesse drives the song on his acoustic guitar, but there are flashes of world rhythms and what I can only classify as "gypsy stings." The overall effect is a song that's comforting and exotic at the same time. Check it out and keep checking back as Jesse reveals his next songs!
Posted by Family Reunion at 11:43 AM
Friday, April 26, 2013
Casey Donahew Band's new album, Standoff, is a musical stand-out. Like Reckless Kelly, and fellow Texans Mickey & The Motorcars and Pat Green, Casey Donahew is not afraid to punctuate his down home storytelling with a little loud and proud electric guitar. After all, you don't put "10 Years of Ass Kickin' Country Music" on your official band t-shirts unless you're willing to back it up in your music. The set begins with thunderous, crunchy guitar licks on "Lovin Out of Control." Later, "Small Town Love" picks up where the band's critically acclaimed Double Wide Dream left off, both musically and lyrically. Reminding those who dream of big city lights that, ''What you want ain't always what you need." Casey points out the many joys of small town living. On "Whiskey Baby" Casey compares his love to another kind of Southern comfort. Singing, "My heart is just like a shot glass - empty and alone; only as good as the spirit in it, uselss on its own" Casey distills his love for his woman into 3 and half minutes of 100 proof rockin' Country. He keeps the tempo up on "Loser" and "Go to Hell." These two songs rock out with attitude and humor. In "Loser" Casey sings, "It's better to lose on love than love a loser like me." Apparently someone didn't get the message, because in "Go to Hell" he tells the story of the bitterest of breakups. Where most Country singers drown their breakups in alcohol, Casey drowns his in alcohol and then sets it on fire! While drinking his ex of his mind he sings, "When I wake up in the mornin', I'm sure I'll be in jail. And I'll be using my one phone call to remind you to go to hell."
But not everything on the album is amps and attitude. "Not Ready To Say Goodnight" is a sweet ronantic song about not wanting a date to end. "Homecoming Queen" is a look into the faded dreams and beauty of a former high school beauty queen. In trying to figure out what could've caused her fall from grace Casey sings, "When I see her now I just wonder why. I guess when things come easy you don't have to try." Casey digs even deeper into social issues on "Put The Bottle Down," which is an unflinching portrait of the ravages of alcoholism: "Too young to know this pain, but there's nowhere to hide. I probably could have run, but I stayed by my Momma's side." Casey sings of the scars and continued chain of pain caused by drinking "the devil's blood."
Behind Casey's great voice and lyrics, the band impresses throughout. With tight guitar and fiddle work and a driving rhythm section, the band, like the album itself, hits all the right notes.
Posted by Family Reunion at 12:00 PM
Friday, April 12, 2013
Connor Christian & Southern Gothic (CCSG to their fans) are an amazingly talented band. Three of the five band members play three or more instruments; and they play them with energy and a palpable sense of joy. Despite being from places as diverse as Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, and even Siberia, the band comes together with a seamless synergy that is greater than the sum of its parts. Their new album, New Hometown, is a showcase for their many talents. With tight vocal harmonies, insightful lyrics and brilliant arrangements (especially the fiddle which absolutely dazzles throughout), New Hometown is the perfect marriage of modern Country and Americana. Like Zac Brown Band singing Darrell Scott with a Black Crowes' attitude, CCSG serves up the best of both sides of Country Music's great divide. On "That Ol' Jukebox" they show their Americana loyalties singing, "Ain't no way in hell I'm giving them a dime, 'cause I still got Hank Williams on my mind." Complete with foot stomping fiddle and Pop/County bashing lyrics, the song would be at home in the most radical Austin dive bar. Then just five songs later they turn around and do a cover of Guns & Roses' "November Rain." The fiddle is now replaced by violin and three part vocal harmonies back up the lead vocal. Yet, oddly enough, these two songs (and two worlds) coexist harmoniously on this album. As a radical neutral in this musical war, I salute their willingness to embrace the full spectrum of today's Country.
The lead song, "Sheets Down" would fit right in on Zac Brown's latest album. It's an uptempo celebration of life's simple joys, like dancing in the rain. "16 Bars" is another upbeat number. It's a tribute to every singer who's ever picked up a guitar and set out on the bar circuit to find their fame: "She said why aren't you on the radio, or even MTV. Your voice makes makes my heart jump from my chest." I said "I wish it was that easy." For some artists that might be bragging, but Connor Christian does in fact have a great voice. With neither Nashville's polished "twang" or Austin's drunken, sneering drawl; Connor belts out his songs with a controlled confidence that doesn't need to rely on gimmics. He uses that voice to great affect on the ballads, "Only Need You," "Stella Please" and "She's My Salvation." But the album doesn't get mired down with too many slow numbers. There is a great mix of foot stompers thrown in with the slow dancers. "When I'm Gone," for example, starts off with a "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" vibe then adds a nice bluesy touch; singing, "Your dirty little tricks, they don't mean a thing. Well you got what you want now you don't need me. But you're gonna miss me when I'm gone." The title song, "New Hometown" has a "Boondocks" feel to it, but instead of celebrating one hometown it celebrates each new hometown that each new day brings. Singing, "Growing up I never had a hometown. My daddy gave his life to Uncle Sam," CCSG sing about how their nomadic life began even before they loaded up their guitars for the road. "Hotel Bar" continues the life on the road theme with a rollicking honky tonk look at both hotel bars and the bands who play them, both of whom are "open for business when the sun goes down."
The rest of the songs capture the ups and downs of living and loving on the road. With such great songs for a soundtrack, you'll wish you could come along for the ride!
Posted by Family Reunion at 2:04 PM
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Pack your bags for a tour across the wide expanse of the Americana musical spectrum with J.R. Shore. On his new album, State Theatre, you’ll hear echoes of current favorites like Darrell Scott and Ray Wylie Hubbard back through Bob Dylan and Joe Ely, with touches of Randy Newman, Taj Mahal, Doctor John and Lowell George sprinkled in. J.R. Shore digs even deeper into America’s musical past incorporating touches of Jazz, Dixieland and Ragtime as well. There is virtually no corner of America’s grand Country/Blues/Americana tradition that goes unexplored on this album, which is ironic, because J.R. Shore is Canadian. Like the Rolling Stones reminding America of its forgotten Blues roots, J.R. Shore holds a sonic mirror up to us reflecting back the tones and textures that define Americana.
State Theatre is a shining example of everything that’s right with Americana: brilliant storytelling, three dimensional characters you’d meet in real life, expert musicianship, creative arrangements, and a rootsy, earthy voice to bring it all together. The album starts off with the lo-fi, bluesy “Holler Like Hell”, which sounds like it bubbled up murky and uninvited from the Louisiana Bayou. “Addie Polk” follows with a funky take on a serious subject – the housing crisis. The lyrical depth of the subject is balanced by the uptempo rhythm and punctuated with a mean Hammond organ, as if the will of the music transforms a tragic story into one of triumph. Then the album really kicks into high gear on the next four songs. “Poundmaker,” “Charlie Grant,” “Dash Snow,” and “Jackie’s Odds” are as fine a murderer’s row of songs as I’ve ever heard on a single album. “Poundmaker” is a Marty Stuart style tribute to yet another Native American caught between two worlds and prosecuted by one of them. Beginning and ending with the refrain, “On account of my grandfather, they did not cut my hair;” the story gives a snapshot of a cycle that has repeated for generations. The slide guitar and piano give the perfect yearning, almost reverent backdrop to this tragic story. “Charlie Grant” follows with the tale of the Negro League star who almost broke through baseball’s color line twenty years before Jackie Robinson by passing himself off as a Native American. Again, Shore plays counterpoint to the tragedy of the story with an uptempo, almost Dixieland rhythm and ends on a poetic note of optimism about his burial, singing, “He’s just two doors down from Miller Huggins. They’re finally playing on the same damn field.” “Dash Snow” follows with a “Memo From Turner” sounding eulogy for a junkie. “Jackie’s Odds” finishes off this amazing run with a Dr. John/Little Feat fusion about a gambler who just can’t win (“the deeper you go, the harder you fall.”)
The rest of the album is a sumptuous feast of Blues, Folk and straight up Country. Quite frankly, there’s not a bad song on the album, but other standouts are the Dylan inspired “Ballad of Dreyfus,” the Randy Newmanesque, “146” and the gospel/blues tribute to the Underground Railroad, “Dayton Free,” where Shore sings, “Freedom’s streets are shinier than Tennessee gold.” (And if that’s not enough, J.R. includes a bonus disc of eight cover songs of some of his favorite songwriters including Robbie Robertson and Neil Young.) J.R. Shore packs so much emotion, empathy and pathos into these stories that you feel he’s lived each of them himself. Such is the power of music in the hands of a master. And if there are any masters of this form we call Americans, J.R. Shore is sure one of them.
Posted by Family Reunion at 9:47 AM
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Dirty Politics is an uptempo modern country tribute to America's other national pastime. Whether Democrat or Republican, Dirty Politics takes shots at both sides. While certainly not an in depth critique of the shortcomings of our political parties, it does offer soundbite cliches to remind both sides that they have a ways to go to earn the trust and respect of the voters. And even though politics may be a dirty business, it's still youre right to vote. So go exercise your right today!
Posted by Family Reunion at 10:53 AM
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Lowe Country. Nick Lowe was well respected in the early 80's for bending musical genres and fusing rock, pop, and country (and off the beaten path lyrics) to create a distinctive hybrid sound before any kind of music was preceded by the term "alt." Some of Lowe's masterworks are reinterpreted (although his biggest hit, "Cruel To Be Kind," is mysteriously missing) on this album by many of today's emerging alt-country stars. Nick Lowe's music definitely stands the test of time, and it's refreshing to hear them arranged in a new way. Much of the pop influence has been scrubbed from the original versions on this album. In their place is a healthy dose of banjo and steel guitar. Alt Country darling Caitlin Rose does a yearning, almost Patsy Cline take on "Lately I've Let Things Slide." Hayes Carll does a steel guitar tinged version of "I'm Gonna Start Living Again If It Kills Me." Newcomers Chatham County Line do an ironic down home version of "Heart of the City." But the song that benefits the most from the alt-country love is "All Men Are Liars" by Robert Ellis. Ellis manages to stay true to both tone and tempo while somehow converting it from a tongue in cheek pop song to a straight up country "unplugged" number. Nick Lowe's songs sound fresh and new again here. And the album's musical lineup is a great introduction to many of today's new alt-country stars. And if that weren't enough incentive to check out this disc, Fiesta Records is donating proceeds to benenfit victims of the 2010 Nashville floods and 2011 Texas wild fires! So here's your chance to get goods while you do good!
Posted by Family Reunion at 12:41 PM
Friday, September 28, 2012
Queen of the Minor Key by Ellen Jewell is a great rockabilly rave up to get you started on your weekend. Sounding a little like Patsy Cline sings Gene Vincent, Queen of the Minor Key will take you back to music's unscripted past where the lines between rock and country were easily blurred. Ellen Jewell is a time-warping, genre-bending siren who defies description. Like Southern Culture on the Skids, Ellen combines elements of rockabilly, surf music, jazz and traditional country to create a whole that's larger than the sum of the parts. This song is from her album of the same name which was released over a year ago. It was brought to our attention by Brite Revolution Records, who have just released a killer Americana sampler. The best part is that it's free! So check out Ellen Jewell, Darrell Scott, The Trishas and a host of other great bands - I gurantee you'll find something you like! Then do yourself a favor and go buy one of their albums. As for us, we're starting with Queen of the Minor Key by Ellen Jewell!
Posted by Family Reunion at 10:00 AM
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Liz Frame and the Kickers deliver that authentic, rootsy Americana sound that we love so much. Sounding a bit like Gram Parsons meets Cowboy Junkies, Liz and the Kickers (Liz Frame: vocals and guitar,Kristine Malpica: percussion and vocals,Lynne Taylor: bass and vocals,Chuck Melchin: guitars, mandolin and vocals) create an earthy, soothing sound that rocks the body and soul like a swimging hammock on a warm June afternoon. Their new album, Sooner, is packed with irresistable licks and insightful lyrics. Liz and company set the tone with the first song, Win. Liz sings "Johnny's just a junkie with a monkey on his back...He's gonna fight every last demon that brought him down - and he's gonna win." Right away they let you know their take on life, which they elaborate on throughout the album: life isn't always fair, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it all depends on the timing. This is especially true when it comes to love. In Girl Of Little Faith, Liz sings "when I leave I don't look back." But in Come Back To Me she yearns for her lover's return. Apparently he arrives too late as in the song Sooner, Liz sings "you should've come to me sooner than today, back when I would have done just about anything to make you stay." The toll of love's near misses makes Liz feel like "The Devil Put A Bullseye On My Back" in the song of the same name. She wails that "he ain't ever gonna be happy till I'm broken as a girl can be." Yet despite the pain, Liz is (and indeed all of us are) somehow drawn back to love like the junkie is drawn back to his addiction in the album's first song. After love's ups and downs in the previous songs, Liz still feels compelled to sing in, I Wanna Be Your Baby, that "I wanna be the blood running through your veins, I wanna be the joy that you can't contain... I wanna be your baby." Liz makes you feel the depth of her lyrics with her emotional and sensual vocals. The Kickers provide subtle yet gorgeous background harmonies. And the gentle wailing of steel guitars adds further resonance to the music's impact. A wonderful album from start to finish. They only way they could have made it better would have been to release it "Sooner."
Posted by Family Reunion at 2:25 PM
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Trishas weave effortlessly beautiful harmonies with expert musicianship in their debut CD, High, Wide & Handsome. The first song on the album, "Mother of Invention" reels you in with with their irresistable harmonies and simple guitar and banjo arrangements. Sounding a little like "Didn't Leave Nobody But the Baby" from Oh Brother Where Art Thou, "Mother of Invention" has that same siren-song quality and hypnotic appeal. Singing, "In interesting conditions you discover who you really are," the Trishas invite you on a journey of musical discovery of their own. But like those silver screen sirens, The Trishas turn the tables after the first song. After singing about the possibilites and inspirations that privation can bring, they focus the rest of the songs on the deeper privation of lost love. But instead of finding possibilities and inspirations, they discover only broken hearts and fools. In songs like "Liars and Fools," "The Fool," and "Little Sweet Cigars," the Trishas make clear that love is a fool's game from the start. They sum it up succinctly in "Little Sweet Cigars" singing "when you're kissed by a fool then you're fooled by a kiss." Other songs paint an equally bleak picture of love's entanglements. In songs like "Cheater's Game," "Why," and "Strangers," they sing about life after love's flame burns out. In "Strangers," for instance they lament that "I'd like to introduce myself to the one I used to know so well." But if love's fire burns out, the Trishas prove that music's fire never does. In "Looking At Me," they advise that "a fire burns slow if you know how to build it." And again in "One Down," they sing, "if there's nothing left to burn, set yourself on fire." And this album is indeed a slow, sultry burn. Sounding at times like torch singers (especially on "Cold Blooded Love,") The four members of the Trishas smolder their way through love's ups and downs culminating in one of the album's finest moments, "Rainin' Inside." A John Prine-esque blues ballad that begins, "Billie Holliday is killing me, like she's been reading my mind. I dropped the needle on her yesterday and I've been listening all this time," "Rainin' Inside" demonstrates that these ladies sing the blues with the best of them.
Posted by Family Reunion at 1:18 PM
Monday, July 30, 2012
Back When" is a roots-Country, lover's lament from The Carper Family. With beautiful vocal harmonies and expert musicianship, "Back When" (from the album of the same name) takes listeners on a musical journey to back when Country music was fresh and new. Like a modern day Andrews Sisters singing covers of Bob Wills, these three Southern sirens (Melissa Carper, Beth Chrisman and Jenn Miori) evoke feelings from another era. No electric guitars, no vocal effects, no post production trickery; The Carper Family delivers hearfelt and well honed roots Country at its best. Singing of love's later stages, after the bloom has left the rose; The Carper Family wonders aloud why the love letters no longer come. Pondering love's fading passions, they sing "why can't back when happen again." Many critics of modern country music may be tempted to ask that same question. But thanks to the Carper Family "Back When" can indeed happen again.
Posted by Family Reunion at 12:44 PM