Monday, October 31, 2011

Album of the Week: No Law Against Talking by Some Velvet Evening

Since we've started putting up reviews, we've been getting lots of emails from our indie country friends to include them on our blog. We're more than happy to oblige (if we can keep up the pace!) So starting this week, we'll try to feature one new album each week! To get things started, we're going to go old shcool...
This has been a good year for tradtional country music. First Patsy Cline's Winchester, VA home was finally opened to public tours, then we were treated to not one, but two new Hank Williams CDs (Lost Notebooks and The Legend Begins) Even Blake Shelton gave a nod to yesterday's country roots when he sang about Conway and Loretta in his song Honey Bee. But Some Velvet Evening goes a lot further than just mentioning the legendary Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, they channel their very spirit on every song on their new album, No Law Against Talking. From the first few bars of Still Have Your Hat, you are transported to a different era of country music (even the cover has a great retro charm.) With stripped down production and gorgeous harmonies, Some Velvet Evening captures the very essence of country music. Without elaborate arrangements, orchestration, or overdubbing, the beauty of Carrie Shepard and John Holk's voices take center stage. The two voices glide and blend effortlessly in perfect harmony. They combine to create an intimacy that enhances the lyrical story telling of this album. As almost all the songs are about relationships, the beauty and emotion of the singers add a heartfelt resonance to each tune. From the hopeful yearning of Sitll Have Your Hat ("I know you can't be gone, because I still have your hat.") to the delightfully sensuous Chore List ("I'm making you a chore list baby: 1 Do just what I say 2 undo my necklace...") and the inevitable following song, One Night of Sin, you get the feeling that you are eavesdropping on a couple's most intimate moments. Listening to this album with your sweetheart may even lead to a few intimate moments of your own!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Toby Keith taps his Irish roots (and a keg or two) for inspiration

Toby Keith discusses the inspiration for the title song of his newest release, Clancy's Tavern over at Taste of Country. Toby explains, "First of all, that story is true. It’s influenced by my grandmother’s tavern that I was raised in. But I played Ireland here about two years ago for the first time, and [at] the end of the trip it was like, I started kind of getting a desire to wanna listen to some old Irish folk songs." Toby may have found additional inspiration for the CD from Ireland's other claim to fame, provided it was served in a red solo cup.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

American Idol Lauren Alaina wants to knock (around in) YOUR boots!

Lauren Alaina scooted her boots to a second place finish on last year's American Idol. Now she wants to scoot around in YOUR boots to help promote her new album, Wildflower. She is teaming up with Justin Boots to offer a design contest. The fan who creates the best boot design (as voted on by fans) will receive:
- A signed pair of boots worn by Lauren Alaina
- A signed copy of 'Wildflower'
- Exposure by having their design featured on Lauren Alaina's social media channels
So if you're artistic, or like boots, or just like Lauren Alaina (and who doesn't,) then check out the contest and put a little soul on those boots!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Kenny Chesney's mental floss moment

CMT has a post on Kenny Chesney's inspiration for his new song, "Reality." It seems Kenny was at the dentist's office when the inspiration hit him. “I was lying in a dentist chair, I had the mask on, you know, where they give you that funny gas so they can work on your mouth without you feelin’ it and all that kind of stuff,” he recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I haven’t been this relaxed in a long time. This is my escape from reality.’" Although I don't recommend excessive use of laughing gas for inspiration (the only thing dentists inspire in me is fear!), this post got me thinking about some of the odd ways inspiration strikes. Sometimes I get a song idea listening to a song on the radio. I'll get involved in the story, then suddenly I'll stop and think: hey there's another way to tell that story, or there's another side to that story. Sometimes I get story ideas just watching people. Spend an hour at the mall and just watch. You'll wonder why people say, do, and wear the things they do. Trying to figure the reasons will give you plenty of ideas. I've even gotten song ideas just channel surfing from station to station on TV. The last words of one station will blend in with the first words on the next station and give me an idea. Song ideas are funny that way, you never know when they'll strike. But if you're a songwriter the main thing is just to always carry a notepad and write that word or phrase or idea that pops into your head before it fades away like Kenny Chesney's laughing gas.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Song of the Week: Party Our Hats Off by J Collins

Do you like to party? I mean really party with the speakers all the way up to 11? Then this song is for you. Party Our Hats Off by Florida native J Collins will make you do just that. With big, crunchy guitar licks and a great sing along (drink along) chorus, this song is impossible to listen to sitting down. As you might guess from the title, this song won't exapnd your mind with any deep thoughts. But if you're just looking for some good time fun after a long week, then this song has it all: pickup trucks, boots, mud, bars... And did I mention the guitar work? This song will be right at home between your Brad Paisley and Toby Keith beer drinking anthems. And the more I listen to this song,the more I want to party more than just my hat off!

Friday, October 21, 2011

(mostly) Country Music Halloween Party iMix

Here's a little early Halloween treat for y'all! Here's a list of some of our favorite Halloween themed songs to help you get an early start on next weekend's parties:
Ghost Riders in the Sky - Johnny Cash
Phantom 309 - Red Sovine
Beaches of Cheyene - Garth Brooks
Ghost of a Texas Ladies' Man - Concrete Blonde
The Wtich Queen of New Orleans - Redbone
The Conductor Wore Black - Rank and File
The Devil Went Down to Georgia - Charlie Daniels
The Devil's Right Hand - Steve Earle
Zombie Zoo - Tom Petty
Zombified - Southern Culture on the Skids
Hell - Squirrel Nut Zippers
I'm the Only Hell My Momma Ever Raised - Johnny Paycheck
Pay the Devil - Van Morrison
Devil's Best Dress - Corb Lund
Devil's Stomping Ground - Southern Culture on the Skids
(You're the) Devil in Disquise - Elvis Presley
The Creature from the Black Lagoon - Dave Edmunds
Ghost Train Four-Oh-Ten - Marty Stuart
The Legend of the Wooley Swamp - Charlie Daniels
I'm Not Scared - Raindgos
Ring of Fire - Johnny Cash
These are just a few of our favorites. Feel free to add Monster Mash and Purple People Eater or any TV or movie themes to flavor as needed. Happy haunting everyone!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Come on down to South Park and meet...Brad Paisley

Last week we posted about Brad Paisley's appearance on Sesame Street. This week Brad moves from children's entertainment to juvenile delinquent as he provides a voice on tonight's episode of South Park. Brad received an invitatino to South Park Studios in Culver City, CA through a connection from a family member. While there, Brad was offered the chance to provide a voice for an episode. Says Brad, “I went in and cut a couple voices of little kids. I’m just one of the kids in the background. But, my name is in the credits, you know? And, I’m floored. I can’t believe I got to do that.” We can't help but notice the similarity between his South Park pic and our own alter egos above. Could it be that Brad is trying to copy us? Well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Maybe we'll cover some of his songs on our next album!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Garth Brooks makes new friends in high places

Garth Brooks may be famous for his friends in low places, but this past Sunday he got to mingle with some new friends in high places. Garth, along with Alan Jackson, John Bettis, Thom Schuyler and Allen Shamblin, was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Grand Ballroom of Nashville's own Renaissance Hotel. Watching the ceremony, I was surprised to learn from Garth's producer, Allen Reynolds, that Garth always insisted on listening to and recording songs written by others when compiling his albums (Hey Garth - if you ever do another album, keep us in mind!) It was also touching to see many of Garth's collaborators perform a few bars of the songs he made famous and to hear how his recording of their songs changed theire lives. It was a touching and inspiring ceremony and one that I hope gives encouragement to all my friends pursuing their musical dreams. Maybe one day...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Song of the Week: All The Luck by Leslie Krafka

I love Leslie Krafka's voice. It has a vulnerability and earnestnest to it, like an early Linda Rondstat. Listening to Leslie, you feel like you've known her for years. She uses that intimate sound to great effect in her song, "All The Luck." In this waitress'-eye-view of drinking to forget, Leslie paints a vivid picture of what it's like to feel stuck as others (and life itself) seem to pass you by. Drawing on the influence of her fellow Texas songwriters, Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker, she puts you smack dab in the middle of the story. With lines like, "No one comes here 'cause they're happy, but happy's what they're looking for," she sings with the experience of one who knows. But despite the somber tone of her lyrics, the music is surprisingly upbeat and wonderfully melodic. In the end, the two opposing forces reconcile as Leslie confesses that "What lies in me is like the spring underneath the drifts of snow." And it's that ray of hope in all our lives that keeps depression from turning to despair. And with that little bit of hope, sometimes all we need to make it is a little luck. Having heard and felt this song, I wish Leslie "all the luck" in the world!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Randy Houser gives back "something real" to his mentor

We might never have heard the music of Randy Houser were it not for the influence of Thomas Carson. “I was playing clubs at the time and the thought of going to school was foreign to me,” Randy said in an interview with He was at a talent competition one night when Thomas Carson spoke with him and gave him "little kick in the butt” he needed to pursue music classes at East Central Community College in Mississippi where Mr. Carson taught. Fast forward a dozen years and now it's Randy's turn to help his former teacher. Thomas Carson was diagnosed with esophageal cancer earlier this year. Randy and several other ECCC alumni are performing a benefit concert to help their mentor and friend. The show is scheduled for Saturday, November 12th at the Neshola County Coliseum. “I always knew that he believed in me and my music,” says Randy. “I’ll never forget the moment he looked me in the eye and said, ‘If you can get out of this town, you need to go’. I moved to Nashville soon after. He helped me. Now it’s time to help him.” You can find out more about the generous spirit of Thomas Carson and even donate funds for his recovery here. Keep that circle of blessings going!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bayou Country Superfest Gar-An-Tees a Great Lineup

The lineup for the 2012 Bayou Country Superfest in Baton Rouge, LA was just announced yesterday, and it's a hot (dare I say spicy?) one! The two day show will feature Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town, Eric Church, Sara Evans, Dierks Bentley, Joe Nichols and Jerrod Niemann. Wow! That's like a whole year's worth of concerts mixed into one big bowl of Jambalaya. The event will take place next Memorial Day on May 26th and 27th at LSU's Tiger Stadium. Tickets will officially go on sale next Thursday, October 20th. And with this lineup, there's a good chance they'll go fast. So get your tickets and grab your hot sauce for what promises to be a smokin' good time! We'll see y'all there.
As a little bonus, here's a little taste from last year's festival:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hank Williams Jr. doubles down with "Keep the Change"

As I'm sure y'all know by know, Hank Williams Jr. has gotten himself in some hot water over comments he made about President Obama. In a recent interview on Fox and Friends, Hank compared the underachieving president to Hitler. The next day, ESPN announced they were drop kicking Hank and his theme song, "Are You Ready For Some Football," from the Monday Night Football opening credits. The song had been a mainstay of MNF for over ten years, but ESPN felt that Hanks' remarks were to inflammatory to keep him on the team. Hank offered some initial apologies for his remarks. But after receiving no reconsideration from ESPN, Hank has made his feelings abundantly clear in the way he does best - through his music. His song,"Keep the Change," clearly expresses his dissatisfaction with the current president ("This country sure as hell been going down the drain / We know what we need, we know who to blame," Hank sings. "United Socialist States of America: How do you like that name? I'll keep the USA, and y'all can keep the change")and, of course, ESPN gets a parting shot as well ("You can keep 'Fox & Friends' and ESPN out of your homes, too, because Bocephus and all his rowdy friends and his song is outta there.") If you agree with Hank Jr. or just like his music more than his attitude, you can dowload the song for free here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It's Official! "Little Bitty" town of Mineral, VA wins Alan Jackson Concert!

As we mentioned here a few weeks ago, Alan Jackson was going to let his fans vote to bring him to their town. Little bitty Mineral, VA quickly jumped to the lead in fan votes, led by sympathy for the devastation inflicted on the small town by an August earthquake. Things were looking up for Mineral until some lawyers got involved and pointed out the Mineral had to meet minimum seating capacity requirements. Then a few weeks after that, Mineral learned that they would not receive any FEMA aid to rebuild after the quake. Just when things looked darkest, the legal hurdles were cleared and Mineral was declared the official winner of the Demand Alan Jackson concert. Congratulations to our Blue Ridge cousins who will likely be in attendance. We'll keep ya'll posted when we learn the date and time of the show.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Song of the Week: Love You As You Break My Heart

This week's song is "Love You As You Break My Heart" by Rob Lytle. As you can imagine from the title, this song is about a broken heart. But rather than wallow in self pity or engage in revenge fantasies, this song reveals a depth of emotion that is still capable of loving even as the heart breaks. Our own Cousin JD wrote a great song with a similar theme called "Beautiful Judas" which will be on our upcoming album. But where JD focused on the pain of the moment of breakup, Rob Lytle manages to find joy in remembrance of the past. With a catchy, uptempo zydeco flavor (including fiddle and accordian - ya'll know I'm a sucker for some good fiddlin'!) Rob manages to take a moment of extreme pain and turn it into a joyful, if bittersweet, moment of truth. With his alt-country and Americana roots, Rob has discovered the secret of America's truest musical form, the blues, and shares with us that secret - that singing about your suffering is part of overcoming your suffering. And Rob's suffering is our gain, because this is a wonderful song of triumph in the face of heartbreak.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Brad Paisley's American Sunday Night

Brad Paisley has penned numerous odes to overindulgence (and I love them all!) but now he is singing a different tune. He is joining The Children's Television Workshop to introduce the concept of poverty and malnutrition to the happy cast of Sesame Street and their friends around the world. This Sunday, October 9th, at 7pm Brad will help to introduce the new muppet,Lily on the hour long special, Growing Hope Against Hunger. In a sign of the times, Brad will costar with new muppet Lily to educate children that some of us need help meeting our daily nutrition needs, even in this land of plenty. The episode introduces children to the concept of Food Banks and encourages them to share. It's certainly a worthy cause and one that we have supported in our areas. To donate, just do an online search for "food bank" and the name of your city or go to the Feeding America site (just no frogs' legs please! asks Kermit.) The more you find out, the more you'll be amazed at how much they do in your community.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Album of the Month: Zombified by Southern Culture on the Skids

I've been a Southern Culture on the Skids fan for over ten years. I've been a fan of Halloween longer than that. Put the two together and I can't resist. Zombified by Southern Culture on the Skids (SCOTS to their fans) is a tribute to the horror and exploitation movies that populated Southern theaters and drive ins during the 60s and 70s. Bringing their unique genre defying (country-rock? psychobilly? Hillbilly surf punk? Toe sucking geek rock?) sound to B Movie monster madness if pure genius. Band leader Rick Miller, bassist Mary Huff and drummer Dave Hartman crank out a serious hoodoo vibe on this perfect for Halloween collection. The band comes out swinging with the emminently danceable title track, "Zombified." They keep that 60's surf rock feel going on tracks like "Swamp Thang" and "Devil's Stomping Ground." And they deliver their signature back woods humor on "Eyeball You Later." For me,the standout tune is "Bloodsucker" - your basic caribbean tinged, vampire mambo (doesn't every band have one of these in their catalog?) Mary Huff takes over vocal duties on the wonderful torch-ballad, "Torture." (By the way,the only real torture on this album is that Mary doesn't get to sing more lead vocals, I could listen to her magnificent 50's pop diva voice all day [or night in this case!]
If you're planning a Halloween party this month and you're looking to surprise your "Monster Mash" weary friends with some truly outside-the-coffin musical mayham, this is your answer.
In decribing his inspiration for the album, Rick says, "I got into the (B mvie horror) directors, like Mario Bava, Hershell Gordon Lewis and George Romero, to name just a few. They made some entertaining and pretty disturbing movies from way outside the mainstream. A big influence on my approach to making music!" Entertaing and disturbing - what more could you want from an album this Halloween?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hank Williams Lost Notebooks

If I didn't know better, I'd think Hank Williams Sr. was gearing up for a reunion tour. Last month saw the release of a 3 CD set of his earliest recordings. Now this month comes news of the release of The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. When Hank died in 1953 at the age of 29, he left behind a scuffed brown, leather briefcase full of notebooks that included songs, half written songs, and song ideas. Somehow A&R executive Mary Martin ended up with the notebooks and approached Bob Dylan to produce an album of the material similar to the 1998 album Mermaid Avenue where Billy Bragg and Wilco put newly discovered Woody Guthrie lyrics to music as a heartfelt tribute to the pioneer of Folk music. Eventually, the Hank Williams lyrics were dispersed to 13 different artists to put their own take on the Country music icon's words. As Michael McCall observes in the liner notes, "The history of Hank's notebooks is as complex as the legend himself. Yet, in the end, what matters most are the songs, and these new works rise from the ether with ghostly relevance. As with his many standards, these new recordings tap straight into the soul of man. This is songwriting at its most artful and most powerful."
Here are the songs and artists on this tribute to the unrealized potential of Hank Williams Sr. (I just wish Hank would have had the chance to record them himself.):
Alan Jackson "You've Been Lonesome, Too"
Bob Dylan "The Love That Faded"
Norah Jones "How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart?"
Jack White "You Know That I Know"
Lucinda Williams "I'm So Happy I Found You"
Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell "I Hope You Shed a Million Tears"
Patty Loveless "You're Through Fooling Me"
Levon Helm "You'll Never Again Be Mine"
Holly Williams "Blue Is My Heart"
Jakob Dylan "Oh, Mama, Come Home"
Sheryl Crow "Angel Mine"
Merle Haggard "The Sermon on the Mount"

Monday, October 3, 2011

Song of the Week: I'm Going to Love You Through It by Martina McBride

Martina McBride is reinventing herself this month. With a new album on a new label (with many of the new songs written by herself.) Her first single from the album 11 is, not surprisingly, about renewal. It's called "I'm Going to Love You Through It," and it's about surviving breast cancer. Although not a cancer survivor herself, Martina has a long history of supporting women's issues. She fell in love with both the song and its emotional message. To help further that message, Martina is helping raise awareness of breast cancer with a special appearane in New York City. She will personally throw the switch to turn The Empire State Building pink for the month of October. She will also perform a private concert for breast cancer survivors and their loved ones within the iconic building on Friday, October 14th. So for the sake of a good cause and good music, check out Martina's song.