There have been quite a few records released lately that have been solid listens from start to finish. One album that can be added to that list is Hannah Bethel’s Never Ending Sky. The Michigan native, and Nashville resident’s, fourth independently released album arrived in October of 2014. Never Ending Sky incorporates lap steel, ganjo and piano, as well as electric guitar, into songs with character. Its eight well-crafted songs were all co-written by Bethel, who at a young age has a hand for classic storytelling; weaving detailed scenes into her songs that come to life as you listen.
The first track, and current single, “You Wanna Be My Man,” has her airy vocals and ganjo merging into an up-tempo chorus about being head over heels in love. Personal favorite, “Frigerator,” revolves around something as simple as using that every day appliance to talk about a relationship on the decline. “You shut me off like I’m a stranger/But what happened to the nights we didn’t sleep/Cause I miss your hands on my waist/In the kitchen when we couldn’t wait/But now the only thing turned on in this house is the frigerator.”
“The Lie” begins like a ballad but then the tempo increases with extremely clever lyrics telling the story of being continually wronged by the one you love. “In the end the shot that kills is not the crime, it’s the lie.”
The insanely catchy “Tumbleweed” speaks to the wandering spirit and being in a place where one will “never have to wonder about the things we never tried.”
“If You Felt Like I Did” is a too good for words duet with Brennin Hunt which tells the story of the end of a relationship from two points of view. While she questions “what the hell went wrong” he explains how he couldn’t be with her for the rest of his life “if you felt like I did.” Sad and lovely at the same time.
The twangy “Watching the Sky” finds her wondering if her love will ever return while the solemn “Come Back Down” deals with loving, and letting go of, someone with an addiction. “What can I do to save you without killing me/Cause lately I’m tired of waiting alone on the ground…..I’m afraid we ain’t gonna make it when you are high in the clouds.”
The album closes with “The Way Back Home” on which her vocals, and the cadence of the song, bring to mind traveling or searching, whether it be away from or to something. “I still look for what I couldn’t see, I guess blindness runs in my family”
Hannah Bethel is a strong addition to country music and if this release is any indication, then the sky certainly could be never ending for her and her music.
Purchase Never Ending Sky here
Carrie Underwood’s “Little Toy Guns” is the second single from her Greatest Hits: Decade #1 album. The song, co-written by Underwood with Chris DeStefano and Hillary Lindsey, tells the story of a child caught in the crossfire of her parents’ arguments, wishing them, of course, to cease. Underwood’s vocals, as always, shine on the drum and electric guitar heavy tune that deals with a serious message: how an unstable parental relationship can hurt a child.
“I wish words were like little toy guns
No sting, no hurt no one, Just a bang bang rollin' off your tongue
(I wish words were like little toy guns)
No smoke, no bullets, no kick from the trigger when you pull it
No pain, no damage done
(I wish words were like little toy guns)
Just a bang bang rollin' off your tongue
(I wish words were like little toy guns)”
Molly Brown is a 23-year-old singer, songwriter from Toronto, Canada whose love for music started at a very young age, thanks to her parents who encouraged an interest in music and played Carole King, James Taylor, and the Beatles in the house. Molly became passionate for the art of writing and performing in her teens. In 2009 she moved to Boston to attend Berklee and in 2014 moved to Nashville. She tracked her new single "Travel inTwos" in Toronto with award winning Canadian fiddler Anne Lindsay.
There is just one word to describe "Travel in Twos"----lovely. The theme pertains to having that special someone in your life to share experiences and see the world's beauty with. The song will strike a chord (I haven't gotten this emotional over a song since Cory Bishop's "Crown of Thorns") allowing the listener to feel at peace if you already are with that special person or a longing if you aren't. The stripped down, simple production allows the instruments (guitar, violin) and Molly's sublime vocals to convey something touching and tender.
"Baby what's the use of these greens and blues
If you aint got noone to see 'em with you
Maybe we were meant for every continent
There ain't one place that we wont go to
When our love likes to travel in twos."
The single will be on Molly's upcoming debut EP due in the Spring.
For more information visit her official website
“I find myself back in a more hopeful place,” Ryan Bingham says of a collection that was crafted while he was holed up in an airstream trailer in the mountains of California. Being in such a solitary spot afforded him “the time and space to tap into myself.” And tap into himself he surely did, in a collection filled with honesty, hope and more positivity than one might be used to hearing on a Ryan Bingham record. Fear and Saturday Night, his fifth album, was produced by Jim Scott (Tom Petty, Wilco) and contains twelve songs of varied life experiences expressed by a …storyteller.
The album starts off with the autobiographical “Nobody Knows My Trouble” in which the jaunty melody juxtaposes the reality of the lyrics- of not knowing what is really going on with a person simply from seeing their exterior. On the rootsy “Broken Heart Tattoos,” he imagines what type of father he will become while a psychedelic, fuzzy feel permeates “Top Shelf Drug,” about being unable to get enough of a love after having a taste.
Inspirational and touching, “Island in The Sky,” about being with the one you love and being to conquer anything “So we can feel without fear a future that we’ll never know.”
Incorporating Mexican flair (and accordion!!), the rollicking “Adventures of You and Me” relates the toe tapping adventures in NYC while “Radio’s” bluesy sound relates what it’s like when you turn on the radio to hear a song and “bad things and sad memories keep a playing on my memory.”
Melancholy in both vocals and melody “Fear and Saturday Night” is both melancholy in vocals and melody while “Hands of Time” provides a slice of funk and some serious rockin’ in a song about experiencing life before time catches up with us. “Diamond Is Too Rough,” the longest song on the record, is a personal favorite for its lyrics and driving rhythm.
The incredibly romantic “Snow Falls in June” is about being there for that someone, being their safe place, their shelter, no matter what. The album closes with the stellar “Gun Fightin Man.”
“Fear and Saturday Night” is one of those albums that is diverse, yet complete, unified by the gravelly, weary voiced storyteller. It’s a collection with depth that will move you more with each listen.
Purchase the album here
Originally from New Jersey, the now California based Anjelia Pelay is preparing to release a new EP, The Heart Decides. The EP, produced by Brian Blake, features six original songs including the lead single from the project, "Kiss My Ass," which was co-written by Pelay.
On "Kiss My Ass," Pelay blends country, pop and southern rock into a single with serious grit and attitude. Pelay's vocals on the verses convey a woman wronged and angry "fool me once, fool me twice," but when she sings the chorus "you're gonna miss every part of me/kiss my ass good- bye" her vocals convey a different woman-one content with her decision to move on because she values herself and deserves better.
"Now I know how love should never feel
How toxic lust cannot be real
When it's right the truth will be revealed
Have fun sleeping with your lies"
"Kiss My Ass" will be released February 1st, an important date for Anjelia as it is the date of her father's (who was her muse) passing from cancer.
Pelay is an actress, singer/songwriter, dancer, multi-instrumentalist (she plays piano, auto-harp and banjo on the album)....and a definite one to watch.
For more information visit her official website anjeliapelay.com
At only 19, Blaire Hanks knew if he wanted to make it, he had to make the move to Nashville. Determined to find his way in Music City and make a name for himself, Blaire signed with WBMG shortly after releasing his first single 'Show You Off' in January of 2014. His debut self titled EP 'Blaire Hanks' charted at #22 on the iTunes Country Charts. Now Blaire is prepping to release a new single, "I'm Buyin'," a song that could find a home on current country and/or pop radio.
"I'm Buyin'" thematically is not very different from what we are hearing on country radio: guy meets a girl who he wants to get to know better and "chill" with. Hanks has a nice enough delivery and the song's melody is one that will get you up out of your seat and dance. As country has veered more and more into songs with elements of pop, rap etc, (which is not my cup of tea) the current crop of radio listeners will probably find this song enjoyable.
"It's time to make my move
Think of something to say
Like where you from, what's your name
Are you alone
Tripping on my words and your body is too blame"
Blaire has shared the stage with Florida Georgia Line, and most recently Dustin Lynch. For more information visit his official website
Watch the lyric video here
Troy Cartwright has earned numerous accolades over the past year; not only was he the recipient of 2013’s prestigious B.W. Stevenson Songwriting Competition, he received the 2014 Rising Star Texas Music Award and was named one of the Dallas Observer’s “5 Artists to Watch in 2015.” In addition, Cartwright has shared the stage with artists like Radney Foster, American Aquarium, Chris Knight, Jason Boland and Jason Eady, among others.
Now, the Dallas based singer songwriter is prepping to release his full length self-titled debut record on February 3rd. The album, produced by Grammy nominated Wes Sharon (Turnpike Troubadours, Parker Milsap) features nine songs all written by Cartwright. At twenty three years young, Troy possess an ability to write about relationships and life, both the positive and negative aspects, with the depth of someone more seasoned. The album is a complete one, full of story songs that will resonate with listeners of any age; songs told by a clear, young voice that will surely age like a good whiskey.
The first single from the project, which features Ryan Englemen from Turnpike Troubadours on pedal steel, is “Next Flight Home.” The mid-tempo song is a love letter, reassuring his love that she is where he belongs even though he knows that the pull of the road and following his dreams can be difficult on her. “I know that you’re burdened by my lifestyle/But I got dreams they need tending/It might take me awhile. Hope you know I love you and I always stay true if it’s ever too much for you…..I’ll be on the next flight home.”
The infectious radio ready sing along “My Girl” is about being in so deep with someone that even though she’s hard on him and pushes him, he doesn’t mind. “Ain’t that the way it goes sometimes you get beat up until you see the light.”
The flipside of love and relationships are on display in “Fool” and “Tell Me Why.” The former deals with a lover’s lies and being unfaithful. In it, he admits to being a fool because “You were clearly wearing a disguise when you broke into my heart.” In the latter, with its clock ticking cadence, he simply wants to know why she left, with questions many of us have asked, “Did I overthink it/Do too much/Or not enough?”
Things turn somber and emotional in “Stuck.” Both the melody and Cartwright’s delivery of the lyrics express the gut wrenching sadness of being left by a lover and as his heart shrinks, he wonders if she still cares or would come to help him if he needed it.
There’s a welcoming optimism in “Come Home” which speaks to the one place where people understand you; one place you can return to when you’re young and things may not initially have worked out the way you planned--home.
“A Simple Song” is just that, a lovely “quiet” acoustic tune about wanting to be with the one that “fits on my soul.” This is followed by “Long Way Down” the grittiest song on the record. The southern rocker is full of electric guitar and lyrics about letting go of your burdens because the “the longer you hold on is the further that you fall.”
The album concludes with “Paper Hope,” a sadly beautiful acoustic song (that packs an emotional punch) about losing a love and wanting another chance. “Do you wanna try again/Do you wanna make amends/Do you wanna be my friend?......Do you think about my heart how you’re tearing it apart. How many chances have I blown/I just need to get you on the phone/Hey darling now tell me where did you go/And why do you leave me all alone?”
Cartwright’s record should firmly plant him as one to watch, both in the Texas music scene and beyond.
For more information visit his official website
Pre-order the album on iTunes starting January 20th
A Thousand Horses (Michael Hobby, Bill Satcher, Graham Deloach and Zach Brown) have been playing their brand of raucous southern rock meets blues, country and soul to loyal fans for a while now. Having previously released two EPs, they are now newly signed to Republic Nashville, and are hitting country radio with their single “Smoke.”
The sound of “Smoke” is a bit more polished (read: radio ready) than their previous offerings, which had a bit more grit to them. However, they are still blending genres into a sound, that although familiar, should get eaten up by radio listeners. The story of "Smoke" compares a female to smoking; both being habits that are difficult to break. The melody is easy on the ears, but it’s the vocals-aching and sensual, gritty and believable-that will pull you in.
I pull her in nice and slow
She’s a habit and I can’t let go
Blowing rings around my heart
The one she stole, watching her sway and glow
It’s killing me and I know
Can’t stop it once it starts
A Thousand Horses drew raves for their set at the Austin City Limits Festival in October; they should find the same success when the single impacts radio on January 20th.
The single is available at digital retailers
Jill & Julia have had a year of highlights in their musical journey since signing with Lamon Records-Nashville in October 2013. This past year they performed at CMA Fest, performed on the PBS special “Back Yard Sessions” as well as the Route 91 Harvest Festival and hosted ZUUS Country’s “Country on the Rise.” In addition, they released their debut EP and single “Wildfire’ in March of 2014. Now the duo is prepping to release their new single, “Cursed.”
“Cursed” may be the title of the new single, but it can best describe the overall tone of the song as well, which tells the story of a woman wronged by a lover and preparing to call him out on it. The melodies plucked out by the banjo are dark and ominous while the ladies’ harmonies give you a sense of disquiet. Mixing country and rock in a way that brings to mind Eric Church (and that’s a compliment), “Cursed” represents a distinctive sound from these ladies, one that I dig and think fans of good music will too.
“He’s a wanted man
One who understands
How to get what he wants don’t you know
But he sold his soul yeah I'll have you know
His price is higher than any gold”
"Cursed," will be available at online retailers January 19th
For more information visit their official website
Country newcomer Rachel Timberlake will be releasing her sophomore album, American Made, early in 2015. The album will feature her current single “Whiskey Bent Wings” which was released to radio on January 6th. The song, written by Rachel, and Luke Powers, is a story dealing with loss and the potential for a brighter day.
The bluesy, fiddle laced southern rock tune is sung by a voice, gritty yet clear; a voice that will make you feel that it has lived what it sings. The verses reminisce on the past, of sadness, pain and a lost love, while the chorus, with its gospel influenced backing vocals, signals hope "maybe one day I'll find you" and (possibly?) redemption. Until that day comes however, she'll finish the bottle so that it will "still feel like you're here."
"How does one go back in time
Go back to the place
Where your sweet kiss I still taste
How could one do it all again
Relive the days
That we lived back then
Whiskey Bent Wings"
"Whiskey Went Wings" is a single that country radio listeners should take flight with.
For more information visit her official website