If you are looking for a true country record, then look no further because Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen have certainly delivered with their debut duet album Hold My Beer Vol. 1. Released on April 20th via their Lil' Buddy Toons label (with Lloyd Maines producing), the album contains ten tracks that have that classic country style both melodically and lyrically. Traditional instruments like pedal steel, dobro and fiddle are front and center instead of simply being relegated to the background. Bowen and Rogers’ vocals are perfect; warm, friendly, honest and upbeat, yet weary and solemn when they need to be. As you listen throughout the entire record, the fun and friendship between them can be heard (and felt) loud and clear.
In addition to the much loved “Standards,” there are six more originals as well as three covers on which the duo firmly put their stamp. They pay their respects to Joe Ely [“I Had My Hopes Up High”], and Willie and Merle [“It’s Been A Great Afternoon” and “Reasons to Quit” which closes the album] with not only great songs, but songs that reflect their lives as troubadours.
The album kicks off with “In The Next Life” on which both mention career highlights (and struggles) coming to the conclusion that if they had to do it all over again, they would….and you 100% believe them. “I’m not sure how we got here but somehow we stuck around/Some days I feel like we can fly and some days I think we’ll drown.” Infused with humor, “Good Luck with That” finds them advising one another the things they shouldn’t waste their time on, like telling off your boss or planning on spending a night out with the boys while the wife is at home. You’ll find yourself humming along to the simply irresistible “Lady Bug” (gotta love the whistle at the end) perhaps wishing for some good luck of your own.
The album is certainly geared to be played in the honky tonks with people dancing, but there are somber tunes too, like “El Dorado,” and the cry a tear in your beer (or vodka) ballad, “Til It Does” on which the pedal steel does all of the talking about the end of a relationship. “These days I’m seeing things in ways/That only missing her reveals…..No you don’t see the warning signs/Until there's tail lights in a cloud of dust.”
Hold My Beer is a record of love and friendship not just between two artists and buddies but with country music as well. Cheers to Vol. 1 and many more.
Purchase Holy My Beer Vol. 1 here
Drew Baldridge’s second installment of his trilogy Crossing County Lines was released on April 7th. Crossing County Lines Vol. 2 contains five songs that range from straight up party numbers to emotional religious themed ballads.
Sounding like something that Thomas Rhett might sing, “Something Like You,” written by Ben Hayslip and Rhett Akins kicks off the EP. That is followed by four more songs, all of which Baldridge had a hand in penning. The R&B flavored “Dance With Ya,” complete with an invigorating horn section, is sure to have the crowd on their feet while the mid-tempo, humorous “Burnt Toast” tells everything his girl can do [drink you beneath the able, drive a stick shift], except boil water. However, while the kitchen may not be her forte, he loves her so much he’ll even eat her burnt toast. “Wherever You’re At” has spoken word verse, then eases into a nice melody with a sing along chorus. Standout track “God’s Front Porch,” about the place where he wants to spend forever, closes out the record with a lovely sentiment.
Crossing County Lines Vol.2 is sure to keep fans old and new satiated until Vol. 3 is released.
by guest columnist Harriett Watkins
Oklahoma based singer-songwriter John Moreland generated a great deal of critical praise after the release of his 2013 sophomore album, In The Throes. After I saw him perform a few months ago, I understood what all the fuss was about. This 29 year old has a lot to say, and says it poignantly, in his recent release, High On Tulsa Heat.
Throughout the ten song journey, personal experiences of love, loss and acceptance are told through lyrics and vocals dripping with so much emotion and raw honesty they are, at times, painful to hear. Perhaps it’s because we can relate to these stories more than it is comfortable for us to admit.
On the opening track, “Hang Me In The Tulsa County Stars,” Moreland sings, “I know this life can leave you cold and make you mad, leave you homesick for a home you never had.” This song is as much about his ability to help someone through a rough time as it is a vehicle to deal with his own.
Reflected in one of the album’s many stand outs, "Cherokee," is the sad acceptance that what you’ve lost is irretrievably gone and even the memories are becoming cloudy and distant. “I still see you shining through the treetops, but I don’t feel you pulling strings anymore. I still use your old alarm clock, but every morning I get further from the mark."
And, as in real life, not every hard time leaves you devastated and searching for answers. “Sad Baptist Rain” and “High On Tulsa Heat” tell stories of conflict, bad decisions and lost love with the perspective of life lessons learned.
Unlike In The Throes, with High On Tulsa Heat the sadness seems to be accompanied by a bit of peacefulness that comes from the acceptance of the demons and faults of yourself, as well as others. Grab this one, sit down with a glass of the best sipping whiskey you can find. Spend some time reacquainting yourself with the pure, simple pleasure of listening to songs that truly make you feel something.
Purchase High On Tulsa Heat here
If William Clark Green was nervous about his follow up to Rose Queen, he needn’t be. Ringling Road, his fourth album set for release on April 21st, is quite honestly, stellar. Building on the foundation set with Rachel Loy on Rose Queen, Green possibly trumps the breakout project and is poised to have the spotlight that already shines on him burn even brighter.
One of the most talented songwriters on the scene, Green writes songs that are narratives, detailing vivid pictures that range from the romantic to the intense to the colorful (even the expletives and drug references aren’t gratuitous, they fall naturally in the storyline). And just as the songs can differ, Green’s smoky vocals adjust to convey whatever the songs require from romance to sorrow to displeasure, all of which are done with authenticity.
Green’s previous albums centered around Texas towns, and Ringling Road continues that tradition. Eastland, Texas figures prominently in the title track, a place where the Ringling Brothers Circus would stop to let the elephants out to drink from the lake. The standout track doesn’t focus on cotton candy and balloons, instead it captures the slightly creepy, debaucherous vibe of a travelling freak show in a richly detailed look at the circus oddities from the bearded lady to the tattooed man and all of their proclivities. The sing along at the end, with its pulsing beat, is spot on and makes you feel as if you are in the midst of the action.
The remainder of the record includes ten additional songs all of which Green had a hand in writing, including his #1 “Sympathy.” Lead track, “Next Big Thing” perfectly sets up the album. Rootsy and gritty, the song takes a (autobiographical?) look at trying to understanding what it means to be told you’re going to hit it big, while you’re still scrambling and sacrificing along the way. “Don’t know why people keep telling me/You’re the next big thing, what’s that mean….It’s insane what you do for a broken heart and some busted strings.”
Current single “Sticks and Stones,” a roots rocker, centers on rising above the trash talking in a small town. “Yeah you believe what you wanna believe, think that you know but don’t know me yeah……I won’t be beggin’ for a second chance/Do you really think that I give a damn?” While “Old Fashioned” spells out the truth on the lack of values in society today. “Yes sir, no sir, pardon me ma’am you don’t hear it much anymore/From the punk ass kids not giving a damn hanging at the corner store…..The whole world’s going to hell.”
There’s nothing not to love about taking a chance on love in the joyous, fiddle heavy, Cajun infused “Creek Don’t Rise,” or the swaggering groove of “Going Home,” in which thinking about returning to his love releases him of his sorrows.
That’s where the joyous love songs end and the more sobering ones begin. Emotionally charged, “Final This Time,” a duet with Dani Flowers in which she delivers the biting line “there’s a reason for me leaving/he’s a whole lot better than you,” is heartbreaking. Yet, despite the lyrics and the forlorn melody expressed by the harmonica, it feels like there’s the possibility of it not being so final. In the rocking “Hey Sarah” he tries everything he can from sleeping around to going to church in order to forget an ex because he “ain’t going back to what it used to be….I’ll do whatever I’ve got to do to get over you.” Finally in “Fool Me Once” he’s willing (and wanting) to be misled even if it’s for one time because he knows it’s “so damn far-fetched for me to steal your heart.”
Co-written with Kent Finlay, “Still Think About You” closes the album on a beautifully solemn, even painful, note that had me tearing up from the first beat. The song, with its haunting harmonies and piano, will break your heart, both in the realization that the relationship ended and in the words he chooses to use in expressing his sentiments. “I know you hate me now but I wanted you to know/Didn’t care enough, but I cared enough to let you go/Oh the bitter seeds we sow/And now you’re calling me a bastard calling me a liar/Sorry that you fell in love with someone you will never inspire.”
Ringling Road is one of those rare, complete records with keen observations on life, love, and society; where the players, the lyrics and the melodies are the attractions, and Green the self-assured ringmaster in the big top.
Purchase Ringling Road here
NB. Definitely purchase a physical copy of Ringling Road for the phenomenal artwork which was once again done by the extremely talented and Grammy winning ladies at Backstage Design.
In the fall of 2011 in Minneapolis, the band mates of Maiden Dixie, comprised of three music/composition majors, two Iraq War combat veterans and a former Division One basketball player, combined their talents to create an energetic, passion filled country rock unit. On April 14th of this year they released their sophomore record, UNSAFE & SOUND. The record, which contains eight well written tracks, is a diverse, yet united one. It hits everything from rock and country to bluegrass and gospel in tracks that are both raucous and emotional. Lead vocals are shared by both Channing Himes and Jesse Becker while players Drew Sherman (bass), Jonathan Krentz (guitar), Zachary Scanlan (fiddle) and Tyler Kloewer (drums) combine their talents into a sound uniquely their own.
Opening the record is “An Honest Man’s Wage” a melodically haunting song (that seems like it would fit right in on a TV show like Justified) with simple instrumentation and lyrics about working on living an honest life, however difficult that may be. The lighthearted “Shoulda’ Gone Home,” about perhaps partying a little too hard, is a country rocker with guitar, fiddle and organ that combine for a fun tune that is sure to be a hit live. Standout track “Too Close to Goodbye” focuses on healing the wounds of a relationship and turning the hurt around. “So afraid of what I might say/Words will heal or cut like a blade.”
The emotional, and highly relatable, duet “If I Had To Guess” has each party (post-break up) wondering what their ex is doing now while “Love Revival,” with its gospel flair and on point harmonies, speaks of keeping a relationship afloat, knowing there’s brighter times ahead. “We could walk away, throw our hands up in the air/Or we could keep the faith, knowin we've still got a prayer.”
“Story of Our Own” is a beautiful song with an Americana feel about how the rough times in a relationship can actually make a relationship stronger, while “Bullet in The Gun,” which starts off with the sound of a gun being cocked, has an all rocking, rebellious feel. The album closes with the lovely, and touching “The Road” about the different (good and bad) paths in life.
Purchase UNSAFE & SOUND here
Asheville’s The Honeycutters are set to releases their third album, Me Oh My, on Organic Records April 21st. The album contains fourteen songs all penned by vocalist Amanda Anne Platt who, for someone in her twenties, has an innate ability to write relatable, straightforward, and authentic lyrics. She is able to convey feelings and experiences so simply and honestly that the listener knows of what she is speaking. Those songs are fueled by the stellar instrumentation of her bandmates on dobro, mandolin, drums and pedal steel as well as Platt’s captivating vocals, ethereal and earthy, which deliver those words with a wisdom beyond her years.
Me Oh My deals with the traditional themes of love, heartbreak, and growth. Not taking things to seriously is the theme of opening track “Jukebox,” which immediately draws you into a place where you’ll remain throughout the record. The title track comments on the state of the modern woman while “Edge of The Frame,” about the push and pull of a relationship, has a fun cadence that counters the emotion of the lyrics. “I’m not looking for apologies/You say you’re sorry but you never mean it/Don’t make me ask you again because you’ll take anything you think you can and leave me only with myself to blame.”
The album also includes "Little Bird" which gained Platt notoriety as a finalist at MerleFest's prestigious Chris Austin Songwriting Contest (2011), “Texas ’81,” about the end of a relationship and the joyous “Wedding Song” about finding the person who “pieced me back together, kissed the hurting parts and made me new.”
“Not That Simple” beautifully expresses the hurt one feels when falling for someone you can’t have while “Carolina” focuses on leaving home behind in search of something more. “Aren’t you scared of growin’ old/Me, I’m burning like the dead leaves for something I’m sure I’ve never known.”
Personal favorite, “I’ll Be Loving You” may almost be six minutes long, but it’s one of those songs for which you will continually press “repeat.” Its melody and lyrics (“someday we’re gonna laugh about it, see our troubles in a different light”) are both uplifting and comforting. Closing the album is the sedate, delicate ballad “A Life For You.” In it, she sings of taking responsibility for the end of a relationship, yet still wanting that person to have a life filled with wonderful things, including a wife to “love you like I couldn’t do.”
Me Oh My, an extremely balanced album in terms of tempo and theme, merges Americana, roots, country and even honky tonk into a delightfully unique combination. It’s a highly recommended, refreshing and enjoyable listen from the first track to the last.
Zane Williams is regarded for making albums that you can listen to straight through (and repeatedly), and Texas Like That, his fifth album, set for release April 14th, is no exception. The project, which Williams penned in its entirety, contains ten tracks that showcase his ability to write everything from emotionally wrenching ballads to songs made for dancin’. No matter the subject matter, his songs come straight from the heart and are sung in a way that is 100% genuine and relatable.
As Williams says at the opening of the record, “Here we go!” and he proceeds to take you on a fun journey through songs both honky tonk ready as well as straight up tearjerkers. The album kicks off with “Feelin' Free,” a driving, energetic song complete with banjo and mandolin that you can sing along to while the sun is on your face and you drive down the road. Texas Like That also captures sweet romance on songs like “She Is” which is an ode to the “best part of his life,” “Love Is On Our Side” about staying the course with the one you love even in difficult times and the sultry “Summer Rain.”
Perfect for the dance hall, “Here’s to You” is a tribute to the fans while “Throwback” and the rollicking “Just Gettin' Started” both bring a contemporary edge to the album. The former combines a gritty melody with spoken word while the latter brings a rock and roll crunch (and more spoken word) to a song about describing a love that’s “just getting started” yet will “stand the test of time.”
Standout track “Jayton and Jill” is a true country song: an emotionally stirring ballad with a story about two lost souls who find a connection; it’s a song that will make you feel, as does the moving “Kansas City Sunrise,” which finds him being inspired by said city, but instead of going to it for a love, he’s now leaving it (and the love) behind for something new.
Zane Williams is a singer songwriter who continues to make records with songs that delight the heart with emotion, the mind with thought and the toes with tappin’. Whether you’re from Texas, New York, California or somewhere in between, you’re sure to enjoy Texas Like That.
Recently named one of "Five Dallas Country Bands to Watch" in 2015 by the Dallas Observer, Texas based Melissa Ratley released her debut record, A Lonely View, on January 20th and the lead single from the project, "Say You'll Stay," is currently at radio.
"Say You'll Stay," the last track Ratley wrote for the album, is a classic love song. The song itself is about having issues in relationships (don't we all), but staying the course and working through them with the ultimate goal of remaining together and making it last. The up-tempo song is full of kick drum and lovely pedal steel throughout while Ratley's vocals convey both strength and understanding.
"You can hide from your demons or try to believe them
I bet they'll make you feel complete
You can try to sympathize or let them all go
But there's one thing I gotta hear before you lose control
Say you'll stay"
For more information visit her official website
Dexter Roberts is a self-taught musician who plays guitar, bass, banjo, mandolin and keys. Growing he would prefect his craft by playing "sold out shows" to the cattle on his family farm. Later, Roberts stood in line with thousands of hopefuls and ultimately finished “American Idol: Season 13” in seventh place. Now signed to First Launch Records, Roberts has just released his debut single, "Dream About Me" from his debut EP of the same name.
"Dream About Me" is a very catchy, radio friendly song about remembering details of a past love and wondering if she still thinks about him as well. It's a guitar and drum driven track with a nostalgic feel and relatable lyrics delivered by a sincere voice.
"I remember that summer day
Sun shining on your face
You was wearing them jeans just right
I've never seen a prettier sight
You were singing that Dixie Chicks song
Sounded so good I sang along
Every time I close my eyes
I fall in love one more time"
SnakeBite is set to release their new cd, My Road on May 22nd. The eleven track compilation kicks off with the rockin’ title track about following your path in life and chasing your dreams even though there may be struggles. “There is a dream I’m dreaming/There is a belief I believe in/Risk it all this time…..My road is mine.”
The band continues to travel their path on the remaining songs which focus on life and relationships, those ending (“Faded Love”) and those that last, including the sweet mid-tempo “You,” about the one who makes him a better person. “All Night Long” and “Beautiful Girls” (with a second, Detroit centered version) keep the energy high as does “Too Much Too Soon” a song about wanting to fall in love, but choosing this time to not rush into a relationship.
“Laid Back” and “Song After Song” are both sing along and summer ready. The former with its great vibe is a play on words about wanting to be with someone after being apart, while the latter will find you yearning for the carefree days spent singing along to the radio and hanging out with your friends. “Snake Bitten” and the honky tonk ready “That’s My Song,” which reflects on those artists (George, Waylon, Merle and more) whose music makes you turn up the radio “as loud as it can go,” round out the record.
Let SnakeBite take you for a ride down their country road with “My Road.”