Wingman, the debut solo album by Eddie Kesler, is a collection of original songs about love and loss, life on the road, and loneliness that explores real-life situations honestly and eloquently. The album begins with the heartland rocker “The Road or You” chronicling the common dilemma artists face before mandolin enters to compliment the emotional “21 and Gone” an ode to a daughter that will touch anyone with a child. While Kesler played the majority of the instruments himself, he brought in Drew de Man on pedal steel and Brendan Held on fiddle to amplify the emotion on “Just Show Up”; then incorporates a Latin flair on “Spanish Girl”, goes acoustic on the ballad “This Store” and brings back the mandolin on the doleful “Too Tired To Drink.”
And while Wingman has much lyrical and emotional depth, there’s also fun to be had including the irresistible “Fish Fry”, the jaunty chorus of “Pile of Rust” and the rollicking “Ain't No Gigs on Monday” before closing out with the bluegrass-gospel stylings of “Suffer No More” which will pull at your heartstrings.
With this effort, Kesler is donating all proceeds from the sale of the album to a fund that he set up in his late father’s name at the American Heart Association. “After losing my Dad in 2010 to heart disease and stroke, it really shook my world. I wrote probably a dozen songs about him and the grief I encountered and could have written many more. It has helped me heal and there’s a couple of them on Wingman. I just felt this was something I needed to do. Some people walk or run to raise money for charity and I decided to make some music for a good cause. I hope I can connect with as many listeners possible in the process.”
California born, Nashville-based artist Craig Jackson released his latest full-length Stars In Her Crown on May 26th. Blending Rock, Country, and Americana, Jackson instantly reminds the listener of Tom Petty or the Eagles, but carries an identity all his own on this set of roots rockers that center around relationships. Beginning with the grateful “Safe Place To Land,” the album contains nine other tracks including the romantic title track, the spirited “Don’t Write Me Off” and the tender “Beyond All Measure.” With welcome use of organ throughout, Jackson takes a sonically darker turn with “Heavy Lies The Crown,” and while “The Hardest Thing” and “Code Blue” deeply move the heart, the up-tempo God Willin’” will have your hands clapping and feet tapping before things come to a close with the extended jam, “We’ve Changed.” To find out more visit the official website.
One of the fondest memories of childhood is the excitement for, and anticipation of, a day spent at the amusement park: the sites, the sounds, the rides you cannot wait to get on, and all of the fun that's to be had. Trapper Schoepp will have you reliving those moments with his latest, Bay Beach Amusement Park, due June 2nd.
Excitement builds with opener “Welcome to Bay Beach” which offers a fun, carefree 1950’s beach party feel preparing you for the thrills ahead. That’s followed by the horn-fueled, romantic teen angel vibe of “Tilt A Whirl” where you can imagine being thrown closer to the object of your affection as you free spin, as well as the classic rock and roller “Zippin Pippin” which offers a tip of the hat to Elvis who rode the coaster eight days before he died, and “The Scat” a smoky tune that emits a noir feel via keys and airy harmonies.
Schoepp and company close out the trip with “Bumper Cars” capturing the liberation (and equality) of driving, dodging, and dashing behind the wheel, and the old-time revivalist tale of two boys who wish the “Ferris Wheel” would never end – only to have their wish happily granted.
Located in Wisconsin, Bay Beach Amusement Park turns 125 this summer and while the project is an ode to Bay Beach, it will make anyone nostalgic for a day at the park, and might even inspire you to recapture that excitement and escape for the day.
Willie Matthews brings the sights and sounds of the rodeo to life on his new single, "Rodeo Song."
The mid-tempo tune's easygoing melody flows as Matthews prepares to relax after a long day, heading to the ring for some good times as Garth and George play on the radio.
"Ain't nothing like a radio song
I've been playing it all day long
My works done let's have some fun
I saddle up let's go
Ain't nothing like a rodeo thing
Drop a tailgate and pour me a drink
Take a picture tell me what you think
My eight seconds is done"
Nashville by way of Wisconsin singer-songwriter Hugh Masterson puts forth insightful stories on his first solo effort, Lost + Found, a six-track outing (all written or co-written by Masterson) that while deeply personal, is also relatable, impactful, and undeniably enjoyable. Recorded at Key Club Recording Co. in Benton Harbor, Michigan the album was co-produced by Masterson and Bill Skibbe [engineer for The Black Keys, The Kills] and the result is a sound that blends Americana and Southern Rock with jangle, grit, and heart.
Lost + Found kicks off with the sultry, bluesy-jam “Everything To Me” where Masterson’s smoky vocals captivate, conveying just the right amount of flawed bad-boy mixed with touching regret and sensuality as he lays himself bare to the one he loves. “I screwed up again and again/spend my time trying to make amends/I don’t like being alone/Hold me, darlin you own me/You’re only everything to me.”
Punctuated by powerful horns [Ben Clark on trumpet and Nate Heffron on saxophone], “Bigger Man” is an exuberant tune peppered with “folk sayings” about simply doing the best you can in life. “Work hard, got city soft hands/I broke my motivator, tavern tan/Sleep cab that I call home/I’ve slept with women with troubles worse than my own/Hey lordy momma I do the best I can.”
Melodically upbeat, the title track recounts the true-life story of Masterson getting mugged (he was hit in the head with a tire iron and his jaw was broken in two places) and the aftermath: navigating life and wondering why things happen to you. “I got beat up just walking around town/Hold my head up high still on the ground/Don’t know why I came here/Don’t know what I’m fighting for.”
Featuring harmonies from Jaida Dryer “Show on the Road” narrates Masterson’s move to Nashville from Wisconsin with the desire to leave the negativity behind and move onto something better after experiencing more than his share of personal upheavals. “I’m gonna rename this town, Yesterday/I’m pretty sure it’s about time I trade these county roads for dust/You can watch that old mill rust as for me I’m driving away.”
With a palpable despondency in Masterson’s vocals “Small Town” conveys an overwhelming ache, a feeling of loneliness that exists for many in life and love. “Would you let me down easy if you’ve had enough/I take my chances even for a loss on good luck….I’m waiting for good luck, it’s not enough/no it’s never enough.”
The project closes out with “Leaving” a slide guitar-laden roots rocker about a friend who committed suicide and the emotions one experiences coming to terms with being left behind and finding something to believe in. “All that’s left is a memory/A bunch of what if’s and what could be/You want to serve someone that deserves it buddy/It ain’t me”
On Lost + Found, Masterson takes you on an honest, emotional journey of life's challenges - experiencing loss and enduring (and overcoming) rough patches that can often leave one feeling lost at the time, yet eventually, leads one to a greater strength and sense of self.
Saddle bronc rider turned singer-songwriter, Chancey Williams has gone from competing on horseback to performing on center stage at major rodeos. The only artist besides Chris LeDoux to both ride and entertain at the world’s “Daddy of ‘Em All” rodeo, Cheyenne Frontier Days, Williams learned the cowboy-way-of-life from his father, and like his dad, Williams found himself a successful bronc rider, but also felt a pull to music. In 2013 Chancey and his band - the Younger Brothers - released their first album, Echo, which landed on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart and on May 19th released their sophomore effort, Rodeo Cold Beer.
With a voice that combines both a warmth and grit, Williams makes his mark on the nine original tracks which feature stories of endurance, love, friendship, and introspection – as well as a done right, raucous cover of Mellencamp’s “Authority Song.” Opening the project is the pulsating title track (co-written with Trent Willmon) which serves as an anthem for those who spend long hours travelling the rodeo circuit. That’s followed by the 2016 Rocky Mountain CMA Song of the Year, “Down With That,” a smooth number about carefree summer nights, “Get To You” which tells of the immediacy of returning to the one you love and “Silhouette” a romantic picture of what happens when you’re with that person, “two hearts, one silhouette.”
Rodeo Cold Beer also includes the charming “Tin Roof”, the country-rocker “Hair Trigger Heart” and an ode to the brotherhood of the rodeo circuit, “We Just Ride”, before closing out with the reflective “Whatever I’m Looking For” which finds Williams assessing his life. A solid album from start to finish, check out Rodeo Cold Beer and for more information visit HERE.
Williams and The Younger Brothers Band spend much of their time touring, having opened for legends (Chris LeDoux, Alabama, Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakam) and current country mainstays alike (Eli Young Band, Aaron Watson). For tour dates visit HERE.
Texas born, Detroit, Michigan-based Ed Dupas' second album Tennessee Night comes bolting out of the gate with the rollicking first single "Too Big To Fail," which is just a taste of what's to follow from this Americana newcomer. Recorded in Grand Rapids, MI, with producer Michael Crittenden, Dupas' sound falls somewhere between the grittiness of Steve Earle and the swagger of Dwight Yoakam. The 11 song set features a nice balance of ballads and rockers, with special guests Judy Banker, Cole Hanson, and Tara Cleveland.
"Two Wrongs" follows the lead single in the uptempo rocker mode and then Dupas slows it down slightly for the pleasant journey of "Heading Home Again," which features Banker on lovely harmony vocals. The banjo and pedal steel compliment Dupas' vocals nicely and the lyrics paint a picture of a homesick troubadour.
"Do It For Me," "Some Things," and "Promised Land" are all weeper ballads, the latter a favorite with its soft shuffle and heartbreaking lyrics. Meanwhile, "Anthem" and "Everything's In Bloom" - a road weary song that bounces along to more plucky banjo, wrapping around Dupas' and Hanson's harmonies beautifully - pick up the tempo once again.
Dupas has a rich baritone that conveys real life alongside a rawness present in his voice that drives home the depth of the lyrics which come to life with each successive listen. With his solid debut, A Good American Life and now Tennessee Night as its follow-up, Dupas is crafting his own niche in the Americana scene.
Nashville by way of Knoxville newcomer Nick Hickman made his mark on Nash Next where he landed among the top twenty contestants and is now prepared to further cement his status as one to watch with the release of his latest EP Let Em’ Speak.
Released earlier this year, Let Em’ Speak features six contemporary country tracks, four of which were written by Hickman including the EP’s well-received first single, “Tipsy.” The project opens with “Live For Tonight” a radio-ready track about living in the moment that features vocal assist from artist Camille Rae and from there, flows into the rhythmic rocker “She Rolls Outta Bed” and the relatable and catchy “Overtime.” The EP is rounded out with “Bottle Away” which beings as a modern-flaired piano ballad before segueing into a mid-tempo tune about banishing memories of a former lover and “Deuces” where he comes to terms with the end of a relationship. For more information visit his official website.
RIYL: Dustin Lynch, Sam Hunt, Luke Bryan
North Carolina certainly turns out more than its fair share of talented musicians including B. J. Barham (American Aquarium), The Avett Brothers, Rhiannon Giddens and M. C. Taylor (Hiss Golden Messenger), each bringing unique melds of various genres from folk to bluegrass to blues to rock. Flying a bit under the radar nationally, in comparison to those names, is Aaron Burdett. Born in the small mountain community of Saluda, NC, the singer-songwriter released his seventh album, Refuge, on May 12th via Organic Records.
The 10 track collection is an ode to, as well as an instruction manual of sorts for, everyday people who spend their lives trying to make a living and a life for themselves and their family. The stories are told with honesty, heart and a touch of humor. The production, though lovely, is appropriately sparse allowing the integrity in the writing, the moving vocal delivery, and the simple melodies to guide the listener.
Refuge opens with “Pennies On The Tracks” a folk song which tell the story of the men who did the backbreaking, dangerous work of building the early railways. “It’s A Living” brings a sing- along vibe into the mix with lyrics that most anyone can find relatable. “If I gone two weeks, they’d forget I was ever here. It’s good to have the bills paid, but it’s a precious trade, spending half my life with something I don’t like to pay for the half I do. It’s A Living.” The soulful rock edge in “Last Refuge” is perfect for conveying the necessity of having an escape from mundane, draining workdays. In this case, the escape is writing and playing music. The album closes with a gospel tinged track in “Wolves At The Door”, a beautiful reflection on the mission of coping with daily struggles in ways that will shield your family so they won’t see the “wolves at the door.”
In Refuge, Burdett has delivered a fine album that has certainly left me wanting to explore more of his music. You can do that, read about his interesting back-story, see his tour schedule, and find links to purchase the album at his website, www.aaronburdett.com.
Singer-songwriter-actor Riley Smith will release his long-awaited self-titled EP July 21st. Produced by Kevin Leach, the five-song set is inspired by Smith's time in Nashville where he dove into classic country, exploring its history and roots. However, the longer Smith was there and the more musicians he collaborated with, his sound started developing into something dynamic and divergent. Smith’s writing process began to reference a wider variety of sounds and styles resulting in a body of music that's relatable, heartfelt, and diverse. "It's what I think makes the sound unique and kinda difficult to put in a box.....My influences are as diverse as the city” Smith has noted.
Fans can get a taste of that sound with Smith's first single from the project, "I'm On Fire." Co-written with Matthew Perryman Jones and Tim Lauer, the heartfelt mid-tempo tune features an irresistibly breezy melody alongside wistful lyrics that are sincerely conveyed by Smith's vocals, which intensely combine regret and desire.
Listen to the song HERE