Raised on country, but detouring to a stint on the heavier side of things as frontman for metal band Unchecked Aggression, Cody Jinks became a name on many’s radar in 2014 with his well-received Adobe Sessions. His fifth, and highly anticipated, release I’m Not The Devil bowed on August 12th - coincidentally the same day as fellow traditionalist Kelsey Waldon’s stellar I’ve Got A Way – providing a much-needed shot of classic country for the music-loving soul.
I’m Not The Devil begins with “The Same” a frank telling of a meeting with an old lover after an extended period of time that is permeated with an underlying feeling of yearning, “If you came here to see if time had rearranged this ain’t no game I’m still the same.” Throughout the album, Jinks is unquestionably straightforward, whether it’s in the title track, which with soul-bearing honesty, he sings of mistakes made and the desire to be forgiven, “It ain’t no excuse, but I’m just a man/I slipped and I fell, it got out of hand/I’m not the devil you think that I am”, the realistic and moving “No Words,” an ode to his wife or the dark “Heavy Load” whose weighty lyrics are balanced by beautiful fiddle.
Jinks reflects, with the wisdom that comes with age, on the passage of time in “No Guarantees,” “The more I know the more I know that I don’t know/I know nothings free, there ain’t no guarantees,” stresses the importance of caring for your fellow man in “Give All You Can,” “I’ve been down and not had a dollar to my name but there’s angels there that got me through and I can do the same,” and touches a nerve in the somber and thoughtful “Grey,” “Living ain’t a promise, living ain’t a right and no one here is getting out alive, so pick up all your pieces, cast the doubt away rediscover the color in the grey.”
The thirteen track collection is rounded out with Merle Haggard’s “The Way I Am” and Billy Don Burns’ nostalgic “Church at Gaylor Creek” - both of which fit perfectly within the overall themes of the album - before closing with “Vampires” and “Hand Me Down.” The former contemplates time and the death of dreams while the latter angrily (and with a sense of foreboding) comments on his dissatisfaction with the world today, pondering what we’re “handing down” to future generations.
I’m Not The Devil is an honest and introspective set of songs that establish Jinks as a man who isn’t afraid to evaluate who he is and how, why and who helped make him that way. He possesses a sense, not only of self, but of the world around him and isn’t afraid to let us in with songs that are forthright, meaningful…and some of the finest of the year.
Named one of Rolling Stone’s “10 New Country Artists You Need To Know” in 2015, songstress Olivia Lane released her self-titled debut EP on July 29th. The new project contains seven songs, including Lane’s joyful “Make My Own Sunshine” an anthem which reminds the listener to embrace the happiness in your life and pay it forward to others.
The six additional tracks, all of which were co-written by Lane sans one, feature her bold, powerful and passionate vocals on vibrant songs that dynamically blend country and pop. Incredibly high energy, “Lightning” encourages believing in oneself and following your dreams while the playful “Quarter Life Crisis” will be relatable to any twenty-something (or even beyond) as one struggles to figure out this crazy thing called life. The EP is rounded out by the personal, mid-tempo “She Fits,” a bittersweet song of love lost, the contemporary flaired “My Heartache” and the sweet and insanely catchy “Keychain.” It’s the perfect soundtrack to close out the last few weeks of Summer and carry you into Fall.
Eight years ago, Ruby Dee was involved in a scooter accident that left her with a traumatic brain injury that resulted in her suffering from vertigo, memory loss, nausea, mental confusion and language challenges. “I could picture an image in my mind, but couldn’t think of the word. I couldn’t finish thoughts or sentences or conversations, let alone write songs.” Dee says.
It was a few years until she started writing songs again, and in 2011 the band’s release, Live from Austin, Texas, saw songs chart on both the AMA and Texas Third Coast Music charts, and earned the band a 54th Grammy consideration for Best Americana Album. The band also released a children’s album Rockabilly Playground, which charted at #15 on the FAR charts and #103 on the AMA Charts, and earned the band another spot on the ballot for the 56th Grammy Awards.
Now, Dee & her Snakehandlers return with their latest album, Little Black Heart. The thirteen track collection, which includes one cover and twelve originals (all penned by Dee) fuses rockabilly, country, and R&B into a swinging disc that’s a pleasure from the first song to the last. Things kick off with the sax-heavy jive of “Not For Long” and flow nicely into the upright bass-filled “Can You Spare a Match?” before landing into the rollicking tale of the homecoming queen in “All Knocked Up.” The album also includes the dark tale of love gone wrong “Put You Down,” the rapid-fire “Mean Mean Woman,” the fun kiss-off “You Underwhelm Me” and the murder ballad of a title track where Dee’s smoky vocals are on full display.
Little Black Heart showcases a woman who has undoubtedly worked hard to regain what she lost and in doing so produced an album with sharp lyrics and tight musicianship that’s fit for dancin’...and just splendid.
The recent recipient of Music Row Magazine’s DisCovery Award, as well as being named an emerging artist by the CMA in 2016, Lockwood Barr released her latest album, Signs Along the Road on July 15th. A California native, the banjo picker - who plays her dad’s 1972 Gibson Mastertone – had a hand in writing all ten of the tracks that incorporate blues, country and folk on a musical journey that begins with the bluesy sultriness of “Starve You Out of My Heart” about that all too familiar feeling of knowing you need to get that one person out of your system. That’s followed by “Signs Along the Road” which reflects on God’s plan and listening to the signs he sends even though there may be unexpected turns, “sometimes He sends deer to throw your car right off the road;” the tender ballad “Forgotten How to Cry” and the folk influenced “Indian Summer.” Barr calls to mind Bonnie Raitt on the gritty “Yesterday Don’t Give A Damn” while her vocals turn airy, yet strong, on “Through Your Eyes.” The album is rounded out by the piano centered, touching “In The Rye,” the undeniably infectious, sing- along ready “Can’t Help Loving You” and the pop-tinged “McArthur.”
Don’t ignore the signs, with Barr’s signature banjo work, her heartfelt vocals and relatable lyrics, Signs Along the Road is a record you should definitely give a listen.
Swedish country-rock duo Silverdrive 35, Eli Stream and Carl Fredrik, recently released a new single, "Bleeding Heart" - and it's currently doing very well here in the U.S. as it sits at #18 on the Iceman's Top 40 New Country Chart.
"Bleeding Heart," co-written by Andreas Widlöf, is a mid-tempo contemporary country ballad about finding professional success, yet still feeling unfulfilled without a love now lost. Listen to the song here.
"I can write you a song
Yeah a pretty little song
Use the perfect rhyme so you can sing along
Hit the top of Billboard charts but I'm still the one with a bleeding heart."
There certainly have been a multitude of stellar female releases this year, but none hold a candle to Kelsey Waldon’s sophomore release, I’ve Got A Way. Released on August 12th, the beautifully classic, country collection contains ten songs, eight originals, and two covers that Waldon does more than justice.
Traditional country melodies coupled with sharp, insightful songwriting flow through the album which begins with the glorious twang and pedal steel of “Dirty Old Town,” about that internal struggle of leaving the town you call home. “I keep fighting with my left side, fighting with my right side, fighting with all I got/Dirty old town make you sink right down, make it feel like it’s your last shot.”
Waldon’s sweet vocals express the (incredibly relatable) desire to be alone rather than having to change in order to be with, or please, another on “All By Myself”: “The moon can’t hide behind the stars/It can’t go anywhere when it gets too dark/Don’t wanna hide my face behind a cloud/Don’t wanna listen to that voice when it gets too loud,” Defiance and strength prevail on standout “You Can Have It” where she once again speaks to being herself, and perhaps the bigger person, in a myriad of life situations while the rollicking and rowdy, “False King” builds on the themes of trying your best and staying true to who you are rather than being a fraud, “Can’t place the crown on the head of a clown and then hope it turns out to be a king.”
Simple and thoughtful, the title says it all in “Don’t Hurt The Ones” (Who’ve Loved You The Most) while “I’d Rather Go On,” straightforward, honest and ultimately sad, tells of a relationship where she would rather “go on living without you forever than ever having to live with you today” even though she still loves him. Sadness is accompanied by loneliness, as well as a slight hopefulness, in Waldon’s take on the Gosdin Brother’s “There Must Be A Someone,” “Why can’t a woman be accepted for what she has to be?/Must I live my whole life through not knowing what to do?/There must be someone I can turn to;” while “Let’s Pretend” shuffles along, sublimely narrating the fun of romance.
Waldon rounds out the album with “Life Moves Slow” reflecting on returning to that familiar place time doesn’t seem to touch, an affecting, almost haunting rendition of Bill Monroe’s “Travelin’ Down This Lonesome Road” and “The Heartbreak” a genuine thank you to the one who, through hurt, brought her to where she is in life.
I’ve Got A Way showcases a woman who is independent, honest and assured, creating music that is meaningful, touching and timeless.
Los Angeles based Americana-rock act Levi Petree and The Radio Publica will release their debut full-length album It’s Country, on August 23rd. Self-produced by Petree and recorded at Exposition Studios, It’s Country contains ten original songs that feature a diverse range of musical styles from the rallying, thrashing, punk flavored “The Rapture” which kicks off the record to the closer “Eyes So Blue,” an 80’s tinged rocker about loneliness. The album also includes “Fight On,” a roots based tune about pressing on through difficulties, “Do What You Want,” a country rocker of a kiss-off song, the thoughtful “What’s It Gonna Take?” and the good-humored and infectious “The Habanero Do-Si-Do.” The album is rounded out with the gentle, mandolin tinged “Lover’s Cove” and “I Know You’re Gonna Haunt Me” a roots rocker which features Liz Beebe on vocals. Give it a listen
Hailing from North Carolina, singer-songwriter Boo Ray has honed his sound across the U.S. from South Georgia and the Gulf Coast to Nashville and Los Angeles. His latest (fifth) album, Sea of Lights, was released on August 12th and is collection filled with a southern country-rock goodness from the first track to the last. Recorded live to 2” tape, the ten tracks are comprised of eight originals, including current single “Sea of Lights,” as well as two covers: the Ray Wylie Hubbard and Hayes Carll tune “Chickens” and Hot Chocolate’s “Emmaline,” which while different from the original, delivers the song with emotional heft.
Ray’s weathered, gravelly vocals kick the project off in high gear with the raucous “Redneck Rock & Roll” (reminiscent of the Georgia Satellites) which is followed by the rollicking “Bad News Travels Fast,” the hard-edged, propulsive “Keep That Hammer Down” and the good-time throwback feel of “I Got the Jug” where he sings, “Later tonight if were spread too thin/We’re gonna need a little something to get us level again.”
Things take on a more serious tone with “A Melody, Some Guitars & a Rhyme” and “One More Round.” The sweet pedal steel in the former tells of finding a reprieve from your sorrows in music, “That honky-tonk music takes my pain away with a melody, some guitars, and a rhyme,” while the latter finds two people easing one another’s pain, finding their way together through the bottle.
Sea of Lights circles back to the rowdy with the blues-tinged tale of “Johnny’s Tavern,” a dive bar ready sing-along providing the perfect snapshot of a different type of home. Whether you’re on a road trip, a back porch or a honky-tonk throwing one back, Sea of Lights fits the bill. Give it a listen.
Named one of the Dallas Observer’s “5 Artists to Watch in 2015,” Troy Cartwright released a self-titled album that same year that was filled with insightful songs on love and relationships, including “Next Flight Home,” which landed on the Texas charts. As Cartwright prepares to deliver his follow-up, What Happened Was, later this year, the singer-songwriter recently premiered the first song from the project, “Busted.”
Penned by Cartwright, the mid-tempo “Busted” narrates the universal experience of the end of a relationship in a unique manner - comparing the unexpected breakdown of a romantic connection to the unexpected breakdown of a car. Led by guitar and drums, with hints of Rami Jaffee-esque subtle keyboards and even a little (and perfectly fitting) Blind Melon in the bridge as he sings, “just a little spark no gasoline,” Cartwright delivers the lyrics with the perfect intensity, blending sadness with resignation....and leaves you anticipating what the new album brings.
“Don’t even call AAA to tow it away
The thing's about as worthless as some potter's clay
Got 87 cents baking in the ash tray
Favorite pair of shades and plans we made
It’s the price I had to pay to get to walk away
And I’m all played out like a movie scene
You’re riding shotgun right next to me
Oh, I didn’t know it was falling apart, out here in the middle with a broken heart”
Cartwright, who recently toured with Sean McConnell, has shared the stage with Turnpike Troubadours, American Aquarium, Chris Knight, and Jason Eady among others. For more information, visit his official website.
Lauded by Rolling Stone as “Best One Man Show,” Iowa native Mitch Goudy is preparing to release his first studio single in two years, “You Through My Eyes.”
Penned solely by the singer-songwriter, the song is a romantic ode to the one who is perfect through his eyes. Starting off with a gentle fiddle, the song segues into a contemporary country tune with a heavy drum beat and reverb while Goudy’s crystal clear vocals deliver lyrics that are tender and heartfelt.
"She’s my dream of a picket fence
Her embrace fills my every sense
How I wish she knew
This song’s the best that I can do
'Cause beautiful just ain’t pretty enough
And perfect has too many flaws
And sweet comes off just a little bit off and heavenly just ain’t close enough"