The Jon Stickley Trio (Jon Stickley on guitar, Lyndsay Pruett on violin and Patrick Armitage on drums) will independently release their second album, Lost At Last, on October 2nd. Recorded at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, the eleven songs uniquely merge their roots, including Bluegrass, Jazz, Americana, Rock and Punk into something surprising and original. Frequently, when we think of music, we think lyrics and melody, and often forget the power an instrumental can have all on its own with songs open to interpretation and willing to take you wherever you want to go. Lost At Last takes the listener on a winding musical journey where the unexpected is the expected on both originals (“Point To Point,” “Darth Radar”) and covers (“The High Road,” “Slopes”). Sweeping melodies, precise pickin’, thumping percussion and frenzied violin are just some of what await you when you get Lost At Last.
Over the past 25 years the Supersuckers (Eddie Spaghetti, guitarist Marty Chandler and drummer Chris Von Streicher) have released more than twenty albums and while front man Spaghetti receives treatment for Stage 3 throat cancer, the self-proclaimed “Greatest Rock n' Roll Band in The World” will release their new country album Holdin’ The Bag on October 16th via Acetate Records. The eleven track collection, on which they are joined by Asleep at The Wheel fiddler Jason Roberts, Jeff Pinkus of Butthole Surfers, Jesse Dayton and Mickey Raphael, is an in your face good time with well-crafted, clever lyrics and inescapable melodies.
That emotive harmonica opens the record on a melancholy, lonesome note as he sings on "Holdin' The Bag," “It is what it is/There ain’t much else we can do….And they might not see me struggling/They won’t see me wave the white flag, but the thing I find befuddling I’m left holdin’ the bag.”
The tempo picks up on the humorous honky-tonk tune “This Life....With You,” on which they are joined by Hayes Carll singing about how life would be better without another. “Cause sharing sucks.” That’s followed by the wonderfully rootsy “High & Outside,” the shuffling “I Do What I Can” (To Get By) and the punky country of “Shimmy & Shake.” There’s the dangerous undertones of “Man On A Mission,” the ballsy “Let’s Bounce” and the rollicking “Jibber Jabber” where he sings “You’re like an imported car so hard to maintain……You’re like the perfect restroom woman so hard to keep clean.”
They’re joined by Lydia Loveless on the desolate “I Can’t Cry” with beer in hand choral sing along “That’s How It Gets Done,” and an updated take on “All My Rowdy Friends” rounding out the album. “Georgia On A Fast Train,” an exuberant cover of the Billy Joe Shaver tune will be included as a bonus track on the vinyl edition.
Oft times brawny, bold, fun and cheeky, with a take no prisoners approach, the heart of Holdin’ The Bag is the honesty in it’s true to life, relatable lyrics. Get ya some.
The Black Lillies (Cruz Contreras, Trisha Gene Brady, Bowman Townsend, Sam Quinn, Mike Seal and Jonathan Keeney.) return, reinvigorated and ready to bring their genre blending Hard to Please to the waiting masses on October 2nd. Hard To Please is signature Lillies, but funkier, more vibrant, with a thick, welcome infusion of organ, saxophone, trumpet, and glorious guitar riffs. If there’s a current flowing through the record, it’s that of the push and pull of love: desire, dissolution and complications, pushed along by a soulful, bluesy groove.
The fabulous foot stomper “Hard To Please” opens the record with attitude as Contreras sings “ain’t nothin' ever good enough for you.” That’s followed by “That’s The Way It Goes Down,” which blends roots and rock on a tune about a good love gone as a result of indiscretions. “Blame it on the one that you’d love to hate/But you can’t so you won’t so you just forgive/There’s a better way to learn and live.”
One of the albums many highlights, (and fan favorite) “Mercy,” is a gorgeous ballad with lyrics that are a sensual, honest and vulnerable plea for another’s love. “Mmm….flesh and blood/That’s why I’m calling, calling on you.” A similar emotionalism is found on “Desire,” a quiet song about an intense relationship that’s so visceral you feel it. “You can walk away, but it still won’t change/You can’t hide that burning flame.”
Whether they are taking lead, sharing it, or harmonizing, Contreras and Gene Brady’s (who can be reminiscent of both Etta James and Natalie Merchant) vocals have always complimented one another perfectly. Both consistently convey what a song calls for whether it’s warmth, sorrow, honesty, or joy. They trade lead vocals on “Bound To Roam” an emotional look at fated love and the ebullient “Dancin',” chasing away the blues and reaffirming love even though “life ain’t always been a ball.” They harmonize about misadventures on both the rollicking “40 Days” and “Broken Shore;” the latter with its gothic like atmosphere, created by fiddle and banjo, tells the story of Contreras’ grandfather, who fought in Iwo Jima. Brady takes the lead, exuding strength, confidence and awareness, on the retro flavored “The First Time.” “Never felt such cold inside/Tell me, where is my pride.” While Contreras closes out the record with the absolutely beautiful, delicate track “Fade,” a piano filled plea to “hold on to tomorrow and we’ll count our lucky stars.”
Contreras and Co. have poured their heart and soul into Hard To Please. You’ll not only hear it, but you’ll feel it in every track as you automatically sense that swell in your chest, recall a memory or notice your foot tapping. Don’t let the title deceive you, Hard To Please is anything but.
Order Hard To Please here.
2014’s IBMA Emerging Artist of The Year, Flatt Lonesome, are set to release their third studio album, Runaway Train, on October 2nd. Family members Charli and Buddy Robertson play alongside their sister Kelsi Harrigill and her husband Paul, as well as Michael Stockton and Dominic Illingworth, with each member contributing to a stellar collective of bluegrass melodies. The sextet’s adept musicianship can be found throughout the twelve tracks, comprised of both originals and renditions, and while the siblings’ vocals shine independently, they soar to a different level when they harmonize.
Penned by Paul Harrigall and Danny Roberts [The Grascals] “You’ll Pay” recalls Del McCoury in both picking and singing on this traditional bluegrass number which opens the record. Kelsi (whose vocals are reminiscent of Sara Evans) takes lead on a cover of Gram Parsons’ “Still Feeling Blue” as well as the self-penned original with a wonderful message, “In The Heat of The Fire.” Lovely hymn “In The Morning,” which Kelsi was inspired to write while reading the Bible, praises the strength and grace of the Lord while the driving “Casting All Your Care On Him” reminds one that God will carry and care for you. “Road To Nottingham” an instrumental track that, like the roads of life (literal and figure) has pleasant curves and varying speeds.
The record also contains the dynamic “New Lease On Life” about moving on, taking flight and following dreams, the humorous and fun “Mixed Up Mess of A Heart” (Merle Haggard) and “Don’t Come Running” (The Bluegrass Cardinals), a toe tapper about losing a love and the unwillingness to take her back. Album closer “Runaway Train” caps off an enjoyable thirty-seven minutes.
If you’re already a fan of Bluegrass, you will undoubtedly enjoy this album, but if you’ve never thought to give that genre a listen, hop on the Runaway Train and open up your musical horizons.
Singer-songwriter Bart Crow assembles a winning combination of participants on his sixth album, The Parade, due October 2nd via Thirty Tigers. Crow, who independently released his five previous albums, teams up with producer Justin Pollard for the project, which consists of eleven tracks, nine of which Crow wrote or co-wrote, including current top ten (on the Texas Music Chart) “Life Comes At You Fast.”
Through its themes of life, love and music, The Parade has an extremely personal (yet relatable) feel, and by the end you will have a clear picture of who Crow is both personally and professionally.
Mandolin and guitar blend on the autobiographical “City Limit Signs” chronicling childhood through adulthood and that one constant which is there “when you hit the road again.” A related sentiment runs through “Come Back Tomorrow.” Co-written with Mando Saenz, the mid-tempo song quietly reflects on where one grew up and the need to leave and follow your path. “I could come back tomorrow, make it alright/Watch dreams disappear in the dead of the night……Someday that’ll be alright.”
Saxophone (yes!!) provides the atmosphere on “One Night With You” which has him reminiscing about an old love, but unwilling to act on feelings and sacrifice what he has now with another. “The woman of my dreams she gave her heart to me and I can’t hurt nobody else.” “Queen of The Heartache Parade” finds him getting the “air knocked from his lungs” from a woman who broke his heart. Alternating between mid-tempo and full on 90’s rocker, “Baby Come Back Home” merges a broken heartedness and being unable to find a song to “move him inside….to keep him in line while his world falls apart.” “Vapor Trails” (penned by Drew Kennedy) uses simple imagery, and a soaring chorus, to convey an aching sadness about two people, one of whom can’t/won’t reconnect with the other.
“Dear Music,” is a slice of rootsy goodness (a la The Lumineers); an ode to love and the power of music. “Take my fears when I’m afraid when I’m lost you find a way/You turn tears into a smile, it really drives me wild/So here’s to the songs that I play and the love that music saves.” Blending honky tonk and rock, the cleverly written (by Jonathan Terrell) “Top Of Rock Bottom” laments the state of radio and where not following the trends will leave him. “If they don’t have to think, boy that’s when you got ‘em……..Just because you’re hungry don’t mean you’ll eat it if it’s rotten/We’ll have a beggars banquet at the top of rock bottom.”
Crow partnered on Mando Saenz on two additional tracks; personal favorite “Here We Go Again,” and “Free Like Me.” The former, with its light as air emotive fiddle and lovely harmonies focuses on letting love in and not letting moments pass you by while the latter closes out the record. The organ filled first, a shuffling, somewhat sad tune about being a free (and lonely) spirit segues into a rousing bluesy piano filled sing along (of The Stones "Let It Bleed") about having supportive friends and family, perfectly balancing the former. “Yeah we all need someone we can dream on and if you want it, well, you can dream on me.”
Parades provide a little something for everyone and in doing so often bring out a myriad of emotions in all of us. The Parade is no different; ballads, dance hall tunes, roots and rock make the personal, universal. However, unlike parades which only come around every so often, The Parade is there to listen, enjoy and repeat.
As that familiar fiddle plays the introduction the “The Bird Hunters” a smile cannot help but form across your face as you realize the Turnpike Troubadours are back. After what seemed like forever, (in actuality it has only been three years), the beloved band from Oklahoma will release their fourth, self-titled record on September 18th. The twelve track collection provides listeners with slices of life from the barroom to the country with themes of relationships (some successful, others not), and questioning while revisiting some familiar places and characters in detailed story songs from beginning to end.
As Kyle Nix’s fiddle (which seems to set the tone for every track) draws you in, you feel as if you’re there with the guys, “The Bird Hunters,” hearing their stories of life, love and returning home. Accompanied by robust guitar riffs, that same fiddle, (almost in a manic state) perfectly complements the story of “The Mercury;” a song that mentions some recognized characters, including Lorrie, who hang at said barroom. The rousing “7 Oaks,” with lots of pickin’, piano and harmonica, lets the good times roll, even though the times may not be so good.
The theme of love in its many forms is weaved throughout the remainder of the record. “Time Of Day” is a soulful, bluesy plea to a girl like none he’s ever known to simply give him a minute of her time. “You try to fool me into thinking that you’re so refined/But you’re the kind of liquor make a man go stone blind.” Lyrically melancholy while sonically upbeat “Ringing In The Year” is about that age old situation where you make an incredible connection with someone ("combustible as roman candles" or "tornadoes") and wonder if they ever think about you like you do them. “Cheap champagne don’t know the pain of ringing in the year, wondering if you think of me at all.”
Gentle and beautiful, there’s a powerful simplicity in the emotional “A Little Song,” a plea to prevent her from leaving, to make a wrong a right, and turn back time to the better days. “What a fool to figure forever you’d be mine…..And finding out the only thing I’m needing now to find is finally standing right in front of me/And think I stole a melody/To stop you now from leaving me.”
In “Long Drive Home” Felker truthfully sings “You want something bad you gotta bleed a little for it/You gotta look it in the eye/You gotta call it out by name” acknowledging a musician’s lifestyle, the toll it takes, as well as the sacrifices and effort it involves (both on a personal front and professionally).
A sweet two stepper about missing the city gal who has your heart on “Easton and Main” (originally from Bossier City and given a bit of an update here) gives details of the meeting at Cain's Ballroom “soaking up the bourbon stains,” while “Doreen” (an Old 97's cover) has a reckless western flair with added bits of paranoia, obsession and hurt as he begs his lover to “come clean” if she cheated.
The scaled back instrumentation, reflective questioning and abrupt ending of “Fall Out Of Love” tug at the heart and weigh on the mind. It’s a basic question asked with sincerity, remorse and strain. “Why did it wind up so bad/were the good times all that we had/we laughed and we loved but when push came to shove why did it end up so sad?/How did we fall out of love?” And that smile that was there when it all began? It’s still there when the melodically jubilant “Bossier City” (from their 2007 album of the same name) closes out the record.
The stories, Felker’s everyman vocals, Nix’s fiddle, and the on point musicianship [bassist R.C. Edwards, guitarist Ryan Engelman and drummer Gabe Pearson] combine into something beyond special. The uniqueness in their artistry, whether raucous tunes or lovelorn ballads, resonates with their listeners. You can’t compare Turnpike Troubadours to anyone else, and you shouldn’t. They’re in a class by themselves, proving you can do things your own way and do it successfully. It’s a record that is certainly one of the “must haves” of the year, and one that is sure to draw in listeners not only from Oklahoma and Texas, but well beyond.
On October 2nd, Hailey Whitters will release her debut album, Black Sheep, via Carnival Music. This ten song collection, all of which were written or co-written by Whitters sans two tracks, is brimming with truthful, reflective and personal lyrics that showcase a female whose individuality is a breath of fresh air among females trying to duplicate the males. The songs are the best kind: stories that deal with life, love and loss in a very straight forward, honest and relatable way. Whitters, whose voice falls somewhere between Kacey Musgraves and Nikki Lane, will have you feeling every word she sings because she sings every word with feeling.
The album begins with “Long Come To Jesus” (co-written with Matraca Berg), a shuffling, somewhat dark country rocker that chronicles her relationship with a man who’s as close to the devil as she’s ever been and how it may take “one holy intervention” to alter her course. That’s followed by the rousing “City Girl,” which finds her having the country blues, wishing she was one of those girls wearing heels, barhopping and having fun rather than living in the middle of nowhere “watching a cat chase a squirrel.”
“Late Bloomer” and “Black Sheep” are songs which complement one another well. In the former, she smartly notes that coming into your own sooner than later might not be a bad thing. “Soon enough just couldn’t come sooner for a late bloomer/What’s the rush in anticipating/Looking back it was worth the waiting.” While the latter tells of being the outsider and how, like the late bloomer, it’s not necessarily a negative. “And who really wants to be white as snow/The thing about black is the dirt don’t show.”
The complexities of love abound on multiple tracks. There’s a heartbreaking realism conveyed in “Low All Afternoon” about being with someone who simply used you. “He got what he wanted from the one he didn’t want/He’s ready to settle down now that he’s messed around with you.” There’s an edginess to “Heartbreaker” on which she warns a guy who might be on the verge of breaking her heart to be careful, as she can give him a run for his money. On the mid-tempo “People Like You” she muses on not being perfect, but finding a love that stays even though it has “every right to go.” Finally, “Pocket Change” (written Mando Saenz and Shelly Colvin) is a honky-tonk tune about not settling to be somebody’s afterthought.
Incredibly personal, “One More Hell,” about the death of her brother, is a song that anyone who has lost someone close to them will attach to and find solace in. “I’d kill for another memory, but I’m thankful for the ones I’ve got.” The album closes out on a somber note with “Get Around” telling the story of a promiscuous woman who seems resolved to have that be her life. “Got Daddy issues, black stained tissues…..And word gets around that I get around, yeah I’ll get around to living it down/It ain’t easy being easy.” Wow.
There is nothing not to love about Black Sheep. It’s insightful, emotional, touching; one of the best debuts in recent memory.
Country Music Hall of Fame members, superstar trio Alabama, have won Grammys, CMAs and the ACM’s Entertainer of The Year award (five times). Entertaining for decades, they were brought back into the mainstream audiences’ eyes in 2011 when Brad Paisley had them guest on his hit “Old Alabama.” Now, fourteen years after their last album of new material, Alabama returns on September 18th with the thirteen track collection, Southern Drawl. As evidenced from the title track and album opener, Alabama have definitely embraced some trends and added modern touches to their sound. The song, about living in the south, is a full on rocker complete with crunchy electric guitar and rap/spoken word. In a similar vein is “Footstompin Music” with its use of a vocal echo and thumping percussion, and the humorous “Hillbilly Wins The Lotto Money” which tells what happens when an overall wearing, Marlboro smoking man wins the lottery. The toe tapping “Back To The Country,” with fiddle and banjo, extols the virtues of country living while “American Farmer” is an ode to those hard working men and women who are “feeding the red, white, and blue.”
Things soften up and become more traditional, with Owens’ vocals delivering a warmth and sincerity, on “Wasn’t Through Loving You Yet,” a mid-tempo modern country tune about a relationship on the brink, the timeless and emotional “This Ain’t Just A Song,” and the sweet, hopeful “As Long As There’s Love.” Alison Krauss guests on “Come Find Me” about missing a love while on the road while Gentry takes the lead on “It’s About Time” which focuses on taking responsibility for the earth. The uplifting “No Bad Days,” sexy “One On One” and heart tugging ballad “I Wanna Be There” round out the record.
Southern Drawl isn’t the same old Alabama, but it has enough to please both their old fans and draw in the new.
Jason Boland & The Stragglers’ eighth album, Squelch, will be released October 9th via Proud Souls/Thirty Tigers. Squelch stays true to what Boland and his band have consistently done: make genuine country music. There’s an honesty, intelligence and substance to their songs; songs that not only make you dance, but also illicit thought and emotion. Squelch’s eleven new tracks, brought to life by Boland’s baritone and the undeniably stellar musicianship of The Stragglers: Cody Angel (guitars/pedal steel), Nick Worley (fiddle), Grant Tracy (bass) and Brad Rice (drums), unite in an album that does all of that and then some.
Appropriately, Squelch kicks off with “Break 19,” which sets the tone for the album. While those words are trucker slang for gaining access to a channel and speaking, here they take on a deeper meaning. “Nothing’s coming through but the static/All I can hear anymore is the noise.” That is followed by ten well-written, evocative story songs that touch on life and relationships as well as social and political issues.
The rootsy “Heartland Bypass” chronicles life’s travels, roaming til the reckoning “paying out the interest on borrowed time.” While the gritty rocker, “Lose Early” asserts that “getting by is not the best that we can do.” Unexpectedly a toe tapper, the ironic, sad and absorbing “Christmas in Huntsville” is a story song about a man unjustly imprisoned and down to his last hours on death row at Christmastime.
Relationships are the focus of the romantic waltz, “Bienville” which tells of love found after “years spent wishin’” for “another lost soul with a travelin’ mind” and the heartfelt, questioning, yet hopeful “Do You Love Me Any Less” poses that question from a man who is frequently away from home. “He said don’t forget me or let your feelings change/Out there such a long time I pray we stay the same.”
There’s a mosh-pit punk frenzy (here, a good thing) in the 2:03 of “I Guess It’s Alright To Be An Asshole” which is filled with sharp, truth filled lyrics while “Fat and Merry,” with its two steppin’ melody, finds disenchantment with the complacency of people who live life without thinking of the consequences for anyone except for themselves. Closing out the record, “Fuck, Fight and Rodeo” makes a political statement with a twang, pointing out hypocrisy in government, the high cost of living and how “nothing's ever gonna change with their kind running the show.”
Find the frequency. Gain access to the channel. Eliminate the noise. Tune into Squelch.
Pre-order Squelch here
After lengthy legal issues, The Damn Quails, via a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign, released their latest album, Out Of The Birdcageon September 4th. The twelve tracks were all written by co-front men Bryon White and Gabe Marshall sans for two that were penned with (“Rattlesnakes Through the Cotton”), and by (“Oklahoma Blue”), Buffalo Rogers. Produced by Dave Abeyta (of Reckless Kelly, who also brings his incredible guitar skills to the record), the album finds the band moving forward with the same insightful lyrics and unique sound you would expect, but sharpened to a fine point. Pedal steel (courtesy of Lloyd Maines), fiddle, mandolin, organ, dobro and lap steel aren’t relegated to supporting players, they share the stage right alongside the songwriting and vocal delivery. And speaking of vocals, both Marshall and White sing with an honesty and believability while White’s vocals have become softer, restrained--making them even more effective.
The album kicks off with the anthemic title track followed by “Tough Luck and Cryin’ Shame” which finds him stating“If you ever wondered how a man goes wrong/Watch and wait baby well it won’t take long.” Marshall takes lead on “Tightrope Walker” a bluesy jam about being caught between saint and sinner, “Song of Home” a story song that’s just perfect with its cadence and a sing along ready “la la la” and the groovy, funky “Give It Some Time.” White is back on “Oklahoma Blue” which features harmonies and harmonica in a bar ready sing along and the emotional “The Man In The Mirror” (The Girl On The Plane). The rootsy “Just A Little While” and “Vastness” close out the record.
Out Of The Birdcage makes an impact both lyrically and sonically. It’s vivid, mature story-telling and musicianship brought to life in an album that should see them taking flight.