Multi-instrumentalist (he plays more than 20) and in demand Nashville session musician Jake Clayton is coming into his own as an artist with the release of his new single “What Not to Do.” The pulsing fiddle driven tune, from his album By the Light of the Moon, was penned by Clayton along with Rob Daniels and Alan Gibson. “What Not To Do” tells three separate stories of people, their actions and the consequences. Its true tales inform of others’ mistakes and should ultimately be regarded as lessons in “what not to do” for the rest of us. While his superb fiddle playing will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Charlie Daniels, Clayton’s distinctive tenor perfectly delivers the lyrics, giving them character and an urgency.
“Bryan was a player, he couldn’t have just one
Found himself a second gal so they all could have some fun
A minor little problem, as the truth did unfold
No one ever counted on her daddy bein’ told
It wasn’t very long before the threats were bein’ made
The dad would keep his silence as long as he was paid
Bryan made his payment with two bullets and a gun
Then burnt the house down to the ground and now he’s on the run”
As a solo artist, Jake has opened for Charlie Daniels and Jon Pardi, among others. In addition, he played with Sunny Sweeney when she supported Miranda Lambert on her Certified Platinum Tour. He’s graced the stages of Madison Square Garden, The Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame and other legendary venues. And while Clayton still may play for others, he is sure to make an impact all on his own.
Not many know of Ted Hawkins, the Venice Beach street performer who, throughout his life, would sit on an overturned milk crate playing blues and folk standards as well as originals. For the most part, Hawkins, who was born in Mississippi, lived in his adopted hometown of Venice Beach. He did however, live in Europe for a short period, where late in his life both he and his songs were well received in clubs and concert halls. His first record, 1982’s Watch You Step, failed commercially; yet over the years, many encouraged the raspy voiced singer-songwriter to perform and record, which he did again in 1994 with The Next Hundred Years. With this record, Hawkins began to enjoy a newfound success, but sadly passed away of a stroke at age 58 on New Year’s Day 1995, shortly after the record’s release.
Now, two decades later, on October 23, 2015 the Austin-based Eight 30 Records, will release Cold and Bitter Tears: The Songs of Ted Hawkins marking the first tribute album to the largely unknown, but critically lauded artist.
Kevin Russell (Shinyribs, The Gourds), artist manager Jenni Finlay (James McMurtry) and writer Brian T. Atkinson (author of I’ll Be Here in the Morning: The Songwriting Legacy of Townes Van Zandt) co-produced Cold and Bitter Tears over the past year. Russell has been particularly enthusiastic about the project saying, “Ted Hawkins’ songs and his voice were infectiously uplifting to me upon first listen twenty years ago. His unique style, both soulful and folkie, has haunted me and taught me — so much that I have been on a personal mission to tell the world about this national musical treasure. The opportunity to steward this tribute record is a ‘go tell it on the mountain’ moment for me that I hope can bring greater attention to the songs and recordings of Mr. Hawkins himself.”
Lovingly cared for, the entire collection brings a joy to the ears and a happiness to the heart, even when it makes you emotional. James McMurty opens the project with the “Big Things” in life that one wants to accomplish, “searching for time that I’ve lost,” before time runs out. That leads into Kasey Chambers and Bill Chambers putting a heaviness in your chest with “Cold and Bitter Tears” a tale of life post-relationship that just resonates. Tim Easton sings on the up-tempo rootsy, happy harmonica tune “One Hundred Miles” whose melody contrasts the loneliness and longing in the lyrics. Mary Gauthier lends an authenticity to “Sorry You’re Sick” on which one addict comforts another the only way he knows how (Hawkins himself battled heroin addiction).
Joining the aforementioned artists are Jon Dee Graham (on the bluesy “Strange Conversation”), Randy Weeks (“I Got What I Wanted”) and Gurf Morlix (“I Gave Up All I Had”) as well as Hawkins daughter (Tina-Marie Hawkins Fowler) and wife (Elizabeth) who notably perform “Baby.” Additionally, Danny Barnes imparts his vocals on “Bad Dog,” questioning a pooch who barks at everyone except “one special man,” The Damnations give “Bring It On Home Daddy” a du wop feel, Sunny Sweeney brings her distinctive twang to deliver the sadness in “Happy Hour” and Shinyribs sing “Who Got My Natural Comb” as only Shinyribs can.
Ramsay Midwood’s earthy soul can be heard on “My Last Goodbye” while Steve James laments that while there are a “Whole Lotta Women” he’s “waiting for one to answer my call.” Turnpike Troubadours’ Evan Felker closes out the collection with “Peace and Happiness” singing the simple truth we all seek. “Gotta find peace and happiness before I die/Gotta find me somebody before I get old.”
Keep listening and you will hear the tremendously stirring, “Great New Year” (an unreleased demo and hidden track) which Hawkins himself sings a capella.
Hawkins songs, whether about disappointment, loss, longing and love, addiction, hardship, or personal reflection, come from the most important place…the soul. Each successive listen reveals something simple, yet deep and affecting. Something heartfelt, yet sad. Something so personal, yet immensely relatable and effective due to the realism that exists in each word. The artists assembled on Cold and BItter Tears have brought Hawkins’ songs to life in a wonderful collection that honors the man, does the songs justice and would certainly make him proud.
Ashton Lane was formed after singer-songwriter Esther Duffin met her now husband Tim O’Connor at one of her solo shows down a street in Glasgow (also called Ashton Lane). In addition to touring the UK and playing in Nashville and around Europe, the duo have had over 1.5 million views of their You Tube “Kitchen Session” series.
Now, the husband and wife team have released their newest record, Nashville Heart. Produced by Graeme Duffin (of Wet Wet Wet), the project’s story songs are all originals, mostly having been written in collaboration with the fans. Esther explains, "We have a loyal and enthusiastic online fan base and so we reached out to our supporters for them to share their stories with us - the result is Nashville Heart featuring lyrics that we would otherwise probably have never written. The process has been genuinely collaborative and we are grateful to our fans for helping us create something very special."
The fifteen track collection encompass a range of emotions in story songs that give a nod to California, American holidays (on the nostalgic “4th of July”) and Music City (in the title track). Esther’s ethereal voice adapts to successfully convey the overall feel of a song, whether it is confidence (“Looking Out for Number One”), thoughtfulness (“Breathe You In”) or something sweetly romantic (on the pop-tinged “One Kiss Later”). The couple duet on the wistful “When We Were Young” and harmonize on “Picture Perfect” while the instrumentation (think acoustic guitar and fiddle) throughout merges the more traditional (the folky “Seventeen”) with the contemporary, including the gothic feel of “Coastline.”
Although the duo are from the UK, their style - a mix of Folk, Country, Americana and some Pop - would be a welcome addition to the musical landscape here in the US.
Singer-songwriter and recipient of two MusicRow DisCovery Awards, Deeann Dominy, is readying her new release, Feel, the follow up to her award winning album, Based On A True Story. Produced by Anson Funderburgh (who also played on the album) and recorded at Audio Dallas in Dallas, Feel is bluesy soul mixed with country and Americana all supported by Dominy’s vocals which seesaw between sweet and sensual (“Lay Me Down”) to gutsy and gritty, calling to mind Bonnie Raitt with her throaty rasp (“This Train Is Leaving”). The seven track project, of which Dominy had a hand in penning six, tackles love, family, and righting wrongs. Kicking off with the vulnerable, thoughtful title track the project includes the sinuous “Hey Hey Hey,” chronicling the millions of reasons she’s badass…and headed to Hell, and trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s (the Godmother of Rock n Roll) “Can’t No Grave Hold My Body Down,” a song on which Dominy truly shines. The album closes with the mid-tempo “To The Moon,” a tender thank you to the one she leans on who provides the “strength in her song.” Feel has a boldness and spunk, but most of all it is genuine through and through.
Born and raised in Texas, country artist Jake Worthington broke his back playing football and while laid up from the injury, discovered a love for music. Worthington took part in The Voice in 2014, ended up on Blake Shelton's team, and placed second in the show's finale. This past Friday, Worthington released his self- titled EP which showcases a voice with a sweet drawl that is made for traditional country. His vocals on the five track collection exude a warmth and heartfelt authenticity whether he is singing about friends, love or loss. The project opens with the fun, honky-tonk feel of “Don’t Let Ya Redneck Fool Ya,” a lesson in how looks can be deceiving then segues into an ode to special relationships on the tender “Friends.” The sweetness of love is the center of the mid-tempo “Just Keep Falling In Love” (which has a little George Strait feel) and the lovely “That's When” in which he tells his love when he will stop loving her: “When the mountains sway and the world goes away and the devil becomes a friend.” The solemn “This Damn Memory” about the demise of a relationship closes out an EP that in the current climate, is a breath of fresh air.
Being the daughter of a serviceman, Leslie Cours Mather has lived all over the U.S and the globe. That upbringing has come to influence her diverse musical style which is showcased on her new single from the album, Countrified. Written by Kelly Lang, "Hell Hath No Fury" is a soulful, almost sensual, bluesy female anthem for the woman scorned that comes with a powerful warning for cheaters everywhere. Cours Mather's delivery is that of a strong willed woman who will not be disrespected. There's an influx of horns and a gospel feel to the chorus, but somehow you know as she semi-sweetly sings those lyrics that her ideas are anything but Heavenly.
"Cuz there will be fire that comes from her eyes
Her tongue will cut you down like a knife
She’ll make you wish you’d never been born
Now that you’ve seen a woman’s scorn
You’ll live in fear, fear for your life
So disappear, like a thief in the night
If you try to come back, you’ll only get buried
Hell hath no fury'
Denny Strickland may have been a Quarter Horse champion, but music always held a place in his heart. Discovered by Marshall Grant (a longtime member of Johnny Cash’s band), the Arkansas native recently released his latest single is “How Far Do You Wanna Go.” The modern country tune fits in with today’s landscape; it’s a country rocker about a road trip with a pretty woman filled with electric guitars and highlighted by Strickland’s raspy vocals which recall a hint of Dierks Bentley.
“You can put your foot on the gas
Right on top of mine
I'll work the clutch and you can work the stick
I'll do my best to keep it between the lines
Don't care where we're headed let's just get there quick”
Strickland truly shines when he strips things back on some classic covers in his Dive Sessions Series. Watch him perform Conway Twitty’s “I’d Love To Lay You Down” here.
At times reminding one of Reba, Martina and Broadway star Idina Menzel, Georgia native Erica Nicole's new single, "I'm Making Mine" demonstrates her incredible vocal prowess. Penned by Emily Weisband, "I'm Making Mine" tells the story of a woman whose man made the choice to be unfaithful and as a result, finds her making the choice to leave. Instead of lamenting the situation, and despite his pleas for her to stay, she realizes there is someone better waiting to treat her the way she should be treated. The well written lyrics are keenly delivered and enhanced by Erica's vocals which are powerful and assured; those of a woman who values herself, won't settle and knows that "I'm gonna be just fine."
"But somewhere there’s somebody waiting to hold me
I don’t know his name yet
But he’s better than you were
And it’s gonna feel like thunder
And lightning and I’d rather
Get up and go and find him
I got my backseat loaded with my bags
And beggin’ me to stay
Ain’t nothin’ but a waste of time
Yea I’m gone and I’m never lookin’ back again"
With "I'm Making Mine," Erica Nicole has set a new chart record. The song, which is the title cut from her upcoming album, has helped her become the first female on an independent label to release three consecutive Top 20 singles onto the MusicRow CountryBreakout™Chart, following her previous hits, "I Listen To My Bad Girl" and "It's Comin' Down."
NB As of 10/15 "I'm Making Mine" is officially #10 on the Country Breakout Chart. Congratulations To Erica Nicole!
Born and raised in Florida, Alexandra Demetree grew up listening to inspirations from Motown to Country to her favorite belty divas. She has performed for First Lady Barbara Bush, at Walt Disney World, and soloed the National Anthem at the Toyota Gator Bowl. Now the songstress is releasing her new single, "Outta My Head." Written by Mark Oakley and Cherie Oakley, the modern country tune is a classic tale of tackling the hard work of getting over someone when you still miss them and remember their face, their kiss.
Demetree has incredibly strong, emotive vocals that convey a sense of longing as well as a frustration that these emotions and memories cannot simply be wiped away in order for her to move on.
"I wake up in an empty bed, this was all for the best we said
But I don’t know how to let go
I know I should take your pictures down and try to wrap my brain around, that it’s over
Cause I know that it’s over
So why can’t I break free from this love you gave me?"
Adrian Duffy & The Mayo Brothers released their full length album, United We Fall, earlier this year. The collection included the single
"Storm Breaking" of which Nashville's chief critic Robert Oermann said, "a pleading, heartfelt ballad with a lustrous, layered, dreamy instrumental arrangement that is extremely pleasing. I've liked these guys before. I wish they'd send me a whole album one of these days."
The London Irish brothers new single, which hits radio October 23rd, is "Let Somebody Love You." The tune's well crafted melody finds Duffy's raspy vocals delivering lyrics with a simple message: open your heart and let love in, even if the path isn't always straight ahead of you.
"Everybody needs a lover
Don't let it pass you by
Don't let it go
Everybody needs somebody before you ever know you're on your own
So let somebody love you"
Listen to the single here