One of the most beloved and groundbreaking bands in Bluegrass, The Grascals, will be releasing their new album and then there’s this… via Mountain Home Music Company on January 8, 2016. Since their last album, 2013’s When I Get My Pay, The Grascals - Terry Smith (bass), Danny Roberts (mandolin), Kristin Scott Benson (banjo), Terry Eldredge (vocals), and Adam Haynes (fiddle) - have been joined by John Bryan who shares lead vocals, plays guitar and seemlessly blends with the group.
This new collection contains songs from well-known Bluegrass writers such as Harley Allen and Billy Smith (“True Hearts”), Larry Cordle and Carl Jackson (“Delta Queen”) and Shawn Camp, Brice Long and Byron Hill (“A Place To Hang My Heart”). and then there's this... begins with the dynamic “I Know Better” which is balanced by the subdued “Road of Life,” a song that is a perfect reminder as we settle into the new year to “Buckle up and hold on tight/Enjoy the ride right til the end.” The remainder of the album ebbs and flows with the traditional Bluegrass sound (sans the pedal steel and percussion on their previous offering), relating stories of love, life and observations along the way. Offering songs from tender ballads (Joe Diffie’s heartfelt “If You Want Me To”) and delightful toe tappers (“Sweet Little Mountain Girl”) to songs that highlight their immaculate harmonies (Alan O’Bryant’s “Old Friend of Mine” and “Warm Wind”) and even an original instrumental (the smoothly cascading "Autumn Glen"), all before closing with Bill Monroe's "Highway of Sorrow."
and then there’s this... is crisp and clear, an album with a familiar feel that is expertly executed with consumate musicianship and flawless vocals. Put it on your "must" list for the new year.
Goin' Your Way is the live album collaboration between Australian singer songwriters and longtime friends Neil Finn (of Crowded House & Splitz Enz) and Paul Kelly (The Dots, The Messengers). The album was recorded at the Sydney Opera House during their 2013 tour and while it was long released (and a hit) in Australia, the album has finally made it’s way to the U.S. where it was released on December 11th.
The two-disc set, comprised of 29 songs total, contains tracks from their respective careers and if you are familiar with either man’s work (really who doesn’t love Crowded House?), you will be delighted by the selections included here, from “Four Seasons In One Day,” “Don't Dream It's Over” and “She Will Have Her Way” to “Before Too Long” and “For The Ages.” The two men do not just simply sing their songs, they share lovely harmonies and alternate verses on each other's originals, making something magical by putting a unique tilt on each loved song. In addition to sharing vocals, both play guitar and keys, while Kelly also plays percussion.
While the album is indeed a live one, the audience is a listening one, occasionally singing along with a few tunes ("Better Be Home Soon"), but never overpowering the performers, leaving the songs to come across clearly and beautifully. The set concludes with renderings of two covers, “Words of Love (Buddy Holly) and the classic “Moon River” (Henry Mancini/John Mercer) ending a night which comes across as something it undoubtedly was.....special.
Early in 2015, singer-songwriter Molly Brown released the touching and tender “Travel In Twos.” Now, that song, along with five others (all written/co-written by Brown) can be found on her debut EP, The High Road, which was released on December 15th.
Tales of love and heartache are woven throughout the EP starting with the driving opener “This Town” (which calls to mind Carrie Underwood) and the reflective, rootsy title track where she sings directly, “I’ve got more dirt on you my dear than the ground beneath my wheels.” An honest and impactful song of regret, “He Ain’t Gonna Call” finds harsh words being uttered to someone you love and realizing this time, all will not be mended. Full of an unforgiving attitude, the roots rocker “Off The Wagon” cleverly details her “twelve step plan to keep the romance alive/with all the dead weight I’ve been dragging, it’s no wonder I love jumping off the wagon.” Standout “Montana,” with its fantabulous use of the harmonica, closes out the EP. The gently flowing, “picturesque” song is an ode to the one who makes your path bright; it encourages and inspires that all important emotion - love - to prevail.
Brown's The High Road is a mature set of well-crafted songs that make an impression (as well as a desire to hear more). It’s an end of year favorite from 2015 or your first favorite of the new year. Either way, don’t hesitate to grab a copy.
Australian superstar Dianna Corcoran, who has taken home two Australian Country Music Golden Guitar Awards (in addition to hundreds of others), will release her aptly titled new album, In America, on January 29, 2016. Self-produced by Corcoran and recorded at Nashville’s Ocean Way, In America is a twelve track collection of songs that finally brings the singer-songwriter’s music stateside.
Infusing Pop into her Country, Corcoran delivers her own sound and feel to the genre both in her songwriting (she co-wrote all of the songs) and limber five octave vocals (she can seriously hit the high notes). The album kicks off in high gear with lead single “God Did Good” an upbeat, sweet, and thankful ode to “the one.” That’s followed by a thank you of a different kind in “Thank You For Cheating On Me.” Vocally recalling Kacey Musgraves, the song nods to the one who broke her heart – which results in her finding a better man. Continuing the theme of finding love is the vibrantly detailed “Blame Carolina,” “Feels Like Hollywood,” which brings to mind Taylor Swift, and “Sugar” a sweet confection with a bit of retro flair. In addition to the joyous aspects of love, Corcoran also deals with heartache. “Hold On Lover” finds her asking for another chance, while the gentle “Not Ready To Lose” (feat. Gary Burr) focuses on the need to compromise in relationships and the piano ballad “Other Side of Letting Go,” has her asking forgiveness once more before she loses him for good.
Rounding out the album are the autobiographical “When These Wheels Hit Tennessee” which deals with leaving home, taking a chance and finding the air she’s supposed to breathe and “A Better Me, which is a raw, honest look at picking up the pieces after a relationship “I’ll take the pieces of my heart you scattered oh so carelessly/Put ‘em all together and build a better me.”
With In America, Corcoran, who has worked with songwriting communities in Australia, Germany and London, is poised to make her mark here in the U.S. with an album that is filled with relatable stories of romance, self-discovery and heartbreak....and you'll want to come along for the ride.
For more information, visit www.DiannaCorcoran.com and find her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
After touring America in 2012 and being inspired by their journey from New York to New Orleans, Jill Jackson (singer/songwriter) and Lisa Tring (drums) formed The Chaplins enrolling Johnny MacKinnon (keys) as the third member of the trio. Based in Glasgow, The Chaplins are an award-winning Americana band who released their debut album, The Circus, in September 2015
Definitely living up to the album’s Charlie Chaplin inspired title, The Circus showcases a variety of musical influences yet falls nicely under the Americana "tent" as it fuses elements of Bluegrass, Folk, Country and a even a touch of pop. From the mandolin and keys filled opener “Robin Hood” to “Seven Days,” with its hints of gospel/revival, The Chaplins continue to surprise you just when you think you have a handle on their sound. Smooth harmonies and an undeniable retro swing element shine on “Here Comes Trouble” while “The Circus” intro sets you up with an ominous melody that feels like an old Eastern European, gypsy tune. Pulsating with pop and tambourine, “On Fire” tells of the heat of the moment while “Hasty” could easily provide the background music for a silent movie. The somber “Whiskey Is My Only Friend” and the powerful “Raise The Alarm” round out a collection of well crafted tunes that are definitely worth a listen no matter which side of the ocean you reside.
Relationships can be wonderful, particularly when one experiences the bliss of new love and finding “the one;” yet they also can be wrought with complications and heartbreak. Josh Abbott Band’s latest, Front Row Seat, presents you with a clear look at the entire picture, from both sides.
Like a play, Front Row Seat is broken up into acts. In fact, there are five here, each with three songs that chronicle the beginnings of a new relationship to the undeniably sad end of a marriage. The distinct story provides the listener with said seat into Abbott’s personal life - at once unique, yet wholly relatable. It’s an honest musical look at a realistic part of life for many; brimming with the myriad of emotions one experiences, from giddiness, euphoria and love, to regret, disbelief, sadness, guilt and ultimately strength.
The first act “Exposition” consists of “While I’m Young,” “I’ve Been Known” and “Live It While You Got It.” They're three songs that chronicle that happy, carefree and youthful period where love is fresh, and things are lighthearted and fun; yet you’re still careful not to overstep while learning about the other person. All three keep the tempo up and the mood happy, perfectly communicating the overall feel of the songs.
“Incitation” follows and from the introduction of “Wasn’t That Drunk” (a duet with Carly Pierce), you can tell things have changed from the lighthearted to the sultry. There’s a passion and a deepening of the relationship both in that song -“I was tipsy when you kissed me but that ain’t why I kissed you back I’ll be honest I’ve wanted to do that to do that…..Lying here sober it just feels right” - as well as the rock tinged “If It Makes You Feel Good” and the romantic “Kiss You Good” as you sense the couple’s attachment growing stronger.
The third act “Intimacy” hints at the sexual, but more importantly focuses on the emotional intimacy you have with “the one,” how you utter those crazy sounding truths (“Crazy Things”), ponder how lucky you are (“Front Row Seat”) and figure out you want something deeper (“Kisses We Steal”).
In the strongest of the acts, “Dissolution,” things simply crumble, expressed by one of the truest lines in the somber “Born To Break Your Heart:” “Some lovers find a way together and some just fall apart.” Emotionalism reaches its peak in album standout “Ghosts” where an audible sense of distress and defeat over the failure of a marriage is heard in Abbott’s vocals. Told from the female’s perspective, the scaled back melody and lyrics of “This Isn’t Easy” (Her Song) will hit home for any woman who realizes that what she has to do isn’t easy, but is a necessity to guard her heart and move on.
Finally, there is the “Denouement.” The “Intro: A Loss Of Memory” definitely sets up a dark mood, however, things bounce back with “Amnesia” and “Autumn,” which signals a new beginning, realizing things are over, and focusing on the need to get back on one’s feet, pick up the pieces and start over. Providing a dreamlike ending is closing track “Anonymity.” Led by guitar, fiddle and vocals, the acoustic number reflects on the marriage while being alone (and for now, even lonely) and leaves the listener feeling sad for both of the parties, which is ultimately often the real feeling of a failed marriage.
Produced by Dwight Baker, Front Row Seat is heavy on fiddle and banjo with added pedal steel, mandolin and piano, decidedly in the vein of Abbott’s sound, but there is a maturity here that often accompanies difficult life experiences. Front Row Seat is carefree when it needs to be and solemn when it has to be. It explores the sad truth that relationships can fall apart and hearts can break….and eventually heal; an album that should connect well with anyone who has gone through the same.
In less than ten years, singer-songwriter Sarah Dashew has had three critically-praised albums, successful tours and numerous television spots (My Name Is Earl). In January, she will release her new album, Roll Like A Wheel which includes her latest single, "Fathers and Daughters." The song is a reflective, sparse and beautiful one about said relationship, but also seems to be inclusive of what we do to please others in order to feel connected and how that changes as we age. Immediately drawing you in, Dashew's voice is instantly calming yet intense, calling you to quiet, active listening to the story song she tells; a story that is brought to life with gentle piano, guitar and light percussion.
"Fathers and Daughters" is a wonderful introduction to Roll Like A Wheel and finds one excited to hear more.
Listen to "Fathers and Daughters" here.
Roll Like A Wheel is engineered by Eric Lilavois (Saint Motel, My Chemical Romance) and will be released nationwide January 22nd.
Pete Scobell holds many titles: celebrated Navy SEAL, competitive skier, mountain climber and advocate. With the release of his new album, Walkin A Wire, Scobell can now add another: accomplished artist. Released on September 11th, Walkin A Wire contains twelve songs including the title track and a reworking of “Hearts I Leave Behind,” originally a duet with Wynonna Judd that went to #1 on the iTunes Country Chart.
Produced by Cactus Moser (who also played percussion), the twelve track collection features songs written by some of the finest writers around including Steve Moakler, Rodney Clawson, Dierks Bentley, Jaida Dryer, David Lee Murphy and others. Things kick off with “Ain’t Gonna Waste It,” a country rocker heavy on electric guitar which encourages one to not waste the time you have on earth. That’s followed by the mid-tempo (highly addictive melody of) “Guns & Roses” a song that finds him reminiscing about a female whose band t-shirt he still has…and wouldn’t mind her returning to pick up.
Processing friends’ passing is the focus of the personal, “Wild,” which although relates to Scobell’s time in the military, can be understood by anyone who has experienced loss. Following a similar sentiment is the incredibly touching, sadly emotional “Disappear” about people who are no longer in your life; while “There’s Gotta Be A God” is a poignant song about faith and realizing the beauty in the world.
There’s a positive rockin’ energy in “The Fight” which extols tenacity and a never quit attitude, a theme which carries over in “World In The Way,” stressing the need to actively participate in a relationship in order to make it work.
The album is rounded out by “Dive Bar” and “Friends With Money.” The former is a descriptive tale about that favored place where “They still play Hank and…..time just stops on an old jukebox.” The latter is a jazzy, humorous sing along penned by Travis Meadows and Bobby Pinson that perfectly closes out the record. “I got God/I got church/ I got gun if that don’t work/ I got a girl who thinks my jokes are funny/I got friends with money.”
Walkin A Wire contains a balance of songs, those both lively and those with an emotional heft; songs that are straight up fun and those that are contemplative and introspective. No need to worry about walking this wire though....it's pretty solid. Give it a listen.
Admittedly I am skeptical of actors dabbling in music, but after listening to Chris Carmack’s new EP, any misgivings swiftly disappeared.
The multi-talented artist grew up playing saxophone and studied at NYU’s Tisch Alder Conservatory before heading to LA to do theatre. He eventually learned guitar, performed theatre in both NY and London, and currently stars on ABC’s “Nashville.” Now, Carmack is preparing to release his debut EP, Pieces of You, on December 11th. The five song project, produced by Grammy award winner Ben Fowler (Lynyrd Skynyrd) and Phoenix Mendoza, consists of five personal, yet relatable tracks that were all penned by Carmack and showcase an artist with diverse influences. The EP starts off with “Being Alone.” An immediate ear grabber, the song, recalling Will Hoge, is a roots rocker about the unwelcome freedom in being by oneself. “Can’t Do It Again” is a thumping, bluesy, gospel tinged tune about making mistakes while “What Has Changed” vacillates from a smoothly romantic Barry White-like introduction to a more pop/rock tempo telling the story of a man willing to let her go, but needing to know what caused the change in the relationship. A gorgeous (not gimmicky) blend of R & B and pop can be found on the tender “Always Mine,” while the title track, on which he struggles with being reminded of a lost love in everyday life, closes out the album.
Pieces of You gives a glimpse into Carmack’s ability as a singer, songwriter, and guitar player and definitely leaves you interested in hearing more.
Purchase the EP on iTunes here or Amazon.