Last night, the Highline Ballroom was hoppin' as Frankie Ballard brought his high energy show to NYC. Frankie played a little over an hour set to a full house. His gravelly voice suited for both songs that had the crowd dancing and jumping around, like "Young and Crazy" and "I'm Thinking Country," to slower songs, like his recent #1, "Helluva Life."
Frankie played many songs from his new record Sunshine and Whiskey, including the title track, as well as "Tell Me You Get Lonely." For the latter, he asked for a show of hands in the audience as to who recently experienced heartbreak. Many young ladies raised hands in the air, but only one was pulled onto the stage, sang to (with hand held) while sitting on a stool and then offered a shot....but not before Frankie made sure she was legal. In addition, he also more than adequately performed covers of "Good Hearted Woman" and John Cougar Mellencamp's "Pink Houses."
Frankie has an exceptionally charming and charismatic stage presence, you can't not like him. He's also an extremely talented guitar player and performer who made to sure work the entire stage, smiling and making eye contact with those in the front row, back and on the sides. He even bantered with the (largely female) audience, including asking one overzealous young lady who touched his thigh to "touch it again."
Nearing the end of the set, Frankie introduced his talented band, which always wins points with me, and segued right into the closing song, "Drinky Drink."
There was no encore, but Frankie did stay after to meet, sign, give out hugs and take photos with anyone and everyone who wanted them.
Bobby McGrath and The Brothers opened the show. They played a set of all original material, including the excellent "Turning Planes Around" and "Little Things Like That." Additionally, Bobby performed a well received cover of Randy Houser's "Goodnight Kiss." This was Bobby's first experience supporting a nationally known act and he and The Brothers handled it like seasoned pros. Bobby has a very natural stage presence and interacted well with the crowd. Like Frankie and his band, Bobby and his brothers genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves on stage. They more than succeeded in getting the crowd warmed up for Frankie. Surveying the crowd throughout his set, fans were singing along, dancing and clamoring for more. These local boys definitely have a bright future ahead of them.
For more information on Frankie Ballard click here
For more information on Bobby McGrath click here
To read our interview with Bobby click here
Ashley Monroe and Striking Matches made it a double on Monday night (April 14th) playing two shows at Joe's Pub in NYC. Shows at Joe's Pub are intimate; it's like having friends, albeit friends on a stage, over in your living room....and what nice friends there were on Monday evening.
Striking Matches, the duo comprised of Justin Davis and Sarah Zimmermann, opened the show and played a seven song set of all original material. The twosome are not only incredibly talented songwriters, but their skills on the guitar, and mandolin for Sarah, will leave you blown away. Their set list included "Trouble Is As Trouble Does," from their terrific self titled EP, as well as "Hangin' On A Lie", and "When It Rains." Additionally, they played the first song they had featured on the television show Nashville, "When the Right One Comes Along" (they have had six songs featured on the show in total, so far).
Sarah had some (humorous) issues with her guitar and mandolin being plugged in, but she took it in stride with jokes and smiles. In addition, during the first show, she played her guitar with such fierceness on "Make A Liar Out Of Me" that she broke one of her strings! "Let's see how this works with five strings," Justin said. In case you were wondering, it worked out just fine.
They spoke about how excited they were, not only to play NYC, but also because they recently signed their first record deal with I.R.S. Nashville. Their excitement transferred to their performance as they have an energy, intensity and enthusiasm which are met by few others. Keep an eye out for Sarah's foot stomping (she said she had gum on her show as a joke) and facial expressions which demonstrate how deeply she is immersed in the music while playing.
After a five minute break, Ashley Monroe graced the stage with her friends Striking Matches as her supporting band. On stage, Ashley is charming and genuine. She easily won the audience over with her grace, humor and soft spoken demeanor, not to mention her traditional vocals and original music. She commented more than once how happy she was to play two shows in NYC on their short four city tour. She opened with "You Got Me" then "Two Weeks Late." She performed the title track of her most recent album, "Like A Rose," for which she told the story of how she wrote it with Guy Clark. In addition, she played a new song she wrote with Vince Gill called "Has Anybody Ever Told You" that will be on her next album, which she is currently working on. She relayed the story behind the song "From Time to Time" saying it was inspired by a "pity party" she gave herself prior to her wedding [she was married last October] when she realized her father would not be walking her down the aisle. She needed a sign from her father and when she woke, she had the melody of the song in her head.
Before singing "Heart Like Mine," Ashley told the funny story of how the song was written one evening on the front porch of a cabin in Pigeon Forge, TN where Ashley took Miranda [Lambert] to ride roller coasters at Dollywood. The other song she had in the "hit portion" of the show was the song Jason Aldean recorded, "The Truth." She said she wrote that song about a boy back home in Knoxville when she was 19 years old. Additionally, she played a song that Justin had started and the three of them completed, called "Dixie," as well as the Pistol Annies' songs (with her Pistol Andy--Justin) "Bad Example" and "Unhappily Married." The first show ended with "Weed Instead of Roses" while the second show closed with "Satisfied."
Very rarely is an audience so attentive and respectful as they were when Ashley (and Striking Matches) sang. This even caused Ashley to comment in between songs that she "loves it when people listen" like the audience was doing tonight. Also evident, was a true camaraderie between Justin, Sarah and Ashley. You could fell that they are friends, like family even; from the way they interacted with one another and the support they gave one another on stage.
Everyone did leave Joe's "satisfied," full of authentic country music performed by genuine artists.
You can read our interview with Striking Matches here.
For more information on Ashley Monroe and Striking Matches, you can visit their official websites.
NASH FM 94.7's Jesse Addy hosted a special performance on Tuesday, April 8th, by GRAMMY® award winning artist Martina McBride at the Hard Rock Café in Times Square. Martina celebrated the release of her new album, Everlasting, by performing songs from the record to a crowd of lucky fans who learned about the show by listening to NASH FM 94.7 – "America's Country Station," and waited in line Wednesday afternoon to catch the performance.
After starting off the evening with "Suspicious Minds" and "Wild Night," Martina thanked everyone for coming out. She said that this show at the Hard Rock was a "last minute idea" she had about a week and a half hour ago. She wanted to do something cool for the fans to celebrate the release of her record and to give people a glimpse of her tour, which begins on May 8th. She said that the music she picked for the album, and what she would be playing on the tour, would be music that would have everyone "dancing and singing to their hearts content." And that was what many in the crowd of about two hundred people did that night, thoroughly enjoying every minute of Martina's performance.
Martina was backed by her regular band, plus a horn section, which she said she always wanted, and three back up singers, who not only sounded fantastic but were energetic and enthusiastic. She performed fifteen songs over an hour and a half including her favorite Aretha Franklin tune, "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man," as well as "If You Don't Know Me By Now," and "Come See About Me." She "stripped it down a bit," but "not literally," she laughingly added, for "Little Bit of Rain" and a beautiful cover of "By Your Side" by Sade. One of the highlights of the night was when she covered Pink's "Perfect." She told the fans that this song was specifically for them; that at times life gets people down and discouraged and we do not think the best of ourselves. She wanted to remind everyone that the lyrics from that song are the "truth and don't you forget it."
Additionally, she performed two songs that are duets on the album, "In The Basement" (with Kelly Clarkson) and "Bring It On Home" (with Gavin DeGraw). She closed with "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted."
After chants of "Martina" from the crowd, she and the band emerged for an encore of songs including "This One's For The Girls," that had the crowd on their feet, cheering and singing along.
With Everlasting, Martina demonstrates her versatility while making these classic soul songs her own. Be sure to pick up Everlasting, which is available everywhere.
For more information on Martina McBride visit her official website.
For more information on "America's Country Station" NASH FM visit here
Perhaps one of the best places in NYC to see live music in an intimate setting, Joe's Pub hosted Clay vs Levi: Round 2 this past Monday evening. Clay Cook is a multi-instrumentalist and one of the members of the Zac Brown Band who recently released his new album North Star. Levi Lowrey is a BMI Country Award winner for "Colder Weather" and an artist on the Southern Ground label who released his latest, self titled album this past February.
The night started out with the two men deciding who would play first....by playing "rock, paper, scissors!" Levi "won" which meant he would go first, but that Clay would get the "last word" of the night. This fun approach set the tone for the evening as both men took turns playing their songs and interacting with one another and the audience. There were jokes about trains, the many and varied uses for cds (according to Levi, they make excellent ice scrapers), "mice elf," and Christmas (that somehow carried through the evening).
But joking aside, the music was the true focal point of the evening. Levi began with "Barely Getting By" and played nine songs including "December Thirty-One," "The Problem with Freedom" and "Yesterday's Fool." Clay began with "Mountain Time," which was met with such applause that he commented that he had not had heard such heartfelt "hoorays" in a long time. He continued with "Terrible Timing," "This Kind of War," and a bit of "Amazing Grace" before launching into "Tell Him What You Want." He also played a verse of "The Muppet Theme," which he said was his favorite show as a child, before "Restless Man."
One poignant moment in the evening came when Levi sang a song for his children at home. He addressed the camera to speak to them prior to beginning "Trying Not To Die" and after; telling them it was time to go to bed.
Whether the songs were solemn or more up-tempo, the audience was attentive and respectful (sans one or two people who liked to yell out in between songs). In addition to the stellar storytelling/songwriting, these two gentlemen are some of the most amazingly talented musicians you will see. Levi played acoustic guitar when he performed his songs and captivated on the fiddle while supporting Clay. Throughout the hour and a half long show, Clay showcased his musicianship on acoustic and electric guitar, pedal steel and mandolin.
The evening ended with Levi performing a song he co-wrote that was a #1 for the Zac Brown Band, "Colder Weather" and Clay performing the song he co-wrote that was a smash for John Mayer "No Such Thing." Both men were more than gracious to meet, sign and take photos with fans in the lobby after the performance.
This show was definitely one of the highlights of 2014 so far. Bring on Round 3!
For more information on Levy Lowrey visit here.
For more information on Clay Cook visit here.