True North (from the album Open Road, Broken Heart)
True North have found a cure for the album title for their recent release, Open Road, Broken Heart. The Pacific Northwest-based band find a parking spot to enter “Dark Horse Bar & Grill” and spin slowly on the barstool for the sad Country tale. Open Road, Broken Heart boards a greyhound bus in a wedding dress on the opening cut (“One-Way Ticket”) as the lovers left behind view departing taillights as leaving while those on the highway hear the hum of freedom from the tires. The stories on Open Road, Broken Heart has a common path for its cast of characters, all of whom are on the move whether they walk into lucky breaks or fortify their respective spirits to find the courage to head for the exit door.
Taking a shot of “Mighty Bourbon”, True North find themselves in morning-after county jail as their strums usher in mental ghosts with “Sunday Night Blues” and they scatter “Small Wonders” on a rapid banjo-fueled melody. Open Road, Broken Heart does the math for a final goodbye in “Ratio of Angels to Demons” as it turns “The Eye” towards old friends and past love and steps around sharp-angled rhythms for “I’m Gone” while True North match the male/female dual vocals of the band to twin guitar lines in “Wilder Than Her” and watch the earth spin seasons in “Seed, Leaf, Flowers, Seed”.
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Hot Texas Swing Band (from the album Off the Beaten Trail)
On album number four, Off the Beaten Trail, Hot Texas Swing Band continue to curate and ride range over the vast expanse of western swing music as they keep a flame burning for traditions heard in the music of torchbearers Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, and Asleep at the Wheel. Off the Beaten Trail leads its tunes outside the borders of the sound of western swing as the album takes a trip into New Orleans with “Baton Rouge Waltz”, uses a honky tonk rhythm to heat up “Snow in Amarillo”, brings tits own style of Jazz back to the big band beat for “I Hear You Talkin’”, and turns the lights low for the after-hours Blues of “Cry Me a River”.
As the musical changes merge seamlessly on Off the Beaten Trail, the guiding tones of Hot Texas Swing Band stay true to the mix of Cowboy music and Swing. The band picks up the pace as it heads for open range with “Texas Plains”, lets the players take center stage for the instrumental whimsy of “Bull Whip”, slows to a trot for “My Blue Guitar”, and shimmies on a Latin groove for “This Time”. Off the Beaten Trail steps to a Waltz rhythm for “Headed Back to the Barn” as Hot Texas Swing Band light a fire to toast “White Lightnin’” and take a hit of loco weed to bounce into “Cow Cow Boogie”.
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Sue Quigley (from the album Little Wildernesses)
Recorded at London Bridge Studios in Seattle, Washington, Sue Quigley surrounded herself with a powerhouse of local talent for Little Wildernesses, her recent release. Art became life when Sue Quigley began writing songs about getting out of town and living a different life in her Eastern Washington state bedroom. She wandered, working as a fire fighter throughout the western United States, picking up the guitar for open mic nights once she settled in Seattle.
Decisions find themselves shifting when signals disappear like smoke as Sue Quigley makes her way into the person she is as well as the human she wants to be, opening Little Wildernesses on the title track. Jagged notes take form to become a western ramble when “Outlaws” wanders into Little Wildernesses while “Rescuer” picks up the rhythmic pace, slowly trudges over an earthbound beat to give wings to “Birds”, and walks the different paths of happiness as it questions direction for “Long Run”. There is a wisdom in the words of Sue Quigley as she delivers her stories in a deep resonance that rings in a confidence that breeds trust in the tales. Little Wildernesses listens to the earth breathe as the sound of nature calls out in “Lake Song” while Sue Quigley watches “Oxygen” look for a way out and confides “Sometimes I Forget” to the strong current guiding her.
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Eric Brace, Peter Cooper, Thomm Jutz (from the album Profiles in Courage, Frailty, and Discomfort available on Red Beet Records)
When Eric Brace, Peter Cooper, and Thomm Jutz called themselves a trio they officially hung out a shingle for a working relationship already in existence. As a duo, Eric Brace and Peter Cooper recorded with Thomm Jutz sitting in the seat of engineer and producer, lending guitar parts to their tunes both in the studio and on the road. Coaxing Thomm into performing his own songs with the pair promoted the title change, and the threesome put their names on the cover marquee of the recent release, Profiles in Courage, Frailty, and Discomfort. Nashville, Tennessee is the home for Eric Brace, Peter Cooper, and Thomm Jutz. Amid schedules that would prove challenging for a juggler, Eric Brace and Peter Cooper have released albums and toured together for several years as well as individually handling numerous other projects. Thomm Jutz made real the promise he had given his younger self growing up in Germany and moved to Nashville in 2003, quickly becoming a go-to guitar sideman and producer for artists such as Nanci Griffith, Jason Ringenberg, Sid Griffin, and Mac Wiseman among many others.
The trio of musicians all lend songs to Profiles in Courage, Frailty, and Discomfort, making a wish for a little change on “If I Had a Nickel” to open the album. A universal ‘you’ is the ear that “Awful Lot Like Me” whispers into as the album sifts through dark shadows to hunt for “My Sally” while lost friends and family are remembered with “Lonesome and Alone” and a soul seeks better times away from “Hendersonville”. Eric Brace, Peter Cooper, and Thomm Jutz tenderly envelope voices around the tracks that line Profiles in Courage, Frailty, and Discomfort, backing the harmonies with notes and strums to complement the moods. “Tranquility Base” walks the moon with Neil Armstrong as it lists questions of the first human to take steps in space while “Hartford’s Bend” finds riverboat captains tipping their hats one more time to an unknown friend as they steer pass by the lost river port of Jefferson, Tennessee on “Little Old Town”. The three men behind Profiles in Courage, Frailty, and Discomfort give themselves over to the songs as Eric Brace, Peter Cooper, and Thomm Jutz walk through virgin territory in “Newborn Wilderness”, let thoughts become lyrics while staring at the Hernando, Mississippi home of Jerry Lee Lewis in “Uneasy Does It”, sing the story of a railroad man in “B & O Man”, and toast to the bottom of the bottle with “Angel’s Share”.
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Mike Meehan and the Lucky Ones (from the album Better Angels E.P. available on Paradiddle Records)
Beating the odds is life-affirming, and that is the take home message in the songs of Mike Meehan and the Lucky Ones on their recent release, Better Angels E.P. Raggedly Rock’n’Roll soundtracks the stories of Mike Meehan and the Lucky Ones as Better Angels E.P. follows the taillights of a love full of lies watching “Mirabel” head into the night while the band counts out nuggets of fools gold to buy back a little heart with “Ghost Beneath the Lonesome View”.
Raised in Texas, Mike Meehan calls New York City his homebase, surrounding himself with an array of East Coast musicians as The Lucky Ones. The Roots of the band rise up from the guitar jangle as they offer a parting gift before goodbye in “Swan Song” as they carve an edge into the twang of the title track while its lead characters ponder the future in the chorus of ‘better angels watch in dismay, better angels wonder if its too late’.
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Dan Stevens (from the album Runnin’ the Backroads)
Dan Stevens collects a bunch of tales, adds music, and assembles them as songs, gathers words and music together as Runnin’ the Backroads, his latest album release. Dan Stevens is a storyteller with the ability to deliver elicit anger for attacks on the environment (“Blair Mountain”) finding fault with corporations as much as the victims who stand silent, wraps lost days etching out a meager living with humor as he sits behind the wheel of a car stuck in traffic (“Crush Hour Traffic”), makes a political stand (“Hey Uncle Sam (It’s Just My Opinion”), and has a laugh at the expense of aging (“Viagra con Dios”). Runnin’ the Backroads combines pathos with playful against a backdrop of non-stop Country Folk aged in tradition that constantly bubbles underneath Dan Stevens view of the modern world.
Following a lifetime of playing in bands, Dan Stevens spends his time as a songwriter in 2017, taking the sights from a lifetime of experiences and putting them to music. From Dan’s home in Gulfport, Florida the stories of Runnin’ the Backroads chronicles the lives of others, traveling to New England to visit a sailing family from “New Bedford”, gets trapped by four walls and the abuse of power in Houston, Texas in “The Cell”, and exercises mental excursions from a bar stool with “I Drink Gin” as Dan Stevens makes “The Proposal” and sings “Another Sad Country Song”.
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Fan Fiqtion (from the album Winter Grass)
Fan Fiqtion is the musical unit thst Phoenix, Arizona-based songwriter, Zion Brock, uses to deliver his words and music to the world. Winter Grass is the recent E.P. release from Fan Fiqtion, presents the vocals of various artists to lead the stories on the tracks. Lyrically, Winter Grass hands out tunes of inspiration as Brittany Pfantz spits with an Amy Winehouse-style snarl, encouraging listeners to “Go and Get It” over party-friendly beats. Chord strums create the rhythms for Courtney Cotter King to offer the claim that “Life Gets Better” as the vocalist stays behind the microphone for “Change is in the Air”, letting her voice skim over the island flavored grooves in the songs.
Zion Brock left lessons he learned at home with his musical family and their tendency towards Bluegrass instrumentation, foregoing the sounds of banjo, guitar, fiddle and mandolin to enter the work force as an engineer after college. Over time, the call of music was louder than the ticking of a time clock and Zion worked on honing his songwriting skills. The cuts compiled on Winter Grass follow the beat, the sound for each tune relying heavily on its percussion. Cameron DeGurski is the vocalist for three of the tracks on the E.P. The soulfulness of his voice a good match for the words of Zion Brock as he opens the release offering a song as payment to “Father Time”. Fan Fiqtion put the groove into “Give Me Color” early on in the arrangement as whistles, funky chord patterns and hints at horns paint the song while Winter Grass closes out on a fast track as it heads for the exit imagining the work day in the rear-view mirror for “Being Home with You”.
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Hardened and Tempered (from the album The Trailer Sessions)
The decisions of the characters that make their way through the songs of The Trailer Sessions walk a fine line. The album, the latest from Austin, Texas-based duo, Hardened and Tempered, edges out on branches growing from the same long ribbons of highway travelled by the musicians behind the words and music. The Trailer Sessions investigates the love/hate relationships between the humans standing in the songs and the stage of their surroundings. Hardened and Tempered look through microscopes of song that examines the flesh and blood bodies as they march towards sudden edges that fall into deep pits as well as soft ground that requires careful footfalls. Kristin Davidson and Carolyn Philips aka Hardened and Tempered infuse their characters with hard-won dignity and a pride born in beating the odds as they push against the grain, toasting the moon in a “Dry County”, finding fortune in the heat of another human with “My Wildest Ride”, taking a seat on the “Heartbreak Transit Line”, and reading the hard-luck history tacked to the walls of “House of the Soiled Dove”.
Hardened and Tempered turned to Grammy award winner Lloyd Maines to produce their debut, The Trailer Sessions. He backed the duo with some of the Austin A-list talent found in the Texas music capital for songwriting influenced by the time Kristin Davidson spent living in an Airstream on the Texas-Mexico border. The Trailer Sessions shares “Family Secrets” on gently plucked notes and warm harmonies, weathers “Hard Winds” fortified by a tough groove as it makes its way on a current of Tex-Mex rhythms for “Cross Over the Rio Grande’ while Hardened and Tempered make plans for “Leavin’ in the Morning” on an assured beat and step lightly on the shuffle of “Path Already Paved”.
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Applewood Road (from the album Applewood Road)
Fate, AmericanaFest, and the musical magic in the air of East Nashville were the backdrop when Amy Speace, Emily Barker, and Amber Rubarth met, write their first song together, and immediately enter Welcome to 1979’s all analog recording environment to timeline the tune. “Applewood Road”, backed instrumentally with just a double bass, became the title track, and band name that the threesome would operate under. The trio reconvened six months later, once again returning to Welcome to 1979, and bringing in some of the fine Eastsider musicians to back the voices of Applewood Road with Telisha Williams, Aaron Lee Tasjian, Fats Kaplin, Jabe Beyer, and Josh Day playing in the band.
The songs of Applewood Road sparkle with the purity in the trio’s voices, captured with no overdubs and gathered around a single microphone. Lead vocals are shared and at times tenderly accompanied by ooh-ahh harmony as in “Bring the Car Around”. Applewood Road adds age to an “Old Time Country Song” by backing the three voices with scratchy banjo, guitar strums, and fiddle while a bounce becomes the beat for “Sad Little Tune”, hushed notes barely whisper to match the storyline snowfall in “Home Fires”, and echoes of Tin Pan Alley join the touching emotion found in the vocal and harmonies of “My Love Grows”. Raucous Country Folk is reflected from “Lovin’ Eyes” and a dreamy melody drifts over the tale of a young boy and his radio in “To the Stars” as thick bass notes partner with percussion to float “Row Boat” and Applewood Road revisit R.E.M. with Folk take on “Losing My Religion”.
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Over the course of a career that has spanned decades, John Mellencamp has delivered the songs in his rock’n’roll heart against an ever-moving landscape of musical styles. He has accepted his fame with dignity, managing his role as rock star with class and keeping the music a part of a fickle Pop culture by recording the way he hears a song as opposed to fitting the tracks into a popular format. That ability to follow a muse rather than running with the pack continues on the most recent release from John Mellencamp, Sad Clowns and Hillbillies. The album bears John’s name on the marquee as well as giving well-deserved credit to his partner on Sad Clowns and Hillbillies with the added notation, ‘featuring Carlene Carter’.
John Mellencamp finds his recent album offerings perfectly at home in the Roots music community, a territory he has long cultivated and developed in his own music. Sad Clowns and Hillbillies embraces the benefits offered by Americana as it shifts between melodic moods, saddling up with a Country Folk trot for “Battle of Angels”, taking a seat at the “Early Bird Café” as its jukebox sounds off with a raggedy rock’n’roll Roots, and following the lead of a snaking fiddle riff as to dials in “Late Night Talk Radio”. The rumble of Country chords guides the steps of John Mellencamp and dueling duet partner Martina McBride as they wrestle with living in “Grandview”. The voice of Carlene Carter comes through in the fading lights of “Indigo Sunset”, powerfully attached to the telling of the story as she is throughout much of Sad Clowns and Hillbillies. The burdens of “Damascus Road” are vocally shared with Carlene and John Mellencamp as the pair climb “Sugar Hill Mountain” with a shuffling ramble rhythm, brew a caffeinated bounce to walk a path to glory with “On My Soul’s Wings”, and hush to whispers to discuss “What Kind of Man Am I”. Fiddle, mandolin, and guitar notes play tag with the beat as “Mobile Blue” boards a west coast bus while Sad Clowns and Hillbillies takes pride in the less-than-perfect male dressed up to sashay onto the stage as the “Sad Clown” on a classic country ramble and quiets the musical moods for John Mellencamp to poke at politics on “Easy Target”.
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