Showing posts with label country rock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label country rock. Show all posts

Monday, April 23, 2018

video review: 'port saint joe' by brothers osborne

Okay, not as great as I was hoping... but overall, still solid, definitely recommended.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN, and we'll see what comes next - stay tuned!

album review: 'port saint joe' by brothers osborne

Oh, I was looking forward to this one - and for a nice change of pace, it didn't look like it was just me this time around and that's thrilling to see.

And there's really no mincing words about it: in the face of other country duos Brothers Osborne have surged to the forefront in critical acclaim and presence over the past few years ever since they released Pawn Shop in very early 2016 - and what's more exciting is that they seemed to be doing it the right way. Sure, that debut was uneven and had rough patches both in production and songwriting, but you wouldn't really know it given that Brothers Osborne had a canny eye for releasing great singles like '21 Summer' and especially 'It Ain't My Fault', which might just have one of the best music videos of the decade. It was one of those projects where the sheer talent, wit, and swagger was hard to deny, and while the larger mainstream never quite got onboard the way they should have - especially considering it wasn't like their labelmate Eric Church had many singles in circulation to compete - this upcoming record starting getting a lot of attention, to see how they'd follow up and expand their southern rock style while keeping that idiosyncratic flair and firepower. Or to put it another way, even though I've been a fan of these guys for a few years now, I was excited to see how much everyone else wanted to get on-board: so what did we get on Port Saint Joe?

Monday, April 16, 2018

video review: 'find a light' by blackberry smoke (ft. the lp club)

Not quite a great project - which yes, is disappointing - but overall, pretty solid and I'm happy Ethan and I were able to pull this together. Enjoy!

Monday, November 20, 2017

video review: 'a long way from your heart' by turnpike troubadours

And that's two for tonight - and thank god this is better. Seriously, this is a great record, GET IT.

Next up, a debut that's been very long in coming, so stay tuned!

album review: 'a long way from your heart' by turnpike troubadours

Well, it's about damn time, isn't it?

Seriously, if it wasn't for Patreon tiers shifting this down, I would have covered this record a good month ago - and frankly, I'm a little surprised the country fans I do have on Patreon didn't vote for this more! Maybe it's a factor of the band not quite yet having the same mainstream breakthrough or name recognition as many of their peers... and yet talk to any indie country fan in the know about a go-to band for them, I'd put money on Turnpike Troubadours showing up pretty damn high on their list, they're definitely picking up more of that audience.

So for everyone else, who are these guys? Well, they're an Oklahoma country band that has been putting out damn excellent, textured country records for the past decade - and just like Parker McCollum, they're entirely independent and have built up a pretty impressive grassroots following. But even though they do flirt with the rougher sides of Americana and southern rock, nobody would dare say these guys weren't country through and through, keeping the guitar and fiddle tempos and playing aggressive to match remarkably textured and impassioned lyrics that have supported them on record after record. Now I will say I'd be hardpressed to find a single record of theirs that stands out the most - they've got the sort of uniform high quality that informs bands like Blackberry Smoke or The National or Spoon - but the album I got into them the most was their second record Diamonds & Gasoline that just nails that ramshackle edge perfectly for me, although their self-titled album in 2015 is a damn solid introduction too. And thus when critical buzz was suggesting this was somehow even sharper than their previous efforts, you can bet I wanted to cover it - even if it hasn't proven to be the breakthrough just yet, I wanted to do my part and dig in. So what did I find on A Long Way From Your Heart?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

video review: 'like an arrow' by blackberry smoke

Man, this was so needed right now - although from the looks of things nearly every record I've given a 9/10 has some link to country, go figure.

On a definitely less likable note, Kings Of Leon up next, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

album review: 'like an arrow' by blackberry smoke

If you saw my Whiskey Myers review about a month or so ago, you knew this was coming. 

Hell, even if you didn't you probably would expect that I'd cover Blackberry Smoke's newest album, especially considering how much I liked their last album Holding All The Roses early last year. The compositions and grooves were tighter, their production was better than ever courtesy of legend Brenden O'Brien, and the lyrics showed the band taking southern rock tropes into fresh new directions that were a little more high concept, especially when the instrumentation got a little more experimental along the way. In short, it was easily Blackberry Smoke's best album to date...

And it also went to #1 on the US Country album charts. This is for a band, I should remind you, with no crossover singles or big radio push, and while you could give some credit to the release not facing huge competition, it also was another sign of the sea change that's been happening in country music, especially on the album charts. And keep in mind they hit #1 after leaving Zac Brown's Southern Ground label - they did this off an independent label, and that says a lot, especially in country. So when you hear that they're planning to follow it up with a record this year that they also produced themselves... well, I'm always cautious about this sort of thing, but I wasn't going to miss it, especially if they could keep up their momentum. So how does Like An Arrow shoot?

Monday, September 26, 2016

video review: 'mud' by whiskey myers

Well, working on this was certainly preferable to the damn debate - didn't stop me from live-tweeting what happened from Twitter and whoo boy, Trump did not appear to have a good time according to every media outlet I follow (and spoilers, if you don't like me talking politics for the next month, you might want to venture away - it's going to get wild). 

Still, wish the record was better. Moving on, I've got Mick Jenkins, Shawn Mendes, How To Dress Well, and a fair few more, so stay tuned!

album review: 'mud' by whiskey myers

Oh, I've been looking forward to this one.

See, I don't talk a lot about southern rock in this series, basically because for as much as I like the sound I tend to be more of a fan of either country or outright blues rock. Don't get me wrong, the blend in the middle tends to be appealing, but it's also a narrow fit, and too often I've seen country acts go here to simply add muscle, or rock bands to add flavour - or snag some easy marketing from country - without the heavier focus on songwriting you'd like to see. Couple it with the occasional bit of belligerent machismo or southern pandering you can see creeping into the writing, and let's just say that there's a significant swathe of the genre that can kind of turn me off.

Of course, there are exceptions, and in the waning months of 2016, we're going to talk about two of them, the two southern rock acts that are consistently viewed in recent years as the leaders in the format. The first is the Georgia-based Blackberry Smoke, and fans from last year probably remember that I covered their last album Holding All The Roses and am planning to review their upcoming release in mid-October. The other band is the group we're going to be talking about today: Whiskey Myers. Texas band, a little younger, and unlike Blackberry Smoke who have toured and worked with the Zac Brown Band and Eric Church, they've remained consistently independent. And yet if I'm being completely honest, I wouldn't entirely consider myself a fan. Yes, Cody Cannon has a tremendous voice and Cody Tate is one hell of a guitarist, but I found myself wishing I could like Firewater and Early Morning Shakes a lot more than I did. Part of it was the writing, which did occasionally slide towards the issues I spoke on earlier - especially 'Ballad Of A Southern Man' on Firewater - but on Early Morning Shakes even with Dave Cobb's production I found myself lukewarm to the project at best. But hey, Cobb's production has only gotten better and with the buzz suggesting that this was a much rougher, gritty record, I was looking forward to seeing how that edge could materialize. So I finally decided to check out Mud by Whiskey Myers - what did we get?

Friday, January 22, 2016

video review: 'pawn shop' by brothers osborne

And that'll take care of country releases for the next week or so. Expect a lot of rock and metal coming, people, because between Savages, Ty Segall, Megadeth, Dream Theater, Avantasia, The Mute Gods... suffice to say, I'll be busy.

Until then, stay tuned!

album review: 'pawn shop' by brothers osborne

So I talked before about how when mainstream country hits upon a formula, they try everything in their power to replicate it to usually poor results. And when Florida Georgia Line struck it big in late 2012, label executives began looking for duos that they could slide in to replicate the success of that act, preferably under the bro country template. 

The problem was that bro-country crested and crashed relatively quickly, with 2013 being the peak before the crash and replacement with the metropolitan/R&B-leaning trend, so acts that might have been primed to be pushed in that direction had to be retooled or refocused. This seemed to be the case for Brothers Osborne, a country duo whose band name could literally be shortened and amalgamated to spell 'bros', but after single 'Let's Go There' only caught minor traction on the airplay charts, they got a welcome boost from being a favourite opening act of Eric Church. This led to a team-up with his main producer Jay Joyce for retooling of their track 'Stay a Little Longer' for release almost a year ago. And as luck would have it, it's made significantly more of an impact in recent weeks, breaking the top five on country airplay and charting real impact on the Hot 100 as we speak.

As such, given that I didn't mind 'Stay A Little Longer', I decided to check out their debut record Pawn Shop. After all, they were the primary songwriters on all of their tracks, and while Jay Joyce's presence did concern me, I'm not going to deny his work with Eric Church on Mr. Misunderstood showed measurable improvements as one of my favourite albums of 2015. So did Pawn Shop deliver?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

video review: 'mr. misunderstood' by eric church

Well damn, I didn't expect this to be nearly as good as it was. Not complaining at all - it's a nice feeling for Eric Church to be on track again, and it's good to put one of my most contentious reviews to the back of my mind for now.

But next up... oh boy, that Logic album is tempting. So let's go for it, stay tuned!

album review: 'mr. misunderstood' by eric church

You know, I've been asked a few times what I think are my worst reviews, or any that I regret. And here's the thing: over the course of nearly doing 500 of these things, you're going to encounter reviews where you look back and just wince a bit - maybe a bad turn of phrase, maybe a slip of the tongue or error in song interpretation, or maybe just an album that has grown or cooled on you over time that makes your review not reflect your feelings now. Now here's the thing: that happens. It's only human for opinions to evolve over time with more information or with changing emotions or even just the passage of time, and reviews being a snapshot of how one feels at a specific moments only further highlights how subjective they really are.

And as such, when you pair all of those factors with an album designed to court controversy with a major shift in artistic direction... well, those are the reviews that tend to spark the most vitriolic reactions... which takes us to Eric Church. I'll wholeheartedly admit my review of his 2014 album The Outsiders is not my best, and when combined with an album that showed Eric Church trying to bend country music in so many different directions, you got a mess all around. It didn't help matters that Eric Church is a contentious artist, drawing on tropes of outlaw country and some interesting songwriting ideas but playing them with little subtlety in the writing or instrumentation. Granted, if I were to reflect on the biggest miscalculation of The Outsiders, it'd be the overwrought, leaden production, courtesy of perennial frustrating producer Jay Joyce.

And as such, when I heard the two had teamed up again to deliver a surprise album of all things, delivered first to registered members of his fan club with ten new tracks not even cracking forty minutes... well, I wasn't sure what to expect. When you consider the record was cut just a few months back and slipped out as a complete surprise, you could either view this is Eric Church satiating his fans with something quick, or him attempting to pull a Beyonce, which he might have been able to do if it wasn't for Chris Stapleton's huge CMA success launching his sales into the stratosphere. But I already reviewed Stapleton's Traveller months ago, so what do we get with Mr. Misunderstood?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

video review: 'wild ones' by kip moore

Not sure anyone really gives two shits about this album, but I thought it was pretty damn good.

Next up, one of the lightest Billboard BREAKDOWNs yet - which is good for me, gives me time to get Beach House and Ghost reviews ready, plus a little something special. Stay tuned!

album review: 'wild ones' by kip moore

So I've talked a bit before about the Nashville songwriting machine, the group of songwriters and producers that churn out songs or even entire albums for our country stars, sometimes with those stars not even having a single writing credit. For a critic, this can be pretty galling, especially in determining an artistic voice behind the music, but to be fair, it's not like pop or R&B or even rock and hip-hop are much different.

Which is why an artist like Kip Moore stands out as something of an anomaly, because his debut album Up All Night was released in 2012 and he had writing credits on every single song. And to go a step further, his material fit completely within mainstream radio, even at the genesis of bro-country - songs about girls, beer, trucks, nothing in the writing you haven't heard before. But remember how I said that bro-country can actually be good? Well, I'd add Kip Moore to the very short list of acts like Jake Owen or Billy Currington who can make this work while still maintaining a defiantly country sound with prominent melodies, grittier yet atmospheric production that reminded me a lot of a rougher Dierks Bentley, potent grooves, and a lot of raw passion from Kip Moore. The fascinating thing is that Up All Night seemed to draw more inspiration instrumentally from Americana-inspired rock like Bruce Springsteen, even as the subject matter rarely rose above bro-country standards, although thankfully delivered with enough heartfelt sincerity to rise above. And yeah, there were points that were a little too synthetic to really work, but what raised Kip Moore above the pack were the details...

And as such, it's no surprise that after a few strong singles, Kip Moore struggled to land hits on country radio - something which didn't surprise him, given his visible contempt for the songwriting by assembly line process in bro-country. Two non-album singles flopped on the radio, and I suspect part of it was just a flooded market, where if you played things with more restraint and class, you weren't going to stand out, even if your writing and production were a cut above. As such, I was a little worried when I saw the list of cowriters that Moore had brought on - he still had primary writing credits, but there were more hands in the pot and that did raise a certain amount of concern. But hey, I really liked Up All Night, and if Brett James was still handling production, maybe it'd still have that quality. Does it deliver?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

video review: 'jekyll + hyde' by the zac brown band

Man, I wish this album could have been stronger... although then again, experiments like this are always risks, so it's not surprising it might not have pulled off the power of a record like Uncaged. Eh, it happens.

Next up... honestly, I've got a few that I'm interested in covering. Stay tuned!

album review: 'jekyll + hyde' by the zac brown band

If you were to ask me what my most anticipated album of 2015 was... well, depending on the day I would have given you a number of answers. Depending on the genre I would have given you a number of answers, but I was getting asked about country, it wouldn't have even been a challenge. And for me, it's always a little odd admitting things like this, because it sets expectations for this review and immediately there'll be accusations of bias or some silliness like that. Let me say that my critical faculties are not impaired, and I'm not going to give something a pass just because I'm a fan - my Nightwish review was proof of that.

That said... the Zac Brown Band is probably one of my favourite country bands ever. The project of singer-songwriter Zac Brown and a killer selection of multi-instrumentalists and backing singers, it was a band that started small with The Foundation in 2008, and while I liked that album for its singles and a couple lightweight deep cuts, it wasn't until their 2010 record You Get What You Give that they seriously won me over. Not only was this a band that knew their neotraditional country and had a gift for killer melodies and great texture, but they were also strong songwriters that could sketch great pictures and had the talent to work with the greats like Alan Jackson. And with songs like 'Colder Weather' - which I should remind you all was my pick for the best hit song of 2011 - they proved that the success of 'Chicken Fried' or 'Toes' wasn't going to confine them to lightweight beach fodder.

But while You Get What You Give was a damn solid record, 2012's Uncaged was damn near a masterpiece. No joke, if I were to make a list of my top records of 2012, it'd be fighting with Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean for the top slot. Not only was the writing even better, it showed the band getting more experimental, fusing elements of reggae, bluegrass, rock, and even R&B into their music - and what was all the more amazing is that they made it feel cohesive and powerful with songs like 'Goodbye In Her Eyes', 'Natural Disaster', and 'Last But Not Least' standing as some of their best ever.

And then things really got interesting. They put out an EP with Dave Grohl, Zac Brown later showed up on one of the best songs of the Foo Fighters' Sonic Highways, and with an upcoming collaboration from Chris Cornell on their newest record Jekyll + Hyde - along with Sara Bareilles of all people - it looked as though the Zac Brown Band were continuing their experimentation. What worried me, though, was the producer: Jay Joyce, who in recent years has developed a bad reputation for overproduction and turning albums that could have been amazing or at least passable from Eric Church, Little Big Town, and Halestorm into complete messes. And I'll admit, I was worried here: I knew Zac Brown had a reputation for a tight grip in the studio, but swapping out Keith Stegall, known for working with Alan Jackson, for Joyce struck me as a monumentally bad decision, especially considering they were already working with Grohl! But even putting that aside, I hoped for the best: did the Zac Brown Band manage to pull something together?

Monday, February 23, 2015

video review: 'holding all the roses' by blackberry smoke

Well, that turned out pretty damn great. Think I need to get to some more country soon...

So yeah, I'll be covering the new Mavericks record, but first... hmm, not sure yet. Need a bit more time before Big Sean, so I might take care of some old business first. Stay tuned!

album review: 'holding all the roses' by blackberry smoke

You know, I don't tend to talk much about southern rock - and really, I'm a little surprised at that myself. Inspired by blues, country, and hard rock - three genres I do really like, it was most prevalent in the 70s from the country rock scene originally driven by the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd and from there it's been around for decades in scattered that do accrue a fair amount of popularity, spanning Tom Petty to Kid Rock to the genesis of sludge metal. As such, it falls into a bit of a weird niche, typically landing on classic rock radio or some of the harder country stations, never quite reaching the peaks of the 70s beyond scattered success from a few acts. You could almost argue that it's gone underground, but it's less that and more that like other genres such as bluegrass or grunge or some offshoots of punk, it's just not as popular as it was and ends up catering to smaller, cult fanbases.

That's not saying that there aren't some southern rock bands that are worth following. Case in point, Georgia band Blackberry Smoke. Affiliated with acts like the Zac Brown Band and Eric Church, if you're looking for an act that would define modern southern rock - a distinctive country twang matched with groove-heavy hard rock - Blackberry Smoke would be that band. And for the most part, they were a pretty damn solid band - the melodies were prominent, the guitar solos were great, Charlie Starr's vocals had real flavour, and with every record, the songwriting was steadily getting more nuanced and distinctive. If I were to pinpoint an early weakness on those first few albums, it'd probably be in some of the lyrics - not that they were bad for the genre, but that some of their material began to run together a bit. And like most hard rock, sometimes the sleaze could get a little obnoxious.

But their 2012 album The Whipporwill was their best yet, and I was curious to check out their 2015 record Holding All The Roses, especially when it managed to top the country album charts last week. And sure, country's been slow thus far this year, but to think that the album had enough coming from an independent label without a huge single tearing up the radio was promising, especially considering the album has notched some solid critical acclaim. So I checked it out - how is it?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

video review: 'lazaretto' by jack white

Well, this was more frustrating than an otherwise enjoyable album should be, but that's what makes the albums interesting.

Next up is the 200th episode, a very special episode indeed. Stay tuned!