Erik Dylan Impresses at Mohegan Sun

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Erik Dylan – Live at the Wolf Den, Mohegan Sun – November 19, 2015

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A multitude of music fans were treated to an impressive ninety minute set this past Thursday night, by one of Nashville’s up and coming singer-songwriters, Erik Dylan.  For those of you who say you have not heard his name before, that could be entirely true.  However, based on what is on Erik Dylan’s current plate, that is all about to change.  Erik took a few days off from his busy schedule on Nashville’s Music Row, where he is busy writing songs under his publishing deal with Cornman Music, as well as putting the finishing touches on an album he hopes to release in the first half of 2016.  Backed by a full band at the intimate Wolf Den located in the heart of Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, Erik showcased songs about his Kansas roots, love and relationships, life’s struggles and losses, and a few tunes about having some good old fun.

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This was Erik’s second time playing Mohegan Sun, but my first time seeing his live show.  I was very familiar with his music from the songs available for download on iTunes and the numerous clips from his die hard fans on YouTube.  His set flowed seamlessly starting off with a touch of party mixed in with a couple classic rock covers, including mash-ups with songs from Steve Miller and Tom Petty.  And his fans, who filled the Wolf Den to almost capacity, seemed to know each and every word to songs such as “Where The Party At”, “Beer For That”, “Hot Thing” and “Living For A Friday Night”, the latter of which has been getting steady airplay on Country 92.5’s morning show, the Electric Barnyard with BroadwayErik has a very relaxed stage presence that is both smooth and soulful.  The way he annunciates his lyrics is done with genuine confidence that would make you think he has been on the big stage for decades.

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The most impressive part of the set, in my opinion, was when Erik and his female guitarist were the sole people on stage for an acoustic set.  The songs chosen for this portion were fan requested and it really highlighted who Erik Dylan is as an artist: a masterful songwriter who can paint a picture with lyrics.  The songs “Experts On Sin” and “13th Floor” are as good of a song as I have heard all year as they touch on topics most songwriters won’t go near: the self reflective and suppressing feelings.  “Fishing Alone” tugs at the heart strings as much as any tune out there, and “That Girl That Got Away” is relatable to virtually everyone.  Erik performed a phenomenal cover of Garth Brooks’ classic, “Much Too Young To Feel This Damn Old”, but it was his version of “Comeback Kid” that had the crowd singing the loudest all night.  Erik co-wrote the song with Jeff Hyde, Ross Copperman, and Kip Moore and it is featured on Kip’s sophomore album, Wild Ones.  Erik explained that each songwriter connects with that song in a different way and that he wrote it with his wife in mind.  In fact, the version he played that night featured a different second verse than the one that appears on Wild Ones.  The entire acoustic set was masterfully executed and made the fans feel like they could have been sitting at a table at the Bluebird Café in Nashville.

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Erik cranked things up for the last portion of his set, which was highlighted by a stirring cover of “Copperhead Road” by one of Erik’s favorite artists, Steve Earle.  His band hit on all cylinders complete with soaring guitar rifts backing Erik’s poignant vocals.  The final two songs “Your Way Down” and “Hearts on Desire” are on two totally different spectrums both lyrically as well as sonically.  But, it speaks to the versatility that Erik Dylan possesses.  I caught up with Erik after the show where he shed some light on his upcoming project.  He said the party tunes will not be a part of the album and, instead, there will be songs that really reflect who is as a person and where he came from in Kansas.  He has been working with some of the best musicians and producers in Nashville and says that it is getting a lot of buzz on Music Row.  He hopes to release it in the first half of 2016, but is not sure of the exact date yet.  He also said a bunch of Nashville’s current radio mainstays, such as Eric Paslay, Justin Moore, and others he could not yet name, are cutting his songs and will be on their next albums.  But, if Erik’s live show indicated anything, it shows that he has the chops to be one of those household names himself.

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SETLIST:

  1. Living for Friday Night
  2. Beer For That
  3. Hot Thing/The Joker (Steve Miller Band Cover)
  4. Fall Into My Love
  5. Small Town Summertime
  6. Give It Back
  7. Lot About Drinking Beer
  8. Where the Party At
  9. Night Crawlers
  10. This Town Is You/Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty Cover)
  11. That Girl That Got Away (Acoustic)
  12. 13th Floor (Acoustic)
  13. Much Too Young To Feel This Damn Old (Acoustic) (Garth Brooks Cover)
  14. Fishing Alone (Acoustic)
  15. Comeback Kid (Acoustic)
  16. Funerals & Football Games
  17. Copperhead Road (Steve Earle Cover)
  18. Young In America
  19. Crash The Plains
  20. Your Way Down
  21. Hearts on Fire

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VIDEO CLIPS:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The CMA Awards: Who Will/Should Win?

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The 2015 CMA Awards: Who Will Win? Who Should Win?

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Two times per year, I sit down at the TV excited to watch a country music awards show only to be usually very disappointed by who ends up winning the awards.  The CMA Awards and ACM Awards have become a political ass kissing fest, where the actual artists most deserving of the awards get slighted by the ones who play the games the Music Row wants them to, as well as have the “right” label backing them.  That being said, the Awards show are fun because the multitude of performances, including an array of collaborations.  The CMA Awards are usually much better than the ACM’s, in my opinion, because Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood are phenomenal hosts and their opening monologue is usually hysterical.  I know a lot of “bloggers” do a similar post like this, so I am not reinventing the wheel here.  But, rather than bitterly posting tweets about the award winners on twitter, I thought I would get out my arguments and anticipated frustrations ahead of time, so that I can enjoy a bottle of bourbon and country music on my television in peace tonight.  Here it goes, whether you agree or disagree, does not matter in the least to me:

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 SONG OF THE YEAR

  1. American Kids – Rodney Clawson, Luke Laird, Shane McAnnaly
  2. Girl Crush – Liz Rose, Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey
  3. Like a Cowboy – Randy Houser, Brice Long
  4. Like a Wrecking Ball – Eric Church, Casey Beathard
  5. Take Your Time – Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally, Josh Osbourne

Will Win: Girl Crush.  It was a polarizing and controversial song, for some reason.  I guess because people either did not listen to the lyrics or did not understand them.  But this song will most likely win this category.

Should Win:  Like A Cowboy would get the vote from me.  The song paints a great picture when you listen to it and that is what makes the best country songs.  Plus, the way it is written allows Randy Houser’s voice to soar on it.

Side Note: How in the world is Take Your Time nominated?  It’s not even a song that is sung by Sam Hunt, it is basically spoken word.  Awful.

SINGLE OF THE YEAR

  1. American Kids – Kenny Chesney
  2. Girl Crush – Little Big Town
  3. I Don’t Dance – Lee Brice
  4. Take Your Time – Sam Hunt
  5. Talladega – Eric Church

Will Win: I Don’t Dance

Should Win: Talladega would get my vote, but would not mind seeing Lee get the award either.  Both songs are about nostalgic moments in life and both are meaningful and reflective.  Talladega, to me, seemed like a song everyone was talking about all year.

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ALBUM OF THE YEAR

  1. Old Boots, New Dirt – Jason Aldean
  2. Pageant Material – Kacey Musgraves
  3. Pain Killer – Little Big Town
  4. The Big Revival – Kenny Chesney
  5. Traveller – Chris Stapleton

Will Win: Traveller – Chris Stapleton.

Should Win: Traveller – Chris Stapleton.  It is, hands down, the best album from start to finish, of the year.  It’s got unbelievable lyrics and soulful vocals on each and every song.  As DeeJay Silver told me earlier this year: “if this album was released 20 or 30 years ago, we would still be talking about it today as one of the best of all time.”  I think the voters will get this one right, but maybe I am giving them too much credit.  But with Chris being nominated for three awards and performing with Justin Timberlake, I think this is the Award he most deserves.

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NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR

  1. Kelsea Ballerini
  2. Sam Hunt
  3. Maddie & Tae
  4. Thomas Rhett
  5. Chris Stapleton

Will Win: Sam Hunt.  The women love him and do not seem to mind that he is 0% country and wears leggings on stage.  But, this is probably one of the most predictable awards of the year.

Should Win:  I would like to make an argument for Stapleton but the radio just did not play him and his album sales were not as big as Hunt’s.  I would not vote for Hunt and would vote for Stapleton, but I can see why Thomas Rhett deserves some votes as well.  He has had numerous hits, been on big tours, and has had an album that sold pretty well.

VOCAL DUO OF THE YEAR

  1. Brothers Osborne
  2. Dan + Shay
  3. Florida Georgia Line
  4. Maddie & Tae
  5. Thompson Square

Will Win:  Florida Georgia Line.  This one is obvious however much I dislike their style of so called music.  They would also win the award for Douches Of the Year as well.

Should Win:  Maddie & Tae.  These two females came blazing on the scene with a song attacking bro-country and I respected them for that.  Their follow up songs have not been as popular, but since FGL puts out the same damn song time after time, I think M&T would get my vote her for being unique, at the least.

VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR

  1. Lady Antebellum
  2. Little Big Town
  3. Rascal Flatts
  4. The Band Perry
  5. Zac Brown Band

Will Win:  Little Big Town.  Apparently being a perennial opening act, selling a small amount of albums, having one polarizing song, yet having the right label to politic for you, wins you this award.  They certainly do not deserve this award from a strictly statistical position.  Both ZBB and Lady A have had more success this year than LBT, in sales, hits, and touring combined.  They will win this again, but it is an absolute joke.

Should Win: Zac Brown Band.  Did any of the other groups sell out 3 dates in Fenway Park, 2 in Citi Field, 2 in Wrigley Park, or Coors Field?  Did any of them play live on HBO with Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl?  Did they have 3 #1 songs, one even on the Rock Charts?  Did any of them sell more than 200,000 copies of their album in the first week?  No, I did not think so.  But Zac and company don’t do ass kissing well, thus won’t win.  And that’s what really grinds my gears.

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MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR

  1. Dierks Bentley
  2. Luke Bryan
  3. Eric Church
  4. Blake Shelton
  5. Chris Stapleton

Will Win:  Luke Bryan.  Big tour, big sales, politically correct.  He wins or Blake takes it because Music Row loves him as well.

Should Win:  Dierks or Church.  I can make arguments for both and absolutely loved “Riser” and “The Outsiders”.  They both had big tours and lots of hits.  They produce quality and have integrity.  Stapleton did not have any of the “stats” the other four had, but I would love to see an upset here.  If I was voting, it would be for Dierks or Church, with Eric probably edging him out.

FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR

  1. Kelsea Ballerini
  2. Miranda Lambert
  3. Kacey Musgraves
  4. Carrie Underwood
  5. Lee Ann Womack

Will Win:  Miranda Lambert, because she always does.

Should Win:  Carrie Underwood.  All of recent songs have been big hits and she deserves at least a split of these awards that Miranda seems to somehow get 100% of.  I would love to see Kacey win in an upset, but I do not see that happening.

ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR

  1. Garth Brooks
  2. Luke Bryan
  3. Kenny Chesney
  4. Eric Church
  5. Miranda Lambert

Will Win: Luke Bryan.  Same reasons as above.

Should Win: Kenny Chesney.  To me, Entertainer means live performances and touring.  Kenny and Garth had the biggest tours of the year.  Kenny sold out stadiums nationwide and had huge names open for him.  He won’t win and I could see Garth winning here in an upset.  But how Kenny does not win this every year with the Touring numbers he puts together is beyond me.

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Thomas Rhett & Brett Eldredge Kick Off Suits & Boots in NYC

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Thomas Rhett & Brett Eldredge’s Suits & Boots Tour – Terminal 5, NYC – October 29th, 2015

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Thomas Rhett and Brett Eldredge brought the opening night of their co-headlining “Suits & Boots” Tour, sponsored by CMT, to New York City’s Terminal 5 this past Thursday and put forth two very different yet rousing sets.  Both artists are coming off of new album releases which have both sold very well in the initial weeks.  Eldredge released “Illinois” and Rhett followed that a few weeks later with “Tangled Up”.  Both albums showcase different shades of today’s country music with Eldredge staying within the borders of today’s version of traditional country music, while Rhett stepped outside the genre and predominately made a pop album with a touch of twang.  Their sets followed suit and the crowd responded emphatically all night long.

 

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Thomas Rhett performed before Eldredge, but got a much bigger response from the crowd throughout his set.  His setlist was full of hits from his first album as well as multiple cuts from his newest release.  That being said, the crowd seemingly knew every word and danced and sang along with the country pop star.  He opened with “Anthem” and was dressed with a suit jacket, white t shirt and jeans.  He danced around the stage doing his best Bruno Mars/Justin Timberlake impression, but it was not forced or done so in a cheesy way.  His country-pop persona comes across very authentic and his set was very professional, with no lulls whatsoever.  The lyrics to “It Goes Like This”, “Make Me Wanna” and “Get Me Some of That” were so well known by the crowd that TR didn’t even have to sing at points.  And songs such as “Die A Happy Man” and “Playing With Fire”, the latter of which featured tour opener Danielle Bradberry, created a good change of pace from the otherwise non-stop party.  But, by the time TR finished his set with “Crash & Burn”, the crowd was fired up and having fun.  And in turn, you could tell Rhett was as well.  It was a spirited set throughout that was equally impressive and, simply, a lot of fun.

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Eldredge came out for the start of his set in a suit and tie, obviously taking the name of the tour quite literally.  His set did not garner the same crowd reaction as Thomas Rhett’s did, but I thought his performance was quite steady.  The setlist had some ups and downs as it was clear the crowd did not know the newer songs as much, but when he sang his many hits, such as “Beat of the Music”, “Mean To Me”, and “Lose My Mind”, the crowd reverted back to sing-a-long mode.  He seemed to really be excited about his new single, “Drunk On Your Love”, stating it was the catchiest song he’s ever written.  But, his song “Don’t Ya” had arguably the biggest reaction of any song that night.  Brett’s genuine charisma signed bright on that song as the tall and lanky singer stomped and flapped around the stage with a big old smile.  His final song choice, “The Shadow”, was rather head scratching as I find it to be one of the worst songs on his new album and did not connect with the crowd whatsoever.  I was a bit surprised that he did not sing the title song from “Illinois” nor “One Mississippi” as both ballads are some of his strongest songs to date.  That being said, his set was also fun and showcased his likeability perfectly.

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For the encore, both Thomas Rhett and Brett Eldredge came back out and sat on stools to do an impromptu acoustic set in which they each choice random songs and sang snippets.  I thought this portion of the show really fell flat as it seems very unrehearsed and quite sloppy.  They did way more talking than singing which made the whole encore quite choppy.  They sang songs such as Kanye West’s “Gold Digger”, Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Moon”, and Frank Sinatra’s “How You Look Tonight”.  However, I hope as the tour progresses, this portion of the show cleans up quite a bit.  Otherwise, I really found the two stars’ sets to be enjoyable and well worth the money.  On the major down side was the venue itself.  The head seemed to be cranked to well over 100 degrees and way more tickets were sold than standing room was available.  Everyone was sweating quite profusely and I saw many people walk out saying they just could not see the stage.  Terminal 5 really did not deliver on that front.

 

SETLISTS:

 

Thomas Rhett

  1. Anthem
  2. South Side
  3. Make Me Wanna
  4. Vacation
  5. Tangled Up
  6. Uptown Funk
  7. It Goes Like This
  8. Die A Happy Man
  9. T-Shirt
  10. Playing with Fire (with Danielle Bradberry)
  11. Get Me Some of That
  12. Crash & Burn

 

Brett Eldredge

  1. Beat of the Music
  2. Fire
  3. Wasted Time
  4. Mean To Me
  5. Tell Me Where to Park
  6. Drunk On Your Love
  7. Lose My Mind
  8. Come back with a Smile
  9. Wanna Be That Song
  10. Don’t Ya
  11. The Shadow