Music, Mexico & More at Zac Brown Band’s Castaway

 

 

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Zac Brown Band’s Castaway With Southern Ground

at the Hard Rock Hotel – Riviera Maya, Mexico

with Trombone Shorty, Dawes, Michael Franti, Kacey Musgraves, The Wailers, Brett Dennen & Darrell Scot

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This past January, Zac Brown Band embarked on a familiar mission of giving its fans a healthy dose of great music, food, and entertainment, but this time, in a not so familiar setting.  I have been a fan of the Zac Brown Band since their beginnings.  I have been a member of their fan club, the “Zamily”, since its first few weeks of its existence.  So, when I heard that ZBB was putting together an all inclusive concert vacation at the Hard Rock Hotel in Riviera Maya, Mexico, I was all in.  While this is not the first time a band or artist has put together a concert vacation experience, and it was not ZBB’s first time (they previously did one a few years ago in Punta Cana), they are usually paired up with similar artists in the same genre.  What I love so much about ZBB is that you cannot fit them into any single genre, and this was so evidenced by the acts that Zac hand picked to be a part of the four night extravaganza.  Instead of your typical country music festival feel that acts like Luke Bryan or Lady Antebellum have put together in resort settings, Castaway was much more than that.  With acts such as Trombone Shorty, Dawes, Michael Franti, Kacey Musgraves, The Wailers, Brett Dennen, and Darrell Scott, the music side of Castaway became a true celebration of all music.

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When putting together an event like this, all details must be worked out ahead of time, and ZBB, Could 9, the Zamily, and the Hard Rock Hotel did this and more.  Not only was the resort enormous and beautiful, but it was kept clean and had all the options you could think of for a resort vacation.  What was very cool was they gave each resort guest a number of resort credits that could be used in a variety of ways.  My wife and I used them to upgrade menu choices at some of the restaurants, private cabana’s on the beach, and for entrance to the spa as well as services there.  There were various pools located at the resort where the party crowds seemed to gravitate towards, while the guests who wanted to relax and unwind had a plethora of choices along their enormous beach front.  And right in the middle of it all, was a huge stage fit for any large music festival, where the musical magic went down at night.

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Each night had a different line-up consisting of different artists and different set times.  The first night was kicked off by Brett Dennen, an eccentric musician who has a very different delivery, but one who I enjoyed a great deal.  He has had some hits that have showed up on different commercials and movies, such as “Comeback Kid” (look it up, I am positive you’ve heard it).  When he hit the stage, the Castaway guests were chomping at the bit for some music, so his show was accepted very positively.  With the music playing, the cool Mexican breeze blowing and the neon lights flashing in the sky, you knew you the next few nights were going to be something very special.  The second act of the night was The Wailers, Bob Marley’s old backing band who has continued to tour after his untimely passing.  And for fans of the old Bob Marley & The Wailers Greatest Hits, there show contained every single one of the classics.  The lead singer did very well to engage the crowd as the entire concert courtyard turned into a dance party.  “One Love”, “Jamming”, “Exodus” and many more were full out sing-a-longs as The Wailers played on to midnight closing out a very fun and diverse first night of music.

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However, the second day was the one all the guests were looking forward to the most as Zac Brown Band was set to take the stage right before sundown.  I caught up with Clay Cook, multi instrumentalist for ZBB and a solo artists in his own right, and he told me how much he was looking forward to taking the stage because the band hadn’t played together for a few months.  He told me he was meeting up with Zac that afternoon to discuss the setlist because “they knew it had to be something different and special”.  And different and special it was, as ZBB performed a flawless two hour set full of song from each one of their projects, including songs I had never heard live before despite the fact that I’ve seen them live more than two dozen times.

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Naturally, their set began with “Castaway” and was finished off by “Toes”, two of their island themed songs.  But it was tracks such as “Day That I Die”, “Cold Hearted” and “Natural Disaster” that made this set so memorable for the die hard Zamily members who paid their way out to Mexico hoping to see their favorite band celebrate their career.  Of course, there were the hits such as “Free”, and “Homegrown” thrown in, because, well, ZBB has hits.  But it was refreshing to hear all of their catalogue played live.  And to make this set even more memorable for me, personally, was the fact that I got to watch the majority of the show from a rooftop suite overlooking the stage with the ocean in the background at sunset, thanks to a few good friends I made while on the vacation.  This set, for me, will always be one of my favorite two hours of live music that I’ve ever witnessed.

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After ZBB’s set it was announced by T-Bird, the Zamily’s Manager, that Brian Collins was going to be performing at one of the bars on the resort.  I had never heard Brian Collins’ music before but my friends urged me to go and see him and I am happy I did.  Brian has a true Southern Ground type feel to his music and he performed a stirring acoustic set with his guitar and harmonica, as well as help from ZBB’s Daniel De Los Reyes and John Driscoll Hopkins.  The catchy song “Healing Highway” really stood out to me and made me buy his album when I got back home.  And I unfortunately did not get to see Michael Franti’s performance that night, but from what I heard, he had some of the best energy of any of the performers and hope to catch him in the future.

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The next day we were treated to a songwriting seminar with Coy Bowles of the ZBB and a guacamole cook off with Chef Rusty Hamlin, the band’s touring chef.  The seminar with Coy was outstanding as he spoke on how the band comes up with lines in songs and musical breakdowns.  For instance he told us that the band goofily created the song “Castaway” based off a dance some older women were doing in the front row of a ZBB show.  Or how the intro to “Colder Weather” was just stumbled upon at 5 am by Clay Cook at a piano at Kid Rock’s house, while he was still half asleep.  To hear how some of the songs ZBB fans love were created was truly priceless.  I even got to meet the lead singer of Dawes, Taylor Goldsmith, at the bar that afternoon.  Overall, it was a solid day with lots of fun and personalized options for the fans.

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That night we were treated to shows by Dawes and Kacey Musgraves.  For me, aside from the ZBB sets, the two hour set by Dawes was the most memorable of the four nights.  I had never heard their music before they were announced as a performer at Castaway and I spent the months leading up to the vacation, experiencing their four albums on vinyl.  And wow, was I blown away by their live performance.  I would describe Dawes as a folk-rock-jam band as they take a folk like approach to their songwriting with a lot of rock rifts, but then jam out for minutes at a time on almost every other song.  “My Time Comes”, “Things Happen”, and “All Your Favorite Bands” are probably their most well known songs, but it was other tracks such as “I Can’t Think About It Now” and “Somewhere Along The Way” that were most impressive live because each of the band members absolutely owned their instruments with bombastic jam outs.  They completely won me over and I will now see them live every time they are in my area.

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Up after Dawes was country sweetheart, Kacey Musgraves.  She put forth a low energy, free flowing set that paired very nicely with the breezy Mexican night.  Kacey’s first album, “Same Trailer, Different Park” has become one of my favorite albums, although her second album did not really connect with me the same way.  Her stage persona has changed a bit as she used to be very earthy, but now dresses in a strange tutu as her bandmates dressed in pink suits.  It all comes across as a bit cheesy to me, but her songs, nonetheless, are pure country and of much quality.  I watched half the set with the crowd and half the set from my friend’s rooftop with a cigar and some whiskey, which really brought together the relaxing atmosphere that Kacey creates.

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The final day of Castaway included tequila tasting seminars, a dance class with Daniel De Los Reyes, and a Tropical Sunset dinner prepared by Chef Rusty with acoustic music from Darrell Scott.  The food was amazing as Rusty cooked up suckling pigs and some freshly caught fish along with lots of authentic Mexican food.  Darrell Scott performed on a stage that was in the middle of the ocean with help from ZBB band member Matt Mangano.  It was a perfect kick off before the final pairing of Trombone Shorty and Zac Brown Band.

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Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue performed on the main stage first on the final night and they put forth an equally impressive and energetic set.  Trombone Shorty himself is a dynamic performer who uses every inch of the stage while he sings, raps, and plays a number of instruments, most notably, the trombone.  His band members were extremely skilled as his guitarist ripped filthy solo’s and his horn and sax sections had their time to shine as well.  Trombone Shorty had everyone dancing and grooving from start to finish and was much more than just a warm up for the finale of the vacation.  I even got to hang with him in the crowd during ZBB’s set and he was incredibly personable.

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ZBB performed the finale set of the Castaway experience with another two hour set chock full of hits and rare cuts from all of their albums.  Incredibly, they did not repeat a single song from their previous Mexican set two days earlier, which I dare you to find me another act who can do that.  “Quiet Your Mind”, “Settle Me Down”, and “Different Kind of Fine” were some of the rarely heard live songs that were performed, along with hits such as “Keep Me In Mind”, “Goodbye in Her Eyes” and “Beautiful Drug”.

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A few highlights included Darrell Scott coming out for the song he co-wrote with Zac, “Remedy”, fiddler Jimmy De Martini’s face melting solo on their cover of “Neon”, and the “Broken Arrows” performance that Zac is featured on with the EDM artist, Avicii .  Over all, the show was high energy and Zac and the boys were amped up throughout.  Fittingly, the four night concert experience was capped with ZBB’s breakout hit, “Chicken Fried”, which made the courtyard feel like a family style sing-a-long.  It was a masterfully executed event on all fronts as the music, food, resort, and personal attention were impeccable.  Zac told the crowd he wanted to do this again next year right back at the Hard Rock.  Mark my words, if they do it again, I will be there.  It truly was easy living down in paradise

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Springsteen’s The River Tour Runs Through Hartford

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Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

February 10, 2016

The River Tour

XL Center – Hartford, CT

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Thirty Five years ago, Bruce Springsteen released an album which catapulted his career to new heights, that album was The River.  Bruce has often stated that The River was the gateway to his future writing.  The songs on this project were created during a recession in America, where a lot of people were struggling just to make it by.  The twenty songs that make up the album fully showcase why people consider Springsteen a voice of the blue-collar, hard-working people of this country.  And last night, at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut, Bruce and his E Street Band performed the entire album, in order, to a sold out and boisterous crowd.

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I’ve seen Bruce live now almost a dozen times and no show of his is just the “greatest hits” that so many artists go out and perform the same set night after night.  It is a three and a half hour celebration of his entire career.  So if you come to one of his shows, you need to come prepared with an appreciation for his full catalogue.  However, the first two hours last night was a beautiful rendition of the classic The River album which had a mixture of energy, pain, and truth.  Whether he was crowd surfing during Hungry Heart or playing a flawless harmonica during The River, or showcasing his band’s many talents in songs such as Sherry Darling or Cadillac Ranch, the full understanding of how each of that project’s songs tied together really brought the performance to a special level.  I thought the most moving moment of the night was during Point Blank where most of the stage was dimmed and the dark lyrics really shined through and captivated the entire arena.

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And in true, Bruce Springsteen fashion, once the entire The River was performed, he blasted into another twelve songs which had the crowd up, dancing, and jumping around.  This double encore of sorts, included hits such as Born To Run, Thunder Road, and Dancing In The Dark.  One of the best parts of the evening was seeing the interaction between Bruce and his new saxophonist, who happens to be the late Clarence Clemons’ nephew, Jake Clemons.  Jake’s uncle would be very proud of him as he did his best to fill the void that Clarence’s death left on the Band and the music community as a whole.  And he was very impressive as he used every bit of the stage and belted out tons of sax solo’s to the crowd’s absolute delight.

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All in all, I have yet to attend a Bruce Springsteen show that disappoints and this was no exception.  In fact, due to the fact that the entire two track The River was performed in its entirety, made the night even more special.  Bruce shows no sign of aging as both his voice and his energy on stage seemingly have not changed in forty years.  I hope he and the E Street Band continue to do more tours celebrating their storied past while continuning to give their fans new music during their journey as living legends.

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SETLIST:

  1. Meet Me In the City
  2. The Ties That Bind
  3. Sherry Darling
  4. Jackson Cage
  5. Two Hearts
  6. Independence Day
  7. Hungry Heart
  8. Out in the Street
  9. Crush on You
  10. You Can Look
  11. I Wanna Marry You
  12. The River
  13. Point Blank
  14. Cadillac Ranch
  15. I’m a Rocker
  16. Fade Away
  17. Stolen Car
  18. Ramrod
  19. The Price You Pay
  20. Drive All Night
  21. Wreck on the Highway
  22. No Surrender
  23. Cover Me
  24. She’s the One
  25. Loose Ends
  26. Because the Night
  27. The Rising
  28. Thunder Road
  29. Born to Run
  30. Dancing in the Dark
  31. Rosalita
  32. Bobby Jean
  33. Shout

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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

ZBB Takes on Citi with an Empire State on Mind

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Zac Brown Band – Citi Field, NYC – August 21, 2015

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When Zac Brown Band’s Jekyll + Hyde album was released, most of the so called “critics” gave mixed reviews due to the diversity of the genres they attempted to cover.  However, if any of those critics were present at New York City’s Citi Field this past weekend, they would have completely understood ZBB’s mindset with that project.  I was in the pit for the first night of their two night stand, and witnessed a band truly transform into a Jekyll + Hyde monster.  One who could sing country music songs with the best of them, but could also jam out, rock, and get people raving to EDM without missing a beat.

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I’ve seen ZBB live numerous times before and have been at every one of their NYC shows, starting with Bowery Ballroom, and working their way up through Terminal 5, opening for Kenny Chesney at MetLife Stadium, opening for Dave Matthews Band at Citi Field, and headlining gigs at Madison Square Garden and Forest Hills Stadium.  The best part about seeing this band time and time again, in comparison to most acts, is that every night they put forth a different setlist.  Friday night was no different, as they opened with “Sweet Annie”, a song that just sometimes makes their setlists.

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What followed was a first half of the show that included hits such as “Toes”, “As She’s Walking Away” and “Knee Deep” as well as covers from Led Zeppelin, Charlie Daniels Band, and Billy Joel, as well as a bunch of the new songs, highlighted by the moving tribute to our military with the Jason Isbell penned “Dress Blues”.  During that song, two Marines came out to salute the crowd atop the third level of the ambitious stage ZBB is illuminating stadiums with on this tour.  Jimmy De Martini, the band’s amazing fiddler, broke into an emotional rendition of taps mid song, and Coy Bowles had a rockstar moment as he jammed out following the fiddle.  Zac Brown, who is far from chatty at his shows, took a few seconds to thank the US military post-song, as the sold out crowd berated the band with chants of” USA”.

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After a few t shirts were shot into the crowd by the band members, an acoustic set took place at the front of the catwalk.  Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” and the emotional song for all dad’s who have little girls like myself, “I’ll Be Your Man” (backed by a gospel choir) showcased the true musicianship that ZBB possesses.  Whether its classic rock, country, or just good old songs that tug at the heartstrings, I dare someone to show me a better live performing act in any genre of music today.

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After a ten minute intermission, the band upped the ante and brought some high energy excitement to the Mets Ballpark.  Whether it was the EDM inspired “Beautiful Drug”, which happens to be their new single, or the recent chart topper on the rock charts, “Heavy is the Head”, Zac’s face started to change to complete intensity.  The gospel choir came back out for a beautiful rendition of “Remedy” and Zac ripped into Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” mid way through the mega hit “Keep Me In Mind”.  ZBB kept the crowd guessing with what was coming next and, boy, was it fun.

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The last three songs of the set before the encore are a perfect testament to what kind of band ZBB is.  For all you critics out there, you need to listen up, this is not a country band.  You cannot label them as so.  Just sit there and watch them do a 21 minute version of “Who Knows” complete with Clay Cook absolutely shredding a guitar that would make Brad Paisley and Keith Urban jealous.  Then watch them pay homage to a band they opened for just five years ago in the same stadium, as they performed “Stay” by the Dave Matthews Band flawlessly.  Then watch them get every single person in the entire stadium singing along to “Chicken Fried”.  The live performance beast monster that they are touches on every single genre, just as their new album does.  It’s meant to create a spectacle live, and they do it better than anyone else.

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ZBB’s encore consisted of Zac coming out with his third different hat of the night, this time a throwback Mets hat, as he walked through the entire pit shaking hands and slapping five as he belted out “Colder Weather”.  And the band finished up with yet another full on sing-a-long as “Homegrown” was performed to perfection.  I heard people walking out stating it was the best show they’ve ever seen and it just made me smile.  The people who see ZBB live get it, this is not a country band.  It is a unique creature that executes on stage better than anyone else out there today.

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SETLIST:

  1. Sweet Annie
  2. Uncage
  3. Kashmir
  4. Devil Went Down to Georgia
  5. Knee Deep
  6. As She’s Walking Away
  7. Tomorrow Never Comes
  8. Dress Blues
  9. Castway
  10. Toes
  11. Piano Man
  12. I’ll be Your Man
  13. Beautiful Drug
  14. Day for the Dead
  15. Remedy
  16. Keep Me In Mind
  17. Empire State of Mind
  18. Heavy is the Head
  19. Lovin’ You Easy
  20. Who Knows
  21. Stay (Wasting Time)
  22. Chicken Fried
  23. Colder Weather
  24. Homegrown

Jason Isbell is Masterful at College Street Music Hall

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Jason Isbell – College Street Music Hall – New Haven, CT – 7/22/15

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Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the Jason Isbell concert at the pristine College Street Music Hall in New Haven, Connecticut and ended up witnessing one of the best shows I’ve seen in years.  I unfortunately missed the opening act, Blake Mills, but got there a few minutes before Isbell took to the stage.  I found my way to the left side of the front pit and settled in for what I expected to a great night of music.  However, my expectations were blown out of the water with the live vocal presence of Isbell, as well as the true artistry he and his band, The 400 Unit, displayed throughout the night.

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It took him no time to get going into some of my favorite songs from his catalogue.  He kicked things off with the funky “Palmetto Rose” and quickly transitioned into the folky “Stockholm” followed by his new single, “24 Frames”.  All three opening songs truly displayed the diversity that Jason Isbell has to offer.  What I did not expect was the exceptional skill that he possesses with the guitar.  He seemingly changed guitars each song with a more impressive one after another.  And the guitar riffs, solo’s, and jam outs were plentiful and masterfully executed.

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And there was no lull to the show as he kept the crowd guessing what he was going to perform next.  Whether it was the accordion backed bluegrassy “Codeine” or the impressive acoustic performance of the award winning “Cover Me Up”, the show was a rollercoaster of emotions, with the real star being the honest lyrics that Isbell creates.  It was very clear to me last night that Jason Isbell may, in fact, be the best musical storyteller of this generation.  From the sad military ballad, “Dress Blues”, which Zac Brown Band covered on their Jekyll + Hyde album, to the angry “Decoration Day” to the clever and witty “If It Takes a Lifetime”, there was truly no topic that Isbell could not make his lyrics connect with the crowd.

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The almost two hour set concluded with one of my least favorite songs, “Super 8”, but that did not bother me at all because the entire night was truly so impressive.  The overall setlist included songs spanning his entire career, including several songs from his time singing lead vocals for the Drive-by-Truckers.  Most of his new album Something More Than Free was also performed flawlessly and had concert goers flocking to the merch table to get their hands on some autographed copies.  All in all, my expectations were surpassed and has made Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit a must see act each and every time they will come back to the Northeast.

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SETLIST:

  1. Palmetto Rose
  2. Stockholm
  3. 24 Frames
  4. Dress Blues
  5. Decoration Day
  6. Codeine
  7. Different Days
  8. Traveling Alone
  9. If It Takes a Lifetime
  10. The Life You Chose
  11. How To Forget
  12. Speed Trap Town
  13. Cover Me Up
  14. Children of Children
  15. Alabama Pines
  16. Elephant
  17. Something More Than Free
  18. Never Gonna Change
  19. Goddamn Lonely Love (ENCORE)
  20. Outfit (ENCORE)
  21. Super 8 (ENCORE)

Kip Moore on Wild Ones and Comeback Kid

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I caught up with Kip Moore this past Friday before his performance at New York City’s 1st ever Farmborough Festival on Randall’s Island.  He sat down with me and spoke about two of the tracks on his upcoming album, Wild Ones, to be released on August 21, 2015.  Check out what to expect from the songs “Wild Ones” and “Comeback Kid”.

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WILD ONES

I can’t wait for people to hear this. The intro is just super stripped and we geeked and geeked until we found the most killer drum tone for it.  When people see what I’ve been up to behind the scenes with this song, people are going to flip.  It’s just raw and has emotion behind it.  I wrote it for my fans, but people are going to flip when hearing this and the rest of the album.”

Check out the intro and first verse of “Wild Ones” from the Farmborough Festival this past weekend:

 

COMEBACK KID

I have always felt like the underdog my entire life.  I have always had to scrap and claw for every single inch.  I think that has given me a chip on my shoulder for most of my life.  When I have seen things handed to others, when I have had to work so hard for it.  But for that, I have a different thankfulness than other people do and I have a sense of gratitude.  But, I’ve always had a supreme confidence when other people have doubted me.  I always think I am going to get where I am going to get.  It’s like a thing of destiny, but you are the only one in on that thing so that no ones knows where you are going, but you.   I think that song, man, it is just 100% me and its going to resonate with a lot of people not just here in America, but around the world.  It’s for all the people who scrap and claw with every inch– Kip Moore  

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A few months ago, I sat down with songwriter, Erik Dylan, who also discussed the song (see “Who’s Next: Erik Dylan”: https://millertimemusicspot.com/whos-next-erik-dylan/).  He had the following to say about his relationship to “Comeback Kid”:

I wrote a song called “Comeback Kid”.  There are actually four writers that wrote it, Ross Copperman, Jeff Hyde, myself and Kip… It was written for Kip but each of the writers related to the song from a different place with what the song means… My wife worked a day job for seven years and as a songwriter there are times you question whether you are good enough or if it is all worth it.  You need that someone there to support you.  So the song in my mind was all about my wife because I was the Comeback Kid… Meanwhile, Kip is the Comeback Kid in a different way because he had his share of ups and downs and so many people told him he would not be a country music singer and look at him now.” – Erik Dylan

 

 

 

Who’s Next: Chris Stapleton

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Who’s Next: Chris Stapleton

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For the past year I have been doing a monthly segment which I’ve entitled “Who’s Next”.  This month’s post is a bit different because its dedicated to an artist who I feel is going to break out as a solo artist, yet has seen various forms of success over the past decade.  He has penned over 150 songs that have ended up on major artists’ albums, such as Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Dierks Bentley, Adele, Luke Bryan, Darius Rucker, and Gary Allan.  He was the lead singer of the bluegrass band, The Steeldrivers, for a few years, and even founded a rock band called The Jompson Brothers.

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However, on May 5, 2015, Stapleton released one of the most refreshing albums I’ve heard in years, entitled “Traveller”.  The album has such an organic and traditional sound filled with songs that are edgy, dark, and moving.  The present day’s climate of country music makes the genre seem more like pop music with many of the artists making songs that are shallow and meaningless.  Yet, with “Traveller”, Stapleton wanted no part of the bro country phase and instead created a masterpiece from start to finish complete with songs with meaning.

I got to sit down with Stapleton for a few minutes while I was on official assignment for countrymusicislove.com before he performed at New York City’s 1st ever Farmborough Festival on Randall’s Island (you can see my recap of the Festival here: http://www.countrymusicislove.com/country-music-news/the-big-apple-goes-country-with-first-ever-farmborough-festival/).  Check out my interview below:

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MTMS: Do you take a different approach to songwriting when it comes to your solo career as compared to making a song for other artists?

Chris Stapleton: Not really, I just try to write the best song I can each day.  That is unless I am writing with another artist specifically for a project.  But, I do not sit down with any other intent than to write the best song I can write for that day.  Some days you get lucky and make one that someone wants to cut or can be a hit.  Other days I just take it as practice at writing a song.

MTMS: When did you start writing songs?

Chris Stapleton: I’ve been writing songs since I was teenager. Professionally, I got my first publishing deal when I was 23 in 2001.

MTMS: Have you recorded any of the first songs you ever wrote?

Chris Stapleton: You know, some of the songs that are fourteen, fifteen years old are on this record.  “Fire Away” and “Might As Well Get Stoned” are in that range.  I have songs that other people cut that I wrote before I even moved to town.  Like “Nobody’s Fool” that Miranda Lambert cut, I wrote that when I was 18.  Songs hang around and they will find a way if they can do the job.

MTMS: Did you expect the huge critical response you’ve received from “Traveller”?

Chris Stapleton: I don’t think you can ever expect anything like that.  You just have to try to write the best songs you can and sometimes you get lucky.  I will say this was a really wonderful and beautiful experience and probably the best one I’ve ever had.  It all flowed together organically and if you step back and look at things, it all came together.

MTMS: Do you have a favorite song on the album?

Chris Stapleton: They are all my favorite songs because I don’t look at them as individually songs, I look at them as a body of work.  They span such a long range of time so they are pieces of phases until they ended up on the record.  I really can’t pick one because I think they flow together.  I really like albums as a whole as much as I can appreciate individual songs, so these all tying together meant a lot to me.

 

Dierks Bentley’s Sounds of Summer Tour Opener

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Dierks Bentley – Sounds of Summer Tour – June 5, 2015 – Raleigh, NC

Guest Blog by Carrie Srebro (@corbers)

The summer concert season got off to a hot start (literally and figuratively) as Dierks Bentley kicked off his “Sounds of Summer” tour in Raleigh, NC on Friday, June 5, 2015. This is Dierks’ second year headlining the major amphitheaters across North America, and he, as always, gave fans a high energy show that packs a ton of punch!

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Canaan Smith kicked the night off promptly at 7 pm with a 5-6 song set which included his current hit single “Love You Like That,” as well as “Two Lane Road” and a cover of Nick Jonas’ “Chains.” Canaan’s music isn’t really my cup of tea, but he put on an enthusiastic and energetic performance to get the night started. I met him before the show out at the box office, and he was very nice!

Canaan Smith

Maddie & Tae were up next, and delivered an energetic performance. I find these girls to be refreshing – their backing band includes a fiddler!, and they both played instruments including acoustic guitar and dobro through the performance. In fact, the only time they put the instruments down was for a rousing cover of Dolly Parton’s “9-5” which the crowd loved. The girls have tight harmonies and sounded great live, and never stopped smiling through their set. The set included songs that are on their current EP (“Fly,” and fan-favorite “Sierra”) as well as some new music that will be on their upcoming full-length August release. “Shut Up and Fish” is a cheeky song about dating a city boy who won’t – well – shut up and fish, and a lot of fun. And of course the crowd went crazy for the duo’s first #1 hit “Girl in a Country Song.”

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Maddie & Tae Setlist:

  1. Right Here Right
  2. Now Shut Up and Fish
  3. Sierra
  4. Fly
  5. Waiting on a Plane
  6. 9-5
  7. Girl in a Country Song

Promptly at 8:15, Kip Moore took the stage, opening with the rousing anthemic song “Wild Ones,” the title track off his upcoming album. He then threw it back, so to speak, to his debut album with “Crazy One More Time” and “Reckless” before getting the crowd worked up with his hit single “Beer Money,” followed by an awesome cover of Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle!” I’ve only seen Kip one other time, at the Grand Ole Opry for a 3-song set, and was really looking forward to this longer set. Kip didn’t disappoint – his gravelly vocals sounded fantastic on “Hey Pretty Girl” which he then blended into “Stand by Me”. New songs included were his current single “I’m to Blame,” (which feels even shorter in a live setting), “Come and Get It,” and “Magic.” The set closed with Kip’s quirky #1 hit “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck” (which coincidentally was Dierks’ walkout music for the Locked and Reloaded Tour in 2013!), which the crowd loved!

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Kip Moore Setlist:

  1. Wild Ones
  2. Crazy One More Time
  3. Reckless
  4. Beer Money
  5. The Middle (Jimmy Eat World cover)
  6. I’m to Blame
  7. Come and Get It
  8. Hey Pretty Girl/Stand by Me
  9. Magic
  10. Somethin’ Bout a Truck

There had been a lot of press leading up to the kickoff of the tour this week, and the word of the week was “pyro” which admittedly had me a little worried. I’ve followed Dierks since his debut, and I’ve seen him over 35 times live, and I’ve just never felt like he ever needed to put on a big production to remain competitive in the live world. But, I guess they felt like it was time to pull out all of the stops this year! Thankfully, I didn’t really think anything was over the top, and even though the production is bigger, it still feels like a Dierks show – which means it’s super high on energy and crowd interaction. His 90-minute set kicked off with “Sideways,” “Am I The Only One,” and “5-1-5-0” and we got our first taste of fireworks at the end of “5-1-5-0” (the only time I felt like it was gratuitous, but I suppose in hindsight it was to close the big opening of the show). During the first three songs, Dierks was all over the stage, on the catwalk, giving high fives and fistbumps constantly, pointing out little white tank tops and pilot hats (obvious nods to his uber-popular “What Was I Thinkin” and “Drunk on a Plane”). He took a break to address the crowd leading into “I Hold On,” expressing his delight in opening the tour in Raleigh, commenting how far he’d come since 2005 when he played the 500-seat Lincoln Theatre, and mentioning his late father and telling the crowd “he’d get a kick out of this, y’all.”

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He also made a point of calling out all of the faces he recognized down front, his long-time followers, and exclaimed “We did it!” “I Hold On” turned into a massive singalong, with the crowd positively screaming the song back to Dierks. The tour showcased the live debut of “Sounds of Summer” which included another singalong, with Dierks remarking that was his “favorite sound of summer.” Upcoming single “Riser” was absolutely a highlight of the evening, as Dierks was lifted into the air as part of the stage came up. His performance was strong, stirring, and triumphant.

On last summer’s “Riser” Tour, Dierks utilized a B-stage at the back of the reserved area, close to the lawn seats, and he continued that this year as well. Much to the delight of fans, he walks out to the B-stage taking selfies, giving high fives and hugs while singing the fan-favorite “Come a Little Closer” as he… comes a little closer. He sang the anthemic “Home,” and then the band joined him for a “banjo-fied” cover of Nick Jonas’ “Chains” (which sounds strange, but it works) – and he joked about Canaan singing the song earlier in his set, too – and “Settle For a Slowdown.” They then worked their way back up to the main stage for “Up on the Ridge” where they really turned up the heat – flames shot out of the back of the stage for the latter half of the song, and if you’re down front, be prepared for the warmth! It was a cool effect and I felt like it added to the spooky kind of bonfire-esque feel of the song. His “regular” set ended with his most recent #1 single “Say You Do.”

Of course that meant that he hadn’t done the two biggest songs of his career, and sure enough, a video started to play of he and band members Cassidy and Dan attempting to “hood slide like Bo Duke.” It was pretty hilarious, especially when the General Lee and “Bo Duke” himself showed up. Of course that meant that “What Was I Thinkin” was coming, and the crowd was whipped into a frenzy once again. But nothing could top the response to show closing “Drunk on a Plane.” It was one massive sing along, and ended with more fireworks.

Dierks said he wanted to make sure the “Sounds of Summer” Tour was the best tour of the summer, and I would say he’ll make good on that promise for many fans. He continues to put on a high energy show full of crowd interaction and look like he’s having the time of his life the entire time. He’s also good to his openers, inviting Kip Moore out during “Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do,” and Maddie & Tae and Canaan joined him for “Free & Easy.” All four acts seem to get along really well, and even on night one there was an ease among them. If you have the chance to catch this tour, I highly recommend it!

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Dierks Bentley Setlist:

  1. Sideways
  2. Am I The Only One
  3. 5-1-5-0
  4. I Hold On
  5. Tip it on Back
  6. Every Mile a Memory
  7. Feel That Fire
  8. Sounds of Summer
  9. Riser
  10. Lot of Leaving Left to Do (w/ Kip Moore)
  11. Come a Little Closer
  12. Home Chains (Nick Jonas)
  13. Settle for a Slowdown
  14. Up on the Ridge
  15. Free & Easy (w/ Maddie & Tae, Canaan Smith)
  16. Say You Do
  17. Encore: What Was I Thinking
  18. Drunk on a Plane

Zac Brown Band Rocks Hartford

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  Zac Brown Band – Jekyll + Hyde Tour – June 6, 2015 – Hartford, CT

Guest Blog by Kellie Lambert (@kellie3lambert)

Throughout my entire life, I have been a rocker chick. My tastes may have drifted in and out of various genres, loving all types of music, by my heart lies in the sweet sounds of classic rock, of guitar-slinging musicians and poetic lyrics that far outweigh what is often offered on modern mainstream radio.

In the past year, I’ve delved much deeper in the county realm, as I discover how rock and roll it can be. And that’s how I discovered Zac Brown Band – a group that is as much rock as country, a musical chameleon that can change and morph into just about any style on stage. I became, shall we say, a little obsessed with how simple, yet how complicated, some of their songs were. Lyrics that seemed to be poignant and positive and accompanying layers of music with hooks that I could not shake from my head.

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When the band put Hartford on its list of “Jekyll + Hyde” tour dates this summer, I knew I would beg, borrow or steal to land in that audience on June 6. Luckily, my writing gigs allow me the chance to see concerts – as I often review them – so I was lucky to be at the Xfinity Theatre on Saturday to check out what has become one of my all-time favorite bands.

When Zac and company took the stage and launched into “Homegrown,” off its new album, the audience was clearly ready to join in the musical adventure. The band – which features eight core musicians – was set up on a two-tiered stage set with a walkway jutting into the general admission pit. The percussion and horn section was not hidden in the back, as in a standard concert set-up, but showcased on a higher level to be seen in its full glory. By the impressive structure, and large video screens within it, fans in every corner of the arena could appreciate the visuals.

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But beyond the flashy visuals was the completely organic, audio pleasure: Musical surprises tucked into the set list. Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” leading into Charlie Daniels Band’s “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” a traditional mash-up with the band’s own “Free.” The Beatles’ “Let it Be,” performed in the vein it was intended. Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” an impressive undertaking yet the musicians’ paid homage to the classic. And The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge,” an alternative throw-back that was unexpected to the audience. Zac Brown Band is, in my opinion, one of the world’s best rock cover bands. Except you still appreciate them for their own twist on each cover.

However, Zac Brown Band is not just about performing other’s classics: The group’s own music is just as notable. The band played a bunch of tracks from “Jekyll + Hyde,” including the breezy “Loving You Easy,” as well as “Bittersweet,” “Castaway” “Tomorrow Never Comes,” and “Dress Blues,” the Jason Isbell song honoring our military, which featured a poignant, patriotic moment where a U.S. Marine came out on stage to salute.

The encores lasted deep into the night, ending two and a half hours of tunes, as the band pulled out many of its greatest hits for a sing-a-long with thousands of fans reaching up onto the dark lawn. “Knee Deep,” with its happy summer lyrics, pleased the Parrottheads, but the band turned the mood on its side with the next track, one appealing to the rock contingent: the heavy-hitting “Heavy Is the Head,” the Chris Cornell duet on “Jekyll + Hyde,” which was a total treat since it had not appeared regularly on this tour’s set lists yet.

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Confetti cannons filled the night air with paper snow as the band ended the concert with its classic hit “Chicken Fried,” the perfect finale choice with its simple, homegrown life lessons, quotable lines that remind us to appreciate our blessings – musical and otherwise – on this planet. It is funny how it’s the little things in life that mean the most, like a great concert by a talented band under the stars outside on a Saturday night.

The “Jekyll + Hyde” tour is in full swing this summer, and if you get a chance to grab a ticket, don’t hesitate. It’s worth every penny.

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SETLIST:

  1. Homegrown
  2. Uncaged
  3. Kashmir
  4. Devil Went Down to Georgia
  5. Free
  6. Into the Mystic
  7. Remedy
  8. Toes
  9. Day For the Dead
  10. Bittersweet
  11. Castaway
  12. Sweet Annie
  13. Under the Bridge
  14. Let It Be
  15. Colder Weather
  16. Keep Me In Mind
  17. Bohemian Rhapsody
  18. Dress Blues
  19. Loving You Easy
  20. Beautiful Drug
  21. Who Knows
  22. One Day
  23. Knee Deep
  24. Tomorrow Never Comes
  25. Heavy Is The Head (ENCORE)
  26. Chicken Fried (ENCORE)

Kellie Lambert is a freelance writer who has been published in numerous publications in print and online. She has been writing about the Connecticut music scene for more than two decades. She has a weekly music column in the Waterbury, Conn. newspaper, The Republican-American, and a weekly entertainment column in the Observer newspapers, in Bristol and Southington, Conn. She blogs about her life at thepeapodblog.wordpress.com, and can be found on Twitter @kellie3lambert.

The Legend, Merle Haggard: Live from NJ

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Bergen Performing Arts Center- Englewood, NJ – June 3, 2015

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Last night, Merle Haggard & The Strangers brought their legendary songs to the stage in the hometown I grew up in, Englewood, New Jersey.  This show was the night after Merle released a new album with Willie Nelson, entitled “Django and Jimmie” which he later announced as his first #1 album in twenty eight years. His son, Noel, started things off with a short set as he sang some classic style country music that was easy listening without any spark.  But, at approximately 8:45, The Hag took to the stage with a black hat, sunglasses, and electric guitar and the match was immediately lit.

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Merle kicked things off with “Big City” and followed it up with Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” which had the sold out crowd stomping along right from the start.  I had seen Merle live just once prior and he seemed to be much more animated this night, as he ripped into guitar solo’s, made jokes throughout the night (especially about hearing aids and marijuana), and even did some stationary dancing on stage.

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I read some reviews of Merle’s recent shows and saw the setlists from those nights.  I was expecting an identical setlist, but was very surprised and happy that it was not.  He sang some of my personal favorites on this night, such as “The Bottle Let Me Down”, “Silver Wings”, “Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” and the legendary song “Pancho & Lefty”, originally recorded with Willie Nelson on their first duets album.  He even sang a song, “Unfair Weather Friend” from the new Willie & Merle album, which he performed seamlessly.  It was a dream setlist and Merle’s vocals were spot on all night.

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Not to be forgotten was his impressive band, the Strangers, who had multiple chances to show off on their fiddles, steel guitars, saxophones, madolines, drums, bass, acoustic and electric guitars.  His son, Ben Haggard, showcased one of the more impressive electric guitars I’ve seen in recent years.  But when Merle pulled out a fiddle himself and ripped out a solo, everyone in the crowd got up and gave a standing ovation (see the video below thanks to Country 92.5’s Broadway of the Electric Barnyard, who was also in attendance at the show):

http://www.country925.com/onair/broadways-electric-barnyard-50108/merle-haggard-owns-the-fiddle-at-13649202/)

I have had the pleasure of seeing various artists live who have achieved legendary status, such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Elton John, Carlos Santana, U2, Roger Waters, Jay-Z, and Paul McCartney.  Merle’s performance and vocals stacked up to the best of the icons I have seen live.  He finished the night off with the epic songs “Fighting Side of Me”, “Working Man Blues” and “Okie From Muskogee”. Everything Merle did that night was just that, in my eyes, perfection.  And sitting in the 8th row in an intimate venue in my hometown, made me appreciate what he has done for music history, that much more.

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SETLIST:

  1. Big City
  2. Folsom Prison Blues
  3. Silver Wings
  4. Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink
  5. Fall Apart
  6. Mama Tried
  7. If I Could Only Fly
  8. Motorcycle Cowboy
  9. Unfair Weather Friend
  10. The Bottle Let Me Down
  11. Sing Me Back Home
  12. Pancho & Lefty
  13. The Fugitive
  14. Fighting Side of Me
  15. Working Man Blues
  16. Okie from Muskogee

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Aaron Watson, the Honky-Tonk-Kid with the Underdog Success Story: Live in NYC

 

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Aaron Watson – Mercury Lounge, New York City – May 13, 2015

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Last night, one of Texas’ finest entertainers brought his act to New York City for the very first time.  Aaron Watson and his band put forth a spirited and active hour and a half set, full of stories and songs that showcase exactly who he is and where he comes from.  As the title of his album, The Underdog, suggests, Aaron certainly has proved all of his naysayers wrong recently, by becoming the first independent artist in Billboard Chart history to have the #1 Country Album and headlining a show in the Big Apple.  It was a special night capped by a phenomenal show.

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It was my first ever Aaron Watson live concert experience despite listening to his songs for many years.  I had the chance to interview Aaron last week (see: https://millertimemusicspot.com/whos-next-aaron-watson/) and he is easily one of the most humble and real artists I’ve ever met.  His live show matched his personality as he was full of smiles and energy throughout. He spoke genuinely about the stories behind the songs he has written.  Whether it was “That Look” that he wrote for his wife or “July in Cheyenne” after losing his baby daughter, the openness that he has with his fans is truly second to none.

More than anything, Aaron was born to perform.  He was a true showman as he worked the stage, backed by his bombastic band highlighted by a very talented fiddler.  Aaron posed for pictures, interacted with fans, and even stripped it down for an acoustic set full of deep cuts from his 10 plus years making music.  A nice touch was the fact he was wearing a Babe Ruth shirt which kicked off some “let’s go Yankees” chants by the raucous Big Apple crowd.

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And the set list jumped around without missing any era of his discography.  Whether it was “Freight Train” or “Fencepost” from the new album or “Summertime Girl” or “Real Good Man” from his past, the crowd seemingly knew every word.  Women were square dancing in the corner as the men raised their beers and whiskey during the Military Anthem “Raise Your Bottle”.  As the night went on and Aaron sang song after song, it was clear that he had the New York City crowd in the palm of his hand.

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There is something to be said for an artist who tries his hand at his dream and is told he cannot be something or should give up.  That was exactly the case many years ago when Aaron went to Nashville, Tennessee.  Lucky for all of us, Aaron bucked the odds and kept working at his craft.  On “Fence Post” he described that very story and everyone in the crowded clapped and nodded along in approval.  Aaron described that song as his “sticking it to the man” song and it was clear everyone in that building that night could relate to it somehow.

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Aaron vowed to return to New York City again as it appeared that his set had to be cut short due to venue time restrictions.  After the show he made good on his statement that he would wait out and meet every single fan who attended the show.  Not many artists show the graciousness and respect he does to his fans.  I hope this is just the beginning of Aaron Watson traveling out to the Northeast as everyone should rush out to see the Honky-Tonk-Kid with the Underdog Success Story.

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Who’s Next: Aaron Watson

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I’ve been doing this segment I like to call “Who’s Next” for the past year with a plethora of up and coming country artists.  I really debated calling this post by the same name because Aaron Watson is already an A-List name in the Texas music scene and already had the #1 album in country music earlier this year.   But, after speaking to him, it is apparent that he is set to take over the national grid on a large scale.  So, for those outside of Texas that do not know who he is quite yet, meet Aaron Watson and why he is “Who’s Next”:  

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MillertimeMusicSpot: I hear you started off playing guitar, but were primarily a baseball player.  Is that accurate?

Aaron Watson: Yeah, baseball was my first love growing up.  It was definitely my boyhood dream just like every American boy.  I had some chances and went on to play baseball in college, but my career was cut short by an injury and that’s when I picked the old guitar up.  So when one door closed another opened.  But, what is cool is I played home run derby just yesterday with my two sons, Jake and Jack.  And playing like this with my boys can rival anything those Major Leaguers are experiencing.

 

MTMS: Being from the tri-state area, where the country fed to us via radio is mainly pop based, I first heard of you when Real Good Time was released.  Do you consider that album your national breakthrough moment?

Aaron Watson: I’ve tried real hard not to be concerned with the mainstream country world.  I am just lost in my old little world here in Texas.  You can literally play 150 shows a year and make a good living never leaving the state.  About six years ago we decided to franchise outside of Texas, to the Midwest and West coast into the mountain states.  And now we have our sites on heading out East.  So, Real Good Time probably got my first national exposure that set the table for the success that The Underdog had.

 

MTMS: Willie Nelson, Pat Green, Elizabeth Cook, John Anderson, and more were featured on Real Good Time, what made you decide to go away from the collaboration aspect and just go straight solo in The Underdog?

Aaron Watson: I kind of had an idea that this one had something special on it and wanted to make a statement as an artist, songwriter and singer.  I did not want people saying of course he did this because he had this guy helping him.  I wanted to ride in solo on this one.

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MTMS: Well, it certainly worked out for you.  It hit #1 on the Billboard Country Charts.  How did that news hit you and your family?

Aaron Watson: It was pretty cool.  I try to stay even keel about music and try to get excited about family things.  But, I had taken my kids to school and came home and got the phone call in the kitchen with my wife.  I may have done a couple double back flips and spun her around with a big kiss.  I cannot speak for half of the artists, but this is my job and how I take care of my kids. So, it was more special from a Daddy and Husband point of view.

 

MTMS: The Underdog speaks to me on so many levels from a songwriter and story point of view.  I just had my first child this year and the song “The Underdog” has such a positive message to your children.  Did you write that yourself?

Aaron Watson: Yes, all of the songs on the album except two were songs I wrote.  That song I wrote for Jake and Jack.  I have a little girl too and I’m working on her song.  The princess gets her own song she won’t have to share.  I’m trying to raise the two boys into good Christian men who will raise their families with good examples.  I am trying to be the same kind of dad to them my dad was to me.  Life is tough and maybe when they go to college and they will put on that song and finally get it or maybe after I’m gone.  But, it was a special song.

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MTMS: How did you get the idea to take that approach for the song?

Aaron Watson: My middle boy Jack was upset because he was never winning races he had at school.  So, after school we would run sprints in the backyard from the porch to the fence.  And one day he came home like he won Game 7 of the World Series.  And that taught him if he wants something he has to go earn it and that is how my career has been.  No one has handed me anything on a silver platter.  There’s been more discouragement than anything, but it just fuels my fire.

 

MTMS: Was the process in making the record different than the others especially with a new producer and from the indie aspect?

Aaron Watson: Originally the first song on the record was going to be “Freight Train” and one day, it hit me that that wasn’t supposed to be the first song.  Along the way leading up to this album, we had some interest from some labels, but ultimately I told my wife that we were going to leave this album in God’s hands.  I should have put all the Glory in his Hands because this went number one and I think I am the first artist ever to hit number one from an independent stand point.

 

MTMS: Sonically, the song “The Prayer” is as good as any I’ve heard thus far in 2015.  And it is a deep song, what can you tell us about that track?

Aaron Watson: I wanted the first song to sum up what I’m about. And I read this book by Johnny Cash called “The Man In White” and it’s an obscure hard to find book he came out with in the 70’s.  He takes Biblical accounts of the Apostle Paul and makes up stories around those.  And Johnny Cash one year was having a bad year and went into a cave near his house trying to kill himself.  So, I made “The Prayer” as if it was something Johnny would say in the cave from the point of view Johnny was doing in the book.

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MTMS: With that being the first song on the album, the last one is “Fence Post”.  I was a song that when I heard it, I just smiled and said this guy is enjoying with what he is doing.  Is that also from a true story?

Aaron Watson: Totally.  It’s about sticking it to the man.  I wrote that song while driving to a political gig in Austin.  I’m not a political guy, I have my beliefs, but will argue baseball, not politics.  And I drove to this gig at night in my Jeep by myself and wrote it then. I finally finished it when I was doing edits for the album with a young engineer at Keith Stegall’s studio at 2 in the morning.  I said “hey man, set me up with a microphone”.  He did not want to because he said Keith wouldn’t like it.  I told him he wouldn’t lose his job and he set up a microphone. I sang it twice that night and sent it to a buddy in East Texas to play a little guitar and fiddle on it to make it sound like we were messing around on the porch. It’s just a fun song and I’ve enjoyed how people relate it whether you are from Texas or not.  Everyone has their fence post moment.  No one should give up or be discouraged, it really has that Underdog message in it.

 

MTMS: Despite Nashville not opening its doors to you, I know the Grand Ole Opry did a few weeks ago.  How was that experience for you?

Aaron Watson: I am always playing shows and take them day to day.  I never try to think about the next one and did not really realize the extent of the opportunity that the Opry was for me.  We got out there and I had my wife with me.  My parents were celebrating their 40th Anniversary and I could see them.  It was a magical night for me and I was very nervous.  But, when I got on that stage I just flicked the switch and played ball.  What added a few butterflies was seeing Steven Tyler and Charlie Daniels on the side of the stage watching me.  It was incredible.

MTMS: How is your relationship with Nashville today?

Aaron Watson: The thing is I have not rejected Nashville, its Nashville that hasn’t accepted us.  And I am not mad about it because maybe this is what God has planned for me.  Maybe Nashville will come around and I won’t have a problem working with them.  I have great friends and allies in Nashville like my booking agency and distribution agency.  But, I will never ever ever ever sign a record deal who betrays who I am.  Every song and decision I make, I will make sure I stay true to my Faith, Family, and Fans.  I may have been born thirty or forty years too late though.  If you watched the ACM’s a few weeks ago you did not see many cowboy hats in the crowd.  And I think Nashville knows we are a force to be reckoned with.  They can’t say I am not a country singer.  We had the #1 record in the nation and I had Nashville executives tell me that was impossible.

 

MTMS: What I love about your music is the attention to songwriting and actual real life moments, not just a party with a truck and beer.

Aaron Watson:  Exactly.  The song “Bluebonnets” is about how my wife and I lost a little girl.  That’s the song I wrote for her after she passed away.  People deal with heartaches.  I can write about my situation and how I got through it and maybe it will help someone.  Music helps me and is therapeutic.  And I’m making a new album now and it needs to be different that my past albums.  Songs should be little movies, like little short flicks.  That is what brought me to music, guys like Guy Clark.  And while I write this record, I will not listen to mainstream country radio.  I want no influence.  I do not care if I get played on the radio and will keep working as hard as I can for my fans.

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MTMS:  And your fan base is growing bigger and bigger by the minute these days, no?

Aaron Watson:  I have the best fans in the world and I try to treat them like a million bucks.  After every show I stay to meet every single one of them.  And they know when they buy an Aaron Watson album they are buying my little girl a pair of shoes, or a new baseball bat for Jake Watson.  Or my wife, who shops online and has a serious spending problem, so they help me pay off her credit cards each month.  But, my fans love my wife who is obviously my better half.  It’s almost like we have a Mom and Pop Diner and we have fans who are loyal to come support our family business.

 

MTMS: I’ll be reviewing your show in New York City next Wednesday at the Mercury Lounge.  Is this your first New York City gig?

Aaron Watson: You bet it is.

 

MTMS: What does playing New York City mean to you?

Aaron Watson: Well, I’ve already been informed by my boys that I have to pick up something New York Yankees for them.  But, they like the old Yankees not the new Yankees as much.  We are talking Mantle, Ruth, Berra, and DiMaggio.  And I am just excited for New York overall.  I mean, I am from Amarillo, Texas so I am excited.  It is an honor.

 

Striking Matches Live at the DDML

mtms-transparentStriking Matches
Dunkin Donuts Music Lounge
Hartford, Connecticut
April 9, 2015

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There are not many things I enjoy more than discovering new musical artists.  And nothing tops when the live performance from that artist exceeds my expectations.  I feel like that combination is the ultimate satisfaction a true music fan can have.  And that is exactly what I got last week when I was treated to an intimate set at Hartford’s Dunkin Donuts Music Lounge by the new duo, Striking Matches.

4Striking Matches is made up of Sarah Zimmermann and Justin Davis, two extremely talented and authentic musicians who both have hauntingly beautiful voices that may only be outshined by their instrumental abilities on the guitar.  They just released their first album, entitled by “Nothing But the Silence” which was produced by the legendary T-Bone Burnett.  Furthermore, fans of ABC’s Nashville would likely recognize a few of their tracks as eight songs they have penned have made appearances on the show.

3At the Dunkin Donuts Music Lounge last Thursday, twenty fans had their mouths drop wide open as Sarah and Justin performed an acoustic five song set that included stunning harmonies and even better guitar exchanges.  They started their set with the rootsy “Trouble Is As Trouble Does” and traded both vocals and guitar riffs in an action packed song that immediately had me hooked.  Between songs they told stories of how they met at orientation at Belmont University, how they landed gigs initially in Nashville, and about their first performances at the Bluebird Café and the Opry. 5They also performed “When The Right One Comes Along” and “Hanging on a Lie” which were both featured on the ABC drama, but not in the impressive manner that Striking Matches performs it.  In fact, Sarah Zimmermann may have been one of the most exciting live guitar players I have ever seen (and I’ve seen over 500 live shows).  At one point she began to switch hands, slap her guitar, and use extra accessories to create a bluesy sound on an inspiring solo.  The duo also stomp their feet and use a number of unique effects to further amplify their sound.

2All in all, Striking Matches has one of the most honest, unexpected, and distinctive new sounds that I have heard in any music genre in a long time.  They finished the set with a stunning cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love” in which they stated they sang in connection to a BBC Special they were part of.  I expect this duo to be around for a long time and as the change in country radio solely begins to shift away from trucks and beer, I hope America wakes up and attaches themselves to these truly talented musicians

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Photo Credits to Anthony Manciero (WWYZ-FM), Country 92.5 FM, iHeart Radio, MillertimeMusicSpot, and Amy Miller

 

Who’s Next: Jarod Foster

(Album Review + Interview)

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Jarod Foster released a self-entitled album this week that is equally refreshing and entertaining.  Foster’s ten song release incorporates every spectrum of the country lifestyle from love to recession to having a good time, but he does so with an originality and twang that is missing from most of the current pop country acts that so dominate country radio. 1006082_968979193119970_1811937538444200355_n Right off the bat, Foster comes out swinging with “Ray Ray’s”, a song previously recorded by Jamey Johnson and written by Wayd Battle and James Edwards.  Foster holds his own on the track as he has a deep and throaty voice with a pronounced bravado when he annunciates that has shades of Jamey Johnson and Hank Jr.. Foster pays tribute to the working class American people on strong songs such as “Burden of a Workin’ Man” and “We Did It”.  His voice really shines on a beautiful song called “She’s an Angel” which I could easily see being played on country radio as it has a smooth sound sonically with lyrics that are relatable for anyone who is in love with a woman. 11041080_967660916585131_6419017149226856867_n After my first listen, the song that really stood out to me was “Rosalita”.  As a big Bruce Springsteen fan, I wondered if it was a cover of his classic, but it’s very clear upon the opening chords it is far from that.  The song is a fun story song about a stripper from Tihuana and a boozy adventure with her.  The song follows a similar recipe that Blake Shelton did with “Playboys of the Southwestern World” or Toby Keith with “Stays in Mexico”, but with Foster’s own edgy twist. All in all, I was very impressed with Foster’s release.  His songs are topical without being commercial.  And he has an edge and bravado to his presentation that work well with his distinct throaty voice.  I was able to speak to him about the album and his road to becoming a Nashville singer-songwriter.  Check out our conversation below: 10523997_819990988018792_5262921798225598552_n MTMS: So, right off the bat on listening to your album I heard “Ray Ray’s” and it brought me back to Jamey Johnson’s version.  Are you two friends at all?

Jarod Foster: Yeah, we used to be but have sort of separated over the years.  But we had a mutual friend, Wayne Mills, who was murdered in November 2013.  Wayne had met Jamey Johnson and they were doing a show in Montgomery when he called me and said wait until I heard this guy.  And I went to go listen to him and, man, he just blew me out of the water.

MTMS: So you are originally from Alabama?

Jarod Foster: Yes, Vincent, Alabama.  Jamey was one of the guys who convinced me to move to Nashville eleven years ago.  He told me that is where I needed to be to get things started.  At that time Wayne (Mills) had a lot of things going with the Alabama Line.

MTMS: Since the move what have you been doing music-wise?

Jarod Foster: I’ve played my music and other people’s music since I got here.  I’ve opened for great acts like Lee Brice and Randy Houser.  And I’ve now recorded five albums, but this is the first I felt was good enough to release.

MTMS: How long have you been writing songs?

Jarod Foster: It’s funny, I’ve been writing songs since I was in the 4th grade.  My mom told me you know your songwriting has come a long ways since the 4th grade and I said, “the fourth grade?”  She then told me that I had a girl who I was “dating” then come over for Dominos by Candlelight.   I recorded a song for her on a handheld tape recorder and she still has it.  She said when I get my first CMA award she is going to release it.

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MTMS: Besides “Ray Ray’s” did you write the rest of the songs?

Jarod Foster:  All except “17” which was written by Cody Canada and recorded by Cross Canadian Ragweed.  Cody has helped me a lot introducing me to the road and introducing me to the Randy Rogers Band.  I met him when Ragweed was touring with Dierks Bentley in 2003 when they were playing in Jupiter one night and the night before I was opening for Wayne Mills.  Cody heard me play guitar and we hung that night so “17” was my tribute to Cross Canadian Ragweed.  I co-wrote “Rosalita” with Calvin Webster and my wife helped me write “Moonlight Kiss”.  The rest I wrote myself.

MTMS:  Was “Rosalita” written from a personal experience?

Jarod Foster: That was Calvin Webster’s personal experience.  He was in the Marine’s posted in San Deigo and he and his buddies went down to Tihuana.  I guess that is what all Marines do.

MTMS:  I like that this album spans the spectrum of country living, any song in particular represent who you want to be personified as?

Jarod Foster: “We Did It” is probably my favorite song on the album although its hard to pick and choose.  I grew up in a small town and its a place I always wanted to write a song about and I wrote that song three weeks before our second son was born.  I think I wrote it in six or seven minutes.  It relates to small town America and the recession people are going through.  I released a Youtube video of it and got a lot of feedback from people who related to it.

MTMS:  I know you are signed to RP Entertainment Nashville, what can you tell me about that relationship?

Jarod Foster: Heidi reached out to me a few years ago after I did the Wounded Warrior Project.  So I met her and stayed in touch with her professionally for a few years until she told me what she was starting.  When she asked me if I wanted to be part of it I told her absolutely.

MTMS: For anyone who doesn’t know you and your music yet, what could you tell the fans about your style?

Jarod Foster:  Its original and not cookie cutter.  It’s based off of real people I’ve met and real experiences.  I’ve pretty much written it all myself so its all me.  If there is a story chances are I will write a song about it down the road.

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Make sure you all check out Jarod Foster’s debut album available at iTunes now: https://itunes.apple.com/album/id975714048

 

Sturgill Simpson Shines in NYC

mtms-transparentSturgill Simpson
with Anderson East
Bowery Ballroom, New York City
February 11, 2015

 

On a cold and blustery night in New York City, an unique group of country music fans packed themselves into the intimate Bowery Ballroom to catch a glimpse of the artist that everyone has been talking about lately, Sturgill Simpson.  Earlier that day, it was reported that his Grammy nominated “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” had sold an outstanding 100,000 copies, despite it being done without him have a label and only costing him $4,000.00 to make.  I had read multiple articles by fellow bloggers saying that his live performance was just him and a microphone, with little charisma and no interaction with the crowd.  What I witnessed on Wednesday night was quite the opposite.

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When Sturgill hit the stage at about 10 pm, he immediately stated into the microphone that he and his band “were sick as shit, but going to give you our best”.  And he and his three band mates did not disappoint in the least.  Initially he moved quickly from song to song, but eventually settled in and began to not only speak to the crowd between each song, but also was quite the comedian.

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He seemed surprised at how attentive the crowd was, which was a predominately 40 and up crowd which is rare this day in age where country music is dominated by pop singers pandering to teenage party seekers.  And Sturgill does quite the opposite.  Songs such as Long White Line and Voices are written and sung with a combination of struggle and passion that anyone who appreciates true music would appreciate.

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He put forth an extensive two hour set list chock full of songs from both of his albums as well as a few covers thrown in.  He was visibly sick and even stated at one point he also fainted.  Further, he was drinking tea and cough medicine right on stage.  But, once his voice hit the microphone and thundered through the speakers, you could not tell that he was sick at all.  His unique and throaty voice was as impressive as it is as his studio efforts.

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What was most surprising to me was how active and interactive he was on stage.  His band mates, consisting of an electric guitarist, drummer, and bass player were extremely skilled and they broke out into a number of jam sessions.   And as the night wore on, Sturgill seemed to get looser and looser to the point that he was dancing around on stage with moves at times that were similar to that of Dwight Yoakam or Dave Matthews.  In the midst of the awesome song It Ain’t All Flowers, he and the band broke into an all out jam that last approximately ten minutes.  You can see Sturgill really getting into it in this clip here:

All in all the performance was extremely impressive and despite it ending after midnight in the middle of the week, no one seemed to care at all.  Now that Sturgill Simpson has signed with Atlantic Records, it will be interesting to see where his career will go.  But with his true talent and obvious desire to do things his own way and not sell out to the current trend of country radio, I have no doubts this will not be my last glimpse of him playing to a sold out crowd.

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Anderson East opened the show with a very impressive acoustic set.  He had a very throaty voice that was very similar to Bruce Springsteen.  But his approach was a combination of folk, pop and funk.  He sang with a ridiculous amount of passion and had the entire Ballroom quiet while we attentively listened to his words.  I suggest everyone pick up his EP if you are looking for something very different yet enjoyable.

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STURGILL SIMPSON SETLIST:

  1. Sitting Here Without You
  2. Water In Hell
  3. Long White Line
  4. Voices
  5. Time After All
  6. Medicine Springs (Stanley Brothers cover)
  7. A Little Light
  8. Life of Sin
  9. The Storm
  10. Sometimes Wine (The Sunday Drivers cover)
  11. Old King Coal
  12. Some Days
  13. It’s Ain’t All Flowers
  14. Railroad of Sin
  15. Just Let Go
  16. Turtles All The Way Down (Encore)
  17. I’d Have To Be Crazy (Encore)

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On The Verge: A Thousand Horses

mtms-transparentA Thousand Horses
Cadillac Ranch in Southington, CT
February 8, 2015
iHeart Radio’s “On The Verge Artist”
Presented by Country 92.5
 

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Last night a large contingent of country music fans eager to see iHeart Radio’s newest “One The Verge Artist” A Thousand Horses braved the weather and congregated at the Cadillac Ranch in Southington, CT.  They were treated to a rousing seven song set from a talented and unique group of musicians set to take the country genre by storm.

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Led by Michael Hobby on lead vocals, this foursome (along with Zach Brown, Bill Satcher, Graham DeLoach) performed songs that jumped from country to southern rock to straight up rock and roll.  The crowd was up and dancing the entire time as Hobby clearly knows how to work a crowd.  Songs such as “Drunk Dial” and “Back To Me” have a real potential to make moves on the country charts in the future. “Traveling Man” had the southern rock feel that would make Kid Rock fans proud.  But it was their current breakout hit, “Smoke”, that had the biggest reaction of the night.

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What really intrigued me about the band was not only how talented each of the musicians in the band were, but also their attention to details.  They had a back up fiddler and keyboardist as well as three female back up vocalists.  The entire band together made for a spectacular mix of sounds.

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I caught up with the band for a few minutes after the show.  I asked Michael Hobby how they got their name and he simply stated they were named after the first song they all wrote together in Nashville.  Once they got together and wrote a song called “A Thousand Horses” they all “thought the name was pretty cool”.  He further told me they had been together since 2010 and would be on tour with Darius Rucker this summer.  I joked with Zach Brown about his name and he laughed and said “I’m even from Georgia”.  The guys in the group seemed as genuine as they were talented in their performance.  I’m expecting this group to make some waves in 2015 and beyond.

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SETLIST:

  1. Landslide
  2. Heaven Is Close
  3. Drunk Dial
  4. Back To Me
  5. Traveling Man
  6. Smoke
  7. First Time

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What Happened To The Collaborative Album in Country Music?

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What Happened To The Collaborative Album in Country Music?

As one of my Christmas presents this year, I was given a vinyl record player.  Since that time, I have been quickly building a pretty extensive collection of vinyl LP’s which consist mainly of classic country albums from “back in the day”.  As I have built my collection of these influential records, I started to question something about today’s music industry: what happened to the collaborative album in country music?

 Highwaymen

I am not talking about the collaborative song, but rather full albums in which the biggest stars in the genre combine to create.  Possibly the most famous and my favorite collaboration came from the “Highwaymen” which was a combination of Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson.  Not only is the title track one of my favorite songs of all time, but the entire album is spectacular.  And this super-group did not stop here, they made another full length album together and even went on tour.

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And this example is far from the only one.  It seems that Willie Nelson was at the center of most of the collaborations as he has made albums with everyone from Merle Haggard, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, Dolly Parton, Brenda Lee, Leon Russell, to even Julio Iglesias and more.  He has continued his tradition of collaboration into today’s modern era as he has appeared on singles with Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney, Chris Young, and much more.  However, the art of the full length collaboration is virtually non-existent in the current market.

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Willie is not the only megastar to collaborate on full albums as there have been combinations of Merle Haggard & George Jones, Johnny Cash & Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson & Barbara Streisand; Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton, among countless more.  And a lot of these collaborative albums are some of each of the star artist’s biggest selling and most lucrative projects. Yet, again, these were all from decades ago and the current trend is a single feature here or there.

So why is this idea so avoided among current country music stars?  I know most of them are friends and a lot of them write songs together.  Why not make a full length album together?  For example, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have been married for a long time and have made songs together which have been smash hits and have garnered multiple prestigious awards.  Why would they not release a full length album together?  I would think something like that would both sell huge units and also make fans extremely happy.  Same goes for Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, especially how hot both their careers are right now.

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Of course married couples are not the only ones who can collaborate.  Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan share close friendships that have been publicized the same that McGraw and Kenny Chesney have.  I have heard Lee Brice, Randy Houser, Tyler Farr and Jerrod Niemann lived together and often refer to themselves as the “Redneck Rat Pack”.  How awesome would a full album with those four artists collaborating be?

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So why do you think this idea has become extinct?  I personally think it has to with the power and control that record labels have these days over their artists.  The contracts and dollars control so much of the industry that the legal logistics would take most of the fun and creative spirit out of such a project.

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Yet I would love to see a combination of younger diverse stars like Kip Moore, Eric Church and Dierks Bentley come together for a project.  Or an older guard of artists such as Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and Toby Keith or Alan Jackson, Ronny Dunn and George Strait.  Or something a little more Americana along the lines of a Sturgill Simpson, Jamey Johnson and Zac Brown.  I know these are all pipe dreams, but fun to think up combinations nonetheless.  So who would you like to see, in country music’s current major market, collaborate on a full album together?

Who’s Next: Erik Dylan

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A Conversation with Erik Dylan at Cornman Music Studios in Nashville, TN

I had the unique opportunity of spending a full afternoon on Music Row with one of Nashville’s up and coming artists, Erik Dylan.  Erik has a publishing deal with Cornman Music and has a self entitled EP available on iTunes.  We spent the afternoon at both Cornman and Sony Nasvhille, as he gave me an up close and personal view into the daily life of a Nashville singer-songwriter.  Make sure you all buy his EP  itun.es/us/ERdv4 and check him out at www.erikdylan.com .  I hope you all enjoy what he has to say as this interview is as real and true as it gets:

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MTMS: Tell us about your journey from Kansas to Nashville…

Erik Dylan: I originally left Kansas to attend Middle Tennessee State University to work on a career in audio engineering, but found out I wasn’t really good at audio engineering.  So then I decided to live in Nashville and make it my home.  I had always written songs so it was just about trying to figure out how to make it in this industry.

 

MTMS: So it wasn’t that you moved here just to make songs, it started from the audio engineering aspect of things?

Erik Dylan: I had always wanted to make music. I have been writing songs since I was a little kid and played in bands growing up, but I wanted to be part of an industry.  Actually, while I was at Middle Tennessee State, I tried getting into the songwriting program there but was denied by a certain professor.  He actually told me I was not cut out to be a writer.  Because of that I gave it up for a couple years after and it messed up my head until I realized I needed a second opinion.

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MTMS: So once you moved to Nashville, what approach did you take?

Erik Dylan: I realized if I wanted to be a songwriter I had to be around other songwriters.  So for seven years of trial and error, I learned about the industry and continued to try to be better.  And seven years later, I got my first publishing deal.

 

MTMS: In those seven years, did you have a “big break moment”?

Erik Dylan: I am still looking for that, really.  I am making a living off of it now and it is awesome, but we never know if it will always be this way.  I worked full time for AT&T and played 200 open mics in 2011 while doing that.  And Kip (Moore) saw me at one of those open mics, which is how I got my first meeting at Cornman and that is how I got my first publishing deal.

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MTMS: That was my next question, the whole Kip Moore relationship that everyone is buzzing about.  Can you talk about that?

Erik Dylan: He heard me at an open mic night from the speakers outside.  He did not actually see me, he was walking by outside and heard my voice singing a song called “Marlena” that I wrote.  He gave my wife his e-mail and told me to contact him because he had some people he wanted to introduce me to.  So that was my break into music row.

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MTMS:  A lot of rumors have been swirling about Kip Moore’s new album and I know there is a song of yours that he did cut for it.  Can you tell us anything about that?

Erik Dylan:  I wrote a song called “Comeback Kid”.  There are actually four writers that wrote it, Ross Copperman, Jeff Hyde, myself and Kip.

 

MTMS:  The song was created in one day?

Erik Dylan:  The bones of it had been there for awhile, but when you write a song you play with themes and titles.  It was written for Kip but each of the writers related to the song from a different place with what the song means.

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MTMS:  What is your relationship to the song?

Erik Dylan:  My wife worked a day job for seven years and as a songwriter there are times you question whether you are good enough or if it is all worth it.  You need that someone there to support you.  So the song in my mind was all about my wife because I was the Comeback Kid.  Meanwhile, Kip is the Comeback Kid in a different way because he had his share of ups and downs and so many people told him he would not be a country music singer and look at him now.

 

MTMS:  Besides the Kip cut, are there any other acts in Nashville that we will hear an Erik Dylan co-write on soon?

Erik Dylan: I do not know if they will make it onto albums, but I wrote a really great song with Eric Paslay that we hope will make it.  Thompson Square also cut one of mine in November.  I wrote Austin Webb’s song “Raise Em Up”. Chad Brownlee had a big hit in Canada with “Where The Party At” which I wrote and I actually released recently it as my first single.

 

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MTMS:  I saw the video for that recently, there were few fellow artists in it, no?

Erik Dylan:  JT Hodges, Caitlyn Smith, Logan Mize, Jimmy Stanley, and Courtney Cole were all in it.

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MTMS: Where was the video shot?

Erik Dylan:  Tennessee Brew Works.  Amazing beer, I freaking love that place.  They donated the space for us and they may have even donated the beer for us that day too.  Great guys run that place and I love it there.

 

MTMS: For those that do not know your music yet, what themes can the listener hear in Erik Dylan music?

Erik Dylan: I try to make it relatable to the listener.  If I can get someone to relate the lyrics then I did my job.  I think Springsteen did that to New Jersey and to the shore.  I do not think I realized how much Springsteen really painted the picture of Jersey until I drove down there and paid the tolls and saw how life is there.  I grew up in a farming community in Kansas and you will hear a lot of the blue collar and struggle in my music.  Everyone likes to party and songs about girls, but if we just write songs about that we are not doing the Midwest or the US justice.  I want people to feel things and that is what I love about “Comeback Kid” because people will relate to it for so many different reasons.

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MTMS:  One of the songs of yours that sticks out to me is “That Ain’t My Town”.  Did you record that with the current state of country radio in mind?

Erik Dylan: I wrote that with Jeff Hyde and we were talking about where country is at right now.  I love it where it is at in different ways, but I want more diversity in it.  That is what I would want to change.  I love party songs and girl songs, but country is so huge that we can have songs that talk about real things too.  I wrote a song called “Colorblind” recently that is about real life issues happening around us.  We need more songs about real issues.

 

MTMS: I am someone who cares most about the lyric and you seem to be someone who writes that way.

Erik Dylan:  Well thank God for people like you! I do care a lot about that because I grew up listening to Steve Earle, Guy Clarke, Townes Van Zandt.  It was all about telling a story in different ways.  That is what the true masters do; it is about crafting a song and making art.

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MTMS:  Does attaining radio play mean a lot to you?

Erik Dylan: I feel blessed right now to be able to come into work and write songs.  I want to make music organically and make songs that mean something.  If I want to be a husband, a father, be on tour, and write songs all at the same time, the music needs to be about a representation of me and where I came from.  If my music turns into radio play, that would be great, but I want people to parallel with my songs and be proud of it.

 

MTMS: Tell us about your publishing deal?

Erik Dylan: I am with Cornman Music which is owned by Brett James and is a co-venture with Warner-Chappell.  They have been great.  I came in as a songwriter who was writing more folk style songs and they have molded me into someone who can make modern country songs that can get airplay.  The lyric was always there for me, but Brett just shoots straight and has helped me to a point where the lyrics and melodies combine.  He has had 25 #1’s so he is an unbelievable mentor and person to be around.  And here, as well as all of Nashville for that matter, I have noticed we celebrate each other’s hits and success.  We are fans of each other and we take our turns.

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MTMS:  What does 2015 hold for Erik Dylan?

Erik Dylan: This month I have dedicated myself to writing and get in with all my ideas from the past few months.  I will be writing songs with my friends here in Nashville.  I am going out on tour with the Josh Abbott Band soon and there will be a lot more touring thereafter.  I’m also writing a blue-collar type project called “Flattlands”.  It is a record that reflects where I am from and I do not know if it will ever be heard on the radio, but it is not the reason I am writing it.  We are getting some radio airplay with my new EP which was released.  The coolest thing is my friends on Twitter and Facebook have grown so much.  I think I started the year with maybe 100 followers.  I have all these people that I recognize when I go to towns.  I consider them my friends at this point.  That is what is generating the most buzz because they want to hear what I am doing.  If I can model my career after someone in current country it would be Eric Church.  He started out grass roots and built fans that will follow him until he stops making music.  I respect that and want to model my music the same way.

I want to thank Erik for spending some time with me and stay tuned to our site as we plan on keeping everyone up to date with his music and look forward to reviewing an Erik Dylan concert in 2015!

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We Are Not Drunk Americans, We Are JUST Americans

 

Anyone who really knows me understands that I have love for Toby Keith.  If it was not for me hearing his song I Love This Bar in college, I would not have made the full leap to absolutely loving the country music genre.  However, as I have listened to everything the genre has to offer and attended hundreds of concerts, it has made me more observant to the little nuances of the actual business behind the music.

That being said, when I heard Toby Keith was releasing a new song, my first thought was “please do not be about drinking, again”.  When I saw the title I was immediately disappointed.  However, when I heard who the writers were, it gave me a glimmer of hope.  Brandy Clark (Mama’s Broken Heart, Better Dig Two), Shane McAnally (Somewhere With You, Merry Go Round, Come Over), and Bob DiPiero (Southern Voice, Gone, Cowboys Like Us) are widely known for their quality songwriting ability.  The three writers have co-written countless hits and award winning songs.  So, in that, I had a glimmer of hope.

When the song came out on iTunes at midnight on October 14th, I immediately downloaded it and ran into a guest bedroom of my house so I would not wake my wife and baby because I just had to hear the song.  After just one verse, all I could do was shake my head.  Not because the song was bad, but because I immediately could recognize what somehow the three writers and Toby could not, that one word could have ultimately changed the dynamics of the song.

What does Toby Keith do best?  Recently, he may be most known for his drinking tunes, but when he was flying high at the top of the genre, it was his love for America and overall patriotic nature that made fans love him.  And this song had that return potential.  Drunk Americans is not a drinking song.  The one word, DRUNK, misleads and confuses the true nature of what the song is about, what makes a person American.

The lyrics of the song show how people of many races, religions, political associations, and even fashion trends do not really separate each other in any way, because they are still just American.  JUST American.  We are not American because we are collectively drunk, its everything else mentioned in the song.

If the word DRUNK would have been changed to JUST it could have become another patriotic and uniting song that would have likely returned Toby to the top of the charts.  But with the sloppy, confusing, and misleading title, which does not make sense when examined with the rest of the lyrics, it will now be less accepted by country radio and passed over by the majority of fans across America.

This is just my humble opinion, what do you all think? Drunk or Just?

Eric Church Leads His Outsiders at Mohegan Sun

Eric Church
The Outsiders World Tour
w/ Dwight Yoakam and Brandy Clark
October 25, 2014
Mohegan Sun Arena, Connecticut

I have seen Eric Church many times over the years, from small clubs and bars to him being a supporting act for other headliners.  Over that course of time I always thought he stole the show, but wondered what it would be like to see him perform at a big time venue with a stage and experience he personally planned out.  When The Outsiders World Tour passed through northern Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena, I had my answer.  He did not disappoint in the least. 

The festivities kicked off that night with a set from singer/song-writer, Brandy Clark.  I last saw Brandy in New York City’s intimate venue, The Bowery Ballroom, when she opened for Kacey Musgraves.  That night she captivated the smaller crowd with her descriptive lyrics and story telling ability.  This night was a bit different as her set did not translate to a larger scaled arena.  Most fans did not know who she was and had never heard her songs, other than the covers she selected.  Further, her stationary performance style in such a large arena lacked any energy whatsoever.  I think Brandy is very talented and hope to see her again in a smaller venue, where she really can shine.

Dwight Yoakam was next on the bill and the lack of energy that Brandy Clark had was completely different from the style he came out with.  Despite having an awful sound manager his performance was quite fun.  He had some unique dance moves and leg movements during the guitar solo’s in the midst of his hit filled set.  Dressed in the Canadian Tuxedo complete with a cowboy hat that would make Clint Eastwood proud, Dwight ran through songs such as Honky Tonk Man, Streets of Bakersfield, and even through a rendition of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire.  Dwight fought through the faulty microphone malfunctions and really put forth a solid set. 

After a slideshow of VIP and press passes from all of the unique venues Eric Church and his band have played through the years, the lights went dim and Eric appeared on stage.  Fittingly, he jumped into The Outsiders acoustically until the band joined him after the first verse.  What followed was a visually stunning spectacle of lights, smoke, and moving apparatuses on stage.  In fact, Eric’s drummer descended from the large screen above the stage, something I have never seen before at a concert. 

Eric’s setlists have never been the same in the dozen or so times I have seen him and this night had plenty of surprises as well.  Of course, the hits such as Drink In My Hand, Smoke A Little Smoke, Cold One, Homeboy, and Give Me Back My Hometown were part of the list.  But the less known album cuts  such as The World Needs a Drink (selected by a fan club member), Hungover & Hard Up, Wrecking Ball and Rollercoaster were the songs I was most excited to hear.  For some reason, its these lesser played songs that really get the intense and passionate reaction that I love to see from Eric Church.

And that intensity and passion is exactly what has created Eric into the phenomenon he is today.  He is absolutely one of the leading front men for live shows as he has such a real and true reaction from the crowd and his own music.  His band is not all that impressive, in fact, I kept wondering what a instrumentally technical song like Cold One could sound like live if a skilled band such as Zac Brown Band would put their fingers to it.  But its not the band that the fans come to see, its the man with the shades.  And halfway through his set, just before Homeboy, he put on his infamous denim trucker hat and the energy in the building noticeably changed and things got a lot more rowdy.

After telling everyone what he would do if anyone messed with his little boy in Dark Side, an enormous devil like creature appeared in the far up of the arena as he fittingly launched into Devil, Devil.  If that was not enough, he followed it up with two of his most high octane songs, Country Music Jesus and Smoke a Little Smoke.  And while most artists would have probably ended it there, to the crowd’s delight there was still another seven songs left in the set.

A staple of Eric Church concerts today and forever will be highlighted by his career defining hit, Springsteen and his unique ability to work a different Bruce Springsteen song into it each night.  I know this tour has feature the classics Thunder Road, Glory Days, Born To Run and Born in the USA.  But on this night, it was Dancing In The Dark  that got the Eric Church treatment and it launched the crowd into an absolute frenzy.  See a video clip here:

Also among the final few songs were two songs which showed a sensitive side that most do not really known Eric has.  The first was These Boots which true fans show so much love for as dozens raised their cowboy boots in the air.  Eric even signed a few after the song finished.  He ended the night with a song he described as “a song we don’t play every night but is fitting for tonight” as he performed a stirring Those I’ve Loved Along the Way which brought goose bumps to anyone who can appreciate quality music as the lyrics are not only poignant, but his vocals were the best they were all night. 

All in the all the night was exactly what I had expected: intense, passionate, visually stunning and as energetic as any performer in the music business today.  I am happy that Eric Church is finally getting the notoriety that he has deserved for so long and this World Tour should do wonders for him for years to come.  In a day of bro country and pop country, if you are not one of Eric Church’s Outsiders, you are doing it wrong. 

SETLIST:

Eric Church

  1. The Outsiders
  2. Creepin’
  3. Guys Like Me
  4. Hungover & Hard Up
  5. I’m Getting Stoned
  6. Talladega
  7. Pledge Allegiance to the Hag
  8. Drink A Little Drink
  9. The World Needs A Drink (Terri Clarke Cover, Eric Church wrote it)
  10. Sinners Like Me
  11. Cold One
  12. That’s Damn Rock and Roll
  13. Give Me Back My Hometown
  14. Homeboy
  15. Dark Side
  16. Devil, Devil
  17. Country Music Jesus
  18. Smoke a Little Smoke
  19. Wrecking Ball
  20. Rollercoaster Ride
  21. These Boots
  22. Lotta Boot Left To Fill
  23. Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen Cover)
  24. Springsteen
  25. Those I’ve Loved Along The Way (ENCORE)

Video Clip – The World Needs A Drink
 


Kip Moore Leaves NYC Up In Smoke

Kip Moore
CMT’s Up In Smoke Tour
with Charlie Worsham & Sam Hunt
September 25, 2014
Best Buy Theater, New York City

Kip Moore’s mutual love affair with New York City continued this past Thursday night with a show at the Best Buy Theater in the heart of Times Square.  I have been in attendance at the shows he has put on in the Big Apple the past few years, starting with Bowery Ballroom in 2012 and Webster Hall last year.  I have seen him perform in other cities and states, but there is something about the City that brings out the best in him, his band, and the crowds.  This night was no different.

The night kicked off with a stirring performance from Sam Hunt.  He may be an artist with only one radio single so far, but you would not have guessed that from the way the crowd knew basically each of his songs word for word.  Hunt performed songs from his mixtape as well as his upcoming album, to be released next month.  His six song set, highlighted by “Leave the Night On”, “House Party” and “Ex To See” showcased how dominating a performer he is, despite being so early in his career.  His songs are as pop as any artist in the country music genre can be, but also catchy as can be.  The crowd responded to his constant movement and dynamic performance.  I expect Sam Hunt will be around for a long time.

Charlie Worsham was the second opener and provided a less energetic set.  He performed free flowing and technical songs from his album, Rubberband.  I am a huge fan of that album and was really looking forward to seeing him live; however, found myself a bit let down.  However, his musical chops were undeniable as he changed from acoustic to electric guitars and even a banjo at one point.  He seemed to be a bit out of place in the Kip Moore concert crowd as his performance was relaxed and somewhat awkward.  I hope to see Charlie in a different venue or circumstance.  

When it was time for Kip Moore to take the stage, he came out like a bullet out of a gun.  The opening song, “Wild Ones” is what many are expecting to be his next radio single and it is as catchy and bombastic as any song on country radio.  The chorus of this song lets loose something fierce and the crowd with amazing energy responded to the party anthem.  

WILD ONES (Video)



What followed was a twenty-one song set that shifted from party to emotional to nostalgic to romantic.  The song-writing that Kip and his co-writers possess along with the unique raspy delivery that he executes with really separates him from the rest of the younger generation of rising stars in country music.  And Kip performed a bunch of new songs for the hungry crowd as he explained how it has been frustrating for him that a new album has not been released yet.


But if these new songs are any indication, Kip may be on his way to CMA and ACM nominations galore.  “Hearts Desire”, “Backseat”, and “Lipstick” are destined to be radio hits as they are songs with detailed attention to the lyrics while delivered with the passion that is missing from so many of today’s artists.  

The Best Buy Theater became a word for word sing a long on hits such as “Beer Money”, “Dirt Road” and “Something About a Truck”.  However, it was some of his first album’s deeper cuts that were surprisingly the highlights of the night.  “Crazy One More Time”, “Fly Again” and “Everything But You” were performances nothing short of brilliance as he changed up the original recordings of the songs and the crowd almost drowned Kip out as the response was deafening.

Fly Again 
The CMT Up In Smoke Tour is a must see for any fan of country music as Kip Moore truly shows that he is set to become the genre’s next megastar.  The encore of “Faith When I Fall” mashed up with Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” has become a Kip concert staple, but always delivers on the genuineness that I associate him with.  Nothing is forced yet everything is done his own way.  He is not to be labeled an outlaw or in the bro country label, but should be considered a real and true artist.  Not many in the music business deliver with such realness than Kip Moore.  Bowery Ballroom, Webster Hall, Best Buy Theater … what’s next?   Hopefully, a lot more.  

SETLISTS:
Kip Moore

  1. Wild Ones
  2. Crazy One More Time
  3. Baby Break My Heart
  4. What I Do
  5. Reckless
  6. Drive Me Crazy
  7. Beer Money
  8. Up All Night
  9. Dirt Road
  10. Hearts Desire
  11. Everything But You
  12. Separate Ways
  13. Backseat
  14. Fly Again
  15. Come and Get It
  16. Young Love
  17. Hey Pretty Girl
  18. Lipstick
  19. Somethin’ About A Truck
  20. Faith When I’m Falling (ENCORE)
  21. Free Fallin’ (ENCORE – Cover of Tom Petty)  

Charlie Worsham

  1. Rubberband
  2. Could It Be
  3. Microphone To My Heart
  4. Young To See
  5. Love Someone
  6. Be Alone
  7. Trouble Is
  8. Want Me Too 

Sam Hunt

  1. Raised On It
  2. Ex To See
  3. House Party
  4. Take Your Time
  5. Leave The Night On
  6. Break Up In A Small Town  

DIRT ROAD
DRIVE ME CRAZY
HEARTS DESIRE