15 Country Music Artists You Need on Your Playlist…Now!

Posted November 21, 2016 by Kreuzer33
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Those who know me already know that I have a very eclectic playlist. My daily music spans country, rock, metal, rap and more. You name it…I listen to it!

However, today, I’m going to focus on a handful of country music artists that need to be on your playlist.

Some of these folks may already be in regular rotation on the radio. Some may have seen some airplay over the past couple years, and are now missing from everyday rotation. Others may be coming to a station near you in 2017.

The key thing here is that these artists are either unknown, or in my opinion, underplayed. Hopefully, that will change in the year to come!

These artists are listed in alphabetical order, but I hope that you’ll have the opportunity to scroll through each of them as they all deserve attention. I’ve been sure to include at least one of their videos so you can get a sample without having to click through link after link to hear them.

Without further ado, let’s get started:

A Thousand Horses

If you want to try to describe A Thousand Horses to someone who hasn’t seen or heard them play, just imagine if Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers and The Black Crowes had a baby together. Yes, not the greatest visual. However, I’m not sure how else to describe them.

A Thousand Horses has their own look, their own sound, and a stage presence that captivates their audience from the first note. The entire band gives 110% every time they hit the stage, but they also take the time to engage with their fans. There is nothing else like A Thousand Horses on the radio today and that’s a damn shame! To put it bluntly: A Thousand Horses is what country music needs right here…and right now.

Sure, A Thousand Horses may not yet have the pedigree of any of the aforementioned bands just yet, but give it time. I have a feeling that we’ll be hearing from these guys for many years to come. Having been on tour with the likes of Jason Aldean, Thomas Rhett, Darius Rucker and more, these guys are getting exposure in front of tens of thousands of concert goers every night, and I see a headlining stadium tour of their own in the coming years.

For a little background, the band consists of four core members (but there are a bunch more):

Michael Hobby – Lead Vocal
Bill Satcher – Lead Guitar
Zach Brown – Guitar and Vocal
Graham Deloach – Bass and Vocal

While the mixed Southern Rock/Country genre is not new, it’s refreshing to hear these days. From songs like “Sunday Morning”, co-written with Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes and arguably the best track on the album, to “Landslide”, a favorite of mine which grasps the spirit of the working man (and often leads off their live show) A Thousand Horses demonstrates that they can do it all, and not miss a beat from Track 1 to 13.

“Tennessee Whiskey” showcases the band’s Southern roots as it shows emotional heartbreak in the form of a conversation with none other than the iconic drink. Yep. It plays just like it sounds. “Trailer Trashed” brings out the redneck side of the band, “Southernality” gets back to their southern roots and “(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial”, the band’s second single, tells the story of singer Michael Hobby looking for a second chance in a relationship gone wrong.

Here’s the video for “Southernality”:

But most people will know the band from their #1 hit, “Smoke”, which has made A Thousand Horses a household name. Great vocals. Great rhythm. It’s certainly catchy and, like I have said over and over again, this is the type of song, and band, that country radio needs right now!

 

Brandy Clark

Brandy Clark , while not the biggest name in country music today, is certainly a superstar in my books.

Clark hails from Morton, Washington, a logging town of less than 1,000 people, located in the shadow of Mount St. Helens. Growing up, she was influenced by a variety of country music artists including Barbara Mandrell, Ronnie Milsap, Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn. She first picked up a guitar at the age of nine and made her singing debut in school musicals. When she entered her first year of college, she started to get more serious about music, taking guitar lessons and joining a band along with her mother and a friend. As a teenager, she discovered the music business program at Belmont University, so she enrolled and moved to Nashville in 1998. After graduation, Clark landed a job with Leadership Music, which led to her eventual publishing deal.

Clark excels at her storytelling through her music. She is far and away one of the greatest songwriters I have ever had the pleasure of listening to and her live performances only extenuate her talent. You might not be aware of this, but she’s written for a number of artists including: The Band Perry (Better Dig Two) and Miranda Lambert (Mama’s Broken Heart).

Clark has a new album out, “Big Day in a Small Town“, which tells the stories of the football star, the father, the homecoming queen and the hairdresser. Why? Because those are the stories and people that Clark grew up knowing in her “small town”.

Artists like Brandy Clark are what country music needs. I can’t stress her songwriting talents enough. I could never do justice. Don’t believe me? Go take a listen. I guarantee you’ll be hooked right away.Here’s a sample of what Clark is all about with “Girl Next Door”:

 

Casey James

Casey James is a singer and guitarist from Fort Worth, Texas, who was the third-place finalist on the ninth season of American Idol and is an independent recording artist. Before American Idol, he played with his band, The Casey James Band, consisting of James, his brother, Billy Cole (bass), and Jacy McCann (drums). They recorded four songs, including the first song that James ever wrote, “Freezing,” back in 2002.

But James musical career started well before The Casey James Band. He started playing the guitar at 13 and within a year was playing on stage. James has played acoustic sets with his mother, and blues with his older brother. At the age of 21, he was in a serious motorcycle accident that nearly ended his life. He was told by his doctor that he would no longer be able to play guitar, a medical prediction that proved untrue.

He released his eponymous album in March 2012 from which three singles, “Let’s Don’t Call It a Night”, “Crying on a Suitcase”, and “The Good Life” were released. In 2014, he released the single “Fall Apart” (see below). While he is currently an independent artist, James is currently working towards releasing a new record and his fans are certainly waiting for news on that!

Cash Creek

Although Cash Creek is a relatively new band on the country music scene, it’s members have enjoyed long histories and friendships together. Each member has carved out their own niche in the music industry as entertainers, road and session musicians, producers, and songwriters.

The list of artists that the members of Cash Creek has worked with is nothing short of impressive. That list includes the likes of Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, Trace Adkins, Alabama, Hank Williams, Jr., John Michael Montgomery, Josh Turner, David Lee Murphy and many more. Needless to say, the band knows what it takes to be successful.

OK. I just have to throw this out there. I’m originally from the town of Petaluma, located in Northern California. Much of my family still lives there. So my mom now lives in Hidden Valley Lake (California) and every time I drive up to her house, I have to go through Napa, Angwin and Pope Valley, which is basically a quick stop between the Napa Valley and the Lake Berryessa. So do you want to take a guess where Cash Creek is from? You got it. Pope Valley. Small world, right?

Anyways, I digress. When they formed Cash Creek, they band members knew they wanted to create a sound that would reflect a common vision, and maintain a cohesiveness that would be instantly recognizable, regardless of the song. After taking a listen to their compilation of music, I can definitely say: mission accomplished!

Cash Creek is a unique blending of vocals and guitars, with a little bit of fiddle and mandolin thrown in. Why not, right. The songs and production are of such a high-caliber, it’s hard to believe these guys are self-produced. With their distinctive sound, and especially the catchy hooks, you’re going to want to listen to Cash Creek over and over again.

Here is a taste of their latest “She Got Me”:

Also check out “Even Angels Have Bad Day”:

Drew Baldridge

Drew Baldridge is a singer songwriter at heart. According to some background research I’ve done, he grew up playing basketball and baseball, but would perform the National Anthem at all his games. As a teenager, he joined a quartet at church singing bass while his father sang tenor. Later on, he played acoustic gigs at a nearby bar on Saturday nights. Not a bad way to break into the business.

In 2013, Baldridge signed with THiS Music, joining the company of a number of the most prominent and prolific songwriters in Nashville. Soon after, he released his debut EP, All Good and singles “BYOB” and “She’s Taken” apparently became radio staples across the Midwest. Living on the West Coast, I had yet to be exposed to him.

Known as much as a performer as a singer, Baldridge brings an energy-packed show to every performance. Doesn’t matter if he’s opening, or the headliner. He’ll always give you 100%. No less. Over the past few years, Baldridge has shared the stage with artists such as Alabama, Cole Swindell, Dustin Lynch, Jerrod Niemann, Phil Vassar, Lee Brice, Eric Paslay, Parmalee and Josh Turner among others.

Baldridge released his full-length debut album titled Dirt on Us earlier this year and features 13 tracks, 11 of which Baldridge co-wrote. If you’re a fan already, you might recognize a few of the songs from his previous EPs.

In the mood for a little dancing? Enjoy a little “Dance With Ya”:

 

Halfway to Hazard

Chad Warrix and David Tolliver, better known as the group Halfway to Hazard, can only be described with the same words I’ve used here on my blog for years, “a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.” Nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s two of my favorite things when it comes to music. And they live up to that descriptor. From what I’ve seen, the group holds nothing back in their music. In fact, if they were in NASCAR, I’d say that they put the pedal to the metal and don’t look back until they cross the finish line.

Their debut single, “Daisy“, was a Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts way back in 2007. That same year, the band toured as the opening act on Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s Soul2Soul Tour. In 2008, they went on tour with McGraw and a youngster by the name of Jason Aldean. They were also nominated by the Academy of Country Music (ACM) for the Duo of the Year award. Not a bad two year stretch, right?

Sadly, in January of 2010, the duo went on an extended hiatus. After some ups and downs over the next few years, Tolliver and Warrix decided to officially reunite Halfway to Hazard in late 2014…and I for one am glad they did!

Released earlier this year, the song from Halfway to Hazard that I’m absolutely hooked on is “American Outlaw”. Check it out:

 

High Valley

High Valley is a Canadian country music duo from Blumenort, Alberta, a small community near La Crete. The band originally began as a trio of brothers, but Bryan Rempel dropped out in 2014 to focus on his family.

High Valley’s album Broken Borders was named Album of the Year at the 2007 GMA Canada Covenant Awards, while the song “Back to You” was awarded Country Song of the Year. High Valley’s second album, High Valley, was released in Canada and the United States on September 14, 2010. In 2011 the band won five GMA Canada Covenant Awards, including Artist of the Year and Group of the Year. Their third album, Love Is a Long Road, was released on June 12, 2012.

In October 2015, High Valley signed to Atlantic Records Nashville. Shortly after that, the single “Make You Mine” was released here in the United States to country radio and debuted at number 56 on the U.S. Country chart. The band has just released their fifth studio album, Dear Life, through Atlantic Records and Warner Music Nashville and it is certainly one to take a listen to.

Check out “Make You Mine”:

Jackie Lee

Jackie Lee was only six years old when he stepped into a professional recording studio to cut songs with famed country songwriter, musician and producer Carson Chamberlain (Keith Whitley/ Easton Corbin). Lee’s father was a devoted fan of traditional country music, while his mother enjoyed pop hits from the 1980s. As a youngster, he  found himself influenced by everyone from Bob Seger to Justin Timberlake.

After high school, Lee headed to Nashville, and at the age of 19, he signed a recording contract with Republic Nashville. However the deal with Republic ended without the artist releasing anything for the label, and Lee was looking for another chance. He heard a demo of a song called “She Does,” and was curious about the tune until he was told Kenny Chesney had plans to record it. Chesney eventually passed on the tune, which worked out in Lee’s favor when he landed a new record deal with the independent Nashville label Broken Bow. Lee and his team decided “She Does” was the perfect song for his recording debut, and when his version was released in the fall of 2014, it soon landed on the Billboard Country Airplay charts.

His new single, “Getting Over You”, is just hitting country radio and made quite an impression on the audience. Make sure to keep an eye out for it and start requesting it right away. This song has what it takes to quickly climb the charts.

Take a listen:

 

Jacob Davis

At the age of fifteen, Jacob Davis picked up a guitar and started singing in his Shreveport, Louisiana bedroom. But it wasn’t until an open mic night during his junior year of college that he would ever perform on a stage.

Sounds like the kind of story that leads to a successful country music career, right?

What first got me interested in Davis, other than the positive feedback I received from his legion of fans, is his apparent love for 90’s country music. Let me tell you this, I was raised on country music from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, and have a particular love for the music of the 90’s (and not just country music). This is the time period where  I was in Junior High, High School and College. Music was a major part of my life, and I’m glad that this decade proved inspirational to others.

So here’s what I really like about Davis: it’s all about his music.

The first song I heard was “Down to Earth”. Good melody. Catchy lyrics. Simple. But then I read a little deeper into the meaning of the song and of course it’s a song about the birth of his daughter. Naturally, I had to listen. Having two daughters of my own, I know the feelings he’s expressing. Nailed it!

Another song I enjoyed was “Sooner than Later”. After hearing a couple of ballads, I loved the upbeat nature of the song. The lyrics also stood out. “She’s laying warm against my skin.” “She’s gonna love too hot…and burn too fast.” Who can’t relate to that.

“Something to Remember You By” is another one that caught my attention. With lyrics such as “I look around anytime, anyplace, they’ll always be something to remember you by” how can you not relate to that. Check it out:

 

One other song to throw out there is “See You Around”. Just for another example:

James Wesley

James Wesley grew up in Mound Valley, a community of only 200 people in Southeastern Kansas. He first discovered country music via his grandmother’s record collection, which included heaping helpings of classic crooners such as Marty Robbins, George Jones and Ray Price. His mother was the first to notice Wesley’s own talent for singing when she overheard him belting out his favorite songs behind his bedroom door. By his late teens he was singing in local nightclubs and beginning to think about making music his life.

I can certainly say that i’m glad he made this decision.

Wesley signed with Broken Bow Records back in 2009 and quickly exploded onto the country music scene with his debut breakout single “Jackson Hole.” To date he has had two Top 25 singles, including “Didn’t I” and one of my personal favorites “Real”, making his voice a staple on country radio. If you’ve ever seen Wesley in concert, then you know that he sings directly to real people about real things that profoundly affect real lives. From his small-town upbringing to his blue-collar work ethic, Wesley has a deep understanding of what country listeners want to hear.

Wesley is a traditionalist which I find rare in country music these days. He’s also passionate about his music…and his fans. He writes his own songs and he plays his heart out each and every time he takes the stage. During his recent shows I caught in California, Wesley mixed his own music with the sounds of Hank Williams Jr., Merle Haggard, George Jones and Johnny Cash. I’ll admit, anytime you can absolutely NAIL “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Family Tradition”, you’re doing something right!

I’m lucky enough to have had the opportunity to meet James via Twitter (@jameswesley1) a while back and have had a number of conversations with him over the past few years. You don’t realize that sometimes, just sometimes, artists are exactly the same in-person as they appear online. Wesley truly is one of these people. He doesn’t pull punches. He’s as friendly in-person as he is on Twitter and really makes every effort to get to know each and every one of his fans. I wish more artists would follow his lead.

If you want one example of what Wesley is all about, then take a listen to  “Thank a Farmer” and tell me you don’t want to support this guy:

 

LANco

Formerly known as Lancaster & Company, Sony Music Nashville signed LANco to the label group’s Arista Nashville. The band, consisting of Brandon Lancaster, Tripp Howell, Eric Steedly, Jared Hampton and Chandler Baldwin, released their debut EP on Spotify, featuring the tracks “American Love Story”, “Trouble Maker“, “Long Live Tonight” and “We Do“. You should definitely check it out when you have a few minutes. You won’t regret it. You can find it on iTunes and Amazon.

I actually discovered these guys on a Saturday night back in September of 2015, when I was on a business trip to Atlanta. So I’m checking out the town and I stumble across a venue called Smith’s Olde Bar. Without any plans that evening, I decided to check things out when I heard a familiar tune, “Sweet Caroline”. I’m glad I walked in. Although I only caught a couple songs that night, it gave me an idea of who the band is and what they’re all about. I was very excited to catch them again a few months later, late last year in San Jose. Here’s a clip from the San Jose show covering Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance”:

I’ve got to admit, while I loved the energy and crowd interaction of both the Atlanta and San Jose shows, one of my favorite songs they played both nights was the ballad “American Love Story“. This song is your small town love story that many of us can relate to.

Take a listen to “Long Live Tonight”:

 

McKenzies Mill

McKenzies Mill features two brothers from North Carolina, now based in Nashville, Tennessee. Founded by Justin and Ryan Harris, and backed by the a few of the best musicians around, McKenzies Mill brings its audience what has been described as “Southern Fried Rock & Roll.”

While you might not be familiar with McKenzies Mill (yet), the duo is in no way a newcomer to the music scene. They’ve been featured at NASCAR’s Speed Street Fest in Charlotte, North Carolina, and at BayFest in Mobile, Alabama. They’ve also been featured alongside artists such as Brad Paisley and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

In terms of music, McKenzies Mill has released two albums, “One Hell of a Ride” and a self-titled album, “McKenzies Mill”. In 2014, they were named a Band to Watch by CMA Close-Up magazine back and the duo also won Bud Light’s National Battle of the Bands back in 2012.

In addition, last September, the duo released two new singles, “Middle of Nowhere” & “Willie”. Here’s a clip:

 

Ryan Follese

I first came across Big Machine Label Group recording artist Ryan Follese (that’s “fall-uh-ZAY”) a few weeks ago when I heard the folks at KRTY promoting that he would be opening for both Cassadee Pope and the Eli Young Band in San Jose.

Follese  co-wrote each of the six tracks on his self-titled debut solo EP, including “Put A Label On It,” which hit country radio earlier this month as his first official single. Additionally, SiriusXM kickstarted the launch this summer, selecting Follese as their “Highway Find” and spinning his summer vacation anthem “Float Your Boat.” Selling more than 40,000 downloads to date, and amassing nearly 2 million streams, the Ryan Follese EP was recorded with producers Dann Huff and Cameron Montgomery in Nashville. While the aforementioned songs might have received the notoriety to date, don’t miss other great tracks such as “Wilder“, “One Thing Right” and “Lose a Little Sleep“. “Wilder” might be my favorite of the bunch.

Here’s a tidbit on Follese that you may, or may not be aware of: he originally hit it big on the pop scene. During his successful run fronting the band Hot Chelle Rae, Follese co-wrote their #1 hit “Tonight, Tonight” and toured around the globe, featuring arena dates with none other than Taylor Swift. What really stands out for me is how Follese has seamlessly transitioned from pop-rock to country music. I’ve seen a number of artists go the other direction, and a few that have tried to join the country ranks, but I have a feeling that we’ll look back in a few years and realize that Follese made the right decision.

Anyways, here’s Follese’s first single, “Put a Label on It”. Enjoy:

 

Steve Moakler

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native Steve Moakler moved to Nashville back in 2006, honing his craft in a town where the best singers and songwriters go to find their country music dreams. After performing hundreds of live, local performances, Moakler placed a series of songs with several country artists, including Dierks Bentley, Kellie Pickler and Jake Owen. He also released three independent albums, including 2011’s Watching Time Run, which Moakler funded via a Kickstarter campaign.

Did you know that Moakler co-wrote Bentley‘s hit single, “Riser,”  with Travis Meadows? Yep. What I love about this song, and frankly, every song I’ve heard of his, is that he pours his heart and soul into his music. You can tell that we he plays, he’s playing from the heart. Each and every song tells a story, and that’s something that’s missing in country music today. Moakler isn’t up in your face. Rather, he takes the time to draw you in with lyrical poetry and brings it home with smooth, flawless guitar playing that gets your toes tapping along with the beat.

Moakler’s “Suitcase” was crafted with writers including Luke Laird, Barry Dean and Thomas Rhett. In my opinion, the song deserves more radio airplay than it’s currently seeing. A few stations have been great in getting this song out there, now the word just needs to be spread even more because it’s a hit in waiting.

 

Waterloo Revival

Back when Cody Cooper met George Birge in their Austin, Texas middle school, he inspired him to express himself through music. Good thing because this took them down a path that affected both of their lives.

Later, the duo, now known as Waterloo Revival, began sampling tunes during Nashville songwriter showcases, adopting the town as their new home. They soon caught the attention of Scott Borchetta, President and CEO of Big Machine Label Group, and signed a deal with Big Machine Records just one week later.

While “Hit the Road” and “Bad for You” have found a place on country radio, and have received a positive response from programmers, critics and listeners, Waterloo Revival has a few additional songs that could certainly find their way on the radio.

 

The band’s six song EP, Front Row, came out earlier this year and is available now on iTunes and contains a number of the songs listed above. If you like what you’ve heard (and read), be sure to go pick it up right away.

Concert Review: Eli Young Band, Ryan Follese, Jackie Lee and Brennin “Turn it On” in San Jose, California

Posted November 6, 2016 by Kreuzer33
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Two hours sleep. Yes, I’m writing my latest concert review on only two hours sleep.

However, it was definitely worth it.

For the second night in a row, I was treated to an amazing show at the Rodeo Club in San Jose, California, featuring some great up-and-coming talent, as well as one of my all time favorites: The Eli Young Band. Joining the headliners were Ryan Follese, Jackie Lee and Brennin, and as with other KRTY-hosted shows, this one certainly did not disappoint.

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As the clock struck 9 o’clock, Brennin Hunt (Brennin) was the first artist to take the stage. Brennin is a singer, songwriter, producer and actor who hails from Harrah, Oklahoma. To chase his lifelong dreams, he moved to Nashville back in 2007 and soon after landed his first publishing deal. He began writing and performing songs for numerous television shows while touring and opening for artists across the United States and Canada.

If you like artists such as Thomas Rhett and Sam Hunt, with their blend of country and pop, then Brennin is right up your alley. Brennin gained notoriety in 2011 as a contestant on the first season of Simon Cowell’s “The X Factor” and again in 2015 when he made a guest appearance on ABC’s “Nashville”.

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Currently signed with William Morris Endeavor and Deluge Music Publishing, his latest song, “I Can’t Do This” appears on Vince Gill’s 2016 album Down To My Last Bad Habit. His self-titled, 6 song EP, is available now.

When Brennin first took the stage, I could hear all the girls around me talking about one thing: his looks. But what I noticed about Brennin was how he immediately engaged the crowd with his guitar and voice, while at the same time, showcasing great songwriting skills. Once he had finished his first song, the same girls who merely mentioned his looks just a few minutes earlier, were now saying that they were surprised that he wasn’t just another cute guy with a guitar. The guy is talented, that’s for sure!

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If you haven’t heard his music before, I recommend listening to songs such as his latest single “Lose My Cool”, “Slow Rise” and a favorite of the audience, “Strut”. Here’s his “Promo Performance” of “Lose My Cool”:

Make sure you check out his music on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Amazon. Also, keep up with him via his website or follow him on Twitter at @BrenninMusic and Facebook for his latest news and concert schedule.

After just a few minute respite, KRTY General Manager Nate Deaton took the stage to introduce the second act of the evening, Jackie Lee. Funny story here. Lee wasn’t even on the bill originally, but Deaton found himself sitting next to him on his flight back from the CMA Awards and invited him to play a few songs ahead of Eli Young Band and Ryan Follese. Naturally, he accepted.

jl1

As background, Lee was only six years old when he stepped into a professional recording studio to cut songs with famed country songwriter, musician and producer Carson Chamberlain (Keith Whitley/ Easton Corbin). Lee’s father was a devoted fan of traditional country music, while his mother enjoyed pop hits from the 1980s. As a youngster, he  found himself influenced by everyone from Bob Seger to Justin Timberlake.

After high school, Lee headed to Nashville, and at the age of 19, he signed a recording contract with Republic Nashville. However the deal with Republic ended without the artist releasing anything for the label, and Lee was looking for another chance. He heard a demo of a song called “She Does,” and was curious about the tune until he was told Kenny Chesney had plans to record it. Chesney eventually passed on the tune, which worked out in Lee’s favor when he landed a new record deal with the independent Nashville label Broken Bow. Lee and his team decided “She Does” was the perfect song for his recording debut, and when his version was released in the fall of 2014, it soon landed on the Billboard Country Airplay charts.

jl2

While the crowd was only treated to two songs on this evening, Lee certainly earned new fans. I would say that I was one of them, but that would be a lie. I actually became a fan of Lee’s at an earlier Rodeo Club performance. The guy can sing and he definitely knows how to make an impression on a crowd. I could hear folks all around me talking about how impressed they were with this young, up-and-comer.

His new single, “Getting Over You”, is just hitting country radio and made quite an impression on the audience. Make sure to keep an eye out for it and start requesting it right away. This song has what it takes to quickly climb the charts.

Take a listen:

Make sure you check out his music on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Amazon. Also, keep up with him via his website or follow him on Twitter at @JackieLeeMusic and Facebook for his latest news and concert schedule.

Next up was Big Machine Label Group recording artist Ryan Follese (pronounced “fall-uh-ZAY”). As I have mentioned in a couple of previous posts, I first came across Follese a little over a month ago when I heard KRTY promoting that he would be in San Jose opening up for both Cassadee Pope and Eli Young Band. I’m certainly glad that I didn’t miss either show because Follese is something special. When I talk about artists that you need to drop what you are doing immediately and take a listen to, Follese is one of them.

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For a little background, Follese  co-wrote each of the six tracks on his self-titled debut solo EP, the Ryan Follese EP, including “Put A Label On It,” which hit country radio in October as his first official single and, naturally, was the closing song of the evening. We were also treated to his summer vacation anthem “Float Your Boat.” While the aforementioned songs might have received the notoriety to date, we also had the opportunity to hear a few more, great tracks from the EP such as “Wilder“, “One Thing Right” and “Lose a Little Sleep“.

This might surprise you, but Follese originally hit it big on the pop scene. During his successful run fronting the band Hot Chelle Rae, Follese co-wrote their #1 hit “Tonight, Tonight” and toured around the globe, featuring arena dates with none other than Taylor Swift. What really stands out for me is how Follese has seamlessly transitioned from pop-rock to country music. I’ve seen a number of artists go the other direction, and a few that have tried to join the country ranks, but I have a feeling that we’ll look back in a few years and realize that Follese made the right decision.

It also doesn’t hurt that Follese grew up surrounded by the music of his country music songwriting parents, Keith and Adrienne. Their songwriting catalogue includes songs that he covered on this evening including Tim McGraw’s “Something Like That”, Faith Hill’s “The Way You Love Me” and Martina McBride’s “I Love You”.

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Watching Follese command the stage, it was clear that he is a polished artist who knows how to play the crowd. From the very first note, he had the crowd singing along to every note. That’s one thing that many country artists lack when they first launch their careers.

Make sure you check out his music on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon. Also, keep up with him via his website or follow him on Twitter at @RyanFollese and Facebook for his latest news and concert schedule.

Finally, around 10:15 p.m., it was time for the main event of the evening: Eli Young Band. To give you a little background on the guys, Eli Young Band is composed of members who met while students at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. They include:

  • Mike Eli (vocals and guitar)
  • James Young (guitar)
  • Jon Jones (bass guitar)
  • Chris Thompson (drums)

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Mike Eli and James Young met at the University of North Texas and became dorm roommates their freshman year. They played guitar and eventually began writing and singing songs together. They originally formed the acoustic duo, Eli & Young, while attending school. Thompson and Jones joined them later on and the rest is history!

With the 2011 release of their Republic Nashville debut, Life at Best, the Eli Young Band scored their first No. 1 hit with the aforementioned “Crazy Girl.” The double platinum single became the most played country song of the year on Billboard’s 2011 year end chart. The band’s follow up single (and one of my all-time favorite songs), “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” became their second #1 and was certified platinum. It earned the band Grammy nods for Best Duo/Group Performance and for Best Country Song as well as Single of the Year and Song of the Year nominations from both the CMA and ACM.

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In recording 10,000 Towns, the Eli Young Band gathered songs from Nashville’s top songwriters, including Craig Wiseman, David Lee Murphy, Jon Randall and Will Hoge, and the band wrote half of the songs on the new album themselves. Their careful and detailed approach to writing and finding the very best songs for the new album paid off quickly as their first single off the album, “Drunk Last Night,” became the band’s third #1 hit. The second single, “Dust,” was the #1 most added song on the chart the first week with more than stations on board across the country. The song, my favorite on the latest album, is a rock-tinged number about a girl leaving small town life behind and taking charge of her future.

Their latest single, “Saltwater Gospel”, ranks up there (in my opinion) as one of their best songs to date. The song isn’t one of those Kenny Chesney toes-in-the-sand, beer-in-your-hand kind of summer anthem. It’s more like spending a Sunday morning at the “Church of the Beach”. And it works! Here’s the video, which by the way, was shot just down the road from me at one of my favorite places, Cannon Beach, Oregon:

Ok. So I’ve talked a lot about the band, their background, and their music. But this bears repeating: if you are looking for a legitimate, hard rocking, country band, then the Eli Young Band is it. There are not a lot of bands touring today who I can put in the same bucket as them. Their live show is a real treat. These guys give it their all from the very first note and don’t quite until their set is complete.

What I love is that they mix their new songs with the hits. They don’t shove a show full of new music down your throat, like many do these days. The band understands the needs and wants of their audience. They want to hear songs like “Even if it Breaks Your Heart”, “Dust”, “Crazy Girl”, “Drunk Last Night” and “Always the Love Songs”. They get it. Before they were country music superstars, they were country music fans. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t introduce you to new music. And that’s not a bad thing. They’ll even throw in a cover song or two. A little “Dust on the Bottle”. Some “Learning to Fly” from Tom Petty. I even heard some Fleetwood Mac guitar riffs. Nothing wrong with that at all.

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To summarize, the Eli Young Band tore down the house and the Rodeo Club will never be the same. I can honestly say that I got my money’s worth and more. There are not many acts currently on tour who put on a show like these guys. When they come to your town, make sure you check them out!

Also, you can find their entire catalog of music on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon. You should definitely keep up with them via their website or follow them on Twitter at @EliYoungBand and Facebook for their latest news and concert schedule.

Finally, as always I have to give thanks to the staff at KRTY. Thank you to Nate Deaton, Julie Stevens, Tina Ferguson, Gary Scott Thomas, Randy Jones, Tony Michaels, Indiana Al, etc…for once again bringing the biggest and best talent to the South Bay. No one does it quite like you guys, and it is appreciated more than you could ever know!

Were you at the show? Have you seen Eli Young Band, Ryan Follese, Jackie Lee or Brennin live? Let me know your thoughts on these talented musicians in the comments section below.

Cassadee Pope and Ryan Follese Bring the “Good Times” to San Jose, California

Posted November 5, 2016 by Kreuzer33
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It’s always a treat for me to catch a show at the Rodeo Club when I’m in San Jose, California. Tonight was no different. The folks at KRTY always know talent when they see it and they only bring the best of the best when it comes to up-and-coming country artists.

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The night started off with Big Machine Label Group recording artist Ryan Follese (pronounced “fall-uh-ZAY”). I first came across Follese a little over a month ago when I heard the folks at KRTY promoting that he would be opening for both Cassadee Pope and the Eli Young Band in San Jose. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Follese is something special. When I talk about artists that you need to drop what you are doing immediately and take a listen to, Follese is one. I’ll tell you this: this live show made me an even bigger fan.

As a bit of background, Follese  co-wrote each of the six tracks on his self-titled debut solo EP, the Ryan Follese EP, including “Put A Label On It,” which hit country radio in October as his first official single and, naturally, was the closing song of the evening. We were also treated to his summer vacation anthem “Float Your Boat.” While the aforementioned songs might have received the notoriety to date, we also had the opportunity to hear a few more, great tracks from the EP such as “Wilder“, “One Thing Right” and “Lose a Little Sleep“.

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Here’s a tidbit on Follese that you may, or may not be aware of: he originally hit it big on the pop scene. During his successful run fronting the band Hot Chelle Rae, Follese co-wrote their #1 hit “Tonight, Tonight” and toured around the globe, featuring arena dates with none other than Taylor Swift. What really stands out for me is how Follese has seamlessly transitioned from pop-rock to country music. I’ve seen a number of artists go the other direction, and a few that have tried to join the country ranks, but I have a feeling that we’ll look back in a few years and realize that Follese made the right decision.

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It doesn’t hurt that Follese grew up surrounded by the music of his songwriter parents, Keith and Adrienne. Not a bad household to grow up in! Their songwriting catalogue includes songs that he covered on this evening including Tim McGraw’s “Something Like That”, Faith Hill’s “The Way You Love Me” and Martina McBride’s “I Love You”.

On this evening, Follese brought his “A” game and it was hard to believe that this show was his very first with his full band. By watching Follese command the stage, you could tell that he’s a polished artist who knows how to play the crowd. From the very first note, he had the crowd dancing, singing and clapping along to every note. That’s one thing that many country artists lack when they first launch their careers.

If you see Follese on the bill in your area anytime soon, don’t miss out. This is a guy destined for stardom in country music and you’ll want to catch him now before he starts selling out arenas. I’m telling you, the guy is good…very good!

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Also, if you haven’t checked out Follese before, make sure you check out his music on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon. Also, keep up with him via his website or follow him on Twitter at @RyanFollese and Facebook for his latest news and concert schedule.

Whew. I need to take a breath after that. In fact, I had to do the same after his set because I had to prepare myself for the evening’s headliner, Big Machine Label Group recording artist Cassadee Pope.

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As background, Pope was previously the lead vocalist of the rock band Hey Monday, with whom she released one studio album and three EPs. Pope embarked on a solo career in early 2012, and released her self-titled Cassadee Pope EP in May 2012.

Where many country fans first remember her from is when she took part in the third season of The Voice where Pope found herself under the wing of coach Blake Shelton and became the first female winner of the competition. Her debut solo country album, Frame by Frame, was released in late-2013 and landed in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 charts and also debuted at #1 on the Top Country Albums, selling more than 40,000 copies in its first week.

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Pope toured extensively in support of the album, and spent much of 2014 on the road opening shows for headliners such as Tim McGraw and Dierks Bentley. In 2015, Pope began work on her next recording project, and an advance single, “I Am Invincible,” appeared in July 2015. While the single failed to make the country singles charts, let me tell you, it was fantastic! Upon its release, it received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised Pope’s vocal range as well as the song’s blending of country elements and the rock styling of her time with Hey Monday.

In 2015, Chris Young chose Pope to collaborate with him on the track “Think of You” after hearing her perform. Before he released the song, Young stated that Pope’s voice was “amazing” — and apparently, the admiration between the two stars is mutual. The song has taken over country radio and hit #1 on the charts back in May. Seriously. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing it.

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Speaking of new music, Pope recently released her EP “Summer”. In talking with The Boot about the EP, Pope said:

“I would describe it as a collage of my personality. There’s so many different aspects of me and my colorful imagination, and all different aspects in one body of work. I’m excited for people to see different sides of me that they’ve never seen before.”

On this night, the crowd was treated to each of the songs on the new EP, including “Summer“, “Piano“, “Kisses at Airports” and “Alien“. Also on the setlist were “Good Times“, “Stupid Boy“, and crowd favorites “I Wish I Could Break Your Heart” and “Cinematic“. It’s funny, i don’t think Pope expected the audience reaction she received from “Cinematic”, but the rocking tune got a standing ovation from the San Jose crowd.

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Finally, the evening ended with my personal favorite, “Wasting All These Tears” which was the song that originally introduced me to Pope. While the song received mixed to favorable reviews from a number of music critics, I’ve always felt that this is a fantastic song that demonstrates the passion that she brings to her music. Every time I hear the song on the radio, I feel as if I can directly relate to those being depicted in the song.

That’s what a great song is supposed to do, right?

It’s hard to come up with a way that I can describe Pope’s performance. She is an amazing, amazing singer who has one of the greatest voices I’ve ever heard on the Rodeo Club stage. I truly believe that in Cassadee Pope, you have the next Carrie Underwood, ready to take the country music scene by storm. And I, for one, cannot wait to hear what is next from this talented young woman.

Make sure you check out her music on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon. Also, keep up with him via her website or follow her on Twitter at @CassadeePope and Facebook for her latest news and concert schedule.

As I sit here in my hotel room, reminiscing on another great night of country music, I have to give thanks to KRTY. As always, thank you to Nate Deaton, Julie Stevens, Tina Ferguson, Gary Scott Thomas, Randy Jones, Indiana Al, etc…for once again bringing the best in up-and-coming talent to the South Bay.

Were you at the show? Have you seen Cassadee Pope or Ryan Follese live? Let me know your thoughts on these talented musicians in the comments section below.

Artist Spotlight: Ryan Follese

Posted October 26, 2016 by Kreuzer33
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As many of you know already, I’ve written about a lot of up-and-coming country music artists. Obviously, there are a lot of musicians out there trying to find their place in , but not everyone is destined for stardom. Today, you are in for a real treat.

I first came across Big Machine Label Group recording artist Ryan Follese (that’s “fall-uh-ZAY”) when I heard the folks at KRTY promoting that he would be opening for both Cassadee Pope and the Eli Young Band in San Jose in early November. I was lucky enough to be in California that week to catch both shows and let me tell you this: he is something special. When I talk about artists that you need to drop what you are doing immediately and take a listen to, Follese is one.

Ryan Follese Float Your Boat Single

As a bit of background, Ryan Follese  co-wrote each of the six tracks on his self-titled debut solo EP, including “Put A Label On It,” which hit country radio earlier this month as his first official single.

Additionally, SiriusXM kickstarted the launch this summer, selecting Follese as their “Highway Find” and spinning his summer vacation anthem “Float Your Boat.” Selling more than 40,000 downloads to date, and amassing nearly 2 million streams, the Ryan Follese EP was recorded with producers Dann Huff and Cameron Montgomery in Nashville. While the aforementioned songs might have received the notoriety to date, don’t miss other great tracks such as “Wilder“, “One Thing Right” and “Lose a Little Sleep“. “Wilder” might be my favorite of the bunch.

In speaking with The Boot, Follese described the EP as follows:

“It is definitely country. It is a look into my life over the last year, which, in my existence so far, has been the most real-life stuff that’s happened to me in the last year. You won’t get that all from the lyrics necessarily, but the meaning and how much heart and effort I put into this is a result of just coming of age, I guess.”

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Now you may not know this, but Follese originally hit it big on the pop scene. During his successful run fronting the band Hot Chelle Rae, Follese co-wrote their #1 hit “Tonight, Tonight” and toured around the globe, featuring arena dates with none other than Taylor Swift. You might not remember, but Follett performed on the 2012 CMT Music Awards with Lady Antebellum, secured a performance on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest and wrote“Thug Story” with Swift and T-Pain. Follese also earned the 2012 American Music Awards’ Best New Artist award. Not bad, right?

Recently, Follese refocused his songwriting, going back to his country roots to incorporate the storytelling lyrics and influences he was raised on. It doesn’t hurt that he grew up surrounded by the music of his songwriter parents, Keith and Adrienne. Not a bad household to grow up in! Their songwriting catalogue includes major hits for Tim McGraw (Something Like That), Faith Hill (The Way You Love Me), Little Texas (Life Goes On), Lonestar (Smile) and Martina McBride (I Love You). Currently previewing his new music nationwide, Follese has been tapped for Live Nation’s ‘Ones To Watch’ Tour with headliner (and one of my personal favorites) LOCASH.

What really stands out for me is how Follese has seamlessly transitioned from pop-rock to country music. I’ve seen a number of artists go the other direction, and a few that have tried to join the country ranks, but I have a feeling that we’ll look back in a few years and realize that Follese made the right decision. Granted, he has the advantage of some strong country music lineage, but he’s done this for himself.

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When speaking of his transition in an interview with Sounds Like Nashville, Follese said:

“It is coming back to my roots. I wish there was a better way to say it but it really, that’s what it is. I grew up surrounded in country and I feel like that’s what made me want to start a rock band to begin with. Just like, you revolt against your parents. Country music was the only thing I knew until I was a teenager and then I was like ‘oh, I want to be in a rock band!’”

Additionally, here’s what Follese had to say to The Boot:

“Country chose me. Everything I wrote for the last few years came out this way. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up in it; I don’t know if it’s because it comes more natural to me. That and the combination of, this is the way to tell the stories I want to tell. The things that I’m going through that I want to do, and being close to my family and being here in Nashville, this is the way to live for me, and that is something that I want to grow old in.”

If you haven’t checked out Ryan Follese before, make sure you check out his music on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon. Also, keep up with him via his website or follow him on Twitter at @RyanFollese and Facebook for his latest news and concert schedule.

I just included Follese as one of fifteen country music artists you need to have on your playlist, so make sure you go and give him a listen.

So what did I miss? Have you seen Ryan Follese live? What do you think of this guy?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

New Artist Spotlight: Blakemore

Posted October 5, 2016 by Kreuzer33
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I’m gonna preface this post upfront: the tagline of this blog has always been “a little bit country and a little bit rock n roll”. Today, we see the rock n roll side of my musical taste. I don’t write about rock music as much as I do country music, and that’s a shame, but when I do, you had better take notice.

So where am I going with this?

Well, it’s simple. I was recently made aware of a group that needs some attention and that’s what I plan to bring you today. Just when you thought Carrie Underwood was the quintessential “American Idol”, here comes up-and-comers Blakemore to turn the term right on its head.

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As a bit of background, Blakemore is three piece rock band hailing from Nashville, Tennessee. Blakemore brings a rhythmic rock sound that is full of textures and unique sonic soundscapes that brings a fresh take to the modern musical mundane.

Blakemore brings a unique sound to the table which is achieved through an amazing use of manipulated guitar fx, rock steady rhythm and bass guitars and an awesome drum foundation. Check this out: there is no use of keyboards, synthesizers or the crutch of backing tracks used to achieve the sound of Blakemore…and i totally dig that!

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With looks right out of a Tim Burton nightmare, and a fresh rock sound, I have to say that the future is bright for Blakemore. I can’t put my finger on who exactly they remind me of, so I can’t give you a specific example (like I said, these guys are VERY unique in their appearance and sound) but here’s a few bands I’ll lump them in with: Our Lady Peace,  Incubus, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Deftones and in a way, the Goo Goo Dolls.

Does that help?

Anyways, onto more important things. As I alluded to earlier, Blakemore has just released their first single, #AmericanIdol, which certainly brought the group to my attention. Here’s the music video:

 

What did you think? Pretty cool, right?

I love the lyrics:

“You sign the line and light the big cigar. The shiny lights and all the fancy cars. But people really don’t know who you are.”

“What’s the hurry. Why you even worried man. We’re gonna make you be a big rock star.”

“What’s the worry. Lines are getting blurry man. We’re gonna make you into who you are.”

Sounds like how the music business works these days, right? Turning people into who they want them to be. Blakemore tackles this in #AmericanIdol and I won’t lie when I say that I’ve already got the chorus stuck in my head.

#AmericanIdol is available on all major download and streaming services. Check it out on iTunesReverbNation and Spotify.

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You’ll be hearing a lot more from Blakemore before the end of this year. The band is planning to release a new single on October 28 called “Pushing Daisies” and another single is in the pipeline to be released on December 16 called “Revelator”. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes out for both! For now, go check out #AmericanIdol.

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For more information about Blakemore Music, be sure to visit their website and follow the band on Twitter at @BlakemoreMusic and on Facebook.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Concert Review: James Wesley Crashes California

Posted October 1, 2016 by Kreuzer33
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While the past two days in California have been a real whirlwind, I have to say that they have been two of the most fun I have ever had in my 30+ years of attending concerts (that’s right, I saw my first actual concert at the age of 7).

Not only did I have the opportunity to catch one James Wesley show (at the San Benito County Fair), I had just enough time before my Saturday morning flight out of San Jose to take in a second the following night at Mavericks Country Lounge in Pleasanton.

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So where to begin…

If you’ve been living under a rock the past few years, and can actually say that you don’t know who Wesley is, then let me quickly educate you for a moment. With radio hits such as “Real”, “Didn’t I”, “Jackson Hole” and “Thank a Farmer”, Wesley has been getting airplay for quite some time now across the country. Special thanks go out to a number of  California stations such as 95.3 KRTY, KAT Country 103 and 101.9 The Wolf  who continue to keep Wesley on their playlists.

But let’s be REAL for a second. To this day, Wesley is not getting enough airplay (in my opinion) and I can’t stress enough that if you see him in concert one time, you’ll be hooked.

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Now, before I go too far, I can’t forget the rest of the band including Michael Blakemore, Jesse LaFave, Neil Alexander and Travis Laws because they’re pretty damn good at what they do. To be a successful solo artist, you need a supporting cast that plays as a team. Cohesion, combined with hard work and dedication, is key to a successful live show. These guys have all of these attributes, and I would have to say that they are some of the hardest workers in the industry and deserve to be recognized for the effort they put in night in and night out to make a James Wesley show what it is.

Now onto the show itself.

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People often ask me: what’s the best way to describe a James Wesley show? How about high energy. How about highly entertaining. How about worth every penny. Do you get the idea? I’ll put it another way: just like me, it’s a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll! I could go on and on with descriptors but I don’t want to bore you with my ranting.

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Most importantly, he’s also VERY passionate about his music and his fans. He writes, or co-writes most of his own songs and both he, and the band, play their heart out each and every time they take the stage. Plus, Wesley is one of those guys on Twitter (@jameswesley1) who loves to engage with his fans. Make sure to give him a follow and check him out on Facebook. Trust me. He’s as friendly in-person as he is on Twitter and really makes every effort to get to know each and every one of his fans. I wish more artists would follow his lead.

Now, back to the show(s). Besides the staple set list songs that I mentioned earlier (Jackson Hole, Real, Didn’t I, Thank a Farmer) we were also treated once again with a selection of “new” songs that haven’t made it on the radio yet.

Heck, maybe we can find them on an album in the near future (side note for Broken Bow Records: I would LOVE to see a James Wesley live album to showcase his talent).

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I’ve said this before, but i want to be sure that I touch upon this again in this review: there are a few songs that I expect will be hits in the near future, if given the opportunity. These songs include: “Cornfield”, “Trouble I Like”, “The You I Wanna Know”, “Running” (co-written with Marcum Stewart and Zac Wrixon), “You Should Be Here with Me”, “Do What You Gotta Do” and “See You on the Radio”. These are just a few songs that continue to stick out for me as having the potential to be radio hits. The later, was the closing song on the set for this show and it certainly has the legs to make a solid run on country radio.

Other songs, such as “Rooster” and “Walking Contradiction” are two that always jump out at me during the live shows. Both of these tunes always get the crowd on their feet, and at both shows this week, I can safely say that they did it again. Particularly at the Pleasanton show where you had scores of attendees performing aerial dance maneuvers during each.

But while it’s always great to hear original songs, let’s not forget about the beauty of the cover song. Especially at a live show. One thing that Wesley and the band like to do is mix their own music with the sounds of Merle Haggard, George Jones and Johnny Cash. Some “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive” and “Mama Tried”. A little “White Lightning”. Even an encore of “Folsom Prison Blues”. Fantastic stuff.

As always, I’ve done a lot of talking here. But Wesley and his band are worth my gift of gab. I do want to reiterate this once again: there are only a few artists that I give a five star recommendation to. James Wesley is one of them. If there is one artist that you see in concert in the coming year, make sure that it’s Wesley.

From he and the band’s stage presence, to the love of the music to the time he and the band spend with their fans, it is not just a concert. It really is an experience that music lovers of all ages, and across genres, will enjoy. Trust me, you won’t regret spending $10, $15, $20 or more to see these guys live!

I didn’t get to mention that I was able to enjoy the company of Wesley and the band following both shows: once at Wingstop (Hollister) and once at In n Out (Pleasanton). It was fun to just hang out and chat. Talk about the shows. The music business. Our friends and family. Sports. Whatever there is to talk about at 2 a.m. It’s the little things like this that remind you that musicians are people…just like us. They go to work. They have families. They spend a lot of time on the road. Sometimes we all just need to sit back and realize that we have one life to live…and enjoy it! It certainly seems like these guys are doing just that!

So that’s it. Two more shows in the books. I had a fantastic time and as I sit here at the airport, getting ready for my flight back to Portland, I’m once again going back through the photos and videos and realizing what a great two days it was!

So have you seen Wesley and the band in concert? What did you think? Please leave your comments and thoughts in the comments below! I would love to hear about your similar experiences!

Brandy Clark and Steve Moakler Put Songwriting Talents Front and Center in San Jose, California

Posted August 18, 2016 by Kreuzer33
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It’s been quite a whirlwind the past few weeks and my travels have kept me away from the Bay Area for a few weeks now. Unfortunately, this has meant that I haven’t been able to attend any shows at the Rodeo Club for quite some time.

Well, that all changed this week when I found myself in town on a Wednesday night, and wouldn’t you know it, KRTY had two of my up-and-coming favorites on stage on the same night. Ladies and gentleman, if you haven’t been introduced to Brandy Clark and Steve Moakler, you’re about to get a formal introduction.

 

I’ll dive in first with the opening act, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native Steve Moakler. As background, Moakler moved to Nashville back in 2006, honing his craft in a town where the best singers and songwriters go to find their country music dreams. After performing hundreds of live, local performances, Moakler placed a series of songs with several country artists, including Dierks Bentley, Kellie Pickler and Jake Owen. He also released three independent albums, including 2011’s Watching Time Run, which Moakler funded via a Kickstarter campaign.

I talked about how Moakler placed songs for a number of country music artists, but he is well-known, and highly regarded, as one of Nashville’s most respected, up-and-coming songwriters. In fact, Rolling Stone tabbed Moakler as one of “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know”. The magazine called him a “thoughtful singer-songwriter fare in the blue-collar vein of Springsteen, with an Americana bent.”

Did you know that Moakler co-wrote Bentley‘s recent single, “Riser,”  with Travis Meadows? Yep. Naturally, he performed “Riser” during his San Jose set, and was one of the highlights of the performance. However, for me, the highlight of Moakler’s set was a fantastic cover of The Eagles “Take it Easy”. Not only is this one of my all-time favorite songs, Moakler pulled it off in a way that even The Eagles would have been impressed…that is, once we got to hear the third verse. I can neither confirm, nor deny, that the second verse might have been repeated.

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Getting back to his own music, for the first single from his new album, Moakler turned to a song that I first heard earlier this year, “Suitcase“. In fact, it landed at #45 in my “Top 50 of 2016…So Far“. The song was crafted with writers including Luke Laird, Barry Dean and Thomas Rhett and, in my opinion, deserves more radio airplay than it’s currently seeing. Stations like KRTY and others have been great in getting this song out there to their listening audience, now the word just needs to be spread even more because it’s a hit in waiting.

I’ve got to admit, Moakler’s performance was exactly what I expected…and more. Stripped down, professional, and a fantastic experience. What I love is that he pours his heart and soul into his music. You can tell that we he plays, he’s playing from the heart. Each and every song tells a story, and that’s something that’s missing in country music today. Moakler isn’t up in your face. Rather, he takes the time to draw you in with lyrical poetry and brings it home with smooth, flawless guitar playing that gets your toes tapping along with the beat.

If you get the chance to catch Steve Moakler when he’s in town, make sure you get there early and grab a spot right up front. You won’t regret it.

Before you do anything else today, make sure to check out Moakler on Facebook and follow him on Twitter at @stevemoakler. Also, don’t forget to check out his music on iTunes.

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Credit: Rudy Sabin (www.rudysabin.com)

Speaking of talented songwriters, they don’t come much better than the headlining act of the evening: Brandy Clark.

With songs recorded by the likes of Billy Currington, Darius Rucker, Miranda Lambert, The Band Perry, Reba McEntire, Sheryl Crow, LeAnn Rimes and Kacey Musgraves, Clark is certainly well-known and well-respected in the industry. In fact, Clark is a four-time Grammy Award nominee, including a nominee for Best New Artist at the 2015 awards.

As a bit of background, Clark hails from Morton, Washington, a logging town of less than 1,000 people, located in the shadow of Mount St. Helens.

Growing up, Clark was influenced by a variety of country music artists including Barbara Mandrell, Ronnie Milsap, Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn. She first picked up a guitar at the age of nine and made her singing debut in school musicals. When she entered her first year of college, she started to get more serious about music, taking guitar lessons and joining a band along with her mother and a friend. As a teenager, she discovered the music business program at Belmont University, so she enrolled and moved to Nashville in 1998. After graduation, Clark landed a job with Leadership Music, which led to her eventual publishing deal.

Credit: KRTY

Like Moakler, Clark excels at her storytelling through her music. She is far and away one of the greatest songwriters I have ever had the pleasure of listening to and her live performance only extenuates her talent. On this evening, the audience was treated to a mix of tunes she wrote for The Band Perry (Better Dig Two) and Miranda Lambert (Mama’s Broken Heart), as well as a selection of songs both old and new.

Clark has a new album out, “Big Day in a Small Town“, which tells the stories of the football star, the father, the homecoming queen and the hairdresser. Why? Because those are the stories and people that Clark grew up knowing in her “small town”.

Check out the tracklist below, which includes a who’s who in songwriting credits:

1. “Soap Opera” – Brandy Clark/Bryan Simpson

2. “Girl Next Door” – Brandy Clark/Jessie Jo Dillon/Shane McAnally

3. “Homecoming Queen” – Brandy Clark/Luke Laird/Shane McAnally

4. “Broke” – Brandy Clark/Shane McAnally/Josh Osborne

5. “You Can Come Over” – Brandy Clark/Jessie Jo Dillon/Mark Narmore

6. “Love Can Go to Hell” – Brandy Clark/Scott Stepakoff

7. “Big Day in a Small Town” – Brandy Clark/Shane McAnally/Mark D. Sanders

8. “Three Kids No Husband” – Brandy Clark/Lori McKenna

9. “Daughter” – Brandy Clark/Jessie Jo Dillon/Jeremy Spillman

10. “Drinkin’ Smokin’ Cheatin'” – Brandy Clark

11. “Since You’ve Gone to Heaven” – Brandy Clark/Shane McAnally

There were a few highlights of the evening for me, but one that stood out for me was her performance of “Daughter“, which could be due to the fact that I relate to the lyrics, having two daughters of my own. In fact, one is only a couple years from dating age. Also, I’ve always loved “Stripes” so I was glad that this song found its way on the setlist.

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Another highlight would be the live performance of “Girl Next Door“, a song which goes back to the roots of country music and also landed at #18 in my “Top 50 of 2016…So Far“. This song, like all of Clark’s music, is what country music needs today..a swift kick in the ass!

I’ve said this before, and will say it again, too much of today’s music is lacking substance. Many of the artists, and songs, are cookie cutter. For the most part, there’s no real feeling. No emotion. Yes, there are some great songs being written, but they’re being buried and that’s a damn shame.

Artists like Brandy Clark are what country music needs. I can’t stress her songwriting talents enough. I could never do justice. Don’t believe me, go take a listen. I guaranteed you’ll be hooked right away.

Clark is active on social media so make sure to check her out on Facebook and follow her on Twitter at@TheBrandyClark. You can also pick up her new album on iTunes. Don’t delay. Go out do it now!

As I sit here reminiscing on another great night of country music, I have to give thanks to KRTY. As always, thank you to Nate Deaton, Julie Stevens, Tina Ferguson, Gary Scott Thomas, Randy Jones, Indiana Al, etc…for once again bringing the best in up-and-coming talent to the South Bay.

I also have to give thanks to one of the best photographers out there…Rudy Sabin (see his photo above). The guy is incredible. Be sure to check out his website for some samples of his work and follow him on Twitter at @rudyphoto.

Were you at the show? Have you seen Steve Moakler or Brandy Clark live? Let me know your thoughts on these talented, talented musicians in the comments section below.