Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Year in Review: My Top 100 Country Music Songs of 2017

December 7, 2017

It’s that time of year again where I like to take a quick look at my favorite country music songs of the year. We’re just about to the end, so now is as good a time as any, right?

Now, let me preface this list as I always do.

  • I’m not a professional music reviewer.
  • I don’t get paid to promote artists.
  • I don’t go by Billboard or radio airplay charts.

This list consists of the top 100 songs that I liked in 2017. The songs that I wanted to come on my radio while driving to and from work, on a road trip, or when I was just sitting at home. Note that not all songs may be “traditional country”. I listen to all genre’s of music, so I have no issues with country artists who play “non-traditional” country. To me…music is music. If I like it, I’m going to listen to it (and enjoy it).

By the way, my three kids had input into this list so some songs might have ended up higher than I might have put them myself. But hey…I value their opinions!

Also, you’ll notice that a lot of mainstream, radio hits by major artists are not included. No reason except for the fact that my list is not based on how famous you are. Simple as that. It’s the songs that I love (but please feel free to sway me in your direction if I left a song off).

You probably heard some of these songs every hour (on the hour) on your local country station. Others may not have been played much (if at all) when they should have been, in my own, personal opinion. Also, while some of these songs may have come out in late 2016, and may have even landed a low spot on my wrap up of the year, they were ones that were predominantly played (if they made the radio) in the 2017 calendar year.

Others may be primed for success next year so keep your ears open!

Either way, I’m sure that I’m going to leave quite a few songs off this list that could have easily made it. I know this going in and expect each and every one of you to say “hey, what about this song…or that song.” Please do.

Fight for the music and artists that YOU love!!!!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go through each entry and provide detailed background on the song, reasons for it’s placement, etc…But, feel free to leave a comment and I’d be happy to respond.

Now, without further ado, let’s get this party started:

100. “Ballad of 1892“, Jeremy Pinnell

99. “What I Wanna Be“, Jacob Davis

98. “Better Now“, Jericho Woods

97. “My Ex“, Emma White

96. “Free Drinks“, Faren Rachels

95. “Either Way“, Chris Stapleton

94. “Sky Stays This Blue“, Dallas Smith

93. “Sway“, Danielle Bradbery

92. “We Don’t Sleep“, Denny Strickland

91. “Different Kind of Love“, Casey James

90. “The Way I Talk“, Morgan Wallen

89. “Hillbilly Love Song (Hey Y’all)” Little Feather

88. “Lonely Call“, RaeLynn

87. “Love in a Bar“, Ryan Hurd

86. “Get While the Gettin’s Good“, Bobby Wills

85. “11:59 (Central Standard Time), The Railers

84. “Sing Along“, Kristian Bush

83. “Hide the Wine“, Carly Pearce

82. “Hell of a Highway“, Jake Worthington

81. “No Peace in Quiet“, Delta Rae

80. “High Time for a Good Time“, Hillbilly Vegas

79. “Makin’ Me Look Good Again“, Drake White

78. “Stuck in my Head“, Craig Wayne Boyd

77. “Good Company“, Jake Owen

76. “Kiss Somebody“, Morgan Evans

75. “Put a Label on It“, Ryan Follese

74. “Ring on Every Finger“, LoCash

73. “Rollin“, Jackson Michelson

72. “Stay Downtown“, Cole Swindell

71. “She Got Me“, Cash Creek

70. “Wheels“, Steve Moakler

69. “All on Me“, Devin Dawson

68. “More Girls Like You“, Kip Moore

67. “I Could Use a Love Song“, Maren Morris

66. “Worth the Wait“, Lindsay Ell

65. “Settle for a Small Town“, Mark Mackay

64. “Hometown Girl“, Josh Turner

63. “Own It“, Bailey Bryan

62. “Three Chords & the Truth“, Chase Rice

61. “Somebody Else Will“, Justin Moore

60. “Craving You“, Thomas Rhett featuring Maren Morris

59. “Written in the Sand“, Old Dominion

58. “You Look Good“, Lady Antebellum

57. “The Long Way“, Brett Eldredge

56. “Legends“, Kelsea Ballerini

55. “God Bless This Mess“, Jillian Jacqueline

54. “Dive Bar in Dahlonga“, Ashley McBryde

53. “Missing“, William Michael Morgan

52. “Tin Man“, Miranda Lambert

51. “Diane“, Cam

50. “WD-40“, Muscadine Bloodline

49. “My Old Man“, Zac Brown Band

48. “Wild West“, Runaway June

47. “Our Side“, Michael Beck

46. “Last Time for Everything“, Brad Paisley

45. “Sunday Morning“, Parmalee

44. “California“, Big & Rich

43. “Preachin’ to the Choir“, A Thousand Horses

42. “Think a Little Less“, Michael Ray

41.  “Yours“, Russell Dickerson

40. “Bottle By My Bed“, Sunny Sweeney

39. “What Guy Wouldn’t“, Waterloo Revival

38. “A Girl Like You“, Easton Corbin

37. “Singles You Up“, Jordan Davis

36. “Like You That Way“, Canaan Smith

35. “Getting Over You“, Jackie Lee

34. “Clean Up on Aisle Five“, Mo Pitney

33. “Losing Sleep“, Chris Young

32. “Love Can Go to Hell“, Brandy Clark

31. “Crazy About You“, The Road Hammers

30. “Never Land“, Eli Young Band

29. “Ask Me How I Know“, Garth Brooks

28. “Broken Halos“, Chris Stapleton

27. “Heaven on Down the Highway“, Halfway to Hazard

26. “Happens Like That“, Granger Smith

25. “Five More Minutes“, Scotty McCreery

24. “How Not To“, Dan and Shay

23. “In Case You Didn’t Know“, Brett Young

22. “Heartache on the Dance Floor“, John Pardi

21. “Make a Little“, Midland

20. “Just a Phase“, Adam Craig

19. “Speakers, Bleachers and Preachers“, Brandon Lay

18. “Woke Up in Nashville“, Seth Ennis

17. “Hurricane“, Luke Combs

16. “What Ifs“, Kane Brown featuring Lauren Alaina

15. “She’s with Me“, High Valley

14. “All the Pretty Girls“, Kenny Chesney

13. “The Hard Way“, Cash Creek

12. “You Broke Up with Me“, Walker Hayes

11. “Body Like a Backroad“, Sam Hunt

10. “Bridges“, A Thousand Horses

9. “Drinkin’ Problem“, Midland

8. “Greatest Love Story“, LANco

7. “Every Little Thing“, Carly Pearce

6. “When it Rains it Pours“, Luke Combs

5. “Fix a Drink“, Chris Janson

4. “Outta Style“, Aaron Watson

3. “It Ain’t My Fault“, Brothers Osborne

2. “Roots“, Zac Brown Band

1. “No Such Thing as a Broken Heart“, Old Dominion

 

Well that’s it. My Top 100 of 2017!

Where did I hit the nail on the head? Where did the arrow miss the mark?

I want to hear from you!

Let me know in the comments below!

Advertisements

James Wesley Brings “Real” Country Music to Goldendale, Washington

November 10, 2017

Goldendale, Washington.

You might ask the question: What brings someone out to this small community of approximately 4,000 people just north of the Columbia River Gorge?

Well, for one thing, how about the music of James Wesley!

This summer, I took the family 3 hours East to catch a show at the Klickitat County Fair and Rodeo. My kids have been fans for years, but due to circumstances (such as playing 21 and over shows at the bar) they haven’t had the chance to catch a live performance.

I can tell you that they weren’t disappointed.

1

Frankly, anytime Wesley and his band make the trek out to the West Coast, I pretty much do whatever it takes to take in at least one show. There aren’t many performers in country music today like Wesley. While much of the genre has gone pop, he continues to stick to his traditional roots and he always brings his “A” game to his live performances.

First a little background…

Let me quickly educate you on this artist for a moment. With 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.

People often ask me: what’s the best way to describe one of his shows? 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.

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.

2

Now, back to the show. Being in a small, farming community, you can expect that Wesley was able to find an immediate connection with the crowd. And he certainly did. While not the size of a stadium show, Wesley packed in what seemed to be half the town on a chilly, breezy summer night.

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 (but perhaps on an upcoming album?).

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” 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.

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. However, 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, Hank Williams Jr. and Johnny Cash. Some “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive” and “Mama Tried”. A little “White Lightning”. Even a special treat with “Family Tradition”.

Fantastic stuff.

However, most importantly, the band did a fantastic rendition of my kids favorite song, “Hooked Up”. He even dedicated it to them in advance. I can tell you that this made their day. They are STILL talking about it!

3

I’ll admit, I have a personal connection to the song. It doesn’t make me biased. Anyone who knows me knows that I shoot from the hip in all of my reviews. This review is no different.

My step father, who passed away a few years ago, was a fisherman his entire life. He used to tell all those fish stories that you always hear about. Catching the “big one” and “the one that got away”. He told them all. He participated in tournaments around the country. He spent years in Alaska. He even owned his own charter in Bodega Bay/Tomales Bay, California. Bald Eagle Fishing. I’ll never forget it.

The first time I heard the song was only a few short weeks after he passed. At the time I was devastated (after losing my birth father only 6 months earlier). That first time brought tears streaming down my face. Just listening to the lyrics reminded me of all of the good times. The fishing stories. Knowing that he would have absolutely LOVED this song. Hearing “Hooked Up” for the first time brought a smile back to my face for the first time in weeks.

That’s the mark of a great song. Bringing pure emotion out of me…the listener. That’s what great music is all about, right?

4

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!

As always, I had a fantastic time and as I sit here writing this review, I’m once again going back through the photos and realizing what night it was!

5

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!

 

 

Half Year in Review: My Top 50 Country Music Songs of 2017…So Far

June 10, 2017

It’s that time of year again where I like to take a quick look at my favorite country music songs of the year so far. We’re just about at the halfway point so now is as good a time as any, right?

Now, let me preface this list as I always do.

  • I’m not a professional music reviewer.
  • I don’t get paid to promote artists.
  • I don’t go by Billboard or radio airplay charts.

This list consists of the top 50 songs that I like so far in 2017. The songs that I wanted to come on my radio while driving to and from work, on a road trip, or when I was just sitting at home. Note that not all songs may be “traditional country”. I listen to all genre’s of music, so I have no issues with country artists who play “non-traditional” country. To me…music is music. If I like it, I’m going to listen to it (and enjoy it).

By the way, my three kids had input into this list so some songs might have ended up higher than I might have put them myself. But hey…I value their opinions!

Also, you’ll notice that a lot of mainstream, radio hits by major artists are not included. No reason except for the fact that my list is not based on how famous you are. Simple as that. It’s the songs that I love (but please feel free to sway me in your direction if I left a song off).

You probably heard some of these songs every hour (on the hour) on your local country station. Others may not have been played much (if at all) when they should have been, in my own, personal opinion. Also, while some of these songs may have come out in late 2016, and may have even landed a low spot on my wrap up of the year, they were ones that were predominantly played (if they made the radio) so far in the 2017 calendar year.

Others may be primed for success later this year so keep your ears open!

Either way, I’m sure that I’m going to leave quite a few songs off this list that could have easily made it. I know this going in and expect each and every one of you to say “hey, what about this song…or that song.” Please do. Fight for the music and artists that YOU love!!!!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go through each entry and provide detailed background on the song, reasons for it’s placement, etc…But, feel free to leave a comment and I’d be happy to respond.

And now, Without further ado, let’s get this party started with my standard three way tie at #50:

(T) 50. “WD-40“, Muscadine Bloodline

(T) 50. “Different Kind of Love“, Casey James

(T) 50. “Worth the Wait“, Lindsay Ell

49. “Get While the Gettin’s Good“, Bobby Wills

48. “11:59 (Central Standard Time), The Railers

47. “Sing Along“, Kristian Bush

46. “What I Wanna Be“, Jacob Davis

45. “Settle for a Small Town“, Mark Mackay

44. “Wheels“, Steve Moakler

43. “High Time for a Good Time“, Hillbilly Vegas

42. “Makin’ Me Look Good Again“, Drake White

41. “Dive Bar in Dahlonga“, Ashley McBryde

40. “Put a Label on It“, Ryan Follese

39. “More Girls Like You“, Kip Moore

38. “Ring on Every Finger“, LoCash

27. “Think a Little Less“, Michael Ray

36. “Heaven on Down the Highway“, Halfway to Hazard

35. “Own It“, Bailey Bryan

34. “You Look Good“, Lady Antebellum

33. “Missing“, William Michael Morgan

32. “Hell of a Highway“, Jake Worthington

31. “What Guy Wouldn’t“, Waterloo Revival

30. “Love Can Go to Hell“, Brandy Clark

29. “Five More Minutes“, Scotty McCreery

28. “Just a Phase“, Adam Craig

27. “Getting Over You“, Jackie Lee

26. “Heartache on the Dance Floor“, John Pardi

25. “Singles You Up“, Jordan Davis

24. “Sunday Morning“, Parmalee

23. “Craving You“, Thomas Rhett featuring Maren Morris

22. “Crazy About You“, The Road Hammers

21. “She’s with Me“, High Valley

20. “Happens Like That“, Granger Smith

19. “How Not To“, Dan and Shay

18. “Woke Up in Nashville“, Seth Ennis

17. “Like You That Way“, Canaan Smith

16. “Never Land“, Eli Young Band

15. “Hurricane“, Luke Combs

14. “In Case You Didn’t Know“, Brett Young

13. “Broken Halos“, Chris Stapleton

12. “All the Pretty Girls“, Kenny Chesney

11. “Preachin’ to the Choir“, A Thousand Horses

10. “The Hard Way“, Cash Creek

9. “Body Like a Backroad“, Sam Hunt

8. “Greatest Love Story“, LANco

7. “Every Little Thing“, Carly Pearce

6. “When it Rains it Pours“, Luke Combs

5. “Outta Style“, Aaron Watson

4. “Drinkin’ Problem“, Midland

3. “Fix a Drink“, Chris Janson

2. “No Such Thing as a Broken Heart“, Old Dominion

1. “It Ain’t My Fault“, Brothers Osborne

 

Well that’s it. My Top 50 of 2017…so far!

Where did I hit the nail on the head? Where did the arrow miss the mark?

Let me know in the comments below!

Concert Review: James Wesley Returns to California with “Real” Country Music

May 12, 2017

When you travel around the country on business all the time, it doesn’t seem odd when you plan a trip around a concert. I’ve been known to do it in the past…and I know I will again in the future. That’s why I jumped on a flight from Portland, Oregon, to San Jose, California to catch a show on May 4, 2017, at The District Theater in Gilroy.

JW_Gilroy1

Frankly, anytime James Wesley and his band make the trek out to the West Coast, I pretty much do whatever it takes to take in at least one show. There aren’t many performers in country music today like Wesley. While much of the genre has gone pop, Wesley continues to stick to his traditional roots and he always brings his “A” game to his live performances.

First a little background…

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.

Now, before I go too far, I can’t forget the rest of the band including Michael Blakemore, Jesse LaFave and Matt Morgensen, 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.

JW_Gilroy_Band

Now onto the show itself.

Prior to James Wesley taking the stage, the audience was treated to the music of California’s own Mark Mackay who just released his new album, Trials & Tribulations, on May 1. Trials & Tribulations was recorded with producer, Phil Dixon and mixed by Christian James Hand. On this night, Mackay played a number of songs off the eight-track collection, of which many were written solely by Mackay. The album demonstrates his songwriting and authentic sound that bridges country and rock-and-roll music.

Mackay

A few of the songs that jumped out to me were I’ve Already Won”, “I Can’t Stop You”, the traditional “Reno” and my personal favorite “Settle for a Small Town”. I’m not gonna lie…immediately after the set, I went over to the merch table and bought the album and listened to it on the way back to the San Jose airport in my rental car. Really…really good stuff! But thinking back, I should have had him sign it when he was walking around later in the evening. Missed opportunity!

Mackay2

Credit: Patti Sue

Anyways, if you want to purchase it for yourself, please follow this link. Also, for more information on new music and tour news, make sure you go follow Mark Mackay across all of his social sites including Facebook and Twitter at @M2Mackay.

Mackay3

Credit: Patti Sue

Now onto the main event of the evening: James Wesley!

People often ask me: what’s the best way to describe one of his shows? 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.

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 (but perhaps on an album?).

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” 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, which is typically the closing song on the set for his shows, unfortunately didn’t make the cut this time around due to time constraints, but it is still one of my favorite and one I expect to hear on the radio in the future.

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. However, 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, Hank Williams Jr. and Johnny Cash. Some “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive” and “Mama Tried”. A little “White Lightning”. Even a special treat with “Family Tradition”.

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.

JW_GIlroy_Solo

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!

As always, I had a fantastic time and as I sit here writing this review on another flight, I’m once again going back through the photos and videos and realizing what night it was! Special thanks to Rudy Sabin of Rudy Sabin Photography for taking so many great photos!

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!

New Music: A Thousand Horses Keeps on “Preachin’ to the Choir”

April 12, 2017

A Thousand Horses is back and better than ever with a brand-new single from their forthcoming sophomore album. Written by Heather Morgan, Morgan Wallen, Brad Warren and Brett Warren, the new track, “Preachin’ to the Choir”, is best described as a tribute to the hard-working, hard-partying everyday people that make up the United States of America.

Preach

I mentioned the songwriters earlier, but here’s a bit of trivia for you. What was the first song that A Thousand Horses recorded that they didn’t write themselves? If you guess “Preachin’ to the Choir”, then give yourself ten points. However, even though the band didn’t write it, doesn’t mean “Preachin’ to the Choir” takes away from their signature sound and lyrical storytelling.

Speaking of the band, A Thousand Horses consists of:

Michael Hobby – Lead Vocal
Bill Satcher – Lead Guitar
Zach Brown – Guitar and Vocal (not THAT Zac Brown)
Graham Deloach – Bass and Vocal

ATH_Group

Credit: Rudy Sabin Photography

While they have their own distinct sound, A Thousand Horses (in my opinion) are a mix of Southern Rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers and the Black Crowes. Not sure how else to describe them. But, they have the benefit of pulling all of their classic rock talents together in a modern-country sound.

Nothing wrong with that!

Now, let’s talk about the new single.

“Preachin’ to the Choir” is the type of song that’s ready to jump to the top of the airplay charts at radio stations across the country, and should be firmly on your playlist right now! Don’t believe me? Take a listen for yourself.

Hobby told Rolling Stone Country that “Preachin’ to the Choir” is “the working people’s anthem.” When speaking about A Thousand Horses fans, Hobby says, “They work hard, they love hard and they play hard, and that’s what the song really speaks to.”

Much like their debut single “Smoke”, “Preachin’ to the Choir” stands out to me as a traditional southern rock with a country twist. The latest single is a little heavier lyrically than previous radio hits released by the band, but A Thousand Horses finds success in adapting great storytelling into their soulful sound. “Preachin’ to the Choir” is a perfect example of the  talent the band brings, both musically and lyrically.

Here’s a sample:

“If I’m preachin’ to the choir

Raise your hands a little higher

If you wanna sing along to a Saturday night revival song

Let me see you sparking up your lighters”

But what about the workers and the drinkers out there living the dream? A Thousand Horses has you covered:

 

“If you’re a 40-drinking, 40-working, living the dream, then you’re just like me

And I’m preachin’ to the choir”

After listening to the song on repeat for much of the last hour, I have to say that “Preachin’ to the Choir” solidifies A Thousand Horses as well-respected Southern rockers within today’s country music genre. Coming off a successful run with Jason Aldean and Thomas Rhett on the Six String Circus tour, the band is ready for a big year to come and “Preachin’ to the Choir” will play a major role in their continued success.

But don’t take my word for it, here’s what others are saying:

“Preachin’ to the Choir” is the Horses’ doctrine, a crisp blast of country-rock that extols the virtues of the 9 to 5. Featuring the group’s signature gospel-choir backing vocals, the song’s hypnotic “all-in, all-out” chorus calls to mind the band’s Number One single “Smoke.”

Rolling Stone Country

Heavy guitars and the Horsettes add the signature to this new a Thousand Horses song. They’re working with Dann Huff now, but there’s not much to distinguish this song sonically from cuts on Southernality…it’s as straightforward of a country rock song as you’ll find on the radio.

Taste of Country

I truly enjoyed getting my first official taste of the bands second album and I can’t wait to catch up with Hobby, Satcher, Brown and Deloach on the road soon.

The guys, along with the always hard-working Horsettes, have really caught lightning in a bottle with “Preachin’ to the Choir” and I highly recommend that you check out both the song, and A Thousand Horses, at your earliest convenience.

“Preachin’ to the Choir” is available now for download on iTunes and look for the band on tour in a city near you. To keep up with A Thousand Horses, new music and tour news, make sure you check them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at @AThousandHorses.

Oh yeah…don’t forget to also check out the A Thousand Horses Stable on both Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates on the band.

ATH_Stable

Year in Review: My Top 100 Country Music Songs of 2016

December 11, 2016

It’s that time of year again where I like to take a look back at my favorite country music songs of the year. We’re into the home stretch so now is as good a time as any, right?

Now, let me preface this list as I always do.

  • I’m not a professional music reviewer.
  • I don’t get paid to promote artists.
  • I don’t go by Billboard or radio airplay charts.

Got it? Good. Let’s get going. My list consists of the top 100 songs that I loved over the past year (or so). The songs that I wanted to come on my radio while driving to and from work, on a road trip, or when I was just sitting at home.

Now you might notice that a lot of mainstream, radio hits by major artists are not included. No reason except for the fact that my list is not based on how famous you are. Simple as that. I listen to the radio all day long, but a lot of the songs that are played just get played too often. I get burned out. Or, I hear them so often that I change the station. For that reason, those songs may or may not be on my list.

Frankly, it’s my personal list which includes the songs that I love and want to hear (but please feel free to sway me in your direction if I left a song off or ranked a song too high/low).  I must also put in the caveat that my kids did have some influence on the Top 100. They don’t listen to as much music as I do, but they certainly know the songs they like and hearing them over and over and over again helped push a few underdogs up the list.

You probably heard a lot of these songs every hour (on the hour) on your local station. Others may not have been played much (if at all) when they should have been, in my own, personal opinion. You’ll note quite a few songs on the list that haven’t even been played on the radio. If you see those…be sure to take a listen!

Also, while some of these songs may have come out in late 2015, they were ones that were predominantly played (if they made the radio) in the 2016 calendar year. Others may be primed for success later next year so, like I’ve said before, keep your ears open!

Either way, I’m sure that I’m going to leave quite a few songs off this list that could have easily made it. I know this going in and expect each and every one of you to say “hey, what about this song…or that song.” Please do.

Fight for the music and artists that YOU love!!!!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go through each entry and provide detailed background on the song, reasons for it’s placement, etc…But, feel free to leave a comment and I’d be happy to respond.

Now, without further ado, let’s get this party started with a three-way tie at #100:

(T) 100. “California Grown“, Tyler Rich

(T) 100. “Paradice“, Michael Beck

(T) 100. “Find a Way“, Lucie Silvas

99. “Monterey“, Dean Brody

98. “Let’s Ride“, Interstate 10

97. “Ice Cold Summer“, Trailer Choir

96. “The Dogs“, Justin Wells

95. “One Less Fool in Amarillo“, Marcus Lindsey

94. “Crazy Last Night“, Michael Tyler

93. “June“, Runaway Angel

92: “California“, Carolina Gold

91. “Fishing Alone“, Erik Dylan

90. “Rebound“, Drew Baldridge

89. “Think a Little Less“, Michael Ray

88. “Hometown Girl“, Josh Turner

87. “Angels in This Town“, Eric Paslay

86. “Room to Breathe“, Chase Bryant

85. “Are You With Me“, Easton Corbin

84. “Leaving Nashville“, Charles Kelley

83. “Leave the Light On“, Jackie Lee

82. “Drunk People“, Ryan Hurd

81. “There’s a Girl“, Trent Harmon

80. “Everywhere“, Mo Pitney

79. “With You I Am“, Cody Johnson

78. “A Few More Cowboys“, Toby Keith

77. “Sweetheart“, Kari Lynch Band

76. “I’m Not the Devil“, Cody Jinks

75. “Wrong Side of the Dream“, Austin Lucas featuring Lydia Loveless

74. “Shake it Like a Hillbilly“, Hillbilly Vegas

73. “New Hometown“, Mike Ryan

72. “Drinking with Dolly“, Stephanie Quayle

71. “One Wave at a Time“, Cash Creek

70. “Damn Drunk“, Ronnie Dunn

69. “Love Can Go to Hell“, Brandy Clark

68. “Lipstick“, Runaway June

67. “Dirty Laundry“, Carrie Underwood

66. “Hurtin’ on the Bottle“, Margo Price

65. “Roots“, Parmalee

64. “Running for You“, Kip Moore

63. “Cigarette“, Frankie Ballard

62. “Woke Up in Nashville“, Seth Ennis

61. “Better in Boots“, Tyler Farr

60. “Backwood Bump“, Waterloo Revival

59. “Middle of Nowhere“, McKenzies Mill

58. “Make You Mine“, High Valley

57. “If the Boot Fits“, Granger Smith

56. “If I Told You“, Darius Rucker

55. “Wasn’t That Drunk“, Josh Abbott Band w/ Carly Pearce

54. “Put a Label on It“, Ryan Follese

53. “American Country Love Song“, Jake Owen

52. “Setting the World on Fire“, Kenny Chesney featuring Pink

51. “Today“, Brad Paisley

50. “Suitcase“, Steve Moakler

49.  “Sooner Than Later“, Jacob Davis

48. “Livin’ the Dream“, Drake White

47. “Someone to Take Your Place“, Tara Thompson

46. “Getting Over You“, Jackie Lee

45. “Bluebonnets“, Aaron Watson

44. “Different for Girls“, Dierks Bentley

43. “Fix“, Chris Lane

42.”Rock On“, Tucker Beathard

41. “Break Up in a Small Town“, Sam Hunt

40. “American Love Story,” LANco

39. “Mayday“, Cam

38. “I Met a Girl“, William Michael Morgan

37. “Hurricane“, Luke Combs

36. “It All Started with a Beer“, Frankie Ballard

35. “Think of You“, Chris Young w/ Cassadee Pope

34. “Forever Country“, Various Artists

33. “Outskirts of Heaven“, Craig Campbell

32. “American Outlaw“, Halfway to Hazard

31. “Peter Pan“, Kelsea Ballerini

30. “Record Year“, Eric Church

29. “Drink by Drink“, Tony  Jackson

28. “Snapback“, Old Dominion

27. “80’s Mercedes“, Maren Morris

26. “Long Live Tonight“, LANco

25. “You Should Be Here“, Cole Swindell

24. “Humble and Kind“, Tim McGraw

23. “I Know Somebody“, LOCASH

22. “Girl Next Door“, Brandy Clark

21. “Sleep Without You“, Brett Young

20. “Vacation“, Thomas Rhett

19. “H.O.L.Y.“, Florida Georgia Line

18. “She Got Me“, Cash Creek

17.  “21 Summer“, Brothers Osborne

16. “Southernality“, A Thousand Horses

15. “From the Ground Up“, Dan & Shay

14. “Dirt on my Boots“, John Pardi

13. “Parachute“, Chris Stapleton

12. “Backroad Song“, Granger Smith

11. “Mr. Misunderstood“, Eric Church

10. “Dance With Ya“, Drew Baldridge

9. “Beautiful Drug“, Zac Brown Band

8. “It Don’t Hurt Like it Used To“, Billy Currington

7. “Better Man“, Little Big Town

6. “Song for Another Time“, Old Dominion

5. “Head Over Boots“, Jon Pardi

4. “Saltwater Gospel“, Eli Young Band

3. “May We All“, Florida Georgia Line featuring Tim McGraw

2. “My Church“, Maren Morris

1. “Die a Happy Man“, Thomas Rhett

Well that’s it. My Top 100 of 2016!

Where did I hit the nail on the head? Where did the arrow miss the mark?

I want to hear from you!

Let me know in the comments below!

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

November 21, 2016

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.