Artist Spotlight: Toree McGee

Posted May 25, 2016 by Kreuzer33
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My 3 year old is currently in her room. Her music is turned up really loud and she’s dancing around to California Gurls by Katy Perry (yeah, I know. What’s up with that, right?).

But the song got me back to thinking about doing another spotlight on a California grown country artist. Or in this case, a “California Girl”. Let me introduce you to Toree McGee.

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Gifted with a rafter-reaching soprano range and a voice that brings out a true grit and fire, McGee describes her music as a blend of “Woodstock rock ‘n’ roll, and  sparkly country.” Interesting mix, but you’ll soon understand where she gets it from and why it works!

First a little background.

McGee’s grandparents were part of a traveling gospel quartet, and her father was a singer in what can only be described as a “garage rock band”. Her father can be credited with giving McGee her love of classic rock and her passion for music, while her mother gravitated toward classic country.

Not surprising that I enjoy her live shows (I’ve probably caught here 5-6 times now) with my professed love for classic rock and country music.

McGee has some of the strongest vocals I’ve heard in a long time. Her musical style embodies elements of her influences, ranging from the sounds of The Judds and LeAnn Rimes, to  Guns N’ Roses and Aerosmith. She also embodies the vocals of Janis Joplin.

In her own words:

“I was a really big fan of Janis Joplin for a long time. I loved her uniqueness and how you could feel her emotion when she sang. But the whole rock ‘n’ roll kind of jagged edge thing wasn’t really me all the way. I always had a sunshiny personality, and I wasn’t as hardened as the rock scene was. Country music always made me happy, and everything always brought me back to that.”

McGee had her first performance as an opening act with a 30 minute set for country music superstar, Clay Walker in San Jose at the Rodeo Club, followed by another opening slot for one of my favorites: A Thousand Horses.

While she throws a lot of great cover songs into her typical setlist, McGee has a few of her own including “Run Right Back to You” and her first single, “Amen”.

Amen

“Amen”, gained airplay on Northern California radio stations and climbed to the #1 slot on 95.3 KRTY’s ‘Hot 9 @ 9’ segment. It has also gained the attention of Sirius/XM radio, as well as local news stations. The aforementioned “Amen” was released on March 31, 2015 and her full EP was officially released in October 2015. I’ve got it. You should too!

In speaking of her EP, McGee says:

“I wanted to blend my love of hard rock and country together. I have this heavy-hitting, gravelly tone I can get in my voice, and I didn’t want to lose that side of me that played in bars and grew up in bars. But country has always been my favorite genre of music. That’s where I want to be, but I want to bring a bit of that old style of rock with me.”

I mentioned her live sets earlier. Now besides her own songs, she also loves to fill her set lists with a few cover songs. Here’s just a sample of a few that I enjoy:

My Church

Girl Crush

Someone Like You

Piece of my Heart

Stay

Son of a Preacher Man

But what I enjoy the most about McGee, is her happy go lucky personality and her passion for life and her music. Nothing sums this up better than the moment she first heard herself on the radio when Randy Jones played “Amen” for the first time on KRTY. This is what it’s all about!

If you haven’t checked her out before, do so now. Also, make sure you keep up with her via her website or follow her on Twitter at @ToreeMcGee and Facebook for her latest news and concert schedule.

Don’t forget to check out her music on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.

So what did I miss? Have you seen Toree McGee live? What do you think of her? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Artist Spotlight: McKenzies Mill

Posted May 23, 2016 by Kreuzer33
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I’ve been on a major southern rock kick the past couple of days. Sometimes I find that I just need to step back from listening to new music and revert to the classics. Listening to some Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allman Brothers etc…

That’s probably how I stumbled across my latest Artist Spotlight: McKenzies Mill,  two brothers from North Carolina, now based in Nashville, Tennessee, that absolutely know how to rock!

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.”

From Ryan’s own words (via Wrangler Network):

“Southern Fried Rock-n-Roll” is definitely the way that we most often describe our music. For the people that see us live, I like to think that most of them walk away thinking, “man, those country boys can rock!” If they are, then we’re doing it right.”

There you have it! A little bit country, a little bit southern rock and a little bit rock and roll. Take three of my favorite genres, wrap them up in a package, and put them out on the road. Just what I love…and that’s what these brothers give you night in and night out!

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“.

I know there’s more that I could talk about here, but I’ll let you check out the rest of the band’s music for yourself. Here’s a sample of their own songs, as well as a few great covers:

Fishin’ in the Dark

My Heaven is a Small Town

Dirty Things

Country Born & Raised

Yee Haw

If you see McKenzies Mill on the bill anytime soon, make sure you’re there early. You don’t want to miss your chance to see this band. I said it before and I’ll say it again: they can flat out rock.

Also, make sure that you check them out on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at @McKenziesMill. Upcoming tour dates can be found here.

Don’t forget to check out their music on iTunes.

So what did I miss? Have you seen McKenzies Mill live? What do you think of them? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Artist Spotlight: Michael Beck

Posted May 22, 2016 by Kreuzer33
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A few days ago, I was talking about California Grown country music artists. You know, the performers that we get to see here on the West Coast who have yet to be discovered in Nashville. It’s amazing how lucky we are to have such great talent on this side of the Rockies.

I was fortunate enough to catch one recently opening for James Wesley at The District in Gilroy. His name? Michael Beck.

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Beck is a local guy from the Bay Area (who actually graduated from George Fox University just 10 minutes down the road from me here in Oregon). Influenced by many of the greatest country music artists of all time, his style has a familiar feel to it, yet he comes off as both unique and highly entertaining. Backed by an energetic band, known as the Michael Beck Band, every performance is a blast and is also fun for all ages.

Trust me when I say I’d love to take my kids to one of his shows with their love for live, country performances.

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Now, let me repeat myself again for those of you who may have missed it earlier: California grown country artists don’t always get the attention they deserve, but this is an artist that Nashville needs to take notice of…and they need to take notice right away.

Man. What a voice and stage presence that screams “Forget your drink…pay attention to me”. Most young artists can come off as unpolished or even unentertaining. Beck is nothing of the sort. He makes the audience want to get up out of their seats and sing along with every song.

At the James Wesley show, he played a number of songs from his CD “Countin’ on Tennessee” (available on iTunes) as well as an assortment of cover songs from the likes of Jon Pardi (Head Over Boots) and David Lee Murphy (Dust on the Bottle). From the EP, songs such as “Tennessee”, “Gone from My Mind“, “Paradice”, “Long Gone” and “The Reason (I Love the Rain)” all have the potential to be hits. Seriously, the EP is THAT good.

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What are you waiting for. Go get it now!

However, one song that stood out to me, and I know is a personal favorite of Beck’s, is “Little Piece of Heaven”. To me, nothing is better than a song that is written from the heart, about someone you love. In this case, Beck’s 18 month old daughter. Haven’t seen this available online yet (it’s just too new), but in the coming months, if you’re looking for a song that’s destined to be a hit, this is it.

I mentioned that Beck loves to throw in a few covers during his live shows. Check out a few of them below:

Head Over Boots

Cruise

Copperhead Road

Gone Country

Boot Scootin Boogie

Friends in Low Places

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If you want to learn more about this up-and-coming artist, be sure to visit his website, where you can also pick up the CD. Also check out the entire Michael Beck Band on Facebook for more information on news and upcoming shows. These guys are amazing!

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Hey…how about a couple shows up here in Oregon?? Would love to introduce the Pacific Northwest to some real, California country music.

So what did I miss? Have you seen Michael Beck live? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Artist Spotlight: Hillbilly Vegas

Posted May 21, 2016 by Kreuzer33
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Today’s spotlight artist is a group that I’ve been keeping my eye on for about two years now. Their name: Hillbilly Vegas.

The name just screams country music and rock & roll, right?

I first discovered these guys a couple years ago, and as I looked at the name, I imagined Duck Dynasty meets the guys from Pawn Stars. In reality, after checking out their website, and listening to a ton of their music over the past two years, I’ve found them to be more of a mixture of Blackhawk, Bon Jovi and John Mellencamp.

Sound good?

Vegas

Many may consider these guys new, but in reality, they are far from it! Blasting intensity right out of the gate, Hillbilly Vegas got a ton of traction with their debut album Ringo Manor, moving more than 10,000 copies (not bad for an emerging indie band) and scoring traction with its first single “Little Miss Rough and Tumble”. As it turns out, the song was on the national country music charts for more than 25 weeks!

Now on to the band, which is led by Steve Harris (vocals and rhythm guitar), Stacy Thornburg (lead guitar, vocals), Johnny Reed (guitar, vocals), Robb Edwards (bass) and Troy Hollinger (drums). I first caught wind of these guys prior to the release of the song “Long Way Back”, which ended up being one of my Top 10 songs of 2014.

“Long Way Back” has been a very special song for the members of Hillbilly Vegas. According to the band, the video has been used by Battle Saint, an organization who works tirelessly raising money to build treatment facilities for PTSD and traumatic brain injuries in returning veterans.  The Zac Brown Band and the creators of HBO’s Band of Brothers are also supporters of the organization.  The video for “Long Way Back” features the great things Battle Saint does along with a number of veterans and their families.

By the way…it’s also a GREAT song!

Now, since I first discovered the band in mid-2014, they have grown a few years older and have come back with a deeper attitude and sharper edge. They’re currently out on the road promoting their new EP, 76’, and getting everyone to “Shake It Like A Hillbilly” with their new single and high energy music video. Their momentum is bound to continue with the game plan in place for their future singles, including the party anthem “High Time For A Good Time” and “2 Gun Town,” a hard rock tune that was originally written for a National Geographic TV show. I also have a special love for “Can’t Go Home”, which might be my favorite song on the EP.

76

In Harris’ own words:

“We’ve taken more control this time around as far as our sound and direction. We’ve always been a rock band sort of dabbling in the country market and that’s even more evident this time around, recording with Alex, who’s worked with many major label bands in Texas. We’re grateful for the success of Ringo Manor, but it was a learning experience as was all of our time recording it in Nashville. Our fans kept telling us they loved our giant live sound and that while they liked our album we’re more exciting live. That’s the power we went for on 76’, which we named after Johnny’s 76 Gibson Firebird guitar. We loved the way Alex got those big drum sounds and the cool atmosphere he created for us to do the hard work. He was the perfect co-producer.”

I know there’s more that I could talk about here, but I’ll let you check out the rest of their music, for yourself. Here’s a sample of songs off the new EP, as well as a few older ones:

Little Miss Rough and Tumble

Mason Jars and Moonlight

Oklahoma 3.2

From an Empty Room

Helluva Night

“We’re all about creating fun, high energy, memorable music that gives people a good feeling,” says Harris. “I love hearing tunes on the radio that stir up feelings that take me back to special times and places – and if Hillbilly Vegas can do that for people, it’s a wonderful thing. We know we’re not doing socially groundbreaking material, but it’s real. Each song chronicles the experience and influences of the guys who wrote them.”

If you are anything like me (note the tagline for my blog) and are a huge fan of traditional and modern country, mixed with rock and a little hillbilly, then Hillbilly Vegas is definitely a band you need to take a listen to. When you get the chance, check them out on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at @hillbillyvegas. Also, don’t forget to check out their music on iTunes.

Hey guys, how about a date out West at the Rodeo Club in San Jose or Duke’s in Portland???

So what did I miss? Have you seen Hillbilly Vegas live? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Artist Spotlight: George Ducas

Posted May 21, 2016 by Kreuzer33
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In the world of country music, there are singers…and then there are artists. Artists who construct lyrics that reach down into all facets of our emotions. Artists who can be considered musical poets that can satisfy even the most eclectic listeners.

When I think about an artist who fits this bill, I think of George Ducas.

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Growing up like many of us did on Willie Nelson records, George spent much of his high school years as a private songwriter. Unfortunately for the rest of us, he did not perform professionally until he attended college at Vanderbilt University. After graduation, he accepted a banking job in Atlanta but returned to Nashville in 1990 to pursue music on a full-time basis…and the world is a better place for this decision!

George is seasoned with experience, driven by his passion for his songwriting and overall musical talent. With a string of Billboard charting songs that established him early as a country music trendsetter, George’s musical offerings encompass a creativity, sentiment, edge and wisdom of a man who lives each day with a passion for life and music.

In his own words:

“I consider myself very much a singer and songwriter with an emphasis on performing and being out there playing for people is a chance for the songs I write to live and breathe.”

George’s writing talents have been part of some of country music’s biggest hits including: Sara Evans #1 hit “Real Fine Place To Start,” Josh Thompson’s “Won’t Be Lonely Long,” The Eli Young Band’s “Always The Love Songs” as well as additional songs recorded and performed by country music royalty including The Dixie Chicks, Trisha Yearwood and the Randy Rogers Band.

George and Keith Anderson were two of several co-writers on “Beer Run (B Double E Double Are You In?)”, the Top 30 duet for Garth Brooks and George Jones back in 2001. What a fun song that was! Gary Allan and Radney Foster have also recorded album cuts which he co-wrote.

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Credit: buddyleeattractions.com

But enough about the artists he’s written for. George has also seen success as a national major label and critically acclaimed solo artist, which includes a string of hits including the Top 10 single “Lipstick Promises”.

But the life of a musician can take a toll on you and eventually George took some time off to devote his attention to raising his son and daughter. You’ve got to respect that. I can only imagine what life on the road is like. I travel two weeks a month for work, and even that amount of time is hard not seeing my three kids. The life of a musician must be even more hectic.

Now, George is back…and better than ever! He recently returned to the country music scene to put a voice to his songs. His latest offering, “4340”, which debuted back in October of 2013, does that and more as it showcases his talents to illuminate storylines with imagery that brings his lyrics to life.

4340

Here’s a quick preview of the album. If you want to listen to pick up his music for yourself, you can find it on iTunes and Amazon.

I know there’s more that I could talk about here, but I’ll let you check out the rest of his music, for yourself. Here’s a sample of songs off the new album, as well as a few older ones:

Lovestruck

Cow Town

Party with Your Boots On

All Kinds of Crazy

Breakin’ Stuff

I Need to Love You

Every Time She Passes By

White Lines and Road Signs

Make sure to check out his website and follow George on Twitter at @George_Ducas and on Facebook. Upcoming tour dates can be found here.

Hey George, how about a date at the Rodeo Club in San Jose or Duke’s in Portland???

So what did I miss? Have you seen George live? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Artist Spotlight: Kari Lynch

Posted May 20, 2016 by Kreuzer33
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It’s funny sometimes. You find yourself looking through a long list of great, up-and-coming country music artists when all of a sudden, a wave of fans reach out to you to tell you all about their favorite artist(s).

That’s what happened to me this week as I was introduced to the music of Kari Lynch.

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Credit: Heather Cisler Photography

Like other great, young artists that I’ve mentioned recently, one thing that I truly love about Kari is her deep appreciation for the dedicated fan base she has built up. Her unique voice, which combines classic country with a sort-of modern pop-rock twist, paired with great lyrics about real life and love, resonates with me immediately.

In creating her sound, Kari learned early on that what inspired her most was real life and struggles,  which includes a familiar topic with listeners of country music: love and loss.

In her own words, Kari says:

“I witnessed and experienced heartbreak early in my life. I think it made me grow up faster than most kids my age so I always had that longing for connecting with the rest of the world. Writing songs became my way of figuring out life and it was my place to say exactly how I was feeling, no holds barred.”

Though many new fans may view her as a brand new artist, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, Kari has been writing and performing since the age of seven. Since 2009, she has released 3 EP’s and I’ve read some great reviews. She’s also landed radio time in her home state of Michigan, as well as throughout the Midwest. Hopefully, this will spread out here to the West Coast!

I really want to hear some “Two to Be Lonely” on the radio soon! Check this one out y’all. It’s a hit waiting to happen!

In talking about her inspiration, Kari says:

“I knew I would write and sing songs for a living the first time my grandma played me Patsy Cline’s cassette tape when I was 6-years-old. The first song was, “Crazy” and it was like a fire lit up inside me. I was so captivated by her voice. Soon after that I heard Garth Brooks, “No Fences” for the first time and I’ll never forget that moment. I fell in love with the idea of writing and creating my own songs, so when I was 7-years-old I started writing songs and performing every chance I could.”

I mentioned before that many fans consider Kari a new artist, but she is clearly no stranger to the spotlight. According to her website, she has played thousands of shows across the U.S and abroad, successfully released original music and videos, played to crowds in the tens of thousands and opened for an impressive list of country music royalty including: The Band Perry, Dierks Bentley, Chris Cagle, Dustin Lynch, Montgomery Gentry, Brantley Gilbert, Big and Rich, Little Big Town, Miranda Lambert, The Charlie Daniels Band, Thomas Rhett and Alabama.

Lynch

Kari is going to be very busy this year, with a loaded tour schedule that will take her all across the country and see her opening for acts such as Diamond Rio, Kelsea Ballerini and Native Run. She also has a brand new music video that continues to climb in views and popularity, and her new single, “Sweetheart” out now which has already been picked up for rotation by several radio stations.

Before I get too far, I can’t forget to mention her new album “Little Games” which was actually released today, May 20, 2016. How about that for timing? I’ve had a chance to listen through all 10 tracks and I’m really digging it. I think that you will too!

If you want to listen to “Little Games” for yourself, you can pick it up on iTunes.

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I know there’s more that I could talk about here, but I’ll let you check out the rest of her music, for yourself. Here’s a sample of songs off the new album, as well as a few older ones:

Two to Be Lonely” featuring Travis Stinson

Nothin’ That a Shot Won’t Fix

Little Games

West Texas Ground

Can’t Move On

This is Gonna Hurt

One More Hit

Better Than Today

Fly Fly Fly

Make sure to check out her website and follow Kari on Twitter at @KariLynchMusic and on Facebook. Upcoming tour dates can be found here. Hey Kari, how about a date at the Rodeo Club in San Jose or Duke’s in Portland???

So what did I miss? Have you seen Kari live? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

Artist Spotlight: The Springs

Posted May 19, 2016 by Kreuzer33
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There are a lot of country music acts out there. You’ve got solo artists, groups, trios and more. But to me, nothing says country music quite like a duo. And when that duo is a husband and wife team…you’ve got something special. That’s what you have with today’s featured spotlight: The Springs.

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First, a little background for you. The Springs is composed of Stewart Halcomb and Holly Helms who were married on September 12, 2015, in their home state of Alabama. The ceremony took place in front of their families, band members and some of their closest friends. While they were unable to invite all of their fans to the wedding (see later about their love for their fans), Halcomb and Helms wanted them to be a part of the wedding, which was streamed over Periscope to more than 1500 viewers.

Welcome to the future, right?

So what I love about the Springs is their harmonies, their high energy concerts, and what you would hope for from a couple…chemistry. A husband and wife team (similar to the likes of Thompson Square) brings together both male and female vocals, which really gives the songs a life of their own. Not to mention that the versatile, award winning duo delivers a great mix of country, southern rock, pop and traditional favorites. How can you not like that?

The Springs have shared the stage with country music royalty over the past couple years. they have shared the stage with some of country music’s top recording acts including Florida Georgia Line, Thompson Square, Jake Owen, Josh Turner, Gary Allan, Hunter Hayes, Love and Theft, Mark Wills, Little Big Town, Eric Church, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, Charlie Daniels and Easton Corbin. Not bad company to be associated with, that’s for sure.

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Credit: thespringsband.com

But outside of the company they share on stage, the company they seem to enjoy most is that of their fans.

One thing that I absolutely love about The Springs is how much they enjoy interacting with their fans. Get this. Their fans have taken on the name “Springsters”, and have truly become more than just fans to The Springs. After each show Halcomb and Helms stay as long as it takes to make sure they sign autographs and take photos with everyone that comes to the show to let each fan know how much they truly mean to them.

You’ve got to love artists who do this. I am starting to see more and more of this these days and it always makes me feeling good. Seeing artists making personal connections with their fans.

In terms of music, their new EP “Dance With Me” is set to launch soon. You can pre-order it online through their Pledge Music page.

Preorder

I, for one, really enjoy Pledge Music campaigns. With The Springs campaign, the group is offering exclusive content and packages to all pledgers. Basically, anyone who pledges will walk away with something. Exclusive packages will include things like a concert in your living room, a songwriting session with us, unreleased (not on our EP) song and even more cool experiences and packages.

Definitely some cool items for fans. Personally, I’d love a signed 8X10 and the EP. I may have to go pledge…

Don’t feel like pledging? Fine. But you’re missing out on some cool stuff! Alternatively, they’ve got some pretty cool merchandise to go along with their music. You can also find additional music on iTunes.

Speaking of the music, here are a few links to some of The Springs songs that I’m sure you’re going to enjoy.

Hey Time

I Went There

Somethin Somethin

Crank it Up

Somethin’ Bout a Woman, Somethin’ Bout a Man

Don’t Tell Him That

I know there’s more that I could talk about here, but I’ll let you check out the band, and the rest of their music, for yourself. If you’re interested in keeping up with The Springs, make sure you follow them on Twitter at @TheSpringsBand and on Facebook.

So what did I miss? Have you seen The Springs live? What do you think of them? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.