Posted tagged ‘ACM’

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

November 6, 2016

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.

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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.

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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.

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Artist Spotlight: Halfway to Hazard

May 18, 2016

“Just’a good ol’ boys
Never meanin’ no harm.
Beats all you never saw
Been in trouble with the law
Since the day they was born.”

Wait. I thought I was going to talk about the Dukes of Hazzard today. You mean I’m not?

All kidding aside, I’m here to continue my Artist Spotlight series with another up-and-coming group that goes by the name Halfway to Hazard. Heard of them? Maybe a few years back? More on that later…

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As background, 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.

So before I get to the music, you’re probably wondering where the band’s name came from? Well, it seems that Halfway to Hazard are the opening words of the song “Cold,” which it so happens was the first song Warrix and Tolliver wrote together several years after they left their home state of Kentucky. Eventually, they wound up where many aspiring country music groups find themselves…in Nashville. So much for my assumption that they were huge fans of Bo and Luke Duke. Side note: I probably should have known since the name was missing an extra “z”.

Now let’s get to the most important thing that I’m here to talk about today: the music. Plain and simple, it’s good. It’s really good.

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“. Oh, the video isn’t too bad either. In fact, it’s really good!

According to The Rowdy:

The video is being used as a tease for the upcoming spanking new record that’s still in development that has HTH returning to the studio after their personal hiatus was declared in 2009, and will put them back in the tour bus for their 2016 REDEMPTION TOUR.

Penned by Tolliver and Warrix with the aid of Matt Alderman, the single will be featured as the theme for a documentary about the song’s subject, which gives Halfway To Hazard a chance to see the back story of their old stomping grounds.

You’ll definitely want to check it out on iTunes.

Here’s to hoping that they get their new album out this summer. I’m really looking forward to it! Until then, take a listen to some more of their music. You’ll find links to a few additional Halfway to Hazard songs, both old and new, that I’m sure you’re going to enjoy, below:

Meet Me in Vegas (Potential next single)

Heaven on Down the Highway

Countrified

I Know Where Heaven Is

Country Til the Day We Die

I know there’s more, 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 Halfway to Hazard, make sure you visit their website and follow them on Twitter at @HalfwayToHazard and on Facebook.

So what did I miss? Have you seen Halfway to Hazard live? What do you think of these guys? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Concert Review: The Dirt Drifters, The Jane Dear Girls and James Otto

February 12, 2011

Just another Friday night at the Rodeo Club in San Jose, CA? Not quite…

My Buddy Travis and I Enjoying Intermission

Last night, a capacity crowd was entertained with 3+ hours of music from a mix of up and coming acts and an established superstar. While I was excited to see James Otto for a 2nd time (I’ve previously seen him as the opening act for Toby Keith and Trace Adkins),  I was looking very much forward to seeing the openers for this particular show…The Jane Dear Girls and The Dirt Drifters.

As the 9 o’clock hour struck, and following another great session of line dancing lessons from Adam the Dancing Cowboy (seriously, if you need to learn how to line dance in the South Bay Area, you need to check this guy out), KRTY’s Randy Jones, celebrating his birthday, hit the stage to introduce The Dirt Drifters. I discovered this band online a couple of months ago and had high expectations. I wasn’t disappointed.

The band consists of lead singer/guitarist Matt Fleener, vocalist/guitarist Ryan Fleener, vocalist/guitarist Jeff Middleton, bassist Jeremy Little and drummer Nick Diamond. These five artists, signed to the Warner Bros. label, started the night off right with a mix of country, rock and even some R&B that got the crowd moving.

The Dirt Drifters

With songs such as “Something Better”, “Call in Sick”, “As Soon as I Get You Alone” and “Married Men in Motel Rooms”, I think I’m safe in saying that these guys have a huge future ahead of them in the country music business. The passion that they have for their music comes out in their live performance and I don’t see them as an opening act for much longer. If you get the opportunity, please be sure to call, email or Tweet your local country station and tell them to put The Dirt Drifters on the radio. You won’t be disappointed. The only disappointment I had from last night’s show, other then I don’t believe they played “Guys Like Me”, was when they’re set was complete.

After a short intermission, we were treated to the music of Susie Brown and Danelle Leverett, otherwise known as The Jane Dear Girls. When they started out, the girls were each pursuing solo country music careers when a friend suggested that Danelle watch Susie perform at a local, Nashville club. Before too long, the two made an attempt at writing together and from the moment they finished their first song together, they knew that they were a duo.

To be fair, it’s very difficult to give an honest opinion of the duo because they unfortunately had some technical difficulties throughout their performance, both with their microphones and instruments. This wasn’t ANY fault of theirs but it was obvious during the set that it was affecting their performance.

Through these issues, Brown and Leverett remained as professional as possible and worked through a great mix of ballads and crowd pleasing, party songs. Opening with their latest single, “Shotgun Girl”, The Jane Dear Girls set the pace for their performance and had the crowd singing and dancing along. The duo also played songs that are sure to be future hits including “Merry Go Round” and the slowed down, melodic “Saturdays and Septembers.” They told the crowd that “you won’t hear many sappy love songs”, but “Saturdays and Septembers” is definitely a song that shows the range that the duo has and is a song that I know we’ll be hearing on country radio in the near future (and trust me, you need to hear Susie on the fiddle…wow!)

Closing with “Wildflower”, their biggest hit to date, The Jane Dear Girls brought the decibel level to its loudest point of the night (so far) as both women and men alike sang along to the tune that landed the act an ACM nomination for best vocal duo. While they have some tough competition with the likes of The  Band Perry, after seeing their live performance, I can say that they are, without a doubt, a duo that is ready to take the country by storm (much like the Dixie Chicks did back in the late 90’s).

At the conclusion of their set, it was obvious that Danelle was still visibly upset over the issues that plagued the group from their opening number. Although the microphone problems seemed to be resolved by the end, there were still some problems with her instrument. After signing a quick autograph for a fan, she took off, off the stage and didn’t look back. Hopefully this experience won’t keep the group from coming back to San Jose again soon.

Following one final intermission, it was time for the headlining act of the evening, Mr. James Otto. Seeing Otto walk out on stage, you can’t help but notice his large stature and stage presence as he seems to fill the room with his larger than life personality. From the first song of the evening “These Are the Good Ole Days”, Otto set the pace of a night that would be filled of nearly every genre music you could imagine.

James Otto

Otto treated the crowd to all of his hits including “Groovy Little Love Summer Song”, “Lover Man” and his number one single “Just Got Started Loving You”. But what may have been the highlight of the evening was the stirring rendition of his latest single “Soliders and Jesus”. Prior to the song, Otto brought a woman up from the crowd who was a Gold Star Mother. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a Gold Star Mother is a woman who has lost a son or daughter in service of our country. This mother recently lost a son in Iraq and it was an emotional few moments as they embraced and Otto kept her onstage as he played the ballad. In looking around the crowd, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, yours truly included.

Another great night at the Rodeo Club with three acts who didn’t disappoint. I was thoroughly impressed by The Dirt Drifters and also look forward to hearing more from The Jane Dear Girls. I hope that despite some of the technical issues experienced during the show, that each of these acts will consider a return trip to the South Bay.

Did you go to the show? What did you think? Have you seen any of these acts in-person before? Would you see again? All comments are welcome!

Thanks again to KRTY for bringing the show to San Jose.