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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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.

New Artist Spotlight: Blakemore

October 5, 2016

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

So where am I going with this?

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

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

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

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

Does that help?

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

 

What did you think? Pretty cool, right?

I love the lyrics:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Artist Spotlight: David Brookings

June 3, 2016

As anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis knows, I tend to focus my taste in music to the genres of country and rock. They’ve always been the cornerstone of what I choose to listen to, thanks in large part to an upbringing on Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Boston and the likes.

But sometimes, I have to go back to other areas that I also enjoy and as I’ve said many times, I’m a huge fan of all types of music. With a collection that ranges from Garth Brooks, to Metallica and Green Day, to They Might Be Giants, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and even Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, you might say that my love for music is a bit eclectic.

Yep. That’s how I roll!

So today, I’m going to dive into my bag of tricks. I want to bring you an artist I came across a few years ago (I’ll get to that later) and only reaquainted myself with over the past week. While he doesn’t fit in my traditional country and rock background, he’s still someone that you should take a listen to.

His name is David Brookings.

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First, a little background. Brookings grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and began his journey towards a career in music at the age of 9 when he started playing guitar and writing his own songs. By the age of 15, he was playing in local clubs with local bands. He released his first solo album, “Sounds Off” in 2000. A year later, he moved to Memphis, Tennessee, to continue his musical journey.

In 2004, Brookings released his sophomore album, “End of an Error”. During much of the decade, he worked as a tour guide at Sun Studio, where he recorded 3 more albums, bringing his total to five. Needless to say, Brookings is no newcomer to the business.

By 2009, it was time to head out to the west coast with a move to San Jose, California (my home for seven years) after a chance meeting with Apple CEO Steve Jobs. In 2013, Brookings released his sixth solo album, “The Maze”. It was at this time where I first came across his music.

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Actually, that’s not entirely true. “The Maze” was a great introduction to his own music, but where I truly know the name from is his INCREDIBLE project on The Beatles that he undertook in 2010 and 2011 to record 209 Beatles songs in 209 days. No seriously. He actually did it! More information can be found on the Facebook page set up for this project.

Now, back to the present. Brookings latest album is set for release on June 10, 2016 (hey…just one week from the time I’m writing this!). The album is titled “David Brookings and the Average Lookings” and I’m certainly looking forward to its release. Not just because I’m average looking myself, but because I know that it will be filled with some great music.

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Here’s a quick trailer for the album. Songs such as “Hearts”, “Time to Go”, “This is the Life” and “Place We Can Go” stand out for me.

As noted in the “Editor’s Notes” on iTunes:

A sugary blast of soaring hooks and clever lyrical turns, David Brookings’ whip-smart songwriting is a perfect match for the tight, guitar-driven backing of the Average Lookings. Songs like “Place We Can Go” and “This Is the Life” channel the fiery edge of Elvis Costello’s Attractions, where sweeter moments—like the lead-off track “Hearts” or the coy “I’m in Love with Your Wife”—are playful power pop with a well-polished, vintage luster.

If you’re reading this pre-June 10, don’t miss the official album release show which takes place that evening on Friday, June 10, 2016 at the Willow Den in San Jose, California. Should be a fun evening!

I know there’s more that I could talk about here, but I don’t want to bore you with my words. Instead, I’ll let you check out some more of his earlier music for yourself:

She’s Been Gone for Years

No Regrets

If I Don’t Make it Back

The Maze

The Dream is Over

Always be the Same

If you haven’t checked him out before, give him a look. Also, make sure you keep up with him via his website or follow him on Twitter at  @davidbrookings and Facebook for his latest news and concert schedule.

Don’t forget to check out “David Brookings and the Average Lookings” and purchase more of his music on iTunes or on his website.

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

Artist Spotlight: Toree McGee

May 25, 2016

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”.

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“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

May 23, 2016

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: Hillbilly Vegas

May 21, 2016

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.