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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.

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

November 5, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Artist Spotlight: Ryan Follese

October 26, 2016

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

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

Ryan Follese Float Your Boat Single

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

New Artist Spotlight: Blakemore

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.

Toree2

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

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.