Posted tagged ‘Music Review’

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

November 10, 2017

Goldendale, Washington.

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

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

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

I can tell you that they weren’t disappointed.

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

First a little background…

Let me quickly educate you on this artist for a moment. With hits such as “Real”, “Didn’t I”, “Jackson Hole” and “Thank a Farmer”, Wesley has been getting airplay for quite some time now across the country. Special thanks go out to a number of California stations, such as 95.3 KRTY, KAT Country 103 and 101.9 The Wolf, who continue to keep Wesley on their playlists.

But let’s be REAL for a second. To this day, Wesley is not getting enough airplay (in my opinion) and I can’t stress enough that if you see him in concert one time, you’ll be hooked.

People often ask me: what’s the best way to describe one of his shows? How about high energy. How about highly entertaining. How about worth every penny. Do you get the idea? I’ll put it another way: just like me, it’s a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll! I could go on and on with descriptors but I don’t want to bore you with my ranting.

Most importantly, he’s also VERY passionate about his music and his fans. He writes, or co-writes most of his own songs and both he, and the band, play their heart out each and every time they take the stage. Plus, Wesley is one of those guys on Twitter (@jameswesley1) who loves to engage with his fans. Make sure to give him a follow and check him out on Facebook. Trust me. He’s as friendly in-person as he is on Twitter and really makes every effort to get to know each and every one of his fans. I wish more artists would follow his lead.

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

Besides the staple set list songs that I mentioned earlier (Jackson Hole, Real, Didn’t I, Thank a Farmer) we were also treated once again with a selection of “new” songs that haven’t made it on the radio yet (but perhaps on an upcoming album?).

I’ve said this before, but i want to be sure that I touch upon this again in this review: there are a few songs that I expect will be hits in the near future, if given the opportunity. These songs include: “Cornfield”, “Trouble I Like”, “The You I Wanna Know”, “Running” (co-written with Marcum Stewart and Zac Wrixon), “You Should Be Here with Me” and “See You on the Radio”. These are just a few songs that continue to stick out for me as having the potential to be radio hits.

Other songs, such as “Rooster” and “Walking Contradiction” are two that always jump out at me during the live shows. Both of these tunes always get the crowd on their feet, and at both shows this week, I can safely say that they did it again. However, while it’s always great to hear original songs, let’s not forget about the beauty of the cover song. Especially at a live show. One thing that Wesley and the band like to do is mix their own music with the sounds of Merle Haggard, George Jones, Hank Williams Jr. and Johnny Cash. Some “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive” and “Mama Tried”. A little “White Lightning”. Even a special treat with “Family Tradition”.

Fantastic stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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As always, I’ve done a lot of talking here. But Wesley and his band are worth my gift of gab. I do want to reiterate this once again: there are only a few artists that I give a five star recommendation to. James Wesley is one of them. If there is one artist that you see in concert in the coming year, make sure that it’s Wesley.

From he and the band’s stage presence, to the love of the music to the time he and the band spend with their fans, it is not just a concert. It really is an experience that music lovers of all ages, and across genres, will enjoy. Trust me, you won’t regret spending $10, $15, $20 or more to see these guys live!

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

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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!

 

 

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New Music Review: “Hooked Up” by James Wesley

September 21, 2015

James Wesley is back, and he’s back in a big way!

The last time many of you heard from Wesley, he was hitting the airwaves with “Thank a Farmer”, a heartfelt ballad which tells the story of how much hard work it takes to be a farmer in Middle America. And it doesn’t come much more Middle America than Wesley’s music.

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First, a little background. Wesley grew up in Mound Valley, a community of only 200 people in Southeastern Kansas. He first discovered country music via his grandmother’s record collection, which included heaping helpings of classic crooners such as Marty Robbins, George Jones and Ray Price. His mother was the first to notice Wesley’s own talent for singing when she overheard him belting out his favorite songs behind his bedroom door. By his late teens he was singing in local nightclubs and beginning to think about making music his life.

I can certainly say that i’m glad he made this decision.

Wesley signed with Broken Bow Records back in 2009 and quickly exploded onto the country music scene with his debut breakout single “Jackson Hole.” To date he has had two Top 25 singles, including one of my personal favorites “Real”, making his voice a staple on country radio. If you’ve ever seen Wesley in concert, then you know that he sings directly to real people about real things that profoundly affect real lives. From his small-town upbringing to his blue-collar work ethic, Wesley has a deep understanding of what country listeners want to hear.

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Now, on to the song. “Hooked Up” was co-written by Harry Smith and Todd Morris, and tells the story of a blue marlin that is being pursued by fisherman at the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament. Announced backed in April, Wesley formed a partnership with Calcutta to shoot the “Hooked Up” music video and promote the song to the sport fishing communities.

The accompanying music video for “Hooked Up” takes fans along with him for the journey of a lifetime. The video was shot during a concert, performed by Wesley, which took place at the new Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament weigh station on the Morehead City, North Carolina waterfront. Additional footage was shot during the tournament between June 6–13.

OK, before I tell you why I love this song, go ahead and check out the video for yourself.

Now you’ve seen the video and heard the song for yourself. Admit it, there’s so much to love about “Hooked Up”. It’s so easy to get hooked by the chorus. It’s upbeat. It’s toe tapping. I’ve listened to the song a good 70-75 times now, and each time I get to the chorus, I find myself belting out the lyrics at the top of my lungs. Sadly, the kids keep telling me to leave the singing to the artist. They’re probably right!

But isn’t that what country music is all about? Isn’t it supposed to make you feel passion? Shouldn’t it make you want to sing along at the top of your lungs? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: country radio NEEDS more James Wesley. Is “Hooked Up” the song that takes him back to the top of the charts? I certainly hope so. I think it certainly has a chance!

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

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

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

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

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Before I forget, a portion of the proceeds from downloads will go to the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament Charities and the ASA’s Keep America Fishing Foundation, so make sure you download “Hooked Up” today from iTunes or from CalcuttaFishing.com and TheBigRock.com.

Also, can’t forget the guys who don’t always get the credit they deserve. Michael Blakemore, Jesse LaFave, Matt Morgeson and Drew Scheuer. You guys all rock!

Don’t wait. Go get “Hooked Up” now. You won’t regret it!

For more information about Wesley, and to take a listen to the rest of his catalog, visit JamesWesleyMusic.com.

Concert Review: A Thousand Horses and Toree McGee “Smoke” the Competition

April 2, 2015

What can I say. Another KRTY concert at the Rodeo Club…another INCREDIBLE night of live music in the South Bay!

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Frankly, I got lucky this time around. I usually know a few weeks in advance when I’ll be able to catch a show in San Jose, based on my travel back and forth from Portland, Oregon. But this time, I learned the night before that I’d be in town and there was no doubt in my mind that I had to catch local singer songwriter Toree McGee, and one of my favorite, up-and-coming bands, A Thousand Horses. Literally, these guys are THE band to watch in 2015 (see further comments later). To say that I was excited by my last minute change in travel plans doesn’t do justice.

This is the second time I’ve caught Toree McGee at the Rodeo Club. Last time she was the opening act for Clay Walker.

On top of her own songs, including “Run Right Back to You”, “Might as Well be Us” and “Amen” (which has consistently been in the KRTY Hot 9 at 9 the past few weeks), she pulled off a great cover of “Kerosene” by Miranda Lambert. Who doesn’t like a great sing-a-long to end a set?

Oh yeah, there was also a few minutes during the set for what McGee called #toreeselfee time. While I wasn’t coordinated enough to take one with everyone else in the crowd, here’s mine after the show (thanks Toree and Indiana AL):

Toree_AL

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 and Facebook for her latest news and concert schedule.

Also, props to Mr. Gary Tackett, a guitarist and manager who’s worked with the likes of Merle Haggard, Billy Currington, Vern Gosdin, Eddy Raven and Tammy Cochran, who I had the opportunity to catch up with after the show. Thanks for making the trip back down to San Jose y’all!

Now it was time for the main event of the evening. In the words of Michael Buffer: “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

A Thousand Horses is a band I’ve been talking about for a good 6-8 months now…but I’m not the only one. Check out a few of these features they’ve been included in recently:

USA Today

Rolling Stone

Taste of Country

I said it before, and will say it again, this is THE band you need to watch, follow and support in 2015. 2014 may have been the year of the horse, but 2015 WILL BE the year of A Thousand Horses.

For a little background, the band consists of four core members (but their are a bunch more!):

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

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From their look (see photo above) to their sound, A Thousand Horses can only be described as a mix of Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers and The Black Crowes. Not sure how else to describe them, but that should give you a good idea of what to expect when you take a listen to their music. I’ll say, though, that they have the benefit of pulling all of their classic rock talents together in a modern-country sound. Is there anything wrong with that? I don’t think so!

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Their new single, “Smoke”, is heading straight to the top of the airplay charts at radio stations across the country, and should be firmly on your playlist right now! The folks at KRTY have had “Smoke” in regular rotation for quite some time now, and as always, Nate Deaton, Julie Stevens and the rest of the crew (Randy Jones, Indiana Al etc…) have their finger on the pulse of what’s going to be hot in country music well before anyone else.

On top of “Smoke”, the band ran through a mix of some older tunes, as well as some new music off their upcoming album “Southernality”. Three of my favorites, “Tennessee Whiskey”, “Trailer Trashed” and “(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial” were featured on the set as well as the catchy “Landslide”. The Wednesday night crowded was also treated to two great covers of Tom Petty’s hit “I Won’t Back Down” and The Black Crowes “Hard to Handle” as their encore. Certainly another couple of highlights of the evening.

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Don’t miss them this summer on tour with Darius Rucker, Brett Eldredge and the Brothers Osborne. Trust me. They won’t be an opening act for long! Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I know that I sound like a broken record, but if there is one new band you NEED to see in 2015, it’s A Thousand Horses.

To keep up with the band, new music and tour news, make sure you check them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at @AThousandHorses.

Did you go to the show? Have you ever seen Toree McGee or A Thousand Horses live? Please share your thoughts and comments below. Feel free to share this review as well!

New Music Review: “Long Way Back” by Hillbilly Vegas

October 31, 2014

I must confess, when I stumbled upon Hillbilly Vegas a few weeks ago, I didn’t know what to expect.

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, I’ve found them to be more of a mixture of Blackhawk, Bon Jovi and John Mellencamp. Sounds good, right?

They intrigued me and I can say that I’ve been listening to their upcoming single, “Long Way Back”, on repeat for the last 8 hours straight (and I’m still not tired of it). From the vocals of lead singer Steve Harris, to the guitar work of Johnny Reed, as well as the rest of the band including Troy Hollinger, Robb Edwards and Stacey Thornburg, this song, which was co-written by Harris and Reed, is destined to be a hit.

Vegas

Before I get to the music, let me start with a little background.

“Long Way Back” is a very special song for the members of Hillbilly Vegas. According to the band, the upcoming video is going to be used by an organization known as Battle Saint 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 soon to be released video for “Long Way Back” will feature the great things Battle Saint does along with a number of veterans and their families. I, for one, can’t wait.

Now, onto the song itself:

Judging by the description above, this obviously isn’t a song simply about graduating high school and getting out of town as fast as you can. There’s a lot more to it than that, and that’s why “Long Way Back” is indeed a special song. While the melody and the music pull you in, it’s the lyrics that hooked me, and reminded me of my adolescence and my own struggle, wanting to get out of where I was. They say the grass is always greener, right? In the end, I knew it would be a long way back, and I still haven’t gotten there just yet.

“There’s a two-lane, blacktop, leading in and out of town”

I think a lot of us can relate to that.I grew up in Petaluma, California, which was about 30,000 people when I lived there. For the most part, we had two roads in and out of town, and both were just two lanes. It’s a symbol of old town America, the towns we grew up in.

“…and nothing ever happens no matter how long you hang around”

Remind you of your teen years growing up? I don’t care how large your hometown was, it never, ever felt like anything was going on. You always needed to be somewhere else. Where the girls were. Where the parties were. Certainly, not there. It’s funny how your perspective changes once you get out. Once you see the world. The good. The bad. The scary. Makes you think about how safe, and enjoyable, your hometown really was.

“There’s a girl back there that I used to call babe. Yes she said she’d wait but I bet by now she’s called it a day.”

While I never served, many members of my family did across a number of branches of the military. I’ve also seen it in movies where the boy heads off to battle, only to return, afraid that she’s no longer waiting for him. I can’t imagine the heartbreak. But I think that there’s a double meaning here. What about the soldiers who return who aren’t just afraid of the girl they loved and lost, but that everyone has forgotten about them. What about their kids birthdays they missed. Anniversaries. Graduations. The list goes on and on. These men and women give up everything to protect us. They should NEVER be forgotten.

“But if I ever find my way back. From wherever I’ve been. I ain’t leaving again.”

Ain’t that the truth. I know that if I could do it all over again, and I could go back and live my life in that small town, I would. Not sure why I wanted to get out so fast. Maybe it was the small town atmosphere. Maybe it was looking for my freedom. Either way, I miss that small town life. I’ve tried to bring it back by moving to a small town here in Oregon, but it’ll never be the same as my hometown. I can’t imagine the feelings that the men and women of the military have when they return home. After a year, two years or more. Away from their families…their friends. It might be a long way back, but I’d never want to leave again.

My Final Take

A good song…you’ll remember. A great song…you’ll never forget!

“Long Way Back” is certainly the latter. It’s a well written piece of lyrical genius with plenty of emotion to make you want to put it on repeat (like I did) and listen over and over again. This isn’t a fly-by-night song that you’ll hear on your local station a few times, only to disappear into the abyss. “Long Way Back” has staying power. It’s different than anything I’ve heard recently on country radio, and that makes it special.

This is the type of song that takes a band like Hillbilly Vegas and pulls them from obscurity, and puts them directly in the center of the country music map.

When you get the chance, check them out on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at @hillbillyvegas.

You can also find “Long Way Back” on iTunes and Amazon.com. The song comes out next week (November 6, 2014) and I suggest you take a listen today. You won’t regret it!

Concert Review: James Wesley Keeps it “Real” at The Rodeo Club in San Jose, California

December 3, 2013

As most of you know, I love to go to concerts. Lots of concerts. Country concerts…rock concerts…punk rock concerts…you name it! I guess it’s pretty obvious if you’ve listened to me talk for even five minutes.

I’m proud to say that I’ve seen them all, across genres: Kenny Chesney, Brooks & Dunn, Florida Georgia Line, Zac Brown Band, Tim McGraw, Blink 182, Green Day, Pearl Jam, Metallica, U2, The Rolling Stones and the list goes on and on.

So if I were to tell you that I went to one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to, then you’d probably stop and take notice, right?

I can honestly say that in all of my 35 years, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been to a show that seemed to have as much energy as there was at the Rodeo Club in San Jose, California, on Friday, November 22. I wonder if Chevon and Christine would agree with me?

The gang together at the show!

The gang together at the show!

Ladies and gentlemen, if you don’t know him already, go take some time on YouTube (or below) and check out Broken Bow recording artist James Wesley. If you can only catch one show in 2014, this is the guy to see. Dead serious! OK, maybe not just James. Marshall Weidner, Jesse LaFave, Neil Alexander, Michael Blakemore and Eric Burgett are all pretty damn good too.

For those of us who follow country music closely, this man is already known. With hits such as “Real”, “Didn’t I” and “Thank a Farmer”, James has been getting airplay for quite some time thanks to stations like KRTY (but definitely not enough airplay and I can’t stress this enough!!!). His videos have reached the top of the GAC charts and if you see him in concert just once, you’ll be hooked.

James Wesley and I after the show.

James Wesley and I after the show.

James is a traditionalist which I find rare in country music these days. He’s also passionate about his music…and his fans. He writes his own songs and he plays his heart out each and every time he takes the stage. During his show in San Jose, he mixed his own music with the sounds of Hank Williams Jr., Merle Haggard, George Jones and Johnny Cash. I’ll admit, anytime you can absolutely NAIL “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Family Tradition”, you’re doing something right!

Good Times!

Good Times!

I think one of the best parts of the show was the opportunity to hear new songs that haven’t made it on the radio yet. There are a few songs that I expect to be hits in 2014 including “Running”, “The You I Wanna Know” and “You Should Be Here with Me”. I really wish I would have shot some video because I’d love to share these songs with you, alas my phone was dying and wouldn’t allow me to. “Running” (co-written with Marcum Stewart and Zac Wrixon) is the one that stuck out in my mind as the one that should be the clear-cut radio hit next year (do you hear that Indiana Al at KRTY???). I think I probably live-Tweeted that thought multiple times during the show. Loved both the lyrics and the beat.

Rockin' Out!

Rockin’ Out!

And now for my favorite part of the evening. Following the show, James does what a lot of other artists don’t…he spent hours meeting, talking to and taking photos with his fans. I’m lucky enough to have had the opportunity to meet James via Twitter (@jameswesley1) last year and have had a number of conversations with him over the past few months. You don’t realize that sometimes, just sometimes, artists are exactly the same in-person as they appear online. James truly is one of these people. He doesn’t pull punches. He’s as friendly in-person as he is on Twitter and really makes every effort to get to know each and every one of his fans. I wish more artists would follow his lead.

Having Some Fun!

Having Some Fun!

I’ll say it again: if there is one artist that you see in concert in 2014, make it James Wesley. From the stage presence, to the music to the time he spends with his fans, it is not just a concert…it’s an experience. A “Real” experience that music lovers of all ages and genres will enjoy. You won’t regret it!

Have you seen James and the band in concert? What did you think? Feel free to leave your comments and thoughts in the comments below! Would love to hear about your similar experiences!

James Wesley Setlist: San Jose, CA on November 22, 2013

James Wesley Setlist: San Jose, CA on November 22, 2013

CD Review: Trailer Choir, Tailgate

September 3, 2010

What can I say about Trailer Choir that I haven’t said before. You can go back to the very first time I ever mentioned this talented trio back in July of 2008 and my last concert review of their show in San Jose, California, at the Rodeo Club.

Their new album, Tailgate, came out earlier this summer and I can guarantee that I was one of the first people to pick it up (my local Wal-Mart of course). At a more than reasonable $10, this is one of the top CD’s that I’ve purchased in recent memory. Yes, I still buy CD’s!

The track list is a mix of new music and familiar favorites. If you don’t have the album in front of you, and you should, here’s what you’ll find on the CD:

1. Shakin’ That Tailgate

2. Rollin’ Through the Sunshine

3. Can’t Drink All Day

4. Last Man Standing

5. Homemade Mexico

6. Wal-Mart Flowers

7. In My Next 5 Beers

8. Girls Love to Go Dancin’

9. Rockin’ the Beer Gut

10. Off the Hillbilly Hook

In the maybe 75-80 times I’ve listened to the CD already, I can tell you that there are already some instant classics on this CD. From the energetic “Shakin’ That Tailgate”, which you currently hear on country music stations across the country, to classics such as “Off the Hillbilly Hook” and “Rollin’ Through the Sunshine”, the CD has a perfect mix of fun and sun!

My own personal favorite new song on the CD is “Can’t Drink All Day”. If I had to make a recommendation for their next single, this would have to be it. Nothing sums it up better than the lyrics “you can’t drink all day, if you don’t start early.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be a party without “Rockin’ the Beer Gut.” This was the first song that I ever heard the band play and it was the song that got me hooked. To this day, my son STILL requests that I play this every time we get in the car and my daughter pretty much knows all of the lyrics by heart. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, or a bad thing 🙂

So in summary, Tailgate is one of those ‘must have’ albums that’s in stores today. From top to bottom, there isn’t a song that I find myself needing to hit the “next” button on. I was a little surprised that “What Would You Say” didn’t make it on the album, but if that’s my only complaint, we’re doing pretty good!

4 1/2 stars out of 5 on Tailgate…

If you’ve got the album, please feel free to share your comments below.

If you love the band, please feel free to share your comments below.

If you’re with the band, please feel free to come back to San Jose soon (and share your comments below).