Posted tagged ‘Rudy Sabin Photography’

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: Brothers Osborne and Lauren Alaina “Stay a Little Longer” in San Jose, California

July 30, 2015

Forget staying a little longer. I would have stayed all night for more music from Lauren Alaina (Interscope Records) and the Brothers Osborne (Universal Music Nashville).

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When you come to the Rodeo Club in San Jose, you know that you’re in for a treat at each and every show. On this night, the audience did not leave disappointed.

After a quick, pre-show set from Chris Giles, Director of Business Operations for the San Francisco 49ers, and country musician (who knew???), it was time for Lauren Alaina to take the stage.

You may know Alaina best from her appearance on the 10th season of American Idol where she finished as the runner-up. American Idol was certainly an experience which displayed her enthusiasm and incredibly powerful voice that has been compared to the leading ladies of country music including Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride.

But well before American Idol, Alaina’s first public performances came with a kids’ choir as well as an annual vacation location that offered karaoke (who doesn’t love karaoke!). According to her website, word soon spread about her talent and she began receiving invitations to perform at different venues. Beginning in elementary school, she routinely landed lead roles in school plays. Obviously, music came to Alaina at a very early age.

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Credit: Rudy Sabin Photography

Her debut studio album, Wildflower was released in October of 2011. The album, which included one of my personal favorites “Georgia Peaches”, as  well as “Like My Mother Does” and the radio hit “18 Inches”, debuted at number five on the Billboard 200 chart. She’s currently working on some new music for her upcoming sophomore album, which she showcased to a full house at the Rodeo Club.

I think one of the best moments of the night would be during her performance of “Next Boyfriend” where lucky attendee “Kevin” (and his A’s hat which was quickly confiscated by Lauren) was pulled up on stage as she performed. Luckily this time, “Kevin” wasn’t married, or her cousin, which apparently happened to her at an earlier event. Oops!

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Credit: Danika Gurley

We were also treated to “My Kind of People”, which was my personal favorite of her new music, as well as a fantastic rendition of Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush”. Good stuff all around!

I’ve got to tell you something. After last night’s performance, I know why Alaina is compared with the likes of Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride. Her vocals are incredible, which is amazing considering she’s coming off vocal chord surgery just last year. I can’t imagine the recovery process and getting back into the studio and out on the road. MAJOR kudos Lauren!

If you have not seen her perform live, make sure to check her out! You won’t regret it! Make sure that you are also following Alaina on Twitter at @Lauren_Alaina and on Facebook.

Around 10 p.m., it was finally time for the main event of the evening: The Brothers Osborne. This is a band I have been waiting to see for months. I had the opportunity to see them twice before, but both times, my plans were changed at the last minutes. I’ve have been kicking myself for not seeing them, but this time around, nothing was going to stop me from seeing them.

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Credit: Rudy Sabin Photography

As background, the Brothers Osborne, (John and T.J. Osborne) once performed in a cover band called Deuce and a Quarter, where they played cover songs from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dwight Yoakam, Merle Haggard and Bob Seger. While in this band, they performed at small, local venues, but it was this experience that the Brothers Osborne got the taste for performing live. In the mid-2000’s they moved to Nashville to pursue their dreams.

The duo released their debut single “Let’s Go There”, which reached Top 40 on Country Airplay at the end of 2013.Their second single, “Rum”, a personal favorite of mine, debuted in early 2014. The single also reached Top 40 on Country Airplay, and is included on their five-song, self-titled EP. Their third single, “Stay a Little Longer”, originally appeared on the EP, but it has since been re-recorded as a single release and is currently their third consecutive top 40 country hit.

Let me tell you this: the Brothers Osborne are talented. VERY talented. The audience was treated to a mix of traditional country, modern country and southern rock. You name it, they played it. What was great was that we got a sample of not only their radio hits, but also some new music that the band is currently recording. I especially loved “Greener Pastures”. I won’t dive into what the song is about but you can let your mind wander and come up with an idea, based on the title. I think Willie Nelson would be proud!

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The audience, naturally, was all over “Stay a Little Longer” and “Rum”, but enjoyed hearing a few cover tunes, including “Hey Good Lookin'” and “La Grange”. How can you not love it when a band can pull off both Hank Williams and ZZ Top flawlessly! Those performances were two of the highlights of the evening for me.

BTW, Lauren Alaina came out in the audience during the Brothers Osborne set and sang along to every single song. Heck, she was standing right next to me and it was obvious that she was a fan, just like the rest of us. You’ve got to love seeing another artist in a moment of fandom! I’ll admit, though, that I felt pretty bad screaming into her ear as I sang along. Hope she didn’t mind!!!

Anyways…I would be remiss in not mentioning two things. First, the guitar playing by John Osborne is something that you need to see live. All I can say is wow! Words won’t do justice. Second, the vocals from T.J. Osborne are up there with the best. He was certainly “on” on this night, whether he was rocking out or taking it down a little with a ballad. The range was incredible.

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If you haven’t seen the Brothers Osborne (and their full band) before, what are you waiting for??? Make sure that you are also following the Brothers Osborne on Twitter at @brothersosborne and on Facebook.

I’m very excited that I get to see them again on Friday, July 31 at Shoreline Amphitheatre opening for Darius Rucker. Heck, A Thousand Horses and Brett Eldredge will be there too. I better get myself prepared for my head to explode from an evening of fantastic country music!

Overall, another great night of country music with KRTY. As always, thank you to Nate Deaton, Julie Stevens, Tina Ferguson, Randy Jones, Danika Gurley, Jenna Johnson etc…for once again bringing the best in up-and-coming talent to the South Bay.

Also have to give thanks to one of the best photographers out there…Rudy Sabin (see his photos above and below). The guy is incredible. Be sure to check out his website for some samples of his work and follow him on Twitter at @rudyphoto.

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Credit: Rudy Sabin Photography

What did you think of the show? Have you seen either of the performers before?

Please feel free to leave your thoughts on the show, or the artists themselves, in the comments below.