Music, Sight & Sound

Zac Brown Band debut video for “Sweet Annie”

Georgia country music heavyweights Zac Brown Band have debuted their music video for the single “Sweet Annie”.

The video holds a special place within the band as the wedding theme video is footage of band member Coy Bowles’ actual wedding to his now-wife Kylie. The cameras followed the happy couple through their nuptials and on to their reception, creating what would become the video for “Sweet Annie”. Bowles has said how much work went into the planning of the event;

[quote]”There was a lot of planning that went into this wedding, and a lot of hard work on many people’s efforts. The sun and weather could not have been more perfect. Kylie, my wife, really out did herself creatively on the vibe and look of the wedding. She had a vision of what she wanted the wedding to look like. With the help of others, including Shelly Brown who designed her dress, we were really able to pull of this relaxing, gypsy fantasy land of a wedding.[/quote]

Bowles concludes by saying how important the day was to him;

[quote]Standing in front of everyone that you care about, looking into the eyes of the one person you wanna be with and love for the rest of your life and telling them exactly how you feel about them, how much love them in front of all the people that you love is one of the most awesome and intense things I’ve ever done.”[/quote]

The single is from their Grammy Award winning album Uncaged, released last year.

Check out the video below:

Album Reviews, Music

Review: Darius Rucker – True Believers

There are very few things Darius Rucker can say he hasn’t achieved as a solo artist. On this, his third country album, the Hootie & The Blowfish has firmly established himself as one of the better contemporary country artists. True Believers is both terrifically entrenched in country’s roots while showing off Rucker’s grasp of the popular music landscape.

Frank Rogers returns to produce and once again the album is sonically crisp. His new singles to date, the all encompassing “True Believers” and the Old Crow Medicine Show cover “Wagon Wheel”, are both the most accessible tracks of the album. But when he gets a little more intimate on songs like “Miss You” and the Sheryl Crow featuring “Love Without You”, True Believers really does shine. The latter is country balladeering with certain grace, coated with Sheryl Crow’s gentle vocal touch. There’s a little gospel in “Take Me Home” and “Leavin’ The Light On” brings home the more traditional twang of the record.

Rucker’s love for country music and of course, his homeland, is very much why his country albums sound genuine.  There’s a certain honesty and feel-good-ness to his songs that while they at times may feel a little mawkish, are very much sincere and heartfelt.

True Believers doesn’t quite hit as high of notes as its processor Charleston, SC 1966 did, but what it does do is continue an already impressive legacy. It’s hard not to smile and feel a little bit of down-to-earth sentimentality when he rolls through the album’s closer “Lie To Me”, a break up love song that is both a little tongue-in-cheek and a little bit hard truth. And that’s the best part of Rucker’s music, honesty and his ability to weave it through good songs, both traditional and contemporary.

There are many serious subjects that country musicians have sung, much about the world being a difficult place. Rucker may not always delve into the most complex of material, but you don’t always have to in order to know what’s going on in both the heart and the head. After all, I believe the phrase is, “all you need is three chords and the truth”. (Capitol Nashville)

Album Reviews, Featured, Music

Review: Brad Paisley – Wheelhouse

There is an unspoken idea that country music artists can’t be relevant or aware in music’s often self-indulgent meta-isms of today. That someone wearing cowboy boots or a stetson is somehow unqualified to talk about pop culture and the ‘in and now’ the way someone in shades and a designer leather jacket is. Somewhere along the line, our trust in understanding the world through music shifted from the endless plains to urban hooliganism and hipster clubs. While some country music can be hokey, the bad kind is not any less irrelevant than “musicians” who use computer programs instead of guitars.

Brad Paisley, now on his ninth studio album, is as relevant and eloquent as any musician who uses their music to express the world’s trials and tribulations through notes and lyrics. Wheelhouse, 17 tracks in all, is a lesson on how country music can be as smartly written and urgent as anything written from the underbelly of London or New York. While strongly rooted in Southern traditions, the album makes it a priority to stretch far past the borders of Nashville. The album’s first single “Southern Comfort Zone”, sets this tone early on, making the earnest concern that country stereotypes are just as poorly formed as any other. It waxes lyrical about how you don’t have to be country to be country, set to the backdrop of uptempo guitar-driven country rock and easy-to-digest lines; “Not everybody goes to church or watches every NASCAR race / Not everybody knows the words to “Ring Of Fire” or “Amazing Grace””. It’s perfect for the radio- any radio- replete with just the right amount of melodic resonance. The song’s message is something that permeates through the rest of the album too, that a good ol’ Southern country boy can be as worldly as just about anyone else.

In “Pressing On A Bruise”, Paisley shares the song with singer/songwriter Mat Kearney, resulting in the album’s most alterna-ready tune. Kearney’s vocal imposition and contrasting beat leaves the song somewhere between Paisley’s more traditional numbers and Third Eye Blind. The song’s accessible nature isn’t far from opening credit music for everything that was on the old WB channel (ie. Teen dramas and young adult shows).

The distinctly country-heavy tunes of the album, “Harvey Bodine” and “Outstanding in the Field”, bounce with enough country fervor but avoid the hokey Billy Ray Cyrus-ness trap. Interestingly, some of the album’s most memorable songs are when Paisley slows down the tempo- like the quietly somber “I Can’t Change The World”. In it, Paisley’s melancholic tone is a little defeatist, surrendering to the idea that we cannot affect change on a grand scale, but when it comes to the matters of the heart, we are in fact in control of that destiny; “I can’t change the world / maybe that’s for sure / but if you let me girl / I can change yours”.

He tightropes blasphemy (in the piano-clad “Those Crazy Christians”) with humor and aplomb, while doing the old-fashioned romance with style (“Beat This Summer”), but the one time Wheelhouse stumbles, is in the LL Cool J featuring “Accidental Racist”. It’s a well meaning song, about Paisley’s awareness of the sometimes ugly side of being Southern, but the LL rap verse/bridge come off as clunky. It’s not that LL can’t do his thing, it’s just that on here, he comes across as “rap for mainstream country folk” (LL actually uses the lines “I wish you understood what the world is like livin’ in the hood / just because my pants are saggin’ it doesn’t mean I’m up to no good”).

The album however, ends on a terrific note. The closer, “Officially Alive”, is everything great about Wheelhouse. Guitar soaked, upbeat and uptempo, it is a song about feeling alive while being aware that you’re alive- spreading the gospel of being happy, being in love, and being aware of impending mortality. It’s all parts Southern soul coated with the shine of radio friendly country rock and good time vibes.

It is unfortunate that country, great country especially, isn’t perceived to be as culturally relevant and/or powerful as something written by Jay-Z or Thom Yorke or whatever it is that is being pushed as the new wave of significance. The truth is, like his country contemporaries, Paisley is as in-tune with the world around him as he is the world in which he calls home. It just seems that the majority of country artists aren’t always concerned with reminding us constantly. Tastemakers are quick to push country aside, away from the lens of indie trends, flashy hip hop and schizophrenic dance music. It’s too bad because Wheelhouse is modern reflection with great conviction; clarity amongst the distortion and noise found in our current surrounds. (Arista Nashville)

Music, Single Reviews

Single Review: Brad Paisley – “Beat This Summer”

The second single from Brad Paisley’s upcoming Wheelhouse is quite unlike the album’s lead off. While the terrific “Southern Comfort Zone” had its honest-to-goodness nature worn heavily on its uptempo riffs and anthemic veneer, “Beat This Summer” is your more traditional country-infused go-around, but like much of what Paisley is doing with Wheelhouse, its modern country view of today’s world is as warm as its feelgood lyrical musings.

“Southern Comfort Zone” found itself traversing much of the world, overcoming critics of the sometimes self-centric nature of country music- singing about being a good ol’ country boy while having seen the streets of Rome and Paris, never leaving Tennessee at heart. And if that song sang about how not all country music lovers “watch NASCAR” or “owns a gun”, its follow-up is more simplistic and straight forward with its complexion- plenty of mid tempo twang and plucky solos. “Beat This Summer” isn’t as ambitious, but it is a nice alternative, keeping things at home with its allusions of love and summer.

Wheelhouse looks like it could be Paisley’s most ambitious record to date, and the first two singles are a nice indication of the varying scope of its material.

Album Reviews, Music

Review: Gillian Welch – The Harrow And The Harvest

Some 8 years since her last album, Gillian Welch makes her long awaited return with The Harrow & The Harvest. Partnering up once again with collaborator David Rawlings, the new album is the culmination of all the songwriting frustration that has built up since 2003’s Soul Journey. This extended period has been labelled by Welch as a difficult time where “we made a few tentative steps at trying to record, but inevitably the heart would go out of it when we realised that we simply didn’t like the material enough to go on with it.”

It’s with absolute rejoice then, that The Harrow & The Harvest is easily one of the best pieces of music released this year, and an unconditional artistic success for both Welch and Rawlings. It’s amazing to hear and feel the emotional connection one can have to music primarily composed of an incredible voice, two or so instruments and the knowledge and thirst for traditional and historic American music.

From the beautiful opening of “Scarlet Town” to the gut wrenching introspection of “Tennessee” and the sullen tone of “Down Along The Dixie Line”, The Harrow & The Harvest is a triumph of everything Americana, blues, Appalachian and heartfelt. And as sparse as much of the album is, it has enough resonance to fill the great depths of the Grand Canyon. The twang of the banjo coupled by her drawl in “Hard Times” is a particularly terrific tune- both wry in its lyrical twists and futility- while the closing “The Way The Whole Thing Ends” boasts the beautiful fragility of spending a pretty Sunday morning at a funeral.

A truly rewarding listen from beginning to end, the album traverses the dusty plains of America’s endless landscapes and mountains, weaving in stories of sadness, anger, pain and humor the only way a whiskey-drenched Tennessee night can. The last time I felt this way about an album, it was written by Loretta Lynn. It seems the very best story telling in music comes from the amazing women of America’s southern lands. (Acony Records)

[xrr rating=4/5]

Featured Video, Videos

Video: Social Distortion performs “Machine Gun Blues” on Jimmy Kimmel

It is mystery as to how one of the great rock n’ roll bands of our time had, in 30 years, never once appeared on a live television event performing one of their songs. Social Distortion’s inexplicable run finally came to an end recently as they graced the small screen for their first ever television performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Performing “Machine Gun Blues” from their upcoming new album Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes along with favorite “Story of My Life“,  Social Distortion proved that aging well isn’t exclusive to fine wines.

Check out their take on the new track above. The band’s new album is due January 18, 2011 via Epitaph.


Tumbledown do Daytrotter

MxPx side project Tumbledown recently visited the Daytrotter studios to lay down some live renditions of their songs. You can check out their performances of tracks “Butcher of San Antone”, “State Line” and “Son of a Gun” right here.

Tumbledown is the country/western rock project of MxPx vocalist Mike Herrera. They recently released their new album, Empty Bottle, via End Sounds.

You can also download the entire session, for free (in exchange for an email address) via this link.