Ali McManus’ New EP Is A Concrete New Entry In The Adult Contemporary Realm

Courtesy: Desert Dreams Records

Singer/songwriter Ali McManus is, right now, likely not one of the most well-known figures in the musical universe. However, thanks to her recently released EP Unbreakable, she could easily make quite the name for herself within the realm of adult contemporary artists. That statement is supported in part through the musical arrangements presented within each of the record’s six songs. They will be discussed shortly. the songs’ lyrical content supports that statement just as much as the EP’s musical arrangements. When they are considered alongside the EP’s sequencing, the three elements together fully prove and support that statement that Unbreakable is a strong start to McManus’ career.

Unbreakable, the new six-song EP from up-and-coming singer/songwriter Ail McManus, is a strong new effort from the 21-year-old Michigan-based musician. It is a work that is certain to resonate with any adult contemporary audience, from radio programmers to listeners. This statement is supported in part through the musical arrangements exhibited throughout the record’s 25-minute run time. From start to finish the arrangements presented throughout are easy fits on any mainstream adult contemporary station. The record’s opener and title track presents an arrangement that would even fit into any Christian radio station’s lineup. That is of course just this critic’s own thought. Even though there is no Christian imagery in the song’s lyrical content (which will be discussed later), something about its wording couples with the music to make it feel like it fits perfectly into that genre, too. ‘Rhythm That Rhymes’ and ‘Breaking Free’ both present more of a country vibe, with the prior even boasting something of a folk sound, too. ‘Wings,’ with its blues-rock-based arrangement will easily appeal to audiences of all ages while ‘Heart Shattered’ and ‘Home’ will each touch listeners in their own unique ways. The emotional ride on which McManus takes listeners over the course of these songs is in itself proof enough of the strength of this new effort from McManus. It is just one part of the whole that proves the EP in whole is a strong new effort. The record’s lyrical themes serve to support that statement just as much as its musical arrangements.

The lyrical themes presented in the songs are so important because of their accessibility. From the disc’s opener all the way to its fourth track, ‘Wings,’ McManus presents messages of hope and optimism. In the disc’s opener, she sings, “I am what I am/And I love where I stand/Yeah, I can’t stand for long/But I’m goin’ strong/I’m unbreakable.” She leaves no question as to her message here. ‘Rhythnm That Rhymes’ presents a similarly positive message in which McManus tells listeners not to give up in life. That is evident as she sings, “Your confidence will grow slowly/Once you accept who you are/Every day at a time/You’ll surely find/A rhythm that rhymes.” That short line sums up the whole song. It is meant to be an inspiring work that reminds audiences to stay on that proverbial brighter side of life. ‘Breaking Free’ is yet another positive work, lyrically speaking as is evident when McManus sings, “What if I’m special/Like no one else/What if I’m happy just the way that I am/Maybe I’m lucky/Look at all that I have/I’m breaking free/Free to be who I am/I’m breaking free because I can/I’m breaking free just how I am.” This directly echoes the optimism presented in the record’s first two songs’ lyrical themes, in turn tying each together. It isn’t until the record reaches its fourth track, ‘Heart Shatters,’ that McManus turns things emotional in a different direction. That song is the EP’s only song about a broken relationship, and McManus goes full force in this one, ensuring anyone (especially female audiences) will be moved. ‘Home,’ the record’s finale celebrates family as McManus sings, “You’re at home with the ones you love/You’re at home with the ones you find within your life/Success means nothing unless you have someone to share it with…This winding road/Will never go straight/It may start to curve in any which way/You should always know your way home.” It’s one more positive message that McManus shares with listeners over the course of the record. When all of those positives are set alongside the record’s lone breakup song, the whole of the messages shows clearly why the songs’ lyrical themes are so important in proving what makes this record a solid effort from her. When they are joined with the songs’ musical arrangements, the two elements join to prove even more why the EP boasts a strong foundation. That whole still is not the last of the record’s most important elements. Its sequencing rounds out the most important of its elements.

The sequencing of the record’s energies is just as important to proving Unbreakable’s strength as its musical and lyrical content. As a matter of fact, it ties directly back to the arrangements, bringing everything full circle. The gentle, flowing piano line at the center of the record’s title track, followed by the equally laid back groove of ‘Rhythm That Rhymes’ establishes a solid transition from one song to the next that in itself will ensure listeners’ maintained engagement. That is especially considering the fact that the two songs stand separate from each other stylistically. The juxtaposition of ‘Breaking Free”s gentle verses and its stronger chorus sections gives this song its own energy and identity. That identity, when considered alongside the energies of the record’s first trio of songs, it makes the EP’s emotional impact that much stronger. McManus changes things up dramatically in ‘Wings,’ the record’s penultimate song. This song is a much more upbeat song that stands starkly separate from anything else in the EP. Its positive musical and lyrical energy gives listeners plenty to smile about. That energy gradually pulls back in the record’s last two songs, eventually returning to the gentle, flowing energy established in the disc’s opener, again bringing everything full circle in another way. By the time it all ends, the energies in the songs overall couples with the arrangements and the lyrical themes to show in full why this record is a strong effort from McManus and why it could be a strong starting point for the up-and-coming adult contemporary friendly artist.

Ali McManus’ new Ep Unbreakable is a good, solid start for the young, up-and-coming singer/songwriter from Michigan. It is a record that easily makes a place for her within the adult contemporary world. That is evident through musical arrangements that fit most easily within that realm in each of its six songs. The largely positive lyrical content is something from which listeners of all ages will benefit in hearing. Though when coupled with the record’s musical arrangements, the two join to show even more why it is a strong entry into the adult contemporary realm. The energies exhibited throughout the course of the EP join with the arrangements and lyrics to indeed make the record itself a concrete new effort. Each element clearly is important in its own right. All things considered, they make this EP a strong, solid new effort from McManus. It is available now in stores and online. More information on Unbreakable is available online now along with all of McManus’ latest news and more at:




To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Sanctuary Joins Kill Ritual For Iced Earth’s Latest Tour

Courtesy: Century Media Records

Veteran metal outfit Sanctuary hit the road this week for a new string of live dates with label mates Iced Earth, and with the tour’s launch, the band also announced another new addition to its lineup.

The band has brought Joey Concepcion (Armageddon, The Absence) to handle guitar duties for the tour.  Most recently, the band tapped vocalist Joseph Michael (Witherfall) to take the place of Warrel Dane (Nevermore, Sanctuary), who sadly died from a heart attack late last December in Sao Paulo, Brazil while recording his then most recent solo album.

Concepcion said in an interview ahead of the tour’s launch, that he was looking forward to joining Sanctuary for its new tour.

“I’m very stoked to be playing with Sanctuary on their upcoming tour,” Concepcion said.  “I’ve been a fan since I was in high school, listening to ‘Into The Mirror Black.’  I’m looking forward to playing these songs live and honoring the legacy of Warrel Dane.”

The current schedule for Sanctuary’s tour with Iced Earth is noted below.

A full list of dates can be found as follows:
2/25 Milwaukee, WI – Turner Ballroom #
2/26 Minneapolis, MN – Music Hall #
2/27 Omaha, NE – Sokol Underground #
2/28 Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall #
3/2 Edmonton, AB – Starlite Room #
3/3 Calgary, AB – Marquee Beer Market & Stage #
3/4 Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theater #
3/5 Seattle, WA – El Corazon #
3/7 Sacramento, CA – Ace of Spades #
3/8 Los Angeles, CA – Belasco Theater #
3/9 San Diego, CA – House of Blues #
3/10 Anaheim, CA – Parish @ House of Blues #
3/11 Phoenix, AZ – The Pressroom #
3/13 San Antonio, TX – Aztec Theatre #
3/14 Dallas, TX – House of Blues #
3/15 Houston, TX – House of Blues #
3/16 New Orleans, LA – Parish @ House of Blues #
3/17 Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade #
3/18 Charlotte, NC – Underground #
3/19 Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Soundstage #
3/21 Wilmington, DE – The Queen #
3/22 New York, NY – Gramercy Theatre #
3/23 Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall #
3/24 Quebec City, QC – Imperial Bell #
3/25 Montreal, QC – Corona Theater #
3/26 Toronto, ON – Phoenix Theater #
3/27 Cleveland, OH – Cambridge Room @ House of Blues #
3/28 Detroit, MI – St. Andrew’s Hall #
3/29 Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge #
# with Iced Earth & Kill Ritual

Tickets are available online here.

More information on Sanctuary’s new tour schedule is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news at:






To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Experience Hendrix Releases Exclusive Record Store Day 7-Inch Single

Art Credit: Randy Chavez

Jimi Hendrix fans are going to get a new collection of the guitar legend’s music this spring, and in anticipation of its release, a new 7″ vinyl single has been released.

‘Lover Man’ was released Friday in anticipation of the upcoming release of Both Sides of the Sky, the forthcoming new collection of previously unreleased Hendrix compositions.  The album is currently scheduled to be released March 9 in stores and online.

Those who weren’t lucky enough to get a copy of the exclusive Record Store Day release can hear it streaming online now here.  Pre-orders for Both Sides of the Sky are open now here.  The 10-song collection, which was co-produced by Hendrix’s long-time producer Eddie Kramer, Jimmy’s sister Janie and John McDermott, will be available on CD, vinyl and digital platforms.

The record’s track listing is noted below.

Both Sides of the Sky track list (out March 9):

1)         Mannish Boy*

2)         Lover Man*

3)         Hear My Train A Comin’*

4)         Stepping Stone*

5)         $20 Fine*+

6)         Power Of Soul^

7)         Jungle*

8)         Things I Used to Do#

9)         Georgia Blues++

10)       Sweet Angel*

11)       Woodstock*+

12)       Send My Love To Linda*

13)       Cherokee Mist*

*Previously unreleased

^ Previously unavailable extended version

+Featuring Stephen Stills

#Featuring Johnny Winter

++Featuring Lonnie Youngblood


More information on ‘Lover Man,’ Both Sides of the Sky and all things Jimi Hendrix is available online now at:






To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Alex Di Leo Premieres ‘Brooklyn Bridge’ Video; Announces New Contest

Independent alt-rock/pop artist Alex Di Leo has unveiled the video for his latest single ‘Brooklyn Bridge.’

Produced by Brother Sundance, the video follows Di Leo through the streets and rooftops of New York City as well as along the Brooklyn Bridge as he performs his catchy, radio-ready single.  The video is streaming online now here.

Courtesy: TAG Publicity

Along with the video’s debut, a contest has been launched giving audiences the chance to win an all-expenses paid trip for two to see Di Leo live July 1 at the Brooklyn Bridge complete with complimentary meet and greet.  The trip last from Friday, June 30 to Sunday, July 2 and also will include a $100 gift card.  Contest information is available here.

Di Leo’s music has made gotten a lot of airplay this year already, being featured on MTV’s Teen Mom and on a pair of GoPro camera ads.  His new EP is currently scheduled for release this spring, with an official release date announcement expected soon.

More information on Alex Di Leo’s new single is available online now along with all of his latest news and more at:





To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Anti-Flag Unveils New Single; Announces More Live Dates

Courtesy: Spinefarm Records

Anti-Flag has released yet another single from its latest album, American Fall.

The band released the explicitly-titled song ‘Mr. Mother******.’  The song is streaming online now via Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play and all digital platforms.  It is available for purchase online via iTunes and Amazon.

Guitarist Chris #2 said of the song, which was originally a b-side for the band’s American Attraction picture disc, that it is meant to pay homage to certain social activist organizations.

“Honestly, we just wanted to throw our hat into the ring in the storied history of Stagger Lee,” Chris #2 said.  “Our version has nods to those in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement of today, the black panther movement and the overall fight for social and economic justice.”

He added the song, creatively, was a reflection of the band trying something new in terms of its songwriting approach.

“This is a one-take demo of the song that we thought captured something very cool,” Chris #2 said.  “We were trying to push ourselves to experiment with tempos and structures when writing for American Fall, and those experiments are pretty clear on ‘Mr. Mother******.’

Anti-Flag will embark on a new tour this spring and summer in support of American Fall.  The two-month-long-plus tour is currently scheduled to run launch May 13 in Somerset, WI and run through July 15 in Tabor, Czech Republic.  The tour includes three festival performances in May at Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio; Northern Invasion in Somerset, Wisconsin and Pouzza Fest in Montreal, Canada.

The band’s current tour schedule is noted below.

Tour Dates:
May 13 Somerset, WI – Northern Invasion
May 18-20 Columbus, OH – Rock On The Range
May 18-20 Montreal, QC – Pouzza 8
June 7 Interlaken, CH – GreenField Festival
June 8 Bologna, IT – Zona Roveri
June 9 Arluno, IT – Malt Festival
June 10 Cordenons, IT – Rock Town
June 13 Bratislava, SK – Incheba Expo Arena
June 14-17 Nickelsdorf, AT – Novarock Festival
June 22 Dessel, BE – Graspop Festival
June 29 Ysselsteyn, NL – Jera On Air
June 30 Würzburg, DE – Mission Ready Festival
July 6-7 Straubenhardt, DE – Happiness Festival
July 6-8 Hünxe, DE – Ruhrpott Rodeo
July 11-14 Viveiro, ES – Resurrection Festival
July 12-14 Glaubitz, DE – Glaubitz Open Air Back to Future
July 13-15 Tábor, CZ – Mighty Sounds

More information on the band’s upcoming live dates is available along with its new single, news and more at:






To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and ‘Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Exmortus Joining Obituary For European Tour

Courtesy: Prosthetic Records

Exmortus is headed to Europe.

The band announced this week that it will serve as direct support for veteran metal outfit Obituary on its European headlining schedule.  The tour, which will run from March 3 to April 1, will take the bands to Vienna, Austria; Mulhouse, France; Stuttgart, Germany and a variety of other cities.  the current tour schedule is noted below.

EXMORTUS European & UK tour dates w/ OBITUARY
Mar 03, 2018 – Luxor Koln, Germany
Mar 04, 2018 – Biebob Vosselaar, Belgium
Mar 06, 2018 – Rescue Rooms Nottingham, United Kingdom
Mar 07, 2018 – The Classic Grand Glasgow, United Kingdom
Mar 08, 2018 – Manchester Club Academy Manchester, United Kingdom
Mar 09, 2018 – O2 Institute2 Birmingham Birmingham, United Kingdom
Mar 10, 2018 – ULU Live at Student Central London, United Kingdom
Mar 12, 2018 – Universum Stuttgart, Germany
Mar 13, 2018 – ​Zoom Frankfurt Am Main, Germany
Mar 14, 2018 – Le Trabendo Paris, France
Mar 16, 2018 – CCO DE Villeurbanne Villeurbanne, France
Mar 17, 2018 – Le Noumatrouff Mulhouse, France
Mar 18, 2018 – Feierwerk / Hansa 39 München, Germany
Mar 19, 2018 – Kulturfabrik Kofmehl Solothurn, Switzerland
Mar 20, 2018 – Alcatraz Milan, Italy
Mar 22, 2018 – Szene Wien Vienna, Austria
Mar 23, 2018 – Hellraiser Leipzig, Germany
Mar 24, 2018 – Musik & Frieden Berlin, Germany
Mar 25, 2018 – ​Logo Hamburg, Germany
Mar 27, 2018 – Pumpehuset Copenhagen, Denmark
Mar 28, 2018 – Fryshuset Klubben Stockholm, Sweden
Mar 29, 2018 – Inferno Festival Oslo, Norway*
Mar 30, 2018 – Sticky Fingers Göteborg, Sweden
Apr 01, 2018 – Paaspop Festival Schijndel, Netherlands*
*Obituary only 
Exmortus’ latest live schedule is in support of its most recent full-length studio recording, Ride Forth, released January 8, 2016 via Prosthetic Records.  More information on Exmortus’ upcoming European dates is available online along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Hatchet Signs With Combat Records; Reveals New Album Specs

Courtesy: O’Donnell Media Group

Hatchet officially has a new home and a new album on the way.

The band announced this week that it had signed a new deal with the recently resurrected hard rock label, Combat Records.  With the deal officially signed, the band–Julz Ramos (vocals/guitar), Clayton Cagle (guitar), Devin Reiche (bass) and Ben Smith (drums)–also announced it will release its next album, Dying To Exist, via Combat Records and EMP Label Group June 22, 2018.  The album will be the band’s fourth full-length studio recording.

Ramos said in a recent interview that he was humbled to be the latest addition to Combat Records.

“We couldn’t be happier to have found a home on Combat!,” Ramos said.  “The label is obviously a huge staple in thrash and extreme metal, with some of the most infamous bands in close connection to or directly under Combat at some point.  Its true history and significance is beyond my years and first-hand understanding.  However, from what I do know and have seen, assures me this is a good home for our album!”

In talking about Dying to Exist, Ramos said the album offered plenty for the band’s audiences.

“The album itself is the fastest and most creative material to date, with all four members contributing our writing efforts throughout the record,” Ramos said.  “This is the most we’ve sounded like a band collectively, and it’s definitely for the better!”

Combat/EMP Label Group head Dave Ellefson had positive words for the band while talking about the new signing.

“Hatchet is a great young band who definitely fit the bill for Combat.  Aggressive, modern thrash metal, with an old-school intensity,” Ellefson said.  “I’ve been a fan of these guys for a while now, and we’re extremely proud to add them to the Combat roster.”

More information on Hatchet’s signing and new album is available online now at

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at