Nick Perri & The Underground Thieves’ Debut LP Gives Great Hope For the Band’s Future

Courtesy: Chipster PR

Singer-songwriter Nick Perri is joining southern rock band Blackberry Smoke for a series of live dates next week.  The live dates, set to run from Sept. 10-15, are all drive-in concerts that will take Perri and his fellow musicians — Brian Weaver (bass), and Zil Fessler (drums) — from Virginia up to Massachusetts.  They are in support of Sun Via, the recently released album from Perri and his larger backing back, The Underground Thieves.  Released independently by the band Aug. 14, the 10-song record will find appeal among a wide range of listeners through its musical and lyrical content, each of which will be discussed here.  While each noted element is key in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation, its production and mixing is just as important to the noted overall picture.  It will also be noted later.  All three items are important in their own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, they make Sun Via one of the most surprisingly interesting albums released in the rock community so far this year.

Nick Perri and the Underground Thieves’ debut album Sun Via is an intriguing first offering from the band.  That is meant in a positive fashion.  The interest in the record stems in part from its musical arrangements.  The arrangements in question display a variety of influences.  Case in point is the record’s finale ‘White Noise.’  The wall of sound approach in this song’s arrangement combines influences from the likes of Oasis and Pink Floyd while also adding in a touch of David Bowie influence to add even more depth to the whole.  While the influences are noticeable, audiences will be glad to know that Perri and company used those influences to make their own unique song here rather than just rip off any specific songs from said acts.  The whole makes this arrangement a powerful exit for the album and just one example of what makes the album’s arrangements so important to its whole.  ‘Fall’ also boasts a bit of that Pink Floyd influence, just in a different sense.  Moving on, ‘Feeling Good,’ the album’s opener, takes a distinctly different approach in its arrangement.  Right from the song’s opening notes, its arrangement lends itself to comparisons to works from blues rock great Joe Bonamassa.  At the same time, listeners can also make comparisons here to works from the likes of The Black Keys and Royal Blood.  That comparison can be made through the use of the (Hammond?) organ, the fuzzed effect in the guitar and the percussion alongside the bass line.  The whole creates a sound that is so infectious and memorable.    It’s just one more way in which the album’s musical arrangements prove so important to its presentation.  That is because it shows again, the diversity in the record’s musical side.  The album also presents a classic rock influence in the form of ‘I Want You.’  This song is a ballad that white original and unique in its own presentation, clearly shows the noted influence.  There is also a more modern pop rock influence exhibited in this record in the form of ‘I Want You,’ and ‘Daughters & Sons.’  There are other songs that show the aforementioned Pink Floyd influence along with all of this.  Simply put, the musical arrangements that are featured throughout Sun Via give listeners plenty of reason in themselves, to hear this record.  They arrangements are just a portion of what makes Sun Via stand out.  Its lyrical themes are just as valuable to its whole as its musical arrangements.

The lyrical themes featured throughout Sun Via are wholly familiar to any listener.  Case in point is the theme featured in ‘I Want You.’  Perri sings at one point, “Baby, please come home/Baby, I want you.”  Little else needs noting to know the song’s lyrical theme.  This is someone trying to get the woman he loves to come back after the pair has obviously had some form of falling out.  In this case, the song’s subject is not using the familiar “oh, woe is me” mindset in trying to get his woman back, but rather, trying at this point, to be hopeful that he can convince her to return.  It’s just one phase of such a situation.  It will connect with any listener.

‘Daughters & Sons’ presents its own unique introspective lyrical theme.  The song opens with Perri singing, “I see the writing on the wall/They say the futility of it all/Why do the evil get it all/While the good one die youg/Leaving daughters and sons.”  From there he sings, “Are you aware/Of the little things that you do/That you do/To make people love you/Are you aware of the little things that you say/Turning the blue skies to gray/But I see/The writing on the wall/Facing he futility of it all/Why do the evil get it all/While the good ones die young/Leaving daughters and sons?”  He continues in the song’s second verse, “Do you care about the people you leave/Yeah, the people like you and me…Do you care…about the feeling we lost here at home?”  This really comes across as a subtle commentary of sorts that reminds people to keep in mind who and what is important in life while we are here.  It’s hardly the first time that such a seeming message has been delivered in any genre.  That aside, it is a message that is always welcome and that will resonate with listeners.  Keeping that in mind, it is just one more way in which the album’s lyrical content proves so important to its presentation.  ‘Everybody Wants One’ I another way in which the album’s lyrical theme show their importance to the record.

The song comes across – at least to a point – as being about concerns surrounding consumerism.  This is inferred as Perri sings in the song’s lead verse, “They got something gonna blow your mind/It doesn’t all look how it shines, yeah…Gonna make you feel good/Everybody wants one/Don’t let it get away/Everybody wants one/Tokyo to L.A./Everybody wants one/You don’t wanna hesitate.”  He continues in the song’s second verse, “You know, it’s gonna put ‘em all to shame/Everybody’s gonna have one soon/You know what I’m looking at, you.”  Again, this would seem to hint at a commentary about how companies sell things to people and how people fall for the companies’ marketing, making them believe that they just have to have the next big, cool item.  It’s another familiar topic, and is just as relevant today as ever.  It’s one more way in which the album’s lyrical content proves its value.  When it is considered along with the other themes noted here and the rest of the album’s lyrical themes, the whole makes even more clear why the album’s lyrical content is as important as its musical arrangements.  The lyrical and musical content featured in the record go a long way toward making it a strong new effort, and are just a portion of what makes the album worth hearing.  Its production and mixing adds to its appeal, too.

The production and mixing that went into Sun Via’s presentation is important to note because of the general effect that it has on the record.  Some of the songs, such as ‘White Noise,’ ‘Daughters & Sons,’ and ‘Fall’ have so much going on in such different ways.  From the dynamic changes to the balance of the instruments to even the smaller aesthetic elements, such as electronics and ambient aspects, everything within the songs is balanced so well within each song.  The result is a group of songs whose arrangements are distinct from one another, but ensure listeners’ engagement and entertainment because of that balance and overall composition.  Much the same can be said of ‘Feeling Good’ and so many of the album’s other entries.  The sharpness of the guitar in ‘Feeling Good’ and its slight echo effect makes for a great effect here.  That the drums and bass are so well-balanced with the guitar and vocals adds to the song’s positive impact.  The whole is such a strong offering and yet another example of the impact of the album’s production and mixing.  Between the production and mixing here, that of the other noted songs and the rest of the album’s entries, the production and mixing in whole proves why it is just as important to this album as the album’s content.  Keeping all of this in mind, the album in whole leaves no doubt why it is such a strong debut for Nick Perri and the Underground Thieves.  The noted elements join to make the album one of the year’s more surprisingly interesting new rock and independent albums.

Sun Via is quite the intriguing first outing from Nick Perri and the Underground Thieves.  That is due in part to its musical arrangements.  From blues rock to some prog influences, to, even modern pop rock, and even some neo-folk and more, the record’s musical arrangements display a wide range of styles.  This ensures a wide appeal in itself.  The album’s lyrical themes are familiar and delivered in unique fashion from one to the next.  The record’s production and mixing ensure its aesthetic appeal is complete, too.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the record.  All things considered, they make Sun Via a truly unique presentation that is well worth hearing and that shows great promise for the group’s future.  Sun Via is available now.  More information on the album is available along with all of the group’s latest news at:






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Nick Perri To Support Blackberry Smoke Live Next Month

Courtesy: Chipster PR

Singer-songwriter Nick Perri is joining southern rock band Blackberry Smoke for a series of live dates.

Perry is scheduled to join the band for four dates next month on its live drive-in concert run.  Perry will serve as support on the tour from Sept. 10-15 beginning Sept. 10 in Roanoke, VA.  From there, he will join the band in Butler, PA; Scranton, PA and Yarmouth, MA.

Perri’s run with Blackberry Smoke is noted below.

Thurs Sept 10 – Dr Pepper Park – Roanoke, VA
Sat      Sept 12 – Starlight Drive-In – Butler, PA
Sun     Sept 13 – Circle Drive-In – Scranton, PA
Tues   Sept 15 – Yarmouth Drive-In on Cape Cod – Yarmouth, MA

Perri talked about joining Blackberry Smoke during a recent interview.

“I’m thrilled to be headed back on the road, to continue sharing the experience of live music, and most of all excited to be doing it with my dear friends in Blackberry Smoke- who I love and admire so much”, said Perri. “Especially in a time like this, I think live music plays an important role in uniting and up-lifting.”

“For a variety of reasons, the Trio version of this band makes the most sense on this run,” added Perri. “I’m really excited to strip things back and offer an alternative experience to what we do with the full six-piece band.”

The Nick Perri Trio will consist of Perri on lead vocals and guitar, Brian Weaver on bass, and Zil Fessler on drums.

Perri’s upcoming dates with Blackberry Smoke are just his latest performing at drive-in dates.  He and his band The Underground Thieves joined The Struts early this month for a pair of drive-in shows in Philadelphia and Butler, PA.

Nick Perri and The underground Thieves released its debut album Sun Via Aug. 14.  The album peaked at #6 on the Top 10 US Rock Albums iTunes chart.  The album is available here.

More information about Nick Perri’s upcoming live dates and album is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:






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Blackberry Smoke Proves Again To Be An Elite Southern Rock, Country Act Again In Its Latest LP

Courtesy: 3 Legged Records

Veteran southern rock band Blackberry Smoke is one of the leading names within the southern rock community today.  Over the course of now 18 years, the Atlanta, Georgia-based band has earned that title by growing and changing with each of its now six full-length studio recordings.  That growth and change has come at the band’s own pace, and has resulted in each of the band’s albums being its own special and impressive offering.  Its latest album, Find A Light is no exception to that rule.  Released April 6 – only a couple of weeks ago – this 13-song, 53-minute record will easily appeal to not only Blackberry Smoke’s fans but fans of ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Dylan, Reckless Kelly and other similar acts, at least musically.  Lyrically, it will just as easily reach a wider range of audiences. This is proven right from the album’s outset in the form of ‘Flesh and Bone.’  This song will be discussed shortly.  ‘I’ve Got This Song,’ which comes later in the album’s run, does just as much to show the significance of this album.  It will be discussed later.  ‘Nobody Gives A Damn’ does its own part to show why Find A Light is another impressive offering from Blackberry Smoke, yet is hardly the last of the songs included in this album that proves its enjoyment.  The seeming social commentary presented in ‘Lord Strike Me Dead,’ the old school southern rock vibe and optimistic message of ‘I’ll Keep Ramblin’’ and the combined gentle, flowing arrangement and simple message of ‘Mother Mountain’ – the album’s closer – adds even more to the album’s enjoyment.  Between these works, the pieces more directly noted here and even those not discussed, it goes without saying that the whole of the album’s songs makes Find A Light some of the band’s best work to date, an album that shines bright among this year’s rock and country fields.

Blackberry Smoke’s sixth full-length studio recording Find A Light is a shining new effort from the veteran southern rock outfit.  That is because it takes the successes of its past albums and, rather than rehashing them, uses them to grow and change once again.  The result is an album that is one of Blackberry Smoke’s best offerings to date.  This is proven right from the album’s outset in the form of ‘Flesh And Bone.’  Musically speaking, this bluesy arrangement easily lends itself to comparisons to works from ZZ Top and Jeff Beck among others.  Of course that is just this critic’s own interpretation.  Other listeners might just as easily make other comparisons.  Lyrically speaking, this song is just as certain to keep listeners engaged as its musical arrangement is to keep them entertained and engaged.  Front man Charlie Starr sings here, “Tie my two hands behind me/Close my ears and my eyes/I just might need some shelter/From these things I desire/Right in front of me/All that I wanna see/Oh, help me baby/Is this how it’s gotta be/Will it all be the end of me/Everything’s so good and so bad/Temptation all you can stand/Everything so right and so wrong/What can I do/I’m just flesh and bone.”  This lead verse seems to be someone saying he is trying to be the best that he can be despite being “just flesh and bone.”  It’s an interesting statement, and is just one of the song’s verses sure to engage listeners.  He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “It’s a curse or a blessing/Sometimes I can’t tell/Is it just like they teach us/That we’ll send you to hell/What will it do to me/The first little bit is free/Oh, help me baby/Set me/Watch me fall/I want a taste of it all/Everything’s so good and so bad/Temptation all you can stand/Everything’s so right and so wrong/What can I do/I’m just flesh and bone.”  Even more so here, the song’s subject is posing some deep existential questions; questions that so many people ask yet generally aren’t moved to discuss because of their depth.  Overall, it seems with these verses that Starr is highlighting one of the key matters of being human – questioning everything around us.  What’s interesting about it is the manner in which he does this.  He poses the topic in a fashion that makes it both interesting and accessible to the everyday listener.  The song’s musical arrangement serves to make add to that interest and accessibility.  When this is considered alongside the depth of the song’s lyrical content, the whole of these two elements makes easy to see why this song is so critical to the album’s whole.  It shows right from the albums’ outset the band’s continued growth both musically and lyrically.  That growth continues to be shown in plenty of different ways from here, keeping the album fresh and interesting.  This is proven later in the album in the form of the moving, contemplative ‘I’ve Got This Song.’

In regards to its musical arrangement, ‘I’ve Got This Song’ wastes no time lending itself to comparisons to works from so many country music acts what with the twang of its guitar and subtle violin line.  Starr’s vocal delivery added to that mix strengthens that pure country music comparison.  In all honesty, one could take that whole and compare it to songs from the likes of Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, and other similar famed country names.  That in itself makes this song interesting in its own right.  The song’s lyrical content offers its own share of interest.  Starr sings in melancholy fashion here, “These days/The good days/Are fewer and father between/Sometimes, the hard time’s a shadow on my sky blue dream/I don’t have much if you look through the eyes of the world/Open me up and you might find just one shining pearl/I’ve got this song/A story to tell about the good times and bad times/heaven and hell/Well it might not be pretty/Or have much to say/But it’s all I’ve got left at the end of the day/The one thing they can’t take away/I’ve got this song.”  This is a really moving statement.  It comes across as stressing the importance of appreciating the little things that we have in life.  This is inferred as Starr sings, “It’s all I’ve got left at the end of the day/The one thing they can’t take away/I’ve got this song.”  It’s a statement that could so easily inspire so many listeners.  He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “I’ve got a short list of good friends I can count on to answer my call/And the long list of bad things I might not be proud of at all/Show me a man who hasn’t yet learned how to fall/There is a man who doesn’t know much yet at all/I’ve got this song/A story to tell about the good times and bad times/Heaven and Hell/It might not be pretty/or have much to say/But it’s all that I got left at the end of the day/The one thing they can’t take away/I’ve got this song.”  Again, the message of appreciating life’s little things is here.  In this case it is heightened by Starr singing about “a man who hasn’t yet learned how to fall.”  He is saying here that yes, he’s got bad things in his life, but he’s learned from them and learned, in turn, to appreciate the simple things.  It’s just such a moving message.  When that message is coupled with the song’s equally heartfelt musical arrangement, the whole of those two elements makes this song another of this album’s strongest points.  That strength, in turn, serves to show in its own way why FAL is another success for Blackberry Smoke.  Even with this in mind, it is not the last of the album’s strong points.  ‘Nobody Gives A Damn’ is one more of the album’s strong points.

‘Nobody Gives A Damn’ comes late in FAL’s run.  This song proves to be another of the album’s high points in part through its musical arrangement, which wastes no time lending itself to comparisons with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s best works.  To a lesser extent, one could even argue that this arrangement could be compared to Reckless Kelly’s best compositions, too.  It’s a fun, up-tempo piece that will instantly grab listeners’ attention and keep it right to the song’s end.  The positive vibes in the song’s musical arrangement expertly compliment the song’s no nonsense lyrical content to show even more why this song is a standout work.  In regards to the song’s lyrical content, the song comes across as a searing indictment of those people who think everything is all about themselves.  No, it’s not the first time that any popular music act has ever gone this route, lyrically speaking.  Regardless, it’s still an enjoyable approach here.  Starr addresses those self-centered figures here, singing, “You can make something out of nothing my friend/Make yourself a little bit of money to spend/You can sing a song everybody knows/You can walk in with the skinniest girl/You can carve your initials all over the world/Put on the biggest rock and roll pose/What are you, some kind of hero/Doing everything that you can/you think that everybody’s watching, but nobody gives a damn.”  Starr’s indictment of those figures is just as searing in the song’s second verse.  He sings here, “You can walk a wire and you don’t need a mitt/You’re the best damn thing that they haven’t seen yet/Give ‘em a chance to fall in love with you/You can sing a tune to a million or two/Have your name at the top of a list of who’s who/It don’t mean nothing when the rent is due.”  He adds in the chorus this time, “Nobody cares what you do or say/They’ll forget about you anyway/Don’t you worry, it’s a waste of time/Take your number and get back in line.”  Everybody knows or has known figures such as the one(s) being addressed here.  It makes the song easily accessible and relatable for listeners.  Starr’s direct statement, versus the metaphorical beating around the bush that he could have otherwise done, strengthens the song even more.  It really makes the song stand out so clearly among the album’s entries.  Keeping in mind all of this, the song serves in its own way to prove the strength of FAL, too.  When it is joined with the equally strong ‘I’ve Got This Song’ and ‘Flesh And Bone,’ these three songs do plenty to show exactly why Blackberry Smoke has succeeded again with this album.  Of course this trio is only a small portion of what makes FAL another success for the band.  The musical and lyrical content exhibited in ‘Lord Strike Me Dead,’ ‘I’ll Keep Ramblin’’ and ‘Mother Mountain’ does just as much to show what makes this album so strong.  When all of these songs are joined with the compositions not noted here, the whole of the album proves to be a shining new offering from Blackberry Smoke, and a work that shows even more why this band is one of southern rock’s elite acts right now.

Find A Light, the latest full-length studio recording from Blackberry Smoke, is a shining (yes, this critic went that cheesy route) new offering from the veteran southern rock outfit.  That is because of the growth that is exhibited from start to end.  That growth is exhibited in a variety of different musical arrangements throughout; arrangements that show comparisons to top names from country and southern rock past and present.  The album’s relateable and at times inspiring lyrical themes show just as much growth here as the album’s musical arrangements.  That musical and lyrical growth makes the album, from start to finish, a work that is certain to keep listeners engaged and entertained completely.  That maintained engagement and entertainment will have listeners agreeing to the album’s strength, and that Blackberry Smoke has shown through those strengths once again why it is among country and southern rock’s elite acts.  Find A Light is available now in stores and online.  More information on the album is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:










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Veteran Rock Acts Tops Phil’s Picks 2016 Top 10 New Rock Albums List

Courtesy: Santana IV Records

Courtesy: Santana IV Records

The rock community, it seems, was bursting at the seams with new releases this year.  While some records were okay at best, there were just as many that proved to be truly outstanding efforts.  Needless to say there were so many of said albums that it was anything but easy to come up with a list of the year’s top new rock records.  But somehow, Phil’s Picks managed it.  That list includes new efforts from bands young and old alike.  The more experienced bands featured on this list include: Santana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Foghat just to name a few.  The younger bands represented here include the likes of Buffalo Summer, Love and a .38, and Zodiac.  Whether veteran or next generation, the rock community produced a slew of outstanding records this year.

Phil’s Picks presents 15 of those records with its Top 10 picks and five honorable mention titles.  Without any further ado, here is the Phil’s Picks 2016 Top 10 New Rock Albums.




  1. SantanaIV


  1. FoghatUnder The Influence


  1. The Dead DaisiesMake Some Noise


  1. Love and a .38Nomad


  1. Buffalo SummerSecond Sun


  1. Alter BridgeThe Last Hero


  1. ZodiacGrain of Soul


  1. Red Hot Chili PeppersThe Getaway


  1. Blackberry SmokeLike An Arrow


  1. Resurrection KingsResurrection Kings


  1. SkilletUnleashed


  1. Apollo Under FireApollo Under Fire


  1. Fates WarningTheory of Flight


  1. Ray RocketDo You Wanna Go To Tijuana


  1. Candlebox Disappearing in Airports




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2015’s Top New Albums Come From Across The Musical Universe

The countdown is near, folks. And with the end of the year nearly here, the end of Phil’s Picks’ year-enders is officially here. We have finally come down to the last of this year’s “Best Of” lists. To close out this year’s group of year-enders we come full circle and finish where we started; back in the music world. To close out 2015, Phil’s Picks offers up its list of the year’s top new albums overall. This list was anything but easy to compile. That is because the top 10 albums and five honorable mention titles really represent so many galaxies within the musical universe. There’s some blues in this list courtesy of The Rev.Shawn Amos in this list. Salvador Santana, Carlos Santana’s son is also on this list, along with Pimps of Joytime and Fort Knox Five representing the rap and hip-hop galaxies. George Strait, The King of Country himself, is also here as are Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. Even jazz great Terence Blanchard gets a nod as do Joe Satriani and electro-rock duo NYVES. There are others included here. And they are noted in the list below. Being that each album comes from a different part of the musical universe, figuring each album’s place in this list was what really made assembling this list so tough. The ability of listeners to take in the album without skipping tracks was taken into account as was each album’s production values and combined lyrical and musical content. That goes back to the albums’ ability to keep listeners fully engaged from start to finish. So no offense was meant to any act in its placement on this list. EVERY one of the albums included in this list was far more than deserving of being included in this list. That taken into consideration the following is the final list of this year’s top overall albums from Phil’s Picks. And as always, the top 10 albums make up the main body of the list while the bottom five each receive honorable mention. Without any further ado here for your reading pleasure dear readers, is the Phil’s Picks 2015 Top 10 New Albums. Happy New Year!

















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2015 Saw A Number Of Great Rock Records Released

2015 has been a great year for the rock community. That is because so many standout albums have been released this year. This includes new rock albums both in the underground and the mainstream. There have been so many outstanding rock albums released so far this year that there was just not enough room for all of them on just one list (that is unless one were to make a list of the year’s top 100 new rock albums). Keeping that in mind, it couldn’t have been easy for any critic to develop a year-ender for the year’s best new rock records. It definitely wasn’t easy for this critic. This critic’s list of the year’s best new rock records presents albums from some relatively well-known bands and some that might not be so widely-known. Regardless of how well-known said acts (and albums) are, it can be said that each wholly deserves its spot on this list thanks to musical and lyrical content that is more apt to keep listeners engaged from beginning to end than any other band or album. Enough rambling. Without any further ado here is the list of those bands and their respective albums. This is the Phil’s Picks ‘ 2015 Top 10 New Rock Albums. As with every other list, the main body of the list is made up of the year’s Top 10 Best new records. The bottom five receive honorable mention for a total of fifteen albums.



  13. POP EVIL – UP 


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Lots Of Options Offered By 2015’s Top New Country, Folk, Bluegrass, And Americana Albums

Country music and its related genres (I.E. americana, bluegrass, and folk) are big business in the music world. Just look at all of the karaoke competitions on television today and the number of country singers that go on those shows, trying to make a name for themselves. Look at the reach that it has on radio in general. Artists such as Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood have bridged the gap between pop and country alongside the likes of Rascal Flatts, Eric Church, and so many others. In the same breath, true-blooded country music remains just as much of a driving force today within the realm of country music as its more cross-genre counterparts that have become so popular over the last ten years or more. The dichotomy of the two worls is really intriguing to examine as well as the fan base of both sides of the country music world. Keeping that in mind, country and its offshoots can be said to have just as much importance to the music industry today as any other genre. So having covered the realm of children’s music, independent music, and world music, it seems only fair to offer up a listing of the year’s top new records in the worlds of country, folk, bluegrass, and Americana within their own collective year-ender. This was one of the more difficult lists to assemble because of the sheer variety of sounds and titles available to listeners this year. North Carolina-based Delta Rae makes the list once again with its new album After It All. Americana artists Buzz Cason is on this list, too with his new album Record Machine as are Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard with their new record Django and Jimmie. Of course Geoge Strait, “The King of Country,” couldn’t be ignored in this list. His new album Cold Beer Conversation is on the Phil’s Picks list of 2015’s top new Country, folks, bluegrass, and Americana records, too. They’re just a handful of the acts to make the list this year. There are plenty of others veteran and otherwise alike on this year’s list. Without any further ado, I offer to you, dear readers, the best new country, folk, bluegrass, and americana albums of 2015. As always the top 10 albums are…well…the top 10. the bottom five each get honorable mention. That is not a stab against them by any means. It was just that tough to compile the list and do it fairly because there were so many great new records in this realm just as with the other lists. Enough rambling. Here are the Best New Country, Folk, Bluegrass, and Americana albums of 2015 from Phil’s Picks.


1. Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard — Django and Jimmie

2. George Strait — Cold Beer Conversation

3. Blackberry Smoke — Holding All The Roses

4. Delta Rae — After It All

5. Sugarcane Jane — Dirt Road’s End

6. Alan Jackson — Angels and Alcohol

7. Alabama — Southern Drawl

8. Tim McGraw — Damn Country Music

9. Buzz Cason — Record Machine

10. Darius Rucker — Southern Style

11. Gloriana — Three

12. Luke Bryan — Kill The Lights

13. Chris Stapleton — Traveller

14. Dwight Yokam — Second Hand Heart

15. Zac Brown Band — Jekyll and Hyde

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Blackberry Smoke Holds All The Roses Among So Many Other Albums With Its Latest LP

Courtesy:  Rounder Records

Courtesy: Rounder Records

Atlanta, Georgia has been known for decades as one of America’s major hotbeds for musical talent. Much like Austin, Seattle, and Los Angeles it has produced some of the biggest names in the industry over the years. Those names come from nearly every genre of the music world. They include the likes of: Sevendust, Stuck Mojo, Collective Soul, Zac Brown Band, Black Crowes, and so many others. The list goes on and on. It could take days or even weeks to name them all. For the case of this review, the focus is set on the Southern Rock Band Blackberry Smoke. For roughly fifteen years now, the members of Blackberry Smoke–Charlie Starr (vocals/guitar), Richard Turner (bass/vocals), Brit Turner (drums), Paul Jackson (guitar/vocals), and Brandon Still (keyboards)–have been making music and touring. Of those roughly fifteen years together, Blackberry Smoke has released three full-length albums, the most recent of which–The Whippoorwill–was released on Zac Brown Band’s own Southern Ground Records in 2012. This past February, the band released its fourth full length album titled Holding All The Roses. The album was released via Rounder Records. For those that might not be so familiar with the band’s body of work, Holding All The Roses serves as a good introduction to the band. And it is just as enjoyable for those that are more familiar with its work up to this point. The sound spread across the album’s dozen tracks shows influences from some of the greatest southern rock bands of the 20th Century including: The Marshall Tucker Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Crowes, Doobie Brothers, and others of that ilk. While the influence of said bands is there from start to finish on this record, Blackberry Smoke still maintains its own identity in each song. That is evident right from the album’s opener ‘Let Me Help You (Find The Door).’ The same can be said of the album’s title track and the somewhat sexually charged ‘Rock and Roll Again.’ These three works in themselves more than exemplify what makes Holding All The Roses such a joy. By themselves they are just a minute fraction of what makes it such an enjoyable record, too. There are nine other tracks from which audiences will find their own favorite(s) on this record. Those songs, coupled with the trio noted here, prove Holding All The Roses in the end to be one of the best new rock and country records of 2015.

Blackberry Smoke’s fourth full length album Holding All The Roses is one of this year’s best new rock and country records. There are some issues here and there throughout the record in terms of its production values. But they are not enough to make HATR unworthy of being heard. From the album’s opener to its end, the songs that make up this album make it one of those rare records that audiences will actually want to listen to without skipping even one song. That is evident right from the album’s opener ‘Let Me Help You (Find The Door).’ On the song’s musical side, audiences will hear a clear influence from famed classic rock band Black Crowes throughout the song. It could even be argued that the song’s bridge, which features quite the guitar solo, bears a rather noticeable Lynyrd Skynyrd influence. Lyrically, it offers audiences just as much of a punch with front man Charlie Starr seemingly addressing certain types who simply don’t want to change their ways. Whether it be those musical acts that refuse to change and those that push said albums or the sheep that give in to everything that is fed to them whether in terms of music, politics, etc.–as front man Charlie Starr sings about in both the song’s first and second verse– it is a clear statement that hits quite a few chords, no pun intended. One could even argue that it even indirectly addresses those audiences that expected this album to be just like the band’s previous released. As Starr sings in the song’s opening verse, “Why’s it got to be the same damn thing/Same damn song and everybody wants to sing/Same sons of b****** still riggin’ the game/They sell the same old faces with brand new names/No matter if I’m wrong or right/I ain’t losin’ sleep tonight/I’ve heard it all before/I can’t take it anymore/If that’s all you got/Let me help you find the door.” The song’s second verse seems to address those sheep that believe everything that is fed to them, from music to news, to politics and more with Starr singing, “Here we go diggin’ the same damn ditch/Just line ’em up/Can’t tell you which one’s which/Standin’ in the back with a s***-eating grin/They were buyin’ it once/I bet they’ll buy it again.” Starr hits on so many subjects with so few words in this song. And he hits the nail right on the head, too. It’s a sharp, yet in an odd way, slightly lighthearted indictment of said subjects that ironically will in fact have Blackberry Smoke’s own fans singing along. One can only hope that in singing along, the band’s own fans will catch the message being presented by Starr and his band mates here rather than just taking the song for its musical side. Those that take both the song’s musical and lyrical side into full consideration will agree just how important it is both in itself and to the album in whole.

‘Let Me Help You (Find The Door) is a solid opener for Blackberry Smoke’s latest full-length record. Its statement urging people and bands who refuse to change to go away is sharp yet witty at the same time. And it ironically will have the band’s own fans singing along every time. One can only hope that said fans will catch the message embedded within the song and take it to heart in catching it. Those fans that do catch the message in question, coupled with the song’s infectious musical side will agree that it is just one part of the whole that makes HATR one of this year’s best new rock and country records. The album’s title track is just as important to the whole of the record. Much like the album’s opener, it boasts its own classic rock influences yet still continues to maintain the band’s own identity, too. The song’s driving, 2/4 tempo will instantly have audiences dancing and clapping along. Having hooked audiences with it musical side, Starr and company–Richard Turner (bass, vocals), Brit Turner (drums), Paul Jackson (guitar, vocals), and Brandon Still (keyboards) make just as powerful a statement with the song’s lyrical side. Starr sings in the song’s first verse about a subject overcoming all of his or her odds and coming out on top, fittingly “holding all the roses” just as a winner would. Starr Sings, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost/I don’t think it’s even gonna be close/Your rabbit’s foot and your four-leaf clover/Throw them all away and start all over/Here I am see me coming around/Swinging out wide with the hammer down/There I go watch me leave you behind/Holding all the roses on the other side.” The subject here is addressing those that called the odds against him or her, proving all those people wrong as he or she holds the proverbial roses of a winner. Speaking of those odds, Starr goes on to sing of overcoming the odds as he sings, “The odds against me were 20 to 1/Carry that weight like it weighs a ton/Ain’t no luck in a gasoline rainbow/Come on, drop that rag/Away we go.” He comes across as saying his subject is using the weight of those odds as motivation to keep pushing on to the very end. Such lyrics are words that will reach so many listeners and potentially have quite the impact. It will leave listeners saying if Starr’s subject can press on against all odds then so can the band’s fans. The song’s driving musical side added to the mix, the song in whole shows once more exactly why it is one more enjoyable and equally important part of the whole that leaves Holding All The Roses in fact holding all the roses on any critic’s list come year’s end.

For all of the seriousness of HATR’s opener and its title track, Blackberry Smoke isn’t all work and no play on its new album. It also boasts some fun moments, too. One example of that lies in the song ‘Rock and Roll Again.’ The song’s musical side shows obvious influence from The Marshall Tucker Band, The Allman Brothers Band and others of that ilk yet once again maintain’s Blackberry Smoke’s own identity along the way. Lyrically, it will put just as much of a smile on listeners’ faces as the music alone. Starr sings about a woman who definitely gets the subject going in all the right ways so to speak. He writes of said woman, “She knows me well and never fails/She knows just how to put the wind back in my sails/She’s got the key to set me free/It’s just so easy to see/The way she makes me rock and roll again/Put the dirty in my mind again/Ain’t nothin’ to it/But she pulls me back in/My baby made me rock and roll again/Yes, she made me rock and roll again.” The rest of the song goes on in much the same fashion, lyrically speaking, with Starr noting of that same woman putting a swagger back in the subject’s step, and gets him moving. The song’s musical side boasts its own swagger, which perfectly complements Starr’s lyrics. Both sides of the song taken into full consideration, they show that Blackberry Smoke can be just as fun as it can be serious. Because of this, it proves to be one more example of what makes HATR such an enjoyable work for every rock and country fan. Taken into consideration with the likes of the album’s title track, its opener, and those pieces not noted here, it proves to be one more piece of an album that again, holds all of its own roses among the masses so far this year.

Blackberry Smoke is currently touring in support of HATR. It is in the last leg of the North American leg of its tour, which wraps up May 24th in Monteagle, Tennessee. The band will take a few days off to rest and recharge after before heading overseas for the European leg of its tour, which kicks off May 29th in Munchen, Germany. After finishing off that leg, the band will return stateside again on June 19th in Alpharetta, Georgia. Fans will be able to pick up HATR at any of the band’s upcoming live dates. In hearing the band live and on its new album, audiences that haven’t yet heard the band’s music will agree, too that HATR more than deserves a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new rock and country albums come December. Fans can check out Blackberry Smoke’s latest tour dates online now, along with all of the band’s latest news at:




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