Stapleton’s Room is The Envy Of All On Phil’s Picks 2017 Top 10 New Country/Bluegrass/Americana/Folk Albums List

Courtesy: Mercury Nashville

Country music, Americana, Bluegrass and Folk are some of the most closely related sounds out there today.  They are so closely related that it is easier to find acts from the noted genres on one radio station oftentimes than bands in the worlds of rock and metal.  It seems that there are much more finely defined lines in those two worlds even with their similarities.  Considering that the noted genres tend to be so close to one another, it is easier to group them all together in one list for the purpose of the year’s best new albums.  That having been noted, this critic’s list of the year’s top new albums from those realms is spread widely across each one.  Topping this year’s list of the best new country/bluegrass/Americana/Folk albums is Chris Stapleton’s latest offering, From A RoomVolume 2.  From start to finish, this record takes listeners back to the good old days of country while also touching on southern rock and even some blues.  That’s just the musical aspect of his latest album.  The lyrical content works expertly with each arrangement.  If you are a country, blues and southern rock fan but haven’t yet picked up this record, get it.  Period.  Also on this year’s list are new releases from North Carolina-based outfit Mipso, David Messier, Zakk Brown Band and others.  It runs the gamut.

As with every other list, this list features the year’s Top 10 new albums plus five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 albums.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is the Phil’s Picks 2017 Top 10 New Country/Bluegrass/Americana/Folk Albums.


  1. Chris Stapleton — From A RoomVol.  2
  2. Andrew Carter — Andrew Carter
  3. Josh Turrner — Deep South
  4. Brad Paisley — Love and War
  5. David Messier — Waiting For Eldridge
  6. Hank, Pattie & The Current — Hold Your Head Up High
  7. The Infamous Stringdusters — Laws of Gravity
  8. Mipso — Coming Down The Mountain
  9. Mike Mangione & The Kin — But I’ve Seen The Stars
  10. Outlaws & Moonshine — The Devil In The Moonshine
  11. Buzz Cason — Passion
  12. Luke Combs — This One’s For You
  13. Darius Rucker — When Was The Last Time
  14. Zac Brown Band — Welcome Home
  15. Toby Keith — The Bus Songs

While the list above is this critic’s own list of the year’s top new records from the country/bluegrass/Americana/Folk realm.  There were certainly more albums than what’s listed here that deserve at least one listen including Lady Antebellum’s latest album Heartbreak, Luke Bryan’s What Makes You Country, Rascal Flatts’ This Is Us and so many others.  Keeping that in mind, there is plenty out there for fans of every noted genre within that universe.

Next up from Phil’s Picks are lots more lists to try to get to before the year lets out.  Lots to do and not enough time, so we’re going to step things up from here.  There are new Children’s albums, rock records, hard rock/metal, live recordings, and the DVD realm.  So there will likely be multiple lists from this point forward.  Stay tuned!

Cason Displays Renewed “Passion” For His Craft On His New LP

Courtesy: Arena Records

Late this Past February, veteran musician Buzz Cason released his latest album Passion.  Cason’s 13th overall recording, Passion is a fittingly titled record. That is because it presents a passion that seemed somewhat missing from his previous records.  From start to finish, this 11-song record displays so much passion from Cason and his fellow musicians.  That is presented both in the songs’ musical arrangements and their lyrical content, beginning with the album’s opener and title track. It will be discussed shortly.  ‘Escape,’ which comes later in the record’s sequencing, is another example of the passion and drive that is evident throughout the record.  It will be discussed later.  The same can be said of the bluegrass-tinged ‘The Ballad of Berry Hill.’  It is just one more example of the passion that overflows from this record.  The other eight songs not noted here each present just as much passion as these works.  All things considered, the eleven songs that make up the body of this record show clearly why “passion” was the proper choice for this record and why that same passion exhibited throughout the record makes it one of this year’s top new records in the wide field of country/folk/bluegrass/Americana.

Buzz Cason’s latest full-length studio recording Passion is a fittingly titled record.  That is because it is a work that presents a man working hard to show he has not lost his passion for his craft even four decades after the release of his debut self-titled album.  The album’s opener and title track is clear proof of Cason’s renewed energy and…well…passion.  That is evident first in the song’s southern-rock-tinged arrangement, which hints (at least to this critic) at a Grateful Dead influence.  The song’s arrangement is a solid mid-tempo piece centered on Cason’s work on guitar and drummer Jim Thistle’s time keeping.  Wanda Vick’s work on the fiddle adds another nice touch to the arrangement, deepening even more that southern rock feel along with bassist Bryan Grassmeyer.

While the energy in the song’s arrangement does plenty to exhibit the already noted passion from Cason and company, it is just one part of what makes the song stand out.  The song’s lyrical content plays its own important part in the song’s passion, too.  That is because of the message that said content presents.  The message is one of focusing on what’s important in life.  That message is inferred as Cason sings in the song’s chorus, “There’s things in life that I can live without/Without these things I’m passionate about/Passion.”  It is a short statement, but says so much especially when considered along with Cason’s statements in the verses about not caring about living without material things.  The song’s lead verse supports that statement as Cason sings, “Take away my secrets/Take away my song/Take away my torn jeans that I’ve/Worn so long/Take away my shotgun and my/Chevy Malibu/You can burn those letters from a girl that/I once knew/Nevermind what I used to say/Right now you can take ‘em away/Take ‘em away.” The song’s second verse is very similar in terms of Cason’s statement of comfort with self as is the song’s third verse.  Keeping this in mind, it becomes clear that that the song’s message is one of being focused on just having passion in life, and that one’s own mindset, not material things, is what brings passion. When this is considered alongside the song’s musical arrangement, that statement develops new meaning and makes this song stand out even more to show why Passion is such an impressive new effort from Cason.  It is just one of the songs that serves to show why Cason’s latest full-length effort is so impressive.  ‘Escape’ shows in its own way, too what makes the record stand out.

Passion’s title track (and its lead composition), is in itself a clear example of the passion that has clearly been re-ignited inside Buzz Cason in this record.  It is just one of the examples of that renewed passion.  ‘Escape’ is another song that serves to support those statements.  As with ‘Passion,’ that is exhibited in part through the song’s arrangement.  This song’s arrangement boasts a solid pop-rock arrangement that would be a fit on any adult contemporary radio station’s lineup.  The song’s arrangement is expertly complimented by the song’s equally upbeat, optimistic lyrical content.  Cason sings here, “I won’t let them hold me down/You can bet I’ll stand my ground/Nobody can shatter my dreams/Somehow we’ll be breaking’ out/From the past/There is no doubt/I’m a man whose bustin’ at the seams.  This is a proud confidence that is echoed in the song’s chorus as he sings, “I may not be Houdini/But watch me as I make my escape/I don’t believe that good things only come to those who are willing to wait/Freedom ain’t no mystery/Girl, if you are riding with me/And we may not escape/So come on, baby, don’t be shy/Jump inside and take a ride/We can leave this one-horse town behind.”  Cason goes on in similar style throughout the remainder of the song.  When that positive mindset is coupled with the song’s upbeat musical arrangement, they make the overall composition an infectious work that is easily one of the record’s best works.  It also shows once more the passion that is evident throughout the album, yet is still not the last of the record’s works that displays that passion.  The bluegrass-tinged ‘The Ballad of Berry Hill’ is one more example of the passion that runs throughout the album.

‘Passion’ and ‘Escape’ are both solid examples of Buzz Cason’s renewed passion in his latest full-length effort.  That is thanks to the songs’ musical arrangements and their lyrical content.  While both songs exemplify in their own way that energy and passion presented throughout this record, they are not the only songs that do so.  ‘The Ballad of Berry Hill’ exhibits just as much of that passion and energy as the previously discussed songs.  As with those songs, the song’s musical arrangement is a good starting point in its examination.  The song’s bluegrass-tinged arrangement stands out against the previously noted arrangements and those of the album’s other featured songs, showing how Cason’s renewed passion has also led to great musical diversity in this record.  Audiences will be interested to learn that this song is actually historical.  It tells the story of how Cason came to build his family’s studio, Creative Workshop, at Berry Hill in Nashville, TN.  The fondness with which Cason tells the story once more shows how much fire and, again, passion is still there.  The same can be said in examining the energy in the song’s musical arrangement.  When both elements are joined together, they make the song, which comes late in the album’s sequencing, yet another example of Cason’s renewed passion for his craft.  It also serves once more to show why that passion has led this album to be one of the year’s best in the wide open field of country/folk/bluegrass/Americana.

All three of the songs noted here show in their own respective way the passion that veteran musician Buzz Cason still has for his craft.  Between the songs’ musical arrangements and their lyrical content, each song impresses in its own right, showing how that passion has created a record that is an elite work.  The other songs featured in this record not noted here can be used just as easily as to show what makes the record so enjoyable.  All things considered, the musical arrangements and lyrical themes presented in each of this album’s songs make the album Cason’s best work to date and one of the best new efforts in this year’s country/folk/bluegrass/Americana field.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on Passion is available now along with all of Cason’s latest news and more at:










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Diverse Field Of Acts Makes Up 2015’s Best New Independent Albums List

Yesterday, Phil’s Picks kicked off the countdown to the year’s end with the first of its year-ender “Best Of” lists. The first of those lists was the list of the year’s best new EPs. Today, we move away from EPs to full-length records. In today’s list, Phil’s Picks presents its list of the year’s Best New Independent Albums. Just for clarification, Independent does not necessarily refer to albums released by unsigned acts. It also includes albums released by acts signed to independent labels as compared to the major labels (Capitol, Warner Brothers, etc.) This was anything but an easy list to compile. That is because there were so many deserving acts this year including the likes of the independent rock act Rubikon, Americana act Sugarcane Jane, and even legendary musician Carlos Santana’s son Salvador Santana just to name a few. Topping the list this year is Washington, D.C.-based electronic/hip-hop act Fort Knox Five with its new album Pressurize The Cabin. As with yesterday’s list, this list also features the top ten new titles as analyzed by Phil’s Picks. That list is followed by five other albums that receive honorable mention. Having said that why don’t we jump right in? In the second day of the Phil’s Picks year-ender countdown we have the year’s best new independent albums.


  1. Fort Knox Five – Pressurize The Cabin
  2. Pimps of Joytime – Jukestone Paradise
  3. Salvador Santana – Fantasy Reality
  4. Brooklyn Funk Essentials – Funk Ain’t Ova
  5. Sugarcane Jane – Dirt Road’s End
  6. NYVES – Anxiety
  7. Holy White Hounds – Sparkle Sparkle
  8. Rubikon — Delta
  9. Buzz Cason – Record Machine
  10. Sea of Storms – Dead Weight
  11. Dubbest – Light Flashes
  12. Radiodrone – The Truth Syndicate Diaries
  13. Better Off – Milk
  14. Killset – Know Your Killer
  15. Twinsmith – Alligator Years

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Cason’s Latest LP Is A Wonderful Musical Love Letter To Music’s Golden Age

Courtesy:  Plowboy Records

Courtesy: Plowboy Records

Vinyl lovers across the country celebrated a very special day Wednesday.  No, not Record Store Day.  Though, that’s not too far off of the mark.  No, yesterday vinyl lovers across the country celebrated what is known as National Vinyl Day.  And while National Vinyl Day has come and gone, this critic still felt it appropriate to “celebrate” properly.  And what better way than to examine veteran singer/songwiter Buzz Cason’s new album Record Machine.  The follow-up to Cason’s 2014 album Troubador Heart, Record Machine proves to be a rather aptly titled album.  That is thanks in large part to the general sound of the songs that make up this record.  The addition of Cason’s lyrics to the album’s musical content shows even more why Record Machine is such a wisely named album.  The combination of both elements together makes Record Machine one of the best of this year’s field of new country/americana/folk albums.

Buzz Cason’s latest full-length studio recording is one of the best of this year’s field of new country/americana/folk albums.  That is thanks in large part to the combination of the album’s musical and lyrical content throughout the course of its thirty-seven minute run time.  This is made clear right from the album’s opener/title track.  The song’s laid back country western style sound coupled with Cason’s almost Dylan-esque vocal delivery style will instantly grab listeners.  The blatant throw back to music’s golden era stylistically and musically connects perfectly to the album’s title.  When partnered with the song’s lyrical content, the presentation in whole shows quite well within itself just how well Cason has succeeded in his goal of taking listeners back and showing them what once made music in whole great–simple music and equally simple (and understandable) lyrics.  Speaking of the song’s lyrical content, he takes listeners back to a simpler time as he sings the praises of the record machine (record player).  He sings, “When I was five/Not long on the scene/I asked my daddy/What’s that thing/He said the thing in the corner/Son, you’re pointin’ at the record machine/He dropped the needle on that vinyl/And right away/The big band record started to play/I’ve been in love with music/Ever since that day.”  From here he goes on through the song’s chorus before outlining just how varied his musical tastes are and even directly notes the love he has for his dad’s record player as he sings, “I still got that Victrola/I keep it nice and clean/My friends say that’s the nicest one they’ve ever seen/Now, when my kids ask what it is I say/Children, that’s a record machine/I got Tommy Dorsey records/Sinatra and Bing/I got rock and roll/R&B and everything between/But nothing sounds better than the King on my record machine.”  It’s rare for any musician or performer today to have such a wide swath of musical influences; Not to mention that they are such respected, timeless influences.  The very mention of those influences alongside the song’s equally classic musical content makes the song even more of an impressive homage to music’s golden age.  It makes even clearer why the song was chosen to open Record Machine and in itself why this album is well worth the listen.

Record Machine’s opener/title track is in itself a wholly clear example of why this record is well worth the listen and why it is one of the best of this year’s field of new country/americana/folk records.  It is just one example of what makes Record Machine such an impressive new release from Cason, too.  ‘Don’t Worry Mama,’ the album’s second track, is another example of what makes this album a modern throwback hit.  Just as with the album’s opener/title track, this song’s musical content lies at the center of its enjoyment.  Musically speaking listeners will enjoy the song’s hybrid bluesy/country sound.  Even more interesting, Cason switches up his vocal delivery style here sounding still somewhat like Bob Dylan but adding in a touch of Hank III interestingly enough.  That hybrid sound set alongside the song’s musical content creates a musical picture that while different from the album’s opener/title track, is just as enjoyable.  Its difference from the album’s opener actually plays into its enjoyment as does the song’s lyrical content.  The lyrical content does so much to accent the song’s bluesy musical approach.  That is made evident as Cason sings, “Well I have my honey/Got my car/Got a little money and a old guitar/There ain’t much that I’m a be leavin’ behind/Don’t worry momma/Your boy’s gonna be fine/I’ll get a little job as soon as I’m able/My sweet thing/She can wait on tables/I’ll play for tips/And we can howl at the moon/Sorry mamma/But I won’t be home real soon.”  Looking at this, Cason is throwing back just as much in this case, too.  There is almost no one that sings such classic style lyrics today even in the blues community.  That being the case, it makes this song even more of a perfect fit for Record Machine and even more proof of why Record Machine is in whole such an enjoyable record for listeners.

Both ‘Record Machine’ and ‘Don’t Worry Mama’ are clear examples of what makes Buzz Cason’s new LP enjoyable for anyone wanting to take a trip back to the music industry’s golden age.  Both songs throw back wonderfully to that era.  At the same time, both songs stand out from one another so starkly in terms of their musical and lyrical content.  Taking all of that into consideration both songs show clearly in their own way why Record Machine is one of the best of this year’s field of new country/americana/folk records.    Of course they are not the only examples of what makes this record one of the most standout collections within the worlds of country, americana, and folk.  ‘Overload,’ which comes late in the album’s sequence, is one more example of what makes Record Machine such a surprisingly enjoyable record.  The song’s musical content exhibits clear influences from the likes of both Eagles and Creedence Clearwater while the seeming commentary contained in the song’s lyrical content presents its own sensibility within the composition.  That sensibility is put on display as he sings, “Can it be/I’ve done too much/Or maybe not enough/And I don’t have to hit the lottery to win/Can it be/The world’s gone bad/Or is it just something I had/That made me want to start all over again/Look at me/All alone/Woring my fingers to the bone/I sit back thinking ’bout livin’ with this overload/And did you ever take a peek/And take the time to sit with me/So you can feel the overload.” One would think that considering such deep content, the song would have a different feel than it does, musically speaking. But that isn’t the case. The combination of such unsuspecting musical content with equally deep and thoughtful lyrics makes clear why this song is yet another impressive addition to Cason’s new record. Together with the previously noted songs and those not directly noted here, the whole of Record Machine proves to be one of Cason’s most memorable albums to date and once again, one of the best of this year’s field of country, americana, and folk both within themselves and collectively.

Whether or not listeners are familiar with Buzz Cason’s decades-long body of work, one listen to his new album Record Machine will convince every listener that this record is one of his best works to date. They will also agree that it is one of the best of this year’s field of new country, americana, and folk albums both in themselves and collectively. That is thanks to musical and lyrical content together that will take listeners back to the days when record machines (players) were the main outlet for recorded music. The album may be new to this year’s crop of new releases. But it sounds and feels just like it came from music’s greatest eras. That proves true from beginning to end. Record Machine is available now in stores and online. More information on Record Machine is available online now along with the latest news from Buzz himself at:






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Cason’s Latest LP Has Plenty Of “Heart”

Courtesy:  Plowboy Records

Courtesy: Plowboy Records

Singer/Songwriter Buzz Cason has spent some six decades making music. He started his career by starting the very first rock and roll band in Nashville, Tennessee. He has founded his own recording studio where greats such as Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and The Doobie Brothers have recorded hit songs among many other major names. He has also spent much of his career making his own music. He has continued making his own music up to this year. As a matter of fact, Cason released his latest record, Troubadour Heart earlier this year. The album is quite aptly titled considering Cason’s storied career. And for those audiences that might not be so familiar with Cason’s body of work, Troubadour Heart serves as quite the first impression, too. The album exhibits quite the number of influences. The laid back bluesy ‘Goin’ Back To Alabama’ presents an influence from the likes of Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, and Robert Johnson. This applies both musically and lyrically. And then there’s the southern rock styling of ‘Something I Can Dance To.’ This song shows Cason’s Nashville roots and his rock leanings at the same time. Troubadour Heart’s penultimate tune ‘Cowboys & Indians’ exhibits more of Cason’s southern rock influences. Audiences more familiar with the history of modern rock will hear tinges of Eagles and even George Thorogood to a slightly lesser extent. There are also hints of The Grateful Dead and Dire Straits peppered throughout the course of Cason’s latest release. All of these influences together make Troubadour Heart one of 2014’s more interesting new records.

Troubadour Heart is one of this year’s more interesting records. That’s because of the range of influences exhibited throughout the course of the album’s fifteen total tracks. One prime example of this comes in the laid back bluesy ‘Goin’ Back To Alabama.’ The song—the album’s only blues-influenced piece—conjures thoughts of Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, and even Robert Johnson thanks both to its music and lyrics. Cason sings of a subject reminiscing of his younger days in Alabama. He sings, “When my world/Comes unraveled/I know it’s time/For me to travel/Going ‘round the bend/Gettin’ in that Dixieland.” He goes on in the song’s chorus to sing in semi-celebratory fashion about going back to Alabama. The most interesting aspect of this song is that not only does it exhibit classic blues influence, but that guest singer Dan Penn actually sounds just like Eric Clapton. If one were to hear this song without knowing that it was Penn backing Cason here, one would swear that one was hearing Eric Clapton. The similarity between the pair’s vocals is incredible. That and the song’s easygoing lyrics and music show just why ‘Going’ to Alabama’ is such a solid example of what makes Troubadour Heart such an interesting listen.

‘Goin’ Back To Alabama’ is an excellent example of the diversity of Cason’s talent on his latest record. It is just one example of that talent, too. Another equally impressive example of that diversity is in the more up-tempo southern rock tinged song ‘Something I Can Dance To.’ It clearly reflects Cason’s early days growing up in Nashville with its sound. That up-tempo sound and the song’s lyrics—which are slightly sexually charged in their own right—make this song a perfect fit for so many country-western style bars and clubs. The energy exuded by this piece will have listeners up and dancing in no time regardless of whether or not there’s a formal dance floor.

‘Cowboys & Indians’ is the penultimate track included in Troubadour Heart’s fifteen total tracks. It is also one more fitting example of the diversity of music presented on this record. This song presents a pretty obvious country-western influence as Cason sings about a Romeo and Juliet style story. Cason’s story here presents the love story of a Native American woman falling in love with a seemingly White male. Despite the fact that one’s parents doesn’t approve of the other, the couple doesn’t let that stop them. They end up happily ever after and having their own family together. It’s a fun story and an equally fun final blast from Cason before he gently closes out the album with the aptly titled beachy tune ‘Pacific Blue.’ That final song is a fitting closer as it is one more song showing the pure vastness of Cason’s talent and influences. Having taken in this song and those mentioned before it, listeners will agree once more that Troubadour Heart is without a doubt one of the year’s most intriguing records.

Troubadour Heart is available now in stores and online. It can be downloaded via Amazon at His new album can also be purchased at any of his upcoming live shows. Cason is scheduled to perform live Wednesday, Jun e18th in Okoboji, IA. He also has a pair of shows scheduled in Nashville and one in Lincolnton, North Carolina. That concert is scheduled for Saturday, August 16th. Audiences can get a complete list of Buzz Cason’s live events and news online at,, and 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