Imitation, it’s often said, is the sincerest form of flattery. If that is indeed the case, then independent rock band 20 Watt Tombstone’s new two-song EP Year of the Jackalope is will certainly flatter country singer Chris Stapleton and the members of ZZ Top. Additionally, the record, which is scheduled for release Friday, will likely flatter fans of the noted acts as much as the noted acts themselves. That is proven through the covers of songs from the two hugely respected acts that are featured in the record. The covers make for a strong new offering for the duo – Tom Jordan and Mitch Ostrowski – and a new overall presentation that is certain to help build the band’s name even more in the rock community.
20 Watt Tombstone’s new forthcoming EP Year of the Jackalope is a record that will appeal equally to its own fans as to fans of the bands whose music is covered in the presentation. There is no doubt about that. The EP opens with an amped up cover of ZZ Top’s song ‘Just Got Paid.’ Originally featured in ZZ Top’s 1972 album Rio Grande Mud, the song was never used as a single for the record. As a matter of fact, the album in question produced one single, ‘Francine.’ That aside, the song has since gone on to become a favorite of fans and bands alike. 20 Watt Tombstone’s take on the now timeless song stays largely true to its source material. There are no changes to the song’s lyrical content. The only real change comes in the approach that the band took to the song here. As noted already, 20 Watt Tombstone’s take on the song is quite amped up in comparison to its source material. The guitars and drums are both so much fuller in this rendition than in ZZ Top’s take. That is not to say that ZZ Top’s original composition is bad by any means. That should not be misconstrued. It is just a sign of the evolution of recording technology and of instruments themselves. The twang of the original guitar line is there along with everything else. The only real difference is that this amped up take gives the song a little bit more of a stoner rock sound than the original song. That combination of the added stoner element to the original southern rock sound makes for a song in whole that will reach a wide range of listeners. The song’s companion composition, the cover of Chris Stapleton’s ‘Midnight Train to Memphis’ works with this work to make for even more appeal.
As with 20 Watt Tombstone’s cover of ‘Just Got Paid,’ the duo’s take on ‘Midnight Train to Memphis’ amps up Chris Stapleton’s song, too. The original song, featured in Stapleton’s 2017 album From A Room: Volume 2 was, like ZZ Top’s song, not featured as a single on his own record. That aside, it has also gone on to be a favorite in its own right among Stapleton’s fans. 20 Watt Tombstone’s take of ‘Midnight Train to Memphis’ continues the stoner rock approach that the duo presented in its cover of ‘Just Got Paid’ while also staying true to its source material. It gives the original song, which is enjoyable in its own right, a hard/stoner rock infusion that takes that song to a whole new level. The hybrid country/stoner/hard rock approach here is certain to bring in Stapleton and his fans as well as 20 Watt Tombstone’s own fans. When the song is considered along with 20 Watt Tombstone’s cover of ZZ Top’s ‘Just Got Paid,’ the two songs together make Year of the Jackalope a record that while small still packs quite a punch. That punch makes this record a presentation that could make 2021 a big year for 20 Watt Tombstone.
20 Watt Tombstone’s forthcoming EP Year of the Jackalope is proof that big things can and often do come in small packages. It proves over the course of just two songs and little more than seven minutes, this band deserves its own share of attention among the next generation of hard and stoner rock bands. That is proven through each of its two covers, which are takes on songs that while themselves not even singles from their respective acts, have still proven to be fan favorites. 20 Watt Tombstone’s take on the songs takes the original songs, which are enjoyable in their own right and gives them a hard rock infusion that gives each song a whole new life. Each song is enjoyable in its own right to the whole of this brief presentation. Collectively speaking, they make Year of the Jackalope a record that, given the right support, could make 2021 a big year in itself for 20 Watt Tombstone. Year of the Jackalope is scheduled for release Friday. More information on the EP is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:
The musical universe spawned so much great music this year. From rock to rap to pop to country, jazz, and even family music, the musical universe gave audiences a lot to like about 2020. For all of the entertaining and engaging music that was released this year some proved to be the best of its given categories. Not all of that music could be the best of the best though. Only certain records could obtain that title, and they come this year from a wide range of genres. The Okee Dokee Brothers and their new album Songs For Singin’ are here among the best of the best in Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Albums of the Year. They are joined by new albums from the likes of Sons of Apollo, Ricky Byrd, and The Devonns among others. Topping this year’s list of the best of the best is Jessie Wagner’s new album Shoes Droppin’.
As with every other list from Phil’s Picks, the Year’s top new albums list features the year’s Top 10 new albums and give honorable mentions for a total of 15 titles. Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Albums of the Year.
PHIL’S PICKS 2020 TOP 10 NEW ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
Jessie Wagner – Shoes Droppin’
Chris Stapleton — Starting Over
Sons of Apollo – MMXX
Yellowackets – Jackets XL
U.D.O. – We Are 1
Ricky Byrd – Sobering Times
Deep Purple – Whoosh!
The Devonns – The Devonns
Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts V
Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts VI
Joe Bonamassa – Royal Tea
The Okee Dokee Brothers – Songs For Singin’
The Tibbs – Another Shot Fired
Ala.ni – ACCA
Ben Harper – Winter is for Lovers
Now that all the music lists are done, it is on to the DVD and Blu-ray releases. Up first in that side of things is the year’s Top 10 New Documentaries. Stay tuned for that.
Much has been said over the years about the fate of real country music. As with rock music, there are many who would like to say that real country music is dead. However, artists, such as Jamey Johnson, Chris Stapleton, Hank III, and Shooter Jennings have proven that it is very much alive and well. They are not the only artists who have proven this true. Josh Turner has done his own share to prove that real country music is alive and well throughout his career. His latest album Country State of Mind, which was released in June through MCA Nashville, is no exception to that rule. The 12-song covers compilation takes listeners through so much music history with its featured songs. They will be discussed shortly. The arrangements featured in the songs do their own part to make the record so appealing to country music purists. They will be discussed a little later. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later. Each item noted here is important in its own right to the whole of the record. All things considered, they make the compilation proof that real country music is still alive and well and that there are those who are working to make sure it stays alive. They make the album a wonderful tribute to the roots of country music.
Josh Turner’s new covers compilation Country State of Mind is a presentation that is certain to impress any country music purist. That is proven in part through its featured songs. The songs in question take listeners back to country music’s earliest days and even up to the 90s, which was really the end of the golden age of country music. The oldest of the songs featured in the recording is the Hank Williams hit song ‘Alone and Forsaken.’ The song was not officially recorded until the early 1950s, but its roots go all the way back to a radio performance in the late 1940s, and it is pure country. It is a prime example of what made and makes Hank Williams still one of the greatest country music artists of all time. Going through history some more, the record also goes back to the 1950s with a cover of Johnny Cash’s 1959 song ‘The Caretaker,’ which itself is more of a deep cut from Cash, into the 70s, with Kris Kristofferson joining Turner for his cover of Kristofferson’s 1973 song ‘Why Me’ and even into the 90s, with a cover of Jim Lauderdale’s ‘You Don’t Deem To Miss Me’ (1997). The song was made popular by Patty Loveless. There are even a pair of dips into the 80s with Turner’s take on Randy Travis’ hit song ‘Forever and Ever, Amen’ (1987) — Travis joined Turner for the performance in this record – his take on the 1986 Hank Williams, Jr./Roger Alan Wade song ‘Country State of Mind.’ Putting it simply, the compilation is essentially a musical history lesson of sorts about pure country music. Regardless of familiarity with the featured songs, it is a lesson that every listener will enjoy. Those listeners who are less familiar with the history of country music will use this record as a strong introduction to the genre’s roots while those who are more seasoned will welcome the trip back in time just as much as those who are new to the genre. This is just one aspect of the record that makes it so appealing. The arrangements featured in the songs add their own value to the record.
The arrangements featured in Josh Turner’s recently released covers compilation are important to note because they show Turner’s respect for the songs that he covered here. Case in point is his take on ‘The Caretaker.’ As Turner sings the song’s lyrics, he does something significant with his trademark baritone and makes it sound just like that of Johnny Cash. The shortness in the notes that he sings and the simple use of the vocals and guitar makes the song sound just like Cash’s original. The only difference between the two renditions (other than the fact that Turner replaces Cash’s name with his own in this version) is that Turner’s rendition does not have the subtle backing choral element that Cash used in his song. That’s not a detriment, either. It just gives Turner’s version its own identity that still pays full tribute to Cash’s original.
Turner’s cover of ‘Forever and Ever, Amen’ is another example of the importance of the album’s arrangements. Turner’s take on the timeless tune stays true to its source material for the most part. At the same time, he adds a subtle extra with the use of the bluegrass influence throughout the song at various points. The fiddle and mandolin that are audible in Turner’s take are not so much there in Travis’ original. There is a little bit more of a twang to the guitars in Turner’s take, too. Listening through both versions, one could actually argue that Turner’s cover is one of those songs that actually improves on the original.
Turner’s cover of Hank Williams Jr.’s ‘Country State of Mind’ is a near mirror image to Williams’ original, right down to the twang in Turner’s voice as he sings. He and Chris Janson collectively do so much to make this rendition a full tribute to the legacy not only of the song, but of Hank Jr. right down to the famous yodel at the song’s end. It is a full-on display of pure country music at its finest that the aforementioned listeners will appreciate and just one more example of the importance of the musical arrangements featured throughout Country State of Mind. Together with the rest of the album’s arrangements, the whole of the record’s musical content doe even more to show why Turner’s fans and country music purists alike will enjoy the compilation. Together with the songs themselves, the two elements collectively create a strong foundation for the compilation. Resting atop that foundation is the record’s sequencing.
The sequencing of Country State of Mind is interesting in its own right. That is because it never stays too happy or sad for too long throughout the record’s 41-minute run time. It starts out on a relatively upbeat note in ‘I’m No Stranger to the Rain’ and continues in that fashion in the record’s second song, ‘I’ve Got It Made.’ From there, the record’s energy pulls back momentarily in Turner’s cover of ‘Why Me’ before picking back up again in the record’s title track. His cover of ‘I Can Tell By The Way You Dance’ keeps the record’s energy up a little bit longer before surrendering again in ‘Alone and Forsaken.’ From this point on, the subtle ups and downs in the album’s energies is stable right to its subdued finale, that noted cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘The Caretaker.’ Looking back through the record’s arrangements, their energies clearly show a certain amount of time and thought was put into the record’s sequencing. The result is that it never stays one way or another for too long. This ensures in its own way, that listeners will remain engaged and entertained through this aspect just as much as through the compilation’s content. All three elements combined make the record a compilation that while yes, it is a bunch of covers, is a record that proves without question that pure country is still alive and well. What’s more, that Turner made the choice to take on these classic pure country tunes shows that there are those who want to keep it alive once more.
Real, pure, country music is not dead. There is a generation of artists out there today that is doing its part to ensure this is known, despite so many critics wanting people to believe otherwise. Josh Turner’s recently released covers compilation Country State of Mind is just the latest proof that pure country is alive. The record’s songs serve as a musical history lesson and musical tribute to the roots of pure country all in one. The arrangements featured within those songs add their own appeal to the compilation. That is because they stay largely true to their source material while adding a subtle extra to each song, giving each even more enjoyment. The sequencing of the songs and their arrangements puts the finishing touch to the record’s presentation, ensuring once and for all, listeners’ engagement and entertainment. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this record as has been pointed out here. All things considered, they make the record a presentation that proves pure country music is alive and well and that there are those out there who are working to keep it alive. Country State of Mind is available now.
More information on Country State of Mind is available along with all of Josh Turner’s latest news at:
Country music, bluegrass, folk, and Americana fans have had a lot to be happy bout in 2020. That is because the genres, which are so closely related to one another, have seen a lot of enjoyable new albums released. Bluegrass fans saw Steep Canyon Rangers release its new album Arm in Arm. The country music world saw Chris Stapleton’s new album Starting Over, which is some of his best work to date in his still young career. Steve Earle and his fellow musicians The Dukes released a new album that audiences can easily put into the Americana category while the folk world while Delta Rae’s new album The Light can just as easily be added to the folk/neo-folk category just as much as the Americana category. All three albums are featured in this year’s Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Country/Bluegrass/Folk/Americana Albums list along with lots of others, including Chatham County Line’s new album Strange Fascination and the recently released independent band Royal Horses’ new album A Modern Man’s Way To Improve. That album crosses the border of country, bluegrass and Americana.
As with each year’s past lists, this year features the year’s Top 10 best new albums from the noted genres along with five additional honorable mentions for a total of 15 albums. Without any further ado, here is PHIL’S PICKS 2020 TOP 10 NEW COUNTRY/BLUEGRASS/FOLK/AMERICANA ALBUMS.
PHIL’S PICKS 2020 TOP 10 NEW COUNTRY/BLUEGRASS/FOLK/AMERICANA ALBUMS
Chris Stapleton – Starting Over
The Okee Dokee Brothers – Songs For Singin’
Josh Turner – Country State of Mind
Delta Rae – The Light
Reckless Kelly – American Girls/American Jackpot
Steve Earle & The Dukes – The Ghosts of West Virginia
Chatham County Line – Strange Fascination
Jack The Radio – Creatures
Royal Horses – A Modern Man’s Way To Improve
Steep Canyon Rangers – Arm in Arm
Brothers Osborne – Skeletons
Bruce Springsteen – Letter To You
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Reunions
Mile Twelve – Roll The Tapes All Night Long
Special Consensus – Chicago Barn Dance
Next up from Phil’s Picks is 2020’s Top 10 New Rap & Hip-Hop Albums. Stay tuned for that.
Chris Stapleton’s new album Starting Over is one of this year’s top new country music albums if not the best of that category. Originally planned for release in August, the 14 song release was pushed back to Nov. 13. As with his past three albums, this his fourth album will appeal to any country music purist with its musical arrangements and lyrical content alike. That is proven throughout, as there is not one bad song featured in this record. One of the most notable of the album’s songs is ‘Watch You Burn,’ which is his reaction to the 2017 shooting in Las Vegas at a country music concert. This song will be discussed shortly. ‘Maggie’s Song,’ which is a tribute to his dog, (yes, his dog) is another truly notable addition to the album. This tearjerker will be discussed a little later. ‘Arkansas,’ the album’s lead single, is yet another example of what makes the album such a strong new offering from Stapleton, and hardly the last of the album’s most notable works. When it and the other songs noted here are considered along with the likes of ‘Hillbilly Blood, ‘Joy of My Life,’ and his covers of ‘Whiskey Sunrise’ and ‘Worry B Gone,’ and the rest of the album’s entries, the record in whole proves itself without question, to be one of the year’s top new country music albums.
Starting Over is an unquestionably successful new offering from country music star Chris Stapleton. From start to end, the 14-song record offers audiences nothing but enjoyment. That is proven in part through one of the album’s late entries, ‘Watch You Burn.’ This four-minute opus is anchored by a steady, plodding blues-infused guitar and bass line. The steady drum beat that sounds more like a boot stomping on the floor adds even more depth to the song as Stapleton, with his trademark gritty vocal delivery style, sings alongside it all. The gradual crescendo of the arrangement as the song progresses serves well to help translate the anger clearly felt by Stapelton as he wrote the song’s lyrics.
The lyrical content in question is just as simple yet powerful as its companion musical content. Stapleton writes in response to the actions of that coward who took 58 innocent lives and injured more than 800 others, “Only a coward would pick up a gun/And shoot up a crowd trying to have fun/now the Vegas lights/They won’t lose their glow/And the band will play on/And go on with the show.” The statement is perfectly clear here. This is an angry, yet defiant statement in response to what happened, making sure any potential copycats will know that even this horrible event will not and did not stop joy from returning to Las Vegas and to America. This is made just as clear in the song’s second verse, in which Stapleton sings, “I wasn’t there/I didn’t see/But I had friends in your company/If I could snap my fingers/If I could flip a switch/I’d make that last bullet first, you son of a bitch.” He adds in the song’s chorus, “You’re gonna get your turn/Yes, you’re gonna get your turn/Oh, you’re gonna get your turn/Devil gonna watch you burn.” This is such a simple song lyrically, just as much as it is musically, but that simple, clear statement made in the song’s lyrical content is so hard-hitting in its own right. Stapleton isn’t trying to wax philosophical about gun control here. He is just responding to the person who pulled the trigger and caused all of that sadness and pain. That person in question does not even deserve to have his name placed in print, so it will not even be used here. All things considered here, this song is one of so many powerful additions to Starting Over. Another notable addition to the record come in the form of the absolute tearjerker, ‘Maggie’s Song.’
Maggie’s Song’ is a work that pays tribute to Stapleton’s canine companion, and just as in the case of ‘Watch You Burn,’ every aspect of this song makes it stand out, beginning with its musical arrangement. The arrangement in question is simple in its own right, anchored by Stapelton’s vocal delivery and performance on guitar. The addition of the brushes gently keeping the beat on the snare and the piano and organ makes for ever more enjoyment and engagement in this pure classic country style composition. The fullness of the arrangement in the chorus set against the gentle nature of the song in its verses adds even more to that enjoyment and engagement. When all of this is considered with the song’s equally moving lyrical presentation, the whole of the song becomes even more impacting.
As noted, ‘Maggie’s Song’ is a tribute to Stapleton’s dog, and the lyrical tribute that he presents to the dog is such that it will leave not one listener dry-eyed by its end. Stapleton said of the song in a recent National Public Radio interview of the song, “I wrote [Maggie’s Song] the day after our dog, Maggie, passed away. We had her for 14 years and I miss her quite a bit. I’m not really a dog person, either, that’s worth saying. But I loved that dog for sure. Every word of that song is just a true thing.” He writes in the song’s lead verse, “Let me tell you a story/About an old friend of mine/Somebody left her in a shopping cart/In a parking lot for us to find/Just a fuzzy black pup/She was hungry and feeling alone/We put her in the back seat/And told her we were taking her home.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “A few kids later/We moved out on the farm/And she followed those kids around/Yeah, she kept them safe from harm/And she loved to chase squirrels/And playing out in the snow/She’d take off like a bullet/Man, you should have seen her go.” The song’s third and fourth verses are where the pain comes in, with Stapleton singing, “It was raining on a Monday/The day that Maggie died/She woke up and couldn’t use her legs/So I laid down by her side/She put her head on my hand/Like she’d done so many times/I told her she was a good dog/Then I told her goodbye/I had a revelation/As the tractor dug a hole/I can tell you right now/That a dog has a soul/And I thought to myself/As we buried her on the hill/I never knew me a better dog/And I guess I never will.” All of this make the song’s chorus even more heart-wrenching, as he sings about the song running free again in an almost eulogistic style. He sings here, “Run, Maggie run/With the heart of a rebel child/Oh, run, Maggie run/Be just as free as you are wild.” Again, any listener who is left dry-eyed as a result of this is either not human or simply hard hearted. It is such a stark emotional contrast to the presentation of ‘Watch You Burn’ and the record’s other songs and shows so much vulnerability from Stapleton that it will be no doubt when this song becomes one of the album’s singles. It is just one more of the album’s most notable entries, too. ‘Arkansas’ is yet another strong addition to the album.
‘Arkansas’ is just as starkly unlike the other songs noted here as it is to the rest of the album’s entries, too. That applies musically and lyrically. The song is just a feel good composition all the way around that exudes so much happiness. Stapleton himself even said in an interview with KATV in October that the song just about himself and some others driving “Like a bat out of hell through the Ozark Mountains.” The energy in that raucous adventure is translated in part through the song’s arrangement. The arrangement in question is a high-energy, guitar-driven southern rock song. Its guitar licks are completely infectious and still stick in listeners’ minds. The energy in the song’s arrangement couples with the song’s lyrical content, which tells the story of which Stapleton talked in his interview, to cement the song’s enjoyment and engagement.
Stapleton sings in the song’s lead verse, “Took a nine eleven ‘bout a hundred and seven down a back road/Where the white river runs/And the southern sun makes the kudzu grow/And what I found in the Ozark mountains I ain’t never seen/It sure does feel like you’re sittin’ on top of the world to me.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “We, we burned through the one light towns like a scalded dog/When we lit out of Fayetteville/they were callin’ the hogs/We made a pit stop in Little Rock for some barbecue/And when we hit West Memphis/There were blue lights in our rear.” Between the verses, he sings in the song’s chorus, “Gotta get down/Gotta get down to Arkansas/Havin’ so much fun that it’s probably a little bit against the law/Al lthe boys and the girls down there sure do know how to have a ball/If you wanna get down/get down to Arkansas.” Again, here is a song that is just fondly remembering a past experience that Stapleton and his friends had. The joy exuded in the song’s musical and lyrical content is a stark contrast to the bittersweet emotion presented in ‘Maggie’s Song’ and the anger in ‘Watch You Burn.’ When that vast range of emotions and stories is considered with the equally wide range of emotions and stories featured in the rest of the album’s songs, the whole of the album becomes a work that every listener will enjoy from beginning to end.
Starting Over is a powerful new statement from country superstar Chris Stapleton. It is a work that presents such original stories and equally enjoyable and engaging musical content. Even with the covers in mind that are featured here, the album still holds so much positive content. All three of the songs examined here serve to suppor the noted statement. When they are considered with the rest of the noted songs, the whole of the album leaves no doubt that this record is one of the best new country music album of the year. It is available now.
More information on Starting Over is available along with all of Chris Stapleton’s latest news at:
The end is near! The end of the year that is. The end of 2017 is only 48 hours away at the time of this post. With time quickly ticking away, there is still a lot of work for this critic to do with year-ender lists. Considering this, we’ll get right into it with one last list for the year’s new albums in the form of the year’s top new albums overall. This list was perhaps the most difficult of all for this critic to assemble. That is because of the amount of top quality material released across the musical universe this year. From punk to pop to jazz, world, rock and more, there were a lot of great records released over the past year. Keeping this in mind, coming up with this was no easy chore, to say the least. It was finally accomplished, though, and includes titles from the worlds of rocks, jazz, country and even world music.
Leading off this year’s best new album — in this critic’s ears and mind — is Ala.Ni’s debut album You & I. This record is a beautiful work that despite being marketed as jazz, could just as easily fit into any adult contemporary pop radio station’s rotation. Also included in this year’s finale are new releases from country music superstar Chris Stapleton, New Orleans-based singer/songwriter Marc Broussard, emo-punk band Young Fox’s new album and much more.
As with every previous list, this list features this critic’s Top 10 choices as well as five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 titles. Without any further ado, here for you is Phil’s Picks 2017 Top 10 New Albums.
PHIL’S PICKS 2017 TOP 10 NEW ALBUMS
Prophets of Rage — Prophets of Rage
Ala.Ni — You & I
Jazzmeia Horn — A Social Call
Diana Panton — Solstice/Equinox
Fer Isella — Art of the Possible
Nova Collective — The Further Side
Scale The Summit — In A World of Fear
Mike Mangioni & The Kin — But I’ve Seen The Stars
John 5 & The Creatures — Season of the Witch
Dishwalla — Juniper Road
Project 86 — Sheep Among Wolves
Chris Stapleton — From A Room Vol. 2
Young Fox — Sky Beats Gold
Gary Numan — Savage (Songs From A Broken World)
Marc Broussard — Easy To Love
That’s it, folks. As noted, this was not an easy list to assemble by any means. Trying to determine which albums likely would have a certain amount of longevity through through musical and lyrical messages was a tough task. One cannot ignore the fact that what with the nation’s current political climate, the second coming of Rage Against The Machine was one of this year’s most important and standout efforts. In the same breath, the gentility and beauty offered by Ala.Ni, Jazzmeia Horn and Diana Panton makes their albums certain to stay in peoples’ minds and ears. Fer Isella’s new album, while instrumental is like the soundtrack to any major Hollywood drama such as Bridges of Madison County and other similar movies.
The jazz fusion feel of Nova Collective’s debut record and the prog rock of Scale The Summit’s latest record stand out just as much. Mike Mangioni & The Kin may stay under the radar, but that’s just fine with this critic. The group’s new album is a great independent offering. Dishwalla’s new album is a wonderful return for the band while John 5 & the Creatures’ new album is yet another example of how truly talented the guitarist truly is and that he made the right decision leaving Marilyn Manson’s band.
It is easy to go on and on about every album noted here. Regardless of the band’s fame, the fact of the matter stands that each album listed here is one that this critic feels is impacting and important for the given act and for the music community in whole. That being the case, this list stands as this critic’s best new albums of 2017. Now with all of the music stuff out of the way, it’s on to a handful of DVD/BD titles including best new box sets for families and for grown-ups, best new DVDs/BDs for families, and even best new documentaries. So stay tuned for all of that!
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 Room: Volume 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.
PHIL’S PICKS 2017 TOP 10 NEW COUNTRY/BLUEGRASS/AMERICANA/FOLK ALBUMS
Chris Stapleton — From A Room: Vol. 2
Andrew Carter — Andrew Carter
Josh Turrner — Deep South
Brad Paisley — Love and War
David Messier — Waiting For Eldridge
Hank, Pattie & The Current — Hold Your Head Up High
The Infamous Stringdusters — Laws of Gravity
Mipso — Coming Down The Mountain
Mike Mangione & The Kin — But I’ve Seen The Stars
Outlaws & Moonshine — The Devil In The Moonshine
Buzz Cason — Passion
Luke Combs — This One’s For You
Darius Rucker — When Was The Last Time
Zac Brown Band — Welcome Home
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!
Five years have passed since Mountain Heart released its last full-length studio recording That Just Happened. Now the long wait for the band’s next new album is finally about to come to an end. The Nashville, TN-based bluegrass band has announced that it will release its next full-length studio recording this spring.
Blue Skies, the band’s eighth full-length studio recording, will be released Friday, May 6th via Compass Records. In anticipation of the record’s upcoming album the band has premiered the album’s lead single ‘Addicted.’ The song was premiered this week via Pop Matters at http://www.popmatters.com/post/mountain-heart-addicted-audio-premiere/. For those that are not familiar with the band and its sound, this latest composition bears a similarity to the likes of Mumford & Sons, Zac Brown Band, and Delta Rae among others of that ilk.
Front man Josh Shilling wrote most of the material featured in the ten-song record. Country/bluegrass superstar Christ Stapleton co-wrote one of the album’s songs alongside Shilling and Ronnie Bowman. There is also a cover of Bob Dylan’s famed composition ‘Maggie’s Farm’ included in the body of the album. The album’s full track listing is noted below.
Mountain Heart Blue Skies Track Listing:
1. Blue Skies
2. Miss Me When I’m Gone
3. Maggie’s Farm
4. No One To Listen
5. She’ll Come Back To Me
7. The Bad Grounds
8. Have You Heard About The Old Hometown
9. I Can’t Get Over You
Shilling discussed the album’s title in a recent interview noting that it refers to the band’s new mission statement and how it relates to the band’s past and future. “‘Blue Skies’ is not only the title track from the new album, but in so many ways, it’s also the new Mountain Heart mission statement,” he said. “Rather than focusing on the past, clouding our time with negativity or anxiety, we’re focusing on living in the here and now and celebrating every opportunity we have together. Our love and passion for each other and the music we create is transparent on and off stage. We live our lives doing what we love while making lifelong memories every night with our friends and supporters around the world. What more could we possibly ask for?”
Mountain Heart will embark on a spring/summer tour in support of Blue Skies beginning April 7th in Richmond, KY. The tour currently runs through July 16th in Spruce Pines, NC at the town’s annual BBQ Championship. More information on the band’s tour is available online now along with more information on Blue Skies and the band’s latest headlines at:
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.
2015 BEST NEW COUNTRY, FOLK, BLUEGRASS, & AMERICANA ALBUMS
1. Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard — Django and Jimmie