‘Country Music’ Will Appeal To Audiences Across The Country

Courtesy: Florentine Films/PBS/PBS Distribution

Country music is American music.  It is music that transcends generations and defies racial barriers while also garnering fans across the musical universe.  That far reach and impact of the oft-maligned genre is why famed documentarian Ken Burns made the decision recently to helm his latest project, simply titled Country Music.  Recently having aired on PBS stations nationwide, it was released on DVD and Blu-ray Sept. 17 through PBS Distribution.  The eight-disc, 16-hour documentary is a work that audiophiles and country music lovers alike will appreciate.  That appreciation is due in part to the program’s rich, expansive story of Country music’s history that is presented throughout the course of the program.  That breadth and depth of information builds a strong, solid foundation for the program.  Strengthening that foundation is the program’s bonus content featured with its home release.  The set’s packaging gives it its final touch.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Country Music’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the documentary another successful presentation from PBS and from Ken Burns and company.  They make it yet another of the year’s top new documentaries.

PBS Distribution and Florentine Films’ new documentary Country Music is a presentation that will appeal just as much to audiophiles in general as it will to the most devoted country music aficionados.  That is due in part to the information presented through the course of the documentary’s 16-hour run time.  Audiences get plenty of history, starting at country music’s roots in the 1920s and taking them up to 1996.  Viewers learn about many of the most important figures that made Country music what it is today (E.g. Little Jimmie Dickens, Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Earl Sruggs and Lester Flatt, Charlie Pirde, Johnny cash, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, etc.).  That is just one part of the interest, too.  Along with learning about those and other important figures, the documentary also points out why they were so pivotal to the evolution of country music. Audiences learn early on, the African roots of country and bluegrass through a discussion on the banjo. By connection, the discussion on Flatt & Scruggs reveals how Earl Scruggs’ banjo playing played into the evolution of banjo playing.  On another note, viewers learn that Jimmie Rodgers was the first country musician to develop the so-called blue yodel, and the impact that had on early country and western music.  Viewers learn of Hank Williams, his songs were written from his own personal experiences, making them so much more relatable to audiences.  That is why they are timeless works to this very day.  As if all of that is not enough, viewers learn about Bob Wills’ coupling of jazz and country to create what would go on to be called Texas Swing.  That genre would go on over time, according to the documentary, to become a standard country music subgenre from that point on.  There was also the contribution that acts, such as Kris Kristofferson and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band made to the continued evolution of Country music during the 1960s.  They, along with the likes of Bob Dylan helped bridge folk rock and country, continuing the evolution of Country music as an art form.  Everything noted here is just a snapshot of all of the important history that is shared over the course of Country Music’s presentation.  There is far more for audiences to take in throughout the documentary that will also inform, engage and educate.  Audiences can learn for themselves just how much more is offered when they purchase this program for themselves.  The history and education offered through the documentary’s primary content is but one part of what makes the doc in whole so appealing.  The bonus content that is featured on each of the set’s eight discs adds its own appeal to the program.

The bonus content featured throughout the course of Country Music adds its own share of education and entertainment.  Riannon Giddens (ex-Carolina Chocolate Drops) discusses in one of the many bonuses included in the set, overcoming stereotypes and racial biases.  She also discusses the combination of various country and bluegrass styles that are prevalent in North Carolina.  In another of the many interesting bonus discussions featured in the program’s presentation, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band member John McEuen takes to discussing music theory at one point, comparing the composition style of Johann Sebastian Bach to a distinct style of picking on the banjo.  How’s that for a comparison?  That in itself shows even more the legitimacy of Country music.  Charlie Daniels offers his own music theory discussion as he talks about how he came up with the musical and lyrical presentation of his hit song ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia.’  That discussion proves rather enlightening in its own right.  In another example of the importance of the bonus content featured in this set, Mel Tillis, yet another Country music legend, joins Kenny Rogers (yet another Country music legend) to talk about the creation of the song ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town.’  Alice Randall adds her own comments to the discussion, noting its place in the bigger picture of patriotic and protest songs during the 1960s.  It is just one more key discussion that is featured in the whole of Country Music.  There are far more bonuses than available time and space to discuss.  Keeping that in mind, that content and the content discussed here collectively shows with ease, the role that the set’s bonus content plays to its presentation.  When that collective content is considered along with the breadth and depth of the set’s primary content, the whole of all of that content makes the set’s overall presentation such that, again, is a very far-reaching work and will appeal to a wide range of viewers.

The combined primary and secondary content that makes up the body of Country Music goes a long way toward making this recently released collection appealing to audiences.  For all that it does to make the set so appealing, it is collectively just one part of what makes the set a positive work.  The set’s packaging plays its own important part to the collection’s whole.  Audiences will note that the eight discs that make up the set’s whole are spread across two separate boxes, four to a box.  The discs are placed on their own spot within their respective cases, protecting the discs from marring one another and themselves.  That approach also serves to save space on audiences’ DVD and BD racks.  That is even despite the use of two separate cases to hold the discs.

Adding to the interest of the packaging is that the back of each case features an in-depth summary for each episode.  That element, though mainly aesthetic, does a lot to add to the set’s appeal because it allows viewers to much more easily choose which disc they want to play.  That means not having to put in the disc and search through each disc to find out the subject of each episode.  Those responsible for the addition of this element are to be highly commended for their efforts.  When this is considered along with the more “mechanical” aspect of the packaging, the whole of the packaging becomes that much more integral to the whole of Country Music’s presentation.  When it is considered along with the set’s overall content, all elements considered make even more clear why this presentation is so impressive.  All things considered, they make clear that Country Music is one of 2019’s top new documentaries and DVD/BD box sets.  It should be noted that there is some foul language used at points, so while it is mostly family friendly, there is some not so family friendly content.  To that end, the set will go to critics’ lists of the top new grown-up DVD and BD box sets.  Other than that one aspect, there are no other negatives to the whole of Country Music.

Country Music, the latest documentary from Director Ken Burns and Florentine Films, is one of this year’s top new documentaries and top new box sets for grown-ups.  That is due in part to the combined primary and secondary content that makes up the body of the set.  The set’s packaging plays its own important part to the whole of the box.  Each item noted is key in its own way to the whole of Country Music.  All things considered, they make this set a presentation that will appeal widely to audiophiles in general just as much as it will to the most devoted country music aficionados.  It is available now.  More information on this and other titles from PBS Distribution is available at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.pbsdistribution.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PBSDistribution.org

 

 

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Wheelhouse Is A Hit From Start To Finish

Courtesy:  Sony Music Entertainment

Courtesy: Sony Music Entertainment

Country artist Brad Paisley’s new album, Wheelhouse is unlike many of the records that he is released over the course of his career.  This latest release from the pop country guitarist and singer is entertaining from start to finish.  The closes comparison that can be made is perhaps to the likes of his 2008 album, Play.  Audiences will enjoy Wheelhouse whether in its standard edition, extended deluxe edition or even its special Cracker Barrel Edition.  Musically, it is a catchy record that is front loaded with fun, poppy country songs that are instantly radio ready.  Lyrically, they definitely don’t entirely fit the mold of the songs that make up country’s rich history.  They range in content from songs of lost love, to more whimsical musings of relationships, to a much deeper social issue in his duet with rapper LL Cool J.  “Uncle L’ isn’t the only star that guests on Paisley’s new album.  Veteran Charlie Daniels also makes an appearance along with Mat Kearney and others.  That Paisley can pull big names to help him, and run the gamut both musically and lyrically shows just how talented he is, and obviously how respected he is by his peers and fans.  In the end, it shows that this is undoubtedly one of 2013’s top country albums.

The musical and lyrical variety that makes up Wheelhouse is impressive to say the least.  It is the heart of what makes the album so impressive.  There are those that have had some rather negative things to say about the state of country music today.  True, much of today’s country music has gone pop.  But is that such a bad thing?  Wheelhouse is proof that sometimes it’s a good thing to get away from the old school country-western themes of lovelorn figures and drinking one’s woes away.  ‘Death of a Single Man’ is proof of that.  Paisley’s male audiences will find themselves laughing and agreeing with him as he sings about a man who metaphorically speaking, died, the day that he got married.  One could almost see this song being made into a music video, if it hasn’t already been made into one.  Paisley sings playfully in this song, “Remember when/We got the news/Confirming our worst fears/I said he wouldn’t make it six months/Others gave him a year/And sure enough/Last Saturday/We paid our last respects/He left us here/Still in this life/He’s gone on to/The next/I’ve never seen/Him wear a tie/He looked so natural/Almost like life/The  preacher spoke/His mother cried/When he said/Son, you may now kiss the bride/Everyone cheered/I thought how odd/I didn’t understand/Why would champagne and cake/Be celebrating/The death of a single man?”  The way that he plays on a funeral and ties in the bluesy guitar part makes the song that much more funny for listeners.  The fun doesn’t end with this verse, either.  It gets even better.  But that’s something that listeners will have to discover for themselves when they pick up Wheelhouse.

‘Death of a Single Man’ is just one of the funnier moments that fill Wheelhouse.  There are plenty of other funny moments peppered throughout the record.  By comparison, there are also more emotional moments to contrast the likes of ‘Death of a Single Man.’ A prime example of that contrast is the song, ‘Tin Can on a String.’  It’s no coincidence that this song precedes ‘Death of a Single Man.’  It shows the exact opposite side of the relationship game.  Instead of being whimsical song about the end of bachelorhood, ‘Tin Can on a String’ sees a young man lamenting having let go the woman that he loved long ago, and watching her go off and get married to another man.  The problem is that he can’t seem to let go, thus comparing himself to a ‘Tin Can on a String’ behind the happy couple’s car as they drive away.  Just as the more bluesy vibe of ‘Death of a Single Man’ is a perfect complement to that song, so is the more introspective sound of this song.

Paisley has shown two completely opposite sides of one coin quickly and easily in the two aforementioned songs.  They are a good yin and yang.  And they get the standard musical country fare out of the way, thus clearing the way for what is one of the most interesting songs on the album in ‘Accidental Racist.’  Not many country music artists can say openly that they tackle the issue of race relations in their albums.  Even fewer can say that they have tackled the subject and been joined by a rapper to tackle the subject.  Paisley is joined by rapper LL Cool J on this gentle yet hard hitting song about stereotypes faced both by southern white males and African Americans even today.  It shows the ugly truth that as much as Americans would love to deny it, race relations is still very much a hot button issue in the twenty-first century.  The issue is raised largely through the subject of what the two men wear.  Paisley sings about a man wearing a shirt with a confederate flag on it.  LL Cool J raps about a man wearing sagging jeans.  Both focus on the view that people have on their subject because of what they wear, and how deep the issue goes.  It’s buried deep in the album’s sequencing.  But the very fact that Paisley would once again tackle such a hot button social issue in a genre that would rather stay as far from it as possible makes him and his new album that much more worthy of respect.

Whether for its deep social commentary or the counterpoint of its songs of love gained and lost, or other songs, Wheelhouse offers every audience something enjoyable.  Whether it marks the first time that one is being exposed to Paisley’s music or one is far more familiar with his songs, this is a song that any listener will enjoy for one reason or another.  It is available now in stores and online.  Audiences can download Wheelhouse on iTunes via Paisley’s official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/bradpaisley.  Brad’s Canadian fans will get to see him live this Thursday night when he performs live at the South Okanagan Events Center in Penticton, British Columbia.  A full slate of tour dates is available on Brad Paisley’s Facebook page as well as his official website, http://www.bradpaisley.com and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bradpaisley.

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Chacon’s Self-Titled LP A Solid Sophomore Effort

Courtesy: Pie Records/Kayos Productions

Folk/country artist Thom Chacon’s upcoming sophomore self-titled album is quite the listen.  Typically, the case with sophomore albums is that much like movie sequels, they rarely live up to the expectations created by the first opus.  That’s not the case with Thom Chacon.  His new album carries a similar feel to that of his 2010 Pie Records debut, Featherweight Fighter.  But it has an overall different sound.  Whereas Featherweight Fighter sounded like something that Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder would have crafted for a solo record, this new record shows more influence from the likes of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and even Bruce Springsteen to a lesser extent.

Chacon’s sophomore release carries the influence of Dylan, Springsteen, and Petty both musically and lyrically.  The album’s opener is proof of that.  ‘Innocent Man’ is an obviously Dylan influenced song all the way around.  Chacon sings mournfully about a man who has been wrongfully convicted of something he didn’t do.  He sings, “I swear on the lord, I’m an innocent man.”  Even when he becomes more defiant, singing, “You can all go to hell, I’m an innocent man”, his response is so subdued.  That subdued nature makes this a tragically beautiful song.  That being noted, it does the job setting the tone for what listeners can expect in this new release.

The follow-up to ‘Innocent Man’ is just as painful and real.  ‘American Dream’ comes across as a commentary on the housing crisis in America.  He sings, “Got a letter in the mail today/said we’re gonna foreclose/I wanna check out of this place but/I’m broke/I’m living the American Dream/For sure/I’m worth more dead/Cause baby, I owe.”  Chacon doesn’t pull any punches here.  He puts it right out on the table.  This song instantly conjures images of the damages done to the American housing industry since about 2008.  And the way in which he sings the song, it makes those images that much more vivid in listeners’ minds.  That’s a powerful statement when a musician can hit home so hard so easily with a few words.

The few words of ‘American Dream’ make up just one more of the many interesting tracks here.  For all the harsh realistic songs that Chacon has on his new album, he does offer listeners something more upbeat in the form of ‘A Life Beyond Here.’  What really makes this song interesting are its spiritual aspect and his love for his mother.  He sings, “I tried and tried the faith/It just wouldn’t take/Now I’m a man/who never believed/But maw/When you left this world/I was able to see/There’s a life/Beyond here/I don’t’ know much/But I know you’re near/Don’t believe in anything/But this much is clear/that there’s a life/Beyond here.”  It’s a bittersweet song, yes.  But it’s also more positive than the album’s other songs, too.  It will easily bring tears to the eyes of anyone who really listens to it and takes his lyrics as he meant them to be heard. 

As is noted here, the songs on Thom Chacon’s new self-titled LP will hit home in so many different emotional avenues.  They make for a hit for anyone that is a fan of real old school folk/country style music.  But the lyrics aren’t all that make the album a success for fans of said genre.  The songs’ length is another positive to this record.  The longest of the tracks on this record clocks in at less than four minutes long.  The shortest comes in at two minutes and eleven seconds.  So not only do the songs paint powerful pictures in listeners’ minds, their length makes them that much more easy on the ears and minds of listeners, too.  The two factors combined add up to proof of the old adage that less is more.  Each song is a short story that paints a big picture. That ultimately is what makes Chacon’s new upcoming release a welcome new collection of songs for both his own fans and for fans of the folk/country style as a whole.  Chacon’s new album is set to hit stores in early 2013.  While audiences await its arrival, they can go online to get the latest news and more from Thom Chacon online at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Thom-Chacon/188502570061 and at http://www.thomchacon.com

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The Outlaws Have Plenty Of Reason To Be “Proud” Of Their New LP

Courtesy: Rocket Science Ventures

The Outlaws is coming!  Get it?  It’s a movie reference for those who might not have known.  The movie in question is The Three Stooges’ 1965 movie by the same name.  Of course that movie was anything but good, thanks to one Curly Joe DeRita.  It isn’t the focus of today’s review.  The Outlaws in question getting the focus today is the Tampa Bay, Florida based Southern Rock band.  The Outlaws has been making music for four decades.  This band has been there through thick and thin during the entire course of its career.  And next month, The Outlaws will release its eleventh full length studio album, titled, “It’s About Pride.”

“It’s About Pride” is a fitting title for the band’s new album as it’s an album of which the band’s fans new and old will be proud.  The album opens strongly with the song, ‘Tomorrow’s Another Night.’  It’s a straight forward country rock style song with a hopeful chorus that in its own way outlines everything that this band has been through in its career.  The band sings in the chorus, “Tomorrow’s another night/Maybe the light will shine on me/I’ll take what I’m given/And I’ll hold on tight/Win or lose/it’s gonna be alright/But tomorrow’s another night.”  The song drives, musically speaking, through its entire four and a half minute run time, keeping listeners’ ears the whole time.  The multi-guitar “attack” and guitar solos add their own flare to the song, too.

The band follows up ‘Tomorrow’s Another Night’ with an equally driving song in ‘Hidin’ Out in Tennessee.’  It’s basically another song about life on the road for a band.  This type of song is nothing new to the music business.  It crosses the border from rock to country.  But rather than taking the Bon Jovi or Kid Rock route, The Outlaws take a more positive outlook here, singing, “Nobody knows where an outlaw goes/and they d*** sure don’t wanna be found/If you’re lookin’ for me/I’ll be hiding out in Tennessee.”  The song breaks down into a mini jam session from the last chorus that will get any pure blood country fan on his or her feet.  It’s a great way to finish off this song and segue into the next.

That next song is the album’s title track.  And it’s bound to be one of the album’s biggest hits.  For that matter it could very well become one of the band’s biggest hits in its entire four decade long career.  Front man Henry Paul sings of the band’s roots, and its pride in those roots.  As noted in the band’s bio, this song tells the story of how the band has endured so much and has still come back for more.  As with ‘Hidin’ Out In Tennessee’, the multi-guitar attack adds its own touch.  The music in general really catches the vibe of the song’s lyrics, too.  It helps to convey the band’s early history and everything that it has faced to get where it is today.   

The album’s opening trio of tracks is a great way to start off what is a great return for a band that’s been away for quite some time.  They are only part of the overall success of the album, though.  Fans will also enjoy the George Thorogood style ‘Born To Be Bad’ and the Neil Young/Lynyrd Skynyrd styled ‘Trouble Rides A Fast Horse.’  Fans of fellow southern rock acts such as the Eagles and Tom Petty will like ‘Trail of Tears’ and ‘Right Where I Belong.’  ‘Trail of Tears’ is a touching story of what happened to the Native American community as a result of the Indian Removal Act of 1830.  Whether these songs or any others, fans will all have more than their share of favorite songs.  They all combine to make for an album that any fan of southern rock and/or country will enjoy.

“It’s About Pride” hits stores Tuesday, September 25th via Rocket Science Ventures.  While fans wait for the album’s release, they can see them live on tour.  The band will be in Vernal, Utah next Friday, August 17th for the annual Country Explosion.  To see more tour dates and keep up with all the latest from The Outlaws, fans can check them out online at http://www.outlawsmusic.com, http://www.facebook.com/outlawsmusic, http://twitter.com/outlawsmusic, and on the band’s official YouTube channel, http://www.youtube.com/outlawsmusic.

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Kitty Wells Dead At 92

Country music legend Kitty Wells has died.  Wells, who is known as “The Queen of Country”, was best known for her performance of ‘It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.’  Condolences from around the music world have already been pouring in.  Among the statements being released is a note from fellow country music legend, Dolly Parton.  Parton remarked of Wells–whose real name was Ellen Muriel Deason–“Kitty Wells was the first and only Queen of Country Music, no matter what they call the rest of us.  She was a great inspiration to me as well as every other female singer in the country music busines.  In addition to being a wonderful asset to country music, she was a wonderful woman.  We will always remember her fondly.”

Wells died Monday at the age of 92.  A statement on Wells’ official website states that her family will receive friends tomorrow, July 19th from 2pm until 8pm.  Funeral services are planned for this Friday, July 20th at 1pm at the Hendersonville Church of Christ in Hndersonville, TN. 

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