Shy Kid Blues Could Be A Candidate For One Of 2014’s Best New Children’s Albums

Courtesy:  Hullabaloo Music

Courtesy: Hullabaloo Music

In an age when audiences seem to be increasingly fickle in their musical tastes, any band that reaches anything more than three albums released should consider itself/himself/herself very lucky. For such bands, groups, or artists to reach eleven albums released is a landmark. It’s even more of a landmark for those that are classified under the children’s music genre. This Spring, the two-man act known as Hullabaloo will hit that landmark when it releases its eleventh full length album, Shy Kid Blues. The album is another great addition to the children’s music scene in 2014. The first reason for that is the album’s format. Those that have perhaps heard fellow children’s entertainers Josh and the Jamtones’ 2013 album Bear Hunt! will notice a similarity in the story-telling style of the album. Another reason the album is such a great addition to this year’s crop of children’s albums are the positive messages delivered through the story. And last but definitely not least is the album’s overall country/rockabilly style sound. The three factors noted here collectively make Shy Kids Blues a potential candidate to be one of this critic’s top ten new children’s albums of the year by year’s end. It’s still early. But it could end up on that list as enjoyable as it is.

The primary reason that Shy Kid Blues is such a great addition to this year’s crop of new children’s albums is its format. The format of this album is one of a story-telling nature. Those that have heard Josh and the Jamtones’ 2013 album Bear Hunt! will recognize that familiar story-telling format on this record, too. The difference is that whereas Josh and the Jamtones used a classic children’s poem/song as the basis for their album, Hullabaloo—Steve Denyes and Brendan Kremer—have actually crafted a wholly original story in its latest release. Denyes and Kremer have crafted a story in Shy Kid Blues that follows two childhood friends as they grow up together and help each other overcome their own shyness and become who they always knew they could be underneath. That is another part of what makes this album such a great addition to this year’s crop of children’s albums. It will be discussed later. Getting back to the album’s overall story and format, the story itself is original. One could almost see this story playing out in its entirety in short form on screen. It almost begs to be made into a full story put to video. It would be an interesting story to see happen should anyone consider making it.

The story presented in Shy Kid Blues and the story’s format are together the foundation of this outstanding album. Sitting atop that solid foundation is another reason for this album’s ease of enjoyment. That reason is the album’s collective positive messages. Shy Kid Blues boasts at least two positive messages over the course of its two dozen songs. The positive messages embedded in the album’s story are messages of friendship and of self-confidence. The message of friendship is presented through the story of Steve and Brendan. The two boys were born mere weeks apart from one another. And while they were born so close together in time, they turned out to be two entirely different people.   One was really shy. The other was the total opposite. Interestingly enough, despite their differences, the two became fast friends when they got older. And they stayed friends well into their adult lives. They stayed friends because they didn’t let their differences keep them from being friends. Instead it made them stronger because they supported the other emotionally. This is a wonderful message for young listeners to take in. It shows true friendships can weather anything as long as friends don’t’ let their differences tear one another apart.

The second message presented in Shy Kid Blues is one of self-confidence. As the story progresses, listeners learn that as extroverted as he was, Brendan turned out to be very shy in his own way. He was afraid of singing in front of everyone . So Steve supported Brendan much the same way Brendan supported him. He told Brendan how great a singer Brendan was. Together, the two built each other. They helped one another believe more in themselves. This in turn helped their friendship to remain strong even into their adult years. It is yet another positive message presented by the real life Steve and Brendan. Together with the wonderful message of friendship, it proves once more why Shy Kid Blues is such a great addition to this year’s crop of new children’s albums.

The positive messages shared through Shy Kid Blues make this album all the more solid for listeners of all ages. Together with the story and its presentation style, it makes Shy Kid Blues all the more solid an album. There is still one more factor in this album that makes it such a great addition to this year’s crop of new children’s albums. That final factor is the album’s musical styling. Shy Kid Blues largely boasts a country/rockabilly sound throughout the course of its two dozen total tracks. There are some tracks that move a bit more to the left of center. But by and large, the album’s sound is more centered in country and rockabilly. Making the sound even more enjoyable is that the songs that boast a more country vibe are more along the lines of classic country. Listeners more familiar with the world of classic country can hear influences from the likes of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and even Hank Williams, Sr. to a lesser extent. Put simply, it is a great introduction to the world of country music for those wanting to initiate their young listeners into that world. So not only is it a way to entertain listeners, but it also serves as an introduction potentially to a whole new musical world. It is the last part of the whole that is Shy Kid Blues, proving once and for all why this album is not only another great addition to this year’s crop of new children’s albums, but also a potential candidate for this critic’s final year-end list of the year’s best new children’s albums.

Shy Kid Blues will be available Tuesday, May 27th. Audiences can order the duo’s new album via its website, http://www.hullabalooband.com and through CD Baby at http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/Hullabaloo. While there, audiences can check in on the band and get all of the latest news, tour updates and more from Hullabaloo, too. Audiences can also keep up with Hullabaloo via Facebook and Twitter at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hullabaloo/220028144692974 and http://twitter.com/hullabaloosteve. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

OCMS’s New LP Will Impress Fans New And Old

Courtesy: ATO Records

Old Crow Medicine Show has only released four albums so far in its time together.  In that time, the band has amassed legions of fans around the world.  Listening to the band’s previous three full length studio releases, it’s no wonder why so many people have become fans of this Nashville, Tennessee based bluegrass band.  The band’s most recent album, Carry Me Back is even more proof of that.  The album is old school bluegrass at its finest.  Even having gone through a lineup change after the release of its last album, OCMS has shown that it hasn’t missed a step.  If anything this sextet of professionals has gotten even better than before this time out.

Carry Me Back opens with its title track.  The balance of the fiddle, guitar, and mandolin along with the vocals of Kevin Hayes make for a strong link back to bluegrass’ Celtic roots.  For those who perhaps don’t know, much of bluegrass and country is rooted deeply in old Celtic music.  Lyrically, it’s an interesting piece.  It tells of a soldier in the Civil War.  Hayes sings about a person wanting to go back to Virginia after fighting in the war.  He sings, “I’m a rebel boy/Born on the banks of the Shenandoah/In ’61 I went to the war/To win one for Virginia/Yeah my brother went first/Then they called me, too/I was green as a clover in the morning dew/So I marched to the drum/And we sang to the tune/Carry me back to Virginia.”   The song goes on, telling of the soldier’s experience on the frontline, seeing other soldiers die around him, and being sent to the hospitals to have limbs amputated, yet he still fights for his Southern pride.  It’s an interesting piece, and a good opener for this album.

From here, the band moves into what can only be described as one of the album’s most interesting tracks in ‘We Don’t Grow Tobacco.’  That’s first and foremost because of the vocals.  If a listener didn’t know any better, one would think that this song was being sung by none other than the late great Hank Williams, Sr.  It’s somewhat fitting that it would sound like Williams, as it comes across as a true old school style country song in its mournful lyrics.  Presented here is the story of someone looking at the changing of the guard so to speak.  The figure in the song sings about how the old way of growing tobacco for income is no more.  He sings, “Grandpa told me this I know/Change is coming/Won’t be slow/Knocking just like thunder at the door/Fallow fields are all around/Empty barns just falling down/Ironweed is coming up through the floor/Once we growed it by the pound/Now the kids all moved to town/And all that’s left are elderly and poor/Now I sure am sad to say/That I lived to see this day/That we don’t grow tobacco round here no more.”  Anyone who has ever driven through the country sides of this country have seen exactly what this song is about.  It really hits home, thinking about it.  The crux of the song isn’t so much about a region not growing tobacco anymore, though.  It’s more about a way of life going by the wayside.  That’s what makes it such a good song.  Despite that introspective lyrical vibe, the song’s musical vibe doesn’t come across as being too sad.  That mix of emotions makes this song another high point to Carry Me Back

For the emotion of Carry Me Back, OCMS also offers its listeners something with a little bit of an edge to it.  ‘Country Gal’ will put a grin on any listener’s face, male and female.  It’s a laid back song that expertly mirrors the song’s somewhat naughty lyrics with a little bit of word play at the same time.  The title of the song says it all.  The lyrics drive it all home.  Hayes sings in this song, “Baby’s on the bench seat/Ready to go/So if you wanna have fun/honey/Let’s have a roll in the hay/Good lookin’ country gal/hey good looking country gal/Mouse in the corn crib/Pig in the pen/pitchforks turn/Just to circle again/It’s a barnyard two-step/Do-si-do/Raising up a ruckus/’Til the rooster crows.”  There’s no doubt what this one’s about.  Yes, it’s got an edge of sorts to it.  But it’s also a fun song that will entertain any older audience because of how it gets its message across.  It’s just one more of so many enjoyable songs on the band’s new album.  There are also slower pieces such as the album’s closer, ‘Ways of Man’, the Bob Dylan-esque ‘Aint It Enough’, and ‘Genevieve.’  They all come together to make an album that shows where Old Crow Medicine Show has been and where it still plans to go in the years to come.  Carry Me Back is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via the ATO Records website at http://atorecords.shop.musictoday.com/Product.aspx?cp=126_54314&pc=ATCD106.

Fans can also take in the band’s new album live as the band is out touring in support of Carry Me Back now.  The band will be at the Capitol theater in Madison, Wisconsin on Thursday, November 15th.  It will also have a semi-hometown show later this month on the 25th in Memphis, Tennessee.  Audiences can get a full tour run down and all the latest news from the band online at http://www.facebook.com/OldCrowMedicineShow and http://crowmedicine.com

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Hank 3 goes 3 for 3 on his new Hank 3 records

Hank Williams is one of the most revered names in country music.  His son, Hank Williams, Jr. is just as respected, even despite his recent controversy with ESPN and Fox News Channel.  But what a lot of fans of Hank Williams senior and junior don’t know, is that there’s another member of the famed Williams clan.  His name?  Yes, it’s also Hank.  Hank Williams III, to be exact.  But his fans simply call him Hank 3.  Hank 3 is anything but his famed dad or grandfather.  He’s a country musician, and a metal musician.  Yes, you read right folks.  Hank 3 is not just a country musician, but a metal musician, too.  And his three most recent releases continue to shoot a much needed dose of adrenaline and attitude into both genres.

The first of his new releases on his independent label, Hank3 Records, were released together on September sixth of this year.  Those records–the double disc “Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown”, “Attention Deficit Domination”, and “Cattle Callin’–take the sound that he’s become known for, and turns it up yet another notch.  He’s not only turned up his signature sound another notch, but he’s also turned his sound in a different direction on his metal offerings.  “Attention Deficit Domination” goes in a different direction from his other metal offerings.  This time out, Williams opted more for a slower, heavier, down-tuned almost sludge/grunge mix.  Williams dedicated the album to the late Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley.  Understanding that, the change in sound comes as less of a surprise.

Now for those who prefer his more up-tempo metal offerings, Hank 3 has that, too.  He offers it up in the form of the instrumental album, “Cattle Callin'”  One listen to this record makes one wonder if Williams struck up a friendship with fellow musical mad scientist, Devin Townsend in recent years.  When one imagines twenty-three tracks of instrumental metal backed up by a soundtrack of cattle auctioneering, one would think that there’s no way such a record would succeed.  The reality, though, is that “Cattle Callin'” is quite the original album.  At first, it comes as a shock.  But over time, the cattle auctioneering begins to fade into the background, making way more for the music.  That is to say that while the auctioneering is still at the same levels throughout the record, it becomes less obvious the longer a person listens to the album. It’s the kind of opus that will really show who his real fans are and those who just claim to be fans.

Now, for those who are more fans of Hank 3’s country side, the double disc “Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown” offers that same attitude that he’s established on his previous releases, with an added element.  That element is the zydeco-esque songs on “Guttertown”.  That half of the album really comes across as a concept record of sorts.  At first listen, the tracks with nothing but sound effects sound entirely out of place.  But given a more thorough listen, audiences see that they actually play their own role in what’s really a musical story.  It’s one more example of how Hank 3 continues to set himself apart from the masses of both country and metal musical acts out there.

Hank 3 is an outlaw musician.  Every one of his albums has broken the mold both in the country and metal communities.  He’s broken those molds, and broken their rules.  That’s probably why he’s nowhere near as famous as his father or grandfather.  Despite that, this third generation outlaw is as fiery as ever.  And if these three new releases are any sign, that fire won’t be going out any time soon.