Dave McMurray, Jamey Johnson Premiere Video For ‘Lay Me Down’ Cover

Courtesy: Blue Note Records

Saxophonist Dave McMurray and country musician Jamey Johnson have debuted the video for their cover of the Grateful Dead song, ‘Lay Me Down‘.

The pair premiered the video Thursday, less than a month after the duo presented the song by itself. The song is the second single from McMurray’s new Grateful Dead covers collection, Grateful Dedication 2. He premiered the set’s lead single, ‘Scarlet Begonias (ft. Oteil Burbridge)‘ in April.

The video for McMurray and Johnson’s take of ‘Lay Me Down’ is a unique presentation. It tells the story of love and loss, but not in the sense of broken relationships. As a matter of fact, it is a much deeper, moving story involving a man going through his life. meeting a woman, getting married to that woman, apparently losing her late in life, and then himself dying in the end. It is a powerful presentation in its simplicity.

The manner in which the video is presented adds to its engagement as what looks like shadow puppets and sand are used to tell the story.

The musical arrangement featured in the recently released single is an interesting presentation in its own right in comparison to its source material. The original song presents a gentle, flowing composition. The use of the organ alongside the piano, drums, and Jerry Garcia’s vocals gives the song such a wonderful, soulful sound and style.

By comparison, McMurray and Johnson’s take on the song gives the work a whole new identity what with its blend of jazz and country music. The slow, melancholy approach here takes the song in a whole new direction from the original yet still hits so hard, emotionally.

The full track listing for Grateful Dedication 2 is noted below:

1. Playing in the Band

2. China Cat Sunflower

3. Bird Song 

4. To Lay Me Down feat. Jamey Johnson

5. Truckin’

6. The Other One feat. Bob James

7. If I Had the World to Give feat. Bob James

8. Scarlet Begonias feat. Oteil Burbridge

9. Crazy Fingers

More information on Dave McMurray’s new collection of Grateful Dead covers is available along with all of his latest news at:

Website: https://davemcmurray.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davemcmurraymusic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/davemcmurraysax

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Audiences In Georgia, Beyond Will Enjoy Hearing Blackberry Smoke’s New Album

Courtesy: 3 Legged Records/Thirty Tigers

More than four years after releasing its hit album Find a Light, southern rock band Blackberry Smoke returned this week with an equally strong new record in Georgia You Hear.  The band’s seventh album, this record is everything that audiences have come to expect from the band, which has been called one of the best of the genre by many audiences and critics.  That is due in part to its featured musical arrangements.  They will be discussed shortly.  The lyrical themes that are featured throughout the album add a second layer of appeal to the record.  They will be discussed a little later.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will be addressed later, too.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the album a successful presentation from beginning to end.

Blackberry Smoke’s seventh full-length studio recording, Georgia You Hear is a record that every listener will want to hear.  Yes, that awful pun was intended.  That is due in no small part to its featured musical arrangements.  The arrangements in question largely boast the band’s familiar southern rock tones and stylistic approaches.  At the same time though, they also present a subtle variety from one to the next.  The band even goes full-on country at one point – ‘Lonesome for a Livin’ (ft. Jamey Johnson).’  On a side note, rumblings are that Johnson, who is an outstanding artist in his own right, is finally mapping out his possible first new album in years.  One can only hope and pray that it happens.  Getting back on topic, the arrangements here take audiences in a variety of directions, even as they remain within the southern rock genre from one to the next.  Case in point is the arrangement featured in the album’s opener, ‘Live It Down.’  There is something about the arrangement here (including the vocal delivery style of front man Charlie Starr) that makes the composition comparable to works from the likes of The Black Crowes.  That should come as no surprise to the band’s established audiences.  Those audiences know that the band has shown such similarities in its past records, too.  Luckily though, Blackberry Smoke’s members did not just rehash the sounds of those songs here.  Rather, it is its own original work. 

As the album progresses, the noted diversity is just as evident in ‘Old Enough To Know.’  The twang of the steel pedal and the simple percussion against Starr’s bittersweet vocal delivery and guitar performance lends itself to comparison to works from the likes of James Taylor, Bob Dylan, and even Hank Williams, Sr.  This subdued, simple song is a wonderful break point for the record that keeps things just interesting enough to keep audiences engaged.

On yet another note, ‘All Over The Road,’ the album’s penultimate entry, the band mixes its familiar southern rock sounds with a bit of Americana to make for even more evidence of the diversity in the album’s musical content.  The classic Americana element is most evident in the use of the upbeat piano line.  The more southern rock sound at times conjures thoughts of Tom Petty, ZZ Top and even, again, The Black Crowes. The whole makes the song yet another work that audiences will enjoy while also showing even more, the diversity in the album’s musical arrangements, even though the arrangements stay within the confines of the southern rock genre.  The positive impact of the musical arrangements featured in this record is only a part of what makes the record successful.  The lyrical themes featured in the record are just as diverse (and accessible) as the record’s musical arrangements.

The lyrical themes will connect with audiences just as easily as their musical counterparts.  Case in point is the theme featured in ‘Old Scarecrow,’ the album’s closer.  This song’s lyrical theme presents a message of self-assurance and personal identity.  Starr sings here about not caring about “the year’s new model” and states “I might be a little ragged around the edges…I look at these two hands/And I know there’s someone watching over me.”  He adds, “I ain’t never gonna change my ways.”  This is that defiant message noted.  It is that proverbial middle finger to the status quo, telling people that the subject is going to be who he is, trends be damned.  Again, it is a familiar theme that is used across the musical universe.  It is presented in a familiar fashion that will resonate with audiences just as much as in any other case.

‘Hey Delilah’ presents another familiar lyrical theme.  The theme in question is that of a man who is head over heels for a woman.  Apparently in this case, the woman’s name is Delilah.  Starr recalls here how the woman influenced him (or the song’s subject), even describing how she looked and how it drove him crazy.  That against the song’s musical arrangement, whose southern rock style and sound conjures thoughts of Lynyrd Skynyrd, makes for even more enjoyment here.  It makes the song’s lyrical theme that much more accessible, in turn, showing even more why the album’s lyrical themes are so important to its presentation. 

‘Morningside’ is yet another example of the variety and impact of the album’s lyrical content.  In this case, the band presents in very unique fashion, what comes across as a message about making it through life’s difficult times.  That is inferred as Starr sings in the song’s chorus about “waiting for the morningside” and that “nothing’s ever over…the light is shining on somebody all the time/I’m not stumbling in the darkness/I’m just waiting for the morningside.”  If in fact that is what Starr and company are trying to translate, then they are to be commended for this, again, unique translation.  To that end, it proves one more example of what makes the album’s lyrical content overall just as important as the record’s musical arrangements.  When all of this and the rest of the album’s lyrical content is considered along with all of the album’s musical content, that whole gives listeners every reason to take in this new offering from Blackberry Smoke.  Even with that in mind, it is just a portion of what makes the album worth hearing.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.

The sequencing presented in You Hear Goergia is important to note because a close listen reveals a clear, intentional approach to this aspect.  The album starts off in up-tempo fashion in ‘Live It Down.’  From there, the album’s energy gradually pulls back in each song until it reaches its most subdued point in ‘Lonesome for a Livin’ (ft. Jamey Johnson).’  From there, the record’s second half changes things up a little more to keep things interesting.  ‘All Rise again (ft. Warren Haynes)’ immediately picks things back up to start off the record’s second half.  ‘Old Enough to Know’ then just as starkly changes things again as it pulls way back before giving way to the gritty ‘Morningside.’  That arrangement gives way to even more energy as it transitions to ‘All Over The Road,’ giving audiences one more dose of high energy.  From there, the band closes out the album on a relaxed but still confident note in ‘Old Scarecrow.’  Looking back through all of this, it should be clear that the band and all involved had a clear plan in sequencing the songs.  That plan paid off as it ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment just as much as the album’s content by itself.  When this is considered along with the album’s content, the whole makes this record just as successful as any of the band’s existing albums.

Blackberry Smoke’s brand new album You Hear Georgia is a successful new offering from the band that has become known as one of the leaders of the southern rock realm over its life.  That is proven in part through its musical arrangements.  The arrangements are mostly southern rock songs that still show subtle variations from one to the next in their influences, sounds and styles.  A close listen to the album proves that true.  As if that is not enough, the band even goes full country in at least one song.  The lyrical content featured alongside the album’s musical arrangements is important to the record’s appeal, too.  That is because it is familiar in terms of the presented themes.  The manner in which the familiar themes are presented makes them just as accessible as the album’s musical arrangements.  The sequencing of all of that content rounds out the album’s most important elements.  It brings everything together and ensures in itself, audiences’ engagement and entertainment.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, they make You Hear Georgia a record that audiences in Georgia and beyond will enjoy hearing.  You Hear Georgia is available now through 3 Legged Records/Thirty Tigers.

More information on the album is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:




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Josh Turner’s New Covers Record Proves Pure Country Music Is Still Alive And Well

Courtesy: MCA Nashville

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:

Website: http://www.joshturner.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/joshturner

Twitter: http://twitter.com/joshturnermusic

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Alabama’s New Live DVD Is A Must Have For Any Lover Of Country Music

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s recently released live recording featuring veteran country act Alabama is a must for any lover of country music. This new recording is not the first time that Eagle Rock has tested the waters of the country music world. Eagle Rock is not commonly known for handling recordings from country music acts. That isn’t to say that Eagle Rock has never handled recordings from country act. It released two recordings from the superstar country trio Lady Antebellum over the past two years—Own The Night World Tour (2012) and Live: On This Winter’s Night (2013). So any time that Eagle Rock does test those waters is reason to take notice. Audiences will definitely take notice of this latest country outing from Eagle Rock and Alabama. There is a lot to like about the recording. The most obvious aspect of the recording that audiences will appreciate is the show’s set list. The band handles material from its most recent release as well as older material and a standard or two that everyone will know. In direct connection to the show’s set list, the recording’s audio and video mix are collectively just as impressive. That is of course the standard for Eagle Rock Entertainment’s live recordings. And while Alabama is the central point of focus in this recording, the veteran country band is not the only superstar name that appears in the concert recorded at the famed Ryman Auditorium. The band welcomes some of today’s biggest names in country to perform alongside its members. This trio of elements collectively makes Alabama & Friends at the Ryman one more success for Eagle Rock Entertainment and proof that Eagle Rock should take more chances within the country music world. As important as the noted factors are to the overall success of Alabama & Friends at the Ryman, their being noted is not to discount the importance of the bonus features included in the overall presentation or even the DVD’s packaging. Both factors play just as much of a role in the overall presentation, too. All things considered, Alabama & Friends at the Ryman proves once again why Eagle Rock Entertainment remains today the leader in live recordings.

Alabama & Friends at the Ryman is one of very few live recordings from a country act released by Eagle Rock Entertainment. It isn’t the first time that Eagle Rock has handled a live recording from a country act. But it’s also a rare release as Eagle Rock handles mostly live recordings from rock and pop acts. This recording though, proves that the people at Eagle Rock should consider handling more recordings from the world of country music. It proves this in a number of ways, the first way being the concert’s set list. The concert’s set list offers up both older and more recent material from the band’s catalogue, including a handful of songs from its most recent release simply titled Alabama & Friends. One of the best of the new songs off of said album is the political protest piece ‘All American.’ This song pulls no punches. It goes after members of both political parties. Vocalist Randy Owen sings about the divide among both politicians and Americans alike. He goes on to note that we’re really all one in the same, not Democrat or Republican. One need just step back and look at things from a wider vantage point. Taking into consideration the preconceived stereotype of country musicians and their political affiliations, this song is a welcome breath of fresh air from a country act. It not only helps to disprove that stereotype even if only to a point. It also harkens back to the days of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and others of that ilk stylistically speaking. As noted, the band balances quite well the show’s set list including both more recent material alongside the band’s older works, too. Those that prefer the band’s older material will love that the band opens its show with its classic hit ‘IT You’re Gonna Play In Texas (You Gotta Have A Fiddle In The Band)’ and that it also included in its performance the likes of ‘High Cotton,’ and ‘Song of the South’ among other classics. The balance of the band’s classic songs with its more recent hits is the center point of the success and enjoyment of Alabama & Friends at the Ryman. By direct connection, the recording’s collective audio and video mix are just as impressive.

Eagle Rock Entertainment has maintained a standard of excellence with its live recordings when it comes to the overall audio and video mixes of said recordings. It is that standard of excellence that has helped Eagle Rock justifiably maintain the mantle of the leader in live recordings. Alabama & Friends at the Ryman is no different in maintaining that standard. Taking into account the seemingly small size of the Ryman Auditorium—the shots presented in this concert make the Ryman look rather cozy—those charged with handling the concert’s audio mix had quite the challenge. That is because if the auditorium really is as small as it appears in this presentation, it makes it much easier for sound to bounce off of walls, thus making the handling of audio levels challenging. If the Ryman is in fact as it appeared, it had to have made placement of cameras just as challenging as balancing audio levels. But the camera crew handled its duties with just as much expertise. The end product of the crew’s efforts is one more concert that will impress general audiences just as much as it did the heads at Eagle Rock Entertainment.

The set list that makes up Alabama & Friends at the Ryman works with the concert’s collective audio and video mix to once again show again why Eagle Rock Entertainment is the rightful leader in live recordings. The set itself balances the band’s classics with its more recent works. Those responsible for handling the show’s audio levels handled balancing the seemingly cozy surroundings just as expertly as the show’s camera crew. The end product of these elements together is a product that fully lives up to the standard set by Eagle Rock’s previous live recordings. On another angle, the inclusion of today’s major names in country music in the show enhances the overall experience even more. Alabama is joined in its concert by Jamey Johnson, The Eli Young Band, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, and fellow veteran singer Trisha Yearwood. These performers each contributed their talents to the band’s 2013 album Alabama & Friends. They are just some of the names that came on board for that album, too. On the surface, it’s just a bunch of country’s biggest names performing together. On a wholly other level, it presents an interesting juxtaposition. Here is Alabama, one of the biggest names of country music’s “old guard” playing alongside country music’s next generation in the noted acts. It makes for such a statement without really saying much of anything if anything at all. That statement is a powerful statement, too. Rather than being a passing of the torch, it’s like the next generation paying homage to the roots of the business. It is certain to put a smile on any country music lover’s face. This subtle yet oh-so-strong statement is just as important as the concert’s audio and video mix, and its set list in the presentation’s set list. All three factors together make this concert a must have for any lover of country music.

The juxtaposition of country music’s past, present, and future in Alabama & Friends at the Ryman is a fitting final piece of the presentation’s whole worth noting that makes this recording so enjoyable. The balance of the band’s classic material with its more recent works plays its own part in the whole, too. The top notch work of the show’s audio and video crew makes everything complete. Without their efforts, the presentation would not be worth presenting to audiences. Altogether, these factors make Alabama & Friends at the Ryman a recording that every lover of country music should see. That is not to discount the recording’s bonus interviews and “Making of” feature or the overall packaging of the recording. If a DVD can be packaged in a case the same size as a Blu-ray disc, it makes one wonder why more companies aren’t doing this. There is a macro-scheme at work here that ultimately saves money and space for both consumers and for the company. But that would take far too long to go into. So that will be saved for another time. But again, it would be unfair to ignore this factor or the bonus features included in the recording. One could even examine the band’s on-stage presence when examining the overall recording. It should be clear by now just how much could be considered in examining this recording. Regardless of which factor(s) is/are examined, the end result will be the same: it will still prove that Alabama & Friends at the Ryman deserves a place on the rack of any lover of country music. It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt

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.