Lots Of Options Offered By 2015’s Top New Country, Folk, Bluegrass, And Americana Albums

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

2. George Strait — Cold Beer Conversation

3. Blackberry Smoke — Holding All The Roses

4. Delta Rae — After It All

5. Sugarcane Jane — Dirt Road’s End

6. Alan Jackson — Angels and Alcohol

7. Alabama — Southern Drawl

8. Tim McGraw — Damn Country Music

9. Buzz Cason — Record Machine

10. Darius Rucker — Southern Style

11. Gloriana — Three

12. Luke Bryan — Kill The Lights

13. Chris Stapleton — Traveller

14. Dwight Yokam — Second Hand Heart

15. Zac Brown Band — Jekyll and Hyde

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Strait Rides Away In Style In His Final Live Performance

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Legendary country musician George Strait’s days on the road are officially over. On June 7, 2014, the man known lovingly within the country music world as “The King of Country” wrapped the final leg of his tour fittingly dubbed “The Cowboy Rides Away Tour.” The tour wrapped at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It should be noted that while the show marked the end of his days on the road, it didn’t mark the end of his recording career. Of course Judas Priest’s members said the same thing some years ago and look how that turned out. So time will tell if he has indeed parked his tour bus for the last time. Regardless, Strait’s fans and country music fans in general can now own that landmark concert for themselves thanks to the people at Eagle Rock Entertainment. The leading name in live recordings, Eagle Rock Entertainment released The Cowboy Rides Away: Live From AT&T Stadium late this summer exclusively on DVD and digital formats. It goes without saying that whether one is a fan of the country music royalty, a fan of real country music or a little of both, this recording is a must for each. The central reason for that is the show’s extensive forty-song set list, which runs just short of three hours. Strait’s stage presence and that of his fellow country artists is another reason that fans will enjoy this recording. Last but hardly least worth noting is the concert’s production values. Even on DVD its production values are top-notch. They make the show’s near three-hour run time well worth it both in regards to the show’s set list and the performers’ stage presence. All things told, The Cowboy Rides Away Live From AT&T Stadium proves in the end to be a recording that every George Strait fan will enjoy just as much as any fan of real country music.

The Cowboy Rides Away Live from AT&T Stadium is a must have for any George Strait fan and any fan of real country music. So much can be said as to why this is the case. Jumping right in, the central reason for its success is its extensive forty-song set list. Covering so much ground it can be said of the near three-hour performance that it is one of those rare live shows released in recent years that is truly deserving of being called career-spanning. What’s more the very fact that Strait opted for such a rich set list is in itself groundbreaking. That is because few if any other acts out there past or present have ever released single performance recordings with so many songs. Even acts such as The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, The Who, and others have never released such an expansive single-show recording. That in itself speaks volumes about this recording. That every featured song is a fan favorite says even more. One of the bet of the show’s best is ‘Murder on Music Row,’ which he performs here with fellow veteran artist Alan Jackson. There’s a lot of truth in that song. Real country music is hard to find nowadays. There seems to be more southern rock and pop country out there today than real, pure country. On a different note (no pun intended) ‘I Saw God Today’ is another of the show’s best moments. The tender ballad sung from the vantage point of a new parent will bring a smile (and tears) to every fan’s face. The all-star performance of his classic hit ‘All My Ex’s Live In Texas’ is one more of the show’s best moments. It’s obvious that the performers had just as much fun performing the song as did the audience singing along. What’s more seeing so many great names representing country’s past, present, and future on one stage essentially honoring one of country’s greatest names of all time gives this performance even more of a special meaning. It’s just one of so many examples of the importance of the show’s songs in the big picture of the show’s set list. Of course the songs chosen for this show are just one part of what makes the set list in whole so important to the recording’s overall positive impact. The ordering of the songs is just as important as the songs themselves.

The songs that make up the concert’s set list make more than enough reason for Strait’s fans and real country fans alike to watch this recording. However, they are only one part of the set list that makes it so important to the whole of the recording. The ordering of the songs is just as pivotal to the show’s enjoyment as the songs themselves. Audiences will be quite impressed in taking in this concert to note the balance of its more upbeat moments with its softer, more emotional moments. From one song to the next Strait and company build the show’s energy and pull it back at just the right points from beginning to end. The end result is a near three-hour performance that will keep fans at home just as engaged as those that were in attendance at the concert’s taping. The mix of that smart sequencing with song after song that every fan will enjoy makes this concert one that even being Strait’s last live show potentially ever is one that fans will want to watch again and again.

The set list chosen for Strait’s final show and its sequencing make for more than enough reason for any George Strait fan and real country music fan alike to watch this recording. They are just a small part of the whole that makes the concert so enjoyable. Strait’s stage performance (and that of his guests) plays its own important role in the concert’s overall effect. Throughout the course of the concert, Strait maintains an almost unassuming demeanor. It could be argued that it actually presents Strait as having this full sense of humility. He doesn’t try to run around the stage and put on a certain kind of persona. it is more along the lines of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get persona. It’s nice to see such a humble persona. Believe it or not it adds quite a bit to the concert’s overall effect on fans. By contrast, his guests–of whom includes the likes of Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Sheryl Crow, Eric Church, Martina McBride and others–are more energetic by and large. The juxtaposition of Strait’s stage presence to those of his fellow musicians makes for even more enjoyment. And when coupled with the show’s set list, both elements solidify the reason for fans to add this recording to their own home DVD libraries even more so. The combination of both elements would mean little, though without proper production values–the last of the recording’s positives.

Both the set list chosen for George Strait’s “final” live performance and the stage presence of Strait and his fellow musicians are equally important to the overall effect of this recording. Of course neither would be of any importance without proper production values. Luckily for fans the production values presented in the concert contained herein are of the utmost expertise. Even presented on DVD, it looks and sounds just as good as being there if not better. That could be chalked up just as much to the equipment at Strait’s disposal as those charged with manning the boards for the show. The same can be said of those charged with the show’s audio in post-production. On the side of the show’s video mix, having a slowly circulating stage could not have hurt the camera crew. On the one hand it offered the camera crew and co-directors Danny O’Bryen and Brian Lockwood plenty of options for good shots. That is because the stage was set dead center in the stadium as if it was set up for the Super Bowl’s half time show. The camera crew could shoot from on stage, from the crowd (especially since the stage wasn’t that high above the stadium floor), and from so many other angles. Having so many options and so much talent, the result of the production crew’s work is a concert that gives home viewers an even better seat than those in attendance from beginning to end. And coupled with an audio mix that is just as impressive, Strait’s performance (and that of his guests) coupled with the show’s rich, expansive set list proves to be a concert experience that is a wonderful final performance from a legendary artist should it in fact prove to be his last.

George Strait’s performance from June 7th, 2014 at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas is largely believed to be the legendary country musician’s final live performance. If indeed it proves years down the road to be his final live performance, then it is a wonderful way for Strait to go out. That is even with Strait claiming that he will still continue to record new music while no longer touring. The show’s rich set list will please every one of his fans as it more than lives up to the honor of being called a career-spanning show. The sequencing of the show’s songs, Strait’s performance (and that of his guests), and the show’s expert production values come together to make the concert whole and one that fans of all ages will enjoy with every watch. It is a wonderful final performance from a legendary artist that even if it is his last, will hopefully not be his last recorded concert to ever be released. The Cowboy Rides Away Live From AT&T Stadium is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online now at:

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

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews 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.

Eagle Rock To Release New Alabama Live Recording Later This Month

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Eagle Rock Entertainment will release a new live recording from veteran country act Alabama later this month.

Alabama & Friends At The Ryman will be released Tuesday, September 30th. The concert features the veteran country act performing alongside some of the biggest names in country music today at the famed Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN. Among the names that joined the band on-stage for the once-in-a-lifetime concert are the likes of: Jason Aldean, Trisha Yearwood, Luke Bryan, Jamie Johnson, Florida Georgia Line, and the Eli Young Band. The show features the acts performing his such as ‘Tennessee River,’ ‘Love in the First Degree,’ ‘Dixieland Delight,’ ‘If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band,’ ‘Song of the South,’ ‘I’m in a Hurry (And I Don’t Know Why),’ and ‘My Home’s in Alabama.’  The full track listing for the concert is noted below.

Track Listing:
1) If You’re Gonna Play In Texas (You Gotta Have A Fiddle In The Band)
2) Tennessee River featuring Jason Aldean
3) Dixieland Delight
4) Song Of The South
5) One In The World
6) Forever’s As Far As I’ll Go featuring Trisha Yearwood
7) Dancin’, Shaggin’ On The Boulevard
8) Born Country
9) All American
10) Love In The First Degree featuring Luke Bryan
11) The Closer You Get featuring Eli Young Band
12) High Cotton
13) Take Me Down
14) I’m In A Hurry (And Don’t Know Why) featuring Florida Georgia Line
15) That’s How I Was Raised
16) My Home’s In Alabama featuring Jamey Johnson
17) Mountain Music

Alabama & Friends will be presented as a stand-alone DVD presentation as well as a DVD/2-CD combo pack, stand-alone 2-CD presentation, a limited edition double-disc vinyl, and in various digital formats. The stand-alone DVD presentation will retail for SRP of $14.98. Along with the central concert, the recording’s stand-alone DVD presentation features a number of bonuses for viewers. Bonus featurettes “The History and the Night,” “The Making of Alabama & Friends,” “The Songs and the Stories,” “Influence and Inspiration,” “The Magic of Alabama Live,” “Performing at the Ryman,” and “Alabama Is…” serve as the central bonus material for the concert’s stand-alone DVD presentation. There are also interviews with the bands and guests included as bonus material, too.

The concert’s DVD/2-CD presentation will retail for MSRP of $24.98, while the stand-alone 2-CD presentation will go for MSRP of $17.98. The limited edition 2-disc vinyl will retail for MSRP of $29.98. these prices will of course vary from one retailer to another. Alabama’s fans can order their copy of Alabama & Friends at the Ryman online right now via the direct-to-consumer store at http://www.myplaydirect.com/alabama-friends. The direct to consumer store offers not only the listed formats but also special audio/video bundles with an exclusive t-shirt.

More information on this release and others from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt
Twitter: http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews.

Alabama’s fans can keep up with all of the latest news and more from the band online at
website: http://www.thealabamaband.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Alabama
Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheAlabamaBand

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