2015’s Top New Albums Come From Across The Musical Universe

The countdown is near, folks. And with the end of the year nearly here, the end of Phil’s Picks’ year-enders is officially here. We have finally come down to the last of this year’s “Best Of” lists. To close out this year’s group of year-enders we come full circle and finish where we started; back in the music world. To close out 2015, Phil’s Picks offers up its list of the year’s top new albums overall. This list was anything but easy to compile. That is because the top 10 albums and five honorable mention titles really represent so many galaxies within the musical universe. There’s some blues in this list courtesy of The Rev.Shawn Amos in this list. Salvador Santana, Carlos Santana’s son is also on this list, along with Pimps of Joytime and Fort Knox Five representing the rap and hip-hop galaxies. George Strait, The King of Country himself, is also here as are Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. Even jazz great Terence Blanchard gets a nod as do Joe Satriani and electro-rock duo NYVES. There are others included here. And they are noted in the list below. Being that each album comes from a different part of the musical universe, figuring each album’s place in this list was what really made assembling this list so tough. The ability of listeners to take in the album without skipping tracks was taken into account as was each album’s production values and combined lyrical and musical content. That goes back to the albums’ ability to keep listeners fully engaged from start to finish. So no offense was meant to any act in its placement on this list. EVERY one of the albums included in this list was far more than deserving of being included in this list. That taken into consideration the following is the final list of this year’s top overall albums from Phil’s Picks. And as always, the top 10 albums make up the main body of the list while the bottom five each receive honorable mention. Without any further ado here for your reading pleasure dear readers, is the Phil’s Picks 2015 Top 10 New Albums. Happy New Year!

PHIL’S PICKS 2015 TOP 10 NEW ALBUMS

1. BOARDWALK EMPIRE: BOARDWALK EMPIRE VOLUME 3

2. JUDITH HALL: BACK IN TIME

3. SALVADOR SANTANA: FANTASY REALITY

4. GEORGE STRAIT: COLD BEER CONVERSATION

5. WILLIE NELSON & MERLE HAGGARD: DJANGO & JIMMIE

6. SCALE THE SUMMIT: V

7. JOE SATRIANI: SHOCKWAVE SUPERNOVA

8. BLACKBERRY SMOKE: HOLDING ALL THE ROSES

9. FORT KNOX FIVE: PRESSURIZE THE CABIN

10. PIMPS OF JOYTIME: JUKESTONE PARADISE

11. NYVES: ANXIETY

12. DELTA RAE: AFTER IT ALL

13. THE REV. SHAWN AMOS: THE REV. SHAWN AMOS LOVES YOU

14. SUGARCANE JANE: DIRT ROAD’S END

15. TERENCE BLANCHARD: BREATHLESS

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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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Time Life’s Latest Hee Haw Collection Is Another “Time”-less Treasure

Courtesy:  Time Life Entertainment

Courtesy: Time Life Entertainment

CBS was at time the single greatest network on television.  It was home to so many great shows from every genre of programming.  Sadly today it has become little more than a pale shell of its former self.  Thankfully though, Time Life Entertainment has over recent years has been bringing many of those classics back to life on DVD.  One of the most notable of those series to be resurrected by Time Life Entertainment is CBS’ answer to NBC’s Laugh In, Hee Haw.  Time Life Entertainment has already released a number of Hee Haw collections over the years.  And now it will release one more collection next month in the form of a triple-disc set simply titled The Hee Haw Collection.  The main reason that this collection stands out for audiences is its inclusion of five episodes from the series.  While their inclusion is not the first time that they have been featured in one of Time Life’s Hee Haw collections, it does mark the first time that they have all been featured together in one setting.  Even the five-disc collection released in 2007 doesn’t feature the episodes included in this set together.  And up until now it had been the most extensive Hee Haw collection released to date.  The content contained within the episodes is just as important to note as the episodes themselves.  Between the deep fried jokes and the outstanding classic country performances, audiences of all ages and types.  The set’s production values round out the package.  Considering that at least two of the episodes featured here have been included in previous Hee Haw collections it goes without saying that they look and sound quite good.  The others look and sound just as impressive.  That being the case, it is safe to say that audiences will enjoy each episode and even the bonus material even more.  In enjoying the set so much, it will leave audiences hoping just as much as this critic that sooner rather than later Time Life Entertainment will start releasing Hee Haw’s complete season sets rather than teasing them with so many compilations.  Regardless of whether or not that happens, at least viewers will have this latest collection that they will love to watch time and again.

Time Life Entertainment’s latest collection of episodes from CBS’ classic comic variety series Hee Haw is yet another great piece for anyone that grew up watching this series.  It is just as much a piece that even those audiences today looking to escape all of the dramas and serials will enjoy.  That is because it is one more example of everything that once made television (and more directly CBS) great.  It presents five timeless episodes of the classic series on three discs; five episodes that will have audiences slapping their knees and laughing so hard that they cry tears of joy.  Of the five episodes featured in this set, it can be said with certainty that at least two of the episodes have been previously presented in other Hee Haw compilations.  Even with that in mind, it is not necessarily a bad thing.  That is because of the overall difficulty of finding any of the episodes featured in this collection.  Even if the other episodes have been previously featured in other Hee Haw sets the same argument still applies with them.  That being the case, all five episodes included in this latest collection, together with its bonus interviews and comedy reels, go a long way toward making The Hee Haw Collection well worth the purchase and the watch.  This is the case regardless of whether or not audiences already own other Hee Haw compilations.

The episodes and bonus material that has been jammed into The Hee Haw Collection’s new three-disc collection are more than enough reason for any viewer to add this set to their personal home DVD library.  That is the case regardless of whether or not they already own any of Time Life’s previous Hee Haw collections.  Looking at the set more closely, the material that makes up this collection is just as important as the episodes and bonus material.  The material in question is largely the type of material of which viewers such as this critic can only dream today.  It is composed of jokes that are largely family friendly alongside musical numbers from guest performers that are themselves the polar opposite of today’s big budget TV performances.  The set for the performers is simple.  The songs are simple.  Even the performers’ attire is simple.  There are no splashy, over the top outfits that leave nothing to the imagination either from the men or women.  The jokes include favorites such as the patient in the doctor’s office, telling the doctor of an ailment to which the doctor replies: “Don’t do that!” and even playful impersonations of different people and animals.  Even some of the musical performances themselves include little jokes for good measure.  Many of those moments in question come from Buck Owens and Roy Clark.  And they will have audiences laughing just as much as the show’s skits.  Whether for the laughs from those skits or for the entertainment offered by the classic performances by country’s biggest and most respected names, all of the content contained in The Hee Haw Collection is material that the whole family will enjoy and can enjoy alone or even better, together.  That is the best note of all.  The whole family can enjoy every bit of the set’s content.  That is nearly impossible to say of today’s programming.  For that reason alone both this set and Time Life Entertainment deserve two huge thumbs up.  One can only hope that for all of the Hee Haw collections that Time Life has released over the years, it will make even more available in the not too distant future not just as standalone sets but as entire season sets.  There’s a huge, not so subtle hint to the people at Time Life should they read this review.

The episodes contained within Time Life’s new Hee Haw Collection and the content therein are both key to the set’s overall success and enjoyment.  Of course if not for the work of those charged with restoring the vintage footage none of the material presented in this set would be worth even one watch.  Thankfully though, their efforts paid off in spades.  All five episodes are presented in their original 4:3 aspect ratio as are the bonus comedy bits and interviews.  What’s more every bit of the material maintains its original standard definition look.  Even when played on hi-def televisions, that original look doesn’t hold it back.  Believe it or not, there are those classic TV shows that when played back on a hi-def television look absolutely horrid.  They will remain nameless here.  Audiences know the shows.  That being said, the video portion of the episodes and bonus material looks surprisingly impressive even with some of it having been presented previously.  The same can be said of the audio, too.  Considering that all five episodes were lifted from very early in the series’ run (The episodes were pulled from the years between 1969 – 1973), it is incredible to hear such clean audio even all these years later.  Together with the equally impressive video mix, the overall production values presented in Time Life’s new Hee Haw Collection make the set in whole that much more worth the watch regardless of audiences’ familiarity with this classic and timeless series.  Together with the episodes presented here and their material therein, the set in whole proves to be one that anyone looking for real television and real worthwhile television will enjoy.  With any luck it will be just the latest stepping stone to Time Life finally releasing the series in whole or at least in its much needed (and deserved) full season standalone sets.  Regardless of whether or not that happens, it still stands on its own merits as a collection that audiences of all ages will welcome in their home DVD libraries.

Time Life Entertainment’s new Hee Haw Collection is yet another wonderful piece of television history.  It is a collection that both the series’ original fans and those within this generation looking to escape the monotony of television’s current offerings will equally appreciate.  That is evident in the set’s collective episodes and bonus material and the actual material presented within each.  The material is the kind of thing that is almost unheard of today.  Simply put it is material that the entire family can and should enjoy together.  The overall look and sound of the vintage footage rounds the whole thing out, making every bit of the footage and each of the episodes in question completely worth the watch and in turn the set in whole yet another welcome addition to any classic TV fan’s home DVD library.  The Hee Haw Collection will be available in stores and online Tuesday, September 8th. More information on this and other titles from Time Life Entertainment is available online now at:

 

Website: http://timelife.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TimeLifeUS

 

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