NPR Giving Audiences An Early Listen To Cody ChesnuTT’s New Album

Courtesy: Handwritten Records

National Public Radio is giving audiences the chance to hear Cody ChesnuTT’s new album in is entirety before it hits stores.

The organization is streaming ChesnuTT’s new album My Love Divine Degree, online now through its NPR Music page.  It will only be available to stream for a short time as the album is currently scheduled to be released on digital platforms Friday, June 2 via Handwritten Records and on CD on June 30.

Audiences can hear the album in whole now here and pre-order it here.

My Love Divine Degree is being streamed as pat of NPR’s “First Listen” series.  The 13 songs that make up the body of the record were recorded and mixed over the course of 18 months and co-produced by Grammy® Award-nominated producer Anthony “Twilite Tone” Kahn.  The record’s track listing is noted below.

My Love Divine Degree Tracklisting:
1. Anything Can Happen
2. Africa The Future
3. She Ran Away
4. Bullets In The Street And Blood (Feat. Raphael Saadiq)
5. So Sad To See (A Lost Generation)
6. Always Sebrena
7. Make a Better Man
8. I Stay Ready
9. Image of Love
10. It’s In The Love
11. This Green Leaf
12. Peace (Side-by-Side)
13. Shine On The Mic
14. Have You Heard Anything From The Lord Today

More information on My Love Divine Degree is available online now along with all of Cody ChesnuTT’s latest news and more at:










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The Okee Dokee Brothers’ New LP Is Another Great New Musical Adventure

Courtesy:  Okee Dokee Music

Courtesy: Okee Dokee Music

First, they canoed the length of the Mississippi River.  Then they hiked the entire Appalachian Trail.  Now The Okee Dokee Brothers have returned with yet another new adventure and collection of songs to boot in the form of their new album Saddle Up.  The album, the duo’s third full-length release, will be available in stores and online next Friday, May 13th via the duo’s own label Okee Dokee Music.  Regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the Okee Dokee Brothers audiences of all ages will find themselves getting hooked on the music made by these musical “brothers” on their latest LP.  That is because Lansing and Mailander have once again given audiences something familiar without repeating themselves musically and lyrically.  They will also find themselves just as riveted by the pair’s adventure along the length of the Great Divide presented in the album’s companion DVD.   The album’s companion booklet plays just as much of a part in the album’s presentation as its DVD and its new offering of songs.  It is presented in the same journal style format as the booklets that were included in the duo’s previous albums.  While it is nothing new for the Okee Dokee Brothers, it is still a fun, welcome sight and addition to the album’s presentation.  Together with the album’s DVD and its music, all three elements combine to make this album one of the year’s best family records, one of the best of the year’s new country, bluegrass, folk, and Americana, and one of the year’s best new albums overall.

Saddle Up is one of 2016’s top new albums overall.  It is also one of the year’s top new family albums and one of the best among the ranks of the year’s new country, bluegrass, folk and Americana offerings.  One reason for this is the fact that Mailander and Lansing have managed to craft another original record that boasts the duo’s familiar mix of said genres without repeating themselves once again.  This applies not only to the album’s musical content but that of its lyrical themes, too.  The album’s lead single ‘Jackalope’ is a prime example of how Lansing and Mailander have managed to keep things familiar yet fresh on this album.  In regards to its musical content, the song boasts a clear Johnny Cash influence thanks to the pair’s guitar work.  That simple two-chord progression that serves as this song’s foundation also served as the base for nearly every single song that Johnny Cash ever recorded over the course of his career.  Given, there were songs that didn’t utilize it.  But by and large, those familiar with Cash’s work will agree just how commonplace it was in his work.  It is a sound that the dup had not presented in its previous efforts.  So to that end, the music here shows why it is an important part of the album’s presentation.  In terms of the song’s lyrical content, it is original to say the least.  Who but the Okee Dokee Brothers could write a song about a mythical (or is it?) creature and actually succeed in doing so in the process?  The song itself is just one part of what makes the song’s lyrical content so important.  The secondary message of having something to believe in makes the song even richer in terms of its lyrics.

‘Jackalope’ is just one example of what makes Saddle Up’s general content so important to its presentation.  It is just one example for that matter.  ‘Somos Amigos’ can also be cited as an example of the importance of the album’s content.  Mailander and Lansing delve into the world of Mexican music in this piece.  The guys are joined by Carlos Medina and his friends for the song which mixes Mailander and Lansing ’s own sound with that of the traditional accordion-driven sound of so much Mexican music.  Yet again these are waters that The Okee Dokee Brothers have never actually waded into before.  They succeeded just as much here as with the case of ‘Jackalope.’  And again that success shows at least musically why this album is so enjoyable.  Moving on to the song’s lyrical content, the song is centered on the message of friendship.  The group presents the Spanish word for friend—Amigo—and even have Medina and company join in to sing of the importance of friendship.  It isn’t the pair’s first time presenting a message of friendship in its music.  It is, however, the first time that Mailander and Lansing have presented the familiar message in the format used here.  Considering this, the combination of the two elements here makes this song yet another example of what makes Saddle Up’s general content so important to its presentation.  It still is not the last example of what makes the album’s presentation overall so enjoyable either.  ‘Cow Cow Yippee’ is one more example of what makes this album’s musical and lyrical content so important to its presentation.

‘Jackalope’ and ‘Somos Amigos’ are both clear examples of what makes Saddle Up another album from The Okee Dokee Brothers that will make listeners of all ages want to saddle up with the guys for this musical adventure.  They are hardly the only songs that could be cited in showing what makes this album’s musical and lyrical content so important to its presentation.  ‘Cow Cow Yippee’ is one more example of the importance of the album’s lyrical and musical content.  In regards to its musical content, this song stands out from every one of the album’s other offerings.  Musically, it mixes Dixieland elements with a classic country western sound for a song that stands out just as much as anything else on this record.  As a matter of fact, those that are familiar with American Public Media’s beloved radio variety program A Prairie Home Companion will find this musical mix to be very similar to much of the music presented on said program.  The same can be said of the song’s silly lyrics and the duo’s delivery of said lyrics.  Lyrically, the song is just a fun, nonsensical work about cattlemen (not cowboys) and life on the range.  The half sung, half spoken delivery of the song’s family friendly lyrics makes one think of APC’s beloved cowhands Dusty and Lefty.  Whether or not this was intentional is anyone’s guess.  But the similarity is there and it is undeniable.  It is a great comparison, too.  Once again keeping this in mind, it shows yet again why the general musical and lyrical content presented in Saddle Up is so important to the album’s overall presentation.  It shows the duo’s ability yet again to write serious songs, silly, songs, and songs somewhere in between both musically and lyrically.  That is clear not just in this song and the previously noted compositions but in every one of the album’s offerings.  Now, keeping this in mind, the musical and lyrical content is just one part of what makes Saddle Up such a fun family record.  The record’s companion DVD is just as important to its presentation as its general content.

The musical and lyrical content that makes up the main body of Saddle Up is in its own right extremely important to the album’s overall presentation.  Even as important as it is to the album’s presentation its fifteen total tracks are just a portion of what makes the album so enjoyable.  The album’s companion DVD proves to be just as important to the album’s presentation as its musical and lyrical content.  That is because of its own content.  Over the course of the DVD’s run time viewers are taken along with The Okee Dokee Brothers on their horseback journey up the Great Divide.  Viewers get to see many of the sights that they saw.  They get to see some of the people that they interviewed and with whom they recorded songs.  For that matter viewers even get to see Mailander and Lansing as they write and work up their own songs along the way.  It’s all in rain and shine.  The journey in itself is so enjoyable to watch because audiences actually see that Mailander and Lansing did indeed make the trip.  On another level it serves as a reminder of the beauty of America ’s national parks.  So one could actually argue to that extent that the DVD serves not only as a way for audiences to join The Okee Dokee Brothers on their voyage but also as a video postcard of sorts showing people all of the great places that they can visit with their families.  This dual purpose (intentional or not) approach in the album’s DVD shows in full why it is just as important to the album as the album’s general content.  It is still not the last important element to note of the album.  The album’s companion booklet rounds out the album’s presentation.

The songs that make up the body of Saddle Up and the album’s companion DVD are both key elements in the album’s overall presentation.  The songs present yet another healthy mix of country, bluegrass, folk, and Americana that thankfully doesn’t repeat the songs from the Okee Dokee Brothers’ previous albums.  Their lyrical content is just as entertaining and engaging with topics that range from the serious to the downright silly and all points in-between.  The album’s companion takes viewers along for the ride with Mailander and Lansing.  It also serves as a video postcard of sorts for viewers, reminding viewers of the beauty of America’s national parks.  For all of the value that the DVD and the songs present to this new album, they are not the only important pieces of the album’s whole.  The album’s companion booklet proves to be just as important to its presentation as the previously noted elements.  Just as with the duo’s previous albums, this album’s companion booklet is presented (and even titled) in the format of a Field Journal.  The whole thing opens with a note from the guys that it presents excepts from the pair’s journals that they kept during their trip.  Each excerpt is entertaining in its own right; just as entertaining as the songs themselves.  Case in point the excerpt for ‘Good Old Times.’  The excerpt shares a number of flashes from their lives growing up such as: Joe eating a worm, Justin falling off of a sled, and Joe’s wedding.  The pair notes at the end of the passage the joy of reliving those memories as adults, which is exactly what the song is about.  ‘One Horsepower’ presents another great excerpt in the booklet.  One of the guys notes in this passage that, “Grandpa always said, “Who needs a 200 horsepower engine when you can just have the horse!””  Yet again it is a simplistic explanation of the song’s topic.  But again that simplicity and light hearted approach makes this excerpt so fun to read.  The same can be said of any of the other passages presented in the booklet.  Regardless of which one audiences choose, every one of the passes will put a smile on audiences’ faces  in its own way.  That smile will grow even more when audiences take in the album’s featured songs and the adventure presented in the album’s companion DVD.  All things considered Saddle Up proves in the long run to be a musical adventure that audiences will want to take time and again.

The Okee Dokee Brothers’ new album Saddle Up is a musical adventure that listeners of all ages will want to take time and again, just as with the “brothers’” previous pair of recordings.  That is thanks in part to the mix of musical and lyrical material presented throughout the album’s fifteen total songs.  The music presents a wide mix of country, bluegrass, folk, and Americana from beginning to end.  The songs’ lyrical themes range from the serious to the downright silly.  The album’s companion DVD takes audiences along with the “brothers” for their latest adventure.  It also serves as a video postcard of sorts for audiences, reminding audiences of the beauty that lies across America.  The album’s companion booklet adds even more enjoyment to the album with its passages lifted directly from the field journals that Mailander and Lansing kept during their journey.  Each element proves to be truly important in its own right to the whole of Saddle Up’s presentation.  Altogether, they make this album yet another solid offering from The Okee Dokee Brothers and a musical adventure that every listener will want to take himself or herself time and again.  It will be available in stores and online next Friday, May 13th.  More information on Saddle Up is available online along with all of The Okee Dokee Brothers’ latest news and more at:








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Coogan And Brydon’s Second Outing Is Another Entertaining And Delectable Trip

Courtesy:  IFC Films/mpi Media Group

Courtesy: IFC Films/mpi Media Group

IFC Films’ latest outing from actors Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan is one of 2014’s best new independent releases. The “sequel” to the duo’s 2011 feature simply (and aptly) titled The Trip, The Trip To Italy stands out unlike any other production released in 2014. It stands out primarily in its approach. It isn’t necessarily a movie in the most traditional sense. Though there is a sense of a buddy road trip to the story. That buddy comedy element is crossed with something that could almost be considered a reality TV sort of approach. The end result is a presentation that one can’t help but watch if only for that reason. The approach taken by those behind the cameras in presenting The Trip To Italy is just part of the whole that makes this rather intriguing and entertaining work so well worth the watch. Brydon and Coogan’s (sounds like a law firm doesn’t it?) jokes and impersonations throughout the trip make for their own share of entertainment. Nothing is off limits to the pair. No doubt the duo’s comic bits and discussions will have any open-minded viewer laughing uproariously. The last element of The Trip To Italy that makes it such a joy is its backdrops. There is no green screen here. There is no movie magic. Everything that audiences see is really the Italian countryside. In its own way, it could be argued that it is a throwback to the golden era of moviemaking. Together with the movie’s comic element and its overall presentation, all three elements make The Trip To Italy a movie that while not a movie in the traditional sense, a production that still stands firm on its own laurels and is one of the best new independent releases of 2014.

The Trip To Italy is one of the best new independent film releases of 2014. The movie, which ironically enough is itself a sequel, proves to be far better than any of the mass of sequels churned out by Hollywood’s Power Five studios last year. The central reason that it outperforms those movies is the manner in which it is presented. The “movie” isn’t necessarily a movie in the traditional sense. Yet the classic buddy comedy/road trip aspect is there. To be more precise, it blends that element with something along the lines of a reality TV show to make for a production that completely stands out from that mass of major name equels. What’s more, being that Coogan and Brydon spend most of their time either eating and driving, one could even compare it to the likes of PBS’ Rick Steves Europe. Go figure, Coogan and Brydon go after so many pop culture figures, movies, and more. But they don’t poke fun at Rick Steves even being in a setting that only encourages such jabs. That will be discussed later. Getting back to the subject at hand, the duo’s travels through Europe was compltely unscripted. It was just them touring Italy, checking out some of the country’s finest cuisine and taking in the sights all while making jokes and trying out their best impersonations. There’s no scripting. So while yes it is a movie, it also shows to be one third documentary and one third reality TV. That The Trip To Italy comes across as such an intriguing hybrid is plenty of reason within itself for audiences to check out this latest release from IFC Films. It’s just one reason to watch it, too. The jokes and impersonations shared throughout the its near two-hour run time make The Trip To Italy even more worth the watch.

The hybrid presentation of The Trip To Italy offers audiences plenty of reason within itself for audiences to watch the “movie” at least once. The jokes and impersonations that are thrown around throughout the course of its near two-hour run time add even more reason for audiences to check it out. Nothing is off limits to Coogan and Brydon, either. From Alanis Morissette to Sean Connery and Roger Moore to Al Pacino and more, Coogan and Brydon go after everyone that they can think of. There’s even a joke aimed at famed Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor. Speaking of public broadcasting, it is interesting that there was no mention of PBS’ travel series Rick Steves Europe anywhere in this production since the duo spent the length of the movie travelling the Italian countryside. Perhaps that was just too easy and too expected. It’s anyone’s guess. Regardles, the jokes and impersonations that are included throughout the “movie”–including a lighthearted jab at Americans’ tendency to use overblown names for themselves and their posessions–make for plenty of laughs and in turn, just as much entertainment. It’s yet another way in which The Trip To Italy proves itself worth the watch. It still isn’t all that makes the production worth the watch, either. The backdrops throughout the presentation round out the reasons to watch The Trip To Italy.

The comic element of The Trip To Italy and its original hybrid presentation are both key to its enjoyment. Both aspects play their own important role in the production’s enjoyment. While both are equally important, they still are not all that make the presentation worth the watch. The “movie’s” backdrops round out the whole thing and make it all the more enjoyable. As noted previously, it would have been so easy for audiences to make a comparison between The Trip To Italy and PBS’ Rick Steves Europe in watching this work since Coogan and Brydon were travelling the Italian countryside. It would have been just as easy for Coogan and Brydon to make jokes at that show’s expense. Of course that didn’t happen. Perhaps that’s because it would have been too expected and easy. Regardless, the backdrop of the Italian countryside is a major positive to the whole of The Trip To Italy. As subtle as it is and as little as some might think about it, seeing that countryside is just like watching Rick Steves Europe. It’s like watching a video postcard. There is no green screen. There are no special effects. It is really the duo travelling the countryside. It is more proof of the duo’s (and of IFC Films’) dedication to making the experience 100 real and believable for audiences. It is that reality of the “movie” alongside its original hybrid presentation, and its laugh riot jokes and impersonations that makes The Trip To Italy a trip that audiences will want to take more than once.

The Trip To Italy is available online now in stores and online now. It can be downloaded via iTunes now at More information on this and other titles from IFC Films is available online at:



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Constitution USA Makes Politics Enlightening And Entertaining

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

America is one of the greatest nations in the world today.  However, as Constitution USA with Peter Sagal points out, it isn’t a perfect nation.  The four-part documentary sees the host of NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me making his way across the country discussing some of the major hot button issues in America today, and how they relate to the Constitution.  More specifically, he discusses how specific portions of the Bill of Rights and of the Constitution itself still play a major role in Americans’ political views today.  It is one of the most impressive pieces of the year from PBS as it takes some very deep concepts and makes them easy to understand and entertaining all at the same time.

Constitution USA with Peter Sagal is unlike so many political documentaries that are out there today.  It doesn’t talk down to viewers, nor does it talk over their heads, either.  The people behind this program have shown that PBS can be intellectual while still being on the level of average viewers.  One of the figures interviewed in the course of the program is a lawyer.  She notes in her interview with Sagal that her job is to take the legal jargon written and spoken, and interpret it for her clients.  That’s what Sagal and company do in this program.  They take the over-the-top political jargon and make it easy for average viewers to understand and appreciate.  It really serves as a solid starting point for anyone that has any interest in politics.  And it serves to prove even to PBS’ brass that it is possible to make programming that is both entertaining and enlightening for average viewers.  Perhaps if more of PBS’ politically based programming takes this course, it could potentially lead to more eyes and in turn, more contributions to the network.  It’s one more piece that proves just how valuable and important PBS is to viewers to this day.   

Sagal and company make politics accessible and entertaining for average viewers of any age through Constitution USA.  They have also crafted a feature that through its roughly four-hour run time, is entirely unbiased.  Opinions are shared on both sides of the issues through Sagal’s interviews.  What’s more, they are shared by every day people, rather than politicians.  This circles back to the ease of understanding and entertainment value for audiences throughout all four segments of the program.  This is because in using a variety of subjects for interviews, audiences are seeing people just like themselves sharing their opinions instead of only some talking head in a stuffed shirt.  Of course, Sagal’s own rapport with his interviewees helps set these people at ease just like he does on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.  He has taken his interview skills from his NPR news quiz show and translated it so well to this format.  In its own way, this is another positive to this presentation. 

As minor as it may seem, Sagal’s rapport with his subjects plays its own part in the success of Constitution USA.  Far too often, political documentaries are presented either with a nameless, faceless narrator that speaks off camera over the presented material.  This is the exact opposite of those all too common presentations.  Whether or not audiences are familiar with Peter Sagal from his show on NPR, they will enjoy watching him as he gathers information and opinions from people on every level from ordinary citizens to academics and even politicians.  Sagal shows time and again his ability to talk to anyone at any level.  He shows that he has the ability to get them to loosen up and open up, rather than put on airs.  It’s a refreshing change of pace, especially being that this is a documentary about politics.  What’s more, his interviews are held in a variety of settings.  They’re not always in some sterile office environment.  Many of the interviews culled for the show are held outside or in classrooms.  That plays into Sagal’s interviews.  Because they aren’t all done inside those sterile office environments, they help establish a calmer mood both for the interviewees and for viewers.  Much like the use of colors in a movie or TV show, the variety of settings is a very psychological aspect.  Viewers won’t entirely recognize it on the surface, but it very much plays a role in keeping audiences’ attention.  Combined with everything else that went into bringing it together, it is one more piece of the puzzle proving the importance and value of Constitution USA with Peter Sagal.  It also serves to prove just why w as Americans need to better understand the Constitution.  It is available now and can be ordered online via the PBS online store at

After ordering Constitution USA with Peter Sagal, audiences can go online to the official PBS Facebook page at and “Like” it to find out about all of the latest programming news and more from PBS.  Audiences can also keep up with all of the latest news from PBS on its official website,

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Sam Cooke To Be Honored At Annual SHOF Ceremony

Courtesy:  ABKCO Records/merlis for hire

Courtesy: ABKCO Records/merlis for hire

Sam Cooke is set to receive a very special honor.  His song, ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ is one of a small handful of songs to receive the “2013 Songwriters Hall of Fame Towering Song Award.”  The presentation will be made at the 44th annual Induction and Awards Dinner on Thursday, June 13th.  The dinner and awards ceremony will be held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City. 

The song—which was originally written by Cooke in 1963 and recorded in 1964—was referenced as recently as the 2008 election by President Barack Obama after winning the election that year.  It was also used as an anthem during the Civil Rights movement.  Since its original release, it has been covered over five hundred times by various artists from the likes of: Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and Otis Redding to more modern artists such as: R. Kelly, Gavin DeGraw, and Seal just to name a few.  These are just a few of the song’s accolades.  It has even been deemed by National Public Radio (NPR) as “the most important ever recorded” and has been selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion into its National Recording Registry.  Cooke himself was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987.       

‘A Change is Gonna Come’ will be inducted into the SHOF along with works from Tony Hatch, Mick Jones & Lou Gramm, Holly Knight, JD Souther, and Steven Tyler & Joe Perry.  A full list of inductees and bios is available online via the SHOF’s virtual museum at

Tickets for the induction ceremony are available now.  They start at $1,000 each.  They are available through Buckley Hall Events by phone at 212-573-6933.

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Sleepwalk With Me Original, Funny, And Heartwarming

Courtesy:  IFC Films

Courtesy: IFC Films

Movies based on actual events are far too many in today’s era of film making.  And far too many of those movies over-glamorize the events on which they are based.  However, among that genre of movies though, is thankfully an occasional diamond in the rough.  One of those diamonds comes from veteran comic Mike Birbiglia and NPR host Ira Glass.  That movie is the indie flick, Sleepwalk With Me.

Sleepwalk With Me is quirky.  It’s sometimes bizarre.  And it’s original.  There is nothing like this movie out there today either in the mainstream or indie world.  The story behind Sleepwalk With Me centers on Mike’s character Matt and his attempt to become a big time comedian all while trying to very precariously balance his relationship with then girlfriend Abby (played by Lauren Ambrose).  In the middle of all of this is Matt’s sleeping disorder called “R.E.M. Behavior Disorder.”  According to the doctor that Matt listens to on his book on tape, “R.E.M. Behavior Disorder” is the tendency of a person to actually physically act out his/her dreams.  That behavior makes for more than its share of both funny and emotional moments.  Added into the story’s balance of comedy and drama, it adds its own touch to make for both more laughs and emotional moments, making for a movie that is entirely original and entertaining at the same time.

The central story of Sleepwalk With Me is original in that as star Mike Birbiglia notes in the additional Q&A bonus feature, it is in large part autobiographical.  So rather than being just another one of those movies that is based on actual events, Birbiglia and friend Ira Glass (NPR’s This American Life) have crafted a story that while somewhat fictional still is a very close mirror to Birbiglia’s life.  And what’s more entertaining that someone telling a story of their own life in their own words?  Birbiglia’s story is both funny and at times heartwarming.  As is the case with any movie though, it is a niche film.  So it’s not a movie for everyone.  But those who are fans of Ira Glass work on NPR or Birbiglia’s work will appreciate this movie.  Niche film aside, it’s still nice to see this movie as it’s nice to see that among all the prequels, sequels, and remakes that abound in today’s movie industry that original and enjoyable scripts are still out there.  Sleepwalk With Me will be available on DVD and Blu-ray next Tuesday, December 18th.

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