Raffi’s New Record Will Be Every Family’s Best Musical Friend

Courtesy: Rounder Records/Shoreline Records

Veteran family entertainer Raffi is one of the hardest working (and most respected) figures in the realm of family music.  Having more than four decades of experience under his belt and a number of family friendly albums, awards related to said albums and so many other honors, one would think that somewhere along the way, he would take a break.  Apparently he doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase, as he will release his next full-length family music album Dog on The Floor this Friday.  It will come a little more than a year after he released his “hits” collection The Best of Raffi (February 10, 2017).  This 15-song, 33-minute record is everything that audiences and families have come to expect from him, as is evidenced in the variety of its musical arrangements.  The equally diverse nature of the lyrical themes is just as familiar and welcome here.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.  Each element plays its own part in making Dog on the Floor another fun family record from Raffi.  All things considered, they make the album another surefire addition to any critic’s list of the year’s top new family music albums.

Raffi officially returns this Friday with his latest full-length studio recording, Dog on the Floor.  His 30th full-length studio recording and at least his 21st family music release, this record is everything that audiences of all ages have come to love and expect from his works, beginning with the variety in its musical arrangements.  From start to end, the album never sticks to just one genre throughout the album.  From the folk styling of the album’s opener, ‘The Way it Goes’ to the light, bluesy vibe of ‘Walkin’ My Dog’ to the light, semi-jazzy vibe of ‘Rainbow’ to the surprising reggae vibe of the album’s finale, ‘It Takes A Village’ and beyond, listeners get more than enough variety in the album’s musical arrangements.  The genres covered in the noted songs are but a sampling of the musical reach of this record.  ‘Fiddle Dance,’ which comes roughly halfway through the album’s run, boasts a bluegrass feel that listeners of all ages will appreciate.  There’s even a gentle, flowing cover of The Beatles’ ‘Here Comes The Sun’ whose folk styling here is most certain to appeal to older audiences just as much – if not more than – their younger counterparts included in the album’s whole.  Americana fans even get a tribute of their own in the upbeat ‘Love Grows Love.’  When this and the other songs noted here are considered alongside all the rest of the album’s entries, the whole of the album’s musical presentation is such that it gives the whole family more than enough to appreciate.  It is just one part of what makes this latest offering from Raffi another solid work.  The variety in the album’s lyrical themes adds just as much interest to the record as the variety in its musical arrangements.

Just as the record’s musical arrangements vary from start to finish, and in turn offer plenty of interest, so do the record’s lyrical themes.  The album’s opener ‘The Way it Goes,’ for instance is just a straight forward, self-explanatory piece that explains that things are the way they are because that’s just the way they are (or rather they it goes).  ‘Luna’s Song,’ the album’s second track, is a song about Raffi’s dog.  Talk about a quick change of lyrical pace.  ‘Play Play Play,’ the record’s third song, is another straight forward, sung from the vantage point of a child show just wants “to play all day long.”  The variety doesn’t stop with this trio of songs.  Rather, it continues on throughout the record of the record’s nearly 34-minute run with the album’s fourth entry, an old-school Country Western style piece that goes by the name of ‘Listen To The Horses,’ continuing the variety.  Raffi’s own take on the traditional song ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ keeps that variety moving as the album makes its way closer to its midpoint.  It certainly doesn’t end there, either.  From a simple song about Raffi walking his dog — that also jokingly asks is he walking the dog or is the dog walking him? – in ‘Walkin’ My Dog’ to the tribute to America’s Farmers’ Markets in ‘Market Day’ to the upbeat, optimistic message of spreading love worldwide in ‘Love Grows Love’ to the reminder that one person alone can’t raise a child in the album’s closer, ‘It Takes A Village’ and more, the album’s lyrical variety gives listeners just as much to appreciate here as the variety in its musical arrangements.  When the variety of the two elements are considered jointly, they give even more reason for audiences to appreciate and enjoy Dog on the Floor.  Now, keeping this in mind, that collective variety is still not all that makes Dog on the Floor another standout effort from Raffi.  The record’s sequencing puts the finishing touch to its presentation.

Whereas the musical and lyrical content varies randomly throughout the course of Dog on the Floor, the variety in its sequencing is far more planned out.  This is evidenced clearly throughout the record’s first half.  Tracks 1 – 3 vary stylistically as much as is possible, yet in regards to their energies and tempos, all three are very much the same.  ‘Listen to the Horses,’ the record’s fourth song is far more reserved in its energy and tempo thanks to its country western style arrangement.  As the record proceeds from that point, so does its energy, rebuilding again right up to the record’s midpoint.  The album’s second half sees its energy remain relatively stable right to the end with perhaps the album’s finale being the only exception to that rule.  It takes listeners out on a gentle, reggae ride out that is so laid back.  What’s interesting is that even with the song’s style presenting a laid back energy, its tempo is still on par with the rest of the songs that make up the remainder of the album’s second half.  Again, this shows so much thought and obvious direct planning.  That planning ensures from start to end, a record whose energies will certainly keep listeners engaged and by connection, whose arrangements will maintain listeners’ entertainment just as much as their engagement.  Keeping this in mind alongside the impact of the said arrangements and the lyrical themes, the whole of Dog on the Floor becomes more proof of why Raffi remains today among the elite in the family music realm.

Raffi’s soon to be released new family music album Dog on the Floor is a quick turnaround for the veteran family entertainer. Even despite it coming along only a little more than a year after the release of The Best of Raffi, this 33-minute, 15-song album doesn’t feel the least bit rushed.  Rather, it feels wholly focused, and in turn fully entertaining for the whole family.  This is evidenced through the variety in the record’s musical arrangements and lyrical themes.  That variety more than certainly keeps listeners of all ages entertained and engaged.  The direct thought and focus in the record’s sequencing does just as much to keep listeners engaged and entertained, the thought put into the album’s musical and lyrical variety.  That is especially the case considering the directed path that the sequencing takes in the record, unlike its musical and lyrical content.  That contrast actually makes the album that much more interesting.  In turn, it (again) does so much to keep listeners of all ages engaged and entertained throughout.  Keeping that in mind, the record in whole proves to be another solid offering from Raffi that also serves to show why he remains today one of the elite names in the world of family music.  It will be available this Friday in stores and online.  More information on Dog on the Floor is available online now along with all of his latest news and more at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.raffinews.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Raffi.Cavoukian

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Raffi_RC

 

 

 

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.

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Raffi’s New Hits Collection Is A Solid Start For Fans New To His Work

Courtesy: Rounder Records

Courtesy: Rounder Records

Veteran children’s entertainer Raffi has a new compilation record on the way.  Rounder Records will release Best of Raffi next Friday, Feb. 10 in stores and online.  This 16-song collection is hardly the first from the Canadian singer-songwriter, but it is still enjoyable in its own right.  That is due in part to the songs that make up the record’s body.  That will be discussed shortly.  The musical styles that are presented throughout the songs are just as important to note as the songs themselves.  That will be discussed later.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.  Each element is important in itself to the overall presentation of this latest compilation from Raffi.  All things considered, this new collection of songs may not be a new record in the purest sense of the term, but it is still an enjoyable collection nonetheless.

Raffi’s new hits collection Best of Raffi is hardly the veteran children’s entertainers first-ever compilation record.  Even with that in mind it is still an enjoyable collection of songs from his extensive catalogue.  Speaking of that extensive catalogue, the 16 songs that make up the body of this collection serve as its cornerstone.  The collection takes audiences all the way back to Raffi’s 1976 record Singable Songs For The Very Young with ‘Mr. Sun’ and ‘Down By The Bay’ and even all the way up to his most recent album, 2016’s Owl Singalong.  Obviously considering just how extensive Raffi’s catalogue is, there was no way that every one of his records could be represented in this collection.  However, he (and the people at Rounder Records) are to be commended for the effort made to represent as much of that catalogue here as possible.  Counting Owl Singalong, no fewer than nine of Raffi’s albums are represented in this record, with at least one song pulled from each record.  Others get two nods.  1980’s Baby Beluga gets three nods with ‘Thanks A Lot,’ Raffi’s cover of Harry Belafonte’s beloved ‘Day O’ and the album’s famed title track.  What is interesting to note of Raffi’s cover of ‘Day O’ is that lyrically speaking, the song has been changed around some.  The mention of the giant tarantula has been entirely removed as has the mention of the worker drinking rum.  Yes, both are in the original song, which in reality was not a children’s song.  Getting back on topic, though not every one of Raffi’s albums is represented here, the albums that are collectively speaking, a healthy representation of his body of work.  Keeping that in mind, they make this compilation a good introduction to Raffi for anyone not overly familiar with him or his body of work.  This is just one way in which this recording proves itself worth being added to any family’s music library.  It is just one of the record’s most important elements.  The musical styles that are presented within the featured songs are just as important to discuss as the songs themselves.

The songs that make up the body of Best of Raffi are important in their own right to the record’s presentation.  That is due to the fact that they represent so much of Raffi’s body of work.  While this is clearly important to the record’s presentation, it is just one of the record’s key elements.  The varied musical styles presented throughout the record are just as important to note here as the featured songs.  ‘Down By The Bay’ boasts a folk style arrangement that Pete Seeger fans will enjoy just as much as Raffi’s fans.  The arrangement at the center of ‘Baby Beluga’ is reminiscent (and here’s a wild connection) of The Beatles’ ‘When I’m Sixty-Four.’  Raffi’s gentle vocal delivery set against the horns and strings in ‘One Light, One Sun’ instantly conjures thoughts of some of the greatest ballads ever performed by Frank Sinatra and Harry Connick, Jr.  These are just a few examples of the various musical styles presented throughout this collection.  The easy-listening arrangement at the center of ‘Rise and Shine’ shows even more variance in Raffi’s stylistic approach over the years, as does the light, jazzy arrangement at the center of ‘Bananaphone.’  The arrangement, driven largely by its piano and drum lines, will put a smile on any listener’s face with its fun feel.  It’s just one more way in which Raffi and Rounder Records display the extent of Raffi’s musical talents in this record.  It goes without saying that the record’s other songs show just as much variety.  All things considered, the arrangements presented in each of this record’s songs show clearly why they are so vital to the record’s presentation.  That variance adds even more to the record’s depth.  On a similar vein, the record’s sequencing proves to be just as important to its presentation.

The songs that are presented in Raffi’s new hits collection and their musical styles are both critical in their own way to the record’s overall presentation.  The songs are a healthy representation of his work up to this point.  The arrangements show an equally wide array of influences, thus showing the reach of his talents.  While both elements are undeniably important to the record, they are not the record’s only important elements.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.  Listeners will note in going through the record’s 16-song body that Raffi and the people behind the record’s production put a lot of thought into its sequencing.  From start to finish, the energy stays just enough at each point.  That is thanks to the thought put into each song’s placement in regards both to its energy and its style.  At no point does the record ever get too slow or too fast.  What’s more, at no point do the songs’ styles ever echo one another immediately.  They vary just as much as the energy exuded within each arrangement.  Keeping that in mind, the sequencing proves to be just as important to keeping listeners engaged as the songs and their arrangements.  All things considered, Best of Raffi proves, while hardly his first hits compilation, to still be a good introduction to Raffi and his music.

Rounder Records’ new Raffi compilation record Best of Raffii is a good introduction to the veteran children’s entertainer and his music.  That is proven in part through the songs featured on the record.  The songs represent a solid cross-section of Raffi’s body of work.  The arrangements presented in the songs are just as diverse as the songs themselves.  They present a wide range of talents and influences from Raffi.  Both elements were clearly taken into account with the record’s sequencing, the last of the record’s most important elements.  Each element is important in its own right to the record’s overall presentation.  All things considered, this record proves to be an enjoyable collection nonetheless, and an equally welcome introduction to Raffi and his music.  It will be available next Friday, Feb. 10 in stores and online.  More information on Best of Raffi is available online now along with all of Raffi’s latest news and more at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.raffinews.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Raffi.Cavoukian

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Raffi_RC

 

 

 

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.

Owl Singalong Will Have Listeners Of All Ages Singing Along

Courtesy:  Rounder Records

Courtesy: Rounder Records

Veteran children’s entertainer Raffi is one of the most prolific names in the world of children’s music.  That is because over the course of his decades-long career he has made music time and again that both entertains and educates listeners of all ages, each time giving listeners something different and original.  His new album Owl Singalong is no different in that aspect.  The sixteen-track, thirty-seven minute album presents a variety of different musical styles coupled with just as many different lyrical topics for an experience that will keep listeners of all ages engaged from beginning to end.  The sequencing of the songs is just as important as the songs’ makeup.  Together with their makeup, all three elements make this record an offering that in the end proves just as important in home as it is in any early childhood educator’s classroom.  Such importance makes valid the argument that Owl Singalong is 2016’s first great album for children.

Raffi’s latest full-length studio recording Owl Singalong is 2016’s first great album for children.  The main reason for that is the musical content presented across the course of the sixteen-song record.  From the album’s dixieland rag style  opener/title track to the reggae-infused ‘Green Dream’ to the Latin-tinged ‘Somos El Barco’ right to the album’s closer, the African standard ‘Abiyoyo,’ Raffi presents listeners with quite the variety of musical stylings.  And these are just a few examples of how many different musical styles are presented across this album.  Raffi’s take on the standard ‘See The Moon’ conjures thoughts of days long gone when men would wear pinstripe suits and serenade ladies.  This is especially the case as Raffi sings an gently strums a ukulele.  There’s even a nice blues-infused tune in the form of ‘Who Hoo Could I Be.’  If the blues sound isn’t enough, there are also brief moments in this song in which Raffi tries to impersonate Bob Dylan (believe it or not).  Older listeners that are fans of Dylan’s work will appreciate that.  But they will have to listen closely to catch those subtle moments.  The subtle manner in which he included said impersonation makes the song’s musical content all the more enjoyable.  ‘Garden Song,’ which comes later in the album’s run is just as impressive with its light country/Americana sound fleshed out by the use of a guitar, ukulele and fiddle as its foundation.  For those wanting something a little more traditional in the way of standard children’s songs, that sound is included here, too in the form of ‘Dog On The Bus,’ ‘I’m Not Small,’ and ‘You May Be A Triangle.’  Whether one prefers that more standard sound or any of the various sounds presented across this record, listeners in whole will agree that the inclusion of so many different sounds forms a solid foundation for Owl Singalong and gives listeners of all ages plenty of reason to hear this latest offering from one of the greatest names in children’s music.  Of course the variety of sounds presented throughout the record is just one reason that audiences will enjoy it.  The lyrical content presented throughout the record is just as important to its presentation as the musical content.

The musical presented over the course of Owl Singalong’s almost forty-minute run time is key to the album’s presentation.  That is because much as with his previous albums, Raffi doesn’t stick to just one style of music at any point here.  Rather he switches things up from one song to the next from the album’s opener to its end.  The musical variety isn’t the only variety that keeps Owl Singalong interesting.  Raffi presents just as much variety in the songs’ lyrical content throughout.  The album’s opener/title track sees Raffi singing about (you guessed it) an owl singing in the bright light of a full moon.  That simple, fun topic coupled with the song’s equally light musical content makes it in whole a great start to this record.  ‘I’m Not Small’ and ‘You May Be A Triangle’ both present wonderful messages about self-confidence in their own special way.  ‘Green Dream’ with its reggae-infused sound, teaches the importance of caring for the planet.  It’s a fitting combination of music and lyrics.  ‘Who Hoo Could I Be’ is another good example of the importance of the lyrical content within the album’s featured songs.  It is just a fun song that asks “Who could I be?”  The seeming point of the question is the answer that “it doesn’t matter who or what I am.  I just want to sing this song to make you smile.”  And put a smile on listeners’ faces it definitely will do.  It’s just a fun, bluesy piece meant to get listeners’ toes tapping and let them know in no uncertain terms that is meant to make listeners feel good.  It is hardly the last song that could be cited as an example of what makes Owl Singalong’s lyrical content so important to the record’s overall presentation.  ‘Abiyoyo,’’Somos El Barco,’ and ‘Dans La Foret Lointaine’ could each be cited as examples of the importance of the album’s lyrical content, too.  All things considered, the lyrical content presented throughout the course of Owl Singalong’s near forty-minute run time proves in the end to be just as important as the album’s musical content.  The two elements together form a solid foundation for the album on which the album’s final important element rests.  That final element is the album’s sequencing.

Both the musical and lyrical content presented in the body of Owl Singalong are equally important in their own right to the album’s overall presentation.  While both elements are of the utmost importance to the album both by themselves and together, they are not the album’s only important elements.  The album’s sequencing is just as important to its whole as its musical and lyrical content.  The album opens with the Dixieland rag styling of the album’s opener and leads into a trio of children’s standards in the next three tracks.  From there, Raffi takes listeners back to the 1920s thanks to the musical presentation of ‘See The Moon’ and then down to the Caribbean in ‘Green Dream.’  That is just the first six tracks that make up the body of Owl Singalong.  He then switches gears once more from there, going back to the more light hearted children’s fare in ‘Every Day’ and ‘Dog on The Bus’ before presenting more material for older audiences in ‘Somos El Barco.’  This sort of back and forth continues through the rest of the album’s seven remaining tracks.  When it’s all said and done, listeners will agree that the sequencing of Owl Singalong’s sixteen total tracks is the finishing touch to a foundation already made strong through songs that will entertain and educate at the same time. They will agree that all three elements taken into collective consideration, they make Owl Singalong yet another impressive new collection of songs from a legendary artist in his own right and one that is also the first great children’s album of 2016.

Owl Singalong, Raffi’s latest full-length studio recording, is an impressive new collection of songs from a figure that is one of the most preeminent artists in the realm of children’s music. It is also the first great children’s album of 2016. That is made clear through the collective musical and lyrical content presented throughout the course of the album’s sixteen songs and thirty-seven minute run time. The songs both entertain and educate listeners of all ages from beginning to end through both factors. The album’s sequencing takes those songs and puts them in an order that assures listeners’ maintained engagement. Each element is important by itself to the overall listening experience in this record. Altogether, they make Owl Singalong–again–yet another enjoyable work from one of the most respected names in the realm of children’s music, and a record that is 2016’s first great children’s album. Owl Singalong will be available in stores and online on Friday, January 15th. Parents can pre-order it online now at http://www.childhonouring.org/. More information on this and other titles from Raffi is available along with Raffi’s latest news at:

 

 

Website: http://www.childhonouring.com

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/Raffi.Cavoukian

 

 

 

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.

Blackberry Smoke Holds All The Roses Among So Many Other Albums With Its Latest LP

Courtesy:  Rounder Records

Courtesy: Rounder Records

Atlanta, Georgia has been known for decades as one of America’s major hotbeds for musical talent. Much like Austin, Seattle, and Los Angeles it has produced some of the biggest names in the industry over the years. Those names come from nearly every genre of the music world. They include the likes of: Sevendust, Stuck Mojo, Collective Soul, Zac Brown Band, Black Crowes, and so many others. The list goes on and on. It could take days or even weeks to name them all. For the case of this review, the focus is set on the Southern Rock Band Blackberry Smoke. For roughly fifteen years now, the members of Blackberry Smoke–Charlie Starr (vocals/guitar), Richard Turner (bass/vocals), Brit Turner (drums), Paul Jackson (guitar/vocals), and Brandon Still (keyboards)–have been making music and touring. Of those roughly fifteen years together, Blackberry Smoke has released three full-length albums, the most recent of which–The Whippoorwill–was released on Zac Brown Band’s own Southern Ground Records in 2012. This past February, the band released its fourth full length album titled Holding All The Roses. The album was released via Rounder Records. For those that might not be so familiar with the band’s body of work, Holding All The Roses serves as a good introduction to the band. And it is just as enjoyable for those that are more familiar with its work up to this point. The sound spread across the album’s dozen tracks shows influences from some of the greatest southern rock bands of the 20th Century including: The Marshall Tucker Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Crowes, Doobie Brothers, and others of that ilk. While the influence of said bands is there from start to finish on this record, Blackberry Smoke still maintains its own identity in each song. That is evident right from the album’s opener ‘Let Me Help You (Find The Door).’ The same can be said of the album’s title track and the somewhat sexually charged ‘Rock and Roll Again.’ These three works in themselves more than exemplify what makes Holding All The Roses such a joy. By themselves they are just a minute fraction of what makes it such an enjoyable record, too. There are nine other tracks from which audiences will find their own favorite(s) on this record. Those songs, coupled with the trio noted here, prove Holding All The Roses in the end to be one of the best new rock and country records of 2015.

Blackberry Smoke’s fourth full length album Holding All The Roses is one of this year’s best new rock and country records. There are some issues here and there throughout the record in terms of its production values. But they are not enough to make HATR unworthy of being heard. From the album’s opener to its end, the songs that make up this album make it one of those rare records that audiences will actually want to listen to without skipping even one song. That is evident right from the album’s opener ‘Let Me Help You (Find The Door).’ On the song’s musical side, audiences will hear a clear influence from famed classic rock band Black Crowes throughout the song. It could even be argued that the song’s bridge, which features quite the guitar solo, bears a rather noticeable Lynyrd Skynyrd influence. Lyrically, it offers audiences just as much of a punch with front man Charlie Starr seemingly addressing certain types who simply don’t want to change their ways. Whether it be those musical acts that refuse to change and those that push said albums or the sheep that give in to everything that is fed to them whether in terms of music, politics, etc.–as front man Charlie Starr sings about in both the song’s first and second verse– it is a clear statement that hits quite a few chords, no pun intended. One could even argue that it even indirectly addresses those audiences that expected this album to be just like the band’s previous released. As Starr sings in the song’s opening verse, “Why’s it got to be the same damn thing/Same damn song and everybody wants to sing/Same sons of b****** still riggin’ the game/They sell the same old faces with brand new names/No matter if I’m wrong or right/I ain’t losin’ sleep tonight/I’ve heard it all before/I can’t take it anymore/If that’s all you got/Let me help you find the door.” The song’s second verse seems to address those sheep that believe everything that is fed to them, from music to news, to politics and more with Starr singing, “Here we go diggin’ the same damn ditch/Just line ’em up/Can’t tell you which one’s which/Standin’ in the back with a s***-eating grin/They were buyin’ it once/I bet they’ll buy it again.” Starr hits on so many subjects with so few words in this song. And he hits the nail right on the head, too. It’s a sharp, yet in an odd way, slightly lighthearted indictment of said subjects that ironically will in fact have Blackberry Smoke’s own fans singing along. One can only hope that in singing along, the band’s own fans will catch the message being presented by Starr and his band mates here rather than just taking the song for its musical side. Those that take both the song’s musical and lyrical side into full consideration will agree just how important it is both in itself and to the album in whole.

‘Let Me Help You (Find The Door) is a solid opener for Blackberry Smoke’s latest full-length record. Its statement urging people and bands who refuse to change to go away is sharp yet witty at the same time. And it ironically will have the band’s own fans singing along every time. One can only hope that said fans will catch the message embedded within the song and take it to heart in catching it. Those fans that do catch the message in question, coupled with the song’s infectious musical side will agree that it is just one part of the whole that makes HATR one of this year’s best new rock and country records. The album’s title track is just as important to the whole of the record. Much like the album’s opener, it boasts its own classic rock influences yet still continues to maintain the band’s own identity, too. The song’s driving, 2/4 tempo will instantly have audiences dancing and clapping along. Having hooked audiences with it musical side, Starr and company–Richard Turner (bass, vocals), Brit Turner (drums), Paul Jackson (guitar, vocals), and Brandon Still (keyboards) make just as powerful a statement with the song’s lyrical side. Starr sings in the song’s first verse about a subject overcoming all of his or her odds and coming out on top, fittingly “holding all the roses” just as a winner would. Starr Sings, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost/I don’t think it’s even gonna be close/Your rabbit’s foot and your four-leaf clover/Throw them all away and start all over/Here I am see me coming around/Swinging out wide with the hammer down/There I go watch me leave you behind/Holding all the roses on the other side.” The subject here is addressing those that called the odds against him or her, proving all those people wrong as he or she holds the proverbial roses of a winner. Speaking of those odds, Starr goes on to sing of overcoming the odds as he sings, “The odds against me were 20 to 1/Carry that weight like it weighs a ton/Ain’t no luck in a gasoline rainbow/Come on, drop that rag/Away we go.” He comes across as saying his subject is using the weight of those odds as motivation to keep pushing on to the very end. Such lyrics are words that will reach so many listeners and potentially have quite the impact. It will leave listeners saying if Starr’s subject can press on against all odds then so can the band’s fans. The song’s driving musical side added to the mix, the song in whole shows once more exactly why it is one more enjoyable and equally important part of the whole that leaves Holding All The Roses in fact holding all the roses on any critic’s list come year’s end.

For all of the seriousness of HATR’s opener and its title track, Blackberry Smoke isn’t all work and no play on its new album. It also boasts some fun moments, too. One example of that lies in the song ‘Rock and Roll Again.’ The song’s musical side shows obvious influence from The Marshall Tucker Band, The Allman Brothers Band and others of that ilk yet once again maintain’s Blackberry Smoke’s own identity along the way. Lyrically, it will put just as much of a smile on listeners’ faces as the music alone. Starr sings about a woman who definitely gets the subject going in all the right ways so to speak. He writes of said woman, “She knows me well and never fails/She knows just how to put the wind back in my sails/She’s got the key to set me free/It’s just so easy to see/The way she makes me rock and roll again/Put the dirty in my mind again/Ain’t nothin’ to it/But she pulls me back in/My baby made me rock and roll again/Yes, she made me rock and roll again.” The rest of the song goes on in much the same fashion, lyrically speaking, with Starr noting of that same woman putting a swagger back in the subject’s step, and gets him moving. The song’s musical side boasts its own swagger, which perfectly complements Starr’s lyrics. Both sides of the song taken into full consideration, they show that Blackberry Smoke can be just as fun as it can be serious. Because of this, it proves to be one more example of what makes HATR such an enjoyable work for every rock and country fan. Taken into consideration with the likes of the album’s title track, its opener, and those pieces not noted here, it proves to be one more piece of an album that again, holds all of its own roses among the masses so far this year.

Blackberry Smoke is currently touring in support of HATR. It is in the last leg of the North American leg of its tour, which wraps up May 24th in Monteagle, Tennessee. The band will take a few days off to rest and recharge after before heading overseas for the European leg of its tour, which kicks off May 29th in Munchen, Germany. After finishing off that leg, the band will return stateside again on June 19th in Alpharetta, Georgia. Fans will be able to pick up HATR at any of the band’s upcoming live dates. In hearing the band live and on its new album, audiences that haven’t yet heard the band’s music will agree, too that HATR more than deserves a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new rock and country albums come December. Fans can check out Blackberry Smoke’s latest tour dates online now, along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: http://blackberrysmoke.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/blackberrysmoke

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.

The Good Times Do Indeed Roll On JD McPherson’s New LP

Courtesy:  Rounder Records

Courtesy: Rounder Records

Singer/Songwriter JD Mcpherson recently released his latest full-length studio release Let The Good Times Roll. The album, his second, was released via Rounder Records. McPherson’s new album is an aptly titled record. That is because throughout the course of the album’s eleven tracks and thirty-six minutes, McPherson offers audiences an album that will have them dancing and singing from the album’s upbeat title track to its Buddy Holly-esque ‘Bridgebuilder’ all the way to the album’s full-on 1950s style rocker ‘Everybody’s Talking ‘Bout The All-American.’ And those are just a few of the reasons that audiences will love this album, too. There is not one bad song throughout this record from beginning to end. It takes the classic vibe established in his 2012 debut album Signs and Signifiers and takes it another step forward incorporating more influence from the rock and r & b acts that continue to make the 1960s one of music’s greatest eras ever. The end result is an album that is deservedly one of this year’s early contender’s for a spot on any critic’s year-end list of the year’s best new albums overall.

JD McPherson has crafted in his second full-length album Let The Good Times Roll a record that is quite aptly titled. That is because from start to finish, McPherson does indeed let the good times roll. Every performance will leave a smile on listeners’ faces and will leave listeners wanting to listen to it again once it’s done. That is evident right from the album’s opener and title track. ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ is a great rocker that harkens back to the days of John Fogerty and others of his ilk. McPherson’s guitar work and drummer Jason Smay’s driving tempo set the song’s backbone. The additional piano line makes that backbone even stronger. McPherson’s soulful vocals complete the song as he sings, “I miss you so/Every time I fall away/I miss you so/Every time I fall away/Let the sky open up little darling/Follow me when I go/Let the sky open up and/Let the good times roll.” He goes on to sing to his figure of interest, “Why can’t you see/I’m standin’ at your door/Why can’t you see/I’m standin’ at your door/Open your home little darling/Follow me when I go/Let the sky open up and let the good times roll. It should be noted that this is not a cover of the 1956 song written by Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee. That aside it is still an enjoyable song in its own right. Presented here is a man telling a woman how much he needs her and loves her. But it’s not done in the classic almost begging style. Rather, there’s a full on swagger to the song here. It’s a swagger that is—again—certain to have any listener on their feet, singing and dancing happily right to the last moment and just as anxiously waiting to see what he has in store next.

What McPherson offers to his audiences after the album’s opener/title track is nothing short of impressive. Every one of the songs that make up this album is well worth its own mention. That includes even the softer, slower sounds of ‘Bridgebuilder.’ The seemingly Buddy Holly/Roy Orbison influenced song will instantly take listeners familiar with music of the era back to the 1950s both with its musical and lyrical side. Audiences can almost see McPherson and his band mates—Jimmy Sutton (upright bass), Jason Smay (drums), Ray Jacildo (keyboards), Doug Corcoran (Saxophone, guitar, keyboards)—on some high school stage a la Back to the Future performing for a group of teenagers while their teachers and parents chaperone the school dance. That is not necessarily meant in a negative way. Rather, the rendition is so pure that it creates that vivid image in one’s mind. That image becomes even more vivid as McPherson sings, “I’ll build something that is real and true/Building bridges to you/I’ll build something that is real and true/Building bridges to you/Bridgebuilder, bridge builder build me a bridge/Draw a straight line on the water/Bridge builder, bridge builder/The waters are deep/Fear I may sink to the bottom/Waiting in shadow/In old merry times/Dreaming of some father’s daughter.” The combination of those lyrics and the song’s classic 1950s style music creates a truly incredible song. It actually sounds like it came direct from the 1950s rather than just being some modern song recorded to sound like something similar to the music of that era. That speaks volumes of this song. It speaks, for that matter, just as loudly as the album’s opener and every other track on this disc. Because it does so, it proves ‘Bridgebuilder’ to be yet another wonderful addition to Let The Good Times Roll.

As is evidenced by both the Buddy Holly/Roy Orbison influenced ‘Bridgebuilder’ and the Jon Fogerty influenced opener/title track to Let The Good Times Roll, JD McPherson gives audiences plenty to like about his new album. They are definitely not all that there is to like about this album, either. McPherson and his band mates keep audiences entertained from start to finish on this album. And hearing the album’s rock and roll/r & b hybrid sound of the album’s closer ‘Everybody’s Talking ‘Bout The All-American’ listeners will agree with that sentiment. McPherson sounds almost like Little Richard here as he sings, “Everybody talking ‘bout the All-American/Knockin’ down walls like a bombardier again/Hair fallin’ down like a razor blade/Breakin’ every heart in every place you’re playing/Everybody talking ‘bout the All-American.” The sax and the drums coupled with McPherson’s work on the guitar and his vocal style make this song feel like something pulled right out of a time capsule that was buried decades ago. It is a solid and rocking final statement from McPherson and company that leaves the absolute best impact on listeners’ ears. Coupled with the rest of the album’s compositions—both those noted and not noted—it will leave an impact so strong that it will have listeners hitting play almost instantly to listen to the album again. That is how impressive this album proves itself. To have such a lasting impact on listeners means that it is definitely deserving of being called one of this year’s best new albums overall.

JD McPherson is currently touring in support of his new album. He will be at the Bowery Ballroom in New York, New York this Wednesday, February 25th for a sold out performance. From there, he and his band mates will wind their way through the Northeast before heading to the Midwest by way of Charleston, WV on March 8th. After those dates, the band will make its way down South beginning April 9th in Paducah, Kentucky. The band’s late spring schedule across the South includes a stop at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina on April 23rd at 7pm. That performance date will see McPherson supporting country music superstar Eric Church. Even more tour dates follow that show. McPherson’s latest tour schedule can be found online along with all of the latest news from McPherson online at:

Website: https://www.jdmcpherson.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jdmcphersonjr

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://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.

Parents, Children Alike Will Love “Love Bug”

Courtesy:  Rounder Records

Courtesy: Rounder Records/Shoreline Records

Veteran children’s entertainer Raffi has been one of the most well-known and respected artists within both his genre and the music industry in whole for near four decades. He has of course also been the butt of some jokes here and there. The reason for both of these scenarios is actually a good one. The reason in question is that throughout the course of his career, Raffi (whose real name is Raffi Cavoukian) has constantly re-invented his sound on every one of his records. His latest release Love Bug is no exception to that rule. Love Bug presents a decidedly country/folk sound throughout the course of its sixteen songs. Though later in the album’s run, Raffi also includes a fun little reggae style piece in ‘Cool Down Reggae’ and a somewhat gospel-tinged piece in the album’s bonus closer ‘Turn This World Around.’ This is an especially enjoyable piece because a close listen reveals a comparison to Peter Gabriel’s anti-apartheid song ‘Biko.’ Given, the stylistic and lyrical similarities might not have been entirely intentional. But they are there. And they are welcome, too. They make the song one of the album’s best pieces if not the best of the album’s available selections. Along with the likes of ‘Cool Down Reggae,’ the short but still fun instrumental Pete’s Banjo,’ and the album’s other songs not noted here, this record proves once again why Raffi is still one of the music industry’s most respected artists to this day.

Raffi has remained one of the top names in both children’s music and the music industry in whole for nearly four decades. The reason being that he has constantly re-invented his sound on every one of his new studio releases. Love Bug, his latest full-length studio effort, is no exception to that rule. The album is dominated largely by a country/folk sound. While that country/folk sound is the album’s most prominent sound, he also branches out some and includes a reggae piece in the aptly titled ‘Cool Down Reggae.’ This piece is a complete change of pace from the rest of the songs that make up the body of Love Bug. This song will have parents and children alike relaxing and jamming along as Raffi sings, “In the rhythm of the jangily day/Time for enjoyment/In the sway of the come and go/So nice to take it slow/With the cool down reggae/Slow down reggae/ Cool down reggae/Slow down reggae.” Even without the steel drums, this song still works and is a welcome change of pace from the rest of the album’s songs. It definitely makes for one of the highest of points on this record. Another of those high points comes in the album’s gospel-tinged closer ‘Turn This World Around.

‘Turn This World Around’ is considered a bonus addition to Love Bug. This means that for all intents and purposes that it is not technically the album’s closer. Regardless of which side one takes on that issue, everyone can agree that it stands out more than any other song included as part of the album’s whole. A close listen to this song reveals a close stylistic similarity to Peter Gabriel’s famed anti-apartheid anthem ‘Biko’ both musically and lyrically. ‘Biko’ is about black anti-apartheid leader Stephen Biko. Biko rose to fame as the head of the Black Consciousness Movement in the 1960s and ‘70s. ‘Turn This World Around’ on the other hand, is not about a specific individual but rather the world needing to make social change for the next generation. While ‘Turn This World Around’ isn’t as anthemic as ‘Biko’ lyrically speaking, it still very much maintains that same social sensibility within its lyrical content. That is noted as Raffi sings, “Honoring the children is what we’re here to do/Now is the hour/And we’ve got the power/To turn, turn, turn/Turn this world around/For the children/Turn this world around.” When he wrote ‘Biko,’ Gabriel had very much the same mindset. He wrote about ending apartheid for the sake of the present and the future. Raffi’s song is broader. But it also discusses making sweeping social changes for the present and future, too. Such a powerful social message coupled with an equally enjoyable musical backing easily makes this song the best moment by far from Love Bug.

‘Turn This World Around’ is the most memorable of moments off of Love Bug. Its mix of social consciousness and equally enjoyable music a la Peter Gabriel is to thank for that. Just as enjoyable for audiences is the laid back sound and vibe of ‘Cool Down Reggae.’ As enjoyable as both sounds are collectively, one would be remiss to omit the obvious country/folk sound that largely dominates this record. And one of the best of those country/folk songs featured in this record is the instrumental ‘Pete’s Banjo.’ This song boasts a fun, old school Appalachian style sound that will have children and their parents dancing together with its simple banjo picking and fiddle playing. It conjures thoughts of an old mountain country store where people would gather to talk and sometimes even dance. And even at only two minutes and fourteen seconds long, it is no less enjoyable. If anything, it makes a person yearn for even more of that old mountain sound. There is a little bit more of said sound peppered throughout the record, too. Audiences will hear it for themselves when they pick up this album for themselves or order it online. They will hear that and much more for that matter. In hearing the album in whole, audiences will understand for themselves why after so many decades, Raffi remains more than deserving of being called one of the best in his genre and in the industry in whole.

Love Bug is available in stores and online now. Raffi already has a pair of live dates scheduled for the new year where audiences will get to hear the songs from Love Bug and from Raffi’s rich body of work. He will perform live in Seattle, WA on January 31st at 1pm and in Portland on February 1st.  He has two performance times on that date.  He is scheduled to perform at 1pm and 4pm on that day. Parents can find out when his next live dates are and keep up with all of his latest updates online now at:

Website: http://www.childhonouring.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Raffi.Cavoukian

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.

Carter’s New LP Is A Wonderful Tribute To Her Family’s Musical Legacy

Courtesy:  Rounder Records/Concord Music Group/Carter Music

Courtesy: Rounder Records/Concord Music Group/Carter Music

Veteran country musician Carlene Carter has crafted in her latest release Carter Girl an album that is without a shadow of a doubt, one of the top new country albums of 2014. The album, which was released early this month on Rounder Records, is one that in her own words, she had wanted to make for some time. She explained that “the songs on the album cover three generations of Carter Family music.” She pays homage to her family’s history, too in her take of ‘Lonesome Valley.’ Another of the album’s highest moments comes in the more up tempo take of the standard ‘Gold Watch and Chain.’ ‘Poor Old Heartsick Me’ will also impress listeners as its more upbeat sound is totally contrary to the song’s lyrics. These are just a few examples of why audiences will enjoy Carter’s new album. Audiences will each have their own reason for enjoying it. Regardless of which song or songs one chooses as one’s favorite, every listener will agree that this record is one of the best new country albums of 2014.

Carlene Carter noted in interviews that she had wanted to make Carter Girl for some time. That’s because, as she said, “the songs on the album cover three generations of Carter Family music.” The most obvious thought in terms of paying tribute to musicians is that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But Carter’s updated rendition of the Carter Family classic isn’t just imitation. She partnered with fellow veteran Vince Gill on this song to make a heartbreaking piece that pays tribute to both her own mother and stepfather. Gill’s vocals blend almost seamlessly with those of Carter in the song’s chorus to make it seem almost like he’s not even there. The vocals are that tight in those sections. Even when Carter is singing by herself, she holds her own, singing, “Well Junie never knew a stranger/She was friendly like that/So we stood with our relations/And a bunch of strangers dressed in black/Me and Rosey wore bright colors/Momma woulda liked it like that/We laid her near her momma/Sing ‘Circle Be’/She always said she wanted that.” She sings these lines not so much with pained recollection, but more with a certain bittersweet feeling. That vocal style evokes so much emotion and makes this song one of the album’s best moments.

Carter’s update on ‘Lonesome Valley’ is such a powerful moment because of the emotion that it evokes. That is thanks to the musicianship of both Carter and Gill. An equally powerful but less bittersweet moment that Carter shares with her listeners on this album is her cover of ‘Poor Old Heartsick Me.’ Considering the song’s sad, standard lyrics of love lost, the song’s more up-tempo musical side gives the song a whole new identity. It starts off sounding like it’ll be the most commonly known down-tempo, woeful song. But the increased energy in this rendition makes it difficult to be down. If anything it almost makes it uplifting as it lets listeners know they aren’t the only ones to have ever gone through heartache in their lives.

‘Lonesome Valley’ and ‘Poor Old Heartsick Me’ are both excellent examples of what makes Carlene Carter’s new tribute album of sorts such an impressive release. Listeners can take away from Carter Girl at least one more example of what makes this such an impressive release. That example is Carter’s cover of ‘Gold Watch and Chain.’ This is typically a much slower and more somber piece when performed by most artists and bands. In Carter’s case though, it is more up-tempo. And the addition of Carter’s cousin Lorrie Carter Bennett makes the song even more enjoyable in this rendition. The two-part harmonies crafted between the women are just as subtle as those in her duet with Vince Gill on ‘Lonesome Valley 2003.’ Those harmonies set alongside other subtleties such as the addition of a mandolin part and what sounds like an old organ in the background round out this wonderful addition to Carter’s album. It is one more wonderful addition to Carter’s new album. And it isn’t the only one, either. Audiences can find their own favorites now that Carter Girl is available in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from the Rounder Records website at http://www.rounder.com/2014/02/new-releases/carter-girl . It can also be downloaded via iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/carter-girl/id828726425 and Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Carter-Girl-Carlene/dp/B00HYCINKQ/?tag=concordreco0c-20.

More information on Carlene Carter, her new album and future tour dates is available online at http://www.facebook.com/officialcarlenecarter and http://www.carlenecarterfanclub.com. 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.