Gill Brothers Band’s Debut LP Is A Strong Start For The Band

Courtesy: Slang Church

Up-and-coming southern rock act Gill Brothers Band released its self-titled debut Tuesday through Slang Church. The record is an interesting presentation that fans of said genre will find worth hearing at least once. This is proven in part through its featured musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly. The lyrical content that accompanies the album’s musical arrangements adds to the record’s appeal in its own right and will be discussed a little later. The record’s production rounds out its most important elements and will also be examined later. Each item noted plays into the album’s engagement and entertainment in its own way. All things considered, they make the album a new addition to this year’s field of independent and rock albums that is worth hearing at least once.

Gill Brothers Band, the debut record from its namesake act, is a presentation that will appeal to fans of the southern rock realm. That is due in large part to its featured musical arrangements. From start to end, the 35-minute album, the arrangements exhibit influences from a wide range of southern rock acts whose own music also shows clear blues influence. Speaking more specifically, a song, such as ‘Small Block’ (which comes late in the album’s run) presents not only a southern rock sound, but a stylistic similarity to AC/DC and Lynyrd Skynyrd, what with the chromatic riffs and the distinct vocal style in the verses. Interestingly enough, the song’s choruses lend themselves to comparison to works from Foo Fighters, making for quite the intriguing duality. Even with that being the case, the overall arrangement is well-balanced and makes itself stand out among the rest of the record’s arrangements.

On another note, ‘Rest In Piece’ actually has a very subtle tribute to a well-known Metallica song in its secondary guitar line and steady bass drum beat. Whether that similarity was intentional is known only by the band. Regardless, that great tribute (subtle as it is) alongside the arrangement’s more southern rock leanings gives this arrangement its own unique identity separate from that in ‘Small Block’ and from the rest of the album’s arrangements. It further shows the importance of the record’s overall musical arrangements to the album’s overall presentation.

As if everything noted is not enough, the arrangement featured in ‘Nobody’s Fool’ does its own share to continue showing the variety in the record’s arrangements. In the case of this arrangement, one cannot help but make the slightest comparison to works from the J. Geils Band in the song’s verses. The choruses meanwhile lean more in the noted familiar southern rock sense. Maybe the J. Geils Band comparison is just in this critic’s ears and mind, but even if that is the case, then so be it. This critic does hear it. The blend of those two distinctly different styles and sounds once again makes clear the variety of the musical content featured throughout the album, and the importance thereof. When it and the other arrangements examined here are considered along with the rest of the album’s arrangements (which exhibit influences of Black Crowes, Zac Brown Band, and Lynyrd Skynyrd) the whole makes clear just how important the album’s overall musical content is to the record’s presentation.

While the musical arrangements featured throughout Gill Brothers Band unquestionably do a lot to make the record worth hearing, they are just part of what makes the record work as well as it does. The lyrical themes that accompany the album’s musical content add to the noted appeal. Case in point is the lyrical theme featured in ‘By Your Side.’ In the case of this song, it is another ode to a former romantic interest. That is made clear in the song’s lead verse, which states, “If I had the money/I’d buy you a boat/We’d take it out on the clear lake/Oh how we’d float/But money isn’t the answer/At least that’s the way it should be/I swear we used to laugh/So easily/Is it wrong/To mourn for love/Makes me sick/To sing this song I’m thinking of/Now the memory/It stays with me/And the feeling passes by/Down that highway/If I’d had it my way/I’d still be by your side/Would it be alright/Could I stay by your side?” The song’s second verse continues in similar fashion, with mentions of wishing for closure along the way. It is a familiar topic that is made more interesting when it is considered alongside the song’s musical arrangement. That is because the mood set through the Reckless Kelly style musical arrangement is not as melancholy as one might think. Rather it is more semi celebratory as it recalls the happier times.

‘Rock and Roll,’ which is one of the album’s singles, is yet another example of the importance of its lyrical content. In the case of this song, it finds the song’s subject wondering if the path that he took in life was the right choice. This is inferred in the song’s lead verse and chorus, which state, “The property is going to s***/It’s a hit/Do you think you’ll stick around next time you’re down/I tell you what, buddy/I’m short on your money/Hold up/Get down/I’m turning licks into honey/I just can’t decide/Did rock and ruin ruin or save my life?/And I just can’t decide/Did rock and roll ruin or save my life?” The second verse adds to that sense as it states, “I’m running out of steam/I can’t remember the dream/The Gisbon’s in the case/And I’m watching TV/Pick up the slack/Could you please run it back?/I’m riding alone/I’m riding right off the tracks.” In other words, this is someone who is headed in the wrong direction. It’s a familiar topic, though not overly familiar anywhere in the music industry. Again, considering the song’s musical arrangement, this theme becomes even more interesting, considering the theme’s contemplative nature. Keeping all of this in mind, the song’s lyrical theme continues to show, in its own way, the importance of the album’s lyrical content. It is its own theme that stands apart from the others featured throughout the album that will engage and entertain audiences in its own way.

‘Nobody’s Fool’ is yet another example of the important role that Gill Brothers Band‘s lyrical content plays in its overall picture. In the case of this song, its lyrics come across as a statement of someone who is looking forward as he looks to the past, determined to make changes. This is inferred in the song’s chorus, which states, “When I get off this mountain/Tell you what I’m going to do/Take the things that made me stronger/And give them all right back to you/When I get up off my a**/And do the things that I should do/I’ll see the things around me changing/Seeing me and you change, too.” The mountain is a metaphor for life, and how the song’s subject is having to “climb” it. It is another familiar topic presented in a unique fashion that is also accessible to audiences. When it is considered along with the equally relatable themes examined here and with the rest of the album’s themes, the whole leaves no question about the importance of the album’s lyrical themes. When the album’s musical and lyrical content is collectively considered, that whole makes the album all the more engaging and entertaining. It is collectively just part of what makes the album stand out. The record’s production rounds out its most important elements.

The production that went into the album’s presentation is important to note because of its role in the album’s general effect. The production ensures that the best is brought out of each song, expertly balancing the instrumentation and vocals within each track. That balance makes the listening experience that much more enjoyable, too. In turn, it ensures listeners will find themselves paying more attention to each arrangement and each lyrical theme, thus immersing themselves into the record that much more. Keeping all of this in mind, Gill Brothers Band proves itself a positive start for the up-and-coming country/southern rock act.

Gill Brothers Band’s self-titled debut album is a mostly successful offering from the up-and-coming country/southern rock band. That is proven in part through its featured musical arrangements. The arrangements are each familiar in their approach and sound, but still boast unique minutiae that makes them all the more engaging and entertaining. The album’s lyrical themes are just as accessible as its musical arrangements. Audiences will connect with that aspect of the album as much as the record’s musical content. The album’s production produces a welcoming general effect that ensures audiences’ engagement and entertainment just as much as the record’s content. Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation. All things considered, they make the album an overall welcome addition to this year’s field of new independent albums.

Gill Brothers Band is available now through Slang Church. More information on the album is available along with all of the band’s latest news at

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Faith & Scars’ Debut LP Presents Plenty Of Firepower

Courtesy: TAG Publicity

Independent rock band Faith & Scars’ debut album Revolver officially drops today.  The eight-song record runs only 26-minutes, but in that time, it proves itself a strong debut from the band.  That is proven in part through the record’s collective musical arrangements.  They will be discussed shortly.  For all that the arrangements do for the album’s presentation, it does bring about at least one concern – its sequencing.  The sequencing does not make the album a failure, but is something that cannot be ignored.  It will be addressed a little later.  The concern raised by Revolver’s sequencing is its only real notable negative.  Its impact is lessened through an examination of the record’s lyrical content, which when coupled with the musical arrangements, makes for even more appeal.  Considering the noted appeal and the one minor concern, Revolver still proves itself a work that has plenty of its own firepower.

Faith & Scars’ debut album (and second studio recording – the band’s first studio recording was its 2016 EP Highway Ride) is a positive start for the up-and-coming independent rock band.  That is proven in part through the record’s musical arrangements.  The arrangements in question are largely southern and pure, guitar rock-tinged compositions.  They are easily comparable to works from the likes of Sons of Texas, Charm City Devils, and Black Heart Saints.  That is clear in listening to the twang in the guitar line and the heaviness in the drums.  Front man Roger Glenn’s vocal delivery even has that certain southern rock twang in his delivery style, adding to that noted comparison.  The more modern guitar rock sound makes itself known early on slightly in ‘Rain.’  Right from the song’s opening bars and its heavy intro, listeners get thoughts of Motley Crue.  That influence gives way as the song proceeds, to more of the noted southern rock sound before returning to a more modern rock sound in the choruses.  What’s interesting to note here is that the more modern rock sound in those choruses is comparable to works from Saliva.  Audiences get even more of that Saliva-type sound in ‘Breathe,’ the album’s midpoint.  The Charm City Devils comparison is just as evident in the song’s arrangement as the Saliva influence, adding to its appeal.  ‘Never The Same’ also boasts the noted Saliva influence.  As the album reaches its end, audiences get more of the Motley Crue influence, except in this case, it is in the more subdued fashion akin to that band’s more reserved works.  There is also a slight hint of a Zac Brown Band influence here thanks to the subtlety in the guitar, bass and drums.  Looking back through all of this, what audiences get in Revolver’s musical arrangements is a collection of compositions that gives them a solid range of influences and styles.  That in itself makes for plenty of reason in itself for audiences to hear this record.  For all that the record’s musical content does to help its presentation, the record does raise one concern.  That concern is its sequencing.

Revolver’s sequencing poses a problem that one cannot ignore, yet in the album’s defense, it is not such that it makes the album a failure.  The sequencing proves a problem primarily because of the placement of just one song – ‘Lightning.’  ‘Lightning’ closes out the album and is the record’s sole reserved moment.  Even ‘Never The Same,’ which does have its own slightly reserved points, is not as pulled back as this song’s arrangement.  Every other moment in this eight-song record is so adrenaline-fueled.  So to go from having so much energy throughout to the stark, sudden change in the record’s finale is just uncomfortable.  Listeners will find themselves wanting to accept the song’s placement, but it is just so difficult.  Looking at the album from a purely observational standpoint, it would have made so much more sense to made the song the record’s midpoint.  Had the band (and whomever made the final decision on the sequencing) gone that route, the album would have been a perfect start for the band.  That is especially the case in considering the overall structure of ‘Never The Same.’  The way in which that song balances its more fiery and more reserved moments and the way in which it closes would have made for a much smoother finale.  Of course hindsight is 20/20.  Again, this is a concern that listeners cannot ignore, but even considering that, is not enough to ruin the album’s presentation.  The record’s lyrical content couples with its musical arrangement to make for even more appeal.

The lyrical content featured in Revolver is important to note in examining the album because of its accessibility.  Case in point is the lyrical content featured in the album’s lead single, ‘Breathe.’  The band talked about that content in a prepared statement back in March when the band premiered the song and its video. 

“In a time where the world seems so divided, ‘Breathe’ is a song meant to crate hope for anyone who is struggling,” the statement reads.  “We want to let everyone know that they are not alone in the trials they face.  We hope that we can lead by example and show that even when life brings you to your lowest point, you can still rise up and live a life worth leading.”

On another note, audiences get a southern pride anthem of sorts in ‘Nothin’ Wrong.’  Glenn sings in the song, that “there ain’t nothin’ wrong wit ha rebel yell/Take a shot of whiskey/And raise some hell.”  There are also mentions of enjoying trips to Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, etc.  Again, this is a full-on tribute to all things southern.  It will definitely get its share of audiences putting their horns in the air.  It is just one more example of what makes the album’s lyrical content so important.  ‘Long Way Home’ presents yet another way in which the album’s lyrical content proves so important.

‘Long Way Home’ is a song that centers on one’s self-care, according to a statement that the band released upon the debut of the single’s video.

“We wrote ‘Long Way Home’ as a reminder to remain grounded, in tune with yourself, and focused in the midst of the storm that is life,” the statement reads in part. “Oftentimes life will strike us like a tidal wave. Saying it can be hard to endure is an understatement. The lyrics promote positive state of mind, & self caring. We believe that, especially in the unknown, taking that extra moment to breathe, relax, and re-align with oneself is crucial to maintaining a positive mindset.”

The noted statement is illustrated as Glenn sings about being wary “of the whiskey sunrise,” “the blind man,” and encouraging people to heed the man’s words.  The added note of taking “the long way home/Back to the place where I’m from” is, in its own way, a reminder that people need to keep their priorities in order.  It echoes the comments in the statement.  Keeping that in mind along with the equally accessible themes in the other noted songs’ lyrical content (and that of the rest of the album’s songs) the album’s lyrical content in whole leaves zero doubt about its importance to the record’s whole.  When the record’s lyrical content is considered along with its companion musical content, that collective content in whole counters the record’s one concern to make the presentation in whole a still positive work from Faith & Scars.

Faith & Scars’ debut album Revolver is a record whose presentation hits the mark in nearly every way.  That is due in part to its accessible musical arrangements.  The arrangements will appeal widely to southern rock fans, those of classic and even more modern rock sounds.  It couples with the record’s equally accessible lyrical content to make this record quite a positive presentation even despite the concern raised in the album’s sequencing.  Keeping all of this in mind, Revolver is a work that is a near perfect first full-length recording from Faith & Scars.  The record is available now.

More information on Faith & Scars is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news at:




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Magnolia Bayou Debuts New LP’s Latest Single, ‘Sweet Magnolia’

Courtesy: TAG Publicity

Independent southern rock band Magnolia Bayou debuted its latest single last week.

The band debuted its new single ‘Sweet Magnolia‘ Aug. 13.  The song is the third single from the band’s forthcoming sophomore album Strange Place, which is scheduled for release Sept. 24.  Its debut last week follows the premiere of the album’s lead single ‘Tupelo‘ and its follow-up ‘Thieves.’

The musical  arrangement at the center of ‘Sweet Magnolia’ is a gentle, flowing acoustic composition that combines influences of The Allman Brothers Band with Zac Brown Band and other similar acts.  The arrangement stands out through the juxtaposition of its more melancholy verses and slightly lighter chorus.  The pairing works to translate the message in the song’s lyrical content.

The lyrical theme in question comes across as a man who is expressing his misery at being alone in the verses.  The chorus sections are lighter, expressing the happiness that the “sweet magnolia” brings him.

‘Sweet Magnolia’ is available to stream and download here.

More information on ‘Sweet Magnolia’ is available along with all of Magnolia Bayou’s latest news and more at:






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‘Live From The Waterfront’ Will Appeal To Brent & Co.’s Fans, Roots Rock Fans Alike

Courtesy: Brent & Co./Library of Congress

Independent roots rock band Brent & Co. is doing its part to help audiences get their live music fix while they wait for live venues to reopen with a new live recording of its own.  The band released its new live recording Live From the Waterfront July 14.  Originally captured Aug. 16, 2019 at The Yards Park in Washington D.C. as part of the free Capitol Riverfront Friday Night Concert Series, the band’s 10-song set is available to stream free here.  It is notable in part because of that noted 44-minute set list.  This will be discussed shortly.  The band’s performance thereof is also of note.  It will be discussed a little later.  The concert’s production and mixing rounds out its most important elements, and will also be discussed later.  Each noted item is important in its own way to the whole of this recording.  All things considered, they make the recording another positive addition to the band’s already growing catalog.

Brent & Co.’s new live recording Live From The Waterfront is a positive new presentation from the independent roots rock band.  It is a presentation that will appeal to the band’s established fan base as well as fans of the roots rock world in general.  Its success comes in part through its 44-minute set list.  The set list in question features songs from each of the band’s records and also features a handful of unique cover songs.  The band’s most recent record, Anacostia Songs Vol. 1 (2018) gets the most nods at three.  The band’s self-titled EP, released in 2015 is represented by two songs.  The band’s 2012 EP Not How We Dream also gets a nod in this set.  Joining these songs are covers of Van Morrison’s beloved song, ‘Wild Night,’ ‘Ray LaMontagne’s ‘You Are The Best Thing’ and Ah Ha’s ‘Take On Me.’ The show’s closer, ‘Use Me’ is a cover of Bill Withers’ hit song ‘Use Me.’ Between these covers and the band’s own original songs, audiences get through this performance a relatively clear picture of the band’s catalog, it influences and interests.  In other words, the recording’s set list makes for a strong starting point for Live From the Waterfront.  It is enough to certainly get even the most casual listeners interested in the rest of the band’s work.  This is just one of the recording’s key aspects.  The band’s performance of said set list adds even more to its appeal.

The band’s performance of its set list is important to note because it is that performance that ensures listeners’ maintained engagement and entertainment.  The band’s performance of ‘Use Me’ is just one example of what makes the band’s performance its own positive mark.  Drummer Dominic Fragman’s solo forms the song’s backbone.  He handles the rhythms here will the fullest confidence, never once losing the beat as he makes his way through his extensive solo.  Saxophonist Derrick Michaels adds his own flare throughout the song, too, with his bluesy, funky arrangement.  Front man Brent Peterson and bassist Joe Martone meanwhile add their own subtle flare to the song to keep the song’s energy high, ensuring that much more, listeners’ engagement.  Peterson’s performance in ‘Dueling Creek’ is another high point in terms of the band’s performance.  The song itself conjures thoughts of Zac Brown Band, even with the sax line added to its presentation.  Peterson’s presence is so laid back as he and his band mates make their way through the semi-beachy composition.  The ease of his performance on the slide guitar, from Michaels on that subtle sax line and from Fragman as he keeps time maintains that gentle, laid back sense.  It likely relaxed audiences who took in the show, and will do much the same for home audiences.  The subtlety in the band’s performance of the show’s opener, ‘Float Away’ is another way in which the band’s performance shines in this recording.  Peterson’s performance and that of Fragman here does so well to help translate the emotion in the song’s music and lyrics, which focus on a gentle journey down the Anacostia River from Dueling Creek down to the National Arboretum.  The duo’s performance makes it so easy for audiences to get lost in the relaxing arrangement and its equally gentle lyrics.  It’s just one more way in which the band’s performance proves the importance of the band’s performance in its new live recording.  When it is considered with the other performance aspects noted here and the rest of the featured performances, the whole makes clear the impact that the band’s performance of its set list has on the recording’s presentation.  Together with the set list itself, the two elements give listeners lots of reason to take in this recording.  They are just a pair of notable elements to examine.  The recording’s production and mixing are important to examine in their own right.

The recording’s production and mixing prove important in more than one way.  On one hand, audiences have to take into account that the band’s performance at the Yards Park was an outdoor performance.  It was not at a major venue with all kinds of high-tech audio, yet those behind the boards and the post production were able to fully pick up the audio.  There is no loss at any point throughout the course of the broadcast.  What’s more, the audience noise was just subtle enough in its presentation thanks to the production and mixing.  At times, it is difficult to hear, while at others, it is there just enough.  This is key to note in that it serves as a reminder of the “intimacy” of the performance.  So many live recordings out there are held at major venues, but this performance was in a more “natural” setting.  Getting to hear that difference in the crowd noise actually has its own aesthetic impact on the experience.  That those responsible for the production and mixing were able to accent that aspect of the performance adds even more enjoyment to its presentation.  When this aspect is considered with the recording’s set list and the band’s performance thereof, the entirety of the recording proves wholly enjoyable regardless of one’s familiarity with Brent & Co.

Brent & Co.’s new live recording Live From the Waterfront is a work that will help any roots rock fan get over the live music blues.  While presented only through Spotify, it is still an enjoyable presentation in its own right.  That is due in part to the recording’s set list.  The set list presents a relatively healthy cross section of the band’s current catalog — which is composed of two EPs and an LP – as well as showing some of the band’s influences.  The band’s performance of said set list adds its own appeal point for listeners, as does the production and mixing.  All three elements noted are important in their own right to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, they make Live From the Waterfront a live recording that any roots rock fan will enjoy.  It is available now to stream live through Spotify.  More information on the recording is available along with all of Brent & Co.’s latest news at:










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Willie Nelson’s New LP “Rides” Its Way To The Top Of 2019’s Top New Country/Bluegrass/Americana Albums

Courtesy: SMG

This has been a productive year for the realms of country, bluegrass and Americana.  The genres are their own, but are so closely akin to one another that they are really one in the same.  To that end, the three genres deserve to be combined into one on any critic’s year-end list.  That is what this critic has done and is doing again this year.

This year’s list of the top new Country/Bluegrass/Americana records features a number of familiar names and some who might be slightly less familiar, but are still names worth getting to know.  There are also some compilations featured on this critic’s list this year.  From The Magpie Salute to Son Volt to Willie Nelson and the Carter family and more, this year’s list is full of music that fans of all three genres will enjoy.  As with every previous list, this collection features this critic’s Top 10 titles and five additional honorable mention title for a total of 15 titles.Each title is deserving of its own accolades as there is no negative title.  Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2019 Top 10 Country/Bluegrass/Americana albums.



  1. Willie Nelson — Ride Me Back Home
  2. George Strait — Honky Tonk Time Machine
  3. The Magpie Salute — High Water II
  4. The Shootouts — Quick Draw
  5. The Vegabonds — V
  6. Old Salt Union — Where The Dogs Don’t Bite
  7. Country Music: A Film By Ken Burns
  8. The Carter Family — Across Generations
  9. Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues — Roots & BranchesThe Songs of Little Walter
  10. Steve Earl & The Dukes — Guy
  11. World Music Network — The Rough Guide To The Roots of Country Music
  12. Zac Brown Band — Owl
  13. Mandolin Orange — Tides of a Teardrop
  14. Michael Cleveland — Tail Fiddler
  15. Hootie & The Blowfish — Imperfect Circle


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Johnson’s Sophomore LP Is Everything That Is Good And Right With Rock And Roll

Courtesy: Big Johnson Records

American Idol winner Caleb Johnson is scheduled to release his new album Born From Southern Ground next month.  The rocker and his backing band, The Ramblin’ Saints will release the 10-song record June 14 through Big Johnson Records.  Listening through this latest offering from the singer and his fellow musicians – which is actually Johnson’s sophomore album – it goes without saying that this new record could be the record that breaks Johnson into the mainstream and makes him more than just another alum from that TV karaoke contest.  That is due both to the record’s musical arrangements and its lyrical themes.  ‘Sugar,’ which comes early in the record’s run is just one of the songs that serves to support those statements.  It will be discussed shortly.  ‘Hanging With The Band’ does just as much to support those statements, both with its full electric and acoustic takes.  It will be discussed a little later.  ‘It’s Not The End’ also supports the noted statements.  When it is considered along with ‘Sugar,’ ‘Hanging With The Band’ and the rest of the record, the whole of BFSG becomes a work that makes Johnson more than just another one-off winner of one of TV’s many karaoke contests, but a truly viable rock star.

Caleb Johnson & The Ramblin’ Saints’ new album Born From Southern Ground is one of the most surprising records to be released so far this year.  It is a work that proves Caleb is the real deal and not just another forgettable member of one of the show’s season lineups.  These statements are supported early on in the album in the form of ‘Sugar.’  The song’s musical arrangement almost immediately conjures thoughts of Lenny Kravitz’s hit song ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way’ thanks to the guitar riff.  That same riff is echoed in the song’s chorus, adding even more to that comparison.  The inclusion of the keyboard line in the verses leads to a slight comparison to Peter Gabriel’s equally famed song ‘Sledgehammer.’  The two comparisons don’t seem to work in concept, but the way in which Johnson and his fellow musicians have used those influences makes the song in general work quite surprisingly well.  In fact they make this arrangement one of the song’s best compositions.  While the composition in itself makes for plenty of enjoyment for listeners, it is just one part of what makes the song such a strong addition to the record.  The song’s accessible lyrical content adds to its appeal.

Johnson sings in the song’s lead verse, “It’s late in the evening/And my fever’s getting high/You know I got a sweet tooth that can last all night/You go the power/’Cause your love is so divine/Well just gimme some of that sweet sugar/Make me feel satisfied/Gimme some of that sugar.”  He continues in the song’s second verse, “Now, someone call the doctor/’Cause my love is fading fast/I think I broke my fever/But this hunger will not pass/Somebody help me/Please my appetite/Just gimme some of that sweet sugar/Make me feel satisfied/Gimme some of your sugar/Little kiss on the cheek.”  There’s pretty much no doubt about this song.  This is one of those come hither, randy type of songs that is certain to get people moving in more ways than one.  That is the case both in terms of these lyrics and the song’s upbeat musical arrangement.  When the two elements are considered together, the end result is a work that shows with ease just what makes BFSG a success.  It is just one of the album’s most notable offerings.  ‘Hanging With The Band’ is another easily accessible addition to BFSG, and shows in its own way what makes the album such a strong new offering from Johnson and company.

‘Hanging With The Band’ stands out, just as with ‘Sugar,’ in part because of its musical arrangement.  This applies both to the song’s full electric take and its acoustic version.  The electric arrangement conjures thoughts of Bob Seger and Zac Brown Band (fitting, considering that BFSG was recorded at Brown’s Southern Ground Studios).  The song’s acoustic take stands very well on its own merits in terms of its arrangement.  In gives the song a whole new identity, as a matter of fact; an identity that is just as enjoyable as the song’s electric take.  It’s not the first time any act has ever crafted such an arrangement, but it is no less enjoyable here than in the case of other acts.  To that end, it does plenty to keep listeners engaged and entertained.  It is just one part of what makes the song stand out.  The song’s lyrical theme does just as much to make the song appealing.

The song, lyrically, is another relatively simple work, on the surface.  It is a song that finds Johnson celebrating the simpler times in his life.  On a deeper level though, that celebration becomes a statement that will resonate with listeners as they think about the joys of the simple aspects of their own lives.  He sings in the song’s lead verse, “Sometimes on hot nights like this/I can’t help but reminisce/About the wild-eyed, getting’ high, reckless innocence/Teenage girls and hometown boys/Just making out and making noise/Never knew fear/Just cheap beer and cigarettes/Dive bars, guitars, singing Turn the Page/Said one day, we’ll make it/Hit the big stage/Good times when life was easy/Wild nights and whiskey dreamin’/Rock and roll queens and kings every single summer/Live loud and it didn’t matter/Drove fast and loved even faster/Memories comin’ rushin’ back like the spell I’m under/Makes me close my eyes, get high and drink a cup of gin/Tonight’s alright with you/I’m hanging with the band.”  He continues in the song’s second verse, “Who says all those days are gone/When everybody sings along/I’m still pissin’ off every single neighbor in the neighborhood/I hope this party never ends/Love my family, I love my friend/I would take a trip back if I could/Dive bars, guitars, singing Walk This Way/Said one day, we’ll make it/Hit the big stage/ Good times when life was easy/Wild nights and whiskey dreamin’/Rock and roll queens and kings every single summer/Live loud and it didn’t matter/Drove fast and loved even faster/Memories comin’ rushin’ back like the spell I’m under/Makes me close my eyes, get high and drink a cup of gin/Tonight’s alright with you/I’m hanging with the band.”  There is no doubt from this, that again, this song is a celebration of Johnson’s life pre-celebrity.  While most of us may never know the celebrity life, it still is a story to which so many listeners can relate.  That is because it will lead listeners to appreciate the simplicity of their own lives; those friends and family, and just being able to live life.  That accessibility through the song’s lyrical content couples with the accessibility of the song’s musical arrangement and creates a whole that is yet another clear example of what makes BFSG a strong new offering from Caleb Johnson.  It still is hardly the last of the songs that can be cited in supporting that statement.  The even more powerful song that is ‘It’s Not The End’ is yet another example of what makes the album so strong.

‘It’s Not The End’ presents in its musical arrangement an old school, piano-driven ballad that is certain to appeal to a wide range of listeners.  The song starts off simply with that piano and Johnson’s vocals in the opening measures before gradually building to its climactic, almost gospel style finale.  What is truly interesting here is that Johnson’s vocal delivery this time actually echoes that of former Journey front man Steve Perry.  The whole of the arrangement is a work that exhibits great power that will certainly create great emotion in listeners’ minds and hearts.  That power and emotion grow even more through the song’s uplifting lyrical message of believing in one’s self.

Johnson sings in the song’s lead verse, “When you’re/Feeling/Like there’s nothing to believe in/It’s not the end/You’re fighting…battling your demons/It’s not the end/The angel beside you/Is waiting to show you the way/It’s not the end/It’s just the beginning/Let go of yourselves/While you’re holding on/If you’re lost in the dark/No matter where you are/The sun will shine again/No, it’s not the end.”  He continues in the song’s second verse, “When your hope and faith is wearing thin/It’s not the end/there’s a new day/Blowing out the candle in the wind/Let it begin/So right here and now/The pain and the doubt/Let it all out/It’s not the end/It’s just the beginning/Let go of yourselves/While you’re holding on/If you’re lost in the dark/No matter where you are/The sun will shine again/No, it’s not the end.”  This is hardly the first time that any artist or act across the musical universe has ever presented such a message, but that does not make it any less powerful and welcome in Johnson’s case.  If anything, this message, coupled with the song’s equally powerful musical arrangements is just as welcome as any similar song from any other performer or act past and present.  It even brought tears to this big tough guy critic’s eyes.  Yes, that was just admitted to here.  The joining of the song’s arrangement and lyrical content is certain to make this song a fan favorite both on record and in person at Johnson’s shows.  It could just as easily be used for so many movie soundtracks and commercials.  That is how much the song stands out in whole.  When it is considered along with the equally accessible songs noted here and the rest of the album’s works, the whole of the album becomes a record that not only certifies Caleb Johnson as a bona fide rock star, but in itself “births” new hope for the future of rock and roll.

Caleb Johnson started out his career in the music industry as a contestant on a TV karaoke contest show.  Now years after he won the 13th season of that competition show, he has released in his sophomore album Born From Southern Ground, a work that exhibits everything that is good and right with rock and roll.  It also certifies Johnson’s place in the music community.  That is made clear through the songs discussed in this review, as well as the rest of the album’s songs.  When they are considered together, they make Born From Southern Ground one of the year’s most welcome surprises and one more of the year’s top new rock records.  Born From Southern Ground is scheduled for release June 14 through Big Johnson Records.  More information on the album is available online now along with all of Caleb Johnson’s latest news at:










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Stapleton’s Room is The Envy Of All On Phil’s Picks 2017 Top 10 New Country/Bluegrass/Americana/Folk Albums List

Courtesy: Mercury Nashville

Country music, Americana, Bluegrass and Folk are some of the most closely related sounds out there today.  They are so closely related that it is easier to find acts from the noted genres on one radio station oftentimes than bands in the worlds of rock and metal.  It seems that there are much more finely defined lines in those two worlds even with their similarities.  Considering that the noted genres tend to be so close to one another, it is easier to group them all together in one list for the purpose of the year’s best new albums.  That having been noted, this critic’s list of the year’s top new albums from those realms is spread widely across each one.  Topping this year’s list of the best new country/bluegrass/Americana/Folk albums is Chris Stapleton’s latest offering, From A RoomVolume 2.  From start to finish, this record takes listeners back to the good old days of country while also touching on southern rock and even some blues.  That’s just the musical aspect of his latest album.  The lyrical content works expertly with each arrangement.  If you are a country, blues and southern rock fan but haven’t yet picked up this record, get it.  Period.  Also on this year’s list are new releases from North Carolina-based outfit Mipso, David Messier, Zakk Brown Band and others.  It runs the gamut.

As with every other list, this list features the year’s Top 10 new albums plus five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 albums.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is the Phil’s Picks 2017 Top 10 New Country/Bluegrass/Americana/Folk Albums.


  1. Chris Stapleton — From A RoomVol.  2
  2. Andrew Carter — Andrew Carter
  3. Josh Turrner — Deep South
  4. Brad Paisley — Love and War
  5. David Messier — Waiting For Eldridge
  6. Hank, Pattie & The Current — Hold Your Head Up High
  7. The Infamous Stringdusters — Laws of Gravity
  8. Mipso — Coming Down The Mountain
  9. Mike Mangione & The Kin — But I’ve Seen The Stars
  10. Outlaws & Moonshine — The Devil In The Moonshine
  11. Buzz Cason — Passion
  12. Luke Combs — This One’s For You
  13. Darius Rucker — When Was The Last Time
  14. Zac Brown Band — Welcome Home
  15. Toby Keith — The Bus Songs

While the list above is this critic’s own list of the year’s top new records from the country/bluegrass/Americana/Folk realm.  There were certainly more albums than what’s listed here that deserve at least one listen including Lady Antebellum’s latest album Heartbreak, Luke Bryan’s What Makes You Country, Rascal Flatts’ This Is Us and so many others.  Keeping that in mind, there is plenty out there for fans of every noted genre within that universe.

Next up from Phil’s Picks are lots more lists to try to get to before the year lets out.  Lots to do and not enough time, so we’re going to step things up from here.  There are new Children’s albums, rock records, hard rock/metal, live recordings, and the DVD realm.  So there will likely be multiple lists from this point forward.  Stay tuned!

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.


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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Fogerty’s New LP Is An Album For Everyone

Courtesy:  Vanguard Records

Courtesy: Vanguard Records

John Fogerty’s first full length studio release in over six years isn’t exactly a new album.  But it is still a fun collection of songs, nonetheless.  Wrote a Song For Everyone takes fourteen of Fogerty’s most famous and beloved songs and updates them for a new generation.  It goes without saying that the classics collected for this compilation didn’t necessarily need an update.  But the updates do admittedly give listeners a new take on the classics.  It’s actually a good thing.  And that will be discussed later.  The song selection itself is just part of what makes this collection of classics a hit in and of itself.  Fogerty was joined by some of the biggest names in the music industry in re-recording the songs for this work.  And some of the names included on the “guest list” might surprise some listeners.  That’s one more reason for fans to pick up this record.  The compilation’s bonus booklet is the extra spice that makes Wrote a Song For Everyone quite the musical dish.  The bonus booklet includes a back story on each of the songs included on the record.  Together with the guest appearances and the song choices themselves, it all combines to make this compilation one that music lovers of ages will love no less with each listen.

The songs collected for Wrote a Song For Everyone are some of John Fogerty’s best known and beloved songs.  The natural reaction to these songs by those more familiar with them is to question if they really needed an update.  The end result after having listened through the compilation is one of pleasant surprise.  Listeners that are more familiar with the original songs will agree that needed or not, these updates are fun new takes on Fogerty’s classics.  It all starts with an update of what is perhaps his most beloved songs, ‘Fortunate Son.’  Fogerty is joined by Dave Grohl and his band mates in Foo Fighters on this update, with Fogerty and Grohl sharing vocal duties on the song.  It’s a great way to open the compilation because it largely sticks to Fogerty’s original song.  At the same time, it gives the song new life because it amps up the song and keeps it fresh for a whole new generation that can relate to it just as easily as that generation that originally related to it.  Fogerty is joined later by Zac Brown Band on the update of another of his hits in ‘Bad Moon Rising.’  The band’s update on this song is just as fun as Fogerty’s original take on the song.  Unlike the update of ‘Fortunate Son’, the update of ‘Bad Moon Rising’ doesn’t stick strictly to the original song.  That aside, it’s still a pretty interesting take on the song.  Brown and his band mates put their own signature semi-tropical spin on the song.  There’s even a little guitar solo added to the song on this take.  It’s another of the compilation’s pieces that fans of the original song will enjoy just as much as younger listeners.  Fogerty’s new take on ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’ is one of the most interesting on this new release.  He is joined by fellow veteran rocker Bob Seeger on the song.  The pair took the original mid-tempo country-rock piece and gave it more of a pure country vibe.  It comes across as being more reserved on this take than on the original.  That’s not a bad thing, either.  It is just a new and equally enjoyable take on the song.  It’s just one of many more songs from this compilation from which listeners have to choose as their favorite.  Also included on this record are updates of ‘Have You Ever Seen The Rain’, ‘Born on the Bayou’, and ‘Hot Rod Heat’ just to name a few.  Again whether one is familiar with these songs or not, they all comprise a record that Fogerty fans of all ages will enjoy.

Fogerty fans of all ages will enjoy this compilation primarily because of the songs that comprise the record.  The songs themselves aren’t all that listeners will appreciate.  The record’s “guest list” is another of its selling points.  As already noted, Fogerty is joined by the likes of Zac Brown Band, Bob Seeger, and Foo Fighters on some of the record’s updates.  Also along for the ride are: Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert, Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave), and Kid Rock.  Even former American Idol contestant and award-winning singer Jennifer Hudson makes an appearance among many others.  On the surface, one might look at the record’s “guest list” and shrug, asking why any of this is significant.  It’s significant in that it shows the influence that John Fogerty has had on both his fellow veteran musicians and even younger musicians.  It’s an example of actions speaking louder than words.  And it’s a statement that speaks very loudly with this release.

The sequencing and “guest list” chosen for Wrote a Song For Everyone both are critical factors in the album’s success.  They both play important roles in the album’s overall presentation.  Just as important is the album’s bonus booklet.  The booklet included with the album is such an important addition to the overall presentation because it offers a back story to each song.  Those stories come from Fogerty’s own words, too.  Many audiences will be amazed to learn that ‘Fortunate Son’ was written as a result of his own time serving in the Army Reserve during Vietnam.  He writes in the song’s liner notes, that ‘Fortunate Son’ was the result of his person feelings about states using the term ‘Favorite Son’ for their politicians.  He explains in the liner notes that he took that term and changed it to “Fortunate Son” to reflect his negative thoughts on the original term.  Just as interesting to learn is that he felt so strongly about what was going on at the time and ended up writing the song in just twenty minutes.  This after he and the band had originally rehearsed the song without any lyrics at all.  His story behind ‘Bad Moon Rising’ is just as eye and ear opening as it is being read.  He explains how the song originally was the result of a famous movie titled The Devil and Daniel Webster.  He expands on this, explaining how the movie got him to thinking about the impact that music can have on people, and how that links back to the song.  His anecdote is one that will move any fan.  His somewhat cryptic explanation of ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’ is sure to get fans discussing, too.  He closes his explanation stating that the song is about “seeking the truth.”  He links this to his experience at the very first Woodstock festival.  Those that know the history of the original Woodstock will perhaps understand this better than anyone, especially if said individuals were actually there in person.  It’s just one more story that makes the album’s booklet more a bonus for fans than just a bunch of liner notes.  And together with everything already mentioned, it makes this record even more worth picking up whether for one’s own self or as a gift this holiday season.  It is available now in stores and online.

John Fogerty recently wrapped up a massive tour in support of his new album.  Fans can check in for more tour dates and news from John Fogerty online at and  Fans can also get his album online via either site.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Truth & Salvage Making North Carolina Tour Stop

Courtesy:  Megaforce Records/Sony RED

Courtesy: Megaforce Records/Sony RED

Nashville, TN based Truth & Salvage Co. is coming to North Carolina’s “Queen City” later this month as part of its tour in support of its new album, Pick Me Up.  The album will be released via Megaforce/Sony RED on Tuesday, July 23rd.  The band recorded its new album at Asheville, NC’s famed Echo Mountain Studio.  The studio has also seen the likes of: Zac Brown Band, Dierks Bentley, Flogging Molly, Soilwork and current tour mate, The Avett Brothers come through its halls.  The upcoming release boasts twelve tracks of Americana, folk, and even a cover of Joe South’s 1968 Grammy award-winning song, ‘Games People Play.’ 

The band will perform May 30th in Charlotte, North Carolina at the Chop Shop. It will be joined by Tater Family Travelling Circus and Baylor Drive as opening acts.  Truth & Salvage Co. is scheduled to take the stage at 10:15pm and close the evening.  Doors open at 7:30 and Baylor Drive will perform at 8pm.   General admission tickets are $12 and $15 at the door for anyone under 21 although this is an all-ages show.  Audiences can get discounted 4-pack tickets for a discounted price of $40.  Tickets for the show can be ordered online at  And for more information on the show and the latest updates, go online to and its official Facebook page,

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