Showing posts with label southern rock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label southern rock. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

video review: 'SOUND & FURY' by sturgill simpson

You know, I kept thinking I'd get more backlash to this one... eh, we'll have to see whether it firmly kills as much of Sturgill's career as he's clearly trying.

Anyway, next up is Temples, but probably first some Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

Monday, September 30, 2019

album review: 'SOUND & FURY' by sturgill simpson

I think at this point it doesn't make sense to have expectations for what Sturgill Simpson makes. Sure, I was drawn most initially to his experimentation in country music, where he would stick with that foundational sound before pushing into psychedelia or the Muscle Shoals sound or even alternative or southern rock, but everything he has done in recent years has suggested he'd never stay there, and more to the point was not particularly interested in chasing the easy follow-up. He could have easily remained a stalwart in indie country just by retracing the same paths of Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, but A Sailor's Guide To Earth was not that. And in his writing especially while his primary reference points in composition seem to have roots in country, his time stationed in Asia sparked a fondness for anime, and that's not even touching on his politics, which are generally left of the dial and aren't that far removed from conspiracy theory territory.

And I bring all of this up because while he won a Grammy for A Sailor's Guide to Earth, his contempt and general disinterest in the machinations of the music industry meant that regardless of what his label might want, he was going to make music with little care for marketing or even genre, let alone the possibility of radio play - yes, Nashville was never going to play him anyway, but it seemed like he was going out of his way to give them excuses. So when I heard that SOUND & FURY was less indie country and more a curdled blend of fiery southern rock and 80s synth rock... well, it's not like I haven't seen misfires like this before, but Simpson is a great enough writer and producer to stick the landing, and that's not even getting into that anime film he released along side of it which as per usual I'm not going to cover - the album has to stand alone. So okay, what did we get with SOUND & FURY?

Thursday, May 17, 2018

video review: 'providence canyon' by brent cobb

So this was pretty cool - it's pretty niche and probably won't be for everyone, but still worth a listen or two, definitely check it out!

Next up... hmm, something from my backlog, I think, so stay tuned!

album review: 'providence canyon' by brent cobb

So I'll admit I regret not talking about Brent Cobb sooner - but in all due fairness to myself, I can imagine a lot of folks maybe overlooking him. The cousin of acclaimed indie producer Dave Cobb, he got the attention of the indie country scene by satirizing bro-country in 2015 with 'Yo Bro', but he came to much greater attention thanks to his appearance on the compilation Southern Family, which remains one of the best records of the 2010s and one of the few I've ever given a perfect score. And yet even with that, Brent Cobb seemed to slide into the background: I really liked his detail-rich, earthy songwriting, but they guy had the misfortune of being placed in the track order between Jason Isbell and Miranda Lambert, who delivered much more impressive songs.

But in digging into his 2016 album Shine On Rainy Day, I came to realize that unassuming, low-key charm was less a bug and more a feature of Brent Cobb - primarily acoustic, with the sort of roughscrabble detail and texture in his lyrics that reward repeated listens to really sink into the vibe. And 'vibe' is a key qualifier, because while there are a few exceptions like the excellent 'South Of Atlanta' and 'Let The Rain Come Down', that record was perhaps a little too low-key for its own good - comfortably riding the firm bass, hints of smokier guitars and rich acoustic warmth to really kick up a groove, the sort of background music that brought a ton of welcome texture and would definitely be an underrated gem for folks who like indie country, but amidst an avalanche of excellent country in 2016, it's no surprise it might have faded to the background. 

Well, that's not quite the case in 2018, and if the buzz was true and Cobb has cranked up the tempos to lean into the southern Georgia funk influences that had been lurking beneath his sound for some time, we could have something pretty unique and interesting here, so what did we get on Providence Canyon?

Monday, April 23, 2018

video review: 'port saint joe' by brothers osborne

Okay, not as great as I was hoping... but overall, still solid, definitely recommended.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN, and we'll see what comes next - stay tuned!

album review: 'port saint joe' by brothers osborne

Oh, I was looking forward to this one - and for a nice change of pace, it didn't look like it was just me this time around and that's thrilling to see.

And there's really no mincing words about it: in the face of other country duos Brothers Osborne have surged to the forefront in critical acclaim and presence over the past few years ever since they released Pawn Shop in very early 2016 - and what's more exciting is that they seemed to be doing it the right way. Sure, that debut was uneven and had rough patches both in production and songwriting, but you wouldn't really know it given that Brothers Osborne had a canny eye for releasing great singles like '21 Summer' and especially 'It Ain't My Fault', which might just have one of the best music videos of the decade. It was one of those projects where the sheer talent, wit, and swagger was hard to deny, and while the larger mainstream never quite got onboard the way they should have - especially considering it wasn't like their labelmate Eric Church had many singles in circulation to compete - this upcoming record starting getting a lot of attention, to see how they'd follow up and expand their southern rock style while keeping that idiosyncratic flair and firepower. Or to put it another way, even though I've been a fan of these guys for a few years now, I was excited to see how much everyone else wanted to get on-board: so what did we get on Port Saint Joe?

Monday, April 16, 2018

video review: 'find a light' by blackberry smoke (ft. the lp club)

Not quite a great project - which yes, is disappointing - but overall, pretty solid and I'm happy Ethan and I were able to pull this together. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

video review: 'solid ground' by wade bowen

Yeah, I'm very much aware reviews like this don't generate huge traffic... but goddamn it, when you have such a solid slice of indie country, you need to give it props!

Unfortunately the next indie act I've got on my docket aren't quite up to the same spot, but before we get to that disappointment, probably Billboard BREAKDOWN up next, so stay tuned!

album review: 'solid ground' by wade bowen

So about three years ago, I covered a collaboration record between two Texas country veterans called Hold My Beer, Vol. 1. This project, assembled by Randy Rogers of the Randy Rogers Band and Wade Bowen, was, to put it simply, goddamn excellent, comfortably landing on my year-end list of the best records of 2015, with the deep cut 'El Dorado' being my third favourite song of that year, and if I could somehow find a damn copy of it on vinyl anywhere that'd be greatly appreciated! 

But putting my fruitless vinyl search aside, while I've covered the Randy Rogers band since, I've always had a certain amount of curiosity about Wade Bowen's greater discography... and unsurprisingly, it was worth the relisten, given that he's a sharp songwriter and has good instincts for a brand of Texas red dirt country that's accessible but still willing to cut a little deeper. And his career arc was similar to that of Rogers - he started off in the regional Texas scene independently, got signed to a major label, and then ended up independent again with more success than ever - but his time in the majors was considerably shorter, given that his label BNA was restructured after releasing only one record called The Given in 2012. And yes, that record is definitely a hidden gem if you want to check it out, but I'd probably still recommend his excellent 2008 record If We Ever Make It Home or even his self-titled 2014 record as more textured and interesting standouts for straightforward, no-bullshit country music.

So okay, why haven't you heard from him for a while? Well, he put out a record of gospel songs in 2016 dedicated to his mom, and a live record with the Randy Rogers Band, and now, but now we've got a Wade Bowen release proper, and given that country radio still has no damn clue what it's doing, I'd like to see Bowen stick the landing here. So, did we get it with Solid Ground?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

video review: 'johnny nocash & the celtic outlaws' by johnny nocash & the celtic outlaws

Again, pretty local act, but I'm happy I got a chance to talk about it all the same.

Next up, let's go bigger - stay tuned!

album review: 'johnny nocash & the celtic outlaws' by johnny nocash & the celtic outlaws

I don't normally do full reviews for EPs... but I'm making an exception for this one. 

And yes, in this case I'm very much going to be talking about a relatively unknown band that I'm most familiar with from my local scene just like I did with Sex Master about a month ago, but this group actually falls in line with territory that deserves some scrutiny: the cross-section between country and metal. Now there's been southern rock on the heavy side for years, but fusing outright metal elements like growled or screamed vocals or much more distorted tunings... it's not exactly common. That's not saying it doesn't exist - I've reviewed Panopticon's introduction of bluegrass, folk, and country elements on their black metal records, and of course you get the groove metal bands that interject rockabilly elements like Hellyeah or Volbeat, and towering over most of the conversation you have the punk and metal elements embraced by Hank Williams III... but let's be honest, most of these are outliers.

...except not as much anymore. More often than not you're seeing metal artists taking a renewed interest in country and they tend to treat the genre's legacy with more respect than huge chunks of Nashville - which makes a lot of sense, given that metal is also obsessed with its own historical legacy. And thus you get acts like Devin Townsend making Casualties of Cool, or Cody Jinks coming from thrash, or the deep outlaw country appreciation you hear from a lot of metalheads... which takes us to Johnny Nocash. He's been around for a while - go to his YouTube channel and you'll find songs recorded going back over a decade ago - but in recent years his material has taken more shape, infusing elements of folk and metal to refine and expand his country sound, which leads to his backing band the Celtic Outlaws and this EP. Five songs, probably a quick enough listen, how did it turn out?

Monday, June 19, 2017

video review: 'the nashville sound' by jason isbell & the 400 unit

Well, this was amazing. One of the best of the year... although everyone saying this is challenging for the best of the year may need to consider the other Jason who dropped a country record in 2017, just for reference...

Beyond that, it's Billboard BREAKDOWN and Lorde up next, so stay tuned!

album review: 'the nashville sound' by jason isbell & the 400 unit

So as a general rule, I try to read a lot of music reviews after I finish mine, try to get a sense of the general discourse around a record and maybe for a little passive acknowledgement that I was at least on the right track when it came to my interpretations. And yet in 2015, I don’t think I read a review that missed the point harder than that of Something More Than Free by Jason Isbell – and if you know anything about that record’s critical reception, you all know exactly what publication put it out. Now on some level every critic is entitled to their opinion, and it's not like Jason Isbell makes easy music, especially in alternative country, so you can expect misinterpretations, but what I found a lot more exasperating was the assertion that since he was a left-leaning alternative country songwriter and a longtime veteran of a number of acts that his record should be speaking more to the social ills and issues of the time to have any sort of relevance, especially if it was as forward-looking as it was.

Now if you’ve heard Something More Than Free – and I highly recommend you do, it’s easily in my top five of the best records of 2015 – you’d know that wouldn’t remotely fit with the complicated and deeply personal thematic arcs underscoring the project, and that said projection was pretty damn short-sighted and ignorant. But then again, it’s not like said publication is known for its well-considered or well-articulated points on country music - and yet despite that, I get the impression Jason Isbell might have been listening. Granted, considering the current American political climate and the fact that Isbell was looking to kick some of the rock elements back in with the 400 Unit, that might have been inevitable, but he’s a canny enough artist to pivot when he needs to, or to make a point. Which, of course, said publication then called this album an one-note backslide in their review and called him more of a pop songwriter, even despite him doing exactly what they wanted, so maybe he shouldn’t have cared. Or maybe he doesn’t care at all and I shouldn’t either, and after all this is probably one of my most anticipated records of 2017, so fuck it: what did we get from Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit on The Nashville Sound?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

video review: 'WALLS' by kings of leon

Well, this is bound to be an ugly situation... but then again, I'm not sure how the Kings Of Leon fans will love this, so who knows?

Next up, I need some Anderson .Paak before Lady Gaga, so stay tuned!

album review: 'WALLS' by kings of leon

There's a reason I wanted to do the Blackberry Smoke review before Kings Of Leon. Mostly as an active disclaimer for those who'll say I can't like or appreciate southern or alternative rock because I'm not a Kings Of Leon fan, whereas the reality with Blackberry Smoke is that they transcended the worst tropes of the genre while embracing the best.

Whereas Kings Of Leon is one of those bands that seems to have gotten a pass from the mainstream public for entirely too long for one good song, that being 'Use Somebody'. And yeah, 'Use Somebody' is a good track, but I've now listened to the entire Kings Of Leon discography and trust me when I say they don't have many more. Part of this is because they tend to fall into the bad side of southern rock tropes when it comes to the writing - namely the majority of songs they've ever written about women - and yet don't play this sleaze with the swagger or bravado or even a sense of humor to even make that tolerable. That's part of the larger problem with Kings Of Leon in that they don't really have a distinct identity or intensity as a band - they aren't grounded in roots rock or country enough to completely embrace the southern rock label, they aren't rough-edged enough for punk or hard rock, and I was never impressed by their guitarwork enough to put them up with the anthemic strains of arena rock like U2. Combine that with vocals that could be very hit-and-miss, especially on their earlier albums, their complete sincerity which made their lyrics seem at best tonally inconsistent and at worst horribly self-obsessed, and their bizarre inability to end a lot of their songs properly, and you find a rock band that's too watered down for me to really care about.

Now to be a little fair, there are ingredients of a good group here, especially in the basslines and some of the fast-paced blurry guitar tones, and their 2013 album Mechanical Bull wasn't bad, mostly courtesy of some tighter melodies and a slightly better grasp of melodic songwriting, but a lot of people I otherwise respect were giving their newest album WALLS a fair amount of praise. And while I didn't have high expectations... hey, it couldn't be that bad, right?

video review: 'like an arrow' by blackberry smoke

Man, this was so needed right now - although from the looks of things nearly every record I've given a 9/10 has some link to country, go figure.

On a definitely less likable note, Kings Of Leon up next, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

album review: 'like an arrow' by blackberry smoke

If you saw my Whiskey Myers review about a month or so ago, you knew this was coming. 

Hell, even if you didn't you probably would expect that I'd cover Blackberry Smoke's newest album, especially considering how much I liked their last album Holding All The Roses early last year. The compositions and grooves were tighter, their production was better than ever courtesy of legend Brenden O'Brien, and the lyrics showed the band taking southern rock tropes into fresh new directions that were a little more high concept, especially when the instrumentation got a little more experimental along the way. In short, it was easily Blackberry Smoke's best album to date...

And it also went to #1 on the US Country album charts. This is for a band, I should remind you, with no crossover singles or big radio push, and while you could give some credit to the release not facing huge competition, it also was another sign of the sea change that's been happening in country music, especially on the album charts. And keep in mind they hit #1 after leaving Zac Brown's Southern Ground label - they did this off an independent label, and that says a lot, especially in country. So when you hear that they're planning to follow it up with a record this year that they also produced themselves... well, I'm always cautious about this sort of thing, but I wasn't going to miss it, especially if they could keep up their momentum. So how does Like An Arrow shoot?

Monday, September 26, 2016

video review: 'mud' by whiskey myers

Well, working on this was certainly preferable to the damn debate - didn't stop me from live-tweeting what happened from Twitter and whoo boy, Trump did not appear to have a good time according to every media outlet I follow (and spoilers, if you don't like me talking politics for the next month, you might want to venture away - it's going to get wild). 

Still, wish the record was better. Moving on, I've got Mick Jenkins, Shawn Mendes, How To Dress Well, and a fair few more, so stay tuned!

album review: 'mud' by whiskey myers

Oh, I've been looking forward to this one.

See, I don't talk a lot about southern rock in this series, basically because for as much as I like the sound I tend to be more of a fan of either country or outright blues rock. Don't get me wrong, the blend in the middle tends to be appealing, but it's also a narrow fit, and too often I've seen country acts go here to simply add muscle, or rock bands to add flavour - or snag some easy marketing from country - without the heavier focus on songwriting you'd like to see. Couple it with the occasional bit of belligerent machismo or southern pandering you can see creeping into the writing, and let's just say that there's a significant swathe of the genre that can kind of turn me off.

Of course, there are exceptions, and in the waning months of 2016, we're going to talk about two of them, the two southern rock acts that are consistently viewed in recent years as the leaders in the format. The first is the Georgia-based Blackberry Smoke, and fans from last year probably remember that I covered their last album Holding All The Roses and am planning to review their upcoming release in mid-October. The other band is the group we're going to be talking about today: Whiskey Myers. Texas band, a little younger, and unlike Blackberry Smoke who have toured and worked with the Zac Brown Band and Eric Church, they've remained consistently independent. And yet if I'm being completely honest, I wouldn't entirely consider myself a fan. Yes, Cody Cannon has a tremendous voice and Cody Tate is one hell of a guitarist, but I found myself wishing I could like Firewater and Early Morning Shakes a lot more than I did. Part of it was the writing, which did occasionally slide towards the issues I spoke on earlier - especially 'Ballad Of A Southern Man' on Firewater - but on Early Morning Shakes even with Dave Cobb's production I found myself lukewarm to the project at best. But hey, Cobb's production has only gotten better and with the buzz suggesting that this was a much rougher, gritty record, I was looking forward to seeing how that edge could materialize. So I finally decided to check out Mud by Whiskey Myers - what did we get?