New Music Monday: Judah & the Lion- Sweet Tennessee EP

If you know me personally or you’ve seen anything I’ve posted on Twitter for the past, oh, two months or so, you know that I’m living in Nashville, Tennessee for the summer. I don’t care if this sounds cheesy– living in Music City, even for just a few months, has literally been one of my biggest dreams come true. Why? I’m surrounded by music. Good music. AWESOME music. All the time. I can honestly say that every single day I discover a new sound or new artists that I fall in love with.

One of those artists is Judah & the Lion. A few weeks ago, my friend Kate convinced me and a few other friends to go and see them play at an event hosted by Nashville’s independent radio station, Lightning 100. The band was INCREDIBLE. Seriously, the place was packed, and I couldn’t even see the stage from where I was sitting on top of the back of a booth at the Tin Roof. Their live performance was this super-energetic mix of folk and old-fashioned bluegrass jam.

JATL

Earlier this year, Judah & the Lion released a six-song EP, Sweet Tennessee. I bought the EP after hearing their set at Tin Roof, and it’s been on repeat everywhere I go ever since. Maybe their EP isn’t necessarily a “brand new” release, but for the purposes of blogging, it’s new to me, and completely worth attention. My favorite two tracks on the EP are “Hesitate” and “Southern Ground,” but truly, every song has its undeniably wonderful moments.

Here’s a video of Judah & the Lion playing “Southern Ground” live at Nashville’s 12th and Porter in April. Be prepared to tap your feet uncontrollably as soon as you hit play…

And as if their sound isn’t enough to have going for them, their attitudes are in the right place as well. The band was hanging out after the show, so I got the chance to chat with a few of them and they were very friendly, and humble despite their obvious talent. So here’s to hoping that these guys get all the attention they deserve in the awesome future they have ahead of them. And here’s also to hoping they come to Athens, Georgia to play a show in the near future… (pretty please!)

Find Sweet Tennessee on iTunes and stream it on Spotify. You won’t regret it.

-Allie

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New Music Monday: Jenn Bostic- Jealous

I have to tell you a bit of a story in order for this post to be complete, so just bear with me on the change of format…

So, I went to the Grand Ole Opry on Friday night with my family while they were here in Nashville. We celebrated my birthday at the Opry, how cool is that?! Here’s an obligatory picture to show you how I felt about my Opry birthday swag, and the fact that they wished me a happy 20th birthday from the stage:

Opry Birthday SwagAt any rate, it was a great show. There were a few names I did know, and a few I didn’t. One of the ones I’d never heard was Jenn Bostic. When she came out to perform her set, she was wearing a formal dress, and she sang this really upbeat song and was all over the stage. I was almost overwhelmed by the amount of energy she had, and I wasn’t really sold on the music.

She sat down to play her second song on the piano, and she began by telling the crowd that she started writing music after she lost her father to a car accident when she was ten. The song, “Jealous of the Angels,” was about her dad, and from the first note she played, I felt so much emotion in her performance, it was unreal. By the end of the song, Jenn was choking up, and tears were streaming down my face. I’m not sure if this video will do justice to the incredible moment I experienced when I saw Jenn perform it live, but it’s a fantastic song nonetheless.


She received a standing ovation from about half the crowd in the Opry house that night, and with good reason. I was just… moved. Lately I’ve been questioning if I’m cut out to be a songwriter– I don’t want to smoosh my writing into a mold to create a country (or whatever genre) hit song. I realize more and more that I want to write what’s on my heart, and I want it to resonate in someone else’s soul and help them to cope with situations similar to what I go through in my own life. I think part of the reason Jenn’s performance touched me so much is because she did just that. She sang exactly what had been on her heart since losing her father, and it was very obvious that it resonated with people in that room.

So, Jenn, thanks for re-inspiring me to write music with that one song. Country music needs more writers like Jenn Bostic and more songs like “Jealous of the Angels,” and I hope she gets all of the attention she deserves in the country genre (and any genre, for that matter). I hope one day I’ll meet her and join her journey toward more raw honesty and less cliché in songwriting.

Last week, Jenn released an album, Jealous. I’ve listened to several songs from the album already, and I can tell I’m really going to like this girl. Her music is definitely piano-driven on this album, and her voice can be both powerful and delicate. But don’t take my word for it– stream the album on Spotify here and find it on iTunes here.

Keep talkin’ twangy!

-Allie

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New Music Monday: Keith Urban- Little Bit of Everything

Happy Monday from Music City, y’all!

One night last week I was conversing with a friend about spotting famous people in Nashville, and she mentioned that she saw Keith Urban pretty often in the area she lives in. And in completely perfect timing, Keith sang his brand new single “Little Bit of Everything” on the American Idol finale the very next night.

It feels very summery, and it’s definitely catchy. I mean, I’m not really sure if Keith can ever go wrong, so I’m not surprised. Click here to watch the video of the performance on the American Idol Season 12 finale Thursday night.

Here’s to hoping this post will bring me a little good luck, and I’ll run into Keith and Nicole next time I’m in Green Hills… now wouldn’t THAT be great timing? 🙂

You can download “Little Bit of Everything” on iTunes here or stream it on Spotify here. Enjoy!

Keep talkin’ twangy!

-Allie

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Album Review: Kacey Musgraves’ Same Trailer Different Park

The first time I heard Kacey Musgraves’ name, my supervisor at 106.1 WNGC was adding it to the night playlist. I didn’t have a clue who she was, and I’d never heard her debut single, “Merry Go ‘Round.” But, as soon as I did hear that first single of hers, I was hooked.

Her first album was released on March 19th, and I’ve had it on repeat ever since. Lately I’ve been using Spotify quite often, and it took me probably only one stream all the way through the album to recognize that it was definitely worth the buy on iTunes.

“Merry Go ‘Round” is a new perspective on small-town life, and boy is it honest and true. One-horse towns tend to be romanticized often in country music, but Kacey tells it like it is– teenage pregnancy, drugs, and trailer parks. The album title comes from a line in this song: “Same hurt in every heart; same trailer, different park.” The music video is also worth a watch:

But that first single isn’t the only gem on this record– in fact, they’re all wonderful. Kacey herself has a writing credit on every song on the album, and though she shares credit with other big names in country songwriting, her honesty is the common thread of this album.

“It Is What It Is” is an obvious continuation of the raw statement of fact she gave in “Merry Go ‘Round,” and the rest of the album continues with its realizations and messages about life, sans any semblance of a sugar coating. “Blowin’ Smoke” and “Stupid” are particularly catchy and upbeat songs about talking smack over cigarettes and looking like a fool because of love, respectively. “Follow Your Arrow” is a peppy song with a positive message encouraging the listener to do what their heart desires and not care what people think of your actions.

“My House” follows suit with a picture of a life on the road where happiness is the people you’re with. She makes it obvious that friends and relationships are far more important than a fancy house: “No matter where we go, we’ll never be alone. Anywhere beside you is the place that I’ll call home.”

One song I can’t get enough of is “Step Off.” The sound of the song is relaxed and content, but the music itself almost has some sass to it. I almost don’t want to say this for fear of putting Taylor Swift and Kacey Musgraves on the same plane when they’re very different artists… but this song is almost a more direct version of Taylor’s “Mean.” It’s a song for those people who can’t stand to see you succeed, and as a college kid trying to figure out how to make a name for myself in a highly competitive world, I can completely relate to “Step Off” and its warning to eternal pessimists who want nothing more than to undermine everyone but themselves.

“Silver Lining” speaks to the fact that rewards don’t come without risk and hard work, and “I Miss You” is a testament of exactly what can come of risking comfort for success. “I Miss You” is a nostalgic tune about someone who was left behind in a rise to success. Even though leaving a familiar life to chase a dream can be incredibly rewarding, especially for someone as talented Kacey Musgraves, it still requires sacrificing, and sometimes that brings the bittersweet reality of a fading friendship or relationship.

“Keep It to Yourself,” “Back on the Map,” and “Dandelion” are the more personal tracks on this album. “Dandelion” is a sad comparison between a weedy flower and a relationship that always leaves a painful mark. “Keep It to Yourself” tells the story of someone who’s ready to move on after a love broke their heart, but its tune has just enough of a mellow sadness to still carry a little bit of sadness toward that ended relationship. “Back on the Map” first looks back on a past mistake, then has a hopeful tone to it as Kacey sings about looking for someone to pull her out of a low period and help her get back on her feet emotionally.  Overall, I love this album. As a songwriter myself, I respect Kacey’s ability to be honest and still write something that sticks in a listener’s mind. She’s previously written for other artists, and in fact, she penned “Mama’s Broken Heart,” which is on Miranda Lambert’s album Four the Record, and it’s at the top of the charts at the time of this post. Kacey’s version of the song is a little less “in-your-face” than Miranda’s, but it definitely deserves to be heard, even though it isn’t on Same Trailer Different Park.

The honesty of these songs is a big draw for me personally, as is the acoustic-driven, occasionally folk-rock influenced sound sprinkled throughout Same Trailer Different Park. With a debut album as humble and excellent as this, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Kacey Musgraves.

You can stream “Same Trailer, Different Park” on Spotify here, or buy the album on iTunes here. You can also find Kacey on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with what she’s doing.

Keep talkin’ twangy!

-Allie

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New Music Monday- Ashley Monroe’s New Album

To continue on my little “traditional country” kick, I looked into Ashley Monroe’s new album, Like a Rose.

Ashley is a member of The Pistol Annie’s, and her voice contributes wonderfully to the group’s sound, but her solo music has a fantastic sound as well. I am SO in love with her sound. It’s old-timey, but not outdated. She uses a perfect amount of musical elements to add some old-fashioned flair.

Here’s the video for the title track:

 

If you enjoy this song, you can find Ashley’s new album Like a Rose on iTunes here.

Keep talkin’ twangy!

-Allie

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New Music Monday: Lee Brice- I Drive Your Truck

I don’t think Lee Brice can go wrong lately.

I saw the video for this song several times, but when I heard it on the radio and truly listened, I got chills as I drove. Lee’s musical delivery lends itself to the lyrics so well.

When you think of someone who’s no longer in this world, you figure out how to deal with the hole they left in your life, and that’s exactly what this song describes. I especially love the line “I hope you don’t mind.” It just makes it seem as if the person never died, and it serves as a reminder that they may not be physically there, but an angel’s presence can still be felt.

Find this song on iTunes here.

Keep talkin’ twangy!

-Allie

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New Music Monday: Randy Rogers Band- One More Sad Song

After what seems like forever, I’m finally sitting down to write a post today– hallelujah! I’ve missed being able to blog.

Lately when I’ve been at the studio for my intern hours, I’ve been scrolling through the Mediabase country radio charts, and I discovered this gem a little over a week ago. It’s not exactly a new release, but it’s just now getting a little bit of action on the charts, so we’ll consider it new for my purposes.

I’ve also seen the video on CMT. The video is a bit intense, but I’m completely in love with the song. There’s something about how the words and the melody fit together in the chorus that makes it almost melancholic, which is very fitting. It has a different sound to it from most current mainstream country, but maybe it’ll climb up in the charts soon anyway. I sure hope so!

If you enjoyed this song, you can find it on iTunes here.

Keep talkin’ twangy!

-Allie

If you liked this post, follow Talk Twangy to Me on Twitter here!

New Music Monday and an Album Review: Taylor Swift’s “Red”

Taylor Swift’s latest album, Red, is not necessarily “new” since it was released almost two weeks ago, and it also may not be what some would peg as country music. Nonetheless I wanted to write a review for it if for no other reason than to look at how her musical style has changed since her “Tim McGraw” days as a 16-year-old with that wildly curly hair.

If Taylor was going for an occasionally acoustic pop-folk sound, she hit the nail right on the head. “Holy Ground” has a subdued pop-rock feel to it, and I like the way it escalates with an almost electronic-sounding background as the song continues. My absolute favorite song on the album is “Everything Has Changed,” which is the duet she wrote and performed with Ed Sheeran (who is also going to be her tour mate in 2013). It’s a unique stripped down sound, it’s raw, it’s real, and it’s just catchy. A close runner up on my list of most played is “Begin Again,” which is probably the song with the strongest country-esque sound on the album. It’s the only song on  Red that’s playing on the radio station I’m interning for, and yes, I have been caught belting it in the studio while it’s on the air… no shame! The video for it is also arguably one of the best videos she’s ever made.

The title track, “Red,” is an emotionally intense song about a passionate relationship that’s all but doomed for failure. I do like the banjo riffs toward the beginning of “Red,” but they’re unfortunately buried under a hodge podge of more prominent electric guitar sounds as the song plays on.  “All Too Well” does a fantastic job of capturing the sad emotion when you’re trying so hard to let go of someone, but the sweet memories are still there and the hurt from the end hasn’t disappeared either. “The Lucky One” is a haunting tribute to a wide-eyed dreamer whose life was marred by a lifestyle of fame.

Three songs on the album were co-written with Max Martin and Shellback, both of whom have impressive track records… in the area of top 40 pop. Their influence is definitely prominent in all three: “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “22.” “22” is by far the worst of the three. It’s homogenized and not at all original-sounding. It’s as if the co-writers were trying to replace Taylor’s usual heartfelt lyrics with an overused narrative about friends going out to a club and clinging to a stranger–completely uncharacteristic of Taylor’s typically classy image. As a friend and classmate of mine, Niki, put it: “It’s just this really cheap sounding song. It just… ugh.” Bingo, almost to the point of being repulsive.

“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” has completely torn up radio and download charts. Lyrically, it’s shallow, but its explosive popularity is probably due to the fact that it has an extremely catchy pop hook.

“I Knew You Were Trouble” has an obvious dubstep influence, and surprisingly, I don’t hate it. Is it Taylor’s sound? Nope. But it’s a good song for jamming in the car when I’m in the right mood. Another black sheep on the album is “State of Grace,” which really doesn’t sound like anything else on the album or like any of Taylor’s earlier work. “Starlight” is an almost cheesy pop song written thanks to inspiration from Robert and Ethel Kennedy. It has a fluffy pop sound, but it’s a not nearly as bad as “22,” which is definitely my least favorite on the album.

If I’m being honest, “Sad Beautiful Tragic” and “The Last Time” (which was co-written with Jacknife Lee and Gary Lightbody and performed with Lightbody) are not much more than forgettable. They’re not necessarily bad, they just lack impact. If you told me to recall the tune of either of them on the spot after listening to them several times each within the mix of the album, I don’t know that I could.

“I Almost Do” and “Treacherous,” are most reminiscent of Taylor’s older, acoustic-guitar-based sound that was present on her debut album. “Stay Stay Stay” has the same laid back, innocent vibe as one of her initial hits, “Our Song.” I’ve been a Taylor fan since her first album wasn’t even huge yet, and her original sound was definitely more country, more carefree, and less… worldly. She used to write more from a small town perspective, and it’s very obvious how both her lyrics and her sound have changed as her fame has taken her anywhere and everywhere. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just a change that mirrors her current lifestyle as well as her journey toward maturity.

She’s been calling this her most “adventurous” album, and that it is. There’s a variety of genres represented on the album– you’ve got a copious amount of pop, a tiny bit of folk-country flavor, and even dubstep. The songwriting is decent, and we all know that’s why she’s making so much money anyway– she’s made herself and her lyrics incredibly relatable. When the album first came out, my friend and classmate Niki made the comment that the songs she wrote alone are much better than the ones she had co-writers on. In the case of the songs co-written with Max Martin and Shellback, I wholeheartedly agree. Taylor has her own distinctive style, and somehow the extra contributions of those pop-bent outsiders corrupted her signature feel that’s been present throughout her career.

Overall, I do really like Red. Do I love it for the same reasons I love Alan Jackson or Miranda Lambert? No, not at all, but it’s still worthy of merit. Some of the songs I have to be in a particular mood to enjoy, but nonetheless I’ve had it the album playing in my car since it came out. I’m hoping that Taylor can find a way to blend the great acoustic folky pop sound she’s explored on this album with some more country flavor on her next album. She’s a young star, so she has time to experiment with her signature sound and style, and that’s precisely what she’s doing. I just hope that when she does finally find that signature sound, it’s not terribly far from her country roots.

Find Taylor’s new album, Red, on iTunes here.

Keep talkin’ twangy!

-Allie

If you like this post, follow Talk Twangy to Me on Twitter here!