Friday, August 12, 2011

Joe Nichols, Take It Off!

Joe Nichols' new video for "Take It Off" is out. Here's a link to the video.

In the video Nichols creates a magical "Take It Off" frame out of newspaper.  When a woman, walking down the street minding her own business, crosses into the frame, she suddenly finds herself in a bikini holding a beach bag.  Of course she's thrilled and proceeds to the party happening at the large above ground pool in the middle of an intersection.

Apart from the fact that this song had much greater video potential than just another girls in bikinis party video, I'm wondering if Joe Nichols doesn't realize that his greatest fan base is female. We're not interested in watching another bunch of skinny girls in bikinis frolicking in a pool. At the very least, Mr. Nichols, take your own shirt off! Why is it that everyone else in the video is half dressed when viewed through the "Take it Off" frame, but you, Sir, change into a drab grey T-shirt?  If you can dish it, you can take!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Kennyyyyyyy, I love youuuuuu!!!!!!" screached the drunk blond.

Anytime you tell anyone who has been to a Kenny Chesney concert that you're going to a Kenny Chesney concert, they say "You'll have fun. Kenny Chesney puts on the best show", or "Kenny Chesney concerts are a blast." Kenny Chesney has been channelling Jimmy Buffet, so my assumption before the concert was that it is going to be one big party.

The scene is set when we park our car and out of the SUV next to us tumbles, like clowns out of a phonebooth, a seemingly endless stream  of barely legals with open containers and attitudes. One young lady rushes across to the edge of the woods and squats in plain view of the parking lot and the handful of men also doing their business along that strip of woods. Welcome to a Kenny Chesney concert.

Happily waiting for the show to begin.

Our car is parked almost mile away, so for 16 minutes we march with our lawnchairs past tailgaters swilling beer, with their tents and cornhole. We know we are close when we arrive at the RV parties, complete with bigscreen TVs and Karaoke machines. There is always tailgating at Walnut Creek, there is just more of it than usual. We are a little surprised when we were able to score a spot on the lawn about a quarter of the way back, right in the center. The gates have been open for half an hour but everyone is still outside partying, and has been for almost two hours. As we're sitting there observing the abundance of cute girls in their daisy dukes, boots, and braids we notice a young woman weaving back and forth as she approaches the group sitting in front of us. "Where do I know you from?" she slurs. There are smiles and hugs and then she stumbles back to her seat. The concert hasn't even started yet and she's already smashed.
Photos from of the tailgating at Walnut Creek.

I thought these young women looked great in their get-ups.
 Uncle Kracker was the first to open. My friend Kristie jokes, "Well of course he's opening. Isn't it his job to follow Kenny Chesney around?" It's easy to poke fun at Uncle Kracker but I like his song "Good to be Me". In general, his set is underwhelming. He closes with his buddy Kid Rock's "All Summer Long", and by then most of the partiers have drifted in, filling in the spaces. An unconscious vomit streaked 20 something is spotted being carried out on a lawnchair by an army of security. The concert has barely begun. That's not fun.

Billy Currington gets the crowd on their feet. I love the sense of humor in his songs. Because we are sitting so far back at the concert I don't have much to say about Currington's set apart from that it's fun to sing along with him. He has just enough hits to make him the perfect opening act. He can fill his short set with songs we all know.

I head to the restrooms right after he leaves the stage, and, after being stuck in a crushing bottleneck that forces me to tread across the former contents of someone's stomach, I find myself in a line to the ladies room that was, I kid you not, at least 1000 women long. The bathroom mission is aborted and replaced by a beer run. I did manage to make it back to the restroom in the middle of Chesney's set. There was no line and just one sick girl standing over a garbage can with her very patient friend, missing the concert. That's not fun.

The lawn was packed at Walnut Creek
Enter Kenny Chesney! "I love you Kenny! I love you!" Shrieks the drunk blond behind me, right into my ear. We are so far back that when I extend my arm and hold up my thumb, Kenny Chesney is the height of my thumbnail. Although with better visibility comes a better experience, being at a concert where the audience knows every single word of every single song is a whole lot of fun, regardless of where you're sitting.  The crowd is singing along, and when he quiets for even a second, the space is filled with a roar. Everybody is dancing, from the 6 year old in a gingham dress on her father's shoulders to the shirtless beer-bellied 65 year old with the handlebar mustache. All the couples are hugging and quite a few making out, including the lesbian couple nearby. There was so much love and happiness in the amphitheater it's clear; when people say that a Kenny Chesney concert is a blast, that's what they're talking about.
Photos of Kenny Chesney in concert from

The concert ended. While waiting for my friends to get through the restroom line, I shared a picnic table with a family. Their 20 year old son appears to be a mean drunk, strutting around, flexing his bare pectorals and looking for a fight. I said to his older sister, "Maybe he just needs a hug." She snorts. He suddenly sits down. "Mama, I'm so thirsty. I'm just so thirsty." Mama rolls her eyes. I toss him my water bottle. He drinks it down, shuts up and puts his head in his hands. He has stopped having fun.

We march back to the car, past the recharged RV parties, over the creek and through the woods (literally) with a lively bunch of folks, to find the youngsters from the car parked next to us locked out of their car, with the battery dead. Two of them are curled up on a blanket exhausted or nearly passed out. Nobody has a AAA account except one of the girls on the blanket, and she'd have to call her Mom for the number. She wasn't rushing to call Mom. After attempting to help them problem solve for a few minutes we threw in the towel and said "Good luck." Security would eventually help them or the seemingly sober driver would break down and call his parents. They would be OK, but that's not fun.

Now you may ask, why is so much of this article about drunks? Because apart from the music, there is a whole lot of drinking at a Kenny Chesney concert. I've been to around twenty concerts and shows in the last two years and haven't seen so much drunkenness. Even I, for the first time in my 25 years of driving, decided to leave my car where I parked it that afternoon, in a friend's driveway, and pick it up the next morning. If stopped by the police, I surely would have failed a breathalyzer test. I was not the designated driver so it's neither here nor there that I drank a couple beers into tipsy, but it is no wonder that so many of the twenty somethings ended up as complete messes.

So is there a moral to the story? Of course, but it's obvious. I had fun. The majority of attendees had fun. The only people who didn't have fun are the ones who drank themselves into oblivion or had to take care of a sick friend. Don't be one of those people. Kenny Chesney concerts are a blast.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

1300 Calories Later, Jason Michael Carroll's Numbers

Jason Michael Carrol
image from  Cracker Barrel's website

Did you know that Cracker Barrel actually has its own record label? The other day I had to google "Cracker Barrel locations" in order to purchase Jason Michael Carroll's new album, Numbers. I met my friend Rachel and her sweet little girl for lunch and as we walked in I shook my head and said to Rachel "the things I'll do for country music...."  After partaking of a biscuit, chicken & dumplin's, green beans, fried okra, sweet tea (all adding up to over 1300 calories, oh no!) and good conversation, I bought the CD, loaded it into the player in the trunk of my car and headed home, speakers blasting.
Country Kibitzer wondering why she's eating at Cracker Barrel when she's on a diet.
This was just the beginning.
 Jason Michael Carrol lives in the Raleigh area, so I've seen him perform three times in the last nine months and have heard at least half of the songs on the album during those performances. I expected to like this album. What was unexpected was my becoming so completely immersed in the album that I missed two separate exits onto highways that could take me home. If you happened to see a chubby but cute blond mama in an old Mercury, singing and dancing in her seat while circling the RDU Airport on August 2nd, after lunch, that was me.

The album opens with a "This is for the Lonely", an uptempo song, with terrific lyrics, that showcases Carroll's beautiful voice. When Carroll hits those low notes, it goes straight to my toes. Of all the songs on the album, they definitely chose the right one to start with. I'd like to hear "This is for the Lonely" on the radio.

JMC performing "This is for the Lonely" at UNC-Pembroke.
As videos recorded from the audience go, this one has decent sound.

Numbers, the first single off the album, has grown on me over the last few months. QDR, our local country station, has played it with such frequency that my original wall of resistance crumbled. That was the song I was belting at the top of my lungs as I missed the exits to the highway.  Still, the subject matter is perplexing, but who cares? It's a pretty song.

A fan made video for "Numbers" with photos of JMC in concert. 

"Numbers" is followed by a spiritual but sad "Ray of Hope", a song about loneliness and prayer. It is a quiet and lovely song that many people will be able to relate to.

"Meet Me in the Barn" is the party song on the album and I'm thrilled to finally have a recorded version to dance around the kitchen to. I've heard him perform "Meet Me in the Barn" three times with his band, so was taken by surprise when toward the end of the song a female voice enters the mix. The addition of the female voice is great but it's unclear who the woman singing is. Does anyone know? This song was supposed to be the first single from the album, but due to another song about a barn being released by Trace Atkins at the same time, they decided to release the song "Numbers". I do hope "Meet Me in the Barn" makes it to radio because it makes me smile.

Another good recording from the UNC-Pembroke show by the same fan.
"Meet Me in the Barn" performed without the female vocalist mentioned above.

Another entertaining song is the quirky "Can I Get an Amen", an odd and unexpected political song. It sports lines like "I believe in equal pay, if the job's the same why pay somebody less. It don't make sense. And I believe in women's rights, but I ain't gonna lie, I do like a short, tight dress." and "I believe in loud guitars, smoky bars and muscle cars, pick-up trucks and gun control, as long as they leave mine alone." The originality of having a gospel choir accompany him on this type of song is disarming and caused me giggle until I teared up with happiness. Finally, a song about being a moderate redneck. Beautiful!

The remaining six songs are all about relationships.  They range in quality from OK to good. He performed "Let Me" and "Last Words" at Rapids Jam and I enjoyed them live. The weakest one is "My Favorite" which is just too schmaltzy. "Stray" is interesting but it's about knowing that your partner is destined to cheat. Oy. What a bummer of a topic. According to the dates on YouTube videos, "Stray" (click for info) is a song Carroll has been performing for some time.  Apparently he wanted to put it on his first album but the record label refused.  If he's been performing "Stray" for this long it was probably a great decision to finally record it.


He closes the album with his hit from a few years ago, "Alyssa Lies". I have seen grown men cry during this song at his show. It's a good one.

If you like Jason Michael Carroll's voice I suggest going to Cracker Barrel and buying the CD, but learn from my mistakes. Don't overeat! Tonight I had carrots, celery, and pickels for dinner.