Thursday, November 1, 2012

No More Shuffle While I Shuffle Down the Road

I have taken up exercise. Yes, you heard right, this poster child for the sedentary suburban lifestyle has gotten off her couch and started to run down the street like there's something chasing her.

My dog looks confused. "What's up with the ugly shoes, Mama?"

At first I made a playlist of energetic, catchy songs to keep me going, but soon that playlist became repetitive and I lost interest.  My new approach is something I highly recommend to anyone who loves music and has a big music collection. Load an album you haven't listened to in a while, or a new album, and listen to it front to back, old style. I've been doing this for a couple of weeks and not only has it kept me engaged during my work-outs, but I've rediscovered some wonderful songs that have languished, unsynced for sometimes years.

Today I'm not feeling great so I just took a leisurely hour-long walk and listened to Jamey Johnson's Guitar Song. Have you heard "Cover Your Eyes?"
Click on the link for a video. You can forward 44seconds through Jay Leno to the song.
 Johnson can make a happily married woman feel like she's in the middle of heartbreak.

Another album I enjoyed jogging to is Miranda Lambert's Revolution. The song that stuck in my mind after that run was "Airstream Song". Nothing like a song about escape and adventure to keep you moving when you're running around the burbs. I couldn't find a decent recording of her singing it live, so here's a fan-made video. Hope you can skip the ad. I could.

The best album I've ran to lately was Metallica's Black Album. If you haven't listened to that one front to back lately, it's a masterpiece. The worst album, and I forced myself to listen to the entire darn thing, is Jason Aldean's new Night Train. In general, I like Jason Aldean. Night Train is just outright boring, but I'll save that for another post.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bombs Bursting in Air, Boom Boom

Ah Luke Bryan, you make my patriotism go Boom Boom.

Why does Luke Byran need to apologize for this performance? With all of the butchering of the Star Spangled Banner at sports events, I applaud him for making a cheat sheet.

That is all. :)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Koo Koo for Kenny or Just Plain Ole Crazy?

I've been following 94.7 QDR's Koo Koo for Kenny contest over the last few days. Fans proposed a crazy activity that would be in exchange for tickets to Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw's Brothers of the Sun Tour, probably the most sought after tickets of the summer. I'm assuming the radio station received many proposals and chose the ones they thought were the most entertaining.

The first three of these acts seemed appropriate, a young lady died her hair blue and has committed to keeping it that way for 18 months (too long but it's unlikely they can hold her to it), a man was taped up on a telephone pole and sang Kenny Chesney songs, and a woman bobbed for tickets in a kiddie pool filled with key lime pie. (I have no idea how long the links above will be active.)

Today the game changed, and a man had large images of QDR's ACM and CMA awards tattooed on his calves in exchange for front row seats. You read correctly, tattoos in exchange for concert tickets. I'm surprised the radio station actually went along with this as it's so extreme and permanent.

As much as I would love tickets, especially front row seats, for The Brothers of the Sun Tour, I wouldn't get a tattoo in exchange for those tickets if the tickets included a nightcap with Tim and breakfast in bed with Kenny.

The tattoo artist should have hidden an image of a Darwin Award in his design. Enjoy the concert,
Sir. Hope that laser tattoo removal doesn't sting too much.

Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw singing Rock Star

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kudos to Carrie for Coming Out in Support of Gay Marriage

I am so glad that Carrie Underwood came out in support of gay marriage. You would think that Nashville makes everyone who isn't a conservative member of the Republican party wear a gag by the silence of more liberal country music stars. Brad Paisley has played at the White House, but recently, Willie Nelson has been the only one out there willing to open his mouth. 

Underwood explained her support for gay marriage during an interview with the Independent in the UK. You'll have to slog through a good bit of British condescension (country fans are "wide assed bible thumpers") to find her comments.

Then they came out with this article, discussing how her comments will affect her popularity in the US and elsewhere. I'm not concerned.

 Carrie Underwood is going to do just fine without the support of a few people who decide which singer they are going to listen to according to politics and religion. Music either speaks to a listener or it doesn't and unless a singer says or does something outrageous, fans don't abandon them. I don't agree with all of Trace Adkins political views, but like his music and will buy it regardless of what he says on Fox News.

I think celebrities get in trouble with fans when they say something that is obviously disrespectful, be it disrespectful of their fans, a racial group, a religion, the president, or the nation. Although I'm sure many of her fans disagree with her on the subject of gay marriage, Underwood didn't attack them or their churches. She only talked about herself, her church, and her opinion. This is no Dixie Chicks incident.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Country Music Saves 99.9% of the Day in Costa Rica

After landing in Costa Rica and driving for three hours on windy, steep roads full of truck traffic and bridges only one car wide, I was near tears by the time we checked into our hotel, Leaves and Lizards, in the Costa Rican rain forest. The multitude of bugs that checked into our hotel room with us because we left a door open for too long pushed me completely over the edge.

When we sat down for dinner, alone in a large open-air dining room surrounded by the black of night, the sounds of country music were like a sign from God that things were going to start looking up and I was going to survive this family vacation.

So what were they playing at Leaves and Lizards, you ask? They had two albums on shuffle. Sugarland's Incredible Machine, and Brian McComas' 2003 self titled CD.

I had never heard Brian McComas. Now that I have, I'm 99.9% sure that his song "99.9% Sure (I've never been here before)" was the best possible song for the moment.

It ended up being a great trip, but apart from pictures and memories, the only souvenir I have is Brian McComas' almost ten year old album downloaded from itunes.

A couple days later in the dining room. All smiles.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I Took Mom to the Dierks Bentley Concert

"There sure are a lot of boots here." ~ Mom

I love writing about concerts. One of the most challenging things I've found in maintaining a blog is finding enough friends to join me at concerts.  I have become self-conscious that I invite the same people over and over again. When I heard that Dierks Bentley was playing in Greensboro, NC, half an hour from Mom's house, I tried something new and asked if she'd like to accompany me.

 "That sounds very interesting." my intellectual, classical music loving Mom said. "Sure! It will be an experience." Mom had no idea who Dierks Bentley is and doesn't listen to country music, but just like in 1983 when she agreed to chaperon my friends and I to The Police concert, Mom proved that she will go along with anything to be a part of her childrens' lives. At The Police concert she held her hands over her ears for the entire show, and at the end turned to us and said "That was fun!" "But Mom, you covered your ears the entire time!" "That's OK. I could still hear."

The Cadillac Black (TCB) opened the show. They were loud. For a minute I thought Dierks Bentley had embraced Eric Church's behavior of having a musician go out and play something raucous to drive away the elderly, but Bentley is a nicer guy than that.
Mom during The Cadillac Black's set
At the time, I didn't understand how Cadillac Black's hard Southern rock sound fit into the Dierks Bentley's show. Later that evening Bentley brought Jaren Johnston, the lead singer of TCB, on stage to join him in "The Woods", a song they co-wrote. Kudos to Johnston. "The Woods" is a song that is both fresh and easy to embrace, at least for those of us who spend a lot of time in the woods.

The Cadillac Black's "Whiskey Soaked Redemption"

Mom was happier with the Eli Young band. They closed their set with "Crazy Girl", the crowd belting out the chorus.

Eli Young Band's "Crazy Girl"

Dierks Bentley was relaxed, fun-loving and mischievous to a degree that I haven't seen in many other performers. He held fans' hands, took a sip from someone's flask, bantered, flirted, serenaded and made everyone there, including Mom, feel as loved as he himself must certainly feel. Mom's comment was "He is polished and comfortable in his own skin." Thankfully, his sound was fantastic so Mom could understand the wonderful lyrics and connect to his songs.

He opened with "Cold Cans" (and Country cliche. Oy!) and then moved through his hits and fan favorites. Before playing "Up on the Ridge" from his Bluegrass inspired album, he acknowledged North Carolina's influential role in the Bluegrass genre. He skipped the ritual of an encore and closed the set with "Home", "Tip it on Back" and everyone's favorite "What Was I Thinking?"

Mom teared up when he sang "Home". In 1956, at thirteen, she moved to the U.S. from Egypt. Egypt had expelled its Jewish residents allowing them to take a only a small amount of money and what they could carry. The verse "Brave/ Gotta call it brave to chase that dream across the sea." makes me think of her as well as my grandparents and great-grandparents who escaped the oppressive countries they were born in to create a better life for us in America.

Dierks Bentley's "Home"

When the show was over Mom said "That was fun! I'll go to another concert with you!" Perhaps I shouldn't consider my difficulty in finding concert companions a hindrance, rather a challenge to connect more willing friends and loved-ones to country music.

In this blog I struggle to balance information about a song, album, or event, and my personal story. At times I try to approach writing more like a journalist, but stories like this, about my personal connection to country music, are the reason I write.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Zac Brown Band Concert

I saw the Zac Brown Band on Friday night at Walnut Creek Pavillion in Raleigh with two friends. The Zac Brown Band is building a beautiful collection of hits that sound as good live as on the radio. It's a serious show.  There are no sexy women on the big screen or wacky hijinks.  It's just good music.

What stood out for me at this show was the covers. Usually when a band or singer does a cover it is just that, the band or singer playing another artist's song, either a popular song to get the crowd going (or groaning) or a song meaningful to the performer that is often lost on the audience. When Zac Brown Band does a cover, they make it their own. I was skeptical when they launched into Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" but in the middle of the song the focus turned to the fiddles, and I thought "Wow! This is interesting."

Then rife with the potential for cliche, they did Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" and I kid you not, the devil was present in their interpretation. The song was faster and harder than Daniels' original. A red strobe lights blinking. It was hellishly exciting. The crowd woke up like a wind up toy and went a little crazy, dancing like souls possessed. It was wild, just for a moment.

Three blonds kibitzing while waiting for the concert to start. Country Kibitzer in the middle.

So if you have a chance this summer, go see the Zac Brown Band. It's worth it. It's all about the music for these guys so you don't need a front row seat. If you like Zac Brown Band, as long as you can hear the music and see the screens from your seat you'll enjoy the show.

Friday, May 4, 2012

This Ole Boy or This Ole Boy?

When Blake Shelton hit the jackpot with "Who are You When I'm Not Looking" and it sounded so similar to the one Joe Nichols recorded years ago, I was mildly annoyed. If you follow this blog you know I have a bit of an obsession with Joe Nichols' voice.

I am not as frustrated with Craig Morgan's version of "This Ole Boy" making it to radio while Nichols' version languishes in album only status. Morgan's version exudes the bubblegum happiness makes a song like that thrive on the radio.  I prefer Nichol's deep, sleepy, more traditional take on it over Morgan's pop enthusiasm, but I'm probably in the minority in this case. Compare for yourself and let me know what you think.

You may need to close your eyes while playing the Craig Morgan video. Angie Harmon's effervescent performance is rather distracting.

Click to listent to

Craig Morgan's "This Ole Boy"

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Eric Church: Why is Anyone Surprised?

Why on earth is anyone surprised by Eric Church's Rollingstone interview?

So he said some swear words, he insulted the elderly and he said something that some of us already think about "The Voice" and Blake Shelton. Apparently Church is indeed the angry redneck that he presents himself as and he's also a bit eccentric. That's why his music feels authentic. That's why we (dis)like him. And yes, that's why he makes some of  us a little uncomfortable.

Was it good thinking for Eric Church to shoot his mouth off in a Rollingstone interview and hurt the feelings of some of his fellow country music stars? No, but if he finds himself in too deep he'll just jack up his truck a little higher and slog out of the muck as best he can with a mess of fans pushing from behind.

The line in the article that I found the most amusing was contributed by Arthur Buenahora, a Nashville macher (influencial executive) instrumental in getting Church on his way.

"He's probably the most misunderstood guys in our format because he's really the kind of guy you'd want to be buddies with" says Buenahora. "You'd want your sister to marry a guy like that."

Well, my sister is currently single, but I would really rather not have Eric Church and his dirty mouth at my Shabbat dinner table so I'm not going to encourage this relationship. I will continue to listen to him while chopping onions and basting the chicken.

If you haven't actually read it, find the Rollingstone article and do so. It's good reading!  The article isn't available online to non-subscribers. Unless you're willing to pay their small fee you'll have to do it the old fashioned way, go to a magazine stand, look for the Rollingstone with Obama on the cover (Wow, Church must hate that.) and stand there for eight minutes and read the article.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jason Aldean with Luke Bryan and Lauren Alaina in Fayetteville, NC

Saturday January 21st, Crown Center, Fayetteville, NC

On Saturday night my husband and I drove an hour and a half through the rain to see Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan in Fayetteville. I realize this sounds a bit crazy since we get so many concerts in Raleigh, but I think it's worth driving to Fayetteville and we're going to do so more often. The Crown Center is a smaller indoor coliseum. One can see the performer without having to rely on video screens from any seat 100 level level of bleachers. Everything is also cheaper there than in Raleigh. Parking is free, a 24 oz beer is $8, a draft beer is only $6, and most of the food is under $5.  Tickets for better seats also tend to be less expensive than in Raleigh. The fact that it required us to pay an additional $20 for a babysitter's time is rather besides the point. I'd rather help out a college student than spend the same money on parking, overpriced domestic light beer, and nachos.

Waiting for Aldean to come on stage from the back of Crown Coliseum.
This was taken with an iphone. Objects are closer than they appear.

We arrived in time to hear Lauren Alaina's very short but energetic set. Even though it's a cheesy song, I teared up a bit during "Like My Mother Does".  The woman in front of me was bawling and my tear ducts involuntarily leaked sympathetically. Alaina did a cover of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" that she mashed-up to one of her songs but it wasn't memorable enough for me to even remember what song she sang. Her notable contribution to the tour is that she joins Aldean on stage and sings Kelly Clarkson's part in "Don't You Wanna Stay". After having seen a handful of concerts where the headliner sings with a projection of some sort, this is a welcome duet solution. Alaina has a strong enough voice to stand in Clarkson's shoes for a live performance of the duet. I doubt anyone in the audience was disappointed that Clarkson's digital image was left on the truck.

Luke Bryan opened with what my husband thinks is the stupidest song in country music, "Rain is a Good Thing". I'll argue that "Country Girl Shake it for Me" makes "Rain is a Good Thing" sound like an excerpt from Talmud. Luke Bryan really does have some idiotic lyrics. "Sittin' here, waitin' on a deer, drinkin' beer, and wasting bullets." "Girl, you make my Speakers go Boom Boom".  I happen to like "Do I", "All My Friends Say" and his new song "I Don't Want the Night to End", not that any of the lyrics to these songs are any better.  There is a grand canyon between what I think of Luke Byran's music, and my appreciation of him as a performer. The three times I've seen him live, he's been thoroughly entertaining. He's sexy. He wiggles his hips around, and all the ladies holler and giggle. He runs and skips all over the stage but also banters at the audience of 10,000 like it's an amusing intimate conversation. He's the perfect contrast to Aldean.  Jason Aldean is a serious guy. He's in the business of country rock, and he delivers his services with little fanfare. Aldean rarely talks and he never dances. The fact that they're such good friends and enjoy touring together benefits both of them.

Jason Aldean played radio hit after radio hit and the audience was on their feet, bouncing around, waving their hands in the air, and singing for the entire performance. He opened with "Johnny Cash" and closed with "Dirt Road Anthem" and "Hicktown".  The one song that many in the audience didn't yet know is "Fly Over States", the last single he'll release from the My Kinda Party album. I am so glad that he's chosen to release "Fly Over States" as it's one of my two favorite songs from the album. Sadly, the song I think is the most interesting on My Kinda Party, "Church Pew or Bar Stool" will probably slip into obscurity. (click to hear "Fly Over States")

About halfway through Aldean's set, Bryan reappeared and the two of them did three or four acoustic songs on a platform in the back of the auditorium. It's not unusual for an artist to move onto a platform in the center of a performance space for a quiet breather. Both Brad Paisley and Tailor Swift do this at every concert. What I thought was special, if I dare use that word to describe part of a big commercial concert, was the combination of Aldean and Bryan, doing something very different than what we're used to seeing them do, an informal acoustic set. I'm sure it was mostly scripted, but the two musicians obviously trust one another enough to allow for moments of improvisation and their friendship is palpable.

Another bad iphone photo, this one of Bryan and Aldean during their acoustic set.
They were perhaps 40 feet in front of us.

 There was a big contrast between this Aldean/Bryan concert and the one I saw two years ago at the same venue. Two years ago the audience sat through most of the songs, waiting for the few familiar hits. The family sitting next to me had clearly attended the show just to hear "Big Green Tractor", as did my then six year old daughter. Both musicians have enjoyed a huge amount of success in the last two years. They've gone from being relatively new stars to enormous established stars. I'll be interested to see if they continue to tour together every few years, or if they will decide they need to separate their tours to keep audience interest. My opinion is if they both continue to record well received new music, and they both significantly change up their setlists and shtick from year to year, they could continue to reap the benefits of their terrific chemistry indefinately.

Hubby wore a smile and a plaid shirt as per my request. There was a whole lot of plaid at this concert.