For even the toughest crowd
Sunday, March 18, 2012

Reckless Kelly went all out to produce a flashy album for their newest release, which is also their first release under their independent label, No Big Deal Records. Their indie label proves they know how to make buying a CD fun again.

Overall, the sound is mellow, with the graceful country beat they’ve mastered in their previous records. But track 4, “She Likes Money, He Likes Love” stands out as a song that rocks in the usual RK way. And the title track, “Good Luck & True Love” is classic rhythm we’ve heard before from the time tested band. It’s reminiscent of their last title track, “Somewhere In Time” and another previous song “Mirage.” Yes, they consistently release good music and this album delivers another set of music that any RK fan will be pleased with, though it is of their shorter albums. At only 10 songs and about 37 minutes, the album marks the first instalment of what is hopefully a long career producing under their label.

Honestly, the album took some time to grow on me and seeing some of the music performed live defiantly helped that bond. There’s RK fans who will counter this positive review saying this was not their strongest record. But with their new record freedom and drive to perform gritty and honest music, I’m bettin’ we see the albums get better and better from here on out, which should please the tougher crowd.

Country music movement
Thursday, January 12, 2012

With the release of “Wicked Twisted Road,” way back in 2005, came some of Reckless Kelly’s most popular songs to this day. Their fourth studio album samples, for the most part, a departure from their rowdy live performances. The title track at number one is an easy listening, perfectly composed song, of which the lyrics tell the story of living life hard. The rest of the track list starts to unfold more of the red dirt band’s unique way of blending their magnificently talented musicians and vocalists with a style of country that has set a bar for the genre. In combining a country steel guitar and a Celtic fiddle in “Seven Nights in Eire,” they demonstrate a style all their own. Of course the album is not entirely calm speaker beats. “Sixgun” and “Wretched Again” pick up the tempo with the gritty rock n roll sound they are known for by anyone fortunate enough to have attended a live performance. “Motel Cowboy Show” pays homage to a band* that influenced RK’s brothers Willy and Cody Braun in their formative years. The band, influenced by others, is also contributing to a movement of returning country music to the heart and soul beginning. By the end track, the instrumental reprise of “Wicked Twisted Road,” the journey of listening to the album comes back to the beginning. The listener remembers where the music started.

The album is a clear hit by any standards, but fails in entering the homes of all who would enjoy the music. The band is led by those Braun brothers who came from a family that is meant to sing songs and make music that has already earned its place in history. All this great content and the band still includes a game board to play the game of the Wicked Twisted Road.

*Check out an April review next month

Heart and soul
Saturday, December 31, 2011

In the emergence of many successful young bands to come out of the Red Dirt genre, Jason Boland and the Stragglers continue to put out hit after hit of pure hard country with meaningful lyrics that you’ll carry with you. In the most recent release from Thirty Tigers, he compiled the generous song set from four nights of touring through the Rockies in the 2010 winter. The songs are merged seamlessly with the roaring crowd in all four locations. If you know Boland, you’ll recognize plenty of his classic tacks among many other songs including covers of popular old songs. Turning this CD up is the next best thing to experiencing the Rocky Mountain shows live. Boland and the Stragglers put faith back into country music fans that the heart and soul still remains in the genre that continues to pump out “carbon copy music” to the masses through pop country.

Positive energy
Saturday, December 10, 2011

For those not yet familiar with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, there is no better way to describe the group than as a rock n’ roll orchestra. They contain all the essential elements of both styles of performances. The rock hooks you when listening to their music, but the symphonic support carries the power that will draw you back again and again. “Christmas Eve & Other Stories,” released in 2006, is a good album to introduce a new listener to. The year may not be timely, but the music is timeless, and, hey, ‘tis the season, eh?

TSO shares a message of peace and joy but they don’t share it quietly. Their Christmas tunes rock as hard as any metal band, but they aren’t just a rock group covering Christmas songs. Their keen understanding of how to merge rock n’ roll and symphony orchestra music bring to life a spirit of Christmas that nobody else seems to have gripped in the same way. TSO’s original songs emulate the positive energy the season of the holidays should convey. Their songs take the liberty of placing the listener into colorful festive stories that stick in your memory. Their remakes of classic Christmas songs are what we think of as the perfect rendition of classic favorites.

Let’s just say they bring a whole new meaning to an “Electric Christmas.” For most, this term probably means stringing together endless rows of little lights and making sure the batteries are included in the noisy toys that will clutter our Christmas morning. But for those enjoying the music of TSO, it means stringing timeless instruments and making sure the amps they’re plugged into are turned up and the sound is checked.

Something to inspire
Thursday, October 20, 2011

Some people think sex is the only real motivator. All that inspires us is smooching and sex. Advertisers advocate that it’s a pretty popular theory. Randy Rogers proves something more can inspire us. Not so recently did I pick up Randy Rogers Band Live at Billy Bob’s CD. I slid the disc into my Kenwood KDC 148 and had a hard time taking it back out. From beginning to end the band never stops to take names. They just keep rocking. The entire series of Live at Billy Bob’s CDs exceeds acceptable. I buy up as many of them as I can because I’ve never heard a disappointing release. Even if the album artist is not on my radar as a favorite, I find these recordings to be solid gold. What the Randy Rogers Band put together for this show is a true work of art. Hitting the “random” button becomes obsolete because there is no reason for it. Changing the flow deters from what the performance offers, which is a single great performance with all tracks as an integral piece. There is no need to pick favorite tracks for listening to a custom playlist. Let the music flow from one track to another. Position your speakers so you have the best sound possible, turn the volume to a level you’re comfortable with, and then crank it a few more clicks. You’ll experience the next best to rocking out live at the center of the stage.

If I have one criticism of the set it is the optional CD/DVD combo. You’d think that the next best thing to being there live would be seeing the concert on a DVD. In this case, we’ll never know. The DVD footage really does not do much for the experience. It is heavy in the behind the scenes footage instead of showing the performance on stage. It’s more like seeing the band do other things while listening to the CD. Fans want to see the performance, not backstage video. I think of musical pieces, among others, like magic tricks. The audience doesn’t want to see the work put into making it happen. They want to see the end result. The magic. And in this case, the magic is in the music. No visual stimulant is needed. Use your imagination if you need and listen to “Hill Country” bounce off the Rocky Mountain foothills on a warm summer evening.

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Oh I'm ready
Wednesday, September 28, 2011

“Ready for Confetti” stands as testament that a song writer and storyteller’s work is never done. Robert Earl Keen has yet again released an album that could easily burn a hole right through my CD player. I can hit play and repeat and let the music delight my company and me all day. REK’s music is a style that embodies the distinct feel of a relaxing vacation. It’s true that this review is not unbiased. Through not only his music but his lyrics and storytelling ability, REK has brought inspiration to my life as a writer. His songs often covey the sentiment in remembering our past not as a good or bad but truly as life happens. His sharp wit continues to see us through an album of treasures.

REK could continue his career capitalizing off his old songs and still win the hearts of new fans every performance. This collection of (mostly) new songs proves that new stories are made and told every day. These new tracks will ripen into a fine gold sound the way his past tracks have and one day they will be the old songs. The way things used to be. We’ll say remember when popular country artists capitalized off of their false image of being true to their roots, while REK quietly produced songs such as “The Road Goes On and On” to poke fun at them? Or maybe in that distant future we’ll ask, remember when we had to play music from an external source? And then we’d probably hit the play button near our ear lobe and hear music come out of our butt. Or we’ll remind ourselves to take life easy from the haunting lyrics of “I Gotta Go.” But overall, REK’s release is an easy-to-digest and fun beat that makes everyone “Ready for Confetti.” And if the opening track “Black Baldy Stallion” doesn’t get your toes-a-tappin then check your pulse… maybe your heart will keep time.

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