"housekeeping": I welcome the receipt of and will
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received. (Contact me for an explanation if you
think there might be extenuating circumstances.) Major or
label. It makes no difference.
unique, open door policy requires, in fairness
be evaluated and reviews posted in the order in which
submissions have been received.
peaks your curiosity, please
making a purchase through its Amazon cover art link. Commissions I earn
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Amazon. The absence of a link indicates that Amazon does not distribute
I Am Going To The
A terrific singer,
and musician, John Lowell is not only a triple-threat talent, he is an
of true artistry of the variety that endures if not that which
the charts in the absence of other compelling, albeit irrelevant,
considerations such as youth and sex appeal.
To be sure, Lowell is the
“voice” of experience gleaned
first as a founding member of Kayne’s River.The bluegrass band’s imprint continues to be heard in some of
songs just as his penchant for traditional country music (of the
variety) is evinced by many of the Lowell-penned selections (including
title song) found here.
solo project is
gaining attention even as he continues as a current member of the
(with Ben Winship), The Growing Old Men.
Blessed with a
voice reminiscent of John Denver, John Lowell is an observer blessed
ability to recount both what he has witnessed and what he has imagined
vivid lyrics and engrossing themes.
divergent directions of Sarah Hogan
or Laura Foster, (the latter with its
lyrical and musical references to that
Tom Dooley), Lowell’s unique cover of Eight
More Miles to Louisville, or simply John’s painful portrait of
adultery (Am I Not Enough) Lowell sustains the
attention of his listener.
Somebody's Baby (EP)
arresting voice and title song get a listener's reaction from the
Somebody's Baby (written by Kelly Archer, Casey Koesel and
Justin Weaver) has the distinction of both opening this eclectic
extended play album and serving as the EP's closer in the form of a
bonus "official video" version of the upbeat reminder of just how
special each of us is to someone else.
Wouldn't You Like To Know, the most creatively-written lyric
found here, is one of three songs (the others being Girl With
a Rock N Roll Heart and Learning as Your Grow) that
showcase Lisa's skills as a co-writer. (Matassa's collaborators, in the
first two instances, are Don Rollins and Jody Gray, while Lisa and Don
also wrote with Joey Sykes.)
Lisa goes from exploring musical themes addressing men's curiosity
about barroom-driven girl talk, the special attributes of girls who
rock and the acquired wisdom that comes without a guidebook, to
covering three classic songs: Bryan Adams' Heaven, Dolly
Parton's I Will Always Love You (a live recording) and
Mel Tormé's The
While none of these classics cries out to be covered (Matassa is not
the first artist to cover any of these songs), Lisa manages to make
each her own in a way that preserves the compositions' appeal for an
increasingly younger demographic that may not remember other cover
versions, let alone the originals!
Fiddler Tim Smith
1978 World Champion
Smith and his friends (Wayne Benson, mandolin; Eric Ellis, banjo; David
Guthrie, vocals; David Hall, clawhammer banjo and steel guitar; Jeff
guitar;Clyde Mattox, dobro; Will
vocals and acoustic bass; Zachary McLamb, acoustic bass; Wyatt Rice,
Andrew Smith, guitar) showcase their collective talent with this
collection of bluegrass, blues and gospel favorites.
Tim draws on a wide
instrumental music ranging from public domain favorites (Cattle
in the Cane, Just A
Closer Walk With Thee, Whiskey Before Breakfast, Hamilton County
and Bill Monroe’s Ashland Breakdownto
Smith’s original material (Lakota Land, Double Play, Oklahoma Road, Old New River, Badland
Blues, Twin Oaks and Tater Town).
totally absent here.David Guthrie’s
vocals highlight the performance of Broadway
Limited (a Smith-Guthrie co-write).Listeners will likewise want to sing along on Kokomo Arnold’s Milk Cow Blues and Tim’s rendition of
Hank Williams’ I Saw the Light.
As I have
previously written, LiveWire's Lies is "the
best single I've heard all year."
followed the single's release. As I noted, one of the sextet's
acoustic guitarists, lead singer Andy Eutsler, who wrote Lies,
is "one heckuva songwriter."
release of Livin', my introduction to the group (which also
includes lead electric and acoustic guitarist Bobby DeGonia, fiddler
Cory Schultz, drummer Adam Hagerman, bassist Landon Rolfe and electric,
rhythm and acoustic guitarist Danny Bell) and to Andy's
songwriting has increased my appreciation of their talent.
Andy wrote the
title song, a commentary on what represents the good life, depending
upon one's vantage point, maturity, etc. as well as I'll Go To
Prison, a dark, testosterone-filled threat, promise, expression of
defensive love for family or morality play, depending upon whether the
listener takes the message as bluster or the end result of provocation.
The balance of
these songs are seemingly designed to be radio-friendly. Not that
there's anything wrong that, but the depth and originality of
Eutstler's songs set a pretty high benchmark.
This is not
as is so many times said about a lead singer, that, in reality, s/he is
the group. All six members of LiveWire are integral to the
group's sound and their performances of each of these songs, 10 in all,
Rather, this group
can only play to its strengths as it is able to articulate them.
Danny Bell's songs (History and, to a lesser extent, What
Makes You A Man) show promise and I'd be interested to see on
LiveWire's next CD what a songwriting collaboration between Eutstler
and Bell might look like.
This CD was sent to
me in care of an
old affiliation at an old address but when the postmaster forwarded it
to me I
decided to review the music on its merits, anyway.
that, at first glance,
anyway, I understood why this CD was ever sent to me.After all, most of the 10 songs on Sweet Talk
(all but one either written
or co-written by Miss Tess) suggest that
Miss Tess’ musical influences tilt more jazz and blues than country.
Don’t Tell Mama,
the album opener, is not a Gary Allan cover.Nor is it even the familiar song fans of the Cabaret
soundtrack may expect.Rather it’s a musical imperative expressed during the moment of
that inevitably follows an arguable lapse in judgment.
New Orleans is not an Eddie Hodges cover, but rather
tribute to Cajun country.The
Affair evokes a universal theme with
all of the ambivalence of a cheatin’ song, but, it too, is not country
While other reviews
more of a mixed bag than I do, I don’t feel
a lyrical reference to a blue-eyed Tennessean, for instance, makes Everybody’s
Darling a country song, even if the title brings to mind several
country-music variants on that title.
Come Here For Gold is one of
the best, certainly most original
songs on Sweet Talk, while Save Me St.
Peter satisfies the listener looking for country music.
Miss Tess closes
cover of the Ink Spots’ (and, yes, Eddy Arnold’s recording) of I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire.
The New Recordings
Don’t be thrown by
title.Though on paper it might
that a 2-CD set released 48 years after Jim Reeves’ death, especially
the word “new” in the title, might reek of the type of exploitation
with reissues of an artist’s work, not to mention squeezing the last
of what a
dead artist might have, intentionally
or not, left in the can, that assumption is this case is as unfair as
Reeves: The New Recordingsis not a
greatest hits (or even misses) collection.Rather, the 42 songs found here, thanks to new technology, with
occasional demonstrable audible bow to the imperfections of the old,
to supplement a narrative that is intended as a companion guide to
awarding-winning 672-page book, Jim
Reeves: His Untold Story.
But in an age of
gratification and diminishing attention spans, a nation of readers has,
best, slowly been usurped by an audio book culture.So while these CDs are not the audio version
book, they are a great marketing tool for the tome, even as this
venture can be
enjoyed independently of the book project.
The CD kicks off
with a cold
opening: Reeves’ spoken greeting. Then,
amid an instrumental background, voiceover veteran Dan Hurst sets the
table by informing
listeners, as the music trails off, that they are “about to embark on a
journey through time.Hurst tells Reeves’ story in
order, punctuating the narrative not only Jim’s most familiar songs,
but also “rare
and previously unreleased material.” Some
of the recordings have been “stripped
down to the bare essentials” and “digitally remastered” for “better
and, in the opinion of those associated with the project, “updated with
tasteful new accompaniments,” (replete with both the pros and cons of
colorizing, black & white movie classics) courtesy of Larry Jordan.
While, as Paul
Harvey said, “the hen that lays the golden egg has a perfect right to
cackle,” some of Hurst’s
as “Your ears are in for a treat,” while true, seem at best superfluous
as always, the popularity of Reeves music speaks for itself.
While some of the
selections have been excerpted (e.g., Mexican
Joe runs only 48 seconds), like some of the interviews likewise
no reason to question the judgment call.After all, proper pacing is as important to an enterprise of
magnitude as is the mix of various audio components- Jim’s studio
his “live” recordings, the Blue Boys’
instrumental performance of Wheels, Dan’s
narration, Larry’s commentary, Jim’s
audio diaries, separately recorded interviews with Jim and Mary Reeves,
Jim’s acting as a commercial pitchman,
(breaking) news reports- that
serve to provide both narrative and
Famous during his
for recording and releasing duets with Ginny Wright and Dottie West,
pairings with Patsy Cline and Deborah Allen have been variously hailed
logical outcome of then-new technology and dismissed as novelty
worse- by purists and critics.
This project finds
no stranger to duets and a fine singer in her own right, game, as it is
vocals that are featured on yet another posthumous pairing:Reeves’ recordings of Making
Believe and How’s The
World Treating You? (Listen
for Barbi’s solo on Jim’s recording
At least one error
in Jordan’ book has
been corrected (though an opportunity was missed to note same as the
correction is uncredited) within the context of Larry's
commentary for this recording.Jordan’s
passion for his subject really comes
through in those asides.
So- it should come
as no surprise
that, once again, Larry Jordan has outdone himself with yet another
storage limitations, I
give away most of the promotional records I receive.It some cases that’s an easy thing to do, in
others my wants are not options.
But just as I
won’t part with Larry’s book,
because it is an historical treasure- Jim
Reeves: The New Recordings (a must purchase for rabid Reeves
fans and well as an inspired choice for fans of good music) a is a
Hangin With Stogie
Summer All Year
Hangin with Stogie
apostrophe-challenged (the name of the band is, itself, derived from
initially, at least, an inside joke that name-checked a dog that could
serve as the girls’ mascot).But the
Fredericksburg, Virginia teen-aged trio (Christina Reese- drums, cello,
vocals; Kylie Westerbeck- bass, ukulele, vocals; Megan
Green- guitar, lead
vocals) is up to the greater challenge of taking Music Row by storm.
To wit: Summer
All Year Long is a nine-song collection of original
material, save for an unexpected arrangement of Bob Dylan’s It
Ain’t Me Babe.The former is
also the title song (a
wistful, feel good, potential seasonal recurrent) while the latter
listener’s attention as much or more than the work of that subset of
of other artists(Dino, Desi & Billy
and Johnny Cash and June Carter come to mind) whose interpretations
served to put their original
The other seven
likewise compelling.The lighter fare
will resonate most with Taylor Swift’s fan base (hardly a surprise,
is one of the girls’ musical influences) but, as with some of Taylor’s
compositions, there is a noticeable maturity seemingly beyond the
evident in the choice of songs rounding out the album.
Listeners have Jeff
Silverman (who oversaw the final mixing and mastering of
this recording at Nashville’s
Palette Studio) to thank for bringing Hangin with Stogie to my
attention.Jeff also sent me a copy of
Christina Reese's first solo effort; (a pop remake of a song Silverman
co-wrote with Pamela Phillips Oland), Debra Lyn’s seasonal
the Mistletoe for Me.
Andy Reese (who
directed me to the band's website, the aptly-named
hanginwithstogie.com, and is one of the girls' biggest supporters) is
the proud father of Christina who, by the way, at 13, is Hangin with
Stogie's youngest member!
FLYNNVILLE TRAIN The One You Love
If you liked The
Kentucky Headhunters, you'll enjoy Flynnville Train.
The Headhunters' Richard Young, Fred Young and Doug Phelps wrote The
One You Love and the Doug Phelps production is fast becoming
a favorite with Flynnville Train (Tommy Bales, drums; Brian Flynn, lead
vocals; Brent Flynn, guitar; Joseph Shreve, bass, vocals) fans.
The song is variously a lyrical plea and/or ultimatum for a sign of
commitment from the protagonist's significant other.
The verdict? I'm on board!
MARTY STUART Icon
If the listener can
the fact that this 11-song digitally-mastered compilation omits Okie from Muskogee (significant, because
for over 40 years Merle Haggard has performed his signature song,
the era and venue, with varying degrees of earnestness and
hits span over 45
years and are far too numerous to include on a one CD, but this package
good “fix” for fans who can’t get enough of If
We’re Not Back in Love By Monday,It’s Been a Great Afternoon andRamblin’
Fever, as well as Merle’s display of his more contemplative side
like I’m Always On a Mountain When I Fall,
Misery and Gin, The Way I Am and I Think I’ll
Just Stay Here and Drink.
Kristofferson-inspired Red Bandana and the Hag’s
tribute to Elvis Presley, From Graceland to the Promised
included as are “live” versions of Rainbow
Stew and Red Bandana.
MARTY STUART Icon
The first thing
this writer about this 11-song hits compilation is the reminder that
accumulated that many hits.Whether or
not this makes Stuart’s status truly iconic is a matter that MCA
settled- at least for marketing purposes.
with album notes
indicating that Marty wrote six or co-wrote six of these songs, the
reminded of just how commercially popular Stuart is as a songwriter.
Burn Me Down
sets the stage for performances that rock rather than suggest Marty has
interest in becoming a balladeer.Now That’s Country, Stuart’s musical
statement about his roots and that of the music he loves, is followed
take on Don’t Be Cruel (To A Heart That’s
True), which unlike, Elvis Presley’s original, is most memorable
absence of The Jordanaires.
Tempted, Kiss Me I’m Gone, as
expected, High on a Mountain Top, You
Can’t Stop Love and Thanks to You- they’re all
it’s the combination of Marty’s vocal and the background vocals that
chorus of Western Girls stick in the
signature song, Hillbilly Rock, rounds out these
enjoyable moments of classic
"Father of Bluegrass Music," William Smith Monroe attained "icon"
status early on. As a result, Monroe had and has scores of
musical acolytes, apostles, admirers and even imitators; some of them
who clearly have learned from the Master.
BILL MONROE Icon
"Father of Bluegrass Music," William Smith Monroe attained "icon"
status early on. As a result, Monroe had and has scores of
musical acolytes, apostles, admirers and even imitators; some of them
who clearly have learned from the Master.
But why settle for less when you can enjoy the real thing?
This newly-issued 11-song compilation of early Bill Monroe recordings
opens with Bill's bluegrass version of I Saw The Light. New
Mule Skinner Blues solidifies the CD's bluegrass sensibilities
while Bill's avuncular tribute to Uncle Pen is a classic Monroe
The inclusion of Kentucky Waltz and Footprints in the Snow
will gladden diehard Monroe fans as will Bill's universally popular
recordings Walk Softly On My Heart, In the Pines and Blue
Moon of Kentucky. The Country Music Hall of Fame "lifted' its
marketing slogan from the title of Bill's I'm Workin' On A Building
and the CD concludes with Bill Monroe's timeless performances of Gotta
Travel On and Roll On Buddy Roll On.
THE ROYS New Day Dawning
The Roys new extended
play CD features Still Standing, memorable not only for its
message in the wake of heartbreak that taking personal inventory can be
a positive experience, but also for its lyric video (a first for the
bluegrass genre). Elaine and Lee co-wrote Still Standing,
though one or the other of the siblings co-wrote the remaining tracks
with other talented songwriters.
But bluegrass fans will enjoy each of New
Day Dawning's seven selections, beginning with the title song, an
expression of hope that I wouldn't be surprised to hear being played at
political campaign rallies.
Daddy To Me is a poignant eulogy of the much loved and respected
departed, offered from his appreciative son's singular
perspective of gratitude.
Windin' Roads is the story of a
man who headed from the hills in search of greener grass only to
discover that his search for contentment could end only when he headed
back to the hills.
Grandpa's Barn reveals a lifetime of memories that stem from a
pivotal relationship evoked by a visit to place that hasn't changed
much since childhood and the lessons learned at that time.
Living Scrapbook pays tribute to the people in the singers'
lives who matter most.
With Fast as We Roll (a song Lee wrote with Brian White and
Jaenee Fleenor), I believe the Roys have saved the best for last: a
spirited reminder of the silliness and futility of self-imposed stress,
most easily abated by taking a step back, smelling life's
roses, reassessing and refusing to sweat the small stuff.
PAGES OF PAUL This Time
remember Mark Tomeo from his erstwhile band, Neon Cactus. These days Mark brings his
talents as a vocalist and musician (pedal
steel, Dobro and slide guitar) to Pages of Paul, featuring the songs of Paul
Curcuruto. (That's Paul on the acoustic, electric and 12- string
guitars as well as the Ace Tone Top 5 organ.)
Lead vocalist Karen Nogle and Rick Buck (vocals, bass, drums, acoustic
and electric guitars) round out the Lewisburg, Pennsylvania-based
quartet. (As noted, Nogle's is the pre-eminent "voice" of the
band, though it is Curcuruto's gritty lead vocal listeners will enjoy
on Every Time I Think of You.)
song (not to be confused with the Waylon Jennings classic, though it
arguably strikes a similar theme from a female perspective) is one of
12 songs written by Cucuruto, excepting Gone (written by Paul
and Robert Cole) and Country Song (written by John
Larson). The lyrics of the latter name check George Jones,
Ernest Tubb, David Allan Coe and Gram Parsons, as the lyric and music
combine as a mournful reaction to the contemporary dearth of real
Produced by Paul Curcuruto and Rick Buck (with a guest performance by
Joseph Paul Hauserman on percussion), This Time features songs
evoking emotional reactions suggested by their titles (e.g., You
Can't Fool Me, So Happy, Then Teardrops Start, What
Music I Do, I'm Yours) but the performances tilt more
toward the creative than the predictable.
I Fall For You provides a wry twist on determining
responsibility for a codependent relationship while another selection
is responsible for a warning label for radio programmers and/or the
easily offended. As Mark Tomeo explains: "The CD isn't truly
'explicit'- one song only (Not Enough Sunshine) references the
colloquial term for manure, so we got slapped with the label." .
four-song EP showcases the talent of the New York City-based
band. Wyatt's members, vocalists all, are siblings Maddy Wyatt
(flute, acoustic guitar, tambourine), Paul Wyatt (acoustic and electric
guitar) and Alex Wyatt (drums and percussion) along with Dana Haynes
(piano, synth and mellotron) and Zach Lane (upright and
Octopus King is a rockin', metaphorical take on a frustrating
relationship. Nobodys is an infections, hand-clapping
view from the inner sanctum that
somehow reminds me of Hall & Oates' Private Eyes and the
Police's Every Breath You Take. Good Fight
provides a philosophical, feel-good bit of motivation.
The EP concludes with the quintet's first single, Leonah; an
energized, exuberant introduction to a band whose style is best
described as Abba on acid.
MUTH and THE LOST
Rating **** 1/2
Country music's long
history has included recording artists who set, defy and conform to
trends. Its innovators are often distinct in their voices, lyrics
or some combination of the two.
Zoe Muth and The Lost High Rollers (drummer Greg Niles, Etan Lawton on
mandolin, bassist Mike McDermott, electric and pedal steel guitarist
Dave Harmonson and backup vocalists Joy Mills and Tom Parker) show a
respect for tradition that is evidenced from the opening bars of Heart
Like A Wheel, the first of six songs on this EP. The Anna
McGarrigle-penned classic has been covered before, but Zoe draws her
inspired performance less from Linda Ronstadt's 1974 hit version (or
subsequent covers) than from a childhood experience of hearing Kate and
Anna McGarrigle's own recording on the radio following the sisters'
self-titled debut album's release the next year.
The emphasis on Old Gold- Zoe's Try to Walk the Line (a
song about the
effort to summon and sustain strength in shedding the doormat role in
an emotionally abusive relationship) is the only original song on the
EP- continues with Muth and her band's cover of Charlie Feathers'
recording of Bill Cantrell and Quinton Claunch's I've Been Deceived.g
about the effort to summon and sustain strength in response to being
treated like a doormat in an emotionally abusive relationship.
Speaking (writing?) of unhealthy interaction, Muth and friends put the
fun in the dysfunctional gunfire (Forget snakes on a plane; think
of a fellow passenger shooting a mean, fat and stinky doctor at 30,000
feet in the air) of John Prine's story-song, Maureen,
The cover of Country Blues (written by M.L. "Dock" Doggs) is
Zoe's tribute to Harry Smith and the Anthology of American Folk Music;
a somewhat improvised performance because Muth doesn't play banjo.
Muth's vocals are more akin to EmmyLou Harris' than to Janis Joplin's
will be readily evident to anyone who listens to Zoe and The Lost High
Rollers' version of this disc's closer: Jerry Ragavoy and Mort Shuman's
Get It While You Can.
Set in the Georgia
city that bears its name, the opening, title song of Caroline Herring's
latest CD is a harrowing tale of both violence and courage during
the Camilla Massacre of 1868.
The Peach State is also the inspiration for Black Mountain Lullaby,
a somber tale of mining-country greed, environmental degradation and
the fate of an Appalachian toddler set in the White County, Georgia
Whether observing a little girl in a
nightgown chasing Fireflies, describing hard Delta summers amid
the beauty of the pines in Summer Song, or painting vivid,
lyrics of patriotic pride abroad a Maiden Voyage, this is
Caroline Herring at her best.
Traveling Shoes, inspired by A Worn Path (a Eudora
Welty short story) is an a capella departure for Caroline, as the
purity of Herring's voice is combined with the guest artistry and pitch
perfect harmonies of Mary Chapin Carpenter and Aoife
O'Donovan. Caroline and Chapin reunite on White Dress,
the tale of a 24-year-old Alabaman who has decided to stand up for
In Until You Go, Caroline contemplates separation. insecurity
and the healing process, while Flee as a Bird draws on an 1840s
hymn that Caroline has reinterpreted so as to provide a contemporary
The closer, Joy Never Ends (Auld
Lang Syne) weaves a new story line (combining everything from
references to oil fields, family tradition and a Texas ranch wedding to
the Internet) into the familiar refrain of the traditional New Year's
Up Here in
Butch Baker, who
recording career of his own back when Todd Fritsch was a Texas toddler,
produced Todd's new CD; a
collection of 12 songs Todd terms his “best ever” project guaranteed to
favor with Fritsch fans.
Arguably that is due to the assistance of Dean Dillon who co-wrote five
songs including the title track, a duet featuring Dean and Todd using
vantage point of the view afforded from atop a horse as a metaphor
the wisdom of pausing, when overwhelmed by circumstances, long enough
strength and to stop and smell the roses, as it were.
I can’t improve upon Fritsch’s description of his latest collection of
about me, where I’m from and how I feel about life, with a few rowdy
thrown in for good measure.”) except possibly to single out, for
consideration, what I feel is the best song on the CD: Calls
I Haven’t Made; a Fred Wilhelm and Michael Terrence Post
composition with a message for most of us.
upon how familiar the listener is with Marvin Etzioni and
music, s/he will approach Marvin
Country!with any number of varying expectations about
the Grammy award-winning producer's new critically-acclaimed
double-side, 22-song CD.
For those wishing to label this effort, Americana works quite well.
Etzioni enlists the talents of Lucinda Williams, Buddy Miller, Steve
Earle and other guest artists for an eclectic venture of musical prose
and commentary alternatively delivered with passion, contemporary
expressions of Talmudic wisdom and cryptic humor.
Having already partially reviewed this album within the context of my
Report on Etzioni's performance during the May, 2012 NSAI showcase of Marvin Country!, the focus here
shifts to what has not been previously mentioned. Bob Dylan is Dead, inspired by a
negative review of one of Etzioni's musical hero's performances, is
part tribute and part plea to recognize the genius that is true
artistry while both critic and artist are still around to appreciate it.
Where's Your Analogue Spirit? is
a calculation of the true price of progress while Gram Revisited is a posthumous
tribute to another prominent musical hero of Marvin's.
What's Patsy Cline Doin' These Days? (parts
one and two, yet!) could be a reaction to Pat Quigley's famous
country-music duet "proposal," but it Marvin's mind it's all that and
Marvin Country! is inspired, original and a taste worthy of acquiring
for those who have not already hopped aboard the Etzioni bandwagon.
Who Do You Think You
Are? (Season 2)
Their Family Roots Through History
second season of Who Do You Think You
Are?, NBC-TV's popular celebrity genealogy reality series, has
at the conclusion of its third season, just been released on
DVD. Between the "peacock network"'s series and PBS' Finding Your Roots (hosted by Henry
Louis Gates, Jr.) those of us who are armchair genealogists are in hog
But, recognizing that most viewers are at least as, if not more,
interested in celebrities than in genealogy, NBC has wisely trotted out
the eye candy with which to hook viewers as, in cooperation with
ancestry.com, the world's largest online family genealogical
service (Nasdaq: ACOM), the partnership attempts to make history come
(regardless of the varying ethnicities of our cultural melting pot
spotlighted) through the eyes of viewers' favorite stars.
It's a formula works as each episode of the hour-long weekly series is
devoted to a single celebrity, with the help of experts in the field,
retracing her/his own family history and, in the process, learning news
about ancestors (good and bad) while, in the process, becoming amateur
detectives who often unwittingly manage to unlock secrets that give
clarity to questions often raised in family lore and otherwise
confirm stories passed down from generation-to-generation or expose
such tales as merely myths created with some ulterior (albeit often
Season 2's eight episodes on two DVDS, complete with SDH subtitles,features
the genealogical journeys of Vanessa Williams, Rosie O'Donnell, Kim
Cattrall, Lionel Richie, Steve Buscemi, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd
and, perhaps of greatest interest to readers of this Web page, Tim
Given that McGraw's "story" of learning who is real father was seemed
to be so well-known and thoroughly-documented years prior to the debut
of this series, Tim might have seemed an unlikely choice: How can
anything that happened generations before Samuel Timothy Smith learned,
at age 11, that he was not Horace Smith's biological child, but rather
baseball great Frank Edwin ("Tug") McGraw, Jr.'s son, be anywhere
near as interesting?
Tim had to journey back in time and place to the days of the
Revolutionary War to find out, but he learned of that mind-blowing link
in one of the Season 2's most intriguing episodes.
Of course, finding one's own
roots can be more challenging, time-consuming and expensive than these
profiles suggest (as some viewers may have already discovered, as
evinced by word at this writing that NBC has just canceled WDYTYA?) ,
but the takeaway for viewers is not only, as
expected, the opportunity to learn more about their favorite stars, but
also, as, if not more, importantly, the motivation to explore their own
Arguably if you are Comedian Steve Martin’s
band Nobody Knows You would seem to
be the perfect title for a quintet’s CD, but just as, thanks to
appearances, Martin’s mainstream audiences know he plays a pretty mean
and is serious about bluegrass music,those same late-night audiences know The Steep Canyon Rangers
riding Martin’s coattails when the Grammy-nominated band and Steve were
recipients of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s 2011
of the Year award.
And so it is that Nobody
Knows You is the perfect choice not only for a near-perfect
courtesy of a guest appearance by Randy Kohrs, but also the title song
Leading off with the title song, ironically
an ode to
someone who is gone but not forgotten, with Rescue
Me the focus shifts to a plea for help escaping a painful past and
the “darkness” associated with it.
Easy to Love is a love song, of sorts, mixed with a heavy
introspection, while As I Go is not
as heavily focused on romance as, in this case, a rebel assessing the
Disaster is humor-tinged view
love, while Ungrateful One is a son’s
gritty reflection of his father and the dysfunctional dynamics that
resulted.It is the best-written of all of
(with the possible exception of Reputation,
a warning about the fallout of risky behavior) in an album of
lyrics nicely punctuated with Knob
Creek, an instrumental that reminds
listeners of the sheer joy of unadorned, pure pickin’.
Hand to the
Rating *** 1/2
the Plow is being publicized as being “filled
with a Country Spirit “ and “a wonderful selection of message songs.”It is that, but in spots it’s a bit
for a country album.
verse of When
He Reigns It Pours is a prime example: A bouncy hand-clapper, the
better than many, if not most, probably written around a catchy hook.What
Have I Done To DeserveThis is no
less subtle.Like You’ve
Got To Move, a #1 song in Christian Voice and Cashbox,
these songs are better suited to the Christian music market.
Marty’s producer, Mark Carman anticipated such
the decision was made to cover Bill
Monroe’s Workin’ On a Building, (a
Country Music Foundation favorite, no
doubt), Trace Adkins, Jimmy Fortune and T. Graham Brown were recruited
Marty on vocals.
decision to include He’s Still My Little Man (Matty’s Song)
as one of the tracks on
this 10-sided seems strange.If you feel
like you’ve the song before, I feel like I’ve reviewed it before.
right:It’s was on Marty’s last CD, At His Best.
truly at his best when zealotry does not
override the message of inspiration as with I’ve
Seen What He Can Do and He’s Still
Doing Miracles Today.These songs
are in your face without being offensive.
With God at a Guilty Distance is another song
that causes the listener to think (though it isn’t manipulative or
cloying as some
of these songs are, again in spots).
Get Me, like You
Up My Life, can be interpreted a couple of different ways.The latter was actually a statement of
religious faith written so that if its true meaning was not understood
for a good, commercial love song.I suspect Raybon and his co-writer, Barry
Hutchens had the same idea in mind as the late Joe Brooks when he wrote
Standing on a
Garrett Morgan is an
independent Americana/country artist and songwriter currently living in
Texas native, Garrett’s EP showcases both his gritty voice
thoughtful, relationship-inspired lyrics (every one of these songs is a
acquaints listeners with a woman who exudes confidence and seems to
have it all
Then there’s troubled,
prayerful, Kacey experiencing the
pain of rejection
Our protagonist is clearly
enamored of Sugar, perhaps accounting
for two renditions (the finale on this handful of songs is an acoustic
of the song), though not in succession.Morgan has some words of comfort and advice for Sirena,
who embarks from “the middle of nowhere” via “a bus to California,”
unable to shed her disappointment, while the title song is yet another
song rendered as an introspective metaphor about life at the
A good mix from an
Rating *** 1/2
Nearly eight years after her debut
as an E! ”reality” series (Love is in
the Heir) star, Princess Ann Claire, the London-born granddaughter
Princess Shams of Iran’s Pahlavi dynasty and the late Shah of Iran’s
professionally drops her royal title, comes to Nashville and trades her
for a debut album.
As I listened to Honkytonk
Princess, all of the above
was news to me.The CD’s title was not a
tip off, since its only significance to me was that it was the title
this 12 song collection.Only when I
later read the project’s liner notes and played the accompanying,
and one-quarter minute-long “bonus DVD featuring never-before-seen
footage of the making of the record: the road from TV to reality” was I
up to speed on this “celebrity” whom I thought was another new, unknown
vying for my attention.
Any project that has Bob Tur’s backing, as
does according to the liner notes and DVD credits, is worthy of my
consideration, but when an artist doesn’t adequately explain the
thanks a plastic surgeon by name and acknowledges her “corporate
a reviewer justified in asking if this is just another instance of a
carpetbagger (though one who is now a naturalized American citizen), in
case a princess (with all of sense of entitlement that title suggests)
expecting Music Row to give her, pardon the expression, the royal
Again, having heard the CD with none of these
prejudicial thoughts to ponder, as a lyric-lover, I was struck by the
production that, while creative at times, at others renders some of the
lyrics unintelligible.With no
lyrics list provided, at times I
picking up on only bits and pieces of what some of these songs are
Better Girl is the CD’s first singe and video. It is a good, radio-friendly upbeat
To Mexico might initially have eyes rolling- like the
world needs another song in the Jimmy Buffett- Kenny Chesney tradition.Yet how can a listener not love the line
expressing the wish to “maybe catch a glimpse” of Chesney “without his
Twain fans will also enjoy Go With Me as a line in
suggests Ann Claire wonders not what would Jesus do but rather “what
of Recorded Comedy Music
on his 2009 three-disc box set (pictured above) of the same title, Ray
releases a nine-disc, 108-song recorded encyclopedia of comedic
This review is of the latter's 12-song
sampler, heavily-laden as it is
with novelty songs.
The opener, a reprise of Spike Jones'
signature song, Cocktails for Two
Arthur Johnson and Sam Coslow), should carry a warning: Don't listen
while driving! (I made the mistake of doing so. Though,
having been familiar with the original, I should have been prepared for
the cacophony of sound that might have resulted in an accident, and
perhaps an arrest for distracted driving, had I not instantaneously
recognized the sirens et all I was hearing did not necessitate my
pulling over and that all I needed to do in the moment was to relax,
enjoy the craziness and slightly lower the volume!)
Following Ray's rendition of that Big
Band era hit, Stevens treats us
to his delivery and slight retitling of another (with apologies to Tim
Spencer): Cigareets and Whusky and
Wild Wild Women.
Ray evokes a favorite childhood memory
(though this may be the first
time I've heard the complete lyrics) with his interpretation of Lonnie
Donegan's Does Your Chewing Gum Lose
Its Flavour (On the Bedpost Overnight), written by Marty Bloom,
Ernest Breur and Billy Rose.
And why wait for Halloween to listen to
Stevens' cover of Gene Simmons'
(the solo singer, not KISS' front man Chaim Weitz) Haunted House (written by Robbert
Other highlights? Ray's
performances of all of the songs here are
great, but the other particular sampler standouts are his takes on such
rock era standards as Mr. Custer,
Searchin', and They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha Ha,
as well as Stevens' standout version of the George Jones classic, White Lightnin' (written by the Big
Stacy's earlier online
Music & Video Reviews
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