New Release Report: April 7, 2015 for this week starts off with Indie country icon Ray Wylie Hubbard, country legend John Conlee and Rounder artist Pokey LaFarge delivering new projects this week and they're joined by new releases from Shania Twain, Will Hoge, Toby Keith, Kristian Bush and Thomas Rhett.
Will Hoge - Small Town Dreams (Cumberland Recordings/Thirty Tigers)
The songwriter of Eli Young Band’s breakout hit “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” works with a new producer, Marshall Altman (Eric Paslay, Frankie Ballard) and comes off confident as ever while having just a bit more of his native Nashville’s southern twang apparent on this largely country/rock affair. Co-writers include Paslay, Chris Stapleton, Gary Allan, Adam Hood and Hillary Lindsey on the eleven track Small Town Dreams (the title is taken from the great charting single “Middle Of America.” Anyone who has left their small hometown only to return with fond memories will relate to “Growing Up Around Here.” Nostalgia weaves throughout the record on standout like “Little Bitty Dreams,” “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To,” etc. The powerful ballads “Just Up The Road,” “Guitar Or A Gun” and “The Last Thing I Needed” are amongst the strong Small Town Dreams’ other stand-outs. Honestly, there’s nary a bad track on the record.
Shania Twain - Still The One (Live From Las Vegas) DVD & Blu-ray (Mercury/Eagle Rock)
This is a stunning display of the Las Vegas show and showcases the superstar in her element with a uniquely Las Vegas show. With nearly all of her hits performed throughout the show, the DVD is one that longtime fans will want to own, particularly since she’s going to end her live performance schedule with a farewell tour in 2015.
John Conlee - Classics 2 (Rose Colored Records)
The iconic vocalist remains stellar on his classics like “Domestic Life” and “Love In The Real World” and excels on great new songs like “Stuff That Works,” “A Lot of Things Different,” “Bread And Water” and “Walkin’ Behind The Star.” Fans who long to hear country music of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s should find Classics 2 to their liking. "Walk Behind The Star" is a great song that honors the police who so often these days get hardly any honor or respect while "Stuff That Works" is brilliantly written as is "Bread And Water."
Kristian Bush - Southern Gravity (StreamSound Records)
The other half of Sugarland releases his own solo record and while Jennifer Nettles was always the mouthpiece for Sugarland, it doesn’t take long to see the DNA and musical threads of the band were found in the bountiful musical pen held by Bush. He may not be the best vocalist technically but Kristian Bush knows how to use his voice not unlike how Bono of U2 uses his own voice. The album features the Top 20 hit (and lyrical gem) “Trailer Hitch” and stunningly melodic and future-hit worthy title track (which is very Zac Brown Band-like). If radio spins the record, they’ll have another star on their hands with Kristian Bush. The songs are all that good. The future hits include the previously mentioned tunes, “Make Another Memory,” second single “Light Me Up,” “Waiting On An Angel,” “Walk Tall” and “Sweet Love.” It’s rare for a guy who is not really known as the voice of a band to breakout as a solo artist, particularly in country music, but if anything, Southern Gravity proves that Kristian Bush has earned this chance.
Pokey LaFarge - Something In The Water (Rounder)
A talent unlike virtually any other in all of music, Poke LaFarge is an old-school delight. He’s as much a throwback to the old world as The Mavericks are. He makes music that is just jovial and fun to listen to and gloriously outside of the mainstream. Standouts include “Underground” “Actin’ A Fool,” the title track, “Wanna Be Your Man” and “Bad Girl.” If you like music without labels, give Something In The Water a listen, it’s well worth it.
Balos Family - Built Upon The Rock (Life Line Records)
The large family of nine brings a unique approach to southern Gospel music and they do it with a bluegrass feel with the 10 tracks that make up Built Upon The Rock. The family wrote all but two of the tracks and share the good word with tracks like “Cross To The Other Side,” the title track, “Bloom Where You’re Planted,” “There’s A Place” and “Every Soul.” It’s not for everyone but anyone who loves southern Gospel and bluegrass should give Built Upon The Rock a chance.
Ray Wylie Hubbard - The Ruffian’s Misfortune (Bordello Records)
The iconic treasure of the Texas Music scene is much like Kristofferson in that he’s not a gifted vocalist but for what he lacks in voice he makes up for in the kind of lyrics and music that makes you sit and listen to the songs he writes. The great songs far outweigh anything else and blends story songs like Too Young Ripe, Too Young Rotten and hell raisers like “Chick Singer, Badass Rockin’.” He’s 68 but as ferocious as ever and proves it throughout The Ruffian’s Misfortune.
New singles include “Crash And Burn” from Thomas Rhett and “35 MPH Town” from Toby Keith.