Friday, October 2, 2015 brings a nice mix of modern country and roots music to the table with Bart Crow, Mike and the Moonpies, The Black Lillies, Lauren Alaina, Breelan Angel, Lauren Alaina and newcomers (to us) like Jeanne Jolly and Hailey Whitters among the newcomers this week.
Mike And The Moonpies - Mockingbird (Independent)
This talented six-piece band is fronted by lead singer and songwriter Mike Harmeier and he’s both a strong country singer but also a strong, strong songwriter. Songs like “Never Leaving Texas" and “I Don’t Love You, ” (a duet with Carson McHone), are graceful with their lyrics and melodies while “Say It Simply,” “Mockingbird” and “Song In Here” are all strong honky tonkers. This is a band which blends revered flavors of country (Honky Tonk, Outlaw, Countrypolitan) and gives them a modern spin. This is a record not to be missed.
Jeanne Jolly - A Place To Run (Ramblewood Records)
If you are a fan of the strong adult country music from the likes of Striking Matches, Joy Williams and Holly Williams, you’re sure to dig Jeanne Jolly’s A Place To Run. The 8 track album features strong opener “Matches And Gasoline (which showcases her Emily West-like vocals), single “California” and the stunning “The Dreamer.” These are songs that linger longer than the mainstream songs but the talent here is as good as anything on the mainstream and the songs may be even better (see “Circles In The Sky”).
Ted Russell Kamp - The Low and Lonesome Sound (PoMo Records)
The talented writer and producer delivers his latest collection of songs, the eight track The Low and Lonesome Sound and features him playing just his bass and singing. It’s a raw, lean collection of strong songs like “Rainy Day Valentine,” “A Whole Lot of You And Me” and Townes Van Zant’s “Tecumseh Valley.” A well-regarded bassist in shooter Jennings bands, Kamp delivers a stunning version of “Another Love Song,” a song which he co-wrote with Dylan Altman and Eric Paslay. There’s a groove and funk in the song that proves that bass (where the title comes from) can be a lead instrument if one wanted it to be.
Breelan Angel - Diamond In A Rhinestone World (MisBehavin’ Records)
Working with songwriter/artist Trent Willmon in the producer’s chair, Angel runs through seven new tracks, with five of them featuring her as a co-writer. The album features strong songs that recall Miranda Lambert’s early music, songs like “Dancin’ With The Devil,” “Nothing Cuts Like A Diamond,” and “Coal Digger.” “Drinkin’ ‘Round It” and “Rhinestone World” also showcase Breelan’s growth as an artist on this EP and with Willmon’s strong production, Breelan Angel is ready to have hits on the radio and earn another level of fans with Diamond in a Rhinestone World.
Lauren Alaina - Lauren Alaina EP (19 Entertainment/Interscope/Mercury Nashville)
The former American Idol finalist returns with her first extended showcase of new music since Wildflower, her well-received debut from four years ago. This record showcases the nearly 21 year old’s growth in that time. She’s now fully in control of her voice and what kind of music she wants to sing and blends her country sounds with her pop-leaning influences to recall another Idol, Kelly Clarkson. “Road Less Traveled,” in fact, could be both a country and pop hit just as could “Next Boyfriend,” her lead single from the project. The former was co-written with pop star Meghan Trainor so it comes by those bonafides honestly. Lauren, for her part, co-wrote every one of these songs, again showcasing her growth. “Holding The Other” and “Painting Pillows” are both strong story songs while “History” is a fun song used by ESPN for their college football telecasts. This EP shows an artist ready to break out.
The Black Lillies - Hard To Please (Attack Monkey Productions/Thirty Tigers)
Fronted by Cruz Contreras, The Black Lillies have an album with strong harmony, lyrics and melody, from opening rocker (and title track) “Hard To Please” to the slowly-building closer “Fade,” there’s nothing to dislike about Hard To Please. it’s a record (their first with an outside producer) that expands what the Americana stalwarts have been known for. “Mercy,” “Bound To Roam,” “Desire” and “Broken Shore” are among the band’s standouts on one of the coolest records released in 2015.
Hailey Whitters - Black Sheep (Carnival Recording Company)
This Iowa native has a brilliantly-produced collection of 10 songs on her hands with her debut record Black Sheep. Sounding like a cross between Lee Ann Womack, Natalie Maines and Kacey Musgraves, Hailey Whitters has — Like Carnival label mate Logan Brill — a chance for stardom. Her vocal phrasing and song choices are strong (songwriters on the record include Mando Saenz and Adam Wright along with co-writes between Whitters, Maraca Berg, Wright, Kelsey Anna and Stephanie Lambring among ‘em). Opener “Long Come To Jesus” is a song waiting to be covered by someone like Womack or Trisha Yearwood or Miranda Lambert if not a hit for Whitters herself while “Late Bloomer” and “Low All Afternoon” are some of the sharpest songwriting you’ll hear anywhere and both were self-written by Whitters. “People Like You” is a strong story song while “Pocket Change” is damn fine fun with the title track “Black Sheep” pointed, introspective storytelling. This album is one of the most starling albums to hear because she was previously unknown to us but Hailey Whitters has the chance to be a huge huge star.
Bart Crow - The Parade (Beryn Art Records/Thirty Tigers)
Talented singer/songwriter returns with this 11 track collection of standout country/rockers like “Dear Music,” his ode to the reason he makes music no matter the ancillary costs, “Baby Won’t You Come Back Home,” “Vapor Trails” and Top 10 Texas Music chart hit “Life Comes At You Fast.” Crow has long held a strong way with words and it showcases time and time again on The Parade, his first release under the Thirty Tigers banner. (Note: cover art here is for the single).