You know, there are things that just make you happy when you see them or in this case, hear them. That was my immediate and very first reaction when I popped the new release from Darius Rucker, True Believers, into my cd player. Now, I must admit I have been like a kid in a candy store waiting for this record. Yes. I have a big man crush on Mr. Rucker…always have and I have no shame in admitting that whatsoever. I can still remember exactly where I was when I first heard "Let Her Cry" pouring out of my speakers (thank you Tanna Guthrie from the now defunct KY-102) and have been hooked ever since. Mr. Rucker simply has "that" vocal quality that is easy, effortless, smooth, earnest and just damn pleasing to hear. There is not a voice like it in the music world today!
True Believers is Mr. Rucker's fourth solo album release; his third country album and it is "all that and a bag of chips." Mr. Rucker's voice emotes and shares the stories in the lyrics with tremendous heart, an inspirational depth of soul and a gentle…yet intense when need be…and flowing manner. Mr. Rucker is a man who pours every ounce of himself into each track and leaves nothing to chance. He is also a singer who brings an insane (this is good) sense of joy to his craft. That joy is felt by each and every listener as one cannot help but be carried away in the energy and emotion of every note. His music is just so damn personable! It's like sitting in the room with him and just hanging out. So easy; so tireless; so un-selfish; so fun!
The timing of this release could not be better. There is not much better than driving down the road, windows down, hair flying and blasting the music up to "11!" That infectious sense of happiness is covered well in several tracks on this record. Oh, the ballads are equally represented and appreciated, however, as summer is upon us the up tempo tracks blow out that pent up winter energy that has been dying to get out. Leading the way is the records second single, "Wagon Wheel." If that does not get you smiling, singing and banging the steering wheel, then please get to the closest ER; you have no pulse! He enlists none other than Lady A in the background to make it feel even better. The lead single and title track, "True Believers," an ode to his wife Beth, has that same energy and does a nice job of setting the tone of the record. One of my favorite tracks perfectly captures the days of my youth. "Radio" paints the picture of my carefree (mostly) days as a teenager in Iowa. Is it just me or does the track entitled "Take me Home" remind you of something from Elton John? The production just sounds like something Mr. John would create.
If you are headed to the lake for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, do yourself and your friends a favor, throw True Believers in the player, drop the windows, open the sun roof and crank the music. I cannot think of a better way to kickoff summer (unofficially) than with friends, family and Darius Rucker!
Now, for all of us country music/George Strait fans, that is all it takes for us to jump in the truck, pop in the Pure Country soundtrack or (insertyourfavoriteGeorgeStraitalbumhere) and break all land speed records to the local music store (IF you can find one) to buy that record. After listening to Love is Everything (over and over and over and over) I would advise that you avoid all Silverado's, F-150's, Dakota's and Tundra's on the roads of Kansas City for a week or so; they will be on a mission ("…from God") and you will NOT want to get in their way. With the release of Love is Everything, Mr. Strait continues his reign (lifelong, mayhaps?) as the "King of Country Music" and there is no end in sight (good!) for this living legend monarchy.
The difficulty of writing anything about Mr. Strait and/or his music is what do I have to say that has not already been written? The music, the awards, the #1 singles, the clothing, his devilishly handsome good looks have all been well documented and being repetitive is anathema for any writer. What I can tell you is that with these thirteen tracks, Mr. Strait continues to give us great, solid country music that is his very own. His rich baritone-tenor is easy on the ears, tranquil and as good as it has ever been! EVER been, imo. That's saying something for a man who began making music over 30 years ago. Getting better with age is not just a cliché here; Mr. Strait is and always has been the real deal when it comes to singing. Additionally, Mr. Strait has always been a tremendous storyteller, however, with this record, that story telling ability has reached an entirely new level. His innate ability to take simple words and paint colorful, meaningful and honest pictures it simply at its best with this record.
Mr. Strait has tackled the love theme and taken it to all new heights with Love is Everything. Each track relates to love gained; love lost and love thriving; this is a very consistent record in its theme and composition. Mr. Strait enlists his Ace in the Hole band to give us the quality sound that comes with a George Strait record. The continued use of the steel guitar and fiddle more than any other country music artist today is pure sweetness to the ears of us country music purists; nobody does that better than George Strait.
Mr. Strait, on this record, has given us poignancy, orneriness and fun in a little over 48 minutes. There is his trademark Texas swing music ("I Thought I Heard my Heart Sing"); a sentimental waltz ("Blue Melodies"); and some terrific introspection ("When the Credits Roll") as he, sadly, winds down the touring portion of his career. Make no mistake about it; Mr. Strait has vowed that he will continue to make music after his "Cowboy Rides Away" tour wraps up sometime in 2014. THAT is a good thing!
The thirteen tracks on Love is Everything are some of the finest, purest, listening country music you will hear this year. What else would you expect? "It's George-freakin'-Strait!"
It hardly seems like it has been six years since Lady Antebellum (Lady A) made their debut singing with Jim Brickman. Six years, two marriages…congratulations to Dave and Hillary (and a child on the way for Hillary)… five albums (excluding a Christmas album), multiple awards and one could say that Lady A has already had a career that most artists could only dream about. With the release of their fifth album, Golden, Lady A just keeps going; stronger and easily as ever.
I have been a fan of Lady A since their introduction to country music back in 2007. The first time I heard "…and you don't hold my dreams" from their debut single "Love Don't Live Here," I was hooked! With Golden, Lady A continues their solid, soulful harmonies and emotional relevant lyrics. They sound more mature than ever, imo. They hit the usual subject matter evenly and effortlessly; their voices blend so well together and not just in pitch and timbre but also as it weaves through the construct of the song itself. The vocal transitions are so seamless that it is hard to pick out where Charles Kelley's voice begins and Hillary Scott's voice ends and vice versa. The two of them are like a long time couple who are able to finish each other's sentences without missing a beat as to their meaning.
I had read where this record, Golden, was supposed to have a distinct southern rock sound in its composition. While southern rock is heard throughout, that description does not do the record justice. I also hear other influences coming together as well. For example, the Tom Petty-esque first track, "Get to Me" and the soulful sound that is kind of reminiscent of U2 on the second track (and new radio release) "Goodbye Town" and you have a very well-rounded and great sounding record that will keep you listening until you do not realize the record has finished playing. Mr. Kelley's vocal delivery has an uncanny way of simply cutting to the core of the emotion and making you feel every gut-wrenching emotion right along with him with a vividness and reality that is unlike any other singer in Nashville today. That ability is well-represented on the album's title, track, "Golden."
With their new release, Golden, Lady A continues with their trademark harmonies and the solid sound that they have come to be known for. Golden comes across as effortless, real and a great piece of work that is smooth and "easy like Sunday morning."
What I wouldn't give to live life on a rock! I love my family, friends and playing music for a living but with nary a second thought I would leave it all and go find my place in the sun and surf, especially with the crazy "spring" weather we've had this week in Kansas City. I have a better idea as to why Kenny Chesney chooses to live on that island with his new release, Life on a Rock. To begin with, this is not a commercial album in the sense of his past releases. Mr. Chesney has stated that these songs will not get much radio airplay…and that is ok; sometimes an artist just has to do something for themselves; they just need to cleanse the soul with the primal urge to scream from the top of their lungs that which is bottled up inside of them. With Life on a Rock, Mr. Chesney has cleansed his soul, opened himself up and given us an authentic, genuine and emotional look at his Life on a Rock.
First and foremost, I love these kinds of records so you will not get any complaint from me on its content. Life on a Rock picks up right where his Songs from an Old Blue Chair album left off. In my mind, that record was one of his absolute best. Again, it did not receive much airplay but it was chalk full of songs that had deep, personal and emotional meaning that when you close your eyes you can feel running through your veins. I like music that moves me and makes me feel something. Mr. Chesney has taken inventory of not only his life but the life that surrounds him and created a piece of work that is moving, deeply personal, introspective, emotional, and thoughtful; thoughtful in the sense of trying to piece it all together and figure it all out.
There are too many moments in these tracks to single out favorites. This is a record that needs to be heard as a whole in order to really gain its full effect. I would suggest a glass of wine and outdoors surrounded by nature. These tracks will provoke great thought and provide for moments of intense and stimulating conversation surrounding what is real and important instead of that which is phony and transparent. The lyrics are heartfelt, brutally honest and real; I believe we can all see ourselves in this music. The production value is exactly what it needs to be; simple and unimposing but a graceful yet collaborative companion to the songs meaning. Think of two lovers as they stroll, shoeless, together on a beach at sunset, holding hands as the wave's crash around them; oblivious to the world around them but completely in tune and syncopation with one another.
We are all just trying to do the best we can in this world and Mr. Chesney has captured that essence of life extremely well with Life on a Rock.