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Joe Matthews

Stoney LaRue - Aviator

By my own admission, I am such a novice when it comes to Texas, dirt and outlaw country music. However, in my own defense, I am not as knowledgeable as my friend, colleague and Kansas City Limits host, Justin Neighbor, is with this genre of music. He has never led me astray and I am ALWAYS hooked when he hands me a new record and says simply listen. And listen I did; a lot. Easy. That is the word I keep coming back to when listening to “Aviator,” the new record by the legendary Stoney LaRue. Just easy. So easy…and I mean that in the most respectful way; nothing is easy when creating art but this record just feels and plays so easily on the ear and the mind. These are easy melodies, easy harmonies, easy pictures. Mr. LaRue makes it so effortless with this record; the music, lyrics, style and presentation flow easily together from start to finish. The through line never wavers from the consistent, smooth and easy road it leads you down. It is a record to listen to over and over without much effort but for simple musical pleasure. However, be warned; you will fall easily into the grips of the music, its stories and the pictures these songs paint. You will lose yourself, subconsciously, keeping time with the beat in your own favorite way; toe tapping; steering wheel thumping; air drumming; head-bobbing. “Aviator” is simply an easy, infectious, “journeyfyul” (I’m an extravert and allowed to make up words) and beautiful composition from top to bottom. A thousand thank you’s, Justin, for keeping this music in my head. I have slowly but surely become a convert. It is pure; honest; real and so very, very good! These artists love to play music just for the sake of paying music…and there is no better reason to do your art than because you love to do it. Do yourself a favor and start your own conversion along with me. Listen to 106.5 The Wolf ( every Sunday night from 8pm-11pm for Justin Neighbor, Kansas City Limits and artists like Stoney LaRue!
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Garth Brooks - Man Against Machine

It is probably wise to not get in the way of a man on a mission. With the release of his newest studio album, Garth has something to say and boy does he say it! “Man Against Machine,” his 10th studio album…hard to believe isn’t it? Thinking of all the Garth songs and they all come from just ten albums. Shakespeare said “brevity is the soul of wit.” Mr. Brooks has been away so long, I’m sure he had a lot of stuff all pent up and needed to get it out. With this release he does just that; and in true Garth Brooks fashion he does it…with all due respect to Mr. George Strait…better than anyone else in country music! There is SO much to love on this record. Garth gives us so many flavors here; big, purposeful, pissed off, blue-collar anthem with the title track, “Man Against Machine”…I kept thinking back to the Apple computer ads form a few years back that featured “Big Brother.” Country music tells stories and Garth Brooks is absolutely in his element here; if you do not tear up while listening to “Mom,” you simply are not human. That song alone is worth the price of admission here. Download/burn/play it for your mom. Today. Tomorrow. Everyday! Fatherhood has been very good to Mr. Brooks. Every parent lives and breathes every syllable in “Send ‘Em Down the Road.” Texas swing is alive and well on one of my all-time favorite tracks; “Rodeo & Juliet.” No disrespect to Mr. Brooks, however, if you close your eyes you hear George Strait singing that tune. Mr. Brooks nails the friend zone with “You Wreck Me.” Mr. Brooks has gone to great lengths to paint honest, vivid and riveting pictures on each and every track. I could not stop listening and I’m sure I annoyed my passengers by my constant push of the repeat button. Melody, harmony, pictures, stories, great emotion; everything you expect in country music wrapped up in fourteen tracks. This album is guaranteed to be in every country music fan’s stocking this Christmas! If not, please go away as you are NOT a country music fan! We have not heard a record like this in many, many, many years. Keith Urban said it best when he said everybody has to up their game now that Garth Brooks is back in the fold. I agree and pay homage to Messr Shakespeare and Mr. Brooks when I say, simply, “Man Against Machine” is a keeper!
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Luke Bryan - Crash My Party

I first remember meeting Luke Bryan during a radio station tour visit back in late 2006/early 2007 when The Wolf was but a small, un-weaned pup. He sat less than 10' from me telling us about himself and sang songs from his first as yet-to-be released album. After he finished singing "All My Friends" for all of us, I looked over to the Music Director at the time and mouthed "are we playing him?" He lowered his eyebrows in a semi-scowl and shook his head, emphatically, no. That decision has to rank right up there with the Babe Ruth trade as one of the biggest boneheaded moves of the century. Luke Bryan was destined to be a star and those of us in that room all knew it was going to happen. With the release of his fourth record Crash My Party, he will be skyrocketing to uber-stardom!

Mr. Bryan has stated that this new album is better than his last record, Tailgates & Tanlines (T&T). Please note that the strength of that record brought him the coveted ACM Entertainer of the Year award for 2013. If he believes this record is better than T&T, then I would dust off the shelf where that first award is standing; its twin will be arriving in the spring. T&T was also nominated for Album of the Year. Crash My Party will be nominated as well and if I may be so bold, just give him the award now. After listening all afternoon, I am of the firm and un-wavering belief that Mr. Bryan is 100% correct in his assertion. Crash My Party is THAT good of a record. Mr. Bryan just makes country music look easy! He tells the stories with an un-assuimng, honest, matter-of-fact quality; it feels like he just lived those songs yesterday or last night or last month. The spiritual and personal connection he has with the material is uncanny and the cornerstone of his tremendous...and continued...success. Mr. Bryan lives and breathes this music and brings such a conversational quality in its presentation. Mr. Bryan is also a romantic at heart. Yes, men, he is THAT guy; handsome AND romantic. Guys like him will ALWAYS get the girl over you and I. Damn it!

Crash My Party offers us tracks written by some of the best songwriting names in country music today; Ashley Gorley, Dallas Davidson and Rhett Akins just to name a few. Mr. Bryan is credited with co-writing two of the albums thirteen tracks. The production values of the band blend superbly with the vocals. The musicianship is tremendous and the playing is top notch. The usual subjects of country music here; love, love lost, partying and loss. Mr. Bryan just pulls you into the story and the next thing you know, you are standing there right next to him as he paints the picture. All thirteen of these tracks are radio ready for me; Program Director's across the world are going to lose sleep at night with this record. ALL are well-written with great hooks and melodies that will leave you humming them all day long. My favorites are too may to mention but: "Roller Coaster" (the visuals are so real and true), "We Run This Town" (For anyone who grew up in a small town), "Drink A Beer" (note to my friends and family, THIS says it all and MUST be adhered to when I leave this earth), "Play it Again" (anyone who has sat by a radio waiting for THAT song), "Blood Brothers" (Camraderie and loyalty cannot be measured) and finally "Dirt Road Diary." (Here Mr. Bryan is at his most honest and you know he is just one of the best guys in the world. GREAT SONG!)

Whew. That was a lot of words to say that Crash My Party is ONE. GREAT. ALBUM! Luke Bryan continues his ascension to becoming one of the "great ones" of country music. We all knew that when we sat around that room a few years ago; none of us wanted him to stop playing or leave. Per usual, singer-songwriters put it best with their words. Mr. Bryan does just that in the liner notes of this record. "Dallas Davidson, thanks for helping me put our hometown way of life into words..." That sums the entirety of Luke Bryan. I have apretty good feeling that he would not mind one bit if we all crashed his party in hometown Leesburg, Georgia. I have a feeling the music would be blasting, the food plentiful and the dixie cups overflowing!

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