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Phil Pritchett - High Tide in the HeartlandPhil Pritchett & The Full Band - High Tide in the Heartland
I am a newcomer to the music of Phil Pritchett, but it did not take long for Pritchett’s eccentric brand of folksy-rock to make a fan out of me. High Tide in the Heartland is Pritchett’s most recent offering and takes the listener on a brief but enjoyable ride off the beaten path. I found the informal, multi-dimensional quality of the songs appealing, especially when compared to the diluted, mechanical filler that has taken the airwaves hostage. The first track, “Song of the Doorman,” sets the pace of the album by showcasing the union of Pritchett’s impressive lyrics and the collective cadence of the band, making it easily one of the best songs on the album. The second track, “She Don’t Even Know the Real Me,” is a catchy tune with a little impromptu organ. The tempo slows down on “Blood Warm Rain,” a perplexing dirge and the least enjoyable track on the album. This song has potential, but the enigmatic lyrics cloud whatever message Pritchett is attempting to convey. I felt Pritchett should have gone back to the drawing board on this song and tweaked the lyrics a little. Things take a turn for the better on the title track “High Tide in the Heartland,” a compelling anthem with a rich, harmonious chorus. “Released” is Pritchett’s take on the Bob Dylan tune, “I Shall be Released,” and he does a fine job of creating a charming melody, although it took a few turns in the player before this song grew on me. Pritchett naturally slips into mimicking the quirky inflections Dylan is famously known for without sounding contrived. “Mary Had a Baby Boy” is a casual, lighthearted take on the Nativity story that conveys the doubts that must have flooded Joseph’s mind about his wife’s conception. The foreboding lyrics in “Temptation’s Gate” are some of Pritchett’s best. But the jolting, mid-80s electronica sounds that strike midway through the song are an acquired taste. I think this track would have been more satisfying minus the sci-fi-synth proclivities. The introspective chorus on “The Best Part of a Man” is certain to resonate with any listener, as it deals with the difficulty and emotional aspects of intimate relationships. “Locks” brings us back into the rock-and-roll fold, with its halting cadence and fuzzy vocal distortion. Pritchett’s guttural yelps can be overheard in the background, which helps cement the raw image of a bunch of guys playing in a garage somewhere. The album closes with the languid, piano-buoyed track “Where Do You Go When You Sleep at Night,” an obscure lullaby running less than two and a half minutes. With the exception of a few aforementioned tracks that could have benefited from minor adjustments, and a few instances where Pritchett’s vocals are a bit dramatic, the general content of this album was pleasantly competent. I think Pritchett’s proficiency for crafting songs will continue to propel him and his band into the spotlight, so long as Pritchett’s quest for uniqueness does not supersede the absolute quality of the music. (Review by Elizabeth Planner)
Matt Burns Band - Find In MeMatt Burns Band - Find In Me
The Matt Burns Band debut CD, Find In Me, is making noise across the TXRD music scene and the album hasn’t even been officially released. This CD was produced by Texas guitar legend Rodney Pyeatt (currently lead guitarist for Stoney LaRue) and engineered by the talented John Moore. The album has 11 extraordinary tracks, 9 of which were written by Matt Burns himself. “More To Life” was written by James Garcia and “Back By My Side” was co-written by Matt Burns, Blake Myers, and Mitch McBain of the Texas High Life Band. With Matt Burns on lead vocals and a c ou s t i c guitar, Chris Mayse on bass, James Garcia on lead gui- tar and harmony vocals, and Charlie Lisk on drums, this Texas band won’t be a well kept secret for long. The Matt Burns Band brings a lot of talent to the stage and a totally unique sound to the Red Dirt music scene. I like that this album has a variety of styles of songs–a few tunes that are up beat and few that are so deep that one can’t help but sit back and think. “Wouldn’t Be My Fault” is one great song of many from the album that caught my attention. I spoke with Matt about “Wouldn’t Be My Fault,” and asked him why it seems to be a crowd favorite. He said, “It’s one of those songs that has been able to grab people and reach them on a personal level. That is one of the coolest feelings—to have a song that affects people in such a way. Every night we play that song, I watch the people. By the last chorus, people that have never heard the song before are singing the words back to us. It doesn’t get much better than that.” Well, he is right. It doesn’t get better than that. This song is already creating a storm across the Red Dirt music scene. The title track, “Find In Me,” caught my attention as well. Not because it was the last song written for the album, but because it has a lot of thought and meaning to it. If one listens closely, they will be able to hear Steve Littleton of Stoney LaRue’s band. Steve lends his talent by playing keys on this and other tracks on this album. I really enjoy the Matt Burns Band style of music. It’s alt-rock meets altcountry and is a must-add to the collection. The Matt Burns Band has shared the bill with Texas Music greats Gary P. Nunn, Honeybrowne, Wade Bowen, Stoney LaRue, Bleu Edmondson, Brandon Jenkins, and Aaron Watson. The Matt Burns Band is cruising their way to the top and shows no signs of taking their foot off the throttle. It’s just a matter of time when the Matt Burns Band will be electrifying audiences nationwide. If ever met with the opportunity, I highly advise all self-proclaimed music lovers to check out the Matt Burns Band live. They put on a great, energetic show that will keep an audience on their toes and have them heading for the parking lot still singing their songs. The album Find In Me is slated for release in early February 2007. (Review by AJ Castillo)
Todd Snider - The Devil You KnowRyan Bingham - Dead Horses
Within the first moments of listening to the opening track “Big Country Sky,” with its squeaky fiddle and clunky dobro, paired with the softly pondering chorus “Just another sacred sky/Make you wanna grow wings and fly,” I knew this would be an album to hold in high esteem. Produced by Marc Ford (formerly of the Black Crowes), the natural ease of this album is the epitome of Western-themed, country-folk music. Bingham’s gravely voice and introspective lyrical style, paired with a cast of outstanding musicians, makes this album a big league contender, despite the near, but quickly eroding, anonymity of Bingham and his crew. The absolute jewel of the album is the track, “Southside of Heaven,” which first appeared on Bingham’s 2002 effort, “Wishbone Saloon.” The reworked track, with its tinge of harmonica and vivid lyrics, harmoniously transports the listener to the dusty, barren, reaches of West Texas. “Money can’t buy my soul/cause it comes from a hard-earned place,” is just a sampling of the lyrical ingenuity that appears throughout the duration of the album. No, this isn’t your average “honky-tonk-badonkadonk” tripe. “Sunrise” is another gem, treating us to a melodious acoustic guitar/fiddle instrumental and several tempo changes. Bingham certainly has a soft spot for brooding, transient fare, as evidenced by the tracks, “Long Way from Georgia” (another repeat from the Wishbone album) and “Ghost of Travelin’ Jones,” where Bingham warbles “tell me the secrets of an endless road.” The only disappointment on the album is the tune, “Borocho’s Station.” The casual, Mariachi guitar plucking is fine on its own, but things get a little cartoonish when paired with Bingham’s muffled, indiscernible Tex- Mex mutterings. This sudden departure does not seem to coincide with the aggregate ambience of the album. Even as a stand-alone track, there is nothing particularly enamoring about it. Getting back on par, Bingham treats us to “Don’t Wait for Me,” another humdinger, but his vocals are a little too raspy on this track, and I felt myself silently pleading for Bingham to push his voice a little more. “Other Side” and “Dollar a Day” are two brief, pleasant, musical pieces that provide a counterbalance to some of the heavier, introspective songs. Overall, this album greatly exceeded my expectations, and it would be a phenomenal asset to anyone looking to enrich their music library. I predict that Ryan Bingham will become a staple on the Texas music circuit. (Review by Elizabeth Planner)
Tyler McCumber Band - Catch MeTyler McCumber Band - Catch Me
From Catch Me’s opening song, “White Trash Farm,” which is destined to become a classic, through the album’s closer, “Lemons,” a sad goodbye to a friend who was taken too early, the Tyler McCumber Band took me to places I hadn’t recently been. Frontman McCumber’s voice is gritty, real, and emotive. I feel his pain, his joy (though there’s not much of that), and his sadness when he sings. Tyler’s had a rough life, and this album allows us to live it with him, albeit, fortunately for us, from the comfort of our favorite listening areas. All the songs on the record were written by Tyler McCumber, with the exception of “Hollis, Oklahoma,” which was penned by Wayne Thomason, and proves that McCumber can handle other writers’ material as well as he can handle his own. The songwriting appears to be quite simple, but I think you may find that, as you listen, your mind fills in the rest of the lyrical iceberg not visible on the surface. For example, when Tyler sings “Daddy had a 10-acre white trash farm – I was never hungry and always warm – I was raised Christian so I know when I die where I’m gonna go,” you will actually become the title character, Bo Jack Loomis, and understand where he’s been, what he’s faced in life, where he’s going. Like the very best fiction writers, McCumber infuses his songwriting with so much naked reality that it’s difficult not to relate to it – even if, in this case, you are like this city boy, and never even had a concept of a “white trash farm” before. Catch Me includes the requisite songs about leaving lovers behind, being dumped, and unrequited love, all of which are deftly handled. But the real strength of the album is in the songs that rip your guts out. “Uncle Sam’s Gun” is a moving antiwar/pro-troops song. “Windmill” achingly describes the lasting and therapeutic quality of happy memories, when sometimes that’s all you have left. And if you can put on your headphones and listen to “Lemons” all the way through without misting up, then you are tougher than this old cynic. Musically, if you want catchy guitar hooks, you got ‘em. The first is in the title track “Catch Me,” which is my choice to shoot up the singles charts. (That’s in my perfect little world where the best music actually makes it onto the radio.) The second guitar hook belongs to “Ghost,” and it is, in a word, badass. Produced expertly by red dirt rocker Mike McClure, Catch Me has a one-take quality that is perfect for this rough and ready band, which hails from the George West area, the same place another of my favorites, The Pear Ratz, call home. Much of the instrumentation on the record is provided by McClure and his bandmates, Eric Hansen on drums, and Red Dirt Hall of Famer Tom Skinner on bass. Kevin Webb slides in on steel, Chris Wiser tickles the organ keys, and multi-instrumentalist Travis Linville fills in the gaps. Tyler McCumber Band lead guitarist Trey McNiel also injects his expertise, while Camille Harp’s soulful voice rounds out the sound. Catch Me is one of those albums that can rock you out at a beer bash. But if you allow it to, Tyler McCumber’s songwriting can also take you through a whole range of emotions, maybe even help you examine some places inside yourself that you haven’t seen in a while. That’s a good thing … and so much cheaper than a shrink. (Review by Steve Circeo)

Britt Lloyd Band - UnlabeledBritt Lloyd Band - Unlabeled
As a fan of the Texas alt-country/rock genre, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of the debut offering from the Britt Lloyd Band. I am pleased to report that the band did not disappoint. Coming in at just under 50 minutes, their debut album, aptly titled Unlabeled, is a tightly wound set of songs that display the dynamic fusion of the band’s abilities and sound. Most of the songs were penned by vocalist and lead guitarist, Britt Lloyd, with the exception of “Day in, Day Out,” the collaborative effort of Lloyd and bass player, Chris Byrd, and “3 Ring Show,” written solely by Byrd. The first three tracks are energetic, melodic rock songs driven by Lloyd’s solid songwriting and pleasantly unrefined vocal styling. Byrd’s smooth, rhythmic bass and Thomas Van Arsdale’s well-timed beats balance out Lloyd heavy guitar riffs. The tempo slows down with the fourth track, “Rose and a Song,” which is an obligatory ode about an unrequited love. On the track “Broken Down” and on the hidden track, Britt Lloyd’s vocals closely mirror those of Cross Canadian Ragweed’s Cody Canada. “Chokin on Air,” “Three Ring Show,” and “Ride On” continue the trend of succinct, guitar-heaving anthems. “Our Fairytale” is lyrically simplistic, but the haunting, acoustic melody buoys the song. The only blemish on the album is the awkward arrangement of the fifth track, “Weekend,” which did not particularly resonate with me. The lyrics seemed forced, amateurish, and nearing the dreaded “hokey” territory -- an unfortunate malady that most mainstream music has succumbed to. Perhaps “Weekend” was a last-minute filler track. The melodramatic piano intro to “Drift” was a bit of a contrast to the rest of the tracks on the album. I felt Lloyd’s vocals were too raw for the soft piano interlude. But overall, this is a quality recording. Any fan of this genre will be duly impressed with the Britt Lloyd Band’s unique, well-honed musical style. If the band sticks with their current formula, I expect they will see increasing throngs of fans at every show and a befitting longevity on the Texas music scene. (Review by Elizabeth Planer)

Todd Snider - The Devil You KnowTodd Snider - The Devil You Know
Todd Snider’s latest album, The Devil You Know, is a great combination of music and social commentary with political overtones. Snider takes the experiences of a country at war and composes a collage of alternative-country and folk music, that is enjoyable for passive listening and thought provoking for the active ear. The album is highlighted by the popular single “Looking for a Job,” which can without a doubt be argued as this generation’s anthem of the working man. Reminiscent of Johnny Paycheck’s “Take this Job and Shove It,” “Looking for a Job” turns the tables on the blue-collar working scene with a great tune that, perhaps ironically for some, will have the listener singing at work. Unfortunately, this is the only track from the album I’ve heard get air-time, but it is not for lack of supporting tracks. Other songs deserving recognition include “You Got a Way with It,” in which Todd takes a shot at the privileged upbringing and election antics of our current leader in a round about fashion. “The Highland Street Incident” is a song based on the personal experience of a mugging. By telling the story from the point of view of the muggers, Todd displays his gift while challenging an audience to think. He even includes a sweet ballad “All That Matters” to his wife Melita, who is an artist in her own right and responsible for the artwork on the cover. And of course the title track, “The Devil You Know,” which paints a striking picture of the desperate means of survival everyday people seek due to forces that are often outside the realm of their own control. One particular tune I enjoyed was “Happy New Year.” This song is a great observation of the current religious fanaticism our country is experiencing. This album includes a supplemental CD containing an interview with Todd Snider and acoustic versions of selected songs. Along with the liner notes, the interview with Todd gives insight into the inspiration for some of his songs and offers his personal views of things. You need not be a “Folkie” to enjoy this CD. Todd Snider still remains the same artist who gave us “Beer Run” and “Double-Wide Blues,” but this time he gives us a twist of social consciousness. Much like his self-professed agnostic religious views, Todd Snider does a great job balancing himself between alternative country and folk music, while retaining fans from both sides. I thoroughly enjoyed The Devil You Know and continue to appreciate Todd Snider’s song writing ability. The more I listen to it and I can’t help but recommend it to those who enjoy alternative/Texas/folk music with a side of food for thought. (Review by Nino Trevino)

Brandon Jenkins - VIIBrandon Jenkins - VII
Hats off to Brandon Jenkins! With his latest release, VII, Jenkins has delivered not just a tightly produced collection of beautifully written songs with awe-inspiring guitar work and powerful vocal performances, but if you re-arrange the tracks to match the listing from his website (as of December 9), you will hear the moving story of a man’s rise and fall, plainly told in three, or make that III, acts. I don’t know if this is intentional, but it seems too coincidental to not have been planned. Curious? Read on. ** ACT I - Exposition ** In “Saturday Night” we are introduced to our hero, let’s call him BJ. This is a fast-paced song about a country boy itching to get into the more exciting life of the city. He’s out to meet girls, and apparently he found one, because in “Call Of The Road” BJ, who is now a musician, is explaining to his lady that, while he loves her, the road is calling him away. “Why Did We Ever Say Goodbye” has him rethinking his decision, though, and as our lovers are re-united, BJ seems ready to settle down. ** ACT II - Complication ** Sure enough, “All I Ever Wanted” shows that BJ has matured, as he lets his lady know that she is, indeed, the love of his life. “When I Look In Your Eyes,” continues the theme, and we hear our happy couple, who seem to have been together for some time now, planning the rest of their future together. Somewhere between that song, though, and the next, “Stay Here With Me,” something has happened. She’s having second thoughts about this relationship – perhaps he’s been unfaithful -- and our hero is pleading for her to stay with him. He has his pride, even in his broken down state, and he refuses to tell her he loves her, but he promises to take care of her, if only she’ll just stay. But it’s not happening. ** ACT III - Resolution ** BJ’s on his own now, and “Livin’ Down On The Line” finds him down on his luck. It’s a raucous song with some cool licks and a badass guitar solo as its centerpiece. At long last, “The Ghost,” fills in the gap in the story, explaining that BJ lost his wife not because he cheated on her, but because he turned to drugs and alcohol after blaming himself for the untimely death of his son. “I Still Think Of You” is a letter to his lost love. BJ is apparently resigned to a fate of never seeing her again, but he has her phone number, so we hold out hope that he could turn his life around, and maybe they’ll get back together. The final song, “Painted On Smile,” lets us know that BJ did, indeed, turn his life around, but he never made that call, or maybe he made it and was once again rejected. He’s resumed his heavy drinking and is stuck in a dead-end relationship with nowhere else to go. I honestly don’t know if Brandon actually constructed VII as this countrified rock opera I’ve presented here. But if he didn’t, why does he display the alternate track listing on his website? If you listen to the songs in the order of the production CD, VII is a really good record, with several great songs on it. But if you use the alternate track sequence, VII is a masterwork by one of our very best singersongwriters, and to that I say, “Gentlemen, hats off!” – and let’s get this thing produced for the stage! (Review by Steve Circeo)

Mike McClure Band - FoamMike McClure Band - foam
If ever there was a record to over-exaggerate about it is the new one by the Mike McClure Band. Mike and his band mates, Eric Hansen and Tom Skinner have done it again with the help of Joe Hardy, Travis Linville, Lloyd Maines, Kevin Webb, Amanda, Brown, and Kim Mitchell with the recording of foam. The record was recorded at ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons' studio called The Foam Room in Houston and is guaranteed to bring Mike to a completely different level in Texas, the Red Dirt, and nationwide. Mike’s tunes already enjoy wide airplay on many stations including the worldwide megaaudience XM satellite radio station Channel 12. Foam is only sure to increase that audience by a wide factor. It is not a country-rock record or a rock-country record. It is a rock and country record with a wide variety of tunes that will please any McClure fan and make new converts to his genre of music that can really only be categorized as McClure. His style is so unique and songwriting so solid that he defines his own brand of whatever you want to call it. His fans just call it timeless. Foam has several extremely solid rock songs that Mike likens to what he calls “80s butt-rock”, but they are better than that. The tones in a few of these songs are distinctively ZZ Top-ish due to the use of Gibbons' state of the art Marshall Amplification equipment. Those tones are a delightful departure from other McClure records but when added with Mike’s distinctive voice make for rock songs that are fresh and real. The record also includes some great alt-country songs including the first single “She Don’t Want Nobody,” which includes the pedal steel work of Maines, and “Calling All Cars” co-written with Adam Oder of Cedar Creek Studios in Austin. The song “Floods” is also on the record and is a revision from an earlier release on a now out of print EP. “Jack of Diamonds” grooves with a ragtime sound enhanced by Linville’s superb finger picking. The entire Mike McClure Band and Joe Hardy produced the record. Released on McClure’s own Boo Hatch records foam is a fantastic record that will not disappoint die-hard McClure fans and is bound to create thousands of new enthusiasts to his unique voice, songwriting, and style. The 2007 foam tour will no doubt be a mainstay for fans all over the region and country. Loyal Mike McClure fans are already buzzing about the record on the band’s myspace and the buzz is growing louder. Mike is very proud of the record and excited about touring with the new songs and most McClure fans cannot wait. (Review by Keith Howerton)

Full Throttle - DriveFull Throttle - Drive
Full Throttle’s CD Drive, which was produced by Jeremy Plato of Cross Canadian Ragweed and co-produced by Adam Odor, is one CD that every Texas Music lover MUST have in their collection. From the intro to the other 12 tracks on the album, the energy and intensity keep the listener rocking and begging for more. With Justin Belz on guitar and lead vocals, Keegan Reed on bass and harmony vocals, and Joe Cortez on the drums, one would never guess these guys have only been together three years rather than a trio of well seasoned vets. Each band member delivers on this album. Justin and Keegan prove that they are not only great on their instruments, but in their song writing skills as well. With the harder rock sounds of “Burn Me Down,” “Out of This Town,” and “Wanted,” to the bit more mellow tunes such as “Bye Baby Goodbye,” “Matador,” and “Somewhere, Texas,” these guys deliver an intense experience for the listener. In addition, ballads such as “Hill Country Love,” and “I Just Want to be Yours,” only further validate the point that there is a bit of everything for everyone. The Jimi Hendrix classic “Spanish Castle Magic” finds its place on the album and it is Justin who lends his talent as he tears it up on the guitar riffs. If one listens close on “I Just Wanna be Yours,” one of the best fiddle players in the current Texas Music scene can be heard. Brady Black of the Randy Rogers Band, lends his fiddle and mandolin skills on this album and Jeremy Plato of Ragweed even offers harmony vocals. Trust me, any true fan of Cross Canadian Ragweed and the Randy Rogers Band will love Full Throttle. These guys are well on their way to being one of the next big things in this music scene. (Review by Linda Higbie)

Trent Summar - Horseshoes and Hand GrenadesTrent Summar - Horseshoes and Hand Grenades
Trent Summar was new to me when I got his new CD Horseshoes and Hand Grenades in the mail to listen to for a possible review. We get a good number of CDs at Team Texas Music Times and we listen to them all but we really can only comment on a bit over half of them. However, when I put in Trent’s new one I was intrigued from the first few notes. The title track is a fun song that is what Nashville country used to be. It is fun without being completely stupid and written for a middle-aged divorced woman. After listening to the CD a couple of times I made some inquires about Trent with his record label (Palo Duro) and his manager. What I found out made me smile. I learned that Trent is a prolific songwriter of some great country tunes of which I am a fan. He penned “Guys Like Me” which was recorded by Gary Allan on his 2003 record See If I Care. I love that CD and the song. I also learned that Trent wrote “Somewhere between Texas and Mexico” on Pat Green’s Lucky Ones. It is the only song I the record I really care for. With that information in hand, I had to go back and really give this Nashville guy another listen. Horseshoes and Hand Grenades contains 11 solid country tracks that are fun and refreshing. “Love You,” written by Trent and recently put on the charts by Jack Ingram, is on the record in a decidedly more country version than Jack’s. I always like the songwriter’s versions of their own songs more than someone else’s version and Trent’s “Love You” is as good as or better than Jack’s chart topper. It proves that good songs are good no matter who does them. Trent Summar and his New Row Mob have created a CD that is outside mainstream Nashville that is decidedly better than the oversold pop country of today. It is a fun record and is what mainstream country should be about. (Review by Keith Howerton)

Cross Canadian Ragweed - Back to TulsaCross Canadian Ragweed - Back to Tulsa
Normally I am not a huge fan of live records when compared to the studio versions. I guess it comes from my purist feelings about records and new material. However, no one should have rules that restrict their ability to recognize when something is quality. Live records are best when they capture the vibe of the artist and the live show that they perform without the distraction of the visual element of the show. Therefore, the live records I do enjoy with tremendous enthusiasm are recordings of bands or artists with whom I have enjoyed the live experience. Cross Canadian Ragweed’s Back to Tulsa is such a record. Additionally, Ragweed’s first live record which was recorded at the old Wormy Dog Saloon in Stillwater Oklahoma is one of my all time favorite live records. When I received a pre-release copy of Back to Tulsa from the Universal South record label, I was understandably excited. The 24-track double CD not only captures the intensity of a live Ragweed experience but it spins with a vibe of being in the front row. The record is not over produced as if it was recorded and taken back into the studio where masters of the mixing craft are brought in to fix every mistake. Instead the tracks include a great amount of impromptu showmanship and commentary by front man Cody Canada including Cody calling out a jerk in the front who participated in the all to familiar behavior among some Ragweed fans of throwing a half empty beer at one of the band members. Cody using choice words about calling the a*shole out made a point that now is recorded for every Ragweed fan to hear. It is not cool to throw beer cans at anyone and people who do it are jerks. It is something that needed to be said and a behavior that has almost stopped this music reporter from going to see one of my favorite bands. Thank you Cody for making the point for all of us to hear. Additionally, Cody expands on the source of the songs and inspirations that led to the melodies and verses. In all, the additional monologues add flavor to the record that enhance the 24 tracks of pure Cross Canadian rock. Disk one opens up with “Dimebag” and disk two finishes with “Lonely Feeling," and the 22 tracks in-between are pure enjoyment to the ears. Two songs not on the record are “Carneyman” and “Boys from Oklahoma” which is fine with me. The band has evolved beyond those anthems and they are on Live at the Wormy Dog for those who are determined to have the tunes in their record collection. Cain’s Ballroom is a special place for Canada and his great band of Grady Cross, Randy Ragsdale, and Jeremy Plato. Canada remarked that, “Cain’s is the oldest, most legendary dancehall in Oklahoma. Bob Wills got his start there, and it’s where we cut our teeth. It just feels like home.” I like to think that even though Bob Wills sound and songs were very different from Ragweed’s modern country rock sound; the king of Texas swing and fiddle would be proud of the sounds and tunes of the present day kings of both sides of the Red River. Back to Tulsa is a great live record that includes some duets with friends Wade Bowen and Stoney LaRue, an addition that by itself makes the record unique. In all this is a superb live recording that captures a snapshot in time of one of the greatest live performances of the present day Red Dirt rock and Texas music movement. Great job guys, and thank you very much. (Review by Keith Howerton)

10 City Run - Somethin' Else10 City Run - Somethin' Else
10 City Run’s newest CD, Somethin' Else, was the result of a contest of Texas bands promoted by the “Texas Country Reporter” television show. The winner of the competition in 2005 was Hans Frank and the band known as 10 City Run. Somethin' Else, recorded at the superb facilities of Keith Harter studios in San Antonio, Texas, and produced by John Beland is a great alt-country record. The twelve tracks on the CD include a mix of songs written by Hans Frank and others, including the Warren Zevon classic “Carmelita" and Tommy Duncan’s “Stay all Night.” “Stay all Night” grooves in a Pulp Fiction sort of way that flashes visions of Uma Thurman and John Travolta in a nouveau riche Los Angeles bar. The track “City of Angles” with the hook “Just a dumb ol’ country boy” earned wide airplay in Texas and other markets, including XM’s alt-country channel. Another notable track is Doug Sahm’s “Juan Mendoza.” The tune is a contrast of global issues confronted with the problems of everyday life presented in a fun way. In all Somethin' Else is a crafty record with excellent production. It is not a homogenized record of average songwriting to sell lots of copies. Any country or alt-country fan will be very pleased with Somethin' Else. Give it a listen. (Review by Keith Howerton)

Wicked Brew Band - Two-FacedWicked Brew Band - Two-Faced
When I think of the name, “Wicked Brew Band," my first thoughts go to a drink I might order, in a place I've never been before, where I'm not too sure of what is about to be served up. It could be hard and edgy in places, and smooth and soulful in others. That is exactly what you can expect from the Wicked Brew Band’s second album, Two- Faced. Wicked Brew is made up of Jared Lightfoot, lead singer; Trey Edwards, acoustic guitar and vocals; Jimmy Durham, lead guitar; Cory Cooper, rhythm and bass; and Jeff Blackmon on drums. Trey Edwards has since left the band to form his own group, called Treaty Oak, which I’m sure we will be hearing from in the near future. Frontman Jared Lightfoot wrote the majority of the songs on the album, and the others in collaboration with Trey Edwards. Recorded at Wyatt Earp Studios, and mastered at Cedar Creek Studios in Austin, Texas, Two-Faced, offers 13 great tracks, from a band that is quickly developing a strong fan base in the Central Texas area. I first came across this band, early into the summer at Smokey Wilson’s “Party at the Pasture,” at his ranch in Cuero, Texas. Wicked was somewhere in the middle of around 20 bands that played that weekend, but they stood out the most to me out of all the bands, and I was an instant fan. If your musical library includes groups such as Cross Canadian Ragweed, Jackson Taylor Band, and Shooter Jennings, then Wicked Brew will fit right in. Wicked Brew has also shared the stage with musical giants Lynyrd Skynyrd, as well as Texas artists Kevin Fowler, Pear Ratz, and Honeybrowne. The third track on the album, “Goodbye Girl,” is receiving airplay on many radio stations across Texas. Jared’s soulful vocals along with great songwriting are clear and apparent with lyrics like, “Broke down on the side of the road; how many miles will I have to go; till I can’t look back and see my past.” The album has its share of great songs about love, despair, and hope for brighter times ahead, with songs like “The Turnaround” and “Brand New Future Heartache.” Trey Edwards admitted to me months ago that, like the album title, Two-Faced, there is another side to Wicked Brew that borders more on hellraising and bar fights. “Some venues don’t book us, because they say we draw a rowdy crowd that comes to fight.” Should we expect less though, if we are to compare them to other great outlaws of the Texas Music Scene? Songs like “Redneck Space Cadet,” “Chain Smoking Reaction,” and “Wicked Brew,” are quickly becoming anthems at the Wicked Brew shows for getting the crowd into a stir. As great as this album is, seeing Wicked Brew live is necessary for any Texas music fan. If you are looking for that group that isn’t a household name yet, then Wicked Brew is a band worth checking out. Wicked Brew – Drink some down! (Review by Mark Tucker)

Autumn - SugarcaneAutumn - Sugarcane
Autumn Boukadakis is a master of her art. With her new CD, Sugarcane, she proves her talent at combining many different genres all on one CD, yet maintains a unified sound. Sugarcane is bluesy, soulful, and goes straight to the heart of her sound. In a genre of music where female artists usually don’t get their fair share of the credit, Autumn’s talent doesn’t ask for your attention—it demands it. I had the opportunity to hear Autumn perform once at Gruene Hall and I’ve been waiting ever since for a CD to come out, and finally here it is! “Get A Little High” explores the feelings that should be familiar to almost all. It puts to words to the memories of those times in life where you go out and do the crazy reckless things your parents spent your whole life telling you not to do. While doing them you hesitate and think “well maybe I shouldn’t.” Autumn’s insight delivered through the song is this: “So you get a little restless and you get a little wasted. It’s just a little light entertainment. Embrace it, it might just save your life.” The song speaks to us because we all know that time in our life. Most of us have it, then move on, and life is ok. “Up and On My Way” was written by Walt Wilkins and Liz Rose. A beautiful tune about knowing there “is something going on here bigger than me that I can’t wait to see, so I’m up and on my way.” Brilliant lyrics carry all the way through. The title track “Sugarcane,” written by Heather Morgan, was the first song I’d heard by Autumn and caused me to immediately reason that I had to have the CD. The song describes the event of sneaking out with her sister in their Sunday clothes to acquire some of the forbidden sugar cane. “Mother may punish, but father still doesn’t know.” It has catchy lyrics, but it is the reggae rhythm and the soul of her voice in this song that will really grab you. “Bright Eyes” is a beautiful song written by Autumn that really pulls at any girl’s heart strings. Speaking to the emotional crossroads of learning to be more than just a daddy’s girl, she aptly expresses that very difficult transition in the song. “Tonight,” written by master songwriter Bruce Robison, addresses those nights when you don’t want to go home because of the possibility that “anything might happen tonight.” The concept is appealing because we all enjoy those nights and long for them to come again when they are gone. “On The Rise” is a track that is the cumulative product by Walt Wilkins, Autumn, and Alex Weeden. This song is an indication of things to come. Autumn Boukodakis is an artist on the rise and on her way! “Go On,” written by Autumn, has all the ingredients for a soulful tearjerker as it centers on the theme of reflecting on the loss of a loved one who has passed on. Beautiful in delivery, it really incites the urge to grab for a box of Kleenex. The song offers a fitting end to the album. Autumn Boukadakis exhibits a talent for songwriting and delivery which makes for an entertaining live show experience and a foundation for a very promising career. Be sure to support this rising artist by picking up Sugarcane and checking out upcoming tour dates at your local venues. (Review by Elise Tschoepe)

Plumtucker - Lightning WheelsPlumtucker - Lightning Wheels
When you slide Plumtucker’s Lightning Wheels into your CD player and hear the piano prologue followed closely by the smooth jazz sound of “Colorado,” you may wonder why we are reviewing this record in a magazine that tends to focus on the Texas Country Music scene. I could tell you that there are some easily distinguishable country elements on the CD, such as a wailing slide guitar and a song about a hammock, but, while that would be true, I’m going to tell you the real reason. This record really makes me smile, and that’s not an easy thing to accomplish. Without delving too deeply into my scarred psyche, let’s explore what it is about Plumtucker’s Lightning Wheels that makes the corners of my mouth turn up. Reason number one is the exciting iInstrumentation. This musical journey begins with a short piano prelude, then moves on to “Colorado,” which has an inspired musical hook played on an instrument that I was pretty sure I’d never heard before. I asked Plumtucker frontman David Lutes about it, and found out I was right. It’s a studio creation, made by bending a Rhodes keyboard signal. Cool! The ride continues through the jazzy “Lady Persuasion” with a coolly, oddball keyboard sound (that I can only say reminds me somehow of “The Monkees”) coming in through the right channel during the chorus. There is a mix of guitars on “Cowboy Dream,” the complexity of which can only be appreciated with repeated listens through headphones, and we move farther along with what my untrained ear can only call a superbly orchestrated instrumental wonderland behind the lyrics of “My River.” Our final stop is a palate-cleansing piano epilogue. I smile. Reason number two is the beautiful vocals. That’s really the only way I can describe David’s voice, which is unlike any I’ve heard in Texas Music. It’s smooth with plenty of range and he knows how to use it, but refuses to abuse his talent by hitting you over the head with it. He’s not a listen-and-marvel-as- I-slide-up-and-down-the-scales kinda singer. In fact, David’s voice seems to take its own reins, simply going where it needs to go and never farther, producing a perfectly satisfying sound that meshes flawlessly with the other vocalists and instruments. I smile. The third reason I love this record is the poetic lyrics. David Lutes is a poet, pure and simple. There are so many great lyrics on this album that I merely had to select one at random, from the song "Falling Up" to show you: "And dreams come like a savior. I drink deep from the well. In patience, I listen. The very word is like a bell - to toll me back from this mind of mine – Distraction’s love of easeful death. But I was not born for that, but to feel the warmth of mercy’s breath." Wow! I feel like I’m back in English Lit, studying John Donne, sitting next to Karen Lesser as she bends down to retrieve her dropped pencil. Her blouse falling slightly open as she leans forward, and I catch a glimpse of.... Well, it takes me back, anyway. I smile. Lightning Wheels is a smart, fun, beautiful record, superbly crafted by producers Boo McCleod and David Lutes. Its musical style is difficult to categorize, so while it often seems the purpose of the American press to narrow readers’ minds by providing such categorizations, I won’t do it here, beyond this: Lightning Wheels’ soul is folk, its mind is country, and its body is jazz. Listen to this record while drinking Smirnoff, Shiner, or Shiraz, and you’ll find your mind and toes equally satisfied. In other words, put it on anytime you want to smile. (Review by Steve Circeo)

Randy Rogers Band - Just A Matter Of TimeRandy Rogers Band - Just A Matter Of Time
There are new records produced and recorded daily. Even in the Texas and the Red Dirt music scene, great artists are in studios all over Texas, Oklahoma, and other states in the area, making great music and etching the sound on that silver disk called a CD. Randy Rogers Band’s third adventure into the studio has produced a CD that is far beyond what is the norm in any city, state, era, or even galaxy. This is a record for the ears and ages. The first CD with their new Mercury Nashville label, titled Just a Matter of Time, is the much awaited and anticipated followup to the regional smash hit Roller Coaster, which earned Randy and the guys some well deserved national attention. Produced by master producer Radney Foster, Just a Matter of Time is a record that very possibly includes twelve hit singles. There is not a bad -- or even average -- track on the CD. Following the Radney Foster songwriting formula of collaborating with other great songwriters, including Radney himself, Randy Rogers has constructed 11 superb songs. In addition to Radney, George Ducas, Clint Ingersol, Stephoney Smith, Kent Finlay, and Drew Womak all helped Randy put the lyrics and notes together for eleven of the twelve tracks. Bassplayer Jon “Chops” Richardson drafted the twelfth track, “You Don’t Know Me,” and it grooves with the same intensity of his hallmark and live show crowd favorite, “10 Miles Deep.” The production and mix of this CD is fabulous. You can hear almost every note of Brady Black’s fiddle, which sounds more like a symphony violin in the soulful Randy Rogers/Drew Womack love song “If Anyone Asks.” Geoff Hill delivers several crushing guitar solos and makes his six electric strings weep in love songs like “One More Goodbye” and the title track. Geoff and Brady trade fiddle and electric guitar solos in almost every song. That combination, along with Jon on bass, Les Lawless on drums, and Randy’s acoustic guitar and lead vocals result in a pure Randy Rogers Band trademark sound. Other musicians on the record include Radney Foster, Eric Borash, Michael Ramos, and Craig Krampf. In addition to the RRB sound we’ve come to know and love, there are a couple of songs on the CD that venture into new territory for the band. “You Could Have Left Me” and “You Could Change My Mind” drive and thump with a big hair band sound straight out of 1985. In both of these songs, Geoff cuts loose on the electric guitar with Brady delivering original sounding rock and roll violin solos. The songs have a decidedly upbeat tempo for the Randy Rogers Band, and they are a delightful contrast to the RRB trademark sound on songs like “You Start Over Your Way,” “Before I Believe It’s True,” and “Better Off Wrong.” Do not be surprised if, while you are listening to this CD, you find yourself hitting the back button over and over, just to hear a verse or chorus again. The record truly is that good. We Texas music fans often experience great trepidation when our homegrown heroes, those great singer/songwriters who have earned our praise and respect, go off to big bad Nashville. We have seen the big labels change some of our favorites to make them more mainstream for the national audience. If Just a Matter of Time is any indication of a future trend, we may be able to stop worrying. We at Texas Music Times can say without any reservation that Randy, Brady, Geoff, Jon, and Les are in the driver’s seat on this record. They have successfully taken our kind of music to Nashville and now it is time for the rest of the country to listen up. Way to go guys! Just a Matter of Time is great record for all ages and all time. (Review by Keith Howerton)

Rich O'Toole - SeventeenRich O'Toole - Seventeen
Rich O’Toole’s first adventure into the studio produced a masterful CD for this Houston native. Recorded and mixed at Rhapsody Street Studios in San Antonio by Mack Damon, Seventeen delivers 10 great tracks from one of the most talented young guns in the Texas music scene. Rich authored every song on the record and the result is an original rock country sound that is fresh and new. The real story of this CD is not just that it is a great new record from a new talent, but the list of who played on it. Chris Masterson (Jack Ingram Beat Up Ford Band), Rich Brotherton (Robert Earl Keen band), Nick Worley (Cooder Graw and Cory Morrow Band), and Bobby Flores helped Rich lay down the tracks on the record. With guys like that believing in Rich then all of us can be assured that Rich O’Toole is the real deal. Rich Brotherton is one of the top 100 guitarists in the nation. Chris Masterson is phenomenal with his Fender and is a driving force behind Jack Ingram’s success. Seeing Masterson perform live is a lesson in how an electric guitar should be used to deliver music. However, it is not just the quality of the musicians on Seventeen that makes it such a good CD. It is the songs and O’Toole’s voice. How someone as young a Rich O’Toole can be as good of a songwriter as he is shows all the signals of a bright future. Seventeen is a rock and country record with ballads mixed in. There is something for everyone on this CD. The first track titled “Kelly Comes to Town” rocks out about a small town wild child that has every boy in town going crazy. “Cleveland” is another rock song that drives with intensity. Some great country tunes on the CD include “Queen of the Misfits” and “Robert E. Lee.” However, all the songs on this CD have a decidedly upbeat tempo. The ballad “Pancho Villa” is a great song about “gringos” who rode with Pancho fighting the Mexican Army. The song is one of the highest requested on the internet based Radio Free Texas and is getting airplay on many terrestrial stations as well. Like many of the artists that I like to write about, I know Rich and consider him a new friend. He is a great talent and his debut record is a prophecy of a great and long career as a singer and songwriter. Seventeen is a record anyone would be proud of and everyone should enjoy. (Review by Keith Howerton)

Eric Hanke - Autumn BluesEric Hanke - Autumn Blues
I am by no means a folk music aficionado. I am, however, a connoisseur of fine Texas Country tunage, so every once in a while I happen across a folkie who really catches my ear. That recently happened with Eric Hanke. I had XM 12, satrad’s true Texas Music torchbearer, playing in my of- fice, when a song came on that made my ears take note. I thought I was hearing a new Slaid Cleaves song, but I realized within a few bars that it wasn’t Slaid, and, upon closer inspection of XM’s scrolling titles, I saw that it was some guy named Eric Hanke. Well, anyone who sounds enough like Slaid Cleaves to make me do a doubletake is okay by me, so I went to the internet to do some research. As it turns out, Eric is a singer-songwriter out of Austin, so, without further ado, I purchased his CD, Autumn Blues. The album starts out with “Lonely Road,” a catchy little tune that I have caught myself singing in my radio-free truck. From there we are moved smoothly into the title track, which features some gloriously understated backing vocals by the ubertalented Sarah Pierce and Denice Franke, and then into Eric’s take on war, aptly titled “The War,” which is written from the perspective of a young man who is facing the prospect of a premature death in the name of freedom. Rich Brotherton kicks in with a couple of short but musically significant guitar solos during that song. After the darkness of “The War” we are treated to the lighter “Flora,” and then it’s on to my favorite song on the album, the faster-paced “Ride Away,” which includes some nice mandolin work by Paul Glasse and lap steel by Cindy Cashdollar (currently touring with Van Morrison and often sits in with Cooder Graw). This song is brilliant because it showcases Eric’s talent as a poet (“A norther blew across the land, bringing in the cold. Darkness took the desert sand, as hell came for the old.”), while also providing some rich instrumental and vocal supporting tracks. Other standout songs on the record are “Smoke Through an Old Screen Door” about a lost love, “Broken Dreams” with fiddlin’ by Carrie Rodriguez and mandolin by Doug Hudson, and the record’s closer, “The Sun’s Gonna Shine,” a song of hope in trouble times. Merel Bregante, who produced the record with Eric, is a veteran of the music industry, a transplanted hippie who came to Texas from L.A. many years ago, after stints as the drummer for Loggins & Messina and The Dirt Band (you remember when they dropped the “Nitty Gritty” for a few years, don’t you?). Judging from this record, he has quite a knack for assembling talented supporting players and inserting them into the right places, allowing them to shine without overshadowing the principal performer. Eric Hanke’s Autumn Blues is a laidback journey through the mind of a talented young man. It is at times soothing, at times thought-provoking, but always musically satisfying. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and, I have to say that I hope Eric has the blues in the spring, summer, and winter, too, because I’m ready for more! (Review by Steve Circeo)

Jason Eady - From Underneath the OldJason Eady - From Underneath the Old
This CD review was a bit difficult for me to write. Not because it is a bad record, but because it is so good that I just wanted to close my eyes and listen every time I loaded it in the computer and moved my fingers to the keyboard. I always play a CD when I am reviewing it and with Jason’s debut record, I kept finding myself listening and not typing. My task was more difficult because I have come to know Jason pretty well. Team Texas Music Times has sold his merchandise at shows where he had no one to stand at the table and he is one of our favorite new singer songwriters. We care dearly about Jason and he and his band are our friends. So, how do I write and objective review? Hell with objectivity, this is a great record from a soulful songwriter and I will shout it from the highest mountain top. Produced by the legendary Walt Wilkins From Underneath the Old is a journey through Jason’s songwriting skills and craft of poetry. Jason wrote all 12 songs on the CD and each track is distinctive and delightful. His lower Mississippi delta upbringing is evident in the bluesy sound of “Go down Moses” and “Lift Me”. The amazing thing about Jason’s songwriting is that much of his writing is so skillful that each listener will develop his or her own conclusions of the meaning of the song. His use of the English language in song is superb. “Steven and Melissa” is a song about two people running away from their past, but the ending is open to each listener on what happens to them in the end. The ability to draft one’s own ending is the charm of the tune. “Battle Cries” is a personal favorite. The song uses a banjo to set a nostalgic stage of a long ago battle where soldiers made their stand for freedom. However, at the end of the lyrical poem it is evident the entire song is a letter home from a warrior from any battle from the past, present, or future. The song is masterful. Jason is also able to rock. “Vindication” is a great rock song that moves the feet. Additionally, “When It All Comes Together” and “Dance Maria” are grooving tunes great for drinking a margarita at a favorite place to relax with friends and love ones. Both tunes will have everyone singing, moving, and grooving. However, Maria has a message to anyone with bad intentions. Jason writes harmony songs and his current band supports his great voice with tremendous two, 3, and 4 part harmonies that sound like a church choir. Jason’s song writing skills are matched only by his voice and delivery. From Underneath the Old is mixed extremely well with great production and sound. Jason’s voice on every track is clear and sharp. The chords from the variety of instruments come right out of the speakers in a way that they can almost be seen as well as heard. Jason is a great person and From Underneath the Old is a fantastic CD. We are all very lucky to have him and his great band coming around for us to hear and see. Thank you my friend for giving all of us such a gift. (Review by Keith Howerton)

Carter Falco - If It Ain't One ThingCarter Falco - If It Ain't One Thing
As soon as Carter Falco’s debut album, If It Ain't One Thing, finds it way out of the wrapper, and into your CD player, you quickly realize several things. The first thing is that if there is anyone around, you must get them to shut up and listen, or at least don’t disturb your listening to this great record. A listen to Carter Falco demands undivided attention. The songs are so clever you will find yourself listening to catch every word. CMH Records and Boundless Entertainment, the same company that produces and manages such artists as Shooter Jennings and Wade Bowen, is the company behind the album. Carter gets his musical influences from a wide range of artists, ranging from The Ramones, to Willie Nelson, to ZZ Top, back to Hank Williams Jr. At first listen, Carter Falco sounds amazingly like Robert Earl Keen, or perhaps like Pat Green used to sound. This is most apparent in the track, “Don’t Hate Me," which is a song about drinking and drunk dialing. With lyrics like “It must have been that last shot of whiskey, that turned last night into today," coupled with Carter’s vocals, you will swear you are listening to a Robert Earl classic. Carter also displays remarkable diversity with the array of solid country songs mixed with songs like “Country Music,” which dives into a bluesy Mannish Boy groove that would make Muddy Waters and Keith Richards proud. He closes the record with “Union Song,” which is a kick-ass, socially conscious rock tune that will have everyone banging his or her head with the beat. Carter spent most of his childhood in Waco, Texas, but he has also spent time trying to establish himself as an artist in California, which led him to write the song, “Hello LA." As the song begins, Carter sings of the struggles of many songwriters: “Well they say, that we’re living in the City of Angels; It’s been 5 years and I ain’t seen one yet; And all I need is a little red carpet to lay down in front of me; and then I’d say, Hello LA." The first single off of the album is the title track, “If It Ain't One Thing," which was written by Carter and features Shooter Jennings, is already receiving heavy airplay on many radio stations across Texas, and the video for the song will soon be featured on CMT and GAC. Shooter Jennings also accompanies Carter on the song“Long Gone," which promises a hell-raising good time right from the start with the opening line of “Last night there was a demon, dressed up in my clothes, he might have said a few things that he shouldn’t have at all.” The louder the song is played the more addictive it gets, but then again, you can say that about the entire album. We only have one question for Carter. What are you doing in LA? Texas is where you need to be. (Review by Mark Tucker)

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