Monthly Archives: March 2011

Jason Aldean, "Dirt Road Anthem"

After releasing arguably the best single of his career with “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” Jason Aldean has the difficult task of following it with another single off his My Kinda Party album. Will “Dirt Road Anthem” become another career defining song for Aldean?

When I first listened to Jason’s My Kinda Party, “Dirt Road Anthem” was the first, and only, song that I skipped before the song was over. If there’s any genre that I loathe more than any it is rap. So when rap somehow finds its way into my beloved country music, I usually tend to avoid those songs at all costs. That’s why I was extremely disappointed that Jason Aldean would choose to follow up the fantastic “Don’t You Wanna Stay” with the album’s worst song.

From I gather, the song is about backwoods life and the experiences that are to be had “when the blacktop ends.” It’s somewhat a unique take on the “I’m country and proud of it” themed songs that have seemingly taken over country radio recently, but at the same time it’s an almost pointless song lyrically. The production keeps with Aldean’s country-rock roots and includes plenty of electric and bass guitars mixed in with a few noticable steel guitar riffs. The vocal performance delivered by Jason is a hard one to comment on because during the verses he’s not really singing but rapping/speaking the lines. During the chorus is the only time when he sings and he doesn’t deliver a bad vocal performance, but it’s not necessarily a good one.

Since he’s become a superstar at country radio there’s not doubt that this will be another top five hit for Jason. To me, it’s just a little disappointing that this song is coming from an artist who, on Sunday, could become the ACM’s Top Male Vocalist and possibly the organization’s Entertainer of the Year.

1 Comment

Filed under Single Reviews

Brad Paisley featuring Alabama, "Old Alabama"

With “This Is Country Music” hitting the roadblock that is Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” Brad Paisley is hoping his newest single will take him back to the top of the singles chart. Does “Old Alabama” have what it takes to do what “This is Country Music” couldn’t?

So from a production stand point I think Brad Paisley’s upcoming album, This is Country Music, could be fantastic judging by the production of the album’s first two singles. On “This is Country Music,” Brad utilizes a fantastic production that involves plenty of banjo, fiddle and steel guitar. On the album’s second single, “Old Alabama,” Brad takes a page out of country super-group Alabama’s playbook and conjures up a fun, upbeat, country production. The song is filled with lots of electric guitar (as usual with a Paisley song) as well as some fantastic fiddle breakdowns and incredible steel guitar riffs. It’ll be easy to see plenty of country music fans blaring this song during backyard barbeques because of its fun and free production, which is why it could climb to number one.

Once again Brad delivers a solid vocal performance that includes plenty of energy and personality that’s needed to match the fantastic production. The song even features a cameo from Alabama themselves which adds value to the song as a whole (as well as increases the chances of being nominated for a vocal event award during awards season).

Unfortunately, the song misses the mark with its lyrics. In an attempt to pay tribute to Alabama, the song revolves around the “story” (I use that term lightly because it’s hardly a story) about how a girl’s idea of a good time is listening to “old Alabama” songs. With lines like “…with her windows rolled down and her hair all blown around she’s a hot southern mess” and “we’ll find a hideaway wher she and I can play in mother nature’s band,” it’s obvious the song’s lyrics are nothing special. There is, however, a slight positive when it comes to the lyrics and thats the cleverness of how there are Alabama song titles thrown in. “A little dixieland delight at the right time of the night and she can’t keep her hands off me” is probably one of the most clever lines of the song. Other than that the song falls way flat in paying tribute to the greatest group in country music.

I’m a little disappointed that the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year has taken a step backwards when it comes to the artistry of his music. Let’s hope that the other 10 or so songs on This is Country Music are a far better representation of the artist that Brad Paisley is.


Filed under Single Reviews

Billboard Chart Flash: Week of March 7 – 13

On this week’s Billboard country charts we see the debut of Sara Evans’ newest album, Stronger. Where did Sara debut in her first week out? Find out in this week’s Chart Flash along with how Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson faired on the singles chart.

Just as expected, Sara Evans’ Stronger debuts atop the Country Albums chart this week with sales of just over 55,000 copies. This is Sara’s second album to hit number one, she claimed the top spot with her last album, Real Fine Place. Holding steady at number two is Jason Aldean’s My Kinda Party which inches closer and closer to the 1 million copies sold mark. In third this week is Lady Antebellum’s monster album, Need You Now, while Aaron Lewis’ Town Line falls to fourth. Rounding out the top five selling albums is Rascal Flatts with their album, Nothing Like This.

Over on the Hot Country Songs chart, Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson’s monster ballad, “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” stays put atop the chart for a third week in a row. Climbing up one spot to number two is Billy Currington with his latest hit, “Let Me Down Easy.” Also making a one spot move up is Thompson Square whose debut smash single, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?,” lands at number three. After playing bridesmaid to Jason and Kelly for the past few weeks, Brad Paisley’s “This is Country Music” falls two spots to number four. The Zac Brown Band’s “Colder Weather” makes a three spot leap to round out the top five songs in the country.

With no big releases to report in next week’s Flash, there’s a strong possibility that Sara could hold on to the top spot unless Jason Aldean experiences a sales increase to overtake her.

Only two songs made their debut this week and they are led by Brad Paisley’s newest single, “Old Alabama,” which lands at number 44. This week’s other debut song belongs to Gloriana whose “Wanna Take You Home” comes in at number 56.

With Thompson Sqare and Billy Currington experiencing major radio airplay, it’ll be interesting to see if Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson can hold on to the top spot for a fourth week in a row. As usual, we’ll sort out all the movement in next week’s Chart Flash.

Leave a comment

Filed under Billboard Chart Flash

Taylor Swift, "Mean"

Aftering scoring top five hits with “Mine” and “Back to December,” Taylor Swift is releasing her third single off her Speak Now album. Taylor is hitting country radio with “Mean.” Is this song a potential critical darling or just another piece of Swift ear-candy?

Congratulations Taylor Swift…you are finally winning this music critic over.

After releasing such adolescent themed songs like “Our Song,” “Picture to Burn,” and “You Belong With Me,” Taylor Swift is finally releasing a song that can reach an audience beyond the tween girls who have supported the country starlet from the beginning of her career. “Mean” deals with the universal theme of being disrespected by cruel, mean people in the world, something nearly everyone deals with in life. We’ve all had those instances whether it be being made fun of in high school or taunted and disrespected by random people on the street, we’ve all had our run-ins with mean people.

Well it’s no secret that the mean people Taylor Swift has had to deal with throughout her career are those pesky music critics. Whether Taylor’s delivering a shaky, off-key performance on an awards show to winning the CMA Entertainer of the Year award, she’s had to deal with critics bashing her about her voice and her credibility as an entertainer. Well those critics are being dealt the same fate as ex-boyfriends and anyone who has done Swift wrong and that fate is being the subject of one of the singer’s songs, and she doesn’t hold back.

“You with your words like knives and swords and weapons that you use against me/you have knocked me off my feet again got me feeling like I’m nothing.” The opening lines of “Mean” are so direct that there’s no doubt who Taylor is singing about. The song continues to offer images of what those words have done to her including the following line: “I’ll walk with my head down trying to block you out ’cause I’ll never impress you.” “And I can see you years from now in a bar, talking over a football game…drunk and grumbling on about how I can’t sing,” Taylor sings as she talks directly to her “haters.” Lyrically this is probably the most creative song she’s penned and is without a doubt one of her best singles to date.

The production is surprisingly filled with banjo, fiddle, and mandolin that gives it a country, bluegrass, acoustic feel that suits the song and Taylor’s soft vocal performance brilliantly. This is her most country sounding single to date and is definitely a stand out in a catalog that’s filled with plenty of pop songs. Like I said earlier, after three albums and countless songs about teenage issues, Taylor Swift is finally starting to make a fan out of me. I tip my hat to you Taylor.

Leave a comment

Filed under Single Reviews

Indie Spotlight: The Welch Brothers, God Bless California

A couple weeks ago we introduced a California trio of brothers called The Welch Brothers in the first installment of our Indie Spotlight. Now, we’re offering a song-by-song review of their first EP, God Bless California.

The EP contains four original songs recorded by The Welch Brothers and produced by Colby Wedgeworth. Once again the group calls themselves “California Country” which is a mixture of country, pop, and alternative genres of music all rolled up into one and these four songs show the group’s diversity and unique style of country music.

Head on Collision
                This is a more rock-leaning song as the production is filled with plenty of loud drums and guitars…the usual ingredients needed for a rock song. The song’s lyrics use an automobile accident as a metaphor for a failed relationship, something I found rather interesting. “I hold my breath as we cross another double line…head on collision” sings the narrator about how relationships are rarely as smooth as a Sunday afternoon drive. The vocals, from what could be heard, are fantastic and show off the Welch Brothers’ tight harmonies. This is definitely the least country sounding song of the four, but it still shows off the trio in a fantastic light.
Rock’N’Roll and Rainy Days
                This song begins with a fantastic acoustic guitar intro while the lead vocals kick in. The acoustic guitar is then joined by a fantastic steel line and a nice pop-bluegrass beat that makes this one of my favorite songs on the EP from a production stand point. The production quickly turns into a country-pop flavored one during the chorus and goes right back to the bluegrass during the verses. Normally I wouldn’t approve of the roller coaster effect when it comes to production but I actually like it here. The song finds the group singing about how if any future love interests want a guy who doesn’t have any dreams or aspirations, then they can find him elsewhere. The group mainly sings about how a guy has a dream of becoming a recording artist and is happy singing in the subway for tips rather than having a real job.
God Bless California
                If there was any doubt whether or not this trio is proud of where they come from, then this song proves the doubters wrong. “God Bless California” is an ode to the state where the trio hails from. The brothers sing about how California doesn’t compare to the likes of Paris and the pyramids of Egypt. “God bless California ‘cause California you blessed me” sings the group as they pay homage to the state. This is a great song which is made even greater with the production which consists of a simple mixture of guitars and fiddle. The group seems to pour every ounce of heart and soul into their vocal performance on this song, which makes it the best out of the four on the EP.
Just Listen
                In our interview with the guys, they listed Taylor Swift as one of their musical influences and this song has a big of Taylor’s pop-country flare in it. From the guitar line to the pop drum beat, this song is very mainstream and could possibly compete with the mainstream sounds being currently heard on country radio. The lyrics musical terms as metaphors (“life is a song…the world is a record that keeps on spinning, so live, laugh, and just listen”) to convey the message of enjoying life. Once again the group provides an interesting take on a common country music theme.

Overall this is a solid introduction to The Welch Brothers and I think they’ll continue to grow and evolve with their sound as they get the opportunity to write and record more music. I’ve said before that this trio brings a different style and sound to the genre of country music that should be heard by many people. I’ve enjoyed listening to these four songs and I look forward to getting to hear more from this talented group of brothers.

You can download the four song EP for FREE on the group’s Facebook page.

Leave a comment

Filed under Indie Spotlight

ACM Fan Voting Now Open

Once again the Academy of Country Music awards is leaving two categories up to the fans. This year fans can choose one of six nominees as this year’s Entertainer of the Year as well as one of two artists as Top New Artist. Find out how to cast your vote as well as who the nominees are.

This year’s Entertainer of the Year race includes six nominees in Jason Aldean, Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, and Keith Urban. Fans can chose one artist who they feel has represented country music the best in the past year.

Fan can also choose between The Band Perry (this year’s Top New Vocal Duo or Group winner) and Eric Church (this year’s Top New Solo Vocalist winner) as this year’s Top New Artist.

If you’d like to cast your votes, make sure you go to the ACM voting site. Also be sure to tune in to the awards telecast on April 3rd to see who will win.

Leave a comment

Filed under Awards Shows, Country News

Billboard Chart Flash: Week of Feb. 28 – Mar. 6

This week saw an album debut at number one on the Country Albums while the juggernaut called “Don’t You Wanna Stay” spends a second week at number one on the Hot Country Songs chart. Find out which album made an impressive debut as well as what else went down on the charts in this week’s Chart Flash.

Aaron Lewis is the newest artist to migrate to the country genre. Many know him as the lead singer of the rock band Staind. His first country album, Town Line, sold an impressive 37,600 copies to debut at number one on the Country Albums chart. Spending another week in second is Jason Aldean with his near platinum selling smash, My Kinda Party. After basking in their Grammy glow the past two weeks, Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now slips to number three this week. Taylor Swift’s Speak Now is number four this week while Zac Brown Band’s You Get What You Give rounds out the top five country albums.

Next week is sure to see a shakeup among the top five as we’ll see the debut of Sara Evans’ latest release, Stronger.

Over on the Hot Country Songs chart, Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson retain their number one single as “Don’t You Wanna Stay” spends a second week at the top. Staying put at number two is Brad Paisley’s “This Is Country Music” while Billy Currington’s “Let Me Down Easy” jumps up two spots to number three. Leaping into the top five at number four is Thompson Square’s “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?” which jumps up three spots from number seven. Rounding out this week’s top five country songs is Blake Shelton’s “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking?”

This week saw only one song make its debut and that is Little Big Town’s “The Reason Why” which comes in at number 59 this week.

Next week should be an interesting week as we could have a new number one song as well as a new number one album depending on if fans backed up Sara Evans during her release week and if radio is loving “This Is Country Music.” Find out what goes down in next week’s Chart Flash.

Leave a comment

Filed under Billboard Chart Flash

Billboard Chart Flash: Week of Feb. 21 – Feb. 27

Last week saw Lady Antebellum and Blake Shelton reign surpreme on Billboard’s country music charts. This week, one of those artists was overtaken while the other held onto the number one position on their chart. Find out what happened in this week’s Chart Flash.

This week’s Country Albums chart is once again topped by the best selling country album of 2010, Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now. The album moved another 28,000 copies this week as it continues to relish from the Grammy effect. However, early numbers are showing that the week’s number two album, Jason Aldean’s My Kinda Party, will move up into the number spot when the new numbers come out. Coming in at number three is Taylor Swift’s Speak Now while the Zac Brown Band’s You Get What You Give comes in at number four. Rounding out the country’s top five albums is Rascal Flatts’ Nothing Like This.

Over on the Hot Country Songs chart, after two consecutive trips to the number two spot, Jason Aldean finally nabbed his fifth number one single of his career as “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” his duet with Kelly Clarkson, climbed up to the top spot. Climbing up one spot to number two is Brad Paisley’s “This Is Country Music” while Taylor Swift’s “Back to December” climbs up two spots to number three. Falling three spots to number four is last week’s number one, Blake Shelton’s “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking?” Rounding out the top five country songs is Billy Currington’s “Let Me Down Easy” which climbs up one spot this week.

This week saw only two songs make their debuts which are led by The Dirt Drifters’ “Something Better” at number 56 followed by Joanna Smith’s “Georgia Mud” at number 59.

Next week should see little movement on the albums chart so the most movement could be seen on the singles chart. Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson are trying to hold off strong contenders in Brad’s “This Is Country Music” and Taylor’s “Back to December.” Find out who will be number one in next week’s Chart Flash.

Leave a comment

Filed under Billboard Chart Flash

Indie Spotlight: Getting to Know The Welch Brothers

With this being the first day of March, ATC is excited to get the month started with our first Indie Spotlight of 2011! In case you’ve forgotten how this goes, we pick a lesser known artist to introduce to our readers. This month’s Spotlight features California based trio, The Welch Brothers. The group was nice enough to answer a few questions for us, so continue reading to learn more about this talented group of brothers.

The Welch Brothers is a trio formed of three brothers – David, Jonny, and Nate Welch – who hail from California. The group recently recorded its first EP, God Bless California, which is available for download on the group’s Facebook page. They describe their sound as ‘California country’ which makes for a much needed break from the current mainstream pop-country that the country genre has become. Band member Jonny Welch was nice enough to answer a few questions for the interview portion of our Indie Spotlight.
First I would just like to thank you guys for agreeing to be ATC’s Indie Spotlight Artist for March and for taking the time to answer a few questions for our readers!
It’s our pleasure Aaron.  Your blog is great, and we are glad to be featured on it. 
So from what I’ve read on your Facebook page, you guys have all been singing since you were little, but hadn’t joined forces until recently. What were each of you doing prior to forming the trio and why hadn’t the idea of becoming a group not come up sooner?
Nate has been in and out of bands since middle school.  He was most recently the lead singer of Bidwell; which opened doors for him to co-write music with many up and coming artists in Los Angeles.  At the same time, David was getting his masters degree, and spent time developing a non-profit organization.  He also stayed active singing and composing music.  I was singing here and there in college, but focusing more on acting.  More recently, I started my journey as a songwriter.  About two years ago, I was driving to Santa Barbara with just enough gas in my tank and hardly any money, and for some reason it inspired my first country song.  From then on, I started co-writing with Nate, and once we got David in the mix, the songs started taking form.
I’ve listened to the EP and done some research and I find it quite interesting that you say you guys record “California country.” For our readers that may not know exactly what that is, describe the genre and some artists you feel fall under that label. I’ve listened to the EP and I must say that it’s a completely different style of country that I’m used to listening to, which is a good thing in my opinion.
California country is pretty much the edgy rock music of California, mixed with the All-American roots of country music. Back in the 60’s and 70’s a lot of bands in Los Angeles were taking on a country flare.  Bands like Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, and America are a few examples.  These bands have made a major influence on our musical and artistic direction.  Also, we spent our childhood in North Carolina, and moved to California in 1997.  Like they say, you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.
Speaking of the EP, tell us a little about it.
This EP ‘God Bless California’ is about faith, love and everything else.  These songs are just a few of the songs we have created in the last several months.  We have had a lot of things happen in life to write about and we have finally gotten around to it. Each song tells a different story and translates many emotions. We are so glad to finally be writing together after so many years of being separated by other great opportunities.  This EP is just the beginning of songs we are going to be releasing in the near future.  Listeners have told us that our songs make them laugh, cry and everything in-between.  We love that our songs antagonize emotion in our listeners.  I think this is the goal of most artists.  We are very excited about this EP and we can’t wait to see what the next step is. 
Is there any song on the EP that you guys feel strongly and passionate about?
We all differ on which song we are most passionate about.  I probably feel the most passionate about Rock’N’Roll & Rainy Days because it is about making positive changes in life.  I’m so glad I became focused on God’s plan for my life instead of my own. I had a lot of people trying to drag me down, but God helped me get a grip and dream big once again. 
I know that you guys write all your own music, do all three of you collaborate on each song or do you guys write stuff individually?
Usually, the concept of a song comes from one of us, but we all workshop every song together.  We’ll re-write a song, and then re-write it over again and then again, and again, and so on until we feel good about the way it communicates emotion. 
I mentioned earlier that the songs you’ve recorded all have a unique sound and style. Are there any specific artists you guys get your inspiration from? Or is it something you guys just developed on your own?
Artist and writers that inspire us are people that use their talents not for themselves, but for others.  People that remain transparent about their struggles, burdens, and celebrations make the best music.  Music has the power to lift people up and give them hope.  We take inspiration from real life experiences that come from friends, family, and our personal lives.  The peaks and valley’s of life have so many shades of color, and music is the blank canvas that is waiting to be painted on. 
Who are some of your musical influences?
Our Influences come from both yesterday and today’s music, such as Simon & Garfunkel, The Eagles, The Band, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Tom Petty, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley and many more. 
Do you guys regularly perform live? Or have you guys had the opportunity to tour at all?
We have performed together our whole lives, and although we’ve all had opportunities to tour separately, we have yet to go on tour together as The Welch Brothers.   We look forward to that opportunity in the near future.  For now, we are focusing on songwriting, production, reaching fans and funding.
What do you guys feel is your goal in music?
First of all, we always want to prioritize others above ourselves.  We want to write music that people relate to.  We anticipate our listeners to feel hope, joy, peace and understanding after listening to our songs.  We are always writing music and we hope to produce a full-length record very soon.  After we do this, we plan to take the record on tour. Then we plan to keep creating records, and also write music for other artists.
Where do you guys see yourselves, or hope to be, in 10 years time?
When I was in 5th grade, I use to go out to our garage and plug my cheap microphone into my brother’s guitar amp and sing along to music videos on CMT.  All I wanted was to be a country singer when I grew up.  I left that dream on the backburner until recently. So it’s exciting to see where this could go in the next ten years.  Although creating records and writing is great, at the end of the day, we really want to use any influence we have for good.  For example, I think we would all agree that Bono from U2 is a huge influence on our journey; and not just because of his music, but for what he stands for.  His music is genuine and full of emotion, and he has also put a huge impact on the needs of the world. Our vision is to eventually help with Africa’s urgent need for clean water.  We are definitely grateful for artists like Bono who have paved the way for other musicians to help people in need.  So in 10 years time, we would be very happy to implement this vision.
Once again I would like to thank you guys for taking the time to answer a few questions!
Our pleasure Aaron!
To learn more about the group and to download the EP, visit their Facebook page or the band’s official website. Look out for our review of God Bless California in the next few days.

1 Comment

Filed under Indie Spotlight

Billboard Chart Flash: Week of Feb. 14 – 20

This week’s charts saw five-time Grammy award winner Lady Antebellum experience a 205% increase to land at number one on the Country Albums chart once again. Meanwhile, this week also saw a new song reach the top of the Hot Country Songs chart. Find out who was able to replace Luke Bryan’s “Someone Else Calling You Baby” in this week’s Chart Flash.

Lady Antebellum’s Grammy award winning album, Need You Now, sold over 85,000 copies this week to land at number one on the Country Albums chart. Following Lady A is Taylor Swift’s Speak Now which moved just over 30,500 copies to land at number two. Meanwhile Jason Aldean continues to move over 30,300 copies to come in at number three. Coming in at number four is another Grammy winner with the Zac Brown Band’s You Get What You Give. Rounding out the top five is yet another 2011 Grammy winner, Miranda Lambert with her album, Revolution.

On the Hot Country Songs chart, Blake Shelton nabs his third consecutive number one single as “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking?” climbs to the top spot. Making a four spot leap to number two is Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson’s duet, “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” which looks to be next week’s number one. Moving up two spots to number three is Brad Paisley’s “This Is Country Music,” while Luke Bryan’s “Someone Else Calling You Baby” falls three spots to number four this week. Rounding out the top five songs is Taylor Swift with her latest smash, “Back to December.”

Leading this week’s debut songs is the newly crowned ACM Top New Solo Vocalist, Eric Church’s “Homeboy” which bows in at no. 48. Following Church is Eli Young Band’s “Crazy Girl” at no. 51, Toby Keith’s “Somewhere Else” at no. 57, and Frankie Ballard’s “A Buncha Girls” at no. 59.

Next we’ll see if Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson can make it to the top of the Hot Country Songs chart or if Blake Shelton can hold them off for at least another week. On the albums chart, we’ll see if Lady Antebellum can continue to ride the Grammy wave or if someone else will replace Need You Now as the top country album in the land. As usual, you can find out in next week’s Chart Flash!

Leave a comment

Filed under Billboard Chart Flash