Monthly Archives: April 2011

Concert Review: Easton Corbin Rocks Arizona…Twice!

This past weekend was a fun weekend that revolved around country’s hottest new artist, Easton Corbin. Corbin performed two shows in Arizona – once at Mesa’s Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill and once in Tucson at the Pima County Fair. I was able to attend both shows so here’s my review of Corbin’s performances.

Out of all the concerts that are hitting Arizona this year, this one was the one that I was looking forward to the most because I had seen Easton Corbin twice before (both shows were last year) and he didn’t disappoint. I’m glad to say that these past two shows once again didn’t disappoint.

Corbin started his 60 minute set with “The Way Love Looks,” a track of his 2010 album Easton Corbin. From there the newcomer transitioned into “Don’t Ask Me About a Woman” and “Far From Memphis” and didn’t hold anything back throughout his set. Some of the set’s highlights included the album tracks “A Lot to Learn About Living,” “Let Alone You,” and the current single, “I Can’t Love You Back.” He continued to perform every other song from his debut album including the number one smash singles, “A Little More Country Than That” and the set-ending “Roll With It.”

Since Corbin doesn’t have enough material of his own to fill an hour long set, there’s the need to throw in a few covers. Being one of country’s best neo-traditionalists Easton covered classic country hits like Merle Haggard’s “Workin’ Man Blues” and Don Williams’ “It Must Be Love.” He also threw in songs by current artists like Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t Happen Twice” and Alan Jackson’s “Where I Come From.” During his Tucson performance he also threw in Gary Allan’s “Watching Airplanes” and Conway Twitty’s signature hit, “Lay You Down.” The highlight of both performances was Easton’s encore which included a medley of hits from the artist he’s most compared to to, George Strait. Beginning with just an acoustic guitar, Corbin ran through a few lines of Strait’s “The Chair.” After that, he was joined by a steel guitar to sing “You Look So Good in Love” and then was joined by the full band to conclude the medley with the hit “It Just Comes Natural.”
After spending several months on the road with the CMA Entertainer of the Year Brad Paisley last year, it’s obvious Easton learned a lot about performing live. He had the packed house eating out of the palm of his hand and delivered a sold and energetic set during both shows. His voice was right on and, in person, he sounds even more like George Strait. I’ve known for a while now that this newcomer has what it takes to have a Strait-esque career in country music and I sure hope he sticks around for many more years to come. I think we have yet to see the best Corbin and I can’t wait to see where his career goes from here.

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Sunny Sweeney, "Staying’s Worse Than Leaving"

After delivering one of 2010’s best country songs, Sunny Sweeney has the challenging task of following up her first top 10 hit, “From A Table Away.” Can Sunny continue her success at country radio with “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving” or will radio once again choose to overlook this talented singer?

So I need to get something off my chest and that is thank God for Sunny Sweeney! Finally there’s a female artist who can hold her own with some of the genre’s finest traditional vocalists like Lee Ann Womack, Patty Loveless, and Pam Tillis. She showed major potential on “From A Table Away” and on “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving,” she proves that she can deliver a heartbreaking song brilliantly.

The song’s lyrics, which are about a woman involved in a failed relationship, are among the best that have been shipped to country radio this year. The story revolves around a woman who sees that her relationship has deteriorated, but is emotionally conflicted when it comes to leaving. “Leavin’s hard, trust me it’s really bad,” Sweeney sings, “it’ll damn near break ya, it always has.” As the song continues the woman comes to the realization that they’ve done everything they can to make it work, but it just isn’t right. “I just hope someday we’ll look back on this grievin’,” Sunny sings as she says goodbye, “and say staying’s worse than leaving.” Now if that isn’t a country song…then I don’t know what is!

The song’s production is unique in that it’s mainstream enough to be played on country radio, but it never shies away from the neotraditionalist’s roots. It contains the usual traditional country steel along with a nice blend of electric guitar and a heavy drum beat. Just like on “From a Table Away,” Sweeney’s vocal
performance translates the pain and heartache of the song’s subject matter brilliantly. 

In a Review Blast earlier this year, I deemed this talented vocalist as an artist to watch in 2011 and she’s off to a great start by releasing another gem to country radio. Sunny’s done what she’s needed to do, now it’s just up to country radio to see if she can take her career to the next level.

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Concert Review: Country Thunder 2011

It’s finally here…ATC’s first concert review of 2011! Last weekend I attended the annual Country Thunder music festival in Florence, Arizona and had one heck of a good time! This year’s headliners included Sawyer Brown, Jason Aldean, Martina McBride, and Toby Keith. This year I got to attend two festival days so here’s my review of the acts I was able to see over the two days.

The main day I wanted to attend was Friday night which included the lineup of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Eric Church, and headliner Jason Aldean. Being a big fan of both Church and Aldean, this was a show I could not miss and both acts didn’t disappoint. We arrived at the festival in the middle of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s set so I wasn’t able to see the majority of their set but I did get to hear their classic hit, “Fishin’ in the Dark.” From what I could tell, the massive crowd was enjoying the band’s set as most of the audience was on their feet dancing along to the music.

Once they ended it was time for Eric Church. Church is somewhat a modern day outlaw in country music. His music doesn’t fit the current mold that you hear on country radio which I think makes him a fan favorite on the road. His hour set included the majority of his singles from his debut “How ‘Bout You” to “Love Your Love the Most” to his current single, “Homeboy.” He did a great job balancing his set list with songs from each of his two albums. Church’s shining moment came during the last song which was his smash, “Smoke a Little Smoke.” The song had the entire audience on their feet and singing along as he lit up a cigar to celebrate the song’s theme. Church did a fantastic job in the last opening spot and definitely got the crowd rowdy for Jason Aldean.

After a quick 30 minute intermission it was time for Jason Aldean to end the night’s festivities. Aldean roared onstage to perform “Tattoos on this Town” off his My Kinda Party album. From there his setlist included nearly every single he’s released to radio from the rowdy anthems like “Johnny Cash” and “Hicktown” to ballads “Why” and “The Truth” to his current single, “Dirt Road Anthem” (songwriter Brantley Gilbert joined him onstage to perform the song). During the middle of his set he was joined by a virtual Kelly Clarkson to sing their #1 smash duet, “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” Since the current tour is in support of My Kinda Party, he included cuts off the album like “See You When I See You” and the title track, “My Kinda Party.” After ending his main set with “Hicktown,” Aldean returned for an encore that included a cover of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” and the smash hit from 2008, “She’s Country.” It was clear he feels extremely comfortable as a headliner and gave the massive audience one of the best closing sets that Country Thunder has seen. He’s already scored an ACM nomination for Entertainer of the Year and I’m certain he’ll one day win the award from either the ACM’s or the CMA’s.
I was unable to attend Saturday’s shows which included sets by Rodney Atkins, Little Big Town, and headliner Martina McBride, but I was able to see a few of the sets that were apart of Sunday’s lineup. The first act I got to see was the group Gloriana. Their set included all their singles like “Wild At Heart” and their current release “Wanna Take You Home.” Though they have one album out, they chose to have the majority of their set be new songs from an upcoming release, but they did throw in a few songs from their debut album. “You Said” was one of the highlights and so was the set-ending “How Far Do You Wanna Go?” The group is having a little trouble hitting the big time on country radio but their live performances are full of energy and spunk and show that the group has lots of potential.

After Gloriana came Sara Evans, who I must say I was the most excited to see. With a catalog as deep as hers and with the amount of hits she’s had, it was no surprise that her set list was mainly filled with singles. She opened with “I Keep Lookin” from her 2003 album, Restless. From there she jumped into singles like “Perfect”, “Real Fine Place,” “Born to Fly,” and her current career reviving single, “A Little Bit Stronger.” In between she included more hits like “Coalmine,” “Some Things Never Change,” and “I Could Not Ask for More.” She ended her set with one of her career defining hits, “Suds in the Bucket.” During the earlier sets the crowd was fairly scarce and almost non-existence until Sara hit the stage then it grew and only got bigger during her set. Her voice was on point and she showed that she’s one of the best female vocalists country music has to offer. I’m excited to see her back on the road and performing new music.

When I first saw the lineup several months ago, I was a bit surprised that Sara Evans wasn’t occupying the final opening slot before Toby Keith and I was intrigued to see who they’d get to fill that slot. When it was announced that it would be Clay Walker, I knew he was the perfect choice. Like Sara before him, Clay has a deep catalog that could fill more than the hour he was alotted, but the songs he chose represented his career brilliantly. From the opener “Live, Laugh, Love” to “If I Could Make a Living” it was clear the audience would be treated to plenty of Walker’s early hits. He included plenty of 90’s hits like “Rumor Has It,” “Dreaming with my Eyes Wide Open,” “Then What?,” and even his debut singles, “What’s It to You” and “Live Until I Die.” He also included some of his recent hits like “Fall” and his top 10 hit from last year, “She Won’t Be Lonely Long.” I hadn’t seen Clay since probably the mid to late 90’s so I was thrilled that he included most of his early hits in his 60 minute set. He did a fantastic job getting the crowd ready for the Big Dog Daddy, Toby Keith. Unfortunately, I had to work early Monday morning so we left after Walker’s set but I heard Toby put on a great show and closed out the festival with a bang.
Traditionally Country Thunder is usually the kickoff of my yearly concert series and this year is no different. Look for reviews of concerts featuring artists like Easton Corbin, Kenny Chesney, country music legend Loretta Lynn, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, and Taylor Swift this year as well as many more as I’m sure more Arizona concerts will be announced soon.

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Billboard Chart Flash: Week of Mar. 21 – 27

This week saw an album return to the number one spot while a new country duo claims its first number one song their career. Find out who we’re talking about in this week’s Chart Flash!

After trailing Sara Evans’ Stronger for the last two weeks, Jason Aldean’s My Kinda Party reclaims the number one spot on Billboard’s Country Albums chart. Aldean sold another 19,000 copies to bring the album’s total to just over 999,000 copies so more than likely he’ll cross the 1 million mark next week. Trailing Jason is the Zac Brown Band’s You Get What You Give while Rascal Flatts’ Nothing Like This comes in third. Falling to number four from number one is Evans’ Stronger which brings its three total to just under 100,000 copies. Rouding out the top five is Taylor Swift’s Speak Now which sold just over 15,000 copies this week.

Last week we thought we’d see a big debut from Josh Kelley’s Georgia Clay but the album opened with a disappointing 6,000 copies sold to land at number 16. With “Georgia Clay” just outside the top 15 on the Hot Country Songs chart, it’ll be interesting to see how the album performs from here.

Speaking of the Hot Country Songs chart, new country duo Thompson Square claimed their first number one song as “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?” jumps up two spots to number one this week. Holding strong at number two is Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson with their monster duet, “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” Falling down two spots to number three is last week’s top single, “Let Me Down Easy” by Billy Currington. Also holding their positions in the four and five spots respectively are the Zac Brown Band’s “Colder Weather” and Darius Rucker’s “This.”

This week saw the debut of four new songs on the charts and they are led by Trace Adkins’ “Just Fishin'” which lands at number 40. Dierks Bentley’s “Am I The Only One” (no. 47), Jake Owens’ “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” (no. 55), and Edens Edge’s “Amen” (no. 60) all made their respective debuts this week as well.

Next week we’ll see if Thompson Square can hold onto the number one spot or if another single will leapfrog to number one. If any song had a chance at doing accomplishing that feat it would be ZBB’s “Colder Weather.” As usual we’ll sort out all the movements for you in next week’s Chart Flash.

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