It’s been over two years since we were last able to get our hands on a new album from Carrie Underwood. During that time she focused on her marriage to hockey player Mike Fisher and took a little break from touring and recording. Now she’s ready to make a comeback with her latest album, Blown Away. How does the new 14 song set compare to the singer’s previous three albums?
Category Archives: Album Reviews
Chris Young has worked his way up from a Nashville Star winner to one of country music’s brightest stars by releasing songs that stick true to his traditional roots yet are just mainstream enough to be played on today’s country radio. With “Tomorrow” becoming his fastest rising and career defining single, Young released his third album with RCA Records titled Neon.
An old school jukebox
It’s the buzz I love to be on
Put a double on your troubles
In this portion of ATC’s Indie Spotlight, we’ll be reviewing the Stephanie Eason Band’s first full-length studio album, The Red Letter Days. Find out what we think about the album in our Indie Spotlight!
The album starts off with the upbeat “Charlotte to Phoenix” which finds Stephanie telling the story of a couple who wants to take a plunge and hit the open road from Charlotte to Phoenix to get away from their town. Stephanie provides a fantastic vocal performance that is never overshadowed by the production, which is filled with steel, mandolin, and guitars that keep its sound strictly country. In fact, the production throughout the record stays strictly country and that could be difficult to do in this generation of country music because some of it really isn’t country.
The album continues with the pop-country tune “It Ain’t Love” which talks about how love is all about being physical and not all about the romantic gestures like writing poems or giving someone flowers. The production features a prominent banjo line backed by the ever-present steel guitar. The band keeps with the country-pop production on songs like “How to Start a Fire” as well as one of the album’s highlights, “Holdin’ On.” The latter of which is a song about a woman who is engaged to a man that she doesn’t feel is the “one,” but instead finds her soul mate in a different guy which she’s holding on to.
One of the most interesting productions comes from the song “Endlessly” which possesses a very dark, mellow, bluesy production that’s filled with the usual Stephanie Eason Band instruments – mandolin, steel, and bass – mixed with a very subdued drum beat that sounds amazing on the ears. “He Don’t Know” also features an interesting production that incorporates traditional country sounds with a hint of bluegrass that results in a fantastic sounding record that could’ve been heard during the traditional country movement of the 1990’s.
The album’s strongest song is the ballad “My Heart Won’t Leave Me Alone.” Everything from the dark production to the outstanding emotion-filled vocal performance from Stephanie, the best on the album, results in one heck of a song. The song, of course, would be nothing without the incredible songwriting skills of Stan Hitson, who also wrote or co-wrote five other songs, who brings the story of how a person feels after a sudden break up to life with such brilliance.
Lead singer Stephanie Eason also shows off her songwriting skills on songs like “Holdin’ On” as well as the charming “Happy Ever After,” which talks about how the stories in fairytales we all grew up with never happen in real life, but we do all get our “happy ever after” in different ways. I’ve already raved about the production on “He Don’t Know,” but the songwriting by Eason is also something that should be mentioned because she does an excellent job at telling the story of a girl who’s in love with her best friend but is afraid to tell him, fearing that he won’t return her love.
The only time the group strays away from their country sounds is on the rocker “Be Careful What You Ask For” which Stephanie shares vocals with songwriter Stan Hitson in the telling of the story about a husband who gets caught cheating in a local bar. This song provides Stephanie the opportunity to show off her sassy side as she gets to play the wife who confronts the girl that is knowingly getting “lovey-dovey” with a married man. This song also provides the band the opportunity to show a different side to them and proves to listeners that they aren’t one-dimensional when it comes to their tastes in music.
From the excellent vocal performances from Eason to the outstanding production, this album is an outstanding representation of who the Stephanie Eason Band is. After listening to this record, there’s no doubt that the band is intent on sticking to their country roots and isn’t afraid to include influences from bluegrass, rock, and pop into that country sound. This album is a fantastic start from the group and I’m personally hoping they get the chance to record more music in their career.
The highlight of this portion is the fantastic “Curse the Bed.” This song allows Bundy to not only show off her sultry voice, but also to show off what could be her acting skills as she wails the song with so much pain and emotion. Accompanied by light strings and acoustic guitar, she sings about destroying the bed where the love of an old relationship was made in an effort to rid herself of the memories.
The <i>Achin'</i> portion of the album closes with “When It All Goes South” which sticks to the production of the previous songs; thus, resulting in a fantastic first of a two part album. Nathan Chapman, who has also produced for Taylor Swift and Jewel, sets the bar really high for Shakin’ producers Mike Shimshack and Kyle Kelso. Unfortunately, Shimshack and Kelso fail to reach that bar with the second portion of the album.
Although Shakin’ shows off more of Bundy’s bubbly personality, it also loses the tight and controlled production that Achin’ acheived. Lead by the her debut single, “Giddy On Up,” this second set of songs has Bundy loosely singing her way through an incohesive set of sassy uptempo numbers. Unlike the first half of the album, the production of this set includes many, if not all, instruments which have been mashed together in attempt to walk the fine line between country-pop and pop-country.
The over-production further makes a mess out of songs like “Rebound” and the out of control “If You Want My Love.” If I had to choose a highlight of the Shakin’ portion of this album, it would have to be “I’m No Good (For Ya Baby)” mainly based on the fact that it’s the least over produced of the six songs. Other than that, this portion of the album, though a tad more enjoyable from a tempo standpoint, is a complete mess. However, I have to give big props to Bundy for allowing her big personality to show through on this set.
Overall, this is a solid album. It’ll be interesting to see what songs Bundy and her label choose to release as singles after “Giddy On Up” because it’s hard to imagine most of these songs on the radio. It’s clear that Bundy has the goods to become a star in country music but may need to ditch producers Shimshack and Kelso in the future to avoid another carwreck that is Shakin’.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Click on the link below to purchase Achin’ and Shakin’
Over the course of a career no one has evolved musically and artistically as much as Gary Allan. From the traditional sound he showed on his debut album, Used Heart For Sale, to the new mainstream country-rock sound he’s shown on his previous two albums (2005’s Tough All Over and 2007’s Living Hard), Allan has evolved to an artist who is comfortable with his outlaw style of music. Does his new album, Get Off on the Pain, continue his evolution as an artist or does Allan stick with the formula he’s most comfortable with?
The album kicks off with the title song which is a country rocker that finds Allan singing about his outlaw style of living using lyrics about how he likes to hang out with the dark horses and how he rides the wrong road as fast as he can. The song lives up to his country rock reputation which suits his vocals perfectly. The album continues with “I Think I’ve Had Enough” which is a more mainstream rock song that could also be sung by a pop-rock group such as Daughtry. Allan sings about how he’s had enough of living alone and runs back to the woman he loves because his life is too rough without her. His vocals are packed with plenty of raw soul and suits the song and its production.
As usual, Allan proves he can not only sing the soaring rock songs, but also the tender ballads. The album’s lead single, “Today,” is a perfect example. The Brice Long and Tommy Lee James written song is about a man who realizes any chance he had with a woman disappears the day she gets married to someone else. Allan’s soulful tone turns into a more emotional one as he sings the heartbreaking ballad. He also shows off his tender side on the quiet “We Fly By Night” which talks about how he and his love interest may have stressful, hard days but once night falls, they find themselves making loving in a world that feels right. On this tune, Allan’s able to show off a bit of his bluesy side which mixes well with the steel guitar and drum melody.
The overall theme of this album is about love. The albums includes songs about losing love (“Today” and “Kiss Me When I’m Down) and songs about having love (“We Fly By Night” and “She Gets Me”). One of the most powerful songs about love is “When You Give Yourself Away” which talks about how you need to open your heart and allow yourself to open up to someone no matter how it’ll end. The song gives the message that in order to love you must give yourself away to someone else. The bluesy, soulful production brilliantly showcases his powerful vocal performance.
The most powerful song on the album is its closer, “No Regrets.” No doubt inspired by the loss of his wife in 2004, the song finds Allan singing about how he’s always loved her with no regrets. He says that even though their life together was short, he was still able to live so much…all of it with no regrets. The production on the song is filled with plenty of steel and acoustic guitar. Gary’s vocal performance is the best on the album by a long shot. This song proves that music, in any form, has the power to help heal any wound.
This is another solid album from Gary Allan that will no doubt bring him more success. The overall production sticks to his artistic stylings and his vocals are packed with his usual soul and incredibly range. Allan is one of country music’s finest veterans who will hopefully be able to continue to release great music for many more years to come.
(The Deluxe version of the album includes 4 bonus tracks: an all-new song and 3 live tracks)
Album Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars