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Music Review - `Burnt the Sawmill Down ` by The Caleb Daugherty Band (bm)

The Caleb Daugherty Band - Burnt the Sawmill Down  (click on image to watch video)

 9 June 2019



Former Staind lead singer Aaron Lewis stunned listeners earlier this year with “Burnt the Sawmill Down,” a previously unrecorded Keith Whitley co-write, on the exact same day that Caleb released it! May 17. The Caleb Daugherty Band cut a less ballyhooed yet equally compelling version, as well, playing down the Lefty Frizzell vibes of Watson’s honky-tonk rendition while revisiting Whitley’s bluegrass roots. Both are must-hear cuts that really capture the range of artists—from country-rock rebels to string-plucking purists—influenced by one of modern country music’s most tragic figures.

Beyond its title track and its backstory, Burnt the Sawmill Down introduces traditionalists and old souls to a band that would’ve fit right in back in the ‘70s when Whitley played bluegrass festivals with Ralph Stanley and J.D. Crowe.

The opening tune “Wildwood Flower Blues” keeps a composition by the late Harley Allen, the son of Red Allen and writer of John Michael Montgomery’s all-time tearjerker “The Little Girl,” close to its bluegrass roots. Numerous other covers follow, from a mountain gospel take on the traditional song “Long, Long Journey” to string-heavy revisions of Waylon Jennings’ “This Time,” Johnny Rodriguez’s “Riding My Thumb to Mexico” and Moe Bandy’s “Bandy the Rodeo Clown.” Each harmony-filled tribute to the band’s influences pushes the work of great lyricists to the forefront while showcasing the talents of Daugherty (guitar, lead vocals), Kyle Clerkin (banjo), Zion Napier (mandolin), Harold Nixon (bass), Ronnie Stewart (fiddle) and Josh Swift (dobro).

Fresher material includes a worthy addition to the modern bluegrass songbook titled “She’s the Ramblin’ Kind” and “Going Through the Motions,” Daugherty’s moody duet with one of roots music’s greatest ambassadors, Rhonda Vincent.

Like Whitley before them, The Caleb Daugherty Band refuse to stay in a bluegrass bubble, delving beyond old standards and dodging pop cover gimmickry while adding their own spin to some of the best country music of the past 40 years—from Waylon to Whitley.



Bobby Moore




Bobby Moore





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Music Review - `Tennessee Alabama Fireworks` by Boo Ray (bm)

White Owl Red - Existential Frontiers  (click on image to watch video)

 14 March 2019



One of the better new albums in way too few listening rotations came from Boo Ray, a modern traveling troubadour with deep Southern roots.

His latest offering, Tennessee Alabama Fireworks, gets its name from a ragged old sign found where I-24W veers near the state line between Alabama (Heaven if the Lord was there, according to Charlie Daniels) and the country music hotbed of Tennessee. The sign signifies a Southern gothic landscape, dotted with last chance fireworks emporiums, fading “See Rock City” barns, and billboards bearing Hellfire and brimstone warnings.

Ray inhabits this realistic view of the South, as seen from the interstate routes frequented by touring musicians, with vivid characters including the “troubadour king” and “Cadillac queen” in the song “Honky Tonk Dream,” the wise mamas behind the free advice in “Outrun the Wind,” and the broken-hearted pill-popper in “She Wrote the Song.” Listeners get to know these nameless characters well in four minutes or less and, depending on their own presuppositions about rural life, root for them to overcome the odds or meet their demise—It’s hard not to feel strongly invested, one way or the other.

Ray’s album represents more than an A+ final project for a doctoral level songwriting course. He also delves deep into rock ‘n’ roll, soul, and other popular sounds beyond folk and country music. For example, “Gone Back to Georgia” sounds like roots rock with horn accompaniment, while “Don’t Look Back” and “20 Questions” resemble something from Macon, Ga., the longtime home base of Capricorn Records and The Allman Brothers Band. Another great example, “We Ain’t Got the Good,” draws inspiration from the West Coast country-rock tradition—despite a title straight from the dialect of Dixie.

In all, Ray does as an Americana artist should, uplifting what’s great about country music in spite of trends while freely exploring the less twangy output of such popular music legends turned Americana influencers as Tom Petty, Mavis Staples, John Prine, and others representative of the music out there beyond popular country and what’s left of rock.

Bobby Moore




Bobby Moore

To read all of Bobby's reviews, click here







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Music Review - `Maze` by Ariana Gillis (bm)

Ariana Gillis - Maze  (click on image to watch video)

 06 May 2019



Famous and influential people adore the music of Ariana Gillis. Rock critic and author Dave Marsh first brought the young Canadian singer-songwriter some deserved attention in 2011 through satellite radio. Elton John’s songwriting partner Bernie Taupin became an instant fan, as did Americana mover-and-shaker Buddy Miller, producer and record label exec Don Was and Canadian music legend Bob Ezrin.

If you want in on those legends and others’ secret stash of fresh new folk tunes, check out Gillis’ album The Maze, co-produced by Miller in his Nashville studio and scheduled for a June 14 release.

Gillis sells the emotion in every melodic, passionate lyric in the twangy title track, the atmospheric “Rock It Like Fantastic,” the romantic “Lost with You,” the character study “Jeremy Woodstock,” the introspective “Less of a Woman” and the raw, rocking “Slo Motion Killer.” These and five other new songs serve as a solid exhibit A for anyone questioning all this hubbub started by Marsh, Taupin, Miller and others. For less famous folks in the know, the album’s a positive sign that the creative well enriching 2009’s To Make It Make Sense and 2011’s Forget Me Not runs far from dry.

As for categorizing Gillis beyond listing off her best-known fans, she’s not just another (North) Americana artist on the fringes of the mainstream. Nor is she a throwback to anyone from the galaxy of mainstream folk stars—from Joan Baez to Joan Osborne. Instead, Gillis, age 28, has found her own voice throughout a career spanning her adult life, leading up to an album that might just sway some new celebrity admirers.


Bobby Moore




Bobby Moore







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Music Review - `Til the Wheels Fall Off ` by The Bruce Smith Band (bm)

The Bruce Smith Band - Til the Wheels Fall Off  (click on image to watch video)

 23 May 2019



The Bruce Smith Band’s namesake came of age listening to classics by such artists as Buddy Holly, the inspiration behind ‘Til the Wheels Fall Off’s lead single “’59 Stratocaster.” Cross those well-worn pop influences with an affinity for such storytellers as John Hiatt and Elvis Costello, and you get an emerging artistic force in the past-honoring yet the forward-thinking world of Americana.

Some songs, such as the title track and standout cut “Longbranch Inn,” pay homage to the Texas country & Western music revered by Holly’s final touring bassist, Waylon Jennings. Likewise, “Terry the Texas Tornado” and “30 Days” amp up country instrumentation, flaunting Smith and friends’ grasp of old-time rock ‘n’ roll. Other songs, like the Bob Dylan, meets Mike Nesmith quirkiness of “Amanda and the Commander (Dance While You Got the Chance),” replace sentimentality with surrealism. All these examples overshadow “’59 Stratocaster,” a well-written story-song that lacks the added oomph that separates the wheat from the chaff.

Across each sonic twist and turn, Smith (rhythm guitar, vocals), Greg White (rhythm and lead guitar), Bryan Austin (drums), Matt Hubbard (keys, trombone, accordion, harmonica and melodica), Spencer Jarmon (lead guitar), Will Landin (bass) and Randy Caballero (piano) display equal parts skill and sincerity while sharing their own collective twist on the story of American popular music.



Bobby Moore




Bobby Moore

To read all of Bobby's reviews, click here







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Music Review - `The Long Road Home ` by Kevin Deal (bm)

Kevin Deal - The Long Road Home  (click on image to watch video)

 21 April 2019



Texas country singer and songwriter Kevin Deal’s album The Long Road Home shares his love of regional music traditions and his Christian faith across 14 new recordings.

Deal, a veteran recording artist and collaborator with Lloyd Maines (the father of the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines), takes it slow on his musical lamentation of self-destruction, “If You Can’t Put It Down”—a PSA of sorts against alcohol and other vices. He broods a little with “A Reckoning,” a gloomy tale of sin’s wages that could’ve suited Johnny Cash’s American Recordings output. Speaking of Cash, Deal also acknowledges his inspirations with covers of “Ring of Fire” and Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.”

It’s not all doom and gloom, with “Broken Upon the Rock” capturing the foot-stomping church music that’s always paired well with Hellfire and brimstone preaching. Likewise, “Keeping the Faith” champions the Christian life as a means of continuous comfort in a troubled word. Instead of just covering a few familiar hymns or songs of praise, Deal goes in-depth as to why religion helps him maneuver through our current socio-political situation.

Throughout the album, Deal celebrates the interlocking worlds of country, folk, Americana and gospel music as unmatched means to share feelings of love, loss, regret and redemption. These universal themes face us all, with or without the benefit of personal faith or a creative outlet to help cope with the negatives and shout hallelujah over the positives. Just like the Maines family and other mainstays of Texas music, Deal relates to others’ emotions through stories that’re personalized yet relatable. 


Bobby Moore




Bobby Moore








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