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Music Review - `True is Beautiful` by Raveis Kole (dmac)

Raveis Kole - True is Beautiful  (click on image to watch video)

 4  August 2021

 

Black

The title of Raveis Kole’s single, “True is Beautiful,” is more than a tad philosophical. Usually, whenever we consider what is beautiful, we imagine something we can see with our eyes. Nevertheless, Raveis Kole’s lyrical statement is just as true as a pretty viewpoint. Knowing the truth, as we’re told, has been said to set us free. “True is Beautiful” is a little out of the ordinary, it’s true, but it’s nevertheless a welcome reminder. 

Raveis Kole (Laurie Raveis and Dennis Kole) are a singer-songwriter duo, and “True is Beautiful” leans closely to the folk side of the musical spectrum. Lyrically, Raveis Kole begins its meditation on the real, rather unusually. Rather than point out truth examples, the pair instead remind us about how “There’s a snake that escaped from the garden.” This Biblical snake represented Satan, who has been called the father of lies. This example is meant to remind the listener that lying has been going on for a long time – since the beginning of time if you believe the Biblical account. Whereas truth is beautiful, lies are ugly. Maybe you think snakes are cool looking, but many of us consider these cold-blooded creatures as one of God’s ugliest creations. 

The minor key melody driving the song’s verses, is followed by a major key, positive chorus. Raveis, who sings lead on the track, announces how she’s going to get her hands dirty and plant something beautiful. Those dishonest roots need to be pulled out and replaced by better, more honest ones. This chorus ends with the repeated line, “True is beautiful.” Much can be said about Raveis Kole’s lyrical statement here. Yes, in a general sense, truth is far better than lies. However, an environmental message can also be drawn from these words. Nature is beautiful, when it’s not messed with or manipulated, the way the snake initially used it to his advantage. Nature is – for the most part – good and honest, and it’s the true beauty in the world. On the one hand, there is a lyrical move to get back to nature. Furthermore, there is also a desire to get nature back to its beautiful, natural state. 

Sonically, this track is by no means simplistic, acoustic guitar folk. Its bass part is elastic and dynamic, while the electric guitars sound a little progressive in places. Also, later in the track, Raveis references a different literary instance, singing about Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. After all, we all learn about the dangers of telling lies as children. Even so, many children grow up to be liars, never fully recognizing truth’s beauty. 

There is much talk about our culture’s current loss of truth. Go no further than the prevalence of fake news, to get a taste of all that. Although the Bible commands us to not lie, you don’t need to be a Biblical scholar to realize how damaging lying can be. Truth, however, where we get all the facts out on the table, may not always feel good, but this act is entirely necessary if we want a fair and just society. That conniving snake is still among us, in the form of corrupt politicians, bad businesspeople and fibbers from all walks of life. Honesty, after all, is always the best policy.

-Dan MacIntosh

 

Music Reviewer - Dan MacIntosh

 

Dan MacIntosh - Dan MacIntosh has been a professional music journalist for 30 years and his work has regularly appeared in many local and national publications, including Inland Empire Weekly, CCM, CMJ, Paste, Mean Street, Chord, HM, Christian Retailing, Amplifier, Inspirational Giftware, Stereo Subversion, Indie-Music, Soul–Audio, Roughstock.com, Country Standard Time and Spin.com. 

To Read All of Dan's Reviews, Click Here

 

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Music Review - `Then...And One More Day` by Westley Dennis (dmac)

Westley Dennis - Then...And One More Day  (click on image to watch video)

 2 June 2021

 

Black

Back in the mid-90s, Wesley Dennis was signed to Mercury Nashville Records and touring with Alan Jackson. He certainly has the sort of traditional country voice that would appeal to Jackson fans, too. For whatever reason, though, Dennis didn’t become a household name within the mainstream country world. Listening to his new Then And One More Day leaves the listener wondering why Dennis never became famous. There’s most assuredly a story there somewhere because this man is a great country singer and comes off as ‘one that got away,’ somehow.

Dennis also sings the kinds of country songs we sadly just don’t hear any longer. There’s one here about cheating, “Where Are All The Girls I Used To Cheat With,” which wonders aloud about whatever happened to all the loose women this guy slept with. Have you noticed how no country songs even have the word “cheating” in their titles/lyrics these days? Then there are a couple of the album’s songs about prison. These days, you might only hear rappers detailing their incarcerations in song. One titled “Alabama Dreams,” though, is sung from the perspective of an imprisoned man daydreaming about one day finally being free. Then with “All My Friends Are Beyond Bars” (which features Chris Keefe), details a long list of friends doing hard time. Nashville is so squeaky clean these days, listeners just don’t hear stories about such imprisoned outlaws. It’s as though Music City tries to pretend this side of life no longer exists. However, the U.S. incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, and most certainly many of these prisoners are also country folk. 

“This Song’s For You,” which includes a familiar list of unsung heroes, such as servicemen with various callings, is not unfamiliar to country music audiences. It’s not uncommon for country artists to salute the military during live performances, after all. However, on it Dennis also gives a shout-out to women that choose not to have abortions. You wouldn’t expect such praise even in modern day mainstream country music. Contemporary country music leans conservative, but not usually THAT conservative. Anti-abortion sentiments can sometimes be found in Christian music, but few other places than that.

Musically, these songs incorporate all the wonderful instrumental elements traditional country music fans love most. The album’s title track sports lots of fiddle, honky tonk piano, steel guitar and electric guitars that go twang. These are beautiful sounds to a traditionalist’s ears. Yes, there are still great songs coming out of Nashville these days. However, most of these recordings also include big, booming drums and hard rocking electric guitar. The lyrics may read like country songs, but the sound is much closer to classic rock. Dennis puts his resonant country voice to equally downhome sounds, which is much appreciated. 

While Dennis’ sound can be called a throwback to a seemingly bygone country music days, his songs are nevertheless still relevant. The aforementioned Alan Jackson’s latest album, Where Have You Gone, is proof positive that an artist can ‘keep it country,’ and still remain in the mainstream. There is room in Nashville for more artists like Jackson. Jon Pardi and George Strait still get played on the radio, for instance. Wesley Dennis deserves a place on contemporary playlists, too, because his Then…And One More Day is a strong traditional country music album. Please don’t allow him to become the one that got away, again.

 

Music Reviewer - Dan MacIntosh

 

Dan MacIntosh - Dan MacIntosh has been a professional music journalist for 30 years and his work has regularly appeared in many local and national publications, including Inland Empire Weekly, CCM, CMJ, Paste, Mean Street, Chord, HM, Christian Retailing, Amplifier, Inspirational Giftware, Stereo Subversion, Indie-Music, Soul–Audio, Roughstock.com, Country Standard Time and Spin.com. 

To Read All of Dan's Reviews, Click Here

 

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Music Review - `Ain’t Your Momma` by Rhonda Funk (dmac)

Rhonda Funk - A Shiver in the Sky  (click on image to watch video)

 06 June 2021

 

Black

Although Rhonda Funk has more of a R&B-ready name than a Nashville-associated one, don’t let that fact cause you to doubt her strong country music credentials. Her “Ain’t Your Momma” album is a passionate, sincere collection of decidedly country music. In fact, it’s her fourth album to date, and a mighty good one.

She so good, in fact, she can even make a Jon Bon Jovi song sound authentically down home. Granted, this is a song from Bon Jovi’s ‘country’ album. However, few of us believed New Jersey’s own poodle-haired rocker was ever truly a country artist. Funk sings this one over a hopping, danceable country beat. Her new arrangement of includes twangy guitar, organ, and that steady rhythm. Her voice also fills this ‘leaving song’ with plenty of natural sadness. 

The (shall we say it?) slightly funky inclusion, “Ain’t Your Momma,” finds Funk sounding strong and resistant toward the child’s play of one youthful suitor. On a woman with plenty of life experience can sing its lyrics. It’s been said that some men look for a woman much like their mothers when seeking a suitable mate. However, Funk is dead set on finding a real man, not this momma’s boy. She sings it very much like a mature country woman. She has the sort of forcefulness one has come to expect from Reba McEntire. There are girl singers, and then there are grown women. Funk clearly sets herself apart as one of the latter. 

“I Could Get Used To This” is a much more relationship-positive song. It’s also a rocking country song, driven by some nicely aggressive fiddle work. “I know I shouldn’t/But I could get used to this,” Funk sings at one point. Yes, she has her reservations about entering into this relationship, but she just can’t resist. Some romances are just too darn irresistible. 

With “More Than A Table,” Funk performs a warm, heartfelt country story song about a man with carpentry skills. It’s one of those songs that details how even something as simple as furniture can symbolize long-lasting love. Like that hand-built table, this woman is also not perfect. However, she’s a sturdy woman, and that table means more to her than merely something to serve meals on.

Funk reveals the rougher edges of her singing voice on “Liar, Liar,” a song about a man that severely lacks truthfulness. She nearly screams its chorus, which shouts out the accusation, “Liar, liar, tongues on fire.” On it, Funk’s is the faithful one, while she catches this man in the web of his own lies.

The album closes with a song about romance conspicuously set in the South. She namedrops Kentucky and its fine bourbon, as evidence. This one once again features Joe Spivey’s outstanding fiddling. Whenever he plays fiddle on this album, his skills simply jump out of the speakers. It’s like a sudden extra jolt of energy, whenever he jumps into this song’s mix. 

No, Rhonda Funk doesn’t bring the funk to Ain’t Your Momma, but she sure enough brings a powerful dose of wonderful country music. Please Lord, let there be room at the mainstream country radio table for Rhonda Funk, because this girl’s the real deal.

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Music Reviewer - Dan MacIntosh

 

Dan MacIntosh - Dan MacIntosh has been a professional music journalist for 30 years and his work has regularly appeared in many local and national publications, including Inland Empire Weekly, CCM, CMJ, Paste, Mean Street, Chord, HM, Christian Retailing, Amplifier, Inspirational Giftware, Stereo Subversion, Indie-Music, Soul–Audio, Roughstock.com, Country Standard Time and Spin.com. 

To Read All of Dan's Reviews, Click Here

 

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Music Review - `Overdue` by Severin Browne (dmac)

Severin Browne - Overdue  (click on image to watch video)

 2 June 2021

 

Black

Severin Browne mentions in his biography how he’s from a musical family. That’s not unusual. Many musicians grow up with music being created all around them. However, his brother is also the famous Jackson Browne, which makes Severin’s familial upbringing akin to a royal (musical) family. It’s difficult knowing this, not to compare Severin to his celebrated older brother. Yet doing so would be unfair. For starters, both men are vastly different singer/songwriters, with completely different artistic aims. It is, indeed, an apples and oranges scenario -- to say the least. While Jackson is often a fiery socio-political commentator, Severin is far more of a gentle, James Taylor-styled folk-pop artist. Both are talented artists that have followed distinctly dissimilar muses. The younger Browne’s album, Overdue, is a sweet, heartfelt collection of songs that play out like comfort food to the ear.

Although politics doesn’t play too big a role in this Browne’s songs, there is one conspicuous exception. The Mexican music-styled “Miguel and Maria” tells the story about a romantic pair who, along with their small daughter Lucia, aspire to cross the border from Mexico into the United States. This is no anti-ICE rant, however, but is instead a warmly told story about a couple with big dreams. Browne sings more of a personal love song with “I Am and I Will.” Powered by a rhythmic groove colored with rocking organ, this one is nothing less than an inspired and inspiring song of romantic devotion. Along the way, it includes sparse acoustic piano and electric guitar solos. 

Browne closes the album with “Quiet Night,” a soft, jazzy groove-of-a-song. It sets the mood of hushed romanticism. Brown sings it jazzily – but not in a schmaltzy manner – over tinkled piano notes and jazz guitar chords. He takes a song that could have easily gone off the rails, and makes it come off undeniably sincere. The album opens with a song that only a man of experience can sing. “Young And Free” relishes in the unbridled joy of being, well, both young and free. Sometimes, such nostalgic sentiments can be a little sad; as though someone has taken just too many trips down memory lane. Many of these lyrical exercises are filled with a regret that the good times will never be quite as good again. Toward the end of the song, Severin announces how he’s too “busy being young and free” to ever remain living in the past. His freedom began young and has stuck with him – even in his latter years. 

The album’s title track is a folkish tune accented by harmonica, female backing vocals and a horn section. It is, simply put, about Browne’s deep love of creating music. Who knew this kid, who started his music introduction with the dreaded accordion (with apologies to Weird Al), who can now look back on a life filled with writing and sharing his music? This track also has a slight Santana vibe running through it.

Just as politics only play a small part in Overdue, the same thing can be said about sad songs. Nevertheless, the teary “Leaving You Is The Hardest Thing I’ve Known,” about the act of separating from a lover, is truly a tragic lyrical end to a romance.

Severin Browne isn’t loud enough to rock your world, but wholly able to find quiet a place in your heart. If you haven’t tasted and seen that Browne’s music is good, well, you’re way overdue. 

 

Music Reviewer - Dan MacIntosh

 

Dan MacIntosh - Dan MacIntosh has been a professional music journalist for 30 years and his work has regularly appeared in many local and national publications, including Inland Empire Weekly, CCM, CMJ, Paste, Mean Street, Chord, HM, Christian Retailing, Amplifier, Inspirational Giftware, Stereo Subversion, Indie-Music, Soul–Audio, Roughstock.com, Country Standard Time and Spin.com. 

To Read All of Dan's Reviews, Click Here

 

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Music Review - `Rope The Wind` by Nick Justice (dmac)

Nick Justice - Rope the Wind  (click on image to watch video)

 30 March 2021

 

Black

Nick Justice sings these eleven songs on Rope The Wind a little bit like a cowboy Chris Isaak. Sonically, Justice’s music is straight forward Americana-based, with plenty of twangy, country- leaning guitars. His music’s Isaak’s comparison is due to that cry in Justice’s voice whenever he sings. Because of this, everything on Rope The Wind comes out just a little bit sad.

The album opens with a personal cry for free-spiritedness, called “Traveling Man.” Toward the album’s center section, however, Justice sings a couple of story songs. One is titled “Run Away,” and is about a Bonnie and Clyde-like couple with “Trouble on their minds/And a lot of time to spare.” As we all know, the devil will find work for idle hands to do. The very next song is the true story of an American outlaw, “Billy The Kid.” There are hard partying country singers these days that refer to themselves as modern day outlaws. Justice, however, writes and sings songs about actual outlaws on this album.

One of the album’s most intriguing songs is called “Rhymes And Reason.” For it, Justice strings together a series of childhood rhymes, and somehow transforms these familiar phrases into an interesting song. The track features plenty of tasty slide guitar, and even banjo underpinning it. It’s a little bit like a Bob Dylan song, in that Justice sings enticing words and it’s up to us (the listeners) to figure out what it all means. The album’s title cut is a slow, throbbing, bass-driven track. Lyrically, it’s an invitation from one man to one girl. “Take a little ride with me/To the other side.” Is he tempting her to step out and into the wild side of life? It sure sounds like it.

There’s plenty of mystery in Nick Justice’s songs, which makes Rope The Wind one Pandora’s Box of an album to explore.

 

Music Reviewer - Dan MacIntosh

 

Dan MacIntosh - Dan MacIntosh has been a professional music journalist for 30 years and his work has regularly appeared in many local and national publications, including Inland Empire Weekly, CCM, CMJ, Paste, Mean Street, Chord, HM, Christian Retailing, Amplifier, Inspirational Giftware, Stereo Subversion, Indie-Music, Soul–Audio, Roughstock.com, Country Standard Time and Spin.com. 

To Read All of Dan's Reviews, Click Here

 

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