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{Review} Welcome to the Big World, Adam Hood

big_1412275711welcometothebigworld260Adam Hood continues the onslaught of outstanding releases here in the last couple months of 2014 (Wade Bowen, Stoney LaRue).  His latest, Welcome to the Big World, continues his streak of releasing fully-realized songs and albums that mix elements of country, blues, soul and rock better than any other contemporary artist.  The proud native Alabaman has been an honorary Texan for well over a decade.  The reason being, that as the mainstream of Texas Music has veered closer to Nashville caricature each year, Hood has maintained a hard-earned and original artistic vision.  Hood’s songwriting is always rooted in his real life.  He does a better job than most of making the most personal become the most easily accessible.  Meaning that although these songs are straight from his soul in Opelika, AL they can hit your heart as true in Anywhere USA.

The songs on Welcome to the Big World evoke an artist trying his best to maintain a balance between home and the road.  This has been a common theme throughout Hood’s entire catalog.  As he ages, the songs take on a whiskey-soaked wisdom that lesser artists try to pull off without the same gravitas.  These songs grab your attention and don’t let go.  You picture yourself as the lonely troubadour in the dingy hotel room watching an old black and white movie in “Way Too Long”.   You’re the tired musician loading in and longing to be any other place in the world on “Whole Lot of Hard Work”.  A true standout track is the Will Hoge collaboration “Postcards and Payphones” which Hood has been playing live for a while now.  If you want to know Adam Hood, listen to this song.  His soul is laid bare as he talks about missing his wife, daughter and family while on the road to entertain us all.

Behind the power of Kickstarter, Hood reclaimed complete creative control of this record.  One of the first things he did was to surround himself with grade A level studio players.  Including bringing in the virtuoso guitar of Rob McNelley (Delbert McClinton, LeeAnn Womack) to bolster the guitar tones.  A very wise decision as the tones on this record are some of the most stout and tasty I’ve ever heard.  Each run and note seem to embody the same qualities that drip out of Hood’s voice.  Smooth, sharp, soulful and countrified all at once.  This is best exemplified in the opening track “Don’t That Sound Like Love To You”.

Adam Hood is a true musical hero in a sea of fake plasticness.  He’s real.  That’s what people respond to, and what folks have been digging down in Texas since 2003.  You won’t find a more authentic, real or genuine album than Welcome to the Big World and I thank Adam Hood for inviting us into his world for these 11 tunes.

The Coast City Line Fall Acoustic Show

On Saturday Nov 22nd, I’m going to a concert in a historic dancehall and 5 of the best musicians I know will be playing. I asked each one to play for many reasons and I wanted to share a very personal one for each with you. I hope it intrigues you to come check out the show. It’s going to be incredible.

The Coast City Line Fall Acoustic Show

Jamie Lin Wilson – “The Wildfire”
Jamie’s writing and singing is a wildfire burning out of control. If you get close enough, you’ll be engulfed by it and forever carry the beautiful scars of her music.

Drew Kennedy – “The General”
His presence commands the respect like that of a seasoned general that has fought and won many battles. When he speaks, people listen. When he sings, people are moved. We will follow him anywhere he leads, even into the unknown.

Screamin’ K Phillips – “The Unbridled”
A wild horse, running loose among the tame. A concert with K Phillips leaves you feeling like you’ve kissed death a few times and yet walked away. You never know if he’ll bring the lyrical depth or rip his shirt off mid song. Mostly it’s both.

Chris King – “The Burdened”
Chris wakes up every day with a burden on his heart to write and sing about things you never knew should touch your soul. His words are like poetry and his sound is a giant ringing bell that wakes you from your dead monotonous slumber.

Courtney Patton – “The Truth”
If every song that Courtney sang happened to her, I’d imagine that she’d have lived a thousand lives. Yet, everything that comes out of her pen and through her lips makes you believe that she lived it. That kind of truth in a song is rare and will touch every person that has ears to listen.

{Review} Look at Stoney Fly

big_1411484809aviator260Stoney LaRue’s latest release, Aviator, comes just a mere three years after his Velvet.  That’s a record breaking pace for an artist who made fans wait near Guns N’ Roses lengths between albums after his Red Dirt Album release way back in 2005.  Stoney has always been unique.  A teddy bear wrapped in biker gear. His early efforts were jam bandy at times and full of a well-deserved bravado.  Stoney’s always been one of the most talented cats around vocally, and in those early days nobody owned a listening room quite like him.  For reference, find the legendary Sidecar Pub Galleywinter bootleg show with Bleu Edmondson from 2004.  His own tunes and voice were there right alongside Jim Croce and Neil Young. Through each incarnation Stoney has undergone since he’s grown more comfortable in his own skin.  He’s transitioned from mostly covering other folk’s songs to developing his own songwriting voice.  Most often that writing voice is bolstered by the pen of the fantastically underrated Mando Saenz.  Saenz gentle, wry nature seems to have brought out the truest and best in Stoney LaRue’s artistic soul.  They began their collaboration on Velvet and it has truly found the sweet spot with Aviator.  Every track, save for a Freddy Powers cover (“Natural High”) is a Saenz co-write.

The venerable Frank Liddell is at the production helm of Aviator alongside Michael McCarthy and a host of A players.  The album was recorded to tape and eschewed digital techniques that afford the … Keep Reading

{Review} Wade Bowen Lets Go

SelfTitledWhen I wrote this cover story feature piece for Lone Star Music magazine five years ago, Wade Bowen was in a period of self-induced creative transition. Switching his band up, expanding songwriting partners, bringing in new producers, booking agents and management.  That gamble certainly paid off.  Now as 2014 is coming to a close, Bowen is yet again pushing himself forward.  However, this time it’s by going backward somewhat.

What I mean by that is Bowen’s latest record is free of the pressure of having to make it.  He’s made it.  On his own, gambled terms.  With this new record, Bowen is free to gamble in a new way: by listening to his heart completely. Following the muse of your soul isn’t always easy when you have a band, crew and family of dozens relying on you.  Free from the confines of fitting into any preconceived boxes or external pressures, Bowen delivers his finest collection of songs.

Bowen’s always had a wide creative palatte fostered by a varied. personal music fandom.  Yet, the stuff he laid down in the studio always maintained a heavy, serious overtone that belied the more lighthearted facets of his personality.  This new incarnation features a healthier balance of “Walking Along the Fenceline” alongside “Drinka the vodka!”

All of these career adjustments and freedoms allowed Bowen to make a well-rounded record that accentuates all his best qualities, but with a newfound experimental side. The country aesthetic is woven into each song via Bowen’s voice, but the … Keep Reading

{Review} Loco Gringo’s Lament Turns 20

by: Damon Rodgers

rwhIt seems 20th anniversaries of albums are everywhere now.   Off the top of my head, I know that Shelby Lynne, Wilco, and Todd Snider are all celebrating twenty years of something.   Of course, some of that is because of the resurgence of vinyl, which makes it a win/win for both the artist and the consumer.  I was curious about one of the albums I consider to be in the top ten of best albums ever written, and lo and behold, it was put out in 1994 – making this year the 20th anniversary.

Ray Wylie Hubbard is a great songwriter.  Undisputed.  Most known for songs like “Snake Farm”, “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother”, and “Screw You, We’re From Texas”.  He is also known for his live shows that combine wit, rock ‘n roll, blues, country and humor, often self-deprecating.

However, with the release of LOCO GRINGO’S LAMENT in 1994, he became much more than that.  He became one of the smartest men and one of the best songwriters I’ve ever heard.  Each song holds up on its own, but as an album, each song bleeds into the next, culminating with the last three songs that show more than any other, the songwriting genius Ray Wylie really is.

Listen to it.  I dare you.  Listen to it and try not to feel, try not to think, try not to empathize.

Twelve songs – all linked thematically by despair, tragedy, hope, redemption and love.

“Dust of … Keep Reading