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{Review} Cody Canada & The Departed – HippieLovePunk

big_1418927923hippielovepunkfinalv260Cody Canada’s new album recently debuted all over the charts.  No 1 Amazon MP# Albums; No. 9 Billboard Country Albums; Top 5 ITunes Country and Top 40 iTunes overall.    I know it has been widely promoted and his team did a great job, but I think much of the initial success of the album was due to the influence that he and his music have had on the Red Dirt/Texas music scene.  I know that in the 90’s, Robert Earl Keen dominated the scene.  There were many others, but no one was as big as he was.  He seemed to be the biggest influence on young artists in the genre at that time.  He was blazing a trail for many to follow.

I believe Cody Canada has that kind of influence on the musicians of today.  Twitter usually blows up every release day from musicians that have friends releasing records, but nothing compared to the day HippieLovePunk was released.  Artists spanning all genres were promoting the album to their fans.  Everyone from Dierks Bentley to Sons of Bill to artists I’ve never heard of.

Why?

Because of the influence he and his music has had.

I really didn’t know what to expect out of the album or from the (new) Departed, but it is solid from start to finish.  It’s not a country record, but like most of the Americana now, it is somewhere between rock and country that can go from one to the other depending on the ear of the beholder or the mood of the artist.  It is just great music.

I don’t know Cody Canada and I am a Ragweed fan, but not as avid as most people I know.  Having said that, I was around him earlier this year for about 30 min. and if I had to describe Cody Canada, I would tell them to listen to the song “Easy.”   I know it’s a song about him getting robbed, but one line describes the vibe I got from Canada that night.  “Take my money and both of my shoes / if it makes this day easy on you.”   I really believe he would give you the shirt off his back just because you asked him to and that’s the vibe I get from half of this album.  The other half of the album, though, shows the dichotomy of what I imagine Cody to be.   Quiet and easy going until he has had enough, and then all hell breaks loose.  Back him into a corner, and he is fighting to the death.  Songs like “Boss of Me” and “Comin to Me” defiantly show that side of his songwriting.

American Aquarium In the Fishbowl of Success

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Without fail, every so often a band from outside the borders of Texas and Oklahoma resonate with Red Dirt music fans in a way that the homegrown talent just isn’t doing at the time. We’ve seen it happen with Lucero, Will Hoge, Sean McConnell, Adam Hood, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and others.  Currently that band is American Aquarium.  A band heralded and certified as the ultimate road warriors has built up a loyal (and sizable…and growing) fandom in the Texas region.  On the strength of a blistering live show that was built on the back of BJ Barham’s intense songwriting, AA is connecting with a wide swath of hungry music fans.  As usual, fans down here crave realness.  Authenticity.  Grittiness.  USAq has that in spades. Their last album, Burn. Flicker. Die, was an Isbell-produced collection that solidified them in the scene and beyond. It propelled them from aimless wanderlust to the path of independent success. Their latest album (out Feb 3), Wolves, is the one that is currently elevating them to next-level status.

On the heels of a near-breakup, Wolves finds the band settling into a healthy groove both on and offstage. Marriage, sobriety and determination are clearing a new course for this pack of hungry artists.  Blazing a trail across the Texas scene like many have done before, but in their own way.  It was a slow burn at first.  Opening shows in a venue here or there.  Gradually, the band began building up its Texas following.  Moving up the venue food chain to the choicest joints, bolstered by a booking arrangement with regional booking heavyweight Jon Folk at Red 11.  A band can have all the connections it wants, but without the goods to back it up, it will fall flat on its face.  AA has the goods, and then some.

The hard living of getting to this point almost derailed not just the band’s livelihood, but the member’s actual lives.  300 gigs a year and all the Tuesday nights disguised as Saturday nights had begun to take a serious toll.  Pushing through the roadblocks both self-made, imagined and definite, the band has not burned out, flickered or died.  They are in fact thriving.  Wolves finds them at a creative peak.  Their strongest record.  As if all the previous records and experiences had brought them to this point.  Not necessarily a maturity…but a wisdom.  Barham’s lyrical protagonists have transitioned from being the rabble rouser in the middle of the chaos, to the guy full of wisdom at the corner of the bar. Backing this newfound success is a band that’s admittedly the most cohesive they’ve ever been onstage.  This solidarity is a good thing.  It is no mere coincidence that Biggie Smalls once rapped about mo money, mo problems.  The higher the mountain, the harder the fall. The old American Aquarium couldn’t have handled this ongoing pinnacle.  The reinvigorated American Aquarium is poised to sustain, maintain and grow even larger. Texas is better for it. Music is better for it.  Time for us all to sit back and enjoy American Aquarium’s newfound life in the bigger fishbowl of success.

Wolves will be officially released on Tue Feb 3rd.  You can preorder it from our friends at LSM if you didn’t pledge or haven’t already procured a copy.

Preview the title track via The Drop. 

{Review} I Used To Not Care About Ryan Bingham

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Alright, I’ve got a confession to make. Two, actually. Number one: This is probably the very first Ryan Bingham album that I’ve ever sat with, considered, and listened to front-to-back. Two: I’m at least eight Lone Star Lights into the evening, so I’m not sure if this will sound like a rant, a confession, a washing machine, or some kind of combination of the three. If so, good. If you don’t like reading rambling, you might want to go read something more structured, written by a professional. With editors. And deadlines. And no Lone Star Light. You know, the kind of stale shit that reads like a press release.

I know there’s a lot of bleeding hearts out there for Ryan Bingham, & a lot of people who laud him for a plethora of reasons that I never really got. I mean, I haven’t been in a cave. I’ve heard Bingham’s songs for several years. I dabbled with Roadhouse Sun. I never really traced back to Mescalito. I flat-out ignored Junky Star & Tomorrowland. I’m not sure if that makes me someone who’s just being honest, or if that makes me a dick for admitting it, but I just won’t say that I’ve ever been a very interested, devoted, or observant fan. Go ahead. You can chastise me if you’d like. But I’m not sure that my non-involvement in his fandom has anything to do with Ryan Bingham. I don’t know him. I don’t really know his … Keep Reading

Jason Eady at 40

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Today is Jason Eady’s 40th birthday.  And what a 40 years it has been.  Jimmy Buffett famously sang about a pirate looking at 40.  Jason Eady is a troubadour looking at 40.  Jason Eady has lived a very full and interesting life thus far; and it shows in his music.   Eady has traveled the globe in search of new adventures and new songs.  He’s been through the hell of Nashville and lived to tell about it, coming out stronger on the other side.  His music has transformed from a swampy, delta-blues stomp to full-blown honky-tonk.  He’s adept at both.  A talented writer, underrated performer and country music traditionalist.  Originally from Mississippi, Jason Eady found his way to Texas in search of audiences that would embrace his original music.  After over a decade of splitting time between Fort Worth and Austin, Eady is now quintessentially Texan. He’s lived a life that a Hollywood screenwriter would envy.  Military translator turned country singer. There’s not too much he hasn’t seen and we’re all the better for it.  With a first 40 years act like that, we’re intrigued to see what lies ahead in Act II.

 

Below is one of our favorite Eady moments ever.  The time he took Greenfest 11 to the river, literally. Enjoy your day sir!

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{Review} Haley Cole’s Illusions

cover170x170I’ll be honest – I’m late to jump on the Haley Cole train…but I’m here now, and I’ll be riding till the end. Her latest release, Illusions, is seven songs of soulful melodies and raw, emotional lyrics, containing songs about love, letting go, and finding her purpose. Produced by David Beck (formerly of Sons of Fathers), it’s an ideal blend of upbeat, energetic songs, and soothing ballads. It isn’t overdone or overproduced, the harmonies are perfectly executed, and the fiddle in “Runaway” makes me swoon every time I hear it. I have yet to see Haley perform live or to meet her, but after obsessively listening to this album for two days, I feel like I know her. All you south Texas folks that have the privilege of seeing her any of the multiple times she’s playing in your area, take full advantage! Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of Haley in DFW this year.

Haley Cole – “Roses” on The DropKeep Reading