OFF THE GRID - DOIN' IT DYLAN

Charlie Daniels

Charlie Daniels, best known for his No. 1 country hit "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," which became a platinum single, topped both country and pop charts, won a Grammy Award, earned three CMA trophies, became a cornerstone of the "Urban Cowboy" movie soundtrack and propelled Daniels’ Million Mile Reflections album to triple-platinum sales levels, released a new album “Off The Grid—Doin’ It Dylan” on April 1, 2014.  In support of Off The Grid, Daniels made the media rounds including stops at Kathie Lee & Co. (March 26th), Huckabee (March 29th), Morning Joe (March 31st), Access Hollywood (March 31st), Hannity (March 31st), Fox 411 (March 31st), The Artie Lange Show (March 31st), SiriusXM 'Artist Confidential' (March 31st), The Today Show (April 1st), ABC NewsNow (April 1st), The Better Show (April 6th), The Cain Conversation and more!

  “Off The Grid –Doin’ It Dylan,” is yet another example of the seemingly endless reservoirs of musical creativity that the now 77 year young Daniels can effortlessly draw upon.  The "playing the legend forward" beauty and respect in his tribute to Dylan doesn't go unnoticed in the tracks.

 

The new collection contains Daniels’ signature deft musical delivery on ten of Dylan’s finest writings:

Tangled Up In Blue

Times They Are a Changin’

I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight

Gotta Serve Somebody

I Shall Be Released

Country Pie

Mr. Tambourine Man

Hard Rains A Gonna Fall

Just Like A Woman

Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)

 

"In the early days, Dylan sang his songs accompanied by himself on guitar and harmonica and in the late sixties when he decided to add some other instruments to his records and concerts the purists, who had declared him poet laureate, prophet and spokesman for his generation, came apart at the seams, castigating him for defiling the purity of his genius with other musical influences," says Daniels.  "When Dylan came to town to record Nashville Skyline, due to my friendship with Bob Johnston, Dylan's producer at the time, I was blessed to be a guitar player in the studio band on that album and the next two, Self Portrait and New Morning, an experience that did a lot for my confidence, my career and legitimizing me as a serious musician."

  Charlie Daniels throughout his 50 plus years of creating his own new definitions of music, has scored hits on rock, country, pop and Christian charts. Skilled on guitar, fiddle, and mandolin, his contributions to country and southern rock are legendary on the path of platinum that’s carried him to virtually every music industry award and accolade presented across multi-genres.

  He was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in Jan. 2008 and has appeared in commercials for UPS and GEICO auto insurance, where he was featured playing fiddle in the television commercial.  His volunteer spirit, support of American troops and down-to-earth philosophy has solidified his reputation as a true American patriot and Christian.

Off The Grid will be released on Blue Hat Records in association with MRI and distributed by RED.

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BUZZIN (Single Release)

Bucky Covington

Country music star Bucky Covington is thrilled to release his first single as an independent artist, “BUZZIN,” to country radio. “BUZZIN,” the lead single from Bucky’s current project expected out later this year, is the perfect summer-time theme song, written by Brad Hull and produced by Covington himself and Dale Oliver. The song delivers to country radio this week via PlayMPE and CDX, and brings Covington’s fans a new and exciting side twist to his vocal style.

  After deciding to go independent last year, 2014 is starting off great for Bucky Covington. He is currently in studio wrapping up his new independent project, which he is co-producing with Grammy nominated Dale Oliver, and gearing up for upcoming tour dates. Covington plans to release an EP showcasing his new sound in the fall, coincidentally around the same time of the expected birth of his first child.
  A determined, talented, and genuine artist, Bucky began his career with 3 consecutive top 10 hits, including "A Different World," "I'll Walk," and "It's Good To Be Us," with his self-titled debut album releasing at #1 and marking the highest first week sales of any artist that year, and going on to become the best selling debut artist that year.  The video for Covington's last single "Drinking Side Of Country," a duet with Shooter Jennings that Covington wrote and co-produced, garnered over 2 million hits on YouTube within 72 hours of premiering. Bucky is currently touring nationwide and gearing up for the release of his single "Buzzin." In addition to competing on the 5th Season of American Idol, Bucky's national television appearances include Good Morning America, Live With Kelly, The Tonight Show, Fox & Friends, and many more. To learn more about Bucky Covington and see upcoming tour dates, connect with him at BuckyCovington.com, on Facebook , or on Twitter @BuckyCovington.

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SUNSHINE & WHISKEY
Frankie Ballard

Rising country singer Frankie Ballard released his sophomore studio album "Sunshine & Whiskey" on February 11 on Warner Music Nashville.

It opens with the catchy "Young & Crazy" and it is followed by the title track tune "Sunshine & Whiskey,," which was co-written by Jaren Johnston of the country group The Cadillac Three.

Ballard's co-penned "It Don't Take Much" is a spitfire vocal and it is succeeded by its lead-off single "Helluva Life," which is a Top 10 on the Billboard Hot Country Airplay charts. He continues to show his country-rock side on "Drinky Drink" and he includes his breakthrough single "Tell Me You Get Lonely" on this project.

Ballard changes the pace of the CD with the ballad "Sober Me Up" and "I'm Thinking Country" seems like a great song for his live shows that his fans can have fun singing along to. "Tip Jar" is another well-polished ballad that is a highlight track on the CD.

Equally noteworthy is the follow-up ballad "Don't You Wanna Fall" and it closes with "Don't Tell Mama I Was Drinking."


The Verdict


One thing's for sure: it's a "helluva life" for country singer Frankie Ballard, and his life and music career will only get better after this new album. There is no sophomore slump here. I hope to see "Helluva Life" become his first chart-topping single on country radio, where it rightfully deserves to be. Sunshine & Whiskey garners 4.5 out of 5 stars.

— Markos Papadatos

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WORKING MAN'S POET -A TRIBUTE TO MERLE HAGGARD
Various Artists

Merle Haggard is one of the best-loved male vocalists in country music history, and the BBR Music Group released a tribute album entitled "Working Man's Poet: A Tribute To Merle Haggard."

It was produced by Mickey Jack Cones and Derek George, and BBR Music Group Owner and CEO Benny Brown served as its executive producer.

The CD opens with Randy Houser's moving performance of the ballad "Misery and Gin" and it is followed by a stellar cover of Joe Nichols' "Footlights," which ironically enough was his father's favorite Haggard classic.

Jason Aldean gives a superb vocal of "Going Where The Lonely Go." I wish Aldean sings more traditional country songs in the future, since he does an excellent job.

Kristy Lee Cook displays her gorgeous vocals and range on "Today I Started Loving You Again" and Toby Keith is able to take Haggard's chart-topper "Carolyn" and make it his own.

Dierks Bentley and Luke Bryan collaborate together on "Pancho and Lefty" and they are both delightful.

Country superstar Garth Brooks tips his hat to "The Hag" with "Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down" and Thompson Square produce stunning harmonies on "You Take Me For Granted," polished by Shawna's angelic lead vocals.

One of my favorite vocals from the first half of the record is Ben Haggard's exceptional rendition of his father's hit song "Mama Tried." This version is worthy of the repeat button. Dustin Lynch showcases his rich, baritone vocals on the traditional "That's The Way Love Goes."

Jake Owen, who is best-known for his smash single "Barefoot Blue Jean Night," is singing another tune about "blue jeans," this time in honor of Merle Haggard with his Top 10 hit "Make Up and Faded Blue Jeans."

James Wesley triumphs on Haggard's first No. 1 single "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive," where his vocals are reminiscent of Alan Jackson. Country group Parmalee soars on the upbeat "Workin' Man Blues."

Aldean, Thompson Square, Lynch and Wesley provide additional vocals on the album for such songs as "Are The Good Times Really Over," "Let's Chase Each Other Around The Room," "I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink" and "The Fightin' Side of Me" respectively. While I love all of these aforementioned tunes, I must say that Wesley's "The Fightin' Side of Me" is my favorite from this bunch, proving that he is one of country's most underrated male artists.

Another wonderful homage to Haggard is Joe Nichols covering "My Favorite Memory." In many interviews that I have done with Nichols over the years, he listed Haggard as his "greatest musical hero" to me, and with one listen of this song, one can understand why. It is safe to say that "The Hag" was a fantastic mentor for Nichols.

The album closes with a pleasant version of Haggard's son, Ben, singing "Sing Me Back Home," which leaves the listener thirsty for more.

— Markos Papadatos

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BEAUTY IS
Ray Price

Traditional country music king Ray Price's final studio album "Beauty Is" was produced by veteran music producer Fred Foster.

Throughout his career, Price won 2 Grammy awards and he was inducted into the prestigious Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 1996.

His 12-track collection Beauty Is is quite spectacular. It opens with "Beauty Lies In The Eyes of the Beholder," his first of two duets with fellow Country Music Hall of Famer Vince Gill. It features Price's rich and smooth vocals, which are reminiscent of those of such greats as Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra.

It is followed with "This Thing Of Ours" and "I Can See You" are both top-notch ballads, and he delivers a soaring cover of Willie Nelson's "It Always Will Be."

"No More Songs to Sing," just as the title says, is quite melancholic yet the country crooner sings it beautifully. Same holds true for the emotional "Senses," which will leave his fans in goosebumps.

"An Affair To Remember" is a bittersweet track and the fact that he includes country songstress Martina McBride on there for a duet vocal helps elevate it to an even higher level. Both vocalists sound fabulous on this tune, and it has been dubbed as his widow, Janie Price's favorite song on the record.

"Until Then" is Price's second duet with Vince Gill on this album, and my favorite out of the two collaborations. The late country songwriter Cindy Walker would have been proud of their superb rendition.

Price does the classic tune "Beautiful Dreamer" justice. "I Wish I Was 18 Again" is nostalgic and "Among My Souvenirs" is also equally moving.

It closes with the inspirational "I Believe," which is safe to say that he saved his best vocal for last.

The Verdict

Overall, Ray Price's new album deserves a standing ovation. It garners an A+ rating. The fact that he recorded all of these 12 songs while he was terminally ill and to sound amazing on all of them is quite astonishing. Price really was the "Frank Sinatra of Country Music," as he was affectionately dubbed by his fans. He is a man who was able to go beyond the ordinary and redefine and reshape country music into the prolific genre it is today.

It deserves to be recognized at the upcoming Grammy awards with a nomination for "Best Country Album" to the very least, if not win. His vocals on this effort are distinct and timeless and his music is going to stand the test of time. He was one of my biggest heroes and inspirations in country music, and hopefully this high quality album will help preserve his incredible legacy.

For more information on Ray Price's newest project, visit its official website.

— Markos Papadatos

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A BEAUTIFUL LIFE
Sherry Lynn

Rising country music singer Sherry Lynn released her new studio album "A Beautiful Life." It was produced by Ted Hewitt.

Throughout her musical career, she has opened for such artists as Miranda Lambert, The Oak Ridge Boys, LeAnn Rimes, John Rich, Chris Young, Randy Houser, among others. She has also played on the Grand Ole Opry stage with iconic country songstress Crystal Gayle (Loretta Lynn's sister) and they sang their duet single.

Her album opens with "I Like 'Em Like That," where her vocals are slightly reminiscent of Jennifer Nettles from the hit country duo Sugarland.

It is followed by the rebellious "Girls Will Be Girls," which has a rock edge to it. "Slip Into Something Mexico" has a laid-back vibe to it and "What a Day To Shake a Heartache" is infectious and it would make a good choice for a future radio single.

"You in a Song" is another uplifting, catchy vocal and "So Much More" is quite autobiographical and captivating.

In "What Are You Running From" and "I Could Get Used to This," the listener can easily recall country songstress Pam Tillis, which ought to be taken as a major compliment. "Fallin' In Love" is another favorite track of mine.

It closes with "Beautiful Life," a stunning collaboration with Crystal Gayle, who helps bring the song to a higher level.


The Verdict


It is so hard to criticize an album of this caliber, since all ten tracks on here are stellar. Sherry Lynn is certainly one of Nashville's finest female artists out there at the moment. It garners an A rating.

— Markos Papadatos

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HEADLIGHTS, TAILLIGHTS & RADIOS
Tracy Lawrence

Tracy Lawrence is one of the most consistent – and consistently popular – artists in country music today.  That’s not surprising for a guy with the grit and determination that Lawrence has shown since he arrived in Nashville back in 1990. Determined to build a career in music, he worked in telephone sales and as an ironworker during the day and played talent shows and gigs at night. Then just before the release of his first album, “Sticks and Stones” in 1991, he was shot four times protecting his then girlfriend when attacked by four would-be robbers.

Yes, it takes a lot to stop Tracy Lawrence.  He’s built of strong stuff and not the kind of guy to let setbacks slow him down for long.  Over the years, the albums have kept coming and so have the hit singles, such as “Alibis,” “Find Out Who Your Friends Are,” “Paint Me a Birmingham,” and more. 

Tracy Lawrence fans eagerly awaited the latest album, “Headlights, Taillights and Radios” and they’re happy to know it’s vintage Lawrence at his best.

The album kicks off with “Footprints On The Moon” which is also one of two singles plucked from the project.  “Footprints” is an uptempo pop-country tune that builds from a deceptively gentle intro into a fun, happy-go-lucky love song with lyrics like “Let’s catch a ride on a shooting star / We’ll wave goodbye when we pass Mars.”  In less skilled hands, this could be kinda sappy, but Lawrence injects it with something special.  Catchy? I guarantee you’ll be singing along with the chorus by the second listen.

“Stop Drop and Roll,” the other single on the album, has Tracy rocking along telling his girl that he can’t take her to town because she’s so hot she’d burn the honky tonk down. It’s a great longneck-wavin’ party anthem that gets audiences whoopin’ at his live shows. 

“Cecil’s Palace” has a western swing feel to it as we hear: “There’s rasslin’ on the weekends while you’re sittin’ at the bar / You can order food, get a new tattoo, get drunk and watch NASCAR.”  This is Lawrence at his fun-lovin’ redneck best and seems tailor-made for a raucous music video.

There are ballads here, too, like the sweet and touching “Good Girl” and the sadly poignant “Saving Savannah” to balance the mix.  The album closes with “Butterfly,” that begins with devastation wrought by a tornado and ends with the uplifting thought: “I believe in my soul / When it’s my time I’ll take a ride / On the wings of a butterfly.”

So far, neither single has made much of an impact on the charts, despite being as good or better than anything currently heard on Country radio.  But a tough, determined guy like Lawrence probably isn’t too concerned yet.  He remembers that “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” took four months to enter the charts after its release and then didn’t reach the Number One spot until its forty-first week, setting a new record for the slowest climbing Number One country single.

“Headlights, Taillights and Radios” is a must-have for even casual Tracy Lawrence fans and could serve as a fine introduction for new listeners.  The album is available at traditional and digital music retailers. Definitely worth a listen.

— Preshias Harris

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