Easton Corbin is About To Get Real as he drops his third album with Mercury Nashville, along with looks at new releases from JB and the Moonshine Band, Ryan Broshear, Joy Williams, Ocean Carolina and more.
Joy Williams - Venus (Sensibility Music/Columbia Records)
Joy’s first release since becoming a superstar as 1/2 of The Civil Wars, Venus manages to blend what fans of CCM grew to like about Williams with the kind of folksy americana that The Civil Wars became beloved for. Williams is one of the better vocalists you can possibly want to listen to, in any genre. She’s not going to get any mainstream country radio airplay but based on what’s here, maybe she could. That’s likely not her goal as the project is varied with earthy tracks here, effervescent songs there and ethereal songs in other places. Standouts on Venus include “One Day I Will,” “Sweet Love Of Mine,” “Woman (Oh Mama),” “What A Good Woman Does” and “Until The Levee.”
Ryan Broshear - Paint It Red EP (Painted Horse Records)
After scoring some hits with his self-titled album from 2012 (like “I Don’t Mind” and “Make Each Moment Last”), Ryan Broshear returns with this six track EP which he was able to make through crowdfunding. Broshear’s voice remains his best calling card but Paint It Red offers a man with the talent to hit the mainstream if given a shot. “Spin Me” hits all the right mid tempo melodic spots and that’s enough to suggest radio success while “Friday Night In A Small Town” may be the best song that hasn’t been (yet) recorded by Jason Aldean Luke Bryan or Thomas Rhett. It’s a radio-ready anthem that SiriusXM should want to spin the tails off of (it also features the title of the album in the chorus). Each of these songs is written or co-written by Broshear except for “Boots,” a song producer Daniel Agee co-wrote with Justin Weaver. While solidly a neb-traditionalist type of artist, Paint It Red showcases how such an artist can release music which is both traditionally-minded and contemporary at the same time.
Danielle Marie - Here Right Now (Independent)
Here Right Now represents the singer’s first project and it showcases a singer with a voice that is ready for mainstream. What she needs is songs which will connect more. The opening title track, “Here Right Now,” is a paint-by-numbers kind of track about living in, you guessed it, the here right now. “What You Can’t Have” sounds good (and could get some airplay) but will people remember it? “Drive Away” is a nice ballad, “LoL (Live Out Loud)” and “I’m Still Me” are playful and jovial tracks and “The Most Country Song” is a clever song which isn’t unlike “Girl In A Country” song how it makes fun of the genre’s tropes. There’s no doubting Danielle Marie’s talent and the songs are kind of nice but other than “The Most Country Song,” the songs are kind of there. Here Right Now is still a solid debut but like every other indie artist, to get attention, you need something (like Ryan Broshear above) that can help you stand out from the pack.
Clay Blaker - Still Swingin’ EP (Neobilly Records)
Fans of western swing and traditional country will like the popular songwriter’s swing music as he plays Western Swing classics like “Corrine, Corrina,” “Milk Cow Blues” and “Boogie Til The Cows Come Home” in live performances along with a couple of new tracks in “My Heart Has A Mind of Its Own” and “Miss Me Baby Blues.” There’s a market for this type of music, either through dancehalls or in Europe, just don’t expect to hear it in the mainstream, Then again, outside of writing for others, I doubt Clay Blaker was ever a mainstream artist.
Easton Corbin - About To Get Real (Mercury Records Nashville)
For his third album Easton Corbin once again worked with producer Carson Chamberlain. Whereas his previous album All Over The Road was a slight sophomore slump, About To Get Real will serve as a fine ‘righting of the ship.’ In fact, one of the best songs from that previous album, “Are You With Me” gets a reprieve here (which tells me it is a potential radio single). “Kiss Me One More Time” is a nice contemporary country song while “Guys and Girls” feels like a potential #1 record to me. There’s an energetic style to it while it doesn’t ever lose Easton’s trademark sound. “Clockwork” was a Top 30 hit but honestly after hearing the other songs on this record, including “Digging On You,” the mid tempo title track and “Wild Women and Whiskey” (a song written by Ronnie Dunn that showcases that Corbin can vocally get to places that aren’t just “George Strait”). The closer “Like A Song” is the most Strait of any song on this album but it may also be the best song on here (and we haven’t even mentioned Top 5 hit “Baby Be My Love Song” yet). There’s plenty for country fans to listen to from About To Get Real and it may end up being one of their favorite records of the year.
Ocean Carolina - Maudlin Days (Old Hand Record Company)
If you blend country/rock with and indie sensibility, you get the general sound of Maudlin Days from the opener “All I Can Do” to the closer “Someday Soon.” There’s an indie rock feel to many of these songs but Michael Simone, the band’s frontman and co-writer of everything (with producer Jon Graboff) of everything except cover “Yer Feet.” Fans looking for interesting, music should find some extremely enjoyable material on Maudlin Days with standouts including “If It Burns Out Bright,” “All I Can Do,” “Don’t Carry On,” and “Summerville.” Maudlin Days often lives up to its title and that means it’s not gonna be a record happy go lucky people listen to but since the band was previously unknown to me, Ocean Carolina is a band that is now another interesting addition to the rotation of music to listen to, especially for those moments when one needs a mood record, which Maudlin Days clearly is.
JB and the Moonshine Band - Mixtape (Light It Up Records/Thirty Tigers)
With Mixtape, JB and the Moonshine Band deliver a record which is bound to help the band move the needle even more. Lead single and album opener "Shotgun, Rifle, and a .45" is an instant buzzworthy song, especially given how much of a hot topic the 2nd Amendment is. It's a track, done in a style that recalls Lynyrd Skynyrd, which discusses a man who stands up for his rights to own weapons to protect himself. The rest of the album showcases quite a bit of musical growth for the band from Texas. The hard touring band sounds better on this, their third album than their previous albums and it’s all through frontman JB Patterson’s strong songwriting and vocals. With each album his confidence as a songwriter and vocalist shines through and the band itself sounds tighter than ever. The band gets their party on with “Light It Up,” and “Keep A Couple Beers Cold” while the title track “Mixtape” is an apt title for all of the songs possessed on the musically diverse album.
Fans of good steel guitar laced story songs will dig “How Can I Miss You” while “Close Enough To Heaven” has quite a 80s/90s country sound. “Where’s Woody Guthrie” is one of two songs not written by JB Patterson and it’s a nice slice of story song from the pens of Allen Shambling and Rob Crosby which features a very “Shelter From The Storm” melody to it as the song talks about “Guitar playing poets who speak the best in me.” It could be a huge Texas chart hit if not played on SiriusXM’s “Outlaw Country.” The melodic “Back When We Were Kids” features some strong fiddle and guitar work and a gorgeous melody to back Patterson’s storytelling about the way things were growing up. All in all, it’s easy to see why Thirty Tigers wanted to work with the band to distribute this project. Its musically diverse and showcases a band which is very much on their way to greater success in the national music scene.