Jake Owen became a star so quickly that he didn’t have time to memorize any Country Music Rule Book – which made it that much easier to toss it out the window.
Guided by sheer musical instinct, a drive for self-improvement and a willingness to experiment, the singer-songwriter has crafted Barefoot Blue Jean Night as one of the most innovative and refreshing country collections of the year. The CD’s title tune is already exploding as the biggest hit of Owen’s career to date.
“I never wanted to be the guy that did everything the way you’re supposed to do it,” says the candid and outgoing music maker. “And that led me to make this record, which I think really represents who I am more than anything I’ve ever recorded. If nothing else happens after this, I can honestly say that I did the absolute best that I can do. I’ve never felt this good about music, or anything in my career, as I do right now.”
His buoyant optimism is justified. Barefoot Blue Jean Night brims with vocal self-confidence and a superbly chosen stack of songs. The pumping energy in such country rockers as “Anywhere with You,” “Apple Pie Moonshine,” “The One That Got Away” and “Nobody Feelin’ No Pain” contrasts dramatically with the feverish thumper “Wide Awake” or the crunchy, edgy and atmospheric “Alone with You.”
“Keepin’ it Country” is a Jake Owen statement of purpose. “Heaven” is a smiling, seductive come-on. On the other hand, there’s the touching, lovely and philosophical acoustic ballad “The Journey of Your Life.” The frothing power, cascading rhythm and head-to-the-sky vocal shout of “Settin’ the World on Fire” mark it as a blue-chip, blue-collar rocker. And what more can be said of “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” surely the most joyous Southern celebration on disc today?
All of these sounds mean a new beginning for the hit maker. Jake Owen has previously enjoyed major-league success with such performances as 2006’s “Startin’ with Me,” 2008’s “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You,” and 2009’s “Eight Second Ride.” His revival of “Life in a Northern Town” with Sugarland and Little Big Town in 2008 earned him Grammy and CMA Award nominations. Owen was named 2009’s Top New Male Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music. But nothing, he says, compares to the impact his new music is making.
“Everything is amazing right now. I have other artists, song publishers, promotion reps, people at other record labels coming up to me and saying, ‘Jake, I really like your new song. We’re pulling for you, dude.’ That validates everything I’ve ever done up to this point. Now, I have people cheering for me and that is an awesome feeling.”
In 2005, Jake went from performing in Florida bars to moving to Nashville and within months he had a Music Row song-publishing contract. Less than a year later, he was signed by RCA Records and was on the charts with his first two singles, “Yee Haw” and “Startin’ with Me.” He went from being a speck in a stadium crowd at a Kenny Chesney concert to opening shows for the superstar. Then Brad Paisley took him on the road as Owen scored his third hit, 2007’s “Something About a Woman.” In 2008, Owen opened shows for Sugarland and this year, Keith Urban asked Jake to be his touring partner on the Get Closer 2011 World tour.
“I would say I have had a pretty great life,” he admits. “As far as me struggling in Nashville, I can’t say that I did that. A lot of singer/songwriter’s come to town and play all the honky-tonks and bars, hoping to meet someone and worrying and struggling. Mine’s not that story.
“For a long time, I tried not to really tell my story, because I felt like everybody thought, ‘Look at this lucky kid.’ So I’ve always been a little hesitant to talk about that, even to be a little ashamed of it.
“Then I started thinking. This is my story. This is what I did so I should be proud, not ashamed. Yes, I feel like I was very, very fortunate but I am also extremely grateful that everything happened the way it did. I truly believe that everything always works out the way it is supposed to.”
There was a downside to his good fortune. Because of being so suddenly thrust into the spotlight on the road, Jake Owen never really got to know the Nashville country community. Because he wrote his own songs, he knew only a handful of the hundreds of gifted song craftspeople in Music City. So in making his third album, he addressed the missing parts of his “Nashville education.” Jake Owen had co-written nearly all the songs on his first two records. For his third, he reached out into a songwriting community he had never tapped.
“I searched out songs. I searched out songwriters. I got to pick songs from this amazing community of writers, and I’d never done that. Before, I’d written everything because I felt like that was expected of me. On this record, I wanted to include the incredibly talented writers in this town.”
He also set out to find a more personal sound. In search of a new musical direction, he initially teamed up with legendary producer Tony Brown, who is famed for his work with George Strait, Reba, Steve Earle, Vince Gill and dozens of other hit makers. Brown produced the first five songs that Owen chose for his album.
But Jake Owen still felt restless. Since he had kept Rodney Clawson’s co-written “Keepin’ it Country” for more than a year without recording it, the singer felt obligated to the songwriter. So he approached Clawson about producing the song. Clawson’s songwriting credits include George Strait’s “I Saw God Today,” Big & Rich’s “Lost in This Moment” and Jason Aldean’s hits “Hicktown,” “Amarillo Sky,” “Johnny Cash,” “Crazy Town” and “Why.” So Tony Brown gave Owen his blessing to continue experimenting with the sound of his record.
To the singer’s surprise, Clawson suggested bringing in Canada’s Joey Moi as a co-producer. Moi is noted for his work with the rock band Nickelback. This is his first experience with country music.
“Joey came to town with all these extra ideas,” Owen comments. “I’d always listened to people say what you’re supposed to do and not supposed to do on a country record. He blew my mind.
“Instantly, when I started to work with these guys, I felt, ‘Wow. They get it.’ They had the sound I’d been hearing in my head.” So after two CDs, a big ACM award and a string of radio successes, Jake Owen has come into his own.
He observes, “When you get a record deal, no one hands you a manual or an instruction booklet and tells you how you’re supposed to conduct your professional life. I was a kid straight out of college, thrown out on these massive stages. I really didn’t know anything. I had to find out who I am.”
His roots are fairly easy to describe. Jake Owen was raised in the coastal town of Vero Beach, FL. He and his fraternal twin Jarrod grew up in the sand and surf. Both boys attended Florida State. That’s where music became Jake Owen’s true focus. He suffered a severe shoulder injury while wake boarding. This ended his days on the university’s golf team. During his recuperation, his left arm was in a sling. Jake realized that even with his arm in a sling, he could hold a guitar so he started playing guitar and writing songs.
“This scar that I have on my shoulder reminds me about the one dark time in my life,” he recalls. “It took that accident to make me realize that I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing. What I was supposed to be doing, was something that fulfilled me. Music.”
After his recovery, Jake became a regular club entertainer. He quit college just shy of graduation to make his pilgrimage to Music City. Then he was catapulted into the country-music spotlight. Now comes the real work.
“If you want to get better at your craft, you have to push yourself, take risks and try something different,” he reflects. “In order to grow and not be complacent, you have to open your mind, expand your horizons and be grateful. That’s what this record represents for me.”
Brantley Gilbert is tearing up the road to Country music with his upcoming album JUST AS I AM (The Valory Music Co.), which is already burning up the airwaves and ushering in summer with his first new work in four years. Like the album’s title, the songs are an expression of who he is at this time in his life. The rings, the chains, the faith, the no apologies—“If You Want A Bad Boy,” you’ll find one in Brantley’s first song on his new album. Love him or not, his latest offering is JUST AS I AM and it is an album of unforgettable memories—for him and everyone who hears it.
Brantley doesn’t just write songs, he shares from the heart the chapters of his life through music. He is adamant about the fact that the devoted “BG Nation” is made up of his friends, not fans. He’s created a high-energy, in-your-face collection with plenty of adrenaline and testosterone. He also evokes a softer connection, proving a tough guy can be tender, too. No matter the song, he plays the guitar like an extension of his voice—an ebb and flow of emotion that resonates with millions.
Well-worn denim, metal in many forms and a pulled-down ball cap may frame Brantley, but the true art comes from what you don’t see. “I sing for the people who have helped me do my thing,” he says. His inspiration for writing comes from all aspects of his life, but he knows when he gets an “ear worm” it is a song that he needs to write now; he just has to give it legs and wings. That’s just what happened with Brantley’s #1 single “Bottoms Up.”
Brantley is excited about the renewed direction of his music as the more he lives, the more real life stories he has to share with others. He’s recruiting a new generation of fans who are less interested in genre and all about expressing themselves through the songs they sing and blurring the lines a bit. Effortlessly JUST AS I AM becomes the universal soundtrack from your best first date, the last dance of a good-bye and memories in between. This bad boy will make you want to crawl out of the bedroom window, give you the courage to start a new relationship and inspire you to close your eyes and see the candlelight, starlight, spotlights and twilight of his life … or grab your crew for a good time.
When putting the chapters of his life to music, Brantley believes if you write a song the right way, you’re still in love with someone every time you sing it, you’re still pissed when you were an idiot, and you’re still ready to party with your friends. Brantley gives the world a taste of who he’s looking for in “My Baby’s Guns N’ Roses.” It’s this passion for life that fuels his music. You feel the emotions running through each song: the longing of a guitar, the pounding heart of the drums, the changing gears on a dime as the music drives you 100 mph down one road, only to jump the curb and go another direction entirely.
While he certainly writes for himself, Brantley believes that his music reverberates with others because he is writing about life. JUST AS I AM shows you as much about who Brantley Gilbert is as who he is not. “I cannot take an engine apart and put it back together, but maybe when a mechanic hears one of my songs, my music can help him through something he’s going through in his life. If what I have gone through helps someone else, then I feel I am doing what I was put here to do. ‘I’m Gone’ is me telling others that, sometimes, holding on is not the best decision.”
He believes that songs motivate people to do something. “I don’t sing what I don’t write and I don’t write what I don’t live. I’m not the best singer; I just sing my stories, my life.” Brantley writes about lovin’, drinkin’, partyin’, fightin’, trials and tribulations, faith and triumphs. “Lights of My Hometown” and “Small Town Throw Down” give fans a taste of where Brantley came from and why he still embraces Jefferson, Georgia.
This album contains new anthems and clearly shows who Brantley Gilbert is now and what he’s come through to get where he is today. His music is deep, like the man of substance singing it, and you’ll find yourself wanting to fall in love one minute and get into some trouble the next. Life may be where Brantley’s songs start, but you can expect to have a lot of fun with his music. His songs are as serious as you make them.
“I can now take myself out of the situation and I know what’s right and what’s wrong. I try to always do the right thing, but I still look at the norm and say, let’s do something completely different and see if that works for us. A good friend once told me; ‘how you do anything is how you do everything.’ I try to mirror this by taking care of myself and making good decisions about my music. I let my music speak for itself and inspire others to have a good time, let go of the bad, grab onto the good, keep priorities straight and love with all your heart.”
Brantley Gilbert does not try to copy anyone else’s style of music; he’s happy to tell his story, his truth, and he believes he can reach out and touch others through his music. To relate to a song, you have to be good at painting pictures that others can see, feel and apply to their own lives. Just turn him on, crank it up and close your eyes—you’ll instantly find yourself on a techno-colored sound adventure of shared memories that allow you to live your story through his words.
His powerful voice is an instrument of emotion and he conducts the crowds at his live shows like a country rock orchestra of human experience. Through his entire breadth of work, Brantley invites you to climb aboard his Harley and race at breakneck speed through his lyrical struggle between bad and good. He’ll forge ahead when you think he’s going to stop and he’ll slam on the breaks in the middle of musical high—just like he is reliving every emotion and memory again. He sings his story to the world, his words playing their heartstrings, which speaks to other souls and rocks them so hard one feels like they are dancing, fighting, partying, loving and living with him.
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Billy Currington has come a long way from working construction and living in a tiny attic apartment during his early days in Nashville. In the decade since he made his debut with the top ten hit “Walk a Little Straighter,” the Georgia native has parlayed his rich, emotion-laden tenor and unerring song sense into some of the country format’s most memorable hits, including such No. 1s as “Good Directions,” “Must Be Doin’ Something Right” and “People Are Crazy.”
Currington’s songs have always been snapshots of life. His music is steeped in truth and possesses a relatability that makes his audience feel like they could drink a beer or catch a few fish with the curly-haired country boy. Currington has that heartfelt everyman quality that lends emotional weight to whatever he’s singing whether it’s a tender ballad or a rollicking party anthem. He demonstrates his ability to render both those scenarios and all points between on his fifth studio album We Are Tonight.
Led by the fast-climbing single “Hey Girl,” We Are Tonight is filled with songs that evoke both wistful reflection and boisterous revelry with equal conviction. Throughout the collection, Currington exudes the easy going charm that has become his trademark yet also possesses a maturity and confidence that comes from a decade of churning out hits and earning accolades. He won the “Hottest Video of the Year” honor at the fan-voted CMT Music Awards for “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right” in 2006, the same year he received an ACM nod for Top New Male Vocalist. His hit duet with Shania Twain, “Party For Two,” earned nominations from both the CMA and ACM, and “People Are Crazy” proved to be a career-defining hit that earned Grammy nominations for Male Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song in addition to being nominated for Single and Song of the Year from the Academy of Country Music, as well as Single, Song and Video of the Year from the Country Music Association.
Billy’s album #WeAreTonight is available on iTunes now!
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Innsbrook Welcomes Alison Krauss
Alison Krauss’ new album Windy City is her first effort away from her band Union Station since Raising Sand and her debut for Capitol Records. The album features Alison performing 10 classic songs that she carefully selected with producer Buddy Cannon.
Following Raising Sand, her platinum 2007 album with Robert Plant that won six GRAMMY Awards including Album of the Year, and 2011’s Paper Airplane with her longtime collaborators Union Station, which won the GRAMMY Award for Best Bluegrass Album and topped Billboard’s Folk, Country and Bluegrass charts, Alison began to feel the tug of inspiration.
“Usually it’s just all songs first,” she says. “It was the first time I’d ever not had songs picked out, and it was just about a person.” That person was veteran Nashville producer Buddy Cannon. Alison had always enjoyed the occasional recording sessions she did for Buddy. But something else happened when she came in to sing her lead lines on Hank Cochran’s “Make The World Go Away” for Jamey Johnson’s 2012 album Living For A Song. “That was absolutely the moment,” she says. “Wow! Buddy really makes me want to do a good job.”
Buddy has used his playing, songwriting and production skills to bring out the best in a wide variety of artists since the early 70’s. He has written award-winning and chart-topping songs for artists such as Vern Gosdin, Mel Tillis, George Strait, Glen Campbell, George Jones and Don Williams. He has also won the ACM’s “Producer Of The Year” award and produced albums for Willie Nelson, George Jones, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Alabama, Loretta Lynn, Kenny Chesney, and even Merle Haggard’s final solo album.
At the beginning Alison thought the songs chosen should be older than herself. “I wanted it to be earlier than I remembered,” she explains. And although the two of them subsequently decided to relax those boundaries just a little, it was only to allow in songs that somehow had the same kind of feeling as the others. Mostly, it turned out, these were songs of heartache, but of a distinct and particular kind.
What she and Buddy have created is an unusual and invigorating chimera – an album suffused with sadness that somehow rarely sounds that way. “It’s almost like you didn’t know it was sad,” Alison says, “because it doesn’t sound weak. It doesn’t have a pitiful part to it, where so many sad songs do. But these don’t. And I love that about it. I love that there’s strength underneath there. That whatever those stories are, they didn’t destroy. That that person made it right through it. I love that.”
Alison inhabits – and liberates – the very essence that makes each of the songs eternal. While they span different eras and musical genres, there is a unifying sensibility. Some of the songs are familiar – like “Gentle On My Mind,” a signature song of Glen Campbell’s, and “You Don’t Know Me” which was a hit for Eddy Arnold and Ray Charles. Others were lesser known, like Willie Nelson’s “I Never Cared For You” and “All Alone Am I,” originally recorded by Brenda Lee. Some were songs she’d never heard before; some were songs she’d known nearly her whole life, particularly those she brought in from the bluegrass world. Alison had no idea when she suggested to Buddy that they record “Dream of Me,” a song she recalled from childhood, that he had written it. It took some persuasion, but he agreed to sing backup on the track, along with his daughter Melonie Cannon.
For more than fifty years, The Temptations have prospered, propelling popular music with a series of smash hits, and sold-out performances throughout the world. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
The history of The Temptations is the history of contemporary American pop. They are an essential component of the original Motown machine and their hits include “The Way You Do the things You Do,” “My Girl,” “It’s Growing,” “Since I Lost My Baby,” “Get Ready,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Beauty Is only Skin Deep,” “I Wish It Would Rain,” “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”, and “Psychedelic Shack” still smolder today.
The current lineup consists of Otis Williams, Ron Tyson, Terry Weeks, Larry Braggs, and Willie Greene Jr.
One of Motown’s most consistent hitmakers and its longest lived lineup (40 years), the Four Tops are among the most stable and consistent vocal groups.
They helped define the Motown sound with hits like “Baby I Need Your Loving,”“ I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” “It’s The Same Old Song,” “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” “Standing In The Shadows Of Love,” “Bernadette,” “Walk Away Renee,” and “If I Were A Carpenter,” “Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got),” “Are You Man Enough (from the movie Shaft In Africa),” “Sweet Understanding Love,” “One Chain Don’t Make No Prison” (later covered by Santana), “Midnight Flower” and the disco perennial “Catfish.”
In 1990, with 24 Top 40 pop hits to their credit, the Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Artist Website: http://thefourtopsenterprises.com/
“I feel so humbled and blessed to be where I am right now,” says Travis, who will release the album on his own Post Oak Records. “My voice has never been stronger, I’m constantly playing and working to become a better guitar player, banjo player, vocalist and songwriter. I am honestly as excited about the creative process and performing now as I was the day I signed my first record deal.”
The highly abbreviated Tritt timeline has the Georgian incorporating lifelong influences in Southern Rock, blues and gospel into his country during a honky-tonk apprenticeship that led him to Warner Bros. His 1990 debut Country Club and its succession of hits put him in the vanguard of the genre’s early ’90s boom, dubbing him as one of “The Class of ‘89,” which included Country music superstars Garth Brooks, Clint Black and Alan Jackson; all whom dominated the charts in the early ‘90s.. At the same time, his conspicuous lack of a cowboy hat and musical aggressiveness set him apart. The next eight albums and scores of hit singles led him to amass more than 25 million in career album sales, two Grammys, three CMA Awards and a devoted fan base that filled venues coast-to-coast. He’s also become a force in Atlanta sports, performing at the 1996 Olympics, two Super Bowls, a World Series Game, the opening of the Georgia Dome, the final Braves game at Atlanta-Fulton Country Stadium and, in 2013, the NCAA men’s basketball championship.
A 2006 recording session for a Sam Moore album proved fateful when producer, musician and American Idol judge Randy Jackson complimented Travis on his vocals. The meeting led to co-production collaboration on Tritt’s next album, which would eventually be titled The Storm. The name, unfortunately, fit in ways no one would have expected.
Released in 2007 on the independent Category 5 Records, The Storm soon became embroiled in one. The company founder was funding the label through ill-gotten revenue in his principle business. “Because of the legal problems he ran into, which eventually led to him going to jail, the promotional push dried up and the label eventually failed,” Travis explains. “The album never really got an opportunity to see the light of day. We did release a single and we got great response with reviews, but there was never a properly executed marketing or promotion plan.”
Great response is putting it mildly. People wrote, “Jackson effectively brings out the soul in the country singer on cuts that venture into gospel and blues terrain.” The Associated Press said, “Tritt roars back with The Storm.” Boston Phoenix called the album “proof that even today the difference between rural blues and rural country is just a matter of pigmentation.”
Nevertheless, the label’s demise sank the project and led to years of litigation. The final settlement, reached in 2012, remitted master recordings for The Storm to Tritt. He knew exactly what he wanted to do. “I’ve been talking about starting my own record label for five years, and it all hinged on having those masters back in my control so we could kick off with that.” Hence, The Calm After ….
Pleased as Travis was at the opportunity to re-introduce music he’d poured himself into, he was also intent on fulfilling his initial vision. Originally a 12-track release, the album’s sessions actually yielded 14 finished recordings, with the two unreleased selections being Tritt’s take on the band Faces’ “Stay With Me” and the Patty Smyth-Don Henley duet “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough.” The latter had been intended as a pairing with an established female country artist. “When we were closing out the album, the timing was off because the scheduling just didn’t work out for the short list of women I thought had the soul to make that song special. So we basically shelved it.”
Fast forward several years, and Tritt discovered that if the perfect duet partner doesn’t materialize, you can always grow your own. On a family car trip, the unreleased track came up on his iPod. “My 15-year-old daughter Tyler Reese, who had never heard the song, started singing along in the backseat. When it ended she had me play it again five or six times. I was listening to her sing it and I was impressed, but I didn’t say anything. When we got home, I told my wife that I thought she could really do a great job on this song. We agreed, so I took her in the studio last year and had her sing the female parts. I know I sound like a biased parent, but she really did nail it and the proof is in the track.”
As his daughter’s voice takes wing, Travis Tritt finds his own career enjoying a new spring. He already has plans to follow the initial release with a variety of music projects, including a new, mostly acoustic project with former No Hats Tour chum Marty Stuart. “We’ve got four tracks done on sort of a throw-back project that is on the exact other end of the spectrum from The Calm After …, which is very heavily produced,” Travis explains. “I’m playing acoustic guitar, Marty is on acoustic and mandolin, there’s an upright bass, keys, light percussion and that’s it.”
Tritt had a busy 2013 with a full-band production tour in 2013, following three years of well-received solo-acoustic shows, and 2014 is proving to be just as busy. Celebrating the 25th anniversary of his music career, Tritt is touring the U.S. and Canada promoting his new album.
Through it all, music is still what gives him joy. “I turned 50 years old this year, strictly going off the date my mother told me that I was born,” he laughs. “I need to go back and check my birth certificate, because I don’t feel that old. In my head, I still feel like I’m 28-years-old. I have the same energy, the same amount of love for live performance and for working in the studio that I had when I was first getting started.”
“The odd thing is, and I can’t explain this, but I think I’m singing better than I did in my 20s and 30s. I know it’s not supposed to be that way, but there’s just a control that comes with maturity. Plus, I’ve got a higher range now than I had when I was in my early 30s. And since we started doing the acoustic shows, people come up to me commenting on my singing or, more often, my guitar playing.
“I get that a lot. In fact, that’s how I ended up working with Randy Jackson. After I came out of the vocal booth on that Sam Moore session, Randy looked at me and said, ‘Man, I had no idea that you had that blue-eyed soul thing going on.’
“We’ve even joked about having t-shirts made up that say, ‘I Never Knew Travis…’ followed by phrases like, ‘Played The Banjo Like That,’ ‘Can Sing Like That,’ ‘Had That Many Hits,’ ‘Is That Good A Guitar Player.’, etc. You know, it’s fun,” he smiles. “At 50, to still have a career and be able to surprise people with music – I’m humbled and very thankful. It’s a God given gift.” Which is another way of saying that for Travis Tritt, it’s nothing but clear skies, open windows and dry pavement ahead.