Sons of Sylvia: Revelation


RIYL: Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Rascal Flatts

Don’t blame brother trio Sons of Sylvia if they are a bit pigeon-holed into the country music genre, because that’s not what they are. Sure, the band won a talent competition that led to a deal with 19 Recordings, and one of the band members was a backup singer in Carrie Underwood’s band, but their debut, Revelation, is no more country than Bon Jovi or Bret Michaels. Oh wait….yeah, there is much crossover these days. Let’s just say this is a rock album with moments of twang and leave it at that. And as debut albums go, this is a pretty strong set. The trio is led by singer Ashley Clark and the trio writes together with the help of folks like OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, who happens to be their cousin. And while Ashley has a strong voice, one of the drawbacks is that he tries too hard to show it off. The album opens with “John Wayne,” and this is the country rock song Bon Jovi couldn’t seem to write, but with too many vocal acrobatics a la Adam Lambert. But it’s a good one, as are most of the tracks on here. “Love Left to Lose” is a powerful gang-vocal anthem, “50 Ways” could find its way onto an Aerosmith album, and the current single, “I’ll Know You,” is pure pop power ballad. But the best track of all is “Song of Solomon,” a slowly building gem in which the vocal acrobatics are more appropriate. All in all this is a solid debut and this is a band that could have an extremely bright future. (19 Recordings/Interscope)

Sons of Sylvia MySpace Page

  

Mark Olson: Many Colored Kite


RIYL: The Jayhawks, Gram Parsons, Neil Young

Fans of the Jayhawks, Gram Parsons and Neil Young should be thrilled with Mark Olson’s new solo recording, Many Colored Kite. In fact, it’s Young’s early solo recordings that this album reminded me the most of. Olson’s deep, country twang, backed with compelling lyrics and solid music bring to mind such albums as After the Gold Rush and Harvest, albums grounded in country and folk, but with rock overtones.

Many Colored Kite is a pastoral affair. Olson has returned to the countryside, using nature as a theme and metaphor for the 11 songs on the album. Whether it’s a song about making it through a difficult time and finding rebirth in the world (“Little Bird of Freedom”), or it’s hopelessly romantic (“Beehive,” “Blue Bell”) or just a celebration of life and nature (“Morning Dove,” “Wind and Rain”), all of the songs are coming from a place of peacefulness in the singer/songwriter.

Music listeners unfamiliar with Olson’s solo output or his work as one of the co-founders of the Jayhawks may be off put by his singing voice upon initial listen. However, after repeated plays the melodies grow on you and create a soothing listening experience. Olson was definitely knee-deep in a ’60s experience when he recorded this collection of songs; you can definitely feel the peace, love and happiness he was experiencing come through in the music. (2010 Rykodisc)

Mark Olson MySpace page
Purchase Many Colored Kite through Amazon

  

Rodney Carrington: Make It Christmas


RIYL: Frank Sinatra, Clay Aiken, Harry Connick, Jr.

Funny man Rodney Carrington has been making a living with his comedy for several years now, and music has been a focal point of his show. But Carrington, who has been a regular in the Nashville songwriting community, kept hearing from fans that he had such a nice voice, that he should at some point make a serious record, not just funny, to showcase that voice. Well, Carrington has done that with Make It Christmas, and in the vein of classic crooners like Frank Sinatra but with a modern twist, he’s done it extremely well. In fact, there is no way to tell whether or not Carrington is anything but a professional singer after listening. He even wrote one of the tracks, the swinging (and totally awesome) “The Presents Under the Tree (Better Be for Me).” There are also classics like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Winter Wonderland” woven in with songs that have a Nashville flavor and songwriter credits like “Mary Did You Know” and “Camouflage and Christmas Lights.” But regardless of who wrote what or what songs Carrington chose for this release, we’re going to steal a line from “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson: “Dude can really sing!” Easily the most pleasant surprise of this holiday season, and maybe the start of a nice second career for Carrington. (Capitol Nashville 2009)

Rodney Carrington MySpace Page

  

David Nail: I’m About to Come Alive


RIYL: Vince Gill, Kenny Chesney, Train

That cha-ching sound you just heard was the royalty cash register for another mainstream pop/rock songwriter, as a country music artist has not just cut a song by the band Train, but made it the title track for his MCA Nashville debut. The artist is David Nail, and while Nail has endured ups and downs and at least one failed move to Nashville, the story has a happy ending, or at least a happy middle upon the release of I’m About to Come Alive, which might also be symbolic for the young artist. Nail has co-written about half the material here, and it might be curious that he’d go with a full blown cover song as his title track, but if you follow Train at all, you know it’s one of their best and most heartfelt songs. And it comes a couple years after Gary Allan had success with Vertical Horizon’s “Best I Ever Had.” But back to Nail, because he and producer Frank Liddell have managed to put a set of tunes together that is as good or better than anything Nashville has produced in the past decade. And the same can be said for Nail’s powerful vocal ability. Of course the title track is stellar, but there are some other beauties on here, especially “Red Light” and the Garth Brooks-ish “Looking for a Good Time,” the latter of which features some pretty guitar work. (MCA Nashville)

David Nail MySpace page

  

Dierks Bentley: Feel That Fire

It’s no secret that most of the music coming out of Nashville’s Music Row is based on formula – a lot of the same songwriters and producers are making the records and making it difficult to distinguish one artist from another. You might see Brad Paisley or Kenny Chesney or Billy Currington on TV or walking down the street in Nashville and immediately know who they are, but that doesn’t mean the casual fan can pick their voice out on the radio. That’s because Nashville has auto-tuned everyone into sounding the same – the same vocal tone, same twang, and in most cases, the same freaking songs. Dierks Bentley falls into that category, and on his latest, and fourth album, Feel That Fire, Bentley has co-written a bland bunch of songs that he seems to almost be going through the motions with. Tracks like “Sideways” and “Little Heartwrecker” will make you tap your feet but you’re not going to remember them five minutes afterward. A pretty duet with Patty Griffin, “Beautiful World,” almost saves the album, but while the likes of “I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes” and “I Can’t Forget Her” are pleasant enough, there are literally thousands of better songs in this formulaic genre alone. Country music surely isn’t going to make any new fans this way. (LABEL: Capitol Nashville)

Dierks Bentley MySpace Page

  

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