Archive for July, 2014

Michael Burns & Stu Fink bring Boston Country Oldies to 1330-AM WRCA Boston

July 23, 2014

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Fans of Sunday Morning Country Oldies, here’s the good news we’ve been waiting for – Michael Burns and Stu Fink are back on the air! No, not on Country 102.5 WKLB, but 1330-AM WRCA Boston. Here are the details:

Hello friends:

We are pleased to let you know that Michael and Stu will return with their latest show, Boston Country Oldies, which will air Friday night at 9pm and again on Saturday night at 11pm on 1330-AM WRCA in Boston. For those of you out of the Boston area, you can stream the show online at www.1330wrca.com and clicking on “listen live.”  Or you can go to http://1330wrca.com/streamer/.

As there are no other country stations in the Boston area that will play oldies, we had to take what we could find quickly.  This is the best we could do on short notice, since it was our goal to get back on the air in short order.  We think you’ll like our new show, which will feature all of your favorites, as well as the featured artist of the week.  For our first show, that will be Johnny Cash.

We are also looking for other stations around the state that would be interested in picking up the show.  If you know of any in your area, please let us know, and we will investigate.

If you’d like to request a song, go to our website, www.bostoncountryoldies.com, and send in your request via our contact page.  For the moment, that is the best way to reach us.

Also check the webpage often for links to great country songs.  We will also be updating any new stations that we add, so make our website your second home on the net.

Michael and I thank you all for your overwhelming support these last few weeks.  We are pleased to be back, and look forward to getting your feedback as well. So, as always, do stay in touch.

That’s all for now.  We hope you are as excited as we are.

All the best,

Stu Fink (and Michael Burns too!)

Congratulations to 1330-AM WCRA Boston for realizing the vital importance of keeping this music alive on the airwaves for the good of future generations who need to be exposed to the sounds of authentic country music, especially at a time when the legacy looks like it’s about to be lost forever. And kudos to Burns and Fink for finding work so quickly. As a radio guy myself, I know how challenging that is in the current marketplace. Good luck and lets keep this going for another 20 years!
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Album Review: Robby Hecht: “Robbie Hecht”

July 17, 2014

Robbie Hecht

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Robbie Hecht

* * * 1/2 

For his first collection since 2011’s Last of the Long Days, singer/songwriter Robbie Hecht turned to producer Lex Price to help him achieve the lush sound he desired. The resulting eponymous album is a quiet collection of songs that pack a significant punch.

Hecht, who hails from Knoxville, TN, knew music was his calling around age 18 and he spent the next decade of his life turning it into his career through travels in Europe and a stint in San Francisco before making his way back to Music City.

After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Hecht was truly able to find himself and gain the confidence he needed to begin a solo career in earnest, with his new album marking the latest step in his journey.

Robbie Hecht isn’t an album to be taken lightly, treated as background music while you enjoy a shindig or drive in your car. The quiet simplicity draws you in, commanding your attention in the way only the most finely crafted albums can.

Excellent lead single “New York City” is one of those songs, tracing the psychedelic hold the Big Apple has on those who’ve walked it’s streets and ridden it’s subways. Through various pleas, Hecht begs the city to give him the hope he can only find within himself. Similarly themed “I Don’t Believe It” finds a man going through a series of repeating lines in an effort to keep from facing the bitter truth and continue a life in denial.

Nashville writer Amy Speace co-wrote “The Sea & The Shore” with Hecht and the results are a quietly haunting tune about impossible love. The sparse production – just soft acoustic guitar with ribbons of light piano – works wonderfully to compliment Hecht’s delicate yet commanding vocal. “Cars and Bars” traverses nearly identical ground sonically, while also featuring a nicely engaging story about an encounter with a girl that wasn’t destined to be anything more than a one-time meeting. Hecht’s tender vocal conveys a hint of sadness among his recollection of that day.

“Feeling It Now” is slightly faster in tempo with jazzy elements incorporated into the production track. It’s an excellent number about contentment that perfectly conveys one of the hardest emotions to convey properly in a song. “The Light Is Gone” falls on the opposite end of the spectrum and concerns the end of a relationship as indicated through his lovers’ eyes, which painfully illustrate the lack of love she currently feels for him.

One of the album’s standout tracks is “Papa’s Down The Road Dead,” a rockilin’ reflection on the passage of time – someone close to you may’ve died, but life goes on without exception. My other favorite track on Robbie Hecht is “Soon I Was Sleeping,” the only number on the record to contain steel guitar in the backing track. It’s a pure country number about a woman who’s moved on from her ex, with the gorgeously painful flourishes of steel wonderfully extenuating Hecht’s ache.

I freely admit that when I first heard Robbie Hecht I was overcome by the lushness of it, leaving the arrangements feeling somewhat too sleepy for my tastes. But the quietness actually works in his favor, allowing his delicate voice to shine in a way that big production values would’ve squashed. Hecht is an incredibly emotional singer, albeit in a quiet way, and this album is the perfect showcase for his abilities. He may be outside what is traditionally considered country music (and not in a 2014 Nashville sense), but his album works nonetheless. He isn’t the noisiest guy around, but as a singer/songwriter he shouldn’t be ignored.

Country 102.5 WKLB rebrands canceling Sunday Morning Country Oldies

July 3, 2014

wklb_logoWant yet another example of the corporate machine striking again? Well, here you go – Country 102.5 WKLB, Boston’s twenty-one year old country music station has cancelled their ‘Sunday Morning Country Oldies’ program after a twenty year and five month run, replacing it with the same mix of bro-country and progressive sounds that litter their airwaves every other hour of the week.

The move comes in response to the decision by 101.7-FM to switch from an EDM format to country, giving Boston two country music radio stations for the first time. This new station, run by Clear Channel and billing itself as ‘The Bull’ in a shameless effort to covet the younger country music audience, is the ultimate soul sucker. They’re running an uninterrupted commercial free summer to draw in listeners and have slotted the Nashville produced (i.e. syndicated) Bobby Bones Show during the coveted Morning Drive hours.

According to the Boston Globe article announcing the format switch at 101.7, Dylan Sprague, vice president of programming for Clear Channel Media and Entertainment Boston, says the format switch is in accordance to the changing tastes of listeners, most of whom wouldn’t have considered themselves country 1017_the_bull_commercial_free__0_1402657108music fans even ten years ago.

To achieve this goal, 101.7 has launched a “comprehensive search” for DJ talent, as Sprague puts it, to be put on air after Labor Day. The Boston Globe article doesn’t divulge how they plan to find this talent, or even how hard they plan to “search” but at least they have plans to bring a personal touch to the station, who’s call letters are WBLW, and aren’t planning on a syndicated format around the clock.

So, where does Country 102.5 WKLB, Boston’s Country Music Association award winning country music powerhouse, play into the equation? Well, in response to the new station they’ve rolled out what they hoped would be a subtle rebranding campaign as “Boston’s New Hit Country,” which in turn left no room for the venerable oldies program on Sunday mornings.

Sunday Morning Country Oldies began in January 1994, running 8am-noon with the hits from bygone eras no longer heard on mainstream radio. Hosted by Michael Burns and Stu Fink, the program most recently heavily featured 70s, 80s, and 90s country with a nod back to the 60s with a ‘classic oldie of the hour’ like Glen Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind” or Roger Miller’s “King of the Road.”

Up until 101.7 switched formats, the Oldies program was going strong with no signs of imminent cancelation. This spring they even dedicated shows to featuring tracks from and giving away copies of Johnny Cash’s Out Among The Stars and Ronnie Milsap’s Summer Number Seventeen in coordination with the artists promotional teams in Nashville. On Mother’s Day, they played Jimmy Dean’s tearjerker ‘I.O.U.’ once every hour.

Now the program is gone, cancelled without warning to the listeners or the hosts themselves. Burns and Fink were told on June 16 that their final show had aired the day before. Burns will continue his relationship with Greater Media, who owns WKLB and a host of other stations, while Fink has been let go entirely. The fans of the program, who where wondering what was going on when they tuned in this past Sunday, flooded WKLB’s Facebook page with messages lamenting their anger.

Listeners reminisced about tuning into the program with their 97 year old parents or listening with their spouses who originally hailed from Texas and couldn’t find this music anywhere else beyond CDs and such. Others downright disowned the station and planned to never listen again.

As one of those disgruntled listeners, I’m deeply saddened by the show’s cancelation, but I’m not surprised or shocked at this move by Country 102.5 WKLB. We live in a world, especially with regards to media, where corporate greed wins out every time no matter how it might effect a entity’s image or well being within the community.

I’ve had by soul shattered by the continuing devolution of country music for years now, and I’d be a fool to think it could possibly recover even to a fraction of what it once was and should’ve always remained. The mainstream country music genre and establishment, no matter how much money it makes on a daily basis, is corrupt and morally bankrupt.

If I didn’t understand that fact before, the cancelation of Sunday Morning Country Oldies makes it loud and clear. This move puts Country 102.5 WKLB on par with 101.7 instead of establishing themselves as an exception to the rule. Sunday Morning Country Oldies is what helped them stand out from the pack and retain the older country music audience in and around Boston starving for authenticity out of the music they love. Without it they’ve lost, my 26-year-old self included, whatever fraction of that audience they had left.

I’d have to be an even bigger fool if I thought this move would significantly impact Country 102.5 WKLB’s bottom line. Will they suffer as a result of cancelling Sunday Morning Country Oldies? Of course they won’t. WKLB makes their money off of the latest and greatest in country music and their pivotal role of turning Boston into a must visit city for all major country music tours. With the growth of country music, they’ve become the number one most listened to station in Boston with ratings going through the roof. Country 102.5 WKLB hasn’t been this popular at any other point in its 21-year history.

With those statistics, it’s hard to believe they’d be so insecure about loosing their audience to 101.7 that they’d quickly rebrand and yank their Sunday morning oldies show. I find it mind boggling that a weekly four-hour block of classic country on a Sunday morning would deter listeners to another station. They seriously believe that fans are so impatient they can’t wait until noon for the likes of Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, or Jason Aldean? The thinking here, suggested by the cancelation of Sunday Morning Country Oldies, is flat-out ridiculous.

Michael Burns (Left) and Stu Fink - hosts of Sunday Morning Country Oldies

Michael Burns (Left) and Stu Fink – hosts of Sunday Morning Country Oldies

Without so much as a press release or statement from Country 102.5 WKLB explaining this move in their own PR spun words, is there any hope going forward for the fans of the program? With the damage already done, they’re shouldn’t be. By making the move in the first place Country 102.5 WKLB have shown their true colors as a station just like all the rest, a follower of demographics and industry trends. Keeping the show alive would’ve been the bold move, a stance against the devolution of corporate radio at a time when a protest is needed most.

There’s been speculation about Burns and Fink trying to revive the program online or through another medium but any formal announcement, beyond a ‘Save Sunday Morning Country Oldies’ Facebook page has yet to come down the pipeline. I sincerely hope they get the last word in all of this as they are the true victims here, lovers of classic country who had their voice diminished without as much as a chance to officially thank their listeners for twenty great years.

As for Country 102.5 WKLB, they can be yet another voice diminishing real country music on the airwaves, catering to the mainstream audience that’s done more to murder music row than any artist in Larry Cordle’s song.

WKLB, go and cram Luke Bryan’s August coming out party at Gillette Stadium down our throats. Its okay, now that we’ve seen who you really are once and for all.

Further Reading: 

Boston Radio: New Sheriff In Town Country Is #1

Clear Channel converts 101.7 to country music format

WKLB DROPS “SUNDAY MORNING COUNTRY OLDIES”

 

Album Review: Jim Lauderdale: “I’m A Song”

July 2, 2014

Jim Lauderdale

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I’m A Song

* * * *

Jim Lauderdale, recording once again for Sky Crunch Records, has gifted us with a self-produced double album to follow-up his acclaimed Buddy & Jim duets project from 2012. I’m A Song, his 26th album, spans twenty songs over a single disc of pure honky-tonk bliss with not a clinker in the bunch.

For this project Lauderdale wrote or co-wrote every song, opting to self-pen eight of the album’s tracks. For these numbers he mainly focuses on different aspects of relationships, from the hopeful beginnings of “Lets Have A Good Thing Together” to a woman’s uniqueness in “You’ve Got A Way With Yours.” “There’s No Shadows In The Shade” confronts what we tend to hide from one another in relationships, while the title track cleverly compares a romance to different aspects of a song. All are excellent, with gorgeous twangy guitar, drum, and pedal steel based arrangements that nicely complement Lauderdale’s southern drawl.

Much like “There’s No Shadow In The Shade,” “Hope and Find” has a very modern, and somewhat heavy, accompaniment the builds along with the sinister lyric. “The Day The Devil Changed” is the exact opposite – sunny and bright, despite a lyric about a man’s desire to course correct his troubled past. “We Will Rock Again” closes the album by echoing the honky-tonk beat of opener “Lets Have A Good Thing Together,” but presenting it as straight up rock. The lyric, about endings that aren’t goodbye, is in its chosen spot given its appropriateness as an album ending song.

Lauderdale teamed up with Jimmy Richie and Mark Irwin for “Past It,” in which the guy is eternally hopeful that he and his woman may be over the ‘rough patch that we’re on.’ The jaunty beat nicely aids in his optimism, while his cynical vocal suggests otherwise. Newly minted Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Bare shares co-writing credits on “This Feeling’s Hanging On,” a glorious straight-up traditional number bursting with steel and fiddle. “End of the World Rag” is one of the louder numbers, a doomsday lament that’s rock in every way.

Odie Blackmon, probably best known for writing Lee Ann Womack’s “I May Hate Myself In The Morning,” collaborated with Lauderdale on three cuts. “Neon Hearts” is a lonely man’s ode to drinking in bars, “Makin’ Honey” is a jarringly happy love song that seems somewhat out of character for the album, and “The World Is Waiting Below” concerns a very happy couple who are so in love they haven’t come down to earth yet. Of these three, which are all good, “Neon Hearts” is a cut above the rest, a wonderful bar song that gets to the heart of why we sometimes just need a stiff drink to wash away our troubles. Matt Warren and Gary Allan (along with Lauderdale) co-wrote “I Wish You Loved Me,” a fabulous honky-tonk number about unreciprocated love.

Womack provides harmony vocals on two of the four duet tracks on I’m A Song. Co-written with Robert Hunter, “A Day With No Tomorrow” is an excellent mid-tempo traditional country ballad about a recently heartbroken man. Even better is “Doin’ Time In Bakersfield” a Frank Dycus co-write about a man behind bars in the aforementioned California city. I wish Womack could’ve done more than harmonize here, making it a true duet, but her contributions only add to the outstanding quality of the track.

A collaboration with Patty Loveless on the self-penned “Today I’ve Got The Yesterdays” is given the same harmonizing treatment as the Womack numbers, and while it’s a great song with a flawless production, I would’ve liked to have seen Lauderdale give her some lines to sing solo. Their voices sound sharp together, too, as the both have distinct twangy vocals that keep them from harmonizing perfectly, like he was able to do with the sweeter voiced Womack. The Buddy Miller partnership on his Elvis Costello co-written “I Lost You” works the best given the format, as they are essentially a duo anyways.

“The King of Broken Hearts,” which George Strait brought prominence with the Pure Country soundtrack and Womack cut on Call Me Crazy gets recorded here by its writer twenty-three years after his original release since that project is long out of print. A staple of his shows and easily his most popular song, its revival here is a welcomed treat.

Most times when an artist opts to gift their fans twenty songs on a single disc, the results are uneven at best, and often wrought with wide sweeps of varying styles meant to please each and every sector of the audience. Lauderdale smartly forgoes that in favor of crafting a pure honky-tonk project as cohesive as any album could aspire to be. While not a fault of his own the track do tend to run together a bit, but the standout numbers (“Doin’ Time in Bakersfield,” “Neon Lights,” and “The Day The Devil Changed”) stand out loud and clear.