Posts Tagged ‘Adele’

Album Review: The Band Perry – “Pioneer”

April 30, 2013

“Daddy rocked us to sleep with the Rolling Stones; Mama woke us up with Loretta Lynn. So we get it honest” – Kimberly Perry

The Band Perry

Pioneer

***1/2

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It’s no secret that “If I Die Young” is one of my favorite singles of this decade, no matter how much airplay it receives. Nathan Chapman’s simple production combined with Kimberly’s sweet vocal is an irresistible combination, difficult for me to resist.

So about a year ago now, I was thrilled when The Band Perry announced they’d be working with Rick Rubin on their sophomore album. The veteran producer who famously resurrected Johnny Cash’s career in the final two decades of life, he also produced the final Dixie Chick record Taking The Long Way, possibly my favorite album from them. In addition, they expressed their intent to work with songwriting genius (and Semisonic front man) Dan Wilson based on his involvement with “Someone Like You” and “Don’t You Remember” from Adele’s 21 (He also had a lot to do with the genius of the Chicks’ album). The Perry siblings even spoke openly of their love for those two songs, which made me very excited, as I love them, too.

So, what the heck went so horribly wrong? Well, it seems like the their label had other ideas. Kimberly has explained that Rubin “in his current incarnation” is a minimalist, but “we also knew that to accommodate all of the goals that we had, the best producer was Dann Huff.” One can assume, reading between the PR fog, that Republic Nashville didn’t approve of Rubin’s artistry, and wanted the band to go with a producer that would keep them firmly within the good graces of country radio. In other words, an intelligently articulate record wouldn’t be supported in today’s Nashville in the same ways an overproduced Huff-led record would.

And is Pioneer ever overproduced. Huff works his usual magic, suffocating the songs until they are one click away from needing life support. The rock production has even affected Kimberly’s voice, the band’s crowning instrument, which is now sadly showing the wear of extreme overuse. I wasn’t expecting to hear such breathy vocals from her, and like Carrie Underwood’s newly acquired rasp, it’s kind of sad. What ever happened to simply singing?

Pioneer is what happens when country music becomes too commercial. Every aspect of the product is grossly overdone in an attempt to appeal to the arena and stadium crowd, and while the songs may work well live; they fail as a listening experience on an album. Luckily, though, this isn’t the atrocious mess it could’ve been and they did find (and write) some decent songs, even if nothing here lives up to the singles from their debut.

I quite like “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely,” despite the somewhat muffled production and “I Saw The Light” is possibly my favorite song on the whole project. The title track is as folksy as they seem to get, and “Back To Me Without You” is nicely restrained although it gets a bit power ballad-y by the end. I don’t have a huge issue with thick production at all when it’s done correctly (here’s looking at you, Eric Church). Huff’s style actually works well on “Forever Mine Nevermind,” which has noticeable country elements in the choral melody.

I’m also enjoying the tender “Mother Like Mine,” which the trio wrote as a declaration of what the world would look like if everyone had been raised by their mom:

So the wars would all be over

‘Cause she’d raise us all as friends

And no one would ever wonder if somebody wanted them

We’d walk on grass that’s greener

And our cares would all be freer

If the world had a mother like mine

The no wars line is a bit predictable, and Kimberly’s vocal shows the wear of shouting too much on stage, but overall it’s a very touching song that would work well as a single. Their southern gothic tribute “End of Time” isn’t as revelatory as I would’ve liked, but it’s probably closest to the sound on their debut. “Night Gone Wasted” is a mess in this form, but I can hear the honky-tonk elements beneath all the noise, especially on the chorus. If any song ever called for an acoustic makeover, this would be it.

The rest is just plain dreck. I do get why some would praise “Chainsaw” for being a country romp, but it sounds to me like something Huff would’ve done with Rascal Flatts circa 2004. There’s just nothing new in the production to peak my interest. The lyric is typical Band Perry but the melody sounds very dated. Even the Target exclusive tracks are marred by unintelligent choices in both vocals and production, and can hardly be appreciated for the quality songs they probably are.

To call me disappointed in Pioneer would be an understatement. I’m thankful this isn’t an obvious clichéd attempt at commercialism, but this record could’ve been and deserved to be so much more. The songs are there but you wouldn’t know it based on all the distracting elements hindering overall enjoyment. Pioneer will rightfully get The Band Perry to that next level they so deserve to ascend to, but it comes at far too big a price for the fans that loved the simplicity of their debut. Hopefully, they’ll be able to find a happy medium next time.

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Concert Review – Kelly Clarkson Stronger Tour – Wang Theatre – Jan 26, 2011

January 31, 2012

It seems like Kelly Clarkson is everywhere. She had an Unplugged special on VH1 last November, she sang on the AMA Awards and VH1 Divas Soul, was announced as a mentor on Blake Shelton’s team for The Voice, and she performed as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. And not to be out done on the biggest night in sports, she’s singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl.

I hardly remember a similar media blitz in her ten year career. Clarkson’s mangers and publicity people seem to be working overtime to make sure she has her fill of the spotlight. In between all these events, she’s also touring.

I never knew I wanted to see Clarkson in concert until I saw a notice about her Stronger tour from her Facebook page. I looked over the dates and found she was coming to the Boston Area at the end of Jan. I really wanted to go, but getting tickets proved challenging as they were already on sale and likely sold out. But being persistent paid off as good seats, too good to pass up, became available.

I don’t have a distinct recollection of ever attending a show at The Citi Performing Arts Wang Theater before, so I was really looking forward to the experience. I love the old classy theaters in Boston and have seen many a musical in town. This was my first “rock” concert at such a venue and it worked surprisingly well.

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Top 45 favorite country singles of 2011

December 21, 2011

Here’s my picks for the best of the best, the cream of the crop for country singles in 2011. See, the year wasn’t all bad, now was it?

45. Steel Magnolia – “Last Night Again”

A flirty romance tale finding a couple eyeing each other from across the room is made even sweeter  knowing Megan Lindsay and Joshua Scott Jones are an item in real life.

44. Terri Clark – “Northern Girl”

How refreshing is it to hear a singer singing about where they’re from and instead of a bunch of cliches, it relays to personal experience? Clark, from Canada, sings lovingly of her homeland here and shows just how great her voice still is after more than fifteen years in the industry. If you haven’t paid Clark much attention in a while, she’s worth checking out.

43. Miranda Lambert – “Baggage Claim”

A Beyonce inspired ditty that says everything Reba McEntire wished she could’ve said in “Who’s Ever In New England.” This guy ain’t got a place to come back to.

42. Jacob Lyda – “I’m Doing Alright”

This light and breezy tale is an exercise in being comfortable in your everyday life, something we could use more of in our world. Lyda co-wrote it with legendary songwriter Paul Overstreet (whose son Chord is Sam Evans on Glee) and it has that old-time feel of a great country song. Lyda didn’t make waves in 2011, but he sure deserved to.

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She went back to black and said no to rehab

July 24, 2011

I may be a country music fan at heart, but I’m still deeply saddened by the death of Amy Winehouse. I recognize quality music when I here it, and Back To Black was as solid any album as any to see release in 2006.

I was first exposed to her music in August of 2007 when my Godmother played me her song “Rehab,” while on a visit to her house. Being naive, I thought the song was a declaration of her not traveling down the path into destruction.  Obviously, I was dead wrong.

It would be the following winter before I’d hear Back to Black  in its entirety. I wouldn’t even think about her music again until she swept the Grammy Awards. After purchasing  the album, I was blown away. That voice mixed with those songs came together to create an irresistible combination. She may not be anything close to a country singer, but it didn’t matter. I felt her music.

Much has already, and will be, written about her inclusion into the famed “Forever 27” club – rock legends (Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Kurt Cobain) who all died at that young age. Much will also be made about her importance in the music industry. She’ll always be included in that legendary company, but does she deserve to rank among those great artists?

The short answer is really, only time will tell. Her legacy is just being mounted. It’s going to take a long time for the public to look at Winehouse solely for her music and not for the public spectacle she made of herself. Sure, her demons will always cast a shadow, but future generations will likely learn about Winehouse through her music, not her addictions. I know because that’s how I’ve grown to love Joplin, for her music.

I can’t really explain why, but Back To Black is a classic. It’s an album and not just a couple singles surrounded by filler. Back To Black is her Pearl, just released during her lifetime. In way, it’s criminal to think it won every major Grammy Award except Album of the Year. I’m glad for Herbie Handcock’s River – The Join Letters, but Winehouse had the best album that year.

In essence, Winehouse is the first member of this “forever 27” club I will have known during her life. I remember watching her Grammy Awards performance blown away by what I was seeing. I had to it look up the  to refresh my memory, but it all came flooding back – she was denied a visa to leave the UK and had to perform in a British club. The sultry Winehouse in the smoky club had a real old-fashioned vibe to it. You kind of knew you were witnessing something special.

In the years since that night, she wouldn’t release any more music, but her influence was felt far and wide. Winehouse ushered in a British-soul invasion that has captivated America. In her wake, artists like Duffy, Adele, and Estelle have all made their marks. They all had a similar sound to Winehouse, but also their own individuality.

Arguably, the most successful in this post-Winehouse group is Adele, who’s sophomore album 21 and single “Rolling In The Deep” have been 2011’s biggest mainstream success stories not named Blake Shelton. I have her album as well and its fantastic. Pure talent doesn’t come along very often but Adele has it.

And so did Winehouse, which is why I find it sad that it takes death to bring appreciation to talent. The whole world is saddened, yet hardly surprised, that we’ve lost another raw talent so quickly, but we’re not above revisiting her albums and taking another look at her music.

When I heard about the now famous Belgrade concert last month, I kind of laughed it off as just another episode. I viewed her fumbling around on stage as just another train wreck moment and not another notch in her downfall. I’ll always think she was screwed up that night, but I never thought it was as bad as it was. In reality, I don’t think anyone did.

Thankfully, though, the addictions aren’t the only reason we know Winehouse’s name. The most important part of her legacy is her music and that will always be there to draw the attention of new fans.

I would like to see Winehouse remembered for her most valued asset – her voice. It was so unique and expressive.  The way a white girl could sound black was just incredible. There wasn’t anyone else who sounded like her.
Listening to her music was like going back in time to another era, which is why her Grammy performance worked so well. She found the perfect venue to capture the essence of her voice.

Which is why it’s such a shame she couldn’t have found a way to get herself together. If we learn any lesson in her death, it’s to make sure we tell those around us how much we value them. That little compliment may make all the difference because all we really want to know is that we matter.

In honor of Amy Winehouse, lets go Back To Black.