Looking Back – 2019 Music

As most of you know, I am a staff-writer for Buddy Magazine, The Original Texas Music Magazine. Because of that, I review lots of newly released music CDs throughout the year. This is a look back on some of the best of the best from Texas! The Albums are not listed in any particular order, so this is not a Top Ten list. It’s a recap of music that moved me!

An Indie artist that broke all the rules this year and came out on top was Cody Jinks!

He released an album on October 11 that premiered on the iTunes all-genre chart at #1. Then one week later, on October 18, he released a second album that did the same thing. The most impressive part of this is that, as an indie artist, he has no record label backing him and pouring tons of money into promo. He did it all on his own. So, it is my pleasure to honor these two albums.

“Each album has a theme,” Jinks said. “The Wanting is about the road life and going deeper into your art, while After The Fire is more about the home life, the settling and coming down period.”

Another album that touched me deeply was RIDE ME BACK HOME by the incomparable, Willie Nelson!

Part of this album’s appeal is that the title track, “Ride Me Back Home,” was written by a good friend of mine, Sonny Throckmorton. But, aside from that fact, it’s possibly one of Willie’s best!

Native Texan Bianca DeLeon writes about what she knows, her life growing up in the Texas-Mexico borderland. She’s lived through a lot, and it shows in her music. Her byline is “Texas Songwriter and Troubadour.” I absolutely loved reviewing her album, DANGEROUS ENDEAVOR. The first thing that struck me about this album is DeLeon’s voice. She’s gritty and gutsy with her delivery of the lyrics.

Pint-sized Jack Barksdale is making quite a name for himself in every music circle from the local DFW area to songwriter’s events across the United States. He’s twelve. Not only is he writing original material, but he also releases podcasts where he interviews other artists. Check out his YouTube page. He is one of the most amazing young artists I’ve ever seen! He released a new EP this year, Live From Niles City and it deserves to be on this list!

Here’s a YouTube video. You’ve gotta hear this kid!

Another incredibly diverse album that crossed my desk this year was FOG AND BLING By Shinyribs! It’s difficult to categorize this Austin-based band’s music. I’d say Shinyribs is an eclectic blend between New Orleans Jazz, R&B, Funk, Rock, and Psychedelic Country. It could aptly be called Swampadelic R&B.

Tom McElvain is known far and wide for his vocal prowess. But he is also fast rising to the top of the songwriting spectrum with songs like the ones found on his EP, DRIFTER. As he says, “This time it’s for the music, not the man.”  

On a side note, I am working with Tom McElvain on a book, “Lady In Red,” that will be released in May 2020! Believe me, I will be promoting it here on my blog!

Smile Into Life from Austin-based Blues-Funk Rocker, Hector Ward and his eight-piece Big Time band, is one of the most dynamic I heard all year.From start to finish, it’s solid with not one track that I wanted to skip. Ward is quoted as saying, “Listen to music…it will change your reality.”

I want to share a picture with you because, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Let me just say this man is inspiring. That is Hector Ward in the wheelchair. Listen to his music and see if you find one spec of self-pity. You won’t!

The Walk is singer/songwriter, Bonnie Bishop’s eighth album. Produced by Grammy-winner, Steve Jordan, the music connects listeners to the Texas vocal powerhouse in an intimate and personal way. I am a huge fan of her music and her honesty. She is an inspiration to women artists!

I love these two people, Andrew Jr. Boy Jones and Kerrie Lepai Jones! They are perfect ambassadors of the Dallas Blues scene and it was an honor to not only review their new CD, but to interview them for a feature in Buddy Magazine. You can read it here. Jr. Boy has been playing the blues for over five decades and no one does it better! Their new album, Jr. Boy & Kerrie’s Blues is nothing short of stellar! If you love the blues, give them a listen! Kerrie proves that a white girl CAN sing the blues!

I’ll close this post with a single off Cody Johnson’s 2019 Album, Ain’t Nothing To It. In my humble opinion this is the most sensual and sexy song I’ve heard since Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness.” Here’s Cody Johnson with “Nothin’ On.”

Maybe you are already familiar with some of this music but if you aren’t I do hope you’ll take a minute to discover something new! Thank you!

Redemption – Tom McElvain CD Review

Redemption

RELEASE DATE JUNE 22!

AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER

There is only a hand full of male artists around with the vocal prowess of Tom McElvain. And few who would dare to expose the cold hard facts of addiction and recovery like McElvain does on his new CD, Redemption.

 Recorded at the famed Sonic Ranch in far West Texas, and produced by Joe Austin and Charles Godfrey, the theme running through Redemption is the struggle of a man tumbling to the bottom and the strength and determination it takes to climb back from the darkness into light and love.

McElvain faces his demons head-on with “Lady in Red.” Started during his meth phase, he compared the swirl of blood in the hypodermic needle to a lady in a red dress…dancing, taunting, pleasing. “I’d sell my soul to the devil, Lord for one more night/Lady in red dance for me…”

Written from the point-of-view of a single parent, “Why” is an apology for not being there for the kids. Running from problems comes easy for some and “Anywhere” describes a young man’s need to avoid commitment.

Keeping with the theme, “High” tells the story of a carefree journey down a rabbit hole with a companion that gets lost along the way. “They’re telling us we’re stoned/Like to think we’re just high/But I took your tender heart and gave it a jagged edge…”

Hurt, regret and anger drive “Goodbye.” It’s never easy to say goodbye and McElvain wrings pure emotion from every word.

Facing a desperate darkness, hitting rock bottom is the place where you decide whether to live or die. “Crank Thinking” takes you into that dark place where McElvain sits with a “Bible in one hand and a pistol in the other…” This song stood out to me for many reasons, but the raw and honest lyrics delivered only the way McElvain can, should be a theme song for every drug and alcohol rehab facility.

The entire vibe takes a serious turn with “Miracles.” It is a beautiful flowing and uplifting song. “Miracles are born every day.” The next dip on this rollercoaster ride of songs grabs your attention with raucous laughter and driving guitar licks. “Hands of a Woman” is a love song like no other. McElvain admits that “Whiskey Song” was written for his wife and the salvation she brought into a shattered life. The expression of that love continues with “Damn I Love You.” It is a story of surviving years together with an honest and steadfast love intact.

Written with his wife, Christi, “Here’s To You” is a tribute to the songwriters. “Hard times can make you humble/If you learn from your pain/They say we all make our own mistakes/There ain’t nothing wrong with that…”

Redemption closes with McElvain’s acoustic version of “House of the Rising Sun.” The depth of his vocals will raise the hairs on your arms. I remember hearing him sing this song live for the first time, and I had chills from head to toe. See for yourself.

Superb arrangement, delivery, and production, Redemption is a no-holds-barred must for any music-lover’s collection. If you are not acquainted with the phenomenal writing and vocal talents of Tom McElvain, this album is the perfect introduction!

Redemption is set for release on June 22 through Smith Music Group. The album is available now for pre-order on Amazon.  For more visit http://www.tommcelvain.com.

**PUBLISHED IN BUDDY MAGAZINE, MAY 2018 ISSUE**

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