RedDirtNC Albums of the Year, 2018

Here are the RedDirtNC picks for album of the year in 2018.

Let’s begin by stating the obvious – 2018 was an epic year for the music industry. So many artists released new albums, some first expeditions and others more seasoned renditions but both found success throughout the calendar year.

It seems the end of every year brings about a number of different lists and while some outlets elect to rank their selections, others only offer 10 or so of their favorites. For us, we’ve decided to not rank these as each earned its own way into consideration and we’ll say it was extremely difficult but we’ve narrowed an entire year’s worth of releases down to nine full length albums.

In order by release date over the 2018 calendar year, here are the albums that made an impact in the scene, were spinning from the moment they arrived and kept us entertained throughout the year.


Image result for steak night at the prairie rose

Steak Night at the Prairie Rose, Mike and the Moonpies
Released February 2
Available here

Image result for courtney patton what its like to fly alone

What It’s Like to Fly Alone, Courtney Patton
Released February 16
Available here

Years, Sarah Shook
Released April 6
Available here

The Tree of Forgiveness, John Prine
Released April 13
Available here

Providence Canyon, Brent Cobb
Released May 11
Available here

Things Change, American Aquarium
Released June 1
Available here

Image result for hebert island

Hebert Island, William Clark Green
Released August 10
Available here

Image result for shooter shooter jennings

Shooter, Shooter Jennings
Released August 10
Available here

Image result for jumping over rocks

Jumping Over Rocks, Jamie Lin Wilson
Released October 26
Available here

Live Review: The Black Lillies in Asheville, 11/30/2018

The Black Lillies landed at The Grey Eagle in Asheville last Friday night.

Based out of Knoxville, Tennessee, equipped with new music from their latest album and returning to the site of its recording, The Black Lillies crossed the border and took to the stage at The Grey Eagle in Asheville before an energetic crowd. Behind a revamped lineup, who recently released their new album, Stranger to Me, with all of the contributions coming from each of the current members and producer Jamie Candiloro, the band entertained many long time fans and undoubtedly registered some new ones with their performance.

Ahead of The Black Lillies, Asheville’s own Alex Krug Combo performed a short set backed by her band. Short of the full six-piece combo, Krug and those who accompanied her seemed right at home on the local stage.

Cruz Contreras (lead vocals, guitar, keys) has done a wonderful job revamping the band and the new album reflects influences, in addition to full on contributions, from each of the other members. Sam Quinn (bass, vocals) takes the lead on a few songs and Contreras seemed to enjoy playing along when giving way to the barefoot bassist.

Opposite, Dustin Schaefer (electric guitar, vocals) commands the spotlight in his own right with talented solos and impressive riffs while drummer Bowman Townsend keeps everyone in line, tying everything together while keeping the rhythm.

The group performed some nice harmonies, highlighted in ‘Earthquake’, while also revisiting a few older favorites in ‘Ramblin’ Boy‘, ‘Two Hearts Down‘ and the pleasant surprise appearance of ‘Shepherd’s Song‘ on the set list.

An entertaining band that has been seasoned by experiences on the road both before joining forces and as a unit since coming together in 2016, it’s hard to believe the current members have only the one album to their collective names.

Here’s to many more.

First Listen: Pistol Hill’s ‘Brand New Bottle of Whiskey’

EXCLUSIVE: Hear North Carolina singer-songwriter Pistol Hill’s latest single here first.

In late April, rising artist Pistol Hill released the first of a few brand new singles, “Different You” and nearly a month later, “Worth a Damn,” the latter in collaboration with Justin Clyde Williams. The two songs were a predecessor to Hill’s first partial recording and now an extended release is set to debut as Part II on November 18. Prior to becoming available for everyone, the North Carolina native allowed RedDirtNC a first listen to his latest, “Brand New Bottle of Whiskey.”

Noticeable from the beginning are influences from some of his favorite artists, Merle Haggard and George Jones. A specific lyrical style is present in the song-writing as the music itself straddles a line between new and old, but his voice carries the song – as it should. A story tellers dream, the words point toward an appreciation for the literal whiskey in addition to a parallel of an actual relationship gone awry.

Hill exclaims, “If you only knew how happy I’ve been. I got a brand new bottle of whiskey, you should see the way it treats me.” His lyrics connect with the listener and it feels as if he’s telling the heartfelt tale for the first time as you hear the thoughtful explanation.

Gut wrenching, you can only hope for the best to all those involved as each word traps the listener into being concerned for the narrator but wondering what the bigger story holds. Often the case in real life, there are always going to be multiple sides to every broken relationship and depending on where you land, the interpretations will be different.

Such is the beauty with music and any other art form. The subject matter and impact are always open to a variety of different feelings and there is never a wrong answer but this one will have you raising a glass to those from the past with a wry smile. The good news – you can’t go wrong by adding Pistol Hill and “Brand New Bottle of Whiskey” into your regular playlist rotation.

Upcoming Tour Dates:

11/15 – Greenville, SC (Brewery 85) – 6pm
11/16 – Carrboro, NC (2nd Wind) – 10pm
11/17 – Charlotte, NC (Puckett’s Farm Equipment) – 7pm
11/23 – Shelby, NC (The Don Gibson Theatre) – 6pm*
11/24 – Raleigh, NC (Berkeley Cafe) – 8:30pm
11/28 – Folly Beach, SC (Surf Bar) – 10pm
11/29 – Shallotte, NC (The Soundhouse) – 8pm
11/30 – Wilmington, NC (Flytrap Brewing) – 8pm

12/1 – McClellanville, SC (The Bent Rod) – 6pm
12/4 – New Smyrna Beach, FL (Norwood’s Treehouse Bar) – 7pm
12/8 – Sunset Beach, FL (Ka’Tiki) – 1pm
12/9 – St. Augustine, FL (A1A Ale House) – 5pm
12/11 – Birmingham, AL (The Nick) – 8pm
12/15 – Oxford, MS (The Levee) – 8pm**
12/16 – Clarksdale, MS (Levon’s) – 3:30pm
12/20 – Simpsonville, SC (Sweet Sippin) – 7pm
12/21 – Spindale, NC (Barley’s) – 8pm
12/22 – Pendleton, SC (Hogtails) – 9pm
12/28 – Savannah, GA (Driftaway Cafe) – 6pm
12/29 – Charlotte, NC (Puckett’s Farm Equipment) – 7pm***

1/4 – Wilmington, NC (Goat and Compass) – 9pm
1/5 – Mebane, NC (Trackside Bottle Co.) – 7pm

*Supporting Edwin McCain
**Supporting Austin Lee
***Supporting Ward Davis

Find more at PistolHillMusic.com

Live Review: Reckless Kelly in Winston-Salem and Shelby

Reckless Kelly provided two entertaining nights across North Carolina last week.

Austin based Reckless Kelly rolled into North Carolina for the second time this year with two stops scheduled in Winston-Salem and Shelby. Having previously visited the Tarheel State in June (Hickory and Raleigh) the return was met by many familiar faces as all of their shows serve to increase a consistent fan base, gaining new followers and peaking interest across the state.

The first stop this time around took place in Winston-Salem at The Ramkat, formerly Ziggy’s, and the changes to the venue have been impressive. A quality venue able to produce both a good listening room or full concert experience, the focus here is clearly on the music.

Lead singer Willy Braun appeared solo on stage as the set time approached after an entertaining performance from North Carolina’s own Time Sawyer, greeting the audience with a short introduction and rare acoustic performance. Covering the Bob Dylan classic, “The Times They Are a-Changin’” was a perfect start to an Election Day set highlighted by some appropriately placed songs with a patriotic feel.

Mixed between Reckless Kelly classics “Seven Nights in Eire”, “Nobody’s Girl” and “Crazy Eddie’s Last Hurrah” was “Pennsylvania Avenue” and a solo from lead guitarist David Abeyta of Slaid Cleaves“One Good Year”. Both added a unique twist to the evening before a rocking finale.

Two days later, the band took on an entirely different feel inside the Don Gibson Theatre, located in Shelby. A seated room, with ease Reckless Kelly constructed a set of songs that equally matched the location.

A nice combination of the favorites paired among others that fittingly intersected with the setting, it created an entirely different feel during most of the evening. The sign of an experienced group of musicians, the band seemed to build momentum as the night transpired and by repeating the same finale from Winston-Salem, a rousing rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s “Fortunate Son”, much of the audience was on their feet, filling the aisles in addition to an area in front of the stage in support.

Both top-notch, quality performances as North Carolina looks forward to the return of Reckless Kelly again soon.

Turnpike Troubadours Cancel Remaining Tour Dates

The Turnpike Troubadours have canceled upcoming tour dates until December.

Cancellations continue to haunt one of the biggest and best bands in this music scene as the Turnpike Troubadours announced another round of dates that have been nixed from their current touring schedule. For the second time in just a few months, the Turnpike Troubadours will again be taking a lengthy hiatus for undisclosed reasons after recently making a triumphant return at Medicine Stone, a festival they co-host with Jason Boland in late September, after the first such round of missed events.

Opening for Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town as part of the “Bandwagon Tour”, the Turnpike Troubadours first canceled their final scheduled appearances on August 23 and 24 stating emergency personal issues. These dates were followed by an official statement from the band following more cancellations citing “family and medical issues” as reasons behind their absence and the use of a few off weeks to “regroup and resolve everything.”

One month later the band performed on Saturday night at Medicine Stone after their show was postponed because of heavy rain Friday. For the first time in festival history, both the Turnpike Troubadours and Jason Boland played on the same night and for those in attendance it was an epic occurrence that provided hope the band had healed from any medical concerns and resolved any problems among the group.

Everything appeared to be back on track until a recent delayed cancellation took place in Bossier City, Louisiana on October 26. The band, after appearing set up and ready to perform, never took the stage as neither Stoney Larue, scheduled to appear first, or the Turnpike Troubadours played after the venue was opened to patrons.

The following night (October 27) in Corpus Christi, Texas was also carried out without the band although Randy Rogers and Flatland Cavalry did perform, with Steven James and the Jaded, who were a late addition to the set.

Now, more cancellations including a November 9 date in Charlotte, North Carolina and an even more significant unknown about what the future has in store for the Turnpike Troubadours. With everything up in the air, hopes are this group works through their ongoing issues and makes another significant, healthy, and much anticipated return soon.

Live Review: American Aquarium in Winston-Salem, 10-12-2018

American Aquarium proved that ‘Things Change’ with a near hometown show over the weekend…

American Aquarium lead singer B.J. Barham stepped to the stage backed by his new ensemble for the first time in a while at The Ramkat in Winston-Salem. Having formerly played the venue, then known as Ziggy’s, there have been numerous changes to the event space leaving Barham to comment that, “it was nice having a venue ran by music lovers.”

On the heels of a cancelled show to open the NC State Fair in Raleigh, American Aquarium played a free show at The Pour House on Thursday night. The site of numerous AA shows and album release parties, in addition to being where Barham and his wife wed, it was packed with 300-plus patrons eager to see the band perform.

Despite a disappointing cancellation, the excitement from a show where he now calls home (Raleigh) was carried west to Winston-Salem, just a few miles from Barham’s hometown of Reidsville. At one point in the evening, Barham was sharing the backstory of Crooked and Straight, saying no one knew him when he was a kid – to which one audience member yelled, “I did”.

Barham debuted a Fender electric guitar for the first time at The Pour House and brought the new ride with him to Winston-Salem. Pulling it out for the second song of the evening, Tough Folks, Barham proved that while “things change,” his band, what he plays, the venue – critical constants remain.

Whether in 2012 or 2018, American Aquarium is going to provide a wonderfully entertaining show. Experiencing a roller coaster of emotions from the deeply passionate, hard life lessons, bitter breakups, to a more promising time, the songs represent a sliver of the transformation Barham has taken as an individual over the past decade.

Dedication, determination and an appreciation for his fans – Barham stayed late after his set to shake hands and express his gratitude for those willing to spend their Friday night with him – in addition to seeing a few familiar faces.

One group of patrons even broke into their own rendition of PBR Promenade immediately after American Aquarium left the stage without the song making into their set. Not just the chorus, these guys knew it from start to finish.

Continuing to thrive behind their latest album, Things Change, the first with a new lineup, American Aquarium displayed their ability to connect with an audience and prove their shows are not to be missed – then, now, or ever.

FULL SETLIST 10/12/2018

The World Is On Fire
Tough Folks
Casualties
St. Mary’s
Losing Side of Twenty-Five
Wolves
One Day At A Time
Jacksonville
Crooked + Straight
Betting Man
Lonely Ain’t Easy
Louisiana Beauty Queen
Hurricane
I Hope He Breaks Your Heart
Unfortunate Kind (solo)
Katherine Belle
Rockingham

American Aquarium: Two home dates this week

***UPDATE: Due to the NC State Fair being closed on Thursday, October 11, American Aquarium will play at The Pour House in Raleigh (free admission)***

American Aquarium is set to play the NC State Fair in Raleigh, where lead singer B.J. Barham calls home, and The Ramkat in Winston-Salem on Thursday and Friday – respectively. Barham has always been a proponent of the long leaf pine and his North Carolina roots. Originally flanked by a few North Carolinians in the band, the group has recently undergone a significant lineup shift but continues to press forward, gaining new fans and influencing others with their music on a consistent basis.

Gaining notoriety around North Carolina behind a tireless touring schedule featuring hole in the wall bars and restaurants from Blowing Rock to Statesville, the capital city of Raleigh and even a few homecoming shows pre-Thanksgiving in Reidsville, the band never failed to entertain. No matter the audience size or familiarity, Barham was going to connect with his fans and it’s this persistence that expanded their base, leading to tours across America and internationally with sell outs in tow.

From humble beginnings the band now regularly receives invitations to festivals, including The Music Fest, Medicine Stone and an appearance at Mile 0 Fest next year, in addition to traveling across the pond for another upcoming European tour later this month. Despite their rigorous schedule American Aquarium has also cranked out numerous albums which transcend time and appeal to the current state of Barham and his feelings.

Burn, Flicker, Die was originally intended to be the final album from the group but instead propelled them to even greater heights. Well received by both fans and critics, the album did just the opposite and allowed Barham and his band to continue touring and making a living but it came at a cost. A few years later the entire lineup would announce a shift in focus after their third “Roadtrip to Raleigh” with year four completed under Barham and an entirely new lineup behind him.

The band released another album, Wolves and their next, which was released earlier this year is arguably the best yet. Things Change encompasses the influences surrounding Barham and his band, in addition to the personal aspects of his own life. Since Wolves, Barham has gotten sober, married and welcomed his first child, a daughter, into the world.

Barham is learning to manage both touring and being a father, while also maintaining a strong commitment to his music. The show dates may not come as frequently, but American Aquarium has been and will continue to be on the road plenty, as their impact on the current music scene has been made and people from around the country are continually taking notice.

American Aquarium is destined for great things behind Barham and their latest break will only leave fans wanting more. “Things Change” in every aspect of life, but the ability to adapt and forge a way has been a staple of Barham and his music. Telling personal tales that anyone can relate to and striking a chord among his followers, although changes are in store, the foundation remains.

Catch American Aquarium at one of two upcoming North Carolina dates this week behind a new album, lineup and reinvigorated lead singer.

Upcoming NC Dates:
Thursday, Oct. 11 – The Pour House – Raleigh (free show)
Friday, Oct. 12 – The Ramkat – Winston-Salem – Get tickets HERE

Live Review: Shinyribs in Asheville – 10/03/2018

Entertaining from the start, Shinyribs brought a midweek pick me up to Asheville’s River Arts District…

From a flamboyant introduction through the encore, those in attendance at Asheville’s The Grey Eagle on Wednesday evening were treated to a musical journey unlike any other. The seven-piece ensemble of Shinyribs crowded onto the stage ahead of Kevin Russell entering and greeting fans with his free spirit, interpretative dance moves and entertaining collection of songs – both original and covers.

View this post on Instagram

The one … the only … @shinyribs! #RedDirtNC

A post shared by Red Dirt NC (@reddirtnc) on

Russell, flanked by The Tijuana Trainwreck Horns and Shiny Soul Sisters, combine with drummer Keith Langford, Winfield Cheek on keys, and bassist Jeff Brown to create one of the most unique and intoxicating sounds imaginable. A self described mix of “country-soul” and “swamp-funk”, the music of Shinyribs stands alone but is enhanced by the theatrics of Russell on stage.

Armed with one of the best band recognition routines ever, Russell introduces the audience to every member of Shinyribs through their favorite root vegetable ahead of the song, Sweet Potato. It’s an amusing yet satisfying mix of admiration and appreciation fitting seamlessly into their set.

Moving in sync with the Shiny Soul Sisters, working out “his calculations” during Who Built the Moon and even crawling around the perimeter of the stage at one point, Russell turned an ordinary Wednesday night into a full on party for a near capacity crowd.

One of the most unique shows you can experience, Shinyribs never fails to entertain, connecting with their audience in a free spirited, dance like no one is watching affair, from start to finish.

Live Review: Cody Canada and the Departed in Asheville – 09/29/2018

The legendary Cody Canada and the Departed rocked Asheville over the weekend.

There are few names synonymous with red dirt music and rarely do these individual’s who helped cultivate an entire music scene across the country visit North Carolina, but on Saturday night, Asheville got to experience one of the best with Cody Canada and The Departed. Absent a tour stop in NC over the past two years, it was a welcome return and one that those in attendance truly appreciated. Canada brought a set list of songs from The Departed’s latest album, “3” and a few hits from his previous band, Cross Canadian Ragweed in addition to some covers and a tribute to Tom Petty.

While on stage Canada briefly spoke about his reconciliation with Mike McClure who produced the latest album and also shared a meaningful story related to his song, ‘Pay‘. While even further from Texas than North Carolina, at a tour stop in Oregon, Canada ran into a fan named Travis Moore, sharing a special story behind the song. On Saturday, Canada dedicated the song to him as it once saved his life – keeping Moore alive during a down time after he heard it play while contemplating suicide.

Canada also departed from his traditional guitar to play one created by 357 Custom Guitars, a local company. Playing ‘Constantly‘, the aforementioned ‘Pay‘ and a few other songs on the new axe, Canada mentioned the guitar had been designed for students at his new School of Rock in New Braunfels, Texas but after his test run (maybe jokingly) said it wouldn’t reach the hands of his students.

There were a few moments in the set where Canada gave way to bass player Jeremy Plato, who he’s known since the sixth grade and being playing music alongside for numerous years. A talented musician in his own right, the two are backed by beats from the always entertaining Eric Hansen on the drum kit.

The new three person interpretation of The Departed will forever be in tact according to Canada – at least until his two sons are of “legal drinking age.” It definitely works as Hansen fits in seamlessly between Canada and Plato like he’s been there all along.

A wonderful, energetic, and entertaining show that shouldn’t be missed once Cody Canada and the Departed return to North Carolina – hopefully before both his boys join the band.

Shinyribs sashays across NC this week

Shinyribs is a band unlike any other with the cure you need, even if you didn’t know you did…

Shinyribs, a name synonymous with high-energy, can’t miss performances and the ability to entertain through stage presence, voice, music and the sheer talent of everyone involved – audiences are always left wanting more after any of their shows. From the always fun and thoughtful introductions to a never know what you’re going to get show, Shinyribs has been wowing audiences throughout the land since 2007 and in their current form for the past few years.

Led by lead singer Kevin Russell, formerly of The Gourds, Shinyribs began as a side project before morphing into the awesome show they are today. Performing both their own original music and a number of covers, Shinyribs never fails to delight and their reputation precedes them.

Born and raised in Beaumont, East Texas, Russell’s been variously dubbed (mostly by himself), the Baryshnikov of the Big Thicket, the Pavarotti of the Pineywoods, the Shakespeare of Swamp Pop, or the Shiniest Man in Showbidniz. One of the pioneers of Americana as a member of The Gourds, Russell took his musical inspiration from the fertile Ark-La-Tex turf. In the immortal words of the title track to their most recent album, “I Got Your Medicine,” Shinyribs have the cure to whatever ails you, moving that ass until you’re a helpless member of the Kevin Russell-led “all-in” conga line which snakes through the audience at the close of every show. “It’s the universal dance anyone can do,” he says. “Nobody feels self-conscious or out of place. It’s a great way to get everybody involved. You can’t really top that.”

Whether you are familiar with the sounds of Shinyribs or not, one thing is guaranteed. You will be entertained. Always worth the price of admission, Russell and his crew never disappoint and he’s spreading the cure to your ails across North Carolina this week.

I Got Your Medicine,” was released in 2016 and couldn’t have come equipped with a better title. Even if you’re oblivious to this gaping hole in your musical spectrum, Shinyribs can fill it after witnessing just one live performance.

The combination of country, folk, bluegrass, funk, rap and any other genre you can think of creates a sweet elixer of enjoyment that you won’t soon forget.

Upcoming NC Dates:

Wednesday, October 3 – The Grey Eagle, Asheville (TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE)
Thursday, October 4 – The Ramkat, Winston-Salem (TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE)