Live Review: Sean McConnell in Charlotte, 03/08/2019

Sean McConnell performed for a sold out crowd Friday night.

Between songs, Sean McConnell expressed his gratitude to those in attendance for showing up but it was the audience who was ultimately treated. Explaining that he played to a small crowd during his first stop at The Evening Muse in Charlotte a few years ago, he followed it up by entertaining a larger group but a third time was the charm as McConnell took the stage in front of a standing room only, sold out venue last Friday night.

Prior to his appearance on stage, Louisiana native Caleb Elliott celebrated his debut album release with a few songs and stories of his own. After years of backing other musicians, including performing with McConnell as one of only two other contributors in his latest venture, Elliott put “Forever to Fade” out into the world.

For the entire night a focus was on the music in arguably the best listening room across the state. McConnell took attendees on an emotional journey sharing tales behind some of the songs and even a few dedications – one to his sister and another for a couple who had recently gotten engaged, all of whom were in attendance.

McConnell’s latest album, “Secondhand Smoke”, is barely a month old as he embarks on a nationwide tour. Beginning the day prior in Carrboro, a sold out night two displays the impact he’s making through hard work and a dedication to the craft. Featuring songs like the heart wrenching ‘Beautiful Rose‘ and the more recent ‘Shakey Bridges‘, which relates to personal journey, McConnell concluded the evening in epic fashion.

Going solo and stepping away from the microphone, McConnell put his talent on full display with a true acoustic finale – no sound, no flashing lights, no tracks – just a man and his guitar.

NORTH CAROLINA UPCOMING TOUR DATES

April 26 – Wilkesboro at MerleFest (Tix Available Here)
April 27 – Charlotte at Tuck Fest, US National Whitewater Center (Free Admission)

Live Review: Sarah Shook and the Disarmers in Asheville, 03/07/2019

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers begin tour in Asheville.

Last week at The Grey Eagle in Asheville, Sarah Shook and the Disarmers kicked off their ‘Into the Fray Tour 2019’. Visiting 18 states over 29 dates, including a few more stops in North Carolina, things got started with a bang last Thursday night and continue until the end of May.

In support was Asheville’s own Gold Rose, who got things started and kept the growing crowd entertained with a lively set. Highlighted by their song, ‘Stuck in Appalachia‘, Gold Rose front man Kevin Fuller was in his element on stage at a hometown venue sharing his repertoire of sad songs.

Following, Sarah Shook and the Disarmers hit the stage amid a cheering crowd and proceeded to rock the night away for a solid roughly two hour set. Battling broken strings on both her primary and back up guitar, Shook calmly turned it over to her band for a brief moment as she fixed her first and stepped back up the mic without missing a beat.

Almost a year (April 6, 2018) since Shook released “Years”, her critically acclaimed sophomore album, the set was a quality mix of both the elder “Sidelong” and a few hits from her latest masterpiece. Comprised of in your face, honest songs that command attention and appreciation – even more so when performed live, the message and meaning behind each lyric was delivered loud and clear.

From ‘New Ways to Fail‘, ‘The Bottle Never Lets Me Down‘, ‘Damned If I Do, Damned If I Don’t‘ to the older ‘Dwight Yoakam‘, fans were anticipating what would be next and after an encore return to the stage, her finale capped an entertaining evening. Shook has a few more upcoming North Carolina dates as a part of this run and if Thursday was any indication, it may be her best tour yet, so make plans and step ‘Into the Fray’ with Shook and the Disarmers when they return.

NORTH CAROLINA UPCOMING TOUR DATES

April 4 – Greensboro at The Blind Tiger (Tix Available Here)
April 26 – Charlotte at Tuck Fest, US National Whitewater Center (Free Admission)
April 27 – Carrboro at Cat’s Cradle (Tix Available Here)

Live Review: The Steel Woods in Greensboro, 03/01/2019

The Steel Woods made a return trip to NC in Greensboro on Friday.

A full house greeted The Steel Woods on a rainy Friday night in North Carolina as the band made a stop in Greensboro. Just after doors, the area in front of the stage was lined with patrons ready to ring in the weekend by supporting live music and Tennessee Jet was up first.

Closely associated with The Steel Woods and having shared the same bill before in the past, many of the fans on hand were just as familiar with the solo, one-man-band as they were the headliner. After a few acoustic songs, Jet unleashed his drumstick and kick drum for a rocking good time. An entertaining cover of Hank Williams’ ‘I Saw The Light’ peaked when Jet asked for the house lights to be turned up as the crowd sang along at full throat.

Next up was The Steel Woods who continued the furious pace set by Tennessee Jet without missing a beat. A brief break in the action wasn’t enough to cool the crowd who was ready and singing along with nearly every lyric from Wes Bayliss. Flanked by fellow guitarist Jason “Rowdy” Cope and bassist Johnny Stanton with vocals and a smooth beat provided by Jay Tooke, it’s hard to believe the group is just a few years removed from inception.

Less than two months after releasing their second album, “Old News” out January 18, there is no denying the momentum behind this quartet of entertainers. Mixing southern rock and blues, this band has cultivated a sound and following unique to their own true identity.

An enjoyable set highlighting some of the new with ‘All of These Years’ and fan favorites ‘Wild and Blue’, among others, it’s a safe bet to assume The Steel Woods achieved their goal to #GrowtheWoods with their most recent stop – gaining new fans along the way.

Live Review: Read Southall Band in Charlotte, 02/06/2019

Read Southall Band made their NC debut at The Gin Mill in Charlotte last Wednesday night.

Hailing from Stillwater, Oklahoma and fresh off the release of their first live album, Live at Tower Theatre, Read Southall Band took the stage at The Gin Mill in Charlotte before an engaging midweek crowd. On the rise and expanding their reach, many were on hand who were already familiar with the lyrics within Southall’s songs but witnessing a full live performance is an entirely different experience.

Originally scheduled to perform as part of the re-opening of Amos’ Southend, construction delays forced a change in location. Staying within the same building but moving into the restaurant portion, Southall and his band acclimated from performance venue to bar scene nicely.

Ahead of Kody West, the two bands joined forces for a two week span of their winter tour through the south and up the east coast. With stops in Tennessee, Georgia, both Carolinas, Washington DC and New York City, it’s safe to say both groups made many new fans along the way.

Heavy on drums and punishing guitar, the combination of Read Southall (lead vocals/guitar), John Tyler Perry (lead, rhythm guitar), Zac Copeland (rhythm, lead guitar) and Jeremee Knipp (bass) create a southern rock feel paired with penetrating lyrics while Reid Barber (drums) keeps everyone in line, in addition to creating some powerful openings.

Following a strong line of performers from the same region with a similar sound, Southall continues to forge his way into the scene with a proven track record and his own twist on story telling. The group featured fan favorites, ‘Why‘, ‘Clean Slate‘ and ‘Beautiful Eyes‘ in addition to ‘Animals‘ and ‘Gunshy‘ within their set list.

Entertaining bands continuing to build momentum, hopefully both Read Southall and Kody West make a return trip back east soon.

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.

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.

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

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.

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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.

Live Review: Parker McCollum and Randy Rogers Band in Charlotte – 09/08/2018

Two singer, songwriters from the heart of Texas greeted an energetic crowd at Coyote Joe’s on Saturday night…

Football was in the air on Saturday in Charlotte with the hometown collegiate 49ers hosting in-state rival Appalachian State and the Carolina Panthers set to face off against the Dallas Cowboys one day later. However, the Cowboys weren’t the only team from Texas visiting the Queen City as rising star Parker McCollum and the established veteran lineup of Randy Rogers Band (RRB) took over the 103.7 Superstage at Coyote Joe’s.

A late arriving crowd filled the venue just in time for the 26-year old, Austin based, Parker McCollum that earlier this year signed a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Nashville. Riding the momentum behind his sophomore release Probably Wrong, out in late 2017, McCollum has dialed in to a sound many people gravitate towards while combining it with meaningful lyrics and smooth melodies.

McCollum brought a nice mix of upbeat country in hits like ‘New Orleans‘ and the slower, soulful lyrics from ‘Hell of a Year’ before capping his extremely entertaining 45-minute set with crowd favorite ‘Meet You in the Middle‘.

Not knowing what to expect from a live performance of McCollum, his first in Charlotte, the talented Texas native left no question that he is a rising star worthy of headlining future shows outside of the normal confines for Texas country and red dirt music.

No stranger to venturing outside of their comfort zone, Randy Rogers Band, a staple in the scene took the stage following McCollum. The dance floor was packed with little room left to move once Rogers stepped to the mic.

Greeting fans with classic hits, love songs, drinking songs, goodbye songs, lonely songs and even one titled ‘Goodbye Lonely‘ – which Rogers initially penned after being told to not write anymore songs about goodbye or lonely – the RRB puts on an impressive live performance.

Honing their craft with over fifteen years of experience with the same lineup, RRB is keeping country music alive. No frills, no nonsense – Rogers is a legendary entertainer who has enjoyed success as a singer, songwriter, manager and now restaurant owner after Chopshop Live recently began operation in Roanoke, Texas. A live event space with full food service just outside of Dallas-Fort Worth, Rogers opened the venue on July 14 of this year.

Both entertainers combined to create a memorable experience for everyone in attendance on Saturday as North Carolina is already looking forward to a return from Parker McCollum and Randy Rogers Band very soon – even though the Panthers won.

Parker McCollum SETLIST 09/10/2018

Fake Out
Lonesome Ten Miles
The Truth
New Orleans
Happy New Year
All Day
Misunderstood
I Can’t Breathe
Memphis Rain
Hell of a Year
Silhouette
Meet You in the Middle

Randy Rogers Band SETLIST 09/10/2018

This Time Around
Buy Myself A Chance
Tonight’s Not the Night
Goodbye Lonely
10 Miles Deep
Just A Matter of Time
One More Goodbye
Down and Out
Lonely Too Long
Speak of the Devil
Interstate
Steal You Away
Last, Last Chance
Fuzzy
Tequila Eyes
Satellite
San Antone
Too Late for Goodbye
In My Arms Instead
Kiss Me in the Dark
–Encore–
Trouble Knows My Name