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Country trio and seven-time Grammy Award winners, Lady Antebellum released their fifth album “747” on Sept. 30.

The trio has had consistent hits from previous albums, and the latest release has the potential to follow the same path. As artists start to evolve and change over the course of their career, many fans tend to get worried. However, Lady A’s fans have welcomed it.

Though a far stretch from their first album, it shows not only the evolution of country music in the past decade, but does so in a positive light. “One thing we’ve learned — and it’s been proven to us over the past couple of years — is that when we do take chances, the fans have responded really well,” Charles Kelley told Rolling Stone about their new direction.

The group stays true to the country genre with its traditional theme of singing about love and heartbreak. While most of their previous albums have included sweet ballads and upbeat melodies, “747” explores with instruments such as electric guitars and drums, as well as darker underlying tones in the beats. Some even get a little funky with an island vibe.

It seems that the group’s recent friendship with Stevie Nicks has also rubbed off on their songwriting and style, adding a more sultry rock ‘n’ roll tone on songs such as “Long Stretch of Love,” “Falling For You,” which is a bonus track on the Deluxe Edition, and even “Bartender,” which was their first single from the album.

That isn’t to say that they are without their fun songs, because many are featured. It’s one of those albums that will be a trip to hear live, as each song has a much bigger sound than the production and workings of the studio can completely capture.

Tracks like “Freestyle,” “Sounded Good At The Time,” and “All Nighter,” which is also on the Deluxe Edition of the album, have attitude and wordy lyrics. There’s still plenty of evidence of their country roots when they slow it down with “Damn You Seventeen,” and “One Great Mystery,” then again with catchy, yet mellow songs, such as “She Is,” “Lie With Me” and “Just A Girl.” “Down South” is one of those classic tracks for the group, resembling the stylings of past songs such as “American Honey” or “Home Is Where The Heart Is,” which dedicated fans will be familiar with.

“We always knew we could reel ourselves back in, so why not just go for it and explore every avenue, every option, while we’re in the studio? We can always pull back. A lot of times, we went that extra mile and didn’t have to pull back, because we got there and realized, ‘Oh, this is totally another part of who we are.This is awesome,’” Hillary Scott added in “Rolling Stone.”

The title track “747” seems to be the driving force of the album as they’ve mentioned, so it seemed to be a natural decision making that the name of the album. It leads them forward musically and perfectly encapsulates what they were going for. Vocally, the group has never sounded better.

They’ve always had their own sound, but now they’re owning it and expanding on elements that the fans love, which is heart and passion. But, while they’ve experimented, they haven’t strayed so much that they’re unrecognizable. Lady Antebellum has proven once again that there are no limits to what they can do. In honor of the album’s release, Haywood, Kelley and Scott have been surprising fans all across the country as part of their “7 for 7” contest.


JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE ENDS NORTH AMERICAN TOUR IN LOS ANGELES

Image from BostonMagazine.com

Justin Timberlake played to a sold-out crowd at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. on Tuesday night, Aug.12. Timberlake proved once again that he is far from those Mickey Mouse Club and boy-band member days. He is a legend in the making.

Starting off with “Pusher Love Girl,” the crowd was already on their feet. Casting his silhouette through expansive curtains, he teased his grand entrance to the stage. Although they didn’t need any help with bringing the energy, Timberlake still encouraged his fans to be interactive by clapping and singing with him.

It was Timberlake’s last show for the North American leg of the 20/20 Experience Tour. You never would’ve guessed that he had performed the show 98 times before because of the immense energy and enthusiasm he brought.

Timberlake said he also wanted to take the time to thank his friends who were in the audience that night and let them know how much he loved them.

He sang a few of his hit ballads such as “Cry Me A River,” “What Goes Around (Comes Around),” “Not A Bad Thing” and “Mirrors” but was more adamant about focusing on his uptempo songs.

Overall, he was all about keeping the movement going with his Michael Jackson-reminiscent dance moves. In remembrance of two talented stars he admires, Timberlake sang Jackson’s “Human Nature,” telling the crowd, “Sing it for Robin.” The musician had tweeted earlier that he was still heartbroken over actor Robin Williams’ death.

Keeping with the theme of covers, Timberlake also threw in a bit of “California Love,” which he said is a tradition when he plays in the city. He sang a line of “I Love L.A.” and even brought a bit of Memphis to the City of Angels by singing Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel.”

The once boy-band member grooved across the stage to his uptempo songs such as “Sexy Back,” “Don’t Hold The Wall,” “Senorita,” “Take Back The Night” and “Suit and Tie,” one of his latest singles from part one of the “20/20 Experience.”

Timberlake understands the power of a song. He incorporated many special effects, including strobe lights, lasers and graphics on the screen. However, his charisma, falsetto and dancing are what really captivated his audience.

My favorite element of the show had to be the sliding stage. I had never seen anything like it. During the second act, part of the main stage lifted and continued to slide high above the audience, giving him a chance to get closer and a bit more personal with the crowd, as he reached the back of the arena.

Photo by Shelby Parker

The crowd may have been enormous, but the singer still managed to create a sense of intimacy and connectivity with his audience. He even noticed a girl in the front row who was celebrating her 21st birthday and had a made a sign, hoping to get his attention. He asked if she had been drinking, but she said, “No, I wanted to be sober for this.” He told her that she was doing it wrong.

“No, no, no. The more you drink, the better I sound,” said Timberlake, jokingly. He also told someone to get her a drink, which was produced immediately.

She had initially refused, but eventually caved from the celeb-pressure and began drinking. The novice splashed her face in the process. Timberlake coaxed the arena into singing “Happy Birthday” to her, so I’d say her wish was still granted.

I hadn’t seen Justin live since he launched his solo career, but he was well worth the wait. He lives up to the hype and made everyone feel as though they are part of something bigger. The show really is an experience and fans will not be disappointed. If you want to enjoy the show to its fullest potential, be prepared to dance the night away for two-and-a-half hours, because sitting down is not an option.


COUNTRY MUSIC COMES ALIVE AT MID-STATE FAIR WITH LADY ANTEBELLUM

It might come as a bit of a shock, but Californians love their country music. The crowd came alive at the Mid-State Fair concert as Grammy-nominated country trio Lady Antebellum took the stage on Tuesday, July 22 in the beautiful wine country, Paso Robles, Calif.

The night kicked off early as Jana Kramer opened for the group. However, crowd participation was minimal. Kramer continued to encourage the audience to “get up and clap,” and a few listened. It took a lot of prodding from the singer.

“I’m not mad, I’m disappointed…And we all know that’s worse,” said Kramer with a bit of sass during one of her songs. “For the love of the next 40 minutes, sing along.”

Jana Kramer getting the crowd involved at the Mid State Fair in Paso Robles, Calif.

Although the crowd wasn’t as eager to participate as Kramer would have hoped, that didn’t stop her from doing her thing. She was energetically bouncing around and hitting every note of her songs with her powerful voice — all in several-inch heels (which should be a talent in and of itself). She held nothing back and poured emotion into every lyric.

Kramer sang many songs from her first album such as “Whiskey,” “One of the Boys” and “I Hope It Rains.”  She added that she didn’t want it to rain all of us, but dedicated it to the ladies and all of “our crappy ex-boyfriends.”

The singer also previewed a few songs from her new album coming out in the “fall-ish time” as she doesn’t have a release date quite yet. One song called “I Got The Boy” is about her high school sweetheart and how he has moved on with his life; a true country song through-and-through. The next song was the complete opposite as she sang about how glad she is that she dodged “one heck of a bullet.” This song has a Miranda Lambert/rocker flare to it. If those are any indication of what the rest of the album will sound like, fans are certainly in for a treat.

Then, of course, she sang the hits that fans of “One Tree Hill” would recognize such as “That’s What I Love About Your Love” and her first single at country radio “Why Ya Wanna.”

Kramer said that she had lived in Los Angeles for about 10 years and people would always ask, “How can you be a country girl and live in Cali?” She told the audience that places like this remind her that it’s possible.

During the intermission, the air turned chilly, but Lady Antebellum heated things up rather quickly with their incredible chemistry, not only with one another, but with the audience.

The band played an instrumental medley of the group’s biggest hits, and out walked Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood.

Starting off with “Compass,” the three then went into “Perfect Day,” and the fans were immediately in on the action, on their feet from the start, waving their hands back and forth and finishing the lyrics when prompted. From there, they went into other hits such as “Love Don’t Live Here,” “Just A Kiss” and “American Honey.”

Kelley was the spokesperson of the night; telling stories and encouraging fans to have a good time, while also running into the audience. The lead vocalist seemed to be enjoying life and kept the crowd on their feet, happy and energized.

Not only did the group sing the hits that made them famous, they also did a couple covers of the Dixie Chicks’ “Cowboy Take Me Away” and Fleetwood Mac’s classic “Rhiannon.” Their harmonies are an incredible match together, but in this case, they truly showcased Hillary Scott’s unique voice and range. Kelley said that’s exactly why he wanted her in the group when she finished.

But, the group didn’t take the crowd for granted, as they recalled their start in 2006. They thanked everyone for being on the journey; giving their approval and having a connection with them. The trio then played a short acoustic set (similar to their earlier days) with a few songs, like “Goodbye Town,” “Wanted You More” and “Hello World.”

“Charles always says that after this moment, we’ll rock it off for the rest of the night,” Scott told fans, and they sure did.

The band went into their uptempo songs with “Bartender,” “Downtown,” “Looking For A Good Time” and “We Owned The Night.” They also played one of the songs from their upcoming album titled “Long Stretch of Love,” only having played it one other time. They waited to play it in California, and it seems they got the reaction they had hoped for.

Lady Antebellum sing their hits, like

Kelley told the audience that “you’ve gotta take advantage of nights like this,” commenting about the stars and implying the great weather.

Scott added that you’ve just “gotta let your hair do what it does,” referring to her own curly waves. Kelley told her it was very Janis Joplin, so Scott said she would own it. Haywood, whose nickname is “The Quiet Storm,” didn’t say much during the show. Scott and Kelley joked that they didn’t stop talking long enough to let him talk.

The group’s encore was “Need You Now” and started with four of the most recognizable notes on the piano. The audience later joined in as they sang in unison, reminiscent of a young children’s choir in the process. The final songs were covers of Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and Pitch Perfect’s “Cups.”

“This is my favorite show we’ve ever done here,” said Kelley, as it was their fourth time playing the venue.

Lady Antebellum makes you feel like you’re part of their intimate bubble, always including the crowd in their special moments that take place in each and every song. Their connection with the crowd was undeniable. They brought the party from start to finish, and it was easy to see that they enjoyed every minute. They have two of the most important things any artists needs to survive, love for music and love for the fans.

The group will release their fifth album on Sept. 30. The complete track listing was released Tuesday morning.


GAVIN DEGRAW ENTERTAINS AT THE FOX THEATER

By Shelby Parker
Features Editor

There are many musicians who are great performers. They know how to work a crowd, say all of the right things in between songs, and have a big production that wows the audience with graphics, dancers and more. But, then there’s another kind of entertainer, one who doesn’t really need anything else, other than the power of a song, a good band and an indescribable connection between performer and fan. That’s the kind of entertainer Gavin DeGraw is.

DeGraw, who is currently on his “Make a Move” tour, played to a packed house at the Fox Theater on Sunday, April 27.

The musician kicked off the night with one of his latest hits, “Make a Move,” and immediately had the crowd on their feet, singing along to the “Ooo-ooh’s.”

“What’s up, Bakersfield?” he asked the crowd, as they responded with cheers and hollers, before launching into a round of several songs.

He commented to the crowd that their singing was “beautiful” during one of the slower ballads and would stop at certain points in the show to chat with everyone. It didn’t feel rehearsed, but more interactive. He wanted to tell a little about himself, because he thought some might not know. And others “know too much about me,” thanks to the internet, he added.

DeGraw then told the story of a time when he was around 15-years-old, he saw his idol, Billy Joel, in concert with his family. On the car ride home, he announced, “I think I know what I wanna do for a living-I think I wanna play music.”

His dad told him, “Then, that’s what you’ll do…You’ll be a musician.”

Flash forward to now, DeGraw will be opening for a few of Billy Joel’s shows in both Los Angeles and New York on various dates throughout the summer.

“If anyone out there is dreaming a dream that seems impossible, keep dreaming it. It’s happening for me right now, and it can happen for you, too,” DeGraw told the audience. He concluded his story with, “My sermon is over,” and went back to his piano to play.

Behind the piano, DeGraw seems to be in his element, but he never stopped moving for a second. It seems that his short time on Dancing with the Stars might have given him some pointers, as he bounced from one end of the stage to the other, always making eye contact with fans who were near the stage and grooving to the music.

Not only did DeGraw sing his most current hits, like “Best I Ever Had” and “Soldier,” he took it back a few years to some of his earlier songs such as, “I Don’t Wanna Be,” “Chariot,” and “Follow Through.”

Though I’d never seen him live, I had high expectations based on the feedback from past concert attendees. Not a negative word had I heard, and he exceeded all of those expectations.

It was refreshing to hear someone singing live and doing it well, especially with so much passion and love for the music.

DeGraw also brought along Parachute and Rozzi Crane as opening acts, and they didn’t disappoint.

Rozzi Crane is the first artist to be signed under Adam Levine’s, 222 records, and she easily has the vocals to prove that she is here to stay. With her R&B styling and Mariah Carey-esque notes, she has the makings of a star.

The other opening act, Parachute, did exactly what any opener is supposed to do: getting the people on their feet, pumped for the main event. Filled with energy, crowd interaction and good music, they couldn’t go wrong.

Both acts took the time to meet with fans after their sets, thanking the fans for coming out by signing autographs and taking pictures with as many as they could.

It was one of those shows that you never wanted to end, but alas it did. DeGraw stayed behind when the concert had finished, meeting and greeting with fans who surrounded the stage; taking selfies and taking the time to look fans in the eye to say “thank you.”

DeGraw’s motto seems to ring true, and that’s, “If you ain’t havin’ fun, we ain’t doin’ our job. It’s that simple…That simple.”


“GOT A SECRET, CAN YOU KEEP IT?” LUCY HALE PLAYED A FREE SHOW IN BAKERSFIELD

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Lucy Hale is certainly not the first TV star to turn country singer, but she is quickly proving that she is here to stay,thanks to the Pretty Little Liars fan base that is supporting her and helping spread the word about her new music.

Wednesday, Feb. 6, KUZZ announced that Hale would be playing a free listener show at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace as part of the radio tour she is currently on, promoting her first single, “You Sound Good To Me.” All fans had to do was make a reservation.

The phones were ringing off the hook as soon as the restaurant opened, myself being one of those callers. Luckily, I happened to get through to put my name down and was ecstatic. After all, she is my favorite “little liar” from the ABC Family drama.

One fan, Amanda Reveles, 19, said, “ I first became a fan of Lucy’s from watching her on Pretty Little Liars. I liked that she was a familiar face, after having seen her on Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place.”

That led Reveles to giving Hale’s music a listen when she heard she was coming to town.

“I found it very cool she was coming, since we don’t get a lot of celebs, and I knew I would regret not going.”

Toni Marie, dee jay for KUZZ announced Hale, explaining that the singer hadn’t made her debut on the Grand Ole Opry stage yet, though she will be Feb. 21, meaning we got her before Nashville did. Impressive!

Without further ado, Hale, 24, took the stage in a black flowered dress, greeting the crowd and throwing a  “y’all” in there, revealing a bit of her southern twang. After all, she is from Memphis, Tennessee and her country roots run deep. Alongside her were only a couple band members, playing the box and guitar for a few acoustic tunes.

Hale didn’t waste much time and kicked the show off with “Goodbye Gone,” which is like most country songs in the sense that it has that female empowerment, with a lot of sassiness.

When the song ended, Hale took a sip of water and talked to the crowd.

“Are any of you a fan of the show Pretty Little Liars?” which caused the room to erupt in cheers from young girls all over the room. It was safe to say they had.

What many fans don’t know is that she actually got her start as a singer. Hale was one of the contestants on the short-lived American Idol spin-off, American Juniors back in 2003. When it came to which genre she would pick, country has always been her favorite.

“I love the stories and how nostalgic a song can make you feel,” said Hale, before playing a sentimental song, entitled, “The Backseat,” as the narrator in the song talks about being a child observing her parents in love from the backseat, to experiencing love as a teenager from the backseat.

Hale had announced the day before the show that the title of her album will be “Road Between.” She explained to the crowd that she was on the fence of whether or not she should have a self-titled album, but ultimately decided on this one, after her song of the same name. It deals with the journey of life and really, just finding yourself, which seems to be the most relatable for the demographic of her fans.

Hale played five songs in total and was on stage about 25 minutes, singing a couple of other songs, “Kiss Me” and of course, “You Sound Good To Me,” which the audience was more familiar with.

Reveles said, “The show was short, but sweet. Lucy is a talented girl on and off the stage and definitely has a sweet charm about her.” She also added that she’s “really looking forward to hearing her full album coming out and hearing more of her stuff.”

I did have the chance to meet Lucy Hale and get a picture with her, but due to time, she wasn’t able to answer any questions.

Hale might not be the next Carrie Underwood or Martina McBride, as far as vocals go, but she has the potential of being someone that girls can click with, like Taylor Swift. It will be interesting to watch her evolve as an artist in years to come.

Hale told Teen Vogue in January that many fans know her as her character, but her album will give them a chance to see who she really is.

“I think after listening to the album, they’ll get a clear idea of who Lucy Hale is as a human being, not just as an actress or whatever.”


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Image from Billboard.com

Photo courtesy of: Billboard.com

By: Shelby Parker

Assistant Features Editor

Jennifer Nettles, better known as the lead singer of country duo, Sugarland, has officially made her solo career debut. Her first album,“That Girl,” was released Jan. 14, and has been charming fans with her new sound.

Before we go any further, let’s get it out of the way, that not many artists have success when they break away from the group that gave them popularity, but I don’t think Nettles will be seen in that category anytime soon.

It might not be your typical Country album, but then again, the genre isn’t quite what it used to be either. However, Nettles does not stray too far away from Sugarland’s infamous hooks and the true art of storytelling, which is essential for any Country song. Tracks like, “Know You Wanna Know,” and “Jealousy” still encompass those catchy lyrics and melodies that your ears will be thanking you for. Of course, there’s also no denying Nettles’ twang either.

Nettles steps out and showcases her sultry, bluesy side, with songs such as, “That Girl,” and “This One’s For You,” sounding like something out of a bar or lounge setting from Casablanca. There’s a very classic element to it.

Most of the tracks follow those simple, yet powerful ballads, showcasing Nettles’ distinct and unique vocals, as she pours her heart out in a soulful lyric, such as, “Thank you” and “This Angel.”

There’s plenty of vulnerability from Nettles, with tracks like “Falling,” which is the coming-of-age song, about being young and summer romance. With the lyrics, “And you promised we’d be quiet, and we hid behind the garden; I walked out more than a woman than I walked in,” she leaves little to the imagination.

Nettles told Rolling Stone, “This album for me was so personal and intimate. When one is collaborating, there’s only so much of one’s intimate self that can be portrayed.” Nettles goes on to explain,”There’s always the influence and the inspiration of the other. That being the case, when you put yourself out there, there’s a vulnerability. Do I at times feel vulnerable about it? Absolutely.”

According to the Denver Post, Nettles even collaborated with many fellow songwriters this time, including, Richard Marx, Butch Walker, Phillip Sweet (Little Big Town) and Sara Bareilles.

While there are many touching ballads, Nettles still kicks it up a notch with the upbeat, everything’s going my way kind of song, “Moneyball.” My personal favorite lyrics would have to be that of, “And the sun shines down on New York City/And the Lord smiles down on us all,” which just make you want to smile and take a drive somewhere.

Michael McCall, of the Associated Press, described the album as a “1970s-style creative statement, recalling classic Carole King and Linda Ronstadt rather than any of her country or pop contemporaries.” He goes on to say, “It’s a reminder of how powerful music can be when it comes from the heart-and tilts more toward talent than technology.”

Shelby’s Top Five Tracks:

  • “Falling”
  • “Me Without You”
  • “Jealousy”
  • “Moneyball”
  • “This One’s For You”

COUNTRY ARTIST VINCE GILL PAYS TRIBUTE TO BAKERSFIELD SOUND AT RABOBANK THEATER

By Shelby Parker
Staff Writer

Shelby Parker/The Runner Vince Gill honors Merle Haggard and Buck Owens at the Crystal Palace on Oct. 25.

Vince Gill, Grammy and Country Music Association award winner, brought Nashville to Bakersfield on Oct. 25 at the Rabobank Theater. Along with him was special guest and steel guitar player, Paul Franklin. Back in July, Gill and Franklin released, “Bakersfield,” which is a tribute to the famous Bakersfield sound, covering songs from Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.

About his personal reasons for wanting to record this album, Gill told Bakersfield Life, “I love those guys. They have always been my two favorites, so it made sense that we weren’t just doing something that we thought was a lark. Their music was so ingrained in our childhood. I think we were just trying to interpret what we learned from them and say ‘thank you’ to them and honor them.”

Toni Marie and Brett Michaels, announcers from KUZZ introduced Gill, saying the event was the biggest since the unveiling of the bronze statues at Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace.

Pretty soon, the lights dimmed and Gill took center stage. He started off with one of the songs earlier in his career, “One More Last Chance,” dressed in a black button down shirt, patched with embroidered flowers. It’s like he was channeling the country legends that have come before him or was ready to play the Grand Ole Opry. That also reflected in the music he played; taking the audience back to Country music’s earliest roots, throwing in a little bluegrass, plenty of soulful ballads and of course, adding in a few Owens and Haggard classics.

Gill said he was glad to be in Bakersfield and added, “There’s a lot of great history in this town, and that has not gone unnoticed.” He then went on to play several of his original hits throughout the night, including, “I Still Believe In You,” “I Never Knew Lonely,” “Look At Us,” “What the Cowgirls Do,” “Pretty Little Adriana,” Go Rest High On That Mountain,” and “Whenever You Come Around.”

Just before the intermission, Mayor Harvey Hall walked on stage, with two wooden boxes in his hands. He declared that Gill and Franklin would now have the keys to Bakersfield. While the key might not actually do anything per se, Gill was genuinely touched at the gesture, as he is now an honorary local of the city. He said he has always felt a kinship to this part of California. Being that he’s from Oklahoma, it reminds him of home. Plus, here in town, the Crystal Palace knows how to make a mean chicken fried steak.

Gill had previously told the Bakersfield Californian, “I think Bakersfield is a melting pot, just like Nashville has been. Owens and Haggard sound nothing alike. There wasn’t just a stamp: This is how Bakersfield sounds, bang. This is how Nashville sounds, bang.”

When the show resumed, Gill returned with just a guitar and decided to get a little more personal. He kept asking the crowd if they had anywhere to be, because he was in no rush to finish the show. He told stories of his brother, did impersonations of his dad and the words of wisdom he gave over the years, as well as sang the song he had written about him.

Gill also had a chance to play the rest of the songs from the “Bakersfield” album, including “Together Again” by Owens and “The Fightin’ Side of Me” by Haggard. The crowd was bobbing along to the steel guitar and fiddles, the true heart of country music.

English: Merle Haggard performing at Bonnaroo ...

 Merle Haggard performing at Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gill was one of my first influences of what country music truly is. My parents were big fans, and still are to this day, so his songs were always being played around our house or in the car when I was younger. This was my first time seeing him live, and I couldn’t have imagined a better show. He sounds just like he does on his albums, if not better, and that’s what you always hope for in a live event.

The night was more than just a concert. It was a time of storytelling through Gill’s heartbreaking melodies, and laughter from all the reenactments of his father and memories of his childhood. I appreciated his candidness; how open and honest he was about his family, the songs he had written, and how the greats, Owens and Haggard, had truly changed the sound of country music.

Gill mentioned once again, “You’re lucky to live in a place where some of the best, the best, country music has ever been produced.” After hearing the influence that it has had, not only on Vince Gill, but the rest of country music, it makes me even proud to be from this city.

Though Gill didn’t have much production or the bells and whistles that a lot of artists have these days, it was easily one of the best concerts I’ve been to. Gill connected on a personal level with the audience, which is what I loved. He didn’t need anything else because his music spoke for itself. Not only is he known for his distinct tone (joking throughout the years that he sounds like a girl), but he’s also a phenomenal guitar player. Where there were no lyrics, the chords picked right up and filled in for the rest of the song. All night, it was easy to see the passion and love he had for his music, and that’s really what it all should be about.


THE SCI-FI ‘GRAVITY’ EXCITES AND THRILLS

Gravity,” the new thriller starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, has been the talk of fans in Hollywood, social media and fans since its box office opening on Oct. 4. It raked in $55.6 million its opening weekend, with 80 percent of that coming from the 3D sales, according to NBC News. It doesn’t look like ticket sales will be slowing down anytime soon.

Image from collider.com Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star as astronauts who partake in a routine-turned-perilous mission.

I’m normally one who sticks to romantic comedies, but Sandra Bullock is my favorite actress, so I wanted to go a bit out of my comfort zone and give this one a shot. The equipment and techniques they used to shoot the movie allowed the audience to feel as though they really were floating in space, not knowing from minute to minute what was going to happen next. I never really felt like I was watching a movie, I felt like I was part of the journey.

At first glance from the previews, the movie might not seem all that thrilling due to the fact that there are only two people shown floating around in space. I mean, what kind of story line can they possibly build around that? Thanks to the brilliance of the directing, acting and visual effects, it will have you on the edge of your seat the entire time. Think of it as a 91-minute roller coaster ride in the world of outer space that is a little more intense than Space Mountain at Disneyland.

The plot centers around medical engineer, Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), who is on her first trip to space, alongside Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), a professional astronaut who has made several trips to space prior to this expedition. Not long into the movie, they get a notice from Houston that a Russian satellite has exploded, and pretty soon, debris is flying right toward them, causing them to lose their ship. The two of them are then stranded, trying to survive and make it out alive. There is never a dull moment from the time the characters fade in to the time the end credits roll.

Though the camera angles made me a bit dizzy at times, with Clooney and Bullock constantly spinning and turning about, it was one of the features that made it extremely realistic. It was also an interesting perspective when they’d switch from third person, viewing from the outside to seeing what Ryan sees from inside her helmet, as if you were role-playing for a few minutes.

from totalfilm.com by image by Matt Maytum

What I found interesting is that most movies tend to rely on music playing in the background to build the climax or to make a scene more dramatic. However, this movie opted to moments of silence to build the suspense, and it worked. There is only one song used in a couple scenes of the movie, and that is Hank Williams Jr.’s, “Angels Are Hard to Find,” in the more silent scenes, where not much is going on.

Clooney’s character, Kowalski, is like the human version of Buzz Lightyear in the film, adding a bit of humor and trying to lighten the mood for Stone, which I enjoyed. But, the true star of the film is Bullock, who pulls a Tom Hanks in “Castaway” for most of the film, and truly embodies this character. It amazes me that she can go from playing silly characters in movies like “Miss Congeniality” and “The Heat,” to something with depth and a real back story that you get to see unfold as the movie plays out.

The film’s director, Alfonso Cuaron was also amazed by Bullock’s acting abilities, saying, “I always knew the amazing truthfulness she brings to a performance, but I was not prepared for her amazing discipline and precision,” according to Daily Mail UK.

While there is plenty of action and many scenes that will have you holding your breath, wondering just how the movie is going to play out, I enjoyed most was the larger than life themes. It’s about second chances at really living your life and that no matter what the outcome of your circumstance is, just enjoy the ride.


KEITH URBAN COMES OUT WITH NEW ALBUM ‘FUSE’

Keith_Urban_Fuse_album_cover

Country sensation Keith Urban released his seventh album, “Fuse”, on Sept. 10. His first single from the album, “Little Bit Of Everything” proves there really is a little bit of everything for everyone, ranging from country to rock and a little bit of pop.

It’sunlike what he has done in the past, but fans will recognize the traditional roots with his descriptive lyrics and guitar solos.Doing something  unusualisn’t what Urban necessarily set out to do. He explains to Yahoo! Music, “I didn’t really start from wanting to make an album that sounded different. I just had a different sound in my head.” He also explains that it’s something that has been in his head for awhile, but it took some time to really fine tune it to where he wanted it to be.

Several tracks on the album, like “Cop Car,” “Shame,” “Heart Like Mine” and “Come Back To Me” have the same essence of those heart felt melodies that have followed Keith around for the past several albums.

Urban told Yahoo! Music, “I think the main challenge for me was always finding the balance between keeping myself open to go new ways to go whilst not losing my focus.” It seems that he accomplishes that with this album.

However, he branches out with songs like, “Even The Stars Fall 4 U,” “Love’s Poster Child” and “Red Camaro,” which have a bit of an‘80s Rock vibe to it with some funkier beats and electric guitars in the background.

No Keith Urban album would be complete if it didn’t have catchy hooks and plenty of “Ooh’s” that you can bob your head along to. Tracks including, “She’s My 11,” “Little Bit Of Everything,” “Gonna B Good,” and “Black Leather Jacket,” do exactly that.

Urban told USA Today, “This was the album where I want to take that to the next level-maybe synthesized keyboards, some programmed things, in addition to more organic instruments, not only the six-string banjo, but also the bouzouki, the mandolin, acoustic guitar-and find new ways to fuse all those sounds together,” hence the name Fuse.

Not only does Urban experiment with a variety of instruments, he also duets with Miranda Lambert, for his current single, “We Were Us,” and Eric Church on the track “Raise ‘Em Up.”

In addition, “Fuse” gave Urban the chance to also go to another level of creativity by working with eight different producers, including Butch Walker, who produced Fall Out Boy’s “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark.” That song gave Keith the inspiration to mess around a bit more with his already finished product of “Even The Stars Fall 4 U” because he was “riveted by the sound of the track,” according to Yahoo! Music.

One thing is for sure, no matter what genre of music Keith Urban makes, it’s going to be good.

According to an interview with USA Today, Urban said, “I make whatever records I make, I don’t even think of them in terms of genre. They’re just me and my sound. This album was seeing where I could take my sound, and, in the process, maybe that’s a particular kind of country music in 2014.”


THE BAND PERRY PROVES THEY ARE KEEPERS TO COUNTRY MUSIC

The Band Perry performed at the Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles, Calif.  Image courtesy of Splash Publicity.

The summer might be winding down, but the spirit was still going strong in Paso Robles, Calif. on Sunday, Sept. 7. The Band Perry, along with newcomers, Dan + Shay entertained wine country at the Vino Robles Amphitheatre. The show was part of  The Band Perry’s first headlining gig, the We Are Pioneers World Tour.

New country duo, Dan + Shay, started things off as the opening act. From the time the guys took the stage with their cover of “Paradise City,” they were raring to go. While continuing to pay homage to the 80s throughout their set, including another classic, Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” the two also played originals from their debut album “Where It All Began.”

Their summer reminiscent themed songs were perfect for the September evening. They sang their radio singles, “19 You and Me” and “Show You Off,” but also sang supporting tracks from the album such as “Stop, Drop + Roll,” “Party Girl,” “Nothin’ Like You,” and “Somewhere Only We Know.”

Most of the performance was high energy; running around the stage and taking selfies with the first few rows of audience members, but they also slowed it down in various spots. The guys had no problem charming the audience, particularly the women. They said they saw a lot of beautiful ladies and mentioned that most of their band was single.

It was obvious that they were also enjoying the winery setting.

“Who’s drinking wine tonight?” Shay Mooney asked the crowd. Many cheered in response. “I am too…My teeth aren’t usually this red.”

“Just consider this a giant house party with Dan + Shay,” said Dan Smyers, the other vocalist of the two.

Mooney and Smyers took the time to acknowledge that they were just a couple of clowns from Nashville, writing songs and now they were playing at one of the most beautiful venues. They seemed completely humbled when the crowd was singing their own words back to them, adding it was “the coolest feeling in the world.”

“Give yourselves a round of applause for having fun,” Mooney told the crowd.

Both Dan + Shay agreed that the show was one of the best moments they’d ever had and one of the best shows they’d ever played.

I was impressed with how their vocals sounded live and the way they worked the crowd effortlessly.

After a short intermission and change of stage setup, a countdown for The Band Perry flashed on the screen, along with the words “We Are Pioneers.”

With nearly the entire crowd now on their feet, the trio started off with one of their latest hits called “Done.” with plenty of hair flipping and fist pumping into the air.

“You’ve now entered The Band Perry hour of the show,” Kimberly Perry explained to the crowd, though it looked like everyone was very aware at that point. “We like things really really loud in our family,” she added after another up-tempo song “Night Gone Wasted.”

The party was just getting started and the trio certainly brought the energy.

“How many crazy, rabid country music fans do we have here in Paso tonight?” Kimberly Perry asked the crowd and most responded loudly and heartily. She added that as a family they love country music. It brings all kinds of people together, who have had all different kinds of weeks, but come together for one night only.

“We’ve got to dance as one family — Sing as one family,” Kimberly said. It was all about unity for them.

The group slowed it down with their ballad “All Your Life.” It felt like a real kumbaya moment, as if we were all gathered around the campfire with them, with the moon shining down on the amphitheater that only seats about 3,300 people.

Being the leader of the group, Kimberly Perry, took most of the speeches, but did it so eloquently and conversationally.

Kimberly recalled some of the other times they had played Paso Robles and noted that “there’s a lot of free spirits in wine country.” She then told the story of how there are a lot of haters in the world, and one of them just happened to be her eighth grade teacher. Her teacher told her that there are a lot of pretty girls in the world, “Just be lucky you’re smart,” she finished saying with a stare.

Reid Perry shared the thing that his haters like to comment about. They think his hair is too long for country music. “I’m not gonna cut it,” he said, affirming his resolution.

Neil Perry’s haters like to ask him if his mandolin comes in men’s sizes. He says, “I put the man in mandolin.”

Kimberly made everyone in the crowd raise their arms and repeat this oath back to her, “For better or worse, take us or leave us, I am a keeper,” and then launched into their tune of the same name.

One thing’s for sure, The Band Perry is doing things their way, putting on a different kind of show, in the best way possible. They’re a breath of fresh air, and yet, keep it simple and traditional.

Though the three siblings are performing, Kimberly is a force to be reckoned with. It’s hard to take your eyes off of her. As the leader of the group, she carries a demanding stage presence, but still with elegance and grace, all while wearing several inch heels.

They sang a couple more songs, including “Hip To My Heart” and “Postcard From Paris.” Kimberly commented that the crowd sounded beautiful, and they’d have to just start bringing them to every show. She also joked that she’d gladly give up her bunk to anyone who was up for that.

The best part of the concert, in my opinion, was the explanation of their sophomore album “Pioneer,” though I’d heard it before. Kimberly recited the lines of the chorus, which are, “Where are we going/Oh, I don’t know/But still I’ve got to go/What will become of us/ Oh, I don’t care/ All I know is I’ll go anywhere/ Pioneer.”

“Mostly… mostly those words were just talking about finding all that courage that you can. All the bravery that you can right there in your heart, to walk head first, directly towards the days ahead of you, directly head first to the future,” said Kimberly.

She also noted that the future can be a scary place, “When you have no idea what it’s supposed to look like or how the heck you’re supposed to get there. But, the other thing we learned from it was sometimes you’ve just gotta write one song at a time, sometimes you just gotta put one foot in front of the other, another foot in front of the other and just never, never quit…Never.”

When the band sings the song live, each night it takes on new meaning. For this crowd, it was about being proud to live in this great country of ours. An instrumental version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played by the band just before they went into “Pioneer.” After, they ended things on an even sweeter note by singing “Amazing Grace.”

I can barely make it through the song without tearing up while listening to the CD, and hearing it live was no different. Adding patriotism to the passion and lyrics was enough to give me goosebumps.

They might be country artists in the way they tell their stories, but their love for rock ’n’ roll was evident too, throwing in a cover of Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls.” While Kesha might not be rock ‘n’ roll, they covered her song, “Timber” before singing the latest single, “Chainsaw.”

The group then sang “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely,” and exited the stage. As the cheers in the crowd grew louder, they returned for their encore of “If I Die Young” and “Better Dig Two.” The echoes of the crowd singing back to them were haunting and dramatic, which was a wonderful way to end the night.

This was my first time seeing a full show of theirs, and I can’t wait to see them again. While Neil and Reid’s background vocals are often not as prominent on the albums, it was nice to hear their voices blend with Kimberly’s in a more powerful way. The two are also very gifted gifted musicians, playing the mandolin and guitar.

Country music, you’re doing it wrong if these three aren’t nominated for Entertainer of the Year sometime in the near future.

To sum up the night… They’re old souls. They are storytellers. They are trailblazers. They are pioneers. They are The Band Perry.


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