Thursday, February 26, 2015

stella james band// debut review

the band perry//lady antebellum//dixie chicks

If you're a fan of the above mentioned trios, you need to go ahead and add Stella James to the list as well. 

There are a lot of new acts emerging from Nashville that are defining the next generation of country music right now. Stella James is definitely a fresh breath of air amidst the bro country driven hits on the radio right now.

The trio is made up of three individuals who on their own could make a name for themselves. Sarah Davidson released an EP early in 2014. Rachel Bradshaw co-wrote the hit "What Do You Want From Me" with Jerrod Niemann and even sang back up vocals on the track. Ty Graham is the third member and solo male voice of Stella James. 

Following the footsteps of recent country mega breakout artist, Sam Hunt, they released a mixtape type demo of three songs--for free. You can download it for free here. On Tuesday night they made their debut performance at the Basement in Nashville, TN. I was fortunate enough to learn about the trio at the beginning of the year and am so glad that I was in Nashville to catch their show. They played all three of the demo songs and two others. The melodies and harmonies of the three are articulated so beautifully that it's hard to tell the voices apart. It's a sound that is definitely unlike anything I've heard before and it's astounding. I downloaded the demo Monday on my way to Nashville and literally listened to it on repeat the 220 mile ride there.

The demo has three tracks-- "Stella," "Songbird," and "Red Flag." These three tracks are enough for the trio to set a tempo for what's to come--with just three songs. Gracefully written and charmingly delivered lyrics make this a must hear demo for country music fans. I even would venture to say non country fans should give it a listen.

It's hard to pick a favorite of the three but I think I've listened to Red Flag at least 100 times. If this is just a sample of what is to come from Stella James, I think we all need to hold on for the ride--it's going to be a fast paced one. 

 Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

All photos are courtesy of Stella James Facebook page. I was squished in the back and only got one good one.

Monday, February 16, 2015

lipstick graffiti || jackson, ms

-over 300,000 copies of album sold
-platinum debut single 
-headlining tour sold out in 15 minutes
-number one country album for the past three weeks
-highest debuting new artist single in the history on Country Aircheck

....and no, I'm not talking about Luke Bryan or Jason Aldean....
maybe you've heard of him, actually I am 100% positive that you have

Sam Hunt 

 It's a tad ironic that I'm getting around to posting this review today because exactly one year and one day ago was when I saw Sam Hunt perform a sold out show at a little place in Tifton, Georgia called the Gin. This was before a country album was released. This was before the tour buses, the number one singles and months before he ever debuted at the Ryman or the Grand Ole Opry. I guess he's always been good at doing things, especially selling out shows. It was one of the first times Sam ever played "break up in a small town" where maybe 3 or 4 die hard fans were singing the song back only because they had youtubed the song enough prior to the show to get the lyrics down. 

It was also a year ago that I heard Take Your Time for the first time. At his lipstick graffiti stop in Jackson a few weeks ago, the crowd almost out sang Sam on the exact song.

It's not a secret that I've attended my share of country shows over the past few years. I've been to small bars with capacities less than 500 and I've seen Luke Bryan in a sold out show at Madison Square garden in NYC. I've seen Dierks Bentley leading the crowd with 15,000 phones raised in the air while they sang "I hold on" back to him. I've seen Luke Bryan cover Rhianna and I've seen Kenny Chesney perform a record breaking beach front show in Orange Beach, Alabama. 

What I've never seen, though, is the level of enthusiasm of the crowd that I see at a Sam Hunt show. Sure, these aren't sold out arena shows that he is playing (yet) but to the average person, Sam Hunt is still a "new" artist, yet is already commanding the attention of his crowds like no other artist I've ever seen.

Of course I'm always going to be a bit bias toward Sam Hunt. The first time I met him was after a UAB football game when I was still in high school and he was senior QB. He had a mullet--and he didn't seem at all like the type of guy to wear a flat bill and nike shoes. Last February, when Sam came to Birmingham to play a local venue called Zydeco, my friends and I were lucky enough to get to chat with him after the show was over. When my friend Bailey and I dropped off some treats for the guys in Jackson before the show, Sam was still just as genuine and thankful as he was the day I met him. 

Sam is breaking every single record and boundary that has previously been set by earlier artists. And, while it's probably endearing to refer to him as the next Luke Bryan or Garth Brooks or George Strait, the truth is--he isn't the next anybody. He's the first Sam Hunt and that's clearly working out well for him. The show in Jackson, Mississippi was the game changer for Sam, in my opinion. 

Before Sam and the guys took the stage, Native Run opened the show. I've heard many good things about them from Bailey and had bought their single, "Good on You" from Itunes. I was impressed by their style of music but even more impressed with the faces behind Native Run. Rachel and Bryan are rising stars. Their set was flawless and their style is impressive. They also are incredibly kind people. Bailey has known them for a while so we were able to chat with them for a while before the show. They had nothing but sweet things to say about Sam and they are releasing an album sometime this year. Make sure that you put this duo on your radar! 

From the moment he walked on the stage until the moment he left, Sam had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Another notable thing worth mentioning-- he does it all with two guitarists and a drummer. And the band deserves some big shout outs, too. Tyrone, Josh and Josh are the most talented musicians that I've ever met and they're each rockstars in their own right. Each band member had their own moments to shine, too. Tyrone even had a solo during the acoustic mash up part of the show. 

Sam Hunt has released two singles to the radio but if you were in the crowd and you didn't know any different, you would think that he had 10 singles released.  There's a certain  charisma of a Sam Hunt show and it's something that in talking with him about is something that he's worked hard to get down. Each song smoothly transitioned to the next with bits of popular hip hop and pop songs playing in the background. I think it's more appropriate to refer to Sam Hunt concerts as a show because that's exactly what it is. The way the songs are arranged one after the other makes it feel like you're listening to a story rather watching an artist sing 12 songs forced on them by a record label.  Sam has written all of his own songs and that is something that is very transparent in the live show. Another characteristic about Sam that makes him so good is the integrity in his music and performance. During the acoustic mash up, he played "She's in Love with the Boy," "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," and "Wanna Dance with Somebody." If you didn't know the female powerhouses behind the original recordings of the song you just may have believed Sam wrote those, too. 

We were talking about all the success before the show and Sam mentioned how it still hasn't fully sank in that all of this is happening. He's been quoted in other articles saw how he doesn't try to pay attention to numbers and that it's about the live show and the fans. Sam is a class act and I'm so thankful that I've gotten to know him over the past year. He has always shown enthusiasm before, during and after every show of his that I've attended but I have to say the smile on his face last Saturday rivaled the smile I saw when he debuted at the Opry. And, the most fun part of all of this is that it's "still" just the beginning for Sam. 

---If you've stumbled across this little blog for whatever reason, this is where I'll suggest you hop over to Twitter and IG and give Sam a follow. "Montevallo" is the title of the album and it's available on Itunes. It's the best 10 dollars you'll ever spend. If you buy it and disagree, I will give you your 10 dollars back.