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Noms and Snubs: 2011 Grammy Awards

This year was a curious one in GRAMMY world, with some heavy hitters being shut out and some less popular acts finally getting a chance to shine. The ‘Record of the Year’ category is dominated by urban pop, with just one band—CMT Artist of the Year Lady Antebellum (nominated in six categories)—bringing up the rear with their country album Need You Now. Eminem leads the pack with ten nominations for his smash success Recovery, landing on the list for ‘Best Rap Album,’ and “Love The Way You Lie”, featuring Rihanna, scoring nominations for ‘Record of The Year,’ ‘Song of The Year,’ ‘Best Rap Song’ and ‘Best Rap Collaboration.’

Other hip hop standouts include Cee-Lo’s three nominations for “[Forget] You” for ‘Record of The Year’ and ‘Song of The Year’ and ‘Best Urban Performance’.  Jay-Z made the list for ‘Best Rap Album’ with Blueprint 3 and again with newlyweds Alicia Keys (with “Empire State of Mind” up for ‘Best Rap Song’ and “Best Rap Collaboration”) and Swizz Beatz (with “Onto The Next One” contending for ‘Best Rap by Duo’ and ‘Best Rap Song’). Keys’ album, Elements of Freedom was shockingly snubbed from all categories, despite its heavy radio play.  Swizz Beats is also nominated for “Fancy,” his collaboration with Drake, whose debut album,  Thank Me Later earned him a nomination for ‘Best Rap Album,’ while his single “Over”scored him a bid for ‘Best Solo Rap Performance.’

On the pop front, Katy Perry is the front-runner with four nominations for her album, Teenage DreamKe$ha’s debut,  Animal, failed to garner any attention for the saucy newcomer and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” popped up on the shortlist for ‘Best Female Pop Vocal’ but was slighted in the categories of  ‘Song and Record of The Year.’  “Dance In The Dark” earned Gaga a ‘Best Dance Recording’ nom and “Telephone,” her duet with Beyoncé, earned her a nomination for ‘Best Pop Collaboration.’

B.o.B fared well with his debut album, The Adventures of Bobby Ray, earning him five nominations including ‘Record of The Year’ and ‘Best Rap Album’ while his single, “Nothin On You” featuring Bruno Mars is making a run for ‘Best Rap Song’,  ‘Best Rap Collaboration’ and ‘ Record of The Year’. B.o.B’s duet with Paramore front-woman, Hayley Williams is also up for ‘Best Pop Collaboration.’ Meanwhile, Mars came in with seven nominations for his work with B.o.B., his single, “Just The Way You Are” and his work as producer with The Smeezingtons who are up for the ‘Producer of The Year’ title.

‘The ‘Best New Artist’ category seems the most diverse with contender Justin Beiber going head to head with Florence and the Machine, Drake, Mumford & Sons, and Esperanza Spalding (who was curiously excluded for any noms in the Jazz category) for the honor. Usher’s, Raymond V Raymond will go against Chris Brown’s, Grafitti for ‘Best Contemporary R&B Album.’

This is the year of new beginnings. In addition to  Chris Brown’s nomination, fellow tabloid darlings Lee Ann Rimes and Fantasia, whose troubling private lives made very public headlines, end their year on a happier note with nods for the former in ‘Best Female Country Vocal Performance’ and the latter in ‘Best Female R&B Vocal Performance’ and ‘Best R&B Song’ for “Bittersweet.”

There’s a good chance we’ll see last year’s ‘Best New Artist’ winner Zac Brown Band on stage again this year, this time sans stick puppet—2009 addition Clay Cook was unable to accept the award with the band for their win last year because he did not have a credit on their first album. They’re nominated for ‘Best Country Performance,’ ‘Best Country Song’ and ‘Best Country Album.’ Other country favorites Keith Urban, Toby Keith, Carrie Underwood, Gretchen Wilson, Miranda Lambert, Jewel also received nominations.

No huge surprises found among artists in the rock categories, with multiple nominations for veterans Jeff Beck (‘Best Rock Album,’ ‘Best Rock Performance’ with Joss Stone and ‘Best Rock Instrumental’) and Neil Young (‘Best Rock Song,’ ‘Best Rock Album’ and Best Solo Rock Performance’) while Paul McCartney, Robert Plant, Eric Clapton, John Mayer earning one nom each.  Hard rock and metal showcased no new artist nominations either: Ozzy Osborne, Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, Iron Maiden, Korn, Megadeth, Lamb of God and Slayer.

For the complete list of nominees across all 100 categories, visit

By Cortney Wills with additional reporting by Paula Gould

Cortney Wills is a pop culture journalist born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has lived in LA, Chicago and NYC and enjoys all things entertainment.

The Death of the ‘Greatest Hits’ Album

How do you keep the music playing when you’re between new releases? What to do to fulfill that pesky final commitment of a multi-album recording contract with a label you’re no longer thrilled to call home? Traditionally, a greatest-hits compilation — in stores preferably around the end of the year — has been the best bet. Not only do they make great stocking stuffers, but they are an excellent way for artists to stay in retail circulation while they’re working on new material, or shopping for a new deal.
Past holiday seasons have seen the Billboard 200 album chart crowded with new best-ofs, but this year, the pickings are slim indeed.

Only Bon Jovi’s Greatest Hits and Pink’s Greatest Hits… So Far were in the Top 50 for the week ending December 4, with the latter missing the Top 10 entirely, a fate likely to befall Jay-Z: The Hits Collection, Volume One (out November 22). Why has the gift that used to keep giving — around Christmas and beyond — suddenly stopped? Here are a few possible reasons.

The rise and continued rise of iTunes. Back in the days when people bought music exclusively in record stores, superstar acts like Madonna and the Eagles were scoring the biggest albums of their careers with hits compilations. Now, for up to $1.29 a pop, fans can pick and choose which of their favorite artists’ hits they want without ever buying a complete album. So when the hits compilation is released, why not just download the one or two new tracks and call it a day? That might explain why Pink’s Greatest Hits has had such a lackluster chart showing — so far — while its single, “Raise Your Glass,” is No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and already one of the singer’s, well, greatest hits.

Repackaging of hit albums. More artists are keeping themselves in heavy rotation by putting out special-edition versions of their hit albums featuring multiple new tracks. It’s a holiday-season gambit that recently has paid handsome financial and chart dividends for Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Rihanna, among others. On November 26th, Justin Bieber released My Worlds Acoustic, featuring reworked, stripped-down versions of songs from his My World EP and My World 2.0, his full-length debut, while Adam Lambert is dropping the five-song Acoustic Live on December 6th. These are like greatest-hits albums featuring only the hits from one album. By time the actual best-ofs come around, do fans really need a third version of the same old songs (fourth, if you count the in-decline-but-still-ticking Now That’s What I Call Music! series, currently on Volume 36).

The new definition of “single.” It’s harder to keep track of actual hit “singles,” with the term being used so loosely these days. Take Taylor Swift’s Speak Now, for example. All fourteen tracks on the original release have charted on Billboard’s Hot 100, and three already have entered the Top 10, but many might be hard pressed to name the “official” single. “Mine” has logged the most time on the chart, but due to the Hot 100 onslaught of other Speak Now tracks leading up to the album’s release, “Mine” hasn’t had the impact of past Swift hits like “Love Story” and “You Belong with Me.”

Rappers like Drake, Kanye West and Nicki Minaj as well as Usher have followed a similar staggered singles release scheme, diluting the impact of each one, while making each album a sort of self-contained greatest-hits collection. Usher, for example, landed seven chart hits in the last year, five from Raymond v. Raymond, and two from the recently released Versus EP, but only one song from each set went Top 10 on the Hot 100, compared to the five-for-five Top 10 tally of the singles from his Confessions album in 2004.

Another album, another half dozen cameos. With everyone popping up on everyone else’s album, many of music’s big stars, it seems, are never  MIA for long, making greatest hits albums less necessary as space holders between studio releases. Pitbull was just in the Top 10 on simultaneous hits by Enrique Iglesias and Usher. In 2010, newcomer Bruno Mars has mined platinum singles on his own and with B.o.B and Travie McCoy. Rihanna is on Eminem’s Recovery and Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday, and they are both on Rihanna’s Loud. Eminem is on Pink Friday, too, as is Kanye West, for whom Minaj returns the favor on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Got that?

Meanwhile, Drake is on pretty much every other R&B release these days, including Loud, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Pink Friday, which, incidentally, also features Natasha Bedingfield, whose Strip Me (out December 7th), amazingly, features none of the above. How’s that for a Christmas miracle?

By Jeremy Helligar

Jeremy Helligar is a former staff writer for People, Teen People, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly, who now writes about celebrities and pop culture from his couch in Buenos Aires.

The Sons of Sylvia—The Clark Brothers’ Father Credited For Family Music Success

If you think against-the-odds stories are only the stuff of holiday fables, you have yet to meet the Sons of Sylvia. How else to explain how three brothers—Ashley, Austin and Adam Clark—who videotaped a basement jam, landed on a 2007 Fox reality show Next Great American Band where they played songs including a blues-filled rendition of “Gimme Shelter” that arguably rivals the classic Rolling Stones version, beat out 10,000 or so other hopefuls and inked a deal with 19 Records/Interscope Records. Huh. They’re likely grads of Berklee College of Music in Boston or some other hoity-toity school for musical protégées, you might think. Not even close.

“We grew up with a really musical family. My dad started me on it,” said Austin of how his preacher dad sparked the brothers’ musical interests. “He gave me a few pointers and kind of took it there. My dad has always picked and played and it’s a passion of his and he kind of passed it on.”

Not to mention proficient. Of course, it’s tough to get any traction in the music industry if you don’t have a solid mentor and the brothers had one right in their own home.

“We had heroes, for sure, but I guess our father [was always the main one], influencing us and telling us [to] keep at it and making us do it,” he said. “We would go to bluegrass festival and play with [well known artists] and it was addicting even though we were really young at the time.”

The addiction led the brothers to individually ease into high-profile gigs with Carrie Underwood — a major fan and supporter of the band — and SheDaisy. But players come and go and these guys knew they had to roll the dice to stay in the game. So they taped the submission — as The Clark Brothers — right before the show’s deadline and sent it off.

“We started taking it really seriously right after we won Next Great American Band on Fox,” said Austin. “That experience was really such a growing and learning experience as writers and we wrote the whole record. It definitely was a time when we figured out how to express ourselves.”

In a major way.

Fast-forward to April 2009 when the brothers’ debut album Revelation was released and debuted at No. 33 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. A slot on Carrie Underwood’s “Play On” tour and a high-profile appearance on American Idol are among the other major successes the brothers can recount from this past year.

Expect plenty more ahead as songs from the album, including the first single “I’ll Know You“, continue to build momentum — and even more success — for the band.

“Every song is different,” said Austin of the writing process surrounding the single. “When you are writing some songs just pop out. [The song] “I’ll Know You” didn’t take long…We got together, we wrote it and walked in the next room and recorded it.”
See? Against-the-odds stories really do happen.

Sons of Sylvia “I’ll Know You” (Behind The Scenes)

Tour Dates

DEC 1: St. Louis, MO – Chaifetz Arena

DEC 2: Evansville, IN – Roberts Stadium

DEC 4: Des Moines, IA – Wells Fargo Arena

DEC 5: Sioux Falls, SD – Sioux Falls Arena

DEC 7: Rapid City, SD – Rushmore Plaza Civic Centre

DEC 8: Casper, WY – Casper Events Center

DEC 12: Bozeman, MT – Breedan Field House

DEC 14: Yakima, WA – Yakima Valley Sun Dome

DEC 15: Penticton, CAN – South Okanagan Events Centre

DEC 16: Vancouver, BC V6B 6G1, CAN – Rogers Arena

DEC 18: Edmonton, AB, CAN – Rexall Place

DEC 19: Calgary, CAN – Pengrowth Saddledome

By Nancy Dunham

Nancy Dunham writes about music for Country Weekly, AOL Music’s site The Boot, The Washington Post, Relix and other publications.

Drive-By Truckers Gear Up to Deliver ‘Go-Go Boots’

The Drive-By Truckers are ready to deliver the band’s next album, Go-Go Boots, less than a year after releasing The Big To-Do.

So what’s the rush?

“It is going to be our Valentine’s Day record,” Chief Trucker Patterson Hood says. “We are really excited about it because we think this is the one that’s hopefully going to take it to the next level.”

Not that Drive-By Truckers have been any slouches. The Big To-Do debuted at No. 22 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart and No. 1 on the Indie Chart. Credit Hood, co-founder Mike Cooley and their band mates for not wavering from the band’s distinctive three-guitar line up since the band’s 1998 formation. The result has been an ultra-loyal fan base that has propelled the alt-country, southern-rock band up the charts and onto a growing number of critics “best of” lists.

“You know, I wouldn’t trade [the song] ‘Birthday Boy’ for a dozen of ‘Faithfully,’” says Hood mentioning a top-charting ballad by the rock band Journey. “The thing about the ballads is that you play them at those moments when you have an arena full of screaming girls. We don’t have either the ballads or the screaming girls.

Perhaps not now but we’ll see what happens when the fan base grows even stronger especially now that the Truckers’ spent part of the summer touring with their personal musical hero Tom Petty.

“That was a great experience and I think everyone really enjoyed it,” says Hood noting that at one time the Truckers’ had vowed not to take more opening gigs but quickly relented when Petty came calling. “I think it made us a better band, too.”

Fans will see that during the tour for Go-Go Boots when the band’s set list will draw heavily from the rock sounds presented on The Big To-Do and what Hood calls “the country, soul, murder ballad record” Go-Go Boots.

“We’ve worked real hard and I feel like it’s been rewarding and rewarded, too,” says Hood. “You know the economy is stuck right now and….we have built up a good enough set that people feel a little better spending their hard earned [money] to hear us. You know, we’re pretty consistent. Our show changes every night..and there are a lot of things about it that are in constant flux. We take it pretty seriously to make sure it’s 100% every night.

Most of the songs for both records were recorded at the same time, says Hood. The band decided to make two albums out of the works rather than leave some songs out or release a “ridiculously long, sprawling record.”

The songs on Go-Go Boots were influenced heavily by the band’s love for the music of Bobbie Womack, Eddie Hinton and soulful music often classified as the “Muscle Shoals (Alabama) sound.”

“Those influences loom very large on this record,” says Hood. “We have all been obsessed Eddie Hinton fans for years.”

In fact, the band covers the Hinton songs “Everybody Needs Love” and “Where’s Eddie?” which Hinton wrote and the British singer Lulu recorded in 1969.

“‘Everybody Needs Love’ doesn’t sound like something I’ve ever written, but it sure sounds like something I wish I could have written,” says Hood. “I feel as strongly performing that song as anything I’ve written. It’s kind of fun shining a light on [those songs] and hopefully encouraging more people to check Eddie’s music out….It was a labor of love recording those songs.”

[Editor’s Note: The Drive-By Truckers will release a 10-inch record with the songs “Thanksgiving Filter” and “Used to Be a Cop,” on November 26 in celebration of Record Store Day. Both songs will be included on Go-Go Boots.  The band will also release a film, The Secret to a Happy Ending, about how the American South shaped rock ‘n’ roll. For more details, check out the band’s Web site.

By Nancy Dunham

Nancy Dunham writes about music for Country Weekly, AOL Music’s site The Boot, The Washington Post, Relix and other publications.

Cherryholmes Sweet Sound Ripens

Anyone who was at Nashville’s legendary Station Inn when Cherryholmes played there during the recent Americana Music Festival likely won’t forget the event anytime soon.

Although there were a host of big name entertainers in town and playing that night, it was this family band that pulled in a huge crowd that forced the venue managers to halt access to the show. Yet plenty of fans stood outside in the cold rain hoping for a chance to hear the band.

“I just love to sing,” Cia Cherryholmes, one of the group’s main songwriters, said of concerts. “I especially love to sing [the jazz number] ‘Just You.’ I get to sing in front of a large microphone and sing in a way that’s a little different than what we usually do.”

If there’s a secret to the band that Jere and Sandy Cherryholmes formed with their children after their eldest daughter died, it’s that the members aren’t afraid to reach beyond the bluegrass format.

Perhaps Sandy Cherryholmes explains the dynamic best, noting that she and Jere come from the ’60s and especially enjoy musicians such as Stevie Ray Vaughn while the siblings have passions for modern rock and jazz. The mix of influences can push musical boundaries at times–such as when the band discusses how to work with a jazz-inspired number–but generally swings back to the bluegrass roots that tether the band’s sound.

“Molly wrote a song and when she first played it, for us it was more of a jazz tune that you’d play with a jazz combo,” said Sandy. “We had to decide how to work with it. We don’t use a piano and we have to decide what we would want to do with a banjo role and [otherwise] how to best fit on a bluegrass record without being too far out.”

Although such conversations would lead to rifts in more than a few bands and families, the Cherryholmes admit they are “brutally honest with each other,” says Cia. “One of us might way ‘Why did you write that? What were you thinking?’ We can say it because we’re family.”

Adds her brother B.J. “We are real people. That just kind of comes out in our music.”

And what a way it has manifested with awards including “Entertainer of the Year” from the International Bluegrass Music Association to many nominations including two for GRAMMY Awards. Now the band is supporting its latest release Cherryholmes IV: Common Threads. Critical and popular kudos have led many to believe that the band may finally win a coveted GRAMMY.

“We have been all over the world, we enjoy performing, we have done so well,” said Cia of her dream. “If we could just bring home an actual Grammy–not a nomination–and I could have that gramophone sitting on the mantel, well, I’d be very happy about that.”

By Nancy Dunham

Nancy Dunham writes about music for Country Weekly, AOL Music’s site The Boot, The Washington Post, Relix and other publications.

Crazy Girl Will Lead: Eli Young’s New Offering

The time has almost arrived for Eli Young fans. The song “Crazy Girl”—yes, the fan favorite that for months has brought audiences to their feet—will be released in the new year.

“The reaction to that song has been incredible. This has been a real whirlwind for us,” said band co-founder and front man Mike Eli, noting the Country Throwdown Tour the band joined was a high point for them. “We were playing these huge amphitheaters…and being around all the artists like Jamey Johnson and Eric Church and Jack Ingram and Heather Morgan on the Throwdown Tour, you can’t help but soak up their energy.”

The Eli Young Band has been on a career high since the 2008 release of its third studio album Jet Black & Jealous that spawned Billboard country hits including “Always the Love Songs.” Now the band is gearing up to go even higher with its next album. The reaction to “Crazy Girl” makes many think the album’s success is almost a given. Although Eli is a bit more cautious about placing his bets, he said this year’s tour schedule brought the band plenty of good vibes.”I don’t know how or why it happened, but I kind of imagine it was like church camp,” said Eli of the fellowship that developed among the bands and their crews. ”We came away with music we wrote with other artists. It was a great experience.”

For now, though, Eli and his band mates are concentrating on the upcoming 2011 release. “We are really excited about this record. I know it sounds cliché, but we have made a few records and this is going to be my favorite,” he said. “We have come into our own and been able to take chances without sacrificing sound.”

Although the songs on the album are a combination of those written by band members and other songwriters, Eli said they’re all pure Eli Young.

Thank the band’s maturation, the circumstances of the recording or even just the jazzed feeling of coming off popular and critically acclaimed tours, but the stars aligned for band’s sound when they put the record together.

“We recorded in a cabin in Franklin (Tennessee), in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “It was one of those things, we were making this record and there wasn’t pressure on us to do things one way or another. Our producer said ‘Let’s make something that’s special to you. Let’s not worry about what will work commercially,’ although we feel the songs will be incredible on radio…We just wanted to make a great record.”

In this case, that means plenty of steel guitar on the songs. So does that mean the music is purely country?

“Obviously our sound comes from many directions,” he said. “I grew up on country music and consider our music incredibly country. There are people out there that don’t consider us country. I don’t know if there is a right answer. ”

What Eli does know is that the band practiced and recorded the song in an old-school way, sitting in a circle on the floor of that log cabin and jamming.

“With this record, we wanted it to sound the way do always have live,” he said. “It’s old school but I happen to romanticize that.”

Eli Young Band Performing \”Crazy Girl\” at WGAR (Cleveland)

By Nancy Dunham

Nancy Dunham writes about music for Country Weekly, AOL Music’s site The Boot, The Washington Post, Relix and other publications.

Jason Aldean Wants You To Check Out ‘My Kinda Party’

Jason Aldean knows what his fans like.

Any doubters need only tune into the buzz around the just-released album My Kinda Party. Not only does the sound follow Aldean’s country-meets-aggressive-edgy guitars voice, but the November 2nd release includes his first duet—with Kelly Clarkson who he handpicked to join him on the song “Don’t You Want To Stay.” Choosing Clarkson, who’s well known for pop, is just another way Aldean shows he isn’t afraid to expand his country sound into areas fans will enjoy. The two will sing a duet on the 44th Annual CMA Awards airing live from 8 to 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Nov. 10th.

“I constantly listen to all different kinds of music but I never am listening to someone’s record and thinking I should [copy] part of it,” said Aldean of his influence. “I know exactly what I want stuff to sound like in the studio. The sound I want, the way I sing and phrase words, that evolved from what I listened to when I was growing up.”

Ever since his self-titled debut album was released in 2005, followed by Relentless in 2007 and Wide Open in 2009, Aldean has stayed with the “sound that brought me to the party.” That sound is based in country with roots extending back to George Strait, Conway Twitty and Ronnie Milsap.

After learning to play guitar when he was a teen, Aldean seemingly shot into the on-ramp for the big time very quickly with a publishing deal and recording contract  in his early 20s. Although his career stalled for a time—and Aldean said he thought about leaving Nashville to return to Georgia—his first album was akin to a stone thrown in a pond. His particular ripple effects were chart topping singles including “Big Green Tractor,” “She’s Country” and “Johnny Cash.”

“I think it’s one of those things you have to stick with what you do,” said Aldean. “Lucky for me, I hung around long enough that [radio DJs] realized I wasn’t going anywhere so thought they’d better start playing my song. Really, the more you go out and play shows the more people start to hear what is you do…and it all comes together.”

Not that Aldean is resting on any laurels. Consider this latest album. Every day he had off touring was spent in the studio sifting through songs that he thought would work on the album. Although he is a prolific songwriter himself, he said he didn’t have any qualms about not having self-penned tunes on the album.

“I just want the best songs for the album,” he said. “Even though I consider my music country, I try to make the guitars a little more aggressive [than some] people might expect. I like to have the songs have a little more of an edge to them.”

Pulling extra edge into his music is one reason he chose Kelly Clarkson as his duet partner.

“Kelly is somebody to me who was a little different. She wasn’t a safe choice or predictable,” said Aldean noting her soulful, blues-tinged singing style. “Plus, I am a fan. I love her voice and her vocal style. I felt like she would add a cool part to the record.”

So committed was Aldean to ensuring his album would reflect his dedication to his fans, that he included 15 tracks.

“I’ve never recorded 15 tracks for an album before,” he said. “We worked harder on this album than we’ve ever worked on any other. In this economy, I want fans to know that I want to give them as much as possible for their money. ”

By Nancy Dunham

Nancy Dunham writes about music for Country Weekly, AOL Music’s site The Boot, The Washington Post, Relix and other publications.

They Like It Live: Stephen Kellogg and The Sixers

This summer we got a chance to chat up Stephen Kellogg of The Sixers, and when Vanguard Records so graciously offered us a chance to catch their “Amazing Fall Tour” (thanks guys!), we couldn’t pass it up. Everyone we talked to in anticipation of the show had only good things to say. Let me rephrase, great things to say. We encountered lots of accidental fans at the bar, most notably that had become fans as a result of seeing them live and never even having heard The Sixers music (which isn’t to say that also isn’t great).

On stage, The Sixers have a lot going on. Kellogg himself plays guitar and harmonica, and is joined by Kit “Goose” Karlson who switches it up between keys, bass and tuba. Brian “Boots” Factor plays drums, mandolin and the banjo. Sam “Steamer” Getz joined The Sixers for the Amazing Fall Tour, lending electric guitar, pedal steel player and bass to the mix (Fun fact: Getz is called Steamer because of his Cleveland ties. Take that for what you will.). But this set up isn’t mutually exclusive. It’s a constant juggling act of instruments and musicians.

Stephen Kellogg

The Sixers establish a professional presence while not taking themselves too seriously, something that can only come from extensive touring experience. The band recently released the 2-disc collection Live From The Heart to commemorate their 1,000 live show. A well-oiled machine of audience interaction and flashy instrument playing, The Sixers make it look effortless.

Kellogg opened with the heartfelt “Father’s Day”, then ironically (or maybe not?) moved in to “My Old Man”. The audience soon got into the swing of things with an electrified version of “Start The Day Early”. Everyone loves a good song about moonshine, right? But perhaps the biggest appeal of The Sixers live is Kellogg’s brilliant story-telling between songs. Charismatic and engaging, Kellogg seems to make everyone feel like they’re the only person in a room, despite curating a serious party environment.

Kit "Goose" Karlson

The Sixers went on to play several songs from their newest album, including the title track “The Bear” and the unfeigned “Satisfied Man”. The guys navigated away from their country roots for a moment with the fun, upbeat “Shady Esperanto and the Young Hearts Club” (check out the OK Go-esque music video for the good-time track). And at one point, Goose lifted his guitar behind his head to play not one or two chords, but an entire solo.

Despite this being their first headlining tour in two years, The Sixers seem to have it down to pat. “When people ask why they should go see the show, I tell them I’ll give them they’re money back if they don’t like it. ‘Tell me and I’ll send you a damn check. I think you’re going to like it.’” We concur.


10/14/10 Royale Theater-Boston, MA
with Small Ponds and Roy Jay Band

Father’s Day
My Old Man
Sweet Sophia
Start the Day Early
Oh Adeline
Big Easy
The Bear
See you Later, See you Soon
Satisfied Man
Now I’m not so lost
In Front of the World
Shady Esperanto
Uninspired Gambling

Encore: Such a Way, 4th of July

2nd Encore: Thirteen

Sixertown: Keep me in your thoughts, Pedal Steel

Byrne, Baby, Byrne

Shawn Byrne

No one said you can’t write a good country song living in the urban Northeast, but it may be true that you’ll find more fodder on Southern terrain. Singer-songwriter Shawn Byrne make the pilgrimage from Boston to Nashville in pursuit of a career as a country artist, writing songs for the bright stars of Nashvegas and earning a SESAC award along the way. His music is canny, upbeat and polished to perfection. “Tough As This Town” celebrates the quiet nobility of small town life with big hooks and a vivid, visceral chorus you’ll want to sing along to. “Simpleton” is another romp and roll. Harmonicas wheeze and basses thump like a jug band that’s just getting warmed up. We happen to like the moodier stuff, from the driving, full-tilt gallop of “That Train Keeps Me Up All Night” to the dusty blues shuffle of “Ol’ Cook Pot.” Byrne’s a great songwriter … it’s only a matter of time before his rep spreads beyond Nashville city limits.

Rising Outlaw Randy Houser Lets It All Hang Out On “They Call Me Cadillac”

Sometimes it pays to be an outlaw, especially if you’ve got the gutsy, greasy sound and tough, terse songcraft to back up the bad-ass image. On his second album, They Call Me Cadillac, Randy Houser shows he’s bona fide and then some.  By the time the smoke clears and the dust settles, the world at large might finally give the up-and-coming country star his proper due as the Willie Nelson to cohort Jamey Johnson’s Waylon Jennings. Lately, you can’t look anywhere, from CMT to The New York Times, without seeing Jamey Johnson’s hirsute mug, but Houser’s been his partner in crime for a long while. The pair came up together, playing sets full of George Jones and Johnny Paycheck tunes in rowdy bars before breaking through as songwriters—they co-penned Trace Adkins’ monster 2005 hit “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”—and moving on to solo success.

Houser managed a Top 10 country single of his own straight of the gate with the raw, rockin’ “Boots On,” from his ’08 debut album, Anything Goes. But even though he was already showing off the kind of maverick, roughneck spirit that makes sane men climb on top of raging bulls and marry beauty-contest winners without signing a pre-nup, Houser hadn’t quite  reached his full potential yet.

There are no half-measures on Houser’s latest outing—They Call Me Cadillac. It marks his first recording for fellow country rebel Toby Keith’s label Show Dog, which was created expressly to give someone like Houser the opportunity to be his own butt-kicking self without holding anything back. “It’s the first time that I’ve had the most creative control to make the record I want to make,” Houser confesses. You can hear the rush of artistic freedom fueling his no-frills mix of outlaw country edge and classic honky-tonk heart throughout the album.

Houser tasted success from the fruits of his latest labors before Cadillac was even released when the redneck-pride Southern rock stomp “Whistlin’ Dixie” hit the country Top 40 back in February—the record’s first sneak-peek single. Now that the real, raw, uncensored Houser sound has been fully unleashed on the public, the burly, bearded man from Mississippi has been popping up on TV shows from Good Morning America to Jimmy Kimmel Live. Houser looks at his latest effort as “a more traditional country album…something that country folk like my friends and family in Lake, Mississippi—and lots of other places across the country—can relate to.”

He’ll be bringing his outlaw-as-he-wants-to-be sound all across the nation on tour with Gary Allan through late November. As his country-rocking Cadillac makes its way from state to state, he’ll be on a one-man mission to let fans from San Bernadino to Staten Island connect with their own inner rabble-rouser. Don’t be surprised if a pattern of barroom bust-ups happens to develop this fall along a route that seems oddly identical to Houser’s tour itinerary.


10/2 – Farmville, VA, Lankford Mall

10/7 – Toledo, OH, Huntington Center

10/8 – Erie, PA, Tullio Arena

10/9 – Detroit, MI, The Fillmore

10/17 – West Des Moines, IA, Val Air Ballroom

10/21 – Corpus Christi, TX, Concrete Street Amphitheatre

10/23 – Dallas, TX, Center

10/24 – Houston, TX, Sam Houston Raceway

10/26 – Laurel, MS, South Mississippi Fair

10/28 – Lincoln, NE, Pershing Center

10/29 – Popular Bluff, MO, Black River Coliseum

11/13 Bloomington, IN, Bluebird Nightclub

11/14 – Lake Elsinore, CA, Wagon Wheel Festival

11/18 – Atlanta, GA, Fox Theater

11/19 – Charlotte, NC, The Fillmore

11/20 – Myrtle Beach, House Of Blues

By Jim Allen

Jim Allen has contributed to a wide range of print and online outlets including, MOJO, Village Voice, Uncut,, iTunes, All Music Guide,, The Advocate, Prefix, Blurt and many more.


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