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Your Country’s Right Here: Scotty McCreery, Ricky Skaggs, Lauren Alaina and Others Add Country to Your Holidays

Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, Ricky Skaggs and Phil Vassar are just some of the country stars that are ready to brighten your holidays with their down-home music. Sure, you’re overwhelmed with all kinds of lists—shopping and otherwise—during this season but take a look at the stellar line up of artists offering you holiday-themed country music and enjoy.

Think of American Idol alums Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina as melodic bookends of the holidays. McCreery, who performed in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, is also featured in the Disney Christmas Day parade that will be televised on ABC. Find out when it will be aired in your area by going to the Disney Web site. Lauren Alaina will join other artists on American Country New Year’s Eve at 11 p.m. on December 31 on FOX. Find out more about the show on this Web site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Riffs, Rants & Rumors: From ‘Sunfield’ to ‘Citizen’ with Damien Youth

In the murky, mysterious world of musical cult heroes, terms like “well-kept secret,” “hidden treasure” and the like are as common as logorrheics in a debate club; they’ve become so ubiquitous that they lose all their impact. But few artists of the modern era have worn the mantle of the unsung underground genius with as much authority as Damien Youth. Singer/songwriter Youth grew up in Hammond, Louisiana, far from the major music-biz hubs, which enabled him to create his own weird little world from scratch, evolving his singular sensibilities on his own terms. Not that his work is without its influences—combing through his catalog, which stretches back to the mid ’80s, you’ll hear echoes of everything from David Bowie and Syd Barrett to Robyn Hitchcock and Bauhaus.

Youth has shunned the spotlight for the warm glow of an underground flame that he’s carefully tended through the decades, as he quietly amassed an awe-inspiringdiscography. Most of it was crafted DIY-style, under lo-fi circumstances with little or no assistance. And while it all sounds “of a piece,” with an undeniable artistic through-line, Damien’s albums touch variously on everything from folk to psychedelic pop to somewhat goth-tinged rock. Through it all, the Louisianan’s seemingly inexhaustible supply of evocative melodies and engrossing lyrics is always at the fore.

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Soundcheck: Will T.I. Take Back The Top Spot?

It’s been quite a year for T.I. An early prison release followed by a quick return to the slammer followed by another early release and ANOTHER turn around trip to prison before heading home to his beloved family, friends, fans—and film crew.

The self-proclaimed King of The South has had a tumultuous and somewhat ironic journey to the top and the bottom, and may now end up somewhere in the middle. T.I. first headed to prison on gun charges; but only after he filmed a reality special aimed at keeping kids out of trouble.  The next time he wound up in the hot seat, (this time for a parole violation) he conveniently saved a suicidal fan from jumping off a building by literally talking him off the ledge.  Upon his release, Tip wasted no time jumping back into the limelight. He has already filmed another reality show for BET, T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle, which started rolling the moment he stepped off the prison grounds.

He was greeted with open arms just days after his release at the BET Hip Hop Awards, where he kicked off the night’s festivities by hitting the stage for a performance of“I’m Flexin’” alongside Jeezy, spitting lyrics that described his current sentiments. “I been out of sigh been out of mind…another year of prison promise this is it for me trying to make It through the storm should be makin’ history. No feeling sorry keep your pity and your sympathy good or bad take it like a man whatever meant to be.”

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Metal Monday: 2011 Metal Christmas List

Christmas: a time in which little boys and girls ask ol’ Saint Nick to fulfill their wildest desires. Thankfully for Santa Claus, kids don’t really wish for that many outlandish things. Metalheads, however, have some pretty crazy wants. Even though Santa might not be real, we’re going to make ourselves a metal Christmas wish-list, just in case. Better safe than sorry, right?  Here’s what we want:

1. We want Wintersun to finally finish Time. Even if you’re not completely stoked about Wintersun, won’t it be nice to finally get rid of the “Wintersun never releasing Time” joke? We think so. Even if it turns out to be another Chinese Democracy, at least we’ll be done with it.

2. We want Metallica to just stop. We love the band and all, but they just aren’t what they used to be. St. Anger was an atrocity, Death Magnetic was better but not great, and Lulu was just painful (even if we sort of gave our thumbs up to them recording with Lou Reed). Just recently they released a B-sides EP from the Death Magnetic material, and it provides almost no hope.

Yeah, same guy who sang "Welcome To The Jungle"

3. We want Axl Rose to continue being a hilarious wreck. It’s sort of a cruel thing to wish for, but it’s just too entertaining seeing more and more clips of Axl Rose totally blowing it on stage. He’s probably still making bank, so what does he care?

4. We want Black Sabbath’s reunion to not suck. In the wake of Dio’s unfortunate passing (RIP), Ozzy and Sabbath have made plans to get back together and play some shows as well as record a new album. I know a lot of people are very cautiously optimistic about this. It’s no secret that Ozzy is a former shell of himself and the entire Sabbath crew is starting to really get up there in age… but it’s the original lineup! Count us in, since this is likely the last shot to see these legends play together. We just don’t want it to be really bad.

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Vocal Points: Mark Baxter Molds Voices

We’ve talked all about our favorite singers and the way that their voices shape the music industry, but these voices would be nothing without someone like renowned vocal therapist Mark Baxter to shape them. Baxter’s experience and insight about the human voice has helped thousands of singers, from superstars to up-and-coming singer-songwriters, attain the voices they desire. And now he’s been kind enough to share some of that insight with us. Check out what he had to say!

OS: How did you decide to become a vocal coach? What sort of training did you undergo in order to be qualified?

MB: It was a very gradual progression from performer to vocal therapist. I took voice lesons from several different teachers over the course of many years. I became curious and started asking doctors and sports therapists about physiology. As my voice improved other singers in my circuit took notice and asked for tips.

I continue to study all aspects of the voice through self-study and courses at the Harvard Medical School’s Continuing Education Program. I am also fortunate to have Dr. Steven Zeitels, who is an elite Otolaryngologist, as a mentor. I have found the medical community the best source for un-biased information about the physiology of the voice but my lengthy stage experience is what really qualifies me to work with other performing singers. Continue reading ‘Vocal Points: Mark Baxter Molds Voices’

Vs: 2011′s Biggest Beefs

All month long you’ve been bombarded with year-end lists ranking the best albums of the year, songs of the year and the like. Here at Vs., however, we decided to give you a more unique year-end list; the year’s biggest music beefs. Feuding musicians is nothing new to rock and roll, but the advent of the Internet and sites like Twitter give artists an easy platform to take shots at each other—and we get to watch it all happen in real time. So without further ado, the music world’s biggest beefs of 2011:

 

4. Bon Iver vs. The Avalanches


 

 

 

 

 

This one all started back in February, when The New York Times held an interview with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. There was an unpublished excerpt in the interview regarding the GRAMMYs, where Vernon called them “ridiculous” and “not important,” and also slammed any artist who was hoping to win a GRAMMY. But after Bon Iver was nominated for four GRAMMY awards, the unpublished excerpts leaked online. Electronic group The Avalanches took offense to these comments, especially since Vernon is appearing in ads for Bushmills whiskey. The band said via Twitter, “a musicians ‘art is compromised’ if he/she desires a grammy .but endor$ing a product with proven devastating health risks is ok? a product which kills 100k p/a in the US alone..man kids look up to you. #rememberwhenitwascoolNOTtosellout.” While the Avalanches do bring up some good points about the dangers of alcohol and how Vernon’s appearance in the ads might possibly affect the younger members of his fan base, their comments about selling out seem a bit over dramatic. With record sales dwindling it’s become common practice for indie artists to license their music for advertisements in order to make a living. Artists like The Black Keys, Vampire Weekend and countless others have done so in recent years while maintaining their artistic integrity. Our advice to the Avalanches? Quit trying to pick fights with other bands and finish your second album already! We’ve only been waiting eleven years….

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Sound And Vision: Strange Bedfellows — The Best of Music’s Unlikely Collaborations

“I get high with a little help from my friends,” Ringo Starr sang on the Beatles‘ 1967 classic. These days, so do many of music’s top stars. Two’s company, and so is three and sometimes four. The more the merrier, the higher and higher they get.

On the charts, that is.

In the Top 40 of Billboard’s Hot 100 for the week ending December 10, seventeen songs were collaborations between separate recording entities. Four of them featured Drake, and three apiece featured Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, who both appeared on tracks with Drake and with each other. But will.i.am featuring Jennifer Lopez and Mick Jagger—and debuting at No. 36 with “T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever),” which the threesome performed on the November 20 American Music Awards—was probably the one that nobody saw coming.

Old-school Rolling Stones fans must be cringing at the idea of Jagger going anywhere near Lopez and will.i.am so soon after Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera went to No. 1 by invoking his hallowed name on “Moves Like Jagger.” But for a sixty-something legend like him, hit records—even if in name only, a la Duck Sauce‘s GRAMMY-nominated “Barbra Streisand—are a near-impossible dream unless they’re in tandem with other, often younger, stars.

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The EditoriaList: Ten Interesting Backstories To Pop Songs

Ever wonder what that song is about? Here’s what these songs are about:

“Cry Me A River” – Justin Timberlake

The video Justin Timberlake made for his solo hit, featuring a familiar-looking blonde and a glimpse of a photo in an errant frame, did nothing to dispel theories that this track was about Britney Spears’ cheating ways. Goddam you, Britney, how could you?!

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Riffs, Rants & Rumors: 2011 in the Rearview Mirror

You didn’t think RR&R would torture you with anything as tedious as another year-end Best-of list, did you? Granted, we do have a piece in the works that will inform you of some excellent albums you might have missed along the way, but that’s as close as we’re willing to get. Instead, this time around we’ll simply take stock of both the magic moments and the missteps that the last twelve months have brought us—works that delivered delight and dismay in equal measure.

Old Punks Never Die


Wire – Red Barked Tree

As the original post-punk outfit, Wire has always lived or died by how well they balanced their arty side with their edgy side. Their discography isn’t without its share of miscalculations in that area, but thirty-four years down the line from their debut album, this one is right on the money.

Gang of Four – Content

The Gang were right on the heels of Wire in first-gen U.K. post-punk, and were just as groundbreaking, but their twenty-first century revitalization has been marred by some dodgy moves. First they re-recorded a batch of their classics on 2005′s Return the Gift, and then they made matters worse with this irksome outing, which is considerably more annoying than the output of the worst third-hand Go4 copyists.

Social Distortion  - Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes

True survivors, old-school SoCal punks Social Distortion have been through every rock & roll tribulation—death, drugs, you name it (How did VH1′s Behind the Music miss these guys?)—but not only are they still going strong, they added some extra bluesy swing and Stonesy swagger to their latest.
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Live Wired: The Best Apps For Concertgoers

Most weeks on Live Wired, we bring you our first-hand experiences at concerts from all different kinds of artists. This time around, we want to talk about all of the ways you can find out about the best shows in town and make your concert experience even better! Now there are a vast amount of Web sites that specifically target concertgoers, and a ton of these sites offer apps for your phone. For those of you with Smart phones, here are some of the best apps to fuel your passion for live music. Check them out!

First up is Songkick, a Web site that helps you track your favorite artists who are going on tour. From your phone, the app (which is free, by the way!) will scan your music library to get a sense of your musical tastes, and will also determine your location. This allows the app to work its magic and customize a schedule for you from their database of concerts across the country. You can even get alerts to your mobile device when a show is added, which you can then share with friends across other social networking sites. You can even create your own calendar to keep track of the events you have coming up.

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