Reviewed by Mae Hunt

Elijah Ocean’s latest album, Born Blue, is about as classic country as it gets. The catchy album is loaded with pedal steel, fiddle, electric guitars, and – of course – Ocean’s notable, twangy vocals. The outcome is a straight up country album inundated with (as Ocean acknowledges in his interview with us)Bakersfield influence. The Bakersfield sound, a subgenre of country developed in the 1950s, takes each song back to the roots of traditional country.

The album has many crowd pleasers, from The Ice Machine to Thirty Five, both of which I’ll touch on shortly. First, however, I want to talk about the standout title track, Born Blue. The song is downright fantastic – centered on a feeling of deep loneliness, but enveloped in an upbeat harmony. Ocean sings, “Ever since I learned to crawl I’ve had a lonesome feeling deep inside.” He takes a sad feeling, straps on some electric guitar, steel pedal, and twangy vocals, and creates an overwhelmingly catchy tune. 

Another top song, perhaps my favorite on the album, is The Ice Machine. Slow and apologetic, this unique tune matches the unique situation described in the song – a man confides in an ice machine about cheating with a woman down the hall. It’s a creative take on a common trope in music today. 

While Ocean doesn’t shy away from the difficult feelings of loneliness and abandonment, he offers plenty of cheerful, even comical, tracks as well. Living to Love You throws listeners into a tidal wave of fiddle, banjo, and guitars and shares the tale of a man hopelessly in love. The romance genre prevails in the final song of the album, The Long Haul. This song reveals a sensitive side of Ocean, who sings in his classic southern drawl, “Honey, I will always be your man…”

Finally, Ocean doesn’t neglect humor (albeit sometimes dark). Another fan favorite, Thirty Five, is an upbeat song about staying up too late and acting too young. This song tells the story of someone who takes his gambling habit too far, only to awake the next morning with an empty pocket and a harrowing hangover. The Writing on the Wall is about mistakenly spending the night flirting with a woman who turns out to be a prostitute. 

The album truly has something for everyone. Other hits include Honky Tonk Hole and In a Perfect World, both classic country. And while this album leans heavily on the traditional side of country, Ocean said he’s going for a “different vibe” on his next album by pulling rhythms from other genres. If you’re interested in what Elijah Ocean has in store next, follow along Ocean’s journey at elijahocean.com and elijahocean.bandcamp.com

Interview by Harry Kaplan

Twangri-La got a chance to spend some quality time with Elijah Ocean and speak about his latest album, Born Blue, released on August 13, 2021. Born Blue is a pretty straight ahead, traditional country record heavily fortified with the Bakersfield Sound. Elijah also discussed the record making process, touring, and working with other artists. Read more to find out what is on his mind. You can listen to and buy Born Blue here.

Twangri-La (TL): I want to congratulate you on your new album, Born Blue.

Elijah Ocean (EO): Thank you.

TL: I’ve had a chance to listen and it’s 100 percent authentic country—definitely captured that Bakersfield sound.

EO: That sound has been a huge influence on me, for sure, over the last bunch of years. I dove pretty heavily into that.

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Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

Jenny Don’t And The Spurs have been hitting the trail since 2012. Nine years to get warmed up, but they are just getting started. They recently embarked on a tour opening for Charley Crockett. This is a perfect example of seasoned punk rockers who inevitably venture into the world of country music. This is the natural progression. The honesty and rawness is still there, it’s just some of the untamed aggression has been quelled. That is the case for Jenny Don’t And The Spurs, who were created out of the Portland, Oregon punk community. Just to review, this is pure country music, folks. From the slow crooners to the upbeat, fast paced numbers, Jenny and company are on the case. Playin’ country music the way it was meant to be played, with 100% conviction and honesty.

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Reviewed by: Mae Hunt

Kyle Lalone buckled down during quarantine to cultivate his recently released album, Looking for the Good. Last year, I reviewed Lalone’s 2020 EP, Somewhere in Between, and referred to it as the epitome of classic country music. Well folks, he has done it again! The album, produced and mixed by Elijah Ocean, is chock-full of rock, funk, and of course, that classic country twang that Lalone so naturally creates.

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Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

There shouldn’t be any doubt about who released this album. I think the title leaves little doubt as to who the artist is. I kid. Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan is Aaron’s fifth full length release and shows some serious growth related to recording, composing, and arranging. Although Aaron is known primarily as a live musician, and rightfully so, he is becoming very adept at working in the studio. Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! is a difficult album to describe as far as genres go. His influences are broad and you get little glimpses of those influences throughout the album. Some of the names that come to mind include The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, T Rex, and Tom Petty. Aaron is able to use synthesis, or the combination of ideas and influences, to create something unique to him and his music. And it works extremely well.

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Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

The Rev. and his “big band” are at it again with a release that sounds like it was written about 50 years ago in the heart of the Delta. The man who is front porch trained, along with his two partners, Breezy and Max released their 10th album. It is said the third time is the charm, but maybe it is really the tenth time because this album is totally enchanting. The title, Dance Songs For Hard Times. is certainly timely and appropriate. They are continually creating their own brand of blues and rock and roll. All things old are new again. And that’s fine with me because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The good thing is that the band is constantly changing and evolving. This album is the culmination of years of playing, practicing, and trial and error. They know what works and they get every drop of value out of it.

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Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

Most people, when they think of a state that produces a lot of popular musicians, would mention states like New York or California. It’s time to rethink that. I am going to throw Michigan in the mix. Let’s not forget, Motown was started in Detroit and most of the early stars were from Michigan. Motown aside, the musical influencers from Michigan are all over the place. Of course there are The Stooges and the MC5, but let’s not forget one of the greatest guitar players of all time, Bill Kirchen. And, Bill went to the same high school as Iggy Pop (James Osterberg) and Bob Seger. So Michigan is pretty dense with game changing bands and musicians. It just so happens that Jeremy Porter And The Tucos are from none other than Detroit, Michigan. And they definitely learned a lot from those that came before them. Once in a while, you can hear a Stooges riff or a little bit of Iggy styling, and I love that. There are enough differences in the music that the similarities stand out more.

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A Fish of Earth defies the conventions of today’s music by forgoing traditional genres and embracing the contemplative, even meditative, art of storytelling. Emily Brown, a California-based singer-songwriter, exhibits undeniable talent in her poetic and conversational lyrics that depict realities of womanhood, faith, and individualism. Definitely the most unique album I have listened to, A Fish of Earth opens the gate to a new reality of music that is offbeat and fearless!

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From the Arden Studio Benefit Presented by In.Live on January 24, 2020. Pictured Clockwise: Audley Freed, Jody Stephens, Sadler Vaden, and Tom Peterson.

Twangrila: So welcome, David.

David Simon: Thank you.

TL: Can you please explain what In.Live (pronounced In Dot Live) is and what it does?

DS: Sure. In.Live is an integrated ticketing and live streaming platform that allows anybody to create a live stream and sell access to it. And we have developed it in such a way that it really meets the needs of both independent artists and individuals, but also larger artists that are managed. Also, we can work in larger venues, with larger teams as they create their productions. And so the platform itself is designed to meet all of those needs.

TL: So it’s very scalable is what you’re telling me.

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Photo courtesy of Jim Weber/Daily Memphian

This was more like a conversation than an interview. As you will see from the dialogue, the communication was great and the topics sort of developed organically. Jody discusses the benefit that was on January 24, 2021 for St. Jude’s Hospital and Church Health. This event was put on by In.Live at their own expense. Both charities have far reaching footprints, but they are both domiciled in Memphis, Tennessee where Jody is a life long resident. He really embodies the slogan, “Think globally, act locally”. Jody also discusses his new band, Those Pretty Wrongs, his former band, Big Star, and his work at Ardent Studios since 1987. He even threw out the possibility of a 50th anniversary event for #1 Record. Fingers crossed!

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