Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
I would like to come up with a new measure to evaluate music. The listenability index. After all, that is what is most important. How good does it sound? Is it something that can be played over and over without repelling the listener? The index goes from one to 100, with 100 being the most listenable, and one being the least. Life Is Good On The Open Road gets a listenability index rating of 100. Yes, you read that right. I have listened to the entire album three times now and I have yet to find a part where I said to myself, “I would have phrased that differently.” I can’t find one flaw. And believe me, I tried. That’s what I do as a critic.  (more…)
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Reviewed by Bill Tokash
Hank. Buck and Don. Jimmie, George. Ray, Dolly. Tammy. Ira and Charlie. Dwight. Gram. Ralph. Loretta. These are country artists whose soulful vocal stylings strike me viscerally in an inexplicable way. Like when I hear George Jones sing “If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)” and I’m overwhelmed because I can feel every ounce of his pain in each syllable and note. Or when The Louvin Brothers sing When I Stop Dreaming and the very depth of the love they are expressing is palpable. I certainly wouldn’t go to bat arguing that Sarah Shook has a vocal range or capability on par with some of the greats. But I feel every gram of her heartbreak, impatience, regret, fierce determination, and newfound independence in her voice across the ten new songs on Years, her standout second release on Chicago’s Bloodshot Records.

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Reviewed by Bill Tokash
John Prine was my gateway drug to Twang Life. It took me awhile to finally get myself caught up in the Twang Life. One of my earliest musical memories was playing my dad’s Hank ‘45s on our pop-top record player. But it was the 70s, and Twang was Not Cool in my neighborhood. I kept my emerging addiction under wraps for years, awash in 70s arena rock, punk rock, and 80s and 90s college/indie rock. But the search for authentic ‘Twang Life’ music dominates most of what I look for and listen to nowadays.
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Reviewed by Bill Tokash
Chicago’s reputation as one of America’s great “melting pot” cities has always been partly a myth.  The true part is the incredible ethnic diversity. Per the 2010 Census, over 40 different languages were the primary language spoken across homes in Chicago neighborhoods. The myth part is the extent of the actual “melting” that occurs. Chicago sadly remains a segregated city, and its legendary neighborhoods have almost always had their identity tied to one predominant ethnicity.

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Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
If you are looking for your next honky tonk hero, I think I may have found him. His name is Jame Scott Bullard (JSB) and he is pure, 24 karat gold. Not only does JSB look the part, he has lived it. The songs all tell JSB’s story. He used to abuse alcohol and drugs, but now his energy is spent building and developing his art. He is very versatile as well. He can sing honky tonk, outlaw, punk, metal, and good old rock and roll. If JSB were a baseball player, he would be described as a “five tool player”. (more…)

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

Have you ever looked at a totally great music festival and thought to yourself, “I wish this was in my city”. Well, if you live in Baltimore, you can proudly state, “I have an amazing music festival right in my city”! If you don’t live in the Baltimore metro area, this is a festival worth hitting the road for. I am a bit embarrassed that I didn’t really pay attention sooner. This festival started in 2013, so it is still in its infancy. I can make up for lost time. (more…)

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Did you hear the story about the guy who has a voice like Bill Withers, the heart and soul of Hank Williams, and is a direct descendant of pioneer Davy Crockett? Well, that isn’t fiction, that is the real life tale of Charley Crockett. Charley really does have it all: good looks, style, charisma, and uber talent. This album is proof of that. Just look at the cover. The image is striking and tremendously eye catching. But don’t worry, this isn’t the case of just a pretty cover, this album rocks. 

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