With 14 top ten hits on Texas radio, it’s safe to say that Rich O’Toole knows where to call home. But like any multi-dimensional artist, especially those with one million plays on Spotify and over 1,000 full band shows performed throughout the US, including opening slots for Willie Nelson and the Josh Abbott Band, this Houston and College Station native is always looking to challenge himself and spread his wings just a little bit more. Presently, Rich O’Toole has planted his country-rock sound in Los Angeles, where he penned his latest album, Jaded. Although the city may be an unexpected spot for a man with a killer collection of cowboy boots, it has quickly fallen under the spell of Rich’s sweet Southern charm coupled with his high-energy, heartfelt rock shows.
Jaded, Rich’s fifth studio album, released in June 2014 on PTO Records. It was recorded in Nashville at Benchmark Studios and produced by Rich, Ilya Toshinsky and Mack Damon. Billy Decker, who has had 14 #1 hits in Country music, mixed the album. Jaded showcases a more mature sound compared to Rich’s previous four albums, but proves once again that he is an open book and true salt of the earth. The album also captures Rich’s mantra of always having an honest, heartfelt dialogue with fans. The vulnerability that Rich weaves into his lyrics shows that he is not afraid to bare his heart and keep a close, personal relationship with those around him. Covering topics such as dating, heartbreak and family, his stories invite us to tap into our own hearts. At the same time, however, Rich’s melodies give life to his fun, playful demeanor, creating songs that turn his sensitive lyrics into upbeat anthems.
The album’s title-track, “Jaded,” was written with Rich’s buddy, actor Evan Gamble, when the two escaped to Palm Springs to ride out the painful sense of defeat they felt after enduring similar breakups. “Take My Heart” may also resonate with urban-living men and women as it addresses the difficulty of moving on and finding love in the vast, and sometimes lonely, city of Los Angeles. Rich’s personal favorite on the album, “Uncle Hank,” was written with Chris Monteverde and Suzi Cochran, the nephew and widow of the late-songwriting legend, Hank Cochran, who wrote hits for George Strait, Willie Nelsen and Patsy Cline among others. The song, written in Hank’s home in Nashville, marks a tribute to his music, utilizing Hank’s famous song titles to recount a story of past love.
This fall, Rich O’Toole will embark on a US tour and release the official music video for “Jaded,” directed by Oden Roberts, whose movie, A Fighting Season, comes out next year. The video was shot in Joshua Tree and Pioneertown, California and simply yet beautifully illustrates the story that Rich and Evan penned.
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The story of Midnight River Choir is proof that sometimes great bands just happen. One night, four strangers ended up on a late night float trip down the Guadalupe River. As they made their way down the river singing songs, the beautiful harmonies floated into the heads of sleeping campers. The next morning, the boys overheard a man telling a friend that he was “awakened by a midnight river choir.” That was all it took. Eric Middleton (lead singer and guitarist), Justin Nelson (lead guitarist), Jeromy Yager (former bassist), and Mitchell Pyeatt (drummer), realized the magic of their combined talents and began writing and performing together under that River-God given name.
The formation of Midnight River Choir was nothing short of a force of nature that now translates seamlessly during their live shows. This band needs no labels or comparisons. Their music speaks volumes about who and what they are. Their lives have been woven together by a strong thread of energy both on and off stage. That energy is raw and natural and soaked up from the earth through their bare feet. They believe that what you get is what you give and they give everything they have to their crowds. When that kind of energy lands back at the feet of the boys it is something of supreme intensity. And no one ever forgets it.
We Texans are a proud bunch. We have our own state bird, state flower, and – believe it or not – our very own dinosaur, the Pleuroccelus.
We also can brag about our very own State Musician. Since the 1970s. this country music icon has shared his love of everything Texas in dance halls and concert stages around the world, to the point that he was named Ambassador of Texas Music by the governor.
For more than 40 years, Gary P. Nunn has sung the praises of our state, and his latest album “Taking Texas To The Country” paints a picture of Texas that proves that Nunn is a master craftsman.
Positive responses are no accident. Nunn, a founding father of the progressive country movement, is also a forward thinker when it comes to choosing songs to record. His secret? The folks who scoot their boots across the dance floor each night.
Called a pioneer by his peers, Nunn ha never been afraid of blazing new music paths, a fact noticed and admired by Red Dirt and Texas musicians.”I think they’ve learned from me that they can do it themselves” said Nunn. ” I was one of the first people to make an independetly-produced record. I started a publishing company and a production company along with a independent label.
Being able to cut trugh a major mountain of red tape is now an opportunity for Nunn to get his songs to audiences quickly.
Who would have ever anticipated the way our business is now, and how it’s changed so much through the years, Nunn said. Today we have a new standard. The great thing about iTunes is that we don’t have to have the approval of the major record labels to get radio play or even to make record sales. We can go directly to our audience.
Nunn’s fans understand, his music is a good fit, and they put it to good use. “Once I had a couple coming to me and say that when their son graduated high school and was living home the first time, they sat him down and played “Under My Hat”. It’s a song sort of like a father giving his son some good advice. They told him, were gonna leave you with this before you go out into the world”.
“One of the things that really touches my heart, is to think that folks can use some of these songs to pass on to their children as good positive advice – something they can take with them for there entire life.
With honest and personal lyrics, William Clark Green’s music lures-in and relates his audience to real-life inspiration. Growing up in small-town Flint, Texas, Will started writing at thirteen. After some practice and encouragement, Will opened for The Dragliners in College Station. However, being only fourteen at the time, he forgot almost all the lyrics to his diligently-rehearsed show. But, with free guitar lessons at his hometown church and local shows, Will became more confident and prepared for larger venues. As a freshman at Texas Tech, Green got the chance to play the Monday-night spot at Recovery Room, eventually working his way up to the headlining show on Thursday nights. Friend and fellow songwriter Josh Abbott helped Green get his foot in the door at Blue Light in Lubbock, Texas. After playing many acoustic shows, Green started a band and recorded his first CD, “Dangerous Man,” that released September 18, 2008. Will continues to play shows frequently across Texas with his band
Native Texan turned Nashville songwriter Ross Cooper is set to release his second independent LP Give It TIme in January, 2014. When it comes to genre lines, they are unapologetically blurred. Elements of traditional country, rock and roll, and Americana combined with thoughtful lyrics and stories create the foundation for Cooper’s folky release.
Recorded and produced by Jon Taylor at Mount Vernon Studios in Lubbock, TX, Give It Time features 11 brand new tracks highlighting Cooper’s songwriting and style. “Jon Taylor knows my music probably better than anyone else and he knows how to be creative in building moments within a song. From a production standpoint, he provides the method to the madness,” says Cooper.
Give It Time offers an array of sound and style. The title track highlights Cooper’s songwriting and poetic voice while telecaster tones usher in a folk rock side familiar throughout the album while songs such as, Don’t Remember and Witches present a softer side of the album’s dynamic range. Cooper calls this effort his “proudest project”.
Ross Cooper is currently playing shows throughout the Southwest while awaiting his approaching release.
For nearly a decade, American Aquarium have spent the majority of their days on the road, burning through a sprawl of highways during the day and playing hours of raw, rootsy rock & roll at night. Sometimes, the job is a grind. Most times, it’s a blessing. American Aquarium’s songs, filled with biographical lyrics about last calls, lost love and long horizons, have always explored both sides of that divide. For every drunken night at the bar, there’s a hangover in the morning. For every new relationship, there’s the chance of a broken heart. It’s that kind of honesty — that sort of balance — that makes the band’s newest album, Wolves, their strongest release to date.
And it nearly didn’t happen. When American Aquarium traveled to Muscle Shoals to record Burn.Flicker.Die. in 2012, they were convinced the album would be their last. Even though they had enlisted the help of award-winning singer-songwriter Jason Isbell to produce the sessions, they were exhausted; weathered and whittled to the bone by more than a half-decade of heavy partying and heavier touring. To a small group of diehard fans, they were absolute rockstars… but being rockstars to a cult audience doesn’t always put food on your table or gas in your tank. BJ Barham, the band’s frontman, was so poor that he’d been living out of a storage unit for months, unable to afford an apartment in the band’s hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Clearly, something had to give. Maybe it was time to make one final album — an album about failure, desperation and disillusionment — and then throw in the towel.
As fate would have it, Burn.Flicker.Die. eventually proved itself to be the band’s most successful release to date. Critics loved it. Fans rallied behind it. Fast forward 2 years and almost 500 shows later, the band has travelled the world, quadrupled their fan base and reinvented their passion for the road. When the time came to record another album in June 2014, it only made sense to do something that celebrated survival rather than failure.
The result? Wolves, which Barham describes as “the sound of a band firing on all cylinders”. Produced by Megafaun’s Brad Cook and recorded during a 20-day stay at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, NC, Wolves was funded entirely by American Aquarium’s diehard fanbase. The album’s 10 tracks represent a departure from the band’s signature twang. Instead drawing more from the alternative rock sound that inspired their name almost a decade ago. Wolves blends the twang of the pedal steel with the dark, dirty swirl of two electric guitars, creating a sound that’s fit for the roadhouse, the honky tonk and the dive bar. Barham has certainly spent time in all three, but now looks to brighter horizons in these new songs.
“I’ve always written about being the drunk guy at the bar at 2 a.m.,” he admits. “I’ve written about the pick-up lines and the drinking and the drugs. This record is more personal than that. It’s a coming of age record.”
It’s also a record that reaffirms his faith in American Aquarium, a band he started in 2006. Since that time, more than 25 musicians have passed through the group’s ranks. In recent years though, things have felt a lot more stable. Ryan Johnson, Bill Corbin, Whit Wright, Kevin McClain and the newest addition, Colin Dimeo, round out the group, turning Barham’s songs into fiery, fleshed-out compositions.
With Wolves, which hits stores February 3, 2015, American Aquarium is literally bigger and better.
“We were legitimized by Burn.Flicker.Die.,” Barham says. “That album was a breakup record with the road. It basically said, ‘This is our last album, this is why we’re quitting, and hey, thanks for the memories.’ Fast-forward to 2014, though, and we’re making a new record that says, ‘We ain’t done yet.'”
True to her Texas honky-tonk roots, Sunny Sweeney has never been a singer of what you’d call “soft” country songs — the kind you might turn to for easy comfort and or quiet Sunday afternoons with the family. Hell, you can tell just by the titles of her first two albums — Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame and Concrete — that she reaches straight for the hard stuff. So when this woman sees fit to name her third album Provoked, you better believe she’s not about to start playing coy now. No, this is where the real hurtin’ starts, and Sweeney’s showing no mercy … least of all to herself.
“I’ve been through a lot in the last few years, good and bad, and this record is me for the first time actually coming to grips with the mistakes that I’ve made,” says Sweeney. “And I have made a lot of mistakes. I was hell-bent that this album was going to tell that story.”
Striking a chord on a grand scale, native Texan Breelan Angel landed on the country music scene in true Lone Star fashion; launching independent label, MisBhavin’ Records, she released three singles (all of which have impacted the MusicRow Country Breakout Chart), and released her debut album, “Dirty Little Secrets,” to much critical acclaim on June 24th.
Breelan’s anthemic debut, “It’s My Turn,” sealed her spot as “One To Watch” (CMA Close-up) and, hot on its heels, she wasted no time in getting her sophomore effort, “Halfway To Wasted,” out to fans and radio. Celebrating as it soared to the Top 40 (MusicRow) and Top 50 (Billboard Indicator) spots on national charts, the heartfelt and emotionally charged tune earned the praises of critics and fans alike (Robert K. Oermann of MusicRow recognized it with a “Discovery Award” honor). Breelan’s third radio single, “Double Standards,” is quickening its pace as it climbs the charts.
Armed with Texas-gal determination, and a “steel magnolia” personality, Breelan has carved a niche and discovered her true style for both songwriting and performing. Teaming up with hit songwriters in Nashville she has collaborated with A-list luminaries such as Clay Mills (“Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” “Fall”), Rachel Thibodeau (“Good Directions,” “Love Don’t Run”), Shane Stevens (“American Honey”), Bernie Nelson (“Daddy Never Was the Cadillac Kind”), Marty Dodson (“Must Be Doin’ Something Right”), Larry Weiss (“Rhinestone Cowboy”), Greg Barnhill (“Walkaway Joe”) and many others.
Showcasing a wide range of talents, Breelan recorded “Dirty Little Secrets” with Emmy-award winner Ray Barnette (Billy Dean). Leaving no experience untouched, she shows off a fiery take on love and life providing a fresh sound in a scene where good girls are flaunting independence, living unrehearsed and unplanned. Staying true to her style, “Double Standards,” continues this theme with an up-tempo beat and a tongue-in-cheek delivery that tackles the stereotypical boundaries women must live up to in love, life and business in today’s society.
As a performer, Breelan has played some of the finest venues including Houston’s House of Blues, Firehouse Saloon, Hard Rock Café, and Mucky Duck. She has also played Stafford Centre (Stafford), Rowdy Buck’s (Crosby), Freiheit Country Store (New Braunfels), The Chute (Baytown), Wormy Dog (Oklahoma City), Island View Casino (Gulfport, Miss.), and The National Underground (Nashville). Special events include Crosby Fair & Rodeo, Lone Star Rally, Galveston County Fair, Whiskey & Wine, Girls With Guitars and Pinktober with KILT and Farmer’s Branch Liberty Fest. Debut performances in 2014 at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo World’s Championship BBQ Cook-off, and on the famed stage of Nashville’s Bluebird Café, have allowed Breelan to achieve many of the goals she has set for herself.
Quickly becoming a regular on the tour circuit, Breelan’s tour schedule has included shows with some of today’s hottest acts including Joe Nichols, Easton Corbin, Chris Cagle, Kevin Fowler, Randy Rogers, Cody Johnson, and legendary artists Loretta Lynn, Don Williams, Travis Tritt and Doug Stone.
Breelan Angel is making big moves as she brings her exciting blend of music to life. Showing off originality in songwriting and performing, she blends just the amount of southern charm with modern country rock and her spirited attitude are front and center when she and her band take the stage.
Despite being on the cusp of exceptional achievement for someone so young (having recently been named one of “The Best Things We Saw at CMA Music Fest 2014” by Rolling Stone) Bryant sees little difference between himself and the audience. “We’re all fans,” he says. “We’re all friends. And the music is our connection. To me, it’s a lifelong relationship and we’ll all get where we’re going together. That’s the beauty of music. This is the first chapter of my book, and I think people will find it defines where they’re at just as much as it defines where I’m at — because we’re the same – I’m just the guy with the guitar. If I wasn’t, I’d be the guy on the front row with his arm around his girl raising a glass to the guy onstage. No question. It’s just who I am. Music is everything.”
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