Lauren Alaina, “Barefoot and Buckwild” – Single Review


Lauren Alaina is all grown up.

She's no longer that precocious 15-year-old that auditioned for American Idol in front of Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez and stole our hearts with her child-like charm and youthful glow.

No, that Lauren is gone. The 18-year-old performer that took the Idol stage on Thursday (May 9) is a grown woman with ambition, drive and passion for making music. As evidenced by her new-found performance skills, she's confidently poised with enough sass to set the local barn on fire.

With her new single "Barefoot and Buckwild," she's out to score her first radio hit, channeling her contemporaries Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. Instead of clutching onto the past and trying to make her old image work (as found on her 2011 debut Wildflower), Lauren has evolved into a mature and worthy contender for the next generation of female vocalists.


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Natalie Maines, ‘Mother’ – Album Review


Natalie Maines might have shed her mainstream Country appeal, but her new album Mother is just as raw and fearless as anything she ever did with the Dixie Chicks. In fact, her breathtaking and bold choices on the short 10-track collection is her best work to-date. As primarily a covers album, she takes noticeable liberties with melody, arrangement and vocal delivery, showering her believable conviction on top of already elevated lyrics.

First off, you have to head into this project fully knowing that you are about to experience something completely different than what the original recordings did.


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Exclusive Interview: The Band Perry talks Outnumber Hunger campaign, weirdest fan interaction and inspiration behind “Pioneer” album title


The Band Perry is the biggest group in Country music right now.

Hot off the success of their No. 1 album Pioneer, Kimberly, Reid and Neil are out on the road with fellow musicians Rascal Flatts, bringing their Southern Gothic charm and sharp storytelling to the masses.

I recently had a chance to chat with the trio about their partnership with Outnumber Hunger, a non-profit organization poised to shed light on the growing devastation of hunger in the U.S., as well as their latest record, weirdest fan interaction and what a normal hair-care routine entails, and more.


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Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood being sued over their #1 hit “Remind Me”


Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley are the latest victims of a bogus songwriting suit.

This time around, Dallas-based Amy Bowen is claiming Carrie and Brad's 2011 No. 1 hit "Remind Me" is actually hers.The singer-songwriter, who once lived in Nashville and performed under the name Lizza Connor, says she wrote the song in 2007, according to The Nashville City Paper.

Brad and Carrie's version was penned by Brad, Kelley Lovelace and Chris Dubois.


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Chris Young, “Aw Naw” – Single Review


Chris Young is one of the best male vocalists in contemporary Country music.

For the man who brought us the stellar "The Man I Want to Be" and the sensational "Tomorrow" (among countless album cuts that never saw the light of day), I'm rather perplexed on his laundry-list, yee-haw attempt with "Aw Naw."

I suppose I should have expected him to throw his cowboy hat-wearing self into the ring. This is the kind of song the leading men of Nashville are expected to release these days. Take a look to Jason Aldean's "1994" and Blake Shelton's "Boys 'Round Here," as examples. If this were a female releasing a song like this, it just wouldn't fly in any way, shape or form. (Anyone remember Gretchen Wilson?) However, because Chris is a charming 20-something, he gets a free pass. I digress.

The production is, perhaps, the best thing about this track.


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Westboro Baptist Church pickets Carrie Underwood concert and George Jones’ funeral


Typically, I wouldn't give Westboro Baptist Church the time of day. However, considering the world we live in now (and in light of the recent bombing in Boston), it's a necessary conversation to keep having. We all need to understand what's going on in our own backyards.

It's all about love, people.

Carrie Underwood performed a show tonight (May 1) at the Spring Center in Kansas City, Mo. All was set to go off without a hitch…until the poster-carrying extremists took the streets outside of the arena to promote their hate-filled speech. This time around they carried signs emblazoned with such words as "Gods H8s Whores" and "Christians Caused Fag Marriage." Honestly, it can't get much worse, especially for someone like Carrie who believes in love and treating your fellow man with unconditional kindness.

I suppose this was bound to happen, considering Carrie's remarks last summer during an interview in the UK.


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Hunter Hayes teaches how to handle long distance relationships in new “I Want Crazy” music video

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Hunter Hayes is quite the charmer.

The 21-year-old singer-songwriter has officially released the music video for "I Want Crazy," the lead offering from his forthcoming Hunter Hayes deluxe edition set. As the followup to 2011's Atlantic Records debut, the new album will feature seven new songs, as well as re-recorded cuts from his first album as duets. Ashley Monroe and Jason Mraz have already been confirmed for the album

In the new music video, Hunter teaches us all a valuable lesson about how to handle long distance relationships. Yes, it involves doing crazy things for love, including booking a late night flight all the way across country. 

"I finally get to talk about. It's one of those things…it wasn't something we had been planning," he says of new Country-pop single. "This is a song I wrote not too long ago. The funny thing with 'I Want Crazy' is [it was] part of the debut record, but it wasn't written or recorded with the debut record."


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Blake Shelton wags his finger at mainstream with “Country on the Radio” performance

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Blake Shelton recently dropped his seventh full-length studio album, Based on a True Story…, a collection jam-packed with redneck laundry lists and infectious melodies, dipped in his Southern charm. The 36-year-old singer performed one of his favorite tracks from the new record in a live session last week, a song titled "Country on the Radio," pointing out the faults of the mainstream. Many songs, particularly from the genre's leading men, often chronicle small-town life in worn-out cliches and tired images of cold beer, pickup trucks and scantily-clad women.

Perhaps, that's the point.

Blake himself often deep dives into such thematic material, including on his current radio offering "Boys 'Round Here." Featuring his wife Miranda Lambert's outlaw trio Pistol Annies, the boisterous, anthemic track is a prime example of what Shelton wags his finger at on "Country on the Radio."

"Yea the boys 'round here, drinking that ice cold beer, talkin' 'bout girls, talkin' 'bout trucks, tunnin' them red dirt roads out, kicking up dust," he bellows on the chorus. "The boys 'round here, sending up a prayer to the man upstairs, backwoods legit, don't take no sh**, chew tobacco, chew tobacco, chew tobacco, spit."


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Carrie Underwood viciously attacked (again) by TN State Representative Andy Holt: ‘She’s absolutely out in left field’

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Oh, boy. The water is boiling over.

Earlier this week, we reported that Carrie Underwood was getting the Dixie Chicks treatment in regards to her support of animal rights and her outspoken outrage of the Ag-Gag bill, which has now passed both chambers of Tennessee legislature. It sits on the desk of Governor Bill Haslam to be signed into law.

To recap: When the bill passed late last week, Underwood tweeted her disgust, "Shame on TN lawmakers for passing the Ag Gag bill. If Gov. Bill Haslam signs this, he needs to expect me at his front door. Who's with me?"

Immediately, this sparked an even more heated debate. TN State Representative Andy Holt caught wind of her tweet, sending a little message of his own, "Carrie Underwood, have you read the bill? I assume not.  You are only going off your HSUS talking points. Use logic, not emotion."

Later, in an interview with WSMV Nashville, Holt blasted Carrie, telling her to "stick to singing."

To which Underwood replied, "I should stick to singing? Wow…sorry, I'm just a tax paying citizen concerned for the safety of my family."

Well, in a brand new interview with The Weakley County Press, Holt declares his stance (again) on the issues and vows not to back down. He even takes his vicious shots at Carrie even further.


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Artist Spotlight: Two Story Road

Two Story Road might not be a household name yet, but it will be soon enough.

Comprised of Brandon and Jamelle Fraley (husband and wife), TSR combines the pop-sheen of Thompson Square with the folk sensibilities of The Band Perry. On songs like "Pull That Trigger" and "Better When You're Home," this rising duo further channels Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Martina McBride and Rascal Flatts in a refreshing, new twist. The conviction with which they sing can't be taught. They are heartfelt, honest and sharp in their lyricism.

With a more polished edge, Brandon and Jamie possess an ethereal charm and potential for massive crossover appeal. With the Country duo category rather sparse (save for Thompson Square and Florida Georgia Line), TSR could fill an ever-present void. Sure, there are also Sugarland, Big & Rich and Love & Theft, but these latter pairings have failed to make a lasting impression over the past year.

In case you don't know, Jamelle is Carrie's former backup singer. She toured with the superstar from 2008 till the fall of 2012 on all three of Carrie's headlining tours. Likewise, Brandon has an impressive resume, too. He's served as Danny Gokey's bandleader and has toured with Gretchen Wilson. I recently caught up with the budding duo about their ambitions, upcoming studio album and working with Carrie.


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Carrie Underwood is Getting the Dixie Chicks Treatment: Shut Up and Sing


Well, sort of.

Country superstar Carrie Underwood has never been an outspoken political activist. In fact, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that she even whispered a word about any of her own affiliations. However, as fans know, animal rights is a cause near and dear to  her heart. Over the years, Carrie has showed her undying support for such causes as the Humane Society of the United States. In 2009, her gorgeous cover of Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” was  featured on American Idol as that year’s exit song, and the single’s proceeds were donated to specific organization causes. Of course, the US Sportsmen’s Alliance tried to spin this act of kindness into an attack on hunting. Later, this issue resurfaced in 2011 when “rodeo interests (including PBR bullrider Austin Meier) tried to start a boycott of Carrie’s music based on the false claim that Carrie’s donation was meant to end rodeos,” according to Mjsbigblog.


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Eric Church ‘Like Jesus Does’ Single & Video Review


The fifth (and I’m guessing final) single from Eric Church’s
award-winning (and chart staying – still #10 this week) 2011 release ‘Chief’ is
‘Like Jesus Does’. I was surprised to hear this as it’s not the most commercial
song in the world, being a quiet ballad that doesn’t try to intrude upon your
life if you don’t want it too. It’s easily ignored.

But that’s almost the beauty of it. Previously, the other
singles from ‘Chief’ have been fairly upbeat and rock-infused, for example
‘Drink In My Hand’, ‘Creepin’’ and ‘Homeboy’. ‘Springsteen’ is perhaps an
exception at times but the chorus sells it on a mass scale. ‘Like Jesus Does’
however, waits for you to come to it – it doesn’t shout you down and demand
attention. In this way it intrigues me more, because its understated nature is
perfect for the deep and thoughtful lyrics. It is a song of thanks,
essentially; of how the narrator’s wife/partner loves him so unconditionally it
is almost akin to the love Jesus has for him. That’s a powerful metaphor for
love if ever I saw it. It doesn’t get bigger than that.

As I watched the new video for it on YouTube, I read the
usually juvenile comments that actually raised an interesting point. People
were pointing out their religious beliefs in reference to the song, for example
atheists saying that they still loved the song despite not believing in Jesus.
And I think that’s a valid point. From the title one would assume that it is a
spiritual song, but it rather is a commentary on true love, and even if someone
does not believe in Jesus, they can appreciate the sentiment with just a casual
knowledge of the basics of Christianity. It is universal songs like this that
are often the most successful.


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