News And Notes

All posts in "New Artist Spotlight"

Feb 20

CMA Close Up New Artist Spotlight: Parmalee

Parmalee

Photo courtesy of Dashboard Media.

By Bob Doerschuk

© 2014 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

A Southern rock patrimony, dues paid in church gigs, a player too drunk to pick, and a late-night gunfight: Parmalee’s Country pedigree is as real as it gets.

Brothers Matt and Scott Thomas tagged along on their father’s blues/rock band gigs around Greenville, N.C. Soon they started playing on their own, joined by their cousin Barry Knox, a church choir drummer. After their dad’s inebriated guitar player failed to appear for a show, Matt took his place, with Scott assuming the drum chair and Barry switching to bass. When guitarist and keyboard player Josh McSwain came onboard, Parmalee was born.

Their road led eventually to Nashville — specifically, to a parking lot on Demonbreun Street, where they lived in their RV for a month of intensive writing and demo recording. Even the 2010 flood didn’t stop them, but a bullet almost did: After a North Carolina show in September 2010, Scott suffered a near-fatal wound during a robbery attempt. (He did, however, kill one of his assailants with his own legal weapon.) Ten days in a coma and 35 days of hospitalization were his first steps toward recovery, which culminated in his rejoining the band to audition successfully for Stoney Creek Records. Continue Reading

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Posted at 10:23 am | Permalink
Feb 5

New Artist Spotlight: Eric Paslay

Eric Paslay

Eric Paslay photo by Eric Adkins, courtesy of the CMA.

By Bob Doerschuk

© 2014 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

Eric Paslay’s story is familiar, from his upbringing in Waco and Temple through his gigs on the Lone Star circuit and inevitable move to Nashville.

Eventually hired by Cal IV Publishing, the tall Texas redhead penned several hits. He won CMA’s coveted Triple Play Award for writing or co-writing three songs that hit No. 1 in 2012: “Angel Eyes,” “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” which also was honored as ASCAP’s Country Song of the Year. Impressive, but not unique … yet.

The epiphany comes with his self-titled inaugural album, released Feb. 4 on EMI Records Nashville. Produced by Marshall Altman and Daniel Hill/Billy Lynn, its 11 tracks reflect the strength of this young artist’s work. Compositionally, he cultivates simplicity. Many of his verses cycle just three or even two chords. “Country Side of Heaven” (Paslay, Dylan Altman and Shane McAnally) hangs entirely on the I and V. But on that track, Paslay’s organic dynamics, his inspiring vocals and especially his ability to conjure compelling images enrich both his sound and his story. Continue Reading

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Posted at 11:47 am | Permalink
Jan 9

New Artist Spotlight: Kayla Calabrese

New Artist Spotlight: Kayla Calabrese

Kayla Calabrese photo courtesy of the CMA.

By Bob Doerschuk

© 2014 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

You can thank the CVS drugstore chain for getting Kayla Calabrese excited about Country Music. After all, she was born in Pine Beach, N.J., far from the nearest ranch or honky-tonk. Her family is pure Italian-American. Though she definitely enjoyed singing, Calabrese grew up dreaming more of being a doctor than a Country crooner.

All of that changed when she and her mother took part in a scavenger hunt for tickets to a Martina McBride concert in Reading, Pa. Amazingly, they beat everyone else to the CVS pharmacy where the prize was hidden behind some greeting cards. With that, a new dream took shape.

At 17, Calabrese made the pilgrimage to Nashville. There, she earned a nursing degree from Belmont University, worked at Baptist Hospital and taught gymnastics. She also met Kent Wells, who mentored her as she began writing songs and produced her as she recorded her debut EP. Continue Reading

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Posted at 6:15 pm | Permalink
Nov 21

New Artist Spotlight: Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay

Noel McKay and Brennen Leigh

Noel McKay and Brennen Leigh photo by Melinda K. Thoms, courtesy of the CMA.

By Bob Doerschuk

© 2013 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

Before the World Was Made is a delicious mix: raw, retro Country plus sweet irony. That’s apparently the specialty of Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay, the Austin-based duo whose debut, on their B&N imprint, is hilarious, sentimental and profound, usually all at the same time.

Produced by Gurf Murlix, with only one of its 12 tracks penned by an outside writer, this album draws from Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams, the Louvin Brothers and, perhaps unconsciously, Nichols and May. Backed by a bare-bones band that consists of a drummer playing mainly snare, an acoustic bassist and occasional guests, they ponder love’s absurdities. A theme emerges in their titles alone. “Breaking Up Is Easy” is followed by “Breaking Up and Making Up Again,” in which McKay intones, “I forgot that you’re a bore,” and Leigh responds, “And I forgot how loud you snore,” both singing with a delightfully flat, deadpan delivery. Continue Reading

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Posted at 2:04 pm | Permalink
Oct 25

New Artist Spotlight: Tyler Farr

Tyler Farr

Tyler Farr photo courtesy of Sony Music Nashville.

By Bob Doerschuk

© 2013 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

Tyler Farr celebrates girls and trucks. Just what Country Music needs, right?

In Farr’s case, absolutely. He follows a familiar path through much of Redneck Crazy, his Columbia Nashville debut. But every now and then he slams on the brakes and veers in an unexpected direction.

Read our review of Redneck Crazy >>

Farr’s drawl draws from somewhere south of his hometown, Garden City, Mo. He rasps too, whether it’s from loving the outdoorsman’s lifestyle or working four nights each week at Tootsies Orchid Lounge. (The legendary Nashville venue hired him originally as a bouncer.)

His music is catchy, riff-heavy and steeped deep in tradition. He knows what kind of image he projects. But he has fun with it too, on “Wish I Had a Boat,” which is all about … wishing he had a boat. On various tracks, he compliments his ladies by comparing them to moonshine. Continue Reading

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Posted at 9:46 am | Permalink
Aug 26

New Artist Spotlight: Charlie Worsham

New Artist Spotlight: Charlie Worsham

Charlie Worsham photo courtesy of Warner Music Nashville.

By Bob Doerschuk

© 2013 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

Born in Mississippi, Charlie Worsham learned enough banjo by age 10 for bluegrass legend Jimmy Martin to invite him onstage at the Ryman Auditorium. Two years after that, he joined Mike Snider on the air at the Opry. After attending Boston’s Berklee College of Music, he headed to Nashville and eventually earned himself a deal with Warner Bros. Records.

On his new album, Rubberband, released today, Worsham distinguishes himself by his unerring taste and musical subtlety. As co-producer with Ryan Tyndell and co-writer on all 11 tracks, he knows his way into each lyric. He does play some burning leads, but most of the album is toned down, rich in acoustic texture. His banjo stays in the background, enhancing the country flavor. Drums are often muted and minimal. Continue Reading

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Posted at 2:38 pm | Permalink
Jul 31

New Artist Spotlight: Breelan Angel

CMA New Artist Spotlight: Breelan Angel

Breelan Angel photo by Melinda Norris, courtesy of the CMA.

NEW ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Breelan Angel

By Bob Doerschuk

© 2013 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

You’re a strong young woman who loves going out with friends. Yet you know that even this simple plan can be like weaving between roadblocks, many of them strangers asking for your phone number.

Breelan Angel’s It’s My Turn offers a map through this obstacle course. Produced by Dwight Baker for MisBhavin’ Records, it suggests that empowerment is a major draw to the “girls’ night out” experience, whether as a declaration of well-earned independence on the title cut (written by Angel, Greg Barnhill and Joanna Cotten), anticipation of an upcoming San Marcos, Texas, idyll in “Feeling No Pain” (Angel and Clay Mills), a confrontation with a rival for her man’s attention on “Walk of Shame” (Angel and Shane Stevens) or going face-to-face with a barfly who’s being just a little too friendly on “Real Good Night” (Angel and Rachel Thibodeau). Continue Reading

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Posted at 4:43 pm | Permalink
Jul 24

New Artist Spotlight: JJ Lawhorn

JJ Lawhorn

JJ Lawhorn photo by Bill Konway, courtesy of the CMA.

By Bob Doerschuk

© 2013 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

Many artists draw from their background, but the music of 19-year-old JJ Lawhorn goes deeper, to embody the sights and sounds, aromas and soul, of rural America.

Raised on his family’s Virginia farm, he never dreamed of knocking on doors up and down Music Row. His plan was to study agriculture at Virginia Tech and devote his life to farming. Then, in the spring of 2010, producer Jeremy Stover came across a Lawhorn performance on YouTube. He tracked the young artist down; within a year, Lawhorn had signed with EMI Publishing and, in June 2011, to Average Joes Entertainment.

Watch JJ Lawhorn’s “Stomping Grounds” Video >>

Produced by Stover and released on July 16, the 13 tracks of Original Good Ol’ Boy sound the way hay smells and the world looks from the bed of a pickup truck. Lawhorn wrote three of these songs alone and co-wrote the rest, investing each one with the kind of authenticity you can’t conjure in the studio. Some of this stems from his delivery: He drawls “count” as two syllables and nearly stretches “around” to three on his solo-written single “Stomping Grounds.” Continue Reading

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Posted at 1:47 pm | Permalink
May 29

New Artist Spotlight: Angie Johnson

Angie Johnson

Angie Johnson’s 2013 EP, Sing For You. Photo courtesy of Sony Music Nashville.

By Bob Doerschuk

© 2013 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

Apparently, it’s not enough for Missouri-born Angie Johnson to have served as an intelligence analyst in the United States Air Force; she also sang and toured with The Air Force Band. Then, following an initial attempt to find a break in Nashville, she studied psychology at Columbia State Community College in Franklin, Tenn., to help children and veterans struggling with PTSD.

When a soldier posted his video of Staff Sgt. Johnson performing Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” for troops in a spirited acoustic performance on YouTube, it eventually drew more than 3 million views. Millions more watched her during Season 2 of The Voice. Continue Reading

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Posted at 2:45 pm | Permalink
Apr 27

New Artist Spotlight: Tate Stevens

Tate Stevens

Tate Stevens’ 2013 self-titled debut album. Photo courtesy of Sony Music Nashville.

By Bob Doerschuk

© 2013 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

Tate Stevens’ triumph on Season 2 of The X Factor confirms that Country Music is stronger than ever. More important, it heralds the arrival of a performer whose music is in step with what America wants to hear.

Read our review of Tate Stevens’ Self-Titled Debut Album >>

On his self-titled upcoming Syco Music/RCA Nashville debut, Stevens flaunts a raw vocal power. This Missouri native and one-time construction worker has clearly lived the life he sings about. When it comes to connecting to the real world of his fans, this ability to project from real experience can’t be learned in a classroom. Continue Reading

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Posted at 10:52 am | Permalink