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My Mike & the Moonpies review posts to Elmore magazine

22 Nov

Elmore Magazine | Mike and the MoonpiesIt’s no coincidence that the original tunes on Mike and the Moonpies’ third studio album, Mockingbird, sound so familiar. Frontman Mike Harmeier, who learned to play guitar at six, and has performed in front of live audiences since he turned 10, wrote all ten of the hardcore country songs to resemble those popular in the 1980s and 1990s.

“One Is The Whiskey” feels like a tribute to the years Harmeier has spent in bars listening to jukebox hits by Randy Travis, George Straight and Clint Black. On the title track, Harmeier pays homage to his late grandfather, with lyrics that deserve one more round of alcohol and a toast to faded old hand-me-downs. One song, “Never Leaving Texas” (though it’s contradicted by the band’s current touring schedule of Oklahoma, Arkansas, California, Arizona and New Mexico), pays homage to the band’s Texas legacy. The Moonpies, including Kyle Ponder on drums/percussion, Preston Rhone on bass, Catlin Rutherford on guitar, Zachary Moulton on steel guitar and John Carbone on piano/organ, have been fronted by Harmeier for 20 years now, and they’ve consistently drawn, and continue to draw, diverse young crowds to some of Austin’s favorite venues like the White Horse, the Continental Club and the Broken Spoke.

My review of Carrie Underwood’s new CD posts to Elmore magazine

19 Nov

Elmore Magazine | Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood spins tall and unexpected tales with her new Storyteller album. Over the last decade, the 2005 American Idol winner has married a professional athlete, given birth and won multiple awards at the Grammys, from Billboard and at the Country Music Awards. Still, her original, “What I Never Knew I Always Wanted,” hints at the humble woman inside the star image– just a girl from Muskogee, Oklahoma with traditional values and a new mother’s love. She wrote five other songs for the 13-track CD, including “Renegade Runaway,” “Heartbeat,” “Smoke Break,” “Chaser” and “The Girl You Think I Am.” Underwood’s vocals have matured in the three years since she released Blown Away.

This fifth studio album also features seven songs written by other composers. Jason White wrote the “Choctaw County Affair,” a song reminiscent of Bobbie Gentry’s 1967’s “Ode to Billy Joe.” “Dirty Laundry,” written by Zach Crowell/Ashley Gorley/Hillary Lindsey shows the most hit potential if released as a single today. Fans will love singing along on its refrain: “All the Ajax in the world ain’t gonna clean your dirty laundry.” Meanwhile, like her previous four albums, lyrically Underwood’s songs continue to please. Clearly nobody has any plans of hanging this country girl out to dry.

Please click on the link to read my story on Elmore magazine’s website here:

My Fairground Saints CD review posts to Elmore magazine

7 Nov

DElmore Magazine | Fairground Saintson’t judge this CD by its almost indistinguishable cover photo on the Fairground Saints’ self-titled debut. The album’s fuzzy image of three silhouettes against a dusty sunset clearly contradicts the Los Angeles trio’s music, which they composed with lyrical clarity, bright vocals and textured musicianship. The Fairground Saints’ original sound, ranging from acoustic folk to pop and rock genres, defines longing, disillusion and joy in 12 tunes embellished with impressive three-part harmonies.
Michigan native and standout lead vocalist Megan McAllister demonstrates her unique phrasing in jazz rhythms reminiscent of Sara Bareilles on the songs, “Until Then” and “Somethin’ for Nothin’.”

All three musicians, including Mason Van Valin, Elijah Edwards and McAllister, contributed to the songwriting and also share vocals and guitar tracks. Multi-instrumentalist Edwards plays mandolin, keyboards, Dobro and accordion. “I Wish I Was,” a song co-written by Van Valin and Edwards with Hannah Mulholland, Matthew Wilder and Tamara Dunn reveals the group’s astonishing insecurity despite its signature good looks and raw talent. Their most memorable R&B-flavored “All of You,” attempts the chord progression to Aaron Neville’s 1966 ballad “Tell It Like It Is” in reverse—a lofty feat that surpasses any fairground’s attraction.

– Donna Marie Miller


Elmore posts my Indigo Girls review of One Lost Day

25 Aug

Elmore Magazine | Indigo GirlsWith their 14th studio album, One Lost Day, the Indigo Girls’ signature harmonies haven’t aged a bit. Describing universal events like childbirth, addiction and the death of a parent on 13 new tunes, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers identify themselves as survivors. Over 35 years, they have created seven gold, four platinum, and one double platinum album, while singing their original stories set to folk/rock music filled with whimsy, rawness, sadness and joy.

Up-and-coming producer Jordan Brooke Hamlin and sound engineer Brian Joseph contribute on this new album. Drummer Brady Blade and pianist Carol Isaacs from the IG’s 2011 Beauty Queen Sister album have returned to the fold. Guest musicians Lex Price and Chris Donohue on bass, along with multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Butterfly Boucher, together with drummer Fred Eltringham, bring an infectious energy. “California is Your Girlfriend” and “Texas was Clean” sound reminiscent of the IG’s early roots music.

The album’s final track, “Come a Long Way,” poetically reveals the duo’s remarkable journey to mainstream acceptance since recording their first single in 1985 while attending Emory University. With ageless spirit, the Indigo Girls rekindle their passions once again.

Please see my review posted at Elmore Magazine at:


My Weldon Henson CD review posted to Elmore magazine

11 May

Elmore Magazine | Weldon Henson – Honky Tonk FrontierAs Weldon Henson goes to show, anyone who has spent years performing in Texas dance halls knows a thing or two about country.

Since 2009, the country singer/songwriter has played a weekly gig at the Broken Spoke called “Two-Stepping Tuesdays,” a night he considers to be Austin’s own version of Dancing with the Stars.

He also often performs for crowds at Jenny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, Luckenbach and Coupland dancehalls.

His new album, Honky Tonk Frontier, offers ten of his original songs. Danceable songs like “I Need Wine” and “Just Believe,” effortlessly turn unique phrases for dancers with foot-tapping beats. Henson adds his edge to “Hey Bottle of Whiskey,” previously recorded by Don Singleton.

Henson joined the U.S. Air Force when he was 19 and taught himself to play guitar. Later, he earned his musical stripes as an enlisted soldier performing at private parties and officer’s clubs stationed in Utah, South Korea, and finally Abilene.

A hybrid of Dwight Yoakam and George Strait, Henson produced his fourth full-length album together with Tommy Detamore and Ricky Davis. His wife, Brooklyn Henson, also adds background vocals as slick as a honky tonk dance floor.

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Please see my review posted to Elmore magazine by following this link:

My Dirty River Boys CD review posted to Elmore today

7 Apr

Elmore Magazine | The Dirty River Boys – The Dirty River BoysAn El Paso quartet that now calls Austin home, the Dirty River Boys, deliver 13 country rock songs that cover a wide range of topics from drug war violence along the Texas/Mexico border to unrequited love.

Country singer Ray Wylie Hubbard co-wrote “Down By The River,” the opening track off the band’s self-titled album released by the Thirty Tigers label in October. The song tells a few bold adolescent tales about crossing the Santa Fe Street Bridge with fake IDs to party in Juarez; fast-forward to present day, times have changed along the Rio Grande River.

Colton James adds a bass line like a heart beat, while Nino Cooper and Marco Gutierrez swap impressive electric guitar leads and vocals. Drummer Travis Stearns wages rapid-fire attacks on the rhythm section accented by clap tracks.

The catchy “Thought I’d Let You Know” demonstrates the Boys’ impressive four-part harmony and “Teenage Renegade,” with its feel good lyrics creates a tune that already sounds like a hit single.

Named “2012 Band of the Year” by Austin City Limits, the Dirty River Boys will leave fans helpless to refrain from singing along on the choruses to their songs.

Here’s a link to my review of the Dirty River Boys CD on Elmore magazine’s website:


My review of Echo Sparks’ Ghost Town Girl posted to Elmore today

12 Mar

Elmore Magazine | Echo Sparks – Ghost Town GirlEcho Sparks’ Ghost Town Girl, captures the heart of any inner flower child within listening distance of its 1960s California sound. Like the lyrics for the single, “Broken Arrow,” this band’s music strikes straight for the soul.

Its members hail from Orange County and their music feels reminiscent of The Byrds and The Grass Roots. Echo Sparks’ January self-released album fits loosely into the Americana genre with influences of country, folk, rockabilly, Mexicali, and pop music.

Featuring double bass, two guitars, and a steady drumbeat, together with a dreamy two-part harmony, the trio delivers the song, “Rolling 60s,” with a San Fernando Valley vibe that simply feels far out groovy.

Members C.C. Kinneck on vocals/guitar, D.A. Valdez on vocals/guitar/banjo/drums/percussion together with Cindy Ballreich on upright bass/mandolin, tell 11 musical tales with refrains that linger long afterwards, like the rich scent of orange groves.

Their song “I Think It’s You,” reaches across any crowded room to fill an empty space musically that has been lacking for the past five decades.

Musical evangelists, Echo Sparks, have a sound that feels immediately tangible, pure and 100 percent authentic.

Please follow this link to see my article posted on Elmore magazine’s site:

My Judy Collins’ CD review posted today to Elmore magazine

6 Feb

Elmore Magazine | Judy Collins – Both Sides Now: The Very BestFolk pop icon Judy Collins has rerecorded and re-mastered 28 of her most beloved songs with Both Sides Now, The Very Best of, released by Wild Flower Records in association with Cleopatra Records Inc.

Collins’ clear, crisp and soprano voice once carried a troubled nation through the most tumultuous times of the 20th century, the Vietnam War.

This collection spans her vast catalog of original songs including a duet with Joan Baez on “Diamonds and Rust,” to create an unforgettable interpretation of the 1975 hit song.

Stephen Stills sings “Last Thing On My Mind,” with Collins and also showcases his craft skills with Dave Cleveland on guitar.

Collins and soloist Christopher Warren-Green Collins recreates an unforgettable version of the 1977 Stephen Sondheim’s hit standard, “Send in the Clowns.”

Arlo Guthrie together with Eric Anderson and Tom Rush join Collins to sing an uplifting live version of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

Collins’ distinct song craft, at once intimate, melodic and emotional, breathes new life into song standards “Amazing Grace” and “Over the Rainbow,” for fans and millennials alike. –

 Please see my review on Elmore magazine’s website at:

My review of Annie Lennox’s new CD, Nostalgia, posts to Elmore magazine

27 Jan

Elmore Magazine | Annie Lennox – NostalgiaSweet dreams must sound a lot like pop icon Annie Lennox singing a collection of favorite soul, jazz and blues songs, on Nostalgia, her newest album released by Blue Note Records.

Lennox interprets romantically poetic lyrics that feel both personal and intuitive even if Hoagy Carmichael and Billie Holiday introduced them to the world 50 years ago.

She wields that same distinctive voice that helped to make the Eurythmics famous in the 1980s and earned her four Grammy awards to reinterpret the standards of years past.

Lennox soulfully sings the provocative “God Bless the Child,” which carries even more resonance with her work as a dedicated political activist, philanthropist and international humanitarian.

With the beautifully painful “Strange Fruit,” she vocally languishes over the descriptions of dark and bloody images of violent hate crimes that have marked a nation’s history of racism, bigotry, and social inequalities.

At 60 years old, the visually androgynous Lennox remains as timeless as the music she so tenderly resurrects.

“I Put A Spell on You,” serves as an emotional Lennox anthem sung in communion with a stunning tribute album spanning a 75-year-old legacy of jazz music that adds perfect complement to her already extraordinary canon.

Please see my post on Elmore magazine’s website:

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