A Christmas time in happiness and peace

Here it is. The time of the year when everything shines in red, white, silver and gold. The moment for big family reunions and the joy to share with your friends a good meal. Christmas time has always been a huge tradition in country music too, whether it's a famous carol sung by our favorite artists or a brand new song  especially written for this time of the year.

I'm sure you know a bunch of them by heart and you're probably humming one right now. So let's spread happiness, warmness and the Christmas spirit around us and specifically to the ones in need.

Here's my present for you : a couple of very nice and moving tunes by Toby Keith and Trace Adkins dug out from the internet archives.

Happy Christmas to you all !


Discovery Time #1

The American Music Route podcasts continue with the first issue of Discovery Time. This format is dedicated to discover artists and records and obviously listen to their music.

In Discovery Time #1 we'll talk about Jeanne Jolly, Matt Woods and Jeremy Pinnell.

The Playlist :

Jeanne Jolly
Matches And Gasoline
Jeanne Jolly
The Dreamer
Matt Woods
Snow Drivin'
Matt Woods
Sawdust and Gasoline
Jeremy Pinnell
Jeremy Pinnell
Outlaw Life


If you liked Matt Woods' music, here's a good news for you. You can download "Sawdust and Gasoline" for free ! It's just a click away : http://www.mattwoodsmusic.com/free-song-download/


The Blend #1

Here we start with the first of our new podcast formats, starting with The Blend. It's a show made for good music regardless of its style. From Country to Folk-Rock, it's time to take a break and enjoy good songs.

For the craters diggers, here is the playlist :

Dolly Parton
Drives Me Crazy
Casey Weston
Play It Again
Larkin Poe
Toby Keith
I Like Girls That Drink Beer
Blackberry Smoke
Holding All the Roses
The Kentucky Headhunters with Johnnie Johnson
Party In Heaven
Luke Pruitt
Stronger Than Before
Delta Spirit
Money Saves
Jim Lauderdale
Alligator Alley
Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time with Terri Clark
Cure For The Common Heartache
Hardin Burns
Get Back Home
Amanda Rheaume
Strongest Heart
Fall Down
Good Lovelies
Watching TV
Marcia Ball
Human Kindness
Sarah Gayle Meech
Somebody's Gonna Cry
Dear Irony


What about a bit of sound here ?

Hi folks, it has been a bit long since the last time but it worth it. American Music Route is going to a new level. More than written reviews, it's now also a bunch of cool podcasts to listen to. I'm sure you want to know some more. So here is a presentation for you.

So join us on Mixcloud, Facebook and Twitter, to enjoy the music we like.


Blackberry Smoke – Holding All The Roses : an AOR classic

Sometimes being kicked in the ass could be great, at least figuratively. To describe it as it is that's exactly what happened to me when I first heard Blackberry Smoke’s southern rock. Like a drift in the dusty sand, a wonderful Saturday night sunset introducing an amazing night up to come, their music is made to be part of life.

Blackberry Smoke
Blackberry Smoke

Maybe working with a producer such as Brendan O’Brien, who worked with rock legends like AC/DC, Aerosmith or Neil Young, adds a bit to the alchemy. They’ve got a thick and powerful sound with nervous guitars and this south spirit that reminds us Lynyrd Skynyrd. Actually it ain’t such a surprise. Blackberry Smoke used to play opening acts for many artists, including Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top.

Coming from Atlanta, GA, Blackberry Smoke is a mix of peaches sweetness and blackberries sourness. Despite the cooking analogy, Holding All The Roses, their fourth album, is a lovely combination which leads to such an energy like a Chevrolet speeding on a highway. Their compositions grab you instantly, for your own good.

Blackberry Smoke - Holding All The Roses

We get filled with a freedom feeling and joy which would make impossible to anyone not to dance. Songs like “Let Me help You” will make you wriggle almost immediately. But who would complain about it? True rock spirit here we are. Blackberry Smoke explores its own style with great talent. From soft classic rock to really hard one like “Holding All The Roses”, they pledge their allegiance to rock’n’roll like many before them. They’re no rookies and we can hear it. Rhythmic and guitars are well mastered without mentioning the quality of vocals harmonies.

If I should tell what I think about this record, I would tell it is great. But, actually it’s more like: “wow man, you should listen to it right now, get up and dance!” It’s this kind of work. The one you listen to and then ask to yourself this stupid rhetorical question: how would I ever live without knowing about this? Obviously, that’s what an instant classic is.

Critically acclaimed, Holding All The Roses is a milestone in Blackberry Smoke‘s career. A long trip with a fan base slowly growing to be international and highly loyal now. Guitarist Charlie Starr explains why the band took time to achieve such a record: "In the past, we never really had the resources to make the kind of records we wanted to make, […] but this time around, everything lined up, and we were able to create an album that covers a lot of musical ground and works as a listening experience from beginning to end."

Indeed this album is a real journey to fully enjoy. Blackberry Smoke is not an old band, since their first album came out in 2004, but you can already store it on your music collection shelf next to rock legends like Aerosmith, Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd or AC/DC. A classic I told you.
Check out their website : http://www.blackberrysmoke.com/ 


Delta Spirit : a Rock-Americana blend

Americana and Rock lovers, here’s a band you should know about and will love for sure. Originally coming from the San Diego’s area but relocated in Brooklyn, NY in 2012, I want to introduce you to Delta Spirit. This band makes an amazing powerful blend of Folk, Country and Rock, subtly infused with electro-pop hints. As a result, their music is strongly catchy.

Delta Spirit Band

Delta Spirit is Matthew Vasquez (Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica, Piano, Drums), Kelly Winrich (Piano, Keyboards, Guitar, Drums, Vocals), William McLaren (Guitar, Vocals), Jonathan Jameson (Bass, Vocals), Brandon Young (Drums). Those guys have got a ten years career with Delta Spirit (except for McLaren who’s been part of the adventure since 2011) and it still continues with their latest album released in 2014 : Call Into The Wide.

But, even if it is a good record, it ain’t the one I want to focus on right now. Let’s stop in 2012 when they left the West Coast for Brooklyn. That year a new album of their own was released and like a molting, they start anew with this self-titled brand new CD. It is the Delta Spirit that caught our attention.

Delta Spirit

As soon as you start listening to it, it’ll never let you go away, always renewing your interest with eleven superb songs from quiet ambient harmonies to nervous and electric powerful moments. You loose yourself in their music from start to end, unable to miss any part. Is it the definition of a great album ? Maybe. At least we could agree with them when they say : “We found the sound that we've been looking for, that we've been growing into.” This record has the sound of maturity. Even though is something we did read and hear a lot about any artist’s work at some point, and frankly most of the time it’s a pointless expression, it’s got real meaning here.

Delta Spirit, the band and the album are truly one in this work. We strongly feel that unity. Something very clear is happening in the sound, the melodies, the vocals, the energy, the lyrics… Something like it was meant to be this way. When we listen to tracks like “Home” or “Yamaha”, we are drowning in some kind of an obvious awake dream with melodies looping like a mantra. But on the other hand, this record is made of a wide range of compositions, all really complex. Actually, the previous examples are more like pauses in a way more energetic work. Due to their ability to mix music genres, they can connect different atmospheres in one song, getting guitar distortions and keyboards to work together and then shifting the emotions. Everything is moving in this record. Like it’s said in “California”, an anthem to trip, you must move for yourself and not for anyone else. 

So, this record is a road trip. It’s a way to open your mind, to free it. Don't be shy, scream, run, jump, dream, and most importantly, enjoy the moment.

Their official website : deltaspirit.net


Sister Speak : Love as an anthem

In the rise of violence from many places in the world last week, a bit of peace, and amongst everything, love, is the thing I do think we need the most. Such simplicity in emotions and truth coming from the inside of ourselves is the material Folk, Americana and Country artists use to mold their worlds and, by doing so, reshape our by the way we feel it.

This time I’d introduce you to a young band from San Diego called Sister Speak. Lead by the Canadian singer and songwriter Sherri Anne, this quintet provides us a lovely Americana in its debut-album : Rise Up For Love. An anthem we would gladly follow with this work as an argument.
Sister Speak's Rise Up For Love
As you might expect, the compositions are made of guitars, both acoustic and electric, but not only. I should mention the beautiful rhythmic work by Lisa Viegas that embossed every part of the ten tracks subtly changing the feeling and power of the stories. Like an heartbeat full of passion or an errant soul drown in sorrow it seems to be the real core of the composition. On an other hand, interesting instruments are beautifully used to carve the sound in something quite haunting. Then, keyboards and organs are the key of the ghostly spirit of “Mirrors I”. Likewise, special percussion as cajon can hold our hand to lead us to another, sometimes unexpected, landscape.
Sherri Anne & Lisa Viegas
Sherri Anne & Lisa Viegas
But despite those technical points, Sister Speak’s music is a matter of feelings. There’s so many moments that irradiate by their beauty. A ballad such as “Say You Will” is just like falling in love. An increasing force that catches you from the the very start and let you hung up in the air, floating, dreaming. A state of mind in which every feeling, every subtle emotion is almost tangible. This screaming demand becomes an heart-to-heart connection. Like it says : “I can feel you, I can hear you”. It seems to be the simplest but the most obvious definition of love.

This album is very well-titled. It’s an optimistic vision of love, that you’ll find in it. It’s a sunshine, a magnificent dawn. It's a piece of beauty rising even from sorrows and tears, a freedom song rather than a regretful drama (”Goodby My Lover”). The message is quite simple : as long as you keep on walking on the long path we call life you’ll be able to find hope. And so, yes, I do feel joyful, stronger, full of hope and passion after listening to Sister Speak.


David Vidal : A momentum of obviousness

Blues is one of the American music hearts. It is the backbone of music. Coming from African and European cultures and songsters, it is a tradition which is still alive. An to do so, we need guardians. Some folks who are able to keep the flame.

We all know big names of Blues (I assume you know at least a bit about American music if you’re reading this website), some are even Legends ! But music doesn’t belong to museums. And if there’s some Blues heroes who should be in the Hall of Fame, there’s also thousands of singers scattered in the whole world who spread this universal music with passion and talent.

Thus, there is little everyday heroes. People who continues to work on Blues to make it a living music forever. In this category, I’d like to talk about David Vidal. His Blues is an instant love, a powerful expression of obviousness. A slide guitar, or an electric cigar-box, and a voice, he needs no more to do such a miracle.

Raised in New Mexico and Colorado, he traveled a lot in the United Stated and even went to Merida in Mexico hopping on freight trains. Living on the road makes your soul bigger for sure. He learned guitar by himself as a teenager with a book of Blues standards and I do think it shows a lot about his spirit and how in anchored music in his soul.

With four critically acclaimed albums, I am obviously not the only to consider his work a masterpiece. It is like a testimony of what music is. His latest record, World of Trouble, is unfortunately so true about our world.
He talks about politics (”Political Man”) and the world complexity (”A Big Electric Universe”) with such a precise view that he's focused on the human part of everything. It’s about the weakness of everybody, the hunger for power, selfishness, and our heart’s lack of strength that make us so fragile even we play tough (”My Own World Has Broken Down”). He still knows hope has to be set on love and human emotions that he knows how to beautifully picture (”Flying”). We build the world we live in, but sometimes in the craziness of our own paths we do need a poet to remind us this simple fact.

David Vidal’s music is unique and extremely moving. It won’t change your world. It’ll enlighten it by opening your eyes. World of Trouble is a special momentum you do need to live fully. I bet you won’t be exactly the same after that.


Benjamin Folke Thomas : Americana quintessential

Since we were talking about Sweden in the last review, let’s continue this time. Here is Benjamin Folke Thomas who’s based in London for five years by now. The perfect city to launch a music career considering it might be the European music city capital.

Even if he didn’t succeed at the first try like in his dreams (he thought he "would be famous by the time [he] was 21" like he says in the CD booklet), Benjamin’s Americana Folk-inspired music worth to be listened. The label “Bucketfull of Brains” understood this point in 2010 when they released the first EP of Folke Thomas. After touring a lot in 2012 and increasing considerably his fanbase, Benjamin released with his label his first true album : Too Close To Here.

This wonderful record has been re-released in 2014 by Bucketfull of Brains/Proper Music, a proof of its good quality. Soulful, true, deep, there is a lot of adjectives available to describe the music from this record. You can enjoy the natural and simple writing skill sung with an almost naked voice only covered by subtle raspiness on it.

It’s this kind of folkishness that change the scale of Folke Thomas’ music. Even when electric guitars and drums came in line we do keep some acoustic feelings which are still floating in the air. So, we easily loose ourselves in the music but, on the other hand, keep focused on the voice and words.

Realistic, moving by the ability to draw stories rather than just telling about it, the songs from this album find their way to our heart, almost bypassing our brains. And if there’s a music genre where feelings and words should obviously work together is Blues. Thus, when Benjamin Folke Thomas goes on this side of his music with songs like “Ok Blues” we realize how well he understood the essence of the music he plays. With simple words he talks about simple feelings we all had and by this way, turns his music into a universal language. Composition itself tells almost everything. Classic, like the one you would like to find in any bar. Sometimes it twangs just enough to start moving your hips or tapping your foot and other times it’s made of beautiful and moving arpeggios.

Americana is definitely the right word to define the music of Too Close To Here. It’s a perfect mix of Folk and Blues into a bunch of songs made to be listen anywhere, anytime. Some tunes to keep in mind and to enjoy all day long.