Taking Some Time Off

Friday, January 23, 2009

Just wanted to drop a line to let you all know that I will be away from the blog and website for a bit. I am in the process of buying a new home, getting married, and also a changing responsibilities all my full time job.

I hope to post from time to time, at least something here and there, but a lot of things take a higher priority right now.

I will be in touch and hopefully soon will return to daily postings, or at least a normal schedule of postings.

I thank you for your support and keep checking and keep your subscriptions to the blog, I will be posting on ocassion, however, just not on the schedule I would hope to maintain.

--Kirk Fitzgerald

Album Review: "Call Me Crazy" Lee Ann Womack

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lee Ann Womack Soundcheck exclusive
Uploaded by soundcheck2008

Lee Ann Womack’s newest album is her first since 2005. 3 years is a long time between albums, however, Call Me Crazy was worth the wait. Believe me. This isn’t just another country album. No way.

You see, this album here is something special. It proves to me and so many others many things. First, country music as we know it is not dead. Second, you can create a true traditional country album and still maintain a contemporary sound. Third, Tony Brown is a master of producing a real-deal country album, and not just for George Strait.

The debut single and first track of the album, “Last Call” is a perfect introduction to what can be found on this album, a solid country song. When you listen to this album, you will quickly find a common theme to the album… vocal delivery of perfection, lyrical strength that can’t be matched, and traditional country music sounds. “Last Call” just starts what is in store from Womack. “Either Way” and “Solitary Thinking” both demonstrates this point further.

In the middle of the album, where most albums may drift off a bit, Womack remains strong and maybe even stronger than the first third of the album. For example, “The Bees” written by Natalie Hemby and Daniel Tashian is a song with a great tempo and crisp, clear vocal delivery from Womack with some really some simple, yet incredible lyrics…A song about looking for the sweeter side of life and noticing it in family after returning from work. This lyric must be read and heard, no doubt. At just over five minutes long, it will never see the airwaves, but then again, this song may be too good for radio anyway. A revival best song on the album comes very next. “I Think I Know” written by Tom Shapiro, Mark Nesler, and Tony Martin is a song that will grab the attention of any true country music fan with names such as Keith Whitley, Hank Williams, and Johnny Cash being sung about. A song about what truly led to the death of these artists… well, I’ll leave it up to you to check out this song to find out.

“Everything But Quits” is a duet with George Strait that is quite nice and just plain ol’ country fun. A song about a relationship that isn’t going too well, yet stays strong, Womack and Strait match up perfectly in vocal delivery and style. You can’t really ask for a nicer duet. After the duet, you are treated to Womack singing one of Strait’s classic hits, “The King of Broken Hearts.” Again, a great vocal delivery, and the tempo of the song remains untouched. Since you just heard Strait sing, you can still hear is voice in your head as Womack shares her vocals with you.

The album ends with a catchy tune “The Story of My Life” that will keep you singing the chorus for a many hours after you stop listening, and for once, you won’t be irritated by having it stuck in your head, rather happy and relaxed.

I can’t see how you couldn’t love this album. This album is one of the best albums country music fans have heard in a good long time. It’s refreshing, enjoyable, and most definitely true country music. Call me crazy, but I will never be able to get enough of listening to this album.

Country Music Alive Chart: 1/11/2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

January 11, 2009
TW Song Artist Amazon CD Amazon Digital I-Tunes Tickets +/-
1 Already Gone Sugarland

Sugarland - Love On the Inside (Deluxe Fan Edition) - Already Gone

2 Start A Band Brad Paisley and Keith

Brad Paisley - Start a Band (Duet With Keith Urban) - Single - Start a Band (Duet With Keith Urban)

3 Don't Billy Currington

Billy Currington - Little Bit of Everything - Don't

4 Love Story Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift - Fearless - Love Story

5 Sweet Thing Keith Urban

Keith Urban - Sweet Thing - Single - Sweet Thing


News From The Week: January 10, 2009

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Apple I-Tunes News

Apple will begin making songs available in its iTunes store at 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29 in April, with most albums remaining $9.99. Apple is also extending to all four major labels and thousands of indpendents its DRM-free iTunes Plus format with higher-quality 256 kbps AAC encoding. Customers can upgrade their existing library to the new codec for 30 cents a track or 30% of the album price. In a significant breakthrough beyond Wi-Fi capability, consumers with iPhones now will be able to preview and buy music via the 3G network at no extra charge. 

Cledus T. Judd New Single

Cledus T. Judd has re-signed with Koch Records and will release a new single this month, "Waitin' On Obama" after being away from the music for three-years. The song is a parody of Brad Paisley's hit single, "Waitin' On A Woman." 

Keith Urban Announces Tour Stops, No Dates.. Yet.

Keith Urban has announced all the cities his 2009 tour will stop in.  He will also have a new CD out March 31, 2009.

One supporting act, either Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bently, Glen Campbell or The Zac Brown Band will appear at each show.


Tour stops include:


Uncasville, CT                Philadelphia, PA

State College, PA            Rochester, NY

St. Paul, MN                  Little Rock, AR

Chicago, IL                    Tulsa, OK

Green Bay, WI               Kansas City, MO

Charleston, WV               Pittsburgh, PA

Roanoke, VA                  Columbus, OH

Indianapolis, IN               Louisville, KY

Huntsville, AL                 Hershey, PA

Cincinnati, OH                Washington DC

Detroit, MI                    Cleveland, OH

Fort Wayne, IN               Charlottesville, VA

St. Louis, MO                 Buffalo, NY

Memphis, TN                  Knoxville, TN

Atlanta, GA                    Nashville, TN

Greenville, SC                Salt Lake City, UT

Charlotte, NC                 Portland, OR

Raleigh, NC                    Seattle, WA

Des Moines, IA                Spokane, WA

Moline, IL                      Boston, MA

Milwaukee, WI                Vancouver, Canada

Omaha, NE                    Calgary, Canada

Wichita, KS                    Edmonton, Canada   

Dallas, TX                     Saskatoon, Canada

Denver, CO                    Winnipeg, Canada

Glendale, AZ                   London, Canada

Las Vegas, NV                 Toronto, Canada

Los Angeles, CA               Albany, NY

Ontario, CA                    New York, NY


There we have a short look at the news from the week!  Check back next Saturday for more updates!

Jon Hager Dies

Another member of the Hee Haw cast has died.  The surving member of the Hager Brother's duo Jon Hager died Friday at the age of 67.  He had apparently been in poor health since his brother Jim's death in May.

The Hager Brothers were apart of the very first episode of Hee Haw.  They continued on the show through 1988.  

Not very many of the cast members of Hee Haw are still living.  Its important not to forget these important icons of country music.  From my best approximation, nearly half of the cast has died.

Now, if you have for some unknown reason new been introduced to Hee Haw, now is the time.  2 sites for you to visit:

New Country Music Releases For January 13, 2009

Friday, January 09, 2009

New Releases for January 13, 2009:

Laughter is the Best Medicine
Ray Stevens
Clyde Records

Eli Young Band
Eli Young Band
Universal-South Records

Live At The Jolly Fox
Eli Young Band
Universal South Records

Links above will take you to Amazon where you can pre-order right now so that you can save the trip to the store. You can also use the links to download the singles/album right Amazon DRM-free.

Check back every Friday for the listing of new albums that will be released on Tuesday!

My Pick Songs: January 8, 2009

Thursday, January 08, 2009

This new feature will take some time to get going an such, but here are three songs I'm really loving this past week. They may be brand new hit singles or the most classic country song you can find, but this is what I've been listening to this week. You may have heard them before or it may be something you've never heard... but always they will be worth checking out.

"The Bees"-- Lee Ann Womack
Country music doesn't get better than this. A Great song from Lee Ann Womack's newest album.

"God Love Her"--Toby Keith
Such a Toby Keith styled song. A great listen and just screams Toby.

"Voices"--Chris Young
Great vocal and just a damn good song to crank up just a little bit.

Feel free to post your comments on what you are listening to this week....

Fans To Design Rascal Flatts "Unstoppable" Album Cover

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Rascal Flatt's fans have a chance to design the cover for their upcoming album. Starting at 9:00AM EST tomorrow (Jan. 8) fans can download some materials and submit your cover art for the April 7, 2009 releasing album "Unstoppable."

You must be 18 to enter and you have until January 22, 2009 to enter on The People's Choice Awards website. 3 finalist will be chosen and then the fans will vote on the winning cover.

You can read the full rules here

To enter and more information visit http://www.pcavote.com/ where the information should be posted very soon. There is a sneak peak link here

The People's Choice Awards air tonight Wednesday January 7 at 9pm EST on CBS.

CMA Closeup: Sing it Safe: Tips from Vocal Coaches

Sing it Safe: Tips from Vocal Coaches
By Ted Drozdowski
© 2009 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

When Country Music singers bust a "pipe," they don't call the plumber - they contact a vocal coach.

"Emergency repairs are often what bring singers to me," explained Renee Grant-Williams, long established as one of Nashville's top vocal instructors. "But the goal is to keep accidents, like a raspy throat or a damaged vocal cord, from happening."

To deal with problems that need immediate attention as well as those that have yet to happen, these experts have to function as part pragmatist and part Zen master. Through their own study and performance, they've learned secrets of the mind and body that allow artists not just to maximize all their range and power but also to phrase onstage and in the studio.

"Singers need to know when to be refined and when to be reckless - and how to be both at the same time," said Brett Manning, a Nashville vocal coach and judge on CMT's popular vocal competition show, "Can You Duet."

Manning, whose clients have included Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and Hayley Williams of the Nashville-based pop group Paramore, believes that a balanced approach is crucial.

"Purely showing off your voice is a downward spiral," he asserted. "The more you show off, the more you end up feeling like you have to show off, so you end up panicking and singing harder and louder until there's so much pressure in your throat you feel like you're going to blow up."

Like the Dixie Chicks, Miley Cyrus and his own singing idol Tim McGraw, Bo Bice has consulted with Grant-Williams to avoid the pitfalls of heavy touring.

"A lot of people think that because you have the ability to get up and sing, you don't have to work at it," said Bice. "But it's like being a professional athlete. You have to learn how to build up your immune system and your vocal muscles. So you turn to a vocal coach. I'm a very competent singer, but when you meet someone like Renee, who's so accomplished and knowledgeable, they challenge you to be better."

Specifically, Bice credited Grant-Williams for introducing him to the basics of breathing and standing. "If you watch Tim McGraw sing," he pointed out, "he's a perfect example of the way Renee teaches breathing. He stands with his legs locked in almost a wishbone formation, with a wide base, his knees a little bent. That helps keep your chest open so you can get the most out of your diaphragm, using all of your muscles, which is crucial to breathing properly. And he always sounds powerful and fantastic."

Grant-Williams and Manning both stress that power and volume are very different qualities, the first being a desirable aspect of control and the second being a reason why they're often called for "emergency repairs."

"Singing too loud and too hard is an epidemic," Grant-Williams insisted. "Out of 1,000 singers, I find a handful that aren't over-singing. That not only damages the voice, it ruins songs. Most people who come to me for their first lesson try to blow me away with how hard they can sing. I ask them, 'Why are you yelling at me?' A song has to be a conversation."

These are lessons that vocal instructors everywhere can embrace - but the notion in Country Music of serving the lyric even more than the voice sets Nashville's top coaches apart from those who prepare singers for opera or musical theater.

"In classical singing, you're taught to serve up your vowels as if they're on a silver platter, to let your voice transport them as beautifully as you can," Grant-Williams explained. "But that's not the way people speak. A problem with many trained and untrained singers is that they don't enunciate consonants. Consonants provide the meaning of words. The great artists, the finest storytellers, really sing their consonants. Listen to Garth Brooks: He does it by communicating through well-shaped consonants, not by blaring his voice."

Manning observed that formal vocal training can lead Country singers toward another bad habit. "Most people who've studied voice a lot have been taught to use vibrato too much," he said. "I hear wobbly vibratos and their singing makes me think 'Broadway,' which isn't right for Country. In Country, what's so charming is that performers are almost talking - talking on pitch."

"Country singing should never be overbearing," agreed Grant-Williams. "And it should be rhythmic. People tend to speak in rhythms. Singers have to be very conscious of that."

Manning uses the distinctive start-and-stop patter and modulations of actor Christopher Walken's speech to expand on this idea. "If singers analyze somebody whose style of talking is that distinctive, it helps them find the patterns of their own speech," he said. "It helps you key into what you should listen for in yourself."

Silence and its manipulation is another aspect of good vocal rhythm, according to Grant-Williams. "Think of Tammy Wynette singing 'Stand By Your Man,'" she suggested. "There are little stops throughout that phrase. The best singers also understand syncopation. Brief interruptions in a vocal melody create big moments."

There's more to be learned as well by pulling back from this focus and drawing more general lessons, which is why Manning advises his students to assemble a list of their 20 to 30 primary vocal influences. But, he cautioned, "I tell them not to emulate any single one but to let something of all of these stars breathe through. That depth of influence creates deeper and more complex artists and suggests different paths students can take to find their own voices.

"In listening to other artists, whether they're singers like Keith Urban or actors like William Shatner, what you're really looking for is a way into discovering your own style," Manning said. "Finding out who you are and trying to put that into your voice is harder than it may sound."

To that end, Nashville's vocal coaches to the stars may focus less on theory than their counterparts in other major music cities. "When people come to me, I focus on application first," said Manning. "Theory and technique are important, but what's crucial is discovering what it takes to make a singer's vocal performances work."

And what makes a performance convincing? "I've developed a system of questions I ask myself before I sing a song," said Grant-Williams. "First, who is singing? Is it me at this stage of my life or do I have to relate to the song by thinking of a situation that happened to me when I was a teenager or happened to a friend?

"Second, what does the singer - the narrator - hope to accomplish? The answer is never 'to get a record deal.' It's to affect some sort of change in a relationship. Once you have your mindset, then remember to always perform as if you're singing intimately into the ear of one person and you want them to believe you.

"It all comes down to one thing," Grant-Williams summarized. "When you're ready to open your mouth, tell all the little voices in your head to shut up and just tell a story."

On the Web:

Photo Credits:
1. Brett Manning with Paramore lead singer Hayley Williams. photo: Jesse Nemetz
2. Renee Grant-Williams and Tim McGraw. photo: Elaine Collins
3. Renee Grant-Williams with Miley Cyrus. photo: Vernell Hackett
4. Brett Manning and Country artist Taylor Pey. photo: Jesse Nemetz

Country Music Alive Schedule

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

You may just noticed the new weekly chart has been posted. I thought I would give you a run-down of the schedule I am going to attempt to follow each week. Of course, it may change from week-to-week, and depending on my schedule, it may be off a bit, or something may be omitted on occasion... however, this is what I am going to try out:  

Sunday- Country Music Alive Chart 
This chart combines 10 different country music song charts, some from the Internet, GAC, CMT, Billboard, I-Tunes, and a few radio airplay charts. Then they are weighted based on my personal decision on how important they are. The songs are scored and the top 5 are published on the blog. Very soon, they will be featured on the website as well.

Monday- Feedback & Questions and Answers
I will search through some of the searches done to find this blog and be sure the terms that were searched are answered directly, if not already posted. Also, any questions I get from you, the readers, will be answered in this feature as well. So, if you end up on this blog one day, and then don't find your exact topic, check back on Mondays.

Tuesday- Album Review
It could be a brand new release or a CD from many years ago, a new review each Tuesday!

Wednesday- CMA Close-Up Article
This is an article released by The Country Music Association weekly. Always an interesting read and is the only thing written by someone other than myself.

Thursday- Current Country Music Alive Picks
This should be a fairly short list of favorite songs I am currently listening to in the past week. Probably 3-5 songs of interest.

Friday- Release Dates
List of upcoming releases that will come out Tuesday of the upcoming week.

Saturday- News of the Week
Summary of news items from the past week, some small tidbits as well as the more known stories.

Country Music Alive Chart: 1/4/2009

Monday, January 05, 2009

January 4, 2009
TW LW Song Artist Amazon CD Amazon Digital I-Tunes Tickets
1 -- Chicken Fried Zac Brown Band

Zac Brown Band - The Foundation - Chicken Fried

2 -- Love Remembers Craig Morgan

Craig Morgan - That's Why - Love Remembers

3 -- Love Story Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift - Fearless - Love Story

4 -- Already Gone Sugarland

Sugarland - Love On the Inside (Deluxe Fan Edition) - Already Gone

5 -- God Love Her Toby Keith

Toby Keith - That Don't Make Me a Bad Guy - God Love Her