PLAYLIST: Reba McEntire, The Deep Cuts

Being from Oklahoma, Reba McEntire‘s music is almost a daily occurrence for me. I’ve been a McEntire fan for most of my life. My mom bought one of her concerts on VHS when I was six and I’ve been smitten with her music ever since. I listened to everything I could get a hold of and now I own every album she’s ever recorded. I’m not obsessed; I just have a deep respect.

Each McEntire album is a meticulous painting. Some are blue while others are red hot. Each is carefully curated, especially after she signed with MCA and took musical control of her career. She is known for her 26 Billboard No. 1 hits but there are so many hidden gems within these records…

Check out Nashville Noise for the full list!

PLAYLIST: 5 Songs The Spice Girls Must Perform, From A Spice Boy’s Perspective

May 31st 1998 was one of the darkest days in the history of history. Millions of people lost what they wanted, what they really really wanted. Those dark times are now over. All you need is a passport, airfare, and directions to Wembley Stadium.

As we know from every 90’s kid, teenager, mom, and dad rejoicing, the Spice Girls are reuniting. Although Posh will not be joining, four is better than none, and hell, Sporty was always my favorite. For me, just seeing them sitting together again is surreal.

Now I was a fan when I was a child, but I wouldn’t say obsessed, I just highly respected them. I’ll just say it; I’m an unashamed Spice boy. They’re still on my Spotify playlist and I might still watch Spiceworld from time to time. I may also have a detailed ranking of each lady, but let’s save that for another article. And yes, there may have been a poster or two…..

Check out the full article on Vents Magazine.

PLAYLIST: Nina Simone, A Calm Exhaust

Sometimes you are at a loss for words. Then you listen to Nina Simone….and you are still at a loss for words.

Lately, I have binge-listened to Nina Simone. I don’t really like to write over her because it’s so hard to put words to her voice, but I feel the need to say something.

Simone’s voice is complex. Her voice pierces my soul. When I put on one of her records, I may feel whole, but by the time the album makes its final spin, I’m mush. This happens every single time. As exhausting as this sounds, she is still one of my go-to comfort vinyl. Her voice calmly exhausts me.

I could literally write a book over each Nina Simone album I listen to, but for the sake of brevity, I wanted to compile a list of my current favorites. Although it is safe to note, this list may change by the time this article is published.

1. “Mood Indigo” from Little Girl Blue

This song does me in by many artists, but Simone’s upbeat version takes me astray. Instead of the songs usual instrumentation of gloom, it takes on a new feeling with an upbeat tempo.

2. “Papa, Can You Hear Me” from A Single Woman

All music theater and jazz fans know this song from Barbra Streisand and the movie Yentl. Nina Simone’s version is very different, not just in a vocal sense, but an emotional one. Simone didn’t have a close relationship with her father and this song serves as a solemn farewell plea.

3. “The Other Woman” – “Cotton Eyed Joe” from Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall

What I hate about this song is how autobiographical it became for Nina Simone. The song is a tear-jerker, especially with the emotion Simone evokes. What I do love is how well she captures the true essence of this song’s lyrics. She lived it in more ways than one.

4. “Go to Hell” from Silk and Soul

Simone’s mid to late career was mirrored in bluntness. This song, from what I would argue is one of her most iconic studio albums, continues this tradition.

5. “Summertime” Instrumental and Vocal from Nina Simone At Town Hall

When Simone plays the piano, I can feel her fingers hit the keys. Now, this may be my imagination, but this factor stuns me with this song in particular. Her vocals are nonchalant. It sounds like Simone is just saying words that come to mind as she goes through this classic.

What does it mean for an artist or piece of music to pierce your soul? I don’t have the answer. These are just the words that distinctly come to mind every-time I listen to Simone. I’m not sure if a digital file could quite do it like vinyl. It’s gut-wrenching and unexplainable when on this medium. It steals my words. There are layers to our bodies and emotions, yet Nina Simone skips every level to strike the deepest.

This playlist barely touches the brim of what Simone means to me. She expresses the highest highs and the lowest lows that I’ve only experienced with Judy Garland as well. With each listen, she strikes that exact cord within my soul that needs strumming, and I could not be more thankful.

And here I must end because, again, Nina Simone has left me speechless.

Check out my other articles over Nina Simone:

PLAYLIST: A Few Top Female Trailblazers

I haven’t written in a while. Life has gotten away from me and I haven’t been able to update as much as I would like. Today felt like a fitting return, as it is a day to truly celebrate.

Many strong women have impacted me through out my life. From my mom to mentors, women have had a profound impact on my character and integrity. As a self proclaimed quasi-feminist, I truly value women’s impact on our society, and to be honest, I feel sad that we need to be reminded to celebrate them.

That’s another argument to be had another day, today I want to celebrate International Women’s Day. In celebration, I have comprised a list of the top female trailblazers in music history. It’s safe to note, this list is not a comprehensive list.  One may not agree with all my choices, but I think we will all agree these women are music royalty and deserve to be celebrated.

1. Wanda Jackson

To say that I am a fan of Wanda Jackson is an understatement. I adore her music, faith, and tenacity in her life and career. Jackson created the female rockstar and the country bombshell at the same time. If it wasn’t for her there would not be any Joan Jetts or Carrie Underwoods. The best thing about her trailblazing history is that she didn’t even know what she was causing at the time, but she knew she was doing something.

2. Cher

Cher has as many definitions as she does hair colors, but she was the original female pop mega star. Not only did she have immense success as 1/2 of Sonny and Cher, she went on to score 3 number one hits in the early 1970’s. The press couldn’t get enough of her and neither could her fans. To this day she keeps blazing new ways showing that superstars are ageless while defining “Twitter advocacy.”

3. Diana Ross

If Cher created the first female pop mega star, then Diana Ross created the first female soul/R&B mega star. From her early days with The Supremes to her continuous solo career, Ross has more iconic hits then one can remember. Ross created fierce and paved the way for African American females in the music industry.

4. Reba McEntire

As a die-in-the-wool Oklahoman, I love Reba McEntire. As a music fan, I am devoted to everything she touches. Her career started in the early 1970’s without much success, until she finally hit number one in 1982 with “Can’t Even Get The Blues.” She created the country music superstar single handedly while always keeping the tradition of those who came before her. Not far from being over, she just won the “Best Roots Gospel Album” at the 2018 Grammys.

5. Tina Turner

There is so much to be said of Tina Turner. She created the “comeback.” After a tumultuous and abusive relationship with her husband and musical partner Ike Turner, Tina walked away with only her name. She began to perform in Vegas dives for someone of her caliber until Capital records took a chance on her. Thus she created “Private Dancer” and the rest is history.

6.  Madonna

Although I am not particularly a huge fan of Madonna, I do respect what she has done in the music industry. With that being said, I have nothing left to say.

7. Billie Holiday

As Paula Cole pointed out to me, Billie Holiday was the first great female American singer/ songwriter. Writing classics like “Don’t Explain” and “God Bless The Child,” Holiday declared herself the mother of jazz vocals. She was also one of the original leading musicians to take a social stand with her music with the song “Strange Fruit.”

8.  Judy Garland

Judy Garland was the greatest American stage performer. Her voice could touch every emotion and her presence could fill any venue. Sadly, we lost Garland when she was just 47 years old. Although many remember her from The Wizard of Oz, she was more than Dorothy.

9. Whitney Houston

Some artists need essays to describe them, but Whitney only needs two words: The Voice.

With that, I would like to say Happy International Women’s Day to all today! Let us truly remember the impact women have had on all of our lives.

Godspeed to every woman today and every day. All I can simply say is thank you.

PLAYLIST: #JusticeForJanet

To be blunt, I think it is wrong that Justin Timberlake preformed the Super Bowl half-time. Don’t get me wrong, I like Justin Timberlake and think he is one of the most innovative modern artists, but I don’t understand how Janet Jackson gets blacklisted from not just the Super Bowl, but Hollywood in general because she “flashed” her boob during the halftime show.

In the end, we have to remember, Justin ripped the costume. If we are going with the “it was planned conspiracy,” it’s both of their faults.

I think Bette Midler said it best:

In celebration of Janet and everything a superstar is meant to be, I am compiling my favorite Jackson songs….during the Super Bowl.

1. “Together Again”

My first Janet Jackson album was Velvet Rope. I bought it my senior year in high school. My cousin is a huge Janet fan and she had always told me to buy this specific album. The album hooked me from the beginning, but when I made it to “Together Again,” it was the hook, line, and sinker.

2. “Control”

The “Control” era of Jackson’s career cemented her as a superstar. I’ve always related to this song and respected her for recording it. While many of the Jackson family seemed to stay under the families musical thumb, she decided to be different.

3. “Come on Get Up”

I don’t want to stick with just Jackson’s hits. After I really began to get into Janet’s career, I purchased her concert DVDs. The way she entered the stage and commanded the attention of every attendee during her “All For You” tour proved her star power.

4. “Rock With U”

This song came out my senior year of high school. This was her second single off of Discipline, one of three albums she released after the Super Bowl that was perfect R&B/ Pop, but due to the sexist nature of pop culture, they were not a hit. “Nipplegate” blacklisted these albums. Her material during this time isn’t her best, but is worth a listen…..many listens.

5. “That’s The Way Love Goes”

And what’s a Janet Jackson playlist without “That’s The Way Love Goes.” Nothing can be said about this song…it’s simply the best (***Cue Tina Turner).

So as I sit here and watch the Super Bowl, I have been trying to converse with everybody my displeasure for the halftime show. It turns out that everybody at the party is actually into the game. Odd. I’ve always watched it for the Half Time Show.

In the end, it’s time for a full apology to Janet from the NFL. She has more than paid the price and has apologized. It’s time to let the vendetta go, deal with the sexism that still exists, and give Janet one of the biggest stages in music history.

And most importantly: #TimesUp

PLAYLIST: A Kimberley Locke Christmas

Kimberley Locke

Recording artists reinterpret Christmas songs every year. Most of these songs come from the same traditional Christmas music catalog. These songs consist of “Silent Night,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Jingle Bells,” and many more. I usually just pass the new album lists and ignore half the new releases this time of year.

Yet this year, there is some new Christmas music to hear. I found new renditions of “O Holy Night,” “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” and “The Christmas Waltz” by Kimberley Locke.

Many know Kimberley Locke for the hits “8th World Wonder” and “Change.”  Locke also came in 3rd runner up on American Idol’s second season. With a voice like elastic, Locke’s vocals seem to have a limitless range.

Locke’s sass and range comes out on “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree.” I’m pretty sure this might be the best version recorded since the original by Brenda Lee in 1960. I dare you to listen to this track and not smile. Even the biggest scrooge will enjoy this tune.

Next, there is Locke’s jazzy take on “The Christmas Waltz.” Her vocals sore beyond what this song demands and her voice is perfectly at home in the “freedom” jazz provides. Locke’s version is classy, making me think of a bougie party with tuxes, red dresses, and fur (fake fur, of course).

Then there is Locke’s emotionally stirring version of “O Holy Night.” Her vocals tell a story beyond the birth of Jesus. She takes her voice where one wouldn’t think possible, literally turning it upside down while hitting soul stopping notes. With just a simple piano accompanying her, Locke shows how one can rejoice, struggle, and be content. The struggle in her voice is not painful, it is recollecting over heartache past while maintaining hope. That hope is in a Savior.

Locke’s new recordings prove that, done the right way, Christmas music will never go stale. They also show a new vocal side to Locke as she has unleashed a new vocal prowess. While I’m celebrating Christmas this year, I’m going to wish for more new recordings from Locke in 2018.

Check out all of Kimberley Locke’s new music here on Spotify.

Connect with Kimberley Locke:

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PLAYLIST: From the Soul, December 3, 2017

As I am moving into my new “normal,” I have found my music choices all over the spectrum. I cannot switch the vinyl quick enough. This is not anything new though, I’m always all over the radar, but I thought it would be interesting to go over some of these songs. I wanted to think about why I’m listening to them. Maybe that can give me a clue of where I am in life and you can always judge somebody by the record collection or playlist, right?

“Proud Mary” –Tina Turner

Now I cannot completely verify this research, but I once read that “Proud Mary” doesn’t necessarily have a meaning. When John Fogerty wrote this song, he put together a bunch of different riffs and verses he had written. For me, this song makes complete sense, especially in my life now!

I really did just leave a steady career track to pursue a passion of mine. Right now I’m just rollin,’ and life has been rough, but in the end, everything’s nice and easy.

                                                         Tina Turner Twitter   Tina Turner Facebook   Tina Turner Instagram

“Mary Did You Know” –Kimberley Locke

Honestly, I have never really been into Christmas music. I’ve had a few favorites over the years, but I’ve never been elated to hear that first Christmas tune at Wal-Mart in July. I’m not a scrooge, just not overly festive. One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Mary Did You Know?” I love the song’s perspective. I’ve been looking for a simple version with a powerhouse vocal that brought justice to the lyrics. Kimberley Locke’s version does just that and I’m hooked.

Kimberley Locke Twitter   Kimberley Locke Facebook   Kimberley Locke Instagram

“Roxanne” –The Police 

I cannot really explain why I am listening to this song. It popped into my head the other day and has been in the back ever since. I’ve been trying to figure out a few songs that I could start practicing myself that were outside the “piano” realm, but one that still echoed jazz sentiments. This song has so many great versions out there along those lines, but nothing beats the original.

Sting Twitter   Sting Facebook   Sting Instagram

“Purple Rain” –Prince

I’m starting to see an 80’s theme, but this is where it’s going to end. Lately I have been listening to music from Prince’s entire career catalog. “Purple Rain” is such a classic though. I can’t hear it once and not go on a binge listen for a few days….or weeks.

Prince Twitter   Prince Facebook   Prince Instagram

“Lady Blue” –Griffin Anthony

I discovered Griffin Anthony on Twitter a few months ago. Once I heard his album The Making of A Man, I was hooked to his vocal’s true country tones and soulful foundation. “Lady Blue” is one of my favorite tracks off of the album due to it’s pure honesty. You can sense both hope, frustration, and heartbreak woven in it’s lyrics. Expect a full review soon. If anybody belongs on vinyl it’s Anthony.

Griffin Anthony Twitter   Griffin Anthony Facebook   Griffin Anthony Instagram

“New York” –St. Vincent

When I find myself in a “rut,” where I keep listening to the same artists and songs consistently, I force myself to try something new. I am a member of Vinyl Me, Please, and their album of the month was St. Vincent’s MASSEDUCTION. Read my full review of her album here. St. Vincent is innovative in both the sound of her music and writing. I love how so many of her songs change “attitude” throughout the song yet they always have a reigning theme.

St. Vincent Twitter   St. Vincent Facebook   St. Vincent Instagram

“River” –Idina Menzel

Here is another one of favorite Christmas songs. I have been a fan of Idina Menzel for many years now, so naturally I did buy her Christmas album a few years back. Although this is officially Joni Mitchell’s classic, I fell in love with Menzel’s version. It was just what I needed that year and it has remained a staple in my winter playlist since. I believe Barnes and Noble is featuring this on limited edition vinyl…..

Idina Menzel Twitter   Idina Menzel Facebook   Idina Menzel Instagram

“Good to You” –Jonny P 

Songs that have old school vibes with a modern twist always catch my ear. I found recently this one recently. My friend was talking about Jonny P and I found his music video on Vevo. I definitely plan to check out more of his music this week.

Jonny P Twitter   Johnny P Facebook   Johnny P Instagram

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” –Darlene Love

Rolling Stone said it best when they declared that Darlene Love is one of the greatest singers of all time. I couldn’t agree more. In recent years, she is finally getting some of the well deserved credit and respect she truly deserves. This song will always remain a staple in Love’s career and it has cemented itself as a holiday classic. Love performed this song every year on David Letterman since 1986. Here is her first performance of her classic.

   Darlene Love Facebook

“Perfect” –Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé

Anything featuring Beyoncé will always get my attention. Yes, I am an unashamed member of the Bey Hive. Do not talk bad about her majesty in my presence. With that being said, I’m not 100% into this song. Ed Sheeran’s music has never really crossed my path, but this may have opened the door a tad. I am listening to this repeatedly trying to get fully into it. I’ll keep you posted.

Ed Sheeran: Ed Sheeran Twitter   Ed Sheeran Facebook   Ed Sheeran Instagram

Beyoncé: Beyonce Twitter   Beyonce Facebook   Beyonce Instagram

So what does my playlist say about me? I’m not sure exactly what it says  or where I’m at in life, but in the end it’s exactly where I need to be. Music is what you have when words are not adequate. Vinyl is my medium. What you listen too is what speaks to your soul. Where does that leave me?

Who the heck knows, but I’m enjoying the journey…

                                                           Gabe Crawford Twitter   Gabe Crawford Instagram