Concert: Reba McEntire at Tanglewood

Sometimes I struggle being from Oklahoma. Not in a literal sense, but from a moral standpoint. It’s complicated. I moved to New York around three years ago. To say the least, it’s been the best experience of my life.

Although New York offers nearly every experience under the sun, there is one thing missing: real country music. When I got word that Reba McEntire was just going to be two and a half hours north of me in Massachusets, it was a no brainer.

Courtesy of Amazon.

McEntire and her music truly mean the world to me. I’ve been a fan since I was in elementary school. Without going into great detail, my parents divorced when I was six years old. To be honest, I don’t remember all the details, but I still carry the heartache with me.

My mom knew I loved music. One day she brought home a “previously viewed” VHS from the local Blockbuster. I’m sure it was in the sale bin, that’s the only way she could have afforded it. The video was Reba: Live. I couldn’t tell you how many times I watched it. This concert became my safety blanket. My mind did not understand what it was feeling, but McEntire gave a voice and relief to those emotions.

Back to 2019. I found that McEntire was going to be the season closer for Tanglewood in the Berkshires in Lenox, MA. This was not the best financial decision, but once I found a few front row seats left I entered my credit card nearly faster than my fingers could type.

The concert, which took place on Sunday, was phenomenal. McEntire has been in the music game for 43 years. She’s a veteran, but her enthusiasm for her music and the fans has never been lost. She sinks each song like it’s brand new. She opened the concert with “Turn On The Radio,” a track from her 2010 album All The Women I Am. She quickly went into a melody of numerous number-one singles, including one of my all-time favorites “Can’t Even Get The Blues.”

Then came the song that will always pull my heartstrings “Whoever’s In New England.” It was perfection. Shortly after came her 2017 single, “Back to God.” The conviction in her voice was chilling. McEntire sings this song from wisdom and experience.

About 75% of the way through the show, she embarked on the Grammy-winning “Does He Love You.” This song was recorded with Linda Davis in 1993, but a member of McEntire’s band, Jennifer Wrinkle, accompanies McEntire on tour. To my dismay, Wrinkle does not have a solo album. She was superb.

As per McEntire tradition, she closed the show with “Fancy.” This is truly a “bow down to the queen” moment. Once she exits the stage and reemerges in that red dress, her legacy is undeniable. Yet she still meets her audience with humility. There is never a pompous moment. That’s the art of the Reba concert, you leave feeling she is your best friend.

Through all these amazing songs and stories, one moment stands above the rest. As McEntire began to introduce “The Greatest Man I Never Knew,” she told the story of her family. It’s impossible to not mention Oklahoma when talking about the McEntire’s. At that moment, in a crazy fan haze, I yelled: “I’m from Oklahoma!” She went on with her conversation. I thought nothing of it.

She then turned around and said “Where are you from in Oklahoma?” and walked straight to me.I told her I was from Lawton and she acknowledged how she knew right where that was. She went on to say that Oklahoma was “so important.” At this moment, in another crazy fan haze, I yelled: “I love you.” Then she looked at me once more and said: “I love you too.”

After the show, as I was reeling from McEntire speaking to me, I felt so much pride. Not in just where I come from, but in how far I’ve come. Although sometimes I am conflicted about my home state, it has given me an unshakeable foundation. I haven’t nearly seen the world like McEntire, but it is surreal that we could connect, even for a moment, over our shared heritage. The spirit of Oklahoma is more than OK, we’re extraordinary.

I’d like for you to take two main points from this article: 

1.) Go see Reba McEntire in concert. She’s nothing short of phenomenal.

2.) There is life out there, but Oklahoma and your heritage will always be there when you need ’em. 

ALBUM REVIEW: The Judds, ‘Christmas Time with The Judds’

Every year I have a tradition. I’ll be honest and say I do love Christmas music but there is one album, in particular, I can’t go a year without listening to. That album is Christmas Time with The Judds.

I’m a big fan of The Judds — and I always have been. I listen to them throughout the year, every year. In December, though, I dedicate my ears to this classic country Christmas album…

Read the full article here on Nashville Noise.

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!

INTERVIEW: Dave Barnes Chats Christmas Traditions + Big Goals for 2019

It’s almost Christmas! That means it’s almost time for A Very Merry Christmas with Dave Barnes. The annual Schermerhorn Symphony Center show has become a tradition for Music City. 

Recently, Nashville Noise sat down with Barnes to talk about this show, some of his favorite Christmas destinations and his goals for 2019…

Check out Nashville Noise for the full interview with Dave Barnes.

INTERVIEW: Boys Called Susan, A Raw and Authentic Beginning

There is something about rural America. It runs through us all. It’s where our heritages began as Americans.

The qualities of rural America are simple and universal. These qualities include dignity and authenticity to despair and pain. Rural America is beautiful, raw and real. That’s where the story of Boys Called Susan starts. Boys Called Susan is two cousins, Bryan Russo and Christopher Shearer. Both are seasoned musicians but haven’t worked cohesively together up until their debut album, Pennsyltucky….

Check out the full article on Nashville Noise here.

INTERVIEW: Griffin Anthony, Finding Refuge

It is not often you find voices that change the way you listen to music.

When I first heard Griffin Anthony, I had just moved to New York from Oklahoma. I had completely new surroundings and didn’t know a soul, yet music was my pillar. Throughout my whole life, music has been a constant comforter and protector. This became very apparent when I dove into collecting vinyl, a hobby that kept me busy in my first lonely months here. Music became my refuge in a new world.

Music also took a new place in my life when I began to proactively write and blog about my favorite choices and artists. My writings have brought me into contact with some amazing musicians. That’s exactly how I got word of Griffin Anthony’s music.

Griffin’s voice is authentic. I believe it ranks with some of the greatest modernand classic country artists, from Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson to Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson. Griffin’s unique vocal interpretations mixed with his ingenious songwriting makes for a prolific adventure in song. He has created a new standard in how I consume music.

Refuge, Griffin Anthony’s latest album, follows this same tradition. The album picks up where he left off with 2015’s The Making of a ManRefuge shows the raw beauty and nuance of maturing both artistically and as a human being. I caught up with Anthony recently to gain his thoughts on the new album and to explore what he has accomplished with this new volume of songs.


What does the album title Refuge mean? How does it relate to the songs?

“The album’s title suggests a destination where safe-haven (or happiness) exists. And the tunes trace narratives of men and women on their quest to find that destination; together or alone, through failures and celebrations. The word ‘refuge’ also drums up a ‘rustic’ and ‘natural’ connotation- which ties into some of the lyrical themes, the style of production, and album artwork.”

What message or messages would you like listeners to take away from this album? Is there a central theme?

“I really tried to somehow capture the feeling of Hope with each tune. Jon Estes and I spoke at length about that during our pre-production pow-wows and tracking. From a songwriting perspective, no matter how much uncertainty the main character is dealing with, he or she still maintains that better days are ahead. There are tunes on celebrate oxytocin-drenched romance, the joys of parenting, and the beauty of nature- where the personal and the pastoral converge… On the other hand, the album wades into some murkier waters of escapism, separation, isolation, the construct of religion, and the horrors of war.”

This album was made purely analog. Why did you choose to go this route?

“Well, most of the music that moves me was recorded that way. ‘Refuge’ is intended to be a refreshing departure from the sterilized sounds of the digital age. It’s human. There’s nothing to hide behind and I think that translates through the music. Elements of the performances I may have once regarded as ‘mistakes’ become ‘moments”… There are more rough-ends on this project and I love that about it. With the convenience of digital recording, it’s way too easy to clean shit up and quite often, it results in white-washing all the emotion… Everything just becomes antiseptic and colorless. Plus, I don’t want to sound like a robot, ya know?”

Pick one song. What is the story behind the song and what is the inspiration?

” ‘1954’ is probably my favorite tune on the album for a couple reasons; one, because I feel the understated musical arrangement best supports the lyric, and two, because of what the song represents as a storyteller… On the ten-year anniversary of D-day, the subject reflects on his past and tries to cope with the meaning of war; balancing pride and ambition with humility and loss. During a time in US history that’s often celebrated for it’s economic prosperity and baby-boom, PTSD wasn’t ever discussed… The glory associated with that era overshadows what my grandfathers and hundreds of thousands of young men had to endure.”

How does this album pair with your previous album, The Making of A Man?

” ‘The Making of a Man’ has more overall melody and hooks for sure. And aside from the completely different production approaches of two very different producers and session bands, I wrote ‘The Making of a Man’ on the piano- whereas ‘Refuge’ was written predominantly on the acoustic. ‘Refuge’ has a greater focus on lyrics-first song construction and capturing a live performance. Plus, I’m five years older from when I wrote “The Making of a Man.” I’ve experienced some life-defining highs and lows in that period- I’d like to think that contributes to a sharper pen.”


 

“Refuge” listens like planks of an old oak tree. Each piece is distinctively different, but they all fit together. Anthony has woven an intricate placement of work that possesses universal truths in tandem with nature. This album serves as a vanguard to musical authenticity in a world of manufactured melodies.

As Griffin Anthony alluded in the answers above, this album suggests a destination in the proverbial journey of life, mixed with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. This album accomplishes its mission by providing a safe harbor, a refuge, for all those seeking a glimpse of truth with a glimmer of hope.

PURCHASE Refugee ON ITUNES HERE

CONCERT: Kris Kristofferson, A Profound Experience

Last week I wrote about Diana Ross’ nearly perfect show. Although, that was not the only show I saw that weekend. Sunday I had tickets to see Kris Kristofferson as well.

It was sensory overload.

Now it’s easy to see the stark differences in Diana Ross and Kris Kristofferson. I hope this speaks to my diversity or mental instability. I went from turning upside down to hanging with Bobby McGee within 48 hours. That’s quite a stretch.

I received an email from a friend a few weeks ago with a link to Kristofferson’s show at The City Winery in NYC. Now I’m not a Kristofferson expert, but the tickets seemed irresistible. Oddly, I grew up watching A Star is Born, and I knew some of his songs. He reminded me of home, so I decided to buy.

Kristofferson left me speechless. I didn’t know what to say about his show, and I still don’t. The only word that I can find to describe his set is profound. Every note he sang, every lyric he wrote, every look he gave the audience was simply profound.

He sang a staggering 28 songs. These songs ranged from his hits like “Help Me Make It Through The Night” and “For The Good Times,” while also touching on some minor musical milestones. From the moment he began to sing I could not take my attention away from the stage.

During his show, he seemed to profess wisdom while singing the same songs he has sung for years. Instead of coming at them from just experience, his demeanor also led to advice. This concert was set in a winery and I felt like it was my grandpa and I having drinks together. Kristofferson wanted to give me advice so that I could have a better tomorrow.

The entire show told a story. It was a concept show. Although, I don’t think Kristofferson meant it in that way at all. Each song was a chapter. Every topic he sang about came to a head at the end of the show with the songs “The Pilgrim: Chapter 33,” “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” “Jesus Was a Capricorn,” and “Why Me.” I believe these 5 songs, some of Kristofferson’s best, describe both the high and low of his life and the topics he struggles with. Life may be tough, but he is just happy to be alive.

It was a simple show. The stage was just adorned with Kristofferson, his guitar, and harmonica. What struck me the most in retrospect is how relevant his songs are today. They have passed over generations and he is still writing. He finds a way to explain timeless truths in a language that will never be antiquated.

Seeing him live is surreal and truly a profound experience.