When Zac Brown Band opened his new album Jekyll + Hyde with an EDM-influenced song, I think everyone was taken by surprise. It was one of two EDM songs on the album. Some called it a sell-out move, while others chalked it up to creative misfires on Brown’s part. Well Zac Brown Band is back making EDM music and it’s with one of the biggest names of that genre, Avicii. For those who aren’t familiar with Avicii, his biggest recent hits were “Hey Brother,” “Wake Me Up” and “Waiting For Love.”
The new collaboration song between the two is titled “Broken Arrows” and will appear on Avicii’s new album Stories, which currently has no release date, but is highly anticipated by the EDM community. According to Fist In The Air, this song was first premiered at Avicii’s set at XS Nightclub right before EDC Vegas and then performed again at that event. Avicii confirmed it as a track on his upcoming album on his podcast Le7els earlier today.
You can take a listen to the song below (there are watermarks throughout it to prevent stealing). After listening to it a few times, it’s not bad for a pop/EDM song. If Zac Brown Band wants to scratch their EDM itch by doing collaborations like this, I have no problem with it. The problem I have is when they put this type of music on their own albums and throw it next to the likes of rock music, Motown music and country music. Nevertheless, it appears the Zac Brown Band have more than a passing interest in EDM music and it could be a sign of more of this type of music to come from the group.
(By the way, I want to give shoutout to reader John for bringing this to my attention)
The Deslondes just released their self-titled debut album with New West Records. But it would be unfair to call them a new band. They’ve been making music for years, but this is just the first time they’ve released an album under the band name The Deslondes. They’re New Orleans-based and made up of the following members: Sam Doores (vocals/guitar), Riley Downing (vocals/guitar), Dan Cutler (vocals/stand-up bass), Cameron Snyder (vocals/percussion) and John James Tourville (pedal steel/fiddle). Their music borrows from a variety of influences. This includes country, southern rock, blues, jazz and 50s & 60s style R&B that dominated the New Orleans music scene. You can hear just as much Jimmie Rodgers, as Fats Domino in their music. This fusion of genres truly makes for an intriguing sound throughout their debut self-titled album.
The first track is “Fought The Blues And Won,” right away introducing listeners to their “old-school” sound that is throughout this album. There’s just as much blues present as there is country. Something that the listeners might miss on this song I would like to point out is the organ in the background, which really stood out to me when listening. The mid-tempo “Those Were The Days” reflects back on a relationship that could’ve happened. The banjo and tambourine drive the sound of the song, which is a simplistically great approach. The sound of a lonesome harmonica plays in “Heavenly Home,” which perfectly sets the tone for this bluesy song. It’s about a loner who was born to be on the run, but he comes across a girl whose heart he can finally call home. The harmonica playing in this song is top-notch.
The fast-paced “Less Honkin’ More Tonkin’” is a fun song you can easily find yourself tapping your feet along with. There’s plenty of steel guitar and fiddle to make any country fan smile. One of my favorites on the album is “Low Down Soul.” It’s about a man down on luck, hope and heartbroken. He’s a lost soul wondering what’s next for him. The vocals and instrumentation are flawless in this song and create the perfect mood for a heartbreak song. The lyrics are decidedly dark and somber. The Deslondes hit a home run with this one. They speed it back up though on “The Real Deal” and once again show the variety in their skilled repertoire. It’s another heartbreak song, but the man in this song is more hopeful about his future love prospects. He’s had horrible luck with love, but he’s determined to find the real deal soon. The harmonies in this song are brilliant and really hook the listener in.
“Still Someone” is drenched in steel guitar. While the instrumentation impresses me, I wanted more from the lyrics. I really wasn’t sure what The Deslondes were going for on this song and I wish the lyrics had been clearer about it. I’m impressed by the dynamic instrumentation again in “Time To Believe In.” It’s a somber-toned song where a man comes to terms with mortality. Once again a healthy dose of harmonica gives a song on this album the shot of blues it needs to really stand out. “Louise” features more great harmonies from The Deslondes. It’s about a guy loving a girl named Louise with all of his heart. But he has to leave her because he’s a rambling man whose life belongs to the open road. It’s a nice take on the classic rambling man love song.
“Simple And True” is another solid heartbreak song on the album. The Deslondes keep with the heartbreak theme on “Same Blood As Mine.” What makes this stand out over “Simple And True” is the fantastic harmonies once again from the band. This is really one of their strongest attributes and something they can never do enough of in my mind. And of course the instrumentation is once again great. I think that can go without saying with this group. The final song to close the album out is “Out On The Rise.” It’s the longest song on the album and arguably the best too. The piano and pedal steel guitar really help create a smoky feeling around this desperado type song. The instrumentation is so good that it kind of sucks you in. It’s a mark of the true talent The Deslondes possess.
The old-school approach and melting pot of genres on this album makes for a fun listen. The Deslondes hold my attention from start to finish with ease. The instrumentation and the harmonies are the absolute biggest strengths I take away after hearing The Deslondes on this album. I don’t think they could improve one bit in this area, as they nail these two aspects. The one area though I wanted more in was the songwriting department. I think it could be deeper and have more variety. While The Deslondes are great at making heartbreak songs, it felt like they touched on this theme a little too much and wanted to hear them tackle some other themes. If they step up in this area on their next album, the sky is the absolute limit for them. They’re a band to keep an eye on and I highly recommend checking out this debut album from them. This is an album I think many country fans can pick up and easily enjoy.
Country newcomer Cam impressed us with her debut single “My Mistake.” The song was a nice blend of pop country with great lyrics, and Cam herself is a captivating vocalist. As a follow-up single, Cam is releasing “Burning House” off her EP. This song, thanks to some help from the one and only Bobby Bones, will get the iHeartRadio On The Verge treatment. It’s the same program that’s helped Sam Hunt become a country star. While some may question the integrity of the program, it has proven to be effective in getting new artists in the spotlight. And say what you want about Bobby Bones, the shock jock has just as many detractors as he has supporters, but for every other bad song he pushes out on his show, there’s a good one. And in the case of Cam’s “Burning House,” Bobby Bones and On The Verge have chosen a very good song to bring into the country radio spotlight.
“Burning House” features a beautifully haunting production. A simple acoustic guitar melody lays the ground for the song, and a piano and some violins chime in as the song progresses. You won’t hear percussion anywhere on this song. The lone acoustic melody on the introduction combined with the opening line of “I had a dream about a burning house” sets the mood perfectly for the sadness to come. The phrase “less is more” couldn’t be more relevant to “Burning House.” The simplicity of the three instruments allows the listener room to breathe and focus on the story.
Cam uses the metaphor of a house burning down to tell a story of a love going down in flames. The relationship is dead and it’s only a matter of time before the flames die and leaving nothing left for the two of them. Cam is at a loss of how to fix it and ultimately realizes that its best to hold on until the flames have died.
“I’ve been sleepwalking, been wandering all night trying to take what’s lost and broke and make it right. I’ve been sleepwalking too close to the fire, but it’s the only place that I can hold you tight in this burning house.”
This is the type of story song that’s lost in mainstream country. Too much of radio is too focused on being the soundtrack of good time parties and late night rendezvouses that listening to the lyrics of song has become an afterthought. And what makes “Burning House” a great song may be its Achilles’ heel on radio. Two of the previous stripped-back songs that made waves on country radio, “What We Ain’t Got” and “She Don’t Love You,” stalled at in the teens on the country charts. With that said, for an artist who’s yet to have a top 30 hit, a peak in the teens could be considered a success.
It’ll be interesting to see what On The Verge does for Cam and “Burning House.” I’d love to see this song succeed and at least chart in the upper half of the top 30. Cam’s vocals carry the melancholy tone of the song to new heights. She’s a captivating singer, and that only helps a song like this capture listeners. Unfortunately, for a song like this in today’s radio culture, it’s a game of wait and see. Regardless of how “Burning House” fares, it’s an excellent country song that everyone should hear.
Rainey Qualley comes from a family of entertainers. She is the daughter of actress Andie MacDowell (Groundhog Day, Four Weddings and a Funeral) and former model Paul Qualley. Rainey’s sister, Sarah Margaret Qualley, is a regular on HBO’s The Leftovers. As for Rainey herself, she’s starred in a few movies (Falcon Song, Mighty Fine), and now she’s earned herself a record deal with the newly launched Cingle Records. This is a brand new label out of Nashville, and Rainey is the label’s first signed artist. Qualley released her debut EP Turn Down the Lights this summer, with a new single called “Me and Johnny Cash.”
This country rocker is a nice spin on a break up. We get the picture that her man ended the relationship and left her. However, instead of crying, feeling sad and lonely about his leaving, Rainey has popped the cork on a bottle of wine, pushed play on a record from the Man in Black, and is letting her wild side come out to play.
Me and Johnny Cash and a bottle of wine Burning up some old love letters of mine Goodbye lies, goodbye blue Life’s too short to keep missing you No telling what’ll happen in this rowdy crowd Probably get drunk and burn the house down. I’m getting rid of you one match at a time Me and Johnny Cash and a bottle of wine.
The production of the rocking guitars and heavy drum beats in chorus fit well behind the rowdy lyrics and Rainey’s lower, booming vocals. The inclusion of a banjo driving the beat on the verses sounds natural, making “Me and Johnny Cash” a more authentic country rocker. Rainey Qualley also does a good job selling the anger of a woman scorned while still sounding positive and proud of where she’s at in life. It’s somewhere between “Gunpowder and Lead” and “Picture to Burn.”
As you’d expect from a song with Johnny Cash in the title, Rainey does reference some of his more famous moments and songs. “Watch us going up in ashes rocking ‘Ring of Fire’ and ‘Jackson.’ You can’t ‘Walk the Line’ on Muscadine red 2009” she sings in the second verse, which is essentially the chorus reworked. And in the third verse she references the famous light-smashing incident that led to Cash being banned from the Opry for a short while, “I’ve learned a lot from Johnny lately. And if you were here now I’d flip you the bird and he’d kick your lights out.”
“Me and Johnny Cash” works well as a woman scorned song. This is still quite the clichéd song from women in country music, and the trope of using a famous singer and his song titles for lyric material is commonplace as well. My other complaint is that the song sounds a little overproduced. However, Rainey’s vocals are great, and her lower register helps her stand out a bit more. Overall, “Me and Johnny Cash” is a song that could help get Rainey Qualley in the spotlight, but it doesn’t offer anything new or fresh to country music.