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Hannah Ellis Album “That Girl” Is A Captivating Debut

Country music has always had a formulaic blend to it, but some artists know how to utilize it a lot better than others. Hannah Ellis is someone who understands the importance of connecting with her audience and, more importantly, adopting a stylistic profile that fits her voice organically, and this is precisely why her new album That Girl feels as naturally strong as it does. Where others are fighting the idea of embracing the minimalist elements that are comprising a new era of country jams, this is a singer/songwriter prepared to take her place in the center of the spotlight. To me, she’s found a way to take an old-fashioned formula and make it sound incredibly fresh and original, which is no easy feat by anyone’s standards.

There’s nothing one-note about the vocal Ellis is putting up in “Still,” “Wine Country,” “Plans,” or the brilliantly soft “Home and a Hometown,” and I like that she isn’t afraid to be a little indulgent at the microphone in any portion of That Girl. She hits these hooks with everything she’s got at a time when minimalism has been a disturbingly popular trend, and instead of giving us a taste of what we would hear in a concert setting, I get the impression she’s producing as close to a raw, live juggernaut as is possible from within the confines of a recording studio. 

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“Karma on the Rocks,” “Someone Else’s Heartbreak,” and one of my favorite tracks from the record, “Country Can,” present us with an Ellis ready and willing to exploit rhythm as a means of accentuating her lyrics rather than as an agent of progressive exclusively, which on its own puts her leaps and bounds ahead of her rivals right now. She seems genuinely eager to experiment with the limitations of her genre, and yet there’s nothing here to indicate that she wants to abandon the core values of a more traditional country sound just for the sake of getting additional followers on TikTok. Contrarily, songs like “Somebody Else” and the namesake song in That Girl project an affection for the old school that can still exist in the new Nashville provided they’re being presented by someone as alluring as this artist and her work has been to date. 

Country’s pop side is getting a surge of buzz like few other genres in America are at the moment, but I can’t say that I’ve heard another singer doing it justice quite as well as Hannah Ellis is. I can’t wait to hear what she’s going to come up with next, but at any rate, I think it’s undeniable when listening to That Girl that Ellis is onto a firm formula for songcraft she could easily ride into the primetime if promoted in the right fashion. That Girl lives up to its lofty title and what it implies about its creator, and although star tracks like “Too Much & Not Enough” and “Country Can” stand out as obvious video/single hits, there’s no unwanted excess here. To me, this was made to captivate a new generation of country music lovers everywhere.

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Clay Burton

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Album Review

Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number: Lolly Lee Delivers Debut Self-Titled LP

Lolly Lee’s self-titled LP kicks off with an energetic and infectious anthem, “Satellite,” setting the stage for what’s to come on this vibrant and dynamic album. With its driving guitar riffs, pulsating percussion, and Lee’s spirited vocals, the song immediately captures listeners’ attention and leaves them hungry for more.

Throughout the album’s 11 tracks, Lee showcases her incredible musicality and unwavering passion for storytelling through music. Her songs are a vibrant tapestry of rock ‘n’ roll infused with light Americana elements, creating a sound that is uniquely her own. From the upbeat and catchy “Great Crusade” to  “Ave Mario Grotto,” each track on the album stands out on its own while still maintaining a cohesive sound.

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What makes this album truly special is Lee’s ability to craft compelling narratives through her lyrics. It’s evident that each song is deeply personal to her, drawing on her own experiences of love, loss, and life in rural Alabama. In “Shot at the Devil,” the album’s closing track, Lee reflects on the uncertainties of life and the struggle to find inner peace. With her emotive vocals and haunting melody, she captures the bittersweet feeling of acceptance and letting go. As a listener, it’s hard not to be deeply moved by her vulnerability and honesty.

Collaborating with long-time friend and producer Anthony Crawford, Lee has created a mesmerizing sound that perfectly complements her songwriting. Crawford’s production expertise shines through on each track, adding layers of depth and texture to Lee’s already dynamic songs. Lee’s decision to also enlist the vocal powerhouse Savana Lee, Crawford’s wife and bandmate in Sugarcane Jane, adds an extra layer of richness and diversity to the album.

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The standout single, “Great Crusade,” is a perfect example of the magic that happens when Lee and Crawford collaborate. The song is a rousing anthem that is equal parts fun and inspiring, with its kickass riffs and battle-inspired lyrics. It’s impossible not to feel empowered and ready to conquer the world after listening to this song.

Recorded at the renowned Admiral Bean Studio, the production on this album is top-notch. Each instrument and vocal is expertly mixed, creating a balanced and polished sound that perfectly captures the energy of Lee’s live performances. As a listener, it’s easy to get lost in the music and feel like you’re right there in the studio with Lee and her band.

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In conclusion, Lolly Lee’s self-titled LP is a must-listen for fans of rock ‘n’ roll, Americana, and great music in general. Lee’s talent and creativity shine through on every track, making this album a true gem in the world of independent music. With its infectious energy, inspiring melodies, and thought-provoking lyrics, this album is sure to leave a lasting impression on listeners and solidify Lolly Lee as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry.

http://www.lollyleemusic.com

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-Chuck Rainey

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Album Review

Veteran Singer Songwriter James Mastro Releases Album for the Ages, “Dawn of a New Error”

James Mastro is a veteran songwriter and guitarist with an impressive career spanning several decades. He made a name for himself as a teenager in the iconic CBGB scene as part of The Richard Lloyd Group. As a member of The Bongos, Mastro achieved mainstream success with the release of three acclaimed albums. He went on to front Americana band The Health & Happiness Show, releasing three highly praised albums. Mastro has opened for a diverse range of artists including Wilco, Johnny Cash, and Barenaked Ladies. He has also collaborated with renowned musicians such as Patti Smith and John Cale. Additionally, Mastro has been a longtime member of Ian Hunter’s band, playing guitar on Hunter’s last seven albums. With an impressive list of credits, including production work for artists like Steve Wynn and Jill Sobule, Mastro is a highly sought-after musician in the industry. His latest project, the upcoming album Dawn of a New Error, is set to be released on February 21, 2024 on MPress Records.

Produced by Tony Shanahan, bassist and co-producer for Patti Smith, Dawn of a New Error is a masterful showcase of Mastro’s musicianship. From the soaring guitar riffs to the clever lyrics, each of the 11 tracks on the album is a testament to his artistic vision and musical prowess.

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The album kicks off with the energetic and infectious “Right Words, Wrong Song,” featuring guest vocals from the legendary Ian Hunter. With its driving guitar riffs and catchy chorus, it’s a perfect introduction to Mastro’s musical world. The hopeful “The Face of the Sun” and the fast-paced “Three Words” continue the trend of earworm-worthy hooks and powerful vocals.

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But it’s not all about the rock and roll on this album. Mastro shows his range with the introspective “My god,” a song about belief in oneself and others. It’s a beautiful track that sets the tone for the rest of the album with its poignant lyrics and engaging melody.

“River Runs Forever” takes listeners on a journey through lost loves and the end of days. The mandolin-driven “Everywhere” conjures up images of old photographs, while the gospel-tinged “Someday Someone Will Turn Your Head Around” is a message of perseverance and hope.

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One of the highlights of the album is “Here Beside Me,” a hauntingly beautiful track that showcases Mastro’s vocals and songwriting skills. The dreamy “Never Die” features the high backing vocals of legendary drummer Steve Goulding and a more than memorable groove that lets Mastro’s guitar skills shine.

The album features many high notes, including “Trouble,” a lively track that features guest vocals from The Jersey City New Heights Gospel Group, adding a touch of soul and gospel to the mix. Overall, Dawn of a New Error is a rich and diverse album that showcases Mastro’s talents as a musician, songwriter, and producer.

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What sets Mastro apart from other musicians is his ability to seamlessly blend genres, from Americana to Art Rock to Gospel. His diverse influences are evident throughout the album, creating a unique and engaging sound that will appeal to a wide range of music lovers.

The production of the album is top-notch, with a team of talented musicians and engineers bringing Mastro’s songs to life. Tony Shanahan’s contributions as producer, bassist, and backing vocalist add an extra layer of depth to the album, while the guest appearances from Ian Hunter and The Jersey City New Heights Gospel Group add even more dimension to the tracks.

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In a world where many artists are chasing trends and trying to fit into a specific genre, James Mastro stands out as a true original. Dawn of a New Error is a testament to his talent and his ability to create music that is both timeless and timely. With this album, Mastro steps out of the shadows and into the spotlight, proving that he is a force to be reckoned with in the music world. Fans of Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, and Wilco will not want to miss this album. Dawn of a New Error is a must-listen for any music lover.

–Felix Crosse

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Album Pre-save/order link: https://mpress.lnk.to/DawnOfANewError

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