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KFLG Music Reviews

Jake Owen - Beachin' (Single Review)

One of the biggest criticisms of mainstream country lately is that it's all about hot girls, booze, and trucks. I certainly can't deny that those themes are getting overdone lately, but even within that narrow scope, there is still promise. And one of the artists who seems to consistently mine new material from those tropes is Jake Owen. In late 2013, he offered up the excellent "Days of Gold," an almost ridiculously frenetic party jam that was bursting with an energy and grit far beyond other songs of its ilk, but maybe all that tempo was just a little too much for some listeners to take in.

"Beachin'" continues in the same trend thematically, but takes the opposite tack tempo-wise. It opts for a slow, spoken-word delivery that sounds relaxed and casual, but fun at the same time. The production is an interesting mix of drum loops, organ, and even pizzicato strings, every bit as gritty as its predecessor, but pleasantly relaxed. The lyrics are also a bit more detailed than one would expect from this kind of song, such as "Laid back in a thrift store beach chair, droppin' limes in a Corona" and a name-drop of Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy," of all songs. All of its ingredients combine to make a song that stands out even within its obvious themes.

Owen keeps getting better and more assured with each successive album, and for good reason: he knows how to split the difference between commercialism and artistry. "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" proved back in 2011 that he could make a standout summer anthem, and "Beachin'" proves that he can revisit that theme without feeling as if he's repeating himself. If we're going to have continued streams of songs about these topics, then they might as well be ones with focus and effort put into them, and "Beachin'" certainly fits the bill.

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Eric Paslay: Eric Paslay

Eric Paslay's road to releasing his self-titled debut album certainly hasn't been an easy one. While he's found success as a songwriter of #1 hits like "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" and "Barefoot Blue Jean Night." But as much as those songs helped him as a songwriter, it has always been one of his passions to perform his own music and with the success of "Friday Night," Eric Paslay has finally been able to realize his dream. He has an album of music in stores.

That album, titled "Eric Paslay", showcases an artist who deserves to be placed on the same songwriting field as singer/songwriters like Rodney Crowell, John Hiatt, Jackson Browne and JD Souther with a little bit of The Band thrown in for good measure. He's that good. He's that classic sounding. Everything on "Eric Paslay", from the brilliant opener "Keep On Fallin'" to the self-penned closer "Deep As It Is Wide" showcases this. In between are songs like "Country Side Of Heaven" (written with Dylan Altman and Shane McAnally), "Less Than Whole" (written with Big Kenny of Big & Rich) and future hit "Song About A Girl," a song which is should be the anti-Bro Country anthem for 2014.

Eric Paslay is the kind of artist Modern Country music needs. There's nobody like him on the dial and he provides an elegant musical energy and artistry that simply needs to be on the dial. There isn't a bad song to be found on "Eric Paslay" and it truly is an early contender for the best Country Album of 2014.

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Eric Paslay says he enjoys the anonymity that comes with being a new artist on a major tour. Each show is a chance for the "Friday Night" singer to make a fan's first impression a positive one.

With his debut album in stores and at iTunes Tuesday (Feb. 4), this newcomer is prepared to work even harder to build his fanbase. In this video premiering exclusively on Taste of Country, Paslay explains why he's glad God made him "foolish" enough to play country music for a living.

"I think this album has taught me to not be afraid to be me," the singer-songwriter says.

The 30-year-old Texan with the thick red beard enjoyed success as a songwriter prior to to 'Friday Night' hitting No. 1 on the country charts. 'Barefoot Blue Jean Night' by Jake Owen and 'Even If It Breaks Your Heart' by Eli Young Band are two of his successes.

"I've learned that a song gets heard if it's supposed to, and a hit's not a hit unless people hear it," he says. Paslay describes himself as a craftsman who enjoys the process of creating a song, or working with wood on a new bench. With more confidence than ever, he's in line for a big 2014.

"When you think might have hit a wall, just tear it down," he adds. It's tough to argue with that advice. Watch this full introduction to Eric Paslay, then sign up to win an autographed acoustic guitar.

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Jennifer Nettles: That Girl

Wipe away any thoughts you had about Jennifer Nettles's solo debut album That Girl being a continuation of what the talented vocalist does with Sugarland. It's not that. Instead, she's worked with iconic Grammy-winning producer Rick Rubin to create an album that in many ways shows off that fantastic set of pipes in some interesting and dynamic ways.

The album's opening tracks "Falling" and "Me Without You" showcase an artist with an introspective perspective on relationships. The self-penned "Falling" finds Nettles singing of the youthful moment you fall into love over some pretty classic melodic structures while the song gradually powers from hushed beginnings to powerful closing moments of the verses and chorus. "Me Without You" finds Jennifer soulfully singing about the freedom of being single after in a longtime relationship and the freedom that that can give a person. It's soft, it's elegant and Jennifer Nettles delivers one of 2014's best vocal performances on the track. This is the kind of song Grammy voters fall in love with.

"Moneyball" is a track that fans of Sugarland will love and something Country radio should be wanting to play. It has a playful melody (which can recall Elton John at times) and a strong lyrics about living life and having fun. The lyrics of the song kind of remind me of Mary Chapin Carpenter with clever verses and a chorus that just gets into your heart and soul. The title track and lead single "That Girl" suggested a slightly different song from Nettles with a "Dancing With The Stars" ready tango backing up a story about a woman who doesn't want to be the other woman who breaks up a relationship.

The majority oo That Girl is an ambitious collection of songs with songs like the powerful ballad "This Angel" feeling like an iconic classic Heart hit the first time one listens to the song (which was written with award-winning songwriter Mike Reid) and then there's the Richard Marx co-write "Know You Wanna Know," a playful romp which talks about the wheels of gossip while another Reid co-write, "Good Time To Cry" is apty titled, slice of neo-soul balladry.

Sara Bareilles ("Brave") is the co-writer of "This One's For You," A classic soul-stirring lyrical and vocal showcase while "Jealousy" is another interesting melodic slice of music. The record's closing song is a cover of Bob Seger's "Like A Rock" but if you expected it to be paint by numbers, you're sorely mistaken. It's not so different to make it feel like a completely different song but in the hands of Rubin (no stranger to re-working classic tunes into something stunning) and Nettles it becomes the kind of show-stopping song that suits her powerful vocals, something that works as a fitting closing toThat Girl, an album that my be short on mainstream Country hits but is long on charming vocal performances, stellar lyrics and some of the most timeless feeling new songs I may have heard in the past year or two.

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