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McGraw Is Back Two Lanes of Freedom Review

Posted on 05 February 2013 by Bill West

Two Lanes Album CoverTime to break out those iTunes Gift cards you got for Christmas.  Tim McGraw is back in stores.  Two Lanes of Freedom is not a comeback album for Tim McGraw. He hasn’t really been gone. It is a kind of re-birth for the artist who has over 13 albums under his big buckled belt, and three Grammys.

McGraw’s been tussling with his original label home for the last several years so album releases have been slow to come.  Two Lanes of Freedom (out now) gives him a bit of a career reboot.  He has a new deal with Big Machine Records and now his biggest challenge is to keep up with his track record of being one of the biggest album sellers of the past fifteen years.

The album takes the opportunity to be very radio friendly and very commercial country.  Songs like Truck Yeah, Mexicoma, and Southern Girl have a whiff of cheese but they work.  It’s just enough.  Nashville without You sounds like it may have been commissioned by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce with inspiration from Paisley’s This Is Country Music; but , again, it works.   There are very familiar country blue-print songs here too.   Book Of John is a photographic journey into the life of a deceased

Tim McGraw

Photos Big Machine Records

loved one. Annie I Owe You a Dance is like Garth Brooks Unanswered Prayers part two but with unique flavor that will touch his many female fans.  Familiar themes in country but McGraw keeps them fresh.

There are only a few slight artistic stretches on this album for McGraw.  There’s some trombone in Mexicoma and Tpain-esque vocal effects on Southern Girl, and a Phillip Phillips “Home” chant on the uplifting title track.  No ventures into rapping thankfully (although some would argue Truck Yeah is leaning that way).

All in all the album is easy to listen to from beginning to end and sounds even better the second and third listen.  The single One of Those Nights is a proven hit on the radio and songs like Dear John and “Annie” will become favorites for many.

One of the most talked about tunes on the album features a collaboration with Taylor Swift and the guitar licks of Keith Urban.    Highway Don’t Care is a fantastic superstar mash-up that uses Swift’s charm and Urban’s punch to really make a special tune.  Let’s hope all parties agree to give it a go as a radio single.

Tim McGraw will have some fun new material from Two Lanes of Freedom to perform live on tour too.    The title track will get the arena chanting.

The Grade: B+ ( Two Lanes is a solid project fans will love more than critics)

Don’t Miss: Book of John and Highway Don’t Care

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Biggest Country Albums of The Year

Posted on 03 January 2013 by Bill West

Taylor Swift Red2012 was another big year for country music.   The Billboard Year End Rankings just came out and although Adele’s 21 grabbed the best selling number one slot for the second year in a row (a record feat) the top ten was chock full of Nashville brewed country.

Taylor Swift makes the cut at number two with Red.  Swift has made the year end list three other times in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

One Direction, Mumford and Sons and Justin Bieber round out the top six (One Direction has 2 albums in the mix) but the rest of the top ten is all country.

Arista Records

Arista Records

Carrie Underwood continues to “blow away” sales numbers with her latest effort which ends 2012 with 1.2 million units in sales, followed by Luke Bryan’s Tailgates and Tanlines, and the underrated “Tuskeegee” collection of duets from Lionel Richie with 1.07 million.  Jason Aldean’s recent release of Night Train took only a few months to sneak into the number ten slot with 1.2 million in sales.

night trainThis was a significant showing for country according to Billboard.com.  They state that previously the country genre has only claimed up to four slots and you have to go back to 2002 and 1992 for those successes.

Taylor Swift starts the new year with a number one week with Red topping the Billboard 200 all genres Album chart.

The full year end stats are available at Billboard.com

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Country Songs – 2012′s Best and Worst

Posted on 30 December 2012 by Bill West

Pontoon LBTBest and worst of 2012? In the past year many songs were both.  It was more case of who’s the most polarizing. Little Big Town’s Pontoon, Taylor Swift’s” We Are Never Getting Back Together” and Jason Aldean’s “The Only Way I Know” cover both extremes.

Little Big Town scored the song of the year with an unlikely song about boating’.  After lukewarm success with initial hits like “Boondocks” followed by a dry spell and then “Little White Church” and then more quiet some industry insiders had left LBT for dead.  Still, everyone seemed to like the group.   So when “Pontoon” came along it planted their eight feet back on the path to the A list.

Some immediately hated the song.   Others were smitten, and – like all the songs on our polarizing list – airplay was undeniable.  For a moment Country music was pop culture.

In fact “Pontoon” written by Natalie Hemby, Luke Laird and Barry Dean, went on to win the 2012 CMA Single of the year award at the Country Music Association Awards.   The song hit number one on the radio and is the band’s first Platinum selling single.

LBT is keeping up the momentum by launching The Tornado Tour with David Nail and Kacey Musgraves in the new year.

Taylor Swift RedIn a different twist, Taylor swift came to radio with an obvious pop song that was instantly memorable.  Despite producing a “Country Mix” that was nearly identical to the pop mix (both super bubblegum) hundreds of country and pop stations jumped on the launch of the- then mystery- single’s world premiere.  In an evening YouTube live release Swift played the song to a room full of teenage girls and disclosed “Never Getting Back Together” as the first single and the album art and title (RED).   Clear Channel issued every hour airplay on hundreds of stations.  Many listeners complained about the repetition with dislike. Clearly many others were humming along with a smile as “We Are Never Getting Back Together” became an instant number one on iTunes and helped propel the full release of “Red” to epic sales numbers.   Records include the first artist to sustain 6 weeks at #1 on the Billboard album charts with three consecutive albums.   Also she is one of the first artists since Garth Brooks to hold a number one slot the week before TWO Christmas Holidays (with 2 different albums).

night trainJason Aldean has never played it safe. In 2012 he released a unique “event” song called That’s The Only Way I Know where he teams up with fast rising country stars and tour mates Eric Church and Luke Bryan.
It was another bold step towards infusing rap into mainstream country on the radio. Aldean has been the only one to succeed with the spoken word delivery in the past so it was a daring move but proof that he can pull it off as more than just a novelty. There could be more of e sound to come as a future track on Night Train called 1994 gives us a hilarious Joe Diffie tribute is rumored for a 2013 radio single choice.

Pontoon, Never Getting Back, and The Only Way I Know are songs that may not receive continued strong airplay(or GOLD as it’s called)  on the radio due to their polarizing nature, but – love ‘em or hate ‘em – there is no doubt they’ve left their mark on 2012.

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Toby Kenny and Taylor Join an Elite Club

Posted on 29 November 2012 by Bill West

Chesney Live 2011

Toby Kenny and Taylor are now together in quite a club.   It’s the Forbes Magazine  List of 25  highest-paid musicians. In 2010 they made a similar list with Forbes Country stars.  No surprise Taylor Swift from Big Machine Label Group  placed No. 8, tied (right in there with a Beatle –  Paul McCartney’s $57 million), Show Dog-Universal’s Toby Keith at No. 10 with 55 Million and Kenny Chesney ranked No. 17 with $44 million. See the full STORY HERE from Forbes and see how Justin Bieber is expanding his horizons below.  BTW Dr. Dre topped the list at $110 million.

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Swift Announces 2013 Tour

Posted on 27 October 2012 by editor

Three nights in Nashville… BIG Stadiums… a Washington DC run. Taylor Swift announced to Katie Couric on ABC that she will be heading out on a 2013 Tour. The Red tour will accompany the smash CD/album by the same name.

It’s not a huge surprise but it is a highly anticipated announcements as the tickets will hit the box offices on November 16th.

Her biggest challenge is to live up to her stellar Speak Now Tour that wowed fans and critics alike.

Taylor Swift 2013 Red Tour Dates:

3/13 – Omaha, Neb.
3/14 – Omaha, Neb.
3/18 – St. Louis, MO.
3/19 – St. Louis, MO.
3/22 – Charlotte, N.C.
3/23 – Columbia, S.C
3/27 – Newark, N.J.
3/28 – Newark, N.J.
3/29 – Newark, N.J.
4/10 – Miami, Fla.
4/11 – Orlando, Fla.
4/12 – Orlando, Fla.
4/18 – Atlanta, Ga.
4/19 – Atlanta, Ga.
4/20 – Tampa, Fla.
4/25 – Cleveland, Ohio
4/26 – Indianapolis, Ind.
4/27 – Lexington, KY
5/4 – Detroit, Mich.
5/7 – Louisville, KY
5/ 8 – Columbus, Ohio
5/11 – Washington, D.C.
5/12 – Washington, D.C.
5/16 – Houston, TX
5/21 – Austin, TX
5/22 – San Antonio, TX
5/25 – Dallas, TX
5/28 – Glendale, Ariz.
5/29 – Glendale, Ariz.
6/1 – Salt Lake City, Utah
6/2 – Denver, CO
6/15 – Toronto, Ontario
6/22 – Winnipeg, MA
6/29 – Vancouver, B.C.
7/6 – Pittsburgh, PA
7/20 – Philadelphia, PA
7/27 – Foxborough, Mass.
8/1 – Des Moines, Iowa
8/2 – Kansas City, MO
8/3 – Kansas City, MO
8/6 – Wichita, KS
8/7 – Tulsa, Okla.
8/10 – Chicago, Ill.
8/15 – San Diego, Calif.
8/19 – Los Angeles, Calif.
8/20 – Los Angeles, Calif.
8/27 – Sacramento, Calif.
8/30 – Portland, OR
8/31 – Tacoma, Wash.
9/6 – Fargo, ND
9/7 – St. Paul, MN
9/8 – St. Paul, MN
9/12 – Greensboro, N.C.
9/13 – Raleigh, N.C.
9/14 – Charlottesville, VA
9/19 – Nashville, Tenn.
9/20 – Nashville, Tenn.
9/21 – Nashville, Tenn.

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Swift Video – Begin Again

Posted on 26 October 2012 by editor

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Taylor Swifts Secrets of Success

Posted on 22 October 2012 by Bill West


Swift On Tour

 

Taylor Swift has sometimes been seen as an overnight success.   From pre-teen to CMA Award winner.  To music industry followers that assumption is relative.  Her first radio single (Tim McGraw) was released in 2006 and there was a lot of planning and set up years before that.

Swift, like all artists and superstars, has had her fair share of luck.  But Swift has parlayed those breaks into a multimedia success story and lifestyle brand that is as strong as Disney.

Swift attached herself to other great brands.   Country music was just a start.  She quickly release one of her first singles as almost an homage to “Tim McGraw.”  The song did well but more importantly it gave other country stars something to attach to.  Plus she shrewdly made the connection an event when she  performed the song on the Country Music Awards with McGraw in the front row.   On Network television she wrapped up the performance square in front of the star on the theatre floor and extended a humle introductio, “Hi I’m Taylor.”   It was not only a bold move, even risky, but it also created water cooler talk for days.    Showmanship at it’s best.   Swift was also an early opener on a George Strait tour that would put her front and center before some traditional country fans.   Later, on her 2012 “Speak Now” Tour she enlisted A-list stars like Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, Ronnie Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, and Darius Rucker to further attach herself to other superstars (granted by 2012 her star was shining brighter than even her guests).

Swift has always made it a point to write what she knows.   Life as a teen and young adult was not a common theme in country music.  Still isn’t.  But the combination of honest lyrics and hooky arrangements made her someone everyone wanted to hear and relate to.

Taylor Swift RedShe is a total tease.   Yes, she admits her songs are about real breakups, relationships, and – gasp – celebrity boys.  But she won’t divulge the names or the details.  Fans get to comb over the lyrics and try to piece together the storyline.  It’s pop culture crack for a TMZ generation.  John Mayer, Taylor Laughtner,  Her latest Kennedy family romance (with Conor Kennedy) is the latest in her water cooler marketing happenings.  It has helped fuel pre launch interest in 2012′s “Red” album.

Swift is a social media maven.  She was an early adopter of MySpace and  Twitter where she cultivated a fanbase of millions. Almost 20 million Twitter followers at last count.

There is no secret recipe to Swifts success other than writing and composing important songs that stand the test of time.  That she has revealed as a gift to fans and has proven to be the most important tool in her pink tool box.

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Red Means GO for Taylor Swift

Posted on 22 October 2012 by Bill West

Taylor Swift

This is a big day for Taylor Swift fans.  Her highly anticipated fourth studio album is released Today and Taylor has a huge lineup of appearances:

First she takes her Facebook and Twitter ‘followers’ and allows a few to literally ‘follow’ her around New York during release week. In exchange, the lucky fans will post live updates to their social sites.

Also watch for her live on ABC’s Good Morning America. Then she’s BACK at GMA on October 23 and will also be the first guest and perform on David Letterman. The next day she visits The View and on the 25, Taylor returns to the always hysterical Ellen DeGeneres Show.

The roadshow continues on October 26 Taylor will be a guest on Katie with Katie Couric and that same night at 8p|7c, fans can catch part two of Taylor’s interview withGreat American Country. One hour later at 9p|8c, Taylor, and other stars, will appear on ABC’s All Access Nashville with Katie Couric.

There’s more…. it will also be “Taylor Swift Week” on Entertainment Tonight. Access Hollywood, E! News and Extra will air interviews with Taylor during release week as well.

Plus, she’ll sit down for a live Q&A session with an audience at the SiriusXM studios in New York City on October 22 at 2p|1c for SiriusXM’s “Town Hall with Taylor Swift.” She’ll also visit Scholastic’s New York headquarters to take part in a special literacy event for the company’s “Read Every Day” campaign.

Once Taylor wraps her New York media events, she’ll return to Nashville for the “Taylor Swift Worldwide Radio Remote” presented by Papa John’s on October 26 with 72 stations broadcasting live from Music City, including stations from South Africa and New Zealand.

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New Taylor Never Ever Ever Video

Posted on 31 August 2012 by editor

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Swift GetsPranked By Justin Bieber

Posted on 02 March 2012 by editor

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