GAC Album Review: Craig Morgan’s The Journey (Livin’ Hits)

Craig Morgan's 2013 album, The Journey: Livin' Hits

Photo courtesy of Monarch Publicity.

You could probably make the case that singer/songwriter Craig Morgan has lived multiple lifetimes. After growing up in Kingston Springs, Tenn., Craig became an EMT at age 18 and spent the next 10 years of his life as an active member of the US Army. It was only in his mid-30s when Craig signed his first record deal and released his self-titled debut in 2000. From there it’s country music history: Craig, inducted as a Grand Ole Opry member in 2008, has charted seven Top 10 singles so far in his career, while releasing six studio albums.

So it’s only fair that on his new greatest hits package, The Journey (Livin’ Hits), Craig traces his own history while also giving fans a look at what’s to come. The album, which was released last week, is a 12-song project featuring eight of his biggest hits in addition to four new songs that include the current single “Wake Up Lovin’ You.”

Co-producing the project with Phil O’Donnell, Craig re-recorded and mastered his past hits for this collection. Craig sounds as good as ever on the note-for-note renditions, delivering inspired performances of songs like his multi-week No. 1 smash “That’s What I Love About Sunday” and the lake-party sing-along “Redneck Yacht Club.” Blue-collar country has long been Craig’s strong suit and the pounding “International Harvester,” with its blend of traditional country vocal runs and strong Southern rock sound, captures Craig’s passion for those who are working hard way before dawn. Same with the down home Honky Tonk of “Little Bit Of Life,” where Craig fully grabs each quick line as the song’s deep and excellent production displays the results of new studio tracks to support Craig’s hits.

In addition to the loose new single, “Wake Up Lovin’ You,” Craig includes three other new songs on the project. Each comes off as heartfelt and genuine, but “If Not Me” is by far the most personal. Surrounded by piano and night-sky atmospherics, Craig sings, If not me, then who?, when describing the father/son conversation regarding enlistment into the military. Craig’s performance is deeply invested as sharp melodic hooks and expert storytelling grip the listener. It feels like Craig’s own story and he sings it as such.

Incorporating elements of hip-hop into country music is a trend that has spiked recently and Craig does allow for a bit of this genre swapping on “Party Girl.” However, Craig’s take on the new styling is actually one of the best examples around. A downright infectious banjo riff is paired with R&B electric guitar, drum programming and handclaps to sound like a hillbilly slow jam. The fact that Craig takes so naturally to it is honestly a little surprising, but his easy and fun delivery makes for an impressive and entertaining outing.

Rounding out the project with hits like the rhythmic “This Ole Boy,” rural anthem “More Trucks Than Cars” and emotional ballads “Tough” and “Almost Home” (the latter being Craig’s first Top 10 single), The Journey (Livin’ Hits)does a great job pairing the old with the new. Through his rich performances and personal songs, Craig establishes where he’s come from and what might be next on an excellent set that follows his own life’s journey.

Key Tracks – “If Not Me,” “Little Bit Of Life,” “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Almost Home”

Sammy Kershaw Releases Big Hits: Volume 1

Sammy Kershaw's 2013 album, Big Hits: Volume One

Sammy Kershaw’s 2013 album, Big Hits: Volume One. Photo courtesy of Absolute Publicity.

Twenty years after celebrating his first No. 1 hit, “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful,” Sammy Kershaw is releasing a greatest hits album. Big Hits: Volume 1 contains 10 of his biggest career hits re-recorded as well as two new songs.

“It felt good to go back into the studio and rerecord some of my hits,” he said. ”The technology we have in the music business now makes them sound much more fresh and updated but the heart and soul is still there in every song.”

Among the songs re-recorded for the album are “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful,” “Cadillac Style,” “Queen of My Doublewide Trailer” and “Third Rate Romance,” among others. Sammy took his time choosing new songs to include on the project.

“I’ve been listening to a batch of songs for about a year and finally narrowed it down to a few I thought were good for this album,” he said. “’The Middle’ is all about falling in love with your girl out in the middle of the country and Can’t Put My Finger On It' a song written by Tony Mullins is a little edgy and it’s a great singalong and I think folks will really like it.”

Big Hits: Volume 1 is available for digital pre-sale now at

Phil Vassar, ‘Let’s Get Together’ – Song Review

Phil VassarRodeowave Entertainment

Phil Vassar’s catchy melodies are as reliable as Kenny Chesney‘s beach songs or Taylor Swift‘s breakup songs. It’s just what he does best. The ‘Just Another Day in Paradise’ singer doesn’t disappoint with his first release from the new Rodeowave Entertainment label, ‘Let’s Get Together.’

Like many of the 46-year-old’s seven Top 5 hits, ’Let’s Get Together’ combines an easy hook with a simple story and never takes a wrong turn. “Iced down coolers coolin’, tiki torches spread across the yard / It’s just past seven / And my friend Kevin is playing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ on air guitar,” he sings.

(RTTNews) - Phil Vassar has joined a new record label and entertainment management company. A new single with the company was released on Tuesday.

The single, "Let's Get Together," was co-written by Vassar and Tony Mullins and features lyrics about friendship and good times.

"Iced down coolers coolin', tiki torches spread across the yard / It's just past seven / And my friend Kevin is playing 'Stairway to Heaven' on air guitar," he sings on the track.

Fans can download a free copy of the single exclusively through the CMA Facebook page.

Vassar is the first artist to sign with the newly formed Rodeowave Entertainment, based in Nashville. It is headed by Vassar's former Arista collaborator Teddi Bonadies. Vassar was previously signed to the Universal South label before he left it for Rodeowave earlier this year.

Vassar will be appearing at this year's CMA Music Festival (June 9 to 12) alongside such acts as Lady AntebellumDierks BentleyDarius Rucker, and Taylor Swift, who will be closing the festival.

by RTT Staff Writer

Blake Shelton Introduces 'Drake Skelton'

Jason Merritt, Getty Images

Does Blake Shelton have an alter-ego?

If you have the Oklahoma crooner's new Six Pak album, '
All About Tonight,' you might be a little perplexed by the last track, 'Got a Little Country,' which starts off with what sounds like a Grand Ole Opry announcer introducing the country superstar ... as Drake Skelton. 

"I have always been fascinated by when a new artist is on the Grand Ole Opry and one of the old legends comes out [to introduce him or her]," Blake explains to The Boot of the inspiration behind what is actually a comedy bit on his album. "There's no way they can keep up with all the new artists these days that are coming in and out of the Opry, and at least once a month you'll hear a great story about
Jim Ed Brown or someone screwing up somebody's name. Porter Wagoner was famous for screwing up tons of people's names, because he introduced tons of people who probably never came back again. So I wanted to put myself in that position ... We never said the Opry and we never said Porter Wagoner, but the voice is Gordon Mote -- who used to play piano for Porter Wagoner -- doing his best Porter Wagoner impression. It sounds dead on! So I said, 'Just get in and act like you're introducing me as Porter Wagoner on the Grand Ole Opry and completely screw up my name, and make little comments at the end like you didn't really even like my song anyway.'"

Blake chose to tack this funny bit onto the beginning of 'Got a Little Country,' because "there's nothing serious about this song anyway!" he insists, promising to keep the laughs coming.

"One thing we decided when we were making Six Paks was, if the whole idea is to get people back into the stores and buying albums again, then there needs to be something extra on there. And if there's one thing people are figuring out about me, it's my sense of humor ... If I ever go back to making a full length album, I'm gonna have a ton of that crap in there. I like recording [comedy] more than I like recording songs! [


Two SIX PAKs in, Blake Shelton is feeling as good as he's ever felt about his career.
"This has been an amazing year for me," he says. "If you would have told me when I started out that I would have two major awards, a CD in the upper reaches of the charts, a sold-out show at the Ryman Auditorium and a career that's generally on fire, I would have thought you were pulling my leg."
He's got all that and more. The SIX PAKs, of course, are Blake's two most recent CD's, innovative ways to get music into the hands of his fans more often. The first, Hillbilly Bone, included a title track that sped to the coveted #1 spot on the singles charts and won Blake two major awards--Vocal Event of the Year from the Academy of Country Music and Collaborative Video of the Year (with his partner in crime Trace Adkins) from CMT. The SIX PAK CD debuted at #3 on Billboard's all-genre Top 200 chart and #2 on the Top Country Albums Chart, and kicked his already humming career into overdrive.
Now, with the release of the folllow-up, All About Tonight, Blake is ready to take it up yet another notch.
"No one should be surprised that I love a good six-pack," says the Ada, Oklahoma, crowd-rocker, "and when you've got a party crowd, if one is good, two is better."
Blake has hit a sweet spot with these latest releases, drawing on the talents of songwriting buddies like Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson, Ben Hayslip, Jeff Bates,
Tony Mullins and Craig Wiseman. All About Tonight continues Blake's tradition of capturing on record both the touching and the rowdy aspects of country life.
Celebration has seldom sounded better than it does on "All About Tonight," which kicks the project off in a party mode. "That Thing We Do" and
"Got A Little Country" testify to the pleasures of country love with the heat and the energy turned up. "Who Are You When I'm Not Looking" takes love from another angle, from that deep-down hunger to know and share a partner's most intimate moments, with Blake again reminding us of his power as a vocalist.
As he's done before, Blake teams up here with fiance Miranda Lambert for "Draggin The River," a song about two young lovers with a daring plan for eloping in the face of a daddy's displeasure at the prospect of their marriage. Miranda also makes an appearance as a writer on the project, as she and Hillary Scott contribute "Suffocating," which features another powerful performance by Blake.
Blake has visited the #1 spot on the country singles chart no fewer than six times, with three of those coming in the last three years as his career has reached cruising altitude. Both "Home" from Pure BS Deluxe and "She Wouldn't Be Gone" from Startin' Fires hit the top, and he has not had a single that peaked outside the Top Ten since 2007.
He is clearly making top-flight music that is resonating with a wide and rowdy country audience. At a time where economics and political correctness are putting a squeeze or two on the average blue-collar American, Blake is holding aloft a bright torch of freedom, fun and music, which is evident on record and perhaps even moreso on the concert trail.
"The crowds are great," he says, flashing his characteristic grin, "but, then again, we're there for the same reason—to have a great time and share music that tells our stories and celebrates our lives."
And while he is blazing trails with SIX PAKs, setting an example other artists have begun following, he is re-inventing the way country's rowdier acts are connecting with fans via social networking. Through Twitter, youtube and the like were once thought to be the domain of younger, more pop-oriented artists of the feminine persuasion, Blake has recreated the genre in his own image. His tweets are irreverent, edgy, timely and hilarious, and they have become the talk of fans and industry alike. And his youtube videos? Well, with titles like "Top Six Country Haircuts," you know you're dealing with a mind that has been twisted just right, and you'd be hard-pressed not to find them hilarious.
Blake has also had a breakthrough year on the personal front. Though he is perhaps rather rough-hewn when it comes to polite society—It did not take a lot of work to fit his personality to the plot of the "Hillbilly Bone" video—he has capped his relationship with fellow chart-topper Miranda with a conversation with her father—a moment they revisit with a great deal of hilarity on the SIX PAK’s only duet, "Draggin' The River"—and a formal proposal and ring. It was old-fashioned redneck chivalry at its finest.
Things have never looked better for the young man who left Ada, Oklahoma, at 17 for Nashville after encouragement from Mae Axton ("Heartbreak Hotel"). He met another legendary writer, Bobby Braddock ("He Stopped Loving Her Today"), who helped him develop his formidable talents. The going was slow initially, but Blake finally signed with Warner Bros. and in the wake of an impressive debut, he was on his way.
Now, with the release of All About Tonight, the career that kicked off with the six-week #1 smash "Austin" and has included two additional multi-week chart toppers with "The Baby" and "Some Beach" is on its best roll yet.

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New Rascal Flatts Greatest Hits "ME AND MY GANG"
My song "Unwrite That Song" is the new Skynyrd CD
My song "How Forever Feels" is on this new CD
Sep. 26th 7:00 pm on GAC

I have a river of rhythm flowing thru my soul, words in my heart that has to be told. The joy of creating a song that touches everybody is a gift from above.   I feel so blessed that God has loaned me the talent to write songs. "One smile or one tear form the soul of someone's heart is worth gold" ...    Tony Mullins

Tony Mullins & The Hit Men of Music Row

What do you get when you take four guys, 38 #1 songs, sell over 150 million records, numerous awards and a long lasting friendship? You get The Hitmen of Music Row. UMPG Songwriter Tony Mullins, Bob DiPiero, Jeffrey Steele & Craig Wiseman have been writing hits and shaping the face of Country music for nearly 25 years. Now the four friends are taking their antics on the road and to viewers nationwide.

In the Fall of 2007, their new reality TV show will air on GAC, chronicling the writing sessions, studio recording, writer nights and whatever trouble they can get themselves into.

Tony Mullins songs have been recorded by numerous artists such as Tim McGraw, Clay Walker, John Michael Montgomery, Kenny Chesney and Lonestar. Chesney recorded Mullins’ song “How Forever Feels,” which was on the Billboard charts for thirty-two weeks, including six weeks at number one. Recently, Mullins has had singles with “Me and My Gang,” recorded by Rascal Flatts, “Nobody Gonna Tell Me What To Do” recorded by Van Zant and the #1 “Something’s Gotta Give” recorded by LeAnn Rimes. His most recent single “Little Bit of Life” by Craig Morgan was a top 10 hit.

Two New Songs
"Little Bit Of Life"