The College Papers: Musical Experience Essay

It’s hard to fathom five months have passed since I published my last post on this site. In some ways, it feels like five days; in other ways…well, as I told a friend recently, “It’s been a long year this week.”

The past few months have been filled with many personal changes, some fantastic, others gut-wrenchingly awful. In the “fantastic” category, I count my return to the realm of higher education. After a 10.5 year college hiatus, I am officially a college junior at the University of Southern Mississippi, pursuing a Bachelor’s in Liberal Studies with a combined concentration in religion and philosophy. The first semester is in the can, and I am ecstatic to announce I finished with a 4.0 GPA and a 99.89 average score. 

Since I spent much time these past months writing papers for school, I’ve decided to slay two avians with one small, dense, portable geological formation and publish my college writings on this site. Not all of the works lend themselves to general reading (for instance, I’ll spare you the Legal Drafting binder full of mock case documents based on the Jack and Jill nursery rhyme, although I found them a blast to write), but other writings, such as those I completed for The Enjoyment of Music, will fit nicely here. I may also pull a few projects from Human-Computer Interaction, as I’m a bit of tech nerd at heart (and actually hold an associate’s in computer technology).  

Without further ceremony, I present “Music Experience Short Essay.” 

Course: MUS 165 Enjoyment of Music.

Instructor: Professor Reyelt

Date: January 20, 2021

Score: 100


 

Some of my earliest memories involve listening to music. Between the ages three and five, I spent many hours per week riding in the back seat of our giant family van listening to the likes of Elvis, Roy Orbison, and The Everly Brothers. I knew if someone would “just give me a guitar,” I could play like Chuck Berry. It took another nine years to convince my parents of that, but they eventually made the right call, buying me my first six-string. 

As a child, I was also exposed to a plethora of classical, jazz, folk, and show tunes through classic television and film. As a young teen, I took a deep dive into rock, exploring the genre from the late ’60s through then-current 2000s. My favorite artist became John Fogerty, and my favorite song “Long As I Can See the Light.” Armed with this musically diverse upbringing, I started making a serious effort at songwriting at age seventeen and began building a catalog of original material.

Although my desire was to make a living in the entertainment industry, ultimately, I opted to pursue a non-art degree and career. Five years and multiple health issues later, I decided to quit the day job and “chase the dream” of being a singer/songwriter.

Over the next five years, I was able to cross a few things off my musician bucket list. My sophomore record charted in the Top 100 of an iTunes chart. My music received press coverage in three countries and two continents. I had the privilege of opening for two top Nashville acts and appearing on television, radio, and web. I performed from the Alabama line to the Delta and became a voting member of The Recording Academy. I also garnered airplay on commercial terrestrial radio, the indie artist “Holy Grail.” 

But continuing health issues and the rise of other personal opportunities prompted me to take an extended hiatus from “the biz” in 2016. Since semi-retiring, however, I’ve continued to find musical success. One of my 2019 releases of remixed songs won EP of the Year at the 2020 Josie Music Awards, and I was also asked to provide a new original song for an upcoming independent film—a tune I recently previewed live on statewide radio network Supertalk Mississippi. I also have fun blogging about music on my artist website.

Today, I listen to music (usually my “All-time Favorite Oldies” playlist) whenever I have a chance, and I enjoy introducing songs to my children. Although I have yet to (and may never) achieve fame and fortune in the music industry, I continue to write songs, and at this point, I am simply grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and look forward to music, in one form or another, being a part of my life for many years to come.


 

*Note: Unfortunately, Disqus comments have stopped loading on new blog posts, and I have yet to resolve the issue. If you’d like to reach out for any reason, please feel free to drop me a note via the Contact Form! – Cole

CCR Review: COSMO’S FACTORY at 50

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Earlier this year, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Cosmo’s Factory celebrated 50 years of existence. Considered by many to be the group’s magnum opus, Cosmo’s features nearly every positive element the band had to offer, all polished into a fine, commercial package. 

You can get an idea of how I’m going to rule here by going to this post from February, but if you’re interested in a full track-by-track breakdown, keep scrolling!

Side A:

1. “Ramble Tamble”

Possibly the best album opener in CCR’s catalog, “Ramble Tamble” begins as something of a sequel to “Commotion” from the band’s Green River album. Like the latter track, RT opens with a harder-edged rock intro before shifting to a neo-rockabilly feel. Also like “Commotion,” “Ramble Tamble” laments the socio-political climate of the period with lines such as “There’s garbage on the sidewalk / Highways in the back yard / Police on the corner / Mortgage on the car.” Both songs are even in the key of D.

However, after two blistering verses bookended by a brisk refrain, “Ramble Tamble” begins switching gears, gradually slowing to a stop over the course of 20 seconds. The respite is short-lived, though, as the band immediately returns, changing time, tempo, and, effectively, keys, beginning an Am, C, G, D chord progression.

Over the next four minutes, the experimental instrumentation incrementally builds in layers, intensity, and speed, culminating in an anthemic “wall of sound.” Clearly, the intent is to create a psychedelic jam-band feel, but this is no jam. No, this is master producer Fogerty meticulously directing the band to create one of their best works.

Then, around the 5:30 mark, just as quickly as it began, the epic experiment ends, and the rockabilly returns for Fogerty to wrap up the lyrics with a shot at the Nixon administration:

They’re selling independence
Actors in the White House
Acid in digestion
Mortgage on my life

The song is unquestionably one of the band’s best.

#3 – Southern Senses 10 Best CCR Album Cuts

2. “Before You Accuse Me”

Keeping their tradition of including a handful of covers in their projects, the group proceeds with a rendition of Bo Diddley’s “Before You Accuse Me.” It may not be as inventive as their interpretations of other classics like “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Midnight Special,” but it’s a competent rendering featuring that unmistakeable Creedence sound.

3. “Travelin’ Band”

Speaking of “Good Golly Miss Molly,” the band was sued over the next track for its similarity to the Little Richard hit. Although eventually settled out of court, the lawsuit was ludicrous, as “Travelin’ Band” only sounds like “Miss Molly” in the way all  ’50s-style rock ’n’ roll songs do. The music is a spectacular homage to that era, while the lyrics chronicle touring musicians’ life on the road. TB is also one of six songs from Cosmo’s to hit the Billboard Top 5.

4. “Ooby Dooby”

A cover of a song originally released by Roy Orbison, “Ooby Dooby” is essentially the original version with John singing—which, for a CCR and Roy fanatic like me, is a winning combo.

5. “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”

Another Billboard hit, “Lookin’ Out My Backdoor” is perhaps the apex of Creedence’s country/folk/rock sound. The laid-back feel and Dr. Seuss-inspired lyrics make for a happy, toe-tapping sing-a-long.

6. “Run Through the Jungle”

A metaphorical commentary on the Vietnam War, “Run Through the Jungle” presents a darker, harder side of the CCR swamp sound—and yields another deserving Billboard hit.

Side B:

1. “Up Around the Bend”

Side B kicks off with hit #4. Opening with one of Fogerty’s most recognizable licks, “Up Around the Bend” is an iconic ‘70s rock song, and with its head-bobbing groove and lyrics about traveling, it’s the quintessential “driving song.” I may not own a convertible, but if I did, “Up Around the Bend” would be at the top of my open-road playlist every summer.

2. “My Baby Left Me”

The band’s rendition of this Billy Crudup R&B tune is more than fine but also the weakest track on the record. Personally, I would have preferred another Crudup tune, “That’s All Right,” which is essentially “My Baby Left Me” with different lyrics.

3. “Who’ll Stop the Rain”

Cosmo’s fifth hit single, “Who’ll Stop the Rain” is not only perhaps the most recognizable song from the album but possibly the greatest ballad of a generation. Inspired by CCR’s not-so-spectacular Woodstock experience, the song incorporates many cultural themes of the day through the use of vivid imagery and sets them atop a melancholy, country/rock tune, with folk sensibilities. 

4. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”

While a slimmed-down edition would earn CCR a final hit 4 years after their breakup, the 11-minute jam cut of “Grapevine” included here showcases the exceptional musicianship of the group. For my money, their rendition is the best version of the song ever produced, Marvin Gaye’s included. 

5. “Long As I Can See the Light”

As perfect as “Ramble Tamble” was as the album opener, “Long As I Can See the Light” is equally exceptional as the closer. A slow-blues tune, ”Light” evokes images of weariness, restlessness, longing, loneliness, and wandering. Yet it’s ultimately an uplifting song about homecoming. There’s a distinct gospel and spiritual feel to the entire affair, and the song’s “candle in the widow” could easily be construed as the Light on the other side of this world. 

(On a side note, it’s my favorite song of all time.)

The album may not be as coherent as, say, Willy and the Poor Boys, but the individual tracks are so good, coherency is rendered irrelevant.

Conclusion:

Packing in a fantastic selection of covers and peak quality originals, Cosmo’s Factory is not only Creedence’s best album but one of the greatest albums ever produced by anyone.

Rating:  10/10

*Note: Unfortunately, Disqus comments have stopped loading on new blog posts, and I have yet to resolve the issue. If you’d like to reach out for any reason, please feel free to drop me a note via the Contact Form! – Cole

Review: Creedence Clearwater Revival – PENDULUM (50th Anniversary)

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*A version of this review originally appeared on Southern Senses 12/07/15.


 

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Pendulum, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s sixth album and the last to feature all four members of the group. The record, which followed the band’s most successful effort, Cosmos’s Factory (released earlier the same year), was seen as a comparative failure at the time by both critics and fans. In retrospect, however, the album has been viewed more favorably as demonstrative evidence that the group was capable of far more than 2 and 1/2 minute hit singles. 

Side A: 

1. “Pagan Baby”

The album kicks off in classic CCR fashion: hard-hitting swamp rock driven by Fogerty’s signature guitar licks and vocal howling. What separates this track from previous efforts is the upward tempo shift a little over 1/3 of the way through, followed by an extended jam segment. Although the tune is many of the band’s strengths in a nutshell, the track is not indicative of the rest of the album…for better and worse. 

2. “Sailor’s Lament”

About as odd of a tonal shift as could be, track 2 is a quirky little ditty with folk-influenced lyrics and soul sensibilities. The entire band delivering hi-pitched backing vocals throughout the track is a bit weird, but effective. The track benefits from the introduction of Stu Cook’s funky-ish bass and Fogerty’s saxophone section. This is the track the signals the listener: This is not a typical Creedence record. 

3. “Chameleon” 

Another interesting choice for the band, “Chameleon” is a straight-forward, up-tempo Motown, tune replete with a boisterous horn section. It’s reminiscent of “Call It Pretending,” a largely unknown tune from the group which was both the last single to be released under the “Golliwogs” moniker and the first to be released under CCR. This track continues to show that the band (particularly J. Fogerty) is not confined to a particular genre. 

4. “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” 

Indisputably the best track on the record, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” is another enduring Fogerty classic which has withstood the test of time. From its signature bass line to its unforgettable lyric hook, everything about this song is magnificent. The lyrics are a metaphor discussing (and dare I say “prophesying”) the pending demise of the band. A sad fact, but one which makes the track that much more poignant. Another element that I’ve rarely heard discussed is the elevation that Fogerty’s organ work adds to the second half of the track. (Spoiler Alert: The instrument becomes more prominent as the record continues.) Despite being the best song here, it’s also probably the most “safe” tune, as it hearkens back to the softer pop/rock side the group displayed in past endeavors. 

5. “Wish I Could Hideaway” 

Possibly the saddest song Fogerty has ever written, “Wish I Could Hideaway” metaphorically chronicles the breakdown of John’s relationship with brother and bandmate, Tom. The lyrics are set atop a dark, haunting chord-progression, expertly delivered by John on organ. The lines “What’s there to say? / We’re all bound for the graveyard / Ooh I wish you well” are particularly powerful, considering the brothers’ ultimate lack of reconciliation.

Side B: 

1. “Born to Move” 

Side B kicks off with my second favorite track from the record, “Born to Move.” The track is a severely underrated dance jam, with more of Fogerty’s spectacular organ and horn work and Cook’s funk-bass. It’s clear here that Fogerty is taking his organ cues from then-ultra-hip band and friends Booker T. and MGs. 

2. “Hey Tonight” 

The the second half of the album’s double-A-sided single (w/“Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” ), “Hey Tonight” is also the only other well-known song from Pendulum. There are elements of classic CCR here, including a signature intro, but there is something undeniably “‘70s” about the track that denies it the timeless quality of most of the band’s hits. 

3. “It’s Just a Thought”

My third favorite track from the record, “It’s Just a Thought” is perhaps the oddest bird out of the record’s many odd birds. Here, Fogerty waxes poetic about the fleeting nature and general incomprehensibility of life. It’s a melancholy, mid-tempo tune driven by more funky-sounding bass and organ work. 

4. “Molina” 

For years, the only CCR song I claimed to not like on any level; however, I eventually came around. Yes, I like “Molina” too. It’s a throw-back, ‘50s rock ’n’ roller replete with more great sax work from Fogerty. Still, it isn’t as fun or inventive as other throwbacks like “Travelin’ Band” and “It Came Out of the Sky.” 

5. “Rude Awakening #2” 

Probably the most maligned John Fogerty composition in CCR’s catalog, “Rude Awakening #2” is a rare instrumental from the group. It starts off beautifully, takes a very dark and engaging turn, gets a little too weird, then finally derails into near-unlistenable audio garbage somewhere around the 4:20 mark. Like much of the album, “Rude Awakening” seems to be an attempt by Fogerty to silence critics who claimed that the group was a “singles band,” incapable of producing a “rock album” and jam tracks. Until about 3 and a half minutes in, the track sounds like something Led Zeppelin would’ve produced around the same time, though with Zeppelin, Robert Plant would likely have been singing, and later, screaming, words over the music. And perhaps that’s what this track needed: Fogerty howling. Maybe that and the last three minutes scrapped or replaced with something listenable. 

Overall, the album isn’t the group’s best effort, but it is definitely their most original and well-produced. I would’ve loved to have heard a follow-up with more organ and sax from J. Fogerty, more funky bass sounds from Cook, and more jam tunes that showcased the excellent musicianship of the group. But unfortunately, the record’s relative failure was the tipping point of increasing tension in the band. Tom Fogerty left CCR within a month after the album’s release, and the fractured collaborative effort of the remaining trio yielded the band’s swan song (“swan album”?), the universally panned Mardi Gras. 

Final verdict: A record which highlighted the best of the band’s established attributes while demonstrating their capability of much more, Pendulum stands as a must-listen for all CCR and John Fogerty fans, fifty years later. 

Rating: 9/10


*Note: Unfortunately, Disqus comments have stopped loading on new blog posts, and I have yet to resolve the issue. If you’d like to reach out for any reason, please feel free to drop me a note via the Contact Form! – Cole

Every John Fogerty Studio Album Ranked

Today, John Fogerty dropped the expanded edition of his live-from-quarantine family band project, Fogerty’s Factory, and to celebrate, I’m counting down all ten JF studio albums from worst to best.

10. Eye of the Zombie (1986) – 2/10


 

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Coming off the smash success of Centerfield, Fogerty went all-in on exploring ’80s studio sounds, and…the results were less than stellar. The songs sound like over-produced ’80s fare, but not quite mainstream enough to be successful as such.

The singular exception is “Change in the Weather,” a less produced, swampy tune that hearkens back to John’s CCR days. But even this tune is hampered by production trends of the period and, thus, doesn’t quite live up to its older brothers.

9. Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again (2009) – 4/10


 

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Thirty-six years after his original one-man country band experiment, Fogerty returned with a hotly anticipated sequel. Unfortunately, Rides Again fails to hit most of the marks that made the first outing so interesting.

Whereas the original Rangers featured a prime-voiced Fogerty belting out unique renditions of classic country/western tunes (while also playing every single instrument on the record), the follow-up finds the mellower, more nasally elder John crooning mostly safe covers with an ace backing band (including the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, and Timothy B. Schmidt.)

That doesn’t sound too bad on paper, but in practice, the result is far less satisfying. (A notable exception on the project is a rawer, more Creedenc-y remake of the aforementioned “Change in the Weather.”)

8. Revival (2007) – 5/10


 

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Returning to Fantasy Records in 2005, Fogerty appeared poised to embrace his Creedence past with the seasoned sensibilities of a sage veteran and deliver a truly special project. I feel I’m in a minority here, but I think Revival fell far short of its potential.

Although it garnered Fogerty a Grammy nod for Best Rock Album, for me, the effort was less an homage to, or continuation of, John’s glory days, than a repetition of much better work that had gone before. The country/folk tunes “Don’t You Wish It Were True” and “Broken Down Cowboy” are probably the best songs on the record, primarily because the older Fogerty’s voice and songwriting fit better with the genre. 

Lyrically, the project is bogged down by heavy-handed, now incredibly dated political commentary, mostly directed at then-president George W. Bush. Fogerty has always been political, of course, but the beauty of politically charged classics like “Fortunate Son,” “Run Through the Jungle,” and “Ramble Tamble” is in the timelessness.

Even though the U.S. military draft has been inactive for some time now, “Fortunate Son” still plays well on the radio. Conversely, Revival lyrics that name drop Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney already have the majority of the post-millennial generation scratching their heads and saying, “Who?” (If any of that generation is actually listening, that is.)

7. Deja Vu (All Over Again) (2004) – 6/10


 

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Fogerty’s first album of new material since the Grammy-winning Blue Moon Swamp was a decidedly mixed bag. As with most of John’s later material, the album’s strength lies in softer, “folkier” material like the Roger Miller-esque “Honey Do,” the sweetly sentimental “I Will Walk with You,” and the rare Fogerty love song “Sugar, Sugar (In My Life),” probably the best song on the record. (It’s certainly the catchiest and my personal favorite.)

Other tunes don’t fare so well. The title track, for instance, sounds like a musical rehash of “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” while lyrics equating Vietnam with Iraq ring hollow. Meanwhile, Fogerty’s attempts at punk (“She’s Got Baggage”) and hard rock (“In the Garden”) fall flat.

6. Wrote a Song for Everyone (2013) – 6/10


 

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The star-studded duet album. It’s certainly…interesting to hear legends and hot modern artists collaborate with Fogerty on unique versions of some of the Master Swamper’s best songs, though the tunes featuring country artists land the best—no surprise considering Fogerty’s gravitation toward country in his later years.

The best songs on the record, however, aren’t the duet remakes; they’re the two new original solo tracks, “Mystic Highway” and “Train of Fools.” Both tunes are catchy and unmistakably Fogerty, with “Mystic” channeling a country/folk sound somewhere between Willy and the Poor Boys and Blue Moon Swamp and “Train” leaning into the patented CCR swamp vibe. Here’s hoping John uses these two tunes as a template for the next album.

5. Hoodoo (1976) – 7/10


 

Having never been officially released (thus, no cover banner), Hoodoo is the stuff of legends. I’ve reviewed the record at length before, but in short, it isn’t as bad as John and the Asylum Records people thought at the time.

Basically, many of the best songs on the record sounded outdated for 1976, and the tunes that tried to channel then-current music trends mostly didn’t work. Still, there are some spectacular tracks on the record (“Evil Thing,” “Telephone,” and “Leave My Woman Alone”), and it’s the last time Fogerty can be heard sounding like his old Creedence self.

4. Blue Ridge Rangers (1973) – 8/10


 

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 As strange as a post-CCR, pseudonymous, one-man-band, country/western cover project sounds, Blue Ridge Rangers is actually a fine record.

John’s choice of covers is ever interesting, and while some tracks are competent, reverent renditions of old favorites, Fogerty shines the most with clever, blues- and rock-infused arrangements of classics like Hank Williams’s “Jambalaya” and gospel standard “Working on a Building.”

3. Centerfield (1985) – 9/10


 

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Considering songs like “Old Man Down the Road” and the title track, it’s no wonder Fogerty’s iconic comeback record is also his most popular solo LP. Honestly, though, I’m not personally a huge fan of the record.

I have an aversion to ’80s music in general, and Centerfield is steeped in musical trends of the decade. Even the “Green River”-esque  “Old Man” is, in my eyes, held back by an electronic drum sound. Still, with Centerfield, Fogerty achieved something he never had before nor ever has since:

He successfully adapted his classic music sensibilities to a newer commercial era.

And for that feat, Centerfield sits at #3.

2. Blue Moon Swamp (1997) – 9/10


 

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The Grammy-winning second comeback album.

I reviewed BMS in greater depth several years ago, but for this list, I’ll simply say that Fogerty managed to create a post-CCR blend of country, folk, rock, and blues that felt simultaneously familiar and original. There are some lesser tracks, but the standouts more than make up for the deficiencies. 

1. John Fogerty (1975) – 10/10


 

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Another record I’ve touched on before, John’s eponymous sophomore effort tops the list because…well, it’s the most “CCR” album in Fogerty’s solo catalog. John’s voice is at its howilin’ prime, and his guitar work ain’t far behind.

Any song on here could’ve easily been on a Creedence record. Originals like “Rockin’ All Over the World” and “Almost Saturday Night” are as singularly iconic as any of Fogerty’s CCR work, and the cover choices are excellent.

Sure, in 1975, the project was considered “dated” and was essentially a flop. But good music is good music regardless of perception, and I remain optimistic that, one day, JF will be widely recognized as a woefully underrated work.

Bonus Album: Premonition (1998) – 9/10

Recorded in front of a live studio audience, Premonition was on the borderline of being numbered in the main list. Why? Although I was unable to verify the claims, it’s been alleged that Fogerty engaged in some post-production studio overdubbing, which would explain why the album was not originally marketed as a “live” release.

Whether truly live or studio-finagled, Fogerty’s mature renditions of classics and under-the-radar tunes are masterful, and his performances of a few BMS tunes may be better here than on studio cuts, particularly the kicked-up “Joy of My Life.”

*Note: Unfortunately, Disqus comments have stopped loading on new blog posts, and I have yet to resolve the issue. If you’d like to reach out for any reason, please feel free to drop me a note via the Contact Form!

Review: Four Way Stop – LANDMARK LIVE SESSIONS (2020)

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After a stellar first appearance on the Landmark Live concert series, Mississippi band Four Way Stop returned to the platform with a mission: record and release a live EP.

Culled from some four hours of live-tracked music, the Landmark Live Sessions features renditions of some of the band’s most popular tunes.

From Zeppelin and Crowes covers to signature originals, this debut release features the best of the group’s “classically soaked” brand of rock.

1. “Wicked Woman”

The band kicks off the record with “Wicked Woman,” an original penned by singers/guitarists Ryan Purser and Kyle Graves. The song is a swaggering rocker about a femme fatale and reminiscent of the work of another current throw-back band, Greta Van Fleet. Unlike GVF, however, “Wicked Woman” sounds less like a Zeppelin rip-off and more like a Zeppelin homage with a signature stamp—much like Four Way Stop as a whole.

2. “Whole Lotta Love”

The group keeps the energy high with a reverent version of Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” There isn’t necessarily anything that sets this version apart from the original, but, from Purser’s Plant-esque wailing to drummer Wyatt Brady’s hammering licks, FWS’s execution is masterful.

3. “Caliente/Blueberry Jam”

Next, the band switches gears a bit with an original instrumental jam, probably the best track on the EP. The “Caliente” portion, written by bassist/keyboardist Joe Cranfield, is a keys-based romp with a Latin groove. Graves overlays smooth jazz-tinned licks until the song begins transitioning to Graves’s own “Blueberry” section. The transition plays like the jazzier side of the Allmans, perfectly segueing into the slow, blues-rock closing segment, which sees Graves slaying on axe.

The song is a masterpiece of musicianship, but with one curious element: Cranfield’s keys drop out on the transition. It’s unclear what the creative intent was there, but, for me, it’s a notable distraction. Regardless, it’s a minor flaw in an otherwise spectacular track.

4. “Morning Song”

Penned and sung by Graves, “Morning Song” is another “Van Fleet-ian” tune, but Graves’s lower, more country-rock voice lends enough differentiation to the track to separate it from similar ilk. 

Aside from a few pitch problems on the vocals, the track is another solid offering and sports the best lyrics on the record:

Hey, darling, wanna be my lover? 
How can I be another?  
Come show me some mercy. 
Take me where I can dance in the streets.
Forget reserved seats. 
Let’s write a new story. 
 

It’s a standard flirty theme, but the “streets/seats” bit is a creative metaphor which, to my knowledge, is wholly unique to this song.

5. “Everlong”

A Foo Fighters cover, “Everlong” is distinguished by Purser’s “Southern grunge” vocalizing and Brady’s channeling of his inner-Dave Grohl on kit.

6. “Hard to Handle”

Technically an Otis Redding song, Four Way Stop’s version is clearly based on The Black Crowes’ hit cover, with vocalist Graves doing his best Chris Robinson. It’s a great sound for Graves, and the song’s sassy, country/blues/rock vibe serves as the perfect closer to the project.

As a whole, there’s only one criticism I’d lob at the record, and it’s probably just me. I watched the performances when they were originally streamed and, from the audience perspective, Purser is on the left, Graves right. On the EP mix, the two band members’ guitars are directionally inverted, with Purser’s on the right and Graves left. Meaning, if this mixed audio were synced over the original performance video, the audience would be hearing the instruments coming from opposite directions from their physical location. 

Yeah, no such video exists that I know of, and even if it did, most people wouldn’t notice or care. It’s simply unclear why the record was mixed from a stage perspective, and, for me, the decision is a bit bothersome.

I know. I wax critical over minutia.

Bottom line:

With a perfect tracklist, exemplary musicianship, and a fitting raw sound, Landmark Live Sessions marks a strong debut for a rising, retro rock band.

Rating: 9/10


 

Four Way Stop
is
Ryan Purser – Vocals/Rhythm Guitar
Kyle Graves – Vocals/Lead Guitar
Joe Cranfield – Bass/Keys
Wyatt Brady – Drums
 
Recorded by Topher Brown at Landmark Live
Mixed by Brennan White at The Fairview Sound
 
Cover art by Autumn Hendrix
From original photography by Lizzy Tate
 

*Note: Unfortunately, Disqus comments have stopped loading on new blog posts, and I have yet to resolve the issue. If you’d like to reach out for any reason, please feel free to drop me a note via the Contact Form!

VIDEO: Cole Powell Talks JMAs on Good Things with Rebecca Turner 10/16/20 (with Transcript)

HUGE thanks to Rebecca Turner for having me on Good Things – SuperTalk Mississippi! One of the best interviewing experiences I’ve had.


 

 


REBECCA TURNER: And today we get to spend some time with a real life person in the studio with us here on Good Things. Joining us today is Cole Powell. He is from Jayess, Mississippi, and a celebrated singer songwriter. He recently won the EP of the year at the Josie Music Awards which will learn more about. So welcome, Cole. 

COLE POWELL: Hi, Rebecca! Thanks for having me today. 

REBECCA: It’s so good to have you in. 

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

REBECCA: If we haven’t heard of the Josie Music Awards, tell us a little bit about those.

COLE: Yeah, absolutely. It was founded, I think in 2015, I believe, by Josie and Tinamarie Passantino. They’re a mother daughter duo, and they had a lot of connections in the music industry, and they were looking for a way to celebrate independent music—musicians that were sometimes overlooked by the majors. You know, artists who are on major labels and getting recognized by the Grammys, and they put together the Josie Music Awards show to basically celebrate unique and good voices in independent music. And the first two years was actually held in Nashville, and then they moved out of Nashville and started holding the award show in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. And it’s just a really phenomenal event to celebrate independent musicians. You know, people who’ve been—have been on the road working hard, have been in studio working hard, and don’t necessarily get that recognition by the major players.

REBECCA: Cole, when you mentioned like—when we hear the words “indie—” 

COLE: Right.

REBECCA: —or you’re calling independent music.

COLE: Right. 

REBECCA: I mean, I get—I get what independent means is by yourself. 

COLE: (laughs) Right. 

REBECCA: But explain that a little more about maybe what the indie industry is—like what it means to be an independent musician.

COLE: Sure, absolutely. You’ve got major record labels, okay? This is—these are—these are the big boys. These are Universal. 

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COLE: And most of the artists that you hear on the radio, most of the artists that you see getting Grammy awards—those are quote, unquote “major artists.” They’re not independent artists. Independent artists are artists who are signed to smaller labels that aren’t associated with a major—one of these bigger labels—or independent artists who aren’t associated with a label at all, who are just out there, you know, playing music, trying to make a career out of it, or just create art and share it with people. So—and they don’t really have the support, you know, the—the marketing machine of these major artists. They usually have to do it themselves or, if it’s a small record label, there may be a small marketing team there. And—and Mississippi has a really large independent music industry. And Jackson in particular actually has a very large independent music industry, and in Mississippi, most of the independent musicians, you know, they’re—they’re out there playing three or four shows a week, you know, trying to make a living at it, doing something that they love.

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REBECCA: You got nominated for—for two, though. Which other sections or—or classes did you get nominated?

COLE: It was for a song—Best Collaboration—which was a song—the name of song was “Company.” It was a song that I co-wrote and performed with my wife, and I actually thought— First of all, I didn’t think I was going to win anything. Honestly, I had—whenever—a friend of mine had won a few years ago, and I thought, you know, “If I ever release another record, maybe I’ll submit it just, you know, just for fun.” 

And I submitted the collaboration track and then the EP. Didn’t really expect to get even nominated because, you know, I mean, there’s—there’s a lot of great independent artists out there that are—that are trying to get these awards. And the—whenever the nominations came out, and they were both nominated, I was like, “Wow! This is—this is incredible!” And the awards show was actually scheduled for mine and my wife’s 10th anniversary, and we had spent our honeymoon in Pinge—Pigeon Forge. So, it was like a complete (chuckles)—

REBECCA: Yes!

COLE: —full circle turnaround!

REBECCA: So no matter what, it was just gonna be a cool trip for you guys anyway. 

COLE: Absolutely, absolutely! So we got up there, and I thought, “Okay, I really don’t think I’m going to win either of these. If—the only one I’ve got a shot of winning is the collaboration because my wife’s voice is phenomenal and most people like her a lot better than me. So I was like (chuckles), “Okay, if—if I win one, the—it’s going to be best collaboration.” So the first category that they announce when the award show started was the best collaboration category, and we didn’t win it. And I was like, “Okay, well, I’m just going to sit back enjoy the show!” 

And I watch several people win awards, and they had entertainment in between awards. And when it got to the EP category, I was still like, “Eh, I’m not going to win this.” And then there was a little thought. I was like, “Well—“ I was wearing a suit, and I had my jacket unbuttoned. And I was like, “Well, just on the—just on the off chance, I better get my jacket buttoned.” 

REBECCA: (laughs)

COLE: So (laughs), while I’m trying to get my jacket buttoned, they announce—she says, “And the Josie Award goes to…Redux II, Cole Powell!” And I’m just in—just in complete shock. 

REBECCA: Right. 

COLE: And my wife turns around, and she says, “Cole! Cole!”

REBECCA: “That’s you!” 

COLE: “It’s you!” Exactly! (chuckles) So, I said, “Wow.” And I get up, and I’m trying get down there, and they’re playing one of my songs over the P.A. system, and, I mean it’s just like what you see on television. It’s—it was incredible. It was so surreal. And I got up there, and I want to try to get through the acknowledgements quickly and try and not forget anybody. 

REBECCA: Like your wife. 

COLE: Right! Like my wife. And I got up there, and I was—I didn’t wanna take anybody’s time. I wanted to make sure there was plenty of time for everyone to get up and have a say. And I felt like I was talking at warp speed, and that I was sounding real high-pitched. Like I—in my head, I imagine me sounding like Mickey Mouse. (laughs) That’s what I thought was coming out of my mouth. 

And, anyway, I got up there, I gave the acknowledgments, I went back to my seat. And it was just—it was just a surreal moment. And the awards show itself was so spectacular. It was—it was just filled with nothing but camaraderie and celebration for each other and each other’s music. There were no agendas. There were a lot of spiritual acknowledgements and people’s acknowledgements of faith. And it was just a really incredible event.

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DAILY LEADER Interview

Huge thanks to Brett Campbell of The Daily Leader for giving me the opportunity to talk about my music and faith and for penning this excellent write-up on Redux II‘s JMA win:

Jayess songwriter wins top indie EP album award


 

LAWRENCE COUNTY PRESS JMA Win Coverage

Many thanks to the Lawrence County Press for running an article on Redux II‘s JMA win:

Cole Powell wins EP of the Year at Josie Music Awards