The Love For New Music: Ft. "Four Wheel Hotel" by The Powell Brothers

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It is February 14th the day most commonly related to all things love. I mean, after all it is “Valentine’s Day”. However, this will definitely not be a Valentine’s Day post. In fact this will be the first of its kind, and hopefully more to come during this 2017. With that being said, let’s get right to today's “Single Review” so y’all can continue with your Valentine’s Day plans, or if you are like me and just need an excuse for new music. Here you go. 

I was first introduced to “Four Wheel Hotel” when I saw The Powell Brothers at HESTEC Community Day a couple of months ago, and before their song "Four Wheel Hotels" was actually released as a Single. I decided to not share my thoughts on the song then, because I wanted to hear it the way it was intended, as single. I wanted to see how the song held up on its own, without the environment of a concert, and how I would feel about it when it randomly played during a drive around town. Because if a song makes you feel happy in those moments, then it is good. So I added it to my playlist and pressed shuffle, waiting until it finally came on.

From the beginning the song demands your attention. It is a quick foot stomping song, detailing the overlooked struggles of a touring artist and well, in this case a band. It takes you through the journey of traveling from one city to another, struggling to pay for gas, and sleepless nights. However, it also shares the reason they continue to do so even if it means one more night in the “Four Wheel Hotel”. Although the song itself is depicting the ugly side of the traveling lifestyle, when listening to the music there is no denying that the band enjoys what they do, also the harmonies add this haunting touch to the song itself. It definitely a song that I can listen throughout my day, especially during my constant road trips or even when I am driving all around the RGV. 

Now, today is more than just Valentines Day. It is also the official release of their EP "Introducing...The Powell Brothers". If you want to hear what I am talking, get to know them, and their music a bit more, go and give their album a listen. You can find it at iTunes (LINK) & Google Music (LINK)

The Albums We Loved In 2016: Guest Aaron from Texas Music Talk

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2016 is now gone, and we are two weeks into 2017. Now, why would we be making a post discussing some of our favorite albums in 2016? Well, as listeners we are constantly looking for new music to be introduced to, or maybe even revisit. Even in some cases, we probably listened to something and didn't like it the first time, then something in our lives changes and now we can relate to everything that the artist is sharing with us. Aaron (Co-Contributor to Texas Music Talk) and I, created a list of our 5 favorite albums of 2016 that will help us kick start our 2017. We even included our favorite tracks from each album

Aaron's Favorite 5

Flatland Cavalry - Humble Folks
A good way to announce yourself to the Texas music scene is to have every big name artist vouch for your new project. When the project blows away any type of expectations, it is a way to make sure you gain lifelong fans. Humble Folks is an instant classic follow-up to "Come May". With a #1 single, "One I Want," off the record and songs that evoke emotions, no matter what your walk of life is (Tall City Blues, Coyote. Stompin Grounds), this album is easily one of the best of 2016. Cleto Cordero's songwriting and story-telling help paint a picture in your mind as you listen to each song. I have yet to listen to the album and skip a song along the way.

William Clark Green - Live at Gruene Hall
Seven years into his career, traveling the road and playing sold out shows, with some of the rowdiest fans were all highlighted on this live recording from Texas' oldest dance hall. Running through a boat load of crowd favorites, songs for members of his family, and throwing in classic lyrics made for a great journey through a night in Gruene. "Dead or In Jail", "Hangin Around" and "Creek Don't Rise" start the party early. But when WCG and company launch into She Likes the Beatles we're reaching the climax. The way Jack Ingram comes out and speaks of Will with a bit of reverence lets listeners know that he is the real deal. A definite all-timer as far as live albums go, WCG's LaGH will be talked about among the best recordings at a dance hall with a very storied history. Remember The Alamo!

Sam Riggs - Breathless
When you've followed an artist from the first time you saw them live, you get an attachment. The countdown to Breathless was driving me crazy until the album went live on iTunes. Once it did, it stayed in constant for a few months. As the record closes out, the last 4 songs might be one of the best run of 4 on any album I have ever heard. "High on a Country Song", his current radio single, has that summer time party feel, but as a winter single is perfect for coming home for the holidays and linking up with old friends. "To Save Something You Love", "One More Chance to Stay" and "Second Hand Smoke's" acoustic version close out the record while pulling at every emotion of broken hearts and lost relationships. For some, thats not what they look for in a country song... But for me, thats what makes me love albums even more.

Sean McConnell - Sean McConnell
Rarely can a Sean McConnell record not strike a chord with you. His latest self-titled record flows smoothly from start to finish. Being 10 songs and clocking in at 37 minutes might make this one of the shorter records on my list, but as with anything, it's always about the quality vs quantity. "Queen of St Mary's Choir" and "Holy Days" were released first and stand among the stellar cuts. But album cuts define Sean's career. "Beautiful Rose" and "Babylon" are two of my favorites. Including one song from The B Side Sessions was a welcome addition to an amazing album.

The Last Bandoleros - The Last Bandoleros EP
This may not make most "of 2016" lists. This isn't even a full length album, but six songs of straight in your face musical talent is hard to ignore. A group of 4 guys, two of which are Tejano royalty, all of whom could lead their own band, the Bandoleros came with it on their first offering. Guitar heavy with some hints of accordion, and 4 part harmonies make this such a great album. I don't think they have a true defined lead singer, and that's probably the best thing. "Get Down" is the party anthem on the record, but "I Don’t Want to Know" is one of the best put together songs of the entire year. The intro of the song sounds like its right out of a Robert Rodriguez film. Jerry has a haunting voice that is paired perfectly with Diego's as they trade verses on the track. Look for their full length soon, I hope!

Smiley's Favorite 5

Dolly Shine-Walkabout
“Walkabout” has left a bittersweet taste for all Dolly Shine fans, as it became the last album released by the band. Thankfully, they left us with a beautiful treasure. This album demonstrated the growth of the band and the ability to work together to make the songs effortlessly shift between country, to blues, to rock. All while bringing life to their stories of outlaw drifters to heartbreak stories. Dolly Shine had the potential to be one of the greats, but whatever the reason it may be for their separation, I look forward to seeing what projects may emerge from these individually talented guys.

Aaron Einhouse- It Aint Pretty
With a soulful voice and honest lyrics Aaron Einhouse tugs at our emotions with his album “It Aint Pretty”. Like many artists Aaron took personal emotions and turned them into songs that reminds us that life consists of heartbreaks, hard work, and the need of wisdom to get through it all. In “It Aint Pretty” Aaron really plays with that fine line between Rock and roll and country music. Now, Ive never seen Aaron Einhouse perform live, but I love how listening to the album is almost as if I were seeing them on stage. This is definitely one of those albums that is good for every emotion, whether I want to stay in my car and cry- “Thinking of You” - or if I want to get up and dance and enjoy sometime hanging out with friends - “Dancin”. 

BJ Barham- Rockingham
My favorite and without a doubt one of the bests albums of 2016 is the solo album of BJ Barham, Rockingham. Truth is, very few song writers and artists can transport us to a location, make us feel something that we have never experienced, and make us fall in love with people we have never met. Yet is exactly what BJ was able to accomplish in his album. He captivates us with his stories from start to finish, making it an album that we want to play on repeat for days. Among my favorite songs you will find “Madeline”, it is not your typical father-daughter song filled with “cute phrases” but rather an honest song about a father giving advice about life, relationships, and individuality to his baby girl. What makes it more amazing is that yes, these words are heartfelt and genuine but BJ does not have a daughter, to be able to put into a song those words of advice you one day hope to give your daughter is pretty freakin' cool. 

Rob Baird- Wrong Side of the River
For an artist originally from Memphis, Tennessee this album is every bit Texas influenced. It is great to see that Baird’s decision to move back to Austin has definitely helped him define his music style, and given him that creative freedom to produce a stellar album. As yall know, I am a sucker for emotional songs that is probably why I quickly fell in love with “Wrong Side of the River”. Rob Baird, has a very smooth way of interpreting making the lyrics really connect with emotions of heartbreak, moments of reflection, and motivation to move forward during those moments of uncertainty. I know I am talking a lot about “emotions”, but this album is also fun and catchy, personally love being able to sign along to “Oklahoma” during my drives around town. I am excited to see what more good music Rob Baird is able to bring.

Austin Meade- Born With A Broken Heart
I will admit, it took me a while to decide the album that would fit in my list of 5 personal favorites. That’s because there were several albums that I genuinely loved, and enjoyed listening to throughout the year. I ended up narrowing it down to 4, listened to all of them from start to finish
several times, Austin Meade’s “Born with a Broken Heart” definitely stood out. I was able to connect with the lyrics of each song, from the beginning of “Born with a Broken Heart” to the end of “Written in Stone”. There really wasn’t a song that got me emotionally, but they made me reflect on past and current moments in my life, probably why it stood out. As a young artist, Austin shows great potential for growth in his music career.

Hopefully being able to read through our perspectives of why each album means something to us, and being able to listen to a part of it will encourage you to give the full album a listen. Or maybe it won't, but whatever the case may be, we hope that 2017 is a year filled with good music, that makes you reflect, motivates you, inspires you, makes you cry, makes you laugh and makes you fall in love. 

Smiley and Aaron "Texas Music Talk"

The Post that Almost Didn't Make It: Ft. The Ponderosa Aces

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After losing drafts, notes and being busy with work, this post almost didn’t make it in 2016. Yet, here I am squeezing time to share with you all about a last minute concert back in August. As yall may remember, my friend and I took a trip to Austin for an amazing concert where we were able to enjoy Sam Riggs and Josh Abbott Band. That concert was amazing, and I enjoyed every minutes of it, but the show the following shouldn’t go unnoticed. Now let me introduce you to 2016 “Ameripolitan Music Awards” nominated artist, The Poderosa Aces from Long Beach, California. I know, the California thing caught me off guard to, but let me explain.

I came across The Poderosa Aces thanks to my friend David Ryan from Southbound I-35. David has a podcast in which he discusses Red Dirt/Americana/Texas Country, through interviews and reviews, and had scheduled to interview the Aces, during their Austin show for his “Texas Wants You Anyway” segment. He asked if my friends and I would like to join him for the show, we all agreed. As yall can assume, I did what I always do, checked them out on social media/spotify and anything else, prior to the show. I was able to find a couple of songs that I did enjoy, and was really excited for the show.

We arrived at the Rattle Inn (Austin,Tx) a little after the show had started (dinner ran longer than expected), but what we were able to hear from outside we know we were in for a good time. To our surprise, there were only a handful of people in attendance, yet the band was in full force entertaining. They played a series of original songs, and with their upbeat tunes, featuring on some killer guitar skills, heavy pedal steel, plus their energetic performance they had those present, dancing all around. The lyrics in their songs would vary from humorous such as in “Landlords coming” to a more dark, and reflective tune such as “Judgment Day”. I had both of my friends compliment the sound of the band, and share how much they were enjoying the performance, they even both questioned “why there wasn’t more people?” Unfortunately this isn’t something I had an answer to, The Ponderosa Aces may not be well known, and the fact that they are California may be a “red flag”, and makes us hesitant for us Texans to give them a listen, (it happens sometimes) but once it comes to their music, they have a true traditional country sound, that us Red Dirt/Texas Country Music fans can appreciate. They seem like genuine group of guys with a great sense of humor, they gave a taste of it during their set, giving us some jokes throughout their performance. To catch more of that sense of humor you can check out their actual full length with David R from Southbound I-35 here ----Southbound I-35 Episode 35-------

I hope that this upcoming 2016, you give new bands chance, regardless of whether you've heard of them or not, regardless of whether or not they fill up a venue, regardless of where they are from. there are so many bands/artists that I have yet  to discover, but I look forward to more shows like these where I get  to enjoy new bands, in their element, and have that personal bond with them

Band Members:
Mike Maddux - Guitar & Voice
Art Rodriguez - Drums
Bigshed - Bass & Voice
Alex Griggs - Guitar
To follow The Ponderosa Aces on their musical journey follow them on social media:
Facebook: The Ponderosa Aces
Instagram: @ThePonderosaAces
Website: http://www.theponderosaaces.com/

Texas Music Thursday: Interview with Matt Castillo

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Hey y’all, first of all I just want to say Happy Thanksgiving! Hopefully yall are spending time with your families and friends on this day. I wanted to take this time and share with y’all something very special, that I am personally grateful for. Earlier this month, Matt Castillo from Matt and the Herdsmen, agree to be my first interview! Yes, y’all heard right. I had the opportunity to sit down and catch up with him and take a look at how far the band has come, their current projects, and what their future goals are as a band. I'll be honest, I was a bit nervous about doing my first interview, thankfully Matt is a blast  to be around and made it easier for me. With that being said, let's get right to it!

The first time I saw y'all, “Matt and The Herdsmen” was at Palmfest back in 2015. Since then y’all have released two singles “All Gone” and “Too Drunk Anyway”, yall have played alongside great artists, the latest being Mike and The Moonpies at Floores (Helotes,Tx). Also, y’all were nominated for the “Texas Regional Radio Music Awards” and made it to the final round.

M: Yeah, made it to the final round and lost but it was fun. When I found out who we were going up against, I was like “man, there is no way we are going to pull this one out”.

Those were some tough categories, and some tough competition. I voted for you guys, but honestly, I almost didn’t. 

 M: How dare you?! Yeah it was hard but the cool thing is being nominated for “New Single of the Year” and “New Band/ Duo of the Year”. It is pretty outstanding because with the album we kind of didn’t know what we were doing, we did but we didn’t know, and then to be nominated for new band of the year is pretty exciting. It shows our work ethic and all the hard work we put into it. And being nominated in “New Single of the Year” we were competing with William Clark Green, Randy Rogers, Wade Bowen, big guys like - Maaan. The other thing that I really enjoyed and so did the guys is that the fans got to vote. It wasn’t by a committee but it was literally the fans introducing us, it was the fans that got us for the final round. We were okay with not going through the first round, because we are so brand new but everyone started voting, and then it was the second round and now it we are in the final third round, so people must have seen us and asked themselves, “who are these guys?”. We were really happy to just be nominated in these categories.

 How does it feel to look back at everything that you and the band have been able to accomplish within the last 3 years, because it has been 3 years since y’all came together?

M: Yeah. I guess looking back now; it’s pretty cool how far we’ve been able to come. It’s been one of those deals where we had our heads down grinding away and we finally looked up every now and then Hard work does pay off and a lot of it, is making sacrifices, being on the road and playing shows, and just being humble. We’ ve learned so much from each other, because we didn’t know each beforehand, we all came in fresh, and I think that was probably the toughest challenge… seeing how we were all going to collaborate and work together. But everybody has such a great sense of humor and we get along.

Interview with Matt Castillo
Matt and The Herdsmen at Smokin' on the Rio "after party"
Beto Cavazos - Ruben Cantu - Matt Castillo -  Danny Salinas
Y’all do so seem to be getting along, I saw the “Bros 4 Life” set of photos from the show at Floore’s. 

Yeah and that’s cool. I have a great relationship with them all. Again not knowing where they came from, what their background was, we had to just learn that. It is being fun getting to know those guys, I wouldn’t want anybody else by my side playing a show, because I know I can turn back look at Ruben, look to the side and see Beto there, turn and see Danny there and feel comfortable on stage. It is one of those weird things. So if somebody were to replace somebody I would feel awkward.

Y'all are in the process of working on the new album. Is it done? Or still in the process of editing?

M: No, it is done. Completely mastered, and we have it locked up in a safe. Haha…We are just waiting around because the plan is to do something a little bit different that we didn’t do last album. We’ve learned a lot from the past three years, and we really want to go with a publicist, get some presales, and work with a different distributor. The more you engulf yourself in the music scene, you start finding out about who to work with and who somebody would recommend. I am very grateful that a lot of the other bands we have opened up for they have told us, “hey look into this”, “look into that”, “be weary of this”, “don’t jump in”. That is why, it has kind of taken up some time, and the guys understand. That is why we aren’t in a rush to put it out there. That is not to say that you won’t get a sneak peek of the album, the guys and I have talked about different ways to promote, get sneak peeks out there, give them a taste of what is going to be on the album, maybe even put the album live for 24 hours or something like that. We are working on all the paperwork behind the scenes before we get the official okay to start promoting it. 
When we pull the trigger it is going to be all together and there isn’t going to be any missing pieces and that is the goal.

 It is great to hear that you are taking the time for the sake of doing it right. The last time I saw y’all was at Bourbon St. in McAllen. That is actually where you guys will be going be recording the music video for “Chance to Make You Stay”, and that will be this weekend?

M: It will be this Friday (Nov. 11th), 11pm-1am it is going to be fun. The approach is like this, the first music video introduces the band, so we had a music video that shows what happens with us on a daily basis, that was “Dance All Night”. Then we wanted to do a lyric video and that was “Too Drunk Anyway”. Now, we want to do like a movie music video, so there will be more details for “Chance to Make You Stay”, we kind of just want to do something different.

Is there a specific theme, or a storyline for the video?

M: Well, I kind of want to turn this into a movie because there are so many components to the story. We really want to do a good job on it, and take our time. Friday night will be the party scene, where “me” in the song, I am doing all the bad stuff. Getting our friends involved in the party scene is great too. So, having the band there, and having our closest friends and having people from Facebook come out and get them to be in the music video is the cool thing about it. Because this is not going to be a music show; so we will be filming from 11pm-1am, hanging out, taking pictures. We are thankful that Bourbon St is sponsoring the music video so they get to be a part of it as well. I like that we are able to work together, because they along with other venues down here, had a helping hand in moving us forward, from The Dog House, Monster Carwash, Mel’s Diner, all those venues, and bar owners have been great help, and hope that it always continues and keep moving forward.

Dance All Night Music Video

I’m sure that will be exciting then. So, I know y’all are always traveling playing shows, not just here in the valley but also across Texas. But this Thanksgiving break you guys are having a hometown show with The Powell Brothers and Randy Rogers Band. How do y’all feel opening up for them for the 3rd time during their Valley shows (4th time overall)?

M: First of all, it’s been fun with those guys. We are truly blessed. I think Danny (Bass player) hit it right on the nail “hard work is paying off, and we are getting called to play shows, but there are other bands that are doing the same”. We talk to them and they are happy for us, as much as we would be happy for them go out and support them. As far as working with the Randy Rogers Band, I think they know who we are, and everybody has a great relationship and that is the great thing about it, they keep it humble. For us, maybe we were star struck the first time or even the second time around but they keep telling me “we put on pants just as you do every morning”. I’m excited the show that we have planned out of it, we tried it out at Floore’s Country Store and it was awesome, everybody really enjoyed the show, I did, the guys did, so we will keep it the same for this show, high intensity,…end it with a good bang.

Well we’ve mentioned you guys traveling a lot, and I am sure yall have been able to see how the Texas Country Scene is in other cities/areas, in your point of view how is the South Texas Country Music scene different or unique?

M: I think we are still learning that. Our biggest fan base is here, and that is what we love the most. The music scene up there is a little bit different, they expect more originals, and from what we’ve seen from The Valley they know what they like and they ask for their honky tonks-their legends, their covers. Both are great for us, because we get to play the music, and our main goal is to share our music. It is different, but we are still learning it all. I think we always try to do the best we can, as far as covering all the grounds, from cover songs to our originals.

I am excited for this album, it is 11 songs, I think it is going to be a 180 from the last album.  The songwriting in it has improved, as well as the musical composition. I have been able to write with good songwriters and I am very blessed that they said yes to write with me. I am really excited. And I lot of the people that we have talked to, have said “You guys are really country, it’s almost refreshing. You guys are doing a really great job” and that is a compliment to the guys, as much as it is to myself as a songwriter. I’m happy that in this album, I get to showcase some songwriters from The Valley, and some from Austin, and we all come together and make this really great album. I wrote a couple with some of the band mates, Eddie Saenz, Andy Walker, and then I went up to Austin and wrote a song with Jordan a good buddy of mine. When, I look back at the album and I look at the credits, I am so happy that they allowed me to song write with them and put them on our record. That’s a really cool thing, to showcase them because there are a lot of talented songwriters down here and I am glad that there is almost like a movement, they are coming out. A lot of bands, are putting out EP’s, recorded 2 or 3 the songs, it is so awesome because now we can put The Valley on a map. That is the whole point with us putting so much effort into this record, because we want to put The Valley out there.

That is the goal for people to know that there are great song writers and greatness here in South Texas, just because we are so far that does not mean we can’t be put on the map. 
I hope The Valley is proud of what we are trying to do, it’s been a fun ride and it is only the beginning. 
I think this album is going to be really good, and I hope people enjoy it.

Matt Castillo Interview
Matt and The Herdsmen at Smokin' on the Rio "after party"
There we have it everyone! If this doesn't make you excited for what is to come for our hometown favorites, then I don't know what will...well maybe listening to the album, but for that we will have to wait...or you can just go and check them out the their upcoming "Holiday Hangovers" show,  with The Powell Brothers and Randy Rogers Band, at Boggus Ford Events Center (Pharr,Tx). I would like to reminder you to follow the band on their social media accounts to stay up to date on their latest shows, the new music video and the possible "special sneak peeks".

Thank you to Matt Castillo from Matt and The Herdsmen, for the patience, and willingness to do this interview with me.