Album Review: Hunter Rea Band "Lovin' Aint Free"

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New Music Friday is upon us, and a blog post is long overdue. Being the perfect time to share my review of the first full length Hunter Rae Band album released today! Buy: iTunes. Google Music

"Lovin Ain't Free" comes three years after the EP "Worrying Kind", I would like to say that I've know about the band since the beginning but truth is it wasn't until September 2016 that I first listened to their easy to jam out to breakup song "Memories". Since then, I have made it a point to add all of their songs the "Worrying Kind" EP to my playlist and their singles "Find A Way" and "Somebody Got it Wrong". 

Credit: Hunter Rea Band
From the moment I began listening to "Lonesome Traveler" I could hear the growth their lyrics and even vocally. The songs starts off with their blues, rock combination setting the tone for the rest of the albums. "Women To Hold" has a more soulful sound, relying on the vibrant vocal combination between Hunter & Jane Ellen Bryant. The band reels it back from the blues direction with their southern rock "Find A Way" song about whether or not you should give love another chance. The album follows with "Dark & Light" and "Whistlin Joe" two songs completely different to one another, both showing off the different tones the band has to offer.

I'll admit when listening to "Passing On" I had to take a break. As my grandma recently passed away. The song touches on many emotions and thoughts one has when dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Somebody Got it Wrong, Memories, and Freight Train. Keep the bluesy alternative country sound that their fans have come to enjoy. Songs, you can sign along to during those summer road trips across Texas.

I was excited to listen to "Done Me Wrong" because I'm a sucker of heartbreak songs. It didn't let me down, I loved everything about it. The lyrics were the right amount of angry, and a good combination between the music & vocals.

Lastly there is "Champagne & Roses", I honestly wanted to skip it. I'm not sure why but I had the impression it would be cheesy. The lyrics are simple, yet detailed as they describe a romantic proposal but without the clich├ęs that usually flood "love songs" like this. It was a decent surprise.

Credit: Hunter Rea Band
Personally I think the album was worth the wait, whether it was years or a couple of months. Hunter Glaske (Vocals, Guitar), Adam Rea (Drums), John Allen Davidson (Bass), Mason Hightower (Guitar) each showcase their talent in different ways throughout the album. There are more skills to be learned, and more stories to be told but in the meantime "Lovin Ain't Free" is good for now.

Whataburger and Music Talks with Eddie Saenz

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Last month in April I shared a single review of the song “When I Was Young” by Eddie Saenz. Now, after dealing with crazy work schedules, shows and the release of two singles we were able to sit down and discuss his upcoming project “17 Hours”. We were able to meet up at the place where Texans unite, Whataburger. Eddie Saenz took the time to not just discuss the process of the album, but also shared his perspective on life and craziness that it means to be young, tired of living of your hometown, and realizing the importance of growing up.

How was this project different to the first album? How was the process different?

E: When I made the 2013 EP it was just really kind of like, “I have these songs let’s go into the studio and do it”. It was just kind of thrown together with little to zero intent, as far as how the songs intertwined with each other, told a certain story it was just kind of like “here are some songs I wrote in an unorganized fashion” .This time around, I’ve grown to become a fan of concept albums and I don’t think “17 Hours” is necessarily a concept album by any means, but it is definitely a lot more carefully selected as far as the songs go. They all kind of intertwine to tell the story of “When I was Young” as the debut single wraps up. The recklessness and restlessness of being 18-19 years old in a new town, falling in love for stupid reasons, and partying way too much and just kind of like phasing out of it. Songs were selected around that story.

You, like many others artist here are now a representation of the Valley. What kind of artist do you hope people will know you as?

E: I guess as someone who is honest and just not afraid to talk about life. Like with my song, I can’t help but to write from personal experience and what I am going through. That is what I write 90% of time and then other 10 % percent it is about someone who is dealing contraband (laughs). For me it is all about the growing stages and phases of life and while I enjoy the party songs and I think they are good for what they are, most of the time my material tends to lead towards late night life talk, the kind of thing you may have like at 3 in the morning.

You have very specific ideas as to what the album is supposed to be. What are you expecting for the listeners to get out of it?

E: I would hope they would get the same thing (laughs). I guess, what I would hope the listener would get out of it is feel that connection to those phases in life, look back and reflect on maybe how fun it was, and how dumb it was, how stupid we’ve been and maybe how many mistakes we’ve made along the way. To look back and reflect on those things, move forward and progress out of those mistakes we make in our late teenage years, early 20’s,or early adult years. Taking it for what it is and not taking it too seriously, but seriously enough to grow from it and move on.

You’ve said some of the songs are personal, but then you have other songs that aren’t personal and are more of your perspective on a character. For you as a songwriter, is it easier for you to write about your own personal stories, or being able to write about someone else’s life?

E: It is definitely easier for me to write about personal experience. I draw inspiration from everything and anything that is happening around me, whether it has to do directly with me or not. With “The Poor Man’s Son” the one track on the record that I am pretty sure is just about another person and not me, for that one I really had to dig in deep for that information. It started off as a lyric writing assignment in my senior year in college, I was taking a lyric writing course with one of the best lyricist ever Tom Douglas. His assignment for us was to go to a starbucks pick up a copy of the New York Times an pick out a story and then write a lyric about it. I did that and at the time a famous drug cartel guy had just gotten apprehended again, but the article I found was written more from a biographical standpoint than it was of a news story, it was of more of his back story as a person and how he grew up and how he is now. I couldn’t help but have a perspective on the whole situation and make sense of why he is doing what he is doing, because that is all he knows what to do. Not that I condone drug violence or doing drugs in any manner. But when you can learn about someone’s life in that way, it really forces some perspective down your throat. That is where that song was born out of, the necessity for a good grade. I was very into that story. The whole contraband thing because we live in The Valley has always drawn a really big interest in me.

It is very common here. I’ve heard stories of kids that get wrapped up in the business of contraband without knowing of the consequences. The song itself takes you through the whole “journey” of it, in this case at the end there is a moment of reflection where he realizes there is no turning back and his life will end in jail.

E: Yeah, there is that bit of reconciliation that I would hope he actually feels in real life with “waiting around to die and I guess I am going to hell” he just knows he has not lived a good life. The song gets a very split reaction, most of the time it is positive but then I’ll get the occasional one or two people that will come up to me after playing that song at a show and just don’t agree with that song. I don’t know what message they think I am trying to say. I don’t know if they think I am trying to glorify it or something, that wasn’t the intent and I hope that is clear within the last verse.

You’ve been very open about the time you spent in Nashville. My question is why come back to the Valley to do music? Why not somewhere else in Texas?

E: Well the Valley has always been great to me. I’ve loved growing up in the valley. I think regardless of how I felt about it as a teenager. When I turned 14 I was just ready to get out and high school could have not gone by faster for me, as soon as I could get out, I did. I went to college in Belmont University, graduated from there in 2014. That’s what put me in Nashville in 2010, and then a hung out for about a year after that and then I moved back summer of 2015. For several reasons I decided to move back 1. I had just gone through too many things up there musically, with the atmosphere, and I thought that I was just not going to fit into the Top 40 mainstream and I’m just not going to fit in completely into the whole Americana thing, two very far ends of the spectrum for me. I felt I fit somewhere in the middle and well Texas Country has always been a good melting pot for people. Texas country tends to gather a lot of people who could just as easily be Americana and people who could just as easily be Top 40. I felt better in the melting pot here, that’s one big reason I decided to move back. The other thing is working 3 part time jobs to pay rent and keep the lights on, keep the water going and then also to pay for the album (laughs). I was just super exhausted of working 3 jobs moving furniture, bartending/bar backing, working security for venues, I was just kind of tired of doing those 3 things all the time. I think at one point I worked 80 something days straight and then finally took a day off to go play a songwriters round. It was no way to live and kind of run through my money. At that point we laid down four songs in the studio and then I was short on money again, that’s when I decided to just move back and work, live at home since I hardly saw my parents at all through college because I’ll stay up in Nashville through the summer. I figured I’ll just come back, take advantage of that for the time being and save some money. To wrap it up, I miss the valley, miss the family, out of money, want to record music, want to make music, can’t do it anywhere else.

I asked Matt from Matt and the Herdsmen this same question, in your opinion what sets South Texas Country music apart from the rest of Texas Country music? 

E: I think South Texas Country puts a great emphasis on the essence of the two step. I think that’s a big thing that some artists are missing, the two step, the dancehall atmosphere, the set that has the real actual honky-tonk shuffles and the train beats that Matt and The Herdsmen do really well. Music and dance have always gone together since the beginning of time. They have not ever lived apart from each other that is something that will always be a constant. I feel like the Texas Country/Red Dirt genre has kind of lost some of that, despite the Turnpike Troubadours they probably do the best job as far as dancehall beats, with the shuffles and the train beats and all that. I feel like South Texas artist really nail it when it comes to dancehall music.

In past interviews and on your social media bios, you credit a mix CD given to you buy an older cousin as inspiration, and I know it for sure included some Cross Canadian Ragweed. I don’t know if you have already done this but, if you were to give someone a mixed CD of your own or playlist what would it include?

E: That’s a solid question, I love that. That is something I am working on now doing for my Facebook fans, do a Spotify playlist for them. It would probably include a lot of Alt-Country because that is what I’ve been into the past 3 years of my life Ryan Adams, his former band Whiskey Town, definitely some Son Volt…., some Drive by Truckers, anything and everything Jason Isbell has put out within the past 3 years since Southeastern, Robert Earl Keen, Guy Clark, and then getting into the honky tonk singer- songwriter stuff Merle Haggard, tons of Willie Nelson (huge Willie Nelson fan). It would be a whole lot of classic country, singer songwriter, people who tend to take care of songs is what I feel I would put on there for people.

Last question, what does Eddie Saenz order at Whataburger?

E: The chicken strips #13.

Well that was the last question.

E: Love it. Feel like you can learn a lot about someone from their Whataburger order.

Thanks to Eddie Saenz for taking the time to sit down for an interview as I interrupted his lunch. Mark your calendars for the release of the full album "17 Hours" on June 16. Meanwhile you can listen to his two singles "When I Was Young" and "Poor Man's Son". Make sure to follow along his social media and website to stay updated on his upcoming shows, and a very unique tour he is a part of with The Prelude Songwriters Club- RGV SONGWRITERS IN THE ROUND SUMMER 2017 TOUR 

Follow Eddie Saenz on Social Media:
Youtube: EddieSaenz3

"When I Was Young" Single Review by A & V

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Late last week Edinburg, Texas native Eddie Saenz released his first single in what seems like forever. “When I was Young” gives us a glimpse of what to expect from the upcoming sophomore album, “17 hours”. The full album is scheduled to be released on June 16, 2017. If I were you, I would make sure to add that to your calendars.

“When I was Young” was co-written by Eddie Saenz and Angie Marie Gonzalez, during the time that Eddie spent in Nashville. The song written takes us through a journey of those young adulthood years, where we learn more about life and who we are.
Eddie Saenz, Texas Country, South Texas, Texas Music Talk
Photo Credit: Eddie Saenz Facebook
Follow Eddie Saenz on Social Media: Eddie Saenz Facebook, IG- @eddie_saenz3, Twitter: @EddieSaenz3

The song seems autobiographical and it may be to an extent. As the song starts and the beat picks up, we find ourselves listening to a young man reflecting on his youth. Those moments of being a free spirited, whose only focus seems to be putting miles on his car.

But then you hear it, that moment of reflection, "I've lost a few good years on my habits and vices, not thinking about the damage I had done, when I was young." Many will be able to relate to the lyrics, it might be the vices or giving your "heart to anyone without a thought”. As the song seems to reach a high point with the wonderful electric guitar riffs, we are quickly brought back to reality, and all you are able to focus on is Eddie singing that last verse.

Our past teaches us about who we use to be, it helps mold us into who we are to become." When I Was Young", gives insight as to what kind of Eddie Saenz wants to be, one that although young can still provide some insight on life, and what he knows to be true. We look forward for the full album to be released, because if this single tells us anything is that Eddie Saenz, will definitely have one of the best albums of the year. 

Links for Song
Google Play: When I Was Young

Texas Music Thursday: Curtis Grimes "Undeniably Country" Review

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I’ve had this review saved in my drafts for a while, as I had been unable to finish it. But with the second single already climbing up the charts there was no point in delaying. Here is my long overdue “Undeniably Country” album review.
 “Undeniably Country” was released November 2016, and it holds 8 new tracks. I would like to point out that Grimes delivers what he promises, in a time where country music is “evolving” and ever “changing” to call something undeniably country, and people to agree with that statement is a difficult task. Yet, regardless of how you feel about the songs on the album, you simply cannot deny that the album as a whole is country and that should be respected.

The 8 songs on the album take us through a personal journey and help us get to know Curtis Grimes on an intimate level. “Everything Hank Did”, a song originally written for Keith Whitley, describes moments of confusion, bad decisions, realization and refocus. Although this song was not written by Grimes, a reason it is personal for him, is because it connects two of his musical inspirations, Hank Williams and Keith Whitley. Curtis Grimes is from the small town of Gilmer, TX and “If You Ask Me” highlights the many values he was raised on. Lyrically it may sound simple, but it is able to get the message across of knowing to appreciate the small things in life everything else is just extra.
Every album needs a love song, right? Well, maybe not…but when you’re in the process of making an album, and you get married, I am sure it is something that easily ties into it. This song was written by Thomas Rhett and Chris Janson, which I think is pretty cool. The song is simple, but sweet as shares details about the relationship of the couple, it is fun, and upbeat. This song does play with the lines of a mainstream sound, yet Curtis is able to keep a traditional sound on it. Following the first single of the album, we have what would end up being the second single “Right about Now” . The song sounds like a conversation a guy is having with a friend who is afraid to realize he messed up his relationship due to his “pride”. What I enjoy about this song, is the sense of humor in it, not only do you get that from the lyrics but also from the interpretation, it is as if you could hear Curtis smiling while sharing this story.

With the next two songs, there’s a shift. “Had a Thing “is lyrically deeper, and vulnerable. It talks about vices - “Whiskey, women and weed”, struggles- “guitar and old dive bars” “sad old country songs” and Faith “Jesus and Amazing Grace”. The song transitions beautifully into the fiddle playing “Amazing Grace” projecting that emotion of hope. This is where “Born to Die” easily fits in.  “Born to Die” is a worship song, a country worship song. It is simple, and transparent, and although he does not mention “Lord” (1:30) and “Jesus” until at least 3 mins into the 3:23 song, the meaning is clear.
“Put my Money on That” switches back to an upbeat, guitar heavy song about the things that you can always count on in life. Just like “If You Ask Me” both songs discuss values; however “Put My Money on That” does it in a more upfront, unapologetic, sort of way. Lastly, we have “Ten Year Town” this song is simply pure fun; many seem to discuss what will be of “Nashville Country” if it continues with the pop blending. “Ten Year Town” just so happens to be Curtis witty take on the topic.
"The new album from Curtis Grimes is a step into true traditional country music" -   
Kate Kinder "West Tx Sweetheart"
As you can see, the album, touches on different aspects of life. From those moments of regret tho those filled with hope. I think we can all appreciate the fact that Curtis Grimes has shared a bit of himself with us, the listeners, and didn’t shy away from the ugly parts,even included his personal beliefs, which can sometimes be a risky thing to do. If you have yet to listen to the album now it is the time to do so, and don't forget to request the latest single "Right About Now" at your local radio station.