Norman Warwick hears people say they´re


We posted an article last year entitled We Read The Recommendations, that was apiece explaining how many times we might have missed out on an a track or an album or even artist had we not read or listened to the reviews. There turned out to be a good number of artists who crept on to our playlists in 2023 simply because, to use another favourite phrase in the lexicon of Sidetracks And Detours, their names fell out in conversation.

Ray Fulcher (left) effortlessly demonstrates confidence and carries a certain swag with him that he delivers in his lyrics. He’s a Georgia native and has already had a number one song to his credit being Luke Combs “When It Rains It Pours”. Ray would later write eight of the songs on Combs’ debut “This One’s for You”. When Ray wasn’t writing, he opened for Combs’ “Beer Never Broke My Heart Tour” over the summer where he debuted his single “Anything Like You Dance”. If you haven’t given it a listen maybe you should because it is upbeat and lively.

Fun perfectly describes the latest release from Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real. The new album titled Sticks and Stones uses sliding guitar riffs, animated piano melodies, and rich lyrics to showcase stories of unforgettable nights out and fast living before settling down and reflecting on the good times.

The album opens with the title track “Sticks and Stones”, a toe-tapping country twang tune that was produced by Nelson himself. With clever lyricism “Sometimes when I’m uninspired/I take a hit to get me higher/Some folks might describe me as a sinner” we get a glimpse into the free-spirited side of Nelson.

Following the title song is the memorable track “Alcohallelujah”. By incorporating country with some gospel influence, Nelson proves that he is not limited to just one genre. The song starts with a choir singing the fun made-up word “Alcohallelujah” before jumping into a bluesy country tempo with some rocking guitar. Nelson shows his broad vocal range in this one by singing some lyrics in low keys which then lead up to higher notes. The choir is mixed in throughout, making it a unique track on the album.

“More Than Friends” is the only collaboration on the record and the blend of Lainey Wilson’s voice with Nelson’s does not disappoint. This catchy, upbeat anthem talks of living in the moment with someone. The two subjects are just friends but for one night, they’re something more. With lines like, “Forget tomorrow/We can face the music then/But I promise you tonight will never end/If we pretend/We’re more than friends” the boundaries of a friendship are ignored as both individuals pursue things further and decide to deal with the consequences later. The catchy mini guitar solo leading into a fun bass and drum cadence halfway through the song makes for an entertaining listening experience.

If you’re searching for some folky piano riffs “If I Didn’t Love You” is the song you’re looking for. It starts out strong with some striking guitar, but the dramatic piano solo played in a high key is what caught my attention the most. It is a sweet tune about loving someone and knowing them better than you know yourself. But not to worry, if you appreciate a comforting guitar solo you can find it at the end of the song “Overpass.”

Incorporating a ballad into the mix, “Lying” is an intimate acoustic song where listeners simply get to hear Nelson’s voice and his guitar. After such danceable and lively tracks, “Lying” serves as a point in the album to take a pause and reflect on crazy nights out. It talks of missing someone and noting past mistakes. Nelson sings, “I been lyin’ all night long/Losing love ain’t worth the songs I write.” There is a sense of longing and heartache with this one that sets a whole new tone.

A song that is sure to put a smile on your face is “All Four Winds”. This electrifying track on the album utilizes a catchy harmonica tune and plucky guitar riffs to give off a more yacht rock vibe. The instrumentals on this track make you feel like you’re vacationing on a tropical island or going on a road trip. It is one of my personal favorites from the album for this reason.

The album ends on a more mellow note with “The View”. This sweet song is a perfect way to wrap up the fun-loving record. With some light acoustic guitar going in the background, Nelson sings of putting a life of partying behind him after meeting someone. The song recounts, “I don’t get no island fever, and the grass couldn’t get much greener/Made my home over you, and/I’ll never get tired of the view.” The narrator has found happiness and is content with their life. The lesson of not taking things for granted is also present here with “I don’t take it for granted, but my plane has safely landed.” With this hymn, the album wraps up with a very satisfying ending.

Sticks and Stones is an album that simply put me in a good mood. Each track is so unique, but they all fit so well together in the order they were placed. Lukas Nelson has shown that he is carving his own path in the music industry aside from his father, Willie Nelson. Several of the songs on this album had me tapping my feet and bopping my head to the beat. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real are currently touring so be sure to check them out!

Reviewed by Carmen Zdanis

Vocalists and songwriters Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney (right) work so well together, they seem like they’re brothers. Bigger Houses is their fifth studio album that is still the iconic country pop from the two that you’d recognize. But this time, it’s about relationships from bad to good and great, sound advice and philosophy in 12 tracks, while the music has more choruses and somehow feels even more like a joint effort.

If you took a boy band and made the boys into two men with life experience for maturity but with more instruments for refinement, you’d have Dan + Shay.

“Save Me The Trouble” is the second song on the album. It’s perfect for playing anywhere – at any country venue, on the radio, or at home. Dan Smyers and Scott Hendricks produced this lead single and both wrote the song, while Shay Mooney sang it. In his young-spirited tenor voice, Shay makes an addictive chorus with “Why don’t you save me the trouble? Keep those pretty blue eyes to yourself/Why don’t you save me the trouble? Give that heartache to somebody else.” The lyrics are about a woman who loves and leaves and how he’s not willing to be with her anymore. He’s done and doesn’t want to go through the pain she puts men through, and we get it. It’s deep-feeing without being angry, sad but poppy and even triumphant in its straightforwardness. This is the hard line an unserious woman cannot cross, and Dan adds his baritone voice to the chorus for a deeper feel.

“What took you so long? Where you been all my life? What road were you on that led your heart to mine/Who were you before you were in my arms? Baby, I gotta know” is part of “What Took You So Long” about halfway through. It’s a song about wanting to know who and what a woman was before they met and fell in love. That’s proof of how much he’s into her – he wants to know what she was doing before she eventually came to him.

The last song, “Bigger Houses,” makes you assume that’s literally what it’s about from the title. Actually, it’s the opposite. The lyrics are about the dissatisfaction that comes from materialism and being a workaholic to stack money and afford an even bigger house. “There’s always gonna be a higher high/You could chase for the rest of your life/Greener grass in the yard next door/[…] You’re never gonna fill an empty cup if what you got’s still not enough.” The guitar is especially catchy with a simple, steady rhythm with the chorus, ”The thing about happiness I’ve found is/It don’t live in bigger houses.”

Bigger Houses by Dan + Shay is a beautiful album from the duo with plenty of sweet-hitting songs. Although it’s country pop and there are times when it’s a little more country, a little more poppy, it’s also got elements of progressive rock and a few instrumentals that with the choruses make the lyrics really linger. It’s inspired by a range of emotions in relation to the ups and downs of being with someone else. If you already enjoy Dan + Shay, love country pop, or want to explore beyond traditional country music, you should give it a listen.

Maryland natives T.J. and John Osborne make up the popular country duo Brothers Osborne (left). The brothers signed a recording contract with EMI Records Nashville in 2012 and have had a grand impact on the music industry ever since. This Grammy award-winning duo recently released a self-titled album. Named one of the most anticipated albums of the year by The Los Angeles Times, Brothers Osborne incorporates country, blues, and rock genres into a collection of eleven songs about life, relationships, and love.

The album begins with “Who Says You Can’t Have Everything”—an upbeat optimistic song about being happy with the way your life has turned out. This opening tune starts us off on such a positive note with lines like, “I hit the mother load far as life goes, this is livin.’” The lead vocalist T.J. Osborne shares that he is “alive and kickin’, laid back and living the dream.” As the title suggests, the message of the song is to not let anyone tell you that you can’t do something or can’t make your dream a reality. Continuing with the upbeat, cheerful melodies, “Nobody’s Nobody” is the second track on the album. The message shared is that everybody is important in their own way. That no one should be considered a “nobody” because everyone is a somebody.

Both are such bright songs to get listeners into a good mood.

From incredible instrumentals to low octave vocals, “Might As Well Be Me” is quite a memorable song from the album. This country-rock track with a heavy drum beat and a catchy chorus including “Somebody gotta shake things up/Somebody gotta shut things down/Somebody gotta strike a match/Break the ice and buy the first round” will have you tapping your boots right from the start. The higher backing vocals from John put emphasis on T.J.’s main vocals that makes for a perfect sing-along type of song.

Moving on to one of my personal favorites from the album purely due to the guitar riffs and bluesy sound, “Goodbye’s Kickin’ In” is a song about a breakup and convincing yourself that you’re fine but the truth is you’re not really over it. The ‘goodbye’ in this case is the breakup and the narrator is starting to feel the heartbreak. The lyrics paint a picture of this feeling with, “Went from feelin’ right (aha)/Just the right amount of tipsy (aha)/To the wishing you were with me/Yeah, the goodbyes kickin’ in.” He doesn’t want to miss the person from the breakup but can’t help it and hopes that they are also feeling the same way. The choir singing of “Sayin’ goodbye” and the sharp strings near the end only add to this sad yet beautifully produced track. Similarly, “We Ain’t Good At Breaking Up” has the same theme of breaking up with someone but then wanting them back. In this case, both parties want to get back together—the two songs could be related but even if they’re not they certainly are good additions to the album that listeners can relate to.

The album ends with a love ballad titled “Rollercoaster (Forever And A Day).” The soft piano playing, acoustic guitar, and beautiful strings accompany touching lyrics such as, “When I am winter, you are summer/When I am autumn, you are spring/When I’m high and dry, you’re my drop of rain.” Osborne sings of being in a relationship with someone and even though sometimes they drive you crazy, you would never leave them because they mean the world to you. This wistful song gives the album a very satisfying ending.

In their fourth studio album, T.J. and John Osborne sing about their newfound freedom and being proud of who you are. This long-awaited release produced by Mike Elizondo shares so many stories of life experiences and incorporates different sound elements that we haven’t seen from them before. The brothers will be on tour this fall to promote their music and share their musical journey with fans.

Reviewed by Carmen Zdanis

Of course, great reviews of a new work remind us of those artists we might have neglected recently. There were a couple of artists I re-discovered in 2023 through the enthusiasm of others for their work.

Dave Rawlings´ Machine is a collaboration between American guitarist and singer David Rawlings and his longtime musical partner American singer-songwriter Gillian Welch.(right and on our cover)

The only album to date is A Friend of a Friend, released in November 2009. Rawlings recorded the album in Nashville, and produced it himself. Co-writers and musicians on the album include Welch, members of Old Crow Medicine ShowBright Eyes, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

“It’s hard to believe A Friend Of A Friend is David Rawlings’ first album under his own name.”
says  Paste Magazine

Tom Russell, (left, born in Los Angeles in either 1947 or 1948) is an American singer-songwriter from California, currently living in El Paso, Texas. For reasons that are beyond me I had fallen away from his music somewhat over the last decade or so, but our American correspondent Peter Pearson always speaks well of Russell and so too, last year, did a couple of other writers in other outlets.

Russell´s music incorporates elements of folk, traditional country & westernborder and cowboy music of the American West. Russell’s songs have been recorded by artists such as Johnny Cash, Ian Tyson, Nanci GriffithDave Alvin and others. In addition to his music, he is also an artist and published author.

In the 1980s Russell made four albums credited to the Tom Russell Band. These featured Andrew Hardin and accordionist Fats Kaplin.

In the 1990s Russell made a number of solo albums, collaborated with blues singer Barrence Whitfield on two albums, and also recorded an acoustic album mixing original material with his favorite cowboy-themed songs. His albums include several guest appearances from other folk, country, and Americana artists, such as Chris Gaffney and Dave Alvin. His song “Outbound Plane”, co-written with Nanci Griffith, became a Top Ten country hit for Suzy Bogguss. His most significant album from this period is the 1999 folk opera, The Man From God Knows Where.

His more recent albums include “Blood and Candle Smoke” (2009) and “Mesabi” (2011).

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