All posts by Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.
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ACHING FOR CHANGE IN NEW YORK TIMES’ TENNIS COVERAGE

2Here we go again. Just when the tennis world is in New York City, the good old New York Times comes out with tennis coverage that is embarrassing in its attempt to ignore the beauty of the sport while fulfilling the newspaper’s ongoing, dismal, politically correct agenda. What is it with our national obsession to “fix” things that aren’t broken, while making things worse in the meantime?

I’m talking, of course, about the ridiculous article written by Juliet Macur, titled “Aching For Change in an Unequal Sport,” in which she argues that, “a new best-of-three rule would spare the men from trying to push themselves beyond what is most of the time necessary.” Yeah, why should these guys (each desiring the $3 million top prize) have to “push themselves”? Of course, the article was accompanied with endless photos of these poor players writhing in agony. It’s just another example of the NY Times politicizing a non-issue.

Apparently, Macur brings the same wisdom to whatever sport she gets paid to do a hatchet job on. As her Times bio states, she has written features “on a variety of other subjects, including coyote hunting in Oklahoma…” Let me take a wild guess here — whatever she wrote on that subject won’t turn Manhattanites into enlightened subjects on all sides of the hunting debate. Surprise, surprise. This is the same Juliet Macur who, in June, wrote a NY Times piece calling for time limits on the American institution of baseball. Her sensitivity to the male athlete is so progressive, it is regressive. She is to sports what Obama is to United States exceptionalism; they both adhere to a “less is more” policy. Her big gripe against tennis? Well, she has many, which kind of makes one wonder why she’s the one covering it for a city that sells out the largest tennis stadium in the world in the first place. Oh, that’s right — it’s the NY Times.

The theme of the Macur piece is that women’s players get equal prize money, so why shouldn’t they play equal sets? She labels the difference a sexist relic of the 1950s and proposes to limit the men’s game to three set matches. Ok, I partly agree with this one. Let’s make the women play a real Grand Slam: three-out-of-five sets. Then they can stop the baseless claim that they deserve equal prize money while not playing an equal number of games (the women play 40 percent less tennis). Or how about playing by the same rules? (Earlier this week, women players were allowed to have an extra break of 10 minutes between the second and third sets, while the men did not.)

But that will never happen. (Television would probably stop showing women’s tennis altogether if it were forced to broadcast five sets of it.) And neither should the diminishment of the men’s game; it isn’t broken.

The possibility of an upset isn’t unheard of when playing five sets. That’s why Juan Martin del Potro will forever be a US Open titleholder, winning the 2009 U.S. Open final over Roger Federer, who claimed the first two sets. For the most part, the stronger player (that day) will triumph in the five-setter. If you took the notion to eliminate five-setters to its logical NY Times politically correct end conclusion, then we should just play the last two points of a match, since so many of the five-setters come down to that last couple of points in a tiebreak. I mean, why bother making people play and watch so much tennis, right?

Well, guess what? Even though players don’t wear white at the US Open, and even though there is far too much emphasis on selling alcohol and keeping fans awake with annoying rock music between games (and then trying to quiet the crowds for play) — tradition matters. The men have played a best-of-five at Wimbledon since its creation in 1877. The tradition of tennis doesn’t need to be uprooted simply because by the time Macur got to the court to view Ivan Dodig’s match, he was retiring due to cramping. He was one of a number whose physical stamina got the best of them in the first few rounds. It happens, and it will continue to happen. It’s a sport of stamina and physical conditioning. Not every player is equal and not every player will get a trophy. Now heres your $32,000 check for losing the first round. Get over it.

The Grand Slams are a big deal. The fact that they require a physically, mentally and technically more-demanding game make it so. Nothing succeeds like success. The best example in the past decade is the Federer-Nadal rivalry. It is probably responsible for all those spectators, who could care less about tennis most of the year, who shell out big bucks to sit in the lousy seats of Arthur Ashe Stadium. When they appear on opposite sides of the net, those two tennis champs transcend the sport. Their ability to raise the level of the game is what makes being a US Open champion special.

Unfortunately for the women, with their two-out-of-three set matches, there is nothing unique about playing in a Grand Slam. It’s just another two-out-of-three stop on the seemingly endless WTA tour. When was the last totally compelling women’s Grand Slam final? Probably back in 2005, when Venus Williams defeated Lindsay Davenport 9-7 in the third set. It’s special for them because they say it’s special.

Unexpected comebacks, epic matches that end in the next calendar day, matches that build dramatic tension as they change momentum, fans that stay emotionally involved in a match even though their favorite player may have already lost the first set (or two)… Fans getting their money’s worth… Borg-McEnroe in ’80, Federer-Nadal in ’08… these would all be missing in Juliet Macur’s vision of the US Open.

Such stupidity will pass: for only two weeks out of the year, while the U.S. Open is going on some place that is a 45-minute subway ride from its headquarters, the New York Times pretends to care about tennis. We should just be glad that no one really reads the New York Times anymore, anyway.

New York Times writer Juliet Macur must have hated this incredible 11 hours, 5 minute Wimbledon match.

New York Times writer Juliet Macur must have hated this incredible Wimbledon match.

About the author: Greg Victor writes about tennis, is on no one’s payroll and has a Master’s degree in Gender History.

Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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At This Point, The US OPEN Semifinalists Just Might Be…

quarterfinalistsAs usual, it’s all about The Big 3: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. And since it’s 2014, we’ll throw Stan Wawrinka in there as the Rafa replacement (who won’t be playing in this year’s US Open, due to a wrist injury).

But what if (and I know, it’s a big “if”) something unexpected happens? What if there is an early upset or two and tennis fans are allowed to show their enthusiasm for players outside the usual top 3? Who might they be, these surprise players, at this year’s US Open (which begins on Monday)?

With Nadal out, Djokovic slightly distracted from imminent fatherhood, and Federer’s chances of winning becoming slighter with each passing year, maybe this year’s US Open will find a couple of new finalists. At least that might create a little excitement in what has become an all-too-predictable sport.

Let’s take a look at the possibilities, one quarter of the men’s main draw at a time… (click here to view the men’s singles draw)

THE FIRST QUARTER
This is Novak Djokovic’s quarter. With the challenges ahead of him, it is also the quarter that has been much discussed in the past few days. Eventually, Novak will face John Isner… Then, he would face Andy Murray or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals. Djokovic has been beaten by all 3 of these players. This Open just might be the opening that Andy Murray is hoping for. He hasn’t won a tournament since Wimbledon a year ago, but it might just be time for another title.

Keep your eye on: the No. 1 American, John Isner. The opportunity to make it to the final at the US Open is in Isner’s capability, if all the circumstances line up correctly (and this year things are lining up nicely for him).

The third-round match to watch for: John Isner vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber (of Germany). If Isner can break his challenging record against Kohlschreiber, anything is possible for Isner.

The First Quarter Surprise Semifinalist just might be: JOHN ISNER.

THE SECOND QUARTER
This is Stan Wawrinka’s quarter. If you’re a fan of the Canadian top player, then you’ll think this is Milos Raonic’s quarter. The truth is, it’s possibly many players’ quarter, depending on who is in “the zone” over the next week and a half.
The third highest seed in this quarter is Kei Nishikori (No. 10), who will likely face a strong opponent in American Jack Sock in the second round. The fourth highest seed here is Tommy Robredo (No. 16), but it is unlikely Robredo will defeat Wawrinka.

Keep your eye on: Australia’s Nick Kyrgios. He is a player with passion and heart and nothing to lose… always a threatening blend at a Grand Slam. In general, this is quarter presents the greatest opportunity for a surprise semifinalist.

The second-round match to watch for: Jack Sock vs. Kei Nishikori. Everything has fallen into place for Sock’s game in 2014. He has put in the smart, hard work on a consistent basis; his mind and his body have made the type of progress indicating that Sock is ready to make a significant run in the next 2 weeks.

The Second Quarter Surprise Semifinalist just might be: JACK SOCK

THE THIRD QUARTER
With Rafael Nadal out of the picture, the third quarter is pretty much nobody’s to claim. Still, there are several formidable possible semifinalists here, including David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Ernests Gulbis, Lleyton Hewitt and Marin Cilic. The first-round match between Berdych and Hewitt promises to be one of the most exciting showdowns early in week number one.

Keep your eye on: top South African player Kevin Anderson. Like Isner, Anderson is a player with exceptional height and booming serve. Anderson has never gone beyond the fourth round in a Grand Slam, but he has reached the last 16 on five occasions.

The second-round match to watch for: Kevin Anderson vs. Jerzy Janowicz.

The Third Quarter Surprise Semifinalist might just be: KEVIN ANDERSON

THE FOURTH QUARTER
Federer. What more can one say?

The only other story in the fourth quarter in Grigor Dimitrov.

Keep your eye on wild-card entry — 17-year-old American Jared Donaldson, who plays Gael Monfils in the first round. Part of the thrill of the US Open is getting a sneak preview on the outer courts of a player you’ll likely be seeing in Arthur Ashe Stadium in a few years. For my money, Jared Donaldson just might be one of those players.

The Fourth Quarter (Not-So-Surprising) semifinalist might just be: ROGER FEDERER

Jared Donaldson in the junior boys' singles at the US Open Junior Championships in 2013.

Jared Donaldson in the junior boys’ singles at the US Open Junior Championships in 2013.

Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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New Music Worth Knowing About: Matt Harlan’s ‘Raven Hotel’

MattHarlan_CDMatt Harlan — Raven Hotel
***½ (out of 4 stars)
Label: Berkalin Records

The Texas singer/songwriter. It is one of our nation’s greatest occupations. There must be, in the Lone Star State, just the right set of influences and experiences-to-be-had to make the most profound chords and words that explain them. Matt Harlan is the latest Texas singer/songwriter worthy of your attention and your discerning taste. The music isn’t easily pigeonholed into a specific genre, but for the record, they are songs that come across as folk, jazz, country, Americana and light rock. You know, kinda like what you’d expect out of a Texas songwriting session.

The songs he offers on his new album, Raven Hotel, are sensitive, shrewd, selective and sophisticated. He sends them out with the simplest of vocal treatments, which only adds to their sharpness. The album captures atmospheres that are instantly recognizable, yet seldom sung about. Matt Harlan is brave enough to present a fairly optimistic view of a world that seems to be a series of questions that other, more cautious songwriters, don’t even bother to ask. Matt Harlan asks the questions, accepts the possible answers and turns philosophy into melody with a soothing voice that always pleases. In other words, please let me add “poet” to the exalted “Texas singer/songwriter” badge that he so proudly proves to be true.

As could be expected from a Texas artist, the words and music are interwoven to such a fine degree that they seem inevitably linked. These aren’t just songs — they’re narratives told in a voice so true that you’d swear it was the one inside as you listen agreeably.

I look forward to hearing this true artist when he performs in New York City in November. Click here for his upcoming appearances.

Essential Downloads: “Old Spanish Moss,” “We Never Met (Time Machine), “Slow Moving Train.”

To preview or purchase this album on iTunes, click here.

Matt Harlan Portraits November 5, 2009

Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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New Folk Music: Dulcie Taylor — ‘Only Worn One Time’

dulcieCDDulcie Taylor – Only Worn One Time
*** (out of 4 stars)
Label: Mesa/Bluemoon Records

Singer-songwriter Dulcie Taylor creates unforgettable atmospheres with her music. She brings life to characters and let’s us in on their points of view. It is storytelling at its most enthralling. Her new album, Only Worn One Time, is full of hypnotic songs that pull you in with every perfectly chosen lyric. This is an album that you’ll return to time and again, falling in love with the way it just plain makes you feel. It’s an abundance of heartfelt realizations, set to just the right grooves.

Only Worn One Time is a collection of 11 tracks produced by George Nauful and Tyson Leonard, and mixed by Keith Olsen. Taylor is supported by a stellar group of talented musicians, including Timo Beckwith, Scott Breadman, Dom Camardella, Bill Flores, Tom Lackner, Tyson Leonard, George Nauful, Tim Pierce, Tony Recupido, Randy Tico, Cam West. They are an impressive group, to be sure, and their contributions are heard, not so much by standing out, but by making a fluid cohesive experience.

She has a voice that is deceptively easy-going; there’s clearly more power in the instrument than she finds necessary to use. But when she needs to make a forceful impression, she lets loose with a strength that matches her emotion.

There’s also a timeless quality to her delivery — an approach to the material that speaks of trust in the material that is rare. But then again, why wouldn’t she? She knows how good the songs are. If you are looking for alluring songs that draw you in with their magnetic musical truisms, Only Worn One Time is an album you just might wear out.

Essential Downloads: “Take a Chance,” “Can’t Even Pray,” “Dug a Hole.”

To preview or purchase this album on iTunes, click here.

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Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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GEORGE STRAIT TO RELEASE ‘THE COWBOY RIDES AWAY’ LIVE ALBUM SEPT. 16

GS_TCRA_cover_3c4a_300rgbGeorge Strait: The Cowboy Rides Away Two-Hour Concert Special Airs August 29 Exclusively on CMT

George Strait is the undeniable “King of Country Music.” His music career spans more than 30 years; includes 60 No. 1 singles, more than any other artist in any genre; and boasts 33 platinum or multi-platinum-selling albums, more than any country artist and third across all genres behind only The Beatles and Elvis Presley. Strait is the only act in history to have a Top 10 hit every single year for over three decades. In 2013, Strait set out on the The Cowboy Rides Away Tour, selling over 1,000,000 tickets to the record-breaking, two-year, cross-country final concert tour. Strait shattered the North American indoor concert attendance record by drawing 104,793 concert-goers to his June 7, 2014 tour finale at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas. If you weren’t lucky enough to be there, you’re in luck now — the concert will be released as a live album!

Country icon George Strait is offering fans a 20-track live album recorded at his momentous The Cowboy Rides Away Tour finale at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas. The album commemorates a night of celebration for one of the most influential figures in country music. Due in stores Sep. 16, the MCA Nashville release contains hits from throughout Strait’s remarkable 30+ year career, features special guests Jason Aldean, Ray Benson, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert and Martina McBride, and introduces George “Bubba” Strait, Jr.

The undisputed “King of Country Music” and reigning ACM and CMA Entertainer of the Year performed for over 1 million fans during his two-year, record-breaking, final U.S. tour. The Cowboy Rides Away: Live From AT&T Stadium epitomizes the energy and shared emotion largely thanks to a Texas-sized crowd of nearly 105,000. Equally prevalent on the album is Strait’s sentimentality and immense gratitude for his legion of fans.

As previously announced, Strait fans have an opportunity to relive the June 7, 2014 The Cowboy Rides Away Tour Dallas date with a two-hour “George Strait: The Cowboy Rides Away” concert special airing Aug. 29 exclusively on CMT (check local listings).

The Cowboy Rides Away: Live From AT&T Stadium Track Listing:
1. Check Yes Or No
2. The Love Bug (with Vince Gill)
3. Fool Hearted Memory (with Jason Aldean)
4. Arkansas Dave (with Bubba Strait)
5. Cowboys Like Us (with Eric Church)
6. That’s What Breaking Hearts Do
7. Marina Del Rey
8. Here For A Good Time (with Sheryl Crow)
9. I Can Still Make Cheyenne
10. Jackson (with Martina McBride)
11. A Showman’s Life (with Faith Hill)
12. Murder On Music Row (with Alan Jackson)
13. The Chair
14. Give It All We Got Tonight
15. Run (with Miranda Lambert)
16. I’ll Always Remember You
17. Ocean Front Property (with Kenny Chesney)
18. Troubadour
19. All My Ex’s Live In Texas (with Jason Aldean, Ray Benson, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Sheryl Crow,
Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride)
20. The Cowboy Rides Away

Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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Chase Rice’s ‘Ignite The Night’ Album Hits Shelves August 19

Photo: Jon-Paul Bruno

Photo: Jon-Paul Bruno

Chase Rice set to kick off release week Monday, August 18 with live show at the Bowery Ballroom benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Light the Night” fundraising campaign

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (August 15, 2014) – Fans across the country are anxiously awaiting the release of country music maverick Chase Rice’s new studio album Ignite the Night, which hits stores and online retailers on Tuesday, August 19. The 15-track compilation, which was produced by Nashville-based hit-maker Chris DeStefano, will be released on Columbia Nashville/Dack Janiels Records and includes the Gold-certified, Top 15-and-climbing lead single “Ready Set Roll.” Pre-orders for the album have already pushed Ignite the Night to the top of the iTunes Country Albums chart and it remains high heading into release week.

To pre-order Ignite the Night, go to http://smarturl.it/IgniteTheNight.

Ignite The Night Album Track Listing (* denotes release on physical edition only):

Standard Edition:
1. “Ready Set Roll” (Rhett Akins, Chris DeStefano, Chase Rice)
2. “Do It Like This” (Dallas Davidson, Chris DeStefano, Ashley Gorley)
3. “Beach Town” (Chris DeStefano, Jon Nite, Chase Rice)
4. “MMM Girl” (Rodney Clawson, Lynn Hutton, Chase Rice)
5. “Beer With The Boys” (Chris DeStefano, Ashley Gorley, Chase Rice)
6. “Carolina Can” (Scooter Carusoe, Chase Rice)
7. “We Goin’ Out” (Chris DeStefano, Shane Minor, Chase Rice)
8. “Gonna Wanna Tonight” (Shane McAnally, Jon Nite, Jimmy Robbins)
9. “Look At My Truck” (Chase Rice, Cole Taylor)
10. “U Turn” (Zach Crowell, Shane Minor, Chase Rice)
11. “50 Shades Of Crazy” (Chris DeStefano, Jon Nite, Chase Rice)
12. “What’s Your Name” (Zach Crowell, Nicolle Galyon, Matt Jenkins)
13. “How She Rolls” (Brian Kelley, Chase Rice)
14. “Jack Daniels & Jesus” (Amanda Flynn, Brian Kelley, Chase Rice)
15. “Whoa” (Russell Dickerson, Tyler Hubbard, Brian Kelley, Jesse Rice, Chase Rice)(Produced by Scott Cooke)*

iTunes Party Edition:
15. “Party Up” (Featuring Colt Ford) (Ross Copperman, Blair Daly, Colt Ford, Chase Rice)
16. “Country In Ya” (Adam Sanders, Chase Rice)
17. “Best Beers Of Our Lives” (Chris DeStefano, Shane Minor, Chase Rice)
18. “Ride” (Joseph Somers-Morales, Cody Tarpley)

On Monday, August 18 Rice will take the stage at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom for a celebratory concert benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Light The Night” fundraising campaign. Proceeds from the show will be donated to the non-profit organization in honor of Rice’s late father, whose birthday also coincides with the album’s August 19 release date.

“I wanted Ignite the Night to be about more than just an album release, although I’m pumped to get to share new music with my fans,” said Rice. “When I heard about LLS and the ‘Light The Night’ walks they do all over the country, it just seemed like a cool way to tie in a great cause that helps people struggling with cancer – which I can relate to some since my dad had melanoma – and my music, which I hope makes people happy and makes them want to enjoy life and appreciate the good times a little bit more.”

Also in conjunction with the album launch, Rice has teamed up with Townsquare Media to give fans the chance to win a 1986 Chevy Silverado – up-fitted to resemble Rice’s own prized ride – through a contest currently running on Taste of Country and The Boot. The $20,000 truck will be presented to one lucky winner after the contest closes at 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, August 25.

To find out more and how to enter, click here.

Rice continues to perform headlining dates across the country and will kick off his Ignite the Night Tour on Sept. 5 in Denver, Colo. The opening act for the tour’s inaugural date will be selected from a pool of final contestants in Snagajob’s The Hourly Gig contest, with which Rice partnered earlier this summer to give aspiring musicians the chance to perform in front of a sold-out crowd. Special guests Old Dominion and Michael Ray will also join Rice on select dates throughout the Ignite the Night Tour.

For more information and the latest updates, visit www.ChaseRice.com or connect on Twitter and Facebook @ChaseRiceMusic.

About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society:
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ® (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, provides free information and support services, and is the voice for all blood cancer patients seeking access to quality, affordable, coordinated care.

Founded in 1949 and headquartered in White Plains, NY, LLS has chapters throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit www.LLS.org. Patients should contact the Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET.

About Snagajob:
Snagajob, America’s largest hourly employment network for job seekers and employers, is the only company solely dedicated to providing recruitment and hiring solutions to the hourly industry. With more than 50 million registered job seekers and the leading hourly-focused talent management system, Snagajob has been serving hourly workers and those who employ them since 2000. Headquartered in Richmond, Va., Snagajob has been named to both Fortune Magazine’s Great Place to Work® Best Small & Medium Workplaces list and Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 for the past five years. To find out more, visit www.snagajob.com and www.snagajob.com/employer-solutions.

Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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David Olney – ‘When the Deal Goes Down’

david-olney-CDDavid Olney – When the Deal Goes Down
*** (out of 4 stars)
Label: Deadbeet Records

Endlessly creative songs, straight from the source. It doesn’t get much better than that, and that’s just what you get with David Olney’s new album, When the Deal Goes Down. This collection of songs allow Olney to burst out in rock, roots, blues, jazz, swing, folk and rhythmic poetry set to the perfect chords. With Olney, it’s not as much about the vocal notes as it is the narrative. There’s an authenticity to his voice that is unmatched.

David Olney arrived in Nashville in 1973 and has been telling stories through song ever since. When the Deal Goes Down, co-produced by Olney and bluesman Mark Robinson, offers a variety of styles that allow Olney’s penchant for allowing content to define the form. It’s no surprise that the album features the talents of some of Nashville’s most talented instrumentalists, including guitarist Sergio Webb.

David Olney may be a veteran singer/songwriter known for other artists’ covers of his material more than his own recordings — with songs recorded by Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Lonnie Brooks, and Steve Young, among many others — but his album, a blend of humor and insight, allows us to discover the man behind the music, and the truest meanings of it all.

Essential Downloads: “When the Deal Goes Down,” “Servant, Job,” “Soldier of Misfortune.”

To preview or purchase this album on iTunes, click here.

David Olney Tour Dates:
08/20/14 @ The 5 Spot, Nashville TN
08/27/14 @ The 5 Spot, Nashville TN
09/03/14 @ The 5 Spot, Nashville TN
09/09/14 @ Public Library Concerts (w/ Marshall Chapman & RB Morris), Nashville TN
09/10/14 @ The 5 Spot, Nashville TN
09/17/14 @ Idaho Songwriters Assoc/Sapphire Room (w/Sergio Webb), Boise ID
09/20/14 @ Challis Arts Council Presents (w/Sergio Webb), Challis ID
10/25/14 @ Huntington Hill Concert Series (w/Sergio Webb), Rochester NY
10/26/14 @ East Village House Concert Series (w/Sergio Webb), New York NY
11/01/14 @ Balsam Mountain Inn (w/ RB Morris & Brennen Leigh), Balsam NC
12/12/14 @ Pinetop Mystics Presents (w/Sergio Webb), Nacogdoches TX
12/13/14 @ Red Dragon Concert Series, Baton Rouge LA

Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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The ‘PopSocks’ Tennis Doubles Dream Team Maintains Their Perfect Record

1American Jack Sock and Canadian Vasek Pospisil achieved yet another victory as a doubles team on Tuesday. It was their eleventh win, out of eleven matches played, so far. Not a bad percentage, especially for a team that had never played together previous to their championship-achieving win at Wimbledon last month. After Wimbledon, they went on to compete in, and win, the Atlanta Open doubles championship, propelling them into a top-10 Emirates ATP Doubles Team Ranking (they are currently No. 9).

This time it was a 7-5, 6-2 doubles against Rohan Bopanna of India and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.

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Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil face the fifth-seeded team of Radek Stepanek (CZE) and Leander Paes (IND) in round two of the doubles draw on Wednesday. That’s a team the Western Hemisphere duo defeated in the semi-finals on their way to the Wimbledon championship, so there’s a realistically good chance they will only add to their perfect record.

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Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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Another Must-Have Album: The Secret Sisters’ ‘Put Your Needle Down’

cdThe Secret Sisters — Put Your Needle Down
***½ (out of 4 stars)
Label: Republic Records

You can thank me as soon as you hear the first harmony. It’s that good.

Sometimes it’s a pleasure to sift through CD after CD, looking for a little good news to share. I am happy to inform you that The Secret Sisters’ new album is a whole lot of good news. As if that weren’t reason enough to smile, the deluxe edition of the CD is available exclusively at Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores. What more do you want?

Produced by T Bone Burnett, Put Your Needle Down is a collection of fourteen uncluttered songs framed in arrangements and instrumentations just spare enough to keep the focus on the essential quality of the material. And what material it is…

The Secret Sisters wrote or co-wrote all but three of the songs on the album. They have mastered the art of giving voice to what the most innermost of thoughts must be. It’s a gift that ensures that this is collection of concise narratives, full of lingering truths.

With their spiraling harmonies growing between them, it would be easy to call them the female counterpart to the Everly Brothers. But that would impose a retro lens on them they do not deserve, simply because their sound is comparable to one of the greatest harmonizing duos of all-time. What is truer is that Laura and Lydia Rogers are not afraid to bring easy, graceful story-songs back into the contemporary music scene. They are gutsy, brave and as modern as anything playing at any club this weekend.

Style. Substance. Subtlety. Apparently everything old is new again, with the Secret Sisters. They deftly handle an impressive variety of musical styles with a gentle, natural touch. Their music encourages the idea that some of the greatest music we will ever hear is still ahead of us.

Essential Downloads: “Black and Blue,” “I Cannot Find A Way,” “If I Don’t.”

To preview or purchase this album on iTunes, click here.

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Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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New Americana: Michael Ann — ‘Heavy Load’

MichaelAnn_CDMichael Ann — Heavy Load
*** (out of 4 stars)
Label: MondoTunes

The first thing you notice is the voice. How could you not? It sings with the authority of a bonafide movie star from a classic film and it fills each note with emotion and meaning. It’s the kind of powerful voice (at times she seems to sing from the Earth she’s standing on) that any decent songwriter would love to have sing their songs. It’s a storytelling instrument that has an appealing quality to it that always leaves you wanting more.

Michael Ann is one of the best-kept secrets in Americana/country/bluegrass/folk music. Her latest album, Heavy Load, is a collection of her own songs (with one exception) and she sings them with the conviction of a musical auteur. They are colorful songs that are full of clarity: not a note is wasted, not a word is unnecessary.

Essential Downloads: “Hard To Breathe,” “Nevermind,” “I Would.”

To preview or purchase this album on iTunes, click here.

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Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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