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FAYEZ SAROFIM & CO. US MEN’S CLAY COURT CHAMPIONSHIP – TUESDAY HIGHLIGHTS

Lleyton1Lleyton Hewitt’s victory over Peter Polansky Tuesday at the 2014 Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston, gives him a 601-242 career record. He is only the third active player with more than 600 match wins, joining Roger Federer (947-219) and Rafael Nadal (679-132) in the elite statistical club. His defeat of Canadian Qualifier Peter Polansky (64 36 64) was accomplished in classic Hewitt style; every point mattered and every second was played as if it were matchpoint. No one can keep the crowd entertained with his conviction quite as much as Hewitt at this point in his career. The 135th-ranked Polansky made it though three tough qualifying matches to meet 46th-ranked Hewitt in the main draw, but the gusty winds threw the advantage in the direction of the more experienced Hewitt.

The crowd was also equally supportive of both Americans, Ryan Harrison and Donald Young, who played the second center court match of the day. As always, Ryan Harrison played with a high degree of self expectation. This can have its uses but it can also cause inner turmoil and lead to acts of frustration, which use more energy than they deserve. Yes, I’m talking about the seemingly inevitable Ryan Harrison racquet smash — which, at this point, one almost hopes to witness when buying a ticket to one of his matches. It’s becoming tradition, and there’s always room for a player who displays his passion about the game, right? But the question remains: will it help get the win? Only the future will tell; we’ll have to get back to that question then.

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Watching Harrison play against Donald Young, one is struck by one similar challenge they both have faced — the enormous pressure to succeed from an early age. It was a bit like watching some ‘Back To The Future’ tennis moment… with Ryan Harrison playing a version of who he might turn into … and Donald Young playing against some younger version of who he maybe once was.

In the end (more like from the beginning, actually), Ryan Harrison had difficulty battling the wind, the constant barrage of falling leaves onto the clay court, and what appeared to be an ongoing challenge with his back (which forced him to withdraw from the doubles tournament). The final score (60, 61) did not reflect the quality of play in the match.

RESULTS – TUESDAY, APRIL 8, 2014

Singles First Round

[5] Feliciano Lopez (Spain) d [Q] Robby Ginepri (USA) 75 62

[7] Lleyton Hewitt (Australia) d [Q] Peter Polansky (Canada) 64 36 64

Michael Russell (USA) d Daniel Gimeno-Traver (Spain) 63 76(2)

Benjamin Becker (Germany) d [Q] Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo (Spain) 61 16 63

Donald Young (USA) d [Q] Ryan Harrison (USA) 60 61

[WC] Steve Johnson (USA) d Denis Kudla (USA) 63 76(4)

Doubles First Round


[1] Bob Bryan (USA) / Mike Bryan (USA) d Nicholas Monroe (USA) / Donald Young (USA) 63 64


Matthew Ebden (Australia) / Sam Groth (Australia) d Ken Skupski (Great Britain) / Neal Skupski (Great Britain) 64 76(2)

Day three brings John Isner to the Center Court in an evening match versus Dustin Brown of Germany. Isner looks to be in great shape and eager to defend his title here in Houston.

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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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A New Album From Ronnie Dunn? I’ll Take It! (Especially One Titled ‘Peace, Love And Country Music’)

RONNIE-DUNN-CDRonnie Dunn – Peace, Love and Country Music
*** ½ (out of 4 stars)
Label: Little Will-E Records

Isn’t it nice to hear an instantly recognizable, trustworthy voice singing new tunes? Especially a voice that rocks and rolls as easily (and believably) as it soothes. I’m writing, of course, about the unique sound of Ronnie Dunn. He sounds better than ever and the new material is worthy of his vocal chops.

From the first thunderous chords of Ronnie Dunn’s new album, Peace, Love and Country Music, it is clear that he means business. He means what he sings and he sings what he means, which is, of course all about peace, love and especially country music. Produced by Dunn and Jeff Balding, Peace Love and Country Music is Dunn’s second album as a solo artist. After more than 20 years as half of country music’s most-awarded duo (Brooks & Dunn), Ronnie Dunn wasn’t done. He has continued to be generous with his musical talents as an individual artist and songwriter, and he wrote or co-wrote six of the 14 songs on the new album.

The title track is the embodiment of the values it espouses. With a simple chorus that will ring in your ears long after the music is over, the song is a humble plea for a few things we could all use a little bit more of. It’s a twenty-first century country music mantra in the same way the 1970s song, “What The World Needs Now (Is Love)” spoke for its times. That 1970s hit became the soundtrack to one of the most famous Coca-Cola commercials of all time, and this song could do the same if given the chance.

It’s always a thrill to hear an artist whose originality and style you admire interpret a classic, and Dunn’s delivery of “You Don’t Know Me” deserves thanks. To tackle an oldie takes courage in these times, but fans love hearing them, and Dunn knows how to honor his fans. He must have a blast singing it, because he sings it like he was in church and sharing nothing but good news. It’s a definite highlight on the album and it is placed perfectly in the running order; it comes as a surprise and it helps to create a dramatic arc to the tracks.

But the pièce de résistance (you can say “pièce de résistance” when you’re talkin’ country music, can’t you?) is the instantly hummable “Country In Texas.” It’ll remind you of the days when you first fell in love with authentic country music — the kind with steel guitars and a solid Texas dance hall beat — that’s too hard to find these days. Rather than seeming nostalgic, Dunn’s delivery keeps the song entirely contemporary and timeless.

(If you’d like to see Ronnie Dunn perform a song from the album, he’ll be singing “Country This” on ABC-TV’s “The View” tomorrow, April 9.)

Essential Downloads: “Grown Damn Man,” “You Should See You Now,” “You Don’t Know Me,” “Country In Texas,” “Peace, Love and Country Music.”

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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After a hard fought match, Thanasi Kokkinakis (right) congratulates Robby Ginepri, who advances to the Main Draw.

Fayez Sarofim & Co. US Men’s Clay Court Championship – Monday Highlights

After a hard fought match, Thanasi Kokkinakis (right) congratulates Robby Ginepri, who advances to the Main Draw.

After a hard fought match, Thanasi Kokkinakis (right) congratulates Robby Ginepri, who advances to the Main Draw.


You win some, you lose some. With Robby Ginepri’s deserved win to gain entrance into the main draw, the tournament lost the chance to see one of tennis’ most exciting up and coming players in Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis. Ginepri defeated Kokkinakis in the final round of the qualifying tournament with a score of 75, 76(6).

The players were evenly matched in many ways, making for an intriguing game, with the two setting similar paces to their games (including occasional bursts of power and just as many temporary lulls). For every first serve that Kokkinakis had difficulty getting in, Ginepri had trouble hitting a return over the net. Then, suddenly, both had streaks where their serves could not fail. It was a steady first set seemingly on its way to a tiebreak.

Then, it happened — the twist of fate that determined the outcome of the match. Backing into himself to reach his backhand into a deep baseline ball, Thanasi Kokkinakis rolled his left ankle. After calling for a trainer to determine the severity of the injury, Kokkinakis decided to proceed, although he was obviously in some degree of discomfort. He quickly lost the next game, which resulted in Ginepri winning the first set.

Set two played out much like set one began, with the two players winning their respective service games. Somehow, Kokkinakis found a way to increase the efficiency of his strokes, counting on near perfect placement in order to avoid having to chase down returned balls. Kokkinakis dug deep and found within himself on a steely determination to continue the game. The second set went to a tiebreak, with Kokkinakis unable to pull ahead. The loss is shared by the Houston tennis fans, who will miss out on the opportunity to see one of the most exciting young players around. Until next year, that is.

In the other exciting qualifying final match of the day, Ryan Harrison came from (way) behind to defeat Ruben Bemelmans 1-6, 7-5, 7-6(3) in two hours and 17 minutes. It was a long, hard slog, but Harrison took control of the game just in time (saving 6 matchpoints along the way) and proved that he deserves a place in the Main Draw.

Jack Sock

Jack Sock

As for the first round action, the match of the day was American Jack Sock’s relaxed dismissal of the tournament’s 2007 champion Ivo Karlovic, of Croatia. This was the third meeting for the two players. Their previous two matches ended in victories for 6-foot-10 Karlovic. At first, it seemed the match would feature little besides the two players’ massive serves, with no promise of anything resembling a rally. But on Monday afternoon, Sock broke the Croatian’s giant serve twice in the first set and made it clear that he is serious about making advances in his personal game.

Dustin Brown, of Germany, also moved on, defeating American Rhyne Williams, who had reached last year’s semifinals, 6-1, 6-2. In the quick first-rounder, the dreadlocked German needed just 49 minutes to defeat Williams. Williams, an American wild card, had hopes of repeating his strong performance in 2013, when he reached the Houston semifinals.

RESULTS – MONDAY, APRIL 07, 2014
Singles First Round
Jack Sock (USA) d [8] Ivo Karlovic (Croatia) 6-1, 6-4
Sam Querrey (USA) d Alex Bogomolov, Jr. (Russia) 6-4, 7-6 (6)
Dustin Brown (Germany) d [WC] Rhyne Williams (USA) 6-1, 6-2
Alejandro Gonzalez (Colombia) d [WC] Marcos Baghdatis 4-6, 6-2, 6-1

Qualifying Final Round
[1] Ryan Harrison (USA) d [6] Ruben Bemelmans (Belgium) 1-6, 7-5, 7-6(3)
[3] Peter Polansky (Canada) d [5] Thiemo de Bakker (Netherlands) 6-4, 6-3
Robby Ginepri (USA) d Thanasi Kokkinakis (Australia) 7-5, 7-6 (6)
[7] Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo (Spain) d Takanyi Garanganga (Zimbabwe) 6-1, 5-7, 6-3

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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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Rachele Lynae’s Debut Album Is Full Of Promise

1Rachele Lynae – Rachele Lynae
*** (out of 4 stars)
Label: Momentum Label Group

With explosive and enthusiastic vocals that seem perfect for getting a crowd out of their seats, Rachele Lynae just might be the female equivalent of… say, Luke Bryan. Which isn’t bad for a debut album. In fact, it could be the beginning of something big. Her self-titled debut album has a little bit of something for every taste, but most of all, it will not disappoint country music fans who like their country full of the kind of energy that gets the party started.

The album, produced by Jamie O’Neal, will be released at select retail stores and digital outlets, including Amazon and iTunes, on April 22, 2014.

Rachele Lynae CRS – Fishing For Something from Travis Television on Vimeo.

Rachele Lynae has a very strong voice. It is the kind of voice that sounds familiar the moment you hear it. It has a down home, comfy feel while still claiming an original tone all its own. It’s also a vocal instrument that has a lot more where that came from. If she were given the task of singing songs with a power that some singers would be scared to attempt, I bet she’d nail it. The songs here (mostly confrontational defensive dating ditties or fragile introspective ballads) are not that challenging, however. They are a nice introduction to her talent, but they are sometimes a little simplistic. But that’s alright for a developing artist with the potential that Rachele Lynae has. If there’s a future hit single in the collection, I’d vote for “Clean” — a song which allows Lynae to tell a story and connect on an emotional level with the listener. I suspect that someday we will look back and think that the material on this debut album didn’t quite live up to her full potential. But in the meantime, it’s a great start.

Essential Downloads: “Touch The Stars,” “Party ‘Til The Cows Come Home,” “Clean.”

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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HOUSTON CLAY COURT CHAMPIONSHIPS — AMERICANS JOHNSON, WILLIAMS ACCEPT WILD CARDS; SOCK GETS DIRECT ENTRY

clayAmericans Steve Johnson and Rhyne Williams, who played each other in the 2011 NCAA title match, have accepted the final two wild cards for the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship that will be held at River Oaks Country Club April 7-13. This year’s event will mark the 80th tournament to have been hosted at River Oaks.

Johnson won back-to-back NCAA singles titles, including in 2011 when he beat Williams in the final. He was also a four-time NCAA Team Champion during his career at the University of Southern California. At ATP events this season, he reached his first career semifinal at Delray Beach and was also a quarterfinalist at Auckland. He is 9-1 in Texas this season, having won a title and reached another final at Challenger events near Dallas.

Williams broke through to reach his first career ATP semifinal last year in Houston. He was a two-time All-American at the University of Tennessee before going pro after his sophomore season. Earlier this season he reached the quarterfinals at the ATP event in Delray Beach.

Three other Americans, including Jack Sock, Denis Kudla and 2012 semifinalist Michael Russell, have joined the field following the withdrawals of Pablo Cuevas, Alejando Falla and Bradley Klahn.

Johnson and Williams join former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis as the wild card recipients for the 2014 tournament. The final four spots in the 28-player field will be determined during a three-round qualifying tournament this weekend. The qualifying matches on Saturday and Sunday are free for the public to attend.

The main draw will take place Friday afternoon. Defending champion John Isner, who is ranked No. 9 in the world, will be the top seed. Former champions Juan Monaco (2012), Lleyton Hewitt (2009) and Ivo Karlovic (2007) are also entered in the tournament along with 2013 runner-up Nicolas Almagro. To view the full entry list, click here.

Two of the top doubles teams on the ATP World Tour have also committed to play the 2014 tournament. Bob and Mike Bryan, the twin-brother tandem that has won four titles at the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship, and the Spanish duo of Fernando Verdasco and David Marrero, champions at the 2013 ATP World Tour Finals, have both been entered into the doubles draw, which will be made Saturday.

In 2014, River Oaks Country Club will celebrate hosting a tournament for the 80th time since its inauguration in 1931. The upcoming tournament will also mark the 104th staging of the US Men’s Clay Court Championship.

The tournament will begin with qualifying rounds on April 5-6 that are free to spectators. Main draw play gets underway Monday, April 7.

Limited tickets for the 2014 Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship remain available for select sessions. In addition, the “Ticket Turnback” program will return. Patrons holding tickets for sessions they cannot attend can return them to the box office where they will be resold at face value, with the full purchase price being donated to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. For more information, please visit www.mensclaycourt.com.

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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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Jesse Whitley Honors His Father’s Memory with Return of Keith Whitley’s Homecoming Concert on May 9, 2014

1The concert will feature performances by Jesse Whitley and guests, Stephen Cochran and Bryan Moffitt, and will be held in Sandy Hook, KY.

Jesse Keith Whitley, the son of country music icon, Keith Whitley, is bringing back the Keith Whitley Homecoming Concert to honor his father’s memory on May 9, 2014 in Sandy Hook, Ky.

May 9, 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the passing of Keith Whitley, who was 34-years-old at the time of his death. When Keith first achieved major success in the early 1980s, he began returning each year to his hometown of Sandy Hook, Ky. for what would become an annual Keith Whitley Homecoming Concert. It was his way of giving back to the community and the people he loved and cherished.

To honor his father’s memory and music, Jesse Keith Whitley is reviving the Homecoming Concert tradition this year, with special guests Stephen Cochran and Bryan Moffitt.

The special concert will be held on May 9 at 7 p.m. ET at Lakeside Elementary School, 155 Lakeside School Road, in Sandy Hook, Ky. Advanced tickets are $10 and day of tickets are $15. Kids 12 and under are free. To buy tickets or for more information visit
www.keithwhitleyhomecoming.com or call 606-207-1077.

Jesse will recapture some of his dad’s magic in the homecoming show, performing many of Keith’s songs, including “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” “Kentucky Bluebird” and “Miami, My Amy.” He will also debut his own forthcoming single, “Shadows,” a story about an envisioned conversation between him and his father, who is indeed a “hard act to follow.”

Though Jesse’s voice is hauntingly reminiscent of his dad’s, he has worked to craft his own distinctive style. At 26-years-old, he is touring extensively and has already shared the stage for sold-out concerts with many artists, including Mark Chesnutt, Sammy Kershaw, Little Big Town, Rascal Flatts and The Eli Young Band. In addition, he made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry on May 9, 2013 to a standing ovation and an encore.

He is a rising star that comes from country royalty on both sides of his family. His mother is country superstar Lorrie Morgan and his grandfather is Grand Ole Opry legend George Morgan.

For more information, please visit www.keithwhitleyhomecoming.com.

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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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‘Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard’ (Featuring Parmalee, Dustin Lynch, Jason Aldean, Thompson Square, Ben Haggard And Many More)

working-man-s-poet-a-tribute-to-merle-haggardWorking Man’s Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard (Various Amazing Artists)
**** (out of 4 stars)
Label: Broken Bow Records

“Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself

(I am huge, I contain multitudes.)”
– Walt Whitman (”Song Of Myself”)

There have been plenty of tributes to singer/songwriter Merle Haggard over the years. Whether it’s a spirited affair (like at the Country Music Hall of Fame) or a dressed up, bloated, random television show (like the Kennedy Center Honors), Merle Haggard has had his share of having to sit there and listen to others sing the songs he lived and wrote. I’m guessing that he is going to love the latest tribute — Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard.

No one in country music captures the stuff that gives us wrinkles, smiles, sore feet, heartaches and heart flutters more completely than Merle Haggard. His songs are so truthful that, even though the songs are country, the insights are universal. In that sense, he must be regarded as one of the great chroniclers of the American experience — the Walt Whitman of the working man. His songs give voice to people on the borders of life, with an intimacy that few other songwriters could match. Whether sung by a prisoner, a field hand, a labor camp worker or merely a dusty troubadour passing through town, Mr. Haggard’s songs become the musical equivalent of a John Steinbeck novel; overlooked aspects of complicated lives appeared in his lyrics, making sense of it all, for better or for worse.

Mele Haggard was the heir to Hank Williams’ place as the singer/songwriter who was the voice for his generation in country music. Maybe the next Merle Haggard hasn’t come along yet, but that’s just fine because Mr. Haggard is still around (and doin’ just fine), as are his profound songs. Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard, a newly released compilation of 20 songs honor Haggard’s contribution in the best way possible — by letting the songs live on with new conviction, new gusto and new understanding from new artists who are more than up to the task. This is not one of those tribute albums that will end up in the back section of your CD collection, destined never to be heard again. Nor is it one of those tribute albums that sends you running for the original versions just to cleanse your aural palate. It is that rare tribute album — one that stands on its own as a true companion to the originals. It’s an impressive achievement considering who the original is.

This isn’t just another tribute album. It’s a smart move by an insightful record label to showcase some of their most talented artists while giving listeners the chance to hear them sing twenty of the greatest country songs ever written. The end result is up to those performers (performers like Dustin Lynch, Ben Haggard, Joe Nichols, Parmalee, Randy Houser, Jason Aldean, Thompson Square, Jake Owens, Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, James Wesley, Kristy Lee Cook and Toby Keith), and for the most part they all exceed high expectations. Do they have what it takes to let us hear a Haggard song the way it should be heard — with the experiences of our own lives acting as a sort of sub-woofer as they convey the experiences of their lives while singing the notes and words that Merle Haggard wrote down about his own life? Almost every track on Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard deserves the praise I’m sure will come it’s way when the collection is released tomorrow (April 1).

The album is loaded with top-notch tracks, including two songs (“Mama Tried” and “Sing Me Back Home”) recorded by Merle’s son, Ben Haggard, who plays guitar in his father’s band, The Strangers. Ben offers an understanding of the songs that few could and his phrasing is inspired. Another definite highlight is “Workin’ Man Blues,” performed by Parmalee with a proper blend of sweat and swagger. The one track that doesn’t quite live up to the original (and that also doesn’t come up with its own valid interpretation) is “Pancho and Lefty,” performed here by a listless Luke Bryan and an afterthought of Dierks Bentley. It is too safe, too predetermined and suffers from a lack of purpose. Don’t worry, though – that track is followed by one of the album’s great surprises — a fun performance of “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down” by Garth Brooks. (Note: Garth Brooks will present Merle Haggard with the Academy of Country Music’s Crystal Milestone Award during the Academy of Country Music Awards on April 6 — Haggard’s 77th birthday. Miranda Lambert and George Strait will also perform a tribute medley of Haggard’s hits during the show and he’ll receive the ACM’s Crystal Milestone award, honoring his 50th anniversary in country music.) Other tracks that succeed on many levels include “Misery and Gin” (Randy Houser), “Going Where The Lonely Go” (Jason Aldean)
, “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink” (Dustin Lynch) and “Carolyn” (Toby Keith).

Merle Haggard is indeed the poet laureate of the working man (and woman). His labor created songs of everyday survival… songs of honesty whose very existence brought dignity and democratic nobility to those who understood them. Seems like whenever a country artist is asked to name someone who has influenced their music, Merle Haggard is a standard, immediate response. What country singer wouldn’t love to perform a tribute to the man? Luckily for us, Broken Bow Records has such a talented stable of artists to assign this dream task to. The versions these artists perform prove their respect and reverence. Listening to Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute To Merle Haggard is a reminder of why we have ears.

A track listing of Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute To Merle Haggard:
1. “Misery And Gin” (performed by Randy Houser)

2. “Footlights” (performed by Joe Nichols)

3. “Going Where The Lonely Go” (performed by Jason Aldean)

4. “Today I Started Loving You Again” (performed by Kristy Lee Cook)

5. “Carolyn” (performed by Toby Keith)

6. “Pancho And Lefty” (performed by Luke Bryan & Dierks Bentley)

7. “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down” (* performed by Garth Brooks) 

8. “You Take Me For Granted” (performed by Thompson Square)

9. “Mama Tried” (performed by Ben Haggard)

10. “That’s The Way Love Goes” (performed by Dustin Lynch)

11. “Make Up and Faded Blue Jeans” (performed by Jake Owen)

12. “I’m A Lonesome Fugitive” (performed by James Wesley)

13. “Workin’ Man Blues” (performed by Parmalee)

14. “Are The Good Times Really Over” (performed by Jason Aldean)

15. “Let’s Chase Each Other Around The Room” (performed by Thompson Square)

16. “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink” (performed by Dustin Lynch)

17. “The Fightin’ Side Of Me” (performed by James Wesley)

18. “My Favorite Memory” (performed by Joe Nichols)

19. “Ramblin’ Fever” (performed by Randy Houser)

20. “Sing Me Back Home” (performed by Ben Haggard)
*Appears only on the Walmart exclusive

Essential Downloads: “Misery and Gin” (Randy Houser), “Footlights” (Joe Nichols), “You Take Me For Granted” (Thompson Square), “That’s The Way Love Goes” (Dustin Lynch), “Workin’ Man’s Blues” (Parmalee), “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink” (Dustin Lynch), “Sing Me Back Home” (Ben Haggard).

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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 Music: Charlie Daniels Band Performs Songs Of Bob Dylan

CharlieDanielsCDCharlie Daniels Band — Off The Grid — Doin’ It Dylan
***1/2 (out of 4 stars)
Label: Blue Hat Records (available April 1)

Let’s just start with the songs. (Usually this list ends a review, but when the songs are this important, it’s best to share up front — so the reader knows what level of material we’re discussing here):
“Tangled Up In Blue”
“Times They Are a Changin’”
“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”
“Gotta Serve Somebody”
“I Shall Be Released”
“Country Pie”
“Mr. Tambourine Man”
“Hard Rains A Gonna Fall”
“Just Like A Woman”
“Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)”

Yeah, it’s not your usual iTunes Top 10 level of song… it’s a compact collection of just some of the songs that Bob Dylan used to change the stifling rigidity of musical genres. With Off The Grid — Doin’ It Dylan, one of the most revered musicians of this generation, Charlie Daniels (and his band) pay tribute to Dylan. The music is Dylan’s, but the style is pure Charlie Daniels. And the encounter between the original and the rebel is inspired.

While at first it may seem an unlikely pairing, the result is an opportunity to hear the many sides of Dylan’s music (prophetic, flirty, spiritual, visionary) even more clearly, due to Daniels’ unmatched storytelling ability. Daniels has one of those unique voices that conveys equal parts authority and familiarity. To hear Daniels singing a Dylan song is to hear the small truths (the ones that Dylan always conveyed with microscopic clarity), while also discovering the larger themes that have proven themselves even truer in the decades since the songs were introduced. (For the record, Charlie Daniels worked on a couple of Bob Dylan albums… including Nashville Skyline.)

The musicianship on this album matches the material as well. Each guitar, drum, fiddle, mandolin, piano and harmonica moment is solid and satisfying. It’s an acoustically-driven album, which is entirely fitting, but the similarities to Dylan’s sound ends there. Daniels provides his own arrangements, phrasings and emphases. Between the singer and the songs, it’s almost an embarrassment of riches. The diversity of style that Daniels offers in his own discography is matched with this album, with the selection of songs ranging from folk to blues to jazz to country. Longtime Charlie Daniels will respond well to Off the Grid; it’s just a natural progression of the musical journey he’s been taking them on for years.

Essential Downloads: “Gotta Serve Somebody,” “A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall,” “Just Like A Woman.”

To preview or purchase this album on Amazon.com, click here. (Bonus for LP collectors: Off the Grid is also available in vinyl!)

CharlieDaniels_pic

The Charlie Daniels Band are currently on the road with their Off the Grid tour. The dates are:

4/04 – Durant, Okla.
4/05 – Reklaw, Texas
4/10 – Nashville, Tenn.
4/12 – Bremen, Ga.
4/19 – Altoona, Iowa
4/25 – Las Cruces, N.M.
4/26 – Spring, Texas
4/27 – Biloxi, Miss.
5/02 – Live Oak, Fla.
5/03 – Winchester, Tenn.
5/16 – Pharr, Texas
5/17 – Rockwall, Texas
5/20 – Nashville, Tenn.
5/24 – Greenwood Village, Colo.
5/29 – Torrington, Ct.
5/30 – Wilkes-Barre, Penn.
5/31 – Albany, N.Y.
6/01 – Rochester, N.Y.
6/07 – De Queen, Ark.
6/13 – N. Lawrence, Ohio
6/14 – Big Flats, N.Y.
6/15 – Gilford, N.H.
6/20 – Cullman, Ala.
6/21 – Pinnacle, N.C.
6/27 – St. Cloud, Minn.
6/29 – Cadott, Wis.
7/03 – Caruthersville, Mo.
7/04 – Sparta, Ill.
7/05 – Eldon, Mo.
7/11 – Mahnomen, Minn.
7/12 – Craven, Saskatchewan
7/17 – Livingston, Mont.
7/18 – Wendover, Nev.
7/19 – Forsyth, Mont.
7/23 – Vernal, Utah
7/25 – Guthrie, Iowa
7/26 – Union Grove, Wis.
8/01 – Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada
8/02 – Shediac, Neb.
8/03 – Tracadie, Neb.
8/08 – Rainbow City, Ala.
8/09 – Fayetteville, Ga.
8/17 – Pittsburgh, Penn.
8/21 – Bartlett, Tenn.
8/22 – Blue Ash, Ohio
8/23 – Frankfort, Ky.
8/26 – Monroe, Wash.
8/27 – Walla Walla, Wash.
8/28 – Salem, Ore.
8/29 – Minden, Nev.
9/05 – Rocky Mount, N.C.
9/06 – Mechanicsville, Md.
9/11 – Knoxville, Tenn.
9/13 – Westbury, N.Y.
9/14 – Webster, Mass.
9/19 – Stafford, Texas
9/20 – Oklahoma City, Okla.
10/03 – Chicago, Ill.
10/09 – Cumming, Ga.
10/17 – Austin, Texas
10/18 – Bossier City, La.
10/23 – Glenside, Penn.
10/24 – Ridgefield, Ct.
11/07 – Branson, Mo.
11/08 – Springfield, Ill.
11/15 – Biloxi, Miss.
11/21 – St. Louis, Mo.
11/22 – Hinton, Okla.
12/12 – Las Vegas, Nev.
12/13 – Las Vegas, Nev.

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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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BAGHDATIS JOINS RIVER OAKS FIELD – Former Top 10 Player Receives Wild Card

1Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, a former Top 10 player and Australian Open finalist, has received the first wild card for the Fayez Sarofim & Co. US Men’s Clay Court Championship that will be held at River Oaks Country Club April 7-13.

Marcos Baghdatis has reached 11 career ATP finals, including the 2006 Australian Open where he fell to Roger Federer in the title match. Baghdatis is among the most successful Davis Cup players in history, and stands fifth among current players for most match wins with a 62-13 record overall and 43-3 mark in singles. His current 32-match Davis Cup singles winning streak is the second-longest in history and leads all active players.

Baghdatis, who was awarded the first of three wild cards for the tournament, joins a field that includes World No. 10 and defending champion John Isner along with former champions Juan Monaco (2012), Lleyton Hewitt (2009) and Ivo Karlovic (2007). Spaniards Tommy Robredo and Nicolas Almagro, two of only four active players on the ATP with more than 200 career match wins on clay, are also entered into the River Oaks tournament.

Two of the top doubles teams on the ATP World Tour have also committed to play the 2014 tournament. Bob and Mike Bryan, the twin-brother tandem that has won four titles at the US Men’s Clay Court Championship, and the Spanish duo of Fernando Verdasco and David Marrero, champions at the 2013 ATP World Tour Finals, have both been entered into the doubles draw. In addition, one of the hottest doubles tandems on tour – Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah – will come to Houston having reached three straight finals and five on the season, including this week in Miami.

In 2014, River Oaks Country Club will celebrate hosting a tournament for the 80th time since its inauguration in 1931. The upcoming tournament will also mark the 104th staging of the US Men’s Clay Court Championship.

The tournament will begin with qualifying rounds on April 5-6 that are free to spectators. Main draw play gets underway Monday, April 7.

Limited tickets for the 2014 Fayez Sarofim & Co. US Men’s Clay Court Championship remain available for select sessions. In addition, the “Ticket Turnback” program will return. Patrons holding tickets for sessions they cannot attend can return them to the box office where they will be resold at face value, with the full purchase price being donated to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. For more information, please visit www.mensclaycourt.com.

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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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Richard Gasquet Signs On For His First BB&T Atlanta Open

1The BB&T Atlanta Open has signed Richard Gasquet, the tournament’s first non-American Top 10 player, to play in its 2014 tournament. This will be Frenchman Gasquet’s first appearance in the BB&T Atlanta Open, which runs July 19-27.

Focused on giving fans a wide range of entertainment, the tournament is presenting Yacht Rock Revue on Wednesday, July 23, following the last match. The concert is included in the regular ticket price and will take place on Stadium Court. For tickets, click here.

With defending champ John Isner already signed to play, the tournament now has two players currently in the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings: Gasquet at No. 9 and Isner at No. 10. Also committed to play in the first men’s event in the Emirates Airline US Open Series, the road to America’s Grand Slam in New York, are No. 2 American Sam Querrey and France’s Gael Monfils.

A versatile player with a fluid, one-handed backhand, Gasquet has taken titles on four surfaces: hard, grass, clay and carpet. All-time great Roger Federer is the only other active player with titles on four surfaces. Gasquet has earned more than $10 million in prize money and reached No. 7 in the world at the age of 20. He has 10 ATP World Tour wins, three of which came in 2013. Gasquet reached the final of this year’s Montpellier tournament, losing to Monfils.

“Atlanta will host some of the most talented players in the world and we’re proud to add Richard Gasquet to the esteemed roster,” said Tournament Director and Chief Development Officer Eddie Gonzalez. “Our vision is for the BB&T Atlanta Open to be a ‘mini US Open,’ and, with this year’s world-class talent, this is our best field ever! We’re also excited to announce fan favorite band Yacht Rock Revue, which ticketholders can hear without leaving their seats. Fans will get to enjoy world-class tennis and then one of Atlanta’s most popular bands, all included in the ticket price.”

The Yacht Rock Revue is known as the finest tribute to ‘70s light rock. Their spot-on renditions of Hall & Oates, Michael McDonald and Steely Dan have enthralled fans across the United States and beyond.

With a new emphasis on themed days and nights, the following tentative events are in the works: free concerts in Central Park, the annual “Tennis Night on the Town” fundraising dinner to benefit the YMCA, Kids Day, Military Night, College Night, 80’s Night, Ladies Day, ALTA and USTA Night and Fan Appreciation Day. The USTA Family Zone will also be open throughout the tournament for persons of all ages to play tennis for free.

Weeklong Ticket Packages are on-sale now and include a ticket to all 11 sessions at Atlantic Station. Four different seating levels are offered and packages are priced as low as $35/ticket. Tickets can be purchased at www.bbtatlantaopen.com or by calling 404-941-9202.

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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