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Player Field at Hall of Fame Tennis Championships to feature top 6 Americans, Including Isner, Johnson & Sock

logo_bannerJohn Isner, Steve Johnson, Bradley Klahn, Donald Young, Jack Sock, and Sam Querrey have all committed to the field, along with defending champion Nicolas Mahut of France, Australians Lleyton Hewitt and Nick Kyrgios.

NEWPORT, R.I., June 20, 2014 – Just after Wimbledon, the ATP World Tour returns to the United States for the summer, with the first stop being the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, where the top six American players on the tour are all committed to the field. The tournament, which is the only grass court pro tournament in North America, will be played July 5 – 13 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

“We have a strong player field set for Newport in July,” said Tournament Director Mark Stenning. “It’s always nice to kick off the U.S. summer swing with the top Americans here in Newport just after the Fourth of July. We look forward to welcoming many exciting international tennis stars as well. After watching the excitement of Wimbledon on television these next couple of weeks, the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships offers a great opportunity to see grass court tennis in person and we look forward to welcoming the fans to enjoy a great week of tennis in Newport.”

Isner

John Isner Headlining the American contingent is No. 1 American John Isner, a fan favorite in Newport who counts two Hall of Fame Tennis Championships victories (2012 and 2011) among his eight career titles. Isner is currently ranked world No. 11 on the ATP World Tour and goes into Wimbledon next week as the No. 9 seed.

Steve Johnson, who was the NCAA Singles Champion in 2011 and 2012 when playing for University of Southern California, and Bradley Klahn, 2010 NCAA Singles Champion from Stanford, will both be making their main draw debuts in Newport. Johnson and Klahn are currently ranked in the world top-75 and have posted big wins over top-30 players in the past two years while climbing the rankings. Donald Young, who recently upset world No. 27 Feliciano Lopez to advance to the third round at the French Open will return to Newport as well. After playing on grass courts for the first time in Newport in 2012, Jack Sock will be back for a third consecutive year. The 21-year-old is currently ranked No. 75 after an impressive run into the third round of the French Open, including a first round upset over world No. 22 Nicolas Almagro. Newport veteran Sam Querrey, will be back for his sixth appearance at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, where he was a finalist in 2009. Querrey’s grass court season is off to a strong start. Earlier this month he advanced to the round of 16 at the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club, and today, he is playing in the semifinals at the Aegon International at Eastbourne.

Ryan Harrison and Tim Smyczek, who have both had success in Newport in past years will also return to Newport in July. Harrison won the Newport doubles title in 2011 with Australian Matt Ebden, who is also committed to play Newport again. Smyczek was a doubles finalist last year, with partner Rhyne Williams.

Joining the Americans in Newport will be defending champion Nicolas Mahut of France, former world top-10 player Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, big serving Croatian Ivo Karlovic, who is currently ranked world No. 33, and his countryman Ivan Dodig, who is ranked world No. 38, and two popular Australians – former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt and rising star Nick Kyrgios.

Mahut will return to Newport after a championship sweep last year in which he had a dream run from wild card entry to winning the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships singles and doubles titles. Both Karlovic and Hewitt have seen great success in Newport in recent years, with Karlovic in the quarterfinals last year and Hewitt advancing to the finals in 2013 and 2012. Baghdatis, Kyrgios, and Dodig, all newcomers to Newport, will bring a lot of excitement to the draw. Baghdatis is an ATP World Tour veteran known for high energy matches. Last weekend, Kyrgios jumped 28 spots in the ATP World Tour rankings after winning the Nottingham Challenger, making him the youngest player in the world top-150.

Tournament tickets are available on www.HallofFameTennisChampionships.com or by phone at 401-849-6053. Hall of Fame Members save $5 on tickets, and enjoy many other benefits throughout tournament week, including access to a Member Lounge, first-in-line status for autographs, and much more.

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 Blues/Roots: The Nighthawks – ’444′

cdThe Nighthawks - 444
*** (out of 4 stars)
Label: EllerSoul Records

Good news for fans of blues and roots rock who are looking for some new tunes for the coming summer nights. Rockabilly legends, The Nighthawks, will release a new album on Tuesday, June 17. 444 features thirteen songs simmering with the band’s trademark blend of blues, soul, and good old rock ‘n’ roll. The collection includes five originals, as well as classics by Muddy Waters, the Du Droppers and others. The album also includes two songs that first appeared in Elvis Presley movies; “Got A Lot of Livin’” (from the 1957 film ‘Lovin’ You’) and “Crawfish” (the fun opening number from the 1958 film ‘King Creole’).

For over 40 years they’ve been playing their brand of music… long before people started labeling it. If it spoke to the soul and made you want to move, they’ve played it. Over the years, they opened shows for such artists as Muddy Waters, James Cotton, John Lee Hooker and Carl Perkins. The Blues Foundation gave The Nighthawks the “Acoustic Album of the Year” award for their 2011 album Last Train To Bluesville. And now, with 444, they have put out yet another fantastic album that recreates the feeling of live gig. The energy and style these guys have is evident in every track.

The Nighthawks–Documentary Film from Michael Streissguth on Vimeo.

The Nighthawks are Mark Wenner (vocals & harmonica), Johnny Castle (bass), Paul Bell (guitar) and Mark Stutso (drums). They are one of the most consistent and reliable bands around; they are still making music that people relate to when they walk in the door and they are still playing those songs with an astonishing passion and commitment.

Essential Downloads: “Walk That Walk,” “You’re Gone,” “No Secrets.”

Upcoming Nighthawks’ Tour Dates:

6/20 @ The Birchmere, Alexandria VA

6/22 @ Capital Ale House Music Hall, Richmond VA

6/26 @ Thunder in the Valley, Johnstown PA

6/27 @ Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival, Charleston WV

6/28 @ The State Theatre, Culpepper VA

7/04 @ Evenings on Main, Luray VA

7/05 @ High Tides on Potomac, Colonial Beach VA

7/06 @ Bethesda Blues & Jazz, Bethesda MD

7/20 @ Gilligan’s Pier, Newberg MD

7/25 @ Sellersville Theater, Sellersville PA
7/27 @ Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat Cruise, Williamsport, PA
8/3 @ High Tides on the Potomac, Colonial Beach, VA
8/8 @ Apple’s 11th Annual East Coast Motorcycle Rally, Little Orleans, MD
8/9 @ Patriot Harley-Davidson, Fairfax VA
8/15 @ Edmonton Blues Festival, Edmonton Alberta
8/27 @ Lee District Nights, Franconia, VA
8/31 Antique & Custom Bike Show, Vienna VA
9/1 @ Greenbelt Labor Day Festival, Greenbelt, MD
*(with more dates to be announced, so keep checking the Nighthawks’ website)

To preorder this album on Amazon, click here.

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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Travis Tritt’s New Song: “That’s What Dreamers Do”

Travis_CDAward-winning authentic country artist Travis Tritt has released a new song, titled “That’s What Dreamers Do.”

The heart-touching ballad resonates with dreamers of all kinds and embraces the struggles and joys of being a dreamer. Tritt wrote the song for the independent biopic film, As Dreamers Do, which he narrates. The film is based on the life of Walt Disney. To view the trailer for the film, click here.

The single, “That’s What Dreamers Do,” is available through iTunes (click here).

“That’s What Dreamers Do” is Tritt’s second single release since forming Post Oak Recordings. Tritt formed the label in 2012 and shortly after released his full length album The Calm After… Included on the album is a duet with Tritt’s daughter, Tyler Reese. The song, “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough,” is a cover of the 1980s pop hit.

Together, they released a video for the track…

Four of the songs on the album, co-produced by Randy Jackson, were either written or co-written by Tritt. The Calm After… is available on iTunes and other major digital retailers.
2014 has proven to be a busy year for the Marietta, Georgia native. Tritt has been touring extensively, including show dates stretching as far north as Canada. To view a list of upcoming tour dates, click here.

Earlier this year, Tritt filmed a live DVD from the Franklin Theatre in Franklin, Tennessee. It will be released later this year. 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of Tritt’s music career. His chart-topping success includes millions in album sales, two Grammy award wins and multiple No. 1 singles on the Country radio charts, including “Help Me Hold On,” “Anymore” and “Best of Intentions.” He was dubbed one of “The Class of ‘89,” which included Country music superstars Garth Brooks, Clint Black and Alan Jackson; all whom dominated the charts in the early ‘90s.
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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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Brave New Country Music: Joshua Scott Jones – ‘The Healing’

Joshua_Scott_Jones_CDJoshua Scott Jones – The Healing
**** (out of 4 stars)
Label: JSJ Music

Joshua Scott Jones has released his 11-track self-produced debut solo project entitled The Healing.

It’s about the bravest album I’ve heard since Glen Campbell’s Ghost On The Canvas. With this album full of songs of loss and recovery, Joshua Scott Jones reveals as much as might be humanly possible of the human experience on a record. It’s just that good.

I won’t even pretend to know what an artist such as Joshua Scott Jones went through in order to arrive at a place where the turmoil finds such coherence — the close calls and negotiations and the drama of it all — but I’m sure glad he did. More importantly, I’m glad he seems to have made it through with his musicianship intact (and stronger than ever).

During his time as half of the duo Steel Magnolia, Jones seemed perfectly fine sharing the spotlight. He seemed an ideal duo partner in that sense, but the Steel Magnolia material didn’t even begin to hint at the emotional depths that The Healing reveals. With this album, Jones asks the tough questions and establishes himself as a solo artist worth watching. Vocally, he is incredibly versatile; going from a whisper to an internal misgiving to a soaring note within a single phrase, all the while maintaining the edgy sense of humor that he has always delivered.

If the TV show Nashville runs dry of creative ideas for future episodes, they’d be smart to feature any number of songs from this album. These are songs full of narrative, drama, resolution and poetry. The songs are brilliantly arranged and organized in such a way that they add, layer upon layer, to a complete and satisfying whole. This is honest songwriting at its best. Who knew there would be something so promising coming out of Nashville in the summer of 2014?

Essential Downloads: “DUI,” “City of Angels,” “Tennessee House,” “The Healing.”

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

IEBA Conference Day 1

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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Country Star Joe Nichols Has A New Hit Single That’ll Make You Say ‘YEAH!’

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 5.31.09 AMJoe Nichols, a four-time Grammy nominee known for songs such as “Brokenheartsville,” “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” and “Gimme That Girl,” is currently making country music fans happy as he hits the road on Lady Antebellum’s “Take Me Downtown Tour.” These days (and nights) he’s also singing his hit “Sunny And 75,” as well as his brand new single, “Yeah.”

Recently, I had the chance to chat with Joe and find out what he’s up to this summer. So what’s the best thing about doing an interview with Joe Nichols? Well, getting to talk with Joe Nichols, of course. He has such an easy-going, sunny vibe about him that there should be some sort of ‘Vitamin Joe’ bottled and sold so that the world would be a more livable and enjoyable place.

The other best thing about doing an interview with Joe Nichols is getting immersed in his music, in preparation. There’s something so right about Joe Nichols’ delivery of a country song; a fusion of emotion and experience and the utter simplicity of the truth being told. His latest album, Crickets, is full of 16 songs that allow him to connect with audiences in the way that only he can. Crickets was produced by Mickey Jack Cones and Derek George except for songs “Yeah” and “Billy Graham’s Bible,” which were produced by Tony Brown and Mickey Jack Cones. (To preview or purchase the album on iTunes, click here.)

Joe Nichols recently debuted the music video for his latest single off the album — the Top 15 hit, “Yeah”…

“Yeah,” the follow-up to Joe Nichols’ recent No. 1 hit off the Crickets album, “Sunny and 75,” is the perfect summertime country video; it’s catchy, fun to sing along to, and sexy. Directed by Wes Edwards (who also directed Dierks Bentley’s “Drunk On A Plane” video), the “Yeah” video keeps things fun and moving along at a summer’s breeze pace by letting the song unfold as a series of comic book panels. Nichols said that the song “is about being young and experiencing life, maybe even for the first time, with each other.” He also said that audiences are loving it.

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(An Interview With Joe Nichols)…

GV (Greg Victor): I bet you’re in a very good place in your life these days. Am I right?

JN (Joe Nichols): I’m in a great place in my life right now. I have a great wife and now I have three beautiful daughters.

GV: Congratulations on the birth of your daughter, Georgia Blue!

JN: Thank you! She’s about a week and a half old now. She’s great.

Joe_Nichols_baby

GV: And now you’re on the road with Lady Antebellum… it must be hard to leave.

JN: I miss my baby terribly. But at the same time, I can get a little sleep when I’m out on the road! But I couldn’t ask for a better tour. This is my first time touring with Lady Antebellum. The vibe, the music and the audience reaction have been great. It’s a great place to have a couple of big songs like “Sunny & 75” and “Yeah.” Getting on a big Lady Antebellum tour and having the summer of our lives — it’s all good, man. The fans are treating me well and I don’t think I could ask for anything more.

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GV: Any idea what the next single might be off the Crickets album?

JN: I think it might be “Hard To Be Cool.” I think it’s made for radio and it feels like it rocks when I do it in the show.

Joe_Nichols_tour

GV: Crickets is a good mix of potential single hits and traditional country songs. And there are plenty of songs that take you in new directions. How’d you pick the songs for the album?

JN: It was a collective process. There was a group of us that were looking for material for the record. Benny Brown, who owns the label (Broken Bow Records) had a big hand in finding a lot of the material. I actually cut “Yeah” and “Billy Graham’s Bible” before I had a record deal… with my own money. I brought those to the label and then, at that point, we kinda had a direction of where we wanted the album to go. We wanted to make sure we were current, while at the same time, we wanted to make sure people who bought the album knew that I was still my traditional self. I think we pleased a lot of different monsters with this record.

GV: If you can keep the old fans happy, while making new fans, that’s success…

JN: Exactly right.

GV: That’s saying a lot these days. And the idea is that the new fans will explore the rest of your catalogue and find even more music of yours that they like.

JN: I would think that what we’re doing now would invite fans that I’m just reaching for the first time to dig deeper into what I’ve done previously. If they did “Billy Graham’s Bible,” they’re definitely gonna dig albums past.

GV: What was it like working with producer Mickey Jack Cones on Crickets?

JN: Man, I don’t think the guy ever sleeps! He’s so busy, and so focused, and so energetic in the studio. He plays, he sings, and he has so many creative ideas. Man, this is as much his records as it is anybody’s. He was all over this album. His vision really, really livened up the record. He really took control and dug deep into the details and put his fingerprints everywhere. It was my first time working with him and I was just blown away!

GV: Is there a certain song, or a type of song, that you’ve always been looking for… that if you heard it, you’d say “I’m recording that”?

JN: If I ever found another “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” I would cut it. I know it probably wouldn’t go over on radio today, but I think that a song that’s that impactful and soulful and that just kinda grips you, I think I am always looking for that. And it there’s that one ideal song for me, I think it’s the emotionally inspirational kind of song. “The Impossible” was like that for me. At the same time, I would also want another “Friends In Low Places,” one of the all-time party songs.

GV: We know how you have a history of singing songs about girls taking their clothes off… “Take It Off” and “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,” for example… You want it all, don’t you, Joe Nichols?

JN: (laughing) I want it all!

GV: Well, why not? You seem to be everywhere these days. I’m talking, of course, about the two tracks you have on Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute To Merle Haggard. What a fantastic album that is.

JN: I woulda cut the whole record if they’d let me.

GV: When it comes to Joe Nichols recording Merle Haggard songs, how do you possibly choose which ones to do?

JN: You know, I’ve had a personal favorite of his for a long time, which is “Footlights.” I’ve always wanted to cut that song and put it on one of my records. So that was a natural choice for me, and then for the second song, we just called Merle from Benny’s office and I asked, “Hey, what do you want me to do? I was thinking maybe ‘Caroline,’” and Merle said “Well, I didn’t write that one. Tommy Collins did.” And I said, “Well, I’ll sing something you wrote. You just tell me what you want me to sing.” And he said “How about doin’ ‘My Favorite Memory’?”

GV: We all know you grew up obsessed with singing and playing Merle Haggard songs. You probably had no idea at the time that you were someday going to be carrying on that legacy of country music…

JN: I never thought I’d have the first hit, let alone sit here twelve years after my first song was released, still relevant on radio and still making music. I never thought I’d ever get to do this. I’m thrilled to death.

GV: The longer you’re out there making music, does each hit mean more and more?

JN: For me, it’s probably different than a lot of people. I think some of your headliners out there that are having hit after hit, and have been for a few years — it probably gets a little repetitive for them. But for me, it’s not been so much “hit after hit.” It’s been kinda “hit and miss,” really.

GV: Well, the Crickets album has definitely brought you back-to-back hits. With “Sunny And 75,” followed by “Yeah,” and plenty more to come, I’m sure.

JN: It’s exciting. Thankful for it!

GV: And I wanna thank you for taking time to share your thoughts with me. I look forward to seeing you on the road. (For upcoming tour dates, click here).

JN: All right, man. Take care, brother.

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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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The Summer of 2014′s First ‘Must-Have’ Album: Morgan James’ “Hunter’

cdMorgan James – Hunter
***½ (out of 4 stars)
Label: Epic Records

Every once in awhile an artist releases an album that is worthy of more attention than it will likely receive, and Morgan James’ new release, Hunter, is such an album. I write such a statement because no matter how much attention it gets, it cannot be enough. Produced by jazz and bluegrass guitarist Doug Wamble, the album is one solid and finely crafted track after another.

And it arrives just in time for you to make it your “summer of 2014” discovery album — the one that you play over and over and never tire of, and that, in years to come, will bring you right back to the summer of 2014 as soon as you hear it. Hunter, by Morgan James is that album.

The album is a smart collection of original songs that evoke the slightly confrontational cool of ’60s R&B and the emotional fever of ’70s soul. But it’s really all about the voice. Or, in this case, The Voice (Morgan James’ voice deserves capitals.) And what a voice it is — heartbreaking, soulful and original. She has an inner knowledge of classic soul that is so deep, that even if she sang the entire history of soul music, you’d still believe that she is keeping a few secrets. Her vocal instrument has a flexibility and a range that meets the challenge of even the most ambitious of songwriters. Let’s just hope that those songwriters exist… and that Ms. James gets to share her talent on album after album of inspired material that does her blazing voice justice.

Essential Downloads: “Heart Shake,” “I Want You,” “Say The Words.”

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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UGA Legend Herschel Walker to Appear at 2014 BB&T Atlanta Open

Walker_Herschel in suitGEORGIA’s AUSTIN SMITH GIVEN MAIN DRAW WILD CARD

1982 Heisman winner Herschel Walker will make an appearance and flip the coin for the Tuesday, July 22 College Night matches of the 2014 BB&T Atlanta Open. Fans also will get the opportunity to meet and greet Walker during Tuesday’s festivities.

The tournament is the first men’s event in the Emirates Airline US Open Series and will be played July 19-27 at Atlantic Station.

Regarded as one of college football’s best players ever, Walker anchored UGA’s 1982 national championship team. He is the only NCAA player who played only three years to finish in the top ten in career rushing yards.

Walker spent his first three years of professional football with the USFL, enabling the fledging league to gain a foothold in pro sports. Afterward, he played 13 seasons in the NFL, with the Cowboys, Vikings, Eagles and Giants. The fifth-degree black belt has competed in numerous activities far from the gridiron including a brief career as a mixed-martial artist and former U.S. Olympics bobsledder along with a stint as a Fort Worth ballet dancer.

“The BB&T Atlanta Open is extremely pleased to have one of Georgia’s most beloved athletes join the festivities,” Tournament Director and Chief Development Officer Eddie Gonzalez said. “Herschel will be one of the highlights of College Night, which will also include UGA star Austin Smith in a first-round match.”

“It’s such an honor to not only appear at the BB&T Atlanta Open, but to be there when a Georgia Bulldog is going out on Stadium Court. UGA’s John Isner is the defending champion and I’m so pleased to also show my support for him” Walker said.

Former Bulldog John Isner, who has committed to play the event, is the most successful player at the tournament with a championship last year and two final appearances. He was a four-time All-American at UGA, 2007 NCAA doubles champion and a member of its 2007 national championship team.

University of Georgia tennis player Austin Smith has accepted a wild card into the main draw. The sophomore, from Cumming, Ga., excelled this season as the Bulldogs captured the 2014 SEC Championship. Smith finished with a 35-12 record, and went 9-1 in SEC matches. He has won four USTA Pro Circuit matches. A tournament qualifier in 2011, Smith will be playing his debut ATP main draw match.

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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 Country: Miranda Lambert’s ‘Platinum’

1Miranda Lambert – Platinum
**½ (out of 4 stars)
Label: RCA Nashville (also known as Sony)

Miranda Lambert is becoming who I suspect Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles always wanted to be: a country megastar who can, when she chooses, cross successfully over into what’s left of the pop world. Although, considering how country has now ascended to the top of the musical hill (Rolling Stone Country, anyone?), one must ask “Why bother?” Poor Jennifer Nettles… destined to host the CMA Christmas Special for eternity just to prove that she is country. Or worse — sing some John Legend song on the hip-hop/CMT Awards show last night. Now that’s country… not.

No one has to question Miranda Lambert’s country cred, what with her double-six-shooter-with-wings tattoo, and all. She just might actually be interesting if she had a little direction. For better or for worse, her wild-yet-tame, saucy-but-too-slurred-to-want-to take-home manner perfectly represents the modern, typical American female country music fan. But too often her middlebrow taste adversely affects her musical choices. The new album, Platinum, is getting raves from all kinds of music critics that regularly look down upon authentic country artists (that should tell you something). There’s risqué word play and backwoods humor here, but it relies far too heavily on tired country clichés (take a listen to the treacly “Automatic” — with words that seem more at home coming out of Barbara Mandrell’s mouth in 1984).

These are songs that make people feel comfortable when they say they don’t mind some country. The material on Platinum is for the suburban ‘tween set; songs about hair dye, cars, lacey underwear, smoking and drinking and other nonsense, mostly set to the sounds of some annoying TV commercial. Which means they are perfect for Miranda Lambert, who is something of an artistic lightweight to begin with. It’s a perfect fit. It will sell tons and it will win awards. (Don’t forget about the many, many country music awards that are given out on a constant basis, since it seems to be the only way left to market music in a world without any record stores or non-corporate country radio. I predict that Lambert will win the award for most awards won by a generic-sounding album in 2014.)

On the other hand, Lambert’s voice sounds better than ever…if only she had something insightful to say. Of course, the studio tricks are all over the place. The tracks fairly echo with the sound of production knobs being maneuvered. But, hey — it is a recording, after all. No one goes to a live concert these days to actually listen to music, so Lambert’s paltry talent is the perfect fit. Lambert doesn’t really sing as much as string together nasal honks. The worst song on the album is “Something Bad,” a tuneless head bobber about “wicked” women that totally wastes what might have been a memorable duet with Carrie Underwood.

Each generation deserves the culture is receives… which says a lot about the current state of American country. When Lambert compares herself to Priscilla Presley on the track, “Priscilla,” you just have to laugh. Yeah… Blake Shelton equals The King.

As if. Besides, I’ve always thought of Blake and Miranda more as country music’s Bill and Hillary.

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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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Billy Ray Cyrus’ New Compilation — ‘Icon’ …(Really? Icon?)

BillyRayCyrus-Icon_B2BBilly Ray Cyrus – Icon: The Distance
** (out of 4 stars)
Label: Mercury/UMe

Icon? Seriously? You might want to check the definitions of that word, Mr. Cyrus. Now, I know you don’t really expect me to believe that you are “a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol of something,” do you? So it must be that you are saying you are definition number two — “a painting of Jesus Christ.”

I thought so.

Oh, I know it’s hard to expect an artist to remember that words have actual meanings when he’s the guy who introduced a phrase like “achy breaky” into the English lexicon. Speaking of words, how about “ironic”? That comes to mind when I hear track 9 of Billy Ray Cyrus’ latest compilation. The song, “Country Music Has The Blues,” features Cyrus singing along with actual country music icons George Jones and Loretta Lynn. It bemoans the current state of country music and its fans’ disregard for quality, traditional music. Or at least the state of things back in 2006, when the song was recorded. Some could say that the introduction of artists who relied more on their video, rather than their musical, ability led us down this path. You know — acts like Billy Ray “Achy Breaky Heart” Cyrus.

Now, 22 years later, Cyrus is celebrating himself and his start in country music with a retrospective album that includes new versions of some of his most beloved hits. It also features some album cuts that never made the radio airwaves – including his “Stand” duet with daughter and proud achievement, Miley.

So here he goes again, even putting “Achy Breaky” onto this album. The song is already available on 4 other albums (including 3 compilation albums.) Enough already. There is one brand new song on the album — “The Distance.” Cyrus has stated that it is symbolic of more than just his longevity in country music. “The song is about going full circle in my life both personally and professionally,” he told Rolling Stone Country. You read that right — Rolling Stone Country. It’s yet another sign of the steady decline of the state of country music, unless you only judge it by the ever-growing masses who wouldn’t know a two-step from a twerk. The “success” of country music apparently relies on the continual siphoning off of rock fans into the country/pop/rock world… leading to a flatlining of both genres.

Said Cyrus, of the new song that is the reason for this latest compilation album, “I’m proud to still be standing here and looking forward to what the future holds. I am going the distance.” So here’s to the fans that will line up to meet this old school hunk at CMA Fest in Nashville this week. They’ve stuck with him while he has come the distance so far, and at least that kind of loyalty is a reminder of what country music used to be about. This one’s for them.

Billy Ray Cyrus’ Icon: The Distance track list:
1. “The Distance”

2. “Trail of Tears”

3. “Call Me Daddy”

4. “Busy Man”

5. “Wanna Be Your Joe”

6. “Stand” (with Miley Cyrus)

7. “The Freebird Fell”

8. “Need a Little Help”

9. “Country Music Has The Blues” (with George Jones and Loretta Lynn)

10. “Some Gave All” (acoustic)

11. “Achy Breaky Heart”

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

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 Country: Steven Padilla’s ‘Good At Goodbye’

Steven-Padilla_CDSteven Padilla – Good At Goodbye
***½ (out of 4 stars)
Label: PADMA Records

Good At Goodbye is Steven Padilla’s debut album and the careful song selection is very successful at achieving just what a debut album should; through the songs, it is easy to feel that you are getting to know something about who Steven Padilla is, and just what he is capable of as a musician. It is a solid album that will please any country music lover in search of an album full of consistent new tunes.

There’s a maturity about the songs of Steven Padilla that is refreshing. Sure, he still sings about some of the same things that the rest of country music’s current crop of leading men sing about, but there’s also another, more complex side of him that keeps things interesting.

Musically, Mr. Padilla is firmly rooted in traditional country, but he also has one boot stepping forward, in search of contemporary sounds and techniques to keep his old fashioned musical taste relevant. Vocally, he has a relaxed, natural quality that is a perfect fit for the sensible lyrics he sings.

For the good of country music, here’s hoping that Good At Goodbye is only the beginning for Steven Padilla.

Essential Downloads: “Country Side Of Mine,” “Good At Goodbye,” “7 Minutes,” “This Woman In My Life.”

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

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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