TJ’s Anthemic Pandemic Summer Mix with Jaime Wyatt, Jason Isbell, Andrea & Mud, The Harmed Brothers and Darlin’ Brando

By Brian Rock

Well, this is certainly the weirdest, wildest summer in recent memory. With some states open for business and some sealed tighter than a drum; with social distancing and ever-changing mask regulations; our summer plans may well be dictated by where we live. But amid the conflicting reports, analyses and decrees, one thing remains the same: summer always brings with it some great new music. Here are a few recommendations to help you make the most of this bizarre, Coronavirus summer, no matter what state or state of mind you find yourself in.


Jaime Wyatt: Neon Cross

The follow up to her critically acclaimed debut EP, Felony Blues, Neon Cross is Wyatt’s first full length release. Confessional, but unapologetic, she snarls and swaggers with an Outlaw Country attitude. To express that attitude to its fullest effect, she recruited Shooter Jennings to produce the album. The result is a modern Outlaw Country classic that would make Shooter’s own dad proud. Half rockin’ Honky-Tonk numbers, and half weepy Country ballads, Wyatt mines her own troubled past to sing about life’s ups and downs. Her powerful, emotional voice brings ballads like “By Your Side,” “Mercy,” “Sweet Mess,” and the sardonic “Just A Woman” to raw, visceral reality. Having overcome a drug addiction, a prison sentence, and the loss of two loved ones, her voice and lyrics convey a deep, soul hurt that makes mere heartache seem giddy by comparison. Even her high energy songs are more defiant than jubilant. “Neon Cross,” “LIVIN,” “Make Something Outta Me,” “Goodbye Queen,” and “Rattlesnake Girl,” are all “take me as I am or leave me the Hell alone” anthems.

Anthemic pandemic song: Make Something Outta Me

Rock and Roll guitar, Pedal Steel and barrelhouse piano set the tone for a rabble-rousing anthem of self-loathing. Singing, “I shoulda slept around in music town, I woulda probably got more to show,” Wyatt expresses the frustration of independent artists trying to make it in a corporate controlled industry. But just staying true to herself and thumbing her nose at the tastemakers is its own victory.  |  fb  |  buy


Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit: Reunions

Jason and the 400 continue to do what they do best, create thought provoking, hook laden, Americana. Confronting the ghosts of his past, Isbell deals with heavy issues like addiction “It Gets Easier,” depression “St. Peter’s Autograph,” broken relationships “Running With Our Eyes Closed,” loneliness “Only Children,” and fractured families “Dreamsicle.” But, like Guy Clark, Isbell insinuates more than he demonstrates. He paints fractured, cubist, mosaics out of fragmented snapshots from his past. The very ghosts that haunt him are the muses that drive him to create art from his pain. In sharing his pains in vague terms, he makes them more universal and accessible. The 400 Unit helps bring his art to life with atmospheric arrangements that move from Folk to Rock to suit the mood of each moment.

Anthemic pandemic song: Be Afraid

Pulsing drums and bass drive this anthemic, rocking song about facing your fears. With cryptic lyrics like, “We’ve been testing you and you failed to see how long that you could sit with the truth, but you bailed,” Isbell hints that life is a series of tests. The fact that we often find ourselves tested in ways we never imagined can lead to uncertainty and fear. But as Isbell says, “Be afraid, be very afraid, but do it anyway.” Doing something dangerous without fear is reckless. Acknowledging the dangers and admitting your fears before engaging, sharpens your senses and helps you face the challenge at hand. Hopefully we can all pull together and face our common challenges with this kind of cautious courage.  |  fb  |  buy


Andrea & Mud: Bad News Darlin’

Good news from Georgia as Andrea & Mud release their second album of Surf-Western, Honky-Tonk, Rockabilly, Spaghetti Western, Country-infused musical magic. As sweet and juicy as a Georgia peach, their music drips with jangly guitar riffs and steel guitar strains. If Tanya Tucker and Junior Brown ever did a duets album, it would sound exactly like this. From the Bluesy, “Hellhounds,” to the Rockabilly of “Send Your Love My Way” and “Yer Majesty,” to the straight Country of “The Reason Why She Cries,” and “Little Blue Truck,” to the Honky-Tonk of “Birmingham, AL 8:30 AM,” Andrea & Mud trade vocals and guitar licks as they share stories of love, heartbreak, life on the road, poor decisions made in the early morning hours, and the special love of a man for his automobiles.

Anthemic pandemic song: Lines

A cinematic, Spaghetti Western, Country song punctuated by Mariachi horns. Singing, “You’re the reason why I cry each night,” Andrea asks her partner where he’s been; even though she knows his answer will be nothing but “lines.” A familiar song of betrayal is elevated by the addition of exotic Mexicali musical instrumentation. As her lover’s betrayals cause lines on her face, and drive her to madness, the unexpected rhythms add an otherworldly feel even as the lyrics add an uncertain ending.  |  fb  |  buy


The Harmed Brothers: Across The Waves

70’s Springsteen meets 90’s Athens, GA indie Rock. With catchy hooks and contemplative lyrics, The Harmed Brothers delight the ear and engage the mind. Decidedly on the Rock side of Americana, the guitar riffs on this album are potent and plentiful. Whether singing about the vanity of success in “All The Same,” or the sad state of current affairs in “Funnies,” or seeking a brighter future in “Skyline Over…” the major chord rhythms and power pop guitar bring some much needed optimism to every topic they explore. They do venture into other genres with the soulful, “Born A Rotten Egg,” and the cosmic Folk/Country of “Where You’re Going,” and “Time.” The changeup songs add just the right texture to add extra depth and complexity to the album.

Anthemic pandemic song: Picture Show

Irresistible guitar licks and driving piano and drums propel this extended metaphor for life’s drama. Singer Ray Vietti grapples with the feeling of being a spectator in his own life. Singing, “Watching it all unwind, the story of my life; asking myself, ‘Why, oh why’,” he wonders how he has arrived at this point in his life. After grousing that the grass is greener on the other side and getting frustrated with wishing on stars, he finally realizes that he has been the creator of his own reality. Knowing this gives him the freedom to start building his life anew. The infectious optimism of the music perfectly complements this sense of renewal and independence.  |  fb  |  buy


Darlin’ Brando: Also, Too…

The debut album of musical journeyman Darlin’ Brando (aka Brandon Goldstein) is chock full of danceable, Honky-Tonk Country. Combining his Folk singer voice with pure Country rhythms, Brando pays homage to fighting lovers, beer drinkers, wild women, haunting memories and family. With a vocal assist from his wife, Edith Freni, Brando incorporates elements of Folk (“Year One, The Old Man and the Kid,) Spanish guitar (Those Old Demons,) and balladry (Weeds & Flowers) in his songs. But his bread and butter is the unadulterated Honky-Tonk on songs like “When You Don’t Fight,” “Therapy,” “Crumbling Marriages,” and “Last Call.” If you like mid 70’s Honky-Tonk heroes like Waylon Jennings and Johnny Paycheck, then you’ll like Darlin’ Brando Also, Too…

Anthemic pandemic song: Last Call

A.J. Croce adds his boogie-woogie piano chops to help drive this rollicking Honky-Tonk tribute to the figurative feeding frenzy that precedes closing time at the local bar. Just as many writers are inspired by a deadline, last call inspires many practitioners of lesser “social arts” to spring into action before their nightly deadline. The song bounces and bumps with all the fun of your wildest weekend expectations.

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Brian Rock

Brian Rock

Brian was raised gypsy style, moving every other year until well after college. As friendships proved to be temporary, Brian found a constant companion in music, wearing the grooves off Beatles and Dylan albums before moving on to Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yokam. Living so often in flux, he has come to value music and lyrics of lasting quality. Not moved by trends or fashion, he is drawn to timeless lyrics and soulful rhythms. Although now settled down, Brian still expresses his gypsy spirit through his writing. He has co-written songs with musician friends he’s met along the way, including several contributions to the 2012 ICMA Album of the Year, Family Album. Brian also writes children’s books and poems, including the Children’s Book Council featured title, The Deductive Detective.
Brian Rock

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