Category Archives: Artist of the Week

Creatively Musical Featured Artist for 12/4/2013 – Jamey Johnson

Jamey Johnson is a country singer/songwriter who’s written songs recorded by George Strait and Trace Adkins, among others.

Jamey is old country, outlaw country and far from pop country.  In my eyes, it was his award winning song “Give It Away” (recorded by George Strait) that brought Jamey to the forefront of the country scene. His acceptance speech thanking his ex-wife garnered him a lot of attention.

His albums High Lonesome and Guitar Song are two of the best country records to come out of the 2000’s in my opinion. They are as stone cold country as today’s country can get.

The song “In Color” is one of my favorite Jamey Johnson songs and Guitar Song is my favorite Jamey Johnson album.

Below are a few links to songs to check out, but I recommend checking out all of his music, including the songs he’s written that were recorded by other artists.


Check out for more information about Jamey and his music.

Creatively Musical Artist of the Week: Brantley Gilbert

This week’s Artist of the Week will feature the songs of Brantley Gilbert.

Brantley Gilbert is a singer-songwriter from Georgia. His songs have been recorded by Jason Aldean, among others, but his renditions are, in my opinion, better versions of the songs.

My favorite songs that Brantley has written and recorded aren’t those Aldean recorded songs, however.

For more information about Brantley Gilbert, visit his official web site Artist of the Week – Jeffrey Steele

This week my featured artist is Jeffrey Steele. If you’ve been listening to country music for the last two decades or so, you’ve heard a Jeffrey Steele penned song. He’s not only written for himself and his band Boy Howdy, his songs have been recorded by Montgomery Gentry, Rascal Flatts, Faith Hill, Mark Wills and more.

While I love the versions by other artists, Jeffrey’s versions – especially live – are just better. The above video is probably my most favorite Jeffrey penned tune, “What Hurts the Most.” I was at this particular concert, AlexFest in 2008.

Here are some more videos, I could give you links to recorded versions but you need to hear Jeffrey live – it is amazing. He is so passionate about every song he sings.

This is a playlist on YouTube of a bunch of Jeffrey’s live performances. Click through to watch on YouTube to see all of the videos:

Muscle Shoals – Artists of the Week/Review

This week’s Artist of the Week feature is more of Artists of the Week. I am going to feature the Muscle Shoals movie and soundtrack. It’s more of a review and recommendation than anything else.

The Muscle Shoals movie was released on September 27, 2013 in theaters, to iTunes and On Demand with cable and satellite companies. I am not a fan of movie theaters so I was grateful for the multi-format release.

© Magnolia Pitcures
© Magnolia Pitcures

I rented it on iTunes the day it was release with the intention of watching it over the weekend. I had DVR’d a bunch of stuff I wanted to watch, or so I thought. When my DVR’d programs didn’t record for whatever reason, I decided to rent Muscle Shoals through my cable provider and watch it on the television. I watched the documentary nearly all day. It was a 48 hour rental and I took full advantage of that. I watched it front to back at least seven times. Yep, 7 times.

I had been looking forward to watching this documentary, not only as a fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd, but as a fan of Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones and Etta James. I have thousands of songs and artists in my music collection, I don’t know the history behind all my favorite artists or songs so I love learning about them. That’s what appealed to me about the Muscle Shoals documentary. I wanted to know what made Muscle Shoals the place to be and the songs that came out of there.

The documentary was exceptional, as much a documentary of Rick Hall as it was the whole Muscle Shoals music scene itself. There are two story lines going through the entire piece, the story of Rick Hall and the story of the Muscle Shoals sound. You can’t tell one story without the other, without Rick Hall there would be no Muscle Shoals sound and without the success of the Muscle Shoals sound, we wouldn’t know who Rick Hall is.

Rick Hall is the father of the Muscle Shoals sound. Towards the end of the movie he has this to say about his success:

“My whole life has been based on a lot of rejection. And to be honest with you, I think rejection played a big role in my life because I thrived on it. I wanted to prove the world was wrong and I was right.”

For Hall music got him through adversity and tragedy giving him the determination “to be somebody.” He was a songwriter and a musician and his drive is what developed into the Muscle Shoals sound.

The Muscle Shoals sound was a group of young, green musicians who learned as they went and became some of the most sought after players of the time. They had their “own kind of rhythm and blues,” an original sound that couldn’t be duplicated anywhere else.

In the documentary Hall says that people ask him what the Muscle Shoals sound is. Spooner Oldham, one of the musicians that worked with Hall said this: “There was some hillbilly background there. Some black music. We were open minded to be any genre.”

One of the underlying storylines of the documentary is that Alabama and the south was divided over race at the time of Muscle Shoals sound being developed. There was still segregation. Governor George Wallace did not want integration. Hall’s Fame Studios was multiracial. Hall called it “colorblind.”

Clarence Carter has this to say about working at Fame during those years -“You just worked together. You never thought about who was white and who was black. You thought about the common thing and it was the music.” Percy Sledge called it a family. Carter continued by saying, “Music played a big part in changing the thoughts, especially in the south, about race. By us being in Muscle Shoals and putting music together I think it went a long ways to help people understand we wall were just humans.”

“If you think about the South, they didn’t believe that black and white people could live together. And here are vinyl records that prove that not only could they live together, you mightn’t know who’s black and who’s white. At the time this was revolutionary stuff.”  -Bono

The story of Muscle Shoals is interwoven in the story of race relations, not only in music, but in America. Later in the documentary, Jerry Wrexler points out that “it’s been one of the anomalies, I think, of the era. That Aretha’s greatest works came with a studio full of Caucasian musicians. How do you figure it? This is the queen of soul acknowledged.” The musicians of Fame Studios were a group of white musicians who performed on the hit records of not only Aretha, but Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Etta James and more. People who didn’t know anything about them thought they were black. As the quote above from Bono points out, on record you can’t tell who is what color if you don’t already know. It was always about the music and making the best recordings possible.

Those interviewed in the documentary pretty much describe what the base of the Muscle Shoals sound is the same way as Percy Sledge – “Everything that everybody done here, it came from their heart. And that’s what made Muscle Shoals so powerful.”

John Paul White of the Civil Wars described it as a “perfect storm.” Bono called it “magic” and Steve Windwood referred to it as an “enigma.”  This documentary captures all of that and more. The stories, along with the history itself, are riveting to watch. Your left wanting to hear more stories, hear more music and to see more film and photos of what went on inside of Fame and Muscle Shoals Sounds studios.

The Muscle Shoals documentary also talks about the Muscle Shoals Sound studio that was created by Jerry Wrexler and the Swampers after they left Rick Hall and Fame Studios. The Muscle Shoals Sound Studios was where The Rolling Stones recorded and the first Lynyrd Skynyrd record was recorded.. The documentary goes in depth into the Rolling Stones sessions with interviews from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Personally, I would have liked to see more of the Lynyrd Skynyrd story. I’m not complaining though, there is only so much history that can be discussed in the nearly two hours of this documentary.

I also have to realize that there may not be any video or photos of every session that took place at either Muscle Shoals Sound or Fame Studios. Cameras had film, not memory cards and film was limiting. You also have to think that documenting every step of every session would have taken away from those sessions. I am grateful for the history and artifacts that did last all these years. I am grateful that future generations will get to see how music was made before computers and auto-tune and today’s technology.

“When you hear musicians, five or six of them in a room, when you hear the imperfections – that’s the human element. The imperfections gives it the human element, which I believe is what we need today more. And that’s how you make magic and great records.” – Rick Hall

That’s what made the Muscle Shoals sound so appealing to music fans and artists alike. It had that “human element” that no amount of technology today can create. That’s the biggest thing that I’ve taken away from this documentary – that what the Muscle Shoals sound really is is the people who make it. The songwriters, the singers, the musicians, the engineers, the producers – they are the Muscle Shoals sound. They give the heart and soul to what they record.

I really do encourage even casual music listeners to watch this documentary. It should be required viewing for students learning about American music or music in general. The Muscle Shoals sound is uniquely American, yet known around the world. The documentary shows you the spiritual and human side of the music makers, their drive and just enough insight into what makes Muscle Shoals, Alabama so special to so many people.

I watched the documentary eight times and took nine pages of notes and quotes, only about half of which I used here. I could have easily made this post longer and included all the quotes and information that I found interesting or important to me and the music and musicians that I like. That would have also given away a lot of this documentary. I’d rather you support the project by renting it or going to see it in the theater yourself. You will learn a lot from this movie. If you’re anything like me, it’s the tip of the iceberg that will encourage you to do your own research in what little free time you may have.

So much music came out of a little town of about 8,000 people. Quality music, music that mattered came out of Muscle Shoals. That’s why the Muscle Shoals sound is still relevant today. They wanted to be the best and became the best. While it was about hit songs, it wasn’t just about business. The music is what was important.

For more information about the documentary and the project, visit this site –> –

You’ll find information about who’s in the movie, photos, promotional clips and more.

Here are additional links from their Facebook page:

Buy Tickets:
Theatre List:
On Demand:

The soundtrack is now available through Amazon and iTunes.

© Magnolia Pictures / Republic Records
© Magnolia Pictures / Republic Records


You can also rent the documentary through Amazon Instant Video.

As for the tunes to check our, start with the songs on the soundtrack, then dig through the records mentioned towards the end of the documentary. “Patches” has been one of my favorite songs for years, so it was definitely a highlight for me to hear the story behind. As a Skynyrd fan, “Free Bird” is a favorite of mine. Just listen to all of them on the soundtrack and go from there. I can’t leave out any of the songs on the soundtrack as being the overall highlights of the Muscle Shoals sound.

Move and soundtrack are both 5 stars in my book. I, personally, cannot wait for the DVD release of the documentary. It’s a must own when that happens. Artist of the Week: Elton John

Sir Elton John - Bridgestone Arena - Nashville, TN - April 5, 2013 Photo © Christine A Ellis
Sir Elton John – Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, TN – April 5, 2013 Photo © Christine A Ellis

This week I want to share with you my favorite Elton John songs. I’ve been listening to Elton John since I was a kid, so he’s been a part of my musical catalog virtually my whole life.

You can learn more about Sir Elton John through his official web site:

Here are my favorite tunes:

Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds –

Sad Songs (Say So Much) –

I’m Still Standing –

Philadelphia Freedom –

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart –

I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues –

Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me –

Crocodile Rock –

Your Song –

For the whole list, check out this Elton John playlist on Rhapsody.

Be sure to explore Sir Elton’s full catalog on your favorite music service. His songs have been on the radio, in movies and on television. So many hits and so much great music.

I have had the pleasure to see him live this year on my birthday. One of the best concerts I have been to in my lifetime. Artist of the Week: The Oak Ridge Boys

Artist of the Week: The Oak Ridge Boys

Official Web Site:

I’ve grown up listening to the Oak Ridge Boys. My parents listened to the radio in the car, and the Oak Ridge Boys came on a lot when we were traveling to visit relatives or just out running errands. I can still remember singing along to “Bobby Sue” in the car.

I not only love the music, but the individual personalities they bring together on stage for an amazing performance. I’ve only seen them live a couple of times – their Christmas show and We’re All For the Hall – and I hope to see them many more times in the future.

First and foremost, the music is appealing to me because like most of my collection there is a song for every emotion, every day and every mood. My favorites are not only the ones I grew up with, but the many of the ones that have come since. It’s the four part harmony that can’t be matched. All four of the members – Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen, William Lee Golden, Richard Sterban – share lead vocal duties on any given album. Each with a unique voice that fits the songs they sing.

These guys have fun on stage, they’re energetic and they love what they do. While this is the line-up I grew up with, there have been personnel changes since the inception of the Oak Ridge Boys. For more history about those changes, check out their official web site listed above.

On a personal note, I don’t really have a favorite member, but Joe Bonsall is from Philly and I’m from just outside of Philly. So, I think that’s cool. There’s no one more visually iconic than William Lee Golden. They call Duane Allen the Ace and he does have an amazing voice. Richard Sterban is from Camden, New Jersey which isn’t far from Philly. I enjoy their music, following them on Twitter and Facebook – their work outside of the Oak Ridge Boys, their thoughts and love of sports and they other creative outlets that they enjoy.

I find inspiration in a variety of places, the members of the Oak Ridge Boys and the Oak Ridge Boys as a group contribute to some of that inspiration. William’s art, Joe’s writing, and the group’s music are the inspirations I appreciate the most. They have a permanent place in my music collection and in my heart.

Here are a few of my favorite songs:

“Elvira” –

“Y’all Come Back Saloon” –

“Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” –

“Thank God For Kids” –

“Gonna Take A Lot of River” –

“Amazing Grace”

“Fancy Free”

“You’re the One (In A Million)”


“Ozark Mountain Jubilee”

Follow the Oak Ridge Boys:

My photos of the Oak Ridge Boys Christmas show: Artist of the Week: Leroy Powell

Leroy Powell - Photo by: Christine A Ellis
Leroy Powell – Photo by: Christine A Ellis

My introduction to Leroy Powell was ZZ Top’s Gang of Outlaws tour with 3 Doors Down and Gretchen Wilson. When I arrived at the show, I didn’t even know that he was on the bill. He opened the show in front of Gretchen Wilson.

His live show turned me on to his music. That’s the way it should be in my book. The way he performs combined with the music he writes makes for that perfect combination live.

His style is eclectic, a little country and a lot of rock and roll. Rhapsody categorizes him under “new country” but categories are so limiting when Powell’s music is so dynamic.

Here is Powell’s discography (source: Rhapsody):

Here are my highlights from his catalog:

“You’re Driving Me (Out of My Ever Loving Mind)” –

“Satan Put It On My Tab” –

“You Can Count On Me” –

“Easy To Fall” –

Here are a couple of videos:

“You’re Driving My (Out of My Ever Lovin’ Mind)”

Here ‘s a live show clip:

You can find out more about Leroy Powell and links to his social media sites here –> Artist of the Week – Lynyrd Skynyrd

On their Facebook they asked:  “It’s been 40 years since Skynyrd’s debut album We want to see how long you’ve been a Skynyrd fan, post a picture on the page with a story about your love for the band and we might feature yours in our #40YearsOfSkynyrd series.”

Last night, after a few days of thinking about how I could say what I wanted to say, I posted a short version of why I love Lynyrd Skynyrd. I’m long-winded at times, so even my short version is long.

I figured that it was no better time than to elaborate and make Lynyrd Skynyrd my artist of the week this week for I started this feature to highlight my vast music collection, learn more about artists I like and maybe discover new artists along the way. Some are short and quick. Others, like this one, will be long and detailed.

When there is an artist I really dig, I can go on for hours and maybe even days about the things I like or love about them. With Lynyrd Skynyrd it could be weeks or months.

Believe it or not, even after of loving this band the way I have for the last three years, I still have albums and songs I haven’t heard yet. I’ve read a few books, I’ve read the articles in magazines and online, I’ve watched and listened to interviews, and I’ve seen them live several times. I still have lots and lots to learn about this band, its legacy and its music.

Unless you’ve never heard of or about Lynyrd Skynyrd, you have no idea how many members have come and gone in this band. Founding members Ronnie Van Zant and Allen Collins have both passed on and the third founding member Gary Rossington is the only remaining member from the Lynyrd Skynyrd that most people remember from the 1970s.

Current members include Rickey Medlocke, who played drums for the band in the very early 70s, is in the band as one of the guitar players. Johnny Van Zant has replaced his older brother Ronnie as the lead vocalist and Peter Keys has replaced Billy Powell who passed away in 2009. Mark “Sparky” Matejka replaced Hughie Thomasson who passed away in 2007. The current drummer is Mark Cartellone and the current bass player is Johnny Colt.

In October of 1977, the private plane carrying the band members crashed en route to a show. Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, backup vocalist Cassie Gaines died in the crash. For some, that was the end of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Surviving members took time off, did their own thing for a while and just took time to recover.

In 1987, surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, plus an additional musicians came together for a tribute tour celebrating the legacy, the lost members, and the music of one of America’s most iconic groups. That tribute tour was the catalyst for the reformation of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The list of musicians that have been a part of Lynyrd Skynyrd since 1987 is long and something I haven’t even had the chance to research fully. The line-ups since 1997 are the ones I am most familiar with through video tapes and DVDs. Although I never got to see the 1970s Skynyrd in concert, or even the 1997 Skynyrd, the 2009 Skynyrd, I’ve enjoyed watching those concerts on the Internet or DVD or even VHS. I have seen the 2010 – 2013 line-ups and I love these guys.

Every line-up has had their own chemistry and they have all given every ounce of their being to each and every performance. While, I’d give anything to have witness the 1970s line-up or even the line-up with Hughie Thomasson live and in person, this 2013 line-up is by far my favorite.

It’s the one I’ve seen the most live and in person, so I guess that’s the fairest assessment to make. There is no denying Ronnie’s a musical genius and that he has no equal in music, but experiencing his legacy through video and other people’s words is all I have to go by. He was a tremendous writer and lyricist. To listen to Rickey explain how Ronnie worked is thrilling, and to hear those who’ve worked with him talk about him – I do feel I know him fairly well. But I never got to experience it personally. If I could go back it time, it is definitely something I would do, if only just to see the music and the bands, like Skynyrd and Ronnie, that shaped the music that I listened to as I grew up.

The year I really dived into all things Lynyrd Skynyrd was 2010. Very late to the party, I know. I wished I had joined a little earlier….well a lot earlier. The only problem with that is I was born in 1971, in Pennsylvania. That’s a long way from Jacksonville, Florida. My Mom loved music, we almost always listened to the radio in the car. My Mom, though, was into singers, not bands. She was a big Elvis Presley fan, but she listened to a variety of artists. At some point in my life, I’ve listened to every one of her records and the 8-tracks she had. Standards, country – a variety of music — just not rock music.

I have always listened to and loved music. I played an instrument in school. In the early 80s, I listened to pop, rock, disco, country – everything. Radio stations were different back then. They weren’t so focus on a single genre or the same 40 artists. So to say I never heard Skynyrd growing up is probably not true. I’m sure somewhere, I heard it on a radio, a television show or something. From my recollection, I first remember Skynyrd music leaving an impression on me in the early to mid  90s. At that point, I was listening to country music almost exclusively. I spent the 80s listening to mainly rock, hard rock and what they called hair metal. After high school and during college is when things shifted to country music.

Skynyrd’s Frynds was released in 1994. My favorite country artists at the time performed Skynyrd classics. Fast forward to later in the 90s / early 2000s and Chris Cagle covered “Don’t Ask Me No Questions” for the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. Then Montgomery Gentry did a CMT Crossroads with Lynyrd Skynyrd. I had my opportunities to join the Skynyrd Nation during those years, but with a move to California and later a move to Tennessee, finances and free time were tight.

Fast forward to 2010, my boss toured with Lynyrd Skynyrd and 38 Special that summer. He was the opening act. Opening for his musical heroes and friends. As I do every year, I like to get to know the bands he’s touring with. Most of the time, I know the band, but this was one of those tours where I wanted to see what I was going to see when I went out to a show. I bought a DVD and my life as a music fan changed.

I fell in love with Lynyrd Skynyrd. The line-up on the first DVD I saw – Rickey Medlocke, Mark Matejka, Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, Johnny Van Zant, Ean Evans, Carol Chase, Dale Krantz Rossington, and Michael Cartellone. It was the Live From Freedom Hall CD/DVD. It was so much fun to watch them interact with each other and the audience on that DVD. It’s hard not to notice Rickey Medlocke on stage, and if I had to pick one favorite member from the line-ups I’ve seen in person he’s it. As a whole, these guys have fun on stage. They interact with each other and all the while play and sing some amazing music.

The next DVD, my favorite of all the DVDs, is the Vicious Cycle tour. That’s the line-up before the one listed above, which includes Hughie Thomasson. That’s the first line-up I want to go back and see – Rickey, Hughie and Gary had an amazing chemistry together. More than anything else, the way and artist or band performs live is what will win a fan over. There is no other band or artist, for me, that best exemplifies that than Lynyrd Skynyrd. Now, my boss will win you over – I’ve seen it happen and I’ve read the stories about him doing it. He won me over enough that I eventually started working for him. Then came Lynyrd Skynyrd and I’ve lost my musical heart again.

There has to be more than a pretty face or a catchy song to win me over like Skynyrd did. There has to be a passion, a catalog of songs that I can listen to endlessly and never tire of, and there has to be that magic. That last bit, the magic, is the part you can’t explain. It’s the human element of the band. It’s the part you can’t create if it’s not there. It’s what fuels the passion and lastly, the music.

Lynyrd Skynyrd is the band that best exemplifies why I love music. It’s not about one genre, how good you look on the cover of a magazine or how many records you can sell – to paraphrase Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr. It’s all about the music and the passion to make that music.

I did say I was long-winded, right? Well more than 1500 words into this and I haven’t yet touched on the music. I really don’t know where to start with the music. From the early Muscle Shoals recordings to the most recent album, Last of A Dyin’ Breed, I have more favorites than I could ever list. My playlist has probably over 300 Lynyrd Skynyrd songs and up to six different versions of several songs – live, demo, 1976, 1997, etc. There are probably a bunch of songs missing from that playlist, but most streaming services limit how many songs you can have and since I’ve also included Blackfoot and Blackberry Smoke and a couple of other artists in my playlist, my limit has been reached.

What are my favorite songs on my playlist? The shortlist is Sweet Home Alabama, Free Bird, All I Can Do Is Write About It, Four Walls of Raiford, Skynyrd Nation, That’s How I LIke It, Pick ’em Up, Floyd, Ready To Fly, Simple Man, You Got That Right, Needle and the Spoon, and well, I could go on for days.

As for recommending where a new Lynyrd Skynyrd fan should start, I would say the box set that come out in 1991 and the Muscle Shoals album are two good places to hear an amazing mix of everything that is Lynyrd Skynyrd. If you want a feel for what you would here live right now, The Vicious Cycle Live DVD or the Live from Freedom Hall is a good place to start. These days, you can go on YouTube and watch full concerts from overseas, too.

From there you should listen to both the classic Skynyrd records and the last two records that have been released. It will give you a good mix of everything that encompasses Lynyrd Skynyrd. The last three records are among my favorites – Vicious Cycle (2003), God & Guns (2009) and Last of A Dyin’ Breed (2012). Of the classic line-ups I love the compilation sets of the Muscle Shoals recordings and the 1991 box set. (Links are to Rhapsody.)

Here are some YouTube videos –





The best way, in my humble opinion, to enjoy Lynyrd Skynyrd is live. No matter what line-up you have seen live, they put on a killer show. They love what they do, put 500% into every show every night. They have more energy than any other band I’ve ever seen live and you can’t help but fell that energy.

There is a Lynyrd Skynyrd song for every mood, every day, every occasion and for everyone. The songs are about real life, the human experience. You can relate to the songs, you can dance to the songs, you can laugh, you can cry and everything in between.

Here are my photos from the last concert I attended this past July, along with a future artist of the week, Bad Company.

Here’s my latest drawing in tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd:

© 2013 Christine A Ellis /
© 2013 Christine A Ellis / Artist of the Week: Buddy Guy

If you haven’t had the opportunity as of yet to check out Buddy Guy’s new CD Rhythm & Blues, you should check out out through your favorite streaming service or download service. It’s a definite add to your music collection.

Here’s a link to listen to the album on Rhapsody, but it’s available everywhere:

From the second the first song started, I was in love with this album. That’s the to the point review. Every song after was as good as the first and the one before it. Not a bad tune in the bunch. It’s really that simple – an excellent album from an amazing musician.

Take a listen for yourself. Check out more information about Buddy Guy here –> Artist of the Week – Louis Armstrong

I had a wonderful music teacher in college, with whom I took several music classes. One of my favorite classes with him was a class on Jazz music. He was a jazz musician himself and passionate about the music.

You can’t not learn about Louis Armstrong in a Jazz music class, or any other music class – he was so important to the development of American music as a whole. His influence is far reaching; his songs are still played today.

He rose to popularity in Jazz music as a trumpeter and singer. He appeared in movies and on television. He was as well known for his personality as he was for his musical prowess.

The selections I’ve chosen to highlight below are just a few of my favorite performances, for more information about Louis Armstrong please visit the following sites:

My highlights: