The B in Blog-Now updated at least Semi-Annually!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Inside "The Outsiders": An Album Review (Anal Bum Review)

After great anticipation, I picked up Eric Church's new record (okay, CD) when it dropped (was stocked on the shelves at Target) last week.

I knew right away that this was going to be judged not by how great it is, but by how perfect it isn't. With Church's body of work, namely "Chief" and the one live show I've seen, I felt like this should be a flawless piece of work and anything short of that would result in point deductions. This might be harsher than Johnny Weir at a Bugle Boy fashion show, but this isn't open mic night at the Boar's Nest.

With that tall task at hand, let's see how Eric Church and his band did, according to a guy that likes country music (most of the time) and has no musical talent whatsoever. Side note, I did get an A in Music Appreciation in college, so, there we have it.

I decided to go track by track because it's not fair to say the entire album is a hit or a miss. It's full of both. Overall, if I had to say something, it seems like an experiment in sound effects and ghostliness. Sometimes it works, sometimes it just ruins a good song. You'll see what I mean when we get there.

1. The Outsiders-
If you've heard it, you probably like it. When you hear the rest of the tracks, you'll hear a lot more talking instead of singing and wonder what the point is. Is this lyrically significant? No, minus the great imagery of whatever a regulator is. Is this going to be an amazing song performed live with tons of pyrotechnics? Absolutely. Other than that, I've always thought if you have to tell people you are an Outsider or "weird" than you might not be. It's a batting practice homerun, I guess.

2. A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young
I've heard this song on every other Church album. Okay, not exactly this song, but not far off. Stripped down, soft guitar picking, good ol' boys doing cool stuff in cars. Think "Like Jesus Does" without the whiskey and rye on the levee.

3. Cold One
When I first listened to this I thought: He ruined a GREAT song with the instruments on this one. What, did a New Orleans parade marching band break into the studio?  Then he changed tempo too many times and made it unsingalongable. Then it sounds like there's a dj doing the scratchy scratch thing.
It's catchier with multiple listens, but it takes the potential of the Cold One triple (not double) entendre -the beer, the harsh reality of her leaving, and the nature of the woman herself- and loses it amongst the trombone and organ or whatever other instruments they had lying around the school's band room.
"Cold One" is a stretching an infield single into a double, and getting tagged out rounding first base.

4. Roller Coaster Ride-
On CBS Sunday Morning (my favorite show), they said Eric wrote some 200 songs while hunkered down in a mountain lodge and narrowed it down to 12 for this album. How this made it, I don't know.
The double edged sword is that it doesn't sound like too many (if any) of his hit songs. It's good that they tried something different, but synthesizer heavy track with a disco beat wasn't the ticket.

5.  Talladega-
It was simple really. My favorite artist + my favorite NASCAR track = a slam dunk of a song, right? It basically gets an 'eh' in my book. (This is my book, so 'eh'.) It's soft and sentimental, an homage to good buds, which I can get behind. I can't wait for Fox Sports to ineffectively use this song to intro the first race there in April or May.

6. Broke Record
That's what I'm thinking about doing by this point through the CD.

7. Like a Wrecking Ball
Fortunately, this isn't a Miley Cyrus cover. I actually like this one and I've been asked not to turn it up so loud in the car. It's not a wild and rowdy barroom brawl type of wrecking ball. It's a promise by a singer on the road to come home and bone his wife with tremendous force. ("I wanna rock some sheet rock , knock some pictures off the wall...")
I picture some very unfortunate rednecks thinking the slow danceable beat makes it a great choice as their first wedding song.
Or some high school principals raising eyebrows when they hear this at the prom this spring.

Take away the organs and the acoustic guitar and you basically have a violent rap song on your hands.
-"Don't give a damn what these keys are for, I'm gonna knock down that front door"
-"Crash right through the front door, back you up against the wall"
-"Love you baby, take it right there baby, rock you baby, like a wrecking ball"

8. That's Damn rock and Roll
A half spoken word/half rollicking romp down a name dropping mountain. Think an AC/DC song without Brian Johnson's scratchy voice.

9. Dark Side
 Drive to a state with lots of mountains and hard economic times. Park your car on a windy mountain lane somewhere and start walking uphill through the woods. When you find a cabin, look for the record player. Take a vinyl out of the sleeve and drop the needle. What you'll hear sounds just like "Dark Side", right down to the fuzz and crackle.

This is the best song on the album, with zero doubts.

10. Devil, Devil
How about instead of Devil, Devil (which sounds like a great song), you listen to 3 and a half more minutes of a spoken word prelude  that name drops country's greatest singers and songs before business picks up?
To be honest, I haven't  listened to the actual song more than 2 or 3 times. My car rides aren't usually that long.

Devil, Devil is good. It would make a fantastic Dukes of Hazzard action montage soundtrack.

11.Give Me Back My Hometown
Frankly, this song is cheesy. I'm sure fans of Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood probably enjoy this one.
I can't stand it when a song:
A. Forces too many syllables in a line
B. Has a sudden and drastic change in melody to get to the chorus
C. A really unreasonable "Yeah Yeah" "Oh Oh Oh" break

This song has all 3. You can have it.

12. The Joint
Country songwriters typically have a knack for a slick double meaning. In "The Joint", it's not that slick, and not hard to find about 4 lines in. I feel like it was a wasted opportunity to write something much better.

But what really stinks about this song is the sound (I don't know- trombones, bongos,  and that synthesizer again?), Eric's voice(whispery and high), and the tempo (ghostly, crawling vocals over the faster synth beat). Other than that, well, it's still struck out.

I don't download music on an iSomething. I listen to the radio until a commercial  or a Luke Bryan song comes on, then I change the station. I don't buy a lot of CDs, but when I do, I wear it out in my car cd player. This one will get a lot of play, but I'll definitely employ the skip button once or twice before it's done.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Father's Day

Since a solid 95% of this b-log's readers are fathers, I think it's appropriate to pay homage to dads and all the great things they do. After 31 years of research, here are my findings on what makes my Dad cool:

1. B-rent's D-ad coached Tee Ball back in the 1980's. He was assisted by his two brothers, Uncle Garry and Uncle Kevin. This team featured B-rent's brother and 3 or 4 cousins. We had green shirts. Anyhow, I started as a precocious 5 year old with no discernible talent for the game. By the time most of the older players had moved on to the league for 9 and 10 year old kids, I had been on the same Tee Ball team for 3 years or something. Sometimes I got to play first baseman, and that was my favorite position. My cousin, Jeff, played pitcher (in Tee Ball, you don't pitch, but you stand lethally close to home plate in a small circle). At least 5 times a game (Elias stats can back this up), batters hit a pop fly to the pitcher and he threw it to me at First Base for a double play. I really enjoyed playing that position.
Naturally, my Dad played unfavorites and moved me from 1st base soon after. In home video footage, I can be overheard while playing 2nd base asking my Dad if I could play 1st base. He usually got angry and said no, and I never played there again for that team.
He kept coaching until my little brother moved through the ranks. A few years later, he coached in one of the older leagues. I played one more year for him. After I moved on, he kept coaching and won a league championship with his team in the 9 and 10 year old league.

2. It's weird what Dad got mad at when I was little. Usually, it was about stuff like coming in the wrong door when playing outside. Or playing outside, then coming inside, then going out again. "In or out," he'd say. I understand now it was probably annoying to have a person (albeit your own son) walk in and out of the house when you're trying to watch the NASCAR race on TNN on one of your only days off for the week.

3. It's weird what Dad didn't get mad about when I was older. Once, when I was 16 or so, I borrowed his truck to drive to work, which was 47 feet away from our home. The boss sent my friend and I on a mission to get supplies. On the way back to work, I was talked into taking an unnecessary shortcut through a field down a dirt road. On the dirt road about 200 yards in was a puddle the size of a post office. I got stuck. After an hour or so, when the boss came to check out the situation (we called from a person's house) and yelled at us, we were finally towed out. There was mud in every crevice of my Dad's truck.
He didn't get mad about that. A few years later, my younger brother installed a telephone pole between the headlights of that same truck. I don't think he even got mad at that. It's weird.

Happy Father's Day to the guys celebrating their first as dads this year. And to the dads that have been doing it a while, keep up the good work.


Last night, we braved the post-derecho waters of the raging Potomac river to take a pleasure cruise. By now you should know that my wife and I don't do anything unless it's marketed towards dogs. This Canine Cruise highlighted Alexandria's rich history, from its humble beginnings as a slave port in the 18th century, to the present, where Old Town is a must-see tourist attraction.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

He's already wearing his birthday suit

Where has the time gone? Ol' Jackson turns the ripe old age of 1 on Sunday. To commemorate the occasion, I've compiled a list of euphemisms for his favorite activity: Pooping.

In plural noun form, Jackson likes to make:
1. Yard sticks
2. Squirrel hurdles
3. Number 2 yard lines
4. Gravel gravy
5. Gopher pillows
6. Sun-dried bricks for miniature Native American homes
7. Tootsie rolls for messin' with Sasquatch
8.  Turf Turds
9. Free Range Organic Recycled Dog Food
10. Ground Beef

Of course, he gives us so much more than poop. There's, umm, memories, and stuff like that, too.  It's been a terrific 9 months of having this dog in our home. Happy Birthday, world's greatest dog.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Digger wins Mothers Day 500

Photo by digger3210

(AP)-Newark, DE- On a brisk, sunny Sunday morning, Digger "Digger3210" Diggs set outwith a modest goal: Set the world record time and make "Top Plays" on SportsCenter.  2 out of 3 ain't bad, they say.

Digger cruised to victory in a race that included 4 cautions and a pit road scuffle between racer's wives.

"The AnyTime Fitness human was running good all weekend. I have to thank them for all of their support. Gatorade, Dunkin' Donuts, Bananas, GNC. Tedy. All those guys. We couldn't do it without them," said a jubilant Digger from Victory Lane.

Digger gave credit to his Crew Chief, Hansen: "I unloaded pretty good on Friday morning. Hansen gave me some extra fiber the night before. Sunday morning, I asked her to take a round of wedge out, 'cuz my undies were ridin' just a little bit through 3 and 4. "

This was Hansen's first victory as a crew chief in the half marathon. She couldn't be reached for comment after returning to her car, furious and soaked with Andre sparkling wine.

"She made it look easy, but, man, we had our backs against the wall today- Just before he race, I was leanin' on the side of the house stretchin' out my quads."

The race for Digger marked a surprising turnaround for a guy formerly best known for telling other people how they should have done something.

Digger, you might want to think about getting a trophy case.

Editor's Note: This may have been written in jest, but Digger gets a serious and sincere congratulations from this author. Good work.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

B-rent: Critic Extraordinaire

Those that know me know that I'm opinionated when it comes to certain things: Pantwear, Lifestyle choices, and, most importantly, Country Music.

For what seems like no rhyme or reason, I like or dislike certain artists. I think it's time for the whys and why nots. I mean, it's like I'm doing Pandora's job for them.

There's no really logical place to begin, so I'll start by trying to explain why I don't like the guys you know I don't like.

Toby Keith-  It's not that he's too American, or that he's made tons of money off of seeming to be too American that I don't like him. It's not entirely his beard or his ugly curled up cowboy hat. It's not that his mind is as narrow as a sidewalk crack. It's not that he tried (and failed) to ruin the careers of the Dixie Chicks. It's a combination of everything. FUTK.

Keith Urban- Honestly, the real reason I don't like Keith Urban is that I can't distinguish one song of his from another. Not one of them is memorable or significant in any way.Have you ever heard someone play a Keith Urban song on a jukebox? Me either.
And not that there's anything wrong with being Australian or being married to Nicole Kidman, but I feel like that's why he's still 'relevant'. I mean, I know Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, but how do you suddenly start singing with a country accent. He's a fraud. Speaking of frauds...

Kenny Chesney- You might think that this is simply a clash in fashion senses. He wears the jeans, the cut off t-shirts, and an oversized hat to cover his bald head. That's just not my style. But that's not it. He sounds like he's holding his nose when he sings. Am I the only one that hears this? And I get it. Kenny likes the beach. I get it. Now try to find a song about something else.

Blake Shelton- Blake's had a cool song or two. I even wrote a parody of Ol' Red. Lately, though, I'm sick of his schtick. Guys that "tell it like it is" seem really popular and gather quite the following. I feel like he falls in that same category of Tony Stewart. They know they're assholes, but they don't know they're actually bullies.
And it's great that he married Miranda Lambert, (Yeah, I heard they were married once or twice during the 10 million times they've been on network tv this month.)
I mean, they're getting carried away with anointing these two has the prom king and queen, aren't they?  Miranda won a ton of awards in the last year that she had no business winning. I feel like it's all been a part of some great big promotion for these two for some reason. I don't like it.

Carrie Underwood- I'll admit it, she has a nice voice and even better legs. But she has some terrible songs. Wait, I need to make that Terrible with a capital T. "Jesus take the wheel?" Is that what's happening on all of the interstate pileups in the South. "I thought Jesus was drivin'."
I feel like half her songs are just a gateway to do her loud "whoa oah aoaah heey heey yeaahhhh" voice thing. Kind of like she needs to show off that she can sing. She already kind of did that when she won American Idol, right? 

Tim McGraw- The knock of Tim McGraw, according to critics over the years, is that his songs are formulaic. I don't know what that means except if it means that all of his songs are the same. What really concerns me is the leather pants and the leather cowboy hat he chooses to wear. Would you sit next to a guy on the bus wearing leather pants and a leather cowboy hat?  Maybe ladies in the 90's would, but not me.
(Side note: Faith Hill can do whatever she wants and I'd be fine with it. I'm extremely sad that she won't be on Sunday Night Football next season. That's the only reason I stayed up past 8:00. )

Luke Bryan- Oh brother. I feel like this is the next guy they're shoving down our throat. Awards and award shows? Unmerited. I feel like every song of his in the last year or two has been about drinking with the same girl in different places. They're all starting to blend together. Maybe that was his plan.  His very gimmicky plan. I don't know. He sounds like an alcoholic Kermit the Frog.

Jason Aldean- Jason had a great song a while back called 'Amarillo Sky'. Everything since then, minus 'Dirt Road Anthem' has lacked. He's got a formula, too, if you count overly loud and out of place guitarwork + what sounds like someone singing in the midst of a bowel movement as a formula.

And that song "The only way I know"? I thought it was supposed to be great, what with all of country's young and rising stars on board. Worst song of the year contender, if you ask me.

Rascal Flatts- What happened to them? They've been completely unbearable for years now. Who still likes them? Who keeps paying them to make music?

Zac Brown Band- In my opinion, these guys are on thin musical ice. I think they're talented, but of late, doesn't it seem like they're just singing songs about the islands. Speaking of which:

Alan Jackson- More Chattahoochee, less Bug in my Margarita. Alan is trying way to hard to be Jimmy Buffet, who deserves to step on a nail in his flip flops.

Lady Antebellum- Please. They're less country than Northern Ireland.

Sugarland- What happened? Did the guy get tired of his love being unrequited?  Probably.

There's so many kind of new artists to pick on. I almost feel bad even acknowledging them as artists. I think it's important to take a stand early on, and never waiver from the stand, just like I did with Easton Corbin.

Florida Georgia Line- These guys will go down as some of the all-time frauds of the business. I'm about to use the word hit in quotations: They're a one or two "hit" wonder at best. What I really don't like is that they're laying on the southern accents very very thickly.  I guess, if you can sell records to high school dropouts, good for you.

Thompson Square- I feel like their name is wrong. Or the math is wrong or something. Is it Thompson times Thompson Aren't they just adding each other? Shouldn't it just be "2 Thompsons"? Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally.

Chris Young, Justin Moore- I can't tell these two guys apart. If you played a song, I'd have a hard time guessing who was who. I don't know much about Chris Young. I'm just looking at the Billboard Hot 100 country chart and he's on it. Justin Moore, I saw in concert. I feel like he's trying very hard to show that he's a proud country fella. Maybe a little too hard. I feel like there's a lot of guys in country music right now that could all come from this mold: Lee Brice, whoever Dustin Lynch is, Randy Houser, and Josh Turner.

At first, I thought Kip Moore and Justin Moore were the same guy. But then Kip opened the show in front of Justin Moore. Weird. I actually liked Kip a lot more than Justin, minus one thing: His biggest hit. Kip does "Something bout a truck". Honestly, it's a horrible song, and I've said that before. He's pandering to country music fans with that one. It's not real and it shows, if you really think about it.
Kip's good when he's not trying to be super country. He's more Bruce Springsteen than he is Hank Williams, Jr. (and that's a good thing). His repertoire (again, minus minus minus Something bout a truck) is full of underdog, mellow sounding, simple stuff. His first album sounds like something you can play really loud with the windows down on the highway. Just skip that first track.

Jake Owen- Apparently, I liked a song of his a few years back. But then he has a lot of songs that I can't stand. Probably because I can't stand being barefoot or in blue jeans.

Brantley Gilbert- It's like, who let this hardass in?

I guess there's too many guys I really don't like and I usually change the station when they come on. But that's the easy part of being a critic. It's not hard to say who stinks.
Here's who I think is good or who I'd pay over 5 dollars to see live in concert, but not more than 15.

Brad Paisley- Unfortunately, I've seen Brad play twice already, and I don't think I need to go again. Fortunately, I don't think he can write songs any better than what he's already done. In fact, I think they're getting worse.

Dierks Bentley- I think I opted out of seeing Dierks at the Delaware State fair. I liked Dierks' records a lot early on. I still enjoy "Sideways" if for nothing else, the lines "Take that redneck stuff outside" and "The velvet rope ain't got no slack".
Lately, I think his songs have been a bit slow and drug out. I think he should go back to playing songs about that white tank top.

And for these guys, I'd recommend them to any new country music fan:

George Strait- I think the world of "Troubadour". Unfortunately, it's not allowed to be played in my house. Apparently it used to come on my alarm clock radio at 5:30 in the morning and my wife (who was a lazy grad student) grew to hate it because it woke her up. I love it, but I have to sneak it, just like Twix Bars and crack.

Darius Rucker- Darius is great. He's got more real country soul in his voice than everyone else on this list. I've had this notion for a while that I think is perfect: Darius playing a concert consisting entirely of Pearl Jam songs. I think he'd nail it.

Eric Church- Eric proves you don't need a 10 gallon hat and a leather vest to play country music. I think he tries not to record a bad song, and that's a good thing. In concert, he was energetic at the right times. I get the sense that he's a genuine article.

There are lots of guys I didn't mention, but I hope you understand that I'm not arbitrarily deciding who I like and who I don't. I have my reasons.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Arrivederci, Old Photo Essays!

I hope you enjoyed yesterday's post of our Pups in the Park experience. That's the last of those crummy photo essays you'll see on this b-log.
The good Doctor (that's my wife) and I updated our camera, so now you'll see amazing action shots such as this:

And get used to nature shots with one thing focused and other things blurry!

And I hope you like super zoomed in stuff, because that's what I do now!

I hope you like Jackson, because you're going to see every nook and cranny of his face, including his dog dandruff.

All kidding aside-I'm not kidding.