Category Archives: Album Reviews

The Oak Ridge Boys “17th Avenue Revival”


I recall as a young boy, my parents taking me to Memphis, Tennessee, for the annual “Southern Gospel Music Convention.” There was so much talent there. I remember music groups like the Speer Family, and one group in particular, the Oak Ridge Quartet. Back then, I became a big Bill (William Lee) Golden fan when he first joined the group in 1965.

In time, the Convention relocated to Nashville, and the Oak Ridge Quartet became The Oak Ridge Boys. Turning a corner, and taking a gamble that surprised many, the band sought out a new audience.  Without compromising their principles, but producing many big hits like “Elvira” and “American Made,” the conversion paid off.

Today, the band, with the original members, has done a 360, producing another album that takes them back to their roots in southern gospel music. The name of the album is 17th Avenue Revival, and it rocks…in a gospel way.

The Boys open with “Brand New Star,” a song fit for today that inspires. But, I have to show a preference to my guy, Bill Golden, as he sings the cover tune, “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”  With a bit of Elvis, “Pray to Jesus,” is a favorite. Another favorite, “If I Die,” is simple but exemplar. Many will connect to this sobering tune.

17th Avenue Revival, is an album that expresses faith, hope, and love. If you are a fan of gospel music, or a country fan, this album is for you. In this writer’s opinion, 17th Avenue Revival is refreshing to hear in our world of hate, fear, and bigotry. Their fans will understand its impact. I’m J.R. Joseph Miller, and this is The Oak Ridge Boys singing at the 17th Avenue Revival.


Randy Howard, “A Pair of Knees”


Webster defines tragedy as a “serious drama describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force such as destiny with sorrowful conclusions.” Lately, it seems so much tragedy has happened to so many from hurricanes to mass shootings. Strangely, tragedies can sometimes bring out the best in us. Continue reading Randy Howard, “A Pair of Knees”

R.J. Thompson, “Echo Chamber”


It wasn’t long ago we were watching movies like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller. It wasn’t long ago the U.S. had a second British music invasion. It wasn’t long ago “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Certainly, it was the music video that separated the 80’s from other decades. Occasionally I still watch Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” a favorite. Continue reading R.J. Thompson, “Echo Chamber”

Lo Carmen, “Lovers Dreamers Fighters”

Most have heard of the expression, The Apple Don’t Fall Far From The Tree.  In 2013, a certain artist moved that expression to an album title releasing a collaborative work with her dad, Peter Head. Fast-forward to 2017, she has released her sixth album while coming up with a most creative idea, mixing lyrical personifications with melodies. Continue reading Lo Carmen, “Lovers Dreamers Fighters”

Casey James, “Strip It Down”


What more does this American Idol finalist need to have a wicked new release? Having Tom Hambridge as your producer certainly helps. Having Delbert McClinton and Bonnie Bishop as guest vocals is also an added plus.  But for Casey James, the finishing touch was to stop listening to others and simply listen to his heart.  For Casey’s new album, Strip It Down, has the melodic “last word.” He clearly shows what a musician can do, peeling back the layers, and giving listeners his version of the Texas Blues.

Strip It Down opens with “All I Need,” a well-written blues piece taking inventory on life. One line, “Sometimes where you’re at is where you’re supposed to be,” hits a nerve. “Bulletproof,” another well written blues piece features Delbert McClinton. Delbert’s voice compliments Casey so well. But it’s the Little Willie John’s cover, “Need Your Love So Bad,” that’s picture-perfect. Casey displays his talent in this quiet blues piece speaking volumes. The following track, “Different Kind of Love,” has a Motown flavor continuing to complement the Willie John’s cover. But it’s “Stupid Crazy” that got me, a Bonnie Bishop duet with a Cash/Carter feel to the piece. Having a slow moving sultry tone, I love this track.

To say Casey James shines is to say the least. Each track represents his roots, the Texas Blues. But Casey does more to Strip It Down showing not only his roots, but his innovation. He mixes the past with his present, while showing off what he cultivates from his roots. In an auspicious way, Casey James reaps what he sows. Casey says it so well, “All I want to do is play music.” I’m J.R. Joseph Miller, and this is Casey James Stripping It Down.

Marlena Rocks, “Traces”


In 1969, the Classics IV released the single, “Traces.” It made it to #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and it was BMI’s top 100 songs of the century at #32.

“Traces” has had many lives over the years being covered by many artists. With the exception to “Colour My World,” “Traces” probably has been played at more oldies parties, dances, and high school proms than most.

“Traces” is a piece that many can relate to. It has the earmarks of past relationships, fitting and unfitting. Running the clock up to summer 2017, west coast jazz/blues artist, Marlena, has brought “Traces” back to life.

A beautiful artist covering a beautiful song, Marlena takes this vintage piece to a new level. Her voice compliments “Traces”. I love the how the sax introduces and concludes this piece. As the sax’s ending drifts away in silence, it reminds me of one’s past.

Having many lives throughout the years, “Traces” once again has an audience. Marlena does something special to “Traces” in that she approaches the song with passion in her voice.  While listening to Marlena’s “Traces,” you get a “feel good” emotion although the song is sentimentally sad. I’m J.R. Joseph Miller, and this is Marlena romancing “Traces.”