Sunday, 19 May 2019

Three Chords and the Truth 2.0

This site has operated since January 2012 on the trusted and successful formula of the review. The stand alone gig review quickly evolved in tandem with the album variety as opportunities sprang up. While the wheel of art forever keeps turning, individual races reach a conclusion and the time has come for some sort of re-set.

With the realisation that this particular race is run and an appetite for renewal burning fiercely, change is in the air and there is no phrase more direct than 'immediate effect' to usher in a new beginning.

Therefore, the existing formula of stand alone album and gig reviews will cease to exist thus allowing room for a new approach to be ushered in. Structure is still set to play a major part in the future of Three Chords and the Truth, yet in a such a way that creativity and inspiration can be harnessed.

Starting from Sunday May 26th the core content will be a weekly blog post incorporating what has been relevant over the last seven days. This will include details of gigs attended (yes, they're not going away) alongside anything music related that has crossed my path. This could be in any form: new stuff, old stuff, forthcoming stuff, random stuff. There may also be also be stand alone posts on literally anything that takes a fancy.

One existing feature to remain on the blog is festival coverage. These are one offs and tend to get the creative juices flowing with a sense overload of multiple acts. So look out for previews and review pieces for select events over the summer months. Likewise, there may be the odd event or album that allows the old days to be re-lived.

Another static feature of this blog is original writing. So even if some music is shared from an advocate, its introduction will be free of regurgitated content. You can easily find that on the web. In these days of instant accessibility, we are all capable of being our own critic, so perhaps signposting is the future.

Social media will still play a part on the usual platforms to varying degrees of whims and interest. Additionally, blog posts will mix some writing with links, videos, pictures and embedded content.

I have no idea how this move will pan out, but the time is right to instigate change and push the refresh button. A final certainty is that great music is going nowhere. Maybe this also applies to Three Chords and the Truth. (can't get rid of the UK from the address as the domain without it was taken in Blogger, but you know the homeland has never been the boundary)

Happy blogging.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Steel Blossoms - Steel Blossoms : Billy Jam Records

The debate about the value and validity of genre is never likely to be concluded especially where progressive and traditional ideals mingle in a musical environment. Of course, co-existence is not too much to ask for, even to the extent of cordial agreement where art has triumphed. Make no mistake the blueprint showed no sign of tinkering when the brakes screeched on this Steel Blossoms album sailing past as release date beckoned. The first track ached with a country sentiment, then the second, third and so on. Soon the realisation dawned that in the midst was a record rigidly stuck in the core of a genre and bursting at the seams with everything positive and alluring about it. Steel Blossoms are a dream come true for purists in 2019 and the net is widened to attract those not bound by rules, just hooked by a sound that exudes quality and absolute sincerity.

A few facts about Steel Blossoms: they are a core duo comprising of Sara Zebley and Hayley Prosser; hail from Pennsylvania, but like so many country artists are pursuing their dreams in Nashville. This self-titled record is in effect their third release preceded by an EP and a debut full length album. They are also the first signed artist to the newly formed Billy Jam Records.

Facts provide the skeleton, but the wealth found in ten songs delivers the soul. Everything is perfectly aligned to make this record one of both, instant and lasting appeal: delightful harmonies, fiddle and steel optimally applied, songs of a witty and cutting design, and a breath of fresh air to keep traditional country music relevant and vibrant. 

Topics don’t stray far from the country music story book; the song titles hardly mislead. The clarity is stark, lyrics right to the point and profound messages abound. You will smile at ‘You’re the Reason I Drink’ (a strong opener is essential on a busy new music highway), wryly ponder the familiarity of ‘Trailer Neighbor’ (picking up on a theme previously exploited by Kacey Musgraves) and melt a heart at the plight of the character in ‘Heroine’ (a meaningful play on words). 

A sassy female streak dominates the record in the true sense of the genre. ‘You Ain’t Sleeping Over’ and ‘Killed a Man’ leave little to the imagination. It is also not too difficult to picture the antagonists in ‘Innocent’, even if the starting point to the song pinpoints life in its most simple form free of any of the divisions laying in wake. 

If there is one track straggling behind in the early life of this record, ‘Revenge’ probably fits the bill, but time is on its side to rise up the ladder. ‘County Line’ is a track given a media push, although I would personally put it in the middle of the pack. A pretty high performing pack mind you. ‘Pick Me Up’ is another mid placed track, though delightfully dancing to the tune of the album’s heartbeat. Joining an effective opener on a great record is an equally impressive closer. ‘Kentucky’s Never Been This Far’ does the Job for Steel Blossoms and no country record is a complete without a little name place checking joining the drinking, cheating, killing, loving and navel gazing pontification. 

Karma was in full throttle to not let this record drift past. Being at the front of an album queue is no competition, but the earlier you arrive, the more time spent grappling with an exceptional record blasting a big hole in the year’s releases. Country music may or may not need saving, but as long as music like this Steel Blossoms album is made, the genre is in a safe place. Artistic credibility in tact without too much of a progressive agenda in place. The genre debate can be at least be temporarily shelved.