Darius, Adele, and a plug for Mr. Rucker’s voice

This week Darius Rucker posted a video to his Facebook feed of his duet with Adele to commemorate her big night at the Grammys.  The song they performed together was a cover of “Need You Now” from the country group Lady Antebellum.  I wanted to share the video because, while I enjoyed the original song, it highlights just how talented Darius and Adele truly are. Their voices are so amazing and, in my opinion, are two of the best vocalists in music we’ve ever had.  Here’s the video:

I also wanted to put another plug in for Darius.  Not that I think any less of Adele, she is literally the greatest pure singer alive today, but I don’t feel Darius ever fully gets the credit he deserves for his vocal chops.  His voice is so unique and soulful that pretty much anything he sings will sound good…and if it happens to be a decent song, WOW!

As many of you know, Darius made it big as the lead singer for Hootie & The Blowfish.  Their first album, especially their first song “Hold My Hand“, was all over the radio.  In fact I believe that radio is ultimately what killed Hootie; they were played SO MUCH that it became impossible to get away from their music.  It led to a bit of a backlash.  Even I, a big Hootie fan, had to leave my cassette tape (yes, this makes me sound old) out of the car because there wasn’t a need for it…they’d be on three radio stations at a time.  However much they were played, the fact of how good they were – and more specifically how good Darius Rucker’s voice was – seemed to get lost as the 90s progressed.  It also didn’t help that their second album was really bad; poor songs, rushed work, just not good.  Their later albums were better, but by this point everyone had moved on.

Darius put out a solo album in 2002 titled “Back To Then” which is my favorite of all of his solo albums.  I loved it because it was an R&B album that was right in his wheelhouse.  One of the songs, “This Is My World“, was featured in the movie Shallow Hal starring Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow.  Unfortunately, the masses didn’t agree with me on this one.  I’m not sure if they were still in Hootie withdrawal or what, but it never got the airplay it deserved and has now become a footnote in his career – stamped between Hootie and his resurgence as a solo country artist.  In fact, my wife and I saw him in concert a couple years ago and he played his new country songs and old Hootie songs, but nothing off of this album.  Here is “This Is My World”, my favorite track off of his R&B album:

Now, Darius is a successful country singer.  He’s had several solid albums and, while I’m not a huge fan of much of today’s Country Music, Darius stands out because of that amazing, unique, and soulful voice.  Personally, I feel he is limited in the country genre because of the inherent cookie-cutter nature of the genre’s songs.  I’ve always said, if you got a good voice and don’t want to worry about writing your own music or lyrics, you’ll have a place in Nashville.  Apologies to die-hard country fans, but you can’t deny that the genre isn’t necessarily known for its cutting edge music originality…it’s known for its amazing voices/singers.  Don’t get me wrong, I like true country music, mostly older stuff…I’m just not a fan of the bro-country brand that monopolizes most of country radio today.  Which…ta da…brings me back to my point of Darius – his voice is so good, you can overlook the insane simplicity to many of his country songs.  So go on, treat yourself to some Darius today…and of course Adele as well…always Adele.

Signed, Mark Majors, self-proclaimed, music snob! 🙂

Mental Health, Books, and Sons of Anarchy…oh my

The past few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster for me.  I’ve definitely fallen into the two steps forward, two steps back routine.  As frustrating as that has been I try to look at the silver lining and realize that being at a net zero is better than being in the negative.  Also, even if I do regress I’ve had the experience to feel what those two steps forward felt like, even if for a short while.  My OCD has been improving since I’ve returned from the mountains, but my overall anxiety has increased to fill the void.

I had been taking guitar lessons to help as a form of music therapy, as well as the fact that I love music and have always wanted to learn to play the guitar.  Unfortunately, the guitar is the most anti-ergonomic thing I’ve ever had in my hands.  This wonderful instrument that has given so much to the world is a torture device to the beginner.  However, I knew going in that practice, practice, practice would be the key to removing the awkwardness and developing the natural feel of the instrument.  Well…at the end of last week, while I was practicing, I had a panic attack.  Practice wasn’t going well as I kept making errors and then BAM!  I just folded, shaking and heart racing, chest tightening, and my breath disappeared.  And this my friends is how anxiety leads to depression…while performing “therapy” I have a panic attack.  That is depressing!  I know, I know, “Woe is me”, but hey, it doesn’t make it any less sucky.  The good news is that I haven’t given up on guitar, not at all, but I’ve stopped with instructor led lessons and am now using video tutorials, apps, etc.  I believe that the accountability of having a real-life human as an instructor led me down the rabbit hole of fear that I would disappoint them.  Now, was all of this emotion driven, irrational, and not based on reality?  Absolutely!  Did this logically make sense in my mind?  Nope!  Welcome to anxiety…the land where logic is asked to wait outside while emotion runs free.

While the guitar experience hasn’t turned out as planned, I have been able to enjoy a few books and finish up my latest TV watching binge.  I had never read a David Baldacci book before but came across one that had this very intriguing story line about a detective who had suffered a brain injury and was unable to forget anything.  This book appropriately titled “Memory Man” was an easy read but had enough twists and turns to make it hard to put down.  I found out about the book from seeing its sequel that had just came out, titled “The Last Mile” which is where I first learned of the character referenced above, Amos Decker.  So, I picked up the paperback of “Memory Man” and downloaded “The Last Mile” the day after finishing the first book.  The stories are well done and I truly enjoyed the Amos Decker character.

I also read a nonfiction book, “Jesus Before The Gospels“, from one of my favorite authors Bart D. Ehrman.  Since Ehrman is a New Testament scholar, his books are fascinating because he looks at Christianity through a historical-critical perspective which provides context and intellectualism which is absent in many of the books written about this topic.  This book in particular investigates the question of how the story of Jesus was shaped and, most importantly, remembered in a mostly non-literate society and how those forces impacted what we are presented with today.  This is one of those books that doesn’t require you to be a believer or not, there is no doubt of Christianity’s role in the world, especially here in western society.  Understanding the what, why, and how we have ended up with our current stories makes for an interesting read.  Also, as stated above, Ehrman is one of my favorite authors and I highly recommend his other books as well.

I also finished the seventh, and final, season of “Sons Of Anarchy“.  I’ll have to admit, this was the third time I tried to watch this series with the first two times not making it past the first couple of episodes.  At first it seemed very cheesy to me, but after a friend guaranteed me that if I watched a few more episodes I’d be hooked, I kept on.  They were exactly right, after I made it through a couple more episodes I was sucked into the world of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club and all the action, drama, and suspense that went along with it.  I’m very glad I listened to my friend because it was well worth the ride (no pun intended).  The show does a great job at developing the core characters and continues to find ways to make you want to punch your TV and/or have your heartstrings pulled as the story progresses.  Quite often I was amazed at how angry, sad, and happy I could be…all in one episode.  While I think the show probably would have been better served by not dragging certain pieces out for a 7th season, it is still a tremendous show that I highly recommend.  Just remember, don’t give up if you’re not hooked after the first couple of episodes…give it a couple more and I think you’ll be glad you did.

One last note, you may have noticed that there is a new page on the blog, “Music“.  Though I’m still learning to play the guitar, I have been creating music electronically for a while now.  I’ve added this page to provide an avenue for me to post those songs.  You can listen to them directly from the page and I will continue adding songs as I create them.

As always, I’d love to hear your comments/feedback.  Also, I’m always looking for ideas regarding TV shows to check out as well as books that you have found to be interesting.  Your suggestions are always welcomed!

My brother’s lyric video

Hello everyone,

As a proud big brother I wanted to write a post highlighting the hard work that my brother and his band have put in with their new song.  Some of you may know that my younger brother is a musician who’s been playing/writing music since he was in middle school.  He’s been in a couple of bands and still does some solo work, but his main focus now is on his new band Todd Johnson & The Revolvers.  I’ve been lucky enough to see them play a couple of times and I’m really excited about their new song “Best That You Can Do“.  They are currently working on a live-action video, but until then they have a lyric video which looks and sounds great.  I’d like to take a point of personal privilege and be a proud brother and present it here:

Rest In Peace Scott Weiland

The music world suffered a big loss this week with the passing of Scott Weiland.  I wanted to post a simple video paying my respects to one of my favorite singers, performers, songwriters, and overall great artist.

We’ll miss you Scott.  I’m honored to have been able to see you live in concert and I thank you for sharing your talents with the world.  I hope the demons that plagued you have been silenced; never having to worry about them again.  Sending peace and thoughts to your family.

#RIPScottWeiland

 

New Release: Adele – “25”

Last Friday, Adele released her highly anticipated new album, “25”. It is, as most of us had hoped (and predicted) an amazing piece of work. Her first single “Hello” dropped a few weeks ago, with an accompanying video, and almost broke the Internet. The physical CD is being sold at rates not seen since the N*SYNC levels of 2000. That was 15 years ago, when people actually bought CDs…and she’s still beating those numbers. In short, to say she’s breaking records with her new album is, in itself, a broken record.

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Now for the most important question, is it any good? Yes, it’s phenomenally good. It is a matured version of her last album “21” with the raw sound of the past now replaced with more finely produced tracks. The album is SO good, there is nothing on the market today to compare it to. Adele has now cemented herself as the best active solo artist on the planet.

My only issue on the whole album is with the song “When We Were Young”. It’s a great song, and my issue is that it had the potential to be Adele’s greatest song ever. This song’s potential, in my opinion, was on course for a once in a lifetime song…but there is this very awkward section that ends the chorus with “let me photograph you in this light/in case it is the last time/that we might be exactly like we were/before we realized/we were sad of getting old/it made us restless” and I keep thinking, WHY IS THIS HERE??? It’s completely out of place, in fact, it doesn’t belong. This song is flying so high and then “plop” this forced sounding piece is added to this beautiful song. I’ve listened to this song over and over and over and I just don’t get it, why is this needed. Anyhow, even with this piece, the song is still great, I’m just disappointed because it feels like you are about to hear something out of this world. I’d love to know your opinions on this part and if you think I’m on to something or if I’ve missed the mark on this one.

Overall, the album is wonderful, 10 out of 10, and the only question is how does it compare to “21”. I believe “21” had Adele’s best song ever with “Rolling in the Deep”, but overall I believe I’d have to give “25” a slight advantage in being the better album. Either way, you should have all of Adele’s music and take pleasure in listening to some of the best music ever made.

Make sure to let me know your thoughts on the new album in the comments below.  Also, stay up to date with the blog by subscribing above.

Book Review: “How Music Got Free” – Stephen Witt

I’ve recently finished reading “How Music Got Free” by Stephen Witt. It’s a tale that starts with the creation of the mp3 and ends with the forever-changed music industry. It’s also one of the most interesting, informative, and enjoyable stories I’ve read in quite some time. While this is a nonfiction book, Witt does an amazing job telling the intertwining story akin to a well-written drama.   From high-level music executives to up and coming producers to the average citizen discovering the new world of the Internet, this book has it all.

I’ve been recommending this book left and right with the consistent message that this book has as much to do with the cultural happenings during the turn of the century, as it is a book on music piracy. Most of us know about the story of Napster but there is SO much more to the rise of digital music than the anecdotal tale of a lone techie who created a piece of software allowing people to share music. In reality, the rise of Napster is just a piece of a much larger puzzle, which Witt brilliantly weaves together.

I learned so much from this book at the same time that I was being entertained with the story. A story, by the way, which many of us already know the ending to before we even crack the book open. That’s the magic of what Witt has done with his debut book.

“How Music Got Free” – Stephen Witt

The End of “New Music Tuesday”

For as long as I can remember, Tuesday was the nice ray of sunshine that broke through those “beginning of the week blues”. The reason was simple; Tuesday was THE day that new music came out. Week after week, year after year, New Music Tuesday became a guarantee. No matter how good or how bad the music was, you were given the chance to sift through all of the new singles and albums to find that song that would get stuck in your head until the next Tuesday.

Today is Tuesday, but there is no new music releasing. The music is there, but will now drop on Friday. Logistically, it probably makes sense for the change, but it’s still sad to know that from now on, Tuesdays will just be…Tuesday.