“Ray’s Song” – Freddy & Francine

Credit to Chris Green for the video.

The mesmerizing “Ray’s Song” is featured on Gung Ho, the latest release from Americana soul duo Freddy & Francine (Lee Ferris and Bianca Caruso). Ferris and Caruso first met while performing in a production of Hair, launching a professional (and eventually personal) collaboration that resulted in an EP (2008’s Freddy & Francine) and two full length recordings  (2009’s The Briar Patch and 2010’s The Forest and the Sea). Three years after breaking up the pair joined forces to duet on “I Wanna Go Home With You” off Caruso’s excellent 2015 solo album Bravado, and Freddy & Francine was officially re-formed.

Enjoy Ferris and Caruso’s insanely beautiful voices and the pair’s gorgeous harmonies.

Freddy & Francine: Official site | Facebook
Purchase Gung Ho: iTunes | Amazon

Photo by

Album Recommendation: Something That You Know – Mason Lee

somethingthatyouknowRecounting his passion for three great (but different) loves on “These Two Hands”, the penultimate song on Mason Lee’s Something That You Know offers listeners a glimpse at the driving forces behind the young singer-songwriter: perseverance, people, and faith. All intertwined, each are essential to the Texas native turned Nashville resident who’s drawn strength from the personal and professional community that surrounds him. Appropriately, these driving forces also shape the sound of Lee’s debut EP, a collection centered around admitting and acknowledging one’s own truths. Lee’s name may not be one many country fans know (not yet), but it’s one they should.

In addition to showcasing Lee’s artistry, Something That You Know highlights the importance of the relationships he’s cultivated in Nashville. Although currently unsigned, his friendships and connections have resulted in a beautifully produced EP featuring superb instrumentation that could easily compete alongside any label release. Something That You Know is a triumph not only for Lee but the people who support his dreams and aspirations.

Vocally, there’s an understated elegance to Lee’s delivery, an air of effortless cool mixed with his conversational tone. His phrasing provides enough space for his thoughtful lyrics to resonate in the minds of listeners, keeping the focus squarely on his songwriting.

Those songs adroitly balance commercial appeal with substantive content. Although firmly situated in the present, songs like album opener “Something Good” and the aforementioned “These Two Hands” have a kind of classic appeal. First single “Already Gone” is one of the most radio-friendly tunes among the six-song set, with the adult attitude and decisive actions of the narrator elevating it above similar break-up anthems. The driving “Someone to Fill My Bed” stands in stark contrast to the boring dreck about hooking up that seems to have overtaken the airwaves. Notably, the narrator admits to a potential love interest that he previously might have been in favor a fling, but has matured into a better romantic prospect: “If you’d met me six months ago/I’d be a different man/I’d be spinning my wheels, head over heels/Eating from the palm of your hand.” Instead, he proposes actually taking the time to determine whether they’re compatible as friends with the ability to become something more.

Album closer “Outlaw State of Mind” (from which the EP takes its title) grapples with the pull between sin and salvation, featuring a twist that reveals how easy it is to slide back into temptation. The nuanced composition explores the struggles with which all people (even those who appear the most moral) must contend:

Every outlaw’s been found begging for redemption once or twice
Trying to take that step on to the high road
But that outlaw state of mind is calling all the time
You gotta side with something that you know
That’s just my way of thinking I suppose

Not surprisingly, two of the EP’s softer songs (and seemingly two of the most personal) pack the most emotional punch. The narrator of the gentle “These Two Hands” finds power in the comfort and support of those around him. “When trouble comes around/And these two hands start to shake/You’ll be there to steady me/They’ll bend but never break,” Lee declares in an expression of gratitude and humility. Meanwhile, delicate ballad “Something Good” is one of my favorite love songs so far this year. This carefully rendered portrait of a couple discovering the depth of their relationship sounds like it could be a long-lost James Taylor cut.

That said, Lee’s voice is his own: confident, assured, and capable. Something That You Know proves that it is one worth hearing again and again.

Mason Lee: Official site | Facebook
Purchase Something That You Know: iTunes | Amazon


“Help Me Make It Through The Night” – Laura & Lars

This lovely rendition of Kris Kristofferson’s classic “Help Me Make It Through The Night” by  Nashville-based Laura & Lars (Laura Galanti and Lars Thorson) showcases not only the enduring appeal of the legendary songwriter but the promise of this budding duo. The pair recently released a stellar debut EP Till The End,  featuring four original compositions penned by Thorson (who can also be seen playing alongside Stephanie Quayle), the aforementioned “Help Me Make It Through The Night”, and “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” Listen/purchase below – you won’t regret it.


Album Recommendation: Sea Mountain Highway – James & Emma

seamountainhighwayDuring a 2015 interview with Bitches Who Brunch, James Harrison and Emma Lynn White (singer-songwriters who perform together as James & Emma) clearly articulated their professional aspirations. Harrison noted that personal fame is not their primary objective: “Our main goal is still to be songwriters. We have dreams of hearing our songs on the radio sung by other people.” However, their debut EP  Sea Mountain Highway showcases the Nashville-based duo’s skill as both composers and performers, proving there may not be any better voices to represent their artistic vision than Harrison and White’s own.

Producer Justin Ray Miller helps to bring that vision to life by adeptly balancing majestic instrumentation with the intimacy of the pair’s vocal performances. Sometimes it’s easy for singers to be overshadowed by larger than life production; on Sea Mountain Highway, the scope of the production manages to underline the depth of Harrison and White’s vocals. Mixing elements of pop and country, Miller crafts a recording with mainstream sensibilities while still highlighting the duo’s individual and shared talents. While this sound may not appeal to those who favor traditional country, listeners must ultimately decide whether to embrace an album based on its strengths, and overall, Sea Mountain Highway is well-produced, well-written, and well-sung.

There’s an effervescent quality to White’s voice; it’s youthful but not immature. Throughout Sea Mountain Highway she ably captures the sense of wonder, innocence, nostalgia, and heartbreak that the duo’s compositions require. Harrison’s steady, soulful harmonies provide the perfect complement to her tender phrasing. While other artists might rely on affectations to carry a song, there’s a natural vulnerability in the pair’s delivery that offers a welcome respite from the posturing that’s crept into so much modern pop and country music.

White and Harrison’s expressiveness anchor the songs on the EP. Rhythmic opening track “Stars” compares the disintegration of a relationship to a heavenly light burning out. “You’re the ghost that fills the sky/There’s no escaping you/A memory right in front of me,” White and Harrison lament together, an acknowledgment of yearning even as they recognize that the brightest romance can be destined to “[fall] to dust.” Emphasizing both the narrator’s fragility and perseverance (“I’m chasing/Chasing you/But you’re fading/You’re fading” the duo quietly observes in the bridge) as she attempts to move forward lends an additional dimension to the song.

Despite beginning with a song about heartache, Sea Mountain Highway is generally upbeat. “This Is Our Moment”, co-written with Aubrey Wollett, is a soaring declaration to seize the day while the breezy “Palm Tree” similarly points out the importance of enjoying the present.

Best of all may be the gentle ballad “Rainstorm”, a shimmering love song co-written with Michael Edser. Featuring wistful imagery and a gorgeous melody, the song closes the EP on a sentimental note. Sweet without being cloying, it’s one of Sea Mountain Highway‘s biggest highlights and seems destined to become a fan favorite.

Although Harrison and White may not be interested in being stars in their own right, Sea Mountain Highway is still a worthwhile album for listeners seeking out new and intriguing voices. And if they ever change their minds, I suspect they’ll find themselves with plenty of support.

James & Emma: Facebook | YouTube
Purchase Sea Mountain Highway: iTunes | Amazon | CDBaby


Four Favorites: Karen Choi, The Deep Hollow, The Hobbs Sisters, Emily Scott Robinson

Heading into the summer, I realize I haven’t posted as much as I’d like this year. Truthfully, the past several months have left me a bit weary. Nonetheless, I’ve still had the opportunity to hear some wonderful music, and hope to resume writing reviews/recommendations as my schedule clears. In the meantime, below you’ll find some up-and-coming artists who are crafting thoughtful works that are worthy of your attention and dollars.

“100 Year Flood” – Karen Choi
Album: Through Our Veins
Purchase: iTunes | Amazon | Bandcamp

Hailing from Nebraska, Choi is the epitome of a heartland singer-songwriter. Her strong attention to detail can be observed throughout her poignant sophomore album, a collection that chronicles not only the joys and tribulations of rural life, but the common hopes and fears that define us as people.  “100 Year Flood” centers around the unforgiving power of Mother Nature and the irony that the water people and creatures rely on for survival can also destroy their livelihoods.  When the elements obliterate a family’s home, they’re swept along an uncertain path from which they desperately hope to recover.

“Getting Good At Feeling Bad” – The Deep Hollow
Album: The Deep Hollow
Purchase: iTunes | Amazon

Consider me suitably confused that there have not been more printed accolades for the debut from this Illinois-based Americana trio consisting of Elizabeth Eckert, Dave Littrell, and Micah Walk. The group’s stellar self-titled LP, replete with dulcet harmonies and evocative lyrics, can comfortably stand alongside more celebrated discs. While some of their peers may seem stiff, the Deep Hollow’s album brims with soul. Check out the slinky groove of “Getting Good At Feeling Bad” from the band’s acoustic Porch Sessions below.

“Rain On A Tin Roof” – The Hobbs Sisters
Album: Love Hangover
Purchase: iTunes | Amazon

For their sophomore EP, twin sisters Hannah and Lauren Hobbs felt it was important to demonstrate their own songwriting skills rather than rely on outside writers. Their sister Rachel collaborated with them on one of the album’s standout tracks, a moody acknowledgement of how ignoring problems in a relationship can lead to ruin. Mixing mainstream sensibilities with descriptive lyrics, the talented Pittsburgh-based duo proves how country-pop, when it’s done well, can be just as emotionally affecting as traditional country.

“Slaughterhouse Road” – Emily Scott Robinson
Album: Magnolia Queen
Purchase: iTunesAmazonBandcamp

Remember the name since you won’t be able to forget the music. Robinson’s debut Magnolia Queen, a haunting, acoustic eight-song collection available for purchase on major retail sites (and streaming on Spotify), is more than worth the price of admission, featuring impassioned vocals and stunning songwriting that’s garnered her honors from American Songwriter magazine and the Kerrville Folk Festival, among others. The first track off the album is a murder ballad recounted matter-of-factly and unapologetically by a scorned wife with vengeance on her mind.  Now that Robinson is pursuing music full-time, listeners can look forward to hearing more from a literate songsmith who’s only just begun to showcase her talents. (Also check out the award-winning “Marriage Ain’t The End of Being Lonely” below.)