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REVIEW: Brooke Eden at the South Florida Fair

Brooke Eden

Brooke Eden is a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, and a whole lot of talent jam-packed into a pint-sized package of girl power. A South Florida native, Brooke was welcomed home from her current residency in Nashville, Tennessee, as she took over the main stage at the South Florida Fair and performed a lengthy set, never once losing an ounce of her energy. Brooke’s setlist was cleverly crafted with original songs laced between a selection of cover songs that could have been written for Brooke herself. The interplay between covers and originals ensured that the audience’s excitement never waned and that the crowd was glued to every song, anticipating what would come next.

Brooke opened the show with Gretchen Wilson‘s “Here For the Party” and immediately shared her energy with the audience, proving that the choice to stop in on a cold South Florida night was a wise one, indeed. Brooke showed her versatility throughout her entire show, covering soloists, duos, and groups without fail. From The Band Perry to Florida Georgia Line to Adele to Big and Rich, Brooke captivated her audience, bringing the heat to a winter night as she danced around the stage with a presence comparable to the incredible Miranda Lambert.

Exclusive Interview: Austin Webb

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When Austin Webb first visited Nashville in 2010, he drove from his hometown of Williamston, South Carolina in the middle of the night and arrived at Johnny Cash’s grave. There, he sat and played a mix of his own songs and those by the famous “Man in Black,” in what he tells us was a “spiritual moment where I truly found out who I was and who I was to become.”

The next morning, he “walked into the Waffle House, put on a Patsy Cline 45 and sat down for breakfast.” Almost immediately, he struck up a conversation with an older gentleman.

He may not have known it when he sat down at Waffle House, but that day would change his life. The man he started talking to was Charlie Louvin, a member of the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. “He told me I reminded him of Kris Kristofferson. He didn’t realize Kris was my biggest influence, and that’s still the biggest compliment of my life.” After that fateful meeting, Louvin invited Austin to see him play that night, where he invited him on stage and the two remained friends until Louvin’s death in 2011.

Although he had been writing poems since age 9 and performing since 15, it was another event in 2011 that would change his life. It was then that he won a local songwriting competition and headed to Music City. “I immediately quit my job and moved to Nashville the next day.”

Exclusive Interview: Mandy Barnett

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Mandy Barnett is a Tennessee born and raised country singer who got her start at the ripe old age of five years old. Mandy knew music was her calling because “it was just natural. It was something that just flowed from me early on.” Mandy began by singing at church and soon progressed to performing at Dollywood for a couple of summers. In fact, Mandy was involved with Dollywood during its inaugural year and was fortunate enough to even perform with the legendary Dolly Parton. Because of her involvement with Dollywood at that time, Mandy had the unique honor of singing Happy Birthday to Dolly as Dolly was lifted out of a cake. When asked about her experience with Dolly, as an aspiring singer at such a young age, Mandy explained that it was “really exciting.” Mandy continued to tell us about how Dolly is “such a sweet person, and when you meet Dolly, you are meeting a real star. She’s very humble and very sweet, and there’s just an aura about her that is something else. She is iconic, as you like to describe her.”

REVIEW: Kellie Pickler’s “The Woman I Am”

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It’s hard to believe that Kellie Pickler was once just another country singing contestant on American Idol. Since her days of trying to impress Simon Cowell and being confused by calamari, Kellie has charmed the music industry with tons of accolades, won Dancing with the Stars, crisscrossed the country on huge tours and released three successful albums.

On November 11, Pickler will release her fourth studio album, The Woman I Am. The release marks her first album with new label, Black River Entertainment. The album clings close to her musical roots of traditional country with hints of today’s hottest trends. Produced by Frank Liddell and Luke Wooten, it’s sure to appease long-time Pickler fans while also winning over a ton of new ones.

Country fans have already heard two of the album’s 13 tracks, the punchy album opener “Little Bit Gypsy” and the heartfelt closing ballad “Someone Somewhere Tonight.” In between, the album takes listeners on an impressive journey through cheating, falling in love, forgiveness and vulnerability.

Track #2, the sassy “Ring for Sale” (co-written by Chris Stapleton and Jim Beavers) is a tongue-in-cheek ode to a cheating lover. This isn’t your typical woman scorned song, but tells the tale of a cheating fiancée and his resourceful ex, who plans to make a pretty penny from selling the ring. “Act right now before he finds out,” Pickler sings, “And I’ll throw in the dress for free.”

The musical journey continues with the swinging vibe of “Buzzin’” before venturing into the ballad territory with the album’s title track, “The Woman I Am.” The track, co-penned by Pickler and her husband, Kyle Jacobs, is a definite standout on the album, an ironic mix of confidence and vulnerability that laments the duality of a woman. “Sometimes I cry at night, fall to pieces with Patsy Cline,” Pickler laments, “Man, I miss songs like that, that’s just the woman I am…”

As the album continues, we fall in love with “Closer to Nowhere” before paying homage to Pickler’s spitfire of a great grandma, “Selma Drye.” Another highlight comes in the form of “I Forgive You,” as Pickler admits there’s “no whiskey to numb the pain” before coming to the realization, “Only one thing left for me to do, I forgive you.”

As the album winds down, there’s the fun and flirty “Bobbie and Clyde,” the rousing “No Cure for Crazy” and “Tough All Over,” which once again hits on Pickler’s vulnerable side. Consider this track Part 2 to “The Woman I Am.”

If you’re already a Kellie Pickler fan, this album will remind you why you fell in love with the singer. If you’ve been on the fence about Pickler in the past, this album should win you over with its diversity, touching vulnerability and true country sound.

One thing is for certain, after listening to The Woman I Am, we feel like we know Kellie Pickler for the woman she is.

Download Kellie Pickler’s, The Woman I Am, here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-woman-i-am/id725702490

 

Exclusive Interview: Janelle Arthur

Janelle Arthur Interview

Janelle Arthur (@JanelleOArthur) is perhaps best known, at this time, as a contestant from Season 12 of American Idol. A true beauty, inside and out, the Tennessean country singer and guitarist left her life behind and embarked on the journey that so many hope to experience, but a mere few ever will. After placing fifth in a season of the most epic singing competition to ever land on American television, Janelle has been hard at work launching her solo career. We were fortunate to catch up with the incredibly sweet, personable, and inspiring artist to discuss her childhood, Idol journey, and what her bright musical future holds.

Janelle was born in Oliver Springs, Tennessee and began singing certain words before she could even speak them. Immediately it became clear that music was going to be a huge part of Janelle’s life. From that point forward, Janelle began performing around her hometown and in school, which led to a gig that most country-loving kids would be beyond honored to land. At eight-years-old, Janelle was cast as a young Dolly Parton at the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Janelle’s mom was instrumental in her landing the part, as, after seeing an advertisement for the show in Country Weekly, she called Dollywood and inquired as to whether a child performer was needed. The phone call took place at just the right time, as production was looking for a little girl Janelle’s age to portray Dolly. Janelle’s mom asked if she could bring her to the audition, and thereafter, without hesitation, Janelle was immediately cast in the role.

Interview: Doreen Taylor

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When we first discovered Doreen Taylor and started to learn about her, we asked ourselves “Is there anything this girl can’t do?!” Then, after a bit more research and some one-on-one chats with Doreen, we received our answer: “NO!” While we would love to tell you that Doreen is a jack of all trades, we won’t go there (you will see why below!). Instead, we will introduce Doreen as a singer, songwriter, and actress with a magical musical past, an impressive academic background, and an incredibly bright future.

Without further ado, we present to you the amazing and talented Doreen Taylor!

Exclusive Interview: New Artist Apryl Evans

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It’s not everyday that you meet a mega-talented country singer from New Jersey. Yes, from the land of Snooki and the Situation, at least one person is keeping country music alive. She recorded her first EP “The Things You Left Behind” at Blackbird Studios, the home of Martina McBride and her voice and styling recall the likes of Martina & Sara Evans. We at Keepin’ It Country would like to introduce you to Apryl Evans. You may not know her name yet, but we promise you will.

KIC: For those readers who may be ‘meeting’ you for the first time in this blog, can you give us a little bit of a back story as to how you became a singer/songwriter?

AE: The story of how I ended up on this path actually starts way back when I was only nine years old and tried out to sing the part of Belle from Beauty and the Beast in a school concert, having no idea whether or not I even had a voice worth listening to. Well, needless to say, I ended up getting the part and my music teacher had no idea what kind of monster she had just created (laughs). For the longest time though, I just used my voice to sing at local concerts and high school/college events and what not, but that all changed the day I stumbled upon a songwriting group a few years ago and discovered that songwriting is such amazing therapy. Once that happened, I knew I needed to get my music recorded and share it with the world!

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Kennedy Noel

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Have you met our friend, Kennedy Noel?  If not, there is no better way than to get to know a bit about this talented, eloquent, hard-working fifteen-year-old who will, undoubtedly, take the music world by storm soon enough!  You might recognize Kennedy from an episode of ABC’s hit show, “Nashville,” where she played an extra – you know, that teen who caught Juliette stealing nail polish on camera, which set Juliette’s career and life into a downward spiral (tsk tsk Kennedy!).  You may also recognize Kennedy from Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You” music video, as well as the young musical genius who played piano behind Kelly during her performance of “Because of You” at the 2006 Grammy Awards.  Needless to say, Kennedy has done huge things in her small time here, and now that we have gotten to know Kennedy, we can easily say that she has a long, successful road ahead of her and we are incredibly excited to be along for the ride!

Have you ever wondered how a teenage singer/songwriter juggles her dreams and her reality?  Have you ever wanted to know what it was like to grow up in a family of musicians?  Have you ever thought about what musically inclined families do to ring in the holidays?  If you answered “yes” to any of these things, look no further.  World, meet the incredibly talented, up-and-coming Kennedy Noel!

EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Katie Armiger

Katie Arminger.

We had the chance to sit down with the very talented, and pretty, Katie Armiger. The young country music singer is a rising star on the charts, and who is often compared to Sara Evans and Martina McBride. Katie has been hitting the road hard the last year, including a “Get Smart” college headlining tour this year. Katie shares how she came up with that name, how excited she is over her single “Scream,” why she is more active on Twitter than Facebook, how she’d love to record with Blake Shelton and Keith Urban, and more.

Check out our exclusive interview with the very likable Katie below and get to know the young singer:

2012 Artist To Watch: Mary Sarah

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Mary Sarah is slowly carving out a place for herself in country’s future.  What sets her apart is that she’s doing it by honoring country’s past.

The Richmond, Texas resident is only 16 years old, but she’s already accomplished more than many artists twice her age.  When she was 12 she landed a spot as a feature singer with KidzBop, which had her touring the nation performing before thousands of fans each night.

Then when she was only 14, she recorded her first album, “Crazy Good,” which came out last year.  The album not only showcases her singing, but also her skill as a songwriter.  She co-wrote six of the album’s nine tracks.

On most weekends you can find her performing at one the many Oprys or Squares in the Houston area.  It’s there that she not only sings songs that are inline with today’s pop-country, but also tips her hat to traditional country by singing the songs of Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and the like.

She loves the small stages, but Mary Sarah is no stranger to the area’s big arenas.  She’s performed the National Anthem for both the Houston Astros and the Houston Texans.  But her most noticeable stage performance (at least for now) came in 2011 when the Oak Ridge Boys invited her onstage to sing.  The then 15-year-old brought the crowd to its feet with her a cappella version of Connie Francis’ “Where The Boys Are.”  (See a video of that performance below.)