Category Archives: Music

Album Review: On The Rocks by Midland

Every once in awhile I’ll play a new song on the radio that will pique my interest.  It might be the sound, the music, the lyrics or a combination of the three that will have me searching out other songs by that particular artist or group.

That was the case when I first heard Drinkin’ Problem by the country trio Midland.  It had a retro 70ish vibe to it that reminded me of the songs my parents would listen to when I was young… but with a modern twist.  I’ve heard them described as California Country and I’d agree.

Midland’s sound is made up of tight harmonies and traditional country instrumentation… including plenty of steel guitar with a little tambourine mixed in for good measure.

Throughout the On The Rocks album, I was reminded of The Eagles, Alabama, Blackhawk, Restless Heart, The Mavericks, and Dwight Yoakum… some of my favorites.  I’d even go so far as to say I could even hear parts of songs that gave a nod to Air Supply and Chicago.

On The Rocks is one of those rare albums for me that you can listen to from beginning to end, over and over, and never want to skip a single song.  It’s that good!  It’s easily in my top 5 favorite country albums of 2017.

Below are some of my thoughts on every one of the 13 songs on the On The Rocks album.

On The Rocks

Lonely For You Only – The first song of the album sets the tone for what is to follow… lots of steel guitar, harmony, loneliness, and heartbreak in a 3:50 song.

Make A Little – This one is just plain fun!  If I knew how to dance to country music I bet this would be a great one to dance to.

Drinkin’ Problem – As mentioned before, this particular song and it’s sound is what got me interested in Midland in the first place.   More harmony and steel guitar.

At Least You Cried – This one has a Spanish feel to it with a great horn section!

Burn Out – The lyrics of this song are what I appreciate the most. They’re very descriptive… to the point where listening to it I can picture a music video for it in my head.  Here’s an example:

“Just watchin’ rivers run
Down the side of my bottle
Almost like it’s cryin’ my tears
Had the world on a string
And then I lost everything
And that’s how I wound up here
Watchin’ cigarettes burn out
‘Til all the neon gets turned out…”

Out Of Sight – There are some pretty clever lyrics in this one that keep it from being a cliche break-up country song.

More Than A Fever – Sexy and sultry with a touch of falsetto.

Check Cashin’ Country – This is one of my favorite songs on the album!  It depicts life on the road for a band struggling to make it.

Nothin’ New Under The Neon – This one’s about friendships and reminiscing over a few drinks.

This Old Heart – If you’ve ever wished for a little luck and a little love you’ll be able to relate to this one.

Altitude Adjustment – This is another one of my favorite songs on the album because it’s so clever in the way it’s written.

Sure, you might hear references to certain substances that are legal in Colorado… but the next person might just take it as feeling relief and refreshed from a change of scenery.   This song gets bonus points because it makes me smile every time they reference John Denver.

Electric Rodeo – Another song about the quest for stardom and the loneliness that comes with it.

Somewhere On The Wind – The album ends the way it began… with a traditional sound.  A lonesome sounding harmonica breaks into harmony and then into a rambling country song.

What’s your favorite on Midland’s On The Rocks album?

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Review: Waitress At Des Moines Performing Arts

I became aware of Waitress the musical a few summers ago.  We were at dance nationals and my oldest daughter took a Master Class where they used one of its’ songs.  My daughter, wife, and I instantly became big fans of that song.  It’s what put Waitress on our radar.

So when I got the invite to attend the December 5, 2017, opening night performance at Des Moines Performing Arts I was excited to be able to go… but knew I had two ladies at home who would really want to be my “plus one”.

In the end, I took my wife and we had a great date night.  Waitress was perfect for that but would also be great for a girls night out too.  It’s all about, Jenna, a waitress and expert pie baker, dealing with an unloving and abusive marriage, and how she finds the courage to deal with the difficulties in her life.

To me, Waitress is all about relationships; good ones, bad ones, unexpected ones, forbidden ones, and even quirky ones.  They all fit together nicely in a roughly 2 hour and 15 minute performance that I’d describe as a sitcom, inside a drama, inside a musical.

The comedic timing was impeccable, the characters well developed, and the acting was some of the best that I’ve seen in any Des Moines Performing Arts show.  There was one point without any dialogue that drew many laughs.  So much was being said through body language, breathing, and facial expressions that words weren’t needed. Makes me smile thinking about it now.

The music is what I was really looking forward to in this performance and I wasn’t disappointed.  Everyone on stage is a gifted vocalist and uses their talent well.  The orchestra pit was empty for this show and the band actually slid on and off the stage in a way that I felt added to the performance.

If your only experience with musicals is Oklahoma or South Pacific know that the music in Waitress isn’t anything like those shows at all.  The music and lyrics were written by Sara Bareilles, giving it a very contemporary feel and sound.

There are many great songs in Waitress.  Some are hysterical, some are touching, and some are just plain emotional.  I got goosebumps when Desi Oakley, playing the role of Jenna, broke into She Used To Be Mine.  That was the song that originally got me interested in this show.

One other cool thing that I enjoyed about this performance is how they cast 2 young, local girls to trade off playing a small part in the show.  5-year-old Eliana Mann from Urbandale played the part of Lulu in the opening night performance and she was great.

The sold-out out crowd was invested in the performance from the unexpected and funny reminder to mute your phone to the final curtain call.  There were cheers, applause, and reactions (in a good way) in places that I wonder if they caught some of the actors off guard a little bit.  I also wonder if the cast was surprised at how quick they were rewarded with a standing ovation.

Hopefully, Des Moines is getting a reputation as a theatre-loving town!  After the show as we walked back to our car my wife said, “I think that is one of the best shows we’ve seen!”  I was quick to agree.

Waitress runs through December 10, 2017 at Des Moines Performing Arts.  You can learn more about the show and get tickets here.

***Disclaimer – I was provided with free press night tickets.  All opinions are my own.

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