I don't really care for gimmicky marketing "holidays" that exist only to promote retail shopping, such as Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Valentine's Day (just kidding about the last one -- sort of).
I take this position not because I have an ax to grind with retailers or because I have some altruistic stance against the commercialization of Christmas (actually, I do... but that's not what this post is about), but because the very thought of walking into a crowded retail space packed with scores of aggressive bargain shoppers in pursuit of a great deal is truly my idea of Hell on earth.
Cyber Monday, however, presents a good opportunity for me to make some download recommendations without either of us risking being shoved, punched, tazed, or trampled.
Several of my Houston-area singing and songwriting buddies put out new albums this year and I think you should take some time and get to know them!
In no particular order, with mobile-friendly iTunes download links:
Matt and I first met several years ago at the Bugle Boy in La Grange, TX, when we both performed in a songwriter showcase contest. Matt won -- and rightfully so, and in the course unknowingly inspired me to learn how to properly pick a guitar. Since then, we've played several shows together and he's featured on Blanco County Light's title track. He's put out a few records in that time, including the latest, Raven Hotel -- a cozy piece of Americana poetry that feels familiar on the the first listen and keeps getting better with every spin.
Brad and I have swapped songs more times than I can remember -- and we've had a lot of fun in the process. I had his first record, I Sat Down and Wrote You a Song, in my truck's CD player for a good month (and not because it was stuck). In keeping with the linguistic tradition of country music, my buddy shows a talent for turning a phrase. He teamed up with Lisa Morales to produce his newest record, Montagu Hotel, which features an appearance by Joe Ely on the album's opening truck-driving anthem, "Big Rig Driver."
I first met Libby when I was hired to play keys for a NYC-based singer who was coming through Texas for a few area dates. Since then, Libby's been a good friend in life and in business. We've performed all over Texas and Mississippi together and swapped vocal performances on each other's most recent records. Jack Saunders produced her 2014 release, Tennessee Colony, which is a wonderfully self-aware collection of stories about life and family and finding one's self in the places traveled and the spaces called home.
We've only recently begun to get to know one another, but I can already say with certainty that I'm glad I know Charlie Harrison. He's a smart writer with a quick wit -- something that's on display in the somewhat sardonic track "Start a Company" off his new EP, New Night. Willy T Golden (whose name you should recognize from his appearances on my record) provides lap steel throughout the record, which supports the EP's raw, decidedly Southeast Texas timbre. The band's live shows are full of honky-tonk goodness.
Grifters & Shills is a hard-working Americana duo comprised of my friends, John and Rebecca Stoll. I'm not being hyperbolic when I say they're two of the nicest, most genuine people I know. Their new record, Watershed, has elements of bluegrass, country and folk, which combine with impressive picking and sweet harmonies to make for an enjoyable listening experience from start to finish. Also, their live shows are a lot of fun.
So there you go. Go forth and download. And then tell a friend about what goodness you've found.
Disclaimer: I am not a "music writer" nor am I a reviewer of records. Those are actual jobs for people with much greater skill in those disciplines than I. This is but a few of many wonderful Houston-area singers and songwriters in effort to promote our scene.
If you've got other recs, post them in the comments!