Well, we are a week into 2015 and realized we didn’t do a year end 2014 blog, so forgive us for being late, but here it goes.
Stacy and I saw 25 shows, plus CMA Fest, in six different states. Less than 2013, but we still saw quite a variety at many venues, with big shows, brand new artists and everything in between. There are lots of great artists out there and each year discovering new ones while seeing our favorites makes the journey so exciting.
Last year’s blog we only focused on concerts, but we buy a ton of music to support the artists so looking back wanted to mention some of the best albums as well.
Dustin Lynch, “Where It’s At” was by far my favorite album we bought this year. I liked Dustin’s previous album but my first listen through to “Where It’s At”, I had to listen to it again. This album has something for everyone. For those who are okay with the “bro-country” sound, you have the title track “Where It’s At” and “Hell of a Night”. For those looking for a little more traditional sound, you got it with “She Wants a Cowboy” and “Your Daddy’s Boots”. So few artists today, can appeal to fans of both traditional and non-traditional country music so Dustin is where it’s at! Yep, Yep!
My next favorite would be Brantley Gilbert, “Just As I Am”, followed by Kenny Chesney, “The Big Revival” (great hearing Kenny seemingly back to his country sound ) and Tim McGraw, “Sundown Heaventown”
My favorite country album this year was Tim McGraw’s “Sundown Heaventown”. I’ve been a McGraw fan since his first album, but the last few at Curb had felt slow and not his best work, so was glad with Two Lanes of Freedom he was coming back to being true to his artistic self. Sundown Heaventown showcased it all, slow old country with Meanwhile Back at Mama’s, to pop country with “Lookin for that Girl” and some more upbeat songs like “Overrated”. The best song had to be “Shotgun Rider”, and was especially meaningful as Stacy and I head down the road on our concert forays that she’s my Faith (not that I’m Tim, but…).
Florida Georgia Line’s sophomore album, “Anything Goes” would probably be my second favorite, especially as Dirt was the lead single and really signaled they were coming with a more mature, country sound. The album still had fun, and hip hop and really showed Brian and Tyler’s songwriting and personality.
While I totally agree with Eric Church, that albums are so important, I gotta say “The Outsiders” was an album I just couldn’t quite get my head around, some awesome songs, but some just couldn’t take, but I applaud him for taking a chance.
We saw some “big” tours in arenas and stadiums and smaller shows in bars and fairs and can’t really compare them, so we broke them out.
Best “Big” Show
My favorite big show for 2014 was when we saw Jake Owen in Bowling Green on his “Days of Gold” tour. Jake had Cadillac 3 and Parmalee open for him. They really got the crowd up and dancing and then Jake hit the stage. His stage set was all beach themed of course and he ran out on stage barefoot as usual. From the start of his set it was just fun. It’s hard to explain, but you could tell Jake was there to have fun and to make sure everyone else had a good time. He pulled people from the crowd up on stage, he constantly interacted with the audience. He is a very laid back performer and it was his headlining tour so he was going to do what he wanted to do. It was so much fun. [ORIGINAL BLOG POST]
Blue Ridge Music Fest in Salem Virginia was an unexpected surprise. 2014 was the first year having it. The stadium was nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains with a great backdrop and it felt that was much bigger than your average high school football stadium. They sold VIP tickets which gave you a stadium seat, exclusive access to front of the stage and even dinner and snacks. Then the lineup was awesome, Brantley Gilbert, Thomas Rhett, Old Dominion, Clare Dunn and others. It was an awesome surprise and looking forward to returning in 2015. [ORIGINAL BLOG POST]
Best “Small” Show
My favorite small show in 2014 was Cole Swindell at the Bluebird Bar in Bloomington, IN in April. It was this smallish, weirdly laid out bar that was packed. A very young crowd in attendance. The opener, Drew Baldridge blew me away. He was great.
When Cole came out the crowd went nuts. Cole is great live, the fun he is having is written all over his face and you can’t help but to have fun along with him. Cole has gotten pretty big over the last year but you could tell at this show he was reliving all those days of just playing in college bars and this show was so much fun from start to finish! [ORIGINAL BLOG POST]
Thomas Rhett’s headlining show at Bogart’s in Cincinnati. Bogart’s is generally a rock venue, but they have started getting country shows, and Thomas definitely rocks his country show. I thought Jon Pardi was an odd opener, and as much as I like his music, he didn’t quite fit; but Thomas Rhett was awesome. He plays 90’s rap/rock and old country and his own new country so appeals to college kids and everyone else and has fun doing it. I hope Bogart’s keeps booking shows like that. [ORIGINAL BLOG POST]
Parmalee has to be one of the most consistent, exciting bands out there. Stacy and I saw them headline 6 times, plus open several others. They always have a great show to any size crowd and even on nights when one of them is sick, like Matt was on occasion, or when the bus broke down on the way to Jacksonville show they still bring the music. Their energy and work ethic will hopefully push them farther down the road in 2015. [PARMALEE BLOGS]
Highlight of the Year
The highlight of my 2014 concert was the Randy Houser Super Fan Concert at SiriusXM The Highway studios during CMA Fest. I’ve always liked Randy’s music and Ed and I had seen him in 2013 and enjoyed his show but when he released his single “Like A Cowboy”, it blew me away and gave me chills every time I heard it. When we got a chance to go to his superfan concert I was so excited and it was amazing. Randy really talked honestly and showed a very personal side. Afterwards he took pics with everyone and was such a nice guy to talk with. Afterwards I wrote a blog about the show and I tweeted it out…never in a million years did I imagine that Randy would read it and retweet it! Wow!!! This was definitely one of the coolest things I got to do in 2014. [ORIGINAL BLOG POST]
I must mention a meet and greet with Cole Swindell at the Tennessee Valley Fair is a very close second! Cole was awesome as well. Very nice guy.
In 2013 the world’s biggest country station, and our favorite, started a Highway Finds concert stage the day before the official start to CMA Fest out front of the Hard Rock Café on Lower Broadway in Nashville. In 2014, it was even bigger and was to run for 12 hours and end with Parmalee as the big act. We were there all day until some rain messed up the last acts, but we still had an awesome time seeing 18 great acts (and Sam Hunt), got tons of great video [YouTube playlist] and was probably the best part of CMA Fest. Can’t wait till they announce who will be there in 2015. [ORIGINAL BLOG POST]
Best New Artist
Last year we said “best opener not on the radio” was Clare Dunn, well in 2014, Clare got on the radio and blew up. We saw her several times, she has to be the hardest working artist ever, she got signed to a major label deal and had 2 songs on the Highway. We can’t wait to see what Clare does in the coming year, if you have a chance to see her, go! [CLARE DUNN BLOGS]
Two openers that really impressed us this year were Chase Bryant and Drew Baldridge.
Chase we saw at CMA Fest and then again open for Brantley Gilbert. He’s young, but he can really play, and every song on his EP is great, he will get huge.
Drew Baldridge opened for Cole in Bloomington, and you never know at a small show what kind of “local” talent you will get, but Drew was great. He just had an EP come out, “Crossing County Lines” and on some songs he has a smooth Midwestern sound, while others he sounds like Tyler Farr. He is starting to get airplay and should get some juice going in Nashville soon.
Worst New Artist
Rolling Stone Country this week labeled Sam Hunt a breakout star from 2014, well we disagree. He may be breaking out, but he really shouldn’t. We saw him three times, it was horrible every time, he has no stage presence, can’t dance and really can’t sing. We wish he could just stick to songwriting instead of doing a bad impression of Chase Rice. [SAM HUNT BLOGS]
Disappointing Live Show
We really liked Frankie Ballard’s CD, Sunshine and Whiskey, every song is great, so we were totally surprised that headlining in Indy when we saw him he was horrible. You can read our original post, but he didn’t interact with the crowd and felt like his show was just play by numbers. Now that he is getting more airplay, I hope his show improves and we can see him again sometime. [ORIGINAL POST]
We had an awesome 2014, we had almost 750k views on our Youtube channel, and lots of fans and artists interacted with us on Twitter (@StacyInKentucky @ECP5), our blog and in person. We can’t wait for what this new year has in store for us. Feel free to comment or tweet if we are wrong, right or there is a great artist we should be seeing.