I like Eli Young Band. These boys play catchy pop-rock tunes with a little bit of country flourish, and given the right songs, they do it very well. “When it Rains” is so good that it climbed into the Top 40 with hardly any promotion, and listening to numbers like “Get in the Car and Drive” and “Enough is Enough” is like hearing Rascal Flatts with a less polarizing lead vocalist and more subdued production style.
The group is fairly new on the mainstream country scene, but they've been building up a grassroots following in Texas for years, and it's beginning to pay off, with single “Always the Love Songs” currently sitting at #14 on the charts.
Now, thanks to Amazon's Daily Deal, you can own their major-label debut, containing all of the above songs, for only a buck. It's a solid album – I gave it 3 stars myself – and at the price you'd normally pay for just one track, it's hard to lose!
Buying instructions: click on the big “Play” symbol to play the clips. When they start playing, a little box with information about the track will appear at the bottom of the box. Click where it says the album’s name (Jet Black & Jealous) to reach the full album. Alternatively, you can click the yellow “Buy MP3″ button to go to the page of the individual song that’s
The winners have been announced for three of the Top New Artist categories at this year’s ACM Awards:
Top New Male Vocalist: Jake Owen
Top New Female Vocalist: Julianne Hough
Top New Vocal Duo or Group: Zac Brown Band
Jake Owen’s victory is something of an upset, as he was nominated against James Otto and Jamey Johnson, two men who received multiple Grammy nominations. Johnson still has a shot at some ACM awards this year, as he’s nominated in three other categories: Single, Song and Album of the Year. Owen is nominated for Vocal Event for his part in Sugarland’s multi-artist “Life in a Northern Town.”
Julianne Hough was chosen over Sarah Buxton and Ashton Shepherd, while Zac Brown Band won over the Eli Young Band and the Lost Trailers.
Owen, Hough and Zac Brown Band will compete for the Top New Artist award during the three-hour telecast on Sunday, April 5. We’ll be live-blogging, of course. Look for our predictions and personal picks later this week.
In honor of FAIL Blog (the perfect workday distraction), here’s my take on the Academy of Country Music Awards nominations. Opinions expressed belong solely to the author, and do not represent the views of other contributors to Country Universe.
WIN- Carrie Underwood, Entertainer of the Year
A Grand Ole Opry induction, four No. 1 singles and best-seller status on the concert trail. Serious credentials for the reigning female vocalist, ensuring her a well-deserved Entertainer nod.
WIN- Miranda Lambert, Single of the Year (“Gunpowder and Lead”)
Lambert’s vengeful stand against domestic violence is amply rewarded with an appearance in the Single category. Her spicy snarl is an intimidating match for a clever, caustic lyric.
The Academy of Country Music announced nominees for their 44th annual awards ceremony this morning at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. Julianne Hough, Kellie Pickler, Leann Rimes and Jessica Simpson were on hand to present this year’s nominees. More analysis to follow.
Be warned, purists: Eli Young Band’s major-label debut is a textbook example of just how loosely country music has been defined by its modern commercial market. In true contemporary form, most everything about Jet Black & Jealous – from the omnipresent electric guitars to the (endearingly) emo-sounding title – suggests a significant and varied pop-rock influence, with little more than Mike Eli’s leading twang to mark the quartet as a country act. Factor in the group’s slick, hipster-cowboy appearance, and the comparisons to Lyric Street poster boys Rascal Flatts become all but inevitable.
But despite some significant concessions to convention, Eli & Co. distinguish themselves from the radio pack with their less-is-more delivery and a songwriting approach based in simple, uncontrived observation. Jet Black & Jealous traverses a wide spectrum of contemporary styles over its twelve tracks, but the set is united by a central, consistent narrative voice that manages to sound grounded in genuine experience, even as it sometimes ventures into overly familiar territory. It’s not the strongest set of songs, with some reaching for golden hooks and slightly missing the mark (“Radio Waves,” “Get in the Car and Drive”), and others riffing on uncreative or unexciting themes (“Always the Love Songs,” “Famous”). But even in their shortcomings, Eli Young Band comes across as an act that tells the truth – or at least tries.
The album kicks off with a revamped rendition of “When it Rains,” the band’s first Top 40 country hit and a highlight of their 2005 independent release, Level. Penned by guitarist and partial group-namesake James Young, the song is a stroke of melancholy genius: cold, terse, believable, hooky, even musically unorthodox (Young employs almost every chord in the song’s given key, a true rarity in country music). The extra polish applied to the piece in this Jet Black & Jealous incarnation may be off-putting to fans of the original recording – Eli’s vocal, especially, sounds noticeably thinner and tamer than before – but for the most part, the added production and harmonies only lend the number a bit more punch and momentum, making for a dazzling introduction to the set.
Alas, the brilliant leading example of “When it Rains” ends up casting a long shadow over the ensuing songs, which, for all their high points, never quite manage to match the comprehensive strength of that opening number. In reality, there is much to admire about some of the material on Jet Black & Jealous; it’s just the kind of album that must be picked apart individually in order for that material to make a fair case for itself.
In general, Eli Young Band is at their best when playing up their rock chops. They channel Radney Foster on the outlaw frenzy “Throw and Go,” then sugarcoat Tom Petty’s style on the title track, an ear-candy break-up ditty whose titular phrase is presumably just there to sound cool, as it’s never actually explained. Then there’s “Enough is Enough,” a frank appraisal of a withering relationship that finds Eli lamenting, “I can’t lean on you, ’cause I fall right over.” A slow-burning shuffle, it’s the closest sonic relative to “When it Rains” that the group has included here, and another indication that that that particular style suits them very well.
Less winning, however, are their stabs at patented contemporary country themes. They try on Kenny Chesney’s classic rock nostalgia (see “I Go Back,”) and easy-as-that life philosophies (see “Don’t Blink”) in “Always the Love Songs” and “Mystery in the Making,” respectively, then rewrite Sugarland’s “Tennessee” as “Radio Waves,” sacrificing some of the original’s catchiness and quirky charm in the process. They do manage to beat the Flatts boys at their own melodramatic game on the fun “Get in the Car and Drive,” but then over-do that, too, on the inane “How Should I Know” and “Guinevere.”
But to the group’s credit, they expound on their recycled cliches in a manner nuanced and conversational enough to make the stories themselves come across as real, and their delivery remains spot-on through the rough patches. In addition to the appreciable lack of a truly bombastic moment anywhere in the set, Eli is endowed with an Everyman tone that sounds convicted no matter what the musical setting, and the group’s harmony-driven sound is pleasant enough to make even the lacking material sound halfway-decent.
So all in all, it’s a mixed showcase of the act. On one hand we have the twangin’ alt-rockers who produce mature numbers like “Enough is Enough”; on the other, we have yet another country boy band just doing their darndest to break into a radio format that favors indiscriminately catchy tunes like “Always the Love Songs.” And then, somewhere perfectly in the middle, we have the Texan phenoms of “When it Rains” fame, the rare act who produces music that is both artistically fulfilled and commercially attractive. Eli Young Band will likely spend the rest of their career trying to achieve that hallowed middle ground, and it will be interesting to see whether they can manage to do so on future releases – but for the moment, we have Jet Black & Jealous: the sound of a promising young act weighing its options.