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Hall of Fangirl – January 2014

Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, a new year has begun! And as if you hadn’t heard enough about 2013 from me, other blogs and social networking, here’s my special Hall of Fangirl dedicated to looking at 2013 and the great music that came out of it.

Most Impressive Debut of 2013

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Justin Adams: Rock ‘n’ Roll With A True Country Heart

Copyright 2013 Zach Harrison Photography

Justin Adams is not your average country singer by any means. Prior to moving to Nashville in 2010, he was a 2008 graduate of the University of Northern Iowa where he played football on a full scholarship award. He currently holds the school record for most games ever played at 54 consecutive games, never missing a game. The Bixby, Oklahoma native has also written with half of Music City top songwriters, and has toured with such acts as Eli Young Band, Easton Corbin, Eric Paslay, Kristen Kelly and more. His performances are high energy and his country music is definitely one with a dose of Rock ‘n’ Roll in it, yet there’s a songwriting pedigree that enables him to really touch the heart of country music. He has recently released a new EP which debuted at #4 on the iTunes country chart, and #50 on all-genre, which follows him performing at CMA Fest this year and Tin Pan South the two years before. That’s pretty impressive for an unsigned artist. That’s all on top of being one of the nicest artists I’ve ever come across, one who refers to me as “Miss Vickye” (aww) and is grateful for every kind word and opportunity. There is much to be said for grace in this business.

Justin likes his songs to speak for themselves, but he did tell me a little bit about each song and how they came together for this EP. I also added a few of my own comments.

1. Can’t Forget About You (Justin Adams, Cale Dodds)

Justin: “The EP starts off with a right in your face rocking country song! This is the first song I ever wrote with my buddy Cale Dodds and it definitely has some edge but it’s got such a great groove that meshes with that. I love the energy that you can hear in this song. This is one of those songs you have blaring with the windows down as you’re driving down the highway. That’s what it feels like to me and I couldn’t be happier.”

I haven’t heard a better way to open a record than this in a long time. ‘Can’t Forget About You’ screams summer, young love, and immediately grabs you with an infectious hook and a beat that you can’t help but move to. Similar to the likes of Matt Wertz, this song is primed for radio.

2. Miss Me Whiskey (J.Adams, Karyn Rochelle)

Justin: “I brought this hook and idea to the amazing writer Karyn Rochelle and she helped create this song and bring it to life. We worked so hard to get this song the way we wanted it. Every line in this song is catchy and the sound we got in the studio portrays that so well. Danny Rader, who plays guitar for Keith Urban, was the session leader for this EP and he has the most amazing guitar tone that you can hear on the track. And from the bass lines and the drums to the piano and organ, everything just work so well with each other. Sonically it’s everything I wanted this song to be.”

‘Miss Me Whiskey’ shows off Justin’s powerful vocals and range, and has lyrics that speak of all the things country music is about: heartbreak, regret, the bittersweet, and of course whiskey. Yet, they’re not from the narrator, but from the woman who broke his heart, who is regretting her decision. There is a broken triumph and a satisfaction in Justin’s delivery that really sells the song, and it ends with a really effective instrumental.

3. Shut Up and Kiss Me (J.Adams, Alex Conerly)

Justin: “The opening guitar lick just sets the tone for the feel of this song. It’s an upbeat rocking song that has quickly become a fan favorite at live shows. Alex Conerly and I wrote this song together.”

This song is a classic example of contemporary country music if ever I heard it. It reminds me of a slightly heavier Gloriana and is a really solid track that fits the landscape while having an edge.

4. My My My (J.Adams, Cory Batten)

Justin: “This song just makes me happy! This is the first song my buddy and the incredible songwriter Cory Batten ever wrote and it’s just a laid-back feel good driving song. I love the harmony driven choruses and how the pedal steel guitar shines through the track. It’s such a sweet and sexy song and everything came together great on this track.”

This song taps more into the kind of lyrics we’re used to hearing at the moment from the major country artists, with pretty girls and driving, yet it has a clear grounding in more traditional country and a really great groove. This just goes to show that Justin is far from one-dimensional with his sound and influences.

5. This Cowboy’s Gonna Ride (J.Adams, Kent Blazy)

Justin: “This is my favorite song I’ve ever written in my entire life. It just represents everything I believe in about life, death and my faith as a Christian. The message of this song is so powerful that I wanted to record it very simple and organic to portray the absolute message of this song. It doesn’t need a big production. Everything marries so well together with the guitar and the fiddle and dobro. My dear friend Kent Blazy and I wrote this song together and I am so honored and blessed to have had the opportunity to write with him and now call him a friend. He’s been such a mentor and someone to learn from here. I couldn’t have done this one without him.”

This has to be the best song on the EP. It is so beautifully written, with such heartfelt singing and a deep country production, including plenty of fiddle and dobro leading the song. ‘This Cowboy’s Gonna Ride’ is truly a showcase for Justin as an artist and songwriter, and if you listen to any of his songs today I would advise you start with this one. It provides a depth to Justin that you simply wouldn’t expect from the other fun, upbeat tracks, and tells me that he’s really going to go places.

You can find Justin on his website, on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and you can buy his EP on iTunes. I’ll also be giving away a free download of ‘Miss Me Whiskey’ at a later date, so make sure you look out for that!