February 12, 2016

How Many Songs Does Drew Kennedy cite in his song "A.M. Radio?"

Dissecting AM Radio by Drew Kennedy

Photo from http://www.drewkennedymusic.com/

By Sean Claes
So... listening to Drew Kennedy's "A.M. Radio" today I realized he pulled words from his lyrics from songs one might hear on the radio... A.M. radio for that matter. I have been listening to this song and singing along with it for a few months now... it even made my family Christmas CD... but I didn't catch that he included nods to some great classic country songs until today.
Below is the video... the lyrics.. and footnotes with the songs I think he's referencing.

I reached out to Drew and asked him... and he sent me the correct list.. so below are the actual references... not just my thoughts...  so the correct answer in the title of this post is.... 9. (I originally had 16.. guess I tried too hard to read into it)

Here's the song:

"AM Radio" by Drew Kennedy

I got a hot cup of coffee(1) warming up my hand
I keep a beat on the handle with my wedding band (2)
The DJ plays The Gambler(3) after Ramblin' Man (4)
Driving through Winslow, Arizona (5) in the middle of the night (6)

I got a map in case I need it on the passenger side
And I’ve been on the road since nine o’clock Tulsa Time (7)

I’m fifty thousand watts from Dallas

 And I’m forty-seven miles from home
Say a prayer to save me from static
Thank God for a.m. radio, for
A.M. radio.

Pushing my luck against the dial taking bets against the fields
And I would stop to Pop a Top (8) but I might lose it in the hedge.
I would make it out to Needles (9) they put me on the bill
I’m fifty thousand watts from Dallas
And I’m forty seven miles from home
Say a prayer to save me from static
Thank God for A.M. radio, for A.M. radio.

I’m fifty thousand watts from Dallas
And I’m twenty seven miles from home
Say a prayer to save me from static,
Thank God for a.m. radio, thank god for a.m. radio, for a.m. radio.

1. Marty Robbins - "Another Cup of Coffee"
2. George Jones & Tammy Wynette - "Golden Rings" video
3. Kenny Rogers - "The Gambler" video
4. Allman Brothers Band - "Ramblin' Man" video
5. Eagles - "Take It Easy" - video
6. Mel Tillis - "In The Middle of the Night" video
7. Don Williams - "Tulsa Time" video 
8. Jim Ed Brown - "Pop A Top" video video
9. Hoyt Axton - "Never Been To Paris" video

(Drew said the chorus was free of intentional references... but I see references to Bo Diddley [27 miles], Alan Jackson [Dallas] and Rosanne Cash [50,000 watts]... but that might just be me trying too hard...and I was told the Rosanne Cash song came out after this one was written)

There you go.

Where can you find yourself some Drew Kennedy?
Well.. check his site for tour dates... and how to buy his music.
I highly recommend him.

About the Author: Sean Claes has been a music journalist for about 20 years is the owner of INsite Austin. He's also the author of a 52-week series of advice for DIY musicians - link. Enjoy.


February 10, 2016

Small Business Advice - Does the Owner Need To Develop A Work Persona?

Should You Develop A Work Persona?

Image found on businessnewsdaily.com

By Sean Claes

You opened your own business because you had a great idea and the want/need to be your own boss. That is fantastic! Now, you’ve secured a location, set up shop and stocked it with the things that you’d like to sell. Be it plumbing supplies, hand-made pottery, clothing or something else… they are the things that you hope people will want and moreover want to buy from YOU.

Now… a question you may have not taken time to consider… 

Who are you as a business owner?

It’s a real question.  It’s not necessarily who you are in your non-work life. In order to have the best chance of success, you should consider developing a work persona.

What is a work persona?

It’s kind of like acting… but it’s acting like yourself on your best behavior. You should be the best you on your best day… everyday for every customer. Think about it, in every job you've had, you've developed a different version of yourself... held back certain opinions...talked differently to co-workers than you do your family & friends... likely had a better attitude. That's a persona. As an owner, you're work persona is much more important. It sometimes defines the business.

Here are some things to think about when developing a work persona:

- It’s Not About You.

If someone walks in your door (no matter how well you know them in real life) and asks you how your day is going… don’t tell them. They just walked into your place of business… not your counseling or complaining session. You are there to serve them, not use them as a sounding board for your grievances. Things are going well.. and how can you help them?

- Sidestep Uncomfortable Conversations
If a customer complains about something that you have a great opinion on… don’t share it. They are in your shop and anything you say will reflect on your entire business. It’s not just YOUR opinion anymore; it’s the opinion of your entire company. If it's not an opinion that defines the product you're selling (I'd be surprised if a gun store wouldn't weigh in on something like Open Carry), don't comment. If I'm picking up a pizza from you, I don't want to hear your opinions on the Affordable Care Act. 

- Practice Safe Social Media.

Think very seriously about your social media posts. Make sure that your business Facebook page (you DO have one.. right?) posts helpful and positive things. When shopping I want to know about all of the great things you have for sale. Perhaps you can even post some funny memes that are related to your business or some stories that have come out in the news / magazines that are related to what you do. Keep it positive and make sure to invite them into your store.

Your personal Facebook page is your own… do with it as you wish… but make sure to use the “friends only” option when posting so only those who you have let into your inner realm can see those.

- Are You Part Of What You’re Selling?

Do you want to be the face of the business? If so, make sure you post about you along with your product for sale. Remember, part of owning a small business is trying to differentiate yourself from the competition. And ANYONE who sells something like yours is competition. What do you have that they don’t? To the untrained consumer… the difference is… YOU.

It’s the reward and burden of a small business. I have been treated poorly at a big box store and have ultimately gone back because they are cheaper than anywhere else. Likewise, I have been wronged by small business folks and I will NOT spend another dime with them. Now, I’m not the person who posts negative things on social media (but there are many who do), but if someone asks me what I think about a certain local business person, I may just tell them.

Why the double standard? Well, personally, I know I’m going to spend more money going to the small business owner (and most people who shop with you do as well) and that’s OK with me. But if the owner is a jerk to me or my kids, gives me bad service, and complains when I walk in… well. They just lost my business.

So… small business owners? If you aren’t a happy-go-lucky person who wants to make sure the customer is satisfied and walks out of your business’s door smiling and wanting to tell everyone they know about the great experience they just had... you might want to develop a work persona who IS that person. Now, I’m not saying be fake. I’m saying be the best you possible.

If that doesn’t work, you might want to find someone to work the storefront of your business and/or take the calls that CAN pull that off.  There ARE some people who should be “back of the house” instead of “front of the house” owners (borrowing the phrases from the restaurant world). You’ll be rewarded in sales.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Your work persona can help elevate your business to the next level, or it may just turn your dream into a nightmare. Choose wisely. People talk.

About The Author:
Sean Claes has worked with Mom and Pop shops, International Corporations and the Music Industry on their branding, marketing, events and communications for more than 15 years. This article is just a sample of the observations he's made over the course of that time. For more information or to see how he might be able to help grow your business, contact him at seanclaesATseanclaesDOTcom.

More advice can be found in Claes' 52 Week of DIY Music Advice - a series he wrote between 2010-2012 - link

February 1, 2016

PROMOTE YOURSELF FOR FREE - Small Business Promo Ideas

Five Ideas To Promote Your Small Business for Free

By Sean Claes

I live in a County with no dedicated radio or television station. It has been a bedroom community that is situated in between two large markets, but itself has no major outlet for advertising. Yes, there's a weekly newspaper and the major cities within 30 minutes cover the county on their news when something tragic, ironic or newsworthy happens... but that's about it. People don't typically drive from the big town to the small town to shop, but folks who live in the small town regularly drive to the larger city.

Does this place sound familiar?

It's where many small mom & pop businesses set up shop. It's where they live, raise their families and want to make a living. It's the home of the American Dream for many.

If you own a small business in a setting like this, you've got your work cut out for you when it comes to promoting and advertising. How do you reach the people who live in your community in a way that is economically feasible and will reach the largest number of people?

How do you make a name for yourself and cause people to swing by your shop and spend money?

In this article I'm going to talk about a few outside the box ideas that might help you move your business forward. I'm going to talk about different vehicles you can use to get word out about your business. Now.. what I'm NOT talking about in this article is your message. Message is 80% of the equation. HOW you ask for business is the biggest key.. and I'll talk about that in a future article.

Today, I'll talk about a few creative promotional ideas that can help you reach customers without the aid of the big three (radio/television/print media).

1. Social Media
I could write a book on how to properly use Facebook for a small business... but while Facebook is a medium on social media, Facebook and not Social Media. Yelp, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram and Linked-In are additional resources where you should likely have a presence. All are effective tools if you use them right.

To promote your business on social media takes time and dedication... but the good thing is.. it's vastly free. You can update folks on your newest products, let them know why they should care about your products, what you can do for them, have a little fun and create an online atmosphere that represents what your store is like.

Every post is a relationship deepener. Every Instagram picture invites them into your shop. Every tweet pushes the reader closer or further from gracing the front door of your establishment. And... just like every engagement shows a little about your business... lack of engagement is about as telling as a closed sign on your front door. So if you get on social media... you're signing on for a long and slow buildup... it can't become stagnant. You must post at least 3 times a week. Every week.

2. Fliers/Posters
I did a series of  blogs a few years back to help indie bands promote themselves (link). One of the things I still believe strongly in is fliers and posters. Small towns have several areas (and businesses) that allow you to hang up fliers and/or posters.

The non-profit I helped form has a monthly concert series. We decided to print fliers to promote our shows. We got together with a pizza place in town and they  agreed to stick our fliers on their pizza boxes. Every customer of theirs gets an invitation to the show. I've seen a local Dojo do the same.

If you're a member of a social group... make sure you bring a stack of fliers to meetings. If you go to an event in town, hand out fliers there. Every chance you get... try and introduce yourself to a new customer and have them walk away with knowledge and some incentive to come to your store.

Hanging up (and handing out) promotional fliers and/or posters in your own establishment with specials and/or events coming up is also highly recommended.

3. Small Business Sharing
This one, I think, is key. Small businesses in different areas should be working together to help each other out. In my town there is a gathering of small business owners that work together via a "secret" group on Facebook. This way they can, in their own time, be able to pitch ideas and work together to introduce their clients to other businesses. There are also numerous networking groups and small business support groups that get together to share best practices and ideas. If there isn't one in your area, start one. The key to success is to always work on promoting yourself and others who are your contemporaries.

4. Events
If you have a storefront, inviting the world to your door is important. One way to do this is to host events. Kids birthday parties, book clubs, bible studies, fundraising for a local non-profit, music, something to support a local sports team, a backyard BBQ, anything that brings a group of people together at your store where they invite their friends and supporters to visit as well. Heck, be a drop-off point for a local toy or food drive.

 Anything helps. Organizations are ALWAYS looking for a place to host their events. Be that place. If you don't feel comfortable organizing an event, just make your place of business available and let them come to you. 

5. Get On The Street
The city where I live has a train that comes through about twice an hour. Cars are stopped...and because of the laws (that everyone obeys, right?) there is no using of cell phones in the car. So... they are just waiting for the train.

I'm helping promote a dessert place that is located about 1/2 block off the main street where the train passes. I suggested when the train stops... to go out and hand out samples and coupons to the cars waiting. This accomplishes a few things. You get to tell folks about your business... give them a sample of one of your products... point them to exactly where your store is.. invite them to swing by.. and give them a flier/coupon so they'll remember you. 


There are many more ways to promote your small business. These are just a few of the free options. In life and business it is said that between Time, Money and Quality you can pick two. This article is about spending the time to make sure you have quality without spending a lot of money. And most small businesses don't have stacks of cash to throw around.

About The Author:
Sean Claes has worked with Mom and Pop shops, International Corporations and the Music Industry on their branding, marketing, events and communications for more than 15 years. This article is just a sample of the observations he's made over the course of that time. For more information or to see how he might be able to help grow your business, contact him at seanclaesATseanclaesDOTcom.

More advice can be found in Claes' 52 Week of DIY Music Advice - a series he wrote between 2010-2012 - link

January 22, 2016

7 Steps To Running A Successful Small Business

7 Steps To Running A Successful Small Business

A collage of Kyle, Texas - home of many small businesses.

By: Sean Claes
If you have a small business, this article is for you. Heck... if you have a large company, this is still solid advice... but most folks who run large businesses have a team of people who are looking over details such as these. Owner-operator businesses, much of the time, have to learn these points as they go. Note: This is not "THE 7 Steps To Running A Successful Small Business" but below you will find seven helpful steps to move you in the right direction. Happy reading, my friend.

1. Don't Worry. Be Happy with Customers.

If you walked into a store and the person behind the counter didn't greet you, didn't smile and didn't make you feel welcome, would you tell all of your friends to go to that store? Likely not. I know that I have personally turned around and walked out of a business that didn't greet me.  

This is really Retail 101. Customer Service. Put on a happy face. The customer doesn't care that you've had a cruddy day and have your head filled with money, personnel or life problems. They came in to be served, have a positive experience and to purchase a product. Your job is to be there to happily answer questions, be a positive point in their day and make sure they walk out in a better mood than they had when they walked in. 

An example of a small business that has done this well is Austin, Texas' Amy's Ice Cream. At the core of it, it's just an expensive ice cream shop... but kids and adults alike seek this establishment out because of the culture. It's an experience each time you enter. 

Of course, there's always angry people who aren't going to be swayed by your kindness... be even kinder to them. These folks are looking for any reason not to come back... don't give them one.

2. The Power of Positive.

I can't tell you how many times I've talked with small business owners who complain about all of the things that are out of their control. What their competition is doing, who is talking ill of them on social media, all the ways the local small business support systems in their town are not serving them or can't offer what they want. And that is me as a customer. I know I don't want to walk out thinking "those poor folks are just trying to make it." I want to walk out thinking "That was nice. They have great products and are good people."

Does HEB complain about what Wal-Mart is doing? No. They talk about the great things that are happening within their walls. Their products. Their people. Their events... and how it makes like better for the customer. HEB's slogan is "Here, Everything's Better." How much more positive can you get there?

3. Accentuate Perceived Negatives.

Say the things that people are thinking. 
- Are you in a bad location? Well... you're a little hard to find, but well worth the effort. 
- Are your prices more expensive? Well... you may cost you a little bit more, but the quality of your product is vastly superior. 
- Are you a small shop with few offerings? Well... you focus on a few things, but do them amazingly well.

List out all of the things that you've heard or could be said about your business and find a way to tell it with a positive light.

4. Don't Guilt People.

I've heard the something similar to this when talking with small businesses: "Don't buy a CEO another vacation home, help us send our kids to dance lessons." That is a sure way NOT to get me to shop there. Why? Because I can say that shopping at a big box store not only helps the CEO, but it could help THOUSANDS of people send their children to dance lessons. Sure, I'll never meet them, but it's true. You employ under 10 people. They employ thousands.

5. Think ROI In All Things.

I am helping out at a small business. The customer base is small but building as people learn of the shop. Working there one Saturday, I almost had an equal number of people coming in to sell me advertisements* as I did coming in to shop. There are coupon pages, newspapers, radio, online ads, magazines, trade journals, billboards, television... you could go broke promoting yourself... and a lot of folks do. 

Think about the ROI or return on investment.. I'd suggest concentrating on one thing and doing it well instead of sprinkling your money here and there. If I throw birdseed in my front yard, a few birds will find the seed in several different places. If I set up a bird feeder, it'll all be gone at the end of the day because so many birds visit. Why? Because I provided an incentive (seed) and placed it in a place they would be sure to see it (bird feeder) instead of throwing it out and hoping something would stick.
* Side note: Nobody that wanted the business to buy an ad bought the product.. or seemed interested in it at all. If you sell advertising... try supporting the business that you're asking for money from. It works.

6. Budget For Charity.

Everybody has a cause. All of them are important. If you are a business you will be inundated with people asking for your support. Asking for money. Asking for you to sponsor their event. Do yourself a favor. Define what cause is important to you and get behind that cause. Define the amount of money you are willing to set aside this year to support that cause and don't feel bad when you can't support everything. People won't speak ill of you if you don't support something they're passionate about... and if they do... well, they probably weren't your customer to begin with. 

No rational person should find fault in "We have decided that this year we're putting our charitable contributions towards (cause). We plan our budget in January, so we'd love to see a proposal from you in December to see if it's something we can do next year."

Between you and me, out of 100 people who ask your for $$ I'm guessing less than 10 will get back to you in December.

7. Define Who You Are
This is the final point in this article, but it should be first on your list of to-dos. Do you have a solid definition of who you are as a company and what you stand for? Do you have a look and feel that is consistent? Can someone look at an ad for your business and know it's yours, no matter where they see it? 

If not, it doesn't matter how much $$ you throw at advertising, you're not creating a brand. Sit down, take some time, maybe even consult a professional, and define who you are. Who would you like to be? For what you would like to be known? 

Have you ever heard the term "Elevator Speech?" All businesses should have one. In 3-5 sentences, how would you describe your business and the services you provide? Having something like this is the blueprint to how you should market your business. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this. There is much, much more to consider than what I've pointed out above, but this is a good starting point. You started your own business with the idea to succeed, right? Well, it takes a great product that has some demand lot of work to make that happen. I want you to succeed. Hopefully you can read this and see a few things you might do differently.

About The Author:
Sean Claes has worked with Mom and Pop shops, International Corporations and the Music Industry on their branding, marketing, events and communications for more than 15 years. This article is just a sample of the observations he's made over the course of that time. For more information or to see how he might be able to help grow your business, contact him at seanclaesATseanclaesDOTcom.

More advice can be found in Claes' 52 Week of DIY Music Advice - a series he wrote between 2010-2012 - link

December 14, 2015

Merry Christmas from The Claes4 - 2015 Edition

Merry Christmas from The Claes4 - 2015 Edition

For the 14th year in a row BoysenClaes Productions brings you our annual Christmas CD. These are bands/songs we’ve heard over the last 12 months that have struck us as something we think you (and the world) should hear. It is our hope each year that you listen to the music, find something you enjoy, and buy some of their music. 

Merry Christmas and enjoy.
- The Claes4 and Towdah

1.    I Heard the Bells - Terri Hendrix (terrihendrix.com)

Jodie: Terri Hendrix is one of the nicest humans and most talented musicians you will ever meet.  She can always say through lyric and melody what I can’t.

2.    Budapest - George Ezra (georgeezra.com)

Sean: I heard this song on the drive back to Texas from Ohio. Every now and then a song jumps out at you as something special. This one did that for me. Ezra is a 22 year-old singer-songwriter from the UK.

3.    Break Your Heart - Calico The Band (calicotheband.com)

Jodie: I caught this song on Sun Radio and I love the style of it-swingy, storytelling and great harmonies.

4.    Medicine Man - Blue Water Highway Band (bluewaterhighwayband.com)

Sean: I’ve been watching this band grow as a cohesive Americana band for the last few years. I really think this home grown Kyle band has a chance to make it to the next level. They definitely have the talent and songwriting chops.

5.    You Are Able – Cedars (cedarstheband.com)

Marlee: I heard this song in 2015 at church camp at Mount Wesley. They were the musicians during camp. I liked every song they played (Cedars is the praise band at Gruene United Methodist Church) but this was my favorite.

6.    Reasons Why - Nickel Creek (nickelcreek.com)

Jodie: This song is 13 years old but it still sounds fresh.  Chris Thile, Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins have been playing together since the late 80’s…literally they were children when they started to play together. I love their work together but I’m really enjoying their work individually. 

7.    It's The Little Things - Matt The Electrician (matttheelectrician.com)

Sean: Matt The Electrician is one of my favorite Austin-based singer-songwriters and performers. He turns simple words into poetry and poetry into music.

8.    AM Radio - Drew Kennedy (drewkennedymusic.com)

Sean: Drew Kennedy headlined the United Way Flood Benefit show Concerts For A Cause did at Central Texas Speedway in Kyle in July. There were only a handful of people there at that time…and we got treated to one of the most amazing, stripped down shows I’ve ever witnessed. AMAZING musician and beautiful person to boot.

9.    Mean To Me - Brett Eldredge (bretteldredge.com)

Sean: Somewhere in Tennessee this song came on the radio while I was driving through. It made me think of Jodie…thanks to the Shazam App I was able to find out who this guy is. I’m looking forward to hearing more from this Illinois-based musician.

10. Rosa Lee - Northern Quarters (northernquartersmusic.com/)

Sean: This is from the Austin band’s Debut release Transient Times and if this is any indication, they are going to be around for a good time. Hope to see them at a future Old Settler’s.

11. Take Me Away – AirCargo (facebook.com/aircargo)

Sean: I ran into Randy Collier (1994-2007 OSMF President) at Old Settler’s Music Festival this year and he handed my a copy of Air Cargo’s album Years which was recorded while member Ray Cargo was fighting pancreatic cancer. It was completed to both celebrate and memorialize his music. Cargo passed away in April 2014.

12. Winterlude - Joe Ely (joeely.com/)

Jodie: Joe Ely was born in Amarillo, grew up in Lubbock, and has played with everyone from the Clash and Bruce Springsteen, including Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock as the Flatlanders.  Does that sound like a little bit of music history to you?  Well, it should because Joe Ely can play anything with anyone.

13. El Cuchipe - Los Lobos (loslobos.org)

Sean: Those who have been getting our Christmas CD know I’m a HUGE Los Lobos fan… and I place at least one song performed in Spanish in every one of these. This is one of my favorites from the band from East LA.

14. Shame on Me - Ty Curtis (tycurtis.net)

Sean: This CD came across the INsite desk this month. I didn’t give it much thought when I popped it in, but I was pleasantly surprised. This guy has a little Ian Moore and Jonny Lang in him… and he’s a recent transplant from Oregon to Austin.

15. Pretty Penny - Stone Temple Pilots (stonetemplepilots.com)

Sean: While getting ready to put this CD together we heard the news of Scott Weiland (best known as lead vocalist of STP) passing away. I wish he was able to beat his demons. I wish he’d be there for his children. I wish he’d walked away from performing and walked into sobriety. His talent will be missed.

16. T (Track 9) - '68 (theyare68.com)

Sean: I photographed the Van’s Warped Tour last year and all of my photographer friends said I needed to check out ’68. They are a 2 piece (guitar & drums) metal/rock band. This song gives a glimpse into them. My favorite song on their debut album is the first one… but that was a bit too hard for this Christmas CD.

17. Red White And Blue - Brad Dunn Band (braddunnband.com)

Sean: Another artist that donated his time to Concerts For A Cause this year. I dig the tongue in cheek humor of this track… and the entire album is good rock’n Country.

18. Maybe If I Might - The Longbox (facebook.com/thelongbox)

Sean: “Your hair is longer now.”
Marlee: “I know right? It’s really growing!”
Sean: “It’s the main thing that reminds me I haven’t seen you in awhile.”
Marlee: “Huh?”
Cue first line of the song.
Marlee: “You’re a horrible person, dad.”
Sean: “hee hee hee”

19. Born Is The King (It's Christmas) – Hillsong United (http://hillsong.com/united)

Jodie: Hillsong is a large Christian band that has a sound like no one else.  Maybe their sound is so distinct because of their rotating line-up. From this multi-layered Christmas song to “Oceans,” one of my favorite songs of the last few years, I always know when Hillsong is the on the radio.

20. When There's No One Around / Will The Circle Be Unbroken - Tim O'Brien w/ Darrell Scott (timanddarrell.com)

Sean: Darrell Scott is my favorite singer-songwriter…hands down. This 2-song track is a live duet with his sometimes singing partner (and equally accomplished musician) Tim O’Brien. Gives me the chills that that much talent can come from one person.

You may download this album for a small window of time at http://tinyurl.com/ClaesCD2015

August 21, 2015

10 Albums That Have Stood The Test of Time

10 Albums That Have Stood The Test Of Time.
(In no particular order..except for #1)

By Sean Claes

I've been listening to music most of my life. I have been a CD reviewer for about the last 20 years. In that time I've listened to thousands of CDs by just as many artists. So, while I'm not an "authority" on all things music, I do have a leg up on a lot of folks when talking tunes.

There are very few discs that I have listened to for more than a year. Most I listen to, review (or not), and file. And now that I'm in my 40s and have kids of my own, I'm finding myself reaching back into the catalog of my music and pulling out certain CDs, tapes and records that I want to share with my kids. These are typically the CDs I tend to grab when wanting to listen to something in my collection.

This is a list of 10 musical offerings that seem as relevant and fantastic today as the first time I listened... and ones I actually pull out and still give a listen. Some I'm sharing with my kids... some  they are not old enough quite yet... you'll know those when you see the list.

So... without further discussion, here they are:

1. Los Lobos 
Just Another Band From East LA: A Collection
Release date: August 3, 1993

Producers: Los Lobos

Label: Warner Bros. Records
This one is actually my favorite album of all time. It's my desert island music. You know "If you were stranded on a desert island and only had one album to listen to..." This would be it. It's a 2 disc compilation and represents several genres of music. You've got the bluesy "Kiko and the Lavender Moon," the conjunto of "Sabor A Mi" and "Volver Volver,"  cumbia of "El Cuchipe," rock of "Shakin Shakin Shakes" and "Don't Worry Baby," and even a little movie music with "I Wanna Be Like You" (Jungle Book) and "La Bamba" (La Bamba). There's not a bad track on the 41 track offering.

Here's my favorite cut off Just Another Band From East LA: A Collection: "One Time One Night." It reminds me of growing up in Laredo, Texas... and a good friend that I hung out with a lot in my 20s.

2. Tracy Chapman
Tracy Chapman
Release date: April 15, 1988

Producer:  David Kershenbaum
Label:  Elektra

From "Across the Lines" to "Talkin' Bout A Revolution" to "If Not Now" this album captures a moment in time. A moment Chapman lived in and opened up an entire different world to me as a middle class Anglo kid.

Listening to it in 2015 and in the wake of all of the recent goings on in the world, it is as relevant as it was 27 years ago. I recommend this album to anyone who wants to get a honest and raw perspective.

Of course, the mega hit off this release is "Fast Car" and it still holds up today. I still sing it loud every time I hear it on the radio.

Here's a live shot of her performing "Across The Lines" at Nelson Mandela's 70th Birthday Tribute Concert... about a month before this album released.

3. Metallica
Kill 'Em All
Release date: July 25, 1983
Producer:  Paul Curcio

Label:  Megaforce
The slow build at the beginning of the first track, "Hit The Lights," was like nothing I'd ever heard before. I was 15 when I first heard this album.... they'd just released ...And Justice For All and I was hanging around with the "headbanger" crowd in high school. I remember the moment I heard this. A car full of kids cruising in Kim N.'s crusty old Camero when she flipped the tape into the player. And that day a love affair with metal/thrash/hardcore music was born.

This album is STILL better than about 75% of the metal that comes out today and is required listening for anyone who wants to play music. The genius of Cliff Burton on the bass solo "(Anesthesia) - Pulling Teeth," the lyrics mostly penned by vocalis James Hetfield (and some by Dave Mustaine) are a mixture of punishingly brutal and epic, albeit simplistic, storytelling... and the guitarwork of Kirk Hammett and drums of Lars Ulrich are both inspiring. If anyone ever wonders what Thrash Metal is... hand them this album.

"Jump In the Fire," "Whiplash," "Seek & Destroy," and "Metal Militia" were all like anthems to a generation of young kids who weren't hearing themselves in the likes of New Order, Talking Heads and Duran Duran... who preferred ripped jeans and a black t-shirt to polo shirts and shiny shoes. And even though the album title was changed so to be less vulgar to the eye... the original title Metal Up Your Ass does nicely state what this album brought to the table.

Here's the Hetfield/Ulrich penned "No Remorse."

4. Darrell Scott
Aloha From Nashville
Release date: April 22, 1997

Label:  Sugar Hill
You may have never heard of Darrell Scott, but you have heard his music as recorded by other folks. Like.. if you've ever heard the Dixie Chicks sing "Long Time Gone," Darryl Worley do "Family Tree," or Travis Tritt  perform "Great Day To Be Alive" you've heard Darrell Scott's genius.

He's what is known as a "songwriter's songwriter" but he is an amazing performer and singer as well. in 2010 Robert Plant tapped him to be in his Bells Of Joy. He has written songs that have been recorded by Keb Mo, Cory Morrow, Faith Hill, Guy Clark and Johnsmith. He has written with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Sam Bush, John Cowan, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Steve Earle.

This 1997 release was his first full-length. I found this one in the box of things to review that came into the office when I was reviewing CDs in college at Southwest Texas State University for the official entertainment magazine at the school: Galaxy Magazine. Instantly fell in love with his smooth Americana style and fantastic storytelling...

Epic and sad; "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive" is an amazing  inclusion on this album. It's actually been covered by Brad Paisley recently (2010) in the TV show Justified. "Heartbreak Town" is equally tear jerking.

My favorite tracks on the album are "The Ballad of Martha White" that depicts a kid discovering the truth about his first love - the Martha White Flour girl and a track called "It's the Whiskey That Eases The Pain."

The quirky and funny "Spelling Bee Romance" and "Title of the Song" wrap the album up nicely with a chuckle... showing a comical side that balances things out.... and the later song is a fantastic blueprint for a boy-band song.

BUT.. the song I want to share with you off this ablum is "It's the Whiskey That Eases the Pain."

5. Terri Hendrix
Wilory Farm
Release date: June 1998
Producer: Lloyd Maines
Label:  Wilory Records
Terri Hendrix is a true treasure. I have been blessed to watch her rise up from open mic nights at San Marcos, Texas' Triple Crown in the mid 1990s to her joining forces with the legendary Lloyd Maines and launching forward to create her own DIY empire that has taken her through almost 30 years of her fantastic and heart-on-her-sleeve musical journey.

She is a member of the infamous Cheatham Street Warehouse Songwriter's Circle "Class of 1987" that also includes Todd Snider, Hal Ketcham, John Arthur Martinez, Bruce Robison and Tish Hinojosa.

Wilory Farm is her second album, created in 1998. It marks the first time working with Lloyd Maines as a producer and these songs are gems... and they show an astounding maturity from her quirky and fun first release (which I'm also a fan of) Two Dollar Shoes.

Now, not all of the quirkiness is thrown aside... her funny ditty "Albert, The Perfect Friend" about a not so nice guy is an entertaining inclusion and speaks to her ability to deal with the lighter side while also including some heavy matter ("Walk on Me" and "Gravity"). There's also the jam-friendly tracks like "Wind Me Up" and "Sister's Apartment."

The thing about Terri Hendrix is, her perspective is so entertaining and her actual live performance is inspiring every time. My wife and I make it a point to see her every so often in order to reset our life perspective. The fact is... you can't leave a Terri show in a bad mood. he simply won't allow it. It's a dancing, singing, jamming high-fiving good time with hundreds of strangers who become friends by the end of the night.

Her live show was captured in her 2001 album Live In San Marcos, but this album is the one that laid the foundation for who she is as a performer today.

The song that I find myself singing on a weekly basis from Wilory Farm is "Hole In My Pocket" which was also covered by Ruthie Foster (who didn't make this top 10 because her landmark album, Runaway Soul came out in 2002). Here's Terri & Lloyd performing it at at Piney Woods Performances (house concert) in Conroe, Texas, on March 26, 2011.

Rounding out the top 10 are the following:

6. Styx
Kilroy Was Here
Release date: February 22, 1983
Producer: Styx
Label:  A&M Records

7. N.W.A.
Straight Outta Compton
Release date: August 8, 1988
Producers: Dr. Dre, DJ Yella
Label:  Priority Records / Ruthless Records


8. KISS 
Creatures of the Night
Release date: October 13, 1982
Producers: Michael James Jackson, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons 
--> Label:  Casablanca


9. AC/DC
Back in Black
Release date: July 25, 1980
Producers: Robert John "Mutt" Lange 
Label:  Albert / Atlantic



10. John Prine
Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings
Release date: April 4, 1995
Producer: Howie Epstein
Label:  Oh Boy

 Bonus (because this one should go to eleven)
11. Kenny Rogers
20 Great Years
Release date: November 12, 1991
Label:  Reprise

These are the albums that formed me... and that I think are still relevant and amazing. The only caveat to this list is... every one of these albums was recorded before 2000. 15 years is about the right amount of "stand the test of time" time. I had to cut a few of my choices because they aren't old enough (like Living Colour's Vivid,  Johnny Cash American IV, Eminem The Marshall Mathers EP).