Album art by Laura Hamon
On their second full-length studio album, Midnight Morning, folk-pop duo Honey Magpie takes their gift for harmony into new territory. The Chapel Hill, North Carolina duo comprises of Rachel Hurwitz and Pippa Hoover. While their 2017 self-titled debut is firmly rooted in folk instrumentation with classical strings, Midnight Morning sees the band mixing a little more glitter with their potting soil by shifting harder into the pop music realm.
Midnight Morning’s eponymous opening track is driven by a thumping electric bassline and a steady drumbeat, while fellow Chapel Hill folkie Joseph Terrell, of Mipso fame, settles his tremelo-heavy electric guitar amid the band’s familiar string arrangements. Over this new musical landscape, Hurwitz brings the listener along for a late-night drive, “into the night, starlight, dark moon/…leaving behind empty dark rooms.” Right out of the gate, Honey Magpie lets the listener know that Midnight Morning is going to be a brand new journey.
“Dancing Under a Rainbow” is as sparkly as its title may suggest. Featuring doo-wop vocals and a lush string arrangement, the track is evocative of Electric Light Orchestra at their mid-seventies prime. For all that is going on musically, it should be noted that Hurwitz and Hoover have a gift for crafting evocative images. “Misery followed me like a thunderstorm/ It hurt like hail to the heart and lightning to the soul.” Such naturalistic pictures are prevalent throughout the entire project, reminding us that they are a folk band at heart.
Midnight Morning holds onto the folk tradition of appropriating the past to reveal a truth in the present. “Baggage and Walls” beautifully deconstructs the trope of the lonesome cowboy, seeking to appeal to his fair maiden as her only path to relevance and validation. Our cowboy in question is NC songwriter Charles Latham, who asks “Hey little lady, aren’t your arms getting tired/ Dragging that weight around?” to which our “little lady”responds “I’ve been hauling this weight around my whole life long/ Built my home up safe and strong.” Those arms are doing just fine, partner.
“Smallest Grains of Sand” closes the album and reminds us of what makes Honey Magpie so refreshing. Lush strings, pining vocals, and an understated guitar/drum rhythm combo all seamlessly flow together to evoke a sense of longing and nostalgia. As Midnight Morning’s opening track confidently invited the listener along for a rollicking journey into the dark, “Smallest Grains of Sand” finds us at the end of the road looking back and asking: what have we learned?
Midnight Morning is an inspired album that succeeds where many sophomore albums do not – it builds upon the artists’ strengths as exemplified by their debut release, while confidently exploring new territory.
Midnight Morning was produced by Jerry Brown and recorded at The Rubber Room in Chapel Hill, NC and features additional performances by Andrew Marlin of Mandolin Orange, James Wallace, and Alex Bingham. Midnight Morning is now streaming on all platforms. You can learn all about Honey Magpie at honeymagpie.com
Who Is Triston Marez, and Have You Heard His New Self-Titled Album?
As country music radio stations continue to stream the newer pop-influenced songs, country music lovers are left to debate what to consider “real country music”. More and more country music fans are getting to sigh in relief as they first hear country artist, Triston Marez. The young artist brings country music fans great hope with his many releases that conserve the rich, traditional, old school honky tonk sound at its finest; Marez brings twangin’ chicken’ pickin’ guitars, finger wrapping fiddle, heart-melting steel guitars, Texas shuffling hi-hats and lyrics that cut through souls as fans blare it out their rolled down window on their Sunday backroad drive.
The 24-year old Houston native, coming from a musical family from Oklahoma, picked up a guitar at the age of 6 and first performed live at his first grade talent show with a Buck Owens song. In 2014 at the age of 17, Marez entered and won the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo’s talent competition, instilling great hope to the young artist for a career in country music. At the age of 18, Marez moved to Nashville to further pursue his country music career and pay his dues throughout Lower Broadway. In the following years, Marez became represented by Alex Torrez, CEO of the Torrez Music Group, and began gaining traction in the Texas Country Music scene after releasing his first debut “Take Me Home” which reached no. 43 on the Texas Music Spotify chart. “Take Me Home” reflected a lot of what Marez’s career would become and what he stood for. Marez’s lyrics “country is who we are, not just where we’re from, it’s how we live, what we believe in, it’s all we’ve ever known” later saying,“I’m in a place where I don’t belong so please take me home”. As the lyrics first introduce Marez as, a blue collared, home grown, true country boy that just wants to be back in Texas, the music that accompanies Marez’s lyrics introduce his intentions of keeping country music country by conserving the traditional instrumentation.
Prior to establishing his career in the Texas Country Music scene, Marez worked as a ranch hand and even rode bulls as a hobby to support his music career. Once Marez gained traction, he began to take the scene by storm as he performed throughout Texas and appeared in many legendary dancehalls, leaving his fans cutting rugs with his songs about long nights, former flames and new love affairs. As he toured, he continued to release music that established his reputation for maintaining the traditional country music sound through his EPs, “That Was All Me” and “Until I Found You” attributing his early influences to his family’s bluegrass and fiddle talent, as well as influences from artists such as Chris LeDoux, Aaron Watson and Cody Johnson. Marez wrapped up 2020 with 6 million Spotify streams and a little over 300,000 monthly listeners, leaving fans itching for more.
After 2 EPs and numerous singles released, Marez released his first full-length, self-titled record on April 16th, 2021. Produced by David Dorn and Marez’s personal manager Alex Torres, the up-and-coming country music star once again didn’t fail to bring his fans exactly what they wanted, a traditional, honky tonk, COUNTRY record with crying steel guitars, and a Texas twang. On some songs the record also shows some influence from country music in the late 2000’s similar to artists like Kenny Chesney. Marez co-wrote 9 of 12 songs on the album, singing songs about intoxicating love, heartbreak and plenty of drinking. Marez takes it to a whole new level with contributions from country music legends and introducing tejano influences.
Here are some personal observations that came to mind regarding the lyrics and instrumentation of each song as I consumed Triston Marez’s latest self-titled album.
- Whole Lotta You: The album opens with a traditional sounding love song that Marez co-wrote with Trent Willmon who has worked with other renowned artists such as Blake Shelton, Cody Johnson, William Clark Green and Eric Church. Marez sings, “I didn’t even know it but I was searchin’ writin’ my songs I was missin’ verses right about the time I thought I was cursed then along came you” . His lyrics alludes to new found love that Marez didn’t know he was missing before realizing now all he needs is “a little bit of this livin’ and whole lotta you”. Along with the Texas twang infused lyrics, the album opener introduces the crying steel guitar, fiddle, keys and classic country sound to the rest of the album that keep his fans coming back for more.
- Day Drinking: Following “Whole Lotta You”, “Day Drinking” brings upon the first of many drinking songs on this record. However, one thing separates this drinking song from the rest. Country music legend Chris Stepleton co-wrote this drinking song with Lee Miller who has written country hits such as Garth Brooks “People Loving People”, Trace Adkins “You’re Gonna Miss This” and Brad Paisley “Perfect Storm”. Being the most steel driven song on the album, the song gives you a similar instrumental feeling as Alan Jackson’s “Livin’ On Love”. With lyrics that sing “Now day drinking leads to happy hour, and happy hour to tequila nights, and tequila nights lead to bloody mary mornings, And that gets me thinkin’ about, day drinking” takes me back to Tracy Byrd’s “Drinkin’ Bone”. Drinking along to the true essence of a country drinking song there’s no doubt that this song is an extremely well written country drinking song.
- Reason to Stay: Coming up third, “Reason to Stay” is a co-written song from Triston Marez, Danny Wyrick and Andrew Scott Wills, who co-wrote Marez’s previous top hit “Darlin’”. Singing the lyrics “I knew right then my running days were done. My getaway plan got a little upgrade. Girl, you gave me a reason to stay.” Marez expresses his intention of leaving his little town behind, but his mind that’s set on leaving is swayed into staying right where this new found love is giving him a “Reason To Stay”. Still containing a traditional sound with the steel guitar, the lyrics are sung with a slightly different sound than Triston is known for, with a groovy drum beat coming into the verse and distorted lead guitar effects pulsing through the rhythm that introduces some influence from Kenny Chesney’s “I Go Back”.
- Two Beer on the Bar: First released as a single, unlike the previous drinking song on the record, the lyrics to “Two Beer on the Bar” — co-written by Tyler Chambers, Wyatt McCubbin (Tracy Lawrence, Josh Ward, Jake Worthington etc.) and Drew Parker who wrote Luke Combs’ platinum “This One’s For You” — brings a perfect balance of a love song about falling fast and a drinking. Marez sang,“They left two beers on the bar, never even drank ’em, put five dollars in thе jukebox, left that old thing singin’ they fеll in love in a hurry took that chance, left behind the worries he took her hand, they followed their hearts they left two beers on the bar”. This song reflects on the idea of falling in love so rapidly in a bar that the couple doesn’t even have time to finish their beers. Along with the strong vocals with an underlying female harmony, the lead guitar pulses through the song with beautiful ambient sounds in the background from the steel guitar.
- Where the Neon Lies: Initially released as the first single from this record, co-written by Chris Duboise, Lynn Hutton and Triston Marez “Where the Neon Lies” may possibly be a highlight in Triston Marez’s young career as it features country music legend Ronnie Dunn! There are no words that can explain how much this song has impacted Marez’s growth as an artist as he entered the studio to record with Ronnie Dunn, who is known from the infamous country dual Brooks & Dunn. Marez comments that working with Dunn “is truly a blessing, and something I’ll always be grateful for.” The arrangement of the song allowed Marez to sing the first verse while Ronnie Dunn took over the second verse. Together Marez and Dunn harmonized through the chorus leaving the song with an ear catching, recognizable harmony that brings back the rich historic country sound of Brooks & Dunn. Together they sing the lyrics, “Where the neon lies everything’s alright whiskey melts a cold goodbye yeah, the jukebox plays and my heart don’t break ’cause I believe that she’ll come back in time where the neon lies”. Just like the infamous Brooks & Dunn “Neon Moon”, “Where the Neon Lies” brings you back to a smoke filled bar room lit by neon signs that bring comfort through a buzz that releases you from a heart-ache.
- If You Don’t Know by Now: In this slow love song co-written by Clint Daniels and Dale Dodson, who have both either written or composed for George Strait, Marez sings about who he is as a person, reminding his fans of his country boy roots singing “I’m just a country boy, right to the core I’m an old ball cap, pair of faded blue jeans and nothin’ more”. The lyrics wrap up into conclusion of what makes him who he is, is this love he has for her singing, “You’re what makes my world go round but you’ll never know if you don’t know by now” The repetitive acoustic guitar picks through this song as the steel guitars cries in the background leaving fans swaying with their lighters in the air to a slow country love song.
- Texas Swing (with Squeezebox Bandit & Jessica Roadcap): Singing along side Jessica Roadcap, this co-write between Gabe Lee and Triston Marez – which was first released as a single – “Texas Swing” shows exactly how diverse Marez is as an artist and how he enjoys conserving the diverse Texas culture with influences of traditional tejano music. The song sticks out from the other songs on the album as it is carried by an accordion and a classic guitar throughout the song with tejano influenced chord progression unlike anything you’ve heard that immediately gets me thinking of the old school Freddy Fender. The lyrics came across as a conversation with his audience as he sings “Give mе all your lovin’ what do you say? Rock me close, spin me away, uh huh huh that’s how wе do the Texas Swing” bringing his fans to the floor to dance to a traditional sound. This song could have a great impact on Marez’s career as it lends interest to the Tex-Mex community.
- Cold Cold Night: Another co-write between Andrew Scott Wills and Triston Marez brings yet another beer drinking song – first released as a single – that keeps Marez’s honky-tonk reputation going. The music speaks for itself when you question how country it is, playing its part with chicken’ pickin’ lead guitars splitting solos with the beloved steel guitar, and rhythm that keeps fans toes moving. The lyrics talk about a girl who’s leaving and taking her heart with her, but what does she leave behind? Marez sings, “The only thing that darlin’ left behind is a twenty-four pack in the fridge of blue coors light, she must have known I would need it to survive this cold cold cold cold night,” showing that despite being left with a heartache, he’ll get through the cold lonely nights with the cold blue coors light she leaves behind with him.
- Hits a Little Different: On a streak of drinking songs, Wills and Marez get some help from another up-and-coming country music artist Cody Hibbard, co-writing “Hits a Little Different” which Marez released as a single prior to the record’s debut. Growing up in smalltown, U.S.A. we see that Marez is no stranger to catching a buzz while drinking cold ones in any form they come, as he explains in the opening lines of “Hits a Little Different”. However, this beer drinking country star has more than the beer to blame for the buzz he’s got when he’s drinking with her. He sings, “cause this buzz got me feeling like it’s my first time popping a top again. Got me leaning a little closer to the smile that you’ve been giving me all night, got me feeling just right bartеnder keep ’em coming to the morning light, girl I swеar I’ve only had a few, it hits a little different when I’m drinking with you” . Although this song comes across as just another drinking song, he has this intoxicating love to blame for this buzz that lingers on with the instrumental feeling similar to the way country music sounded back in the late 2000’s.
- When She Calls Me Cowboy: In this slow love song co-written by Aaron Eshuis (who has collaborated with: Kid Rock, Cole Swindell, Josh Abbott Band etc.) and Brinley Addington (who has worked with Tyler Farr, Walker McGuire etc.) we hear a slightly different approach to the production of the song compared to the others. Although the song still contains instruments from his traditional country sound, the instrumentation steps back a little and allows more modern electric drum tracks to fill the drums role. Along with the drums, the song has a more ambient instrumentation with slightly more effects and reverb than Marez is used to. With a fiddle driving the entire song accompanied by a raw piano, it contains the organic country sound so that there’s no question if it’s still country. As Marez sings the lyrics, “When she calls me cowboy best believe I’m listenin’ pull her in close dance around the kitchen gettin’ lost in the eyes of my shotgun rider, I’m ten feet tall when I’m beside her, nothin’ else in the whole world matters gets this old boy back in the saddle like the sweet sound of the ‘need you’ in her voice. When she calls me cowboy,” the relatable storytelling lyrics brief on becoming busy in life but still having that love by your side that makes nothing else in the world matter. Although this song introduces a slightly different sound than you expect from Marez, it doesn’t shy away from melting fans heart with the beauty of its lyrics.
- She’s Had Enough of Texas: On the second to last song on this record, the co-written song by Danny Myrick (Tim McGraw, Craig Morgan etc.), Jeff Middleton (Jason Aldean, Morgan Wallen, Randy Rogers Band etc.) and Triston Marez, “She’s Had Enough of Texas” keeps things moving along with it’s train shuffling drums with the cry of a steel guitar. Singing about a girl that has had enough of the country life, in my opinion “She’s Had Enough of Texas” has the best imagery out of any of the songs on the record coming into the first verse that really paints a picture from these lyrics. As he sings of this girl that leaves the life he’s associated with behind, Marez sings, “Well she’s had enough of Texas, she’s had enough of me. She went California dreamin’, left me Lone Star lonely. Them bluest eyes no they didn’t cry, just smiled and tipped her hat, yeah she’s had еnough of Texas and she ain’t comin’ back.” As she moves on Marez stays the same, working on his “dancehall neon tan” adding to similar country songs such as Cody Johnson, “Me and My Kind” with the reminder that he’s a Texas Country Artist.
- Drink About Me: As the final song on the record that wraps up everything that the record has to say, Andrew Scott Wills appears as a songwriter for the third time on this record co-writing the closing song with Jamie Renae and Triston Marez. This final song “Drink About Me”, reflects all the values the other songs had individually held with their lyrics and instrumentation. The lyrics sing about drinking over love that’s been left behind and is reminisced over. The Instrumentation contributed both a modern produced sound as well as a conservetive traditional raw sound highlighting the great collaboration the young artist was able to release into the world. To close out Marez’s first full-length album he sings, “Yeah you still drink about me, you say you moved on but you ain’t moved far ’cause at a half past three you’ll be callin’ my phone askin’ if I’m home but in the mornin’ light you’ll blame it on the whisky always sayin’ it’s a one-time thing you say you don’t think about me, but we both know that you drink about me”. Aside from the lyrics pointing towards a former love affair, the final song establishes that Triston Marez is to be drank over.
With his new full-length self-titled album full of influence from traditional country, 2000’s country and tejeno music, Triston Marez continues to gain a following across Texas while conserving country music for years to come. This album is only the beginning for this young artist that continues to grow, so hop on the Triston Marez train now while he still plays in your favorite dance halls. There’s no doubt that this Texas artist’s appreciation for real country music will take him all the way to the top with the love of country music fans that fight to keep the beloved sound alive.
James Pierce: Records on the Shelf Review
There is nothing in the world that excites me more than good, new music. So when James Pierce reached out to me to listen to his new EP I jumped at the chance! Pierce’s new EP Records on the Shelf comes out on February first, and let me tell you, it’s a must listen!
James Pierce is an extremely talented singer/ songwriter in the Texas Country, Americana and Red Dirt music scene. He has been writing songs for over a decade and trust me- you can tell! His lyrics are heartfelt and authentic just like any true Texas song should be.
Records on the Shelf features 5 new songs. They all instantly became favorites of mine! Here’s a sneak peek at what you have to look forward to.
“Monster”- “Monster” is a fun song about drug addiction. I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for songs about jail, but trust me. This slow soothing, tune with edgy lyrics is addicting. This song gives me William Clark Green “Dead or in Jail” vibes, but with a side of remorse that isn’t touched on by William. It’s interesting to hear a song about a different side of addiction.
“One Good Lie”- OHHHH MAN DO I LOVE THIS ONE! This song about reflecting on life is relatable and so catchy. The chorus resonates with everyone: “I don’t fly as high as I used to, I don’t dream as deeply as I probably should, another trip around the sun, another year to get it right, give me one good story give me one good lie.”
“Records on the Shelf”- The title track to this EP definitely lives up to being the namesake. Any music lover will immediately love this one. I mean is there anyone that doesn’t relate to “records on the shelf remind me of home?”
“Save the Dirt”- This sweet song about living while you’re alive is amazing. The lyrics “Save the dirt for the flowers ’till I return” is the perfect message. This song is my personal favorite.
“Your Friend St. Peter”- Lastly, “Your Friend St. Peter” ends this EP perfectly. The descriptive lyrics and remorseful, but learned messages show exactly what Pierce’s writing is all about. “Your Friend St. Peter” reminds listeners to call their parents, and to appreciate how far they’ve come from all the places they’ve been.
Make sure to check out Records on the Shelf Monday February 1!
Reviewing The New Ransom Brothers Songs
If you haven’t checked out my last article on the Ransom Brothers (psst- check it out here) you may have missed the completely badass single “Fear of Missing Out.” However, if you’re like me and live for southern rock and outlaw music you may have been waiting not-so-patiently for a new song. Luckily for you, “High Hopes” was released on October 1.
Anyway, I was sitting around when I got this DM from the amazing Ransom Brothers themselves. We set up an interview and I was completely blown away by their stories and writing. Not only are they incredibly talented, but also so humble and kind that I want to be their new best friend. They then showed me their two new upcoming singles and let me just say they are total bangers. I couldn’t just keep these songs to myself, so here’s the rundown of the new and unreleased upcoming Ransom Brothers singles to look forward to in the next two months.
High Hopes (Oct.1)
“High Hopes” is a southern rock n’ roll blues song about life on the road. If you’re not carefully listening to the lyrics you may have missed the line “she asked me how I got so skinny, said I’ve been stuck out in the snow.” This song transports you to dingy bars and the fist-fight type of high-life in the best way. Despite all that, you would never guess where it was written. Sean McHargue of the Ransom Brothers stated that the song came to him while washing windows. He recalled thinking that all he had securing him was “good gear and high hopes,” and with that “High Hopes” was created. “High Hopes” is out now so don’t forget to download and stream it!
Part of the Show (Nov. 6)
I am a sucker for two things in music- good lyrics and a harmonica. This song was guaranteed to be an all time favorite before the line “kiss my ass and go to hell is just like hello” even happened. The part I initially missed however, is who said it. “Part of the Show” hints at a piece of a show that is less visible to the untrained eye- a groupie. From working out little kinks in the show to being “supportive” (read that however you please), groupies, or at least this one, was a “Part of the Show.”
Kodiak (Dec. 4)
“Kodiak” is all about the story. “Kodiak” tells the story of venturing to Kodiak, Alaska and the journey four men went on for $10,000. The lyrics “if you’re too married, or too old or too scared to face the cold, lock your door and hold your woman by your side. Don’t complain when my boys come tearing down that rock, gold enough to buy this land far and wide” don’t even begin to sum up how great these lyrics are. Now ready for the huge shock? This story is entirely fictional. I’m not proud to admit I spent some time googling Captain Montgomery trying to figure out why this man doesn’t have a movie. While the great bear fight of Kodiak allegedly never happened, the message behind the song is true. There will be plenty of people in life promising great riches, yet sticking to your path and what your goals are is far more worthwhile. Get ready for the cold in December, “Kodiak” brings it all.
Every song the Ransom Brothers have put out is extremely well written. I know personally that I love their sound and cannot wait to see what else comes out in the future. “Part of the Show” and “Kodiak” will be released in November and December, but “Fear Of Missing Out” and “High Hopes” are available to stream now!