CD Reviews

Album Review: Aaron Watson’s ‘Vaquero’

Aaron Watson

Credit: Joseph Llanes

Aaron Watson shocked the country world in 2015 when his independent album The Underdog debuted at No. 1 on Billboard‘s Top Country Albums chart with no major support or label. The milestone made Watson the first-ever independent male country artist to have an album debut at No. 1.

Since then, the Texas singer/songwriter has been hard at work on his follow-up, Vaquero, which was released on Feb. 24. Watson wrote or co-wrote every song on the 16-track album and the record showcases his unique brand of traditional country music. Each song tells a striking story that stays with the listener long after the last note is played. Many songs include country instrumentation at the forefront whether its soaring fiddle accompaniment, boot stomping rhythms, pedal steel or acoustic guitar.

Vaquero kicks off with the sweet ballad “Texas Lullaby” about a young Texan who finds himself called off to war. While fighting for his country and fearing for his life, his love back home in Texas keeps him hopeful of returning. Meanwhile, the poignant song’s vivid imagery keeps the listener intrigued and rooting for the soldier’s safety.


While the upbeat “Take You Home Tonight” keeps listeners tapping their feet with soaring fiddle accompaniment, the nostalgic “These Old Boots Have Roots” dig deeper as Watson sings of how he’ll always stand his ground and not forget where he comes from. “So I’ll march to the beat of my heart pounding like a drum,” he sings.

Penned by himself, “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To” is one of Vaquero‘s standout tracks. It’s a song that Watson says is his best-written on the album and this is evident as the ballad has the singer looking back on his youth and remembering the important values many people were taught as children.

“So you live the kind of life so long after you’re long gone / You’ll always be there in their hearts and your love light will shine on / And someday they’ll sit around down at John T’s Country Store / They’ll be laughing over stories you told a thousand times before saying / They don’t make em like you anymore / They don’t make em like you anymore,” he sings.


Other highlights include the sultry “Run Wild Horses” with driving electric guitar and the striking “Vaquero” where Watson tells a tale of meeting a Mexican cowboy mourning his departed wife at the bar. Struggling financially, the cowboy asks Watson for a shot in exchange for some wise words. It may be the best tab he’s run up as he goes home to his wife, reassessing the blessings in his life.

“He said don’t leave your beer in the hot Texas sun / Don’t argue with a woman when she’s holding a gun / Never cheat when it comes to love or dominos . . . don’t live your life like a sad country song,” Watson sings.

Good advice runs deep on Vaquero. Another track, fittingly titled “The Arrow,” this time has Watson offering lessons he’s come to learn in his life and bestowing them on his children (and listeners). “Don’t you forget every sunset will become a sunrise soon again / So be bold and be brave and beware . . . stay razor sharp and find your mark as you go chase your dreams,” he offers.

An album that offers just as much escape as it does wisdom, Watson leaves his mark once again on Vaquero. The Texan proves just why he launched to No. 1 with his last release and if Vaquero is any indication, he will do so again.

For more on Aaron Watson, visit his website. Vaquero is available now.

CD Reviews

Album Review: Natalie Hemby’s ‘Puxico’


(Photo credit: Kate York)

Natalie Hemby is the songwriter behind many popular country songs including Miranda Lambert’s “Automatic,” Little Big Town’s “Pontoon” and Justin Moore’s “You Look Like I Need a Drink.” After nearly a decade of writing for others, Hemby has decided it’s time to release an album of her own.

“I spent my 20s trying to land a record deal, and most of my 30s writing for other people,” she says. “It’s time to put out my own record. Maybe I’m a late bloomer, or maybe it’s just finally the right time to bloom.”

The singer/songwriter is giving country fans a taste of who she is as an artist on her nine-track debut, Puxico. Written about her grandfather’s hometown of Puxico, Missouri, the album has Hemby focused on the way she was raised as well as the shared tales of her family. Much like songwriters turned artists Brandy Clark and Lori McKenna before her, Hemby’s ability as a songwriter is shown on every track with vivid imagery. The country and roots based album also allows Hemby’s voice to shine and puts her rightfully at the forefront where she belongs.

While rollicking album opener “Time Honored Tradition” sounds like a track Lambert would cut, Hemby impresses with her laidback singing style as she describes life as a troubadour before finding comfort in the city of Puxico. A kindred town filled with good company, it is one where the “first one you meet is a trusted friend” and a “glass is never half empty.”

Later, the poetic ballad “Cairo, IL” paints a similar picture of a small town where some dream of raising a family while others fantasize about leaving. On this track, Hemby’s airy vocals are accompanied by delicate pedal steel. “Ferris Wheel” follows suit and is one of the standout tracks on the LP. A metaphor for life, Hemby likens the ride to the ups and downs we all go through. “Just when you think you know how it ends, it turns you in circles back to the beginning again.” She continues, “the view is better when it’s all up in the air.”

For more of my review, visit Sounds Like Nashville.

CD Reviews

Album Review: City and Colour’s ‘If I Should Go Before You’

City and Colour

City and Colour, better known as singer-songwriter Dallas Green, released his fifth album today (Oct. 9). If I Should Go Before You is the follow-up to Green’s 2013 album The Hurry and The Harm, and encompasses 11 tracks of atmospheric folk songs that beg to be heard.

The album begins with “Woman,” an eight minute song with nearly one-and-a-half minutes of instrumentals before Green’s soothing voice is heard. Alongside distinct guitar fuzz, he holds the listener’s attention with intrigue.

Meanwhile, on “Mizzy C” the character within the song is struggling with a life out of focus and attempting to change direction in hopes to find what he’s looking for. A tale of perseverance, it’s hard not to root for the man in the song.

The title track “If I Should Go Before You” transports the listener back in time to the ’50s and ’60s when soul music was at the forefront. The slow pace of the song combined with the sweet sentiment of not wanting to leave the earth without his loved one strikes a chord. While many of the songs ease the listener in, there are plenty of upbeat songs with a memorable groove that lighten up the mood, including “Killing Time” and “Wasted Love.”



Where the title track had elements of soul music, “Runaway” and “Friends” embody a slight country feel with pedal steel and slide guitar respectively. And when he sings, “I want to live where the wild wind blows,” it’s hard not to agree.

While each track on the release stands on its own, it is Green’s first single “Lover Come Back,” a beautiful yet heartbreaking ballad, that leaves the greatest mark. It’s hard to believe he wrote the track while on vacation with his wife, but sometimes it is when we take a break from it all that the greatest inspiration strikes.



City and Colour’s new album If I Should Go Before You is available now.

CD Reviews

Album Review: Matthew Davidson’s “Step Up”

For 14-year-old Matthew Davidson, music has quickly become a lifelong passion. After he received his first toy guitar at the age of three there was no turning back. Selected to perform at the “Texas 10 under 20 Showcase” as well as playing a list of notable festivals and venues like The New Orleans Jazz Fest and B.B. King’s Blues Club in Memphis, Davidson shows no sign of slowing down.

His debut album Step Up features a blend of rock and blues on each of its four tracks. A mix of cover songs and originals, Davidson manages to make each track his own, often putting his own spin on the guitar parts.

Step Up begins with a solid cover of Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle.” The song embodies familiar licks of the guitar before Davidson’s softer vocals are heard. While it’s hard to replicate an easily recognizable song and put one’s own spin on it, Davidson manages to do just this and gives the more gritty song a softer feel. The urgency displayed in the original is heard on Davidson’s rendition however the female background singers on the chorus distracts and takes away from the energy and anthemic quality of the song.

Next track, “Gonna Be My Girl” showcases deeper vocals from Davidson with memorable electric guitar features. Despite an impressive guitar breakdown and his confident singing style, once again the backing vocalists are heard. Though the focus for the most part lies on Davidson, the additional singers continue to divert the listener’s attention.

Bluesier than the previous tracks, “Lie To Me” kicks things off with a memorable guitar introduction before Davidson’s assertive vocals are heard. Hard to believe the song is being performed by a 14-year-old, his talent is evident throughout. It’s on this track that the listener begins to hear his guitar abilities as he demonstrates his handiwork with his fast-paced and soaring rhythms. With backing vocalists that sound more like a gospel choir “Lie To Me” shows just what the previous tracks were missing.

The title of the album and a Davidson original, “Step Up” begins with gritty guitar and distinct percussion. His guitar skills continue to shine throughout the instrumental only track. An adequate glimpse into his future, the song allows him to truly stand out. Though the album would have left a greater mark if Davidson intertwined these impressive solo guitar features into each song allowing each track to be his own, Davidson’s talent is no secret. A remarkable introduction to the 14-year-old, Matthew Davidson proves he’s a force to be reckoned with on his debut release Step Up.

CD Reviews

Album Review: Remy St. Claire’s “Black & White”

 Remy St. Claire has been making music for as long as he can remember. He’s been writing lyrics since he was six-years-old, making and mimicking sounds from his everyday life. His first release, the excellent seven-track Black & White, is an introduction to his passion for music and he likens it to being born. “Coming out into the world, they always say when you’re born you go from the darkness to the light,” he said. “It felt like that for me, so that’s why I wanted to call it Black and White.”

Throughout the EP St. Claire mixes memorable soundscapes alongside vivid imagery within his lyrics. Whether he’s talking about politics, relationships or putting things into a historical context, his music impresses.

Black & White begins with wavering electric guitar on “Here and Gone.” Alongside guitar distortion and heavy percussion his inner questioning is revealed. “I am here and gone/Am I weak or strong?” he asks. Later, singing of philosophy and having nowhere to roam, the music picks up with more of a jazzy component complete with organ and St. Claire’s echoed vocals.

Next song, “Tom Foolery” adds dark strings to mimic the wind which is heard at the track’s start. Soon after the strings disappear delicate strokes of the piano enter. Meanwhile, St. Claire’s soft vocals are noticed for the first time. Showcasing his more sensitive side, “Tom Foolery” also features his powerful vocals as he perfects the crescendos. The guitar still remains at the forefront with bass heavy features. As a result, the guitar intensifies his vocals further drawing the listener in before the song ends with what sounds like the shot of a rifle.

“Up the Sound” accomplishes exactly what the title implies. Belting the lyrics alongside memorable electric guitar, the percussion tells a memorable tale. St. Claire’s higher vocal range channels a Freddie Mercury-like singing style with impeccable guitar riffs, having the standout track leave its mark.

Next track, “Too Many Left Behind” further showcases his talents with ear-grabbing guitar features and whispered vocals. Easy to envision as a part of a dramatic stage show, St. Claire’s diversity from track to track is impressive. Whether he’s whispering or yelling the lyrics, each song varies with theatrical highs and heart shattering lows.

“Nero” once again switches gears, this time with strums of the acoustic guitar and Claire’s wavering, rustic vocals. Singing with great emotion, the poignant ballad slows things down. “Time’s not where I want to go,” he sings effortlessly before the music picks back up and St. Claire’s hesitations are heard. A short track clocking in at nearly three minutes long, he manages to get his point across.

While “Nero” is the shortest track on the EP, it only makes sense that it be followed by the longest song on the release. The ethereal 10-minute long “Death On the Bayou” is melancholy and suspenseful. Throughout the song minute long instrumentals include foot-stomping rhythms alongside gritty riffs and impressive slide guitar.

“Freedom Doesn’t Come” closes the album with brighter vocals. Though he’s singing of desperation, his warm vocals and upbeat music paints an entirely different picture. “Lonesome is all that I am,” he sings passionately. With a release this strong, Remy St. Claire won’t be lonesome for too long.

CD Reviews

Album Review: Leyla Fences’ “Itty Bitty Twang Twang”


Texas born and bred singer-songwriter Leyla Fences is tired of today’s country music so she decided to do something about it. Since the songs she heard on the radio didn’t relate, she wrote some that would.


“I found myself listening to today’s mainstream country and feeling two things,” Leyla said. “One, that it didn’t sound like country music anymore and two, that even though songs today might still portray everyday life, it’s mostly only the happy, picture-perfect parts. I sure wasn’t hearing songs that I could relate to based on what I was living at the time so I decided to write about those experiences – even though they didn’t all have fairytale endings.”


All 14 of the tracks on her sophomore release Itty Bitty Twang Twang were written or co-written by Fences and portray the heartache and pain felt after a breakup, being cheated on and trying to move on. Embodying traditional country music, Fences blends her sassy style with a comedic touch.


Itty Bitty Twang Twang kicks off things right away on the tongue in cheek “Get the Truck Outta Here.” The song tells the tale of an ex trying to come back into one’s life despite having a new wife. With a distinct country twang that recalls Loretta Lynn, Fences is well on her way.


“You took me for a ride/Drove me half out my mind/Now you’re cruising back this way/Honey, I ain’t got the time,” Fences sings with catchy fiddle and steel guitar accompaniment.



Next track, “Something Right” switches gears as Fences finds herself lucky in love. In awe that her lover has decided to stay, her quirky lyrics tell a unique story. “I guess I must have done something pretty darn right in another life…Yes, I must have done some amazing Mother Teresa-like deeds/I must have done something right,” she sings. Not your typical honey-coated pop-country lyrics, Fences’ memorable writing style leave a mark on the listener.


“Pretty Lies” brings to mind another singer with a distinctive approach: Gretchen Wilson. Telling the heart-wrenching tale of catching her love red-handed with another, Fences won’t stand for it. Alongside a steady percussion beat, wavering steel guitar and compelling piano and fiddle features, Fences’ laments and moves on.


“What I Do” continues to mourn the end of a relationship with slowed instrumentals and Fences’ emotional singing style while “Too Far Gone” livens things up with fast-paced electric guitar and soulful background vocals. On “The Next Time” Fences gets out of her own situation and offers advice to a friend who has lost the passion in her love life. She should heed her own advice in her next track, the rollicking “How Things Have Changed.”


Eight tracks in and it’s evident Fences has quite the amount of heartache to get over. “Just a few more tears in my beer and I’m gonna be all right,” she sings on the twangy “One More Honky Tonk.” Meanwhile, “I Wonder” follows suit and is a relatable song in which Fences can’t help but think of what went wrong in a past relationship and whether her ex ever wonders about her.


While the soulful, piano driven “Pain Relief” quickens the pace alongside Fences’ sultry singing, “The Cards” slows things right back down. As “Trophy Wife” and “We’ll Just Figure It Out” close the album Fences’ talent continues to shine. Not shy to reveal her true emotions while exemplifying true country music icons like Loretta Lynn and Gretchen Wilson, Leyla Fences is one country artist to watch.

CD Reviews

Album Review: Matthew Mayfield’s “A Banquet For Ghosts”


Singer-songwriter Matthew Mayfield is back with his latest release A Banquet For Ghosts. His most personal release to date, Mayfield raised $17,000 to record the album via Pledge Music by selling handwritten lyrics, messages in whiskey bottles and signed guitars to his fans. The standout album reveals Mayfield’s sensitive side as he sings of lost love, relationships gone wrong and his search for answers.


“We burned away a lot of the distractions and it’s just very raw and pure and honest,” he said of the recording process.


The LP begins with the emotional “Ain’t Much More to Say.” The song tells the tale of a returning lover who has made an unwanted appearance. Mayfield’s rustic vocals are at the forefront of the track and accompanied by delicate acoustic guitar, gentle strokes of the piano and wavering pedal steel.



“Take What I Can Get” picks up the pace with Mayfield’s inner dialogue displayed throughout the track. A song he cites as the most triumphant on the record it continues to take the listener on a journey. Meanwhile, the standout “Track You Down” brings together multiple genres showcasing Mayfield’s versatility. A blend of roots, blues, country and rock, foot-stomping percussion combines with striking string features. All the while his raspy vocals only add to the track. The song transforms Mayfield from simply a singer-songwriter to a major force to reckon with.


Next song, “Heart In Wire” further demonstrates this. As he alternates from a wounded whisper to a guttural growl it’s easy to feel the pain within the song. Violin parts rise and fall at the most opportune moments and further exemplify the poignant number.



The heartbreaking “I Don’t Know You At All” follows suit while title track, the stripped down “A Banquet For Ghosts” continues the somber tone. As the emotive “Beautiful” and “Safe & Sound” close the LP it’s uncertain whether or not Mayfield found what he was looking for but he hopes his listeners have a different experience.


“I want to be that record in your ears. I want to be the sound of something that’s soothing but also something that’s really heartfelt and honest,” he said.


With such a solid release, Mayfield will no doubt succeed in this.


To purchase the album visit iTunes. To learn more about Matthew Mayfield, visit his Website.


Related Links:
Q&A with Matthew Mayfield
Artist of the Week: Matthew Mayfield
Matthew Mayfield Debuts New Video, Plus Free Track
CMJ 2010: Five Artists to Watch

CD Reviews

Album Review: Rascal Flatts' “Changed”

“I think this record is probably to date our most country record that we’ve ever done,” Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus has said of Changed.

The trio’s eighth studio album, Changed details the ups and downs we all face in life. Recorded at DeMarcus’ home studio with stripped-down production, it has a more personal and intimate feel.

“Hot In Here,” for instance, follows a blossoming relationship from the honeymoon stage, “Come Wake Me Up” demonstrates the torture heartache can bring. With poignant vocals, spot-on harmonies and memorable lyrics it’s hard not to relate to each of the 11 tracks.

Despite the major heartbreak showcased throughout the album (“She’s Leaving,” “Let It Hurt,” “Come Wake Me Up”), the music never falters. With electrifying guitar, memorable percussion, and powerful banjo throughout, the guys in Rascal Flatts continue to showcase their influence.

For my complete review, visit CBS. Rascal Flatts’ film Changed will air Thursday in over 600 theaters across the country. The movie captures the band live in concert and never-before-seen footage of each member in their daily lives.

CD Reviews

Album Review: Vintage Blue's "Strike the Mics"

After a name change and EP release, Chicago rockers Vintage Blue, formerly Tanglewood, are back with their debut full-length, Strike the Mics. The bluesy quintet impress with 13 tracks of standout vocals, powerful music accompaniment and evident rock influences. With alternating vocalists and songwriters Ben Bassett and Ryan Tibbs sharing the mic, each track is refreshingly new and unpredictable.

First track, “Set You Free” features ear-grabbing guitar riffs, powerful horn interludes and smooth harmonies. An appropriate start to Strike the Mics, the energy skyrockets throughout the entirety of the track. With driving guitar and a slight jam-band feel, Vintage Blue quickly draws the listener in.

“Unchained” captivates with a guttural scream at the track’s start before percussion and soaring electric guitar parts enter. A heavier rock number, the song showcases Vintage Blue’s musicianship with driving beats and striking vocals. With soulful keyboard accompaniment and gritty guitar throughout, Vintage Blue’s prowess is evident here as it is easy to envision them rocking in an arena setting.

“California Road” follows suit with delicate vocals and a steady drumbeat showcased. With descriptive lyrics and insightful life reflections, the band demonstrates its more serious side. Soulful background singers coupled with blasting horn features further flush out the sound.

The first single off Strike the Mics, “Speak” picks up the pace next with nearly 30 seconds of instrumentals before sultry singing is heard. With a driving beat and sexy accompanying music, it’s impossible to not tap your feet along. An adequate introduction of Vintage Blue to the rest of the music world, the song impresses.

“Hey Hey” and “Sleep On This Tonight” continues the energy before the rustic “Here To Stay” takes over. With a biting guitar riff at the song’s start before wailing vocals enter, the song embodies distinct country and rock influences. Lamenting and begging “Don’t leave me here alone,” the listener feels for the man in the song. Resembling Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl at times, the rock undertones leave a mark.

Introspective ballad “Just Breathe” strikes a chord with slowed music and heartfelt singing. With relatable lyrics and a perfected blend of music, never overpowering the story behind the song, Vintage Blue show their knack for songwriting and musicianship. “What Lies” appropriately follows with measured guitar interludes and percussion accompaniment next to dark and smooth vocals.

While the early tracks on Strike the Mics showcase Vintage Blue’s rock side, the end of the LP demonstrates the more serious nature of the band. With thoughtful lyrics, emotive vocals and yearning guitar parts, the band demonstrates their ability to easily switch gears without losing sight of who they are. Tracks like “Great Divide” satisfy with beautiful string parts and poignant harmonies. With whispered vocals that bring to mind singer-songwriter Joshua Radin, the track strikes a chord.

With the vision of placing a contemporary twist on classic rock, Vintage Blue succeed. Strike the Mics embodies 13 standout tracks that showcase the band’s ability to rock arenas while at the same time perform an intimate acoustic set. Not always an easy thing to accomplish, Vintage Blue’s debut full-length aptly showcases their staying power.

CD Reviews Concert Reviews Features

You Sing I Write's Top 11 of 2011

2011 was quite a year. Country music definitely took over America and I couldn’t be happier! I was lucky to spend a lot of time on the road traveling to music festivals like CMA Fest in Nashville and the Emerging Music Festival in Canada as well as CMJ here in New York where I discovered many new bands that I have quickly become a fan of.

Here’s You Sing I Write’s end of year list of my favorite concerts and albums released in 2011. Did I miss your favorite? Let me know! Happy New Year!

YSIW’s favorite albums of 2011

5. Amos Lee’s Mission Bell

Last year I chatted with Amos Lee before  his performance at City Winery with Lady Antebellum where he filled me in on his writing process and his upcoming release, Mission Bell. With collaborations from Lucinda Williams and Willie Nelson, Lee’s soulful album has been played continuously on my iPod since it’s January release. When asked about Mission Bell, Lee told me that he is often inspired by situations.

“Songwriting isn’t always something that’s directly proportionate to the experience. I hope that they’re [the songs] open enough that people can understand and feel whatever it is that they want to feel. That’s the beauty of music, that it’s abstract in that way. It’s not always super literal.”

4. Lights Resolve’s Feel You’re Different

Every now and then a band comes along that you just know are going to be the next big thing. That’s how I felt about Lights Resolve when I first met them on tour in 2008. The Long Island-based trio are the hardest working act I’ve come across and their debut full-length adequately proves their talent. With soaring guitar riffs that make it easy to picture them in an arena setting, Lights Resolve is one act to watch in 2012.

3. We Are Augustines’ Rise Ye Sunken Ships 

Their debut album, Brooklyn-based band We Are Augustines impress with solid rock & roll and poignant storytelling. I interviewed frontman and songwriter Billy McCarthy during CMJ and he likened writing candidly about his life to running down the street screaming your journal to rooms full of people.

“Honestly, it’s not always easy to talk about stuff in the literal sense and have to keep redoing it every night but I think it depends what kind of art you’re doing,” he says. “It is personal and I guess that’s just my commitment to the music that we’re making. I just want to be honest. It’s not always easy, but that’s what it is.”

2. Adele’s 21

There is no doubt that this was Adele’s year. She topped practically every year end list and three of her singles are in constant rotation on every radio station. Her ability as a songwriter is indisputable and she describes heartbreak so vividly that makes her immensely relatable. While her love life might have suffered this year, her record sales certainly didn’t.

1. Matthew Mayfield’s Now You’re Free

Matthew Mayfield’s album has been played in it’s entirety, more than any other album I’ve listened to this year. His deep, raspy vocals hit you right in the heart. Likewise, his descriptive and emotional tales captivate the listener wholeheartedly. He admitted to me during an interview that a song comes out better when it’s actually happened to him.

“I’m never scared because it’s like therapy for me. I need to do it, to get it out,” he said. “I feel like there’s a release that you get from putting it on paper and singing it in a song that’s healthy. It’s always been an outlet for me.”

YSIW’s favorite concerts of 2011

6. The Barr Brothers

I met half of the Barr Brothers on my flight to Canada for the Emerging Music Festival. Brad and Andrew Barr were playing in another band at the time, Muse Hill, who I caught at the festival and thoroughly enjoyed. While wandering to and from shows throughout the weekend Brad mentioned his other band, The Barr Brothers, who would be playing at Mercury Lounge the next month. Rather serendipitously, the next day his publicist reached out to me about covering the show.

I attended their first New York performance and was truly blown away and went on to see the band perform at Rockwood Music Hall and Arlene’s Grocery during CMJ and a few months later at Joe’s Pub. Each set continued to showcase the band’s talent between moving harp features, impressive percussion interludes and Brad Barr’s soulful and intriguing singing style.

5. Matt Cranstoun

I interviewed Matt Cranstoun right before his appearance at The Rock Shop during CMJ where he told me there would be gospel singers. I couldn’t remember the last show I had been to with gospel singers so of course I went and boy am I glad I did. The energy jumped off the stage into the crowd and every mouth dropped in amazement as Cranstoun captivated the room.

4. Coldplay

I’ve been so lucky to have seen Coldplay close up twice in my life, once during All Points West where I stood near the photo pit as the band performed to thousands behind me. This year, I witnessed Coldplay in a more intimate space with 100 other fans as they debuted some of the tracks off their upcoming release. Between humorous anecdotes and a stripped down performance with Chris Martin alone onstage, it was one of those reaffirming moments that I’m grateful to be a music journalist.

3. Foo Fighters

While many claim rock & roll is dead, the Foo Fighters prove it just ain’t so. Taking the stage at Ed Sullivan Theater dressed like the Beatles’ first US television performance, the band played a remarkable two-hour set. Complete with fan favorites and new hits, it was an experience I’ll never forget.

2. Kenny Chesney and Zac Brown Band

This was my first live review for Rolling Stone and a night I will remember forever. After eating lunch with Zac Brown and meeting Kenny Chesney, I headed to the New Meadowlands for an unforgettable night of music. Brown’s soulful singing combined with Chesney’s heartfelt passion and energy throughout the set is just one reason country has quickly become my favorite genre.

1. Taylor Swift

Was there really any question this wouldn’t be my No. 1 show of 2011? Seated three rows from the stage, I was in awe song after song as Taylor Swift’s elaborate set and storytelling unraveled for two glorious hours. Notebook in one hand, camera in the other my excitement never wavered. Fireworks, wedding gowns, acrobats and a balcony flying in the air were just some of the surprises I captured in my review for Billboard.