Favorite Albums, pt. 2

A little while ago I started compiling a list of my favorite albums of all time. Here are a few more to add to the first 10 from my previous post.


Jennifer Knapp – Kansas

Passionate, spiritual, guitar-driven folk rock from one of the best unknown female singer-songwriters of the late 90s. Jennifer Knapp picked up a guitar in college and began crafting honest songs about her new-found faith in God, her daily struggles of dying to self and her broken past. Even those who don’t normally listen to “Christian” music could appreciate the artistry in Kansas.

Favorite songs: Whole Again, Undo Me, In the Name, Hold Me Now


Maroon 5 – Songs About Jane

Before the slick dance pop sounds of “Moves Like Jagger” and “If I Never See Your Face Again”, Maroon 5 released an independent pop/rock record that almost never made it. Two years after their 1st single, the album finally cracked the Billboard charts and two more years after that, the band won a Grammy for “This Love.”

Songs About Jane is a perfect blend of pop, rock, funk and soul and will probably always be the band’s best album. Sure, their new songs are catchy, but musically and lyrically, this is the album with the most artistry.

Favorite songs: Harder to Breathe, This Love, Shiver, Through with You, Not Coming Home


Taylor Swift – Fearless

Compared to other country queens, Taylor Swift is not a powerhouse female vocalist. But she has a decent enough voice, knows how to play guitar, piano, banjo and has a real talent for crafting lyrics that nearly ever woman at some point in her life can relate to. Fearless was a giant leap forward from her first album, and really rocketed her to stardom. The songs are a little more grown up, more vulnerable, and a little less pop than the kind of hits she’s churning out now. Lately, Swifty has traded her cowgirl boots for glittery high heels and pop tunes, but this is really the kind of music she does best.

Favorite songs: Fearless, Forever & Always, You Belong with Me, White Horse, Love Story


Butch Walker – The Spade

Butch Walker writes, produces and records music with the likes of P!ink, Fall Out Boy, Avril Lavigne, Tommy Lee and Bowling for Soup so he can make money to record amazing music like this. It’s a sound that’s hard to classify – electric guitars alongside mandolins, banjos, steel guitars and accordions, so if you’re into that kind of thing, this album is for you. Do yourself a favor and download this album immediately – not a bad song to be found on The Spade.

Favorite songs: Summer of ’89, Bodegas and Blood, Synthesizers, Bullet Belt


Flyleaf – Flyleaf

Don’t let the intense guitar rifts and occasional screams fool you – Flyleaf’s debut album is anything but angry. She may be tiny, but Lacey Sturm’s intensely personal lyrics unapologetically tell stories of life, love, death, and faith. Her gorgeous soprano voice showcases an incredible amount of control, ranging from quiet melodies to intense screams. What’s even cooler is Lacey really shouldn’t be singing at all.  Before joining Flyleaf, she was diagnosed with a tumor in her throat. The tumor miraculously disappeared and shortly after, Lacey joined the band.

Flyleaf released their third album in 2012 and shortly after, Lacey announced she was leaving the group to focus on her family and sharing her testimony as part of the Whosoevers movement.

Favorite songs: I’m So Sick, Fully Alive, Breathe Today, All Around Me, Perfect

They tell me I was born there, but I really don’t remember: Texas & New Mexico Road Trip

I love to travel. In my 29 years that I’ve been traveling, I’ve managed to visit 47 states, England, Ireland, Scotland, France, 8 Canadian Provinces, and the Southern Caribbean region. My friend Jenny and I began planning this trip around 5 months ago and managed to drive over 2,000 miles through Texas and New Mexico in 6 days, consuming as much Tex-Mex as we could. Here’s a brief re-cap of our trip:

Day 1: San Antonio, TX
Had everything gone according to plan, I would have arrived in San Antonio at 9:55 AM, but due to a mechanical error with the plane, my initial flight was delayed and I missed my connecting flight in Atlanta, causing me to be re-routed to Charlotte, then on to San Antonio where I arrived at 6:15 PM. So I missed touring the Alamo, but did get to see it at night. After dinner on the downtown River Walk, we hit the road for our hotel an hour outside of Austin.

Day 2: Austin & Waco, TX
Before heading in to Austin, Jenny and I stopped in Dripping Springs, TX to check out Hamilton Pool, a natural swimming hole and waterfall outside of the city. It was kind of neat, but looked better in the photos we had seen online.

We arrived in Austin during a busy time – SXSW was in full swing and traffic was heavy in some parts of town. I bought an extremely expensive pair of cowboy boots, we visited the state capitol and a pretty cool wall mural before stopping at the house used in the remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre on the way to Waco.

Waco is probably best known for the David Koresh/Branch Davidian cult suicides back in the 90s, but it’s also home to the Dr. Pepper Museum! We took a quick tour, then were off to Dallas for the Butch Walker concert that evening. (If you don’t know who Butch Walker is, read my previous blog here).

Day 3: Dallas, Ft. Worth, & Amarillo, TX
Our most intense day of driving – we spent over 7 hours on the road from Dallas to Tucumcari, NM. We were up early after a late night at the concert and visited the grave of notorious outlaws Bonnie and Clyde. Then we headed downtown to see the location of President Kennedy’s assassination.

In Ft. Worth, we ate at an AMAZING Tex-Mex restaurant called Torchy’s Tacos – here’s hoping they expand outside of the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. We also stopped to watch the longhorn cattle drive, which turned out to be a bit lackluster. I was expecting a stampede of cattle down the street but instead got a few, slow cows plodding along for about 5 minutes.

After that, it was off to Amarillo to check out Cadillac Ranch on old Route 66, then to Tucamcari, New Mexico to spend the night at the famous Blue Swallow motel.


Day 4: Tucumcari & Roswell, NM
Tucumcari is full of cool Route 66 attractions, so if you find yourself driving through that part of the state, it’s definitely a fun detour off the interstate. After doing a little sightseeing and trying to save a couple dogs that were aimlessly wandering the streets of Tucumcari, we headed south to Roswell, stopping along the way to visit the grave site of Billy the Kid.

I had high expectations for Roswell and was not disappointed. Alien stuff is everywhere – the streetlamps, a flying saucer shaped McDonald’s, the Crashdown diner from Roswell the TV show and the alien murals around town.

After having some fun at the UFO Museum and Research Center and the Area 51 Museum, we headed even further south to Carlsbad for the night. We arrived a little before sunset, so we decided to drive down to the caverns to see if the bats were doing their evening flights out of the cave. Officially, bat season doesn’t start until May, but there were still some bats hanging around and we got a pretty decent show after sunset.


Day 5: Carlsbad & White Sands, NM
Carlsbad Caverns is one of those places that you really need to see for yourself – photos just don’t do it justice! The formations are beautiful and look completely different from any other formations that I’ve seen before.

After we left Carlsbad, it was a scenic 2 hour drive through the mountains to White Sands National Monument. The weather was perfect – upper 70s and sunny and we took full advantage of it, changing in to shorts and doing some hiking and relaxing in the dunes for the rest of the afternoon. Watching the sun set was another indescribable moment – you have to see it for yourself.


Day 5: Albuquerque, NM
Jenny and I did some more “nature” type sightseeing around Albuquerque – checking out the Petroglyph National Monument and riding the Sandia Mountain Peak tram up 10,378 miles to the top.

We also did some shopping downtown in the old town part of Albuquerque and found some filming locations for the TV show Breaking Bad. (I’ve never seen it, but Jenny is a fan).


Day 6: Santa Fe, NM

Our last day of the trip for sightseeing (day 7 was spent flying). After spending the morning at Pecos National Monument, we checked out the state capital (not as pretty as Texas’ capitol building), the Loretto Chapel and its famous staircase, old town Santa Fe and several other mission churches.

On the way back to Albuquerque, we took a scenic drive on a highway called “The Turquoise Trail,” where we veered off the main path to see a movie ranch that is still used for filming purposes today. The set said it was closed, but that didn’t keep us from poking around for a few minutes to get some pictures.


Day 7: Heading Home

Jenny and I both had early morning flights, so we said our goodbyes at the airport and went our separate ways. It’s amazing that we did so much in such a short time – here’s to more road trips in the future!

10 Musicians You’ve Probably Never Heard Of, But Need to Give a Listen, Pt. 1


Butch Walker

Georgia-born singer/songwriter/producer Butch Walker is no stranger to the music business – he’s been performing in bands and as a solo artist since the late 80s. While you may not have heard any of his solo music, chances are you’ve heard something he’s written or produced for other musicians on the radio. Walker has penned and produced monster hits for Avril Lavigne, P!nk, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Fall Out Boy, however the songs he records for himself are drastically different than the pop anthems he’s most famous for.

Fans of lyric driven rock and roll, infused with bits and pieces of folk, country and pop, should definitely check out this incredible artist and performer.

Albums: Left of Self Centered, Letters, The Rise and Fall of Butch Walker and the Let’s Go Out Tonites, Sycamore Meadows, I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart, The Spade.
Songs You Should Download: Best Thing You Never Had, Hot Girls in Good Moods, The Weight of Her, Summer of ’89, Mixtape, Here Comes The (Heartache)


Ashley Monroe

In 2007, Ashley Monroe had a modest Country hit with Ronnie Dunn called I Don’t Want To. When her follow-up single failed to chart, she became the victim of record label politics and her debut album, Satisfied,  was shelved. Monroe parted ways with her label the next year. Satisfied eventually saw the light of day – two years after leaving Sony Music, it was released as a digital download, mysteriously without the lead single that helped her chart to begin with.

Since then, Monroe has been writing hits for Carrie Underwood and Jason Aldean and she’s also one-third of the all girl Country group Pistol Annies. Ashley signed with Warner Nashville and will release her second album in both digital download and CD format on March 5th.

Monroe has a beautiful, classic country voice and writes some truly heart-wrenching songs.  Fans of Alison Krauss and Miranda Lambert will enjoy her musical stylings.

Albums: Satisfied, Like a Rose
Songs You Should Download: I Don’t Want To, Make Room at the Bottom, Like a Rose


Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers

Massachusetts based Americana-rock band Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers have danced around mainstream success for quite some time, but never seem to really catch that big break in the music business. Their 2009 album, The Bear, cracked the Billboard Top 10 Heatseakers chart and was the #1 album in the Northeast region for a time.

Known for their high energy shows,  the SK6ERS (as their fans fondly refer to them) infuse an eclectic mix of instruments, including a tuba, accordion, mandolin, and harmonica into their roots-based blend of rock and roll. Fans of early Bob Dylan, Mumford and Sons and Mat Kearney will dig their tunes.

SK6ERS are currently on hiatus, which is really quite a shame but Stephen Kellogg is still writing and playing his solo material for fans and hopes to release an album of new material in the Spring of 2013.

Albums: Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, Glassjaw Boxer, The Bear, Gift Horse
Songs You Should Download: Anthem of Our Discovery, You’ve Changed, 4th of July, Glassjaw Boxer, Shady Esperanto and The Young Hearts, Gravity




After performing for years in a band, Tiffany Arbuckle Lee (aka Plumb), nearly quit the music business. Then a fan who had been sexually abused wrote her a letter about how her song Damaged had changed her life. The note inspired Lee to remain in the music industry and continue writing songs people could connect to.

Many of her songs have strong spiritual overtones, but aren’t exactly classified at “Christian” music. Plumb’s musical style ranges from dance pop to alternative rock and in 2007 she recorded a lullaby album after giving birth to her second child.

Like so many other artists on this list, Plumb has written a handful of hits for other musicians that you may have heard on the radio: Everywhere by Michelle Branch and I Wanna Be With You by Mandy Moore, just to name a couple.

Fans of Evanescence, Paramore and Garbage will definitely be in to her sound. Her sixth studio album releases Feb. 26th.

Albums: Plumb, Candycoatedwaterdrops, Beautiful Lumps of Coal, Chaotic Resolve, Blink, Need You Now
Songs You Should Download: Sobering, Here With Me, I Can’t Do This, Better, Motion, Hold Me, Cut


Jessica Harp

At the age of 8, Jessica Harp began writing songs. At 13, she picked up a guitar and learned to play. By the time she was 20, she’d already released an independent album of country flavored pop songs. Somewhere along the line, she met and formed a friendship with Michelle Branch, who took her out on the road as a back-up singer. Eventually, the two formed a country band called The Wreckers and had a #1 hit called Leave The Pieces.

After the success of the record, both girls decided to take a hiatus from the band and work on solo projects. Country mega stars Vince Gill and Keith Urban signed up to work with Jessica on her solo album – all the right elements for a big hit. Then the record label refused to promote it. A Woman Needs, her second single, barely charted. Frustrated over years of being snubbed in Nashville, Harp decided to walk away from music for good.

As of 2013, Harp is writing again and keeping in touch with her fans via her Twitter page. New music is hopefully on the horizon from a promising country act that never should have had her spirit broken by her record label in the first place.

Albums: Preface, Stand Still, Look Pretty, A Woman Needs
Songs You Should Download: Memphis, The Good Kind, Someone Else’s Life, Way Back Home