The Most Influential Albums in My Life (Part 1)


When reading or listening to interviews with rocks stars I always find it fascinating to discover their choices for the most influential albums in their life.  As a total music junkie myself, today I thought it would be fun to share my own choices for the most influential albums in my life.  I’ve chosen these albums not only because they’re filled with some of my favorite songs (both lyrically & musically), but also because they are the kind of albums that helped me discover bands or genres with which I wasn’t previously familiar.  Anyhow, as I was writing I realized this was becoming quite a novel, so I decided to split it into two posts.  Here’s part one:music quote

  1. The Golden Age of Grotesque by Marilyn Manson (2003)
    • Despite the fact that this was by far not his most well-reviewed or commercially successful work, this will probably always be my favorite Manson album.  What’s interesting is that several of my favorite rock stars, including Chris from Motionless in White, have listed this as one of the most influential albums in their lives as well.  Stylistically this album was largely influenced by the Degenerate Art of 1930s Germany (the kind of modern art the Nazis banned), so there is a definite jazz feeling to certain songs which I of course love (check out the bizarrely named but incredibly fun Doll-Dagga-Buzz-Buzz-Ziggety-Zag). golden age of grotesque There is also a strong electronic influence from Swedish bassist Tim Skold. This can be clearly heard on the song that made me fall in love with this album, This is the New Shit, which is lyrically every bit as, if not more, relevant now than it was when it was released thirteen years ago.  Those who don’t understand that Manson’s music has always been a reaction against the celebration of violence, gore, sex, & commercialism in modern (particularly American) culture will completely miss the point of this song.  Personally, I find it brilliant.  Another favorite of mine from this album is the slightly crude but clever (s)aint.  I think anyone who has ever felt rejected by their peers will understand the angst of the lyrics perfectly.  Other favorites from this album are VodevilBetter of Two Evils, & The Bright Young Things.  I could go on & on, but for sake of time I’ll end by saying you simply MUST check out this album.
  2. Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) by Marilyn Manson (2000)holywood
    • For the most part I tried to only include one album from a single band or artist but Manson is just too much of an influence to limit myself in that way.  When I first fell in love with Manson, I quickly became enamored with the music & the message of The Fight Song, one of the most well-known songs from this album, but if you dig deeper into the history of this record you will realize just how brilliant the whole album really is.  One must remember that in 1999 Manson was very unjustly blamed by a great deal of the American media for the Columbine high school shooting tragedy.  What’s fascinating of course is to realize how maturely & humbly Manson handled the entire ordeal which truly threatened to topple his entire career (read Manson’s essay in Rolling Stone & tell me he isn’t brilliant).  In any case, this record was clearly influenced by the entire tragedy & is Manson’s way of showcasing to the world just how much our society truly glorifies & celebrates violence while at the same time pretending to condemn it.  There are also strong historical references to the Kennedy era.  This is not an album you can digest in one sitting.  Like any truly great work of art, you discover something new every time you listen to it.  And like so much of Manson’s music, songs like The Love SongDisposable Teens, & Target Audience are every bit as much of an indictment of modern American society now as they were when the album was first released.
  3. Halestorm by Halestorm (2009)halestorm albm
    • If I had to choose a favorite of Halestorm’s three amazing albums, it would actually be their most recent release Into the Wild Life.  However, it was their debut album from 2009 that first caught my attention & made me fall in love with the band.  The first single I Get Off admittedly grabbed my attention partly because it initially sounds very sexual.  But when you realize that Lzzy Hale actually wrote the song about the interaction between herself & the crowd when she’s performing her music, the song takes on a whole new power.  Then there are more ballad-like tracks such as Familiar Taste of Poison with its haunting, almost gothic feel & I’m Not an Angel which perfectly showcases Lzzy’s soaring vocals.  I’ve listened to this album literally countless times & yet it never loses its power, & I’m continually amazed that this was a debut album.  It’s definitely the album that started my love affair with this band.  (I’ve only seen them live four times now, & I’d gladly go again tomorrow, given the chance.  Fun fact: my baby has already attended a Halestorm concert too because I found out I was pregnant exactly three days after the last Halestorm show I saw!)
  4. The House of Gold & Bones (Volumes 1 & 2) by Stone Sour (2012-2013)stone sour house of gold and bones
    • I can’t even remember what other album I was looking for at Best Buy when, on a whim, I decided to pick up Volume 1 of this incredible two-part concept album.  Prior to buying Volume 1 I only knew a handful of songs by Stone Sour, but I was definitely enamored with the first single Absolute Zero which is why I decided to pick up the album when I saw it on sale.  As it turned out, the minute I heard the first chords of the opening tract Gone Sovereign & how it seamlessly melted into Absolute Zero, I was in total awe (you can listen to both tracks in the prior link, as their videos are dovetailed).  From start to finish there isn’t a single bad song on this album. Lyrically & musically it is completely brilliant.  I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: this album is like a rock symphony.  Each song blends flawlessly into the next one, & the whole record just feels like one giant masterpiece.  The same is equally true for Volume 2.  From Volume 1 don’t miss the hauntingly beautiful ballad Taciturn which serves to make the following track Influence of a Drowsy God even more powerful.  From Volume 2 be sure to check out the angry but brilliant Do Me a Favor as well as the gorgeous ballad The Conflagration which flows seamlessly into the epic ending The House of Gold & Bones.
  5. The Outsiders by Eric Church (2014)eric church the outsiders
    • Ahh, if you know me at all, you should have known that Eric Church would show up on this list somewhere.  The ironic thing is that when I first heard Church’s music I wasn’t impressed.  I thought he was a little too grungy, a little too “dirty.”  What’s funny is that now those are the exact reasons I love his music.  In any case, seeing Church perform live was what truly solidified my adoration for his entire persona (a fact I’m sure he’d appreciate).  Not long after that concert I purchased his third album Chief & quickly fell in love with every song.  Needless to say when The Outsiders debuted I bought it the very day it was released.  Once again from start to finish I was completely enthralled with the album & still am.  From the gritty & bombastic opener The Outsiders to sweet ballads like Talladega to the best & most realistic country sex song ever, there’s something here for everyone.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention That’s Damn Rock & Roll, another favorite from this album, which I’ve only loved even more since Church had Lzzy Hale perform the song with him at the 2014 ACM awards.  I also have to mention Devil, Devil, one of the most unique songs Church has ever recorded.  The first half of the song is a poem spoken by Church about the evil side of the Nashville music industry while the second half is a rocking song that is all the more powerful when performed live by Church & his band.
  6. Reincarnate by Motionless in White (2014)Motionless_in_white_reincarnate
    • This album absolutely has to be on this list because it became what one might call a “gateway” album for me in that it helped me to discover so many other great bands & albums.  Last January (2015) I stumbled across MIW while fooling around on YouTube one night, & as soon as I heard Reincarnate, I knew I was addicted.  The very next day I went to Best Buy & bought the album of the same name.  From the minute I heard the first chords of Death March I knew I’d stumbled onto something really special.  A few weeks later I discovered that lead singer Chris Motionless was featured on the cover of AP magazine, so naturally I went to B&N to buy the magazine.  While reading the magazine I came across an interview with none other than Marilyn Manson.  Up until then I’d never been a big Manson fan.  I wasn’t opposed to him per se; I just thought he was weird.  But once I read that article, I knew I had misjudged him & I had to check out his brand new record The Pale Emperor, which I swiftly did.  Not long after that, I discovered much of his older music & became as obsessed with Manson as I clearly am now.  See what I mean by a gateway album?  Ok, now that I’ve gone off on that tangent, let’s return to the original subject . . . Be sure to check out the angry & feisty Generation Lost, the confidence-booster Unstoppable, & Contemptress, a sexy ballad featuring Maria Brink from In This Moment.

      chris motionless quote

      Chris Motionless

I sincerely hope you’ll check out some of the above albums, at least a song or two from each.  Please feel free to comment below with some of the most influential albums in your own life.  Stay tuned for part 2 next week (or later this week, perhaps) which I promise will contain at least one non-rock album (ha!).

10 Best Rock/Metal Covers


To those who aren’t as obsessed with music, particularly rock/metal, as I am I realize my last few posts have all been about music, & today’s post follows the same theme.  Sorry but I’m not sorry.

Anyway, some time in the past week it occurred to me that it would be fun to create a compilation of my favorite rock/metal covers. This was probably inspired by hearing the awesome cover song on the brand new Black Stone Cherry album which debuted just ten days ago.  Without further ado, here are my picks for the best rock/metal covers.manson music magic

  1. The Sound of Silence by Disturbed: As much as I love the original Simon & Garfunkel version of this song, I was actually a little surprised to find how much I love this cover of the classic song.  But there is just no denying that David Draiman’s hauntingly beautiful voice combined with the unique instrumentation from his bandmates makes this song at least as good, & possibly better, than the original version of the song.  Perhaps part of the reason this song is so amazing is that it’s so unexpected from such a heavy band as Disturbed.  Whatever the reason, I’m thankful the band decided to record this on their latest album because it is truly a treat for the ears.immortalized
  2. War by Black Stone Cherry: As I stated above, this is the song that inspired me to write this post.  As soon as I heard this cover of the classic Edwin Starr song I was blown away.  The song is fresher & more powerful than ever with Chris Robertson’s soulful vocals leading the way.  It’s a perfect addition to their latest album.BSC Kentucky
  3. Sweet Dreams by Marilyn Manson: I’ve written about this song on the blog before.  It was the first song I ever truly liked by Manson.  I still remember driving to Blacksburg one night in college & hearing this song on the radio.  Instinctively I knew it had to be Manson & part of me didn’t want to like it because of that.  But I just couldn’t deny the fact that the song was both creepy & powerful.  In the ensuing years, as it turns out, I’ve actually become a big Manson fan, but it all started with this amazing cover.marilyn manson
  4. Tainted Love by Marilyn Manson: Trust me, Manson has plenty of amazing original songs too, but I would feel remiss if I didn’t also include his cover of this classic song.  Manson’s gritty voice somehow fits the vibe of the song perfectly, & when I listen to it I almost find it hard to believe that this isn’t the original version of the song.tainted love
  5. Bad Romance by Halestorm: I love the original Lady Gaga version of this song, but I must confess that I like the Halestorm cover of it even more.  The first time I heard it I was just amazed because I had never imagined that Halestorm would cover a pop song like this, but there is no question that they did a damn good job of it.  Just as a bonus, also check out Halestorm’s cover of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky.  LzzyHale
  6. Careless Whisper by Seether: When I first heard this song I had no idea it was a cover, as I was never familiar with the original version of the song by George Michael.  In any case the cover of this song by the South African band Seether does great justice to the song.  Seether - Careless Whisper
  7. Bad Company by Five Finger Death Punch: Here’s another song that I didn’t originally realize was a cover because I wasn’t familiar with the original song.  Ivan Moody’s strong voice coupled with the hauntingly beautiful instrumentation from his bandmates makes this song both enchanting & powerful.  As a bonus, also check out FFDP’s cover of The House of the Rising Sun (the song starts at 1:45 into the video).FFDPBadCompany
  8. Blank Space by I Prevail: This song has a fun story behind it because it’s actually this amazing cover of a Taylor Swift song that propelled this brand new rock band from Michigan into stardom.  I distinctly remember a friend from work showing me this song on YouTube one night, & I quickly delved into the band’s original songs after realizing how amazing the band really was.  The video quickly attained over a million views on YouTube & now stands at over 21 million views.  Not bad for a band just working on their very first album!I prevail
  9. Turn Down for What by Upon a Burning Body: I absolutely HATED the original version of this song, but when I found this amazing cover of it by the Texas heavy metal band Upon a Burning Body I was blown away.  As it turns out this song helped introduce me to more of UABB’s music of which I am now a big fan.  Warning: this song is NSFW (or children).UABB Punk Goes'
  10. Losing My Religion by Lacuna Coil: This is yet another cover song that helped introduce me to a band’s original work, in this case the Italian band Lacuna Coil.  I’ve always loved the original version of this song by R.E.M. so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about a cover of it, but as soon as I heard the interplay between singers Christina Scabbia & Andrea Ferro I was in love.Lacuna CoilWell, that’s all for today, folks.  Happy Monday, & I hope you all have a terrific week!

I Am the Fire


I don’t usually do short blog posts like this, but for some reason I feel compelled to write this one today, so here we go.  Perhaps it’s because it’s a Monday morning which marks the start of a new work week.  Perhaps it’s because in addition to that it’s February 1 which often times marks the day on which many of us realize just how poorly we’ve done with our new year’s resolutions.  destiny choice

In any case, today just feels like a day on which a lot of us could use some motivation, a good swift kick in the ass to remind us that the only thing standing between us & our goals is US . . . And any & all of the inordinate number of excuses we so masterfully create!  If we spent as much energy working towards our goals as we do creating elaborate excuses for ourselves, imagine how much we could accomplish?  In other words, no one has the power to change your life except YOU!  While initially this might seem scary, I choose to think of it as empowering.  And you can definitely do the same.change yesterday

With all of that self-empowerment in mind, I’d like to share one of my favorite songs off of Halestorm’s latest album Into the Wild Life (which some of you may recognize as my choice for the best album of 2015).  If this song doesn’t make you feel like you’re ready to take on the world, I don’t know what will.

into the wild life

You need this album. You really do.

Here are the lyrics:

Am I brave enough?
Am I strong enough?
To follow the desire
That burns from within
To push away my fear
To stand where I’m afraid
I am through with this
Cause I am more than this
I promise to myself
Alone & no one else
My flame is rising higher

I am the fire
I am burning brighter
Roaring like a storm
And I am the one I’ve been waiting for
Screaming like a siren
Alive & burning brighter
I am the fire

I’ve been sacrificed
My heart’s been cauterized
Hanging on to hope
Shackled by the ghost
Of what I once believed
That I could never be
What’s right in front of me

I am the fire
I am burning brighter
Roaring like a storm
And I am the one I’ve been waiting for
Screaming like a siren
Alive & burning brighter
I am the fire

I don’t believe I’ll fall from grace
Won’t let the past decide my fate
Leave forgiveness in my wake
Take the love that I’ve embraced

I promise to myself, me & no one else
I am more than this
I am the fire…

I am the fire
I am burning brighter
Roaring like a storm
And I am the one I’ve been waiting for
Screaming like a siren
Alive & burning brighter
I am the fire

change your life

Best Albums of 2015


I’m starting the year off right . . . with a mild case of pneumonia.  Woohoo!  For someone who’s never smoked & never spent any significant amount of time around people who do, I definitely don’t have the most robust lungs known to man (or woman).  Oh well, at least I have a few days off of work anyway, & it’s an excuse to be lazy & binge watch New Girl on Netflix (season 4 just became available!!) with Chaucer (our corgi) at my side.  AND I can finally get around to writing one of my favorite posts of the year.

That’s right, it’s time to share my picks for the best albums of 2015.  I couldn’t narrow it down to just 10 this year because there were simply too many great new albums from which to choose.  You’ll notice most of them fall under the rock/metal genre, but there are a few country albums in the mix also.

13. Up by Pop Evilup pop evil

I have to admit that initially I wasn’t too impressed with Pop Evil’s latest venture simply because I missed the heaviness of much of their previous album, Onyx.  However, over time I’ve come to appreciate quite a few of the songs.  While I was excited to see them get some mainstream attention with the Dodge commercial that featured the lead single Footsteps, I have to admit that is definitely not my favorite song on the album.  My favorite is actually one of the extra songs on the deluxe version of the album entitled My Confessions.  While I love their heavier pieces, I have to admit that Pop Evil really shines on more ballad-like pieces like this one (as well as Silence & Scars from Onyx & Stepping Stone from their debut album). I’m also a big fan of the current single Ways to Get High for which the band made a really funky psychedelic video that is reminiscent of the 60s-70s (at least in my mind).  Also be sure to check out one of the heaviest tracks on the record Take It All which makes for a great workout song.

12. Got Your Six by Five Finger Death Punchffdp got your six

After an on-stage meltdown in Memphis in May, like many fans I was a bit afraid of what was going to become of the band after such an embarrassing incident.  However, true to form the guys that make up FFDP returned as strong as ever with their sixth album with the military inspired title Got Your Six.  Don’t miss the title track or Jekyll & Hyde with its hilarious video featuring bassist Chris Kael knitting a baby sock, among other bizarre images.  It’s also really fascinating that the verses of the song are largely lifted straight from voicemails that vocalist Ivan Moody left on guitarist Jason Hook’s phone . . . genius!  Some of my other favorites include Wash It All Away (which has a great live performance video), Digging My Own Grave, & I Apologize.

11. Silence in the Snow by TriviumSilence_in_the_SnowTrivium are an insanely talented band based out of Florida who have been going strong since they were literally teenagers.  However, I didn’t really get into their music until Strife from their previous album Vengeance Falls caught my attention.  After that, I was hooked, but there is no doubt in my mind this year’s album, their seventh, is their best work yet.  I for one am in love with Matt Heafy’s more melodic singing which is excellently featured on the title track Silence in the Snow.  Some of my other favorites include The Ghost That’s Haunting YouThe Thing That’s Killing Me, & the empowering Rise Above the Tides.

10. Dark Before Dawn by Breaking Benjamindark before dawn

I actually already wrote an entire post about this album back when it debuted, so I’ll just direct you to that post here.

9. Threat to Survival by ShinedownThreat_To_Survival_by_Shinedown

I’m still very much in love with Shinedown’s previous album Amaryllis, but this year’s record is every bit as good, albeit a bit different.  I think some fans have been disappointed with the “softer” side of Shinedown featured on this album, & while I understand that, I can’t deny that lyrically & musically Threat to Survival is a phenomenal work of art.  The lead single Cut the Cord is definitely the heaviest piece on the album & naturally one of my favorites.  However, I also love two of the more ballad-like songs, Thick as Thieves & Misfits; lyrically they are both very powerful.  For an empowering piece, don’t miss Dangerous.

8. That’s the Spirit by Bring Me the HorizonBMTH_Thats_The_Spirit_featured_

While I’ll be the first to admit that BMTH’s previous album Sempiternal is still my favorite from this British quartet, this year’s album is doubtless a great listen.  Lyrically Oliver Sykes has certainly done some of his best work to date.  My favorite piece on the album is Avalanche which is a fantastic song about mental illness.  As someone who struggles with anxiety, I couldn’t be more grateful for this song.  I’m also a big fan of True Friends & of course Drown, the latter of which is the song that originally made me fan of BMTH.  I don’t see how you could listen to Drown & not be moved.

7. The Pale Emperor by Marilyn Mansonmanson pale emperor

Ah, Marilyn Manson . . . I know some folks think he’s way past his prime, but I for one am not one of those.  I actually prefer the older, more mature version of Manson, although when I say that I’m referring less to the actual music & more to his general personality & antics.  In any case, I first became interested in The Pale Emperor when I read an interview with MM about the album in Alternative Press magazine last January.  When I read the interview, I was so impressed with how clearly intelligent Manson is that I quickly went out & bought the album, & a few months later I read (& thoroughly enjoyed) his autobiography.  Anyway, back to the album . . . The Pale Emperor certainly finds Manson exploring a rather different side of himself with much more bluesy sounds, but it’s still very much dark & true to form.  I think 2003’s The Golden Age of the Grotesque will always be my favorite MM album, but this one is definitely a close second.  MM’s voice is certainly as perfect as ever, & I love that even at 46 (47 as of last week actually) he isn’t afraid to try something new.  Be sure to check out Third Day of a Seven Day Binge with its infectious beat, Killing StrangersBirds of Hell Awaiting with its dark jazzy feel, & Odds of Even which was inspired by the death of Manson’s mother & features a recording of coyotes howling which Manson captured on his phone.

6. Mr. Misunderstood by Eric Churcheric-church-mr-misunderstood1

Eric Church certainly took the world by surprise with this album . . . literally.  There was zero press leading up to the release of this album, but hey, it’s Eric Church; we should know by now he does things his own way, & that’s exactly why we love him so much!  Church has often said he doesn’t write albums quickly, so I was legitimately surprised to find him releasing a new album only about a year and a half after the release of The Outsiders.  This album is certainly a far cry from that one, but that’s just another reason Eric Church is such a genius.  Like any real musician, he’s constantly evolving, & he’s never afraid to step outside the boundaries of the country music genre & try a little rock & roll, a little blues, a little gospel, basically a little whatever the hell he wants!  While The Outsiders explored a more rock & roll sound, Mr. Misunderstood rather feels like Church is bringing back old-fashioned country with touches of gospel & soul.  For his next album, who knows what he’ll explore; whatever it is, it’s sure to be brilliant.  Anyhow, the title track finds Church exploring his journey into music, while Mistress Named Music showcases a more gospel sound.  Don’t miss the story-telling tracks Knives of New Orleans & Chattanooga Lucy, the latter of which also features some delightful gospel/soul elements.  There there’s the lyrically brilliant Kill a Word, not to mention the cleverly crafted Record Year.

5. Immortalized by Disturbedimmortalized

After a 4 year hiatus, like many fans I was hungry for some new Disturbed music, & their latest album did not disappoint in the least.  From the title track to The Vengeful One, there isn’t a bad song on this album.  Be sure not to miss the unexpected cover of Sound of Silence which beautifully features David Draiman’s haunting voice.  Another favorite of mine is Who Taught You How to Hate which contains the incredibly powerful lyrics that inspired this post.

4. Venom by Bullet For My ValentineBFMV_Venom

Though I’ve enjoyed a few of their singles before, particularly Your Betrayal, the song that introduced me to BFMV, this is actually the first full album I’ve ever bought from this Welsh metal band.  And let me tell you, every inch of it is brilliant.  With heavy hitting songs like You Want a Battle (Here’s a War) & No Way OutVenom makes for a fantastic work-out disc.  Don’t miss the fun song about their fans Army of Noise as well as the more melodic title track.

3. Malevolence by New Year’s Daymalevolence

I first heard of New Year’s Day when I discovered the amazing collaboration they did with Chris from Motionless in White in the song Angel Eyes.  However, it wasn’t till a few weeks ago that I started exploring more of NYD’s work, & I’m so glad I did because their third album which debuted in October has quickly become one of my all-time favorite albums.  You will be greatly remiss if you do not check out the powerful title track which perfectly features Ash Costello’s beautiful but fierce voice.  Some of my other favorites include the empowering Anthem of the UnwantedLeft Inside, & Defame Me.  From start to finish, there isn’t a bad song on this album, & I beg you to check it out.

2. Pageant Material by Kacey Musgravespageant materialI’ve often written about Kacey Musgraves on this blog because her lyrics are just so meaningful to me, so it should come as no surprise to see her second album near the top of this list.  My favorite song from the album is easily Somebody to Love with its beautiful & timeless message about the humanity that unites us all.  I wrote a bit about the title track in this post from July.  Other favorites include Die FunBiscuits, & Fine.  As with her debut album, there isn’t a bad song on this disc, & there’s certainly a maturity & sincerity to her lyrics that sets Kacey Musgraves far above most of her contemporaries, many of whom are considerably older & more experienced than her.  Don’t miss this one.

  1. Into the Wild Life by Halestorm
into the wild life

You need this album. You really do.

Considering I’ve often written about Halestorm before, again it should come as no surprise to see their latest album at the top of this list.  To be completely honest, when I first listened to Into the Wild Life I wasn’t sure what to think.  I liked it of course, but it was so raw, so different in certain ways from their previous albums, that I was just a little shaken.  But I couldn’t deny that it was anything short of amazing.  As with most truly great albums, the more I listened, the more I fell in love with the music.  From the infectious anthem of singles like Amen & Apocalyptic to the heavy-hitting Mayhem, there is once again not a single bad song on this record.  Lzzy’s voice is fantastically featured on the powerful ballad Dear Daughter as well as on my personal favorite (though it’s nigh impossible to choose) I Like It Heavy.  Some of my best memories from 2015 are definitely seeing Halestorm in concert twice, first at Carolina Rebellion in May & later on the Jagermeister Tour in September.  I might have initially been a little puzzled by Halestorm’s latest effort, but after a few listens I realized this record only solidifies why they are indeed my all-time favorite band.  Interestingly, this album was produced by Jay Joyce who has coincidentally produced all of Eric Church’s albums, & of course Halestorm toured a bit with Church in 2014 . . . Hmmm . . . Anyway, if you don’t check out any other albums on this list, be sure to make it this one.  You won’t regret it.

That’s it folks.  You have no excuse for not checking out some of these fabulous albums as I’ve so kindly provided links to my favorite songs off of each one. So enjoy them!  Cheers!

46 Things I Want to Teach My Children Someday


As some of you may know, for many years I was quite sure I never wanted to have children.  Deep down I knew I’d probably change my mind someday but I just couldn’t imagine that ever happening.  I’ve just never been one of those women who instantly connects with children or feels really comfortable with them.  Perhaps this is because I wasn’t the happiest child myself; indeed I was always in a hurry to grow up & I’ve never been happier than I have been since I reached adulthood.

As it so happens, I’ve been thinking A LOT about becoming a mom lately.  It’s probably partly due to having Chaucer (my dog) & watching him grow up & how wonderful that is.  And it’s probably partly because I’m 26 so I’m hitting what might be considered a normal age to start having kids.  (Hell, where I grew up I’m already far behind!)

Our Welch corgi, Chaucer

Our Welsh corgi, Chaucer

When I do decide to have kids, you can be sure I’ll have thought about all the possibilities & consequences.  I’ve read all the articles about how kids ruin your sleep, your appearance, your metabolism, your sex life, your marriage, your career, & everything else.  (May I just say my husband & I are determined to prove all those articles wrong?)  I’ve never been one of those “starry-eyed” women who see babies & only think of cuddles & love.  No indeed.  When I see babies I mostly think about the pain of labor & breastfeeding & the sleepless nights.  Does this make me cold-hearted & unfeeling?  No, I think it just makes me realistic.  And as one of my dearest friends told me today, the fact that I’ve thought about all of these things & am taking this decision so seriously is probably evidence that I will actually be a good mom.  Her saying that means the world to me because whenever I express doubt about becoming a mom or admit that I’m not particularly fond of most young children, it seems that most people give me that look that implies something must be inherently wrong with me & say “Well, if you’re not sure, you better not do it.”  Whenever I become a mom, I know I’ll be a bit different than most of the moms in my family, but I can only hope I’ll be half as good, even if I am a bit unorthodox.blankie baby

In any case, as part of my pondering about becoming a mom, my mind keeps thinking of all the things I want to teach my children someday.  I know some people will probably think I’m really pretentious for writing out this list, but the way I see it is it’s better to have a lot of plans that I might never fully accomplish than to have no plans at all. 

  1. I will teach my children the importance of asking both “Why?” & “Why not?” If the subject is something to believe or trust, the appropriate question is “Why?”  If the subject is something fun to do, the appropriate question is “Why not?”
  2. I will teach my children to play in rain puddles, piles of leaves, & grassy meadows.
  3. I will teach my children to value people of different races, ethnicities, & cultures. I will teach them that no one is superior or inferior than anyone else but especially not because of something so superficial as race, gender, or nationality.diverse kids
  4. I will teach my children that love is love & it doesn’t matter who it’s between as long as they are two consenting adults who are not hurting each other.
  5. I will teach my kids the value of good nutrition & eating well.
  6. I will teach my kids to enjoy exercise, even if it’s just running around the yard chasing the dog.
  7. On that subject, I will teach my kids that dogs really are man’s (& woman’s) best friend.
  8. I will teach my kids to love rock & roll. I will take them to rock concerts when they are old enough (probably 10-12 or older).  I will be that crazy mom who is screaming to the music with my kids & I will not be ashamed or apologize for it.  In the car we will rock out to Halestorm, Godsmack, & Black Stone Cherry (among others).freak like me
  9. I will teach my children not to judge others based on appearance. I will teach them that some of the best people in the world are covered with tattoos & piercings while some of the most deceitful people in the world are dressed in suits & ties.
  10. I will teach my children that life isn’t all fun & games but it isn’t all misery & suffering either. It’s a little bit of everything & we have to learn to appreciate all of it.
  11. I will teach my children that life’s not fair & they better get used to that real fast.
  12. I will teach my kids that they alone are responsible for the choices they make; thus they better be ready to face the consequences of their actions, no matter what they are.choices
  13. I will teach my children that sex is wonderful & amazing . . . & because of that they better be careful who they do it with & when. But I will never make them feel that sex in & of itself is something dirty or something to be ashamed of.
  14. I will teach my children about birth control & how it works & why they had better use it until the day they (& their partner) are absolutely certain they are ready to be parents.
  15. I will teach my children that education is the key to success in life . . . but they better have a plan to go along with it because degrees alone are worthless these days.
  16. I will teach my kids that there is no job that is beneath them & working hard at everything they do is essential to success in life.
  17. I will teach my kids to show respect to everyone they meet, whether it’s their doctor, their teacher, or the janitor.
  18. I will teach my children that “everything in moderation” is a really great motto in life, the only exceptions being things like heroin & cocaine. Just have some common sense!moderation
  19. I will teach my kids that things in & of themselves are never evil; it’s how we use them that makes them good or bad. For example, the internet isn’t evil just because some creeps use it to prey on children or watch porn.  Books aren’t evil just because some of them say things you don’t like.  Music isn’t evil just because some of it contains lyrics that are rude or disparaging.
  20. I will teach my kids the importance of valuing every single day they’re alive because life is never guaranteed.
  21. I will teach my kids that they don’t have to be just like me for me to love them or be proud of them. There is more than one road to success in life & theirs might look very different than mine.  And that’s ok.Dalai lama quote
  22. I will teach my kids that in order to be successful in life they need to get off their ass & get moving. Success doesn’t come to those who wait for it.  It comes to those who set goals & work hard to meet them.
  23. I will teach my children that the exact words people say are far less important than the feelings behind them.
  24. On a similar token, I will teach my children that actions speak far louder than words.
  25. I will teach my children to always be honest about their intentions with others.
  26. I will teach my kids the value of empathy & how important it is to just listen to others when they are suffering.
  27. I will teach my children that the world doesn’t owe them anything. They will not be entitled brats if it kills me.
  28. I will teach my kids that the purpose of life is to live it, to soak up every experience life has to offer, & to revel in the love we have for each other.purpose of life
  29. If I have daughters, I will make sure my husband teaches them how to check the oil in their car & how to change a tire because these are all things I’ve never learned & I want my daughters to be more independent than I am.
  30. If I have sons, I will teach them how to do laundry & basic cooking because I love that I never had to teach my husband any of these things.
  31. I will teach my children that society has various expectations of them based on gender but they need to choose their own path, regardless of what society says.
  32. I will teach my kids to value the simple beauties of nature: the way the sky looks just before it rains, the sweet smell of honeysuckle in the spring time, the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, the feeling of snowflakes tickling your nose, & the way a little frost makes the whole world look magical.

    P1080662

    Taken along the Highline Trail at Glacier Ntnl Park, Sept 2014

  33. I will teach my children to love curry & all foods Indian & Mediterranean. If not, they might starve at our house . . .
  34. I will teach my kids that having an argument with someone doesn’t mean you don’t love them. It just means you disagreed about something & the worst thing you can do in such situations is to bottle up your emotions & hold them in until you explode.
  35. I will teach my kids to question everything & never believe something just because such & such person said it. I will teach them to judge everything based on its own merits.
  36. I will share with my kids the joy of reading & searching out used book stores in all corners of the city.
  37. I will take my children to visit their elders & teach them to appreciate all the things the elderly can teach us about life.
  38. I will teach my children that being weird is awesome & following the crowd is for losers.weird awesome
  39. I will teach my children that no one can make them feel inferior without their consent.
  40. I will teach my kids the difference between serving others & being a doormat. It’s a fine line but it’s one you have to find.
  41. I will teach my kids that in order to take care of others, they must first learn to take care of themselves. As hard as it will be to do so, I will role model this for them as best I can.
  42. I will teach my children that, like things, emotions are never evil. It’s what we do with them that matters.  I do not want them to grow up feeling guilty for experiencing anger, sadness, lust, or any other “sinful” emotion.  I just want to teach them heathy ways to express these feelings.
  43. I will teach my kids that nothing in life is perfect all the time. Life isn’t a fairytale but it’s still pretty damn good if we make smart choices & chase our passions.fairytale tequila
  44. I will teach my children that even though being a mom is immeasurably important I am still other things too: a wife, a sister, a daughter, a nurse, etc. Even though I know all children have a hard time thinking of their mothers as anything else, I hope they’ll learn to appreciate me as more than just “a mom” if that makes any sense.
  45. I will teach my children that we are all hypocrites sometimes & no matter how hard we try, we all fail to live up to our own ideals at times. We just have to keep striving to do the best we can & stay humble when we make mistakes.
  46. And, perhaps greatest of all, I will kiss & hug my children every day & teach them to never doubt how much I love them.

What do you think, readers?  Are these worthy goals or am I just tilting at windmills?

To All the Misfits, Nerds, Geeks, & Weirdos


First of all, you’re awesome.  Don’t ever believe anyone who tells you otherwise.  Second of all, I am writing to you today to say I feel your pain.  You’re not alone on this journey in life & knowing that can be a huge factor in realizing that being a misfit is actually not a bad lot in life.  In fact the second reason I’m writing to you today is to tell you why I believe being a misfit can actually be one of the greatest things you can experience in life.  But we’ll get to that later.  To begin, let me explain why I feel I have the right to speak on these matters.

weird awesome

I’ve been weird practically since birth.  My mom swears I said my first sentence at less than a year old (“It’s good, Mom!” while eating; so fitting that my first sentence would be about food.  Ha!), causing her to nearly fall over in shock.  Certainly I’ve been weird since at least pre-school.  I remember very distinctly being the only child in my pre-school class who would sit down with a book during our free-play periods.  It never much occurred to me at the time that this meant I was a bit “off.”  I was so busy doing my own thing that I never really noticed.  Then I went to kindergarten & discovered I was the only kid who hated nap time.  While everyone else was blissfully asleep, I would lie awake bored & wondering how much longer this torture would last.  I would also wear ridiculous brightly-colored headbands just about every single day.  With my hair in a pony-tail.  It never occurred to me that this wasn’t stylish or that no one else wore their hair this way.  I just did it because I liked it.

Well, as we all know, kids can be pretty cruel.  And my care-free “be weird & no one really cares” days didn’t last forever.  Before long, the other kids figured out I was pretty weird.  Certainly I had a few friends here & there; naturally they were the other weirdos & misfits of course.  There’s nothing to bring people together like a feeling of mutual exclusion from your peers.

So to the other misfits, nerds, geeks, & weirdos out there today:

I know what it’s like to be the only kid in class who doesn’t know what “gay” means.  Who answers the joke “Is it ‘I da hoe’ or ‘You da hoe’” with “Idaho” because I didn’t realize this was some stupid joke that had nothing to do with the name of a state.

I know what it’s like to be constantly out of the loop on popular culture & thus have very little to talk about with the majority of your classmates.

I know what it’s like to be picked last in gym class over & over again.   And what it’s like to be laughed at because your athletic skills leave a lot to be desired.

gym class

I know what it’s like to hide your grades from your classmates because you know they’ll tease you for being a “smarty pants” or at the least they’ll try to make you feel guilty for “wrecking the curve.”

I know what it’s like to be excited for school to start because you love learning but at the same time to dread the social aspect of school because you have so much anxiety over whether your fellow nerds will be in any of your classes or, most important of all, if they’ll share your lunch period.

I know what it’s like to try really hard to fit in with the cool kids & to think they’ve finally more or less accepted you only to find out the whole time they thought you were just a pain in the butt.

I know what it’s like to never be sure if a compliment is really a compliment or if people are secretly making fun of you when you’re not looking or listening because the latter has happened enough times to make you paranoid.

On a more adult level, I know what it’s like to feel “old before your time.”  To wonder when most of your cohorts will realize that getting drunk is only a minor milestone in life, not one to be revisited every single weekend.  And then further to wonder if making such statements makes you incredibly boring & “old.”

Speaking of being old, I know what it’s like to be called “old at heart,” sometimes as a compliment & sometimes not.

And I still know what it’s like to be out of the loop about much of popular culture.  Only this time I don’t give a crap.  Because now I know that I’m not missing anything worth missing.

Now that I’ve reiterated all the reasons why being a misfit, nerd, geek, or weirdo sucks or at least can be difficult, let me explain why I think being different than the norm is actually AWESOME.  Being a misfit from an early age taught me some very valuable lessons that I think everyone learns at some point in life but learning them at a young age can be even more beneficial.

Being weird taught me how to be happy on my own & to realize that being alone is ok sometimes.

Being weird taught me that having a few close friends is much more important than having a lot of acquaintances.

On a related note, being weird means it’s easier to know if people really like you.  Because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t stick around . . . After all, there are a lot more normal people out there.  So if you’re weird & someone keeps coming back to you (romantically or otherwise), there’s a reasonably good chance they’re actually serious about you.

Trust me when I say this one is still a big battle for me, but being weird has taught me not to care so much about what other people think about me.  As Kacey Musgraves so wisely wrote: “You’re damned if you do & damned if you don’t/So you might as well just do whatever you want.”  Truer words have never been spoken (or sung, in this case).  Being weird has taught me that trying to please everyone is always a losing battle.  And so I’m slowly learning to just live my life how I see fit, knowing that those who really matter will not forsake me.

damned if you do

Being weird has taught me that life is more fun “on the edge” so to speak.  For example, being weird has encouraged me to try out different kinds of music that aren’t exactly mainstream.  I’m now a huge fan of lots of European symphonic metal bands when just 10 years ago I didn’t even know such music existed.  A lot of my favorite rock bands don’t even have a Wikipedia page or have one with only a few short paragraphs; point being, a lot of the best music out there these days is not what’s being played on the radio 24/7.  Nowadays I’m the one introducing my friends & coworkers to new music.  And being a weirdo, I still collect actual CDs & I’m very happy to lend them to my friends so they too can enjoy my favorite bands.

Being a misfit has given me a tremendous amount of self-confidence.  It’s still a difficult battle some days but I wouldn’t be the nurse or the person I am today if I hadn’t been a bit of a misfit all these years.  I wouldn’t have the confidence to deal with difficult patients, angry family members, & the life & death situations I’m presented on a frequent basis as a nurse.  Being weird requires confidence because you’re going “against the grain.”  At first you mightn’t realize it, as occurred with me as young child.  But at some point you & those around you realize you’re a bit different, & when that happens it requires a lot of confidence to continue being your good old weird self because of all the negative experiences I’ve detailed above.  This translates into a great deal of self-confidence as an adult which can push you to achieve a lot of things you might not otherwise have accomplished.

Being weird means that the older you get, the more your peers will recognize how awesome you are.  For example, when I went to college I had no idea that I’d make as many friends as I did.  I thought I was destined to always be a bit lonely.  Much to my great surprise & relief, I found that college was like heaven for nerds.  We might not have been the coolest kids on campus but we certainly weren’t teased anymore & on some level it was obvious that even the jocks & sorority girls (the stereotypical ones anyway) realized they really weren’t as cool as they thought they were & that we nerds were really the ones “running the show.”

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from being weird is that you should NEVER sacrifice who you are or what you believe (or don’t believe) for ANYONE.  If people don’t like you as you are, they’ll never like you because anything else you try to become will be fake.  And someone who is fake will always be discovered for what they really are.  Furthermore, being weird has taught me that being respected is more important, far more important, than being liked.  And that anyone who truly wants to be your friend (or romantic partner) WILL respect you first & foremost.

freak like me

To end my treatise to all of us misfits, nerds, geeks, & weirdos, let me introduce you to Freak Like Me by Halestorm, one of my all-time favorite rock bands.  If this isn’t an anthem for us, I don’t know what is. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sXoA7B5yJo

To all of you freaks like me out there, keep being awesome, don’t let anyone get you down, & rock on with your bad selves.

The 10 Best Albums of 2013


I realize it’s a little late into 2014 to be writing this, but I didn’t get the idea until mid-way through January & it took me a while to compile this list, so I’m going ahead with it anyway even if the post seems a bit belated.  A few of these albums were actually released in 2012 but didn’t become truly popular until 2013, or at the very least I didn’t discover them until 2013 so I’ve included them anyway.  I’ll be upfront & tell you that 90% of these albums are rock albums, so if you don’t like rock music I guess this post isn’t for you.  But I challenge you to read it anyway because you never know what might trigger your interest.

Aside from #1, these are in no particular order.

I’ve included links to at least one of my favorite songs from each album because I’m awesome like that.  🙂  At the end I’ve also included some of my most anticipated album releases for 2014.

1.       The House of Gold & Bones, Volumes 1 & 2 by Stone Sour

It’s nigh impossible for me to pick a favorite album of all time but if I had to do it, I think this dual-album would be my choice.  There are a lot of reasons I say that, not the least of which is that I find myself subconsciously judging other albums based on this one.  I don’t mean to do that because consciously I realize that a concept album such as this is not THE standard for all albums ever made & yet this one is just so breathtaking that it’s become my point of comparison for just about everything.  I didn’t know a lot of Stone Sour music before this dual-album debuted, but when I started hearing Absolute Zero on the radio I fell in love immediately.  I was at Best Buy purchasing another album one day & just happened to see Volume 1 of The House of Gold & Bones & decided to take a chance on it.  Best decision ever.  Within a few weeks of purchasing Volume 1, I was completely entranced.  Every single song is just so perfect & they all flow together like a rock symphony so that often it is difficult to tell where one song ends & another begins.  Volume 2 is exactly the same way.  Between the two Volume 1 is my favorite but honestly they are both phenomenal.  From ballads to harder songs that are more Slipknot in feel, the vocals, the lyrics, the music itself, everything is in top form.  Just about every emotion human beings can experience is touched on in these songs.  There is so much more I could say about this dual-album but I’ll stop now for fear of boring you.  Just buy the albums.  You won’t regret it.

Volume 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7dHBjXnbtk

Volume 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwkGatmflbw

2.       Same Trailer, Different Park by Kacey Musgraves

May I just say that I am really proud of myself for having this album months before Kacey Musgraves started garnering national attention & winning a very well-deserved Grammy?  I used to be so behind the times when it came to music & popular culture & I still am in a lot of ways, but with music I am often quite ahead of my time nowadays, at least in certain genres.  It’s often been said that Kacey Musgraves sings country music for people who don’t like country music.  I think the reason for that is that Kacey’s lyrics are so profound while also being extremely wittyShe also isn’t afraid to write about the nastier side of small town life.  While most popular country stars are singing about pick-up trucks, fishing, & drinking beer, Kacey is penning such scathing & controversial but inspiring songs as Merry Go Round & Follow Your Arrow.  Every single song on this album is a real winner & it’s rare for me to say that, especially about a country album.  If you don’t want to buy the album or don’t typically like country music, just look her up on YouTube.  You might end up buying the album after hearing some more of her songs, just like I did.  (Also of note, Kacey has written many popular songs sung by other country artists including the recent Miranda Lambert hit Mama’s Broken Heart.  No offense to Miranda, but I like Kacey’s version of it even better.  Again, look it up on YouTube.)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qo212zOUKxI

3.       The Wrong Side of Heaven & the Righteous Side of Hell, Volumes 1 & 2 by Five Finger Death Punch

FFDP is one of those rare bands whose songs I almost always fall in love with immediately upon hearing them.  They are just that good.  From ballads to thrashing rock & roll anthems, Ivan Moody’s voice is mesmerizing & the band behind him is top-notch in every way.  When you hear a FFDP song, there’s never any question about whose song it is.  You just know.  Like Stone Sour, FFDP released a dual-album in 2013.  These are not concept albums but they are fantastic nonetheless.  There are plenty of the traditional “angry” songs for which FFDP is famous, but there are also plenty of powerful ballads.  The titular song on the first album is one of my favorites along with Battle Born & Cradle to the Grave on Volume 2.  Volume 1 contains several compilations with other artists including Rob Halford from Judas Priest & Maria Brink from In This Moment.  There is also a remake of the LL Cool J song Mama Said Knock You Out featuring the rapper Tech N9ne.  A hard rock/metal band remaking a rap song?  Yes, that’s right.  And it’s amazing.  There’s a reason FFDP is the number one band I listen to on the way to work: their music is just so energizingIs it ironic that what most people would consider to be “angry” music energizes me to provide compassionate care to sick people?  Maybe, maybe not.  There’s a lot more to this kind of music if you just take the time to listen a little deeper.  Bottom line: whether you are already familiar with FFDP or not, check out these albums today.

Volume 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxVQX95GtgU

Volume 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyA1GL1touw

4.       Amaryllis by Shinedown

This is definitely a 2012 album but I love it so much that I decided to include it anyway.  I know a certain segment of rock/metal fans think Shinedown isn’t “hard-core” enough for their taste, but I’ve always found that to be a rather superficial & undeserving judgment.  Shinedown is one of those rare rock bands who have somehow found that “sweet spot” of writing songs that are “tame” enough to be played on mainstream radio (sometimes even on stations that aren’t pure rock stations) while not becoming a pop band.  I’ve seen Shinedown in concert twice & each time my respect for them has only increased.  Amaryllis is an album that covers a vast amount of subject matter as well as an impressive range of musical styles.  There isn’t even one song on this album that I would give less than 4 stars.  If you don’t usually like rock music, I’d recommend Shinedown as a great place to start.  It’s not necessarily that their music is “softer;” they just seem to have a way of reaching out to people across all genres of music.  Even in their more angry/cynical songs, Shinedown has a way of inspiring hope.  Perhaps that is what makes them so powerful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGhJKiMR4XY

5.       The Strange Case Of… by Halestorm

I had the privilege of seeing Halestorm live in 2013 & the best way to sum up that experience is this: I can’t wait to see them again, preferably on a head-lining tour.  A hard rock band with touches of metal here & there with a seriously bad-ass female lead singer?  I mean, what is not to like here?  The Strange Case Of… is a great follow-up to Halestorm’s first album.  From the fast-paced Grammy award-winning Love Bites to powerful ballads like Break In & Here’s to Us, Halestorm is in top form in every way on this album.  In the traditionally male-dominated world of rock & roll Lzzy Hale makes female rock fans like me feel right at home.  At the same time, her music is far from “feminine” & many of her top fans are actually guys.  And it’s not just because she’s sexy.  She, & her band which includes her brother Arejay on drums, is seriously talented too.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmkHqUwa4zg

6.       Blood by In This Moment

I had never heard of In This Moment until 2013.  As soon as I heard the titular song Blood, I knew I had to have the whole album.  Maria Brink & her band are just that talented.  This isn’t music for the faint of heart; it’s raw & sometimes a little raunchy.  But, wow, it is powerful! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulgE1v1eyRk

7.       Onyx by Pop Evil

I am proud to say I owned all three of Pop Evil’s albums before they became more mainstream this past year with the success of their hit singles Trenches & Deal With the Devil off of their 2013 album Onyx.  I first started listening to Pop Evil after the moderate success of  Monster You Made in 2011.  It was that song that prompted me to buy their first two albums & I was thoroughly impressed with both of them.  Then came Onyx.  Each album Pop Evil has released gets better & better so I can only imagine what their next album will be like.  Pop Evil is definitely on my list of bands that I most want to see live in the next year or two.  (P.S. Ladies, the lead singer Leigh Kakaty is a sight for sore eyes.  Do a quick Google image search & I promise you’ll thank me.)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWdtN7pCZug

8.       Fortress by Alter Bridge

Alter Bridge is one of those American bands who have actually had greater success in Europe than here in their own country.  But I’ve been a fan since high school, thanks originally to my husband.  In any case Fortress has made it on many lists of top albums for 2013 & rightfully so.  This isn’t an album that you’ll fall in love with at first listen.  Or at least you might not.  Alter Bridge isn’t known for writing songs with super catchy tunes; in other words they don’t always get stuck in your head immediately.  But what marks them as a truly great band is that their music gets better & better the more you listen to it.  Their music is like an onion; there are so many layers & each time you listen you hear a little more & a little more.  To me that is the mark of great musicianship & these guys have it.  I think Alter Bridge has always resonated with me because they aren’t a flashy band & their music somehow walks the fine line of facing the harsh darkness of life while always retaining a bit of hope.  To me they are a band that will stand the test of time, & I won’t be surprised if fifty years from now they are more respected & popular than they are now.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M9QxzpTjec

9.       Brave, Bold, & Broken by Mindset Evolution

I first heard ME at Uproar Festival in Raleigh in Sept 2012.  At that point they only had a 5-song “album” out but I bought & loved every song on it.  So when their first full-length album debuted in 2013 I purchased it the very day it came out.  And I’ve been nothing short of pleased.  Why these guys don’t get more radio-play I’ll never understand. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fFHCXscp3k

10.   Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies by Volbeat

Ok, here’s a rock album that evokes the feeling of the American Wild West.  As if that isn’t a great enough feat on its own, consider that Volbeat isn’t even an American rock band.  They are actually a Danish band!  I’m not sure that this album really qualifies as a concept album, but all of the songs are about characters from the Wild West.  Volbeat is another of those bands whom you can never mistake for anyone else, yet somehow they manage to really evoke the sound of the Wild West in these songs while still remaining true to their own unique sound.  It’s seriously impressive stuff.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dj1sVQ2qdnI

And lastly, my most anticipated albums of 2014:

The Outsiders by Eric Church (debuting tomorrow, February 11!)  I have a soft spot in my heart for this NC native because he is passionately devoted to his MUSIC above all else.  He comes across as kind of rough around the edges, but in reality he’s a family man who travels with his wife & infant son on his tour bus.  I admire his willingness to speak whatever’s on his mind even when it’s not always popular & his refusal to bend to the whims of popular opinion.  I’m also partial to his music because of its rock & roll feel.  Going to one of his concerts felt like being at a redneck rock concert.  Needless to say, I loved it & would love to see him live again someday.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_P-YNJIdNc

Magic Mountain by Black Stone Cherry (coming May 6)  BSC is a band I discovered in 2013 after seeing a picture of an Alter Bridge member wearing a BSC sweatshirt.  I figured if Alter Bridge liked them, they had to be good.  And they are!  The 2011 album Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea by these small-town Kentucky rockers is fabulous & has me eagerly anticipating their new album this year.  I love the fact that BSC’s music has a very Southern rock feel while still being very hard-core.  I also must point out that the current Florida-Georgia Line hit Stay is actually a BSC song from their 2011 album mentioned above.  It really grinds my gears that BSC isn’t getting credit for that song.  (Sorry FGL fans, but their version sucks anyway.)