GoodSongs: The Highballers (and How to Get Your Record Reviewed)


I’m going to tell you a little secret about getting your records reviewed by music bloggers. Those of us have been doing this for a long time get a lot of music for review. At the moment, I probably have 50 records in my queue for review. In fact, it’s not uncommon for records that rotate through my online sources, such as ReviewShine, to expire before I get around to listening to them. I’ve talked to numerous other music bloggers and almost everyone has a similar story. There is simply more music to listen to than time to listen.

Step One: Grab Me Quickly

So, getting your records reviewed becomes a two-step process. The first, and most important step, is to make it past the “20-second listen” and into the “whole album listen” stack. I’ll show you how this works, using ReviewShine as an example.

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Click for a larger view

The incoming music page for each reviewer at ReviewShine looks like that. There are a ton of records, and each band picks one song to lead with. The potential reviewer can click the play button and hear that song right from this page. This is the “20-second listen” stage. If a song is some combination of not my genre, not quickly identifiable as being performed by good musicians or just not good or distinguishable, I move to the next one. As an aside, let me say that I almost never hear music that isn’t good. But I hear a ton of it that sounds just like every other same-genre band out there. So even if you have a great record, it is critical to lead with something that will grab the potential reviewer quickly.

If a song grabs me, with a click I add the record to my inbox. From there, I can listen to the entire record. Songs that I have pre-approval to stream are labelled in green. I estimate that 75% of the songs I put in my inbox get some sort of mention, if not a full review.

Step Two: Do a Lot of My Work for Me

Once a record is in my inbox, it is accompanied (usually) by a photo of the band/artist and a bio.

Click for a larger view
Click for a larger view

I don’t need a clever bio. I need facts and a summary I can cut and paste. I’m not looking for a Pulitzer for my record reviews. I just want to share good music. Quickly.

Tonight I was working through my ReviewShine queue, looking for something to write about. There’s some good stuff in there. Because I like alt. country (rockers playing twang) a lot, and Americana (too many old dudes waxing philosophical) much less, anything that has alt. country as one of the first listed genres gets a listen.

So let’s take a look at The Highballers. I like the name. The lead song, Lula’s Gone, has a twangy-but-rocking vibe. These are good musicians. Hear for yourself.

That is going right into rotation at Rancho Radio. The first song on the record, Fire and Smoke, is a wistful mid-tempo number, with a different good singer. So I’m getting hooked. Love Will Find You is another alt. country number. At first I didn’t like Down that Road Before, thinking it was another (producer-mandated) generic rocker.  Then the vocalists (one male, one female) started trading off bits and I (mostly) came around.

And the bio had this, in exactly these words. Easy peasy.

The Highballers were born on the rock of guitarist/vocalist Kendall Jackson and vocalist Hope Hudson in 2007, forging a hard-edged, rockin’ country sound built on the duo’s male-female vocal harmonies. After several personnel shifts, myriad gigs and more than a few empty whiskey bottles, the band arrived at its current lineup of Jackson, vocalist Victoria Patchen, guitarist Sean Lally, bassist Michael Barrientos and drummer Drake Sorey.

Cant Stop Drinkin’ starts out with this line, which is good enough to guarantee multiple listens: “Honey, I’d drive you home, but I can’t stop drinking.”

I’ll Break Something More, is probably my favorite song on the record. Great story.  “If I had a dime for every time you broke me down I’d buy myself a sheriff to run you out of town.” Holy moly, that’s fabulous.

I Need My Ass Kicked is that rare semi-novelty song that is actually clever. 80% of what is proposed as clever is anything but.

Here’s the bottom line. The Highballers can play well. They can write well. There’s not a bad song on the record, which is a rare and wonderful thing these days. This is a great record. Buy it here (@ Amazon).