• Wretch - WARRIORS

    Image: Wretch, Warriors, Review, Power Metal, Chris Akin, Pitriff Wretch


    There's an unwritten rule that I rarely follow here in Cleveland. That rule is that if a band is from Cleveland, I'm supposed to write all glowing things or else be called a hater by the local community. It's sad that it's like that, but the truth is what it is. For years I've lived with that stigma, to the point

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  • Machine Head - BLOODSTONE & DIAMONDS

    Image: Machine Head, Bloodstone & Diamonds, Pitriff, Review, Thrash Metal Machine Head


    What happened to Machine Head really is a crime. Unfortunately for them, it's a crime they perpetrated upon themselves. With a mistake so many made in their youth, this band singlehandedly torpedoed themselves from ascending to the heights in metal held by only the select few like Metallica and Megadeth before them. After THE MORE THINGS CHANGE came

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  • Nashville Outlaws - TRIBUTE TO MOTLEY CRUE

    Image: Nashville Outlaws, Motley Crue Tribute Nashville Outlaws


    With the music industry pretty much dead anymore, nothing really comes off as shocking. After all, you have very desperate companies trying to hang on and make money from an industry that has about as much relevance today as the typewriter ribbon makers of the world still do. The current trend for the last half decade

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  • Texas Hippie Coalition - RIDE ON

    Image: Texas Hippie Coalition, Ride On, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Review, Classic Metal Texas Hippie Coalition


    I tell this story often, but it's one of my favorites of the past year. I had the chance to interview the Texas Hippie Coalition earlier this year at Rock On The Range in Columbus, Ohio. I was in a small tent with a bunch of photographers. The tent was fairly quiet really, as the much bigger adjacent

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  • Sammy Hagar - LITE ROAST

    Image: Sammy Hagar, Lite Roast, NonMetal, Review Sammy Hagar


    I get it. You are Sammy Hagar. You've seen huge success in virtually every world you've entered. In music, he was the main focus of Montrose. He parlayed that into a very successful solo career. That wasn't enough, so he joined the world's largest band at the time (Van Halen), and took them to commercial heights that even they

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  • Cavalera Conspiracy - PANDEMONIUM

    Image: Cavalera Conspiracy, Pandemonium, Pitriff, Death Metal, Review Cavalera Conspiracy


    There's always good news and bad news whenever Max Cavalera gets busy with new music. The good is that you get a whole lot of new music, seemingly all in a very short time. The bad news is it's generally spotty at best, because he simply writes and releases too much music at the same time. His band Soulfly released

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  • Slipknot - .5 THE GRAY MATTER

    Image: Slipknot, .5 The Gray Matter, Pitriff, CD Review, Modern Metal Slipknot


    With a ton of speculation and even more wonderment on this band's ability to continue on without founding members Paul Gray and Joey Jordison, Slipknot has returned after far too long of a layoff with .5 THE GRAY MATTER. I've listened to this release multiple times a day for the last week or so that I've had it,

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    Image: Opeth, Pale Communion, Pitriff, Review, Progressive Metal Opeth


    Opeth simply fails as a band, at least to me. While I'll admit to never fully understanding the amazement and awe so many have for this band, I've appreciated them from afar. I've listened, and I've at least wrapped my head around what they were trying to do. Their fusing of death metal with progressive elements always made for an

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  • Cannibal Corpse - A SKELETAL DOMAIN

    Cannibal Corpse, A Skeletal Domain, Review, Death Metal Cannibal Corpse


    So really, what does anyone expect when you get a Cannibal Corpse release handed to you? Ballads, love songs and fun? Not hardly. There's an expectation of severe brutality which the band delivers time and time again. Certainly, it comes with different levels of acceptance to one's ears, but ultimately the only thing that matters if it says

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  • Exodus - BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT

    Image: Exodus, Blood In Blood Out, Pitriff, Review, Thrash Metal Exodus


    Unless you call Testament a "thrash band" (which I don't personally), Exodus would rank as my favorite true Thrash band of all time. They have had good times and bad. Occasionally, like on FABULOUS DISASTER, they have misstepped along the way. But overall, they are one of the true powerhouses in the history of thrash metal. Since 2004

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    Mr. Big, The Stories We Could Tell, Reviews, Classic Metal, Chris Akin, Pitriff Mr. Big


    As a fan of Mr. Big, I can't honestly say that many people thought that their reunion was much more than a cash grab opportunity for the guys in the band who, while immensely talented, failed to find solo success to match their collaborative efforts. It was never a question of if they could still play.

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Blue Sky Riders - FINALLY HOME

Image: Blue Sky Riders, Finally Home, Pitriff, CD ReviewBlue Sky Riders

The term "supergroup" is thrown around very loosely these days. In the most general terms, most people associate that term with a collection of "name" players. By name, we generally mean famous. Certainly, if a band was formed featuring Mick Jagger, Joe Perry, John Paul Jones and Neil Peart, that would qualify in the broadest terms as a "supergroup". That said though, peripheral fame is all relative, while a collection of unquestioned talent that has had tremendous success in the music industry should also be considered as a "supergroup". For many reasons, Blue Sky Riders are a musical supergroup. They do have a very name player in Kenny Loggins, but probably more impressively they have a unheralded in public yet legendary songwriter in Country Music Hall Of Famer Gary Burr, and a tremendous, well heard songwriter who's written massive hits for other artists in Georgia Middleman gracing this group.

Unlike most supergroups though, the proof is in the musical pudding. I know it's early in the year, but having listened to FINALLY HOME a few dozen times now, I'm pretty sure I've stumbled on a finalist for album of the year in 2013. With the musical heritage of the three of them as songwriters, combined with some brilliant three part harmonies and the rare combination of all three musicians sharing lead vocals without anyone taking the dominant role as the "leader", Blue Sky Riders is a band that deserves attention - A LOT of attention. In the world of modern country-pop, FINALLY HOME is as good as it gets.

While certainly the band will gain attention largely because of the presence of Kenny Loggins, FINALLY HOME will stand as the launch of Middleman as a mainstream, brilliant singer. While she has penned hits for some of the biggest artists out there today (Reba McIntyre, Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban), Middleman's long been overlooked as a singer and performer. That is until now. Her smoky voice pushes relatable songs like the uplifting "Little Victories" into your soul. Her voice, combined with lyrics that literally everyone can relate to, power this song. At other times, like on "Another Spring", she finds her space between Burr and Loggins to raise the spirit of the song. Middleman is one of the single best vocalists out there today, regardless of if she's been heralded as such before now.

This is not to say that Middleman is the dominant performer. She's not, and that's the beauty of FINALLY HOME. All three vocalists share, almost equally, vocal leads. Not only do they do that, but it's a very organic way in which they split the vocals. On a project like this, you would envision that they would all be looking for equal time, and yet, that's just not how it works. Instead, they find their places well, and simply combine their collective sounds where necessary. There's really no songs where Loggins or Burr dominate vocally as the "lead"; instead combining their collective talents to hook listeners in. Songs like "Dream" and "Feeling Brave" have a brilliant characteristic of vocal tradeoffs between all three vocalists on lead, as well as tremendous hooks that are powered by the band's best attribute - their ability to harmonize vocally. Simply put, the three part harmonies provided by Loggins, Burr and Middleman are as strong as anything you can reference. While the music isn't the same by any standard, their harmonies hook you in the same way a classic Crosby Stills and Nash might have 30 years ago.

While musically excellent though, what makes FINALLY HOME an incredible listen is the characteristic where they are simply as strong or stronger than any group working today. That is their songwriting ability. The lyrical craftsmanship on songs like "Windeer Woman", "Feeling Brave", "A Thousand Wild Horses" or almost every other song on the album is stunning. Clearly, FINALLY HOME is the work of three master writers who understand how to write memorable, hook filled hits each and every time they put pen to paper. They have done so here.

PITRIFF RATING - 98/100 - I discovered this band a few months ago as a fluke. I have lived with "Feeling Brave" and "Dream" for months, and have played the two songs over and over - just enjoying them and building anticipation on what I hoped would be a full album of songs to compliment these two great numbers. Never in my wildest dreams could I have envisioned that the rest of the album would dwarf these two songs, but that's exactly what they have done. FINALLY HOME is a lot of things. It's fun. It rocks. It can make you laugh, and if you absorb the lyrics it can probably make you cry due to lyrics that tell stories we've all lived. It's musically great, vocally immense, and simply as good an album in the modern country/pop world as will be put out this year or in any other. This is as good as it gets.

Chris Akin

Image: Cause/Effect Metallica, Chris Akin

A look at one of the most polarizing, iconic and best selling albums of all time from author, rock critic and shock jock radio host Chris Akin.


Buy Now:  Paperback    Digital

Image: Little Victories, Book, Chris Akin

The shockingly honest and emotional first book from radio personality and rock critic Chris Akin.

CLICK HERE to learn more about LITTLE VICTORIES.

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Available January 13th in Paperback and Digital Formats on Amazon and iTunes.

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