Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New Tunes Tuesday - A Thousand Miles Left Behind

Ever since I heard Gloriana's top 5 hit "(Kissed You) Good Night," I've been wanting to hear more. It is arguably one of the best duets in Country music on the airwaves right now. Well, today I got the chance. Their second album, A Thousand Miles Left Behind, was released today.

I can't help but compare them to Lady Antebellum - one girl, two guys, and sweet harmonies with a pop crossover sound. What works for Lady A is now working for the quartet turned trio after losing a band member last summer. 

They have great chemistry on "Can't Shake You". It's a song about trying to deal with a break-up when you're still running in the same circle of friends. You want to know what they're doing, but you don't want them to know that you want to know, you know? 

On the flip side, "Go On... Miss Me" is a sassy song about a jerk of a boyfriend. As time goes on, she realizes that her life has turned out for the better while he's still a loser. And then he realizes she's the one that got away. "One day you're going to miss me. You're going to try and try to get me back again." But she's too smart for that... "go on and miss me."

I also really enjoy "Carolina Rose" which is their second single off the album. It's written from the real life experiences of band member Tom Gossin about being on the road away from his sweetheart. He sings it beautifully. You can really feel the emotion behind the words in the song. "Yeah, the big time is everything I ever wanted / But the spotlight can't hold a candle to you."

I think Rachel Reinert really shines on "Where My Heart Belongs". It's a heartfelt song about cherishing childhood memories. I'm very nostalgic, so this song really resonates with me. "I still hear that old sweet song / a simple melody calling me back home / where the love grows pure and strong / that's where my heart belongs." 

A common theme emerges as you listen through the album. The worst feeling in the world is to look back and wish you had done things differently. Attempt to live your life without regrets. Sounds good to me.

July Photo a Day Summary

Is July really almost over? 

Wow. My first full month of the photo a day challenge is now complete. 

As I was creating my collage in Printsgram, I thought about the stories told by each picture. What a wonderful photo journal. This challenge has inspired me in so many ways. It has stretched my creativity, encouraged me to start this blog, and I have connected with many inspiring people all over the globe. 

Here's a look back on the month of July....

And now I would like to encourage YOU to take on the challenge. I love the August list and cannot wait to see how others interpret the prompts. This is going to be good. 

Join me! You know you want to.

day 31. toothbrush

I thought it was an odd prompt, but you really had to think creatively for this one. Anything that makes me do that is fine with me.
toothbrush - love the bright colors

family of toothbrushes

And that wraps up July! I made it through the whole month with this challenge and can't wait for August. I'll post a summary collage of my July photos later today.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cartoon Camera

Another photo editing app! I think I'm getting addicted to these. There certainly are a lot of choices. Today I discovered Cartoon Camera for Android that creates cartoons and sketches with your camera. It puts you right into live mode where you can see the world through the filter. You can use front/rear camera, enable/disable flash, and adjust the color and sensitivity. The free version gives you six filters to use (cartoon, color drawing, sepia, white strokes, dark strokes, and colored edges) and no ads. You can unlock six more filters by upgrading to the pro app (they tease you with them on the free version).  I'm going to wait a while before I consider upgrading. You can't beat free.

So easy to use. I could have a lot of fun with this app.  It's like stepping inside of an A-Ha video! And if you have no clue what I'm talking about (sigh...), then click on the link.

Take on me...

day 29. last thing you bought

School Supplies!  18 days...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

day 28. cup

Today was a long day.

I got up this morning and knew exactly which cup I would fill with coffee. I reached for it on the top shelf, brewed my Green Mountain coffee, and went to the back deck to do some reflection. You see, today is the day my grandmother would be laid to rest.

I sat on the back deck with my coffee and reminisced about visiting her as a child. I thought about the long car drive and watching for the blue house (that's when I knew we were there). I thought about playing with Fischer Price toys with my sister in the back room. I thought about the "big box" at Christmas full of little presents. I remembered dressing up in her old dresses and trying to twirl like her... It's also National Dance Day today. So appropriate! She loved to dance.

We drove to the tiny town of Mercer this morning. The drive is a little bit longer, the blue house is no longer blue, and the town seems to get smaller with each visit. We drove by Grandma's house, and I immediately remembered her making a clothesline tent out of a sheet in the back yard. My sister and I would play in that tent with our dolls for hours. On the drive home, I remembered taking that same road back to Columbia as a college student. I was grateful for every weekend spent with her. Now I'm not too sure when I'll be back to Mercer.

So, I knew exactly which cup I would fill with coffee and photograph today. This cup was in her coffee mug collection given to her by me. I'm pretty sure I gave it to her when I was a freshman at Mizzou. I was proud to be a Mizzou Tiger then and even more so today. But now the cup holds a whole different meaning for me. It's a cup overflowing with wonderful memories of Grandma.

Friday, July 27, 2012

day 27. on the road

I knew exactly where I was going to go to take my photos for today... South Rock Quarry Road. It's a designated scenic route in Columbia. The tree shaded road winds and twists between Grindstone and Stadium with Grindstone Nature area to the east. It looks stunning during the fall when the leaves start to turn. The problem was that I took too many nice pictures! But that is easy to do on this road.

So here are a few trick photos and a collage for your viewing pleasure.

color splash for the line color

phone was tilted, tilt-shift focus and filter on Instagram

photo grid for the collage and Instagram filter

New Tunes - Love and Theft

Love and Theft could easily become a new favorite of mine. I heard them this summer at the CMA Music Fest in Nashville. In between the acts on stage, we would be entertained by an acoustic set. They sang their top 10 single "Runaway" from their first album and "Angel Eyes" which is currently a top 10 single from their follow-up album. I was pretty much hooked on the first listen and couldn't wait to hear more. I would love to see them do an EP of acoustic songs. Their vocal chemistry is their showcase.

Since their debut album World Wide Open in 2009, they have undergone some major changes. Not only did they lose a band member, they also lost their label. Now under RCA, Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson are reintroducing themselves to fans with their harmony-driven songs.

"Inside Out" is a fun song about meeting an attractive person in a bar and wanting to turn the night into something more. "No it don't matter where we go / Just as long as I can hold you close / Kiss your lips / Get you thinking about maybe turning those blue jeans inside out." This could be a great summer tune. Maybe in 2013?

Another potential hit is "Runnin' Out Of Air". It's a nice flip on a song about love gone wrong and finding it hard to do things (like breathe) when you see them again. Instead of being moody, it has a catchy groove and a staccato melody. "Girl I wanna run right to you / Then I want to run away / Girl I gotta hand it to you / You know how to make me pay / Girl I wish I never knew you / 'Cause every time I see you standing there / Oh, feels like I'm runnin' out of air."

My favorite though is "If You Ever Get Lonely". Fans of Rascal Flatt's are sure to love this one. Another song about lost love with an addictive melody. "If you ever get lonely and you miss me / if you need someone to listen / even if it's only / the sound of someone's voice who loves you that you need to here / you know where to find me / If you ever get lonely." 

The best songs tell simple stories in a simple way, and that is basically the whole album. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

day 26. sunshine

I found it quite ironic that after days and days of constant sunshine... it decided to rain today. Not that I'm complaining about rain. We NEED rain. We need MORE rain. But today's photo prompt was sunshine, and I found that to be both hilarious and slightly frustrating. I really didn't want to dig in the archives for a picture of sunshine. It's the middle of summer for crying out loud. Anyway... the sun did shine today, but I waited until the sun was setting to take my photo.

I went for a drive down the back country roads this evening. I had my windows rolled down, the wind blowing through my hair, and sang Jason Aldean at the top of my lungs! That's a good time, folks. Reminded me of living in a small town with plenty of roads and not many people. I like solitude when I have a lot on my mind. That drive was just what I needed.

And on the way back home, I pulled over to the side of the road and took this picture of the sun setting behind some wild flowers.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

day 25. heart

"Love is missing someone whenever you're apart, but somehow feeling warm inside because you're close in heart."  - Kay Knudsen

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

photo a day AUGUST

It's here! The Photo a Day list for August was posted today by Fat Mum Slim. Sweet!

I have really been enjoying this challenge (even today's prompt "stranger" though I complained). You start to see the people and things around you differently. If you're new to this, here is what you do. You take a photo based on the prompt listed for the day. Then you share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your blog, etc. Include the month's hashtag #photoadayAUG in the description or comments.

There are some very interesting prompts for this month: one, simple, ready, cool, dream.... She has listed some really great suggestions on her blog, so go take a look if you get stumped. The nice thing about this challenge is that there are NO RULES! You can interpret the prompt however you wish. 

Are you going to play this month? Let me know in the comments.

day 24. stranger

This prompt was.... well, it was strange. Do you ask a stranger if you can take their picture? Do you just casually walk around trying to capture a shot without them noticing? I was at a loss. I attended a meeting today in St. Louis at a hotel, attempted to take photos in the lobby, and probably looked more suspicious than I needed to be.  So I came up really short today.  I had to go digging in my photo archives for a picture to use and came up with this.

stranger packing up

I was at a work conference in Clearwater, Florida the end of March (I know, rough place for a conference) and a storm was about to roll in off the coast. I took this picture of the beach as the rain was coming in. I zoomed in and focused on the stranger packing up their gear.

I'm really glad this one is done.

Monday, July 23, 2012

day. 23 mirror

entry way mirror
One thing I can say for sure about the photo a day challenge... it has pushed me to look at ordinary objects in a more creative way. Just like the self-portrait prompt on day 1, I went looking for reflective objects around my house for today's photo. There are mirrors all around us, and some you might not expect.

First I noticed all of the standard mirrors I have in my house. The bathroom mirror, of course, is essential during the morning grooming routine. My closet doors are mirrors which allow me to check my outfit before I leave the house, and it gives the illusion of a larger room. We also have this very nice mirror in my entry way.  

rear view mirror
The mirrors on my car are very important during my commute. I snapped this photo while sitting at a stop sign this morning (I was NOT driving). I also noticed while driving that the nice clean car in front of me reflected my own car. That reminded me I needed to go through a car wash today as mine was still covered in lake gravel dust. 

Then there is the unexpected... a glass vase on my dining room table that reflects objects surrounding it. I can also see my reflection in the microwave door, the television screen, and the face of the clock on the wall.

At work I have photos sitting on my desk. If the light is just right, I can see my reflection in the glass of the frame. That's handy when you want to fix your makeup and don't have a "real" mirror on hand.

But I decided to use this photo of the sliding glass door in my living room because at night, it becomes a mirror. 

my reflection in the sliding glass door
Now listen up, moms-to-be, because I'm about to give away a secret. You will quickly learn where these kinds of mirrors are in your house. These mirrors will become your extra set of eyes. You will soon notice reflections in objects and then start placing them strategically around your house in order to watch your ornery little children more closely. Yes, these lovely mirrors will become the eyes in the back of your head. Start looking for them now. You won't want to miss a thing... because you will also catch cute little moments too. Like your daughter dancing and singing Disney songs or your son pretending to be a Jedi. Those moments are priceless.

I also think children themselves make excellent mirrors. They are an image of their parents not only genetically but behaviorally as well. A child must learn their behavior from some place, and the most influential factor would be the family. Children watch and copy. I have seen many proud moments reflected in my children, but I have also witnessed a few not so proud moments. I didn't have to wonder for long where they learned that behavior, or that word, or that gesture. They learn from watching.  

There certainly are mirrors all around us.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

day 22. upside down

Are the glasses upside down or is it the reflection?
Depends on your perspective.
This was a very fun and creative prompt. I had a hard time choosing which photo to use! At first I thought I could capture one of the kids in the air doing a flip. I've done it before. Not an easy task with a phone camera.

Have I mentioned that all of my photos have been taken with my phone camera? It really is amazing what this phone can do. I have an Android Nexus S, and I am very satisfied. 

Since I couldn't quite capture a photo of the flipping cousins to my liking, here are a couple of videos of Baylee and Brandon.

 And some other upside down photos from the day.

day 21. 9 o'clock

It's 9 o'clock on a Saturday...

I wonder how many other people thought of Billy Joel's Piano Man when they read the photo a day prompt. I thought it was pretty darn perfect.

9 o'clock AM
That morning I went for a run because the temp outside was perfect. I'm happy to report that I'm getting faster! I ran my neighborhood loop 2 minutes faster compared to about 2 weeks ago. I'm training for a 5K in September; the 8-week schedule starts on Monday.

Then I started packing for the lake. My parents are taking my kids to Branson on Monday for the week. I wanted to do some sunbathing... I mean quality lake time with them before they left.

I also talked with Mom about my grandmother's arrangements which will be June 28th. My sister and I looked through some photos for a slideshow that she will be putting together. We found some great photos and had a few laughs. My mom narrowed down the photos to about 100 I think (yes, that was narrowing them down). It's going to be a nice keepsake to have of her life.

We then spent the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening down on the dock. We wore those kids out! Here's a few photos of the cousins having a blast in the water.

The lake also produces some pretty awesome sunsets. So I stayed down on the dock until 9 o'clock to take a PM photo for today too. Another wonderful day spent at the lake.

9 o'clock PM

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Power Song

I need a great playlist when I run. Some runners enjoy the silence and pace themselves to the sound of their own breathing. I want thumping beats and familiar lyrics in my ears to keep me going. I don't care to hear how hard I'm breathing. So, I run with an iPod Shuffle. Included is a Fitness setting by Nike+ which tracks your workouts. You can run for time, distance, or calories. That's all very helpful, but one feature I really like is the POWER SONG.

When your body says no, the power song says yes.

The Power Song is the track that gets you out the door, up a steep hill, or over the proverbial wall with a burst of energy. It's your very personal "kick some butt" anthem. Your best Power Song might be about the lyrics, the energy of the song, or maybe it's the BPM (beats per minute). "Eye of the Tiger" has been a top Power Song since the inception of Nike+. I get it. Great lyrics but not really the beat I need. "Lose Yourself" is another popular one (and it's on my playlist). It's the perfect combination of pounding energy, inspiring lyrics, and a BPM around the 180 range. Perfect running track.

Right now my power song is Little Bad Girl by David Guetta featuring Taio Cruz and Ludacris. It's a song about a guy watching a girl getting dirty on the dance floor, but I hear him saying keep it going, don't stop, you are one bad chick!!!
  • Look at her go...
  • She's amazing...
  • Keep it going girl...
  • Don't stop...
  • Go Little Bad Girl
  • Go Little Bad Girl
  • Go Little Bad Girl
He's singing it in my ear, and I start believing it. I am one bad chick! I got this! Don't stop now! Keep it going! Go little bad girl! Yeah!  

Do you have a Power Song? What gets you moving?

Friday, July 20, 2012

day 20. eyes

all the better to see you with
I have really terrible eyesight. I've worn corrective lenses since I was in the third grade. Sitting on my feet and leaning into my desk, I still couldn't see the blackboard even from the front row. I would come home with horrible headaches from squinting all day. I remember the day I received my glasses very well. On the drive home, I could read the street signs and exclaimed to my parents "there are leaves on the trees!" I was unable to see them from a distance. My world had come into focus. I had chosen Dorothy Hamill glasses. Remember her? I had a poster of her in my room. I thought it was super cool that her signature was on the inside arm of my glasses (I had to show everyone). The fun soon wore off though. I also remember my glasses flying off my head, getting stepped on while at summer camp, and the frames breaking when getting hit with a dodge ball. Ouch. 

I started wearing contacts the summer after 8th grade. I had just made the high school dance squad and wasn't about to wear glasses while whipping my head around during a routine. I had had enough of wearing glasses. I only wear them now when it is absolutely necessary. I definitely prefer contacts.

I'm also fascinated with the genetic determination of eye color. My parents have green or hazel eyes and my sister's are very brown. I'm the only one with blue. My husband's eyes are hazel (more green than brown). My daughter has light blue eyes, and my son has a gorgeous mix of blue and brown. They will sometimes look gray. 

I think it's difficult to capture the color of someone's eyes in a photograph, which is why I chose the picture above for today's photo a day.  The one here of me turned out pretty well though. The lighting was just right. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Grandma 1917 - 2012

"There's no place like home except Grandma's."

 I have always looked up to my Grandma. If a child could have a favorite grandparent, she would be mine. Today, she passed away peacefully at the age of 95.

I have great memories of visiting Grandma in the little town of Mercer, Missouri. I remember her kitchen the most because of her coffee mug collection. I'm sure she's the reason why I love coffee so much! She loved to travel and it seemed like an easy keepsake to bring home. Others caught on, including myself, and would bring one to her. She hung each one on a hook on the walls in her kitchen. When we moved her to a care center, we had a garage sale at her home. Those mugs were a very hot item! Everyone wanted to own one of Miss Cora's mugs. 

her memoirs
In true Grandma fashion, she was a great cook too. Her homemade chicken and noodles were my favorite. She would also make this wonderful cinnamon roll "tea ring" for breakfast (always at midnight or it "just wouldn't turn out right") and her rolls were the best. I've tried to duplicate her tea ring for my own kids as a Christmas morning tradition. I almost have it right. Maybe you just have to be a Grandma... (that can wait for me).

But Grandma was also my greatest inspiration. She was a school teacher for 50 years. When she retired in 1988, she received the Missouri Pioneer in Education Award in Jefferson City. She told her story in a book called "Miss Cora Remembers". I am so thankful she decided to do this. It's a priceless gift to have her memoirs. She was my inspiration to educate students. I remember telling her that one day at college when I changed my major. My career path took me on a different journey, but I still think of myself as an educator. She wrote in her book to me, "I am very proud of you, my dear grand-daughter. You are one of those I hope I inspired because you are very special." 

You did, Grandma. And you always will.

in loving memory

day 19. animal / pet

Isn't she cute?  This is my Toy Fox Terrier, Skyler Bing Marks, born on April 21, 1998. I received her as a birthday present from my husband. The middle name came later courtesy of my sister. When called, she will answer to Sky, Bing, or Little Bing.

newborn puppy
She was so tiny as a puppy she could fit inside my robe pocket... and I would carry her around like that... and she would sometimes fall asleep.Those of you without pets probably won't understand this, but she's my first baby. I made her little jackets to wear during the winter months. There's not much fur there to keep her warm! Plus, when it would snow, she would basically disappear outside with her white fur, so the jacket helped us to spot her. I also taught her to do tricks with hand commands and speech. This breed of dog is so intelligent. Besides sitting and laying down, she can shake, high five, roll over and speak (bark). I also taught her to "little speak". It's a cute, quiet little bark. I thought maybe if she was being too loud I could command her to use her inside bark (little speak). Nope. Only works for treats (see... intelligent).

She was so curious when our son was born. There was a new smell in the house! And competition for attention. By the time my daughter arrived, she was accustomed to sitting low on the Marks totem pole. Now, in her old age, she's a little more demanding with them. She knows the kids are highly capable of reaching her treats and filling her bowls when needed. Not to mention taking her for a walk outside. (yep... intelligent)

definitely my dog

Having a small dog is great. Boarding isn't too expensive. Her crate is small and fits between the two kids in the back seat of my Focus. She eats only about 1/2 a cup of food a day. And we can exercise her in the house with just a laser pen. She's still trying to catch it. (OK, maybe not so intelligent)

Pets really do become part of the family. They are there to greet you at the door, snuggle with you on the couch, and love you unconditionally. She's been a good dog and companion for the past 14 years. I know her years are numbered, so I plan to enjoy her for as long as I can.

I should probably go take her on that walk now.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

day 18. plate

my daughter's tiny tea set
I love this tea set. A teapot, tea cups, saucers, little plates, sugar bowl, creamer, and little silverware... all packaged in a wicker basket. My daughter has created some fond memories with this set; much like my own childhood. I remember my sister and me sitting at a table with our plastic tea set and our dolls or teddy bears or the "attachment of the day". So much fun for little girls. I can almost hear us giggling...

What's your favorite childhood memory?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

day 17. your addiction

Ode to the Bean

Your aroma wakes me from my bed.
Though a few more winks I'd much like instead.
But I'm no longer tired
In fact, I'm quite wired
When that lovely brew goes to my head.

Oh, coffee bean, I am astounded.

 Especially when you are grounded.
In this I do trust
A flavor robust
My need for you is fairly well-founded.

With sugar and cream, you're delightful.
My mornings without you are frightful.
For me there's no choice
How I find my voice
In a few cups I'll be more insightful.

by Cheri Marks

Monday, July 16, 2012

day 16. sign

"Old Missouri, fair Missouri, dear old varsity;  
Our are hearts that fondly love thee, here's a health to thee.  
Proud art thou in classic beauty, of thy noble past; 
With thy watchwords, Honor, Duty, Thy high fame shall last."

Street Sign on Mizzou's Campus

Missouri Avenue is on the east side of the Mel Carnahan Quadrangle. Heading North, you will pass Arvahr Strickland Hall and Hulston Hall School of Law on the right with the Quadrangle on your left.

Tiger  Plaza
Tiger Plaza is the entrance to the Carnahan Quadrangle. You can see Missouri Avenue here with Hulston Hall on the right and the Jesse Hall dome on the left. The words to the alma mater at the start of this post are written in the fountain you see pictured above.

We begin every athletic event with that song. I can't wait to sing those words again at Memorial Stadium...only 47 days left until football!!!

Don't you just love how I turned this post about a sign into a post about sports?


Sunday, July 15, 2012

We All Scream for Ice Cream!

July is national ice cream month. The third Sunday of the month, which would be today, is national ice cream day. According to Wikipedia, Ronald Reagan made these designations in 1984. This is one holiday that has my full support. I love ice cream... vanilla ice cream melting on warm peach cobbler, mint chocolate chip ice cream next to chocolate birthday cake, or homemade ice cream on the Fourth of July. Good memories go with ice cream. Ice cream just makes you smile.

My favorite flavor of ice cream has always been Rocky Road - chocolate ice cream, nuts and marshmallows. A fantastic combination!

Sarah McLachlan has a song titled "Ice Cream".  She sings "your love is better than ice cream, better than anything else that I've tried". 

That, my friends, would be the ultimate compliment.

What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?

day 15. finger

Everything is OK.

I found it interesting that this finger gesture doesn't always mean "OK". It can also mean you're a big fat zero. In some countries it is offensive, equivalent to showing the middle finger. It can also mean you are drunk or gay.

So be careful when you signal to someone that life is good... they may just take it the wrong way.

day 14. building

I decided to use a very unique building for this photo a day. I snapped this photo coming back from Nashville last month as a symbol of being back in my home state.

Gateway Arch - St. Louis

The gateway to the west... Missouri's tallest building... and the largest architectural arch...
A truly unique building and icon.

Friday, July 13, 2012

day 13. open

  • A championship or competition with no restrictions on who may qualify to compete;
  • Relatively free of obstructions to sight; 
  • Having the interior immediately accessible;
  • Move or adjust so as to leave a space allowing access, passage or view.

An open door to an open house with a neon OPEN sign...

An open road to the US Open under an open sky...

An open book near an open window with your eyes wide open...

Open your mind... 

Open your mouth... 

Open a beer!

Bell's Oberon
It's best to just keep it simple sometimes. Cheers!

day 12. texture

Traveled to Washington, D. C. this week for a meeting. I love traveling but hate airports. Maybe I just hate waiting. I can be pretty impatient at times. Waiting, crowds, delays, no outlet to charge my phone... all things beyond my control.

Yeah, I hate airports.

While I was waiting in the security line, however, I snapped this photo of the wall at Ronald Reagan International Airport. I thought it described the photo a day prompt "texture" perfectly.

textured wall

Traveling provides a lot of opportunities to learn patience. While I'm waiting, I try to take a look around, find the positive in every situation, and let go of the things I have no control over. The only thing you truly have control over in any situation is your own attitude

It's easy to forget that...especially in an airport...or on an airplane when you are sitting in the middle seat between a very large woman who doesn't smell real nice and keeps bumping your arm and invading your space (and seat! she had to lift the arm rest to fit) while she is playing her Sudoku game and on the other side  is someone who keeps snoring in your direction and has awful bad breath. I mean really, do you offer them a mint?

Oh yes, the opportunities to learn patience are endless while traveling.

day 11. letter

There was only one letter that came to mind for this photo a day...


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

New Tunes Tuesday - Uncaged

Zac Brown Band is known for pushing the limits and redefining "something for everyone". Their third album, "Uncaged", delivers another successful musical statement.

I was introduced to this band by a dear friend and loved them immediately. They are super talented bringing a mix of Reggae, bluegrass, gospel and southern rock to their sound. Brown's voice is smooth and soothing while his band is full of instrumental geniuses that offer up beautiful supporting harmonies.

The album jumps all over the place musically, just what we've grown to expect and love about Zac Brown Band. The opening track, "Jump Right In", is drenched in a Chesney-Buffet-Caribbean style. Same for "Island Song" calling you to the salty seas and ice cold beer.  The title track, "Uncaged", opens with guitar riffs and a big organ sound with a southern-rock Skynyrd-like sound.  "Natural Disaster" and "The Wind" are toe-tapping bluegrass songs to keep them safely in the country genre.

The last three songs proclaim life-lessons-learned in typical ZBB fashion. "On the day that I die I want to say that I was a man that really lived and never compromised." "Lance's Song" is a tender tribute to Atlanta drummer Lance Tilton who died in a car accident in 2010. “When he closed his eyes, fell into a dream that never dies. And when the thunder comes, you can hear his kick drum in the sky, feel the rain fall from our eyes.”

The only semi-awkward moment comes from "Overnight". It beckons us to the bedroom with an R&B groove and lyrics like "we're gonna get this bed a rockin' and it ain't gonna stop". It's a pretty bold song where they channel their inner Marvin Gaye.

The one that really worked for me was "Goodbye In Her Eyes". This song would be my pick for the next single. It has a slow build with great lyrics. A song about one foot out the door he sings "She found what she was looking for and I knew it wasn't me." The best lyric, however, is this: "Sometimes I feel like a clown who can't wash off his makeup". Ever feel like that?

I had really high hopes and expectations for this album. I am certainly not disappointed. I liked it on the first listen, loved it on the second, and am now singing along after multiple repeats. Keep on pushing those boundaries, Zac Brown Band, and play your music uncaged.


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