A Division of The Texas Blues Roadhouse



Blacktop Mojo – ‘Burn The Ships’ CD Review by Abby Owen

To say Blacktop Mojo’s ‘Burn The Ships‘ has something for everyone is too simplistic. Let me elaborate. If you look for good drumming in your Rock music, this is truly bad-ass.  Nathan Gillis delivers spectacularly. If your favorite instrument is guitar, this far surpasses their peers. Ryan Kiefer flows from eloquence to knife-edge licks depending on what the song calls for, with Kenneth Irwin on as a very capable rythym guitarist. If the vocalist-frontman is who you look for as the standout, he is off the charts. Matt James growls out or softly sings the story with perfect pitch and conviction.  If you need to hear a strong bass-line to appreciate the mix, this is outstanding. Matt Curtis is as accomplished a bass player as he is fun to watch. If production is the thing that makes or breaks it for you, you will not be disappointed. This is top of the line. Right down to the album title and the artwork, this one hits it out of the park.15327426_1319681664730824_1293627615574736380_n

‘Where The Wind Blows’, the first radio single, is astonishingly good, and has been picked up by several media outlets. If you’d like to see the YOUTUBE VIDEO, <—(click here) to see what I mean.

The album lyrics are better than anything I’ve heard in a long while. They draw you in and make you feel you are witnessing a man’s struggle to make it in a restrictive and challenging existence. You feel his pain. The themes are sometimes based in classical literature, as in ‘Prodigal’ with the references to the Greek mythology of Icarus and his tragic fall into the sea after the wax in his homemade wings melted from him getting too close to the Sun. Other times it is a basic struggle between what is expected and what an individual has found for himself. “How do I describe the color of the sky when you’ve never been outside?” This is some of the brilliant introspection in the track ‘Shadows On The Wall’. Another is a warning to someone who never seems to learn in ‘Pyromaniac’. Even though the lyrics can be deep and philosophical, they stop short of being too ‘preachy’ and rather give one room to think and examine their own interpretations more easily. Who doesn’t feel the inner rage and Viking pride well up when singing along with the title track ‘Burn The Ships’, ”As you look into your enemies eyes there’s only one choice left …FIGHT OR DIE!!!”

16487300_10208206442986148_1992459204163220453_oAlthough they all contribute to the writing of the music, I cannot stress enough how impressed I am with the lyrics on all these album tracks. So much so, I had to find out who primarily writes the lyrics for the band, and I learned for this album it was mostly Matt James, vocalist and front-man. I’ve met Matt. It was shortly before the album dropped, in a small club in Baytown TX and he was the nicest, most humble guy in the world, and all the more reason I am thrilled to see them getting so much good recognition with this album. He isn’t the only writer, but he really shines on this one.

14600953_1289072831125041_3154020811934348625_nTheir live shows are incredible too; very professional and every bit as sharp and tight as the studio work. It wasn’t all that surprising to see them picked to open for Bon Jovi in early 2017 after winning a video contest, and then playing behind Sammy Hagar at SXSW in Austin shortly after. Right place, right time? …or competent and capable of stepping onto the ‘Big Stage’ with ease? Maybe a little of both. I mustn’t fail to mention their cover of ‘Dream On’ by Aerosmith is…dare I say, almost better than the original. Completely on point and very enjoyable.

Getting back to the production, they spared no expense in getting top notch engineers, production personnel, studios and mixing experts. Philip Mosley produced it along with Jimmy Johnson. Engineers include Steve Melton, Zachary Pancoast, John Gifford III & Spencer Coats. Mixing Engineer was Austin Deptula of Rosewood /Studios. The album was recorded at Sound Emporium Studios in Nashville TN, Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals AL & Audioworx Studios in Palestine TX, a small town they call home in a city of roughly 18.5K people. Palestine is about midway and a little to the right (East) between Dallas and Houston.

To recap, GET THIS ALBUM! It hits all the points without a flaw, and believe me I looked.

Copyright 2017 – Abby Owen

Photos Used by Permission – Copyright 2017 – Blacktop Mojo


Clay Shelburn Interview by Abby Owen

Clay Shelburn at Dosey Doe - Houston TX  10/02/2015
Clay Shelburn at Dosey Doe – Houston TX 10/02/2015

Part Two – In presenting part two of my interview with Clay Shelburn, I want to discuss his new CD, so we will pick up the conversation where I asked about his C.D. Release plans. You can find Part One <—HERE when you click on this link, if you haven’t read it yet.

Can you share details about the label, the studio or the engineers that worked on the new CD with us?, I asked Clay, as we sat down to snack on a sandwich on the evening of Annika Chambers’ 30th Birthday Party at The Big Easy, in Houston TX. Clay’s lovely wife Tiffany was there as well.

IMG_6641“Yeah! We recorded a lot of the rhythm tracks at a place called Playhouse in Wylie. I don’t know. I think it’s kind of semi-private, like you have to know them. My engineer knows the guy, so we were able to use it.” What is your engineer’s name? “Bradley Prakope. He’s really good. He’s got a great ear.” So, you like to use him for your engineering? “I do. Bradley did my first record 5 years ago, and did a fantastic job on this one as well. He used to be in Dallas and is now in Nashville where ‘I Feel a Sin’ was recorded at 1092 studios. 5 years’ worth of all of us honing our respective crafts made MY sound everything I hoped it would be and more! Audio Dallas was another studio we did overdubs in, as well as my producer, Josh Goode’s, private studio.”

'Broke Down & Blue'
‘Broke Down & Blue’

What was the name of that first CD, and how do I get one? “It is called ‘Broke Down & Blue’ <—(LINK), and it’s available on iTunes. The track that performed the best off that was ‘Fullmoonshine’, but people really connected with ‘Little Angel’ too. I didn’t really push anything to radio with a promoter on that CD, but a couple of awesome people Mike Crow and Jim Nash from 106.9 The Ranch spun ‘Fullmoonshine’ for me a bunch of times. 95.9 The Ranch has done it too.

Do you have someone in promotion working on your radio distribution? “I do. I have a guy that has really great connections with radio and promo. He knows what charts and radio stations to contact. He’s connected nationwide. He’s a good family friend as well.”

IMG_7552So far, Clay and Tiffany tell me, they have kept as much of the business workings between just the two of them. Tiffany offers up a piece of advice her dad once told her. “My dad was his own business owner, and he said that you are the only two people you can really trust at the end of the day, because only you have each others best interest, and you have to work through keeping that going.” I’m glad you guys are on that, I say, when Clay adds, “This one here is to business as I am to music. She’s just gifted. It’s so nice to have the honest wife that I’ve always dreamed of. She really is a blessing. I got a complete ‘Mulligan’ with this one.” (laughing) There was a lot more about how they ended up together, as they have quite a long history, but I think it’s safe to say they are both very happy and feel fortunate that their roads intertwined and came to the same destination.

With the release of the new album Clay is set to tour the nation to promote it, and then internationally after that. He tells me he is really big in Brazil! They are also getting things together for a U.K. Tour next Spring, hopefully.

What would you like your fans to know that is important to you? “Honesty is important to me. It’s a big part of my life. I’ve been burned by liars. I don’t like liars and thieves. I try to promote positivity. I like doing things for people without expecting anything back, paying it forward. There’s so much doom and gloom in the world now, I just want to be as positive as I can every day and make somebody smile. That’s really what my goal is. My music. I want to use whatever musical platform I have to spread a positive message.”

‘Defined’ Released November 1, 2015

Review of CD:

(Click on photo for link to purchase.)

The first thing that struck me was the quality of the production. VERY professional sound. “Young Country” seems to be the pervading sound on most of the tracks. I usually review Blues, but this CD actually transcends genre, and is full of good songs, period. ‘A Day At A Time’ is a softer sound than most of the tracks, with smooth backing vocals and a nice message for everyone. ‘Black Widow’, in contrast, is gritty- funky – fun with a darker story. A warning, if you will, about a woman who is up to no good. Not surprisingly, it is my favorite song on the album. That and ‘Dance With Me’, probably the biggest “Hit” if I dare to speculate. It is just so well done, and a great story to be told of a young man’s budding interest in a young woman. The stuff dreams are made of. Very catchy too. Clay’s voice is so right on track in so many ways. He has great pitch, control, and smooth delivery that can crescendo to gut-wrenching drama in the blink of an eye. Again, professional. Soulful. Bluesy. ‘Ever After’ is obviously a tribute to his sweet lady. A thank you for saving him after heavy heartbreak. His electric leads are right on track. Just the right number of notes. Tasteful. He definitely isn’t one of those guys that just wail away forever on his guitar until you wish the song would end. In fact, I found myself wishing the songs would go on longer. He has perfected that ‘leave them wanting more’ element to songwriting that I find very refreshing. There is never a dull moment, or a song that you scratch your head over, wondering why he bothered to put it on the album. They all fit together nicely, and the album is a pleasure to listen to all the way through. ‘Falling For You’ is another great song I could imagine hearing on just about any radio station format. It’s got some nice organ and horns to fill it out too. ‘Flavors of Funkytown’ is a chance for Clay to show his stuff on the guitar. It’s an instrumental foray into a more funk/rock sound, but it never gets old, due to the interesting twists and turns it takes, and the highly capable guitar work. ‘I feel A Sin Coming On’ is another “Hit” for sure. As good as anything I’ve heard on the Country stations. Clay’s songwriting is exceptional. I never hear a line I think should’ve been worded differently. He’s really good at telling a story with just the right verse. Very poetic. Clay’s songs get stuck in my head to where I find myself singing them to myself as I go about my day. Very catchy, so many of them. ‘Livin’ A Lovin’ Lie’ is a soulful-country sound, sparse and haunting with touches of a gospel feeling as well. ‘This Is Me’ has a ‘Soul-twisting Bluesy twang’…as indicated in the lyrics of the song. It goes on to explain that Clay’s sound “ain’t pure country, it’s kinda rocky and a little funky”. I really love the lyrics of this one, and the musicianship is again, accomplished and professional. His guitar work is superb. Another definite “hit”. ‘You Lied’ is another crushing story of heartbreak, easily identified with by anyone who has been unlucky enough to trust the wrong person. Great production, lyric and musicianship. I would venture to say there are, at the very least, four solid hits on the album, and a possible seven. I kid you not. This young man has extraordinary talent in songwriting, playing and singing. A triple-dip of artistry that is so hard to find wrapped up in only one person. Highly unusual, and I highly recommend you get his CD as soon as it becomes available. You will definitely not regret it. ~ Abby Owen, Texas Blues Roadhouse

Copyright 2015 – Abby Owen

Image Copyright 2015 – Abby Owen

Image Copyright 2015 – and by permission – Clay Shelburn

Clay Shelburn Interview by Abby Owen

I’m sitting here at a sandwich shop in Houston, TX, across the street from The Big Easy, H-town’s most well-known Blues joint, talking to Clay and Tiffany Shelburn. View More: is performing in Houston (video) this evening to join a host of surprise guests invited to participate in Miss Annika Chambers’ 30th Birthday Party, being celebrated at The Big Easy(video). I asked him if he wouldn’t mind us chatting a bit for the purpose of giving his many new fans an opportunity to learn more about this sudden internet sensation.

Friday, September 7th, 2015 – The first internet exposure happened when Clay and his new bride decided to marry. They got married this year, February 27th, 2015. They were quite the human interest story around town due to the fact they had an outdoor wedding planned, and the weather decided to step in and give them a ‘White Wedding’, literally. And now, every time I re-read that line, I hear Billy Idol. You can find out all about THAT particular viral event by typing in ‘Clay & Tiffany Shelburn wedding’ into Google for the news segment on YouTube.

The Shelburns
The Shelburns

Who is Clay Shelburn you ask? Have you ever heard of the ‘WalMart Rockstar’? Same guy. But more on that in a moment…

I asked Clay how he knew Annika Chambers, another very good friend of mine, and a girl who is taking the Blues world by storm since hitting the scene in Houston about three years ago.

“I started driving down to Houston on Tuesdays for the Jive Bar jam, after deciding to spread some roots out in other places”, Yeah! Absolutely, I say. That’s where I met you. “Yeah, I met you, James Roosa, Corey Tice…” I say, James Roosa was conducting it at the time. Other friends of mine had conducted it previously, but he was doing it then. “Yeah, James was running it, and Oh man…I fell in love with his drummer Corey Tice. He’s so good!” I know! He’s another really good friend of mine. “He’s so good! And Wes Covington is another really cool dude I enjoyed meeting, and still kind of keep up with.” Oh yeah, I say. He’s on that video I took of you doing ‘Gimme One Reason’ (video) that has done so well on YouTube. He’s got some comments on there too. “He’s good! Brother can play. He’s got soul. I love Wes Covington.”

Clay With Annika
Clay With Annika

“Anyway, they were all telling me about Annika, and actually I came down with a friend a year later to go to the John Mayer concert. It ended kind of early, so I said Hey, Annika’s playing tonight. Let’s go see her. We need to go see this chick. She’s great. So we go there. It was The Big Easy, actually.” Ah, full circle, I say. “Yeah. Full circle. There’s a lot more to the whole story where that’s concerned, but yeah. She didn’t even have her actual album out yet, just some, y’know jewel-case CDs with writing on them. Lol! She gave a big ol’ lipstick smooch kiss on my CD. So that’s the first time I met her.”

“I’ve been keeping up with her, promoting her stuff [unofficially] up in town. [Dallas/Ft Worth] Then she came up with the Paul Ramirez Trio to play Keys Lounge.” Paul is the best! “Oh yeah.” I think Paul Ramirez might be the best guitar player in Houston, I say. When he gets into it he just SMOKES! “Oh yeah. I bought his CD! The way they did it was really smart. Paul and his guys did their set and opened, then they backed Annika and did her thing. It was like an old school band show kind of thing.”

You say you used to come down to play at Blanco’s? [Houston] “I used to come to Houston a lot with a guy named Jamie Richards, who was a Texas country artist. One of the more traditional ones. An incredible song writer.” How old were you back then? You must’ve been just a young’n. “When he found me I was twenty. Maybe twenty-one? I played with him for three years, took a year off and played with Charla Corn, then went back with him for a year. Between those two artists I played a lot of places down here, like the Galveston County fair, I played Blanco’s, I played on the City Hall steps in that big shebang they have there. I’ve gotten to play the Houston Rodeo Cookoff, on the big outside stage, not inside the Reliant Statium. It’s a big two-week-long ordeal. People are SERIOUS about that stuff, man! We used to go down there and they’d hire us for a week-long at this tent, then another week or a couple days at that tent…it was fun. A lot of funny stories around then.” It’ll be nice to see you on the big stage, I say, beaming. …on the inside someday, and I have no doubt. “I’d love to be there one day. I’m shooting for it.”

Now, the thing that got you attention, from the WORLD. The WalMart video. 2015-06-06_162240It went viral. Everyone has seen it. Since that has happened, can you tell us about what kind of new things are happening for you because of it? “Yeah! That video thing was crazy. We shot it two years ago. Zac Stokes and I played a gig together and we were bored afterwards, so we went and watched some movie. I think it was Transformers or Avengers or something.” So, you played a gig together. You weren’t in a band together? He has his own band and you have your own band? “Yeah. We have our own bands, but sometimes we do song swaps. Acoustic song swaps. Or sometimes there are times when Zac needs a bass player and I go play bass for him.” So you’re like, com padres in the music scene up there? “Yeah. Like Zac might call me and say ‘Hey man. I got a show and my P.A.’s broke. Can I borrow yours?’, and I’ll show up and set it up for him, or whatever. We’ve known each other for a while. I think that night I was playing bass for him. So we went to WalMart in Lakeworth and …the rest is history. He started playing this keyboard and I tuned the guitar up and we started playing the song. We didn’t record the first take, and I stopped it in the middle and said, ‘Hey. Why don’t you record this because it’s just stupid? People might laugh at it.’ Never expecting it to go viral. I joke around now and say if I had known it was going to be seen, I’d have sang louder, in full voice, like actually the way I sing. I was trying to not draw attention. So next thing I know BOOM! Four and a half million people have seen it, at least on MY channel, and some of those viral sites have three or four million hits also. It’s crazy.”

Who’s attention has it grabbed that might further your career? Have people contacted you in the music industry? Booking agents? Have things opened up to you because of the attention of that video? Because that is what your new fans want to hear. They’ve seen you singing full voice in other videos, kicking ass. Taking names. Is there anything you can share with us that’s on the horizon? “It’s definitely opened a lot of doors that were slammed shut. Some of the venues that were never calling me back are coming to me now, wanting me to play shows. Venues are calling and offering shows that never would have before.” WalMart reached out to you, right? The WalMart meeting that you played? “Yeah. That was really cool. WalMart flew us out for their Saturday morning meeting and we had a lot of fun doing that.” And you can see that on YouTube as well. “Yep. It’s on YouTube. ‘WalMart Rockstars at WatMart AMP‘…or something. It was a really cool experience.”

“Labels have approached me. I haven’t found the right deal, I guess.” Then we talked a little bit about Clay’s new CD. As of this writing, the CD was just about ready for release, so in the interest of having more details and a link to the album later on, I’m going to stop here and finish in a ‘Part Two’ installment of my interview with Clay Shelburn in a few weeks. Stay tuned!

While we wait for the CD, and ‘Part Two’ of the interview, get ready for a special treat. Clay will be in Houston on October 2nd at Dosey Doe – Big Barn in The Woodlands with his full band. Starting around 7:00, I believe. Come see this great Texas Blues/Rock/Country artist who is also a very approachable and loving young man. (And …have you seen those EYES?!?!)  One of those guys you feel you have known all your life. Ditto with Mrs Shelburn too. Best wishes for a long and happy life together, you two. See you at Dosey Doe!

Copyright 2015 – Abby Owen

Image Copyright 2015 – and by permission – Clay Shelburn

Video Copyright 2015 – Clay Shelburn

Video Copyright 2015 – Abby Owen


Billy Gibbons – Perfectamundo…

Blues Magazine’s article on Billy Gibbons – Perfectamundo, debut solo album from ZZ Top guitarist/vocalist. <—(Click to read on their site.)


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