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Friday
Jun242011

Tricked Out Country - Where Country Meets Jazz

Despite the roots all three share as rich tributaries of great American music, there have been few instances in which country, jazz, and pop rock have successfully come together within one band. It just seems like an impossible fit: corralling Stetson-hatted cowboys, cool-blowing jazzmen, and funky rock players into a single cohesive project, one that seamlessly blends these very distinct styles. It seems impossible, that is, until you’ve heard Tricked Out Country. 
The creation of drummer, producer, and backing vocalist Anthony Liccese and lead singer and guitarist Neil Scott Johnson—and featuring renowned jazz trumpeter Kenny Scharf—Tricked Out Country boasts one of the most refreshingly new sounds on today’s music scene. With its combination of Neil’s modern country sensibility and Anthony’s contemporary pop production, all flavored with Kenny’s tasteful embellishments, Tricked Out Country has created an album sure to lasso hip downtowners and sophisticated uptowners, as well as honky-tonk hell-raisers. And the best place to make that boot-scootin’, booty-shakin’ connection is via the group’s self-titled debut. The release is home to nine startlingly original tracks that include the irresistible, playful two-stepper “Chicky Chow Chow,” the brew-hoisting party anthem “It’s the Beer,” the ’80s-esque ballad “Circle of Dreams,” and even a reggae-tinged cut, “You’re Not Invited to My Party,” which features a guest appearance by Jamaican rapper O.S. 
“Growing up in the Bronx I was exposed to all kinds of music, but not really a lot of country until I met Neil,” says Anthony, aka the HarmonyGuy, known around town for his masterful backup harmonies and, like Neil, a veteran of the New York club scene. 
“I’d written some country songs for my other group, the Neil Scott Johnson Band [the New York Metropolitan Country Music Association’s Band of the Year for six consecutive years],” says Neil, who was raised Upstate and whose classic rock background includes work with Aztec Two-Step’s Neal Schulman and hit country songwriter David Kent. “Tricked Out Country started in 2010, when Anthony got the idea to produce the songs using non-traditional instrumentation—country and pop rock, but with a jazz twist.” 
“I loved my parents’ records by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass when I was a kid, and I’ve always loved including brass, especially horn, whenever possible in my musical efforts—Tricked Out Country is emblematic of this,” explains Anthony. “I met Kenny Scharf [a featured soloist with Ray Charles 12 years and now an in-demand artist in his own right] on a gig a few years back, and hired him right away. As soon as we heard him play on our tracks we knew we had something really different.” 
In addition to the music itself, Tricked Out Country’s initial release includes something else that’s really different for a debut album: a bonus DVD with a feature on the band’s concept and a promotional video, directed by Anthony, for “Julie,” the record’s high-twangin’, down-home-shufflin’ first single. As such an astonishingly novel project, it’s no surprise the set has already won rabid praise from several key music publications. 
“[The group has] created a brand of music that is totally new and unique,” raves Today’s Country. “Tricked Out Country has achieved a goal that so many swing and miss at.” 
Music that cuts across boundaries and brings people together is something we can all use more of these days. Especially when it’s the kind of irresistibly uncommon, well-crafted—and downright fun—music that comes only from one place: Tricked Out Country. One listen and you’ll be hooked.

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