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Counting down the days to his self-titled debut, JT Hodges proclaimed August “Prize Month.” On his various social sites, he invited fans to vie for more than 160 prizes, ranging from personalized handwritten notes to autographed guitars, photos, hats, and Copperpeace guitar straps. Fifty lucky winners got their Twitter addresses included in the album’s liner notes.

Clearly, Hodges knows both sides of the music business. That’s no surprise: His parents met as band members. Their son grew up at their high-profile studio in Forth Worth, where he learned the ropes, from cleaning bathrooms to laying tracks. By the time he moved to Nashville, he was ready and eager to launch his career.

Signed in 2010 to Show Dog-Universal Music, Hodges’ rock-toughened style won notice from SDU President Mark Wright, who shares production on the young artist’s debut project, which marries crisp instrumental tracks and high-impact vocals. (One track was produced by Don Cook, Wright and Ross Copperman.)  Read the rest of this entry


By Bob Doerschuk

Even as a boy back in Idaville, Ind., DJ Miller was determined and focused in pursuit of his goal of becoming a Country performer. Whatever sparked it, Miller had a dream and he knew from the start he would spend his young years chasing it down.

Of course, plenty of kids aspire toward stardom. What made Miller stand out was his realization that attaining it meant taking charge of making it real. He hit on an important epiphany early, as he notes in his bio: “You can’t be the only one having fun. You have to interact with the crowd.” From studying Garth Brooks concert tapes and Brad Paisley in action to honing his shows at local clubs and state fairs, he learned quickly — and kept learning.

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Lisa Matassa’s resonant voice, interpretive skill and exuberant delivery are evident throughout her debut album, Sunrise Highway. But the particulars of her story add even more to her appeal.

Born in Florida, she settled on Long Island, where she made her initial impact in the red-hot dance music world of the 1980s. Recording as Lysa Lynn, Matassa released two singles, “I’ve Got the Hots for You” in 1987 and “Rock Me Baby” in 1988, and opened for Taylor Dayne, Brenda K. Starr and other headliners.

Eventually, she scaled back her musical ambitions to raise her children. Now that both are over 18, Matassa has once more returned to her first love — which, incidentally, isn’t dance music. Consider the last name she adopted for her stage act — Lynn, as in Loretta — as a hint that Country has always been her home base.

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There’s a ton of Country and lots of rockin’ blues throughout Downtime, released in January on the Kickitup indie imprint. And all of it is unmistakably Texan, which of course is to be expected, given Tyrone Vaughan’s Lone Star pedigree. His father is Jimmie Vaughan, whose steely guitar tone and funk phrasing surfaces in the rhythm that drives “Ladies Man,” with the spirit of his uncle — the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, summoned through wah-wah guitar fills. But though his playing evokes his illustrious relations, the younger Vaughan doesn’t hesitate to also drop a banjo in the middle of that track.

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