Monday, August 19, 2013

Zact Mobile Lets Parents Set the Rules on Smartphone Usage

Disclosure:  I participated in a campaign for Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Zact. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

I recently had a discussion with my neighbor about kids and smartphones.  She has three teenagers who all have smartphones.  I haven't pulled the trigger on the smartphone thing yet, but both my kids have basic cellphones.  

One of the reasons I hesitate to jump into the smartphone arena with my kids is that I am concerned about how much time my boys will spend on the devices and what they will be looking at.  Turns out there are lots of parents with the same concerns that I have.  The team at Zact, a family friendly mobile provider, conducted a survey and found that 73% of U.S. parents are concerned about the lack of parental control of a child’s activities on mobile devices.

 So what are your biggest concerns when it comes to kids and smartphones? I'm not afraid to talk to my kids about the concerns I have when it comes to their safety and the expectations I have for them to make good choices when I'm not around.  But I would love to know how others have approached the smartphone subject so that when it's time for me to have that talk, I'll be prepared!  How do you talk to your kids about smartphone safety and responsibility?   

 For more information on how Zact can help keep your kids safe and save your family money on your cellphone plan, click here.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Courtyard Hounds "Amelita" CD Review #CYHAmelita

*DisclaimerI participated in this campaign for One2One Network. I received a free copy of the CD to facilitate my review. By posting, I am eligible for incentives. All opinions stated are my own.

I always forget how much I love listening to music until I get the chance to do a review on a new CD.  So I was super excited to get a chance to review the new Courtyard Hounds album Amelita - the second album by sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire of Dixie Chicks fame. 

After weathering the Dixie Chick controversy, the sister duo are building a following of their own by showcasing their unique songwriting, vocal and instrumental abilities.  

Amelita is definitely different than what you've heard from these sisters in the past.  This album is a clear statement of who the girls are as artists, defining their sound as a band with songs that are personal, yet familiar and widely relatable.  Amelita takes a different perspective than Robison and Maguire took with their debut album in 2010.  Emily credits the time that has passed since her divorce for the difference in moods between their first album and Amelita
I’ve been freed of all of those time-heals-everything kind of things,” says Robison. “Now, I’ve opened up to other ideas and ways of looking at life and the world. I think it’s not only a more hopeful album, but it’s more… well fun.
There are definitely some fun tracks on this new album, but a few too many ballads for me.  After a while the ballads all started to sound similar and kind of melt together, so none of them really stood out as stellar.  Part of that I think is due to the fact that neither Emily or Martie have really powerful or dynamic voices.  Not that they can't sing, they definitely hold their own!  Their sound is a softer, more earthy, folk sound, reminiscent of Sheryl Crow.  Their harmonies blend beautifully, but it would be nice to hear one of them bust out and really wail once in a while, just to change things up.


The tracks I did like tended to be a little more upbeat, like "Sunshine" and "The World Smiles". Both are catchy tunes with a nice beat that left me feeling a little brighter as I went through my day and every song on the album features some amazing instrumentals.  I love the little hint of mandolin in "Sunshine".  But my favorite song from this album is "Phoebe".  Musically, "Phoebe" delivered the ride I kept waiting for from some of the other songs.  It was edgy and fast and really showcased the sisters country/bluegrass flair with twangy harmonies and raucous riffs coming off of banjos and fiddles, guitars and whatever else the girls know how to play!  They really put it all out there on this track and I wanted more of that.  Sadly, the song was written as a tribute to Phoebe Prince, a western Massachusetts teen who committed suicide in the wake of bullying.  So while I love the arrangement, the song definitely has a darker side.

All in all, Amelita is a nice album.  It showcases the range of talent Emily and Martie possess, both lyrically and as musicians.  I think their sound definitely sets them apart from who they were as part of the Dixie Chicks.  And it seems like the sisters are in it for the long haul, according to Emily Robison:
"We’re a band, not a side project. We like our sound, and we’re going to continue to do this, and share something new this time around." 
 I look forward to hearing more from them as they continue to develop their sound and identity as the Court Yard Hounds.  

You can follow Courtyard Hounds on Twitter and Facebook and if you want to learn more about the sisters, you can follow Emily Robison and Martie McGuire on Twitter.

Amelita Track Listing
The World Smiles
Aimless Upward
Guy Like You
Rock All Night
Gets You Down
Watch Your Step
The Road You Take

The Courtyard Dogs started touring on August 1st, so you can catch them on the road or you can buy Amelita on iTunes or at Amazon.