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Chris IsaakFirst Comes the NIght
Chris Isaak is something of a renaissance man. In addition to being a talented singer and songwriter, he's an actor, guest-starring in popular television shows like "Friends" and "Hot in Cleveland"; he even had his own series on Showtime in the early 2000's. He's been in movies with Michelle Pfieffer, Jodie Foster and Tom Hanks. He's done some voice-overs, and he was recently named as a judge on "The X Factor Australia." But the truth is even if... »»»
Chris YoungI'm Comin' Over
Chris Young has enjoyed steady success from his previous four releases, and there's no reason to suggest that "I'm Comin' Over" won't do the same. But that doesn't mean that Young is doing anything all that different from what's au courant. Young's go to has always been his full-sounding, big-bodied voice, and that remains intact here throughout these 11 songs, 9 of which he had a hand in writing. His voice is front and center (that's apparent... »»»
Tim McGrawDamn Country Music
Tim McGraw said of his 14th studio album, "Damn Country Music," "It's is all about passion, (taking him back to 1989) "when I came to Nashville to chase my dreams." Country music has richly rewarded him over the past two decades, and he honors the genre's tradition here. The album gets off to a very traditional start with Celtic folk. The flute and skillful acoustic picking on the opener "Here Tonight" bring a Mark Knopfler tune immediately to mind... »»»
Mark Kuykendall Bobby Hicks & Asheville BluegrassDown Memory Lane
Lovers of traditional bluegrass can rejoice: it's alive and well. Former Bluegrass Boys Mark Kuykendall (guitar and lead vocals) and superb fiddler Bobby Hicks have joined to form Asheville Bluegrass, and their music is excellent traditional bluegrass. Kuykendall penned several of the songs, including "Coming Home Never To Part." It talks about roaming from home and missing mom and dad, themes prevalent in traditional bluegrass. Kuykendall has a good voice in the upper baritone... »»»
Over the course of five previous albums, Tawny Ellis has proven herself to be a true representation of authentic southern spirit. Originally from Savannah, Ga. and a singer since childhood, Ellis has expanded her vision of today's modern Americana landscape through constant travel and with it, ample opportunity to survey the broad reach of the nation's landscape. Regardless, her latest entry, the four-song EP "Ghosts of the Low Country," finds her consolidating her strengths... »»»
Maren MorrisMaren Morris
After going the indie route in her native Texas, Maren Morris releases a five-song EP to serve as an intro for the hoped for masses. Morris, who has penned songs for Tim McGraw and Kelly Clarkson, starts off with the edgier sounding "My Church." With an easy-going pace, Morris is elastic with her words, puts a bit of twang and gospel feel into her delivery and sings with authority when she asks "Can I get a hallelujah?/Can I get an amen?" But her salvation is FM radio -... »»»
Old DominionMeat and Candy
Old Dominion may be releasing its full-length debut, but this quintet is not filled with newbies. Lead singer Matthew Ramsey co-wrote "Chainsaw" for The Band Perry and with band mate Trevor Rosen penned Craig Morgan's "Wake Up Lovin' You" and Dierks Bentley's "Say You Do." Rosen also co-wrote Chris Young's "Neon," Blake Shelton's "Sangria" and The Band Perry's "Better Dig Two," while Brad Tursi wrote Tyler... »»»
Jeff Crosby and the RefugeesWaking Days
For starters, let's make it clear. Jeff Crosby isn't related to that Crosby, but there is a possibility that they share similar DNA. Jeff Crosby is a master storyteller whose songs evoke all kind of emotions, mostly the tender sentiments having to do with love, loss and longing. True, he doesn't necessarily expand the parameters of that oft-trod terrain, but there's not a single song on his new album, "Waking Days" that doesn't strike a responsive chord even on... »»»
Eric ChurchMr. Misunderstood
When listeners were introduced to Eric Church on his debut, they heard an artist who could balance strong song writing with a bit of a rebellious edge to the music. The surprise release of his latest continues that tradition, being quietly released to his fan club before even being officially announced. The music, written and recorded over a short period of time with an unheard of fast turnaround, has a raw edge that bridges the gap between radio friendly country music with the more rugged sound... »»»
Chris JansonBuy Me A Boat
A fast rise to the charts is the oft elusive dream of many young musicians. After years of toiling in the trenches in Nashville, Chris Janson had faced his share of hardships and rejections. He'd worked with an impressive roster of artists (Tim McGraw, Justin Moore, Lee Brice), but failed to score any significant attention as an artist himself. Then he followed his wife's advice and self-released a single, "Buy Me a Boat," which became a surprise radio hit... »»»
Rhonda VincentChristmas Time
The very thought of Rhonda Vincent, with her lovely voice and wonderful musicianship, ought to sell many on her new Christmas album, "Christmas Time." She performs some of the best loved Christmas songs, ranging from a reverent "Angels We Have Heard on High," to a celebratory western swing of "Jingle Bells." "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" also benefits from a reverence similar to that applied to "Angels We Have Heard On High." But no matter the... »»»
Drive-By TruckersIt's Great to Be Alive
It's been roughly two decades when musicians Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley decided to tie their wagon together and form Drive-By Truckers. And through the countless tours, hundreds (oops, thousands) of shows, the band decided now was the right time for a live album. Three nights at San Francisco's Fillmore is the backdrop for this massively generous 35-song compendium. Yet while there are a few expected lulls in the marathon of music offered, Hood and Cooley's dual engine of... »»»
During his lifetime, Ted Hawkins mostly worked in anonymity here at home, and gained only an inkling of fame overseas. A street performer in Venice Beach Cal., he recorded only infrequently (the bulk of his recorded catalogue consisted of live recordings), but his reputation still managed to attract a knowing few, indicating solid credence as a songwriter whose work was worthy of wider recognition. This isn't the first time the musical elite took up his cause, but in these interpretations of... »»»
The Cox FamilyGone Like the Cotton
The title of this new release from the Cox Family - their first in close to two decades - is a testament to their own hard experience that, especially in the music business, you can be riding high one day, then the next you're yesterday's news. Throughout the 1990s, the Coxes (father Willard, daughters Evelyn and Suzanne and son Sidney) from Cotton Valley, La. were among the hottest acts in bluegrass and the emerging country-based genre now known as Americana. Their collaboration with... »»»
Jimmy FortuneHits & Hymns
Jimmy Fortune is best known as the tenor vocalist for the Statler Brothers, a role he fulfilled for 21 years. With "Hits & Hymns," Fortune touches upon two sides of his musical personality. Half this album, the "Hits" portion, covers songs he helped make popular with the Statler Brothers, while the "Hymns" side finds Fortune singing some of his favorite spiritual songs. Fortune sounds comfortable and sings commendably here, no matter which of these two hats he's... »»»
Carrie UnderwoodStoryteller
Carrie Underwood's powerful voice has been her calling card throughout her career, and that is no different on her latest. She has always possessed a voice that can be chameleon-like and work with the material at hand. Underwood does that again on these 13 songs, 6 of which she helped pen. Underwood knows a thing or two about writing or finding material that fits her commercial orientation as almost all 13 could conceivably be picked as singles. They are big sounding, big voiced and radio ready... »»»
10 String SymphonyWeight of the World
When country star Kacey Musgraves got on stage at her Ryman Auditorium shows in September, few ears were focused on the string section. But there, in the middle of her band, Rachel Baiman and Christian Sedelmyer play together. That night, they were just part of a larger ensemble. But on their debut, "Weight of the World," Baiman and Sedelmyer are 10 String Symphony - two fiddles and two voices. That's it. With such limited ingredients, "Weight of the World" risks being a... »»»
On the inside of the cd packaging for "Hear the Bang: The Life and Music of Denny Lile" is a photocopy of a 1972 newspaper article entitled "Maybe THIS time it's Denny Lile's turn," suggesting that the Louisville, Ky. musician may be poised for stardom. Though the title track was a local hit the album failed to deliver Lile's time in the spotlight, and as the accompanying DVD documents, his life began the downward spiral that led to his death from alcoholism in 1995... »»»
Pete KennedyHeart of Gotham
Some might find it odd that The Kennedys, a tightly knit husband-wife duo of considerable repute, would opt to record albums on their own. After all, their dual efforts are so expressive and emotive, they become a travelogue of sorts, an ample stockpile of their collective observations. Their latest, "West," was a typically stunning affair, filled with sparkling glances of a vagabond existence that takes them from coast to coast with sever increasing regularity. Surprisingly, Maura... »»»
Edward David AndersonLower Alabama: The Loxley Sessions
Perhaps best known as a member of the late indie Americana group, Backyard Tire Fire, Edward David Anderson has been scratching out a name for himself as a solo act in recent years. While the short track listing is arguably EP length, "Lower Alabama" is Anderson's strongest release to date. Anderson has a likeable voice, which is almost speaking in a conversational tone for the majority of the album. It is endearing and draws the listener into the lyrics, which are ably supported... »»»
Stoney LaRueUs Time
Stoney LaRue offers a collection of songs that have long been favorites in his live shows, including some originals getting the studio treatment for the first time and an interesting mix of covers demonstrating LaRue's versatility. LaRue's usual country rock style is best represented by a cover of fellow Okie singer/songwriter Michael Hosty's "Oklahoma Breakdown" and the original "Easy She Comes," co-written with frequent collaborator Mando Saenz... »»»
Josh ThompsonChange: The Lost Record Vol. 1
Back in 2010, Josh Thompson was introduced to country music audiences with his debut, "Way Out Here," which blended rock music with traditional country elements to create a sound as comfortable in a honky tonk as on the radio waves. Guys like Jamey Johnson and Eric Church were taking a similar sound to the charts. But as is common in the fickle world of country record labels, Thompson's follow-up became a label casualty, something talked about, but never heard... »»»
Jason Boland & The StragglersSquelch
Jason Boland and the Stragglers have a huge cult following in Texas and surrounding environs, and even though they've been around since 1998 and this is their 10th album, they are virtually unknown outside their Lone Star State fan base. Boland's fans will tell you that's because of his uncompromising commitment to "real country," not the hybridized pop fluff found on the radio dial these days. And that's certainly true - although the inclusion of such NSFR songs as... »»»
The Infamous StringdustersUndercover EP
Known for their live shows, The Infamous Stringdusters constantly search to capture the delirium of their stage fusillades on record releases. The Stringdusters' challenge flows, in part, from their conscious choice to stream virtually every live show for free (via Mixlr ) and to generously post, for little or no cost, high quality digital files of the shows. So, Stringdusters record releases can feel overly-curated, as compared to the rock-'em-sock-'em live shows... »»»
Toby Keith35 mph Town
Way back in the '90's, before millions of dollars, high profile political feuds and moguldom, Toby Keith could really sing and write a pretty good song! News flash! He still can on his nostalgic, 18th album. You can hear an unexpected Merle Haggard influence all over this record. The title cut, "35 MPH" evokes a Haggard vibe. Think "Roots Of My Raising - 2015" as Keith laments the loss of the commonplace, now gone forever. What could've easily been an appeal... »»»
While it is perhaps unfair to put too much focus on the producer of an album, the current weight of having a production credit from Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Jamey Johnson) is certain to garner notice from fans of high quality songwriters. Cobb's recent albums have an organic sound showcasing his natural ability to push an artist to realize their full creative potential. Canadian artist Corb Lund decided to work with Cobb on his latest release, and the results are eye opening... »»»
Jana Kramerthirty one
Jana Kramer's sophomore effort has been a long time - more than three years since she put out her self-titled release, which contained the hit "Why Ya Wanna" - in coming. Kramer points to contemporary country sounds, while her quality singing has an urgency and comfort level with the material throughout. The fast paced, galloping "Boomerang," which leads off the disc and was penned in party Maddie & Tae, is given more of a rock treatment than M&T would likely offer... »»»
The Buck Stops HereThe Buck Stops Here
Music still has the ability to startle. The listener happens across a song or an artist; something new is afoot. Music is discovery. The unknown band debuts with the eponymous "The Buck Stops Here." Who are these people? They sound great and confirm music's unique gift. TBSH, as they call sometimes call themselves, tours with a line-up of four female players and one male (the token buck). The women are, however, responsible for the CD. This is 21st century mountain music,... »»»
Blitzen TrapperAll Across This Land
Blitzen Trapper's opens with its title track, a rollicking Faces-like dose of rock and roll fury. However, it's in the quieter moments where this band communicates most effectively. "Rock and Roll (Was Made For You)," which bumps along like a Traveling Wilburys mid-tempo tune, includes the line, "The things you love can do the most harm." But like that nicotine addict, outside the office sucking down another cancer stick, these guys can't stop playing that... »»»
Mike and the MoonpiesMockingbird
The third studio release from Austin-based Mike and the Moonpies is a mix of honky tonk, '70's outlaw country and a touch of western swing. Frontman Mike Harmeier wrote all 10 songs with mostly good results. He's at his best on the more traditional sounding honky tonk tracks on which his vocals are reminiscent of Gary Stewart, particularly with the tale of lost love "Never Leaving Texas" in which the singer's devotion to his home state is stronger than his feelings... »»»
Flatt LonesomeRunaway Train
To those with even only a passing familiarity with the history of bluegrass, the name of this young band from Florida is an obvious tribute to the pioneers of the music as exemplified in the person of the late, great Lester Flatt. Perhaps more than any other genre of American music, though, bluegrass has lent itself to acts for whom the music is the "family business," and the core of Flatt Lonesome's sound is guitarist Buddy Robertson and his sisters Kelsi (mandolin) and Charli (fiddle)... »»»
Bottle RocketsSouth Broadway Athletic Club
It's been over two decades since the Bottle Rockets vaulted into the wider consciousness with 1994's "The Brooklyn Side," typified by the heartbreaking Appalachian roots folk swing of "Welfare Music" and the scorching Crazy Horse pop of "Gravity Fails" (in an alternate universe where Nils Lofgren replaced Danny Whitten). Since then, frontman/primary songwriter Brian Henneman hasn't been afraid to mix things up (a brilliant tribute to Doug Sahm, the... »»»
Kinky FriedmanThe Loneliest Man I Ever Met
With "The Loneliest Man I Ever Met" Kinky Friedman returns with his first full-length studio album since 1983. There is no new material as Friedman reworks some of his earlier compositions while mixing in some well-chosen covers. Even the excellent title track is technically a cover as this is Friedman's first recording of his collaboration with Will Hoover (released as "Loneliest Man" on Tompall Glaser's 1973 album "Charlie"). Loneliness is a recurring... »»»
Ron BlockHogan's House of Music
Ron Block's "Hogan's House of Music" works on several levels. The release is a lively and admiring tribute to traditional and bluegrass sounds that made him the player that he is today. And, the work could be included in an aural time capsule to demonstrate the state of play in the bluegrass establishment, circa 2015 "Hogan's House of Music" gets its name from a record shop in Los Angeles County, California, which Block's father ran for three decades and... »»»
Mac McAnallyA.K.A. Nobody
Surely, the title of Mac MacAnally's new album drips with irony; if there's anyone who's never been a nobody, it's this brilliant songwriter, singer and guitarist. The Alabama-born musician has penned songs for Kenny Chesney ("Down the Road"), Alabama ("Old Flame") and Shenandoah ("Two Dozen Roses"), toured with Jimmy Buffett, sat in on studio dates with everyone from Linda Ronstadt and Lee Ann Womack to George Strait and George Jones, was honored... »»»
Don HenleyCass County
In recent years, a parade of rockers - Steven Tyler and Bon Jovi among them-have turned out country songs, flouting their privilege and power, declaring to the record industry that they'll do whatever music they damn well please. Most are miserable efforts, of course, proof that just because you can soar effortlessly on a rock anthem, you can't even begin to bring nuance and style to the emotional intricacies and intimacies of many country songs. When Don Henley announced last year... »»»
Clint BlackOn Purpose
Clint Black must sometimes feel like an alien fallen to earth when comparing his music -- such as the many fine new songs found on his latest "On Purpose" album - with what's in vogue on the mainstream country charts. Rather than partying till he pukes, as so many of his younger brethren are doing these days, Black oftentimes waxes philosophical. "Not everything's gonna go my way," he admits during the sometimes funny reflections found in "Better and Worse... »»»
Jim LauderdaleSoul Searching
Jim Lauderdale is a prolific artist with a penchant for exploring musical styles. Listeners never know which direction he will go from album to album, with the sole consistencies his ability to craft a good song and his identifiable voice. He doesn't disappoint on this double album divided by the geographical and musical differences between Memphis and Nashville. Volume 1 was recorded in Memphis, and the music is appropriately heavily influenced by soul and R&B. Both albums feature the... »»»
Thomas RhettTangled Up
Thomas Rhett picks up where he left off on his 2013 debut, "It Goes Like This," which netted three chart toppers. Rhett would be hard to categorize as country, although in the big tent philosophy of what passes these days, country serves more as a marketing niche. He's more soul, funk and hip hop than country. His catchy, bouncy "Crash and Burn," another number one song, is squarely soulful pop with a few small sonic tweaks (whistles, backing "uhs" near the end)... »»»
Vickie Vaughn BandVickie Vaughn Band
This six-song debut EP from the Nashville-based Vickie Vaughn Band features the increasingly prevalent blend of country, folk and bluegrass that factor as components of a 'big tent' view of acoustic music. Co-produced by Ronnie McCoury and the band, this introductory calling card best showcases the group's impressive instrumental abilities. Mandolinist Casey Campbell assumes a handful of leads, notably on the EP's strongest cut, a cover of A.P. Carter's "Workin' On A Building... »»»
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