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Canaan SmithCanaan Smith EP
Virginia-native, Belmont educated, Canaan Smith was deemed as "One to Watch in 2012" after his debut single "We Got Us" charted that year. Still, it was nearly three years before his next single "Love You Like That" dropped this past summer. With more than 200,000 downloads, it went number 1 on Sirius XM, but fans have been forced to wait until now for an EP release. The lead off, "Love You Like That" is a tale of a self-proclaimed "nitty-gritty... »»»
Striking MatchesNothing But the Silence
The concept of female/male country duos is not new exactly, but it's a rare breed these days. There's Thompson Square, and there was the far too short-lived The Civil Wars. And now Striking Matches are out with their debut full-length, which skews far closer to Joy Williams and John Paul White than the Thompsons. Striking Matches is Sarah Zimmerman and Justin Davis, who met as students at Belmont University in Nashville in 2007. They had a hand writing all 11 songs here, 3 of them on their own... »»»
Snyder Family BandWherever I Wander
Bluegrass and its associated branches and brambles certainly have an affinity toward family groups. From the Stonemans and the Lewises through to the Vincent, Isaacs and Cherryholmes clans, on through to the Bankesters, Robertsons and 347 regional Missouri, there has never been a shortage of families performing on stage together. The Snyder Family Band has been recording together as a trio since 2010 while the entire family frequently appears together -augmented by mom and little brother - on... »»»
Blue MafiaPray for Rain
An Indiana-based bluegrass outfit, Blue Mafia returns with their sophomore album. Their stealthy, self-produced debut "My Cold Heart" was a bluegrass highlight of 2013, notable for its creative song writing, strong vocal execution, clear production values and fine instrumental balance. Those elements remain within "Pray For Rain," and this album meets the rising expectations that come with a second release. Dara Wray, who wrote the majority of the material on the debut, has... »»»
Tom PaxtonRedemption Road
One of America's most iconic folk singers - and singer of songs, period - Tom Paxton can point with pride to a career that dates back to the folk boom of the late '50s and '60s. On his new album, "Redemption Road," Paxton pays tribute to that seminal era in a song entitled "The Mayor of Macdougal Street," in which he recalls the hallowed days of the Greenwich Village music scene, hanging out in the fabled Gaslight Cafe and watching the legendary Dave Von Ronk hold court... »»»
Eli Young BandTurn It On
With the release of "Turn It On," the Eli Young Band brings new music about girls, love, and...disco. Singer Mike Eli, who co-wrote all four songs, is in fine voice, solidifying the EYB sound. The title cut, written with co-founder James Young, with its strong beat and up-front vocals, is tailor-made for listening while driving fast. With its "driving" beat and sing-along chorus, speeding tickets may increase. "Plastic" is about appreciating a girl who is... »»»
Joe PugWindfall
Joe Pug is one of those exceptionally astute artists who, despite their best efforts, find themselves inhabiting the marginal fringes of wider acclaim. It's frustrating, but still a fact that he's yet to achieve the wide recognition that's so clearly his due. With "Windfall," Pug imagines the larger goal implied by the album's title, thanks to a set of songs offering emotional resilience and a decidedly emphatic impression. That's not to imply that Pug's on... »»»
Pharis and Jason RomeroA Wanderer I'll Stay
Emerging from the isolated environs of Horsefly British Columbia, Pharis and Jason Romero know all too well the draw of the backwoods and a lonely expanse of rural environs. In fact, they couldn't have been more perfectly cast for their role as old school purists. Pharis' family has lived in Horsefly for five generations, and when the couple isn't on the stage performing, they spend their time working in a family business building banjos. They're also a favorite of Garrison... »»»
Andrew CombsAll These Dreams
The sophomore slump is no match for Andrew Combs. Somehow the Texas-born, Nashville-residing singer-songwriter packs it all into his second full-length, "All These Dreams," in a way that every track stands out on its own and no listener can go without finding at least one tune that fits their preference. Rock, country and folk meld together in a simple, but satisfying way, and lyrics straddle the line between artful and catchy. If anything's missing, it's the commercial... »»»
Gill LandryGill Landry
A self-named album is rare to come by these days, even when it comes to indie folk country artists like Gill Landry. But the Old Crow Medicine Show member releases his third solo album under his own name, setting the stage for an album that's supposedly all and only him, but echoes of his group work. For example, "Just Like You" has a party-bluegrass sound that's one of the most toe-tapping pieces on the otherwise introspective album, a characteristic that harkens back to his... »»»
Asleep at the Wheel have never shied away from acknowledging where their musical influence comes from. "Still the King" is the group's third tribute to the music of Bob Wills. While past attempts have been worthy acknowledgements of the influence of the Texas swing legend's music, this time around, Ray Benson and crew work alongside an unbelievable line-up of guest artists. The guest list is not only a testament to the legacy of Wills and his Texas Playboys, but also Asleep at... »»»
The Gibson BrothersBrotherhood
Over the more than 20 years since upstate (way, way upstate) New York natives Eric and Leigh Gibson debuted on the bluegrass scene, it has been more or less de rigueur for the journalists and reviewers who write about them to link them to the long and proud tradition - especially in country music in all its forms - of siblings whose voices combine in mystical ways for some of the most enduring sounds going back more than a century. And while there have been superlative sister acts, from the Carter... »»»
James McMurtryComplicated Game
The first album by James McMurtry in six years proves that some simply get better with age. And it opens with a gorgeous, deliberate performance, "Copper Canteen," and a line about cleaning his gun before hunting season comes to a close. From there, McMurtry looks back at his youth and the changing world today "before the pension kicks in." Thankfully, the singer never falters from that high standard he set for himself on the leadoff tune. "You Got To Me" sounds as... »»»
Most country artists have a Hank Williams Sr. tune tucked somewhere in their repertoire, a live version that normally whips the crowd into a foot-stompin', raucous mob. But an entire album of exclusively live Hank can be summarized in a single word: ambitious. And with different results, even in the hands of punk-country band Girls Guns & Glory. The Boston-area based quartet led by vocalist/guitarist Ward Hayden is carving out an impressive sound that at times ventures into manic... »»»
Mayeux & BroussardHigh Times & Good Rhymes
The second release from Austin-based Mayeux and Broussard is a mix of traditional country, bluegrass and swamp rock. The influence of Waylon Jennings is apparent on the opening track "Stoned and Broke Down" in which the singer remains upbeat in the midst of misfortune ("I'm running just fine/On these two legs of mine") while "Can't Fall Off the Floor" is a country weeper that attempts to find the virtue in being falling down drunk ("Well, I'm all... »»»
Jorma KaukonenAin't in No Hurry
Although Jorma Kaukonen will forever be bound to the enormous legacy of Jefferson Airplane, it's important to remember the gifted guitarist's tenure in the band was a mere seven years. He and bassist Jack Casady exceeded that total with Hot Tuna - which they'd started two years before leaving the Airplane - by 1978 when they released the live "Double Dose" album. But perhaps the most important year in Kaukonen's history is 1974, when he launched his solo career... »»»
Wrinkle Neck MulesI Never Thought It Would Go This Far
The Wrinkle Neck Mules seemed surprised that they're still around after 15 years, 6 full length albums and 1 public dissing from radio bully Don Imus. That's obvious from the title. But they're not anywhere near the end of their road. Commenting on their fourth album (2012's "Let The Lead Fly"), vocalist and primary song co-writer Chase Heard said that many of the tracks from their older records seemed celebratory, about drinking and partying, but the new ones were... »»»
Glen CampbellI'll Be Me Soundtrack
In what will likely become the swansong to Glen Campbell's prolific 50-plus year career, "I'll Be Me" documents both the life and failing health of a man long considered an American icon. While Campbell's battle with Alzheimer's disease is well known, it's still difficult to witness the awful effects of a horrible disease that's effectively robbed him of his musical abilities, cognizance and ability to live life the way anyone of us would wish... »»»
WhitehorseLeave No Bridge Unturned
Whitehorse is a Canadian duo made up of popular solo artists Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet. Husband and wife have teamed up to create something that stretches beyond the boundaries of their pop and indie rock careers. Canadian alternative country music is noticeably different from its American counterpart, as the echoes of Neil Young's genre hopping influence has a tendency to show itself in the music of bands like Blue Rodeo, The Sadies and Whitehorse. The duo has created an album... »»»
The MavericksMono
The Mavericks returned in 2013 with an acclaimed new album and much touring after nearly a decade's absence. Here they are back again in 2015, minus one of their founding members, but with another dynamite new effort. The group announced in December 2014 that it had kicked out bassist Robert Reynolds from the band because he had developed an opiate addiction and was allegedly soliciting money from fans to support his habit. Reynolds is not listed as a contributor in the liner notes for... »»»
Darin & Brooke AldridgeSnapshots
It's something of a surprise to find that this latest release is the sixth by the husband-and-wife team of Darin and Brooke Aldridge going back to their 2010 self-titled debut. Since marrying and beginning their careers together, they've had a tendency to fly a little bit under the radar as far as national exposure on the bluegrass scene goes. Darin Aldridge gained some visibility through a stint of nine years with the Country Gentlemen, a truly legendary band of more than a half-century standing... »»»
Steve EarleTerraplane
In the Instagram era where people use apps to turn digital snapshots into sepia-toned portraits, Steve Earle's 16th studio release finds its place with an old-school sound. It's a Polaroid of rural country, blues and bluegrass frozen in time. But instead of outdated, it plays on the nostalgia of its modern audience. Named for the 1930s Hudson muscle car model, "Terraplane," the cover is a cacophony of vintage graphics hinting to the fun times that lie beneath... »»»
Aaron WatsonThe Underdog
It's been a long road, but 12 albums and 15 years later, Texas country singer Aaron Watson has finally arrived. Until his debut with Big Label/Thirty Tigers, Watson worked as a totally independent artist; even then, though, other Texas artists, from Willie Nelson and Dale Watson to Billy Joe Shaver, recognized his talent and collaborated with him. "The Underdog" debuted atop the country charts; Keith Stegall (Alan Jackson, George Jones, Zac Brown Band) produced and the songs range... »»»
Lindsay Lou & the FlatbellysIonia
Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys lie in wait, in the amorphous, ill-defined genre of "Americana" or "roots" music, ready to win you over. This four-piece band, most of who are originally from Michigan, plays spare arrangements within a bluegrass structure. The listener may be forgiven for thinking that this is nothing new, ploughing ground of Nora Jane Struthers, Lake Street Dive and the late, lamented Joy Kills Sorrow (either the Heather Massie or Emma Beaton iterations)... »»»
The Farm HandsBetter Than I Deserve
The Farm Hands is a fairly new band (four years old) comprised of bluegrass veterans. Guitarist Keith Tew played in Rhonda Vincent's band, toured with Vassar Clements, and his songs have been recorded by Lou Reid and the Lonesome River Band. Daryl Mosely (bass) has written several number one songs and been nominated for SPBGMA's Entertainer, Male Vocalist and Songwriter of the Year awards. His friend, Tim Graves, is an eight-time winner of SPBGMA's Dobro Player of the Year award,... »»»
Elana JamesBlack Beauty
In 2007, Elana James released an acclaimed self-titled album. The singer, songwriter, and violinist - best known for her work with the Western swing/hot jazz trio Hot Club of Cowtown - strikes gold again with her new album. The disc is a collection of five new originals and several songs she has always loved from Bob Dylan (Hot Club opened for him on his 2006 North American minor league baseball stadium tour), Robert Hunter and Woody Guthrie. James demonstrates her musical depth and breadth,... »»»
Gretchen PetersBlackbirds
Like many artists, Gretchen Peters turned to music in a time of pain for her eighth studio release, "Blackbirds." This 11-track collection is a graceful, yet unsubtle take on aging and mortality that is often dark and even unsettling. Black crows witness a murder amidst kerosene and fire in the title cut, and elsewhere, there are odes to the BP oil spill and the Nashville flood. During the summer of 2013, when Peters began writing songs for "Blackbirds, I attended three... »»»
Texas songwriter Robert Earl Keen may be known for his storytelling style and rowdy country-folk, but with this new album he reveals his fondness for bluegrass jams while bringing along his usual band and adding special guests Danny Barnes, Sara Watkins, Lyle Lovett, Peter Rowan and Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks. If you're a contemporary bluegrass fan, prepare to be disappointed. Keen's voice isn't the typical smooth instrument of most genre stars, and the set list includes... »»»
Blackberry SmokeHolding All the Roses
With a new label backing them, Blackberry Smoke have distilled their sound to produce an album of songs that reflect the image that they have so carefully cultivated. When they were on Zac Brown's Southern Ground label, they released an exciting album full of country rock anthems that explored the depths of Southern Rock, mainstream rock, folk and even hints of soul music, much like the music of Brown himself. After a gap filler live release, they have returned with a collection of original tracks... »»»
Screen Door PorchModern Settlers
It's safe to guess that any band that calls itself Screen Door Porch is going to be of the down home variety. And given the fact that they hail from Wyoming, one of the country's last unspoiled environs, it's fairly reassuring to find that they do indeed maintain that mantra, at least to a certain degree. Identified mainly by the male/female ying-yang dynamic established by its two singer/songwriters, Aaron Davis and Seadar Rose, and backed by the sturdy rhythm section of... »»»
6 String DragRoots Rock 'N' Roll
Band reunions can be joyful, fist-pumping celebrations or dismal funeral services for long deceased entities that should never have been exhumed. If you're scoring at home, make sure you place "Roots Rock 'N' Roll," the first new 6 String Drag album in 18 years, solidly and deliriously in the first category. For those who need a refresher, 6 String Drag (the name was a riff on the Stanley Brothers' "Five String Drag") was a variously populated North... »»»
Jeff AustinThe Simple Truth
Jeff Austin is best known as a founding member of the genre-bending Yonder Mountain String Band, a group that has been blurring the lines between bluegrass and jam band rock since 1998. With his solo debut after leaving YMSB last year, the singer, songwriter and mandolin player shows that he is still very much interested in exploring different directions in which he can take his bluegrass roots. Austin comes roaring out of the gates with "What The Night Brings," a perfectly-formed... »»»
Rhiannon GiddensTomorrow is My Turn
Rhiannon Giddens is best known for her role in Carolina Chocolate Drops, and the album "Tomorrow Is My Turn" gives the soulful singer ample opportunity to stretch out on a wide range of cover songs. Produced by T Bone Burnett, a man that knows his way around Americana music, this album is a wonderful showcase for Giddens' talent. To state the obvious, Giddens has a flexible singing voice. She shows this off by going from the soulful "Last Kind Words" to the thumping... »»»
Love and TheftWhiskey on My Breath
Going the indie route generally is viewed as entrepreneurial. For Love and Theft's Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson, it was a necessity. The duo is proof that the chart summit is not all it's cracked up to be. After hitting number 1 with 2012's "Angel Eyes," they were dropped by RCA Nashville last year when their follow up singles flopped. With their final album for the label shelved and unable to legally recut the tracks they had recorded, "Whiskey On My... »»»
Gurf MorlixEatin' At Me
Even with nine solo albums to his credit - all released since 2000 - Gurf Morlix is best known as a sideman to the stars. As both a producer and session player, his credits have come to include works by such stellar luminaries as Lucinda Williams, Mary Gauthier, Ian McLagan, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Slaid Cleaves. Its little wonder; being proficient on guitar, bass, drums, banjo, harmonica, Dobro, pedal steel and mandolin has not only made him an invaluable part of many an instrumental arsenal, but... »»»
A Boston-area super-sideman-group that combines players such as Charlie Rose, Mark Erelli, and Zach Hickman who have worked with Josh Ritter, Ray Lamontagne, Lori McKenna, Aoife O'Donovan and more, Barnstar! Is like the house band at the club all the musicians go to after their regular nightly gigs are done. So tight they're loose and less concerned with showing off than showing up, the ad hoc group's second album dips deeper into original songs while continuing the adventurous... »»»
American AquariumWolves
After a near break up, American Aquarium regrouped and returned stronger than ever. Their supposed swan song was so well received that they postponed their dissolution, continuing their near constant tour schedules and recorded "Wolves." While front man BJ Barham is sole songwriter, "Wolves" is the first release from the group to fully incorporate the other members. The loosening of the creative reigns by Barham allows for a fresh dose of musical creativity, which... »»»
Doyle Lawson and QuicksilverIn Session
The phrase "sounds like a broken record" probably doesn't mean much to anyone too young to have experienced the skips and pops of a 33 1/3 rpm record that's been left out too long, and while the connotation is inherently negative, it can have its positive aspects. Doyle Lawson has been turning out albums for more than four decades, and reviewers have tended to get a "stuck in the groove" feeling in trying to describe over and over again why he continues to be just... »»»
Jim White Vs. the Packway Handle BandTake It Like a Man
Including the forthcoming bluegrassification of The Who's "Tommy," this new collaborative album from alt.-Americana mainstay Jim White - think David Byrne with banjo - and Athens, Ga. band The Packway Handle Band will most likely be the strangest and most challenging bluegrass release of 2015. Folk-poet, filmmaker, musician, and philosopher, Jim White's "Wrong-Eyed Jesus" is a classic twisted noir-country album, and despite itself is actually pretty darned listenable... »»»
Punch BrothersThe Phosphorescent Blues
The Punch Brothers don't feint; they want to stun and amaze you on this deeply rich and textured work. "Phosphorescent Blues" is a master class in instrumentalization, structure and melody. It's not bluegrass, but it is. It's not jazz, but then again... To categorize this music is to diminish it. The Punch Brothers are at once laid back, but frenetic, and world class players. Their vision and adventurousness, exemplified by "Phosphorescent Blues" more... »»»
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