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Dale WatsonCall Me Lucky
2018 was a transitional year for Dale Watson. For decades, Watson has been both a pillar of the Austin music scene and one of Texas's most visible and passionate musical ambassadors. Given his Lone Star State roots, it was surprising when Watson recently sold two of his Texas bars and decided to split time between Texas and Tennessee after buying a home and a bar in Memphis. This change of scenery is reflected in the songs on "Call Me Lucky," which finds Watson augmenting the... »»»
Michael McDermottOrphans
 
Chicago-based Michael McDermott's vocals and songwriting style easily invite comparisons to Bruce Springsteen. His wordplay lets you know he's listened to plenty of Dylan and The Boss, but he's got his own well-established place among those that appreciate terrific songwriting. Sometimes, even for a writer like McDermott, good songs need to hang around for some time, remaining as orphans before finding home on an album. Thus, the aptly named album title. McDermott says these aren't outtakes... »»»
Robbie Walden BandWhen the Rooster Crows
 
That classic country, Texas-influenced sound roaring out of the Northwest, now with their third release, is The Robbie Walden Band. They write their own material, record live in a jamming way and deliver a special kind of emotion and earned wisdom. They deliver the requisite subjects: love, drinking and hard days of work. Deep personal threads run through this concept album as Walden chronicles divorce bitterness and self-destruction before midway through we get the title track and the following... »»»
Amy McCarleyMeco
There's no doubt that Amy McCarley has one of the more interesting singer-songwriter backgrounds. Her third album is NASA's acronym for Main Engine Cut Off, serving here as a metaphor for McCarley leaving the world of NASA contracting to pursue a career in music. Quite a segue, right? She did have success with her 2014 debut "Jet Engines" and successfully ups the ante in the process with this recording. Not only can McCarley write songs, sing them and play a mean acoustic... »»»
Kaz MurphyRide Out the Storm
Kaz Murphy is a well-traveled singer-songwriter and published author with a knack for melody and catchy songs. On "Ride Out the Storm," his fourth solo effort, and first since 2007's "Home for Misfits," he effortlessly pays homage to classic rock and pop with country underpinnings on topics ranging from family breakdowns, love, addiction and calls for unity. If his deep, rough voice doesn't grab you, his songcraft should. Murphy has plenty of experience to draw on... »»»
Jason RingenbergStand Tall
 
Jason RIngenberg remains a vibrant, seminal cornerstone for modern Americana. Exploding out of Nashville in the early 1980s as front-man for the Scorchers, Ringenberg and his colleagues - full of fire and fervor - released a series of albums of roots-rock that influenced a generation. Jason & the Scorchers were the alt.-country Velvet Underground: not many bought the albums, but those who did started a band. A series of solo releases along with an occasional Scorchers reunion kept Ringenberg... »»»
Eric Brace Peter Cooper and Thomm JutzRiverland
Eric Brace and Peter Cooper have a history of creating carefully crafted concept album. With guitarist Thomm Jutz again aboard, the acoustic triumvirate are on a roll. "C & O Canal" was terrific. "Riverland" may be even a little better. The lineup is a little larger too. Mark Fain (upright bass), Lyn Williams (drums), Mike Compton (mandolin) and Tammy Rogers (fiddle) join as well as banjoists Terry Baucom and Justin Moses on two tracks each. The subject is not only the... »»»
The Lonely Heartstring BandSmoke & Ashes
The Lonely Heartstring Band's debut, "Deep Waters," was uneven. Certain tracks lacked vitality, but the positive qualities - the keen instrumental interplay between the musicians, and George Clements' lead vocals - impressed. "Smoke & Ashes" surpasses its predecessor by a significant margin. The opening "Reverie" sets the tone: tasteful, somewhat mysterious and abounding with an appealing tension. The tension comes from LHsB increasing the... »»»
Cassadee PopeStages
Although Cassadee Pope's "Stage" album includes a few too many pop-country songs for comfort, it closes with a true winner. The ballad "I've Been Good," which turns a customary greeting response on its head, is a true show-stopper. She's been 'good,' yes; good at drinkin' whiskey and nearly everything except getting over a breakup. With its drinking song lyrical reference and sincere vocal sadness, Pope earns her wings as a fine country singer... »»»
Cody JohnsonAin't Nothin' To It
It's not always easy to put your finger on why a particular artist moves you emotionally. It can be due to smart, Elvis Costello-like wordplay, or Vince Gill-esque instrumental greatness. Cody Johnson's "Ain't Nothin' To It" doesn't always shine with exemplary poetic couplets, nor striking musicianship. This is not to say the lyrics and music aren't bad, either. No, it's just that Johnson's authentic country voice is ultimately what makes the first... »»»
Alice WallaceInto the Blue
California country singer-songwriter Alice Wallace is back with her fourth album, as "Into the Blue" marks her debut for the female-owned Rebelle Road label, a group intent on giving women a stronger platform in music. Wallace has a deeply emotive voice that conveys the imagery of California on several songs, notably "Santa Ana Winds," where her soaring soprano captures the intensity and drama of the wild fires with driving guitars, pulsating rhythms and a flute to symbolize the wind... »»»
The Steel WoodsOld News
It sort of seems odd, on the surface anyway, that the Steel Woods would name their sophomore set "Old News," especially given the fact that they're relatively new as far as any senior status is concerned. Their 2017 full length debut, "Straw in the Wind," was released less than two years ago, while their 2016 eponymous EP that marked their debut only a short time before that. Old news? They haven't aged sufficiently enough to indicate that's the case at all... »»»
Ronnie MilsapRonnie Milsap: The Duets
Is Ronnie Milsap proud of his age? For a clue, look no further than the name of his "76 for 76" Tour. There are some other numbers the North Carolina native is probably fond of, such as 40 number 1 records or 6 Grammys. Milsap's qualifications for the Country Music Hall of Fame were such a no-brainer they left electors with no brains. The injustice was rectified when Milsap was finally inducted in 2014. The primary hitmaking days are now a distant memory, but the blind piano man... »»»
Randy HouserMagnolia
Randy Houser is no stranger to commercial success. He has had three number one hits on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. But he became fed up with how he was expected to perform them live: especially the various computerized bells and whistles that were meant to help him compete with his peers and their outsized live shows. He wanted to get back to songs that meant something and that he was invested in. Fearing blowback of not making another country radio effort, Houser was weary to... »»»
Balsam RangeAeonic
Formed in 2007, Balsam Range already earned many international Bluegrass Music Association Awards across six albums. On their seventh, the acoustic quintet features four-part harmonies on most tunes, while the prevailing instruments are fiddle, mandolin, banjo, upright bass and guitar. Balsam Range is Buddy Melton (fiddle, vocals), Darren Nicholson (mandolin, vocals), Dr. Marc Pruett (banjo), Tim Surrett (bass, Dobro, Weissenborn, vocals) and Caleb Smith (guitar, vocals). The curious... »»»
Mitchell TenpennyTelling All My Secrets
Mitchell Tenpenny is yet one more artist stretching the definition of country music - nearly to the breaking point. While he sings with a distinctly enjoyable, Otis Redding-like soulful voice, the arrangements to these songs on his second album feature far more pop than twang. Steve Earle famously commented how contemporary country music is "hip-hop for people who are afraid of black people," but some of it - including this album's songs - sounds like pop music that doesn't... »»»
Dolly Parton's soundtrack to the movie "Dumplin'" includes a whole lot of Dolly music, both old and new. This movie tells character Sillowdean "Dumplin'" Dickson's story of participating in a local beauty pageant. The catch to this adaptation of Julie Murphy's young adult book is that Dickson is a weight-challenged girl and not the usually slender pageant participant. Parton's music is essential to the film because Dolly is Dickson's musical idol... »»»
Old 97'sLove the Holidays
"Love the Holidays" may read like one of those old timey Christmas album titles. You know, those sanitized, safe for the whole family song sets. Granted, there's nothing particularly family unfriendly on this seasonal collection; however, it's still a fairly typical Old 97's album. Vocalist Rhett Miller is just too angsty to ever make completely overjoyed, celebratory music. This album is typical Old 97's music, in the best sense of the term. "Christmas Is... »»»
Kip Moore's greatest musical selling point is his raspy singing voice. Much like Bob Seger long before him, his is a vocal tone that gets your immediate attention every time you hear it. This EP-length project presents Moore in a quieter setting than usual. That distinctive voice is unavoidable, though, whether revved up or tamped down. The song that stands out most is "It Ain't California," which is introduced with a beautifully twangy electric guitar riff... »»»
Glen CampbellSings for the King
At first glance it may seem an unlikely connection, that which tied Glen Campbell, the so-called Rhinestone Cowboy, with the undisputed King of Rock & Roll, Elvis Presley. Nevertheless, it was a relationship that spawned several years, mostly during Elvis' lean period in the mid '60s and Campbell's tenure as part of that famed studio ensemble, the Wrecking Crew. As the decade wore on, both men accelerated in prominence, Elvis via his 1968 televised comeback special and Campbell as... »»»
Taylor MartinSong Dogs
Among the many musical treasures from Asheville, N.C. is one of its best, already veteran, and still growing songwriters, Taylor Martin. The Richmond-raised, 14-year resident of Asheville has tapped into the local music scene in a major way, but also brings the spirit of the West, having spent five years in Utah and influences of southern rock and R&B to his eclectic sound. On "Song Dogs" Martin enlists the support of The Honeycutters' Amanda Anne Platt for producing and... »»»
Kane BrownExperiment
There's not a lot of room for argument to say that men singing country music today are different than the stars on the old Porter Wagoner show. Many have ditched the cowboy hat. They're hip-hop fans, video game junkies and spent most of their teenage money on tattoos. Kane Brown checks all these boxes and more. He's biracial, for example, subverting a country culture that seemed a little too exclusive for this century. And he built his following via the internet, not in clubs (a... »»»
TellicoWoven Waters
Tellico hails from that bastion of bluegrass and hybrid bluegrass, Asheville, N.C. to deliver its sophomore album "Woven Waters.'' This effort melds their rather inherent bluegrass affinities with British Isle influences, courtesy of producer and bouzouki player Irishman John Doyle. Under Doyle's direction, chord choices and rhythmic dynamics are varied. The intertwining strings of mandolin, banjo, Dobro and guitar create a blend, aptly named in the album title... »»»
Rodney CrowellChristmas Everywhere
Rodney Crowell's "Christmas Everywhere" is a (mostly) melancholy collection of songs, with Christmas time as its setting. It's a strong set of carefully worded tunes, set to widely varying musical backings. All 12 tracks are originals, so if you're seeking out 'Rodney Crowell performs holiday favorites,' this is certainly not for you. However, if you're a little tired of all the trappings associated with the winter season, you'll find an empathetic soul in Crowell... »»»
The MavericksHey! Merry Christmas!
Sometimes, musicians create holiday albums, and it's obvious to the listener the act is breaking character. Maybe they just want to make a buck off the seasonal experience, so they'll put on ill-fitting red clothes and play the part. With "Hey! Merry Christmas!" by The Mavericks, though, one finds another fine album by the group, which just happens to be comprised of songs that concern Christmas. For example, the title track is a piano-pumping, rockabilly Jerry Lee Lewis throwback... »»»
Granville AutomaticRadio Hymns
Songwriters Vanessa Olivarez and Elizabeth Elkins form the duo Granville Automatic, the name borrowed from a 19th Century typewriter. And, as you might guess, leaning on a name like that, they love to write about history. "Radio Hymns" is a journey into Nashville's storied past, beyond the glitz of neon, cowboy hats and Lower Broad to some earlier tales of dark times. Theirs is a side of Music City that few have heard. The music, while haunting in few places, skips along nicely... »»»
Roy Schneider & Kim MayfieldReckless Saints
 
Roy Schneider and Kim Mayfield deliver a diverse sound they describe as "blue twangled folk 'n' roll" in their debut joint release. Though billed as a duo, Schneider is clearly the focal point, writing 8 of the 10 originals and handling lead vocals on all but 3 tracks. The set kicks off with the uptempo "Jump In," which demonstrates the instrumental skills of the duo, most prominently Mayfield on mandolin and Schneider on harmonica. Schneider cedes harmonica duties to... »»»
Rosanne CashShe Remembers Everything
Rosanne Cash's "She Remembers Everything" kicks off with "The Only Thing Worth Fighting For," which features the opening line, "Waking up is harder than it seems." This admission foreshadows a mostly joyless collection of songs. (If) she remembers everything, well, here's to forgetting. Another entry, "8 Gods of Harlem," comes along two songs later and features Kris Kristofferson and Elvis Costello helping Cash sing about a boy killed by gun violence... »»»
Whitey Morgan and the 78'sHard Times and White Lines
Whitey Morgan's fourth studio release exhibits the singer/songwriter's reverence for outlaw country and southern rock. The influence of Hank Williams, Jr. is evident on the opening "Honky Tonk Hell" with lyrics that evoke the Eagles and Elvis Presley ("You'll never check out of this heartbreak hotel"), while "Bourbon and Blues" gives a shout out to Hank Sr. ("I keep gettin' the same advice Hank Williams never used")... »»»
Josh TurnerI Serve a Savior
When Josh Turner reaches down to sing "swing low" during "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," he has the sort of deep voice that can do this chorus's low notes justice. Turner isn't shy about his Christian faith, which makes all of these "I Serve A Savior" songs ring true. Then with this title track, Turner pours on the traditional country joy with a pedal steel beauty. The latter makes the honky tonk feel like a church or vice versa. It's just the kind of line... »»»
Chely WrightSanta Will Find You!
Thoughtful may not always be a word applied to holiday music. Capitalization may be a more utilized descriptor. Nevertheless, Chely Wright's "Santa Will Find You" is a brief, but considerate collection of Christmas-inspired songs. The title track was written with military personnel in mind. Santa Claus will reach military men and women no matter how remotely they may be stationed. The lyric applies universally, though, as Wright sings over an orchestrated arrangement: "If... »»»
Blackberry SmokeThe Southern Ground Sessions
Blackberry Smoke's "The Southern Ground Sessions" EP is five versions of songs from the band's recent "Find a Light" album, along with a cover of Tom Petty's "You Got Lucky," which also features vocalist/violinist Amanda Shires. The project takes its name from the Southern Ground studio in Nashville, and this band, which can ramp up its music to Southern rock power - especially in concert - takes a few moments to quiet things down... »»»
Roland White & FriendsTribute To The Kentucky Colonels
The storied history of The Kentucky Colonels - Roland and Clarence White, Roger Bush, Bobby Slone, Billy Ray Latham, LeRoy Mack and others - goes back to 1954 when the California-based White Brothers decided music making was for them. With just two albums to their credit, "The New Sound of Bluegrass America" and "Appalachian Swing!", The Bluegrass Colonels influenced generations of bluegrass players following in their wake. The impact of Clarence White had on acoustic guitar... »»»
Eddie HeinzelmanWherever You Go
If you're at all familiar with session guitarist Eddie Heinzelman, it's from his fine work, both in the studio, and live in a duo format with Radney Foster. This is Heinzelman's second solo album, "Wherever You Go," an upbeat, rocking outing. There's plenty of his blazing guitar, mostly electric on these 10 songs. It's not a pure country effort at all, although it's in the mix alongside Americana, roots rock and some extended jamming too... »»»
Jason Isbell and the 400 UnitLive at the Ryman
Jason Isbell didn't record this live effort at The Ryman Auditorium as a gesture to be country music's savior at The Mother Church of Country Music. The Alabama native's music is country-adjacent at best, more than it is traditional in the way, say, Sturgill Simpson's can be. He may not be coming to the faltering genre's rescue, but he's sure breathing life into modern music in general. "Live From the Ryman" finds Isbell and his sharp band (the 400 Unit)... »»»
For more than two decades, Appleseed Recordings have been releasing politically charged, contemporary and traditionally-rooted folk music. Using those three themes to organize each disc in this three-volume set - protest folk, singer-songwriter folk and traditional folk - Appleseed provides a engrossing cross-section of their 165 releases with a treasure of unreleased recordings intermingled. Connections to country music are largely transitory: the appearance of Steve Earle with Pete Seeger... »»»
Edward David AndersonChasing Butterflies
Edward David Anderson is releasing his third solo album, having done five with Backyard Tire and three with Brother Jed. His solo efforts have been widely lauded, and this collection of tunes recorded in Muscle Shoals should bring plaudits too. It was through a tip from a friend that Anderson connected with Grammy Award winner Jimmy Nutt (The SteelDrivers) from the Shoals region. They quickly developed rapport and agreed to record at Jimmy's NuttHouse Recording Studio in Sheffield... »»»
Martina McBrideIt's the Holiday Season
Martina McBride's second holiday album is called "It's the Holiday Season," and some of this album was tracked at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. So, as you might expect, this music is a throwback to the kinds of albums The Rat Pack (and their contemporaries) once recorded at that same studio mostly in the '60s. McBride's version of "Winter Wonderland" is representative of the sort of music she's recorded for this project. It features a full string... »»»
HARDYThis Ole Boy
Perhaps better known to listeners as the songwriter behind number one hits "Up Down" (Morgan Wallen featuring Florida Georgia Line) and "Simple" (Florida Georgia Line), Philadelphia, Miss. native HARDY steps up to the microphone this time out with his debut EP, This Ole Boy. Featuring four radio ready tracks full of country swagger, the EP heralds the coming of another great voice. The songs build heavily on country stereotypes, HARDY laying down his country cred hard here... »»»
Becky WarrenUndesirable
In many respects Becky Warren's "Undesirable" mirrors Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising" in its rallying cries, its driving, jangling guitars and ultimately its message of hope. This is one of this year's most impressive releases in the category, loosely called Americana, with elements of both a great country and superb rock n' roll album. This follows Warren's lauded solo debut, "War Surplus," that was partly inspired by her own life and... »»»
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