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Adam CarrollI Walked in Them Shoes
This is esteemed Texas singer-songwriter Adam Carroll's ninth release and the first since 2016's all -star "Highway Prayer: A Tribute to Adam Carroll." Albums don't get much sparer or intimate with Carroll and producer Lloyd Maines both playing multiple instruments, playing every note without the benefit of a rhythm section or guests, all cut in one day. Along the way, he nods to the Flying Burrito Brothers, his wife, mentor Maines and the late Kent Finlay, proprietor of... »»»
Brooks & DunnReboot
Brooks and Dunn return with the duo's first studio album in a dozen years. Sort of. That's because they revisit a dozen of their hits (leaving a bunch behind) with contemporary country singers. "Reboot" is a cross between a tribute album and a redo, and overwhelmingly, the idea works. The general idea is that the guest artist will trade lines with Brooks or Dunn. One could surmise that Brooks & Dunn did this kind of album to introduce these chestnuts in an attempt to expand their fan base... »»»
Reba McEntireStronger Than the Truth
The beauty of Reba McEntire's albums flows from her way with a phrase, knowing when to modulate to carry us deeper into sadness or joy and when to pull back when she wants us to listen quietly to the lessons of a tear falling. Her songs can also urge us to scamper across the dance floor to twin fiddles, celebrating the exhilarating freedom of the moment or the satisfaction of breakup from a messy relationship. This album follows the end of McEntire's marriage to her manager... »»»
Molly TuttleWhen You're Ready
One of the most celebrated acoustic guitarists working within the Americana field, Molly Tuttle is two-time International Bluegrass Music Association Guitarist of the Year, the first female to be so honored. "When You're Ready" is Tuttle's first full-fledged solo album, having previously recorded an EP ("Rise"), albums with both the Tuttles and The Goodbye Girls, and a long-ago recording with her father, Jack ("The Old Apple Tree")... »»»
While some wondered whether bro country's long and very successful run (a sub-genre that traditionalists have long resented) was about to end, a quick spin of the leadoff track on Locash's "Brothers" will tell you that the formula is still alive and well. The catchy and glossy "One Big Country Song" is an everyman's anthem that equates how our individual journeys in life relate to a country song. From there, the duo of Preston Burst and Chris Lucas stick with... »»»
Jake Owen contributes to the writing of his album "Greetings From...Jake" on just one song called "Damn." Therefore, the success this project rises or falls with his vocals and song choices. Fortunately, Own has chosen some memorable songs to sing, and his singing voice has never sounded better. He's never better than on the single and album opener, "Down to the Honkytonk." It's a 'friends in low places' drinking song, where Owen's voice gets... »»»
Steve EarleGUY
A decade after recording his tribute to Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle has released an album of Guy Clark covers. It includes, perhaps, Clark's best-known songs, "L.A. Freeway" and "Desperados Waiting For A Train," as well as a slew of songs not known quite so well. Most significantly, it's an album that showcases the breadth of Clark's work. Clark was a songwriter's songwriter, something many of the best Americana songwriters - including Earle - know well... »»»
George StraitHonky Tonk Time Machine
At this stage of his nearly four-decades-long career, George Strait sure knows his sweet spot. Take a look at the cover of his 30th studio album, and it's understood that it's the honky tonks that are part and parcel of the tall Texan. Not to mention the title. And that means, Strait is going to be singing about drinking, loving and faith in styles ranging from honky tonk to straight ahead country to Tex-Mex stylings to ballads. You're also going to hear fiddle and pedal steel... »»»
Tim BluhmSorta Surviving
The front man for the Bay Area band Mother Hips, Tim Bluhm, steps aside to deliver an authentic country album recorded at Cash Cabin Studios in Hendersonville, Tenn. Yet, this is not an unexpected path for Bluhm, whose connections to classic country figures like Johnny Cash and, closer to home, Merle Haggard, are quite tangible. Bluhm's covers a tune from each along with 7 of 10 originals, proving that he too can adeptly write classic country songs. Bluhm discovered Haggard around the same... »»»
Chris Jones & the Night DriversThe Choosing Road
Chris Jones is one of today's top songwriters in bluegrass who keeps stretching the envelope, bringing elements of country, folk, gospel and blues to the idiom. He continues to evolve the genre, by focusing on the song without worrying which bucket it may neatly drop into. Jones has a commanding tenor voice that's perfect for his songs. As with any bluegrass offering, there are plenty of gorgeous harmonies from his band mates and co-writers, Jon Weisberger (bass, vocals), Mark... »»»
Uncle Walt's BandUncle Walt's Band
The self-titled debut album from Uncle Walt's Band already had a retro feel when it was initially released in 1974 with its appealing mix of jazz, folk, blues and country. The Spartanburg, S.C. trio of Walter Hyatt (guitar, vocals), Champ Hood (guitar, fiddle, mandolin, vocals) and David Ball (bass, vocals) became mainstays of the Austin music scene of the '70s following this effort. This reissue includes 11 previously unreleased tracks that nicely complement the original 11 tunes... »»»
Son VoltUnion
Seminal alt-country band Son Volt's ninth studio album, "Union," has a heavy political bent as the name implies. Leader Jay Farrar had set out to make a totally political statement to confront our turbulent times, but felt the album needed some balance. As a result, 8 of the 13 are in the socio-political camp while the other five deal with the power of love, time and music. Strains of the past two Son Volt albums 2013's country-flavored "Honky Tonk" and 2017's... »»»
Renee Wahl & the Sworn SecretsCut to the Bone
Nashville-based singer/songwriter Renee Wahl cites The Beatles as her musical inspiration but it is the sound of Rosanne Cash that permeates her second full-length release. There is a recurring theme of persevering through adversity as with "Me Before You" in which self absorption in the past ("Always thinking 'bout myself/No thought of anybody else") transitions to motherly devotion ("Never thought I'd see a time/Five tiny fingers holding on to one of mine")... »»»
Over the RhineLove and Revelation
Some might say all you need to know about Over The Rhine is its primary lead vocalist, Karin Bergquist. And that's true; her angelic singing - alone throughout "Love & Revelation" - makes the album well worth your ear time. Although he doesn't sing as much as his wife, Linford Detweiler's presence - particularly as a songwriter - is also beautifully conspicuous here. It's a strong album, from start to finish. The sonic tone is mostly quiet and acoustic... »»»
Ted Russell KampWalkin' Shoes
Ted Russell Kamp is an impressive multi-taker. Consider the fact that he has a dozen solo albums while also maintaining a dual career as bassist for Shooter Jennings' band, That said, he boasts a consistent sound regardless of whatever banner he happens to be operating under - a rich and rugged alt.-country delivery that he plies with dedicated determination. "Walkin' Shoes" expresses that attitude with his usual flair and finesse. The sass and spunk that ricochet through... »»»
Maren MorrisGIRL
Maren Morris, who had a huge pop hit with "The Middle," is never going to be anybody's ideal traditional country singer. Although, thankfully, there isn't anything that mind-numbingly beat-driven on her "GIRL" album, this is a full-length that will likely appeal as much to Morris' pop fans, as her country followers. The first great song, "A Song For Everything," addresses that mysterious intersection between one's favorite songs and significant life events... »»»
Shawn Lane and Richard BennettLand and Harbor
When two bluegrass masters come together in a duo setting, magic is likely to occur. Shawn Lane (Blue Highway) and Richard Bennett (Flashback, J. D. Crowe) have been writing together for a few years and released a five-song EP featuring three of their songs. Not as bluegrass in sound or vision as what most have come to expect from the pairing, "Land and Harbor" is an acoustic, Americana showcase of musical interplay and songwriting prowess. With two guitars and Gaven Largent (Dailey... »»»
Chatham County LineShare the Covers
Any band can offer up an album of covers. That's a given and a no-brainer at that. For some outfits, it merely means they're in a holding pattern, offering up a stopgap effort prior to regaining their muse and moving forward with new momentum. North Carolina's Chatham County Line provide an exception to that axiom as proven with "Sharing the Covers," a set of songs that effectively puts a new perspective on various well known standards. A blazing rendition of... »»»
Della MaeThe Butcher Shoppe
How many bands have taken the time - or had the vision - to create a mission statement? Guessing not many, but Della Mae's is significant: to showcase top female musicians and to improve opportunities for women and girls through advocacy, mentorship, programming and performance. Noble and, as they have repeatedly proven, attainable. On this six-track recording - captured in a burst of activity at the self-same named Nashville studio last fall - the quartet realize their mission and... »»»
As a genre, Americana has become a massive umbrella, and yet, the actual definition remains elusive at best. Still, for those that relate to its former manifestation as "roots rock" or "country crossover," the Vandoliers come remarkably close to identifying with a definitive sound. As a result, "Forever" finds them parlaying a series of insurgent anthems into an album that's flush with dedicated defiance and rebellious rockers, all ringing with unabashed frenzy and fury... »»»
The Way Down WanderersIllusions
The Way Down Wanderers are another band that's breaking the mold with traditional bluegrass, using it as a foundation to meld in an array of genres. "Illusions" is the second album from the Peoria, Ill.-based quintet following a pair of EPs and "Live at the Old Rock House." Like the best of the bluegrass bands though, these youthful musicians have a flair for melody and harmonies. The band's two chief songwriters and lead singers are Austin Krause-Thompson (guitar... »»»
Big Country BluegrassMountains, Mamas and Memories
Big Country Bluegrass is one of the finest bluegrass groups working today, and their presentation of roots and hollers bluegrass is as strong as you are going to encounter. "Mountains, Mamas and Memories" features a dozen terrific performances, not a single 'skip-it' song in the bunch. Eddie Gill is a tremendous vocalist, and his solid country voice carries much of the album. "Country Boy, Banjo and Flat Top Guitar," "The Whiskey or the Coal" and "Is... »»»
Ryan BinghamAmerican Love Song
It seems like Ryan Bingham has only fallen up over the course of his 15-year career. A roommate's brother turned out to be a hobbyist drummer and became the foundation for Bingham's band, the Dead Horses. At an early gig, one of the few patrons at a nearly deserted bar was Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford, who offered to record Bingham, ultimately leading to a contract with Lost Highway and Ford's production on his first two albums for the label, 2007's "Mescalito"... »»»
Carsie BlantonBuck Up
Carsie Blanton stands shoulder to shoulder with the current crop of female singer/songwriters, including Nikki Lane, Kacey Musgraves, Elle King, Patti Rothberg and Elizabeth Cook, who have no discernible interest in adhering to genre restrictions and industry expectations, blazing fresh musical trails with material that exists in its own brilliantly unique pigeonhole. And for those just hearing her name, that's on you; Blanton has released five full length studio albums over the past 15... »»»
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... »»»
Kalyn FayGood Company
It's Kalyn Fay's weary, gentle, and oft-ethereal voice that's so totally captivating on her second release, "Good Company." She's a Cherokee singer-songwriter exploring her unique relationship to her home state. She writes about its values, the people, the land and the dichotomy of its presence and the distance she needs to keep from it, given her ancestry. Although there are no outright mentions of her indigenous background, her music and lyrics are different from a... »»»
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... »»»
Vicky EmersonSteady Heart
Hailing from the Minneapolis area, evolving singer-songwriter Vicky Emerson is increasingly taking things into own hands. For "Steady Heart" her fourth release, she is the producer, arranger, mixer and promoter. These are mostly originals penned alone or with a co-writer, along with a scintillating cover of Crystal Gayle's classic "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue." Emerson has a similar pure breathy alto like Gayle too. The title track is a love song written for her husband... »»»
Hayes CarllWhat It Is
After 2016's uncharacteristically dour "Lovers and Leavers," Hayes Carll is back with his senses of humor and hope intact on this, his sixth album. A lot of that change in attitude probably has to do with his burgeoning relationship with fiancée Allison Moorer, which seems to be paying dividends both personally and professionally.(Although it probably precludes any type of great friendship with Steve Earle, who recently said of his ex, "She traded me in for a younger,... »»»
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... »»»
Carolina BlueI Hear Bluegrass Calling Me
Emerging North Carolina group Carolina Blue has an affinity for traditional bluegrass, most apparently the music created during the genre's earliest years from 1946 to 1960. In Carolina Blue's universe, bluegrass has not evolved beyond that envisioned by Mr. Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, the Stanleys, the Osbornes, Reno and Smiley and their contemporaries. This is the real stuff, then. Band leaders Bobby Powell (guitar) and Tim Jones (mandolin) have played together professionally for more... »»»
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... »»»
Reed FoehlLucky Enough
Reed Foehl may not be well known but he's been active for over three decades, moving his band Acoustic Junction across the country from Boston to Boulder where they made a sizable reputation for themselves on the Colorado circuit. After the band's late '90s dissolution, Foehl went the solo route, occasionally sitting in with his pals in Leftover Salmon and shifting gears from college rock band to alt.folk balladeer, his early songs tinted dark by his divorce and his father's death... »»»
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... »»»
Mandolin OrangeTides of a Teardrop
Mandolin Orange seldom disappoint. The duo's spare, but fulsome songwriting captures a tone of rich tradition coupled with sensibilities of this century. "Tides Of A Teardrop," the latest release from Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz, fulfills the promise of their earlier work. The songs and their singers take center stage. The playing is crisp and evocative, but the core of Mandolin Orange's music is revealed in the lyrics. Marlin captures sadness and longing, but drops... »»»
Amelia WhiteRhythm of the Rain
At this point in her career, Amelia White could be considered one of the preeminent voices in the Americana world. Both an assured singer and superior songwriter, the music she makes comes across like the stuff of standards, even on first hearing. For those unawares, it ought to be known that White's recorded several exceptional albums. Nevertheless, "Rhythm of the Rain" ranks as one of her best, a compelling collection that boasts everything necessary to elevate her profile and... »»»
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