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The Infamous StringdustersLaws of Gravity
The Infamous Stringdusters have always been difficult to categorize. That's part of their charm. Part traditional bluegrass (leaning on sound bluegrass instrumentation, namely guitar, Dobro, banjo, fiddle and standup bass), part jam band (extended sets of songs in their live shows in which one song triggers another), and wholly original with a signature sound and energy that goes on without cease. In the last year, The Infamous Stringdusters have released an album of duets with female... »»»
Ray CardwellTennessee Moon
Like fellow Missouri native Rhonda Vincent, Ray Cardwell grew up singing and performing in his family's bluegrass band. Unlike Vincent, he left the Nashville scene behind him for several years to, among other things, raise a family and teach music. His return to the recording studio and the touring grind (the album's title is also the name of his new band) offers a dozen tracks of mostly contemporary bluegrass, and if it sounds more than a little inspired by the records put out 30 years... »»»
Wildfire "Rented Room on Broadway" Pinecastle Records Reviewed by Donald Teplyske Emerging from a latter version of The New South, over the past 16 years, Wildfire has quietly established themselves as a consistent bluegrass outfit. With original members Robert Hale (guitar) and Curtis Chapman (bass) leading the way, Wildfire returns with "Rented Room on Broadway," their fifth album. John Lewis remains on banjo while bluegrass vagabonds Greg Luck (fiddle and guitar, and another J. D... »»»
Blue MafiaThe Hanging Tree
Since emerging with one of the strongest debuts of 2013, Blue Mafia have done the work necessary - touring, writing and wood-shedding - to gain a measure of recognition within the crowded bluegrass field. "Hanging Tree," their third album, continues the group's ascension within the marketplace. Emphasizing the importance of balance, Blue Mafia combine to be dynamic and distinctive. Featuring multiple lead voices, strong original songs as well as the ability to locate good new ones... »»»
Trent HarmonTrent Harmon
"American Idol" has earned its place in history as a star making factory, and voting viewers have enjoyed their early investor pride in the superstar success of winners like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. But by the 15th lap, the TV competition was gasping. In America Idol's 2016 final show, a 25-year-old Mississippi native named Trent Harmon was chosen for the top prize. With his leprechaun features and aw-shucks delivery, he seemed like another in the yawn parade... »»»
Kane BrownKane Brown
First look at the cover for Kane Brown's full-length debut album, and you may experience a "Homeboy" moment. The young man appears like the tattooed model for Eric Church's song of the same name. Although Brown is categorized as bro-country in some quarters, the actual music he makes is much better than you might expect. This is one case where you shouldn't judge the book by its cover. Although the album includes a lustful song like "Pull It Off," which is a... »»»
Gillian Welch's album "Revival" was a revelation. The fact that T Bone Burnett - the ultimate roots rock curator - produced it, gave good reason to give it immediate attention, and insightful songs like "Barroom Girls" and "By the Mark" cemented the news that Welch was truly something special. With "Boots No. 1: The Official Revival Bootleg," Welch has expanded the original 10-track album into a 21-song opus. And while this extensive collection of... »»»
Garth BrooksGunslinger
If naming your release "Gunslinger," you'd better let it rip and go for a harder country sound, especially if donning a black cowboy hat on the cover. The reality does not exactly match that sentiment for Garth Brooks, but at times he comes mighty close. The high points for Brooks are the three most traditional country songs - a couple of honky tonkers ("Honky-Tonk Somewhere" and "Cowboys and Friends") and a ballad ("Whiskey to Wine")... »»»
High ValleyDear Life
There's a scene in the movie "Bull Durham" where Kevin Costner tells Tim Robbins how holding the record for most home runs in the minor leagues is kind of a dubious honor - it shows a lot of years that you didn't make it to the majors. Is that what being the biggest country band in Canada is like? High Valley, who've scored an impressive run of Great White North charting singles and awards, would disagree - Shania's a Canuck ,of course. And everybody's from somewhere... »»»
Robert Earl KeenLive Dinner Reunion
Talk about deja vu all over again, Robert Earl Keen's 'new' live album is a two-disc re-living, if you will, of the Texas singer-songwriter's "No. 2 Live Dinner," which was originally recorded in 1990. Performed again in front of an audience at John T. Floore Country Store in Helotes, Texas, "Live Dinner Reunion" includes many of Keen's best songs. It also features a few special guests, such as Lyle Lovett and Joe Ely. This guest list is a little... »»»
Olivia LaneOlivia Lane
Ladies first, as the saying goes, and country music is following suit. There's a crop of female artists out now who are fusing songwriter chops with a new generation's ideals. And they just happen to be running rings around a lot of the male competition. Count newcomer and Houston native Olivia Lane among them. She sounds a lot like Sara Evans and looks a little like Barbara Streisand from the ingénue days. As with her fellow "young" ladies (Maren Morris is 26, not a... »»»
Rani Arbo and Daisy MayhemWintersong
With "Wintersong," Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem dig deep for its roots. Many of the songs on this 13-song holiday set will likely be unfamiliar. It took until track five, in fact - with "Children Go Where I Send Thee" - for familiarity to set in. But just as changing up the melody on a familiar carol can sometimes help refocus us on a well-known song, filling an album with relatively unfamiliar songs can also cause listeners to see the holiday season in new light... »»»
The Piedmont Melody MakersWonderful World Outside
Although this is their debut release as a quartet, The Piedmont Melody Makers (the band name is a nod to their North Carolina home base) have individually been well-established in the realm of bluegrass, old time and old country music for what adds up to decades of more than a dozen. The two senior members, Alice Gerrard and Jim Watson have nearly a century of experience between themselves alone. Gerrard's bluegrass partnership with the late Hazel Dickens that began in the mid-1960s opened... »»»
Rhonda VincentAll the Rage Volume One
Rhonda Vincent has been a solid voice of bluegrass music since the 1970's. She first performed with a family band (The Sally Mountain Show), before going solo. Her career took a country turn for a few years, but she's mostly a bluegrass artist these days, and bluegrass is the beneficiary. Vincent has found her voice (literally and figuratively) fronting The Rage. Anyone who has seen her live show knows that she can tear it up, whilst remaining true to mountain music sensibility... »»»
Garth Brooks and Trisha YearwoodChristmas Together
Listening to Garth Brooks' and Trisha Yearwood's new holiday album of (mostly) duets, one is once again reminded how Yearwood is one of the most underrated country artists, whereas - if we're being honest -Brooks is a little on the overrated side. For instance, Brooks almost seems to be punching the clock with his vocal on the throwaway "Ugly Christmas Sweater" and then dusting off a retread with "Feliz Navidad," Yearwood sounds like a truly sexy hotty during "Santa Baby... »»»
SidelineColors & Crossroads
Sideline features three familiar faces for bluegrass lovers. Steve Dilling played banjo for IIIrd Tyme Out for over two decades while his son-in-law, Skip Cherryholmes, played for over a decade with his family in Cherryholmes. Jason Moore started with the late, great James King and has played on more than 100 projects to date. Dilling drives the intro of "You Don't Know What You Got Till It's Gone" while Nathan Aldridge takes a break on fiddle, and Brad Hudson does the same on Dobro... »»»
While we spend so much of our lives on the search for something new throughout the year, when it comes to the holidays we seem to find ourselves gravitating back toward that which we know. These are the things that inspire nostalgia and warm memories, the taste of Grandma's apple pie or the sight of that god-awful Christmas ornament that's been handed down through the years. And let's not forget the music. There's no music like Christmas music to take you back, drawing you in... »»»
Balsam RangeMountain Voodoo
Balsam Range has been at the heart of mainstream bluegrass music since its debut in 2007. "Mountain Voodoo" is an ambitious, and successful, summation of the first decade. Vocal harmonies provide the core of Balsam Range's music. It's mountain music, to be sure, with lots of vocal range. Lead singer Buddy Melton controls his tenor range with power and effect, and is joined, in varying degrees by mandolinist Darren Nicholson, bassist Tim Surrett and guitarist Caleb Smith... »»»
Perhaps no artist is so ingrained in the very fibre of modern Americana more than Emmylou Harris. Her presence is everywhere - in the music she makes on her own, in the music she shares with others, in the music that feature finds her simply settled in the background sharing supporting vocals or merely lending inspiration. On Jan. 10, 2015, a distinguished group of her peers - a list of notables that included Rodney Crowell, Buddy Miller, Chris Hillman, Lee Ann Womack, Steve Earle, Mary Chapin... »»»
Pert Near SandstoneDiscovery of Honey
After 10 years and 7 previous albums, Pert Near Sandstone have proven their proficiency when it comes to creating a sound invested in bluegrass but filled with modern urgency and enticement. Theirs is an approach that shows full allegiance to the essential elements of a back porch delivery, flush with fiddles, mandolins, banjos, Dobro and washboard, along with a contemporary sensibility that finds a certain kinship with artists like the Steep Canyon Rangers, Sam Bush and Mountain Heart that... »»»
Kenny ChesneyCosmic Hallelujah
The gospel, per Kenny Chesney's pseudo-spiritually-titled album, "Cosmic Hallelujah," is that the world is too crazy to make any sense of, and the only logical response is to drink more alcohol. (So, don't be surprised if there are more arrests for public intoxication at the performer's upcoming concert dates). Nearly every song includes lines about drinking alcohol - and not merely for the taste. This content will please many of his hard-partying fans... »»»
Cole SwindellDown Home Sessions III
Cole Swindell's third installment of the "Down Home Sessions" EP series is a relatable five-track thread that feels like bro country light; There's plenty of beer and bars, but only one truck song ("Chevrolet DJ"), and the narrative thread including failed pickup lines, first date jitters and jealousy can be interpreted as applicable to one girl and the early stages of a relationship rather than the gaggle. That being said, the overall texture is pop laden,... »»»
Brett EldredgeGlow
If things ever go south for Brett Eldredge in the country music field, he should have no problem transitioning into the world of contemporary crooners like Michael Buble and Harry Connick, Jr. For on his debut holiday outing, "Glow," Eldredge takes off his hat and puts on his tuxedo as he delivers a pitch perfect, old-school dose of Christmas cheer. Across a swath of 10 (or 13 for those springing for the deluxe edition) traditional favorites and 1 original, Eldredge taps into a nostalgic... »»»
Adam Carroll doesn't boast anywhere near the recognition factor of, say, Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt or any of the other far more famous singer/songwriters that astute insiders frequently compare him to. However in the opinion of most insiders, Carroll's acknowledged as one Texas' true treasures, an artist who's earned the respect of his peers and secured a place amongst the best regarded musicians the Lone Star State has to offer. It's indicative of that admiration... »»»
Aaron Lee TasjanSilver Tears
Guitarist/vocalist Aaron Lee Tasjan has the kind of musical resume that seems like an implausible invention from the mind of an unhinged Hollywood screenwriter. From band membership in Semi Precious Weapons and the Madison Square Gardeners to sideman stints with Peter Yarrow, Drivin' N' Cryin', Sean Lennon and the New York Dolls to his own wildly diverse solo career, Tasjan has effectively defined the word eclectic. Over the past decade, Tasjan has released a pair of excellent... »»»
Wayne HancockSlingin' Rhythm
Wayne "The Train" Hancock's affinity for hard core country, roots relevance and Texas swing has been a staple of his sound ever since he won his first music competition at 18 and subsequently released his first record in the mid '90s. Now, 10 albums on, he's firmly etched his place in the Americana firmament, and just as his music tends to lean towards what could be generally defined as an insurgent sound, he refuses to be compromised. "Slingin' Rhythm"... »»»
Jennifer NettlesTo Celebrate Christmas
Christmas is a season that calls into view that old adage that "bigger is always better." Bigger trees, bigger light displays, and bigger presents are, if we're being totally honest, always welcome. When it comes to the music, it's very much the same. While the quiet, jazz-tinged standards of Crosby or Cole go well over a hot cup of cocoa, few things get our holiday juices flowing like a big, joyous Christmas favorite. And who better to deliver those songs from her big... »»»
Kip MooreUnderground
Claiming to have too many songs to choose from, Kip Moore's solution to his surplus was to release "Underground," an EP. "Everywhere we go the fans keep asking for the recordings of these underground songs that they've been hearing for the last few years," he said. "They're a passionate fan base so I decided to ask my label if I could record these songs live and give them the raw recordings." Moore co-wrote all five tracks, which include two studio... »»»
Kacey MusgravesVery Kacey Christmas
Sometimes it's not about what you play, but the way you play it, and with "A Very Kacey Christmas," Kacey Musgraves sacrifices a little surprise for a relatively pleasantly predictable holiday offering. For instance, Musgraves' duet with Willie Nelson plays on (surprise surprise) the iconic singer's propensity to smoke weed when they wish the world "A Willie Nice Christmas." Although there are some sad country songs, like "Christmas Makes Me Cry" and... »»»
The Harmed BrothersA Lovely Conversation
Honesty and conviction are inherent elements of Americana music, but the ability to convey these emotions in a credible and convincing way is the challenge faced by every contender, often the divide that separates success from failure. Credit the Harmed Brothers for managing to make music so rich and resolute that there's never any doubt as to where their intentions lie. "A Lovely Conversation" is as pretty and pastoral as its title implies, and while the group taps certain... »»»
Rascal FlattsThe Greatest Gift of All
It's the big things - and sometimes the little things - that make Rascal Flatts' Christmas album "The Greatest Gift of All" stand out. On the macro level, the country vocal trio put a little funk - well, as much funk as three Nashville guys can muster - into "Go Tell It on The Mountain." And then, the cool little bass line introducing "Let It Snow" helps differentiate this act's version from possibly millions of other versions. Much of "The... »»»
The Good IntentionsThe Long Unbroken Line
The Good Intentions take their handles seriously. Their name reflects a genuine desire to transplant their homespun harmonies and Gram-meets-Emmylou embrace to the far side of the Atlantic. And indeed, the title bears relevance by finding a continuous thread that advances roots relevance by offering nods to their Americana forebears. This they do by adhering to the basics, specifically, the two voices of husband-wife duo R. Peter Davies and Gabrielle Monk, simple acoustic accoutrement and only the... »»»
In the 50 years of Exile's existence, they've recorded pop albums and country albums, amassing their fair share of hits with tracks like "Kiss You All Over," "Woke Up In Love," and "Give Me One More Chance," yet they've never recorded a Christmas album. With the release of "Wrapped Up In Your Arms For Christmas," the band adds that to their resume, delivering a collection of Christmas favorites sprinkled with a few original presents of their own... »»»
"Christmas on the Lam and Other Songs from the Season" is one of the best holiday album titles since 1996's "Christmas on Death Row," the gangsta rap album of the same name that featured the likes of Snoop Doggy Dogg (which was how he was known at the time) and other tough guys of rap. This release, though, features no rap music. Instead, it's a collection of loose and (mostly) bluesy holiday-themed tunes. Almost everything on this collection is new... »»»
"Feel Like Going Home: The Songs of Charlie Rich" will be a revelation - and one reveal of the best possible variety - to anybody whose only exposure to Rich's music may have been his MOR balladry of the '70s. Therefore, this album doesn't include a cover of "Behind Closed Doors" or anything else from that period in The Silver Fox's career. This is a tribute to Rich's Memphis, rockabilly-inspired period. "Break Up," for example, is... »»»
Chris YoungIt Must Be Christmas
Song selection can sometimes seem fairly inessential whenever chosen by a master singer. Such is the case with "It Must Be Christmas," Chris Young's new holiday collection. He sounds as perfectly comfortable with the jazzy "I'll Be Home for Christmas," where its supper club vibe takes a little of the edge off one seriously sad song, as he does with the Phil Spector rock nugget "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." Young is also helped out by a few special guests... »»»
Blackberry SmokeLike An Arrow
Blackberry Smoke may never fit into any country music traditionalist's definition of true country music. The guitars are too loud and the there's far more boogie than twang in the act's sound. Nevertheless, this act fits squarely into the description of fine Southern rock. "Like an Arrow" hits all the right stylistic marks. "The Good Life," for instance, doesn't align itself with many of the usual sonic elements of a country song, but its lyric - all about... »»»
Paul CauthenMy Gospel
Paul Cauthen didn't dub his debut album "My Gospel" without good reason. The product of a religious upbringing, he made an earnest plea to God to help deliver him from a path he sensed was quickly going downhill. He references his higher intents several times throughout, but it's the lyrics to the stormy "Grand Central" that best reflect his renewed awakening. "If I get to heaven, better roll me some sevens, Cause right now my ticket's punched for... »»»
Marc Ford & the Neptune ClubThe Vulture
If Marc Ford never contributed another note of music to the world, his indelible stamp as a vital component to the Black Crowes' sound and his invaluable assistance to a host of other artists as sideman and producer would distinguish him as one of rock's indispensible figures over the past quarter century. Thankfully, Ford is no laurel-resting slacker nor is he content to languish in the shadows while his more flamboyant band mates and employers grab the attention and accolades... »»»
Larry StephensonWeep Little Willow
With much of bluegrass music setting off in more adventurous or mainstream directions, it's always reassuring to know that there are artists such as Larry Stephenson out there who can bring great talent to the more traditional side of things and make it sound brand new. Stephenson breaks no new ground, but provides solid evidence of his firm position in the legacy of bluegrass. One of the most lauded singers in his genre and a five time SPBGMA Vocalist of the Year, Stephenson's nasal... »»»
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