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Brother NothingAll in My Mind
The Texas music scene is an especially fertile ground for aspiring songwriters. Free from the constraints of the business aspect of major label Nashville, artists can express themselves openly and experiment with various sounds. It is unlikely that Josh Field's gruff voice would be considered radio friendly enough for a major label executive, but that definitely does not mean that he isn't worth a listen. The diverse music contained here seems designed like a comfortable set list... »»»
Dori FreemanDori Freeman
Galax lies the in southwestern corner of Virginia. Mention of Galax immediately conjures the Blue Ridge Mountains and their music. The Old Fiddlers' Convention has been hosted in Galax for 80 years. So, it should come as no surprise that a new, clear and supple voicing of country music, Dori Freeman, hails from Galax, and that her music finds a vein of pure country and mines it well. Freeman's voice is startlingly clear and true. "Dori Freeman" is a perfect counterpoint... »»»
The O'sHoneycomb
The O's are a fun roots band, comprised of ex-Polyphonic Spree members John Pedigo and Taylor Young, who showcase plenty of inspiration from traditional American music. There is a touch of bluegrass and string band element to their sound, but they are decisively contemporary. The album begins with "Fourteen Days" which has much more in common with Old Man Markley than Ralph Stanley. It serves as an introduction to their interesting sound. Rather than focusing upon the... »»»
The Infamous StringdustersLadies and Gentlemen
The "Ladies" of this album's title are an impressive batch of female guest singers serving as the voice of the Infamous Stringdusters for the space of a song, lending a softer edge to the group's already smooth take on modern string band music. They come from not just bluegrass circles but rock, soul, folk and country, sending each track in a different direction that's still anchored by the instrumental dexterity of the Stringdusters. The band itself takes a back seat... »»»
FreakwaterScheherazade
The 10-year span since the last Freakwater album, 2005's "Thinking of You," combined with the busy schedules of Janet Bean and Catherine Irwin, the band's core duo, might have intimated to some that they were headed down permanently divergent paths. Between Bean's outside band activities (Eleventh Dream Day, Horse's Ha), Irwin's visual art career and both women's solo work, it seemed that Freakwater's well might have run tragically dry... »»»
Charles KelleyThe Driver
Many artists find inspiration from pain or life changing events. Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelley got his out of sheer boredom, and it resulted in a Grammy nomination. The title track off of his first solo album, "The Driver," is up for Best Country Duo/Group Performance. With Lady A on hiatus, Kelley thought, "It's winter." "I'm bored and I want to make some music." He contacted producer Paul Worley to test drive the title track and a few others he... »»»
Lucinda WilliamsThe Ghosts of Highway 20
As impressive as her last album "Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone" was, this much is true about Lucinda Williams: the next album will be as stellar or even more. That's not to say any of her releases are subpar, but the quality (and now consistency) of her output makes her a precious gem. And this record, an album inspired and influenced by I-20, a winding piece of pavement that cuts throughout her home state of Louisiana, is the usual extraordinary affair you'd expect... »»»
Buddy MillerCayamo Sessions at Sea
Buddy Miller has done a lot in the music business. He's been a Nashville session player, a record producer, the musical director for the frothy, but entertaining, "Nashville" TV show. He does a weekly satellite radio with the talented, but dyspeptic, Jim Lauderdale. For the last few years, Miller has been a featured artist on one of a proliferating series of mid-Winter music cruises. Miller goes on the Cayamo cruise, generally in late January. The "Cayamo Sessions At... »»»
Aubrie SellersNew City Blues
Aubrie Sellers may have the musical genes, but that will go only so far because she has carved her own path on her debut. Just how one would categorize Sellers musically may not be as easy. Oh, she's definitely got a country sound going - "Losing Ground," "Something Special" and the tick tock drums of the slower "Humming Song" - are proof of that. But then there's the garagey, rockabilly, swampy sounds as well (the charging leadoff "Light of Day,"... »»»
Sierra HullWeighted Mind
It has been nearly five years since Sierra Hull released a record. 2012's "Daybreak" (also on Rounder) featured startling mandolin playing by Hull and a strong, but still tentative, vocal style. "Weighted Mind" doesn't hold back on either score, and it's a beautiful work of contemporary bluegrass music. No one is the same person at 19 as at 24, and Hull is no different. At 11, she played at the Grand Ole Opry with Alison Krauss. Hull was signed to a record... »»»
Green River OrdinanceFifteen
On Texas band Green River Ordinance's fourth studio effort, the songs are solid, mainstream country music nearly indistinguishable from their chart-topping peers, the transformation from their roots-rocking beginnings now complete. "Red Fire Night" takes a big chorus style straight out of an Eric Church song and throws in a prominent fiddle/banjo backdrop for something that's as upbeat and folksy-sounding as it is corny and sentimental. "Simple Life" hits some of... »»»
Aoife O'DonovanIn the Magic Hour
Whether Aoife O'Donovan has made the decision to leave her day job with Crooked Still remains to be seen, but based on the results of her second solo album, "In The Magic Hour," she'd clearly fare just fine if she opted to pursue her own career full time. It's not like she hasn't spread her wings far afield already; in recent years she's loaned her talents to a diverse array of musicians that includes Ollabelle, Jerry Douglas, Jim Lauderdale, Darol Anger, Sarah... »»»
Matt Flinner TrioTravelling Roots
Matt Flinner has a full plate; he plays and has an active online teaching portal in which he helps his students master mandolin techniques and styles. Flinner is not a road warrior; he picks and chooses his dates, touring in short bites. The conceit of "Traveling Roots" is that these are songs, instrumentals, that Flinner and his bandmates wrote during their touring stints. The Flinner Trio live show often features a segment called "Music du Jour" - new compositions that one... »»»
The Cactus BlossomsYou're Dreaming
Don't let the different last names fool you. Jack Torrey and Page Burkum are brothers, and if there's any doubt just listen to this, their first studio album. They have that tighter than tight flawless harmony that maybe only brothers can do and not just any brothers. It's hard not to think to think of the Everlys when you listen to the Cactus Blossoms. In addition to the aforementioned harmonies, they've also got that more 'billy than rock rockabilly sound... »»»
Hank Williams Jr.It's About Time
After 70 million records and 100 charting singles, does Hank Jr. have anything left to prove? Nope, but it is after all, a family tradition - so here he is, at age 66, with his first release on a new label exclusive to Hall of Famer types (Reba, Martina McBride), looking to strike gold one more time. The Bocephus blueprint hasn't changed much since the late '80s. We've come to expect guest stars, loads of songwriters and a dip into the great American music catalog... »»»
Randy Rogers BandNothing Shines Like Neon
Randy Rogers Band's latest album cover provides insight into the music contained within. The brightly lit neon sign is a familiar sight to those who frequent honky tonks and smoky barrooms. The Texas country band plays music that is designed specifically for these locations and crowds within. Almost every song on this album has alcohol as one of the main characters. Fresh on the heels of Rogers' excellent twang filled collaboration with Wade Bowen, he returns with his full band with a... »»»
Brothers OsbornePawn Shop
These Brothers Osborne - TJ and John - are not be confused with those Osborne Brothers - Bobby and Sonny. While the former have a long long way to go beyond they reach the stature of one of the leading bluegrass duos in the genre, the newbies show they are onto something - in the country sector. Brothers Osborne have Outlaw Country and swampy ("Dirt Rich," "Pawn Shop") vibes going on filling their southern rock-veering debut, a follow-up on a September 2014 EP (two of the EP... »»»
The Grascalsand then there's this...
One of bluegrass music's strongest and most engaging performing groups, Nashville's The Grascals have consistently freshened traditional sounds with modern, progressive elements. Their Rounder albums were impressive with each an excellent introduction to the group. More recently, the band has occasionally faltered by producing music lacking distinction. Albums have been uneven in both song selection and execution. The Grascals have attempted to broaden their appeal in ways detrimental to... »»»
Lew CardFollow Me Down
After more than a decade years of recording and performing, songwriter Lew Card has earned the ability to turn in an album that breaks the rules he's already set for himself as a low-fi country artist. "Follow Me Down" aims to do that with a shinier sound that defies his previous stripped down style. The title is a call to listeners: Get off the high throne of music snobbery and return to American music's roots - country and blues - with an artist willing to be sharp in his... »»»
E.B. Anderson and the ResolutesCold Ground
When one looks at the history of music evolution in North America, there are certain hotbeds that produce numerous artists and drive the evolution of music. Memphis is famous for rockabilly and soul, New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, and Seattle is credited with bringing alternative music to the masses during the '90s. There are numerous examples, but certain places seem to produce high quality artists against the odds. Way out in the eastern reaches of the continent lies the second... »»»
Danny Paisley & The Southern GrassWeary River
As we enter the year marking the 70th anniversary of the landmark sessions by Bill Monroe that started off this whole "bluegrass" thing, there seem to be more and more young contemporary bluegrass musicians coming out of high-tone music schools like Berklee and Julliard and bringing more and more sophistication to the genre. It's good to know, though, that the "Old School" is still going strong, and Danny Paisley still deals out the hard-edged, uncompromising, and... »»»
John BowmanBeautiful Ashes
John Bowman's credits in the world of bluegrass over the past quarter-century include stints with three of the most exactingly professional - not to mention successful - bandleaders in the history of the genre - Alison Krauss, Doyle Lawson and J. D. Crowe. For the past few years he's been an important cog in The Boxcars, likewise as expert and veteran a band as there is to be found nowadays. Along the way, he married Becky Isaacs of the Isaacs Family, raised a family and immersed himself... »»»
As if to reinforce the notion that the music is still the centerpiece of the show, the Season 4 Nashville soundtrack features a generous helping of 17 songs. As Hayden Panettiere's character Juliette Barnes falls further into destructive post-partum psychosis, her character's story line takes a back seat. Mirroring the situation, she has only one solo number on the album. Elsewhere, she teams up with Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler who charges up a capable version of "Crazy... »»»
Chris CarmackPieces of You
For a guy who is one of the stars on a show called "Nashville" one might expect its first cast member's solo record produced by Dan Fowler and recorded at Blackbird studio to be a country album. But on Chris Carmack's debut EP, "Pieces Of You" there is disproportionately less Music City influence than might be expected. Upon deeper investigation of his career, Carmack's wide range of influences includes everything from the jazz and blues he grew up playing on... »»»
Cody Canada & Mike McClureTogether Again for the First time
Cody Canada and Mike McClure are popular traveling troubadours in their native Texas and Oklahoma respectively, songsmiths with a decided knack for rugged Americana and songs of serendipity and circumstance. For those unawares, "Chip & Ray Together Again for the First Time" makes an ideal primer, with both men performing solo live in concert while showcasing the best their respective resumes have to offer. Although it's uncertain who's Chip and who is Ray, it matters little... »»»
CamUntamed
Cam (Camaron Ochs) is another one of those artists only tangentially country. In the leadoff title track, you can hear banjo and twang in her voice (especially when she rhymes "wire" and "fire"), although the latter doesn't automatically stamp you with country bona fides. And this disc won't dispel the idea that Cam is more of an artist who has found her commercial marketplace in country, even if her songs more often tend to skirt country. After all, she did place... »»»
Chicago's Bloodshot Records recently turned 21, and like many of that age, they're celebrating with a six-pack. Not just any six-pack, but a special limited edition of six 7-inch records complete with a custom carton. Of course, all dedicated topers know that sometimes six is just not enough, so the first 500 orders get a bonus record, making for a somewhat cumbersome seven pack. And make no mistake, this ain't your bro-country ice-cold light beer music either... »»»
Like many icons who have since departed the planet, Johnny Cash left behind a legacy that continues to flourish - in the songs he left behind, in their interpretation by others and in the man's own recordings, which still sound as fresh and vital as they were when first released. This vintage concert offers a case in point. Recorded at the peak of his prowess, it finds him replaying his classic hits - "A Boy Named Sue," "Folsom Prison Blues," "I Walk the Line"... »»»
Rhiannon GiddensFactory Girl
As a follow up of sorts to her superb solo debut, "Tomorrow Is My Turn," "Factory Girl," a five song vinyl EP released for Record Store Day, doesn't exactly expand any parameters, but does showcase Rhiannon Giddens' remarkable dexterity as both an artist and interpreter of traditional melodies. Like an earlier work, 2009's "All the Pretty Horses" (recorded with Roger Gold and Mara Shea), it finds her covering a series of mostly obscure folk tunes, but... »»»
Shovels and RopeBusted Jukebox Vol. 1
Leave it to Americana duo Shovels and Rope to release one of the better albums of the second half of 2015! And all with the help of some classic tunes and a bevy of friends to help them out. It ends up being an extremely fun, breezy romp through songs that shouldn't sound as perky as they do. Yet after the initial moments of Neil Young's "Unknown Legend" with Shakey Graves assisting them, the listener gets the sense they've fallen into something well worth repeated listens... »»»
Stephanie Urbina JonesFeliz Navidad Y'all
There isn't a true litmus test for the quality of newly recorded Christmas music. Even so, if an artist can include both "Feliz Navidad" and "The Little Drummer Boy" on her holiday album and somehow still make them sound fresh and lively, that's a clear 'pass.' Stephanie Urbina Jones accomplished this difficult feat with her Texas titled "Feliz Navidad, Y'all" album, and then some. While Jones is a fairly staunchly traditional country... »»»
Punch BrothersThe Wireless EP
Over the course of the past decade or so, Punch Brothers - Chris Thile, Gabe Witcher, Paul Kowert, Chris Eldridge and Noam Pikelny - emerged as one of the most innovative acoustic outfits of the modern era, thanks in no small part to its members' ability to improvise and interact with such remarkable finesse. Ostensibly a bluegrass band, their sound and style generally defies any attempt at typecasting, making them a crowd favorite in concert and a reliable commodity on record as well... »»»
Kathy KallickFoxhounds
Match a seasoned performer, musician and composer with excellent musicians, and you expect a really good CD. Kathy Kallick's isn't just really good, it's excellent. In addition to Kallick singing lead and playing guitar, Cary Black plays bass; Annie Staninec, fiddle; Greg Booth is on Dobro and banjo while Tom Bekeny plays mandolin. They all add vocals. Listen to their instrumental cover of "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down" and the traditional "Roscoe" to hear fine picking... »»»
Sam GleavesAin't We Brothers
At first glance your impression may be you're about to hear Appalachian music, an implication it will have strong ties to old-time music. While "Working Shoes" doesn't have a ripping banjo intro, it can be heard as mainstream bluegrass. A strong guitar backing with a haunting fiddle plus traditional lyrics - grandparents, picket lines at the mines, grief, hard times - this is a good cut. What is unusual is almost hidden at the end of song. When the man I love comes home at... »»»
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... »»»
Michael Monroe GoodmanThe Flag, The Bible & Bill Monroe
You have to figure that with a title like "The Flag, The Bible & Bill Monroe," Michael Monroe Goodman is talking some serious stuff. After all, his middle name was given him in honor of Bill Monroe, the father of modern bluegrass and a family friend. It's only fitting then that this, Monroe's second album to date, is imbued with the kind of authenticity that resonates from the roots. Although it can't be classified as bluegrass, it does cull other traditions - the Texas... »»»
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... »»»
This is some of the prettiest gospel music you'll ever hear. Billed as "bluegrass" gospel, they would be welcome on any bluegrass stage, but the bluegrass tag comes from the inclusion of a banjo (Homer Forbes) in the instruments. You'll also hear a mandolin and guitar (Jay Forbes or Tracy Keenan). Sister Lori Forbes Slate is credited with bass. Lisa Forbes Roberts is the primary lead singer but the four trade vocal spots in the songs. The instrumental work is okay, but... »»»
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