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Martina McBrideEverlasting
When an established artist is somewhat "in between" albums, a greatest hits package can often bridge that gap. Or a live album. Or perhaps a cringe-worthy Christmas album. If you're Rod Stewart you can create a cottage industry from old standards. But few decide to try to enhance or pay tribute to old soul songs that can almost never be duplicated. However Martina McBride decided to go down that road on her latest offering with acclaimed producer Don Was helping out... »»»
Josh ThompsonTurn It Up
Josh Thompson's sophomore release, "Turn It Up" is his first on Toby Keith's Show Dog label. It seems to be a good match because both artists are cut from the same cloth. Thompson is also known as a champion of the everyman. Turns out they both have the same tendency to go over the top. Thompson excessively showcases the blue collar lifestyle the way Keith champions patriotism. In fact, eight of the 10 tracks involve drinking, some with unsubtle titles like "Drink,... »»»
Jerrod NiemannHigh Noon
Jerrod Niemann's new "High Noon" album is better than the annoying single, "Drink to That All Night," might lead you to believe. Fortunately, the album is not completely a Luke Bryan sound-alike. Even so, there are moments where Niemann sometimes sounds a little too much like his musical contemporaries. The rap-influenced "Donkey" has a bit of Big & Rich flavor running through it, while the resigned tone in Niemann's voice during "Lucky #7"... »»»
Johnny CashOut Among the Stars
One would think that with all the archival music, reissues and postmortem tributes released on Johnny Cash's behalf, the vaults would have been scraped pretty clean by now, with only scraps left for dedicated completists to feast upon. So it comes as no small surprise to find that the Cash archivists actually uncovered some entire sessions that haven't been unearthed until now. Recorded in the early '80s, "Out Among The Stars" is such a high quality collection that it... »»»
Dex Romweber DuoImages 13
Dex Romweber has carved an entire career out of mining archival influences, a mash up of surf, country, rockabilly and R&B circa rock 'n' roll's first golden era. While there are others who have adopted a similar style, Romweber, once with Flat Duo Jets, never falls back on parody. Rather, he and his sister Sara - who backs up her multi-tasking brother on drums and percussion - show a single-minded determination that draws from the same musical well as those early predecessors... »»»
Ronnie MilsapSummer Number Seventeen
Quick, what guy compiled 40 number one country singles, recorded with everybody from Ray Charles to Elvis, but has yet to be enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame? Yes, it's Ronnie Milsap, now in his 70s, just like Merle Haggard (who was inducted 20 years ago). Clearly, the ornery outlaws get more attention than the nice guy romantics. And it doesn't help that Milsap has always been interested in many different flavors of music, from '70s Philadelphia Soul to '50s doo-wop... »»»
Dave AdkinsNothing to Lose
Dave Adkins is a bluegrass singer with a powerful voice. His self-composed "Put Some Grass In It" is dedicated to the world of bluegrass and tells his philosophy of the music while reciting a litany of bluegrass stars as comparisons to his style. Mentioning names like the Stanleys, Jimmy Martin and Bill Monroe will make this a crowd-pleaser. Several tracks have strong country influences. "Pretty Little Liar," co-written by Adkins and Edgar Loudermilk, is the story of a... »»»
Don WilliamsReflections
Listening to Don Williams is like putting on that old flannel shirt you've had since your college days; it's a comfortable fit, soft and reassuring without looking too much like something your dad might own. Williams' style of country music isn't much in fashion these days, but it carries a bit of a timeless quality with it - like George Strait, this new album could have come out any time in Williams' career. Some of that is due to the sympathetic ears of his longtime... »»»
Sara EvansSlow Me Down
Once upon a time, circa 1997, Sara Evans was a dyed in the wool traditional country singer. "Three Chords and the Truth" was the most appropriate title of her debut. But times and styles have changed in the country music world. Seventeen years later, not only is Evans not traditional sounding, she also doesn't particularly heed her own advice from the title. And that means she pretty much maintains a fast, big sounding, pop approach to the 11 songs, three songs which she co-wrote... »»»
Luke Bryan mock introduces "The Sand I Brought to the Beach" as a "real sad story y'all." It's a breakup song and one where the character in it is forced to admit, "I guess she didn't like the spring break side of me." The same can be said of country audiences that may well have outgrown chasing girls on the beach between college semesters. Bryan claims EPs like this one are meant to give his fans new music between full, official releases, but we know better... »»»
Eli Young Band10,000 Towns
As an eight-time veteran of the Billboard Country Charts (including three number one singles), Eli Young Band sticks with a winning formula on its fifth release, "10,000 Towns." The 11 tracks are dominated by radio ready numbers with catchy melodies and big choruses. The title was inspired by the Dallas band's road travels, and the quartet has typically relied on outside songwriters. Will Hoge weighed in on two numbers here. However, all four EYB members contributed on this effort... »»»
Holly Golightly and the BrokeoffsAll Her Fault
Holly Golightly the musician will hardly get confused with the high class party girl played by Audrey Hepburn in the Blake Edwards directed/Truman Capote penned "Breakfast at Tiffany" film. In contrast, this Holly Golightly and her bassist/group partner Lawyer Dave make mostly loud, loose, beery roots rock and country together. "All Her Fault" may not be a stinging indictment of either sex, at least not conceptually, but the man in "Bless Your Heart" sure gets a... »»»
It takes a lot of special talent to adequately pay tribute to an artist as prolific and influential as Bob Dylan. Columbia Records proved it could pull off such a lofty endeavor when the label honored its brightest star on Oct. 16, 1992. Columbia took over Madison Square Garden and unleashed a torrent of talent rivaled only by the all-star rosters assembled for major disaster-relief fundraising efforts. George Harrison, Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, Lou Reed, John Mellencamp,... »»»
Drive-By TruckersEnglish Oceans
It would be easy perhaps even tempting - to label Alabama's Drive By Truckers as simply a rowdy and rambunctious country rock outfit that goes all out to make their insurgent sound heard. Not surprisingly, it was their landmark opus, "Southern Rock Opera," an album detailing the exploits of a fictional '70s Dixie-bred outfit called "Betamax Guillotine," that helped solidify both their sound and reputation. They've more or less continued to reinforce that stoic... »»»
David NailI'm a Fire
The struggles battling severe depression despite budding success and the adoration of peers and fans alike that David Nail endured during his journey to the recent release of his new album reads something like a country song of its own. And in hindsight, Nail's previous releases were brooding and at times melancholy. Unconscious reflections of his previously undiagnosed condition? Maybe. Nonetheless, the unmistakable positive vibe that shines through his newest album doesn't diminish... »»»
Rod MelanconParish Lines
Practically born on the bayou, as that familiar refrain goes, Louisiana's Rod Melancon attempts to place the best of that state's much revered musical traditions within the context of his hard luck stories and songs embroiled in gritty circumstance. "Parish Lines," his sophomore set, often comes close to finding the right mix, but Melancon's tendency to tap into more familiar terrain - that involving hapless heroes faced with rejection, doomed affairs and lonely hearts,... »»»
The 23 String BandBangin' and Clangin'
The 23 String Band occupies that odd gray area in bluegrass that exists between traditional purity and youthful reinvention. The eastern Kentucky quintet might have a hard time convincing the genre's narrowly focused archivists that they belong in the same exalted pantheon as its marbled heroes, but 23SB doesn't seem to have any trouble amassing fans and packing dance floors, and that seems like a better yardstick by which to measure their efforts. After their entertaining 10-song EP... »»»
Home FreeCrazy Life
If you start listening to acapella group Home Free's latest album, "Crazy Life," and find yourself thinking that they sound like they just won a reality show, you're right on the money. While working as an all-around vocal group who'd tried out for the reality show, The Sing-Off, and been rejected three times, the fourth time the band went all country and found themselves winning the contest as well as a recording contract with Columbia. And on their national debut, they... »»»
Marah is a Hebrew word that means bitter - which might describe the reaction of any fan that expects the band of that name to ever sound the same (or even have the same lineup) from album to album. From their brilliant, boisterous debut "Let's Cut the Crap and Hook Up Later Tonight" in 1998 to 2010's subdued (not to say melancholy) "Life is a Problem," with forays into everything from bluegrass to Britpop in between, the only constant has been their respect for all of... »»»
Dierks BentleyRiser
Change was in store for Dierks Bentley when it came to recording his seventh album, "Riser." On the personal front, he lost his father and added to his family, clearly affecting the subject matter of his latest. On the musical front, he traded long-time producer Brett Beavers, producer of every disc except "Up on the Ridge," for Ross Copperman, who has enjoyed more success as a writer, including several previous tracks for Bentley. Bentley embraces current trends in country... »»»
Cole SwindellCole Swindell
It's almost as if Cole Swindell's producer told him to concentrate hard and picture himself performing before a sold out stadium crowd when he wrote these songs because nearly everything on the artist's self-titled album is an anthem - little is subtle or left to the imagination. Whether he's giving a great, big shout out to the crowd with "Hey Y'all" or giving his girl a quiet squeeze from the cheap seats on "Swayin'," Swindell swings for the... »»»
Ralph Stanley and Ralph Stanley IISide By Side
It's hard enough to contemplate the fact that it's been nearly 70 years since teenaged Ralph Stanley returned from military service in Europe to embark on a legendary career for two decades with brother Carter (who passed in 1966) and now for almost a half-century on his own. On top of that, it's similarly mind-bending to realize that it's some 25 years since his then pre-teen son Ralph II (known familiarly as "Two" for most of his life) has been a regular part of his... »»»
Will KimbroughSideshow Love
Will Kimbrough's been around a long time, with his early band Will & the Bushmen signed to a short-lived major label contract and his tenure in the Bis-Quits with Tommy Womack a notable footnote, but despite extensive credits as an artist he's still mostly lauded for his production, songwriting and sideman roles for others including Todd Snider and Jimmy Buffett. The Willie Sugarcapps ad hoc collective he formed with Grayson Capps and other Alabama natives released a great rootsy album... »»»
Lydia LovelessSomewhere Else
On her follow-up to "Indestructible Machine," Ohio singer-songwriter Lydia Loveless sounds like she has taken everything great Stevie Nicks, Garrison Starr and Neko Case have managed to do over their careers and made them her own. The new full-length effort kicks off with "Really Wanna See You," a mid-tempo rocker veering from roots rock to polished pop. And from that moment on, Loveless takes you on a very enjoyable trek. Part of Loveless' appeal is her knowing each... »»»
From the sound of "Hang Your Hopes On A Crooked Nail," his sixth full-length, Rod Picott's voice has begun to season into something that's a cross between Kris Kristofferson and Billy Joe Shaver. And like those two country music outlaws, Picott writes and sings honest, earthy, real life story songs. You can also hear vestiges of roots rock icons like Neil Young and Tom Petty on the harmonica-colored "Where No One Knows My Name," which finds Picott expressing a... »»»
Irene KelleyPennsylvania Coal
The longstanding joke, usually told by Keystone State residents themselves, is that Pennsylvania is "Pittsburgh on one end, Philadelphia on the other, and Kentucky in between." It's usually intended as a political commentary, but in the case of Pennsylvania native Irene Kelley, there's a musical context as well as a family history. The century-old photograph on the back of her new release features a group of Pennsylvania coal miners, one of whom is her grandfather... »»»
Frankie BallardSunshine and Whiskey
Upon first glance at the track list of Frankie Ballard's sophomore release, "Sunshine and Whiskey" you might think you're in for 40 minutes of upbeat party anthems. Nearly half the songs have unsubtle titles like "Drinky Drink," "Sober Me Up" and the standard, "Don't tell Mama I Was Drinking." But behind some of the clichéd titles are deeper themes including introspection, death and regret. "It Don't Take Much" is autobiographical... »»»
Eric ChurchThe Outsiders
Eric Church looks to take no prisoners on his big and bold - sometimes very dark - sounding fourth studio release. He makes that crystal clear on the cover where he stands flanked by his backing quintet, looking tough, menacing, ready for a rumble with arms hanging down, hiding behind sunglasses. These guys are ready to roll. As in rock and roll, which Church et al cook up with the lead-off title track, an out-and-out rocker with Church laying down his outside the lines credentials... »»»
Jamestown RevivalUtah
Thanks to Mumford & Sons and their ilk, acoustic-guitar-strummed roots rock is suddenly in vogue again. Jamestown Revival is the latest in a continuing string of artists that, although relatively brand new (age-wise), hearken back to musical styles long before their time. Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance comprise Jamestown Revival, and this duo from the small Texas town of Magnolia give us "Utah," an album that sounds like The Band when things threaten to rock out, as on Cast Iron Soul,... »»»
Eric PaslayEric Paslay
You may not have known the name Eric Paslay prior to his debut disc, but chances are you've heard his songs in the past few years. The red-headed Texan has enjoyed hit songs he helped pen including Jake Owen's "Barefoot Blue Jean Night," Eli Young Band's "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" and Love and Theft's "Angel Eyes," all of which number one on the country charts. Paslay delivers the songs on his own release with a warm soulful voice... »»»
Girls Guns and GloryGood Luck
With a handle like Girls, Guns and Glory, you might expect this outfit to sound like a heavy metal band. After all, it reads like a banner that might have served as the title for an album by Motley Crue, Megadeth or any other hard rock hero. So while this Boston-based band does serve up its share of balls-out rockers, the edgier offerings are tastefully intertwined between an equal number of frayed ballads, allowing the emotions to ricochet between triumph and tragedy. Five albums on, Girls,... »»»
Tony TrischkaGreat Big World
Tony Trischka is an ambassador for the banjo, a role shared with Bela Fleck and taken up in recent years by Steve Martin. In fact, Martin appears on one track of "Great Big World," playing clawhammer on "Promontory Point." This is an interesting number that features an instrument that, while not rare, isn't common, the cello banjo, and will take many banjo enthusiasts into new ground. Trischka then plays a five-part number using a separate single string for each part, an... »»»
Cahalen Morrison & Eli WestI'll Swing My Hammer With Both My Hands
An interesting and intriguing development of the past few years in the Americana music scene is the emergence of a number of younger bands and performers whose repertoire is heavily laced with original songs and tunes, while showing a deep understanding of and abiding respect for tradition, particularly the old time "source" musicians and pioneers of the early decades of the country music business. Acts like the Stray Birds and the Carolina Chocolate Drops have drawn wide followings by... »»»
Suzy BoggussLucky
Suzy Bogguss' original intention to was to make a record based in country and blues, and she and husband (and co-producer) Doug Crider kept thinking of Merle Haggard songs that fit the bill. The result is something pretty and much happier in places than the originals. For instance, the anti-Christmas carol and perennial recession anthem, If We Make It Through December, is fairly upbeat with its bright acoustic guitar finger picking and Bogguss' pretty voice. Nevertheless, you can... »»»
Scott H. BiramNothin' But Blood
Scott Biram has been described as raucous, a bit psychotic and earned the title "The Dirty Old One Man Band." One thing missing from all these descriptions is talented. All these are on full display on Biram's new release. As the title suggests, Biram leaves no stone unturned, his music and style is unrelenting and dripping with emotion. Be warned, however, Biram is not for the timid. He cuts loose openly and freely. Case in point is his own version of Mance Lipscomb's "Alcohol Blues... »»»
Dirk PowellWalking Through Clay
"Americana" is sometimes used as a catch-all description for music that doesn't fit any other genre. It is supposed to describe music that is a fusion of American styles including blues, country, bluegrass, R&B and others with American roots. Americana - the intended definition - is a good description of Dirk Powell's music. The title song is a dedication to his great-great-grandmother who escaped Confederate soldiers, bore a son by a man who "took advantage of... »»»
Jason EadyDaylight & Dark
Following up his much acclaimed 2012 release "AM Country Heaven," Jason Eady once again takes aim at the lost art of traditional country music and fully hits the target dead center. His new release "Daylight & Dark," focuses on the more mellow side of country. This one does have its share of toe tappers, and, of course, drinking laments, but the soulful qualities of Eady shine. Teaming up with Kevin Welch, who produces the record, and multi talented Fats Kaplin on steel... »»»
Amy RayGoodnight Tender
Amy Ray has said that her role as one-half of The Indigo Girls is to bring a sense of "punk credibility" to their soulful brand of folk music. On Ray's first two solo records, she explored that in earnest. But with the encroachment of age brings introspection. And beginning with 2008's "Didn't It Feel Kinder" a more melodic approach to songwriting began, now culminating with this Southern-flavored release. This isn't just a country album - it's... »»»
Laura CantrellNo Way There From Here
Midway through Laura Cantrell's "No Way Home From Here," she kicks off the track "Beg or Borrow Days" with a two-step groove colored with fiddle and slightly Celtic feel. This leads to the banjo-driven "Driving Down Your Street," another rhythmic track that. And after the four melancholy, manic depressive songs in a row that precede these, it's a little like a light going on. But then again, the opener, "All the Girls Are Complicated," should give... »»»
The Farewell DriftersTomorrow Forever
After two previous albums that didn't garner anywhere near sufficient attention, Nashville's Farewell Drifters take a dramatic leap forward with the all too aptly titled "Tomorrow Forever." It's not only a quick catch-up for those who haven't heard them before, but more importantly, a record that has the potential to propel them to the forefront of the new folk/pop vanguard, a gathering whose current roster includes such super successful troubadours as Mumford & Sons... »»»
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