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Joshua HedleyMr. Jukebox
Apparently someone to forgot to tell Joshua Hedley that country music has passed him by. Where does Hedley, aka apparently known as the Mayor of Lower Broad, come off to incorporating honky tonk, Texas swing, western swing and countrypolitan all in the first three songs of his debut? There's perhaps no better song that underscores where Hedley is coming from than "Mr. Jukebox" with his swinging fiddle, steel guitar from Eddie Lange and a loping beat. The jukebox is the bar... »»»
Old Crow Medicine ShowVolunteer
Dave Cobb produced "Volunteer" for Old Crow Medicine Show, and while word on the street was that this promised to be a more rocking, less roots music effort, such talk shouldn't dissuade fans of the group's established sound from checking it out. Sure, there may be a little more electric guitar than on past efforts, but this is still very much OCMS music. While rock and roll is not the best term for these songs, perhaps rambunctious best describes some of them... »»»
Paco is the name of Tim Easton's Gibson J-45, which he bought for $100 and a couple of trade-ins 30 years ago. The name was bestowed on the guitar in Paris by a Deadhead. It's been Easton's best traveling companion and songwriting aid. For this occasion, Easton recorded the album in Bristol, Va. via a vintage and portable lathe which cuts a mono signal directly to a lacquer acetate disc, much the way The Carter Family or Jimmie Rodgers made their first records over 90 years ago... »»»
John PrineThe Tree of Forgiveness
Mortality is very much on the mind of John Prine on this, his first album of all-new songs in 13 years. Understandably. After all, this is a man who has survived lung cancer and squamous cell cancer, the latter of which took a toll on his vocal cords. He's also had two knee replacements and a hip replacement. "All the TSA guys know me," jokes the legendary 71-year-old singer-songwriter. There are odes to the Almighty ("Boundless Love") and reflections on human limitations... »»»
Blackberry SmokeFind a Light
Blackberry Smoke will never fit the mold of a mainstream country act the way, say, Midland has done. They love to rock way too much to ever tamp it down permanently. And the aptly named "The Crooked Kind" follows a rollicking, rock & roll path that feels like just the right road. With that said, though, there are moments during "Find A Light" where Blackberry Smoke softens the sonic nicely and naturally. "Medicate My Mind," for instance, rocks to a likeable, gentle groove... »»»
Sarah Shook & the DisarmersYears
For the less informed, it might seem like the blink of an eye since Sarah Shook & the Disarmers dropped its first album but those of us paying closer attention know that last year's release of "Sidelong" was actually Bloodshot's reissue of Shook's 2015 album that she originally distributed through CD Baby. So, instead of the apparent months between Shook's debut and sophomore releases, the new album's genesis is accurately described by its title: "Years... »»»
Kim RicheyEdgeland
Nineteen years ago, back in those heady days when it was popular to learn what was on a celebrity's iPod playlist, Al Gore got some props for bringing Kim Richey's "Glimmer" to people's attention. That album cemented Richey's reputation as a singer-songwriter to be reckoned with. Since then Richey has been far from prolific, releasing only 4 albums, the last being 2013's "Thorn In My Heart." This is her strongest effort since "Glimmer... »»»
Mary Chapin CarpenterSometimes Just The Sky
Artists with Ivy League degrees are just like us, but they can see into the future a little ahead of time. Brown graduate Mary Chapin Carpenter was writing wry feminist anthems like "He Thinks He'll Keep Her" and "The Hard Way" over25 years ago. And even those songs were from her fourth studio album - Carpenter's full career spans since the late '80s. She's remained a critical fave from the start, but her luster as a country music ingenue has long worn off... »»»
Paul ThornDon't Let the Devil Ride
Paul Thorn's first gospel album is as authentic as it is inspired. He recorded it on the (secularly) hallowed grounds of Sam Phillips Recording in Memphis, FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala. and Preservation Hall in New Orleans. He's also helped by the Blind Boys of Alabama, The McCrary Sisters and other celebrated gospel figures. The music he's created herein is the celebratory variety. It's 'feel good' gospel music sure to inspire you, even if you're an unbeliever... »»»
Andrew SheppardSteady Your Aim
When you hear Sheppard's voice, its high whine sets it apart right away from the deep, gravelly kind that you associate with most outlaw country. His richly layered accompaniments belie the standard country sound too, but mostly apparent is his natural gift for damn good songs. "Steady Your Aim' is full of them. Sheppard's sophomore release is an analog recording with narratives borne out of growing up in Idaho's open spaces, replete with pedal steel, piano, cello,... »»»
The Oak Ridge Boys17th Avenue Revival
With a group history that spans over 50 years, gospel and country music mainstays The Oak Ridge Boys are at a place when they could conceivably rest on their laurels, release a few greatest hits records and coast the rest of the way through their careers, and fans would still be pleased. Yet, this quartet is not content to rest. Calling once again upon producer Dave Cobb, who helped to press new energy into the group's career in 2009 with "The Boys Are Back," The Oak Ridge Boys have... »»»
Scotty McCreerySeasons Change
"Boys from Back Home" is Scotty McCreery's amalgamation of Kenny Chesney's "I Go Back" and "Boys of Fall," which even borrows words from each hit song to create something attempting to be new. It's not new. Instead, it sounds more like songwriting by committee, relying upon radio listener demographics. Many of these songs were created to sound immediately familiar to mainstream ears. They will. This doesn't mean they're good, though, let alone meaningful... »»»
Dave AdkinsRight or Wrong
Dave Adkins stepped to the plate and swung for the fences. His monster swing found the sweet spot and delivered a game-winning home run. "Right or Wrong" is filled with hot picking, great vocal presentations and a risk or two that absolutely pay off. If Adkins was trying to outshine previous releases, he may have done so. Adkins assembled an all-star team of musicians with Terry Baucom on banjo, Adam Steffey on mandolin, and Justin Moses on fiddle and Dobro. Mix in Carl Caldwell and... »»»
Ned HillSix Feet Above Ground
Ned Hill has, at least for now, traded in the blistering, no-holds barred rock from his 15-year tenure in Ned Van Go, for a solo turn. He hasn't completely left it behind though, as railroad themes, lost love and surviving through struggles - themes that drove his last few albums with that band - are very much present here. Even a reconstructed version of the title track from the band's 2006 album "Marry a Waitress," appears here. Make no mistake, however, this is new territory for Hill... »»»
6 String DragTop of the World
6 String Drag's 1997 Steve Earle-produced album "High Hat" marked them as one of the so-called seminal Americana bands, well before the term was widely used. Then it was called alt.-country. The band formed in 1993 just as Uncle Tupelo was breaking up and before Whiskeytown and so many others. Yet, front man Kenny Roby never thought of the band's music in that way. They were bent on being a classic rock n' roll band. Now, 25 years later, founding members Roby... »»»
Caleb CaudleCrushed Coins
Caleb Caudle's continues to grow and experiment a bit on this, his eighth release, "Crushed Coins." Although Caudle, asserts himself with the confidence of a veteran, finding his groove somewhere between a melding of Gram Parsons, late '70s-'80s country, and today's Americana, his music has become both quieter and richer. Caudle has a true gift for melody. His songs just seem to float gently and the instrumentation (especially the guitars, pedal steel, keyboard,... »»»
3hattrioLord of the Desert
In a certain sense, the third album by the trio that refers to themselves as 3hattrio, is as difficult to discern as the reason why they wear such odd masks to conceal their faces. For the record, the band consists of Hall Cannon on guitar, banjo and vocals, Eli Wrankle, who plays violin and Greg Istock, charged with double bass, foot percussion and additional vocals. As for the music itself, suffice it to say it's surreal, a swirling blend of elusive impressions that appear atmospheric and... »»»
Ed RomanoffOrphan King
Arriving four years after his eponymous debut, "The Orphan King" affirms the fact that Ed Romanoff is an artist worth reckoning with. Granted, Romanoff has followed an unlikely trajectory up until now. Prior to a belated start making music only after he had entered his 40s, he spent his time at a series of decidedly odd jobs, including a stint stacking toilets in North Carolina and branding cattle in the wilds of Wyoming. Nevertheless, that circuitous route that led to his current... »»»
Matthew McNealGood Luck
Texas native Matthew McNeal's sophomore album, "Good Luck," gets off to a rousing start immediately with the single and riveting first track, "Rumorosa." The release represents an opportunity for McNeal to stretch beyond his country roots into other sounds, some informed from heavy, indie and even punk rock. McNeal, 25, and his drummer Andre Black, who still tour as a duo, began playing together as teenagers in the small town of Terrell, Texas. Without a decent venue... »»»
I'm With HerSee You Around
There's no denying the incredible individual abilities of Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O'Donovan and Sara Watkins, the three acoustic music powerhouses behind the supergroup I'm With Her. Both as solo artists and as members of revered groups like Nickel Creek (Watkins) and Crooked Still (O'Donovan), these ladies are recognized as some of the finest songwriters and performers in Americana music. Still, questions remained about their collaborative work. Would the sum be greater than the... »»»
Ruby BootsDon't Talk About It
(Bloodshot) Rebecca Chilcott, better known as Ruby Boots, has an irresistible back story that makes her sophomore album, "Don't Talk About It," even more compelling and satisfying. The Australian native began working on pearling boats at 14, lived on her own at 16, enrolled in a music business school, but didn't begin to pursue her actual musical dreams until she was 30. After five years of performing and recording solid work under her adopted name of Ruby Boots - a nod to her... »»»
Caroline CotterHome on the River
Caroline Cotter doesn't have to depend on anything more than her sweetly pervasive vocals to make an emphatic impression. That's evident at the outset and becomes consistently clear throughout the entirety of "Home On The River," Cotter's sweetly beguiling sophomore set. A collection of songs that convey a wistful yet wilful sense of wanderlust, the music sweeps the listener along on the strength of her inherent folk finesse, a delicate delivery that combines quiet... »»»
Doc WatsonLive at Club 47
When Doc Watson passed away in 2012 at the age of 89, his legacy as one of the most treasured and iconic figures of American country and folk music was embodied in nearly five decades worth of highly regarded recordings, both live and in the studio, and for many up and coming musicians, "pickin' with Doc" became one of the "must do" items on the career checklist. But when he took the stage on a February evening in 1963 at the legendary Club 47 in Cambridge, Mass... »»»
Wade BowenSolid Ground
Wade Bowen release his first solo album of country music in almost four years. Not that he has been idol, with two duet albums with Randy Rogers and the gospel effort, "Songs for My Mother" sandwiched in between. Helping write 10 of 11 songs here, most with producer Keith Gattis, "Solid Ground" plays like a lovelorn travelog to Texas, visiting places, events and personal experiences that while diverse in tone and influence, nevertheless are held together by the singer's... »»»
Lynn Taylor & The Bar FliesStaggered
East Nashville may be known as "the" Americana hotbed these days, but some of the talent there is very much verging on rock 'n roll. This is the case with Lynn Taylor & the BarFlies on their third release, a collection of personal tunes by the front man. Taylor wrote most of these tunes with his cohort, Larry O'Brien. It's a narrative of emotions surrounding grief, but there's a lively feel to the album which was immensely cathartic for Taylor... »»»
Maggie Valley BandThe Hardest time
Although many bands affirm their reverence for the roots, few do it with as much clarity, credence and conviction as the Maggie Valley Band. Hailing from Maggie Valley, N.C., sister duo Whitney and Caroline Miller repurpose the sounds they absorbed while immersing themselves in music as children and add a contemporary sheen to their vintage trappings. Often compared to bands like the Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show and Drive-By Truckers, they successfully tap tradition while adding a... »»»
Volume FiveMilestones
Bluegrass music has been on a growth spurt for a decade or more, and with that comes diversity that brings talk of what's 'real' bluegrass or who's more 'traditional.' Falling squarely in the middle of that argument is Volume Five, five guys who can play it straight, twangy and driving bluegrass style or throw it in a lower, sentimental country gear and wrench every drop of emotion out of a lyric. About half of the group's latest looks back to Flatt & Scruggs... »»»
John OatesArkansas
Most casual Hall & Oates fans won't know what to do with "Arkansas," John Oates solo album. Where's the big '80s production? Where are those splashy, MTV-ready videos? If it's anything like the '80s, that would be the 1880s. "Arkansas" is John feeling his folk oats, which are a far sonic stretch from his high-paying pop gig with one of pop music's most popular duos. Whereas Daryl Hall leads Hall & Oates with strikingly blue-eyed soul vocals, Oates... »»»
Letitia VanSantGet it to the Studs
Baltimore songstress Letitia VanSant offers up a most impressive entry with "Gut It to the Studs," an album offering up her readily engaging melodies in ways that all but assure an immediate embrace. She has some help in crafting her compositions - Elephant Revival's Charlie Rose among them - but credit is largely due VanSant herself for providing such a worthy and wider debut. If VanSant were to rely on her seductive songs only, "Gut It to the Studs" would be worthy of... »»»
Montgomery GentryHere's to You
It's impossible to listen to Montgomery Gentry's "Here's to You," without also feeling sad that it's the last studio album featuring Troy Gentry, who died in a helicopter crash. When they sing, "Here's to the ones who ain't in here tonight" during "Needing a Beer" and then go on to praise fireman and cops for being elsewhere fighting crime, you may be struck by the fact that Gentry also "ain't in here tonight... »»»
Mike and the MoonpiesSteak Night at the Prairie Rose
The Austin-based Mike and the Moonpies' "Steak Night at the Prairie Rose" is a satisfying mix of traditional country, southern rock and western swing with touches of rockabilly and pop. The set kicks off nicely with the bouncy "Road Crew," which blends western swing with rockabilly and spotlights lead guitarist Catlin Rutherford and keyboardist John Carbone. The closing "We're Gone" serves as a western swing bookend of sorts with a harder southern rock edge... »»»
Various ArtistsAmerican Folk soundtrack
The soundtrack for the independent film, "American Folk," stars two real-life singer-songwriters played by Joe Purdy and Amber Rubarth, who also contribute the bulk of the material on the soundtrack. Understanding the plot of the film helps explain both the sequence and content of the track list. The movie, which was filmed over 3,500 miles in 14 states, follows Elliott (Purdy) and Joni (Rubarth) - two strangers, both folk musicians - who are serendipitously brought together after their... »»»
AmigoAnd Friends
The second release from the Charlotte, N.C.-based trio Amigo is an entertaining mix of rock, folk and country. The album begins and ends with essentially the same song as the opening country rocker "The Big Idea" and closing newgrass-flavored ballad "Almost Something Good" share identical lyrics that work nicely with both arrangements. The influence of The Byrds and Gram Parsons is evident in the psychedelic rocker "Own Trip Now" (featuring a scorching fuzz tone lead... »»»
Ben Miller BandChoke Cherry Tree
First impressions can be deceiving. And given the fact that certain members of the Ben Miller Band resemble extras from a newer version of a "Mad Max" movie, that impression is all the more striking. Nevertheless, it's the music that provides the most indelible image, and indeed, the Ben Miller Band's fifth album is as diverse as it is distinctive. With a revamped line-up and several tricks up their collective sleeve, "Choke Cherry Tree" finds the Joplin, Mo... »»»
Mary GauthierRifles and Rosary Beads
Mary Gauthier has built her career on honest, sometimes brutally and achingly self-confessional songs. This is the first time that she has focused on experiences other than her own, and it could become not only the strongest album of her career but, in its own way, a landmark album. "Rifles and Rosary Beads" was co-written over the period of a few years with U.S. veterans and their families, revealing untold and powerful stories that veterans faced abroad, returning home and that their... »»»
Laura Benitez and the HeartacheWith All Its Thorns
Amidst the hybrid country, commercial country and roots-country it's refreshing to hear that classic country sound, which we do not hear nearly enough today. Bring on Laura Benitez and the Heartache with "With All Its Thorns." This is her third album, and while the previous two were basically no-frills country, she and the band have added Cajun and Mexican influences by adding fiddle and upright bass as well as accordion. They alternate between electric and acoustic, depending on... »»»
Steep Canyon RangersOut in the Open
Some two full decades after coming together as a group of North Carolina college buddies who wanted to start their own bluegrass band, the Steep Canyon Rangers continue to find themselves faced with a dilemma of sorts: while they are at this point perhaps the best known bluegrass band in the country, perhaps even the world, a sizable portion of their renown is amongst people who know them mainly as "Steve Martin's backup band," by virtue of their longtime association with the... »»»
LANCOHallelujah Nights
LANCO's "Greatest Love Story" is a radio single saturated in undeniable warmth and sweetness. But then, the attitude in "We Do" reeks of Florida Georgia Line and the chorus to "Singin' at The Stars" also brings country music's most annoying duo to mind. LANCO is a new act, and the jury's still on just which direction this five-piece will go. Will this group follow Midland as another truly legitimate country music collective, or could they follow... »»»
First Aid KitRuins
With their stunning new album "Ruins," First Aid Kit further ascend to unexpected heights of superstardom, a status a few knowing pundits have been predicting for the Swedish sisters since the beginning. Nevertheless, to those that encountered them early on, it may seem an unlikely progression to be sure, one which takes them from their origins as an innocent sounding sisterly duo in a decidedly wistful folk noir, to a mainstream entity in the good graces of major label backing... »»»
Matt HectorneWork
Matt Hectorne's new album - his third solo effort - offers another example of the rewards that can come through the joy of discovery. While Hectorne makes no attempt to bend the boundaries as far as a patented Americana sound is concerned, the success he achieves here is the result of him doing quite the opposite, that is, sounding like a revered veteran who mastered the form quite quickly in his career. Indeed, Hectorne has a vintage approach that suggests his talent emerged fully formed... »»»
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