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Bobby BareThings Change
Hipsters may only consider checking out Bobby Bare's "Things Change" due to the participation of hot item Chris Stapleton, who sings on a remake of the old hit "Detroit City." Hopefully, though, they'll immediately recognize Bare's immense talent and stick around for the whole shooting match. Bare's no spring chicken anymore, but he sounds extremely good throughout this classic-sounding country effort. Bare's singing voice may not be a thing of country... »»»
Lesley KernochanA Calm Sun
Lesley Kernochan is a first rate singer/songwriter in a folkie sort of way on her fourth release and first in Americana. At first glance, she comes across as a cross between Carole King and Joni Mitchell, with a sound that's sure to resonate with soft rock aficionados of every persuasions The breezy, guileless "Tumbleweed" and the steel guitar sparkle of "Country in the City" are but two of the songs that stay true to that vintage variety, enveloping Kernochan's... »»»
Rascal FlattsBack to Us
As summer insistently steps forward and knocks at our doorstep with bright sunny rays and promises of sun-soaked hijinks, longtime pop country superstars Rascal Flatts aim to provide the perfect soundtrack with "Back To Us." Loaded with the band's signature tight harmonies and upbeat jams built around lyrics of love and loss, Rascal Flatts doesn't move far off the beaten path while carving out a high energy declaration of summer love. Fans looking for those beach cruising jams... »»»
The Two TracksPostcard Town
Formed in 2014 in the far reaches of Sheridan, Wyo., a place well off the map as far as connectivity with the bigger marketplace is concerned, The Two Tracks make a sound that ought to be instantly engaging to anyone appreciative of a true down home delivery. Consequently, the band's sophomore offering, "Postcard Town," brings them as close to the mainstream as one might imagine. The decision to recruit veteran producer and instrumentalist Will Kimbrough to oversee the... »»»
Sara PetiteRoad Less Traveled
A last name like Petite suggests a double entendre, not to mention a punch line for all kinds of cheap jokes. So imagine the surprise that comes with the first discovery of Sara Petite's songs and singing. Big, bold and brassy, she comes across like an artist with a timeless resume, a whirlwind of musical expression who creates an ageless sound prepped by cool and confidence. Like Loretta Lynn, Wanda Jackson, Tammy Wynette, or Patsy Cline incarnate, she possesses the balls-out bravado that... »»»
The MastersonsTransient Lullaby
Being part of Steve Earle's backing band, The Dukes, would seem to some a baptism of fire. Yes, The Mastersons - specifically, the husband and wife team of Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore - not only survived but thrived, spinning off a solo career that's resulted in three excellent albums. "Transient Lullaby" affirms the promise shown early on, making them an obvious heir apparent to Gram and Emmylou, Johnny and June, Porter and Dolly and every other cool country couple... »»»
John MorelandBig Bad Luv
John Moreland sings songs about love, mostly desperate love - like the variety sung of during The Band-esque "Love is Not an Answer" - on "Big Bad Luv." Via the latter, he confesses, "I don't need an answer/I need you." Yes, he wants love, but he needs connection. Moreland's sound is more roots rock than traditional country, but it's nevertheless an appealing sonic stew. His backing band sounds a little The Grateful Dead-y during the rolling... »»»
David ChildersRun Skeleton Run
David Childers possesses a voice for the ages. It's ironic that he launched his career late in life, but given the fact that he cites some literary influences - Chaucer and Kerouac among them - he appears all the more seasoned even despite his relative obscurity. A son of the South, he resides in Mount Holly, N.C., a former high-school football hero with a humble demeanor befitting one with such humble origins. Yet it's not that he isn't accomplished; a poet and painter whose love... »»»
Old Crow Medicine Show50 Years of Blonde on Blonde
Whenever an artist attempts to cover a classic work in whole, it can't help but seem like a somewhat audacious effort from the outset. After all, tackling an album that's stood the test of time, one that's already an integral part of the musical lexicon in its original form, is a formidable task. At best, the original artist's imprint is difficult to supersede, but at worst it can become a regrettable error that yields disastrous results. Consequently, credit Old Crow... »»»
Kenny George BandBorrowed Trouble
Hailing from Aiken, S.C., the Kenny George Band - Kenny George (lead guitar, vocals, songwriter), Bucky Brown (drums, harmony vocals), Center Ely (steel guitar), Brooks Andrews (bass) and Scott Rankin (rhythm guitar, harmony vocals) - have honed their abilities by working the road. In the past two years, they've played 250 shows. That relentless dedication to craft has paid off in other ways as well, as the songs on "Borrowed Trouble" easily affirm. Indeed, with all that... »»»
Willie NelsonGod's Problem Child
One thing is for certain, Willie Nelson is still not dead. In fact, he may be more alive than ever considering the amount of work he is churning out these days. "God's Problem Child" is Nelson's 12th release in the last 5 years, and thankfully, it does not appear that he will be slowing down any time soon. At 84 years old, Nelson has certainly put in his time for a much-deserved retirement, but to the benefit of country music and its fans, he continues to write, record and... »»»
John MellencampSad Clowns & Hillbillies
John Mellencamp's "Sad Clowns & Hillbillies" began as a gospel project with Carlene Carter, and the uplifting "My Soul's Got Wings" is an audible remnant of that original intention. However, the album ultimately turned into a kind of Flannery O'Connor-esque examination of Southern folks' souls. With "What Kind of Man Am I," Mellencamp sings about a man looking back on his life with deep regret. "Sad Clowns," is an entirely different take, though... »»»
Sarah Shook & the DisarmersSidelong
Although it's been largely overshadowed by her more prevalent role as a torch singing chanteuse, k.d. lang began her career with a rootsy country band known as the Reclines, which featured lang's madcap square dancing, Patsy Cline-inflected vocals and a particularly pointed sense of both gravity and comedy set to a floor-stomping soundtrack. Thirty years later, this is, to a certain extent, the similar territory staked out by Sarah Shook & the Disarmers on their debut, "Sidelong... »»»
In bluegrass music these days, accomplished pickers abound. Some say, however, that the soul of bluegrass music is in vocals. Sonny Osborne, an estimable banjo player, would often say that his brother Bobby's vocals "paid for the farm," despite The Osborne Brothers' success as a bluegrass band. If the late Mr. Osborne was right, then Nu-Blu is on the right track. Nu-Blu features fearsome instrumentalists, but the real attraction to their new release, "Vagabond" is the vocals... »»»
FlashbackFoxhounds and Fiddles
Flashback is the name of the new band, but secondly it is a call back to the days when this collection of pickers were The New South along with J.D. Crowe, on Crowe's 1994 album, "Flashback." Needless to say, the name has a lot going on. "Foxhounds and Fiddles" is a solid debut effort. The title track opens the recording with an upbeat recollection of life in a sawmill town up in the mountains penned by guitarist Richard Bennett and mandolin picker Don Risby... »»»
Jimmy FortuneSings the Classics
The man can sing. Jimmy Fortune, long a staple in The Statler Brothers, has carved his own path over the years focusing on the spiritual side of country music: a little bit gospel, a whole lotta country. On "Sings The Classics, Fortune casts a wider net, whilst revisiting the sound and sensibility of Floyd Cramer-era Nashville country music. Although dipping his toes in the secular music pool, Fortune's forceful gospel tenor ably reinterprets this selection of familiar tunes... »»»
The Bucking MulesSmoke Behind the Clouds
There's a lot to be said for preserving and giving a modern voice to traditional American music. The old sounds are, at the very least, comforting. Connecting with them in the digital age can seem like an act of political violence. The Bucking Mules are all about the old sound, of clawhammer banjo, high mountain fiddle and a classic AA:BB pattern. The 17 songs on "Smoke Behind The Clouds" are mostly traditional tunes drawn from the mountains and mill towns of the Carolina Piedmont... »»»
The Harmed BrothersThe Harmed Brothers
Let's put it succinctly. The Harmed Brothers may be the best band no one has ever heard of. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration. They do have their ardent admirers, so let's not discount their following entirely. Still, for those who are unaware, the band's new eponymous effort ought to make it clear that this is a group with a wealth of resources at their command. It's a sound that epitomizes the best elements of Americana, from reflection to revelry, all in the space of... »»»
Chris ShiflettWest Coast Town
Chris Shiflett is best known as a guitarist in Foo Fighters, but he's also has some authentic traditional country in his bones. Inspired, in part, by much of the fine vintage country music created in California, "West Coast Town" lets Shiflett show off his country music skills. Dave Cobb, who has notably produced Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson, helps Shiflett achieve a musical portrait all his own. In fact, the title cut recalls Shiflett's formative years in Santa Barbara... »»»
Cory BrananAdios
To call Cory Branan a country artist is akin to building a small and flimsy corral around a Triple Crown thoroughbred. On his previous four full-length albums, Branan turned Nashville into his own personal music laboratory, gene-splicing sonic ideas like a mad scientist with an extensive record collection. Throughout his catalog, particularly on his last album, 2014's "The No-Hit Wonder," Branan tapped into the experimental vibe of the '70s while referencing disparate icons... »»»
Malcom HolcombePretty Little Troubles
Malcolm Holcombe's voice leaves him sounding much like an ancient Mississippi bluesman for much of "Pretty Little Troubles." (In fact, the album's title cut is an acoustic blues workout that previews what John Hiatt might well sound like, say, 30 years from now). Holcombe even gets into character, playing the role of what sounds like a sharecropper's fate during "Rocky Ground," where this characteristic working man sings of both tobacco fields and loved ones... »»»
The Wild ReedsThe World We Built
Following on the heels of their earlier EP, 2015's "Best Wishes," The Wild Reeds' debut, "The World We Built," finds the band again implementing an ability to create a celebratory sound built from euphoric harmonies and an uplifting form of expression. With three singers (Kinsey Lee, Sharon Silva and Mackenzie Howe) at the fore, the enthusiasm is obvious in practically every note and nuance, whether it's the good natured bounce of "Only Songs," the... »»»
Doyle Lawson and Paul WilliamsChapter 3
Any list of the masters of bluegrass should surely include Paul Williams and Doyle Lawson. They were there in the early years, members of Jimmy Martin's Sunny Mountain Boys, and they have carved their own paths on the thousands of stages where they have entertained audiences over the decades. Recent years have found them performing together again, and this CD comes after Williams' retirement from touring. They made use of the skills of Joe Mullins, a great entertainer in his own right... »»»
Rodney CrowellClose Ties
One song on Rodney Crowell's "Close Ties" album is called "I Don't Care Anymore." It's a song when a person comes to term with aging, where what others think of you simply doesn't really matter much in the grand scheme of things. However, if Crowell truly didn't care about others' opinions, he wouldn't have created such a fine album. He cared enough to give us the very best, to borrow an advertising slogan, and we should especially thankful... »»»
Dailey & VincentPatriots & Poets
From time to time an album comes along with exactly the right message and meaning at exactly the right time - "Patriots & Poets" is one of those albums. Dailey and Vincent initially set out to create a project full of songs they had written independently, together and with close friends. While succeeding mightily in that regard, they also created a beautiful love letter to America and her people in a time when many need to be reminded, that while perhaps flawed, we are all still one... »»»
Trace AdkinsSomething's Going On
Trace Adkins' wonderful low singing voice can be a little deceptive because he could easily sing utter crap and still somehow sound great. It's why the critical ear must pay close attention to specifically what he's saying in his songs whenever evaluating his work. Adkins doesn't write his own songs, so he's entirely dependent upon stellar writers. Thankfully, "Something's Going On" is a better than average collection of songs, especially good for Adkins, as... »»»
Ned LubereckiTake Five
An interesting question was posed online recently. It went like this: 'What is the one phrase that means nothing to the outside world, but everybody in your field will know exactly what it means?" In bluegrass, one immediately comes to mind: "The way Earl did it." Nothing more need be said, and everyone reading this knows the reference to Earl Scruggs' transformational banjo style. As a central element of traditional bluegrass instrumentation, the banjo probably should... »»»
Reviewed by Greg Yost The 15th solo release from the highly regarded multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Tim O'Brien is similar to the 1998 double album "Step Inside This House" by Lyle Lovett. While Lovett's unique take on a covers collection highlighted the music of lesser-known songwriters from his home state of Texas that helped influence his career, O'Brien's approach focuses on painting a picture of his native West Virginia by highlighting the... »»»
Sera CahooneFrom Where I Started
Sera Cahoone sings like an angel. That may sound like a cliche, but with her fourth album "From Where I Started," she proves she's worthy of the comparison. The Seattle-based singer, songwriter and occasional drummer has come up with a collection of songs so breathtakingly beautiful, it's as if they originated in places far beyond this mortal coil. Cahoone's sumptuous blend of furtive folk and a country caress result in a sound that's positively ethereal in its... »»»
Junior Sisk & Ramblers ChoiceThe Mountains Are Calling Me Home
Junior Sisk & Rambler's Choice has a couple of great things going on on "The Mountains Are Calling Me Home." Foremost, the quality of the songs included; the selection is simply genius. Listeners are almost dared to find a song that is not top notch, catchy or meaningful. It cannot be done; the songs are of the highest quality. Secondly, through the years Sisk has developed a distinguishable voice among his peers. Granted, Sisk is not completely unmistakable like Ralph Stanley or... »»»
Jessi ColterThe Psalm
Even if you enjoy religious music, Jessi Colter's "The Psalms" may be an acquired taste. As its title simply suggests, these 'songs' are basically akin to Old Testament Psalms, put to music. And that's usually a good thing, as King David was one of the Bible's best original songwriters (and also a mean harpist or so we're told). What might make this album a bit of a stretch for many listeners, though, is the style of music to which Colter puts these lyrics... »»»
Someone needs to inform karma that Raelynn is not getting what she deserves. It takes a lot of work to mess this equation up: national TV exposure (from "The Voice"), a monster hit (2014's "God Made Girls") and famous friends who've practically adopted you (like Blake Shelton). This is all atop her twangy Texan charm and very capable singer/songwriter chops. But somehow Raelynn's overseers made headshaking decisions. Last time out, they strategically released two... »»»
Greg WickhamIf I Left This World
It's an apt title. After all, it's been some 15 years since Greg Wickham was last heard from, an eternity in most entertainment realms, but especially lengthy as far as making music is concerned. If he had in fact left this world, none but family and friends would be the wiser. Happily then, Wickham's return becomes something to celebrate, an album of Americana originals that recalls his previous work with the short-lived Hadacol, the band he co-founded with his guitarist... »»»
Conor OberstSalutations
Conor Oberst's "Salutations" mainly draws upon songs from his prior "Ruminations" release, only this time the singer/songwriter has added help from a few famous musical friends, including veteran drummer Jim Keltner, as well as Gillian Welch, M. Ward, Jim James and Maria Taylor. And where "Ruminations" was stripped bare, "Salutations" features a full band sound. To say "Salutations" is Dylan-esque would be a severe understatement... »»»
Breaking GrassWarning Signs
For many bluegrass fans banjo is the centerpiece of the music. Breaking Grass' Jody Elmore falls in line with the great tradition of bluegrass banjo players, providing a clean, percussive attack on his rolls. "Cold Rain" may not speak to mountains and mama, but it's good bluegrass from the Mississippi band. Guitar player Cody Farrar composed all the songs and sometimes using only songs from a band member is less than a blessing because the band loses objectivity when picking their music... »»»
Josh TurnerDeep South
They're called "overtones" or pleasing harmonic notes that neatly accompany a main melody. People gifted with them - Josh Turner, for example - essentially have more than one great singing voice in one body. Outfitted with overtones, a good vocalist - Josh Tuner, for example - can accentuate the emotion of a song, each note an opportunity to go a step higher or lower. It's that rare combination of talents that earned Turner a 2007 invitation to the Grand Ole Opry at the... »»»
The Drugstore GypsiesThe Drugstore Gypsies
In a time when good old fashioned electric guitar rock has grown a bit stagnant, a fresh new quintet from Texas is stepping up to provide a jolt courtesy of a concise and confident debut that makes a case for the genre by adding touches of blues, country and southern rock to muscular classic rock riffs. The Drugstore Gypsies makes its intentions clear with the biographical opener, "Drugstore Gypsy." Following a guttural blues lick, the band launches into a hard-charging song about... »»»
Marty StuartWay Out West
Marty Stuart's "Way Out West" is, in part, his tribute to the music of California. The title cut gets straight to the point with a psychedelic journey song, which is as much a warning against drug abuse as it is a physical trip to the golden state. "Time Don't Wait" alludes to much of the garage rock that came out of California '60s, and more specifically points back to The Byrds' heyday with its glorious jangling Rickenbacker guitar part... »»»
Garrett Newton BandYoung Heart Old Soul
It's not unusual to see talented youngsters on bluegrass stages and Garrett Newton stands there with the best of them. He's received welcome advice from banjo masters Kenny Ingram, Steve Dilling and Ben Greene. Thanks to Lorraine Jordan, he makes regular appearances on her shows where Greene fills the banjo slot for her band. His band started as a jam band to give him playing experience and found their popularity growing as they play at Jordan's coffee house... »»»
The KernalLight Country
Don't call him Colonel. Kernal will do just fine, thank you. Despite the fact that "Light Country" is his first solo outing, this Tennessee native earned his stripes playing alongside folks like Andrew Combs and Jonny Fritz. He also learned his craft firsthand, following in the footsteps of his dad, whose own career included playing with Del Reeves on the stage of Grand Ole Opry. That said, The Kernal clearly has his own take on traditional country, one which suggests both... »»»
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