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Folk Soul RevivalFolk Soul Revival
Folk Soul Revival has built a reputation for wild energetic live shows. This recording proves they can do well in the studio environment too. The band now makes their home in Bristol, Tenn., the birthplace of country. Make no mistake, FSR has already arrived, but they've had to deal with shifting personnel. Now, regrouped with two new members, they're just honing their craft of amped up Americana. Frontman and chief songwriter Daniel Davis seems so natural as the lead vocalist... »»»
Shooter JenningsShooter
Shooter Jennings is the latest to link to Dave Cobb for production on the simply titled "Shooter." As one of today's leading outlaw country voices, Jennings is adept at marrying traditional country with fierce rock n' roll. When you're born into musical royalty, the bar is always set remarkably high, but Jennings has been a constant explorer, who has formed his own signature style. This time out, though, Jennings puts aside the eclecticism he is known for, deciding instead... »»»
Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail LewisWild! Wild! Wild!
Throughout her five-decade-plus career, Linda Gail Lewis, younger sister of Jerry Lee Lewis, has shone brightest when collaborating with other artists, whether it be her brother, Van Morrison or her daughters. That formula certainly holds true on her new collaboration with acclaimed songwriter and singer Robbie Fulks. In Fulks, Lewis finds a partner who excels at writing, curating and performing songs that bring out the best in her voice - rock, country and rockabilly tunes either from or... »»»
Hot Rize40th Anniversary Bash
Hot Rize celebrated its 40th year with this live set, recorded at the Boulder Theater, Boulder, Col. in January, 2018. Doubtless, Hot Rize would agree that it has been a long, rewarding trip, and listeners are able to share the journey with this collection. Not that there haven't been detours. Founding member Charles Sawtelle passed in 1999, long after the band disbanded in 1990. Tim' O'Brien released a series of awe-inspiring solo releases. Pete Wernick dove deeper into... »»»
Chicago FarmerQuarter Past Tonight
Chicago Farmer (aka Cody Diekhoff) has the novelist's gift of building a suspenseful story to a surprising conclusion. He's clever, insightful, and witty with his between songs banter, making the stories often every bit as good and memorable as his songs. That's why his loyal fans have been demanding that he make live album for years. So, he doubled the ante and is releasing "Quarter Past Tonight," culled from two sold out solo shows at the Apollo Theater in Peoria, Ill. in December 2017... »»»
Amanda ShiresTo the Sunset
You have to give Amanda Shires credit. Raising a child, playing with husband Jason Isbell's band the 400 Unit and still maintaining a solo career is no easy task. Simply keeping the family bond when both partners go their separate ways on tour is hard enough, but for Shires, who has successfully pried herself out from under the shadow of her famous husband, it was likely even harder still. Nevertheless, Shires has reaped her rewards on her own terms. Accorded kudos as Emerging Artist of... »»»
Cody JinksLifers
The cover art of Cody Jinks' latest album shows an elderly man who has been down many a road in his life. That or it's a rendering of Oak Ridge Boys' singer William Lee Golden! Regardless, Jinks doesn't come off as some retro-sounding country artist, but keeps enough sonic Opry-ish meat to make things shine. Jinks excels at letting the songs lead him along while avoiding tinkering things to death. "Must Be The Whiskey" strolls along without any... »»»
Kenny ChesneySongs for the Saints
Kenny Chesney's "Song for the Saints" is a step in the right direction for the popular country star. Inspired by the Hurricane Irma disaster, which hit Chesney personally as it destroyed a house he owned in the U.S. Virgin Islands, these songs are more serious and heartfelt than typical Chesney music. Best of all is "Love for Love City," a reggae duet with Ziggy Marley incorporating steel drums into an inviting island mix. It's followed by a cover of Lord... »»»
Mason RamseyFamous
When considering Mason Ramsey, one is reminded of the idea that big things come in small packages. At 11, the Golconda, Ill. native has gained a far bigger audience than the nearby WalMart where a video of him singing and yodeling through Hank Sr. "Lovesick Blues" went viral big time. He parlayed that into a six-song EP with a heavy emphasis on Williams. Typically decked out in a cowboy hat (that sets him apart right there from most other country acts today), Ramsey sounds about his age... »»»
Hot Buttered RumLonesome Panoramic
It's 95 hot sweaty humid degrees, and we're thinking about Hot Buttered Rum (HBR). In any case, you need refreshing, breezy music in moments like these, and this band does not disappoint. The Bay Area-based band decided to self-produce their sixth album for which much of the inspiration is drawn from local landmarks and favorite places. "Lonesome Panoramic," takes its name from the recording studio, Panoramic House Studio in Stinson Beach, Cal. along the Panoramic Highway... »»»
Lori McKennaThe Tree
It's difficult to know where to start when praising Lori McKenna's "The Tree." It's so good in so many ways. Artists like Little Big Town and Tim McGraw have benefited greatly from recording McKenna songs, yet it's unlikely many mainstream country music fans recognize her name. Fans of Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves, two women that consistently and effectively write straight from the heart, would love McKenna's songs -- if only given the chance... »»»
Kevin GordonTilt and Shine
Kevin Gordon is a heartland troubadour of the most authentic variety, the kind that sings songs of actual happenstance without regard to however challenging or chilling the listener might find them. Rustic and rambling, his music conveys the impression that they were borne from a different age, given the quiet rumination and vivid imagery that have always been Gordon's more essential additives. The quickest comparison would be to John Prine, an artist whose dry reflections pry open the deep... »»»
The Jayhawks' "Back Roads and Abandoned Motels" is an album mostly made up of songs front man Gary Louris wrote or co-wrote for other projects, ranging from the Dixie Chicks to Jakob Dylan. For the most part, these songs just sound like great Jayhawks songs because that Louris vocal quiver is one of Americana music's most recognizable and heart-tugging sonic signatures. Therefore, it's momentarily off-putting when Karen Grotberg takes the lead on album-opener "Come... »»»
Love CanonCover Story
As the album title clearly indicates, these are cover songs from what the subhead says is "Music's Greatest Decade." Many would argue with the '80s as "the best," but nonetheless Love Canon, a hybrid acoustic bluegrass/jam band from Charlottesville, Va., has chosen some interesting artists to cover in these nine selections. One does not equate electronic tunes of Peter Gabriel, REM, Billy Joel, Depeche Mode and Paul Simon with bluegrass. And, rather surprisingly, for... »»»
Eliza GilkysonSecularia
A singular songwriter well regarded in the wider folk community, Eliza Gilkyson has built a career on crafting alluring albums that reflect her soul and sensitivity. "Secularia" is no exception, and if the title implies a certain kinship with more earthly matters, the songs themselves share spiritual sentiments that often conflict with the wider view of religion and the fanaticism that can drive its followers to extremes. In a recent interview, Gilkyson made it clear that she... »»»
Jason IsbellSirens of the Ditch reissue
One of the four new tracks on this rerelease of Jason Isbell's "Sirens of the Ditch" is "The Assassin," and it features the same country/alternative rock hybrid sonic that characterizes Drive-By Truckers songs. Such an association is to be expected, though, as the album was Isbell's first solo release after leaving DBT. Furthermore, Patterson Hood and Shonna Tucker - each of DBT - played on the album. Much like George Harrison, just after leaving The Beatles, Isbell... »»»
Kinky FriedmanCircus of Life
"Circus of Life," the title of Kinky Friedman's album, is a little misleading. It conjures up images of carnival barkers and circus freaks and songs as odd as its cigar-manufacturing, politically-astute novelist author/songwriter. The album is far more sensitive than that title suggests, though. In fact, it's a welcome respite from modern day circus-like life. The album opens with "Autographs in the Rain" where Friedman uses a song to say 'thank you' to a fellow musician... »»»
Many mainstream country artists will point to their Southern roots as proof of their country music credentials. These roots seemingly give them liberty to stray just as far from typical country music instrumentation as they like. However, how does this rule apply to Santa Barbara, Cal.'s DevilDriver, which applies its hard-rocking groove metal chops to a set of outlaw country music? One imagines it's the 'outlaw' in this equation alone that's attracted these rockers to these songs... »»»
Speedbuggy USAKick Out the Twang
The cliché goes "They live and breathe music." Consider the case of Speedbuggy front man Timbo, who led the band back from a seven year hiatus after he survived and healed from a brain aneurysm only to endure a major house fire five week before the band departed on a European tour. It's no surprise that the album is full of hard luck songs and that even the title itself conjures up unbridled energy. Speedbuggy lives up to it. The band is legendary in L.A... »»»
The Milk Carton Kids - Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale - have developed a solid following through the years, and "All The Things I Did and All The Things I Didn't Do" will feed the appetite of their followers just fine. MCK have been compared to harmony-driven duos such as The Louvin Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel and The Everly Brothers. But this misses the mark; Ryan and Pattengale have easy harmonies, to be sure, and they seem to carry the vocals as one, not unlike those... »»»
The Wild FeathersGreetings From The Neon Frontier
The Wild Feathers' third outing should solidify its position as one of the guideposts of where country is heading right now. With Ricky Young, Taylor Burns and Joel King laying down exquisite harmonies guitars and bass and Ben Dumas on drums, these guys are at the top of their game. If you are looking for something different, better and a sign that bro country may be heading for the exit, take a listen. Make no mistake, this is a modern country album, but it could have been at home on... »»»
I See Hawks in L.A.Live and Never Learn
This is the storied, rather unheralded band I See Hawks in LA's first release since 2013's "Mystery Drug." "Live and Never Learn" continues the legacy of a band that's been together for almost two decades now. They channel Gram Parsons, New Riders of the Purple Sage and the Byrds/Burritos into their singular brand of psychedelic country rock with the superb lead vocals of Rob Waller, capable players in the core lineup as well as guests. Among the guests are: Dave... »»»
Deeper Shade of BlueSteam
Hailing from North Carolina, the boys of Deeper Shade of Blue are no rookies to the bluegrass scene. Having been together for over 15 years, they have self-released several projects since their inception, but "STEAM" is their label debut. Tight harmonies and solid musicianship mark the album. Of the 12 tracks, the band had a hand in writing 8 of them including the title track, which shares a clever idiom about a man who might talk a big game, but cannot deliver on his boast... »»»
Jonathan McEuenThrough the Sun Gate
Undoubtedly, you've heard the surname McEuen before. Jonathan McEuen has spent his life surrounded by music as the son of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band founder John McEuen. Jonathan began performing at age 12, performed with his first cousin, Jamie Hanna, also of NGDB lineage, and formed Hanna-McEuen, which released two albums. McEuen has since gone solo with "Through the Sun Gate" his fifth one. This is a California album, not a Nashville one, although those connections are... »»»
Not many folks are twice members of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame: John Duffey is. A legend in mandolin musicianship and lead and harmony singing, a gregarious stage personality and master of repartee and fashion sense (okay, perhaps not the latter: many remain scarred from the early '90s animal print pants), Duffey's contributions to bluegrass music over 40 years, as a member of both the Country Gentlemen and the Seldom Scene, are epic and tales of his exploits will be told long after... »»»
Larry CordleTales from East Kentucky
Although he has won Song of the Year from the IBMA twice, Larry Cordle has long been largely ignored when recognition has been accorded. He has never received Songwriter of the Year, nor has he received a Distinguished Achievement Award: if any songwriter deserves a place in the Bluegrass Hall of Fame, it is Cordle. With Lonesome Standard Time and without, Cordle has released several exceptional albums of high-quality bluegrass replete with timeless songs, most of which he wrote or co-wrote... »»»
Banjo Nickaru & Western ScoochesGet Us Out of Fearland
For those who have followed their progress until now, it ought to be apparent that Nick Russo and Betina Hershey, the husband/wife duo best known as Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches, aren't content to be confined to any particular genre. As their excellent new album, "Get Us Out of Fearland," easily attests, they ably mine vintage trappings with an eye towards contemporary credence. Folk, jazz, Americana, blues and ballads all find a place in their merry mash-up of sounds and styles... »»»
Sugarland is back with "Bigger," its first studio album in nearly a decade. And its arrival says more about branding, than anything else. Although his voice is heard often enough on this album to make his presence felt, it's still difficult to get away from seeing Kristian Bush in the Oates to Hall or Ridgeley to Michael role in this duo. Jennifer Nettles is the act's primary focus. However, Nettles plays theaters on tour, while Sugarland fills stadiums, making it a commercial no-brainer... »»»
Junior SiskBrand New Shade of Blue
When Junior Sisk announced he was retiring Ramblers Choice and taking his music in a more traditional direction, one wasn't sure what to make of the pronouncement. Sisk has been one of the most traditional of mainstream bluegrass band leaders, releasing a new album just about every year this last decade. How much more traditional could he get? Admittedly, the last couple Ramblers Choice albums were unexceptional, perhaps indicating that an artistic malaise had established itself; both... »»»
Blue YonderRough And Ready Heart
Blue Yonder is essentially an all-star trio of terrific country and bluegrass players based in Charleston, West Va. Their songs are solid, well-structured and crisp with none of the dozen on "Rough And Ready Heart" exceeding four minutes. The sound is authentically pure, and it's both appealing and refreshing as the band moves through classic country, rockabilly, swing and folk. The album is dedicated to the listeners who join Blue Yonder every Tuesday night at Bluegrass... »»»
Thompson SquareMasterpiece
If there's a way in which Thompson Square can partner up, they will find it. The husband/wife and singer/songwriting team has added two more badges to their collaborations: parents (a baby son was born in 2016) and independent artists (the duo parted ways with Stoney Creek Records). TS's second record, 2012's "Just Feels Good," didn't exactly disappoint - it carried two Top 20 singles. Still, it was a bit of a retread and sold less than half of their debut... »»»
American AquariumThings Change
There may be no other CD title this year quite as apropos as this one. Things have indeed changed for American Aquarium since their previous studio album (2015's underrated "Wolves"). For one thing 80 per cent of the band quit, leaving only lead vocalist and songwriter BJ Barham. He could have gone off on his own - he released a solo album, "Rockingham" in 2016 - but instead he rebuilt the band from scratch. It's not just that the band looks different. Barham is different, too... »»»
Luke CombsThis One's For You Too
Luke Combs has gotten a lot of life out of his album "This One's for You," which includes his breakthrough hit "Hurricane," as well as the popular single "When It Rains It Pours." This deluxe edition includes five new tracks, many of which are just as strong as the original 12. "Houston, We Got a Problem" includes a smart lyric highlighting specific details about that big Texas city. Even though it has all these famous landmarks, it doesn't have... »»»
Nicki BluhmTo Rise You Gotta Fall
Nicki Bluhm is pissed. The context of "To Rise You Gotta Fall" can't be missed; Bluhm's marriage blew up in the last few years, and Bluhm is here to write and sing about it. Bluhm has the voice of a gritty angel. She's the closest thing we have these days to Linda Ronstadt (see e.g. "Can't Fool a Fool" and "How Do I Love You"). Bluhm fares very well in the comparison. Her subject matter of sadness and betrayal never relents from start to finish... »»»
Lindsay EllThe Continuum Project
"The Continuum Project" is Lindsay Ell's cover of, not a John Mayer song, but a full John Mayer album. As good as it is, though, one must wonder about the necessity.. With Ell working towards finding her niche in mainstream country, how would reimagining the work of a distinctly non-country artist's album (and not even attempting to make these songs sound country) help her cause? Ell, who also recently collaborated with Keith Urban on the song "Horses" for his... »»»
Gretchen PetersDancing With The Beast
Informed by the renewed strength of today's woman's movement, particularly in light of recent cultural social and political upheavals, Gretchen Peters' "Dancing With the Beast" finds her sharing stories about loss, struggle, upheaval, tragedy and turmoil in ways that resonate with a common bond, though told from a woman's perspective. It's a powerful set of songs, mostly echoing a downcast perspective, but each comes across with both enlightenment and emotion,... »»»
Jason Boland & The StragglersHard Times Are Relative
Jason Boland and The Stragglers serve up the ninth helping of their unapologetic, get it or not, country, in the past 20 years. This appears to almost be two EP's with the first mostly being a hard country dance cd and the second being a little more "out there" mix of fun and contemplative tunes, much less easy to categorize. Beginning with the stone country "I Don't Deserve You," the Stragglers versatility shines against Boland's baritone (joining on... »»»
Highland TravelersHighland Travelers
Three parts mountain music, and one part river bottom grit," Highland Travelers" represents a firm statement on behalf of the band on the same name. "Highland Travelers" is spare, yet textured. Many bands cannot hit that sweet spot, opting for a treacly high end or common bluegrass forms. Highland Travelers rises above, by seeking a bottom to complement the high lonesome sound. The band might have been (but, thankfully, was not) called "Box Choice" since the... »»»
"Hawktail" is spare, yet beautifully textured. These are craftsmen at work. They can't be in it for the money, since "Hawktail," despite its bona fides as a musician's centerpiece, doesn't tick any of the boxes that bode musical success. No matter; this is a work to savor, to listen to and enjoy. Each member has staked out an admirable musical career. If possible, Hawktail represents a supergroup of lesser-known talents in the bluegrass/traditional music scene... »»»
Holly Golightly and the BrokeoffsClippety Clop
Despite having earned her apprenticeship with the ever-eccentric Billy Childish, and choosing to adopt the influence of the equally eclectic Jack White, Holly Golightly has paved her own path over the course of her career, earning kudos for her decidedly lopsided approach. Taking her nom de plume from the central character in Truman Capote's novel-turned-movie, "Breakfast at Tiffany's, she's created a signature sound that runs the musical gamut, from garage punk to jazz,... »»»
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