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Larry Campbell and Teresa WilliamsLarry Campbell and Teresa Williams
After serving as a sideman to some of the most distinguished luminaries in the biz - Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Levon Helm and Mavis Staples among them- it seems well past time that guitarist/producer Larry Campbell would step out on his own and spotlight his skills as both a singer and songwriter. It's to his credit however that he opts to share the spotlight with his wife and collaborator Teresa Williams, who more than holds her own as his vocal foil on this set of backwoods ballads and... »»»
Corey SmithWhile the Gettin' Is Good
There's a certain laid back vibe that colors in the lines of Corey Smith's latest release, making it the perfect record for summer. Featuring a heartfelt dose of Americana both musically and lyrically, Smith weaves a classic country tale of hometown heroes and family pride alongside more racy elements that tackle naughty women and drinking obsessions. Still, whether he's singing about his kind of woman or his father's heartfelt advice, Smith makes each and every one of these songs his own... »»»
You wouldn't know it today, judging by the rabid cross-fertilization between rock, pop and Americana, but up until the end of the '60s, the divide between rock on the one hand and country music on the other couldn't be more pronounced. Each side looked at the other suspiciously, a relationship exacerbated in no small measure by Merle Haggard's "Okee from Muskogee," a barbed putdown of the counter culture that set up the battle lines between the hippies and the... »»»
The SteelDriversThe Muscle Shoals Recordings
The SteelDrivers are a dynamic, driving bluegrass band, a five-piece with a sound and an approach completely their own. "The Muscle Shoals Recordings" is their fourth album and second featuring expressive lead vocalist Gary Nichols and mandolinist Brent Truitt alongside group founders Tammy Rodgers (fiddle), Richard Bailey (five-string banjo), and Mike Fleming (bass). Given Nichols' roots in the Alabama community, it is hardly a surprise that The SteelDrivers chose to record at... »»»
Laura Bell BundyAnother Piece of Me
It's been five years since Laura Bell Bundy's last album, "Achin' and Shakin'." Her latest, "Another Piece of Me," was finished two years ago. But after a spat with Universal, she signed with Big Machine to get this one out. LBB seems determined to make up for the lost time. She comes out swinging on the first two tracks with the rocking opener, "Love Me Like A Lady" followed by a sassy, hip hop duet with Colt Ford ("Two Step")... »»»
Dale WatsonCall Me Insane
Dale Watson continually finds new ways to express old suspicions, judgments and wishes, but always stays comfortably within his self-coined Ameripolitan wheelhouse. Not that there is anything safe or staid about Watson's approach on "Call Me Insane." Since signing with Red House a few years back, Watson has been on a true high; one didn't realize the elevation Watson was capable of achieving when surrounded by the right, supportive people. Watson's take on Tony Joe... »»»
Big Country BluegrassCountry Livin'
Big Country Bluegrass' new release poses a metaphysical question: Does the world really need another straight-ahead, high-lonesome compilation of country-flavored bluegrass songs? Probably not. With all the texture and depth of modern bluegrass, even as performed by longstanding artists, there's not much of an audience for a band that is covering (literally and figuratively) old ground. "Country Livin'" represents Big Country Bluegrass' 18th recording... »»»
Montgomery GentryFolks Like Us
Where once Garth Brooks was criticized for not being country enough, today we have hip hop artists making cameos and artists like Sam Hunt topping the country charts with EDM songs. With no release since 2011's "Rebels on the Run," we see Montgomery Gentry return to a radically different country music scene than the one they were a part of at the turn of the century. Bro country has enjoyed a large amount of success in recent years, and it is arguable that this duo is one of the... »»»
The DeslondesThe Deslondes
It's not hard to draw a laser straight line between The Deslondes' New Orleans home base and the quintet's twangy, tangy R&B/Soul gumbo on their eponymous debut. Just press play and marvel at the loping authenticity of the opening track and first single (how very Motown), the Fats Domino-flavored "Fought the Blues and Won." But subsequent listens reveal that The Deslondes aren't content to rely solely on the Crescent City's spice rack for their sonic stew; hints... »»»
Willie Nelson and Merle HaggardDjango and Jimmie
There's nothing quite so affecting as witnessing the reunion of two old friends. It's been over 20 years since road warriors Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard joined forces for their epic collaboration "Pancho & Lefty" and set the standard for several all-star pairings to come. This time around, the two pay homage to some of the musicians that preceded them - jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and the whistling railway man, country musician Jimmie Rogers - as well as old pal,... »»»
Greg TrooperLive at the Rock Room
It never ceases to amaze how an artist as skilled and credible as Greg Trooper continues to elude public attention. He can claim his fans of course, but considering the fact he has a dozen albums to his credit and nearly 30 years of making music behind him, that lack of wider awareness is not only baffling, but downright depressing. Not that he's avoided notoriety altogether; with songs recorded by Steve Earle, Billy Bragg and Vince Gill, and projects produced by Gary Tallent and Buddy... »»»
The HillbendersTommy A Bluegrass Opry
Six months ago, few had heard of The Hillbenders, a rather non-descript bluegrass band from Springfield, Mo. Today, they are garnering more press for their new release than most bluegrass bands attract in a decade. Working with SXSX co-founder and producer Louis Jay Meyers, who also conceived the concept, The Hillbenders have done the inexplicable. They have turned the still eminently listenable (as long as you ignore gaping holes within the plot), but obvious rock excess of The Who's... »»»
John AndersonBayou Boys
Unlike some country music stars have when they reached a certain age, John Anderson chooses to not rest on his laurels. Instead the 60-year-old member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame continues to release new recordings - although not as frequently as in his chart-topping heyday of 1980-1995 - featuring largely original numbers. While radio airplay may not be as once plentiful - 5 number ones, and over 20 top 20 single appearances - Anderson continues to produce songs that sound like they... »»»
Eilen JewellSundown Over Ghost Town
It's not an overstatement to say that Eilen Jewell is Johnny Cash reincarnate - at least, that's the sound she puts forth on her seventh album, "Sundown Over Ghost Town." Jewell's melancholy vocals and simplistic instrumentation betray just enough to show each song's depth and autobiographical roots. The 12 tracks range from lullabies to laments and from toe-tappers to tear-jerkers. Some of it is clearly autobiographical - "Songbird" is a sweet song... »»»
It takes a certain raw instinct to make music that's as unhinged and unruly as that purveyed by Banditos. Originally from Alabama and now ensconced in Nashville, this scruffy looking bunch of 20-somethings makes a sound that's wholly raw, raucous and unrefined, a perfect anecdote to the polite, plaintive melodies that defines much of what's typecast as Americana these days. That said, Banditos take their cue from any number precedents - the Southern swagger of Lynyrd Skynrd, the... »»»
The GrahamsGlory Bound
Commitment isn't merely a word to Alyssa and Doug Graham; the pair were friends as children, sweethearts as teenagers and married band mates as adults. As The Grahams, the duo's musical expression is the combination of their contemporary perspectives and their deeply rooted foundational influences - including Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, the Carter Family and Mississippi John Hurt - all of which informed their rich and powerful 2013 debut, "Riverman's Daughter... »»»
Brantley GilbertJust As I Am: Platinum Edition
With the third version of Brantley Gilbert's "Just as I Am," he has almost doubled the average country album track listing. The definitive Platinum Edition contains 19 tracks that feature his trademark rock inflected country sound. The original 11 tracks are still intact, with the addition of the 3 songs from the original deluxe edition. Added on at the end are five new songs that largely fit well with the tone of the album. Those who originally purchased the regular edition... »»»
The Milk Carton KidsMonterey
The Milk Carton Kids may be one of the most unlikely Americana contenders of the past few years. Relying solely on dual acoustic guitars and close-knit harmonies, they look and sound like an introspective folk duo circa the mid '60s - think Simon and Garfunkel, Peter and Gordon, or Chad and Jeremy - while their ability to randomly toss off a wisecrack or a self-deprecating aside just as easily brings the Smothers Brothers to mind. Yet, in the two years since their sophomore set, "The Ash... »»»
Kelsea BalleriniThe First Time
"Why do we need you? There's already a Taylor Swift." So said a Nashville record executive to a teenage Kelsea Ballerini. It undoubtedly stung at the time - but she was still in high school and had only travelled from Knoxville. Now that same executive is likely pricing a self-kicking machine. Ballerini's self-titled EP released last year scored big with a Top Ten Country single, "Love Me Like You Mean It." "The First Time," her full-sized debut, has now... »»»
The Malpass BrothersThe Malpass Brothers
The North Carolina-based Malpass Brothers' passion for the classic country of past decades is nicely displayed on their latest self-titled release. Christopher and Taylor Malpass are most effective when they tackle brotherly harmonies as with covers of the Wilburn Brothers' "Which One Is To Blame" and the Louvin Brothers' "Satan and the Saint," as well as the original tale of unrequited love "I Found Someone to Love." Christopher supplies the... »»»
Della MaeDella Mae
The time has come to drop the label "female bluegrass band" as applied to Della Mae. With their second, self-titled, Rounder Records release, Della Mae is simply one of the most accomplished bluegrass acts on the circuit. The four Dellas (they are down to a quartet with Mark Schatz standing on bass) have total command of their instruments (vocal and otherwise). They are skilled performers with a growing resume, including emerging IBMA Artist of the Year in 2013 and a Grammy nomination... »»»
Levi LowreyMy Crazy Head
Ever wanted to be a record company? Levi Lowrey's giving out the chance. This home-grown release is being distributed by both the Georgian songwriter and his fans. The concept is to buy the album at a premium price, then recoup (and maybe exceed) your investment through the strength of your own sales hustle. It's too soon to tell if that idea will shake or wake up the music business. But we do know about the merits of the record itself. Lowrey's changed a good bit since the... »»»
The Lonesome BandRunning Alone
The debut release from Austin-based The Lonesome Band is a blend of country, southern rock, punk and a touch of psychedelia with mixed results. The band is most adept on the more mellow tracks in which lead singer/lead guitarist Sam Whips Allison delivers effective vocals reminiscent of Robert Earl Keen, such as the ballad "Halfway There" (featuring nice steel guitar work by Dan Johnson and a tasteful solo from Allison) and the nostalgic "Make 'Em Dance," which finds... »»»
Lord HuronStrange Trails
It's tough sometimes to get a handle on Lord Huron, the western-y alternative rock band led by Ben Schneider. The act's latest full-length, "Strange Trails," includes plenty of enjoyable musical references. For instance, the track "La Belle Fleur Sauvage" has a Luther Perkins-like guitar rhythm driving it, while "Until The Night Turns" finds Schneider singing like a breathless Buddy Holly. But as good as all these memory triggers are, it's sometimes... »»»
The Honey DewdropsTangled Country
The title of the latest album from Laura Wortman and Kagey Parrish, the Baltimore husband and wife team who perform as The Honey Dewdrops, is appropriate for multiple reasons. Their folk/country/roots music style is a tangled yet beautifully made web of myriad sources and inspirations; the intimately familiar way in which they play off each other instrumentally and vocally is equally intermingled. Wortman takes the majority of the lead vocals, but Parrish's voice weaves harmony lines that... »»»
Vince Matthews and Jim CaseyThe Kingston Springs Suite
Considering the star power that backed "The Kingston Springs Suite," it is a bit surprising that it took over 40 years to be released. Produced by Shel Silverstein, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Jack Clement the project was a concept album by singer/songwriters Vince Matthews and Jim Casey that depicted small town life in Kingston Springs, Tenn. (population 510 at the time in 1972). Matthews was the driving force behind what was an expression of both reverence and concern for his... »»»
What made the music on ABC's Nashville effective for two seasons was that it felt like a lead character. The cat fighting between the two lead women made for some catchy arena ready revenge anthems and lost love ballads. This year, the music takes a back seat and does not pull its weight standing alone in the musical landscape. Several of the previous four soundtracks have charted, some hitting the top spot. The cast's Ryman shows sold out in less than an hour... »»»
Jimmy LaFaveThe Night Tribe
After releasing 2 albums in 2014, one might think singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave would still be touring in support of "Trail 2" and "Trail 3." But he's off on another trail this year with his latest effort "The Night Tribe." And like a great deal of his prior work, LaFave balances that combination of polished prose and delivery while still being a little rough around the edges. Such a duality makes for a very endearing album. While the record contains covers... »»»
The title of Maura Kennedy's latest (she's one half of The Kennedys) comes from a type of poetry: "a 19-line poem with two rhymes throughout, consisting of 5 tercets ..." There's no need to berate yourself for ignorance. Most listeners won't have a clue what this is. Kennedy challenged herself to put music to poems by B. D. Love, poems of any construction he chose. That's not the usual method of songwriting, and the resulting pleasant 15 songs don't fit any genre... »»»
Emmylou Harris and Rodney CrowellThe Traveling Kind
Listening to Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell sing together on "The Traveling Kind," their second recent duet album together, is like visiting with old friends. Crowell is a seasoned songwriter, while Harris is relatively new - but nevertheless a quick study - to the writing game, and the songwriting is strong on this album, from start to finish. The moods range from weepy country ballads, like "No Memories Hanging Round," to more upbeat tracks, such as the chugging... »»»
Shelby LynneI Can't Imagine
Shelby Lynne really needs to figure out who she is if she ever wants to be something more than the answer to the trivia question "What artist won a Grammy for best new artist after releasing 6 albums over 12 years?" Is she a country singer? Blues? Is she Dusty Springfield reincarnated? Why can't she find a style and stick with it?" That's what they say anyway, but maybe they're wrong. Maybe Shelby figured out a long time ago who she was and how she wanted to sing... »»»
Chris StapletonTraveler
Chris Stapleton is one of those artists you've heard without ever realizing it. That's because of his acclaim as a songwriter with such hits as Luke Bryan's "Drink a Beer," Josh Turner's "Your Man," Darius Rucker's "Come Back Song" and Kenny Chesney's "Never Wanted Nothing More." He also had a successful stint as lead singer of the driving bluegrass band The SteelDrivers (Adele recorded one of their songs, which he co-wrote as... »»»
Zac Brown BandJekyll + Hyde
Fans looking for the Zac Brown Band of 2005 won't find it in "Jekyll + Hyde" - there's nothing but an aftertaste of the Georgia group's chicken-fried origins. That might be why the album's name is so appropriate. Fans have gotten to know the country-folk band, but a deviant creeps in on all 16 tracks of its fourth album. And, like the classic story, Hyde stands out as more interesting. It hits hard, too. The opener, "Beautiful Drug," has an electric-pop... »»»
Tyler FarrSuffer in Peace
Sometimes, you have to start at the top before you can get real. Tyler Farr's 2013 debut, "Redneck Crazy," spawned two hits and landed in the Top Five. Colt Ford had him take ""Dirt Road Anthem" for a spin before Jason Aldean cut it. His sophomore effort, "Suffer in Silence," is more introspective. Producers Jim Catino and Julian King showcase an 11-song collection here (3 of which Farr had a hand in writing) that has a much different feel from the full... »»»
Todd Grebe & Cold CountryCitizen
Todd Grebe is based in Alaska, but on his latest release, he has one foot in West Texas, and another in Bakersfield. "Citizen" is a pleasant work of storytelling in the country vein. Grebe has a distinct voice, well suited for the genre; it's weary and wary, but hopeful. Those looking for the next faux-country anthem are advised to go elsewhere. All others are welcome. There's a sense of humor to this collection, as well. Grebe offers advice on storing a dead body... »»»
Dean BrodyGypsy Road
Dean Brody is currently one of Canada's hottest country stars. His music rests somewhere in the middle of contemporary country; more authentic than the bro country sounds of fellow Canuck Dallas Smith, yet more mainstream than Canadian traditionalist Gord Bamford. His latest is a good introduction for new fans, as it effectively blends the varied sounds that he has explored in his career. First single and lead "Upside Down" is a catchy summer jam complete with whistles and a surf... »»»
John MorelandHigh on Tulsa Heat
Here is a strong songwriter scene which focuses more on poetic lyrics and beautiful music than charts. It is the difference between East Nashville coffeehouses and downtown's tourist row of cover bands. Artists like Sturgill Simpson and Cory Branan provide an escape from the mainstream chart toppers. From this stubbornly resilient anti-scene comes John Moreland, the latest deep songwriter with a punk pedigree. On his latest full length, Moreland, an Okie, pens a dark collection of heart... »»»
Randy Rogers and Wade BowenHold My Beer: Vol. 1
Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen are best known for their Texas music roots, but their first effort as a duo is largely a throwback to an earlier wave of musical outlaws with a healthy dose of traditional country. The opening "In the Next Life" reflects on the two meeting "some 15 years ago" by noting some of the pitfalls ("Broke and damn near homeless/Lost and stumbling around" and "Had nobody at our shows/And nights we didn't get paid") along with the... »»»
There's likely nobody better to create a tribute album to the great Roy Rogers than Riders In The Sky. After all, Riders In The Sky's very existence is a kind of tribute to Rogers, as well as others like him. But this act - and this album in particular - is no nostalgic trip. Just listen to the enthusiasm, and musical swing, given to "Don't Fence Me In." This music comes off lively because Riders In The Sky infuse it with energy. Although you wouldn't guess it from... »»»
William Clark GreenRingling Road
The Texas music scene is renowned for its stubborn commitment to individualism and focus on song writing. As a result, Texas musicians often find mainstream success to be an elusive dream. Despite the steadfast vow of independence that keeps many of these artists out of many households, the songs are often some of the best crafted in the broad range of country related subgenres. William Clark Green is one of the Texas artists who is well known on the local club scene, but resides beyond the spotlight... »»»
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