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Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon RangersThe Long Awaited Album
Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers "The Long-Awaited Album" Rounder Records Reviewed by Donald Teplyske When last we visited a new album from Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers, 2011's "Rare Bird Alert," we found a cohesive, focused collection of bluegrass; it was an expansive, artistic creation that only benefited the bluegrass community. A subsequent live album (strikingly entitled "Live") presented a continued refinement of this pairing's chemistry... »»»
Larry Campbell and Teresa WilliamsContraband Love
Larry Campbell and Teresa Campbell could have been content to retain their status as musicians on call, given the fact that they've loaned their services to any number of high profile employers -- Bob Dylan, Rosanne Cash, Mavis Staples, Levon Helm, Little Feat, Shawn Colvin and Phil Lesh among them. Instead, they've built themselves a solid reputation, one that qualifies them as one of contemporary country's most resourceful and respected musical duos. While some of those... »»»
The GrascalsBefore Breakfast
The Grascals woke up early, well "Before Breakfast" to serve up a generous 12-course meal of hearty bluegrass with a little bit of gospel mixed in for spice. The result is tasty, another recipe that shows why the band has been nominated for multiple Grammy awards. New radio single "Sleeping With the Reaper" opens the release with a strong vocal performance from John Bryan. He handles nearly half of the lead vocal responsibilities including, "Delia" and gospel tune... »»»
Old DominionHappy Endings
Right off the bat, the title of Old Dominion's album "Happy Endings" is far better than "Meat and Candy," its prior effort. ("Meat" in an album title? Really?) But also on an artistic level, OD's follow-up shows signs of growth. With that said, though, there's nothing on this new release as immediately catchy as "Snapback." Nevertheless, the vocal-only harmonies introducing "Not Everything's About You," are a beautiful thing... »»»
The Cadillac ThreeLegacy
The Cadillac Three's bio is stacked with amazing bullet points that partially explains their mutant rockabilly-heavy-on-the-rock cocktail. The born-and-raised Nashville trio - drummer/vocalist Neil Mason, bassist/dobroist/vocalist Kelby Ray Caldwell and guitarist/lead vocalist Jaren Johnston - have extensive indie-rock-and-beyond resumes, including their previous incarnation as Bang Bang Bang which morphed into the sadly overlooked American Bang. Johnston, Caldwell and Mason remained... »»»
Doyle Lawson and QuicksilverLife is a Story
Life really is just a story, a collection of memories we share to remember moments, circumstances, life lessons, heartache, friends and family, the good times and the bad. Over 40 years in the music business has certainly given Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver plenty of stories to share, remember and pass on, making "Life Is A Story" essentially a book on tape, albeit set to Lawson's high standard of powerful and polished instrumentation. "Life Is A Story" kicks off with a... »»»
Blake SheltonLive EP
This six-song "Blake Shelton Live EP" seems a little odd. It's not as though Shelton had an especially noteworthy tour to document. Besides, at only six songs long, it's a relatively short document, anyhow. While it may be little more than a post-it note of a project, though, it also packs a powerful punch. You recognize right away the large amount of enthusiasm the act of singing to an audience brings out of Shelton. When compared to the recorded versions of these hits,... »»»
Dale Ann BradleyDale Ann Bradley
Dale Anne Bradley is sui generis, a rare talent that imprints her own sound whilst adapting to the traditional bluegrass form. Bradley has a rich tone, a breathless Southern phrasing and a gift for telling a story in her songs. "Dale Ann Bradley" features but two songs ("Southern Memories" and "Now and Then (Dreams Do Come True)," co-written with Jon Weisberger) written by Bradley herself, but her choice of material is flawless, matching her voice with the... »»»
Although he'd no doubt reject as pretentious the title of theologian, ecclesiastical matters are never far from Ray Wylie Hubbard's mind. You can tell from the titles of his albums - "A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is no C)", "The Grifter's Hymnal" - and the tracks therein, where he's either planning his celestial footwear ("Barefoot in Heaven") or escaping from hell by blowing smoke up the devil's derrierre ("Conversation... »»»
Kacy & ClaytonThe Siren's Song
Canadian cousins Kacy Anderson and Clayton Linthicum build upon the success and artistic latitude their previous "Strange Country" brought them and teamed with Jeff Tweedy to craft a folk-rock explosion that is positively astonishing. Building on the trad. arr folk tradition, crafting sweeping originals that build on British and North American folk traditions, "The Siren's Song" is a too-brief album of grace and beauty. One should not be faulted for thinking renditions of... »»»
Josh Abbott BandUntil My Voice Goes Out
Josh Abbott Band opens its album "Until My Voice Goes Out" with the title track, which features the unique combination of stately strings along with plucked banjo. In one respect, it's a love song about the desire for a specific woman. Couched within this plea, though, is a sincere wish for a life lived to the fullest. Abbott also sings "Ain't My Daddy's Down" at album's end, which explains the meditative nature of the record's opener... »»»
Kashena SampsonWild Heart
The debut release from Las Vegas native and currently Nashville-based singer/songwriter Kashena Sampson is a mix of country, folk, rock and blues driven by Sampson's powerful vocals. The strongest country tunes are "Don't Sit Too Well," a tale of a relationship gone sour ("Heard you been real busy undermining my good name/Claiming that I done you wrong and I should be ashamed") in the mode of Loretta Lynn, and the semi-autobiographical "Greasy Spoon,"... »»»
Ron PopeWork
Four albums on, Ron Pope seems well positioned to garner the commercial acclaim that's somehow eluded him up until now. Although critics have begun taking notice, Pope's still in search of that big breakout that's decidedly his due. Given the upbeat entries that initially establish this latest outing, the definitively titled "Work," Pope appears to have taken a decided stance that leans towards those very ends. Indeed, "Bad For Your Health," "Let's Get... »»»
Shelby Lynne and Allison MoorerNot Dark Yet
Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer are two fiercely independent artists, so the eclectic song list on the sisters' collaborative album, "Not Dark Yet," should not shock or surprise anybody. However, the length these siblings have gone to prove their eclectic streak still may cause listeners to double check the album's writer credits. Yes, there are country songs on this 10-song set, including Merle Haggard's evergreen "Silver Wings" and Townes Van Zandt's "Lungs... »»»
Alex WilliamsBetter Than Myself
If you don't mind a little salty language mixed into your country music, Alex Williams' "Better Than Myself" will hit your traditional country spot like a dart in the barroom bullseye. He sings with a wonderfully resonant voice that sometimes brings Waylon Jennings to mind. He also wrote - or helped to write - all 12 songs. The title cut suggests Williams' songs present a better image of the man than the actual man does. It's an unusual opener, as the track's... »»»
Buck OwensLive from Austin, TX
It was hard to find a more significant country artist through the 1960s than Buck Owens. With 21 number ones from 1963 ("Act Naturally," included here) and 1972, including a stretch of 14 in a row, Buck Owens was one of country music's biggest stars, bringing his slant on the Bakersfield Sound to stages, radio and television around the world. In this 1988 Austin City Limits program and nearing 60 years old, Owens appears comfortable with his stature as a torchbearer... »»»
Dwight YoakamLive from Austin, TX;
In this 1988 Austin City Limits program and nearing 32 years old, Dwight Yoakam was approaching his commercial zenith. His third album, "Buenas Noches From A Lonely Room," had just been released, bringing him his only number one country singles "Streets of Bakersfield" (included here in duet with Buck Owens along with Flaco Jimenez) and "I Sang Dixie," also included. His second ACL appearance, Yoakam delivers a generous, 14-song reminder of how freakin' unusual... »»»
David RawlingsPoor David's Almanack
If award bling on the mantle and merit certificates on the wall are any measure, David Rawlings' place in the musical firmament is as secure as a tectonic plate. His work with Gillian Welch, the creative yin to Rawlings' yang, has been recognized with Grammy nominations and a variety of awards from various sources, but the adoration emanating from the pair's slavishly loyal fan base is the best indicator of their success over the past two decades. The thing is that for the majority... »»»
TIm BennettThe View From Here
The second solo release from Southern California singer/songwriter Tim Bennett is a pleasant mix of country, blues, rock and folk. The strongest country tracks are the ballad "There Was Nothing I Could Do," a classic country tearjerker about a painful breakup ("She seemed to lose all feeling as though she didn't care/She looked off in the distance as if I wasn't there"), and the acoustic "Awakened By My Breaking Heart," which features Bennett's most... »»»
Joe NicholsNever Gets Old
Joe Nichols is best known by many as the guy that sings "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off," so it seems like more than mere coincidence how "Never Gets Old" opens with "Diamonds Make Babies," another song featuring a lyrical example of anthropomorphism. Such a lyrical tactic may grow tiresome quick, but hearing Nichols' resonant, traditional country singing voice will never ever get old. Nichols is an extremely expressive singer, which is why he can sing... »»»
Margo PriceWeakness EP
Margo Price's surprise EP, "Weakness," is a pleasant surprise, indeed. It may be concise, but it's packed tightly with good stuff. The project's title cut is a bit confessional and finds Price admitting, "Sometimes my weakness is stronger than me." Price sings it like a down home cowgirl, over a toe-tapping beat. She follows this upbeat track with a moody piece called "Just Like Love," which is played in a minor key, and is a "Jolene"-esque meditation... »»»
We're in the dog days of summer and Parmalee is ready to party. They began work on "27861" (the North Carolina zip code they all lived in and which each band member has tattooed on him somewhere) with about 35 songs that were eventually pared down to the 12 that make up the final track list. They serve up a dozen tales primarily of sandy white beaches, mimosas and a whole lot of lighthearted summertime vibe. The album sets the tone early with the one two punch of a Jake Owen/Kenny... »»»
Eddy Raven with Carolina RoadAll Grassed Up
Eddy Raven has been around long enough to know how to write a solid tune and make a good record. Raven has penned hits for years and not just for himself. Though typically staying in the realm of country, Raven couldn't resist the temptation of working with Carolina Road in the world of bluegrass. Together, Raven and Carolina Road got "All Grassed Up" for a truly memorable project. Often times when a country star takes a stab at bluegrass, two things are likely to happen... »»»
The Farm HandsColors
Thankfully, The Farm Hands have made it out of the field and back into the recording studio. "Colors" is proud to be all about family, God and country, three legs of the milking stool that is bluegrass. Recently proclaimed by the state of Tennessee as musical ambassadors, The Farm Hands are "thankful to be able to take a little bit of Tennessee to places across the nation," and "Colors" is recorded proof. The production is clean and not over-done, and the pickin'... »»»
Kim RobinsRaining in Baltimore
If you are headed east, take an umbrella because it's "Raining in Baltimore." Kim Robins' sophomore release is a steady downpour of traditional and progressive bluegrass mixed up with a misting of country flair. The liner notes read like a who's who of bluegrass heroes. Produced by Ron Stewart and Rickey Wasson, they also provide banjo, guitar, fiddle and vocal work alongside other fine talents like Adam Steffey on mandolin and Shannon Slaughter singing baritone as well as... »»»
Little SilverSomewhere You Found My Name
Solace is a difficult thing to come by in this world, what with conflict, politicians and pontificators seizing the spotlight to the detriment of everything and everyone else. So credit Little Silver with taking on that need for serenity with a debut album that's as calming and beautiful as anything anyone could imagine. Soothing and sublime, calming and caressing, it's a gentle lullaby of a record that amounts to nothing less than a much needed restful respite from these troubled times... »»»
Twisted PineTwisted Pine
After gaining a following on the acoustic scene as a band with progressive bluegrass leanings and roots, Massachusetts-based Twisted Pine's self-titled release finds they've, well, progressed quite a bit. The 11 tracks find them a bit more toward the jazz and swing side of things. Kathleen Parks is a dynamic fiddler, who has developed her own stockpile of unexpected and rewarding licks, while mandolinist Dan Bui is likewise unafraid to stray outside the conventional lines... »»»
Mark Kuykendall Bobby Hicks & Asheville BluegrassForever And a Day
Following a successful 2015 debut release, Mark Kuykendall ("KIRK-en-Dahl") returns with another satisfying collection of straight-ahead, classic bluegrass tunes drawn from an array of great writers from the Golden Era of Nashville (Leon Payne, "They'll Never Take Her Love From Me"; Scott Wiseman, "Remember Me"; Fred Rose, "We Live In Two Different Worlds"; Bill Monroe, "Mary Jane, Won't You Be Mine"), but with a surprise or two like... »»»
Charley PrideMusic in My Heart
Charley Pride shows with "Music In My Heart" that he is still in fine voice at the age of 79 with this collection of mostly obscure covers. The most recognizable are effective takes on Merle Haggard's "That's The Way It Was In '51" and the Tommy Collins penned "New Patches" most notably recorded by Mel Tillis and George Jones. Pride prominently represents the acclaimed though underappreciated Canadian group the Mercey Brothers... »»»
HammertowneHillbilly Heroes
In Hammertowne's own words "Hillbilly Heroes" is "BY FAR the best thing we've done to date," and few could argue with that assessment. Prior releases have been solid, even great, but "Hillbilly Heroes" stands above them all. Over half of the tunes included were written by members of the band including Scott Tackett (guitar), Brent Pack (banjo) and most notably guitarist Dave Carroll, who has long written for other artists such as Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme... »»»
Slaid CleavesGhost on the Car Radio
Bruce Springsteen has never held an actual job, but 18 years of watching the blue collar struggles of his family and friends and an empathetic streak that originates at his very core gave him a lifetime of material and an emotionally satisfying way to translate it. Slaid Cleaves has tapped into a similar vein of inspiration over the course of his three decades in music, which has included busking in Ireland, winning the New Folk competition at the Kerrville Folk Festival and recording a dozen... »»»
The DeslondesHurry Home
On their eponymous 2015 debut album, The Deslondes cooked up an original musical gumbo befitting their New Orleans base, a steaming stewpot filled to the rim with flecks of country, folk, roots rock, Tex-Mex, Stax/Sun soul and, of course, all the sounds and passions elicited by the Crescent City. For their sophomore album, "Hurry Home," the Nawlins quartet - vocalist/guitarists Sam Doores and Riley Downing, vocalist/stand-up bassist Dan Cutler, vocalist/percussionist Cameron Snyder and... »»»
Yonder Mountain String BandLove. Ain't Love
Yonder Mountain String Band has a preternatural fan following, courtesy of its live touring over two decades. Generally known as a jam-grass band, their record releases have been a mix of original recordings and live event presentations. Following the inevitable arc of a long-running band's narrative, Yonder's lineup has changed in the last couple of years. Erstwhile frontman Jeff Austin left to tour on his own, and Yonder's remaining members, Ben Kaufmann (bass) Adam Aijala... »»»
Lonesome River BandMayhayley's House
For years, Lonesome River Band was proud to be "Carrying The Tradition" of bluegrass music. Then, with last year's release they began the process of "Bridging The Tradition" of bluegrass to something a little more progressive, a little more modern. Now, "Mayhayley's House" proves that LRB is continuing across that bridge. What is ironic, or funny, is that Mayhayley Lancaster, from whom the project takes its name, was known for resisting modernization and... »»»
The reasons musicians elect to record full-album tributes are as varied as the results. Steve Earle was buying time for writing his novel when he delivered the tepid "Townes." Bruce Springsteen re-discovered the intensity and relevance of folk music within "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions." More recently, Nick Lowe's catalog was re-imagined as guitar-based instrumentals for "What's So Funny About Peace, Love, and Los Straitjackets" for no seemingly... »»»
Over the years, country music has proven to be a complementary peanut butter to the chocolate provided by other genres. Rockabilly, country rock, Americana, alt.-country, cowpunk, whatever it was the Grateful Dead did with it; it don't mean a thang if it ain't got that twang. Nashville-based Banditos has a firm grasp on its country roots, given the band's collective Alabama childhoods, but they've got deep and equal love for a variety of other potent musical styles as well and... »»»
Eli Young BandFingerprints
Eli Young Band confused, alienated and even lost some of its fans with the 2015 release of a fully slicked up pop EP; "Turn It On." "The fans wanted another record that was the sound and the kind of songs that were the old-school Eli Young Band" said lead singer Mike Eli. They have responded with "Fingerprints," their first full length album since 2014's "10,000 Towns." Though clearly not as blatantly pop as the downright danceable EP,... »»»
Andy Hall & Roosevelt CollierLet the Steel Play
Steel guitar can prompt many visceral responses. Gutty, aspirational, down and dirty. Few musicians grab the essence of the sound, so when two collaborate on a single release, it's cause for attention. Roosevelt Collier and Andy Hall have been playing their respective instruments, variations on the steel theme, for many years, but first played together seriously on a music cruise in 2012. Collier and Hall, a few years later, found time to put "Let The Steel Play" together in a... »»»
Sam Gleaves & Tyler HughesSam Gleaves & Tyler Hughes
Armed simply with their voices and the stringed instruments characteristic of traditional Appalachian music, Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes bring fresh attention to that nearly-forgotten American genre on the young duo's eponymous collaborative release. With only two original songs - one contribution from each artist - this 14-song collection, which was produced by revered folksinger, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist Marcy Marxer, serves as a tribute to songwriters of Appalachian heritage,... »»»
Steve EarleSo You Wanna Be An Outlaw
If Steve Earle had never done another album after "Guitar Town" and "Copperhead Road," he'd still have cemented his place in the musical firmament for skillfully creating a ragged and beautiful tapestry from the stray threads of rootsy rock and authentic country. And that may well be why his catalog over the past three decades has been so compelling and satisfying; he has consistently proven that he has nothing to prove. "So You Wannabe an Outlaw" is the latest... »»»
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