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Reba McEntireLove Somebody
It's been five years since her last album - 2010's "All the Women That I Am" - but the Queen of Country Music's crown hasn't lost its luster. On her 27th album, Oklahoma native McEntire adds another jewel to her tiara - she's already garnered 35 number singles and sold 56 million albums worldwide - with her new album that covers familiar territory: strong women, the heartbreak of breakup, the determination of a broken lover starting over and the destructive and... »»»
Dwight YoakamSecond Hand Heart
Dwight Yoakam appears to be a many of mystery on the cover. With two side-by-side images of himself, the Kentucky honky tonker dons a trademark cowboy hat, jeans jacket and jacket and plucking his electric, legs spread and head pointed down. But there really is no mystery about Yoakam, who has been making music longer than some of the contemporary country acts have been alive. And Yoakam has a thing or two to show these young turks what country music used to be - and based on this sterling,... »»»
Will HogeSmall Town Dreams
Much like Springsteen and Mellencamp, Will Hoge recognizes that even the most sweeping epics are essentially borne from an individual's ordeals. Indeed, the title tells it all; "Small Town Dreams" is essentially a look at a rapidly fading pastiche, that of life in middle America, where for all the touting of an economic recovery, the struggle for survival still persists. Hoge documents these tales from a knowing, first-person point of view, giving each scenario the credibility -... »»»
Pokey LaFargeSomething in the Water
Whether Pokey LaFarge's seventh album, "Something in the Water," could be called more than "retro" is a stretch. The St. Louis musician's 21st century talent shows through his performance, compositions and writing, but some things work against him in his fight to make the album timeless. LaFarge covers a handful of genres that make him seem unsettled rather than well-rounded - like he can't pick just one. Jazzy numbers like "Underground" and... »»»
The BoxmastersSomewhere Down the Road
phase, some pertinent facts are in order, namely, a) he's done four solo albums to date, b) the Boxmasters, his band since 2007, are now on their fourth album, "Somewhere Down the Road," but with three double discs, it's actually seven, c) his bio on the Boxmasters website talks exclusively about his musical accomplishments, choosing to highlight his stint as a roadie in the late '70s over his Oscar-nominated role and Oscar-winning screenplay for his 1996 film Sling Blade... »»»
Kristian BushSouthern Gravity
With a tragic stage collapse prior to a Sugarland show and a failed marriage in his rearview mirror, one might expect Kristian Bush's solo debut to be peppered with tales of regret and heartbreak. Yet "Southern Gravity" is surprisingly anything but for the other half of Sugarland, offering up a solid dose of positive vibes, heartfelt love and strong mainstream country appeal. Lead single "Trailer Hitch" sets the tone with a laidback appeal that colors the whole of the... »»»
Jon WolfeNatural Man
Jon Wolfe is a straightforward country singer who has built a strong following in the Texas music scene. His likeable twang and traditional Red Dirt sound set him apart from the modern country coming from Nashville today, but he his music is more accessible than much of the grittier side of the Texas scene as heard from artists like Hayes Carll. He manages to find a comfortable balance between honoring his roots and adding a modern accessibility to his songs. "Natural Man" is a 13-song... »»»
Darius RuckerSouthern Style
Although opener "Homegrown Honey" has a few hip-hip sonic elements fueling it, "Southern Style" is a fairly traditional - well, as traditional as Darius Rucker can get - album. "Homegrown Honey," along with the title cut and "Half Full Dixie Cup," make a play for Rucker's Southern credentials, and for the most part support these claims. Rucker is an easygoing vocalist, and this latest effort goes down smoothly. It's still taboo for country... »»»
Rani Arbo and Daisy MayhemViolets Are Blue
Two decades ago, Rani Arbo was fronting New England-based Salamander Crossing, a band that at the time was among the more progressive on the bluegrass circuit due in no small part to her spirited, unrestrained vocals, innovative and stylish fiddling, and provocative songwriting. After that band broke up at the turn of the century, she moved on to form daisy mayhem, and while there are still lingering hints of bluegrass on this latest release (their sixth, all on Signature Sounds), the dozen... »»»
Following the legacy of other notable songwriters that have gone before her, Cam is stepping out from behind the shadows of the curtain where she's penned songs for artists like Miley Cyrus and Maggie Rose and is taking on the spotlight herself with her debut EP, "Welcome to Cam Country." And it's that fusion of pop sentiment, Southern California charm and real country sensibility that makes up the whole of the budding artist's sound. "My Mistake" leads things... »»»
Trout Steak RevivalBrighter Every Day
Trout Steak Revival has found its voice. A group of Midwest transplants now firmly rooted in the Colorado High Country bluegrass scene, this five-piece band brings real songwriting craft to its third full-length release where TSR goes for the brass ring. TSR went the Kickstarter route to fund, produce and distribute "Brighter Every Day." And, they wisely engaged Chris Pandolfi, el Presidente and banjo player of The Infamous Stringdusters, to produce. The songwriting is... »»»
Canaan SmithCanaan Smith EP
Virginia-native, Belmont educated, Canaan Smith was deemed as "One to Watch in 2012" after his debut single "We Got Us" charted that year. Still, it was nearly three years before his next single "Love You Like That" dropped this past summer. With more than 200,000 downloads, it went number 1 on Sirius XM, but fans have been forced to wait until now for an EP release. The lead off, "Love You Like That" is a tale of a self-proclaimed "nitty-gritty... »»»
Striking MatchesNothing But the Silence
The concept of female/male country duos is not new exactly, but it's a rare breed these days. There's Thompson Square, and there was the far too short-lived The Civil Wars. And now Striking Matches are out with their debut full-length, which skews far closer to Joy Williams and John Paul White than the Thompsons. Striking Matches is Sarah Zimmerman and Justin Davis, who met as students at Belmont University in Nashville in 2007. They had a hand writing all 11 songs here, 3 of them on their own... »»»
Snyder Family BandWherever I Wander
Bluegrass and its associated branches and brambles certainly have an affinity toward family groups. From the Stonemans and the Lewises through to the Vincent, Isaacs and Cherryholmes clans, on through to the Bankesters, Robertsons and 347 regional Missouri, there has never been a shortage of families performing on stage together. The Snyder Family Band has been recording together as a trio since 2010 while the entire family frequently appears together -augmented by mom and little brother - on... »»»
Blue MafiaPray for Rain
An Indiana-based bluegrass outfit, Blue Mafia returns with their sophomore album. Their stealthy, self-produced debut "My Cold Heart" was a bluegrass highlight of 2013, notable for its creative song writing, strong vocal execution, clear production values and fine instrumental balance. Those elements remain within "Pray For Rain," and this album meets the rising expectations that come with a second release. Dara Wray, who wrote the majority of the material on the debut, has... »»»
Tom PaxtonRedemption Road
One of America's most iconic folk singers - and singer of songs, period - Tom Paxton can point with pride to a career that dates back to the folk boom of the late '50s and '60s. On his new album, "Redemption Road," Paxton pays tribute to that seminal era in a song entitled "The Mayor of Macdougal Street," in which he recalls the hallowed days of the Greenwich Village music scene, hanging out in the fabled Gaslight Cafe and watching the legendary Dave Von Ronk hold court... »»»
The funky keyboard line that introduces the song "Checkin' Out," with its Ray Charles soulful feel, fills the listener with false promise that "Spring Break...Checkin' Out," the latest and last in Luke Bryan's spring break EP series, might mark a more innovative direction in the bro country star's music. The song even includes a wonderful acoustic guitar solo that gives it a loose, freewheeling feel. Unfortunately, this singer is far too aware of which side... »»»
Eli Young BandTurn It On
With the release of "Turn It On," the Eli Young Band brings new music about girls, love, and...disco. Singer Mike Eli, who co-wrote all four songs, is in fine voice, solidifying the EYB sound. The title cut, written with co-founder James Young, with its strong beat and up-front vocals, is tailor-made for listening while driving fast. With its "driving" beat and sing-along chorus, speeding tickets may increase. "Plastic" is about appreciating a girl who is... »»»
Joe PugWindfall
Joe Pug is one of those exceptionally astute artists who, despite their best efforts, find themselves inhabiting the marginal fringes of wider acclaim. It's frustrating, but still a fact that he's yet to achieve the wide recognition that's so clearly his due. With "Windfall," Pug imagines the larger goal implied by the album's title, thanks to a set of songs offering emotional resilience and a decidedly emphatic impression. That's not to imply that Pug's on... »»»
Pharis and Jason RomeroA Wanderer I'll Stay
Emerging from the isolated environs of Horsefly British Columbia, Pharis and Jason Romero know all too well the draw of the backwoods and a lonely expanse of rural environs. In fact, they couldn't have been more perfectly cast for their role as old school purists. Pharis' family has lived in Horsefly for five generations, and when the couple isn't on the stage performing, they spend their time working in a family business building banjos. They're also a favorite of Garrison... »»»
Andrew CombsAll These Dreams
The sophomore slump is no match for Andrew Combs. Somehow the Texas-born, Nashville-residing singer-songwriter packs it all into his second full-length, "All These Dreams," in a way that every track stands out on its own and no listener can go without finding at least one tune that fits their preference. Rock, country and folk meld together in a simple, but satisfying way, and lyrics straddle the line between artful and catchy. If anything's missing, it's the commercial... »»»
Ryan CulwellFlatlands
Based on the opening moments of Ryan Culwell's first disc in eight years, "Flatlands," the Nashville-based singer/songwriter would seem to fit comfortably within the folk-based country niche by way of lovely fingerpicked acoustic guitar, heartfelt lyrics and a quietly powerful balladic sensitivity. With a keening resonance reminiscent of Rodney Crowell, Bill Mallonee and Willie Nile, Culwell exudes heart-sleeved doubt and hope while singing, "I'm only here for some friends... »»»
Gill LandryGill Landry
A self-named album is rare to come by these days, even when it comes to indie folk country artists like Gill Landry. But the Old Crow Medicine Show member releases his third solo album under his own name, setting the stage for an album that's supposedly all and only him, but echoes of his group work. For example, "Just Like You" has a party-bluegrass sound that's one of the most toe-tapping pieces on the otherwise introspective album, a characteristic that harkens back to his... »»»
BuxtonHalf a Native
Buxton, a Houston-based quintet, makes a sonic shift with "Half A Native," its new album and second release on the New West Records label. Under the direction of producer Thom Monahan, the band has moved further away from the traditional acoustic instrumentation showcased on its 2012 label debut "Nothing Here Seems Strange" by embracing a washed-out sound that alternates between sunny and sad while sometimes being both at once. "Half A Native" is all about... »»»
Asleep at the Wheel have never shied away from acknowledging where their musical influence comes from. "Still the King" is the group's third tribute to the music of Bob Wills. While past attempts have been worthy acknowledgements of the influence of the Texas swing legend's music, this time around, Ray Benson and crew work alongside an unbelievable line-up of guest artists. The guest list is not only a testament to the legacy of Wills and his Texas Playboys, but also Asleep at... »»»
Amy SpeaceThat Kind of Girl
Amy Speace's last album, "How To Sleep In a Stormy Boat," and its companion EP, "Same Old Song," brought Speace the best notices of her career and took her to an array of high profile festivals, including Mountain Stage, Music City Roots, the Philadelphia Folk Festival and the Kerrville Folk Festival. All of which leads to "That Kind of Girl," Speace's latest. In many ways, it's an unassuming effort, with a predominance of pretty ballads... »»»
The Gibson BrothersBrotherhood
Over the more than 20 years since upstate (way, way upstate) New York natives Eric and Leigh Gibson debuted on the bluegrass scene, it has been more or less de rigueur for the journalists and reviewers who write about them to link them to the long and proud tradition - especially in country music in all its forms - of siblings whose voices combine in mystical ways for some of the most enduring sounds going back more than a century. And while there have been superlative sister acts, from the Carter... »»»
James McMurtryComplicated Game
The first album by James McMurtry in six years proves that some simply get better with age. And it opens with a gorgeous, deliberate performance, "Copper Canteen," and a line about cleaning his gun before hunting season comes to a close. From there, McMurtry looks back at his youth and the changing world today "before the pension kicks in." Thankfully, the singer never falters from that high standard he set for himself on the leadoff tune. "You Got To Me" sounds as... »»»
Most country artists have a Hank Williams Sr. tune tucked somewhere in their repertoire, a live version that normally whips the crowd into a foot-stompin', raucous mob. But an entire album of exclusively live Hank can be summarized in a single word: ambitious. And with different results, even in the hands of punk-country band Girls Guns & Glory. The Boston-area based quartet led by vocalist/guitarist Ward Hayden is carving out an impressive sound that at times ventures into manic... »»»
Mayeux & BroussardHigh Times & Good Rhymes
The second release from Austin-based Mayeux and Broussard is a mix of traditional country, bluegrass and swamp rock. The influence of Waylon Jennings is apparent on the opening track "Stoned and Broke Down" in which the singer remains upbeat in the midst of misfortune ("I'm running just fine/On these two legs of mine") while "Can't Fall Off the Floor" is a country weeper that attempts to find the virtue in being falling down drunk ("Well, I'm all... »»»
Jorma KaukonenAin't in No Hurry
Although Jorma Kaukonen will forever be bound to the enormous legacy of Jefferson Airplane, it's important to remember the gifted guitarist's tenure in the band was a mere seven years. He and bassist Jack Casady exceeded that total with Hot Tuna - which they'd started two years before leaving the Airplane - by 1978 when they released the live "Double Dose" album. But perhaps the most important year in Kaukonen's history is 1974, when he launched his solo career... »»»
Wrinkle Neck MulesI Never Thought It Would Go This Far
The Wrinkle Neck Mules seemed surprised that they're still around after 15 years, 6 full length albums and 1 public dissing from radio bully Don Imus. That's obvious from the title. But they're not anywhere near the end of their road. Commenting on their fourth album (2012's "Let The Lead Fly"), vocalist and primary song co-writer Chase Heard said that many of the tracks from their older records seemed celebratory, about drinking and partying, but the new ones were... »»»
Glen CampbellI'll Be Me Soundtrack
In what will likely become the swansong to Glen Campbell's prolific 50-plus year career, "I'll Be Me" documents both the life and failing health of a man long considered an American icon. While Campbell's battle with Alzheimer's disease is well known, it's still difficult to witness the awful effects of a horrible disease that's effectively robbed him of his musical abilities, cognizance and ability to live life the way anyone of us would wish... »»»
WhitehorseLeave No Bridge Unturned
Whitehorse is a Canadian duo made up of popular solo artists Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet. Husband and wife have teamed up to create something that stretches beyond the boundaries of their pop and indie rock careers. Canadian alternative country music is noticeably different from its American counterpart, as the echoes of Neil Young's genre hopping influence has a tendency to show itself in the music of bands like Blue Rodeo, The Sadies and Whitehorse. The duo has created an album... »»»
The MavericksMono
The Mavericks returned in 2013 with an acclaimed new album and much touring after nearly a decade's absence. Here they are back again in 2015, minus one of their founding members, but with another dynamite new effort. The group announced in December 2014 that it had kicked out bassist Robert Reynolds from the band because he had developed an opiate addiction and was allegedly soliciting money from fans to support his habit. Reynolds is not listed as a contributor in the liner notes for... »»»
Darin & Brooke AldridgeSnapshots
It's something of a surprise to find that this latest release is the sixth by the husband-and-wife team of Darin and Brooke Aldridge going back to their 2010 self-titled debut. Since marrying and beginning their careers together, they've had a tendency to fly a little bit under the radar as far as national exposure on the bluegrass scene goes. Darin Aldridge gained some visibility through a stint of nine years with the Country Gentlemen, a truly legendary band of more than a half-century standing... »»»
Steve EarleTerraplane
In the Instagram era where people use apps to turn digital snapshots into sepia-toned portraits, Steve Earle's 16th studio release finds its place with an old-school sound. It's a Polaroid of rural country, blues and bluegrass frozen in time. But instead of outdated, it plays on the nostalgia of its modern audience. Named for the 1930s Hudson muscle car model, "Terraplane," the cover is a cacophony of vintage graphics hinting to the fun times that lie beneath... »»»
Aaron WatsonThe Underdog
It's been a long road, but 12 albums and 15 years later, Texas country singer Aaron Watson has finally arrived. Until his debut with Big Label/Thirty Tigers, Watson worked as a totally independent artist; even then, though, other Texas artists, from Willie Nelson and Dale Watson to Billy Joe Shaver, recognized his talent and collaborated with him. "The Underdog" debuted atop the country charts; Keith Stegall (Alan Jackson, George Jones, Zac Brown Band) produced and the songs range... »»»
Lindsay Lou & the FlatbellysIonia
Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys lie in wait, in the amorphous, ill-defined genre of "Americana" or "roots" music, ready to win you over. This four-piece band, most of who are originally from Michigan, plays spare arrangements within a bluegrass structure. The listener may be forgiven for thinking that this is nothing new, ploughing ground of Nora Jane Struthers, Lake Street Dive and the late, lamented Joy Kills Sorrow (either the Heather Massie or Emma Beaton iterations)... »»»
The Farm HandsBetter Than I Deserve
The Farm Hands is a fairly new band (four years old) comprised of bluegrass veterans. Guitarist Keith Tew played in Rhonda Vincent's band, toured with Vassar Clements, and his songs have been recorded by Lou Reid and the Lonesome River Band. Daryl Mosely (bass) has written several number one songs and been nominated for SPBGMA's Entertainer, Male Vocalist and Songwriter of the Year awards. His friend, Tim Graves, is an eight-time winner of SPBGMA's Dobro Player of the Year award,... »»»
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