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Jerry Lee LewisRock & Roll Time
One of the seminal figures in the development - some would say, the assault - of early rock 'n' roll, Jerry Lewis always possessed pure country credence as well. His initial outings mined the full spectrum of his rural Louisiana roots, bringing them to bear in a daring, often outrageous display of unrepentant madness and machismo that rivalled Little Richard and even Elvis himself in terms of sheer bravado. Consequently, it's a credit to Lewis' sheer tenacity that as he... »»»
Florida Georgia LineAnything Goes
The title of Florida Georgia's second full length is accurate. For the duo of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelly, that means girls, girls and more girls plus an ultra dose of partying. That is evident from the refrain of the title track, which, of course, focuses on Friday night activities. "I brought the songs and you brought the party/ Only one way to do it up right/Everybody goes where eveybody knows/That anything goes on a Friday Night/Get your party right/It's a Friday night... »»»
Lonesome River BandTurn on a Dime
Sammy Shelor's banjo playing is just one facet of another great CD from the Lonesome River Band. Shelor is one of the top banjo players on the circuit, and he always has a great band. Brandon Rickman plays guitar and sings half the leads. He also co-wrote three of the songs. "Lila Mae" and "Hurting With My Broken Heart" are love gone wrong songs while "If The Moon Never Sees the Light of Day" celebrates a good love affair. Mandolinist Randy Jones shares the... »»»
Doug SeegersGoing Down to the River
You have to feel a pang of pride when you hear the story of Doug Seegers. In fact, it's not a stretch to say you could have seen him live and didn't even know it. At 62, he's a guy who basically opened his guitar case and played the street corners of Nashville, New York, Austin and probably most every city he's traveled through. Seegers also is now the darling of Sweden's country music crowd and gaining recognition in his home country following this much-ballyhooed debut... »»»
Hal KetchumI'm the Troubadour
Hal Ketchum has rarely ventured out of traditional country realms, and for good reason. With 10 previous albums to his credit, a career that stretches back nearly 30 years, and no less than 17 singles on the country charts - and a half dozen of those reaching well into the Top Ten -- his country credentials are exceedingly well established. Nevertheless, Ketchum's career got started in a somewhat unlikely locale, that being Greenwich Village, where he was born and began drumming in a band... »»»
Jason AldeanOld Boots, New Dirt
Arguing whether or not Jason Aldean's kinda (country) party is, in fact, anything remotely related to true country music is pointless. Aldean is so entrenched in the mainstream country marketplace now, we just need to accept him as he is, the same way we reluctantly accept Taylor Swift as "country." It's mighty tempting to subtitle a review of Aldean's new "Old Boots, New Dirt" release as 'Pickup Trucks & Pickup Lines,' as Aldean spends a little time... »»»
Blake SheltonBringing Back the Sunshine
It's impossible to get away from the fact that one's perception of Blake Shelton's music has changed significantly since he began his role as a judge on The Voice. His music hasn't been altered all that much after he became a TV star, but we now know him as the affable, yet extremely competitive, judge on the popular NBC singing show. His likeability simply makes us more likely to enjoy his music a little more, and with "Bringing Back the Sunshine," Shelton has... »»»
There's little left to be said when it comes the link between quality songs and Lucinda Williams. From her early days to her commercial breakthrough with 1998's "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road," Williams has always created her own heartfelt nuggets that can be equally haunting and rocking. And this newest release is perhaps her most ambitious effort to date, a 2-disc, 20-track album, starting with the barren "Compassion" that recalls some precious combination of Linda... »»»
Ricky Skaggs and Sharon WhiteHearts Like Ours
Ricky Skaggs has seen a lot of milestones in his career, from performing on the Flatt and Scruggs TV show as a child to singing with boyhood friend Keith Whitley in Ralph Stanley's band to spearheading (with George Strait and Randy Travis) the revival of the classic country sound in the 1980s and finally, at the turn of the century, returning to bluegrass in the wake of the passing of his idol Bill Monroe. Along the way, of course, in what was something of a "country royalty"... »»»
Hot RizeWhen I'm Free
The words "eclectic" and "esoteric" have, many would say, directly opposite meanings: the former resonates with an "anything goes" state of mind, while the latter implies what the marketers these days call a "targeted audience." Yet for those who experienced Hot Rize in their glory days of the 1980s, it seemed the Colorado-based quartet embodied both qualities at once - a band steeped in and reverent of the bluegrass tradition, yet with a distinctive sound... »»»
Big & RichGravity
Was it all their fault? It's been 10 years since Big & Rich injected a modern twist on the country sound on to the charts. The monster hit from their debut record, "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)", never did reach number 1, but it sure seemed inescapable in 2004. Since then all of the duo's antics that seemed daring then -- from hip hop experimentation to raucous rock shows celebrating a never ending party ethic - these things don't just feel like the fringes of country... »»»
JP Harris and the Tough ChoicesHome Is Where The Hurt Is
It only takes one listen to "Home Is Where The Hurt Is, "the new album from JP Harris and the Tough Choices, to be reminded of just how powerful traditional country music can be. Free of the glossy production sheen that accompanies most mainstream country releases and chock full of simple songs that strike an emotional chord, this 10-song collection is efficient, evocative and most importantly, enjoyable. The secret of Harris' success on this new album is no real secret at all... »»»
Lori McKennaNumbered Doors
Singer-songwriter Lori McKenna has forged a career built on consistently strong if sadly under-appreciated albums. However while sales have not reach platinum status, some of the bigger names in music - Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Little Big Town - have not let her talent go unnoticed. Now, McKenna's latest is an interesting concept with most of the material inspired by and written in motel rooms while on tour. McKenna says the lyrics aren't necessarily autobiographical, but stem from... »»»
Lee Ann WomackThe Way I'm Livin'
Six years later, Lee Ann Womack is finally back. Her traditional country sounds were not quite working with Nashville, which was veering increasingly pop. Now, the Texas native returns with a new label, but the same lovely voice. Originally intended for her old label, MCA Nashville, Womack was given the marching orders to make the type of disc she wanted to listen to. That resulted in songs from the likes of Neil Young, several from Bruce Robison, Adam Wright and Natalie Hemby, several of whom... »»»
Imelda MayTribal
With the clacking of drum sticks, "one-two-three-four" count off and the echoey rockabilly voice of Irish singer Imelda May taking over with authority, "Tribal" hits the nail on the head. No wonder she sings "I hold my head up proud." She sure does with a punky, early rock and rockabilly sound. There aren't a lot of female rockabilly singers out there these days. Actually, there aren't all that many rockabilly singers out there period who are able to release... »»»
Jesse WinchesterA Reasonable Amount of Trouble
This posthumous release from Jesse Winchester, who passed away in April 2014 shortly before his 70th birthday, finds the singer/songwriter in fine voice. In several of the original compositions, Winchester ponders mortality. The bouncy pop opener "All That We Have is Now" ("So let's just play together/In whatever weather/Sunshine in the park/We'll tell ghost stories when it's dark") and the twangy "A Little Louisiana" ("Well who knows what lies... »»»
Much has been made of Bruce Springsteen's 1984 album "Born In The U.S.A.," from the false patriotism assumed about its title track to the cover photo that some believe depicts Springsteen pissing on the American flag. What's not debatable, however, is how it propelled the singer/songwriter from an arena rocker to stadium filler. Now with "Dead Man's Town," a group of Americana artists take a contemporary musical pass through these great songs... »»»
Tim McGrawSundown Heaven Town
The banjo comes first out of the speakers, the opening strains of "Overrated," the lead-off song on Tim McGraw's latest. But with a "1-2-3-4" count, the mood changes and goes for a more modern country approach. McGraw does about the same on the follow-up "City Lights" with Michael Landau's steely, but rocking lead guitar taking over near the conclusion as it does later hard on "Sick of Me" where the protagonist contemplates a need to turn his life around... »»»
George Strait has been one of the most dependable country music stars for three decades. In this day and age, the Texan is a certifiable throwback. He's low key, not a self-promoter. All's he has done is churn out hit after hit for decade after decade. He has not been the kind of artist who put his finger up in the air either or trading his cowboy hat for a baseball cap. When looking up the definition of traditional country, George Strait sits at the top. Strait tackles 20 songs on... »»»
The Earls of LeicesterThe Earls of Leicester
In 1946, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs were integral parts of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys when they recorded a series of singles that most historians of the music consider the "birth of bluegrass" as we know it, though the term "bluegrass" would not come into widespread use for another decade or so. Upon leaving to form their own band, The Foggy Mountain Boys (much to Monroe's consternation), they spent most of the 1950s recording one landmark single after another... »»»
Sid GriffinThe Trick is to Breathe
Singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, biographer and bandleader Sid Griffin has been plying his craft for the better part of 30 years, helming such bands as The Long Ryders and the Coal Porters, as well as proceeding on his own. Yet, in many ways, he's never neglected his roots and those forebears who inspired him early on - Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, Gram Parsons, Bob Dylan and The Band. He's so intent on offering homage in fact that he's dedicated entire albums to covering... »»»
Jerry Douglas, Mike Auldridge and Rob IckesThree Bells
It must be frustrating to resophonic artists of the stature of these three that even they still have to on occasion answer the question "What is that thing you're playing?" The number of well-known Dobro players has always seemed to lag behind even the banjo, and even in the "Golden Years" of '50s and '60s country music, the only widely known names were Josh Graves and Pete "Brother Oswald" Kirby. That began to change in the late 1960s when Mike... »»»
Junior Sisk & Ramblers ChoiceTrouble Follows Me
There's a direct line from classic country music to the bluegrass traditionalists, and Junior Sisk walks it better than anyone in the business. Call it high lonesome honky-tonk, a distillation of Bill Monroe's attitude into the heart of the legacy left behind by George Jones. Sisk and company are still a bluegrass band in practice as well as sound, with the standard drum-less banjo-fiddle-mando-bass lineup intact, and the pickers in Ramblers Choice are among the best in their respective fields... »»»
Lee BriceI Don't Dance
The cover of "I Don't Dance" features a glam shot of Lee Brice standing in a spotlight, looking more like a pop artist than a country singer. Listeners who prefer their country on the gritty side might be scared off by the pretty cover shot. The music matches the image: pop influenced mainstream country music, in the vein of contemporaries Jake Owen and Kip Moore. The success of his sophomore release emboldened Lee Brice. His first two albums introduced the country scene to his... »»»
Justin Townes EarleSingle Mothers
We've all heard Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird" more times than we can count and have likely played air guitar to it many of those times too. And the lifestyle it celebrates is one few Americans experience throughout their lives. You know, being able to love 'em and leave 'em while going on to the next town. Justin Townes Earle's "Single Mothers" presents - at least in part - the consequences of adults trying to live that lifestyle... »»»
Dustin LynchWhere It's At
Dustin Lynch is a throwback on his sophomore release thanks to the good-looking Tennessee native sporting a straw cowboy hat, Now that's something you don't see these days unless you happen to be King George Strait. Instead, the hat acts of yesteryear - the moniker, in reality, was a dig at those who were part of the same milk toast country sounds that were being put out in the '90s - traded them in for baseball caps. Lynch is yet another in the seemingly endless line these days,... »»»
The threads of faith and family are intrinsically woven throughout the fibers of country music, but the results of such albums are not always successful, with some records feeling dry and inspired while others take the bull by the horns and really engage the material. Alabama's latest offering, "Angels Among Us: Hymns & Gospel Favorites," falls into the latter category. That's not to say that Alabama reinvents the wheel here, but, rather, that they tackle the source material... »»»
Phillip Fox BandHeartland
The debut full length from the Phillip Fox Band from Ohio was helped along by a successful crowdfunding Kickstarter campaign. They played their excess of newly written songs for fans over multiple live shows and allowed them to have a hand in voting for the tracks that would make the cut, whittling down to 12 tracks of self-described "country-fried rock n' roll." Their fan friendly approach to their art complements their music well. On record, their sound is a little bit rough... »»»
Joel CrouseEven The River Runs
The title of Joel Crouse's debut may seem like an obvious statement, but what was not so clear was when his debut would finally happen. Since signing with Toby Keith's label in 2011, the Massachusetts native released three singles plus one other promoted by his label. He has not exactly set the charts on fire, although he did benefit from opening for Taylor Swift on her "Red" tour. Crouse's very smooth, soulful delivery suits the 10 songs just fine, although you're... »»»
Michael-AnnHeavy Load
You would think Michael-Ann's back story would be more substantial. Although the L.A. resident has shared the stage with several A-list artists - Ricky Skaggs, Blake Shelton and Kenny Rogers included - she has little to show in terms of any previous endeavor except an EP. That makes "Heavy Load" such a surprise. It offers all indication that she's arrived intact, possessing a singular savvy and astute ability to transpose her influences and emit an effortless attitude all her own... »»»
Chase RiceIgnite the Night
Chase Rice lets listeners know exactly what to expect on his debut right from the opening sounds of first single and opener, the hit "Ready Set Roll." Electronic beats and a robotic voice start off a bro country track with plenty of hip hop flourishes and simplistic lyrics like "ready set let's ride, get your little fine ass on the step, shimmy up inside." Rice was a co-writer on Florida Georgia Line's smash hit "Cruise," which is also a fine indicator of... »»»
Not having heard Randy Travis' new material, one could mistakenly think a guest vocalist was taking the first licks of "I'm Movin' On," his new album's opening cut. Is that Hank Snow? No, can't be. Refrain ... still the same voice. Second verse - oh man, that's Randy Travis! Wow, his voice sure has changed. Well, yeah, when you've been singing professionally since the mid-1980s, the ol' pipes can slip a bit. And Travis, 54, has battled serious... »»»
Half a century after the release of "Bitter Tears: Ballads Of The American Indian," a landmark protest album by the late Johnny Cash, a star-studded ensemble has revisited the record. And with various protests taking place across North America regarding territorial rights, fracking and oil exploration, it seems as relevant today as it did back in 1964. Singer-songwriter Norman Blake's timbre strikes the right balance on the gentle, toe-tapper "Drums," which reflects... »»»
If you're expecting down home, countrified versions of metal band Motley Crue songs from "Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Motley Crue," you probably don't listen to a whole lot of mainstream "country" music. Most likely, this album's original conception was a rather crass attempt to capitalize on the large contingent of classic rock fans that also listen to and enjoy older rock's continuing influence on contemporary country music. And for the most part,... »»»
Crowe Lawson WilliamsStanding Tall and Tough
The common thread and touchstone of the long friendship of these three bluegrass icons is the years they each (though not concurrently) played in the Sunny Mountain Boys, the band of the legendary Jimmy Martin. Renowned (and sometimes notorious) for his perfectionism, Martin was not always an easy person to work for, but if you paid attention and played the music the way he wanted it to be played, a few years in his band amounted to something like a master's degree in bluegrass. Banjo icon J. D... »»»
Cory BrananThe No-Hit Wonder
After only four albums in a dozen years, there's a certain truthfulness that comes with a title like "The No-Hit Wonder." On the other hand, Cory Branan's apparent attempt at modesty belies a talent that deserves to garner notice, thanks to a wry yet infectious songwriting style that takes pains to share its strengths without ever requiring a second listen. If Branan is reticent to show he's worthy of chart placement, it's certainly not evident here... »»»
Frank Solivan & Dirty KitchenCold Spell
Washington, D.C. bandleader Frank Solivan appears to be very aware of the gradual vagaries of his bluegrass world. "Cold Spell" is a clean sounding, polished modern bluegrass album. It goes a bit far out on the branches, but maintains the energy and woody tones of more traditional bluegrass. "Cold Spell" has at its core strong songwriting ideally balanced with exceptional instrumentation, powerful lead vocals and precise and uplifting vocal harmony. A cover of Pure Prairie... »»»
Sam HuntX2C
Sam Hunt is riding the country charts with "Leave the Night On," a rather surprising occurrence considering that the Georgia native has extremely little to do with what remotely constitutes country music on this four song EP. Hunt has gained some acclaim as a song writer, having penned Kenny Chesney's "Come Over," Keith Urban's "Cop Car" and Billy Currington's "We Are Tonight." Hunt fits in perhaps only because of the crossover sounds... »»»
Shooter JenningsDon't Wait Up (For George)
Let's get one thing straight right off the bat. This is not a tribute album. For one thing there are only five songs on it. But it's not a tribute EP either. Only three of the five were ever recorded by Jones. Whatever you call it, this is the first of two recordings celebrating two very different musical icons. The second, due in January, will fete another George - Giorgio Moroder, an influential producer who worked with Donna Summer and paved the way for electronic dance music... »»»
Laurie Lewis and Kathy KallickLaurie & Kathy Sing the Songs of Vern & Ray
Vern Williams and Ray Park were both Arkansas natives, and like many young Southern men in the 1940s and 50s, they emigrated to California in search of better opportunities. Though raised only a few miles apart, they did not meet until joining the country and bluegrass scene in Stockton and within a few years had become the standard-bearers for the brand of uncompromising, hard-core traditional bluegrass of their Ozark homeland. The list of young West Coast musicians who fell under their... »»»
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