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The Gibson BrothersIn the Ground
The family band is a longstanding conceit of bluegrass and mountain music, including the Carters, the Osbornes, the McReynolds, the Whites, The Stanleys and even the progenitors of bluegrass Bill and Charlie Monroe. The trope continues to the present with The Gibson Brothers carrying on this tradition admirably. The Gibson Brothers, Leigh and Eric, exemplify the power and depth of this music tradition. "In The Ground" cements their position in the bluegrass world... »»»
Brett YoungBrett Young
Brett Young had a hit out of the box with "Sleep Without You," as ear candy of a song. His soulful vocals carry the percolating song that seemed designed with airplay in mind. If Young were a band, this is the type of song that Rascal Flatts might cover. In fact, the airplay bent could be said of most of the dozen songs on the Californian's major label debut after five indie releases. "Close Enough" has a funky side, trying to get the singalong going with the opening... »»»
Darin & Brooke AldridgeFaster and Farther
Over five previous recordings, Darin and Brooke Aldridge have shown themselves as mainstream bluegrass's most capable duo. When exploring traditional themes, blending stunning harmony arrangements and extending praise through gospel numbers, the Aldridges have demonstrated that their mature, professional approach to their craft is second-to-none. With "Faster and Farther," the Aldridges branch off just a little from the bluegrass tree, encompassing elements not apparent on previous... »»»
Chris JonesMade to Move
There's a low-key elegance to the music of Chris Jones, which sometimes takes his bluegrass tunes to unexpected places while remaining firmly in the wheelhouse of his chosen genre. Jones and the Night Drivers explore folk and blues directions alongside more traditional tones. As a songwriter and singer, Jones' forte is quiet, contemplative songcraft such as "Raindrops Fell," a story of destinies entwined and the Civil War era tale of sacrifice and community in "Old Bell... »»»
The SadiesNorthern Passages
In some ways, The Sadies' "Northern Passages" album explores what may have happened had The Byrds had taken country-rock to its ultimate extreme point. But the country part of this equation is in short supply, for the most part. It isn't until the hot-picking "Through Strange Eyes" that this music sounds truly country. "God Bless the Infidels" is even more traditional, with its mostly acoustic sound. This lesser-country-ness is because psychedelic rock is... »»»
LeAnn RimesRemnants
LeAnn Rimes' "Remnants" album sounds inspired by contemporary times. The title track takes on almost an apocalyptic quality. Lyrically, a lot of these songs - many of which Rimes had a hand in writing - address a dire need for love. We do live in a world where love oftentimes seems to be in short supply. Therefore, three of these songs have "love" in their titles, with one repeating the word three times for good measure. Although Rimes began her career as a young, Patsy... »»»
So, you say you don't have enough Reba McEntire spiritual music in your collection, eh? With "Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope," you can fill that catalogue hole right quick. At two discs full, this ambitious set will scratch that itch, assuming you have such an itch in need of scratching. This double album is broken down into two distinct sets. The first 10 songs are traditional ones. You almost cannot have a country gospel CD without "I'll Fly Away, " therefore,... »»»
Gurf MorlixThe Soul & The Heal
Back in the '80s, Gurf Morlix turned his itinerant singer/songwriter/session ninja role into a 15-year gig with Lucinda Williams, playing guitar in her band and producing her third and fourth albums. After breaking with Williams over the endless production of "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road," Morlix became an in-demand producer, manning the board for Robert Earl Keen, Mary Gautiher, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Ian McLagan, among many others. After nearly three decades of writing songs and... »»»
Brigitte Demeyer/Will KimbroughMockingbird Soul
Singer/songwriters Brigitte DeMeyer and Will Kimbrough have known each other for at least half a dozen years and worked together on several projects since. Nevertheless, "Mockingbird Soul" marks their debut as a duo. In retrospect, it seems strange that the two haven't opted for co-billing before, given the fact that they create such a supple blend when they join their voices in harmony - opening track "Everything" and the sweet and serene "I Can Hear Your... »»»
Lauren AlainaRoad Less Traveled
It's been six years since Lauren Aliana tasted mega success as runner up on American Idol. She was anxious to get out her first full-length effort since 2011's "Wildflower." She reflected, "I wrote for it for three and a half years. I've grown so much as a person, a songwriter and an artist in that time. These songs are a true representation of who I am, where I've been and where I'm going. This album has pushed me to accept who I am and be 100% honest about it... »»»
Whitney RoseSouth Texas Suite
Whitney Rose firmly establishes herself as a worthy member of the Margo Price and Kacey Musgraves School of Country. There is far more to the connection than Rose sporting a bouffant on the cover. What you're going to hear is what some folks refer to as "real country," aka traditional country. If looking for blaring guitars, drums pounding and singalong anthems, Rose is not going to cut it for you. That's certainly not what this Canadian-born , Austin-based singer is about... »»»
Tift MerrittStitch of the World
Tift Merritt's gets off to a rip-roaring start by opening "Stitch of the World" with a song called "Dusty Old Man." If you can imagine it, the song sounds like Emmylou Harris fronting John Mellencamp's "Uh-huh" band from 1983. The album gets a little softer after this, although it's no less passionate throughout. Merritt may sing like a gentle soul, but she's the dedicated, persistent sort. Merritt follow's the gospel-tinged "Heartache... »»»
Brantley GilbertThe Devil Don't Sleep
For those fans worrying over the potential demise of bro country, rest easy; Brantley Gilbert is here to keep that flag flying high. Comprised of a solid set of radio ready rockers alongside a few tamer numbers, Gilbert sets out to prove the establishment wrong, rolling his way through 16 tales of hard living and partying. Yet, while Gilbert holds strong to the "bro country" stance, he's also very much his own man, allowing his faith and values to pull front and center as well... »»»
Mac WisemanI Sang the Song
Mac Wiseman's album is one of the most unique collaborative efforts in recent memory. While many music figures have released late-career albums made in partnership with producers and musicians best-known for their work in other genres in an effort to either reinvent themselves or to bring their music to a new audience, bluegrass great Wiseman opted to partner with songwriters in order to turn stories from his life into new songs. "I Sang The Song (Life Of The Voice With A Heart)"... »»»
SUSTO& I'm Fine Today
SUSTO's "& I'm Fine Today" finds the band struggling to stay feeling fine. The rocking single "Waves," for example, asks: "Way so much trouble?/We're living in such a remarkable place." In other words, shouldn't those living in a veritable paradise be relatively trouble free? (We all know the sad answer to that question). Singer Justin Osborne, vocalizes these troubled songs with a scratchy, yearning voice. And these songs many times address troublesome issues... »»»
Saints ElevenComing Back Around
Saints Eleven are unapologetic in their ramshackle stance, and given the tattered approach they take here, it comes as little surprise. Despite a defiant delivery at times, the music is weary yet determined, devoid of sweetening, but never less than honest. Produced by Walt Wilkins, the third effort by the Dallas trio features a rugged combination of hard scrapple blues, country and Americana, eschewing any sense that they may be seeking redemption or remorse. In a sense, this is the real deal -... »»»
Dale & RayDale & Ray
The teaming of Dale Watson and Ray Benson is a natural union of two of the strongest champions of country music's heritage, with Watson in particular often going on the offensive against the country music industry. There is a touch of that defiance in the opening "The Ballad of Dale and Ray" ("Today's country music don't move us that way/We like Hank Williams Senior/We're Dale and Ray"), but for the most part Watson and Benson focus on displaying their... »»»
The Infamous StringdustersLaws of Gravity
The Infamous Stringdusters have always been difficult to categorize. That's part of their charm. Part traditional bluegrass (leaning on sound bluegrass instrumentation, namely guitar, Dobro, banjo, fiddle and standup bass), part jam band (extended sets of songs in their live shows in which one song triggers another), and wholly original with a signature sound and energy that goes on without cease. In the last year, The Infamous Stringdusters have released an album of duets with female... »»»
Girls Guns and GloryLove and protest
When, exactly, did rock and roll die? There are bands (for example, J. Roddy Walston and The Business, JJ Grey and Mofro, The Felice Brothers) fighting the good fight, but in large part the Three Chords and The Truth philosophy of popular music has been co-opted by country music, then poured into its own mold: trucks, hats, getting lit, girls and not giving a damn. So, what's a band like Girls, Guns & Glory to do? Fundamentally, they are a roadhouse band. A bunch of guys that can take a... »»»
Ray CardwellTennessee Moon
Like fellow Missouri native Rhonda Vincent, Ray Cardwell grew up singing and performing in his family's bluegrass band. Unlike Vincent, he left the Nashville scene behind him for several years to, among other things, raise a family and teach music. His return to the recording studio and the touring grind (the album's title is also the name of his new band) offers a dozen tracks of mostly contemporary bluegrass, and if it sounds more than a little inspired by the records put out 30 years... »»»
Wildfire "Rented Room on Broadway" Pinecastle Records Reviewed by Donald Teplyske Emerging from a latter version of The New South, over the past 16 years, Wildfire has quietly established themselves as a consistent bluegrass outfit. With original members Robert Hale (guitar) and Curtis Chapman (bass) leading the way, Wildfire returns with "Rented Room on Broadway," their fifth album. John Lewis remains on banjo while bluegrass vagabonds Greg Luck (fiddle and guitar, and another J. D... »»»
Blue MafiaThe Hanging Tree
Since emerging with one of the strongest debuts of 2013, Blue Mafia have done the work necessary - touring, writing and wood-shedding - to gain a measure of recognition within the crowded bluegrass field. "Hanging Tree," their third album, continues the group's ascension within the marketplace. Emphasizing the importance of balance, Blue Mafia combine to be dynamic and distinctive. Featuring multiple lead voices, strong original songs as well as the ability to locate good new ones... »»»
Trent HarmonTrent Harmon
"American Idol" has earned its place in history as a star making factory, and voting viewers have enjoyed their early investor pride in the superstar success of winners like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. But by the 15th lap, the TV competition was gasping. In America Idol's 2016 final show, a 25-year-old Mississippi native named Trent Harmon was chosen for the top prize. With his leprechaun features and aw-shucks delivery, he seemed like another in the yawn parade... »»»
Heidi & RyanHeidi & Ryan
There's a strong taste of Dolly Parton in the music of Heidi and Ryan Greer, formerly known as the Kentucky Mountain Trio before downsizing to a duo. From singer Heidi Greer's voice, which can swing from full-throated to a delicate warble, to the down home stories of family and faith in the duo's songs, that Tennessee mountain home style is never far. Nominally a bluegrass act, the arrangements are more light acoustic fare with bluegrass instrumentation, never quite rising to the... »»»
Kane BrownKane Brown
First look at the cover for Kane Brown's full-length debut album, and you may experience a "Homeboy" moment. The young man appears like the tattooed model for Eric Church's song of the same name. Although Brown is categorized as bro-country in some quarters, the actual music he makes is much better than you might expect. This is one case where you shouldn't judge the book by its cover. Although the album includes a lustful song like "Pull It Off," which is a... »»»
Gillian Welch's album "Revival" was a revelation. The fact that T Bone Burnett - the ultimate roots rock curator - produced it, gave good reason to give it immediate attention, and insightful songs like "Barroom Girls" and "By the Mark" cemented the news that Welch was truly something special. With "Boots No. 1: The Official Revival Bootleg," Welch has expanded the original 10-track album into a 21-song opus. And while this extensive collection of... »»»
Garth BrooksGunslinger
If naming your release "Gunslinger," you'd better let it rip and go for a harder country sound, especially if donning a black cowboy hat on the cover. The reality does not exactly match that sentiment for Garth Brooks, but at times he comes mighty close. The high points for Brooks are the three most traditional country songs - a couple of honky tonkers ("Honky-Tonk Somewhere" and "Cowboys and Friends") and a ballad ("Whiskey to Wine")... »»»
High ValleyDear Life
There's a scene in the movie "Bull Durham" where Kevin Costner tells Tim Robbins how holding the record for most home runs in the minor leagues is kind of a dubious honor - it shows a lot of years that you didn't make it to the majors. Is that what being the biggest country band in Canada is like? High Valley, who've scored an impressive run of Great White North charting singles and awards, would disagree - Shania's a Canuck ,of course. And everybody's from somewhere... »»»
Robert Earl KeenLive Dinner Reunion
Talk about deja vu all over again, Robert Earl Keen's 'new' live album is a two-disc re-living, if you will, of the Texas singer-songwriter's "No. 2 Live Dinner," which was originally recorded in 1990. Performed again in front of an audience at John T. Floore Country Store in Helotes, Texas, "Live Dinner Reunion" includes many of Keen's best songs. It also features a few special guests, such as Lyle Lovett and Joe Ely. This guest list is a little... »»»
Olivia LaneOlivia Lane
Ladies first, as the saying goes, and country music is following suit. There's a crop of female artists out now who are fusing songwriter chops with a new generation's ideals. And they just happen to be running rings around a lot of the male competition. Count newcomer and Houston native Olivia Lane among them. She sounds a lot like Sara Evans and looks a little like Barbara Streisand from the ingénue days. As with her fellow "young" ladies (Maren Morris is 26, not a... »»»
Rani Arbo and Daisy MayhemWintersong
With "Wintersong," Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem dig deep for its roots. Many of the songs on this 13-song holiday set will likely be unfamiliar. It took until track five, in fact - with "Children Go Where I Send Thee" - for familiarity to set in. But just as changing up the melody on a familiar carol can sometimes help refocus us on a well-known song, filling an album with relatively unfamiliar songs can also cause listeners to see the holiday season in new light... »»»
Ian FitzgeraldYou Won't Even Know I'm Gone
A self-described folk singer of the vintage variety, Ian Fitzgerald has established his stance over the course of three albums and appearances at all the prerequisite festivals - Newport, Falcon Ridge and more. So when it comes to the obtusely title "You Won't Even Know I'm Gone," he offers up much of the same, even in the context of a varied approach. His sound is mostly of the Dylan-esque variety - feisty, expressive and puckishly implied. When he sings, "Your... »»»
The Piedmont Melody MakersWonderful World Outside
Although this is their debut release as a quartet, The Piedmont Melody Makers (the band name is a nod to their North Carolina home base) have individually been well-established in the realm of bluegrass, old time and old country music for what adds up to decades of more than a dozen. The two senior members, Alice Gerrard and Jim Watson have nearly a century of experience between themselves alone. Gerrard's bluegrass partnership with the late Hazel Dickens that began in the mid-1960s opened... »»»
Rhonda VincentAll the Rage Volume One
Rhonda Vincent has been a solid voice of bluegrass music since the 1970's. She first performed with a family band (The Sally Mountain Show), before going solo. Her career took a country turn for a few years, but she's mostly a bluegrass artist these days, and bluegrass is the beneficiary. Vincent has found her voice (literally and figuratively) fronting The Rage. Anyone who has seen her live show knows that she can tear it up, whilst remaining true to mountain music sensibility... »»»
Garth Brooks and Trisha YearwoodChristmas Together
Listening to Garth Brooks' and Trisha Yearwood's new holiday album of (mostly) duets, one is once again reminded how Yearwood is one of the most underrated country artists, whereas - if we're being honest -Brooks is a little on the overrated side. For instance, Brooks almost seems to be punching the clock with his vocal on the throwaway "Ugly Christmas Sweater" and then dusting off a retread with "Feliz Navidad," Yearwood sounds like a truly sexy hotty during "Santa Baby... »»»
SidelineColors & Crossroads
Sideline features three familiar faces for bluegrass lovers. Steve Dilling played banjo for IIIrd Tyme Out for over two decades while his son-in-law, Skip Cherryholmes, played for over a decade with his family in Cherryholmes. Jason Moore started with the late, great James King and has played on more than 100 projects to date. Dilling drives the intro of "You Don't Know What You Got Till It's Gone" while Nathan Aldridge takes a break on fiddle, and Brad Hudson does the same on Dobro... »»»
While we spend so much of our lives on the search for something new throughout the year, when it comes to the holidays we seem to find ourselves gravitating back toward that which we know. These are the things that inspire nostalgia and warm memories, the taste of Grandma's apple pie or the sight of that god-awful Christmas ornament that's been handed down through the years. And let's not forget the music. There's no music like Christmas music to take you back, drawing you in... »»»
Balsam RangeMountain Voodoo
Balsam Range has been at the heart of mainstream bluegrass music since its debut in 2007. "Mountain Voodoo" is an ambitious, and successful, summation of the first decade. Vocal harmonies provide the core of Balsam Range's music. It's mountain music, to be sure, with lots of vocal range. Lead singer Buddy Melton controls his tenor range with power and effect, and is joined, in varying degrees by mandolinist Darren Nicholson, bassist Tim Surrett and guitarist Caleb Smith... »»»
Perhaps no artist is so ingrained in the very fibre of modern Americana more than Emmylou Harris. Her presence is everywhere - in the music she makes on her own, in the music she shares with others, in the music that feature finds her simply settled in the background sharing supporting vocals or merely lending inspiration. On Jan. 10, 2015, a distinguished group of her peers - a list of notables that included Rodney Crowell, Buddy Miller, Chris Hillman, Lee Ann Womack, Steve Earle, Mary Chapin... »»»
Pert Near SandstoneDiscovery of Honey
After 10 years and 7 previous albums, Pert Near Sandstone have proven their proficiency when it comes to creating a sound invested in bluegrass but filled with modern urgency and enticement. Theirs is an approach that shows full allegiance to the essential elements of a back porch delivery, flush with fiddles, mandolins, banjos, Dobro and washboard, along with a contemporary sensibility that finds a certain kinship with artists like the Steep Canyon Rangers, Sam Bush and Mountain Heart that... »»»
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