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Every male country singer worth his salt has been influenced by George Jones who died in April 2013; if not vocally, at the very least because of respect for country traditions and love of a fine song. Few, however, have the skills to sing as much like Jones as Sammy Kershaw can. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Kershaw has that whole sincerity thing down pat. For the most part, Kershaw mainly sticks to the most familiar Jones songs. He even has the guts to cover "He Stopped... »»»
Trampled by TurtlesWild Animals
Trampled By Turtles, the five-piece band from Duluth, Minn., combines bluegrass, folk and country into an enjoyable mixture. This act, which has been known to cover such unexpected artists as the extremely somber Radiohead in concert, is gradually moving away from its speedy bluegrass leanings and incorporating much more moody instrumental blends into its music. "Wild Animals'" title track, for instance, opens up this 11-song album with a slow, dirge-y piece... »»»
Mary SarahBridges
Every artist has that dream duet they'd love to perform. They're fans too and long to share the stage with the very artists who helped to inspire their dreams and while it happens for some, it's surely not enough. And with that being the case, newcomer Mary Sarah needs to count her blessings as her debut record, "Bridges," finds the artist trading duets with a virtual "who's who" of country music greats. She's no stranger to performing, having been... »»»
Dale WatsonTruckin' Sessions Trilogy
Completing a trilogy originally begun with the first "Truckin' Sessions" album in 1998, Dale Watson wraps up the series with "The Truckin' Sessions 3," a robust 14-song set that details the daily travels and travails of the modern road warrior. Watson's affinity for these unsung highway heroes is both admirable and authentic, sung from the perspective of those who tirelessly drive those big rigs day and night, often with little sleep, scant personal comforts... »»»
Corb LundCounterfeit Blues
Corb Lund is a Canadian artist, whose gritty blend of country, blues, folk, jazz and more made him a surprise success on the musically conservative national country landscape. After rising to the top of the Canadian scene, Lund set his sights south of the border to the notoriously tough American roots music scene. He released his debut in 1995, while still a part of the underground punk/metal group The Smalls of Edmonton. But it wasn't until late 2009 when he released "Losin' Lately... »»»
Jim LauderdaleI'm A Song
In promoting "I'm a Song," Jim Lauderdale put out a satirical video with his band in which he dons a trucker's cap and celebrates the creation of "bro-grass." The good-natured video served to show how Lauderdale doesn't fit in with what's most popular in Nashville these days, but listen to his latest - a wonderful, 20-song album - and you know the in-demand songwriter certainly can't be that unpopular. Lauderdale had a hand in writing each song here... »»»
The JayhawksRainy Day Music
With its rerelease, The Jayhawks' best album, "Rainy Day Music," has not really been expanded, as it was also originally 20 songs when you added in the bonus CD. It merely features different extra songs. It's still the band's best because there are just so many top-tier songs, starting with the jingle-jangle of "Stumbling Through The Dark" (which Gary Louris co-wrote with power-pop master Matthew Sweet), and continuing on with "Tailspin... »»»
Old Crow Medicine ShowRemedy
Old Crow Medicine Show returned with "Carry Me Back" in 2012 after a brief hiatus and lineup changes. The album was a predictable collection from the group, hearkening back to their earlier releases and stepping away from the dark undertones of the highlight "Tennessee Pusher" album. It was a welcome recording for long time fans of the group, but blended in with much of their discography. "Remedy" is easily recognizable as an OCMS recording, but this time around,... »»»
The JayhawksSmile
When The Jayhawks "Smile"first came out in 2000, the snobbier elements in the alt.-country underground were calling the Minnesota band Judas for selling out their Americana roots. Bob Ezrin produced it, and wasn't he a guy famous for producing Lou Reed, Alice Coop, Kiss and many other totally twang-less acts? While this album has plenty of pop elements, you could make the case that "What Led Me To This Town" also has very strong county elements - particularly the echoing... »»»
The JayhawksSound of Lies
Time has been kind to The Jayhawks' "Sound of Lies," originally released in 1997. The album was also the first one recorded after Mark Olson (one half of the original songwriting partnership with Gary Louris) had left the group. Nevertheless, these many years later, songs like "It's Up To you" are pleasing still with their country goodness - especially in contrast to the annoying Southern rock influence upon today's omnipresent mainstream bro-country scene -... »»»
Colt FordThanks for Listening
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups notwithstanding, two great tastes don't always taste great together. Take, for instance, country music and rap. Hick hop, if you will. Even the name sounds like an affliction of the diaphragm. Wikipedia says this sub genre really took shape with Bubba Sparxxx in 2001, but those of us with longer memories know artists have been trying to wed these antithetical styles since the Bellamy Brothers "Country Rap" in 1987. Back then, it was known as c-rap, a... »»»
Robert GordonI'm Coming Home
It was clear at the outset that Robert Gordon belonged to one particular age and era, specifically, the late '50s and early '60s when rockabilly was all the rage and retro was in full flourish way before the term was ever imagined. Admittedly though, it's hard to fashion an entire career on such a singular sound, especially when it's considered something of a novelty to begin with. So credit Gordon with pursuing his niche as far as he did, particularly during his heyday in the... »»»
Sarah BorgesRadio Sweetheart
It's popular on social media to bash anything that becomes too popular, so you often see people who have problems with music crowdsourcing. Lame, greedy, not very artistic, not rock-n-roll, "digital panhandling," sad, etc. But if an artist in need has more resources in terms of fans than funds, and delivers on their promises, what exactly is the problem? For her first album since 2009 and first since the breakup of her band the Broken Singles, Sarah Borges seems to have put the more... »»»
The LoudermilksThe Loudermilks
Named after a pair of brothers legendary for their sweet harmonizing - the Louvin Brothers - the Loudermilks are led by a pair of brothers well-known (at least down Carolina way and in alt.-country circles) for their, surprise, sweet harmonizing. Charlotte-by-way-of-Cartersville, Ga.'s Alan and Chad Edwards, along with bassist Shawn Lynch, previously did business as Lou Ford, which put out two well-regarded albums around the turn of the century before regrouping briefly for a final album in 2007... »»»
Willie NelsonBand of Brothers
Willie Nelson has been routinely busy since 1996 with touring, recording, writing books and more touring. Yet his latest offering is a rarity of sorts in that it's his first true studio album of primarily new material since 1996. And like so much of his material beforehand, Nelson mines very little new ground with this record. That doesn't mean it's not stellar however! The first song "Bring It On" contains all the hallmarks of a classic Nelson tune, from the... »»»
Jason D. WilliamsHillbillies and Holy Rollers
In the liner notes to his latest release, Jason D. Williams, with good-natured swagger, refers to rock-n-roll in terms of "spirit" and "soul" and the fact that he's got a lot of it, but he's worried kids today wouldn't know it if it jumped out of their Xbox and bit them in the behind. It should be noted, however, that as the son of Jerry Lee Lewis, Williams was born with a leg up (and ready to kick over a piano stool) when spirit and soul were handed out... »»»
As suggested by the title, Gene Watson's latest project is a collection of cover tunes written and recorded by some of his musical heroes. After more than four decades in the business, Watson remains a strong performer of country ballads and pure honky tonk. Watson is at his best on ballads such as the George Jones hit "Walk Through This World with Me" and the Hank Cochran tune "Make the World Go Away" made famous by Eddie Arnold. On Nat Stuckey's "Don't... »»»
Mary GauthierTrouble & Love
Mary Gauthier is an artist who will never be accused of not telling the truth and the artist's latest collection of songs, "Trouble and Love," is no exception. Inspired by Gauthier's real life heartbreak, the eight-track record follows the artist through the process of grieving over a lost relationship, highlighting with fine lyricism and rich, moody Americana soundscapes the good, the bad and the ugly. Gauthier brought some method acting principles to the recording process,... »»»
As natural as the idea seems, it took a guy named Reese to cram a smear of peanut butter into a hollowed out chunk of chocolate. Similarly, the concept of unleashing the brothers Alvin on the songbook of their earliest blues hero, Big Bill Broonzy, seems so completely right, it's almost tragic that it required Phil's near death experience from an abscessed tooth for a fence-mending reconciliation between him and Dave for their first recording together since The Blasters' "Hard... »»»
Miranda LambertPlatinum
Cynics might think that Miranda Lambert is presumptuous in entitling her fifth disc "Platinum" and, in effect, assuming she'll get her plaque for selling 1 million units. But Lambert says that isn't the case, but more a matter of style, looks and feel. Lambert also wrote and discovered a lot of excellent songs that fit her quite well in an album in which she exposes her inner self as she matures. That may never more apparent than in the country rocker Lambert wrote... »»»
Lucy HaleRoad Between
It's fascinating to hear how much more country Lucy Hale sounds once Joe Nichols sings along with her during their duet, "Red Dress." For the most part, though, actress/singer Hale sounds like countless other mainstream female artists, which is mainstream country generic. Listening to "Road Between" makes one especially appreciate female singers like Miranda Lambert and Reba - ones that can't ever quite get the twang out of their singing voices... »»»
Jamie O'NealEternal
Jamie O'Neal's latest disc, only her third, is a surprise. First and most important is the music itself, which is comprised of country classics except for the closing song. One would not have expected that from a singer considered part of the pop country school. Second, O'Neal is one of those singers who seemingly disappeared for good after early success. She scored two number ones right out of the chute in 2000 with the poppy "There is No Arizona" and "When I Think About Angels... »»»
Bruce Robison and Kelly WillisOur Year
Just like Gram and Emmylou, Johnny and June, Dolly Parton and Porter Waggoner, Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison have secured a perfect partnership. Touching on topics sown from forlorn circumstance, the duo's second album melds a tender touch with down home designs. Choice covers affirm a commitment to craft, with fiddles, mandolin, harp and harmonies, bringing a low-lit ambience, which serves to elevate the charm. Both artists are, of course, successful on their own, but taken in tandem, they... »»»
Danny RobertsNighthawk
 
For the past decade or so, Danny Roberts has been well-known to bluegrass fans as the mandolin player for (and a founding member of) The Grascals, unquestionably one of the most successful bluegrass bands on the planet. That alone should establish his instrumental creds, and since he leaves the singing for the most part to his band mates, it would be a pretty good guess that his second solo effort, "Nighthawk" would be primarily an instrumental affair. Correct so far... »»»
Brantley GilbertJust As I Am
Brantley Gilbert's third release is a collection of songs that define who he is as an artist. There is a notable absence of wild experimentation here; these are straightforward songs from the artist who broke through with "Halfway to Heaven." The tattooed country rocker follows in the footsteps of Eric Church's recent hit, "The Outsiders," making a conscious step away from the overproduced hip hop country that artists like Florida Georgia Line are taking to the top of the charts... »»»
Roy OrbisonMystery Girl Deluxe
When originally released in 1989, "Mystery Girl" was the culmination of a particularly prolific period Roy Orbison had enjoyed since the mid '80s. Finally recognized as the enduring idol he had become, he was embraced by the rock elite, standing on equal footing beside Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, with whom he shared star billing in the Traveling Wilburys. Elvis Costello and U2 were among those writing songs with him and for him, and the aforementioned... »»»
Hank WilliamsThe Garden Spot Program 1950
In a career that spanned a mere six years - a minuscule amount of time compared to those who are today celebrating anniversaries of 40, 50 or even 60 years of more - Hank Williams established himself as an abiding influence on all those who followed, a man whose music is as relevant and revered today as it was when it was originally recorded. Indeed, what Williams accomplished in that scant amount of time still resonates nearly 70 years later. There's been an abundance of compilations,... »»»
Red JuneAncient Dreams
Bluegrass is full of bands that have killer musical chops, playing fast and furious or maintaining a purist traditional stance. Red June is nominally bluegrass, despite the lack of a banjo or even a bass in its stripped-down trio format, but the pair of instrumentals included on their new album ought to satisfy any grasser's jamming jones. Rather than repeat the same well worn formula throughout, the group instead forge a new acoustic path that's reminiscent of the quieter moments of... »»»
Dolly PartonBlue Smoke
Of all the songs you never expected Dolly Parton to cover, Bon Jovi's "Lay Your Hands on Me" has got to be near the top of the list. Although by the time Miley Cyrus's godmother gets through personalizing the song there's not enough of the original left to call it a cover - just a word or two here and there and the chorus, which for those of you who have forgotten this masterpiece of 80's hair metal is just the title of the song repeated almost enough times to make a... »»»
Sturgill SimpsonMetamodern Sounds in Country Music
The first time you hear Sturgill sing you may feel like you've heard a ghost - the ghost of Waylon Jennings, that is. Although his voice isn't as low as Jennings' was, it's nevertheless still in the same general vocal range ballpark. Better still, the Kentucky native sings wonderfully honest country songs. "Life of Sin," for instance, is a song about, well, sinning, which is really some of what great country is all about. Yes, most of this album will do a... »»»
Rascal FlattsRewind
Don't worry. Just because Rascal Flatts' Gary LeVox sings, "Try to talk to George Strait into givin' us an encore" on the hit single and title track doesn't mean that the traditional country giant is all of a sudden a cornerstone for the trio that has been front and center of the pop country sound. In fact, they make it quite clear from the second the play button is struck with the hard rocking "Payback" thanks to lots of electric guitar and rocking vocals from LeVox... »»»
The Howlin' BrothersTrouble
Look up the definition of eclectic. One says "deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources." You could certainly define the Howlin' Brothers style of music as just that, with a supreme mixture of country folk, Cajun, bluegrass, and good old Appalachian Mountain. If you look further into the definition, it states "denoting, or belonging to a class of ancient philosophers who did not belong to or found any one recognized school of thought but... »»»
Hunter HayesStoryline
A few things changed since Hunter Hayes debuted in 2011, but the bottom line remains the same - Hayes has a syrupy smooth and sweet voice, but there's not a tremendous amount of depth there to his feel good material. Hayes struck it rich the first time out on his major label debut garnering 3 top 10 songs including "I Want Crazy." The Louisiana native also was a one-man band playing and singing all parts. That's not the case this time as he ceded CO-directorial control to Dann Huff... »»»
Much like the first season, the Season 2, Vol. 2 "Nashville" soundtrack is marked by another signature angry anthem. In a response to a label drop and request for a rehearsed apology at her Opry induction ceremony (cameo by Brad Paisley as emcee), Hayden Panettiere's character (Juliette Barnes) performs "Don't Put Dirt on My Grave Just Yet." While it feels obvious and clichéd, it is still a catchy scorcher. With a season full of more complex story lines,... »»»
Bryan SuttonInto My Own
Already widely recognized as one of the most skilled acoustic guitar players in contemporary bluegrass and Americana music and a collaborator to the stars, Bryan Sutton takes a giant leap toward establishing himself as a fully-formed artist outside the shadows of others with his fourth solo album. The aptly-titled "Into My Own" showcases Sutton's broad range of talents more explicitly than previous releases. In addition to the production work and expectedly-stellar picking (he... »»»
Black PrairieFortune
What began as an offshoot engineered by The Decemberists' inner circle has now become a full-time day job with an identity all its own. Three albums on, Black Prairie has shed most of the bluegrass trappings so evident in their original incarnation and evolved instead into a band that's no longer constrained by any predetermined identity. Clearly at ease with their current standing, the aptly titled "Fortune" reflects a general sense of confidence and no holds-barred... »»»
Ray PriceBeauty Is...
On Dec. 16, 2013, Ray Price, succumbed to pancreatic cancer, and the world lost yet another great musician who during his career had helped change the face of country music. In the 1950s, the Cherokee Cowboy (he formed the Cherokee Cowboys in 1953, and Roger Miller, Buddy Emmons, Willie Nelson, Johnny Paycheck, and Buddy Spicher, among others, were members of the band) developed the sound that became known as the "Ray Price shuffle," which most famously can be heard on his hit... »»»
Moot DavisGoin' In Hot
New Jersey native Moot Davis survived several trials by fire to make this album: a few days after the songs were mixed, the studio where he recorded the album burned down; he made the record while recovering from the end of a longtime relationship. Lucky for us, engineer Joe McMahan was able to save the mixes. With this album, Davis and band mate and bassist Michael Massimino (The Good Americans) also joined forces to create the label Crow Town Records. Blending and bending licks and riffs from... »»»
Granted, Peter Rowan is something of a legend in Americana circles, having played with some of the most influential outfits of the past five decades - Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys, Earth Opera, Seatrain, Muleskinner, and that effective fusion of traditional bluegrass and modern folk sensibility, Old and In the Way. It was the latter outfit that attracted Rowan particular notice, owing to the presence of Jerry Garcia in his first fulltime side project beyond his day job with the Grateful Dead... »»»
The Secret SistersPut Your Needle Down
There are some major changes and some not so big major changes on the second disc from Laura and Lydia Rogers, aka The Secret Sisters. One of the key changes is apparent at the get go with "Rattle My Bones," a song written in part by Brandi Carlile. The sound is dense, atmospheric with rat-a-tat drumming from Darren Weiss. That was in sharp contrast to the duo's self-titled debut of 3 years ago. The leadoff song and single, "Tennessee Me," made it clear that the... »»»
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