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Scott MillerLadies Auxiliary
Scott Miller is far removed from his seminal alt.-country bands, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based V-Roys and his home-state band, The Commonwealth. This time out, his first recording in four years, Miller is acoustically backed by a complete band of females. Although the rock n' roll fire may have diminished some, Miller still has plenty of lyrical power about life's troubles, love and the current sorry state of politics and class divide. It's refreshing to have his voice back... »»»
Brad HudsonNext New Heartbreak
Meet Brad Hudson. If you haven't yet heard of him, "Next New Heartbreak," his first solo release, is a solid first impression. A North Carolina native, Hudson is no newcomer. He has worked alongside veteran musicians, such as Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road and the great Dolly Parton, while currently a member of Sideline. As a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Hudson stands shoulder to shoulder with the best whether on guitar, bass or Dobro. "Next New Heartbreak" is a... »»»
Blake SheltonTexoma Shore
Blake Shelton's 11th studio album finds The Voice advisor in a contented, one might even say homey, frame of mind. The opening track and first single "I'll Name the Dogs" sets the tone. It's a rollicking ode to domesticity that manages to make household chore distribution ("You find the spot and I'll find the money / You be the pretty and I'll be the funny") both romantic and amusing. The beat switches to hip-hop on "Money," but the sentiment... »»»
Balsam RangeIt's Christmas Time
You can have your silver bells for Christmas time in the city, but if you're looking to experience a mountain Christmas, look no further than Balsam Range. "It's Christmas Time" opens with the moody "Christmas Lullaby," and ends on an instrumental note, with a bluegrass-y "Jingle Bells." This six-song EP is heavy on familiar holiday songs, including "The First Noel," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Hark! The Harold Angeles Sing... »»»
Wailin' JennysFifteen
There's nothing lovelier in this world than the sound of human voices huddled in harmony. That's immediately apparent when listening to the close knit collaboration that's rooted in the Wailin' Jennys, a well-versed folk trio whose three members - Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody and Heather Masse - have celebrated a special kinship for the better part of the past 15 years. Although each can claim a solo career, different habitats and individual family responsibilities, it's... »»»
Emily HerringGliding
Emily Herring is a classic country singer in the vein of Rosie Flores and Heather Myles. Unlike those Californians, though, Herring is from Austin and her music has the dancehall feel of authentic Texas honky-tonks. This, her fourth record, was produced by instrumentalist Steve Fishell (Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, and prominently features his pedal steel and Dobro chops alongside those of twang master Redd Volkaert. Seven of the 10 crisply rendered tunes are Herring originals, with equal... »»»
Kenny Chesney's "Live in No Shoes Nation" accurately recreates an experience of seeing the diminutive party animal live. Chesney has found an extremely lucrative niche as country music's Jimmy Buffett (although much of Buffett's island-y pop music appeals to many of today's non-discerning country music listeners). Also, with songs like "Pirate Flag," Chesney has even borrowed a few of Buffett's sea-related lyrical themes. This live CD could have been... »»»
Mile TwleveOnwards
To some, the term "Boston Bluegrass" may seem to be a malaprop, a suggestion that tradition must get lost on the byzantine cityscape of the Northeast city, far away from mountain hollers and high meadows. But as Mile 12 demonstrates, Boston bluegrass music is alive and well, arguably driving modern bluegrass music and certainly contributing rich threads to its texture. Mile 12 is the latest to spring from the melting pot of traditional music fostered at Boston's Berklee School... »»»
A tribute record to an artist who is still active, alive and with us can be a scary proposition in any number of ways. For starters, it insinuates that his or her best days are behind them. Even worse, it hints that their days may be numbered and that the intent to honor the artist is being done to avoid it becoming a final requiem. In this case, those scenarios could be coming close. Kris Kristofferson's been rumored to have health issues, and at age 81, there's only so much time for... »»»
Having made the transition from hit-maker to casual country chanteuse, and finally, to Americana minstrel, Lee Ann Womack offers up her most engaging effort yet, "The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone," an album whose evocative title effectively sums up the sentiments of each of the songs it shares. Womack may not have written all the material contained herein, but she's responsible for a fair percentage, and even those she didn't pen feel as personal as they are poignant... »»»
The Infamous StringdustersUndercover Vol. 2
The Infamous Stringdusters are keeping busy. Their third release of 2017, "Undercover Vol. 2," the second-half follow-up to 2015's "Vol. 1" is a five-track adventure that pays respect to a few of the band's favorite artists. From Marvin Gaye to The Cure, the 'Dusters once again push the limit of bluegrass. Long considered a progressive bluegrass band, The Infamous Stringdusters may have stumbled into something new, alternative bluegrass perhaps... »»»
Turnpike TroubadoursA Long Way From Your Heart
The name Turnpike Troubadours suggests traveling music. Strap yourself in and get ready for an exhilarating ride. This Oklahoma-based roots-rock unit soars on its fourth release. Not to diminish the strong songwriting from leader Evan Felker, it's the band's pulsating musicianship with an array of electric instruments combined with fiddle and pedal steel that makes the sound so arresting. Felker writes mostly about resilience during difficult circumstances. The opener, "The... »»»
Chris YoungLosing Sleep
Chris Young has one of the best country voices, and it's always a pleasure to hear him sing. But it's disappointing when the title cut sounds more like the groove to a Justin Bieber song than anything truly country. When, say, someone like Jason Aldean performs music with barely any resemblance to real country music, it's not that big a deal; he's not a great natural singer to begin with. However, Young's voice is just too good to waste on mere pop... »»»
Darius RuckerWhen Was the Last Time
Darius Rucker is so darn likeable, he likely gets away with creating subpar music more than most. However, "When Was the Last Time" is a consistently good album, which is as respectable as it is likeable. Rucker knows how to sing crowd pleasers, like the fun and funny "Count the Beers" and the all-star collaboration "Straight to Hell," which also features Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Charles Kelley. He shines brightest, though, on the more serious songs... »»»
Willie NelsonWillie's Stash Volume 2
The "boys" referenced in the title of Willie Nelson's "Willie's Stash Vol. 2," are his sons, Lukas and Micah Nelson. This second archival selection, following "December Day" (recorded with his sister/pianist Bobbie Nelson), was tracked in 2011 with producer Buddy Cannon at the helm. The album is mostly Hank Williams Sr. songs, along with a few other 'Hanks' (Cochran, Locklin and Snow), an Alyssa Miller number and one by the elder Nelson... »»»
Travis MeadowsFirst Cigarette
The stunning vocal of Travis Meadows on the opening track, "Sideways," brims with honesty, pain and hard-earned wisdom as he offers a blend of confession and advice, stimulated by an experience at an adolescent addiction treatment center. Meadows, like many, is one of those Nashville songwriters ("Riser" for Dierks Bentley and "What We Ain't Got" for Jake Owen), but is finding his own voice relatively late in life. Having conquered substance abuse and doing... »»»
Lydia LovelessGirl Crazy And Single(s)
The 11 tracks on Lydia Loveless's "Boy Crazy And Single(s)" are split fairly evenly between the 5 songs found on her now out-of-print 2013 "Boy Crazy" EP and 6 singles and B-sides, most of which were not released previously. The "Boy Crazy" EP tracks are real gems - lyrically compelling relationship tales with catchy melodies and radio-friendly choruses. "All The Time" is the perfect example. Loveless takes a gritty subject matter (a mistress coming to... »»»
Reba McEntire's "My Kind of Christmas," is essentially the same album, with the same title, she released a while back through Cracker Barrel. The project is mostly comprised of the country Wonder Woman's strong singing voice, backed by acoustic piano. The new wrinkle in this expanded edition, though, is a bevy of guest vocalists. These guest spots are so good, it's worth the extra bucks to get the full package. Reba is joined by the dynamic husband and wife team, Vince... »»»
AlabamaAmerican Christmas
With its 15-song "American Christmas," Alabama covers nearly every nook and cranny in the holiday album spectrum. And it's just as good, as it is complete. The song that hits first, and hits hardest, is "First Christmas Without Daddy." This loving remembrance for a deceased father asks sadly, "Who's gonna lead the family prayer?" As Christmas is as much about family gatherings, as it is about all the popular sights and sounds, Randy Owen both remembers his... »»»
Bill CarterBill Carter
If, after making his bow a decade or so ago, Bill Carter's decision to title his new album "Bill Carter" seems a somewhat humble retreat as far as his own modesty is concerned, it only takes a listen to understand why it was dubbed appropriately. Carter's stripped down approach in keeps things simple, offering all indication that he is indeed going back to basics. Indeed, that's evident at the outset. Carter turns this new effort into a one-man show, playing all the... »»»
Thomm JutzCrazy If You Let It
If one has been paying attention to album liner notes this decade, Thomm Jutz's name is already familiar. If it isn't, it soon should be. Jutz is a Nashville-based songwriter, producer, sideman and singer with a list of credits longer daily. He has written numerous popular bluegrass songs ("Carolina Wind" with Irene Kelley, "Forty Acre Blues" for the Darrell Webb Band and "Walking In The Blue Ridge" for Junior Sisk), produced Nanci Griffith's... »»»
Gill LandryLove Rides a Dark Horse
Gill Landry certainly has matters that are weighing heavy on his mind. An ex-member of Old Crow Medicine Show, he's a multi-faceted musician clearly concerned with matters of the heart, although his dire delivery suggests things aren't going especially well. There's a sense of low cast desperation engulfing these songs overall, a feeling that becomes unerringly apparent in Landry's sonorous delivery, the slow sprawl of his melodies and the riveting tones summoned through cold... »»»
Sweetwater String BandAt Night
With a name like Sweetwater String Band, you might expect a contemporary bluegrass band with hotshot pickers providing a heavy dose of banjo and fiddle, but that's not what you get. Instead, this acoustic quartet is built around cellist Dave Huebner who wields that instrument to create a sonorous soundscape. "At Night" is a moody album, and its overarching tone is serious - one that plays well with the group's plaintive vocals and the simple, but exquisitely-planned and... »»»
Chase RiceLambs & Lions
As counterintuitive as it might seem, Chase Rice and the late George Michael have a lot in common. Both were their respective label's golden boy, and when each artist tried to do something different, they fell out of favor. In Rice's case, he sensed the demise of bro country and wanted to shift gears. Columbia Nashville preferred to have him stay the course. Rice said, "I was fed up with trying, whether that was trying to be something I'm not, trying to make music that people... »»»
Deer Creek BoysMidnight & Dawn
It's fair to say that much of the best bluegrass of the past three decades has emerged from the Blue Ridge Mountains in central and southern Virginia, almost like there's just something in the water, and the Deer Creek Boys have the look - and sound - of yet another promising Old Dominion band. Like many other younger bands, the four members (brothers Justin and Jason Tomlin, guitar and bass respectively; Cason Ogden, mandolin; and Andy Lowe, banjo) served apprenticeships of a sort in... »»»
Gina ClowesTrue Colors
Gina Clowes is a product of the mountain tradition, and her solo CD, "True Colors," allows her to plumb it with her own voicings. Clowes is an accomplished banjo player and has been a member of Chris Jones' touring band, the Nightdrivers, since the beginning of 2016. Despite her roots, there's more than mountain music going on here. In fact, gypsy tempo and phrasings are just a likely to emerge from Clowes' banjo (the opening cuts "Puppet Show" and... »»»
Chris HillmanBidin' My Time
With all the memorable music Chris Hillman created with The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers and Desert Rose Band, he has nothing left to prove. He's a both a bona fide rock and country icon. Tom Petty, who owes an obvious debt to Hillman's Byrds (the Heartbreakers would never have brought the jangle hard and heavy, had The Byrds not first created the original template, and Tom Petty produced) appropriately produced this wonderful new country-rock collection. The album opens with a... »»»
Jon Langford's Four Lost SoulsJon Langford's Four Lost Souls
Jon Langford shifts musical gears as effortlessly as a European race car driver on a Grand Prix course. Looking at the totality of his career (The Mekons, Waco Brothers, Skull Orchard, the Three Johns, Wee Hairy Beasties, Pine Valley Cosmonauts, Bad Luck Jonathan, God knows what else), it hardly seems as though one peg could have fit into all those oddly shaped holes, and yet Langford has managed to make each entity unique based on his own singular input and the influences of the people joining... »»»
MidlandOn the Rocks
"On the Rocks" proves there's more to Midland than just vintage western wear and Spaghetti Western-extra good lucks. Don't be deterred by the fact that bassist Cameron Duddy won an MTV Video Music Award for directing Bruno Mars' "Locked Out of Heaven" video because this is an album of solid and distinctly traditional, country music. The single, "Drinkin' Problem," hearkens back to the good old days of drinking songs, before all these types of... »»»
Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon RangersThe Long Awaited Album
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. Interestingly, Martin's albums with Edie Brickell moved him away from the bluegrass sound he had so... »»»
Billy StringsTurmoil & Tinfoil
Billy Strings. It takes a lot of nerve to adopt such a nom de plume (in this case nom de guerre might be more appropriate) in the bluegrass world, but Billy Strings is up to the challenge, and more. Strings (real name William Apostol) grew up in Michigan, surrounded by musicians. A fourth-generation picker, he lives up to his name. Preternaturally talented, Strings embraces bluegrass instrumentation, but brings a powerful energy to his music. He's one of those musicians who packs a fuse and... »»»
Various ArtistsA Tribute to John D. Loudermilk
Unless you're a music historian or someone who tends to peruse the credits of album sleeves - the few there are these days - it's likely that the name John D Loudermilk might not mean much to you. However those who have followed the trajectory of modern music over the past fifty years or so are probably aware of Loudermilk's reputation as one of the great songwriters of his generation, a man whose music transcended genres and provided a cache of material for artists on both sides... »»»
The Lil SmokiesChanging Shades
The Lil Smokies represent that new breed of bluegrass bands that are more concerned with finding a common connection that being held sway by any traditional back porch precepts. Having established themselves as festival favorites, they have all the makings of populist heroes, given their knack for spinning easily accessible melodies and creating a homespun sound that charms and entices on first encounter. "Changing Shades" serves as an ideal introduction with 10 instantly gravitating... »»»
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... »»»
Willie WatsonFolksinger, Vol. 2
Offering up an entire album of traditional folk songs is nothing new, of course. Once Dylan and Springsteen tapped into that template, the standard was set for the future. Still, given Watson's pedigree - first as an original member of Old Crow Medicine Show and later as a hired hand and integral part of the Dave Rawlings Machine -- he has an appropriate resume that allows him to nicely fit into the role of perpetual troubadour. Likewise, with one volume of journeyman ballads behind him, a... »»»
Radney FosterFor You to See the Stars
Radney Foster's been around for decades it seems, but has been one of the more underrated and under-appreciated wordsmiths around. His latest, however, has a link to far more words than even Bob Dylan could fit on a double-disc effort. The link is the album is a collection of songs with each track culled from "a companion short story" compilation of the same name penned by the musician. The result is an album that has plenty of warm, folksy nuggets, which makes the listener... »»»
Deer TickVol. 1
John McCauley's earliest explorations as Deer Tick found him with one foot firmly planted in his punk rock past and the other in his newly minted conversion to folk and country by way of an introduction to Hank Williams. His dual personalities were separated into his studio Jekyll and his stage Hyde, the former using the solemnity of recording to craft quiet folk gems, the latter presenting them to an audience with adrenalized, amps-to-11 abandon. It wasn't until 2011's "Divine... »»»
Deer TickVol. 2
John McCauley's earliest explorations as Deer Tick found him with one foot firmly planted in his punk rock past and the other in his newly minted conversion to folk and country by way of an introduction to Hank Williams. His dual personalities were separated into his studio Jekyll and his stage Hyde, the former using the solemnity of recording to craft quiet folk gems, the latter presenting them to an audience with adrenalized, amps-to-11 abandon. It wasn't until 2011's "Divine... »»»
Rusty YoungWaitin' for the Sun
When you've been the sole constant of a band for nearly 50 years, you would think the need for a solo album had diminished a long time back. Nevertheless, Rusty Young seemed to harbor a quiet yearning to venture out on his own and give himself the credit he always ceded to Poco in the past. Indeed, it's not all that surprising that he's hesitated up until now. After all, Poco has been his accredited vehicle ever since he inherited the reins following the departures of Richie Furay, Timothy B... »»»
Dustin LynchCurrent Mood
Like a lot of 'country' releases these days, Dustin Lynch's "Current Mood" includes a few songs that - if their quality had been duplicated throughout - would have made for one fine album. The ballad, "Love Me or Leave Me Alone," which also features Karen Fairchild (of Little Big Town), is a powerfully memorable song. It's followed by "Back on It" which, with its love/addiction analogy (although already done many times before) is nevertheless... »»»
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