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McMurtry rides "The Horses and the Hounds"

The title track to James McMurtry's "The Horses and the Hounds" plays out like one of those great running songs, namely Merle Haggard's "The Fugitive." "Lord I've been running for so long I just can't find a way back home," McMurtry sings, in that enjoyable deadpan vocal tone of his. When the Haggard song is mentioned, though, McMurtry responds, "I don't really remember. I just put words together and see if they mean something. To me, that song is about facing personal demons. The listener can make up his own mind. That's one thing about songs. It's for the listener, as much as for the writer."

It's been seven years since McMurtry last released an album, but it's been even longer since this latest album was tracked. Its elongated creation reflects some of the new and ever-unfolding realities of the music modern business. ...


McNally lives long on "The Waylon Sessions"

Back before the world retreated into makeshift fallout shelters for a year of Netflix binging, board games and what Warren Zevon referred to as splendid isolation, Nashville-based singer/songwriter Shannon McNally was invited to play a Music City benefit concert. The parameters were simple; bring in two classic country songs to perform with the venue's assembled house band. McNally had a blast, and, at her performance's conclusion, she experienced an epiphany.

"I was real excited about it," recalls McNally from her Santa Fe, N.M. tour stop. "I've always been too country for pop and too Americana for country, so there was something liberating about playing country with a real good country band. And they were young players." ...


Track45 has "Big Dreams"

By their own admission Track 45 hails from a town that is – big enough for a WalMart and a Waffle House, but not a Target or a Starbucks.

Ironically, Meridian, Miss. (population 41,148) is the birthplace of the father of country music, Jimmy Rodgers. The harmony-driven sibling trio of Track45 includes Ben Johnson and his infectiously bubbly sisters Jenna and KK.

The siblings released their debut EP, "Small Town," on Stoney Creek in the fall of 2020.

KK said "Small Town" was a showcase of the first chapter of their lives. The three songs showcased their harmony and instrumental skill. They played nearly every instrument on the track. A second EP, "Big Dreams," which came out in February, contained the three tracks on the debut release plus another original and a gorgeous deep cut Dolly Parton cover of "Light of a Clear Blue Morning." ...


Ell crashes the boys club

It was only fitting that Lindsay Ell had Lauren Alaina as a guest on her recent livestream concert. Alaina penned the song "Crashing The Boy's Club."

That is exactly what Ell is doing using her Stratocaster as a battering ram. Men have disproportionately occupied lead guitar, vocals and musical director roles. Not in this Calgary, Canada native's outfit. The scorching solos, huge belt range and musical direction all come from her.

As a songwriter, Ell's talent is evident on her sophomore album "heart theory." She was able to make a concept album about the seven stages of grief danceable and impactful at the same time.

At 18, she toured with blues great Buddy Guy, who famously leaves venues immediately after playing his last note. ...


Twisted Pine takes root

Even "traditional" music evolves. It's trite, but true, to say that today's artists stand on the shoulders of their forebearers. The deep roots of American traditional music tend to be lost, particularly those that came before the advent of recorded sound late in the 19th century.

But the evolution continues apace, and one of the blessings of current music production is that artists try new things, bending genres and voicings to develop their own.

Here, now, is Twisted Pine, a four-piece band of young musicians that released "Right Now" on Signature Sounds Records. It's a bold and compelling reason to believe that traditional music will continue to grow and flourish.

Twisted Pine is Kathleen Parks on fiddle and lead vocals; Dan Bui  ...


Newfield breaks out of the genre box

With the soulfulness of Etta James, the flat-out honky-tonk of Tanya Tucker, the bluesy harp runs of Charlie McCoy and the soaring, gritty vocals of Janis Joplin, Heidi Newfield delivers electrifying songs.

We may not have heard too much from her since her solo debut album in 2008, "What Am I Waiting For," that produced her hit single "Johnny & June," but that doesn't mean she's been quiet or that she's stopped driving down various musical roads.

Newfield's been writing; she's been honing her already-smoking harmonica skills — and trading harp runs with the likes of Delbert McClinton — and preparing a new batch of music that showcases what she does best: tear your heart out with a country weeper, burn down the roadhouse with a raucous rocker, close up the honky-tonks with a rockabilly roller and turn the world upside down with a blues moaner. ...


Tillis unlocks "Looking for a Feeling"

"It had been a while since I'd given my fans any new solo music," Pam Tillis explains, when asked about the motivation behind recording her album "Looking for a Feeling." Until recently, Tillis mostly busied herself by recording and touring with fellow country star Lorrie Morgan. "I had a batch of songs that I felt good about," she continues, "and, you know, you just get that itch."

"Looking for a Feeling" is an album that most satisfyingly scratches that itch, so to speak, with its fine batch of songs. Tillis gets writing credit for helping to pen half of these songs, all of which are built upon sturdy, traditional country instrumentation.

One of the standout songs is "Dolly 1969." Written by Bob Regan, it's a rewardingly nostalgic ...


Hull takes "25 Trips"

Sierra Hull would be the first to tell you that releasing a new CD in the teeth of a global pandemic is a challenge. "It's very strange...just adjusting to being home and knowing what that feels like. It's the most I've been home since I was a kid. I left home when I was 17, you know, to go to Berklee College of Music, and I've done a lot of traveling ever since. So, it's the longest stretch sleeping in my own bed I think I've ever had."

Hull's new release, "25 Trips," presciently takes on the concept of time in its collection. Hull addresses the passage of time, living in the moment and looking back to other time threads. "25 Trips" refers to her age, and the number of trips around the sun she has travelled. ...


Lewis (and her daughters) make beautiful music (occasionally) and carry on the legacy

Linda Gail Lewis has several interesting bullet points on her lengthy resume. She released her first singles in 1963 at age 16, and her first solo album, "The Two Sides of Linda Gail Lewis," in 1969 when she was just 22; her follow up album wouldn't appear until 1990.

Since then, Lewis has recorded an additional 23 studio and live albums, including duet sets with Van Morrison and Robbie Fulks, and a pair of albums with her daughters, MaryJean Ferguson and Annie Dolan, as the Lewis 3. "The Complete Recordings," a compilation of the first Lewis 3 album, was just released digitally.

And she's recorded, toured and intermittently wrangled with her older brother, Jerry Lee Lewis, the legendary archetype in seminal '50s rock and '60s/'70s ...


Hancock shows he's still "Man of the Road"

Wayne Hancock exhibits his well-defined self-deprecation while describing the nature of his vinyl/digital only release, "Man of the Road."

"Yeah, greatest hits," he says with a raspy chortle, the sound that every smoke-filled, whiskey-soaked roadhouse he's ever loaded into would make if it could laugh.

Perhaps "retrospective" is a better label to paste on the album's shrinkwrap, given that Hancock has never actually notched something that would qualify as a certifiable hit, at least by the narrow yardstick the music industry uses to measure such releases. And that is, in fact, just fine with him. He'll be the first to tell you that he didn't get into the music racket to have a swimming pool shaped like a mudflap girl installed behind his 30-room Texas mansion. Wayne Hancock has only ever wanted to play good music to people who like it. ...




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