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"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 look back to that time when Dolly Parton was still a relatively new country star. "I got this black and white picture on my wall," the song begins, "of Dolly Parton standing by a Sedan de Ville/And it looks to be in the late Sixties/Cause it's all chrome and fins." With just these few phrases, Tillis immediately sends the listener happily back in time. Tillis describes it as "just a cool little song." It's also about an artist of her father's generation; however, in Tillis's case, her father just happened to be an icon himself, Mel Tillis.

Another one of the memorable songs, "Burning Star," features Mel Tillis. Not that Mel Tillis, though. This is Mel Tillis, Jr., her brother. This is another one Pam also helped write, »»»

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.

Bluegrass music is travelers' music, at its core. Bluegrass is the story of journeys, large and small, across distance, memory or space. "The music for me on this record," she explains, "feels maybe even more relevant now than when I wrote it. It's funny how those melodies and lyrics and things can sort of change meaning in perspective."

Hull's previous release, "Weighted Mind," came out in early 2016, so "25 Trips" gestated for four years. "I think it really started coming together a couple of years before it actually came out. There's always a period of really touring that record and maybe writing some songs and between all the busy touring and stuff like that and then, you know, trying to just sort of figure out what's next. At least for me, that's always come a little bit later." »»»

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 country. Her first duo album was 1969's "Together" with Jerry Lee, coming just a year after his astonishingly successful country reinvention; their single "Don't Let Me Cross Over" just missed the top 10 on Billboard's country singles chart.

Over the years, Linda Gail and Jerry Lee have had a contentious relationship; she'd always been a subordinant element of his '60s shows, but when she revived her solo career in the '80s, Jerry Lee often took exception and threatened to boycott any club that booked his sister.

"I had one place left I could play in, it was called the Bootlegger," says Lewis with a laugh. "It was a very dangerous place, and nobody would even go there. That's where I had to go and play." »»»

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.

"I'm just trying to keep the ticket prices at a reasonable level so working people can afford to see the show and I can afford the best players I can find,and live comfortably myself," says Hancock. "I'm not looking for tour buses or airplanes or any of that. That's out of the question. I'm just trying to keep it simple and hopefully, in 20 or 30 years when I cash in my chips and go uptown, that nobody will be saddled with a bunch of bills trying to put me in the ground. There's no retirement here. I'd go bonkers if I had to retire."

Mission accomplished. Ask any one of Hancock's legion of fans who routinely turn out to »»»

Ten years on, Della Mae has covered a lot of ground in the world of bluegrass, and the band is meeting the challenges of building a sustaining, long-term career with its latest release "Headlights."

The new record displays features of new and old. Kimber Ludiker, fiddle player and founding member of the band, along with co-Dellas Celia Woodsmith (lead vocals) and Jenny Lynn Gardner (mandolin), explains, "It's been a long time coming. You kind of get in the zone of making the recording, and you're excited about it, but you wonder how you know how the world's going to receive it so … people enjoy it so far which means a lot to us."

"Headlights" has a rich, strong perspective. Della Mae has always been a solid bluegrass band, but with experience and wisdom, a distinct female point of view is evident on "Headlight," even more so than in their earlier work.

Ludiker is self-effacing when saying that Della Mae is "nine years into our five-year plan." In fact, they have accomplished a lot in their career (since 2010), but are now addressing the skills and drive necessary to keep a career going for "The Long Run" (a cut from "Headlights"). In spite of Grammy nominations and IBMA Awards, making a living these days depends on hitting the road and sticking with it. It's not easy being a musician so why not just come out and say it every once in a while?

"'The Long Game,' this is something that's been on our minds. That whole song started out like I'm always joking »»»

When recording its album "Play the Hits," The Mavericks approached this covers album in much the same way the band creates any of its other studio albums. "Above all, we're always trying to reach a certain musical bar that we are trying to get to, no matter what it is we do," notes guitarist Eddie Perez.

"We've been called a ‘genre defying' band in the past," he continues, "but the truth is, we're just a bunch of guys that are following our creative heart. So, in the process of approaching this record, it was really one of those things that blossomed really quickly. It wasn't something we thought too much about, other than the fact that for a while we've been thinking, ‘Yeah, it would be nice to do a record of cover tunes that mean something to us.'"

It's readily apparent that the "mean something to us" concept was (and is) more important than recording actual big chart hit songs. Sure, all these tracks were also chart hits, but they weren't just the biggest commercial hits. Rather, they are songs both wonderful and also popular. Whether it's John Anderson's "Swingin'," with all its delightful everyday details about cutting chicken to fry or rolling up a garden hose, (all describing other concurrent motions) or Willie Nelson's "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" and its simultaneous water sources, these are all songs the leave an immediate and lasting impression upon listeners. All these songs left an indelible mark on The Mavericks. »»»

The release of "Onward," his eighth studio album, finds veteran Texas Music/Red Dirt artist Stoney Larue at a crossroads. After almost two decades on the road, playing 200 shows a year across America and abroad, he has had success on the U.S. country album chart (landing in the Top 25 on three separate occasions), has developed a loyal following at his concerts and has gained respect of mainstream country artists like Miranda Lambert. Yet, mainstream country stardom has been hard fought.

"Onward" seems a conscious effort to show fans a broader slice of who he is and what he is about than some of earlier efforts. As he puts it, "I will never turn my back on the Texas scene, and I was there for the beginnings of Red Dirt, but the fact is, I don't want to be completely defined by that. I realize that it has been my bread and butter for a long time, and I am extremely appreciative, I wrote ‘Hill Country Boogaloo' for this album to express that, but that's not all I am. I'm a country music artist. It's what I do."

Working with Gary Nicholson and recording in Nashville has been cathartic for Larue and allows for him to explore a range of music that tips a hat to early singer/songwriter influences such as Merle Haggard and Ed Bruce, and tackles his own songs and those written for him by his peers such as Nicholson, Lee Roy Parnell and Shawn Camp, exploring material that transcends some of the tropes of country today. »»»

Eleven years ago, Kelly stepped away from music. She had just finished touring on 2007's exquisite "Translated From Love" and felt the angst of being a travelling musician with family at home. At that point, Willis and her husband, musician/producer Bruce Robison, had welcomed four children into their family in the space of five years, and she felt it was time to prioritize her husband and kids and step away from her career.

Just after the release of Willis' fifth full length studio set, 2002's "Easy," she and Robison collaborated on their first album together, 2003's obviously themed "Happy Holidays." Five years after announcing her hiatus from music, Robison convinced Willis to make another album together, resulting in 2013's well-received "Cheater's Game," followed by some limited touring and then their third set as a duo, 2014's "Our Year Together."

Five years after the brief respite from her hiatus, Willis returned with her seventh full length release, last year's Americanapolitan groovefest "Back Being Blue," produced by Robison, which she followed up with a UK tour and scattered dates in her home state of Texas, on the east coast and in the midwest. And now, just a year later, she and Robison have produced another stellar addition to their duo canon with "Beautiful Lie," and another round of similarly geographical stage stops. This recent flurry of recording and gigging begs the question: Why is this the right moment for Willis to get back to the literal and figurative spotlight? »»»

For a brief moment last summer, the news of Tony Kinman's death was, if not greatly exaggerated, then at least fortuitously premature. The roots rock icon, known for his work in The Dils, Rank and File, Blackbird and Cowboy Nation with his younger brother Chip, had been diagnosed with cancer in March 2018, and his health waned in the weeks prior to his eventual passing in August. Information about Tony's decline was interpreted as a death notice and announced online, sparking a flurry of tributes to a beloved fallen music hero before he had actually fallen.

What could have been an awkward who's-walking-on-my-grave experience ultimately turned into a sweet, positive moment of reflection. Tony had the rare opportunity to read his own impressive and appreciative obituaries, and enjoy some clarity and self-satisfaction.

"All this stuff started coming in, and Tony looked at me and said, 'We really did something, didn't we?'," says Chip Kinman. "And I said, 'Yeah, we did! You know we did.' He was gratified by that. He really was."

As often happens, Tony Kinman's tragic passing and the subsequent outpouring of love inspired a surge of curiosity about the Kinman brothers' diverse and fascinating catalog, as well as Chip's current endeavor, a blues rock outfit dubbed Ford Madox Ford. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.

"I'm hoping that there's a real interest in this – and it's a weird word to use – revival of the Chip and Tony thing," says Kinman. "Everything has picked up tremendously." »»»

Until recently, Chris Shiflett took a somewhat obsessive/compulsive approach to his music career. For the past two decades, Shiflett has been the primary guitar foil for Dave Grohl in Foo Fighters; early in his tenure, Shiflett was so self-deprecatingly unsure of his value that he was convinced Grohl would fire him after original guitarist Pat Smear expressed his interest in returning to the band. Obviously, that never came to pass.

Just after becoming a member of Foo Fighters, Shiflett began pursuing other band opportunities to fill his admittedly small amount of free time outside of the recording/touring boundaries of his day job. In fact, he was taking so many busman's holidays, his time away could hardly be considered time away; during his 20-year stint with the Foos, Shiflett has done stints with Me First and the Gimmee Gimmees, the Real McCoys (well, for three gigs) and Viva Death, while also fronting solo outfits like Jackson United and Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants.

In 2013, Shiflett recorded a set of interesting covers with an original or two in the mix and released his first true solo album, "West Coast Town," under his name alone and worked gigs with a succession of hastily assembled backing bands into his hectic schedule.

Six years later, Shiflett, 48, has returned with his all-original sophomore solo set, "Hard Lessons," with the bulk of the material being conceived during the Foo Fighters' 2018 tour. While Shiflett recognizes the connective tissue of his band work and solo projects, he also understands the differences that delineate them. »»»