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David StarrBeauty & Run
"Beauty and Ruin" from singer-songwriter David Starr was inspired by "Of What Was, Nothing Is Left," a novel written by his grandfather in 1972. It's a tragic story of family dysfunction, missteps and denial based in southwest Arkansas. In the book tragedy begets the next tragedy until only in the last two pages do we find redemption and hope. The album was produced and arranged by John Oates, who is also one of several notable co-writers including Jim Lauderdale, Dana... »»»
White Rabbit SaladTrouble in Town
"Trouble in Town" is the fourth album from Texas-based duo Wild Rabbit Salad. In the true tradition of Americana, they mix blues, folk and country with an obvious nod to Hank Williams and Townes Van Zandt. There are two Townes' covers, "Tecumseh Valley," sung by classically trained Marietta Roebuck, and "Waiting Around to Die," sung by guitarist and vocalist Bucky Goldberg. The two generally alternate lead vocals or duet together. They are supported by a small... »»»
The Cadillac ThreeCountry Fuzz
It's not unusual for country artists to include a few party anthems on their albums. These tracks help lighten the mood among a record's heavier moments and make for fun concert numbers. The Cadillac Three, however, have never seen a good-time-Saturday-night-song they didn't like. "Country Fuzz" is like a week filled with seven Saturday nights. Yes, song titles like "Crackin' Cold Ones With The Boys" and "Whiskey and Smoke" are self-explanatory track names... »»»
Chicago FarmerFlyover Country
Chicago Farmer is the moniker of Chicago-based singer/songwriter Cody Diekhoff, who is backed by the Band of Heathens on this entertaining mix of alt.-country, folk and traditional country. There is lot of social commentary as in the folksy title track that recalls Diekhoff's hero Woody Guthrie ("There's pastures of plenty, not enough goes around") and "Collars," which laments the disparity in the justice system depending on economic status ("White collar crime... »»»
K.C. CliffordK.C. Clifford
K.C. Clifford returns after eight years and birthing two children to release her self-titled seventh album in 20 years. Clifford learned so much from her musician father's extensive record collection that she draws from a deep well of The Supremes, The Beach Boys, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and others. Faint echoes from that era bleed through on her songs here, the first time she's released an album entirely around piano. Clifford is a lifelong vocalist from Oklahoma City with just a hint... »»»
John MorelandLP5
John Moreland's plain, unpretentious title indicates more of the same, but those of you (most of you most likely) expecting another batch of great, but deeply sad songs may find a few surprises on "LP 5." Part of this small shift may be that it marks the first time he's worked with an outside producer, in this case, Matt Pence (Jason Isbell, The Breeders, Sarah Jaffe). Also, his recent marriage likely plays into it too. It also moves away from his previous stripped- down work,... »»»
James SteinleWhat I Came Here For
James Steinle is an emerging Texas singer-songwriter, who is already being hailed by Ray Wylie Hubbard and compared to story telling greats like Robert Earl Keen. Given that Bruce Robison produced "What I Came Here For" speaks volumes about Steinle's ability to impress, but there's more. He was one of the winners of the 2017 Kerrville Folk Festival's University Singer/Songwriter Contest. He released his debut, "South Texas Homecoming," in 2018 to much... »»»
Drew Fish BandWishful Drinkin'
The third release from Texas-based singer/songwriter Drew Fish is a throwback to '90s mainstream country and the Outlaw movement with mostly good results. Many of the tracks suffer from overproduction with Fish's pleasingly raspy vocals being buried in the muddled mix under harmonies, while some tunes are a bit cliched as in the title track and the opening "Lone Star Saturday Night." Fish is most effective on ballads such as "Another You," in which the singer... »»»
Billy Ray Cyrus has not been a stranger to commercial success over his 30-year career. After achieving immediate global stardom with 1992's iconic breakout hit "Achy Breaky Heart," he spent years starring in his uber-famous daughter's Disney juggernaut, "Hannah Montana." Now he has two Grammys for the duet with Lil Nas X on "Old Town Road" On its heels is this incredibly brief three-song EP "The Singin' Hills Sessions Vol. 1 Sunset... »»»
The Lil SmokiesTornillo
The band name may suggest Appalachia and in some respects their sound does, but Lil Smokies hail from Montana, and deliver "Tornillo," their third release, which is named for the town where the studio for this release, Sonic Ranch, is located. Producer/engineer Bill Reynolds (The Avett Brothers, Band of Horses) helmed this project with the five piece frequently touring unit that boasts three songwriters. They are Andy Dunnigan (vocals, Dobro), Matt "Rve" Rieger (guitar,... »»»
Della MaeHeadlight
The struggle is real for Della Mae. Hailed as an emerging artist by IBMA several years ago, the bluegrass trio has battled personnel changes and the onslaught of Americana-infused material for the last half decade, taking breaks from the road and searching for its voice. Through it all, Della Mae has endured as a solid bluegrass band featuring strong vocals and outstanding musicianship. Celia Woodsmith's smoky, soulful and sledgehammer-powerful vocals exemplify the band's newfound focus... »»»
Eleven Hundred SpringsHere 'Tis!
The Dallas-based Eleven Hundred Springs' "Here 'Tis" is an entertaining mix of honky tonk, traditional country ballads and a touch of western swing. Frontman and primary songwriter Matt Hillyer is at his best on uptempo tunes such as "Let's Move Out to the Country" in which he rejects life in the big city ("The pace of life in this town/Makes me want to slow it down/And take my money and my honey far away"). Similarly, in "Let Me Be Your Man,"... »»»
Little Big TownNightfall
Little Big Town gets billed as a country music vocal group, but "Nightfall" plays out more like a four-headed singer-songwriter effort. Many of these songs hearken back to some of the best '70s introspective songwriter efforts. The album opens with "Next to You," which builds from a gentle meditation, into a full-on anthemic ode to the comfort and strength of fidelity. "Questions" interestingly finds an ex asking questions via song lyrics, which she can never... »»»
Dustin LynchTullahoma
Dustin Lynch has made his bones on songs depicting small town life. It's only fitting that he would eventually make an album devoted solely to what he knows best. He calls "Tullahoma" a concept album. If you're thinking in the vein of "The Wall" or "Tommy," you're in for a disappointment. It's really an exercise in Country 101. He said, "The concept was, 'Let's write songs, let's record songs that the fictional small-town boy... »»»
Hawktail features some of the finest players of a generation in traditional American acoustic music. The product of their collaboration, "Formations," is a testament to the musical milieu in which they create. As an integrated work, "Formations" weaves lively beautiful threads of melodies and expansive playing into a rich fabric of music. Each of the members of Hawktail is a solid traditional player. Fiddle player Brittany Haas has played in Crooked Still, played on the... »»»
Glenn JonesReady for the Good Times
North Carolina-based Glenn Jones is a storyteller who is a latecomer, but a promising singer-songwriter with "Ready for the Good Times," his third and most fully realized album. Although he comes from a deep musical lineage, his background differs from most. He was a full-time musician by age 20, but turned to the corporate world to help provide for his family. In his words, "I worked my way up from the mail room to senior VP/general counsel. I worked my way up to the 2 percent and lost it all... »»»
Blake SheltonFully Loaded: God's Country
Blake Shelton has been openly critical of the traditional album format. "Fully Loaded: God's Country" is his fourth greatest hits album and third in the "Loaded" series. In an effort to release music more often, he packages five new songs with seven of previously released material that has received considerable airplay and time on the charts. if you're looking for the fresh stuff, this is essentially an EP spearheaded by the Platinum lead single "God's Country... »»»
Jason Aldean9
Hollywood may be pushing a broadminded agenda where there are more genders than one can even count, but in Jason Aldean's world, there are only two: tough guys, and the women that love them. There's no confusion it's a guy in the "Camouflage Hat," for example. Also, nothing is said or done without also washing it down with alcohol. The opener,"Tattoos and Tequila," breaks it down into tattoos to remember, and tequila to forget. Within its booze for every... »»»
Lady AntebellumOcean
Lady Antebellum may lean a little too closely to pop music for many tastes, but it's hard to argue with the trio's song choices. And its latest collection is filled with many memorable songs. The single "What If I Never Get Over You," poses a rarely asked pop song question. Humans have come to believe the cliché, 'Time heals all wounds,' as if it were some sort of scientific fact. But what if it's just that, a well-worn cliché, with no actual... »»»
David BallThinkin' Problem
Most hard core country fans certainly have heard David Ball's 1994 "Thinkin' Problem," a true honky tonk classic. Ominvore is releasing the album in remastered expanded format with eight bonus tracks, marking its 25th anniversary. So, if by chance you didn't catch it the first time, here's your opportunity to hear a singer, who will remind you of vocalists from country's golden era like George Jones, Ray Price and Merle Haggard. Ball did this at a time when those... »»»
The first time we encountered the term 'insurgent country,' we were in the mid-90s. The roots-rock music world was quickly evolving, and a Chicago-based upstart called Bloodshot Records was putting out compilations featuring groups involving the likes of Jon Langford (and his Hillbilly Lovechild), Freakwater, Robbie Fulks, The Handsome Family and a bunch of folks who didn't become household names. Slow-forward a quarter century and roots music includes a defiantly broader... »»»
Wade BowenTwelve Twenty-Five
With "Twelve Twenty-Five," Wade Bowen covers a whole lot of musical territory. He sings a couple of country Christmas favorites ("If We Make It Through December" (featuring Cody Canada) and "Once Upon A Christmas" (the Dolly Parton song). He also bravely takes on "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," which stands up surprisingly well next to Darlene Love's definitive version. He also makes a couple of widely unloved holiday songs ("Last... »»»
Erin EnderlinFaulkner County
The second full-length release from Nashville-based singer/songwriter Erin Enderlin is an appealing throwback to mainstream '90s country music. Dark themes permeate much of the album as with the haunting ballad "Hometown Jersey" about a high school athlete seemingly destined for greatness ("He had a Troy Aikman arm, even as a kid"), who dies tragically in a car crash and is laid to rest in his football jersey. The song features harmony vocals from Terri Clark... »»»
Stoney LaRueOnward
Veteran Texas artist Stoney LaRue has been through a lot in 20 years of touring and recording and puts that experience to good use on his first release since 2015's "Just Us." "Onward" enlists veteran Nashville producer and songwriter Gary Nicholson on production, and the result is a satisfying effort with the artist in fine voice on some of the best material of his career. Nicholson writes or co-writes 10 songs, leading off with "Fallin' and Flyin'"... »»»
The MavericksPlay the Hits
When The Mavericks call an album "Play The Hits," It really should be qualified as "Play The Selective Hits" because this band has never been especially interested in performing only what's commercially viable. With that said, though, all these 11 songs are familiar to most pop and country music fans. Also, whatever The Mavericks play, they play the maverick. For instance, Waylon Jennings' "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" incorporates a touch of Tex-Mex... »»»
All these many years later, Bob Dylan 'bootleg' songs are still better than many intentional studio releases from other artists. Although some might have been shocked at the time to learn of Dylan's sojourn south to Nashville (the unofficial home of country music), he and Johnny Cash formed a kind of mutual admiration society together in the studio. Discs two and three, then, may be of most interest to country music fans. Dylan and Cash sing some of Johnny's biggest songs... »»»
Allison MoorerBlood
Allison Moorer's new disc, billed as a "companion piece" to her recently published memoir of the same title, stands powerfully as a "musical memoir" on its own. Moorer is a gifted singer and songwriter, but the book and album tell a real-life story that she has struggled for more than three decades to come to grips with. Tragedy struck Moorer at the age of 14 when her father, Franklin Moorer, a musician and alcoholic with abusive tendencies, shot his wife Lynn (the... »»»
The Oak Ridge BoysDown Home Christmas
While eight Christmas releases might seem a bit much for any other band, for a group like The Oak Ridge Boys, with a pedigree that goes back over 50 years, it feels just right. Joined for the third time by producer Dave Cobb, the outfit lends their signature harmonies to a collection of songs that is pure Oak Ridge, continuing to merge the worlds of southern gospel, country and a few other sounds. Highlights include the doo-wop flavors of "Reindeer on the Roof," shiny bright rocking... »»»
Old DominionOld Dominion
Old Dominion has gained a following on the heels of two albums of lively material. Their self-titled third release stays the course and delivers a dozen radio-friendly songs. The hyper positive lead single "Make it Sweet" sets the stage with an ode to the brighter side of everything. Most tracks are upbeat but, ironically, there is not an official party anthem or even a drinking song. The closest they get is "American Style," which is laden with standard innocent imagery... »»»
John Surge and the HaymakersYour Wonderful Life
"Your Wonderful Life" is the debut from L.A.'s John Surge and the Haymakers, a quartet fusing West Coast country and rock n' roll with a few pop hooks sprinkled in. Recent efforts from bands like the HawtThorns and artists like K.P. Hawthorn and Alice Wallace indicate that while the country scene in L.A. may not be as robust as it was a decade or two ago, there are plenty of hats, boots and high stepping to be found. And, Surge, who seems to breathe California in these songs... »»»
Band of RuhksAuthentic
Four years have passed since the Band of Ruhks last graced the airwaves with new music, and in that time, something has changed. No longer is the band a trio; instead, they have upgraded to an honest-to-goodness-full-flavored-bluegrass-powerhouse thanks to the addition of banjo man Brian Fesler. Like Ronnie Bowman (bass), Don Rigsby (mandolin), and Kenny Smith (guitar), Fesler too is an alumnus of Lonesome River Band (although at a different time). "Authentic" is a collection of... »»»
Chris JansonReal Friends
"Real Friends" is a showcase for the rubberband quality of Chris Janson's voice. He's got a Mel Tillis stammer in "Check" and a Florida Georgia Line yowl in "Normal People." Kenny Chesney should get a royalty check on "Everybody's Going Through Something." But what's noticeably different about Janson is touch. His songs deftly sprinkle on a dash of horns, rock or hip-hop. But it's all county-infused flavors added by a chef in control... »»»
Houston-based singer-songwriter and former lawyer Libby Koch celebrates the 10th anniversary of her first album, "Redemption," by releasing a full band, live audience setting for what was originally a solo acoustic album. This marks the first time she's recorded live, finding an intimate setting and state-of-art recording technology in one cool place - The Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio in Wimberly, Texas. Koch's friend, multi-instrumentalist Patterson Barrett (Buddy Miller,... »»»
Cody JinksThe Wanting
It's challenging coming up with enough superlatives to describe Cody Jinks' "The Wanting." Yes, it surpasses the traditional country sonic test. Just listen to the twangy electric and steel guitar on "Bite Of Something Sweet." Although taking the latter advice literally, may lead to a diabetic coma, Jinks delivers its words with an enjoyably conversational tone, the song - both musically and lyrically - feels like something Merle Haggard might have written and sung... »»»
Kinky FriedmanResurrection
Kinky Friedman - "Resurrection" 2019 (Echo Hill Records) Reviewed by Greg Yost Three essential elements of a classic country album are: songs that evoke something inside the listener; complementary musical arrangements with top-notch players; and production work that pulls all these varied components together into a single package. With Resurrection, the legendary Kinky Friedman, one of the biggest personalities in the Lonestar State has indeed created a classic country album... »»»
Cody JinksAfter the Fire
Jewelers are trained to recognize flaws in personal ornaments, but even one of these experts would find no faults in this Cody Jinks' recorded work. It's a nearly perfect collection comprised of songs you'll want to listen to again and again. "Yesterday Again," for example, speaks about wanting to go back in time to re-experience better romantic days. It's the sort of lyric and melody (speaking of traveling backwards in a time machine), one can easily imagine Kris... »»»
Chris KnightAlmost Daylight
Chris Knight's last recording, "Little Victories," was released in 2012, which makes the seven year wait for "Almost Daylight" seem uncommonly long. Clearly Knight was in no hurry. A resident of rural Kentucky, he has a laid back attitude that's perfectly in sync with his rural roots. Not surprisingly, he was a late bloomer as well. He earned a degree in agriculture from Western Kentucky University, and after graduation, he spent 10 years as a mine reclamation... »»»
Ruston KellyDirt Emo Vol. 1
Do we really need an Americana artist's version of emo songs? Well, Ruston Kelly seems to think so. If you've ever wanted to hear unplugged versions of Wheatus, Dashboard Confessional and Saves The Day songs, "Dirt Emo vol. 1" is your big chance. It's not all emo, however. Kelly does a fine job with the Carter Family's "Weeping Willow." He gives it a darkly moody reading, which makes the recording fit right in with the rest of this sadly morose eight-song collection... »»»
Charlie ParrCharlie Parr
Charlie Parr could be considered the ultimate tireless troubadour. A committed musician since early adolescence, he looks and sounds far older than his 52 years. This self-titled set finds him revisiting any number of seminal touchstones, including songs he's previously recorded, a couple of covers (by Grant Hart of Husker Du and Spider John Koerner, a name partner in Koerner, Ray & Glover), as well as four new tracks that mark his first new material since a skateboarding accident less than a year ago... »»»
Kacy & ClaytonCarrying On
Granted, their name brings to mind an old cops buddy TV series from the 1990s, but a close glance at the cover of their album "Carrying On" reveals a couple who genuinely appear as if they just emerged from the hillsides of Laurel Canyon. Indeed, their boy-girl symmetry is more befitting some sun-speckled idyllic image of Southern California circa 1969, the glow of. innocence still evident in their stealth-like gaze. Five albums on, the Canadian duo, which consists primarily of... »»»
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