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Ray Wylie HubbardCo-Starring
The country music world was more than a little surprised by the news of Big Machine Records signing Ray Wylie Hubbard. This, after all, is the label home for mainstream stars Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts and Sugarland and the former label residence of pop superstar Taylor Swift. Hubbard, in contrast - as 'one of these things is not like the other' - is an original country music outlaw, having famously written Jerry Jeff Walker's hit, "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother... »»»
Willie NelsonFirst Rose of Spring
It's been obvious for some time now that Willie Nelson is essentially super human. At the age of 87, he's as active as ever, a wizened presence, spiritual icon and guiding light for all those that adore country music and Americana. His prowess and proficiency remain undiminished, and the multiple albums he releases on a regular basis attest to the fact that he's not ready to retire any time soon...or ever even as far as that goes. While many of Nelson's recent works... »»»
Corb LundAgricultural Tragic
Fifteen years ago, Corb Lund defined his approach to modern country music: Hair in my eyes like a highland steer, spring in my step like a white-tailed deer; hitch in my hip like an old sheep dog, puff up my chest like a big bull frog. As fitting a self-written elegy for a rock 'n' rollin' country singer that has been scribed. Not much has changed since 2005: Lund's hair is only slightly more stylish, but his music continues to spark with authentic assurance and acumen, and... »»»
Ryan HurdEOM EP
Ryan Hurd may well end up being the biggest musical thing out of Kalamazoo, Mich. (does anyone remember The Verve Pipe?) without anybody's help. So far, he's carved out a mild hit for himself ("To a T") and secured a deal with a big label who have high hopes. Hurd's sizzle factor grew exponentially when he married country superstar Maren Morris in 2018. The idea of this almost-an-album (seven tracks) is - mostly -- a slower take on songs that Hurd had some hand in writing... »»»
Anyone who's followed the history of modern country, new grass and Americana ought to be able to attest to the tremendous impact made on the development of those seminal sounds by the late John Hartford. Known to most for his enduring standard "Gentle on My Mind" - a song accorded three Grammy Awards and a listing among BMI's Top 100 Songs of the Century, not to mention its classic cover by Glen Campbell - there were plenty of other reasons as well to ensure Hartford's... »»»
Dirt ReynoldsScalawag
One can't help but think that Louisianan Chris Watts changed his moniker to Dirt Reynolds as a kind of sarcastic jab at Burt Reynolds, the star of "Smokey and the Bandit." Whatever his motivation, Watts comes out firing relentlessly as he explores his southern identity in a contemporary context on "Scalawag." The raw, visceral sound owes to the quintet of Watts on guitar, Joseph Lekkhas, who also mixed, on bass, Erin Nelson (drums), Mary Hull (keys) and CJ Colandrea (pedal steel)... »»»
High FidelityBanjo Player's Blues
Bluegrass music performed to the highest level by youthful revisionists. High Fidelity are traditional innovators. They come from a place of loving, appreciating, and comprehending the deepest of bluegrass traditions - refined vocal harmony, instrumental proficiency, a perceptible appreciation for the country and associated songbooks, sacred songs and perspectives - while inserting female voices and musicianship to a degree many other groups have never considered. They do this not out of... »»»
Blackberry SmokeLive From Capricorn Sound Studios
Blackberry Smoke's covers EP is not a tribute to just one group. Rather, it's a celebration of one particular recording studio, Capricorn Sound Studios in Macon, Ga., instead. Blackberry Smoke has become one of the best modern Southern rock revivalists, so it follows logically that the group would salute the studio home and city to many of its primary artistic inspirations where some of the songs were originally recorded. This six-song release includes a couple of The Allman... »»»
Clint BlackOut of Sane
Clint Black may not be the commercial superstar he was in the late '80s/early '90s, but "Out of Sane" - his first studio project in five years - reveals the same high level song craftsmanship that brought him well deserved fame in the first place. These 12 songs - many written with Steve Wariner - prove Black is still quite the sharp songsmith. Whether he's performing something strongly bluegrass instrumental-ed ("With Love") or pulling out his harmonica for the... »»»
John BaumannCountry Shade
John Baumann's third album, "Country Shade," is the kind of album we could all use right now. He paints nostalgic pictures of rural landscapes, the values inherent in hard work and reminds us to love the places and people that really matter. It's a unified view that we don't usually hear these days, except in a utopian sense. Baumann, a member of The Panhandlers with fellow Texans Josh Abbot, William Clark Green and Cleto Cordero, makes it seem completely tangible and... »»»
Jaime WyattNeon Cross
Many records are touted as inspiring, but few albums actually live up to that billing by actually striking sentiments worthy of universal appeal. In Jaime Wyatt's case, there's never any doubt, given a knowing attitude expressed through drive, defiance and determination. "Neon Cross" clearly makes the case that she is indeed a force to be reckoned with, lyrically and melodically as well. Then again, Wyatt's one of those rare artists that's actually lived the... »»»
Kip MooreWild World
There are moments while listening to Kip Moore's album where the listener might feel like he/she is sampling new Kid Rock music - albeit, with plenty more heart and soul. Moore sings with a similarly endearing scratchy vocal tone, and has a primarily country music fan base, but that's where these two artists part ways artistically. Whereas Kid Rock mostly raises hell, Moore raises awareness. Kid Rock might be perfectly comfortable singing about his dark side, but Moore is heard... »»»
Florida Georgia Line6-Pack EP
When Florida Georgia Line sing about how much they love their country with "I Love My Country," this lightning rod duo must certainly be aware that not everybody loves 'their' country. 'Their' country doesn't always match the country music of George Strait, after all, who is name-dropped in said song. Strait is just too stylistically straight, for instance, to ever work in the sort of hip-hop cadence that drives "Ain't Worried About It... »»»
Steve Earle & The DukesGhosts of West Virginia
In a time when political views are pushing us further apart as a society, Steve Earle is one of the few artists reaching across that divide to seek common ground. In the case of his album, "Ghosts of West Virginia," Earle finds that common ground in the 2010 Upper Big Branch mining explosion that took the live of 29 miners in West Virginia, a state generally separated from Earle's political leanings by a divide larger than the massive Appalachian Mountain Range that defines the region... »»»
Craig MorganGod, Family, Country
Craig Morgan clearly loves his country and his country music - he now has 20 years of recording cred. It's been a career for the Tennessean that's gone a bit up/down/sideways. Morgan's biggest hits of "That's What I Love About Sunday (a re-recording appears on this collection) and "Redneck Yacht Club" are well in the rear view. But he's still a Grand Ole Opry member and signed with a new label in 2019. What's intriguing about this collection... »»»
Jarrod DickensonReady for the Horses
"It ain't for the faint of heart," Jarrod Dickenson croons on the lead-off track on "Ready the Horses," a rallying cry meant to inspire the reticent among us in this era of distrust and division we find ourselves living through. With his second full-length offering, Dickenson comes into his own after nearly of decade of traveling the country, shifting his base of operations and finding the will and determination to sing songs that resonate from both tradition and current happenstance... »»»
Tessy Lou WilliamsTessy Lou Williams
Welcome country traditionalist Tessy Lou Williams who hails from Montana, the daughter of two musicians who emigrated from Nashville to Willow Creek, Mont. (population:210). Her parents toured with their three children, so Williams grew up surrounded by talented musicians and songwriters. Now, she finds herself making the reverse trip to Nashville to record this self-titled debut as a solo artist after two albums as Tessy Lou and the Shotgun Stars. Williams, who has spent almost a decade in the... »»»
Daryl MosleyThe Secret of Life
Bluegrass singer/songwriter Daryl Mosley's "The Secret of Life" is an entertaining mix of nostalgia, religion and a touch of right wing politics. With the sentimental "In a Country Town," Mosley reflects on his lifelong hometown of Waverly, Tenn. as providing a mythical Mayberryesque existence ("We don't have to lock all the doors in a country town") while also throwing out a more contemporary reference to politically motivated culture wars... »»»
Travis DenningBeer's Better Cold
Travis Denning is in love with beer. The Georgia native makes that abundantly clear on his six-song EP debut. Two have beer in the title, and the single hit "After a Few" incorporates downing a few more. The opener, "Where That Beer's Been," may demonstrate the writing prowess of Denning to show that he just may be capable of writing a song about anything. Not many chuggers are going to delve into the finer points of beer transportation. But hey, a good lyric is a... »»»
Special ConsensusChicago Barn Dance
We've come to expect quality from Special Consensus. Grammy nominees and frequent IBMA award nominees and winners, Special C has ascended to the top of their bluegrass world. In their 45th year, banjoist Greg Cahill has shepherded the group to increasingly impressive levels. "Chicago Barn Dance" is no exception. A concept album, "Chicago Barn Dance" celebrates not only Special C's sapphire anniversary, but also Cahill's hometown's connections to roots music... »»»
Sara EvansCopy That
Nine songs in, Sara Evans finally unleashes a country song that she wanted to cover. And it's one of the most copied songs at that - Hank's "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." The cut is a decided left turn from the rest of "Copy That," songs that Evans adored "plain and simple." Overcovered though it may be, Evans' version resonates. Let's face it, her vocals remain a powerful thing of beauty, power and emotion. And it helps that she is backed by... »»»
Jason Isbell and the 400 UnitReunions
"It gets easier, but it never gets easy," Jason Isbell reminds us on the song "It Gets Easier." It's a simple couplet, utilizing small words, yet it expresses a big truth. Then, with the song's first verse, Isbell - a recovering alcoholic - relays a dream that finds him drinking again. "I woke up feeling fine/That's how I knew it was a dream," he explains, sounding both afraid and relieved. Yes, these words are personal for Isbell, but his message is... »»»
Marshall Chapman Songs I Can't Live Without
After a seven-year hiatus, Marshall Chapman is back with "Songs I Can't Live Without," her 14th release and eighth on her own label. The 71-year-old singer-songwriter-author-actress had intended to retire from music five years ago and stepped into a film role in 2015's "Mississippi's Grind" where she played a blues-singing mother of gambler-drifter Ryan Reynolds. Before the filming began, the producers asked her to record the Dan Penn/Donnie Fritts classic... »»»
Chase RiceThe Album Part II
Chase Rice has embraced Nashville's new business model of releasing music more frequently. Rice's EP "The Album Part II" will combine with the surprise seven-song January release of "Part I." Rice said, "The Album Part II only has four songs, so it's really easy for people to go check out all four songs. They're all very different." The issue with incrementally releasing music, especially in the EP format, is a lack of cohesion... »»»
Gretchen Peters' tribute to Mickey Newbury is a 12-song labor of love, which makes the strong case to never forget the works of this songwriting master. Peters, who has said her mother initially turned her on to Newbury's music, dedicates this album to her mom because she "loved Mickey's sad songs almost more than mine." With that said, though, not all these songs are particularly sad. One of Newbury's most famous songs is "Just Dropped In (To See What... »»»
Randy Rogers and Wade BowenHold My Beer, Vol. 2
As its title suggests, this 12-song Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen duet album is a mostly lighthearted affair. Whether the pair is only slightly concerned about unhealthy behaviors with "Habits" or jesting about the world's ever-changing culture on "Let Merle Be Merle," these country singers consistently come off like good old boys having a casual conversation over beers. Even friendship - an inarguable human essential - is covered with the breezy, western swing number "Mi Amigo... »»»
CJ SolarComing My Way
CJ Solar majored in songwriting at Nashville's Belmont University, which led to a plum internship at (Brad Paisley's co-founded) publishing house. Half the trick of life is getting in the door - so when the company asked Solar if he had any songs, his demo tape was ready. He continued to move up the company ladder from a house songwriter to a solo artist. A casual listener might recognize "Tall Boy" or "Airplane" from the 2016-17 era - if not, it's a much... »»»
Kenny ChesneyHere and Now
For many years now, Kenny Chesney has been the number one yacht country artist; one never spotted far from an ocean or without an adult beverage in his hand. However, this album's title track expresses a much deeper perspective on life. "I must've sat on a dozen islands/Watched the sun sink into the sea." Previously, island living was the reason for life. Now, life's purpose is described as much more internal than external. Call it trading that pirate flag for a little more mindfulness... »»»
American AquariumLamentations
American Aquarium have always been an important band, but the widespread recognition afforded groups like Wilco or Son Volt or Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit has often been underwhelming at best. Part of the fault may lie in the fact that American Aquarium has never bothered to reach into other realms, instead remaining true to a sound that embraces both attitude and authenticity. That's not a negative by any means. In fact, chief songsmith, singer and guitarist BJ Barham is not only a superb... »»»
Hot Country KnightsThe K is Silent
"Hot Country Knights" is Dierks Bentley as you've never experienced him before. At least when it comes to the lyrics. Hot Country Knights - the alter ego of Bentley (aka Douglas "Doug" Douglason - he's one in the middle of the hair raising cover) and his regular band - is a country hair act that supposedly pays homage to country from the '90s. But that would be selling this 10-song collection of some of the best straight-ahead country music you might hear... »»»
Lucinda WilliamsGood Souls Better Angels
"You can't rule me," Lucinda Williams declares on the song of the same name, the defiant lead-off song on her blistering new album "Good Souls Better Angels," her most archly determined effort yet. That says a lot, given the fact that Williams has practically defined the very notion of an insurgent artist since the very beginning. Her swagger and sway often brings to mind a drunken sailor who staggers unsteadily down the street, spitting piss and vinegar at random passerbys... »»»
Pam TillisLooking for a Feeling
Pam Tillis was all over the charts in the early-to mid '90s, with 13 top 10 hits, three platinum albums, two golds, a Grammy and a Female Vocalist of the Year Award from the CMA. But she hasn't released a solo non-holiday album since "Rhinestoned" 13 long years ago. On the cover of this comeback album Ms. Tillis is in what appears to be a bathtub, with a chocolate cookie in her mouth and a cocktail in her hand. That's certainly one way to go about it... »»»
Ana Cristina CashShine
Yes, the surname is familiar. Ana Cristina Cash is the daughter-in-law of Johnny Cash, having married his son, John Carter Cash, four years ago. This is the second English-speaking full-length recording for the Miami-born, bilingual Cash of Cuban descent, who began her professional musical career at age six. On "Shine," excepting two covers, she had a hand in writing every song. Cash fuses several genres, including rockabilly, country soul, jazz and blues.. Naturally, her producer husband produced... »»»
Chatham County LineStrange Fascination
Considering the fact that they've had a tenure of some two decades, it's taken far too long for Chatham County Line to gain the wider recognition they so decidedly deserve. Although often relegated to the ranks of a bluegrass group, the band has ventured further afield in recent years, first with"Sharing the Covers," an album that found them reinterpreting songs by Beck and the Stones alongside traditional favorites such as Dr. Ralph Stanley. The second endeavor to find... »»»
Whitney RoseWe Still Go to Rodeos
Until recently, Whitney Rose's life has been one of transition, beginning in the idyllic environs of Canada's Prince Edward Island, and continuing through her move to Toronto and eventually Nashville where she found her true purpose. Following on the heels of a pair of well-received releases - her 2017 EP "South Texas Suite," which found her working with Raul Malo and The Mavericks, and, later that year, "Rule 62," which also featured Malo as her co-producer and... »»»
Over the past 14 years, Joe Ely has earned a reputation as one of the forebears of that unique branch of Americana borne from the Great State of Texas. Both individually, and as part of the super band, The Flatlanders, he's carved out a career as an essential insurgent, one who once kept company with The Clash while establishing some decidedly cool credentials of his own. While the title might suggest otherwise, the hastily released "Love in the Midst of Mayhem" finds... »»»
Ben BostickAmong the Faceless Crowd
This is the antidote to Ben Bostick's raging 2018's "Hellfire," which had such unrelenting energy that it made frequent listening challenging. This is the more listenable, pensive side of many of those same characters, its "sad cousin," Bostick calls it. This is the calm after a few wild nights, maybe the hangover, and the loneliness that sets in for the desperate working class represented in the title by the 'faceless crowd.' That starkness is reflected in... »»»
The idea of the sophomore slump in music may be a real thing, but it certainly doesn't apply to Colt Ford. To mark the 10th anniversary of "Chicken & Biscuits," Ford's popular second full-length studio set, Average Joes Entertainment Group reissued the original album with six new tracks, including live and remixed versions of fan favorite songs. Although he had previously released an album, an EP and a live collection, "Chicken & Biscuits" was the vehicle that... »»»
In many ways, revered country singer, multiple Grammy nominee and Country Music Hall of Fame member Bobby Bare and author and songwriter Shel Silverstein can claim a shared legacy. Bare established himself as a determined insurgent, who, over the course of a nearly 60 year career, set the stage for the outlaw country crowd that followed. Silverstein wrote any number of quirky and comical songs that became hits for a disparate number of popular artists, from Dr. Hook to Johnny Cash, and Belinda... »»»
Paul Burch & WPA BallclubLight Sensitive
The last time we heard Paul Burch, he was singing about a re-imagined Jimmie Rodgers on his extraordinary 2016 "Meridian Rising," easily one of the best, if not the best roots album of that year. So, with the bar set high, Burch returns with his 11th studio album "Light Sensitive." Not only does he have his long-time band, the WPA Ballclub aboard, but notable guests Luther Dickinson, Robyn Hitchcock, Amy Rigby and Aaron Lee Tasjan. And, he returns to the South he knows... »»»
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