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Claudia NygaardLucky Girl
Veteran singer-songwriter Claudia Nygaard is fearless. The lyrics in her songs will cause double takes. Her rawness and honesty cut much deeper than most. Nygaard is a storyteller who would just as soon make you cry, scream or laugh as her subjects range from personal trauma, sexual encounters, nostalgia, humorous moments and social consciousness. On the title track, she writes of her single grandmother with these ending lines - "Washing other people's floors, causes she was so... »»»
Larry SparksNew Moon Over My Shoulder
Larry Sparks was still a teenager when Ralph Stanley chose him to replace his brother Carter Stanley as guitarist and lead singer in the Clinch Mountain Boys in the wake of Carter's passing in December 1966. As the ensuing decades would amply demonstrate, Sparks was to become much more than the answer to a bluegrass trivia question. His bluesy vocals and guitar work gained him a lot of fans. After a couple of years, he left to form his own band, and this new release - his first of new music... »»»
Runaway JuneBlue Roses
Runaway June - Naomi Cooke, Hannah Mulholland and Jennifer Wayne - weave gorgeous harmonies around the lyrics of these songs on their new album, all but four of which they wrote with other writers. The trio have a way with their phrasing, getting inside the songs and making them their own. The beauty of the album lies in the singing, but we've all heard these songs about breakups, makeups, loss, and love before, and by the closing track, we're left with faded memories of beautiful voices... »»»
Chip and Tony KinmanChip & Tony Kinman: Sounds Like Music
When Tony Kinman died in 2018, his departure suddenly and sadly halted one unique brotherly partnership. Tony and his brother Chip created an unbelievably wide range of music together. The duo began performing together as The Dils (a punk band) in the late 70s, then formed a group that performed what was sometimes termed cow punk with Rank And File, before surprisingly going industrial/experimental with Blackbird. The two's last incarnation was all country with Cowboy Nation... »»»
Buddy and Julie MillerBreakdown on 20th Ave. South
"Breakdown on 20th Ave. South is significant in a number of ways. For starters, it marks Julie Miller's return to making music after an absence of 10 years. For another, it finds her collaborating once again with her ever prolific husband Buddy Miller, a man who's spent the last several years plying his craft as a bandleader, producer and helmsman for other artists. The two frequently worked together in the past, but this marks their first collaborative project in a decade and the... »»»
Chuck MeadClose to Home
Honky tonker Chuck Mead, former leader of the neo-traditionalists BR-549, steps out once again for his fourth solo effort, this one recorded in Memphis under acclaimed and current "go-to" roots producer/engineer Matt Ross-Spang. "Close to Home" was recorded at the historic Sam Phillips Recording Studios and marries country with vintage rock n' roll. Of course, Mead's been doing that for the better part of 25 years, but this one has that Sun Records Memphis flavor,... »»»
Jim LauderdaleFrom Another World
Following the passing of the late, great James Brown, there are those that have argued that Jim Lauderdale rightfully deserves to inherit the title of the hardest working man in show business. And for good reason. An avowed and industrious multi-tasker, Lauderdale never rests, a habit that once resulted not only in his decision to release several albums in a single year, but more remarkably, multiple albums all at one time. Suffice it to say that Lauderdale has never adhered to the old adage... »»»
Willie NelsonRide Me Back Home
Time may be an enemy to most, but Willie Nelson seems a bit impervious to its ravages - a fact made evident on "Ride Me Back Home," a relaxed affair that showcases Nelson's still-strong voice and his sharp-as-ever songwriting and interpreting abilities. "Ride Me Back Home" is his 13th album for Legacy Recordings since joining the label in 2012 and coincidentally, it is also the 13th collaboration between Nelson and noted producer Buddy Cannon. This partnership, which... »»»
Michael FracassoBig Top
One of Michael Fracasso's widely hailed albums is the 2001 live "Back to Oklahoma" where he collaborated with guitarist Charlie Sexton. Around the turn of the millennium, he and Sexton worked together quite often. They released the 1998 studio album "World in a Drop of Water." A year later, together with the late bassist Georg Reiff, they recorded "Big Top," which mysteriously remained in the vaults for years, only to be revived in 2017 when it was played at the... »»»
Riley GreenGet That Man a Beer EP
Riley Green's "Get That Man A Beer" EP includes a strong quartet of modern country songs. None better than "Numbers On The Cars," though. It's the perfectly appropriate song to pull out whenever arguing the case for what real country music does best. Chronicling the trials and tribulations of an Alzheimer's-afflicted father, it's difficult to imagine any other genre bettering this one. Its various lyrical scenarios spotlight the confusing inconsistencies... »»»
Chris ShiflettHard Lessons
One would think that Chris Shiflett's two decade stint as guitar foil for Dave Grohl in Foo Fighters would keep him so pathologically busy, he'd barely have time for a real life, let alone an adjunct music career. Somehow he has managed to do just that, splitting time between a variety of punk bands, including Jackson United, No Use for a Name and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and his solo activities which include Chris Shiflett & the Dead Peasants as well as recording under his own name... »»»
Greg FeldenMade of Strings
The debut from L.A.-based American singer-songwriter-guitarist Greg Felden presents grand, lofty, and provocative ideals but is rooted in genuine heartfelt songs. On "Made of Strings," the transplanted Oregon native is accompanied by a first rate group of musicians including keyboardist Jerry Borger, guitarist Brian Whelan, pedal steel ace Rich Hinman and harmonica player Brian Wright. The music ranges from folk-oriented singer-songwriter fare to pulsating country-influenced rock, all... »»»
Jamestown RevivalSan Isabel
Jamestown Revival, the duo led by Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay, wanted to get back the group's early days of harmonizing together for "San Isabel." Their vocal blending is excellent throughout, but is at its most Everly Brotherly on "Harder Way" and "Round Prairie Road," two of the collection's quieter, acoustic songs. Whether the singing gives goosebumps (which each of these induce) or not, though, this is a moving, heartfelt set of songs... »»»
Luke CombsThe Prequel EP
The saying, 'Strike while the iron's hot,' applies to many situations, but especially to the music business. The scene moves so fast these days that this last year's star could be this year's 'Where are they now?' Luke Combs moved quickly up the country music popularity ladder, so he's smart to put out this five-song EP between full-lengths. First single, "Beer Never Broke My Heart," is a throwaway tune, built upon a solidly thumping, Waylon Jennings-like groove... »»»
Ian NoeBetween the Country
Ian Noe sings like a man wise beyond his years. Like Bob Dylan, back when he also started out as a young man, Noe has a vocal tone that rings true like the voice of experience. Beginning with "Irene (Ravin' Bomb)," about woman saddled with a substance abuse problem that's out of control, Noe paints pictures you might wish you've never seen. Although musically folk-leaning, Noe is also relatively matter of fact - a little like a news reporter. "Dead on the River,"... »»»
Thomas RhettCenter Point Road
Thomas Rhett represents a dilemma for traditional country music fans. Namely, that he doesn't create much country music that appeals to traditional tastes. Although "Center Point Road" doesn't entirely reverse that trend, even during its most overtly pop moments, this new collection of songs is still a pretty good one. The best song is also a love song - to a truck - titled "That Old Truck." It's the kind of song that only makes sense within country music circles... »»»
The sixth collaboration of the Atlanta-based duo ESOEBO - Eclectic Selections of Everything but Opera - is a diverse mix of country, blues, jazz and rock lives up to the acronymic moniker. Chuck McDowell is the driving force behind the music having written or co-written all 11 tracks with Gail Burnett contributing harmony vocals and cello. The moody ballad "Hurricane" uses the approach of a tropical cyclone as a metaphor for McDowell's real life battle with cancer ("I'm... »»»
Amanda Platt & HoneycuttersLive at the Grey Eagle
Let's just say Amanda Anne Platt and her five-piece band The Honeycutters had home court advantage playing in their hometown of Asheville, N.C. in what is as warm a live album as you'll hear. It's a family affair with brother Andrew on electric guitar and a guest appearance from dad, Mark, on harmonica. The 17 track, 70-minute release finds the band covering selections from their five previous releases as well as two new originals and a brilliant, never studio recorded cover... »»»
Billy Ray CyrusThe SnakeDoctor Circus
If one were filling a time capsule with predictions for the future of music some 20-plus years ago at the height of the "Achy Breaky Heart" fame of Billy Ray Cyrus, it's doubtful Cyrus' name would have made the list. Yet building on the success of that line dancing ear worm, Cyrus has carved out quite a career for himself, releasing over 15 albums and garnering acting success through television gigs like "Doc" and "Hannah Montana," not to mention his recent... »»»
Marty BrownAmerican Highway
Buckle up for a rollicking, joyful, adventuresome ride as Marty Brown drives flat-out down the straightaways and hugs tight the curves of the "American Highway." It's great to have Brown, who's written hits for Trace Adkins ("It Ain't Me If It Ain't You") and Tracy Byrd ("I'm From the Country"), back behind the wheel after a nearly 23-year break. With a sure hand, he steers us through boogie-woogie, blues and flat out country... »»»
Rodney AtkinsCaught Up in the Country
Careers don't see as many twists and potholes as the one Rodney Atkins has going - it took him six years between his first charted single just to release an album. While that did modestly well, it was 2006's "If You're Going Through Hell" that really put a crater on the charts: two consecutive singles for a total of eight weeks at number one and a platinum record. The next two recordings came in quick succession with big lead singles, but slow album sales... »»»
Austin CunninghamCountry & Western Music
Austin Cunningham has been writing music on Music Row for nearly three decades, but the Texas songwriter performs and records his own material too. "Country and Western Music," produced by Jim Reilley and Cunningham, mixes classic country, rocking Americana and Texas-styled music. Cunningham plays a blazing electric guitar, resonator, banjo, harmonica and percussion and proves he can not only write the classic country song, tackle the usual subjects of drinking and partying, but he can... »»»
Lowland HumGlymphonic
Daniel and Lauren Goans, the duo known as Lowland Hum, have always remained true to all their name implies, indulging in lowcast songs etched in a shoegaze motif. In that regard, their "Glyphonic" is really no different than any of their previous entries, given that it unfolds as a series of soft serenades, each ushered in through a steady strum of acoustic guitars and hushed harmonies that echo through repeated refrains. It's precious, but pervasive, and on songs such as... »»»
Joy WilliamsFront Porch
Joy Williams' "Front Porch" album is a beautiful collection of acoustic, country-folk music. The title cut, for instance, includes sweet fiddling, while the rest of the album takes an appreciated low-key approach to its instrumentation. However, Williams singing is the most exemplary element of all. She sings like an empathetic, motherly country girl. The title track plays out like a letter to a Prodigal Son. Family is there waiting, always willing to forgive... »»»
Caroline SpenceMint Condition
The third full-length release from Nashville-based singer/songwriter Caroline Spence is an appealing mix of country, folk and rock driven by Spence's smooth vocals. Spence wrote or co-wrote all 11 tracks, the lone collaboration being "Song About a City" with Ashley Ray about the inability to escape haunting memories despite multiple changes of scenery ("I wish that I could make the most of the magic on this coast/Can't see the beauty through the ghost that I'm... »»»
Carla Olson and Todd WolfeThe Hidden Hills Sessions
Carla Olson and Todd Wolfe's "The Hidden Hills Sessions" is a passionately played and sung acoustic set of music. These two music veterans harmonize together surprisingly well, considering Olson's distinctive - and oftentimes overpowering - singing voice, who is best known for fronting The Textones. Wolfe is lesser known, but shines here for both his singing and instrumental skills. The album strikes a nice balance between originals and covers. Of the cover songs, Blind... »»»
The Felice BrothersUndress
The New York-based Felice Brothers deliver social and political commentary laced with dark humor in an appealing mix of rock, folk and country. Brothers Ian (guitar) and James Felice (keyboards, banjo, accordion) front the quartet along with drummer Will Lawrence and bassist Jesske Hume. The opening title track appears to take a poke at the Trump administration with the reference to "chain of collusion" in what is otherwise a series of seemingly unconnected observations ("Caesars... »»»
Randy Rogers BandHellbent
Randy Rogers makes a big, bold statement with his title track, but it's the smaller insightful moment expressed through "Wine In A Coffee Cup" that stands out most. Rogers sings it empathetically over a swaying groove, one highlighted by equally empathetic fiddle. And it's an unusual drinking song. It's not about someone going out to a club and noisily ordering round after round to conspicuously drink away a heartache. Instead, it's a woman applying an... »»»
Will KimbroughI Like It Down Here
Will Kimbrough is best known as a session and touring guitarist with such artists as Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris, but with "I Like It Down Here" the Nashville-based multi-instrumentalist serves up his eighth solo release. There is a dark mood through much of the album particularly with "Alabama," the grim true story of the 1981 lynching of Michael Donald conveyed via the omniscient narration of the victim ("Those men went down/Justice did prevail/But I'm still gone")... »»»
Kind CountryHard Times
Kind Country is a Minneapolis-based jamgrass septet now with its third full-length album in "Hard Times." They recorded this entirely live in the studio with all members in the same room. They certainly have the requisite instrumentation with mandolin, guitar, fiddle, upright bass, banjo, pedal steel and drums. The lead vocalist is mandolinist Max Graham with fiddler Chris Forsberg and drummer Chris Wittrock adding harmony vocals. "Luigi" is an instrumental tune that gives... »»»
Adam CarrollI Walked in Them Shoes
This is esteemed Texas singer-songwriter Adam Carroll's ninth release and the first since 2016's all -star "Highway Prayer: A Tribute to Adam Carroll." Albums don't get much sparer or intimate with Carroll and producer Lloyd Maines both playing multiple instruments, playing every note without the benefit of a rhythm section or guests, all cut in one day. Along the way, he nods to the Flying Burrito Brothers, his wife, mentor Maines and the late Kent Finlay, proprietor of... »»»
Aaron LewisState I'm In
When you tune into rocker turned country singer Aaron Lewis' fourth solo outing, "State I'm In," you'll find yourself excited about the potential state of country music with artists like Lewis still standing guard. Writing with an unapologetic hand and an honest, earnest love for the sounds of classic country he was weaned on, Lewis' music here steps forth with powerful emotion, great musicianship, and you can dance to it too. Backing Lewis' play is a virtual... »»»
Sara Evans and the Barker Family BandThe Barker Family band with Sara Evans
Over the past 20-plus years, Sara Evans has delighted country music fans with her powerful vocal prowess. Now the artist is ready to share the spotlight with her oldest children, Olivia and Avery Barker, as they endeavor to forge their own budding musical careers. And if the results heard on The Barker Family Band EP are any indication, the apples haven't fallen too far from the tree. Produced by Evans and Nashville stalwart Ben Fowler, the EP leans heavily on a selection of strong covers... »»»
Silver Lake 66Ragged Heart
Silver Lake 66 - the couple of Maria Francis and Jeff Overbo - make their sophomore effort so appealing because they stay close to traditional country idioms, recalling at times, some of those famous duets like Gram and Emmylou, George and Tammy, and, of more recent vintage, early Buddy and Julie Miller. The Portland, Ore.-based couple alternate the lead vocals and harmonize with each other throughout, backed by a four-piece band and a three-piece horn and string sections on some cuts... »»»
Brooks & DunnReboot
Brooks and Dunn return with the duo's first studio album in a dozen years. Sort of. That's because they revisit a dozen of their hits (leaving a bunch behind) with contemporary country singers. "Reboot" is a cross between a tribute album and a redo, and overwhelmingly, the idea works. The general idea is that the guest artist will trade lines with Brooks or Dunn. One could surmise that Brooks & Dunn did this kind of album to introduce these chestnuts in an attempt to expand their fan base... »»»
Reba McEntireStronger Than the Truth
The beauty of Reba McEntire's albums flows from her way with a phrase, knowing when to modulate to carry us deeper into sadness or joy and when to pull back when she wants us to listen quietly to the lessons of a tear falling. Her songs can also urge us to scamper across the dance floor to twin fiddles, celebrating the exhilarating freedom of the moment or the satisfaction of breakup from a messy relationship. This album follows the end of McEntire's marriage to her manager... »»»
Molly TuttleWhen You're Ready
One of the most celebrated acoustic guitarists working within the Americana field, Molly Tuttle is two-time International Bluegrass Music Association Guitarist of the Year, the first female to be so honored. "When You're Ready" is Tuttle's first full-fledged solo album, having previously recorded an EP ("Rise"), albums with both the Tuttles and The Goodbye Girls, and a long-ago recording with her father, Jack ("The Old Apple Tree")... »»»
While some wondered whether bro country's long and very successful run (a sub-genre that traditionalists have long resented) was about to end, a quick spin of the leadoff track on Locash's "Brothers" will tell you that the formula is still alive and well. The catchy and glossy "One Big Country Song" is an everyman's anthem that equates how our individual journeys in life relate to a country song. From there, the duo of Preston Burst and Chris Lucas stick with... »»»
Jake Owen contributes to the writing of his album "Greetings From...Jake" on just one song called "Damn." Therefore, the success this project rises or falls with his vocals and song choices. Fortunately, Own has chosen some memorable songs to sing, and his singing voice has never sounded better. He's never better than on the single and album opener, "Down to the Honkytonk." It's a 'friends in low places' drinking song, where Owen's voice gets... »»»
Steve EarleGUY
A decade after recording his tribute to Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle has released an album of Guy Clark covers. It includes, perhaps, Clark's best-known songs, "L.A. Freeway" and "Desperados Waiting For A Train," as well as a slew of songs not known quite so well. Most significantly, it's an album that showcases the breadth of Clark's work. Clark was a songwriter's songwriter, something many of the best Americana songwriters - including Earle - know well... »»»
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