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Sheryl CrowThreads
With "Threads," Sheryl Crow gets the all-star-guest treatment on what she says is her swang song, with each song featuring a favorite fellow artist. She seems a little too young for this kind of tribute. Nevertheless, this a fine collection of songs, most of which Crow had a hand in writing. Some of these configurations work better than others. Kudos for including Public Enemy's Chuck D on "Story of Everything," even though their collaboration comes off sounding a little awkward... »»»
MidlandLet it Roll
Midland is more magicians than musicians. When the trio came out with their omnipresent 2017 single "Drinkin' Problem," they pulled off their first trick: a brand-new band to radio who sounded like old friends. Their sound and their look (matador jackets, mullets and high-density mustaches) were pure vintage. So why did it all seem progressive? Some of this is the landscape. Athletic-fit tee-shirts and a frat boy oversmile make the standard uniform for most of today's country crop... »»»
Old Salt UnionWhere the Dogs Don't Bite
Old Salt Union typify the fact that today's heartland music is as far removed from your daddy's bluegrass as cowpony is from classic country. Still, in each of these instances, there are essential elements that remain in the mix - specifically, an independent attitude that opens the doors to independence and exuberance. Old Salt Union typify that unrepentant approach, and while they celebrate certain strains of vintage Americana, their determination to create their own individual... »»»
Tanya TuckerWhile I'm Livin'
It's been 17 years since we've had a new album from Tanya Tucker, so it's a real pleasure to hear her clear throaty vocals deliver these songs with her characteristic raw emotion. Tucker knows how to get into a song and make it her own, and she demonstrates her ability to turn phrases on this set of songs. Every song is a gem, and every song might be describing some aspect of her own life. Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings produced the album, and Jennings played piano almost every... »»»
Eilen JewellGypsy
Eilen Jewell's "Gypsy" opens with the ominous, mysterious "Beat the Drum," which is a swampy - and yes, gypsy - song of warning about some impending doom or other. It plays out like a softer type of vintage Creedence Clearwater Revival song. It's also likely political in nature, especially when Jewell repeats the line, "I believe in the dream." Only with album closer "79 Cents (The Meow Song)" does Jewell become expressly political while describing... »»»
Rodney CrowellTexas
Rodney Crowell is a rare breed of a country songwriter. Yes, he knows how to write traditional country songs; it's just he's also a deep thinker, which requires extra effort on the part of the listener to appreciate them fully. "Texas" is just as varied as his everything-is-bigger home state. It's also a star-studded affair, which even includes none other than Ringo Starr. "Brown & Root, Brown & Root" includes an historical introduction from Crowell's duet... »»»
Justin MooreLate Nights and Longnecks
Justin Moore bills "Late Nights and Longnecks" as "his most traditional album to date." We've seen a lot of this recently in Music City. When an artist has some commercial success and is leery of the sell-out stigma associated with crossover, they swing the pendulum back toward the traditional and make an album that's all about the songwriting and the truth. The truth here is that there is a lot of drinking on the 10-song collection. Moore has a writing credit on all of them... »»»
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... »»»
Ben WinshipAcorns
Ben Winship could be called a recording nerd. A diligent, dedicated muso, he's always looking for unique ways to present his music while holed up in his home studio, the Henhouse, located behind his house in tiny Victor, Idaho. It's not that he's a hermit; indeed he's shared his skills in a variety of venues, including the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, A Prairie Home Companion and the Vancouver Folk Festival. Consequently, you have to credit a man who's so intent on... »»»
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... »»»
Ben WinshipToolshed
Ben Winship could be called a recording nerd. A diligent, dedicated muso, he's always looking for unique ways to present his music while holed up in his home studio, the Henhouse, located behind his house in tiny Victor, Idaho. It's not that he's a hermit; indeed he's shared his skills in a variety of venues, including the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, A Prairie Home Companion and the Vancouver Folk Festival. Consequently, you have to credit a man who's so intent on... »»»
The third solo album from a member of Sister Sadie to be released in 2019, "Chronicle: Friends and Music" (following those of Deanie Richardson and Dale Ann Bradley) reflects the breadth of modern bluegrass: energetic and intense, firmly rooted in the foundations of an ever-evolving music. An original Daughter of Bluegrass, North Carolina's Gena Britt has been - for more than three decades - one of bluegrass music's most identifiable and increasingly in-demand 5-string players... »»»
The Steel WheelsOver the Trees
Ostensibly a bluegrass band, The Steel Wheels continue to explore some of the most inventive percussive sounds and surprising textures of any band loosely labeled in that genre. The quintet hail from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, but journeyed north to Maine to again record with noted producer Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Lake Street Dive, Elephant Revival). Kassirer also produced their 2017 "Wild As We Came Here." Steel Wheels is band leader Trent Wagler (lead vocals,... »»»
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... »»»
Josh Abbott BandCatching Fire
Josh Abbott Band returns more to its roots after exploring a more Nashville-type sound over the last two albums. This self-released effort shows maturity and confidence by remembering who they are and expanding their base at the same time. With the title cut, co-written by Abbott, serving as a bridge between their past musical exploration and rootsy Texas sound,his distinctive voice elevates this from being just another indistinguishable modern-day country release. However, this more homogenous... »»»
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... »»»
Merle MonroeBack to the Country
True to their well-chosen moniker, the musical repertoire of Merle Monroe ideally encapsulates a country/bluegrass hybrid. Led by veteran vocalist Tim Raybon and dynamic five-string stalwart Daniel Grindstaff, Merle Monroe have done the near impossible, blending hardcore country influences and throwback flavors without losing the vocal and instrumental intensity required of contemporary bluegrass. Six songs are Raybon originals, and each - including "Beautiful Kentucky" and... »»»
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... »»»
Reckless KellyBulletproof Live
This live collection was recorded at multiple venues in 2018 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Reckless Kelly's highly regarded Yep Roc release "Bulletproof." Most of the band from the original recording remain in place on the live set with frontman Willy Braun and his multi-instrumentalist brother Cody Braun along with drummer Jay Naz and lead guitarist David Abeyta. Bassist Joe Miller replaces Jim McFeely, and keyboardist Bukka Allen is added to the mix... »»»
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... »»»
Montgomery GentryOutskirts
Country music had an especially dark day on Sept. 8, 2017, when the world lost the voices of both Don Williams and Troy Gentry. One was an established legend, and the other was working on it. Gentry was only 50 years-old at the time of his fatal helicopter crash, but he had accomplished much: the longstanding partnership with Eddie Montgomery had yielded five number one singles, and dozens of other hits. 2018's "Here's To You" release was completed at the time of the tragedy... »»»
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... »»»
Justin Townes EarleThe Saint of Lost Causes
When your Dad's Steve Earle and your namesake is Townes Van Zandt, you probably aren't destined to be a shoemaker. A native of Music City, Justin Townes Earle ate well from the horn of plenty that is the Nashville scene. He kicked around in some bands, but also generally raised a lot of hell. Around 2007, he started releasing albums regularly - "Saint of Lost Causes" is his eighth release and the first since 2017's critically well-received "Kids In the Street... »»»
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... »»»
Blue Moon RisingAfter All This Time
Over the course of nearly two decades Blue Moon Rising has carved out a reputation as a young bluegrass outfit featuring a nice blend of vocal and instrumental expertise, along with solid songwriting and arranging skills. That's all still a part of the mix on this seventh release. Guitarist Chris West contributes a pair of soul-searching love ballads, "I'm Leaving You" and "I Know Love Now," and he and bassist Tim Tipton and mandolin player Keith Garrett team up... »»»
Irene KelleyBenny's TV Repair
There's a well-worn adage that goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But in a "throwaway" age where even big screen TVs head for the landfills at the first sign of breakdown, it's hard to recall, if you're old enough to recall it at all, that it used to be you could take the old Philco down to a shop like the one Irene Kelley's dad ran in her hometown of Latrobe, Pa., get a few tubes swapped out and have it back in time for the Steelers game, good as new... »»»
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... »»»
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