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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... »»»
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... »»»
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... »»»
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... »»»
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... »»»
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... »»»
George StraitHonky Tonk Time Machine
At this stage of his nearly four-decades-long career, George Strait sure knows his sweet spot. Take a look at the cover of his 30th studio album, and it's understood that it's the honky tonks that are part and parcel of the tall Texan. Not to mention the title. And that means, Strait is going to be singing about drinking, loving and faith in styles ranging from honky tonk to straight ahead country to Tex-Mex stylings to ballads. You're also going to hear fiddle and pedal steel... »»»
Tim BluhmSorta Surviving
The front man for the Bay Area band Mother Hips, Tim Bluhm, steps aside to deliver an authentic country album recorded at Cash Cabin Studios in Hendersonville, Tenn. Yet, this is not an unexpected path for Bluhm, whose connections to classic country figures like Johnny Cash and, closer to home, Merle Haggard, are quite tangible. Bluhm's covers a tune from each along with 7 of 10 originals, proving that he too can adeptly write classic country songs. Bluhm discovered Haggard around the same... »»»
Chris Jones & the Night DriversThe Choosing Road
Chris Jones is one of today's top songwriters in bluegrass who keeps stretching the envelope, bringing elements of country, folk, gospel and blues to the idiom. He continues to evolve the genre, by focusing on the song without worrying which bucket it may neatly drop into. Jones has a commanding tenor voice that's perfect for his songs. As with any bluegrass offering, there are plenty of gorgeous harmonies from his band mates and co-writers, Jon Weisberger (bass, vocals), Mark... »»»
The Eli Young Band has reached a career milestone of sorts with the release of their "This is Eli Young Band: Greatest Hits" album. EYB has an impressive portfolio of music to date, with music spanning from the band's genesis with Mike Eli and James Young joining forces as Eli & Young while students at the University of North Texas. Rounding out the band with members Jon Jones and Chris Thompson, ELB was born and released its first album "Level" in 2005... »»»
Uncle Walt's BandUncle Walt's Band
The self-titled debut album from Uncle Walt's Band already had a retro feel when it was initially released in 1974 with its appealing mix of jazz, folk, blues and country. The Spartanburg, S.C. trio of Walter Hyatt (guitar, vocals), Champ Hood (guitar, fiddle, mandolin, vocals) and David Ball (bass, vocals) became mainstays of the Austin music scene of the '70s following this effort. This reissue includes 11 previously unreleased tracks that nicely complement the original 11 tunes... »»»
Son VoltUnion
Seminal alt-country band Son Volt's ninth studio album, "Union," has a heavy political bent as the name implies. Leader Jay Farrar had set out to make a totally political statement to confront our turbulent times, but felt the album needed some balance. As a result, 8 of the 13 are in the socio-political camp while the other five deal with the power of love, time and music. Strains of the past two Son Volt albums 2013's country-flavored "Honky Tonk" and 2017's... »»»
Steven Curtis ChapmanDeeper Roots: Where the Bluegrass Grows
Steven Curtis Chapman's "Deeper Roots: Where the Bluegrass Grows" is a unique collection of songs. It's part a tribute to Chapman's bluegrass roots, that's true, but it also includes a few re-imaginings of Chapman hits, as well as the singing of some old gospel songs. Chapman co-wrote the new song "Till the Blue" with Lori McKenna and Barry Dean. Chapman also receives vocal assistance on it from one of country music's most recognizable voices, Rascal... »»»
Todd SniderCash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3
There's a lot to be said for the old adage that you're known by the company you keep. So to all who think of Todd Snider as a snarky burnout with one minor '90s hit, take note of the guy's friends: Jerry Jeff Walker, John Prine, Loretta Lynn, Jason Isbell and so on. When people of a certain stature vouch for somebody, it matters. And if you study Snider's catalog from his start in 1994, you hear patterns emerge - razor-sharp wit and an x-ray vision to see through American... »»»
Renee Wahl & the Sworn SecretsCut to the Bone
Nashville-based singer/songwriter Renee Wahl cites The Beatles as her musical inspiration but it is the sound of Rosanne Cash that permeates her second full-length release. There is a recurring theme of persevering through adversity as with "Me Before You" in which self absorption in the past ("Always thinking 'bout myself/No thought of anybody else") transitions to motherly devotion ("Never thought I'd see a time/Five tiny fingers holding on to one of mine")... »»»
Over the RhineLove and Revelation
Some might say all you need to know about Over The Rhine is its primary lead vocalist, Karin Bergquist. And that's true; her angelic singing - alone throughout "Love & Revelation" - makes the album well worth your ear time. Although he doesn't sing as much as his wife, Linford Detweiler's presence - particularly as a songwriter - is also beautifully conspicuous here. It's a strong album, from start to finish. The sonic tone is mostly quiet and acoustic... »»»
Ted Russell KampWalkin' Shoes
Ted Russell Kamp is an impressive multi-taker. Consider the fact that he has a dozen solo albums while also maintaining a dual career as bassist for Shooter Jennings' band, That said, he boasts a consistent sound regardless of whatever banner he happens to be operating under - a rich and rugged alt.-country delivery that he plies with dedicated determination. "Walkin' Shoes" expresses that attitude with his usual flair and finesse. The sass and spunk that ricochet through... »»»
Maren MorrisGIRL
Maren Morris, who had a huge pop hit with "The Middle," is never going to be anybody's ideal traditional country singer. Although, thankfully, there isn't anything that mind-numbingly beat-driven on her "GIRL" album, this is a full-length that will likely appeal as much to Morris' pop fans, as her country followers. The first great song, "A Song For Everything," addresses that mysterious intersection between one's favorite songs and significant life events... »»»
Shawn Lane and Richard BennettLand and Harbor
When two bluegrass masters come together in a duo setting, magic is likely to occur. Shawn Lane (Blue Highway) and Richard Bennett (Flashback, J. D. Crowe) have been writing together for a few years and released a five-song EP featuring three of their songs. Not as bluegrass in sound or vision as what most have come to expect from the pairing, "Land and Harbor" is an acoustic, Americana showcase of musical interplay and songwriting prowess. With two guitars and Gaven Largent (Dailey... »»»
Patty GriffinPatty Griffin
Patty Griffin opens her self-titled album singing, "Mama's worried all the time," over Spanish guitar-influenced flourishes, but it's Griffin - not any mama - that sounds constantly worried on it. There are songs like "River," with it's positive praise of a strong woman, but haunting songs, such as "The Wheel," about a black man killed at the hands of a cop, are more the rule than the exception. Griffin's voice has taken on nearly an elder's... »»»
Chatham County LineShare the Covers
Any band can offer up an album of covers. That's a given and a no-brainer at that. For some outfits, it merely means they're in a holding pattern, offering up a stopgap effort prior to regaining their muse and moving forward with new momentum. North Carolina's Chatham County Line provide an exception to that axiom as proven with "Sharing the Covers," a set of songs that effectively puts a new perspective on various well known standards. A blazing rendition of... »»»
The Cactus BlossomsEasy Way
The third studio release from Minneapolis-based duo the Cactus Blossoms is a pleasing mix of country, pop and rock with harmonies that recall the Everly Brothers and The Beatles. Brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey (Torrey is a stage name) wrote or co-wrote all 10 songs with mostly good results. One of the stronger compositions is Torrey's "Downtown" with a biting social commentary on income inequality ("The rich are getting way too high/Even try to scrape the sky" and... »»»
Steve PoltzShine On
Canadian-born songwriter and singer Poltz lived most of his life in San Diego, but moved to Nashville a couple of years ago at the urging of his girlfriend, Sharon. Once he arrived in Music City, he found a circle of like-minded musicians, among them the estimable guitarist, songwriter, and producer Will Kimbrough, who produced the album. Poltz has always had a way with a clever phrase and a tongue-in-cheek lyric, and those are on clear display here, winding their ways through his songs... »»»
Della MaeThe Butcher Shoppe
How many bands have taken the time - or had the vision - to create a mission statement? Guessing not many, but Della Mae's is significant: to showcase top female musicians and to improve opportunities for women and girls through advocacy, mentorship, programming and performance. Noble and, as they have repeatedly proven, attainable. On this six-track recording - captured in a burst of activity at the self-same named Nashville studio last fall - the quartet realize their mission and... »»»
In the vein of "it's never too late," RJ Cowdery is a Columbus, Ohio-based three decades plus songwriter who only decided to record and perform a few years ago. She has plenty of hard-earned wisdom to impart. Already she's garnered songwriting awards at several prestigious festivals like Kerrville and Falcon Ridge. Her nine songs and one Josh Ritter cover on "What If This Is All There Is" speak to change and loss in an autobiographical way that becomes rather universal... »»»
As a genre, Americana has become a massive umbrella, and yet, the actual definition remains elusive at best. Still, for those that relate to its former manifestation as "roots rock" or "country crossover," the Vandoliers come remarkably close to identifying with a definitive sound. As a result, "Forever" finds them parlaying a series of insurgent anthems into an album that's flush with dedicated defiance and rebellious rockers, all ringing with unabashed frenzy and fury... »»»
The Way Down WanderersIllusions
The Way Down Wanderers are another band that's breaking the mold with traditional bluegrass, using it as a foundation to meld in an array of genres. "Illusions" is the second album from the Peoria, Ill.-based quintet following a pair of EPs and "Live at the Old Rock House." Like the best of the bluegrass bands though, these youthful musicians have a flair for melody and harmonies. The band's two chief songwriters and lead singers are Austin Krause-Thompson (guitar... »»»
Big Country BluegrassMountains, Mamas and Memories
Big Country Bluegrass is one of the finest bluegrass groups working today, and their presentation of roots and hollers bluegrass is as strong as you are going to encounter. "Mountains, Mamas and Memories" features a dozen terrific performances, not a single 'skip-it' song in the bunch. Eddie Gill is a tremendous vocalist, and his solid country voice carries much of the album. "Country Boy, Banjo and Flat Top Guitar," "The Whiskey or the Coal" and "Is... »»»
Ryan BinghamAmerican Love Song
It seems like Ryan Bingham has only fallen up over the course of his 15-year career. A roommate's brother turned out to be a hobbyist drummer and became the foundation for Bingham's band, the Dead Horses. At an early gig, one of the few patrons at a nearly deserted bar was Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford, who offered to record Bingham, ultimately leading to a contract with Lost Highway and Ford's production on his first two albums for the label, 2007's "Mescalito"... »»»
Carsie BlantonBuck Up
Carsie Blanton stands shoulder to shoulder with the current crop of female singer/songwriters, including Nikki Lane, Kacey Musgraves, Elle King, Patti Rothberg and Elizabeth Cook, who have no discernible interest in adhering to genre restrictions and industry expectations, blazing fresh musical trails with material that exists in its own brilliantly unique pigeonhole. And for those just hearing her name, that's on you; Blanton has released five full length studio albums over the past 15... »»»
Dale WatsonCall Me Lucky
2018 was a transitional year for Dale Watson. For decades, Watson has been both a pillar of the Austin music scene and one of Texas's most visible and passionate musical ambassadors. Given his Lone Star State roots, it was surprising when Watson recently sold two of his Texas bars and decided to split time between Texas and Tennessee after buying a home and a bar in Memphis. This change of scenery is reflected in the songs on "Call Me Lucky," which finds Watson augmenting the... »»»
Kalyn FayGood Company
It's Kalyn Fay's weary, gentle, and oft-ethereal voice that's so totally captivating on her second release, "Good Company." She's a Cherokee singer-songwriter exploring her unique relationship to her home state. She writes about its values, the people, the land and the dichotomy of its presence and the distance she needs to keep from it, given her ancestry. Although there are no outright mentions of her indigenous background, her music and lyrics are different from a... »»»
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