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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... »»»
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... »»»
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... »»»
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... »»»
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... »»»
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... »»»
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... »»»
Brantley GilbertFire & Brimstone
It would be easy (and lazy journalism) to write about how much Brantley Gilbert's music is un-country. You need only isolate the drum parts for most of these latest songs to confirm this is primarily a rock recording (masked as country). However, there are some quality - if not exactly country - songs on this effort, which cry out for a different sort of evaluation. Gilbert saves his best for last with "Man That Hung The Moon," a song about fatherhood that will likely bring many dads to tears... »»»
Old Crow Medicine ShowLive From the Ryman
The very best way - the only way, really - to see Old Crow Medicine Show is live. Like its namesake, the medicine shows of old that were part preaching, part snake oil sales pitches, part old time music and pure entertainment, the band delivers a high-energy performance that keeps the crowd on its feet the entire show. This album includes the band's performances recorded between 2013 and 2019 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, and what better place than the Mother Church of country music... »»»
Jason JamesSeems Like Tears Ago
If the first few strains of Jason James' "Seems Like Tears Ago" remind you of George Jones, then that's exactly what Jason James intended as he channels the traditional country greats on these 10 original tunes. They are the kind of three-minute classic country weepers and honky-tonkers that would easily fit on radio during the Golden Age of Country (circa '70s and early '80s). Just looking at the cover with James attired in suit-and-tie as if it were a high school... »»»
Monica RizzioSunshine is Free
Monica Rizzio's second album, "Sunshine Is Free," emblematic of its title, ushers in bright country music, with roots touches but generally gliding in melodic, uplifting country territory. Put this in your player when you need a smile or two. Rizzio, unlike many singer-songwriters, only rarely sings about navigating through struggles or our socio-political state. Instead, she sings mostly about how appreciating little things can make everything just a little better... »»»
Michaela AnneDesert Dove
Although she's sometimes created the impression that she's simply a vulnerable balladeer who wears her tattered emotions on her proverbial sleeve, Michaela Ann can come across as feisty as any other sassy, swaggering songbirds on the current scene today. In many ways however, she seems a throwback to those who set precedent in an earlier era. Indeed, it's hardly a surprise that on "Desert Dove," Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Nicks and Karla Bonoff readily come to mind on such... »»»
Jon PardiHeartache Medication
Jon Pardi may sing about heartache medication with this collection of songs, but his focus on arrangements filled with traditional musical elements (fiddle, steel guitar and twangy electric guitar) is joyfully medicinal for anyone sickened by so much mainstream country music that lacks many (if not all) of these essential country instruments. These songs read as well as they sound, though. For example, the drinking song "Me and Jack" begins with a thumping, Johnny Cash-inspired country groove... »»»
Alice PeacockMinnesota
At this point in her career, some 20 years and five solo albums on, Alice Peacock has received only a hint of the wider acclaim she so justly deserves. Most of it has been the result of choice placement in various movie and television soundtracks (the most prominent of which were the films "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton" and "Because of Winn Dixie"), but with "Minnesota," - her first individual effort in a decade - she practically oozes a sense of serenity and satisfaction... »»»
Colt FordWe The People Volume 1
Before Colt Ford hit pay dirt with "Dirt Road Anthem" he was considered a country music outlier with his rap/rock style and collaborations. He makes no apologies for it as he proclaims on the guns blazing opener, "I'm Still Me." "I'm still a whole lot more Georgia than I'll ever be Tennessee." Ford is known for his collaborations, and this album is chock full of them. Mitchell Tenpenny, Jimmie Allen and Eddie Montgomery populate his seventh studio album... »»»
Hailey WhittersThe Days
There's something about introspection and sadness that perfectly melds with country music. Take a six-string and three verses of someone's pain laid bare, and you might arrive somewhere special - a place where singer/listener form a bond of trust, tears, and healing. Hailey Whitters knows this more than most. Her 2015 release, "Black Sheep," contained one of the year's strongest self-penned tracks, "One More Hell." It's a devotion to her younger brother, who... »»»
Jeremy IveyThe Dream And The Dreamer
Jeremy Ivey is a master storyteller, and his songs oftentimes tell tales of those down on their luck, like the man in "Greyhound," who wants a ticket that takes him anywhere except back home to his loveless relationship. "Falling Man," though, is far more philosophical than linear, as it chronicles the oftentimes confusing world of post-moderns. "I'm out here where I don't belong," its narrator admits. The chorus speaks of a constantly falling man who is... »»»
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... »»»
Jason Hawk HarrisLove & The Dark
If an author came up with a protagonist that suffered the kind of Job-esque life afflictions experienced by singer/songwriter Jason Hawk Harris, critics would consider it excessive even for a fictional character. The Houston native/L.A. resident grew up listening to his grandfather's classic country records, became enamored with punk, alternative rock and Queen as a teenager and ultimately was wait-listed for UCLA's classical composition master's program. He eventually lent his... »»»
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... »»»
Jesse DaytonMixtape Vol. 1
Texas native Jesse Dayton has had the kind of career that seems as though it was conceived by a Hollywood screenwriter for a country music film that absolutely no one would believe was based in reality. Consider that Dayton has sessioned with legends like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, performed with Lucinda Williams, Glen Campbell and John Doe, and contributed soundtrack music to Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Reject" and "Halloween II... »»»
Che ApalacheRearrange My Heart
Che Apalache is a decidedly different entity. Primarily South American musicians, they play a mix of bolero and gypsy style with traditional bluegrass, resulting in a unique hybrid that defies an exact definition. Of course, any time there's an adventurous entity of any consequence, opinion is sharply divided. While many listeners will applaud their adventurous attitude, others may find it confounding. Purists may find akin to the heretical. Clearly, Che Apalache was willing to take the risk. Over... »»»
Mac Powell and the Family ReunionBack Again
For many, the name Mac Powell might not resonate too loudly, but for longtime fans of GRAMMY-winning Christian southern rock band, Third Day, Powell stands in high regard. Having dabbled in country music with a few solo releases and having hung up his Third Day hat, the artist, a self-described "band guy," is tapping back into his country roots with his new outfit, Mac Powell and the Family Reunion. Featuring Powell on vocals and a solid cadre of longtime friends like Jason Hoard and Tim... »»»
Chuck HawthorneFire Out of Stone
Chuck Hawthorne purveys the tattered and timeless passion of a weary western troubadour, one who's spent one too many nights nursing a beer at the bar and seeking solace in the eyes of indifferent strangers. There are any number of familiar touchstones - the somber and sobering sentiments of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Don Williams, Mickey Newbury, John Stewart, Tom Russell, and any number of other so-called renegades who have ventured well beyond the bounds of commercial country... »»»
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... »»»
If, in fact, the title tells all, then suffice it to say "Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil" simply offers another astute example of Texas bred singer/songwriter Rod Picott's ability to convey telling analogies for today's challenging times. Indeed, it may be the most personal - and profound - album of Picott's prolific career. Amplified only with the minimal arrangements consisting of voice, harmonica and guitar, the songs reach deep inside a frayed psyche and share the... »»»
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... »»»
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