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Banjo Nickaru & Western ScoochesGet Us Out of Fearland
For those who have followed their progress until now, it ought to be apparent that Nick Russo and Betina Hershey, the husband/wife duo best known as Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches, aren't content to be confined to any particular genre. As their excellent new album, "Get Us Out of Fearland," easily attests, they ably mine vintage trappings with an eye towards contemporary credence. Folk, jazz, Americana, blues and ballads all find a place in their merry mash-up of sounds and styles... »»»
Sugarland is back with "Bigger," its first studio album in nearly a decade. And its arrival says more about branding, than anything else. Although his voice is heard often enough on this album to make his presence felt, it's still difficult to get away from seeing Kristian Bush in the Oates to Hall or Ridgeley to Michael role in this duo. Jennifer Nettles is the act's primary focus. However, Nettles plays theaters on tour, while Sugarland fills stadiums, making it a commercial no-brainer... »»»
American AquariumThings Change
There may be no other CD title this year quite as apropos as this one. Things have indeed changed for American Aquarium since their previous studio album (2015's underrated "Wolves"). For one thing 80 per cent of the band quit, leaving only lead vocalist and songwriter BJ Barham. He could have gone off on his own - he released a solo album, "Rockingham" in 2016 - but instead he rebuilt the band from scratch. It's not just that the band looks different. Barham is different, too... »»»
Luke CombsThis One's For You Too
Luke Combs has gotten a lot of life out of his album "This One's for You," which includes his breakthrough hit "Hurricane," as well as the popular single "When It Rains It Pours." This deluxe edition includes five new tracks, many of which are just as strong as the original 12. "Houston, We Got a Problem" includes a smart lyric highlighting specific details about that big Texas city. Even though it has all these famous landmarks, it doesn't have... »»»
Lindsay EllThe Continuum Project
"The Continuum Project" is Lindsay Ell's cover of, not a John Mayer song, but a full John Mayer album. As good as it is, though, one must wonder about the necessity.. With Ell working towards finding her niche in mainstream country, how would reimagining the work of a distinctly non-country artist's album (and not even attempting to make these songs sound country) help her cause? Ell, who also recently collaborated with Keith Urban on the song "Horses" for his... »»»
Gretchen PetersDancing With The Beast
Informed by the renewed strength of today's woman's movement, particularly in light of recent cultural social and political upheavals, Gretchen Peters' "Dancing With the Beast" finds her sharing stories about loss, struggle, upheaval, tragedy and turmoil in ways that resonate with a common bond, though told from a woman's perspective. It's a powerful set of songs, mostly echoing a downcast perspective, but each comes across with both enlightenment and emotion,... »»»
Jason Boland & The StragglersHard Times Are Relative
Jason Boland and The Stragglers serve up the ninth helping of their unapologetic, get it or not, country, in the past 20 years. This appears to almost be two EP's with the first mostly being a hard country dance cd and the second being a little more "out there" mix of fun and contemplative tunes, much less easy to categorize. Beginning with the stone country "I Don't Deserve You," the Stragglers versatility shines against Boland's baritone (joining on... »»»
Holly Golightly and the BrokeoffsClippety Clop
Despite having earned her apprenticeship with the ever-eccentric Billy Childish, and choosing to adopt the influence of the equally eclectic Jack White, Holly Golightly has paved her own path over the course of her career, earning kudos for her decidedly lopsided approach. Taking her nom de plume from the central character in Truman Capote's novel-turned-movie, "Breakfast at Tiffany's, she's created a signature sound that runs the musical gamut, from garage punk to jazz,... »»»
FlashbackDenver Snow
Nearly a quarter century ago, J. D. Crowe resurrected the New South with a group of - relatively - youthful musicians to record the album "Flashback," a seminal album within the Crowe and 'traditional' bluegrass archives. Dobroman Phil Leadbetter reunited the group for a series of 20th anniversary shows, and the outfit - with Stuart Wyrick taking over the 5 - released the popular "Foxhounds and Fiddles" in early 2017; a year later the now four-piece band, minus... »»»
Trampled by TurtlesLife is Good on the Open Road
After a four-year-break from recording, Duluth, Minn. sextet Trampled By Turtles return with its eighth studio release of edgy bluegrass and Indie folk/rock. Lead singer Dave Simonett wrote all of the mostly dark themed lyrics with the lone instrumental that showcases the band's topflight musicianship, "Good Land," credited to bandmate Erik Berry. The musicianship is best demonstrated on uptempo tunes such as the raging "Blood in the Water," which finds Simonett... »»»
Jeff PlankenhornSleeping Dogs
Among the advantages that come from being a much-in-demand session player is the fact that it's not only a steady gig, but it gives the opportunity to call in favors when the time is apt to venture out on one's own. Jeff Plankenhorn learned that lesson all too well, and when he called upon famous friends like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Patty Griffin and producer/guitarist Jud Newcomb, he added the necessary star power that can hopefully bring him the attention he so well deserves... »»»
Leftover SalmonSomething Higher
Leftover Salmon have always been somewhat elusive in their MO. Eclectic entrepreneurs, regulars at the annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival and absolute heroes to homegrown fans in their native Colorado, this remarkable outfit finds broader meaning in a jam band world where populist precepts continue to attract a new generation of free-spirited musical aficionados. Combining fast-paced picking and upbeat rhythms in tune with their rowdy, devil-may-care sensibilities, they also bring an inherent... »»»
Cicada RhythmEverywhere I Go
The band name Cicada Rhythm connotes Southern and rather languid. The duo - Andrea DeMarcus (vocals, upright bass) and Dave Kirslis (vocals, guitar) - create a rootsy, mostly-folk-driven sound that's soothing and intimate. They never seem hurried. "Everywhere I Go" is their third album and follows their lauded self-titled release from 2015. This time they raised the stakes a bit by bringing in Kenneth Pattengale (Milk Carton Kids) and Oliver Wood (The Wood Brothers) to produce... »»»
SidelineFront And Center
If your bluegrass collection includes discs by IIIrd Tyme Out, Cherryholmes, Mountain Heart and/or James King - or if you've seen any of them perform live - then chances are pretty good that you've come across at least one of the founding trio of bluegrass veterans at the core of Sideline: Steve Dilling (banjo), Skip Cherryholmes (lead guitar) and Jason Moore (bass). The band's name is a wry nod to the fact that it all started as a way to fill time when they weren't working... »»»
Keith UrbanGraffiti U
It's telling how two songs on Keith Urban's "Graffiti U" album chug along to a reggae beat because pop rhythms and non-country elements are the obvious inspirations for this collection. Opener "Coming Home" may borrow (steal?) a guitar riff from Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried," but this is where that country road begins and ends. Urban follows "Coming Home" with "Never Comin' Down," which is introduced with a funky bass line... »»»
John Paul KeithHeart Shaped Shadow
John Paul Keith mixes straight-ahead country with rock n' roll with hard driving approach on "Heart Shaped Shadow." The disc sometimes features twin guitars as Keith duels with his producer, Will Sexton. This is Keith's fourth solo effort, following his critically acclaimed "Memphis Circa 3AM," and his stirring turns on the tribute album "Red Hot: A Memphis Celebration of Sun Records" and Don Bryant's "Don't Give Up on Love... »»»
Morgan WallenIf You Know Me
"Like a lot of people my age, I didn't necessarily grow up listening to country music...I grew up living it." It's a little unsettling thought from the 24-year old Morgan Wallen. You wouldn't want to hear from your doctor that they substituted book learning for feel. But music may well be different, and Wallen does have some legitimate country cred - he hails not far from the Tennessee Cumberland Gap and went to Kenny Chesney's high school (What an alumni party that would be!)... »»»
Willie NelsonLast Man Standing
Willie Nelson is 123 years old and this is his 85th album. . No, that's not right, He's 85 and this is something like his 123rd album. At a certain point, the years and the numbers don't mean much any more. The bottom line is Willie Nelson has been around for a long time and made a lot of music. Willie will forever be remembered for the song "Whiskey River," but his voice has mellowed like a fine wine. Time has taken away much of the harshness and the off-flavors, if you will... »»»
Balsam RangeMountain Overture
Since forming a little more than a decade ago, North Carolina-based Balsam Range (Buddy Melton, fiddle; Darren Nicholson, mandolin; Tim Surrett, bass; Marc Pruett, banjo; and Caleb Smith, guitar) have established themselves over the course of six critically applauded albums (not counting a Christmas album, though that was well done too) as one of the more dynamic and accomplished bands on the modern bluegrass scene, with a basket full of IBMA awards to back that claim up... »»»
Tom RushVoices
Having a dozen or so original songs to make an album has never mattered to Tom Rush nor has the idea of churning out an album every year or two. The iconic '60s folk singer has spread out about 20 originals over the span of 11 studio albums. He once took three and half decades between albums. But now, with "Voices," Rush has dramatically changed those dynamics. It has the most originals of any Rush album, 10 of the dozen are his with 2 covers thrown in, as he tongue-in-cheek... »»»
Peter RowanCarter Stanley's Eyes
To say that the music and career of Peter Rowan have been eclectic would be something of an understatement, given that over his more than half-century on the American music scene he has been associated with bands including Old And In The Way, Seatrain, Free Mexican Airforce and Earth Opera. Yet, as a Boston-area teenager in the late 1950s, he became entranced with the bluegrass he was hearing locally from legends like the Lilly Brothers and Joe Val, and by his mid-twenties had landed himself the... »»»
Joshua HedleyMr. Jukebox
Apparently someone to forgot to tell Joshua Hedley that country music has passed him by. Where does Hedley, aka apparently known as the Mayor of Lower Broad, come off to incorporating honky tonk, Texas swing, western swing and countrypolitan all in the first three songs of his debut? There's perhaps no better song that underscores where Hedley is coming from than "Mr. Jukebox" with his swinging fiddle, steel guitar from Eddie Lange and a loping beat. The jukebox is the bar... »»»
Bob ReaSouthbound
Bob Rea is one of those artists that begs the question of why he is not better known. After three exceptional albums that glean influences from Guy Clark, Bob Dylan, Tom Russell, Kris Kristofferson, Steve Earle, John Stewart and John Prine, he's established a steadfast Everyman stance that tears right to the heart of well worn emotions and experiences learned from a life well lived as a decidedly rugged, resilient troubadour. "Southbound" begins with the title track, a restive... »»»
Old Crow Medicine ShowVolunteer
Dave Cobb produced "Volunteer" for Old Crow Medicine Show, and while word on the street was that this promised to be a more rocking, less roots music effort, such talk shouldn't dissuade fans of the group's established sound from checking it out. Sure, there may be a little more electric guitar than on past efforts, but this is still very much OCMS music. While rock and roll is not the best term for these songs, perhaps rambunctious best describes some of them... »»»
Paco is the name of Tim Easton's Gibson J-45, which he bought for $100 and a couple of trade-ins 30 years ago. The name was bestowed on the guitar in Paris by a Deadhead. It's been Easton's best traveling companion and songwriting aid. For this occasion, Easton recorded the album in Bristol, Va. via a vintage and portable lathe which cuts a mono signal directly to a lacquer acetate disc, much the way The Carter Family or Jimmie Rodgers made their first records over 90 years ago... »»»
John PrineThe Tree of Forgiveness
Mortality is very much on the mind of John Prine on this, his first album of all-new songs in 13 years. Understandably. After all, this is a man who has survived lung cancer and squamous cell cancer, the latter of which took a toll on his vocal cords. He's also had two knee replacements and a hip replacement. "All the TSA guys know me," jokes the legendary 71-year-old singer-songwriter. There are odes to the Almighty ("Boundless Love") and reflections on human limitations... »»»
Blackberry SmokeFind a Light
Blackberry Smoke will never fit the mold of a mainstream country act the way, say, Midland has done. They love to rock way too much to ever tamp it down permanently. And the aptly named "The Crooked Kind" follows a rollicking, rock & roll path that feels like just the right road. With that said, though, there are moments during "Find A Light" where Blackberry Smoke softens the sonic nicely and naturally. "Medicate My Mind," for instance, rocks to a likeable, gentle groove... »»»
Sarah Shook & the DisarmersYears
For the less informed, it might seem like the blink of an eye since Sarah Shook & the Disarmers dropped its first album but those of us paying closer attention know that last year's release of "Sidelong" was actually Bloodshot's reissue of Shook's 2015 album that she originally distributed through CD Baby. So, instead of the apparent months between Shook's debut and sophomore releases, the new album's genesis is accurately described by its title: "Years... »»»
Kim RicheyEdgeland
Nineteen years ago, back in those heady days when it was popular to learn what was on a celebrity's iPod playlist, Al Gore got some props for bringing Kim Richey's "Glimmer" to people's attention. That album cemented Richey's reputation as a singer-songwriter to be reckoned with. Since then Richey has been far from prolific, releasing only 4 albums, the last being 2013's "Thorn In My Heart." This is her strongest effort since "Glimmer... »»»
Motel MirrorsIn the Meantime
Motel Mirrors is a Memphis-based genre crossing quartet, centered on three-part harmonies, the lovely voice of Amy LaVere, contributions from three strong songwriters and two respected guitarists. Just as many of their Memphis predecessors crossed into different sounds, Motel Mirrors has some country, some soul, and plenty of Americana. Singer/bassist LaVere, originally from the Texas/Louisiana border, has been a Memphis mainstay for years, having worked frequently with Luther Dickinson and... »»»
Shotgun RiderPalo Duro
Shotgun Rider takes the old saying about playing a country song backwards and getting your wife back to a higher level on its full length debut "Palo Duro." Every song is about a girl and a heartbroken, lonely man either drowning his sorrows or spending another lonely, sleepless night as he pines away and tries to cope with longing, jealousy and loss. Mirroring the vastness of the Texas landmark canyon after which the album is named, there is a lot of air in the arrangements... »»»
Mary Chapin CarpenterSometimes Just The Sky
Artists with Ivy League degrees are just like us, but they can see into the future a little ahead of time. Brown graduate Mary Chapin Carpenter was writing wry feminist anthems like "He Thinks He'll Keep Her" and "The Hard Way" over25 years ago. And even those songs were from her fourth studio album - Carpenter's full career spans since the late '80s. She's remained a critical fave from the start, but her luster as a country music ingenue has long worn off... »»»
The Price SistersA Heart Never Knows
If you come across a bluegrass album by a group with "sisters" in its name, it is a pretty safe bet that you are going to be treated to some terrific harmony vocals. The Price Sisters, a young, twin-sibling duo hailing from Sardis, Ohio, is the latest bluegrass outfit proving that assumption to be true with its full-length debut on Rebel Records. Lauren and Leanna Price waste no time in showing off their intrinsic vocal abilities. "Love Me Or Leave Me Alone," the fast-paced... »»»
Dom FlemonsBlack Cowboys
As a co-founding member of Carolina Chocolate Drops, Dom Flemons was influential in keeping old-time string music alive for a new generation of music fans. With his latest solo outing, his first for the revered Smithsonian Folkways Recordings label, Flemons brings to light the underappreciated music and cultural contributions of African Americans as the country expanded to the west. With the 18-song collection "Black Cowboys," Flemons, a music scholar and historian, delves into... »»»
Paul ThornDon't Let the Devil Ride
Paul Thorn's first gospel album is as authentic as it is inspired. He recorded it on the (secularly) hallowed grounds of Sam Phillips Recording in Memphis, FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala. and Preservation Hall in New Orleans. He's also helped by the Blind Boys of Alabama, The McCrary Sisters and other celebrated gospel figures. The music he's created herein is the celebratory variety. It's 'feel good' gospel music sure to inspire you, even if you're an unbeliever... »»»
Andrew SheppardSteady Your Aim
When you hear Sheppard's voice, its high whine sets it apart right away from the deep, gravelly kind that you associate with most outlaw country. His richly layered accompaniments belie the standard country sound too, but mostly apparent is his natural gift for damn good songs. "Steady Your Aim' is full of them. Sheppard's sophomore release is an analog recording with narratives borne out of growing up in Idaho's open spaces, replete with pedal steel, piano, cello,... »»»
The Oak Ridge Boys17th Avenue Revival
With a group history that spans over 50 years, gospel and country music mainstays The Oak Ridge Boys are at a place when they could conceivably rest on their laurels, release a few greatest hits records and coast the rest of the way through their careers, and fans would still be pleased. Yet, this quartet is not content to rest. Calling once again upon producer Dave Cobb, who helped to press new energy into the group's career in 2009 with "The Boys Are Back," The Oak Ridge Boys have... »»»
Scotty McCreerySeasons Change
"Boys from Back Home" is Scotty McCreery's amalgamation of Kenny Chesney's "I Go Back" and "Boys of Fall," which even borrows words from each hit song to create something attempting to be new. It's not new. Instead, it sounds more like songwriting by committee, relying upon radio listener demographics. Many of these songs were created to sound immediately familiar to mainstream ears. They will. This doesn't mean they're good, though, let alone meaningful... »»»
Gerry SpeharAnger Management
Protesting has re-entered the American Zeitgeist, so it does stand to reason that a fresh stock of protest music will make up the soundtrack. Gerry Spehar, a Colorado folkie with electric tendencies, has signed up for a whole album's worth. A journeyman songwriter who's opened for a lot of famous folks, Spehar is now in (and still remembers) the '60s. The presidential election of 2016 unsettled him badly, and it sent him on a spate of writing blues for Blue-staters... »»»
Dave AdkinsRight or Wrong
Dave Adkins stepped to the plate and swung for the fences. His monster swing found the sweet spot and delivered a game-winning home run. "Right or Wrong" is filled with hot picking, great vocal presentations and a risk or two that absolutely pay off. If Adkins was trying to outshine previous releases, he may have done so. Adkins assembled an all-star team of musicians with Terry Baucom on banjo, Adam Steffey on mandolin, and Justin Moses on fiddle and Dobro. Mix in Carl Caldwell and... »»»
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