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Alice WallaceInto the Blue
California country singer-songwriter Alice Wallace is back with her fourth album, as "Into the Blue" marks her debut for the female-owned Rebelle Road label, a group intent on giving women a stronger platform in music. Wallace has a deeply emotive voice that conveys the imagery of California on several songs, notably "Santa Ana Winds," where her soaring soprano captures the intensity and drama of the wild fires with driving guitars, pulsating rhythms and a flute to symbolize the wind... »»»
Ronnie MilsapRonnie Milsap: The Duets
Is Ronnie Milsap proud of his age? For a clue, look no further than the name of his "76 for 76" Tour. There are some other numbers the North Carolina native is probably fond of, such as 40 number 1 records or 6 Grammys. Milsap's qualifications for the Country Music Hall of Fame were such a no-brainer they left electors with no brains. The injustice was rectified when Milsap was finally inducted in 2014. The primary hitmaking days are now a distant memory, but the blind piano man... »»»
Balsam RangeAeonic
Formed in 2007, Balsam Range already earned many international Bluegrass Music Association Awards across six albums. On their seventh, the acoustic quintet features four-part harmonies on most tunes, while the prevailing instruments are fiddle, mandolin, banjo, upright bass and guitar. Balsam Range is Buddy Melton (fiddle, vocals), Darren Nicholson (mandolin, vocals), Dr. Marc Pruett (banjo), Tim Surrett (bass, Dobro, Weissenborn, vocals) and Caleb Smith (guitar, vocals). The curious... »»»
Mitchell TenpennyTelling All My Secrets
Mitchell Tenpenny is yet one more artist stretching the definition of country music - nearly to the breaking point. While he sings with a distinctly enjoyable, Otis Redding-like soulful voice, the arrangements to these songs on his second album feature far more pop than twang. Steve Earle famously commented how contemporary country music is "hip-hop for people who are afraid of black people," but some of it - including this album's songs - sounds like pop music that doesn't... »»»
Dolly Parton's soundtrack to the movie "Dumplin'" includes a whole lot of Dolly music, both old and new. This movie tells character Sillowdean "Dumplin'" Dickson's story of participating in a local beauty pageant. The catch to this adaptation of Julie Murphy's young adult book is that Dickson is a weight-challenged girl and not the usually slender pageant participant. Parton's music is essential to the film because Dolly is Dickson's musical idol... »»»
Old 97'sLove the Holidays
"Love the Holidays" may read like one of those old timey Christmas album titles. You know, those sanitized, safe for the whole family song sets. Granted, there's nothing particularly family unfriendly on this seasonal collection; however, it's still a fairly typical Old 97's album. Vocalist Rhett Miller is just too angsty to ever make completely overjoyed, celebratory music. This album is typical Old 97's music, in the best sense of the term. "Christmas Is... »»»
Kip Moore's greatest musical selling point is his raspy singing voice. Much like Bob Seger long before him, his is a vocal tone that gets your immediate attention every time you hear it. This EP-length project presents Moore in a quieter setting than usual. That distinctive voice is unavoidable, though, whether revved up or tamped down. The song that stands out most is "It Ain't California," which is introduced with a beautifully twangy electric guitar riff... »»»
Glen CampbellSings for the King
At first glance it may seem an unlikely connection, that which tied Glen Campbell, the so-called Rhinestone Cowboy, with the undisputed King of Rock & Roll, Elvis Presley. Nevertheless, it was a relationship that spawned several years, mostly during Elvis' lean period in the mid '60s and Campbell's tenure as part of that famed studio ensemble, the Wrecking Crew. As the decade wore on, both men accelerated in prominence, Elvis via his 1968 televised comeback special and Campbell as... »»»
Taylor MartinSong Dogs
Among the many musical treasures from Asheville, N.C. is one of its best, already veteran, and still growing songwriters, Taylor Martin. The Richmond-raised, 14-year resident of Asheville has tapped into the local music scene in a major way, but also brings the spirit of the West, having spent five years in Utah and influences of southern rock and R&B to his eclectic sound. On "Song Dogs" Martin enlists the support of The Honeycutters' Amanda Anne Platt for producing and... »»»
Kane BrownExperiment
There's not a lot of room for argument to say that men singing country music today are different than the stars on the old Porter Wagoner show. Many have ditched the cowboy hat. They're hip-hop fans, video game junkies and spent most of their teenage money on tattoos. Kane Brown checks all these boxes and more. He's biracial, for example, subverting a country culture that seemed a little too exclusive for this century. And he built his following via the internet, not in clubs (a... »»»
TellicoWoven Waters
Tellico hails from that bastion of bluegrass and hybrid bluegrass, Asheville, N.C. to deliver its sophomore album "Woven Waters.'' This effort melds their rather inherent bluegrass affinities with British Isle influences, courtesy of producer and bouzouki player Irishman John Doyle. Under Doyle's direction, chord choices and rhythmic dynamics are varied. The intertwining strings of mandolin, banjo, Dobro and guitar create a blend, aptly named in the album title... »»»
Rodney CrowellChristmas Everywhere
Rodney Crowell's "Christmas Everywhere" is a (mostly) melancholy collection of songs, with Christmas time as its setting. It's a strong set of carefully worded tunes, set to widely varying musical backings. All 12 tracks are originals, so if you're seeking out 'Rodney Crowell performs holiday favorites,' this is certainly not for you. However, if you're a little tired of all the trappings associated with the winter season, you'll find an empathetic soul in Crowell... »»»
The MavericksHey! Merry Christmas!
Sometimes, musicians create holiday albums, and it's obvious to the listener the act is breaking character. Maybe they just want to make a buck off the seasonal experience, so they'll put on ill-fitting red clothes and play the part. With "Hey! Merry Christmas!" by The Mavericks, though, one finds another fine album by the group, which just happens to be comprised of songs that concern Christmas. For example, the title track is a piano-pumping, rockabilly Jerry Lee Lewis throwback... »»»
Granville AutomaticRadio Hymns
Songwriters Vanessa Olivarez and Elizabeth Elkins form the duo Granville Automatic, the name borrowed from a 19th Century typewriter. And, as you might guess, leaning on a name like that, they love to write about history. "Radio Hymns" is a journey into Nashville's storied past, beyond the glitz of neon, cowboy hats and Lower Broad to some earlier tales of dark times. Theirs is a side of Music City that few have heard. The music, while haunting in few places, skips along nicely... »»»
Rosanne CashShe Remembers Everything
Rosanne Cash's "She Remembers Everything" kicks off with "The Only Thing Worth Fighting For," which features the opening line, "Waking up is harder than it seems." This admission foreshadows a mostly joyless collection of songs. (If) she remembers everything, well, here's to forgetting. Another entry, "8 Gods of Harlem," comes along two songs later and features Kris Kristofferson and Elvis Costello helping Cash sing about a boy killed by gun violence... »»»
Whitey Morgan and the 78'sHard Times and White Lines
Whitey Morgan's fourth studio release exhibits the singer/songwriter's reverence for outlaw country and southern rock. The influence of Hank Williams, Jr. is evident on the opening "Honky Tonk Hell" with lyrics that evoke the Eagles and Elvis Presley ("You'll never check out of this heartbreak hotel"), while "Bourbon and Blues" gives a shout out to Hank Sr. ("I keep gettin' the same advice Hank Williams never used")... »»»
Josh TurnerI Serve a Savior
When Josh Turner reaches down to sing "swing low" during "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," he has the sort of deep voice that can do this chorus's low notes justice. Turner isn't shy about his Christian faith, which makes all of these "I Serve A Savior" songs ring true. Then with this title track, Turner pours on the traditional country joy with a pedal steel beauty. The latter makes the honky tonk feel like a church or vice versa. It's just the kind of line... »»»
Chely WrightSanta Will Find You!
Thoughtful may not always be a word applied to holiday music. Capitalization may be a more utilized descriptor. Nevertheless, Chely Wright's "Santa Will Find You" is a brief, but considerate collection of Christmas-inspired songs. The title track was written with military personnel in mind. Santa Claus will reach military men and women no matter how remotely they may be stationed. The lyric applies universally, though, as Wright sings over an orchestrated arrangement: "If... »»»
Blackberry SmokeThe Southern Ground Sessions
Blackberry Smoke's "The Southern Ground Sessions" EP is five versions of songs from the band's recent "Find a Light" album, along with a cover of Tom Petty's "You Got Lucky," which also features vocalist/violinist Amanda Shires. The project takes its name from the Southern Ground studio in Nashville, and this band, which can ramp up its music to Southern rock power - especially in concert - takes a few moments to quiet things down... »»»
Roland White & FriendsTribute To The Kentucky Colonels
The storied history of The Kentucky Colonels - Roland and Clarence White, Roger Bush, Bobby Slone, Billy Ray Latham, LeRoy Mack and others - goes back to 1954 when the California-based White Brothers decided music making was for them. With just two albums to their credit, "The New Sound of Bluegrass America" and "Appalachian Swing!", The Bluegrass Colonels influenced generations of bluegrass players following in their wake. The impact of Clarence White had on acoustic guitar... »»»
Eddie HeinzelmanWherever You Go
If you're at all familiar with session guitarist Eddie Heinzelman, it's from his fine work, both in the studio, and live in a duo format with Radney Foster. This is Heinzelman's second solo album, "Wherever You Go," an upbeat, rocking outing. There's plenty of his blazing guitar, mostly electric on these 10 songs. It's not a pure country effort at all, although it's in the mix alongside Americana, roots rock and some extended jamming too... »»»
Jason Isbell and the 400 UnitLive at the Ryman
Jason Isbell didn't record this live effort at The Ryman Auditorium as a gesture to be country music's savior at The Mother Church of Country Music. The Alabama native's music is country-adjacent at best, more than it is traditional in the way, say, Sturgill Simpson's can be. He may not be coming to the faltering genre's rescue, but he's sure breathing life into modern music in general. "Live From the Ryman" finds Isbell and his sharp band (the 400 Unit)... »»»
For more than two decades, Appleseed Recordings have been releasing politically charged, contemporary and traditionally-rooted folk music. Using those three themes to organize each disc in this three-volume set - protest folk, singer-songwriter folk and traditional folk - Appleseed provides a engrossing cross-section of their 165 releases with a treasure of unreleased recordings intermingled. Connections to country music are largely transitory: the appearance of Steve Earle with Pete Seeger... »»»
Edward David AndersonChasing Butterflies
Edward David Anderson is releasing his third solo album, having done five with Backyard Tire and three with Brother Jed. His solo efforts have been widely lauded, and this collection of tunes recorded in Muscle Shoals should bring plaudits too. It was through a tip from a friend that Anderson connected with Grammy Award winner Jimmy Nutt (The SteelDrivers) from the Shoals region. They quickly developed rapport and agreed to record at Jimmy's NuttHouse Recording Studio in Sheffield... »»»
Martina McBrideIt's the Holiday Season
Martina McBride's second holiday album is called "It's the Holiday Season," and some of this album was tracked at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. So, as you might expect, this music is a throwback to the kinds of albums The Rat Pack (and their contemporaries) once recorded at that same studio mostly in the '60s. McBride's version of "Winter Wonderland" is representative of the sort of music she's recorded for this project. It features a full string... »»»
Becky WarrenUndesirable
In many respects Becky Warren's "Undesirable" mirrors Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising" in its rallying cries, its driving, jangling guitars and ultimately its message of hope. This is one of this year's most impressive releases in the category, loosely called Americana, with elements of both a great country and superb rock n' roll album. This follows Warren's lauded solo debut, "War Surplus," that was partly inspired by her own life and... »»»
Bottle RocketsBit Logic
According to the old saying, the more things change the more they stay the same. That is an apt summary for "Bit Logic," the 13th album from the revered St. Louis-based Americana quartet Bottle Rockets. The 12-song set is thematically focused on coping with an ever-changing modern world - a notion that is buoyed by the band's resolute musical direction, which is mostly unaffected by the times. These separate, but related components work in concert to create an interesting artistic... »»»
Adam HoodSomewhere in Between
In contrast to a lot of mainstream country stars that consistently insist upon virtue-signaling their Southern roots at every turn, Adam Hood doesn't need to remind you about his Southern-ness at all. It's written all over the songs on his fine "Somewhere in Between" album. And when he praises the skies of his home state with "Alabama Moon," you best believe he knows what he's singing about. "Real Small Town," his song about small town life,... »»»
Ever More NestThe Place That You Call Home
The unusual name Ever More Nest is the project name for New Orleans-based, Shreveport, La.- raised singer-songwriter Kelcy Wilburn (aka Kelcy Mae). She has the poet's gift for lyrics and an engaging, lovely voice. Mae journeyed to Nashville for "The Place That You Call Home" and gathered some of Nashville's best musicians including noted songwriter and producer Neilson Hubbard (Kim Richey), multi-instrumentalist Will Kimbrough (guitar, banjo, mandolin, piano) and Grand Ole... »»»
Dailey & VincentThe Sounds Of Christmas
With "The Sounds of Christmas," Dailey & Vincent gift us with an honest-to-goodness country Christmas album. It's tough to find honest-to-goodness country music - let alone Christmas country - but this duo's bluegrass and gospel grounding give their album deep roots. Dolly Parton's big presence on "Road to Bethlehem" adds a sweet touch, even though the new song shares a melody with Bruce Springsteen's "One Step Up." It's one of a few new... »»»
Morgan EvansThings That We Drink To
Morgan Evans' U.S. debut a matter of personal preference. It straddles the line between repetitious and tedious. If you like radio friendly, cliched three-minute singles, then this half hour is for you. He is clearly following the formula that powered his international single," Kiss Somebody" to number one in the U.S. 2017 was a busy year for Evans between moving to the U.S. from Australia and marrying Kelsea Ballerini. She serves as his muse on several of the songs, clearly... »»»
The Okee Dokee BrothersWinterland
Brothers by band name only, Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing, the artists behind The Okee Dokee Brothers, took home the prize in the Best Children's Album category at the 55th Grammy Awards in 2013 thanks to their ability to combine memorable melodies with engaging lyrics and wrap them up in acoustic folk/roots arrangements. The duo flashes those same skills again on "Winterland," and the results are equally impressive. This 16-song set, comprised of all original secular... »»»
Sarah BorgesLove's Middle Name
Sarah Borges tackles some tough issues on "Love's Middle Name." "House on a Hill" is about the aftermath of a dead relationship. "Are You Still Takin' Them Pills" is pretty self-explanatory in nature. The eventually uplifting message of "Grow Wings" starts with the line "This world is too painful for gentle souls, someone like me." For all that darkness, the album, as is typical of Borges, is still a delight to play... »»»
When Aaron Watson titled his holiday album "An Aaron Watson Family Christmas," he wasn't kidding about the "family" part. Although his children - Jake, Jack and Jolee - are advertised as making cameo appearances, they're actually an essential part. "Christmas Time Is Here," for example, is an all-kids rendition. Watson's kids give this album special charm, while his singing and playing bring the traditional skill. This album includes a couple of new songs... »»»
Michael Martin MurpheyAustinology - Alleys of Austin
Michael Martin Murphey reflects on the rise of the Austin music scene by revisiting several of his own tunes and covering some of his favorite writers with mostly good results in this star-studded effort. Amongst the stronger remakes of Murphey compositions are "Geronimo's Cadillac," on which Murphey is joined by Steve Earle, and "Backslider's Wine" with Randy Rogers. Another standout cut is "Drunken Lady of the Morning" featuring Lyle Lovett... »»»
Rudi EksteinCarolina Chimes
After 30-plus years as a performer, producer and studio owner, Rudi Ekstein has developed tremendous instrumental chops and lasting friendships within the bluegrass genre. Both are evident on "Carolina Chimes," a 12-song collection of instrumental originals composed by Ekstein and featuring some of the best players in the business. Jeff Autry (guitar), Mark Schatz (upright bass) and John Plotnik (banjo), all award-winning musicians, join Stuart Duncan, one of the most respected and... »»»
Eric ChurchDesperate Man
While Eric Church has set the bar high with his previous studio albums, "Desperate Man" is right up there with his best and may just be his most accomplished effort to date. Church continues to write memorable songs in a wide variety of styles, and even when he's not singing over country musical elements, his lyrical voice is always undeniably a country one. He also knows how to have a little fun, especially with "Hanging Around," a soulful, funky tune mixing together... »»»
Town MountainNew Freedom Blues
Town Mountain is a bluegrass band at its core. But here, whilst true to the bluegrass form (drinking - "One Drop In The Bottle; wide open spaces - "North of Cheyenne"; more open spaces- "Lazy River," "Pamlico"), there's an edge to it all. "Life and Debt" is, not surprisingly, a pushback on the New American Normal, as is the title cut. Town Mountain's sixth studio album shows the group's writing strength and confidence in playing... »»»
A four-year recording hiatus did nothing to damper J.P. Harris's creativity. In fact, the carpenter, singer, and songwriter has stretched his sound a bit with "Sometimes Dogs Bark At Nothing," a 10-song offering on which Harris ventures further afield from his honky-tonk roots while still producing a unique brand of country that is at once contemporary and classic. The first few notes make it crystal clear that something different is afoot. "JP's Florida Blues #1" is... »»»
This set benefitting the fine work of the International Bluegrass Music Association Trust Fund certainly has more positives going for it than negatives. With opening with lines honoring those who came before: "Their hands have made the music, wooden boxes and some strings, bringing life to the melodies our lonesome voices sing - guitar, banjo, fiddle, a mandolin and bass - they put their trust in us now, a lifetime leap of faith"- sang so smoothly by Sideline's Bailey Coe, there is... »»»
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