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Hawktail features some of the finest players of a generation in traditional American acoustic music. The product of their collaboration, "Formations," is a testament to the musical milieu in which they create. As an integrated work, "Formations" weaves lively beautiful threads of melodies and expansive playing into a rich fabric of music. Each of the members of Hawktail is a solid traditional player. Fiddle player Brittany Haas has played in Crooked Still, played on the... »»»
Blake SheltonFully Loaded: God's Country
Blake Shelton has been openly critical of the traditional album format. "Fully Loaded: God's Country" is his fourth greatest hits album and third in the "Loaded" series. In an effort to release music more often, he packages five new songs with seven of previously released material that has received considerable airplay and time on the charts. if you're looking for the fresh stuff, this is essentially an EP spearheaded by the Platinum lead single "God's Country... »»»
Jason Aldean9
Hollywood may be pushing a broadminded agenda where there are more genders than one can even count, but in Jason Aldean's world, there are only two: tough guys, and the women that love them. There's no confusion it's a guy in the "Camouflage Hat," for example. Also, nothing is said or done without also washing it down with alcohol. The opener,"Tattoos and Tequila," breaks it down into tattoos to remember, and tequila to forget. Within its booze for every... »»»
Lady AntebellumOcean
Lady Antebellum may lean a little too closely to pop music for many tastes, but it's hard to argue with the trio's song choices. And its latest collection is filled with many memorable songs. The single "What If I Never Get Over You," poses a rarely asked pop song question. Humans have come to believe the cliché, 'Time heals all wounds,' as if it were some sort of scientific fact. But what if it's just that, a well-worn cliché, with no actual... »»»
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... »»»
The first time we encountered the term 'insurgent country,' we were in the mid-90s. The roots-rock music world was quickly evolving, and a Chicago-based upstart called Bloodshot Records was putting out compilations featuring groups involving the likes of Jon Langford (and his Hillbilly Lovechild), Freakwater, Robbie Fulks, The Handsome Family and a bunch of folks who didn't become household names. Slow-forward a quarter century and roots music includes a defiantly broader... »»»
Wade BowenTwelve Twenty-Five
With "Twelve Twenty-Five," Wade Bowen covers a whole lot of musical territory. He sings a couple of country Christmas favorites ("If We Make It Through December" (featuring Cody Canada) and "Once Upon A Christmas" (the Dolly Parton song). He also bravely takes on "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," which stands up surprisingly well next to Darlene Love's definitive version. He also makes a couple of widely unloved holiday songs ("Last... »»»
Erin EnderlinFaulkner County
The second full-length release from Nashville-based singer/songwriter Erin Enderlin is an appealing throwback to mainstream '90s country music. Dark themes permeate much of the album as with the haunting ballad "Hometown Jersey" about a high school athlete seemingly destined for greatness ("He had a Troy Aikman arm, even as a kid"), who dies tragically in a car crash and is laid to rest in his football jersey. The song features harmony vocals from Terri Clark... »»»
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... »»»
Allison MoorerBlood
Allison Moorer's new disc, billed as a "companion piece" to her recently published memoir of the same title, stands powerfully as a "musical memoir" on its own. Moorer is a gifted singer and songwriter, but the book and album tell a real-life story that she has struggled for more than three decades to come to grips with. Tragedy struck Moorer at the age of 14 when her father, Franklin Moorer, a musician and alcoholic with abusive tendencies, shot his wife Lynn (the... »»»
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... »»»
Old DominionOld Dominion
Old Dominion has gained a following on the heels of two albums of lively material. Their self-titled third release stays the course and delivers a dozen radio-friendly songs. The hyper positive lead single "Make it Sweet" sets the stage with an ode to the brighter side of everything. Most tracks are upbeat but, ironically, there is not an official party anthem or even a drinking song. The closest they get is "American Style," which is laden with standard innocent imagery... »»»
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... »»»
Band of RuhksAuthentic
Four years have passed since the Band of Ruhks last graced the airwaves with new music, and in that time, something has changed. No longer is the band a trio; instead, they have upgraded to an honest-to-goodness-full-flavored-bluegrass-powerhouse thanks to the addition of banjo man Brian Fesler. Like Ronnie Bowman (bass), Don Rigsby (mandolin), and Kenny Smith (guitar), Fesler too is an alumnus of Lonesome River Band (although at a different time). "Authentic" is a collection of... »»»
Chris JansonReal Friends
"Real Friends" is a showcase for the rubberband quality of Chris Janson's voice. He's got a Mel Tillis stammer in "Check" and a Florida Georgia Line yowl in "Normal People." Kenny Chesney should get a royalty check on "Everybody's Going Through Something." But what's noticeably different about Janson is touch. His songs deftly sprinkle on a dash of horns, rock or hip-hop. But it's all county-infused flavors added by a chef in control... »»»
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... »»»
Chris KnightAlmost Daylight
Chris Knight's last recording, "Little Victories," was released in 2012, which makes the seven year wait for "Almost Daylight" seem uncommonly long. Clearly Knight was in no hurry. A resident of rural Kentucky, he has a laid back attitude that's perfectly in sync with his rural roots. Not surprisingly, he was a late bloomer as well. He earned a degree in agriculture from Western Kentucky University, and after graduation, he spent 10 years as a mine reclamation... »»»
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... »»»
Kacy & ClaytonCarrying On
Granted, their name brings to mind an old cops buddy TV series from the 1990s, but a close glance at the cover of their album "Carrying On" reveals a couple who genuinely appear as if they just emerged from the hillsides of Laurel Canyon. Indeed, their boy-girl symmetry is more befitting some sun-speckled idyllic image of Southern California circa 1969, the glow of. innocence still evident in their stealth-like gaze. Five albums on, the Canadian duo, which consists primarily of... »»»
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... »»»
Kelsey WaldonWhite Noise/White Lines
Her first two albums earned Kentucky native Kelsey Waldon a lot of attention for her down-to-earth, slice of life songs delivered in a hard-edged, working class baritone and backed by ethereal, retro arrangements that resonated of '50s-era jukeboxes across the south and west. John Prine is not Kentucky-born (though as anyone who's familiar with his song "Paradise" knows, his roots run deep in the Bluegrass State), but he was impressed enough to add Waldon to the roster... »»»
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... »»»
EmiSunshine and The RainFamily Wars
Child stars are generally looked upon as an unlikely novelty for reasons that are abundantly clear. Aside from the fact they can appear both precious and precocious, even the most successful - Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Tanya Tucker being among the most obvious examples - resemble some sort of freak of nature. At an age where most kids are making the transition to their teenage years and wrestling with the physical, emotional and psychological changes that are taking place mentally,... »»»
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... »»»
Billy StringsHome
As befits the reigning IBMA Guitar Player of the Year, Billy Strings' second full release, "Home" displays his guitar-playing range. But, there is much more to the fellow that rages through live shows, and those qualities are displayed on "Home." Strings (born William Apostol) lives up to his nom de guerre. Electric, acoustic 6- or 12-string guitar provide the ingredients for his work, and his guitar work is mostly, although not always, delivered at a breakneck tempo,... »»»
Zoe and CloydI Am Your Neighbor
Married musicians, if they can already sing individually, tend to make wonderful harmonies together. There's something about the familiarity and safety of two people in love that promote pitches that mesh. Zoe and Cloyd show this off terrifically. Gathering a solid following in their home base around Asheville, N.C., the duo has carved out a space for themselves in a crowded Americana scene. Part of this is the infusion of fiddler Natalya Zoe Weinstein's heritage from greater Ukraine... »»»
Corb LundCover Your Tracks
Canadian singer/songwriter Corb Lund is a decade and a half into a fairly successful career with nine studio albums to his credit and a razor sharp touring band, the Hurtin' Albertans, backing him on the road that never ends. Lund's albums have typically been musical quilts of his myriad influences, including country, folk, indie and roots rock, honky tonk, bluegrass and Western, the specific cowboy genre that evolved on the left side of North America, all of which he channels through... »»»
Riley GreenDifferent 'Round Here
Listening to the way Riley Green strings together a collection of heartfelt country songs may make you wish more artists did it this way. In fact, I'm sure Hank done it this way. If you think lyrics like the ones to "Numbers On The Cars," are exceptions, "Different 'Round Here" is mostly more of the same good thing. With the song "Different 'Round Here," Green sings a Southern pride song, but it's one that goes much deeper than a regional affection for sweet tea... »»»
Pieta BrownFreeway
Since her eponymous debut album in 2002, Pieta Brown has embraced and transcended the potentially daunting fact that her father and stepmother are iconic singer/songwriters Greg Brown and Iris DeMent, finding a way to craft her own musical identity without catering to industry or fan expectations and yet still build on the folk foundation of her birthright. Brown's work to this point has been marked by her hushed, almost whispered vocals over a jazzy/bluesy Americana/folk soundtrack, but her... »»»
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... »»»
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