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Isbell, Rice, Denning drop new sounds

Friday, May 15, 2020 – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit are back with "Reunions," perhaps his most personal album yet. Isbell keeps the album a taut 10 songs. The disc was produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Dave Cobb and recorded at Nashville's historic RCA Studio A. "Reunions" is Isbell's seventh full-length studio album and the fourth released with his band, the 400 Unit: Derry deBorja (piano, keyboard, organ, omnichord), Chad Gamble (drums, tambourine), Jimbo Hart (bass), Amanda Shires (fiddle) and Sadler Vaden (acoustic guitar, electric guitar). The new album also includes background vocals from special guests David Crosby (Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Byrds) and Jay Buchanan (Rival Sons).

Chase Rice is back with more new music today, "The Album Part II." The four-song project follows January's surprise release of The Album Part I and will be part of an overall collection slated for later this year. Rice had a hand in writing three of the four songs. Chris DeStefano and Rice co-produced the project.

Travis Denning has enjoyed a lot of success as a songwriter for the likes of Jason Aldean, Michael Ray and Justin Moore. He also had a semi-hit with "David Alan Parker From Powder Springs." He's out with a heavily beer-themed six-song EP, which includes the hit "After a Few." "David Alan Parker..." was not included on the EP produced by Jeremy Stover.

Gretchen Peters releases "The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury" (Scarlet Letter Records) honoring the singer-songwriter in a project that had been simmering for at least a decade. Peters recorded the disc at Cinderella Studio where Newbury recorded a trio of albums in the late '50s/'60s. Songs include "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)," a hit for Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.

Bluegrass band Special Consensus is out with "Chicago Barn Dance," celebrating the 45th anniversary of the band and the longstanding connection of country and bluegrass from the time of radio station WLS' National Barn Dance. The songs relate to Chicago and/or were penned by artists who lived there. Robbie Fulks, Michael Cleveland, Rob Ickes and Alison Brown are among the guests.

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CD reviews

Chicago Barn Dance CD review - Chicago Barn Dance
We've come to expect quality from Special Consensus. Grammy nominees and frequent IBMA award nominees and winners, Special C has ascended to the top of their bluegrass world. In their 45th year, banjoist Greg Cahill has shepherded the group to increasingly impressive levels. "Chicago Barn Dance" is no exception. A concept album, "Chicago Barn Dance" celebrates not only Special C's sapphire anniversary, but also Cahill's hometown's connections to roots music. »»»
The Album Part II CD review - The Album Part II
Chase Rice has embraced Nashville's new business model of releasing music more frequently. Rice's EP "The Album Part II" will combine with the surprise seven-song January release of "Part I." Rice said, "The Album Part II only has four songs, so it's really easy for people to go check out all four songs. They're all very different." The issue with incrementally releasing music, especially in the EP format, is a lack of cohesion. »»»
Reunions CD review - Reunions
"It gets easier, but it never gets easy," Jason Isbell reminds us on the song "It Gets Easier." It's a simple couplet, utilizing small words, yet it expresses a big truth. Then, with the song's first verse, Isbell - a recovering alcoholic - relays a dream that finds him drinking again. "I woke up feeling fine/That's how I knew it was a dream," he explains, sounding both afraid and relieved. Yes, these words are personal for Isbell, but his message is »»»
Editorial: Walking the talk – When names like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Waylon and the Hag are invoked, you're talking hard core country. These are the touchstones of country , the guys who made country music what it was and still is (or maybe can be). When these folks would sing about being down-and-out and the rough-and-tumble, they knew of what they were singing about. Fast forward a few years to the country singers of today. »»»
Concert Review: The Lil Smokies provide the perfect antidote – On a night when the world to be falling further apart thanks to coronavirus (this would be the night the NBA postponed the season), there stood The Lil Smokies to at least in some small measure save the day. The quintet is part of a generation of musicians with bluegrass as the basis, but not totally the sum of the music either.... »»»
Concert Review: White makes the case for himself, no matter how dark the music – John Paul White opined with a glint in his eyes that his songs were not of the uplifting variety. In fact, they were downright dark. How else to explain "The Long Way" with the line "long way home back to you." Or "James," a song inspired by his grandfather who suffered from dementia. But lest you think that the Alabama... »»»
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Copy That CD review - Copy That
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Reunions CD review - Reunions
"It gets easier, but it never gets easy," Jason Isbell reminds us on the song "It Gets Easier." It's a simple couplet, utilizing small words, yet it expresses a big truth. Then, with the song's first verse, Isbell - a recovering alcoholic  »»»
Hold My Beer, Vol. 2 CD review - Hold My Beer, Vol. 2
As its title suggests, this 12-song Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen duet album is a mostly lighthearted affair. Whether the pair is only slightly concerned about unhealthy behaviors with "Habits" or jesting about the world's »»»
The K is Silent CD review - The K is Silent

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