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TMEfm Radio Favorite Albums of 2018REPORTDick Slack
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Americana, Blues, Folk, Roots and more. TMEfm Radio Favorite Albums of 2018
Playing hundreds of albums every year makes choosing 20 very difficult, so you chose more than 20.
Give your ears a treat and have a listen. Your eyes too, watch the videos.
Thanks to reviewers whose snippets I have used, Thanks for album art, thanks for videos and most important Thanks to the Artists for their music.
More albums may be added but they will start at #22.Sep 08, 2019 - katieknipp.com - 1
Katie Knipp is equipped with powerful vocals and plays a variety of instruments from boogie woogie piano to slide guitar, to honest harmonica laden stories in between. She has opened for Robert Cray, Joan Osborne, Jimmie Vaughan, Jon Cleary, The Doobie Brothers, Tim Reynolds, The James Hunter Six, and more. #10 on Blues Albums Billboard and 2019 SAMMIE award winner for best blues artist.1UpvoteReact with Emoji02
Mary Gauthier - Rifles & Rosary BeadsSep 08, 2019
Co-written with U.S. veterans and their families, the eleven deeply personal songs on this album reveal the untold stories, and powerful struggles that these veterans and their spouses deal with abroad and after returning home.
_"You’ll be hard-pressed to hear a more powerfully moving work than Rifles & Rosary Beads this year — or any other.”
UpvoteReact with Emoji0Sep 08, 2019 - jimallchin.com - 0
- LA Times_
Last year we saw the release of Jim Allchin’s Decisions album which garnered good critical review for it’s great songs and musicianship. Allchin returned to the studio this past Spring to once again collaborate with Tom Hambridge and his team. Hambridge has produced Grammy winners before and to make things even sweeter he and Allchin invited Mike Zito, Bobby Rush and The Memphis Horns to join them on this production.
The output of all that is 14 new songs, 3 penned by Allchin alone and the other 11 were collaborations between Allchin, Hambridge and a couple of other folks here and there. In addition to Allchin on vocals and guitar are Bob Britt, Kenny Greenberg and Rob McNelley on rhythm guitar, Hambridge on drums, Kevin McKendree on keys, Glenn Worf on bass, Mycle Wastman on backing vocals and the aforementioned guest musicians.UpvoteReact with Emoji0Sep 08, 2019 - peter-rowan.com - 0
Peter Rowan has paid his dues, spending more than 50 years in and around bluegrass, sharing the stage with everyone from Bill Monroe and Jerry Garcia. Now, he’s paying tribute.
His new CD on Rebel Records is called Carter Stanley’s Eyes. But the title cut isn’t the only nod to the man many consider the best lead singer in bluegrass. Cut after cut, including two written by Carter, two written by his brother Ralph, and one by Monroe, the songs conjure up memories of the artist who left us far too soon, in 1966.
But the title cut, one of three songs on the CD written by Rowan, seals the deal. The Light in Carter Stanley’s Eyes recounts the day in 1965 when Monroe and Rowan — a member of the Blue Grass Boys who wasn’t yet old enough to vote — visited Carter near the end of his tragically shortened life.
The song includes a spoken part, in which Rowan recalls Monroe telling Stanley that he had been one of his favorite Blue Grass Boys, and his favorite lead singer. It also recounts Stanley asking Rowan if he was “going to stick with it,” which Rowan answered affirmatively. Given that more than half a century has passed between the question and this new project, Rowan clearly kept his end of the bargain.
The song, with it’s built-in oral history of an important moment in bluegrass history, will help make Carter Stanley relevant to new generations of pickers. And it should add momentum to the push to add Carter and Ralph to the Country Music Hall of Fame, an oversight that frankly should have been corrected long ago.UpvoteReact with Emoji0Sep 08, 2019 - buddyguy.net - 0
Buddy Guy stands as one of the last true traditional blues legends of his time; an era that predated the rock ‘n’ roll explosion of the mid-1960s. Few remain, and even fewer are still releasing albums that remind us as to why they have enjoyed such a lengthy and illustrious career. The Blues Is Alive And Well is very much one of those albums. As a follow-up to his 2015 release, Born To Play Guitar, and his eighteenth solo studio album, The Blues Is Alive And Well features collaborations with Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger, and is certainly one of the best blues records to be released this year.UpvoteReact with Emoji0Sep 10, 2019 - beckybuller.com - 0
Becky’s body of work is already vast and impressive, as a songwriter and as artist, and she has the awards and accolades to back it up. But, as Crepe Paper Heart demonstrates, she’s not about to rest on her laurels.
From the opening notes of Another Love Gone Wrong to the closing of Phoenix Arise, the 12 songs will take you on an emotional roller coaster of thrills, tears, longing and loss. The stories are compelling, as her songs tend to be. And the performances are top drawer. Again, that’s no surprise if you’ve followed her on stage and on record. With the collective strength of her band and an all-star lineup of guests, anything less would be shocking.UpvoteReact with Emoji0Sep 10, 2019 - nickibluhm.com - 0
Heartbreak is never any fun, but it sure seems to be good fuel for the creative process. Nicki Bluhm first found an audience for her rich, smoky voice while making music with her husband Tim Bluhm, who produced her early albums and co-founded their band, the Gramblers. But in November 2015, the Bluhms revealed they were getting a divorce, and their creative partnership ended along with their marriage. Splitting up was clearly not a pleasant experience for Nicki, and she lays out all her hurt and disappointment on her 2018 album, To Rise You Gotta Fall. This is a breakup album if there ever were such a thing, but Bluhm doesn't sound like the experience has weakened her. There are bittersweet moments in "Staring at the Sun" and "Last to Know" where Bluhm reveals her emotional wounds, but more often she sounds clear-eyed in her postmortem of her relationship ("Something Really Mean") or defiant as she moves past the wreckage ("Can't Fool the Fool" and "Things I've Done"). Musically, To Rise You Gotta Fall is steeped in vintage R&B and soul with a dash of country for seasoning, and the bluesy angles of the music are a perfect match for Bluhm's ruminations on a love that used to be. The album was cut in Memphis at the legendary Sam Phillips Recording Studio, and producer Matt Ross-Spang has put together a band that can evoke the sounds of R&B past without sounding dated or falsely nostalgic. And To Rise You Gotta Fall features some of Bluhm's finest vocal work, filled with passion and nuance at the same time, and for all the powerful emotions in play here, she doesn't overplay, and the focus and restraint only make this music more intense. Hopefully Nicki Bluhm won't have to get dumped again for her to make an album this good, but at least she found a way to put her broken heart to good use, and To Rise You Gotta Fall ranks with her best music to date.UpvoteReact with Emoji08
Kinky Friedman - Circus of LifeSep 08, 2019
Before he was a novelist, and before he ran for governor of the state of Texas, Kinky Friedman was known as a musician. Proof of that can be found in his first new album in close to four decades, Circus of Life, being released on his own Echo Hill label.
As the lead singer of Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys he was responsible for such country classics as “Asshole from El Paso” and “They Don’t Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore”. The band also hold the distinction of being one of the few who were filmed for the famed TV show Austin City Limits but whose segment was never aired. (It is available on DVD if you look hard enough).
While Kinky has mellowed somewhat since those halcyon days, only “Little Jewford” Shelby (piano) still rides with him, and his songs aren’t as in your face as they used to be, none of that impacts on the quality of the material you’ll find on this album. For while the twelve songs on the disc only add up to just over 35 minutes of music, their substance can’t be measured by how much time they take up.UpvoteReact with Emoji0Sep 08, 2019 - johnprine.com - 0
A new album from John Prine is always reason to celebrate, but an album in which he wrote or co-wrote all the songs is an even bigger reason to rejoice. The Tree of Forgiveness is the first album since 2005’s Fair & Square where Prine has written the songs. He has issued albums since then, but like Bob Dylan, they have been albums of cover versions, but this album is Prine and, I would argue, Prine at his best.
Prine co-writes with old friends and longtime collaborators on this album. He even wrote a song with Phil Spector — he started writing the song, “God Only Knows”, decades ago. Pat McLaughlin, Roger Cook, and Keith Sykes have worked with Prine in the past. He has made some new friends too in Dan Auerbach, who co-wrote the brilliant “Caravan of Fools”, and Brandi Carlile, who duets with Prine on the beautiful “I Have Met My Love Today”.UpvoteReact with Emoji0Sep 08, 2019 - hambridgetunes.com - 1
When Nashville-based singer/songwriter/producer Tom Hambridge decided to pay tribute to the city of New Orleans with this CD, he had no trouble recruiting several of the biggest names in Big Easy music – including Ivan Neville, Sonny Landreth and the late Allen Toussaint — to help him. But that should come as no surprise to anyone who’s aware of the rich legacy he’s already created in the worlds of blues, country and rock.
A native of Buffalo, N.Y., who graduated from Berklee College Of Music and spent three years on the road as the percussionist for guitar legend Roy Buchanan, Hambridge has earned Grammys as a producer of Buddy Guy’s Living Proof and Born To Play Guitar albums as well as more nominations for his collaboration with a who’s who of entertainers, including Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Van Morrison, Johnny Winter, Gregg Allman, Kid Rock, George Thorogood, Susan Tedeschi and many others.UpvoteReact with Emoji011
Mark Knopfler - Down the Road WhereverSep 08, 2019
Mark Knopfler’s ninth solo studio album ‘Down The Road Wherever’ features unhurriedly elegant new songs inspired by a wide range of subjects, including his early days in Deptford with Dire Straits, a stray football fan lost in a strange town, and the compulsion of a musician hitching home through the snow. Mark has a poet’s eye for telling details that infuse his songs with his unique psychogeography – ‘where the Delta meets the Tyne’ as he describes it – and his warm Geordie vocal tone and his deft, richly melodic guitar playing are as breathtaking and thrilling as ever.UpvoteReact with Emoji012
JP Harris - Sometimes Dogs Bark at NothingSep 08, 2019
JP Harris doesn’t fancy himself a musician as much as a carpenter who writes country songs. With his forthcoming album, Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing (out October 5 on Free Dirt Records), Harris is back after a four-year hiatus to remind us what it's like to actually live the stories we hear so often in country music. Born in Montgomery, Alabama, Harris left home at 14 and traveled the country hopping freight trains, working the odd job, and living without electricity or running water for over a decade. For this record, his third full-length, he tapped a handful of his favorite players and called on the production prowess of Morgan Jahnig (Old Crow Medicine Show) to capture the stories of his stranger-than-fiction life. Dripping with pedal steel and telecaster twang, the record has the rugged edges of outlaw, the danceability of honky tonk, and classic country's beloved emotional candor. After more than a decade in the trenches, Harris is more in love with country music than ever. If he hasn't already, his latest effort will make you a believer.UpvoteReact with Emoji0Sep 08, 2019 - steveforbert.com - 0
Steve Forbert’s new album ‘Magic Tree,’ recorded in Meridian (his birthplace in Mississippi), Nashville, New York, New Jersey and Virginia, is a collection of his own songs and the music loses nothing in its quality of production despite the country wide recording venues. Throughout the album his folk roots shine clear, as does his song writing ability honed over his forty years in the music industry.UpvoteReact with Emoji0Sep 10, 2019 - paulthorn.com - 1
Who cares that geezer rocker Steven Tyler is making a country record? We’ve got real reason to celebrate: Ronnie Bowman made a new bluegrass record!
Bowman, who has spent most of his time in country music since leaving the Lonesome River Band in 2001, has teamed up with two other LRB alums, Kenny Smith and Don Rigsby, to record and perform as the Band of Ruhks. Their self-titled 13-song CD on the 101 Ranch Label, officially released today, is a stunner.
Make no mistake, this is not a Lonesome River Band reunion with someone else filling Sammy Shelor’s banjo role. For one thing, that band – and Sammy – are still going strong. This is a fresh, new approach that will have people talking all summer long, perhaps right up until the IBMA awards show this fall.
Bowman has writing credits on six of the 13 songs here, and his voice is as strong as ever. But this isn’t merely Ronnie Bowman and friends. Smith and Rigsby aren’t just along for the ride. They’ll full partners, adding sublime vocals and instrumental punch – Kenny on guitar and Don on mandolin, mandola, octave mandolin and viola. A number of all-star pickers join in, including Chris Brown on drums and percussion on 10 of the tracks.
Don’t let the drums scare you. This is Exhibit A in how to use percussion in a bluegrass setting. Brown is expressive and tasteful and doesn’t get in the way of the amazing interplay between Smith’s guitar, Rigsby’s mandolin and guests on fiddle and banjo.
Brown’s subtle rhythm is evident from the starting notes of the album’s opener, All the Way, a straightforward tale of surprise romance. It’s vintage Bowman, an uncomplicated story compellingly told.
Also in that mold is All We Need, a simple love song beefed up with some sweet orchestral string work.
Much of the project’s pre-release attention came from Coal Minin’ Man, with Ralph Stanley’s a cappella introduction. It’s a fine song, and it’s always fun to hear Dr. Ralph. But there are other songs here that deserve attention.
One of them is Here Comes Your Broken Heart Again, written by Barry Bales and Shawn Lane. This is one of those quintessential bluegrass songs in which the fast-paced picking belies the broken-hearted blues of the lyrics. Expressive banjo picking from Scott Vestal adds some tension. This one is bound to be a radio favorite.
Another gem is Can’t Get Over You. This song is decidedly country, and it might be a moneymaker for local police departments. The combination of hard-driving melody, fueled by Stuart Duncan’s fiddling and Jimmy Stewart’s resonator guitar work makes it easy to lose track of the speed limit, especially with the windows down and the volume cranked up. (I didn’t get caught!)
But the real emotional powerhouse in this collection is a Harley Allen gem, Rendezvous With Danger. It tells the tale of hard-drinking Bobby and hard-working Tommy driving down the road toward each other one night. With Tommy just three miles from home, the listener knows with gut-clenching certainty how this story will end. Except there’s a twist. The song ends before the story does!
And if we live or if we die
Is up to me and you
How this song ends
Is up to us my friends.
If you like the record, you’ll be pleased to know that the Band of Ruhks is lining up tour dates and getting ready to take the show on the road.
If you don’t like this record, I guess there’s always Steven Tyler.
Chadwick Stokes’ second album, The Horse Comanche, sounds like Paul Simon for the SnapChat generation.
On “Pine Needle Tea,” Stokes takes a foundation of woodsy marimba, lightweight guitars and galloping percussion and sprinkles it with the luminous harmonies of Simon and his one-time foil, Art Garfunkel, arming the whole affair with shimmering electric guitars a la Richard Thompson. “Prison Blue Eyes” sounds like a Simon cut gone modernist, a reggae-styled pop song that bears all the harmonic and melodic trademarks of the latter’s “Mother And Child Reunion” period, infused with banging rivets of snare drum.
“I Want You Like A Seatbelt,” wherein Stokes says he “wants you across his lap,” is a hand-clapping two-step that owes it’s essence to the bedroom fantasy of “Cecilia.” There’s more Simon & Garfunkel harmonies on the title cut and, once it gets rolling, “Our Lives, Our Time” has the rapping lyrical patois of “Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard” (with a hint of late-era Dion DiMucci).
This is not to say Stokes’ is a Simon mockingbird. The buzzy guitars of “New Haven” are decidedly post-modern, “Dead Badger” owes more to Ben Harper than “Feelin’ Groovy” and the echoey metallic sheen of the album’s production (courtesy of Noah Georgeson, Brian Deck and Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam) is certainly more modern than “Mrs. Robinson.” But this is still Paul Simon for the modern ear, which is not a bad feather for Stokes to stick in his cap.
This is a damn good record, one that’ll bring happiness to Americana music lovers of all stripes.
Folks who like old time country will dig tunes like “Before The Sun Goes Down,” an easy-going fiddle and dobro number that would sound as comfortable on the radio of a ‘49 Chevy pickup as it does on a Spotify playlist. “I’d Rather be Gone,” with it’s lonesome pedal steel guitar, comes straight from the roadhouse jukebox songbook of Hank Williams while the beautiful ballad “More Than Roses” speaks to a later era of country music, when the likes of Marty Robbins ruled the radio airwaves.
On the bluegrass tip, there’s the ramblin’ “Little Cabin Home On The Hill,” a enthusiastic piece that highlights Hensley’s fine guitar playing. “Some folks called him ‘Lightnin’, but I just called him ‘Dad’,” they sing on their ode to “runnin’ shine” called “Lightnin'” but no words are necessary to get the jist of “Raisin’ The Dickens,” a rambunctious instrumental piece that gives everyone in the band a taste of the action.
Fans of contemporary country will probably like this album, too. Though the record harkens back to a sound of 50 years yore, the songs still sound fresh and new (and will probably be covered by the likes of Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan in just a moment’s time). Everybody knows Ickes is a dobro genius — still! — and everyone should know young Hensley (just 24 years old) is gifted with a voice that easily earns its comparisons to George Jones and Merle Haggard.
Yeah, this is just a damn good record of fine country music.
When a clutch of unfinished lyrics written during Bob Dylan‘s 1967 sojourn at Big Pink in Woodstock, New York was discovered in 2013, there were really only two choices left for his publisher: either they could be collected as text or set to music. Once the decision to turn these words into songs was made, there was really only one logical choice to direct the project: T-Bone Burnett, the master of impressionistic Americana. He had played with Dylan during the Rolling Thunder Revue of 1975 and 1976 — a tour that happened to occur in the wake of the first official release of The Basement Tapes — but more importantly, his 2002 work on the Grammy-winning O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack established him as deft modernizer of classic American folk and country, skills that were needed for an album that wound up called Lost on the River. Burnett decided to assemble a loose-knit band of Americana superstars to write the music and play as a band. That’s how Burnett‘s old pal Elvis Costello, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons, and Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops became a band called the New Basement Tapes (the name seems more of a formality than an actual moniker), and if Burnett‘s intent was to approximate the communal spirit Dylan had with the Band at Big Pink, the execution was much different. The New Basement Tapes recorded Lost on the River in a real studio fully aware there was an audience awaiting their output, an attitude that’s the polar opposite of the ramshackle joshing around of the original Basement Tapes. Thankfully, nobody involved with Lost on the River contrives to replicate either the sound or feel of the 1967 sessions, even if the artists consciously pick up the strands of country, folk, and soul dangling on the originals. Wisely, the songwriters steer their given lyrics toward their own wheelhouses, which means this contains a little of the woolliness of a collective but Burnett sands off the rough edges, tying this all together. Certainly, some musicians make their presence known more than others — there’s a slow, soulful ease to James‘ four contributions that stand in nice contrast to Costello‘s canny bluster (“Married to My Hack” would’ve fit onto any EC album featuring Marc Ribot) — but the best work might come from Goldsmith, who strikes a delicate, beguiling balance between his own idiosyncrasies and the Americana currents that flow out of The Basement Tapes. Then again, the whole project is rather impressive: Burnett and the New Basement Tapes remain faithful to the spirit of The Basement Tapes yet take enough liberties to achieve their own identity, which is a difficult trick to achieve.
Gareth Dickson is best known for his live accompaniment of English singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan — but that shouldn’t be all the guitarist is known for. Dickson’s latest collection of songs, Invisible String, solidifies his position as a highly skilled singer in his own right. The album is an assortment of live tracks Dickson recorded on his travels through Europe, a journey that took him from Istanbul to Paris and everywhere in between.
Our Song of the Week “Like a Clock” is a haunting meditation on spirituality, a delicate combination of fingerpicked guitar and vocals that echo one of Dickson’s musical inspirations, Nick Drake.
“I initially recorded this track a good few years ago and released it on my Collected Recordings album, but the original version is a good deal more lo-fi than this one believe it or not,” he tells The Bluegrass Situation.
“It’s about finding yourself turning to a god of some kind, despite having reservations about doing so due to the suffering in the world, after exhausting the first searches for meaning that many people go through — namely science, art and love. In that order, in my case. At the same time, however, I never felt the need to go back to any of the established religions.”
“Big Boy Crudup recorded a song with this title,” says Dave Bromberg of the tune “If I Get Lucky,” one of a dozen gems that make up this debut archive recording. “Elvis did his version on one of his first records,” he continues. “I thought at one time I was doing Big Boy Crudup’s song. This song has nothing to do with that one beyond the first line. I think I wrote it.” So goes the brand of self-effacing sincerity that informs this collection of train songs, love songs, train songs about love and love songs about trains. Drawing primarily from live recordings and radio programs he did in the early ’70s, Bromberg offers an intimate version of The Carter Family’s “Cannonball,” taken from Howard and Roz Lamer’s Folkscene program along with the aforementioned “If I Get Lucky,” which was harvested from his 1970 appearance at the Philly Folk Fest.
From an early ’70s coffee house performance, Bromberg offers a stunning version of “Salt Creek.” “I was playing it in the Jabberwocky Coffee House in Syracuse,” he recalls in his liner notes. “(I) decided on the spur of the moment to see if I could play the harmony and the melody part at the same time. I didn’t think it worked, so I doubt that I ever did it again. It actually did work, but I never heard the tape until 2014.”
“James Brown, eat your heart out,” he announces over the intro of “Danger Man,” which features an early version of his band that included bassist Steve Burgh, saxophonist Andy Statman, mandolinist Will Scarlett and guitarist Peter Ecklund (who grabs a trumpet and does his best Beiderbecke imitation for this one). Bromberg recommends checking out the YouTube video for this version of “Jelly Jaw Joe,” wherein drummer Steve Mosley plays a solo on his cheeks (among other wacked-out band antics) and notes that “Send Me To The Electric Chair” is one of his most very favorite Bessie Smith tunes.
When all is said and done, Bromberg’s earnest liner notes combined with his always stellar playing — and the program’s nice range of covers and originals, all nicely remastered — paint a joyous picture of a guy who has always been a serious player but has never taken himself too seriously.