Take a little bluegrass, add a dash of roots music, modernize everything with impeccable production, and you have the approach of Whitewater Ramble and their new album, Roots & Groove. Musicians Patrick Sites (mandolin), Patrick Latella (acoustic guitar), Howard Montgomery (bass), Zebulon Bowles (fiddle), and Paul Kemp (drums) keep the sound in a bluegrass format, even with the drums. It is the lyrics that provide the link to American roots music and provide the glue which fuses the two styles together. They have developed their sound on the road as they have toured consistently for close to a decade. They have played many festivals and numerous small clubs in addition to supporting such artists as Little Feat, The Gourds, and Spearhead. They have released several live albums and now have brought that live energy to their second studio release. Their lyrics travel in a number of directions within the confines of their style. Songs such as “Dear Mr. Bankman,” “Guilty As Charged,” “Long Dusty Driveway,” “Standard Deviation,” and “Family Tree” tell stories of heroes, villains, tragedy, triumph, and railing against the establishment. They even add a few reggae rhythms. The most interesting song is a bluegrass cover of U2’s “One Tree Hill.”
They have added a number of guest musicians. Dobro player Andy Hall, pedal steel guitarist John Macy, and pianist Bill McKay are all on hand to fill in the sound where needed, which helps to serve as a backdrop for the group’s tight harmonies. Their sound may be connected to the bluegrass style of the past, but they have moved far beyond those rural roots. They manage to get into a groove that could not have been imagined by traditional bluegrass and roots artists. Whitewater Ramble is a band that has matured. Their sound is both unique and memorable. Roots & Groove is an album that deserves some attention. Lyrically, vocally, and instrumentally it brings a fusion of bluegrass and roots music into the 21st century.
On his solo debut, Jake Xerxes Fussell sounds like an explorer. He was the son of a folklorist who documented vernacular culture in the Southeast. He’s worked with blues men and played in country bands. He was a student in the Southern Studies program at Ole Miss. He recorded with Rev. John Wilkins, and now he’s made this record, produced by guitarist William Tyler and engineered by Mark Nevers. All that travel lends the looseness and curiosity of a wanderer to the folk and blues numbers Fussell makes his own on this record. “Let Me Lose” embraces the freedom in the down and out, and you can feel that freedom, that shrugging off of burdens we don’t need, in the rolling guitar work and shuffling percussion. “Star Girl”, with melting pedal steel and Fussell’s clear, soft-spoken singing, is pastoral, bittersweet and lonesome in the best way possible. It contrasts nicely with the stomping, dusty “Raggy Levy” or the shadowy atmosphere of “Boat’s Up the River”. The album rolls through folk and blues traditions but pushes them to fresh new horizons. There’s something almost scholarly at the heart of Fussell’s approach. There’s an in-the-blood knowledge of these traditions at play, but with Tyler and others following along, it’s always Fussell’s sense of discovery, the looseness of wandering, that wins out. Even with all the history built into these songs and this record, Fussell still emerges as a fresh and vital new voice, as a singer, a musician and a torch bearer for every true sound he’s come across to now.
It means something that the word about Americana roots duo Cahalen Morrison & Eli West spread first among musicians. Their debut album was passed around the ranks of some of the best American roots bands, raved about to fans online, and seen as a model to strive for in songwriting and musicianship. In this way, you could think of Cahalen & Eli as musician’s musicians. They’re the artists that other artists run to see at a festival. This is because their music seems effortlessly simple, but is complex enough to engage us far beyond the usual way we listen to roots music. Cahalen Morrison’s songwriting is as much informed by the dark lyricism of Cormac McCarthy as it is by Appalachian stringband songs, and Eli West’s angular, racing arrangements owe as much to the speed and aggression of early jazz as they do to bluegrass greats like Bill Monroe. Together they make music that draws from the well of American tradition, but reshapes these traditions into beautiful new forms.
With their new album, I’ll Swing My Hammer With Both My Hands, Cahalen Morrison & Eli West have perfected their chemistry as a duo, falling into long-form instrumental grooves and threading their vocal harmonies together as tightly as a weaver. Produced by Grammy-winning artist Tim O’Brien, they recorded the album at the Colorado Rockies studio ofAaron Youngberg. Colorado FiddlerRyan Drickey returned for the album, and renowned Boston fiddler Brittany Haas joined on as well. Erin Youngberg played bass, and Tim O’Brien brought out the mandolin and bouzouki, but the focus here belongs on the musical intimacy shared between Cahalen & Eli. As instrumentalists (Cahalen on banjo, mandolin, bouzouki, and dobro and Eli on guitar and bouzouki), their interplay is revelatory. Their melody and harmony lines duck and weave around each other; an interconnected roots system of music that seems to have no beginning or end. Their vocals intertwine as well, with Eli’s harmonies nudging Cahalen’s melodies into new and unexpected directions. Here they trade the lead more than ever, with Eli moving to the front on songs like “Pocket Full of Dust.” The traditional songs covered on the album are chosen with great care, from old-time singer Alice Gerrard’s slow dirge “Voices of Evening” to country legends The Louvin Brothers’ “Lorene.” As a songwriter, Cahalen has brought a lighter touch to his songs, as can be heard on “James is Out” about an ornery mule, or “Livin’ In America,” a fun yet biting song about American privilege. But his raw, transcendent power as a lyricist is still on display here. Songs like “Fiddlehead Fern” or “Down in the Lonesome Draw” showcase his uncommon ability to use evocative natural imagery to channel human emotions.
Cahalen Morrison & Eli West make music with the hands of master craftsmen wise beyond their years. They make music that’s informed by the roots of American music, whether country, bluegrass, old-time, or blues, but also music that touches deeper than the tradition. They approach music not as a craft that must be labored over, but as an act of creation, an effort to touch the unknown with eyes closed and fingers wrapped around the neck of your instrument and voices raised in beautiful harmony.
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.
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Mary Gauthier - Rifles & Rosary Beads
Sep 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Kinky Friedman - Circus of Life
Sep 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.
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”.
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.
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Mark Knopfler - Down the Road Wherever
Sep 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.
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JP Harris - Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing
Sep 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.
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.
It might be naive to think you can detect authentic music without being familiar with the particular genre. Paul Thorn’s Don’t Let the Devil Ride, is an incredible gospel and gospel-influenced album that sounds like the real deal: From its production, which sounds like it was recorded inside an old hot wooden church stuffed full of sinning parishioners, to the songs, which make the listener feel like they’ve stumbled into perhaps the South’s most exciting church service. It’s all the more amazing given that Thorn isn’t a gospel artist.
The album kills because it’s intense without being noodle-y. Every song sounds like great musicians trying–somewhat unsuccessfully–to hide just how talented they are. As is often the case with gospel, much of this comes from the organ, which propels many of the songs here. The album kicks off with “Come On Let’s Go,” which is propelled by that organ, as mentioned earlier. An infectious hand-clap keeps the beat, with horns popping in and out of gospel-tinged background vocals. The song builds to a manic climax before collapsing into a swirl of organ. Truthfully, if Thorn had ended the album on that first song, everyone would have felt like they got their money’s worth.
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Sugarcane Jane - Southern State of Mind
Sep 08, 2019
Sugarcane Jane, the Alabama Gulf Coast-based husband and wife duo of Anthony Crawford and Savana Lee have recorded Southern State Of Mind with producer Buzz Cason. The recording starts off with a rousing "Cabin On The Hill", already a favorite with Sugarcane Jane fans. It is followed by "Campfire", the first single. The thought-provoking, fresh and exciting "Man Of Fewest Words" precedes the title track, "Southern State Of Mind", the tale of the joys of Southern living. "Destiny", a raw rocker, is foreshadowed by the inspirational "Rainbow". "Red Flags Warning", a true gem from the pen of Anthony Crawford is cut #7. Savana Lee is featured beautifully on "The One Before Me". "How Do You Know" and "We Can Dream" wrap up this eclectic collection of songs from the duo.
Brooklyn based but with a somewhat nomadic background, Ana Egge is one of those songwriters who seem to hover around the edge of the mainstream. She gets great reviews but she’s certainly not a household name even in the most dedicated of Americana infested households. Her album with The Stray Birds, ‘Bright Shadow’, did cause a bit of a buzz, perhaps down to that trio’s reputation but we can safely say here that ‘White Tiger’ is a much more multi faceted affair than the folky infused ‘Bright Shadow’, bursting as it is with imaginative arrangements adorned with horns and synths.
Tas Cru’s bio begins like this, “Raucous, rowdy, gentle, sweet, eccentric, quirky, and outright irreverent are all words that fittingly describe Tas Cru’s songs and testify to his reputation as a one of the most unique of bluesmen plying his trade today. ”
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Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore - Downey To Lubbock
Sep 08, 2019
DOWNEY TO LUBBOCK was born by immaculate inspiration from live shows Grammy winner Dave Alvin and Grammy nominee Jimmie Dale Gilmore performed together in 2017. Just the two of them were swapping songs and cutting up, each with a guitar and a heart full of soul, musicians who’ve been on the road their entire adult lives. The result is an album of blues, rock and folk inspired tunes that both of their fans will enjoy.
The album contains 12 songs - 10 covers and two originals - and is destined to be a classic Americana album from two Americana legends.
Joyann Parker brings a full range of talent to her performances as an accomplished singer, pianist, songwriter must-hear lead guitarist, currently endorsed by Heritage Guitars in Kalamazoo, MI. She has performed for thousands at major venues and festivals across the country.
For one so young (he was born in 1988), Travis Bowlin has already achieved a hell of a lot. Not only can he play the guitar, he can make them too! At first he made cigar box guitars for his own use but people seeing him use them, created a demand that he now meets through his separate business, Bowlin Box Instruments. Travis was born near Cincinnati and raised in a household full of many genres of music…so he soaked up blues, rock ‘n’ roll, gospel and country. He got his first guitar aged 15 and very soon started to perform around his home and surrounding states. To take his devotion a step further, he moved to Nashville and released his first album in 2014, called See You Again. His influences have a wide range as he cites Led Zeppelin, BB King, Robert Johnson, Prince, Steppenwolf, 3 Dog Night and Albert King amongst others.
He has now released his follow up album called, rather neatly, Secundus, as it means second but can also, apparently, be used to mean ‘lucky’. It contains 12 all original tracks and shows a development from that first outing with its more developed, blues-oriented feeling and manages to cover virtually every emotion a human being can experience. There are many more flavours to be discerned and I can hear jazz and soul in the mix and I even picked up a hint of progginess in a Yes kind of way.
In the past several years, Sideline has jumped from being a literal side project for some bluegrass A-listers to a fully-fledged band working its way to the top of the bluegrass world. With a few of those original “sidemen” on board, as well as the addition of several younger faces, Sideline has continued to up their game with the release of their new Mountain Home album, Front and Center.
Opening track Thunder Dan has captivated radio audiences with its catchy chorus and bluesy, mash-style grass. Penned by Josh Manning, it’s a take on the familiar “mountain man” story, featuring a title character with an itchy trigger finger and strong vocals from Troy Boone. The song hit number one last month and was back at the top spot on the Bluegrass Today chart this past week. Lysander Hayes is another rough character, keeping his mama up worrying and praying while he picks and drinks and runs around. Skip Cherryholmes pulls out the clawhammer banjo for this song, which along with Nathan Aldridge’s fiddle, makes for a nice old-time-with-drive vibe.
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