“When I listen to a Susan Gibson song, I know she is sharing a piece if her heart and soul with me. Susan writes about true stories in her life. She writes with courage puts forth her message with powerful and heartfelt guitar and vocals. It only takes a few lines of her recorded songs for me to recognize that “Susan Sound”
Her new record has that for sure. Enjoy…..”
-Lloyd Maines- Music producer and musician.
Wimberley, TX. Take it from Susan Gibson: “Nothing lifts a heavy heart like some elbow grease and a funny bone.” That’s the conclusion that the award-winning singer-songwriter reaches on the title track to her long-awaited new album, The Hard Stuff (due out Oct. 4 on Gibson’s own For the Records), and it may be the best bit of practical advice that she’s put to music since, well … “Check the oil.”
That “oil” line, a father’s reminder to a young daughter heading out on her own in pursuit of “Wide Open Spaces,” has been sung along to by millions of fans around the world ever since the Dixie Chicks recorded Gibson’s song as the title track to their major-label debut back in 1998. It became one of the biggest songs in modern country music history, but Gibson wasn’t aiming for a “hit” when she wrote it some 28 years ago. She was fresh out of college and had yet to officially embark on her professional music career, let alone to have figured out the basics of what she calls the “craft part” of songwriting. All she had to work with at the time, sitting at her parents’ kitchen table in Amarillo, Texas, and wanting to tell “an honest story with some universal truths,” was “sincerity and instinct.”
Three decades, thousands of miles and countless songs and performances (both as a member of the ’90s Americana group the Groobees and as a successful solo act) down the road, Gibson is now recognized by fans, critics, and peers alike as a master troubadour who very much has the “craft part” of her art down cold. But check under the hood of The Hard Stuff, and it’s clear her songwriting engine still runs on pure emotional honesty. The only difference, really, is the mileage: Instead of reflecting the carefree exuberance of youth, these are the songs of a life-wizened, full-grown woman whose indomitable spirit springs not from untested naivety, but from hardened and tempered choice.
The Hard Stuff is Gibson’s seventh release as a solo artist and her first full-length album since 2011’s Tight Rope. Much like the stop-gap EP that preceded it, 2016’s Remember Who You Are, it’s a record deeply rooted in grief, as Gibson wrote many of the songs while in the midst of coming to terms with the death of first one parent and then the other in the span of four years, a time during which she admits her career became far less of a priority to her than her family. But it was that very period of slowing down for emotional recalibration that ultimately pulled her out of the dark and back into the light, resulting in the most life-affirming and musically adventurous recording of her career.
Producer Andres Moran (of the Belle Sounds) had a lot to do with helping Gibson expand her horizons at Austin’s Congress House Studio. “I’m a fan of the Belle Sounds, but Andres was a bit of an unknown to me to going into this, and I didn’t really know what he was going to do,” Gibson admits. “But I liked what I did know about him. The thing is, I’ve actually never used the same producer twice, which I think sometimes makes it hard for me to measure my growth or compare one album to the rest and go, ‘Was that forward or backwards?’ But for this one, I knew that I definitely wanted to stretch a bit more than usual. I’ve been very inspired lately by my friend Jana Pochop, who’s a brave writer and just the most unassuming pop star you could ever meet, but also a really good study in how to trust a collaborator enough to let them do their thing, instead of just what you might want them to do. She’s been getting some really good stuff that way, just by not putting limitations on herself in the studio or being tied to her acoustic guitar.”
Moran took Gibson’s “no limits” directive and ran with it. Although still unmistakably a Susan Gibson album, with her warm, friendly rasp of a voice front and center in the mix and an abundance of buoyant melodies brightening even the darkest corners (with a special assist from her beloved banjo on the bittersweet closer, “8×10”), the arrangements throughout The Hard Stuff are full of surprises. Rife with bursts of pop elan, splashes of funk (horns!), and even flirty hints of jazz, it’s a bright, technicolor palette delightfully unfettered by the constraints of her usually solo acoustic live shows. But far from seeming even remotely out of her element, Gibson embraces it all with arms and heart wide open, delivering her most spirited performances on record to date , and 10 of the best songs of her career, each one illuminated by her refreshingly clear-eyed perspectives on life, love, work, and yes, true to album’s title, even death.
Which brings us back to that line about nothing lifting a heavy heart like “some elbow grease and a funny bone”: the key point being, it takes both. And of course, a little time helps, too.
“I feel like Remember Who You Are came out of a lot of really raw and immediate, direct grief,” she says, recalling the EP she made not long after her mother’s death and her focus at the time on “the ache of loss and the balm of letting go.” A lot of that ache lingers still on The Hard Stuff, compounded of course by the loss of a second parent, but the sense of healing is palpable. But the difference with this batch of songs is, they’re not scabs anymore they’re starting to become scars: scars that you can talk about and tell stories about, and even find humor in. I don’t think it’s a particularly ‘humorous’ record, but I do feel like the common thread in a lot of the songs is me trying to not take myself so seriously.”
To wit, in the title track, inspired by conversations with her concerned older sister (and an old John Wayne quote from the movie The Sands of Iwo Jima), Gibson reminds herself that, “if you’re gonna be stupid, you better be tough,” while in “The Big Game,” she baits a light-hearted account of frustrated desire with the winking tease, “Why you gotta make it so hard / for me to be easy?”
A little bit of that kind of playfulness goes a long way; but its the elbow grease and hard-earned experience that ultimately does the heaviest lifting. In the opening “Imaginary Lines,” co-written with her aforementioned friend Jana Pochop, Gibson shifts seamlessly from a country mouse in the big city anecdote (and an account of a too-close-for-comfort encounter with a contract-waving industry business suit) to an exhilarating chorus reaffirming her commitment to the independent music back roads less traveled but traveled hard and with a joyous sense of purpose. The extended metaphors in “Diagnostic Heart” and “Hurricane” hit like brutally honest, tough-love therapy sessions, and the achingly beautiful “Wildflowers in the Weeds” ,ostensibly written for her friend and fellow independent Texas songwriter, Terri Hendrix, but by Gibson’s candid admission just as much about herself is a portrait of courage and resilience painted in rich hues of empathy and bittersweet truth. And even when Gibson gets around to directly singing about how much she misses her mother (in “8×10”), or about the heartbreak of watching her elderly father struggle just to keep up in the world as a widower in the final years of his own life, her sadness is counterbalanced with equal measures of deeply felt gratitude for the memories she shared with them and the wisdom she learned from them. As she sings in “Antiques,” “Getting older ain’t for the weak / it only happens to the strongest ones.”
That’s the kind of “hard stuff” that The Hard Stuff is really about. Not the kind that breaks, but the kind that endures.
1. Imaginary Lines (4:12)
2. Antiques (4:07)
3. The Hard Stuff (3:48)
4. Lookin’ For A Fight (3:19)
5. The Big Game (3:41)
6. Diagnostic Heart (4:06)
7. 2 Fake IDs (4:21)
8. Hurricane (3:52)
9. Wildflowers In The Weeds (3:35)
10. 8 X 10 (4:05)
All FCC Clean
Focus Tracks : 1, 3, 8, 9
All Songs by Susan Gibson except:
“Imaginary Lines” – Susan Gibson, Jana Pochop, Michael Scwartz
The Shires have given fans quite the exciting lead up to their third studio album Accidentally On Purpose. Causing quite the concern when a so-called intern accidentally sent out an email to fans which was intended for Ben and Crissie for their approval on the album artwork, fans started tweeting the duo to warn them that the information had leaked. However, many realised that this email was in fact sent Accidentally On Purpose and we all felt rather silly. Little stunts like this have been smartly placed throughout the promotion of the album which has not only got people talking but everyone excited for new music.
The Shires debut single off AOP Guilty shows a really exciting fresh new sound to The Shires in a more upbeat US Country pop way and it is clear that their time in Nashville has had a heavy influence on their new sound. Echo also has the same qualities as Guilty and could easily be a single. The radio friendly tune is fun and easy to sing along to and will be one of those great live music, crowd sing-a-long moments.
Best know for their powerful and captivating ballads, AOP still captures the beauty and emotion of their signature sounding ballads in songs such as Speechless which also keeps the piano driven melody that they often use and beautifully so. Crissie has found a more believable emotion in her singing now which tells a story in itself. What is also noticeable is how more controlled Crissie s vocals are whilst she has always had an undeniably sensational voice, this album shows that she has taken a lot more care in her singing and it seems less forceful.
Experience is key and this is proven throughout AOP. Ben and Crissie s vocals have really found each other now and are more than just two individuals singing together, The Shires have become a solid duo who have learned a lot along the way to their success and have clearly come to understand each other extremely well vocally as well as personally.
Other ballads are songs such as Strangers which is more of an emotional power ballad with a mid tempo beat and Loving You Too Long which again is piano driven like many of their ballads are. Loving You Too Long is very much in the direction of past songs such as Black and White.
The Hard Way which kick starts the album is rather exciting and really infectious and reminiscent to artists such as Gloriana and Lady Antebellum. A song that would work very well in the US and should be all over country radio this is a much more fast paced upbeat song than we usually hear from The Shires and is a direction that I am really enjoying.
Title track Accidentally on Purpose, which is said to be influenced by Crissie nearly missing her flight home from Nashville accidentally on purpose to stay with someone she had met is a very pop infused track, the song also holds quite a mature sound with a strong countrified melody.
A more mid tempo/ballad style comes in the form of Sleepwalk which is gorgeous and strong country sounding song where the chorus in particular really shows off Crissie s vocal ability. This track has quite a young feel to it and a movie soundtrack vibe.
Stay The Night is also a mid tempo tune with great vocal delivery from Ben. The chorus has a very anthemic feel to it and is likely going to be one of those songs that live, will likely be towards the end of the set, if not the very end of the set to get the crowd singing back in the chorus where it has a very collective way about it.
Ahead of The Storm has a more folk-country sound which is very captivating. The song has an orchestral feel and is quite atmospheric. Probably one of my favourite tracks.
Continuing with the folk theme, River of Love holds an element of folk-country but in a lot more upbeat pop way and again has a very US country way to it which seems to be working well for The Shires and I don t think it will be long before they crack America.
World Without You touches on the youthful side of their sound again and screams US country radio.
There really is no bad song on the album, no cheesey tunes and proves how The Shires are here to stay and are growing from strength to strength. Ben has always been such a gifted songwriter and works incredibly hard to deliver the best possible results which really shows on this album. I am thoroughly Impressed with AOP and think it is their best work yet. A good use of typical country music instruments have been used on this album which gives the album a lot more oomph and places them in a more solid position within the country music genre.
The future is incredibly bright for The Shires and they will not only dominate the UK country scene but will overflow into the mainstream too, especially if they continue down this route.
AOP holds all the best qualities of The Shires best sounds blended with the strongest of US Country pop delivering an overall fantastic album that will appeal to a wide variety of music lovers.
Couldn’t resist the temptation to copy/paste this cracker of a review.
So here we go again. Another new Jason Aldean album, and another machine gunning of blistering arena rock guitars, braggadocios rural boy aphorisms, self-aggrandizing affirmations of what a badass he is, with very little substance or sincerity delivered between the lines to find enriching. For 15 songs it is relentless, with one of the few saving graces being that no single track stretches over 3 1/2 minutes, and once you’ve heard one, you’ve pretty much heard them all so you can skip around. One after another, it’s low-pitched verses about how hard or badass it is being from the country, leading into doubled up choruses that rise as predictably as the sun into massive Richie Sambora-style cacophonous lyrical and sonic platitudes.
Among other fair criticisms, Jason Aldean has turned in a record that challenges the once thought unattainable achievement of matching Chris Young for the most formulaic and creatively-static “country” music release in history. The guitars are loud, and the drums are punishing, one song after another. At this point, a Jason Aldean record is little more than a collection of new material for him to parade out at live arena shows. Want to know why rock is dead? It’s not just because acts like Limp Bizkit and Nickelback killed it. It’s because Jason Aldean and other arena rockers posing as country acts infiltrated the space, corporatizing and homogenizing it for Music Row’s devices.
Jason Aldean fans don’t listen to records as cohesive works encapsulating the creative muse an artist is immersed in at a given point in his or her career. It’s basically a merch play to hopefully get autographed, and a way to catalog the current radio singles. One new wrinkle to the material on Rearview Town is that Jason Aldean now has taken electronic drum beats and other digitally-produced enhancements and interwoven them with the live instrumentation. The rock drums are still there, but to keep up with mainstream country trends, they add in computerized ticks for that additional over-the-top texturing and busy-ness. It’s all just a mash of sounds coming at you, including in some songs these strange feminine (or synthesized) sighs and calls like something you would hear in the soundtrack of a 90’s-era war strategy RPG or 1st-person shooter game. Jason Aldean is the Vin Diesel of music.
And to top it all off, Aldean also re-introduces the always-polarizing element of rapping in certain songs. The purveyor of the first mainstream country rap hit “Dirt Road Anthem” returns to this approach in what will likely be a radio single, “Gettin’ Warmed Up,” and in other places.
But let’s also give Jason Aldean some due credit. One of the reasons he’s so consistent throughout this record and throughout his career is because he knows what he does well, and sticks to his guns. And yes, he does do what he sets out to accomplish very well. You listen to a Jason Aldean record or see him in concert, the blood will get pumping. He’s singing to the “work hard, play hard” crowd who busts their ass at jobs they hate all week, and want artists like Jason Aldean to help them unwind and swell with pride, and he delivers.
The other consistency in Aldean’s career is his slightly deeper understanding of the rural dwelling condition compared to some of his other pop country contemporaries. Where others love to portray country towns as a Candyland of bonfires, beer, and babes hanging out by the lake all day, Aldean often speaks to the forgotten nature of America’s farm towns, and the hard-fought pride furrowing the brow of the blue collar worker. In the title track of Rearview Town written by Kelley Lovelace, Bobby Pinson, and Neil Thrasher, Aldean sings of a frustrated rural dweller, heartbroken and out of dreams, not just demoralized by the disappearance of his hometown, but further depressed that he’s helping the statistical slide by deciding to leave himself.
Shoving the incredible amount of filler on this record aside, “Rearview Town” is one of a few more interesting moments on this record. So is the first single “You Make It Easy.” It also bucks the trend of sameness with its 6/8 timing, even though the lyrics are pretty stock. “Better At Being Who I Am” written by Casey Beathard, Wendell Mobley, and Neil Thrasher also speaks to something deeper, and something relevant to this record, to Aldean’s life, and to the pressures he’s facing through busybody journalists to speak out about certain things since it was he who was on the stage when the Harvest 91 Festival massacre took place in Las Vegas.
Jason Aldean may be as shallow as a kiddie pool, but it’s hard to portray him as not authentic to himself. And though his consistency is definitely a curse on this record and the creative assessment of his career, it’s also the reason Aldean has found commercial success, and a connection with his fans. They don’t want him out there crying crocodile tears, they want him helping them forget the problems of today for an hour or two, and to help recharge the batteries for another hard fought week.
Another point of intrigue on the record is Aldean’s duet with Miranda Lambert, “Drowns The Whiskey.” Though it might be a slight step up for Jason Aldean, and maybe not the slide some Miranda fans were worried about when it was first announced, the song is still an electronic drums-driven mid-tempo formulaic effort easy to forget, despite the steel guitar. How many times has this song’s theme been done, both in the mainstream and in independent circles? At least Aldean is dueting with a woman in country as opposed to using the opportunity to highlight a pop star like many of his country radio buddies.
Where some recent radio singles from mainstream stars have been a pleasant surprise, including Jason Aldean’s okay “You Make It Easy,” and some recent mainstream albums are at least showing a step in the right direction, you get just about what you expect from Aldean on Rearview Town, with the dogged consistency possibly being the most remarkable wrinkle. Rearview Town would be disappointing if you expected more from him, but you don’t. Because if we’ve learned anything over the years that you can count on, it’s Jason Aldean to be Jason Aldean.
What better time than Canada Day’s 150th birthday weekend to celebrate the proudly patriotic music of Stompin’ Tom Connors?
The iconic Canadian country artist, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 77, has a just-released collection — Stompin’ Tom Connors 50th Anniversary — to mark the five decades since he was first introduced that way (for stomping his heel while he sang, later on a piece of plywood he carried with him) at a July 1, 1957, performance at the King George Tavern in Peterborough, Ont.
The 18-track disc features all of his best known songs, including Sudbury Saturday Night, The Hockey Song and Bud the Spud, a forward by Hockey Hall of Famer Ken Dryden, plus four reworked versions of his tunes by The Cuddy/Polley Family Band (Don Valley Jail), George Canyon (The Hockey Song), Corb Lund (The Consumer), and Connors’ most recent backing band, Whiskey Jack (Algoma Central #69).
“I never performed with him live (but) had numerous interactions with Tom,” said Blue Rodeo frontman Jim Cuddy in an interview with The Toronto Sun.
“I think the first time might have been the SOCAN awards (in the late ’80s). He was very gracious. What was remarkable about it was we came up to his table he had a case of beer under his table. So he did pull out a bottle and cracked it open. We were pretty fascinated. We were pretty young and still intimidated by the industry and he certainly was not.”
Canyon, a Nova Scotia native who now lives near Calgary, never got the opportunity to play with Connors — who died in March, 2013 — or see him live. But Canyon agrees he was a captivating outsider. He later got to casually know Connors, who returned his ’70s-era Junos in 1978 to protest the Canadian music awards being given to ex-pats and declined to be inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993.
“Stompin’ Tom, he was revered, he was the icon,” said Canyon, who had a July 1 date headlining a music festival in Castlegar, B.C.
“And then playing his music, too, as a kid around the campfire. I’ve been playing The Hockey Song, for a long time. I’ve played literally almost every square inch of Canada and when we play a bit of The Hockey Song, which we do every show, the place goes nuts. And there hasn’t been one venue or one crowd that did not respond amicably and sing along. They might not even know who Stompin’ Tom was but, as an artist, to have that kind of effect on a nation, wow.”
In addition to the new collection, the new Stompin’ Tom Connors Centre in his hometown of Skinners Pond, P.E.I., had its grand opening on Canada Day, featuring a 120-seat performance space with the first annual Stompin’ Tom Fest, which runs July 1 to 2.
Cuddy said Connors was proof you could stay in Canada once “making it” after he and Blue Rodeo co-founder Greg Keelor returned to Toronto from The Big Apple in the early ’80s before forming their country-rock-pop group in 1984.
“It felt like a step backwards for us since we had been in New York,” said Cuddy. “But there were a couple of icons, they were Gordon Lightfoot and Stompin’ Tom, who were real mavericks, who lived in the city, stayed in Canada, regardless of their fame, especially with Gordon. So it was sort of inspiring to me that this was possible.”
Jack Ingram left the country mainstream after 2009’s Big Dreams & High Hopes,
an album that failed to deliver on either despite two singles that
became hits. Despite “That’s a Man” and “Barefoot and Crazy” cresting
into the Country Top 20, the album sealed his fate in Nashville, so he
wound up wandering the Americana back roads before resurfacing in 2016
with Midnight Motel on Rounder. The very title of Midnight Motel suggests a bleary pit stop, a place where you stay when you’re waylaid from your planned path. That sensibility infuses Midnight Motel,
a record that lingers upon the unplanned moments, moving slowly through
a series of laments and fireside tales, including a spoken salute to
the late Merle Haggard. This isn’t a sentimental story: it’s about a promoter who tried to run a game on Hag and Ingram. Such sly humor is a good indication of the sensibility behind Midnight Motel,
a record whose heart lies in the tattered corners and slower numbers
but also surfaces on ragged singalongs and the easy-rolling numbers that
give the album a lift. Midnight Motel is an album that asserts Ingram‘s
strengths as a songwriter — nothing here has an eye on the charts but
they’re all accessible, waiting for the right bit of polish — but the
charm of the record is how he leaves loose ends hanging, suggesting that
his story began long before this album and will continue long
“If any of y’all wanna give me shit about my twang, you can just do it,” Gillian Welch once told a chatty San Francisco crowd in 1994. It was two years before Welch would release her debut Revival,
but the California-bred daughter of two entertainers was already
anticipating the skepticism that would greet her when she rose to
prominence in the mid-to-late ’90s singing about destitute coal miners
and Depression-era whiskey runners with an unsettling familiarity for
someone born in New York City, raised in Los Angeles, and who found
their lifetime musical partner at a conservatory in Boston.
In 1994, Welch’s repertoire consisted largely of a number
of songs that would never find their way onto a record, a handful of
traditional tunes, and some John Prine
covers. For an artist with an aesthetic as carefully and consistently
rendered as Gillian Welch, it’s strange to think of a time when she
wasn’t producing or reproducing that aesthetic, but was, rather,
searching for it herself.
That sense of fresh discovery and wide-eyed experimentation can be heard plainly on Boots No. 1,
Welch’s first archival release that serves as a 20th anniversary
expanded release for her debut LP. The two-disc collection is comprised
of outtakes, demos, and alternate takes culled from the Revival
sessions, a time when Welch and guitarist Dave Rawlings were first
honing in on their precise sound, mood, and style.
All of which goes to show that the authenticity scare that surrounded Welch upon her arrival feels, twenty years later,
almost unrecognizably dated. Perhaps it’s because Welch herself, who
would go on to play an integral role in Americana’s big-bang O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack just a few years later, has since become the very aesthetic
and artistic paradigm for 21st-century roots singer-songwriters. Or,
perhaps, it’s because the anxieties about Welch’s authentic credentials
were so misguided in the first place.
Ags Conolly isn’t going to fool anybody. In a discipline of music
where authenticity is everything, especially in the traditional realm,
the English born, raised, and currently-residing songwriter already
starts with marks against his ability to articulate or even accurately
interpret an artform that is distinct to the American South and West,
and born from rural landscapes, wide open spaces, and a life experience
the British Isles just can’t re-create, however close certain English
locales may come in certain instances.
But the good news for Ags Connolly is he doesn’t try. He understands
this fundamental limitation more than anybody. And that is the key to
his music. Nothin’ Unexpected is traditional country, meaning
you’ll hear fiddle and steel guitar, and many other indicators that your
brain will immediately recognize as the familiar modes of country’s
original and authentic sound. But it’s all done in a voice and
perspective authentic to Ags himself instead of trying to stretch the
truth, or do his best impression. And through this, he’s able to be both
country, and authentic, despite his place of origin…
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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