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THE BACKSLIDERS
Southern Lines...(Mammoth)
The last Backsliders CD was excellent and came out in '97, but since then most of the band is gone except one of the lead singers, Chip Robinson. Losing their other lead singer and songwriter took away some of the band's country "edge". Robinson aims the band in a harder-rockin' direction, with the help of producer Eric "Roscoe" Ambel, who has worked with the Bottle Rockets among many others.  Robinson writes some great tunes and I like his voice too.  As soon as I listened with my CD player in the shuffle mode, I liked the album better. You might try it. Although a few of the tunes have that dated "southern rock anthem" sound, there's still enough twang here to recommend this CD.
The band has their own site, TheBacksliders.com, and Mammoth has a site too.  Miles of Music has the CD. Buy from Amazon.com.  Best songs: Abe Lincoln, It Rained on Monday, Burning Bed, Angelita, Cross Your Heart, The Lonely One. Released April, '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BAD LIVERS
Blood & Mood... (Sugar Hill)
The Bad Livers have had an interesting career mixing the unique vocals and amazing guitar and banjo of Danny Barnes with Mark Rubin on bass and tuba.  They are best known, for lack of a better term,  for playing old-timey/bluegrass with an punk rock edge.  With Blood & Mood, Barnes and Rubin have taken a highly adventurous leap. They've have added a loud and obnoxious drum machine to the mix, at times oddly accompanied only by Barnes' banjo. It's so different that their mostly-bluegrass record label didn't even send the CD out to their usual radio stations. They even attempt some dialogue-sampling that suggests they've been listening to My Live In the Bush of Ghosts or possibly some recent Tom Waits albums. All in all, I value their effort but I'm not knocked out by the results.
Check out the band's site, BadLivers.com, or Sugar Hill's site.  Good-humored bassist Mark Rubin has his own site that's great too! Buy from Amazon.com. Released Feb. 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BAD LIVERS
Hogs on the Highway.....(Sugar Hill)
These guys, formed in Austin, play original old-timey/jug band music. Think 1920's thru 1940's, and they do it with humor and fine musicianship. Leader Danny Barnes is the man- writin', singin', and versatile banjo pickin', while bassist Mark Rubin doubles on tuba. Do you remember the Red Clay Ramblers? Well, the Bad Livers are in the same broad "bag", but they're a little younger and they have a great fiddle player. Liberal bluegrass and old-timey fans will love this stuff, and so will anyone else who has an open musical mind.
Best tracks: Hogs on the Highway, Counting the Crossties, Corn Liquor Made a Fool Out of Me, News not the Weather.  The bands own news and info. Skimpy but fun!  Buy from Amazon.com. Released Feb. '97, reviewed by Bill Frater.

THE BAD PENNY BOYS
Loose Change... (self released)
Unless a CD is just absolutely insipid, I have to award some points for effort, and such is the case here. Coming from locales as disparate as Chicago, San Antonio, Bogota, and Philadelphia, the band now calls the 'Frisco Bay area home. I'd have thought that with such diverse backgrounds to draw upon, these guys could have produced more noteworthy music. Instead, they sound like the epitome of the laid-back, carefree Northern California lifestyle that commonly comes to mind when people envision that area. Technically adept at their instruments, they've only got one song here that has any real bite, and that's "Tides of Life". They need a writer. While I probably won't Frisbee this one out the car window, by the same token, it isn't going to find its way into the preferred category, either.
Bad Penny Boys' site. Order from CD Baby. Released early 2004, reviewed by Don Grant.

DAVID BAERWALD
Here Comes The New Folk Underground... (Lost Highway)
Former ‘80's alterna-pop hitmeister (he was one of the Davids in David and David) Baerwald steps out from behind the scenes as a hitmaking producer (he helped with Sheryl Crow's mega-selling debut) to create some new music of his own in a new style. Baerwald has  decided to eschew his penchant for studio wizardry and re-immerge with some invigorating country and folk-tinged songs making his previous lushly produced popwork sound like pure wankery. Musicians often re-invent themselves by trying new styles and new ideas but in Baerwald's case he has just managed to find the best parts of his songs and weed out the superfluous nonsense that used to clog them up. While some of the arrangements on the CD are inventive and feature more than he and his guitar, there is little to hide behind and Baerwald obviously knew he had a strong set of songs here because he sounds as natural as can be in this new environment. His work with Crow did show a return to a rootsier style, but on this disc Baerwald embraces it and makes it his own and has become a serious player as a result. This is sure to surprise his previous fans as much as it pleases them but is well worth exploring. By adapting to this new bare bones style Baerwald may once again find himself on the top of the charts and in the forefront of musical conversation. He and his new album deserve nothing less.
Lost Highway does a nice job on their site for Baerwald which includes a bio, mailing list, and more. Buy from amazon   Released July, 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

JOAN BAEZ
Dark Chords On A Big Guitar… (Koch)
I’m not sure how old Baez is these days, but she doesn’t appear to be resting on her considerable legendary 60’s folk music laurels. Unlike many other artists of her generation, she’s taking chances and striving to stay contemporary. Special credit must go to Joan’s manager Mark Spector, who produced the CD. Since the producer is the person who traditionally is responsible for song selection, Spector has done his homework. A virtual all-star group of songwriters are represented here: Greg Brown, Gillian Welch, Ryan Adams, Steve Earle, Joe Henry and a few others who you've probably heard of. Spector also brings a nice gritty sound to the whole affair, featuring the "big guitar" of one Duke McVinnie. Who ever this guy is, he carries the whole CD himself and he’s a damn good and versatile guitarist. Ms. Baez still has great command of her strong, deep voice with a hint of folkie sweetness that doesn’t always suit the dark and sometimes rockin’ tunes. But for the most part, the whole thing works rather nicely, thanks to some excellent choices in songs to cover and imaginative production.
Why there's JoanBaez.com. Buy from amazon. Released Sept, 2003.  Reviewed by Bill Frater

THE BAGBOYS 
Just Say Moo... (Hairy Moon)
If you like your music delivered with a healthy dose of serious fun the Bagboys are for you.  I love this band.  They are somewhat reminiscent of the Austin Lounge Lizards, Riders in the Sky and/or the Red Clay Ramblers.  But don't let their over-the-top humor fool you, this is a band of serious, talented, and historically knowledgeable musicians.  This CD is mostly original material with humable melodies and imaginative arrangements. The quality of the musicianship is consistently high and though everyone sings, honestly, some are better than others.  While they are capable of some pretty convincing genre hopping - moving easily from solid driving bluegrass to bouncy western swing to contemporary folk - they're not content with merely aping these traditions but inhabit them as living, contemporary forms.  And they are clearly having a ball playing music.  That sense of toe-tapping, knee-slapping fun is infectious and most listeners will find themselves, like me, mooing right along with the Bagboys.
Check out The Bagboys' website for CD ordering info, bios and such, they also have a couple of songs on MP3 to sample. Released Feb. 2000, reviewed by Kevin Russell.

SAM BAKER
Mercy... (Integrity)

Austin singer-songwriter, Sam Baker, got his body blown apart in Peru when a bomb went off on a train. Senseless violence, but Baker chose to make blessings of his wounds. Eighteen surgeries later, Sam had to switch to playing guitar left-handed because of damages. His singing is about as honest as it gets. Mercy works as a suite, simple and complex, offering rich details which activate the imagination. This is a folk album, but don't be fooled by category; there's a genius at work here. Townes Van Zandt would've loved these songs, might've tried to win them in a card game. But Baker's no gambler. These songs are his art. It's been a while since a record sent such a short right hand to my heart, and that was before I read Baker's bio.

Sam Baker Music. Buy from amazon. Or CD Baby has it cheaper. Released June, '04, reviewed by Doug Lang.

SAM BAKER
Pretty World... (BlueLimeStone)

He wears a blue suede cowboy hat / Got a Juarez woman stretched out on his lap / He sings an old song, a song to himself / He sings waiting round to die…
So begins "Juarez", the opening song on Pretty World, Sam Baker's follow-up to his brilliant debut, Mercy. Received this two months before its release, been reading it slowly. Takes time to reveal itself. It's that way with artists like Sam Baker; his songs plant seeds instead of handing you a bouquet. Ghosts of Townes and Stephen Foster here, Cormac McCarthy in the background nodding. "Odessa" is a movie in itself. A box falls down, memory breaks open. Valentines? She kept every one he gave her. There's a war going on, always, and relics resemble people. Horizon line, sun and dust, a man on the porch examining broken fingers. Sam playing guitar, backwards, upside down. Baker's writing is landscape, a mood struck, a stroke or two of detail. Words of the heart throw shadows, spooking a horse your grandpa once fell off of. Bring your burnt tears to the table, soldier, Cormac says. There are women laughing inside. Dinner is ready. A sad hymn, candles. How beautiful.

Buy from amazon. Released Aug., '07, reviewed by Doug Lang.

JIMMY BALDWIN
Somebody's Nobody... (Jimmy B Music)

Jimmy Baldwin has a certain degree of notoriety in the field of visual media. With the release of his first CD, it's a safe bet that he will make his mark in the audio field as well. Somebody's Nobody is a wonderful collection of twelve unique and diverse songs that straddle the Americana genre in much the same way that his native El Paso straddles two cultures. “Asterisk Smile” would be Buddy Holly in this century, “Cinderella” is vintage Jackson Browne, and “I Can't Wait Another Day” is a tip of the sombrero to the mariachi influences from the other side of the line. “Ride On” has you up there in the saddle with Marty Robbins in the desert, and, wonder of wonders, “I Know You” brings a reggae beat to the timeless theme of love in vain. The closing cut is a brilliant seven and a half minute long version of Dwight Yoakam's “Guitars and Cadillacs” set again to a reggae beat, with an embellishing mariachi trumpet line; great stuff. This one is a detour off of the main road of alternate country that shouldn't be missed.

Jimmy B's site. Order from CD Baby. Released Sept. '06, reviewed by Don Grant.

MATTHEW BALLARD
Time... (self produced)

The first studio release from Matthew Ballard is a solid effort grounded in the traditions of the great Texas singer-songwriters. The first few songs could have been written by Robert Earl Keen Jr. — not a bad start — but Ballard strikes his own chords with a collection of heartfelt and simply stated and personal songs about love, loss and yes, even hope. It's a collection of songs that run the gamut of Americana, alt-country, folk, country rock and honky tonk. His musical influences might include Joe Ely or Guy Clark or any of a hundred of the great songsmiths that have come out of the Lone Star state. Ballard has a crack band backing him, including Cindy Cashdollar on steel/dobro and Matt Powell on electric guitar. Eleanor Whitmore provides subtle harmonies and at times haunting fiddle. This could be a portrait of an artist as a young man, with the promise of even greater songwriting to come. This is a CD that keeps growing on you with each listen.

Matthew's site, and MySpace page. Order from CD Baby. Released Oct. '07, reviewed by Barry Dugan.

THE BAND OF HEATHENS
The Band Of Heathens... (BOH)
There's gotta be a couple a thousand talented singer/songwriters looking for work around Austin. The story goes that 3 of them shared some open mike gigs and decided to combine forces to create something greater than the sums of their parts. Thus came The Band Of Heathens, and the town loves these guys. The principles are Ed Jurdi, Gordy Quist and Colin Brooks and each brings something unique to the stew. All are fine songwriters, Brooks especially has a gritty. soulful valice and he knows his way around a lap steel and Dobro. They get a big Austin stamp of approval with production by Ray Wylie Hubbard and Patty Griffin all over the thing on vocals. What's special is that the band has a bluesy rollicking side that's just amazing. I hear strains of The Subdudes and even the Small Faces here and there. Check them out.
Their site is quite nice. Buy from amazon. Released May, '08, reviewed by Bill Frater.

RC BANKS
Conway's Corner.. (Loudhouse)
As the liner notes to this CD (Banks' fourth) readily admit, Texas musicians have always been a strange breed. Think of Texas musicians such as Ponty Bone, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and the late, great Doug Sahm and you will see that the common denominator in their music was that it not only sounded like nothing else, it also sounded like a little bit of everything, including blues, soul and country. Knowing this, I am not surprised that each cut on this fantastic new CD sounds like a totally different style of music. Ranging from blues to roadhouse rock to cajun two-steps to swamp pop and everything in between, Banks has crafted an album that shows his versatility in spades while also showing that music is music dadgummit and as long as it's performed with heart, soul and fiery passion, it's gonna sound great. No, this isn't country. It's more than country. It's everything that Americana music and roots music is supposed to be: an enjoyable mix of styles that makes you forget about genres and labels and just captivates the hell out of you. I love this album. It's got a little of everything I like on it. I'm sure you'll feel the same way.
Loudhouse Record's siteBuy from amazon Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

JEFF BARBRA & SARAH PIRKLE
The Barb Hollow Sessions... (Barb Hollow Music)
In its own quite understated way this CD is a masterpiece of modern folk music. And by “folk” music I mean some uncatagorizable blend of country, old-time, bluegrass and folk. First class evocative vocals, brilliant song writing, tasty expressive instrumental back-up; this one has it all. Given that the duo is features his guitar and her fiddle, comparisons to Dave carter and Tracy Grammar may be inevitable. And as much as I liked Dave & Tracy, I like these two even more. Though less lyrically mystical, Jeff & Sarah create memorable melodies & use simpler, more accessible language to capture the time honored themes in the best country music of home, God, love, family & friends. A simply gorgeous record.
Their website. Order fron CD Baby. Released 2003, reviewed by Kevin Russell.

BOBBY BARE
Darker Than Light... (Plowboy)

On this collection of mostly covers, we get the impression that Bare has carefully chosen material that he loves and thereby wants to honor through his own interpretations of the songs.  This approach is reminiscent of Johnny Cash’s latter American Recordings although I suspect that Bare has been a lot more involved in the curating of the material. The result is a masterly if not reverential album of selections from the Americana canon.  Even the original tracks like “Woody” pay homage to times and artists of the past. Bare does his own renditions of various standards including “House of the Rising Sun”, ‘Dark as a Dungeon”, and “Shenandoah”.  Likewise, he is not afraid to step out of his perceived comfort-zone on songs such as U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and Alejandro Escovedo’s classic , “I Was Drunk”.  Lastly Bare pays tribute to his late collaborator Shel Silverstein on the riveting tale “The Devil and Billy Markham”. Overall, the album is a fine addition to Bare’s remarkable catalog and excellent choice if you are a lifelong fan or just discovering this great artist.

Plowboy's site, Order from Amazon. Released Jan. '13, reviewed by Chase Barnard.

BOBBY BARE JR.
Young Criminals Starvation League... (Bloodshot)
Long renowned for the devil-may-care Southern rock swagger he showcased in his band Bare Jr., Bare has thrown his fans a curve ball with his latest release. Instead of his usual hard guitar attack, Bare focuses on quieter, more reflective and story-based songs for this one, showing a quality of song writing and vocal inflection few thought him capable. In effect, he has put out his best album ever and one that would make his father (a country hitmaker in his own right) very proud. This praise is not to denigrate his earlier, much rowdier releases. It's just that previously, he was following a path already trod by Hank Williams Jr. Loud country songs featuring Southern rock guitar and a rebel-like attitude. Some songs resonated but most seemed only skin deep. With this album, Bare goes straight to the heart, nailing yours and his own to the wall with his honest, masterful storytelling and his to-the-bone performances. After releasing an album this good and showing the world he can write songs that can stand through the ages, Bare Jr. has an unenviable task: following it up. Until then, I recommend this CD as the CD to by should you only have enough money for one.
Bare's websiteBloodshot's Bare Jr. pageBuy from Amazon   Released July, 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

THE BARN BURNERS
Alibis... (Run Wild)
A decent bar band sportin' some red neck country rock that, while probably fun in a place serving liquor and containing pretty women (maybe that's enough, who knows) sounds pretty derivative on your stereo. The first song rips of The Stones while the second takes licks note for note from Lynyrd Skynyrd. All bands gotta show their influences a little but some of this is outright copy. That said, there is nothing cringe inducing on this record, just not too much of an original statement. Bar bands are a dime a dozen and unless you want a recording of a fairly decent one, you can probably save your CD money and just go out on a Saturday night and hear something as good as this.
The Barn Burners website.  Order the CD from Miles Of Music.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood

MANDY BARNETT
I've Got A Right To Cry... (Discoveries/Sire)
Get your torch 'n twang-o-meters out cuz we got something here.  Spotlight Owen Bradley & Family on the production end which gives the sound a certain smooth predictability, but I'm also here to say Barnett can smoke a tune or two.  I've always associated her name with mainstream country but this record is, ok, I'm gonna say it, more reminiscent of the Patsy Cline sound complete with an impeccable band.  Some of that I attribute to the production , some to stylistic influence but a big part of it is just that wonderful smoky style of delivering great tunes with a big voice that makes you want to sway, slow dance or just plain sit around and dream to and that's all hers.  I love the tone of this music, smooth, seductive with just enough frisk to keep you awake.  This record has me thinking frocks, updos and low lights.....  See you at the Cimarron.
iMusic has a nice Mandy Barnett bio. Buy from amazon. Released Apri, '99, reviewed by Kay Clements (KWMR)

DANNY BARNES
Dirt On The Angel… (Terminus)
Barnes was the central person in the Austin trio the Bad Livers. He’s since moved to Seattle and this is his third solo release. Danny brings a unique, quirky style to everything he does, whether it’s old-timey banjo tinged folk tunes to jazz-tinged blues to… well, even pop music. He also writes songs and lyrics in a loveable odd style. And then there’s his singing. He has this inflected voice and a certain demented strangeness about his singing. I can visualize the veins sticking out of his neck as he strains to reach for certain notes. Along for the ride are an all-star band featuring Darol Anger, Chuck Leavell, jazz guitarist Bill Frizell (basically indiscernible) and others. Don’t get me wrong, as quirky and strange as it may sound, it mostly all works. Barne’s vision is clear and brilliant, and totally unique.

DannyBarnes.com. TerminusRecords.com Buy from amazon Released August, 2003.  Reviewed by Bill Frater.


DANNY BARNES
Livin' Large In A Little Bitty Room… (Terminus)
Banjo master Danny Barnes is presented here live, solo and acoustic, in the raw. Featuring a career overview with songs from his Bad Livers days up through his recent solo work (Things I Done Wrong, Dirt on the Angel ) Barnes is an engaging performer and monster instrumentalist, with outstanding, roosty songs. Always intense, Barnes alternates his banjo playing with fiery Merle Travis style guitar picking. The spirits of John Hartford, Dock Boggs and Nathaniel Hawthorne are all present and accounted for in the work of this truly original and forward thinking artist. This is a first-rate introduction for the un-initiated and a must have for fans of his past work. This CD was recorded to be sold at Barnes live shows but is now available on his website.
DannyBarnes.com Released in 2004, reviewed by Michael Meehan.

PAUL BARRY AND THE DEL RAYS
Paul Barry and the Del Rays... (Lulu)
I don't know anything about Paul Barry except he is a fine lead vocalist and has released a jumping little CD. Full of rockabilly, honky tonk, retro- pop and a little british invasion, this set of somewhat obscure covers (by Chris Hillman, Todd Snider and Don Reno, among others) is mostly well chosen and basically a hoot. An American pub rock spirit inhabits this offering with some well done Everly Brothers/Maverick type pop crooners thrown in. The Del Rays are tasteful players fortified with pedal steel and fiddle, but the M.V.P. award has got to go drummer Gary Koehler for his tight harmony vocals. Highlights include the opener "Boo Hoo", the twangy "Heaven" and the retro crooner "Longing". I definitely recommend seeking out this self titled disc from this Cudahy, Wisconsin act.
Barry's RockinRoots.com. Order from CD Baby. Released early 2005, reviewed by Michael Meehan.

BILL BARTHOLOMEW
World On A Wire... (self released)
While EPs are not exactly a preferred medium for artistic exposure, carrying as they do some of the residual stigma attached to those ‘greatest hits’ re-issues of yore, which essentially said ‘please buy this because we can’t think of anything new to say’, as Bob said, “the times they are a changin’”. Not every new artist has the resources to finance a full-length premiere release and these days for many an EP fits the bill, (no pun intended). Bartholomew hails from Brooklyn with a four member alt/rock indieish band that brings to mind thoughts of a countrified Chris de Burgh. It’s a bit difficult to really get a feel for an artist from listening to only five songs, but what’s contained herein is not half bad, with the opening title cut and “American Anthem", the caboose track, being the best of the lot. For a measly ten bucks you could do a lot worse than World On A Wire.
Bill's MySpace page. Order from CD Baby Released April, '08, reviewed by Don Grant.

CLAY BARTLETT
Fixin' To Break Down... (Lu Belle)
Clay Bartlett has been around the vibrant musical scene of the Northwest for quite some time now, having worked with, amongst others, the Supersuckers and Gerald Collier, but this, Fixin' To Break Down, is his first solo effort, and it's a pretty darn good one. The press blurbs compare him to the late Townes Van Zandt and Bob Dylan, and I'd say I hear a bit of Leonard Cohen texture in there also; similar, but with some important distinctions. Shades of Townes, yes, but without the aura of self-destruction; lyrically, the writing is akin to that of Cohen's, but not nearly half as morose, and musically, Bartlett is comparable to Dylan, except that Clay can carry a tune without having to have it in his pocket. My only complaint is with the length, eight songs totally just under thirty-one minutes seems a bit brief, considering what one is asked to pay for a CD. I do prefer quality over quantity, and there is quality here, but I'd have been happier waiting a little longer for some additional material to be included.
Clay's site. Order from CD Baby. Released early 2004, reviewed by Don Grant.

BASTARD SONS OF JOHNNY CASH
Distance Between... (Ultimatum Music)
The band with one of the coolest names in the music business comes back for another round after their incredible debut a few years ago. This time, the sound has changed a little. The rough and ready rumbling roots rock sound is still there but it has definitely been polished a hair although not to the detriment of the music. Where their first album got much of its' charm from its' slight sloppiness and slurred, grungy guitars this album's charm comes from its' tightness and confident swagger. These boys ain't messing around. This is serious! It's more a confidence thing, the band hitting its' stride more than anything else, though, and one need not worry about the music sounding safe or sterile. These guys ain't having none of that. As great as that first record was, there is just a weight and a substance, lyrically and musically, that wasn't there the first time. Another thing you will notice right away is lead singer/songwriter Mark Stuart's vocal resemblance to Bruce Springsteen. It starts to show up on the album's second song and stays there pretty much through the whole thing. Maybe the aural specter of Springsteen is making the songs sound weightier than they normally would. It's something Stuart may want to change in the future. As great as this album sounds, as good as it is lyrically and musically, other less enlightened critics may use the Springsteen thing against them and it may eventually cloud the band's own identity. For now, though, this CD remains a swaggering, rocking near-perfect musical creation bound to send both twang-country stalwarts and modern roots rock fans swooning.  Marvelous.
bsojc.com is a nice looking site.  Buy from amazon   Released Aug, 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

BEACHWOOD SPARKS
Once We Were Trees... (Sub Pop)
Throughout  the sophomore release from the Beachwood Sparks the SoCal indie cowboys deliver an album displaying musical, songwriting, and repertory growth beyond their critically acclaimed self-titled debut. Previously, they were labeled a retro extension of the late 1960's  country-rock icons Buffalo Springfield and the Flying Burrito Brothers. On Once We Were Trees, the band proves themselves to be one of the most exciting sub-genre leaders in the current indie rock world. The mid-tempo groove of "The Sun Surrounds Me" illustrates the songwriting growth the Sparks have achieved in the last three years, followed by the somewhat campy yet cool "You Take The Gold" which reverts to a simple carefree sing-a-long. One notable track is a revamped version of the Adult Contemporary Sade hit "By Your Side" which stands as the albums 'must listen' track.  The Beachwood Sparks bring a much needed good time attitude to the nearly smothered indie market filled with quickly aging Generation X-ers who have run out of bitchy social commentary.
Sub Pop's Beachwood Sparks pageBuy from Amazon.com Released Oct 9th, 2001.  Reviewed by Matt Reasor.

MIKE BECK & THE BOHEMIAN SAINTS
Rooted... (Reata)

Mike Beck's a horse whisperer by trade, learned from the Dorrance brothers, horsemen they based the Redford movie on. Beck's a guitarist steeped in the Bakersfield sound, and writes excellent and evocative songs. Earlier albums trace his cowboy life, Mariposa Wind being the best. Beck's new one, Rooted, is a departure of sorts. "George Orwell's 113th Dream" is evidence, as is one of the more subtle, moving anti-war songs around, "Amanda Come Home", a mercy plea for a woman he knows who's stationed in Iraq. Rooted also boasts a nakedly emotional "I Want You", one of the best Dylan covers you'll ever hear. This is intelligent and genuine Americana music by a man who's tamed wild horses the world over, spent many nights around the fire at cowboy gatherings. When Mike Beck shakes the pucky off his boots and plugs in his B-bender guitar to sing his song, he's got something to say… and his new album captures his evolving artistry very, very well.

Mike's site (including horsemanship clinics) has CD ordering. Released Sept. '06, reviewed by Doug Lang.

THE BE GOOD TANYAS
Chinatown… (Netwerk)
The Be Good Tanya are a trio of young women from Vancouver, B.C. They have hip thrift store look and their musical style carefully straddles the line between folk and old-timey music. Featuring the whispery lead vocals of Frazey Ford and "plucked not picked" banjo, many of their tunes percolate along at a gentle pace with some soft drums in the background. Their production and songwriting have improved from their first effort Blue Horse, yet it’s thankfully not over-produced with too many instruments. They mix in some well-chosen cover songs with their own compositions, which occasionally remind me of Gillian Welch’s style. They honor the past forefathers like The Carter Family and Hazel & Alice, while not imitating them. I could see them breaking out to the "big time", appealing to everyone from young acoustically aware Phish-heads to boomer "O’ Brother" fans. Check it out, buy one for yourself and one for your girlfriend!
BeGoodTanyas.com Buy from amazon Released March, 2003.  Reviewed by Bill Frater

ALBUM COVERTHE BELIEVERS 
Row... (Baptism By Fire)
A recent trend in the world of alt.country is to have a group featuring dual lead singers, one male one female. Obviously, these groups are seeking the same type of magic that made Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris such a heart-rending, sweet-sounding team. While I've never heard anyone equal the amazing sound Gram and Emmy got, I like what The Believers do on this new CD. Some groups make the male/female pairings seem like a gimmick, but something intangible about the Believers makes the pairing sound natural, as if the male and female voices were sometimes two sides of the same person and sometimes two different souls having a passionate dialogue. The voices in question, Cynthia Frazzini and Craig Aspen, also are responsible for writing all of the songs. The relationship between them is never really specified in the liner notes but it is clear from the songs they have a special, tender bond that allows them to write and perform some solidly heartfelt and honest country music.
The Believers site.  Order from Miles Of Music or CD Baby Reviewed by Scott Homewood

THE BELIEVERS
Crashyertown... (Bonafide)
Cynthia Frazzini and Craig Aspen, joined by serendipity, come out of the Pacific Northwest by way of Denver and New York respectively. Their sound – what one writer called “American Gothic meets Amazing Grace” – draws on the Buddy & Julie Miller model most strongly. Danny Barnes, formerly of the Bad Livers, adds deftly to the mania with banjo and tuba fluorishes. Self-penned with a cover of Dylan's original rap number, Subterranean Homesick Blues, Crashyertown may not set itself apart from the crowd in originality, but it's in with a good crowd all the same. A consistently listenable set.
The Believers site. Order from amazon. Released April, 2005. Reviewed by Doug Lang.

GLENNA BELL
Face This World... (self-released)
This is one hard lady to track down; all that I can find out about her is that she's from Texas, and that came from a Google search that describes her as a “Texas/goth country artist”. I shit thee not, that's an exact quote, but I'll be go to hell if I can figure that one out. Goth? Oy vay!…, and who writes that stuff, anyhow? Fortunately, I listened before I read that off-turning label, because this is a nice piece of work by a young singer/songwriter that runs in the vein of a pensive Mary Chapin-Carpenter, with two duets, “Moving On”, and “Tumbling Down”, with John Evans, that are almost more Ian and Sylvia than the originals. There's a minimum of backing to Bell's acoustic guitar and vocals, which are more than capable of standing on their own, thank you. When the band kicks in, as on the bluegrass flavoured “Here In Texas”, and “Cosmos Café”, it's toe-tapping time. Self-effacement is an admirable trait, but Bell needs someone to toot her horn, fly her flag a bit more, as it were. She's worthy of the attention. Goth? Sheesh!
We found Glenna's website. Order from CD Baby. Released Feb. 2005, reviewed by Don Grant.

BELLE STARR
Nobody You'd Know... (Hayden's Ferry)
Belle Starr come out of St. Louis, sounding confident, mature and great.  Fronted by two principal singers and songwriters, Kip Loui, who writes most of the songs and has a knack for both memorable words and a good sense of melody, and Lynne Reif, who handles most of the lead vocals with a commanding and expressive alto voice. Together, their singing is frequently spectacular without being too showy. Their songs go from twangy guitar-led rock to spare acoustic ballads with no shortage of melodic hooks.  Hayden's Ferry is a small Americana label that believes in quality over quantity.  They know how to pick 'em and this band is a good example.  Freight Train sez check 'em out!
The band has their own site, with bio, tour and FAQ's... Hayden's Ferry's site.  Released March, 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BELLEVILLE
My Friends Are My Estate... (Del-Tona)
Opening this CD off with an almost perfect slice of late-60's Byrdsian folk-pop (Light) bodes well for Belleville (at least for me, your humble and country-rock loving reviewer). If all bands would open their discs with powerful, grabbing songs such as this my job would be so much easier. In Belleville's case, thank God, my job IS easy because that wonderful first song is just the tip of the iceberg as this CD is chock full of perfect rock/country amalgamations that will make fans of Byrds/Gram Parsons and other artists of that ilk just swoon. Great harmonies, wonderful arrangements and songwriting to die for are the lynchpins to this magnificent CD. Vocals are shared just about equally between band members Robert Zapata and Bruce Drake and all songwriting is credited to the band, underscoring the total band effort on display here. For all the alt.country bands trying to hop on the classic pop bandwagon, along comes Belleville out of relative nowhere to show the rest how to do it properly. Jeff Tweedy dreams of making a record this good. There is not a bad song on here and I say that in all seriousness and pure awe. The best record of the year so far. Fans of Perniece Brothers, Gram, The Band, Byrds, and even late ‘60's psyche-rock need to check this out. Immediately!
Order from amazon Released Oct, 2002. Reviewed by Scott Homewood

THE BELLFURIES
Just Plain Lonesome... (ASP)
Johnny Cash's original back up band, The Tennessee Two, was just lead guitar and stand up bass. Similarly, the Bellfuries led by the fine, Elvis-inspired vocals of Joey Simeone, have guitar, slap bass, lead guitar and a fifties sounding steel guitar by "guest" Billy Horton. Great stuff, no doubt about it. Extra points for their choice three cover songs-  written by Webb Pierce, Dion DiMucci and Sam Cooke. The rest Simeone wrote, but they sound as if they could have been written 50 years ago and that spells rockabilly to me. Get your pomade out,  hit the dance floor and take this record to your next party.
The bands site has tour date and ordering info, and their label's site has MP3 song samples.  Released March, '01, reviewed by Bill Frater & Kay Clements.

THE BELLYACHERS
Bottoms Up... (Gut)
This young quartet from San Francisco which features the plaintive lead vocals and songs of Sandra Mello, has a sound which seems to alternate between the guitar twang of Lone Justice and classic country torch ballads. Mello is aided by rhythm guitarist Melody Baldwin-Baroz, whose harmonies are pleasant and subtle and Jon Stern on lead guitar. David Phillips also adds some fine pedal steel. The band looks punk-country cool and for a debut CD, it's quite promising.
Check out the band's website, Bellyachers.com.  Released Nov. 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater. Order the CD from Miles Of Music.

BELLYACHERS
Heavy In My Hands... (Gut)
Despite the presence of pedal steel player David Phillips and accordion master Rico Bell, this album lands more in the realm of rockabilly-laden pop than country. It does have plenty of roots/country influences, though, most notably in the folk-tinged voices of singers/bandleaders/songwriters Sandra Mello and Melody Baldwin-Baroz. Their sweet harmonies propel this album and give it an honest, rootsy feel much like the Everly Brothers' voices gave to their own special brand of rock music. And much like their thankfully unadorned voices, the Bellyachers' music eschews effects and the usual heavy doses of reverb, instead relying on pure, sweet musicality to bring their often pain-filled, passionate songs to life. A deliciously swaggering cover of the Van Halen hit "Jamie's Cryin'" is not to be missed. Thankfully, in a year filled with some other great albums from female roots artists, this is not your standard Nashville cookie-cutter female country album. This CD is filled with soul, life, wholesomeness and passion. Take that, Trisha - the country scene's starting to pass you by, baby.
The Bellyachers site. Order from amazon Released Aug, 2002. Reviewed by Scott Homewood

RIDLEY BENT
Buckles & Boots... (Open Road Music)

Thematically speaking, Canadian Bent's sophomore release doesn't chart any new waters for the genre. It's a country disc through and through. All of the usual suspects are present in force, the rodeo rider, the disappearing ex, (in guess who's truck?), there's a dog in there somewhere, and an ode to mama, all delivered in styles that change up through swing, straight ahead new country rock, and the closer's dialogue laden “Apache Hairlifter” about an aging cowboy of questionable character. While the content of Buckles & Boots may have been explored before, it's not that often that they have been so well presented. Producer John MacArthur Ellis, with a crew of skilled musicians, has done a stellar turn here. Stylistically it might not be everyone's preferred cup of tea, but it's nonetheless a pretty skookum brew.

Ridley's site. Buy from amazon. Released Nov. '07, reviewed by Don Grant.

MATRACA BERG
Sunday Morning To Saturday Night....(Rising Tide)
This is an impressive CD put out by a lady mostly known for writing songs for more "established" Nashville artists. Berg exhibits a maturity and a debth of style far beyond the other "girls", and she has a great voice to boot. Producer Emory Gordy, Jr. was Emmylou's original bassist, and his experience shows both in his arrangements and his cautious use of the many guest stars. What I also like is the sense of playfulness that Matraca has. She doesn't take herself too seriously. Fans of Mary Chapin Carpenter or Shawn Colvin would probably enjoy this CD.
Best tracks: Along For The Ride, That Train Don't Run, Back In The Saddle, Back When We Were Beautiful, Sun. Morning To Sat. Night. Buy from Amazon.com.

DAN BERN
New American Language... (Messenger)
If this CD truly has the New American Language, then every rock and alt.country band needs to pick this up and study it. From his opening burst Tom Petty-with-tons-of-twang vocals on the song Sweetness and throughout this disc, Bern has crafted an incredible blueprint for a near-flawless roots record. Besides the insightful, engaging, witty stories he tells with deft and skill, he manages to surround them with a perfect framework consisting of equal parts rock passion, country cool, and folk defiance. Yeah, hard times are just around the corner, but so what? Pick up a guitar, tell your story, and get over it. Bern's figured out a way to do it, why do other artists have such a rough time? Congratulations, Bern...after four great discs you've released a career-maker. To you roots fans - get this now and don't be surprised if it turns out to be your favorite disc of 2001.
Check out DanBern.com  Buy from Amazon Released Oct. 2001Reviewed by Scott Homewood

ERIC BIBB
Deeper In The Well ... (Stony Plain)
Prolific bluesman and American ex-pat Eric Bibb's album - his third in a year - is a gentle and well crafted exploration of Southern Country Blues. Recorded in Louisiana with acoustic folk and blues stars Dirk Powell and Cedric Watson, Bibb turns in a set of traditional and original songs that are more soothing than they are troubled, with nary a reference to the struggles, vices and tension that mark traditional blues. It is a statement from a man who seems profoundly content with his lot. Performances are expert throughout, with some especially tasty fiddle work by both Powell and Watson, making Deeper In The Well a pleasant listening experience. Alas, it is not an experience that moves the listener to feel much more, there is no tension to resolve. Bibb's problems are solved.
Eric's site. Buy from Amazon Released June, '11, reviewed by Brad Price.


STEVE BICE
Sixty Minutes of Sin ... (Sin Citizen)

It takes a lot of courage to be “really country” these days, and Farmington, Michigan's Steve Bice steps up to the challenge. On Sixty Minutes of Sin, his second CD, Bice – a protégé of Flying Burrito Brother Al Perkins -- is unashamedly and un-self consciously country. The CD has a nice mix of songs. For weep in your beer songs there are “The Hard Stuff” and “Sixty Minutes of Sin.” There are also songs sure to get people dancing like the Tejano-flavored “World Shaker” and “Gone Away.” Even the uptempo songs have a sad tinge to the lyrics, reflecting the continuing dark influence in the Americana genre. The musicianship on the CD is nice and unobtrusive. There are no blistering or moaning solos, and this lets the authenticity of the lyrics shine through. The production work is also well done. The producers give us a taste of (what used to be) The Nashville Sound the likes of which hasn't come off of Music Row in decades. For an extra treat, find a copy of “The Sin Citizen Sessions,” his demo/debut and listen to him put the torch to Music Row in “Rubber Room.” It's the best I Hate Nashville song since Robbie Fulks' “Fuck This Town.”
Steve's site has CD ordering info. Buy from amazon. Released Sept. '04, reviewed by Clint Weathers.

BIG BACK FORTY
Bested.....(Polydor)
At first I wasn't sure if these guys were a rock band or a country-roots band, and I'm still not sure, which is fine. Like Del Amitri or maybe Dire Straits, Big Back Forty do what works for each song and to hell with labels. They're from Columbus, Ohio and they played and wrote the whole thing themselves. No gimmicks, just great songs and arrangements. Has anyone else bought this CD besides me?
Best tracks: Blood, 8 Miles Down, Move It Over, Big Man.  Big Back 40 Home Page Nice site w/tour info, song samples and lyrics. Released July, '97, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BIG BLUE HEARTS
Big Blue Hearts......(Geffen)
These young guys hail from San Francisco and have a distinctive sound featuring the haunting tenor of songwriter David Fisher. Add lots of reverb guitar and you can't stop thinking Chris Isaak must have a new band. The songs are mostly mid-tempo to slow, the melodies will eventually grow on you and you find yourself forgetting all about Isaak, and you realize he got most of his sound from Roy Orbison. So who knows who they sound like, there's definitely a 50's retro thing going, with enough pedal steel from guest Greg Leitz to give it some country feel. The Mavericks, maybe that's who they sound like! Oh well, they don't have the most original sound, but who does anyway. The CD has a "hidden" last track that really rocks like "Sun Sessions" Elvis, which I wish they did more of. I like these guys and if you like any of the above artists, then you'll enjoy Big Blue Hearts too.
Best Tracks: Live Without Your Love, Nobody Wants Her, Don't Mind Messin'.  Official Band Site with tour info, mailing lists, pix, etc. Released June, 97, reviewed by Bill Frater.

THE BIG GALOOTS
One Thing Right... (GIP)
Their biography says that this New Jersey band embraces country music's greatest period, the 1950's and 60's. That works pretty well for me too. They compare quite favorably to the Derailers, original songs done in honky tonk, rockabilly and pre-Beatles rock 'n' roll styles. Despite the band's name, they take their music quite seriously. This debut CD is a fun ride.
Order from amazon, or from the band's website, BigGaloots.com  Release date: June, 2000. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

BIG HOUSE
Travelin' Kind...(MCA Nashville)
This California band has a real smooth blues-based country sound. Lead singer Monty Byron has a good, smokey voice and has a hand in most of the songwriting, which is solid throughout. They play it fairly safe, but at least they haven't "sold their souls" to have a country hit. I was prepared to say that this CD gives me hope that the Nashville establishment is finding a place for young bands to develop. Then I just heard that MCA has dumped them from their roster after only 2 releases. MCA also recently sent the great George Jones out to pasture too. So much for good intentions. I like these guys even more now, and I wish them luck.

BIG HOUSE
Woodstock Nation... (Dead Reckoning)
Failing to hit the big time via MCA's major label machine, Big House comes back with a new release on the well-respected Nashville songwriter label, Dead Reckoning.  This time through, they are short four of their original members, sacrificing some of the Bakersfield Sound which characterized them.  But led by the strong, bluesy voice of Monty Byron, the band sounds relaxed and loose and even pretty funky at times.  It ain't very Country and it ain't very R & B either, but I like 'em.  My only question is ... why'd they name it Woodstock Nation?  The title has nothing to do with the band or their music.  
Dead Reckoning has a nice site. Buy from Amazon.com. Released May, 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BIG IN IOWA 
Bangin' 'n' Knockin'... (self released)
I guess you'd call this heartland Roots Rock or possibly Boogie Blues.  It seemed like their first CD was more twangy sounding whereas this one is more derivative and even sometimes mocking of the 70's Southern Rock excesses.  Lead singer Bob Burns has a classic rock voice that reminds me of the guy in Lynard Skynard (or is it Marshall Tucker Band?). They're obviously a good band with good songs and there's nothing wrong with Southern Rock, but it sounds somewhat dated to me.  However, I give 'em extra points for covering Pure Prairie League's "Two Lane Highway".
  Released March 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BIG SANDY & HIS FLY-RITE BOYS
Night Tide... (HighTone)
This is an especially good collection of original tunes played by a band that has remained true to the hillbilly swing thang since their first CD. With the talented guitar and steel of Ashley Kingman and Lee Jeffries and up front, the remarkable songs and vocals of Big Sandy, this is a band that is becoming smoother and tighter as they age without losing any of the skirt swingin' fun that has marked them as one of the premier goodtime dance bands on the touring circuit.  Check it out and check them out next time they come to your town. They not only play good but they dress good too, and they have cool vintage equipment.
HighTone Records   Released August, 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater and Kay Clements.

BIG SANDY & HIS FLY-RITE BOYS
Turntable Matinee… (Yep Roc)

You know what you're getting when you buy a Big Sandy album. A seamless and swingin' combination of early rock ‘n roll, vintage country and rockabilly, with Sandy's versatile wispy tenor above the mix. They've been together in one form or another for over 15 years now, outlasting the swing trends and numerous other similar bands. They still tour a lot with their vintage clothes, guitars and amps. The songs here are mostly originals, steeped in the tradition of the late 50's to early 60's. No Politics here, just tunes about playin' ‘45's, first kisses, heartaches and one about a pair of “Haunted Heels”. It's all about those sweet and innocent times some 50 years ago. And perhaps that's a nice place to be, like in the movie “Pleasantville”, it'd be nice to stay there.

Big Sandy's Yep Roc page. Buy from Amazon. Released July, '06, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BIG SILVER
Big Silver... (self-released)
While I notice many other reviewers are calling this power-pop, I consider it power pop only if the V-Roys were considered power pop. This is indeed heavy on melody and punch, but the vocals still retain a huge helping of twang and the band's rural roots are evident when listening to their songs. What I do like is the lead singer's tendency to sound like Dave Edmunds. This is never a bad thing and I can see a younger version of Edmunds doing songs like this. Think V-Roys and the poppier sides of Wilco and Wallflowers. Oh yeah, Big Star creeps in too. Definitely a keeper.
The band has a nice website.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood

BIG SILVER
Love Note... (Spin South)
Just so you know I'm being honest, I'll say it right up front - I love power pop. There, I've said it. You know what, though? I love me some well-played swinging country music just as much. While the original slate of acts that helped form the original No Depression movement back in the mid-90's are drifting away from their roots and original focus to play more pop-oriented stuff, I can't begrudge them. For the most part, they do a good job. For example Wilco and the Old ‘97's. Although I loved their first few albums, I don't mind the direction they've taken away from the kind of music they started out with. I also don't mind when an artist like Robbie Fulks decides to make whole albums full of Bakersfield country songs. I like both styles equally, and as long as it isn't done to just gather money and press (hello Marah, you stinking sell-outs) I am fine with it. Perhaps the best of both worlds is a band doing an album of songs of which half would be country and half would be rock/pop with some catchy melodies. Well, damn if Big Silver didn't read my mind and go ahead and do just that. The country songs swing, the rock songs have some crunchy guitars and some highly catchy melodies and I am one of the happiest men on the planet! It's a love note alright - a love note to anyone who likes great country and bristling crunch-pop. Everyone will find something to like here and this CD shouldn't be neglected. Pick this up as soon as possible. You'll be glad you did.
Big Silver website. Reviewed by Scott Homewood

THE BIGGER LOVERS
How I Learned to Stop Worrying... (Black Dog)
The Lovers got the title perfect because I wouldn't worry either if I had a band this good. Think equal parts Who/Jam power thrust, Wilco's country-pop experimentalism and Brian Wilson's arranging genius mixed together and left to fester in a heart-rending emotional battle zone and you just about got it. While seemingly lo-fi and a little under produced there are a lot of beautiful orchestrations and filigrees that are way beyond the scope of most roots rockers. Theremin, piano, plaintive pedal steel - everything plus the kitchen sink but put together so the song shines brightest. A very good album that makes me eager to hear what they can do next.
The Bigger Lovers website has tour info and more. Release date: March, '01.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood

ALBUM COVERBIGGER THAN DALLAS
Hard Floor and Thought of Sin and Grace... (self-released)
While I love the band name and the quite gothic-sounding title of this four-song EP release from the band, I like the music even more. All acoustic and folky, the music rolls like the tundra and carries the resonance of a thunderstorm. I'm talking great dynamics here, something most bands forget about. Each song is life-and-death and there are no winners. No winners except the listener, who gets to check out a relatively new band, one who I hope comes out with a full-length CD very soon. A very good EP, let's hope the next release continues this fine start.
The band's euphonious website. Reviewed by Scott Homewood

THE BILLYGOATS
Huevos Rancheros!... (BGR)
The Billygoats, a four-piece band out of Nashville, celebrate that timeless era of Rock 'n' Roll, the '50's. They write their own tunes, most with a mid-tempo Rockabilly feel with a sprinkle of vintage Country. The title track is a Spaghetti-Western flavored instrumental. One song features violinist Andy Stein, who I haven't heard of since his days with Commander Cody's Lost Planet Airmen. Great for bowling shirt wearing fans of the Palladins or the Hollisters.
Released July, '00. Song samples, bio  and CD ordering from Groovetone.com.

BIRDS OF CHICAGO
Birds of Chicago... (self released)

When I opened this CD I was thinking that there is no way that I would  be hearing another fantastic duo.  Shovels & Rope and Whitehorse both made my top 10 for 2012. What are the odds of lightening striking 3 times?   Birds of Chicago is more than a duo, but JT Nero and Allison Russell are the core of the band.   The song writing is exceptional.  Check out Cannonball and The Moonglow Tapeworm for examples of poignant and  truly well crafted songs.  JT and Allison have great solo voices, but when they come together as in Flying Dreams, they create and even greater voice.  JT has a very pronounced vocal style, very succinct and melodic.    Allison has a soaring,  beautifully clear song style.  She ranges from a soulful, almost gospel lilt to a high ranging vibrato and back again in the same song.  This album never has a chance to get boring.  No two songs are even  close to the same.  I'm a sucker for an album that grows on you every time you hear it and this one fills the bill  This is truly a great freshman effort.  I am looking forward to the next album already.  I will definitely watch their tour schedule and grab tickets if they are within a hundred miles of here.  Lightening did strike 3 times.

BoC's web site. Order from CD Baby. Reviewed by Don Parsons.

ALBUM COVERJEFF BISCH
40-Watt Stars... (Pocket Knife)
A strange little album this. It's not really "country" music and the  Americana term doesn't fit either, although it's exactly that. I guess I would call it "roadhouse" if I had to distill it down to one term. It's an almost even mix of jazzy blues and country - a mix that only Gatemouth Brown and Willie Nelson seem able to pull off. Until now, that is. Bisch does a fine job of mixing the two, although I wonder what blurring the lines this much will do to help him build an audience. No matter, country fans may find it too bluesy and blues fans may find it too countryish but music fans, those interested in true quality songs and performances, will like it just fine.
Pocket Knife Music is his own label. Order from CD Baby. Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

THE BITTERSWEETS
The Life You Always Wanted…. (Virt)

San Francisco's Bittersweets got it all goin' for them: melodic roots-rock songs, impressive arrangements and production. I was actually surprised that this was their debut album and that it was self-produced. Led by Chris Meyers, who writes all the songs and plays some tasteful, sinewy guitar but hands most of the vocals over to Hannah Prater. Prater sounds a bit like a less breathy Shawn Colvin. She has a lot of control of her voice. Cellos and mandolins pop up here and there for variety. It all comes down to the songs and Meyers has a nice feel for how to put ‘em together. Deep song themes run from heartache to ending bad relationships to how to then deal with the loneliness. Chicago's Dolly Varden or maybe the Continental Drifters come to mind as touchstones bands. Both are great yet under appreciated bands outside of mainstream. Let's hope that in these busy times full many musical distractions that the Bittersweets rise above the din and get the recognition that they deserve.

The band's web site has a music player. Buy from Amazon Released June, '06, reviewed by Bill Frater.


BLACK EYED DOG
Distance Inbetween... (Hero)
Anyone who doubts that North Carolina is quickly becoming a hotbed of alt.country musical bliss needs to listen to recent albums by Lou Ford, Jolene and this great band to realize the state is starting to kick-ass in turns of quality country music. To my ears, Black Eyed Dog sounds like the rockier side of the Bottle Rockets mellowed slightly by the more introspective side of Counting Crows. In other words, rural roots rock with catchy melodies and a decent studio sheen that is noticeable but doesn't take away from the song. In what may be noted producer Mitch Easter's first foray into country-rock music, he mixed this album and did a damn fine job of it too! His involvement could definitely be the source of the albums' radio-ready sound. Of course, Easter is a noted pop fan and this album does have a touch of that as well. It's buried so the songs can come to the fore but it's there in the melodies and a few of the bells and whistles that seem country but also seem perfectly placed as well. Another ringer is singer Jeffrey Dean Foster, who does background vocals on this album. While this might not appeal to the country purists it sure would sound great on the radio and would definitely lead to some more exploration of the country idiom. Crows, Slobberbone, and B-Rox fans will all like this record. 
Black Eyed Dog's website. Order the CD from Paste Music.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

THE BLACK LILLIES
Runaway Freeway Blues... (North Knox/Attack Monkey)

This is the 3rd album from the  Knoxville based band, The Black Lillies.  I have been following this band since their first release, Whiskey Angel.  The band is headed by front man and songwriter, Cruz Contreras.  This group is definitely not living on its laurels.  To the contrary, they are building on the incredible foundation of their previous albums.   Their first 2 albums, the aforementioned Whiskey Angel, and their sophomore release 100 Miles of Wreckage were truly outstanding efforts.  I was hooked the first time that heard the single, "Whiskey Angel".  This album continues in the vein of the previous albums, but shows that the band is continuing to grow.  The arrangements are tighter and extremely well crafted.  Trisha Gene Brady is the backup vocalist, but she is really stepping out to the front of stage on this release.  Trisha's voice adds a key piece to the total sound of this band.   I hate to pick out favorite songs to write about and this album makes it very difficult to single out a few songs as better than the rest.  However, that being said, "Smokestack' is this incredible "truckin' song".   You will be sure that you have heard it before, but let me assure you that this one is better than anything you've heard in the past.  I can only imagine how great the live performance of  "Smokestack" must be.  The addition of the horn section on "Baby Doe" adds a completely new and brilliant layer to this album.  The musicianship on this release is incredibly solid.  Tom Pryor's electric guitar and pedal steel are spectacular.  Cruz wrote all of the songs on this album except one, "Ramblin' Boy."  This is a classic A.P. Carter tune and Cruz and the band plays it extremely well.    Some bands have a tendency to falter after a couple of top notch albums.  This is definitely not the case with the Black Lillies.

The Lillies' website. Order from Amazon. Released March, '13, reviewed by Don Parsons.

BLACKIE & THE RODEO KINGS
Bark... (True North)
Canadian trio, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings are crossing the border with their new CD BARK on True North Records. Roots driven rock/pop of the highest order, this is a bopper, a rocker and a slow dance swayer. Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing and Tom Wilson are well recognized solo artists in Canada as well as performing and recording in this popular trio. Dominant throughout this CD, Colin Linden's electric dobro creates an expressive texture that invites the vocalist and listener alike to step inside this house and feel the music. These guys can write, rock and sing and they do it all on Bark.

Rodeo King's site. Buy from amazon. Released April, '04. Reviewed by Kay Clements.


BLACKIE & THE RODEO KINGS
Let's Frolic... (True North)

As can be seen by the release date below, this one has been around for a while now. At this writing, their fifth has been available since last May. Oh well, better late than never. Let's Frolic is a pleasing meld of folk, country, and a dash of rock, as in the title track, from three talented Canadians, Stephen Fearing, Colin Linden, and Tom Wilson, the Rodeo Kings' core. While the composition of the backbone section varies from disc to disc, the caliber of the musicianship never wavers. Writing credits are fairly equally shared but you'd never know it just from listening, as the lead vocals alternate, even within a single song. The tracks are so complimentary they could have all come from one pen, that's how finely attuned to each other they are. Nevertheless, minor detail; you get fourteen bangs here for your buck, no misfires. For a taste of country rock, check out “That's What I Like”, for a beautiful ballad, “Loving Cup”. Next order of business: check out Let's Frolic Again.

Rodeo King's site. Buy from amazon Released Sept. '06, reviewed by Don Grant.

BLACKIE & THE RODEO KINGS
Kings & Queens ... (Dramatico)
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings are Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing and Tom Wilson, who each have their own solo careers. Think Canada's CSN, or maybe Souther, Hillman, Furay. In the liner notes they say that they love collaborating with other people and that why they love having the band. Three years in the making, Kings & Queens pairs them with some legendary female roots artists like Rosanne Cash, Exene Cervenka, Emmylou Harris, Amy Helm, Sam Phillips,  Sara Watkins, Lucinda Williams and others. The unique aspect is the songs are mostly new Rodeo King originals, rather than covers or rehased tunes. Most of them are quite good too. Producer Linden fills most of the solos with slide guitar, which gets a little old. Recommended!
Rodeo King's site. Buy from Amazon Released June, '11, reviewed by Bill Frater.

ERIC BLAKELY
Still Life At Full Speed ... (Folk Reel Productions)
It's tough to manage the balance between baring your soul and showing too much pathos. It's just as tough to manage being clever without going over the Dennis Miller line. Eric Blakely walks both lines and manages to dance while doing it. With songs like "Been A Long Road," "Another Night At The Laundromat," and "Hangin Tree" Blakely through life's sorrows and life's joys and you better be listening close because he throws out both wisdom and humor at a machine-gun pace. They do seem to grow songwriters pretty well down in Austin where Blakely lives - his work stands up well against the likes of Collin Gilmore and Alejandro Escovedo. The instrumentalism on this CD is really nice, shifting from folky blues to straight up CCR and on to more Americana sounds. The production is well done, letting the music and lyrics show through without being distractingly over-wrought. Still Life At Full Speed is a CD you'll need to listen to a few times to really grasp, but once you do, you won't want to let go.

Eric's web site. Buy from amazon. Released Apr. '04. Reviewed by Clint Weathers.


THE BLASTERS
Live: Going Home...( Shout)
I love the Blasters. This band says LA like the Beach Boys said Malibu. Maybe I'm not the most objective person to write this review but I put this CD on after a bad day,( a bad week really) and suddenly, I'm dancing around the room feeling proud to be an American, proud to be from LA (no easy sell, believe me). How does this compare to the live CD recorded in 2002 and released on Hightone? There is live and then there is really live, excitingly live. The Blasters upped the ante when they invited some of their heroes onstage and made this as much a tribute to them as a lesson in what influenced the band from the gitgo. You can hear the energy that happened that night at the Galaxy Theater when members of the Calvanes and the Medallions as well as Sonny Burgess and Billy Boy Arnold stepped onstage to play together with the Blasters, really laying out the blues, rock and r&b that was their inspiration.They are still a kickass band, make no mistake and time has only enhanced their talent.
Buy from amazon. Released Feb. '04. Reviewed by Kay Clements.

THE BLAZERS
Just For You....(Rounder)
From the other band from East LA, this new one doesn't really break any new ground, but that's okay, they're a solid band with a consistent rootsy blues sound. Production is by Pete Anderson, which is always good, and he adds some slide here and there too, also good. I can't fault the vocals or the tunes, I just don't find myself going back to listen to the CD much. That's just me, if you liked either of their earlier CDs then you're sure to like this one.
Rounder's Blazers page with bio, audio samples, reviews, etc. Buy from Amazon.com. Released Aug. '97, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA
Spirit of the Century... (Real World)
Let’s temporarily suspend the usual FTB star rating and give this one a “praise the lord” a couple of “hallelujah’s” and a “good god almighty”. By my reckoning, the guys that made this recording have a combined total of about 500 years experience in the music business.  They put every last one of them to good use on this disk.  A seamless mixture of songs by secular artists (Tom Waits, Ben Harper, Jagger/Richards) and traditional/gospel tunes, the 70 plus year-old Blind Boys are backed by an all-star band that includes David Lindley, Charlie Musslewhite and Danny Thompson. Producer John Chelew, (who produced John Hiatt's classic Bring The Family),  is content to lay down a groove and let the voices shine.  Lord, have mercy!
Buy from Amazon.com Released: April, 2001.  Reviewed by Marty Harper.

THE BLIND ROBINS
Panorama Valley... (Rolling Blackout)

Based in Rockford, Illinois, the Blind Robins are a quartet, that, from the evidence here on their second release for Rolling Thunder, should really be a sextet. They've produced a pleasing collection of alt.country, bluegrass, and even a waltz from the pen of vocalist Michael Whyte, and, to these ears, much of the pleasantry comes from the contributions of Jessica Billey on violin and vocals, and the pedal steel and banjo of Bud Melvin. Those two should be press-ganged into permanent member status. Standout tunes include the chicken scratch bluegrass of “Cash and the Carters”, the title track “Panorama Valley”, and the afore-mentioned “Skelton Waltz”, which brings back memories of parts of Neil Young's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. Rumour has it that the Robins' first release had a Ramoneish punk flavour to it, and there is a definite vestige of angst in “Two Good Eyes”. This time around the country predominates, and that's a good thing. Now guys, just get your two wingers to quit their day jobs, and release number three should be a winner.

The Robin's site. Order from CD Baby. Released June, '06, reviewed by Don Grant.

JILL BLOCK
Tang The Hump... (Western Beat)
For those of you who recognize the last name, Jill Block is the wife of Nashville alt.country music promoter and visionary Billy Block. For those of you who don't recognize the slightly provocative title of her new album, it is a quote from the genius of soul James Brown, who used to cajole his drummers to hit the bell of the cymbal by asking them to ‘Tang The Hump'. One notable aspect about this CD is that Block, who used to use the name Porkchop Kelly when performing, has finally decided to drop all artifice and make her official ‘big time' debut under her real name. If this heralds a new honesty in her songs and performance style, then this is indeed a good thing, as her was always great before - and her new album kicks ass. Not only does she call in a bunch of Nashville songwriting mavericks like Kostas to help her co-write some cool tunes, but she also has some fine musicians in her backing band, complete with Mr. Block himself on drums,.Most importantly, however, the honey-voiced songstress uses all of these great musical allegiances to augment what she already does so well: sing some wonderful country songs featuring all the twangy guitar noise and great rowdy rootsy rock you'd ever want from a country filly. All without shifting the focus away from her great voice. A swell debut from a promising new artist.
WesternBeat.com has a bio and CD ordering.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

BLOODROSES
From St. Paul To San Francisco... (SilverSongs)
This young band from San Francisco has been together for three years and they have developed a great sound.  Featuring the fine vocals and songwriting of Michelle Muldrow.  They move from slow, waltz-style folk /rock songs to upbeat jumpers, all with a bit O' twang and some tasty slide guitar.  The album credits mention 2 lead guitarists, one "sloppy" and the other "slick" and that pretty well describes their overall sound. Fans of Bloodshot artists should like this, though Bloodroses are more melodic and polished then most of  the Bloodshot bands. This CD is definitely worth looking for.
E-mail the band for CD info. Their website has some live pix and bio stuff but no updates on this album.

PATRICK BLOOM
Moses...
(Mud Dauber)
Patrick Bloom is a member of the new generation of wandering minstrels, having pinballed himself between both American coasts and coming to rest, (permanently?), in the heart of the Midwest, Iowa. You can’t get much closer than that to the soil, which coincidentally makes a good reference point for describing his music. No rhinestone cowboy, Bloom captures the essence of everyday life with a poignancy that evades the pitfall of becoming maudlin. He can tap into a religious vein, as in the title track, and in “Jerusalem”, without that suffocating oppression that appears all too frequently in that particular subject. That same ability is evident in his homage to his new digs titled, what else, “Iowa”. Does the man have a sense of humour to boot? A nice little ditty about the mythical “Green Lantern” answers that one. With a CD like Bloom’s, there’s no surprise there.
Bloom's homepage and MySpace. Order from CD Baby. Released Feb. '08, reviewed by Don Grant.

BLUE DIAMOND SHINE
That Godforsaken Road... (Entwine)
Besides taking their name from one of Blue Rodeo's best records, the band has also seemingly stolen something else from that much-loved band: a gift for well-written songs and a sparse, compressed country-rock sound that somehow allows the music to breathe without making it seem something is lacking. This band favors an old-fashioned (classic) sound resembling '50s country artists while incorporating some of that era's rock riffs as well. This is an album for those that feel most at home with the classic country sound that wouldn't mind a smidgen of rock added to it. A very pleasant record.
Check out BlueDiamondShine.com for CD ordering.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood

THE BLUE DOGS
Halos and Good Buys... (Black River)

Some CD's grow on you. You have to listen to them a few times to really grasp what the artist is doing. At some point you find yourself humming the song as you're driving to work. Halos and Good Buys, the new release from The Blue Dogs out of South Carolina, is not one of those CD's. From the opening track, "What's Wrong With Love Songs?" to the soon to be ubiquitous "Wrong Love At The Right Time" and "Make Your Mama Proud" to the rest of the really well-crafted songs on the CD, it hits you right between the eyes with a sledgehammer. Over and over. By the third or fourth time listening through, the magic is gone, and this CD starts to wear thin. Yes, the musicianship is truly outstanding from both the vocals of Bobby Houck and the instrumentalists. Yes, the songs are clever, and hooky. Yes, Don Gehman's production work is world-class. And that's the problem with Halos and Good Buys. It's too slick, too polished, too formulaic. This could be a really great CD by any really good band from "the new Nashville." No one can doubt the quality of the work on this CD, but there isn't much to set it apart from a lot of other CD's by a lot of other bands. It sounds like Pat Green or The Wallflowers or Counting Crows or even heaven forbid, Hootie & The Blowfish. You'll be able to judge for yourself, whether you buy the CD or not. Soon enough The Blue Dogs will be all over US radio and CMT and there will be little chance of avoiding them.

The Blue Dogs online. Buy from amazon. Released March, '04. Reviewed by Clint Weathers.


BLUE HIGHWAY
Sounds of Home... (Rounder)

These guys have been getting it right for seventeen years and their new CD, Sounds of Home, is no exception. A superficial listen might leave you with the impression that this is just another well honed hard core traditional bluegrass band but listen closer. Sure each player is a master of their instrument and the band personifies the best of the genre but their stellar songwriting tells another story. Like another great bluegrass band from days past, The Seldom Scene, these guys use the instruments & bluegrass context to deal with adult issues of love, loss, the working man's hard life, regret and redemption. All the songs are originals and the soulfull vocals convey the emotions of deeply lived life. This isn't pyrotechnic, lick-laden teeny bopper bluegrass. These guys have been around the block and have a life perspective to share in song and story. That said, the band can also roll out taut, muscular bluegrass with the best of them I can't think of a better bluegrass band on the scene today and this CD displays the band in it's prime.

Blue Highway's web site. Rounder's BH site. Buy from Amazon Released Aug. '11, reviewed by Kevin Russell.

BLUE MOUNTAIN
Homegrown.... (Roadrunner)
This young trio from Mississippi have a delightful sound. Sometimes upbeat-folky, other times loud Neil Young-ish guitar, then they'll bring it way down and make your heart ache with a soft ballad. Cary Hudson writes, sings, plays guitar, banjo, mandolin, etc. and his wife Laurie Stirratt plays bass and sing great harmonies, and ya got Frank Coutch on drums. Great songs with memorable melodies. If you like Whiskeytown, try Blue Mountain, a little more rootsy-sounding, they prove that keeping it simple is the way to go if the songs are there.
Best tracks: Myrna Lee, Pretty Please, Last Words of Midnight Clyde, Generic America.  Roadrunner's Blue Mt. page Features bio, tour info, RA samples, etc. Blue Mt. Rules A simple but passionate fan site. Buy from Amazon.com. Released July, '97, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BLUE MOUNTAIN
Midnight in Mississippi... (Broadmoor)

One of the first Midwest Alt.Country bands form the mid-ninietes, Blue Mt. were right up there with Uncle Tupelo and The Jayhawks at one time. Let by Cary Hudson and Laurie Stirratt who were married when the first incarnation of the band existed. The band broke up for awhile and lead singer/songwriter Cary Hudson released a few solo CD's in the interim. Perhaps divorce brings out the best with these guys because this is a superb return to form with solid songs and many varied colors for just a three-piece band. Hudson does more melodically with a electric guitar then anyone I've heard since John Fogerty. Highly recommended.
The official BM site. Buy from Amazon.com. Released Aug 2008, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BLUERIDGE
Side by Side...(Sugarhill)

On this, their third CD, BlueRidge has arrived as one of the strongest bands happening on the bluegrass scene. Monster mandolinist Alan Bibey leads the group through compelling renditions of vintage material but more importantly presents originals that are as good as anything coming out of the classic bluegrass repertoire. Like Doyle Lawson’s band Quicksilver or the Lonesome River Band (both from which BlueRidge was spawned), this band has exquisite powerful vocals and impressive instrumental prowess. Having finally gotten the right combination of players and material, these guys are really just getting started, and they kick butt! If you love the real-deal bluegrass, you gotta check this one out.
Sugar Hill's BlueRidge site. Buy from amazon. Released Jan. 2004, reviewed by Kevin Russell.

BLUE RODEO
Tremelo.....(Sire/Warners)
This Canadian six-piece band has a signature sound after 10 years together. The harmonies of the two singers/guitarists remind me of The Jayhawks a few albums back, or even The Burritos at their best. All original tunes, a few of the longer ones seem to drag on and on. No new ground broken here but their solid Americana sound is consistant and tight. I wished they let loose a little more like on the final song. I bet they're a great band live.

BLUE RODEO
Are You Ready... (Rounder)

This one gives me some pain, and not because it's a dud, but, rather, because it doesn't meet the standard of some the band's earlier efforts. Make no mistake, I admire these guys for their ability to craft intelligent and melodic music that reaches far beyond the inanity of “ my truck ran off with my best friend, my girlfriend broke, and my dog got drunk” lyrics of a lot of mainstream country. After Outskirts and Diamond Mine , maybe I'm expecting too much? I dunno. In all honesty, this CD is pretty good stuff, but, and here's the rub, it skates dangerously close to being department store/elevator country muzak. It is too easily relegated to the background. Nothing stands out, unless you force yourself to sit down and really pay attention to what is happening on your audio system. That wasn't the case with the afore-mentioned predecessors; those albums burned with a passion that sizzled your ears. Is complacency setting in, the old nemesis of far too many talents? God forbid that the guys are going middle-class on us! I think that it's time to re-connect with those leaner, meaner, and hungrier times; c'mon Jim, Greg,… most of the Canadian ‘icons' that I know of are dead, or have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. You're not ready for the garden yet.

The official band site. Buy from Amazon.com. Released Sept. 2005, reviewed by Don Grant.

THE BLUERUNNERS
Honey Slides... (Bayou Vista)
The opening cut on this very enjoyable disc is "Working Man's Zydeco", which perfectly describes one aspect of this veteran Lafayette, Louisiana band. But as you listen on, you'll find they're just as comfortable presenting a swampy blues groove (The Grave Digger, King Snake Crawl) or mandolin driven, haunting country ballads (Ghost of a Girl, Big Head.) What ties this regional music together is rousing accordion and slide guitar licks (evoking local favorite Sonny Landreth). With rock and roll attitude and strong cultural roots, French Cajun tunes and rolling instrumentals, this release is just in time for Mardi Gras but will sound great year round.     
The Bluerunners website has CD ordering, or buy from Amazon.com. Released Jan. '05, reviewed by Michael Meehan.

KIP BOARDMAN
Upon The Stars... (Ridisculous)
At a time when most bands (not so much in the alt.country world but there are plenty of examples there as well) are more concerned with adding as many production and instrumental gee-gaws as possible than turning out good, quality songs, comes Kip Boardman and his new CD filled with gentle country rocking gems. Recorded at Boardman's house (at least according to the CD's liner notes) and featuring a core band made up of only three players (Boardman (vocals, bass, piano and extras), Tony Gilkyson (guitars), and Don Heffington (drums, percussion) this CD is a testament to the power of good songwriting. Although some background vocals and instrumental enhancements are added, they are kept very minimal and it is the songs which stand out, whether they be on the country side (Upon The Stars) or 70's AM pop on a Paul McCartney Ram-ish scale (Bottom Line). This should appeal to fans of both country and light pop/rock and is a wonderful record for a summer day. Great stuff.
KipBoardman.com has CD ordering, or order from Miles Of Music. Reviewed by Scott Homewood

BOB AND WENDY
Behind the Blue... (self-released)
An interesting concept in alt.country land. A male/female team (maybe husband and wife, maybe sister and brother) that is not based on guitar and vocals, instead based on guitar, vocals, and stringed instruments (cello, violin). What strikes you at first is the fragile, crystalline beauty of Wendy's voice - a surprising tone that, to me, could sound just as good accapella. Next up are the wonderful harmonies produced by both of them, harmonies that rival Buddy and Julie Miller and even the Everlys. Even more remarkable are the songs. Timeless and classic, these songs have the feeling of being familiar yet new, like classics just written. This is a winner to me in all respects and it's hard to pick a standout but I would say the song Bed You Made is my personal fave. A delightful album that makes me anticipate their next one.
Their website. Order from CD Baby  Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

PONTY BONE
Fantasize... (Loudhouse)
While the phrase "Enjoying the Bone" can mean a lot of things (most of them X-rated probably) to a lot of people, to Texans, well....let's just say to music savvy Texans it means enjoying one of their treasures - master accordionist Ponty Bone. Bone has played on so many albums as a sideman that it would no doubt be nearly impossible to count them all but his masterful accordion work has graced more of your favorite songs than you will ever know. Conversely, his solo turns (at least on record) are fewer and farther between and are generally cause for celebration among discerning music lovers. Bone mixes equal parts cajun, conjunto, and country together to form a musical mélange that is best called "Texas music" and left to stand on its' own. As usual, his music is fantastic, accordion work superb, and his vocals unobtrusive enough to carry his tunes (and others') but let the music shine through. A celebrated vocalist never but he will always be a musical treasure whose music can bring a smile to your face in about half a second. Great stuff.
Loudhouse Record's site.  Released Aug. 2001 Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

BONEPONY 
Traveler's Companion... (SuperDuper)
Bonepony are a strange band.  They're a Southern trio who play only acoustic instruments at a fervent pace aided by drums and "stomp boards".  Lead singer Scott Johnson has a good strong voice that he sometimes pushes up to the level of screaming.  Think Robert Plant singing with the New Grass Revival.  I wouldn't be writing anything about them except they have some nice catchy tunes and they have a lot of energy for fiddle and banjo music.  I'm just not sure what kind of music they play... it's not Rock, it's not Bluegrass, Bonepony calls it Powerfolk...  I guess that works for me too.
Check out Bonepony.com for tour, bio and other stuff. Buy from Amazon.com. Released early '00, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BONEPONY
Jubilee... (Superduper)
I've been a fan of this band for a while now, if only for the wonderfully deviant imagery inherent in their name and everything it may imply. In fact, considering the underlying menacing aspects of their name and how it would probably offend many, the band creates a wonderful blend of rock and country that is decidedly accessible to everyone. While many so-called hipsters and those pretending to be "only about the music, man" might consider that statement an insult, I don't. Music is made to be heard and great music should be heard and enjoyed by as many people as possible. In turn, Bonepony's new CD deserves as much exposure as it can get as it is some of the best roots rock released this year, in my opinion. The talented three-man group writes all of its' own songs and, though the band enlists the help of some stellar musical help (Nanci Griffith and Jonell Mosser on vocals and Craig Krampf on drums), this CD is all theirs, another feather in their cap and yet another great CD more people should hear and hear about. If I were to make a real broad comparison, I would say anyone liking rootsy rock with solid songwriting juxtaposed with some Dave Matthews/jammy overtones will fall in love with CD in an instant. I did.
Check the band's site, Bonepony.com for tour, bio and CD ordering. Buy from Amazon.com. Released June, 2003. Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

T JARROD BONTA
White Lines... (Music Room)

Country, boogie-woogie, and jazz piano player T. Jarrod Bonta has been mostly a behind the scenes fixture on the Austin music scene as a sideman going back to the late 1990s. It was at the end of that decade that he jumped into the spotlight, ever so briefly, via a now out-of-print 45 RPM featuring a couplet of solid honky tonk originals, trickling piano and all. Whereas there was a swing-leaning jazzy album in 2008 from he and his quartet, it took a dozen years for the country side of Bonta to surface again. White Lines breaks the drought and features a dozen songs in the classic country style (i.e., not likely to be heard on your favorite FM country channel anytime soon), 11 of which are from the pen of Bonta. Playing piano and singing in his own debonair style with backing from some of the best of the Austin honky tonk scene, White Lines is one of those under-the-radar gems that should wear well on the ears of those who like their country real and authentic.
T's site. Order from the label. Released July, '11, Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

PATTY BOOKER
I Don't Need All That... (PMS)
The CD cover picture of Patty Booker depicts a woman with tattoos and a cowboy hat pulled down low and mean.  The image that comes across as tough yet sexy, and most people would have a tough time living up to it.  Inside the CD Booker is a straight ahead honky tonk singer.  You get the sound and vocal style of Loretta Lynn, who she cites as a major influence, minus the frilly dresses.  We're talking hard country here, including an impressive version of Lynn's "Fist City".  Booker's originals are great too and her band is rock solid.  Rick Shea, Chris Gaffney, and producers Jann Browne and Matt Barnes all lend support.  Patty Booker is the real deal.
Order from Patty's website  where you can find song samples and gig info.   Released Dec. '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BORDER RADIO
Americana Brand... (self released)
Anyone interested in some hot bluegrass/mountain music needs to check out this band, pronto. Broder Radio first came to the attention of roots fans through an EP released last year which whetted the appetites of fans into simple, back porch picking with tons of talent and energy and fun to spare. This CD is even better, giving their fans a bigger, even more exciting look at the interesting, authentic-sounding blend of bluegrass and mountain music this talented foursome produces. Guesting on banjo is Nitty Gritty Dirt Band member John McEuen, an inspired choice to liven up the proceedings. Besides some wonderful originals, the band manages to liven up songs by Iris DeMent and Paul Kennerly besides taking a decent stab at the chestnut "Long Black Veil". I am slowly being converted into liking bluegrass music and this album is doing a lot to help. I am sure if you are a fan of that genre, you will like this CD a lot.
Their  website. Order the CD for CD BabyReviewed by Scott Homewood .

SARAH BORGES
Silver City… (Blue Corn)
Borges is a Boston-based singer songwriter that at first blush sounds somewhere between an edgier Sheryl Crow and a twangier Chrissie Hynde. The rock production of Paul Q. Kolderie (Radiohead, Uncle Tupelo) places layers of electric guitar under her voice. Pedal steel and a touch of mandolin help give her songs enough of an Americana influence to satisfy us twangers. Where Borges really knocks me out is when she brings on the heat on the rumblin' rockabilly tracks like “Daniel Lee” and Miss Mary”. Other times there's some stingin' slide guitar mixed with tough vocals followed by a poignant tender ballad. It all holds together rather nicely thanks to her strong voice and self-assured lyrics. At the end of the day, this CD comes in a real roots rock winner.

Sarah's site. Buy from amazon. Released March, '05, Reviewed by Bill Frater.


SARAH BORGES and the BROKEN SINGLES
Diamonds In The Dark… (Sugar Hill)

This band led by the strong voice and capable songwriting of Sarah Borges is not for the fainthearted. These guys rock and twang with equal agility, sometimes mixing both styles equally which may confuse you if you like your music strictly defined. Me, I love it. They play with punk pop energy like bands from the 90's like Rockpile and Pearl Harbor and The Explosions. But then they bring in the pedal steel for “Belle Of The Bar” and “Lonely Side Of Town” and you're thinkin' Bostonians can play country too. Their choice of cover tunes really says it all; songs by X, Dolly Parton, Tom Waits and Mary Weiss, the lead singer of the Shangri-Las. I love their open-minded vision of what makes great music.

Buy from amazon. Released June, '07, Reviewed by Bill Frater.

SARAH BORGES and the BROKEN SINGLES
The Stars Are Out… (Sugar Hill)

While there were glimpses of it on her last release (Diamonds In the Dark), with the new The Stars Are Out, Bay State gal rocker Sarah Borges pushes aside the alt country and roots rock stylings opting for a persona often more aligned with the Chrissie Hynde school of rock. If you've ever caught a live show, you know Borges and her Broken Singles can turn on the burners. Sure there's a few missteps on The Stars Are Out (the hard rocking first track leaves these ears cold), but cuts like the Latin-tinged rocker "Me and Your Ghost" and a cover of Magnetic Fields' "No One Will Ever Love You" are amongst the best Borges has put on record. As for her own songwriting, the couplet closing the disc ("Better At the End of the Day" and "Symphony") command attention.

Sarah's web site and MySpace page. Buy from amazon. Released March, 2009. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

BORIS GARCIA
Family Reunion... (Porchwerk)

Gypsy country? You have to admit that there are some pretty wonderful hybrids popping up out there. Now here's an enigmatically named band, and the remarkable part is that it seems to make a good fit with the music. This one is Americana with a decidedly eastern European slant to a lot of the songs; hence the gypsy country categorization. The band's flavour is due in large measure to the employment of Bud Burrough's recorder, mandolin, bouzouki, accordion, and ukulele, and the harp stylings and whistles add to their effect. Coming from Philadelphia, one of the historical entry points for European immigration, it's only natural that the band members would show some evidence of cross-cultural exposure. Boris Garcia would be the sonic equivalent of the Great American Melting Pot, a little bit of everything in good and equal measure, sure to stimulate the taste buds. That name? Well, the Boris bit can be grasped, but, aside from the cover art, that Hispanic Garcia is a bit of a stumper.

The band's web site. Order from CD Baby. Released Oct. 2005, reviewed by Don Grant.


BORIS GARCIA
Mother's Finest... (Porchwerk)

ast time around, a writer of note, (sic), described Garcia's music as gypsy country. Dump that label real fast please. These Philadelphia boys have settled into, (for the time being?) a country/folk/rock vein that is evocative of the Byrds' later evolution. There's lots of bluegrass spice in the mix, and there's still some Eastern European influence, via bouzouki, button accordion, and recorder, for those who might favour their first release. Is this one better than the first? Yes, but with reservations, as they're two vastly different recordings, sort of an apples and oranges comparison; it depends upon what is currently turning your crank. The important bit is that the band has been consistently good. Oh, and by the way, the Garcia bit that confounded earlier is, if rumours are to be believed, referencing Jerry Garcia. Can't say that it's painfully obvious, nor necessary; this band can stand on its own two feet.

The band's web site. Buy from amazon. Released Oct. 2006, reviewed by Don Grant.

BORIS GARCIA
Once More Into The Bliss
... (Dig Music)
After a two year hiatus, the consistently entertaining Boris Garcia is back with their third release. It’s another venture into the more eclectic reaches of bluegrass, so eclectic in fact that the bluegrass label is debatable. On a few tracks, such as the melodic “Lover Tonight”, co-penned by Jeff Otto and Bob Stirner, the boys sound more like a gang of olde englishe troubadours than anything even remotely connected to bluegrass. The flute line in “River Man”, the seventh track, sounds like Ian Anderson has come out of retirement off his sheep farm. See what I mean when I say eclectic? There’s really not much use in trying to draw comparisons or find similarities, Boris Garcia is all alone in its self-created own class, and it is indeed a class act.
The band's web site, and MySpace page. Dig Music's BG page. Buy from amazon. Released Oct. '08, Reviewed by Don Grant

CYNDI BOSTE
Home Truths... (self-released)
Cyndi Boste (her last name rhymes with "post") is from Victoria, Australia. She has has powerful deep alto voice that knocks me out. Her songs are beautiful and melodic and she writes about love and loss straight from the heart. She can deliver a sad and simple ballad and then hit ya hard with an upbeat rocker. This is a very impressive debut CD, one great song after another. Rootsy arrangements with tasty dobro and guitar work from producer Kerryn Tolhurst hold the sound together. First Kasey Chambers and now Cyndi Boste, two of the better women singers I've heard recently, both come from "down under"!
Order from Miles Of Music.  Reviewed by Bill Frater.

LIBBI BOSWORTH
Libbiville... (Ramble)
I've never visited Libbiville myself but, from this CD, it sure sounds like a wild place to hang around. It's a place where men always cheat on their women, love never lasts and heartbreak is just around the corner - sins all committed to the uptempo beat of a country two-step. Like I say, cool place to me/cool place to be! Bosworth tells her stories with tongue planted firmly in cheek and you can sense a small hint of delight as she tells her steamy, slightly saucy stories. Guests on this fine album include Bruce Robison, Gurf Morlix and Toni Price, but the heart (and the cool songs) belong to Bosworth. A must-buy for country fans.
Check out Libbi's great websiteBuy from Amazon.com.  Released Aug, 2001.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

BOTTLENECK 
(Bottleneck)... (Hard Rain)
For one thing, I love the name. Not only does it conjure up an image of someone on their back porch playing a dobro as the time drifts away but it also lends itself to a scene of a congested highway in Anycity where the traffic is stalled and all you can do is try not to get too frustrated while you wait for time to pass and the eventual freedom of movement to begin again. This inherent dichotomy is present in the music as well. The two main songwriters and lead vocalists of this Canadian band (Scott Smith, who plays a variety of instruments here, and Robyn Carrigan, who plays stringed instruments and accordion) take turns singing their own songs and lending backup when the other takes the lead, like a modern day Gram and Emmylou if Emmylou had gotten equal billing. The songs are gorgeous, especially "Hate To See You Cry", and the music is rustic and comfortable, like that same old back porch. When I get time to have a lazy day, right next to my long-neck will sit the new Bottleneck.
Can't find a website for the band... try emailing them for ordering info.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood

BOTTLE ROCKETS
24 Hours A Day....(Atlantic)
For their third CD, these guys still rock pretty hard and sloppy, and they're still proud and ugly too. Singer Brian Henneman writes catchy and funny lyrics, you gotta love a guy who titles a song "When I Was Dumb". Not as much country-sounding stuff on this one. Producer Eric "Roscoe" Ambel sings or plays on almost all tracks and is developing a solid production "sound". Probably not their best but a solid effort from an important Alt.Country band.

THE BOTTLE ROCKETS
Brand New Year.... (Doolitle)
Bands don't get much uglier or play much louder than the Bottle Rockets. When I first put it on I cringed, it sounded like outdated hard rock ala ZZ Top or Lynyrd Skynyrd! Then after I got used to it, I was able to listen to the songs and these guys are just plain hilarious songwriters. Social commentary songs, "picking on yuppie" songs, "I hate work" songs and even a few, gulp, love songs are included here all rendered with the usual simplistic three guitar chords. Call it a guilty pleasure, or whatever, there's still room on my musical plate for hard bar-band boogie music like The Bottle Rockets along with Dar Williams, Ralph Stanley, Elvis Costello and everybody else. It's all good!
Best tunes: Nancy Sinatra, Sometimes Found,  The Bar's On Fire, White Boy Blues, Gotta Get Up. The Doolittle site has band tour info and such. Buy from amazon Released Aug. '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BOTTLE ROCKETS
Blue Sky… (Sanctuary)
Rockets leader Brian Henneman has one of the most distinctive voices in Alt.Country He also has a unique and twisted view of life that usually comes across in a few of his songs. Their press release states that some consider the band as a cross between John Prine and Crazy Horse. Not the worst comparison to be sure. They've gone through some personnel changes and took an extended hiatus. . It's produced by Warren Haynes, (from the Allman Bros. and Gov't Mule), who seems content to let the band do their own thing. Their usual raucous Southern Rock sound is slightly reined in on Blue Sky. Hennenman has some very strong songs, including "Men & Women", Man of Constant Anxiety" and the confessional "Mom & Dad". All in all, the Rockets are back and better than ever!
The Bottle Rockets site. Buy from amazon. Released Oct. '03, Reviewed by Bill Frater.

THE BOTTLE ROCKETS
Not So Loud... (Bloodshot)
A quintessential rock and twang bar band out of Festus, MO going back to their beginnings in the early 1990s, it wasn't until a release of leftover tracks in 1998 appropriately titled "Leftovers" did the Bottle Rockets display their acoustic side on record. While there were flashes on prior albums, the song "Get Down River," inspired by the mighty Mississippi running so close to Festus, showed the band could deliver the goods as good in the stripped-down fashion as they could full-on electric. Those "flashes" continued in the ensuing years on subsequent albums. With the newly released Not So Loud, the Bottle Rockets offer up a satisfying, big gulp of wood and wire. Recorded before a live audience at a circa-1898 St. Louis schoolhouse over a couple of evenings in the spring of 2007, Not So Loud is the Bottle Rockets getting back to basics and unplugging for 13 tracks from their now lengthy catalogue. The playing is excellent and the stories behind the songs as recited by front man Brian Henneman prior to each track only enhances the listening experience.
The Bottle Rockets new site. Buy from amazon. Released Aug. '11, Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

 

THE BOXCARS 
Crossing... (Palace Flophouse)
Reminiscent of the band Bottle Rockets and artists like Eric Ambel and Terry Anderson, this is growly guitar rock with a huge helping of southern/Midwest heartland soul that gives it a rural rootsy quality and puts it squarely in the middle of the nether regions that confound radio programmers and promo geeks. Too country for rock (unless the station plays Molly Hatchet and the Allmans) and too rock for country (unless the station plays Americana or has extremely good taste) this album will puzzle all those who worry about labels and don't worry enough about great music. This album rocks, has a burning country soul and gets better the louder its played. Somewhere in heaven Ronnie Van Zant and Hank Williams are having a beer and going crazy over this record. 
TheBoxcars.com will be up and running soon.  Order the CD from Miles Of Music.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood

BR5-49
Big Backyard Beat Show...(Arista Nashville)
This is only their second full length release and I'm pretty blown away by the depth and maturity of this band. They play "real" country music, in addition to Rockabilly and swinging jump-blues stuff. BR5-49 simply do it all, with no frills, sarcasm or studio tricks. The songwriting of singers Gary Bennett and Chuck Mead has matured to the point where you can't tell the originals from the cover tunes. This is happy, fun, upbeat music that makes me smile. This is the spirit that Johnny Horton, George Jones, Wanda Jackson and a hundred other country music pioneers brought to the world. This young band is carrying on the spirit and soul of "real" country music.
Best tracks: There Goes My Love, Hurtin' Song, Out Of Habit, 18 Wheels & A Crowbar, My Name Is Mudd. BR5-49.com is put together by the record company, and is a very nice, complete site! Buy from Amazon.com. Released July, 98. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

BR5-49
This Is BR5-49... (Lucky Dog/Sony)
BR5-49 moved to the critically praised Lucky Dog/ Sony Nashville label for a "fresh start". This Is BR549 is the result of this fresh start teaming Nashville's lower Broadway hillbilly quintet with veteran producer Paul Worley (Dixie Chicks, Martina McBride), and producer Mike Poole (Prairie Oyster, David Wilcox). The album yields five original compositions, while the band sticks to their tried and true formula on six cover songs which range from obscure honky-tonk classics to underground Music Row favorites untouchable by most "modern country" standards. Highlights of the album include vocalist/ guitarist, Gary Bennett, unleashing two soon to be classics "The Game" and "While You Were Gone". "The Game" is a step to the left for BR5-49 expressing passive warnings to live life without ending up the "loser of the game". This Is BR549 includes revamped versions of the 1965 Everly Brothers single "The Price of Love", and Brinsley Schwartz' pub-classic "Play That Fast Thing (One More Time)". BR5-49 has proven in 2001 that they can prevail amidst label transition and backbreaking tour schedules, still delivering an album that is essential for any serious fan of alternative country.
Buy from Amazon.com. Release date: June 26th, 2001.  Reviewed by Matt Reasor.

BR549
Tangled In The Pines... (Dualtone)
Artists like Steve Earle, Robbie Fulks, Neko Case, and The Gourds have defined alternative Country. These are the super-talents who refused to do anything less than follow their vision of what country music was. They've been kicked in the teeth for it, and still they refuse to say "Uncle." With Tangled In The Pines, BR5-49 joins that list. Making a grab for the brass ring on their last CD, BR5-49 slicked up and many say they sold out. Their newest CD, Tangled In The Pines, sends a loud and clear message that the brass ring doesn't mean jack if it comes at the cost of not being true to themselves. Retooling the band with the additions of Chris Scruggs (yes, of those Scruggs') on guitar and Geoff Firebaugh on bass after losing co-founder Garry Bennett and bassist Jay McDowell, BR5-49 returns to their musical roots. With all original songs that range from the roadhouse boogie of "Ain't Got Time" to the Hank Sr. séance of "I'm All Right (For The Shape I'm In)" to the truly haunting "Run A Mile," Tangled In The Pines is, as Chris Scruggs said, "unashamed to be country." BR5-49 uses this CD to serve notice to everyone in Nashville - all the way from the The House That Chet Built to the Exit/Inn- that integrity does matter, that alternative doesn't mean unmarketable, and that no matter how steep the high road nor shiny the brass ring, sometimes it really is about the music.

The band's site is nice. Dualtone's site. Buy from amazon. Released March '04. Reviewed by Clint Weathers.


BR549
Dog Days… (Dualtone)

This is the 6th album from BR549 and Chuck Mead is the only original member left and it limits the variety of their sound. Although he's been the principal singer and songwriter and he has a great rockabilly voice, he's now the only voice. After the talented Chris Scruggs amicably left the band in 2005, Mead lost the “John” to contrast and counterpoint his “Paul”. Having the extremely versatile Don Herron on fiddle and everything else with strings is great but he's the only soloist here too. You still got the patented hillbilly swing with a dash of blues, Cajun and country here but I feel there's something missing. Thank God for the good songs, and about half here would qualify, “After The Hurricane” fits after Katrina and "Lower Broad St. Blues" mention of the ghost of Scotty Stoneman is brilliant. But reviving Dave Edmonds' “A-1 On The Jukebox” was a good pick but it sounds lifeless compared to the original. All in all, Dog Days is not a bad CD, but it's not a great one either.

BR549.com. Dualtone's site. Buy from amazon. Released Jan. '06. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

ERIC BRACE & PETER COOPER
The Master Sessions... (Red Beet)
Brace and Cooper both come from the world of journalism; writing about other peoples' music.  With that in mind they bring a certain ease and naivety to their songwriting and singing styles.  They play like they don't know how great they are! This is their second excellent collaboration and they certainly do know quality songs and players. They chose to honor two geniuses on their respective instruments Lloyd Green on pedal steel and Mike Auldridge on dobro.  On top of all that, that harmonize with each other as good as a couple of siblings, but with probably a lot more respect. The songs are mostly by Eric and Peter with covers of fine songs by Tom T. Hall, Jon Byrd & John Hartford.  The lead track is an old Seldom Scene favorite written by Herb Pedersen ("Wait A Minute") about being on the road away from your loved one. Nothing but the highest level of tasteful music here. One of my favorites of the year. It's worth noting that Red Beet also released an equally great album by Peter Cooper with Lloyd Green called The Lloyd Green Album the same week.

Red Beet's site. Order from CD Baby. Here's the You Tube link to a very nice video with Eric, Peter, Lloyd and Mike all talking about the making of The Master Sessions. Released Sept. '10, reviewed by Bill Frater.

DAMON BRAMBLETT
Damon Bramblett... (Lone Star)
Texan Daman Bramblett has had his songs recorded by Kelly Willis (Heaven Bound), Charlie Robison, (Waiting For The Mail), and Sara Hickman, (Nobody Wants To Go To The Moon Anymore). All of his versions are included on this debut CD, produced by Lloyd Maines. His voice is very deep, think Johnny Cash or James McMurtry deep, and it confines his vocals to a certain range. The arrangements are basically his acoustic guitar backed by bass and drums, I wouldn't mind a little electric guitar in the mix. But really, its the songs that count, and Damon's vivid and lonely ruminations are quite compelling.
DamonBramblett.com has CD ordering, up-to-date tour itinerary and more. Release date: Sept, '00. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

BILLY BREMNER
A Good Week's Work....(Gadfly)
If you've missed the roots-rock sound of Dave Edmonds, this CD by his fellow bandmate in  Rockpile should please you greatly. Bremner's voice is a little weaker then Dave's but otherwise it's the same great stuff: rockabilly, twangy-blues, and good ol' rock 'n roll.  Bremner's songs are good and simple, nothing that's gonna change the world, but that's okay.  His guitar work is excellent, accompanied  by just bass and drums.  Once again, think Dave Edmonds, or maybe Bill Kirchen. The title refers to the fact that the whole album was recorded in only one week.  A good week's work indeed!
Best tracks: I Get Enough,Green With Envy,  I Can Love You, A Fine Set Of Wheels, Keep This House Rockin', Who Says, Who Cares. Gadfly has a website. Released July,'98. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

PATRICK BRICKEL
(Songs From) The Pink Sofa ...(Trailer)
Folk with a pop groove has been around since the days of Joni Mitchell, and Patrick Brickel offers us a great example with his CD, (Songs From) The Pink Sofa. Brickel is stepping to the front after years as a producer and member of The Letterpress Opera. Hitting on all cylinders, this CD could spawn more than one radio hit if it could get airplay. The songwriting is honest and authentic but not overly full of pathos. Songs like "Brooklyn"and "Evangeline" remind us that the best folk music is excellent poetry set to excellent music. His lyrics often run dark and Gothic, wrapped in sparkling guitar work. It takes a special fortitude to be a poet like Brickel, and it takes a special gift to be as good a musician as he. His years behind the mixing boards show as well in the engineering and production. The CD has a very contemporary sound to it, one that would play well on adult-pop stations. The harmonies are balanced well, and every instrument is audible just as if the listener were in the living room with Brickel and his band. I look forward to hearing more from him and will be listening to this CD well into the autumn.
His web site has song samples and iTunes too. Order from Miles of Music. Released June '04, reviewed by Clint Weathers.

MARK BRINE
Real Special Feelin'... (Wild Oat)
You forget sometimes that most of our greatest singer-songwriters used to put out albums just like Mark Brine, one guy strumming his own songs with subtle instrumental backing.  I hear early Guy Clark, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and even a little Bob Dylan in Brines quavering voice.  This is his third independent album and his songs are superior studies of love, life and times past.  You may think he's just another New England folksinger, but there's some genuine country roots music going on here.
Check his website, markbrine.com for ordering information.  Miles of Music has the CD too.

MARTI BROM & HER BARNSHAKERS
Snake Ranch.... (Goofin')
I heard this playing in a vintage clothing store in Austin and said, "I'll take it".  Brom sings countrypolitan with attitude, rockabilly with sass and she can torch a lounge song, no problem.  There is a nice combination of tunes on Snake Ranch pretty much all of which I like. The Barnshakers are a happening rockabilly band on their own but they play to Marti's voice and style, complementing her without grandstanding. I've been playing it pretty regularly and it is withstanding the test of time, always a good sign.
Buy from Amazon.com.   Released Feb. 2000, reviewed by Kay Clements

MARTI BROM
Sings Heartache Numbers.... (Goofin')
Call out the Torch and Twang Patrol, Marti Brom has done it again. Choosing from the long list of country tunes that had numbers in the titles, Brom has released a concept country CD of 13 songs that had me wishing 14, 15 and 16 weren't such awkward numbers to fit into a song. Flying all too often below the radar, Brom reigns in my book as one of the most interesting and true performers of rockabilly and country music happening today. I can't think of another female artist who could take classic material like this and bring it home so successfully. Marti has a style and a feel for the life of this music that gives her absolute authority to do it her way and she makes it good country..Favorites: 4 Walls, 5 Fingers, Whiskey 6 years Old, Apartment #9. The only song that doesn't work for me is 12th of Never but 12 out of 13 is well worth the price of a CD. For Marti Brom fans, it's a no brainer and for those of you wondering who they passed the torch to, check out Heartache Numbers.
Buy from Amazon.com.  Released Aug. '05, reviewed by Kay Clements.

DAVID BROMBERG
Use Me... (Appleseed)
For those of us of a certain age, the name David Bromberg brings up memories of a wildly entertaining performer and an ace folk/country/blues guitarist who played on many classic albums by other artists including Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Jorma Kaukonen, Jerry Garcia, and Bob Dylan. After burning brightly in the 1970s and early 1980s, Bromberg retired from playing to open a violin shop in Delaware. He returned to performance in 2007 with an album of solo acoustic material, "Try Me One More Time", demonstrating that at 62 he'd lost none of his folk and blues chops despite an absence of 17 years. On "Use Me", Bromberg straps on his old Telecaster and reminds us that he can rock just as well as ever. In a nod to his years as a sideman, Bromberg asks several well known old friends to contribute songs, production and accompaniment to him as he steps out front. Levon Helm contributes his trademark behind the beat grooves to the opening track and sole original, "Tongue", in which Bromberg's is firmly in cheek. John Hiatt wrote "Ride On Out a Ways", a great confessional ballad, while Linda Ronstadt lends great backup vocals and production to the old Brook Benton tune "It's Just A Matter Of Time". The low point on the album is a weak Keb' Mo' track, "Digging In The Deep Blue Sea", but this is more than compensated for with tunes like the titular swamp-infused cover of Bill Wither's "Use Me", produced by hitmakers the Butcher Brothers. Bromberg hasn't lost it, and we're glad to see him back.
The "new" DB site. Buy from amazon.   Released July, 2011.  Reviewed by Brad Price.

DAVID BROMBERG BAND
Only Slightly Mad... (Appleseed)
Let's see, I first saw David Bromberg play a zillion years ago (well, it seems like that) when he was known as "the guy who played backup guitar for Jerry Jeff Walker" on the "Mr. Bojangles" LP. He made albums for Columbia and Fantasy and then "burned himself out" and moved to the Midwest, gave up his career, and learned to make violins. He moved to Wilmington with his family and now has the best of all worlds. He repairs and sells rare violins and takes either his "Big Band" or his Quintet out on the road for gigs, on his own schedule. And, thankfully, he still makes albums, this new CD, produced by Larry Campbell (Levon Helms' producer) at Helms' old studio, is like his old Fantasy albums, a little bit of everything. He gets the blues out of the way in the first two tracks, moves on to an "English ballad" that he wrote and gets his 70s Philly Folk friends, John Roberts and Tony Barrand, to join him. If you've seen David in concert recently you'll recognize the wonderful "Driving Wheel", which has a great saxophone solo by John Firmin half-way through this six-minute-plus track. By the way, Bromberg doesn't rush things. How many "folk albums" do you know which have many tracks exceeding six-minutes? "Sharon's" replacement as the "comedy" number in recent years is "I'll Take You Back" and it's here with all it's tongue-in-cheek sarcasm. Let's see, there is a bluegrass/jig medley, a wonderful vocal cover version of Floyd Cramer's country hit from the 60s "Last Date" (I never knew there were lyrics but Bromberg found them) and a tribute to the Staples Singers, before he closes with two more self-penned songs - the first, "World of Fools" is the closest I've heard to a "pop" song from him and ending with a love song for his wife, Nancy. Bromberg plays both acoustic and electric guitars and mandolin. He left his fiddle back in the shop ("David Bromberg-Fine Violins") this time. The CD includes three pages of song commentary penned by Bromberg. You can tell from reading them that he really felt comfortable in making this album. I, for one, think it's the best one he's done in years.
The "new" DB site. Buy from amazon.   Released Sept. 2013.  Reviewed by Steve Ramm.

BROOKLYN COWBOYS
Dodging Bullets... (Leap Recordings)
The Cowboys (along with another great group called The Flatlanders) are the closest thing to a "supergroup" the alt.country genre has and, thankfully, the group's musical results live up to the sum of the members' individual parts. Though you might not recognize many of their names, all of the band members (including bandleader Walter Egan of 1970's AM-radio hit "Magnet and Steel" fame) are accomplished artists and respected studio musicians in their own right. One of the members, the young and extremely talented Brian Waldschlager, has the vocal presence, rock-star swagger, and songwriting talent to be a star on his own one day should he ever have the desire. A fine solo album released a year ago from Waldschlager shows what fine music he can create on his own and is well worth searching out. Egan also has a new solo record, Apocalypso Now on Gaff Music, that is well worth the price of admission and keeps his career renaissance moving along nicely with more fine songs and great guitar work. But, back to the Cowboys. The original songs on Dodging Bullets are penned by Egan, Waldschlager and producer/drummer Fredro Perry and all are fun, twang-filled roots rock party tunes with a few slower ones thrown in but not enough to ruin the great vibe created here. This, like the Flatlanders record and the famous Traveling Wilburys records of a decade ago, is a bunch of like-minded musicians at the top of their game getting together to have some fun and create some seriously wonderful music. If you like roots rock ala Joe Ely and the Texas Tornadoes (but without the Mexi-Cali stuff) you'll love this.
Their web siteBuy from amazon.   Released Sept. 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

THE BROOKLYN COWBOYS
Doin' Time On Planet Earth... (Leap)
This new band features an assortment of music veterans led by Walter Egan, a friend of the late Gram Parsons, the tasty pedal steel of Buddy Cage (New Riders of The Purple Sage) and the harmony vocals of Joy Lynn White, a fine singer on her own.  The entire album has a late 70's Country Rock feel to it, it's almost as if they're trying to recreate the sound of Gram Parson's two classic solo albums with White playing the Emmylou's  role.  Egan, who handles all the lead vocals, introduces a new song he co-wrote  with the late Parsons.  The album is very well recorded by Al Perkins and the songs are decent, but what sounded unique and fresh years ago doesn't really excite me as much these days.
The band has their own website with bios, lyrics and tour info. Buy from Amazon.com. Released April, 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BROTHER TRUCKER
Something Simple... (Trailer)
This CD is further proof of my contention that the Midwest knows how to rock better than anywhere else. This Des Moines, Iowa band serves up a rustic blend of country and roots Americana that hit right close to home. Nothing fancy or pretentious just honest, heartfelt lyrics and simple instrumentation. Rhythm guitarist and primary songwriter Andy Fleming handles all the vocals. Trailer Records label boss David Zollo produced the thing. They sort of remind me of a combination of the Eagles, Blue Rodeo and a dash of perhaps Richmond Fontaine.
Trailer Records' site. Buy from Amazon. Released March, 2004, reviewed by Keith Robb.

THE BROTHERS COSMOLINE
Songs Of Work And Freedom... (Slewfoot)
The Canadian group The Brothers Cosmoline proves once again that Americana does not have to come from America. Distributed by Slewfoot Records in the Missouri Ozarks, this CD is wonderfully produced. You can tell everyone involved put a lot of work and love into it. The musicianship is top-notch, and the songwriting is heart-felt if not very catchy. They both give the distinct impression that this group is mature, seasoned, and ready for great things. The cover of The Beatles' No Reply is particularly good, as is the shuffling When Your Baby Leaves.
Slewfoot's site. Order from amazon. Released Oct. '03. Reviewed by Clint Weathers.

CLARENCE "GATEMOUTH" BROWN
Back to Bogalusa... (BlueThumb)
Brown is often considered the father of Americana music due to his clever melding of diverse musical styles such as blues, country, folk and western swing. While he is most widely known as a blues man, Brown goes for a down-home country feel on his latest CD. Shaving off a lot of his blues style, Brown instead brings on a more introspective, homey feel on this CD, on which he graces us with a generous helping of fiddle playing as well as his usual terse, powerful guitar work. This is possibly one of Brown's best albums and a real testament to his abilities as a musician to make a relevant statement in many different genres. A definite triumph.
Check out Gatemouth.comBuy from Amazon.com Released July, 2001.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

GRAHAM BROWN
Good 'n' Broke... (Stomp)
First, let me say that anyone who titles a song "Shotguns, Cacti & Vengeance" gets a couple points right off the bat. When that same person manages to gather a band and a bunch of songs this good, well, let's just say this band won't be lacking for stars at the end of the review. Brown hails from Canada which is also the home of one of my favorite bands, Blue Rodeo, and has a rich country heritage of which Brown is sure to play a part in the years to come. A songwriting mix of Robert Earl Keen and Tom Petty, Brown's songs are always hopeful despite the misfortune suffered and caused by his main characters all the while bolstered by melodies as hummable and memorable as a nursery rhyme. A master storyteller and surprisingly adept at jumping from bristling rock to Bakersfield breakdowns, Brown has managed to release a record that should wind up on many best-of's at the end of the year. A great disc!!
His new website. Order the CD from Miles Of Music. Reviewed by Scott Homewood

GRAHAM BROWN
Stand Your Ground... (Stomp)

In the course of his life, Graham Brown has sojourned from Scotland to Vancouver, British Columbia, via Winnipeg, Toronto, and Edmonton. I'd have to venture that his prairie days were his most formative, because, along the way, he acquired a pretty good concept of what roots/country/alt/country music is all about. The opening track, “Be That Way”, with its soaring, almost majestic, guitar lines, would at first seem to belie the preceding statement, but, stay close, the next one, “Morning Light”, rolls along in true country-rock fashion, and sets the tone for the rest of the disc. There's only one odd dud marring an otherwise solid third solo release, “Pebble In My Shoe”, which comes off being just clichéd. It's very seldom that shortening the length of a CD is advocated here, but leaving that one out would have made for a more cohesive product.

Web site. Order from CD Baby. Released April, 2005, reviewed by Don Grant.

[Milk of the Moon cover]GREG BROWN
Milk Of The Moon... (Red House)
For what seems like his 120-zillionith release, Greg Brown has dropped the acidic bleakness which contributed to the critical success of his past two albums, Slant 6 Mind and Over And Under. The lyrical imagery on Milk Of The Moon is short on murderers and whores and heavy on home, love, morning, rebirth, and family. The music has retained the back-shed grit that Brown is so famous for. and his voice- even on a radio-friendly track like "Steady Love"- is as gravelly and stained as ever. But his optimism is omnipresent, recalling such albums as The Poet Game or Further In, and really, who can blame him? He just married Iris DeMent!
Greg's web site   Buy from amazon. Released March, 2002.  Reviewed by Gabe Meline.   

GREG BROWN
Slant 6 Mind
... (Red House)
This "folkie" is sounding better each time he puts out a new CD. He has a certain confiden ce, or maybe even cockiness to his style that I like. It's like, this is what I do, this is how I dress, this is how I sing, either you like it or not,  I don't care either way. For some of his earlier albums Greg seemed to be leaning towards the mainstream. What he does best is right here, great, personal songs with spare arrangements. His deep, soulful voice is well suited to the mostly bluesy songs here. Greg has a very devoted group of fans. He puts on a great live show, and he doesn't care if you like this CD or not. But I think you will.
Check out his label's site, Red HouseBuy from Amazon.com. Released '97, reviewed by Bill Frater.

JUNIOR BROWN
Long Walk Back....(Curb/Atlantic)
By now we're accustomed to Junior's stellar "guit-steel" talents, not to mention his deep voice and quirky sense of humor. He's smart not to mess with what works, and I sense that he's trying to expand beyond his fan base a little bit. Not to knock him too much, but when it comes to ballads, he's no Ray Price, and  his Jimi Hendrix fascination has gone so far as to hire drummer Mitch Mitchell for a song or two. It's the amusing "hard country" shuffles that I love the best, along with the occasional Hawaiian or car  tune. This CD has all that, but a few "clunkers" prevent it from being a great listening experience through the whole album.  Junior Brown is an unique American institution, and I hope he sticks to what he does best.
 Best cuts: Long Walk Back To San Antone, The Better Half, Rock-A-Hula Baby, Keepin' Up With You, I'm All Fired Up. Curb has a "record company" website, and there's a pretty nice Junior Brown fan site. Buy from Amazon.com. Released Sept. '98, reviewed by Bill Frater.

JUNIOR BROWN
Volume 10... (self released)
When Junior Brown’s twangy “Hang Up and Drive” opens his new EP album,Volume Ten, you hear an element of Dave Dudley’s “Six Days on the Road.” However, if you think this six-song project is all retro truck-driving country music, think again.  The next cut “Apathy Waltz” is a  humorous and jazzy song about desensitization and detachment while “The Phantom of the Opry,” relates the secret life of a country musician living in the basement of an old opry house since 1975 . Like that phantom, Junior believes in keeping his music “sweet and clear, the way they played it here on Saturday nights.” But Junior is no ghost or relic from another life, and his music is both classic and contemporary..Brown has been at it for more than five decades, and he clearly knows what it takes to entertain and get people up dancing. He’s a legend, and I only wish he’d give us more than six songs on future volumes. But this is his first release in seven years, so we should be happy at that.   

Junior's site. Buy from Amazon. Released Nov. '12, reviewed by Joe Ross.


THE BROWN MOUNTAIN LIGHTS
Late Night At The Cave... (Bombay)
This CD brought back many fond memories for me. While all the songs are new and original they reminded me of songs I heard growing up. This is a good thing and that's why I like this CD. They seemed to have been influenced heavily by the early 70's singer songwriters such as Kris Kristofferson, John Prine and, dare I say, James Taylor. I also noticed a hint of the Burrito Brothers here as well, most notably in the steel guitar sound. Janet Place and Jeff Hart share the songwriting and lead voacls. The rest of the band's musicianship is flawless, especially Greg Bower. As a guitarist myself I was bowled over by his lead parts. Good work man!! This CD was recorded live over the span of 2 nights at their local haunt. The Cave Club in Chapel Hill, NC. Sounds like a good time was had by all.

The band's site has CD ordering info. Reviewed by Keith Robb.


PETER BRUNTNELL
Normal For Bridgewater... (Slow River/ Ryko)
Bruntnell is one of those guys who's so good you wonder why you haven't heard of him before.  Imagery inspired lyrics sung with a soft, easy-going voice, not unlike Nick Drake.  His songs have a haunting feeling and he writes the kind of melodies that stick with you for days.  Although he's English, he recorded the CD in Boston with his own band and 2 members of Son Volt.  Steel guitarist Eric Heywood is especially effective on the slower tunes.  There's some melodic rock and some acoustic songs mixed in with the Americana arrangements.  Good stuff all around.  This is bound to be a critic's favorite and for good reason... it should be appreciated by others as well.
Buy from Amazon.com. Released July, 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BUCKEYE
Buckeye... (Buckeye)
Great stuff here with mid-tempo, easygoing songs leading the way.  This band reminds me of Harvest-era Neil Young or early Jayhawks.  I get the sense that there is a harder-edged young rock band smoldering underneath their tasty twang exterior.  The quintet features three guitars, bass and drums, but it's the addition of a fiddle and the hot steel guitarist that really defines their roots-rock sound.  They come from San Francisco and I think they've got something here.
The band has a small site at rootsrock.com... You can sample their music at MP3.com. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

RICHARD BUCKNER
Bloomed....(Slow River/ Rykodisc)
This is a reissue of Buckner's excellent 1995 debut CD.   His two albums since just won't have the same raw passion and accessible melodies and arrangements as this one, which has been out-of-print.  In fact, I forgot just how good these deep, melancholy songs are.   Lloyd Maines originally produced it in Austin and he adds lots of his own steel and Dobro playing.  This re-issue has been re-mastered and they added 5 unreleased solo acoustic songs at the end that complement an already almost-classic album.  If you've only heard about Richard Buckner, this is the CD to buy first.
Best tracks: Blue & Wonder, Rainsquall, Gauzy Dress in the Sun, Surprise AZ, Settled Down. Slow River has a web site, that includes bios, tour and ordering info. Buy from Amazon.com. Released June, '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BUCKSKIN STALLION
Blue Ribbon Buzz...(Big Bender)
I must say here at the outset that I really enjoyed this CD. Buckskin Stallion has a nice roots rockin sound that grew on me with every listen. With some very obvious influences such as Dylan, Guthrie and Uncle Tupelo they have a little something for everyone. Just the same I can't help noticing a hint of the Burrito Brothers as well, which is cool. Having said all that I must say that my favorite track is "She Gone". This was a nice, spare track with just vocals and acoustic guitar. The heartfelt lyrics made it all the better. This Boulder band have good ol' country rock down cold and I hope to hear more from them soon.
For Buckskin Stallion info, CDs and merchandise. Big Bender Records. Buy from amazon. Released Feb. '04. Reviewed by Keith Robb.

BUCKSWORTH
The Cajon Passages... (Silent John)
I really want to hear these guys on my radio. This is great stuff! With their second CD The Cajon Passages, Bucksworth gives us the kind of straight ahead country-rock that gave us a reason to look west again after Buck Owens settled down. Mark Nemetz' vocals are eerily reminiscent of early Mick Jagger and the guitar work and arrangements bear the watermark of Randy Meisner-era Eagles. The songwriting is just as good as the musicianship. Nemetz' songwriting is excellent, with lyrics that paint a picture so clear that you can practically smell the desert, see the lights and sprawl of Las Vegas, and feel the swamps of Louisiana. One thing that really stands out on The Cajon Passages is the engineering and mixing. The harmonies are mixed perfectly, and the engineering and production give the songs the space they need to really shine. The only downside to this CD is that as good as they are, the songs focus on a rather particular phase of Nemetz' life. They also all seem to stay within a pretty narrow range of tempo, tone, and feel. Still, this one is going on the iPod for my roadtrip music.
The band's website. Order the CD from CD Baby. Released April, '04. Reviewed by Clint Weathers.

BUCKSWORTH
Haul Alone... (Silent John)
You will definitely get your buck's worth (get it?) if you get this CD. Thanks to Mark Nemetz' gravelly voice, this CD will bring to mind a musical experiment on the par of Tom Waits singing sparse country numbers interspersed with some Brill Building pop complete with background vocals supplied by Nemetz' wife. The songs are original and very catchy and will hook you in  a matter of minutes. This is a very fine CD and should lead to great things for this strikingly original band.
Their site, dabucksworth.com, has bios, reviews, tour info and CD ordering. Or you can order the CD from CD Baby. Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

BUCKSWORTH
Thingsfoundwalkinwithyerheaddown…(Silent John)
If you're fortunate enough to still have a used CD store in your town, they probably have a “cheepie” section where everything is only a dollar or so. Well, the cover of Bucksworth's third CD looks like a CD that you'd see in the cheepie bin. And, as you can't judge a CD by it's cover, this is a great band that has a unique sound. Elements of twangy country mixed with rock lyrics, then add tasty steel and a tight drummer. Lead singer Mark Nemetz's raspy voice reminds me of how Lowell George used to sound on Little Feat's first few albums. Fans who love the Gourds or miss the old NRBQ oughta love these guys. Mighty fine, mighty fine! Check your local store, then order it online.
Bucksworth's website. Order the CD from CD Baby. Released April, '04. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

BUFFALO NICKEL
Up On Blocks... (Plow Handle)
The band Buffalo Nickel shares a lot in common with their moniker, taken from a coin that was minted in the early 190's but isn't made anymore. Like the coin, the band is traditional. Their country songs sound as if they were ripped right from the ‘50's or 60's with a strong Texas and Bakersfield, California influence and their rockers are pretty basic Southern rock boogies with primitive licks and a lot of energy. Also like the coin, bands like this simply aren't made anymore. Despite what you might have heard about the so-called plethora of new country acts sprouting since the rise of the No Depression movement and magazine, most of those bands are either too mired in tradition to make music that breathes or have wandered in to the power-pop arena. Buffalo Nickel, although true to country's past, gives their music a certain edge that keeps them from mer5ely copying what has been done in the past. Buffalo Nickel doesn't just ape that old style but embraces it and gives listeners an energy that is purely their own, always a good sign for a group that wants to have more than a fleeting stab at fame. As far as songwriting goes, three members of the band share that pretty equally and all of the songs fit the group so there is a cohesive sound, not three solo artists trying to cram the group into their own personal visions like the pitfalls of bands like The Jayhawks and the last Uncle Tupelo release fell into. All in all, a real strong release from a band that has the goods to be around for a long time. Pick this up, you won't be sorry.
Their website, Honk 'N' Roll. com. Order from CD Baby. Reviewed by Scott Homewood

BUFFALO NICKEL
Noise and Conversation... (Plow Handle)
This third release by Mississippi's Buffalo Nickel leaves me a little flat. It has some high points, in several different genres, and I believe that therein lays my problem. Noise and Conversation seems a little scattered, as if the band is trying to be all things to all people. It's a case of the whole being less than its individual parts. Anomalously, each song can stand alone quite easily, “Walkin'” and “Can't Say Anything” are but two good examples, but when they're all strung together, there's a disjointed feel. The way to listen to this one is to put it in the changer with a bunch of others, and hit shuffle, and let the tunes play where they will.
The band's Honk 'n Roll site. Buy from Amazon. Released Oct. 2004, reviewed by Don Grant.

BUMPKIN
Man Outta Me... (self released)
First off I want to say I really liked this CD. I have no idea how to categorize the music, but I like it. This is the first release by the Irving TX enigma known as Bumpkin (aka William Dehaes). This is what I call DIY at it's best. Recorded at Bumpkin home studio with just him on guitar and vocals with David Dooley on viola. He seems to be most strongly influenced by Neil Young or simularly unique artists who pave their own road despite the latest trends. As rough as this music is, it would be right at home on AAA and alt-country radio. Bumpkin!! Get in touch with me. I know some stations here in NE Ohio where you'd fit right in! Well done.
Order from CD Baby. Reviewed by Keith Robb.

PAUL BURCH & THE WPA BALLCLUB
Wire To Wire...(Checkered Past)
Paul Burch and his partners gloriously celebrate the bygone country music days when giants like Hank Williams, Bob Wills and Webb Pierce roamed the earth. The harmonies and lap steel are especially dead-on 50's-style country-sounding. What's even better, and also what separates Burch from say BR5-49, is the strength of his songwriting. His voice has a pleasant easy-going style with good range. This stuff swings, honky-tonks and rocks, all with a retro style, but it still sounds fresh and new. They are not purposely trying to sound "old", like Riders in the Sky, but they're more like Wayne Hancock, with better songs. I get the idea that they just think this is how good music should sound. I have to agree, this is great stuff!

  Best tunes: Winner's Circle, I Am Here, Borrowed and Broke, Some of These Days, This Time Next Year, Disciple, Walking to McCourey. Buy from Amazon.com. Released Oct. '98. Reviewed by Bill Frater.


PAUL BURCH & THE WPA BALLCLUB
Blue Notes... (Merge)
Like his first 2 CD's, Burch writes original songs with retro-country arrangements. His easy-going voice might take some getting used to for some, but he's truly a unique talent and there are times he reminds me of the warm vocals of Country pioneer Jimmie Rodgers. The recording has a very casual "in your living room" recording sound that works quite nicely with the songs. Between Paul Burch and Wayne Hancock, Hank Williams Sr's musical legacy lives on and is definitely thriving.
Buy from Amazon.com. Released: Aug. '00, reviewed by Bill Frater.

PAUL BURCH
East To West… (Bloodshot)

After six earlier releases, Burch was ready to hang it up. Then he met Mark Knopfler who was a fan of his and persuaded him do a new album and offered his studio to record. The resulting song, “Before The Bell” features Knopfler and is a haunting apocalyptic song that is perfect for Burch's plaintive and melancholy voice. Ralph Stanley was another fan who joined him on the Stanley Brothers' classic “Little Gals of Wine”. Another highlight is “John Peel” which pays tribute to the legendary BBC DJ, who Burch and Laura Cantrell visited just before his death. The rest is mixed with rockabilly and R&B-inspired originals, all pretty great stuff. I'm glad he decided to stick around.

Paul's got his own web site. Bloodshot Records. Buy from Amazon. Released: Aug. '06, reviewed by Bill Frater.

PAUL BURCH
Still Your Man... (Ramseur)
On Still Your Man, Nashville-based country stylist Paul Burch both moves to a new suitor in Ramseur Records and diversifies his sound over the course of the album's 14 songs with colors of jazz, country swing, blues and rumba and all with a throwback tinge to it. With his WPA Club band providing stellar accompaniment, Burch's low key approach in the studio with a nod towards sparseness have always yielded albums with a high listenability quotient. Still Your Man is no exception.
Paul's site. Buy from amazon. Released August, 09. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

SOLOMON BURKE
Nashville… (Shout! Factory)

Burke is a soul veteran who goes back to the classic days of Otis, Aretha and Al Green and although he never had the huge hit he's still making records today. He's always wanted to do a country album and he found the best producer in the world to bridge soul and country in Buddy Miller. The arrangements are quite imaginative. Buddy's not afraid to use dobro and banjo on the beautiful “Vicious Circle” or to strip it bare on Gillian Welch's “Valley Of Tears”. Solomon's deep soul voice has a lot of range and he really “digs in” when he has too, like on the opener “That's How I Got To Memphis”. Like Ray Charles, Solomon can never really sound country no matter how many fiddles and banjos you throw behind him, he's just too soulful. Joining with Emmylou Harris on the George and Tammy hit “We're Gonna Hold On” is a superb choice. Really there are too many highlights to mention, it's that great an album. I have always had a fascination with the similarities of country and soul music and how they could come together in a perfect union. Well, it appears that Solomon, with the strong support of Buddy have finally done that. This is best thing I've heard all year.

"King" Soloman's site. Shout! Factory. Buy from Amazon. Released: Sept. '06, reviewed by Bill Frater.

ED BURLESON
The Cold Hard Truth ...(Palo Duro)
Here's a Texan that definitely has his roots in Country; his six generation heritage includes a general who fought in the Mexican-American War, (I'd like to see some of the ersatz CMT types top that!). Burleson's brand is Honky-Tonk/Western Swing, and we can thank a cantankerous critter for its existence. Sometimes in rodeo, the animal wins, and in this case, fans of the Texas Sound did too. Side-lined by a knee injury, Ed picked up a guitar whilst con Fratervalescing, and subsequently attracted the notice of the late, great, Doug Sahm. The resultant product has an authentic feel that lots strive for, but few manage to achieve. It will have you up two-steppin' by the second track, guaranteed.

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DOUG BURR
The Sickle & The Sheaves... (self-released)

This is a bit embarrassing: somehow or other this one seems to have gotten lost in the flood. Sometimes the discs come in faster than one can keep up with, and the odd one hides itself in the mob; my apologies to all concerned. Now, for the nitty gritty. Doug Burr has been a fixture on the Dallas musical scene going on five years now, and he can write some pretty good stuff. You can't call this one gospel, but Burr's faith in a higher order is evident in almost every track. It's quiet and unassuming music that has a calming and reassuring effect upon the listener. “Dark as the Night” is a good example; it describes the emotional turmoil that life can effect, but, simultaneously it gives one hope. It's pretty hard to argue with optimism of this caliber, even for the ‘doom and gloom' crowd. Sometimes upbeat just plain feels good, and this is one of those times. Good old Americana rooted in spirituality: gotta like this one, kids.

Doug's web site. Purchase from CD Baby. Released 2003, reviewed by Don Grant.

SAM BUSH
Howlin' At The Moon
...(Sugar Hill)
Sam Bush seems like such a nice guy, and his mandolin and fiddle talents are so strong that he can just about do whatever he wants now when he decides to do a solo album. After leading the New Grass Revival for years and hundreds of sessions with everyone in Nashville, he doesn't really need to produce a "hit" record. This gives him the freedom to really stretch and do some bluegrass and newgrass instrumentals mixed in between the "regular" songs. His voice has always been good enough to get by, but on this CD, it perfectly suited to the positive outlook that all the songs share. All in all, this is a fine and entertaining collection of music that should earn him some new fans. Sam makes it look and sound so easy. Nice guys finish first, and they get the freedom to release what they think is good music!
Best tracks: Howlin' At The Moon, Face Tomorrow, Funk 42, Go With The Flow, Song For Roy, Take Me Out To The Ballgame. Sugar Hill Records Buy from Amazon.com Released April '98. Reviewed by Bill Frater

SAM BUSH
Ice Caps: Peaks of Telluride... (Sugar Hill)
Sam Bush has played at every one but the first of the prestigious Telluride Music Festivals.  They even call him the "Mayor of Telluride", so it seemed appropriate that they release a knockout collection of live songs recorded throughout the 90's, featuring Sam and various talented musical friends.  Of course, if you've ever seen Sam you know he's a incredible musician and a very entertaining live performer.  This CD is quite well recorded and the the picking throughout is just blistering.  He doesn't limit himself to Bluegrass, there's a little bit of everything represented here.  This is a must for Sam devotees and a nice introduction for music fans who somehow don't know about this dynamic artist. 
Sugar Hill has a site. Buy from Amazon.com. Released July, 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

KENNY BUTTERILL
No One You Know... (No Bull Songs)
About 10 years ago I heard that J.J. Cale was living in the sticks somewhere in the South with no telephone.  His booking agent had to write him letters asking him if he wanted to do gigs and by the time he heard back the dates were already booked.  Perhaps that's one reason why we haven't heard much from that brilliant and unique singer.  Well, I'm here to tell you that we have the next best thing in Kenny Butterill.  It's impossible for me not to compare him to Cale, and that's a good thing.  You got same deep gruff voice and the much of the same rootsy, percolating, shuffling songs.  Whether it's coincidence or homage to J.J. doesn't really matter.  Butterill's debut is a refreshing reminder of Cale's legacy and the probably the beginning of another's.
No Bull Songs Released March, 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

KENNY BUTTERILL
Just A Songwriter... (No Bull Songs)
Let it be said up front: most music writer/reviewers such as myself are frustrated musicians. We all wanted to be the ones onstage in front of the screaming fans, backstage with the groupies, rich beyond our wildest dreams, etc. We would even rather be the ones having our artistic endeavors reviewed (even our bad ones) instead of writing reviews for others. Alas, most of us will never reach our dreams - the better for you, because, quite frankly, the average music critic's music sounds like Backstreet Boys rejects. It's much better that talented artists and songwriters like Kenny Butterill get their space and due coverage. While Butterill writes and sings in a more traditional country style than most of the young artists populating the rejuvenated country scene, there's plenty here for the semi-newcomer to country music to like. Songs are solid in a Townes and Mickey Newbury sort of way and while Butterill's voice is on the plain side, it brings an everyman quality to his songs making them much more easy to relate to. There is a lot of emotional ground covered here and Butterill does a fine job of conveying deep heart-rending emotions in his songs. An excellent album. Butterill may feel he's just a songwriter, but in my world, there's no occupation more deserving of praise.
No Bull Songs (Kenny's site). Hayden's Ferry Records. Buy from Amazon.com. Released April, 2003. Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

JOHN BUZNOW
Darkness and Light... (Sideburn)
Never heard of this Bunzow character before but after this CD I'll be damned if I forget him. Starting off with a loping, guitar-busy Dave Edmunds-sounding track (Love Is The Only Rescue) turned on its' side by his Robbie Fulks-like vocals, Bunzow begins his disc in fine stead. You might not believe me when I say it gets better from there, shit, I'm not sure I believe it myself but it does. It doesn't hurt that Bunzow has drafted such talents as Dan Dugmore (session vet and player on Linda Ronstadt's best tracks from the ‘70's) on pedal steel and Allison Moorer on harmony vocals. Despite Bunzow being a flash guitar player with plenty of tasty licks, his vocals and fine songs are what carry the day and the guitar solos never once take away from the fact that this is a country record. Sure, it's got a Southern rock vibe happening but this is one country boy who's unashamed of his roots. A damn fine, damn fine CD.
Sideburn's site (it's actually an arm of BurnsideRecords)  Buy from amazon.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

 

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