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FRED EAGLESMITH
50-Odd Dollars...(Razor & Tie)
Fred is one of my favorite "unknown" singer-songwriters, and if there's any justice in the world, he'll be a much better known soon. The Canadian has always toured like crazy, with his enchanting band, The Flying Squirrels, making new fans the old fashioned way, one gig at a time. This CD has a lot of the harder-sounding "clang and wheeze" arrangements that he started experimenting with on his last CD. But there's still a few folk songs and rootsy tunes too. Eaglesmith has so much passion that you just can't help but love the guy as he screams his way through more brilliant songs about love and cars.  He is a true original with plenty of wonderful sardonic wit. This CD might be the one that puts him over to the larger audience that he certainly deserves. 
Best tunes: Ten Ton Chain, Gettin' To Me, Mighty Big Car, Steel Guitar, Carter, Alternator. Fred's site, links to an up-to-date tour schedule.  Razor & Tie's site has bio, tour and ordering info.   Released June, '99, reviewed by Bill Frater

FRED EAGLESMITH
Lipstick, Lies and Gasoline...(Razor & Tie)

Fred is known as a Canadian folkie with a sharp and witty songwriting style and strong plaintiff voice. This release incorporates more of a rocking sound with even some of the junkyard noises associated with Tom Waits or Los Lobos thrown in here and there. It sometimes works, and other times not, but his songs are strong enough to carry him as long as he doesn't try to get too "cute". I think Eaglesmith has a great sense of melody and on the whole, I think this is a fine CD.

Best tracks: Seven Shells, 105, Thinking About You, Pontiac, Spookin' the Horses. "Fred on the web" Released Oct. 97, reviewed by Bill Frater.


FRED EAGLESMITH
Balin... (AML)
I’m a big fan of ol’ Fred Eaglesmith and his hearty "living on the edge" songwriting attitude. Fred has almost a whole new band, (the Flathead Noodlers), and they’re sounding less like a garage band and more like a garage bluegrass band. The whole thing was recorded live to 3-track, which means they didn’t use too many mics and it sounds like it, rough and full of space. It’s just that all his songs don’t exactly grab me on Balin, a few sound like they were thrown together pretty quick. Sometimes his writing sounds a little too formulaic. I realize that to say "Fred" kinda tunes are formulaic is rather ironic since he's not your everyday songwriter. His subject matter covers everything from tractors to rooster fights to cars, trains, (of course), and perhaps a few real love songs . " I Shot Your Dog" has to be one of the highlights. It's about an uncomfortable conversation with a neighbor. All in all, if you're a Fred Head, you'll either love it or will know that his next release will be better. Hats off to him for putting out CD’s on his own label now, which may make it harder to find at you local music store, but the artist get more of the money.

FredEaglesmith.com has links for CD ordering. Released June, 2003. Reviewed by Bill Frater with the help of Sherry Austin.


FRED EAGLESMITH
Dusty... (A Major Label)

Hot off the Canadian press, a new offering from the ever-prolific Mr. Eaglesmith. This is a departure from his last CD (love the Wurlitzer, Fred) but then, Mr. E likes to keep us guessing. You can't be in a hurry to listen to this CD. As with any artist whose work you appreciate, you have to let him take you where he's going, not where you expect to go. This is a slow moving CD with unusual arrangements glockenspiel, Wurlitzer Fun maker, reed organ and cellos. (That's right, cellos) along with the more predictable guitar and drums. This is a dreamy Fred. Not necessarily lighthearted but something about the cellos and the organ gives space to these compositions and the seduction is more subtle. Still much talk about love, lost, overlooked and/or on it's way out as well as the real-time feeling of being in a life at the ground level. Not every song is memorable but my favorites: "Hey Baby", "Ship", I75 and Crowds have the strongest melodies (to my ear) and some very cool organ.

For Fredheads everywhere and available at fredeaglesmith.com Order from CD Baby. Released Nov. '04, reviewed by Kay Clements

FRED EAGLESMITH
Tinderbox ... (A Major Label)
If this isn’t the best record Fred Eaglesmith has ever made, it’s damn close. For his 17th release, Eaglesmith uses religion — the serpent handling, back-row wailing, hell and damnation variety — as the vehicle for a collection of songs that explore familiar Eaglesmith themes. It’s another slice of the dark underside of life, where Satan, snakes and guns inhabit the hollows and gravel roads of rural towns, and broken down war heroes, forlorn lovers and desperate souls seek redemption. Eaglesmith has teamed up with long-time collaborator Scott Merritt and produced a sparse, haunting group of 18 songs that are part old-timey, folk and rock, and part Gospel revival. The combination of a plunking banjo, synthesizer and Eaglesmith’s raspy voice create a tangible emotional atmosphere. There is an unhurried and slightly off-key quality to the songs reminiscent of a Tom Waits recording. This CD conjures up the spirit of a revival tent on the edge of a small town where the real God shows its face and the poor farmers don’t cling to their religion, they are swallowed up by it. Eaglesmith has a well-earned reputation among his dedicated followers (known as Fredheads) of constant experimentation, integrity, fierce independence and a mistrust of corporate influences in the music business. “Tinderbox” is the latest installment from an artist with an unflinching vision of life and the songwriting skills to match it.
FredEaglesmith.com or add the "j" for CD ordering or.... Buy from amazon Released Apr. '08, reviewed by Barry Dugan.

JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE
The Good Life… (Bloodshot)
This kid’s got some mighty big shoes to fill, named after Townes Van Zandt by his father Steve Earle. Wisely Justin doesn't try to match either of his namesakes. His songs are dead simple, nothing too fancy. There's a few acoustic numbers but the highlights are when he dives into pure retro honky-tonk. You'd think he was Ernest Tubb's son! If you love your vintage twang, this one'll tickle ya, but if you're looking for the next Steve Earle, well, give him a few years. Justin's only 26 years old and this is his first release. I'd say it's a great and refreshing start.
Bloodshot's JTE page. Order from Amazon. Released March, '08, reviewed by Bill Frater

JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE
Midnight at the Movies… (Bloodshot)
On his stellar 2008 debut The Good Life, the territory covered by Justin Townes Earle ran old-fashioned country shuffles to swing to folk. With Midnight at the Movies, Earle pushes the envelope a bit further broadening his Americana music palate to include country blues and acoustic pop at the same demonstrating a sophisticated eye for subject matter. A monster talent on the live side, from performance to songwriting to his vocal work, this latest presents an artist beyond his years who wears both the Earle surname and the Townes second given name extremely well.
Visit My Space page. Buy from amazon. Released March, 2009. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson

JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE
 Harlem River Blues… (Bloodshot)
The new Harlem River Blues marks Justin Townes Earle's first recording since relocating to Brooklyn from Nashville. Ironically, Earle returned to Nashville to make the recording, though, draws heavily from the New York experience in his lyrics. His third album for Bloodshot Records, Earle continues to evolve, not to mention mature, in all ways positive with this album. His sound, while rooted in traditional music if anything, avoids any hints of staidness as he crafts a collection of ear-catching songs in a plethora of rootsy settings from country-up swing to ramblin' rock & rollers (the leadoff title track a true keeper) to the folksier sounds of the best of his prior two albums. Most noteworthy is his voice which sounds more confident and clearer than ever. With Harlem River Blues, JTE continues to be a talent on the rise. Recommended. 

JTE's web site. Buy from amazon. Released September, 2010. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson


JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE
Nothing's Going to Change The Way You Feel About Me Now … (Bloodshot)


First off, I'm a huge JTE fan. I've seen him at least three times and had the pleasure of hanging out with him at a few music festivals. So I was real excited when I heard this new CD was out. He played one or two of these songs last summer at a festival and - live - they sounded great. So I was still excited when I got the album, though I noted there are only 10 tracks. I looked at the timer on my CD player and it said there was only 30 minutes of music here. I was still okay, hoping this would be primo JTE material and 30 minutes of fine Justin songs can beat many other releases these days. I pressed "play" and track 1 came on. "am I that Lonely Tonight?" starts with a line about listening to "my father's song on the radio" and it sounded much like "My Momma's Eyes" a JTE concert staple. So far, so good. But then things started to get weak. There was a Memphis-tinged track that sounded a bit off and then came "Down on the Lower East Side" with muted horns and an organ. I then read the press release and learned that this album was recorded over a four day period in a church in Asheville,NC with no overdubs. Maybe the later tracks were recorded when Justin was too tired. I don't know. But, I certainly agree the other JTE fans that this is not representative of JTE's prior work or his live performances. So, I'll give JTE and his producer Skylar Wilson, a pass on this one and consider it a one-off. Hopefully he'll get back into the studio and spend a bit more time this time (and, hey, there is nothing wrong with overdubs). Till then, catch him live. He puts on a great show!
JTE's web site Buy from amazon. Released March, '12, reviewed by Steve Ramm.

STACEY EARLE
Dancin' With Them That Brung Me... (Gearle)
Stacey's first CD, (Simple Gearle), was recorded just to sell at concerts and wasn't considered to be a formal release.This time around, the CD packaging and recording are more professional, yet Stacey still maintains her "aw-shucks" attitude and loose vocal style.  She comes across as a regular Southern girl, comfortable in a trailer park yet also confident enough to express her true honest emotions in her insightful songs.  Although everything is mostly acoustic-based, I would hesitate to call it folk music.  Stacey's rhythm guitar work is very percussive and husband and harmony vocalist Mark Stuart's acoustic lead guitar style is always inventive and frequently inspired by rock riffs. Stacey's an intelligent yet simple songwriter who avoids the sophomore slump here and shows that she's much more then Steve's little sister.
She has a great website, StaceyEarle.com, with up-to-date tour info, CD and T-shirt ordering and more.  Released May 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

STACEY EARLE
Simple Gearle....(Gearle/E-Squared)
First off, this is Steve Earle's sister, and she shares his talent of creating wonderfully memorable  melodies.  She also has the stubborn independence to release this CD on her own label, although E-Squared is now distributing it. The arrangements are soft and simple, featuring her husband Mark Stuart on tasteful lead acoustic guitar and harmonies. The sound is similar to Gillian Welch or early Nanci Griffith, especially the latter when it comes to her vocal range.  Her songs are mostly about happy contemporary subjects like weddings, childhood, married life and well...simple things. This is the kind of album that grabs ya after the third or fourth listening and then doesn't let go. If you think this sounds like something you'd like, don't think about it, just go buy it.
  Favorite songs: Wedding Night, Tears That She Cries, Simple Gearle, Losers Weep, Cried My Heart Out, Show Me How, In My Way. She has her own site, StaceyEarle.com, with bio, tour info and 4 full length RA songs. Released Feb, '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.

STEVE EARLE
El Corazon.... (E-Squared/Warners)

Mr.Earle just may have put out the CD that will put him on the same street with the major singer-songwriters of the 90's. The all-original songs are all over the place, as they should be stylistically- hitting on some bluegrass, some hard stuff and even a great lo-fi Hank Williams sounding thing that adds the "clicks and pops" of a good ol' vinyl 78. Steve opens with a folk/blues that's ask for Woody Guthrie to come back to "help us out", then the CD closes with a folk tribute to the late Townes Van Zandt, one of Earle's biggest influences. The guy still sounds sober, thankfully, and he's not so hung up on sounding tough, Earle is just making great-sounding music here, strong melodies, and insightful lyrics. This is as good as it gets! Keep putting 'em out like this one, Steve, there's a hungry audience out here that will follow wherever you go.
Best tracks: Christmas In Washington, Telephone Road, N.Y.C., The Other Side of Town, Poison Lovers. Warners site very slick, inc. lyrics from El Corazon, tour info, message board, etc.  A great Steve Earle fan site including bios, lyrics, guitar chords, and lots more!  Released Oct. '97, reviewed by Bill Frater.

STEVE EARLE
Transcendental Blues... (E-Squared)
Well, since Steve has been on such a hot streak since Train 'A Comin' in '95 that I half expected and was ready to accept a new CD that would be a lesser effort.  Boy, was I wrong! This CD, reputed to be his return to Rock music, really covers the entire spectrum of what Americana's most consistently creative artist is all about.  Definitely a few of the tunes rock out, Steve's even reaching back for a little psychedelic inspiration and doing it better then Wilco did on their last CD. Fact is, the guy writes great songs, be they deep acoustic folk tunes, straight pop, or Irish-inspired ditties. And he seems to have been struck again by Cupid as many of the tunes are love songs. What they all have in common are superb melodies and honest, inspired lyrics.  Earle is writing a Haiku a day which has not only strengthened his mastery of prose but seems to have taught him the value of brevity.  He's a cultured rebel who is at the top of his game right now, doing what he does best, his art.
e2records.com has press stuff and his new tour schedule.  Released June 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

STEVE EARLE & THE DEL McCOURY BAND
The Mountain...(E-Squared)
This album exemplifies what I love about this music. The combination of Earle's gritty but heartbanger songwriting combined with the blistering excellence of the Del McCoury Band  (best bluegrass band working today according to Mr. Earle).  It's traditional, it's contemporary, and it pays homage to it's roots without getting stuck there.  Context not concrete... and out of that emerges some of the best textured music to be heard these days.  Talk about a buzz, this is one crowd that's not phoning it in.  Fact is, they're almost predictably too fine... if there is such a thing... (critics, can't please em', can't piss'em off).  Anyway, it's hot, as you would expect from a twangtrust production. This album has had enough pre-release talk to titillate fans of both bluegrass and whatever label you wanna slap on Steve,  but it's all true and worth the newsflash... You gotch yer duet with Iris Dement, yer twin mandolins on "Connemara Breakdown" and the combination of Del and Steve on "Carrie Brown" is nothing short of hair raising....that's bluegrass hair now, think about it.  Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Gene Wooten and Dan Gillis lend some great chops to this record that I think Bill Monroe would've felt mighty good about, yes sir I do...
  Best tunes: Carrie Brown, I'm Still In Love With You, The Graveyard Shift, The Mountain, Connemara Breakdown, Outlaw's Honeymoon. E-Squared has a nice site. Steveearle.net is a fan site. Released Feb, '99, reviewed by Kay Clements.

STEVE EARLE
Jerusalem... (Artemis)
There's a lot of hoo-ha going on right now about this new CD from Earle. That many of the songs are a stylistic departure from Earle's usual sound is one of the reasons but the lion's share of the attention is going to Earle's lyrics. In some of the songs, Earle writes from the perspective of someone who hates America and everything it stands for. While I am sure most people don't actually believe Earle is actually agreeing with these sentiments, many are shocked he would choose so close after the horrible events of 9/11 to write a song from this point of view. I, for one, feel it's about time. America used to have a strong legacy of protesting through music, going back through the field hollers of slaves which evolved into modern blues and up to Woody Guthrie and others who fought for the acceptance of equal rights by using their chosen art to make people think about their world and what was considered honorable and fair. Caught up in a PC age, most musicians are afraid to confront any ideas or injustices which go against the public grain. This is the real dangerous thinking. We when become involved in group think, in pleasing the masses for money's or pride's sake, we run the risk of not only diluting our art but our spirit and souls as well. Do I personally believe the feelings expressed by the character in Earle's song? No. But I do know, from the recent tragedy, that there are people who do think and feel this way and it is in our best interest to understand why they feel the way they do and try our best to figure out a solution that works not only in our best interest, but to also look at the situation and make sure we are not actually at fault in any way. Earle has taken a brave step with this album and will no doubt lose many fans who don't understand he is using his art to provoke and make us consider all sides of the terrible carnage that took place just over a year ago. From a man who just a decade ago was written off as a has-been and a drug/alcohol casualty comes a thought-provoking genre-busting album which will be talked about for years. I would say the music and songs are pretty damn good but it's kind of anti-climatic isn't it? Keep away from this unless you have an open mind. Not even stalwart Earle fans are going to flock to this one.
Order from Amazon. Released Sept. '02, reviewed by Scott Homewood

STEVE EARLE
The Revolution Starts...Now... (Artemis)

After his previous two releases, I've decided that there is only one way to examine this recording, and that is in two ways: from a musical, Americana, perspective, and, as a work of social commentary. Written and recorded almost in its entirety in twenty-four hours, The Revolution Starts Now is a testament to the prodigious talents of both Steve and the Dukes. I don't know where he gets them from, but damn, this guy writes some really fine music. It's difficult to single out any one track, they're all that good, but I get off especially on the rocking “Home to Houston”, “The Gringo's Tale”,(lovely strings here), and “Comin' Around”, featuring the exquisite vocals of Emmylou Harris. There's something unique and rare that happens when Earle's voice is counter pointed by a feminine set of pipes, and this song is a stellar example. I've ragged about this before, so I guess I can't let Steve off the hook: at a few seconds shy of thirty-six minutes, the disc is over way too soon for me, hence the missing ½ star. In fairness, he did create it from scratch in a lot less time that this assessment has taken me to produce.When I first saw the CD's title, I thought, “Uh oh, the shit's gonna hit the fan all over again, shades of “John Walker's Blues””. That furor was egregious then, and, it will be now, if it should happen again. Earle has always argued the case for the little guys: the Jimmys, the Alis, the boys from West Colorado and Houston, who get suckered into fighting and dying for other peoples' personal agendas. Their stories are laid out herein so poignantly that it is almost too painful to listen to them. It is misguided authority, and the abuse of power and trust, that are the targets of Earle's wrath, not any particular party or person. Whomsoever constitutes the current incarnation of evil, Mars or Aries, will be his target, and, “F the CC”, he will say what he thinks, because he's American, and it's his right. Following the form of Jerusalem , this CD also ends on a note of hope, “The Seeker”, making me think that the man is a closet optimist. Don't sweat the length, folks, this is an excellent CD, and, an important one, too. Get it.

Order from Amazon. Released Aug. '04, reviewed by Don Grant.

STEVE EARLE
Washington Square Serenade… (New West)

After releasing an album a year since gaining sobriety in 1994, Americana's favorite son and most consistent artist took a few years off. He's been acting, he's in a happy marriage (seven's a charm, I guess) and he moved to New York City. Greenwich Village to be exact, which some may say was the birthplace of folk music in the early 60's. Coincidently, or not, Steve has shifted his sound to a kind of urban folk-blues, featuring mostly acoustic instruments, with beats added tastefully. And another change from his recents CD's, very little politics and not a single cuss word. He writes about his adopted home and his powerful love for his wife. He's as poetic and melodic as ever and he's even sounding a little grateful now. Getting older will do that to you. He even does a cover tune (Tom Wait's “Down In The Hole”). Change and taking risks is always good in the long run. This may not be my favorite Earle album but it's a confident shift towards a new style. Also for serious Steve fans, there is a limited edition release with a bonus DVD featuring a 35 minute documentary and 3 acoustic performances.

SteveEarle.com, the Unofficial Site. Order from Amazon. Released Sept. '07, reviewed by Bill Frater

STEVE EARLE
Townes… (New West)

If you've ever attended a Steve Earle performance, no doubt you've heard him cover a Townes Van Zandt tune or two. His mentor as a young songwriter coming up in Nashville, some may think Earle's tribute to TVZ is overdue. On Townes, Earle pours out his heart and soul into 15 songs by the late Van Zandt. Arrangements lean towards the lean and mean, mostly solo acoustic, like Townes would've wanted it. He treats each composition with the grace and respect they deserve and if it spurs people to check out the original article, his mission is accomplished.

Buy from amazon Released May, 2009. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson

STEVE EARLE
I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive… (New West)
As any NBA ref knows, our stars have a certain latitude—Larry Bird’s shuffle step, Kobe’s ball-carrying—and get a free pass. And so in the Age of the Single Redux, whether or not Steve Earle’s latest hangs together as an “album” need not trouble us unduly. In the CD’s booklet, the artist invites us into his process and tells us that the theme is mortality, a record of three years of reflection amid loss, and who would argue? Even if the project is a pastiche, with flavors of mountain music and New Orleans and Lord-knows-what thrown into the blender, many of the songs are brilliant. “Every Part of Me” is a great love song, Wordsworthian in its intensity and grace. “Molly-O” and “The Gulf of Mexico” are instantly perennial Anglo folk in style. Overall, the writing is extravagant. Sometimes it connects and sails out of the park, sometimes it’s a blooper that leaves you scratching your head. Mixed metaphors can haunt, or can provoke a giggle…when Mr. Earle programs two songs in a row that begin “I’m rolling down a blacktop highway/Hole in my chest ‘cause my heart’s in your hand” and “I am a wanderer, feet on the ground/Heart on my sleeve and my head in the clouds” even a fan (count me in) might think, “Scottie Fitzgerald had Maxwell Perkins as his editor.” Finally, first-call producer T-Bone Burnett, with his insistent low-end rumbles and gooses, all tom-toms and bass-baritone twang parts, is driving his distinguished record of achievement right up to the edge of Mannerism. Just saying. We expect a lot from our luminaries. A minor and uneven masterpiece is still cause for celebration.
Order from Amazon. Released April, '11, reviewed by Jeep Rosenberg.

TIM EASTON
The Truth About Us... (New West)
The CD has the look and sound of the next big thing in roots rock. Obvious influences would be Dylan, Prine, Westerberg and well, Wilco. It's that's no coincidence since the guy's got most of Wilco backing him on the CD. Arrangements range from jangley-pop to achingly tender ballads and the Wilco guys are just plain brilliant at knowing what to play when. His soft, smokey voice is not the greatest but it works with his straightforward love songs. Rather then grab me right away, the CD has taken its own sweet time, which is the sign of a long-lasting, near-classic release. This guy's definitely got the talent.

Check out the label's site. Order from Amazon. Released Jan. 2001. Reviewed by Bill Frater.


TIM EASTON
Ammunition... (New West)
Tim's been around for a while, putting out solid yet still "in the park" roots rock releases, this is his fifth CD. He got rid of the electric guitars for this one and I think it was a great move. The album sounds as open, mystical and arid as the Joshua Tree desert where he live now. Sticking to stripped-down, mostly solo acoustic arrangements, Easton lets the songs do the talking. He says songs are Ammunition and he's not shy about speaking his mind about what's going on in the world today. The song “J.P.M.F.Y.F.” which stands for 'Jesus protect me from your followers', lashes out at the hypocrisy of the religious right. "Before The Revolution" offers some hope of "having a dream" in the future. He does some nice love songs too, sometimes channeling early Dylan or J.J. Cale. This is one of those CD's that would sound equally good with your morning coffee or on a desert highway in the middle of the night.
Tim's web site. Order from Amazon. Released May, '06. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

KATHLEEN EDWARDS
Asking for Flowers... (Zoe/Rounder)

This is Kathleen Edwards’ third release and the first in three years. It was worth the wait. Edwards continues to mature as a singer and songwriter, penning songs that are personal and compelling and written from an impressive variety of perspectives. They are angry, sad and touching, clever and witty and her voice is up to the task, whether it’s a quiet ballad or urgent rocker. She swings easily from angry young woman, to victim (“Alicia Ross”) to draft dodger to social critic in “Oh Canada.” And who else but a Canadian (Ottawa) would drop a reference to Wayne Gretzky and Marty McSorley (“The Cheapest Key”) so deftly? For this recording she gathered a group of top-notch studio musicians and the result is a compelling set of songs that put her in a class with alt-country divas Nancy Griffith, Kasey Chambers and Tift Merritt.
Edward's site, and MySpace. Buy from amazon. Released March, '08, reviewed by Barry Dugan.

ELEVEN HUNDRED SPRINGS
Bandwagon... (Palo Duro)

If you like your country music straight up, like a shot of Thunderbird, without a lot of overwrought production, then you can do a lot worse than check this CD out. This is the ‘livest' studio work I've heard in a while, and it comes from the pretty impressive roster that constitutes the stable of Palo Duro Records in Texas. The band's sound is rooted principally in traditional Texas Swing, with a lot of emphasis upon the fine steel work of Aaron Wynne, and they have a lot of fun with the genre. “The Only Thing She Left Me With Was The Blues” is an amusing take-off on the familiar ‘She done left me with nuthin' lament, and it's followed by another chuckler, “Long Haired Tatooed Hippie Freaks”, an autobiographical song with a self-explanatory title. On the serious side, there are some nice standouts, the mournful “Gina From San Jose” and “Swerving”, and a wonderful version of that great Mickey Newbury sing-along tune, “Why You Been Gone So Long”, featuring a seamless overdub of the late Ronnie Dawson's vocals. With a beautiful counterpoint between Wynne's steel, and Chris Claridy's guitar, it's a winner. (Even I can stay on key with this one) Last, but not least, is the classic finger dexterity song, “The Rock Island Line”, which demonstrates that the boys aren't unfamiliar with bluegrass, either.
Order from Amazon. Released July, '04, reviewed by Don Grant.

RAMBLIN' JACK ELLIOTT
The Long Ride... (HighTone)
Producer/guitarist Roy Rogers has given Ramblin' Jack Elliott the same treatment he gave John Lee Hooker's recent releases: superior production and a few well-chosen guests to keep things interesting.  Like Hooker, Elliott is almost the last connection to a by-gone era, a time of cowboy poets and New York City folksingers. Despite Ramblin' Jack's slightly worn and tattered voice, or maybe because of it, he's always been better known as a storyteller and interpreter of other's songs. It's the eclectic song selection on this collection that  really makes it, covering songs from such diverse sources as the Rolling Stones, Ernest Tubb and Tom Waits, all are winners. Guests include old friend Dave Van Ronk, as well as Tom Russell, Dave Alvin, Maria Muldaur and Norton Buffalo. Ramblin' Jack is probably the only folk singer we have left who can claim to have been friends with Woody Guthrie, and that right there gives him a right to still be making records, ...er, I mean CD's.
Best tracks: Connections, Pony, St. James Infirmary, Picture From Life's Other Side, East Virginia Blues, Take Me Back And Try Me One More Time, True Blue Jeans. HighTone has a fine site. Released Sept. '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.

RONNY ELLIOTT
Magneto... (self-released)
Elliott's fifth CD finds our wandering troubadour hero with another bunch of more-than-slightly off-kilter songs. Elliott is the new heir apparent of the long lost art of the story-song that Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Bob Dylan excel at, but he also manages to throw in a bunch of curveballs and points of view from odd perspectives that will surprise even the most jaded country fan. From the opener, "Loser's Lullaby", that ties in the stories of Pablo Picasso, Sugar Ray Robinson and Hank Williams (?) to the almost epic story of "Degas in New Orleans", Elliott binds the most disparate and opposite elements and, surprisingly, blends them into one cohesive story. Despite these lyrical eccentricities, Elliott is a masterful enough songwriter to make you believe all of these exploits and stories as if they were told to you firsthand. His imagination and storytelling powers can create wonderful tales worthy of your attention.
RonnyElliott.com  Reviewed by Scott Homewood

cd cover, Straight UpSTEVE ELLIOTT & LUCIE WALKER
Straight Up... (self-released)
The title of this new CD is amazingly apt. The music is all straight up roots rock and country with none of the poppy frills found on a lot of other so-called Americana artists' releases (hello Jolene and Wilco). What we have here is what could be referred to as a poor man's version of Buddy and Julie Miller, although that would be unfair to Elliott and Walker. Elliott does play guitar, but it's pretty much acoustic strumming and while he does write more of the songs (and sing the rockier ones). Lucie Walker usually sings the slower ones, both do a little more switching of styles than do the Millers. This CD also feels more "open" almost like an outdoorsy, music-in-a-field, organic style while Buddy and Julie's stuff feels more produced and polished. Yes, fans of the Millers will like this, as it covers a lot of the same musical terrain, but fans of pure country will probably dig this a little more as the frills are gone and their marvelous songs hold up well, without too much showing off of any type. A very good CD.
Their site, rockincountryblues.com,  has links to MP3's lyrics and more. Order the album from CD Baby. Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

ELLSWORTH
American Compost... (self-released)

Ellsworth not only goes by a single handle, excepting the contributions of Dean Bohana on bass, keyboards and drums, he handles all of the rest of the roles on the aptly named American Compost . His songs in a large measure are rooted in an earlier time when rock was a simpler and more fun medium. Being from Brooklyn, he doubtlessly had a front row seat for 9/11, and states in his press release that these songs were influenced by those “weird times”. Life was simpler and more fun before those times, and, beginning with the searing riffs of the opener, “Back to New York City”, that's where Ellsworth sets out to lead the listener. It is a somewhat nostalgic excursion, but it isn't sappy. They say you can never go home again, but you can return for a visit. Even though they're gone for good, American Compost takes you back briefly to those days.

Ellsworth web site, and MySpace. Order from CD Baby. Released June, '07, reviewed by Don Grant.


EMMITT-NERSHI BAND
New Country Blues... (SCI Fidelity)
Mix one part Leftover Salmon and one part String Cheese Incident and you get the Emmitt-Nershi Band. Call the debut from the duo titled New Country Blues a side project of newfangled bluegrass music on which two vital components of those aforementioned jam bands, Drew Emmitt and Bill Nershi, join forces with winning results. Not surprisingly, the recording leans towards the newgrass side of the tracks featuring an appealing assortment of tunes loaded with sweet harmonies and sizzling chops.

E-N Band site. Buy from amazon. Released Sept. 09. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.


MARK ERELLI
Compass & Compassion... (Signature Sounds)
Signature Sounds is a New England record label boasting mostly folk artists. Mark Erelli is a young and gifted singer-songwriter, but to pigeon-hole him as just another folkie would shortchange his talents. In fact, he brings many different styles (rock, blues, country, folk) to this album, which is actually what makes Americana such a distinctive genre. Kelly Willis lends her voice to one song and the band features Duke Levine on guitars and other stringed instruments. Suffice to say he's a literate and mature songwriter with a fine soulful voice. This CD displays a playful maturity and I could see Erelli becoming as good and respected as someone like Lyle Lovett. 
Mark's site. Check out Mark's label's site, with CD ordering.  Released Feb, 2001.  Reviewed by Bill Frater.

MARK ERELLI
Hillbilly Pilgrim… (Signature Sounds)
Mark Erelli pegged is a young folkish singer songwriter from Boston, at least that's what I thought until Hillbilly Pilgrim, his 3rd solo release. Although he's teased us with some twangy retro songs in the past, this is a delightful stretch for him. The CD is all killerstraight-ahead honky tonkin' western swingin' country tunes. Backing him are The Spurs, I guess a local western swing band, who make like the Fly-Rite Boys, meaning very tasty and very versatile. And all the songs are Erelli's too, save for "Troubles", a Billy Jack Wills tune. And although Mark's voice is a bit "thinner" than brother Bob Will's great singer Tommy Duncan, it works fine for the setting. In fact, his voice, along with a shared musical playfulness, calls to mind the late Steve Goodman. 'Nuff said, this is a great ride from start to finish and I heartily recommend it.
Mark has a nice site, Signature Sounds' site. Released Jan, 2004. Order from Amazon. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

MARK ERELLI
Hope and Other Casualties... (Signature Sounds)

Erelli seems to go back and forth between western swingin' albums and sensitive singer-songwriter stuff. This one would falls in the latter category, folk ballads with acoustic guitar and Dylan-ish harmonica. Producer and multi-instrumentalist Lorne Entress know just how to dress Erelli's songs, a little mandolin here and some reverb guitar there and even some cool effects like reverse-looped dulcimer. They always compliment the vision of Mark's words. This time around Mark dives into the deep waters of spiritual subjects like mortality and homelessness and where the world is going. The title sounds fatalistic but he has some very positive songs. “Passing Through” has a timeless quality that makes you think you've heard the song before. Quite of few of the songs address our current political climate, on “Seeds of Peace” he asks why it's “unpatriotic to protest or even to question”. More and more artists have been speaking up lately and I support Mark's efforts. As he says on the opening track, “Someday we all will be at peace, why not here, why not now”. Indeed.

Mark's site, Signature Sounds' site. Released March, '06. Order from Amazon. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO
Bourbonitis Blues...(Bloodshot)
I have been rooting for Escovedo ever since his excellent 13 Years, hoping that he would find wider acclaim and put out the true masterpiece that I felt he was capable of.  I've realized since then that his voice is an "acquired taste" that some may have trouble with. I also realized that he is on his own path, which may or may not include what I expect of him.  Anyway, he rocks out a little more then he has on recent solo releases although his trademark cello and violin are still there on the ballads. What really makes it for me is his liberal borrowing of cover tunes, everything from Jimmie Rodgers to the Velvet Underground. Add great cover art and superior production, even on the 4 live cuts, and you have a fine CD.  This may not be his masterpiece, but it's worth a owning.
Released April, '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.  Best tracks: I Was Drunk, Irene Wilde, California Blues, Pale Blue Eyes, Sacramento And Polk. You can order the CD direct from Bloodshot, they also have tour info.

ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO
A Man Under The Influence... (Bloodshot)
The insurgent wonderkids at Bloodshot have done it again: given us another steller album by should-be-ahitmaker Alejandro Escovedo. once again, Escovedo cooks up an enticing blend of country, punk, rock, folk, and Tejano and serve us with lyrical emotion and power. While the influence that he's under is obviously love (mostly lost) he doesn't have the Bourbinitis Blues (his last fine disc) any longer, that's for sure. Cuts alternately slowly weep or rock with full abandon. Aiding and abetting are musicians from Whiskeytown and The Backsliders, amomg others. This is an album that Steve Earle fans would especially appreciate as their visions seem are simular even though their music is frequently not. Country-rock fans rejoice, the "True Believer" returns with his strongest yet.
AlejandroEscovedo.com has tour info, bio, mailing list and more.  Bloodshot Records Released April, 2001.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO
More Miles Than Money: Live 1994-96...(Bloodshot)

Alejandro Escovedo has considerable Alt. Country and Rock 'n Roll credibility. A veteran of Rank & File and The True Believers, two obscure yet very influential bands. He has put out three solo CD's on Rykodisc in recent years where most of these songs originally come from, along with a few well chosen cover songs. He sings in a melancoly monotone which suits his sad introspective songs and his band has that great unique sound featuring violin and viola. He is a gentle, soft-spoken man who's songs really slow to a crawl all too frequently for my taste. This comes across better live then listening at home, where after 2 or 3 real slow songs you could find yourself drifting off a little. Unfortunately, this CD doesn't grab me enough for me to anticipate many repeated listenings. Although I respect his vision and music, I have a hard time recommending this CD to anyone but his biggest fans. I still look forward to future studio releases from Alejandro.
Best tracks: Slip Away, Sway, I Wanna Be Your Dog, Gravity. Bloodshot Record's site  Released June, 98. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO
Real Animal ... (Back Porch/Manhattan)
Since the 1990s, he’s delivered some of the most artful music I’ve laid ears on such that there was no pegging Alejandro Escovedo. While the proclivity to rock his ass off came in flashes, Real Animal is Escovedo in large part in his glam glory. An autobiographical affair for which the album title is a nod to hero Iggy Pop, Real Animal features songs, all co-written with comrade Chuck Prophet, drawing from various stages of Escovedo’s lengthy journey from his defining Bay Area days with punk band The Nuns (“Nun’s Song”) to his next stop with cowpunkers Rank & File (“Chip n’ Tony”) to making a go of it in N.Y.C. (“Chelsea Hotel”). Musically, we get plenty of the “glam” to go with subtle doses of the elegant country and chamber pop sounds of the aforementioned ‘90s. Produced by Tony Visconti (T. Rex, David Bowie), Escovedo seemingly has all the bases covered on Real Animal. Recommended.
Alejandro's site. Order from Amazon. Released June, '08. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

ESQUELA
The Owl Has Landed... (self released)
Do you have friends who love to play music? Who enjoy sharing it with you in rowdy bars, having a ball even if some of the songs are only halfway-done sketches? Now you do. Esquela, a rowdy little band from upstate NY, sounds like the most fun you could have in a little local pub. "The Owl Has Landed" is 37 minutes of noisy songs that cover a truly odd range of subjects in various and incomplete ways. "Commies Stink" kicks off the album with a tongue-in-cheek schoolyard taunt from the Cold War before it moves to unrequited bar pick-ups (Hands In My Jammies), and ends with a nearly hallucinogenic 6 minute chant (Country Fella) that wouldn't seem out of place on a Yo La Tengo album. Georgia Satellites member Keith Christopher keeps the band anchored in a rough, sloppy sound reminiscent of early '70s Stones, while vocalist Rebecca Frame keeps our attention on her Joplin-esque chops. Many of the songs sound as though half the audience from the previous night's gig were still drinking in the studio, and we are all invited to join. A truly unique and charming album.
Esquela's website. Order the album from the band. Released Oct. '10, reviewed by Brad Price.

THE EX-HUSBANDS 
...All Gussied Up ... (Tar Hut)
I'll never forget seeing these guys at a record label's barbecue earlier this year at South By Southwest. When the scheduled band didn't show up, The Ex-Husbands just jumped onstage, plugged in, and proceeded to tear the place up for the next 20 minutes. Hard drivin' Honky Tonk is what they specialize in, not too hard and not too fast. They throw in a few blues shuffles and ballads but it's mostly 2 minute songs: get in there, take care of business and get out of there. These New Yorkers have more taste and style when it comes to real country then half of Tennessee and I ain't kidding. Credit must go to principle songwriter Anders Thomsen who plays some fine guitar and has a great distinctive voice. What's even more remarkable is they're only a trio! No guest stars, no fiddles or banjos, just original songs played well with verve and passion.
You can order the CD from Tar Hut, or there's always Miles of Music.  Released Nov , '99, by Bill Frater.

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