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J-200
Trip From Grace... (Loose Booty)
Despite the band's unfortunate choice of name, there is a lot to like about their debut. Fronted by singer/songwriter Renee Giron, the band combines a sense of loose bar-band energy with a songwriting precision making them a double threat. Not only are they probably a great live act but their album captures a distinctive sound as well. While Giron's voice and personality have a coltish quality comparable to Kelly Willis, she has a different sort of vibe, somewhat more independent and strong, like a younger Tammy Wynette. The band is excellent as well, very tight and polished while still retaining that loose feel, keeping the music fresh and not allowing it to sound overly polished. Definitely a plus after all of the alt.country bands that have defected to the pop world recently. The album starts off with a song by Tim Carroll (Good Cry) and gets better from there, and not many artists could manage that. An excellent debut that shows the female side of alt.country has just about outdone the male side, at least for right now. Someone should get Caitlin Cary, Lucinda, Kelly Willis and a few of these other cowgirls together with this band and form Cowgirlapalooza or something.....
The band's site. Buy from amazon  Released June. 2002.   Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

JT & THE CLOUDS
Delilah... (Dishrag)
Americana is a big tent. The Chicago-based JT & The Clouds, led by Jeremy Lindsay, makes use of every square inch of that space and expands it a few more. The music and arrangements range from country guitar-fiddle-mandolin on "Prairie Lullaby" to straight up horns and B3 Chicago soul on "Scattered Leaves". The songs are meaty and substantial, with wonderful instrumental work, arrangements that make great sense, and lyrics that will catch your ear on the first track and not let go until long after the last track is over. This CD seems like Lindsay wrote some really great short stories, and just happened to have some really talented friends who could put them to music. The production, done by Gregg Leonard, is excellent. It manages to feel neither raw nor sterile, and lets the often-haunting arrangements and lyrics come to the forefront. Lindsay has already been compared to Willie Nelson for his songwriting, had "Scattered Leaves" covered by the Be Good Tanyas on NPR, and it's only going to get better for JT & The Clouds. The songs average four and a half minutes, but you'll wish they were longer. You'll wish the CD was longer and you'll wish they were playing near you. JT & The Clouds are that good. This CD goes on my Best of 2004 list.
Their website. Ordering and song samples from CD Baby.  Reviewed by Clint Weathers.

WANDA JACKSON
Heart Trouble... (CMH)
The original "Rockabilly Filly" is back with her first U.S. release in twenty years. A contemporary of Elvis and Johnny Cash in their early rockabilly days, Wanda's voice remains as strong and youthful as ever. With guest appearances by roots acolytes as diverse as The Cramps, Elvis Costello, Dave Alvin and Rosie Flores, this album presents a strong set of tunes ranging from country classics to contemporary retro rockers to a few choice hits from her past. With raw guitar and strong musical backing, this disc rocks like an instant classic. "Let's Have A Party" she sings on her biggest hit, and this recording makes that sound like an excellent idea.

Wanda's own site. Buy from amazon.  Released Oct. 2003.  Reviewed by Michael Meehan.


KATE JAMES & LOST COUNTRY
Homewrecker, Heartbreaker... (Hayden's Ferry)
It would be very easy to dismiss this CD as pedestrian and even cliché bar-band country music. They certainly have the tried and true formula down: Bass, drums, steel-string acoustic, pedal steel, and 11 tracks played well enough and sung well enough. The lyrics and arrangements are obviously meant to be homage - The Jordanaires and the Nashville Sound get lots of references - but in the end, it all seems either too road-worn or not quite retro enough. You've heard these songs before, sometimes done better, sometimes done worse. However, there is a sleeper on this CD that will smack you right between the ears: the best track on the CD is "Poor Little Fool." A torch song in waltz time, this song shows both the potential of Kate James' voice and how strong this band can be. When they leave the clichés behind and showcase the strong chops of guitarist Bill Brooks, this band really shines.

Hayden's Ferry. Kate's site. Buy from amazon  Released April, '04. Reviewed by Clint Weathers.


DAN JANISCH
Medicine Man... (Green Door)

If John Steinbeck had written music, he'd have written music like Dan Janisch. While his home is in Venice California, his heart is in the roots of rural blue-collar America. Comparisons to Dylan ring a tad hollow; this guy's more melodic; think more along the lines of Arlo Guthrie. Medicine Man is a combination of folk and blues that leads off with the dobro driven title track that conjures up images of those traveling carnival/circuses that were the entertainment focal point for the little towns and villages of the mid-western hinterland several decades back. It's an easy leap to imagine Janisch following that same circuit, as in “Big Trip”. All of the songs were written and presumably, from the absence of credits or acknowledgements, performed by him. At slightly over forty minutes in length, this one could have been expanded a bit, to ten or maybe eleven tracks, but only if the quality wouldn't suffer. It's doubtful though that someone who can write tunes like “Sayonara Chinatown” and then follow it up with one like “Pretty Little Baby” is quality challenged.

Dan's site and MySpace page. Buy from amazon Released July, 2007, reviewed by Don Grant.


JASPER STONE 
Let 'Er Smoke... (Skeet Music)
These three good ole boys do my heart good. Combining the  best of Terry Anderson (rowdy licks and humorous lyrical twists), Duane Jarvis (melancholy twangy slow songs with some Mick Jagger vocal influences)  and Bottle Rockets (loud, raucous guitar solos that butt heads with hard rock) this band manages to hit this album straight outta the park. I am not  sure if this is their debut but I am mighty impressed, for all the reasons  I've already given and a about twenty more that make this a CD that's almost  impossible to remove from the CD player. There are some great country touches like some mandolin and lap steel but you'll love this for the pure redneck rowdiness and ballsy licks. One of my faves for this year!
They have a website.  Order the CD from Miles Of Music.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood

VALERIE JAY & THE AMERICANOS
Pacific Time… (self released)

So, the thing that grabs you first is the powerful husky voice on this transplanted Englishwoman. If you remember Lacy J. Dalton or many of the great classic country women from the 50's and 60's, (she covers Patsy Cline admirably), that's what I'm talkin' ‘bout. In fact, her voice is so big that like a teenager with a Porsche she's still learning how to control it. I imagine Valerie will only get better as she gets more comfortable and confident. There are a few interesting contradictions here… Her bands name is either a takeoff on the old 60's band Jay and the Americans or just an interesting take on the musical term Americana. Well ironically her voice is so “country” that I don't really consider it Americana, the arrangements and production is almost too polished for Americana. The other thing is she's living in San Francisco, which sadly, has a pretty bleak country music scene. If she settled in a city like Nashville she'd at least be working more and probably have a better chance of being heard. Nevertheless, this is a good collection of tunes and it'll be interesting to see where Valerie goes next.

Valerie's web site. Go to CD Baby to order. Reviewed by Bill Frater

THE JAYHAWKS
Rainy Day Music… (American/Lost Highway)
One the first listen, I thought the seventh Jayhawks CD was a little too slick or too pop sounding, much like their other post-Mark Olsen releases. But the subtle accents of banjo and steel guitar point towards a welcome return to the roots sound of their earlier albums. I love the almost-recognizable melodies that drive every tune, reminding me of old great 60’s bands like Buffalo Springfield, Badfinger, The Byrds and more. Some of the songs, especially "Save It For A Rainy Day", has such beautiful melodies that they would be a huge hits in the old days of Top 40 radio. There’s just something about the bright and shimmering overall sound of the band and the CD itself, well-produced by Ethan Johns, the songs seems to jump out of my cheap computer speakers, I can imagine how great it would sound on a hi-end stereo. Lead Jayhawk Gary Louris has developed into not only a great songwriter, but a great vocalist as well, surrounding his leads with perfect harmonies by not only bandmate Tim O’Reagan, but Matthew Sweet and ex- Long Ryder Stephen McCarthy. This album keeps calling me back, and like an old 60’s record, it continues to reward me.
Buy from amazon. The Jayhawks Fan Site. Released April, 2003. Reviewed by Bill Frater

DOUG JAYNE
Voices In The Wind... (Jackalope)

This one's going to take some time to grow on you, at least it did here. Musically there's very little to find fault with this release from Sonoma County's Doug Jayne. This guy knows how to arrange and extract some very good contributions from a good backup crew. He's not afraid to use some instruments that come from, shall we say, genre-wise, left field. It's not every day that clarinets, saxophones or trombones assume a feature role on FTB submissions, and it's a pleasure to hear them employed so effectively. Some of the lyrical accompaniments leave a bit to be desired however. For example, “Down The Creek” is so cliché ridden it's borderline painful. Exacerbating that effect is the juxtaposition of a faithful rendition of Zevon's caustic “Splendid Isolation” immediately after. Warren could hit the nail right on the head, biting you in the ass with his words and you'd still come back for more. Some artists can crank out really good stuff solo, but there's also a hell of a lot good tunes out there courtesy of the likes of Lennon/McCartney, John/Taupin, Jagger/ Richards. The music is here, but some teamwork might benefit what's being sung.

Jayne's MySpace page. Order from CD Baby. Released Dec. '08, reviewed by Don Grant

SHOOTER JENNINGS
Put the O Back In Country… (Universal South)

Shooter is the late Waylon Jennings' son, and he doesn't want you to forget it. Shooter's a bit of a loose cannon, acting as if he invented drinkin' and druggin' and swearing and getting tattoos. The outlaw thing's been done and it ain't that cool anymore anyway. The title track, done to the tune of Neil Young's “Are You Ready For The Country" is just plain moronic. Yeah, I agree that there “Ain't no soul on the radio” but Shooter ain't exactly “playin' hillbilly music” either. It's been said before by Robbie Fulks, the Waco's and with much more intelligence. In fact, most of this is your standard grade heard-it–before Southern rock. But before you go writing him off, I think he has a good voice, while not as distinctive as his dad's, and there's some really good, well-written songs here hidden amongst the macho stuff. Hopefully he'll lose some attitude and gain some maturity and have a long career and great career like Ol' Waylon.

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


WAYLON JENNINGS
Closing In On The Fire....(Ark 21)
If you gave up on ol' Waylon like I had, you will be pleasantly surprised by his new CD on a new label that gives him the respect and latitude that he needs. The producer seemed to think the addition of Sting, Travis Tritt and Sheryl Crow would help the album. The real MVP here is Mike Henderson who's fine bluesy guitar is all over this CD. Usually you'd be lucky if half of the songs on a Jennings album were decent. Here, they're almost all good, and Waylon wrote some of the better ones himself. If you just leave the guy alone and let him sing his songs, he can put together a nice album. Personally, I'd like to hear Waylon do an all blues CD.
If you like...The "real" Waylon then give this CD a chance!  Best cuts: Closing In On The Fire, I Know About Me..., Back Home, Easy Money, The Blues Don't Care. Ark 21's site, or Waylon Dot Com, Waylon's own site, currently under construction.  Released June, 98. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

JONATHAN JETER & THE REVELATORS
Late to my Own Funeral... (self released)

The 5-song EP from Texas-based Jonathan Jeter & the Revelators shows that they can rock hard, as well as tone things down a bit too. The catchy opener “19 Doin’ 20” is a bit frenetic, while “Come On” and “Barfly” provide some nice contrasting grooves at a slower pace. “Eventually” establishes the snappy blast that “you can’t run, you can’t hide, I’ll find you eventually.” The album’s musician credits aren’t clearly indicated. Originally from Alabama, the band’s regular drummer is Chris Evans. I’m assuming he’s propelling the group while Jonathan Jeter stylistically embraces the gravelly vocalizing of eclectic Leon Russell. Also, if the album features the band’s regular bass guitarist, that’s Josh “Smitty” Smith, a solid instrumentalist. “Voodoo Woman” is tightly wound, tough southern twang that appears to draws inspiration from Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. This band’s messages are a bit simplistic, but the straightforward roots rock they produce definitely has some intriguing aspects.
Jeter's site. Order from CD Baby. Released mid-2011, reviewed by Joe Ross.

EILEN JEWELL
Letters From Sinners & Strangers… (Signature Sounds)
This is a great collection of songs that sound familiar at first, but they're not. I was surprised to find that most of them were Jewell originals. Even the three cover tunes, (Eric Anderson, Bob Dylan and Charlie Rich), are pretty obscure. She writes lyrics that call to mind traditional themes much like the writing of Gillian Welch. She sings with the relaxed voice of a jazz singer, she never pushes. The arrangements easily drift from folk to blues to swing to twang, thanks to her fine, versatile band. Of special note are the soloists: Daniel Keller on swingin' violin and Jerry Miller on vibrato-laden guitar. They both solo with taste and restraint. This CD holds together with a consistant sound. It''ll grow on ya. Eilen is a jewel indeed.
Buy from amazon Eilen's site. Released July, 2007, reviewed by Bill Frater

EILEN JEWELL
Butcher Holler: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn… (Signature Sounds)
If you've caught an Eilen Jewell Band show any time over the last several years, you're probably aware of her fondness for Loretta Lynn. Frankly speaking, hardly a show goes by without at least one Lynn cover. With Butcher Holler, Jewell takes her love of Lynn to full proportions offering an entire album of Lynn covers in tribute to the Queen of the Honky Tonks. Backed by her crack band who ride her every crest & valley, Jewell goes honky tonkin' on Butcher Holler with faithful renditions of hits ("Fist City"), obscurities ("Give Me a Lift"), and even a few of Lynn's patented controversial numbers. While no new ground is broken here, Butcher Holler in the very capable voice of Jewell and instrumentally in the hands of her top notch band is pure country.
Eilen's site. Order from amazon Released July, 2010, reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

EILEN JEWELL
Queen of the Minor Key... (Signature Sounds)
From the opening thunder of surf instrumental "Radio City", it is clear that Eilen Jewell wants to have plenty of fun being sad as the Queen of the Minor Key. The characters are tragic, the stories are sad, and this album is solid rockabilly country through and through. Through swing and jump numbers and slow ballads, every song breathes smoky barroom air. Guitarist Jerry Miller keeps it twangy, beautiful and dangerous; saxophonist David Scholl adds gritty honk in the right places, surrounding Ms. Jewell's low-key alto with amply sparse settings. True to form, the songs are brief and to the point - the delightful "Bang Bang Bang" feels like a tease at 1:45 - with lyrics concise and vivid throughout, borrowing the cadences of traditional country and swing so as to slip into those shoes with ease. Let this review be the first to proclaim Queen of the Minor Key a great party record for the above-average cowboy and cowgirl set - really fun.
Eilen's site. Order from amazon Released June, 2011, reviewed by Brad Price.

JAMES JEWELL & SHEW
Instruments and Controls... (Antenna)
Half '60's psychedelic freakout and half bluegrass hoedown are what I get from this highly disorienting disc. This three-piece band manages to raise quite a few questions about how country can be combined with psychedelia to produce a different kind of music altogether. I can see this being played in some redneck bar at the edge of the Twilight Zone. Country music yet, not very country at all.
The band's website. Go to CD Baby to order. Reviewed by Scott Homewood

JAMES JEWELL & SHEW
wasted.....(Antenna)
Here's a playful yet quirky band who are testimony to the fact that these days anybody can afford to put out a high-quality sounding CD.  Not that it's that bad, but it's pretty off-the-wall, my mind digs up Jonathan Richman  or Camper van Beethoven as comparisons. The band, they're from Pennsylvania,  is mostly acoustic, with banjo and trumpet, but folk or bluegrass it ain't.  The songs are ambitious upbeat meanderings about well...simple, innocent themes. Jewell writes all the tunes and his voice has the deep monotone of a Mark Knopfler. The CD is starting to grow on me...
Best songs: Lost, Cigarette, Spider, Train, Heavenly. Your best bet is ordering directly from their web site, JamesJewell.com, which is quite well done and includes some RealAudio song samples. Released in late '98, reviewed by Bill Frater.

MICHAEL JOHNATHON
Front Porch... (PoetMan)

Michael Johnathon’s signature “folkestral” music is a pleasing blend of nicely-arranged, mostly original songs that incorporate his guitar and banjo along with occasional orchestral strings into pretty little ditties with downhome messages. Besides Kentucky homeplace, he now owns a cozy little log cabin deep in the woods, and “Front Porch” is about his “search for home and a life full of music and starlight, holding hands and dancing for no reason.” Back in the old days, a great deal of mountain music and dancing were solely made on the porch. Today, many people have turned a back on their musical roots, and it takes folksingers like Johnathon to frequently nostalgically remind us of simpler days full of children dancing, fireflies, and values like love, forgiveness and mercy divine. A unique arrangement of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” initially seemed a little out of place until we’re reminded of that man on the radio trying to capture our imagination with a lot of useless information. I believe that there’s a subtle message that Michael’s trying to convey – happiness and contentment can be found by simply embracing a life built around love, honesty and music. The consummate musician surrounds himself with others who understand his musical vision. Some others appearing on this album include Rob Ickes (dobro), Raymond McLain (mandolin),  Ronn Crowder (harmonica), and three bass players.  As with his previous albums, his accompanists successfully dispense “song conversation” to the music. String quartets appear in “How Can I Keep from Singing” and “Believe,” and “Pachelbel’s Canon in D” includes violin, viola, cello and bass. All three of these tracks were recorded live in concert, perhaps as part of Michael’s popular “WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour,” a live weekly program broadcast on hundreds of stations (and internet).  Among the ten tracks (a tad short for a full-length album), the instrumental “Tacobell’s Pee-shooter” and “Moonfire” are presented with plenty of engaging joie de vivre. In the closing number and title track, Johnathon happily professes that he’s got a front porch ‘round his life. His advice, however, is that “We need a front porch ‘round the world.” The indefatigable Johnathon is a hardworker whose dedication and devotion to his art, home and family are a treasure to experience.

Michael's website, and Woodsong's site. Order from CD Baby. Released mid-2011, reviewed by Joe Ross.

JAMEY JOHNSON
That Lonesome Song... (Mercury Nashville)
The curiosity was piqued when Jamey Johnson's That Lonesome Song appeared on multiple Best-of-2008 lists from New York Times pop music scribes. "Somewhere between Jennings and Jones" he sings on the album's closing number and aside from the alphabetical coincidence, it hits the nail on the head. Other than a few old reliables, country music worth a crap from the Nashville mega-labels has been nil in recent years. Johnson defies the norm with his devastating tales of woe all set to perfectly understated arrangements - the pedal steel fade-ins and outs are killer. Classic country lives.
Jamey's site. Buy the CD from amazon. Released Aug. '08. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

JAMEY JOHNSON
Living for a Song: a Tribute to Hank Cochran
... (Mercury Nashville)
Country music star Jamey Johnson has done the unthinkable: he made a real deal country music record, sure to be a classic, that will likely never get played on country music radio. Why? Simple. It's too country. None of that pandering country-pop crap here. Just an enormously satisfying record with some of the best country music song writing ever. Johnson is a powerful, compelling vocalist who manages to get inside the lyric of whatever he's singing. As if that weren't enough, he's paired throughout with a string of fantastic country singers. Alison Krauss, Bobby Bare, Merle Haggard, Ray Benson, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris and Willie, to name a few. Much like Carl Jackson's 2003 Grammy winning project celebrating, and resurrecting, the Louvin Brothers, Johnson and company rescue sixteen of Cochran's gems from country music's history bin and, in the process, reminds us what a genius he was at capturing and conveying the emotional complexity of adult love relationships. This is a truly exquisite recording. Each song has been thoughtfully arranged and supported by the stellar musician's so as to bring out the heart felt emotion found there. Even the lead off track, "Make the World Go Away", which was a huge countrypolitan cross over hit for Eddy Arnold, is free of the schmaltz that marred the original and becomes a stunning statement of loss and regret in the capable hands of Johnson and Krauss. You'd be hard pressed to find a more convincing expression of melancholy in the whole history of country music. Truth is, I could make a similar statement about virtually every track on this CD. It's that good. Willie did it in the 70's. Ricky Skagg's in the 80's. Now, maybe country music outlaw Jamey Johnson, and this gorgeous, beautifully rendered recording can lead the record buying public back to this uniquely American artistry and maybe save modern country music from itself.
Jamey's site. Buy the CD from amazon. Released Oct. '12. Reviewed by Kevin Russell.

JOLENE
In The Gloaming....(Sire)
I wanted to like this CD, really, but there is not much here to distinguish it from alot of other guitar-based alternative rock music that's out there. Jolene's last CD, Hell's Half Acre, had more of a jangely roots-based sound with some fine steel guitar that gave them a great sound. Somewhere along the way, the band lost the Americana, and also some of their uniqueness. They have a good sound, nice harmonies, but Americana it is not, so I have a hard time recommending this CD to people who come to this site looking for roots music. They are a lot better than most of the "Modern Rock" stuff that's on the radio, so if your tastes leans in that direction, then check these guys out. For me, I came to Alt-country because I was tired of bands that sounded similar to the new Jolene CD. But then again, maybe my ears are just getting old!
If you like...Gin Blossoms, Old 97's....then try the new Jolene.  Best tracks- Exhibit, Begin 1000, 16c, Clear Bottle Down. Released Feb. '98. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

BUCK JONES
Lucky Star... (Western Beat)

Another of the Lone Star state's apparently endless supply of artists, Buck Jones' music leans towards the honky-tonk side of the Texas brand of country. Surprisingly, his roots are in Baptist gospel, and, of all things, opera training. Out of thirteen tracks, he's only chosen to include two originals, the Tex-Mex flavoured “Cross That River”, and “These Days”, and, from the sounds of these two cuts, he's underestimating his own song-writing potential. This isn't to say that the others aren't up to snuff, far from it. There's some good stuff by the likes of Walt Wilkins, his guitarist, who co-produced Lucky Star with mandolin player Tim Lorsch and Shawn Jones' “Lightnin' Strike Me Down” has the capacity to become a great new country standby. Buck Jones does all of them justice. While there are a lot of artists who have made, and are making, respectable careers covering the songs of others, the ones who seem to make the most lasting marks in music are the ones who compose their own original creations. Judiciously selected good songs are most definitely preferable to sub-standard homegrowns when breaking into the game, but Jones should give himself more credit; from what's shown here, he can write. It'd be good to hear this guy expand his musical resumé some more.

Buck's stuff on Western Beat, where you can also order the CD. Released Sept. 2005, reviewed by Don Grant.

GEORGE JONES
Live Recordings From the Louisiana Hayride... (Scena)

These early recordings from the Louisiana Hayride showcase a young George Jones beginning in 1956 as a 24 year old and giving us a chance to chart his course through 1969 - Jones with all the promise of those famous pipes but still evolving the phrasing style that is classic Possum. The sound quality is not always what one would hope for, but it puts us squarely in the front of the house, listening to the interplay of Jones and his band and feeling the excitement of hearing this national treasure in the early days of shaping his style. The tracks on this collection from 1954-1969 cover Jones' work with his first record labels, Starday, Mercury, United Artists and Musicor with the advantage of hearing Jones introduce and talk about the music. A no brainer for the Jones fan and depending on your tolerance for live and imperfect, essential for lovers of real country music.

Buy from amazon. Released March, '04, Reviewed by Kay Clements.

KACEY JONES 
Every Man I Love Is Either Married, Gay, Or Dead... (IGO)
Ms. Jones worked on Kinky Friedman tribute CD, Pearls In The Snow, acting as both co-producer and sometimes vocalist.  She calls herself a musical humorist and just listing some of the song titles will give you a good idea of where she comes from... "You're The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly" (duet with Delbert McClinton), "Till Dale Earnhardt Wins Cup #8", "Chicken or Dumplins", "Collector Of People" and the title cut.  She tries too hard to be funny and unfortunately misses the mark most of the time.  The pedestrian Nashville arrangements don't help much either. The song with Delbert is pretty good though and she gets points for covering Tom Waits' "Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis".
Release date: Sept. '00,  Reviewed by Bill Frater.

NORAH JONES
Feels Like Home… (Blue Note)
Now Norah Jones certainly doesn' t need me to help her name recognition or her CD sales, but I loved her her Hank Sr. cover on her first album as well as her version of Waylon Jennings' "Wurlitzer Prize". Then I heard that she was covering Gram Parson's "She" in her live shows and I figured she has great taste at least in choosing cover songs. Of course, Jones has a beautiful sultry voice and all but I can only handle so much of the easy listening dinner jazz sound that she specializes in. However, halfway into the CD things get better... First, following the cover song tradition, she does a nice bluesy version of Townes Van Zandt's "Be Here To Love Me". Then Dolly Parton joins her on a rousing, bluegrass-paced "Creepin' In", and the next song "Toes", works for me too. She does an unreleased Tom Waits tune too. I almost hate to say it, but she's growing on me. I like her ego-free attitude and I think her band's good too. So there ya go, although there is nothing even slightly twangy here, if you like her first album, you'll like this one better. And if 1% of the people who buy this CD check out more of Townes' greatly under appreciated music than it's a good thing.
Buy from amazon. Release date: Feb. '04  Reviewed by Bill Frater.

JOY KILLS SORROW
Darkness Sure Becomes This City... (Signature Sounds)
Although  its name is taken from WJKS, a radio station that broadcasted the Monroe brothers’ show way in the 30's, this young Boston band is far from traditional. This is also despite featuring stellar banjo and mandolin players in the lead instrumental roles and great guitarist and bass too. Musically I hear swing and jazz and folk flavors while the instruments intricately weaving around the melodies, yet always serving the song first. Many of the originals were written by the bassist in the band, Bridget Kearney, who's lyrics are sensitive and literate.   It all comes to rest on the vocal talents of Emma Beaton who carries the band without showboating, once again serving the song and the lyrics.  There's something very magical going on here deserves to be heard by many more people.
JKS's site, and Signature Sound's page. Order from Amazon, Released: Feb. '10,  reviewed by Bill Frater.

JOY KILLS SORROW
This Unknown Science... (Signature Sounds)
The members of Joy Kills Sorrow have impressive folk and bluegrass credentials, but the songs on This Unknown Science employ virtually none of the touchstones and structures that define these forms - only the instruments remain. The original material from bassist Bridget Kearney is a literate variety of pop that should be judged outside the traditional forms of Americana. Pop songs of all stripes work best when the listener is invited into story and feeling. Alas, too many of the songs here fail to make that case - whomever "Jason" or "Eli" may be, or whatever goes down "Somewhere Over The Atlantic", we are left outside the singer's world. When the band moves closer to traditional forms as in "One More Night", things start to click, but not for long. The production leans towards melodramatic, combining complex arrangements with a heavily processed sound; every phrase from vocalist Emma Beaton is announced with a deliberately audible inhalation, as if to announce the importance of the next line. There are some beautiful melodies and smart harmonic movements on this album, but this does not outweigh the sensation of heady self-indulgence.
Signature Sound's page. Order from Amazon, Released: Sept. '11,  reviewed by Brad Price.

TERI JOYCE
Kitchen Radio... (self released)
Teri Joyce has been a player on the Austin country roots scene for a good dozen years now singing with the likes of Roger Wallace and Ted Roddy and seeing her songs covered by some of the best of that competitive scene. Along the way she's had her own band, The Tagalongs, featuring some of A-Town's finest country pickers. While rumors of a solo release have floated round for what seems like years, it all finally comes to fruition with Kitchen Radio. On it Joyce tastefully channels the sounds of the 1960's & 70's Texas honky tonk on a record that moves between tear-tugging country weepers and hot-steppin' shuffles.
Teri's site. Order from CD Baby. Released Sept. 09. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

JUKEBOX JUNKIES 
Choose Your Fix... (self-released)
Talk about "radio-ready". The Jukebox Junkies have seemingly lived up to their name by turning out a full CD of good tunes to help ensure their eventual placement on jukeboxes nation wide. No easy feat these days. From the Chuck Berry/Bottle Rockets/Stones stomp of the opener "Sentimental Tattoo" to the next one, a power-pop gem called Over and Over, to the rest of their fine songs the Junkies have created a great CD that cops a few riffs from their own jukebox favorites but still enables them to make an original statement. On the music barometer, I would place this about fifty percent power pop and fifty percent roots rock. Think in terms of a country Goo Goo Dolls or a more poppy Whiskeytown. Not a bad record at all, it could be more distinctive musically, but as I write this I am humming one of the songs long after it has left the player. As the title says, choose your fix. I choose the Jukebox Junkies.
Jukebox Junkies Central.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Cover ImageJUNE STAR
Telegraph... (Safe House)
Many bands in today's alt.country landscape bring more influences into their music than just Merle, Hank and Buck. Uncle Tupelo combined country and punk rock, Wilco uses a blend of power pop and country and many bands use classic rock (post-Beatles) as an additive to add a little edge to their country. June Star is the first band in my memory that I've heard make a near-perfect blend of bluegrass and rock. I've heard many bands try it, mind you. Just never heard any of them succeed where June Star does. Banjos and electric guitars blend perfectly and songs start out at one end of the spectrum and then cross to the other without making you bat an eye. And that's not to say that this band doesn't understand dynamics. The switches just sound natural, like it's meant to happen. I am not a huge fan of bluegrass. I AM a fan of this record. Great stuff.
JuneStar.com has tour and bio stuff, Safe House has a site too.  Released Nov 2001.  Reviewed by  Scott Homewood.

MARK JUNGERS
Standing In Your Way... (self-released)
It's pretty much inevitable. When you hear a singer/songwriter singing meaningful lyrics while strumming a guitar and playing a harmonica you're gonna think of Bob Dylan and compare the two. So many artists have faced this problem and ended up not being able to carve out their own niche. Think about Steve Forbert, for example. Great songs, good singer, compared to Dylan and totally disappeared for about ten years and only now starting to come back. He even had hits on the radio! Sadly, Texan Mark Jungers is going to face the same comparisons, and not only from me. Number one, he is a gifted lyricist with heartfelt, honest, meaningful stories to tell and the skill to tell them in an interesting way. Number two, the band he's got is quite skillful. Skillful and sympathetic enough to get out of the way when Jungers starts weaving his storytelling magic. Notice I did not write "just like The Band did" but, you know, it is just like they did when they backed Dylan. Number three, Jungers has got a very distinctive voice and style. While not as distinctive as Dylan's craggy old voice, I think I'd know it anytime I heard it now that I've listened to this CD. So what is Jungers going to do about this predicament? Hopefully nothing. As constricting as it is to be compared to a legend (actually he sounds a little like early Springsteen as well) it's Jungers talent and way with a song bringing these comparisons to light. Anyone into great songwriting with an equal mix of folk, country and rock is going to like this CD a whole helluva lot!
Lone Star Music's page. Buy from amazon Released June 2002.   Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

MARK JUNGERS & THE WHISTLING MULES
One For the Crow... (American Rural)
After listening to a couple of slickly produced Americana recordings, I found this relatively lo-fi  production refreshing and spirited. Dusty songs punctuated by harmonica, mandolin and fiddle, tales of every day folks and misadventures. This one's perfect for a long drive. Jungers writes from a personal perspective (not unlike the Silos' Walter Salas-Humara ) and when he sings about  farm life in "Dig" , the Minnesota native is writing from experience. The Austin-based Whistling Mules provide warm back up with a feeling of old friends playing live in the studio. While not reinventing the wheel, Jungers and company keep it moving a little further down the road, past, as he sings in the opening cut, "gasoline and cigarettes, cheap motels and railroad tracks".
Mark's web site has CD ordering or order from CD Baby. Released '04, reviewed by Michael Meehan.

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