Best of FTB
| JIMMY LaFAVE
Blue Nightfall… (Red House)
| Jimmy is a veteran folk-rock journeyman who just does his job, hits the road, and consistently puts out decent if not extraordinary albums. That is until now. He has this marvelous weathered voice that might discourage lesser mortals, perhaps he was a high school vocal teacher's nightmare with the way he strains and pushes his instrument. LaFave is not afraid to make it work for each song, especially on the slower tunes where his sensitive and heartfelt lyrics can really grab ya. He balances it out with a handful of bluesy rockers, where he's always powerful. This is his best work yet and if you don't know his work, a great introduction to an important artist.
|Jimmy's website. Red House Records. Buy from Amazon Released March, 2005. Reviewed by Bill Frater.
Them Bones... ... (self released)
|West Virginia singer, writer and multi-instrumentalist David LaFleur is oft-seen at folk and songwriter festivals where he has garnered attention and recognition with his low-key and affable mix of Americana, folk, and blues. His vocal delivery is a warm, conversational style that makes expressive statements like “if you’re playing with the devil, you’d better double down or fold.” Spare settings lend relevancy to his own self-penned stories like “The Quilt Song” and “The Last Thing.” The former is tribute to his mother, and the song might have had even more impact in a slightly higher key. LaFleur refers to the latter as a “cinematic love song” in which the depth of locked-in emotion and romance are explored. He also occasionally slips in raw and rootsy spoken lyrics (as well as a wack on the frying pan) into his humorous original “Shepherd’s Pie Revisited.” With their backup vocals, four friends recreate the diner’s rowdy atmosphere at Mom’s Place. David LaFleur demonstrates an astute familiarity with American traditional folk music (Roving Gambler, Oh Freedom, Darling Corey, Them Bones), as well as some roots of folk (Robert Burns’ “My Love is Like a Red Red Rose”). While presented as a lyrical and sweetly wistful remembrance, perhaps a little too much liberty was taken with revising Burns’ beautiful original melody. However, it is pleasing that LaFleur is willing to explore and take his music a step further with personalized arrangements of the old standards, and he writes much of his own material in the same vein that tells stories (“The Last Thing”), paints pictures with nice imagery (“Pleasantville” and “Dunolaigh”), or shakes things up with his instrumental guitar, mandolin or Dobro (“Big Bad Bro” and “Paco’s Lullabye”). For added impact, some tracks incorporate such instruments as cello, drums, organ and piano. David LaFleur has created a fine project that captures his inner muse, inspirations, range of emotion and eclectic musicianship.
|David's site. Order from CD Baby. Released Oct. 2011, reviewed by Joe Ross.
Walk of Shame... (IAM Sound/Thirty Tigers)
| On the cover of her new record Walk of Shame, Nashville-based relative newcomer Nikki Lane looks plenty fetching in tight red dress and high heals with long brunette locks hanging down to her shoulder blades. The eye candy angle had "bad girl" written all over it when this CD showed up in the mail and made me pretty dubious having seen this approach many times before with the end product usually little nothing more than Nashville schlock. Happy to report that such is not the case with Walk of Shame which to these ears was one of the best debut recordings by an artist on the twangy side of the tracks that Ear Bliss heard in 2011. The flavor is decidedly country, but Lane mixes an old school approach with a tough girl attitude to create an album in the classic style with modern flashings. Think Loretta Lynn meets Wanda Jackson with a side of Neko Case on a record on which Lane's songs find that sweet balance between tongue-in-chic frankness and heart. Recommended. Visit www.missnikkilane.com
|Nikki's web site. Buy from amazon. Released Sept. '11, reviewed by Dan Ferguson.
Stand Up Man... (MSG)
|Close your eyes while you’re listening to Grant Langston and you can almost smell the stale beer and cigarette smoke and hear the boots scuffling across a smooth and well-worn dance floor and the sound of the occasional beer bottle breaking. In the title track, he belts out the anthem of this release: “No excuses, no apologies, no back up plan, I am a stand up man.” That really sums it up for Grant Langston, who channels the Bakersfield sound of Buck and Merle with reverence and honesty, but tosses in the kind of sublime humor that Robby Fulks fans will recognize and appreciate. “Burt Reynolds Movie Brawl” paints a humorous picture of the kind of dives and C&W saloons Langston may have found himself playing in from time to time — flying chairs, beer bottles and “the old dude in the Elvis shirt” who just threw a punch. Then there’s the likable loser he portrays in “Shiner Bock and Vicodin” who can’t stay away from the toxic combo of alcohol and pills. Langston is the real deal; more than an imitator of the famed Bakersfield sound, he honors that tradition and puts his own slightly twisted spin on it.
|Langston's site. Buy from amazon Released July, '09, reviewed by Barry Dugan.
LARKIN & SCARY WAGON |
blues drummer Teddy Larkin gathered together a bunch of original tunes he'd been
writing and decided it sounded pretty "Twangy". Since blues and
country are so much alike, (just don't tell either genres hardcore fans), he decided
to form a band. So he got some other Boston area musicians and put together
a nice collection of roots-rock. There's some good solid songs with arrangements,
a few amusing songs thrown in for distraction. His voice is not spectacular
but it's well suited to the tunes and hey, ya gotta love a guy who writes a song
inspired by getting thrown out of the house by an old girlfriend. It's called
"Yer A Dick Ted". |
Order through their site at scarywagon.com.
Released May '99, reviewed by Bill
TRAIN HOME |
And Water... (Adult Swim)
|Rare is the
album that can captivate me from start to finish. Even as much as I love me some
alt.country (or whatever you want to call it) I almost never like every song on
a CD, no matter whose it is. Bluegrass CDs eventually wear me down with their
sameness, no matter how exemplary and even the best artists write a few clunkers
here and there that they tack on an album for filler. How surprised I am, then,
when I listened to this CD from Last Train Home and found out adore everything
on it. Rockers, bluegrass-tinged numbers, straight ahead country and even some
twangy Texas shuffles - it's all here and it's all good. The band has mastered
the art of varying up its' sound without sounding gimmicky, and leaving enough
of a "signature" to all their songs that you can sense the musical thread running
through the whole CD. It doesn't hurt that the CD is well-produced without overkill,
leaving some rough edges intact. It also doesn't hurt to have a stellar collection
of songs (most written by one or the other of the brother team that leads this
band: Eric and Alan Brace) and a very listenable singer (Eric Brace, again) who's
voice is very commercial (read: not overly twangy) without sounding sterile. The
band itself is fantastic and songwriter Scott McKnight guests on most of the songs
as well. Production is ably handled by band member Doug Derryberry and the album
sounds as crisp as an Oregon morning. Great stuff. This is a CD that will no doubt
stay in the player for many weeks.|
web site. Buy from amazon. Released Feb, 2003. Reviewed by Bill
Onward Through It All... (RCA)
Jim Lauderdale is a Nashville songwriter with a folkie's soul and a hip, country
singers' mind. King of the killer bridge ( that part of the song between
the 2nd and 3rd verses that counters the main melody), his songs deal with
the usual romance and heartache but his plaintive voice and trademark style
just can't keep my interest through 16 songs... This CD is a little less traditional
then his last one, 1998's Whisper, which I know gained him
lots of fans with that Countrypolitan sound. The guy is a prolific,
thoughtful songwriter who seems to know and be comfortable writing with
most of the Nashville greats and there are some great tunes on this CD but a little
too much similarity to make it a great buy.....
|Buy from amazon. Released Aug. '99. Reviewed by Bill Frater.
The Other Sessions... (DualTone)
Always known as a songwriter's songwriter (he's written songs for just about everyone,
including Strait, Loveless and a bunch of other heavyweights) and for having an
immense love for country music traditions, Lauderdale has none-the-less been equally
known for his outside-of-the-box musical thinking, often including a healthy dollop
of rock along with his country. His album with Ralph Stanley must have sent him
back to his roots, however, as this album is his most countrified to date and
is still filled with the same type of clever wordplay and melodic twists he is
so respected for. A great album that could be the winner that sells through the
roof and gets him on the radio. An interesting tidbit: "Diesel, Diesel, Diesel"
seems like the same version on the Rig Rock Comp with the other singer's
voice removed. |
site. Released June, 2001. Reviewed by Scott
Lauderdale is one of the most prolific young
writers in country music today, but he has yet to gain popularity for his own
albums. This CD is one of his best, partly because he doesn't try too hard to
"capture" that elusive radio hit. In fact, many of the songs are arranged
to sound like "classic" cosmopolitan-style country while others are
more straight-ahead rockin' stuff and there's even a fine bluegrass tune here.
It doesn't really matter with this guy does, his songs are so strong and the choruses
are so "catchy" that they could make it on their own with just a guitar.
Maybe that's why his songs have become hits for other singers. This is Lauderdale's
5th CD, and although they're all very good, none of then are "great",
and I'm not sure why. His voice is good enough, a baritone with decent range and
his broken-hearted observations sound as if they were written from real broken-hearted
experiences. I just wish I could love this album a little more to really give
it a rave review! I'm not saying don't go out and buy it, especially if you like
good country music... I just think Jim hit a solid stand-up double here, but he's
due for a home run.
Best Tracks: Goodbye Song, Whisper, She
Used To Say That To Me, It's Hard To Keep A Secret Anymore, I'll Lead You Home
(with Ralph Stanley & band). Jim's
, pretty well done, with tour info and his own comments on each song on
"Whisper". Released Feb, '98. Reviewed by Bill
LAUDERDALE & RALPH STANLEY |
I Feel Like Singing Today... (Rebel)
joy to my heart, this is a unique collaboration between Jim Lauderdale,
a prolific songwriter steeped in and with tremendous love for bluegrass
and Ralph Stanley, a cherished and much respected pioneer of said music.
Lauderdale has written and/or assembled, along with some of Nashville's finest
songwriters, a remarkable set of songs that manage to sound both contemporary
and traditional. His voice, winding and weaving around the straight ahead
tenor of Stanley and driven by the Clinch Mountain Boys, manages to showcase an
old master while allowing himself plenty of room to move in the music he
loves. It 's obviously a labor of love that was handled with respect from
Rebel Records and I think it's a keeper.
Best tracks: I Feel Like Singing Today, You'll Find Her Name Written There, Joy,
Joy, Joy, Like Him, I Wish Today Could be Tomorrow, Highway Through My Home, Who
Thought The Railroad Wouldn't Last.
Rebel Records. Released Sept. '99, reviewed by Kay
For The Hills... (Dualtone)
seems a man of many interests and moods, prolific songwriting among them. His
most recent release, hot on the heels of a CD he recorded with the band Donna
the Buffalo is a collaboration with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Clearly,
Lauderdale enjoys exploring the different byways of Americana music. The music
on this CD, as the title suggests, heads for the hills with country/bluegrass
styled songs that showcase the familiar melodic skill of Lauderdale with the sometimes
trying-too-hard lyrics of Hunter. Lauderdale is aided and abetted by a typically
A-list of musicians, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch and Tim O'Brien among them.
Nicely packaged and produced, by Lauderdale and Tim Coats. This is a given for
Lauderdale fans but is also a great gift for that someone you want to introduce
from Amazon. Released May, '04, reviewed by Kay
Bluegrass... (Yep Roc)
Talk about your man for all seasons: Jim Lauderdale has gone in two different directions simultaneously with a pair of September releases, Country Super Hits Vol. 1, and this one, his aptly titled foray into Bluegrass territory. Not as traditional or conservative as some purists would probably prefer, Lauderdale has written, or co-wrote, all of the thirteen accessible tracks contained herein. Being a North Carolina son, he's got the authentic pipes for this project, and his backing musicians have all got good handles on their craft. If bluegrass music has never been your particular cup of tea before, this one isn't a half bad introduction to it. Call it a sort of Bluegrass-Lite, for those who haven't yet acquired the taste to take their ‘shine straight up.
Yep Roc's Jim page. Buy from Amazon. Released Sept. '06. Reviewed by Don Grant.
|JIM LAUDERDALE & THE DREAM PLAYERS
Honey Songs... (Yep Roc)
|Lauderdale has the Ryan Adams disease, as in, he writes to many damn songs for his own good! I mean, I can think of 4 albums in the last couple of years! Not that any of them are bad, there's always a few standout songs. This collection is no exception, but as a whole it's less impressive than most of Jim's earlier stuff. Nothing really stands out. The fact that he’s enlisted a host of hot shot veteran picker (James Burton, Glen D. Hardin, etc) doesn’t help matters much. In fact, it makes it more embarrassing. Jim is about the nicest guys you’d ever meet, but he’s gotta have the songs or all the best players in the world can’t help. These Honey Songs needed a little more time in the hive.
|Official Jim Lauderdale site. Buy from Amazon, mp3 full CD only $8.99. Released Feb. '08, reviewed by Bill
Mirror … (Really Small)
| Bernie Leadon
has quite a musical history behind him, once a member of The Eagles, The Flying
Burrito Brothers, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and even Run C & W.So you can say
he's been around, yet this is only his 2nd solo album. He's been living in Nashville
recently, his name pops up on some good CD's now and then. I hear he went through
a divorce recently and I'm guessing he's clean and sober too from some of the
12-step catch phrases I notice on this CD. All in all, he sounds relaxed and content
with his life on Mirrors. Hiring Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Jayhawks) to produce
makes for a flawless shimmering sound, and Leadon take great care in using vintage
instruments and recording equipment. His tenor voice seems more accustomed to
singing harmony than lead vocals but it fits the setting just fine. The bottom
line for me is always the tunes. And in this case, there are some fine ones here,
from the sarcastic "Vile and Profane Man" to the confessional "God Ain't Done
With Me Yet". In Bernie Leadon's mirror I see a refection of confidence and someone
who's still making quality honorable music. |
and numbered audiophile Special Editions are available on CD and Vinyl, only at
from Amazon. Released March '04, reviewed by Bill
|JOSH LEDERMAN Y LOS DIABLOS
Let's Waste Another Evening... (Nine Mile)
Don't let the name fool you; this band is closer to Ireland or the Maritimes than they are to Mexico, but Boston is home base. They've been described as Jewish-Celtic Folk Pop, and that works for me. Their unique gumbo is spiced with some zydeco and klezmer sound, emanating chiefly from the use of accordion, button box, fiddle, and banjo. All of the music is original, with the exception of “Newry Highwayman”, which is an old traditional. Personal experience in Nova Scotia with the performances that bands such as this put on gives rise to the caution that, if you should have the good fortune to attend one, be prepared to consume copious amounts of wobbly pop; it's part of the ambiance. This is real life music that takes the listener through the highs and the lows of this trip called life and makes it endurable. I've yet to meet anyone who can't get off on this one.
|The website is Coffee Stain Music. Order from CD Baby. Released August, 2005. Reviewed by Don Grant.
Road Runner... (Sugar Hill)
| One of the best guitar pickers Nashville has produced is of course an Englishman, and his name, as many know, is Albert Lee. I first became aware of Lee from reading the credits on Dave Edmunds classic album Repeat When Necessary and soon picked up his first solo album back in the 80's. While I enjoyed the sideman's playing, and his choice of material, he didn't sound quite ready for the solo spotlight. Fast forward to 2006 and a more confident, mature vocalist emerges, one with the same great taste in material and some unparallel guitar pickin'. There's lots to like on Lee's latest release, especially the opening title tune which turns an old soul classic into a country barn burner. And the energy never flags, with excellent versions of John Hiatt's "Rock of Your Love" and the Delbert McClinton chestnut "Livin' It Down". Add in tunes from Jimmy Webb, Leo Kottke and Richard Thompson and you have a work that stands along with Edmunds best albums and has touches of influence from the Everlys, Rodney Crowell and mid period Emmy Lou to boot. A very fine ride.
|Buy from amazon. Released April, '06, reviewed by Michael Meehan.
The Nashville Sessions... (Hollywood)
Producer Randy Scruggs has a knack for gathering many guest musicians to flesh
out an album in need of a little more diversity. A good example is his work
with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Will the Circle Be Unbroken II
album from a few years ago. Leftover Salmon are a young Colorado acoustic
jam band along the lines of other "Dead-inspired" bands like String
Cheese Incident or Phish. On their own, they're a talented band with good
bluegrass chops and decent singers and songs. However, something special
emerges when you add guest stars like Waylon Jennings, Taj Mahal, Lucinda Williams
or Del McCoury. Sam Bush, Bela Fleck and John Cowan also also on board,
and on a few songs you could almost swear it was the New Grass Revival, which
is a good thing. All in all, this is a fun and lively CD and it gives me
more respect for these Grateful Dead inspired bands. |
Best tracks: Midnight Blues, Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way, Five Alive,
On The Other Side, Troubled Times, Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie. Band
site, Label site.
Released Sept, '99, reviewed by Bill
Divide and Conquer... (Audium)
For most of her career, Leigh has been saddled with comparisons making her out
to be a female version of Dwight Yoakam. Whether it be her allegiance to Bakersfield-sounding
country or her predilection for tight jeans and cowboy hats, not even Yoakam wants
to be Yoakam anymore and his name doesn't make cash registers ring like it did
in the late '80s. Nonetheless, Leigh has never shied away from the comparisons,
always respectful to Yoakam and his music. On this album, she walks the walk after
talking the talk. She snared Yoakam's producer, Pete Anderson, to helm her album
and lay down some guitar goodness and some other stringed-instrument-skill. Besides
that,.she has also loaded the album full of great songs by Jim Lauderdale (who
contributes three), Phil Lee and Abra Moore among others. But, the kicker, the
absolute kicker in my book is seeing the cover with her long, denim covered legs
up close and the title words "Divide and Conquer". If you ever wanted
a good Leigh, get this CD. Sorry....sorry......had to do it, had to do it. |
Sept, 2001. Reviewed by Scott Homewood.|
| MARK LEMHOUSE
The Great American Yard Sale... (Yellow Dog)
This is good American music, pulling on blues, pulling on gothic country, pulling on your sleeve just a little, too. Mark Lemhouse plays a variety of guitars, some banjo, lap steel. He can sound dangerous when he wants to, running the knife's edge like he's been poking around in the ashes of Jr. Kimbrough's jukejoint. He can get up on the porch, too, and draw the whole world in close and lull it by. The players he's got with him punch in nicely. In Scarlet , one of ten Lemhouse originals here (a few co-written with Charlie Normal), Lemhouse sings “I feel my body fadin' / growin' old too fast to know / this boot's takin' on water / and I'm getting' too tired to row.” Given the kind of touring this artist undertakes, it could just as well be blood fillin' that boot. Tapped roots stand this music upright, and with The Great American Yard Sale, Mark Lemhouse reaches up and out with branches all his own.
Buy from amazon. Released August, '05, reviewed by Doug Lang.
The First Time... (Sissybar)
While I am grateful for bands that blur the line between country and pop like
Son Volt, Wilco and Whiskeytown, I am beginning to see that while the blending
of styles has brought mainstream attention and great musical explorations to the
genre, it may also lead to a homogenization that may hurt the music down the line.
Now, let me say that Lemonpeeler is a fine Boston-based band, with a CD I would
purchase straightaway. Maybe that's enough. But I feel I must also say that this
music is pretty much along the lines of Counting Crows and other light rock
bands of that ilk and not really country oriented, save a couple intros and some
noodling around in the songs. While crunchy and rural-rock sounding, this
is more straight ahead FM radio pop than anything else. Think Georgia Satellites
with better melodies and a more polished sound. I still like this CD though. It's
catchy as hell. It's just not country. |
bio and tour info and MP3's links. Order the CD from CDBaby
or from Miles Of Music.
Released Jan. '01. Reviewed by Scott
Bellingham ... (Singular)
| Today's question has two parts: 1) Can you combine an alternative attitude with traditional bluegrass? and 2) Can the result be pleasing? The answer to both is yes, if you can write songs like Korby Lenker does, and, particularly so if you are fortunate enough to find a dobro player of the caliber of Michael Grigoni to embellish them. (It also doesn't hurt if you can persuade Jolie Holland to do some backup vocals!) Idaho to Washington, Washington to West Virginia, then to California: not a typical route leading a musician to a bluegrass career, but it sure worked in this case. Somewhere in the midst of a musical education that included alt-rock, piano lessons, and formal training in theory, Korby Lenker found his true calling in Appalachian music. While purists might be a bit uncomfortable with the term alt-bluegrass, that's what the boy is all about. Bellingham is, with the exception of “The Angels Rejoiced Last Night”, by Ira and Charlie Louvin, an eleven song, self-penned adventure into where one can go with a medium, if paradigms are ignored. Standouts include “Right This Time”, the harmonies on “Punkin Brown”, and “Shed A Little Light”. Expand your bluegrass perceptions; buy this one.
|Korby has a cool site! Order the CD from CDBaby or from Miles Of Music. Released Nov. '04. Reviewed by Don Grant.
|MARK W. LENNON
Home of the Wheel... (Vagabonds Tune)
| Eclectic singer/songwriter Mark W. Lennon is a transplanted tarheel guitarist who now makes his home in Los Angeles, so he’s probably encountered a little upheaval in life’s routines. Lennon points out that we can always count on the river to stay the same. Lennon’s connection with the Burbank, Ca. songwriting school also led him to this new album’s producer Marvin Etzioni, who also plays mandolin, guitars, bass, piano and percussion on this rawboned, soulful project. Lennon’s full-length album debut Home of the Wheel displays his developing maturity in Americana and contemporary folk music. The title cut is a ballad that begins with the birth of his father in 1938 and “tobacco fields run red in the rain, ‘cause World War II was closing in.” I reckon this boy is making his family proud. With its country twang, “California Calling” emphasizes that life is not only full of change, but also presents different roads that influence one’s journey. That song and the rocking closer “Stop and Go” were co-written by Lennon and Etzioni. Lennon’s songs are clear, concise and well-defined. Mark W. Lennon is a confident, talented, up-and-coming artist you should check out. His debut album indicates that he’s still developing his specific personalized musical identity, and he shows interest and skill in a broad multi-genre spectrum.
|Mark's site. Order from CD Baby. Released Sept. 2011, reviewed by Joe Ross.
Leyden offers a nice mix of original melodic
power pop along the lines of The Waterboys or maybe World Party. The fact
that he's been living in Austin, Texas has rubbed off on him a little, giving
some of his songs a slight rootsy edge. I like his songs although his voice
is a little thin at times for my ears. But what do I know.
| Best songs: Lover's
Chain, Interstate, Walking Wounded, Claire. He's got his own site where you can
get ordering info, colinleyden.com.
Released Fall '98, Reviewed by Bill
Broken Moon... (self-released)
Broken Moon is a spare and satisfying CD of original and traditional music that
goes directly to the core of what classic country is all about. John Lilly's voice
cracks and twangs, croons, yodels and teases and you just know he's telling the
honest truth. John Lilly may be better known as an old-time musician but make
no mistake, this is a country record. Lilly accompanies himself on guitar, mandolin
and/or bass, occasionally adding guest fiddle. Ginny Hawker lending harmony vocal
is icing on the cake. The production on this record makes it feel like an
old friend playing in your living room and how many people do open your home to?
If you love the heart of real country, this is it. |
Order from CD Baby. Released Jan. 2001. Reviewed by Kay
|JOHN LILLY and RALPH BLIZARD
Blue Highway... (self released)
Blue Highway follows John Lilly and Ralph Blizzard as they traveled the country in the early nineties,taking a break from the New Southern Ramblers, Ralph's band at the time. Ralph Blizzard, who passed in 2004, was one of the most respected old-time fiddle players in the country and you can clearly hear why on this CD. His melodic longbow fiddle is the perfect accompaniment to John Lilly, a fine guitarist, and one of the truest country singers and yodelers I've had the fortune to hear. Like any close duet, Blizzard's fiddle and Lilly's voice call out to each other to make listening pure pleasure. The first half of the CD features Ralph's playing and John Lilly singing. In the bonus tracks, we get to hear Ralph introduce and sing a few, with John providing guitar and harmony, allowing us not only the opportunity to listen to two talented artists who loved playing together, but a rare recording of Ralph Blizzard live in West Virginia. The original recordings have been re-mixed and re-mastered and as one who happened to be in the audience back then, I can assure you that they retain their aliveness.
|Lilly's website. Buy from Amazon or CD Baby. Released Feb. '05, reviewed by Kay Clements.
Cul-de-sac Cowgirl... (Adult Swim)
You'll think I'm kidding but the best way I can describe the lead singer's voice
is a female version of Gordon Lightfoot. Don't know if she's Canadian like Lightfoot
but one listen and you'll get the comparison. The music, however, is another matter.
The sound itself is modern country, (but not in a radio way, more folky and acoustic-based
than that), with a touch of airiness about it. What puzzles me is which of the
two bands on this CD is actually Little Pink. The first band plays on the first
eight songs while another band takes over on the next four. The only constant
is our female Lightfoot. I like the last four songs the best, where a few songs
take on a Gillian Welch-type ethereal quality while the former eight tunes don't
match up the music with her voice well. Whether it's producers or something else,
I'd stick with the last four tunes and hope she does a tad better with her next
one. This album is not bad, she has a distinctive voice that should go great with
her music, but it just doesn't match well much of the time. |
The Little Pink website
is pretty slim. Release date: April, '01. Reviewed by Scott
|THE LITTLE WILLIES
The Little Willies… (Milking Bull/EMI)
The story behind this album is a bunch of New York musicians got together and discovered their common fondness for country music, esp. the 70's era “progressive” country artists like Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt and Gram Parsons. Most people will hear about the band because of Norah Jones' involvement. Those of you who liken her to Kenny G, because of her success, need to open your mind and ears a little. She's not only into this band and the music, but she sounds playful and relaxed, not having to be the cener point of the band. Richard Julian shares lead and harmony vocals throughout the disc and his rough voice blends nicely with Jones' sweet one. He also wrote a few nice tunes amongst the many covers. You also have the amazing lead fingers of Jim Campalongo, from San Francisco, who's as adept at jazz as he is at country. The CD jumps off with the bouncy Bob Wills classic “Roly Poly” which has a mischievous I-dare-you-not-to-like bounce to it. They also grab Nelson's (the original Willie, that is) "Night Life" and "Gotta Get Drunk". They cover “Tennessee Stud” a song that I first heard on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's classic Will The Circle Be Unbroken. That LP had a big influence on me way back in the 1972 and I learned to love Doc Watson and Jimmy Martin and Mother Maybelle Carter. Here's hoping it opens the doors to a few new music fans to look beyond "NashVegas". This is fun stuff, country and some swing with a big smile. "Lou Reed", the closing tune, is a fun fantasy that just reminds you that they're here to have fun.
|EMI's Willie's page. Little Willie's My Space. Buy from Amazon. Released March, 2006. Reviewed by Bill Frater
Like a Phoenix... (self-released)
By the time you read this, London will have released her fourth CD, Thunder . It's tough at times to stay ahead of the releases, but, ‘nuff said about that. Phoenix starts off with a gospel sounding blues belter reminiscent of Mahalia Jackson, “Way I Loved You”. Next up is the source of the CD's title, with a bluegrassy mandolin line, followed by the melancholic “Nothing To Say”. Covering a few musical bases here are we? Stay close: London hits lots of them here, and she's shooting lots of bull's-eyes. Some of the better ones include “Nothing But Dust”, and “On My Lips”, a nice pair of country rockers. She seems to perform best on her up tempo numbers, the sultry “No Other Woman” for example. Rounding out the list is a Jennings/Shaver tune, “You Ask Me To”, further proof that calling Brigitte London versatile is a bit of an understatement.
|Brigette's site. Released '06. Buy from CD Baby. Reviewed by Don Grant.
Things Change... (Leap)
With a moniker more fitting a grizzled bluesman than a righteous roots rocker,
the Lonesome One manages to craft an album that blends equal part Hank Jr., Dan
Baird, and Molly Hatchett. Starting out of the gate at a raging pace, the first
song (Got Away With it) is a blistering Southern rocker that doesn't let up. As
the album goes on, the elements begin to mix and the more rocky elements are presented
with a nod of the head to country tradition while still retaining the rebelliousness,
much like Baird's recent work (after the Georgia Satellites) and what Hank Jr.
has always done. That mood sticks for a bunch of songs, until, towards the end,
things start to rev up again into the barroom Southern rock, which also resembles
Baird and Hank Jr. in spots. While those into traditional country will have to
constantly fiddle with their CD remote to play the songs they'll most likely enjoy,
if your driving or at a party, I can see this being a big hit. For my money, the
rockers are better than the slower stuff, but there's obviously enough of both
here to please everyone. |
Released Feb. 2002. Reviewed by Scott
Swamptown Girl... (Captivating Music)
The record label's name says it all. Mixing rural blues styles with country music
isn't new but these guys have sure figured out a way of doing it that makes your
hairs stick up on your neck. While the vocals don't altogether captivate me, the
music is very well done and the songs are tremendous. This band has not only latched
on to a great style of playing their songs but has also latched onto the perfect
mixture of past and modern that eludes most Americana or country acts today. Modern
country combined with downhome rural blues styles - this is an album I'll be listening
to for the rest of the year, no question. |
The band's website has complete lyrics and guitar chords for the whole album,
which is pretty unique, plus ordering info. You can also order the CD from Miles
Of Music or Amazon. Reviewed by Scott
Songs of the Wild West Island... (Newtone)
| Epic, sweeping, understated, simple. These are some of the adjectives that come to mind when trying to describe Loomer's music and if they sound contradictory, that's ok. Songs of the Wild West Island contains multitudes. Toronto native Scott Loomer writes cryptic and poetic songs, soulfully sung, while his band mates supply lush sounds capes with solid beats, shimmering pedal steel and warm organ. Forget the comparisons (Son Volt and Velvet Underground have been thrown out there) Loomer have forged their own sound out of familiar tools that sound fresh and intriguing. This is one of those recordings that raises the stakes and delivers the promise of fellow travelers in the alt/indie/country/rock area (Richmond Fontaine and Frog Holler come to mind) Consider it alt country's Darkness on the Edge of Town and my pick for the CD of the year.
|Loomer's site. Buy from amazon. Released Nov. '06. Reviewed by Michael Meehan.
Down On The Borderline... (Cool Groove)
the name of this band is apt. Lost Country does seem to be searching for their
focus. While the band succeeds when using a more old-fashioned sound, often the
band tries to branch out into a more modern rockier style that doesn't suit them.
These more rocking songs are when the musicianship starts to slip and songs just
don't seem to sound as if they've been rehearsed or thought out enough. The only
real highlight to this album is the singing of Susan Colegrove. One of two lead
vocalists in this band, she shines when she sings in an old fashioned ‘50's female
country kind of way that immediately makes you sit up and take notice. In the
future, if I were this band, I would build the songs around her voice and forget
the other singer (her husband, actually) entirely. Right now, I can't really recommend
this CD but it IS almost worth it just for the couple of songs that Susan Colegrove
takes a bigger vocal role. |
Country's site. Order from CD
Street. Reviewed by Scott Homewood.|
LOST DOGS |
Real Men Cry... (BEC Recordings)
Interesting album, this. The name of the band conjures all types of images, and
as I listened to the album it seemed as if the name meant that some singular lone
dogs had united to form a "supergroup" if you will. Scanning the CD
notes, I believe I am right as the three members of the band all play guitar and
sing while the rest of the musicians are listed as "guests". Solo artists
uniting to form one band? Maybe, as the first two songs sound like the Traveling
Wilburys if Dylan was singing both songs. While the rest of the album kinda gets
mired in slower stuff, these first two songs are great, if sonically way too similar.
It's almost two versions of the same song with different lyrics. Great song, though.
The rest of the album is decent and flies ably through a myriad of styles. A good
CD by a band I hope to hear more of. |
I found a short bio of the
band. Reviewed by Scott Homewood |
Harbor Lights and Cowboy Blues... (Redoubtable)
Weekend represents the latest in a long line of great western swing bands from
California (think Tex Williams, Spade Cooley,Bob & Billy Jack Wills, Asleep
at the Wheel, Merle Haggard). Fronted by bandleader Don Burnham, this thirteen
piece band seamlessly blends elements of swing, jazz, country, Dixieland and blues.
Each player is an exceptional musician on their respective instruments, though
special mention should be given to Bobby Black (steel), Paul Anastasio (fiddle),
and Jim Rothermel (clarinet & sax). Vocal chores are shared between Burnham,
Tony Marcus and the marvelous Melissa Collard. The repertoire is a mix of lively
interpretations of mostly jazz and western swing standards. Burnham and company
have captured the soul and spirit of the great old-time western swing bands, and
at the same time bring a freshness to the material that will win fans well into
the new century. Up in country music heaven Bob Wills looks down on Lost Weekend
and smiles. Highly recommended. |
website has ordering info and
more. Reviewed by Kevin Russell.|
Indestructible Machine... (Bloodshot)
| This is an irresistible album of old school insurgent country from 21-year-old tough tart from Ohio, Lydia Loveless. Her debut for resilient indie Bloodshot Records who coined the "insurgent" moniker and who would probably just as soon like to retire it, Indestructible Machine is an album with all the drive and punk rock swagger, with a couple of shots of hard country to boot, of some of the best of the early days of Bloodshot when bands like the Waco Brothers and Old 97s were setting the pace. Diminutive in size, Ms. Loveless belts it out with a take-no-prisoners conviction on the nine tracks encompassing the album. The songs, all originals and heart songs to the hilt, hit hard and read like someone whose lived a lot of life in her 21 years. Ask me to pick a new artist who has jolted me more the last few years and I'll tell you it's this gal. And if the tune "More Like Them" doesn't give you goose bumps it's so darn catchy and good, then I advise you to stay the hell away from rock and roll. Highly recommended.
|Lydia's website, and Bloodshot's Lydia page. Buy
from Amazon. Released Sept. '11, Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.
Mountain Soul... (Epic)
Patty Loveless has one of the most distinctive voices around and this new CD proves
her to be as adept at bluegrass as the straight ahead country music she is known
for. The song selection is great and the accompaniment by some of the best players
in bluegrass is rock solid. Her soulful renderings of bluegrass classics, as well
as the newer songs given the bluegrass treatment, are delivered with a powerful
authenticity that is informed by her rural background, and a real love for this
music. The low point of the record is the duets with Travis Tritt who seems
an odd choice for a bluegrass record, and completely out of place in this acoustic
setting. But that's a small complaint given how much else there is to recommend
the CD. Like Dolly Parton's recent forays into bluegrass this may be some of Patty
Loveless best work. Highly recommended! |
from Amazon. Released June, 2001. Reviewed by Kevin
Your Way Home... (Epic)
|For about fifteen
years now Patty Loveless has been churning out some of the most consistently satisfying
records in country music. Her recent foray into bluegrass yielded two masterpieces;
the powerhouse, Mountain Soul and the lovely Christmas album, Bluegrass and White
Snow. This new CD finds her returning to Nashville with a reinvigorated hybrid
of bluegrass and the country rock sounds she’s known for. I love this record.
It’s the best of both worlds; all the energy of country rock and the acoustic
muscle of banjo, fiddle, mandolin and dobro. Yeah! This is closer to the Dixie
Chicks than Shania Twain, and that's fine with me. Great selection of material
here, including stand-out renditions of Buddy Miller and Rodney Crowell covers,
which she makes her own in an evocative and slightly sexually understated way.
Like Ricky Skaggs in the late eighties, Patty Loveless seamless merger of bluegrass
and country rock may be just the antidote Nashville needs for it’s mostly anemic
| Patty's official website.
from Amazon Released Sept. 2003. Reviewed by Kevin
Dreamin' My Dreams... (Epic)
| With Mountain Soul (2001), Patty Loveless found a deeper song. On Your Way Home (2003) was a good-sounding record, if not particularly outstanding in song selection. With her new one, Dreamin' My Dreams, Patty moves near the front of the class of female singer-interpreters in country music. She's singing better than she ever has, and when she covers songs by Steve Earle ("My Old Friend The Blues"), Richard Thompson ("Keep Your Distance") and Delbert McClinton ("Same Kind Of Crazy"), she's strong enough to make them Patty Loveless songs as well. The recorded sound is exquisite, the playing top-drawer, and Patty Loveless is glowing in her prime.
|Buy from Amazon Released Sept. 2005. Reviewed by Doug Lang.
Lyle Lovett became a household name mostly
because of his pretty ex-wife. He could've probably gone big-time commercial on
us old fans, but the guys just too cool for that. What we have here is a delightfully
low-key homage to Texas singer-songwriters. Some are his friends and some
his heroes, and some like Steve Fromholz and the late Walter Hyatt, were never
very popular even in Texas. Also represented are Willis Alan Ramsey, Guy Clark
and of course, Townes Van Zandt on this 21 song double CD. Lovett gives each song
his own unique stamp, making them his own. Using spare acoustic arrangements,
this is nothing but a wonderful well-paced collection of songs recorded with care
and love. Lyle's humble offering is proof that he's in it for the music.
songs: Bears, Step Inside This House, Teach Me About Love, Sleepwalking,
More Pretty Girls Than One, Flying Shoes, Babes In The Woods, Lonely In Love.
Lovett site, including latest tour info. And I found a pretty nice fan
site that includes lyrics and more. Buy
from Amazon. Released Sept. '98. Reviewed by Bill
Baby Don’t Tolerate… (Lost Highway)
been so long since Lyle has put out an album of original songs, that I figured
he had some serious writer’s block going on. His ironic and slightly twisted style
is still intact and his song subjects focus on the simple everyday pleasures of
life. What’s even better is it marks a return to the sound of his first few albums,
that is, straight country arrangements with plenty of fiddles and steel guitar.
Even without a horn section it still swings quite nicely, thanks to the cream
of Nashville’s session musicians. They sound like they’re having fun. All together
there are some truly brilliant tunes here, and it was certainly worth the wait.|
from Amazon. Released Oct, 2003. Reviewed by Bill
|THE JAMES LOW WESTERN FRONT
Whiskey Farmer... (Union Made)
| Short, sweet and full of the good stuff. Weighing in at under a half hour, Whiskey Farmer still packs a great alt-country punch with a spot on, stripped down sound. James Low focuses this set of songs around a disappointed everyman, a "whiskey farmer trying to grow champagne" who can't quite get ahead despite doing it about right. Over the course of eight songs we find love and despair, rip-off artists and some kind of recovery, all smartly and beautifully performed with a low-fi, organic, bar band sound. Guitarist Dave Camp and steel player Paul Brainard know their traditional country, and it shows. The album ends with the elegiac "A Little More Time"; after all the troubles, we all want to stay on the planet just a bit longer. Nicely done.
|Low's web site. Buy from amazon. Released Jan. '12, reviewed by Brad Price.
The Convincer... (Yep Roc)
To Lowe's many fans, the title to this CD is a no brainer: they're already convinced!
A true renaissance man, Lowe is a much-respected songwriter, solo artist, and
producer of other artists with many high lights on his resume. While most of his
solo work has bubbled under the mainstream radar, anyone interested in delightful
and innovative turns of phrase coupled with heartfelt imagery and often humorous
asides both lyrical and musical have found him to be a musical necessity in their
lives. This new album (his third in a supposed trilogy) shows him to be at the
height of his powers. Abandoning his poppy style in the mid- '90s, Lowe has turned
to making classic country/soul with bite. Still keeping his wit intact, he has
nonetheless traded easy jokes for songs that show depth, heart and skill, as well
as his huge amount of musical talent. The first album in the trilogy (The
Impossible Bird) crossed pop and country, the next (Dig My Mood)
showed a pop and jazz mix, while this album goes completely over to a more Dan
Penn/Spooner Oldham country/soul delight. That Lowe's voice isn't really that
strong doesn't matter, because the songs are and two well chosen covers (I like
his cover of "Poor Side of Town" the best) manage to balance the album
perfectly. No, Lowe is not the master of Pure Pop anymore, but he has aged very
well musically and one can only listen to this album non-stop while waiting for
the next release from this musical chameleon and raconteur to see how he shakes
up his sound next. |
Roc has a site. Buy
from Amazon. Released Sept. '01. Reviewed by Scott
Well, it looks
like 'ol Nick has embraced another kind of "Pure Pop" this time around,
it's cocktail-lounge lost-in-love songs. Yes, really, absolutely nothing rocks
here and there's only a couple of songs that hint at the fine Americana of his
last CD, The Impossible Bird. Hey, I have all of his 10-plus albums, and
there's definitely some dogs there, but this is a real shift for the one-time
self-proclaimed "Jesus of Cool". I must admit, after the initial shock
wore off, I did find some good songs here, but the style doesn't really suit him.
I mean, he has a good serviceable voice, but he's no k.d. lang! Nick claims that
he's grown tired of the "big Nazi beat" and that this is his natural,
sober self. I don't know, it's a curious release, but I'm still a fan. Maybe a
few more listens will convince me that the "Basher" still has it. Let
me know what you think.
Best Tracks: What Lack Of Love Has Done,
High On A Hilltop, Man That I've Become, The Cold, Grey Light Of Dawn. Buy
. Released March, '98. Reviewed by Bill
Women & Work ...(ATO)
|Over the course of its lifetime, that being a decade and change, the Memphis-based band Lucero has moved from a band akin to the alt-country style at its outset to mid-span that found them favoring a potent punk squall to one which over the course of its last two albums, including the brand new Women & Work, has seasoned into a mature unit unafraid to show its soulful side. Whereas Women & Work is a testament that Lucero is still first and foremost a rock and roll band, gravely-voiced lead singer and principal songwriter Ben Nichols has filed down the hard edges in places resulting in an album equal parts melodic roadhouse wallops packed with punchy horns and late night heartbreakers. In other words, Women &Work is pure Memphis rock and soul from a fine-tuned band that shows no signs of slowing down.
|Lucero's web site. Buy from Amazon. Released March, '12, reviewed by Dan Ferguson.
Lovely Melancholy... (Looseground)
While this band does favor melancholy touches in their sound, what they
produce may be lovely, but it is definitely not country. Oh, it is rural,
rootsy stuff, just not country. And I don't see that as a bad thing. The
band draws more from a Georgia Sattelites/Bottle Rockets sound as they tend
to be rougher and looser, a little more ragged in their rock sound than
many. This does not reflect on them as musicians and songwriters at all,
though. Every song on this disc has a clever lyrical and melodic hook and the
production (by the band and David Minehan) is top notch. This is a fantastic
driving disc and also a good one for your beer blast. A definite rowdy-as-hell
| Order the CD from
Miles Of Music.
Reviewed by Scott Homewood |
LUCKY PIERRES |
My Temptation... (DIY)
A great sounding Country band from Dallas featuring the pure lead vocals of Michele
Pittenger. The band has a natural Classic Country sound but they don't sound overly
retro. They twang, they swing, they rock, and they're probably nice people too.
And the CD has some damn fine cover art Recommended!
Try ordering form Miles
of Music. Reviewed by Bill
Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!... (Stony Plain)
| If this one had been produced by any one of the ersatz “cowboys” currently cluttering up the airwaves it would have come out, well, sappy. Only someone with a pedigree such as that of Alberta's Corb Lund and his Hurtin' Albertans could have pulled off what is, for the most part, a tribute to the horse throughout history with such panache. The disc's opening cut, “I Wana Be In The Cavalry”, with its acknowledged debt to the late Stan Rogers, is full of the youthful exuberance, (and ignorance?), that raw recruits to the military have exhibited since time immemorial. Its bookend closer reprise has the wheel coming full circle: it ain't that pretty at all. In between, there are some forays into social commentary such as “Lament For Lester Cousins” and “Student Visas”, a couple of Lund's trademark foot stompers, “Hard On Equipment” and “Family Reunion”, but the glue, (OK, it's a wretched pun), that holds it all together is the horse. Is Corb going political on us here? No; he's showing a bit more depth and pensiveness than his core fans are probably accustomed to. He's starting to sound a bit like fellow Albertan Ian Tyson here on Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!, and there's not much wrong with that.
|Buy from Amazon, ... or from CD Baby. Released Nov. '07. Reviewed by Don Grant.
Good Wood... (Surprise Truck)
No, this isn't the famously twisted movie director but, judging from the rich
atmospherics Lynch chooses to frame his bluesy songs, he could be just as moody
and, dare I say, wild at heart. Lynch has crafted a fine acoustic blues CD but
it is the blues with a difference - the song structure is not traditional and
there is more than a touch of slippery jazz to his songs. In other words, it's
not just the traditional two repeating lines and then the punch line blues structure.
It's more of an old-timey jazz-bluesy feel updated, say if Leon Redbone played
more funky or if Dr. John played acoustic guitar kind of thing. Real slippery
and slidey and greasy, with a lot of old-style funk to it, Ray Charles instead
of Muddy Waters. Whatever it is, it goes down like a tall, cool glass of sweet
tea on a hot day and seems to be the perfect record for relaxing in the hammock
and being contemplative. Not country but great stuff just the same. |
Truck Entertainment has a very nice site. Reviewed by Scott
Lear Rose... (Interscope)
Loretta Lynn? This coal miner's daughter has gone modern at the same time as she's
written a batch of classic Loretta Lynn songs. Working with rocker Jack White
( White Stripes), Loretta has made an unusually contemporary record. From the
first cut, I had to back up and give myself a stern talking to: ("settle
down, don't be a stuffed shirt"). For a classic country lover like myself, it
was hard to give up my expectations but if you forget that we're talking about
Miss Loretta, this is an exciting and elegant rocking country record bringing
to mind early innovative bands like the Byrds. Her voice sounds strong with the
songwriting still solidly characterizing life at the top of the mountain ("Family
Tree", "This Old House", "Women's Prison", "Miss
being Mrs.") but the arrangements are where we start taking the corner on
two wheels. Jack White's not shy with that guitar and he uses his style to create
a haunting, rockin' soundscape for Lynn's no-nonsense approach to life. I don't
honestly think that diehard Loretta fans will go for it but I suspect Jack White
fans will eat this up. This is a very hip country record that took imagination
and vision and I'll be interested to see how it plays….You go, Loretta.|
Stone's review of Van Lear Rose. Buy
from amazon. Released April, '04. Reviewed
by Kay Clements.
I Am Shelby Lynne... (Island)
First of all, this CD don't really twang much. Nashville had previously
tried to make Lynne fit in their Country Cutie mold with little success.
As the title attests, this is the real Shelby Lynne, and she's real good.
Working with Sheryl Crow's first producer, Shelby has a tremendously emotive and
soulful voice. The songs and Memphis Soul arrangements remind me of
Dusty Springfield or even Aretha Franklin. It's all about how the music
makes you feel... and some of the songs on this album give me the chills!
I have ten so-called Americana CD's that don't give me half the thrill and emotional
response that I get from, I Am Shelby Lynne. In my book, that counts
for a lot, twang or not.
Buy from amazon Released March, 2000, reviewed by Bill
Suit Yourself... (Capitol/EMI)
|Categories and easy labels have never suited Shelby Lynne, and this release is no exception. While hitting soul/pop grooves and even contributing an Americana anthem (Johnny Met June), this self- produced album is Lynne at her homiest, including studio patter and false starts. Warm organ and slide guitar show up but it's still a slick production. She's a strong and confident singer and wears songs such as "Where Am I Now" well, while offering a political stand on "You're The Man". Sophisticated but somewhat cold, at times she hits a place that feels like Laura Nyro meets Al Green and her appeal is evident. And the sultry closing cover of "Rainy Night in Georgia" is worth the price of admission alone.
|Shelby's site. Buy from amazon. Released May, '05. Reviewed by Michael Meehan.
Tears, Lies, and Alibis... (Everso)
|The story I heard is that Lynne's label didn't want her producing her new album and they didn't understand the song about Airstreams. Stubbornly, (and wisely), Shelby released her self-produced CD on her own label and "Something To Be Said" (about Airstreams) is one of the best songs on Tears. Two upbeat tunes open the CD before a string of songs that dwell in spare acoustic guitar arrangements. Good songs but they didn't grab me at first. There is a lot of sadness and occasional bitterness in the songs. "Alibi" has got to be one of the sweetest cheatin' songs ever written. The short, 10-song CD closes with "Home Sweet Home", a gorgeous song about returning from a long tour. Her sultry voice is magnificent throughout and repeated visits to Tears, Lies & Alibis will just be sure to reward you with one of the best CD's of 2010.
|Shelby's site. Buy from amazon. Released April, '10. Reviewed by Bill