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MARLEE MacLEOD
Like Hollywood... (Catamount)
While there seems to be a lot of male auteurs who play all of the instruments on their albums, write all the songs etc.etc. there are few female artists that are afforded (or chase after) the same luxury. MacLeod is one of the few. While she relegates herself to vocals and acoustic guitar on some cuts, on many she plays guitar, bass, keyboards and drums (among other instruments) and there is no diminishing of quality on those cuts than on the ones she uses a full band. It speaks a lot of her talent and also her self-confidence that not only she puts her songs out there but she creates a major portion of the music as well. And these songs are worth the extra effort. While some are a little skewed melodically in a intrinsic way, most are catchy and powerful, in a touch-your-heart way. Great stuff that makes me eager to see what she'll come up with next.
She has a nice website, where you can order the CDBuy from amazon    Released June 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

MAGIC CAR
Yellow Main Sequence... (Tiny Dog)
Really impressed with this. It often hits me when I listen to music this good how lucky we are that young bands and musicians have become interested in country again thanks to bands like Uncle Tupelo and their offshoots, Bottle Rockets and such. This record, on the other hand, takes those influences down a different road and sounds nothing like those bands and instead picks a rolling, traditional 50s/60s country sound to go after. The female vocalist, Hazel Atkinson, has a sweet, pure voice with very little twang to it. The male's (sorry no notes for CD to who this might be out of the four-piece band) reminds me of a yound Gordon Lightfoot, again, no twang. Old-fashioned country that mixes the traditional sound of yore with a little bluegrass. Utterly engaging and check out the second cut, Three Cornered Hat, for my favorite song so far this year.
They are an English band... I found a page about the band... you can order from their label, Tiny Dog. Reviewed by Scott Homewood

RICH MAHAN
Blame Bobby Bare... (Snortin' Horse)

Rich Mahan makes no apologies on his first full-length album, Blame Bobby Bare.  The title alludes to his father’s tendency to play Bobby Bare records on high volume around the family’s southern California home during Rich’s formative years.  To be fair, there’s plenty of blame to go around, Delbert McClinton, Johnny Paycheck, even Jerry Lee is culpable here.  The result is a no-holds-barred, heavy drinkin’, good timin’ record that rarely lets up or puts the bottle down. There’s plenty of storytelling and humor to go around as well.  “Overserved in Alabam” is a rousing tale of road debauchery while “The Hills of South Dakota” is a “blousing” ode to “hills” of a different sort.  The album’s best track, “Favorite Shirt” really highlights Mahan’s chops as a soul singer.  It’s a weapons-grade slow burner that might well result in a little population boom later this year. Rich does perhaps over-indulge a bit in the hard-partying motifs but if you looking for a fun record with catchy tunes and a tight road-tested band,Blame Bobby Bare might be just what the bartender ordered.

Rich's site. Order from CD Baby.  Released Jan. '13, reviewed by Chase Barnard.

KATE MAKI
Confusion Unlimited... (self released)

Yet another hard to peg artist here. Kate hails from Sudbury, Canada via Halifax. This schoolteacher turned singer/songwriter has taken a DIY approach to her craft. This is her latest release and on it she takes command as co-producer and chief songwriter. She has an appealing voice, warm and seductive, yet she can tear it up with the best of them. Hard to describe what her music is like. Suffice it to say it's a breath of fresh air. Another artist who would be appealing to the Utne Magazine Mother Jones crowd.

Kate's site has CD ordering. Miles of Music has it too. Reviewed by Keith Robb.


RAUL MALO, PAT FLYNN, ROB ICKES, DAVE POMEROY
The Nashville Acoustic Sessions... (CMH)
When I first heard about this collaboration I was full of anticipation. Raul Malo has for years been the voice of that great country rock band, The Mavericks, and also put out a very cool but underappreciated Latin-informed record called Today. Pat Flynn, Nashville session ace & hot flatpicker from the last & most successful incarnation of New Grass Revival. Ron Ickes, of the stellar modern bluegrass band Blue Highway, may not be as well known as Jerry Douglas but is every bit the resophonic guitarist (Dobro). In fact, I prefer his playing to Jerry's. Dave Pomeroy, I'm afraid I was unfamiliar with before this recording. While I had hoped for great things from this team, I was, I must admit, slightly underwhelmed. Not that this isn't a very good record- it is. But not the great record I had hoped for. While Flynn and Ickes, in particular, shine on this recording, Malo sounds surprisingly out of his element. The interestingly varied selection of rock, pop and country songs are all instrumentally performed beautifully but suffer from Malo's oversold vocals. Again, it's not that the vocals are bad just a bit too emotionally affected for my taste. Imagine Roy Orbison singing Hank Williams. Does that work? Well, for some maybe. Not for me though. Still, I recommend the CD for it's cool takes on a bunch of old favorite songs & it's strong instrumental performances. Rob Ickes resophonic work alone is worth the rice of the CD
Buy from Amazon. Released March '04, reviewed by Kevin Russell.

MAMA SAID
Runnin' With Scissors...(Little King)
Despite cribbing the title of this debut record from Weird Al Yankovic, this CD is a decent beginning for a group still struggling to find it's musical legs. While the songwriting is not bad, it is slightly amateurish. Ideas are not fleshed out enough and the words don't sound entirely heartfelt. The music leans heavy on the bluegrass side with some doses of  harder rocking country and a touch of New Orleans feel to spice it up. What hurts this record more than anything else is the production. It has the feeling and sound of a local band running in the studio to chart its' progress. A better producer could probably fine tune this band and take some of the rougher edges off. This is not a bad record, just a record made by a band not totally ready to put out their first CD. A better plan, a better team would elevate the music much more. Maybe come back to this band a few CDs down the line, otherwise, you'll be taking a chance.
Their website has CD ordering ($15), gigs, bios, song samples and a message board.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood

MAP OF WYOMING
Trouble Is... (Innerstate)
This San Francisco band is centered around the intelligent pop songwriting and vocals of Dale Duncan, once a member of Flying Color, a Beatles-inspired pop-punk band. Also featured are multi-instrumentalist Chris von Sneidern, (who put out a couple of his own power pop gems in the 90's), and Tom Heyman, former Go To Blazes lead guitarist, who fill the spaces with just the right amount of steel guitar shadings. The sound is mostly non-offensive pop some Americana flavoring. Catchy mid-tempo tunes abound and they throw in Fred Neil cover too. This map is worth looking for whether you're going to Wyoming or not.
The band has a website and so does Innerstate.  Release date: Oct. '00. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

STEVE MARDON
Critic's Darling... (Egregious Typo)
I'm at a loss as to how to describe this CD. It has all the elements of your classic coffee house/ college radio/ Borders Books type singer/songwriter folk rock. What sets it apart is his sly humor throughout the whole CD. Office politics, failed romances and songs about house cats make for a pleasant break from the "oh so serious" folkies out there today. It's just not my cup of tea, nothing really grabs me. This CD would be more appealing to readers of Utne Magazine and Mother Jones than say readers of No Depression.
You can get the CD for only $8 from Steve's website, or order from CD Baby. Reviewed by Keith Robb.

CAROLYN MARK & NQ ARBUCKLE
Let's Just Stay Here... (Mint)
It ventures into Spaghetti Western love song territory before morphing into a darn pretty twangy country one. Below-the-radar duet album of the year? Well, IMHO, it hails from up North, that being Let's Just Stay Here from Vancouver songstress Carolyn Mark with Toronto's NQ Arbuckle (barroom prophet Neville Quinlan the counter to Ms. Mark). While NPR-luscious Swell Season is all the duet rave, if spine-shiverers "Officer Down" and "Saskatoon Tonight" don't melt your loins from the girl-guy song front, well, the word numb comes to mind. There's plenty more, too. Get this thing now!
Visit www.mintrecs.com. Buy from amazon. Released Oct. '09. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

ALBUM COVERSTAN MARTIN
Cigarettes and Cheap Whiskey... (Twangtone)
If you are one of the many country music fans who think the music being played today on the so-called country radio stations sucks, then this new CD by Stan Martin is for you. This is also a CD for those who think the latest Dixie Chicks record is too modern and that George Strait is teetering on the cutting edge. In other words, Martin has basically turned in this love note to 50's/60's Nashville/Bakersfield country to the fans who remember what country music used to (and still should, damn it) sound like. All songs are by Martin and all proclaim their allegiance to classic country loudly. Guest Scott Joss lays down some tasty fiddle while Hank looks on and smiles and Merle thanks God someone has paid attention. This is the real deal, you classic country fans. If you like the old stuff and the new guys that do the old stuff better than the guys who actually did the old stuff, this stuff is for you. Now, stuff some money in your pocket and get this CD right away.
Stan's site.  Order from CD Baby.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood

STAN MARTIN
Distilled Influences... (Twangtone)
Distilled Influences delivers just what it says on the tin: great rocking country songs about love, loss and alcohol; an homage to the likes of Yoakam and Lovett. Opening with "Should Have Been Gone", the tone is set with big ringing Telecaster a là Tom Petty and a story of love that has run it's course. But you know it's really country when you hit "Mr. Lonely Me", a classic of the sorry-for-myself drinking genre. Martin gets down with Lovett-styled swing on "Goodbye Houston", and Dwight himself should consider covering "He's Not There With You", perhaps the stand out track alongside the rocking "Right Now". Production is straight forward, simple and tasty, with expert fiddling from Yoakam sideman Scott Joss while Martin himself delivers one great Tele lick after another. Distilled Influences is a loving, original contribution to classic country rock songs and sounds. Highly recommended.
Martin's site. Order from CD Baby. Released Sept. '12, reviewed by Brad Price

STEVE MARTIN & EDIE BRICKELL
Love Has Come For You... (Rounder)
The folks at Rounder Records - one of the original independent "folk" record labels, no longer "independent" but still "independent thinking"! - sure know how to pair up singers and musicians you wouldn't expect. First they had success with Alison Krauss and Robert Plant and now comedian/author/playwright/art expert and, yes, great banjo picker Steve Martin gets teamed with Edie Brickell in this terrific CD. Martin is the bigger name in "name recognition" but Brickell is no slouch in the song writing and vocalizing department and we get to hear a lot of her song crafting in this album of 13 songs. Martin is there picking away and harmonizing but it's Brickell who is out front. This is an album you can put on when friends come over and, sooner or later, they will ask "who is that singing?" or "which group is that playing?". But they will be pleasantly surprised when you tell them. This album has "Grammy Nomination" written all over it - and the year is only half over. The album comes with a nice booklet of photos and the lyrics too! Not since the 1960s has there be a due named "Steve and Edie" (remember Steve Lawrence and Edye Gorme?). This is Steve and Edie for the 21st century.

Rounder's Steve & Edie page. Buy from amazon. Released April, 2013.  Reviewed by Steve Ramm.


RIP MASTERS
The Rock & Roll Album... (Rattler)
Look out Jerry Lee! Masters, a rockabilly piano-wrecker who has worked with many of the big names including Gene Vincent and Ray Campi, hits his stride on his newest release. Unlike most records released nowadays (of any kind - not just rockabilly), this record manages to capture a rollicking live spirit and the same raw feel that made the classic Sun sides so powerful. Masters contributes most of the songs here save a cover of Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On" and a few others besides playing a whomping piano and some guitar on a cut or two. While Masters doesn't show much in the way of originality, his songs are top flight for the genre and I could hardly resist the urge to dance while this record was playing, and that's enough for me. Guest stars include Campi and the drummer from psychobilly band X, D.J. Bonebrake. Fantastic.
Check out Rip's site. Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

THE MAVERICKS
Trampoline....(MCA)

When we last visited The Mavericks, they took a diversion towards a early-60's country-lounge sound. This time they have further immersed themselves in schmaltz-pop, actually, it's frequently Mambo-Lounge with various other "early" influences thrown in, from gospel to 60's rock to vaudeville. It definitely is not Country or Rock, it's...well, co-producer and singer Raul Malo's unique vision of what good music is. The great thing is, somehow, the CD works, thanks to Malo's exceptional voice and a fine and varied bunch of songs. Are we to believe that this is the "real" Mavericks now? Who knows. It's actually a pretty gutsy move by the band, as most of these songs could never fit into any of the tight radio formats. So, more power to them, and long live their Tijuana Brass meets The Ventures identity.
MCA's Mavs site. Best Tracks: Dance The Night Away, Tell Me Why, I've Got This Feeling, I Don't Even Know Your Name, I Hope You Want Me Too, Save A Prayer. Released March '98. Reviewed by Bill Frater.   

THE MAVERICKS
The Mavericks…. (Sanctuary)
I assumed that the Mavericks had broken up, seeing as it’s been four years since their last one. Apparently, they've reunited, and the world of music is a better place. They continue to pull away from their country beginnings, although there is a song here where Willie Nelson joins them, it’s basically a blues song. The songs are always draped around on the amazing voice of Raul Malo, who also co-produced this one with Kenny Greenberg. The Mavericks have a certain niche that’s part pop, part Latin Big Band, all done with professionalism and elegance. Their sound doesn’t really fit into any of today’s strict radio formats. The Mavericks are great at what they do, and I know there’s a type of music fan out there who would love this stuff. But I wonder if The Mav’s and their audience know about each other. I hope so, because these guys are much too good to for them not to be better known.
MavericksMusic.com is their official site with audio and video pieces. Buy from amazon. Released Sept, 2003. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

MARY McBRIDE
By Any Other Name... (Reality Entertainment)
A Louisiana ex-pat, Mary McBride is currently tearing up the Northeastern circuit with her driving blend of Blues and Alt/Country. You can tell that this girl cut her musical teeth in some pretty good-timin' juke joints. By Any Other Name is just a taste of what she'd be like live on stage. When this girl rocks, she's got the throttle fire-walled, akin to an earlier Mary Chapin-Carpenter, or Melissa Etheridge. What she really needs to do now to get to the next level, is to channel some of that energy into her writing. Her current material is good, but it lacks that hard to define something extra, that je ne sais quoi, that distinguishes great writing. Being yet only in her early thirties, she's got the experience behind her, and the time in front of her, to refine her expression. I think that she's got a great CD waiting inside her, just waiting for the right mental door to open.

Mary's site. Buy from amazon. Released April , '04, reviewed by Don Grant.


DAVE McCANN & THE TEN TOED FROGS
Woodland Tea... (self-released)
As cool and refreshing as the tea this is titled after, newcomer (at least to me) McCann and his band the Ten Toed Frogs have put together an enjoyable bunch of tunes that celebrate country music without becoming mired in the same clichés we're used to hearing from many performers that have hopped on the alt.country bandwagon. McCann manages to channel the storytelling style and pleasant mannerisms of Robert Earl Keen while adding his own special viewpoint. I'd say this would hit most as Keen singing for Blue Mountain with a more bluegrass bent. Great female harmony vocals too. Good stuff to listen to while I try to hunt down more of this guy's work. Great stuff.
Their "internet web thingieMiles Of Music has the CD. Reviewed by Scott Homewood

DAVE McCANN & THE TEN TOED FROGS
Country Medicine... (self-released)
When it comes to that critical third release, many artists stumble, and lots of them fall flat. I haven't had the good fortune to encounter Dave McCann's first self-released work, but I did come across his second, Woodland Tea, after receiving Country Medicine, (thank you, Molly), and I can assure you that this guy isn't stumbling, he's picking up steam. Equally adept, he can slide from a mournful, almost traditional, lament like "Leaving This Town", through to "Brokewing Bird", as rocking a bit of Alt/Country as I've heard in a while, although, overall, this CD leans more toward the country and roots side of his earlier work. Originally from Ontario, now calling Calgary home, McCann, along with his excellent Frogs, have a grip on the Americana genre that must be the envy of some of his southern contemporaries. While it is a thoroughly enjoyable, Luther Wrightesque, reworking of Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath" closing the disc, one wonders why an original piece wasn't chosen. McCann's own songwriting is its equal. I can't finish without remarking upon the background vocals of Jenny Allen. Watch out Dave, I wouldn't be surprised if she spreads her wings and flies away from you.
Their web site. Released July, '04, reviewed by Don Grant.

THE McCARTHYS
The McCarthys... (Side By Each)
This four-piece roots band from the state of Maine have a nice, basic Country Rock sound.  Hot guitar, steel, some Honky-Tonk, a couple of truck driving songs (truck drivers in Maine?!), and a Surf instrumental.  It all holds together and at a pleasantly short 35 minutes.  Some of their music reminds me of New Riders of the Purple Sage... if you remember them.  Worth keepin' an eye out for.
Check out their site for a few song samples.  Order from Village Records.  Released June 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

SCOTT McCLATCHY
Blue Moon Revisited...(Lightning In A Bottle)
At first I'm thinking, here's another heartland roots-rocker trying to be the next Mellencamp ... then it starts hitting me.  This guy's pretty good and...  that was a great song... hey, and Scott Kempner produced it, from the Del Lords.  And there's some woman on here who not only sings a nice harmony line but plays the fiddle too, (Leslie Campos).  I look at the cover again...   Who is this guy?  There's lots of rockin' twang here and some lovely ballads.  His voice sounds like different people on each song, a little Peter Case or Joe Ely or... even Lindsey Buckingham.  Some damned compelling lyrics and lots of chiming 12-string guitar too!  What more could you want?
Best tracks:  Throw A Little, Going Out Tonight, Go Slow, Good Man's Spirit, You Wear It Well, Margaret Ruth, Blue Moon Revisited. The guys got his own site, which has bio, tour and ordering info.  Released April '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.

cd_cover.jpgSCOTT McCLATCHY
Redemption... (LIB)
McClatchy references the national tragedy of September 11th in the liner notes of this CD and it's a hefty load to even think about the topic that he uses as a title. I would have used the word "relief" instead, as McClatchy's songs lend a bit of much-needed hope to anyone seeking a little musical enjoyment in these weird times. McClatchy's  lyrics sound a little Springsteen-ish as they have an all-American  we-must-fight-for-what-we-believe-in quality to them, an everyman viewpoint of struggling to survive and eventually succeeding is worth whatever sweat and pain we have to invest. In addition, his stories are honest and compelling. The music is kind of anthemic, much like Springsteen's but with more of a roots rock quality, a little grittier and more soulful. Since I feel Springsteen is on the slide, I personally could see McClatchy as the new voice of the everyman in America. Great stuff.
Scott's own site, scottm.com. Reviewed by Scott Homewood

DELBERT McCLINTON
Room To Breathe... (New West)
Good ol' Del gives himself plenty of room to breathe on this one, as he shoots past tired veterans and bunches of surprisingly slack newcomers to give his fans one of the best CDs of his career and possibly one of the best CDs of the year, overall. McClinton started his career as a journeyman honky tonker (by now you've probably heard the story about how he taught a young John Lennon to play the harmonica properly) and has pretty much surprised everyone with his steady rise to icon, elder statesman, cool as hell barroom blues belter, country-rock bandleader, and Memphis soul magician with a strict allegiance  to music with genuine soul and feeling. On this disc he is  again teamed with his long-time musical partner Gary Nicholson, who helped McClinton produce and also co-wrote several songs. While significant in some ways, this pairing (as well as the presence of some superstar-caliber musicians) is rendered moot by the classic sound of Delbert's voice and his carefree, soul-full attitude that permeates this disc. Delbert's singing is effortless, and that's not to say he phones in his performances. Not at all. It is comparable to the way Dean Martin crooned. Delbert's pure soul just oozes out of him and you sense a singer as comfortable in his own skin as anyone could be. The songs themselves are high quality as well, and, while not exceptionally literate or full of clever wordplay, are still captivating slices of honesty and are exceptional for the wisdom and heart they possess. Anyone who likes George Jones-style country with a little tinge of rebel rock, barroom blues and sweet Memphis soul needs to get this disc pronto.
New West's website. Delbert.com  Buy from amazon   Released Sept, 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood

MIKE McCLURE
Twelve Pieces... (Compadre)
At first blush, when listening to this new CD by McClure, you get the feeling he's somehow searching for the proper presentation for his music. About half of the cuts feature a full band setting while the other half feature McClure and his guitar and little else. Sure, it's common for artists in the alt.country genre to strip down their sound for a song or two to (I guess) show their fans/listeners their songs can stand up to the scrutiny but it seems like more than this in McClure's case. I believe he's searching for the right framework. From this CD at least, the full band treatment just isn't it. For some reason McClure's songs with the full band sound more clichéd and wrapped in artifice than the more elegantly done, immediate tone of the songs featuring he and little else. His songs do stand up to the scrutiny and their mood and message are conveyed better when he is alone and the listener can let McClure's vocal nuances guide the lyrics. McClure is a very talented songwriter and singer, and, while I think this album is good, he will make better ones when he finds the best framework for his songs.
 Mike's site,  Compadre Records. eleased July, 2002.   Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

DAVE McGRAW & MANDY FER
Seed Of A Pine... (Badge)

Singer/songwriters Dave McGraw and Mandy Fer have a knack for capturing the passionate beauty of original contemporary folk music. Evoking a sense of tranquility and reflection, their frank lyrics and life-affirming tales are woven around melodic lines that hold the fabric together. The set alternates with McGraw and Fer compositions, and this debut collaboration is a perfect showcase for their impressionistic songs. Drawn by 8-year-old Zia Kypta-Keith and inspired by the song “Seed of a Pine,” the watercolor that graces the album’s cover and jacket is indicative of the duo’s intriguing music. In fact, we also hear several references to colors in the stories they tell – purple sage, golden grey, angels dressed in blue, forests blooming green, streets painted in gold. Fer’s “Forget the Diamonds” reminds us that “behind the curtain there are colors you won’t believe exist.” McGraw’s “Comin’ Down” expresses “that dusk in mountain colors fades from blue to red to black, you glance over your sore shoulder, it’s too dark now to turn back.” While their music emphasizes earth tones, they also occasionally invoke dreamlike pictures with vibrant colors and shades. And “So Comes the Day” with their touching music, and like the monsoons that “turn everything green from dusty dirt brown,” McGraw and Fer paint their canvas with multi-hued images. May their music be heard.
Their web site. Order from CD Baby Released Jan. 2012, reviewed byJoe Ross.

THE DEL McCOURY BAND
Del and the Boys... (Ceili Music)
Nobody, and I mean nobody, is better at expressing the traditional elements in bluegrass music, while at the same time extending it's boundaries, than Del McCoury. And this most recent CD shows both Del and his band to be at the peak of their form. Who else do you know who can take a contemporary Richard Thompson song about a motorcycle driving outlaw, drop it into a bluegrass format and have it come out sounding like one of those hard-driving mountain ballads? And isn't that second song on the CD off an old Frank Sinatra record? And then there's the original songs that Del wrote. They sound as good as any classic bluegrass songs you ever heard. In fact, they just might be tomorrow's classic bluegrass songs. Del, it turns out, is every bit the singer-songwriter that mentor Bill Monroe was. This band, which includes his two sons, keeps getting better with every new release. For my money these guys are the  best bluegrass band happening in the country right now. Don't miss this one. 
Buy from amazon. Del's got a pretty slick site for a bluegrass band!   Released July, 2001.  Reviewed by Kevin Russell

DEL McCOURY, DOC WATSON, MAC WISEMAN
Mac, Doc & Del......(Sugar Hill)

I love this record....from the first scratchy song to the last hidden cut this is full of the joy of music and the absolute magic that happens when three bluegrass legends get together and let the years of experience and tradition flow.  Whether they are trading off verses or taking the vocal lead, these guys knock your socks off which explains not only why they are legends but why so many accomplished  musicians are right there to accompany them. The Del McCoury Band with Jack Lawrence and Terry Eldredge and guest artists Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss and Gene Wooten...nothing to sneeze at there. It's tight but easy thanks to Scott Rouses' production which brings it all together without losing the edge that distinguishes each major artist. Especially nice is getting to spotlight Mac Wiseman who is just not as well known to some of the younger fans as his compadres.  If you like those lonesome harmonies (and I do), effortless guitar, impeccable picking (bring it on) and that front-porch-playing-with-friends-kind-of-feeling, then you are going to be right at home with this record.

Buy from amazon. Preferred Tracks...Little Green Valley, The Old Account, Beauty of my Dreams, I've Endured. Sugar Hill's website has ordering  and tour info. Released Oct. '98, reviewed by Kay Clements.


THE DEL McCOURY BAND
It’s Just The Night... (McCoury Music)
Following Bill Monroe’s death, I’m sure Ricky Skaggs would love to be bluegrass music’s new ambassador. And as good as he is, he’d certainly be a contender. But that distinction most deservedly goes to Del McCoury, for many reasons. Not the least of which is that he’s Ricky’s elder, having spent time with Big Mon in the band that literally shaped the music. But also because he continues to put out one kick-ass record after another. And this new one, his fastest selling CD ever, is no exception. The lead off effort from his own new label, McCoury Music, finds Del & the boys plowing familiar terrain. One might complain if they weren't so dang good at it. As with previous efforts the song selection (new and traditional sources) is great, the picking expressive and powerful, and the singing....well, just simply the best. This band, and this singer, are in their prime. It just doesn’t get any better than this. Nobody’s making better bluegrass music, live or on record. Period. Another home run for bluegrass music’s new ambassador to the world. 
The band's website has tour schedule, bio, CD ordering and a message board.  Buy from amazon. Released August 2003.  Reviewed by Kevin Russell.

RICH McCULLEY
If Faith Doesn't Matter... (self-released)
Instead of being overt about his pop influences and totally abandoning his country side as Jeff Tweedy of Wilco has done or Ryan Adams from the late, lamented band Whiskeytown is trying to do, Rich McCulley weaves them into his songs in an organic way that encourages a real blend, not a choice between one or the other. On McCulley's new CD, you can find some tremulous piano or a beautiful George Harrison-like guitar part right next to the most goosebump-raising steel guitar glissando you ever heard. It's a kind of roots pop slowly becoming popular as more and more alt.country artists experiment with their songwriting styles. McCulley earns extra points for just being himself and not going crazy with it, not trying to be Paul McCartney or Brian Wilson all at once like the artists I have mentioned previously. McCulley's songs bring to mind Sheryl Crow, not in sound but in example. Crow had her first hit (All I Wanna Do) with a blend of poppy rock and countrified steel guitar that sounded very natural. McCulley's work is just like that. Catchy songs with great hooks and instrumental parts (like the George Harrison-like slide work) that are very memorable and powerful are the norm here but there is definitely a lot of twang and just strong songwriting with good characterizations and no pretension. While his voice does sound almost like the lead singer of the Barenaked Ladies, I won't hold that against him and instead praise him for a wonderfully strong bunch of songs that is sure to please fans of both country and melodic pop. Great stuff.
Their web siteBuy from amazon  Released Feb, 2001. Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

MARK McKAY
Shimmer... (Toadfish)

I read somewhere an article that describes Washington, D.C.'s Mark McKay and company as having a ‘garage band' sound. Well, I sure wish that some of my old garage bands sounded half this good. If one defines ‘garage band' solely as one being built around a core of a couple of energetic guitars, bass, and drums, then I guess that description would fit, but, it damns Shimmer with faint praise indeed. This CD is driven in a large part by the guitar work of producer Eric "Roscoe" Ambel, who displays an unerring knack for deriving the maximum impact from his instruments, without a lot of superfluous clutter, in a style that's called, for lack of better words, simply nice and clean. This, McKay's third release, is entirely of his own creation, with the exception of his rendition of Lucinda's "Side of the Road". It ranges from rockers like the opener, “Rain”, and “Stay Around”, with some great guitarwah by McKay, to “Full Moon Eyes”, a slice of trenchant political observation that could have sprang from Steve Earle's pen. An added bonus is the appearance on the mournful "U-Eye" of Kris Delmhorst on cello and backing vocals, possibly the best track on the disc, but it's a difficult choice, there's lots of good stuff here.

Marks' website. Buy from amazon. Released Sept. '04, reviewed by Don Grant.


LORI McKENNA
Bittertown… (Signature Sounds)
In the last few months I've received a lot of new CD's from some great female folk singers. Everyone from Catie Curtis and Maura O'Connell to Terri Hendrix. I like 'em all in their own way and they're all quite talented songwriters and singers. But there's something about Lori McKenna's release keeps calling itself back to my CD player. Perhaps it's her songs, detailed snapshots of small town life, filled with colorful characters and wronged women. But it's probably the creative arrangements that have a lot to do with it, there's a nice variety, from gentle to slightly gritty. Credit must go to producer Lorne Entress (Mark Erelli, Duke Levine, Erin McKeown) who plays every instrument under the sun, all with taste and restraint. Lori's voice is not unlike Patty Griffin's, (another highly-regarded "folkie" with a new CD out this year), but heer songs are more cheery and accessible. Nice stuff here start to finish, if your tastes leans towards singer-songwriters, then give Bittertown a listen.
Lori's web site. Producer Lorne's site is quite nice. Signature Sounds. Buy from amazon. Released May, '04, reviewed by Bill Frater.

JAMES McMURTRY
Walk Between the Raindrops....(Sugar Hill)

Somewhere between McMurtry's first great CD that came out in '89, and this, his fifth release, he got real good at making records. Of course, I didn't notice his other CD's in between, so who knows. Lloyd Maines produced this one, and most of the tunes hop along at a nice pace. It's electric, rootsy-blues in general, and I think it's just a great sounding album. The songs are clever first-person observations on life and love, and airline employees. James has developed a great talent for making the most of a very limited monotone voice.. The words constantly beg you to open the little booklet and read the lyrics. Good stuff here!

 Sugar Hill Released Aug. '98.  Reviewed by Bill Frater.


JAMES McMURTRY & THE HEARTLESS BASTARDS
Live in Ought-Three... ( Compadre)
Man, it's good to listen to a great live album like I remember doing in the ‘70's when live albums were cool. And it wasn't even recorded in a prison like my other favorites like B.B.'s Live at Cook County Jail or Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison record. This boy's name may be James McMurtry and not Sue, but he has put out one hell of a live record. To be completely honest, I have never really felt a strong liking to any of McMurtry's previous work. It always seemed almost too singer/songwritery for me. It really shines when presented in a live context though. Like a friggin diamond almost. McMurtry's voice has a texture and presence he has never seemed to have quite gotten before, that most people never get anyway, but he gets it here and it is impressive. The band more than keeps up as well, and although I wasn't there, this live CD makes me feel as if I was. Even though I never really cared for McMurtry's work in the past, this CD is so good I am going to search up all of his old stuff and give it another chance. If you haven't heard him, you should grab his stuff too. But grab this first. It's made a believer out of me and I am sure it will make you one too.

Compadre's site. Buy from amazon  Released March, '04. Reviewed by Scott Homewood .


JAMES McMURTRY
Just Us Kids... (Lightning Rod)
This is the ninth McMurtry album, and lately he's been mostly doing the same 3-chord brand of rootsy rock, coupled with that deep monotone voice. What defines his music is his amazing knack for telling stories about people who live off the main road, so to speak. Characters who chain-smoke and wake up in the same clothes they wore the day before. People like "Ruby and Carlos," who loved each other but fell apart. The simple finger-picked guitar and cello arrangement and the lyrics go together so well that the song almost worth the price of the album. MP3 or not. James is not afraid to let you know what his politics are. He basically pull's Bush's pant down on "Cheney's Toy" and "God Bless America" is not what you might think. When I heard the title I thought that he might be joining the "kid's music" trend. Definitely not, but musically, he does leans a bit towards the softer melodic side. Best thing he's done since Candyland, way back in '92.
McMurtry's site and MySpace page. Order from Lightning Rod's site or from amazon Released Apr. '08.  Reviewed by Bill Frater.

SHANNON McNALLY & HOT SAUCE
Coldwater... (self-released)
Haven't heard too many women cover Waylon Jennings hits, but on the new Coldwater from the now Mississippi-based Shannon McNally she tackles "Lonesome On'ry & Mean" with confidence and gusto to spare. It's a standout cut on an album full of them. McNally has always been one of those singers who can belt it or turn it down to a simmer without missing a beat. With her multi-talented band Hot Sauce lock-step the entire way, her versatile and soulful voice is right at home be it blues, honky tonk or the straight-up singer/songwriter fare comprising Coldwater.
Shannon's website. Order from CD Baby. Released April, '10, reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

JD McPHERSON
Signs & Signifiers ... (Rounder)
Slip the new album Signs & Signifiers from J.D. McPherson into the disc player, hit the Play button and close your eyes and you’ll instantly be transported back to the 1950s. From the punchy sound chocked with echo and heavy beat, leadoff track “North Side Gal” sounds like it could’ve been recorded by Sam Phillips at Sun Studios in the ‘50s heyday of that label. While the vintage of the song is 2011, the whole of Signs & Signifiers emits an authenticity in yesteryear sonic sound you just don’t hear anymore. Frankly speaking, McPherson’s debut for Rounder Records is like a time warp, and a good one at that. Calling Broken Arrow, Oklahoma home, McPherson traveled to the Hi-Style Studios in Chicago where tube equipment and ribbon mics dominate to make Signs & Signifiers. Old school rock and roll, blues, and rockabilly are all over the grooves of this stellar outing. The dozen tracks shimmy and shake like a bobble head doll, no doubt one in ‘50s garb. Blame it on a combination of the singing swagger of McPherson along with an incredibly talented cast of musicians who buy right into his groove machine. Keep a watch out for this guy.
JD's site. Buy from amazon. Released April, '12, reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

ELIZABETH McQUEEN & THE FIREBRANDS
Happy Doing What We're Doing… (Freedom)
What a splendid idea! Austin producer Dave Sanger got together with a spunky girl singer and a tight band to honor one of my favorite eras of music, the late 70's English pub rock scene. We're talking pre-punk rootsy power pop artists like Nick Lowe, Graham Parker, early Squeeze and Elvis Costello, Brinsley Schwarz and more. Each band gets just one song covered by the Firebrands. It's usually their best tune, if that's possible to narrow it down. Ms. McQueen makes a valiant effort trying to duplicate a bunch of British blokes' singing styles. In most cases she does the songs justice if not copying them, at least not making ‘em any worse. Of course, it made me want to pull out my old vinyl to play the originals and to explore some of the bands I missed like Duck's Deluxe and Eggs Over Easy. There's so much good material from these bands that his could have easily been a double CD. I'd love to see a box set of the pup rock originals. Till then this is a great tribute and reminder of how good these bands were.
Buy from amazon.   Released Feb. '05.  Reviewed by Bill Frater.

Cover ImageCHRISTY McWILSON
Bed Of Roses... (HighTone)
Most remembered as lead singer/main songwriter of the late lamented roots band The Picketts, rootsy songstress McWilson shines on her newest solo release, Bed of Roses. On board for her second solo release are a slew of alt.country and alt.rock ringers including REM-man Peter Buck, McWilson's husband and leader of many bands including the Young Fresh Fellows and Minus Five Scott McCaughey, and the king of roots rock Dave Alvin (of the Blasters and solo greatness) producing and playing guitar for the whole shebang. From the first song, "Life's Little Enormities", where she sounds like a mix between a female Roy Orbison and Michelle Phillips from the Mamas and Papas to the last song, "Tightrope", where she out Dustys the hell out of Shelby Lynne - this album is a pure, unadulterated tour de force. Despite her many collaborators, this disc is sure to put McWilson on the map as far as the general public goes and is possibly the greatest production work of Alvin's career. A great, great disc of countryish pop. Pick it up.
HighTone's website   Released March, 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

CHRISTY McWILSON
The Lucky One... (HighTone)

Christy McWilson has been the lead singer with the Seattle band The Picketts, whose 3 albums always seemed to feature a few well-chosen cover songs along with their originals.  Producer Dave Alvin invited her to LA to record a solo project with his regular band and some well-known guests.  McWilson's husband, Scott McCaughey, has toured extensively with REM and that probably accounts for the presence of Peter Buck who gives the CD more of a Pop shimmer.  The album closes with a loose Rockabilly tune, "Cryin' Out Loud", which gives the whole thing a needed kick in the pants.  Although I like her voice and most of her songs, a few more upbeat covers would've helped.
Check out HighTone's fine site.  Released June, 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

CHUCK MEAD & HIS GRASSY KNOLL BOYS
Back at the Quonset Hut... (Ramseur)

The Quonset hut. Its history is as rich in Tennessee, namely Nashville, as it is in Rhode Island. The Nashville history centers around music and specifically, the Quonset hut recording studio built on Music Row and owned and run by the late and legendary Music City producer Owen Bradley. From Ray Price to Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline to blues legend Bobby “Blue” Bland, Bradley’s “hut” is a shrine to recorded music inside whose walls countless legends worked their magic. With Back at the Quonset Hut, Chuck Mead (or BR549 fame) & his Glassyknoll Boys pay tribute to the heyday of the hut trotting out remakes of a dozen classic country tunes originally laid down inside those revered walls. Appropriately, in addition to his Grassy Knoll Boys, Mead invites a number of Nashville’s legendary “A” team of supporting musicians including piano man Harold “Pig” Robbins, bassist Bob Moore, fiddle player Buddy Spicher, and pedal steel great Lloyd Green. It lends a definite air of authenticity to the proceedings. Mead also taps the talents of new breed Nashville types including Jamey Johnson, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Elizabeth Cook. The sum total is rock-solid country music. As an extra bonus, the release includes a documentary DVD of the making of the album.
Visit www.chuckmead.com Buy from amazon. Released Feb. '12. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

THE MEAT PURVEYORS  
All Relationships Are Doomed To Fail... (Bloodshot)
One of the best bands in bluegrass are back with another fine set from our friends at Bloodshot. And this time, not only does the band put it's distinctive stamp on a bunch of their own fine songs but tries to please the Hayseed Dixie-type crowd by covering a few songs not normally thought of as adaptable to bluegrass. Songs like S.O.S. by Abba and Round and Round by the heavy metal band Ratt. The band does manage to sneak in a fine cover of Nick Lowe's Without Love and generally acquits themselves quite well on this whole disc. While nothing different than their other offerings, this band just keeps putting out great, solid bluegrass in a steady fashion. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Bloodshot's site.  Released March, 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

THE MEAT PURVEYORS
Pain By Numbers... ( Bloodshot)

Ok, let me get this right: I get a bluegrass song about heroin, then one about the life of a party girl, then a Fleetwood Mac cover, a Rank & File cover, a Johnny Paycheck cover and a freaking Ronnie Milsap cover, all done with the virtuosity, sweet vocals, and Devil-may-care attitude of The Meat Purveyors? Simply put, I'm in heaven. The Meat Purveyors represent what the whole country-punk movement is about: fun, well-performed music, irreverence, and a complete lack of anything resembling shame. They don't resort to the sort of schtick that Split Lip Rayfield leans on, but instead throw all their effort into their songwriting and musicianship. These guys can absolutely blister the paint off the walls with the virtuoso mandolin and violin work of Peter Stiles and Darcie Deaville, or charm the socks off of a snake with Jo Cohen and Cherilyn DiMond. It's easy to compare The Meat Purveyors to other speedgrass or country-punk bands like Split Lip Rayfield, but the better comparison would be to The B-52's. The depth of their songwriting, choice of covers, and knowledge of how not to step over the line into novelty truly set The Meat Purveyors apart. The only complaint I could find is that the production is very dry, but even that is no real problem. By the time you could notice, they'll have moved onto the next song and you'll be either singing along or laughing out loud at their audacity. This CD goes on my Best of List for 2004.

Bloodshot's site. Buy from amazon Released July '04, reviewed by Clint Weathers.

Cover ImageLISA MEDNICK
Semaphore... (Texas Music Group)
It's funny that while she calls the CD Semaphore (the word used to denote signals with flags) she scatters telegraph symbols throughout the liner notes and has a telegram on the back. Maybe what Mednick wants to get across is the use and misuse of signals and messages in all their forms but what comes across in her music is something special as well. Mednick possesses a high pitched, reedy voice that sounds somewhat eccentric and affected for the rootsy music she creates, in fact, it sounds almost folky - like Judy Collins singing modern alt.country. The songs themselves range from expansive tone poems to slinky, twangy rockers. While this didn't hit me straight off the bat, it has become something of a grower due to my acceptance of Mednick's voice. I suggest you give it a shot as well as her fine songs are well worth the extra effort.
TMG has a feature page on Lisa and they can send you a CD too.  Buy from amazon  Released March, 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

KENNY MEEKS
Tell My Angel... (Big East Music)
Kenny Meeks was a member of  Sixpence None The Richer and played bass with Buddy Miller for awhile. His sound is accessible and tuneful country soul with shades of blues and folk. His guitar playing is especially tasty, layers of 'em with some slide or harmonica over the top. Like Buddy Miller, he knows when to jump in and more importantly, when to lay off. His lyrics are sensitive and deeply thought out. His vocal style reminds me of Marc Cohn, or maybe Eric Clapton, smooth and very soulful. Julie Miller lends her intuitive harmonies to three of the tunes. My car has a space between the seats that holds only 5 CD's, most of 'em are new things that I "have" to listen to. This CD is there because I love it. 
KennyMeeks.com has bio, gigs & secure CD ordering. Released in June, 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater. 

JOHN MELLENCAMP
Life, Death, Love, And Freedom... (Hear Music)
Here’s an artist who has regularly found favour over the years in this particular quarter, being the mid-western equivalent of Bruce Springsteen, advocating for the downtrodden and desperate losers of society. It’s a natural fit for Mellencamp, who’s had to fight for his artistic freedom on more than one occasion over the span of his career. It’s a style that has worked well over time, but on Life Death Love And Freedom it’s Mellencamp himself who’s the subject for the majority of the songs and, quite frankly, at times things get somewhat sticky. Make no mistake here, he’s an artist of the first order and a perfectionist for getting the sound that he wants; you can’t fault the production values herein. It’s that there’s something uncomfortable about listening to the self-doubts and confessed frailties of a reputable fighter such as Mellencamp. Maybe it’s just a bit disconcerting to see/hear the innermost human facets of his life? Whatever the reason(s), the man has earned the right to sing what he wants, and to hell with what I think. It’s still a good piece of work, just don’t get caught up in the mood.
Mellencamp's official site. Buy from amazon Released July, '08, reviewed by Don Grant.

MERLE JAGGER
Rancho Los Angeles... (Ranch Party)

A show case for the virtuosity of Mark Christian on guitars, banjo, and mandolin, Rancho Los Angeles is probably as good an instrumental CD as anything out there. The problem is that instrumental only recordings have an interest factor that can't be sustained over repeated playing. Not that it's impossible to carve out a respectable place in the music game strictly as musicians, Chet Atkins comes readily to mind, it's just such a damned rough row to hoe. Unless the players are right there in the flesh, the average listener's attention inevitably starts to wander where a fellow guitarist's probably wouldn't. It is suspected that the average listeners substantially outnumber the guitarists in this world. There has to be any number of aspiring vocalists out there in the Los Angeles area; give some of them a shot guys. Merle Jagger has hit upon a name with a great catch, they know their instruments, for sure; a little vocal icing would compliment the cake.

Their site, their MySpace page. Buy from amazon Released April, '06, reviewed by Don Grant.

TIFT MERRITT
Bramble Rose... (Lost Highway)
What's with all these great girl singers from North Carolina anyway? First Caitlin Cary comes out and eclipses Ryan Adams and now Tift Merritt, formerly of Glory Fountain, comes out with this killer album. Aided and abetted by Ethan Johns (producer, lead guitar) and Benmont Tench (keyboards), Merritt has an album worthy of another feisty country queen: Loretta Lynn. Of course, if Lynn was just starting out today. Merritt also shows plenty of rock influence as well, with songs sounding as if Tom Petty's band was fronted by Merritt (not a big stretch considering the presence of Tench) and even a Stonesy-rocker (Neighborhood) that ends up coming across like above-par Sheryl Crow. This is a very good solo debut and shows the girls of alt.country are right up there with the best of the males in putting out transcendent music.
Lost Highway's Tift websiteBuy from amazon   Released June, 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

TIFT MERRITT
Another Country... (Fantasy)
There are some recordings that grab you by the throat — or the heart — on the first song and never let go. Tift Merritt's latest release, Another Country is one of those. From the opening tune, “Something to Me,” to the closing “Mille Tendresses” (1,000 Tendernesses) this is a work of tremendous heart and clarity, the work of an artist on a soul-searching journey. The songs were written when Merritt, exhausted from touring behind her Bramble Rose CD, retreated to Paris where she only knew one person, rented an apartment with a piano and wrote, and wrote and wrote. “One day I wrote so much I convinced myself that I must be dying,” she writes in the liner notes. “How could there be so much inside to say? It was the happiest I have ever been.” You keep waiting for an average song to come along — but it never does. Hearing it for the first time reminded me of the feeling when I heard Nanci Griffith or Kasey Chambers for the first time: Merritt has found her voice, physically and spiritually. Merritt deftly moves between folk, rock and R&B through the 11 songs, and all the comparisons to Griffith, Emmylou and Joni Mitchell are flattering and accurate, but clearly she has established her own singular style. One hopes the soul-searching continues.

Tift's site, her MySpace page and there's a nice fan site too. Buy from amazon Released Feb. '08, reviewed by Barry Dugan.


MIKE METZ
El Dorado... (Little Chicken)
Even though Metz has given us a whole CD full of original songs, the music he chooses to base his songs is not original at all, and maybe that's the best part of this album. Americana, at least - the word "Americana", has always been a very misleading word. While it could encompass everything that's popular musically (let's limit the word to music in this case) in America, what most feel it means is music created here, due to the blending of the various cultures inhabiting this country. Blues, jazz, soul music, R&B, country, rock - all have been created here and all have their place in the definition. All of these various forms also have their place on Metz's new CD. It's probably not for nothing Metz has decided to call the CD El Dorado, as Texas has always been known as the place most musical styles meet and swap spit. The first two songs (Peaches and Forty Tons) are paragons of ‘60's soul while the others hit musical touchstones from polkas to stone-cold twangy country. All of this is done with a lo-fi production style that inexplicably adds more to the songs then it takes away, which is very rare. While Metz's music is all over the map of Americana, so to speak, El Dorado is one CD that manages to capture the essence of what is good about American music when most artists would fear putting out a CD even half as diverse. Metz's musical mastery succeeds mightily on this release.
Mike Metz Band site.   Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

AUDREY AULD MEZERA
Lost Men and Angry Girls… (Reckless)

Audrey Auld had a respectable country-music career in her native Australia when she fell in love with a Yank, moved to America, and added Mezera to her name. In coming to the states, she had not only a new country and a new name to contend with, but a new career as well. But Audrey's a survivor, to be sure. After two recent CDs, one recorded in Austin and a live double disc with Nina Gerber, she's wisely returned to Australia to record with her old producer, Bill Chambers. Chambers seems to know how to bring out the best in Mezera's observational and sometimes comical songs, and when the song needs some help, he brings on the twang. Song themes range from quirky small towns (“Bolinas” and “Looking For Luckenbach”), to the lovely sorrowfull ballad (“We Cry”), to the silly “Self-Help Helped Me”. This is Mezera's most solid, cohesive collection of songs yet.

Reckless' site. Buy from amazon. Released Feb. 07, reviewed by Bill Frater.


RAMSEY MIDWOOD
Shootout at the OK Chinese Restaurant... (Vanguard)
Midwood begins his new CD with some gritty country funk halfway between Robert Johnson and Tony Joe White, and as far as beginnings go, this CD has got one of the best start-off points I've heard in a mighty, mighty long time. As powerful as a right hook to the soul, this song ("Chicago") crystallizes the trend I've been noticing for the past few years. Alt.country artists have gone past rock moves and discovered soul grooves, and that's fine by me. About time, actually, since Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters are just as Americana as Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. While this fact may anger some country fans unhappy with anything not rooted in Bakersfield, one listen to this album should convert everyone but the hardest country heart. A near perfect mix of blues, country and Memphis funk, Midwood has crafted one of the most eclectic yet purely Americana CDs in quite a while. Packaged like an old album cover (with a side 1 and a side 2 breaking up the songs) this album has a great retro vibe to it, the music drenched in the sort of soul missing from a lot of today's over-produced product. If you are musically adventurous and love other forms of Americana music just as much as country, then this is the album for you.

Midwood's site.   Released Nov. 2002. Reviewed by Scott Homewood.


RAMSAY MIDWOOD
Popular Delusions & the Madness of Cows... (Farmwire)

What does a fusion of country blues and soul have to do with the title of this disc? About as much as it did with the equally obtusely titled Shootout at the OK Chinese Restaurant , Midwood's first full-length release in 2002, but hey, would a rose by any other name… blah, blah, blah. Fans of The Band will particularly enjoy this one; it's got a Levon Helm-like Arkansas ring at times, as in “Ringmaster”, the first cut, and throughout the CD Midwood uses his instrumentation sparsely, another trademark of their style. Echoes of a rollicking Doug Sahm can be heard on “I Told You So”, while the smell of the Delta permeates “Withered Rose”. There has to be a dash of gospel for Southern authenticity, but the cynicism of “Jesus Is #1” would give the purists apoplexy: “All I want to do is lift weights and praise Jesus all day”. With a refrain like that, those titles start to make eclectic sense. There is an order behind what appears at first glance to be a chaos.

Midwood's web site. Buy from amazon. Released Nov. '06, reviewed by Don Grant.


BUDDY MILLER
Poison Love
....(HighTone)
This guy is about as good as it gets when it comes to intelligent, modern, straight-ahead country. I saw Buddy playing lead guitar with Emmylou Harris's band and I was blown away by his powerful guitar chops. On this, his 2nd CD for HighTone, his love of the upbeat country styles of Buck Owens and Roger Miller is apparent, as well as some lovely songs celebrating love, of all things. He has an emotive, kinda hoarse-sounding voice that works great with his humble yet brilliant guitar breaks. This guy has more taste and soul than most of the whole city of Nashville. Self-produced at his own studio with assorted notable guests including, Emmylou, Steve Earle, Sam Bush and his own talented wife Julie. This is great music!
Hightone Records site includes bio and tour info.  The "Buddy" section of an Emmylou fan site Nice stuff with pix and other stuff. Released Aug. '97, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BUDDY MILLER
Cruel Moon... (HighTone)
Cruel Moon, the much awaited release from Buddy Miller, is a smoldering fire that takes a little time to ignite.  The downside of being so talented is that expectation runs high and I fell into that trap.  This record is not as obviously melodic on the first go-round as his other records but when I gave it the time, I found this record to be full of solid and beautifully written songs in the true tradition of the country music that only Buddy Miller can really play.  He can wrap his voice around a lyric and  drive you to the blue motel accompanied by the tastiest guitar played in Nashville these days.  Along with  wife Julie (who wrote some great tunes for this record) he's got old friends Jim Lauderdale, Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle, but he uses them sparingly, most songs featuring the sincere elegance of Buddy Miller.  The guy  can croon, he can rock, he can harmonize...that's country music at it's finest and I say check it out.
Buddy's got his own website, buddymiller.com or check out HighTone's website.  Released Oct. '99, reviewed by Kay Clements (from KWMR).

Cover ImageBUDDY MILLER
Midnight and Lonesome... (HighTone)
What can one say about Buddy Miller that hasn't already been said? Great guitarist for others and himself, decent songwriter, wonderful producer, studio guru - everyone has great things to say about Buddy Miller. There is one aspect of his career that is overlooked, however, and that is his work on his solo albums. Now, I am not talking about his guitar work (which is always hot) or his production skills (ditto). Not even his songwriting skills, which are overshadowed on this album by those of his wife, Julie, who writes most of the originals on this CD. What I am referring to are his vocal skills and his personality, two important aspects in the success of an album. In these respects, I see Miller in a sort of Dann Penn-kind of way. For those who don't know, Penn is an extraordinary songwriter from Memphis who wrote some of the greatest soul hits of the ‘60's. Penn's stock-in-trade was always his songwriting, but those involved with him knew he could out sing most of the artists he wrote for and he wrote for people like Wilson Pickett, James Carr and other heavyweights. Friends of Penn's treasured the demos he made of his songs because most of them were better than the versions that hit the top of the charts. Penn was the master of the slow-burn, the low key delivery that would melt your heart and raise the hackles on your neck. While Miller does not have the kind of voice that raises hackles, he does have the mastery of the understated slow burn, the delivery of a powerful lyric that is tossed off so well that it borders on non-chalance but ends up sneaking into your soul through the side door almost. So low-key that it sounds wholly natural and heartfelt and factual, not to mention true and meaningful. Miller manages all this while singing his and Julie's original songs and a bunch of cover songs from the Everly Brothers, Percy Mayfield, and Jesse Winchester, playing some mean guitar and creating some roots rock with a big dollop of Memphis Soul added. In fact, it's his most soulful work so far, I reckon. For some star power, Lee Ann Womack and Emmylou Harris guest on vocals but the star is definitely Miller. For some rootsy country soul, check this CD out. It's killer.
HighTone's websiteBuy from amazon    Released Sept. 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

BUDDY MILLER
Universal United House of Prayer… (New West)

Buddy's been touring with Emmylou Harris for over 10 years now, so he should be beyond the “who's that monster on the guitar” status. Still, it's bit of a bold move to come out with a so many bible references in the songs on his new CD. I've always heard that he and wife Julie were Christians but its never been something that they outwardly wrote or talked about. In many ways the songs here are more spiritual based and even comment on society's social ills. Think Bob Dylan's Slow Train Coming (he covers his “With God On Our Side” here) or the Staple Singers. In fact, I hear a lot of Pop Staples influence in Buddy's guitar and the excellent backup vocals of Regina and Ann McCrary on most of this CD calls to mind the Staples' vocals. He goes from slow and haunting to loud and fiercely rocking. The track that really grabs me is “Don't Wait” which opens with fiddle and banjo and then takes off with a powerful chorus and then drops on some “Southern preacher” testifying under the guitar vamps. Saved indeed! If the “J” word pushes your buttons, get over it and come on into the water. With so much uncertainty in the world today this album is a very poignant release and Buddy's best CD yet.

Buddy and Julie's site, New West Records. Buy from amazon Released Sept. '04, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BUDDY MILLER
The Majestic Silver Strings ... (New West)
In the 70's, Chet Atkins and Les Paul recorded together, and although their styles were quite different they had a deep respect for each other's craft and taste. Take that model times two and you get The Majestic Silver Strings: Buddy Miller and the three other highly-acclaimed guitarists (Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot and Greg Leisz) on his new CD. Like Chester & Lester, they interweave and lope along, giving each other amble room to solo and truly letting the music breathe. The songs are mostly of the classic country variety that they "messed around with," as Buddy puts it. I love Buddy's voice but he's only featured on a few of the selections; Marc Ribot is given a couple of vocals, which are really the weaker of the songs. Ribot, however, is responsible for the most interesting arrangement, bringing in Marc Anthony Thompson (aka Chocolate Genius) for an amazing transformation of Roger Miller's "Dang Me." Other guest vocalists include Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin, Lee Ann Womack and Julie Miller, making for an abundance of highlights. All in all, this is a guitar player's dream. Frisell is marvelous on "Freight Train," and Greg Leisz is just plain great on steel throughout the album. A few of my favorites would have to be Buddy and Ann McCrary's  smoking version of Mickey & Sylvia's "No Good Lover," and Buddy and wife Julie's magnificent closer, "God's Winged Horse." There is also a DVD included, with a 21-minute documentary about the making of the album; the sessions were done in Buddy's basement and their banter and commentary are worth the price of admission on their own. Highly recommended!

Buddy's web site. New West Records. Buy from Amazon Released Mar. '11, reviewed by Bill Frater.


BUDDY MILLER AND JIM LAUDERDALE
Buddy & Jim... (New West)
Having worked together and been friends since Jim's first album back in the mid 90's, Buddy and Jim share a love of real country music and a willingness to make it work regardless of egos.  Buddy is a humble yet tasteful sideman who doesn't record often enough, and Jim puts out too many albums for his own good despite his singing and songwriting talents. They fall into the brother duet type of singing here, similar to the Louvin or Everly brothers, harmonizing so tightly that it sounds like one voice. The eleven songs here, half are covers (from the likes of Joe Tex, Johnny and Jack, The Mississippi Sheiks.) There's a new beautiful Julie Miller tune,  "It Hurts Me", and Jim’s “Forever And A Day’ is also a gem.
Why does it seem so easy for these guys to make a great album in only 3 days? I think it comes down to Buddy's keen ear for cool and catchy melodies and his seemingly amazing talent for saying, "That's good enough, " rather then doing 5 more takes that can suck spirit right out of a song. It also helps to have some amazingly versatile musicians as friends like Stuart Duncan and Russ Pahl. The message here is have fun and don't overthink things.
New West Records. Buy from Amazon Released Dec. '12, reviewed by Bill Frater.

BUDDY & JULIE MILLER
Buddy & Julie Miller... (HighTone)
After years of cohabitating on each other's solo records, this husband and wife team finally unites on shiny metal for a total team effort. As with any project he undertakes, Buddy Miller does a fine job of production here, creating a very murky mood, almost a Daniel Lanois New Orleans smoky-swamp feel that he might have learned from Lanois' work on Emmylou's Wrecking Ball album. Either way, this album is killer, with Julie's distinctive Cyndi Lauper/Rickie Lee Jones-esque vocals taking the main stage while Buddy's vocals and guitar add the bedrock foundation. While all their solo records have been a team effort, this one really shines. Julie writes most of the songs with a Richard Thompson cover and a Dylan tune (among others) thrown in as well. The alt.country world has been waiting for this and here it is: worth every penny.
Hightone has a nice website.  Released Sept. '01.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

SCOTT MILLER & THE COMMONWEALTH
Thus Always To Tyrants... (Sugar Hill)
The people at Sugar Hill, looking to expand their bluegrass roster with some alt.country couldn't have done better than to capture former V-Roy Miller and get him to release his first solo CD for the label. For those familiar with the V-Roys, they were a roots rock band that lapsed into country weepers every so often. With this album, Miller runs the musical gamut. The roots rock jones is still there in force with many cuts of pure distorted raunch rock for those rowdy backyard parties, but Miller also attempts some backwoods bluegrass and old Civil War sing-a-longs as well, and does them very well. This is a groundbreaking album for Miller and if I am allowed to forecast, I see him doing an almost Ryan Adams thing without the vices. I loved the V-Roys but Miller on his own is undoubtedly going to be a major force in the music world.
Sugar Hill's site  Release date: June, '01.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood

LAURA MINOR
Salesman's Girl... (HighTone)
Even back when his band was having their songs played on all the alternative rock stations, Cracker's David Lowery was into all things country. He spent a lot of time getting his musical education as part of Eugene Chadbourne's band and even his band Cracker has a pure, American rock feel untouched by artifice. It seems natural then for Lowery to produce this CD featuring the vocal and songwriting talents of Laura Minor. Minor's music is rooted in the same style of country music of recent albums by Caitlin Cary and Tift Merritt. That is, the songwriting has all of the storytelling style and skill of the classics like Buck, Merle, Lynn et all but with a definite modern twist and outlook. The songs on this CD are not about how sad this girl is when she loses her man. These are songs of love, passion, overcoming heartbreak and resilient defiance, sung by a woman who's smart, strong and confident with what she has to offer. These are not the female doormat country songs of the past. And to go with Minor's confident and positive lyrical stance is some ass kicking country music that has tinges of a rock-based modern sound but still draws upon the bedrock of classic country. You will find plenty of pedal steel as well as plenty of acoustic guitar work and plenty of skillful vocal dynamics that Minor seems to handle so well. I'll be the first to say it: This Minor is going to be something major!
HighTone's websiteBuy from amazon.    Released June, 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

THE MINUS 5
In Rock... (Yep Roc)
Originally an album pressed in small quatities on a mysterious label a few years ago, the Minus 5 have seen fit to reissue their homemade project and add a few extra cuts as well, fleshing it out to full-album length. Made during the long gaps the band took in recording their previous CD, Let The War Against Music Begin, this CD has the sort of rushed quality most good rock albums have. Nowadays since most bands take a year to record a CD and space their records out two or three years apart, it's good to have something done in a more guerilla style, a real passionate bang-it-out kind of thing. While that would suggest a more punk attitude, the music here really doesn't have much to do with punk. It's more rowdy roots rock than anything else. Played excellently, I might add. Guitars blazing, drums walloping and bass booming, this stuff is an excersize in immediacy, passion and guts. Very good stuff and worth picking up.

Yep Roc's Minus 5 pages. Buy from amazon.    Released Feb. '04.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood .


ANAIS MITCHELL
Young Man in America... (Wilderland)
After her last album which saw her bringing the Orpheus myth into the modern era, the song cycle of Vermont-based singer and songwriter Anais Mitchell returns back to her own thoughts and ideas. The storyboard for her new Young Man in America finds Mitchell channeling the views of the opposite sex over the course of its 11 tracks. The songs, some of stark-raving beauty from the pure poetry perspective (try to resist the cleverness of the fetching "Tailor"), see Mitchell continue to make great leaps as a songwriter. Musically speaking, Young Man in America finds a nice balance between sparseness and full throttle. At times, Ms. Mitchell is at her delicate best letting her girlish and emotive voice and song structures work their quirky magic to a stripped-down backdrop. Other moments represent a departure from past albums introducing some of her most modern sound to date with lush, almost folk pop leanings courtesy of producer/arranger Todd Sickafoose who brought together some of New York City's most sought-after rock and experimental jazz players to fill selected tracks with a richness of strings and electric. It all makes for compelling listening.
Anais' site. Buy from amazon.    Released Feb. '12.  Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

KEB' MO'
Slow Down..... (ECD/Sony)

This is Keb' Mo's third album, and each album he gets a bit "slicker" sounding, while still keeping a foot in the blues.  Much like Robert Cray, here's a young black artist who has it all going for him. A great voice, tasteful guitar and handsome looks combine to make the blues safe enough for your mother. And that's a good thing, because the more people who like this guy, the more people will look a little deeper for the forefathers of the blues. Keb' is quite talented, and his songs have some good messages. I can't find any reason not to appreciate his contribution to the world of popular music.

MODERN HICKS
Out Among The Stars
... (Jackalope)
This Northern California quintet consider themselves a contemporary Bluegrass band but they're really more than that.  They play a sophisticated style of acoustic music featuring lush harmonies and clean pickin'.  Founding member Kevin Russell handles most of the vocals, but Gina Blaber sings three nice songs that make me want to hear more from her.   No original songs here, but they chose an excellent group of songwriters to cover including Gillian Welch, Jesse Winchester, and Henry Hipkins.  Tight band, well recorded.  Next time I hope they get up the gumption to add a few tunes of their own.
Order directly from Jackalope. Released Sept. '99, reviewed by Bill Frater. 

MODERN HICKS
Tornado Alley
... (Jackalope)
Let me say first off that I really like this band's choice of names!! It actually fits in an interesting way, as the band goes after a quite modern bluegrass sound and the song selection of this CD includes many contemporary songs including Sting's "Fields of Gold", staying away from the traditional songs favored by most bluegrass combos. While I have to admit I am not a huge bluegrass fan or scholar, this album impressed me in terms of production quality and instrumental chops. If I were to run across this band playing at a local venue I would not hesitate to check them out and I am very glad I ran across this disc. This should bridge the gap between traditional bluegrass fans and people just getting into the genre quite handily. Yee-haw!! Pick this up!
You can order the CD, directly from the band, through their site, ModernHicks.com.  Released May, '01. Reviewed by Scott Homewood

JOHN MOHEAD
Mary's Porch...(PJM)

Mohead's 2nd release has a black and white cover that looks a little amateurish.  That's a switch from many independent releases, because the music is professional and quite good.  He has a very soulful voice that at times reminds me of Lowell George or Pat McLaughlin.  His songs deserve to be covered by some of those big hat singers out of  Nashville. The musical arrangements touch on roots and blues with a lot of southern soul.  Good stuff!

Best tracks: Muddy Water, I'll Take The Highway, Son Of The South.  Here's where to get it from Song Search. Released May, '98, reviewed by Bill Frater.


ALASTAIR MOOCK
Let It Go... (CoraZong)
With a graveled voice and sharp songwriting skills, this Massachusetts based roots artist has put together a striking set! of country rockers laced with some wistful ballads and a couple of well broken in covers. The formula for this appealingly dusty americana is simple but timeless and Moock manages to bring a fresh outlook. Not to be discounted is the fine production by Michael Dinallo (Radio Kings) and refined playing by members of the infamous Mercy Brothers as well as some of Moock's fellow travelers (Mark Erelli, Kris Delmhorst). Standout tunes include the opener My Famous Leaving Song, the haunting Unwanted Guest and the ballad When The Moon Comes Out, which adds a nice ray of hope to the proceedings. Moock is known to travel with a Woody Guthrie influenced folk revue, but aside from a nod to Guthrie on the acoustic 1913 Massacre, this music would fit in with the outlaw country movement in L.A. (think Sin City Social Club) or the outskirts of Nashville. New England's gain, if you ask me.
Moock's site has CD ordering, or buy from Amazon. Originally released in 2004, re-released in Jan. 2006. Reviewed by Michael Meehan.

ROY MOON
Religious Cult... (Moon Maid)
Mostly Rock here with very little to differentiate it from some fifty long-forgotten 70's Rock bands.  What does set him apart is his shrieking Beefheart-ish voice and his in-you-face sardonic lyrics. Some of his song titles should give you an idea of where he's coming from... "Daddy's Little Hitler", "All Wacked Up", "Schizophrenic Man" and "County Work Farm". For fans of Johnny Dowd or perhaps those who still miss Frank Zappa.
Order from Miles of Music.  Reviewed by Bill Frater.

KRISTIN MOONEY
Kristin Mooney... (Sin City)

Kristin Mooney is a bit of an enigma here: she sounds like a lot of other female vocalists, and yet, then again, she doesn't sound like any of them. I hear, amongst others, echoes of Emmylou Harris, Sarah McLaughlin, and Laura Nyro but, just like that last dream before awakening, the echoes recede into the mist the harder one tries to nail them down. Making any sense yet? Good, because I was confounded trying to define this one for the longest while. The dream analogy is perhaps the most fitting. Mooney's music has an ephemeral, drifting, quality that takes the listener off into mental reveries that sometimes leave you wondering where the song went when it ends. Her back-up crew, lead by Eric Heywood, weave her melodies subtly around her soft vocals with some truly beautiful results. While she never really rocks, “Boyfriend” coming the closest, this transplanted Minnesotan, (to L.A. now), provides the perfect setting for those late-night contemplative moments. It's not a disc for every occasion and mood, but it doesn't have to be. She wanted “that kind of sound on the album”, ‘that' being the fore-runner of Calexico, Friends of Dean Martinez. She and Heywood hit that mark here.
Kristin's website. Sin City Records. Buy from amazon or Miles of Music. Released June, '04, reviewed by Don Grant.

CHRISTY MOORE
Burning Times... (import)
Along with Prine's Fair & Square Christy Moore's Burning Times stands as one of the most mature and relevant records of the year. Christy Moore is a folk music legend in Ireland, selling out major halls in hours these days. Burning Times is an album of covers – Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Richard Thompson, Morrissey, Natalie Merchant, Phil Ochs, Handsome Family and others – and in his choices Moore keenly addresses the times we live in. It's a reflective listen, strong stuff, and you may need a drink of your own after as Moore pulls no punches. This ranks among Christy's finest, most fully-realized records ever -- and that's saying something; he's put out around 30 of them. The Pogues' Shane McGowan calls Moore “the greatest living Irishman.” Burning Times offers an exclamation mark to that declaration.
Christy's web site. Buy from amazon. Released October, 2005.  Reviewed by Doug Lang.

ALLISON MOORER
Alabama Song
....(MCA)

Allison is the younger sister of Shelby Lynne and contributed a song to the Horse Whisperer soundtrack and also worked on the Walter Hyatt tribute show on Austin City Limits. The important point is she has a  gorgeous, sultry voice and phrasing that is  pure country.  The  production and packaging on her debut album are Nashville-slick all the way, but the songs are more honest and real then anything you'll  hear on your local "Young Country" outlet. The mysterious thing is why this woman isn't  on the top of the Country charts. My  guess is she's too "country" for Country radio. This is great stuff, and to hell with Nashville.

ALLISON MOORER
The Hardest Part... (UNI/MCA)
Given her good looks and major label Nashville connections I was a little surprised to see Moorer's face on the cover of the latest issue of No Depression. The accompanying story mentions that this CD is a song suite about a sad and dying love affair. Sad as the songs may be, they are brilliant in their lyrical simplicity and graceful melodies. Although I think she's an has an tremendous alto voice, on first listen, the CD sounds like your standard middle of the road Nashville over-production. After a few more listens, I realize that it's her lush, soulful voice that sounds more country then anything else. Much like her sister Shelby Lynne, her talent and songwriting rise above the production to create something quite special.
There is a AllisonMoorer.com, that looks pretty slick but has a bio and tour info. Release date: Sept. '00.  Reviewed by Bill Frater.

ALLISON MOORER
The Duel.... (Sugar Hill)
From the opening notes of "I Ain't Giving Up On You", it's pretty obvious that Allison Moorer has made a few changes. Starting at the top, she's switched to the independent side of the fence, recording now with Sugar Hill, and everything else flows from there. Gone are the, in my opinion, unnecessary frills and over-production that marred some of her earlier work. She never quite seemed to fit that 'belly-button' country mould so beloved by the major labels, anyhow. The Duel showcases a stripped-down sound that is the perfect vehicle for her trenchant thoughts and observations of some of the seamier sides of the human condition. Lost love, alcoholism, religion gone sour, and, an especially cutting take on mindless patriotism, "All Aboard", are a few of the themes Moorer sets her pen to. Is this CD a downer? No; there's a jangling, edgy, at times almost harsh, note that runs through the disc, eerily reminiscent of Neil Young and Crazy Horse from the early days. This music cuts too much to lull the listener into a state of torpid languor; there's too much herein to listen and pay attention to for that to be a possibility.
Allison's site, Sugar Hill's site. Buy from amazon. Released April, 2004.  Reviewed by Don Grant.

ALLISON MOORER
Getting Somewhere.... (Sugar Hill)
Allison's early albums relied on her powerful voice interpreting country ballads, and producers trying to get her on country radio. Then she put out a couple that were more rockin' but not as strong song-wise. Here, five CD's down the road, there's barely two slow songs and not a steel guitar or fiddle to be found and Moorer wrote most of the songs herself. Produced by husband Steve Earle, it's quite a different sounding Allison. Sonically it's bright, rockin' and loud dirty guitars jump out at ya. Musically, there's plenty of catchy melodic power pop songs that remind me of the Bangles, (who I liked, by the way), or maybe the work of Marti Jones with another producer-husband Don Dixon. Allison's songwriting is honest and deeply personal. “If It's Just For Today” takes on their marriage directly, asking “who's got time to take it slow”. I've seen them together that look very happy and I only wish them the best. Give the CD a shot if can hang with the rockin' stuff.

AllisonMoorer.com Buy from amazonReleased June, '06. Reviewed by Bill Frater.


THE MORELLS
Think About It... (HighTone)

The Morells are not what one would call prolific in their output. This is their third release in twenty-three years, and it's an assemblage of five original tunes and seven covers. The Morell brand is old time country roots rock n'roll, which is OK, if nostalgia is your preference. Some of the cover choices are good, while others are questionable. Chuck Berry's “Nadine”, for instance, or the Delmore's “Girls Don't Worry My Mind” come off all right. Conversely, there are songs by Paul Revere, the Monkees (??), and “How Come My Dog Don't Bark”, which is downright silly. Duane Eddy's “Guitar Man” has been downgraded to practically a funeral dirge. This one is for the converted, die-hard fans only, I'm afraid.

HighTone.com Buy from amazon. Released July, 2005. Reviewed by Don Grant.

GURF MORLIX
Fishin' In The Muddy... (Catamount)
Regardless of whether this new CD from Gurf is good or bad (rest assured - it's very very good) you'd be hard pressed to find anyone in the world of alt.country to write a bad word about him. From his days as a wild rebellious musician playing bars all over the country to his tenure as pseudo-mentor for Lucinda Williams, Morlix has paid his musical dues and lived to tell his rugged tales in song. Until his first solo album a year ago, he was regarded the same as Buddy Miller was for years: an immense talent who would someday turn the musical world on its ear whenever he would quit helping others and record a record on himself. Well, it finally happened. He released a great debut solo album after a two-decade waiting period and has quickly followed it up with another gem.  From skronky Stonesy rave ups to twang-filled country to bittersweet ballads (sure, believe they're all about Lucinda if you want, but Gurf'll never tell). Morlix is fast approaching a zenith in his field only reached by Steve Earle, Lucinda herself and Buddy Miller. At this stage in his career, Morlix is playing the game as he wants to: as relative newcomer fully-formed in his talents and expertise to the casual fan and celebrated genius to the knowing insider. Another thing: he's playing to win. Great, great album.
Catamount's website Released Feb. 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

GURF MORLIX
Toad Of Titicaca... (Catamount)
Gurf Morlix is one of those names that you  recognize from the back of albums by people like Lucinda Williams, Robert Earl Keen, Slaid Cleaves and other great artists.  Who knew that this guy could sing and write snappy tunes in addition to his swampy guitar work?  There's a certain casual simplicity to the twang-rock tunes here, on the order of Creedence in the old days.  Morlix doesn't approach the songs like his life and career depend on their success, it's sounds like he's just having a good time.  This is mostly a one-man show, with the exception of a drummer, ex-Faces Ian McLagan on organ (whose fine album Best of British was produced by Morlix and is worth looking for) and Buddy Miller adding harmony to the excellent opening track, (Wild Things).  In fact, Buddy's style is quite similar, and although Gurf's voice isn't quite as good, I can heartedly recommend this CD to most roots music fans. 
The new label, Catamount has a site...You can order the CD from Miles of Music    Released April, 2000.  Reviewed by Bill Frater.

GURF MORLIX
Cut 'n Shoot... (Blue Corn Music)
Long known as one of the most tasteful guitarists and producers in the business, Gurf Morlix continues to surprise me with his solo efforts. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Fishin in the Muddy very much but I admit to being pleasantly surprised when I heard the first, track and then entire new CD of Cut 'n Shoot with its catchy toe-tappin' tunes in the country/honky tonk vein. On this CD his vocal style covers a lot of ground - I hear Buck Owens, Slaid Cleaves, Neil Young but most of all, I hear some good country tunes on an eminently listenable CD from a musician who clearly knows and loves the roots of country music. Apparently not one for long lunch breaks, Morlix wrote or co-wrote 12 out of 13 tunes on this CD, plays all string instruments while producing engineering, mixing and mastering this CD. Get the man a cup of coffee.

Blue Corn's Gurf page has song samples. Buy from amazon. Released April '04. Reviewed by Kay Clements.


GURF MORLIX
Last Exit To Happyland... (self released)
Gurf is a singer/songwriter from Austin who cut his teeth working with Blaze Foley before producing and playing with people like Lucinda Williams, Robert Earl Keen, Mary Gauthier and Ray Wylie Hubbard. ‘Nuff said? This is his 5th solo album and possibly his best to date. He has a style and voice as different as his name. Taking elements of blues, roots and country to create something altogether unique and superb. Gurf plays all the instruments except drums provided by Rick Richards, and there's a groove that permeates this disc. Hightlight include "Drums From New Orleans", a song about first discovering the music from the Big Easy and has a haunting "night tripper" feeling thanks to Ruthie Foster's wailing and "I Got Nothin'", a duet with Patty Griffin. Morlix uses his gruff voice to his full advantage and is at his best on Happyland.
Gurf's site. Order from CD Baby. Released Feb. '09. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

GURF MORLIX
Blaze Foley's 113th Wet Dream...(Rootball)
His songs have been covered by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson and he's been the subject of tribute tunes by Lucinda Williams and the late Townes Van Zandt. When writing and singing songs in his Austin home base in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, the late Blaze Foley flew way under the radar. Songwriter/instrumentalist/producer Gurf Morlix, a Foley accompanist during those days, has made a mission of righting the wrong of that lack of recognition. It began by helping resurrect old tapes for release on Lost Art records and culminates with the coyly titled tribute Blaze Foley's 113th Wet Dream. The stellar and honest outing is as good a salute as you'll find and will hopefully open an ear or two to Foley's brilliance with a song.
Gurf's site. Order from Amazon. Released Feb. 2011. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson

CAHALEN MORRISON & ELI WEST
The Holy Coming of the Storm... (self released)
Let us agree that the distinctions between bluegrass and old-timey music can please repair to the ethnomusicologists’ end of the bar, cheered on by hairsplitters in full-kibitz mode, and that more usefully there is something called “mountain music”…some underlying spirit that links the Hmong with the Scots, and that such a hollering across the valley, such a mournful and magic racket, is in good hands with Cahalen Morrison and Eli West, newly federated and well-matched compatriots. With the Seattle-based duo, it happens that the mountains in question seem to be the Cascades, the Rockies, the Coast Range, but their recent embrace by Americana venues up and down the Blue Ridge suggests that they have found the true seam, the vein of coal that is the lode compressed between the deep urges of the earth from which such music bubbles up. With Cahalen on dead-on authoritative clawhammer banjo, Eli on funky and agile flatpicked guitar and Irish bouzouki, in the manner of a nephew of Norman Blake, and abundant mandolin support from Matt Flinner and others, they navigate their tightly Wilburnized vocals through ten originals and two traditional covers in this nicely-programmed release. The song lyrics mix the rustic perennial with the quirky, like random shards of an Annie Proulx Western tale. Well worth a listen…the self-designed CD package is cool, too.
Their site. Order from CD Baby. Released Oct. '09, reviewed by Jeep Rosenberg.

CAHALEN MORRISON & ELI WEST
Our Lady of the Tall Trees... (self released)
This is some serious folk music, folks. While it has become fashionable among some acts to employ old-timey sounds as decoration and ambience, Morrison & West have done their homework and really play their instruments, sounding at once like some of the classic acoustic country duos (Homer & Jethro, the Louvin Brothers, Norman Blake & Tony Rice.) They employ many of the harmonic devices and touch points of these famous pairs, but with a distinctly modern air. That modernity takes the form of original lyrics from Cahalen Morrison that are self-aware, poetic and obtuse, rather than the homespun, direct and oft-repeated references evoked in more traditional folk and country; in that sense, the duo diverges sharply from their clearly articulated roots. When tackling more traditional covers such as Townes Van Zandt's "Loretta" or Norman Blake's "Church Street Blues", the mood immediately relaxes, as if the clothes selected now fit perfectly. These fellows are truly fine players on guitar, mandolin, banjo and bouzouki, and Cahalen Morrison's songs are thoughtful and deep. But that depth feels at odds with the sonic palette chosen, as if the form begs a simplicity that cannot quite contain what he has in mind. I look forward to hearing him solve that conundrum.
Their web site. Order from CD Baby. Released Sept. '12, reviewed by Brad Price

VAN MORRISON & LINDA GAIL LEWIS
You Win Again... (Virgin)
Van Morrison has been all over the musical map throughout his career, especially in the last few years it seems. His curmudgeonly attitude and respectable longevity affords him the luxury to do whatever he wants musically. Here, he is joined by the rarely-heard of sister of Jerry Lee Lewis, Linda Gail Lewis. She compliments his emotional vocals quite well and plays piano with the same distinctive style of her brother. The song selection is rather odd, with only one Morrison original and a mixture of old country, blues and R&B chestnuts. Van has always had respect for country music, going all the way back to 1971's Tupelo Honey. Here he also chose many songs associated with The Killer, a few hank Williams chestnuts and some old soul tunes. The whole thing has a loose and easygoing feel to it. Although the new versions don't add much to the originals, it a fun album nonetheless.
Released Oct. '00.  Reviewed by Bill Frater.

VAN MORRISON
Pay The Devil… (Lost Highway)

I've grown up listening to Vans' soulful wail so I'm used to the way he'll take a word and soars with it while dipping down into a growl with the next. Still, I have to wonder what a hard-core country fan would think of his interpretations of these classic country songs. The CD is pretty uneven, some great and some bad. I suppose the good covers outweigh the ones with schmaltzy back-up chorus borders on parody. Then other tracks have fine arrangements with dobro and country piano and it fits the songs perfectly. He phones in some of the songs, like “Your Cheating Heart” but he successfully revives the old Lulu Barker blues “Don't You Make Me High” with great success. He wrote 3 of his own which aren't bad but covers 3 Webb Pierce hits that are all great. As I said, it's uneven, hit the button to advance to the next track. Most everything he covers here is way old with the exception the beautiful closer, Rodney Crowell's "'Til I Gain Control Again." If the Belfast cowboy decides to wander down the country road again I'd like to hear him with a producer who might push him like Buddy Miller or Dan Penn, and use some real Nashville back-up musicians next time. But I won't hold my breath; Van's much too stubborn to let someone else take the reins.

The official web site. Buy from amazon. Released March, 2006. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

VAN MORRISON
Live At Austin City Limits Festival 2006... (Limited Edition)

Unless you shop at his website or attend one of his concerts, you won't find this particular gem by Ireland's elder musical statesman easy to come by, but it's well worth the effort of tracking down; you won't be disappointed. Morrison has been around for longer than he probably cares to remember, four decades and counting, but, like fine wine and old Chevrolets, as the saying goes, he just improves with age. Recorded in, (where else?), Austin, Texas last September, this two-disc CD showcases a master working at his best. If it wasn't for the crowd in the background and some of the unavoidable track shifts, you'd almost swear that this one was done in the studio, everything is that tight. When you're riding the wave crest, you can afford and expect the contributions of some of the best players in the game. I'm not sure how he does it, but Morrison and his ten member ensemble project a sound that one would expect from twice that number of players. Drawing material from practically every phase of his storied career, the performance ends with superb versions of his signature tunes, “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Gloria” that bring the house down. It doesn't get much better than this.

Van's official site, and ordering info from the UK. Released 2007. Reviewed by Don Grant.

CORY MORROW
Outside The Lines... (Write On)
This may be over simplifying, but whenever I am looking for a quality CD that champions the virtues and textures of old-style country music (you know, the stuff from Texas, Bakersfield or old Nashvegas) I check for the 'Maines' factor. What is that, you ask? Well, if Lloyd Maines plays on it or produces it then I know I have a quality product in my hands with plenty of twang to spare. The ever-present Maines produces this one, and acquits himself well, it must be said. Morrow asserts himself well also, coloring Outside The Lines with a lot of different styles of country, doing them all well. There's a strong blast of Bakersfield/Texas twang on the opener/title track "Outside the Lines" which vanishes for a bunch of songs into a folky, rustic style that resolves itself further down into the album with turns towards Tex-Mex and Southern Rock. While a lot of styles are represented here, all are just branches of the same tree that Morrow seems to nurture with skill and heart. Something here for everyone, and plenty for me.
Reviewed by Scott Homewood

MOSES GUEST
Moses Guest... (Aufheben)
Even rarer than an alt.country band releasing a double album set is a band from Texas playing jamband-style rock. You get both of these unlikely happenings on the new CD by Moses Guest, their fourth CD release. And just so you know: no one in the band is named Moses Guest although it is the name of the band founder Graham Guest's fifth generation grandfather. The band's sound incorporates the idioms of funk, pop and jazz into it's sounds but has the unmistakable rootsy sound of country buried in there as well. The producer of this album has worked with ZZ Top and Destiny's Child but the sound is purely ‘70's country ala the Allmans and Marshall Tucker. The songs themselves are a little more fleshed out than you regular jam band's but there is still plenty of that familiar guitar noodling to keep you twirly dancers happy. While meandering songs are usually not my bag, this stuff is pretty good and should appeal to both jam band fans and fans of progressive country ala the Allmans, Marshall Tucker, The Outlaws and others of that ilk.
The band's site. Released June. 2002. Buy from amazon. Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

MOTHER HIPS
Later Days...(Mother Hips Records)
This is a great album of country-rock music by a young band that is associated with  the "baby-deadhead" group of bands that include Phish, String Cheese Incident, and others.  The CD is self-released because their previous label, American Records, went belly-up before they got it out. These four dudes out of Chico, CA have more talent and taste then most bands claiming to be alt.country or Americana. Genuinely strong melodic tunes, played and sung well. Worth seeking out!
Reviewed by Bill Frater. Your best bet is to order the CD directly from the band at MotherHips.com. I also found a nice story/review of the new CD, from Tabloid.Net.

THE MOTHER TRUCKERS
Something Worth Dying For… (self released)
Two refugees from the pop music world head up this S.F. Bay Area band. Teal Collins (female) was doing R & B back-up vocals for some big-name acts, while John Zee was in an up-and-coming alt.rock group called Protein. Fortunately for us, they decided to join forces and put together an edgy, irreverent country band. They follow the Waco Bros./Drive-By Truckers route of inspired hard rockin’ alt. country. Meaning they’re much more tuneful and melodic then your normal everyday cowpunk outfit, but they can still rock out on a seconds notice. Both Zee and Collins share in writing the songs and trade lead vocals and harmonize together nicely too. Their songs are all really pretty damn good actually, nice arrangements too. Song themes vary from drinking to dying to getting high to loving to drinking... they even cover a Judas Priest song, (a country music first I believe). These guys don’t take themselves too seriously, but they have serious potential.
Their site, TheMotherTruckers.com has CD ordering or buy from amazon. Released Nov, 2002.  Reviewed by Bill Frater.

MOUNTAIN HEART
No Other Way... (Skaggs Family)
Mountain Heart joins the ranks of a new crop of progressive bluegrass bands including Blue Highway and the Lonesome River Band, among others, that combines interesting literate songs, powerful instrumentals, and soulful vocals. Their previous CD, The Journey, was a much lauded gospel effort and immediately established them as a band to watch. This new CD, more varied thematically, is even better than the last. With the addition of IBMA Mandolinist of the Year, Adam Steffy (late of Alison Krauss band) these guys have a rich full satisfying sound that manages to be both traditional and modern. With pals like Ricky Skaggs and Rob Ickes along for the ride this CD is a delight for fans of the still-evolving art form of bluegrass music.
Buy from amazon. Skaggs Family Records.  Released Sept. 2002.  Reviewed by Kevin Russell .

MOVER
The Only One....(Mod Lang)
Mover is a young San Francisco quartet who have sort of a "garage-twang" sound. I get the feeling they've been listening to old 60's albums by the Rascals or the Byrds. In the case of the latter band I hear influences from both the early "Psychedelic" and the "Sweetheart" era Byrds. The songwriting is mostly quite good: the songs grow on you slowly. They know how to ease things down slow and bring in some harmonica or slide guitar for variety. This CD ain't exactly for die-hard twang fans, but open-minded rock fans who have an appreciation for the mod and the roots will like this.  I hope this isn't their "only one", these guys have a lot of promise and I look forward to their next release.
Released early '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.  Best songs: Hold Me Down, Another Shot, Better Days are Gone, The Only One. They have a website, which has some audio samples, gig info and an order-by-mail address. Also Song Search.

GEOFF MULDAUR
The Secret Handshake...(HighTone)

Geoff Muldaur's career goes all the way back to the early-60's  with the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, which also featured his ex-wife Maria. Back then, these sort of bands had a fun time covering vintage jazz, folk-blues and early country tunes. After a long absence, Muldaur is still celebrating these wonderful early blues, gospel and folk songs, sometimes with some  new  creative arrangements. He also shares some great remembrances in the album's liner notes. and gathered together an excellent group of musicians like Amos Garrett,  Stephen Bruton, and John Magnie. This CD is a delightful return  for the singer, and a beautiful reminder of simpler times and the ageless songs that came from that era.
Best tracks: The Wild Ox Moan, Alberta, Got to Find Blind Lemon, Chevrolet/Big Alice, Mistreated Mama. HighTone Records has a site, Folklore Productions has a bio and discography page, and there is even a pretty cool Japanese fan website!  Released Nov. '98. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

ELLIOTT MURPHY
Beauregard....(Koch)
Murphy came on the scene in the early 70's with the critically acclaimed Aquashow.  He was among many artists at the time given the "new Dylan" tag.  He's only put out a handful of albums since then and he has been living in France lately, where this CD was recorded. It's a pleasant enough album with simple yet literate songs that grows on you slowly.  The arrangements are uncomplicated on the surface, featuring mostly acoustic instruments: mandolin, harmonica, violin, congos.  His voice is distinctive and expressive, if not spectacular.   There's enough good songs  here to recommend it to newcomers to his music. His dwindling group of American cult fans will welcome this CD to their collection.
Released May, '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.  Best cuts: Somebodies Anniversary, Made In Freud, Hard Core, Small Room, Sonny. Elliot Murphy home page, Koch's home page. 

THE MUSES 
Sinner's Waltz... (Something Sacred) 
The Muses hail from San Luis Obispo, CA and feature the distinctive voice of Greg Olin and the fiery lead guitar of Butch Boswell.  They have a rootsy bar band sound that rocks confidently without hitting you over the head.  The songs are for the most part amusingly written love songs, while other themes include getting high and playing music.  Something Sacred gets extra points for the nice cardboard "matchbook-style" CD packaging.  Nice twangy country rock here worth looking for.
Released Oct. '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.  The label has a nice site.  Order from Miles of Music.

Cover ImageCHARLIE MUSSELWHITE
One Night In America... (Telarc) 
Harmonica master Musselwhite continues to challenge the popular misconception that he is just another Chicago blues harp-king with his latest CD release. Since the mid-'90's Musselwhite has grown by leaps and bounds, not just in his inspired playing and gravelly singing but in his career trajectory as well. Known first as a way above average harmonica kingpin with a penchant for blistering blues, the past half decade has seen Musselwhite tackle music outside his previous niche and do it very successfully to boot. Now Musselwhite is close to being regarded as a national treasure thanks to his inspired versions of country songs and folk standards while adding jazzy bits of phrasing to his personal repertoire, almost turning himself into a curious mix of Toots Thielemans and Woody Guthrie. If Musselwhite carved "this machine hates fascists" into his harp I would not be surprised in the least. On this new CD, Musselwhite tackles songs by Johnny Cash, Jimmy Reed, and Los Lobos among others as well as penning a bunch himself. Backing him are guitarist G.E. Smith, bassist T-Bone Wolk and a bunch of other studio hounds, including a guest mandolin appearance by country star Marty Stuart. Who would have thought that at this stage of his career Musselwhite would turn into an artist to watch? Not me. But I sure as hell do now.
There's a fairly good Charlie fan site.   Released Feb. 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

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