Janie Fricke – Country Side of Bluegrass (2012)

Janie Fricke has had a long, winding career. She started out as a singer of TV commercial jingles, warbling for Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Red Lobster, among other clients. She then moved on to singing back-up vocals for stars such as Elvis Presley, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. Taking another tentative step toward the limelight, she began singing duets with established male stars, including Merle Haggard, Johnny Duncan and Charlie Rich. Finally, she recorded a solo hit, Down to My Last Broken Heart, in 1981. Now, decades after her last big hits, Fricke has moved into bluegrass territory, rearranging some of her best-known music on the album Country Side of Bluegrass. She’s still singing hits like Down to My Last Broken Heart, but now there’s fiddle and banjo behind it. At her 1980’s peak, Fricke was very much a pop-country singer. She benefited from smooth, creamy production work by Billy Sherrill, and she always wanted to reach beyond the core country audience by putting bounce in her ballads. On Country Side of Bluegrass, however, she sounds as though she’s riding a covered wagon singing one of her ’80s No. 1 hits, Tell Me a Lie. Tell Me a Lie is interesting when you listen past Fricke’s pretty vocal to focus on the lyric. She’s picking up a guy she knows is married, but she’s lonely; she just wants him to lie, to say he’s single, and take her to her place for the night. It’s a rather bold variation on country music’s perennial theme of cheating with or without much guilt. The bluegrass versions of her greatest hits work best when she’s working out a more prosaic theme falling for a more available guy who she knows is going to dump her, but she can’t resist the temporary thrill, as she does in He’s a Heartache. The weakest aspect of Country Side of Bluegrass resides in some of Fricke’s vocals. All those years of singing commercial jingles and accommodating duets with other stars smoothed over the edges in her voice, and she can sometimes sound merely slick. This is a move to regain some attention at a time when middle-aged women have a difficult time competing in the current Taylor Swift/Carrie Underwood universe. Janie Fricke uses the urgency she feels to sustain her career to flood her bluegrass with compelling emotion. – Ken Tucker, NPR Music –NPR Music

mp3 VBR~205 kbps | 57 MB | UL

Hank Williams – The Lost Concerts (2012)

This archival set includes the only two actual concerts ever recorded of Hank Williams, both from 1952, the last year of his life, and they feature a more relaxed and less scripted Williams than the “live” recordings he frequently made for radio shows. Taping concerts was a rare thing in 1952, mainly because the technology to do it was still in its infancy, and these historic shows were only preserved by the grace of God and the winds of fate. The sound is sketchy in spots, and nothing performed adds anything distinctive to Williams’ legacy, but the fact that these concerts were actually captured (one in Niagara Falls and one in Sunset Park) is what makes them special. Also included here is a radio interview Williams did with Mack Sanders in 1951 for KFBI in Wichita, Kansas.

mp3 320 kbps | 368 MB | UL

Leona Williams – Sings Merle Haggard (2008)

Leona Williams is known as one of Merle Haggard’s ex-wives, as well as the mother of country singer Ron Williams, but she’s also a highly talented singer/songwriter in her own right, with a beautiful voice and tremendous range. She’s sung duets with Merle as well as being one of his backup singers, she’s toured with Loretta Lynn and Jean Shepard, played with the Grand Ladies of Branson, and she’s written some good ol’ country hits. Now she takes on some of Merle’s greatest hits and puts her own spin on them.From there, she’s forged herself a very successful recording and touring career, including trips around the country and around the world. She’s sung duets with George Jones, Jimmy Martin, Floyd Tillman, Justin Trevino, Johnny Bush and Joe Paul Nichols; she was inducted into the Country Music Association of Texas Hall of Fame in 1999, and has also been inducted into the Missouri Country Music Hall of Fame. Her songs have been recorded by just about everybody. So now Leona has released a collection of Merle Haggard’s best known.

mp3 320 kbps | 88 MB | UL

The Mallett Brothers Band – Low Down (2011)

The sophomore album with wailing guitar solos and strong vocals, shows a band who has come into their own and embraced a sound that reflects both their rocking, no holds barred live shows and their rural, country roots.

Recommended if You Like:
Johnny Cash
Ryan Bingham
Waylon Jennings

mp3 160 kbps | 62 MB | UL

Dan Penn – The Fame Recordings (2012)

The Fame Recordings includes 24 numbers Penn recorded at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama between 1964 and 1966, all but one of which has never before been released. While a few of these songs would be major hits for other artists, nearly all of them sound like winners, and unlike most songwriters demo-ing their material, Penn’s performances are raw, passionate, full-bodied, and soulful; he was a white kid from the deep south in love with the sound of Ray Charles and Bobby “Blue” Bland, and on the best cuts here, he goes past conjuring an approximation of their sound, revealing a voice and style all his own that suggests he influenced the singers who would cut these songs almost as much as they influenced him. While Penn could mimic other artists — “I’m Living Good” is an uncanny Sam Cooke lift, and “Take a Good Look” finds Penn channeling Otis Redding — he puts in enough force and sheer belief to make these performances his own no matter how well you may already know these songs, and with a number of legendary session men backing him up, these recordings are remarkably accomplished, slightly rough but full of the sound of musicians thrilled by the act of creation. (And one can hear more than a bit of what Penn taught Alex Chilton when he produced the Box Tops’ original string of hits, transforming Chilton’s British Invasion instincts into some of the most soulful pop of the ’60s.) The Fame Recordings is a valuable lost chapter in the history of Southern Soul, and confirms the legend that Dan Penn’s publishing demos were more than just talk — anyone with a taste for vintage R&B owes it to himself to give this a listen.

mp3 320 kbps | 132 MB | UL | TB

Kirsty McGee – Contraband (2012)

Kirsty McGee – Vocals, Guitar, High-String, Flute, Glockenspeil
Nick Blacka – Double Bass
Carrie Elkin – Vocals
Josef – Trumpet
Hugh Lawrence – Drums, Percussion
Barkley McKay – Piano, 1961 Hammond Organ, Glockenspeil
Clive Mellor – Harmonica
Myshkin – Vocals
Danny Schmidt – Vocals
Inge Thomson – Accordion, Vocals
Mike West – Banjo, Mandolin

mp3 320 kbps | 113 MB | UL

George Jones & Friends – 50th Anniversary Tribute Concert (2007)

A live tribute to George Jones’ 50th year as a recording artist. The stellar cast of guests included Vince Gill, Harry Connick Jr., Aaron Neville, Amy Grant, Sammy Kershaw, Randy Travis, Trace Adkins, Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Alan Jackson, Martina McBride, Wynonna, Shelby Lynne, Joe Diffie, Trick Pony, Lorrie Morgan, and Kenny Chesney.

mp3 VBR~181 kbps | 148 MB | UL