Alternative country has its agreed-on pioneers – Nineties wheatfield-rock bands such as Uncle Tupelo and the Jayhawks. But a decade before there was a No Depression scene, there was the bold and bracing rural electricity of the Long Ryders, founded in Los Angeles in the early Eighties and associated with that city’s Paisley Underground, even though the band’s singer-guitarist, Sid Griffin, was Kentucky-born and a keen student of the iridescent-country strains of the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and the Flying Burrito Brothers. (Griffin’s 1985 book, Gram Parsons – A Music Biography, was the first full-length study of the ex-Byrd and Burrito.) Griffin’s current band, the Coal Porters, has been going for nearly two decades – he and the group are now based in London and has evolved from a deeper mining of the country in the Ryders’ acid-tinted drive to a pure acoustic bluegrass written and played with natural in Griffin’s case, native flair on Durango (April 17 April 30) (Prima Records). You can tell how live-in-the-studio these performances are: The traditional Pretty Polly opens with a false start, while Griffin and Carly Frey seem to be singing to each other across one mike in his surrender ballad Lookin’ for a Soft Place to Fall. (The Porters recorded the album last year, in the two weeks of the subtitle, at the Colorado studio of Ryders producer Ed Stasium.) And Griffin’s belief that Bill Monroe and Neil Young are cut from the same North American granite is affirmed by the buoyant poignancy of the cover of Young’s Like a Hurricane, with Frey’s sawing and skydiving fiddle where his scouring guitar distortion would be and sounding right at home.
1. Baby I’m in the mood for you
2. Long ago, far away
3. Don’t thinks twice, it’s all right
4. Tomorrow is a long time
5. Masters of war
7. The times they are a-changin’
8. With God on our side
9. Long time gone
10. Mr. Tambourine man
11. Blowin’ in the wind
12. Paths of victory
”Sonic Bloom” is an explosion of reverb soaked rock and soul blended with sharp drone numbers and classic rhythm and blues founded tracks. From the haunting psychic groove of ”Seven Poison Wonders” to the sparse Zombies-influenced ”Playing Dead” to the squealing ruckus of ”Rat King,” ”Sonic Bloom” harkens back to the outer corners of rock and roll radio of yore. Since their inception in 2010, the Seattle-based band have spent the past few years relentlessly touring, hitting over 20 countries. The trio–featuring Danny Lee Blackwell on guitar/vocals, Tarek Wegner on bass/vocals, and James Traeger on drums/vocals–will keep up this pace, touring this Fall and Spring in support of ”Sonic Bloom.” To date they toured with the likes of The Black Lips, The Black Angels, Ty Segall, Roky Erickson, The Growlers and many more.
The Zach Huckabee Band is a three piece country/rock/folk band based out of Lampasas, TX that plays the Texas Music scene. Zach Huckabee has been professionally singing and writing songs for over 4 years. His first record with the Zach Huckabee Band is entitled Tequila Angel and made its debut in 2007. The band is coming out with a new record in the summer of 2009 called Was It You? It is being produced by Texas Rocker, Phil Pritchett. Throughout the years the Zach Huckabee Band has played with such notable Texas acts as Randy Rogers and Stoney LaRue to Billy Joe Shaver and Ray Wylie Hubbard. They draw most of their influences from 60’s and 70’s rock bands like The Band, CCR, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and singer/songwriters like Bob Dylan, Jason Eady, and Ryan Adams.
Having tasted pop superstardom, Ed Roland settles down into his Georgia roots with his second project, the Sweet Tea Project. Here, he scales back the arena rock affectations of latter-day Collective Soul albums, but he can still operate on a cinematic scale — he has a knack for power ballads and has an innate sense of what would please a large audience — the only difference is, Devils ‘N Darlins, the first album by his post-CS outfit the Sweet Tea Project, knows when to pull its punches. Whenever Roland chooses to cut a love song, he doesn’t blow it up to dramatic proportions and he’s also happy to indulge his band in their various obsessions, whether its the reggae breakdowns on “Love Won’t Bring Us Down” or doing a bit of a folk hoedown on “Pile of Pearls.” Roland doesn’t hide his influences, not when he’s calling a song “Lennon’s Lullaby,” but Devils ‘N Darlins is interesting because he simultaneously plays up his Southern roots — both in regards to soul and to a foot-stomping country that’s not so far removed from Mumford & Sons, or other acoustic worshippers — and winds his way into dense, intricate pop. At his heart, Roland remains a populist, ready with simple, direct hooks, and eager to please. This creates some odd tensions — he’ll dig into some roots music then gussy it up to make it feel modern — but that’s why Devils ‘N Darlins feels livelier than almost any Collective Soul album: he’s had his success and now he’s ready to stretch out as he reconnects to his roots, and the result is one of his most satisfying albums.
More than one fan called The World Is Saved a perfect winter album upon its release, and that’s a good assessment even above and beyond its striking cover photo, showing Stina Nordenstam standing in snow at night. Nordenstam’s move over the years from polite, jazz-inflected pop to something far more unusual and haunting — even while retaining many of the same musical elements she started with — has been its own underappreciated tale, and The World Is Saved is a striking new chapter, as befits an album that begins with the line “They put a needle once in my spine.” Nordenstam’s ear for her own vocal gifts might well be the key to her work, using everything from close microphone singing to distanced, echoed sighing, sometimes in combination with each other. But most often it is all about the voice as it stands, taking the central role in a song while never dominating it; the many musicians helping her often create some tight grooves and performances (the slink of “On Falling” alone shows that this album is as much for dancing as contemplation, while “From Cayman Islands with Love” singlehandedly makes the idea of trip-hop interesting again) but always with a careful and calm air. The steady guitar part that opens “125” is a prime example on its own, it’s at once serene and stark, then suddenly silenced by Nordenstam’s singing. The textural combinations that result can be a delight, from the mix between Hammond organ and a slipping, sliding electronic cascade on “Winter Killing” to the nervous, just off-kilter-enough string arrangements on “I’m Staring Out the World” (an absolutely wonderful song title) and “The Morning Belongs to the Night.” The American edition adds some tracks from contemporary singles to the end of the disc.
On only their second album, native Texans the McKay Brothers already show an affinity for great Americana-music producers. Their debut LP was helmed by Gurf Morlix, the well-heeled producer and guitarist who has nurtured the vision of, among others, Lucinda Williams, Ray Wylie Hubbard (of “Redneck Mother” fame), and Robert Earl Keen. On this album they turn to legendary Texas producer Lloyd Maines (also a prominent steel player and father to a Dixie Chick). Maines captures a real, stripped down, live-in-the-studio feel for the brothers’ mix of guitar-lashed country, roots rock, and Tex-Mex tales of drinking, more drinking, love gone wrong, and drinking gone real wrong. “Bottle of Fire” is a slab of modern electric country (“I lost my license, I hopped on a lawn mower and I headed to the liquor store to get a bottle of fire.” That’s how the song starts, and you can imagine where it goes from there.) “Silicon Baby” is a caustic piece of roots rock that sounds more alt country than country (“Do they stand up when you lie down. How do they make you feel?”). The brothers also lilt into some Spanish-sung tracks on Cold Beer & Hot Tamales, an album that could be seen as trafficking in Texas lyrical clichés, were it not for the McKay Brothers commitment to, and belief in, their own little mythologies. Hollis and Noel have a charisma and simplicity that really come across here; they don’t possess the weighty poeticism or edginess of a lot of their Texas troubadour predecessors, rather they fit in that vein of earnestness and plain-spoken storytelling that Robert Earl Keen has staked out. While not exactly innovators, they do what they do well.
In the modern age of country music, where genre blending is the new normal, it’s difficult to find artists exploring their love of different types of music for artistic and not commercial gain. Steve Wariner, who’s back with his first full-length country album in eight years, is an exception to the rule.Wariner doesn’t succeed with every style choice, but the majority of tracks on It Ain’t All Bad are very good to excellent. He’s at his best on slower mid-tempo numbers where he’s able to show off the delicate nature of his voice. Steel and electric guitar backed “Arrows At Airplanes,” a co-write with Rocky Lynne and Mike Severs is a beautiful example about enjoying life, framed around the story of an old man “shooting arrows at airplanes, throwing pillows at freight trains” on the bank of a river.
01. Chicken Shack Boogie
02. Six Weeks Old
04. It’s All Over Now
05. Walking To New Orleans
06. Oh My Dear
07. Feeling Sad
08. Junco Partner)
09. That Little Ole Wine Drinker Me
10. TV Mama
11. Moonlight Rider
12. Don’t Take It So Hard
The debut Ultrafox album, “Chasing Shadows”, showcases the many facets of the band, from the core trio to quintet cuts in hommage to the legendary Hot Club of France. Featuring some of Australia’s finest jazz musicians, the CD is a beautifully crafted selection of 15 tracks ranging from elegant swing, through smoky mood pieces, tender ballads to Le Jazz Hot. All are firmly rooted in the traditions of French jazz – of course Reinhardt, but also other lesser known but equally gifted musicians.
The first release of George Jones music following his death in April features the legendary singer on a collection of traditional hymns.Largely recorded in 2002, “Amazing Grace” finds Jones in full voice and backed by the subtle orchestrations of producer Billy Sherrill, who recorded many of Jones’ classic hits in the 1970s and `80s.
Across 12 recordings, Jones performs classics such as “Peace In The Valley,” “The Old Rugged Cross” and the title song with solemn reverence, using subtle shifts in volume and phrasing to draw deep emotions from these often-performed standards. Each song features moments that prove why Jones was an unparalleled vocalist.
Sherrill also shows why he was such a great studio match for Jones. Whether it’s the quiet piano-and-bass opening of “In The Garden,” or how the harmony voices and steel guitar play off Jones in “Just A Closer Walk With Thee,” Sherrill’s arrangements add depth to the singer’s distinctive interpretations.
Many of these tracks were available for a limited time as “The Gospel Collection,” which went out of print in 2006. An unreleased track comes from 1994, with Jones warming up for a recording session by singing “Great Judgment Warning” with producer Brian Ahern on acoustic guitar and Marty Stuart on mandolin, with guest vocalists Jessi Colter, Waylon Jennings, Ricky Skaggs, Connie Smith and Travis Tritt. It’s a stunning closer to a remarkable collection.
New Horizon is the forthcoming fourth studio album by Northern Ireland rock band The Answer. The album, which is due to be released on 30 September 2013, was produced by Little Angels frontman Toby Jepson and will feature artwork from the legendary designer Storm Thorgerson, who was working on the cover shortly before his death in April 2013. New Horizon will be the band’s first album with Napalm Records, with whom they signed the previous year.
Country music’s Brandon Rhyder has undoubtedly established himself asa ﬁxture in the Texas Country/Red Dirt scene. Rhyder has released seven albums and boasts an impressive four #1 singles on the Texas Music Charts, along with a plethora of other milestones. He continues to push boundaries and deliver fresh material, all while maintaining his signature sound that fans across the country have grown to adore.
That’s Just Me, which is produced by both Rhyder and his longtime guitarplayer Matt Powell, serves as his eighth full-length album over the span of 12 years. Recorded and carefully crafted at The Zone in Dripping Springs, TX, this highly anticipated release includes co-writes from fellow Texan powerhouses and friends Josh Abbott and Wade Bowen that are sure to become fan favorites.
Original Blues and Rhythm & Blues featuring Real Vocals, tight horns, killer guitar, and kickin’ rhythm section.This music is like a mirror reflecting back the authentic nature of the true blues music lover. Spanning over a half a century of songwriting and over forty years of performing, Little Roy Gene’s music resurrects the life of blues music as it should be. As a listener you have the best seat, not the front row of a concert venue, but the front table at a real American Icon performance.
1. Reckless Kelly – Think It Over One Time
2. Max Stalling – No Kinda Dancer
3. Wade Bowen – Lynnville Train
4. Brandon Jenkins – What I Really Mean
5. Walt Wilkins – Paint The Town Beige
6. Randy Rogers – I’ll Be Here For You
7. Roger Creagor – I Would Change My Life
8. Kathleen Braun – I’m Coming Home
9. Matt Skinner – Christabel
10. Brandon Rhyder – Carolina
11. Josh Grider – Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight
12. Cory Morrow – I’ll Go On Downtown
13. Matt Powell – Travelin’ Light
14. Dub Miller – Front Porch Song
15. Doug Moreland – Daddy Had A Buick
16. Jason Boland – Mariano
17. Cody Canada – Shades Of Gray
18. Chris Knight – Undone
19. Donnie Bishop – Not A Drop Of Rain
20. Muzzie, Micky, & Gary Braun – Willie
21. Darren Kozelsky – Corpus Christi Bay
22. Rich O’toole – Love’s A Word I Never Throw Around
23. Robert Earl Keen – Wild Wind
24. Robert Earl Keen – Dreadful Selfish Crime
25. Robert Earl Keen – Goodbye Cleveland
26. Robert Earl Keen – For Love
27. Robert Earl Keen – The Road Goes On Forever
Lushly meditative rock music is presented to us on Israel Nash Gripka’s second album. Having reflected on his impressions of New York for his debut work, this Missouri native has relocated again to the Texas hill country, a part of the country that his publicist, at least, claims to be the inspiration for the spacious grandeur to be found in this new work.
Reviews of the first album suggested that this was a man unafraid, to say the least, to let his influences show. Well, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Neil Young and Pink Floyd will both enjoy being flattered by the new album. There are strong echoes of both and something close to direct steals in places as that dreamy vibe of early 70’s Floyd meets the angst-laden istentialism of early Neil Young. Very beautiful, of course, though repeated listenings have still trying to pin down exactly which Floyd/Young track is being referenced at some points. The instrumentation here is lush, and sometimes exotic; layered guitars (electric and acoustic)are enhanced by more esoteric stringed instruments. Multi-layered vocals seem to feature other voices at times.