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WYCE Music Journal: Folk

LIZ KENNEDY

Speed Bump

Jun 6, 2014

Singer-songwriter Liz Kennedy's publicist describes her music as "dynamic folk/blues influenced pop/rock" which means it really isn't much of anything. She's found a groove - or perhaps a rut - and kept to it. Her singing is barely more ornamented than regular speech, laid over inoffensive and unmemorable backing. She'll sing 3 words, pause, then 5 more, pause, then maybe another 3, another pause, and continue on in that fashion for 3 to 5 minutes. Heartfelt, but ultimately negligible. -Gerald Etkind

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TRUE NORTH

Elsebound

Jun 6, 2014

Contemporary bluegrass band True North is made up of two married couples. They take it light, reasonably slow, and mellow. Think happy, but not giddy. No fast picking here. There's a nice balance between male and female voices, sometimes solo, sometimes in unison, sometimes in harmony. Great when you want to slow things down, go acoustic, recover from ear-bleeding dynamics, or otherwise need a palate cleanser. From the band's website: "Hailing from Oregon's Willamette Valley, Americana quartet True North combines traditional bluegrass instrumentation with fat harmonies and folk-edged songwriting for a decidedly modern acoustic sound."  --Gerald Etkind

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HANNAH ALDRIDGE

Razor Wire

May 22, 2014

Razor Wire is singer-songwriter Hannah Aldridge's first album, and it's a doozy. Her version of Americana is country-meets-rock-ballad, and it works. You'll hear some hard-edged guitars, and some sweet-voiced vocals, and all varieties in between. Her roots are Nashville TN and Muscle Shoals AL.  (Unlisted track #11 is an acoustic version of #4 Razor Wire, but both include "god damn".)

--Gerald Etkind

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TRUCKSTOP HONEYMOON

THE MADNESS OF HAPPINESS

May 13, 2014

The Method of Happiness is Truckstop Honeymoon's eighth recording of what they call "Tales of cheating spouses, bad attitudes, short-change romances, endless asphalt and dodgy diners, all told with a "Psychobilly" sense of playfulness, ringing banjo and a bass as certain as a highway centerline." Husband and wife team Mike and Katie are New Orleans transplants living in Kansas and have toured the world with their four kids and drawing inspiration for their songs from the crazy observations found in ordinary life. It is impossible to listen to the fifteen stories found on this disc without smiling with the Madness Of Happiness. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

THE BALLROOM THIEVES

The Devil & The Deep

May 12, 2014

  The Devil & The Deep is the debut from Boston trio, The Ballroom Thieves.  The band makes neo-Americana that features three-part vocal harmonies backed by guitar, banjo, and percussion.  Two of the songs on this five song EP are ballads ("Delia" and "Save Me").  Another, "Wait For Water" might fake you out because it starts like a ballad with a single guitar and quiet vocals; but then vocal harmonies, banjo, and hand-claps are added for a raucous end. The upbeat "Vampires" travels the country-rock road.  The best song, album-opener "Loose Lips", is upbeat and even has a cello solo.  Unfortunately, if also features the f-word, so no airplay for that one.  All in all, The Ballroom Thieves do a fine job with this release. The musicianship, vocals, and production are well-done. The grievous thing is, I've heard this done before by so many other bands.  There is nothing here (except maybe that short cello solo) that makes me want to come back for another listen.  Rebecca Ruth 

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CALE TYSON

High On Lonesome

May 5, 2014

Cale Tyson sets himself apart from the current state of country music, by going back to his Texas roots. Currently based in Nashville, Tennessee, the singer songwriter and guitar players nostalgic heart and ear for melodies from long ago are made apart on his latest EP High On Longesome. To aid him in recording the record, Tyson worked with some of Nashville's finest players: guitarist Kenny Vaughan (Marty Stuart), keys player Tyson Rogers (Don Williams), John McTigue (Brazilbilly) on drums, and Mike Rinne (Caitlin Rose and Andrew Combs) on bass. The EP opens with "Honky Tonk Moan," with Tyson's tangy vocals over classic country guitar riffs and piano.  "Lonesome In Tennessee" is the EPs first single, telling of a longing for the one you love. Tyson's "whiskey soaked" baritone dips and climbs around the organ keys, guitar, and heavy hi-hat. "Long Gone Girl" features a darker sound than the rest of the EP and, at points, has quick lyrics.
- Richard Martin

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JENNY SCHEINMAN

The Littlest Prisoner

May 5, 2014

Jenny Scheinman's career began as a jazz violinist and has, over her past seven studio albums, grown into the career of critically-hailed singer, violinist, composer and arranger. Her first album, Live at Yoshi's, was released in 2000 and established Scheinman's skill as a violinist. By 2008, NPR called Scheinman "one of New York's most in-demand violinsts," and she had backed up Aretha Franklin, Norah Jones, Bono and many others, including an estimated 200 studio sessions and club dates in that past year. Scheinman released Crossing the Field, an instrumental album, and Jenny Scheinman, the first album to feature her vocals, in 2008. Her self-titled album was received well by fans and was followed by Mischief & Mayhem in 2012. And now, The Littlest Prisoner is set to be released May 6, 2014. Grammy-nominated producer Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Neko Case, My Morning Jacket, Sufjan Stevens) mixed the album, which was recorded in three days of studio straking in Martine's Flora Studio in Portland, Oregon. The lyric-filled album is broken up by three, short instrumental songs, on which Scheinman explores folk, Americana sounds. Heavy lyrics about love from varied perspectives and varying depth are often held together by an upbeat band sound. "Run, Run, Run" is a quick paced look at love from a mother's perspective. The title-track, "The Littlest Prisoner," is sung from prison, waiting for a daughter to be born.
- Richard Martin 

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CLARENCE BUCARO

Hills To Home

May 5, 2014

Clarence Bucaro is a roots based, folk musician, influenced by pop and rock elements. He began as an uplifting Americana singer-songwriter with a three-hundred-shows-a-year schedule, sharing the stage with arts like Aaron Neville, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders, and North Mississippi Allstars. Sweet Corn, his first album, was released in 2002, and Sense of Light, his most popular album, was released in 2004. He has since released four studio albums and an EP. The new, 11-track album, Hills To Home, is set to be released June 10, 2014. It explores Bucaro's definition of the world 'home,' and the experiences that have influenced that meaning. Neilson Hubbard (Kim Richey, Glen Phillips, Garrison Starr, Michelle Malone) produced the playful, nostalgic, stripped down record. "Hills Of Your Heart," Bucaro sings of a longing to be known and to know others that draws us together. "Tallahassee" tells the story of Bucaro's thrill on his first tour, fifteen years ago. One of the darker sounding songs on the album, "Let Her Fall," features layered strings that strain toward dissonance.
- Richard Martin

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CAROLINE SPENCE

You Know The Feeling

May 5, 2014

Caroline Spence is an Americana singer-songerwriter who was brought up in Charlottesville, VA, but now lives in Nashville, TN. As a child Spence was exposed to strong female musicians, such as Mary Chapin Carpenter and Emmylou Harris, who were regularly playing in the living room. When she moved to Nashville, her musical career developed as she received praise and encouragement from friends who wanted to play music with her. Her first album, When The Road Runs Out, was released in July 2011 and expanded her fan base as she toured with artists like Joshua James, Lucy Kaplanksy, Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart. The single "Mint Condition," which was not officially released until February 2014, won Spence "Best Overall" in the American Songwriter July/August 2013 lyric contest. When she released You Know The Feeling in June of 2013, Spence had a crazy year ahead of her. She won the 2013 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Songwriting Contest, headlined her own tour, supported others, and continued to write. The album opens with "Everything I Need," a song about loves bittersweet regrets. While touring, crowds connected with the stories in "That Necklace" and "Shape In Your Bed." April 6 marked the end of her Indie Gogo Campaign for funds to record a new album, where fans showed their support by raising just over the $15,000 goal. Much more should be expect from this young musician.
- Richard Martin

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RADNEY FOSTER

Everything I Should Have Said

Apr 28, 2014

Singer/Songwriter Radney Foster is hard to classify. First impression: country singer. He's got the accent, but not quite a twang, he's from Texas, and he's had country hits. Click on his website, and the title bar says "Americana Artist". Some of the cuts on Everything I Should Have Said will stand by themselves as folk. He takes things slow, and contemplative and mostly quiet. He mostly sings wistful love songs while strumming his guitar.

One exception is "Not In My House", an uptempo electrified cry for tolerance and a declaration that he won't use the f-word (and in fact, the word is not used in the song, you have to pay close attention to puzzle it out). 

--Gerald Etkind

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BRADFORD LEE FOLK & THE BLUEGRASS PLAYBOYS

Somewhere Far Away

Apr 27, 2014

Bradford Lee Folk was born in Louisiana and raised in Missouri. Bluegrass and Country music have been a part of his life since a young age, and when he got his first guitar at age 14 the genres influenced his playing. Since then, Folk has been chasing pretty girls and playing bluegrass gigs, but only by night. By day, Folk can be found "on a John Deere tractor on an organic farm in Tennessee, tilling the land for a living." Breaking the "hardworking, rugged individual" stereotype, Folk performs with The Bluegrass Playboys. The band is made up by Bradford Lee Folk, Robert Trapp, John Fabke, Christian Sedelmyer, and Dave Goldberg. The groups first album was released in April 2014 and features gorgeous banjo throughout, complimented exceptionally by the fiddle. Folk's vocals move easily rough drawls and high-lonesome calls.  "Foolish Game of Love" opens the album with what the group calls "barn burning-bluegrass," featuring banjo, fiddle, and Folk's vintage, clear vocals. "Trains Don't Lie" was written about Folk's hard-struck East Nashville neighborhood, but still retains a peculiar wistfulness. Folk draws from the tale of The Pied Piper of Hamelin to create the story of "The Piper."The playful instrumentation in "Denver" points to the groups talented musicianship. Folk's vocals meditate on nature above a sleepy waltz on the title-track. The album closes with a dark Americana ballad, "Soil and Clay."
Richard Martin

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JUSTIN CURRIE

Lower Reaches

Apr 27, 2014

Justin Currie is best known for founding the Scottish band Del Amitri in Glasgow in the early 1980s. With Del Amitri, Currie released six alternative rock albums between 1985 and 2002. The band had not toured in over a decade, but in January/February 2014, the group surprised fans with a UK tour. During the bands hiatus, Currie toured the UK as a solo artist. As his career as a solo artist grew with the releases of 2007s What Is Love For and 2010s The Great War, those tours extended to North America and the world. Currie's new album, Lower Reaches, is the follow-up to critically acclaimed The Great War, which prompted Mojo to call Currie "a songwriter's songwriter." Currie wrote most of the songs on Lower Reaches during a solitary songwriting retreat on the Isle of Skye off the coast of Scotland. The album was recorded in Austin, Texas with producer Mike McCarthy (Craig Finn of The Hold Steady, Spoon, Patty Griffin). "Bend to My Will" begins a light country tune and fills out with a rocky sound by the end of the song. Though the instrumentation uplifts, upon closer scrutiny, the lyrics may be darker than expected. "On A Roll" is a rock tune with electric organ and metal guitar interwoven with Currie's moody melody.  The songs dark tones make space for the muddy guitar solos.
Richard Martin

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SHINY SHINY BLACK

Travelers

Apr 27, 2014

The Americana band, Shiny Shiny Black, hale from Goshen, Indiana. Their debut album, Travelers, released April 19, 2014, incorporates classic guitar tones, similar to Brian Setzer, Luke Doucet, and Tom Petty, and indie rock sensibilities, like Wilco and The Black Keys. Nathan Butler leads the band, carrying the songwriting torch, on lead vocals and guitar. Anna Pasquarello Sherck is on second guitar, backing vocals, and occasionally the flute. Bryan Chris is the group's bass guitarist. They have labeled themselves "Coffe-House Rock N' Roll." The three members are determined to become a must-see act, and have already garnered praise from Will Kimborough, a number of radio hosts, and Steve Martin. The opening track, "Look Me In The Eyes" is a rock tune with heavy electric guitar, while the guitar holds back on "Six Shooter", slowly building behind the Butler's vocals. The album's first single "Lights On" has a repetitious chorus that encourages listeners to join in. "Heaven Only Knows" is a mostly-instrumental track, and signals the shift to more contemplative songs like "Lady Of The Harbor" and "Like a Star."  The album closes with "The Prisoner" a banjo driven song with Butler singing about the highs and lows of life.
Richard Martin

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SAINTSENECA

Dark Arc

Apr 9, 2014

Saintseneca, a folk band from Columbus, Ohio, began making music together in 2009 and released their self-titled debut EP through Paper Brigade that same year. Many of the band members, including front man Zac Little, are from the hills of the Appalachians. ANTI-Records describes their sound: "The group utilizes a wide range of acoustic instrumentation (balalaika, mandolin, dulcimer, Turkish Baglama, floor percussion) with more contemporary elements such as synthesizers and electric guitars to create a seamless blend of soaring vocals and vibrant post-punk energy." Their first full-length album, Last, was released in 2011 by Mama Bird Recording Co. Their forth-coming album Dark Arc will be released by ANTI- on April 1, 2014. They worked with producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, M. Ward, First Aid Kit) to mix and refine the tracks. The album opens with a haunting track "Blood Bath," that has very familiar sounds but lyrics that may repulse. "Happy Alone" has an unsettling musical nature, as a result of the electric guitar and the bass, but encouraging lyrics and uplifting harmonies. "Uppercutter" is the first single from the album, featuring throbbing acoustic guitars, atmospheric piano, and Little's soaring vocals. The album's title track, "Dark Arc," does not let the listener back away from Little's disturbing lyrics with simple, haunting instrumentation that bursts into mountainous sounds.

- Richard Martin

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THE CURRYS

Follow

Apr 9, 2014

The Currys have blended familial vocals with an Americana, folk, blues spin. Siblings Jimmy (vocals, guitar) and Tommy Curry (vocals, guitar, mandolin, harmonica), cousin Galen Curry (vocals, guitar, keyboard), and new comers Matt "Trixx" Kauper (bass) and Johnny Humphreys (drums) make up the five-piece ensemble. Beginning as just the three family members, The Currys released their first EP in 2011 and, after gaining regional support in Florida, toured Ireland. PBS commissioned a documentary of the tour. The live shows garnered the group even further support, and they relocated from Florida to Charlottesville, Virginia, where Trixx and Johnny joined the group. Follow, their latest twelve-track, debut record, features vocals from all three Currys on a number of new tracks, some tracks they have been touring with for years, and three tracks from their EP. The album opens with "Wrecking Ball" an up-beat memory, which is followed by "Water From The Well" a harmony heavy love song taken from their self-titled EP. "Come on Home" features lyrics of longing for romantic reconciliation. "Follow", in a capella, and "How a Man's Supposed to Die", accompanied by simple acoustic guitar, are the shortest tracks on the album, with some of the strongest lyrics.
- Richard Martin

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WITHERED HAND

New Gods

Apr 9, 2014

Withered Hand, a.k.a. Dan Willson, is an Edinburgh based folk-rock musician. Willson did not start his musical career until he was 30 years old, after the death of a friend and the birth of his first child spurred creativity beyond his visual art career. He released many of the resulting tracks on his firth album, Good News, in 2011. The album was noted for the honesty and depth in Willson's lyrics. While he toured, BBC invited Withered Hand to perform a number of live studio sessions. Live shows have featured a rotating cast of musical friends who help create space for Willson's songwriting to flourish, though Willson continues to take time for solo performances. His vocals sound at times fragile and others firm in their deep emotion. After releasing two EPs, Withered Hand released New Gods, the eleven-track, sophomore studio album, in March 2014.  "Horseshoe" opens the album contemplating death, love, and life, setting the listener up for the rest of the album. The next track, "Black Tambourine," has an easy moving rhythm, throwing back to 60s rock. It features guest vocalist Pam Berry, from 90s US indie-pop band Black Tambourine. "California" is a lilting rock narrative of the recent past, while "Fall Apart" seems to draw on memories from long ago. The track "Not Alone" closes the album with a mournful tone that builds to happiness, perhaps even joy.
- Richard Martin

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AMBER NICOLE

Lead You The Way Back Home

Apr 9, 2014

Amber Nicole is a seventeen year-old singer songerwriter from Allendale, Michigan. On her Official Facebook Page, Amber Nicole describes herself as "a girl with an acoustic guitar," but, while listening through her first album release, there is clearly much more to this local musician. She began promoting herself as a musician in 2012 on social media sites, and has since played a number of local shows including house shows, coffee house shows, and community based benefits. Amber produced the 10-track album, Lead You The Way Back Home, with the help of Sound Street Studio in Ada, Michigan. The title track "Lead You The Way Back Home" opens the album, and features Amber's steady vocals above a rhythmic electric guitar. "Travelin' Men" is a bass driven song, with Amber's lyrical prowess at work. Influences from UK bands, such as Daughter, are clear on this track, but Amber is able to move beyond replication and create her own sound. The softer, piano filled, instrumentation of "The Crow Song" make Amber's vocals distinct, but her vocal ability is made clear in "Ghost And Guns." The majority of the album features Amber and her acoustic guitar, moving away from the full band sound of the first few tracks. Amber will be touring summer of 2014 with other local musicians.
- Richard Martin

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THE 23 STRING BAND

bangin' and clangin'

Mar 26, 2014

Guitar (6 strings) + banjo (5) + mandolin (8) + fiddle (4) + bass (4) = 27 strings, but I think they're counting the mandolin as only 4. Also they use a Barry Dudley 5-string violin, but who's counting? There are also drums and horns. This is fun, fast, and bouncy bluegrass, but St. James Infirmary should not be played fast and bouncy. Five songs on this EP, and I recommend the other four..

From the promo sheet: "Fiery, soul stirring bluegrass, beautifully round-around-the-edges old time and a homespun folk heart pulled from mountain hollows are all sewn into the sound.... The 23 String Band plays fun, fuel-injected, original American that weaves across the lanes of modern acoustic music. It's a bluegrass attack fueled by high-octane rock-n-roll energy and triple-distilled old-timey roots. Your feet hurt from dancing; your face hurts from grinning."

--Gerald Etkind

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RUN RIVER NORTH

Run River North

Mar 20, 2014

Run River North is an indie folk rock group from San Fernando Valley, California. Alex Hwang (Vocals/Acoustic Guitar), Daniel Chae (Electric Guitar/Violin), Jenifer Rim (Violin), Joseph Chun (Bass), John Chong (Drums), and Sally Kang (Vocals/Keys) are the devoutly Christian, Korean American musicians who make up the sextet. The bands sound has been compared to that of Of Monsters And Men with their ensemble sound rooted in the folk genre. Hwang's vocals are sometimes soft and wispy, but they can also be strong and cutting. Those that attend their live shows make note that Hwang does not wear shoes on stage, to which he has said he likes to share his stories barefoot. Before being signed by Nettwerk Records, a Canada-based label that signed the band fun., the group was featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live. They recorded their self-titled debut album, Run River North, with producer Phil Ek, known for his work with Fleet Foxes, Built to Spill, and Band of Horses. Run River North explores generational responsibility, faith, understanding, self-reflection, and ancestry through exceptional musicianship, apt lyrics, and uproarious choruses. "Monsters Calling Home" speaks to the familial and generational struggles of the group, while "In The Water" uses staccato percussion to make perseverance unforgettable.
- Richard Martin

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GRANT PEEPLES AND THE PEEPLES REPUBLIC

Punishing The Myth

Mar 20, 2014

Grant Peeples was born in Tallahassee, Florida in 1957, and you can tell both of those things from listening to Punishing the Myth. His age is shown by his nostalgia for the cars of the 60s and 70s, and for the Austin Texas scene of the 90s. His Florida roots show in his accent during the spoken-word segments, and in a bit of a Southern tinge to his instrumentation. His label calls him a folk/roots artist, but you could also add the categories of singer-songwriter, rock, and country. Producer Gurf Morlix brings in more instruments, and a more polished and (in some parts) ornate soundstage than I'm used to from a folk artist. It all works wonderfully.

The lead song "You're a Slave to Your Imagination" would fit into nearly any format, with a jazz horn, slow sultry vocals, an electric guitar that wouldn't be out of place in rock, and a comfort-food lounge-lizard sensibility.  Wow.

Who Woulda Thunk it is a Greg Brown cover that brings up memories of Dire Straights. The New American Dream is a bouncy social-conscience complaint against commercialism and money-grubbing one percenters. The Morning After The Coup seems inspired by the decade Peeples spent living in Nicaragua, but might happen anywhere where violent change interrupts everyday life. The subject is dark, but the toe-tapping rhythm sucks you in.

She Was A Wildflower is a portrait of a free spirit, war-protesting woman of the kind they don't make any more. The southern guitar is strong in this one. The online notes call Aunt Lou "a love song to a long-dead lesbian aunt" but the lyrics don't stand close scrutiny. The focus is all on her masculine skills and lifestyle, and not at all about who she loved. The Hanging is a chiding folk ballad about a celebratory crowd gathered to watch an execution, followed by Training In The Charnel Ground, in which a novice watches vultures devour the dead as part of his education.

High Octane Generation is a fun paean to the age of the automobile, when a man used his own arm power to roll down his window and could rebuild a carburetor without needing a computer. Spoken word, unaccompanied. I Can't Imagine Him Carrying A Carbine is a dirge from a father seeing a son too weak to join the militia.

It's Too Late to Live in Austin is a strong close to the album, a personal narrative of a man moving in to Austin Texas, just as a long-timer who can't tolerate the changes is moving out. Spoken word over guitar, with Sarah Mac popping in with a few choice sung lines.

--Gerald Etkind

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CHARLIE PARR

Hollandale

Mar 17, 2014

I'm sorry, Charlie Parr. It's not you, it's me. My ears just aren't developed enough to understand what you're doing, so your talents are wasted on me. I mean, I know you're making sounds on a guitar, and I know that Alan Sparhawk is accompanying you on guitar. I'm thinking this is some kind of improvisation rather than a set of pre-composed pieces. But I can't figure out what would make any of it interesting to other listeners.

I can't identify melody, or harmony, or rhythmic structure. There is no single instrumental voice to follow. I can't distinguish a progression, or figure out what makes this endless strumming something more directed than random. But these are all my faults, Charlie Parr, not yours.

To my ears, this is all appetizer without ever getting to entrée. Maybe the starts of these 5 pieces would work as the intro to something, but they drag on and on without resolving. It might work as music for a film, played under a sad little montage of a job applicant being rejected over and over and over again. And over again. At 42 minutes, this is fairly short for a CD (I understand it is also available on vinyl, so that's all that would fit), but I kept hoping it was over, and it wasn't. One day I'll learn to appreciate this.

According to Chaperone Records, Charlie Parr is known for folk and for roots music, and has quite a following, both within his home state of Minnesota and throughout the world.

--Gerald Etkind

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WENDY COLONNA

Nectar

Mar 13, 2014

Nectar is Austin-based Wendy Colonna's fifth solo studio album. She grew up in Southwest Louisiana and began performing there in 1997. She moved to Austin, Texas in 2000, and it was in 2003 when Colonna released her first album Red. The album was critically acclaimed and garnered her "Best New Artist" from KGSR, Radio Austin. While touring for her 2010 album We Are One, Colonna had to fight through an illness, which resulted in eight months of resting from performing after the tour ended. This forced break from music nearly broke Colonna's spirit and love for performing. In 2011, she took a trip to Belgium where she began recording with a new band that formed very quickly, The Lazybones. The new group recorded their Barefoot in Belgium EP while still in Belgium and released it the same year, to critical acclaim. She described this experience as "a resurrection." Nectar began when Colonna realized that being vulnerable and human can bring about incredible growth and honesty. Of this album, Colonna has called it "deep and sweet," while acknowledging that it is "my dark record" when compared to the upbeat songs of Right Where I Belong and We Are One. The new album bursts with soul. The opening track, "Dirty Things" is an upbeat confession.
Richard Martin

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KERRI POWERS

Kerri Powers

Feb 28, 2014

Kerri Powers has been writing songs since she was nine-years old, after the likes of John Prine, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan inspired her to learn to play the guitar. Their songwriting allowed her to experience sadness and hope and overcome sadness. It was a number of years before the Boston native worked up the courage to begin performing at local coffeehouses throughout New England. Love, marriage, and family changed Powers' priorities over the next years of her life, and she took a break from performing. It was not until 2002, while enduring and overcoming the hardship of divorce and her son growing into adulthood, that Powers released You, Me and a Redhead. The heartfelt and honest album brought Powers praise from critics, and in 2009 she released Faith in the Shadows. In the following years, she toured the U.S. and Europe growing a fan base with her country, blues, Americana sound and smoky vocals. She released her self-titled album, Kerri Powers, in January 2014. The ten-track album features eight of Powers' original songs along with a cover of Janis Ian's "Jesse" and The Bee Gee's "To Love Somebody." "Train in the Night" is a beautiful love song to her son. Thanks to engineer Eric Lichter at Dirt Floor Studios, the simple, raw production of this album creates earnest songs that feature Powers' talent as a solo performer.
Richard Martin

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KEN STEAD

Unfinished

Feb 28, 2014

Better late than never for Ken Stead's EP "Unfinished". The release party for the disk was held back in November 2013, but WYCE is seeing it in February 2014. No matter. The music is still fresh.

Ken Stead doesn't live in Grand Rapids anymore. . Let's call him "local emeritus".  His old band "Ken Stead and the Messengers" performed throughout Southwest Michigan until his day job took him to Minnesota and the rest of the band stayed behind. That was in the summer of 2011. After Minnesota, Ken moved back to his original home of Alberta, Canada, so if you've been wondering what happened to him, now you know.

"Unfinished" has seven tracks, but only six songs, because "Better Days" appears twice.  The sedate studio version opens the disk, and a bouncier live acoustic version closes it. The overall feel is folk, but with richer instrumentation than one expects from a singer/songwriter. What you won't find is a singer alone on stage with a guitar, or backing band heavily influenced by bluegrass. Instead you get the kind of folk that crossed over onto the progressive rock stations in the 70s. Think of Jonathan Edwards and you won't be too far off.

---Gerald Etkind

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Sara Jean Kelley

The Waiting Place

Feb 21, 2014

Perhaps the role of Nashville as Music City, USA has been altered since the roots of American folk music were cultivated there, but it continues to produce hard-working and passionate musicians writing songs that reference tradition in a contemporary way, all the while transcending the broken pop machine perpetuated by mainstream country radio. Sara Jean Kelley is a testament to Nashville-born songwriters driven by the music in their hearts and the environment of a city built on a musical foundation. With her debut EP The Waiting Place, Kelley's inspiration from growing up and attending school in Nashville as well as her experience in Colorado (where she took in the abundant wildlife) inform a thoroughly enjoyable and solid set of tunes.

Although a young artist, Kelley has already attracted attention from a wide audience. Perhaps this is thanks to her mother Irene Kelley, an already established singer-songwriter in the Nashville country and Americana scene, but there's more to it than that: she has shared the stage with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Pure Prairie League, and Rodney Crowell. Her lead single "Trains" was written with Will Kimbrough who formerly played guitar for Harris; he also produced The Waiting Place along with help from Dave Coleman of The Coal Men. Kelley's appeal is aptly summed up by Jon Kerr of New York Minute Magazine: "If you have ever wondered what it would sound like for Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash to write a song together over a few beers, you have not heard Sara Jean Kelly. Her voice is soulful and smooth, and just rough enough around the edges." 

Recommended Tracks: #3 "Trains", #4 "Free", #6 "Waiting Place"

Sigmund Steiger

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ROOSEVELT DIME

FULL HEAD OF STEAM

Feb 17, 2014

This unusual band from New York, combines folk, jazz, blues, soul, the sounds of the Crescent City all into 46 minutes of perpetual fun. This CD is like opening a party in a box that will please every guest in attendance. The principal songwriters Andrew Green{banjo & guitar} along with bassist Eben Pariser met at Oberlin college & joined by Drummer Tony Montalbano and Seth Paris have moved their unique sounds from the NY subway stations to playing major folk and roots music festivals in a few short years. The Disc begins with the banjo & Americana sounds of bands like the Avett brothers or Luminers. "Natchl Culmination" brings in the sounds of the horns & Dixieland and is what they call "A break up song to put things in a positive perspective". Red Molly joins the band on "Down on Your Luck" a song guaranteed to lift you up. The Track "Cavalry" brings in the sounds of Levon Helm & The Band during their prime years. The "Now There's You Intro" & main track combine 1970's soul with full driven horns to heat up any dance floor. Other highlights include the great covers of the Dead's "Cocaine Habit Blues" and the New Orleans classic "St. James Infirmary". Roosevelt Dime is putting fun back into music and this is a disc you do not want to miss. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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AMY BLACK

THIS IS HOME

Feb 16, 2014

Singer/Songwriter Amy Black is joined on this effort by a host of top notch musicians including Will Kimbrough on guitars and backing vocals, Oliver Wood on guitars, Josh Grange on pedal steel, lap steel and organ, Ian Fitchuck on drums and Hammond B3, Lex Price on bass and tenor guitar and Todd Lombardo on rhythm and acoustic guitar. As good as they all are, it is Black herself that commands your attention with her soulful yet tender voice and mostly self-penned tunes. The disc starts with a rocker featuring a riff straight out of the CCR songbook, "Nobody Knows You", and then in short order dips into slinky blues that sound like they could be from a late era Maria Muldaur disc, "Old Hurt", and then into a comfortable folk ballad groove, "I'm Home", "Alabama" and "Hello". Black has a way of painting stark yet powerful word pictures as on "Make Me An Angel" where a trembling child takes responsibility for keeping a troubled mom alive, on "These Walls are Falling Down" where a crumbling home serves as a metaphor for a relationship dying from inattention and on "Hello" where she despairs at her father's descent into dementia. "Layin' It Down" pays homage to those who break their backs on the alter of hard work while "Stronger" has an upbeat musical foundation at odds with her anger at a friend's suicide that ranks right up there with Lucinda William's "Seeing Black". Speaking of anger, "We Had a Life" finds her succumbing to despair at the departure of a spouse but firing back with both barrels on the upbeat "Cat's in the Kitchen". She's also a fine interpreter of the work of others as evidenced by her readings of John Prine's "Speed of the Sound Of Loneliness" and Rodney Crowell's "Still Learning How to Fly". SMITTY

K. Jones & The Benzie Playboys

Oh Yeah!

Feb 8, 2014

The 6-piece Cajun/Zydeco fusion band hailing from Benzie county are back with Oh Yeah!, a collection of songs that are as lively as the title suggests. Widely regarded as hometown heroes, Kirk Jones and his band bring the colorful musical traditions of Louisianan Creole and Cajun styles to the Great Lakes, regularly playing venues around the state and festivals including (but not limited to) Wheatland, Blissfest, The Buttermilk Jamboree, and the Grand River Water Festival.

Jones is not only an enthusiast of Louisiana music, but has studied at the Augusta Music Heritage program and the Dewey Balfa camp and has played with the likes of Cory Ledet, Dirk Powell, and Joe Hall among others. On Oh Yeah!, in addition to singing lead vocals, he plays button accordion, the triple note accordion, and the fiddle. Joining him to complete the lush soundscape of Zydeco and Cajun music is Mark Stoltz (washboard), Jonah Powell (fiddle and backup vocals), Jamie Bernard (drums), Rex Alexander (guitar), and Dan "The Danimal" on bass. Oh Yeah! is an undeniably fun experience full of diverse sounds melded with the Zydeco discipline, and the swing of tunes like "Ann Cayanne" and "Bosco Stomp" are sure to get your feet moving.

Recommended Tracks: #2 "Done Got Over", #5 "Oh Yeah", #8 "La Valse De Grands Bois"

Sigmund Steiger

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Laura Cantrell

No Way There From Here

Feb 3, 2014

The fifth album from Nashville-raised and NYC-based singer-songwriter Laura Cantrell, entitled No Way There From Here, is a concise 40 minutes of well-written contemporary country songs indicative of the roots of Nashville music as opposed to the current of disposable pop fare dominating "country" radio stations. This is no surprise, as Cantrell was the host of a radio show on New York's WMFU that honored older traditions in American music. She also briefly worked as a VP on Wall Street and a contributor to the New York Times and Vanity Fair. So, given her strangely diverse background, the record's title could seem slightly confusing in nature; however, the lyrics on No Way There From Here demonstrate Cantrell's current perspective as a songwriter: aware of pressures and fears, yet optimistic and hopeful.

Most songs clock in under 4 minutes in length, with the shortest track "Driving Down Your Street" being 2 minutes and twenty seconds. So NWTFH is essentially a study in producing short songs that are breezy and simple, but say everything that needs to be said. This effectiveness is usually achieved by melodies written with acoustic guitar, piano, vocal harmonies, and the occasional organ, pedal steel guitar or fiddle riff: country-inspired, but pop-structured. The album also includes an impressive list of contributors ranging from Camera Obscura's Tracyanne Campbell, Jim Lauderdale, Paul Niehaus of Lambchop and Calexico, Caitlin Rose, Paul Burch, and others. Ultimately, strength prevails over vulnerability on No Way There From Here, all at once demonstrating Cantrell's ability as a singer-songwriter and suggesting that the title is a view of a realist, not a defeatist.

Recommended Tracks: #1 "All the Girls are Complicated", #8 "When it Comes to You", #9 "Can't Wait"

Sigmund Steiger

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Dirk Powell

Walking Through Clay

Feb 1, 2014

To have Steve Earle's endorsement in the sphere of folk and country music is an accomplishment in itself, but to have him say that you are "the greatest old-time banjo player alive" (and "a badass") is quite another thing entirely. Enter Dirk Powell, the recipient of this glowing praise, who has been playing music rooted in Appalachian tradition since he learned guitar, banjo and fiddle as a child from his father and grandfather; in addition to this, he plays 7 other instruments (including the diatonic button accordion) and has studied Creole and Cajun styles. Powell has collaborated with the likes of Loretta Lynn, Joan Baez, Jack White, and Kris Kristofferson. He also composed the music for the 2003 film Cold Mountain, on which Jude Law attested, "Hearing Dirk play fiddle on the set of Cold Mountain, it felt like my work as an actor had already been done for me."


All this in perspective, Powell's 2013 album Walking Through Clay is an effective display of not only his versatility as a musician, spanning through several genres and cycling through various instruments, but also his assured ability of crafting songs that meld said styles and energies in a way that is evocative of traditional American music (folk, bluegrass, the occasional blues riff) while still managing to sound modern. Tracks like "Rollin' Through This Town," "That Ain't Right," "As I Went Out A'Walkin'" as well as the title track are all upbeat jams with an emphasis on driving slide guitar riffs paired with accordion and usually fiddle, creating honky tonk vibes. "Goodbye Girls" is a nod to traditional Appalachian music, "Abide By Me" has a melancholy swing, and many are sweet and slow ballads such as "Break The Chains," "Some Sweet Day," and the record's prettiest cut, "Golden Chain." All in all, Walking Through Clay aptly reflects Dirk Powell's identity as a musician: firmly rooted, yet somehow always rollin' through a new frontier.

Recommended Tracks: #2 "Walking Through Clay", #3 "Some Sweet Day", #11 "Golden Chain"

Sigmund Steiger

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Grace and Tony

November

Jan 13, 2014

Hailing from Loretto, Tennessee, Grace and Tony are a husband-wife songwriting duo who refer to the music they make together as "punkgrass." While this term might not be officially imprinted in genre terminology, it certainly applies to their debut release November. The songs are mainly comprised of banjo, mandolin, and acoustic guitar which inevitably inspire folky riffs, a heavy emphasis on harmonizing vocals, and a sound that loosely references the twang of bluegrass - yet Tony's background in punk music is obviously the other half of November's inspiration. His voice at times dips into a husky register as the music quickly gallops behind, with Grace's sweet soprano balancing it out. 

There is a certain punk energy one feels seeping through in songs like "The Chameleon" and "Holy Hand Grenade," yet other standout tracks such as "Grassphemy" and "Me to Me" sound more like the result of Grace's penchant for southern styles of music like gospel and Texas swing mixed with the simplicity of folk tunes. So if you're into upbeat and brightly optimistic sounding music made from a conglomerate of folk, bluegrass, and punk, Grace and Tony's November is certainly one for the books.

Bonus Trivia: Tony is the brother of John Paul White of The Civil Wars.

Recommended Tracks: #4 "The Chameleon", #9 "Grassphemy", #11 "La Carrera"

Sigmund Steiger 

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WHISKY GENTRY

HOLLY GROVE

Dec 22, 2013

If main stream country would be like this, I could become a fan. The Whisky Gentry serves up a high energy set of old time country, bluegrass, Irish jig's and enough sass to set them apart from the contemporary crowd. Led by vocalist Lauren Staley this six piece outfit from Atlanta joined forces with producer John Keane{R.EM, Indigo Girls & Uncle Tupelo} to deliver a disc with just enough polish to provide their listeners with a consistently well written & delivered set, but with enough raw energy to keep things interesting. I don't know if it's coincidence, but the rocking title track and the upbeat sounds of Colly Davis both deal with murder and death. "Lonesome L.A Cowboy" deals with a drug ridden character that try's to find his way through the mainstream and where hid next gig will be. The Irish Jig "Branders Reel" is a high energy favorite and showcases the talents that every instrumentalist in this group possesses. This disc ends with a well done cover of Poco Harums classic "Whiter Shade Of Pale". The Whisky Gentry sophomore effort shows that they are so much more than just another commercial country band & are a force to be reckoned with Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

The Melodic

Effra Parade

Nov 13, 2013

Melodic ~ Effra Parade

In following up the South London band's much heralded EP On My Way, the English afro-folk-pop ensemble is back with their full-length debut titled Effra Parade.  Drawing comparisons to many acclaimed artists, perhaps the best description of their music is somewhere between Norway's Kings of Convenience and Iceland's Of Monsters and Men.  Even then, they are clearly out to make a sound all their own by using a line-up of 18 different baroque instruments to create a sound that joyfully defies categorization.  

Opening with the single, "On My Way," the band crafts a catchy melody that warrants repeated listens.  Mixing the sounds of the Caribbean and that of Africa, "Watch the World Turn Blue" is a fun track that manages to be noticeably different from the others.  One of the best tracks here is "Runaway," a song that moves along at a faster pace and manages to mix in varying instruments and vocals that make it something special.   Other especially good songs include:  

#6 - "Roots"

#10 - "Come Outside"

#14 - "Piece Me Back Together"

On the whole, the Melodic, while not especially strong vocally, have established a sound and some catchy melodies that speak for themselves.  While touring with Mumford and Sons, they've managed to win over many new fans and I suspect they'll win over the hearts of many others with music as revealing, catchy and likeable as this.  A solid start to say the least!

Reviewed by Jeff Bouma


GREG TROOPER

INCIDENT ON WILLOW STREET

Oct 27, 2013

Greg Trooper has been hailed by the likes of Steve Earle & Billy Bragg as one of the worlds greatest songwriters. On His 12th album "Incident On Willow Street" Greg breathes life into several characters and tracks that inspire and provide a positive outlook into a crazy world. Whether it's "Mary The Scots In Queens" "The Girl In Blue" or the search for  "One Honest Man", Greg's stories resonate with passions for everyday life and experiences.  The strength of this CD remains the stories delivered by Greg's distinctive vocals, but Greg is also joined by the great company of multi instrumentalist Larry Campbell who has spent lot's of time with the likes of Bob Dylan & the late great Levon Helm. Greg has been telling his music through stories since 1986 and hopefully someday he will receive the recognition he much deserves.

 

Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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WILD PONIES

THINGS THAT USED TO SHINE

Oct 23, 2013

The Wild Ponies comprised of husband & wife Doug and Telisha Williams with a great supporting cast have released a raw record filled with songs of loss, tragedy, abuse that will totally captivate your ears mind and heart.  Telisha's vocals have a certain Kasey Chambers feel to them and as she unleashes the demons contained within you can feel the conviction of every word spoken. Doug Williams also takes the lead on tracks like "Massy's Run" a song about coming in second to Richard Petty in a 1960 race and "Revival Wasteland"  a song where Doug deals with believing in God even though he shines down on him. This is Americana at it's very best and it is are great fortune that this couple from Virginia's car broke down in Nashville where they ran into Ray Kennedy the Grammy award winning producer for Lucinda Williams and Steve Earl. "Things That Used To Shine" is one of 2013's most important and finest releases.

 

Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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LAST GOOD TOOTH

Not Without Work and Rest

Oct 13, 2013

 They met in Rhode Island.  They now call upstate New York home. They consider both The Black Keys and early Americana music to be their influences. 

Not Without Work and Rest

is the second release from Last Good Tooth, a band with an unfortunate name, but a way with neo-Americana music. There are no instrumentals here with all the songs featuring strong vocals, intriguing percussion, and varied instruments.  Album opener, "Look What I Made" has subtle plucked strings and strummed guitar before the whole band kicks in for a quiet, loud, quiet, loud dynamic. You can't go wrong with handclaps on "What's What I Do".  "Eeeee" has vocal effects, violins, and a catchy "deee, deee, deee" chorus.  The lyrics on my favorite, "Could You Read", have a sinister tone and are backed by banjo and electric guitar.  "Some Kind of Pair" is slow and dark with hand percussion, plucked strings, piano, and vocal reverb adding to the noir sound.  The subtle horns and harmonium on "Tie Something Fragile" make a nice segue into the quieter half of the disc.  "Beat Our Days" is a spiritual with backing vocals, violin, and strummed guitar over subdued percussion.  You can't have an album without a love song and "For Sleep" is the token song here.  The album ends on a bright note with the simple and upbeat "Lack One Lacks Both".      Rebecca Ruth  

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THRIFTSTORE MASTERPIECE

Lonesome Town

Oct 13, 2013

  Long story short, indie-rock collective records Lee Hazlewood's 1963 debut Trouble is a Lonesome Town in its entirety.  Short story long, the collective, Thriftstore Masterpiece, is made up of eight well-known musicians, including Pete Yorn, Frank Black, Courtney Taylor-Taylor, and Isaac Brock.  Lonesome Town is reportedly just the first in a series of intended recordings for the collective.  The music here is folk-rock-country, often with Southwestern touches such as mariachi horns and castanets. The package itself consists of two discs.  Disc one includes Lee Hazlewood's original narration, telling the story of the town of Lonesome and combining it with the music of Thriftstore Masterpiece.  Disc two is simply the music without the narration.  I think the band has done justice to the original while having loads of fun, making Lonesome Town an enjoyable listen.   Rebecca Ruth 

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THE BAPTIST GENERALS

Jackleg Devotional to the Heart

Oct 13, 2013

  Jackleg Devotional to the Heart, the second album from The Baptist Generals, has been a long time coming.  The album was recorded in 2005 and was promptly trashed.  The band felt that it sounded too much like other indie-rock.  Eight years later, The Baptist Generals are trying it again with an alt-country sound. Starting out with an instrumental, the album then goes into the folk-rock focus track, "Dog That Bit You". For tracks 3, 4, and 5, it gets a bit quiet, yet remains interesting with its plethora of instruments.  Track 6, "Three Bromides", takes the band name to heart with its pulpit-style vocals over subdued percussion and small bursts of guitar. Immediately after,  "Broken Glass" surprises with its  tempo changes and marimba (perhaps creating a new sub-genre...prog-folk?).  The album gets quiet again for the remaining tracks before culminating in the orchestral and fascinating "Oblivion Overture".  All in all, I found Jackleg Devotional to the Heart to be an engaging listen.  

Rebecca Ruth  

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TUNNG

Turbines

Oct 11, 2013

 Six people, multiple instruments and multiple voices. That's what you get on Turbines, the fifth release from British band Tunng.  This folk band offers boy/girl multi-tracked vocals, guitar, keys, and beat programming, so one can't really call it straight-up folk.  Let's call it experimental electro-folk (folktronica?).  Turbines is somewhat quiet, yet it's rich and full of substance.  Tunng reminds me a bit of Grand Rapids band, The Soil and The Sun, a band that I thought was like no other....until now.  

Rebecca Ruth 

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DENISON WITMER

Denison Witmer

Oct 10, 2013

Quiet, beautiful, thoughtful reflection that takes stock of life's ups-and-downs and concludes "Pushing my way out of the ground/I'm ready for it/I've grown too old to die young now/I'm better for it." In other words, take what you've learned, understand you can't control everything and keep moving forward. Joined by Sufjan Stevens (you can hear his musical touches throughout) and other friends, the record eases one into a wine-sipping, feet-up, life's-highlight-reel mood--but not in a melancholy or cloying manner. Witmer hits his targets without being melodramatic or wordy. My favorite selection is "Right Behind You," in which he sings, "I don't see the point in waiting/Half my life to say/All of the things I'm thinking/Starting with today." This is a set of music that makes you better for having listened to it, start to finish. 10/13 Michael J.  

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TIM EASTON

BEFORE THE REVOLUTION THE BEST OF 1998-2011

Apr 9, 2013

It's a real shame when an artist releases a 19 track terrific greatest hits collection that captures 13 years of his life experiences and most don't even know his name. Tim Easton has always threaded the boundaries of Folk, Country, Rock and pop music making him hard to label. He even quotes" I like my rock and roll to have a little porch party in it and I like my folk music to have some distortion" he succeeds with this disc. This release runs in chronological order with the first 3 tracks taken from Tim's first release "Special 20". In 2001 Tim released "the Truth About Us" and tracks 4-6 can be found on that disc. My favorite release from Tim came in 2003 with "Break your Mothers Heart" and tracks 7-9 are pure Americana folk rock magic. Tim took 3 years off spending time in the Mojave Desert before releasing "Ammunition" which contains the title track as well as two other favorites. Tim returned to Nashville to record his last three releases "Porcupine", "Beat The Band" and "Since 1966 Volume 1" . Once you discover how great the 19 tracks are on this release, take the time to discover all the rest of the best found on these seven releases. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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DEADSTRING BROTHERS

CANNERY ROW

Apr 8, 2013

It's been three years since the last Deadstring brothers release and in that time front man Kurt Marschke, has packed his bags and moved from Detroit to Nashville. It is easy to tell after the first listen that some of the Detroit soul has been replaced by the sounds of Americana that will resonate from coast to coast. The CD begins with a 1970's folk/country track "Like A California Wildfire". It's Morning Irene" has a given gospel feel & that may be required after Leadbelly said Good Night. "Long Lonely Road" proves that you can never take all the rock out of a Detroit Musician. "Lucille's Honky Tonk" has an old time country swing too it and had to be a great place to enjoy a drink. "The Mansion" sounds like it could have been a collaborative track marrying the sounds of fellow Detroiter Rodriguez with the country Nashville sounds. "Talkin To A Man In Montana" showcases some great guitar from Kurt Marschke and proves it doesn't matter where great Americana music comes from it should be spread like a California Wildfire. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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SOUTHSSIDE JOHNNY & THE POOR FOOLS

SONGS FROM THE BARN

Mar 24, 2013

Southside Johnny has always been known as one of the finest bar & party bands from the Jersey shore & just like friend and fellow rocker Bruce Springsteen has dabbled in folk and down-home heartland rock. This CD a side project from The Asbury Dukes "though employs several members" is a mixture of original tracks as well as great cover tracks from Lucinda Williams, Bob Dylan & Randy Newman. The CD begins with two originals and it is easy to see the heartland direction Johnny and producer John Lyon are taking this disc. "Cant Let Go" is a terrific cover of a Lucinda Williams track and one of the highlights on this disc. Chris Kenner's tack "Something You Got" combined with "Down Home Girl" has a 1960's soul sound and could easily have been released on a Jukes disc. Bob Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" is a bluesy track where the vocals have a real Tom Waits sound to them. The CD bookends the country heartland sound with the Randy Newman original "Old Kentucky Home". This CD unfortunately will still not make Southside a household name, but after almost 40 years, I am sure he didn't expect. It will though put a smile on the faces of his legion of loyal fans. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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JOY IKE

All or Nothing

Mar 20, 2013

There is plenty to rejoice about Joy Ike's new album. Completely funded by a Kickstarter campaign, her latest album, All or Nothing, finds the Pittsburgh-based artist in top form. Gentle, but not weak; sweet, but not saccharine, All or Nothing illustrates Joy Ike's strength as a storytelling and a musician. From the celebration of innocence of "The Fall Song," to the contemplation of mortality of "Don't Ever Die," Ike explores all things personal and relational with ease and subtly, while the music stylistically changing to suit each song. Ike avoids the trap of blanketing songs with instruments; instead, strings, piano, guitar, and more are layered elegantly throughout the album, contributing to a cohesion of music and message. The varied instrumentation gives every song a distinct flavor, with percussion in particular shaping each track with precision, performed by Ike herself (as well as piano, ukulele, and much more.) Ike writes that she wants her songs "to be a conversation...a long one. A real one." With work as affecting as All or Nothing, it appears Ike can take pride in her success. - Jacqueline Ristola

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JOAN ARTMATRADING

Starlight

Mar 17, 2013

British singer/songwriter Joan Armatrading's latest album, Starlight, finds the artist continuing to tweak her style, this time with jazz infusions, variably saccharine though those infusions may be. The album as a whole has divisions within in. Armtrading teeters back and forth between ample silliness and maturity, with the first tracks "Single Life and "Close to Me" embodying this split. "Single Life" is bouncy, a little cloying, but otherwise a harmless and energetic opener, while "Close to Me" takes a serious embrace of loving relationships. With her experience as an established singer/songwriter, Armatrading's work seems more fruitful with the latter. The album mainly deals with love and relationships, an unfortunately occasionally dips into the corny. Phrases like "intravenous hugs" in "I Want That Love" can hardly be defended. Another kind of division of the album is the vocal performance itself. Tracks like "Single Life" and "Tell Me" has Armatrading spilling out words, sometimes almost distinctly separate from music. The dichotomous nature of songs like these hints at spoken word, and while treating the voice as a solo instrument in of itself is nothing new to jazz, more effort to knit the music together would be appreciated. The album itself feels a bit like disparate pieces coming together, with enough groove to make the initial listen enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable. - Jacqueline Ristola

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ART GOMPEREZ BAND

A Different Story To Tell

Mar 16, 2013

Michigander bluegrass/Americana collective Art Gomperez Band has existed for decades as a musical revolving door of sorts for musicians. But on their album A Different Story to Tell, the group has a stronger focus: bringing to life the music of their late friend and songwriter Bev Hahn. And to that extent they succeed. The band's technical proficiency is definitely on display, especially on tracks like "Spanish Grass" or "Court in Session" that illustrate the band's ability to jam. Jenna Mammina gracefully sings to the propelling bluegrass rhythm or more laid-back Americana, with simple, but well-crafted lyrics about common reflections in life. The album itself can be described as well-crafted, but not overly complicated; a kind of aesthetic sense that's seems to be a trait of bluegrass. For the uninitiated, this album may prove to be a good starting point, ultimately holding a small sweetness in its simplicity. - Jacqueline Ristola

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KRIS KRISTOFFERSON

Feeling Mortal

Mar 15, 2013

Kris Kristofferson latest album, Feeling Mortal, couldn't sound more accurate. A well-established country songwriter since the 1970s, Kristofferson comes to themes of decaying relationships, sense of place, and, of course, mortality. Lyrically and sonically, the album shuffles forth slowly and deliberately, but with the sense of weight and experience accrued over a lifetime. Tracks like "Feeling Mortal" and "Bread for the Body" showcase Kristofferson at his best, capturing the reflections near the end of a life, and the homespun wisdom therein. Lyrics like "I built my own chains in the land of the free/A slave to the job that meant nothing to me/With three shiny cars and a split level home/To furnish the tomb I was dying to own" in "Bread for the Body" illustrate The lyrical talent at work and the sense of tragedy lurking beneath the surface. Though musically full of the familiar acoustic country ensemble, the album avoids static repetition, with each track containing a compelling narrative told with the honesty and simplicity of Kristofferson's voice. The simplicity of the musicianship might mask the album as simplistic itself, but with tracks as brutally honest as "Feeling Mortal," chances are that anyone listening to the album would hold that image for long. - Jacqueline Ristola

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SHOOTER JENNINGS

THE OTHER LIFE

Mar 10, 2013

Make way for the new country outlaw man Shooter Jennings. This CD which is a soundtrack of Shooter's journey across America visually & through the 11 tracks on this disc paints his stories of isolation, temptation & rebirth. The CD begins with "The Flying Saucer Song" which could have been taken right out of Pink Floyds Dark Side Of The Moon. The CD quickly turns to an Alt-Country sound with "A Hard Lesson To Learn:" "The White Trash Song" begins with birds chirping and goes into a country rant with vocals shared with Shooters friend Scott Biram. "Wild and Lonesome" is a beautiful duet featuring vocals from folk favorite Patty Griffin. Shooter takes aim at commercial country artists with "Outlaw You" and he shows no mercy as he holds true to country's original outlaw men. The title track reminds me of early Tom Waits sitting at a piano telling his stories of being on the road & being cursed by the other life. "The Outsider" has a softer sound and I can only imagine is Shooter's personal story."15 Million Light Years" features another country outsider and 1970's rocker Jim Dandy of Black Oak Arkansas. This is actually a long lost track from that band. "The Gunslinger" is a great country outlaw track, but due to language concerns will never make commercial radio, but then again Shooter rebels against being a commercial country artist. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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Y LA BAMBA

Oh February

Feb 19, 2013

One can hear hints of lead singer Luz Elena Mendoza's Mexican roots on Y La Bamba's second release, Oh February. Whether it's the castanets, the handclaps, or the liberal use of the accordion, Oh February has a mexi-folk feel. Ms. Mendoza's tremolo vocals, often fronting male vocal harmonies, are striking. The rest of this Portland band is skilled, but I'm blown away by Scott Magee's dextrous percussion. All in all this is a fine indie-folk disc that has been expertly produced by The Decemberist's Chris Funk. Rebecca Ruth

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BIG HARP

Chain Letters

Feb 4, 2013

Big Harp's Chris Senseney (guitar, keys, vocals) and Stefanie Drootin-Senseney (bass, vocals) have teamed up with John Voris (drums) to make their second release, Chain Letters. The sound is a combination of messy guitar, fuzzy bass, Chris's growly lead vocals, and Stefanie's haunting backing vocals. Chain Letters takes this combination and adds dark lyrics and gritty production to create a raw and crackling folk-noir sound. Rebecca Ruth

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JOHN DRISKELL HOPKINS AND BALSAM RANGE

Daylight

Jan 26, 2013

As a founding and current member of the Zac Brown Band, guitar player/writer/singer John Driskell Hopkins has plenty of experience with the country/rock music scene. Daylight, however, is his first solo release. Teaming up with North Carolina bluegrass band, Balsam Range, this Atlanta artist has made an album of contemporary country music, with bluegrass leanings. Many of the songs here would be right at home on any contemporary country radio station, such as the throwaways "Be My Girl", "How Could I" and the duet "Bye Baby Goodbye". It's when things get bluegrassy that Daylight really shines. "She Don't Love Me Today" sports fun lyrics and vocal harmonies. There is the darkly humorous "The Devil Lives in a Mason Jar". Fast-paced bluegrass instruments and vocals back Mr. Hopkins gravelly voice on "It's Not Ok" and "Shady Bald Breakdown" is obviously "Foggy Mountain"-inspired. Rebecca Ruth

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K. S. RHOADS

The Wilderness

Jan 21, 2013

K.S. Rhoads is a singer-writer-producer out of Nashville. He is also part of the collective, Ten Out of Tenn, which is a revolving group of Nashville's "less twangy" musicians. (Ten Out of Tenn also consists of Joy Williams, Butterfly Boucher, Kyle Andrews, and Andrew Belle, among others.), K.S. Rhoads' second release,The Wilderness, is an album full of social, political, and even religious commentary. It consists of Mr. Rhoads' occasionally reverb-tinged vocals, a plethora of musical instruments, lovely string sections, and occasional programming/looping, all backed by a vocal choir and topped off with fastidious production. That's just the first half of the disc. By track six ("Chains"), it takes a surprising turn as Mr. Rhoads raps, giving the release a more soulful tone. Another surprise occurs with track 8 ("Prelude"), which is an absolutely lovely orchestral instrumental. Then, it's back to rap with the very cool "Hiyayayaya". That said, The Wilderness is all over the place genre-wise, yet it often returns to it's indie-folk vibe. This works, though, due to its consistent production, lyrics, and instrumentation. This release kept me interested from start to finish. Rebecca Ruth

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TY MAXON

Calling of the Crows

Dec 31, 2012

Originally from Michigan, Ty Maxon now calls Chicago home. Calling of the Crows is the singer/songwriter's sixth release. Featuring intricate, finger-picked guitar, subdued harmonica, soft vocal harmonies, and unfussy production, Calling of the Crows conjures images of life, love, and loss. One can't help but to compare Ty Maxon's stark music to that of Elliot Smith or Nick Drake. Rebecca Ruth

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THE HANGDOG HEARTS

The Hangdog Hearts

Dec 9, 2012

The Hangdog Hearts is Austin Stirling's band. Cristian Riquelme is on drums, Adam Reiss plays the trumpet and cello, and Greg Manfredi on upright bass with Austin as songwriter, vocalist, banjo and guitar player. Prior to this current project, Austin played in a Christian heavy metal band for three years. Track 6 "Comin in Slow," 8 "Thistle n Thorns" and #11 "Lifeless Empty Eyes" are catchy, upbeat tunes. Track 9 "Terre Haute" lyrically bashes the Indiana town. Track 10 " Dark Strutter" has an old timey feel with nice horn work. Track 12 "Wanderlust" is different--driving--and somewhat relentless. I enjoyed track 12 "Baby Gone Southbound" with its great lyrics but the song does take a quiet break midway through... Recommended: 11, 6, 8 - Pam VandeKerkhoff

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THE LANSING UNIONIZED VAUDEVILLE SPECTACLE

Extra! Extra!

Dec 3, 2012

Extra! Extra! is the first release from The Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle. The troupe creates vaudeville Americana using such instruments as washboard, kazoo, banjo, accordion, and megaphone. The music is expressive, often with Michigan-centric lyrics. The band seems to have a "let's just have a good time" attitude and I'll bet they're a blast to see perform live. I like just about everything about this release....the musicianship and instrumentation, the lyrics and the vocals. The only downside is the uneven mix. Rebecca Ruth

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JUNIOR BROWN

VOLUME TEN

Nov 13, 2012

Junior Browns new six song EP "Volume Ten" showcases this talented Texans singer and songwriting style. The CD begins with the humorous track "Hang Up And Drive". This is a statement we all think and want to say, but Junior delivers this important safety message in a way that makes you think the next time you reach for your cell phone. "The Phantom Of The Opry" is the tale of a ghost that lived in the classic old Ryman Auditorium which broadcast the grand old Opry until 1974. It is also signifies the changing in country/western music styles that happened with this move. Thank God that the old ghost is still alive ! "Trust Me" is another humorous track that deals with politicians, you need not look far to find the humor in that. Junior saves his signature hot guitar instrumental for the last track "Almost To Tulsa" a dedication to his friend and steel guitar great Buddy Charleton who passed away in 2011. This CD is short and sweet, but kept me longing for more of Juniors great guitar playing. Reviewed By; Gregg Saur

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BOBTOWN

Trouble I Wrought

Nov 5, 2012

This interesting ensemble's music has been described as "Gothic Folk." How else to introduce a band that does a bluegrass cover of "Don't Fear the Reaper," the Blue Oyster Cult mega-hit of yesteryear? There are many banjo bands barnstorming America, but Bobtown has carved a distinct niche with its choral harmonies, strong percussion and seamless mixture of bluegrass, blues, gospel and folk. This is a shade darker than most Americana groups, a kind-of bluegrass noir, which is evident immediately in the opener, the nearly-a-capella "Mama's Got the Backbeat," a hand-clapping rhythmic gospel-tinged tune. In addition to the "Reaper" cover, another standout to mention is "Battle Creek," again with the rhythmic hand-claps in this worker's lament. While there are a couple of light-hearted songs, for the most part the body count and the despair-o-meter in this set is high. Kudos to this band for choosing the road not taken as it travels the bluegrass musical landscape--and intriguing the listener enough to have them come along for the ride. Michael J. 11/12 F-Neo Americana

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MILLION SELLERS

Music City USA and Other Ghost Stories

Oct 8, 2012

Million Sellers was originally formed in Austin in 1994, but the band has since moved to Nashville. Taking its cue from other Tennessee musicians such as Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins, Million Sellers makes unpolished rockabilly music. Music City USA, the trio's full-length debut, features Kels Koch's strained vocals over dirty guitar, snare and even some hand percussion. The band is occasionally joined by guest pedal steel player, "Boppa" Jimmy Harper and it's all recorded on 2" analog tape, adding to the coarse sound. Rebecca Ruth

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THE WOOD BROTHERS

LIVE VOLUME TWO NAIL & TOOTH

Oct 8, 2012

Chris and Oliver Wood continue their live musical journey through the world of folk, blues, Americana and gospel on this encore live release, following the first live release from earlier this year. The disc begins with the gospel sounds of Sister Rosetta Tharp's classic "Up Above My Head." If this track didn't lift your head and soul to the heavens the self penned Chris Wood track "Spirit" surly will. "Shoofly Pie" originally released on The Smoke Ring Halo release has more energy than the studio version and even though I am still not sure what Shoofly Pie is it left me hungry for more. "Ain't No More Cane" is a traditional folk track that has been covered by many and The Wood Brothers harmonies are simply magic. The CD ends with the bluesy sounds of Alan Toussaint's "Get Out Of My Life Woman" and a Wood Brothers rocking favorite "Atlas". If you enjoyed the first live release this will be a must. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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The Wood Brothers

Live Volume One

Sep 23, 2012

One sign of a great concert or a great disc is when it leaves you begging for more. On this short but great disc that mixes elements of folk, rock, jazz and definitely blues brothers Chris and Oliver Wood do exactly that. This CD takes three tracks from both of the Wood brothers studio discs and adds a great cover of the Mississippi John Hurt track Pay Day. The seven tracks on this Disc were recorded at five separate venues and in my opinion hearing them live breathes an added dimension and depth into the already excellent studio versions of these tracks. In addition to the several musical genres listed above, Chris and Oliver bring touches of gospel with "Made it Up The Mountain and "stumbled In" a track about stumbling into heaven. The CD ends with an Oliver Wood penned track "Luckiest Man" that certainly can lift any spirit. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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RICKY SKAGGS

Music to My Ears

Sep 14, 2012

Grammy award-winning songwriter and mandolin/guitarist Ricky Skaggs has collaborated with and been influenced by many, including Doc Watson ("Tennessee Stud" is a tribute). Skaggs was inducted into the Gospel Music Association's Hall of Fame in August, 2012. This album was co-produced by Gordon Kennedy who penned Eric Clapton's "Change the World." The song "Blue Night," written by David Kirk McGee, has appeared on past Skaggs albums and sung by Mary Chapin Carpenter but Skaggs has got a Soggy Bottom Boys kinda vibe on this album's version. You know the culinary promise that's known around the land? "No frigerate, no expire date. You know you can't hurt ham" was inspired by Bill Monroe, the "Father of Bluegrass Music" who was a huge musical influence and with whom he performed when Ricky was a boy. "Soldier's Son" was co-written by Barry Gibb who provides lead and background vocals with powerful lyrics and haunting melody. This song sways from bluegrass to Celtic to light rock with a little reverb that I'm guessing was the Bee Gees influence. It's an interesting treatment. Rootsy, traditional "Nothing Beats a Family" is a feel-good track to end on with simple fiddle, mandolin, and whistle. With an endorsement from mainstream Reader's Digest, Music to My Ears is sure to have broad appeal for country folks. - Pam VandeKerkhoff

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RICKIE LEE JONES

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

Sep 12, 2012

While the Great American Songbook has gotten lots of action from the likes of Rod Stewart, Tony Bennett and others, the Great American Rock Songbook hasn't yet received the same attention. Rickie Lee Jones takes a crack at it here with covers by everyone from the Stones, "Sympathy For the Devil" and "Play with Fire", to Neil Young, "Only Love Can Break Your Heart", to The Band, "The Weight", and Van Morrison, "Comfort You". With her low key, unhurried readings of these classic tracks, Jones escapes the curse of trying but failing to capture the sound and feeling of the originals and, instead, reinvents them enough to allow them to be heard in an entirely new light. The results are a mixed bag with tracks that have always been somewhat low key, such as Morrison's "Comfort Me", simply dragging while numbers that typically rock such as "Sympathy For the Devil" or Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe" reveal sentiments and words that have long been buried beneath the backbeat. Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" gets the straightest reading with Jones successfully channeling the fragility of Young's lyrics. Overall, the disc has a jazzy ambiance that will transport you to a small smoky after hours club where the singer lingers over the words lest the night end too soon with everyone thrust back into the hustle of daylight. Smitty

ADMIRAL FALLOW

Tree Bursts in Snow

Aug 26, 2012

Scottish band Admiral Fallow joins Mumford and Sons as a turbo-charged, emotion-drenched indie folk band--building many of these songs into power anthems. The opener throws you off a bit since it is the only cut that trades off female and male lead vocalists; the remainder of the record travels closer to Mumford territory (although Sarah Hayes does return to give some color to the vocal harmonies throughout). "The Paper Trench," "Guest of the Government" and "Beetle in the Box" cranks up three speaker-filling songs in a row before the volume gets ratcheted down a bit. "Brother" and "The Way You Were Raised" are other (less revved up) stand-outs. Solid sophomore release. Michael J. 08/12 F-Turbo

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WOODPECKERS

Thanks Anyway

Aug 19, 2012

New York band, Woodpeckers, have gone in a completely different direction with its second release, Thanks Anyway. Letting go of its pop-punk past, the group has put on a new personae as an alt-folk-Americana band. Thanks Anyway is full of engaging lyrics and vocal harmonies backed by diverse bluegrass instrumentation such as banjo, cello, and melodica. The album as a whole is quiet with occasional orchestral flourishes that compliment the narrative nature of the songs. Rebecca Ruth

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MISSY HIGGINS

The Ol' Razzle Dazzle

Jul 20, 2012

This is Australian native Missy Higgins' 3rd album after a 5 year hiatus. She burned out for awhile and enrolled in Aboriginal studies at university and volunteered. Then she discovered the fans missed her and songs began pouring out again. It's worthy to note the first track "Set Me On Fire" was co-written by tunesmith Dan Wilson (of Adele fame) and Butterfly Boucher. "Hello Hello" is an upbeat catchy tune and "Unashamed Desire" begins moody and dark but evolves into pure pop. "Everyone's Waiting" is a compelling ballad that speaks to her return to writing/touring and is the best track on the album. "Temporary Love" evokes that 80s beat and "Watering Hole" features percussive bluesy notes with harmonica. Higgins said "Cooling of the Embers" was written due to her grandmother's slide to dementia and was a deeply personal song for her to write. Twelve songs coalesce into the heartfelt expression of Missy's return to performance and the validation of her art. Not a bad track here! - Pam VandeKerkhoff

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O'DEATH

Outside

Jun 11, 2012

Combining guitar, fiddle, banjo, ukulele, trombone, euphonium, cello, keys, and handclaps with vocal harmonies and a keen sense of production, O’Death has made one heck of an album. Outside is the third release from the Brooklyn band and it is not your usual country, or rock, or punk, or folk or any of the other genres that I hear as the band’s possible influences. I would call it Gothic Americana (Americana Gothic?) You should hear it for yourself...really. Rebecca Ruth

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KELLY HOGAN

I Like to Keep Myself in Pain

Jun 11, 2012

Long-time backup singer Kelly Hogan steps into the spotlight on this solid set of songs, drawing comparisons to Neko Case (a friend of hers)in terms of vocal style and delivery. She leads off strong with the opener "Dusty Groove" and doesn't let up. An all-star team of writers have given her good material to work with--M. Ward, Vic Chesnutt, John Wesley Harding, Robyn Hitchcock and Andrew Bird to name a few. To top it off, the legendary Booker T. Jones adds atmosphere on his B3 organ. Hogan moves from alt-country to slow burner to pop rock with ease like, well, her friend Neko. Lots to pay attention to here, such as an inventive song on domestic turmoil ("We Can't Have Nice Things"); M. Ward's ode to Frank Sinatra ("Daddy's Little Girl"); a musical pep talk to one's favorite musical artist ("Golden"); Harding's catchy "Sleeper Awake" and a bluesy finale with Booker T. taking over("Pass On By"). At 47, Kelly Hogan was finally given her chance, with great songs, a solid band and fine production--and she's delivered. Michael J. 06/12

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VARIOUS ARTISTS

Mercyland

Jun 10, 2012

Phil Medeira, Emmylou Harris's guitarist and well-respected musician, songwriter and producer, decided that God was getting a lot of bad PR from his so-called followers and asked some talented friends to help write and perform some "hymns for the rest of us." The result is Mercyland, a fine set of eclectic musical styles that puts a much more positive spin on faith than what we see on television or quoted in newspapers. The Shawn Mullens tune "Give God the Blues" sums up the sentiment: "God don't hate the Muslims/God don't hate the Jews/God don't hate the Christians/But we all give God the blues." Buddy Miller follows up with a strong offering titled "I Believe in You" (not the Dylan tune). The Civil Wars and Carolina Chocolate Drops deliver excellent traditional numbers; the North Mississippi All-Stars add some more of Mullens's straight-talk with "If I Was Jesus"; and even jazz guitarist John Scofield assists with a gorgeous guitar solo of the standard "Peace in the Valley." If only God could fire some of the nutcakes that claim his blessings to scorch people and instead hire this group of artists to represent him--well, there'd be a little more peace in the valley. Michael J. 06/12 F-Americana (Gospel)

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LEE BAINES III & THE GLORY FIRES

There Is A Bomb In Gilead

May 15, 2012

There Is A Bomb In Gilead is the debut album from Alabama band Lee Baines III & The Glory Fires. It comes out of the gate rocking with “Ain’t No Stranger”. Second track, “Centreville” is southern-fried garage and has catchy “wooo-wooo-wooo” vocals in the chorus. Starting with the ballad “Reba” and the medium-tempo “Choctaw Summer”, the album delves more into its southern side, getting downright country on “Magic City Stomp”. One can’t help but to compare Lee Baines and The Glory Fires to the Allman Brothers, especially as the album progresses into the country-blues of the last four or five tracks. Album closer, the title track, comes from Lee Bains mishearing the old hymn as a child, “There Is A Balm In Gilead”. All in all, I’d sum up this release as countryfied southern rock. Rebecca Ruth

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AARON FLINN

Miss Ready Blossom and the Seed of Dreams

May 13, 2012

He may come from Vermont but Aaron Flinn just may be the lost son of Johnny Cash. His songs have that growl and churning guitars that remind one of the Man in Black, but this guy reveals a much more sentimental side than we saw in Big Bad John (at least during his Top of the Charts days). "She's My Girl" and "My Daughter's Hand" immediately show the love which pops up in other tunes as well, culminating in the most sentimental song for a horse you will ever hear in "Bucky." But Flinn gets tough, too, as typified on his cover of Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" and his own "Tasting Tears." Out of left field comes an interesting acoustic cover of the Disney tune "Small World." This guy strikes me as a hard-working good-hearted musician hoping to support his family playing songs. It would be cool to help him do so. Michael J. 05/12 F-Anericana

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SEA OF BEES

Orangefarben

Apr 30, 2012

Orangefarben is German for the color orange and the colorful orange packaging here belies the bittersweet nature of the music. Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, Julie Ann Bee, is back with her second full-length release under the moniker Sea of Bees. Having just come out of her first long-term relationship, she seems to have put it all in writing. The songs are often sad, or at least contemplative. They are backed, however by jangly guitars, sweet melodies, and well-done production (by Thom Monahan who previously worked with Vetiver, Pernice Brothers, and Fruit Bats) giving the album an overall twee sound. Rebecca Ruth

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THE TRAVELLING MABELS

Song In A Dream

Apr 24, 2012

Nick's Picks: any – they are all good

FCC ALERT: "Clean as a Canadian Rockies Stream"

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of The Travelling Mabels Song In A Dream :

Every time I have had an opportunity to listen to an all-female trio, I find the singing most pleasant – regardless of the music (genre and songwriter), and this cd meets my expectations. A big plus for this group of Canadian singer/songwriters is that with one exception (“Song In A Dream”), the songwriting and production of this collection of songs is all original, and quite listenable. Almost all of these songs fall into that “timeless” category, where they are not aligned with any particular era, which gives these songs immortality. There is not much written about this very talented group of people, but I think that is due to the fact that they do not play to any specific genre – they can play bluegrass (“Maryanne”), old-tyme saloon-type oompah music (“Merry Go Round”, “That's The Deal), Americana country (“Riding Fences”, “Run And Hide”, “How I Hate Goodbyes”), country pop (“It's A Sign”), Island Samba (“Go Away”). All things considered, I think we will be hearing more about and from this talented trio of ladies. I would definitely buy the cd; furthermore love to see them live in concert. A little nugget of information about this group: they represent three very talented generations of women. And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

The Musicians:

・ Eva Levesque – songwriter, vocals harmonica

・ Suzanne Levesque – songwriter, vocals, bass

・ Lana Floen – songwriter, vocals

Guest Musicians:

・ Lee Worden – acoustic guitar, mandolin, dobro

・ Craig Young – acoustic guitar, dobro

・ Steve Briggs – acoustic guitar

・ Denis Keldie – accordion

・ Jeff Bradshaw – steel guitar

・ Craig Bignell – drums, percussion, banjo

・ Matthew Atkins – drums

・ Derek Stremel – banjo

・ Cedric Blary – clarinet

・ Dorothy Bishop – cello

・ Morag Northey – cello

・ Denis Dufresne – violin

・ Keith Floen – keyboards

・ Jean Francois Cotnoir – tuba (5),

The Songs:

1. Maryanne (E. Levesque)

2. Go Away (S. Levesque)

3. That's The Deal (E. Levesque, L. Floen, S. Levesque)

4. Song In A Dream (I. Tyson, Slickfork Music)

5. Merry Go Round (E. Levesque, C. Harley)

6. Riding Fences (E. Levesque)

7. Run and Hide (S. Levesque)

8. Time Drags On (L. Floen, K. Floen)

9. It's A Sign (E. Levesque)

10. How I Hate Goodbyes (E. Levesque)

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POOR MOON

Illusion

Apr 21, 2012

Half of Seattle band, Poor Moon, is comprised of members of Fleet Foxes and Crystal Skulls. The other half is comprised of veterans of Christmas Cards. This certainly explains why one hears elements of all three bands in Poor Moon’s first release, Illusion. Borrowing heaviest from Fleet Foxes, the five songs here are harmony-driven, with plucked acoustic guitars, and reverb-laden vocals. The disc starts out with simple vocals and acoustic guitar on the title track. Vocal harmonies front guitar and muted drums on one of my favorites, “Anyplace”. Focus track, “People In Her Mind”, is airy pop with its drums and electric guitars. Another favorite, “Once Before” is moody pop-noir. It all gets summed up with final track, “Widow”, which tells a dark story with its Simon and Garfunkel-inspired vocals. Rebecca Ruth

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FUTUREBIRDS

Baba Yaga

Apr 15, 2012

Like the album's namesake, Baba Yaga (a witch of Slavic folklore) is both atmospheric and haunting (the first half of the disc, anyway). This is Futurebirds' second full-length and it's full of guitar, drums, pedal-steel, occasional cello, vocal harmonies, and fine production. Due to the band's origins (Athens, GA), it is frequently likened to REM. Other than their common roots, I don't think the bands are comparable. I see Futurebirds as a folk or alt-country band. Indeed this album gets twangier as it goes along. Comparisons aside, Futurebirds has enough substance to be able to stand on its own. Rebecca Ruth

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DRY THE RIVER

Weights and Measures [EP]

Apr 9, 2012

This band is akin to Mumford and Sons and The Fleet Foxes--emotionally delivered harmony-drenched lyrics with a quiet but steady build up (in the first two songs) or a gentle and persistent refrain (in the last two songs). Lead singer/songwriter Peter Liddle is a Brit, but raised in Norway; he found some musical mates in London and says the band plays folk music with a background of post-punk and hardcore. This ain't upbeat music--it is brooding and contemplative, as from the title track: "I was prepared to love you/And never expect anything of you/There’s no patron saint of silent restraint/Baby, there aint no sword in our lake/Just a funeral wake." Michael J. 04/12 F-Indie (Harmony)

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JOE FLETCHER AND THE WRONG REASONS

White Lighter

Apr 9, 2012

White Lighter is the second release from Joe Fletcher and The Wrong Reasons. Influenced by Deer Tick, Brown Bird and The Low Anthem as well as by Merle Haggard and George Jones, this Rhode Island band makes gritty, lyrics-driven honky tonk. Rebecca Ruth

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AMBER RUBARTH

A Common Case of Disappearing

Apr 6, 2012

Amber Rubarth won the NPR Mountain Stage New Song Contest for the opener on this record, "Letter from My Lonlier Self" and it is worth the accolade, smartly written and well-performed. Rubarth has a very straightforward, no-nonsense style, reminiscent of Ani De Franco and Amy Rigby. Her heart's on he sleeve and she delivers it directly. There are couple of nice duos here, "City Starts to Bloom" and "Mirror" (the latter with Jason Mraz). One of my favorites on the disc is the jazz-tinged "Novocaine." She must have one of the most interesting pre-musician careers of anyone in our WYCE library: she was a chainsaw sculptor in Nevada before giving up that lucrative line of work for singer-songwriter. Michael J. 04/12 F-Singer-Songwriter

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WATER LIARS

Phantom Limb

Mar 26, 2012

Water Liars formed in Missouri in 2011 and recorded their debut album, Phantom Limb, on a whim shortly thereafter. It took only three days and one microphone to get the stripped down guitar-drum duo recorded. Phantom Limb is folk-rock that sometimes sounds a bit like Crazy Horse (“Short Hair”, “Whoa Back”). There is also a quiet, pastoral feel on other tracks (“Low and Long” “On the Day” and the hidden track #10. Might it be called “Cold Hearted Woman”?) Most interesting, though, is the solemn folk-hymn mash-up “It Is Well With My Soul”. Rebecca Ruth

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TRUCKSTOP HONEYMOON

Steamboat in a Cornfield

Mar 25, 2012

The band Truckstop Honeymoon is comprised of Mike West, Katie Euliss, Colon Mahoney, Nate Craft, Lance Fahy, John Thompson and Larry Maxey. The band name? West and Euliss spent their wedding night at the Tiger Truck Stop between Louisiana and the Atchafalya Swamp. With roots originally set in New Orleans, their home was destroyed with Hurricane Katrina and the couple eventually moved to Kansas. As the liner notes indicate, West and Euliss march every Mardi Gras through sleet and snow, blowing on horns and banging on drums, sounding like a riverboat plowing through a cornfield. Mike states the band is progressively being influenced by old R&B songs, 1930s show tunes and vaudeville--evident in tracks “Play Along,” “She Wants to Be French,” and “The Key.” There are songs poking fun: “Your Mother is a Sociopath” and “Leidseplein”—great tunes for Mother’s Day! I wish parts 1 and 2 of the “Kaw River Rag” were joined in one sweeping banjo instrumental…because separately they are little gems. “On the Prairie Now,” (their lament to either freezing to death or wiping the sweat from their brow) “Corn Maze,” and “Steamboat in a Cornfield” tracks 2, 14, and 15, respectively, are favored tunes. According to binkyrecords.com, Truckstop Honeymoon plays “break-neck breakdowns or waltzes. Their music is like a Dodge with a burned-out clutch: it has two speeds and no reverse.” I couldn’t say it more eloquently myself. – Pam VandeKerkhoff

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THE LUMINEERS

The Lumineers

Mar 11, 2012

“I headed West I was a man on the move/New York had lied to me I needed the truth.” These lyrics kick off the second verse of “Dead Sea” by the Denver trio The Lumineers on their self-titled debut album. While these simple words may serve as a reference to the band’s beginnings, the totality of their debut speaks volumes about their future. The unique vocals of lead singer Wesley Schultz and the foot stomp-inducing percussion of Jeremiah Fraites carry this excellent debut album. While the feel-good vibe of songs like “Ho Hey” and “Big Parade” lifts the spirits of devout fans at the band’s live shows, it was sorrow that first led the pair to find solace in music. Playing music together in the clubs of New York helped ease the pain from the loss of Schultz’s best friend and Fraites’s older brother to a drug overdose at the young age of 19. Unfortunately, the difficulty of making ends meet in the competitive music scene of New York led the pair West with hopes that their brand of stomp and clap acoustic folk would gain a stronger foothold in the Rockies. “When we were young, we did enough/When it got cold, we bundled up/I can’t be told, it can’t be done.” The bridge from “Stubborn Love” describes the hopefulness, perseverance and hard work that have led the Lumineers to the brink of stardom. Upon arriving in Denver, the band added cellist Neyla Pekarek (who later expanded her talents to the mandolin and piano), self-recorded an EP and self-booked a tour across the Western US and back to the East Coast. The infectious energy of their live shows have won them fans and praise from publications such as Paste Magazine, which lists the album as one of the 25 most anticipated of 2012. While this energy is appropriately captured on the tracks “Classy Girls” (2), recorded to sound as if it’s being performed live, “Submarines” (3), “Ho Hey” (5), “Stubborn Love” (7), and “Big Parade” (8), the band also offers the heart-felt ballads “Dead Sea” (4) and “Slow it Down” (6). History also finds its place on “Charlie Boy” (9), an emotional song about a soldier sent off to fight in the Vietnam War, and “Flapper Girl” (10), which would seem right at home being sung at a speakeasy during Prohibition. The Lumineers’ debut will have listeners tapping along on the first spin and music fans who like to be first among their peers to discover an up and coming band should mark April 3rd on their calendars and give this one a try. FCC Alerts – None. Highlights – Submarines (3), Dead Sea (4), Ho Hey (5), Stubborn Love (7), Big Parade (8). Reviewed by Brian Hartl

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BOWERBIRDS

The Clearing

Mar 11, 2012

As bands mature, their sound inevitably changes to become more polished and sophisticated. However, some diehard fans are disappointed with this maturation and long for the simplistic days of a band’s beginning. The same can be said for romantic relationships. With time, a couple grows to understand and appreciate each other at levels well beyond the surface characteristics that initially sparked the pairing. However, nothing can replace the fresh and exciting feelings of a newfound love. On their third album, the Bowerbirds, made up of boyfriend/girlfriend Phil Moore and Beth Tacular, deliver 11 songs that highlight the maturation of their music since their debut in 2006 while drawing themes from their growth as a couple (including a breakup and rediscovering their love). Whereas their previous releases have offered sparse instrumentation, The Clearing finds the band dabbling in string and horn arrangements, vibrant percussion, piano and distorted guitar. This newfound instrumentation does not overshadow their vocals, however, as they present lyrics influenced equally by the darkness they endured during the trials of life and the simple wonders that life presents. The Bowerbirds share a close connection with Megafaun and Bon Iver from times spent in the Raleigh, NC area. Megafaun’s Brad Cook released the band’s debut album on his Burlytime label and The Clearing was recorded at Justin Vernon’s April Base studio in Wisconsin. Before Bon Iver, Vernon considered joining Moore’s first band (Ticonderoga) and once did some cat-sitting for the couple. The musicians also share a penchant for recording songs in remote cabins (much of The Clearing was recorded in a North Carolina cabin that the Bowerbirds call home). Listeners may identify similarities to Bon Iver in the middle of the album on “This Year” (5) and “Brave World” (6). Despite the Bowerbirds’ fuller sound, they return to their simplistic roots on “Walk the Furrows” (3) and “Overcome with Light” (8). The majority of songs feature Moore’s vocals or shared harmonies, but Tacular’s earthy vocals take lead on “In the Yard” (2), a celebratory song about the couple’s land in North Carolina and “Hush” (7), a song layered with piano and electric guitar. Although the album may not grab you on the first listen, a greater appreciation for the album’s lyrics, instrumentation and overall production emerges after a few spins. FCC Alerts – None. Highlights – Tuck the Darkness In (1), In the Yard (2), This Year (5), Sweet Moment (9). Reviewed by Brian Hartl

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AZTEC TWO-STEP

Cause & Effect

Mar 8, 2012

Nick's Picks: 02 Lazarus and Simon; 05 Remembrance Day; 15 John Gary

FCC ALERT: “As pure as the singing on this cd"

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Aztec Two-StepCause & Effect :

This is a long-time folk duo who have spent many years at the second tier of the business. They have been around since the sixties, and were originally very popular on the college radio circuit. For the past couple decades they have been playing and recording independent of the major labels. As with most folk/protest songs, the messages are timeless – the only thing to change are the names and the issues. Apparently this duo has done just that to some of the songs on this cd (at least according to the media notes). Although the duo play and sing well together, I cannot picture them playing many venues larger than coffee joints and student gathering places. I do like most of their messages (“Lazarus and Simon”, “Remembrance Day”), and the pair take the time to play some tongue in cheek music (“Better Watch Out for the Rastafarians”, “Life In the 80's”). When it comes to serious issues, they are not afraid to articulate some of the horrors and conditions in their songs – much like Joni Mitchell, CSN&Y, Simon & Garfunkel, and Bob Dylan. I find a few that resonate with me, and I like to just sit back and ponder life when I hear these tunes (“Ban Vinai”, “What Would The Indians Say?”). As a band, these two have played together for so long that their riffs and rhythms mesh together so perfectly, I am certain it would be an experience to watch them play in an intimate setting like One Trick Pony. Would I buy their album? Probably not, but I definitely would go to see them play.

And that's my two nickels' worth.......................Nick

ARTIST BIO:

In 1972, Aztec Two-Step, whose name comes from a poem by beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, burst upon the scene with their self-titled debut album on Elektra Records. Since then Rex Fowler and Neal Shulman have spent a lifetime making music together as the folk/rock duo Aztec Two-Step. Their first album, along with their subsequent albums for RCA Records were staples of progressive FM and college radio and helped to bring the folk/rock music of the 1960s into the 70s and beyond. As their recording career continued, so did the critical acclaim. In 1987 Living in America, received the New York Music Award for Best Folk Album and was named in Billboard’s year-end critic’s poll. They have been praised in countless major US newspapers and magazines, including Rolling Stone, and have appeared on numerous TV and radio shows, such as the David Letterman Show, the King Biscuit Flour Hour, and World Café Live. Rex and Neal released their first live album,"Highway Signs" on the PRIME-CD folk label in 1996 in celebration of their 25th anniversary. In 1999 they were the subjects of the documentary “No Hit Wonder, ”which was aired on several PBS stations across America. To commemorate their 30th anniversary in 2001, they released a double CD compellation (sic) entitled, “Live & Rare” and in 2005, released their career-defining “Days of Horses” CD to rave reviews. Of this release, the Boston Globe said, “Fans of the duo’s harmony-driven tunes and easygoing acoustic guitar riffs will recognize their James Taylor-meets-Simon & Garfunkel sound. What’s new is the mood. This album sits back on its haunches as Rex Fowler and Neal Shulman look back wistfully at American pop culture and their own ride through it.” In June 2007, Real Simple, a popular national lifestyle magazine, named Aztec Two-Step’s debut recording one of the top five classic folk albums of all-time, along with works by Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Tom Rush and Phil Ochs. Rhino Records released Forever Changing-The Golden Age of Elektra Records 1963-1973, a five-CD box set that tells the story of this landmark record label and the music that defined an era. The collection includes Aztec Two-Step’s “The Persecution and Restoration of Dean Moriarty (On The Road).” In 2009, the It’s About Music label issued a 44-song compilation entitled, “The Persecution and Restoration of Aztec Two-Step.” To commemorate their 40th Anniversary year, early 2012 brings the official release of Fowler & Shulman’s studio CD “Cause & Effect” (Red Engine Records). A collection of songs of social significance, it is produced by Paul Guzzone and features long-time bassist Fred Holman. The album is a combination of re-worked previously recorded songs and newly mined material. From John Platt of WFUV in New York, “The secret of Aztec Two Step's longevity isn't just the harmony between Rex and Neal, it's also the quality of the songs. On "Cause and Effect" they revisit a lot of their repertoire with crisp acoustic arrangements. And while the songs were mostly inspired by a specific moment in time (Reaganomics, apartheid, John Lennon's assassination), they resonate anew today.” Headliners in their own right, the duo has appeared in concert with such notable artists as Tim Hardin, Donovan, The Band, Allen Ginsberg, Bruce Springsteen, Talking Heads, Michael Bolton, The Beach Boys, Bon Jovi, Heart, Randy Newman, Judy Collins, Jose Feliciano, Carly Simon, Bonnie Raitt, Roger McGuinn, Bette Midler, Harry Chapin, Jim Croce, Steve Goodman, Laura Nero, Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Don McLean, Suzanne Vega, David Bromberg, Jesse Winchester, Jonathan Edwards, Dave Mason, Phoebe Snow, Shawn Colvin, Michelle Shocked, John Sebastian, Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Renaissance, Richard Thompson, Al Stewart, America, Poco, Firefall, Atlanta Rhythm Section, NRBQ, Orleans, John Cafferty, The Strawbs, Seals and Crofts, Loggins and Messina, Brewer and Shipley, Batdorf and Rodney, Peter Frampton, Devonsquare, Joan Jett, Joe Ely, ShaNaNa, Papa John Creach, Atlanta Rhythm Section, The Allman/Betts Band, The Charlie Daniels Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Pure Prairie League, John Pousette-Dart, Jimmy Buffet, Eddie Rabbit, Earl Scruggs, Vassar Clemens, Jerry Jeff Walker, David Hardin, Rodney Crowell, Crystal Gayle, The Nelson Brothers, B.J. Thomas, Melissa Manchester, David Clayton Thomas, Neil Sedaka, Kenny Rankin, Larry Coryell, Joan Armatrading, The Persuasions, Bill Cosby, Steve Landesberg, Steven Wright, Richard Belzer, Robert Klein and more.

The Original Aztec Two-Step:

・ Rex Fowler – songwriter, vocals, guitar

・ Neal Shulman – songwriter, guitar, vocals

The Guest Musicians:

・ Fred Holman – bass

The Songs:

1. Falling Down Clowns

2. Lazarus and Simon

3. Black Africa

4. Shantytown

5. Remembrance Day

6. Rabbit In The Moon

7. Olga (Black September)

8. War

9. Better Watch Out (for The Rastafarians)

10. Life In The 80's

11. Johhny's An Angel

12. Just Another Nothing With A Name

13. Ban Vinai

14. What Would The Indians Say:

15. John Gary

16. Living In America

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LYLE LOVETT

RELEASE ME

Mar 8, 2012

This 14 track collection marks the end of Lyle Lovett’s career spanning affiliation with Curb Records. As is typical with Lovett, he highlights the occasion with wit: the cover photo shows him tied up from head to toe. He leaves the joke there by giving the title track, which features a duet with kd lang, a straight forward reading filled with the ache of the classic Ray Price version. The balance of the disc is vintage Lovett at his eclectic best with aching ballads, "Understand You", "Dress of Laces" and "Night’s Lullaby", upbeat large band numbers, "Isn’t That So" and "White Freightliner Blues", a countrified remake of Chuck Berry’s "Brown Eyed Handsome Man", a rootsy instrumental, "Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom", a sarcastic put down of posers, "White Boy Lost In the Blues" and the risqué classic, "Keep It Clean". While well done, the two holiday tunes, "Baby It’s Cold Outside" and "The Girl with the Holiday Smile", will seem out of place at your summer BBQ where Lovett’s music naturally belongs. Even though his reliance on other songwriters for material to fill out this release (only two of the cuts are originals) deprives us of Lovett’s keen ability to craft the compelling tales that have gained him a rabid fan base, he demonstrates his skill as a first class interpreter with his delicious sense of phrasing which enables him to wrench every last bit of emotion out of the lyrics, a fact revealed most clearly when he abandons the safety net of the Large Band and strips the musical backdrop to only a couple of pieces as on "One Way Gal". The near absence of original material notwithstanding, this disc will give fans something solid to chew on while awaiting the next chapter of Lovett’s storied career. Smitty

SHANIMAL

Rough & Tumble: Everybody Gets the Blues

Mar 4, 2012

Out of Brooklyn, Shannon Kerner performs under the name Shanimal on this, her first release. While she wrote, arranged, and sings vocals on Rough and Tumble, she is joined by other musicians to round out the sound with guitar, ukelele, banjo, clarinet, accordion, and even kazoo. While the instrumentation is occasionally interesting, I found her vocals to be a bit grating; but what do I know about singing. Shanimal refers to her music as “blue-eyed blues” and “old-time Americana”. I agree that it leans in that direction, but I would call it acoustic contemporary folk, in the singer-songwriter vein. Rebecca Ruth

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AMOS LEE

As the Crow Flies

Feb 25, 2012

This short set of six songs were recorded at the same time as Lee's highly regarded 2011 disc "Mission Bell," and Lee continues the soulful guitar-vocal-and-piano combination that made "Bell" ring, assisted by members of Calexico. Some refer to Lee as the "male Norah Jones" of Blue Note, in that his easy-going soul-tinged songs have a similarity that mimics Jones's piano melodies; there's some truth in that, I suppose, but Lee shows off plenty of talent in writing, singing and playing. No knock on that. Perhaps the knock is that sometimes the songs can feel slowed by emotive weight (#1, $4 and at times #6, perhaps). Try out cuts #2 and #3 and see what you think. Great voice--and if these are out-takes, he has a deep bench of songs. 02/12 Michael J. F-Soul

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MARTIN ZELLAR & THE HARDWAYS

Roosters Crow

Feb 24, 2012

Martin Zellar had a brief brush with rock fame 20-some years ago as the leader of the Gear Daddies and is best known for penning the novelty tune "I Wanna Drive the Zamboni." After a ten-year hiatus from recording (and a move with his family to Mexico), Zellar returns with a very solid set of folk-rock songs. There's some semblances of early Steve Earle in these tunes, but everything here is original and well-crafted. Kelly Willis assists with harmony vocals on "Poison" and "Pure Fear" (that song starts quietly and then revs up the guitars and vocals; Terri Hendrix does the same on the title track and "I'm That Problem." Other standout performances come from Billy Bright (mandolin on "Wore Me Down") and he pedal steel of Lloyd Maines on "Seven Shades of Blue." There a couple of very catchy--almost pop--tunes on this disc: check out "I'm That Problem" and "It Works for Me" (except you can't play "Works" because of one ill-placed word. Anyway, welcome back, Martin, nice to have you back. 02/12 Michael J. F-Rock NO PLAY: #5 and #11.

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LINDA CHORNEY

Emotional Jukebox (2-CD Set)

Feb 21, 2012

Nick's Picks: ANY – except 07, 12-15

FCC ALERT: 15 Ladies Penguin

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Linda Chorney Emotional Jukebox :

I started listening to this cd shortly prior to discovering that Ms. Chorney was nominated for a Grammy for Best Americana Album. Her journey to that point in her life would make for a great tale (or better yet, a blues album). I picked this to listen to because I had a long vacation time to spend in the Daytona Beach area, with only sunshine, sand, and tunes (of course, the seafood) – and it was listed as a double album. (Long story about that for my blog). I was so blown away by the production and arrangement of the first cut (“I'm Only Sleeping”), a fantastic cover of an equally fantastic Lennon/McCartney song. I just had to listen on. The next cut, while original material (“Cherries”), sounded so eerily like a Cheryl Crow/Mark Knopfler/Avril Lavigne mashup, that I can understand Linda's frustration with being misidentified as Ms. Crow. (IMHO Linda is more soulful – and prettier, as well). The song itself is, again, pure genius in arrangement and production. The choice of backing musicians is top notch, as well. From that high-speed love song, we slow down to a much slower textured, ethereal (and even haunting at times) love song – sung as a duet (“Finally”). I love the songwriting – I am not too crazy about using two lead voices here. It seems to water down the emotion. And then, again, I am completely sucked into the next song with the genuinely inspired arrangement and musicianship (“Going To California”). This cover of the Led Zeppelin song can elicit an almost religious experience – it is so well-played, arranged, and sung. I just have to add that the percussion on this cut gave me goose bumps. (LISTENER'S WARNING: DO NOT LISTEN WHILE HIGH ON STREET PHARMACEUTICALS – it'll screw you up). So as not to be pigeon-holed into a specific genre, she takes a right turn onto the Dixieland Expressway with the next cut (“I'm Not Gonna Say It”), which is a real toe tapper of a song. And from there, we drift a tad into the bible beltway (at least with the righteous gospel-infused (Hallelujah!) backup singing. Just a comment here: The spoken intro was not necessary, and I (again, IMHO) may detract from the likeability of the song. “Do It While You Can” is another offering that (although in the same musical genre as the previous two) lessens the quality of the album. It may be “catchy”, but it just doesn't fit in with the rest. And then, we are brought back into the prodigious arranging and producing net with another outer-worldly cover of a Rolling Stones song (“Mother's Little Helper”). What a magical trip!! Speaking of trips, the next cut (“Let It Go”) seems to have been written specifically to screw with the listener's mind. Ditto for the next cut (“Awol”), except for the political lyrics (which I, IMHO, think is a bit “preachy” coming from a songwriter in the Americana genre). Sadly, the next three cuts are really not necessary, and may have been added as filler (“Token Feel Good Song”, “Folk Song”, “Tea Bag Party People”). They certainly don't have the same quality of songwriting as the rest of the cuts on disk one. The last cut on this cd (“Ladies Penguin”) is funny, but definitely not playable over the airwaves. It, also, is unnecessary. At this point in my review, I think that I have spent too many words on this review; however, there is a second disk that is completely different from the first disk – and, difficult to believe, I think it is musically and lyrically much better than the first! It's a pleasure to listen to a release where the artist actually took time to put out honest, well-written and heartfelt music (eg. “Mother Natures Symphony”). Would I buy this? Most certainly, and yes, I would go see her in concert. And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

The Musicians:

・ Linda Chorney – songwriter, vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica, electric guitar

・ Shawn Pelton – drums

・ Leon Pendaryis – Hammond (track 5)

・ Will Lee – bass

・ Bashiri Johnson – percussion

・ Jeff Pevar – bass, guitar, classical guitar, dobro

・ Lisa Fischer – vocals

・ Andy Burton – Hammond, xylophone, wurlitzer, piano, ding thing (sic) , mellotron

・ Ben Wisch – wurlitzer

・ Julia Kent – cello

・ Arlan Feiles– vocals, piano (tracks 3, 7)

・ Chris Tesesco – violin (track 3), fiddle (track 7)

・ Ralph Notaro – slide guitar, mandolin

・ Hernan Romero – guitar, flamenco guitar, cajon (track 4)

The Songs:

Disk I:

1. I'm Only Sleeping (Lennon/McCartney)

2. Cherries (L. Chorney)

3. Finally (L. Chorney)

4. Going To California (R. Plant/J. Paige)

5. I'm Not Gonna Say It (L. Chorney)

6. Broken Promise Land (L. Chorney)

7. Do it While You Can (L. Chorney)

8. Mother's Little Helper (M. Jagger/K. Richards)

9. Let it Go (L. Chorney)

10. Awol (L. Chorney)

11. Penguin Blues (L. Chorney)

12. Token Feel Good Song (L. Chorney)

13. Folk Song (L. Chorney)

14. Tea Bag Party People (L. Chorney)

. 15. Ladies Penguin(L. Chorney)

Disk II

1. Mother Nature's Symphony (L. Chorney)

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GINA FORSYTH

Promised Land

Feb 18, 2012

Nick's Picks: 01 Promised Land; 06 Belle; 13 Just For Tonight; 14 We Will Be Reborn.

FCC ALERT: As sweet as the chords on this cd.

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Gina ForsythPromised Land :

Balladeer – look up the definition, and I imagine you will find a reference to Gina Forsyth. The title cut (“Promised Land”) is so pure and simple, with a depth of feeling emitted by the singer and fellow musicians, that I would swear that she has to be of Irish descent. Her style of writing and performing are very minimalist, but her songwriting and performing really reach down into the listener's inner core to resonate with the primal chords of humanity 's basic needs. Her a capella performance on the second cut (“Lord Have Mercy”) is a prime example of that – no instrument, just simple truths put to music. As a folksinger, her politics seem to target no particular party; instead, her gentle tongue-in-cheek seems aimed at human greed and big business, with a dollop of humor to offset the sad truth of her lyrics (“4th of July”, “Christmas In China”). I am impressed by Gina's mastery of chords, and the way she can “speak” her songs with a rich chord arrangement for carrying the message (“Sweet & Sunny South”) - again with a musical minimalist approach, which works well for her. The next cut on the cd could have all kinds of curse words, but since I don't know cajun, I just have to accept the beauty of the song (“Belle”). I suspect that Gina did her share of busking, because some songs seemed designed to be performed by a single performer – perhaps two (“What I Did On Mardi Gras Day”). Having survived the Katrina disaster, Gina can turn a tragedy into a whimsical commentary on the post-Katrina rash of copper thefts.(“Copper Rooster”). For her sophomore release, this is a melodious and well-written cd. Don't be misled by the relative “newness” of the recording, it does represent many years of learning, playing, and writing. It's a pleasure to listen to a release where the artist actually took time to put out honest, well-written and heartfelt music (eg. “11 Days”, “Just For Tonight”), and not waste the listener's time with fluff or filler. And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

ARTIST BIO:

Born in Florida and raised in Alabama, Forsyth first came to New Orleans in 1983 to study music at Loyola University; her classmates included keyboardist John “Papa” Gros and trombonist Mark Mullins. As she worked toward a degree in classical violin performance, she commuted to Lafayette on weekends to gig with Sheryl Cormier’s Cajun band. The music, related to but different from the traditional fiddle tunes she already knew, enticed her.“I heard it, and thought it was easy,” Forsyth said. “Then I had to immerse myself in it to play it well. I fell in love with it.” After graduating in 1987, she moved briefly to Lafayette to continue her real-world studies of the indigenous music of south Louisiana. This is her second album.

The Musicians:

・ Gina Forsyth – songwriter,(except 6 – traditional), fiddle, vocals, acoustic guitar

・ Chris Polacheck – electric bass

・ Stephen Randall – percussion

・ Jim Markway – upright bass

・ Mike Barras – drums, percussion

・ Jonno Frishberg – triple-row and cajun accordion

・ Mike West – banjo

The Songs:

1. Promised Land

2. Lord Have Mercy

3. 4th of July

4. Christmas In China

5. Sweet & Sunny South

6. Belle

7. Sparrows

8. What I Did On Mardi Gras Day

9. Copper Rooster

10. Elegy

11. Just Like Eddie

12. 11 Days

13. Just For Tonight

14. We Will Be Reborn

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HONOR FINNEGAN

The Tiny Life

Feb 2, 2012

Honor Finnegan is from the south side of Chicago. In her younger years, she cut her teeth as the lead in “Annie” touring in stage productions across the country. Her voice is crystal clear with a strong vibrato. She calls herself a ukulele diva. By day she is a special education preschool teacher in New York. Track 4 “Life is Short” offers sage advice for those dreading the loss of youth…“you’re gonna get old and die.” Track 5 “Internet Junkie” is an uptempo bluesy tune which pokes fun at the “world wide monkey” and those who must “Google it” all the while promoting her name! Recommended tracks: 6-8-9: “Pictures of Snow,” “Content” and “Undone” are soft, multi-instrument tunes with pleasant harmonies. -- Pam VandeKerkhoff

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LOUISA BRANSCOMB

I'll Take Love from the pen of Louisa Branscomb

Jan 24, 2012

Nick's Picks: 02 I'll Take Love; 05 Your Amazing Grace; 09 Extra Blue; 12 That's What Texas Was For

FCC ALERT: "Clean as a Smokey Mountain Stream”l

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Louisa Branscomb I'll Take Love from the pen of Louisa Branscomb :

I am a sucker for well-played bluegrass music, and more the better if it is well written (“I'm Gonna Love You”, “Stormy Night”). I didn't recognize the lyrics, but the tunes seem as old as the mountains from which these songs drew inspiration. The arrangements and musical writing are poignantly matched with country bluegrass lyrics - some of which (IMHO) will earn her more accolades from the country and bluegrass world. Every song is an award winner waiting to recognized. The lap steel sets such a forlorn tone that this reviewer had to wipe a few dust specks from my eyes (“I'll Take Love”, “Closin' Nashville Down”, “Extra Blue”, “Silence Broke Beyond Repair"). Although this release is chock full of well-known bluegrass performers, I especially loved so many of the harmonies – particularly The Whites (“This Side of Heaven”, “That's What Texas Was For”). This is a fantastic collaboration of bluegrass and country artists performing at their best, and I recommend getting your hands on this release. Even more, I would just love to see a concert with all this talent performing these beautifully written tunes. Oh, what a night that would be! And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

The Musicians:

・ Louisa Branscomb – songwriter

・ Ethan Ballinger – guitar

・ Allison Brown – banjo

・ Mike Witcher – lapsteel, national resonator

・ Alan Bibey – mandolin

・ Jim Hurst – guitar, backup vocals (1, 5,9,10,11)

・ Missy Rains – producer, bass

・ Claire Lynch – lead vocals (1,5) backup vocals (5,7)

・ Stuart Duncan – fiddle

・ Alison Krauss – backup vocals (2)

・ Steve Gulley – lead vocals (3,7,11), backup vocals (2,13)

・ Buck, Cheryl, Sharon White – lead , backup vocals (8,12)

・ Dale Ann Bradley – lead vocals (2,7,11,13), backup vocals (3,13)

The Songs:

1. I/m Gonna Love You

2. I'll Take Love

3. Closin' Nashville Down

4. Wearin' The Blues

5. Your Amazing Grace

6. State Line

7. Surrender

8. This Side of Heaven

9. Extra Blue

10. Stormy Night

11. Silence Broke Beyond Repair

12. That's What Texas Was For

13. It's Just Lovin'

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VARIOUS ARTISTS

Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan

Jan 23, 2012

Amnesty International scored a big fund-raising hit a number of years ago with "Instant Karma," a disc full of John Lennon songs (dollars going to Darfur). This time, the organization has upped the ante for its 50th birthday with a sprawling, four-disc collage of Dylan songs performed by everyone from Miley Cyrus to Pete Seeger and covering most of the WYCE genres of music. One will find folk, blues, jazz, rock and worldbeat among these 76 selections (you can skip the Miley Cyrus attempt, please). The ear-catching tunes tend to be couplings of talented soul or international singers choosing interesting Dylan covers; examples are Rafael Saadiq on "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat"; Ziggy Marley's "Blowin' in the Wind"; "Lay Lady Lay" by Angelique Kidjo; K'Naan's "With God On Our Side"; "Political World" from the Carolina Chocolate Drops; and Michael Franti's version on "Subterranean Homesick Blues." But there are plenty of other intriguing takes as well. Generally speaking, I think the disasters (like young Miley) are very few so you can program with reckless abandon. Amnesty and Dylan began at about the same time in 1962, so it's a natural pairing. The only sad things here are that Amnesty still has so much work to do in this crazy world and the realization of how much we're gonna miss Bobby D. when he's gone. 01/12 Michael J.

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JOHN MCCUTCHEON

This Land: Woodie Guthrie's America

Jan 16, 2012

Nick's Picks: 04 Deportees; 07 This Morning I Was Born Again; 11 Old Cap Moore; 12 Ludlow Massacre

FCC ALERT: "Clean as a mountain stream"

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of John McCutcheon This Land: Woody Guthrie's America :

Although this album is released by well-known singer/songwriter John McCutcheon as an homage to a much more talented songwriter (Woody Guthrie), I have to say that the arrangements are aptly matched with the tone of each song, and the musicians have made some very good music out of some lesser known works of Woodie Guthrie, as well as some better know ones (“Deportees”, “Mail Myself To You”). Additionally, one of Woodie's best known songs (“This Land Is Your Land”) is performed with vocal and musical contributions from some living legends (Willie Nelson, Tommy Emannuel), Kathy Mattea, Maria Muldaur, Tom Paxton, Tom Chapin). This six-time Grammy nominee has selected songs that are just as relevant today as they were in Woodie's day (1930s to 1950s). Although John McCutcheon declared that this was not a “tribute” album, I do believe that not only does it draw attention to Woodie Guthrie's 100th birthday in 2012, but is does actually pay tribute to a timeless American songwriter. And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

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The Musicians:

・ John McCutcheon – vocals, all kinds of stringed instruments

・ Tommy Emmanuel – guitar

・ Tim O'Brien – mandolin

・ Various contributing artists – vocals, bass

The Songs:

1. Biggest Thing That Man Has Ever Done

2. Mail Myself to You

3. I Ain't Got No Home

4. Deportees

5. Harness Up the Day

6. Howjadoo

7. This Morning I Was Born Again

8. Pastures of Plenty

9. 1913 Massacre

10. Pretty Boy Floyd

11. Old Cap Moore

12. Ludlow Massacre

13. This Is Our Country Here

14. This Land Is Your Land

15. Hobo's Lullaby

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MATT FLINNER TRIO

Winter Harvest

Jan 14, 2012

Over the past four years, the Matt Flinner Trio has had a project in the works. During the winter months, while on tour, each member had to write one song per day. The resulting three songs would be taught to the other members and then performed that night at whatever venue they happened to be playing. The end result can be heard on the trio’s second release, “Winter Harvest”. (Appropriately titled, huh?) While the album was not recorded live (on said night), the writing and performance dates and locations are noted on the liner notes, providing an interesting look at the process. (“Winter Harvest” was actually recorded in just a couple weeks, in a studio in Matt Flinner’s hometown of Nashville.) This release is pretty much what I've come to expect from the trio....well-executed instrumental americana music. Rebecca Ruth

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KELLY PARDEKOOPER

Yonder

Jan 14, 2012

Straight out of the midwest, Iowa City native Kelly Pardekooper has released his sixth album, “Yonder”. While Mr. Pardekooper is currently based in L.A. and making the rounds in the local music scene, he is also making a name for himself with songs featured in television series (Sons of Anarchy, True Blood). Hushed and moody, “Yonder” prominently features this singer/songwriter’s quiet vocals while wisps of pedal steel and subtle snare are threaded throughout. Rebecca Ruth

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DREW LANDRY

Sharecropper's Whine

Jan 11, 2012

Sharecropper’s Whine is the culmination of 25 musicians (Bandry Land aka The Drew Landry Band) helping a broke songwriter--Drew Landry. He gained notoriety as a crawfisher from Louisiana who testified before the oil spill commission with the song “BP Blues.” He is passionate about the erosion of shore and livelihood and has strong words in his protest songs, especially in track 16 “Last Man Standin’.” #2 Title track “Sharecropper’s Whine” features a country beat with easy syncopation, upright bass, slide guitar, and fiddle… great tune. I liked “Out West” and “90 Proof” for the bluesy overtones and pedal effects. “Make It Rhyme” is a nod to the late Bobby Charles and his “Solution to Pollution” project. #17 “Gone Home” features soft guitar lines and background zydeco. - Pam VandeKerkhoff FCC Alert: tracks 3, 12, 16

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PAUL KELLY

Greatest Hits-Songs From the South Volumes 1 & 2

Jan 1, 2012

With seventeen albums and numerous film scores under his belt, Paul Kelly might be the most famous folk singer-songwriter I’ve never heard of. I guess it’s to be expected that his greatest hits release should be a double disc. (The first disc covers the years 1985-1997 and the second disc covers 1998-2008.) With a full band backing thoughtful vocals, think Billy Bragg, Robyn Hitchcock, or John Wesley Harding to peg this Australian. Rebecca Ruth

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CARSIE BLANTON

Idiot Heart

Jan 1, 2012

Philadelphia native, Carsie Blanton, has toured extensively in the last few years, opening for such artists as: Joan Osborne, The Weepies, and Paul Simon. If that doesn’t give this singer-songwriter credibility, the fact that her third release was produced by Oliver Wood (Wood Brothers) certainly does. Sticking strictly to the folk genre, with elements of pop and country scattered throughout, “Idiot Heart” features charming lyrics, sung sweetly, to the accompaniment of a full band. Rebecca Ruth

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PIETA BROWN

Mercury

Nov 14, 2011

Nick's Picks: 03 Mercury; 05 I'm Gone; 09 Closing Time; 11 Glory To Glory

FCC ALERT: "Squeaky Clean"

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Pieta Brown Mercury :

Pieta Brownt is a talented and focused folk artist, whose songwriting talents have garnered her mention in no less than The Wall Street Journal, as well as opportunities to perform in festivals throughout the US and a tour with Mark Knopfler (formerly of Dire Straits). Her singing style is similar to Gillian Welch, and almost as sexy. Her songwriting does, however, reflect her youthful take on life (“Be With You”, “I Want It Back”). Her bandmates bring an abundance of professionalism and technically musical savvy to the table – particularly the haunting tremelo from Bo Ramsey and Richard Bennett (“Closing Time”, ”So Many Miles”, and “Night All Day” are excellent examples). With a more assertive singing voice, she could be favorably compared to the inimitable (irony intended) Emmylou Harris (“Butterfly Blues”, “I Don't Mind” are just a couple on this release). The musical arrangements on this, her fifth full release, are as impressive as the songwriting, singing, and playing. And her backing band doesn't hold anythingy back. It seems that each and every song in this release is sung in the same key; however, the change-ups in the pace of the songs prevent the listener from becoming bored. And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

ARTIST BIO:

Pieta Brown is an American musician and singer-songwriter who has released four critically acclaimed albums and three EPs in the last decade. She has performed with artists such as Mark Knopfler, John Prine, Amos Lee and Calexico. Brown was born in Iowa City, Iowa in 1973, the daughter of two preachers' kids.[1] Her early upbringing in Iowa was in a rural outpost with no furnace or running water. There, Brown was exposed to traditional and rural folk music through her father, singer songwriter Greg Brown. Brown spent her childhood living in 17 different residences between Iowa and Alabama. While living with her mother in Alabama, Brown began writing poetry and composing instrumental songs on piano.[2] Collaborator Bo Ramsey produced her 2002 debut record, Pieta Brown and co-produced her 2005 album In the Cool which was named one of the year's best by Amazon.[3] Her next album Remember The Sun was released in 2007 and was cited as one of the year's best in a The Wall Street Journal article.[4] After the release of her next album, One and All, Brown joined Mark Knopfler’s North American tour, had a string of performance dates with John Prine, participated in a full orchestral show with Brandi Carlile, and embarked on her own performance tour in Australia. Brown's 2009 EP, Shimmer was produced by Don Was after he heard Brown performing solo and live on his car radio.[5] In addition to Mark Knopfler, John Prine and Brandi Carlile, Brown has shared stages with JJ Cale, Emmylou Harris, Ani DiFranco, Calexico, Neko Case, Mason Jennings, Shawn Mullins, Carrie Rodriguez and Jim Lauderdale. She has performed at festivals throughout North America including Bonnaroo, Mountain Jam (festival), Edmonton Folk Music Festival and more. Her national radio credits include performances on eTown (radio program) and Mountain Stage. Albums Mercury - (Red House Records, 2011) One and All - (Red House Records, 2010) Remember the Sun – (One Little Indian, 2007) In the Cool – (Valley Entertainment, 2005)[6] Pieta Brown – (Trailer Records, 2002) [edit]EPs Shimmer EP - (Red House Records, 2009) Flight Time EP - (T Records, 2008) I Never Told EP – (T Records, 2003)

The Musicians:

・ Pieta Brown – songwriter, vocals, acoustic guitar

・ Bo Ramsey – electric guitar, electric 12-string guitar, backing vocals

・ Richard Bennett – lapsteel, electric guitar, national resonator, bouzouki

・ Glenn Worf – electric and acoustic bass

・ Chad Cromwell – drums, percussion

・ David Mansfield – strings

・ Mark Knopfler – electric guitar (track 12)

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ZOE BOEKBINDER

Darling Specimens

Nov 7, 2011

You may have heard of Zoe Boekbinder. She previously was one half of the duo, Vermillion Lies. For her second solo release, Ms. Boekbinder combines elements of folk, pop, and electronics, with such instruments as cello, singing saw, theramin, and trombone. She then adds her lovely voice (sometimes looped) singing interesting, sometimes macabre lyrics. It all adds up to quirky acoustic-electro-folk-pop. Oxymoron? Yes, but it works! Rebecca Ruth (Tune-Yards fans might like this one.)

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MYRICK/PEACOCK

Myrick/Peacock

Nov 5, 2011

Americana songwriters Alice Peacock and Danny Myrick team up for a folk-country-rock set that sounds like early Steve Earle instrumentation (e.g. "Great Big Love" and "Isn't It Amazing") and Buddy and Julie Miller trading verses and harmonies (e.g. "Right On Time"). There's a fresh energy to the collaboration and the stories of love amid the ruins of our crazy world today are great for the car radio. The tunes are mostly rockers, with just a couple of soft-side pieces, including the gospel closer "In All Things." These two have a natural affinity for one another, lyrically and harmonically. I'm not sure if this is a new duo/group or simply a side project for them, but the results are pleasing. 11/11 Michael J. F-Rock (duo)

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THE BEES

Every Step's A Yes

Oct 30, 2011

Previously known as Band of Bees, Uk band, The Bees, has made a lovely album with its fourth release, “Every Step’s A Yes”. Featuring such unusual instruments as sitar, mandolin, jaw harp, and celeste, The Bees have fashioned music that’s a mellow departure from their previous releases. The layered vocal harmonies and occasional string flourishes remind me of old Pink Floyd (think “Obscured By Clouds). This psych-folk disc seems to me to be the logical product of the band that once cited the mind-altering Peruvian plant, ayahuasca, as an influence. All in all, this is pretty, well-produced stuff. Rebecca Ruth

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BOOKA AND THE FLAMING GECKOS

The Not So Meaningful Songs in the Life of Jeremy Fink

Oct 24, 2011

This is the soundtrack to the film, “Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life”. Austin native, Booka Michel, formed the Flaming Geckos a few years back to score another film, “Baghdad, Texas”. The “Jeremy Fink” producer heard that score and invited them to score his film as well. This is an instrumental album that is mostly in the Americana genre, although it touches on other sub-genres as well. Some songs you could call Western-noir (“Western Amulet”, one of the best songs here), some are bluegrass (“Rubber Chicken Rag”), some are sad (“Long Road Home”, “Tuskavat”) and others are upbeat and even mildly rocking (“Stoney Point”, “Victorious”). Since the soundtrack was finished before the film, and in order for it to be used, it seems Booka and The Flaming Geckos tried to express the various perspectives of the human experience throughout. Even so, the album is cohesive and it works well on its own. Rebecca Ruth

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LERA LYNN

Have You Met Lera Lynn

Oct 19, 2011

FCC ALERT: “05, Good Hearted Man" "

Nick's Picks: 03 Gasoline; 05 Bobby, Baby; 06 Good Hearted Man;

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Lera Lynn Have You Met Lera Lynn:

If it weren't for this reviewing thing, I know I wouldn't have the opportunity to hear some great music from very talented musicians – not the least of which is the very young, very talented singer-songwriter Lera Lynn most recently of Athens, Georgia. She has had prior performing experience being part of Bird & Wire, but this is her first (and I hope not only) solo release. If what she said is true about her music coming from her experiences, then she has either had a very busy life, she is older than she says she is, or she is a very old soul. We start off this release with a she-done-me-wrong-so-I'm-drinkin'-myself-to-death-song with a blurry sense of humor (“Whiskey”). This is classic country, with the requisite melancholy carried by the steel guitar; although written by Lera Lynn, the song takes the male perspective – much like another well-written song (“Good Hearted Man”). “Good Hearted Man” seems to take from an old Waylon/Willie classic, except with the inclusion of a couple of key words that the FCC doesn't like; thus, even though an excellent performance by Lera Lynn and crew, it will never be broadcast over the public airwaves. “Happy Ever After” has a happy little a little stutter-step rhythm that is reminiscent of a song performed by Ricky Nelson. I'm not sure how Ms. Lynne selected the order of the song list, but she goes from that little ditty to a tongue-in-cheek “torch song” set to an alt-country-punk sound (“Gasoline”). From there, we segue into an actual torch song for which I can find no comparison (“Fire and Undertow”), and from there even deeper into the depths of human emotion with a Judy Collin's-like story song (“Bobby, Baby”) - sung in a tonally perfect voice by Ms. Lynn. Even though this is an up-and-coming singer/songwriter, I think the songs, “Paper Anchor” and the cover of the Leonard Cohen song, “I Tried To Leave You” were added as filler to get the cd out for release. That's not to say they were bad – no, they were as exquisitely performed as the rest of the cuts on this release; they were too short, compared to the length of the other songs. The last two songs (“For The Ride”, and “You And Me Alone”) are lyrically well crafted, and beautifully performed. I'm not sure of the genre, unless it could be called alt-country-blues. Labels really shouldn't matter, though when you're treated to such great music. And that's my two nickels' worth....................................Nick

ARTIST BIO: What’s in a name? It’s an age old question — and for Athens, Ga., based performing songwriter Lera Lynn on her new record, the answer is simple: a summation of all that has been, and a bold thesis of what is yet to come. The Houston-born Lynn, who in March will release her debut, Have You Met Lera Lynn?, is already well-known in Athens for her time spent as the sultry voice of mainstay folk-poppers Birds & Wire. However, the multidimensional record’s title is telling; in the days since that band's dissolution, Lynn’s taken an honest and painstaking inventory of her past experiences, and out o f that process a song cycle has emerged that serves as a true representation — and a reintroduction — of the artist. “Like many songwriters, most of my songs come from turbulence in my life, be it with a lover or with family or with myself as an artist, or my job,” laughs Lynn. “This record is about my rebelliousness in love, hard-headedness, distrust. It’s also about being confused about where I’m going and not always getting what I want out of my creative self.”

The Musicians:

・ Lera Lynn – songwriter, producer, vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, rhodes piano

・ Robby Handley – bass, acoustic guitar, drums, percussion, foot stomps

・ C.k. Koch – producer, drums, percussion, claps, snaps

・ Marlon Patton – drums (tracks 1 & 8)

・ Aj Adams – pedal steel, electric guitar

・ Thayer Sarrano – piano (track 7)

・ Karolyn Marie Troupe – viola

・ Daniel Clay, Alfredo Lapuz – electric guitar (track 2)

・ Eunice Kang – cello

The Songs:

1. Whiskey

2. Happy Ever After

3. Gasoline

4. Fire & Undertow

5. Bobby, Baby

6. Good Hearted Man

7. Paper Anchor

8. I Tried To Leave You (L. Cohen)

9. For The Ride

10. You & Me Alone

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BLIND WILLIES

Needle, Feather, and a Rope

Oct 14, 2011

Nick's Picks: 01 One Dime Down; 04 Needle, Feather, and a Rope; 08 Last Drop of Midnight; 12 Dear J.

FCC ALERT: 06 Reprobate Mind

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Blind Willies Needle, Feather, and a Rope :

After listening to this release from Alexei Wajchman and company (an extremely talented collection, IMHO), I think we have a winner in the alt-countrified gypsy-rock genre, folks. Right out of the gate we get Misha Khalikulov lulling us with a maudlin cello, before bursting in with accordion and horns; thus, giving a us a brassy, oompah carnivalesque concert (“One Dime Down”). From there, we are treated to an old-timey song reminiscent of a mashup of Randy Newman, Frank Zappa, and a young Tom Waits (“Lord Thought He'd Make A Man”). Singer-songwriter Wajchman (again, IMHO) is in a very select group of creative geniuses peopled by the likes of Zappa, Roger Waters/David Gilmour, Bob Marley, Lennon/McCartney, Dylan, L. Cohen, and a few others. His lyrics and music appear to magically conjure a sense of aurally “watching” a three ring circus at times, and a stage production at other times – all within the confines of the space between the ears, and sometimes even on the same track! One of the best cuts (“Needle, Feather, and Rope”) on this refreshingly well-arranged cd actually seems to draw (for me, at least) a favorable comparison to a couple of very popular bands of the late 60's – Chicago Transit Authority's eponymous first album, and Blood, Sweat, & Tears eponymous second album. Another equally reminiscent of BS&T is “Soon My Work Will Be Over”. “Jezebel” recalls a traditional celtic folk tune, a tale of some poor lady of the night who saved her pleasures for the Lord, drawing an influence from the likes of the Young Dubliners and/or The Pogues. To say that this collection of artists is talented is an understatement – each one contributes just the right amount required to make the song perfect. I note some indirect influence from Dylan by way of The Band (“I Made A Mistake”, “Absolutely Isabel”, “Sisters of Perpetual Curiosity”). Although every song on this release is remarkable, they each demonstrate the versatility of this talented group. Whether emulating Bruce Hornsby (“Notes For A Cowardly Lion”, “Don't Let The Devil Steal Your Joy”) or Zappa (“New Mule to Ride”), this cd is chock-full of deep and rich sounds. I recommend you run, don't walk to your nearest retail music store (or go online) and purchase this before it becomes a classic. And that's my two nickels' worth...........................Nick

ARTIST BIO:

Blind Willies actually had started as a duo. Blind Willies is Alexei Wajchman, guitarist/singer/songwriter; Adam Coopersmith, drums; Misha Khalikulov, cello; Max Miller-Loran, keyboard/trumpet; Daniel Riera, bass. Max Miller-Loran is a trumpeter, keyboardist, producer, and graduate of Berklee College of Music. He's performed extensively around Boston and the Bay Area with The Kev Choice Ensemble, The Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, The Dave Scott Nonet, The Getback, The Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra and many others. Misha Khalikulov graduated from UCLA with a concentration in Classical Cello. He's toured the world this year with Rupa and the April Fishes. Daniel Riera is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, beatmaker, award-winning (ASCAP) composer, and arranger. He graduated from Berklee College of Music with a degree in Music Synthesis. Adam Coopersmith is a composer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer/beatmaker/teacher. He's co-founder of the Brooklyn-based afrobeat band, Zongo Junction. Alexei grew up in San Francisco's Mission District. After learning to play clarinet and sax, he taught himself to play guitar and began writing songs at 15. His early influences included Nirvana, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Velvet Underground, Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, Hank Williams, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors. His music is a soulful mix of folk, rock, jazz, and blues. Writing in the popular online zine Delusions of Adequacy, editor Jenn O'Donnell wrote "Blind Willies play incredibly wonderful music. Alexei is a remarkable songwriter." Following their sophomore release, and in search of a larger canvas, Alexei assembled a full band of experienced, young musicians, accomplished across diverse genres including rock, jazz, classical, world, and hip-hop. Now five musicians strong, the band recorded a new album, Needle, Feather, and a Rope, at Tiny Telephone, indie engineer/producer/performer John Vanderslice's all-analog studio in San Francisco's Mission District. Judging by the rich landscapes Alexei’s songs travel, the band has used the various gifts of its new members to forge a dynamic and unique sound that reflects the deeply resonant American musical traditions they each brought to the table. The music is sincere, raw, and poignant, and the band’s integrity is reflected in the 14 tracks of Needle, Feather, and a Rope as well as in the recording process. “We wanted to record in the manner of our favorite classic albums,” Alexei explains, “the band all together in the studio, live to 2” analog tape, with minimal overdubs. We felt this approach not only gives the album superior sonics, but is a more honest representation of our musicianship and soul. We punched it out in 4 days, 10 hours each day, and I think you can hear the pleasure of the experience and the fun we had.” Alexei recorded the first two Blind Willies CDs, The Unkindness of Ravens(2007) and Everybody's Looking for a Meal(2008), with fiddler Annie Staninec.

The Band:

・ Alexei Wajchman: vocal, guitar, harmonica

・ Adam Coopersmith: drums

・ Daniel Riera: bass

・ Max Miller-Loran: keys, trumpet

・ Misha Khalikulov: cello

The Session Musicians: ・ Randy Clark: lead guitar (3)

・ Isabel Douglass: accordion (1)

・ Adam Nash: guitar slide at end (13)

・ Ken Rosen: tenor sax (4)

・ Andrew Walker: bass trombone (1)

・ Rachel Woods-Robinson: trombone (4, 9, 14)

・ Capp Street Revisionist Choir: Rachel, Rebecca Pingree, Nicolette Yarbrough

The Songs:

1.One Dime Down 03:43

2.Lord Thought He'd Make a Man 03:11

3.Good and Faithful Servant 05:19

4.Needle, Feather, and a Rope 05:35

5.Jezebel 04:52

6.Reprobate Mind 03:53

7.I Made a Mistake 03:23

8.Last Drop of Midnight 05:09

9.Absolutely Isabel 03:32

10.Notes for a Cowardly Lion 04:38

11.Sisters of Perpetual Curiosity 03:56

12.Don't Let the Devil Steal Your Joy 03:17

13.New Mule to Ride 03:34

14.Soon My Work Will Be Over 04:38

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DRIFTWOOD FIRE

How to Untangle a Heartache

Sep 21, 2011

Driftwood Fire’s frontwoman Lynn Scharf sings with extraordinary confidence for a debut album—and she can whistle too (check out “Intermission”). Scharf has amazing control of her falsetto voice. Bandmate Charlotte Formichello picks her banjo with unhurried ease. The mix on this album is top notch. It was produced/engineered by John McVey (by day Formichello is an acoustic technician with the National Parks Service). “Let It All Go” is the focus track for good reason–-it is the best on the CD—listen for that blue note. “Appalachian Hills” is a haunting melodic story (with snare drum roll) of the Southern wrongdoing of men in white with gold crosses. “Backdoor” has more of a rock focus with electric guitar and “Paper Bag” is the story of the heartache and love lost with soft accordion in the background. The storytelling of Scharf and Formichello has caught the attention of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Troubadour contest. How to Untangle a Heartache is a captivating, heartfelt album. – Pam VandeKerkhoff

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MARE WAKEFIELD

Meant To Be

Sep 14, 2011

Nick's Picks: 03 Small Town, Oklahoma; 04 Meant To Be; 07 If We Go, You Go; 12 Dear J.

FCC ALERT: "Squeaky Clean"

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Mare Wakefield Meant To Be :

A little bit country, a little bit folk, and a lot of talent. That's my take on Mare Wakefield's latest release. She is an instinctive songwriter with a direct lyrical and musical approach. Her view of abandonment (which would normally elicit feelings of sadness, distress, and childhood angst) comes out as an ironically delightful ditty ("Red Dress"). The musical arrangements are as impressive as the songwriting, singing, and playing. And her backing band doesn't hold anything back. Basically, Ms. Wakefield commands dramatic torch songs and breezy pop ditties with equal vigor, bringing a spectacular whimsy to everything she does, adding synthesizer or beautiful harmonies where needed. ("Small Town, Oklahoma", "Meant To Be"). The arrangements and musical writing are aptly matched with lyrics - some of which would earn her a vaunted space on the pillory or witch burning pyre ("When We Go, You Go"); whereas, her turn at the sociopolitic can be whimsical ("Folk Songs (The Recession Song)") or a morosely sad tune ("About The War"). All in all, Mare Wakefield is a talented singer/songwriter/musician with a well-tuned backing band. I have wracked my brain (which didn't take long) trying to find a comparison with her, and I can only thik of a couple - Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

ARTIST BIO:

The girl from Southeast Texas went from playing Oregon coffee shops to headlining major Northwest festivals before a songwriting scholarship brought her to Boston’s Berklee College of Music which boasts alums such as Gillian Welch and Aimee Mann (two of many artists that Mare has been compared to). Mare Wakefield is yet another of those talented writers and performers whose albums tumble into Blabber HQ with increasing regularity. Whether its something in the water or just plain old talent a good percentage of them have a firm grasp on what makes a good album, a good song and the chops to deliver the goods. In the pantheon of female (and this goes for the guys also) performers in the Americana field there are the stars (you know who they are), the hardy perennials who will always get a mention and then the workers at the coalface. Time and again I’m astounded and impressed by the quality of the music produced by people I’ve never heard of, who plough their own field and come up with the goods. Wakefield is yet another one of these. Based in Nashville this is her fifth release. A vibrant and impassioned singer she can deliver straightforward confessional songs then delve into a big band arrangement with sassy horns and a great sense of swing. Wicked is one such song, deliciously salacious it conjures up rain swept neon lit passions while Red Dress has a New Orleans shuffle with stride piano. The central song on the album is About the War where Wakefield sings about her dreams of tending to wounded soldiers and of watching generals, safe behind the lines, drinking fine wines. In a brave move she allows a “long haired hippie from Galilee” to enter her dream to tell her to forgive them but the dream and the wars go on. Reading this one might think of the hippie tendency to regard Jesus as “one of them” but Wakefield avoids any such seventies mawkishness in what is really a very good song. The album ends with the eight minutes long “bonus” of Dear J where Wakefield ditches her fine back up musicians (who include Will Kimbrough and Fats Kaplin, two musicians who seem to be appearing with increasing regularity recently). An open letter in the style of L. Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat it’s a wordy recollection of times spent with an old flame, some regretted, an acknowledgement that time moves on and that what was meant to be doesn’t always happen. A great end to what is really quite a fine album. Bio credited to 'Blabber 'N' Smoke website

The Musicians:

・ Mare Wakefield – vocals, acoustic guitar

・ Nomad Ovunc – piano, synthesizers, drums, percussion, backing vocals

・ Jimmy Bowland – saxophone

・ Samantha Hegberg – backing vocals (track 5)

・ Dave Isaacs – electric and accoustic guitar, backing vocals

・ Ryan Joseph – fiddle

・ Fats Kaplin – pedal steel

・ Will Kimbrough – mandolin, electric guitar

・ Scott Miller – electric guitar

The Songs:

Always Valentine

Red Dress

Small Town, Oklahoma

Meant To Be

Folk Songs (The Recession Song)

About The War

If We Go, You Go

Wicked

Roots

Little Blue Flowers and Butterflies

Celestial Blue

Bonus Track (for fans of loooooong ballads) Dear J.

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ROBERT EARL KEEN

READY FOR CONFETTI

Sep 13, 2011

I normally think of Confetti as something that is used at celebrations and this release is certainly worth that. Produced by Lloyd Maines (Dixie Chicks, Flatlanders and Terri Hendrix) this CD has a feel good loose feel from the sound of the opening flamenco guitar sound on "Black Badly Stallion". The title track is a little bit of fluff but was confetti ever meant to be a heavy subject?. "The Road Goes On and On" has a little catch from his all time classic "The Road Goes On Forever" but nobody is sent to the electric chair at the end. The track "Waves Of The Ocean" has a slow reggae back beat and reminded me of a summer time Jimmy Buffet or Jerry Jeff Walker Sound. "Play A Train Song" is a great cover of the Todd Snider track and is done very similar to the original. "Paint The Town Beige" is classic Robert Earl Keen with his wry wit and Alt-Country sound. Robert ends this disc with the gospel sounds of "Soul Of A Man" where he proclaims that a soul never dies. We can only hope this is true and we will be blessed by many more great discs from this great storyteller. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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POKEY LAFARGE AND THE SOUTH CITY THREE

Middle of Everywhere

Sep 8, 2011

Middle of Everywhere is Pokey LaFarge and The City South Three’s second studio album (their first was released in 2010 entitled Riverboat Soul). Pokey is from St. Louis which, he states, is in the Middle of Everywhere. All songs were written by Pokey LaFarge who is the lead singer with guitar and banjo. The South City Three include Joey Glynn on upright bass, Adam Hoskins on guitars, and Ryan Koenig on drums, washboard, harmonica. Pokey LaFarge must be an old soul. He even looks the part. Middle of Everywhere has got a 30s sound and its genre is hard to pin down for country, blues, folk, or ragtime. It’s all and more. “So Long Honeybee, Goodbye” is the best track on the CD with New Orleans style horns. “Ain’t the Same” features lap steel guitar hook and harmonica sounding like a train chugging down the tracks. “Head to Toe” is a toe-tapping song featuring pickin’ and upright bass solos. Woo-hoo-hoo “Mississippi Girl” features Koenig on a mean harmonica. It has a deep South strum recalling the old blues legends. “Weedwacker Rag” is a ragtime tune flush with vintage guitar and banjo pickin.’ Middle of Everywhere feels like a step back in time and will put you in a good mood as the entire album is a toe-tappin’ reminder of simpler times. Pokey and The City Three are authentic musicians without studio tricks – just pure sound and talent that speaks for itself. – Pam VandeKerkhoff FCC violation: none

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JOY KILLS SORROW

This Unknown Science

Sep 7, 2011

This is the second time around for this Boston-based bluegrass outfit, named for the '30s radio station where the Monroe Brothers were often heard (WJKS--Where Joy Kills Sorrow), and this set takes the bluegrass basics and adds a variety of other influences, from jazz to rock to blues. More experimental than JKS's debut, one finds songs of dark, light and in-between, book-ended by Matthew Arcara's picking (he's an award-winner in that category) and Emma Beaton's vocals. Bassist and main composer Bridget Kearney has a John Lennon Songwriting title under her belt, so the lyric-music interplay is seamless. Check out "Reservations," "New Man" and "Eli." And for a mood-evoker, sample "Somewhere Over the Atlantic." Laudable and applaudable. 09/11 Michael J. F-Americana

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CHADWICK STOKES

Simmerkane II

Aug 29, 2011

Songwriter Chadwick Stokes has created a solo effort in folk. The concept of Simmerkane II appears to be a couple of vagabonds riding the rails, spilling their stories. Stokes previously formed the band Hermit Thrush and later Dispatch. He is currently frontman for State Radio. Simmerkane II is produced and mixed by John Dragonetti (originally from Jackson, MI). Songs recommended (in order of preference) are “Insulin,” “Rainsong,” “Crowbar Hotel,” “Coffee and Wine.” “Rainsong” – soft rolling harmonized love song which features a ‘spaced-out farfisa’ and cool sounds. “Insulin” is tight guitar picking and vocal harmony – you’ll think you’re listening to Paul Simon. “Religion on the Rails” – soulful echo effects stretch out the vocals. “Black Bottle” is a great sing-along bar chorus “don’t drink the black bottle cause it won’t get you anywhere…if you wanna take the westbound train to is no more.” “Spider and Gioma” – what a treat this story-song is! This could spin-off to be a children’s book. Carly Simon contributed background vocals to this acoustical treasure. Bonus tracks recorded at Kissypig Studios in Boston features Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars. “Coffee and Wine” – fun folk story with an upbeat chorus. “All My Possessions” features a reggae island beat - Pam VandeKerkhoff

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SLAID CLEAVES

SORROW & SMOKE LIVE AT THE HORSESHOE LOUNGE

Aug 9, 2011

SLAID CLEAVES SORROW & SMOKE LIVE AT THE HORSHOE LOUNGE What a better place to tell stories of drinking, bars, sucking the heads of lobsters and life lessons then in the smoky beer drenched confines of the Horseshoe Lounge in Austin Texas. This represents Slaids first live recording where he showcases some of his finest songs and stories form the past decade and even shares his fears of first entering the Horseshoe Lounge when he moved from Portland Maine to Austin in 1991. Slaid proves on this disc that he is truly one of the most gifted singer songwriters from Texas and his band effortlessly makes their way through the 21 tracks that will cover most of life's interesting journeys. If this great disc had only one flaw, is that the second disc has three tracks in a row {Horses, Texas Top Hand and Rolling Stone From Texas} that feature some major yodeling, but hell I think anything would go at the Horseshoe Lounge. This disc is Slaid at his very best and he writes and shares stories that anybody that has ever stepped foot in a smokey bar will easily relate too. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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LIZ LONGLEY

Hot Loose Wire

Jul 29, 2011

It takes a lot of guts to do covers of Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell on your record. There's the inevitable critique of your version of a classic and your original music is right next door for comparison. Well, it is a nice surprise that Liz Longley does Van and Joni well (faithful treatments, no wrong-headed detours) and her own tunes shine brightly. Liz constructs songs and sounds similar to Shawn Colvin (not a bad reference point at all). The opener, "When You've Got Trouble" starts things off sweetly and you think you're in for a set of valentines, but the very next song, "If You Want To," a hard tune about a troubled relationship, clues you in that there's going to be complexity here--kinda like real life. "Unraveling" is heart-breaking, about watching an older loved one fade into forgetfulness. The closer, "Dough 4 Dough" is a very funny song about a very aggressive Girl Scout cookie seller. Longley has an impressive musical resume as a graduate of the Berklee School of Music and a recipient of the BMI John Lennon songwriting award. All of this shows, and it's a pleasure to see another young singer-songwriter succeed with a solid set of music. 07/11 Michael J. F-Singer/Songwriter. [NOTE: "Bit--" on songs #2 and #11.]

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JONATHON EDWARDS

My Love Will Keep

Jul 28, 2011

Nick's Picks: 04 Crazy Texas Woman, 06 How Long, 07 This Island Earth, 08 Lightkeeper

ARTIST BIO:

“I started on a $29 guitar and immediately started putting a band together, writing songs and learning all the contemporary folk songs of the time,” he recalls.  “I just loved it, loved everything about it, loved being in front of people playing music.”    Regardless of music’s siren call, Jonathan made the expected move to college following his graduation from high school, studying painting and art in college in Ohio.  But music, a force not to be denied, remained a constant companion.   “I started getting electric about the time Dylan did, doing electric folk music.  I joined bands by saying, ‘Can I be in your band?’ and they’d ask, ‘What do you play?’ and I’d say, ‘What do you need?’  I’m still that way.  I still love to play different instruments.  It helps me understand production techniques and performance capabilities.” These days Jonathan is likely to be found on the road with his longtime accompanist Stuart Schulman on bass, piano, fiddle, and vocals and Taylor Armerding, formerly of Northern Lights, on mandolin and high-tenor vocals.  “I’ve been … doing what I do best, which is playing live in front of people.  I’ve been concentrating on that and loving it,” he says.    An artist who measures his success by his ability to attract and take good care of an audience for four decades, Jonathan maintains that it is the feedback he receives after his shows that keeps him going.  “Sometimes, in our darker moments, we imagine our music not finding receptive ears, unable to reach open hearts. So it is really gratifying to hear [someone say], ‘Your stuff has meant a lot to me over the years.’”    On the verge of his fifth decade in the music business, Jonathan Edwards shows no sign of turning into a “Sit Down Rock and Roll Man.”  Upcoming plans include new markets, new audiences, new songs, and a new studio recording.  As this barefoot troubadour prepares for the next stage of his journey, you are more than welcome to join him for an evening or two as he continues to make good on that promise he made all the way back in 1971: “Sunshine, come on back another day … I promise you I’ll still be singing.”

FCC ALERT: "This cd is as pure as a mountain stream"

Review of Jonathon Edwards My Love Will Keep:

I have often wondered what happened to the "Shanty Song" guy - and I find he's been playing all these years (four decades to be exact), and somewhere he took a right from his folk singing base to contemporary storytelling with strong country undertones. It seems he has captured the essence of Bluegrass, as well ("My Love Will Keep", "Johnny Blue Horizon", "How Long"). His current foray could best be described as a blending of Dylan-style vocals with structured rock chords and bittersweet subject matter - the melancholy of Townes Van Zandt, and the story-telling of Gordon Lightfoot ("This Island Earth", "Freewheeler", "Everybody Works In China", "Surrounded"). This diversity of genres makes it difficult for me to classify - moreover, I detected a subtle Tom Waits influence throughout this cd, but most notably on two cuts ("Lightkeeper", "Sailor's Prayer"). I am not certain where the hauntingly soulful paraphrasing of a Beatles' classic ("She Loves You") fits in, but the inclusion demonstrates the talent and versatility of this artist - as well as the talented musicians with which he surrounds himself. In fairness to his fans, I will classify this genre-crossing cd as folk. Although it has been awhile since I have heard from Jonathon Edwards, I can assure you I have some catching up to do. That's my two nickels' worth................Nick

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RICKY SKAGGS

Country Hits Bluegrass Style

Jul 24, 2011

Nick's Picks: 05 "Crying My Heart Out Over Your", 07 "Highway 40 Blues", 12 "I Wouldn't Change You If I Could", 14 "Somebody's Praying"

FCC ALERT: "This cd is as pure as a mountain stream"

ARTIST BIO: Ricky Skaggs was born in Cordell, Kentucky. He started playing music at age 5 after he was given a mandolin by his father, Hobert. At age 6, he played mandolin on stage with Bill Monroe. At age 7, he appeared on television's Martha White country music variety show, playing with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. He also wanted to audition for the Grand Ole Opry at that time, but was told he was too young. In his mid-teens, Skaggs met a fellow teen prodigy, guitarist Keith Whitley, and the two started playing together with Whitley's banjoist brother Dwight on radio shows. By 1970, they had earned a spot opening for Ralph Stanley and Skaggs and Keith Whitley were thereafter invited to join Stanley's band, the Clinch Mountain Boys Skaggs later joined J. D. Crowe's New South. For a few years, Skaggs was a member of Emmylou Harris's Hot Band. He wrote the arrangements for Harris's 1980 bluegrass-roots album, Roses in the Snow. In addition to arranging for Harris, Skaggs sang harmony and played mandolin and fiddle in the Hot Band. Into the 1990s and 2000s, Skaggs has embraced his bluegrass roots, as well as experimenting with new sounds. With his band, Kentucky Thunder, he is a perennial winner of Grammy Awards and International Bluegrass Music Association for best bluegrass album. "I always want to try to promote the old music, as well as trying to grow, and be a pioneer too," Skaggs once said. (excerpted from Wikipedia).

Review of Ricky Skaggs Country Hits Bluegrass Style

I guess that by now it's no secret that I like Bluegrass - the bluer the better. And, there is no one in my generation that can make the crossover from Country to Bluegrass as seamless as Ricky Skaggs ("Lovin' Only Me", "I Don't Care" come immediately to mind). Of course it helps to have The Kentucky Thunder as your bandmates. According to the press releases for this cd, this is supposed to be a "bluegrass" rendition of Ricky's "country" hits. On most cuts, I see no difference; thus, therein lies the conundrum for me. Were his "country" hits actually "bluegrass?" In any event, this is a collection of his greatest hits - call them whatever genre you want. Although most bluegrass is uptempo, there comes the occasional slow tune, and when the tempo is slowed, then the artists can be separated from the artistes. These guys are artists - every one of them. A good example of well-coordinated music is "You've Got A Lover", as well as "Crying My Heart Out Over You". On the other side of the tempo, sometimes you just have to see them in person to believe the speed at which their fingers fly. And Ricky Skaggs is one of the best (particularly mandolin). His guitar playing is good, but his fingers are so fast on the mandolin, it makes your eyes water ("Highway 40 Blues"). (As a side note - I am proud to say that I spent my formative years around Highway 40.) And that's my two nickels' worth.....................Nick

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AMY LAVERE

STRANGER ME

Jul 20, 2011

On her third full length disc, singer/songwriter and upright bass player Amy LaVere turns her pain at the loss of a long term relationship into a compelling listen. Accompanied by a large support cast that adds wailing horns, violins and all manner of sonic oddities including toy piano, Buddha boxes and a Theremin, LaVere leaves the comfort zone of the more traditional folk that marked her first two releases in favor of rock that recalls AC/DC, "Damn Love Song", Go-Go’s style pop, "You Can’t Keep Me", lounge lizard jazz, "A Great Divide", soulful ballads, "Lucky Boy", melancholy folk that will have Lucinda Williams looking over her shoulder, "Tricky Heart" and twangy roots rock, "Stranger Me". With a nimble voice that alternately recalls Rickie Lee Jones (particularly on "Cry My Eyes Out") and Texan Terri Hendrix, LaVere negotiates the tricky sonic landscape without a false note. While most of the material here is original, LaVere also takes the listener into the wondrously strange land of Captain Beefheart, "Candle Mambo", and lays down a slow, scorching cover of swamp rocker Bobby Charles’ "Let Yourself Go (Come On)". As much as I enjoyed her earlier efforts, I didn’t see this one coming. You need it on your play list. Smitty Amylavere.com Archer-records.com

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HENRY WOLFE

Linda Vista

Jul 10, 2011

No FCC Issues
Label: Under Mountain
Released 5 April 2011

Henry Wolfe is the son of Meryl Streep and a sculptor and coming from such an artistic background you might expect something maybe pretentious and boring from the man but on the contrary this is one of the most genuinely soulful records I have heard in a long time.

After moving from New York to LA and listening to nothing but Paul McCartney’s Ram and Harry Nilsson’s Nilsson Sings Newman on the drive, Henry Wolfe couldn’t help but distill those influences into one delirious and catchy record. The true influence seems to be Newman though with the same pop influenced folk and piano melodies from the famous balladeer. This isn’t to say that Henry Wolfe is hokey by any means it just means that he has a keen ear for melody and is just a great story teller. Just try listening to this album and not be caught up in these infectious tunes.

Recommended Tracks: Someone Else (3), Used to Be (1), Stop the Train (8)
Reviewed by Devon Cunningham

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NEIL YOUNG & INTERNATIONAL HARVESTERS

A Treasure

Jul 10, 2011

No FCC Issues
Label: Reprise
Released: 14 June 2011

A Treasure is the 9th volume in Neil Young’s Archives Performance series, though it is only the 6th of the series that has been properly released. Comprised in this volume are performances culled from his ’84-’85 tours with six of the twelve being original songs and the other six, fantastic interpretations of many Neil Young classics like “Are You Ready for the Country?”, “Motor City” and the Buffalo Springfield song “Flying on the Ground is Wrong”.

Not only for Neil Young completists but for anyone interested in how country-rock manifested itself in the mid-eighties when the pressures of the synthesizer and saxophone were too great for many of the 60s and 70s generation to resist (including Neil Young himself). Truly a testament to the crazy genius that is Neil Young.

Recommended Tracks:
Amber Jean (1) an original about Neil Young’s daughter is the highlight of the album for me.

Grey Riders (12) another original with a driving beat, captivating strings and guitar licks that Neil Young just shreds on

Flying on the Ground is Wrong (6) a laid back and contemplative song originally written for Buffalo Springfield by Neil Young but this is the first time he has sung it
Reviewed by Devon Cunningham

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CITY AND COLOUR

Little Hell

Jul 7, 2011

City and Colour is the work of a talented Canadian singer/songwriter named Dallas Green (get it--a city and a color--and also the same name as the former U.S. baseball manager of the Phillies, Yankees and Mets). He's also well-known in Canada for being the lead vocalist of the rock band Alexisonfire, but this former "side" project now seems to be eclipsing the rock outfit, gaining Green a national Juno Award in 2007. This effort is full of stories of people facing difficult life circumstances, often crumbling or about-to-crumble under the weight, but often Green leaves one or two lines of lyrical hope for survival. As in the opener "We Found Each Other" (And when the smoke does finally pass/We will rise above all the ash); "Northern Wind" (Like an old guitar/Worn out and left behind/I have stories still to tell/Of the healing kind); and "O'Sister" (But the blackness in your heart won't last forever/I know it's tearing you apart, but it's a storm you can weather). Most of the songs are introspective folk, with Green's expressive singing resonating with emotion. "Little Hell," "Weightless" and "Hope For Now" feature more electric guitar and harder-edged solos. Substantive work, skillfully delivered. Michael J. 7/11 F-Indie

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THE BOXER REBELLION

The Cold Still

Jun 30, 2011

This London-based band’s third studio album will grow on you. Produced by Ethan Johns (Kings of Leon) at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in England. From the beginning melodic, heavy beat (Piers Hewitt on drums) of No Harm, and esoteric, possessive Locked in the Basement…”lock you down” to the back-to-back favs Both Sides Are Even and The Runner, The Boxer Rebellion’s The Cold Still is moody, reflective, high and low. Todd Howe’s Telecaster is notable in Caught By The Light, which is his personal favorite on the album (although there are repetitions which will give you pause, thinking the album has skipped). Cause for Alarm is reminiscent of Coldplay and Step Out of the Car creates a sense of RadioHead. Nathan Nicholson, a Tennessee native, pens the lyrics once the vocal melody is created and his script for The Cold Still is replicated between the jacket covers. He’s got quite a range vocally. Bassist Adam Harrison’s Latin jazz influence adds his individuality to bass lines he writes. U2 was an early influence on the band members but they’ve developed their own sound and following, even without a record label. Previously The Boxer Rebellion also became the first unsigned band in history to enter the U.S. Billboard 100 Albums Chart on digital sales alone for their last album. And in 2009 a concert at the Troubadour in LA led to an on-screen appearance in the motion picture Going the Distance, a film starring Drew Barrymore. The band is a down-to-earth quartet with day jobs, just hoping for album awareness. Reviewed by: Pam VandeKerkhoff

DAVE ALVIN

ELEVEN ELEVEN

Jun 27, 2011

Dave Alvin’s incendiary guitar work has ignited the work of the Blasters, X and the Knitters as well as his own releases with the Guilty Men and, more recently, the Guilty Women. His fearless use of dynamics, taking songs from a whisper to a roar, and his deep knowledge of blues, country, soul, folk and rock places him in the top ranks or roots music guitarists of all time. And that’s just the start of why he’s so good. Even more compelling than his guitar work is his uncanny ability to craft tales of broken souls, lustful lovers, lost warriors, wistful dreamers, hard working common men and assorted dangerous characters that connect in a way that makes the songs linger long after the last notes fade away. While he sings with a big bold voice that matches his ringing guitar, he can also be quietly affectionate and tender when necessary in service of the tale. On his best songs you are there with him checking the perimeter for danger, examining why she left or reliving the sweet memory of a perfect night. This disc continues Alvin’s nearly flawless run of releases since leaving the Blasters. "Harlan County Line" finds Alvin wondering what happened to an old lover while the duet with Christy McWilson, "Manzanita" features the two of them tugged back into the spring of their long expired relationship and the hope the wild canyons once fostered for the two of them. "Dirty Nightgown" leaves sentiment aside with its scorching guitar and promise of a lust filled night. "Johnny Ace" is the real life tale of the R & B star that accidently killed himself fooling around with a gun during a break while on tour with Big Mama Thornton. While Ace’s death was tragic, far sadder is the lost soul on the tender "Black Rose of Texas" where the pills, booze and good times ultimately couldn’t keep the demons at bay. "Murrietta’s Head" is the tale of a good family man turned bounty hunter to support his family after losing a son for the lack of money to pay for a Doctor. The hilarious "What’s Up with Your Brother?" is the first recorded vocal duet by Alvin and his brother Phil, lead singer of the Blasters, who have great fun with their off again/on again relationship and the public’s constant inquiry about their status. The homage to his best friend and former Guilty Man, Chris Gaffney, "Run Conejo Run" is a John Lee Hooker style boogie that allows Alvin to finally give voice to his feelings of loss at the death of his friend who he knows is still by his side. Gaffney returns the favor with a duet recorded shortly before his death and helps Alvin close out this disc on a high note with a look at their good fortune in making a living as ramblers and musicians, "Two Lucky Bums". Tough, tender and absolutely rocking, this is a great disc. Smitty

EILEN JEWELL

QUEEN OF THE MINOR KEY

Jun 23, 2011

After a detour for some country gospel with the Sacred Shakers and the 2010 homage to Loretta Lynn, Butcher Holler, this is Eilen Jewell’s first straight follow up to her 2009 breakthrough release, Sea of Tears. As with that release, Jewell’s sharp songwriter’s eye for detail makes this a compelling collection. True to the title, this disc skips big, poppy numbers in favor of mostly low key, occasionally melancholy, glimpses at the complicated lives we live. That’s not to say though that this is a Cowboy Junkie like valium cruise. "Radio City" and "Kalimotxo" are sax driven, greasy surf instrumentals while "Warning Signs" and "Hooked" have enough R & B in them to make Amy Winehouse look over her shoulder. "Reckless" sounds like an outtake from the Butcher Holler sessions with its country fiddle and bouncy vocals. "Santa Fe", with its plaintive harmonica, could be a Neil Young outtake. The title cut has a rockabilly groove that is as fun as the lyrics and bouncing groove of "Bang Bang Bang" which adds a somewhat sinister twist to Cupid’s role in bringing couples together (he uses a gun and it’s mostly random!). The songs closest to the minor key are the slow, jazzy, "Remember You" and "Only You", both of which are torchy and seductive and the country weeper, "Over Again". Jewell’s voice is well suited for all this material with its slippery drawl and rich tone evoking Rickie Lee Jones without the hipster overtones. Smitty

PUTNAM SMITH

We Could Be Beekeepers

Jun 23, 2011

FCC ALERT: "Clean as a mountain stream"

Biography PUTNAM SMITH "As quirky and genuine as the state from which he hails" - Dirty Linen Magazine www.putnamsmith.com www.youtube.com/putnamsmith www.myspace.com/putnamsmith Guest Musicians: Seth Yentes: cello Mariel Vandersteel: fiddle Putnam Smith, who hails from Portland, Maine, could be an old-world troubadour fresh from the 19th Century.  After all, he lives in a log cabin,  plays his Grandfather's banjo, and has printed up the jackets of his new CD on a 1901 Pearl Letterpress (hand set type, pedal powered!).  Yet this rootsy multi-instrumentalist songwriter (he also writes and performs on guitar, mandolin, fretless banjo, and piano), steeped as he is in old-time Appalachian traditions, is very much a storyteller for the modern age. "We Could Be Beekeepers," Putnam's soon-to-be released third studio album (June, 2011), was recorded with Mark Thayer at the Signature Sounds Studio, and features Mariel Vandersteel (of Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers) on fiddle, and Seth Yentes (of Whiffletree) on cello.  This new "Trio" sound explores new territory in 'modern roots' music: with original songs that sound straight out of the 19th Century, and traditional Appalachian tunes that sound surprisingly new and fresh. Nominated for "Best Folk Act" by the Portland Phoenix, and noted as "One To Watch" (Rob Reinhart of Acoustic Cafe), Putnam is a quickly rising star on the national folkscape. With his sophomore release, "Goldrush," reaching #5 on the national Folk DJ Charts (and making it on 6 "Favorite Albums of 2009" Lists) Putnam has met with critical acclaim -- both for his songwriting and his dynamic and engaging performances.  A nationally touring artist, Putnam has shared the stage with such folk notables as: Amy Speace, Mark Erelli, Madison Violet, Garnett Rogers, Richard Julian, and Bruce Molsky. Some favorite venues that Putnam has played, include: Club Passim (Boston), Johnny D's (Boston), Rockwood Music Hall (NYC(, Me and Thee Coffeehouse (Marblehead, MA), One Longfellow Square (Portland), The Strutt (Kalamazoo, MI), MAMA's coffeehouse (Bloomfield Hills, MI), Ebenezer's (D.C.), Ginkgo's (St. Paul, MN), Flipnotics (Austin, TX), Chickie Wah Wah's (New Orleans), Studio Live (Sedona, AZ).  Putnam's songs sound like they've come from a back porch in the Blue Ridge Mountains, or some cabin on the coast of Maine.  From whiskey-slinging good-time banjo numbers, to intimate heartbreakers on the guitar, to lighthearted tunes about 'lawnmower repair' on the mandolin, Putnam's able to connect with each member of his audience as if each one were an old friend with whom he were spending a precious evening.  He lives in a log cabin just north of Portland, and loves compost. Instrumentation Putnam Smith: banjo, acoustic guitar, mandolin, piano, voice Guest Musician: Seth Yentes  -- Cello

Review of Putnam Smith We Could Be Beekeepers by Steven “Nick” Nickelson: So many reviews I have read recently all say basically the same thing. Putnam Smithe is the real deal, the genuine article. He clearly likes the simplicity of earlier times and the instruments played in those times. He eschews the fancy doo-dads and gizmos used by today's electronic musicians in favor of human-powered musical instruments – much to the delight of his audiences. To me, he just seems like he would be more at home in then hills of Kentucky and surrounding states playing good ole bluegrass. At least he might appear more sociable. Bluegrass musicians just play (and sound) better when surrounded by like-minded players and pickers. Having said that – his writing talents are well-suited to his unique style of perf orming; yet, I sense the potential for transforming said songs to the bluegrass format. I think he could collect a ton of goodwill and fans if he did so. That's my two nickels worth. --------------Nick

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SMALL TOWN SON

Burning Good Rubber

Jun 23, 2011

Small Town Son, a local 5 piece country band, is tight. With very strong songwriting and deep roots in modern country rock, their new album "Burning Good Rubber" is cast in superb musicianship and a broad range of influences. These champions of the Colgate Country Showdown bristle with the tribulations and the honesty of Midwestern backroads. They bow to everyone from Coe and Brooks to Chesney and Bentley on their debut disc. From a good time party song like "Shut Us Down" to "Honky Tonk Hymns," a roadhouse country anthem, they blend Top 40 Country sounds with the flavors of classic country and blues. "Dodge Man" is a bluesy car song. Solid country sounds can be found on "I Can't Remember When," with its Chesney-esque pining for a love left behind, and on "Missing You" a sweet song that travels somewhere between Vince Gill and Garth Brooks. The album ends with a perfect fiddle waltz that sounds as if it was grabbed off a rehearsal tape. You'll be glad they kept it. Reviewed By: Todd Townsend.

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Black Jake and the Carnies

Sundry Mayhems

Jun 23, 2011

If Alice Cooper and the Flaming Lips decided to join the Pogues and Gorgol Bordello in a tribute to Bill Monroe, it would be Black Jake and the Carnies. This side show band hailing from Ypsilanti is a mix of bluegrass, klezmer, ragtime, punk and street theatre. They bring banjo driven frenetic madness to live shows with a chicken head strobe light, a banjo lit like the marquee on an Elephant Ear Vendor's trailer and balloons, beach balls and tombstones. With one foot firmly planted in 19th Century instrumentation and the other stomping the 21st Century into the mud, the Carnies are a sight to behold; even in audio. Their CD "Sundry Mayhems" is explosive, ancient and up to date. From the klezmer inspired title track through a psychedelic hobo song, snake oil, rat problems, cheery murder ballads, first person mental anguish and a zombie chicken, this new disc is wicked fun. "Old E Cross" and "Ypsitucky Rustbelt Revival" are Michigan songs. "My Angel Marie" and "My Evil Friend" just might creep you out. The last three tracks almost whiff of social commentary, but its buried under the all the scratch and twang. Black humor and post-apocalyptic madness abound. Reviewed By:

  • Black Jake and the Carnies Site:
  • TOKYO ROSENTHAL

    WHO WAS THAT MAN ?

    Jun 21, 2011

    When I first heard Tokyo Rosenthal on his 2010 release "Ghosts" I was taken by his voice and how a man named Tokyo exemplified the sounds of Americana. On his new release "Who Was That Man" Tokyo continues to expand the landscape. The opening title track and "The Librarian" have a Texas, Spanish folk sound that would exemplify the sounds of Raul Malo and the Mavericks. Tokyo voice can also change with each track as "Your 3RD Score" has a distinctive Gordon Lightfoot feel to it. "Maybe I've Been Where I'm Goin'" and "San Antone" are the purest of Tokyo's new country sound. The other standout I found on this disc was the fiery fiddle of Bobby Britt throughout this disc. I could only assume he needed new strings at the end of this recording. Tokyo Rosenthal's name may not be as recognizable as many of today's popular musicians, but after one listen to this disc you will be asking Who Was That Man? Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    THE WOODSHEDDERS

    O Dig

    Jun 15, 2011

    No FCC Warning

    Label – Shepherds Ford
    Released – April 2011

    Who are The Woodshedders? An easy answer would be a ramshackle group of folk and country musicians producing music that they have coined as “Indie Roots Americana” but based on the variety of styles that they have employed on their newest record, the actual style would certainly transcend anything that you try to put into words.

    Playing everything from gypsy music to folk-reggae to a waltz lament to a jam band style rap, this album is all over the place but all firmly rooted in the folk and bluegrass sound that made their first record “Catch the Yardbird” so endearing. Featuring an upright bass, mandolin, fiddle, guitarist and drummer, this is one of the most unique records you will hear this year.

    Recommended Tracks: Badger Blood (1), Swallows Wings (8)

    Reviewed by Devon Cunningham

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    VETIVER

    The Errant Charm

    Jun 10, 2011

    No FCC Issues

    Label – Sub Pop Records
    Released – 14 June 2011

    The fifth release from San Francisco’s native Vetiver succeeds in being one of the few records of recent memory that practices the art of the active idle; creating a sound that is both laid back and propulsive at the same time. With nods to the Laurel Canyon scene of the sixties and contemporary freak folk this band hits you exactly where you need it for those hot summer days, where all you want to do is lay in a hammock, lazy with the heat and a sweat drenched brow.

    Inspired by the bandleader’s walks around the Richmond District of San Francisco, an area that is nestled between the beautiful Golden Gate Park and Presidio Park, you can feel both the California sun and see the San Francisco grey. On most songs you can almost hear his feet hitting the pavement in even 4/4 time almost like a folky version of motorik.

    Overall a very enjoyable record and the drop is perfect timing for these 90 degree days.

    Recommended tracks: Worse for Wear (2), Hard to Break (4), Right Away (6), Wonder Why (7)

    Reviewed by Devon Cunningham

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    IN TALL BUILDINGS

    In Tall Buildings

    Jun 10, 2011

    No FCC Issues

    Label – Whistler Records
    Released – 6 April 2010

    A record long in the making; written, recorded and produced by one man, Erik Hall of His Name is Alive, Saturday Looks Good to Me, and NOMO fame, all in his bedroom studio overlooking Lake Michigan, in the great city of Chicago.

    Erik Hall got the name for In Tall Buildings from the great John Hartford song of the same name that Gillian Welch has been quoted as saying, “there’s probably a fair number of people who have quit their jobs because of this song” and describes the overall ennui of the business class, a fitting description for a full time musician like Erik. It also seems serendipitous that he would do a cover of “Elvis Presley Blues” by Ms. Welch for this record, an excellent one at that.

    Filled with driving rhythms, experimental electronics, horns, and of course that haunting voice, In Tall Buildings is a band you cannot pass up.

    Recommended Tracks: Walking Man (1), The Way to the Monsters Lair (2), Elvis Presley Blues (6, Gillian Welch cover)

    Reviewed by Devon Cunningham

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    BRANDI CARLILE

    Live At Benaroya Hall With The Seattle Symphony

    Jun 10, 2011

    Nick's Picks: 07 Dreams, 08 Turpentine (even with the kitschy audience participation segment)

    FCC ALERT: Not on this cd

    Review of Brandi Carlile Live At Benaroya Hall With The Seattle Symphony

    Although her singing voice isn't as distinctive as, say, Emmylou Harris, she can certainly craft some listenable tunes. (In many respects her anthemic strains remind me of a cross between Ani DiFranco and Bonnie Raitt. And, much like her contemporary, Sarah McLachlan, she can make even the faintest sound come out clear as a bell. Most of the songs on this cd are penned by Ms. Carlile, and they are very melodic. The Seattle Symphony and the music hall make great backdrops to the band's music, and add a layer of depth that would not be found easily in the studio. Case in point: track 2 ("Sixty Years On"), makes much use of the entire orchestra, and it adds a melancholy turn to the song. Although track 3 ("Looking Out") leads in without the symphonic background, the strings play an instrumental part (pun intended) in the eerie beauty of this anthemic folk song. The next cut on this cd (4 "Before It Breaks") is an excellent listen, and a lot of the credit for that should go to the music arranger (for the symphony). The same holds true for the next song ("I Will"), as well as the 10th and 11th cuts ("The Story", "Pride & Joy"). We are treated to an uncredited song at the end of the lyrical rendition of Leonard Cohen's classic "Hallelujah". The song is "Forever Young", originally written and recorded by Alphaville in 1984. All in all, this album is very listenable and I enjoyed it immensely. If you get the chance, go see her live - you won't regret it.

    And that's my two nickels worth................Nick

    ARTIST BIO: Before signing to a major record label, Carlile performed in local Seattle establishments like The Crocodile, Tractor Tavern, and Paragon with twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth.[5] Carlile sold her self-released recordings during local performances. Carlile began to attract the attention of the music industry after Dave Matthews heard her band perform at the 2003 Sasquatch! Music Festival. Brandi Carlile performing in Birmingham, Alabama in 2006. Columbia Records signed Carlile in late 2004 on the strength of her home recordings. Her 2005 major label debut, Brandi Carlile included some of those songs as well as newly recorded tracks. After the release of Brandi Carlile, she went on tour with the Hanseroth brothers for almost two years, where they worked on songs that became part of her album The Story.[6] In 2005, she was featured on Rolling Stone's "10 Artists to Watch in 2005" list.[7] By the end of 2006, Carlile had toured as a headliner and supported other artists including Ray LaMontagne, Jonny Lang, Hanson, Indigo Girls, The Fray, Chris Isaak, Tori Amos, and Shawn Colvin.[8] Her second Columbia album, The Story, was released in April 2007. It was produced by T Bone Burnett and includes a collaboration with the Indigo Girls on "Cannonball". The album was recorded in an 11-day long session with Carlile, the Hanseroth twins, cellist Josh Neumann and drummer Matt Chamberlain to capture the sound of her live performances. The crack in Carlile's vocals during the title track, "The Story", came out by accident and was a direct result of the way the album was recorded. Carlile describes the vocals as "technically wrong but emotionally right".[9] She would also contribute vocals to "Last Tears" from Indigo Girls' Despite Our Differences. ABC's Grey's Anatomy featured three of her songs: "Tragedy", "What Can I Say", and "Throw it All Away". In April 2007, Grey's Anatomy debuted a version of the video for the single "The Story" interspersed with footage from the show. On 3 May 2007, a special two-hour episode of the show featured Carlile's song "Turpentine" during footage of the Grey's Anatomy spin-off, Private Practice. Carlile's song "The Story" has been featured in a General Motors commercial aired during the Beijing Olympic Games, as well as in a Super Bock commercial. In March 2011, "The Story" was sung as the finale in the Grey's Anatomy musical episode by Tony Award winning actress Sara Ramirez who plays Callie. In November 2007, Carlile visited England for her first UK gig at the Borderline in London. In February 2008, Carlile performed as special guest to Newton Faulkner on five of his UK tour dates. During March and April 2008 Carlile toured through Australia with Maroon 5 and OneRepublic.[10] In April 2008 she played four dates in the UK and was a guest performer on the BBC2 show, Later... with Jools Holland. Carlile's album The Story was released in the UK on April 21, with lead single "Turpentine" released on April 14. Her third studio album Give Up the Ghost was released on October 6, 2009. The album debuted at #26 on theBillboard 200[11][12][13] The album was produced by Grammy Award winner Rick Rubin and contains a collaboration with Elton John titled "Caroline".[12] English singer Adele covered The Story's hidden track "Hiding My Heart" on a bonus edition of her 2011 album 21.

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    TARA NEVINS

    Wood and Stone

    May 31, 2011

    In her first solo release in 12 years, Donna the Buffalo singer/violinist Tara Nevins shows her country-side more prominently than one hears in her "Donna songs." The record doesn't start out that way: the opening title track could comfortably find a home on a Donna CD, with its driving, Cajun-style structure. The same holds true for the next two cuts, "All I Ever Need" and "You've Got It All." The cowboy boots show up on the fourth track, "You're Still Driving That Truck," which begins with an electric guitar intro and then dips into Nashville territory, as does the rest of the set--until the arresting "Tennessee River," which uses a growling electric guitar to underscore the angst of the song. She ends things up with a gorgeous reflective number, "The Beauty of the Days Gone By." Country or not, Nevins has talent and she's delivered a solid collection of songs that allows her to exercise her twang between Donna releases. 05/11 MJVD F-Americana

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    YAEL NAIM & DAVID DONATIEN

    She was a Boy

    May 31, 2011

    FCC Clean

    Label – Tot ou tard (Atlantic)
    Released – 10 May 2011

    It’s hard to follow up the success that Yael Naim had after her last self-titled record featuring the Steve Jobs-approved song “New Soul” that catapulted her from a French-Israeli nobody to an international celebrity but I think she does a pretty good job at it. Sticking with what worked from the last album, she follows the same jazz inspired folk and airy lilt that garnered her wide acclaim. But despite her success her songs focus on tragedy over joy with crying and flying away being common words and themes featured on multiple tracks. Nonetheless if you enjoyed the last album this will be right up your alley.

    Recommended Tracks: Come Home (1, the obvious new “New Soul”), She was a Boy (3), Go to the River (4)

    Reviewed by Devon Cunningham

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    FAIRPORT CONVENTION WITH SANDY DENNY

    EBBITS FIELD 1974

    May 25, 2011

    Fairport Convention remains one of the pivotal English Folk-Rock bands of the late 1960's & 70's even though several members will reform until today. This CD captures the band in Colorado's Ebbets Field in 1974 after Sandy Denny had rejoined the band for a series of concerts. The CD begins with a Sandy Denny original from one of her finest solo releases "Like An Old Fashioned Waltz" Sandy's voice is a little raspy as she opens the show, but by the time she sings her signature "Who Knows Where The Time Goes" the rasp has disappeared and all her beauty shines through as she captivates the audience. The other remarkable part of this disc is the improvisation and instrumental interplay between some of England's finest players. This is especially found in the track "Sloth" that begins as a slower ballad and builds steam through it's entire thirteen minutes. The track "Matty Groves" originally found on the classic Liege & Leif release shows how much fun a song dealing with murder can really be and features some amazing violin from Dave Swarbrick. The CD concludes with Sandy doing a very interesting version of Bob Dylan's "Crash on the Levee Down In The Flood" The world lost Sandy four years after this release, but thanks to somebody keeping this excellent live recording in a vault for 37 years we are once again blessed by one of England's finest bands and voices. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    BLACKIE AND THE RODEO KINGS

    Kings and Queens

    May 25, 2011

    Blackie and the Rodeo Kings shines down from Canada like the Northern Lights. What started when three established Canadian folk/roots musicians got together to record a tribute to Willie P. Bennett, has evolved into one of Canada's premier roots/folk/blues outfits. Individually, the Rodeo Kings have worked with artists such as The Band, Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, Fred Eaglesmith, and Bruce Cockburn. After a half dozen successful albums, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings has released "Kings and Queens,' an album of duets with hand picked music industry queens; from Pam Tillis to Exene Cervenka. The album is chock full of all the usual Rodeo Kings' strengths. From the Memphis shuffle single "I'll Still Be Loving You" to the blues/roots rock of "If I Can't Have You," "How Come You Treat Me So Bad," and "Made of Love." "Step Away" featuring Emmylou Harris is braised in the same hard luck love tension as Emmy's duets with Gram Parsons. "Black Sheep," "Love Lay Me Down" and "Another Free Woman" are strong tracks as well. Guests include: Lucinda Williams, Sara Watkins, Roseanne Cash, Amy Helm, Cassandra Wilson, Patti Scialfa, Pam Tillis, Janiva Magness, Emmylou Harris, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Holly Cole, Exene Cervenka, Sam Phillips and Serena Ryder. Reviewed By: Todd Townsend.

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    MATT THE ELECTRICIAN

    Accidental Thief

    May 24, 2011

    All Songs FCC Clean

    Label: Self-Released
    Released: 14 June, 2011

    What a joyful record! I mean really, there is no possible way that you will feel upset after listening to this album from Austin based Matt the Electrician. This is his 7th self-released album, a commendable feat for anyone to stay independent this long but this is his first album with co-writers. As part of The House of Songs project between songwriters in Denmark and Austin, TX, Matt flew to Denmark to write songs in a haunted castle in the Danish countryside. When all was said and done, 6 of the 12 songs were co-written but all of them fit naturally together and I would be hard-pressed to be able to pick which was written solo and which was a collaboration.

    Mostly siding on the folk side of folk-rock, this banjo playing fool of a man also incorporates horns, glockenspiel and a variety of organs on this record. Though no longer an electrician and now a full time musician and writer, I can certainly say that I am glad he quit his day job.

    Recommended tracks: So many good ones but if I had to choose; All I know (1), Accidental Thief (4), Daydreamers (10)

    Reviewed by Devon Cunningham

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    GORD DOWNIE AND THE COUNTRY MIRACLES

    The Grand Bounce

    May 24, 2011

    All songs FCC Clean

    Label: Universal Canada
    Released: (Outside of US, 8 June, 2010) ? April, 2011

    This is the 3rd solo album from the lead singer of the Canadian rock band, The Tragically Hip and produced by famed guitarist Chris Walla of the PNW band Death Cab for Cutie. This earnest sounding rock record could come off as pretentious by any other artist but he truly convinces you that he is committed and believes in all the talk of poets, dancers and guitarists.

    Musically the record bounces around with easy Wilco references with a little Michael Stipe vocal lilt. Where the record shines for me is when he is rocking the songs out the hardest but the easy, breezy, sun crushed songs of summer can be intoxicating as well.

    What it comes down to though is Gord Downie fancies himself a collector of things he finds interesting and he is not afraid to wear those influences right on his civil war uniform/farmer’s overalls/dancer’s leotard sleeve.

    Recommended tracks: The East Wind (1), Moon Over Glenora (2), As A Mover (3), Yellow Days (8)

    Reviewed by Devon Cunningham

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    DAVID OLNEY

    Film Noir

    May 24, 2011

    On "Film Noir," a concept EP, David Olney evokes a gritty, Big-City-After-Dark disquiet. Equal parts lonely bluesman and method actor - Johhny Cash and Leon Redbone and Tom Waits - Olney creates songs like little movies based on grimy, dog eared paperbacks. These brand new songs all sound as if they were found, covered in dust, in a back alley Used Record Store. "Frank is Gone" is a jangly blues shuffle like an anxious junky walking the streets. If Cab Calloway had lost it all and traded his white tux for a torn felt hat and barn coat, he would sing "Blue Moon Hotel." "$20 Serenade," nearly an homage to Tom Waits street characters, is an ancient sounding gimp walk tragedy with a B-movie twist. "Blues Don't Care" and "Sunset on Sunset Boulevard" are both hollow, lonely songs to steal your joy. Reviewed By: Todd Townsend.

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    SALLIE FORD & THE SOUND OUTSIDE

    Dirty Radio

    May 15, 2011

    FCC Warning: (1) Bulls**t, (3) B*tch, (9) Screwing

    Label – Partisan Records
    Released – 24 May, 2011

    Sallie Ford was born into an artistic family in Asheville, NC with a father as a puppeteer and mother as a musician and she quickly had to find her niche. Though she started out on violin she found that her real instrument was her powerful voice. And let me tell you what, she wails on Dirty Radio.

    The three backing members that comprise “The Sound Outside” portion of the band met Sallie when she was busking on the streets in her new hometown of Portland, OR and were quickly taken aback by her amazing voice. So now back by three talented and partially self-taught musicians Sallie was able to translate her voice into this moving Americana, blues and jazz inspired band.

    Despite the fact that this is their first full length, Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside have already toured with The Avett Brothers, Thao & Mirah and have opened for Mavis Staples.

    Recommended tracks: Against the Law (5) really showcases her voice in this lovelorn song.

    Thirteen Years Old (6) is a moving song about “her” father’s death. Reviewed by Devon Cunningham

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    BLACK JAKE AND THE CARNIES

    Where The Heather Don't Grow

    May 15, 2011

    Nick's Picks: Every One

    FCC ALERT: Not on this cd

    Review of Black Jake & The Carnies Where The Heather Don't Grow

    The banner says it all, "The Original Kings of Crabgrass"! Now, I'm a sucker for good bluegrass, and this is good! The sound comes off like a Bluegrass version of music along the lines of Celtic bands such as Dropkick Murphy, or Flogging Molly; with Bluegrass, egos get checked at the door, and the singing is not nearly of the quality of the music being played. Most times a story is woven throughout the song being played, and this is definitely the case with this talented band. Black Jake is clearly the designated "singer", but he and his band-mates are musically talented, and really know how to “get-down” with a Pixies-like bluegrass style (“Paper Outlaw", Crazy MacCready's"), and from there directly on to a "Faith and Begorrah" long-winded mountain music-like folk song (“Where The Heather Don't Grow”) – complete with the lonesome wail of the fiddle and strumming of mandolin and banjo. I have to admit that I just don't get some songs, and Black Jake and The Carnies have their share. I'll just note them and move on: "No Diamond Ring" (catchy mountain music); "Styxferry County" might be a nod to Charlie Daniels Band, but it lacks the catchy hooks; "Bone Man" seems to be derivative, but it definitely tells a good story; "Happy Easter To Ya" has the same beat as "Bone Man", but (once again) it tells an interesting story. Although the band holds true to the bluegrass tempo and instrumentation, they do manage to churn out some tasty originals ("Jasper Watkins", "Hunter's Moon"), as well as at least one (slightly skewed) cover - "Swing Low". If I were to sum up this band in one word, I would have to use the word "hoedown". This is one of those bands with so much energy, you just have to see them live.

    And that's my two nickels worth................Nick

    ARTIST BIO: Black Jake & the Carnies was stillborn on October 31, 2002. The band played a single show, recorded some songs, and promptly died. All this meant was Black Jake finally had something to dissect. Over the next couple years, Jake stitched his baby back together with parts unearthed from the graveyards of american music. By 2006, the infant was looking more and more like its daddy and, once again, showing signs of life. After a couple solo shows, it became apparent, all the little monster needed now was a bit more blood. Blood, it turns out, ain’t that hard to find. Gus, the only original Carnie still fiddlin’ lived just up the block from Black Jake. It was rumored that Zachariah, who lived direct across the street from Gus, played mandolin. Joe Cooter, whose property line ends near Zach’s backyard, plucked bass. Up the road a bit Cooter heard the thumpin' of Kingpin Lalonde's big bass drum and scratchin' on his washboard vest. By then, there were enough Carnies to take pretty much whatever they wanted by brute force, and J.C. was quickly corralled. Black Jake had his Carnies and the monster had its blood.

    Black Jake and the Carnies is:

    Black Jake: singing, songwriting, banjo

    Gus Wallace: fiddle

    Zach Pollock: mandolin

    Joe Cooter: bass guitar

    Kingpin Billy Lalonde: drums

    J.C. Miller: accordian

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    SOUTHEAST ENGINE

    Canary

    May 11, 2011

    Swimming with the soul of Appalachia this contemporary folk troupe tells tales of poverty, love and of course, the mountains. While still rooted deeply in the sounds and stories of long ago their sound still is relevant to modern day ears.

    “Canary” is a concept album focused around a great depression era family who is trying to outsmart the dept collectors and make a living coal mining. The record is able to the tell us about the present by referencing the past.

    Recommended tracks: Adeline of the Appalachian Mountains (5), Red Lake Shore (6), Summer and Her Ferris Wheel (9), Ruthie (10)

    Reviewed by Devon Cunningham

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    THE UNTHANKS

    Last

    May 11, 2011

    The Unthanks is a family affair featuring Rachel and Becky Unthank (their real last name) on vocals and Rachel’s husband Adrian McNally on vocals, piano and drums. Chris Price and Niopha Keegan fill out the rest of this Northumberland, UK band.

    The Unthanks broke out to critical claim with their album The Bairns in 2007, earning them a Mercury prize nomination.

    Comprised mostly of cover songs and reinterpretations of old British folk tunes, the songs carry with them the weight of history and their influences including a great cover of a Tom Waits song off of Alice called “No One Knows I’m gone” (track 6).

    Recommended tracks: Queen of Hearts (3), Last (4), Starless (9)

    Reviewed by Devon Cunningham

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    MAGGIE BJORKLUND

    Coming Home

    May 9, 2011

    Between the moody instrumentals, the vocal harmonies, and the occasionally surprising instrumentation, “Coming Home” evokes a western noir feel. This may be the debut album from Denmark’s Maggie Bjorklund, but the girl has been around. Most recently, Maggie recorded and toured with Exene Cervenka. For this release, she enlisted the help of the members of Calexico for instrumental backing, featuring herself on pedal steel. Even though her voice is sweet, she is often sharing the vocal spotlight or simply not singing at all. “Coming Home” features guest vocalists such as Mark Lanegan(Screaming Trees) and Jon Auer(Posies). The production by Johnny Sangster is well-done without being fussy. All in all a nice package. Rebecca Ruth

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    THE WATSON TWINS

    Night Covers

    May 7, 2011

    FCC ALERT: Sorry, but nothing offensive.

    ARTIST BIO

    Following on the critical success of Rabbit Fur Coat, their 2006 collaboration with Jenny Lewis, Southern Manners (2006 self-released EP) and Fire Songs, their 2008 Vanguard Records full-length debut, The Watson Twins return with Talking To You, Talking To Me (February 9th/Vanguard) their most groove-heavy and ambitious album to date. The 12 songs on TTY, TTM, produced by Russell Pollard and J. Soda of Everest, display a new sonic direction previously only hinted at in past efforts. Yes, the folk, country and Americana roots of Leigh and Chandra Watson remain, but the duo also explores and reveals their long-held love of R&B, Bossa Nova, indie pop and most prominently, classic soul. "We wanted your body to move with every song," says Leigh. Where the gorgeous Fire Songs was slower and more meditative, TTY, TTM showcases the twins' admiration of classic soul vocalists, torch singers and chanteuses such as Etta James and Aretha Franklin. "I think elements of that existed on Fire Songs, but they were buried and just hinted at that," says Chandra. "When you're insecure about something, you don't necessarily have the confidence to invoke those styles." Those insecurities can be laid to rest with TTY, TTM. The soulfulness of "Midnight" sounds like a heartbroken lover crying the blues at a late night bar. "Harpeth River" updates the vibe of classic Portishead. The Hammond B3 and defiant vocals of "Devil in You" could be a lost b-side to Dusty in Memphis, while "Savin' You" and "Snow Canyons" hearken back to the pair's more traditional Americana-based tracks. In June 2009, having already written the lyrics for the album separately, the twins, Pollard and Soda decamped to a remote cabin in the High Sierras near Yosemite National Park with no phones, television or music. In four days, armed with only guitars, a drum kit, and computer to record the results, the foursome finished the sketches for TTY, TTM. (The album would later be recorded at Fairfax Recordings on the same mixing console as Pink Floyd's The Wall. It features prominent contributions by members of Everest and My Morning Jacket's Bo Koster.) A retreat in the woods wasn't the only switch the duo made for this album. "In the past, we tended to sing a lot together doing these intricate harmonies," says Chandra. "On this one, the two of us sang back-up for whichever one of us was lead singer. We basically sang back-up for ourselves." Adds Leigh: "I feel we've honed how to work together and I think our singing style on this album strengthened the idea of the two of us being one voice. What people expect from us is very different from what this record is." On their debut album, Leigh and Chandra Watson established themselves as leaders of a movement that embraced traditional American sounds while still breaking new ground. With Talking to You, Talking to Me, the next chapter of a bourgeoning career is ready to be heard.

    Review of Night Covers by The Watson Twins: I tried to get into this particular group, but I just cannot seem to pick up any originality. It is just a pleasant sounding bunch of covers of other artists. Almost any band worth it's salt could have made this ep; thus, I cannot say much about their work. That's my two nickels worth....................................Nick

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    Bob Schneider

    A Perfect Day

    May 4, 2011

    FCC Watch: "Yeah, I'll Do That" is a half a syllable away from danger. Bob Schneider, the potty mouth, pretty boy, singer/songwriter savant, Austin's best kept secret, has made a completely breezy, nearly G-Rated album based on a nice day at the lake. . . . really. After a particularly perfect day on Lake Travis, Schneider began to develop the concept for "A Perfect Day." If Michael Franks and Steely Dan had a child and then let Lyle Lovett and Mark Cohn teach the kid music, that kid would be this version of Bob Schneider. The genre defying Schneider is a multiple winner of Austin Music Awards is as widely scattered categories as Band of the Year, Singer/Songwriter of the Year and even Best Bluegrass Band. His people sum this up best: "A PERFECT DAY is just that--12 tracks of easy grooving, soulful melodies that sound like sunshine and slip into the ear as smooth as a chilled daiquiri. But, as is typical of Schneider, they're hardly pro-forma, follow-the-dots boat songs; rather, he cuts a wide swatch of music to chill by, from the light, summer groove of the opening track and first single "Let The Light In" to the soulful earthiness of "Honeypot," the ringing ambience of "Everything You Love,” the bouncy pop of "Funcake," the relentless, brassy funk of "Am I Missing Something,” the insistent wiggle of "Hand Me Back My Life" and the loose-lipped-and-limbed, good humor of "Peaches" and "Yeah, I'll Do That."" Reviewed By Todd Townsened.

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    ELIZA GILKYSON

    Roses At the End of Time

    May 4, 2011

    Eliza Gilkison - Roses at the End of Time Eliza Gilkeson is at the top of her craft with "Roses at the End of Time," a collection socio-political commentary and soulful expression couched in her beautiful voice, with intricate guitar work and often quirky instrumentation.  From the title track, a brooding and soulful love song to "Bell of the Ball," fragmented memories of her mother rich braised in ethereal Hotel California imagery.  Eliza knits personal topics with universal themes to sing beautiful songs with subtle messages that it seep in days later.  "Death in Arkansas," a cover of her brother's songcraft, is an old timey lament at the expanding sprawl of consumerism and suburbs.  "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" is a bluesy, swinging gospel for the new progressive.  Eliza's lyrical storytelling is superior and nearly matches Townes Van Zandt, whom she pays homage to in "Midnight on Raton." John Gorka and Lucy Kaplansky appear as guests. Reviewed By: Todd Townsend.

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    THE BLACK LILLIES

    100 Miles Of Wreckage

    Apr 24, 2011

    Nick's Picks: 04 Three In The Mornin', 09 Tall Trees

    FCC ALERT: Not on this cd

    Review of The Black Lillies 100 Miles of Wreckage

    The Black Lillies on first blush apppear to be a well-coordinated country/bluegrass band, performing excellent music and listenable lyrics. After listening for awhile, I am more inclined to call this sophomore release from Cruz Contreras to be some of the finest writing and performing of original music in quite awhile. He really seems to be able to cross genres at a moment's notice, while holding on to a “country twang”. His band-mates are equally talented, and really know how to “get-down” bluegrass style (“Two Hearts Down”), and from there directly on to “cryin' in your beer” country (“The Arrow”) – complete with the lonesome wail of the steel guitar. The next cut segues into what I would call a Country ballad (“Same Mistakes”). What amazes me is the band's ability to jump from the easy pace of “Same Mistake” right into what seems to be a bluegrass standard (“Three In The Mornin'”). I say “seems to be” because I believe that if this group gets national recognition, this will be the song to propel them on the bluegrass charts. Oh, and did I mention that all thie songs on this cd were recorded live? Things move right along when we get hit between the eyes with a quasi-honkey-tonk number (“Nobody's Business”). Although this puts a strain on the listener's patience due to the repetition, it does demonstrate the versatility of the songwriter, as well as the prowess of the band members. To continue their trip across the breadth of the Country genre, we are treated to Cruz' take on a good man falsely charged (“Shepherd's Song”), spending a long time in prison only to get near the end - well, I won't spoil the storyline. Brings to mind Johnny Cash singing “The Long Black Veil”. We will skip past the next cut – another honky-tonk tune, to become acquainted with a different genre – folk (“Soul Of Man”). My favorite song on this cd, though, has to be “Tall Trees” not only for the top-notch songwriting, but the all too brief string solo – outstanding! Another honky-tonk song (“Ain't My Fault”) falls into the she-done-me-wrong-so-I'm-drinkin'-myself-to-death-song with a cheeky sense of humor. To close out the set, we are treated to the feeling that the songwriter and band might have traveled from a simpler time when life really was just broken hearts and an old dusty trail (“Go To Sleep”). All around excellent listening!!

    My two nickels................Nick

    ARTIST BIO: Cruz Contreras: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Mandolin, Piano, Rhodes Piano; Trisha Gene Brady: Vocals, Percussion; Jill Andrews: Vocals; Tom Pryor: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Electric Guitar; Billy Contreras: Fiddle, Piano, Strings; Kyle Campbell: Banjo, Pink Uke, Ukelele; Taylor Coker: Electric Bass, Upright Bass; Jamie Cook: Electric Guitar, Drums, Percussion; Ian Thomas: Harmonica Whiskey Angel was born from the ashes of one career, and shortly after its release, the East Tennessee music scene learned quickly that Cruz was as much of a bandleader as his ex-wife was when he stood in her shadow. In fact, Whiskey Angel made you forget there was ever anything for Cruz Contreras before The Black Lillies – the band that he brought together to record an entire album over the course of a weekend in his living room. The Black Lillies take their name from a song on that first record. After filtering through several lineup changes, Cruz assembled a crackerjack team of pickers, players and singers who have what it takes to put meat on those songs. Tom Pryor made a name for himself playing pedal steel for damn near any band that could talk him into it; drummer Jamie Cook anchored the rhythm section for Americana darlings the everybodyfields; harmony vocalist Trisha Gene Brady can wail like a hellcat or purr like a wildcat, and everybody who’s heard her sing agrees it only makes sense that someone with her pipes can provide the perfect counter-balance to Cruz. Bassist Robert Richards is the latest addition to the band, and under his steely-eyed gaze, no bass, stand-up or electric, stands a chance. And then there’s the bandleader himself. Standing in front of the pack, he guides his team with the dignified aplomb of those greats of old – Buck Owens with the Buckaroos, or Bob Wills commanding his Texas Playboys. He knows how to work the crowd, at ease behind the mic, in front of a piano or caressing the necks of a mandolin or guitar. In fact, it’s rare for Cruz to be presented with an instrument he doesn’t play, and everything he does finds its way gently worked into The Black Lillies’ aesthetic with all the swirls and flourishes of brush strokes on canvas laid down by a master painter. With Whiskey Angel, The Black Lillies established themselves, and it didn’t take long for them to make their mark on the national scene. They kicked off their first national tour at the Ryman Auditorium, the hallowed mother church of country music, and have since labored through three cross-country treks, with a fourth planned for the summer of 2011. They’ve performed on National Public Radio’s Mountain Stage and on two episodes of PBS’s Jammin’ at Hippie Jack’s, and they’ve conquered numerous festivals – Pickathon, the Americana Music Association Festival, Four Corners Folk Festival, Bristol Rhythm and Roots, even Bonnaroo. Along the way, the scribes who keep tabs on what’s worth listening to in this day and age have taken quite a shine to Whiskey Angel. It topped 2009 best-of lists across the country and is currently nominated for Best Americana Album by the Independent Music Awards. It isn’t uncommon for listeners to say that the music has taken hold of their soul. It’s earthy and gritty and melancholy in a way old mountain music was a century ago, speaking of pain and love and revenge and revelry with such spirit, such genuine celebration and sorrow, that it seems to be an album carved out of the planks of a backwoods cabin abandoned during the Great Depression more than a thing recorded in a living room studio by one man. And as good as it is … as great as it is … it’s a drop in the bucket, because 100 Miles of Wreckage is here. The sophomore record takes what Cruz built in Whiskey Angel and fortifies it, a rustic sound without name and place, unbeholden to geographic region or easy classification. It’s an album crafted with precision and care by musicians who are masters of their trade, who believe in The Black Lillies’ vision and who hold fast to the notion that good music – music with heart and purpose and purity of spirit — is still a valued commodity. Excerpted from an article By Steve Wildsmith, The Daily Times

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    AMANDA SHIRES

    Carrying Lightning

    Apr 19, 2011

    Fresh off of her contribution to Jason Isbell's latest, "Here We Rest," and of playing Gwyneth Paltrow's fiddle player in the movie "Country Strong," Amanda Shires has been busy making her own music. With a Texas pedigree that includes the Old Country remnants of Bob Will's Playboys and the Alt.Country street cred of the Thrift Store Cowboys, Shires claims Leonard Cohen and Richard Buckner as influences. You can hear all them and even whisps of Seattle and Cleveland in the rich textures of "Carrying Lightning." Her Nashville Cute Girl Looks bely her sophisticated chops as a player and songwriter, and the fashionable whimsy of her baby doll skirts and bright cowboy boots stand in stark contrast to the hard scrabble poetry she writes. "Carrying Lightning" is a rich, sophisticated record, where Shires' mix runs from sugary-sweet ("Ghost Bird" and "She Let Go of the Kite") to 30 grit grind of ("When You Need a Train..." and "Swimmer"). "Shake the Walls" and "Sloe Gin" will grab you in places you nearly forgot. "Carrying Lightning" is a glimpse inside the heart of the sweet girl next door, but discovering more raw emotion and sophisticated confidence than you imagined. All the songs are hers with the exception of "Detroit or Buffalo," written by Barbara Keith in the '70s. Amanda has it all including an ear for neglected gems. With echoes of Emmylou, Dolly, and Loretta (even a little Dusty), Shires' voice, in equal measures, soars like an angel and catches you short, hair standing, like a soft kiss behind your ear. She can sing as powerfully as a spotlight on a deer, and as delicately as a paper lantern hanging on a lone pine. Is the world ready for another sweet-as-pecan-pie fiddle playing chanteuse? Amanda Shires is Tom Waits and Loretta Lynn to Allison Krauss' Billy Joel and Olivia Newton-John. Reviewed by Todd Townsend.

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    CAITLIN ROSE

    Own Side Now

    Mar 27, 2011

    FCC ALERT: 05 New York

    Nick's Picks: 04 Shanghai Cigarettes, 03 For The Rabbits, 10 Coming Up

    Review of Own Side Now by Caitlin Rose: Caitlin Rose has decided to take a page from The Kings Of Leon's road to fame and fortune – start in the European market and wow 'em there. Then come back home to Nashville the conquering hero. And I think it has worked. The arrangements on this singer/songwriter's first full-length cd are almost too good to be believed – especially for a beginner's first foray. The first song (“Learning To Ride”) has a very lush background, with acoustic, soft brushes on the drum, steel guitar, and mandolin. Of course, it helps to have grown up in the genre (her mother is songwriter Liz Rose, and her father is Johnny B. Rose). For a 23-year old, Caitlin's treatment of Stevie Nicks' “That's Alright” is pure country, and her singing comes off as smooth as Tennessee sippin' whiskey. The production of this entire cd belies the youthfulness of the co-producers, it is so full of rich tones and powerful strings. On other songs (“Sinful Wishing Well”, “For The Rabbits”) her singing comes off as innocent and crystal clear as a mountain spring, and just as fresh. Steeped in the country tradition, Caitlin’s music is not constrained by that “he-done-me-wrong-so-I'm-drinkin'-myself-to-death-song” heritage (“Spare Me”, “Things Change”). Her “aw shucks” style and wry observations are more modern than her inspirational predecessors (Bonnie Raitt, Gram Parsons, Linda Ronstadt), yet her heart-rending honesty, easy delivery, and (almost) symphonic backup instrumental arrangements set her apart from her contemporaries – both “traditional”, as well as country pop. Two songs (“Coming Up”, “Shanghai Cigarettes”) are just delighful songs that weave in an out of different styles, with change-ups punctuated by a blowsy fuzz bass, a Nawlins bluesy harmonica, a sleepy slide guitar). The lyrics are so full of the heartache of broken loves in one song, and the empty pack of cigarettes as metaphor for a hurtful breakup in the other. Yet the musical change-ups and building crescendo offer up some hope for some kind of love. (But I have to close my observation that this very talented singer/songwriter has developed a jaded view of love in her short life; I hope I am wrong). Just my two nickels ----------------- Nick

    ARTIST BIO Caitlin Rose's inspirations, from Gram Parsons to Bonnie Raitt to Linda Ronstadt, belied her late-‘80s birth. The offbeat Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter and guitarist debuted in February 2008 on the Theory 8 label with the Dead Flowers EP, its title track a Rolling Stones cover with a pleading touch, laced with pedal steel guitar. Five months later, the limited Gorilla Man, pressed on 300 copies of 7” vinyl, featured re-recordings. Her debut album, Own Side Now , followed in August 2010. It was issued on Names, the label that had issued Dead Flowers in the U.K. Caitlin Rose – acoustic & electric guitar, vocals, co-producer; Ben Martin – drums, percussion; Jordan Caress – electgric & bass guitar, background vocals; Skylar Wilson – keys, peano, drums, co-producer; Jeremy Fetzer – guitar; Luke Schneider – guitar, pedal steel guitar; Chris Scruggs – steel guitar; Tristen Gaspadarek – background vocals; Rayland Baxter – background vocals; Johnny Rose – mandolin; Jim Fitting – harmonica; Ryan Latham – saxophones; Katie Studley – violin; Larissa Maestro – cello; Jordan Lehning – string arrangements; Mark Nevers – engineer, sound mixer, co-producer; All songs written/co-written by Caitlin Rose, except “That's Alright” (Stevie Nicks).

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    ANDREW ANDERSON

    As Long As This Thing's Flyin'

    Mar 19, 2011

    FCC Alert: 10 “Hell On Earth”

    Nick's Picks: 03 Necessary Casualties, 06 The Hawk, 14 As Long As This Thing's Flyin'

    Andrew Anderson is a 23 year old Idaho-native who is new to the Austin music scene. On this first album, As Long As This Thing’s Flyin’, he demonstrates his grasp of nature, big business, big government, and on a personal level, he wrestles with his own juxtaposition - perpetually foiled in love and righteousness, and trapped in a corrupt world. Much of this first cd is a well-crafted tip of the hat to his bluegrass fans. “Send The Bastard Running” attempts to follow the same genre, but with a slight veer toward current country-rock. I am not sure the meaning of the words, but I get a feeling that western justice seems to be the focal point of this song. In “Necessary Casualties” Andrew tells of loss and poverty, a protest song that skewers the dark heart of self-serving capitalism while celebrating those who fight for change with a song and a smile. He rebukes the country’s leaders, “I don’t see your sons heading off to war. All I see are the sons of the laid off, the jobless, the poor,” and he sings with such earnestness that no one could mistake his righteous attitude as an act. It is not mentioned anywhere in his biography, but I can detect a smidgeon of Old Crow Medicine Show influence, as well as a smattering of Neil Young-type lyrics (“Once Met A Girl”, “Fists Up, Chin Down”). Having said that, though, lyrically, Anderson is very much at home when he's drawing from personal experience (“A Year Tomorrow”, "Old Dusty Trail", “Oh, That Lonesome Sound”), than when he's trying to draw from someone else's experience (“Filling In The Gaps”). Altogether, though, his songwriting is apropos to the music, Anderson and his extremely talented bandmates, drummer Luke Meade and and multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Harris, have gone out of their way to create a record that's full of personal expression and individualist treatments. Harris is a one-man wrecking crew, skilfully playing solid licks on electric guitar, banjo, and dobro. He's clearly a string master, but what really sets him apart is his ability to stay in the background to allow Anderson's vocals their proper space in the mix. "Wait Darlin'" has a solitary guitar lead-in riff that gives way to a related but gentler banjo lick, and when the vocals come in, the song takes off. The title cut (“As Long As This Thing's Flyin'”) , also begins with a tender acoustic intro, and builds to a foot-tapping mournful tune (credit the dobro). The trio work together beautifully. Meade is equally willing to lay back and provide just a shaker or a lone kick drum if that's what best suits the song. This trio has a knack for filling the room full of sound even without having a bass player – I think that is attributable to the musicality of the gifted musicians (“The Hawk”, “Dammit Man” are good examples). This cd is intriguing on two fronts: the tightly knit music, and the philosophical bent of the lyrics. There are a total of 14 tracks on this, Andrew's first full-length cd, but I predict that this won't be his last - especially with the awesome talent of his bandmates/co-producers. Just my two nickels -------------------- Nick

    ARTIST BIO: One thing is certain, he dominates the mandolin. Andrew began playing mandolin at age 15, inspired by Thile's music, and entirely self taught. His record for writing and playing his own music goes back much farther thanks to a musical family and access to his mother's piano and his father's guitar. He attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA for mandolin performance. His guitar playing is good, but his fingers are so fast on the mandolin, it makes your eyes water. The nomadic life of a songwriter has traced his road from Idaho to Seattle to Boston and back again. Boston didn’t poison his imagery with ivy halls, or city lights. His songs paint lonesome highways that stretch into nowhere, a neighbor with a gun, and a dame he can’t win. The world through Andrew’s eyes is one where all lessons are learned from mistakes, the ghosts of which still haunt him. Andrew would like to be the next Hank Williams, but, he says, “I don’t want to die in the back of a car.” Andrew’s music ranges from full band, pulsing blues-rock, to the lightest country croon. om the basis of Harris's cello arrangements, I'd love to hear what he could create with a full-blown string quartet. "Once Met a Girl," ) than when he's trying to sing in someone else's shoes (the slightly awkward "Send the Bastard Running"). What's important is that he's writing songs about different subjects and from different perspectives, something that will keep his material consistently improving. With Meade and Harris in the fold, he's got to keep his game up to meet the challenge of providing songs worthy enough for players this good and this smart. It's this blending of Dylan-style vocals with structured rock chords and bittersweet subject matter that creates a wholesome album, As Long As This Thing's Flyin', their fourth full-length endeavor. The fast-paced number "The Hawk," in particular, makes this reviewer want to dance with a pretty lady. The band has a variety of influences. On their MySpace profile, they quote Ernest Hemingway, Jack London and J.K. Rowling, and those inspirations are expressed via guitars, banjos, mandolins, drums, pianos and harps.

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    CAHALEN MORRISON & ELI WEST

    THE HOLY COMING OF THE STORM

    Mar 15, 2011

    Seattle based multi-instrumentalists Chalen Morrison and Eli West perform old time Americana bluegrass music as it was done many decades before, but keep the sound fresh for fans of this genre both old and new. Their sound can be compared to the fantastic soundtrack found within " O Brother Where Art Thou" and it will be easy to compare the vocals on this disc to Dan Tyminski one of the original Soggy Bottom Boys and long time member of Union Station with Allison Krauss. The only problem I found with this disc was I kept looking for "The Holy Coming Of The Storm" the energy never developed past a gentle wind to blow the dust from the mountain. That being said if you are sitting by the fire enjoying a beautiful evening this may be the perfect listen. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    RON SEXSMITH

    Long Player Late Bloomer

    Mar 9, 2011

    A naturally sensitive and finely nuanced voice that is remotely reminiscent of James Taylor/Boz Scaggs (particularly “No Help At All”), an astute songwriting talent that includes (in different songs) echoes of Costello (“Love Shines”, “Nowadays”), The Beatles (“Every Time I Follow”), and Billy Joel (“Eye Candy”), Ron Sexsmith manages to conjure up his own distinct sound with a cd of memorable ditties, and often poignant lyrics. Produced by fellow Canadian Bob Rock (who produced for the likes of Metallica, Motley Crue, The Cult), this is his eleventh foray into the cd release arena. Rock's production, as usual, is edgy and very voluminous (think of an understated Phil Spector) - an example would be the intro to “Believe It When I See It”. Another cut, “The Reason Why” seems to closely emulate Bruce Hornsby's style, but with a better guitar riff. If you don't own any of his cds, this just might be the one to buy. (By the way,if you are mildly indifferent on first listen, listen to it again and by the third listen it will start to grow on you). I woke up this morning, and I just couldn't get “Get In Line” out of my head. His music has been covered by many artists – Sheryl Crow, Rod Stewart, Nick Lowe, and most recently Michael Buble. I would like to suggest to Michael Buble that “Miracle” might just be a perfect song to cover – given his singing style. Reviewers use words like sublime for albums like this. I'm not certain what that means exactly; but if it means it gets under your skin and sticks in your brain, then that's close enough. Some songs, though, I cannot seem to get my head around - they just seem to be out of place in his repertoire (“Michael And His Dad” comes to mind). , and “Late Bloomer” seems to wander aimlessly, and doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the songs on this cd (except as the title song).. Just my two nickels. --------Nick

    ARTIST BIO Ronald Eldon Sexsmith (born 8 January 1964) is a Canadian singer-songwriter from St. Catharines, Ontario, currently based in Toronto.[1] He started his own band when he was fourteen years old, and released the first recordings of his own material seven years later, in 1985. Some of the same artists who inspired Sexsmith—Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Ray Davies and John Hiatt—are now people whose praise he has won.[2] Sexsmith is the subject of a 2010 documentary, Love Shines. Early Career Sexsmith was seventeen when he started playing at a bar, the Lion's Tavern, in his hometown. He would gain a reputation as "The One-Man Jukebox" for his aptitude for playing requests. However, four to five years of this led him to play original songs and more obscure music his audience did not favour.[1] He decided to start writing songs after the birth of his first child, Christopher,[3] in 1985. He moved to Toronto, formed a band called The Uncool, and released a cassette, Out of the Duff. A year later, he released There’s a Way.[4][1] Next came the birth of his second child, Evelyn, in 1989. Meanwhile, he worked as a courier, and released Grand Opera Lane in 1991. On the strength of this album, and the attention garnered by the song "Speaking with the Angels", Sexsmith earned a contract which led to his self-titled album in 1995. The album received wider attention when it was praised by Elvis Costello, for whom Sexsmith later opened.[5]

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    WILL PHALEN

    Holy Ghost Gold Coast

    Mar 4, 2011

    Will Phalen is a Milwaukee transplant to the gold coast of Chicago. Although he is frontman for The Stereo Addicts, Holy Ghost Gold Coast is his solo effort in folk and is self-described as cosmic American music. He enjoyed recording this album at home within the quiet confines that apartment living demands. He feels limitation breeds creativity. The first song “Candycane Mountain in My Mind” offers up simple acoustic picking with background synthesizer that lends a bit of an ethereal mood. “Suddenly” is an upbeat tune with keyboard synth and harmonica elements added for interest. In “Morning Will Come” Phalen is not always completely on pitch but this song is “ear” catching along with breathy voice modulation. The title track shows Phalen’s flawless guitar picking, and along with harmonica, is a soothing end. Recommended tracks: 1-3-4-8-10. Pam VandeKerkhoff

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    BRUCE COCKBURN

    Small Source of Comfort

    Feb 28, 2011

    Over 30 albums into his career, Bruce Cockburn continues to deliver fresh and provocative perspectives on the world and the human heart, spiced with excellent guitar playing and a splash of exotic sounds from instruments such as bells or gongs. This time, Bruce goes mainly acoustic, choosing not to dress up the numbers very much and the result is a slower, more languid record. That's not all bad, and on songs like "Call Me Rose" (about Richard Nixon being reincarnated as a single young woman with kids in the projects), the life-reflective piece "Iris of the World" and "Five Fifty-One" (driving at the break of dawn) are great additions to the Cockburn legacy and the instrumentals ring. I wouldn't rank this as one of Bruce's best, but this guy sets such a high bar that his "average" outings outshine most of his peers. 02/11 MJVD F-Contemporary

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    THE LOW ANTHEM

    Smart Flesh

    Feb 26, 2011

    Review by Nick Nickelson of Smart Flesh by The Low Anthem: The Low Anthem manages to conjure up it's own distinct sound with a cd of incredibly melancholy melodies (“I'll Take Out Your Ashes”) and often strange (“Smart Flesh”, “Matter of Time”) lyrics. Some selections bring to mind Leonard Cohen (“Apothecary Love”, “Burn”), at times Tim Buckley (“Ghost Woman Blues”), but most seem almost Dylanesque (“Boeing 737”, “Hey All You Hippies”) in their influence. Members of the band include: Ben Knox Miller, Jeff Prystowski, Jocie Adams, Mat Davidson. Each band member seems to be quite proficient on a number of arcane instruments, and that (IMHO) seems to be the drawing card for their well-attended performances. As a recording, some of the songs seem to drift almost to the edge of mainstream music – almost conjuring up a vision of a group sittin' around the campfire pickin' and singin' (with the occasional wind instrument thrown in). Contributing artists: Ben Pilgrim, Anton Patzner, Louis Patzner, Robert Houllahan. This band definitely has a cult-like following, and the use of such a broad variety of instruments (cotales, musical saw, portable pump organ, clarinet, upright bass, etc.) is one of the draws for the concert-goer; however, the harmonies that appear throughout this album (“Golden Cattle”, “Love And Altar”) are artfully crafted and beautifully (albeit sorrowfully) performed. -----Nick

    Artist Bio: Ben Knox Miller and Jeffrey Prystowsky met while DJing an overnight jazz show on a Brown University radio station, WBRU. They became friends and teammates for a local wood-bat baseball team called the Providence Grays. Miller and Prystowsky played in various ensembles together ranging from classical and jazz to electronica and The Low Anthem was formed in 2006. In the fall of 2006, Dan Lefkowitz, a bluesman from Strasburg, Virginia joined the band and contributed to their evolving brand of songwriting with his song “This God Damn House." Early in 2007, Lefkowitz left the band to pursue simple living in a yurt in Arkansas. The band became a trio again in late 2007 with the addition of classical composer and clarinetist Jocie Adams. Adams, a fellow student and former NASA employee, joined the band after a late-night recording session for the band's album, What The Crow Brings. She appears on vocals and clarinet on the album's closing track, "Coal Mountain Lullaby". Smart Flesh From December 2009 until February 2010, the band recorded their third album, Smart Flesh, in the abandoned Porino’s pasta sauce factory in Central Falls, RI. The album was engineered by Jesse Lauter and mixed by Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes). The new album will be released February 22, 2011. The band released "Ghost Woman Blues", the first song on the record as a free download in December on their website. The band appeared again on The Late Show with David Letterman on January 12, 2011, performing "Ghost Woman Blues". Live performances When The Low Anthem perform live, each member performs on a number of instruments, ranging from crotales to singing saw. A staple of their live performance is This God Damn House, written in 2007 by former band member Dan Lefkowitz. Recently, The Low Anthem have been performing new material, Apothecary, Maybe So, and Ghost Woman Blues, rumored to appear on an upcoming release. Line-up Current Ben Knox Miller (2006-present) Jeff Prystowsky (2006-present) Jocie Adams (2007-present) Mat Davidson (2009-present) From Wikipedia

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    LUCINDA WILLIAMS

    BLESSED

    Feb 25, 2011

    Ever since her 1998 classic Car Wheels on a Gravel Road Lucinda Williams has used her expertly wrought sense of melancholy to weave tales of lust, heartbreak, desperation and redemption. This disc continues down that same path with Williams spitting in anger at the friend who gave up on living, "Seeing Black", giving the good bye look to someone who uses and abuses her but can’t understand why he’s getting the walking papers, "Buttercup", and being baffled by the mate who doesn’t understand the scope of her undying devotion which almost took her underground with him, "I Don’t Know How You’re Livin’". Death makes another appearance on "Copenhagen" where she finds herself floored by the news of someone’s passing and on "Soldier’s Song" where she adopts the viewpoint of a soldier who deals with the mayhem and death by focusing on the ordinary moments that mark the passage of time back home. While Williams is drawn to the dark spaces in life, "Ugly Truth", she doesn’t ignore the power of love, "Sweet Love" and "Kiss Like Your Kiss", or ignore the special spot occupied by those who get relationships right, "Blessed". Even when she’s down, she wants to be lured to a happier place, "Convince Me". While a number of the cuts are as musically dark as the stark lyrics, she imbues several tracks with a sense of hope that comes through with rocking riffs, such as on "Awakening" or cool organ grooves such as on the title cut. Unlike recent efforts where she seemed almost daunted by the prospects of singing her harsh words, Williams delivers the lyrics here with clear throated power. Song for song, this is her strongest work in years. Smitty

    FEIST

    Look At What The Light Did Now

    Feb 2, 2011

    Review by Steven “Nick” Nickelson of Look At What The Light Did Now by Feist This weighty dvd/cd combo explodes with sounds that seem to come from everywhere at once. “Limit To Your Love” is one power-packed soundshow. “When I Was A Young Girl” just begs a Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco comparison, but with throbbing drum beat and a big wide wall of sound. “Secret Heart” has a light and slow-tempo start, but then quickly kicks into full wide wall of sound mode. I really like the change-up in the tempo in this particular song. A really top-notch supporting cast really makes this cut another powerhouse performance. This very talented (and IMHO a bit quirky) singer-songwriter has an impressive repertoire, and comes highly credentialed by dint of her being a member of the indie rock group, Broken Social Scene. I am ashamed to admit I have never been to a single concert of hers or theirs – but I most definitely intend to rectify that gross oversight. “Strangers” offers up a delicious acoustic accompaniment to Feist's crystal clear singing voice. While a number of the cuts burn with a slow passion, “So Sorry” begins with an island rhythm to it, then segues into a torchy, sad breakup song. I have yet to find a single cut on this audio cd with which I was disappointed. Mea culpa, I am now a convert. There is a bonus cd by Chilly Gonzalez which has four cuts on it – all boring piano pieces. ----------Nick

    BIO: It's a cinematic sound-and-light installation. It's an behind the scenes look at Feist's creative process. It's an intimate portrait of artistic collaboration. It's a DVD and a bonus audio CD. It's Look At What The Light Did Now and it's in stores now. Directed by Anthony Seck and featuring loads of backstage footage, rare cuts, insightful commentary and stunning visuals by the artists who gave us The Reminder, LAWTLDN is the perfect reprieve from winter's pale wash. Lavished with special features, the DVD package comes to stores trembling under it's own weight.

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    ABIGAIL WASHBURN

    City of Refuge

    Jan 20, 2011

    After two records that sought to combine her deep love of Chinese culture and Appalachian folk music, Abigail Washburn keeps mostly on the mountain side of the equation on this set, assisted once again by an all-star list of contributors (from The Decemberists, My Morning Jacket, Old Crow Medicine Show, bass genius Viktor Krauss and jazz great Bill Frisell). After a brief prelude of Chinese children playing, it's on to traditional American tunes, led by her claw-hammer banjo style -- and she opens with a bang on the outstanding title track. The only faint hint of her Chinese influence comes from the sounds of bandmate Wu Fei playing the guzheng (Chinese zither). Washburn has a very original angle on the traditional, both lyrically and musically, although she ends with two very gospel-in-the-hills numbers, "Divine Bell" and "Bright Morning Stars." A unique artist. Gossip question: Is she or is she not married to Bela Fleck? MJVD 1/11 F-Neo-Traditional

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    CHEYENNE MARIE MIZE

    Before Lately

    Jan 10, 2011

    Review by Steven “Nick” Nickelson of Before Lately by Cheyenne Marie Mize: Shades of Nona Marie Invie (Dark Dark Dark)! I could swear this was the same woman, they sound so much alike! Even the repetitive phrasing is (almost) identical on at least one song (“Best”, “Doctor”); however, the musical phrasing is deeper and much richer from this expat-Canadian (most recently, Kentuckian), Cheyenne Marie Mize.. I can also detect subtle influences by Laura Nyro (“ Before Lately”, “Not”). Ms. Mize commands melancholy torch songs and breezy pop ditties with equal vigor, bringing a particularly unique aloofness to everything she does - adding banjo or a capella harmonies where you’d least expect them. My favorite song on this cd is a sweetly, breathlessly sung “Waiting”, and the thing that appeals to me is the contrasting jangle of the background music, juxtaposed with light xylophone taps and violin/banjo plucks. This cd provides an opportunity for Cheyenne Marie Mize to test the waters in the country arena, with a slow and sugary-sweet “Rest”. “Kind” is a repetetive, but sweetly played song, and the same holds true for “Friend” - another beautifully contrasting song. Some songs I cannot seem to get my head around - they just seem to be out of place in her repertoire (“Path”, a song more likely to be performed by Tori Amos or Enya) comes to mind). “With(Out)” seems to be just a filler song – or another attempt at reaching a different audience (albeit perhaps on another planet? “Lull” seems to fit that pattern. Just my two cents. --------Nick

    ARTIST BIO There’s so much space between notes on Cheyenne Marie Mize’s debut album, “Before Lately” (sonaBLAST!), but hardly any air. Last year, on “Among the Gold,” an EP of 19th-century traditionals recorded with Will Oldham, she was a steady beacon for the purposefully erratic Mr. Oldham. On this sometimes startling collection of tough, dreamy, cloudy-sky country and chamber pop, Ms. Mize deploys her tools sparingly but effectively. Ms. Mize, from Louisville, Ky., has a rare voice, sweet without being cloying, and weary without hopelessness. On “Not” and “Waiting” she’s deliberate and undistractable, suggesting a more centered Fiona Apple. At the beginning of “Lull” just a handful of piano notes add up to something oceanic, filling a full minute before she enters with a soft whisper. “Rest” uses just a few tools — a drowsy guitar, a brushed snare — to create a heavy air of expectation. “I just want a piece of your mind,” Ms. Mize sings, drawing the sentence out over several measures, “But your mind is on the rest of the world/And how can I compare to that?” ---- New York Times review

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    JOHN McCUTCHEON

    Passage

    Jan 7, 2011

    You know you've been at it a long time when your own website is www.folkmusic.com -- yes, that's the web home of John McCutcheon, folk troubadour since the early '70s and the country's master of the hammered dulcimer. He sings and constructs songs as Woody and Pete and Bob did back in the day, heavy on the storyline and light on the frills. This is his 34th recording and it could have been put together in the '70s, except that he's very much on top of today's headlines. "One More Day" is about the tragic Massey coal mine disaster in West Virgina in April, 2010 and "End of the World" is a touching tale of a Vietnamese shrimper battling the oil spills off the Louisiana coast. The novelty number is the spoken-word "Ode to a Kripsy Kreme," read by a true doughnut addict. There's a fine cast of musicians here, including Kathy Mattea, Tim O'Brien, Stuart Duncan and Suzy Boggus. 1/11 MJVD F-Traditional

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    HUGH BLUMENFELD

    DAD

    Jan 6, 2011

    ARTIST BIO Brooklyn-born but now residing in Connecticut, Hugh Blumenfeld was a mainstay in the late '80s Greenwich Village scene, an associate editor and contributor of songs to the Fast Folk Musical Magazine, winner of the Kerrville New Folk Competition, featured performer on Christine Lavin's On a Winter's Night compilation and was the first artist signed to the new 1 800 Prime CD label. He has a PhD in poetry but doesn't let that get in the way of honest songwriting on records like 1987's Strong in Spirit, 1989's Barehanded and 1996's Mozart's Money. Rocket Science followed in 1998.

    Review of (Dr.) Hugh Blumenfeld's Dad: After reading the bio on this singer/songwriter, I have developed a greater appreciation for his interest in weaving all the songs on this cd around a theme of parenthood. Now knowing that he worked with volunteer groups in grief and music therapy to help new parents recover from the loss of a newborn, as well as his dedication and work with “preemies” in NICU while going to med school in CT. His graduation from med school, and his work in family medicine make a perfect background for the development of this cd. The very first song he wrote (“Sleep Sarah Sleep”) is on this cd, and you can just feel the “Dad” in him throughout the entire disk - from the birth (“Welcome to the World”, “Cradle Song”), through the early years (“Daddy I'm Awake”, “Cry Little Guy”, “Wonder Wonder Why”). There are the little joys (“Rock You”, “I Knew A Boy”, “Til The Morning”), and the heartaches (“Daddy's Got You Now”, “Visitation”). There are also songs of inspiration (“Sail On Little Sailor”, “My Little Boy's Moon”). And then there are the playful ditties that just are (“NICU at Nite”, “You Gotta Have Coffee”, “Till The Morning”). All in all, this is a delightful listen, although I have no idea who are his accompanists. -----NICK

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    LYNN MILES

    FALL FOR BEAUTY

    Jan 4, 2011

    Lynn Miles has a way of making songs about how broken the world feels, as on the opening track "Something Beautiful" seem exactly that. This is a beautifully produced effort from one of Canada's finest singer/songwriters and in my opinion her finest recording since her 1999 release "Night In A Strange Town". In addition to the opening track exploring how broken things are in the world today Lynn pours her heart out on the track "Cracked and Broken" a song about a personal relationship hardship. "Love Doesn't Hurt" covers the harms caused by domestic abuse that brings you in and makes you feel the ache created as she explains how love shouldn't physically or mentally hurt. Even though Lynn covers topics that usually wont warm your heart and soul she ends this disc with the beautifully orchestrated and uplifting track "Time To Let The Sun". Fall For Beauty is a perfect title for this gem of a CD and is a welcome return to one of folks finest voices. Reviewed By; Gregg Saur

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    THE BLACKBERRY BUSHES

    Little Bit of Grace

    Dec 24, 2010

    This quintet from the Olympia peninsula of Washington plays an energetic brand of bluegrass music, with the banjo pickin' robust and the harmonies well-blended. Guitarist Jes Raymond is the main vocalist, ably assisted by banjo player Kendl Winter. The two guys in the group, Jakob Breitbach and Joe Capoccia, support with fiddle and the upright bass. On a few of the tracks the guys take the lead vocal (best one is "Virginia"), but it is the harmonies of the ladies that most consistently hit the mark, such as in the opener "Salt Creek," the fast-paced "Take It," a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire" and the gospel-feeling "Rust." 12/10 MJVD F-Bluegrass

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    JOHN FRANCIS

    The Better Angels

    Dec 24, 2010

    Trying to steer the country away from a bitter Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, in his first inaugural address, appealed to "the better angels" of human nature. Songwriter John Francis does the same in this fine record, revealing a highly insightful perspective on our country and the fragile heart of the individual. Raised in rural Pennsylvania and now based in Philly, Francis won the ASCAP lyricist of the year award (following Josh Ritter and John Mayer); this set shows why. The record strikes me as similar to Steve Earle's "Copperhead Road" era -- a rock-charged country-folk sound with plenty of food for thought. "The Way the Empire Fell," "Who?," "Prayer in a Time of Drought" and "War Register Blues" put the microscope on our nation's psyche, while "The Beautiful One" and "Love Came to Me" (the song that got him the award) lay relationships bare. Another cool tune is "Johnny Cash on the Radio," a potential anthem for the year. Let's keep our eyes on this artist -- he's very talented. 12/10 MJVD F-Rock

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    ZACH PETERSON

    Alter Ego

    Dec 16, 2010

    Warning: Track 01 has FCC banned word Track 08 has phrases that are marginally suggestive Track 09 has FCC banned word Review by Nick of Alter Ego by Zach Peterson: Zach Peterson is an excellent songwriter, taking cues from Bob Dylan, Warren Zevon, Leonard Cohen (like Cohen, some of his songs are very egocentric). He could most probably make a very good living just writing music for other artists; which he should consider, because (IMHO) his singing is very raw and not quite on a par with Bob Dylan. The major difference between Peterson and Dylan is that Dylan happened to be in the right place at the right time, and he was accompanied by a very talented (The) Band. Zach does have his shining moments, though (“Some Bar In Montreal”, “Drift Away”, “Die In Your Arms”). Most have good lyrics (“Streets of Utrecht”, “Made You Something” “Old Camaros”). The rest of the songs on this inaugural cd just do not do anything for me - musically. -------Nick ARTIST BIO Grand Rapids native singer-songwriter Zach Peterson's debut record, ALTER EGO, reflects over a decade of writing, performing and playing for audiences ranging from blue collar auto workers and motorcycle gangs to white collar lawyers and K Street lobbyists. Peterson played the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts from 1997-2005 and other haunts around Michigan and Ontario before moving to Washington, DC where (he) is now a regular on the club circuit.

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    HOLY GHOST TENT REVIVAL FAMILY

    FAMILY

    Dec 13, 2010

    From the first note you know that this band from Greensboro North Carolina could raise the roof at any southern tent revival. The only problem is they evoke all the energy without covering any religious topics during the sermon. The CD is divided into two sides, the first which covers the first three tracks combines roots rock with Dixieland jazz in an almost gospel feel. The second side begins with the track "Alcohol" a track that combines roots rock, with a loose southern Jazz sound that will easily remind listeners of the Avett Brothers. "Under Your Fingers" has a blues and old time R&B sound to it and the EP ends with the properly titled "Goodbye or Goodnight" a southern Dixieland banjo track that explores the sounds of Hip-Hop. In the short 25 minutes of this disc the Holy Ghost Tent Revival Family explores the sounds of Roots Rock, Country, Jazz, Blues, Dixieland, R&B and Hip-Hop. I can't wait until they release a full LP. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    BOB DYLAN

    The Best of the Original Mono Recordings

    Dec 7, 2010

    Review by Steven “Nick” Nickelson of The Best of the Original Mono Recordings by Bob Dylan: Recommended: All (this is, after all, a “best of”) It is said that everything old is new again and Bob Dylan is bringing back the monoraul Folk sounds of the 60’s and 70’s with a vengeance. Most of the tracks on this disc were originally recorded 40-50 years ago, but the man who was originally born Robert Zimmerman brings them back to life through the magic of remastering, and makes them sound as fresh as the day they were recoded. Many artists of the day opted for mono over the new-fangled stereo because it seemed truer to the actual music being played – and in fact it was for folk singers whose audiences were (generally) in smaller venues like coffee houses. Is mono better? No, it is just different - the way the music was originally supposed to be heard. The way Dylan wanted it heard. For someone wanting to hear what all the hoopla is about concerning Dylan's albums in mono, this will give you a tasty sampler of the wonderful sounding albums in the box set. The tracks are judiciously chosen, but by virtue of being a sampler "best of", many, many songs aren't here. If this grouping whets your appetite for the whole collection of (arguably) Dylan's best work, you'll need to hear all the albums in glorious monophonic sound. I particularly like the full-bodied sound of “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. Once again, I have to emphatically state that these songs take me back to the wonder years of my youth – of protests, psychedelics, free love, and the promise of eternal hope for mankind! Oops, I better get off the memory train before I fall off and hurt myself. ----Nick

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    THE SPARES

    Everything Is Easy

    Dec 3, 2010

    Jodee Lewis (channeling her best Alison Krauss) and Steve Hendershot are the Chicago duo known as The Spares. On their third record, they get a little darker, leading off with "I Don't Miss," a rocking little wordplay about an angry woman with a gun, and continues through "Earthquake," "Like We Were" and "Has He Told You" (which warns about a two-timin' guy). Somebody's had some heartache here! But the music is great and the harmonies fine. "Center of the World" is another upbeat folk-rock message tune, "Revolution" is a wry commentary on the roller-coaster nature of politics and "Wanted Man" is a bluesy tale. The Spares make intelligent, well-crafted music. Probably the only thing that keeps them from making the big time is a limited touring schedule: Lewis is a mom of two (about to be three) and was a chemical engineer before music and motherhood changed her direction. Let's support the family. 12/10 MJVD F-Alt Country

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    NATASHA BORZILOVA

    Balancing Act

    Nov 28, 2010

    Nick's Picks: 03, 04, 09

    Folk music is one of those rare genres of music whereby the emphasis and interest is based more on the message than on the messenger. Natasha Borzilova is one of those talented individuals that represents both the message and the messenger. With one exception (“Retchka”, a traditional Russian folk song), all the songs on this cd were crafted by the very talented Natasha Borzilova. The music revolves around intricate riffs on the acoustic guitar, with an echoing back bass (Byron House), supplemented by a talented duo of Billy Pardo on electric guitar/mandolin, and Alexander Arzamastsev on cajon and percussion. Although I have been listening to this cd for several hours, I just cannot seem to get past the gifted instrumental musicality to be able to get a handle on the singing and the words. Indeed, the singing is first-rate, as is the songwriting. I can only hope that we will be treated to more from this talented artist. Just my two nickels ------Nick

    ARTIST BIO Born in Obninsk, Russia, Natasha Borzilova moved to Nashville as the lead singer and acoustic guitarist of the band Bering Strait, which was put together as a group of classically trained child prodigies in the late 1980’s. Since then Bering Strait had two CD releases on Universal South Records, receiving critical acclaim and a Grammy nomination for country instrumental of the year in 2002. The Grammy nod got the attention of 60 Minutes whose feature piece on the band aired three times. The public also became familiar with Natasha and her fellow band members through the documentary Te Ballad of Bering Strait, directed by Emmy Award winner Nina Seavey which chronicled the journey of the band members after they arrived in the United States. In 2006 the band decided to go their separate ways realizing they had each evol ved in different musical directions. For Borzilova, suddenly being a solo artist meant an opportunity to re-visit songs she had been writing for the past several years and she released her first solo project of original material in 2008 titled Cheap Escape, a stylistic hybrid of folk & rock yet offering glimpses of her classical and jazz training. With a natural gravitation toward nuance in her lyrics, one would be hard pressed to believe that English is not her first language. A seasoned entertainer, she is exciting with a full band behind her yet completely captivating and intriguing with just her voice and guitar; a feat few singers can pull off.  For her second solo project, Borzilova originally had the idea to do an acoustic CD of Russian folks songs at the suggestion of fans but after starting her research, she realized many of the songs she had wanted to include were not traditional folks songs and had authors. Then her label suggested she look at some of the tunes she had written that came off so well in the acoustic treatment given on the original demos and consider them for an acoustic project. With Borzilova playing nearly all of the record’s acoustic guitar parts, she brought in Billy Panda with his arsenal of stringed instruments to play mandocello, high string, National guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, bottleneck, baritone acoustic and gut string. She was fortunate to have Byron House play upright and Arco bass between him finishing up the new Robert Plant project and heading out on tour with Plant. Finally she reunited with former bandmate Alexander Arzamastsev on cajon and percussion. In Borzilova’s own words about the song choices for her second solo venture, “Choosing the songs for the album, I realized how many of them were dealing with finding balance, fitting in and trying to figure out the best way to integrate contrasting sides of my character. Balancing; literally and figuratively, has been a theme of my life for a long time. Moving to the States in my late teens provided me with endless opportunities of putting my foot in my mouth and falling on my face because of the vast difference between the customs of fast-paced, super-direct urban Russia and ths soft spoken American south. I had to learn to apply diplomacy without losing my ability to speak the truth. Then life complicated itself when I (in rapid succession) became a new mother, lost my job of eighteen years with the disbandment of Bering Strait, found a new passion and career of teaching yoga (balancing, anyone?) and began to find my voice as a solo artist. I'm still dedicating most of my energy to perfecting the art of being all these contrasting, yet somehow complimentary things, so calling this album Balancing Act felt natural. Plus, it gave me an opportunity to take some pictures standing on my head!”

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    NU-BLU

    Nights

    Nov 22, 2010

    Recommend: 01, 02, 06 Review by Steven “Nick” Nickelson of Nu-Blue Nights: If you've ever seen the movie O Brother Where Art Thou, then you get the gist of bluegrass. Unlike most other genres of music, bluegrass aficionados are a passionate bunch, and will go most anywhere to listen to a bluegrass group. Furthermore, most bluegrass players and singers will jam at the drop of a hat, and most instruments are played “unplugged”. Having said that, I will admit that my tastes lean toward this particular genre. Much like another genre (blues), most artists check their egos at the door. (A case in point – Levi Austin is an award-winning banjo picker, yet he fits like a glove with this group). Check out the pickin' on “My Sweet Carolyn”, which he co-wrote with Daniel Routh, Carolyn's husband and band member. One of the best examples of this is the enormous contribution to the Nights cd by fiddler extraordinaire Greg Luck (“Lonesome Whistles”, “How Do I Move On”, among others). This is the sophomore release from this group, and I think the greater contribution by Greg Luck in this subsequent progression from 2005's first release has added a greater depth to this release. And yet the music sounds edgy but thoughtful, sparse but deep (“River of Love”), rich but mournful (“Old Black Suit”), uptempo Bluegrass at it's finest (“I Won't Be Around”), and sometimes a beautiful re-working of a song from a different genre (Nanci Griffith's “Spin On A Red Brick Floor”). And unlike most other genres, even the instrumentals (“Red Haired Boy”) are enthusiastically welcomed by the listeners, because they appreciate the amount of work that has gone into playing in such a tight-knit ensemble (such as Nu-Blu). On several cuts of this cd I can pick out an almost perfect imitation of Alison Krauss (“Try And Catch The Wind”, “Lonesome Mountain”). I don't think it is intentional, but it just sounds so eerily like her. If you have never heard bluegrass, this is one to cut your eyeteeth on! ------Nick

    ARTIST BIO Daniel and Carolyn Routh, along with Kendall Gales and Levi Austin make up Nu-Blu - a band that projects a dynamic edge while still staying grounded in the traditions and fundamentals of bluegrass music. They have worked hard to develop a sound that gives the listener a diverse experience, while remaining within the realms of bluegrass. By mixing original and traditional material along with incorporating songs from other genres, Nu-Blu has created a unique and driving blend of music that keeps audiences coming back for more. They are a dedicated team that work together to reach their common goal of presenting great music every show. Carolyn and Daniel Routh, the founding members of Nu-Blu, make up half of this “hard-driving” band. Carolyn began taking the stage at the age of 7. Even though she attended many bluegrass events, the “bug” never really bit her. In high school she was introduced to Broadway style musicals where she gained much knowledge and experience under the direction of Dr. Joanne Bowman. In the years that followed, Gospel, Country, Blues and Rock and Roll all shaped and expanded her vocal style and achievements. It was while fronting one of her bands, Faithful Journey, that she met Daniel Routh. Daniel began playing guitar at the age of 15. Banjo soon followed, which he played in the bands Different Directions and The Donna Hughes Band. It was while playing in Donna’s band that he and Carolyn met. After a chance meeting in Wal-Mart, Daniel learned that Carolyn was in need of a bass player, so he agreed to learn bass to fill the spot. After Faithful Journey disbanded, and a short time playing together in a classic rock band, they attended a festival that Carolyn’s long time friend John Wade was performing at. It only took till the second song by Lonesome River Band to bring Carolyn back to her roots. “I have told Sammy Shelor many times that he is directly responsible for my bluegrass addiction,” Carolyn says. Together they started Nu-Blu in the fall of 2003. Through the music, the pair had become best friends. During Thanksgiving weekend in 2003, Carolyn suffered two strokes and nearly lost her life. She lost her speech and the use of her right side. Daniel was her constant companion through it all and never left her side in the months of rehab that followed. On June 16, 2006, Daniel and Carolyn married and Carolyn often states, “There is nothing sweeter than taking the stage with your best friend and love standing right beside you. I’m having the time of my life.” Daniel now back to playing guitar, focuses on different styles of guitar and incorporates them together in his playing. Not only does he add his guitar talents to Nu-Blu, but he also contributes lead and harmony vocals. With Carolyn playing bass, handling lead vocals, and most of the tenor, her vocal range and clarity are what put the “NU” in Nu-Blu., she gives the band flexibility and a driving edge that sets them apart from the rest.

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    HANA MALHAS

    Shapeshift

    Nov 15, 2010

    Ann Arbor singer/songwriter, Hana Malhas, has put together a slew of musicians from around the world to contribute to her release, "Shapeshift". Her deep, sometimes almost spiritual lyrics were probably fostered by her upbringing in her native Jordan, where some of this was recorded. Besides guitar, drums, and piano; banjo, trumpet and loads of strings are also featured on this well-produced, quiet album. Rebecca Ruth

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    AMANDA SHAW

    GOOD SOUTHERN GIRL

    Nov 15, 2010

    I had the great pleasure of seeing Amanda Shaw for the first time when she was 11 years old, she was playing inside a music store in New Orleans and almost set off the alarms with her fiery Cajun fiddle. Eight years later she has released in my opinion one of 2010's best CD's mixing her traditional Cajun sounds with country, blues and even a bit of soul. The CD begins with the title track which Amanda describes as a tribute to what she values most: good music, good food, and good life. Amanda discovers the blues on a perfect rendition of Sam Cook's "That's it I Quit" and pours on some southern soul with one of the CD's catchiest tracks "One Night Stand". "The Meeks Maids Reel" instrumental combines the sounds of Ireland with the Crescent City and will fill every dance floor between the two. "Get Fiddler" a Jefferson Starship track showcases Amanda's pure raw energy of her Cajun fiddle. This CD is bound to let the rest of the world know what New Orleans has known for several years that Amanda Shaw is a dynamite performer and her fiddle, voice and musical personality will capture your heart. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    RAUL MALO

    SINNERS & SAINTS

    Nov 1, 2010

    I have always thought that Raul Malo has had one of the finest voices in the music industry, but let's face it since his days with the Mavericks and with the exception of "Today" his first solo release there have been very few highlights. Sinners and Saints combines an energy that has been missing from these solo releases as Raul took this recording from Nashville to the Lone Star State where the Latin and Tex-Mex sounds are evident from the opening note of the title track. The Track San Antonio baby is Tex-Mex at it's finest featuring the hotshot accordionist Michael Guerra. "Till I Gain Control Again" is a soft ballad originally penned by country great Rodney Crowell. "Staying Here" is one of the most touching tracks on this release where Raul Plays all the instruments with the exception of background vocals. "Superstar" could have been a classic Mavericks track Where Augie Meyers from the Texas Tornados and Michael Guerra once again on accordion rip it up. "Sombras" is a peaceful Spanish piece that highlights Raul's great tenor vocals. Whether Raul is singing Country, Jazz or Rock the Latin sounds found on Sinners and Saints prove to be Raul's finest in many a year. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    YVETTE LANDRY

    Should Have Known

    Oct 23, 2010

    ARTIST BIO: Since her appearance on the local music scene a few short years ago, Yvette has had such an enchanted musical career that the announcement of her debut CD comprised of sixteen original songs is not surprising. From touring the world as a multi-instrumentalist, to performing with the likes of Balfa Toujours, Redstick Ramblers, Pine Leaf Boys, Walter Mouton, Steve Riley, Dirk Powell, Donna the Buffalo, Bill Kirchen, Carol McComb, John Lilly, Geraldine Gay and Darrell Scott, and being a founding member of the all-woman super-group Bonsoir Catin, Yvette has made a name for herself as a powerful accompanist. Now taking center stage, backed by members of The Redstick Ramblers, River Road, The Wilders, and more, be prepared to be blown away yet again by this beautiful songsmith. Her brand new CD, Should Have Known, is comprised of homemade honky-tonk that’ll knock you off your boots

    Review: Spoiler alert!! Country-music-haters may lose their religion if they listen to this cd!! Being of that ilk, I found this singer/songwriter to be fetching of ear, and tantalizing of sound. The writing and singing show a depth and confidence that belies the fact that this is her very first solo effort. And considering her short musical career, she has really come a long way, baby. Sixteen songs, all written by her, run the gamut from heart-string jerking ballads (including “Where Memories Are Gold” and “Fishing’s Better Anyway”).to in-your-face, kick-ass romps (such as “Blue Moon Girl”, and “Jack”). This collection is rooted in country music (“Growing Old”), and, drawing from her upbringing, leans heavily on cajun, as well as some blues influences (“Down Home Blues”), and one cut I cannot seem to classify (“Talk”).. Best known in music circles for playing bass with bands including as founding member of all-female supergroup, Bonsoir Catin, Yvette Landry comes from a long line of musicians. For her debut solo album, she picks up her acoustic guitar and her songwriter’s pencil and turns not to traditional Acadian music but to traditional country (“Friday Night Special”, “One More Broken Heart”) and honky-tonk (“120 Proof”), with a hint of Southwestern Louisiana spice (“Dead And Gone”). Backed by an all-star supporting cast including Red Stick Ramblers, Wilders and co-producer Joel Savoy, Yvette Landry delivers the goods: uptempo selections, the Title cut (“Should Have Known”), the blues-tinged “Too Tired”, as well as heartfelt deep-country ballads (“Can't See Me Without You”, “Another Lesson Learned”). There is something for everyone in this, Ms. Landry's inaugural album – even for the hard-core Patsy Cline crowd (“Better Days”). I truly expect (and hope) to hear much more from this talented singer-songwriter!. ---Nick

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    SECRET SISTERS

    The Secret Sisters

    Oct 21, 2010

    ARTIST BIO It took an impromptu Nashville audition by Laura – where Cobb and a few other music business representatives were looking to possibly craft a new singing group last fall – to bring their incredible talents into focus. “Lydia was delayed so I drove up by myself,” says Laura. “I didn’t think I had a chance.” The song she chose was by singer Brandi Carlile – “Same Old You.” “I didn’t know if I did well or not.” By the time she got home her phone was ringing off the hook with messages from representatives from the audition asking her back. Cobb remembers being blown away immediately. “We were looking for a whole different thing,” he admits. “But when I heard Laura I was just knocked out. I’d never heard anything like it, at least in person. There was something so innocent about her style in a ‘40s or ‘50s kind of way. So clear and classic. When she told us she had a sister, we all looked at each other in disbelief.” Lydia showed up later, and when the two were asked to sing together, all the music business representatives present realized the mission was a simple one: To capture this abundance of raw talent in its purest form. The Secret Sisters were born.

    Review: When I first heard the singing on this cd, I immediately though of the old-time country music that was performed by Hank Williams, Sr. and Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, but sung by young Andrews Sisters. On reading the liner notes and credits, it became clear why their songs conjured up those visions: several of these songs were written by Hank Williams (“Why Don't You Love Me”, “House of Gold”) or Bill Monroe (“The One I Love Is Gone”). These two sisters are enchanting and very talented. Right out of the box we are treated to a lovely and tuneful melody that the two sisters wrote (“Tennessee Me”). Another down-home country cut that they co-wrote (“Waste The Day”) comes off as a perfectly polished gem that I could swear sounds as if it were recorded at the Historic Ryman Auditorium. I can see why record companies jumped at the chance to sign them. It is said that everything old is new again and The Secret Sisters bring back the twangy sounds of the 40’s and 50’s with vengeance. The Buck Owens' song, “My Heart Skips A Beat” sounds like it was recorded way back in the late 50's. I have to give T Bone Burnett credit for letting Dave Cobb do his thing with these talented sisters on this album. Sisters Lara & Lydia Rogers seem to have a knack for turning any song they choose to sing into a timeless classic. “Why Baby Why” is a good example, as are a couple of traditional songs: “Do You Love An Apple?” and “All About You”. These two sisters have been mentored by the legendary T Bone Burnett, and the backup musicians are excellent at adapting to the variety of music. Some cuts hark back to the 50's sock hop generation, and a good example is “I've Got A Feeling”. When I first heard that, I had to suppress an urge to slip off my shoes. This is a pair of talented sisters that you will be hearing more from. I recommend you get started now. --- Nick

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    JUDY COLLINS

    Paradise

    Oct 15, 2010

    Review by Steven “Nick” Nickelson of Judy Collins' Paradise ARTIST BIO So despite a life containing so much heartache or trauma - including a suicide attempt at age 14, divorcing her first husband, a period spent in rehab for alcoholism and the suicide of her only child in 1992 - Collins forges ahead, finding the strength to grow from every experience.

    Without a doubt one of the best musical arrangements I have heard in many years. It is true what Judy Collins says, “Alan Silverman is a genius”. Paradise is a collection of songs with universal themes, desires, and cries of a human being searching for paradise here on earth. There are nine richly lush and heartfelt songs with tales to tell about finding love, losing love, heroism, and salvation. (A tenth song, “Over The Rainbow” which Judy first sang live decades ago is a nice cover, but it neither matches the Judy Garland original, nor succeeds in reinterpreting the song in the way that Israel Kamakawiwo’ole did with his great rendition). Aside from that, when I hear Judy Collins singing, I know that these songs seem to come straight from the depths of her very being. After all these (50+) years of recording and performing, I am amazed at how passionate and beautiful this woman's voice sounds. One of best examples is a hauntingly beautiful traditional song, “Dens of Yarrow”, which is a masterpiece that aptly demonstrates that Judy Collins sounds better now than she did thirty years ago. Such pure tones! And the pan pipes as background really should become a classic – especially for a singer just turned 71! “Diamonds and Rust” with the original songwriter, Joan Baez, is (IMHO) one of the best duets ever recorded. It is so rich and lush,with a southwestern tempo – one can pick up the steel guitar playing so elegantly in time with the piano.. This is another example of the gifted Mr. Silverman organizing the restrained and elegant performance from Joan Baez in this duet - it's absolutely brilliant and hauntingly beautiful. On “Emilio”, if you close your eyes, you can visualize a vocal dance between Judy's silky voice and original songwriter Michael Johnson's husky and lightly accented tenor, accompanied by a flamenco-ish acoustic guitar played so well by Mr. Johnson. Tim Buckley’s soldier lament, ”Once I Was” continues to underscore her commitment to social and political activism, as does her cover of Amy Speace’s painfully evocative “Weight Of The World”. I swear that song and the tragically beautiful song by Ms. Collins, “Kingdom Come” actually raised the hairs on my arms, and sent chills up my spine. Stephen Stills joins his former lover for a beautiful harmony on Tom Paxton’s “Last Thing On My Mind”, lending a CSNY lilt to that standard. It seems on this cd that each duet sounds uniquely different, but the harmonies are so well-tuned, I could almost imagine each person finishing the other's sentences. One of the most beautiful arrangements on this album is Jimmy Webb's “Gaugin”, and the listener is fortunate to hear a tragic, yet richly told tale. The orchestration just makes this story-song so easy to hear, and the accompaniment on keyboard by the songwriter is so deep and intense. Another kudo to the brilliance of Judy Collins and her arranger, Alan Silverman. And now for the piece d' resistance: “Ghost Riders In The Sky”. The harmonies and round-robin choruses make this one of the most compelling reasons for purchasing this cd. This is such a well-choreographed and powerful rendition, that when I close my eyes, I can picture the fire-breathing thundering herds, driven by soulless cowboys on phantom horses. --- Nick

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    IVOR THOMAS

    Nowhere Else To Go

    Oct 13, 2010

    Review by Steven “Nick” Nickelson of Nowhere Else To Go by Ivor Thomas ARTIST BIO Ivor Thomas currently resides in Rockford, MI. That is all the biographical information I was able to glean in a short period of time. Review: This is his first cd release as a Christian artist, and I think he may find a home in the Christian music arena as a songwriter/lyricist; however, his singing should best be left to the professionals. Also, he should consult a good record producer so that his music might come off more polished, rather than earnest (some representative samples: “I Just Can't Tell”, “How Can You”). I do want to mentionTwo notable exceptions: “The Show Has Begun”, “Nowhere Else To Go” are well-written and well-performed pieces). The CD cover and insert give no information regarding contributing artists – the only info gleaned is that all songs were written by Mr. Thomas. I would like to say that whoever is playing is good at their craft (“Don't Bother Me”, “Everything (For A While)”– unfortunately, I have no way of acknowledging them. The rest of the songs on this first cd are not very remarkable, musically, but may have theological relevance. Overall, this artist shows some moments of creative and musical brilliance, but you have to be really patient to sift through this inaugural release to find them. And, as always, taste is relative. I do firmly believe that Ivor Thomas has the writing chops to make a living in the Christian Music genre, but I would would draw the line at the singing. ---Nick

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    JASON ROSEBOOM

    Kalamazoo

    Oct 7, 2010

    Review by Nick of Kalamazoo by Jason Roseboom Backstory – Jason Roseboom After years of playing in this band and that Jason Roseboom has focused (for now) his talents in political folk music. Learning from Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, he has now taken on the task of letting his generation be heard. This is contemporary folk music that tackles tough social issues in a modern format. Armed with a guitar, harmonica, his unique voice and thought provoking lyrics Roseboom does not shy away from the message he's toting. That message......there is always hope. "In short, I think it is about time that I heard a solid folk singer such as this. It has been a genre that has been applauded for past accomplishments, but has not been recognized too much presently. Jason is a great example of the genre, and I think can really lead the genre to come. Some of his influences are, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Bob Dylan. He does not fail them, as he takes on big ideas and the stories of people that speak volumes." The Independent Music Scene . Review: Jason commands dramatic political hot potatoes and contemporary topics with equal ease. His songwriting skills and song arrangement skills are raw, but show great promise; however, his playing and singing seem to lack direction – at one time emulating the great and prolific singer/songwriter Bob Dylan (at least a younger, earnest, pre-Band Dylan), at other times an attempt at performing a la Woody Guthrie, or a toned-down Boss. Dylanesque cuts (with a nod to Woody and Arlo Guthrie) would be “Lincon's Bible” , “I Am Your Son”, “Doris Day”. Some examples of Springsteen's influence are the growling “Jesus Loved Judas” and “These Hands (Song For Detroit)”. This song, more than any other song on here, has a depth of feel that seems missing in most of the other cuts – exception being (what should become a classic) folk dirge “The Death Of Matthew Shepard”. Jason puts as much heart in the singing as there seems to be in the creation of same. This and a couple of other songs on here (“Flout”, “In The Corner”) just beg me to say, “ hey! Get some backup musicians and vocalists and make a BIG statement!” (but I am only a lowly reviewer). And in that vein I can only say that this guy is young, but he has a talent that shouldn't be relegated to coffee houses and street corners. --- Nick

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    NEIL YOUNG

    LE NOISE

    Oct 5, 2010

    Neil Young has long been called the God Father of the grunge movement and on Le Noise Neil Plugs in and shows why he is one of the best. Le Noise is one man and his guitar with very little overdubs. It is raw with plenty of great guitar, feedback, and a sure energy that has been missing from many of Neil's recent efforts. Grammy Award winning producer Daniel Lanois who has worked with U2, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan and Emmylou Harris invited Neil to his home to record a record that lacked studio polish and showcases the pure raw talents possessed within this musical great. The CD begins with the electric "Walk With Me" and "Sign Of Love" and instantaneity the sounds of Crazy horse come crashing through. The acoustic "Love and War" is a masterpiece with extremely thought provoking lyrics . The track "Hitchhiker" is an autographical piece that explores many of Neil's Drug filled years. "Peaceful Valley Boulevard" is the quietest track on this disc and ranks as one of Neil's acoustic best. This CD is meant to be played loud and proves that at 64 Neil is still one of Music's most creative figures. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    PALEFACE

    One Big Party

    Oct 4, 2010

    Recently relocated to North Carolina (at the urging of the Avett Brothers), this is Paleface's second release for Ramseur Records. Bringing his New York attitude with him, this is a folk record with punk character. Being similar to the first Ramseur Records release, this seems to be "The Show is on the Road" part two: although drummer, Mo, contributed more to this release than the last, taking on lead vocal duties for the title track and doing the album layout; while PF did the artwork for the cover. This is another step forward in the evolution of the Paleface package. Rebecca Ruth

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    AMERICAN GRAVEYARD

    Hallelujahland

    Oct 4, 2010

    Recorded in Austin, this is American Graveyard's second release. Featuring not only guitar, bass, and drum; but also dobro, mandolin and banjo, American Graveyard crafts bluegrass-tinged country-rock. Many of the songs are slower and feature earnest lyrics such as the album's opener, "Common Ones", and the title track. Others are country stompers, like "Pinebox" and "Shake with Me". Some of the songs offer sing-along choruses that beg for and arena and a lighter ("A Good Thing"). These are a bit melodramatic for my taste, but I can't resist the stompers or the dark final track. Rebecca Ruth

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    HEIDI TALBOT

    The Last Star

    Oct 2, 2010

    Review by Nick of Heidi Talbot The Last Star Bio: Born in the rural village of Kill, County Kildare, Ireland, Talbot began singing in the church choir run by her mother. At sixteen, she enrolled at Dublin’s Bel Canto singing school, studying for the next year and a half under its founder and director Frank Merriman. When she was 18, Heidi moved to New York, where she spent two years working in bars and clubs before being invited to join Cherish the Ladies in 2002. In between the band’s touring schedule, Talbot continued to develop her solo work, releasing Distant Future on Nashville roots label Compass Records. Produced by John Doyle, the record featured such guests as multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell, concertinist John Williams and fiddler Rayna Gellert. Three years later, the recording of In Love and Light coincided with her decision to leave Cherish the Ladies at the end of 2007. After the launch of In Love and Light at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival in January 2008, Talbot featured as a guest on forthcoming albums by Radiohead drummer Philip Selway, and the new trio collaboration of John McCusker, Kris Drever and Roddy Woomble. She has also sung on records by Eddi Reader, Boo Hewerdine, and Idlewild. She tours as a trio with John McCusker and Boo Hewerdine and finished a six week tour opening for and singing with Eddi Reader.

    Drawing on the full, diverse spectrum of influences that inform her singing,The Last Star complements Talbot’s exquisitely expressive, honeyed yet ardent voice with guest contributions from Eddi Reader, ex-Solas guitarist John Doyle, fiddler John McCusker and flute/whistle ace Mike McGoldrick. If the voice sounds eerily familiar, know that Heidi was for five years one of the sweet voices in the Irish-American supergroup Cherish The Ladies. Other voices on this beautifully arranged and produced cd may be recognizable by fans of celtic music, as well. There are a few threads that weave through Heidi Talbot’s recording The Last Star. Her gift as a musical storyteller brings together songs from the past (her Irish heritage and her own personal) typical Gaelic tales of humor and sorrow, and characters foolish and wise. The main theme of this cd is that of love. It might be of the rambling and funny sort (“Beecker Street”), or a traditional tale that starts out one way and ends in quite another (“Willie Taylor”). She could be singing of a tale of love, loss, family, and change (“Cherokee Rose”, “Bantry Girls”), or a quiet bit of reflection (“The Last Star”, “Start It All Over Again”). The guitar playing on “The Shepherd Lad” is just beautiful, and is complemented by the flute and concertina. “Sally Brown” fits into that quirky, lighthearted tone, as well. “Tell Me Truly” is a light-hearted song utilizing the harmonies of the flute and concertina, as well as the vocals of her talented contributors. Those contributors include Kris Drever, John McCusker (who produced the album and contributed his songwriting talents, as well), Eddi Reader, Michael McGoldrick, and Karine Polwart. The bittersweet title track (“The Last Star”) was co-written by Talbot and McCusker, and is sure to be a classic, as is the cover “At The End Of The Day”. The musical arrangements on this cd are excellent, and showcase the vocal lead of Heidi Talbot, as well as the backup and duet vocals. As pretty as is the harmonies and instrumentation, I just don't get the track “Hang Me”. But hang me if I don't declare this should be a part of every traditional celtic music fan's cd collection. – Steven “Nick” Nickelson

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    ENOCH KENT

    Take A Trip With Me

    Oct 2, 2010

    Review by Nick of Enoch Kent Take A Trip With Me Bio: Scotland born and now Canada-based, this legendary interpreter and songsmith's love of traditional music was first inspired by his family. His father played the concertina, and popular songs, Scottish songs and old-time favorites were often sung at home. After graduating from the Glasgow School of Art in sculpture and ceramics, Enoch formed the traditional Scottish group,The Reivers,. The group researched the history, lyrics and music of Scottish folk songs which were published by The Scotsman. Scottish Television then signed the band to perform these old songs every week to a new and ever-widening audience. The band's live shows and steadfast interest in promoting traditional music formed the foundation of the Scottish folk music revival that took place in the 1950s and 1960s. Later, when Enoch moved to London, he kept this music alive and well with his folk band"The Exiles". Since emigrating to Canada in the 60s, Enoch performed in many folk clubs and festivals across the country to wide acclaim. During that time, he focused on live performance and decided to put recording aside for awhile. However, after a 36-year recording hiatus, at the age of 70, Enoch well made up for lost time with his return to the studio and the release of four outstanding CDs on the Canadian indie label SecondAvenue Records: "I'm A Workin' Chap" (2002), "Love, Lust & Loathing" (2003), "For The Women" (2005), and "I'm A Rover" (2006). Enoch's music is treasured by traditional music enthusiasts with a passion for story-songs, love & betrayal ballads, and gritty politics. While his songs are deeply rooted in the traditional Scottish style, much of his subject matter is Canadian, giving his music a unique cultural blend. Enoch was recently nominated for the Canadian Folk Music Awards category of Best Singer-Traditional. The songs he writes, the songs he interprets and the stories he sings are rooted in (tradition). "I have always sung for us." He continues in his husky, Scottish brogue. "I've written a few personal songs, but they got something to do with fellow working men--like a love song from a coal miner, deeply in love, but with nothing to give the woman. The same thing is true in the farm community. If there is a hint of unrest, he's one of us, he's not one of them." Enoch grew up singing the songs that everyone else was singing. Sentimental Scottish songs, music hall and popular songs of the day were all a part of his raising. His mother dragged him to a local ceilidh at the Highlander's Institute and everything changed. He discovered story songs. In fact, he was so inspired by these songs he set off for the library where there was a music room specializing in Scottish music. He set out to learn a song a day. "At this time I was invited to sing at ceilidhs as a ballad singer because I liked the stories--the big ballads with the stories in them as opposed to just songs." He remembers. "So I was off and running. I went to a ceilidh in Edinburgh. They asked me to sing, so I sang. They asked me again, and I sang. But I only knew six songs. At the end of it, I got an encore. I sang one of them again and I still got a cheer because they liked the way I sang. He emigrated to Canada in the 1960s with his wife to look for work. They ended up in Toronto, where Enoch happily worked in the advertising business for 32 years. He was a regular at the Mariposa Folk Festival and at the famed Fiddler's Green coffeehouse in Toronto, but music was not the main focus in Enoch's life. This changed rather quickly after reaching retirement. He released the CD I'm a Workin Chap in 2002, Love, Lust, and Loathing in 2003, and For the Women in 2005. "I was busting to get them out. I had a story to tell." Enoch mused. "I couldn't keep them to myself because I was asked. 'You have to record these things. People aren't going to grasp them if you don't do them.' Inside all of these songs you will find traditional songs. I will never leave it alone." His philosophy and guiding principles are still very much alive in his writing, performing and song choices. "I don't carry Celtic gloom with me everywhere I go. You're supposed to be entertaining people. Not lecturing them." Garnet Rogers adds, "I admire him tremendously as both a friend and an artist. He has influenced me a lot, both in terms of what I look for in a song or in music, but also his attitude towards what's important. It's just good to see someone out there doing it for the love of it, and just rejoicing in it. That is really inspiring." At 73 Enoch Kent is still very excited about sharing these songs and stories with an audience. When we spoke, he was preparing his workshops for an upcoming weekend folk music camp. He broke into a verse of "The Three Gypsies" while explaining the concept of Muckle songs. "These are songs that are so dramatic and so big that the late John Huston or Steven Spielberg could walk in and make an entire movie out of them," he related with enthusiasm. Scots are infamous for their thriftiness (translate miserly). An example: two Scotsmen were playing a round of golf. On the fourth fairway, one of the gents had a stroke. His opponent made him count it. (I'm here all week, folks). Traditional Scottish songs are generally very sparse musically, but are rich in prose – this album is a classic example. For over 60 years, Scottish-born Canadian Enoch Kent has been singing and entertaining crowds big and small with his traditional and powerful song-stories. Enoch Kent is a true workingman, and weaves stories for the crowd, delving deeply into his own rich workingman's experience. So many of these songs relate to his ties to the people and histories of the lands in which he grew up (Canada: “The Murder of Ginger Goodwin”, “Store Owners Christmas”, “1913 Massacre”, “The Pawnshop Window”; Scotland: “Bonnie Susie Cleland”, “Off To Sea Once More”, “Travelling Down The Castlereagh”, “A'e Fond Kiss”; London: “Mothers, Daughters, Wives”), and several others seem to come off the cuff as we sit around with a wee draught o' Bellhaven Wee Heavy Ale – husky a Capella songs such as: “The Bonnie Wee Lassie That Never Said No”, “The Gallowa' Hills”, “Peas Brose”, “Rigs O' Rye”. There are some songs that just seem to flow from the lips of Enoch after all these years: “The Old Time Songs” comes to mind. Although my musical tastes go all over the map, I generally do not get excited about story songs. This is no different. Enoch Kent is a very good storyteller and has a voice much like Burl Ives on two packs a day. His strength lies in the skillfully woven imagery he produces in his story songs. As music, I would have to take a bye on this; however, as storytelling, I would definitely put him at the top of the list. Review by Nick Nickelson

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    Railroad Earth

    Railroad Earth

    Sep 24, 2010

    The new self-titled album (on One Haven Music) by Railroad Earth, will be released on October 12th. Featuring 9 tracks blending elements of country rock with bluegrass, the album occupies the territory somewhere between Nickel Creek and Steve Earl. Railroad Earth’s press kit for the album mentions the movie “The Last Waltz” by The Band as a huge source of inspiration for their collective song writing strategy. Best Tracks: #2 Jupiter & the 119 FCC Naughty List: NONE Other points of interest: Railroad Earth website has an environmentalist blog http://railroadearth.com/category/the-forecast/ Who would like this cd: fans of John Mellencamp, Steve Earl, Nickel Creek

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    AMY CORREIA

    YOU GO YOUR WAY

    Sep 21, 2010

    Amy Correia first came to my attention several years ago with her sly, sexy mash up of Rod Stewart’s "Gasoline Alley" and the Rolling Stone’s Bobby Womack penned classic "It’s All over Now" on the I-10 Chronicles compilation. Her version combined the swagger of the originals with a tinge of vulnerability that made it more than just another cover. While the song raised my expectations that she’d soon join the likes of Lucinda Williams or Kasey Chambers as the hot new alt-folk rocker, the twists and turns of the industry left her on the side of the road. That all should change with this release. With a voice that combines the rock and pop power of Sheryl Crow with the quirky, jazzy squeaks of Rickie Lee Jones and the earnest protest era folk of Michelle Shocked, she stands out from the typical singer songwriter and over the last several years has developed a devoted fan base that helped finance the release of this, her third disc. Melodic, witty and insightful it is clear the fan’s money was well spent. With 11 top notch cuts touching everything from shiny pop about being a woman on the prowl, "Powder Blue Trans Am", to jazzy, horn fueled angst about trying to recapture love too casually thrown away, "Carolina Rail", to bluesy gospel, "O Lord", to anti-war protest folk, "Took Him Away", to a sharply drawn portrait of darkness behind a bright facade, "City Girl", and a cool rocker about a relationship that must end but won’t, "You Go Your Way", which features the great line “You Go Your Way and I’ll go mine/Let’s never talk about this one more time” this disc is a joy from beginning to end. Smitty

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    KIM RICHEY

    Wreck Your Wheels

    Sep 19, 2010

    Kim Richey has been pegged as a country artist in most music compendiums because so many of her songs have been picked up by country artists (Trisha Yearwood, Mindy McCready, Brooks & Dunn, others), but she really isn't. She's more "singer/songwriter" along the lines of Shawn Colvin and Dar Williams. Her last solo release prior to this outing, "Chinese Boxes," got that point across a little more pointedly than previous releases and she continues in the same vein with this set. The title track and "Leaving 49" are the most immediately catchy of the songs, although my favorite is a beautiful duet with Mark Olson, "In the Years to Come" (which she co-write with Olson). Writing experts Strunk & White, in their famous book "The Elements of Style," give this great piece of advice to would-be wordsmiths: "Omit needless words." Kim Richey's songs are what they had in mind -- simple, yet powerful. 09/10 MJVD F-Singer/Songwriter (Americana)

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    KELLI SCARR

    Piece

    Sep 17, 2010

    Bio: Kelli Scarr was born in Monterey, CA, and at the age of twelve, Kelli moved with her mom and brother to the small mining town of Folsom, California, made popular by its’ local prison and a very special concert held there in 1968. Her interest in music and recording grew early, starting at the age of three with her nana using a handheld cassette recorder to record her singing. Growing up amongst the soundtrack of her parent’s records and singing in the Lutheran church of her hometown, music quickly became an important part of Kelli Scarr’s life. After high school she moved to Boston, Massachusetts to study voice at Berklee, and she soon joined the band Moonraker. Following college, Kelli, along with Moonraker, moved to Brooklyn, NY where they were thrown head first into the ever-expanding indie scene, opening for bands like the Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene. During an almost accidental bill sharing, Kelli was noticed by local NYC musician, Moby. After striking up a friendship, Kelli and Moby were soon working on music together with Kelli singing the title track of Moby’s haunting and introspective 2009 release, “Wait For Me” (Mute). Kelli also quickly joined Moby’s touring band for a world tour to support the critically acclaimed album. On top of singing and playing keyboards within Moby’s band, Kelli was also asked to open the shows, playing her own music in supporting slots for Moby and winning over crowds all over the world. Amidst all of the transitions and touring, Kelli had begun recording songs on her own. She began simply by recording quiet piano songs at home in between working her hospital day job and in brief moments to herself during her three year old son’s naps. After a long and exhausting two and a half year process Kelli had a record of mainly home recordings, which she named, “Piece”; a name she adopted early on with the advice of friend and filmmaker Matthew Nours, to help her visualize the album as a “snapshot in time” within an otherwise hectic time. In the end “Piece” reflected a large portion of Kelli’s life and those around her. From the sounds of her creaky upright piano and midnight acoustic recordings to the whimpers of her son waking up from a nap in the next room, “Piece” captured an extremely personal journey, providing a photo album's worth of lush images. Review: If you are partial to Sinead O'Conner, then you might take a listen to Kelli Scarr's inaugural release, Piece. Kelli is/has been the female singer for well-know musician, Moby; thus, the eery comparisons to Sinead (“Driftwood”, “Pure Gold” , and “Anything” all resonate with the same haunting tunes). The songs themselves are really quite good, if you don't spend too much time analyzing the lyrics. On the other hand, if you lean toward the sounds of Bjork (or even Enya) you might enjoy “Salt To The Sea” , as well as “Baby Boom” and “The Wonder”. “Brother” seems to be the bridge between the two influences. A glockenspiel? Who uses a glockenspiel? Actually, in some places the use seemed appropriate – even charming; however, at other times, the sound came off as “bright” or “jangly”. My favorite song of the whole lot, though, is the lush, guitar-driven, latin-infused “So Long”. Even though the lyrics seem to be a tad repetitive, the almost-classical guitar playing more than compensates. (If I didn't know better, I would swear that Carlos Santana was playing lead on this song). Speaking of repetitive, “Break Up” takes the prize for lyrics as well as music. I get the impression that this is directed at someone, and I hope he/she got the message. Country music fans will recognize the steel guitar on “Come Back To Me”, but the twangy singing and guitar seem contrived. Overall, this freshman album shows promise with respect the Kelli Scarr's songwriting skills, as well as her piano playing, guitar playing and singing. Reviewed by Steven “Nick” Nickelson

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    DARDEN SMITH

    Marathon

    Sep 17, 2010

    I think I've found the godfather of local artist Drew Nelson. Veteran singer-songwriter sings thoughtful, contemplative numbers that hang together thematically - and while Drew helps us understand our own backyards here in Michigan, Smith describes the broad and sometimes desolate expanse of West Texas ("75 Miles of Nothing" is an apt thesis statement). He's performed this entire set on stage with a band and an orchestra, as if it were a long symphony movement. "Sierra Diablo,""Bull by the Horns,""Don't It Go to Show" and "Over My Beating Heart" are the most immediately approachable songs, the easiest to pull out of the intended start-to-finish opus. 09/10 MJVD F-Americana (Texas)

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    CHOCOLATE GENIUS

    Swansongs

    Sep 13, 2010

    Marc Anthony Thompson used to perform in California under his given name, but since moving to New York, he uses the moniker Chocolate Genius. Included under this moniker is a loose conglomerate of supporting artists. This musical collective has at times included John Medeski, Chris Whitley, Meshell Ndgeocello, and Chris Wood among others. This fourth album in the Black Music/Godmusic/Black Yankee Rock series is pretty stuff. Well-written and nicely produced, this is low-key music for quiet moments. Rebecca Ruth

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    JOHN MCVEY

    UNPREDICTABLE

    Aug 17, 2010

    It's hard to believe it's been ten years since John McVey released one of 2000's finest folk releases Jigsaw, but in 2010 this singer songwriter from Boulder Colorado has put the pieces together and released once again a very solid effort. Unpredictable's well written and crafted tracks begin with the beautifully written "A Little More Time", featuring background vocals by Jonatha Brooke. It raises the question after your love passes on is just one lifetime enough to spend with the on you love? "The Con Man's Easy Chair" sounds like it could have been taken from one of Robbie Robertson's early discs and musically is one of the best and most adventurous tracks on this disc. "The Crooked Way" is a solid folk track that explores the roads we choose to get where we are. How many of us at one time or not haven't traveled a crooked road ? "Lay Your Burden" down is an A cappella Gospel track that brought back memories of Todd Rundgrens A Cappella and Healings releases. This has to be one of the cleanest produced releases I have heard and shows that John McVey not only writes great songs, performs them to perfection, but is also one of the most skilled music producers in the industry. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    PETER CASE

    WIG!

    Jul 21, 2010

    Singer/Songwriter Peter Case has had a long career since fronting the LA based Plimsouls in the late 70’s and early 80’s. This new disc is a wild, wooly affair recorded in three days with DJ Bonebrake (X and the Knitters) on drums and Ron Franklin (Gasoline Silver) on lead guitar following Case’s release from the hospital following open heart surgery. With a buoyant looseness that recalls the band Leon Russell assembled for Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, Case and crew have crafted a disc that is pleasing from beginning to end. Stand out moments include the late 60’s feel of "Ain’t Got No Dough", the greasy blues shuffle of "Banks of the River", a reprise of his 1986 single, "Old Blue Car" which gets life here as "New Old Blue Car", the supremely funky, Creedence Clearwater style swamp rocker, "Somebody Told the Truth", the chiming Byrd’s style rocker, "The Words in Red" and cool grooves of "Colors of the Night". Smitty

    BRANDI CARLILE

    Give up the Ghost

    Jul 15, 2010

    Brandi Carlile’s cd ”Give up the Ghost” is damn good. According to Carlile her start in music was in Ravensdale, a small-town in Washington state. ““My family was really immersed in Grand Ole Opry stuff”, she says. “My grandfather and his brother were great yodelers. We had family jam nights.” That grounded quality is utilized with great skill here. Most of these songs are folk or folkrock territory but she’s in alt-country vibe on “Caroline”, “I will” and “Touching the Ground”. This is the “band's” 3rd full-length record although there are EPs and demos floating around. I use the word “band” because even though these 4 folks travel under Carlile's name alone, they aren’t an assortment of backup players, Tim and Phil Hanseroth, guitar and bass, respectively, and cellist Josh Neuman contribute songwriting, harmonies and their music really take the songs in a lovely direction. Carlile is a gifted songwriter showcased on “That Year” with beautiful lyrical phrasing matching the music utterly. She has achieved quiet beauty on “If there was no You” with a nice touch of whistling, plus on “Oh Dear “they used a uke, an instrument enjoying resurging popularity right now. This is quality stuff - use it well. – Anne Lamont

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    COWBOY JUNKIES

    RENMIN PARK

    Jun 25, 2010

    Guitarist Michael Timmins spent three months in China where, among other things, he spent countless hours recording the day to day sounds of the intensely packed public spaces and listening to all manner of local musicians. By incorporating some of the sounds into these tracks and by covering two of the musicians, Zuoxial Zuzhou (ZXZZ) and Xu Wei on "I Cannot Sit Sadly by Your Side" and "My Fall" respectively, Timmons has crafted his own memento of the trip. While the disc preserves the dense, almost narcotic, haze that finds its way into most of the band’s work, the street sounds, kid’s voices and other sonic textures make for an interesting change of pace from the normal bill of fare. Even so, this isn’t the type of disc that will fire up a party. Think dim lights, incense and blissed out Hot Topics clerks and you’ll be closer to the overall vibe. The most accessible cuts are "Stranger Here", "Renmin Park (revisited)" and "My Fall" which are positively buoyant compared to the rest of the disc, albeit in a Cowboy Junkies kind of way. Made for rainy days, late nights or for those times where darkness fits better than sunshine. Smitty

    NOBODYS DARLIN

    Kitchen Girls

    Jun 23, 2010

    Nobody’s Darlin’ is an all-girl string band based right here in Grand Rapids, performers are: Janet Shelby (banjo), Sara Q (mandolin), Barb Weatherhead (upright bass), Sarah Jane (guitar), and Natalie Beversluis (fiddle). Kitchen Girls is their 2nd cd and this time out they do a wonderful job covering gospel, love songs, and Appalachian folk tunes—or as the band says, “Lots of songs about Drinkin’, Dyin’, and Jesus!” Their influences include The Carter Family, Doc Watson, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and The Bad Livers. I found lots of songs I hadn’t heard before, along with songs like “Bury Me Beneath the Willow” which has been recorded by everyone from The Carter Family in 1927 to a more recent Allison Krause version. Kitchen Girls is the embodiment of Americana music and these women use harmonizing vocals and delightfully simple arrangements to make this cd a pleasure. – Anne Lamont

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    SALLY SELTMANN

    Heart that's Pounding

    Jun 23, 2010

    Australian singer/songwriter Sally Seltmann , known prior as New Buffalo, presents a new cd, the first under her own name. Every mention of Sally Seltmann seems to start by saying that she co-wrote Feist’s hit “1234.” So now you know and we can move on. If this album aims to be sweet and sunny it succeeds to a somewhat alarming degree. From the opening track, “Harmony To My Heartbeat” with it’s clappy and happy sound to the end song “Dark Blue Angel” her voice is just so… pleasant. I really liked the lyrics on #2 “Set me Free”, “I’m holding the knife in my hand, I’m hurting the man who told me he’d love me & he’d understand.. a girl needs to be alone sometimes..so set me free”. I think this is a cd made to appear in Romcom movies. Lots of the lyrics seem repetitive but somehow it holds together. Probably the most interesting feature of this cd is a nice use of off the beaten path instrumentation. I think the addition of strings on #3 and #4 is really quite brilliant. I liked this cd over all but I od’d when I listened to it as a whole. There isn’t a song you can’t try but be aware if you’re looking for moody, deep music this is the wrong well. – Anne Lamont

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    CLOTHESLINE REVIVAL

    They Came From Somewhere

    Jun 21, 2010

    Clothesline Revival (Conrad Praetzel & Robert Powell) create sounds that revive days gone by. Their first 2 albums; Of My Native Land and Long Gone were loaded with old field recordings that meshed with their own music. This album only uses one vocal sampling (on “Beautiful Home”; vocals by Orville McInturff). The rest of the songs are instrumental, and all the songs are original. Fiddle player Chris Rovetti and blues legend Charlie Musselwhite add their talents to a few songs also. It’s like someone bottled the mournful yearnings of early American hard times with the contentment of cricket filled breezy porch evenings. This album is the opening of that bottle. The enclosed moodiness is palpable. Some of it is similar to the atmospheric sounds Daniel Lanois likes to use in his music making. It stirs the emotions of untouchable memories. In spite of this moody factor, there is a whimsical twisting and bending in the instrumentation from time to time; just enough to let you know that these songs aren’t actually vintage recordings, and that they are all together unique. If you like any of what you hear on this album, you should listen to their first 2 albums. Like this one, they are also absolute treasures. Becky 6/2010

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    INFAMOUS STRINGDUSTERS

    THINGS THAT FLY

    Jun 2, 2010

    Generally speaking bluegrass music is best experienced live. There’s something about witnessing the complex interplay amongst the musicians as they trade leads with one another that elevates the routine into the sublime. Maybe it’s the urge to tap your toes and bop your head with abandon that is unleashed in the live setting and in the company of others but not in your living room that makes it happen? Some neurologist or anthropologist will have to figure it out. All I can do is comment on the little silver disc in my player. So, having said that, what’s the deal with this new release by the Infamous Stringdusters? Does it come close to capturing the infectious energy the six members routinely generate in their live shows? Well, mostly. Several of the tracks here including "Those Who’ve Gone On", "Take a Chance on the Truth", "The Deputy" and "17 Cents" (featuring Dierks Bentley on vocals) will get you moving regardless of the time or circumstance that has this disc in rotation. Others, like "Magic #9", or the U2 cover, "In God’s Country", feature lots of instrumental or vocal interplay that is pleasant but not attention grabbing and will likely fall into the background as the disc spins in your living room. Overall, a decent listen, but check out the band live for the true experience of these cuts. Smitty

    BETH NIELSEN CHAPMAN

    Back to Love

    May 31, 2010

    Beth Nielsen Chapman, one of the best-known songwriters in Nashville, had writer's block while working on this record -- and for good reason. It turns out she had a brain tumor (gratefully benign) and surgery was successful. The words poured out and this set was the result. After plenty of tumult in her life (she lost her husband to cancer some years back and had an earlier bout with cancer), she has delivered a joy-filled series of songs, with the word "love" in five of the titles. Her voice is beautiful, very clear and precise. "Even as it All Goes By" is a big hit in the U.K. now. Check out "I Can See Me Loving You" (a nice duet with Darrell Scott), "More Than Love" and the lovely "Peace." MJVD 05/10 F-Contemporary

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    KELLER (WILLIAMS) & THE KEELS

    Thief

    May 31, 2010

    Keller & The Keels “Thief” The CD “Thief” marks the 2nd compilation project for Keller Williams with Larry and Jenny Keel. Taking bluegrass into strange ground they cover songs from The Butthole Surfers to Amy Winehouse. This 13-track album feels like an unlikely blend of songs. There are some wild rides here and I can’t say I love it but this is a solid WYCE choice. ‘Teen Angst" the Cracker cover made me smile but I thought ‘Rehab’ was weak. The strength of this cd is in these very talented musicians. I thought the vocal harmonies were outstanding, pair that with Larry Keel's fast-paced, precision flat-picking banjo and the guitar virtuosity of Keller, well, it takes this bluegrass cd into a new dimension. Give it a spin, especially if bluegrass is your forte. Anne Lamont

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    TERRI HENDRIX

    CRY TILL YOU LAUGH

    May 25, 2010

    Listening to Terri Hendrix new release is much like listening to a perfect set on WYCE. Terri perfectly mixes folk, blues, jazz and pop in a way that most musicians can only dream of. What makes this CD so special is not only Terri's songwriting, guitar playing, harmonica or mandolin it is her personality and charisma that shines through on each of these tracks. The CD begins with Terri on harmonica in a bluesy track of Dorothy Parker poems set to music. "Slow Down" is classic Terri Hendrix with her more traditional folk-pop sounds. Terri reaches into her blues repertory on tracks like "Automatic", "Roll On", "Sometimes" and "Hand Me Down Blues". "You Belong In New Orleans" is an upbeat jazz track with horns and could be used as the theme song for the crescent city. "Take Me Places" is the perfect ending to the disc where Terri dives into the sounds of Jazz/Swing music where she scats the horns blow and you realize this talented artist has just taken your mind on a very satisfying musical journey. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    THE COAL MEN

    BEAUTY IS A MOMENT

    May 13, 2010

    The Coal Men inhabit the same mid-tempo, soft rocking space as Jackson Browne, Bruce Cockburn and the Bodeans. While they occasionally turn up the guitars, for the most part the emphasis is on the vocals which, in the case of this disc, are focused on days gone by, "Beauty is a Moment", missing the boat on a relationship, "Outside Looking In", falling prey to a siren call, "Pretty Girls", looking for a second chance, "Sweet in the Pine" and other tales of heartbreak and regret. While the lyrics could find their way onto a blues disc, the musical backdrop is mostly buoyant and, with all three permanent band members contributing vocals, there’s plenty of harmonic ear candy to make this an enjoyable listen. Standout tracks include "Cleveland Sky" with its silky smooth slide guitar, "Outside Looking In" which sounds straight from the Bodeans catalogue, "Sweet in the Pines" with its Muscle Shoal vibe and "Louisiana" which uses accordion to evoke a sense of longing for the state, not as just a place, but as a frame of mind. Smitty

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    LEGENDARY SHACK SHAKERS

    AGRI - DUSTRIAL

    May 13, 2010

    The Legendary Shack Shakers rip through this 16 track set with the urgency of a man on the gallows with a lot still left to say as the floor falls away. While things lighten up a bit on the banjo fueled "Sugar Baby" and "Two Tickets to Hell" as well as on the aptly named "Dump Road Yodel" and the jug band/vaudeville evoking "Hoboes are my Heroes", for the most part these tracks rock hard with clanging hammers, chains, tongs and anvils providing extra percussive effects and chilling lyrics about big name politicians and “Mal Wart”, "Dixie Iron Fist", nighttime murders, "Greasy Creek", laws as sinister as the feared night riders, "Nightride", losing the righteous battle, "The Lost Cause" and the graphic violence of "The Hills of Hell" where whores are crucified and the family dog carries around your severed hand. Even when the lyrics aren’t chilling, the music and vocals are: "Hog-Eyed Man" and "Sin Eater" move at break neck speed with vocalist J.D White sounding as if he’s getting choked by the noose while trying to get his message out to the masses. Avoid while caffeinated. Smitty

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    NATHAN KALISH

    Delicate Veins

    May 10, 2010

    This is Nathan Kalish, sans The Wildfire. Left to himself, he's crafted introspective songs that are a bit quieter than his previous work with his band-mates. Featuring your typical rock configuration of guitar, drums, and bass, (with occasional organ), Delicate Veins is essentially a folk-rock album in the key of Neil Young or perhaps a countryfied Tom Petty. Rebecca Ruth

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    MEG HUTCHINSON

    The Living Side

    May 10, 2010

    Meg Hutchinson graduated from college with a creative writing degree and then spent a long stretch as an organic lettuce farmer until the musical bug was too much to resist. Off to Boston and coffee houses and subway stations with her guitar. She's won awards at Kerrville, Telluride and Merlefest for songwriting and songsters such as John Gorka, Martin Sexton and Lori McKenna are fans. The songs are straightforward, her alto voice with little dressing and a focus on the lyrical images. The opener, "Hard to Change" mentions the "year of the billion dollar bailout" and "Gatekeeper" is based on the real-life story of a California motorcycle cop who has talked as many as 200 people out of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. "Yea Tho We Walk" contains the wise phrase, "Oh my friend the soul seems made from such a thread/No matter how hard it tears it always tries to mend." Probably graduated magna cum laude. 05/10 Michael J. F-Singer/Songwriter

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    MEKLIT HADERO

    On a Day Like This...

    May 8, 2010

    Meklit Hadero was born in Ethiopia and did her musical training in San Fransisco (after first getting a degree in political science from Yale). She's been touted as a cross between Joni Mitchell and Nina Simone -- and you can hear elements of Joni's poetry and lilting voice and Nina's tone and phrasing in some of these songs. The result, however, is a very unique sound and her lyric choices aren't run-of-the-mill, either. Her singular journey has brought a singular perspective and it's enriching to let it seep in. This is another CD that's impossible to classify: folk, world, jazz all work here. Certainly, "Abbay Mado," a song about her Ethiopian heritage, ought to be played as "World." A release like this is what we have WYCE for, to give airplay to these gems that otherwise don't get radio play. Michael J. 05/10 F-Soul

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    KRISTY HANSON

    Into the Quiet

    May 5, 2010

    Claiming influences such as Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and a vast assortment of other notable female artists, Kristy Hanson's desire is that at the end of the day, what she'd rather sound like is "me." While influences do play a part here, the Los Angeles based Hanson is most certainly herself on this her fourth full-length release. While folk-pop might be the best description here - there's plenty of grit on this recording too. On the guitar-driven rocker - "Wrong Way," the singer/songwriter belts out "that's the wrong way sign, baby that's the wrong way." A couple of songs that preach encouragement despite tough times are the softer "Too Much" and the faster-paced "Dig." On the former, the nice melody is coupled with the songstress singing about coming back from reaching rock-bottom: "I'm so full of hope, too much hope." On the latter, the theme is similar as the artist encouragingly sings about digging out of whatever hole you might find yourself in. The album ends with the pleasant, soft and heartfelt title track "Into the Quiet." In the end, while a few more "rockers" would have been nice, Hanson puts together a nice blend of the fast and the slow for a mostly successful recording. Her voice is great and her songwriting is mostly spot-on. If you're a fan of the folk-pop genre, Hanson won't disappoint. ~Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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    AJ Downing and The Buick 6

    Way Back Home

    May 2, 2010

    If you are one that likes to do some honky-tonking in a Texas Roadhouse setting then AJ Downing's latest release "Way Back Home" will fill the bill quite nicely. Throw in some cajun accordion with slide guitar and you will think you are in Austin, TX which is exactly where this CD was recorded. When you listen to this disc it's not hard to see why AJ Downing has been called the voice of Americana Music. This is some good old days hillbilly writing that takes you through all the familiar struggles of life from being alone, to being done wrong, to finding love and then losing it, and chasing rainbows for life's pot of gold we all find at the end. I may be alone in this assessment but I hear Ricky Nelson coming through loud and clear on a number of tracks. "...Put your picture on Facebook, let the world know you're still around. Put your picture on facebook and soon you'll be the talk of the town...Downing sings tongue in cheek from a perspective of someone that isn't on facebook...........Way Back Home isn't all fun and games however. It's really about messages written between the lines as much as the lyrics themselves. All good songs have different meanings depending on each listener's own personal journey. So take the trip that AJ Downing takes you on and find your own way back home..........reviewed by Mike James

    HOLLY GOLIGHTLY & THE BROKEOFFS

    Medicine County

    Apr 26, 2010

    Entering the music scene in the early 1990's, British singer-songwriter Holly Golightly Smith has been nothing short of prolific releasing thirteen albums on her own. In recent years, Holly has teamed up with the Brokeoffs - made up of one man, Lawyer Dave, the Texas singer and multi-instrumentalist. Together they've now released three albums to date with the addition of this release - 2010's Medicine County. Combining rhythm and blues, country, rockabilly, and the sounds of the 1960's, what you end with here is a pretty diverse set of sounds. In recent years, Golightly has relocated from her native Britain and has found solace and a home in Georgia. It's no wonder that a southern influence is found throughout this release. The short but extremely fun "I Can't Lose" has a bluegrass feel, utilizing the fiddle and banjo that works wonderfully with the singer-songwriters voice. On "When He Comes," - Golightly and the Brokeoffs delve into a blues laced southern gospel song that works really well. Another track worth some attention is the opener - the haunting "Forget It" - featuring Golightly's captivating voice accompanied with some ghostly effects on the organ. "Don't Fail Me Know" a simple and melancholy track, sounds like a rockabilly song right out of the 50's or 60's. All in all, each song here has its own distinct flavor. If one song doesn't catch your fancy, the next one probably will. A pleasant listen from start to finish! ~Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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    CARRIE RODRIGUEZ

    LOVE AND CIRCUMSTANCE

    Mar 28, 2010

    On Carrie's third solo release "Love And Circumstance" she has chosen to a cover song release from some of the worlds greatest American roots musicians. These are beautifully polished tracks where Carrie brings her beautiful voice and soul and makes them her own. The CD begins with a terrific interpolation of the Little Village classic" Big Love" penned by Ry Cooder, John Hiatt, Jim Keltner and Nick Lowe. This track along with Julie Millers "Wide River To Cross" and the Gillian Welch and David Rawlings track "I made A Lovers Prayer" are the most upbeat and spirited covers on the release. Along with paying tribute to some of her modern day heroes such as Lucinda Williams on "Steal Your Love", Carrie ventures into the classics with Merle Haggard's "I Started Loving You Again" as well as Hank Williams "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry". This is Carries most roots driven solo release and shows an artist that is confident in her abilities to make her listeners as well as some of the worlds greatest song writers proud. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    AMY COOK

    Let The Light In

    Mar 22, 2010

    Out of Austin and veteran of over twenty song placements in television and film, Amy Cook has released this album of guitar-driven folk-rock. With the help of producer Alejandro Escovedo, Amy Cook has created accessible folk with catchy pop and rock elements. When I heard the first track, "Get It Right", I thought I was going to have a difficult time making it through the entire album; but the second track, "Moonrise", caught my interest, with its country-noir feel and Alejandro himself helping out on the vocals. Some of the songs here I simply do not like, but there are some highlights. Both, "I Like To Go To Parties" and "Strange Birds" are interesting in their simplicity and the slow-building "Mescaline" features nice string elements: also I don't know who Marianne is, but I might like to meet her after hearing "I Wanna Be Your Marianne". While Amy Cook is being touted as a singer/songwriter, I think she has more than that to offer on this release. Rebecca Ruth

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    THE STEEL WHEELS

    RED WING

    Mar 9, 2010

    The Steel Wheels have rolled out one great release of old time sounding folk, blues and gospel to capture their audience through all fourteen tracks. Fans of bands such as the old Crow Medicine Show will appreciate how this four person band from Virginia can make their old time acoustic music sound as if it could have been recorded 50-60 years ago, yet still sound fresh today. Trent Wagler's raspy vocals sound as if he had just returned from the old west during the middle of a dust bowl. It is this lack of polish accompanied with some terrific fiddle, guitar, mandolin and upright bass playing that makes this release a terrific slice of American roots music. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    CARRIE NEWCOMER

    Before and After

    Mar 7, 2010

    I'm sure it is easy to dismiss Carrie Newcomer's earnestness and quiet diplomacy of thoughtful living in these days of picking sides and yelling our opinions. Perhaps her music is too gentle for you, her observations too quaint. Too bad. Her 12th release for Rounder is another set of well-written and -delivered folk songs that counsel, "Courage doesn't always shout/But whispers and reminds/When we get up one more morning/And try one more time." Her rich alto has never sounded better, and the opening title track has her duet with another fine singer/songwriter, Mary Chapin Carpenter. She retains her gift of seeing the larger meaning in common daily experiences, best illustrated in "I Do Not Know Its Name." The song "Hush" is a beautiful rumination on forgiveness. The closer gives Eve credit for naming the animals (tough luck, Adam). If more of us would turn off cable news and listen to a Carrie Newcomer CD, we'd live in a better country. Try getting that through Congress. F-Contemporary 03/10 Michael J.

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    SWEET TALK RADIO

    My Hallelujah

    Mar 2, 2010

    Sweet Talk Radio is the Los Angeles based husband and wife team of Kathrin Shorr and Tim Burlingame out with their debut on Two Pop Music titled "My Hallelujah." The sound here is sometimes upbeat but mostly more on the mellow side of things as the duo combines elements of folk, americana, country, blues and even jazz. The vocals are predominantly Shorr's with her husband providing the backing vocals occasionally. On the uptempo tracks "Labor of Love" and "Lovesick," the singer/songwriters pull together two really nice songs. While not "pop" songs in their fullest expression, these two represent the closest thing to a "pop" sound found here. On the opener and title track, Shorr laments the loss of one she calls "My Hallelujah" as she sadly and yet passionately sings: "All that I have left / Is his voice and it's fading fast / Grey Sky, brown box, black dress." Such is the essence of many of the songs here - relationships that for whatever reason, haven't quite worked out. "The Good Life" takes things in a more positive direction as the soulful voice of Shorr sings "He's all I need to live the good life." Here, the sound has much more of a jazz feel with the soft combinations of percussion, piano, and guitar used to create a lush and cool atmosphere. "Ballad of Hank Williams" is an interesting take on the life of the troubled Williams, and is written from his viewpoint. Here Shorr and Burlingame write: "And I think I speak the gospel / When I tell you this truth / If Jesus wore my shoes / He'd reach for the bottle too." Overall, the mixture of uptempo and the slower and more melodic songs here is nearly perfect. The production is superb and the voice of Shorr is nothing short of infectious. In the end, most of the songs here are really well done and sound like a soundtrack to a mostly sad movie that somehow ends with a sliver of hope. ~Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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    TEXAS TORNADOS

    ESTA BUENO!

    Mar 2, 2010

    Esta Buenos definition is this is good, and The Texas Tornados have always believed in truth in advertising. It has been 14 years since their last studio release and during that time we lost two of the founding members, the late great Doug Sahm and Freddy Fender. For this release Shawn Sahm has filled into his fathers footsteps and the band has resurrected five previously unreleased vocal performances by Freddy Fender. The result brings back all the magic created by this Tex-Mex super group over 20 years ago. This CD is a real Tex-Mex party release and catches Augie Meyers and Flaco Jimenez relaxed and once again having fun making the music that made the Texas Tornados one of the most energetic and creative bands of the 1990’s. Esta Bueno will hopefully be the beginning of the next chapter for the Texas Tornados, because if this is any indication, it’s good. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    CAROLINA CHOCOLATE DROPS

    Genuine Negro Jig

    Mar 1, 2010

    This interesting trio were all drawn, individually, to the Piedmont musical jam sessions run by old-time fiddling legend Joe Thompson. Don Flemons came from Arizona; Rhiannon Giddens was classically trained from Oberlin College in Ohio; and linguistics major Justin Robinson from in-state North Carolina. They wound up going to old Joe's house every other week and developed into a band that respects its historical roots, but also takes liberties to expand the black string band tradition's boundaries. The group's name is a tip of the cap to the Tennessee Chocolate Drops who played to mixed audiences in the '20s and '30s. They are fully aware of the provocative nature of their band's name and even this CD's title, but that's part of the education they hope to achieve in getting people to listen and to dialogue. This set is terrific, with gems such as "Hit 'em Up Style" (#4), "Snowden's Jig" (#6), "Kissin' and Cussin'" (#9) -- as well as a new take on the Tom Waits tune "Trampled Rose" (#12). Outstanding. 03/10 Michael J. F-Traditional

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    JOY KILLS SORROW

    Darkness Sure Becomes This City

    Feb 25, 2010

    This Boston-based band takes a bluegrass foundation and adds innovation in both songwriting and musicianship. At times, the cuts seem "old-timey," like the Gary, Indiana* radio station WJKS, from when comes the band's name (cf. "New Shoes" and "We Will Have Our Day"). In other moments, the break from the expected brings added interest and depth (cf. title track, "All the Buildings"). The group is kind of an "acoustic all-star" configuration: the mandolin player is the first-ever graduate from the prestigious Berklee School of Music on that instrument; the guitarist has a "flatpicking championship" under his belt; the primary lyricist is a John Lennon Songwriting Award winner; and the main vocalist won a national Canadian folk music performing honor. Nice that they all found one another. Give this disc a spin. Michael J. 02/10 F-Americana [*How a Gary, Indiana station got away with playing bluegrass might be interesting research sometime.]

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    TOKYO ROSENTHAL

    GHOSTS

    Feb 22, 2010

    When I first picked up this release from a man named Tokyo Rosenthal, the last thing I expected to hear was a terrific release from an Americana singer/songwriter. Tokyo otherwise known as Toke starts this release with the most rock oriented track “Inside Your Skull” a track that is so catchy it may never leave. “There Is No Love” is a folk track that features the fiery fiddle of Bobby Britt who is also featured on “Mister Tell Me About The Great Depression” and “Goin’ On Saturday” two tracks that have a certain Willey’s feel to them. “Feelings Don’t Know Any Age” begins slow and builds to an up-tempo jazz sound that reminded me of Dave Brubecks classic Take Five and featured some great flute from Lisa Lecheau. This Ghost from North Carolina may get inside your skull and not leave, but don’t worry, it’s a good thing. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    RAY WYLIE HUBBARD

    A. ENLIGHTENMENT, B. ENDARKENMENT (HINT: THERE IS NO C)

    Feb 2, 2010

    Is Ray Wylie Hubbard one of those “outlaw country” guys? Is he a smart ass Texas Troubadour? Is he a blues guy? Is he a hippy cowboy? Yes to all of the above. Ray Wylie Hubbard is a Texas based storyteller who draws from a deep well of musical inspiration that includes blues, country and twangy rock. With a gruff delivery that is equally comfortable delivering a Neil Young style ballad, "Black Wings", as a jazzy hodge podge of sound that could fall off a Chuck E. Weiss or Tom Waits disc, "Pot and Pans", or a mid-tempo rocker that sounds eerily like Ian Hunter, "Loose", Hubbard weaves tales about naked women on the crunchy, "Drunken Poet’s Dream", the end times on the gospel inspired, "The Four Horses of the Apocalypse", pesky wasps on the slow stomper, "Wasps Nest", and even draws inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven on the rootsy title cut. Elsewhere, Hubbard mixes things up with an a cappella rave up, "Whoop and Hollar", an eerie folk blues, "Tornado Ripe", a hot-wired, slinky blues, "Down Home Country Blues", and a lumbering number that stomps and jerks like a zombie on the prowl, "Every Day is the Day of the Dead". While his wide ranging repertoire makes him difficult to peg, his talent has no problem shining through on this release. Smitty

    HARLEM PARLOR MUSIC CLUB

    SALT OF THE EARTH

    Feb 1, 2010

    There are certain discs that just uplift you and leave you with a joyous feeling after listening too; Harlem Parlor Music Club’s Salt of The Earth is certainly one of them. This superb gathering of 15 friends and musicians from the New York area includes WYCE favorites Darden Smith and Mary Lee Kortes from the band Mary Lee’s Corvette. HPMC combines traditional folk, gospel and just a pinch of funk to keep their sound fresh through all 11 tracks. HPMC sound could easily be compared to the band Ollabelle as they use six different vocalists, traditional strings, three different dobro players and a terrific rhythm section to round out their sound. Out of the 11 tracks 10 are originals with the exception of the masterful job done to Sly And The Family Stone classic “Thank You {forlettinmebemiceelfagin}” This CD was recorded in an 1890’s Harlem townhouse with very little overdubs leaving it with a warmth felt when 15 friends join together to make great music. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    ALEXIS HARTE

    Big Red Sun

    Jan 31, 2010

    Bay Area native Alexis Harte has used his experience in environmental studies and his time living in Brazil to conjure up four releases full of birds, flowers and planets with a Jack Johnson delivery that shows off the rhythms of South America. Harte has a master's degree in ecology and spent three years working in Brazil, with his guitar never far away -- that actually sounds like a Paul Simon, Rhythm of the Saints combination, doesn't it? He has drawn kudos from Performing Songwriter and Acoustic Guitar magazines along the way. In this set, the opener, "Mayflies," gets your attention immediately with a lush beginning and rhythmic backbeat. "Pot of Rainbow," "A Moment's Peace" and "Temporary Tattoo" are other standouts. If you think he's getting too Cat Stevens on you, check out the manic beat of "Send a Robot." There's a hidden track #13 on this record, entitled "How Can I Find You?" 01/10 Michael J. F-Contemporary

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    MOLINA AND JOHNSON

    MOLINA AND JOHNSON

    Jan 27, 2010

    On their self-titled and alt country debut, Molina and Johnson share their combined talents on fourteen soothing and often sad songs. Known for his work with Magnolia Electric Co., Jason Molina's baleful cry is found in varying ways here. One of the best is the haunting "32 Blues" wherein Molina cries about the vast unknown of the after world. Will Johnson, of Centro-matic and South San Gabriel fame is a nice contrast to Molina with his husky growl. While surfacing throughout, perhaps the song the best exemplifies Johnson's talents is the one that he shares with the Texan songstress Sarah Jaffe - "All Gone, All Gone." In the background on this one is an instrument known by some as the crying saw. In this case, it produces a haunting and chilling effect. Another song worthy of some attention is the opener, "Twenty Cycles to the Ground." Here, both Molina and Johnson share the vocals on the laid back and organ accompanied song. Minimalism is again in full-force but it shines brightly on "Almost Let You In." Here, Molina and Johnson combine the best of their vocal talents and add it to their knack for songwriting to create a track that deserves its just due. On the whole, there are certainly no toe-tappers here. The fact is, these are two markedly talented but mournful men that have chosen to create a bare sound that's often a little too dark and depressing. While the sound and the mood do grow on you, it's probably not enough for most to give it their time. ~Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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    MATT THE ELECTRICIAN

    Animal Boy

    Jan 26, 2010

    Anyone who thanks chickens in their album liner notes is alright with me. Texas musician, Matt Sever (who really was an electrician at one time) does just that on this, his sixth album. I'll forgive him for covering "Faithfully", because I quite liked the rest of this release. It's full of fun instrumentation provided by Matt, his producer, Mark Addison, and occasional guests. The narrative lyrics are fun and hold my interest...I want to know what happens next. It's hard for me to pick a favorite here, but check out "For Angela" or the title track for starters. Rebecca Ruth

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    EELS

    End Times

    Jan 19, 2010

    After only a few short months since their last release, the Eels are back with their eighth studio album with a large focus on the "End Times" - the aptly named title. Here, the focus isn't on the end of the world per say, but on the end of singer/songwriter Mark Oliver Everett's marriage. Most, if not all of the songs deal with this in one way or another - some more explicitly than others. It's as if Everett has opened up his journal for everyone to read only instead of reading it he turns them into songs and he sings them for us. The opener, "The Beginning," reflects on past circumstances and younger days when "everything was beautiful and free." "In My Younger Days," continues the lament with an element of anger surfacing over losing someone he still wants back. The songs "Mansions of Los Feliz" and the title track "End Times," diverts from personal issues ever so slightly and focuses on the larger and increasingly hostile world that finds itself (from Everett's point of view) teetering on the verge of self-destruction. In all its simplicity, "A Line in the Dirt" is one of the better sounding songs her with Everett's voice paired with a piano to offer another sad take on the trek called "life." Perhaps the best song here is "Unhinged" - one of only a couple of songs that has an upbeat edge to it. Sadly, five of the songs with a sound that would normally garner a lot of play and attention (Gone Man, Paradise Blues, Nowadays, Little Bird and On My Feet) are unplayable due to the lyrical content. Nevertheless, they're worth checking out on your own if you've got the time and the Eels are worth your attention. Overall, this effort from Eels is a heartfelt memoir that may work for some but might just be a little too sad for most. ~Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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    CHRIS KASPER

    Chasing another Sundown

    Jan 18, 2010

    Chris Kasper’s new cd “Chasing another Sundown” is a folksy, harmonious set of graceful melodies. On guitar or banjo, Kasper's skillfull playing highlights his bluegrass and folk influences. This album is both quiet and bright, his ability to get your toe tapping balancing the delicate ballads that gives his vocals the perfect setting. Manayunk, PA is Kasper home. He’s shared festival bills with Bela Fleck and Keller Williams and opened for Amos Lee. I’ve never heard Kasper’s previous albums (FlyingBoy and Trust the Tale, Not the Teller) but I will now. He seems to finds enchantment in ordinary situations. If you crave innovative music, give this a try. I loved the melodies and lyrics. It’s really hard to pick favorite songs because I really loved them all. #7 has a bit of funk, #8 Loosely Pray (you don’t fade away) is a quiet, beautiful song, and the slide guitar is perfect. #9, the last song, has a little ditty that comes on at 6.11 into it – just a bit of fun. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. Anne Lamont

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    MATTHEW RYAN

    DEAR LOVER

    Jan 18, 2010

    Matthew Ryan writes some of his best songs when faced by personal tragedies or situations. Matthew was sitting in an emergency room with a good friend. Thinking it was too soon to loose this friend, he sat down with a pen and wrote 10 songs dedicated to saying things to lovers that often go unsaid. The heartfelt emotion felt in this release is gripping. Matthew teeters between slower folk songs like “Your Museum” and “The World is” to tracks that have a U2 rock quality such as “The Wilderness” and “Spark” a slower dance trance track featuring DJ Perch. The raspy quality in Matthews’s voice is perfectly suited for the emotions felt in this disc and he brings you into his heart on each of the tracks. After just one listen to this disc it is easy to understand why Matthew Ryan is one of the most underrated recording artists recording today. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    DAPHNE WILLIS

    What to Say

    Jan 17, 2010

    Chicago-based Daphne Wells has a soulful, bouncy narrative style of delivering a tune that has some pegging her as a female Jack Johnson. I pick up some Laura Love vibes in the music; there's careful attention to the instruments providing a percussive backbeat to the song-stories she is telling. The set starts off with a roar on "Everybody Else," settles into the solid folk-rocker "Bluff" and then she's off to the races. In addition to these openers, I particularly liked "Swirl" and "Yellow Dress" for their spot-on match of lyric and music. Not a clinker in the bunch, a fresh new talent with spunk and style. F-Soul 01/10 Michael J.

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    SUFJAN STEVENS

    The BQE

    Jan 12, 2010

    After the amazing collections of "Michigan" and "Illinois," leave it to Sufjan Stevens to tackle another historic-driven musical venture: the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (or BQE). Commissioned to do music and a film documentary, Stevens did meticulous research and delivered an instrumental soundtrack that intends to tell the story of this controversial roadway (which cuts through neighborhoods with hair-raising turns that make our own S-Curve look like a garden path). If you liked the instrumental passages in his previous discs, you will appreciate the layers of instruments and themes that he presents here. If you're wondering what's with the women with hula hoops on the CD jacket, Stevens makes the connection and contrast between the BQE and the invention of the hula hoop, invented the same year the expressway was completed. Hard to imagine what this guy will do next! Amazingly talented, often hyper-intellectual, never boring. 01/10 F-Esoteric (Instrumental) Michael J.

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    VARIOUS ARTISTS

    Keep the Light Alive: Celebrating the Music of Lowen and Navarro

    Jan 12, 2010

    As we've been doing for our good friend and local Godfather of Folk Music, Ralston, the friends of Eric Lowen (of Lowen and Navarro fame) have banded together to help the singer-songwriter in his battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). This tribute CD raises dollars for Lowen and his family and for ALS research. Not only is this a nice thing to do, the artists do a great job on the L&N songbook, with Jackson Browne leading off and including Keb Mo, The Bangles, The Refugees and Eddie from Ohio. Two artists I didn't know before -- the Andy Chase Band and Charlie Wadhams -- do particularly fine jobs in this set. I remember when L&N were in town at One Trick Pony and Lowen commented that "We Belong" (the song of theirs Pat Benatar made into a megahit) "put his kids through college." This time, a musical project is attempting to lift his spirits during a challenging struggle. P.S. Lowen can no longer perform live; Navarro is going on solo. 01/10 F-Contemporary Michael J.

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    JON TROAST

    Living Room

    Dec 25, 2009

    Jon Troast forever wrote himself into road musician history this year by performing 100 house concerts in 100 days, an amazing accomplishment considering the myriad of details that could derail such a feat. On his fourth release, Troast (who's from Wisconsin, but attended elementary school and college in West Michigan) shares some glimpses of his recent travels -- looking at family pictures on someone's fridge ("Living Room Tour"), driving from town to town ("Another Mile"), trying to rank the states he's seen ("Favorites") and the wandering troubadour's life ("Somewhere Down the Road"). His songs describe thoughts and emotions common to us all, yet he delivers the music and lyric in an uncommonly fresh and forthcoming way, as if, well, he was just chatting with us in our living room. It's a rewarding experience to invite him in. 12/09 Michael J. F-Contemporary

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    BOCA CHICA

    Lace Up Your Workboots

    Dec 19, 2009

    It’s two years after the release of their 1st full length album, Transform into Beasts, and I’m still trying to knock that title track song out of my head in order to make room for this new album of Boca Chica’s titled Lace Up Your Workboots. This alternative folk band from Pittsburgh is mainly Hallie Pritts, with a loose rotating cast of musicians. On this album the line-up includes Susanna Meyer (a Boca Chica constant) and Matt Miller from “Beasts”, plus Jeff Baron of The Essex Green and Ladybug Transistor, as well as a slue of other talented Pennsylvania musicians. The music is light and airy, while keeping one foot firm on this American ground. The sounds weave nicely between sparse and simple to full, lush string collages. Pins and Needles and Valentine both have a very pleasing build in sound. As the Pittsburgh Paper accurately described them: “A Steinbeckian blend of Appalachian, alt-country and folk rock”. Their overall sound could be compared to the Be Good Tanyas, Jolie Holland, Hank Dogs or HEM. Their album Transform into Beasts transformed me into a fan a couple years ago, now Lace Up Your Workboots will definitely keep me listening. Becky Kenny 12/2009

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    JOE SWANK & THE ZEN PIRATES

    HANK WILLIAMS DIED FOR MY SINS

    Dec 15, 2009

    Joe Sank describes his music with the Zen Pirates as country, punk, southern rock and aggressive hillbilly music. I say the 10 tracks on this release would make Hank Williams proud. It is a combination of the Drive-By Truckers, The Bottle Rockets and Scott Miller and the Commonwealth all wrapped up together. As Joe takes his listeners through beer drenched halls and the church of perpetual neon he may not make a lot of new converts, but fans of this style of Americana will surely be converted. Joe even tackles a lesser known Kiss tune on”Strutter” the closing track on this release. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    LAURA LOVE & ORVILLE JOHNSON

    The Sweeter the Juice

    Dec 6, 2009

    Laura Love teams up with country bluesman and dobro master Orville Johnson to do a set of (mostly) traditional American folk, gospel and civil rights music -- an acoustic version of what Mavis Staples did a couple of years back with "We'll Never Turn Back." The two sometimes develop two distinct songs into a medley, with Laura leading on one and Orville the other; on some songs they harmonize. Laura's always included some of these early classics in her concert sets and decided to release a disc that's full of 'em. These familiar songs are all done well, with Laura's thick bass playing and Orville's dexterity blending nicely. Check out "Load Up/Eyes on the Prize" and "Swing Low Sweet Chariot/Swing Down Chariot." "Livin' in a Dream" is an old Robbie Robertson song. F-Traditional 12/09 Michael J.

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    TUNE-YARDS

    Bird-Brains

    Nov 25, 2009

    Using little more than vocals, acoustic guitar, found percussion instruments, and the occasional drum loop/electronics, Merrill Garbus, calling herself Tune-Yards, has crafted something interesting. Combining African rhythms with pop sensibilities, Tune-Yards offers quirky songs that hold my interest from beginning to end. Her minimalist style belies her wide-ranging delivery and engages the listener. This is really cool stuff! Rebecca Ruth

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    DEVENDRA BANHART

    What Will We Be

    Nov 11, 2009

    Devendra Banhart's first album on Warner/Reprise titled What Will We Be continues the freak-folk of prior efforts but perhaps in a more straight-forward kind of way. Still, there's plenty of the weird and the psychedelic here too - especially on the track "Rats," in which Banhart sings about love and relationships and not necessarily about rats. The opener, "Can't Help But Smiling," sets the mostly gleeful tone. "Angelika," makes for a great follow-up as Banhart tones things down a little to make a truly beautiful sound. On the song "Baby," happiness is again the topic as he sings: "Baby, I finally know what I'm going after, I'm learning to let in all the laughter, holy moly, yer so funny, you crack me up." The most rock oriented song here is "16th and Valencia Roxy Music," which highlights the electric guitar and the drums to make for a faster-paced song that you just might find yourself dancing to. The final song, "Foolin" has a reggae and Caribbean sort of feel that makes for an apt conclusion to an effort that seems to maintain a largely positive tone. In a nutshell, creativity abounds with the singer/songwriter making most of his shots here. Yes, there's a few missed shots too but Banhart's willingness to venture into the crazy and weird makes him look more like a genius than anything else. For the sheer adventurousness that we find here alone, Banhart wins! ~Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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    CARRIE RODRIGUEZ

    LIVE IN LOUISVILLE

    Nov 9, 2009

    This live recording was made in 2007 when Carrie Rodriguez was opening for Lucinda Williams. It is easy to hear after one listen how this Austin Texas fiddler who has spent much of her recording career with partner Chip Taylor has moved into a more edgy side of the Alt-Country world. The Tracks “I Don’t Want to Play House Anymore” and “You Won’t Be Satisfied That Way” have a Lucinda feel to them or Patty Griffin during the days of Red. Carrie also releases her sexual energy on “50’s French Movie” a track that reminded me of Lucinda Williams song “Righteously” The tracks“ Mask Of Moses” which begins slow and works up to a full steam boil and “Never Gonna Be Your Bride” demonstrates that this country gal from Austin sure knows how to rock. Carrie’s last Studio CD’s have brought attention to her as a solo artist and this live recording should solidify the talents of this underrated performer. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    TOM WAITS

    GLITTER AND DOOM LIVE

    Nov 9, 2009

    In 2008 Paste magazine called Tom Waits Glitter and Doom tour the best live show of that year. The 17 tracks on this disc were recorded in 10 different locations and showcase some of Tom’s finest works. This CD will bring smiles to fans that were with him during Closing Time all the way to his Real Gone Days. The CD includes crowd favorites from “Get Behind The Mule” originally found on Mule Variations and “Singapore” from the now classic Rain Dogs release. “Dirt In The Ground” from Bone Machine may be one of the most captivating songs ever recorded by Mr. Waits. Tracks like “Fannin Street”, “Lucky Day” and “I’ll Shoot The Moon” are all tracks that will bring smiles to fans who liked Tom’s early years. “Live Circus” certainly represents the off kilter story telling side of Tom. This release will set along with some of Tom’s finest works and that’s saying a lot. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    AMANDA SHIRES

    West Cross Timbers

    Nov 6, 2009

    Amanda Shires is a fiddle-and-guitar-playing young woman from Lubbock who cut her teeth playing on the side for the legendary western swing band the Texas Playboys at the age of 16. This is her first real solo outing and it is drawing praise from musicians such as Chris Isaak, Justin Townes Earle and Slaid Cleves -- as well as innumerable marriage offers from the (in)famous singer/humorist Kinky Friedman. The opening songs starts with her asserting, "I hope I haunt you good," and even though that tune is not representative of the entire set, Amanda's higher-register delivery and fondness for traditional folk storytelling grow on you. The dark "I Kept watch Like the Doves" and the outstanding "Mineral Wells" show a special talent. I hope she gets her chance to build a national audience; there's a lot more here than we can take in from these 11 songs. 11/09 Michael J. F-Americana

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    THE PANTONES

    Inside the Sun's Wild Flame

    Oct 25, 2009

    The Pantones recorded this, their third album in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. Much of this seems like contemporary country, such as the twangy tunes, "You've Lost the Sun" and "Less of Me". The album does offer intriguing instrumentation, though, without seeming crowded. "Nightingale" is nicely produced with its violin and vocals. "A Thousand Yards" prominently features Rhodes and horns and "Back To My Old Ways" has nice snare work and banjo. This entire album offers nice production and vocal harmonies. Rebecca Ruth

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    LYLE LOVETT

    NATURAL FORCES

    Oct 23, 2009

    Lyle Lovett has always mixed keen observations about relationships and the human condition with either deep sentiment or wry, tongue in cheek humor that will have you laughing one moment and crying the next. This disc continues that trend. The reflective title track finds him fighting wanderlust and wondering if he’s worth the sacrifice made by the armed forces so that he can indulge himself. Just when you get lulled into the deeper questions raised by that cut he shifts hard into the novelty of the bawdy "Farmer Brown" and the twisted food metaphors that he uses for the age old request that it be kept in the pants on the catchy "Pantry" (which also appears at the end of the disc in an acoustic version). Back to the serious side of things, Lovett muses on lost love on "Empty Blues Shoes" and "Don’t You Think I Feel It Too", the inability to find a direction, "Whooping Crane", reminiscing about lost friends, "Sun and Moon and Stars" and having it all but moving on anyway on Townes Van Zandt’s "Loretta". While these later cuts are finely crafted, they all sound somewhat alike and tend to drag a bit when heard consecutively. On the more upbeat and musically diverse side is the steamy, steel guitar driven "Bohemia" and the positively rocking "It’s Rock and Roll" which re-unites him with old writing partner, Robert Earl Keen. Leaving the Big Band in the wings for this release, Lovett relies mostly on guitars, fiddles and mandolins to provide the musical backdrop that makes this a mostly fine listen. Smitty

    JOSHUA JAMES

    Build Me This

    Oct 6, 2009

    Originally from Lincoln, Nebraska, Joshua James brings us stories of heartache from the heartland on this, his second full-length release. Singing in a whispery, almost feminine voice, James sings pretty songs of the difficulties of relationships and the hurt we often cause one another and ourselves. This is sad stuff, sometimes accompanied by folksy, acoustic instrumentation, such as that found on "Weeds" or "In the Middle". Other times being more electric, such as on "Black July" or "Kitchen Tile". Almost always, though, these songs start out soft and pretty, then crescendo into something louder, but strikingly fair to the ear. Rebecca Ruth

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    HOPE SANDOVAL & THE WARM INVENTIONS

    Through the Devil Softly

    Oct 6, 2009

    With several years in between (their last release was 2001's Bavarian Fruit Bread), Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions are back with their second full-length release. From the start, let's just say this: commercial music this is not! Picking up where they left off on their previous release, spare and subtle musical arrangements abound - accompanied by the gentle vocal style of Sandoval whose sensuous chords provide the major strength here. The opener, "Blanchard," showcases the tender and spooky folk found throughout. It also features the simple nature of the music that accompanies the soft-spoken songstress. "For the Rest of Your Life," is haunting, featuring eerie guitar effects and percussion. "Lady Jessica and Sam" is another song based on the simple. Still, with the singer/songwriter at the forefront, the acoustic background works well. "Things Like That" manages to pick things up a bit, with a tempo accentuated by the cello and the hypnotic violin. Near the end of this eleven-song set of music is the song "Trouble," which just might be the best of all. Here, the drums come out in all their fullness in order to add to the haunting nature of what is truly Sandoval at her vocal best. Overall, what seems to be lacking on this recording are songs that offer memorable hooks that beg the listener to come back time and time again. Still, Hope Sandoval and her "warm" counterparts have crafted a sound that might best be described as beautiful in all its eeriness. ~ Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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    BOOKA AND THE FLAMING GECKOS

    Baghdad Texas

    Sep 17, 2009

    Texan, producer/musician, Booka Michel has produced and performed music all over the world in just about every genre. Listed here as producer, composer, and drummer/percussionist, Booka used three musical genres for inspiration: Latin, Americana, and Middle Eastern, based on the three main characters in Baghdad Texas, the movie that this is the soundtrack to. Clocking in at under thirty minutes, with most of the songs less than three, this is mostly instrumentals and is of the Americana genre with Latin and Middle Eastern influences. I quite liked this and my only complaint would be that there be more than a half hour of music! Rebecca Ruth

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    MALCOLM HOLCOMBE

    For the Mission Baby

    Sep 15, 2009

    Described by David Fricke of Rolling Stone Magazine as "not quite country, somewhere beyond folk...a kind of blues in motion," Malcolm Holcombe is just that - hard to compartmentalize. Still, that's what keeps things interesting on the singer/songwriter's eighth album release; a seemingly introspective and honest look at the realities of life and living. The raspy voice and gritty folk is prevalent from the start as Holcombe kicks things off with the catchy "Bigtime Blues." The second, the Americana inspired "Hannah's Trading Post" is equally pleasing to the ear. The short and heartfelt "You Have it All," captures the essence of a world where some win and some lose. Building on this theme, on the final song, the lush and beautiful "Someone Left Behind," Holcomb hopefully sings: "But there's better days ahead in time for someone, somewhere left behind." Expected by the record company to garner the "best reaction yet," Holcombe and the Grammy award winning producer Ray Kennedy don't disappoint. The reaction from Lucinda Williams was this: "From the first note I was drawn in. He is an old soul and a modern day blues poet." Make no mistake about it, from beginning to end, the reaction to Holcombe's latest is "right on." ~Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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    LEE HARVEY OSMOND

    A QUIET EVIL

    Sep 14, 2009

    No Lee Harvey Osmond is not a new solo artist, but a super group formed between Tom Wilson from Blackie and the Rodeo Kings as well as members from the Cowboy Junkies. Their music is described as Acid folk and after it spinned for the fifth time in my CD player I have to admit it put its spell on me. My favorite track “Cuckoo’s Nest” with the bass lines from John Finlayson had an almost Morphine feel to it. Other tracks like “Blade of Grass” sounded a bit like Chris Isaak. Margo Timmins from the Junkies does a beautiful duet with Tom Wilson on “I’m Going to Stay That Way”. Other notables are some terrific Dobro playing through out the disc from the great Colin Linden. I have a strong feeling that this quiet evil may become extremely infectious. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    MONSTERS OF FOLK

    MONSTERS OF FOLK

    Sep 14, 2009

    What happens when four friends each individually gifted solo artist with strong solo careers check their egos at the door and release a collaborative disc? The answer is pure magic Jim James aka Yim Yames, Mike Mogis, Conor Oberst and M. Ward have released a disc that is much larger than any of the individual components. The four friends share duties on lead vocals and play every single instrument on this release including some synthesizers and drums that were crafted during the course of the recording sessions. The CD is entitled Monsters of Folk, but elements of rock, country, blues and yes folk are intertwined through out the entire disc. The disc also has a certain spiritual feel to it and tracks such as “Dear God {Sincerely M.OF.}” and “Ahead of the Curve” have made me a true believer in these monsters. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    BIRDIE BUSCH

    Pattern of Saturn

    Sep 8, 2009

    One word comes to mind after listening to the latest from Emily "Birdie" Busch titled Pattern of Saturn - POTENTIAL. Yes, this girl has great potential mostly because of her ability to coin catchy melodies with everyday life kind of lyrics. For you new comers, think of a Laura Veirs/Jenny Lewis kind of mix, and this is what you might have. On the opener, "Penny Arcade," what's immediately evident is the beauty of Birdie's voice along with a lush melody making for a really terrific song. On "Bordertown," Birdie takes on the voice of a Mexican dishwasher (Gabino) and creates another song well worthy of a listen or two. One of the best is the short but worthy "Roll It." Here, the singer/songwriter delves into what some might describe as 'rockabilly' as she sings: "This space between us / it's much too wide / I guess with earthquakes / come divides." Another effort deserving of 'Best Of' status is the song "Hometown Boredom," which scales things back a bit for a more mellow and melancholy sound. All in all, perhaps the biggest disappointment with Birdie's latest is the length of the effort as a whole. Coming in at just over thirty-three minutes - with two songs of extremely short length - what you're left with here is an album with nine songs that begs the question: Why not more? Great potential? You bet. Room for improvement? Absolutely. ~Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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    WILLIE NELSON

    Lost Highway

    Sep 4, 2009

    As Willie Nelson departs his record company, Lost Highway, for another classic brand (Blue Note), the good folks at Lost Highway have released this "chestnuts" package with songs from previously released LH recordings -- along with four never-on-record-before cuts (one of which we can't play). The set starts out strong with assists from Rob Thomas and Lee Ann Womack, and the Jimmy Cliff tune from "Countryman" is always a treat. And of course, any duet with Lucinda is worth hearing again. The disc ends with two songs relating to the film "Brokeback Mountain," the first one an iTunes hit now on record; the second unplayable because of language. In all, a solid compilation of the latest Willie Era, on the cusp of him beginning yet another. Michael J. 09/09 F-Americana

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    CATIE CURTIS

    Hello, Stranger

    Aug 27, 2009

    Over her 15-year music career, Catie Curtis has often played her catalog in a variety of ways, surprising fans with stripped-down versions of her songs. This disc is a collection of tunes she recorded earlier, as well as a number of covers, in a string-band setting featuring banjo player extraordinaire Alison Brown (and heavy on mandolin and fiddle, too). The opener, "100 Miles," and "Deliver Me" are originals that ring true in this setting. Interesting as well are the Cat Stevens song "Tuesday's Dead" and the John Martyn bluesy cut "I Don't Want to Know." Mary Gauthier joins Curtis on the country-fave title track. Michael J. 08/09 F-Americana

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    PAUL BURCH

    Still Your Man

    Aug 19, 2009

    With a sound described by USA Today as "thoroughly modern but completely unlike contemporary country," Paul Burch is back with his seventh full-length release titled Still Your Man. Along with help from his WPA Ballclub band, the singer-songwriter provides listeners a sound that, while labeled country, is undoubtedly influenced by 50's era honky tonk and the early rock and roll style known as rockabilly. Recorded in an old garage turned studio in Nashville, Burch and his band get off to the thoroughly likable and rockabilly start with the opener "Like a Train." Covering the late Little Walter on "It Ain't Right," Burch delves into the blues and doesn't disappoint. Another song that brings back memories of Roy Orbison is the short and mellow "Lead Me On." There's even the beautiful and lush "Honey Blue" that incorporates piano, guitar, and percussion all to make a sound that could largely be categorized as jazz. In truth, there's too much good here to comment on everything. In the end, all fourteen songs have their own uniqueness to them, making this a great recording to listen to again and again. ~Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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    MINDY SMITH

    Stupid Love

    Aug 14, 2009

    On her third release (we're not counting her CD of Christmas songs), Mindy Smith -- who has been touted as being in the same league as Patty Griffin, Alison Krauss and Shawn Colvin -- bares her soul about love's ups and downs. And, as she does on her earlier sets, she doesn't spare herself or the others in her various relationships. All of the emotions, positive and negative, come out. It's like opening up someone's personal journal and following the story; but we don't feel like creepy lurkers, rather invited confidantes to share her grief and joy. Hard to pull off, but she manages to do it. Her mix of music and lyric are well done. I like the NY Times quote of her music: "Her voice carves melodies so sharp and fine you can almost see them." Suggestions: "What Went Wrong,""Highs and Lows,""If I Didn't Know" (a song of hers covered earlier by Alison Krauss), "Couldn't Stand the Rain" and "Love Chases After Me." 08/09 Michael J. F-Contemporary

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    ANNIE & ROD CAPPS

    My Blue Garden

    Aug 14, 2009

    Regional musicians (they're from Chelsea) Annie and Rod Capps deliver a set of "small town" American folk music, accentuated by Annie's high soprano and a familiar supporting cast made up of Rachael Davis, Jen Sygit, Jan Krist, Jim Alfredson (Organissimo) and others. While I appreciated their homespun originals, it is the two cover tunes that caught my attention -- Dave Carter's "Crocodile Man" and the gospel number "Soon Be Free." Folk music is alive and well in the hearts, voices and fingers of this couple. 08/09 Michael J. F-Traditional REGIONAL

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    SILVEROOT

    BIG DIFFERENCE

    Aug 11, 2009

    Multi instrumentalists Patrick Flynn and Darryl Webb have spent most of their lives in the wine country of Northern California and make up the core sound of Silveroot. This is acoustic folk music that has the wit of a Robert Earl Keen and at times the sounds of the gypsy song man Jerry Jeff Walker. Emily Palen a Michigan native that now resides in the San Francisco area nicely rounds out their sound with her excellent violin and vocals on one of my favorite tracks “Brazil”. This track has the most adventurous sound on the disc and reminded me of the 1960’s group It’s a Beautiful Day. Silveroot has delivered a fine release that should make a Big Difference in the world of acoustic folk music. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    OR, THE WHALE

    Self-Titled

    Aug 8, 2009

    This is the second album from the San Francisco seven-piece outfit, Or, the Whale. I find it to be a bit more "countryfied" than their first album, "Light Poles and Pines". This album of sometimes rocking, folk-country does have some good things to offer, such as nice production and vocal harmonies. Besides your basic guitar, drums, and vocals, Or, the Whale's brand of Americana also features dobro, pedal steel guitar and banjo. Most of the songs here are somewhat Starland Vocal Band-sounding in their country-pop harmonies. The more rocking songs are the album opener, "No Love Blues", the haunting "Keep Me Up", and the Jefferson Airplane-ish "Black Rabbit". Rebecca Ruth

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    HOT CLUB OF COWTOWN

    WISHFUL THINKING

    Jul 27, 2009

    It has been stated that good things are worth waiting for and after seven long years the first studio CD from the Hot Club Of Cowtown is no exception to that rule. The CD begins with HCCT’s signature western swing sound with a cover of the Bob Wills track “Cant Go On This Way”. This CD Is hard to categorize as it ventures into several different genres including the jazz influenced renditions of “Someone to Watch Over Me” and: One Step Closer”. “The Magic Violin” and “Heart of a Roman” are both instrumentals that showcase the classically trained fiddle work of Elana James”. Whit Smith’s guitar and vocals provide a wonderful rendition of the Hoagy Carmichael country ballad “Georgia” and the folk ballad “Carry Me Close”. This is also the first HCCT disc with drums provided by newcomer Damian Llanes. I hope it is not just “Wishful Thinking” that we won’t have to wait seven more years until we next hear from the Hot Club Of Cowtown. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    THE TRACTORS

    Trade Union

    Jul 18, 2009

    Showcasing their Oklahoma roots, The Tractors give us plenty of old-school country on this, their first release in six years. There are some interesting collaborations here, including Leon Russell (Good Old Days) and J.J. Cale (Rhythm Bone). There's also some cool honky-tonk on "What Makes Love Go Bad", which features a nice train snare, horn riffs, and dobro. They turn things up a notch on "It's Only Love" to end on a high note. Rebecca Ruth.

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    TERRI HENDRIX

    LEFT OVER ALLS

    Jun 19, 2009

    This release gives Terri Hendrix a place to showcase cuts that didn’t end up having a home on her prior discs or that have been reinvented so much on the road that they need revisiting. Make no mistake though, these aren’t mere cast offs or demos, they are full fledged efforts that stand tall on their own merits. Highlights include the tough, sinewy "Posey Road Stomp", her live show staples, "Wallet" and "Hole in my Pocket", the funky, semi-spoken, "Bottom of the Hill 2", the gypsy groove of Cheryl Wheeler’s "Summer Fly", the reggae bounce of "Wilderness Song" and the Little Feat style work out "Rockin’ on the River" where Hendrix sounds uncannily like a young Maria Muldaur. Also included are a couple of new cuts that paint a bright future for Hendrix: "Bring ‘Em All In" has multi-track vocals and features her best Dolores O’Riordan (the Cranberries) imitation to generally good effect while "Give Me Flowers" is the kind of earnest message song that seems to spring effortlessly from her pen. Like fellow Texan, Michelle Shocked, Hendrix has the ability to both enlighten and entertain. This disc has ample doses of both of these strengths. Smitty

    LEVON HELM

    ELECTRIC DIRT

    Jun 19, 2009

    After hitting a home run with his 2007 release, Dirt Farmer, Levon Helm returns with Electric Dirt. Featuring a cast of musicians that has a wide and deep background in roots music of all forms and tracks written or popularized by the likes of the Grateful Dead, Pops Staples, The Carter Brothers, Nina Simone, Ollabelle, Muddy Waters and Randy Newman, Helm has crafted a disc that is loose, organic and a solid delight from beginning to end. As always, tying all of the pieces together are the rough, gruff vocals that Rolling Stone Magazine has ranked in the top 100 of all time. With the ravages of time and throat cancer seemingly held in abeyance Helm gives a boisterous reading to Muddy’s "Stuff You Gotta Watch", goes deep into the delta for the field holler groove of Staple’s "Move Along Train", duplicates the good time vibe of the Band on "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" and rocks out on guitarist Larry Campbell’s "When I Go Away". While there are contemporary flourishes and horns on many of the tracks that distinguish this disc from the stripped down folk of Dirt Farmer, Helms seldom veers too far from his past. On "Golden Bird" and "White Dove", Helm and crew move deep into Appalachia with dulcimers, fiddles and acoustic guitars providing the backdrop to odes about hard times and simple pleasures. Given his roots in rural Arkansas and long tutelage in folk and blues music Helm is able to perform these numbers with an authenticity that lays waste to the efforts of modern roots pretenders. Electric Dirt gets beneath your nails and won’t scrub out with a simple washing. Smitty Kingfish- “Shitkickers”, “Ass”

    AMONG THE OAK & ASH

    Among the Oak & Ash

    Jun 19, 2009

    Folk-rockers Josh Joplin and Garrison Starr team up on this interesting set of traditional folk tunes reworked (and many of them revved up) to give us a fresh take on these historic musical touchstones. "Peggy-O," "Angel Gabriel" and "The Water is Wide" are examples of famous songs that will re-engage you once you hear these two musicians take them down new avenues. Doomed legends such as Hiram Hubbard and Joe Hill have their stories retold by the troubadours; Joplin and Starr also contribute their own song to the genre -- "High, Low & Wide" -- and it fits perfectly in this company. Nice project, and they promise a reprise. MJVD 06/09 F-Neo-Traditional

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    KENDAL CARSON

    Alright Dynamite

    Jun 7, 2009

    A native of Victoria, British Columbia, 24-year-old Kendal Carson started out musically as a violist in a youth symphony, then got involved in the folk scene first with her brother and later with The Paperboys. She struck up a mentorship with legendary songwriter/producer Chip Taylor, which has resulted in two strong Alt-Country discs, "Rearview Mirror Tears" and this new set. Carson employs her voice in a strong and soulful manner that recalls Shelby Lynne (check out "I Don't Wanna Be Your Mother" or "Ooh That Dress" for examples). Defiant yet dependent, confident yet questioning, Carson serves up some great songs, such as the languid "Oh Baby Lie Down," the toe-tapping "Belt Buckle," the confessional "Jesse James" and the rocker "Submarine." She does a nice take on the Janis Joplin classic "Mercedes Benz," too. Carson has obvious talent and it will be interesting to watch this career go. Michael J. 06/09 F-Alt Country

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    JILL HENNESSY

    Ghost in My Head

    May 31, 2009

    The star of the television shows "Crossing Jordan" and "Law & Order" goes back to her first loves, strumming a guitar and writing songs. Hennessy started out as a 17-year-old singing on the streets of Toronto and got into acting because she was cast in a musical about Buddy Holly -- and things took off from there (interestingly, she now lives with her husband and two kids in the same NYC apartment building as Buddy did in 1958). She shows off plenty of talent in this debut, both musically and lyrically. I would have appreciated more diversity in the set -- only the electric "4 Small Hands" strays from a basic country/folk approach -- but there are some solid songs here. I liked the first four entries, especially "10,000 Miles" and the aforementioned "Hands." Also impressive is "Holding On," which features musician extraordinaire Lloyd Maines and Dixie Chick Martie Maguire. Many actors try their hand at music and fail miserably. Not Hennessy -- a musician before the acting opportunity came along. 05/09 Michael J. F-Contemporary

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    DAVE ALVIN AND THE GUILTY WOMEN

    DAVE ALVIN AND THE GUILTY WOMEN

    May 26, 2009

    Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women Dave Alvin has been in the forefront of Americana music for the last three decades, heading up bands like the Blasters, the Knitters and the Guilty Men, Dave’s journey down the American highway has joined him with seven of the finest female musicians in Americana music today. The result is a superb collection of songs that range from the reworked Blasters classic “Marie Marie” done in a bluegrass format to the western swing sounds of “Boss of the Blues”, Dave’s tribute to the late great Big Joe Turner. Dave also gives leading vocal recognition to Christy McWilson and the guilty women on the tracks “Weight Of The World” and “Potters Field”. Every track on this disc is a little gem including the coolest version of “Que Sera Sera” you will ever hear. As that song ends asking what the future will bring, I only see good things for Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women. Que Sera Sera. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    KATIE MELUA

    Pictures

    May 26, 2009

    Katie Melua, born in Georgia (the country, not the U.S. state), burst on to the UK music scene with a voice and a debut mixture of folk, blues and jazz that called to mind the late Eva Cassidy. Melua's ability to turn any song into a soulful banquet made that release, "Call Off the Search," an English smash (and it is tucked in with most of Eva's catalog in our jazz section of the library). However, like Cassidy, Melua has always been pulled between genres and in this third release (like the one prior), the balance tips away from blues/jazz and toward singer-songwriter territory. "Mary Pickford" and "If the Lights Go Out" are examples of her storytelling side; "Perfect Circle" is a reminder of her jazz inclinations. "Ghost Town" is a reggae-inflected tune that also captures her soulful side and she closes with a smoky version of Leonard Cohen's "In My Secret Life." F-Contemporary 05/09 Michael J.

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    BEARFOOT

    Doors and Windows

    May 25, 2009

    We've heard of bluegrass and newgrass -- how about tundragrass? Bearfoot is a bluegrass ensemble from Anchorage, Alaska and they can fiddle, mandolin and harmonize just as well (maybe better) as their kin in the Lower 48. The band knocked around Alaska for a number of years, honing their skills, but things revved up when Californian lead vocalist and fiddle player Odessa Jorgensen joined the group late last year. Her vocals emote and soar and the rest of the Bearfooters ably provide a great musical backdrop. Everything on this disc is well done; check out "Single Girl," the haunting title track and tragic "Caroline," John Hiatt's "Before I Go," a cover of the Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down" and the coy closer "Good in the Kitchen." Michael J. 05-09 F-Bluegrass

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    LONESOME JANE

    Once I Had

    May 20, 2009

    Grand Rapids-based Lonesome Jane has given us an album of nice melodies, sung sweetly and wrapped in a country-folk package. Most band members shared song-writing duties along with guest-writer Danger (of Dangerville). The album was self-produced by band member Chris Olsen (also of the Willeys) and the mix is a bit inconsistent, but all in all a well-done effort. Rebecca Ruth.

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    Bob Dylan

    Together Through Life

    May 11, 2009

    Bob Dylan's latest CD is a real treat. Not sure if it will convert non-fans of Bob, but for anyone who enjoys really interesting, unique and cool sounds will enjoy this offering. This recording is certainly firmly planted in the blues-genre (check out My Wife's Home Town) and a bit like his latest recordings (Modern Times/Time out of Mind) but has it's own flavor. Check out the accordions...This Dream of You. Always original with his vocals, he is aging into a "blues maestro"...perfect pacing and high style. This CD has been well reviewed and received, and these songs getting better with each listen. It's All Good is the last song, and that says it all!

    CATHERINE MACLELLAN

    Water in the Ground

    May 11, 2009

    Canadian folk singer/songwriter Catherine MacLellan’s newest release, “Water in the Ground” delivers just what its press release promises: poetic lyrics and vocal performances that may remind listeners of artists like Joni Mitchell. Ms. MacLellan is a fine writer and vocalist. This release, which features both her new album and a copy of her first, previously mail-order exclusive debut, “Dark Dream Midnight” is enough to keep folk fans happy for a long time. Both albums are available from True North Records in March of 2009.

    Willie Nelson

    Naked Willie

    May 11, 2009

    This "new" Willie CD will probably not add any new fans to his bus, but it certainly is a treat to Willie-lovers (like myself) . These songs were all recorded prior to his landmark release of Red Headed Stranger in 1975 and the beginning of the "outlaw" era of country music. Two things make this CD a must for Willie fans and historians: 1. The production - or a better term- the "unproduction". These songs were chosen by long time confidant Mickey Raphael and intentionally "unproduced", stripping them of the layers and layers of 1960's Nashville "sound". 2. The liner notes. These notes are a great read. It goes into detail about the early business of Nashville and country music, and it is a great introduction to the struggles of a recording artist like Willie in his early days. A couple sounds of note: The classic #11- The Party is Over - which is a staple of Willie concerts and the Kris Kristofferson written #16 Sunday Morning Coming Down (a classic!!!!) Let's appreciate Willie while he is here!!

    Various Artists

    Standing Together

    May 11, 2009

    In 2003, a group of about a dozen local artists came together to raise money for the Grand Rapids Public Schools through the release of a compilation album which was called “Standing Together.” Now, six years later, “Standing Together 2009,” a 17-track compilation featuring nationally known and locally known artists aims to raise more support for the same cause. Released on February 11, 2009 at a community gathering by Mackinaw Harvest Music Group and One World Music, the release was made available at Meijer stores and even at a handful of West Michigan McDonald’s restaurants. The compilation features an eclectic selection of talented musicians ranging from the Verve’s Brian VanderArk to Grand Rapids’s own Ralston Bowles.

    Richard Shindell

    Not Far Now

    May 11, 2009

    Shindell’s seventh studio release should please his fans, although I don’t think it’s his strongest release. None of the songs here have quite the lyrical power as “The Ballad of Mary Magdalene” or “Are You Happy Now?” although that’s not to say there’s nothing worthwhile here. “Parasol Ants” is an upbeat track that compares God to “a local hood” whose breath “is the gale.” You can guess who the ants symbolize. Unfortunately, the other standout track (in my opinion), “State of the Union,” contains the S-word, so it’s a no-play. On the whole this is a decent release; I just was expecting a little more from an artist who, at his best, writes some really great songs NO PLAY TRACK 7

    MARK DUVAL

    All Night Station

    May 11, 2009

    Michigan native Mark Duval’s newest release, “All Night Station,” is an impressive mixture of well performed horn arrangements, classy blues melodies, and steady rhythms. Excellent production and performances make this, Duval’s third release, a great success. Combining Latin, blues, rock, and pop sensibilities, this ambitious release has a lot to offer to a wide variety of listeners. The album is a departure from the stylistic qualities of his 2007 release, “Two-Track Mind,” which featured much folkier arrangements. “All Night Station” is available April 25, 2009.

    JEN SYGIT

    So Long Pollyanna

    May 11, 2009

    Very cool, iPod worthy, folk/pop/rock/country/blues CD by Lansing based singer-songwriter Jen Sygit. I played the CD for my wife, and listening to the first track; Lousy Bridge, she immediately said "who is this! I would pay to see her perform!" Jen reminded me of the Indigo Girls in several tracks and Michelle Shocked on others. Favorite tracks were her "country flavored" #1 Lousy Bridge , #2, Mockingbird, #7 The Whole Truth (reminded me of Levon Helm's last masterpiece) and #10- Never Existed. All songs are terrific. very well produced. Seth Bernard contributes on several tracks. There would be nothing better than a hot night at Meijer Garden, with Jen Sygit on stage.

    THE INDIGO GIRLS

    Poseidon and the Bitter Bug

    May 11, 2009

    The Indigo Girls' 13th album, "Poseidon and the Bitter Bug," is a summation of their 22 years of playing together. The album has an overall mellow folk-rock feel. The songs range in topic from love to death, but are generally darker in nature. Emily Saliers' and Amy Ray's experience together is apparent in their ability to anticipate each other's artistic and emotional direction. The album was recorded in two versions: a full band version, and an acoustic version with only Ray and Saliers. This, the full band version, accomplishes things impossible for an acoustic duo. Overall, the album has a refreshing, new feel.

    ERNESTO HERNANDEZ

    West Off Bridge

    May 11, 2009

    “West Off Bridge” is a collection of songs played by friends for friends. Led by local guitarist, lyricist, and vocalist Ernesto Hernandez, Jr., the four-piece blues/jazz ensemble interprets Hernandez’s songs and two covers with occasional imprecision but with constant sincerity. What the album lacks as a result of its sometimes accidental production quirks and performance errors, it makes up in genuineness and originality. The idea of a bunch of friends getting together to create something they love never gets old, and Mr. Hernandez and his band, while not likely to make a lot of audible noise over the sounds being made by countless bands like them, satisfy listeners with an appreciation for simple, artistic sincerity.

    WAYNE “THE TRAIN” HANCOCK

    Viper of Melody

    May 11, 2009

    My first date with Wayne Hancock. Viper of Melody is literally a blend of Hank Sr., Asleep at the Wheel and The Stray Cats. (w/a little bit of Buck Owen's Bakersfield sound). Wayne puts the "T" in twang. If you like your country music "traditional" with a distinct rockabilly beat you should enjoy Wayne Hancock. If you don't, this probably isn't the sound for you!. Wayne has an intense retro- honkytonk/barroom vibe and it is no surprise he has a loyal following- especially for those liking their music unique and authentic. Here is a quote from Wayne: “I’m like a stab wound in the fabric of country music in Nashville. See that bloodstain slowly spreading? That’s me.” http://www.waynehancock.com/ Standout (and artist recommended) tracks include: #1 Jump the Blues. #4 Throwin Aawy My Money, #5 Your Love and His Blood, #6 Working at Working. There really is no need to describe the sound more than traditional honky tonking, rockabillying, country music swing. And don't forget the TWANG

    SARA WATKINS

    SARA WATKINS

    May 11, 2009

    Sara Watkins' self-titled debut album is a fresh look at modern bluegrass. Her album is collection of driving fiddle melodies and soulful ballads. She draws heavily from her near two decades of experience with the award-winning bluegrass trio Nickel Creek, who she included in her album. The album was produced by former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, and includes Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, Benmont Tench, Pete Thomas, Tim O'Brien, Chris Eldridge, Ronnie McCoury, and Rayna Gellert. While the tracks are not all her own, Sara Watkins has an apparent emotional attachment to each one.

    ALICE PEACOCK

    Love Remains

    May 11, 2009

    On her fourth release, Chicagoan Alice Peacock starts the record by shouting out "I'd like to get stoned" on the opener "All About Me." But the irony is that the overriding theme of "Love Remains" is to get off your duff and do something important, that will make a mark -- and do it with faith and flair and family. "Real Life" and "City of Angels" juxtapose the choices we make in where and how we live. "If I Could Talk to God" and "Forgiveness" has her mixing it up with the Almighty, leading to a challenge to each one of us. "Fairborn" talks about moving forward, but not losing a sense of home. Sometimes Kasey Chambers, sometimes Steve Earle, all the time herself, Alice Peacock delivers a great set of songs that aren't only catchy; once they catch you, they might just change your thinking.

    Zach Vinson

    Cracked Open

    May 11, 2009

    Zach Vinson's Cracked Open is a fun power-pop record full of catchy hooks and fun guitar-pop, with the occasional slower number like "All the Sins of Men" and "Locked Outside". Through and through it's pretty fun and energetic, with songs like the rocking opener "Little Birdie", the piano laden "So Much to Blame", and the danceable "Christee Christee", which is further proof that there aren't any songs with girls names in the title that don't rule.

    LEONARD COHEN

    SELECTIONS FROM LIVE IN LONDON

    May 11, 2009

    In 2008 Leonard Cohen returned to the stage for his first time in over 15 years. On July 17 2008 this show was recorded in London documenting a tour that has received over 80 5-star reviews from music critics from all over the world. Over his 40 year career Leonard’s voice has definitely taken on a deeper and in my opinion a more attention grabbing quality that makes his songs that cover sex, power and religion more interesting. The tower of songs found on this disc cover classics from his entire career and the sound quality is the best I have ever heard on a live release. At 74 years of age this mysterious man of music proves that he is still the man.

    ELVIS PERKINS

    Elvis Perkins in Dearland

    May 11, 2009

    In what seems to be intended to be an afterthought following his first album, “Ash Wednesday,” Elvis Perkins, in his newest release, “Elvis Perkins in Dearland,” seems to be continuing his exploration of grief and death. Perkins and his very capable band explore those themes from a variety of directions at a wide variety of speeds and with a lot of different instruments. Occasionally experimental and with performances filled with spontaneity, there is nothing boring about this album. The release has interesting production choices and fine musicianship to its credit, and Perkins’ vocal performances are equally impressive.

    John Doe & The Sadies

    Country Club

    May 11, 2009

    Although ex-punk rocker John Doe’s solo albums are country-rock, this CD with the Sadies is pure country. John Doe handles all the lead vocals, with The Sadies doing a fine job as his band. Most of the songs are classic, 60’s country songs, done with a “countypolitan” flavor. Doe has a soft, deep, rich voice. Fans of country music will recognize songs made famous by Waylon, Roger Miller, Tammy Wynette, Hank Snow, Ray Price, Johnny Cash, Porter Wagoner, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, and Bobby Bare. There are four original songs here, including tracks 7 and 15 which are short bluegrass instrumentals. The others are tracks 4 and 8, of which I really liked track 4, “It Just Dawned On Me”, which fits right in. I find myself wishing that Doe’s vocals were a little stronger, and he seems to be straining on a few tracks, but maybe that’s the “sadness” being projected. Some folks will love this disk.

    WILLIAM FITZSIMMONS

    The Sparrow and the Crow

    May 11, 2009

    The Sparrow and the Crow “The Sparrow and the Crow,” William Fitzsimmons’ third release, is an apologetic, quiet collection of minimalist compositions that don’t concern themselves with lyrical subtlety. Simple harmonies, airy vocals, and finger picking form the album’s skeletal structure. Appearing after two self-produced albums, this, his first studio release is sure to remind listeners of the vocal and instrumental performances of artists like Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam or possibly some of Sufjan Stevens’ quieter compositions. Fans of such acts are likely to enjoy this release. “The Sparrow and the Crow” is available in 2008 from Dark Sparrow Records.

    HEADLESS HEROES

    The Silence of Love

    May 4, 2009

    This album is a project put together by producer Eddie Bezalel. He sought out the musicians to make an album of (sometimes obscure) covers. This is indie-folk-pop with a dark, dreamy feel. The piece' de re'sistance, however, is singer Alela Diane on vocals. Her voice combined with the arrangements, production, and choice of covers is what makes this interesting. Some of the covers are classics, such as Nick Cave's "Nobody's Baby Now" and Jesus and Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey". There's older, obscure stuff here though, like Juicy Lucy's "Just One Time" and the Gentle Soul's "See My Love". All in all, this is a really nice production that would best be listened to late at night, after the party. Rebecca Ruth

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    RUTHIE AND THE WRANGLERS

    AMERICANA EXPRESS

    Apr 21, 2009

    RUTHIE AND THE WRANGLERS AMERICANA EXPRESS Combining roots rock, rockabilly, honky tonk country and lots of fun Ruthie and the Wranglers have released a captivating CD that will make their listeners want to jump on board and take a ride. This band from the Washington DC area combines elements of Molly and the Makers, Asleep at the Wheel as well as Southern Culture on the Skids to make their own brand of Americana. Although this is a full band effort Ruthie Logsdon possesses a voice that has earned her the prestigious vocalist of the year Wammie award in Washington DC on at least 3 different occasions. The tracks on this disc are cleverly crafted with enough humor to keep their listeners smiling through all 12 tracks. Jump on board the Americana Express and leave all your troubles at the door you wont be disappointed. Reviewed By; Gregg Saur

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    THE GREENCARDS

    Fascination

    Apr 19, 2009

    Okay, so you've been looking for a new favorite bluegrass band now that Nickel Creek is in hibernation. But you don't want a copy-cat knock-off of the Creek and, because you're a WYCE listener, you want evidence of a few other musical influences thrown in. Your search has ended. The Greencards, a trio made up of two Australians and a Brit, approaches bluegrass with the same guitar, mandolin, violin, harmony work that defines that corner of the library, but you'll hear homages to jazz, blues and world music throughout. Check the world influences of "The Avenue," the jazz feel of the title track and "Into the Blue" and the blusey "Three Four Time." If you need your traditional bluegrass fix, never fear: songs such as "Outskirts of Blue" and "Rivertown" get you where you want to be. Excellent throughout -- musically and lyrically. Welcome to the State of WYCE, Greencards! No pledge of allegiance needed. Michael J. 04/09 F-Bluegrass

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    EILEN JEWELL

    SEA OF TEARS

    Apr 15, 2009

    With her unhurried vocals, sensual voice and incisive lyrics, Eilen Jewell made quite a splash with her 2006 debut "Boundary Country" and the 2007 follow up "Letters from Sinners and Strangers". While those discs often played on the country side of folk, this disc features a harder edge and almost rocks out at times with hints of Sun Records rockabilly thrown in for good measure. Johnny Kidd’s "Shakin’ All Over", which has been covered by the Who and countless others, bristles with energy while "One of These Days" has a swagger that matches her quest for revenge against an errant lover. Elsewhere, there are hints of the Byrds on "Rain Roll In" with its elegant guitar and Rickie Lee Jones on "Final Hour" where Jewell’s off hand vocals provide a nice counterpoint to the stinging guitar lines and chilled out B3 grooves. "Everywhere I Go" is driven by a simple, but catchy rhythm that does Buddy Holly proud. Not all of the sparks come from the music: while the title track laments to an ex-lover that getting dumped is going to leave her in a sea of tears, the hard edged musical backdrop and spit out vocals reveal a sarcasm that hits as hard as a Lucinda Williams track and mocks the sentiment of the words. Loretta Lynn’s "The Darkest Day" as well as "Nowhere in Time" and "Fading Memory" play closer to her earlier releases with a country twang. Smitty

    NEIL YOUNG

    FORK IN THE ROAD

    Apr 15, 2009

    From the anti-war protest of his early hit "Ohio" to the 2006 rant against the foreign policy of the Bush administration, "Living with War", Neil Young has demonstrated again and again that he’s not afraid to speak his mind when something strikes him as wrong. He’s also willing to be an advocate for causes that he believes will make a difference as on his 2003 concept disc "Greendale". This disc finds him in both protest and prophet mode. While railing against the insanity of our petroleum dependant nation and the choices it foists upon us, "Cough up the Bucks", he still yearns for the romance of the road and the freedom of being behind the wheel of a powerful car, "Get Behind the Wheel" and "Hit the Road". To keep that romance alive he advances a solution in the form of conversion to electrical vehicles, a tale told on "Fuel Line". Like his dream car, this disc crackles with the raw electrical energy that marks most of his work with Crazy Horse. Unfortunately, like the rants of Living with War, some of the lyrics like on the track "Fuel Line" are simply jammed into the groove and are more like a lecture than a sermon that would inspire you to do anything different. Overall, though, he hits more than he misses. On "Just Singing a Song" he acknowledges the futility of a rock star trying to change the world and makes a powerful pledge to real action. Likewise, on "Johnny Magic" his zeal for his electric heavy metal Continental shines through in no uncertain terms. The title track is Neil’s middle finger to bail outs, rich executives and the whole mess we are in. The anger quotient is reduced considerably when he takes his foot off the accelerator on the ballads "Off the Road" and "Light a Candle" both of which go down easy. Smitty Fork in the Road- NO PLAY-“Sounds like Shit”- not an editorial, a quote from the song!

    BRUCE COCKBURN

    SLICE OF LIFE

    Apr 14, 2009

    BRUCE COCKBURN SLIFE OF LIFE Slice of life could not be a more perfect title for this release. Bruce Cockburn has graced stages throughout the world for over 40 years, has played to millions and has written some of the finest folk & rebellious tunes to date. This CD features Bruce naked on stage with just his voice, his stories and his guitar. At first I was worried I would miss the band but after the first listen I was amazed on how brilliant his guitar work was and I realized it wasn’t the band but the man himself that made these songs come to life. The CD features a career retrospective of favorites including “Lovers In A Dangerous Time” “Wondering Where The Lions Are”, “Pacing The Cage” and the ever controversial “If I Had A Rocket Launcher”. The CD concludes with one of my favorites and lesser known tracks “Mama Just Wants To Barrelhouse All Night Long” Produced by Long time friend the great Colin Linden this live disc should please all Cockburn fans as he truly serves up a very tasty Slice Of His Life. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    LEONARD COHEN

    Selections From Live In London

    Apr 7, 2009

    LEONARD COHEN SELECTIONS FROM LIVE IN LONDON In 2008 Leonard Cohen returned to the stage for his first time in over 15 years. On July 17 2008 this show was recorded in London documenting a tour that has received over 80 5-star reviews from music critics from all over the world. Over his 40 year career Leonard’s voice has definitely taken on a deeper and in my opinion a more attention grabbing quality that makes his songs that cover sex, power and religion more interesting. The tower of songs found on this disc cover classics from his entire career and the sound quality is the best I have ever heard on a live release. At 74 years of age this mysterious man of music proves that he is still the man. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    SUSAN WERNER

    CLASSICS

    Apr 1, 2009

    This disc finds singer/songwriter Susan Werner mashing pop standards with a variety of strings and classical instruments. However, instead of simply doing string laden versions of the hits, Werner throws in references to classical composers on a number of the cuts: Simon & Garfunkel’s "A Hazy Shade of Winter" gets a snippet of Vivaldi, Stevie Wonder’s "All in Love is Fair" gets Chopin, Cat Steven’s "The Wind" quotes Bach and Bob Marley’s "Waiting in Vain" incorporates Satie. The intention here is to showcase the lyrics with a new musical backdrop so that they can be heard in a whole new light. Whether the result is hip or simply easy listening is subject to debate. Me? I’m looking forward to hearing this in the lobby at my next dental appointment. Smitty

    LIZ DURRETT

    Outside Our Gates

    Mar 27, 2009

    Durrett has a warm soft voice, dark thoughtful lyrics, and music that is lush and penetrating with waltzy rhythms that hang in the air long after the album concludes. These rhythms are the driving undercurrent carrying this album to various heights, and depths. So many layers that some of them seem to be whispering to your brain…secretly…you won’t even know it until later. She’s the young niece of singer/songwriter Vic Chesnutt (they both hail from Athens, GA, like so many other musical greats). Uncle Vic helped her get started when she was quite young, and now that she’s a pro (this being her 3rd release, along with lots of rave reviews from reputable sources) he lends some of his talents on her album. In spite of the fact that she herself plays guitar, piano, drums, organ and xylophone, she has a large troupe of other talented musicians adding their stings, brass, beats and “space effects”. Her voice is low and whispery like that of Cat Power and Beth Orton. The songs are transporting. The album is beautiful. Becky Kenny 2009

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    Luka Bloom

    Eleven Songs

    Mar 16, 2009

    My favorite new music of 2009! Luca is a veteran singer/songwriter out of Ireland. He has been compared to Van Morrison and Bono to some degree. I loved this CD- and the more I listened to it, the better. Track #11 - Don't be Afraid of the Light Shines Within You is a classic #7- When Loves Comes and #2 I'm On Your Side are a couple of other tunes highlighted by the label to promote. I can't disagree! Several songs highlight his Irish lilt, and are tender, moving and entirely enjoyable. – john Rumery

    ALICE PEACOCK

    Love Remains

    Mar 9, 2009

    On her fourth release, Chicagoan Alice Peacock starts the record by shouting out "I'd like to get stoned" on the opener "All About Me." But the irony is that the overriding theme of "Love Remains" is to get off your duff and do something important, that will make a mark -- and do it with faith and flair and family. "Real Life" and "City of Angels" juxtapose the choices we make in where and how we live. "If I Could Talk to God" and "Forgiveness" has her mixing it up with the Almighty, leading to a challenge to each one of us. "Fairborn" talks about moving forward, but not losing a sense of home. Sometimes Kasey Chambers, sometimes Steve Earle, all the time herself, Alice Peacock delivers a great set of songs that aren't only catchy; once they catch you, they might just change your thinking. F-Rock 03/09 Michael J.

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    Jim White

    A Funny Little Cross to Bear

    Mar 9, 2009

    Jim White's new EP, A Funny Little Cross to Bear, is a compilation of life stories collected through his many careers, set to a mellow blend of folk and rock music. In this live album, Jim is backed up by guitarist Pat Hargon and vocalist Fiona McBain. The album is marked by Jim's commentary on his work and life in between songs. A Funny Little Cross to Bear contrasts Jim White as a performer to Jim White as a songwriter.- Intern Matt

    GRETEL

    The Dregs

    Mar 7, 2009

    Out of Boston, this folky three-piece (occasionally four-piece) outfit offers heart-wrenching lyrics over a multitude of down-home instruments, including banjo, Wurlitzer, accordion, and guitar. Reva Williams wrote and produced this entire album. Her lead vocals are often accompanied by those of band mates Melissa Myers and Phil DuPertuis to create handsome harmonies that fit the music perfectly. This is a lovely album with lyrics that'll kick you in the gut, but the blow is softened with the delivery. Reviewed by Rebecca Ruth.

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    DONNA ULISSE

    Walk This Mountain Down

    Mar 2, 2009

    The word "real" comes to mind as you listen to Donna Ulisse's latest release, "Walk This Mountain Down." There's nothing phony here as the singer/songwriter shares her life - both the ups and the downs. The title track, well worth a spin, was actually inspired by Ulisse watching her mother-in-law hold strong and steady after losing her husband and daughter all in the span of one year. The fast-paced opener, "In My Wildest Dreams" is a great way to get things moving, highlighting the banjo and Ulisse's country laced voice that fits well in the bluegrass genre of things. Things slow down a bit, as the singer/songwriter gets serious on the beautiful "Poor Mountain Boy." Another song worth checking out is the blues sounding "The Trouble With You." Most prevalent here, however, is the genre of bluegrass gospel such as found on "Dust to Dust," "The Key," and perhaps the best of them, "Everything Has Changed," but also included as an element in many of the other songs as well. Despite where you might be at in life, it seems like there's a little something for everyone here as Ulisse gives the listener a perfect mix of down-home cooking with a voice that leaves little else to be desired of it. If bluegrass is your thing, you can't miss with Donna Ulisse's latest offering. ~ Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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    Justin Townes Earle

    Midnight at the Movies

    Mar 1, 2009

    Disambiguation between Justin and his father (Steve Earle) isn’t difficult. Justin hasn’t the vitriol, gruff or amplifiers of dear old dad. His strengths are heart and style - the styles being classic country, traditional-sounding originals and a hint of swing; the heart in the earnest, bleary-eyed love songs. He’s radio royalty and not leaving any time soon. Get to know him here. - Gladden #6 is The Replacements’ classic

    Danny Schmidt

    Instead the Forest Rose to Sing

    Mar 1, 2009

    More proof that Austin Texas is home to the hippest music scene in the U.S.. An independent singer/songwriter- folk/American artist, Danny has had his share of underground success. 2008 Falcon Ridge Emerging Artist Award Winner From the Austin Chronicle: "In today's underground folk world, Danny Schmidt is spoken of in reverent tones, drawing comparisons to Leonard Cohen, with a poetry that breathes naturally and without pretension, with results that are both attractive and intense." My first impressions were a bit Leonard Cohen with Townes Van Zandt thrown in. Besides a talented musician, Danny's lyrics read like a book and tell stories. Better of Broke, Grandpa Built Bridges (reminded me of John Prine Grandpa was a crpenter song!) and Southland Streets are all stories that resonate today. An artist like Danny can probably ride the success as an "underground" hero for many years, and to some degree I hope he stays off the radar charts. Mainstream success doesn't always improve the final product. – John Rumery

    Dan Vaillancourt

    Lovely Distractions

    Mar 1, 2009

    Nice technical guitar playing, played, produced, and released by Dan Vallancourt. It is a shame a major label has not pick him up yet, keep plugging away Dan and it may happen. I like Postcards as a strong ballad, Newspapers is pretty lyrical in it's own right. I Am Your Radio is from a slightly different perceptive from the norm. Worth a listen or two let the subtleties to sink in. - John Hardy

    NEKO CASE

    MIDDLE CYCLONE

    Feb 24, 2009

    NEKO CASE MIDDLE CYCLONE This is Neko Case’s sixth solo release and showcases an artist that is growing with each release. Where 2006’s Fox Confessor Brings the Flood brought Neko into the spotlight and showed a more Pop side of Neko, this CD goes even further. This CD is pure pop, rock and at times soulful candy. To help with this disc Neko brought an army of friends including M. Ward, & members of the New Pornographers, Los, Lobos, Calexico and the Sadies. The true magic of this disc remains Neko’s voice wrapped around some well crafted and written songs. It was 3 years between discs, but I think most will agree that the wait was worth it. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    THE REFUGEES

    Unbound

    Feb 22, 2009

    Three acclaimed singer/songwriters -- Cindy Bullens, Wendy Waldman and Deborah Holland -- have teamed up to form an Indigos-like folk harmony supergroup. The set is comprised of songs each has recorded before (getting new voice-blending treatment here) and new composition written for the trio. The disc opens with a jangling upbeat new title track with each taking the lead vocals at various points; the other written-for-the-record tune that stands out is "On My Way" by Waldman and Holland. The Bullens songs that get the trio makeover are great -- "I Gotta Believe in Something" and "Box of Broken Hearts." Another interesting re-treatment is Holland's "There's a Spy in the House of Love," a song she did years ago in her band Animal Logic. They close with an-almost acappella version of a Waldman song that Vanessa Williams made into a big pop hit years ago, "Saving the Best for Last," and the results show off how well these women blend their voices. It will be interesting to see if they continue this band or if it's just a one-time thing. There is a lot of potential here to make a big splash in the folk-country pond. F-Contemporary 02/09 Michael J.

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    MISSY RAINES & THE NEW HIP

    INSIDE OUT

    Feb 15, 2009

    MISSY RAINES & THE NEW HIP INSIDE OUT Seven time winner of the best bass player award by the International Blue Grass Association, Missy Raines has released a brilliant CD that stretches every boundary of Bluegrass. This CD could as easily be considered an innovative jazz release as bluegrass. This is truly a full band CD with some amazing players; Ethan Ballinger is a protégé of Matt Flinner on Mandolin and at the age of 21 throws licks downs that will make fans of Chris Thile smile. Michael Witcher on the resonator and lap steel guitars has been sought after from players like Dwight Yokam, Joan Osborn & Dolly Parton. Dillon Hodges on guitar has been throne the National Flat-picking Guitar Champion and its east to tell why. As mentioned this disc is innovative and hard to categorize “Stop Drop & Wiggle: has elements of jazz funk, “In Over Your Head” would probably be easier to play on Jazz radio then country. “Tattoo” has elements of blues that reminds us it’s easier to remove a ring then a tattoo. Two of the Three vocal tracks “Basket of Singing Birds” and “Magnolia” show shades of Nickel Creek. This CD stretches all musical classifications and the results will certainly please lovers of many musical genres. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    BLUE FEATHER

    Blue Feather

    Feb 13, 2009

    Blue Feather is Grand Rapids' own Nicholas Thomasma and Liz Dieleman. They've taken an idea from a Richard Bach book (Illusions) for their name and that is what I found most intriguing. This is guy/girl vocals over delicate 6- and 12-string guitars. They've invited a few guests to play on this, their first album. Most notably, Karisa Wilson (violin) adds something to the narrative which is "Sandalwood, Leather, and Sweat". She also plays on the pretty, but depressing "Winter In Michigan". (Listening to this song in February will do nothing to cure those winter doldrums.) Jason Lester plays trombone on the song "Stranger Than Fiction" adding a playful note to the visuals that the song offers. Reviewed by Rebecca Ruth.

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    BUDDY & JULIE MILLER

    WRITTEN IN CHALK

    Feb 10, 2009

    BUDDY & JULIE MILLER WRITTEN IN CHALK Buddy & Julie Miller have been making great music for over 20 years, on this their second collaborative release the music magic continues. The sweet tenderness in Julie’s voice is balanced by the incredible guitar and the less polished vocals of Buddy. Recorded in this couples home in Nashville Tennessee where Julie penned nine of the twelve tracks. On this disc Buddy & Julie have also brought along some friends including the beautiful track “Don’t Say Goodbye” where Julie is joined by Patty Griffin on background vocals. Robert Plant continues his Alt-Country career joining vocals with Buddy on “What you Gonna Do Leroy”. The gospel sounds of Regina McCray can be found on “One Part, Two Part” & “Hush Sorrow” The CD concludes with the “The Selfishness of Man” where the Miller’s are joined by Emmylou Harris on an absolutely brilliant track. The first time I listened to this disc, I thought it was weaker then their first self titled release but after several more spins I can say I was wrong. This disc is great!! Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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    FRIGHTENED RABBIT

    The Midnight Organ Fight

    Feb 3, 2009

    Having performed at SXSW and toured the UK with Death Cab For Cutie, Frightened Rabbit is currently touring the US in support of this, their second album. These Glasgow guys did a nice job of alternating the acoustic and electric songs on this moody folk-rock record. I liked this entire album. A few key tracks are the short instrumental of "Bright Pink Bookmark" and the folky rocker "Heads Roll Off". In "The Twist", the voice and piano gradually give way to tambourine, backing vocals, and drums and it becomes a nice rock song. Try to overlook the band's silly name (Could they not think of anything better?) and give this disc a chance. Reviewed by Rebecca Ruth.

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    OTIS GIBBS

    Grandpa Walked a Picketline

    Jan 22, 2009

    On his fourth full-length effort titled Grandpa Walked a Picketline, singer/songwriter Otis Gibbs shares nothing less than his heart as he reflects on life, love, and the down-and-out through a mixture of folk, country rock, and bluegrass. With the opener, "Caroline," Gibbs ponders the hardships that Caroline has had to face as she "lives her life inside a daydream," allowing her the courage to press on. With the song "Everyday People," we get the impression that Gibbs is just that - an everyday kind of person writing and singing about the reality and travails of life. The short but sweet "Sometimes Angels" is a poignant reminder of the plight of the homeless as Gibbs sings: "no one looks you in the eye when you're sleeping on sidewalks / They wonder if you're alive but they keep walking past / Sometimes angels lose wings and end up strung out and high." Another song of reflection that is also worth a listen is the final song - "Bury Me On a Rainy Day." Here, Gibbs sings: "When I press on to that great bye and bye / I won't feel my troubles no more / won't you wrap me in a quilt some grandmother made / bury me on a rainy day." While there may not be any songs that really grab the listener from a musical perspective, Gibbs' storytelling seems to make up for it. It's the type of recording that beckons repeated listens in order to get at the message that Gibbs is proclaiming and to truly gain the appreciation it warrants. ~ Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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    GUGGENHEIM GROTO

    Happy The Man

    Jan 13, 2009

    The Dublin duo (Mike Lynch and Kevin May) have done it again with this, their second release. Kudos to them and to Shane Power for this well-produced album. They've taken poetic lyrics and wrapped them in sometimes sparse, sometimes lush orchestration and come up with this fine release. If you want catchy pop, check out "Fee Da Da Dee" or "Her Beautiful Ideas". For darkly haunting rock, listen to "The Girl With the Cards". "Just Not Just" features cool, dark imagery and sounds good to boot. "The Dragon" is a quiet one with an interesting narrative and nice string accompaniment. Reviewed by Rebecca Ruth.

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    JEB LOY NICHOLS

    Parish Bar

    Jan 10, 2009

    Born in the Midwest and currently living in Wales, Jeb Loy Nichols has given us an album of ...um...folk/country/soul. I didn't know what to make of this until I found out his history and now, it all makes sense. Growing up, his mom listened to jazz and his dad listened to bluegrass. The Kansas City radio station he listened to as a child played country by day and soul at night. His teen years, were spent living in Austin, TX and sucking up the punk scene. Later, as a student at Parsons School of Design, in NY in the early 80's, the emerging rap scene influenced him. I can hear all these influences in this album. The opening track, "Countrymusicdisco45" tells a true story and has some soul in it. An interesting country/dub/reggae piece is "I'm Blue and I'm Lonesome Too". You want rock/blues/soul? Check out "'Neath the Cold Ground". One of my favorites is the soul groove of "Dr. Noblio". Reviewed by Rebecca Ruth

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    BERNIE JELLEMA

    Lions & Clowns

    Dec 14, 2008

    Holland native Bernie Jellema delivers a concept record for his first recording, a song-cycle that moves from folk to rock to country and back. It reminded me of Neil Young's "Cowgirl in the Sand" opus from NY's second solo CD, or even "Country Girl" from CSN&Y's classic "Deja Vu." Some songs move from slow to uptempo to back again; others feature a decidedly rock or country foundation. The title track, "Summer" and "Heartland" are examples of these musical short stories. If you're in a rock mode, choose "The Whole World" or "Freckles"; "Ribbon," "Poverty Lane" and "Highway" are folk-based -- the latter sounds like a Grateful Dead outtake. Ambitious music, locally provided. Holland artist Tom DePree created the interesting cover. F-Rock LOCAL. 12/08 Michael J.

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    RACHEL ZYLSTRA

    Before You Could Decide

    Dec 14, 2008

    Rachel Zylstra left Grand Rapids for New York City in 2004, but her Midwestern perspective continues to reveal itself on her latest seven-song independent release. Like our obsession with the weather: "Walked down the street/The weather's colder/Than I expected/When I looked out the window" from the slice-of-life "Upper East Side" and "The rain keeps falling outside and I'm resigned/There will be no sunshine this weekend" from the sophisticated closer "This Weekend." Or our introspection on relationships: "This is just too smooth for you/This is too plain easy/Girl keeps spilling ink for you/Boy could take or leave me" from the excellent opener "Epilogue" and "I'm testing myself, but now in a different way/Tell me if I make the grade and I'll tell you if it's going to be a good day" from the sassy "Ruined Me Good." Those four tracks are the highlights of this set, but Rachel has delivered seven fine songs that pare down the number of words from her previous releases without sacrificing anything on the story-telling side. Just a girl and her piano -- and she's got us. We're in. We want to hear her tell her musical tales. The Village Voice has called Rachel "Michigan's Nellie McKay," and I take that as apt compliment: direct, confident -- but with a bit more heart. F-Pop LOCAL 12/08 Michael J.

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    ROSE POLENZANI WITH SESSION AMERICANA

    When the River Meets the Sea

    Dec 11, 2008

    With songs that can't help but leave you reflecting on the lamentations of life and love, Rose Polenzani offers up such a fare on this her fifth album of folk musicianship. In this case, it's a collaboration with the Boston based Session Americana, who for the most part, were not even introduced to the songs until about an hour before recording them. The result is an effort produced over four days in the Spring of 2006 with musical arrangements that stand as "unrepeatable works of chance, friendship, and artistry." The opener, Queen Anne's Lace makes for a good start as it aptly makes use of the fullness of Billy, Ry, Dinty, Jim, Kimon and Sean of Session Americana. Soft Parts makes a nice use of percussion as well as showcasing the soft serenade of Polenzani's voice as she beautifully sings "And all, all my friends, they say love, love is hard. So I hold on to the soft parts." Still, the standout track is If I Could Hit You, a song that laments an unresolved relationship that has been resolved on its own - through death. Here she writes: "the Good Lord sees what's in my heart, and I should have made it right while I had a chance to try." Even the title track, When the River Meets the Sea, a song written by Paul Williams back in 1977 for Jim Henson's "Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas," is a welcome departure from Polenzani's own songwriting. While some of the shorter songs such as Song of the Stars and Push Me if I Snore are a distraction to this effort, on the whole, this collection and accompanying collaboration works fairly well. ~ Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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    BLITZEN TRAPPER

    Furr

    Dec 2, 2008

    Hard to categorize, the Portland, Oregon sextet, Blitzen Trapper has been described as experimental folk and patterned in the mold of Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens. While the folk element is definitely here on their fourth album, so too is the southern, country, and psychedelic rock along with a host of other literary influences that plays out in the lyrics both written and sung by guitarist/lead vocalist/and avid reader Eric Earley. According to the band, such an eclectic mix of music comes from a combination of Eric's vast capability as a songwriter and the bands overall boredom with doing the same thing over and over again. The result, as you can by now guess, is a recording that you'll just have to listen to for yourself in order to get what I'm saying. Two particularly outstanding and yet all-together different songs are "Gold For Bread," and "Black River Killer." On the former track, all sorts of musical elements come together making for an extremely good sound. On the latter, Kid Rock comes to mind as Earley takes on the persona of a killer and his remorse and sings "Oh when, oh when/Will the spirit come a calling for my soul's sin/Oh when, oh when/Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?" Another great track is "God and Suicide," a song that even manages to incorporate a little electronica into an already complex menagerie of sound. Honestly, the first half of this recording is outstanding while the latter half is quite a bit less memorable. If only Blitzen Trapper would have been able to continue what they started, we might be talking about the record of the year. What we have instead is a recording that's partially great but also in part mundane. ~Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

    WHITLEY

    The Submarine

    Nov 7, 2008

    "I want this more than life," sings the Australian artist Whitley on the track "More Than Life" - a melancholy and beautiful song that is arguably the best sounding track on his debut album - The Submarine. It's also a song begging to be played across the airwaves and used in a host of other places as well. Some have characterized this release from the Australian artist as a mixture of country, folk, with a few electronic elements thrown in. The result is a folktronic sound that is both fresh and interesting and definitely well worth the listen. Hailing from Melbourne, Whitley claims that the title of this - his first album - is taken from the cult movie The Life Aquatic and the search for marine life that may or may not exist. Regardless of influences, what Whitley has produced for his listening audience is an incredibly mature sound that seems well beyond his age (He's only twenty-two!). While best portrayed on the title track but mixed throughout the recording, the most appealing and unique aspect to Whitley's sound are the electronic elements. In no way overdoing it, Whitley mixes just enough synthesizers with the more standard acoustic set, which allows him to create a sound all his own. Other outstanding songs on this collection include "Lost in Time," a song about regret as portrayed in the lyrics, "All I could have been / All I should have been/ Is lost in time, " as well as the opener "The Life I keep." The final track, the banjo-driven "Cheap Clothes," proves a perfect end to a nearly perfect collection of songs. If folktronic is your thing, you won't regret giving Whitley a few spins. Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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    Lindsay Mac

    Stop Thinking

    Oct 27, 2008

    "That is a peculiar way to play a cello", I thought when I checked out Lindsay Mac's You Tube performance clip on her Myspace account. Classically trained Mac straps her cello to her body like she's playing a guitar when she performs. Lindsay Mac's press release describes her as being in the neighborhood of Bob Dylan and Portishead...strange pairing, right? I'm not down with that comparison, but her singing and writing style is similar to DiFranco's for sure. I initially didn't think a cd of cello based songs would be intriguing, but Mac makes it work. "Stop Thinking", Lindsay Mac's second folky/acoustic release will fit nicely in our library with the Feist and Regina Spektor's of the WYCE world. – Sherry C

    Bruce Robinson

    - The New World

    Oct 27, 2008

    Good song writing, backed up by some of Willy Nelsons Family Band, good music. Reminds me of Lucinda Williams style-wise-not that there is anything wrong with that, She Don't Care is a good rocker, Larosse a country mix, well done. Bruce Robinson has penned a few country hits, is related to one of the Dixie Chicks and allegedly is the best songwriter in the family. – John Hardy

    JD SOUTHER

    - If the World Was You

    Oct 20, 2008

    Very consistent, mellow jazzy-light rock, yet diverse stylistics abound. A former roommate of Glen Frey, and neighbor of Jackson Brown, he penned a large chunk of the Eagles greatest hits. This is his first recording in 24 years, recorded live-in studio- with a five piece band that sounds much larger. All songs sound good, One More Night (Killing Spree) is clever, Journey Down the Nile is a classy jazz cut, The Secret Handshake of Fate is thirteen minutes long, but one seams to not notice because of the intricacies involved. – John Hardy

    TOM MORELLO, THE NIGHTWATCHMAN

    The Fabled City

    Oct 20, 2008

    Morello’s follow up to 07’s One Man Revolution continues carrying the flag of support for the proletarian and exploited masses because we need one more Harvard educated folk singer like I need self administered trepanation. Fabled City picks up a little more volume and electricity than the former. Stark lyrics and deep, bleak vocals trod over Morrellos renowned guitar work akin to Leonard Coen less the poignant lyricism. Serj Tankian of System Of A Down infamy appears on Lazarus On Down while Waylon Jennings son, Shooter shows up on The Iron Wheel. All in all I find this disc to be an unimaginative put-on. – While Lee

    GRAYSON CAPPS

    - Rott-n-Roll

    Oct 20, 2008

    Modern honky-tonk, juke jive roadhouse party music. This screams "I was raised around these here parts." or "Is that meth cooking in your trailer? I can smell it from down the road." Or both. I like The Waltz, Big old Woman, and especially Sock Monkey. – John Hardy

    RAY LA MONTAGNE

    Gossip in the Grain

    Oct 16, 2008

    It was only ten years ago that Ray La Montagne was working in a shoe factory with little to no money to spare. Now, La Montagne has just released his much anticipated third recording titled "Gossip in the Grain," and the anticipation was well-worth the wait. With his touring band in on the recording this time through, La Montagne introduces a myriad of musical traditions throughout - from the front-porch country sounding Hey Me, Hey Mama to the lush balladry of the beautiful I Still Care for You. Making the latter even better are the backing vocals provided by singer/songwriter Leona Naess who also lends her talents to the track A Falling Through. The album opens up with the horn-driven You are the Best Thing--a song that would fit in well in the late 60's as a worthy follow up to Van Morrison's acclaimed Brown Eyed Girl. Perhaps the song that exhibits the most fun is the tribute song Meg White. Apparently, La Montagne has a level of fascination and/or sympathy for the other half of the White Stripes duo. Either way, the song is fun and gives us further evidence of the range and talent of the singer/songwriter. Interestingly, while often characterized as an American Folk singer, only two tracks really fit this genre here. The earthy and slightly veiled Winter Birds is a pleasant albeit long listen while title track is equally edifying, showcasing a variety of stringed instruments as they gradually build to a beautiful crescendo and ending to the entire 10 song set. Overall, there really are no weak songs here as La Montagne and his producer Ethan Johns have come up with a composition of music that is emotionally expansive and that leaves the listener wanting to hear it all over again. ~ Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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    LUCINDA WILLIAMS

    LITTLE HONEY

    Oct 15, 2008

    Kicking things off with the rocker "Real Love", which has the snarl of a classic Pretender’s track, Lucinda Williams takes us on another tour through the angst and triumph of her mixed up life. When she’s happy, she’s very happy as evidenced by the salacious "Honey Bee" where she extols the virtues of her lover over a punk rock beat. But, as is the custom with her recent discs, it doesn’t take long for melancholy to find its way into the mix regardless of whether she’s on top of the world, "Tears of Joy" and "Knowing", overwhelmed with sadness, "Circles and X’s", regretting letting her own fear of commitment drive another lover away, "If Wishes were Horses", marveling at the resilience of love in the face of a dishonest, unforgiving world, "Plan to Marry", or wondering why she can’t sustain the good times, "Well Well Well". The downbeat vibe would grow wearisome in the hands of a lesser talent but Williams makes it compelling. Much of the credit goes to her crack band that rocks when needed but more importantly adds just the right amount of atmosphere and twang to make William’s aching heart beat in your chest. While the trials and tribulations of her love life make up the bulk of this release, she also sends a postcard from the road on AC/DC’s "It’s A Long Way to the Top", muses about the reunion with her mother that awaits her in Heaven, "Heaven Blues", and takes a stab at mothering the rock stars who seem bent on their own destruction, "Little Rock Star" (which heavily echoes "Drunken Angel" from her Car Wheels release). Overall, a fine addition to William’s catalog of a bumpy, broken life where there are no Disney approved happy endings. Smitty

    BORIS GARCIA

    Once More Into the Bliss

    Oct 13, 2008

    Not a person, Boris Garcia is a band of five guys who've been on the Philadelphia music scene for some twenty years. They categorize themselves as "jamgrass", a fusion of folk, rock, blues, Celtic, and, of course, bluegrass. This, their third album, was produced by Jim Carbone of Railroad Earth and is chock full of good stuff. The first two songs are almost Beatles-esque in their instrumentation and production. Both "Through the Window" and "Go" (songs #3 and #4) are upbeat and catchy. You just might find yourself humming along the very first time you hear them; and any song about a cat ("Scootch") is okay with me. This is all in all a fine album. Reviewed by Rebecca Ruth.

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    CHARLIE HADEN – Family & Friends

    Rambling Boy

    Oct 13, 2008

    This whole production is awesome, from the the triplets harmonies, to Pat Methanys strait up jazz leads. Indeed enjoyable from start to end. Nice to hear Wildwood Flower played the way it was intended to be, or having Bela Fleck backing up Jack Black on Old Joe Clark. I recommend playing any track on this. – John Hardy

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    Thea Gilmore

    – Liejacker

    Oct 13, 2008

    A successful, engaging album. Songs are very polished musically and lyrically, including the opener “Old Soul” with its beckoning duet. “The Wrong Side” (Track #3) has some mesmerizing, psychedelic trickery, giving it an enjoyable eeriness. “The Lower Road” (Track #4) is a song of grim determination, with lonely fiddle and gentle guitar strumming, and backup from Joan Baez. “Dance in New York” (Track #6) is about self redemption that's nearly epic, but cello and accordion have a sobering effect. Rhythmic “Roll On” (Track #8) echoes the forward momentum theme of “The Lower Road”, but this time Gilmore fixes focus on states of denial, and living as an automaton. Gilmore's voice is light and breathy on “Icarus Wind” (Track #11); a very pretty song about the harshness of reality. As nice as the guitar, strings, and piano on these songs are to listen to, it's their smart and insightful lyrics that will earn them repeat listens. - Michael Loffelman

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    ELEANOR MC EVOY

    Love Must Be Tough

    Oct 7, 2008

    Dublin's Eleanor Mc Evoy gets grittier on this CD, using songs written by men (and not typically covered by women), as well as some new compositions of her own to convey some hard-learned and world-weary advice to those still fightin' for love and a decent life. The opener, "Mother's Little Helper" of Rolling Stones fame, starts with the famous line "What a drag it is getting old" and the hard-fought lessons of the narrator keep on coming throughout the tracks. But I didn't find the music depressing; rather it is delivered as sound -- if a bit lip-curled -- advice from a survivor. The title track sums it up, a fine new song by Eleanor, co-written with music legend Johnny Rivers (remember "Summer Rain"?). I liked the percussion-only background of Sly Stone's "If You Want Me to Stay" and the horns on the Van Morrison-ish "Roll Out Better Days." My hunch that Eleanor is, in the end, still encouraging us to keep on keepin' on was confirmed by the nod-and-a-wink rockabilly Nick Lowe closer "I Knew the Bride." Who needs Dr. Phil when we have Eleanor? 10/08 Michael J. F-Rock

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    Lambchop

    OH (ohio)

    Oct 6, 2008

    Not to be confused with the fictional sock puppet, Lambchop the band is best categorized as unclassified simply because what one hears on their latest release titled OH (Ohio) is just that – tough to put your finger on. Nevertheless, a thorough listen brings together a hybrid sound of country, soul, jazz, and folk – and that's just a start. With the lyrical wit of frontman Kurt Wagner, coupled with his deep baritone voice that sounds like a mixture between Lou Reed and Matt Berninger from The National fame, the band gets off to a pleasant start with the stripped down instrumentation found on the title track Ohio. Moving on, the piano kicks in along with the woodwinds on the beautifully crafted track titled Slipped Dissolved and Loosed. However, perhaps the most pleasant sounding and commercially viable song on this release is the faster moving National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Wagner's sense of humor seems to come through here especially but it's also layered with some of the most delightfully sounding musicianship on the entire recording as well. The album ends with a couple of songs that incorporates Wagner's sing-speak style with a sound that might be classified as country by some. Close Up and Personal is a love song while I Believe in You is a Don Williams cover that seems to work fairly well here. Overall, while some songs such as I'm Thinking of a Number and Popeye seem to be too lengthy and not all that attention-getting, Lambchop does offer its fans some fine music to come back to over and over again. ~ Reviewed by Jeff Bouma Note track #6 titled Sharing a Gibson With Martin Luther King Jr is not playable due to FCC regulations.

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    MARK ERELLI

    – Delivered

    Oct 6, 2008

    Erelli reveals personal lyrics over simple, catchy melodies that address politics & Iraq ("Volunteers," "Shadowland," "Hope Dies Last"), driving along the east coast ("Baltimore," "Five Beer Moon"), and love ("Not Alone," "Delivered," "Once"). -Jon Lewandowski

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    DIGNEY FIGNUS

    – Talk of the Town

    Sep 29, 2008

    According to Gregg S. in his 2006 review, Digney was to be “considered one of the best new artists to watch for this year.” Im going to back that up. Digney is back to his normal self here after his ‘06 “concept album,” and I'm liking it. The only complaint I have here is that several of the tracks are a little too “country,” but I found myself swaying to the music just the same. This had to grow on me, and it might be one to grow on you too—give it a couple of spins and see what happens. – Pete

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    ELIZA GILKYSON

    – Beautiful World

    Sep 29, 2008

    This one should be called “Beautiful Album.” To be accurate one would have to also throw in “catchy.” Oh yes, potent is good too. Political? Definitely. OK – Catchy, potent, political, poetic, intelligent, wildly fantastic….Beautiful World. – Pete

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    RODNEY CROWELL

    – Sex & Gasoline

    Sep 29, 2008

    According to the music director formally known as Linus, Rodney Crowell is one of those underappreciated WYCE artists. Hey, let’s all appreciate him now!!!! Produced by Joe Henry, guitars by Doyle Bramhall. – Pete

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    LAMBCHOP

    OH (ohio)

    Sep 28, 2008

    Not to be confused with the fictional sock puppet, Lambchop the band is best categorized as unclassified simply because what one hears on their latest release titled OH (ohio) is just that – tough to put your finger on. Nevertheless, a thorough listen brings together a hybrid sound of country, soul, jazz, and folk – and that’s just a start. With the lyrical wit of front man Kurt Wagner, coupled with his deep baritone voice that sounds like a mixture between Lou Reed and Matt Berninger from The National fame, the band gets off to a pleasant start with the stripped down instrumentation found on the title track Ohio. Moving on, the piano kicks in along with the woodwinds on the beautifully crafted track titled Slipped Dissolved and Loosed. However, perhaps the most pleasant sounding and commercially viable song on this release is the faster moving National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Wagner’s sense of humor seems to come through here especially but it’s also layered with some of the most delightfully sounding musicianship on the entire recording as well. The album ends with a couple of songs that incorporates Wagner’s sing-speak style with a sound that might be classified as country by some. Close Up and Personal is a love song while I Believe in You is a Don Williams cover that seems to work fairly well here. Overall, while some songs such as I’m Thinking of a Number and Popeye seem to be too lengthy and not all that attention-getting, Lambchop does offer its fans some fine music to come back to over and over again. ~ Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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    ANNE McCUE

    East of Electric

    Sep 27, 2008

    Melbourne, Australian native Anne McCue gives up her rocker image for a quieter, folksy blend of tunes recorded in Nashville. Inspired by the folk-rockers of '60s America, McCue tries her hand at it, to good effect. She plays virtually every instrument on this set -- guitars, banjo, mandolin, piano, percussion, ukulele and drums. Fans of her previous CDs will be surprised at the curve she throws listeners, but McCue is a good student of the folk-rock genre and holds her own. The first three tracks and "Money in the Morning" are highlights. The CD as a whole suffers a bit from the similarity of the songs and the (usually) reflective subject matter and tone, but there's no denying this artist's talent for songwriting and musicianship. MJVD 09/08 F-Contemporary

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    TONY LUCCA

    Canyon Songs

    Sep 25, 2008

    Michigan-born, Tony Lucca moved to Los Angeles after high school (by way of Orlando, FL) to work in movies and television. After some success, he decided to focus on his music. That focus must have worked because he won the LA Music Award for best male singer/songwriter in 2001. This, his fourth full-length album, is an album of songs about love or life on the road (and sometimes about the choice between the two). Tony plays guitar and sings with occasional forays into other instruments such as Wurlitzer and bass. He has the help of other musicians as well on such instruments as mandolin ad pedal steel. One of the best songs on this album is the first one, "Death of Me". It manages to combine melancholy lyrics with upbeat music and it actually works. Another good one is the happy-go-lucky "Sarah Jane". Reviewed by Rebecca Ruth

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    ANI DIFRANCO

    - Red Letter Year

    Sep 23, 2008

    Red Letter Year is Ani DiFranco's 16th Studio Release and definitely doesn't disappoint. In a year where there has been a ton of great releases from a lot of my favorite artists, Red letter Year is on my top ten for 2008. The mood of Red Letter Year is lush musically with lots cool hooks/ melodies. Guest collaborators include Animal Prufrock of Bitch and Animal, Jenny Scheinman-Jazz Violinist and C.C. Adcock-cajun/zydeco musician. Smiling Underneath is the first release and is vintage moody/snapshot Ani. Upbeat, in your face Ani is present in Alla This, Emancipated Minor & Landing Gear. I really dig acoustic/ reflective Ani so I really enjoyed the cut Way Tight. Good Luck is a new fave too. Ani has made New Orleans her home since Katrina and there is cajun flavor on the Title cut and Red Letter Year Reprise. – Sherry C **Red Letter Year and Round A Pole great, but Airplay No-No's due to FCC/language.

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    MERLE JAGGER

    – Rancho Los Angeles

    Sep 23, 2008

    Perhaps this L.A.-based trio of sessionaires called their exuberant electric hillbilly experiment "Merle Jagger" because "Mick Haggard" didn't have the right ring to it, but the hybrid idea is clear and brilliant -- fusing bluegrass, hard country-rock, and jazz into an instrumental cauldron that is unlike anything any of those individual genres has heard before. Driven by Mark Christian's blazing, lightning-fast electric guitar, banjo, and mandolin, Patrick Flores' bubbling bass, and Brandon Goldstein's explosive drumming, this disc is a sh*tkicker's dream, a near hour of fast-paced, raucous party music that flies in the face of much of today's ultra slick country-pop. Think Johnny Cash on speed, and you're off to a good start on the slammin' opening track, "Ranchero," and on "Ranch Party." They crank it up even more for the appropriately titled "Hillbilly No. 9," which makes you wonder how incredibly rockin' the other eight were. "In Through the Out Take" is a little more conventionally bluesy, but "Trash Tornado" is a place where surf guitar wears a cowboy hat that just won't stay on. Even when "Granny Takes a Trip," she's flyin' off her rocker. Anyone who's ever loved country-rock, modern or classic, will enjoy the trip; these guys do their namesakes, Mick Jagger and Merle Haggard, very proud. – Allmusic.com

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    GIANT SAND

    Provisions

    Sep 19, 2008

    The main force behind this band is Arizona native Howe Gelb. He channels his inner Leonard Cohen for vocals as well as playing guitar and piano. This album was recorded mostly in Denmark with Danish musicians on bass, drums, and slide guitar. The addition of the Electric Apes (from Canada)horn section on several tracks makes this alt-country album a truly international affair. Several guests join in on vocals, notably Neko Case on the country-noir "Without A Word" and M. Ward on "Can Do" (sounding quite a bit like Johnny Cash, no less). This seems to be the perfect album for a night-long drive through the desert. Unfortunately, living in Michigan, we'll just have to listen and use our imagination. Reviewed by Rebecca Ruth

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    MICHAEL DOUCET

    FROM NOW ON

    Sep 12, 2008

    Michael Doucet is best known for his role as fiddle player for one of the highest profile Cajun bands in the world, BeauSoleil. This solo release doesn’t stray far from the traditional Cajun music of BeauSoleil other than to pare the instrumentation down to just Doucet or, on a few tunes, to Doucet and either Todd Duke or Mitchell Reed on guitar or second fiddle. Regardless of the line-up, Doucet never fails to entertain. Allen Touissant’s "Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky" kicks things off in fine style with a powerful groove that makes it sound bigger than the acoustic duet that it is. "Madam Bourdreaux" is a rocking number that sounds like it could have fallen from one of his cousin Zachary Richard’s discs. "A Closer Walk with Thee/I Know" mixes things up a bit by tacking a funky ending onto the quiet, introspective introduction. Those looking for traditional French Cajun music and vocals should check out "Bee de la Manche" and "Chez Denouse". As is the case with much Cajun music, instrumental tracks dominate much of this disc with "Letwo-step de Basile", "Reels de Mamou", "Brasse le gombo vite (Stir the Gumbo Fast)", "Wade’s Two Step", "Chere Evangeline", "Happy One Step" and "L’amour ou la Folic" focusing on the traditional, and "Fonky Bayou" getting a more contemporary twist. Doucet also isn’t afraid to step outside the Cajun box a bit: "Madame Young" and "Contredanse De Mamou" have a more traditional folk feel and "New Orleans", "You Gotta Move" and "Saint Louis Blues" are closer to jazz and blues but fit in fine nevertheless. And what would a Cajun disc be without an accordion? "Amedee’s Accordion" takes care of that necessary ingredient. Throughout, Doucet’s playing is never less than mesmerizing with his solo tracks sending you to the liner notes to confirm all the intricate sounds are coming from just one man. Smitty

    DELILAH DEWYLDE & THE LOST BOYS

    Honky Tonk Heart

    Sep 9, 2008

    The signature "chugga-chugga" of the guitars and the bass and the steady drumbeat alerts you immediately you're in vintage Johnny Cash territory as local musicians Delilah and the boys churn out ten honky tonk tunes, three of them instrumentals (#2, #5 and #10). Adding to the drama, the Lost Boys happen to be Delilah's three ex-husbands (top that, Man in Black). Delilah sings about trucks, bars, busted hearts and Stonewall Jackson with alternately tough and pleading vocals and the boys, well, they just keep that train-like beat coming. One of the boys sings the vocal on "Adios" (#8), otherwise She Who Can Stand On Her Bass And Play It At The Same Time is in the driver's seat. Turn back your musical clock and give it a spin. MJVD 09/08 F-Honky Tonk LOCAL

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    Glen Campbell

    Meet Glen Campbell

    Aug 18, 2008

    This may be Glen Campbell’s reinvention at the twilight of his career. This is an album stocked with contemporary pop-rock covers, some done well, but none done better. He attempts to work his magic with some strange choices like the Foo Fighters’, “Times Like These” and Velvet Underground’s, “Jesus.” It’s a man with a guitar, who gives his best, that’s it. At only 10 songs long, Meet Glen Campbell is a perfect summer goof: quick, disposable, retro and extremely listenable. Reviewed By LaRae

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    BON IVER

    For Emma, Forever Ago

    Aug 18, 2008

    Justin Vernon aka Bon Iver (pronounced bohn eevair, French for “good winter” which is a greeting/celebration) has received critical praise since this record was released back in February. For Emma, Forever Ago is simply beautiful. Vernon’s muted guitar strums and falsetto voice join together as famously as peanut butter and jelly (or chocolate)…he definitely has a genuine talent. As a whole, the record is entirely cohesive throughout and remains centered around a certain sentiment, probably having to do in part by where the record was recorded: at the onset of winter in a cabin in Northwestern Wisconsin. This record is humble and compellingly sorrowful, yet it keeps you warm inside. Reviewed By: LaRae

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    CITY AND COLOUR

    Bring Me Your Love

    Aug 11, 2008

    Canadian, Dallas Green, sings vocals for the band, Alexisonfire. This is his second solo release. This is a guy with a guitar. That's my way of saying...hmmm...not really my cup of tea. Dallas Green writes earnest (The Death of Me), sometimes pretty (As Much As I Ever Could) songs. Interestingly, all the songs I picked as highlights are the ones with drums in them, "Sleeping Sickness" and "Waiting" included. If you like quiet, acoustic tunes, this well-produced album may be for you. Reviewed by Rebecca Ruth

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    DAR WILLIAMS

    Promised Land

    Aug 2, 2008

    The new release from Dar Williams give us more of her jangly guitars and stories about relationships and leaving a positive footprint on this earth (both environmentally and emotionally). Most of this is from her pen, with interesting exceptions "Troubled Times" (from the band Fountains of Wayne) and "Midnight Radio" (from the soundtrack of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"). Her upbeat songs are impossible to get out of your head, like "It's Alright" (with Marshall Crenshaw on guitar), "The Easy Way," and "Go to the Woods" (with Suzanne Vega). "Buzzer" is about a Yale University '60s psychological experiment. 08/08 MJVD F-Contemporary

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    WALTER HYATT

    Some Unfinished Business (Volume 1)

    Aug 1, 2008

    Mr. Hyatt was working on this album at the time of his death in 1996. (He was a casualty of a Valu-Jet crash in the Florida Everglades.) His wife, Heidi, worked with many noted musicians to get this album finished, thus the title. This is an exceptional album. Mr. Hyatt puts his rich baritone voice to good use on this piece of modern Americana. Exceptional production can be found here as well as the use of many different stringed instruments, woodwinds, and occasional harmonica. The album starts out strong with "Motor City Man" and continues with the jazzy blues of "Sheik ShBoom" and on to the honky-tonk blues of "Reach for Me". Reviewed by Rebecca Ruth.

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    DONNA THE BUFFALO

    Silverlined

    Jul 15, 2008

    DTB celebrates its 20th year making a unique brand of delightful folk-rock-reggae-cajun music with a great set of Tara Nevins and Jeb Puryear tunes. DTB has traditionally paced their records this way, alternating Tara’s catchy three-minute slice-of-life numbers with Jeb’s longer, bigger topic song-poems (with a few exceptions along the way). Tara fares a little better this time around, with all of her songs hitting her intended irresistible musical target (e.g. “Temporary Misery,” “Locket and Key,” “I Don’t Need a Riddle”); Jeb has a few hits (“Tomorrow Still Knows,” “The Call” and the rollicking “Forty Days and Forty Nights”) and misses (“Biggie K,” “Blue Eyes”). All in all, “Silverlined” is a welcome addition to this summer of music, in my opinion the band’s best since 1998’s “Rockin’ in the Weary Land.” 07/08 MJVD F-Rock

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    ROBERT FORSTER

    The Evangelist

    Jun 13, 2008

    Previously of Brisbane band, The Go-Betweens, Robert Forster has released his first album in eleven years. This album features nice instrumentation from fellow Go-Betweens Adele and Glenn on bass and drums, as well as occasional mandolin, harmonica, keys, and other strings. Some of these songs were co-written by Robert's writing partner of 30 years, Grant McLennan, shortly before he passed away. This album plays as a remembrance of him. Two of the best songs on the album were co-penned by Grant. One being the sixth track, "Let Your Light In, Babe", which has some nice mandolin in it. The other, being the ninth track, "It Ain't Easy", which rocks a bit in an Old 97's kind of way. Reviewed by Rebecca Ruth

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    JUDY WRIGHT

    Judy Wright

    Jun 8, 2008

    You look at the album cover and hear the first notes of the opener, "Beautiful Rainy Day" and you're ready for an Alison Krauss-type vocal and sweet country sounds. You don't get it. Judy Wright's deep alto voice, bluesy chords, Jazz-influenced delivery and everything's-not-okay lyrics present a much different experience. Wright started singing with her fanily's gospel group, went Opryland country and then sang in a 1940's style band -- and all of these influences combine for a unique Americana approach. I think she's on the right track with the music, but could use additional lyric punch. Nevertheless, I appreciated the fresh direction of the artist and the music. 06/08 MJVD F-Americana

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    HAYDEN

    In Field and Town

    Jun 5, 2008

    Hayden Desser wrote and recorded this, his fifth full-length album at his home studio in Ontario, Canada. This is typical singer/songwriter fare with Hayden singing mostly sad lyrics over nice instrumentation. He produced this disc as well, and I think he did a nice job with the mix. He seems to be promoting himself as an indie musician; having opened for such acts as Feist and The National. I think the title track is one of the highlights of this album. Track #4, "Worthy of Your Esteem", features lush string arrangements. Track #6, "Did I Wake Up Beside You", is almost a country-rock piece and certainly sounds influenced by Neil Young. Reviewed by Rebecca Ruth

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    ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO

    Real Animal

    Jun 1, 2008

    Escovedo's ninth release and the second since he made a triumphant comeback from death's door (due to hepatitis C), is a joy-filled reflection on his musical career, with buddy Chuck Prophet on board as co-songwriter and band mate helping A.E. tell his rock 'n roll story. The record starts with a bang, as the first four cuts rock out with an early Los Lobos feel. A.E. settles into some slower reminiscences after that, with two exceptions -- a punk-style tribute to one of his rock idols, Iggy Pop ("Real as an Animal") and a rock-beat reminder of his early rock days ("Chip 'n' Tony"). "Chelsea" refers to his time hanging out with infamous punksters Sid and Nancy. This guy's been around! After thinking of A.E. as a brooding but brilliant musician, I liked hearing this side of him -- enjoying the music and the musicians he's met along the way. Standout tracks: "Always a Friend," "Sister Lost Soul" and "Swallows of San Juan." 06/08 MJVD F-Rock

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    ARTIE TRAUM

    Thief of Time

    May 29, 2008

    Traum has been featured on more than 35 albums. He has produced or recorded with such luminaries as: Richie Havens, Maria Muldaur, Eric Anderson, Paul Butterfield, Rory Block, James Taylor, Pete Seeger, and David Grisman among others. Traum's songs have been featured on PBS, BBC, ESPN, and CBS and now WYCE! Artie Traum’s album, Thief of Time, is somewhat hard to describe. It’s part jazz, part soft rock and a pinch of country. Traum’s music has a simplicity that is pleasing. The album doesn’t rely on heavy production to make it sound better. Instead, the singing and background instruments are enough and the songs are varied enough to keep the album fresh from the first track to the last. - Anne Lamont

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    Spencer Mulder

    On The Way

    May 28, 2008

    On The Way is Spencer Mulder’s debut album from the Mackinaw Harvest Music Group. Spencer Mulder is a young Grand Rapids based singer/songwriter. The album, On The Way, a “rootsy intelligent pop music” collection consisting of 12 tracks, is cleverly produced and recorded, with good guitar riffs and good singing. The album seems to have the same underlying theme, the mysterious “she” and what she did to me. This album will have teenage girls going crazy. – Intern Andrew

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    Jetty Rae

    Blackberries

    May 26, 2008

    Jetty Rae is a singer/songwriter from Charleviox, Michigan. Her album Blackberries, contains 11 tracks, all either Folk or Soul, are very well put together. Each song is simple and really accents her lyrics, which are sung beautifully. Her website describes is as “nap time in Heaven”, the singing is just that. The harmonizing on each track, mostly all her throughout the album, is very well done. There is a hint of religion due to references to faith, God and Jesus but I wouldn’t say it is Christian music. – Intern Andrew

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    The Brass Kings

    Washboard Rope Guitar

    May 26, 2008

    This Minneapolis trio features a simple lineup and an energetic show that will appeal to fans of the Tarbox Ramblers, Mulebone, and Devil in a Woodpile. Percussive instruments include a washboard, a rope, tambourine, fridge door and hand drum. The sound is rounded out with washtub bass and acoustic and resonator guitars. –Pete

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    Phil Barry

    Between The Carolinas

    May 19, 2008

    The more I listen to West Michigan artists, the more impressed I become. This region holds some real musical talent. If this disc is any indication, Phil Barry is every bit as talented as many national artists. You’ll find some very catchy tunes here from this Kalamazoo artist, formerly of the band Knee Deep Shag. This is very accessible, well-produced music, with straightforward lyrics, nice vocals, and fine instrumentals. These are mostly love songs about troubled relationships, but instead of being angst-ridden downers, they’re short and hook-laden. I only wish there was more to this disc, which comes in under 26 minutes. - Tim Smith

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    THE BAND OF HEATHENS

    THE BAND OF HEATHENS

    May 15, 2008

    This Austin band has built a huge local following and is starting to catch on everywhere else. Their free-form, rootsy grab of country and folk-rock won them last year's Best New Band at the Austin Music Awards. Everything I’ve read and heard about them says they are a live show not to be missed. Produced by Ray Wylie Hubbard, this album includes guest musicians such as Patty Griffin, Gurf Morlix, and even Ray himself. “Stones fans who loved the Band but prefer the Gourds to the Black Crowes will be very happy with The Band of Heathens…” (The Austin Chronicle) Reviewed By LaRae WYCE Programmer

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    LUKE SAYERS AND THE LAST TO KNOW

    Radio Flower

    May 12, 2008

    This independently-released album features multi-instrumentalists Luke Sayers and Mark Iannace on vocals and Mike Gabelman on drums. It is a country-flavored disc with Luke and Mark harmonizing well together. Track #3 "I Hear You" in particular has some nice harmonies. this album also features well-written songs such as track #8 "What I Should've Said", which won the 2005 Great Lakes Songwriting competition. All these songs are originals, except for the last one, which is a Johnny Cash composition. Mr. Sayers chose to record that tune with a decidedly Caribbean flair. Reviewed by Rebecca Ruth

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    SERA CAHOONE

    Only As the Day is Long

    May 12, 2008

    From playing guitar, drums, and even harmonica to singing and writing, this Seattle resident knows how to make music. On this, her second release, Sera wrote some beautiful melodies and she sings them hauntingly in an almost alto voice. That voice is paired nicely with banjo and harmonica on the title track. The slow fifth track, "Shitty Hotel" features nice harmonies and some well-played pedal steel guitar. It probably shouldn't be played on the air, though, due to the word "shitty" in the lyrics. The seventh track, "The Colder the Air", offers pedal steel as well as fiddle and vocals with some effects on them, making it nice and lush. This album ends with the acoustic "Seven Hours Later". It's a nice quiet song with some banjo and tambourine thrown in toward the end. Reviewed by Rebecca Ruth

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    Railroad Earth

    Amen Corner

    May 12, 2008

    Anticipation has been building for a new Railroad Earth release and for the first time in 4 years, the band members found themselves back in the studio recording all new material. It's definitely a home-grown project, much like the band itself. Railroad Earth's new studio release, Amen Corner, was written and recorded at Lone Croft: an empty, 300 year-old house in New Jersey's rural countryside. What happened inside the building was the experience of a lifetime for the band's members, resulting in an early creative pinnacle of a gifted young band, and an album that is an instant Americana classic. Amen Corner is a collection of crisp and crafted roots, bluegrass, and acoustic sides that resonates in all the right places. The tunes breathe both on and between the notes. – Joe Parsaca

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    Allison Downey

    Across The Sea

    May 12, 2008

    Allison Downey's second album, Across The Sea, is not quite as diverse as the press release makes it out to be, but it's still a wide-ranging (and, most importantly) enjoyable album to listen to, if for nothing else than to take in Downey's voice (which shifts in tone and texture from song to song). The songs themselves tend to sit mostly on the folk side of things, although they do occasionally wade in to rock territory. Downey is at her best here when the songs are a bit more abstract, like “Landscape” and “Blue Deep Aegean.” If you're looking for a simple, down-to-earth folk album, Across The Sea might be just what you're looking for. – Adam Goran

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    The Doc Marshalls

    Honest For Once

    May 12, 2008

    This is country! Not bluegrass, not old-timey, not Kenny Chesney, just good ol’ country music! The core of most of the songs is guitar (with the perfect amount of twang), fiddle, the occasional pedal steel, and understated lyrics on less-than-happy topics (stuff like love lost, a gun-toting ex, travel across state lines… you know, country). This album has done well on the Americana Radio Chart even though these guys just self-produced it out of their home base, New York City. Pretty much any track is worth a listen. Tracks 1 and 2 have more drive than most of the others, and if you like a full-blown country sound complete with banjo and mando, try Dakota (track 7). Also, Nick Beaudoing, the front man, is a southern Acadian so there are a couple of Cajun two-steps thrown in (tracks 4 and 8), complete with accordian. The last song is a nice waltz. - Lew

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    Various Artists

    My Blueberry Nights Soundtrack

    May 12, 2008

    The My Blueberry Nights soundtrack is an impressive romantic collection that stands on it's own apart from the film. This Album features a wide array of american music both old new and old that touches upon R&B, Soul, Rock, Funk, Folk and Jazz. Including 'The Story' a new song by Norah Jones ( Which makes her acting debut) Based on her experience in the film. Also Cassandra Wilson shines a new glow to the Neil Young classic 'Harvest Moon'. As well as music by Cat Power, Otis Redding, Ruth Brown, Mavis Staples, Amos Lee and instrumental selections from the score by Ry Cooder. – Joe Parsaca

    Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder

    Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass : Tribute to 1946 and 1947

    May 11, 2008

    Bluegrass mogul Ricky Skaggs and his band of musical cohorts Kentucky Thunder pay tribute to the likes of Bill Monroe & His BG Boys and Flatt & Scruggs on this homage to the veritable kings of pickin’. Although the variation in sound isn’t much to shout about, those familiar with bluegrass and the wizardry of Skaggs will tap their toes as Ricky & Co. burn through these cuts with the speed of lightning. Kentucky thunder is right! All tracks suitable for airplay Reviewed by Trevor Edmonds : May 2008

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    KATE RUSBY

    Awkward Annie

    May 9, 2008

    Take Rusby performing lovely ballads, both original and traditional, add lush strings, brass, and a lively banjo - spice with guests like Chris Thile, Kris Drever, John Doyle and you have the recipe for a Celtic delight. Despite a very tough year (in the liner notes she said she gave up making this cd more than once) she has managed give us songs that rise above. I found "Awkward Annie," "Bitter Boy," "Planets," and "Daughter of Heaven," enchanting. Ms. Rusby has won a bunch of awards in the past 10 years and this cd shows you why. Anne Lamont

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    Various Artists

    Fox On A Hill Records

    May 5, 2008

    This album commemorates the very first year of Fox On A Hill productions. Fox On A Hill was created in Northern Michigan in the fall of 2006 to assist artist with promotion, production and distribution. This disc includes one track from each album that Fox On A Hill helped produce. Working directly with independent artists including Seth Bernard, Daisy May, Steppin In It, Breathe Owl Breathe and Rachael Davis. Artist whom were well on their way to building successful careers as musicians before working with Fox On A Hill. In an Industry that's constantly on the change, Fox On A Hill strives to embrace flexibility in music today. – Joe Parsaca

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    Big Leg Emma

    Gramma Don't Like That

    May 5, 2008

    Big Leg Emma is a six member Americana Folk Roots Rock band from Jamestown, New York. They are most certainly in their element playing live combining folk, bluegrass, Cajun, Alt- Country, Rock & other sounds to create a true American landscape of sound. Combining both Male & Female vocals BLE is a large part Donna the Buffalo mixed in with elements of Poi Dog Pondering. This CD recorded live in Erie Pennsylvania showcases both the high energy & fun this band brings to the stage. Most tracks are originals with the exception of Minor Gadget & a really nice cove of Steve Miller’s classic “The Joker”. The only unanswered question I still had after listening to this disc is who is Emma? - Gregg Saur

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    Jackson Browne

    Solo Acoustic Vol. 2

    May 5, 2008

    The second offering of live solo material from Browne and it delivers just as nicely as the first. Fans will appreciate Browne’s musicianship on this record as he’s a great performer telling stories and interacting with the crowd during his set. Including some of his more well-known cuts. Check out tracks 1 “Never Stop”, track 8 “Sky Blue And Black”, track 12 “Casino Nation”, and track 15 “Somebody’s Baby.”

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    China Forbes

    '78

    May 5, 2008

    China Forbes is the lead singer for Pink Martini...a west coast band with a "cult" following. This is China's first solo effort. I liked the CD...it is very mellow, pop music. Influences a bit by Cheryl Crow, and Joni Mitchell. All songs were written by China. Reading other reviews, it seemed that fans of Pink Martini were split on the CD...apparently this is a different genre. Other reviewers really liked the sound. A few of my favorite cuts were '78 (the title cut) and Time on my Hands. Very mellow sound. – John Rumery

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    Goldmine Pickers

    Lonesome Gone

    May 5, 2008

    Goldmine Pickers is a young, passionate, four-piece band weaving together roots and inspiration in bluegrass, jazz, folk and Irish traditions to create an energetic new space in Americana music. With memorable acoustic performances, the group has magnetized audiences in intimate to expansive concert halls, at festivals and on live radio shows with inspiring interplay between guitar, mandolin, upright bass and a fiery fiddler and soaring, heartfelt harmonies. Lead vocals are shared smoothly between Lukas Simpson (guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, harmonica) and Jay Lapp (mandolin, guitar), with contributions by Sean Hoffamn (fiddle) -- they "capture the audience" with "really nice, tight three-part harmonies," described a reviewer at acousticguitar.com, who also said, "I was virtually stunned at the quality of play at the concert. [And] chemistry and stage presence weighed very nearly as much as musicianship in reasons for enjoying the concert."

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    Eef Barzelay

    Rocket Science Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

    Apr 28, 2008

    A charming soundtrack that compliments the film’s awkward struggle in life as a teenager (an even more clever Napoleon Dynamite, with all the awkward and hysterical laughs). Mostly composed of snippets straight from the film, there are some actual composed pieces of music that are fitting with the movies’ character’s interchanges. Check out tracks 2 “Fight Song Melodies”, The Violent Femmes’ track 11 “Kiss Off”, track 16 “I Love The Unknown”, and track 21 “Girls Don’t Care”.

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    Yael Naim and David Donatien

    Yael Naim

    Apr 21, 2008

    The entire cd was great, and the eclectic style seemed to fit with WYCE music. Some of the songs are in French, others in English but still have a little French in them. Either way, her sound is very pleasing to the ears. My favorite song for WYCE to play was "Too Long", but the song "New Soul" from the Apple commercial is also a good song.

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    A.A. BONDY

    American Hearts

    Apr 15, 2008

    Beautiful, dark, haunting and charming. A.A.’s songs of damnation, salvation and drunken brawls would best suit my mood on a cold fall or winter day. At times I imagined this was a recording from the sixties that had just been rediscovered. It sounds historic and plain gritty at times. I found this bit to be helpful and true: “American Hearts has everything you’re looking for in an indie-folk record. There’s food for thought, imagery aplenty and the gentle meeting of soft textures with raw content. The stories may not be as inventive, but it never hurts to hear another man’s take on the world around you. Especially if he’s wielding a harmonica.”(absolutepunk.net) His never-resolved ambiguity is the album’s most intriguing attribute. Reviewed by LaRae WYCE Programmer

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    Steppin' In It

    Simple Tunes For Troubled Times

    Apr 14, 2008

    Toting an ample supply of vintage instruments and a sound that brings listeners back to the days of old-time radio, Steppin’ In It is determined to make a dent in the roots community. Hailing from Lansing, Michigan -the heart of Factory Town, USA- these young men pound out their own brand of roots combining old-time country, swing and blues . Steppin' In It's current lineup has been jamming together about five years. here they step out with a raft of new songs and tunes, plus covers of RandyNewman's 'Have Pity on the Working Man' and Dan Kahn's 'WashtenawCounty.' With guests Rachael Davis, clarinetist Rob Callazo and more. Here you'll get some of the liveliest and most rocking acoustic roots music around that is the future of bluegrass. – Joe Parsaca

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    Silent Radio

    Silent Radio

    Apr 14, 2008

    Silent Radio's self titled debut is a classic example of Ann Arbor's eclectic blend of rock, reggae, and roots. Evolving from a jam band assembled in the late 1970's, Silent Radio first formed in 1982, played in the Ann Arbor and Detroit areas, and achieved its present form in 1984. The band members' different musical influences are reflected in the unique styles of their original songs.s.Having moved on to solo projects in 1988, Silent Radio a 15-song retrospective. Since this project was released, Silent Radio has continued to perform in various forms.re-formed in 1994 for this studio project. – Joe Parsaca

    Peter Moren

    The Last Tycoon

    Apr 14, 2008

    Peter Moren is the Peter of the Swedish group Peter, Bjorn & John. He wrote most of these songs while touring with PB&J, and recorded them over a 2 year span. It is a decidedly down-tempo CD, very folksy, and quiet. The CD has a "distinctly homemade feel that feeds from the folk singer-songwriter tradition but still incorporates strings, synths, vibraphones, percussion, a musical saw, and even a drum machine or two." Try track #9 Social Competence or track #6 My Match. Some interesting tidbits, "The album's title comes from the Elia Kazan film of the same name - an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished final novel. The film, like the novel, deals with failure: a failed attempt to live the American dream, basically." - Renae

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    Billy Bragg

    Mr. Love & Justice

    Apr 14, 2008

    Billy Bragg’s first release on Epitaph’s sister label Anti-. The politically-charged Bragg takes emotion sparked by war, hate, and greed and turns out yet another thought-provoking, protest-singing powerful record. However, Bragg continues to also bring unity and hope for the future. A terrific and relevant record, hopefully the masses will take notice. Check out tracks 1 “I Keep Faith”, track 4 “The Beach Is Free”, track 5 “Sing Their Souls Back Home”, track 9 “If You Ever Leave”, and track 11 “The Johnny Carcinogenic Show”. - Lane Zoerhof

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    Kris Delmhorst

    Shotgun Singer

    Apr 7, 2008

    Female singers are so prevalent nowadays, that the few that actually have great albums get overshadowed by those featured on television commercials and with marketing campaigns. Kris Delmhorst is one of those overshadowed artists. A smoky, sexy voice recalls Natalie Merchant. She can take over the mood with her voice using its’ power, but also making sure to let the music ride when need be. A great listen! Buy it immediately! Check out tracks 1 “Blue Adeline”, track 3 “To The Wire”, and track 4 “Midnight Ringer”. - Lane Zoerhof

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    She & Him

    Volume 1

    Apr 7, 2008

    "She" is Zooey Deschanel, indie boys' movie star crush of choice. "Him" M.Ward, the rootsy guitarist. Together they pose as a great lost 70's Am-gold couple. Their Acoustic vibe conjures up a time travel fantasy on a blindfolded trip on seeing how things can really be. Deshanels vocals are very similar to Carly Simon. She & Him don't do the best with covers, but do take a strange slowed down pedal steel ride on Lennon/McCartney's I Should Have Know Better. – Joe Parsaca

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    IKE REILLY

    POISON THE HIT PARADE

    Apr 1, 2008

    Chicago native Ike Reilly lists Bob Dylan, The Clash, and Judas Priest as influences, and its apparent in his music. Great lyrics, predictable and ubiquitous melodies and intonations along with a strange concoction of angst rock from the past five decades. Songs about high school love and football games along with tunes of disgruntled factory workers’ rebellion against the union and blowing up trains.

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    LISA HALEY

    King Cake

    Apr 1, 2008

    Lisa Haley & the Zydekats present their 6th CD and with a Grammy nod. This is the band you would hate yourself in the morning if they came and you didn’t see them. Keb'Mo, who produced a cd for Ms. Haley and plays on this cd, said "Lisa has the Spirit in her big time... she's got it goin' on! Her music just plain grabs you and takes you over!" This is Swamp Zydego with a grove. Just listen to Song 8.) Zydecosis: OH NO! you've caught it! Zydecosis: there is no cure... all you can do is Dance!

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    The Wood Brothers

    Loaded

    Mar 31, 2008

    The Wood Brothers lead by Chris Wood (from King Johnson) and his brother Oliver Wood (from Martin, Medeski, and Wood) have turned out an outstanding record. The blues/rock/folk equation has become a musical prize for all to enjoy. Filled with originals and a couple of covers with The Wood Brother’s own little ingredient. This record will bring pure enjoyment to those who listen to it; a record that will definitely be on repeat for months to come. Check out tracks 2 “Postcards From Hell”, track 4 “Loaded”, track 8 “Fall Too Fast”, and track 12 “Still Close” - Lane Zoerhof

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    String Cheese

    String Cheese

    Mar 31, 2008

    Fresh fusion of traditional celtic sounds and young rock-influencedrhythms, putting a young, modern spin on one of music's oldest genres. These two hail from the Michigan mitten and pridethemselves in composing andperforming feel-good celtic rock on violin and cello, Both electric andacoustic .Classical music performance majors at well-known universities. Introducing alternative styles, particularly celtic music, to highschool and middle school string programs throughout Michigan andbeyond, and preaching their importance in youth music education. – Joe Parsaca

    Jaymay

    Autumn Falli'

    Mar 31, 2008

    Jaymay's Autumn fallin is exactly that. An fallin autumn adventure throughout the seasons around. With only the beauty of Jaymay's guitar, voice, and zilaphone here and there is a pure folk essesce. By performing everything on Autumn Fallin, this is 100% Jaymay in every way. Autumn Fallin, is this New York Natiives first full length album. Autumn Fallin', a song cycle that vividly details the story of a New York City relationship gone south for the winter. A truely beautiful piece of work best listened through as a complete whole. – Joe Parsaca

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    Various Artists

    Our Side of Town: A Red House Records 25th Anniversary Collection

    Mar 31, 2008

    As you might suspect, these 18 previously released tracks by current Red House artists are a pretty solid bunch of songs. Overall, the sound has an informal, acoustic roots aura about it, but on closer inspection the songwriting and playing on each song are impeccable and well-thought out. Within this acoustic roots context there is still variety. There is the grittier, edgier stuff (1, 3, 11) The more country based stuff (2, 4, 17) The more wholesome sounding stuff (5, 8, 9, 16) To top it off, there is this string of extraordinary songs that are none of the above and perhaps worth a first listen: Jorma’s awesome fingerstyling (13) Guy Davis’ driving blues (14) Peter Ostroushko’s Midwest Worldbeat sound (15) -Pete Lewandoski

    Old Blind Dogs

    Four on the Floor

    Mar 31, 2008

    “Four on the Floor” should appeal to anyone who likes Celtic music. The eleventh release by a band that has changed its roster many times over the last fifteen years, this disc showcases fine musicianship, and a respect for traditional Scottish music. You’ll find some singing in Scots Gaelic, some in English, some instrumentals, and a few live tracks; all are worth listening to. I particularly liked “Cairn O’ Mount,” (a tune in which a lover in disguise tests his partner’s faithfulness -- a standard theme in many a Celtic song) but really they’re all good. Four stars out of five. - Tim Smith

    Doug MacLeod

    The Utrecht Sessions

    Mar 31, 2008

    The songs on Doug MacLeod’s “The Utrecht Sessions” embody the delta blues. Whether playing on his National Delphi or on 12-string guitar, his sound is genuine. Not all tracks are great – “Sheep of a Different Color” is a bit too long and preachy, and several are a little too subdued to maintain my interest – but others are worth a listen. I liked tracks 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, and 11. Tim Smith

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    JAMES MCMURTRY

    Just Us Kids

    Mar 28, 2008

    James McMurtry’s Just Us Kids is more comparable to a movie than to music. His latest CD is like watching a movie that’s hard to take—one where you know the filmmakers are getting out an important message—but there’s no lightening of the mood to provide any relief. You trudge through the movie and at the end, you don’t regret it, but you didn’t enjoy the film. There’s a raw, uncensored, and unprocessed emotional nature to many of the songs. (His songs also recall the writing of Steven King, who endorses McMurtry.) Some lines are brilliant, but overall I found it hard to connect with the songs. I’m willing to acknowledge that, as a woman, I don’t appreciate the brutal honesty of lines like those in “Bayou Tortous”: “I was looking at every woman but mine / I was looking at the faces, looking at the parts / Looking through the whole in the bottom of my heart.” “Cheney’s Toy” is going to get more ink than the album as a whole. You can figure out what the song’s about by knowing Cheney’s toy is the president.

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    Kaki King

    Dreaming of Revenge

    Mar 24, 2008

    Dreaming of Revenge solidifies Kaki King?s transition from an acoustic virtuoso to an increasingly talented singer-songwriter. Dreaming highlights both aspects wonderfully, with about half of the tracks being instrumentals and the others having lyrics. In 2006, she became the first woman to receive ?Guitar God? recognition from Rolling Stone. While she was finishing this album, she was also working with Sean Penn for the Into The Wild soundtrack as well as appearing on the Foo Fighters most recent CD. Every track on Dreaming?is a different experience, with King?s intricate guitar work sweeping from the background to the forefront and everywhere in between. - Ben C.

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    Billy Brandt

    The Mission

    Mar 24, 2008

    From Ferndale, MI Billy Brandt is the winner of the 2006 Detroit music awards for acoustic/folk instrumentalist. Having spent decades in the music business supporting other bands & artists. Billy Brandt has now found his own musical voice & steps into the spotlight on (The Mission Band) as a singer-songwriter for the first time in his amazing career. Influenced by the likes of Gram Parsons to the Grateful Dead, Billy Brandt has molded his sound by creating his own unique guitar picking that creates a haunting melody which stays with the listeners long after the song is over. – Joe Parsaca

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    Lvnmuziq

    Contemplating the Void

    Mar 24, 2008

    Liz Snavely is back with her followup to “Orange Kiss.” She’s a busy soloist with an entertaining and energetic live show. Over the last couple of years she has toured across the Midwest and developed a regular circuit of venues in which to play. She has also played many Grand Rapids venues, open mics, and has launched a series of successful house concerts in her Eastown residence with small indie acts like Boca Chica all the way up to Catie Curtis. -Pete For anyone looking for an honest folk album, Contemplating The Void should do the trick. – Adam Goran

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    The Waybacks

    Loaded

    Mar 24, 2008

    The Waybacks play country. Kind of. You see, the band mix their version of country with a lot of different things (primarily blues), and it works really well. Take for example, “Low Down”, which is a blues song by almost any definition of the genre. But listen to the solos in the song. Which instruments play them? Gritty electric guitar. Fiddle. Hammond Organ. One could go back and forth as to which of these instruments are blues instruments or not, but the fact remains that they make the song into else entirely. And it’s great. This isn’t to say that the band don’t occasionally play country unfiltered. They do. And when they do, it’s more than just good, it’s funny. “Conjugal Visit” is probably the best of the country material on this album, and the lyrics seem quite tongue in cheek, almost like satirical take on the characters who typically populate country songs. Or perhaps it’s not satirical it all. In either case, the song is excellent, and that’s about all I can say for the album as well. - Adam Goran

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    TIM O'BRIEN

    Chameleon

    Mar 18, 2008

    Tim O’Brien writes, “My songs mostly start with me and an instrument, and I perform that way about half the time. So last summer I loaded all my hillbilly apparatus—guitars, mandolins, banjos, etc.—into Gary Paczosa’s garage and played this batch of songs until I was finished.” O’Brien can make you think you’re listening to a band when he’s picking at his guitar strings or playing the fiddle. In Chameleon, he sings about ordinary life, relationships, and politics. “Megna’s” is a story about man who sells produce and is an exercise in exploring the ordinary through art. (A track for O’Brien fans but probably not for radio.) “The Only Way to Never Hurt” is lyrically one of the better songs on the album. O’Brien picks up the fiddle for “Phantom Phone Call” and quietly plays during “Safe in Your Arms” after a minute-long a cappella opening. He delves into politics in “When in Rome,” “World of Trouble,” and “This World Was Made for Everyone.” The latter track is a tongue-in-cheek look at America’s history, manifest destiny, and an ongoing sense of entitlement. But O’Brien’s sings, “If we follow our hearts, we can fix up this world.” A few songs seem to be crafted especially for entertaining live shows, like “Get Out There and Dance” and a perfect show-ender, “Nothing to Say (That Hasn’t Been Said).” The rest of the songs on this disc are just as noteworthy. --MLG

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    Back Forty

    Big Orange Tent

    Mar 17, 2008

    This band out of Ann Arbor is very hard to describe; Caffienated, funkfolkgrass. Very talented musicians- and at it's core this CD is "blue-grass"...but with a heavy dose of funk. Several tracks reminded me of Frank Zappa and the Mother's of Invention, while other tracks reminded me of Tower of Power (w/o the horns). A few reviews I read of this CD (and previous recordings) were positive, but seemed to be from fans who have attended their shows in Ann Arbor and surrounding areas. I think it would help to be familiar with their style (and performances) before buying this CD. This CD is well produced. No one track stuck out....most being very different. – John Rumery

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    Punch Brothers

    Punch

    Mar 17, 2008

    Punch Brothers is made up of five highly credentialed musicians. Chris Thile (of Nickel Creek fame) is the leader, if you will, on mandolin and vocals. This album has elements of bluegrass, chamber music and jazz. Tracks 2 through 5 are movements in a four-part composition. They all stand well on their own. Highlights are: Track #1, which is a straight-up bluegrass stomp and track #6, an instrumental with intricate string work. Another highlight is the quiet track #8. - Rebecca Ruth

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    David Wilcox

    Airstream

    Mar 17, 2008

    Yes, an Airstream. The songs were conceived and recorded in one. This is like the 10th or 12th album from this prolific writer, and it is barebones: just guitar and voice on the whole thing, that’s it. This allows ample opportunity for Wilcox to display his accomplished guitar work and smooth baritone vocal. And though he can turn a phrase pretty well, you get enough of his deep-life-lyrics after a while to border on being preached to. Not that that’s bad, necessarily, and especially when taken individually there is some good stuff here. There are: Love ballads (tracks 2, 6 and 11) Political/Religious songs that require you pay attention (tracks 4, 7, 8, and 9) Songs about life (the rest) 1, 3, 7, and 8 sat the best with me. - Pete Lewandoski

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    Danny Schmidt

    Little Grey Sheep

    Mar 17, 2008

    The title Little Grey Sheep refers to the fact that all of the songs on this album are castoffs that didn?t fit within the scheme of his previous two albums. They aren?t black sheep, completely outcast, but they weren?t favored enough to make the other albums. You get the idea. Schmidt?s earnest vocals bring out the full visual vibrancy of his lyrics and complement his simple guitar work. The intensely personal nature of the album makes it a pleasure to take in. - Ben C.

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    The Belleville Outfit

    Wanderin'

    Mar 17, 2008

    *A mix of swing, jazz, Blues, gypsy and roots* “Every couple of years, a group of acoustic musicians hits Austin and wins over an audience hungry for an eclectic musical mix. Like the Greencards and Hot Club of Cowtown before them, the Belleville Outfit possesses seemingly unlimited potential and youthful musical chops to awe the most jaded ears. Formed from the ashes of the DesChamps Band of Spartanburg, S.C., Outfit is led by guitarist Marshall Hood and singer-songwriter and guitarist Rob Teter. Their secret weapon is fiddle player Phoebe Hunt, whose spunky vocal turns make their sound unique. With "belle ville" being French for "beautiful town," the now local sextet claims their name is a nod to New Orleans, the town where they all first met. It's appropriate then that they swing from jazz to new grass, taking on a broad swath of American music with obvious glee. Add a couple of lovingly done Walter Hyatt covers, and the Belleville Outfit has crafted a captivating debut.” – The Austin Chronicle

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    SALLY BARRIS

    Restless Soul

    Mar 14, 2008

    Sally Barris has been known more as a writer for other singers, mostly country (e.g. Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Lee Ann Womack), but this is her third CD and the one poised to give her the attention, thanks to a marriage of her country style with a Celtic flair. The merger of these approaches on a number of these songs inches her closer to Alison Krauss, with a little Kate Rusby thrown in for good measure. The country-Celtic mix is heard on the best of this set, on songs like "Huntington River" (#2), "My Love Loves the Ocean" (#3) and "Tears of Joy" (#11). Stuart Duncan's fiddle is the key ingredient in all three. 03/08 MJVD F-Alt Country

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    Sally Dworsky

    Boxes

    Mar 10, 2008

    Dworsky has a lilting voice and her delicate, simple songs about loss don't weigh too heavily on the listener. She springs easily from note to note (“Boxes”, ”As the Snow”, “River of Love”, ”Rise”), but she sways too (“Slow”, ”Changing Everything”). Or combines these deliveries (“Breaking”, “My Home”). But Boxes isn't dainty or fluffy as Dworsky remains vulnerable throughout, and this intimacy keeps her album well grounded. All but one song hover around three and a half minutes, but every one is a sweet and honest few puffs of breath. - Michael Loffelman

    Chatham County Line

    IV

    Mar 10, 2008

    What do Godsmack, Cypress Hill, Led Zeppelin, Winger, Faust, Veruca Salt and Chatham County Line all have in common? They’ve all released albums entitled IV. Of course, Chatham County Line are way more of a roots band than the others on that list, playing a mix of bluegrass and country on IV, an album that’s so-familiar sounding, it’ll keep you wondering if you’ve heard it before. A quick rundown: it’s got the forlorn love ballad (The Carolinian), the breezy, everything’s-all-good song (Let It Rock), the sad political song (Birmingham Jail) and the uber-typical bluegrass hoedown (Clear Blue Sky). None of this means that IV is a bad album (it isn’t), but how much you enjoy it is going to depend on how heavily you gravitate towards music like this. – Adam Goran

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    Joel Mabus

    Retold

    Mar 10, 2008

    Joel Mabus reinterprets twelve of his older tracks on this, his fifteenth (!) album. Mabus has covered a lot of ground his career, ranging from folk, to traditional banjo and classical guitar music, as well as blues; he’s also released a live album and even a holiday album. Retold is an effective retrospective, but due to how drastically different some of these songs sound, it’s also something of a new album as well. – Adam Goran

    Yarn

    Yarn

    Mar 10, 2008

    A country-tinged bluegrass/folk album that could easily be in country mainstream. A nice little band that you could easily picture in your local dive bar. Simple guitar and drum, mixed well with instruments that make this classic bluegrass band. Check out tracks 1 “Listen Up Sweeetheart”, track 4 “Don’t Break My Heart Again”, track 6 “The Contender”, track 10 “Madeline”, and track 14 “Cat & Mouse”. – Lane Zoerhof

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    Basia Bulat

    Oh My Darling

    Mar 3, 2008

    Oh My Darling is an album that’s likely to please people with an affinity for syrupy acoustic music. I don’t think there’s any denying that, but the question is how well this album will fare with those who’ve grown weary with this type of musical earnestness. Well, after two listens, I still don’t know the answer to that question. I do know that not all the songs here are memorable (pretty much everything under the three minute mark is forgettable), but the ones that are serve as a reminder to why so many listeners and musicians flock to this approach to music. I also know that the two best songs on the album are Snakes and Ladders and In The Night, both of which are more upbeat and concise, and both have completely different tones to them (the latter is a lament of sorts, while the former is a more joyous affair). If Basia Bulat had crafted an entire album with songs as good as these, Oh My Darling would really be something excellent. As it stands, though, the album is just something. – Adam Goran, WYCE Intern

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    Detour

    Detour

    Mar 3, 2008

    Detour is a bluegrass band from Northern Michigan. Detour combines original contemporary bluegrass sounds along with great traditional favorites. With tight focused harmonies, precision instrumentals, and creative melodies, Detour takes you down a unique bluegrass road. Featuring the high lonesome vocals and low lonesome string bass of Zak Bunce, the tasty fiddle playing of Peter Knupfer, the soulful guitar of Scott Zylstra, the hard driving mandolin and superb song writing of Jeff Rose, and the stellar banjo playing of 2007 & 2001 National Banjo Champion Mike Sumner, Detour has quickly become a standout bluegrass band – “a bluegrass joyride.” Detour has enjoyed a highly successful first season receiving great critical acclaim at numerous concerts and festivals including Dunegrass and Wheatland.

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    JIM WHITE

    Transnormal Skiperoo

    Feb 26, 2008

    Jim White writes, “'Transnormal Skiperoo' is a name I invented to describe a strange new feeling I’ve been experiencing after years of feeling lost and alone and cursed. Now, when everything around me begins to shine, when I find myself dancing around in my back yard for no particular reason other than it feels good to be alive, when I get this deep sense of gratitude that I don’t need drugs or God or doomed romance to fuel myself through the gauntlet of a normal day, I call that feeling ‘Transnormal Skiperoo.’” Believe it or not, Jim White’s Transnormal Skiperoo is a pleasant, at times upbeat and playful CD. “A Town Called Amen” aptly opens the CD with a calm, capable piece that sets the listener at ease. “Turquoise House” is about being yourself, quirky impulses and all. “Crash into the Sun” is an uptempo song with a chorus that lets loose into “woo-hoos.” “Jailbird,” with a delicate minute-long introduction and quiet vocals, and “Diamonds to Coal” are moody pieces, clearly from the deep South. Devoted Jim White fans will find that “Plywood Superman” may arise from the lost feeling Jim describes above, but on the whole, Transnormal Skiperoo comes from a man confident in himself and his talents. --MLG

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    Caroline Herring

    Lantana

    Feb 19, 2008

    Caroline Herring : Lantana : Signature Sounds Being altogether unfamiliar with Caroline Herring, I was pleasantly surprised after listening to her latest offering, Lantana. The Georgia-based singer/songwriter, who, with the release of this record, recently came off a self-induced hiatus filled with the joyous, albeit time-consuming, immersion into family life, has crafted a record that reflects just that. Here is a woman that doesn’t have the time to beat around the bush with cute one-liners and overproduced pap. Herring’s songs are straightforward tales, effectively conveyed by tight, yet loose feeling, country/folk instrumentation in the vein of Wilco’s more recent Sky Blue Sky or Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline. All tracks suitable for airplay Reviewed by Trevor Edmonds : February 2008

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    COWBOY JUNKIES

    Trinity Revisited

    Feb 15, 2008

    19 years ago I was sitting in my dorm room at Aquinas College trying to find a decent radio station here in my new town of Grand Rapids. I stopped on a sparse, beautiful song that put me in a trance. It turned out to be Blue Moon, by the Cowboy Junkies. This moment was my first exposure to the band (as well as to this unique little radio station called WYCE). While nothing will ever compare the Junkies original, quiet, sleepy recording of Blue Moon, hearing it done now in Vic Chesnutt’s voice gives the song a whole new mournful element with an unsettling draw. The original Trinity Session was recorded in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto 20 years ago. This recording is responsible for creating many of the Junkies’ current fans. For this album and DVD (this session was filmed) they headed back to that same sacred place and recorded those same songs in a single day…just like they did 20 years ago. So what has been added? 20 years of music making experience and some extremely noteworthy artistic additions. These additions are Vic Chesnutt, Natalie Merchant, Ryan Adams and Jeff Bird; all four artists participate fully throughout. The quality is seamless. Natalie’s vocals weaving with Margo’s have resulted in a version of Misguided Angel that has never sounded better. The lovely, lonely innocence of the original session cannot be replaced, but the songs wear maturity well. Becky Kenny February 2008

    ALLISON MOORER

    Mockingbird

    Feb 13, 2008

    Just like her sister, Shelby Lynne, alt-country folksinger Allison Moorer's latest is a set of (mostly) covers, in this case songs by women composers who have inspired her. The title track is Moorer's own; the rest is a virtual WYCE eclectic playlist of artists such as June Carter Cash, Patti Smith, Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, Ma Rainey, Gillian Welch, Cat Power and, yes, even sister Shelby. Husband Steve Earle lends an instrumental hand and the whole collection is under the watchful eye of Buddy Miller. Hard to find fault with this all-star line-up. Moorer said she purposefully stayed away from the usual folk-writing superstars such as Lucinda and Emmylou and chose the songs that, in her words, "I bring the most to, what my gut wanted to do and my spine knew was right.” Good choices. 02/08 MJVD Folk-Americana

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    FERGUS MCCORMICK

    I Don't Need You Now

    Feb 11, 2008

    I Don't Need You Now is Fergus McCormick's third album and is a blend of folk and rock that alternates between medium paced and slow songs. McCormick delivers an album full of melancholy love songs like: "I Who Have Never Been With You," "Darling The World Doesn't Work Like That," "7 Flights," and the title track, "I Don't Need You Now." "City Boy" and "Mother Nature's Child" are two upbeat songs that merit listening too. --- Jerrod Willea

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    JASON COLLETT

    Here's To Being Here

    Feb 8, 2008

    Jason Collett Here’s To Being Here This is the fourth solo release by Collett, member of the Toronto-indie rock collective, Broken Social Scene. This album shows more of his folk/pop side with messy indie rock blended in. Some interesting instruments appear on this album with laser-synth, glockenspiel and harmonica accenting the warmly melodic vocals of Collett (whose voice I found reminiscent of a young Tom Petty or even Mr. Dylan.) Try tracks #2 “Sorry Lori” (light n’ groovy), #3 “Out Of Time” (a lil’ more rockin’), #4 “Papercut Hearts” (due to be the first single), and #6 “Charlyn, Angel of Kensington” (a chilled-out conga/melodica track) Reviewed by LaRae WYCE Programmer

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    ELLIS

    Break The Spell

    Feb 7, 2008

    Ellis is the kind of person you want to be making music. Great voice, confident guitar playing, these are just the kind of talented things that could be wasted, but is wisely put to use here. “Break The Spell” the sixth album released by Ellis, is an emotional journey through the familiar folk sound, but with a fresh take on the idea. “Before You Leave” was a track written for a friend who lost the battle with cancer two days after the song was recorded. This is the kind of song that really works well with Ellis’ voice. Her smooth, but slightly rough voice captures the emotion of the lyrical content perfectly. “City On Fire” is the stand-out-track here. The slightly political lyrics seem to be so true today, and will remain just as important in the years and decades to come. Ellis has won critics over as the “Best Female Performer” and also “Most Wanted To Return” at the 2006 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. These are not her first accolades, and I am sure with this release they won’t be her last.--Tim Warren for WYCE

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    BOWLES~RALSTON

    Rally at the Texas Hotel

    Feb 4, 2008

    Ralston, the ultimate West Michigan Folk music scenester, has just released the album his career has been waiting for. Not unlike the book High Fidelity, when record store owner and lifetime music critic Rob Gordon puts himself on the line and releases a piece of music for the first time, Ralston has really put his best effort forward here. Although this album is produced with the same care, the same quality, and the same producer as his 2004 WYCE Jammie-winning effort, Rally at the Texas Hotel closes the gap between the music that WYCE files under the categories of “Local” and “National.”

    A new key album in the “Kevin Bacon Game” of music has just been released. On keys we have Radoslov Lorkovic, a famous session and solo artist (5 albums) who has recorded with Odetta, Jimmy LaFave, Greg Brown, Richard Shindell, and Ellis Paul among others. In-demand producer Marvin Etzioni has also produced Peter Case, Toad the Wet Sprocket and the Counting Crows. We know Gurf Morlix (guitars etc) not only as an artist (4+ albums) and a session player (Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Miller, Peter Case, Jim Lauderdale, Mojo Nixon) but also as a producer (Robert Earl Keen, Lucinda Williams, Tom Russell). The colorful percussionist Jagoda from the band “Swamp Cabbage” rounds out the session team.

    All of these pieces mean nothing without the pie, and Ralston has tied the album together wisely, with years of planning. From start to finish, Rally…has a song progression that works intently as a whole, while each track stands alone distinctly. He performs eight of his own songs, and two deliberate covers; one from a cherished well-known artist, and one from a little-known artist with a good song to his name, also the title track.

    Perhaps the most endearing part of the release is the transparency of Ralston’s heroes shining through at every turn. You can hear Mark Heard throughout the album, not just on the track one cover. Other obvious influences include T-Bone Burnett, many of the players on the album, and the owner of the record label herself, Ms. Judy Collins (who he met at a gig in Manhattan). Bowles has an affinity for multi-talented singer/songwriter/producers with something to say. Now he’s one of them. –Pete Bruinsma, WYCE Music Director

    Sam Kenny

    See ThroughThe Storm

    Jan 19, 2008

    Somewhere in Southwest Michigan last Tuesday I put Sam Kenny in, turned on my headphone’s noise cancellers, and blanked with my head leaning against the cold window of an Amtrak train while empty parking lot lights lent a view. It was an ideal situation to become aquatinted with this Elliot Smith inclined folk singer (who he strangely doesn’t list under his influences (myspace)). You might also listen to this in a car, while sitting on a couch, lying in bed, taking a shower, or making breakfast. Just make sure to do it before the end of winter, as I think Kelli’s Song might become a favorite by the muddy and frosted days of March If you’re in a downloading state of mind look at, My Blue Son, the Nick Drake inspired Slipping on the Ice, and Nuclear Winter. Actually skip that, support this local artist and buy the entire album. It grows the more I hear it and I assure it will do the same for any listener. Derrick.

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    THE DIXIE BEE-LINERS

    Ripe

    Jan 18, 2008

    Ripe is the first full length album from this Virginia based bluegrass group. With fast paced songs like "The Bugs In The Basement" and "Old Charlie Cross," mixed in slow heartfelt songs "She's My Angel" and "Lost In The Silence" The Dixie Bee-Liners show off their verstility and range. "Lord, Lay Down My Ball and Chain" is featured in the movie American Shopper. "Why Do I Make You Cry" is the best song on the album with a mix of pop and folk that is accompanied perfectly by Brandi Hart's voice and is a must play. Jerrod Willea

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    CARRIE NEWCOMER

    The Geography of Light

    Jan 13, 2008

    Carrie’s 11th record for Rounder continues her attempt to do be a musical “polite firebrand,” which seems to mean you can make an important point without tearing someone’s head off. Her songs are always about making larger sense of the ordinary things in life. She says,” It’s about navigating that shadow and light in our lives, and all those gray spaces in between. There aren’t any easy answers – but there’s a lot of good questions.” She’s often influenced heavily by the recent books she’s been reading, and that’s true of this set as well. This time around, it is Quaker philosopher/writer Parker Palmer and novelist Scott Russell Sanders. While the songs attempt something more than surface issues, they don’t “feel heavy” and there are great wordplays (“Geodes”), vividly drawn characters (“Where You Been”) and humor (“Don’t Push Send”). It is good to know Carrie’s out there, paying close attention to life and reporting in once and a while. 01/08 MJVD F-Contemporary

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    SUZY BOGGUSS

    Sweet Danger

    Jan 9, 2008

    By recording Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now,” Suzy Bogguss has firmly planted herself in the adult contemporary genre. Sweet Danger, the ex-country singer’s most recent album, features a smooth jazz backdrop for Bogguss’s agreeable vocals. Most songs are midtempo, but “Right Back into the Feeling” is a bluesy, uptempo tune. “In Heaven” is called the “emotional centerpiece of the album” and tells the story of a wife talking to her dead husband in heaven about her new love (think “Butterfly Kisses”). “Chain Lover” and “No Good Way to Go,” a song about leaving one’s lover, feel like thematic misfits on the honeyed album, although “Chain Lover” offers a great metaphor: “I’m a chain lover, lightin’ up another before I put the other one out.” --MLG

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    THE BRIDGE

    The Bridge

    Dec 3, 2007

    The new face of alt-country is here in the self-titled debut of the Baltimore based grassroots phenoms, The Bridge. Taking a freewheeling approach founded by such legendary bands as Little Feat and Los Lobos, this debut offers a fresh and delectable palette of American roots rock. This 3rd effort by the veteran's of the summer festival veteran's showcases what the buzz is all about. Tight and polished describes standouts like "14 Days" and "Easy Jane." An excellent genre bender fusing bluegrass, folk and good old rock-n-roll, The Bridge is a solid new face to be reckoned with.

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    BOCA CHICA

    Transform Into Beasts

    Nov 7, 2007

    Boca Chica, or “small mouth” have drawn critical acclaim with their debut full-length album “Transform into Beasts”. This Pittsburgh PA band has received attention from the likes of NPR and The Pittsburgh City Paper. The attention is well deserved. Boca Chica, mainly the creative outlet of one Hallie Pritts, has a folksy, somewhat blue grassy sound. Plenty of acoustic guitars, banjos and Fender Telecasters to satisfy any country lover, but hip enough to please the average Sufjan Stevens fan. “Transform into Beasts” is open and light, but warm enough not to leave the listener stranded. On a recent road trip through the heart of the country, I found the album fit well with the landscape. As thousands of Oklahoma trees whizzed by half cloaked in the morning mist “Transform into Beasts” proved to be the perfect American soundtrack.--Tim Warren

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    KORBY LENKER

    King of Hearts

    Nov 5, 2007

    Although it’s a contradiction to describe Korby Lenker’s fourth solo album as both ethereal and earthy, there it is. Lenker’s breathy, breathtaking voice has all the components of an otherworldly dream sequence, but this album is softly stunning in its minimalism … a man, his thoughts and an acoustic guitar. And his lyrics reveal a sense of humor and confident humility that is unabashedly honest … “and lover, lover, tell me twice, do you think that I sing nice? Are my vices worth the price of pretty music?” Standout tracks include #2, “Papercuts,” #4, “Cedars of Lebanon” and #8, “Dog Down to the River.” Reviewed by Sara Cosgrove Track #11, “Come Closer,” contains “fuck.”

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    BLUE RODEO

    Small Miracles

    Oct 30, 2007

    Small Miracles is the latest 13-track treat from Toronto-based country rock group, Blue Rodeo. To celebrate 20 years of recording music, Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy put together a guitar-based album, with some nice solos and slides, and plenty of tender songwriting … particularly tracks 3, 4 and 5 … “Blue House,” “3 Hours Away” and “It Makes Me Wonder.” Reviewed by Sara Cosgrove

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    Neil Young

    Chrome Dreams ll

    Oct 29, 2007

    Ever since Neil Young hit the rock n roll spotlight back in the mid sixties with Buffalo Springfield, he's been writing songs that have a lot to say. Emotionally as well as socially. With the release of Neil's umpteenth album, chrome dreams ll, he shows that he's at the top of his game. From the opening notes of the Neil Young signature harmonica sound on the album first track, Beautiful Bluebird, Neil sets in motion a collection of songs that appeals to his spirit as an artist. His large canvas and multi color pallet paints an abstract from country ballad to New Orleans jazz. On the extended track Ordinary People, Neil blends his arrangement of horns along side the rough saw lead guitar solo, the Neil Young fans have come to know and love. The nostalgia of this album is not lost. With essence of Harvest too Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Neil, stays true to his roots while keeping fresh the inspiration of his work. Slip

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    ANJULI DAWN

    Give

    Oct 23, 2007

    Anjuli Dawn was born in Royal Oak Michigan and is currently residing in North Carolina. Ms. Dawn uses her strong musical background to take what could have been a typical folk singer/songwriter cd to a different place. She had previously released several recordings which I haven’t heard. This one is very good She has an uninhibited soprano voice which she mixes with skilled bouzouki and guitar work. - Anne Lamont

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    Michelle Shocked

    ToHeavenURide

    Oct 22, 2007

    ToHeavenURide, recorded live at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, captures a Michelle Shocked, performing a gospel set including soulful cover songs of the Band, "The Weight", and Billie Holiday's "God Bless The Child", along with her originals including "Quality Of Mercy", recorded for the Grammy winning sound track Dead Man Walking and which has never appeared before on a Michelle Shocked album. Michelle's spiritual relationship brings a feeling of optimism to the audience as she gathers strength through her performance. This is Michelle at her best, in front of an audience, recorded live. Slip.

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    PAT CONTE

    Gravest Hits

    Oct 12, 2007

    Pat Conte’s bluegrassy Gravest Hits, his first release since 1984, is an obscure collection of lo-fi and home recordings hailing from 1981 through 2005. His guitar and instrumentation skills are higher than his lazy blurry-at-times singing, which does not subtract in anyway from the feel of this record. A fret buzz here and there along with the somewhat comical sudden ending of songs adds to the laid back, sitting around the fire with a guitar, feel. You get the sense Pat plays the songs until he feels it’s done, whether or not the listener agrees. Mr. Conte has a love for all things old and folksy, cemented further when he describes the only new guitar he bought for the record, “I want to jump up & down on it now but sometimes it behaves when I threaten it with heavy shoes on.”--Tim Warren

    MATT NATHANSON

    Some Mad Hope

    Sep 24, 2007

    Some Mad Hope, Nathanson's sixth studio album (and first for Vanguard), is in many ways his most fully-realized work to date. Recorded over the past two and a half years, the 12-song set displays a sonic depth that dovetails perfectly with what he admits is a newfound songwriting confidence. From Rock to Folk and back.

    BEN HARPER

    Lifeline

    Sep 24, 2007

    Ben is back to basics on this album. Wish he’d make a studio recording like how he sounds on tour? This is it. After an extensive European tour practicing the songs on this release, he took the band right into the studio and laid down the tracks.

    KIERAN KANE, KEVIN WELCH AND FATS KAPLIN

    Kane Welch Kaplin

    Sep 24, 2007

    “We want people to finally understand that we’re a band, not just three solo artists playing for the hell of it.” – Welch An Americana superband.

    ERIN MCKEOWN

    Lafeyette

    Sep 24, 2007

    A rambunctious live set with McKeown's latest band at Joe's Pub in NYC. Lafayette is less a sequel to her terrific reprise of 30s and 40s tunes of earlier this year, Sing You Sinners, than a chance for her to redo some of her song book with the cool, jazzy combo that made Sinners such a smash. Her band gives these tunes another life, with "To the Stars," "You Were Right," "We Are More" and "Slung-lo" shining brightly. And though it's not a sequel, by showing the seamlessness of her work with those who have traveled this artistic route before, she's managed to write herself into the same literate and musically sharp company as the greats she covered in the Sinners set. - MJVD

    CHRISTINE LAVIN

    Happydance of the Xenophobe

    Sep 20, 2007

    Sigh…well, you see, I do really like Christine Lavin. But, this is her 18th release, and it just seems like I’ve heard all of these before. Her writing is witty, the old acoustic guitar plunks and plinks with verve and glee, and the songs are all very topical. And when she sings “Tom Cruise Scares Me”, well, c’mon, who could disagree with that? As usual, a sprinkle of Ms. Lavin will fit into almost any set and provide a little kick. Like I noted above, however, all of these just sounded far too familiar. Kindly Old Mr. Tilapia

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    DONAVON FRANKENREITER

    Recycled Recipes

    Sep 17, 2007

    In Recycled Recipes, Donavon Frankenreiter's 6-track acoustic EP, the once pro surfer (who sports a Jim Croce-style moustache) tries his hand at covers. His wispy voice and delicate harmonies play out well for Bruce Cockburn's "Wondering Where the Lions Are" and Wilco's "Theologians." Dr. John's piano blues hit, "Such a Night," is a much-altered recipe with an added snappy chorus. Despite the promise of the first three tracks, the last three seem to fall short. Creedance Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son," The Band's "It Makes No Difference" and Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" all lack the ingredient that made the original recipes so inspiring ... spice. - Sara Cosgrove

    PETE AND MAURA KENNEDY

    Pete and Maura Kennedy Present: The Stringbusters - Rhapsody in Uke

    Sep 17, 2007

    Rhapsody in Uke: Pete & Maura Kennedy give their ukuleles a workout! This will be a good addition to the WYCE music library with 18 short songs that may help you get you to the hour on time. This cd showed me that I like the uke better with other instruments along for the tune, so listening to the whole cd was harder than I thought it would be. That said “Rhapsody in Uke” has the Kennedy’s using songs by Billie Holiday, Django Reinhardt, Gershwin and Jellyroll Morton. Add a condensed arrangement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, plus my favorite track, a fun version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” and I think they have something for everyone. Maura sings on tracks 1,4,7,10, and 13. The rest are instrumentals. - Anne Lamont

    ANA EGGE

    Lazy Days

    Sep 17, 2007

    This is well-done fun covers album, co-produced by Ana’s touring partner for the WYCE Hat Trick show (10/22/07) Jason Mercer. Mercer is an up and coming Jon Mayer/Ari Hest-style folk-pop singer from London (Ontario). Covers included The Kinks, Stephen Stills, Arcade Fire, Gene Autry, Ron Sexmith, Belle & Sebastian, Sandy Denny, The Zombies, Le Tigre, and Harry Nilsson. Wow, almost diverse enough to be a WYCE playlist! Lucinda Williams called Ana “The Folk Nina Simone.” How about it Ana, why no Nina? -Pete

    Various Artists - Produced by Jesse Harris

    The Hottest State

    Sep 17, 2007

    This album is expertly produced by Jesse Harris. Aren’t soundtracks produced by WYCE artists always the best? All songs are originals for the movie--few if any are taken from an already-released album. Folk, Rock, Blues…they’re all here. –Pete

    AXTON KINCAID

    Songs From The Pine Room

    Sep 17, 2007

    These are 5 friends with Midwest and southern upbringings, who years ago moved out West to the Bay area and played in a lot of indie and modern rock projects. The bass player and drummer are from Michigan. Now, returning to their roots, they kick out carefree traditional and folk-rock tunes that are sometimes introspective, sometimes silly, and always done for the fun of it. “Irene Goodnight” and “I Still Miss Someone” are named after folk and country standards with intentions that are unclear. “I Wanna Be Adored” is almost a tongue-in-cheek countrified rendition of the “Stone Roses” tune; amusingly enough, a classic to folks of the band’s generation, but to those familiar with the classic country artists Axton Kincaid pays homage to, the song’s about as far away from Gene Autry as is Nashville from San Fransisco. - Pete

    KELLY FLINT

    Drive All Night

    Sep 17, 2007

    Excellent vocals! Just right for me, but too poppy for T. Jeanne. –Pete

    KRISTY HANSON

    Already Gone

    Sep 10, 2007

    Ex-Grand Rapids native Kristy Hanson delivers a full strength album that could get her some serious airplay at folk stations…if there really were such things. Hopefully, college radio will pick her up and skyrocket her to stardom. Hanson has a beautiful voice that she uses well and in all honesty, competes with some of the more well known females voices out there now (Jewel, Faith Hill, Sheryl Crow all have their sound, but Hanson’s sounds is developed, pure, and not annoying). Check out tracks 1 “Comfort”, track 3 “Already Gone”, track 5 “Careful”, and track 9 “Peace Of Mind”.

    BILL CALLAHAN

    Woke on a Whaleheart

    Sep 10, 2007

    Bill Callahan, lead singer of “Smog,” has released a fantastic solo album. Compared to “Crooked Fingers,” Callahan has a similar distinctive voice and introspective poetic lyrics, but the album is relatively toned-down and easier to understand. Also for fans of the Silver Jews. –Pete

    WALT WILKINS

    Diamonds In The Sun

    Sep 10, 2007

    Rockin twangy guitars, heartfelt and uptempo harmonies. Great album.

    TONI PRICE

    TALK MEMPHIS

    Sep 7, 2007

    On her first release in four years and seventh since her 1993 debut, Swim Away, Toni Price takes the listener on a rollicking ride through American roots music. Joined by an all star cast of backing musicians including guitarists David Grissom, Derek O’Brien, and Johnny Moeller, drummers George Rains and Frosty Smith, and The Texas Horns- John Mills on baritone sax, Kaz Kazanoff on sax and Al Gomez on trumpet, Price has all the support she needs for her stylistic trip through funk, soul, R & B and, of course, the blues. Kicking things off with the funk/soul amalgamation of the Jesse Winchester penned title track, Price quickly shifts gears with the rocking "What I’m Puttin’ Down" where Grissom’s smoking fret work pushes the song into territory that would comfortably fit on any number of blues rock discs by the likes of Foghat or Savoy Brown. Like an I Pod on random play the disc next ventures into Allen Toussaint’s horn driven New Orleans groove fest, "Mean Man", and then into the funky "Am I Groovin’ Up", which features rich background vocals compliments of Anthony Ferrell, Leeann Atherton and Rich Brotherton. While all of the material makes good use of Price’s expressive voice she really gets a chance to shine on slow burners such as Isaac Haye’s "Leftover Love" and on the simmering "Gravy" where she looks at the odd order of priorities found in modern society all the while evoking thoughts of Bonnie Bramlett with a playful lilt to her voice. The blues enter the room on "Right Where I Belong" and "Poor Little Fool" which simmer at a low boil until she turns up the heat on the brassy "Runnin’ Out" which, in turn, gives way to the charging southern soul groove of Booker T. Jones’ "Sorry About That" where the call and response chorus and the stop action groove should get the booty’s bumpin’ at your next rent party. While blues purists will look in vain for shuffles and boogies, this is a well done disc featuring the soul, R & B and funk that are the first cousins of the blues. Price sums up the release best on the Don Bryant penned "Ninety Nine Pounds" where she proclaims herself to be “ninety nine pounds of natural goodness and ninety nine pounds of soul.” Smitty

    TWO LOONS FOR TEA

    Nine Lucid Dreams

    Aug 30, 2007

    Third release for these folks, but the first time I’ve ever heard them. All of the vocals (except for the interesting/funny/breathy “Consuela”) are by Sarah Scott, who is at times Rickie Lee Jones, Maria Muldaur and Martha Davis (The Motels, kids, remember?). Sometimes bouncy, sometimes hypnotic, and one time Dixieland, it makes for a very nice mix of music. The album as a whole stands up very well to repeated listening. Stupid track 11 is a few seconds of nothing, with 12 tracks total. My favorite was track 2, but then again, I am particularly fond of monkey songs! Kindly Old Mr. Tilapia

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    JOE HENRY

    Civilians

    Aug 27, 2007

    The lyrics on this recording are phenomenal, like when you have a really great novel that you can’t put down, you read a paragraph of prose and marvel at its perfection. It’s not the strange esoteric work of the past but a collection of accessible and interesting songwriting. You might read the liner notes about his home and state of mind, which is decidedly happy. Check out the musicians he employs. Bill Frisell and Loudon Wainwright III are two of them. Teresa Jeanne

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    JOSH RITTER

    THE HISTORICAL CONQUESTS OF JOSH RITTER

    Aug 27, 2007

    THE EVERYBODY FIELDS

    Nothing is Okay

    Aug 21, 2007

    They demonstrate an appreciation for tradition, but an affinity for the new folk at the same time. Both Sam Quinn and Jillian Andrews have much talent on vocals—I tried to pick the person I like best but it resulted in failure on my part, as, I decided, it would have for anyone. This is a fun album; introspective, funny, and conflicting. –Pete

    TEDDY THOMPSON

    Upfront & Down Low

    Aug 20, 2007

    Teddy Thompson, the only son of British folk-rock icons Richard and Linda Thompson, steps away from his songwriting talents to reflect upon some old country classics. He chose wisely for his third album ... Ernest Tubb's "Walking the Floor Over You," George Jones's "She Thinks I Still Care," Dolly Parton's "My Blue Tears" ... and his own "Down Low." What makes this album poignant isn't the songwriting Thompson showcases, but the freshness of his interpretation. Sara Cosgrove

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    FIONN REGAN

    The End Of History

    Aug 15, 2007

    Fionn Regan slides his hooks in effortlessly, and in just the right places. Soft, lovely tunes- excellent to listen to on an airplane. This is his first full-length release. He's from Ireland, living now in England. His sound calls to mind Bright Eyes, but with much less angst. Actually, more like Kings of Convenience, but without the harmony. Check out the video for the single "Be Good or Be Gone" on YouTube. -Reviewed by Olive

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    BIG LEG EMMA

    The Color Of Wind

    Aug 13, 2007

    This band is in the vein of Donna The Buffalo, The Rankins or Eddie From Ohio, they have a strong musical base with sublime vocals. If you made it to Blissfest 2007 you would have had the opportunity to experience their fun music in person. Thanks to programmer Mark Gerard for scoring the CD for us. It is a beautiful production and really captures all the talent in this group. - - Big Leg Emma - Live Great Blue Heron Festival 2007

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    BILL MORRISSEY

    Come Running

    Aug 13, 2007

    “I Ain’t Walking” features Dave Alvin on the guitar and Billy Conway from Morphine on the drums and is the first single on the album. “Dangerous Way” features Alvin and Conway again and also includes Cormac McCarthy and his harmonica. “He’s Not From Kansas City” has a nice jazzy feel to it thanks to Dana Colley (Morphine) and his baritone sax. Alvin and Conway also appear on this track and help make this the second single. “Summer Jumped All Over Me,” “I Was A Fool,”(Jennifer Kimball on vocals) and “Death Letter Blues” are other tracks that deserve a spin. - Jerrod Willea

    AMY LeVERE

    Anchors and Anvils

    Aug 13, 2007

    A nice album for LaVere who gets help from a massive producer (Jim Dickenson) and a great backing band. Mellow tunes with heartfelt lyrics and catchy songs make this an easy play for WYCE. You will get a sense of real-life occurances and see why LaVere could be a bright future in folk songs writing. Check out tracks 1 “Killing Him”, track 2 “Tennessee Valentine”, track 4 “Pointless Drinking”, and track 9 “Time Is A Train”. – Lane Zoerhof

    JOAN OSBORNE

    Breakfast in Bed

    Aug 13, 2007

    When I first heard Joan Osborne was recording a disc on mainly 1960-1970’s R & B classics I figured it had to be a sure fire hit. On “Breakfast in Bed” Joan’s voice is as good as ever but the tracks lacks the spark found on her 2002 cover Disc “How Sweet It Is”. These songs are perfect for a lazy afternoon, a leisurely listen & the perfect soundtrack for yes breakfast in bed. Joan also recorded 6 originals with the 10 classics on this disc & every one of her originals sound like they could have been a hit in this time period and blend perfectly with the covers. So my suggestion is to get that cup of coffee pull the sheets & blankets back over you & enjoy this new disc. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

    RAINI ARBO & DAISY MAYHEM

    Big Old Life

    Aug 13, 2007

    Rani Arbo & her band Daisy Mayhem combines roots musical with a spiritual feel that makes the listeners cry out this is a Big Old Life. The band starts out with the strongest track on the disc “Joy Comes Back”. This track combines Cajun sounds with a Donna the Buffalo feel. Rani’s alto vocals prove to be strong through the entire disc & her fiddle playing ads to the feel good sounds found on this disc. My only complaint was many of the tracks in the middle were a little subdued & I would have loved to hear Rani kick it up a notch as on the opening track, That being said, this is Rani’s most consistent & strongest offering to date. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

    GLEN HANSARD & MARKETA IRGLOVA

    Soundtrack to the Motion Picture Film "Once"

    Aug 13, 2007

    Hansard is well known from his Irish Rock band “The Frames,” but he and Czech singer Irglova put an album out together a year ago entitled Swell Season. The two not only sing this soundtrack, but star in this low-budget indie film, which won the “World Cinema Audience Award” at the 2007 Sundance Festival. The soundtrack contains 13 songs originally written and preformed by the two—usually as a duo but sometimes solo. –Pete

    DUTCH HENRY

    All That Space

    Aug 13, 2007

    Local favorites Dutch Henry deliver All That Space with enthusiasm, perfect for closing out the summer. The album is roots rock and Americana, blended with a hint of twang of 60s toe tapping pop. Even the tracks with melancholy lyrics, including Down So Long are refreshingly up tempo. This is a record to have for road trips and your end of summer parties. – Sarah Minnick

    MICHAEL MCDERMOTT

    Noise from Words

    Aug 10, 2007

    Hmmmm…I have a hard part in my heart for whiny male singer-songwriters, and this fellow walks a very thin line in my opinion. Nevertheless, my overall impression was a positive one for this disc. Stephen King (yes, THAT Stephen King) apparently is a big fan, which really doesn’t mean anything other than it’s nice for Mr. McDermott to have such a well known fan base! I apologize for the brevity of this review, but this is pretty much rootsy-rocky-folky stuff, which really isn’t my favorite area of the library, but this was okay by me. I particularly enjoyed “My Father’s Son.” The guy’s a good writer, which comes through quite well on these songs. He’s been putting out discs since the early 90’s and we have one other one by him at WYCE. Kindly Old Mr. Tilapia

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    MICK HARVEY

    Two of Diamonds

    Aug 6, 2007

    Mick Harvey, of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, has released his second solo album Two of Diamonds. If the songs on here sound familiar that is because every song is a cover with a little Mick Harvey twist to them; however, “Blue Arrows” and “Little Star” are Harvey originals, and “Little Star” is the better of the two. “Photograph” is a cover from The Saints and the best song on the album. “I Don’t Want You On My Mind” is also worth a listen to. – Jerrod

    TERRI HENDRIX

    The Spiritual Kind

    Jul 30, 2007

    Terri Hendrix knows the value of an acre of land. She even named her homespun record label Wilory Records (and her second album Wilory Farm) in memory of her mentor's acres of land. The Texas troubadour, who once milked goats in exchange for guitar lessons, now has nine albums under her belt, and The Spiritual Kind is as intimate as it is stylistically adventurous. "Acre of Land" is inspired introspection ... "I've been able to stand on my own acre of land, and when the wind blows me away I've been able to stay." "Things Change" and "If I Had a Daughter" resemble hand-written letters she reads aloud, with writing that strays off the page in an upward direction. "Jim Thorpe's Blues" has a lyrical significance that will appeal to fans of Bob Dylan's "Hurricane," and in "Mood Swings," Hendrix sheds her twang to test her chops ... and she tweaks her voice to hearken Ella Fitzgerald. – Sara Cosgrove

    JASON ISBELL

    Sirens of the Ditch

    Jul 30, 2007

    Ex-member of county-alt rock outfit The Drive-By Truckers, Jason Isbell releases a very heartfelt debut and has elements of DBT, but don’t expect that grungy sound. It’s in the song writing that makes Isbell’s record favorable for DBT fans. Check out tracks 1 “Brand New Kind Of Actress”, track 4 “Chicago Promenade”, track 7 “Hurricanes and Hand Grenades”, and track 11 “The Devil Is My Running Mate”, which is the best track on the whole album. – Lane Zoerhof

    LINDA THOMPSON

    Versatile Heart

    Jul 30, 2007

    Quiet, Haunting & beautiful is the best way to describe the new CD from Linda Thompson. Linda has been a major force in the music scene for over 30 years yet this is only her third solo release & the first since 2002’s fashionably late. I guess some traditions are hard to break. Linda continues with the folk sounds of the British Isles on most tracks, dabbles with a little country on the track “Do Your Best for Rock’n Roll”. The track “Day After Tomorrow” could be called a soldiers prayer from both sides of the war & her vocals on this track sounds a lot like her friend, the late great Sandy Denny. The title track “Versatile Heart” is the closest thing to an upbeat pop tune on this disc & the lyrics describe her state of mind with relationships & the world today. Linda remains one of the greatest female vocalists in the music industry, I only wish she would have included a few upbeat tracks on this CD. - Gregg Saur

    EILEN JEWELL

    Letters from Sinners and Strangers

    Jul 23, 2007

    Eilen (rhymes with feelin') Jewell checks in with her second release. She's based in Boston, but her hometown is Boise, Idaho, where dad and mom weaned her on Bob Dylan and Howlin' Wolf records. She does a Dylan number on this set (#11), but critics have most commonly compared her to Gillian Welch. I don't know that I'd go that far in comparison, but Eilen does a bit of "atmosphere" about her songs that give them a depth of feelin' (hey, that rhymes). I liked the Charlie Rich nugget "Thanks a Lot" (#4) and "Heartache Boulevard" (#5) was impressed by her putting music to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. for the song "How Long" (#8). - MJVD

    DAVE BOUTETTE

    The Piccolo Heart

    Jul 23, 2007

    Ann Arbor musician Dave Boutette gives us a nice batch of folk tunes, often served up with a wry smile, ala John Prine. His singing and playing sound earnest, like he's very concerned you have a good time listening to him and get the meaning and the jokes. At times, he strikes me as Ron Sexsmith without the high falsetto voice. He starts out with more of a folk-rock tune, "Dime in Hand," before settling down to some storytelling. "Why No One to Love?' is a Stephen Foster number. He plays in town from time to time, so you can catch him up close and personal.- MJVD

    LORI MCKENNA

    Unglamorous

    Jul 23, 2007

    Lori McKenna lives in Stoughton, Mass. (pop. 27,000), and her MySpace page reads "Lori McKenna - Singer, Songwriter, Wife, Mother." She wrote three songs (including the title track) for Faith Hill's 2005 album, Fireflies, and she blends folk, rock and country with the ease of a mother spreading peanut butter and jelly on Wonderbread. And in her fifth album, she makes it clear that it's all about her unglamorous family. The first track, "I Know You," is a gritty portrait of Gene, her husband of 18 years ... "You have too much pride to be a thief, and just enough gut to be a fool." In the album's final track, "Leaving This Life," McKenna delves into sadness caused by her mother's passing (she was just seven at the time), and the title track is about her five children ... "with eyes just like mine" ... and a hectic family life that once involved driving the kids to school in a Ford Windstar minivan with 150,000 miles on it. – Sara Cosgrove

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    LUCERO

    Rebels, Rogues and Sworn Brothers

    Jul 23, 2007

    Lucero- songs written and sung by Ben Nichols, a gravelly voiced drunken troubadour. Its fun to try and sing like him. Ive been hooked on this band for a few months, its one of those CDs that make your stereo sound really good. Grungy and also a bit tender. They have five or six other releases but this newest seems to be focused on a more mainstream sound. – Teresa Jeanne

    FREMONT JOHN

    Timeline

    Jul 17, 2007

    A nice album from Michigan native Fremont John. He returns with a very heartfelt record full of classic tracks. A combination of folk, rock, and grassroots, FJ gets it done. Equipped with a great voice, FJ belts out these songs that are made for WYCE. If you like Fleetwood Mac, you’ll love the first single, track one “Jericho’s Wall”. Also check out tracks 2 “Timeline”, 3 “No Pity On Me”, track 6 “Tidal Wave”, and track 10 “Storm Warning”. by Lane Zoerhof

    THE RAGBIRDS

    Wanderlove

    Jul 17, 2007

    Celtic-Afro-beat-Jam-band The Ragbirds’ new release is full of the eclectic melding of genre the band carouses in. The result is, at points, something genuinely original with a hint of Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland. Play ‘Good’ and ‘Roar, Claw, Bite’ (great title) for this eclectically rhythmic breath of fresh air. For more comfortably defined numbers listen to ‘How Can I say’ a bluegrass number steeply rooted in the genre, or the milonga tango ‘Brave New Beat.’ Looking for something that’s sung too honestly to be cynical about and find cheesy even though you kind of want to? Give ‘Moon Miss Me’ a listen. Just remember, I’m not promising anything. In fact, I’m still fighting it with my most positive thinking. Lastly, if you love Michigan and breakup songs with a twist then you’ll have to play ‘Ypsilanti Song.’ Derrick Mund

    REED FOEHL

    Stoned Beautiful

    Jul 17, 2007

    Lead singer of Acoustic Junction goes solo.

    Nick Drake

    Family Tree

    Jul 12, 2007

    For the casual listeners who missed Mr. Drakes occasional blips on the pop culture radar over the past decade (ie. ‘Pink Moon’ backing that Volkswagen add and ‘One of these Things First’ playing as Peter Saarsgard, Zach Braff, and Natalie Portman tool around New Jersey on a motorcycle in Garden State, etc.), they may be altogether unfamiliar with the unfortunately curtailed career of the English velvet-voiced folk prince. Th is disc is a collection of pre-label recordings made by Drake in his home on a reel-to-reel recorder. Although the recording lack the production of his proper albums, the inherent lo-fi aesthetic makes them all the more honest and endearing, especially for those already well-versed in and familiar with the subtle ways of Drake.

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    SEAN HAYES

    Flowering Spade

    Jul 10, 2007

    This album won me over within the first song, upon hearing the mellow warbly sound of Hayes’ voice and the gentle, confident guitar strums. Mostly, that’s what you hear; guitar (or banjo) and voice, but actually there are other crucial musical things happening that have been so delicately placed that you almost don’t notice them…even while enjoying it. Hayes roped in some very reputable avant-guarde jazz and post pop musicians from NYC, LA and from his home city, San Francisco, to play on this disc. In spite of these wonderful, and important additions, the songs never seem cluttered or busy. The music is so efficient that I had to listen a few times before I noticed a clarinet and an accordion in some songs, yet they very much add to the tunes. He’s often compared to Devendra Banhart, and I would agree, but would say that Hayes is more subtle and slightly less esoteric than Banhart. He is currently touring with Jolie Holland…which makes a lot of sense in that I believe they would appeal to the same crowd. All 13 songs on Flowering Spade are by Hayes. It is his 5th release, but his 1st studio recording. I second the quote from NPR’s All Things Considered; His “songs radiate a shaggy, free-spirited charm that rarely seems attached to any particular era”. Becky

    HACKENSAW BOYS

    Look Out

    Jul 10, 2007

    Hackensaw Boys second release for Nettwerk Records, Look Out!, is an impressive bluegrass album that will get you tapping your feet and singing along right away. “Oh, Girl” is a great song, and might be the best on the album. “Radio” will get you up and dancing in front of a mirror so be sure to lock your doors first. “Hobo” and “Sweet Petunia,” were contributed by the sometime Modest Mouse sometime Hackensaw Boy, Tom Peloso, and merit listening to. “Too Much Time” starts out with a good intro and carries that momentum throughout the song without letting up. – Jerrod Willea (intern)

    Sean Hayes

    Flowering Spade

    Jul 6, 2007

    This album won me over within the first song, upon hearing the mellow warbly sound of Hayes’ voice and the gentle, confident guitar strums. Mostly, that’s what you hear; guitar (or banjo) and voice, but actually there are other crucial musical things happening that have been so delicately placed that you almost don’t notice them…even while enjoying it. Hayes roped in some very reputable avant-guarde jazz and post pop musicians from NYC, LA and from his home city, San Francisco, to play on this disc. In spite of these wonderful, and important additions, the songs never seem cluttered or busy. The music is so efficient that I had to listen a few times before I noticed a clarinet and an accordion in some songs, yet they very much add to the tunes. He’s often compared to Devendra Banhart, and I would agree, but would say that Hayes is more subtle and slightly less esoteric than Banhart. He is currently touring with Jolie Holland…which makes a lot of sense in that I believe they would appeal to the same crowd. All 13 songs on Flowering Spade are by Hayes. It is his 5th release, but his 1st studio recording. I second the quote from NPR’s All Things Considered; His “songs radiate a shaggy, free-spirited charm that rarely seems attached to any particular era”. Becky 7/2007

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    Leonard Cohen

    Songs of Leonard Cohen

    Jul 6, 2007

    In celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Cohen's 1967 recording Debut, his first 3 albums (this being his first) are being re-released in a new and improved digital format with a hard cover, new liner notes, and extra songs! If you are already a sworn fan of the “master of erotic despair”, then you’ll know all of these songs, except the last 2, Store Room and Blessed Memory, which make their recording debut here. These 2 additional songs have been resurrected from the original Hammond recording sessions. [Hammond signed Leonard Cohen to the Columbia A&R label, but could not complete the recording sessions due to illness. John Simon (“the uncredited producer of Big Brother & the Holding Company's Cheap Thrills”) took over and completed the recording.] Cohen, a recent inductee to the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, will forever be known for the poetic lyrics that have stamped his prolific music/writing career, and it began with these songs, which have a deep and timeless appeal. Becky

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    RYAN ADAMS

    Easy Tiger

    Jul 3, 2007

    Ryan Adams songs are pretty endearing, it may not appeal to you at first listen but lines of his songs lay around my brain and make me want to hear them again. This is his ninth solo effort, well produced and superbly crafted songs. – Teresa Jeanne

    The Pines

    Sparrows In The Bell

    Jul 3, 2007

    A record that is in the likeness of recent Bob Dylan, The Pines take their folk/blues sound and make a delightful album that is full of easy listenable tunes. A creative, yet radio-friendly sound that could work well on any major station around G.R.; too bad none of them will play it. Check out tracks 2 “Don’t Let Me Go”, track 5 “Let’s Go”, track 7 “Light Under The Door”, and track 9 “Midnight Sun”. Lane Zoerhof

    SHANE NICHOLSON

    Faith and Science

    Jul 3, 2007

    Faith and Science is Shane Nicholson's second album. "Safe and Sound" is the hit track of the album. "Home" is a slow, sad song that can be skipped. The album as a whole is solid, but unspectacular. – Jerrod Willea (Intern)

    THE TRAVELING WILBURYS

    Collection

    Jul 3, 2007

    You wont find a better supergroup: Formed by former Beatle George Harrison, former Electric Light Orchestra leader Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Roy Orbison. This 3-disc set is an exact replica of the two former releases, “volume 1” and “volume 3;” with a couple of bonus tracks added in as well as a DVD. -Pete

    THE SPARES

    The Spares

    Jun 11, 2007

    The debut CD of Chicago duo Jodee Lewis and Steve Hendershot, this is a real melding of country and blues music that ends up as soulful Americana (yet another new sub-genre?). Lewis, who does sound like a young Alison Krauss, was a chemical engineer before she hooked up with journalist Hendershot to become The Spares. She has an emotional voice and does best on the quieter, heartfelt numbers such as "Allentown," Valley of Vision" and "Grace." But a couple of the up-tempo songs are fine, too, like the opener, "Mexico," and an insightful tune about dating as older adults, "Isn't it Obvious." I hope they keep away from their day jobs, because this duo has potential. 05/07 MJVD F-Alternative-Country

    LEONARD COHEN

    Songs of Love and Hate

    Jun 11, 2007

    A Colombia digital mastered re-release of the 1971 album serves as a didactic epitome for Leonard Cohen. The album opens with the chilling ‘Avalanche’ (no pun intended). And includes other Cohen classics such as ‘Dress Rehearsal Rag,’ ‘Diamonds in the Mine’ (my personal favorite), and an ode to Cohen’s recurrent archetype ‘Joan of Arc.’ Also included is a previously unreleased cut of ‘Dress Rehearsal Rag.’ An enduring performance of Cohen’s bravura, existing in the ephemeral, and produced by Nashville great Bob Johnston. – Derrick Mund

    STEVE FORBERT

    Strange Names & New Sensations

    Jun 11, 2007

    "Middle Age" is a song that anyone who is feeling depressed about getting older should listen to. Forbert sings how great it is to be middle aged and wiser now then you were before. “Thirty More Years” is lyricly great and worth listening to. Featured is his all new recording of the hit “Romeo’s Tune,” which is as good now as before. “Strange Names”(North New Jersey’s Got ‘Em) is a fun song to listen to. Jerrod Willea, WYCE intern

    DANNY FLOWERS

    Tools For The Soul

    Jun 11, 2007

    Danny Flowers returns with a fantastic album featuring Emmylou Harris on a couple of tracks that make the whole album worth while. An unbelievable voice and exciting guitar work, Flowers takes command with his latest album. Flowers is very open and grateful for his faith in GOD and he shows it in his writing. Sure to be on non-mainstream radio playlists for a long time. Check out tracks 1 “Tools For The Soul”, track 4 “Born To Believe”, and track 10 “World Enough And Time”. - Lane Zoerhof

    LOWEN & NAVARRO

    Hogging The Covers

    Jun 11, 2007

    WYCE favorites Lowen & Navarro are back with an album full of covers. They bring their unique folk sound to some of their favorite songs. They make these songs their own, but still keep the originality of the original artists. Check out tracks 1 “Into The Mystic”, track 5 “To Love Somebody”, track 10 “It’ll All Work Out”, and track 13 “Blitzkrieg Bop”. - Lane Zoerhof

    ROCKY VOTOLATO

    The Brag & Cuss

    Jun 4, 2007

    Brag & Cuss marks the fifth album from the Texas native with an intentional journey into country song writing. Drinking and the pained sense of loss concurrent with life on the road marinate each song. No surprise this album was written during Votolato’s last tour. As Tweedy and Farrar depicted southern Illinois with Uncle Tupelo Votolato embraces his own Texan mythology of passing power lines and empty bottles with a subtle lyrical brilliance and formula silhouetted folk. Check out tracks 2, 3, and 7. If looking for a real downer, listen to track 8, ‘Whiskey Straight’ or track 11, ‘Silver Trees.’ Don’t play 10, ‘The Old Holland’ till safe harbor (He says piss) but still play it, there’s a wonderful guitar part. – Derrick Mund

    GREAT LAKES SWIMMERS

    Great Lakes Swimmers

    Jun 4, 2007

    Since Im out of time, here are some words to get the point across: Toronto, haunting, thrilling, Sunday morning, atmospheric, Sufjan Stevens, banjo, vocalist Tony Dekker, Great! AMG: “Like a shot of non-adrenaline” -Pete

    KIM RICHEY

    Chinese Boxes

    Jun 4, 2007

    Kim’s sounding a little poppier than usual. -P

    Claire Fisher

    Gold Miner's Journal

    Jun 3, 2007

    You can probably count the number of disposable singer /songwriters of the past decade or so on the fingers and toes of all of the poor soul’s who were conned into buying their records. Ms. Fisher, however, is not among those counted on endless digits. Keeping her instrumentation simple, her lyricism sharp and poignant, and her melodies and harmonies memorable, Claire Fisher is not to be discounted. Grand Rapidians (and the world, alike)! Perk up ye ears and listen!

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    Carolina Chocolate Drops

    Dona Got A Ramblin' Mind

    Jun 3, 2007

    Carolina Chocolate Drops: Dona Got A Ramblin’ Mind (Music Maker) Prior to hearing this, my encounters with traditional American string music were few and far between. However, this latest run in proved to be most delightful, as the Chocolate Drops keep their arrangements concise, honest, and true to form. If you’re familiar with the likes of people like Dr. Ralph Stanley (I believe that is his name), this should be a treat. Banjo, fiddle, and singing from people who’ve probably experienced a little more than a 13-year old L.A. suburban daughter/sister/niece of so-and-so has. These folks honor their elders and keep a true American tradition alive. Reviewed by Trevor Edmonds (May 2007) (All tracks clean)

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    NEIL YOUNG

    Live at Massey Hall, 1971

    May 28, 2007

    In 1971, Neil Young was four years out of Buffalo Springfield after having quit on the eve of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and was on his way out of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young after waxing Déjà Vu and 4 Way Street. He was also three discs into a solo career that included his 1970 masterpiece After the Gold Rush. This acoustic solo show catches him dipping into his catalog with Helpless and Ohio from CSN &Y, I am a Child from Buffalo Springfield and ample doses of his solo classics. Importantly, it also catches him running through songs that would soon be released on Harvest and Journey Through the Past including Needle and the Damage Done, Old Man and Heart of Gold. Not yet reduced to obligatory performances as greatest hits the songs resonate with discovery and benefit from Young’s spoken introductions putting them into context. Imagine Heart of Gold kicking into gear without a single hint of recognition from the audience and you’ll have some sense of just how new this material was. Great stuff then. Great stuff now. Smitty

    RENEE STAHL

    Hopeful Romantic

    May 28, 2007

    This is the second effort from this 40 year old from Los Angles California & it is amazing the similarities you can hear between Renee & Sarah McLachlen. If you close your eyes & listen you would believe you were listing to Sarah at the peak of her career. This is a CD that should be filling the background of Coffee houses around the nation. It is Melodic Folk-Pop at some of it’s finest. If your mood is for music that will sooth & make you feel good around the fireplace, snuggle up with this hopeful, romantic. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

    MARK OLSON

    The Salvation Blues

    May 28, 2007

    Mark Olson, founding member of the Jayhawks and ex-husband of Victoria Williams, has not had a good couple of years apparently. While married to Williams he started seeing someone else, then when he came back to Victoria, she wouldn’t have him. Heartbroken, he did all kinds of things to recover, such as touring Europe, singing and writing. This is a breakup record, touted as “a two-year journey through the heart of loss, redemption, in words and music.” Illustrated with photographs. Oh, and now that time has passed and he’s suffered enough, the two are officially back to “good friends” status. –Pete

    BEAVER NELSON

    Exciting Opportunity

    May 28, 2007

    I wont hide it, I'm a Beaver fan. Beaver Nelson’s wry sense of humor and catchy folkie guitar licks have always provided entertainment for me onstage and here with the couple of albums we have of his. Beaver has been through some interesting times. His first major musical inspiration came as a teenager at a Christian summer camp. He penned songs, learned the guitar, self-duplicated and distributed tapes to his high school friends. Then he had some success in the Austin scene stemming from an open mic gig. He signed with a label, put together a band, and produced an album only to have it rejected and shelved because it was not grungy enough, which was the “shiny thing” for the label exec.s at that time. Finally Beaver was able to break on through to the other side with the release of some cool folk/Americana, singer/songwriter releases with critical acclaim. Again with lots of promise ahead, he got married, had kids, and lost the time and inspiration to write. Then as fate would have it, the second and ultimate summer-camp-type getaway experience of his life presented itself to him and he ran with it: a gig painting some lake homes. He brought his guitar along and sat it beside the buckets and ladders, spending 16 hour days painting in solitude and letting his mind stray to his hearts content. The result, Exciting Opportunity, is Nelson’s best work yet. -Pete

    Neil Young

    Live at Massey Hall, 1971

    May 24, 2007

    In 1971, Neil Young was four years out of Buffalo Springfield after having quit on the eve of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and was on his way out of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young after waxing Déjà Vu and 4 Way Street. He was also three discs into a solo career that included his 1970 masterpiece After the Gold Rush. This acoustic solo show catches him dipping into his catalog with "Helpless" and "Ohio" from CSN &Y, "I am a Child" from Buffalo Springfield and ample doses of his solo classics. Importantly, it also catches him running through songs that would soon be released on Harvest and Journey Through the Past including "Needle and the Damage Done", "Old Man" and "Heart of Gold". Not yet reduced to obligatory performances as greatest hits the songs resonate with discovery and benefit from Young’s spoken introductions putting them into context. Imagine "Heart of Gold" kicking into gear without a single hint of recognition from the audience and you’ll have some sense of just how new this material was. Great stuff then. Great stuff now. Smitty

    Uncle Earl

    Waterloo, Tennessee

    May 21, 2007

    An all-girl string band; nice followup to their 2005 release. –Pete

    Richard Thompson

    Sweet Warrior

    May 21, 2007

    The founder of Fairport Convention returns to his classic electric sound with stories full of loss and betrayal. –Pete

    KENDEL CARSON

    Rearview Mirror Tears

    May 14, 2007

    If you like down home folk music with a taste of bluegrass this album is for your. This disc has track after track of down to earth soul music. Definitely worth a listen. – Mitch Murphy FCC:

    ELANA JAMES

    Elana James

    May 14, 2007

    Elana James was handpicked to be in Bob Dylan’s band & spent many years supporting & playing as part of the Hot Club of Cowtown, on this her first solo release you know how gifted of a musician & song writher she is. Elana has the fiery style of Violin playing that could easily be compared to Stephane Grappelli & the swing sounds of Djano Reinhardt. You combine those qualities with Elanas beautiful & seductive vocal quality’s & you have a disc of musical magic. In addition to the obvious swing sounds you can hear the country flare in her voice on tracks like “The Little Green Valley’ & “I don’t Mind”. It’s truly a shame that this terrific CD has not been picked up by a major label because Elana deserves a lot of attention. - Gregg Saur

    THE NIGHTWATCHMAN

    One Man Revolution

    May 14, 2007

    This is Tom Morello’s (Rage Against the Machine) long-term side project that combines his distain for the way America and the world works with the sensible delivery of a folk troubador. This is singer-songwriter material from a smart dude that plays in front of huge crowds of people. We probably wont see him for the Hat Trick Series cause Rage has reunited for a reunion tour. – Pete

    REX MOROUX

    Royal Street Inn

    May 14, 2007

    “Moore-OH” This Austin Singer/Songwriter says that if he couldn’t express himself musically, “I hope I would have access to morphine, Gertrude Stein’s ‘The Making of Americans,” and air conditioning, because that’s the only thing I could see myself doing.” What he’s do if he had to go back to his former career of playwriting is not mentioned. He grew up in the heart of Cajun Louisiana, and this, his second album, features Terrance Simien on background vocals. -Pete

    Various Artists

    A Tribute to Joni Mitchell

    May 8, 2007

    A Tribute to Joni Mitchell (Nonesuch) As with any tribute album ever created, artists all cover different songs of the artist featured on the tribute album. In this case, obviously, the artist is Joni Mitchell, which really isn’t that exciting to begin with. Here’s the twist, some of the artists doing the renditions are Sufjan Stevens, Elvis Costello, Sarah McLachlan, Bjork, and Prince. What most of the artists on this album attempted to do, was to recreate Joni Mitchell’s sound in their own unique style, however that was rarely the case. For the most part, it is Joni Mitchell’s sound in her original style. On the other hand there were some decent remakes, such as Sufjan Steven’s opening track “Free Man in Paris,” the following track by Bjork “The Boho Dance,” track 7 “Blue” by Sarah McLachlan, and track 10 “Edith and the Kingpin” by Elvis Costello. -Jake Burritt

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    Great Lakes Myth Society

    Compass Rose Bouquet

    May 8, 2007

    LOCAL Great Lakes Myth Society-Compass Rose Bouquet (Quack!) This is the second album from the whimsical Michigan folk-rockers. This album ranges from Americana to indie rock, while exploring all the spaces in between. GLMS has an educated sound that is extremely engaging and their sophomore release's highs and lows blend into a mature, unrushed sound. The entire sound this young group creates evolves around the vocal lines and simple lyrical arrangements. Not that it takes anything away from the pleasant sound revolving around these two elements. Some songs to stick close to are track 2 “Summer Bonfire,” track 5 “March,” track 4 “Queen of the Barley Fool,” and the final track 12 “The Gales of 1838.” -Jake Burritt

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    CROOKED STILL

    Hop High

    May 7, 2007

    Crooked Still's debut album Hop High, first released in 2004, has enough grabbed attention and criticall acclaim to merit a second release – this time nationwide. The musical style of this alternative bluegrass band floats playfully and gently from song to song. The song's titles, such as “Old Virginia” and “Shady Grove” reflect the band's traditional, country tone. Aoife O'Donovan's vocals are sweet, breezy, angelic – the all-acoustic background of cello, bass and banjo give her smooth, low voice a gentle but upbeat, soft and stringy resonance. Emily Rattray

    SONNY SMITH

    Fruitvale

    May 7, 2007

    This is the third album from the narrative songwriting indie, folk singer Sonny Smith. This release focuses largely on his hometown of Oakland, California, which automatically gives it the sound of a hip hop record, lyrically. His vocals are a bit twangy and lackadaisical, or empathetic, the acoustic lines are engaging, and there is enough motion going on around these songs to keep listeners occupied. Some songs to keep tuned on are track 2 “Good Folks Bad Folks,” and the final track, 10 “I’m so happy.” -Jake Burritt *No Play 4 “fuck” 7 “fuck it”

    THE SILOS

    Come On Like the Fast Lane

    May 7, 2007

    The Silos is the brainchild of vocalist, songwriter, and bandleader Walter Salas-Humara. Hamara has kept the Silos name through line up changes, and the band now features bassist and pedal steel player Drew Glackin and percussionist Konrad Meissner. Come on Like the Fast Lane is their tenth album in twenty years, and holds true to Silos pioneering work as one of the original alternative country bands that became so influential to the early 1990s alternative/grunge scene. This album has been described as, “A perfect gritty soundtrack for a road trip through the Nevada sand dunes heading straight to Vegas.” – Seth Allegaier Tracks: 8 (Shit) 9 (Hell) 13 (Kickass)

    HOOTS AND HELLMOUTH

    HOOTS AND HELLMOUTH

    May 7, 2007

    New music for old souls a-la a tent revival meets the Avett Brothers. Roots/Rock/Folk/Blues/Soul

    Sonny Smith

    Fruitvale

    May 1, 2007

    This is the third album from the narrative songwriting indie, folk singer Sonny Smith. This release focuses largely on his hometown of Oakland, California, which automatically gives it the sound of a hip hop record, lyrically. His vocals are a bit twangy and lackadaisical, or empathetic, the acoustic lines are engaging, and there is enough motion going on around these songs to keep listeners occupied. Some songs to keep tuned on are track 2 “Good Folks Bad Folks,” and the final track, 10 “I’m so happy.” -Jake Burritt

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    DEVON ALVES

    Across That River

    Apr 30, 2007

    With album credits ending, "big thanks to all those who have helped to make possible another bucket of funk” I’ve encountered an album I begin to like out of principle. Upon listening Alves delivers a wonderful acoustic sound lying some where in a lost triangle between blues, rock and bluegrass. Opener, ‘Pull the Road’ is an excellent introduction to this pagan traveler on an album where Nature and rustic travels reoccur as much as David Grisman style mandolin cries. Other notables include, ‘Rainy Day’ a brief instrumental showcasing Alves, steel guitar skills. Also, When it’s time, a traditional slide guitar number, Boatyard Blues, and Apple Tree. –Derrick Mund

    Avett Brothers

    Emotionalism

    Apr 30, 2007

    The Avett Brothers’ new album Emotionalism offers an alternative rock sounds with a twangy twist. While some songs feel like true country blues – mainly the slower, somber ones like “All My Mistakes” – others, especially the more upbeat, might fall under rock. The songs touch on blues themes of loss and regret, especially in love. But almost all also reflect an excellent sense of humor about these topics, with light lyrics and animated rhymes. - By Emily Rattray

    THE CAT MARY

    POSTBELLUM NEIGHBORHOOD

    Apr 30, 2007

    What an awesome idea! The Cat Mary is a non-profit group that varies in membership from time to time from 5-7 members. All their music is original, and it's an awesome mix of blues, jazz, folk and more. You've gotta enjoy these guys. They have such a pure down home feel that makes you feel...well, at home. They use mandolins, banjos, guitars, upright bass, organ, piano, and fiddle to make there raw sounds and that works perfectly for them. This one makes you want to sit on the front porch and and relax with your posse. - MK

    CLIFF EBERHARDT

    The High Above And The Down Below

    Apr 30, 2007

    As folk albums should be Cliff Eberhardt's latest CD, The High Above And The Down Below, is very personal with 12 original songs that brings out the underlying blues and jazz influence of Cliff's strong vocals, guitar playing, and melodies. His lyrical style lets you in on what's important to Cliff and you realize they are stories important to you too. Recorded virtually live in the studio producer Eric Peltoniemi gathered jazz musicians Rich Dworsky, piano, B3, Rhodes, Gordy Johnson basses and J.T. Bates drums to collaborate with Cliff and the engineers to make uncluttered, straight ahead music. - Slip

    LOU RHODES

    Beloved One

    Apr 30, 2007

    Lamb, former lead singer, Louise Rhodes, has ventured out into the acoustic folk genre and released a 10 original song CD, Beloved One. Stripping herself of the electronica trip-hop of Lamb, Lou, finger-picking an acoustic guitar, surrounds herself with simple percussion, strings and backing vocals that help create this charming little CD. Through her haunting vocals, honest lyrics and unique rhythms Beloved One, expresses the personal and intimate emotions that conflict's with life's lesson of love and loss. – Slip

    Lou Rhodes

    Beloved One

    Apr 25, 2007

    Lamb's former lead singer, Louise Rhodes, has ventured out into the acoustic folk genre and released a 10 original song CD, Beloved One. Stripping herself of the electronica trip-hop of Lamb, Lou, finger-picking an acoustic guitar, surrounds herself with simple percussion, strings and backing vocals that help create this charming little CD. Through her haunting vocals, honest lyrics and unique rhythms Beloved One, expresses the personal and intimate emotions that conflict's with life's lesson of love and loss. Slip

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    Cliff Eberhardt

    The High Above And The Down Below

    Apr 25, 2007

    As folk albums should be Cliff Eberhardt's latest CD, The High Above And The Down Below, is very personal with 12 original songs that brings out the underlying blues and jazz influence of Cliff's strong vocals, guitar playing, and melodies. His lyrical style lets you in on what's important to Cliff and you realize they are stories important to you too. Recorded virtually live in the studio producer Eric Peltoniemi gathered jazz musicians Rich Dworsky, piano, B3, Rhodes, Gordy Johnson basses and J.T. Bates drums to collaborate with Cliff and the engineers to make uncluttered, straight ahead music. Slip

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    Rachel Harrington

    The Bootleggers Daughter

    Apr 23, 2007

    A truly believable artist! Harrington actually sounds as thought she's right out of the country mountains. Being from Oregon I guess you could say she is. The Bootlegger's Daughter is outstanding bluegrass/folk/americana/country. If you want the straight forward story listen to track 3 "Blow- the ballad of bill miner. Take this disc on a country back-road road trip and you'll feel as though you're part of the scenery passing by. – MK

    RICHARD SCHINDELL

    SOUTH OF DELIA

    Apr 23, 2007

    Usually an album chock full of cover songs is less than amusing. Not South of Delia though...this one is a keeper. Richard Shindell does an awesome job making some popular hits all his own. I guess the most recognized would be "Born in the USA," by Bruce Springsteen. there are also a few new age hits that Shindell covers from Josh Ritter to Jeffrey Foucault. Shindell sounds a bit like a male Tracy Chapman on this one. A great pick with a folk feel! – MK

    Golden Smog

    Blood on the Slacks

    Apr 23, 2007

    Golden Smog is a side-project covers band that gradually evolved into a roots rock supergroup. Golden Smog is loosely affiliated unit comprised, at various times, of members of Soul Asylum, the Replacements, Wilco, the Jayhawks, Run Westy Run, and the Honeydogs. The group first came together in the Minneapolis area in the late '80s as a country-rock reaction to the punk and hardcore sounds that dominated the Twin Cities' musical scene at the time; eventually Golden Smog became something of a fixture at local clubs, where they played a handful of shows annually. Blood on the Slacks is the bands fifth album since 1992, and the lineup has featured, at times, Run Westy Run vocalist Kraig Johnson, guitarists Dan Murphy (Soul Asylum) and Gary Louris (the Jayhawks), Jayhawks bassist Marc Perlman, ex-Replacements drummer Chris Mars, and Soul Asylum vocalist Dave Pirner. – Seth Allgaier

    Cowboy Junkies

    At the End of Paths Taken

    Apr 17, 2007

    The Cowboy Junkies have made a career out of songs that percolate through a languid, narcotic haze. Their best efforts draw you in and force you to linger around the nooks and crannies of some other place. This release mixes things up a bit more musically as evidenced by the near heavy metal crunch of "Cutting Board Blues", the almost bouncy "Still Lost" and the strings that infuse "Brand New World" but there are still plenty of the slow, hypnotic tunes that will keep the fan base satisfied. On the lyric front guitarist and chief songwriter Michael Timmons explores the complexity of family relationships and how the events of modern society can reduce individual options even while the world is more open to possibility than ever. Some of the tunes such as "It Doesn’t Really Matter Anyway" are so dark that they make the lowdown blues seem like songs of hope. A bit of light enters the picture by virtue of the light, almost airy, "Blue Eyed Saviour", and the angelic children’s choir on "My Only Guarantee" but it’s hardly enough to illuminate the black hole of gloom that inhabits most of the disc. If you like the Junkies you’ll enjoy this. If you haven’t been converted yet this disc won’t change your mind. Smitty

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    Vandaveer

    Grace & Speed

    Apr 16, 2007

    Front man of the Apparitions, Mark Charles, split off to produce this solo album. The result is a soothing yet melancholy collection of songs with a nostalgic, folksy air. His work on this album pays tribute to his obvious musical influences from the 60s and 70s as well as current artists, his voice reminiscent at times of Bob Dylan. “The Streets Is Full Of Creeps” even brings Tom Waits to mind. Throughout the album, melody and rhythm are pleasantly applied along with graceful acoustic guitar work. - Meredith VanHarn

    Todd Snider

    Peace, Love and Anarchy (Rarities, B-Sides and Demos, Vol. 1)

    Apr 16, 2007

    A native of Portland, Oregon, Todd Snider has been a fixture on the American, alt-country, and folk scene since his debut album in 1994. He is best known for creating an engaging and wry humorous folk sound, with lyrics sometimes reminiscent of Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. Peace, Love and Anarchy is material leftover from Snider’s time at John Prine’s Oh Boy label. Some of the recordings of just Snider and his guitar (tracks 1-3) are rough, but nonetheless worth a place on the album. –Seth A. Tracks: 6 (Rollin’ a joint) 8 (Bullshit) 13 (Shit) (God Damn) (Fuck) (Smoke Dope)

    Mary Chapin Carpenter

    The Calling

    Apr 16, 2007

    When MCC hit the country-rock scene big time with “Down at the Twist and Shout” and the smash follow-up CD Come On, Come On, her observant lyrics analyzed the human heart with accuracy and a touch of wit. Since then, her songs have turned more toward the Big Questions, and in my opinion, lost some of the ability to capture the real moments of life and relationships. Surprisingly, the opposite is true on The Calling. The most interesting cuts are not about the heart, but about our country: “Houston” (Hurricane Katrina), “On with the Song” (the Dixie Chicks’ political troubles) and “Why Shouldn’t We” (on believing the nation can do better). The title track has some muscle, too. Maybe MCC’s turning a corner, from a musical Dear Abby to a lyrical editorial page columnist. We’ll see. 03/07 MJVD

    Various

    NOW HEAR THIS! [IMA Winners 2007]

    Apr 16, 2007

    {2 Discs}(Planetary Group 2007) A compilation of indie music as voted by a panel of celebrity musician judges. This comp. boasts some great indie music that spans from World music to Christian Contemporary to Folk, etc. On the first disc, check out tracks 1 by Kristy Kruger “Gold Rush”, track 8 by Garaj Mahal “The Shadow”, track 11 by Sheva “Salaam”, track 13 by Bitter:Sweet “Overdue”, track 16 by Novalima “Machete”. On disc 2; track 1 by Jonah Smith “My Morning Scene”, track 4 by Seed & Root “Paraiso”, track 5 by Dave’s True Story “Everlasting No”, and track 19 by Alvin Jett & The Phat Noiz Band “Angels Sing The Blues”. – Lane Zoerhof *track 10 Piet Shaw & The Revolutionary Theater “We Don’t Want No War” contains swear word (shit)

    BREATHE OWL BREATHE

    BREATHE OWL BREATHE

    Apr 16, 2007

    Local Breathe Owl Breathe won a place as one of the top 5 bands to win in the "Bandspotting Contest" at Calvin College and its "Festival of Faith and Music. We are very excited about having made it in the top 5! Two of the songs off of the brand-new CD Canadian Shield are going to be put on a compilation cd they are making 2000 copies of and handing out at the festival!!! - Andrea Moreno Beals

    JAKE ARMERDING

    Walking on the World

    Apr 11, 2007

    Just what I have been looking for. Walking on the World is the album for those of us who like many genres of music. This one has a couple. It's a mix of Country, Folk, Rock, Pop, Bluegrass to name a few. And many time when you mix such different genres on one album there are some tracks that lean towards one genre and some tracks that lean toward another, not this one most every son encompasses a mix of them all. This is something spectacular and new. Put all that aside and you'll also appreciate Armerding's great talents on guitar, mandolin, and violin...this guys pack full of awesomeness! Listen and enjoy. – MK

    GREG BROWN

    Yellow Dog

    Apr 11, 2007

    This is a live album that shows Greg Brown’s talents to the full extent. His amazing song writing and conscious political views are presented within his mixture of original and cover tunes. This is a great listen for those who know MI, especially the U.P. and care about the nature that is being exposed there. Check out tracks 2 “Cold + Dark + Wet”, track 4 “Better Days”, track 6 “Oily Boys”, and the bonus last track which a young girl sings a Greg Brown cover. *track 4 “Better Days” contains word ‘bastard’ *track 6 “Oily Boys” contains swear word (bullshit) Reviews by Lane Zoerhof

    ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL

    Reinventing the Wheel

    Apr 11, 2007

    Asleep at the wheel for me has always one of the best Western Swing bands ever. When I saw the title of this CD being “Reinventing the Wheel” I was worried they would try to change their style. This reinvention includes two new vocalist & I believe one of their first female leads with the amazing Elizabeth McQueen on tracks like “I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine” & “I’m An Old Cow Hand’ &Jason Robards on “Am I right { Or Amarillo}. The Blind Boys of Alabama also lend some great vocals on “The Devil Aint Lazy” After only one listen to this disc you will discover that this band brings as much Fun, Swing; Boogie-Woogie & Old time western sounds as any disc of their 38 year career. This Wheel is only picking up steam & I only hope they roll into a town by us soon. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

    IDGY VAUGHN

    Origin Story

    Apr 2, 2007

    Look out America, Idgy Vaughn is here! Vaughn's album Origin Story is a good for anytime album. It's got a mix of country and folk that gives this one such versatility. I especially enjoyed listening to this one as I drove down the open road one quiet afternoon. This one takes you out of Michigan and someplace south. A great road trip pick! - MK

    Cortney Tidwell

    Don't Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up

    Apr 1, 2007

    On "Don't Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up", Cortney Tidwell displays delicate growlings reminiscent of Bjork, the sweeping grandiosity of Sigur Ros, pop sensibilities similar to Guster, and the trip hop style of Portishead. Her voice sounds to me like what Joanna Newsom might sound like if she dropped the Appalachian affectation. Fans of Tonya Donelly's 90's alternative band, Belly, will hear lots to love on this album, and should take special note of track 2. Cortney Tidwell is from Nashville, daughter of Connie Eaton, a minor '70s country star but there's no country (that I can discern) to her vocals. There are some twangy guitar sounds present, though they take a back seat to the dreamy electronic layers. "La La" (track 5) makes me think of a Karen Carpenter song. Look for it in commercials, soon, I'll betcha. Lambchop's Kurt Wagner adds vocals to "Society" (track 8). Light pops like those from a vinyl record or from electronic plug-ins drape over the entire album. Haunting, and eerie are words that other reviewers have clung to, and they fit truly. I listened to this album many many times trying to put what I'm hearing into words. I don't have the words, but I enjoyed each listen. A very strong album. Beautiful. Masterful. This ethereal, singer-songwriter is going to make an excellent opener to Andrew Bird's April 11th show at the Ladies Lit. (Olive)

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    Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, & ray Price

    Last of the Breed

    Mar 29, 2007

    Mssrs. Nelson, Haggard, and Price put together a fine, honest-to-God, country record, mixing covers and a handful of originals. The standard drums, bass, acoustic and slide guitar, and fiddle works well in these staright forward tunes, song by country artists that I can actually believe a word or two from. This is the kind of stuff modern country radio should be playing. If they did, I might actually listen. And that means something coming from a kid who listens to Aphex Twin.

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    Eleni Mandell

    Miracle of Five

    Mar 29, 2007

    On her sixth album, Eleni Mandell delivers a magnificent, late night, lights-low set -- her sexiest recording yet. Her conversational alto is set beautifully against the reeds (Jeff Turmes, who has backed James Harman and Badly Drawn Boy), guitar (Nels Cline of Wilco), vibes (DJ Bonebrake of X) and her longtime rhythm section of drummer Kevin Fitzgerald and bassist Ryan Feves. Produced by Andy Kaulkin and mixed by Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith), the album is a sonic marvel. Her captivating songwriting has taken an optimistic turn, concentrating on love found instead of love lost. Already a local hero -- Los Angeles Magazine named Eleni best local singer and the LA Weekly anointed her as best songwriter -- Miracle of Five will open the world to this timeless chanteuse. From Amazon.com

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    Martin Sexton

    Seeds

    Mar 23, 2007

    "Are you ready to rock and roll? Are you ready to feel my soul?" is the opening and multiply repeated line of Seed's 10th track "Failure," which is also one of the better tracks on this Sexton release. This one line pretty much sums up the entire album, somehow. There are so many other descriptive words that I could use, but that does it for me. The vocals, the beats, the guitar, the folk-they are all full of rock and roll...and soul. Sexton manages to create a completely new and different sound for each track, ranging from down-home country, vocal and spiritual inspired blues, straight rock and roll, and even late-Beatlesque pop. Basically every track, except for the few that have vulgarity, are well-equipped for play, but some I thought were especially good were the emotional wailing of 3 "Wild Angels," the funky, cool 4 "Will It Go Round In Circles," the southern gospel 7 "Marry Me," and the rocking 10 "Failure." -Jake Burritt No Play 1-"Hot Damn" 5-"Ass" 6-"Bitch slap" 8-"Goddamn"

    Susan Werner

    The Gospel Truth

    Mar 23, 2007

    Like her friend, Erin McKeown, Susan Werner's been bouncing all over the musical map lately. Werner's last disc was full of jazz standards and similar originals. This time, she's gone into the world of church-gospel music and used that genre as a backdrop to her themes of faith and doubt. But don't mistake this for a gospel record, since Werner's at least as heavy on the doubt as she is the faith. From the opener: "You know you'd damn me if you could/ but my friend that's simply not your call/If God is great and God is good/why is your heaven so small?" And from "Our Father": "Lord lead us not into temptation/but deliver us from those who think they're You." Werner's beautiful voice and well-constructed songs are deep into a spiritual wrestling match that she doesn't resolve at the CD's end. But that's good, since that puts her in the company of most human beings. She sings in "Probably Not": "Is there a God above?/Is there eternal love?/Probably not," hedging her bets at the end of the tune -- "If He hands me a heavenly crown/ would I dare to turn Him down?/Probably not." Open, honest and fair dialogue about religion and faith -- for once. My favorite of the set: "Did Trouble Me" (#4). MJVD Note hidden track at #12. “Untitled”

    Ry Cooder

    My Name is Buddy

    Mar 23, 2007

    Ry Cooder’s parable of “radical imagination.” The album details the life, rambles and education of “Buddy Red Cat.” Cooder brings guests to the table like Mike Seeger, his brother Pete, Roland White, Van Dyke Parks, Paddy Moloney, Flaco Jiminez, Sefon Harris, Joachim Cooder, and others. Each of 17 songs, most originals, are accompanied with a drawing from Vincent Valdez and a story/vignette written by Ry Cooder.

    Martin Sexton

    Seeds

    Mar 21, 2007

    "Are you ready to rock and roll? Are you ready to feel my soul?" is the opening and multiply repeated line of Seed's 10th track "Failure," which is also one of the better tracks on this Sexton release. This one line pretty much sums up the entire album, somehow. There are so many other descriptive words that I could use, but that does it for me. The vocals, the beats, the guitar, the folk-they are all full of rock and roll...and soul. Sexton manages to create a completely new and different sound for each track, ranging from down-home country, vocal and spiritual inspired blues, straight rock and roll, and even late-Beatlesque pop. Basically every track, except for the few that have vulgarity, are well-equipped for play, but some I thought were especially good were the emotional wailing of 3 "Wild Angels," the funky, cool 4 "Will It Go Round In Circles," the southern gospel 7 "Marry Me," and the rocking 10 "Failure." -Jake Burritt No Play 1-"Hot Damn" 5-"Ass" 6-"Bitch slap" 8-"Goddamn"

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    THE INFAMOUS STRINGDUSTERS

    Fork In The Road

    Mar 13, 2007

    I can’t wait to hear these guys commanding the crowd to dance at Blissfest this year. Its going to be a good one. Bliss 2007!!! Superb musicianship sparkles throughout every track, every player. They fly through the tunes in a groove that is impressive. Theres some tender love songs including a cover of John Mayer’s 3X5. A very sweet waltz on track 7. 40 West is a daring instrumental, it’s a sod kicker. T-Jeanne

    Chris Proctor

    Ladybug Stomp

    Mar 12, 2007

    Chris Proctor proves himself as a truly amazing guitar player on this album. This makes you want to pick up a good book, lay back and let the music take you away. It's Finger Pickin' goodness for sure! MK

    Jorma Kaukonen

    Stars In My Crown

    Mar 12, 2007

    Stars in My Crown is a collection of original and cover songs following in the traditions of blues and bluegrass. The cover songs feature credits from an array of classical American artists such as the Rev. Gary Davis, Johnny Cash, and Lightning Hopkins. Tracks: 2, 4, 11, & 14 are original instrumentals, although Kaukonen does have a few originals with him on vocals. Jorma Kaukonen has been playing and recording music for more than forty years, making a name for him self, early on as a finger picking guitarist, and a founding member of the bands Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. Stars in My Crown has a down-home country and gospel feel, with a wide arrangement of finger picking guitar styles. Seth Allgaier

    Greg Johnson

    Me & Joanna

    Mar 6, 2007

    Contrary to the disco inspired cover... this is simple, well done piano singer-songwriter stuff. Greg Johnson's voice sounds an awful lot like Chris Martin of Coldplay, and his sound wavers between that atmospheric emotional moody music and Simon & Garfunkel's sensible, straightforward songwriting approach. I also hear influences from Aha, Toto, Billy Joel, and Springsteen (listen for "Walking in Memphis" on "Love is the Underdog") Standout tracks: 3, 5, 9 and 11 (Olive)

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    MARTHA SCANLAN

    The West Was Burning

    Feb 26, 2007

    Martha Scanlan, former band member of the Reeltime Travelers, trots into her solo career with "The West was Burning," and her bluegrass/folk tunes take listeners out onto the porch to drink lemonade and watch the stars. This songstress is spiritual, with an added earthly charm. She sings to God, the trees, faded jeans ... she is true Americana ... an earthy, country gal paying homage to all that is divine. From the sweet tea love song seeped in natural metaphors "Seeds of the Pine," to a full-bodied rendition of Reverend James Cleveland's gospel classic, "Get Right Church," Scanlan's variety, poetry and lack of pretention take her to the top of the mountain. – Sarah Cosgrove

    THE ROCHES

    Moonswept

    Feb 19, 2007

    Terre is back to make it the Roches again. They even have little Lucy on track 7, who is Suzzy's and Loudon Wainwright III's daughter. Full of quirkiness and soft harmony. –P

    Sonia and disappear fear

    DF05

    Feb 19, 2007

    Sonia Rutstein reconstitutes her band “disappear fear” with Laura Cerulli instead of sister Cindy and roams the country’s festivals and folk venues with her songs of protest, awareness and observations of the human heart. She does a killer version of the underrated ‘60s protester Phil Ochs’ “Is There Anybody Here?” and her own ‘”No Bomb is Smart” is her most recent contribution to the genre.

    The Last Town Chorus

    Wire Waltz

    Feb 12, 2007

    This album doesn’t need a WYCE review because it’s already been said, right on. From the Village Voice: “She sings like an angel and plays lap-steel guitar like the devil.” The guitarist is singing songwriter Megan Hickey, the real reason why this band and this album are getting thumbs-up raves. The sound, in here, is uniquely etheric, cosmic and country popish...in the neighborhood, not too far from where The Be Good Tanyas hang out, on a street where the houses are landscaped with black lollipops and colorful strips of recycled cellophane slightly disturbed by an ambivalent wind. - Mostly

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    Rickie Lee Jones

    The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard

    Feb 7, 2007

    Hmmm, Rickie Lee Jones, the goddess of beatnik cool as preacher? Inspired by Lee Cantelon’s book, The Words, a modern rendering of the words of Christ, she decided to apply her unique vocal and rhythm sensibilities to this collection of musings on the nature of people and their relationship with a higher power. The result is a challenging listen both in terms of the music and the lyrics. Gone for the most part is the beat driven syncopation of her biggest hits. Replacing it is everything from guitar driven folk, Falling Up and Circle in the Sand, to simple ballads, Seventh Day, to spooky acoustic instrumentals, Road To Emmaus, to rock driven numbers, Tried to Be a Man which features a sinister industrial beat and wracked out guitar on the break as a backdrop to Jones’ whispered vocals. Elsewhere, the tracks take on an ethereal feel not far removed from the Cowboy Junkies. While Jones is in generally good vocal form the spare Lamp of the Body and the other worldly but ultimately grating Donkey Ride are more spoken than sung and can be a bit of a painful listen. On the lyric front her stream of consciousness ramblings take on everything from first party accounts of how Christ felt walking in anonymity, Nobody Knows My Name, to how religion is best found outside the mega churches, Where I Like It Best. On the lighter side is Elvis Cadillac where Jones imagines rock luminaries such as Janis Joplin working the corner bars in Heaven. Overall, a mixed bag that some will find to be brilliant while others will move quickly for the eject button. Smitty

    LUCINDA WILLIAMS

    West

    Feb 5, 2007

    Bad-ass vocals describe some sad times for Lucinda. There is some serious purging going on in these songs. Here Lucinda works with Saturday Night Live musical director Hal Wilner, who also produced Bill Frisell’s record Unspeakable and Marianne Faithful’s Strange Weather.. In an interview in Performing Songwriter Lucinda describes sitting at the kitchen table to do most of her writing, This might be why her lyrics seem so personal and intimate. - Teresa

    PO GIRL

    Home to You

    Feb 5, 2007

    Wonderful harmonies from Trish Klein, a former member of the Be Good Tanyas. Po Girl continues on with their unique sound which works well with the old time traditional styles of music they embrace. CR Avery appears on track 9 with a bit of surprise rappin’. – Teresa

    BOW THAYER

    Spend It All

    Feb 5, 2007

    Described as a “reminiscence of Bob Dylan, John Prine, The Grateful Dead, Arlo Guthrie and classic country of the forties and fifties” and compared to Wilco, Ryan Adams, and Yonder Mountain Spring Band, Thayer’s brand of newgrass has a touch of all of those mentioned blended into something he can proudly call his own. His writing is imaginative and strong, the music toe-tapping good. Dig the baritone sax in the mix on 4-The Way That It Swings, and the fiddle on 5-Snake Bite, arguably the two best cuts on a very listenable album. – Mostly

    Bow Thayer

    Spend It All

    Feb 2, 2007

    Described as a “reminiscence of Bob Dylan, John Prine, The Grateful Dead, Arlo Guthrie and classic country of the forties and fifties” and compared to Wilco, Ryan Adams, and Yonder Mountain Spring Band, Thayer’s brand of newgrass has a touch of all of those mentioned blended into something he can proudly call his own. His writing is imaginative and strong, the music toe-tapping good. Dig the baritone sax in the mix on 4-The Way That It Swings, and the fiddle on 5-Snake Bite, arguably the two best cuts on a very listenable album. -- Mostly

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    Keith Sykes

    Let It Roll

    Feb 1, 2007

    Keith Sykes is a songwriter, songwriter. He works a lyric until it’s a vision in Technicolor and punches it out with a melody that fits like an old favorite glove. His cover of the popular Peggy Sue is a bluesy lament pleading for a love unattainable or perhaps lost. You decide. He’ll make you laugh he’ll make you cry he’ll make you think my God a true artist. Slip

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    Marshall Rhodes

    Marshall Rhodes

    Jan 31, 2007

    Marshall Rhodes is so clean that after listening to the first song I knew I had to get up and take a bath. Although not emotionally exciting the expert layering of instruments and vocals on each crafted song led me to think of session musicians that decided to use their studio talent to produce an album of their own. Slip

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    BLAZE FOLEY & THE BEAVER VALLEY BOYS

    Cold, Cold World

    Jan 30, 2007

    A lost album that wasn’t remastered, just finally released. And just in time. Blaze Foley and his band really are the definition of folk music. Complete with harmonious melodies, sing-a-long ditties, and foot-tapping beats, Cold, Cold World is a great album that is for any fans of Billy Bragg, Bob Seger, etc. Check out track 2 “No Goodwill Stores in Waikiki”, track 3 “In The Misty Garden/I Should Have Been Home With You”, track 7 “Baby Can I Crawl Back To You?”, track 10 “Election Day” and the last track 17, “Why Do You Treat Me Thisaway?”. This album is packed with great tunes. Lane Zoerhof

    KEITH SYKES

    Let It Roll

    Jan 30, 2007

    Keith Sykes is a songwriter’s songwriter. He works a lyric until it’s a vision in Technicolor and punches it out with a melody that fits like an old favorite glove. His cover of the popular Peggy Sue is a bluesy lament pleading for a love unattainable or perhaps lost. You decide. He’ll make you laugh he’ll make you cry he’ll make you think my God a true artist. Slip

    SHANE BARTELL

    Too Soon to Say

    Jan 23, 2007

    This is Texas Singer songwriter’s freshman effort & proves to an overall enjoyable listening experience. Shane mixes folk & pop sounds that combine the romantic sounds captured in a Chris Issak tune & the pop sensibilities of bands like Prefab Sprout. His voice seduces his listening audience with its laid back sultry sound and well crafted lyrics. In addition to the folk & pop sounds on this disc Shane try’s to capture some Bossa Nova sounds on tracks like “Stars Burn Out”. If your feel like adding a little romance to your set all I can say is it’s never “Too Soon to Say” Gregg Saur

    MAD TEA PARTY

    Big Top Soda Pop

    Jan 23, 2007

    Travels territory we’re come to know from The Ditty Bops and even Hot Club of Cowtown. This collection of folk-swing tunes will likely either delight or irritate you, depending on your tastes or mood. Only way to know is to give it a spin!

    CLAUDIA SCHIMIDT

    Live at the Dakota

    Jan 22, 2007

    Wow, this is a beautiful performance, Claudia is on fire. Dean Magraw used to be Peter Ostroushkos’ partner and they played beautiful music. Dean has magic in his playing and seems to bring out the magic in Claudia on this one. She lives in Northern Michigan and helps us out here at The station sometimes. Well okay, just that once She is a world class vocalist. Teresa Jeanne

    JOANNA NEWSOM

    Ys

    Jan 15, 2007

    On Joanna Newsom's second album, Ys (pronounced "ease"), she continues to move in a very different direction than her peers, and even a different one than what her audience might expect. The Milk-Eyed Mender's 12 gentle vignettes sounded like they were basking in sunlight; Ys is epic, restless, and demanding, made up of five dazzling, shape-shifting songs that range from seven to 16 minutes long.

    NATALIA ZUKERMAN

    Only One

    Jan 12, 2007

    Strong yet delicate vocalist with a creative and musical background and lovely folk sensibility. Kind of like the leaning tower of Pisa, small, in a bed of freshly watered pansies. She’s fun, and genuine, up and coming, and a welcome addition to WYCE. This, her third release, is deeply produced with layers of instruments on her own record label. -P

    ERIN MCKEOWN

    Sing You Sinners, 2007

    Jan 12, 2007

    Folk/pop songstress Erin McKeown delivers a great, out-of-leftfield set of jazz standards with a four-piece combo (guitar, keyboards, bass, drums). What makes this work is her hip delivery of the lyrics and some excellently obscure song choices to go along with more recognizable tunes. You get Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer here, but you also get the organ-buzz of the title track, an unexpected reading of "Paper Moon" and the gems "I was a Little Too Lonely" and "Rhode Island is Famous for You" (my favorite of the set). An "A" for her jazz music thesis. 01/07 MJVD J-Roots

    ADAM SNYDER

    This Town Will Get Its Due

    Jan 12, 2007

    From the band Mercury Rev, comes Adam Snyder, who puts out a great follow up to his debut album. Taking an alt-country folk sound, Snyder does a superb job on his latest album. Check out tracks 1 “Ghost Town”, track 2 “Snake Hill”, track 8 “The Night We Snuck Into The Fair” , and track 10 “This Town Will Get Its Due”. Lane Zoerhof

    NEIL YOUNG & CRAZYHORSE

    Live

    Jan 8, 2007

    Neil Young & Crazy Horse Live, is a look back or I should say a listen back to the breakout for the career of Neil Young. The tour is in support of his second album "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" and the first with the band Crazy Horse. The album showcases 2 of Neil Young's jam songs "Down By The River" and Cowgirl In the Sand". With Neil and Danny Whitten trading off powerful lead guitar licks. The length of these songs might be a bit much for certain shows but the other songs are worth the playing time, starting; "Everybody Knows This Is Know Where", "Winterlong", "Wondering" and the song written by Crazy Horse, who was a legit band in their rite "Come On Baby Lets Go Downtown". Slip.

    PALEFACE

    I Just Wanna Play Guitar

    Dec 11, 2006

    This is an awesome release from a man with a vision and a mission to melt face and take names if it's not something too boring to do. Paleface brings the gritty folk acoustic guitars overlapped with some super tight syncopated electronic grooves and hip hop esque folk reminding one of some early Beck. (Side Note: It's been noted that Beck emulated Paleface in many ways as the 2 banged around the open mic circuit of NYC in the early ninties.) This album is hushed and subdued at one moment and then bleeding glee and emotions the next. It's sounds like a prayer for the depressed of New York, especially with songs like Cruise Control Manhattan. This album is quite the trip forward from the anti-folk of his earlier work. This is late era Folk Implosion, Cali-sun pop, freaked out fun. A great release for 2006 from Paleface. Stand Out Tracks - 3. Cruise Control Manhattan 4. A Cinderella Story 7. Styrofoam Chezzz 9. Pay For Taxis - Oliver

    LACH

    Blang!

    Dec 11, 2006

    Lach, of course, was known for playing a key role in New York's anti-folk movement, and with Blang!, he truly perfected his blend of punk and folk. Lach's offbeat sense of humor serves him well on such irreverent gems as "Drinking Beers with Mom," "The Blue Monk" (not to be confused with Thelonious Monk's bebop classic) and "Teenage Alcoholic," all of which underscore the singer/songwriter/guitarist's healthy appreciation of Bob Dylan while favoring the type of reckless energy that characterized punk heroes like the Clash, the Damned and the Jam. Those who were adolescents in the late 1970s can relate to "Kiss Loves You," a teen-age male's amusing ode to the influential heavy metal/hard rock band. For anyone with even a casual interest in anti-folk, Blang! is required listening. – AMG This album was Produced by former Bongos' lead singer Richard Barone, Lach is responsible for the early exposure of artists Beck, Michelle Shocked, Avett Brothers, Langhorne Slim, Regina Spektor, The Moldy Peaches, and many more. - Oliver

    SAM BUSH

    Laps in Seven

    Dec 11, 2006

    A top of the line, well-respected release. He gives Bush a good name. p

    ALELA DIANE

    The Pirates' Gospel

    Dec 11, 2006

    Joana Newsome’s friend and musician of similar style. This is a bit more radio friendly. p

    DAVID MOLINARI

    Whispering to a Crowd

    Dec 11, 2006

    A welcome addition to the WYCE library- another David Molinari CD. A multi talented musician with some mighty cool songs. The song “Richard” describes the guy that just rides around town all day on his bike, almost every home town has one. The universal aspect of Dave’s lyrics is one of the things that makes it addictive. Many reviews of the band use the word familiar and comfortable, a likeable quality to the music. Maybe its because he is truly a likeable guy, he has been there helping us with WYCE events and fundraisers for many years including the most recent fund drive where he played for the Open House and donated a house concert which was then donated back to WYCE as a fundraiser/ CD release party. Teresa Jean

    SWEET WEDNESDAY

    Wherever You Go

    Dec 11, 2006

    Singer/Songwriters Lisa Housman and Dave Falk team up with the SWINGING STEAKS on this release. First place winners of the Great American and Dallas Songwriting Contests. P

    DAMIEN RICE

    9

    Nov 27, 2006

    Folkie Damien Rice is back with his signature blunt, often raw lyrics on his sophomore release, 9. His sharp tongue saves the down-tempo offerings of love and desperation from bordering on the cliché as he wonders aloud about the new life of a former lover on the track Accidental Babies and plays true confession with the first single, 9 Crimes. These elements lend a voyeuristic feel to an album that may or may not be autobiographical. In fact, 9 can be summarized as an extension of the debut “O” until you realize the familiar sound of the bitter lyrics found in Rootless Tree and Me, My Yoke and I are full-blown rock songs. Rice strikes a delicate balance between two and sometimes three genres on 9. The one exception is track five, Dogs. For some reason lyrics about yoga girls and dogs seem too simple and thoughtless on an otherwise emotion-laden and masterful album. Co-vocalist Lisa Hannigan returns to open and close the album. – Sarah Minnick

    STING

    Songs from the Labyrinth

    Nov 27, 2006

    “Songs from the Labyrinth,” took many people by surprise. The album features songs from the Elizabethan songwriter, John Dowland (1563–1626). Sting is joined by famous lute player Edin Karamazov. The songs will appear on Deutsche Grammophon, which is the world’s most celebrated classical music record label. Sting has been a Dowland fan for over 20 years when it was introduced to him in 1980 and has been intrigued by the uniqueness of the lute as well. Sting quotes, “For me these are pop songs written around 1600 and I relate to them in that way; beautiful melodies, fantastic lyrics, and great accompaniments.” Ben

    GOB IRON

    Death Songs For The Living

    Nov 20, 2006

    Jay Farrar and Anders Parker create this unbelievable album which will please any fan of Farrar’s earlier band Uncle Tupelo and his recent band Son Volt. A record where every other song is a short instrumental, the actual songs, which are made up of traditional folk songs are works of alt-country art, just as any Uncle Tupelo record was. Once this album hits your c.d. player, it will remain for a long time. Check out tracks 5 “Hills Of Mexico”, track 13 “Death Is Only A Dream”, track 17 “Little Girls and Dreadful Snake”, and two righteous original Gob Iron songs track 11 “Nicotine Blues” and track 19 “Buzz & Grind”. If you like Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, or Varaline, you’ll love this album. If you’ve never heard of any of those bands, you’ll still enjoy this record. – Lane

    TIM O' REAGAN

    Tim O' Reagan

    Nov 20, 2006

    This solo debut release from sabbatical Jayhawks’s drummer Tim O’Reagan proves that he can do more than just keep beat. While the band was/is active, O’Reagan does some of the songwriting, but here he gets the job done by himself…with the help of a rather large list of fellow musicians, including his mom (violin) and dad (whistle), and featuring Gary Louris, Marc Perlman and Mark Olson from the Jayhawks, and former Son Volt bassist Jim Boquist. His music is an interesting blend of good alternative country with the lighter side of classic rock. Regardless, there’s a whole lot of music in this album. Some playable tracks are 1 “These Things,” 4 “Highway Flowers,” and 6 “That’s the Game.” -Jake Burritt

    WILLIE NELSON

    Songbird

    Nov 20, 2006

    Paired with Ryan Adams to create a bit of an adventurous new sound for Willie. His down-home, country sound combined with Adams and his band The Cardinals actually makes sense, if you listen to the final production. Willie used a couple of his sidemen, longtime harmonica master Mickey Raphael and Glenn Patscha on Hammond B-3, but most the musical filler was from The Cardinals. “His easy delivery, contrasted with Adams wiry production, creates an emotionally honest, deeply moving recording with the best traits of both men shining forth. Nelson wrote four tracks on this set, Adams wrote two, and the selection of covers -- "Songbird" by Christine McVie, Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter's "Stella Blue," Gram Parsons' "$1,000 Wedding," and Harlan Howard's "Yours, Love" -- is stellar.” (allmusic.com) I just thought they did so much better than I could have. I enjoyed this rocking blues side of Willie, it was relaxed and fun. -Jake Burritt

    YUSUF ISLAAM AKA CAT STEVENS

    An Other Cup

    Nov 13, 2006

    “As Cat Stevens he defined a generation with “Tea for Tillerman.” After 30 Years he returns with “An Other Serving.” Cat –ahem—Yusuf Islaam is back. -P

    PAUL WESTERBURG

    Open Season

    Nov 13, 2006

    Paul Westerberg's legendary status in rock 'n' roll history is secure and not leaving. He was the leader of Minneapolis post punk icons the Replacements, Westerberg was the creative force behind one of the most influential rock bands of the 1980s, creating a template that would someday be adapted by legendary groups such as Nirvana and Ryan Adams. Since 1991, he's maintained a solo career bringing his career to the soundtrack of animated movie Open Season.

    THE GUGGENHEIM GROTTO

    Waltzing Alone

    Nov 13, 2006

    The Guggenheim Grotto’s debut Album will be released Throughout the U.S. and Canada on September 26. Dublin Natives, Mick Lynch, Kevin May and Shane Power released Waltzing alone in Ireland only last September under their own label. Their music is influenced primarily by the writings of Leonard Cohen. They have a combination of classical and contemporary instruments which create the theme of tragic love songs. They hope to fashion the unusual moments of life into a beautiful desire. Ben Buteyn

    TOM WAITS

    Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards

    Nov 13, 2006

    The three discs on this Tom Waits’ album create a collective overview of him as a person. They range from the nitty-gritty Tom Waits to the recreating, covering Tom Waits to the unusual story-telling Tom Waits. This album took three years to compile, and it’s no surprise, there is over 3 hours of music-56 songs, 30 of which being new recordings. –Jake Burrett

    SAMANTHA CRAIN

    Nov 13, 2006

    Samantha Crain is an American musician, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist from Shawnee, Oklahoma. Crain is known for her harmonica around the neck, acoustic guitar, and her signature tambo-kick drum. The rest of her band just includes Beth Bombara on percussion and electric guitar. She refers to her music as “experimental folk.” Ben Buteyn

    MIHO HATORI

    Ecdysis

    Nov 13, 2006

    A beautifully crafted album from Miho Hatori (1/2 of the group Cibo Matto), she takes Bj