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At The Women's Club... (Cedar Creek Music)
If you are familiar with Daddy co-leader Will Kimbrough (and everyone should be by now) you know from his guitar slinging gigs (Rodney Crowell, Todd Snider, etc.) and production work (Adrienne Young, Willy Clay Band and so on) that he has impeccable chops and taste. Add in long time buddy guitarist/songwriter Tommy Womack and you have a potent mix of songs, skill, and intelligence. And they flat out rock. Kimbrough's songs are mostly steeped in southern/ gospel/ blues ("Glory Be", "I Don't Like It") while Womack's contributions tend to be slightly quirkier country refrains ("Martin Luther", "I Miss Ronald Reagan") but no less engaging. This live set, a debut for the band, was recorded in a Kentucky club in 2005 and has the guys backed up by top line Nashville based players John Deaderick, Paul Griffith and Dave Jacques. If you've recently doubted the power of guitar based rock bands to be transcendent in that Stone/Faces/Crazy Horse kind of way, this should restore your faith. Here's hoping the principals find more time to pursue Daddy in the near future, because rock needs redemption, we all need saving and there's just a handful of bands out there up to the feat.
DaddyMusic. Buy from amazon  Released Oct. 2005. Reviewed by Michael Meehan.

For A Secong Time... (Cedar Creek)
Daddy is a collaboration of two talented singer-songwriters, Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack, good friends with solo careers who decided to have some fun together. This is their second effort and they're now a full band with keys, bass and drums. They sound at times like early Stones, Little Feat, NRBQ and maybe even a little Grateful Dead. Kimbrough and Womack share a strong sense of humor and irony. Womack offers words of wisdom like "Early to Bed, Early To Rise", and "I Want To Be Clean" (about gettin' and stayin' sober). While KImbrough checks in with a brilliant song about the current overdiagnosis of ADD on "He Ain't Right" and a love song called "Wash & Fold." This CD is packed with just quality songs and good rootsy rock from start to finish. Pick this one up!
Daddy's Reverb nation site. Buy from amazon. Released June, '09, reviewed by Bill Frater

Best Day... (Compass)

On the cover of Best Day, Sheila Carabine and Amanda Walther of Dala appear impossibly wholesome and pretty. If you only heard this music in the background, you might conclude that the songs followed suit; sweet, polished and little else. But you’d be missing something. This is some smart songwriting and impeccable duet work; Misses Carabine and Walther blend together like sisters, mixing intelligent lyrics from a young woman’s perspective with snappy pop melodies and wonderfully intertwining harmonies. Production is largely acoustic in character, layered and smooth with no rough edges, coffeehouse deluxe. While the songs contain no small amount of early–20s optimism, they look forward to the challenges that lie ahead for anyone so young. They know they will someday be heartbroken, get older, and become like their parents.

I’m not afraid of Virginia Woolf
But I’m running scared from the words she wrote
Jacob and Daniel, man they could have been friends
If they’d used that ladder in the lion’s den

Someday, Shelia and Amanda will be women with years behind them and stories to tell. Catch them now while they are still wondering what’s next.


Dala's web site. Buy from amazon. Released May, '12, reviewed by Brad Price

Half Mad Moon....(Sire)
This young Austin band features the delightful harmonies of two sisters, Amy Boone who plays bass, and Deborah Kelly who plays acoustic guitar. They play mostly roots-rock and, (if you not tired of that term yet). The band has unmistakable punk-pop tendencies, but without all that "I'm so hip" attitude.  These guys not only have some soul but they sound like they're having fun. Utility player Rob Bernard adds some nice banjo here and there along with some fine guitar work.  I like their songs, love their singing, and I haven't grown tired of the album yet after a month.  And that's really the best recommendation I can give.
  Best tunes: Unholy Train, No Sign of Water, Jack's Waltz, Kansas, Half Mad Moon, Commercial Zone Blues, Catch You Alive. They have a site,, with mostly tour info.  Released Feb. '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Where It Lands... (Joy-Ride)
Finally, a new album by the band formerly known as Damnations TX and now known just as The Damnations. While the lawyers at Sire/Warner Bros. made them drop the TX before they let the band leave the label, the quality of their music has not dropped a bit. Their rowdy mix of country and Texas rock is left gloriously intact, and the songs have been improved by the seasoning only career snafus and good old record company defiance can bring. This album is a triumph in every sense of the word from their own songs (check out the opener All Night Special for one of the best album-starters of all time and Root On is a barnburner!) to the songs by Doug Sahm and D. Boon they have chosen to cover. This is a lesson for any band having trouble - stick with it and try to convert any anger into a fantastic new album. Hey, Sire - choke on this!
The Damnations official site.  Released March, 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

Trouble Creek... (Dren)
Meredith Ochs soothing voice, and the excellent musicianship of her band The Damn Lovelys make this a nice, mellow CD full of songs that might not get much radio play, but if they did, people would like them a lot. Her voice is reminiscent of Sheryl Crow and Sophie B. Hawkins, in a softer way. The songs on this CD are well crafted, and are executed well. The harmonies are nice and tight, the melodies show off Ochs' voice nicely, and the arrangements are low-key. There is a bit of folk, a bit of blues, a bit of, and a bit of club rock. The production, while not showing any real gaffs, lacks presence, leaves the CD sounding a bit flat, and shows that the band is still in search of their voice. The best of the CD comes in the very Crow-esque "Money In Your Pocket" and the beautiful, waltz-time "You're Too Pretty" which both show off the lyrical depth, feel, and potential of The Damn Lovelys. Now that they've been signed to Philadelphia's Dren Records, I suspect they will get studio craftsmanship to match that of the music.
Buy from amazon. Their site. Released Jan. '04, reviewed by Clint Weathers.

Bastards of the Beat... (Red Ink/Epic)
For a band naming itself such a countrified term, The Damnwells seem to know their pop history just as well as their country roots. While the band shows a lot of heartland rock and roll with generous touches of country, the band distinguishes itself the most by their judicious use of pop touches and soundscapes. Far from an overladen Brian Wilson-style production, the CD nonetheless feels as if it was produced to be more than just your average ranch stash, to quote a little Michael Nesmith. What the Damnwells have created is what Wilco and a bunch of other so-called bands and artists have been going after since was deemed a non-entity in the market place: a perfect-pop mix that feels rootsy but has enough melodic pop touches to bridge the gap in the marketplace. While some bands have just "transformed" themselves into pop bands (just like they "transformed" themselves into country bands when doing THAT was cool) and put out what can only be termed "product" (and well-produced, sterile, boring product at that - hello, Marah!) The Damnwells have done it organically enough to make it sound as if they mean it, like it goes along with their music. How can I tell? I can feel it, and that's enough for me. While most CDs done this way just scream "last chance at commercial success" (hello, Yankee Hotel Horseshit!) this CD doesn't. It just contains some marvelous songs that you should check out. And that should be enough.

The Damnwells site. Buy from amazon. Released April ,'04. Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Guts And Gravel... (Protect-O-Matic Music)

This is pretty bad: these guys look like friends of mine, sound like friends of mine, sing about what friends of mine would sing about, if they could sing, and the ‘No Good Buddies' bit, well, I've been on the receiving end of that line more times than I care to remember. Thankfully, they don't get hung up on that baby-boomer angst that seems to characterize so much of that generation. Calling themselves a “bunch of old farts”, it's rather obvious that ego and low self-esteem are not a concern with this band, and it shows in their music. They happily wander all over the musical spectrum, from the fifties-style opener, “The Teardrops Start”, featuring some fine boogie-woogie harp playing by Guy Wallis, through the eco-barbed, tip of the hat to Country Joe, “What Would Jesus Drive”, to the Cajun inflected “Pierre, Bobby and Marie”. If there's a real clunker in the works, it'd be “Sweet Mary Jane”, one of those nudge-nudge, wink-wink, odes to the charms of the ganga . Song like that were dumb thirty-five years ago, and time hasn't improved them, but I suspect that these boys are having too much fun doing what they love to do, to really give a damn.

The YNGB website, (for $10, cheap like borscht!) Released Aug. '04. Reviewed by Don Grant.

Tomorrow, Yesterday... (self released)
While at first glance the name of the artist might make you think this is some husband and wife duet team singing at the local Holiday Inn lounge, you'd be wrong. Actually, Darlin' and Rose are a band, more of a bluegrass-style instrumentally although some modern country and rock touches show up in the music on occasion. Songs are all originals, and mostly written by what could be the Darlin' and Rose of Darlin' and Rose, Nisha Catron and Sylvester Bowen. Both handle vocals and acoustic guitars and complement each other very well, both vocally and musically. Songs are alright and the instrumentation is decent, but nothing really grabs me about this CD that would make it exceptional or out of the relative ordinary. It's competent enough, but unless you have to have every CD that features a banjo, I'd let this one pass.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood

Sonic Boom... (Write On)
Dash, formally known as Dash Rip Rock, have finally reemerged on the scene with a new album and big hopes of revitalizing the band's career. The band decided to drop the last two words of its' name in hopes of doing a little spin control and to squelch their past as kings of the frat party and do-nothings of the sales charts. The band started fifteen years ago with plenty of promise and tons of roots rock fire and landed a deal with then-indie Mammoth records and began making a name for itself with killer shows that garnered huge word of mouth. But, the band's albums never sold and after a while, the label just got tired of enduring the same non-interest again and again. The band has hopped to other label's since, still sticking with their Jason and the Scorchers-like country rock and mixing in some catchy pop for flavor, but gathering no steam sales-wise. Now on their own, the band hopes the name change will give them new life and re-invent them as a new band. Sorry guys, I love your blend of punk/pop/country-rock but I don't think shortening your name is what you need. Better songs would do it, as all the energy in the world can't polish a turd. Still, if you like Dash in their former incarnation, you'll like this, as nothing but the name has been changed to protect their not-innocent reputations. Better luck next time.
The official Dash Rip Rock site Released Jan, 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Moot Davis (Little Dog)
Get your honkytonking self out on the dance floor, Moot Davis has put it all together on this new CD on Little Dog Records. Although I would say his voice is somewhere between Wayne Hancock and Roger Wallace, (with Hank Williams a clear influence), Davis is his own man having written and sung all ten songs on this impressive debut. Not only does he have a strong, expressive voice but each one of these tunes is a true toe-tapper and/or sing-along - No easy job but a true story. Producer Pete Anderson also plays on this CD accompanied by a versatile group of musicians including Gabe Witcher, Skip Edwards, Gary Morse and Don Heffington. Lots of pedal steel, guitar and fiddle with a surprise trumpet appearance by Lee Thornburg. Check it out, you'll want to know what the buzz is about.

Little Dog's site. Buy from amazon. Released March, '04. Reviewed by Kay Clements.

Deadweight... (Milltown)
It’s a fine line between influence and imitation, and Roy Davis treads it lightly on his second release with The Dregs, Deadweight. From one track to the next, Davis wraps his original lyrics around sounds reminiscent of Wilco, Whiskeytown, Neil Young and a few others you can’t quite put your finger on (Counting Crows?). Each song, be it a quiet folk song, twangy rock and roll or honky tonk, has a shadow of familiarity. After a few times through, however, it becomes clear there is something original and unpredictable about the Portland, Maine singer-songwriter. On “Lie like the snow falls,” he sings, “Don’t cry when your glass is full/ just lie like a snowfall/ hell is the little things/ love will dance again.” At 22, this is a songwriter who displays a maturity beyond his years. And a talent that holds the promise of great things to come.
Roy Davis' website, and MySpace page. Order from CD Baby. Released Feb. '08, reviewed by Barry Dugan.

Country Soul Brother… (Stag)

Jesse Dayton's seems to straddle that fine line between Alt. Country and “regular” Country and he pulls it off rather well. I think a lot of it is he's from Texas where they still know and respect “real” Country music. His baritone voice has a touch of swagger that seems to suit these songs nicely. The CD title, Country Soul Brother had me excited that he might be stretching the boundries of country ever-so-slightly towards 60's R&B, a connection that I love (think Conway Twitty or Charlie Rich). But he only hints at that on a couple of songs. On “It Won't Always Be Like This” combine steel guitar and a horn section for that soulful groove that I was hoping for. The rest is a mix of shuffles, blues, Tex-Mex rock. He even turns the Cars' “Just What I Needed” into a country song which is fun at first but gets tiring because I heard the song enough to begin with.

Jesse's site Buy from amazon. Released Nov. '04, reviewed by Bill Frater

"Holdin' Our Own"...and other Country Gold Duets
... (Stag)

Jesse Dayton has been kickin' around Texas for over 10 years and has a great rockin' honky tonk sound. He's brought in the relatively unknown Brennen Leigh, who has a real strong Country voice. As the title suggests, it's all country duets, like the kind sung by people with names like George & Tammy, Conway & Loretta and even Gram & Emmylou. But the great thing is Jesse and Brennen co-wrote half of the 12 songs. “Let's Run Away”, “We Hung The Moon” and “Two Step Program” hold up as well as the older tunes. Excellent playing and arrangements all around make this CD a must-have for “real” country fans and more.

Jesse's Home for Hardchargers. Buy from amazon. Released Nov. '07, reviewed by Bill Frater

Honky Tonks 'n' Churches... (Blind Nello)
Ya gotta love this guy, cause he is a young songwriter who has a blue collar job roofing houses when he's not singing his brilliant songs. He writes with sensitivity and maturity while still maintaining his honky tonk foundation.  His voice a low and warm much like Joe Ely. The CD title refers to the title song on the CD where he enlists gospel singers along with pedal steel guitar, musically and lyrically demonstrating the similarities and contrasts of the two different places of worship. . . so to speak.  I guess I'd call his style literate honky tonk music and I think it's a great listen.
He's got his own site...  Released February 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

The Lawless... (self-released)
A master of the almost lost art of story-songwriting akin to Townes Van Zant, Guy Clark and Mickey Newbury, Deal has crafted another CD full of the vital imagery and great stories we have come to expect from him. Anyone who's enjoyed some of Deal's past CDs including Lovin', Shootin', Cryin' and Dyin' and Kiss On The Breeze knows Deal's attention to detail in his songwriting and how well his choice of words can put you right there in the middle of it, as if the song was about you. Deal has Lloyd Maines producing and lending his guitar and steel playing skills to the record as well as other guest stars and duet partners like James Perkins and Terri Hendrix. Besides writing another bunch of fine songs for this CD, Deal is also adept at choosing covers and has picked songs by Max Stalling, Ronnie Van Zant and Hank Williams to flesh out this CD. For solid songwriting, you can't go wrong with a Kevin Deal CD and this one is no different. Very well done.
Order the CD from Lone Star Music. Kevin's site. Released May, 2003. Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

The King Is Dead... (Capitol)
Over their 10-year existence, this Portland group has cultivated a small, but very loyal, following that mostly consists of young hipsters (my 22-year-old daughter has been trying to get me to listen to them for years). They always sounded to me like a throwback to English folk-rock bands from the 60’s, like Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span.  Lead singer and songwriter Colin Meloy has a way with wordy, ornate songs, and has been known to write concept albums with meandering songs with lyrics straight out of Tolkien, but on The King Is Dead, all of that has been changed, distilled into something new. Meloy has stated that he brought in Gillian Welch because of his admiration of Neil Young’s Comes A Time which featured the late Nicolette Larson on most tracks; that influence is noticeable, in a good way. They also brought in REM’s Peter Buck on 3 tracks which is really obvious on “Calamity Song” so much that it sounds straight out of REM’s back catalogue. Meloy has a way with a melody, making for some truly delightful, memorable tracks, and the rest of the band show off their versatility with a wide variety of instruments.  This is by far their most accessible work, without alienating their core audience. At long last, my daughter’s hard work has paid off; I’m a fan.
The Decemberists' site. Buy from amazon. Released Jan. '11, reviewed by Bill Frater, edited by Rosie Frater.

The Delafields.... (self released)

On their eponymous CD, The Delafields say two things right up front that I'm always happy to hear: First, that the heart and soul of country music has vacated Nashville and planted itself firmly in Chicagoland. Secondly, that Americana isn't just American. There is truly wonderful conjunto accordion work from Eddie Torrez that compares well to that of the great Flaco Jimenez, and it gives the CD just a flat-out fun quality. There is also great songwriting from Paul Quaintance and Chris Anderson. This CD throws in obvious influences from all over the American music spectrum, shakes them up, strains them out, and serves up 101 proof authenticity. Along with their well-crafted originals, The Delafields put the torch to two traditionals, "Sitting On Top of the World" and "Lonesome Blues" will have you singing right along. For purely bonus points this CD definitely gives the impression that this has to be a fun band to see live. That speaks a volume for the production work done by Matt Allison. The sound sparkles and shines with wonderfully balance, giving the listener that sense of being within arm's reach of the stage. With their wonderful instrumentation, vocals, and arrangements, it's almost a shame they didn't include one of the wonderful covers they mention on their website. This CD will definitely go on my iPod for some top-down driving music this spring.
Delafield' site. Order from CD Baby. Released early '04. Reviewed by Clint Weathers.

Columbus and the Colossal Mistake... (Relay)
This is a gem of a recording from an artist most recently heard from as a producer (The Coalmen) and previously a member of brother band The Delevantes. Smart lyrics, engaging melodies and jangly guitars hit a sweet spot that at times suggest 80's Nick Lowe meeting the early 60's of the Byrds. “Should be” hits ("Fly Home To") mixed with provokingly lyrical tunes (the title track, "Venice is Sinking") produce a sound that if there were any justice in the world (or at least in the music business) would be blaring out of car speakers throughout the summer of '06. At least it will be out of mine. And extras, including a folk- hop version of the Ramones' “Blitzkrieg Bop” and a collection of evocative photographs taken by the artist himself, make this package a hard one to beat.
Bob's web site. Buy from amazon  Released Apr. 2006. Reviewed by Michael Meehan.

What Ever Happened to the Banjo Girl?...(Hog Frost)

This is a quirky group of ambitious Country music excentrics from Oklahoma who have no shame. The song subjects range from viagra and Frank Sinatra to prozac and political paranoia.  They are not afraid to sing off-key or embarrass themselves. Still there's something I like about this goofy CD, and I'm not sure what that is. What hath Frank Zappa and Garth Brooks wrought?

Best tracks?: Men Are Weak, Song for Frost And Frost, Miss America's After Blaine.  They have a website where you can order the CD. Released: Fall '98, reviewed by Bill Frater.

The Small Time... (Hummingbird)
Wow, the cover picture and accompanying press 8 X 10's depict a striking dark-haired woman who could give Nashville's hotties a run for the money, if that was really important to making good music. OK Bill, settle down  and put the CD on... and wow! This is a surprise, she has a rich, full voice not unlike Kelly Willis. The arrangements are stripped-down acoustic guitar with a little mandolin, courtesy of co-producer Marvin Etzioni. I mean, it sounds like a demo, very raw, almost like an old blues record. There's something very pure and magical going on here with this singer. I just hope the major labels don't get a hold of her and push the wrong "talents" and over-produce her.
Check out her website, with song samples. Order the CD from Amazon. Released  Aug. 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

The Graceful Ghost... (Sugar Hill)
If the powers that be at Nashville hadn't been distracted by some of her other obvious attributes, Dolly might have made this album a long time ago. Well, they were; Dolly didn't; so now Grey De Lisle has, and, on the similarity of the vocals alone, you'd swear Dolly did. A fine selection of self-penned Bluegrass ballads, Graceful Ghost is an album that does contain some imperfections; imperfections, not mistakes. A self-confessed adherent of the 'single-take' school of recording, De Lisle has chosen not to take the technological eraser to her work, and the result only lends credence to her efforts. Sure we can all get it right, given sufficient opportunity to revisit our lives, but that ain't how the world works, kids. "That which we are, we are", and I laud this woman's courage to accept, even celebrate this fact. From her bio, she hasn't been dealt the best hand in the deck, but she's playing what she's got for keeps. Anyone who can bare her soul and her heart as artfully and unreservedly as Grey De Lisle does here gets my vote.

Grey's site. Sugar Hill Records. Buy from Amazon. Released March, '04, reviewed by Don Grant.

Iron Flowers... (Sugar Hill)
This is an artist that has grown from the torch and twang of her early material to one of the most provocative writer/performers on the scene. Iron Flowers shows a confident Delisle proficient with edgy guitar rock, Phil Spector-type pop and country prison ballads all tied together with a solitary vision. I was hesitant about the opening Queen cover ("Bohemian Rhapsody"), but she pulls off a coup here, turning an overblown anthem into a spooky murder ballad. With strong back up from the likes of Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention), Don Heffington (Lucinda Williams), Greg Leisz (everybody) and husband Murray Hammond (Old 97s), under the direction of producer Marvin Etzioni (Lone Justice) this one sounds like a masterwork that I'll return to again and again. What more could you ask for?

Grey's web site. Sugar Hill Records. Buy from Amazon. Released June, '05, reviewed by Michael Meehan.

Strange Conversation… (Signature Sounds)

Signature Sounds is a record label from Boston that has been on quite a roll this year. Starting with fine releases from Mark Erelli, Jeffrey Foulcalt and Crooked Still and then adding Chris Smither to the roster, it's one of the prime singer-songwriter outlets today. And Strange Conversation may be the best of the lot. Delmhorst took poems from centuriesago by writers like Browning, e.e cummings and Yeats and put their poems to music. In most cases Kris took great liberties with her adaptations, just using the idea of the poem as a starting off point. The musical arrangements are by no means academic-sounding but rather upbeat and melodic. She added a second line horn section to many of the songs like “Invisible Choir” and the delightful “Galuppi Baldessare”. The final track “Everything Is Music” pulls the whole project together nicely. It's loosely based on a Rumi poem, and it's an instant classic. In fact, I could say that about the whole album. No other folk artist these days is taking these kind of adventurous chances with such great results.

Signature Sounds. Kris' own site. Buy from amazon. Released June, '06, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Cars… (Signature Sounds)
I like Kris Delmhorst - I like her a lot, ever since her wonderful 2006 release Strange Conversation. There she took a premise that could easily drift into high-minded silliness and made a solid folk-pop album that works in spades. Delmhorst brings the smile in her voice to Cars, and while the results are charming there is no revelation to be found here - simply loving covers of Cars' tunes. The atmosphere is folky and relaxed, the players are terrific, and it sounds like it was a lot of fun to do, but nothing is reinvented or changed significantly from the '80s originals. I'm going to sing along with "My Best Friend's Girlfriend" and wait for her next album of originals.
Kris' own site. Order from CD Baby. Released Aug. 2011, reviewed by Brad Price.

Another Thousand Miles... (self-released)
On first impression, this CD looks and sounds like a standard young folkie. But then I realize the songs are not so much folk songs as spare, well-arranged tunes. Demeyer's voice is soulful and her lyrics are incisive and frequently focus on loneliness. The songs pick up now and then and even venture into jam-band land. Jazz-Bluegrass fiddler and mandolin player Mike Marshall guests on a couple of tunes, but the album would be just as good without his contributions. Not a CD that I'll listen to everyday but certainly better than alot of the singer-songwriters out there today. 
She has her own website with song samples and tour info. You can also order the CD from Amazon. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

Red River Flower... (self released)
DeMeyer's voice has a strong, soulful quality that brings vocalists like Allison Moorer or Sheryl Crow to mind. Forget trying to categorize this one; she runs the table with a taste of everything:  soul, bluegrass,, rock, gospel, blues... even funk! Big credit must go to producer and drummer Brady Blade, who manages the whole affair with a gentle, tasteful hand. Further shout-outs must also go to Al Perkins, who manages to play steel guitar without it sounding too "country," and the amazing Mike Henderson, who set aside his mandolin to pick up the slide guitar once again. Even the great Buddy Miller shows up on a couple of tracks. But despite all the talented assistance, Brigitte is still the star, with superior songs and a consistent vision.  All in all, this is great stuff from start to finish.
Brigitte's website. Order from CD Baby. Released March. '09, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Pulling Up Atlantis... (Okra-Tone)
Yet another winner of a project from producer/guitarist extraordinaire Eric Ambel. Along with his aforementioned qualities, as a musical talent scout he is unparalleled, finding this band and helping craft a wonderful album full of cool roots rock and acoustic country touches sure to please all manner of fans interested in twang and roll. The band itself has three main members, singers Elena Skye and Boo Reiners and bassist Winston Roye. Enabling them are all manner of other musicians including Ambel himself on many cuts. The band itself sounds like the most talented members of your favorite guitar pull - loose and well-structured at the same time and comfortable enough to make it look easy and sound great. Great songs, stellar production, with plenty of twang. What else do you need? Released Oct. 2001.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

Time Tells Tales... (self released)
In his second recording, Tony DeNikos showcases a wonderful versatility in a wide range of styles. Not your 'stuck in one rut' musician, he comfortably slips gracefully and seamlessly from folk to blues to rock, presenting a musical compilation that simply flows from my speakers. It's a winning combination of very good songwriting, paired with a damn fine band. Of particular note is the work of Gantt Kushner on guitar; he's a subtle and effective craftsman, displaying an unerring ability to provide just the right amount of 'stuff'; what they used to call "a tasty player" in the old days. I'm going to keep my eye on this crew; based in the Baltimore/D.C. area, they are proof positive that no one region can claim Americana music as its own.
Tony's site. Song samples and CD ordering from CD Baby. Released 2003, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Waiting On Arleen... (Sweet Lucy)
Concept records by country artists are a rare thing indeed, but as an increasing number of  younger artists get into the classic sounds of country music, this has begun to change. The new awareness of the art form is attracting artists who want to stretch the boundaries of the music and add elements and ideas found in other genres. Denyes is one such talented artist. He has taken his one-man musical play (or so it says in the liner notes) and built an album around it. The story involves our hero's past relationship with a woman named Arleen and what happens when she returns to town. The music tends to be on the folky side of mainstream country while the lyrics tend to be simplistic but move the story along well enough. The main test for an album of this type is to see if anyone will be interested. I didn't find the story compelling enough, which could have been solved in the songwriting, but the music I found more than interesting. While not totally satisfied with this CD, I feel Denyes is an artist to watch as he seems fearless and that is a characteristic much needed by today's country artists.  Go to CD Baby to order.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood

Full Western Dress... (Sire)
I wanna like the Derailers, I really I do. They dress cool, they're great musicians and their songs are good. There's just something too pristine about their sound.  There's no doubt that they have the Bakersfield sound down cold, but maybe too cold.  Their  harmonies are flawless, but once again, there's no edge to their vocals...  I find that I like them best when the band ventures outside their usual sound and play some  Beatles-inspired songs or some Rockabilly.  If you liked their earlier 2 albums, you'll no doubt love this one as it's their best yet, it just leaves me a little cold.  

Sire's page. Buy from amazon. Released Sept. '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Reverb Deluxe... (Watermelon/Sire)
This Austin band's second release has been getting "the big push" from their record label for heavy Americana Radio "adds", which means they want it to be a big hit. Unfortunately, the music's just not that exciting or inventive, at least to my ears, despite the clean production by Dave Alvin. Sure, they sing and play good in a light honky-tonk sorta way, but I don't feel any "soul" there. I mean, I want to like it, and I think I've given the CD a good listen, but it just doesn't grab me. The songs are decent and their "Bakersfield" harmonies are great but I'm just under whelmed by this CD. Maybe next time.
Buy from amazon. Best Tracks- Just one More Time, Can't Stop A Train, Tears In Your Eyes. Derailers own site. Released Nov. '97, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Genuine... (Lucky Dog)
A truer title for this album (and more fitting for this band) could not be concocted. Contained within this plastic case with shiny disc is more pure, genuine country than has been on your local so-called country radio station in the past three years. That more people haven't fallen in love with this band (instead of, say Shania or just about any hit "country" artist) doesn't say much for the musical taste of most country fans or our musical tastes as a whole. On this CD (and all of their others, pretty much) is a compendium of everything good about pop music since the fifties. Rockabilly guitar licks abound, bountiful amounts of Bakersfield country twang is contained herein, not to mention a little Beat(les) music and some country soul as well. Though the whole band rocks, credit for the musical diversity and downright excellence falls largely on singer/guitarist Tony Villanueva and lead guitarist/vocalist Brian Hofeldt, who together or separately (often with partners such as Kostas and NRBQ's Al Anderson) have written most of the band's songs, on this and their other CDs. And, despite being way-better-than-average song scribes, they also have a talent for choosing songs, picking excellent ones from the likes of Jim Lauderdale and Buck Owens. With their solid, beyond-all-reproach output, (including this fantastic gem of an album) they should be way more famous, adored even. How a group as sad and sappy as Alabama could notch a ton of lite-pop (that's what it is - it sure as hell ain't country) hits on country radio while the Derailers are pretty much ignored means YOU aren't doing your part. Call your station, buy a butt load of this CD and give them out to your friends, do something - ‘cause I'll tell ya - if the Derailers call it quits country music will be in an even sadder sorry-ass state than it is now. And that's saying something. Buy this, buy it now, it's the best damn country (real f-in' country) CD out this year.
Sony's Derailer's page. Derailer's own page.  Buy from amazon Released March, 2003. Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Soldiers of Love... (Palo Duro)
When fellow founder Tony Villanueva left the Derailers, the band lost a triple threat writer, vocalist and guitar player, one who had helped define their 'Bakersfield country meets Beatles' pop sound. But Brian Hofelt and company were determined to carry on and the evidence is clear on this disc that the band has plenty more to offer. Hofelt turns here to classic pop/rockabilly songwriter Buzz Carson, who not only produced but co-wrote much of the material, including the title tune (which has been covered by Hofelt's beloved Beatles as well as Marshall Crenshaw). In fact, Hofelt's contributions have often relied on 60's pop styles so here his is playing to his strength. Country fans need not fret though, the Buck Owens-style honky tonk tunes are here as well as some classic rockabilly and ballads. The Derailers have always been a great live band, and while last time I saw them I missed Tony V.'s contributions, you have to root for these guys to keep soldiering on.

Palo Duro's Derailers' page. Buy from amazon. Released June, '06, reviewed by Michael Meehan.

Take Me Away....(Manitunes Music)

Deschamps is a Canadian who has been with both Blue Rodeo and Cowboy Junkies, although he is not "officially" a member of either band.  He's one of those amazing guys who while known for his lap and pedal steel guitar playing, also plays everything else that has strings on it.  It turns out Kim also writes some nice tunes and complements them with a deep smokey voice that reminds me of David Bromberg.   This is not a guitar slinger album, although there are great solos throughout the CD.   Many of the songs get into a funky, rootsy groove.  Worth seeking out.

Best tunes: Take Me Away, I Gotta Know, For The Moment, My Best Advice, The Mirror. Check, then go to Artist's bios... to Kim Deschamps for more info and CD ordering info.  Or contact Maritunes Music at P.O. Box 73029, Limeridge Mall, Hamilton, Ontario, CANADA L9A 5H7. or e-mail Kim directly. Released in late '98, reviewed by Bill Frater.

DeSoto Rust... (DSR Music)
I liked this CD from the opening Credence-like guitar chords. Singer Ray Hunter has a deep, resonant voice and his songs an edgy, roots rock feel. But this is a band with more than one card up its sleeve, as bass player Mike Simmons also contributes more countified rock songs and (quirkier) vocals. The two styles make for a more extensive sound and assure that the simple, twangy guitar/bass/drums sound never gets dull, with sparser tunes such as Simmon's "Kansas City 6 am" and "100 Year Flood" co-existing with Hunter's grittier "Stronger Than The Knife" and the opener  "Morgan Rhule". Things get a little thin when they try out some straight country ("Jim Beam", "Close Up The Honky Tonks"), but Desoto Rust is a vital band with a lot to offer. Philadelphia has been sending some fine Americana music out into the world as of late and this independent release is no exception.
Band's website. Go to CD Baby to order.  Released late 2004, reviewed by Michael Meehan.

Cover Their Eyes... (Corazong)

Krista Detor calls Bloomington, Indiana home, yet her music comes to this neck of the woods via Europe. Having friends around the world is beneficial, and this is a classic case in point. Mudshow was one of the highlights of 2005, and the same is true of its 2007 successor. Pianist Detor's style is similar to that of Kelly Flint in Dave's True Story: at turns she's torchy, sultry at times, even a type of folk-rocky at others. Whatever the mood, her lyrics are consistently perceptive and precise; she neither minces nor wastes her words. Her music is crafted in the same measure, employing diverse instruments such as cello and tuba as sparsely as Jason Wilbur's guitar to compliment the true stars of the show, her keyboards and a voice that evokes the hidden depths of still waters.

Krista's website, and MySpace, and YouTube video. Order from Corazong. Released Sept. '07 in Europe, Spring '08 USA, reviewed by Don Grant.

Somebody Somewhere... (self released)
When the first song hits from Devaney's CD, you think the whole thing is going to be a blast of some straight-ahead guitar pop. But you'd be wrong. Apart from that first song, there is little pop and much more straight ahead country rock that is brooding and pulsating the loss and heartbreak Devaney obviously felt when writing these songs. Devaney's voice sounds like Ron Wood doing Bob Dylan and has a hurting quality that adds to the depth of these songs. While some songs do rock, there is more here to think about than just having a good time. Though I am sure fans of roots rock will enjoy this as thoroughly as I did.
He has a self-named website. Order from CD Baby  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

The Devil Makes Three… (Monkeywrench)
Here we have a heavily- tattooed trio of twenty-something's from the central California coastal city of Santa Cruz. They play bluesy, ragtime-inspired original tunes with a lot of character and style. There's something slightly haunting in Pete Bernhard's strong voice. Their music could be the soundtrack to an Edward Gorey book. I think these guys have spent time listening to not only the Violent Femmes but also the Reverend Gary Davis. Two fingerpickin' guitars with a stand-up bass are the basic format. My only slight suggestion is a little greasy fiddle or mandolin would be nice to spice things up. Think Split Lip Rayfield without a mandolin, in fact my only slight complaint about this CD is I'd like to hear a little greasy fiddle or slide guitar now and then to bring a little variety to the party. Still, for a debut CD, this is great stuff.
Their site. Order from CD Baby. Released Nov. '02, reviewed by Bill Frater

Highway Of Life... (Vettset)

In 2004, Claude Diamond released his debut album, Diamond Dust , at the tender age of 65. This is his second -- traditional country music the way it was played before they fucked with it. Was a time you could hear combos like this in every town, plinking guitars, stroking fiddles, drifting clock-stopping steel out into the dark. Diamond writes classic songs, such as the title track where he sings, Boys I've got a full set of troubles / Now I'm down to downin' doubles / Searchin' for some truth inside this worn-out whiskey glass. Influences of Guy Clark, John Prine, and Billy Joe Shaver abound, as do checks from Excello blues and bontemps zydeco nights, but the stories and voice are lived in, real, Diamond's own. And dammit, that's why we still turn our heads when classic old cars drive by, looking loved on back to new, windows down, and songs like these playing on the radio.

Vettset. Order from CD Baby. Released '05, reviewed by Doug Lang.

Heart of the Singer...(Rounder)

This music rocks my clogging soul...and gives me chills. Heart of a Singer is a collection of rare and unusual songs by an equally rare combination of voices: Hazel Dickens, Ginny Hawker and Carol Elizabeth Jones. These three generations of Appalachian singers have collaborated in duets and trios to make this an album of mountain songs that time can't touch yet which evokes moments in time that feel like memories they're so visceral. These are singers singing for the pure love of the song and from the solid roots of the mountains they love so well and that's where the chills come in. Whether it's a lilting old-time melody or a straight ahead bluegrass, this particular trinity ( and I say that with all due respect) is a wonderful example of music   made by women moved by both the music and being able to sing it with each other. This is only enhanced by the excellent musicians they have accompanying them.

Favorite picks.....each and every darn track..ok, if I have to pick....Forsaken Lover, Love Me or Leave Me Alone, Old River, Time is Winding Up. Rounder has some info and ordering, or you can order from Amazon. Released Oct. '98, reviewed by Kay Clements.

Free Beer Tomorrow... (Artemis)
I gotta say one thing about Artemis: that label kicks ass. Why the heavy-duty shill? Any label that can bring a notorious man-behind-the-scenes out of semi-retirement for his first solo album in near twenty-one years has to be applauded. Don't know Dickinson? Sure you do. You just don't know it. The list of bands he's worked with is legendary. Names like The Rolling Stones (Exile era no less!), Dr. John, Alex Chilton/Big Star and Chuck Prophet are just a few of the heavyweights he's worked with behind the scenes, either producing, playing piano or guitar. As a solo artist, he's kind of a different bird, though. There's plenty of Southern-style funk mixed in with his trenchant rock moves but he's almost a Zappa/Beefheart character. Which means non-traditional song structures and a little bit of weirdness on the production side. In other words, he can rein himself in when he's working with others but when he's on his own he lets his freak flag fly a little proudly. He's with a crack band though and this is definitely pleasurable if a little out of phase for your ordinary country listener. If you have an open mind, this will be great for you. If your looking for Bakersfield country with plenty of pedal steel, though, this might rock your world a little bit. Either way, it's dynamite and here's hoping he gets into the studio a little sooner next time.  Buy from amazon Released Oct, 2002. Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

More Million Sellers... (HighTone)
Deke follows up last year's Number One Hit Record with of course More Million Sellers!  This guy is a monster on the double neck guitar, whether it's paying homage to legends like Larry Collins or Joe Maphis, or doing originals which have that same wonderful retro-50's flavor.  His own fine band is again supplemented by Carl Sonny Leyland playing killer boogie-woogie piano fills and Jeremy Wakefield,  from Wayne Hancock's band, on  steel guitar.  Deke's voice is perfect for this frantic, urgent music with a great sense of humor and a great sense of reverence to the past. Great fun!  Wild Bill says check it out...
Buy from amazon Check out HighTone's site.  Released Oct. '99, reviewed by Bill Frater

Smoke Damage... (Clayhead)
What you get when you listen to this CD by Dick Smith (and before you ask, no, there's no Dick Smith in the band. The band as a whole has chosen the name Dick Smith.) is one of those CDs filled with old-timey music you might hear some people playing on their porch in the country on a summer's night drive. Someone's got a banjo, someone's got a mandolin and someone's got a dobro - you get the idea. All folky stringed instruments playing a blend of mountain and bluegrass that defies categorization, not to mention description. It just sounds good, homey and perfect for the back porch at night with a bunch of your friends. Even better, the bands three main cogs (Bob Kuhn, Dave Nelson, Dave Ramont - all various stringed stuff) have all written songs that sound like old dusty classics from the ‘20s or thereabouts. That they can infuse their songs with the classic old-timey sensibilities without it coming out like Hokum, is a feat in itself. I had a lot of fun listening to this CD and I am sure if you're a fan of old-timey country, you will too.
Dick Smith's Clayhead web pages including CD ordering info. Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Acres of Heartache...(HighTone)
This debut release on HighTone Records is a disappointment.   It starts out strong enough, you're working that skirt on the dance floor, doing that retro swing thing and then.... it all begins to blend  together.  Frankly, 15  2-minute songs that sound similar can be about 10 too many.  I was distracted by the fact that on most tracks, Dilks sounds very  much like Wayne Hancock.  Having said that, I  liked his quirky songwriting and yodeling enough to play it a few times hoping for more.  I think a six song sampler might have been a more interesting debut from this Bay Area performer as there are some definite radio plays.
Fav picks: Acres of Heartaches, Check's in the Mail, My Dumb Heart, Jellyroll Blues, Yodel Till I Turn Blue. HighTone Records has a website that is fairly up-to-date, and includes ordering info and tour dates.  Released on June, '99, reviewed by Kay Clements (KWMR).

Turn Up The Barn... (Planetary)
This CD was recorded in the hayloft of an old dairy barn in rural Virginia and the relaxed atmosphere comes across in the songs.  Dirtball is basically a roots rock band that have probably listened to the Stones more than the Stanley's.  Their sound revolves around the swaggering, weathered voice of Wes Freed.  Some of the other band members write the tunes which on the whole, are quite melodic and memorable.  Mandolins and Dobros keep it interesting but the band can also thrash and crash when they want.  It took me a few more listenings then normal but this CD eventually pulled me into the barn.
The band has a nice little site with pix and tour info... Planetary's site isn't too up to date but they help a lot of new bands.   Released March 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Bush League Romance... (self released)
The Truckers manage to serve up enough raw-boned rock and  thrashing almost-punk to bring to mind a little groundbreaking group by the name of The Replacements. The Truckers share the same kind of swaggering, staggering rawk with burly guitar lines and pounding, scattershot drums with a pulsating bass that's enough to drive you nuts. All very endearing traits, both with the 'Mats and this band. They even have the good taste to cover "Sixteen Blue" by Paul Westerberg's old band as well as a Squeeze cover for  Chris sakes! While the writing doesn't match Westerberg's (few can anyway) the songs are good and anyone liking rowdy fall-down-drunk Midwestern bar rock will just love this!
Dirty Truckers website. Order the CD from Miles Of Music.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood

Light and Salvation... (Go Kat Go)
I haven't heard anything from Jason & the Scorchers lately but The Ditchdiggers could easily fill their sweaty cowboy hats. It's all about hard drivin' in-your-face Cowpunkabilly with a hint of lyrical sarcasm. In fact, they even included the song lyrics!  Now any band that plays this loud doesn't need insightful lyrics or well written songs, but they went ahead and did it anyway..  Songs like Flatbed Love, Cheap Motels and Cowswinger, a tribute to those cowboy bar girls with bleached blond hair and big fat, fancy cars.  If this sounds like your thing, then you'll love this Georgia band... file between the Ramones and Waylon Jennings.
You can hear 2 of their songs at, order thru the band's site, Released Aug. '99, reviewed by Bill Frater

Notepad # 38... (Dixon Archival Remnants)
The name listed as the record company gives a clue to the genesis of this CD. Dixon has gone back into his vaults and unearthed a bunch of cool demos and completed tracks never used on his previous CDs and pulled together an album featuring these unheard gems. Let me say that the stuff Dixon has dug from his vaults beats most current artists' new, overproduced crap by a mile. The opener (If I Could) Walk Away is one hell of a gem waiting for someone, mainstream country act, soul man, rock star whatever to record it and turn it into a hit. Other songs on this are just as good. Featuring Dixon's guttural soul-man's-voice and his pop sensibilities, this is not an album that would please a died-in-the-wool country fan by any means. People in search of quality songs, great melodies and choogling roots rock will love the hell out of this though. Not a bad song on this, about par for the course for Dixon. Hopefully the man will get over his recent illness and make a great new album. Until then, this will hold me over quite nicely. Thanks Don!
Released Oct. 2001.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Still Your Fool... (Cow Island)
Cow Island Records has been about as reliable as they come in record label land when it comes to releasing authentic honky tonk music. Right on the heals of the live Starline Rhythm Boys recording is the debut from the latest addition to the Cow Island corral, Brooklyn-based honky tonkers The Dixons.  For those who know their Bakersfield history when it comes to country music, you know the likes of Buck Owens, Red Simpson, Tommy Collins, and Merle Haggard earned their stripes at the legendary honky tonk The Blackboard. While they call Brooklyn home, a listen to Still Your Fool from The Dixon's and it's pretty safe to say these guys would've been right at home at The Blackboard in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. Rooted in a classic country sound chock full of pedal steel that drives or cries with the song subject matter, plenty of twangy guitar, and a burly-voiced lead singer in Jeffery Mower whose got an Ernest Tubb flavor to his voice (check out his impressive cover of E.T.'s "Thanks A Lot"!), Still Your Fool from The Dixon's is a winner.
The Dixons' MySpace page. Cow Island Records. Order from CD Baby. Released Oct. '08, reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

No Kind of Life... (self released)
Los Angeles has nothing on Brooklyn when it comes to tales of urban honky tonks and sin cities, at least as long as The Doc Marshalls are in town. Led by Texas/Acadian transplant Nicolas Beaudoing, this debut recording features tales of heartache (and the benders that often follow) laced with Cajun breakdowns where the band switches to french patois, fiddle and accordion. Burrito Brother references are too often cited in Americana music writing, but Beaudoing's Chris Hillman-like vocals and classic song writing skills  definitely evoke the Gilded Palace of Sin era. With a strong opener in "The Woman Knows No Heartache" and a fine closer in the ballad "What I Heard", these ten tracks leave you wanting more.
The band's web site. Order from CD Baby. Released March, '05, reviewed by Michael Meehan.

Honest for Once... (self released)

It's hard to believe the Doc Marshalls haven't been signed to a record deal, but maybe it's just as well. I don't know what a record label could have done to improve on their second release, Honest For Once. This is an 11-song gem that reflects the New York quintet's self-professed love of “honest country music and Cajun soul.” Nicolas Beaudoing, a Texas-reared Acadian, wrote all the songs, sings, plays guitars, Cajun accordion, organ and piano. He is backed by a first-rate group of musicians (Mat Kane, fiddle, Matt Walsh, lead guitar, Terence Murren, bass and Doug Clark, drums) that move from honky tonk to Cajun shuffle with ease. Beaudoing has honed his vocal skills and his phrasing and transitions can carry a tear-soaked ballad or a Cajun stomp. It's a voice that carries within it more than a tune. The style is reminiscent at times of Buck Owens, Ryan Adams or Robbie Fulks, but Beaudoing's timbre clearly carries its own stamp. It's hard to rank his musical talents, but Beaudoing's songwriting is compelling. The closer is a gut-wrenching ballad, “I Never Found my Emmylou” (“someone to sing the high part/while I take the low road out of here”) that showcases Beaudoing's songwriting gifts. I'd love to hear what The Doc Marshalls would sound like if he does find his Emmylou to sing the high part.

The Doc's web site, and MySpace page. Order from CD Baby. Released Feb. '08, reviewed by Barry Dugan.

Country Club... (Yep Roc)
What sounded pretty promising on paper when word first came during the winter sounds just as good as the finished product. The album is Country Club and it pairs X-er John Doe with Canadian instrumentalists The Sadies for an album of covers from countrypolitan prime time, that being late 1960s Nashville, with a side of Bakersfield. Those who know The Sadies know that twang is a large part of their lexicon and they can lay it down with the best of them. They prove the perfect foil for the dry-voiced Doe who finds his niche on nuggets from Ray Price to Bobby Bare to Merle Haggard on this album which plays it straight and is all the better for it.
Doe's MySpace and Yep Roc's album site. Buy from amazon. Released April, 2009. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

Dollar Store... ( Bloodshot)
This is the debut CD by this Chi-town band and they did it up right. The band features Dean Schlabowske from the Waco Brothers. "Deano" is sorta the Paul McCartney if Jon Langford was John Lennon. Dollar Store also two other Wacos, the amazing Alan Doughty on bas, Joe Camarillo on drums, and Tex Schmidt on guitar. The band is a little more rockin than most "alt-country" artists. Kinda sounds like the Black Crowes and Drivin 'n Cryin scored some primo weed and got into an impromptu jam. Strong midwestern roots rocki'n served up with a side of souther twang. The cover of Cher's god awful tune "Believe" kinda threw me. Definitely better than the original. Sounds promising.
Bloodshot's page on the band. Buy from amazon. Released Feb. '04, reviewed by Keith Robb.

Forgiven Now... (Undertow)
Led by the singing/songwriting husband and wife team of Stephen Dawson and Diane Christiansen, Dolly Varden has succeeded at creating beautiful music by blending pop, country and soul (not the soul you hear on R&B stations today but the from-the-heart stuff sung by Al Green), into a blend that renders the band unclassifiable. Their country doesn't sound traditional or modern, more a state of mind and some subtle touches than anything else while their pop side is explored a little by Dawson's Glenn Tilbrook-like voice but mainly by their clever melodies, instrumental flourishes and Brad Jones' skillful production. The soul comes from every pore of this CD and has nothing to do with funk but with blood, pain and heartache. Nick Lowe once said he heard much more soul from George Jones' music than he ever did from Kool and the Gang, meaning that soul is not a genre, but being able to transfer your heart's true feelings to paper and making a song of it. Dolly Varden does that here, and in a wonderfully catchy way that fans of any music can appreciate - soul, pop, country or otherwise. has tour info, lyrics and more. Undertow's site. Buy from amazon   Released March, 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Positive Friction... (Sugar Hill)
Donna the Buffalo have been doing it their own way for over 10 years now.  They have an organic sound that hits on Rock, Folk, World, even Cajun.  It's all very tuneful and danceable, (barefoot preferred), and it's easy to see why they're popular at various festivals back east.  The CD alternates between the 2 principle singer-songwriters: Jeb Puryear, who also plays guitar, and Tara Nevins, who plays fiddle and accordion and writes the more memorable songs.  Reggae tunes with some Garcia-style wah-wah guitar are a little overdone, but otherwise it's pretty nice to listen to.
Their website DonnaThe has the CD for sale, up to date tour info, a life set database, and a whole bunch of full length RealAudio live shows, very cool!  Buy from amazon  Released June 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Perfect City... (Slewfoot)
When I'm out at my favorite record shop checking out CDs to buy, I am always comforted when I see a certain name on either the production credits or as part of the backing band. It is a name that tells me immediately that I am going to like the record. It is a name that speaks of a certain quality in music in general and roots rock in particular. That name is Eric 'Roscoe' Ambel. Not only a great guitarist, Ambel can pretty much serve in just about any musical capacity and produces very well, always letting the artist shine through while assisting in little ways that serve to enhance the final product. Ambel manages to do that here as well. Dore has obviously brought a bunch of rowdy roots rock songs to the table, sings them like a young Chrissie Hynde, and acquits herself very well. Ambel smoothes things out and adds some poppin' roots production and the rest is a solid album that would appeal to fans of both roots rock and power pop. Dore, for her part, has a voice that can go from sweet and pure to rough and sexy in a matter of a second or two and she is quite a fine singer. Great stuff.
Released April, 2002. The Miss Ruby Records homepage (her own, original label) Buy from amazon   Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

Broken (and other rogue states)... (Six Shooter)

Something's out of sync here. Luke Doucet is a young Canadian performer who has some decent songwriting in him, and he's a pretty darn good guitar player, so what gives? What's missing here? In a nutshell it's believability. Songs of broken love, desperados on the lam, liquor and drugs et. al. just don't cut it when they're mated with an almost AM radio type of pop perfection production. Opposites don't always attract, for example Christmas candy and rye whiskey: individually OK, combined there's going to be a sticky conclusion talking to Ralph on the Big White Baño Telephone. Fortunately, Doucet has a lot of time left on his meter to scuff up some of the unnecessary polish. Leave the pop to Barry Manilow, try really getting down and dirty.

Luke's site. My Space. Buy from amazon Released early 2005, reviewed by Don Grant.

Restless On The Farm...( Sugar Hill)
Jerry Douglas is probably the best known dobro player in the world these days, and he's put out numerous albums that can attest to his incredible chops. This CD is not so much a tour-de-force of hot licks, but rather a brilliant collection of well played and well chosen songs. Douglas produced it himself, and although he doesn't sing on the record, his choice of other singers and songs chosen are the high points of the CD. He's enlisted Tim O'Brien, Steve Earle, Maura O'Connell, and John Cowan. The vocal tracks break up each pair of equally fine instrumentals. All together, this makes for a very entertaining and cohesive listen. This is not just a dobro or a bluegrass fan's album, in fact there's only one bluegrass song on it! Jerry plays some pretty fine lap steel too. This CD will be hard to kick off my top ten list for '98, and the year's only half over.
Sugar Hill Records Buy from amazon Best tracks: Things In Life, Passing The Bar, Don't Take Your Guns to Town, Follow On, Like It Is, TV Doctor, For Those Who've Gone Clear... Released May, '98. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

Eclectricity... (Wind River Guitar)

Mike Dowling may be the most elegant, articulate guitar player on the planet. Having delivered a half dozen gorgeous CD's he has proved himself over and over again as a master of finger-style, slide and swing guitar. And lets not forget his stellar song-writing and soulful, engaging vocals. All that said, it would be no surprise to learn that his newest CD is also a complete winner. What would be surprising is that, for this outing, Mike has elected to assemble an all instrumental selection of original compositions using a small combo of himself, bassist Rene Worst and accordianist David Lange. Oh, and, except for one tune, he forgo's his usual arsenal of steel bodied National's in favor of an electric Fender Jazzmaster. The end result: a swinging collection of beautiful melodic compositions capturing moods from joyous to thoughtful. The interplay between the three musicians, but especially the guitar and accordian, are both achingly beautiful and masterful. The delight in making music with true kindred spirits is palpable between the players and you just get the sense these guys had a ball making this one. Long admired by his peers for an ability to play, and teach, in many styles, two other qualities stand out on this stellar CD. One is his ability to use electric guitar tone to convey mood and the other is the sheer brilliance of his compositional skills. Guitar geeks will tell you that the pursuit of tone is a bit like seeking the Holy Grail; something relentlessly searched for but rarely ever found. A few have gotten pretty far down the road in that search, Ry Cooder comes to mind, but on this CD Mike Dowling has come closer than anyone to achieving that perfection. At least according to me. A word about the songs: one minute he has you in some old smoky swing jazz joint, the next your visiting some un-named south American locale, then onto a Parisan café before a brief pause at some place near Djangoland. And, for me, some of the tunes evoke the feel of those old John Houston westerns with big skies and little out of the way Mexican towns. In other words, the songs do what you want good art to do; they invite the listener's imagination to participate and in doing so one is both transported to another place and involved in the success of the project. I can't recommend this CD enough. It's simply gorgeous. The perfect Sunday afternoon listening.
Mike site. Order from CD Baby. Released 2011 reviewed by Kevin Russell.

Locust ... ( Del-Tona)
This is the first solo recording from singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Bruce Drake. He used to be in a bay area band called Belleville that put out two fine Alt.Country CD's a few years back. He moved down to Santa Cruz and formed a bluegrass band called Still Searchin. So although this is a solo project, it tylistically combines bluegrass with the sounds of 70's era country rock. I hear the influence of CSN&Y, Poco and the late John Hartford. It has a easy, laid back vibe to it while still having enough polish to sound finished. A well written and well played CD here. Good job.

Bruce's website. Order from Miles of Music. Reviewed by Keith Robb.

Southern Rock Opera... (Lost Highway)
Gotta hand it to these guys. Few up and coming bands still working for the top rung in the biz would ever think of possibly stalling their upward climb by releasing the equivalent of a three-record (2 CD) rock opera about the South post-Skynyrd. Calling their opus a "Southern" rock opera, the boys work the double-entendre perfectly with their tale about a Southern boy rediscovering his roots set to some blazing Southern rock played as only the Truckers can play it. Their concept works as perfectly as the Who's Tommy as far as actually achieving what they set out to do. As it is, it's daunting to listen all the way through as the music is so balls-out rocking it just makes you want to get rowdy as hell. I'm not sure if trying to tell a story through the use of a genre of music so dependent on the partying spirit is a smart idea or not. I mean, I didn't feel like pounding down a keg while listening to Tommy. Even so, if you like sinewy Southern guitar riffs circa 1977 and some intense songs about being true to yourself, your upbringing and your dreams, this CD is something you're going to want to check out. It's not country, but it's down-home as hell.
Lost Highway  Buy from amazon   Released June, 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

Decoration Day… (New West)
After totally wearing out their Skynyrd-inspired sound of their earlier albums, the Drive-By Truckers have made a giant artistic leap forward without cutting off their proud Alabama "balls". They’ve got a little more Neil Young in ‘em this time, incorporating some wryly-intelligent commentaries on contemporary Southern "working class and trailer trash" lifestyles. Their ragged, sloppy three-guitar rock songs have been toned down some and they mix in some fine mid-tempo songs and ballads. I’d even recommend reading the lyrics, (which I rarely do), first to really appreciate what they’re saying, this CD will grow on ya, I swear! If I listen one more time I’m thinkin' of dubbing this thing onto 8-track, buying an ol’ Dodge and pickin’ up a cheap blond and just taking off!
 The band's site, New West Records. Buy from amazon  Released June, 2003. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

A Blessing and a Curse… (New West)
Straight ahead, damn the torpedoes Southern rock, no attempts to imbue the listener with an epiphany, as in an earlier, overly ambitious release, that's where the Truckers are this go round, and it goes good. From the opening cut, “Feb 14”, their trademark three division guitar assault storms and overwhelms the bastions of country rock. (Coulda used the ‘shock and awe' metaphor here, but that one's turned into a bad joke, with no final punch line in sight.) Cross-pollinate “Tumblin' Dice” with “Dead Flowers”, fast forward about three decades, and damned if you haven't got “Aftermath USA”, skag to crystal meth, ain't progress grand? At mid-disc there's a two song adrenalin respite, (to regroup?), and then it's back to the musical blitzkrieg with “Wednesday”, “Little Bonnie”, etc., until the closing contemplative cut, “A World of Hurt”. Good old Southern rock; it doesn't get much better than this.
See above review for sites... Buy from Amazon (mp3 album only $8.99). Released April, '06, reviewed by Don Grant.

Brighter Than Creation’s Dark
… (New West)
The Drive-By Truckers’ latest is all about sprawl, 19 songs and 75 minutes to be exact. Not a band to ever hold back when it comes to shooting the wad, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark offers the many sides of the DBT beast from fuzzed-out Southern rock to country and stripped-down ballads to buzzsaws all tacked to songs with a working class spine to them. It also marks the emergence of bassist Shonna Tucker as singer and songwriter. In addition to taking lead on a couple of standout numbers, it’s her harmonizing with Messrs Hood and Cooley that truly hits the spot. Oh yeah, most valuable assist to Muscle Shoals vet Spooner Oldham on keys.
DBT's site. Buy from Amazon. Released Jan. '08, reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

The Big To-Do... (ATO)
New record label, same old Drive-By Truckers. On their ATO Records debut titled The Big To-Do, this well-oiled and highly seasoned machine comes out guitars-a-blazing. Nothing unusual there with ear-catching riffs aplenty. Tough luck stories about hard-bitten types dominate with Patterson Hood contributing the bulk of the songs and vocal leads. In true fashion, the DBTs like to push the level of discomfort level with Hood's "The Wig He Made Her Wear", based on a true story, one of his finest moments in song.
DBT's site. Buy from Amazon. Released March, '10, reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

These Days... ( Lazy River)

After an introductory EP, and, so I'm told, not having heard it, a well-received second CD, Rewriting History, this is what I call the critical third release by DuBose, and it's a bit uneven. There's some good tunes, and some good assistance, provided by The Derailers, but the CD doesn't stray far from the old tried and true themes of finding love, love rekindled, and back porch homilies on the simple life and homespun values, and some of those lyrics? Talk about your panegyrics of banality! “Less is more, less is more, Why bother keeping score? That's not what life is for… less is more”. A piquant observation there, or, “A black train, I heard it scream, Rumbling towards me in a dream, My spirit frozen in its beam, Afraid to move”. Sure, it all rhymes, but what is it saying? I'm afraid it's saying waste of a good tune. Fine tunes are like fine wines, rush either one at your peril, ‘cause the product easily sours.

Clay's website, Buy from amazon Released January, 2005, reviewed by Don Grant.

The Duhks… (Sugar Hill)

So first off, I must tell you that I've seen this band recently and their live shows are so energetic and their sound is so unique that my CD review is somewhat biased. Lets get the basics out of the way first, although the Duhks (yes, like quack, quack) are far from a basic-type band. Five Canadian twenty-somethings, 3 guys, 2 women, no bass player. They can rip into an Irish fiddle tune medley with Cuban rhythms with their eyes closed, and they have great taste in cover material. Instrumentally their sound centers on the fiddle and banjo, but they start with old-time and take it somewhere else totally unique. Vocally you have the amazing soul-influenced leads of Jessica Havey, coupled with the dead-on harmonies of fiddler Tania Elizabeth. Add a guitarist who also apparently covers the bass parts and a wildly inventive percussionist and there ya go. Like a well-spiced gumbo it all holds together brilliantly, they're such good musicians and they have the confidence to pull it off. If it sounds too weird, go see them live and you'll see and hear what I mean.

Their "official" site. Buy from amazon Released February, 2005, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Love And Theft... (Columbia)
Unfortunately, the goofy hat and goofy mustache Dylan sports on the cover of “Love and Theft” foretell a goofy record. Oh, it starts of promisingly enough with “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum” and “Mississippi”.  Thereafter, Dylan quickly slips into rockabilly slash pre-war crooner mode (Summer Days, Bye and Bye), for which he’s ill equipped as a singer and songwriter.  By the fifth track (Lonesome Day Blues) Dylan’s in blues mode, and there’s a glimmer of hope, unfortunately never quite realized on the tracks that follow.  The band (Augie Myers, Charlie Sexton, Larry Campbell, et al) is tight, the production right, the only thing wrong is, well, Dylan.  Dylan at his best is a little scary, slightly foreboding, occasionally menacing.  On “Love and Theft”, he’s just too goofy to take seriously – creepy maybe, definitely not scary.  Such a lightweight effort might be perfectly acceptable from most artists, but you least hope for (if not expect) more from 60-year-old Bobby Z, particularly following the brilliance of Time Out of Mind and his live performances in recent years. has tour info and a lyric search engine. Buy from amazon Released Sept. 2001.  Reviewed by Marty Harper.
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