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Lines And Wires... (self-released)

This is going to be one band worth watching. On their first release, Midwest Hotel, the Kansas City based Gaslights demonstrated a high-octane energy approach to their music. That same energy is present here on the follow-up, one year later, but this go-round, some of that vitality has been diverted into some of the more reflective musings of singer/songwriter/guitarist Abigail Henderson. Here's a lady whose writing abilities have grown enormously and admirably in the interim, and the result is a well-balanced transition from where the band was, to where, evidently, they are headed. Check out songs such as “Trashed”, “Red Dirt”, “A Place to Fall”, and “Tattoo”, to name but four examples. It was written here less than ten months ago that echoes of Lone Justice were perceptible on their debut; that statement can no longer be justified. Henderson is charting her own course, both vocally and lyrically, and Meck's lead guitar work is, in a nutshell, tight, controlled, and tasty. A lot of the time a rhythm section tends to get overshadowed by the front-men, but, hey, don't sweat it guys; just how far could an aircraft fly without its wings to get it aloft? A band is the whole sum of its members, and this band is getting a whole lot better.

The from CD Baby. Released Dec. '05, Reviewed by Don Grant

Drag Queens In Limousines... (Groove House)
This is a record that requires some close listening time. Gauthier covers life outside the parameters of societal convention with a straight ahead eloquence that nails the subject to the wall.  First time thru I missed it all waiting to be taken by some catchy melody and I'd probably still be waiting if I hadn't seen her in person.  This is lyric-driven music by a songwriter who lays herself bare with a remarkable level of honesty and humor which all too sadly is accompanied by an average folkie sound.  She hasn't managed to translate to the studio yet her inspiring joie de vivre.  Knowing this, I say listen with an ear to her stories and an eye to her future.  See her live, listen to her record.  Get to know Mary Gauthier.
Check out her site,, for bio, tour info and such...  (her last name is pronounced "go-shay", by the way)  Released April 2000, reviewed by Kay Clements.

Mercy Now… (Lost Highway)
Mary has made the transition from underground folkie to major label artist rather quickly thanks to Lost Highway pres.Luke Lewis catching her at a Nashville club. Not that she doesn't deserve to be here; she certainly rises to the occasion on her fourth CD of mostly heartbreak songs. She really knows her way around a sad song, and like the greatest writers, she's able to keep the lyrics and melody simple, letting you fill in the blanks with your own story. And that's what's great about her songs: we've all been hurt, and Mary brings up those memories so you can feel ‘em. With her somber mood and lazy vocal style she gets down and I mean down. I tell ya, She could bring Leonard Cohen down! Producer Gurf Morlix takes gentle care of her, carefully adding a Patty Griffin harmony or an Ian McLagan B3 organ fill here and there. She rocks out a little too, thank god, but it's definitely the hurt that works. has a link to the video of the song "Mercy Now" which features her with makeup on! Lost Highway Records. Buy from Amazon. Released Feb. '05, reviewed by Bill Frater.

One Day Our Whispers... (Benchmark)

They call Otis Gibbs a “modern troubadour”, and after one listen, it's easy to hear why. Eloquently simple songs about life in the mid-western heartland abound on this disk. The instrumentation is sparse on most of the tunes, centred around Gibbs' acoustic guitar, with just the right amount of accentuation provided by his electric backups. Particularly effective is the judicious use of the steel guitar, which makes a number of the tracks sparkle, just like those sugar sprinkles on dough-nuts. It's kind of funny, but, invariably for me, what the promo sheets call ‘focus' tracks don't always seem to be the best. In this case, I prefer the up-lifting, bluegrass spiritual, “The People's Day”, and “Ours Is The Time”, a remarkable duet with Amy Lashley, who is blessed with a voice that is the perfect foil for Gibbs' rough-hewn vocals, to some of the other suggestions. They did, however, make a good call on the ¾ time “Karluv Most”, which has the potential to be another “Brand New Tennessee Waltz”. It's a beautiful song that just wafts the listener along with its irresistible rhythm. All in all, this is a pretty good second outing for Otis.
Otis's website includes his own blog. Buy from Amazon. Released July '04. Reviewed by Don Grant

Make Ready… (Brazos River/Hayden’s Ferry)
Scott Gibson is a young Texas native with a smoky and soulful voice that reminds me of Peter Case. He has a mature and honest songwriting style and he mixes it up a lot- country, blues, folk, rockabilly, bluegrass-which is what the word Americana means to me. He seems to bring a certain sincerity to the table with a hint of spirituality. Special credit must go to producer Mac McNabb, (who also contributes more than his share musically) and a group of some of Austin’s best unsung musicians who’ve played with everyone from Kelly Willis to The Flatlanders. All in all, This is the best new artist I’ve this year and I can’t find anything not to love about this CD. Buy from amazon.  Released August, 2003. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

Bona Fide
... (Sugar Hill)
Imagine an even more acoustic or bluegrass orientation from the O’Kane’s and you’ll get some idea of what the Gibson Brothers are up to. Not content with replicating renditions from bluegrass’ past, these guys write nearly all their own material. A brave move for a genre that values tradition. But it turns out they’re good writers, strong singers, and have a crack band to give them that unmistakable bluegrass sound. I really like this record. It may be a little too country for the hard core bluegrassers but I like the way it extends the genre while tipping it’s hat to tradition. Bluegrass most famous singer-songwriter, Bill Monroe, would be proud I think.
Sugar Hill Records. Buy from Amazon. Released March 2003. Reviewed by Kevin Russell .

Long Way Back Home... (Sugar Hill)
In 20 years when people look back at country music and the Third Wave that we're currently in (the days of Patsy Cline to Willie Nelson being the first, and the days of Randy Travis to Shania Twain being the second) it'll be the resurgence of Bluegrass that will stand out the most. The Gibson Brothers will stand with the likes of Allison Kraus & Union Station, Nickel Creek, and the Oh Brother soundtrack as examples of the best of Bluegrass brought down from the mountain. Bluegrass in its pure Bill Monroe-Ricky Scaggs form is like jazz: Music for music geeks. The Bluegrass we're hearing during the Third Wave is more like Steely Dan or Chicago in their early days - accessible but still meaty and substantial. Long Way Back Home from the Gibson Brothers is full of Bluegrass credibility with musicianship on par with the greats of the past. Covers of The Band's "Ophelia" and Gordon Lightfoot's "Long Way Back Home" do the songs more than justice - the Gibson Brothers really put a new shine on the songs. Their own songwriting shines through with authenticity on tracks like the regretful "Any Man In His Right Mind" and the grumpy but fun "I'm Not Wanted Here." If you want to get your pop-country listening friends interested in Americana and new Bluegrass, hand them one CD - this one. Odds are you'll have to ask twice to get it back.

Sugar Hill Records. Buy from Amazon. Released March 2003. Reviewed by Clint Weathers.

Red Letter Day... (Sugar Hill)
A keen effort from this very fine bluegrass crew led by brothers Eric and Leigh Gibson and produced by their bass player Mike Barber. Joined by Ronnie McCoury and Jason Carter (both of the great Del McCoury band) the singing and pickin' is tight knit and top notch. These guys are dynamic vocalists with classic song sensibilities, the brothers trading off vocal leads and great harmony that keep this act near the top of the heap of modern day grassers. Song selection is the lesson once again and the bros pick out good ones from the rock catalog, from Ray Charles, and from contemporary writers like Bruce Robison, Chris Knight and Kieran Kane. Opening cut "Lonely #1" by venerable country writer Don Gibson (no relation) would do Roy Orbison proud. They can write ‘em too, as originals like "Walking With Joanna" and "Sam Smith" provide new additions to their acoustic country canon. Apparently, the bluegrass grows strong in upstate New York.

Sugar Hill's site.Buy from Amazon. Released Jan. 2006. Reviewed by Michael Meehan.

Paradise Hotel… (Red House)
Following last year's home run release Land of Milk and Honey, this one's a little less rootsy-sounding but still an inside-the-park triple. Backed mostly by her road band with the help of producer Mark Hallman, “folk singer” is too narrow of a description for what Eliza does. Her knack for a simple yet memorable melody is impeccable. Her voice can be dusty and soft or confidently sour. She's always willing to stretch, singing “Bellarosa” in Spanish and translating some old love letter from the 1700's on “Jedidiah 1777”. Gilkyson bravely takes a stab at the Bush beast on her most searing song “Man of God”. Shawn Colvin joins her for the gorgeously country-flavored “Calm Before the Storm”. Eliza Gilkyson is obviously at the peak of her career, or perhaps she's just getting going.

Eliza's site. Buy from amazon.  Released August, 2005. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

Beautiful World… (Red House)
Ms. Gilkyson is at the top or her game these days, confidently balancing poetry and politics with a soulful voice and melodic grace. She and producer Marc Hallman have the support of the cream of Austin's music community on Beautiful World. Two songs seem dedicated to our lame duck president, “The Party's Over” and "Unsustainable". But she's also choosing to see the bigger picture and even getting apocalyptic on "Runaway Train". On the title song, she honors the earth... "billions of years come down to a point in time, setting the stage for the folly of man". The leadoff track, "Emerald Street" is a one of the best love songs I've heard in years, with a horn section no less. There's an old joke about Steve Earle liking Townes VanZandt's songwriting better than Bob Dylan's... to paraphrase, no woman is writing better songs these days than Eliza Gilkyson, and I'd stand on Lucinda Williams' coffee table in my cowboy boots and proclaim that.
Eliza's site has full lyrics, her MySpace page. Buy from amazon.  Released May, '08. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

Dallas.... (Gotham)
Tom Gillam comes from Philadelphia and bringing some fiery slide guitar to a mostly Alt.Country-styled album to create something unique. I hear  Goners-era John Hiatt, some Allmans, and even Skynard but it ain't regular rock 'n' roll. His songs are top-notch and he can bring it down for some nice country ballads too. This is rock label Gotham's first foray into the Americana format and I think they found a real winner in Gillam. or  Released Feb, '01. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

Shake My Hand... (Hayden's Ferry)
Soulful country rock, strong harmonies, ringing slide guitar. It's not the Palomino club in the early seventies but east coast artist Tom Gillam's new release, Shake My Hand. Engaging songwriting and solid vocals inhabit this disc, his debut on Hayden's Ferry. Produced by band member/multi instrumentalist Joe Carroll, Gillam's work takes it's place in a line that stretches from Poco and the Eagles to Whiskeytown and The Jayhawks. Songs such as "Outside The Lines" and  "Disappearing Act" show a confident writer with a personal touch.  Backed by his crack outfit called "Tractor Pull" Gillam's recent live set at the Americana Music Conference showed that he's ready to make his mark.
Tom's site, Hayden's Ferry Records. Buy from amazon. Released Oct. '04, reviewed by Michael Meehan.

The Day The World Stopped (And Started Turning The Other Way)... (Squirm)
Forget that Colin Gilmore is the son of Texas music legend Jimmy Dale Gilmore. The CD doesn't need one bit of help from Jimmy Dale, Jimmy Vaughn, Jimmy Dean, or Jimmy Carter. The songs range from Cajun influenced on "Good Times Stay" and "The Way We Are" to straight up power pop on "Slippin." There's a great cover of Terry Allen's ballad about a chance encounter over a bowl of chili in "The Beautiful Waitress" and a heartfelt cover of The Clash's "The White Man in Hammersmith Palais." Colin Gilmore could very well have a single on adult-oriented radio with "The You That I Knew" if he can get marketing behind the song. Gilmore faces his mortality in 4/4 time with a shuffle beat in "Live Forever" and uses the irony of it to make love seem a little more fun. The musicianship on this CD is really wonderful. The guitar work, the B3, accordion, and a tight rhythm section all lend a sense of authenticity and real presence to the CD. Colin Gilmore's vocals are piercing but not annoying, and the harmonies, especially those with Audrey Auld, are wonderful. The breadth and depth of this CD, both lyrically and musically make this one of my favorites of the year.
Colin's site has CD ordering. Buy from Lone Star Music. Released Jan. 2004. Reviewed by Clint Weathers.

One Endless Night... (Windcharger/ Rounder)
It's been over three years since Jimmie Dale's last CD, the sonically experimental Braver Newer World, which, to me, was over-produced by T-Bone Burnette.  After all that time, he returns with a beautiful and simple album of mostly cover songs.  The songs were all well selected, written by familiar people but the songs themselves are not necessarily familiar, except for the Dead's "Ripple" and Bobby Darin's "Mack The Knife".  But you know what?  It's a masterful album.  Credit must also go to co-producer Buddy Miller, whose obvious talents do not overshadow the singer or the songs.  In fact, I think Buddy treats Gilmore with the utmost of respect.  Jimmie Dale Gilmore has that eerie tenor voice like Neil Young, and this mostly laid back CD is one of this year's best .
Jimmie's got his own site,, Windcharger has a website too.  Released March 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

The Train Wreck Is Behind You... (Idea Prone)
As Wilco's current album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot continues to stir up debate between music fans in general and consternation from their own die-hard fanbase in particular, fans interested in quality roots pop have no further to look than Gingersol's newest. As equally pop-crafty as Summerteeth with none of the apparent (according to some of Wilco's former fans) disappear-up-your-own-assery of YHF, Gingersol keeps their roots rock, rural groundings intact while adding just enough pop to please fans of sugar-coated melodies but not frighten away the twang bangers. Gingersol has remembered what Tweedy an Co. may have forgotten - keep it simple and grow gradually. Standout is "King-Sized Doubt" which is a pop song featuring plenty of banjo work. Great stuff and pretty much sizes up what they are trying to do: blend the two styles perfectly without leaving any fans behind. The train wreck may be behind them, but there's nothing but good things up ahead if they keep making albums like this.
You can order the CD from their website.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Midnight, California… (Well Worn)
According to the American Music Association, a large percentage of the people who buy this music live in California. You wouldn't know it from how few bands and clubs that feature twangy stuff exist in Northern California. There are a few good bands however, and Dave Gleason's Wasted Days is on of the best. I don't know how to describe California Country, but I know it when I hear it and this is the stuff! There's no mistaking the Merle Haggard and Gram Parsons influences in the style of Gleason's original songs. Even the way Dwight Yoakam is able to mix honky tonk with smokin' rock 'n roll comes to mind. Fellow San Franciscan Joe Goldmark plays pedal steel guitar throughout and David Immergluck (Camper Van Beethoven , Counting Crows) contributes too. This is a fine collection of tunes- well-arranged, hook-filled, ince harmonies. California Country is alive and well in Nor Cal.
Dave's site. Buy from amazon. Released March, '04. Reviewed by Bill Frater

Dave Gleason's Wasted Days... (self released)
Due to the packaging included in my review copy, I do not have a lot of background info or song info (writers, performers, etc.) For this album. In some ways, I like it a little better that way sometimes, as it allows a slightly more music-based experience as there is no knowledge of familiar songs or studio musicians to color the perception of the work. As it is, I think this CD is a tuneful cache of well-played and produced country rock that, to me, sounds like Gram Parsons  if he were just hitting his stride today. Gleason has an intriguing, twang-loaded vocal style and a way with a pop-touched country-steeped melody that immediately draws you in. Heartfelt, plaintive emotion is just dripping off this CD and despite the subject matter always touching on the bittersweet experiences of love lost, this is one CD that needs to be played in the car while you're ripping down the highway. Bad feelings never sounded so good. These may be Gleason's Wasted Days, but any time or money spent on this CD could never be called "wasted". Pick it up.

Dave's site. Order from Miles Of Music or Amazon.  Released Aug. '02. Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

East Side Of Town... (Stampman)
No, this isn't the famous dance instructor with all of those schools. This is a man who, thanks to the strength of his songs and his distinctive voice, has released one hell of a debut CD. Sounding like a cross between Tom Waits, a grandfatherly Howlin' Wolf and your friendly neighborhood panhandler who begs you for quarters, Godfrey manages to make you a part of his  songs as if he's confiding his life stories to you. And what interesting stories they are. Full of heartbreak and touching detail but also the promise of having faith in hopes and dreams, Godfrey's songs are touching and comforting at the same time. Like an old friend. He has also managed to corral some great players including Norton Buffalo (harmonica player with Steve Miller's band) and Dale Ockerman (of the Doobie Brothers). A superb debut and well worth checking out.
Arthur's site has ordering or order from amazon Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

Amen... (Stampman)
This is a record with inviting texture, Godfrey's dry-throat vocals emerging from a blues-edged late-night movie, with Norton Buffalo's harmonica adding to the soundtrack. In the midst of the songs' dramas, Godfrey has fun racking words like pool balls into triangles that barely hold them. He's won a number of songwriting awards and has actor Sean Penn in his corner, and for good reason. Godfrey finds his own sound and place in his music. Not every track is a winner, but the record draws you back with its honest feeling.
Arthur's web site. Order from CD Baby or Amazon. Released August, 2005. Reviewed by Doug Lang.

Heaven... (Artisan)

The Goldbrickers are Nicole Summerwood, principal writer and vocalist, and Bob Daspit, guitarist, bassist, et cetera, working out of California. Their sound and style are somewhat akin to Lone Justice, mainly on the strength of Summerwood's impressive range and delivery. It's hard to believe that this lady originally had little or no confidence in her pipes. She's comfortable with finger-popping swing tunes like “Had To Have You”, or the torchy opener, “Heaven On Earth”, and yet can still hammer out a decent rocker, “Indiana Dawn”, that has that Crazy Horse type of solidity to it. Overall, this is a relatively measured and evenly paced disc that envelopes rather than overwhelms the listener. Is it “the face of the future of alternative country music”, as quoted from their site? Expansive and grandiose predictions have a nasty habit of coming back to bite one's ass, or, worse still, becoming an unwitting curse upon the subject. Que sera, sera is a better prediction for all involved; once again, release number three will tell the tale.

Their site has CD ordering. Goldbricker's on My Space. Released June, 06. Reviewed by Don Grant.

All Hat-No Cattle...(HMG/HighTone)
I've always had a special fondness for the sweet or sometimes staccato sounds of the pedal steel guitar.  Years ago, artists like Speedy West and Buddy Emmons highlighted the unique tonal qualities of the instrument by recording all-insrumental albums.  San Franciscan Goldmark uses a variety of back-up bands to carry on this tradition.  Even though guitar-slinger Jim Campilongo is featured on a few tracks, this is not really a  "hot licks" CD.  It emphasizes tasteful arrangements of an eclectic and sometimes unlikely group of songs.  Especially interesting are his West African Highlife tunes and covers of the Grateful Dead and a recent hit by Fastball.  I won't listen to this very often, but I support it's release and the continuance of a lost musical sub-genre.
Best tunes: Highlife,  Hey Girl, Wacky Walk, Wispering Pines, Skokiaan, China Cat Sunflower, The Way. Check out HighTone's site. Released May, '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Goldrust... (Bloomfield)
This is the debut recording from this Italian roots rock/ band . Right from the get go the influence of Neil Young is readily apparent. Their sounds is roughly similar to the Zuma/American Stars/Rust Never Sleeps era Young. Vocally they sound much like a combo of Neil Young and Jay Farrar. However, there is also slight hint of Husker Du and perhaps the Replacements just under the surface. Hard to believe a band from Italy can sound this American...not too mention this fine. On their debut no less. Good job!!
Their label has a nice site. Order the CD from CD Baby. Reviewed by Keith Robb.

Goodnight Moonshine... (self released)
I've been a huge fan of the female folk-Americana trio Red Molly (from Northern New Jersey) for years. About two years ago one of the three, none named Molly, left and was replaced by singer/songwriter Molly Venter, giving the band's name even more "street cred", with a Molly in the trio. Last year, at the Philly Folk Fest I discovered the Brooklyn-based quintet Roosevelt Dime and raved about their CD. Now Venter and RD guitarist Eben Pariser have sort of formed a Verrazano Bridge musically and joined forces to write and play together and their first project is this fine self-released CD. It's not long (the 11 songs run just 33 minutes) but there's no filler here. One, or both, of the duo wrote 9 of the songs with a cover of Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight" and a mash up of the classic "Over the Rainbow" with Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" (really) titled- what else? - "Dark Side of the Rainbow" to fill out the album. There's bluegrass ("Willow Tree") and blues ("End of the World Blues") and Americana too. If I have one gripe - it's small but, unfortunately, now becoming common - it is that the brief liner notes for the songs (printed inside the digi-pak) are so small that many will need a magnifying glass to read them. If, like me, you are a fan of either, or both, of the "home" groups for Eben and Molly, I think you'll like this album.
Goodnight Moonshine's site. Order from CD Baby. Released April, '13, reviewed by Steve Ramm.

Cadillac Jack's #1 Son....(Shanachie)
This is great roots-rock from a guy who hails from Iowa and now lives in Nashville. This is first full-length CD and it's produced by E-Streeter Garry Tallent who has been doing a lot of Alt-Nashvile producing lately. Gordon's deep-dark voice sounds so much like someone else to me, but I just can't place who he sounds like. Nevermind that, this is good mostly-upbeat stuff with many "workin'-man-in-a-small-town" themes. He throws in some rockabilly and swamp-rock amongst his self-penned tunes. He probably won't win any Grammys for this CD, but I bet he's great live and for a first release, it's great. If only I could figure out who he sounds like...
Best tracks:Company Car, fast Train, Lucy & Andy Drive To Arkansas, Junior's Guitar. Kevin's website, this was put together by the same person who did Emmylou Harris' site. You can also check out Shanachie's website. Buy from amazon. Released Feb. 98. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

Down To The Well... (Shanachie)
Excellent melodic Blues-based Roots Rock.  Gordon has a fine cigarette-tinged voice that demands your attention.  He rocks, but not too hard and his songwriting is both intelligent and witty.  Ya gotta love a guy who has the balls to write a song called "Jimmy Reed Is The King of Rock & Roll", (and it's a great song too).  Lucinda Williams duets with him on the title track but Kevin's doesn't even need her help. If there was any justice Kevin Gordon would be a star on the level of a John Hiatt or even a Mellencamp.  Produced by Bo Ramsey.  Very soulful Alt.Country... recommended!
Shanachie Records site has bio, song samples and ordering info, there is a fan page too. Buy from amazon.  Release date: July, '00  Reviewed by Bill Frater

o come look at the burning... (Crowville Collections)
It's not surprising that Kevin Gordon turns out to be a collector of regional folk art. His music takes some found objects and bends them just enough to show a unique artistic perspective, though with familiar materials we all have lying around in our record collections. The title track and several others are steeped in a swamp blues groove with a distinctive lyrical point of view. The engaging "Find My Way" sounds like a lost Stones tune, and a good one at that.  Just when the reliance on bluesy groove gets well, a little heavy, he hits a sweet spot with the shimmering "24 Diamonds" or wistful closer "Hearts Not In It" All in all, Gordon's latter day folk art will reward repeated listens.                 
Kevin web site. Buy from amazon. Released Oct. '05, reviewed by Michael Meehan.

Bolsa de Agua... (Sugar Hill)
There's something really wonderful about the Gourds. I don't know if it's their bluegrass-country-jugband style or their eccentric "train-wreck mentality", (as they call it). It could just be their fun little songs about "Pickles", "O Rings", "El Paso" or "Meat Off The Bone", all with delightful melodies and obscure lyrics. They don't sound like a rock band that got a hold of some acoustic instruments, like so many others do. They really play and sing them with skill yet they can still plug in and rock out like the best of 'em. Sometimes I think The Gourds are what The Band might sound like today if they were living in Austin and still had Robbie Robertson. I just love these guys!
Check out The Gourds website or Sugar Hill's.  Release date: Sept, '00  Reviewed by Bill Frater

Cow Fish Fowl or Pig... (Sugar Hill)
In a more perfect world, The Gourds would be playing for 5000 people a night with Phish as their opener. But until then, we have no less than 17 fine tracks on the new Gourds shiny disc. Max Johnson has stepped forward to join Kev Russell and Jimmy Smith as the third gifted and quirky singer songwriter, making the band a triple-threat. These guys play with the same confident sloppiness that NRBQ had in their best years with Al Anderson, only the Gourds spice up everything with some tasty fiddle, accordion or mandolin fills. Its rootsy rock, "dirty" blues and sometimes even borders on bluegrass but thee Gourds always entertain . Their tunes are melodic, the words are frequently cryptic and sometimes link to earlier times like the writing of Robert Hunter. Sounds like some musical big comparisons, I know, but The Gourds are that talented and they don't take themselves too seriously. Give em a chance and go see them live next time they're in your town.
Sugar Hill Records  The Gourds dot com.  Buy from amazon.  Released Sept. 2002.  Reviewed by Bill Frater

Stadium Blitzer ....(Watermelon/Sire)
I have this fantasy that Austin is full of these odd little old-timey/punk bands like The Gourds. They cross so many genres that it's hard to put your finger on what they really sound like. I'm not complaining, I like this "mixed-breed" stuff, and bands like The Bad Livers and Poi Dog Pondering have been doing it in Austin for years. This humorous "style" goes back to Camper Van Beethoven and maybe even all the way back to The Holy Modal Rounders and The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. But back to what's in front of me, the 2nd Gourds CD that I know of has a loose and swaggering sound that features lots of drinking songs. Maybe if The Pogues came from Texas they'd sound like these guys? But seriously, The Gourds have 2 singers, Kevin Russell and Claude Bernard, who are equally talented and crazy, and seem to share the same blurry vision for the band. Anyway, The Gourds use accordions, mandolins and a good sense of humor to create a funny and joyful noise.
Released April, '98. Reviewed by Bill Frater.  

Haymaker!... (Yep Roc)
Austin favorite sons The Gourds ignite the recording year in fine fashion with the roundhouse punch that is Haymaker! There's never been anything fancy about this band and that lack of pretension is a big part of the appeal. Weirdness on the Lone Star home front to colorful characters met along the road figure prominently in the songs comprising this loose-limbed and rustic roots music stew which crosses stylistic subgenres more than cars cross the Pell Bridge. Recommended.
Visit Buy from amazon. Released Jan. 2009. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson

Hooray For The Moon... (New West)
With a voice reminiscent of Tom Waits (who's song "Way Down In The Hole" gets a great treatment here - almost as harrowing as Waits' own), Graham explores the age-old problems of lighting/trying to extinguish the twin flames of love and passion for this fine, but tormented, album. While the music he has chosen to represent his treatises on the tortures of love is more of a gritty, roots-rock sound than anything resembling pure country, the honesty and heart he pours into his songs will no doubt transcend musical boundaries and will appeal to all discerning music fans. After all, many elements of classic country music do appear frequently on this disc and Graham even launches into a conjunto ballad ala Joe Ely or Freddy Fender at one point. In fact, this album reminds me of the legendary Doug Sahm who never let musical boundaries get into the way of the music itself. It would be easy to see Graham and Sahm as kindred spirits and, since one is sadly gone, I am happy to see Graham kind of pick up Sahm's mantle. Guests include master drummer Jim Keltner who adds his usual flawless propulsion and Goner/Cracker-man Davey Faragher who adds backing vox. Hooray For The Moon, indeed. Graham has chosen to revel in the dark elements of life and love and I suggest you choose to revel with him.
New West's website. Released Feb, 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Summerland....(New West)
There's something very special happening on this CD.  Graham has a unique talent for boiling down the lyrics of his songs to just the essential ingredients.  The songs are mostly about love and relationships how they affect us, but there's something else going on here.  I wish there was a lyric sheet with the CD, I'd actually read it.  The arrangements go from soft acoustic to all-out rockers, always tastefully done with memorable melodies and roots sensibilities.  His voice is gruff, like Richard Buckner or even Tom Waits, and his songwriting even as good as either of 'em.  Need some background?  He was a member of the True Believers as well as John Doe's band, and more recently he's been touring with Kelly Willis.   This is his second album and he's from Austin and damned if he isn't a good guitar player too.   This is one of the reasons I keep buying new albums.
Best tracks: A Place In The Shade, Big Sweet Life, Look Up, Black Box, Butterfly Wing, God's Perfect Love, Threads. His label, New West, has a site. Released March, '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Flower Of Avalon... (Signature Sounds)

This lady is possessed of the versatility of an Adrienne Young, or a Mary Chapin-Carpenter, their stylings and material are that alike. The Chapin-Carpenter connection is a bit of a no-brainer, as Mary provides some vocal backup, and the versatile fingers of John Jennings, her long-time associate, handle the guitars. All of the tunes are the product of her partner, the late and lamented Dave Carter, with the exception of “Laughlin Boy”, and they are simple and graceful little slices of beauty, no overproduction complaints here. The starkness of “Preston Miller” is particularly appealing, ditto for “Hey Ho”. This is pretty good stuff. Will Grammer be able to keep it up with Dave gone? I, for one, am pulling for her.

Signature Sounds' Tracy page. Buy from amazon. Released April, 2005. Reviewed by Don Grant.

Break In The Storm
When I saw this CD, my first impression was here's another Nashville band of pretty-boys-in-hats. Then I noticed that the well-respected Austin producer Lloyd Maines had a hand in it and I decided to take a listen. While this band does seemed to be aiming for Nashville stardom, they are definitely a cut above most of what you'd hear on your local formated-country radio. The arrangements are different and they can rock a little, with good vocals and songs throughtout. These guys aren't afraid to stretch the boundries a little bit by throwing in some tropical sounding stuff here and there. And anyway, they're from Stillwater, Oklahoma where people probably still do wear cowboy hats. If you're bored of the usual Nashville stuff, give The Great Divide a try for a change.
The band's own site very nicely done with some audio samples, bios, etc. Or you can wade through Atlantic's site.  Released March, 98. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

Presenting The Great Unknowns...(Daemon)

Time to reorganize the CD library to make room for this alt/country debut release from the Northeast's Great Unknowns, and I'm not sure how long that name will fit, if this release is any indication of things to come. Move your Mary Gauthier and Kathleen Edwards over a notch, because this one will fit right in alongside of them. Written entirely by Becky Warren and guitarist Michael Palmer, it's a seamless ten song collection showcasing Warren's beautiful voice and lyrics. It's hard to pick out the best, but “Abilene”, about a love lost to a town, and “Round Hill”, a love lost to a war, are prime candidates, but the ballads are only part of the story. There's some nice edgy stuff as well, like “When I Was Your Girl”, and “Something To Do”, and, “1000 Miles From Tennessee” is a road song that chugs right along with the best of them, like Jackson Browne's “Take It Easy”. With Andy Eggers on drums, and Altay Guvench on bass rounding out the main cast, The Great Unknowns have a good, tight, sound, that shouldn't leave them anonymous much longer. A pleasure to listen to, this one.

Their website. Daemon Records GU page. Buy from amazon. Released Dec. '04. Reviewed by Don Grant

Tumbleweed... (Home Grown)
Clay is a singer/songwriter from Oklahoma who writes and sings with great passion and honesty. The liner notes to this fine CD say he took a handful of close friends, a few good stories, the slimmest of budgets and put them in a studio. The result is a comfortable acoustic album that's quite entertaining. Anyone wanting to put him in the folkie pile of artists is only getting half of the story. Tender ballads and intelligent songs with great arrangements. Fans of Guy Clark or Slaid Cleaves are gonna love this guy.
Check out his brand new site  Kinkajou Records has a short bio and ordering information.  Reviewed by Bill Frater.

Big Apple Bluegrass... (Vanguard)
Here’s a recovered gem. The Greenbriar Boys were among the first northern based bluegrass groups in the 1960’s. And they were interesting for a number of reasons, not least of which is that they demonstrated from the very beginning that bluegrass is a music that is at it’s best when the approach is creative, rather than those endless anemic re-creations of how Bill or Ralph or Flatt & Scruggs did it. Consequently, this CD is chock full of lively, energetic music that - like all great music - transcends time. These recordings were made in the early to mid sixties but could just as easily have been made last week. This record is much more than an artifact of a band from days gone by, it’s a record of a band who’s music has stood the test of time. And that's what makes a band great. The liner notes are also good & the cover graphics are very cool. 
Buy from amazon Released March, 2003. Reviewed by Kevin Russell.

Veridian... (Dualtone)

At the risk of offending the true believers from both sides, it must be said that this is a classic case of Mohammed having to go to the mountain. Carol Young, vocals and bass, and Kym Warner, vocals and stringed instruments, are Aussies, while Eamon McLoughlin, vocals and more strings, is British, but love of their craft compelled them to relocate home plate to Nashville, hence the source of their name. If a handle is necessary one could do worse than say contemporary bluegrass, but that still doesn't give the whole picture. For example, ‘Who Knows' has the de rigeur mandolin and fiddle and the mid-song break for some exquisite pickin', but it sure has a country rock ram to it. Bluegrass is too descriptively constraining for this music, similarly so with acoustic country. Check out the ‘from across the seas' flavour in the instrumental ‘Su Prabhat'; that ain't bluegrass, nor is it country. Despite not having heard their earlier releases, it's a no-brainer to state that this one clears the third release hurdle with ample room to spare.

Greencards's site. Buy from amazon. Released March, 2007. Reviewed by Don Grant.

Miles On The Rail....(Bloodshot)
Ya gotta love a punk-country band that takes it's name from one of Gram Parson's best-known songs. This is their  2nd album, the band hails from Tempe, AZ, and they have a good sense of melody added to their punk urgency. Their songwriting and vocals are both very tight and strong. Pedal steel guitarist and sometimes banjo picker Jon Rauhouse is featured prominently in the mix, giving the band just enough "twang". Three of the band members share the songwriting, except for two well-chosen covers that help to define the band. One is by Tom Waits and other is by Hank Williams. Bloodshot is great at promoting lots of bands, some better then others. This is definitely one of the better ones, and I'm sure Gram would've liked them too.
Bloodshot Records has a nice website, including ordering and tour info. Released Sept, '98. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

Downtown Church... (Credential)
On the surface, a skinny white girl covering classic black spirituals like "Wade in the Water" and "If I Had My Way" seems like a disaster waiting to happen. She even calls herself a lapsed Catholic so she's there more for the music then the message. The back story is the talented Ms. Griffin brought in her friend Buddy Miller to produce and enlist his extensive Christian music expertise to create a glorious and cohesive collection of songs. Griffin's strong pipes are amazing on the traditional gospel songs, with or without the vocal aid of the McCrary Sisters, Mike Farris and Jim Lauderdale. Of course, you can't keep a good writer down and Patty's originals like "Coming Home to Me" and "Little Fire" are some of my favorite songs on the album. They got permission to use the Nashville Downtown Presbyterian Church, a beautiful building where the whole band recorded right on the pulpit. Patty Griffin could record sweet folk music albums for the rest of her life and they'd be great but I appreciate her taking a chance here and stretching beyond her comfort zone. Then to bring in Buddy with his "Pops" Staples guitar tones and soulful grittiness was the perfect choice.
Patty's official website. Order from Amazon. Released Jan. '10. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

Other Voices, Too (A Trip Back To Bountiful)...(Elektra)
This is, I guess the second part to her earlier Other Voices CD, and it's an ambitious project that probably breaks the record for amount of guest artists on a single CD. Yet, despite this, most of the songs manage to stay afloat, no matter how many different people share the vocals. And really, the songs are what it's all about. Ms. Nanci and co-producer Jim Rooney reached even farther into the "classic" folk bag this time, enlisting the talents of Dave Van Ronk, Ian Tyson, and Jean Ritchie, among others. They let many of the songwriters share the lead vocals. Some of the more contemporary songs work better, most notably the We Five's "You Were On My Mind" and the Everly's classic "Walk Right Back", and Richard Thompson's "Wall of Death". Guy Clark's "Desperados Waiting for A Train" seems to feature half of Texas sharing in the verses. There is a double album worth of songs here. There is so much here, in fact, it's a wonder this massive project doesn't sink under it's own weight. It doesn't though, and these song and artists need to be honored and celebrated. Thanks to Nanci for sharing her CD and talents.
Elektra's pages on Nanci, includes Bio, discography, etc. or Old Grey Cat , A nice Nanci Griffith fan site.  Released July, '98. Reviewed by Bill Frater

Barn Doors and Concrete Floors... (self released)
Sometimes track leaking is the resonance of many True Notes coming together, not an engineer’s nightmare. Mr. Gripka’s just-in-time built barn studio in New York’s Catskill Mountains, serving as surrogate for his native Ozarks, gifts us with a full-out chiming set of musical conversations that remind of the live-in-the-studio, canonic Nitty Gritty Dirt Band projects of some time ago. The approach well supports a program of 11 impressionistic, roots-on-roots songs, filigreed with a fine acoustic/electric blend, which fans looking for a more mountain-reserved, but still intense, take on Hank III should embrace. This seems to have happened already in Europe—look for more noise Stateside. Both heartache and political/social references (Ludlow miner’s strike, Katrina) weave gracefully through the loose but compelling lyrics.
Gripka's site. Order from Amazon. Released Mar. '11, reviewed by Jeep Rosenberg.

Buy One Get Eleven Free... (Downtime)
Here's a group of musicians from Amarillo, Texas that has a great roots-pop sound with just a pinch of jam-band looseness. Featuring two alternating singer-songwriters. Susan Gibson with a strong Tracy Nelson kinda voice, and Scott Melott, who has a quirky  style and a  song "Ballad Of An Opening Band" that's a must-hear for any band. Fine tunes and crisp production as always by the great Lloyd Maines. This the young band's 3rd release and I think it's mighty good!
They have a nice website too, Order the CD from Lone Star Music  Released March, 2001, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Off Windmill... (Brobdingnagian)
Well, I've been getting so many CD's in these days that I'm bound to miss a few gems, and this is one for sure. Canada's The Guthries feature no less than three singer-songwriters. The Jayhawks and Son Volt echo throughout the album, or you could even go farther back to the Byrds or the Burrito Brothers. Not imitators but certainly influenced by these great bands. Dale Murray's vocals especially remind me of Jayhawks and Matt Mays has a Jeff Tweedy-kinda voice. These guys have done their homework, the songs and arrangements are outstanding, anywhere you drop the laser... Look for it.
Order the CD from Miles Of Music or CD Baby  Check out the band's site.  Released Aug. '00, reviewed by Bill Frater.
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