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Blue Nightfall… (Red House)
Jimmy is a veteran folk-rock journeyman who just does his job, hits the road, and consistently puts out decent if not extraordinary albums. That is until now. He has this marvelous weathered voice that might discourage lesser mortals, perhaps he was a high school vocal teacher's nightmare with the way he strains and pushes his instrument. LaFave is not afraid to make it work for each song, especially on the slower tunes where his sensitive and heartfelt lyrics can really grab ya. He balances it out with a handful of bluesy rockers, where he's always powerful. This is his best work yet and if you don't know his work, a great introduction to an important artist.
Jimmy's website. Red House Records. Buy from Amazon Released March, 2005. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

Them Bones... ... (self released)
West Virginia singer, writer and multi-instrumentalist David LaFleur is oft-seen at folk and songwriter festivals where he has garnered attention and recognition with his low-key and affable mix of Americana, folk, and blues. His vocal delivery is a warm, conversational style that makes expressive statements like “if you’re playing with the devil, you’d better double down or fold.” Spare settings lend relevancy to his own self-penned stories like “The Quilt Song” and “The Last Thing.” The former is tribute to his mother, and the song might have had even more impact in a slightly higher key. LaFleur refers to the latter as a “cinematic love song” in which the depth of locked-in emotion and romance are explored. He also occasionally slips in raw and rootsy spoken lyrics (as well as a wack on the frying pan) into his humorous original “Shepherd’s Pie Revisited.” With their backup vocals, four friends recreate the diner’s rowdy atmosphere at Mom’s Place. David LaFleur demonstrates an astute familiarity with American traditional folk music (Roving Gambler, Oh Freedom, Darling Corey, Them Bones), as well as some roots of folk (Robert Burns’ “My Love is Like a Red Red Rose”). While presented as a lyrical and sweetly wistful remembrance, perhaps a little too much liberty was taken with revising Burns’ beautiful original melody. However, it is pleasing that LaFleur is willing to explore and take his music a step further with personalized arrangements of the old standards, and he writes much of his own material in the same vein that tells stories (“The Last Thing”), paints pictures with nice imagery (“Pleasantville” and “Dunolaigh”), or shakes things up with his instrumental guitar, mandolin or Dobro (“Big Bad Bro” and “Paco’s Lullabye”). For added impact, some tracks incorporate such instruments as cello, drums, organ and piano. David LaFleur has created a fine project that captures his inner muse, inspirations, range of emotion and eclectic musicianship.  
David's site. Order from CD Baby. Released Oct. 2011, reviewed by Joe Ross.

Should Have Known... (Soko Music)
Who would've thought that the best honky tonk album of the year is by a woman would be from the middle from Breaux Bridge, LA.  That area along Hwy 10 in Louisiana has a wealth of amazing Cajun musicians.  Landry has been around, playing many instruments with some of the best band from Acadiana, including the all-women Bonsoir Cadin. For her first solo album, she lets out her twangy side and wrote all the songs herself and they're mostly solid barrroom and cheatin' tunes. There are many famous families of bayou musicians in Louisiana including the Landrys but the best known may be the Savoy family. Yvette wisely stays close to home by employing Joel Savoy, who not only produced the album but he also plays on it. He's a fine fiddle player especially when playing in tandem with the Wilder's amazing fiddler Betse Ellis. Then you add the steel guitar of Richard Comeaux and the Red Stick Ramblers' swingin' guitarist Chas Justus and you got a band that could set a house on fire! Even though this is a country CD, there's an slight Cajun hot sauce added that really give it that extra kick!
Yvette's web site. Order from CD Baby. Released Sept. '01, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Walk of Shame... (IAM Sound/Thirty Tigers)

On the cover of her new record Walk of Shame, Nashville-based relative newcomer Nikki Lane looks plenty fetching in tight red dress and high heals with long brunette locks hanging down to her shoulder blades. The eye candy angle had "bad girl" written all over it when this CD showed up in the mail and made me pretty dubious having seen this approach many times before with the end product usually little nothing more than Nashville schlock. Happy to report that such is not the case with Walk of Shame which to these ears was one of the best debut recordings by an artist on the twangy side of the tracks that Ear Bliss heard in 2011. The flavor is decidedly country, but Lane mixes an old school approach with a tough girl attitude to create an album in the classic style with modern flashings. Think Loretta Lynn meets Wanda Jackson with a side of Neko Case on a record on which Lane's songs find that sweet balance between tongue-in-chic frankness and heart. Recommended.  Visit
Nikki's web site. Buy from amazon. Released Sept. '11, reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

k.d. lang
Reintarnation… (Rhino)

Way back in the early-80's a Canadian performance artist with a strong voice discovered Patsy Cline and decided to combine the two passions. Poor old Nashville didn't know what to make of her wild get-ups and edgy high-energy version of country music. She put out four interesting albums including Angel With A Lariat produced by Dave Edmonds and Shadowland produced by Owen Bradley. She peaked with ‘89's Absolute Torch And Twang and by '92 she came out of the closet and released Ingenue, which led to her greater success as a pop crooner singing with the likes of Roy Orbison and Tony Bennett. Rhino has nicely packaged this 20-song compilation of songs from these albums including k.d.'s comments on each of the tracks. I suppose her “punk country”, (as it was called then) is not for everybody, but 20 years later it still sounds good to me.

Buy from Amazon Released April, 2006. Reviewed by Bill Frater

Stand Up Man... (MSG)

Close your eyes while you’re listening to Grant Langston and you can almost smell the stale beer and cigarette smoke and hear the boots scuffling across a smooth and well-worn dance floor and the sound of the occasional beer bottle breaking. In the title track, he belts out the anthem of this release: “No excuses, no apologies, no back up plan, I am a stand up man.” That really sums it up for Grant Langston, who channels the Bakersfield sound of Buck and Merle with reverence and honesty, but tosses in the kind of sublime humor that Robby Fulks fans will recognize and appreciate. “Burt Reynolds Movie Brawl” paints a humorous picture of the kind of dives and C&W saloons Langston may have found himself playing in from time to time — flying chairs, beer bottles and “the old dude in the Elvis shirt” who just threw a punch. Then there’s the likable loser he portrays in “Shiner Bock and Vicodin” who can’t stay away from the toxic combo of alcohol and pills. Langston is the real deal; more than an imitator of the famed Bakersfield sound, he honors that tradition and puts his own slightly twisted spin on it.
Langston's site. Buy from amazon Released July, '09, reviewed by Barry Dugan.

Veteran blues drummer Teddy Larkin gathered together a bunch of original tunes he'd been writing and decided it sounded pretty "Twangy".  Since blues and country are so much alike, (just don't tell either genres hardcore fans), he decided to form a band.  So he got some other Boston area musicians and put together a nice collection of roots-rock.  There's some good solid songs with arrangements, a few amusing songs thrown in for distraction.  His voice is not spectacular but it's well suited to the tunes and hey, ya gotta love a guy who writes a song inspired by getting thrown out of the house by an old girlfriend.  It's called "Yer A Dick Ted".
Order through their site at Released May '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Time And Water... (Adult Swim)
Rare is the album that can captivate me from start to finish. Even as much as I love me some (or whatever you want to call it) I almost never like every song on a CD, no matter whose it is. Bluegrass CDs eventually wear me down with their sameness, no matter how exemplary and even the best artists write a few clunkers here and there that they tack on an album for filler. How surprised I am, then, when I listened to this CD from Last Train Home and found out adore everything on it. Rockers, bluegrass-tinged numbers, straight ahead country and even some twangy Texas shuffles - it's all here and it's all good. The band has mastered the art of varying up its' sound without sounding gimmicky, and leaving enough of a "signature" to all their songs that you can sense the musical thread running through the whole CD. It doesn't hurt that the CD is well-produced without overkill, leaving some rough edges intact. It also doesn't hurt to have a stellar collection of songs (most written by one or the other of the brother team that leads this band: Eric and Alan Brace) and a very listenable singer (Eric Brace, again) who's voice is very commercial (read: not overly twangy) without sounding sterile. The band itself is fantastic and songwriter Scott McKnight guests on most of the songs as well. Production is ably handled by band member Doug Derryberry and the album sounds as crisp as an Oregon morning. Great stuff. This is a CD that will no doubt stay in the player for many weeks.
Their web site.  Buy from amazon. Released Feb, 2003. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

Onward Through It All... (RCA)
Jim Lauderdale is a Nashville songwriter with a folkie's soul and a hip, country singers' mind.  King of the killer bridge ( that part of the song between the 2nd and 3rd verses that counters the main melody), his  songs deal with the usual romance and heartache but his plaintive voice and trademark style  just can't keep my interest through 16 songs... This CD is a little less traditional then his last one, 1998's Whisper, which  I know  gained him  lots of fans with  that Countrypolitan sound.  The guy  is a prolific, thoughtful songwriter who seems to know and be comfortable writing with  most of the Nashville greats and there are some great tunes on this CD but a little too much similarity to make it a great buy.....
Buy from amazon. Released Aug. '99. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

The Other Sessions
... (DualTone)
Always known as a songwriter's songwriter (he's written songs for just about everyone, including Strait, Loveless and a bunch of other heavyweights) and for having an immense love for country music traditions, Lauderdale has none-the-less been equally known for his outside-of-the-box musical thinking, often including a healthy dollop of rock along with his country. His album with Ralph Stanley must have sent him back to his roots, however, as this album is his most countrified to date and is still filled with the same type of clever wordplay and melodic twists he is so respected for. A great album that could be the winner that sells through the roof and gets him on the radio. An interesting tidbit: "Diesel, Diesel, Diesel" seems like the same version on the Rig Rock Comp with the other singer's voice removed.
DualTone's site. Released June, 2001.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Lauderdale is one of the most prolific young writers in country music today, but he has yet to gain popularity for his own albums. This CD is one of his best, partly because he doesn't try too hard to "capture" that elusive radio hit. In fact, many of the songs are arranged to sound like "classic" cosmopolitan-style country while others are more straight-ahead rockin' stuff and there's even a fine bluegrass tune here.  It doesn't really matter with this guy does, his songs are so strong and the choruses are so "catchy" that they could make it on their own with just a guitar. Maybe that's why his songs have become hits for other singers. This is Lauderdale's 5th CD, and although they're all very good, none of then are "great", and I'm not sure why. His voice is good enough, a baritone with decent range and his broken-hearted observations sound as if they were written from real broken-hearted experiences. I just wish I could love this album a little more to really give it a rave review! I'm not saying don't go out and buy it, especially if you like good country music... I just think Jim hit a solid stand-up double here, but he's due for a home run.
Best Tracks: Goodbye Song, Whisper, She Used To Say That To Me, It's Hard To Keep A Secret Anymore, I'll Lead You Home (with Ralph Stanley & band). Jim's site, pretty well done, with tour info and his own comments on each song on "Whisper".  Released Feb, '98. Reviewed by Bill Frater

I Feel Like Singing Today... (Rebel)
Bringing joy to my heart, this is a unique collaboration between Jim Lauderdale,  a prolific songwriter steeped in and with tremendous love for  bluegrass and Ralph Stanley, a cherished and much respected pioneer of said music.  Lauderdale has written and/or assembled, along with some of Nashville's finest songwriters,  a remarkable set of songs that manage to sound both contemporary and traditional.  His voice, winding and weaving around the straight ahead tenor of Stanley and driven by the Clinch Mountain Boys, manages to showcase an old master while allowing himself  plenty of room to move in the music he loves.  It 's obviously a labor of love that was handled with respect from Rebel Records and I think it's a keeper.
Best tracks: I Feel Like Singing Today, You'll Find Her Name Written There, Joy, Joy, Joy, Like Him, I Wish Today Could be Tomorrow, Highway Through My Home, Who Thought The Railroad Wouldn't Last. Rebel Records. Released Sept. '99, reviewed by Kay Clements (KWMR).

Headed For The Hills... (Dualtone)
Jim Lauderdale seems a man of many interests and moods, prolific songwriting among them. His most recent release, hot on the heels of a CD he recorded with the band Donna the Buffalo is a collaboration with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Clearly, Lauderdale enjoys exploring the different byways of Americana music. The music on this CD, as the title suggests, heads for the hills with country/bluegrass styled songs that showcase the familiar melodic skill of Lauderdale with the sometimes trying-too-hard lyrics of Hunter. Lauderdale is aided and abetted by a typically A-list of musicians, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch and Tim O'Brien among them. Nicely packaged and produced, by Lauderdale and Tim Coats. This is a given for Lauderdale fans but is also a great gift for that someone you want to introduce to Americana.
DualTone's site. Buy from Amazon. Released May, '04, reviewed by Kay Clements.

Bluegrass... (Yep Roc)

Talk about your man for all seasons: Jim Lauderdale has gone in two different directions simultaneously with a pair of September releases, Country Super Hits Vol. 1, and this one, his aptly titled foray into Bluegrass territory. Not as traditional or conservative as some purists would probably prefer, Lauderdale has written, or co-wrote, all of the thirteen accessible tracks contained herein. Being a North Carolina son, he's got the authentic pipes for this project, and his backing musicians have all got good handles on their craft. If bluegrass music has never been your particular cup of tea before, this one isn't a half bad introduction to it. Call it a sort of Bluegrass-Lite, for those who haven't yet acquired the taste to take their ‘shine straight up.

Yep Roc's Jim page. Buy from Amazon. Released Sept. '06. Reviewed by Don Grant.

Honey Songs... (Yep Roc)
Lauderdale has the Ryan Adams disease, as in,  he writes to many damn songs for his own good! I mean, I can think of 4 albums in the last couple of years! Not that any of them are bad, there's always a few standout songs. This collection is no exception, but as a whole it's less impressive than most of Jim's earlier stuff. Nothing really stands out. The fact that he’s enlisted a host of hot shot veteran picker (James Burton, Glen D. Hardin, etc) doesn’t help matters much. In fact, it makes it more embarrassing. Jim is about the nicest guys you’d ever meet, but he’s gotta have the songs or all the best players in the world can’t help. These Honey Songs needed a little more time in the hive.
Official Jim Lauderdale site. Buy from Amazon, mp3 full CD only $8.99. Released Feb. '08, reviewed by Bill Frater

Mirror … (Really Small)
Bernie Leadon has quite a musical history behind him, once a member of The Eagles, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and even Run C & W.So you can say he's been around, yet this is only his 2nd solo album. He's been living in Nashville recently, his name pops up on some good CD's now and then. I hear he went through a divorce recently and I'm guessing he's clean and sober too from some of the 12-step catch phrases I notice on this CD. All in all, he sounds relaxed and content with his life on Mirrors. Hiring Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Jayhawks) to produce makes for a flawless shimmering sound, and Leadon take great care in using vintage instruments and recording equipment. His tenor voice seems more accustomed to singing harmony than lead vocals but it fits the setting just fine. The bottom line for me is always the tunes. And in this case, there are some fine ones here, from the sarcastic "Vile and Profane Man" to the confessional "God Ain't Done With Me Yet". In Bernie Leadon's mirror I see a refection of confidence and someone who's still making quality honorable music.

Signed and numbered audiophile Special Editions are available on CD and Vinyl, only at his website. Buy from Amazon. Released March '04, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Let's Waste Another Evening... (Nine Mile)

Don't let the name fool you; this band is closer to Ireland or the Maritimes than they are to Mexico, but Boston is home base. They've been described as Jewish-Celtic Folk Pop, and that works for me. Their unique gumbo is spiced with some zydeco and klezmer sound, emanating chiefly from the use of accordion, button box, fiddle, and banjo. All of the music is original, with the exception of “Newry Highwayman”, which is an old traditional. Personal experience in Nova Scotia with the performances that bands such as this put on gives rise to the caution that, if you should have the good fortune to attend one, be prepared to consume copious amounts of wobbly pop; it's part of the ambiance. This is real life music that takes the listener through the highs and the lows of this trip called life and makes it endurable. I've yet to meet anyone who can't get off on this one.

The website is Coffee Stain Music. Order from CD Baby. Released August, 2005. Reviewed by Don Grant.

Road Runner... (Sugar Hill)
One of the best guitar pickers Nashville has produced is of course an Englishman, and his name, as many know, is Albert Lee. I first became aware of Lee from reading the credits on Dave Edmunds classic album Repeat When Necessary and soon picked up his first solo album back in the 80's. While I enjoyed the sideman's playing, and his choice of material, he didn't sound quite ready for the solo spotlight. Fast forward to 2006 and a more confident, mature vocalist emerges, one with the same great taste in material and some unparallel guitar pickin'. There's lots to like on Lee's latest release, especially the opening title tune which turns an old soul classic into a country barn burner. And the energy never flags, with excellent versions of John Hiatt's "Rock of Your Love" and the Delbert McClinton chestnut "Livin' It Down". Add in tunes from Jimmy Webb, Leo Kottke and Richard Thompson and you have a work that stands along with Edmunds best albums and has touches of influence from the Everlys, Rodney Crowell and mid period Emmy Lou to boot. A very fine ride.
Buy from amazon. Released April, '06, reviewed by Michael Meehan.

The Nashville Sessions... (Hollywood)
Producer Randy Scruggs has a knack for gathering many guest musicians to flesh out an album in need of a little more diversity.  A good example is his work with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Will the Circle Be Unbroken II album from a few years ago.  Leftover Salmon are a young Colorado acoustic jam band along the lines of other "Dead-inspired" bands like String Cheese Incident or Phish.  On their own, they're a talented band with good bluegrass chops and decent singers and songs.  However, something special emerges when you add guest stars like Waylon Jennings, Taj Mahal, Lucinda Williams or Del McCoury.  Sam Bush, Bela Fleck and John Cowan also also on board, and on a few songs you could almost swear it was the New Grass Revival, which is a good thing.  All in all, this is a fun and lively CD and it gives me more respect for these Grateful Dead inspired bands.
Best tracks:  Midnight Blues, Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way, Five Alive, On The Other Side, Troubled Times, Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie. Band site, Label site.  Released Sept, '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Divide and Conquer... (Audium)
For most of her career, Leigh has been saddled with comparisons making her out to be a female version of Dwight Yoakam. Whether it be her allegiance to Bakersfield-sounding country or her predilection for tight jeans and cowboy hats, not even Yoakam wants to be Yoakam anymore and his name doesn't make cash registers ring like it did in the late '80s. Nonetheless, Leigh has never shied away from the comparisons, always respectful to Yoakam and his music. On this album, she walks the walk after talking the talk. She snared Yoakam's producer, Pete Anderson, to helm her album and lay down some guitar goodness and some other stringed-instrument-skill. Besides that,.she has also loaded the album full of great songs by Jim Lauderdale (who contributes three), Phil Lee and Abra Moore among others. But, the kicker, the absolute kicker in my book is seeing the cover with her long, denim covered legs up close and the title words "Divide and Conquer". If you ever wanted a good Leigh, get this CD. Sorry....sorry......had to do it, had to do it.
Released Sept, 2001.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

The Great American Yard Sale... (Yellow Dog)

This is good American music, pulling on blues, pulling on gothic country, pulling on your sleeve just a little, too. Mark Lemhouse plays a variety of guitars, some banjo, lap steel. He can sound dangerous when he wants to, running the knife's edge like he's been poking around in the ashes of Jr. Kimbrough's jukejoint. He can get up on the porch, too, and draw the whole world in close and lull it by. The players he's got with him punch in nicely. In Scarlet , one of ten Lemhouse originals here (a few co-written with Charlie Normal), Lemhouse sings “I feel my body fadin' / growin' old too fast to know / this boot's takin' on water / and I'm getting' too tired to row.” Given the kind of touring this artist undertakes, it could just as well be blood fillin' that boot. Tapped roots stand this music upright, and with The Great American Yard Sale, Mark Lemhouse reaches up and out with branches all his own.

Lemhouse's site. Buy from amazon. Released August, '05, reviewed by Doug Lang.

The First Time... (Sissybar)
While I am grateful for bands that blur the line between country and pop like Son Volt, Wilco and Whiskeytown, I am beginning to see that  while the blending of styles has brought mainstream attention and great musical explorations to the genre, it may also lead to a homogenization that may hurt the music down the line. Now, let me say that Lemonpeeler is a fine Boston-based band, with a CD I would purchase straightaway. Maybe that's enough. But I feel I must also say that this music is pretty much along the lines of  Counting Crows and other light rock bands of that ilk and not really country oriented, save a couple intros and some noodling around in the songs. While  crunchy and rural-rock sounding, this is more straight ahead FM radio pop than anything else. Think Georgia Satellites with better melodies and a more polished sound. I still like this CD though. It's catchy as hell. It's just not country. has bio and tour info and MP3's links.  Order the CD from CDBaby or from Miles Of Music.  Released Jan. '01.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

Bellingham ... (Singular)

Today's question has two parts: 1) Can you combine an alternative attitude with traditional bluegrass? and 2) Can the result be pleasing? The answer to both is yes, if you can write songs like Korby Lenker does, and, particularly so if you are fortunate enough to find a dobro player of the caliber of Michael Grigoni to embellish them. (It also doesn't hurt if you can persuade Jolie Holland to do some backup vocals!) Idaho to Washington, Washington to West Virginia, then to California: not a typical route leading a musician to a bluegrass career, but it sure worked in this case. Somewhere in the midst of a musical education that included alt-rock, piano lessons, and formal training in theory, Korby Lenker found his true calling in Appalachian music. While purists might be a bit uncomfortable with the term alt-bluegrass, that's what the boy is all about. Bellingham is, with the exception of “The Angels Rejoiced Last Night”, by Ira and Charlie Louvin, an eleven song, self-penned adventure into where one can go with a medium, if paradigms are ignored. Standouts include “Right This Time”, the harmonies on “Punkin Brown”, and “Shed A Little Light”. Expand your bluegrass perceptions; buy this one.
Korby has a cool site! Order the CD from CDBaby or from Miles Of Music.  Released Nov. '04.  Reviewed by Don Grant.

Home of the Wheel... (Vagabonds Tune)

Eclectic singer/songwriter Mark W. Lennon is a transplanted tarheel guitarist who now makes his home in Los Angeles, so he’s probably encountered a little upheaval in life’s routines. Lennon points out that we can always count on the river to stay the same. Lennon’s connection with the Burbank, Ca. songwriting school also led him to this new album’s producer Marvin Etzioni, who also plays mandolin, guitars, bass, piano and percussion on this rawboned, soulful project. Lennon’s full-length album debut Home of the Wheel displays his developing maturity in Americana and contemporary folk music. The title cut is a ballad that begins with the birth of his father in 1938 and “tobacco fields run red in the rain, ‘cause World War II was closing in.” I reckon this boy is making his family proud. With its country twang, “California Calling” emphasizes that life is not only full of change, but also presents different roads that influence one’s journey. That song and the rocking closer “Stop and Go” were co-written by Lennon and Etzioni. Lennon’s songs are clear, concise and well-defined. Mark W. Lennon is a confident, talented, up-and-coming artist you should check out. His debut album indicates that he’s still developing his specific personalized musical identity, and he shows interest and skill in a broad multi-genre spectrum.
Mark's site. Order from CD Baby. Released Sept. 2011, reviewed by Joe Ross.

Guest House... (HighTone)
It's been nine years since this duo's 1995 Grammy nominated CD, The Oak & the Laurel, and the follow-up to that gorgeous piece of work was worth the wait. Tom & Laurie are at the top of their game here; mining vintage country material, contemporary folk music, new takes on old fiddle tunes and finely wrought originals- all laced with the instrumental virtuosity of bluegrass. And let's not forget those impossibly sweet vocals: equal parts the Stanley & the Everly Brothers. Stand out performances include a heart rending take on Hazel Dicken's "Scars from an Old Love", & a rollicking version of the Perry Como hit, "Don't Let the Stars get in your Eyes". And if all that weren't enough, when was the last time you heard a folk/bluegrass act take their album title from a 13th century Persian poet? A great record.

Laurie's site has info about Tom too. HighTone's site has good CD prices. Buy from Amazon. Released March '04, reviewed by Kevin Russell.

For the Wicked...(Rosemary)
Leyden offers a nice mix of original melodic power pop along the lines of The Waterboys or maybe World Party.  The fact that he's been living in Austin, Texas has rubbed off on him a little, giving some of his songs a slight rootsy edge.  I like his songs although his voice is a little thin at times for my ears.  But what do I know.
Best songs:  Lover's Chain, Interstate, Walking Wounded, Claire. He's got his own site where you can get ordering info, Released Fall '98, Reviewed by Bill Frater.

Cover ImageJOHN LILLY 
Broken Moon... (self-released)
Broken Moon is a spare and satisfying CD of original and traditional music that goes directly to the core of what classic country is all about. John Lilly's voice cracks and twangs, croons, yodels and teases and you just know he's telling the honest truth. John Lilly may be better known as an old-time musician but make no mistake, this is a country record. Lilly accompanies himself on guitar, mandolin and/or bass, occasionally adding guest fiddle. Ginny Hawker lending harmony vocal is icing on the cake. The production  on this record makes it feel like an old friend playing in your living room and how many people do open your home to? If you love the heart of real country, this is it.
Order from CD Baby. Released Jan. 2001.  Reviewed by Kay Clements.

Blue Highway... (self released)

Blue Highway follows John Lilly and Ralph Blizzard as they traveled the country in the early nineties,taking a break from the New Southern Ramblers, Ralph's band at the time. Ralph Blizzard, who passed in 2004, was one of the most respected old-time fiddle players in the country and you can clearly hear why on this CD. His melodic longbow fiddle is the perfect accompaniment to John Lilly, a fine guitarist, and one of the truest country singers and yodelers I've had the fortune to hear. Like any close duet, Blizzard's fiddle and Lilly's voice call out to each other to make listening pure pleasure. The first half of the CD features Ralph's playing and John Lilly singing. In the bonus tracks, we get to hear Ralph introduce and sing a few, with John providing guitar and harmony, allowing us not only the opportunity to listen to two talented artists who loved playing together, but a rare recording of Ralph Blizzard live in West Virginia. The original recordings have been re-mixed and re-mastered and as one who happened to be in the audience back then, I can assure you that they retain their aliveness.

Lilly's website. Buy from Amazon or CD Baby. Released Feb. '05,  reviewed by Kay Clements.

Cul-de-sac Cowgirl... (Adult Swim)
You'll think I'm kidding but the best way I can describe the lead singer's voice is a female version of Gordon Lightfoot. Don't know if she's Canadian like Lightfoot but one listen and you'll get the comparison. The music, however, is another matter. The sound itself is modern country, (but not in a radio way, more folky and acoustic-based than that), with a touch of airiness about it. What puzzles me is which of the two bands on this CD is actually Little Pink. The first band plays on the first eight songs while another band takes over on the next four. The only constant is our female Lightfoot. I like the last four songs the best, where a few songs take on a Gillian Welch-type ethereal quality while the former eight tunes don't match up the music with her voice well. Whether it's producers or something else, I'd stick with the last four tunes and hope she does a tad better with her next one. This album is not bad, she has a distinctive voice that should go great with her music, but it just doesn't match well much of the time.
The Little Pink website is pretty slim. Release date: April, '01.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

The Little Willies… (Milking Bull/EMI)

The story behind this album is a bunch of New York musicians got together and discovered their common fondness for country music, esp. the 70's era “progressive” country artists like Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt and Gram Parsons. Most people will hear about the band because of Norah Jones' involvement. Those of you who liken her to Kenny G, because of her success, need to open your mind and ears a little. She's not only into this band and the music, but she sounds playful and relaxed, not having to be the cener point of the band. Richard Julian shares lead and harmony vocals throughout the disc and his rough voice blends nicely with Jones' sweet one. He also wrote a few nice tunes amongst the many covers. You also have the amazing lead fingers of Jim Campalongo, from San Francisco, who's as adept at jazz as he is at country. The CD jumps off with the bouncy Bob Wills classic “Roly Poly” which has a mischievous I-dare-you-not-to-like bounce to it. They also grab Nelson's (the original Willie, that is) "Night Life" and "Gotta Get Drunk". They cover “Tennessee Stud” a song that I first heard on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's classic Will The Circle Be Unbroken. That LP had a big influence on me way back in the 1972 and I learned to love Doc Watson and Jimmy Martin and Mother Maybelle Carter. Here's hoping it opens the doors to a few new music fans to look beyond "NashVegas". This is fun stuff, country and some swing with a big smile. "Lou Reed", the closing tune, is a fun fantasy that just reminds you that they're here to have fun.

EMI's Willie's page. Little Willie's My Space. Buy from Amazon. Released March, 2006. Reviewed by Bill Frater

Straight To Amy.. (Apple Tree)

Amy is a talented songwriter who's had a bruised heart that she's not shy to write about. Her voice is sweet with shades of Stacey Earle or perhaps Kim Richey. I imagine that if you saw her perform solo she would sound like your average “folkie”. The big difference here is addition of the great Will Kimbrough (Rodney Crowell, Adrienne Young) who not only produced the album but also adds his always-tasteful musical skills, whether on banjo, dobro, piano or twangy electric guitar. Will has produced other artists before but here he seems to have really put his heart into this one. He even co-wrote and shares lead vocals on the excellent “Work To Do”. The CD's title alludes to her nice arrangement of the Clash's “Straight To Hell”. Loftus manages to find optimism through her heartaches and brings a little spirituality into her songs too. Her brutally honest songs dressed in Kimbrough's talented hands makes for a winning combination.

Amy's web site. Buy from CD Baby. Released Sept. 2005. Reviewed by Bill Frater

Like a Phoenix... (self-released)

By the time you read this, London will have released her fourth CD, Thunder . It's tough at times to stay ahead of the releases, but, ‘nuff said about that. Phoenix starts off with a gospel sounding blues belter reminiscent of Mahalia Jackson, “Way I Loved You”. Next up is the source of the CD's title, with a bluegrassy mandolin line, followed by the melancholic “Nothing To Say”. Covering a few musical bases here are we? Stay close: London hits lots of them here, and she's shooting lots of bull's-eyes. Some of the better ones include “Nothing But Dust”, and “On My Lips”, a nice pair of country rockers. She seems to perform best on her up tempo numbers, the sultry “No Other Woman” for example. Rounding out the list is a Jennings/Shaver tune, “You Ask Me To”, further proof that calling Brigitte London versatile is a bit of an understatement.

Brigette's site. Released '06. Buy from CD Baby. Reviewed by Don Grant.

Things Change... (Leap) 
With a moniker more fitting a grizzled bluesman than a righteous roots rocker, the Lonesome One manages to craft an album that blends equal part Hank Jr., Dan Baird, and Molly Hatchett. Starting out of the gate at a raging pace, the first song (Got Away With it) is a blistering Southern rocker that doesn't let up. As the album goes on, the elements begin to mix and the more rocky elements are presented with a nod of the head to country tradition while still retaining the rebelliousness, much like Baird's recent work (after the Georgia Satellites) and what Hank Jr. has always done. That mood sticks for a bunch of songs, until, towards the end, things start to rev up again into the barroom Southern rock, which also resembles Baird and Hank Jr. in spots. While those into traditional country will have to constantly fiddle with their CD remote to play the songs they'll most likely enjoy, if your driving or at a party, I can see this being a big hit. For my money, the rockers are better than the slower stuff, but there's obviously enough of both here to please everyone.   Released Feb. 2002.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Swamptown Girl... (Captivating Music)
The record label's name says it all. Mixing rural blues styles with country music isn't new but these guys have sure figured out a way of doing it that makes your hairs stick up on your neck. While the vocals don't altogether captivate me, the music is very well done and the songs are tremendous. This band has not only latched on to a great style of playing their songs but has also latched onto the perfect mixture of past and modern that eludes most Americana or country acts today. Modern country combined with downhome rural blues styles - this is an album I'll be listening to for the rest of the year, no question.
The band's website has complete lyrics and guitar chords for the whole album, which is pretty unique, plus ordering info. You can also order the CD from Miles Of Music or Amazon.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Leaving Kansas... (Skim Milk)

Holly Long has staked out a rather unique bit of musical turf here on her third release, somewhere between Annie Lennox and an eighties artist named Luba. At turns she waxes introspective and contemplative like the former, finding her inspiration in the trials and tribulations of personal experience. Just read her bio and you’ll see that she’s had more than her fair share of jokers dealt to her in life’s card game. She writes her songs around her piano, which takes on a life of its own under her fingers, with subtle embellishments provided by a host of wingers. By the fifth track, “Excess”, she starts to shake off some of the pensiveness and soars into a determined refusal to be beaten by circumstance. Family commitments probably keep her fairly close to her base in Venice, which is bad luck for us non-locals: an evening with her would doubtless be gratifying.
Holly's site has exclusive CD ordering. Released Nov. '07. Reviewed by Don Grant.

Songs of the Wild West Island... (Newtone)
Epic, sweeping, understated, simple. These are some of the adjectives that come to mind when trying to describe Loomer's music and if they sound contradictory, that's ok. Songs of the Wild West Island contains multitudes. Toronto native Scott Loomer writes cryptic and poetic songs, soulfully sung, while his band mates supply lush sounds capes with solid beats, shimmering pedal steel and warm organ. Forget the comparisons (Son Volt and Velvet Underground have been thrown out there) Loomer have forged their own sound out of familiar tools that sound fresh and intriguing. This is one of those recordings that raises the stakes and delivers the promise of fellow travelers in the alt/indie/country/rock area (Richmond Fontaine and Frog Holler come to mind) Consider it alt country's Darkness on the Edge of Town and my pick for the CD of the year.
Loomer's site. Buy from amazonReleased Nov. '06. Reviewed by Michael Meehan.

Heard It On The X… (Telarc)

This CD sounds like a magnificent combo plate of food at the best Mexican restaurant just over the Rio Grande. Los Super Seven is a loose collection of Tex-Mex musicians who get together once in awhile. This time they have a binding theme, celebrating the “X” border radio stations from the 30's through the 60's that because of their non-regulated high power their signal could be heard nationwide. The stations also were very eclectic in their programming, playing everything from blues, mariachi, R&B, western swing and wild religious broadcasts. This collection does a great job capturing the wide range of musical styles heard on the “X” stations. So here goes… Lyle Lovett does a nice jazzy version of Bob Wills' “My Window Faces The South”. Joe Ely checks in with Bobby Fuller's “Let Her Dance” and Freddy Fender does “Cupido”. The late Doug Sahm gets 2 nods with John Hiatt nailing “I'm Not That Kat Anymore” and the obscure “Song of Everything” is re-kindled by Raul Malo. Delbert McClinton's greeezy, roadhouse run-through of “I Live The Life I Love” is nothing short of amazing with that distorted cheap microphone sound. Whew, it smokes, and it's the best thing Delbert's done in years! I believe the secret ingredient is co-producer Charlie Sexton who spices up every track with his impeccable fretwork while Calexico fills out the backing band duties. Nice packaging and excellent liner notes about the history of the border radio phenomenon complete this excellent release. I could go on about nearly every track but take my word for it this is a great CD!

Buy from Amazon. Released March, 2005. Reviewed by Bill Frater

Down On The BorderlineLOST COUNTRY
Down On The Borderline... (Cool Groove)
Unfortunately, the name of this band is apt. Lost Country does seem to be searching for their focus. While the band succeeds when using a more old-fashioned sound, often the band tries to branch out into a more modern rockier style that doesn't suit them. These more rocking songs are when the musicianship starts to slip and songs just don't seem to sound as if they've been rehearsed or thought out enough. The only real highlight to this album is the singing of Susan Colegrove. One of two lead vocalists in this band, she shines when she sings in an old fashioned ‘50's female country kind of way that immediately makes you sit up and take notice. In the future, if I were this band, I would build the songs around her voice and forget the other singer (her husband, actually) entirely. Right now, I can't really recommend this CD but it IS almost worth it just for the couple of songs that Susan Colegrove takes a bigger vocal role.
Lost Country's site. Order from CD Street.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Real Men Cry... (BEC Recordings)
Interesting album, this. The name of the band conjures all types of images, and as I listened to the album it seemed as if the name meant that some singular lone dogs had united to form a "supergroup" if you will. Scanning the CD notes, I believe I am right as the three members of the band all play guitar and sing while the rest of the musicians are listed as "guests". Solo artists uniting to form one band? Maybe, as the first two songs sound like the Traveling Wilburys if Dylan was singing both songs. While the rest of the album kinda gets mired in slower stuff, these first two songs are great, if sonically way too similar. It's almost two versions of the same song with different lyrics. Great song, though. The rest of the album is decent and flies ably through a myriad of styles. A good CD by a band I hope to hear more of.
I found a short bio of the band. Reviewed by Scott Homewood

Harbor Lights and Cowboy Blues... (Redoubtable)
Lost Weekend represents the latest in a long line of great western swing bands from California (think Tex Williams, Spade Cooley,Bob & Billy Jack Wills, Asleep at the Wheel, Merle Haggard). Fronted by bandleader Don Burnham, this thirteen piece band seamlessly blends elements of swing, jazz, country, Dixieland and blues. Each player is an exceptional musician on their respective instruments, though special mention should be given to Bobby Black (steel), Paul Anastasio (fiddle), and Jim Rothermel (clarinet & sax). Vocal chores are shared between Burnham, Tony Marcus and the marvelous Melissa Collard. The repertoire is a mix of lively interpretations of mostly jazz and western swing standards. Burnham and company have captured the soul and spirit of the great old-time western swing bands, and at the same time bring a freshness to the material that will win fans well into the new century. Up in country music heaven Bob Wills looks down on Lost Weekend and smiles. Highly recommended.
Their website has ordering info and more. Reviewed by Kevin Russell.

Vagabonds... (Rykodisc)
In the late 90's when Alt.Country was a new buzz word, The Jayhawks were right up there with Uncle Tupelo, The Old 97's and Blue Mountain. What they offered was a unique sound featuring tight vocal harmonies and brilliantly written and arranged songs. The band featured two talented singer/songwriters, Mark Olson and Gary Louris. Olson quit and Louris kept the band name for a few albums. Vagabonds is Louris' first album under his own name and it was produced by the Black Crowes' lead singer Chris Robinson. Unlike the Crowes, it's full of pretty ballads with acoustic guitars and eerie pedal steel voicings. Louris has a real knack for catchy melodies and his voice is always expressive and his lyrics are simple and even optimistic. Other than a few too many slow songs I can't find anything not to like about this CD. Incidently, Louris and Olson have reportedly recorded a new CD together that should be out later in 2008.

Gary's MySpace page. NPR's World Cafe has an interview with Louris. Buy from Amazon. Released Feb. 2008. Reviewed by Bill Frater

Indestructible Machine... (Bloodshot)
This is an irresistible album of old school insurgent country from 21-year-old tough tart from Ohio, Lydia Loveless. Her debut for resilient indie Bloodshot Records who coined the "insurgent" moniker and who would probably just as soon like to retire it, Indestructible Machine is an album with all the drive and punk rock swagger, with a couple of shots of hard country to boot, of some of the best of the early days of Bloodshot when bands like the Waco Brothers and Old 97s were setting the pace. Diminutive in size, Ms. Loveless belts it out with a take-no-prisoners conviction on the nine tracks encompassing the album. The songs, all originals and heart songs to the hilt, hit hard and read like someone whose lived a lot of life in her 21 years. Ask me to pick a new artist who has jolted me more the last few years and I'll tell you it's this gal. And if the tune "More Like Them" doesn't give you goose bumps it's so darn catchy and good, then I advise you to stay the hell away from rock and roll. Highly recommended.
Lydia's website, and Bloodshot's Lydia page. Buy from Amazon. Released Sept. '11, Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

Mountain Soul... (Epic)
Patty Loveless has one of the most distinctive voices around and this new CD proves her to be as adept at bluegrass as the straight ahead country music she is known for. The song selection is great and the accompaniment by some of the best players in bluegrass is rock solid. Her soulful renderings of bluegrass classics, as well as the newer songs given the bluegrass treatment, are delivered with a powerful authenticity that is informed by her rural background, and a real love for this music.  The low point of the record is the duets with Travis Tritt who seems an odd choice for a bluegrass record, and completely out of place in this acoustic setting. But that's a small complaint given how much else there is to recommend the CD. Like Dolly Parton's recent forays into bluegrass this may be some of Patty Loveless best work. Highly recommended!
Buy from Amazon. Released June, 2001.  Reviewed by Kevin Russell.  

On Your Way Home... (Epic)
For about fifteen years now Patty Loveless has been churning out some of the most consistently satisfying records in country music. Her recent foray into bluegrass yielded two masterpieces; the powerhouse, Mountain Soul and the lovely Christmas album, Bluegrass and White Snow. This new CD finds her returning to Nashville with a reinvigorated hybrid of bluegrass and the country rock sounds she’s known for. I love this record. It’s the best of both worlds; all the energy of country rock and the acoustic muscle of banjo, fiddle, mandolin and dobro. Yeah! This is closer to the Dixie Chicks than Shania Twain, and that's fine with me. Great selection of material here, including stand-out renditions of Buddy Miller and Rodney Crowell covers, which she makes her own in an evocative and slightly sexually understated way. Like Ricky Skaggs in the late eighties, Patty Loveless seamless merger of bluegrass and country rock may be just the antidote Nashville needs for it’s mostly anemic current offerings.
 Patty's official website. Buy from Amazon Released Sept. 2003.  Reviewed by Kevin Russell.

Dreamin' My Dreams... (Epic)
With Mountain Soul (2001), Patty Loveless found a deeper song. On Your Way Home (2003) was a good-sounding record, if not particularly outstanding in song selection. With her new one, Dreamin' My Dreams, Patty moves near the front of the class of female singer-interpreters in country music. She's singing better than she ever has, and when she covers songs by Steve Earle ("My Old Friend The Blues"), Richard Thompson ("Keep Your Distance") and Delbert McClinton ("Same Kind Of Crazy"), she's strong enough to make them Patty Loveless songs as well. The recorded sound is exquisite, the playing top-drawer, and Patty Loveless is glowing in her prime.
Buy from Amazon Released Sept. 2005.  Reviewed by Doug Lang.

Step Inside This House....(MCA)
Lyle Lovett became a household name mostly because of his pretty ex-wife. He could've probably gone big-time commercial on us old fans, but the guys just too cool for that. What we have here is a delightfully low-key  homage to Texas singer-songwriters. Some are his friends and some his heroes, and some like Steve Fromholz and the late Walter Hyatt, were never very popular even in Texas. Also represented are Willis Alan Ramsey, Guy Clark and of course, Townes Van Zandt on this 21 song double CD. Lovett gives each song his own unique stamp, making them his own. Using spare acoustic arrangements, this is nothing but a wonderful well-paced collection of songs recorded with care and love. Lyle's humble offering is proof that he's in it for the music.

Best songs: Bears, Step Inside This House, Teach Me About Love, Sleepwalking,  More Pretty Girls Than One, Flying Shoes, Babes In The Woods, Lonely In Love. MCA's Lyle Lovett site, including latest tour info. And I found a pretty nice fan site that includes lyrics and more. Buy from Amazon.  Released Sept. '98. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

My Baby Don’t Tolerate… (Lost Highway)
It’s been so long since Lyle has put out an album of original songs, that I figured he had some serious writer’s block going on. His ironic and slightly twisted style is still intact and his song subjects focus on the simple everyday pleasures of life. What’s even better is it marks a return to the sound of his first few albums, that is, straight country arrangements with plenty of fiddles and steel guitar. Even without a horn section it still swings quite nicely, thanks to the cream of Nashville’s session musicians. They sound like they’re having fun. All together there are some truly brilliant tunes here, and it was certainly worth the wait.
Buy from Amazon. Released Oct, 2003. Reviewed by Bill Frater

Whiskey Farmer... (Union Made)
Short, sweet and full of the good stuff. Weighing in at under a half hour, Whiskey Farmer still packs a great alt-country punch with a spot on, stripped down sound. James Low focuses this set of songs around a disappointed everyman, a "whiskey farmer trying to grow champagne" who can't quite get ahead despite doing it about right. Over the course of eight songs we find love and despair, rip-off artists and some kind of recovery, all smartly and beautifully performed with a low-fi, organic, bar band sound. Guitarist Dave Camp and steel player Paul Brainard know their traditional country, and it shows. The album ends with the elegiac "A Little More Time"; after all the troubles, we all want to stay on the planet just a bit longer. Nicely done.
Low's web site. Buy from amazon. Released Jan. '12, reviewed by Brad Price.

The Convincer... (Yep Roc)
To Lowe's many fans, the title to this CD is a no brainer: they're already convinced! A true renaissance man, Lowe is a much-respected songwriter, solo artist, and producer of other artists with many high lights on his resume. While most of his solo work has bubbled under the mainstream radar, anyone interested in delightful and innovative turns of phrase coupled with heartfelt imagery and often humorous asides both lyrical and musical have found him to be a musical necessity in their lives. This new album (his third in a supposed trilogy) shows him to be at the height of his powers. Abandoning his poppy style in the mid- '90s, Lowe has turned to making classic country/soul with bite. Still keeping his wit intact, he has nonetheless traded easy jokes for songs that show depth, heart and skill, as well as his huge amount of musical talent. The first album in the trilogy (The Impossible Bird) crossed pop and country, the next (Dig My Mood) showed a pop and jazz mix, while this album goes completely over to a more Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham country/soul delight. That Lowe's voice isn't really that strong doesn't matter, because the songs are and two well chosen covers (I like his cover of "Poor Side of Town" the best) manage to balance the album perfectly. No, Lowe is not the master of Pure Pop anymore, but he has aged very well musically and one can only listen to this album non-stop while waiting for the next release from this musical chameleon and raconteur to see how he shakes up his sound next.
Yep Roc has a site. Buy from Amazon. Released Sept. '01.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Dig My Mood....(Upstart/Rounder)
Well, it looks like 'ol Nick has embraced another kind of "Pure Pop" this time around, it's cocktail-lounge lost-in-love songs. Yes, really, absolutely nothing rocks here and there's only a couple of songs that hint at the fine Americana of his last CD, The Impossible Bird. Hey, I have all of his 10-plus albums, and there's definitely some dogs there, but this is a real shift for the one-time self-proclaimed "Jesus of Cool". I must admit, after the initial shock wore off, I did find some good songs here, but the style doesn't really suit him. I mean, he has a good serviceable voice, but he's no k.d. lang! Nick claims that he's grown tired of the "big Nazi beat" and that this is his natural, sober self. I don't know, it's a curious release, but I'm still a fan. Maybe a few more listens will convince me that the "Basher" still has it. Let me know what you think.
Best Tracks: What Lack Of Love Has Done, High On A Hilltop, Man That I've Become, The Cold, Grey Light Of Dawn. Buy from Amazon. Released March, '98. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

Women & Work ...(ATO)
Over the course of its lifetime, that being a decade and change, the Memphis-based band Lucero has moved from a band akin to the alt-country style at its outset to mid-span that found them favoring a potent punk squall to one which over the course of its last two albums, including the brand new Women & Work, has seasoned into a mature unit unafraid to show its soulful side. Whereas Women & Work is a testament that Lucero is still first and foremost a rock and roll band, gravely-voiced lead singer and principal songwriter Ben Nichols has filed down the hard edges in places resulting in an album equal parts melodic roadhouse wallops packed with punchy horns and late night heartbreakers. In other words, Women &Work is pure Memphis rock and soul from a fine-tuned band that shows no signs of slowing down.
Lucero's web site. Buy from Amazon. Released March, '12, reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

Lovely Melancholy... (Looseground)
While this band does favor melancholy touches in their sound,  what they produce may be lovely, but it is definitely not country. Oh, it is  rural, rootsy stuff, just not country. And I don't see that as a bad thing.  The band draws more from a Georgia Sattelites/Bottle Rockets sound as they  tend to be rougher and looser, a little more ragged in their rock sound than  many. This does not reflect on them as musicians and songwriters at all,  though. Every song on this disc has a clever lyrical and melodic hook and the  production (by the band and David Minehan) is top notch. This is a fantastic  driving disc and also a good one for your beer blast. A definite  rowdy-as-hell winner.
Order the CD from Miles Of Music.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood

My Temptation... (DIY)
A great sounding Country band from Dallas featuring the pure lead vocals of Michele Pittenger. The band has a natural Classic Country sound but they don't sound overly retro. They twang, they swing, they rock, and they're probably nice people too. And the CD has some damn fine cover art   Recommended!
Try ordering form Miles of Music.  Reviewed by Bill Frater

Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer... (Stony Plain)


Lund and his fellow Albertans waste no time kicking up the dust on the title-cut opener, then blow right into talking blues double-speak on "The Truck Got Stuck". By track five, a western Canadian 18-wheeler road-trip romper called "Hurtin' Albertan", they have hired you as their swamper. Ian Tyson and Ramblin' Jack Ellliott turn in guest spots, but it's on their own that Lund and company are at their gut-stomping best, throwing down a dance floor wherever you stand. This is country music with a big beat and a wide-nostril smile. Had I received this earlier it would've gotten consideration for my 2005 Freight Train Boogie list of favorites. A few yodels, too!

Corb's web site. Order from CD Baby. Released Sept. 2005.  Reviewed by Doug Lang.

Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!... (Stony Plain)
If this one had been produced by any one of the ersatz “cowboys” currently cluttering up the airwaves it would have come out, well, sappy. Only someone with a pedigree such as that of Alberta's Corb Lund and his Hurtin' Albertans could have pulled off what is, for the most part, a tribute to the horse throughout history with such panache. The disc's opening cut, “I Wana Be In The Cavalry”, with its acknowledged debt to the late Stan Rogers, is full of the youthful exuberance, (and ignorance?), that raw recruits to the military have exhibited since time immemorial. Its bookend closer reprise has the wheel coming full circle: it ain't that pretty at all. In between, there are some forays into social commentary such as “Lament For Lester Cousins” and “Student Visas”, a couple of Lund's trademark foot stompers, “Hard On Equipment” and “Family Reunion”, but the glue, (OK, it's a wretched pun), that holds it all together is the horse. Is Corb going political on us here? No; he's showing a bit more depth and pensiveness than his core fans are probably accustomed to. He's starting to sound a bit like fellow Albertan Ian Tyson here on Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!, and there's not much wrong with that.
Buy from Amazon, ... or from CD Baby. Released Nov. '07. Reviewed by Don Grant.

Good Wood... (Surprise Truck)
No, this isn't the famously twisted movie director but, judging from the rich atmospherics Lynch chooses to frame his bluesy songs, he could be just as moody and, dare I say, wild at heart. Lynch has crafted a fine acoustic blues CD but it is the blues with a difference - the song structure is not traditional and there is more than a touch of slippery jazz to his songs. In other words, it's not just the traditional two repeating lines and then the punch line blues structure. It's more of an old-timey jazz-bluesy feel updated, say if Leon Redbone played more funky or if Dr. John played acoustic guitar kind of thing. Real slippery and slidey and greasy, with a lot of old-style funk to it, Ray Charles instead of Muddy Waters. Whatever it is, it goes down like a tall, cool glass of sweet tea on a hot day and seems to be the perfect record for relaxing in the hammock and being contemplative. Not country but great stuff just the same.
Surprise Truck Entertainment has a very nice site.   Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Van Lear Rose... (Interscope)
Interscope? Loretta Lynn? This coal miner's daughter has gone modern at the same time as she's written a batch of classic Loretta Lynn songs. Working with rocker Jack White ( White Stripes), Loretta has made an unusually contemporary record. From the first cut, I had to back up and give myself a stern talking to: ("settle down, don't be a stuffed shirt"). For a classic country lover like myself, it was hard to give up my expectations but if you forget that we're talking about Miss Loretta, this is an exciting and elegant rocking country record bringing to mind early innovative bands like the Byrds. Her voice sounds strong with the songwriting still solidly characterizing life at the top of the mountain ("Family Tree", "This Old House", "Women's Prison", "Miss being Mrs.") but the arrangements are where we start taking the corner on two wheels. Jack White's not shy with that guitar and he uses his style to create a haunting, rockin' soundscape for Lynn's no-nonsense approach to life. I don't honestly think that diehard Loretta fans will go for it but I suspect Jack White fans will eat this up. This is a very hip country record that took imagination and vision and I'll be interested to see how it plays….You go, Loretta.

Here's Rolling Stone's review of Van Lear Rose. Buy from amazonReleased April, '04. Reviewed by Kay Clements.

I Am Shelby Lynne... (Island)
First of all, this CD don't really twang much.  Nashville had previously tried to make Lynne fit in their Country Cutie mold with little success.  As the title attests, this is the real Shelby Lynne, and she's real good.  Working with Sheryl Crow's first producer, Shelby has a tremendously emotive and soulful voice.  The songs and  Memphis Soul arrangements remind me of Dusty Springfield or even Aretha Franklin.  It's all about how the music makes you feel... and some of the songs on this album give me the chills!  I have ten so-called Americana CD's that don't give me half the thrill and emotional response that I get from, I Am Shelby Lynne. In my book, that counts for a lot, twang or not.
Buy from amazon Released March, 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Suit Yourself... (Capitol/EMI)
Categories and easy labels have never suited Shelby Lynne, and this release is no exception. While hitting soul/pop grooves and even contributing an Americana anthem (Johnny Met June), this self- produced album is Lynne at her homiest, including studio patter and false starts. Warm organ and slide guitar show up but it's still a slick production. She's a strong and confident singer and wears songs such as "Where Am I Now" well, while offering a political stand on "You're The Man". Sophisticated but somewhat cold, at times she hits a place that feels like Laura Nyro meets Al Green and her appeal is evident. And the sultry closing cover of "Rainy Night in Georgia" is worth the price of admission alone.     
Shelby's site. Buy from amazonReleased May, '05. Reviewed by Michael Meehan.

Tears, Lies, and Alibis... (Everso)
The story I heard is that Lynne's label didn't want her producing her new album and they didn't understand the song about Airstreams. Stubbornly, (and wisely), Shelby released her self-produced CD on her own label and "Something To Be Said" (about Airstreams) is one of the best songs on Tears. Two upbeat tunes open the CD before a string of songs that dwell in spare acoustic guitar arrangements. Good songs but they didn't grab me at first. There is a lot of sadness and occasional bitterness in the songs. "Alibi" has got to be one of the sweetest cheatin' songs ever written. The short, 10-song CD closes with "Home Sweet Home", a gorgeous song about returning from a long tour. Her sultry voice is magnificent throughout and repeated visits to Tears, Lies & Alibis will just be sure to reward you with one of the best CD's of 2010. 
Shelby's site. Buy from amazonReleased April, '10. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

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