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Slow... (Bong Load)
Less country than just an artist playing his songs in a more acoustic setting, I get that distinct feeling by the several pop touches he does employ. More spacious and out of the box than most of the songwriters tied to the idiom, I would compare Tagliere's songs to maybe a demo version of Ryan Adams or Jeff Tweedy as I imagine some of their songs go through this treatment before being released. As with their work, Tagliere is such a good songwriter that his songs don't need too much dressing up - they succeed strictly on their craft and his emotional readings. Any fan of Ryan Adams or Jeff Tweedy and anyone else who combines some pop stuff with their songwriting will love this record. Hopefully as much as I do.
His website, has RealAudio songs and tour info. Order the CD from Miles Of Music. Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Blissville... (Corazong)

As people read less and less, I take a measure of hope from songwriters whose work stands as literature. Texas-born Jeff Talmadge condenses dust to stone and stone to diamond in his lyrics. “On 57 headed south / The lights are blinking off the coast / Some are saying welcome home / And some are signals to the lost” he sings at the beginning of "Driving To Blissville", one of the haunting gems in this new collection of stories and travels into the night-heart of America. In fact, many of this album's images are illuminated by headlights on the road at night. On a different tack, in "A Soldier's Christmas", he sings from the diary of a soldier overseas, “The day the war was over was the day our war began / and they can't tell us how long we will stay.” This music draws from folk and country wells, is clearly and warmly rendered, and Talmadge's worn-in voice is vulnerable enough to be trusted. Blissville is a good read and a good listen. Recommended.

Jeff's site. Buy from amazon. Released Jan. '06. Reviewed by Doug Lang.

The Beauty in the Ruin... (Moon House)

This is the third release by transplanted Texican Tapia, and it consists of an even dozen self-penned originals songs performed with a veritable who’s who of the Austin scene. Her music ranges from pensive introspection, as in the opener, “Another State Line” to an upbeat perspective on life and love, “Let the Lover Be”, with a very nice violin line, (I’m such a sucker for that instrument), by Eleanor Whitmore. Produced by long time collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Chris Gage, The Beauty in the Ruin lies somewhere in between country and folk, and her lyrics bring to mind some of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s better work. Tapia exhibits more confidence and poise than in 2005’s One Foot Out the Door; I think she knows where she’s going these days. 
Abi's website and MySpace page. Order from CD Baby. Released June, '08, reviewed by Don Grant.

A Fix Back East... (Rounder)
Somehow I get the feeling that this band would be more at home on Fat Possum than on Rounder. While Rounder may be bigger, Fat Possum seems more like kindred spirits. The bands music has a somewhat darker, more sinister air about it. Not your typical "alt" anything. Style wise their sound reminds me of R. L. Burnside/ Junior Kimbrough. Rough vocals and droning guitars filtered through a haunted soul. Think Tom Waits jamming with the aforementioned Kimbrough and Burnside. Stays with you long after the music is over.

Tarbox Ramblers' site has some interesting notes and recording details on the recording. Rounder Records. Buy from amazon. Released Jan. '04, reviewed by Keith Robb.

Unglorious Hallelujah/Red Red Rose... (Back Porch)

Gee, it turns out that Granny was right: it is possible to have too much of a good thing. I never thought it possible that one could O.D. on good music but this one, (two actually), proves me wrong. Individually, these are two pretty good recordings; collectively they are a bit too much. Yes, they both feature the vocal and instrumental assistance of Taylor's recent collaboratrix, (my new word), Carrie Rodriguez, which is one saving grace, and there is some damn fine harp playing throughout, but some of the songs leave the impression that they were included merely to flesh out the project into two discs, when a wee tad of distillation would have produced a single very good offering. As it stands, there's too much of the same sound here. Taylor has always been somewhat of a quirky songwriter, (remember “Wild Thing”?), but there are cases herein where the quirkiness overrules good sense. A song about being stuck in LAX? Not today Chip. He has been compared to fellow Texican Guy Clark, and at times the comparison holds water, but this time around, he doesn't exhibit the consistency that Clark can be counted on to take to the bank. Is this one lousy? No; it's a case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts. Good stuff, but too much in one dose. Listen to one disc and hide the other so that you can find and enjoy it later.

The Train Wreck site. Back Porch Records. Buy from amazon. Released July, '06, reviewed by Don Grant.

Let’s Leave This Town... (Train Wreck)
If Kasey Chambers and Guy Clark ever got together to make a record it might well sound something like this beaut by Chip Taylor and newcomer Carrie Rodriguez. The songs range from great to merely good, the largely acoustic back-up is skillfully used to support the songs (though I could do without the string sections), and the vocals are relaxed and expressive. Clearly everybody had fun making this one. A couple of the songs are a bit to dramatic or affected for my taste but that's balanced out by the more memorable ones. Though this is primarily a Chip Taylor project (his songs, his band, and he seems to be directing everybody as the producer), it’s Ms Rodriguez presence that makes the record. She’s a fine fiddler/violinist and adds much to support the songs with her playing. But it’s her fine fun smart vocals that really sells the songs, and this record. These two work well as a duet but the CD, more than anything else, serves to whet the appetite for Ms Rodriguez next -hopefully- solo record. 
Train Wreck Records has CD ordering. Buy from amazon. Reviewed by Kevin Russell

The Trouble With Humans… (Texas Music Group)
The story goes that the 60-something veteran singer-songwriter Taylor discovered the twenty-something Rodriguez playing fiddle in Austin and hired her on to tour with him, and then discovered that she had a singing voice. And what a great voice it is: clear and twangy like Iris DeMent, with just a hint of Lucinda William’s nasal toughness. What’s amazing is how well she sounds harmonizing with Taylor’s rock bottom bass voice. It’s as unlikely a match as their age differences, but it really works. They have a great musical and working relationship, even writing a few songs together. It wouldn’t surprise me if they were spending "quality" time together offstage as well. Chip has taken her under his wing, mentoring her, while she has given his songs some vitality and excitement. This is their second fine album in a short amount of time. I could see her taking off on her own someday and having a great solo career. But maybe they’re stronger together than apart, a delicate balancing of opposites.
Train Wreck Records has a tour dates and an amusing Road Journal written by Chip. TMG's Chip page. Buy from amazon Released Sept. 2003. Reviewed by Bill Frater

The Great Divide... (Blue Ruby)

Taylor gathered around the Texas songwriting bonfire that started in the early 1970's, along with Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Steve Earle. The Great Divide goes right back into the flames, recorded in Houston. This is a stripped-down classic, Taylor running short stories through your body like acupuncture needles, and you come out feeling better for the treatment. A mix of new and road-tested originals combine with bone-deep nods to mentors, as in Peg Leg Sam's "Ain't But One Thing Give A Man The Blues" and Van Zandt's "Brand New Companion", the latter opening out, stream-of-consciousness style, into variations on "Lulu's Back In Town" and "Dirty Dirty". Taylor's precise, dynamic guitar playing and midnight-narrative vocals are right across the table from you, with spare harmony vocals (Susan Lindfors) and percussion (James Gilmer) coming from the shadows behind. Raymond Carver and William Faulkner fill a booth in the corner, Lightnin's gotten into a bottle at the bar. Night time in Texas. Night time everywhere. This one's a keeper.

The official ET website. Order from Village Records . Released '05, reviewed by Doug Lang.

Heart of the Matter... (Boatfolk)
Taylor is from the south coast of Texas and he obviously loves the area. Nearly every song has something to do with the ocean or boats or characters from the "Redneck Riviera".  Comparisons to Jimmy Buffett are impossible to avoid, in his vocal style, arrangements and subject matter. Produced by Lloyd Maines.
Released July, 00. Reviewed by Bill Frater 

Revelator... (Sony Masterworks)

A more perfect union is here. Revelator is the first album from the powerhouse husband/wife team of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, each blues, rock & soul artists with substantial solo careers and top notch guitar chops. With 10 years of marriage and two kids binding them together, they've produced perhaps the sweetest and most powerful Southern Rock and R&B album of the last two decades, a tribute to the music that shaped them. The 13 original songs are mature, driving and beautifully crafted from beginning to end, the sort of material artists like Bonnie Raitt dream of recording - they are that good. Susan Tedeschi rises above and beyond the challenge, turning in the vocal performances of her career while slide virtuoso Trucks weaves an endless stream of gorgeous, steamy answers to her every call. Whether shouting for renewal in "Come See About Me" or pleading with a lover who has lost his way in "Simple Things", the chemistry of this ensemble is undeniable, as is the sheer joy that comes through every track. On my short list for album of the year. 
Their site. Buy from amazon. Released June, '11, reviewed by Brad Price.

Sadie Hawkins Dance... (Corn Boy)
More jam band with an infusion of rustic rock and roll than anything resembling country, Ten Months Later treat us to some well-meaning but ultimately unsatisfying music on this, their seeming debut CD. While instruments are well-played and songs arranged adequately, it is the blandness of their melodies and their banal lyrics that wreck this disc for me. The second song Ghosts Have Rights starts off with this confusing verse: "Dave and Caroline started a family; drew that thorn from their ancestors' paw; Dave and Carol went listening for answers; tried the winds of wisdom but heard nature's call." Huh? I won't even tell you about their song "Fried Cheese". There is talent here, that much is obvious. Just not enough care in crafting their songs and inserting some originality into their work. Sorry, can't recommend this to anyone.
The band's website is nicely done, with links to CD ordering info. Reviewed by Scott Homewood .

Milagros... (Catfish Jazz)
More roots rock than country, this CD is wall-to-wall fun and has more than a few surprises up its sleeve to keep you enthralled. This is no disc that will be taken out of the player before it is fully digested. On the contrary, tricks like getting bluesman W.C. Clark to sing a verse of the Bee Gee's "How Do You Mend A Broken Heart" done Al Green-soul style and then having Texas R&B queen Angela Strehli belting out the next song guarantee (scratch that - DEMAND) a full listen. As I said, this isn't country, but it does blend a mix of blues, Texas swing, and traditional-sounding music that does fit the Americana label quite well. Other guest stars abound as well, all adding a lot of fun and spice to this thick Texas chili. Great stuff. If you just like country, you might go elsewhere but if you love American music in all of its' forms, your gonna love the hell out of this.
Available from Texas Music Roundup.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood

Valley So Steep… (Lowe Farm)

The latest great young rootsy band out of Austin is the Texas Sapphires, voted best new band by the Austin Chronicle Readers' Poll. So how do you make your mark to the rest of the world? Well, it helps to hire Lloyd Maines to produce you. He seems to produce more albums than anyone in Americana or any music these days. The band's sound revolves around the harmony vocals of Billy Brent Malkus and Rebecca Lucille Cannon. Malkus write most of their songs and they honor classic country-western with some bluegrass and thrown in. Lloyd handles most of the pedal steel and Dobro on the disc but they have Kim Deschamps (Cowboy Junkies, Charlie Robison) to cover on their live shows. Two other male/female led tattooed bands, The Mother Truckers and 77 El Deora are doing a simular thing but I like the Sapphires for their straight-up honky tonk base. Solid songs and a solid band. What's not to love?

The Sapphires' site, and My Space page. Order from CD Baby. Released June, '06, reviewed by Bill Frater.

As He Wanders... (Ike)
Shades of Gram & Emmylou and George & Tammy, for that matter, are evoked by the sophomore release As He Wanders from Austin-based country act The Texas Sapphires. Fronting guy-gal vocal duo Billy Brent Malkmus and Rebecca Lucille Cannon demonstrate an alluring country chemistry be it the sweetness of "Riddled Days" and "Make Him Make Me" or hard drivers like twang-fired "Nashville Moon" and bluegrassin' "Baltimore Cage". It's an album that catapults them to at or near the top of Austin's strong C&W scene.
The Sapphires' site, Order from CD Baby. Released March, '10, reviewed by Dan Ferguson.

Living From A Suitcase... (Well Worn)

First track, first thought: WTF? Somebody's stuck an old Drifters release in this CD case? Second track, second thought: Déjà vu all over again, but can't place this one. Third track, back on familiar turf, it's Neil and Frank, and so it goes. There's a paucity of info out there on Mike Therieau, except that he plays and records in the Bay area, and there has to be an awful lot of 30-40 year old echoes reverberating in the hills and streets there. Are we talking derivative here? Could be, but then, we're all products of our environment, to a greater or lesser extent. Essentially what Therieau has done here is to take some of the better influences from an era which he couldn't, from his photos, have experienced first-hand, and brought them back to life, with his own personal, (modern? not sure), stamp on them. Does it work? Very nicely indeed. Note to the old farts here- Listen to track 9, “Holding On”; who do you think you're listening to? Hint- think John Cipollina.

Mike's site. Buy from amazon. Released June, '06, reviewed by Don Grant.

How To Grow A Woman From The Ground … (Sugar Hill)
The word is that Nickel Creek will be taking an extended hiatus beginning later next year. Chris Thile is the most talented, entertaining and ambitious member of the band. At 25 years old he has already put out 6 albums. Of course, he started young as a hot mandolin picker and his later solo CD's have seen his dabbling into pop and rock music with mixed results. He is a monster on the mandolin and his voice is sounding much more confident. This new one is acoustic, in fact it's the basic bluegrass configuration with the gifted fiddle of Gabe Witcher and the hot banjo of Noam Pikelny (Leftover Salmon). The whole thing was recorded live around a pair of microphones. How To Grow contains hot original instrumentals, and inventive covers of songs from The White Stripes, Jimmie Rodgers, The Strokes and Gillian Welch. Thile has returned to what he does best, and refined it into his own definition of acoustic music. It ain't exactly bluegrass but it's his best solo work yet.
Chris's Myspace Sugar Hill's site. Buy from amazon. Released Sept. '06, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Sleep with One Eye Open... (Nonesuch)
Chris Thile, mandolin-toting enfant terrible of modern bluegrass, seems to have gotten the "loosen up!" memo. After turning in many astonishingly slick performances of virtuoso level newgrass and chamber-folk, Thile has made an abrupt and refreshing change for the rougher in this collaboration with New York's Michael Daves. Both are Southerners making new homes for themselves in that great city, and they celebrate their roots with raw conviction and joy on this album. The tracks are nearly all traditional bluegrass and folk, played loud and rowdy as if to get over the patrons in a noisy pub. Daves has made a name for himself playing much of this material solo around Brooklyn as his hillbilly busking vocals and string ripping guitar picking will attest. Thile rises to the challenge both instrumentally and vocally, matching Daves barroom intensity. The licks are fast and a bit sloppy in sharp contrast to Thile's usual recordings, but the sense of unbridled fun is simply contagious. This is party music, two fellows having a great time in real time. A small complaint about the sound quality; while clearly a live 2 or 4 track recording,  the use of compression excessive and results in harsh, constrained sound to this reviewer's ears.

Order from Amazon. Released May, 2011. Reviewed by Brad Price.

Blame It On The Dog...(RCA)
This band of 2 brothers and a bassist have an upbeat pop-country sound not unlike the late, lamented Foster & Lloyd. This is not surprising given that the CD is co-produced by Bill Lloyd. These guys might have the "looks" and fresh harmonies to make you wonder if they will become "this year's models" of the Nashville establishment. Let's hope not, cause I like this CD and success sometimes spoils talent. The CD has enough of an edge to it to separate it from the "rest", and it features the great Rusty Young on pedal steel from Poco. They're songwriting is okay, but I seem to like their well-chosen cover tunes better. I like the Thompson's, let's just see if Nash-Vegas goes for 'em too.
If you like...Mavericks, Foster & Lloyd, Poco, then you might like...   Best Tracks: Life's too Short, A Million Miles Away, Drive Me Crazy, Back On The Farm, Pick Up The Pieces (w/Steve Earle). Out of print, but check Miles Of Music, they should have it. Thompson Brothers website with tour info, audio, bio, mailing list info and more. Released Jan. '98. Reviewed by Bill Frater.

Seven Decades... (HighTone)
Hanks Thompson is one of a handful of singers still around who go all the way back to Country's golden era in the 50's.  Even more amazing is how well his voice has held up.  While Thompson is doing material similar to what  he's always done, he can get away with it because he knows  that style better then anybody.  That said, some of the lyrics do sound a little dated.  However, this is a first class recording with Lloyd Maines producing and providing fine arrangements and back-up musicians.  This is classic Country and Western Swing from a true original.
Check out HighTone's site Released July, 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.

That's Not Me.. (Jackpot)
Some of us remember when country radio play lists featured Waylon Jennings, Hank Jr. and Mickey Newbury, among others. Sometimes these artists even crossed over to top 40 AM or progressive FM stations. These influences seem to have informed Randy Thompson's musical sensibilities. Sung with a strong, resonant voice and inhabiting a stormy emotional landscape, his fine songs feature spare arrangements and strong hooks. As he sings on "If Love is What You Want", "Dark shadows have got their own kind of beauty, it's a strange kind of comfort that can draw you in". Time will tell if the country music pendulum will swing back to include artists like this Virginia native, but in the meantime many of us will enjoy listening on the outer fringes.
Randy 's site. Buy from CD Baby. Released Feb. '04. Reviewed by Michael Meehan.

Further On... (Jackpot)

This is Virginia son Thompson’s third release, and it defies pigeon-holing. You could call it country, country-rock, folk, bluegrass, Appalachian bluegrass, Shenandoah rock etc. but hey, only booze bottles really need labels; good stuff like this sells itself. This guy has an unerring knack when it comes to lyrics, writing most of Further On’s songs, and he seems to find his way around a fret board none too shabbily either. Vocally he reminds one of a younger Ian Tyson, none more so than the disc closer and namesake, “Further On”. A nod is also due the multi-talented Garrick Alden, and also to Rickie Simpkins for his beautiful fiddle work. This is one of the best releases so far this year.
Randy 's site. Order from CD Baby. Released Jan. '08, reviewed by Don Grant.

Up Front and Down Low... (Verve Forecast)
I heard Teddy Thompson say that he loved the Everly Brothers because his dad (Richard Thompson) had a tape of them in the car when he was a little kid. The lead-off track, “Change Of Heart”, written by Felice and Bordeleaux Bryant, was an old Everly Brothers' track as was the final hidden track, “Don't Ask Me To Be Friends”. In between are mostly countrypolitian arrangements of country songs from the 60's and 70's. The surprise is, rather than the a bunch of popular songs, Teddy dug up some obscure gems like Dolly Parton's “My Blue Tears”. He seems to be a connoisseur of tender melodies matched with catchy phrasing. What's more the songs are bathed in that syrypy string sound if the early 60's country hits. But he pulls it off brilliantly, even on the better-known tunes like “Walkin' The Floor Over You” or Elvis Presley's "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone" Teddy make them sound fresh with different arrangements. His aching tenor voice, while more Chris Issak than George Jones, is perfectly suited to these songs. The difference from many other pop artists doing country tribute albums is Thompson's deep reverence for the music shines through.

Teddy's website. Buy from amazon. Released July, 2007. Reviewed by Bill Frater

Soundtrack... (Planetary)
Not sure whether the idea for this movie and soundtrack was inspired by the success of the Coen Brothers film (and the mega-success of the soundtrack) O Brother, Where Art Thou? but it almost does for cowpunk redneck music what the Coen Brothers did for the resurgence of bluegrass. The difference might be that The Thrillbillies seems like one of those low-budget slasher flicks from what is shown in the CD artwork. Hell, it may not even be a real film at all, since I didn't get any real background info from the record company. It might just be a concept album or something. Whatever it is, if you like the redneck country performed by Southern Culture On The Skids and their ilk, you'll love this. Trailer Bride, Drive-By Truckers and Angry Johnny and the Killbillies are just a few of the bands that contribute. It's doubtful you'll ever see this seemingly low-budget flick, but if you take the time to purchase this CD of low-down country sleaze, I think you'll be very satisfied.
Released Sept. 2001.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

The Time Jumpers... (Rounder)

Thirteen years ago a handful of the cream of Nashville session players got together in a little dive to play music for fun. Every Monday night since then this little band of stellar musicians gather to make the music they love: country and western and swing. Fast forward to September 2012 and the release of their new CD, simply titled The Time Jumpers. For my money, there's not a better band on the planet. Every player is a virtuoso on their respective instrument. Let me sat that again; every player is a virtuoso on their instrument. And folks, there are lots of instruments. The lushness of triple fiddles, a bass and drum rhythm section you can set your watch to, three guitarists with distinctive styles, an accordion player who's elegance and touch will cause you to forget all those jokes and the reigning king of pedal steel guitar. Oh, did I mention they sing? OMG, do they sing! You might expect a band that has Vince Gill as a vocalist to gather around his award-winning tenor and enjoy the ride. But as good as Gill is, and he is -as always- very good, the real revelation here is not Gill but the vastly under-appreciated Dawn Sears. Not since Patsy Cline has country music produced a singer, both sultry and sassy, who so convincingly conveys emotion while incorporating the best in country and jazz vocal styles. But there's more. Ranger Doug lends an air of authenticity to the western part of the show and, though not represented on the recording, Joe Spivey, equally impressive fiddleman, has been known to offer up very satisfying bluesy/swingy vocals. All that said, what about the CD? The band has come up with a rollicking, swingingly great CD of mostly original compositions that manages to sound both old and new. Drawing from the well of Bob Wills-informed western swing and real deal country music, every track on the recording is infused with the lively spirit of the former and the adult-themed heartbreak of the latter. From the lead off instrumental to the pure country closer on the complexities of love relationships, these folks demonstrate how it ought to be done and how it ought to be sung. Many of these songs have the sound of instant classics. Vince Gill weighs in with four songs; displaying his usual range of fun or heartsick, although "New Star Over Texas" may be one of his most gorgeous compositions. But, again, it's Dawn Sears who really delivers the goods with her three song set. With the high point on the CD being her jazz-informed vocal tour-de-force on a Vince Gill composition, "Faint of Heart". I know there isn't but if there was any justice in country music, this woman's name would be a household word. All in all, The Time Jumpers is a completely enjoyable CD that really represents how the band sounds live. Andy Reiss, Paul Franklin, Dennis Crouch, Billy Thomas, and Larry Franklin are masterful at supporting the singer and the song without getting in each others way and prove on track after track why this is the best real deal country and western and swing band in Nashville, in the country and -I'll say it again- on the planet.
Time jumper's site, Buy from Amazon. Released Sept. 2012. Reviewed by Kevin Russell.

The Lucky Tomblin Band... (Texas World)
This is an all-star, Lone Star effort for sure, with a cast of players to be reckoned with. Leader Lucky Tomblin is a contemporary of the late Doug Sahm, and fluent in the musical languages of his home state of Texas. The band consists of Austin A-list players that should be familiar to those that scan musical lineups on their favorite albums. They include pianist Earl Poole Ball, steel player Cindy Cashdollar and guitarist Redd Volkaert. The material often evokes modern day themes (immigration, the life of a musician) in classic styles (tex mex, honky tonk, swing). While Lucky's voice is a limited instrument, he uses it to mostly fine (twangy) effect, though stretching things a little on the ballads. That said, this band knows how to serve up both kinds of music: country and western.
The band's site. Buy from amazon.  Released Oct. 2003.  Reviewed by Michael Meehan.

Ghost of Painless Grace
... (self released)
A intriguing album this, juxtaposing the alluring acoustic tub-thump of early alternative artists Violent Femmes with a plaintive country boy earnestness and honesty. Tim Buchanan is the songwriter, lead vocalist and seemingly the musical spark lighting this band. Playing a ton of instruments including guitar, mandolin, accordion, and harmonica among many others, it is Buchanan's spirit and innate musicality that asserts itself most strongly into the band's rootsy pseudo-bluegrass sound. While Buchanan and the band have both had previous CD releases, this is the strongest outing for either entity even though it is mostly Buchanan's show. A very strong release fans of bluegrass, folk and acoustic country are sure to love. Keep an eye on Buchanan as well. This CD could signal a future star in the making.
Order from Miles Of Music.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Farmers In A Changing World...(Arista)
I heard that this band of "old-timers" from Tulsa have an unlikely hit song on country radio these days. It's probably because their lazy-shuffle sound is so refreshing next to the usual stuff on the air. What's even more amusing is these guys aren't trying to sound radio-friendly. They're just taking their time,  plowing  their own sound out of a mixture of   blues, boogie-woogie, swing, and country. Lead vocalist Steve Ripley has a great hoarse voice that kind of growls at times, and most of the songs are lots of fun to listen to. What I like about these guys is they don't seem to take themselves too seriously. They just keep shuffling along, oblivious to the modern world of radio formats and pretty faces.

Best songs:  Linda Lou, Shortenin' Bread, The World's Biggest Fool, Poor Boy Shuffle, The Elvis Thing, Way Too Late. Their label has bank-rolled a nice website for the band, Released Nov. '98, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Everyone's A Winner... (Crislin Music)
Not what I was expecting from a band with the name Trailer Park Rangers but not bad, either. I think, from the name, I was looking for a more wild, hoedown, trashy trailer park sort of bluegrass/country sound. What's here instead is a little more atmospheric, arranged, and, actually, a little wacky. Kind of like Bill Monroe with a drummer and arranged by Spike Jones, if you get my drift. The liner notes refer to "The Carter Family" and, while the leader of this band does have the last name of Carter, he's Australian, but if he is associated with the famous Carter Family it would come as no surprise. Despite some almost-atonal touches, the sound is that of classic bluegrass from the '40's with some drums. All in all, a different sound that fans of bluegrass and classic country will find very interesting.
The band's website. Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Goin' Out In Style... (Air)

Somebody has been listening to, or been subconsciously influenced by, their parents record collection here. The opening cut is about as Allman as possible without Greg or Duane, and it's followed by “Saint Catherine”, which sounds suspiciously like “Only the Good Die Young”, except that that song didn't have the benefit of Judy Burke's violin and vocals. Dig out Eat A Peach and 52nd Street to see the references. This is the Philadelphia band's third release, but only this writer's first exposure to them, so it's difficult to draw comparisons or chart their development. The last three cuts are the ones that seem to make the most impression, and that's because they don't leave the listener with the nagging suspicion of latent familiarity. That's the direction that their writing should take, and, at the same time, greater use should be made of Ms. Burke's talents.

The Rodeo's site. Buy from amazon Released June, '06, reviewed by Don Grant.

The Scene Of The Crying... (Lone Star Music)

Besides being an enormously talented singer and bassist, country artist Trevino is also blind. While that simple fact may not merit mentioning since Trevino himself doesn't let it stop him from creating some great music, it does figure into what he does and how he does it. A common medical fact is when a person loses one of their senses, the other senses that are left become stronger. While Trevino cannot see, his ear-to-heart coordination is what is important to a musician and Trevino's is as strong as any I've heard. In this, his second album, Trevino has decided to create a CD that is an homage of sorts to country music's past. Not only does Trevino manage to bring forth what was so transcendent about these great old songs by Mel Tillis and George Jones (among others) but he also manages to add a modern sensibility to them that doesn't just believe in blind tradition. He breathes life to them in ways most artists can't. The average listener may just hear an artist doing some covers but the more observant will notice the love, respect and soul Trevino invests into these performance. As Trevino doesn't allow his physical shortcomings to affect his brilliant musicality, I am unable to allow this fine CD to pass by without telling you all to rush out and grab a copy. Screw hyperbole. This CD is great.
Lone Star Music's site.  Buy from amazon  Released Nov. 2002. Reviewed by Scott Homewood .  

Popular Demons...(Koch)
Make room in your  budget for this one, if you have to eat chili out of cans for a week, well, what's more important?  Greg Trooper is a New Jersey native who's previous albums have had more of a "folkie" sound. Thanks to producer Buddy Miller, this fine collection of catchy tunes are given an "Americana" treatment. Some of the songs rock along tastefully like say, John Hiatt, while others have an acoustic-roots sound. It all works, thanks to a fine set of musicians including Duane Jarvis, Emmylou Harris, Al Perkins, Tammy Rogers and of course, Buddy Miller. The songwriting is truly exceptional and Trooper's warm, emotive voice goes straight to my heart.  Highly recommended!

Best songs: Halfway, 22 Miles to Bristol, Bluebell, Every Heart Won't Let You Down, Lightning Bug, When I Close My Eyes. His label, Koch has a website, that needs updating.  Amazon has used copies. Out of print, but Miles Of Music should have it. Released Sept. '98. Reviewed by Bill Frater

Straight Down Rain... (Eminent)
First off, ya gotta know, I loved Trooper's last Buddy Miller produced CD alot. There's something about his warm and expressive voice that gets me right between the eyes. It is entirely possible that I am too biased toward his witty yet sensitive songwriting to give an objective review. It could be that I think his songs are the perfect balance between singer-songwriter soft and hook-filled power pop. My only complaint on this new CD is producer Phil Madeira's tendency towards that "dirty" sound I first heard on Tom Wait's Rain Dogs, and last enjoyed on Emmylou's Wrecking Ball. You know, that processed "wheezing down in a well" sound, frankly, I'm tired of it. Otherwise, Greg Trooper's still one of my favorites Americana artists out there today. Check it out!  Buy from amazonReleased March, 2001, reviewed by Bill Frater.

Floating… (Sugar Hill)
I got a lot of CD’s stacked around my house, and I’m always trying to catch up on the stack in addition to the stack of dishes in the sink and the stack of mail…well, you know how it is. Anyway, I’m such a big fan of Greg Trooper that I almost didn’t give his latest brilliant release a decent listen. I mean I listened but I didn’t really listen, ya know when sit down and actually read along with the lyric sheet, and even listen all the way through! . I got so lost in one song of longing that I almost called an old girlfriend…not a good idea. Anyway, Greg Trooper knows how to mix it up with uncompromising taste- a little folk, some blue-eyed soul, bluegrass, rock- it’s all great, all sung with heart and soul. And his songs, brutally honest, sometimes playful, sometimes poignant, always brutally honest. I’d like to think that I’m not the only one who’s so moved by Greg’s albums. Do yourself a favor and pick up this CD, and slow down and listen to the whole thing.
Troop's website. Sugar Hill Records Buy from amazon. Released May, 2003. Reviewed by Bill Frater

All The Boats Are Gonna Rise... (Travelin' Shoes)

Ernest Troost's prior claim to fame was as a writer of scores for television and Hollywood productions. Anyone remember the music in “Tremors”? I didn't think so. All The Boats Are Gonna Rise is truly a solo effort, just Troost alone on guitars, vocals, and harmonica. The lead-in title track is ironic and prescient after the carnage in Louisiana recently: “I don't know but I been told, no need to worry ‘cause the levee's gonna hold”; “don't need no government to tell ‘em who to trust”; “fat cats laughin' as they pulled out of town”; “we gathered up the bodies and we stacked them up high”. Lines like these have the makings of a documentary score, a New Orleans anthem, wouldn't you think? There's a lot of Delta country blues influence on this recording, and a lot of social commentary, as well. Imagine a bayou-bred John Steinbeck taking up a fret board instead of a pen and you've pretty much got the picture.

Mr. Troost's web site. Buy from CD Baby. Released in 2004, reviewed by Don Grant.

Walk With Evil...(Hayden's Ferry)
Ranging from the swamp boogie of "There Ya Go" to the spiritual pleading of "Grace" to a wonderful cover of Ernest Tubbs' "Educated Mama" to straight-up L.A. punk on "Piss On Your Grave," the Trophy Husbands show tons of authenticity in their playing, singing, and songwriting. The CD has a very self-produced feel to it, and some tracks like the wonderful rockabilly "Won't Start" are wonderfully tight, while others like "Staggering Down" seen a little roughshod. I suspect it won't be long before Trophy Husbands attracts widespread attention and get the studio backing to do their songs and musicianship justice.

Trophy Husbands site. Hayden's Ferry Buy from amazon. Released Sept. '03, reviewed by Clint Weathers.

Build a Horse... (Sandbar Music)
While this isn't bad in a cookie-cutter band sort of way, this seems a little bland for me which is sad because these guys seem to have the talent to write a decent song. I just don't hear enough that jumps out at me to advise you to spend your money on, although if you like folky country, it might be your bag.
Sandbar Music has CD ordering.  Reviewed by Scott Homewood.

Who Stole that Train?... (Cow Island Music)

Welcome the Twilight Ranchers and their debut release, Who Stole that Train? A tasteful mix of covers and originals, this is a thoroughly pleasurable bop, the kind of easygoing honky tonk/ swinging boogie that invites you to git up and git dancin' right now. Hailing from Boston way, Twilight Ranchers can both sing and play ( not always a given) and with the help of Producer Sean Mencher, have released a CD that is guaranteed to send you searching out your favorite western wear and singing along to such toe-tappers as "Who Stole That Train", "Too Many Women", "Twin Guitar Roundup" and "Three Empty Bottles" …but you really can't go wrong, they're all good. What's especially nice is the relaxed feel, both the music and the vocals have room to move and invite you along ­ no hurry, but lots of fun getting there.

Their website has CD ordering by PayPal or check . Released late 2004, reviewed by Kay Clements (KWMR).

The Two Dollar Pistols with Tift Merritt...(Yep Roc) 
This is all country duets not unlike the recent John Prine CD.  The difference is this one includes 2 original songs that hold up quite nicely next to the songs originally done by people like Dolly and Porter, Charlie Pride and George and Melba. Imagine John Doe and Emmylou Harris harmonizing in front of a subtle country band and you'll get an idea of how they sound together.  This is a 7 song EP and in these busy times, there's something quite refreshing about a CD that you can listen to in less then  half an hour.  Great Country duets to do the dishes to.
Check out Two Dollar Pistols' site or Red Eye. Released Jan. '00, reviewed by Bill Frater.

You Ruined Everything... (Yep Roc)
After a couple of CDs that could generously be called baby steps, the Two Dollar Pistols have created an album that fans of the Pistol's sweltering, swaggering live shows always knew the band had in it. That is not to say there weren't fine moments on the bands' other releases. In fact, many knowledgeable members of the hegemony have predicted success for the Pistols for quite a while now. It was just a case of the band never quite hitting its' stride and capturing their sound and talents in a way that fully connected. This new CD connects like an Ali uppercut. With all songs written by the very talented John Howie Jr., the band has found it's own voice, a quality in song content and musical timbre that is uniquely their own. Many bands do what the Pistols do, play country music using the exact same instrumentation and set up. But, finally, no one can do it the same way the Pistols do it. This is in no small part thanks to Howie's distinctive baritone voice and his propensity for original, terse honky-tonk ruminations of love and pain. Producer Pete Weiss must also be credited as the band has never sounded so "there" before this CD. Many bands and artists talk about career albums, albums that defined their thrust for the life of the band. This is the career album for the Two Dollar Pistols. Everthing they do from now on will be compared to this CD. As long as they put this must quality and passion into their future work, they'll be fine.
Buy from amazon   Yep Roc's Pistols page Released August 2002. Reviewed by Scott Homewood .  

Step Right Up... (self-released)

North Carolina is the stomping grounds of this Southern rock/country swing band that, from the sound of this, their premier recording, I'd wager puts on a pretty dynamite live show. Their repertoire includes flat-out country rockers, e.g. “Movin'”, “One More Saturday Night”, replete with surging guitar counterpoints, minor chord based dirges such as “Rio Grande”, “Never You Mind”, in the style of Frank Sampedro and that Neil guy, and classic-veined country, “All Over Town”. The recent addition of Tom Eure's talents on mandolin, fiddle, and banjo, along with Michael Maher's abilities on assorted versions of the guitar, give The Turnstiles an edge of versatility over a lot of their contemporaries. There's enough variety available there to ensure that ennui is not in the cards when these boys hit the stage.

The band's site has song samples and secure CD ordering. Released in March, '06, reviewed by Don Grant.


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