2018 is now in the pages of history and as America shifts (lurches?) into an uncertain future. Americana and roots music, unlike many other genres, continues to be true to its legacy and addresses our times with art that refuses to chase the charts and churn out reflexively commercial product and, lucky for us, refuses to treat the audience as mindless consumers.
That’s not to say that Americana and roots music is merely a barometer for political and social conditions and change. No sane person wants their favorite artists to be righteous yet starve. As the music industry continues to reflect changing consumer demands artists are also finding opportunities to reach audiences and generate revenue in movies and video games.
Some albums Iâ€™m personally looking forward to because Iâ€™ve heard some cuts, or on my faith in the artist, are Hayes Carllâ€™s â€œWhat It Is,â€ Feb. 15: Dale Watsonâ€™s Call Me Lucky and Ryan Bingham – â€œAmerican Love Songâ€ , all on February 15th, Mandolin Orangeâ€™s â€œTides of a Teardrop” on February 1st, and Joshua Ray Walker’s “Wish You Were Here” on January 25th as well as Son Voltâ€™s â€œUnion’ on March 29th.
As more dates come throughout the year I will be updating the list. If you know of an actual release not listed yet please leave it in the comments.
As always I appreciate your visiting the site and hope you join me in another great year for Americana and roots music.
January: Jan. 18th: Danny Burns – “North Country”
Jan. 25th: Lula Wiles â€“ ‘What Will We Do’
Jan. 4th: Balsam Range – â€œAeonicâ€
Jan. 18th: Alice Wallace – â€œ Into the Blueâ€
Jan. 18th: Ronnie Milsap – â€œRonnie Milsap: The Duetsâ€
Jan. 18th: Greensky Bluegrass – â€œAll for Moneyâ€
Jan. 18th: The Steel Woods – â€œOld Newsâ€
Jan. 18th: Whitehorse – â€œThe Northern South Vol. 2â€
Feb. 1st: Mandolin Orange – â€œTides of a Teardropâ€
Feb. 1st: Abigail Lapelle – “Getaway”
Feb. 8th: Gurf Morlix – ‘Impossible Blue’
Feb. 15th: Hayes Carll – â€œWhat It Isâ€
Feb. 15th: Dale Watson – â€œCall Me Luckyâ€
Feb. 15th: Ryan Bingham – â€œAmerican Love Songâ€
Feb. 15th: Joey McGee – “El Camino Real”
Feb. 15th: Kalyn Fay – “Good Company”
Feb. 22nd: Dearling – “Silver and Gold” (EP)
Feb. 22nd Vandoliers – â€œForeverâ€
Feb. 22nd â€“ Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell â€“ ‘Songs of Our Native Daughters’ March:
March 1st: Mary Bragg – â€œDiamonds as Camouflageâ€
March 1st: The Cactus Blossoms – â€œEasy Wayâ€
March 1st: Dave Ernst – â€œHickory Switchâ€
March 2nd: The Honey Dewdrops – “Anyone Can See”
March 7th: Townes Van Zandt – “Sky Blue”
March 8th: Patty Griffin – “Patty Griffin” March 8th: Clara Baker – “Things To Burn”
March 22nd: Allison de Groot & Tatiana March 22nd: Orville Peck – “Pony” March 22nd: Luther Dickinson and Sisters of the Strawberry Moon – “Solstice” March 29th: Son Volt – â€œUnionâ€
May 3rd: Pete Seeger â€“ ‘The Smithsonian Folkways Collection’ May 3rd: Caroline Spence – “Mint Condition” May 10th: The Shootouts – “Quick Draw” May 24th: Willard Gayheart – “At Home in the Blue Ridge”
June 14th: Hank Williams – ‘Health & Happiness Show’ June 21st: Buddy and Julie Miller -â€˜Breakdown on 20th Ave. Southâ€™ June 28th: Chuck Mead – “Close To Home” August 16th The Messenger: A Tribute to Ray Wylie Hubbard August 23rd Esther Rose – ‘You Made It This Far’ Erin Enderlin – ‘Chapter Three: Whatever Gets You Through The Night’ Tanya Tucker – ‘While Iâ€™m Livinâ€™ ‘ Vince Gill – ‘Okie’ Dalton Domino – ‘Songs From the Exile’ Jason Hawk Harris â€“ Love & the Dark The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys – ‘Toil, Tears & Trouble’ Leslie Stevens – ‘Sinner’ Croy and the Boys – ‘Howdy High-Rise’ Seth James – Midland – ‘Let It Roll’ September 7th The Highwomen – Self-Titled’ Terri Hendrix – ‘Talk To A Human’ Jason Tyler Burton â€“ ‘Kentuckian’ Paul Cauthen â€“ ‘Room 41’ Cut Throat Francis â€“ ‘This Gardenâ€™s Never Gonna Grow’ Ana Egge â€“ ‘Is It the Kiss’ NRBQ â€“ ‘Turn On, Tune In’ Amy Speace â€“ ‘Me and the Ghosts of Charlemagne’ These Wild Plains â€“ ‘Thrilled To Be Here’ Trailerpark Idlers â€“ ‘Ghost Town Nights September 13th Jeremy Ivey – ‘The Dream And The Dreamer’ September 27th Hot Club of Cowtown – ‘Wild Kingdom’ October 4th The North Mississippi Allstars – â€œUp and Rollingâ€ October 13th Cody Jinks – ‘After The Fire’ North Mississippi Allstars â€“ ‘Up and Rolling’ Corb Lund – ‘Cover Your Tracks’ Jonah Tolchin – ‘Fires for the Cold’ Marti Brom â€“ ‘Midnight Bus’ Ted Drozdowski â€“ ‘Learn To Love The Moon’ Jeremy Ivey â€“ ‘The Dream And The Dreamer; Janiva Magness â€“ ‘Change In The Weather: Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty’ October 18th The Milk Carton Kids – ‘The Only Ones’ Darin Aldridge & Brooke Aldridge â€“ ‘Inner Journey’ Driftwood Soldier â€“ ‘Stay Ahead Of The Wolf’ The Drunken Hearts â€“ ‘Wheels of the City’ Rory Ellis â€“ ‘Inner Outlaw’ EmiSunshine and The Rain â€“ ‘Family Wars’ Jimmy â€œDuckâ€ Holmes â€“ ‘Cypress Grove’ Jake La Botz â€“ ‘Theyâ€™re Coming For Me’ New Copasetics â€“ ‘Twang-Ucopia’ David Newbould â€“ ‘Sin & Redemption’ Karen & the Sorrows â€“ ‘Guaranteed Broken Heart’ Zachary Lucky â€“ ‘Midwestern’ October 25th Allison Moorer – ‘Blood’ Neil Young & Crazy Horse – ‘Colorado’ Craig Cummings â€“ ‘Absolute Surprise’ Karen & the Sorrows â€“ ‘Guaranteed Broken Heart’ Van Morrison â€“ ‘Three Chords and the Truth’ Jackson Stokes â€“ ‘Jackson Stokes’ Zack Walther Band â€“ ‘The Westerner’ November 20th Bill Scorzari – ‘Now I’m Free’ January 31st Dustbowl Revival – ‘Is It You, Is It Me?’
It’s been a tough winter and spring can’t get here soon enough. Texas roots rock legends the Old 97’s made just made that anticipation greater.
The line-up for the 3rd annual Old 97’s County Fair has been released and it’s another great showcase of roots rock acts.
Along with the 40 foot Ferris wheel and all the carnival games you’ll catch Lord Huron, The Mavericks, Valerie June, The Bottle Rockets, Erika Wennenstrom from Heartless Bastards, Paul Cauthen, Jamie Wyatt, The Bastards of Soul and, of course, the Old 97’s.
The Old 97’s County Fair takes place on Saturday April 14th at Main Street Garden, Downtown Dallas.
Kids 10 & under get in free so bring the whole family.
(L-R) Top: Brandy Clark, Hiss Golden Messenger, Turnpike Troubadours
(L-R) Bottom: Charley Crockett, Deer Tick, Bettye LaVette
Continuing the stellar tradition of being the preeminent roots music event of the year, the Nashville-based Americana Music Association has released its first round of artists slated to perform at this year’s 18th annual Americana Music Festival & Conference, presented by Nissan, September 12 – 17, 2017.
The first 103 of more than 230 artists are made up of pioneers, icons, and upstarts like Brandy Clark, Hiss Golden Messenger, Turnpike Troubadours, Lillie Mae, Alice Wallace, Mike and The Moonpies, Rodney Crowell, Paul Cauthen, John Paul White, The White Buffalo, Jason Eady, Bruce Robison, and much more.
With more acts still to be announced, the event promises to live up to its reputation as a must attend for roots music fans and industry alike.
Aaron Lee Tasjan
All Our Exes Live in Texas
The Band of Heathens
The Barefoot Movement
Birds of Chicago
The Blind Boys of Alabama
The Brother Brothers
CALICO the band
Courtney Marie Andrews
Deep Dark Woods
Dirty River Boys
Haas Kowert Tice
Hiss Golden Messenger
The Honey Ants
Horseshoes and Hand Grenades
The Howlin Brothers
John Paul White
Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge
Kacy & Clayton
The Lil Smokies
Low Cut Connie
The McCrary Sisters
Micky and the Motorcars
Mike and The Moonpies
Shane Smith & The Saints
We Banjo 3
The White Buffalo
The year in music for 2016 is best defined by the classic Dickensian line from “A Tale of Two Cities,” “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Mortality cut a wide swath across some of the greatest and influential musicians of the twentieth century. Roots and country artists like Merle Haggard, Guy Clark, Ralph Stanley, Leon Russell, Jean Shepard, Glenn Frey, Red Simpson, Joey Feek and Steve Young among other greats like Prince, Sharon Jones, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen seemed harshly unrelenting. This level of loss will be felt in our cultural fabric in ways we’ve yet to understand.
To quote the late, great George Jones “Who’s gonna fill their shoes?”
Let’s hope that those passed legends shine as a beacon to the next generations to create great work that ties us together in song, music and common humanity. From what I know about 2017 I do see greatness coming.
But there was a silver lining. The influence of roots music in mainstream and, in a cultural equivalent of time folding in on itself, mainstream country music. This trend of influence occurs without Americana surrendering its identity of innovation and authenticity. To some artists, the genre was found too constricting and they lit out for another terrain better suited to their art.
And here’s to a more equitable arrangement between tech companies and the musicians that provide the bedrock to build their empires. Much to be done here…
As others sacrifice to create, let’s us, the audience, push ourselves to discover, share, attend live shows and financially reward the creators. Most which are hauling thier own gear and traveling to shows in cars or vans not tour buses.
Without them, this life is much less joyful.
Criteria â€“ Calendar year 2016. No EPs, live, covers or re-release albums no matter how awesome.
Donâ€™t see your favorite represented? Leave it in the comments, and hereâ€™s to a new year of Twang.
Matt Woods – ‘How to Survive’ – (iTunes | Amazon) – Tennessee troubadour Matt Woodâ€™s third studio album ‘How to Survive’ offers taut songwriting that cuts to the emotional quick. Not an overtly political album but something more effective in sowing understanding – a topical album.
Paul Cauthen – ‘My Gospel’ – (iTunes | Amazon)
Paul Cauthen’s ‘My Gospel’ takes a page from the book of Paycheck and Waylon, a mix of juke box secular and pulpit gospel songs both personal and ethereal confessionals. These testimonials through Cauthen’s big baritone that suits these sonic vignettes of contemporary southern soul.
Brent Cobb – ‘Shine On Rainy Day’ – (iTunes | Amazon) Like Chris Stapleton and Kacey Musgraves Brent Cobb worked the Music Row ear worm mines for years before moving front and center with his own wares. Those dues paid off. His debut is both breezy and heavy like the great music of the country crossovers from the 70s but fresh with life and rich with authenticity and tradition.
Darling West – ‘Vinyl and Heartache’ – (iTunes | Amazon) The Norwegian trio Darling West takes their smooth pop chamber folk aesthetic to a new high on their sophomore release ‘Vinyl and Heartache.’ Mari SandvÃ¦r Kreken’s voice transcends each original cut, and a superb cover of Fleetwod Mac’s ‘The Chain,” to take the extraordinary musicianship even higher.
Karen Jonas – ‘Country Songs’ – (iTunes | Amazon) All you need to know about Fredericksburg, Virginia-based Karen Jonas’ is right there in the title. ‘Country Songs’ picks up where Jonas’ 2014 debut ‘Oklahoma Lottery’ left us – somewhere between heartache and hangover. Her voice lies between sass and sultry as Jonas’ accounts a woman longing for more and being fed up. All the while fitting perfectly with classic barroom weepers without resorting to threadbare nostalgia.
The Buffalo Ruckus – ‘Peace & Cornbread’ – (iTunes | Amazon) The Buffalo Ruckus’ sophomore album ‘Peace & Cornbread’ still embodies the soul of all those barrooms the band has torched with their fiery live shows but brings the more feral elements to heel that pays off with cohesion and great songwriting. Here divinity mixes with road tar to create a great Southern soul album
Dori Freeman – ‘Dori Freeman’ – (iTunes | Amazon) One of the surprises of 2016, Freeman’s debut exudes the confidence of a veteran performer and songwriter influenced equally by her native Appalachia as she is classic pop, bar room country and uptown jazz and moves deftly across it all to deliver an astounding cohesive treasure.
Kelsey Waldon – ‘I’ve Got a Way’ – (iTunes | Amazon) Kelsey Waldon’s sophomore release has vulnerable resolve and classic country running through it like the coal veins in her home state of Kentucky. And just as bracing and satisfying as it’s bourbon. Her plaintive voice and keen eye for human nature makes for these sterling tales of hard roads and tender hearts.
Austin Lucas – ‘Between the Moon & the Midwest’ – (iTunes | Amazon) Austin Lucas’ latest release is a moody, pedal steel laden arc traveling among broken hearts and bitter tears. His signature croon sits between jubilant and forlorn and bears the marks of a man that’s been through trouble but comes out the other side stronger and with better stories.
Whiskey Myers – â€˜Mudâ€™ – (iTunes | Amazon)
Few musical genres are as maligned as Southern Rock. But then a band comes all with an album that makes you believe again. Whiskey Myersâ€™ â€˜Mudâ€™ is that album. The band worked with Americana Auber-producer Dave Cobb to create an album that pushes lyrical and music boundaries established by their 2014 breakout release â€˜Early Morning Shakes.â€™ The pride of Palestine, Texas mixes country, rock and blue-eyed soul to achieve one of their strongest efforts yet.
Robert Ellis – ‘Robert Ellis’ – (iTunes | Amazon) On Robert Ellis’ fourth solo album, the Texas songwriter further moves from the school of George Jones country crooning even further into the adult pop of James Taylor and Paul Simon, and tackles adult themes of despair, restlessness and loss of love. A disciple of music styleS and texture, as well as songcraft and extraordinary fret work, Ellis delves into Chet Atkin’s jazz-flavored country (Drivin), bossa nova (Amanda Jane) and even a neo-classical dirge (The High Road) and ties. It shouldn’t work but damned if Ellis doesn’t pull it off.
Hayes Carll – ‘Lovers and Leavers’ – (iTunes | Amazon) Carll’s latest suggests his 5-year recording hiatus has been a rough if introspective stretch. ‘Lovers and Leavers’ is Carll’s solemn of his career without tipping into being a dour bumfest. These days there’s more on Carll’s mind than drinking, hootin’ and ahollerin’. This is an authentically more personal, emotional and confessional work that moves Carll into the realm of Guy Clarkian genius.
Margo Price – ‘Midwest Farmer’s Daughter’ – (iTunes | Amazon) An overnight success 13 years in the making, Jack White saw something in Margo Price that Music Row didn’t when he signed her as the first country artist on his Third Man Records label. Life’s harsh beauty pours from each song and common resolve is there with grace. Stuff too real for Music Row confections. Price sits well within a current musical groundswell proving that soulful roots music has an audience hungry for something real and is here to stay.
Lori McKenna – ‘The Bird & The Rifle’ – (iTunes | Amazon)
‘The Bird & The Rifle’ – When sheâ€™s not penning mega hits for the likes of Tim McGraw and Little Big Town, Lori McKenna puts her considerable songwriting skills to weightier faire like her latest, ‘The Bird & The Rifle.â€™ Intimate stories of small town hopes hitting the hard choices and their unforeseen consequences. We see ourselves in gems like “Halfway Home” and “We Were Cool” and brings more dimension to McKenna’s own “Humble and Kind” which was a hit for McGraw. These songs create a web that ties our experiences together in common humanity.
Sarah Jarosz -“Undercurrent” – (iTunes | Amazon) Jarosz’s 4th full-length studio album surprised many fans who’ve been listening since 2009’s debut ‘Song Up in Her Head.’ The then teen wunderkind has built on her time in the bluegrass genre and arrived an accomplished arranger, songwriter, singer and musician. Traditional forms are reworked as contemporary personal reflections of maturity and sophistication. experimental pop fuse with classic songwriters like Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and Carol King.
B.J. Barham – ‘Rockingham’ – (iTunes | Amazon) Inverting the country contemporary music trope of quaint small town nostalgia American Aquarium vocalist B.J. Barham focuses his deft songwriting eye on the gutting of the small town American dream. The album title, Rockingham, is the North Carolina, a town of a few thousand where Barham was raised, is the starkly real and metaphor for many forgotten towns. Steely-eyed truth sketches each hardscrabble scenario where desperation lingers thick in the air like the funk from the local tobacco company.
Robbie Fulks – ‘Upland Stories’ – iTunes | Amazon) Fulks is the unheralded hardcore alt-country troubadour. Though not as well known as Steve Earle or Chis Knight for decades Fulks is the guy the Earle and Knight would listen to closely for economy of songcraft and rich imagery. his newest offering is grammy nominated and might rightly put him at the top of Americana legends lists. Appalachian break downs and honky-tonk weepers driven by his voice that echos the ages makes this a glorious addition to the roots music canon.
Miranda Lambert – “The Weight of These Wings” – (iTunes | Amazon) Break-up albums are a mixed bag. When done well, as with Beck’s ‘Sea Change’ and Willie Nelsonâ€™s ‘Phases and Stages,’ the work can become an iconic confessional moment in a profession that trades on personal reflection. Miranda Lambertâ€™s double album ‘The Weight Of These Wings,’ split into two sides â€” The Nerve and The Heart, written in the wake of her tabloid fodder divorce from Blake Shelton shows Lambert taking a step back and licking her wounds with songcraft instead of chasing chart toppers. This is a 24-song thesis on survival, healing and returning back to Texas roots.
John Paul White – ‘Beulah’ – Out of the ashes of one of the most celebrated pop-folk duets of modern times rises a forlorn beautifully crafted from folk, classic country and adult pop. An album that is both rich lyrically and melodically. John Paul’s post Civil Wars is a moody beauty with keen songwriting sharper and more cohesive than his CW days. Sparse arrangements- B3 organ, cello, drums, bass and the ever present acoustic guitar – build a fitting texture to frame the songs. Harmony is not forgotten with the Secret Sisters lending a subdued vocal hand on songs like the country weeper “I’ve Been Over This Before.” This gets better with each spin