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Saturday, April 22, 2017



ROUTES & BRANCHES  
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
April 20, 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

The story behind Matt Urmy's Out of the Ashes is one for the ages.  How a young songwriter struck up a friendship with Cowboy Jack Clement, and how that led to sessions at Clement's home studio, which caught fire and it was thought all was lost.  Then lo and behold the basic tapes were salvaged and the record became one of Cowboy Jack's final projects.  And you can find that almost anywhere online, told prettier than I can tell it here. But I wouldn't be caring much about Matt Urmy's story if it didn't lead to some really good music.

I've bemoaned at least a couple times here on R&B how legendary artists earn a pass for their late career music that probably wouldn't make it to vinyl if it were made by an unknown.  So the fact that Out of the Ashes bears the imprimatur of Mr Clement, and that John Prine adds his weathered voice to the mix is great.  But I wouldn't be paying attention if it weren't for Matt Urmy's way with a song and a lyric.

Call Matt Urmy a renaissance guy if you like, one of those multi-talented savants who arrives with a comet tail of fascinating day jobs, who has developed a career management software for artists, who has published poetry and been praised for all of the above.  Matter of fact (back to our story) Urmy had largely written off those music tapes when a call arrived a year later informing him that the stuff had been salvaged.  Even then, he was apparently so busy with his other work that it took him a spell to get back to Cowboy Jack's rebuilt place to see his music to completion.  And it's all about that music.

I read how Clement remarked that Urmy really couldn't sing, but that he likened the young man's writing to Kristofferson.  Like Sam Baker, Matt Urmy is more about the delivery than the tune, and Urmy's sense of rhythm and rhyme speak to his prowess as a poet.  Take "I'm Gone" for example.  The tune stars a wheezy accordion, in service of some wise stream-of-consciousness lyrics.  Cast a lasso into the song, and you'll draw back at least a line or two that any writer would be proud to call their own:  I go to the river late at night / And shoot my prayers like bottle rockets, straight at the lights.

Urmy's lyrics are wise a'la Prine, shot thru with barbed humor and a take on life that's decidedly left of center.  Songs like "Renaissance Rodeo" might yield just as much reward read as poetry:  So think about Emily Dickinson's style / She stayed at home / Wore that white dress all alone / And sewed every poem up in a little envelope / And kept them beneath her mattress / Just for the ghosts.

But it's true that the songs on Ashes do function just fine as songs.  Urmy has enlisted a masterful company of players to serve him, with names like Kenny Vaughan, Tom Pryor or vocalist Leticia Wolf on the guest list.  "Easy Train" and "Have You Seen the Time" are slower paced, gently thoughtful pieces with a sure sense of musicality.  The former is a lazy lope, trailing pedal steel in its wake a'la Mark Knopfler or JJ Cale.  Urmy's songs can so readily relax into a steady, satisfying pocket, as loose as a belt after Thanksgiving dinner.  He can slide between his croon and his patter, even within a song.  And no matter Clement's judgment, he's a fine vocalist whose tone settles somewhere between Dave Alvin or Tom Russell's folky delivery.  When you're waking up / Take it real real slow / Put your hands in the air / Bow your head down low, and say / Let it roll, just let it roll.

Which isn't to say that it's not supported by a great story.  Or that Cowboy Jack's production and John Prine's presence don't add weight to the record.  Because it is, and they do.  But imagine being handed an unlabeled file, then hearing the music sans story.  Matt Urmy is a unique artist, and we're lucky that Out of the Ashes was dusted off and finished if for no other reason than that it's simply great music.

Also on this Episode, we "Adopt a Highway" with the Harmed Brothers.  And we could certainly do worse than new records by Deslondes, Vandoliers and Chris Stapleton, no?  Plus, I believe there's one point in the 'cast when you can hear my wife talking upstairs.  Now that's Broadcast Excellence!

- White Buffalo, "Joe & Jolene" Shadows Greys & Evil Ways  (Unison, 13)
- Craig Finn, "Jester & June" We All Want the Same Things  (Partisan, 17)
- Joseph Huber, "Playground/Battlefield" Suffering Stage  (Huber, 17)
- .357 String Band, "Long Put Down That Gospel" Fire & Hail  (357, 08)
- Bruce Robison, "Sweet Dreams" Back Porch Band  (Motel Time, 17)
- Lillie Mae, "Honky Tonks & Taverns" Forever and Then Some  (Third Man, 17)  D
- Andrew Combs, "Heart of Wonder" Canyons of My Mind  (New West, 17)
- Jayhawks, "Angelyne" Rainy Day Music  (American, 03)
- Jeff Tweedy, "Laminated Cat" Together At Last  (dBPM, 17)  D
- Jade Jackson, "Good Time Gone" Gilded  (ATO, 17)
- Old Crow Medicine Show, "Rainy Day Women (live)" 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde  (OCMS, 17)  D
- Rodney Crowell, "East Houston Blues" Close Ties  (New West, 17)
- Magnolia Electric Co, "Don't This Look Like the Dark" Sojourner  (Secretly Canadian, 07)
- Weeks, "Bottle Rocket" Easy  (Lightning Rod, 17)
- Two Tons of Steel, "Shoulda Known Better" Gone  (Big Bellied, 17)
- Harmed Brothers, "Adopt a Highway" Harmed Brothers  (Fluff & Gravy, 17)  D
- Deslondes, "Muddy Water" Hurry Home  (New West, 17)  D
- Cory Branan, "Wall, MS" Adios  (Bloodshot, 17)
- Left Lane Cruiser, "Booga Chaka" Claw Machine Wizard  (Alive Naturalsound, 17)
- Mic Harrison & High Score, "Indiana Drag Race" Vanishing South  (Mic, 17)
- Vandoliers, "Rolling Out" the Native  (State Fair, 17)  D
- Hackensaw Boys, "Parking Lot Song" Love What You Do  (Nettwerk, 05)
- Whiskey Gentry, "Seven Year Ache" Dead Ringer  (Pitch-a-Tent, 17)
- Chris Stapleton, "Broken Halos" From a Room: Vol 1  (Mercury, 17)  D
- Steel Woods, "Better in the Fall" Straw in the Wind  (Woods, 17)  D
- Justin Townes Earle, "Faded Valentine" Kids in the Street  (New West, 17)
- Los Straitjackets, "You Inspire Me" What's So Funny About Peace Love and Los Straitjackets  (Yep Roc, 17)
- Blackfoot Gypsies, "Potatoes & Whiskey" To the Top  (Plowboy, 17)
- Marty Stuart, "Time Don't Wait" Way Out West  (Superlatone, 17)
- Graham Parker, "Cheap Chipped Black Nails" Deepcut to Nowhere  (Razor & Tie, 01)

Never forego an opportunity to enjoy your weekly ROUTES-cast.  You never know when it might be your last ...



... not to be morbid or anything.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

ROUTES & BRANCHES  
a home for the americana diaspora
April 15, 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust



I don't necessarily need feel good music to fulfill me.  Perhaps you've noticed?  Good music is good music, no matter if it is uplifting or downcast.  For his fourth solo release, Milwaukee's Joseph Huber chooses the latter perspective.  On a record that finds him focusing more on lyrical content, the songs read like tarot warnings or accounts of the last days.  The Suffering Stage is the platform on which our lives unspool, where dice are tossed and lives are lived in the balance.

Huber hails from the now defunct .357 String Band, the same outfit that yielded Jayke Orvis.  His first three solo releases traded in more folk or stringband sounds, populated with banjo and fiddle and Huber's reedy vocals, just this side of high lonesome.  Nothing on those earlier collections would pass as music for your Friday night rager, though it was occasionally upbeat and good natured stuff.  With Suffering Stage, Huber amps up the folk-based sound, creating a fuller and more resonant noise.  Fiddle and banjo haven't left the building, though they share the room with drums, pedal steel and electric guitar.

"Playground/Battlefield" introduces the updated approach, with shuffling drums, mandolin and fiddle.  Musically, it's the CD's most propulsive cut, with a hint of grass and two-step country.  But keep this in mind while you kick up your heels:  Did you hear the new law of the land? / Every man 'gainst every man. / They say a piece of cold steel in every hand / Will help it settle down ... You find the workingest folks in the torndownest place.  Nothing wrong with taking the liberty to invent those new words, and when you feel called to prophesy there's no reason you shouldn't lay it down thick.

The lyric sheet for Suffering Stage burns with this sort of warning.  "Sons of the Wandering" plays like a heartland rocker, a midtempo strummer boasting one of the album's strongest vocals. There's a flatness and a matter-of-factness to Joseph Huber's delivery, with just a touch of twang to turn up the edges.  A lively mandolin propels "Sons", joined by piano and those drums on a track that seems as timely as the front pages:  The more money in the race, the more the mask becomes the face, / And truth can't hold pace with thundering.

Suffering Stage isn't all about the suffering, just as the common man's existence can be sewn through with the occasional bright thread.  A sweetness and genuine gratitude guides "You Showed Me", and while the protagonist delivering "16-10" acknowledges his demons, there's a retro-country playfulness in lyrics like: I never surrender, but, honey, that was then / Now, I'm holding 16, and you're showing 10.  And while the words bear the weight of real thought and honest soul searching, Huber's tunes are consistently engaging.  The addition of these extra musical elements only serve to strengthen his message and to deepen the appeal.

The title cut and "Souls Without Maps" show great promise in the maturity of a Nebraska-like songwriter.  Both work in some striking poetic imagery:  Tall corn, gravel road, / Stained glass on the window, / Wrapped in the ragged soul of an old gentle hymn ...  Like Springsteen or Jackson Browne or Mellencamp, Joseph Huber can warn of a storm on the horizon while focusing on the particulars of one small life.  Running at just over seven minutes, "The Suffering Stage" is a patient masterpiece, handing out resonant line after resonant line as a hushed fiddle swells into an anthemic full band and the singer holds court with an expert lyric flow.  "One more day ... oh, just one more day, Lord, here on the suffering stage".  Best case scenario holds that the storm will come and the rains will nourish the fields.  The families will empty onto the sheltered front porch, and at least for one moment the tentative bonds that hold us together might seem just a bit stronger.  There's a real gravity to the music of Joseph Huber, a folksinger in the grips of an increasingly compelling musical vision.

--------------------------------------------

the run-on

Have I mentioned before that I used to be on radio?  That I gave birth to Routes & Branches on terrestrial radio, then abandoned that after about a decade for the familiar environs of my basement?  One element of that charade that I miss is the illusion of immediacy and connection with my imagined listeners.  When I grow up, I'd like my site to serve as the proverbial public square for conversation about our kind of music.  At present, I carry on my ROUTES-casts and write my reviews as a bit of a one-way conversation.  While I do occasionally hear from artists and from labels and promoters and even from listener-readers, I like to know that I'm not simply laboring away in my basement for an audience of one:  Me.  So hey look there's a comment button down below, and you can email me at routesandbranches@gmail.com, but let me know what you think.  Give me a sense of what you're hearing out there, what's making a difference in your musical world.  If you're an artist, feel free to send me something to preview.  I can't promise that I'll give it a spin, but I do promise that I'll give it a listen.  To quote this week's track by The Weeks: Put your hands on the radio.

- Beat Farmers, "Gun Sale At the Church" Van Go  (Curb, 86)
- Two Tons of Steel, "Sweet White Van" Gone  (Big Bellied, 17)
- Left Lane Cruiser, "Still Rollin'"  Claw Machine Wizard  (Alive Naturalsound, 17)
- Southern Culture on the Skids, "Drunk and Lonesome (Again)" Liquored Up & Lacquered Down  (Orchard, 00)
- Jason Eady, "Waiting to Shine" Jason Eady  (Old Guitar, 17)
- Sunny Sweeney, "I Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight" Trophy  (Aunt Daddy, 17)
- Mic Harrison & High Score, "Salt Stained Road" Vanishing South  (Mic, 17)
- Ha Ha Tonka, "Arkansas" Heart-Shaped Mountain  (Bloodshot, 17)
- Sam Outlaw, "Bottomless Mimosas" Tenderheart  (Six Shooter, 17)
- Whiskey Gentry, "Looking for Trouble" Dead Ringer  (Pitch-a-Tent, 17)
- Chris Stapleton, "Ain't Living Long Like This (live)" Outlaw: Celebrating the Music of Waylon Jennings  (Blackbird, 17)  D
- American Aquarium, "Saturday Nights" Burn Flicker Die  (Barham, 12)
- Cory Branan, "I Only Know" Adios  (Bloodshot, 17)
- Charlie Worsham, "Call You Up" Beginning of Things  (Warner, 17)
- Hooten Hallers, "Garlic Dream" Hooten Hallers  (Big Muddy, 17)
- Weeks, "Hands on the Radio" Easy  (Lightning Rod, 17)  D
- North Mississippi Allstars, "You Got to Move" Prayer for Peace  (Songs of the South, 17)
- Andrew Combs, "Bourgeios King" Canyons of My Mind  (New West, 17)
- Jade Jackson, "Finish Line" Gilded  (ATO, 17)
- Lucero, "Chain Link" Tennessee  (MadJack, 02)
- Cale Tyson, "Staying Kind" Careless Soul  (Tyson, 17)
- K Phillips, "Had Enough" Dirty Wonder  (Rock Ridge, 17)
- Colter Wall, "Motorcycle" Colter Wall  (Young Mary's, 17)
- Pieta Brown, "How Soon (w/Mason Jennings)" Postcards  (Lustre, 17)
^ Joseph Huber, "You Showed Me" Suffering Stage  (Huber, 17)  D
- John Prine, "Way Down" Common Sense  (Atlantic, 75)
- Jake Xerxes Fussell, "Have You Ever Seen Peaches" What in the Natural World  (Paradise of Bachelors, 17)
- Sera Cahoone, "Always Turn Around" From Where I Started  (Lady Muleskinner, 17)
- Leeroy Stagger, "Joe Strummer and Joey Ramone" Love Versus  (True North, 17)
- Dolorean, "Heather Remind Me How This Ends" You Can't Win  (YepRoc, 07)



Saturday, April 08, 2017


ROUTES & BRANCHES  
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
April 8, 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

Standing outside their tour van on the verge of departing for the road, Mic Harrison & the High Score resemble some scruffy fellows who have shown up to move your furniture.  That's the first good sign.  There's also the fact that Harrison launched his career as part of the short-lived but iconic alt.country outfit the V-Roys with Scott Miller, as well as serving with Superdrag.  After a stint as a solo guy, Harrison gathered musical forces with guitarist Robbie Trosper under the present moniker, releasing a slate of quality alt.country LPs to positive critical acclaim (though they'd still have no problem showing up for your couch without attracting the neighbors' attention).

The band's new release, Vanishing South, trades in a strain of alt.country that's more common on the stages of small town dives than on your favorite radio station or on the shelves of that great record store that doesn't really exist anymore.  Think Bottle Rockets.  Blue Mountain. Maybe some of the rootsier dBs?  A Mic Harrison & the High Score number is constructed from the guitar out, never more busy than necessary, but always smarter than you'd expect.

"Salt Stained Road" is an instant groover, fueled by a heavy stomp and an indelible guitar grind.  It's music that bears the dark brand of its Knoxville home, where punk roots run as deep as country.  The album opener strikes such an immediate and familiar chord, putting the ears at ease and welcoming home the heart that thrives on the sound.

"Woman" owes a debt to Knoxville's R&B heritage, from the cry in Trosper's guitar to lyric lines like, I'm addicted to your mercy / You make a better man come around.  The song is shot thru with a Southern Rock 'n Soul pedigree, elastic guitars that might've been recorded a lifetime ago and a solo that unspools like a classic.

"Never Be This Way Again" adds a dash of Brit rock a'la Nick Lowe, a quality that added greatly to the V-Roys' poppish appeal.  It's a song that also reminds us of Mic Harrison's versatility as a singer.  Here, he channels Bob Mould's most tuneful moments.  Pieces like "Home" or "Warm Winter Day" take a more gruff, alt.country line.

There's no escaping the voices and the places and the sounds of the region, nowhere more evident that on the titular cut, "Vanishing South":  I'm losing my place here / Every mile that goes by / Vanishing South, where did you go / Vanishing South, I hardly do know you know.  Where Patterson Hood surveys his homeland from its underbelly, and other writers might romanticize and embrace the South's plentiful stereotypes, Mic Harrison's tunes are written from a front porch perspective, taking in the comforts and the challenges of home, family, work and place.

Those looking to sidestep "thoughtful" in favor of "just plain fun" might want to lower the needle on "Indiana Drag Race", or the record's fiery instrumental, "Murder Surf".  Think a less self-parodying take on Southern Culture on the Skids or a multi-dimensional Los Straitjackets.  Mic Harrison & the High Score is composed of roadhouse veterans and longtime collaborators who know the pocket and how to use it.  On Vanishing South they explore another endangered territory, the lonely and windswept crossroads between alt.country, punk, R&B and journeyman pub rock.

------------------------------------------

the run-on

So, this week I tripped across a couple things that stuck in my mind for about the same reason.  First, an online something-or-other published a list of the "10 Lamest Americana Acts" that I won't honor with even a link.  Short answer: It's pure clickbait written by a guy with some pedigree who's mistaking taste for fact (an online epidemic at least partly responsible for endangering the tradition of musical discovery).  Next, a promoter and former broadcaster whose work I value and respect joked in passing about the preponderance of glowing reviews for americana records.  No harm necessarily done there, but together those comments sunk a bit of a nail into my thoughts, as a man who's been accused of having too many favorite records for one guy.  Fact is, I have just enough bandwidth to produce one broadcast and one original review per week (and sometimes even that's a challenge).  If I'm going to air my thoughts on one release per week, my time is better spent sharing a positive musical experience rather than ripping an artist whose stuff doesn't resonate with me.  Discerning listeners will recognize that there are many high and mid-profile americana projects that I choose not to represent on R&B.  I'll remind folks again that my job here is not to serve as an arbiter of what's "good" and what's "lame", but to share my musical vision by shining a light on sounds that resonate with me.  Sure, I can be plenty judgmental, and I never shy away from irreverence.  If I'm not vigilant about checking my email, that inbox will overflow with stuff about which I could write not entirely positive reviews.  But nah, that's not my job.  I picture myself walking over this towering mountain of stones with others who care about our kind of music.  When something catches my eye, I might call, "Hey, look at this one!"  But most of the mountain is composed of stuff that just looks like plain old rocks.  Others are at the foot of the pile, lovingly polishing their collection of gems - the same ones that they've been admiring for years and years.  For me, the joy lies neither in poring over those old favorites or in focusing on how average this or that stone is.  On Routes & Branches, it's about unearthing those brilliant gems and letting them shine.

There.  Now I'm done ...

- Ryan Adams, "Outbound Train" Prisoner  (PaxAm, 17)
- Charlie Worsham, "Call You Up" Beginning of Things  (Warner, 17)
- William Matheny, "Living Half To Death" Strange Constellations  (Misra, 17)
- Bruce Robison, "Sweet Dreams" & the Back Porch Band  (Motel Time, 17)  D
- Son Volt, "Cairo & Southern" Notes of Blue  (Transmit Sound, 17)
- Jason Isbell & 400 Unit, "Hope the High Road" Nashville Sound  (Southeastern, 17)
- Flying Burrito Bros, "Do You Know How It Feels (To Be Lonesome)" Hot Burritos!  (Geffen, 00)
- Two Tons of Steel, "Shoulda Known Better" Gone  (Big Bellied, 17)  D
- Angaleena Presley, "Good Girl Down" Wrangled  (Mining Light, 17)
- Caroline Spence, "Southern Accident" Spades & Roses  (Tone Tree, 17)
- Sam Outlaw, "Two Broken Hearts" Tenderheart  (Six Shooter, 17)
- Leif Vollebekk, "Big Sky Country" Twin Solitude  (Secret City, 17)
- Will Johnson, "Predator" Hatteras Night a Good Luck Charm  (Undertow, 17)
- Hooten Halllers, "Further From Shore" Hooten Hallers  (Big Muddy, 17)
- Dan Auerbach, "Shine on Me" Waiting on a Song  (Easy Eye Sound, 17)  D
- Jimmy Lumpkin & the Revival, "Every Time I Leave" Home  (Skate Mt, 17)  D
- Carolina Chocolate Drops, "Trampled Rose" Genuine Negro Jig  (Nonesuch, 09)
- John Moreland, "It Don't Suit Me (Like Before)" Big Bad Luv  (4AD, 17)
- Joan Shelley, "Wild Indifference" Joan Shelley  (No Quarter, 17)
- Cory Branan, "Another Nightmare in America" Adios  (Bloodshot, 17)
^ Mic Harrison & High Score, "Vanishing South" Vanishing South  (Mic, 17)
- Rodney Crowell, "Storm Warning" Close Ties  (New West, 17)
- Secret Sisters, "Tennessee River Runs Low" You Don't Own Me Anymore  (New West, 17)  D
- Lindi Ortega, "Waiting 'Round to Die" Til the Goin' Get Gone  (Shadowbox, 17)
- Jason Boland, "Holy Relic Sale" Squelch  (Proud Souls, 15)
- Holly Macve, "Heartbreak Blues" Golden Eagle  (Bella Union, 17)
- Kasey Chambers, "Dragonfly" Dragonfly  (Essence, 17)
- Angel Olsen, "Who's Sorry Now" Resistance Radio  (Sony, 17)
- Left Lane Cruiser, "Claw Machine Wizard" Claw Machine Wizard  (Alive Naturalsound, 17)  D
- Otis Redding, "Mr Pitiful (live)" Live at the Whisky a Go Go  (Concord, 16)


Thursday, March 30, 2017

ROUTES & BRANCHES
a home for the americana diaspora
March 30, 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

The basement becomes warmer every week on Routes & Branches, my multimedia bunker here in Northern Colorado.  Think of it as an extended Living Room Tour.  Other than no commercials, no weather and no appeals for your money, it's the biggest difference between radio and our ROUTES-cast.  I edit together the songs and the mic breaks, working so that my voice sounds just like it's coming from within a soup can.  What remains constant is our dedication to sharing all this good new music, from week to week building a case for why this music matters.

This week we mark about a quarter past 2017, so it's only appropriate that we celebrate by selecting our dozen favorite releases from the past couple months.  Mostly because there's not really any one record that I want to review right now ...  Rules are that we can only include stuff I've listened to in its entirety (as opposed to anything from which I've only heard a couple songs).  Also, you can't hold me to these premature declarations.  While I'm reasonably dedicated to records that resonate with me, I'm also subject to whims, hormones and moderate winds.  These are in order of appearance.

Band of Heathens, Duende  (BoH, 1/13)  --  A tuneful and earthy followup to 2013's folked out Sunday Morning Record.  Ably re-incorporates some of the band's earlier jam sounds without losing that record's more song-based tendency.  Establishes a solid groove without being indulgent or drifting into self parody.

Dead Man Winter, Furnace  (GNDWire, 1/27)  --  Give Dave Simonett credit for creating a project that sounds nothing like Trampled By Turtles Jr.  While his day band has been evolving in a worthy direction,  Furnace smolders atop its own very personal bed of regret, self-doubt and disappointment.  Not a recipe for an immediate joy-rush, but trust me that these songs are by no means downers.  More than anything, this record reveals a promising depth to Simonett's already impressive musical vision.

Ags Connolly, Nothin' Unexpected  (At the Helm, 2/3)  --  Oh, what an expressive voice he wields, as both a writer and a singer. It's a project that's delicious both because we recognize all the familiar pieces of classic honky tonk and ameripolitan country and because Ags seems to hail from such a sincere and genuine place.  No mere retro hack can achieve these depths.  It all goes down so smooth, even when it burns a little.

Chuck Prophet, Bobby Fulller  Died For Your Sins  (Yep Roc, 2/10)  --  As if the veteran San Francisco troubadour hasn't already earned his right to be on any such list.  Since Green on Red's legendary 1985 Gas Food Lodging to early solo success and his later career recognition with classics like 2012's Temple Beautiful, Prophet struck nothing but true notes.  Like his collaborator Alejandro Escovedo, his storytelling abilities are inseparable from his garage rock pedigree.  Sassy, smart and shot thru with pop genius.

Romantica, Shadowlands  (Last Chance, 2/10)  --  Give Ben Kyle's new music some time;  "Let the light shine through you". The record is essentially 7 years in the making, and few of its songs are in a hurry to make an impression.  Perhaps sometime during the third or fourth listen, you'll start to appreciate the soul that illuminates Kyle's new work, the soul that can be as prevalent as the pedal steel that keens across these hymns.  Oh, and there are also a couple barn burners.  Like Rhett Miller as crossed with Josh Ritter chasing a Van Morrison jag.

Nikki Lane, Highway Queen  (New West, 2/13)  --  I suppose one surprise at this quarter-year mark is the quantity of high-profile releases that also happen to be high-quality.  As of this writing, a full five of this blogger's dozen still dwell in the top ten of americana radio.  This speaks to the integrity that continues to drive the genre, as well as the sheer quality of artists like Nikki Lane.  Bottom line: there's nothing cheap about the thrills on her third full length CD.  At some point in their maturity an artist sounds less like they're trying hard to be something and begins sounding more like an artist simply making a statement.  Nikki Lane can do contemporary country.  She can do honky tonk and early rock, and she can work a ballad as confidently as she kicks out the proverbial jams.

Ryan Adams, Prisoner  (PaxAm, 2/17)  --  Perhaps it's time for me to retire my recurring lark about how much Adams' power-pop recalls David Coverdale and Whitesnake (perhaps it's past time ...)?  At heart, it's a tribute to what's become his best received album in years.  Not coincidentally, it's also his strongest collection in years.  Too much ink has been shed about how Prisoner is a breakup record, and not enough has been said about what a brilliant singer-songwriter record it is, or about the guitar pop that pervades this thing.  I've watched several of Adams' live appearances on various late night shows, and he seems to be in such a pocket.

Son Volt, Notes of Blue  (Transmit Sound, 2/17)  --  Speaking of living firmly in the pocket, I don't know if Jay Farrar is capable of creating a surprising album.  My response to a new Son Volt record is simply gratitude.  On Notes, we give thanks for the loud guitars and for the fact that Farrar continues to be such a reliable frontman.  Here I would advise to stick around for some of the record's more overlooked, subdued cuts for a different sort of treat.  See: "Cairo and Southern" ...

Old 97s, Graveyard Whistling (ATO, 2/24)  --  Far and away the feel good record of the year, even as Rhett & co. don't shy away from the fleeting bout with conscience. Not that they dwell overlong matters of mortality, but the accompanying lyrics sheet will confirm that Miller remains one of the smartest writers of his generation, even in the midst of a seemingly brainless burner.

William Matheny, Strange Constellations  (Misra, 2/24)  --  This debut solo record from a former Southeast Engine-eer stands as one of the year's real pleasant surprises.  Matheny's stuff is good, smart roots rock, far more accomplished than you might expect from the keyboard guy.  "Living Half To Death" can hold its own alongside anything from Two Cow Garage or Hold Steady.  "Blood Moon Singer", too.  And probably "Teenage Bones" ...

Leif Vollebekk, Twin Solitude  (Secret City, 2/24)  --  Track down the recent session where Mr V takes on Joni Mitchell's iconic "Case of You".  It reinforced my appreciation of the original as well as confirming my suspicion of this guy's deep soul.  Also made me revisit Prince's own brilliant cover.  More than any other favorite here, I feel like I'm still barely touching the surface of these tunes (even as I can't seem to stop playing them).  It's too simple to say that they're quiet and sparse, and doesn't say enough to praise their restraint.  At times it strikes me like Theodore Roethke set to a live keys/bass/brushed drum outfit.  I'll get back to you on this one.  In the meantime, I'll just keep letting it spin.

Will Johnson, Hatteras Night a Good Luck Charm  (Undertow, 3/24)  --  It's the record I was praying Will Johnson would make.  Some songs allow him to explore his untapped skill as a TVZ-type troubadour, while others permit him to indulge in noisy Centro-matic squall.  Like the LP's cover, Hatteras Night is a whole lotta dark, shot through with a cold but abiding little light.  It's a short story (or maybe a cinema vignette) masquerading as an album.

I'm fully aware that today's list will be blown asunder like so much dust once we get our ears on full releases from John Moreland, Jason Eady, Colter Wall, Benjamin Booker and that Isbell fellow.

- Reckless Kelly, "American Blood" Bulletproof  (Yep Roc, 08)
- Benjamin Booker, "Witness" Witness  (ATO, 17)
- Benjamin Booker, "Spoonful" Resistance Radio: Man in the High Castle  (Sony, 17)
- Houndmouth, "15 Years" Little Neon Limelight  (Rough Trade, 15)
- Hooten Hallers, "Charla" Hooten Hallers  (Big Muddy, 17)  D
- Rev Peyton's Big Damn Band, "One More Thing" Front Porch Sessions  (Family Owned, 17)
- Whiskey & Co, "Thread the Needle" Ripped Together Torn Apart  (No Idea, 17)
^ Band of Heathens, "Keys To the Kingdom" Duende  (BoH, 17)
- Sunny Sweeney, "Better Bad Idea" Trophy  (Aunt Daddy, 17)
- Andrew Combs, "Rose Colored Blues" Canyons of My Mind  (New West, 17)
- Jade Jackson, "Motorcycle" Gilded  (ATO, 17)
- Justin Peter Kinkel Schuster, "Headed South" Constant Stranger  (Big Legal Mess, 16)
- Cale Tyson, "Dark Dark" Careless Soul  (Tyson, 17)  D
- Molly Burch, "Loneliest Heart" Please Be Mine  (Burch, 17)
- Gold Star, "St Vincent dePaul's" Big Blue  (Autumn Tone, 17)
- J Tillman, "Steel on Steel" Vacilando Territory Blues  (Western Vinyl, 08)
- Craig Finn, "God in Chicago" We All Want the Same Things  (Partisan, 17)
- Jason Isbell & 400 Unit, "Hope the High Road" Nashville Sound  (Southeastern, 17)  D
- K Phillips, "Coalburner" Dirty Wonder  (Rock Ridge, 17)
- Mic Harrison & High Score, "Salt Stained Road" Vanishing South  (Mic, 17)  D
- Lyle Lovett, "White Boy Lost In the Blues" Release Me  (Curb, 12)
- Colter Wall, "Codeine Dream" Colter Wall  (Young Mary's, 17)
- Joan Shelley, "Where I'll Find You" Joan Shelley  (No Quarter, 17)  D
- Jason Eady, "Waiting to Shine" Jason Eady  (Old Guitar, 17)
- Marty Stuart, "Air Mail Special" Way Out West  (Superlatone, 17)
- Leeroy Stagger, "I Want It All" Love Versus  (True North, 17)  D
- Sam Outlaw, "Bottomless Mimosas" Tenderheart  (Six Shooter, 17)
- Samantha Crain, "Wise One" You Had Me At Goodbye  (Ramseur, 17)
- Tallest Man on Earth, "Resurrection Blues" There's No Leaving Now  (Dead Oceans, 12)
- Sera Cahoone, "Dusty Lungs" From Where I Started  (Lady Muleskinner, 17)  D


Thursday, March 23, 2017


ROUTES & BRANCHES  
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
March 21, 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

Fun fact:  I'm not a fan of alcohol.  I drink it on occasion, maybe a finger or two of scotch prior to bedtime.  Got nothing against it, other than I really don't care for the taste of beer.  In Scott: the College Days, I have distinct memories of visiting the neighborhood grocery in my most deliberately dour goth attire, my long black hair shading my kohl'd eyes as I waited for my brother to purchase our wine coolers. I recall record store coworkers sneaking me into a sad little bar for my 19th birthday, becoming violently ill on Bud Lites and sleeping it off on my bathroom floor.  Youthful flirtation aside (sure, there are other stories, but maybe there are impressionable kids listening), I got over the stuff pretty fast.  Then there was marriage, the kids, work, stuff that makes some people want to hit the bottle, but mostly made me want to take long baths and to sleep.  Eventually, I started taking a medicine that my doctor told me wouldn't probably go well with the drink.  Even after I dropped the medicine, any taste for alcohol was simply gone.  I enjoyed smelling my wife's wine and her beer on occasion, but ...  And while I have a stronger than normal aversion to watching folks get their drink on, I never came at it from a moral perspective.  Beer just tastes like ass.

Perhaps you have noticed how many americana, alt.country and roots music songs are about alcohol.  I mention this simply by way of saying that drinking songs don't make me want to imbibe and more than murder ballads make me want to take a life.  I also steer clear of drugs, hate the smell of cigarettes and The Evil Weed, and have only recently re-abandoned myself to the demon caffeine.  Hate being tipsy, find losing control embarrassing, haven't grown a beard in nearly a decade.

Let me know when I start breaking hearts and shattering preconceptions.

So what's my response upon hearing Old 97s' excellent new Graveyard Whistling record, especially during songs like "Irish Whiskey Pretty Girls" or "Drinkin' Song" (I'll leave you to figure what that one's about)?  By my book, I don't think there's a band around that might be more fun to hoist a pint to, to shoehorn myself into a crowded and sweaty bar with my peers and abandon myself to THE GREATEST ALT.COUNTRY BAND of OUR TIME.  .

Of course, the guys' early stuff pretty much defined the genre.  I'd hold up Too Far To Care, Fight Songs and Satellite Rides against any three other consecutive contemporary alt.country records.  And if Old 97s wandered a bit after that, there's was always a reason to listen to each consecutive record.  Then 2014's gloriously debauched Most Messed Up served to remind us that all who wander are not lost (to quote Rhett Miller by way of Bilbo Baggins).  Frontman Rhett Miller is the Peter Pan of the roots world, the ageless and, let's face it, unnecessarily handsome Dorian Gray of our kind of music.  While he could have easily chosen to ride those looks and that hair all the way out of the alt.country ghetto to Superstardom behind the strain of syrupy ballads and smoldering romantic glances, he's always played more of the clueless best friend, the brainy geek who could turn heads simply by removing his coke bottle lenses and investing in a more effective conditioner.

Like several of the songs on Graveyard Whistling, "I Don't Wanna Die In This Town" is built on a dirty coal-fueled chug, a wild wild west spirit that the band honors on a record jacket photo of the boys peering out from behind bandannas.  Guitars blaze like six-string six-guns, while drums stumble like a drunken cowboy who's accidentally found the basement stairs.  And while the music is hell bent for leather, it's far from vapid stuff.  Sure, there's those drinkin' songs, but they're thinkin' man's drinkin' songs.

And just as Sunday morning follows Saturday night, Rhett & co. ponder the tick-tick-tick of their days on tunes like "Good With God".  In a genius stroke, Brandi Carlile plays the voice of god herself, countering Rhett's confident swagger with some food for doubt:  You should be scared / I'm not so nice. / Many a man has paid the price ... / I'll break you down. / I'll do it slow how does that sound? / You're just a joke that's goin' round.  The song is one of the best of the roots music year, especially when paired with a chaser of "Jesus Loves You".  Another burner, it's also the record's biggest laugh:  He's got the whole world in his hands / I've got a Lone Star in cans. And I'm bringin' one over to you.

Not necessarily grad level theology ... But what saves the group from being simply another band with whiskey, weed and women on their agenda is that there's some depth to songs such as "All Who Wander" or 'Turns Out I'm Trouble".  Don't go so far as to call it soul searching, but there's some conscience and self awareness to lyrics like this:  My trashcan heart just rattles 'round / I promise you I'm nothing but trouble / You got to turn me down.  Rhett warns that he's trouble, but he does it as often to admit his brokenness as to brag on himself.

"All Who Wander" strikes the LP's truest chord, soft touch acoustic verses trading with a singalong chorus for the ages.  I must cling to that which kills me. / I must lose my heart's desire. / I must wind up warm and wasted. / With a flat screen for a fire.  While it's the drinking songs that will garner the spins, I'll predict that these more mindful tracks will carry the day on Routes & Branches.  Graveyard Whistling isn't the sound of a band of dads raging embarrassingly beyond their expiration date.  It's a collection that's thoughtful as often as it's kick-ass.  The songs endear you with their charms and then knock you off your chair with their sheer energy and zeal.

So ... raise one for me next time you're sharing your personal space with bearded men and tattooed ladies when you're lucky enough to catch this praiseworthy outfit in their element.  Build your buzz while Rhett intones sagely, Hell yes hell yes hell yes hell yes / Right on right on right on    ...   .  And please don't judge me for my shortcomings.

- Lucinda Williams, "Sweet Side" World Without Tears  (UMG, 03)
- Lindi Ortega, "What a Girl's Gotta Do" Til the Goin' Get Gone  (Shadowbox, 17)
- Ha Ha Tonka, "Going That Way" Heart-Shaped Mountain  (Bloodshot, 17)
- Justin Townes Earle, "Champagne Corolla" Kids in the Streets  (New West, 17)
- Scott H Biram, "Still Around" Bad Testament  (Bloodshot, 17)
- Pieta Brown, "Station Blues" Postcards  (Lustre, 17)
- Dead Man Winter, "I Remember This Place Being Bigger" Furnace  (GNDWire, 17)
- Will Johnson, "Every Single Day of Late" Hatteras Night a Good Luck Charm  (Undertow, 17)
- Craig Finn, "Tangletown" We All Want the Same Things  (Partisan, 17)
- Jake Xerxes Fussell, "Jump For Joy" What in the Natural World  (Paradise of Bachelors, 17)
- Timothy Seth Avett as Darling, "Disappointing You" IV  (Ramseur, 17)  D
- Robyn Hitchcock, "Hurry for the Sky" Goodnight Oslo  (Yep Roc, 09)
- Sharon Van Etten, "End of the World" Resistance Radio: Man in the High Castle Album  (Sony, 17)  D
- Jade Jackson, "Finish Line" Gilded  (Anti, 17)  D
- North Mississippi Allstars, "Long Haired Doney" Pray for Peace  (Songs of the South, 17)  D
- RL Burnside, "Snake Drive" Mr Wizard  (Fat Possum, 97)
- Hurray for the Riff Raff, "Life to Save" Navigator  (ATO, 17)
- Valerie June, "Love You Once Made" Order of Time  (Concord, 17)
- Blackfoot Gypsies, "I Had a Vision" To the Top  (Plowboy, 17)  D
^ Old 97s, "All Who Wander" Graveyard Whistling  (ATO, 17)
- Angaleena Presley, "Only Blood" Wrangled  (Mining Light, 17)
- Colter Wall, "Thirteen Silver Dollars"  Colter Wall  (Young Mary's, 17)
- K Phillips, "Dirty Wonder" Dirty Wonder  (Rock Ridge, 17)
- Ags Connolly, "Slow Burner" Nothin' Unexpected  (At the Helm, 17)
- Bobbie Gentry, "Mississippi Delta" Ode to Billie Joe  (Capitol, 67)
- Casey James Prestwood, "King of All Losers" Born Too Late  (CJP, 17)  C
- Holly Macve, "No One Has the Answers" Golden Eagle  (Bella Union, 17)
- Fifth on the Floor, "Distant Memory Lane" Dark and Bloodied Ground  (Fifth, 10)
- Rodney Crowell, "East Houston Blues" Close Ties  (New West, 17)
- Whiskey Gentry, "Dead Ringer" Dead Ringer  (Pitch-a-Tent, 17)  D


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

ROUTES & BRANCHES
a home for the americana diaspora
March 14, 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

It's not enough to have a voice for the angels.  A singer has to communicate authenticity.  To use some obvious female examples, a young Linda Ronstadt wrung pure emotion from her voice.  My first exposure to Iris DeMent was a revelation.  Maria McKee, Lucinda Williams, Lydia Loveless.  Last year about this time I was basking in the backalley glow cast by Sarah Shook (whose 2016 record will soon be re-issued by Bloodshot).  Today, I'm flirting with Holly Macve, whose Golden Eagle swooped down upon us this week from Bella Union Records.

Just to set the stage, Ms Macve was born in Ireland and raise in England.  She recently assembled a playlist of music that populated her childhood and inspired her debut record at the tender age of 21.  Artists on that mixtape included Leonard Cohen, Gillian Welch, Angel Olsen, Ryan Adams and others.  Accordingly, her music tends to dwell on the dark side of country.  Think dusk and long shadows and neon just flickering to light.  AllMusic's recent review likened her to "a yodeling Lana Del Rey" ...

Likely not the review she cut out and posted on her fridge.  But the idea isn't entirely without merit.  Macve definitely hails from the country side of the avenue, wielding an unmistakable high lonesome sound that would be proof enough to earn her entrance to any classic country roadhouse.  Check out "Heartbreak Blues".  Macve's voice is a keening, breaking wonder, a multipurpose tool capable of slicing, swooping or caressing at will.  It's complimented by sad sad pedal steel, picked electric and a dancefloor-ready drum track.  The song grabbed my attention the instant I heard it, settling easily onto my ears.  I had to hear more.

"No One Has the Answers" has a similar appeal, as well as revealing more of a 60s folk strain.  There's a fuller, more contemporary arrangement, characterized by a tambourine's jangle, a strummed acoustic and otherworldly atmospherics.  Macve's voice is a bit wilder here, stronger and more confident in its deep twang.

Even more captivating are Golden Eagle's more hushed tracks, featuring little more than voice and guitar or piano.  The title cut is a hymnlike piece that showcases Holly Macve's voice at its barest and most genuinely beautiful.  "All of Its Glory" draws its inspiration from writers like Leonard Cohen, and reveals a different shade of her singing while remaining with the piano/voice arrangement.  Remarkably, the song also drops almost any hint of country roots.  This is also where I hear more of a resemblance to Lana Del Rey.  Or Angel Olsen, if you'd rather.

Somewhere between Macve's extremes lies a song like "Corner of My Mind".  Like Courtney Marie Andrews or the ladies of First Aid Kit, she demonstrates an uncanny ability to communicate a mood with her voice.  Classic elements intertwine with contemporary touches, leaving us with the promise that Holly Macve is more than just a costumed girl at the state fair with a pretty good Patsy Cline imitation.

I don't automatically enjoy spoken word stuff, but when it's done right, it can be great (see "I'm New Here" by Gil Scott-Heron and/or Bill Callahan, the occasional Willy Vlautin and "Kiss and Say Goodbye" by The Manhattans).  We'll add to that list Craig Finn's "God in Chicago".  Also this week, make room make room for new Benjamin Booker!  Also, there's some Camper Van Beethoven, which it turns out is Just The Thing.  And let's all agree to look forward to Colter Wall's self-titled production.

- Romantica, "Let the Light Go Through You" Shadowlands  (Last Chance, 17)
- Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band, "Let the Light Shine On" Front Porch Sessions  (Family Owned, 17)
- Nikki Lane, "Send the Sun" Highway Queen  (New West, 17)
- Samantha Crain, "Oh Dear Louis" You Had Me At Goodbye  (Ramseur, 17)
- Ha Ha Tonka, "Arkansas" Heart-Shaped Mountain  (Bloodshot, 17)
- Phosphorescent, "Joe Tex, These Taming Blues" Aw Come Aw Wry  (Misra, 05)
- Will Johnson, "Childress (to Ogden)" Hatteras Night a Good Luck Charm  (Undertow, 17)
- Craig Finn, "God in Chicago" We All Want the Same Things  (Partisan, 17)  D
- Kasey Chambers, "Hey (w/Paul Kelly)" Dragonfly  (Essence, 17)
- Gasoline Lollipops, "Jesus" Resurrection  (GasPops, 17)  C
- Banditos, "Fine Fine Day" Visionland  (Bloodshot, 17)  D
- Son Volt, "Static" Notes of Blue  (Transmit Sound, 17)
- Leif Vollebekk, "All Night Sedans" Twin Shadows  (Secret City, 17)
- John Moreland, "It Don't Suit Me (Like Before)" Big Bad Luv  (4AD, 17)
- Angaleena Presley, "Good Girl Down" Wrangled  (Mining Light, 17)
- Ryan Adams, "Shiver and Shake" Prisoner  (PaxAm, 17)
- Camper Van Beethoven, "Sad Lovers Waltz" II & III  (Cooking Vinyl, 86)
- Rodney Crowell, "Nashville 1972"  Close Ties  (New West, 17)
- Charlie Worsham, "Southern By the Grace of God" Beginning of Things  (Warner, 17)  D
^ Holly Macve, "Heartbreak Blues" Golden Eagle  (Bella Union, 17)  D
- William Matheny, "Blood Moon Singer" Strange Constellations  (Misra, 17)
- Quaker City Night Hawks, "Bible Black Lincoln" Torquila! Torquila!  (Wizardvizion, 11)
- Benjamin Booker, "Witness" Witness  (ATO, 17)  D
- Shinyribs, "Tub Gut Stomp & Red-Eyed Soul" I Got Your Medicine  (Mustard Lid, 17)
- Mavericks, "Damned (If You Do)" Brand New Day  (Mono Mundo, 17)
- Sunny Sweeney, "Bottle By My Bed" Trophy  (Aunt Daddy, 17)
- Bonnie "Prince"  Billy, "Mama Tried" Best Troubador  (Drag City, 17)  D
- Caroline Spence, "Slow Dancer" Spades & Roses  (Tone Tree, 17)
- Jamie Wyatt, "Your Loving Saves Me" Felony Blues  (Wyatt, 17)
- Colter Wall, "Thirteen Silver Dollars" Colter Wall  (Young Mary's, 17)  D


Thursday, March 09, 2017

ROUTES & BRANCHES  
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
March 7, 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

The songs of Will Johnson's new album epitomize everything I want Routes & Branches to sound like.  They're beautiful, crunchy, evocative, enigmatic.  For years he has explored his louder, mightier tendencies with Centro-matic and his more esoteric, introverted ideas with South San Gabriel.  Johnson has collaborated with artists from Jason Molina to David Bazan.  He has been a Monster of Folk and has joined Jay Farrar, Anders Parker and Jim James in the shadow of Woody Guthrie for New Multitudes.  With his first solo project since drawing the curtain on Centro-matic, Will Johnson seems ready to gather all these musical forces under one roof.

Hatteras Night, A Good Luck Charm is Johnson's most immediately tuneful record to date.  By and large, the songs embrace a dusty, roots rock spirit, often heavy on the guitar and with a layered approach to vocals.  It's rarely a "crowded" sound, but its a step or three beyond the quiet living room acoustic/pedal steel project Johnson had originally envisioned.  Some of Hatteras Night's sweetest moments do actually come from the record's more sonically restrained bits.  "Childress (To Ogden)" is a gorgeous meeting of Jason Molina and Townes Van Zandt:  There's a blood moon at my window / And a young wolf at my side.  The song "Hatteras" follows in this same vein:  For I have worked, and I have traveled / And I am calloused, and I am beat.  Without showing his cards with easy lyrics, Johnson sounds truly vulnerable here, in a revealing acoustic session.  In the former, haunted backing vocals blow through like lonely tumbleweeds.

In early published interviews, he tells how his record coalesced around a loose story and a small cast of characters.  "Ruby Shameless" names names, told from the standpoint of a man smitten by a dancer.  The song is a ballad built on electric guitar, a spare sound that could be heard either as protective or as sinister and possessive.  Just a little crush of flesh / A cigarette burn / Or a spice across your chest.

But much of Hatteras Night makes a noise that counters these more tender tendencies.  "Predator" recalls Johnson's work with M Ward, Jim James, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis in Monsters of Folk.  A full band surrounds the singer with piano, pedal steel and percussion seemingly borrowed from the soundstage of a spaghetti western.  That old time sound came flooding back around / Like a predator / That knew I wanted to be found.  "Filled With a Falcon's Dreams" paints with patchouli scented SoCal country-rock textures a'la early Neil Young.  It's follow close behind by one of the most unraveled pieces on the record in "Heresy and Snakes".  Fuzz and tremolo guitars are distorted almost beyond recognition, and a deep and troubling rumble underlies it all.

That spirit achieves its pinnacle in "Every Single Day of Late".  As the song grows, the knot of guitar noise unfurls in an almost manic direction.  Syncopated percussive slaps and metallic clangs argue with the guitar squall for an industrial racket.

Hatteras Night, A Good Luck Charm is a lullaby for a sleepless night.  It's a sound that could just as easily comfort as it could let in the dark and leave one haunted.  That said, it's a career-defining album for Will Johnson, one that could easily weave its way into your dreams.

By the time you finish our weekly playlist, you'll have enjoyed an embarrassing wealth of new stuff from Justin Townes Earle, Lindi Ortega, Pokey LaFarge, Sam Outlaw and more.  And yes, John Moreland has released his first volley from a record that will certainly raise him to rarefied heights.  I am so embarrassed on your behalf.

- Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, "Torpedo" Way Out West  (Superlatone, 17)
- Los Straitjackets, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding" What's So Funny About Peace Love & Los Straitjackets  (Yep Roc, 17)  D
- Ben Nichols, "Stormy Eyed Valentine" Love Me / Love Me Not  (Amazon, 17)
- King Wilkie, "Wrecking Ball" Low Country Suite  (Rounder, 07)
- Kasey Chambers w/Keith Urban, "If We Had a Child" Dragonfly  (Essence, 17)
^ Will Johnson, "Every Single Day of Late" Hatteras Night a Good Luck Charm  (Undertow, 17)  D
- Leif Vollebekk, "Big Sky Country" Twin Shadows (Secret City, 17)
- John Moreland, "It Don't Suit Me (Like Before)" Big Bad Luv  (4AD, 17)  D
- Ha Ha Tonka, "Everything" Heart-Shaped Mountain  (Bloodshot, 17)  D
- Whiskey & Co, "Damn I Miss You" Ripped Together Torn Apart  (No Idea, 17)  D
- Jason Eady, "Barrabas" Jason Eady  (Old Guitar, 17)
- Johnny Cash, "Johnny 99" Johnny 99  (Sony, 93)
- Pieta Brown w/Mason Jennings, "How Soon" Postcards  (Lustre, 17)
- Sam Outlaw, "Trouble" Tenderheart  (Six Shooter, 17)  D
- Andrew Combs, "Blood Hunters" Canyons of My Mind  (New West, 17)
- Jake Xerxes Fussell, "Furniture Man" What In the Natural World  (Paradise of Bachelors, 17)
- Chatham County Line, "I Got Worry" IV  (Yep Roc, 08)
- Pokey LaFarge, "Riot In the Streets" Manic Revelations  (Rounder, 17)  D
- Big Blue, "It Ain't Easy" Gold Star  (Autumn Tone, 17)
- Old 97s, "Bad Luck Charm" Graveyard Whistling  (ATO, 17)
- Lindi Ortega, "Til the Goin' Gets Gone" Til the Goin' Gets Gone  (Shadowbox, 17)  D
- Sunny Sweeney, "I Feel Like Hank Williams" Trophy  (Aunt Daddy, 17)  D
- Town Mountain, "Southern Crescent" Southern Crescent  (Town Mt, 16)
- Justin Townes Earle, "Champagne Corolla" Kids in the Streets  (New West, 17)  D
- Angaleena Presley, "Motel Bible" Wrangled  (Mining Light, 17)  D
- Hurray For the Riff Raff, "Navigator" The Navigator  (ATO, 17)
- Caroline Spence, "Hotel Amarillo" Spades & Roses  (Spence, 17)
- Molly Burch, "Downhearted" Please Be Mine  (Burch, 17)
- Christopher Paul Stelling, "Bad Guys" Itinerant Arias  (Anti, 17)  D
- Heath Green & the Makeshifters, "Ain't Got God" Heath Green & the Makeshifters  (Alive Naturalsound, 17)