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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

ROUTES & BRANCHES
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
February 18, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of shattered candy hearts

I recently asked someone what kind of music they enjoyed.  "Mostly soundtracks," they replied.  I find this a baffling answer. Does this mean that they just enjoy reliving the moments from John Hughes' Pretty in Pink to the sound of Ian McCulloch's earnest croon?  Or do they prefer the orchestral foofery of a John Williams score?  Do they crave dramatic instrumental bombast as the soundtrack for their Dungeons & Dragons battles?  Have they finally penned lyrics for "Telstar"?  Or what?

From Richmond FontaineDon't Skip Out on Me: the Record isn't necessarily designed to be played like a soundtrack to your experience of reading Willy Vlautin's book of the same name.  Unless you're a speed reader (not I), these songs are played and gone before you've reached the bottom of a page. Of course, Willy Vlautin isn't the first songwriter to drift in a literary direction.  Joe Pernice, Rosanne Cash, Nick Cave, Patti Smith, to name a couple. But more than these others, Willy Vlautin's written work has emerged as an organic extension of the band's music.  It  seems a fitting conclusion that Richmond Fontaine's final statement is a 100% instrumental collection where his voice is nowhere to be heard.  Instead, it emerges from between the covers of Don't Skip Out on Me: the Book.

Vlautin has flirted with elements of narrative and spoken word since early on in the band's run, reaching a high point with 2011's High Country.  He began publishing his books with 2006's Motel Life, followed by Northline, the superb Lean on Pete and 2014's The Free.  With each work, Vlautin's voice has become more distinct, his characters more familiar and endearing.  Things are tough for Frank and Jerry Lee, or for Charley, but they are each complete and real characters who strike readers as authentic, sympathetic and even admirable.  Vlautin's new novel resonates with similar notes, and his writing has grown richer and more confident.

Briefly, Don't Skip Out on Me tells the story of a young man who leaves his adopted Nevada home to pursue his dream of becoming a professional boxer.  In a wider sense, it is a story of identity and belonging.  Horace Hopper is part Irish and part Paiute, living with a sweet and generous older couple who raised him after his birth family was unable to do so.  Similar to his other stories, this one paints a distinctly American portrait without relying on flowery prose, moments of gratuitous epiphany or easy resolution.  As a result, Vlautin's prose can appear to some to be bone-dry or dispassionate, though his characters and his landscapes come to life through more subtle use of everyday language.  Whether it's the exceedingly decent father figure Mr Reese, or the retired and opinionated ranchers who gather around a table at the small town diner, these are people we know.  The homeless couple with whom Horace shares his dinner, the dishonest drunk he naively selects as a boxing coach - they are familiar, but Vlautin never resorts to cliche and refuses to strongarm the reader into adopting a stance of easy pathos or distrust.

Back to the record.  Is instrumental music simply incomplete?  Is it a song just waiting for lyrics?  Paul Brainard's expressive pedal steel serves as the "voice" for most of these pieces, though Vlautin's fingerprints are evident throughout. The strongest instrumentals can serve as a wordless narrative of sorts.  The sound of Don't Skip is evocative, suggesting a landscape or a lifestyle or a mood in the same way a painting or photo might.

"Horace Hopper" features Brainard's steel accompanied by guitar and piano on an easygoing piece that alternates between midtempo and more introspective moments.  The prevailing mood is one of space and solitude , with only a suggestion of sadness during those quieter passages.  Don't Skip Out on Me features some beautiful, yearning pieces, most notably on the shorter songs like "Back of the Pickup" or the melancholy harmonica of "Living Where You're Not Wanted".

Vlautin's novel is not characterized by action and adventure.  Even the back-and-forth melee of boxing matches is largely witnessed through Horace's perspective, both when he is engaged and when his mind wanders.  "Fight With Raymundo Figueroa" features the record's wildest moments, sometimes dissonant and raging.   More common are the upbeat and melodic tunes like "Horace and the Trophy" and the twangy, good-natured "Hector Hidalgo".  The band is fully engaged, with expressive playing that has sometimes been overlooked when it's been in service to Vlautin's vocals.

"Dream of the City and the City Itself" braids all of these elements into one song, including some phenomenal guitar interplay and the record's most musically dramatic score.  The band gallops enthusiastically through the first two-plus minutes, until the brakes are applied for a tender and tuneful second half.  Horace Hopper isn't necessarily a psychologically complex character, but "Dream of the City" aptly portrays the dual forces competing for the young man's passions.  The isolated countryside and the bustling city; the acceptance of his fate versus the strength of spirit to chart his own course.  Anyone in search of a pulpy beach read will want to steer clear of Don't Skip Out on Me.  Anyone hungry for superb contemporary Western writing should pick it up immediately.  And bring along the album as a worthy companion. 

Also on this Episode, the Bonnevilles have arrived with just the powerful blast of punk 'n blues that we need to shove us from our seasonal phunk.  We celebrate as Trampled by Turtles awake from their hibernation.  And we recognize that it's just a matter of time before Anna Tivel reaches the heights of Courtney Marie Andrews, Julian Baker or Alela Diane.

- Bonnevilles, "Long Runs the Fox" Dirty Photographs  (Alive Naturalsound, 18)
- I Can Lick Any SOB in the House, "Regrets and Greyhounds" Menace  (In Music We Trust, 04)
- Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, "Good as Gold" Years  (Bloodshot, 18)
- Buffalo Tom, "All Be Gone" Quiet and Peace  (Schoolkids, 18)
- Anderson East, "Cabinet Door" Encore  (Elektra, 18)
- Blackberry Smoke, "Best Seat in the House" Find a Light  (3 Legged, 18)
- Dallas Moore, "Shoot Out the Lights" Mr Honky Tonk  (Sol, 18)
- Drive-by Truckers, "Decoration Day" Decoration Day  (New West, 03)
- Wade Bowen, "So Long 6th Street" Solid Ground  (Bowen Sounds, 18)  D
- Old Crow Medicine Show, "Flicker and Shine" Volunteer  (Columbia, 18)
- JD Wilkes, "Moonbottle" Fire Dream  (Big Legal Mess, 18)
- Trampled by Turtles, "Kelly's Bar" Life is Good on the Open Road  (Banjodad, 18)  D
- Tillers, "Dear Mother" Tillers  (Sofaburn, 18)
- Devil Makes Three, "North Carolina" Longjohns Boots & a Belt  (Kahn, 04)
- Lindi Ortega, "Lovers in Love" Liberty  (Shadowbox, 18)
- Great Peacock, "One Way Ticket" Gran Pavo Real  (Ropeadope, 18)
- First Aid Kit, "Rebel Heart" Ruins  (Columbia, 18)
- Ryan Adams, "Baby I Love You" single  (PaxAm, 18)  D
- Parker Millsap, "Pining" Very Last Day  (Okrahoma, 16)
- Shakey Graves, "Counting Sheep" Can't Wake Up  (Dualtone, 18)
- Anna Tivel, "Dust and Magic" single  (Fluff & Gravy, 18)  D
- Caleb Caudle, "Crushed Coins" Crushed Coins  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)
- Ruby Boots, "I'll Make It Through" Don't Talk About It  (Bloodshot, 18)
- HC McEntire, "Red Silo" Lionheart  (Merge, 18)
- Daddy, "Cadillac Problems" Let's Do This  (Daphne, 18)  D
- Doug Sahm & Tex Mex Trip, "Girls Today (Don't Like to Sleep Alone)" Groover's Paradise  (Warner, 74)
- Rod Picott, "Take Home Pay" Out Pasts the Wires  (Welding Rod, 18)
- I'm With Her, "Overland" See You Around  (Rounder, 18)
- Bettye LaVette, "It Ain't Me Babe" Things Have Changed  (Verve, 18)
^ Richmond Fontaine, "Hector Hidalgo" Don't Skip Out on Me  (Fluff & Gravy, 18)

Here's this week's ROUTES-cast.  By my account, it's the strongest, most fulfilling musical lineup of the year.  Plus, it's our kind of music.




Sunday, February 11, 2018


ROUTES & BRANCHES  
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
February 11, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

The element of surprise is an important part of how I relate to music.  Where many listeners feast on familiarity, I crave novelty.  A release by an unknown artist can often pique my interest more than the fifth CD from a trusted act.  I mention this by way of introduction to Watching It All Fall Apart, the new collection from Fruition.  I’ve followed Fruition’s story since their early days, sharing bits and pieces of their records on R&B, commenting good-naturedly on the awkwardness of their band name.  Still, I’ve never fully fallen for them, filing them under J for “jammy, with hints of ‘grass and Americana” (see also, Elephant Revival, Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth).  As early singles from their new album were released, I caught a vibe that I hadn’t necessarily connected with Fruition.  Upon hearing Watching It All in its entirety, I was surprised.  Surprised and impressed. 

You wouldn't recognize “I’ll Never Sing Your Name” or “Turn to Dust” as Fruition if you weren't forewarned.  With rumbling bass, crashing percussion and a carnival organ, "I'll Never Sing" is a Squeeze-like pop confection with dark undertones.  "Turn to Dust" is a crushing but catchy breakup song:  Watching it all fall apart / Standing side by side, letting love die / Doing nothing, nothing / It left a hole in my heart / God damn / It hurts so bad to do nothing / Such a terrible scene.  In the midst of the heartbreak, there are sugary backing vocals and a warped synth track, a bit of the psychedelia peppered throughout the record. If there's mandolin or acoustic guitar somewhere, it's buried deep and manipulated.  The best pop music has always flirted with longing and despair even while mining for sweet hooks, and Fruition's new stuff seems to honor that tradition. 

For longtime fans of classic Fruition, you’ll want to check out “FOMO” or “Lonesome Prayer”. Both uphold the downer theme, but feature a more typical vibe:  There's wasted bar girls in the basement / What am I doing here at all / I recognize that bum from facebook / She liked a picture on my wall ... You ain't missing out on nothing.  “Stuck On You” recalls something from the Revivalists, with a rootsier groove and handclap percussion.  These cuts by no means rehash previous territory, but they serve as an effective bridge to the less familiar sounds.  

Fruition has always benefited from a three-pronged songwriting approach, built around the distinct but complimentary talents of Jay Cobb Anderson, Kellen Asebroek and Mimi Naja.  As a vocalist, Naja always takes a couple leads from record to record, and her cuts always stand out for me.  On Watching It All, she holds court for two of my favorite tracks: “Northern Town” and “I Should Be (On Top of the World)”.  The former sounds like a more heart-on-sleeve edition of Neko Case, perhaps crossed with a young Bonnie Raitt.  "I Should Be" presents Naja at her most soulful, with a simple but beautiful delivery that wouldn't be out of place on a Lake Street Dive CD.  It stands a good chance to land among my favorite tunes for the year.  

Producer Tucker Martine has served as driver for several prominent projects, from the Decemberists and Laura Veirs to My Morning Jacket and Neko Case.  While he has a pretty strong sonic stamp to his style, the novelty of Fruition’s new collection cannot be entirely credited to Martine's hand.  In an early interview, the producer/engineer commented, “This isn’t a record they’ve made before.  And I don’t think it’s a record I’ve made before”.  It’s the challenge of any band that’s reached a certain level of notoriety, to continue to satisfy established fans while finding ways to reach new audiences and to scratch the occasional creative itch.  Watching It All is a great sounding record, sparking with interesting sounds and infectious melody.  The continuity between what we knew of the band and what we have here lies in the band’s trademark vocal interplay, and in their energetic instrumental work.  It's a remarkable evolution for an outfit that's always been very likable, and is now proving themselves to be musically adventurous as well.  

This Episode also debuts what will likely be a strong record from Sarah Shook, and we'll share the first new collection from Shakey Graves since his 2014 breakthrough.  We'll introduce you to Lynn Taylor & the Barflies, and we'll finally have a chance to begin our journey through 6 String Drag's really good Top of the World (see my post from a couple weeks ago).

- John Calvin Abney, "Weekly Rate Palace" Far Cries & Close Calls  (JCA, 16)
^ Fruition, "I Should Be (On Top of the World)" Watching it All Fall Apart  (LoHi, 18)
- Joshua Hedley, "Mr Jukebox" Mr Jukebox  (Third Man, 18)
- Will Stewart, "Sipsey" County Seat  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)
- Mike & the Moonpies, "Wedding Band"  Steak Night at the Prairie Rose  (M&M, 18)
- Courtney Patton, "Shove" What it's Like to Fly Alone  (Patton, 18)
- Lynn Taylor & the Barflies, "Staggered" Staggered  (Taylor, 18)  D
- Kill County, "Straight Six Ford" Year of Getting By  (Kill Co, 16)
- Ron Pope, "Master Plan" WorkTapes  (Brooklyn Basement, 18)
- Kim Richey, "Not For Money or Love" Edgeland  (YepRoc, 18)
- Western Centuries, "Earthly Justice" Songs From the Deluge  (Free Dirt, 18)  D
- 6 String Drag, "Small Town Punks" Top of the World  (Schoolkids, 18)  D
- Ha Ha Tonka, "Walking On the Devil's Backbone" Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South  (Bloodshot, 09)
- Ben Miller Band, "Lighthouse" Choke Cherry Tree  (New West, 18)
- Ruby Boots, "Easy Way Out" Don't Talk About It  (Bloodshot, 18)
- Haley Heynderickx, "Worth It" I Need to Start a Garden  (Mama Bird, 18)
- Marie/Lepanto, "Patient Patient Man" Tenkiller  (Big Legal Mess, 18)
- Calexico, "Dead in the Water" Thread That Keeps Us  (Anti, 18)
- Courtney Marie Andrews, "Kindness of Strangers" May Your Kindness Remain  (Mama Bird, 18)
- Nathaniel Rateliff & Night Sweats, "Hey Mama" Tearing At the Seams  (Concord, 18)
- Lucinda Williams, "Drunken Angel" Car Wheels on a Gravel Road  (Mercury, 98)
- Paul Thorn, "Love Train" Don't Let the Devil Ride  (Perpetual Obscurity, 18)  D
- Shakey Graves, "Kids These Days" Can't Wake Up  (Dualtone, 18)  D
- Alela Diane, "Moves Us Blind" Cusp  (AD, 18)
- Two Dollar Pistols, "It Doesn't Matter Much To Me" Hands Up!  (YepRoc, 04)
- Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, "Good as Gold" Years  (Bloodshot, 18)  D
- John Prine, "Summer's End" Tree of Forgiveness  (Oh Boy, 18)  D
- Donovan Woods, "Burn That Bridge" Both Ways  (Meant Well, 18)  D
- Molly Parden, "Who Did You Leave For Me" single  (Tone Tree, 18)  D
- Handsome Family, "Giant of Illinois" Through the Trees  (Carrot Top, 98)

Monday, February 05, 2018


ROUTES & BRANCHES 
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
February 5, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

HC McEntire's debut solo album, Lionheart, starts with a hymn.  Like many hymns, "A Lamb, A Dove" is stunning, with heavenly harmonies, swelling instrumentation and talk about a kingdom full of mercy and faith.  Unlike most hymns, the singer anchors this grace in the frankly sensual:   I have found heaven in a woman's touch / Come to me now / I'll make you blush.

We were introduced to HC McEntire (back when she was just Heather) as the singer-songwriter driving the soulful Southern roots of Mount Moriah.  Upon the release of 2016's game-changing How to Dance, I sagely wrote, "Heather McEntire is as strong a writer and vocalist as Heartless Bastards' Erika Wennerstrom or Hurray for the Riff Raff's Alynda Segarra".  She practiced a gift for nearly impressionistic portraits of her rural South, her musical pocket a country-leaning indie-folk.  And more than any other indie artist, she sang with a voice steeped in the traditions of gospel and Appalachian song.

The story behind Lionheart tells how HC McEntire wrote these songs while touring as a keyboardist with Angel Olsen.  With her band on hiatus, she shared the demos with respected punk trailblazer Kathleen Hanna, who encouraged her to embrace the country sound, listen to Wanda Jackson and to pursue a solo recording.  While she hadn't really hidden her identity as a queer woman deeply rooted in the Baptist South, McEntire also sought to tell her own story a bit more directly on her new collection.

Lionheart is rich with moving musical gestures, surrounding but never overshadowing McEntire's voice with music from the heart of the South.  Familiar instrumentalists like Phil Cook and William Tyler grace the grooves alongside the voices of Tift Merritt, Angel Olsen and Amy Ray.  "Baby's Got the Blues" compliments the recent ecstatic soul of Hiss Golden Messenger's recent records.  Upbeat and with a fuller musical accompaniment,  "Quartz in the Valley" and "Red Silo" are Lionheart's most accessible moments.  Both could've found homes on Mount Moriah's How to Dance or 2013's Miracle Temple.  Throughout, there is a simplicity and directness to the band's approach.

As a writer, McEntire has always been more prone to imagery than to story.  And while songs like "Dress in the Dark" are bolder than we're accustomed to, she tends not to point fingers or to write her lyrics in ALL CAPS.  Instead, she is more likely to simply train her writerly camera.  With a darker Southern gothic musical bed, McEntire sings, "I can only feel your heart / Through your dress in the dark".  "One Great Thunder" and "A Lamb, A Dove" are lush and hymnlike, pretty and lilting pieces in whose shadows hide unexpected barbs.  "Wild Dogs" sounds almost like Kate Bush, if she were raised in rural North Carolina.

HC McEntire doesn't damn her native South as much as she tries to reconcile with it.  That fragile connection happens primarily through her music, which fully embraces the country, gospel and folk of her childhood even more than her work with Mount Moriah.  "When You Come For Me" is a lovely country ode to home, a place we came from and to which we'll return when it's over: "When you come for me / Let the mountains hold my bones / There's a place for me / Let me lie down with you in the cold".  In the familiar folds of the song, however, are nestled the lines, Mama I dreamed that I had no hand to hold / And the land I cut my teeth on wouldn't let me call it home".  If her family continues keeps an uneasy quiet with her identity as a lesbian, the singer has achieved a certain peace with where she belongs in their pastorally idyllic but culturally conflicted place.  It's the defining theme for Lionheart, but the prevailing spirit is communicated through the beautiful music. 

- Avett Brothers, "Salvation Song" Mignonette  (Ramseur, 04)
- Kevin Morby & Waxahatchee, "Farewell Transmission"  single  (Dead Oceans, 18)
- Fruition, "I Should Be (On Top of the World)" Watching it All Fall Apart  (LoHi, 18)
- Laura Veirs, "Everybody Needs You" The Lookout  (Raven Marching Band, 18)  D
- Mavis Staples, "Try Harder" If All I Was Was Black  (Anti, 17)
- Jake Xerxes Fussell, "Furniture Man" What in the Natural World  (Paradise of Bachelors, 17)
^ HC McEntire, "Quartz in the Valley" Lionheart  (Merge, 18)
- Marlon Williams, "Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore" Make Way For Love  (Dead Oceans, 18)  D
- Tommy Emmanuel w/Jason Isbell, "Deep River Blues" Accomplice One  (CGP, 18)
- Ronnie Eaton, "Sleeping in Hell" Hand That Mocked Them ...  (Eaton, 18)
- Lindi Ortega, "Comeback Kid" Liberty  (Shadowbox, 18)
- JD Wilkes, "Moonbottle" Fire Dream  (Big Legal Mess, 18)
- Mike & the Moonpies, "Steak Night at the Prairie Rose" Steak Night at the Prairie Rose  (M&M, 18)
- Chris Stapleton, "Drunkard's Prayer" From A Room: Vol. 2  (Mercury, 18)
- Erin Enderlin, "Whole 'Nother Bottle of Wine" Whiskeytown Crier  (Blue Slate, 17)
- Pearl Charles, "Blue-Eyed Angel" Sleepless Dreamer  (Kanine, 18)
- Caleb Caudle, "Headlights" Crushed Coins  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)
- Fruit Bats, "From a Soon-to-Be Ghost Town" Absolute Loser  (Easy Sound, 16)
- Haley Heynderickx, "Oom Sha La La" I Need to Start a Garden  (Mama Bird, 18)
- Hackensaw Boys, "Oval Room" single  (Free Dirt, 18)  D
- Joshua Hedley, "Mr Jukebox" Mr Jukebox  (Third Man, 18)  D
- Richmond Fontaine, "Hector Hidalgo" Don't Skip Out On Me  (Fluff & Gravy, 18)
- Jeff Hyde, "Cold" Norman Rockwell World  (Hyde, 18)
- Courtney Marie Andrews, "Kindness of Strangers" May Your Kindness Remain  (Mama Bird, 18)
- Bennett Wilson Poole, "Soon Enough" Bennett Wilson Poole  (Aurora, 18)  D
- Rod Picott, "Take Home Pay" Out Past the Wires  (Welding Rod, 18)  D
- Great Peacock, "Heartbreak Comin' Down" Gran Pavo Real  (Ropeadope, 18)
- Caitlin Canty, "Motel" Motel Bouquet  (Tone Tree, 18)
- Smog, "I'm New Here" A River Ain't Too Much To Love  (Drag City, 05)
- Gram Parsons, "Return of the Grievous Angel" Grievous Angel  (Warner, 74)

Monday, January 29, 2018

ROUTES & BRANCHES 
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
January 28, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

Heading into Grammy time, we're very conscious that these days there's very little crossover between what the folks at Recording Arts recognize and what we do here at R&B hq.  If you want a glimpse at the height of our kind of music, you'll want to track down (Grammy winner) Chris Stapleton's fiery performance of "Midnight Train to Memphis" on this week's SNL, where he was joined onstage by (Grammy winner) Sturgill Simpson. Grammy has never done roots music especially well, even when they accidentally manage to celebrate a worthy artist like Isbell or Emmylou.  This year, they featured Stapleton and Emmy performing a practically anemic take on Petty's "Wildflowers" during their "people who died" segment.  Nevertheless, I'll always watch (sometimes whilst holding my nose), primarily for the cultural literacy points, but also because there are often very good live performance moments.  It either says volumes about me or about the Grammys that Patti Lupone's revisit of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" might've provided the evening's most stellar moment (though Bono's "blessed are the shithole countries" certainly merits merit).  And tell me why the puzzling partnership of Sting and Shaggy received more screentime than any other artist this year?

From where I sit, 2018 has been ushered in by a really promising batch of records, dozens of which seem to have landed in full copy form on my doorstep this week.  Pressured to select five favorites for January releases, I'd likely tag Calexico, Ronnie Eaton, First Aid Kit, Marie/Lepanto and HC McEntire.  But the year's still very young.

And February promises an even greater wealth of stuff, including Caleb Caudle's new Crushed Coins collection.  2016's Carolina Ghost was a near perfect record, liberally peppered from start to finish with songs and lyrics that stuck like velcro to the soul.  In early interviews for his new work, Caudle talks about finding inspiration in new places, and building this project around new sounds.  "We made a good, straightforward country record.  But I've done the straight-ahead things as good as I possibly could.  Now I want to do something that represents more of what I listen to and am inspired by ..."

Though Caudle intends Crushed Coins to be a departure, songs like "Empty Arms"' and "Love That's Wild" strike me as more of a progression or a stylistic evolution.  From the former:  I drove across 3 states and bought a postcard for a quarter / From an antique store beside a bar I was playing in Ft Wayne, Indiana / I scribbled down some words that you already know / As if I wrote them down and put a stamp on it / It would make it more true.  Megan McCormick's guitar effects and Greg Herndon's keys contribute an extra dimension to Caudle's soulful Southern americana, coaxing the sound closer to Hiss Golden Messenger than Jason Isbell.  "Love That's Wild" relies on Brett Resnick's sticky pedal steel line and a sweet backing vocal from Erin Rae for one of the CD's most recognizably country moments.

There is more of a confidence and a cohesiveness to Caleb Caudle's musical vision on Crushed Coins.  Beyond writing good songs, he strives for overarching messages and thematic gestures, elements that can be followed like a ribbon from song to song.  Sometimes this is accomplished by juxtaposing diverse bits.  The newfound hope of "Love That's Blind" vs the abandonment and finality of "Six Feet From the Flowers":  The tools have gone to rust / With no one left to impress / I haven't built a thing / I reach into my pocket / And hold your wedding ring.  Caudle himself has drawn the lines to define the theme as "trying to find hope in a dark place ... relying on the people and the things that you love".

To our benefit, the songwriter hasn't abandoned his generous gift for melody.  With Joshua Hedley's lovely fiddle, "Madelyn" is one of the album's strongest cuts.  Even the acoustic title track, a sad picture of domestic dis-ease, catches the ear as much as it reaches the heart:  There's no laughter in this house / Only sadness dripping from the spout / A lightbulb needs changing / Shutters that stay closed ...

Like fellow writers Andrew Combs or Robert Ellis, Caudle is challenging expectations for the trad-dependent americana genre.  Instead of drawing inspiration from more common sources, he has tagged jazz music and Miles Davis' In a Silent Way as guiding documents.  Sure, listeners will never mistake the striking "Headlights" for Miles' "Shhh", but the path an inspiration takes between the ears and the heart can be pretty personal.  As someone who thrives on purposeful novelty, these subtle differences can be nourishing.  As terrific as Carolina Ghost was, Crushed Coins is a welcome addition to Caleb Caudle's catalog.

- Sam Baker, "Broken Fingers" Pretty World  (BlueLimeStone, 07)
- Mary Gauthier, "Soldiering On" Rifles & Rosary Beads  (In the Black, 18)
- Great Peacock, "Hideaway" Gran Pavo Real  (Ropeadope, 18)
- Wood Brothers, "Sparkling Wine" One Drop of Truth  (Honey Jar, 18)
- Calexico, "Dead in the Water" Thread That Keeps Us  (Anti, 18)
- Marie/Lepanto, "Simple Scenes" Tenkiller  (Big Legal Mess, 18)
- Samantha Fish, "Need You More" Belle of the West  (Ruf, 17)
- Barrence Whitfield & the Savages, "Let's Go to Mars" Soul Flowers of Titan  (Bloodshot, 18)  D
- Sadies, "Postcards" Darker Circles  (YepRoc, 10)
- Buffalo Tom, "All Be Gone" Quiet & Peace  (Schoolkid, 18)  D
- HC McEntire, "Yellow Roses" Lionheart  (Merge, 18)
- Ron Pope, "Texas Wildflower Honey" Worktapes  (Brooklyn Basement, 18)
^ Caleb Caudle, "Madelyn"  Crushed Coins  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)
- Bonnevilles, "Dirty Photographs" Dirty Photographs  (Alive Naturalsound, 18)  D
- JD Wilkes, "Starlings, KY" Fire Dream  (Big Legal Mess, 18)
- First Aid Kit, "Hem of Her Dress" Runes  (Columbia, 18)
- 6 String Drag, "Cold Steel Brace" High Hat  (Schoolkid, 98/18)
- Albert Lee, "Country in Harlem" Black Claw & Country Fever  (Greyscale, 91)
- Bettye LaVette, "Things Have Changed" Things Have Changed  (Verve, 18)  D
- Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, "No Mercy in This Land" No Mercy in This Land  (Anti, 18)  D
- Craig Gerdes, "Dead in a Box in Kentucky" Smokin' Drinkin' & Gamblin'  (Sol, 18)
- Jeffrey Martin, "Soul & Bones" Dogs in the Daylight (Expanded)  (Fluff & Gravy, 14/17)
- Kevin Morby & Waxahatchee, "The Dark Don't Hide It" single  (Dead Oceans, 18)  D
- Flesh Eaters, "Fistful of Vodka" Hard Road to Follow  (Atavistic, 83)
- Ben Miller Band, "Trapeze" Choke Cherry Tree  (New West, 18)  D
- Tillers, "Revolution Row" Tillers  (Sofaburn, 18)  D
- Will Stewart, "Sipsey" County Seat  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)  D
- I'm With Her, "Overland" See You Around  (Rounder, 18)
- Neko Case, "Middle Cyclone" Middle Cyclone  (Anti, 09)
- Allen Toussaint, "Bright Mississippi" Bright Mississippi  (Nonesuch, 09)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

ROUTES & BRANCHES
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
January 23, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

To these ears, there's little that's more satisfying than the sound of early alt.country.  Bands that were insurgent country or cowpunk or no depression before it was really a thing.  Thinking Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown and Slobberbone and Blue Mountain and Freakwater.  But even before some of those, there was 6 String Drag.  In the true spirit of insurgency, they even had a part-time trombonist.  Fronted by Kenny Roby and Rob Keller, the outfit released just a couple records before dissolving in the late 90s.  The second of those albums, 1997's High Hat, has been given the 20th Anniversary treatment and reissued by North Carolina's revered Schoolkids Records.

That sweet hybrid country sound pervades every corner of High Hat, which was co-produced by Steve Earle and Ray Kennedy.  The iconic "Bottle of Blues" would merit a spot on any playlist of alt.country essentials, and it sounds as fresh as ever in its remastered format.  Hell, this entire record is an essential, with cut after cut triggering those memories.  The horns and boozy vocals of blues buster "Gasoline Maybelline" contrast with the more literate heartland rock of "Cold Steel Brace".  File "Top of the Mountain" alongside Jason Ringenberg's scorching punk-fueled country, pushed to its limits on the perfectly brief guitar tear "85 on 85".  "Ghost", "Keep on Pushin'" - it's the sound of a musical movement being born.  Then it was over as quickly as it sparked to life.

Kenny Roby reconvened 6 String Drag in 2015, releasing Roots Rock 'n' Roll, a perfectly fine project with a handful of songs that rekindled those old sentiments - "Kingdom of Getting It Wrong", "Hard Times, High Times" and "I Miss the Drive-in" come to mind.  What many fans missed was that Roby had recorded a couple solo collections in the interim years, records that witnessed an impressive evolution and a maturation of his songwriting palette.  Completists will especially want to track down the unfortunately overlooked Memories & Birds from 2013.

This is an important chapter to the 6 String Drag story, since it helps explain what we're hearing on the group's brand new Top of the World.  While the band's early stuff is tremendous and feeds a certain part of the soul, these new songs might mark the first time we've heard Roby fully incorporating the sonic possibilities of his solo journey into his band material.

Of course, for those eager to be set up with another shot of early alt.country, there are fierce moments like "Small Town Punks".  There are few vocalists more capable of pumping it up than Kenny Roby, sounding as much like Craig Finn as Elvis Costello as he spits the song's lyrics like that young man who began 6 String Drag half a lifetime ago.  And much of the underappreciated pop spirit that ripped through those early cuts drives short sharp shots like "Never Turn My Back On You Again" or the effortless barroom romp of "Robert & Lucy".  See also the spirited "I Wish You Would", a good-natured bounce held aloft by a healthy dose of skronky horns.

It's great stuff, and such a perfect way to welcome in the new year in music.  But for me the revelation of Top of the World lies in the songs that aren't immediately familiar, pieces that owe more to Kenny Roby as a solo artist than anything either insurgent or country.  "Top of the World" is a simple, simply gorgeous ballad, showcasing the singer's restrained vocals over a fingerpicked acoustic.  An instrumental break is built around a wave of strings and a toy piano, sounding more like Brian Wilson's lovingly constructed pop symphonies than Jason & the Scorchers' barstool burners.  "Jennifer Wren & the Crow I Know" is another inescapably melodic moment, with a chorus featuring bluesy horns and a guitar solo that reconnects it all to 6 String Drag: The Early Days.

The bottom line here is that Top of the World is more than a simple blast from the genre's past.  Much more than their 2015 rebirth, their new record announces that 6 String Drag are a contemporary band, creating relevant music and evolving in interesting ways.

Also on this Episode, please join us in recognizing that Courtney Marie Andrews' forthcoming CD might be the very best thing on the horizon besides Spring: The Season.  Also, we'll celebrate the promise of Great Peacock's eagerly awaited (by me) new project, and we get to play Mountain Goats.  I'll mention here a well the Episode's best moment:  About halfway through Shovels & Rope's collaboration with Matthew Logan Vasquez, there is the crackle of a guitar coming to life, like a treefall disrupting a quiet forest.

- Daniel Bachman, "Little Lady Blues" Orange Co. Serenade  (Bathetic, 14)
- Margo Price, "Learning to Lose (w/Willie Nelson)" All American Made  (Third Man, 17)
- Anderson East, "Somebody Pick Up My Pieces" Encore  (Elektra, 18)
- Hiss Golden Messenger, "I Am the Song" Hallelujah Anyhow  (Merge, 17)
- Sue Foley, "Ice Queen" Ice Queen  (Stony Plain, 18)
- Courtney Marie Andrews, "May Your Kindness Remain" May Your Kindness Remain  (Mama Bird, 18)
- Mike & the Moonpies, "Beaches of Biloxi" Steak Night at the Prairie Rose  (Moonpies, 18)
- Old Crow Medicine Show, "Flicker & Shine" Volunteer  (Columbia, 18)  D
- Kevin Gordon, "Cadillac Jack's #1 Son" Cadillac Jack's #1 Son  (Shanachie, 98)
- Ronnie Eaton, "South Hampton Rain" Hand That Mocked Them  (Eaton, 18)
- Richmond Fontaine, "Horace Hopper" Don't Skip Out On Me  (Fluff & Gravy, 18)
- Haley Heynderickx, "Untitled God Song" I Need to Start a Garden  (Mama Bird, 18)  D
- Sonny Smith, "Burnin' Up (w/Angel Olsen)" Rod For Your Love  (Easy Eye, 18)
- Courtney Patton, "Shove" What It's Like to Fly Alone  (Patton, 18)  D
- Gourds, "Shreveport" Haymaker!  (Yep Roc, 09)
- Blackberry Smoke, "Flesh & Bone" Find a Light  (3 Legged, 18)  D
- Shovels & Rope, "Untitled 1 (w/Matthew Logan Vasquez)" Busted Jukebox Vol. 2  (New West, 17)
- Blue Mountain, "Spring of 65" Roots  (Fundamental, 01)
- Calexico, "Under the Wheels" Thread That Keeps Us  (Anti, 18)
- Eleven Hundred Springs, "Nobody Falls In Love In a Place Like This" Finer Things In Life  (EHS, 18)  D
- Lindi Ortega, "Comeback Kid" Liberty  (Shadowbox, 18)  D
- Parker McCollum, "South of the City Lights" Probably Wrong  (McCollum, 17)
- Tommy Emmanuel, "Deep River Blues (w/Jason Isbell)" Accomplice One  (CGP, 18)
- Drew Kennedy, "Jackson" At Home in the Big Lonesome  (Atlas Aurora, 17)
- Caitlin Canty, "Take Me For a Ride" Motel Bouquet  (Tone Tree, 18)  D
- Tim Easton, "Black Hearted Ways" Break Your Mother's Heart  (New West, 03)
- Great Peacock, "One Way Ticket" Gran Pavo Real  (Peacock, 18)  D
- Fruition, "Turn to Dust" Watching It All Fall Apart  (LoHi, 18)
- Mountain Goats, "Jeff Davis County Blues" All Hail West Texas  (Merge, 02)
- Micah P Hinson, "Beneath the Rose" At the British Broadcasting Corp  (BBC, 18)  D

Monday, January 15, 2018

ROUTES & BRANCHES  
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
January 14, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

If you've spent some time with our ROUTES-cast below (*), you know I'm fond of A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster.  That's our release calendar to which you can connect via the link to the right.  I'll always say that it'll assure you'll never miss another obscure roots music release.  Heh.  Anyway, Routes & Branches is driven by novelty, focused on the frontiers of our kind of music.  And this time of year we begin to get a good sense of what our Spring might sound like.  So for this week's posting I thought we'd focus on what's forthcoming, some of the stuff I'm looking forward to most.  There's a real good chance I'll devote a full review to most if not all of these, once I have access to the complete CD.  Until then, some thoughts on what we've heard to date.

HC McEntire, Lionheart  (Merge, Jan 26)  I loved both Miracle Temple and How to Dance, Mount Moriah's last couple records.  File them alongside fellow North Carolinian Hiss Golden Messenger for smart, tuneful roots with a shot of true soul.  McEntire's debut solo record reportedly amplifies that soul, while speaking more boldly as a lesbian in the Southern US.  She might be our next Alynda Lee Segarra.  Extra heft is contributed by studio guests Tift Merritt, Angel Olsen, Phil Cook and others.

What we've heard: "A Lamb A Dove", "Quartz in the Valley"

Mike & the Moonpies, Steak Night at the Prairie Rose  (Moonpies, Feb 2)  The last couple years have seen Austin's Mike Harmeier and co. increasingly praised for their steady strength as a live act.  Their fifth studio set seeks to package that honky tonk spirit, favoring spark and drive over studio perfection.  "Beaches of Biloxi" and "Road Crew" (and their recent single, "Country Music is Dead") find the Moonpies staking their claim more confidently than ever before.

What we've heard: "Beaches of Biloxi", "Road Crew"

Richmond Fontaine, Don't Skip Out on Me  (Fluff & Gravy, Feb 2)  With the release of 2016's You Can't Go Back ... Willy Vlautin and his band packed up the plantation.  In light of the pending publication of the frontman's new novel, the band came back together to record an instrumental soundtrack to the book of the same name.  I've had the privilege of hearing the whole CD, but haven't gotten my hands on the novel.  That said, Richmond Fontaine have become expert at generating a mood or painting a picture using nothing more than a pedal steel and guitars.

What we've heard:  "Horace Hopper", "Dream of the City and the City Itself"


Caleb Caudle, Crushed Coins  (Cornelius Chapel, Feb 23)  Probably looking forward to this collection more than any other during these early days of the year.  On the heels of Paint Another Layer and Carolina Ghost, this could be his moment to shine.  To my ear, Caudle plays at the intersection of Justin Townes Earle and Jason Isbell, demonstrated a masterful way with a simple song.  He's recently commented that Ghost is about as country as he'll get, and early singles hint at some new musical directions (plus, producer Jon Ashley's resume features work with Hiss Golden Messenger and War on Drugs).

What we've heard:  "Empty Arms", "Love That's Wild"


Sue Foley, Ice Queen  (Stony Plain, Mar 2)  This one's a surprise even for me.  The Canadian Foley (yeah, no relation) has been a student of fellow blues guitarists since her teen years.  I've been trying to avoid the blues since I was a teenager.  So ...  But Foley's a fine writer whose talent overflows the genre buckets, and a singer whose roadworn and weary voice can move mountains.  Guests include folks she's admired and with whom she's collaborated during her years in Austin, such as Billy Gibbons, Jimmie Vaughan and Charlie Sexton.

What we've heard: "Come to Me"

6 String Drag, Top of the World  (Schoolkids, Mar 9)  This Episode features a song from a remastered 1997 record originally produced by Steve Earle.  Way back then, Kenny Roby and Rob Keller helped birth what we know today as alt.country. After many years on the shelf, the stuff still sounds sweet and slightly dangerous.  This will be their second project to hit shelves following the band's hiatus of nearly 2 decades.

What we've heard:  nada



... and so very many more!  Calexico, Fruition, Ruby Boots, JD Wilkes, Erika Wennerstrom, American Aquarium, Austin Lucas (2 albums!) ...

- Ron Pope, "Southern Cross" Ron Pope & the Nighthawks  (Brooklyn Basement, 16)
- Ron Pope, "Figure it Out" Worktapes  (Brooklyn Basement, 18)  D
^- Caleb Caudle, "Love That's Wild" Crushed Coins  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)
- Anderson East, "Somebody Pick Up My Pieces" Encore  (Elektra, 18)
^ Sue Foley w/Charlie Sexton, "Come to Me" Ice Queen  (Stony Plain, 18)
- Danny & the Champions of the World, "Gotta Get Things Right in My Life" Brilliant Light  (Loose, 17)
- Fruition, "Northern Town" Watching it All Fall Apart  (LoHi, 18)
- Wood Brothers, "Happiness Jones" One Drop of Truth  (Honey Jar, 18)
- Townes Van Zandt, "St John the Gambler" Our Mother the Mountain  (Fat Possum, 69)
- Nathaninel Rateliff & Night Sweats, "You Worry Me" Tearing at the Seams  (Concord, 18)  D
- Samantha Fish, "American Dream" Belle of the West  (RufRecords, 17)  D
- Marie/Lepanto, "Famished Raven" Tenkiller  (Big Legal Mess, 18)
- Low Anthem, "Ghost Woman Blues" Smart Flesh  (Nonesuch, 10)
-^ 6 String Drag, "Bottle of Blues" High Hat  (Schoolkids, 97/18)  D
- Erika Wennerstrom, "Extraordinary Love" Sweet Unknown  (Partisan, 18)  D
- Jason Boland & the Stragglers, "Proud Souls" Pearl Snaps  (Proud Souls, 99)
^ Richmond Fontaine, "Dream of the City and the City Itself" Don't Skip Out On Me  (Fluff & Gravy, 18)
- Kim Richey w/Chuck Prophet, "Whistle on Occasion" Edgeland  (Yep Roc, 18)  D
^ Mike & the Moonpies, "Road Crew" Steak Night at the Prairie Rose  (Moonpies, 18)
- Jeff Hyde, "Henry Ford" Norman Rockwell World  (Hyde, 18)  D
- Drag the River, "Waste of Time Valentine" Drag the River  (Xtra Mile, 13)
- Ryan Bingham, "How Shall a Sparrow Fly" Hostiles (Sndtk)  (Axster Bingham, 18)  D
- First Aid Kit, "Ruins" Ruins  (Columbia, 18)
- Angel Olsen, "Tougher Than the Rest" Phases  (Jagjaguwar, 18)
^ HC McEntire, "Quartz in the Valley" Lionheart  (Merge, 18)
- Richard Buckner, "Born Into Giving It Up" Impasse  (Merge, 02)
- Courtney Marie Andrews, "May Your Kindness Remain" May Your Kindness Remain  (Mama Bird, 18)  D
- Alela Diane, "Ether & Wood" Cusp  (Alela, 18)
- Chris Knight, "Hard Edges" Trailer Tapes  (Drifter's Church, 07)
- Porter & the Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes, "November Down" Don't Go Baby  (Cornelius Chapel, 17)

Tuesday, January 09, 2018



ROUTES & BRANCHES  
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
January 8, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

It's been some time since I've so enthusiastically received the news of a new record.  Two artists who have largely defined the vibe of Routes & Branches over the past couple years, collaborating on a project with such an evocative sound.  Will Johnson has paired to date with Jason Molina, Vic Chesnutt, M Ward, Jay Farrar and many more, not to mention his catalog with South San Gabriel and Centro-Matic.  Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster has produced three CDs with Water Liars, as well as last year's superb Constant Stranger solo set.  Together they perform as Marie/Lepanto, and are on the verge of releasing a remarkable project called Tenkiller (Big Legal Mess, January 26).

The duo discovered their common musical ground when Water Liars opened for Centro-Matic during the band's farewell tour.  Marie/Lepanto reportedly earned its moniker in tribute to a roadsign between SE Missouri and W Arkansas where Johnson and Kinkel-Schuster came of age, respectively.  The primary sessions were set to tape at Sam Phillips Studio in Memphis.

Tenkiller succeeds in advancing the respective sonic palette of both artists, reigning in Johnson's tendency for sprawl 'n squall (not complaining), while simultaneously pushing the limits of Kinkel-Schuster's quieter acoustic work (still not complaining).   Aside from producer Jeff Powell, the duo are responsible for every bit of Tenkiller's thick, rich sound, from writing and playing to sharing the vocals. The songs respect the unique spirit of both, without sounding fractured or schizophrenic.

"Inverness" is Tenkiller's crunchy and discordant beast, Crazy Horse guitars and garage worthy drumming propelling the track.  A reckless electric solo and coda push the piece towards "12", in all the most lovely and satisfying ways.  The dual guitars of "High Desert" both chime and grind, riding a blues riff and puzzling over a riddle: Your love is a problem / A knot I can't untie / A map I can't follow / A sum that won't divide.

The term "high lonesome sound" has already been trademarked by bluegrass, but it's an apt descriptor for what's going on throughout Tenkiller.  The harmonies shared between Johnson and Kinkel-Schuster will never be mistaken for the Louvins, but the tension created can be haunting on songs like "Simple Scenes".  "Patient Patient Man" patiently unfolds from an initially understated black key reflection into guitars ringing into an empty sky.

Instrumentally, moments of noise are balanced by relative hush.  And even when the guitars, piano and percussion are allowed more quiet space in which to drift, the songs err towards the melodic and purposeful.  The intimate "Famished Raven" evokes the dark night blues of Jason Molina, emerging as another watermark in Will Johnson's vast catalog.  When the night it comes devouring / Like some tired famished raven seething / Quick to the punch, and then just maybe / You will start to see / Just what you need.

Also on our generous plate this Episode is Ain't It Like the Cosmos (Last Chance, Mar 9), a new solo project by Kinkel-Schuster's foil in Water Liars, Andrew Bryant.  Bryant's is the louder and more direct of these projects, working wonders with more traditional song structures.

He lays out his mission on "Practical Man": I used to be the type to hide my mistakes / Bury them in a mix of guitars and bass / But the older I get the more I want them in my face / I'm a practical man at the end of the day.

But let's backtrack a couple cuts to the record's opener, "Robert Downey Jr's Scars".  With charcoal black guitars that sputter in and out of the picture, it's a remarkable piece that is alternately vulnerable and hammer-heavy.  It also rivals the recent work of Mark Kozelek for quotidian detail:  Iron Man was on the tv / Poured myself another beer / Thinking 'bout all the pain that's in my heart / Thinking 'bout Robert Downey Jr's scars / And man I know just what it takes / Yeah man I know just what it takes / To start again.

Cosmos is bold in its soul mining and revelation.  Bryant sidesteps the troubled shadow of his forebear on "I Am Not My Father's Son", ticking off his conscious efforts to avoid the sins of the father.  The refrain "I am not my father's son" can be heard as both a declaration and a mantra, a reminder-to-self that things will be different.  As with Tenkiller, Cosmos features moments of great instrumental drama, though Bryant is more likely to add subtle studio touches and synth textures to achieve his sonic goals.

That said, there are moments of more straightforward Southern rock 'n soul.  "Practical Man" mines an Isbell-esque vein, heavy and tuneful guitars sharing the scene with thoughtful lyrics and a gradual build that will catch most in its path.  "I Take Pride" offers a similar return:  I take pride in my work / I take pride in my hurt / I take pride in my word / And I'll say what I mean for what that's worth.

 Where Marie/Lepanto's lyrics tend towards a more poetic expression, on tunes like "Pay Your Rent" Bryant shows himself to be a much more direct communicator, even to the point of harsh self-deprecation.  Above lazy pedal steel and a strummed acoustic:  No one needs your story, it's so contrived / No there's nothing really special in there / There's nothing really special in your mind / So just go to work and pay your rent / Try to love yourself and live with it.

"Bittersweet" is a lovely ode to Bryant's beloved Mississippi:  Lord ain't it bittersweet / This place we call our home / Ain't it like the cosmos / To light up the magnolias at dawn.  It's a fleeting but passionate statement, heartbreaking in its simplicity.

Tenkiller and Ain't It Like the Cosmos  - records that do justice to the legacy of artists like Jason Molina and Mark Kozelek and Richard Buckner, folks who believe in and practice the rhythm and sound of words.  Writers who map the shadows of day-to-day life, while creating pure poetry from its familiar bits and pieces. While the release date for Andrew Bryant's record was actually bumped back to March 9, these are tremendous albums with which to launch our 2018 year in posts.

- Black Keys, "Never Gonna Give You Up" Brothers  (Nonesuch, 10)
- Dan Auerbach, "Cellophane Girl" single  (Easy Eye, 18)  D
- Ruby Boots, "It's So Cruel" Don't Talk About It  (Bloodshot, 18)
- JD Wilkes, "Walk Between the Raindrops" Fire Dream  (Big Legal Mess, 18)
- Anderson East, "Girlfriend" Encore  (Elektra, 18)
- Marah, "Walt Whitman Bridge" If You Didn't Laugh You'd Cry  (Yep Roc, 05)
- Rodney Crowell, "Shake Your Money Maker" Strange Angels: In Flight With Elmore James  (Sylvan Songs, 18)  D
- Sue Foley w/Charlie Sexton, "Come To Me" Ice Queen  (Stony Plain, 18)  D
- Gasoline Lollipops, "Child of God" Soul Mine  (Ellenburg, 17)
- Pearl Charles, "Sleepless Dreamer" Sleepless Dreamer  (Kanine, 18)  D
- Railbenders, "Bourbon County Line" Medicine Show  (Railbenders, 17)  D
^ Marie/Lepanto, "Inverness" Tenkiller  (Big Legal Mess, 18)
- Crooked Fingers, "New Drink for the Old Drunk" Crooked Fingers  (Merge, 00)
- Caleb Caudle, "Love That's Wild" Crushed Coins  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)
- John K Samson, "Prayer for Ruby Elm" Winter Wheat  (Anti, 16)
- James McMurtry, "State of the Union" single  (McMurtry, 18)  D
- Mike & the Moonpies, "Beaches of Biloxi" Steak Night at the Prairie Rose  (Moonpies, 18)  D
- Craig Gerdes, "Slide Off Your Satin Sheets" Smokin' Drinkin' & Gamblin'  (Sol, 18)  D
- Dallas Moore, "Mr Honky Tonk" Mr Honky Tonk  (Sol, 18)  D
- Fruition, "I'll Never Sing Your Name" Watching it All Fall Apart  (LoHi, 18)  D
- Sonny Smith w/Angel Olsen, "Burnin' Up" Rod For Your Love  (Easy Eye, 18)
- Richmond Fontaine, "Horace Hopper" Don't Skip Out On Me  (Fluff & Gravy, 18)  D
- Lilly Hiatt, "Everything I Had" Trinity Lane  (New West, 17)
^ Andrew Bryant, "Robert Downey Jr's Scars" Ain't It Like the Cosmos  (Last Chance, 17)  D
- Shovels & Rope w/Hayes Carll, "Death or Glory" Busted Jukebox Vol. 2  (New West, 17)
- Ronnie Eaton, "Devil in My Suitcase" Hand That Mocked Them & the Heart That Fed  (Eaton, 18)  D
- Jim White, "Wash Away a World" Waffles Triangles & Jesus  (Loose, 17)
- Lambchop, "King of Nothing Never" What Another Man Spills  (Merge, 98)
- Mary Gauthier, "Brothers" Rifles & Rosary Beads  (In the Black, 18)
- Glossary, "Little Caney" Better Angels of Our Nature  (Young Buffalo, 08)