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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

ROUTES & BRANCHES 
a home for the americana diaspora
June 27, 2015
Scott Foley

WHAT's SO GREAT ABOUT the FIRST HALF OF 2015?!!

Yes, we're halfway through this great experiment called 2015. Please allow me to lean back and stroke my chin thoughtfully as I reflect upon my 20 favorite records of the year to date.  In order of appearance, of course. 


Justin Townes Earle  (1/13, Vagrant)
Ryan Bingham  (1/20, Axster Bingham)
American Aquarium  (2/3, American Aquarium)
Kill County  (2/16, Kill County)
James McMurtry  (2/24, Complicated Game)
Andrew Combs  (3/3, Coin)
Ryan Culwell  (3/3, Lightning Rod)
Porter (3/10, Porter)
William Elliott Whitmore  (3/27, Anti)
Spirit Family Reunion  (4/14, SFR)
Alabama Shakes  (4/21, ATO)
John Moreland (4/21, Old Omens)
Charlie Parr  (4/28, Red House)
Chris Stapleton  (5/4, Mercury)
Banditos  (5/12, Bloodshot)
Tallest Man On Earth  (5/12, Dead Oceans)
Deslondes  (6/5, New West)
Jason Isbell  (6/17, Southeastern)
Leon Bridges  (6/19, Columbia)
Nathaniel Rateliff & Night Sweats   (8/21, Stax)

I'll tag Ryan Culwell or Porter as the year's biggest surprises thus far, followed closely by Banditos (docked a surprise point for being on the Bloodshot label, from whom excellence is never a surprise).  Alabama Shakes and John Moreland followed up career defining records with admirable grace, as did Jason Isbell.  Big Names from our genre like McMurtry, Bingham and Earle (Jr) exceeded my expectations.  And long awaited discs from Leon Bridges and Colorado's Nathaniel Rateliff & Night Sweats cemented the deal with soul.  Chris Stapleton saved country music from itself (plus, I just previewed Kasey Musgraves sophomore release in full, and consider me impressed). It's all just plain good, and if I can look forward to 20 equally impressive records for the second half of 2015, I'll be a content programmer.

*  Steve Earle, "Hard-Core Troubadour"  I Feel Alright  (Warner, 96)
*  Steve Earle, "Acquainted With the Wind"  Terraplane  (New West, 15)
*  Richard Thompson, "She Never Could Resist a Winding Road"  Still  (Beeswing, 15)
*  Lindi Ortega, "Ashes"  Faded Gloryville  (Last Gang, 15)
*  David Ramirez, "Harder To Lie"  Fables  (Sweetworld, 15)  D
*  Brent Best, "Queen Bee"  Your Dog Champ  (Last Chance, 15)
*  Chris Stapleton, "Daddy Doesn't Pray Anymore"  Traveller  (Mercury, 15)
*  Jessica Lee Wilkes, "Something's Goin' On"  Lone Wolf  (Free Dirt, 15)  D
*  Honey Honey, "Big Man"  3  (Rounder, 15)
*  Charlie Parr, "Temperance River Blues"  Stumpjumper  (Red House, 15)
*  Eilen Jewell, "Pages"  Sundown Over Ghost Town  (Signature Sounds, 15)
*  Deslondes, "Low Down Soul"  Deslondes  (New West, 15)
*  Sam Outlaw, "Ghost Town"  Angeleno  (Thirty Tigers, 15)
*  Andrew Combs, "Month of Bad Habits"  All These Dreams  (Thirty Tigers, 15)
*  Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin, "World's In a Bad Condition"  Lost Time  (Yep Roc, 15)  D
*  Leon Bridges, "Flowers"  Coming Home  (Capitol, 15)
^  Nathaniel Rateliff & Night Sweats, "Howling At Nothing"  Night Sweats  (Stax, 15)  C
*  Samantha Crain, "Elk City"  Under Branch & Thorn & Tree  (Full Time Hobby, 15)
*  Jason Isbell, "To a Band That I Loved"  Something More Than Free  (Southeastern, 15)
*  Centro-Matic, "To Unleash the Horses Now"  Distance and Clime  (Idol, 01)
*  Water Liars, "Let It Breathe"  Water Liars  (Fat Possum, 14)
*  T Hardy Morris, "My Me"  Drownin' On a Mountain Top  (Dangerbird, 15)
*  Left Lane Cruiser, "Heavy Honey"  Dirty Spliff Blues  (Alive Naturalsound, 15)
*  Heartless Bastards, "Black Cloud"  Restless Ones  (Partisan, 15)
*  Giant Sand, "Every Now and Then"  Heartbreak Pass  (New West, 15)
*  Giant Sand, "Brand New Swamp Thing"  Blurry Blue Mountain  (Fire, 10)
*  Lonesome Wyatt & Rachel Brooke, "Miles and Miles"  Bad Omen  (Tribulation, 15)
*  Daniel Romano, "If I've Only One Time Askin'"  If I've Only One Time Askin'  (New West, 15)  D
*  JD McPherson, "Everybody's Talking 'Bout the All-American"   Let the Good Times Roll  (Rounder, 15)


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