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Sunday, April 24, 2016

ROUTES & BRANCHES
home for the americana diaspora
April 23, 2017
Scott Foley

Back in July of last year, I wrote in praise of Amanda Anne Platt and the Honeycutters who had just released their 3rd record, Me Oh My.  Barely a year later, Platt and co. return to the ring with On the Ropes, produced by the songwriter herself and boasting some knockout writing (see what I did there?).  That last post opined that folks heaping praise on Kacey Musgraves might do well to turn their ears towards the Honeycutters.  Perhaps a more fitting comparison would be Lori McKenna, who has placed several of her songs on mainstream Nashville radio while maintaining her integrity as a solo artist with a golden ear for melody.  Platt writes on "Back Row": I told you once that truth is a song / Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I just want to write it / But I've been so close I could smell her breath / Like cinnamon and death, made me wonder what / I'm fighting.  On Ropes, Platt asks the hard questions and avoids easy answers, both lyrically and musically.  The pieces are familiar ones from just about any other country bar band, the pedal steel, the mandolin and guitar with touches of 'grass, gospel and folk.  Platt's writing keeps these in play while raising the Honeycutters above the overly familiar tricks and cliches of the crowded genre.  Love lost is hardly new territory, but she writes about it from a novel place:  So I thank God for all  his lesser angels / Here beside me in this bar tonight / 'Cause flannel shirts and blue jeans / And the promise of strangers / Make for a less blinding shade of white.  For every ready-4-rockin' cut like "Let's Get Drunk", there is another that will stop you in your tracks with nuance and sensitivity.  From the heartbreaking "500 Pieces":  It took four strong men to take you / Took the whole damn world to break you / Now you're living in an old hotel / Cable TV and a patchwork quilt and there's 500 pieces / Of your mind.  More common are midtempo masterpieces like the title cut or "Blue Besides", songs that betray Platt's increasingly strong ear for a sweet melody and her timeless and tasteful way with a vocal delivery.  Even her take on Leonard Cohen's ubiquitous "Hallelujah" comes across as new and interesting.  Most impressively, the classic seems completely in its element among her own worthy creations.

Fact is, I could've written about any one of several new full album arrivals this week.  Austin Lucas' Between the Moon and the Midwest might be this month's best record few people are talking about (so far).  From Fort Collins, Arliss Nancy's Greater Divides scratches that itch for the hard stuff.  And Bonnie Bishop collaborates with Dave Cobb for what promises to be a suitably soulful result.  Plus, Eric Lindell does roots, rock and soul effortlessly.   

- Benjamin Booker, "Chippewa" Benjamin Booker  (ATO, 14)
- Bonnevilles, "I've Come To Far For Love To Die" Arrow Pierce My Heart  (Alive Naturalsound, 16)
- Eric Lindell, "Wrong Too Long" Matters Of the Heart  (Red Parlor, 16)
- Bonnie Bishop, "Ain't Who I Was" Ain't Who I Was  (Plan BB, 16)  D
- Shawn Colvin & Steve Earle, "You're Right (I'm Wrong)" Colvin & Earle  (Concord, 16)
- Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones, "Wondering" Little Windows  (Cooking Vinyl, 16)
- Whitehorse, "My Babe" NorthernSouth Vol. 1  (Six Shooter, 16)  D
- AA Bondy, "Mercy Wheel" When the Devil's Loose  (Fat Possum, 09)
- Case/lang/Veirs, "Honey and Smoke" Case/lang/Veirs  (Anti, 16)
- Robert Ellis, "How I Love You" Robert Ellis  (New West, 16)
- Left Arm Tan, "Daylight Redemption" Lorene  (LAT, 16)
^ Honeycutters, "On the Ropes" On the Ropes  (Organic, 16)
- Dwight Yoakam, "Long Way To Go" 3 Pears  (Reprise, 12)
- Austin Lucas, "Ain't We Free" Between the Moon and the Midwest  (Last Chance, 16)
- Quaker City Night Hawks, "Beat the Machine" El Astronauta  (Lightning Rod, 16)  D
- Sturgill Simpson, "All Around You" Sailor's Guide To Earth  (Atlantic, 16)
- Ray Wylie Hubbard, "Messenger" Crusades of the Restless Knights  (Philo, 99)
- Doublewide, "One O'Clock" II  (Carhouse, 16)  C, D
- Town Mountain, "House With No Windows" Southern Crescent  (LoHi, 16)
- Turnpike Troubadours, "Southeastern Son" Goodbye Normal Street  (Bossier City, 12)
- Mount Moriah, "Cardinal Cross" How To Dance  (Merge, 16)
- Al Scorch, "Everybody Out" Circle Round the Signs  (Bloodshot, 16)
- Phosphorescent w/Jenny Lewis, "Sugaree"  Day of the Dead  (4AD, 16)
- Yarn, "This Is the Year" This Is the Year  (Yarn, 16)
- Arliss Nancy, "Alluvia!" Greater Divides  (Arliss Nancy, 16)  C, D
- Simone Felice, "Morning I Get To Hell (live)" From the Violent Banks Of the Kaaterskill  (Mighty Hudson, 15)
- Denver, "Turnstyled, Junkpiled" Days Full Of Rain: Portland Tribute To Townes Van Zandt  (Woodphone, 16)
- Hayes Carll, "Jealous Moon" Lovers & Leavers  (Thirty Tigers, 16)
- Woods, "Sun City Creeps" City Sun Eater In the River Of Light  (Woodsist, 16)
- Kevin Morby, "I Have Been To the Mountain"  Singing Saw  (Dead Oceans, 16)

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