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Thursday, May 19, 2016

ROUTES & BRANCHES  
featuring the very best of americna, alt.country and roots music
May 14, 2016
Scott Foley

The Americana Music Association announced its nominees for their 2016 Honors & Awards, to be awarded in September at the Ryman.  Q:  Any surprises?  A:  Nope.  There's a mix of the deserving (Isbell, Rateliff, Moreland) and the ol' favorites (Raitt, Lucinda, and the Milk Carton Kids who I don't quite get but the americana establishment seems to embrace like a warm fuzzy pillow).  You've also got your "hmm ... wait, wasn't that released a really long time ago?!"  (Stapleton, Emmylou & Rodney, Moreland).  With so few categories at their disposal, the same artists tend to bogart too many of the slots (call it "pulling an Isbell").  That said, I've heard the live music and festivities surrounding the awards is a must see; a who's who of our kind of music.  I will hereby accept any donations of plane tickets and lodging from readers and/or listeners who are in the market to shed some karma this fall.

Seems it's near impossible to review Jeremy Nail's second solo release without mentioning that he's lost a leg to cancer since his debut.  Story has it that Alejandro Escovedo brought him aboard as a touring guitarist after witnessing just one of Nail's shows.  The Texas legend cemented his endorsement by offering to produce My Mountain following the artist's recovery.  While the record deserves to be treated for its own musical merits, the songs are haunted by the life changing events that seemingly gave birth to them.  "Tell Me What Else You Got" stares the episode down directly: I guarantee you haven't seen what I've seen / I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy / The face of death staring back at me / Tell me what else you got.  Nail's songs are dark and driven by Chris Masterson's bold electric guitar lines that can kick in unexpectedly and with the force of an argument.  The lyrics drag us through the crucible fire, though it must be said that the majority of Jeremy Nails songs are as much about the triumph as they are about the tragedy.  It's far from a cheap victory.  "Brave" advises: They say that without dark / You can see no light, braving the tightrope between sparse acoustic and the lush resolution of strings.  The title cut breaks the spell a bit with stronger rhythms that recall the haunted blues of Ray Wylie Hubbard, and "Dreams" finds Nail trying his hand at a momentarily bright Buddy Holly positivity.  There's not a load of twang to be had on My Mountain, though you'll run into a bit on "Heroes".  All these heroes already paved your path / You're bound to find yourself following their tracks ...  It's my sense that, no matter how many friends and family gather at your side, illness is at heart a private and lonely burden.  There is such a weight and a sludge to the cinematic "Down To the Ocean":  When I make it down to the ocean / I'll toss the overcoat behind me / And jump on in / Here the hum of the tides in motion / Let the waves wash away my failure / To come back new again.  Masterson's guitars are simultaneously muddied and soaring, an otherworldly baptism.   

- Be Good Tanyas, "Rowdy Blues" Chinatown  (Nettwerk, 03)
- Jolie Holland, "Buckskin Stallion Blues" Days Full of Rain: Portland Tribute to Townes Van Zandt  (Wood Phone, 16)
- Frazey Ford, "Firecracker" Obadiah  (Nettwerk, 10)
- Ryan Adams, "Amy" Heartbreaker (Deluxe) (PaxAm, 16)
- Harvest Thieves, "Least of These" Rival  (Holy Mt Sounds, 16)
- Austin Lucas, "Unbroken Hearts" Between the Moon & the Midwest  (Last Chance, 16)
- McDougall, "Shaken" Reaching For Some Light  (McDougall, 16)
- Joey Kneiser, "Good Ones" Wildness  (This is American Music, 15)
- Adam Faucett, "Fat Little Angel" single  (Faucett, 16)  D
- Arliss Nancy, "Bar of the Century" Greater Divides  (Arliss Nancy, 16)  C
- Robert Ellis, "Couples Skate" Robert Ellis  (New West, 16)
- Elizabeth Cook, "Dyin" Exodus of Venus  (Thirty Tigers, 16)
^ Jeremy Nail, "My Mountain" My Mountain  (Open Nine, 16)
- Rob Baird, "Wrong Side of the River" Wrong Side of the River  (Hard Luck, 16)
- John Doe, "Sweet Reward" The Westerner  (Cool Rock, 16)
- Al Scorch, "Pennsylvania Turnpike" Circle Round the Signs  (Bloodshot, 16)
- Luke Bell, "All Blue" Luke Bell  (Thirty Tigers, 16)
- Slim Cessna's Auto Club, "Commandment 4" Commandments According to SCAC  (SCACUNINCORPORATED, 16)  C, D
- Bonnie Bishop, "Ain't Who I Was" Ain't Who I Was  (Plan BB, 16)
- Doug Sahm, "Beautiful Texas Sunshine" Return of Wayne Douglas  (Tomato, 00)
- Lori McKenna, "Wreck You" Bird & the Rifle  (CN, 16)  D
- Eli "Paperboy" Reed, "Strangest Thing" My Way Home  (Yep Roc, 16)
- Adia Victoria, "Mortimer's Blues" Beyond the Bloodhounds  (Atlantic, 16)
- Eric Lindell, "Indian Summer" Matters of the Heart  (Red Parlor, 16)
- Greyhounds, "It's Good To Be Alive" Change of Pace  (Ardent, 16)
- Case/lang/Veirs, "Delirium" Case/lang/Veirs  (Anti, 16)
- Darrell Scott, "Waiting for the Clothes to Get Clean" Couchville Sessions  (Full Light, 16)
- Hard Working Americans, "Massacre" Rest in Chaos  (Melvin, 16)

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