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Sunday, August 01, 2021

ROUTES-cast AUGUST 1, 2021

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
August 1, 2021
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

A year ago I was lauding five records that had defined July 2020: Margo Price, Joshua Ray Walker, Jayhawks, SG Goodman and Courtney Marie Andrews. A full three (3) of these would earn a place in the year's favorites. Time will tell if July 2021 demonstrates the same track record, though it's certainly been the busiest month thus far for A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster. We'll share them with you in order of appearance:

- Andrew Bryant, A Meaningful Connection  (Sentimental Noises, Jul 9)
- John R Miller, Depreciated  (Rounder, Jul 16)
- Yola, Stand for Myself  (Easy Eye, Jul 30)
- Charlie Parr, Last of the Better Days Ahead  (Smithsonian, Jul 30)
- Son Volt, Electro Melodier  (Transmit Sound, Jul 30)

July's been a long, hot month. Gazing into the haze of the next 30 days, we're keeping an eye out for promising new stuff from Mike & the Moonpies, Elijah Ocean, Sierra Ferrell, Sturgill Simpson, Tre Burt and more. 

- Alejandro Escovedo, "Bandido Para Ti" La Cruzada  (Yep Roc, Aug 27)
- Los Lobos, "Misery" Native Sons  (New West, 21)
- Yola, "Break the Bough" Stand For Myself  (Easy Eye, 21)
- Son Volt, "Arkey Blue" Electro Melodier  (Transmit Sound, 21)
- Iguanas, "If You Should Ever Fall on Hard Times" If You Should Ever Fall on Hard Times  (Yep Roc, 08)
- Anna Tivel, "Riverside Hotel" Blue World  (Fluff & Gravy, 21)
- Left Arm Tan, "Walking Back to Georgia" Road Trip Songs EP  (Wixen, 21)
- Parker McCollum, "Wait Outside" Gold Chain Cowboy  (MCA Nashville, 21)
- Deer Tick, "Jumpstarting (Live)" Live From Fort Adams  (Deer Tick, 21)
- Secret Sisters, "Dust Can't Kill Me" Home in This World: Woody Guthrie's Dust Bowl Ballads  (Elektra, Sep 10)  D
- Boy Golden, "Smoke on the Breeze" Church of Better Daze  (Six Shooter, 21)
- Dori Freeman, "The Storm" Ten Thousand Roses  (Blue Hens, Sep 10)  D
- Connells, "Really Great" Steadman's Wake  (Black Park, Sep 24)  D
- Christopher Paul Stelling, "Wwyllyd" Forgiving It All  (Tone Tree, Sep 24)
- Emmylou Harris, "All My Tears" Wrecking Ball  (Nonesuch, 09)
- Anders Parker, "Wolves" Wolf Reckoning  (Recorded & Freed, Oct 1)  D
- Riddy Arman, "Half a Heart Keychain" Riddy Arman  (LaHonda, Sep 10)  D
- David Ramirez, "Fires" American Soil  (Ramirez, 09)
- Jesse Daniel, "Gray" Beyond These Walls  (Die True, 21)
- Matt the Electrician, "Home Again" We Imagined an Ending  (MtE, Nov 5)  D
- Hayes Carll, "You Get It All" You Get It All  (Dualtone, Oct 29)  D
- Be Good Tanyas, "A Thousand Tiny Pieces" Hello Love  (Nettwerk, 06)
^ Buffalo Nichols, "Lost & Lonesome" Buffalo Nichols  (Fat Possum, Oct 15)  D
- Dave Hause, "Sandy Sheets" Blood Harmony  (Soundly, Oct 22)  D
- Emily Scott Robinson, "Old Gods" American Siren  (Oh Boy, Oct 29)  D
- Charlie Parr, "Blues For Whitefish Lake, 1975" Last of the Better Days Ahead  (Smithsonian, 21)
- Robert Ellis & Belaver, "70s Adventure" single  (Niles City, 21)  D
- Futurebirds & Carl Broemel, "Put Up Keep Up" Bloomin' EP  (VL4L, 21)  D
- Elijah Ocean, "Ice Machine" Born Blue  (Ocean, Aug 13)  
- Hailey Whitters & Ernest, "Islands in the Stream" Countrypolitan EP  (Pigasus, Sep 17)  D

To enjoy our weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  Or click here for a preview:

Thursday, July 29, 2021


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
July 29, 2021
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

Can an artist be embraced as a co-founder of an entire genre, but remain underappreciated? More to the point, can an artist have an immediately recognizable sound, yet continue to create relevant, forward-moving music? For an answer to these questions and more, see Jay Farrar and Son Volt. Behind the indelible one-two-three opening volley of Trace (95), Straightaways (97) and Wide Swing Tremolo (98), Farrar & co. defined themselves against the groundbreaking work of Uncle Tupelo. Following some noteworthy solo and collaborative work, and with the inception of his own Transmit Sound label, Son Volt was reformed for 2005's folk-inspired Okemah and the Melody of Riot. The past fifteen years have witnessed evolutions in the band's membership, but records like American Central Dust (09) and the socio-political minded Union (19) have documented both Farrar's reliability and his commitment to stylistic evolution that bring us to Electro Melodier (Transmit Sound, July 30). 

Jay Farrar set forth to devote Son Volt's tenth studio record to the music of his youth, before the pandemic interfered. More specifically, Electro Melodier shifts its focus to the state of our world, though it rarely names names. Titled after a honky-tonk reportedly frequented by Hank Williams, "Arkey Blue" rides a bluesy electric guitar line into a piano-led reflection on our snowballing damage to the planet. It's alright, he intones in his familiar stoic delivery, the worst will soon be over / Let the rhythm rise like a banner / With more sorrow than anger. While he doesn't mince words, Farrar doesn't spend time pointing an accusing finger or shaming the instigators. "The Globe" is offered in two formats, one more stripped back and the other indulging the band a bit more. Adding pulses of organ to stabbing electric guitar, the writer assumes a reporterly voice as protesters take to the streets: You can see it on the street / Pushing back at authority

While today's Son Volt boasts a different lineup than their classic sessions, Farrar fronts a band that has supported him at least since 2019's Union, if not longer. Onetime Blood Oranges member Mark Spencer and bassist Andrew DuPlantis both contributed to Okemah, and guitarist Chris Frame and drummer Mark Patterson are more recent additions. With its powerful layered guitars, "Reverie" is pure Son Volt that will warm the hearts of longtime listeners. Farrar's lyrics are typically impressionistic, but identify Electro Melodier as an album born from this moment: The system grinds dreams to dirt / But the truth walks naked upon the earth

After years of cycling from writing to recording to touring and returning to the studio. the pandemic year left Jay Farrar with more time to devote to his craftsmanship, more attention to direct on his lyrics. This lends a spark and a poetry to songs like "Diamonds and Cigarettes": We've thought the same thoughts of the soul / With books and songs we've lived on the open road. Laura Cantrell makes a rare guest appearance, contributing a vocal that perfectly compliments Farrar. "Sweet Refrain" and "Levee On Down" present Son Volt in a more melodic, country-folk light. The latter is a largely acoustic reflection on the Trail of Tears as perpetrated by Andrew Jackson. 

As the title attests, "Living in the USA" might be dangerous in less skilled hands, leading to jingoism or sloppy irony. Farrar employs the phrase in a Guthrie-esque progressively patriotic call: Power invested in people / Let the idea shine. Another of the record's strongest achievements, the song grows from an acoustic strum to a propulsive anthem worthy of Springsteen (though it's 100% Farrar): Where's the heart from days of old / Where's the empathy / Where's the soul

More than a quarter century after their 1995 debut (and three decades after the Uncle Tupelo record that is widely identified as birthing a musical movement), Son Volt has admirably avoided disappearing behind their legacy. Jay Farrar has grown and evolved as a writer, incorporating spot-on social commentary but always in service of his folk-rock vision. The tenth LP sounds like Son Volt, but Electro Melodier generates an electric spark missing from bands half their vintage. And while countless acts in our kind of music owe their existence to Farrar's work, absolutely nobody sounds like Son Volt. 


This space typically features five forthcoming projects that have been enthusiastically added to A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster. Five records that stand out among several others that might have been added. This week's whittling proved more challenging than most, with a promising parade of albums added to the page. We can't ignore the week's biggest drop, Sturgill Simpson's third collection with his world class bluegrass outfit. Ballad of Dood & Juanita is set for an August 20 release (High Top Mt). A pair of singer-songwriters, Jade Jackson and Aubrie Sellers (calling themselves Jackson + Sellers) are collaborating for their next project. Expect Breaking Point to appear wherever music matters on October 22 via Anti. Dave Hause's fifth solo record is produced by Will Hoge, and features contributions from a wealth of talent, from Brandi Carlile to Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton and more. Soundly has given Blood Harmony an October 22 street date. Hayes Carll's eighth studio album is co-produced with his spouse, Allison Moorer. You Get It All has been slated for an October 29 debut (Dualtone). Finally, add buzzworthy country singer-songwriter Emily Scott Robinson to your Oh Boy scorecard. She'll be sharing her American Siren on October 29. Oh, and one more. I've been eagerly anticipating Highway Butterfly: Songs of Neal Casal since I first caught wind of the tribute several months ago. The generous 3-CD box has been given a November 12 release (Neal Casa Music Foundation), and boasts contributions from Jaime Wyatt, Hiss Golden Messenger, Steve Earle and many more. 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

ROUTES-cast JULY 25, 2021

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
July 25, 2021
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

- Margo Ciker, "Tehachapi" Pohorylle  (Fluff & Gravy, Nov 5)  D
- Houndmouth, "Good For You" single  (Dualtone, 21)  
^ Matthew Milia, "Sunburnt Landscapers" Keego Harbor  (Sitcom Universe, 21) 
- Twain, "How Many Times" How Many More Times EP  (Father/Daughter, 21)
- Margo Price, "Hey Child (feat. Allison Russell, Kyshona Armstrong, et al)" Live From the Other Side EP  (Loma Vista, 21)
- I See Hawks in LA, "Kentucky Jesus" On Our Way  (ISHiLA, 21)
- Malcolm Holcombe, "Shaky Ground" Tricks of the Trade  (Gypsy Eyes, Aug 20)
- SG Goodman, "Lungs" single  (Verve, 21)  D
- Shinyribs, "Sweetening" Late Night TV Magic  (Mustard Lid, Aug 27)  D
- Cale Tyson, "Baby You're Wrong" single  (Tyson, 21)  D
- Sierra Ferrell, "Bells of Every Chapel (feat. Billy Strings)" Long Time Coming  (Rounder, Aug 20)
- Rodney Crowell, "One Little Bird" Triage  (RC1, 21)
- Secret Sisters, "Someday" Quicksand EP  (New West, 21)
- Big Red Machine, "Phoenix (feat. Fleet Foxes, Anais Mitchell)" How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last?  (37d03d, Aug 27)
- Beachwood Sparks & GospelbeacH, "You Don't See Me Crying" Highway Butterfly: Songs of Neal Casal  (Casal Fndt, Nov 12)  D
- Nathan Kalish, "Sorry You're Sick" single  (WinterWildfires, 21)  D
- Emily Duff, "Razor Blade Smile" Razor Blade Smile  (Mr Mudshow, 21)
- Elijah Ocean, "Honky Tonk Hole" Born Blue  (Ocean, Aug 13)
- Pokey LaFarge, "Rotterdam" In the Blossom of Their Shade  (New West, Sep 10)
- Suzanne Santo, "Save For Love" Yard Sale  (Soundly, Aug 27)
- Steve Gunn, "Fulton" Other You  (Matador, Aug 27)
- Jason Eady, "Saturday Night" To the Passage of Time  (Old Guitar, Aug 27)
- Summer Dean, "Blue Jean Country Queen" Bad Romantic  (Dean, Aug 27)
- Delevantes, "Little By Little" single  (Delevantes, 21)  D
- Leeroy Stagger, "Ventura (for Neal Casal)" Dystopian Weekends  (Stagger, Oct 1)  D
- Natalie Hemby, "Pins and Needles" Pins and Needles  (Fantasy, Oct 8)  D
- War on Drugs, "Living Proof" I Don't Live Here Anymore  (Atlantic, Oct 29)  D
- Jackson + Sellers, "Devil is an Angel" Breaking Point  (Anti, Oct 22)  D
- Fruit Bats, "Hummer" Siamese Dream  (Merge, 21)  D
- 16 Horsepower, "De-railed" single  (Glitterhouse, 21)  D

To enjoy our weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  Or click here for a preview:

Monday, July 19, 2021


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
July 19, 2021
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

The process of musical discovery is a crazy thing. I can devote a generous portion of my day to browsing and digging and poking and listening, but these days coming across a terrific new artist only happens a few times per year. Still, it's worth the effort. I know I've come across past records from Emily Duff, but apparently the time wasn't right or my attention had just been diverted by something shiny so that her music had never landed on our playlists. 

My loss. It's not that the Queens native hasn't been productive. Duff has been sharing solo material since at least 2015, with highlights including 2017's Maybe in the Morning and 2019's Muscle Shoals-bred Hallelujah Hello. Her next opportunity to catch my attention came with Born in the Ground, released just days before the world was shut down by the pandemic when we were all pretty distracted. That last effort was produced by Eric "Roscoe" Ambel, a name that has haunted the fringes of our kind of music since its inception, as solo act, a guitarist and a producer. 

Emily Duff has once again tagged Ambel as a collaborator on Razor Blade Smile. While her work has flirted with elements of rock, punk, soul, gospel and country over the years, her new session digs its heels in the gritty dirt of urban rock 'n country. Songs like the the title track bring to mind the tattooed streets of Duff's NYC homeland more than the gleaming thoroughfares of Music City. Duff spits her acerbic lyrics with an old school sneer: I'm gonna shake the whole damn world / Until the change falls out. With Charlie Giordano's pounded keys and whiplash drums, "Razor Blade Smile" bursts from those same urban clubs that birthed the earliest efforts of Alejandro Escovedo or Chuck Prophet. That fierce punk energy also fuels "Flying Paper Planes", though Ambel's guitar speaks with a telltale twang that earns the song an early edge. 

Also lurking in the alleys of Razor Blade Smile is a strain of 90s power pop a'la Mitch Easter or Dex Romweber, a ragged but ready tunefulness that has largely been bred out of contemporary roots. A serial songwriter, Duff can't disguise the hook that drives "Gimme Back My Love". Galloping rhythms usher in tuneful guitars and sparkling keys: What's been broken here / Might never again be whole. "Another Goodbye" adds a bluesy tone of foreboding, Duff advising her lover to Move along like a song without a bridge

Just as often, Duff and Ambel apply those retro tools in service of a more contemporary result. Accordion distinguishes the pure country of "Feelin' Alright", one of several tunes complimented by the vocals of the underrated Mary Lee Kortes from Mary Lee's Corvette. Despite her punk roots, Duff was raised on a diet of outlaw country and she never oversings or comes off like an outsider. "Angry to Bed" recalls a younger Rosanne Cash: Angry to bed / Angry to rise / Makes a heart / Hateful, resentful and full of pride. Likewise, her band rings true, the understated outfit strikes a just-right balance between urban rock and country, with Giordano's keys teasing out the soul in Duff's artistry. "Done and Done" spotlights Ambel's reliably expressive guitar lines. With accordion and pedal steel, "Nicotine & Waiting" might be the collection's strongest country cut. 

A couple times per year my dedication to musical discovery will lead me to an artist whose rich and diverse back catalogue awaits like a gift. Emily Duff provides that opportunity for those of us who might've overlooked her. Like Jesse Malin or Low Cut Connie's Adam Weiner, she is at home with whatever her band happens to be playing, conversant across genres. Razor Blade Smile adds a strong edge to Duff's undeniable ability, a deep down grit that recalls Lucinda Williams at her hardest, and an unshakable sense that she knows these streets like the back of her hand. 


Tons of new announcements this week at A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster. We'll spotlight just five prominent street dates here, but you can enjoy the rest by selecting the link. For her second record, Alexa Rose gathered in the studio with collaborators such as Will Sexton, Mark Stuart, Matt Ross-Spang and more. Headwaters will appear wherever music matters on September 10 (Big Legal Mess). After a couple solo albums, Edward David Anderson is reconvening Backyard Tire Fire. Black Dirt Blue Sky, an EP, will see the light of day on September 10 as well. Ana Egge is readying her twelfth record (!). A collaboration with Irish singer-songwriter Mick Flannery, Between Us is slated for a September 17 debut (Soundly). Billy Bragg calls his first record in four years his pandemic blues. Million Things That Never Happened is Due October 8 via Cooking Vinyl. After three studio projects on Warner, Nashville's Wild Feathers have moved to the New West label. Alvarado has been scheduled for an October 8 release. 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

ROUTES-cast July 18, 2021

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
July 18, 2021
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

- Courtney Marie Andrews, "To Ramona" single  (Fat Possum, 21)  D
- Felice Brothers, "Silverfish" From Dreams to Dust  (Yep Roc, Sep 17)
- Houndmouth, "Cool Jam" single  (Dualtone, 21)  D
- Secret Sisters, "Heavy Balloon" Quicksand EP  (New West, 21)  D
- Wild Feathers, "Ain't Lookin'"  Alvarado  (New West, Oct 8)  D
- Anderson East, "Hood of My Car' Maybe We Never Die  (Low Country, Aug 20)
- Margo Price, "Help (feat. Adia Victoria, Allison Russell, et al.)" Live From the Other Side EP  (Loma Vista, 21)  D
- Rod Gator, "Chickenhawk" For Louisiana  (Blue Elan, Sep 17)
- John R Miller, "Borrowed Time" Depreciated  (Rounder, 21)
- Elijah Ocean, "In a Perfect World" Born Blue  (Ocean, Aug 13)
- Amanda Anne Platt & Honeycutters, "Saint Sebatian" single  (Organic, 21)  D
- Charlie Parr, "817 Oakland Avenue" Last of the Better Days Ahead  (Smithsonian, Jul 30)
- Ross Adams, "Ease Me Into Dying" Escaping Southern Heat  (Adams, Sep 10)  D
- Lucinda Williams, "You're Gonna Miss Me" Will the Circle Remain Unbroken: Tribute to Roky Erickson  (Light in the Attic, 21) 
- Matthew Milia, "Salad Bars" Keego Harbor  (Sitcom Universe, 21)  D
- Shakey Graves, "Cheers" Amerikinda: 20 Years of Dualtone  (Dualtone, Aug 6)
- Shovels & Rope, "Dearly Departed" Amerikinda: 20 Years of Dualtone  (Dualtone, Aug 6)
- Boy Golden, "Year That Clayton Delaney Died" Church of Better Daze  (Six Shooter, 21)
- Anna Tivel, "Minneapolis (Map Room Sessions)" Blue World  (Fluff & Gravy, 21)
- Tre Burt, "By the Jasmine" You Yeah You  (Oh Boy, Aug 27)
- Tim Easton, "Real Revolution" You Don't Really Know Me  (Black Mesa, Aug 27)
- Erin Enderlin, "Somebody's Shot of Whiskey" single  (Black Crow, 21)  D
- James McMurtry, "If It Don't Bleed" Horses and the Hounds  (New West, Aug 20)
- Heartless Bastards, "Photograph" A Beautiful Life  (Sweet Unknown, Sep 10)
- Drive-by Truckers, "My Sweet Annette (live)" Live at Plan 9 July 13, 2006  (New West, 21)  D
- Ana Egge, "Wait a Minute" Between Us  (StorySound, Sep 17)  D
- Billy Bragg, "I Will Be Your Shield" Million Things That Never Happened  (Cooking Vinyl, Oct 8)  D
- Jeremy Pinnell, "Nighttime Eagle" Goodbye LA  (Sofaburn, Sep 17)
^ Backyard Tire Fire, "Little Wren" Black Dirt Blue Sky EP  (Anderson, Sep 10)  D
- David Newbould, "Ready For the Times To Get Better" single  (Blackbird, 21)  D

To enjoy our weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  Or click here for a preview:

Sunday, July 11, 2021

ROUTES-cast July 11, 2021

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
July 11, 2021
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust 

- Son Volt, "Living in the USA" Electro Melodier  (Transmit Sound, Jul 30)
- Left Arm Tan, "Look at Miss Ohio" Road Trip Songs EP  (Wixen, Jul 23)  D
- RC & the Ambers, "Drunk High & Loud" Big Country  (RC&A, Sep 10)
- Flatland Cavalry, "Life Without You (feat. Kaitlin Butts)" Welcome to Countryland  (Flatland, 21)
- Alabama Shakes, "Dunes" Sound & Color  (ATO, 15)
- Nathaniel Rateliff, "Still Out There Running (live)" Red Rocks 2020 (Live)  (Stax, Jul 16)
- Moviola, "Broken Rainbows" Broken Rainbows  (Anyway, 21)  D
- Charley Crockett, "I Need Your Love" Music City USA  (Son of Davy, Sep 17)  D
- Otis Clay, "I Can't Make It Alone" Trying To Live My Life Without You  (Fat Possum, 72)
- Brit Taylor, "Ain't That Lonely Yet" Real Me (Deluxe) (Cut a Shine, 20/21)
- Chris Acker, "Mahogany" Odd Ordinary & Otherwise  (Gar Hole, Aug 20)  D
- Andrew Bryant, "Private Window" A Meaningful Connection  (Sentimental Noises, 21)
- Angel Olsen, "Gloria" Aisles EP  (Jagjaguwar, Aug 20)  D
- Daniel Norgren, "Moonshine Got Me" Buck  (Superpuma, 13)
- I See Hawks in LA, "Mississippi Gas Station Blues" On Our Way  (ISHiLA, 21)  D
- Gold Star, "Surrender" Headlights USA EP  (Sub Rosa, Sep 3)  D
- Florry, "You Don't Know" Big Fall  (12XU, Aug 27)  D
- TK & the Holy Know-Nothings, "Serenity Prayer" Incredible Heat Machine  (Mama Bird, Oct 15)  D
- Mike & the Moonpies, "Hour on the Hour" One to Grow On  (Prairie Rose, Aug 10)  D
- Leah Blevins, "Beautiful Disasater" First Time Feeling  (Crabtree, Aug 6)  D
- Elijah Ocean, "Living to Love You" Born Blue  (Ocean, Aug 13)
- Dan Penn, "Tearjoint" Nobody's Fool  (RCA, 73)
- Laura Stevenson, "Don't Think About Me" Laura Stevenson  (Don Giovanni, Aug 6)
- Curtis Harding, "I Won't Let You Down" single  (Anti, 21)  D
^ Strand of Oaks, "Galacticana" In Heaven  (Galacticana, Oct 1)  D
- Scott Hirsch, "Spirit True" Windless Day  (Soundly, Oct 8)
- Los Lobos, "Jamaica Say You Will" Native Sons  (New West, Jul 30)
- Rosie Flores, "I've Got a Right to Cry (feat. the Talismen)" single  (Mule Kick, 21)  D
- Steve Gunn, "Reflection" Other You  (Matador, Aug 27)
- Courtney Marie Andrews, "Table For One" Honest Life  (Mama Bird, 17)

To enjoy our weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  Or click here for a preview:

Saturday, July 10, 2021


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
July 10, 2021
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

I was puzzling over the stats for our humble blog and noticed that we're just passing 700 posts. R&B has evolved significantly since our inaugural post (something called Sunday Drive: traipsing thru the internets). Back then, in August of 2008, I was a radio announcer and music director, as well as manager for a bookstore. Now, I'm not. While other similar blogs have come and gone, we've remained alarmingly consistent. True, the years have found our attention wandering a bit, incorporating more adventurous sounds, but we continue to make room for genuine roots music artists like John R Miller. The Nashville-area resident, emigrated from his longtime West Virginia home, releases his major label debut, Depreciated via Rounder Records on July 16. 

A dedicated road animal, Miller cut his teeth with acts like Fox Hunt and Prison Book Club, serving in bands alongside Hackensaw Boys, Sierra Ferrell and JP Harris. Tyler Childers has heralded Miller's arrival from stage, recording one of his songs on his Red Barn Radio records. Like wearing in a stiff pair of shoes, this wide-ranging service added road dust to Miller's voice and real-lived experience to his songs. These qualities have been exhibited on 2014's acoustic Service Engine and 2018's superb Trouble You Follow, credited to Miller and his touring band, the Engine Lights. 

More fleshed out than Service Engine and more settled than Trouble, Depreciated presents an artist who is appealingly laid-back, but simultaneously confident and focused. Those perfect notes are struck with a band featuring producers Adam Meisterhans and Justin Francis, as well as fiddler/vocalist Chloe Edmonstone and Robbie Crowell on keys. The outfit is at its best on "Borrowed Time", a timeless slice of 70s country that could earn its place on a playlist alongside JJ Cale classics. With reverb guitar and an unhurried pace, the song acknowledges the ticking clock that provides the rhythm for all we do: Depreciating like a double-wide trailer on top of a a salt mine

Since Depreciated marks Miller's official debut as a solo artist, the collection includes a couple songs from past projects, rerecorded with the current band. The waltz timed "Back and Forth" recalls John Prine's sardonic slice-of-life perspective, set to a warm fiddle and John Looney's mandolin. "Motor's Fried" highlights Miller's own acoustic picking and a kind of homegrown advice that permeates the session: When you can only think in words, the beauty falls apart. Like his Texas music heroes Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, John R Miller never strays too far afield for lyrical inspiration, even as he can demand a listener's attention by dropping rewarding turns of phrase and poetic perspective. With soaring and diving electric guitar, "Shenandoah Shakedown" adds a touch of psychedelia to the tale of attachment and the suspicion it's time to move on: There's a crack in the altar / Pale light through the break / Like crooked teeth

This handcrafted spirit lends an air of humility to Miller's work, a sort of been-there-done-that nonchalance that might speak to a more experienced, more traveled songwriter. But songs like "Looking Over My Shoulder" or "Old Dance Floor" aren't lazy. The former adds an electric twist to a bluesy guitar shuffle, while the latter pairs Edmonstone's fiddle and John Clay's full drums for a Louisiana rock vibe. I paid my tab in someone else's tears / Lord I broke the bank this time. Because it's roots music, Miller doesn't trade in sounds we haven't heard before. But like the most capable of vets in our kind of music, Depreciated convinces us that he knows how to assemble all those familiar pieces just right. You'd be a fool not to want to take Miller up on his offer to sell his "Half Ton Van", even as he adds Most of the cylinders are firing, and you don't really need the ones that can't

After 700 posts here at R&B HQ, our short musical attention span means we're always listening for something new, keeping our ears tuned to hybrids, perspectives and identities that we have yet to hear. To their great credit, artists like JP Harris and John R Miller remind us what brought us to this place to begin with. One of 2021's strongest singles, "Faustina" appeals to the Patron Saint of Mercy to calm the writer's restless soul. Atop a bed of Russ Pahl's pedal steel, the rambling guitar cut temporarily soothes our own musical wanderlust. A good song,  perfectly delivered: It was cigarettes outside an empty bar / On a dark December morning / Months of bad food and a pauper's guitar. It's a time-tested recipe for thirty minutes of musical satisfaction. 


Nevertheless, we persist in adding novelty to A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster, our expectantly updated roots music release calendar. Austin's Mike & the Moonpies return August 10 with One To Grow On (Prairie Rose). August 20 marks the debut of Angel Olsen's next project. Aisles is a five-song EP of 80's coversongs featuring stuff originally by Laura Branigan, Billy Idol, OMD and more (Jagjaguwar). The Busiest Man In Country Music, Charley Crockett is back with his first full-length since February. Music City USA arrives September 17 courtesy of Son of Davy.  Tim Showalter and Strand of Oaks are set for an October 1 release for their follow-up to 2019's terrific Eraserland. Backed by members of My Morning Jacket, In Heaven lands wherever music matters on October 1 (Galacticana). Finally, TK & the Holy Know-Nothings are ready with their sophomore full-length. Following on the heels of their excellent debut, Incredible Heat Machine is expected on October 15 from the Mama Bird label. Find more by clicking on the link.