Tag Archives: Americana music

Dori Freeman’s Every Single Star

In the three years since her self-titled debut took the Americana world by surprise and garnered critical and popular acclaim, Dori Freeman has gone through a lot of changes. The songs on Dori Freeman mostly centered around the breakup she … Continue reading

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Humbird’s Pharmakon

This new album by Humbird is promoted as “experimental.” At first blush, it sounds anything but. Humbird is a project of Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter (and pizza waitress) Siri Undlin, working with several other local musicians. As the album opens on an … Continue reading

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Locust Honey’s The Low and Low

You know how female country singers have often done “answer songs” that respond to the misogyny and sexism of hits by male country singers? The best known is “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels” by Kitty Wells, which was … Continue reading

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Jake Xerxes Fussell’s Out of Sight

Jake Xerxes Fussell’s previous recording What in the Natural World was one of my favorites of 2017, and on Out of Sight he has upped his game considerably. A native of the South and longtime student of its folk art … Continue reading

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H.C. Slim’s Sings

Rock critic Griel Marcus famously referred to the tunes preserved on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music as remnants of the “old weird America.” By that token, the songs laid down here by H.C. Slim may someday be thought … Continue reading

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Kelly Hunt’s Even The Sparrow

“That banjo has stories,” Kelly Hunt says of the instrument on which she accompanies herself on her lovely debut album Even The Sparrow. “I wish I knew them all.” Hunt seems destined to add plenty of her own stories to … Continue reading

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An American Forrest’s O Bronder, Donder Yonder?

Yonder, yonder, yonder. It’s a word you don’t hear much these days except in the poetry of cowboys or from the Shakespearean stage. Forrest Van Tuyl, who performs as An American Forrest, is a young cowboy poet and horse wrangler … Continue reading

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Daniel Norgren’s Wooh Dang

You know it’s true love when a Swede compares you to coffee, right? “You’re the coffee in my cup / you’re the one who woke me up …” So Daniel Norgren croons on the sweet, gospel-tinged love song “The Day … Continue reading

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Bill Frisell & Thomas Morgan’s Epistrophy

All jazz music can be described as an exploration, of course. At its best, the musicians whether solo or in an ensemble can be heard as they improvise, listening to and playing off of each other as they go, never … Continue reading

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Vassar Clements’ Full Circle

Vassar Clements was the first fiddle player whose playing I fell in love with. I’ve always just naturally gravitated to the guitar, but Vassar’s playing on the legendary Will the Circle Be Unbroken album made me sit up and pay … Continue reading

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Mandolin Orange’s Tides of a Teardrop

Mandolin Orange, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is one of the most prolific of current Americana acts. Tides of a Teardrop is their sixth since their debut in 2010 with Quiet Little Room, all featuring songs written by Andrew Marlin … Continue reading

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Abigail Lapell’s Getaway

Toronto-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Abigail Lapell follows up her Canadian Folk Music award-winning sophomore album Hide Nor Hair with Getaway. It is a remarkably mature record — both musically and emotionally — for a young musician cutting her third album. … Continue reading

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The Transgressors’ They Made Her a Criminal

They Made Her a Criminal by the Austin-based Transgressors is sort of new and sort of not, depending on how you count these things. But its somewhat twisty release history pales in comparison to the deliciously tortured music this four-piece … Continue reading

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John Mailander’s Forecast

Fiddler John Mailander on his second full-length release Forecast is attempting to bridge the worlds of jazz, folk and Americana music – and pretty much succeeding. The Nashville-based fiddler has played with a who’s who of Americana artists from stalwarts … Continue reading

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Rachel Baiman’s Thanksgiving EP

A lot of American holidays have their own music, and every musician’s fallback is the Christmas album. But I can’t think of any Thanksgiving records, although I’m sure there are some in the contemporary Christian catalog. But we won’t go … Continue reading

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Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard’s Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes, 1965-1969

The first time I listened to this CD with headphones, I nearly fell out of my chair when the second track, “Tell Me That You Love Me” began. I don’t believe I’d ever heard this old song before, although perhaps … Continue reading

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Courtney Hartman & Taylor Ashton’s Been On Your Side

Courtney Hartman and Taylor Ashton’s debut recording is an intimate affair, born of their close friendship and harmonious ideas about how they want to make music. Ashton, a Canadian, is a visual artist as well as a singer and songwriter … Continue reading

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Cliff Westfall’s Baby You Win

Been listening to the Cocaine & Rhinestones podcast and wonder where you can find some modern honky-tonk music like they used to make back in the mid-20th Century? Or maybe you just love the stuff and can’t seem to find … Continue reading

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Clay Parker and Jodi James’s The Lonesomest Sound That Can Sound

Clay Parker and Jodi James are a music-making couple from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This album, which looks like it’s maybe their second or third, is a superb collection of country-leaning folk, which I guess these days is called Americana. The … Continue reading

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John Prine’s The Tree of Forgiveness

John Prine is the folk singer America deserves. And needs. Since his debut self-titled album in 1971 he has been ministering to our malaise with his unique blend of humor and pathos, comedy, tragedy and tragicomedy that perfectly reflects and … Continue reading

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Cowboy Junkies’ All That Reckoning

Cowboy Junkies’ latest release marks the 30th anniversary of the Canadian folk-rockers’ breakthrough album The Trinity Session. All That Reckoning, all these years later, still is built around Margo Timmins’ hushed vocals, but this one seethes with a barely suppressed … Continue reading

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Oliver the Crow’s self-titled album

Cellist Kaitlyn Raitz and fiddler Ben Plotnick perform as the folk duo Oliver the Crow. These classically trained musicians based in Nashville make a progressive, stripped-down Americana that draws on everything from Appalachian ballads to classic rock on their beguiling … Continue reading

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Ants Ants Ants‘ Why Why Why? and Red Yarn’s Old Barn

Ants Ants Ants’ Why Why Why? I picked up Ants Ants Ants‘s new album Why Why Why? because it straddled a nice sweet spot, music I can share with my godkids, ages 6 and 8, on roadtrips without anyone’s sanity … Continue reading

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Dana Sipos’ Trick of the Light

If like me you appreciate deeply rooted folk music that’s recorded with the sort of post-modern studio wizardry that enhances that music’s moods and meanings, then you owe it to yourself to check out Dana Sipos’ Trick of the Light. … Continue reading

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Various artists’ Swing West!

Country music and Nashville are synonymous, right? Wrong. Since the late 1940s, California, particularly Bakersfield, has been the breeding ground for its own strain of country music that stands outside of the mainstream flowing from Nashville. Razor & Tie, which … Continue reading

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Various Artists’ Hummingbirds & Helicopters Vol. 1

Jolie Holland, the idiosyncratic folk singer-songwriter (who’s one of my favorites) is spearheading an effort to raise money to benefit the people whose homes were devastated by hurricanes in 2017. The first installment is Hummingbirds & Helicopters Vol. 1: A … Continue reading

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Sarah Shook & the Disarmers’ Years

By the time we reach the second track of Sarah Shook’s new album Years, it’s already the second time she’s not just saying goodbye to a lover who doesn’t meet her standards, but saying, in effect, “get the hell out, … Continue reading

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Western Centuries’ Songs From the Deluge

Western Centuries makes country and western music like they used to, but it’s not an exercise in nostalgia. They rock, they roll, they twang and they shuffle. They keep close to their roots and draw from the wide spectrum of … Continue reading

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Birch Pereira & the Gin Joints’ Western Soul

Birch Pereira, Oregon-grown and now based in Seattle, leads his band the Gin Joints through a set of hot jazz, rockabilly, bluesy folk and more on their sophomore album Western Soul. It’s a tour through Americana in the era of … Continue reading

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Vivian Leva’s Time is Everything

Time is Everything is a notable debut from Vivian Leva. The young country-folk singer-songwriter is rapidly becoming someone you need to know about, so you can say “Heck, I’ve liked her since her first album way back in 2018!” Leva … Continue reading

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Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s The Quiet Room

If you’re expecting a logical appraisal of this new recording — whose subtitle Music to heal the heart and soothe the soul could be applied to every recording that this superb artistic couple has done over their long career — … Continue reading

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Joan Baez’s Whistle Down The Wind

It’s just great to know that Joan Baez is still out there falling in love with good songs, singing them to her fans, and putting them on record. She’s been doing that since the year I started kindergarten in 1960, … Continue reading

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I’m With Her’s See You Around

Having tested the waters with a single and a couple of EPs since 2015, the Americana super-group trio I’m With Her now releases its debut full-length See You Around. I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb … Continue reading

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Ruby Boots’s Don’t Talk About It

Don’t Talk About It is the second album released by Ruby Boots, her first since the Australian landed in Nashville and signed with the Chicago label Bloodshot. It’s a self-assured, swaggering sophomore release, hardly surprising for this musician who’s been … Continue reading

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Richmond Fontaine’s Don’t Skip Out On Me

I didn’t see this one coming! One more album from Portland’s beloved Americana rockers Richmond Fontaine. Frontman Willy Vlautin has turned mostly to the life of an author and away from life on the road with one or the other … Continue reading

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Sunny War’s With the Sun

Blues music, Appalachian music with roots in the British Isles, punk rock and more go into the potent music made by Sunny War. A young African-American woman who grew up in Nashville and Los Angeles and is now based in … Continue reading

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Mary Gauthier’s Rifles & Rosary Beads

Mary Gauthier has made a name for herself by writing and singing intense narrative songs that draw on her own life. And what a life it has been. Growing up an orphan in New Orleans, she has battled substance abuse … Continue reading

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Jolie Holland and Samantha Parton’s Wildflower Blues

I’ve been a big fan and follower of Jolie Holland since her home-recorded debut Catalpa came out of left field in 2003, but this little gem sneaked under my radar. If you missed it, too, when it came out quietly … Continue reading

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Gun Outfit’s Out of Range

Out of Range is the fifth full-length record by the Los Angeles-based Gun Outfit. They refer to the sound of their music as “Western expanse,” and that’s as good a description as any. Musically it’s a guitar-laden melange of cosmic … Continue reading

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Jeffrey Martin’s One Go Around

I’m not a bad man, I’m a poor man I’m not a bad man, I’m a poor man I’m not a bad man, I’m a poor man Sinkin’ “Poor Man,” by Jeffrey Martin Jeffrey Martin immersed himself in the literature … Continue reading

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John Lawless’ Five & Dime

I was shocked when, after listening to Five & Dime a couple of times, I discovered that it’s banjo player John Lawless’ first recording. It’s that good. Lawless, an editor at Bluegrass Today, has been playing regionally out of Roanoak, … Continue reading

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Dori Freeman’s Letters Never Read

The first single and opening track on Dori Freeman’s delightful sophomore album is a sunny, optimistic and warm portrait of love called “If I Could Make You My Own.” It’s a sweetly swinging tune full of professions of all the … Continue reading

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Billy Strings’ Turmoil & Tinfoil

If you love acoustic guitar playing, or if you love bluegrass music — or both — you have to check out the duet that Billy Strings plays with Bryan Sutton on a traditional tune called “Salty Sheep,” on Billy’s new … Continue reading

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Anna Tivel’s Small Believer

Anna Tivel, whose Heroes Waking Up rose to the top of my best-of list in 2016, has a new record out already this year, and Small Believers lives up to the high mark set by that record. Portland’s Anna Tivel … Continue reading

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Deer Tick’s Deer Tick Vol. 1 & Deer Tick Vol. 2

In the chorus of “Only Love,” midway through the acoustic, folky Deer Tick Vol. 1, Deer Tick front man John McCauley sings, “It’s only love, so don’t be afraid, it will let you down but not today … it won’t … Continue reading

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John Reischman and The Jaybirds’ On That Other Green Shore

If you want solid, no-nonsense bluegrass music these days, you won’t go wrong with any release by John Reischman and The Jaybirds. Their latest release On That Other Green Shore is no exception. That’s no accident, of course. One of … Continue reading

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Bill Frisell & Thomas Morgan’s Small Town

Bill Frisell, one of the elder statesmen of the electric guitar in America, and young acoustic bassist Thomas Morgan team up for a sublime set of tunes on Small Town. It was recorded live in 2016 at the storied Village … Continue reading

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Willie Nelson’s God’s Problem Child

“I woke up still not dead again today,” Willie Nelson sings. “The internet said that I had passed away.” I first listened to this song shortly after reading – yes, on the internet – that Willie was circling the drain. … Continue reading

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Cory Branan’s Adios

The best thing about Cory Branan is his now-they’re-funny, now-they’re-sad lyrics. No, wait, the best thing is the way the tune always works just right with the lyrics, and it’s always catchy as hell. No, wait, the best thing is … Continue reading

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Jenny Scheinman’s Here on Earth

American fiddler Jenny Scheinman has created an album of music to accompany a film that celebrates the legacy of North Carolina Photographer H. Lee Waters. Here on Earth consists of 15 tunes, all of which stand securely on their own, … Continue reading

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