The Americana Music Show Best of 2015
Good god it's been a great year for music at the Americana Music Show. I'm proud to say that I set a new record for number of albums I auditioned in a single year. So the Best of 2015 list draws from the largest field ever. Fewer than one in ten albums submitted to the show makes it into rotation or gets any sort of mention on the show. And only a tiny fraction of those make it to the Best of 2015 list. So even albums on the back end of the Best Of 2015 list have risen above the vast majority of the albums submitted to the show.
And I'm proud to say that, IMHO, this list pulls from a wider diversity of types of music, in terms, of genre, mood, and style than pretty much any other americana list out there. You'll find roots rock, country, honky-tonk, blues, soul, zydeco, R&B and much more on this year's list.
There are Big Names on the list this year. There are Familiar Names on the list. And there are New Faces on the list this year too. I'm willing to bet that at least one of the bands / singers on this year's list is going to be your Next Favorite.
So here ya go. Enjoy!
- You can hear the Americana Music Show Best of 2015 #50-#21 on Episode 278. (to be released on December 22, 2015)
- You can hear the Americana Music Show Best of 2015 #20-#1 on Episode 279. (to be released on December 29, 2015)
1. Eilen Jewell / Sundown Over Ghost Town
Where to begin? Let's start with Eilen Jewell's voice. It's beautiful, feminine, with just a touch of sad blues. She could sing the phone book and I'd be mesmerized. Her songwriting voice is unique, authentic, and completely free of cliche. The songs on Sundown Over Ghost Town aren't exactly thematic, but they are conversational. If you listen to the entire album, front to back, you feel like you've participated in a conversation about small town life, bygone days, and lost loves. The band consists of her husband and drummer Jason Beek, bassist Johnny Sciascia, and guitarist/mandolinist Jerry Miller. The sound is down tempo blues, but not in a sad wallowing way, in a relaxed, I've-got-all-day-and-nowhere-to-be kind of way. Even though the music is mostly subdued, there is always something interesting going on. As the year wore on, I found my self coming back to this album over and over every time I felt the need to hang out with an old friend.
Read the review of Sundown Over Ghost Town.
Preview Sundown Over Ghost Town by Eilen Jewell.
Eilen Jewell is the featured guest on Episode 247.
2. The Wood Brothers / Paradise
The Wood Brothers' The Muse was my top pick in 2013 and their 2015 release of Paradise is just as strong. They continue to discover new territory in folk/rock/americana countryside. Their sounds are firmly rooted in folk and country, but this album brings in elements from all over the place, including some inspiration from African folk guitar, zydeco, and some gospel. While The Muse was an entirely acoustic set, Paradise is much more of an electric rock & roll album on many tracks. This is also the fist time that all three members of the Wood Brothers share songwriting credits because they were able to work on the songs together. The resulting tracks have tighter jams and more interwoven music lines than ever before. From a lyrical perspective, there does seem to be a certain theme running through the album taking a look at yearning and motivation. But honestly, the thing that's remarkable about their lyrics is the fun wordplay lurking in every verse. I haven't had this much fun with an album in a long time.
Read the review of Paradise.
Preview Paradise by The Wood Brothers.
The Wood Brothers are the featured guest on Episode 276.
3. Malcolm Holcombe / The RCA Sessions
Malcolm Holcombe plays folk music. There's no alt-this or slash that to his music. And he is pretty much the only straight up folk songwriter I wholeheartedly endorse. When he takes the stage at a live show, you feel like wow, finally, an adult is in charge. No simpering whiny folksinger here. His songs are full of a withering anger and a brutal directness that makes the beautiful moments feel like sunshine breaking through the remnants of a storm. The RCA sessions consists of tracks from all his albums over the past twenty years, rearranged and re-recorded with an A-list of studio side men and women who know how to deliver on the energy in his songs.
Read the review of The RCA Sessions.
Preview The RCA Sessions by Malcolm Holcombe.
Malcolm Holcombe is the featured guest on Episode 244.
4. Ray Wylie Hubbard / The Ruffian’s Misfortune
So much can be said about Ray Wylie Hubbard and his multi-decade career. You could write a book about his career. But I think what I want to say is that he's the complete package. In his interview for the Americana Music Show, he talks about "the grit, groove, tone, and taste" of an album and how and album has to have all four elements to be good. Well, I'll say Ruffian's Misfortune has all these elements and it shows him at the top of his game as a songwriter, musician, and performer. This album captures his trademark sound in a living breathing set of songs that feels blood n guts authentic in a time that's in much need of things that ring true.
Read the review of Ruffian's Misfortune.
Preview The Ruffian’s Misfortune by Ray Wylie Hubbard.
Ray Wylie Hubbard is the featured guest on Episode 254.
5. James McMurtry / Complicated Game
James McMurtry writes songs that are as plainspoken as a Hemmingway novel and stunning in their realism. Whether he's singing songs about fishermen getting by or relationships with our loved ones, he pulls out those elements of human nature that are almost too embarrassing to be mentioned and yet ring oh so true. You think to yourself, yep, that's the way it really is, this complicated game. On this album, the lyrics are at the forefront, even in the rockin' tunes. For McMurtry, the emphasis is almost always on the writing, the getting at the truth of the matter. The band on this is top-notch, but they provide a frame for the stores/real life that McMurtry is going to share with you.
Read the review of Complicated Game.
Preview Complicated Game by James McMurtry.
6. Kevin Gordon / Long Gone Time
Long Gone Time is Kevin Gordon's first album in several years and he has delivered a haymaker of a collection. Rolling Stone magazine has called Kevin Gordon the "juke-joint-professor emeritus" and I agree that no one can fill a room with a fat, full roadhouse blues. His band has an energy and a swagger that can cut through the noisiest bar and infuse the entire place with boozy feel good vibes. But what sets Gordon apart are the stories in the songs. They are filled with characters from a bygone era that might have only existed in our mind, but feel like people that ought to have existed. The albums roadhouse tunes are balanced by poignant songs from the deep south a real life people Gordon has met over the years and like all great art it's hard to tell where reality stops and the fiction begins.
Preview Long Gone Time by Kevin Gordon.
Kevin Gordon is the featured guest on Episode 269.
7. Mandolin Orange / Such Jubilee
It's not too often that the primary thing you want to say about a string band album is that it's beautiful, but that's the word I keep coming back to with Mandolin Orange's Such Jubilee. Masterfully recorded, it feels like you can hear every vibration on every string. And the gentle picking, wistful guitars and high-lonesome guitar riffs lure you in The songs grab your attention like deep Appalachian homilies that Andrew and Emily have discovered in a sacred, hidden holler.
Preview Such Jubilee by Mandolin Orange.
Mandolin Orange is the featured guest on Episode 252.
8. 6 String Drag / Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll
Like Elvis Costello, 6 String Drag under the direction of front man Kenny Roby, know how to take the feel good musical tropes from the early days of Rock & Roll and punch them up for the 21st century. Tight. Crisp, horned-rimmed glasses kinda rock 'n roll. With horns. And a doghouse bass. And every note is glorious. It ranges from Buddy Holly-esque anthems, to slick film noir crooners, to sad sad blues all done up with that early rock 'n' roll vibe. And even those shoe-gazing hipsters will be tapping their toes and bopping their heads when they hear 6 String Drag's latest effort.
Read the review.
Watch the video of "Kingdom of Gettin' It Wrong."
Preview Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll by 6 String Drag.
Kenny Roby of 6 String Drag is the featured guest on Episode 232.
9. JJ Grey & Mofro / Ol' Glory
Not to get too metaphysical on your ass, but there comes a moment, in the middle of the night, deep in the Florida swampland, in a shanty roadhouse bar, when you've been up way too late, and dancing maybe a little bit to hard, and just maybe had a little too much to drink, when something happens. The endorphins kick in, the stars rearrange themselves, and you suddenly feel the rapture. And nothing will take you there quicker than JJ Grey & Mofro's latest album, Ol' Glory. Long hailed as the apostle of swamp funk, JJ Grey takes this album to places he's never been before.
Preview Ol' Glory by JJ Grey & Mofro.
JJ Grey is the featured guest on Episode 233.
10. Jason Isbell / Something More Than Free
Jason Isbell seems to be angling in on James Taylor's territory. His songs on Something More Than Free have that favorite-pair-of-jeans feel-good vibe to them. It's Down Home Sentimental but never crosses the line into cliche or silly. I think his secret to songwriting has something to do with that plain spoken approach to lyrics that sound like real people in those rare confessional moments they accidentally let their guard down.
Preview Something More Than Free by Jason Isbell.
11. Webb Wilder / Mississippi Moderne
Mississippi Moderne is Webb Wilder's first album in five or six years and this time the retro-roots rock legend has gone full circle going back to his home state of Mississippi to pull out all those late night radio sounds from the early days of rock & roll that inspired his sound so much. But this is much much more than a look back at the sounds of yesteryear. These songs can hold their own in any rock & roll venue and with songs like "Yard Dog" and "Rough And Tumble Guy." If you want feel the power of back-to-basics rock, this is the album you need to get right now.
Preview Mississippi Moderne by Webb Wilder.
Webb Wilder is the featured guest on Episode 272.
12. Turnpike Troubadours / self-titled
I'm digging the Turnpike Trouadours self-titled album with its wall-of-sound heartland country rock. They are part of the Guthrie revival scene in Oklahoma. They are earthy populists singing about the common man. But the Turnpike Troubadours are neither defined by or limited by their roots. They've been developing a tone and a voice that is their own and this album truly deserves to be a self-titled album because it feels like a signature sound. Maybe it's the wailing fiddles. Maybe it's the banjos peeking out from the edges of the songs. Or maybe it's the harvester worthy guitar sounds that make the sound. Dunno. But it sounds good in your car turned up loud.
Preview Turnpike Troubadours by Turnpike Troubadours.
13. Ryan Bingham / Fear And Saturday Night
Whether he's singing songs about hitching rides outside of New York City or finding his way through the wilds of New Mexico, Ryan Bingham's Fear And Saturday Night paints a picture of a man who knows what's important in life, who has his back, and what real love is about. His music is cowboy bar rock & roll with a heavy dose of border music throughout. There are echoes of Willie Nelson in the guitar work, but the album never feels like an outlaw country effort, it's much more straight down the middle rock & roll.
Preview Fear And Saturday Night by Ryan Bingham.
Ryan Bingham is the featured guest on Episode 238.
14. Ike Reilly / Born On Fire
Even Ike Reilly himself questioned me about why his latest album Born On Fire fits into an "americana" music show format. But I'm sticking to my guns on this one. Yes, his music has an urban, cosmopolitan feel to it. But the Big Cities are part of america too and so they are just as much americana as anything else. I like how he's not afraid to surreptitiously record street life to get samples for his songs. He's not afraid to milk the sexy backup singers for all they're worth. He can mix it up with immigrant taxicab drivers and steal their riffs without a trace of shame. He is melting pot rock & roll at its best. But what holds it all together is his earnest sing-song shouting vocals. He sings like he means it and that makes all the difference.
Read the review of Born On Fire.
Preview Born On Fire by Ike Reilly.
Ike Reilly is the featured guest on Episode 259.
15. Jimbo Mathus / Blue Healer
Any album that successfully sells the line " bless my soul and hush my mouth" is all right in my book and that's just how Blue Healer by Jimbo Mathus opens up. No one. I mean no one, is doing southern rock & roll any better than he is these days. Of course there's lots of blues and gospel infusing the sounds on his collection of songs. But like all the best southern rock, there's also a hefty dose of hippie-dippie psychedelia and groovy get back to nature riffs running through it too.
Preview Blue Healer by Jimbo Mathus.
Jimbo Mathus is the featured guest on Episode 249.
16. John Moreland / High On Tulsa Heat
In the singer/songwriter scene, it seems like everyone wants to come across as "the outsider." But John Moreland is an ousider's outsider. He's so unassuming and plain, he doesn't even try to create a persona. It's like he's telling you that he himself is just the delivery vehicle for these amazing songs that come out of his mouth. But someone had to write these songs. They didn't just exist out there in the ether. And that's what's amazing about the collection of songs High On Tulsa Heat. They're so good you forget that someone had to write them.
Read the review of High On Tulsa Heat.
Preview High On Tulsa Heat by John Moreland.
John Moreland is the featured guest on Episode 246.
17. Beth McKee / Sugarcane Revival
Beth McKee is not just a singer/songwriter. She's a movement. What started as a community of fans evolved into a loose collection of women who make a difference known as the Swamp Sistas. Sugarcane Revival is an inspiration that both draws from her Swamp Sistas and and a rallying cry for them. It's full of songs about people discovering strengths they didn't know they had, finding fortitude when it's needed the most, and learning how to make trouble when trouble needs to be made. The songs are anchored by her New Orleans's inspired acoustic piano and her strong, soulful voice.
Read the review of Sugarcane Revival.
Preview Sugarcane Revival by Beth McKee.
Beth McKee is the featured guest on Episode 255.
18. Shinyribs / Okra Candy
If you're like me and still working through the five stages grief over the
breakup permanent hiatus of The Gourds, you can take solace in Okra Candy from Kevin Russell, aka "Shinyribs." It's not exactly a "Gourds album." But the attitude is there. The wordplay is there. The mishmash of music inspirations is there. The fingerpicking is there. The fuzzy guitars are there. So this album will help you feel like there is still some hope for the music business. If songs like these can still get written and sung, it's not quite time to throw the earbuds in the trash.
Preview Okra Candy by Shinyribs.
19. Whitey Morgan & the 78s / Sonic Ranch
Whitey Morgan is unapologetically focused of finding the purest, truest honky-tonk sound. That's it. It's a singular, sharply focused obsession of his. And when you hit play on that first track, it feels almost like something being injected into your veins or into your soul. Everyting you want in honkytonk is in here. Songs of broken love, finding solace in a bottle, standing up to the man, putting up a brave front even when you're scared, fighting when you have to, running when it's necessary, and keeping a loose and fluid concept of what's legal. It's all in there. It has those huge thumping bass lines that move your feet. It's got vocals that are as big as the hills. There's pounding on acoustic pianos to add a gospel tinge. There's more twang in the guitars that you'd ever think possible. If you're one of those people who thinks you're above low brow honky-tonk, do yourself a favor, try just one track, I'd recommend "Ain't Gonna Take It Anymore," and take a hit.
Preview Sonic Ranch by Whitey Morgan & the 78s.
20. Michael Rank & Stag / Horsehair
Over the past two or three albums, Michael Rank has been developing a new sound that is absolutely original. It's down-tempo, angsty vibe that pulls elements of earnest folk riffs, string band finger-picking, and a late-night rock & roll vibe. On Horsehair, Michael Rank pulls it all together into a cohesive vision. Heather McEntire adds supporting vocals that create a chemistry and tension that you can almost feel in your bones. Even though the pace is deliberately downtempo, there's always something interesting wandering through the music and you can't wait to hear where the song is going to end up. And the songs, sweet jesus, they are about all those torn-up emotional roller-coasters we all live through at one time or another. It makes you glad to know other folks have been through all the same stuff. So while it's an emotionally tough album to listen to, you find yourself coming back to it again and again. And for aspiring songwriters out there, Horsehair is proof that it's still possible, even in this day and age, to come up with something that is completely original and completely your own.
Preview Horsehair by Michael Rank & Stag.
Michael Rank is the featured guest on Episode 270.
21. Steve Earle & The Dukes / Terraplane
As I understand it, Steve Earle was going through his seventh divorce while recording this album. Seventh. So no wonder it's a full on blues-album and by far the bluesiest album of his career. The album has an I-don't-give-a-you-know-what attitude in most of the songs. They're relaxed, back-porch efforts from someone who's finding a way to escape his troubles with music. And honestly, isn't that what we all need every now and then. What's truly amazing about this collection is that all of the songs are originals as far as I can tell, but they sound like they could have come from some newly discovered stash of Alan Lomax recordings from the 20s. Even with the modern electric guitars there's an old-school blues running throughout.
Preview Terraplane by Steve Earle & The Dukes.
22. Amy Black / The Muscle Shoals Sessions
It's like some space-time portal opened up and Amy Black stepped straight out of 1968 and into 2015. There's a Dusty Springfield approach to her vocals that pegs her as a soul singer. It doesn't sound retro. It sounds like people in the 60's trying to sound just as Modern and they know how to sound. I also like how there's just a hint of twang in her voice, like someone who's worked hard at getting rid of their southern drawl but can't quite hide all. The backing band is top notch. The Swampers themselves couldn't have supported this album any better. And the use of backup signers is inspired. never over done, never over-the top. If you buy one soul album this year, this is the one. The One.
Preview The Muscle Shoals Sessions by Amy Black.
23. JeConte / Down By The Bayou
Not your grampa's zydeco. JeConte is a harmonica player more known for his world music than american roots music, but that all changed with the release of Down By The Bayou. He teamed up New Orleans legend Anders Osborne, Wally Ingram of the Los Angeles rock scene, bassist Carl Dufrene from Louisiana, slide guitar master Chris Haugen, and his song-writing partner and lead guitarist Matty Cohen. When they hit the record button these time-stopping extended jams come pouring out of the band. Yeah the songs often start with a zydeco base, but they usually launch into something so much more The sound is thick, muddy, and sweaty. It's doesn't just feel like music, it feels like work is getting done. JeConte plays his harp like other guys play lead guitar and it's unlike anything else you've ever heard.
Preview Down By The Bayou by JeConte.
JeConte is the featured guest on Episode 243.
24. Drive-By Truckers / It's Great To Be Alive!
It's Great To Be Alive is a 3 CD collection of about 35 tracks recorded live at The Fillmore. Honestly, nothing much else needs to be said about this album. But I'll point out that they don't really mess around trying to be inventive with the arrangements of the songs on this album. They deliver the rock & roll just like you like to remember it. Foul-mouthed, in-your-face, and devil-can-take it attitudes from front to back. But you listen to the album from disc one all the way to the end and you begin to get a sense of just how much the Drive-by Truckers have contributed to the music scene over the decades. You want "best of" album. You got it. You want an album that captures the spirit of their live show. You got it. This album delivers on both.
Preview It's Great To Be Alive! by Drive-By Truckers.
25. Asleep At The Wheel / Still The King
Talk about a labor of love project. Ray Benson and his western swing band, Asleep At The Wheel, put together this awesome album tribute to the songs of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. The sound is pure and sweet swing music that has just the right amount of finger popping jump in it. The album is structured like a 1920's style radio variety show with Ray Benson acting as emcee, adding call and response flourishes here and there. Lead vocals are carried by a who's who of today's music scene. Lyle Lovett, Robert Earle Keen, Carrie Rodriguez, Avett Brothers, Amos Lee, Buddy Miller, Brad Paisley, Merle Haggard and many many more. Even if you thing Western Swing is not your thing, you owe it to yourself to check out a track or two of this amazing collection.
Preview Still The King by Asleep At The Wheel.
26. Michael O'Connor / Bloodshot Vagabond
Michael O'Connor's Bloodshot Vagabond is an album that snuck up on me this year. Every time I felt like I was running a little low on rock & roll, I found myself coming back to this album. And at the end of the year when I was looking back at what I'd been playing, I thought, "wow I've been playing the hell out of this album for months!" Seriously, this straight up rock & roll album will restore your hope in rock music. These late-night rock & roll ballads have a little bit of bad ass road warrior in them, a little bit of twangy balladeer, and some wall-of-sound guitar thrasher in them.
Preview Bloodshot Vagabond by Michael O'Connor.
27. Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin / Lost Time
Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin teamed up again on Lost Time to pay tribute to some of the blues and R&B singers that inspired them when they were young and just getting started in music. There area few originals on here, but mostly it's covers. Theres a James Brown cover, a Leroy Carr cover, a Willie Dixon cover. But by far the touchstone inspiration on the album is Joe Turner. There's several covers of Joe Turner including a bang-up rendition of "Cherry Red Blues." But these aren't just faithful copies of the songs. They are showcases for the brothers Alvin and their backing band. The vibe is relaxed and fun, but nothing can hide the technical mastery that shines through on every track of this collection.
Preview Lost Time by Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin.
28. Jim Lauderdale / Soul Searching
Jim Lauderdale is a fiercely independent musician and song writer who's been creating unusual sounds that mix R&B, country, power pop and blues for decades now and his songs have been covered by so many folks I think you can fairly say that Jim Lauderdale's sound has infused itself into the DNA of the Nashville music scene. He's so prolific that traditional record companies don't know how to manage and market the colume of songs he's producing. So he started his own label so he could release albums as often as he wants without having to answer to anyone. Soul Searching is a great example of just what Lauderdale can accomplish when he's turned loose. It's a double album, recorded in two separate studios with two separate sets of sidemen. One is more of a deep blues album while the other disc is more of a country/soul effort, but they all work together. Lauderdale really vamps up a blues/soul approach to the vocals and when delivered with his classic twang, it's completely awesome.
Preview Soul Searching by Jim Lauderdale.
Jim Lauderdale is the featured guest on Episode 275.
29. Corb Lund / Things That Can't Be Undone
Corb Lund's plain approach to country rock makes you feel like anyone can sing of they just set their mind to it and the songs are just the kind that you'd want to sing along with while driving down the road. There are Dylan-esque ballads, country shuffles, pub rock anthems, and more on Things That Can't Be Undone. He sings neither about sinners nor saints. But the characters in these songs a Pretty Good Guys who you might want to hang with on a Saturday night. And yeah you might have to bail them out every now and then, but it's never a dull minute.
Preview Things That Can't Be Undone by Corb Lund.
Corb Lund is the featured guest on Episode 274.
30. Barrence Whitfield & the Savages / Under The Savage Sky
Barrence Whitfield himself says his particular kind of soul/rock crossover is like a "musical karate chop to the head." And so many people need exactly that these days. No excuse for standing around staring at your shoes at a Barrence Whitfield show. I true music journalist would probably have to say that his music is soul/R&B. But it's done in a heavy metal wall-of-sound way that fits in well with the grafitti-scrawled nightclubs they usually play. It's a sound unlike anything you've ever heard and if you need any sort of wake-up call, this is the album for you.
Preview Under The Savage Sky by Barrence Whitfield & the Savages.
Barrence Whitfield is the featured guest on Episode 262.
31. Kentucky Headhunters with Johnnie Johnson / Meet Me In Bluesland
Meet Me in Bluesland is eleven tracks of the best roadhouse blues you can shake a stick at. And this album is even better than the usual Kentucky Headhunters fare because it's based on some recordings they did with acoustic piano player Johnnie Johnson shortly before he passed away. Everyone is at the top of their game on this album and they know how to entertain with songs that sound familiar and fun.
Preview Meet Me In Bluesland by Kentucky Headhunters with Johnnie Johnson.
32. Ted Hefko and The Thousandaires / Distillations Of The Blues
Preview Distillations Of The Blues by Ted Hefko and The Thousandaires.
33. The Honeycutters / Me Oh My
Preview Me Oh My by The Honeycutters.
34. Lori Yates / Sweetheart Of The Valley
I didn't know much about Lori Yates when I threw her CD into the car's player. But from the opening track I could tell that she is an experienced songwriter that knows a lot about music and entertaining people. Her sounds are pure country, her voice has that feminine country charm, bith strong and beautiful. But what stands out are her songs, never an awkward line or syllable out of place, full of feel good vibes and powerful imagery. When I dug into her story more, I found out she's been working in music biz since the 70's and has worked with lots of Nashville greats. Now she's back in her home country of Canada, winning all their country music awards and running songwriting workshops. So yeah, she's a country singer that deserves far more attention than she's getting in the United States.
Preview Sweetheart Of The Valley by Lori Yates.
35. Dayna Kurtz / Rise And Fall
At first listen, Rise And Fall by Dayna Kurts comes across as a typical country/soul crossover album. But about half way through the first track, as you find yourself humming along with the melody or singing along with the backup singers, you realize what a tour de force this collection of songs is. Rarely have I heard such a strong, feminine voice command such attention. Every tremble in her voice and every soulful refrain commands attention.
Preview Rise And Fall by Dayna Kurtz.
Dayna Kurtz is the featured guest on Episode 250.
36. Feufollet / Two Universes
Entertainment Weekly says of Feufollet's Two Universes has "not just the Cajun style of the band's native Louisiana but Appalachian fiddle music, honky-tonk country, and Delta blues." That's entirely true but doesn't begin to convey how much fun the album is. The band knows how to kick up the dust with the best of them and I think everyone will find at least one track on the album that will get their feet moving.
Preview Two Universes by Feufollet.
37. The Deslondes / self-titled
The Deslondes' self-title album is a soulful old-time sound in a country/soul- cross over style. There's a bit of a beer-hall sing-along vibe going on through big parts of it that I like a lot. It's mostly a down-tempo album full of shuffles, upright-bass lines that roll along, and keyboard riffs, especially acoustic piano riffs, that have an early R&B vibe to them. And yet, there's a we're-all-in-this-together spirit that makes the album more positive that negative. I like it when a band can infuse sad songs with a we-shall-prevail spirit and this album has a lot of that. As I listen to the album, I keep wanting to compare them to the Felice Brothers.
Preview self-titled by The Deslondes.
38. Whitney Rose / Heartbreaker of the Year
Whitney Rose teamed up with Raul Malo on Heartbreaker of the year, so the sound is aptly described as "vintage pop infused with neo-traditional country." Ok that sounds a little pretentious, but the album is actually very down to earth. Many of the tracks do sound like they could come straight off the 1950s pop charts. And yes there are some country takes on this album that are reminiscent of Tammy Wynette or Dolly Parton. But this isn't a derivative album. This is a Whitney Rose album and she has her own voice and her own charm. And when she sings with Malo, her presence is even more amazing.
Preview Heartbreaker of the Year by Whitney Rose.
Whitney Rose is the featured guest on Episode 265.
39. VA / Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll
Earlier this year, famed music writer Peter Guralnick published a book called Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll, which documents Sam Phillips storied career at Sun Records and consequently documents the earliest days of rock & roll. Guralnick teamed up with Yep Roc records to produce this companion CD. It has about 35 tracks of various artists that Sam Phillips recorded. Some of the tracks are famous, some of them are rare and obscure. But they are all interesting and entertaining. You get to hear tracks from Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Elvis Presley on this set. It's a fun stroll through the earliest days of rock & roll.
Preview Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll compilation album released by YepRoc.
40. Jimmy LaFave / The Night Tribe
Although he's lived in Austin the past twenty years or so, Jimmy LaFave grew up in Stillwater, Oklahoma and you can hear the red dirt music influence in his music. There is a Guthrie-esque element to his songwriting but at the same time, his music is more layered and nuanced than you get from most singer-songwriters with that background. Jimmy LaFaves' The Night Tribe album cranks his signature sound up to 11. It's rootsy. It's down-to-earth. It's full of toe-tapping rhythms. But there's also a smooth hep-cat element peeking through the corners of the music.
Preview The Night Tribe by Jimmy LaFave.
Jimmy LaFave is the featured guest on Episode 253.
41. Dick LeMasters / Gasoline & Fire
After staking his claim in the East Texas Blues with One Bird, Two Stones, Dick LeMasters moves deeper into Hill Country with an acoustic, songwriter album, Gasoline & Fire. Like McMurtry, Isbell, and Cooley, LeMasters can write verse that scans and rhymes and still sounds like real people talkin’. His sound is deep Texas. Not the Mythical Texas., but Just Plain Texas, the state (of mind) that’s plain, direct, matter-of-fact, and completely without cynicism, excuse making, or delusions. It’s a welcome relief from the pretentious, navel-gazing coffee house hipsters that are giving songwriters a bad name these days.
Preview Gasoline & Fire by Dick LeMasters.
42. Dale Watson / Call Me Insane
God Bless Dale Watson. He's a man that still has the nerve to do his own thing. In his case, it's that classic 70's country sound complete with rhinestones, wild shirts, tooled leather jackets, and most of all, that hair, that pompadour cut that pegs in as a man of his times. And the thing is, he does it without a trace of irony and his sound is huge enough to support the image. Call Me Insane is Dale Watson's latest collection. There's still an undercurrent of travelin' truckin songs, especially on tracks like "Day At A Time." There are also country shuffles and a bit of western swing on the album. He's be developing his Ameripolitan sound for decades and it combines western swing, honky-tonk, rockabilly, and outlaw country and it may be the perfect music to drink and dance to.
Preview Call Me Insane by Dale Watson.
Dale Watson is the featured guest on Episode 256.
43. Bumper Jacksons / Too Big World
Too Big World by the Bumper Jacksons is full of street party music from a bygone era. Think 20's and 30's New Orleans. You're gonna hear some happy jazz, some street busking, blues, maybe a little swing band country here and there. Whether your putting together a block party, a backyard get-together, or a party in your mind, Too Big World is a great addition to any play list.
Preview Too Big World by Bumper Jacksons.
44. Tom Rhodes / With Or Without
With Or Without by Tom Rhodes is one of the most sing-alongable albums I've heard in a good while. The hooks are clever, the rhythms feel good, and the lyrics are infectious. I admire the guitar work on this collection which is clearly a cut above what you get from most singer/songwriters. But it's the good-natured every man attitude I like best about his music.
Preview With Or Without by Tom Rhodes.
Tom Rhodes is the featured guest on Episode 260.
45. Kevin Sekhani / Day Ain’t Done
Kevin Sekhani is a long-time songwriter and music veteran. He worked the Austin music scene for about twenty years honing his craft in bands like Radio Thieves and Two Minute Sinatra. Then in 2010 he move back to his home town of Lafayette, Louisiana to be front man in the gospel group, The Mercy Brothers. Day Ain't Done is his debut as a solo artist, but he's got decades of experience, scars, and wisdom to fill this album. The overall sound is cajun, and the songs have an easy going back porch party feel to them. Sekhani is not afraid to bend the rules of the genre to make the music appealing to the Saturday night bar crowd. He does a great job incorporating the best music of both Austin and Lafayette.
Preview Day Ain’t Done by Kevin Sekhani.
Kevin Sekhani is the featured guest on Episode 258.
46. Jason James / Jason James
Jason James is an up and coming country singer who's not afraid to make the old-school country that supposedly no one wants to hear anymore. Think George Jones. Think Hank Williams Sr. As far as I know, all the songs on the album are originals written and arranged by Jason James, except for “Walk Through My Heart,” which was a co-write with Jim Lauderdale and Odie Blackmon. The resulting sound is classic and true.
Preview Jason James by Jason James.
47. Joe Ely / Panhandle Rambler
Joe Ely hails from the panhandle of Texas, originally from Amarillo and later Lubbock. He's been making music for about two decades and has honed his songwriting skills to create a heartland sound that couldn't come from anywhere else but Texas. The sound has equal parts border music, roots rock, and Guthrie-esque folk. Panhandle Rambler has a hi-lonesome sound on many of the tracks but he knows how to rock too.
Preview Panhandle Rambler by Joe Ely.
48. Tokyo Rosenthal / Afterlife
Tokyo Rosenthal has been entertaining folks in the Raleigh Durham area for years both as a singer songwriter and as the producer of a music variety show on radio stations all over. He is one of those folks that is constantly honing his craft through live performance and gauging the reactions from the audience. He is constantly writing songs that address both the issues of the day and what's going on in his life. So there is always something new to uncover in Rosenthal's story songs.
Preview Afterlife by Tokyo Rosenthal.
Tokyo Rosenthal is the featured guest on Episode 268.
49. Shemekia Copeland / Outskirts Of Love
Shemekia Copeland is a hard-hitting blues singer. Her delivery is like a smack from a nine pound hammer and her songs are tell-it-like-it-is broadsides of sound and emotion. But she can do the soulful thing to. For example on Outskirts Of Love her cover of Solomon Burke's "I Feel A Sin Coming On" will bring a tear to your eye. Shemekia Copeland can also do more of a rock & roll sound as evidenced by her cover of Billy Gibons' "Jesus Just Left Chicago."
Preview Outskirts Of Love by Shemekia Copeland.
Shemekia Copeland is the featured guest on Episode 266.
50. Nigel Hall / Ladies & Gentlemen... Nigel Hall
Nigel Hall has established himself as one of the go to sidemen for soul / R&B projects ever since he moved to New Orleans a a few years ago. Dues paid, he's now decided its time to take center stage at last and introduce himself on Ladies & Gentlemen.... Nigel Hall. The sound is modern, funky, and danceable. It's everything you want out of an R&B album. There's a few tracks that are classic soul. But the highlight tracks are all 21st century, urban grooves and smooth lyrics about making it work with the one you love.
Preview Ladies & Gentlemen... Nigel Hall by Nigel Hall.
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