Sunday, December 28, 2008

Best of 2008

This is my Finaa list of the year. The Truckers are #1 and went wire to wire in the top spot. No small accomplishment. Give me your thoughts and your top picks:

1) Drive By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark
2) The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
3) Kaey Chambers & Shane Nicholson - Rattlin' Bones
4) Lucinda Williams - Little Honey
5) Tift Merrit - Another Country
6) Hayes Carll - Trouble in Mind
7) Reckless Kelly - Bulletproof
8) Old 97's - Blame it on Gravity
9) Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal
10) Chris Knight - Heart of Stone
11) Kaiser Chiefs - Off with Their Heads
12) The Steeldrivers - The Steeldrivers
13) Ryan Adams & the Cardinals - Cardinology
14) Old Crow Medicine Show - Tennessee Pusher
15) My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
16) The Waybacks - Loaded
17) Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
18) Band of Heathens - Self-Titled
19) Shawn Mullins - Honeydew
20) The Whigs - Mission Control
21) Ashton Shepherd - Sounds so Good
22) Jaon Boland & the Straggler - Comal County Blue
23) J. J. Grey & Mofro - Orange Blossoms
24) Okkervil River - The Stand Ins
25) Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
26) The Beautiful Loser Society - Aim Low
27) Yarn - Empty Pockets
28) Griffin House - Flying Upside Down
29) The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
30) John D. Hale - Lost
31) Drew Emmitt - Long Road
32) Infamous Stringdusters - Self-Titled
33) Wild Sweet Orange - We Have Cause to be Uneasy
34) Cherryholmes - III
35) R.E.M. - Accelerate
36) Justin Townes Earle - The Good Life
37) Joey & Rory - The Life of a Song
38) Ray Lamontagne - Gossip in the Grain
39) B. B. King - One Kind of Favor
40) British Columbians - Self-Titled
41) Teddy Thompson - A Piece of What You Need
42) The Waifs - Sundirtwater
43) The Bridge - Blind Mam's Hill
44) Brett Dennen - Hope for the Hopeless
45) Donna The Buffalo - Silverlined
46) Heybale - The Last Country Album
47) Tejas Brothers - Self - Titled
48) Railroad Earth - Amen Corner
49) Kathleen Edwards - Asking for Flowers
50) Sierra Hull - Secrets
51) South Austin Jug Band - Strange Invitation
52) Eleven Hundred Springs - Country Jam
53) Jim Lauderdale - Honey Songs
54) Dr. Dog - Fate
55) The Stills - Oceans Will Rise
56) Hank Williams III - Damn Right Rebel Proud
57) Chatham County Line - IV
58) Sonny Landreth - From the Reach
59) Graham Lindsey - We are All Alone in This Together
60) Have Gun Will Travel - Casting Shadows Tall as Giants

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Alternate Routes - A Sucker's Dream

It is easier to describe the Alternate Routes by what they are not. They are not Rock, Pop or Folk. They are just good. Their eclectic sound will actually work against them but they are too talented to ignore. For some reason in the current music industry we need to pigeon-hole everything. Every where else in society multi-culturalism and diversity are valued. But in music we have to be able to fit things into neat radio formats pre-approved by Clear Channel executives. Fortunately Vanguard Records cares about artists and knows that the artists worthy of being found can find their place. Even if they don't fit in some radio executive's little box. In the current music landscape there are more distribution channels than ever. So good artists can be promoted and discovered. Indeed if there is a theme on A Sucker's Dream overcoming long odds seems to be it.

This album like their previous Vanguard debut was produced in Nashville by Jay Joyce (John Hiatt, Patty Griffin). From sweeping ballads, catchy pop hooks and earthy Rock this album goes in more directions than their previous record Good and Reckless and True. The Alternate Routes home base is the blue collar town of Bridgeport, Connecticut but their true home is the road. They tour relentlessly and are gaining a reputation as a real crowd pleasers. I have not had the privilege of seeing them live. However, listening to the album I am not surprised their music translates so well to an audience. There is an emotional presence in their music that seems very sincere. This earnestness adds a certain aura to the music that draws you in as you listen. Such honesty deserves a place in the music landscape for sure.

This review also appears on Twangville

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

From the Twangville Posse

Check out Kelly's review of Charlie Louvin

Check out Tom's Best of 2008. Which will get your appetite going for the final AWT Poll.

Also don't miss Mayer's Playlist

The British Columbians

Ironically they actually are from British Columbia. So their name may lack a little originality. That is ok because it appears they put all of their originality and creativity into their music. The Blues have influenced Rock & Roll since, well actually forever. However, thanks to bands like White Stripes, Black Keys and Black Mountain among others the blues are invading Indie Rock again. You can add The British Columbians to the list. Their self-titled debut album on Rural Records is garnering some attention but it deserves much more. The album was mixed in B.C. at The Hive by Colin Stewart (Black Mountain, Destroyer, and Ladyhawke). Not unlike Black Mountain the album has a Psychedelic Blues sound but it is also influenced by Classic Rock and Roll. Consequently, the band doesn't let the solos and improv over-shadow the core song like a lot of Psychedelic influenced bands. Instead The British Columbians employ Rock and Blues influences that let the songs be the focus.

This is not to say that they can't jam. They certainly aren't afraid to let it rip at times. The British Columbians are Girard Knox - guitar and vocals; Dave Moran - drums and vocals; Christopher Ellis - electric & upright bass; Owen Connell - keyboards, guitar and pedal steel. The use of the upright bass and pedal steel give the album an ancient sound at times while sounding fully modern. At times it reminiscent of Sixteen Horsepower and David Eugene Edwards. Some songs like "Bye Bye Marie" sound eerily rural while others like "Gasoline Handshake" are more electric with a clear Led Zeppelin influence. The latter song is the linchpin of the project. It has a driving bass line that gets you in a groove just in time to deliver a gut punch of an improvisational guitar solo, which flows right into a Psychedelic jam with a wailing trumpet scream. Right now the band is touring primarily in their native B.C. and Alberta. However, based on what this debut shows, Canadians won't be able to keep them to themselves much longer.


This review also appears on Twangville

Monday, December 15, 2008

Griffin House New Tour Dates in 2009

Also he released a new video for "The Guy that Says Goodbye"



Thur, Jan 15 Boulder, CO @ B Side Lounge

Sat, Jan 17 Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court

Mon, Jan 19 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge

Tues, Jan 20 Seattle, WA @ The Triple Door

Thur, Jan 22 San Francisco, CA @ Swedish American Hall

Sat, Jan 24 Los Angeles, CA @ Hotel Café

Sun, Jan 25 San Diego, CA @ Anthology

Mon, Jan 26 Phoenix, AZ @ The Rhythm Room

Thur, Jan 29 Austin, TX @ Stubb’s

Fri, Jan 30 Dallas, TX @ The Loft

Sat, Jan 31 Houston, TX @ Meridian


Mon, Feb 2 St. Louis, MO @ The Duck Room @ Blueberry Hill

Wed, Feb 4 Ann Arbor, MI @ The Ark

Thur, Feb 5 Madison, WI @ Orpheum Stage Door

Fri, Feb 6 Minneapolis, MN @ Varsity Theatre

Sat, Feb 7 Chicago, IL @ Double Door

Wed, Feb 11 Grand Rapids, MI @ The Intersection

Thur, Feb 12 La Salle, IL @ Uptown Grill (SOLD OUT)

Fri, Feb 13 Newport, KY @ Southgate House

Sat, Feb 14 Muncie, IN @ The Living Room

Thur, Feb 19 Atlanta, GA @ Smith’s Olde Bar

Fri, Feb 20 Birmingham, AL @ WorkPlay Theatre

Sat, Feb 21 Nashville, TN @ Exit/In

Wed, Feb 25 Philadelphia, PA @ World Café Live

Thur, Feb 26 Vienna, VA @ Jammin’ Java

Fri, Feb 27 New York, NY @ Highline Ballroom

Sat, Feb 28 Boston, MA @ Café 939

MARCH 2009

Thur, Mar 5 Louisville, KY @ Gerstie’s

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yarn Spin a Video

Yarn is an independent band that has seen a groundswell of Grassroots support. Watch this video of them live in WDVX:

Settin' the Woods on Fire - This Week's Charts

I am having to drop the Cross-Country chart from my polls thanks to our "friends" at Sirius who killed the best channel on XM. However I still have the Americana Music Charts and the FMQB Non-Commercial AAA chart so it is not all bad:

Americana Music Association Airplay for the week of 12-1:
1) Lucinda Williams - Little Honey
2) Todd Snider - Peace Queer
3) Ryan Adams and the Cardinals - Cardinology
4) Rodney Crowell - Sex & Gasoline
5) Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson - Rattlin' Bones
6) Yarn - Empty Pockets
7) OCMS - Tennessee Pusher
8) Tejas Brothers - Tejas Brothers
9) Susan Tedeschi - Back to the River
10)Chris Night - Heart of Stone

FMQB AAA Non-Commercial Airplay Chart for the week of 12-1:
1) Ryan Adams and the Cardinals - Cardinology
2) Byrne/Eno - Everything that Happens will Happen Today
3) Susan Tedeschi - Back to the River
4) Brett Dennen - Hope for the Hopeless
5) Pretenders - Break up the Concrete
6) Lucinda Williams - Little Honey
7) Ray Lamontagne - Gossip in the Grain
8) Jenny Lewis - Acid Tounge
9) Coldplay - Viva La Vida
10)Calexico - Carried to Dust

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Beautiful Loser Society - Aim Low

Recently I came across the band from the Four Corners region of Colorado, The Beautiful Loser Society. Whose new CD Aim Low is a veritable smorgasbord of Roots Rock styles. Featuring Southern Rock, Outlaw Country and Blues. The album rocks with tales of losers, loners, moonshiners and jilted lovers. All of these tales are cloaked with a certain Gothic charm. The Beautiful Loser Society is Chuck Barry on rhythm guitar and lead vocal, Kevin Chelf on lead guitar, Danny Bankston on the drums and Mike McCluhan on the electric and upright bass. The album was mixed and mastered in Austin by Dale X Allen and Cris Burns who deserve some of the credit for Aim Low's Gothic feel. Call it Roots Goth, or Gothic Twang. Whatever description it is given the Society's music deserves to be heard.

The band seems to have a loyal fanbase in the Durango/Telluride area but I can only hope their reputation can grow beyond this regional status to a wider audience. From the opening track,"Delta Shine," which tells the story of an outlaw moonshiner to the hilarious "Best Thing (That Ever Happened to the Worst Girl in Town.)" Their is also "ole John Deere," a touching tale about a family searching for something to cling to while facing hard Times. Country songs like "Talkin' to the Devil" also abound on Aim Low. The album is fun listen and certainly a gem of a find.


Buy at CD Baby

Friday, November 28, 2008

Holiday Music for the Naughty and Nice

It may sound a bit like Bah Humbug but I have never been a big fan of Holiday music. It is all the same and predictable and a lot of it is just downright cheesy. I also cannot stand when stores start playing holiday music before Thanksgiving. However, I confess that a good Christmas CD will get you in the mood for the Advent season like nothing else. My favorite Christmas CD ever is and will always be the Bruce Cockburn Christmas album; but this year I have received a few CDs that are new classics:

Rosie Thomas - A Very Rosie Christmas This one is at the top of my list this year. It is a nice mix of originality and tradition. Best of all her original composition "Why Can't it be Christmastime All Year?" is a new classic Christmas song. She also has some great new arrangements of classic Christmas songs. Especially good is her version of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" Thomas is a Seattle area favorite and now she will always be a holiday favorite of mine.

Alison Brown - Evergreen Brown's banjo virtuosity and creativity make for a great Holiday album. This NewGrass artist is definitely leaning more to her Jazz side on this album. On several songs she seamlessly combines two classic tunes into one song but not as a typical medley. It is more of an inter-mingling of songs. Listen to "Carol and the Kings," "Two Santas" and "Skating/Feliz Navidad."

George Strait - Classic Christmas Simply put this album is what it says it is. So why isn't it just another traditional predictable Christmas recording? Because it is George Strait. The perfect Country voice makes the perfect Country Christmas album.

Compassion not Consumption The Advent Conspiracy

This review also appears on Twangville

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit to Release New Album

Press Release from lightning Rod Records:

Muscle Shoals, AL - Lightning Rod Records will release Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's eponymous album on February 17, 2009. Isbell is a former member of the Drive-By Truckers and this is his second solo release (his first release with his band The 400 Unit). The 400 Unit is Derry deBorja (keyboards), Jimbo Hart (bass) and Browan Lollar (guitar). Matt Pence (Centro-matic/South San Gabriel) lends his talents as co-producer, drummer and engineer.

The album was co-produced by Isbell and The 400 Unit with Matt Pence. "I want it to be known that it's a band record," says Isbell. "I want it to be known that it's something we all did together. Even though I wrote the songs, it was a very inclusive project." Isbell has posted the new track, "Seven-Mile Island," on the band's MySpace site.

The album was recorded at the renowned FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sirius Gives Twamg the Finger

When they merged it was all going to be better. They said the merger would not hurt the diversity of programming, it would enhance it. Then, like a politician after an election, we realize they lied. It is the only explanation for killing the X-Country channel in favor of Outlaw Country. Their are other disappointing changes, but the end of X-Country is the most devastating to me. I have been to the XM website and complained. I also called and was told, "outlaw Country is the same thing" by the representative. "Really," I replied, "What is your favorite Robert Earl Keen song?" "Who," the representative replied in an accent that let's just say was probably nor Texan.

To be fair Outlaw Country isn't bad but the mix and the depth of their playlist is inferior. Then again that sums up why XM had better overall music channels than Sirius. Outlaw country is about half classic Honky-Tonk. I love Classic Country and X-Country mixed in some Classic Country but not at the expense of the Red Dirt Music Scene and Americana influenced Troubadours. Since there are two other classic country channels, Outlaw Country needs to focus more on contemporary Americana so they can give a voice to the wide mix of artist that X-Country did. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the mission of Sirius. Their programmers target a more superficial audience that appreciates the conventional more than true artistry.

Hey all is not lost I can now get the Playboy channel. That's right, they give us porn for the ears. Is there anything more American than that? Think about it the next time you are behind an 18-Wheeler on the interstate. Are you sure that is a gearshift his hand is on?

Video: DBT & Hold Steady Live in Chicago

November 14th the "Rock & Roll Means Well Tour"

Monday, November 17, 2008

Random News

New Boss Album in the Works
Bruce Springsteen's new album Working on a Dream has been set for a January 27th release on Columbia Records. Working on a Dream was recorded with the E Street Band and features twelve new Springsteen compositions plus two bonus tracks. It is the fourth collaboration between Springsteen and Brendan O'Brien, who produced and mixed the album.

Pettis' New Album 4 years in the works
Pierce Pettis will release his new album, That Kind of Love, on Nashville's
Compass Records January 27, 2009. The album includes 9 originals and 2 covers including Mark Heard's "Nothing But the Wind."
Sample the Songs

The Mating Habits of Guinea pigs
A song about guinea Pigs is always worth a listen
Listen to the MP3 by Desmond Reed, from his album 10 Acoustic Demos on Series Two Records

Paste Magazine Best of 2008
It seems to be a bit premature, but Paste will begin unveiling it's best of 2008 lists this week. Check it out. I plan to do the same in early December.
Link to the Schedule

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Blue Line Highway - Perfect Curve

Richmond based NewGrassers Blue Line Highway are a recent discovery that released an impressive album A Perfect Curve. It is a nice mixture of traditional and modern styling, along with acoustic and electric instrumentation. The band mixes Americana, Rock and a laid back blues vibe in a way that puts them in the NewGrass camp but they certainly have their on distinctive sound. Also, as is often the case in this sub-genre, there is a definite Grateful Dead influence. The songwriting is superb with catchy tunes and vocal harmonies. These guys certainly deserve more props than they are receiving.

The album has compelling folk tales like “Billy” and danceable rockers like “3 Ways to Go” Also they like to Jam and have the chops to pull it off. The mixing of Americana, Blues and Jam Band style gives them a style that is unique. By the way, it does not hurt that they are talented musicians. Blue Line Highway is: John Leedes (guitar and vocals), Julia Dooley (vocals, percussion, harmonica), Melissa McKenna (vocals, guitar), Ray Alfano (bass). Right now they are touring primarily in Virginia. However, I hope more folks will check them out so they can spread out geographically.

Check out the EPK

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Johnny Cash Live at Folson Prison

There are two retrospectives released recently about the man in black. One is a DVD documentary and CD Johnny Cash's America the other is the remastered release of Live at Folsom Prison, which also includes a DVD and an album of unreleased material. For the former Kelly gives the best review anywhere over on Twangville and Gobblers Knob so I won't even attempt to take on that one. But Folsom Prison was important for so many reasons I would like to reflect on that recording. It was a seminal release for Cash because it launched a second stage of his career when he was at a a crossroads. It is at crossroads like these where most artists' careers die. Cash's took off even though he did what everyone told him not to do. Instead of getting rid of his traditional sound and going more mainstream, he went to a prison and recorded an album. Why, because he knew how to connect to people. He knew fans could see and appreciate the sincerity of what he was doing. Cash was close friends with a California pastor who had a ministry at Folsom Prison. This pastor thought his appearance could make a difference. So he went there because he cared. As Kelly Dearmore pointed out in his aforementioned review, Cash's true fans consider him family. This sincerity and Cash's concern for the forgotten and downtrodden meant a lot to many people. Recording an album at a prison made little sense to the contemporary Nashville records execs who were obsessed with taking country mainstream.

Cash knew his fan base and bet that others would be compelled by the recording. Cash sensed that his fans weren't as shallow as the recording executives thought. He knew what he wanted and did it his way, as usual. He may have cleaned up his act at that point in his life but he was still a rebel. The irony of it all is that Cash ended up doing exactly what music row wanted. He extended his fan base. The album rose to number 1 on country and number 13 on the pop charts. The evening started with some of the most powerful words in music History, "Hi I'm Johnny Cash." Throughout the album it is obvious Cash empathized with the prisoners. He himself had been prisoner to his own depression, insecurity and the memory of his deceased brother. One special moment was when he sang "Greystone Chapel" a song written by Folsom inmate Glenn Sherley. In the end Cash did it his way with phenomenal results. However, no member of the Cash family of fans finds it surprising that he succeeded by foregoing making an album targeted to mainstream middle America and instead recorded an album to society's outcasts.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ben Sollee New EP and Tour

Ben Sollee has a new EP called Something Worth Keeping

He's written a note about it:

"The beauty of people is anchored in imperfection; it is not that we are destructive but that we are ignorant to a better way. We dream big with even bigger costs. Furthermore, we learn the lesson daily that we don’t know what we have until it is gone. Combined, these two qualities are child-like but ever present.

When I look around I see a lot of things that are worth keeping: the mountain tops of Appalachia, family and community farms, art and music in schools, and, most of all, a government by the people and for the people. But how? The challenge that our leaders and us face is that we don’t know how to accomplish these goals. There are many eloquent ideas out there about renewable energy, educational systems, and governing, but realizing them means trying new things; which is daunting at least, and terrifying at most. As my generation takes the reins we should not sacrifice some qualities of this nation and the land in its boundaries to the wayfaring spirit of economy. They are important for Americans, our children, and the rest of the world.

These thoughts inspired these two new songs. But they are only songs…" - Ben Sollee

His upcoming tour starts Saturday. "Only a Song" features Jim James from My Morning Jacket.

Only a Song

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lucinda Williams & Elvis Costello - Jailhouse Tears

After listening to Little Honey it is great to see Lucinda Williams happy again. I'm also glad she is still sassy. She has recorded her share of memorable duets over the years, but "Jailhouse Tears" is in my opinion the best duet of her career. Previously my favorite duet of hers was "Down to the Well" with Kevin Gordon from 2000. The duet with Costello ranks with some of the great country duets. Paste Magazine feels the same way. Costello and Williams first hooked up on CMT's Crossroads. They certainly capture the magic again on this call and reply style song, in which a woman telss her man "how it is." The song is traditional in its vocal styling but thoroughly modern in every other way.

Check out this video from the CMT performance to get a taste:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Settin' The Woods on Fire - This Week's Charts

After a few requests I am bringing this feature back. I will post every 2 weeks on AWT the top albums and debuts in the airplay charts from Americana Music Assoc. and the FMQB Non-Commercial Adult Alternative chart. I have dropped the XM Cross Country Chart because it is a reporting station to the Americana chart. The links to these charts are included on my Blogroll at the right.

Americana Music Association - Airplay Week of 10-13
1) Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson – Rattlin’ Bones
2) Todd Snider - Peace Queer
3) Rodney Crowell - Sex & Gasoline
4) Lucinda Williams – Little Honey
5) Little Feat and Friends – Join the Band
6) OCMS – Tennessee Pusher
7) Chris Knight – Heart of Stone
8) Carrie Rodriguez – She Ain’t Me
9) Darrell Scott – Modern Hymns
10)Band of Heathens – Self Titled

25) Bob Dylan - Telltale Signs
28) Charlie Haden - Ramblin' Boy

FMQB Non Commercial AAA Chart - Airplay Week of 10-13
1) Calexico - Carried to Dust
2) The Pretenders - Break Up the Concrete
3) Michael Franti - All Rebel Rockers
4) Lucinda Williams - Little Honey
5) Bob Dylan - Telltale Signs
6) Taj Majal - Maestro
7) Dar Williams - Promised Land
8) Coldplay - Viva La Vida
9) Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst
10) Ben Folds _ Way to Normal

28) Snow Patrol - Hundred Million Suns
29) Joseph Arthur - Temporary People

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

R.E.M. To Release deluxe version of Murmur

I was 16 in 1983. During that year, through a couple of Friends, I encountered a handful of albums that changed my life. I won't bore you with the list, but one of them was R.E.M.'s Murmur. Fans of "Alt-Country" and Uncle Tupelo would do well to go back and listen to the stripped down renderings on this album and find inspiration. After all, Peter Buck did produce an Uncle Tupelo album. This was the early unpredictable R.E.M. When Michael Stipe, often stoned and singing with his back to the audience, used his voice as an instrument. I defy anyone to decipher the complete lyrics of this album. The album will be released on November 25th. Here is a description from the R.E.M. Website:

The two-CD set features R.E.M.'s debut album, remastered, plus an additional disc with a previously unreleased concert recorded at Larry’s Hideaway in Toronto, three months after Murmur’s April 1983 release.

The 16-song live performance boasts nine of Murmur’s 12 songs, including “Radio Free Europe," three songs from the Chronic Town EP, early renditions of "7 Chinese Bros." and "Harborcoat," as well as “Just A Touch,” eventually a track included on R.E.M.’s fourth album, 1986’s Lifes Rich Pageant. The live set also features a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “There She Goes Again,” which R.E.M. recorded in the studio for the b-side of “Radio Free Europe.”

Exclusive essays by producers Mitch Easter and Don Dixon, as well as former I.R.S. executives Jay Boberg, Sig Sigworth, Carlos Grasso round out the deluxe edition.

HANK III Release Day


Just in time for Halloween the famous namesake unleashes another group of songs full of personal and inherited demons that mixes Traditional Country with a hint of Metal and Punk. He is the original The Southern Gothic Outlaw. This could be his edgiest album yet.

Here is the EPK:

Here is the first video:
(Check Out the Jesco White Shirt. Anyone who has never seen the "Dancing Outlaw" documentary please do so soon. Also see the creepy cameo of Unknown Hinson)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Alex Woodard New Video

Singer/guitarist Alex Woodard debuted two new music videos for songs off his recently released self-titled album on Adrenaline Music Group last week, "Reno" and "There Is No More Time To Waste." The San Diego Tribune says, "Woodard's well-crafted songs are cut from the same cloth as those of Tom Petty, Rodney Crowell, John Mellencamp, Jim Croce and other American troubadours- - past and present - whose music eloquently captures earthy truths about living, loving and growing older without losing the dreams of youth."

"Reno" features Alex with Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek on vocals and fiddle here it is:

The Book Report Part 1: Sing Me Back Home - Dana Jennings

Dana Jennings shares through his personal experience why traditional Country music endures and has meant so much to so many generations. He also reflects on how it has changed, and conjectures as to why modern country music has changed its tune. The primary factor is socio-economic and demographic. Histtory teaches us that after the great depression and World War II America was unleashed in an economic expansion that turned our country into the juggernaut we are today. However, Jennings points out that in much of rural America post-war prosperity was a mere rumor. This held true in the North as well as the South. (In fact, Jennings himself was from New Hampshire) It is Country Music of the 50's and 60's that tells this secret history of the American rural working class. It also characterizes the move from the country to the city many rural Americans were forced to make in search of work.

Jennings tells this story by juxtaposing Country Music themes and songs next to the experiences of his own immediate and extended family during this time. In this memoir the characters themselves are worth the read. He had a Grandmother that let's just say "got around." His father was a hell raiser who aspired to be a Rockabilly bad-boy. His mother struggled to keep it together and turned to her records for solace. His aunts and uncles are even more entertaining (and sometimes a bit scary). Music had a big influence on his family. In fact, he makes a point that to much of rural America the death of Patsy Cline was far more devestating than the death of John Kennedy. They related to Patsy Cline but left the politics of the day to the middle and upper classes. The only place he misses it is religion. Because his family wasn't very religious I think he misses the importance of God in the lives of the rural people of that era. In fact, when the Cross was all they had to cling to it was truly meaningful.

Eventually prosperity found rural America and urban America found Country music. As times became easier Country became corporate and Nashville devoured Country music. But Country music of that era still has meaning today. As Jennings says in his final Chapter:

"In the spirit numbing information age we gorge on the Web and CNN...but in the end we know less of each other...of our hearts...of our souls. But Johnny Cash singing "I walk the Line" or Hank sorrowing through "I'm so Lonesome I Could Cry" still gives us more insight in three minutes, tells us more about what matters most in our lives, than we get in an entire twenty-four-hour news cycle"

... and let's not forget it.

Next up: Amanda Petrusich - It Still Breathes

This review also appears on Twangville

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

IBMA Award Winner Andy Hall Free MP3

Interestingly enough the IBMA award winner for best instrumental album was a digital only download by Dobro phenom Andy Hall. Sound of the Slide Guitat features hall along wit Rob Ickes and members of Infamous Stringdusters. The folks at Sugar Hill have agreed to allow AWT to share an MP3 from the album.

The Chase.mp3

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Don Was Gives Polish Without Changing OCMS

Using Don Was to produce an acoustic band could have been risky. An excellent Rock producer but it could have taken the roots out of their music. Was instead expanded their sound without changing what makes them great. To be sure there is more of an emphasis on songs and less on solos on Tennessee Pusher. However, I think thera has also been a tendency to view Old Crow Medicine Show as pickers and less as songwriters. No one will doubt their songwriting now. Don Was deserves the credit for that.

Listen to Caroline:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Slimfit - Great New Band from Amish Country

Go Download this now!!!! Slimfit from Amish Country in PA.

From Their CD Baby Page (Sounds like everything AWT is about):
The band’s rollicking collision of meat and potatoes songwriting and punch-drunk delivery has never been more vibrant than on SLIMFIT’s debut full-length, Make it Worse. On it, you can hear UNCLE TUPELO’s fervor, STEVE EARLE’s rasp, TOM PETTY’s jangley pop and, if you put your ear to the ground, whispers of co-songwriters Joey McMonagle and Pat Kirchner’s other influences, including SUPERDRAG and DESCENDENTS. “Make it Worse is a complete love record,” says Kirchner, who plays electric guitar. While he’s referring to love of the fairer sex in the lyrics, he’s also alluding to the labor of love that these lifelong friends took on while writing and recording Make it Worse. “The way we write songs and the way we interact is a testament to our friendship,” McMonagle adds. “I can’t imagine being in a band where we’re not all best friends.”

In light of their tongue-in-cheek writing style, it might be difficult to believe that roots rockers SLIMFIT actually take themselves seriously. The band’s live shows ooze with fun and a devil-may-care attitude, climaxing with as many as three consecutive “bull-rushes” – a SLIMFIT specialty, during which Kirchner, co-guitarist Sam Gorgone, bassist Sean Harmann, or even drummer Tony Kirchner dives between frontman Joey McMonagle’s gangly legs like a greased piglet. It’s all sloppy, drunken fun … riding on the shoulders of meticulous, timeless roots-rock songwriting that hammers home the band’s ultimate dedication to their craft. They bled these songs out, and now they’re gonna dance to them.

Sample on MySpace

Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson - Rattlin' Bones

There is no doubt the “Royal Couple” of Americana is Buddy and Julie Miller. With the release of Rattlin’ Bones, Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson should at least be considered a member of the Royal Court. Perhaps they could be known as the Duke and Duchess of Overseas Americana. That might be an appropriate title for an Australian couple. I must admit Kasey Chambers has always been at the top of my list, and Rattlin’ Bones is one of the most emotionally moving albums I have ever heard. It is at once chilling, moving, and spiritual. It is at times dark and at other times beautiful. In short it is a manifestation of how human relationships really play out. The relationships we encounter in life leave us with regret, sadness, love, hope and happiness. They are complicated but meaningful and absolutely inseparable from whom we are individually.

The style of music on the album is steeped in the Post-Depression Folk and Americana tradition. It was a time when musicians wrote about life and love as it really occurs. To the people of that era relationships were full of hardship but they were also your lifeline and the only source of support and hope. Relationships for the rural poor were always on a tightrope walk between falling into despair or life-sustaining beauty. Sometimes they seemed to be doing both at once. When times are hard people cling to each other, seduce each other, and hurt each other. We build people up and tear them down. We love them and push them away. That is the reality of being human. Rattlin Bones’ captures the dichotomy of relationships in a way that you will feel deep in your gut. If you haven’t listened to this album yet, please do. You will be better off for the effort.

Check out Their Website

This review also appears on Twangville

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blue Mountain Reunited and Reborn on New Album

2008 has seen some of the founding insurgents that have been credited for the Alt-Country movement have released albums this year. Names like the Old 97’s, Alejandro Escovedo, Gary Louris, Jason Ringenberg among others have proven that, in spite of rumors to the contrary, alt-country (or whatever you want to call it) is alive and well. You can now add a reunited Blue Mountain to that list. They have actually released two albums this year. Omnibus contains remakes of classic material. Midnight in Mississippi is an album of new work and the focus of this review. Folks Blue Mountain is back with a vengeance. The gang from Oxford, Mississippi has released an album that has a Southern Gothic masterpiece. Steeped in Southern Rock, Country and Hill Country Blues, the album like great Southern literature is at once dark and beautiful, a dichotomy which makes the album so compelling.

There are songs on the album that are mid-tempo Southern Rock. These songs, like “Groove Me,” “By Your Side” and “Gentle Soul,” provide an undercurrent from which other songs can spin off. “She’s a Wild One” is a story song set in Mexico. The title cut is a dirty blues influenced cut about a night that begins in Junior Kimbrough’s club and ends in violence in a cheap hotel. (Have you ever noticed how many country and blues songs involve cheap hotels?) The most fun song is the blues romp “Skinny Dipping” that closes the album. Blue Mountain was missed while they were gone and Midnight in Mississippi is a welcome return.

Listen on MySpace

This review also appears on Twangville

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Best of 2008 So Far

This is my Fourth list of the year. It is based on releases through August 19th. The Truckers are still #1 but almost got knocked off by The Hold Steady who debuted at #2. The other top debuts are Reckless Kelly at #5, Alejandro Escovedo at #7 and Chris Knight at #8. Anyway as always leave comments and tell me what an idiot or genius I am. I've been called a lot worse. The list follows:

1) Drive By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark
2) The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
3) Tift Merrit - Another Country
4) Hayes Carll - Trouble in Mind
5) Reckless Kelly - Bulletproof
6) Old 97's - Blame it on Gravity
7) Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal
8) Chris Knight - Heart of Stone
9) My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
10) The Waybacks - Loaded
11) Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
12) Shawn Mullins - Honeydew
13) The Whigs - Mission Control
14) Ashton Shepherd - Sounds so Good
15) Band of Heathens - Self-Titled
16) Drew Emmitt - Long Road
17) Infamous Stringdusters - Self-Titled
18) Wild Sweet Orange - We Have Cause to be Uneasy
19) Sonny Landreth - From the Reach
20) Justin Townes Earle - The Good Life
21) Griffin House - Flying Upside Down
22) The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
23) The Steeldrivers - The Steeldrivers
24) John D. Hale - Lost
25) Jakob Dylan - Seeing This
26) John Mellencamp - Life, Death, Love and Freedom
27) Teddy Thompson - A Piece of What You Need
28) The Waifs - Sundirtwater
29) Donna The Buffalo - Silverlined
30) Gary Louris - Vagabonds
31) Heybale - The Last Country Album
32) Kathleen Edwards - Asking for Flowers
33) Sierra Hull - Secrets
34) South Austin Jug Band - Strange Invitation
35) Eleven Hundred Springs - Country Jam
36) Jim Lauderdale - Honey Songs
37) Dr. Dog - Fate
38) The Stills - Oceans Will Rise
39) Black Crowes - Warpaint
40) Beck - Modern Guilt
41) Del McCoury Band - Moneyland
42) Chatham County Line - IV
43) Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet - Self-Titled
44) Have Gun Will Travel - Casting Shadows Tall as Giants
45) Allison Moorer - Mockingbird
46) R.E.M. - Accelerate
47) Railroad Earth - Amen Corner
48) Widespread Panic - Free Somehow
49) John Hiatt - Same Old Man
50) Stephen Malkmus - Real Emotional Trash
51) The Avett Brothers - Gleam II
52) Rhonda Vincent - Good Thing Goin'
53) Ben Sollee - Learning to Bend
54) Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis - Two Men with the Blues
55) Ralston Bowles - Rally at the Texas Hotel
56) Paul Thorn - Long Way from Tupelo
58) George Strait - Troubadour
59) American Gun - The Mean and the Machine
60) Twilight Hotel - Highway Prayer

Honorable Mention: Whisky Myers, The Weepies, Shelby Lynn, Wes Charlton, Jeb Loy Nicholls, Mando Saenz, North Mississippi All-Stars, Tim O'Brien, Black Mountain, Carlene Carter, James McMurtry, Willie Nelson, Jackie Greene, Langhorne Slim, The Hollyfelds, Malcolm Holcombe, Jason Collett, Firewater, Tab Benoit, Marah

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The EPicecenter of obscurity

Recently I have come across some EPs and MySpace pages that intrigued me. Take listen and who knows, you may be able to say I heard them when.

Chris Milam - Tin Angel: This one blew me away from the first note Power Pop with a twist. He mixes in horns on a couple of tunes that give a feel of Memphis Soul or even big band. However make no mistake he is a mature songwriter as the title cut showcases. Get past the fact that he looks 14. Listen to Only One

Jeff Michael - "The Other Side": Produced by David Cobb (Shooter Jennings), this SoCal Songwriter crosses country and mid-tempo rock. Think Tom Petty, Shawn Mullins or Pete Droge. MySpace or His Website

Town & Country - My Blue Heaven: Jangly guitars with good hooks and a tough of The Byrds. The collaboration of a Math Prof. (Arnie Kim, a graphic designer (Scott Gagner) and a writer (Dan Weir). Should such educated people write the following lyric? "First you suck then you lie. If there is a hell I think you qualify" MySpace

Treva Blomquist - As it Should Be: She gained a reputation in several songwriting competitions. She is not just a writer though. She is a singer with a capitol "S." It is only a matter of time until she is on a major label. Website

John Wyatt - Godshock - John is friend of mine who, after enduring some personal pain recently, picked his guitar back up after years of neglect and found it full of songs. He is working on a project titled Godshock. On MySpace MySpace John has some rough cuts of a few of these songs he has written. Listen to Baby Gone

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lucinda Williams New Album and Mood Change

I've written before on AWT that I was no fan of Lucinda's previous release West. The whole girl gets done wrong by a loser then gets dark and dreary act was old on on the album. There were few great songs on the album but what worked on World Without Tears slid into a disturbing creepiness on West. I say all of this because Williams is absolutely one of my favorite artists. I am not one of these people wanting Carwheels II. I like her eclecticism. I just want her to do what she does best by mixing styles and moods.

Based on a review I stmbled upon on, I may get my wish. Her new album, which will be titled Little Honey, is coming out in October. Here is an excerpt from the review and interview done by >MusicRemedy

Lucinda Williams has always been adept at painting landscapes of the soul, illuminating the spirit’s shadowy nooks and shimmering crannies -- but she’s never captured the sun breaking through the clouds as purely as on her new Lost Highway release, Little Honey. “I’m in a different phase of my life, so there are more happy moments on this album,” the singer-songwriter says of her ninth studio set...Williams wastes no time signaling that mood change, leading into Little Honey's opener, “Real Love” with a false start riff that's the six-string equivalent of a friendly wink – then sidling into the tune's hard-rocking vibe with a sensual slink that underscores the passion of finding exactly what that title indicates. The bluesy physicality of that tune is echoed in several of Little Honey's tracks

Bring it on! I can't wait.

Here is live video of her doing the first song off the ne album Real Love (Warning the Audio is poor):

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bel Air - Pole to Pole

Check out Kelly's review over at Twangville. This band is definitely worth checking out for fans of Iron & Wine and like minded neo-folkies.

On MySpace

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Watson Twins - How Am I to be Video

The Watson Twins Brand of Americana infused Indie-Pop has got me hooked check out their Video:

Then liste on MySpace

Catie Curtis - Sweet Life

Why are so many Folk Singers sad? They have broken hearts, come from broken homes and live broken lives. To be sure such angst provides the motivation for a lot of great songs but a little happiness is good for the soul too. Modern movies aren’t much different either. How many critically acclaimed movies end with happily ever after? Not many, but not many real lives involve happily ever after either. Then again an escape from reality is a good thing from time to time. So a happy ending wouldn’t hurt every now and then. Well put up your razor blades, untie the noose and please don’t throw yourself in front of the oncoming traffic, Catie Curtis is here with Sweet Life. On this album even in heartbreak Curttis finds reason for optimism. She espouses realism with hope but without being overly sentimental or Cheesy.

Now that you have come in off the ledge, let’s start your therapy. Not the Tony Robbins fake optimism variety, but the Catie Curtis realistic glass is half full variety. First, listen to the the title cut “Sweet Life” and then “Happy.” The titles alone make you feel better and the music will get you tapping your toes. The thing about this album is the lyrics and the music are both encouraging. As you listen to the songs on the album you will often find characters who encounter the same problems you do or worse, but they are still hopeful. Now listen to ”Sing.” I bet you are already starting to feel better. This song is the album’s lynch pin to me. The instrumentation and musicianship go right along with the hopeful upbeat song. In fact, that can be said for the entire album. Now for a lullaby and some much needed rest. The soothing tune “For Now” will take you into dreamspace and you won’t even need to take the Ambien.

Sweet Life is truly an enjoyable album in every way. Plus sometimes a little hope is the perfect prescription.

Pre-Order and sample at Compass Records

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Avett Brothers Sign to Columbia

American/Columbia Records has signed The Avett Brothers. Their first album for Columbia, produced by Rick Rubin, will be released in 2009. Obviously, the success of Emotionalism and the rave reviews of The Second Gleam got them noticed. It will be interesting to see what Rick Rubin does with them. Considering what he did with Johnny Cash I think this will be a good Marriage. I hope Rubin blends the raw edge of the bands' early work with their more recent pop sound. That is not a criticism of The Avetts. I just think they would do well to recapture their earlier edginess.

Friday, August 22, 2008

MOG Interivews Craig Finn of The Hold Steady

Rock, Religion, Redemption and Forgiveness are the subjects.

Check it out on MOG TV

The 25 Bands/Artists You'll be Hearing About

A sneak preview to an interesting article to appear in the September Issue of Paste

Paste magazine’s “The Best of What’s Next”…

Bon Iver – Eau Claire , WI
Islands – Montreal , Canada
Janelle Monáe – Atlanta , GA
Johnny Flynn – London , England
The Bridges – Oxford , AL
Ben Sollee – Louisville , KY
Jamie Lidell – Berlin , Germany
Wild Sweet Orange – Birmingham , AL
Mugison – Ísafjörur , Iceland
Right Away, Great Captain! – Atlanta , GA
Katie Herzig – Nashville , TN
Brooke Waggoner – Nashville , TN
The Dodos – San Francisco , CA
The Everybodyfields – Knoxville , TN
Amy Macdonald – Glasgow , Scotland
Los Campesinos! – Cardiff , Wales
Slow Runner – Charleston , SC
Black Kids – Jacksonville , FL
White Rabbits – New York (via St. Louis )
Samantha Crain – Shawnee , OK
Langhorne Slim – Langhorne , PA
Joshua James – Provo , UT (via Lincoln , NE )
Liam Finn – Auckland , New Zealand
Wale – Washington , DC
Alela Diane – Portland , OR (via Nevada City , CA )
Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele – Taylor , MS

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Funny Blog!!

Amazing what photoshop will do. PhotoCrap has some funny album covers etc. Chck it out.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chris Knight - Heart of Stone

Suffice it to say that Chris Knight knows what Nashville has forgotten, that country music is the original narrative of the common man. It grew out of the Great Depression and forged a transcendent bond with its' fans. Country music turned the struggles of rural America into poetry that helped ease the pain of fans for decades. Knight hasn't forgotten the ability of music to sing to the soul of listeners. Probably because he is from coal mining country in Kentucky, which has been in economic upheaval as the rest of America has prospered. Dr. Phil and Deepak Chopkra do not resonate with someone who loses their job or their land or perhaps both. However, the songs on Heart of Stone will speak to them.

There is a certain moral code on this album. Even when times are hard Knight does not glorify people who lose their perspective. Hard times are no excuse to cook meth in your basement ("Hell Ain't Half Full"), or abandon your family ("Heart of Stone"). Conversly he also sings about hope on "Something to Keep Me Going." The power of faith and the fight to keep it is at the heart of "Crooked Road." The latter song is gut wrenching and powerful. In this one song, Knight goes through a lifetime of complex emotions with the central character, who is emerging from the depths with an eye on the future but carrying the scars of the past.

This record also rocks. Knight returned to work with Dan Baird of Georgia Satellites, who produced Pretty Good Guy and The Jealous Kind. In fact, the album comes out of the gate rocking on "Homesick Gypsy." Another great rocker is the song "Another Dollar" that addresses the greed in our society. When people talk about the great songwriters they need to include Chris knight in the conversation. His body of work has earned him that distinction. He certainly sings to the common man in the manner of Cash and Haggard. The album releases on August 19th.

This review also appears on Twangville

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Johnny Cash Remixed

I got a promo of the Johnny Cash Remixed project. I must admit I was skeptical. However, it is really cool. The Man in Black didn't believe in labels and without fear crossed genres and broke down barriers. Hell, he spent then end of his career working with Rick Rubin. So I think he would approve. Besides his son is an executive producer.

Check out this MP3 of Big River (Count Da Money Remix)

Also watch the making of remixed:


Click for Music City Madness at and Comcast have partnered to bring live local auditions throughout the month August to the cities of Atlanta, Nashville , Pittsburgh and Knoxville as the network searches for the next breakout country music act in the third annual Music City Madnes. Undiscovered singer/songwriters will have a chance to video tape an original song and submit it to’s national on-line competition. The local auditions will be held in August, and grand prize winner from each city will be guaranteed a spot in the top 64 finalists and receive a Comcast/CMT-sponsored showcase in their hometown, along with $5,000 in prizes. In addition, the auditions will be taped and packaged for Comcast’s local video on demand channels.

Here is the local schedule:

Saturday, August 16 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Fountainhead College of Technology
3203 Tazewell Pike, Knoxville, TN

Saturday, August 23 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Westin Pittsburgh
1000 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA

Saturday, August 23 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Cobb Centre Galleria
Two Galleria Parkway, Atlanta, GA

Wednesday, August 27 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Oceanway Studios
1200 17th Avenue South, Nashville, TN

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Hold Steady - Chelsea's Cafe Baton Rouge, La 8-7

The Hold Steady are known as a quintessential live band. I never doubted this but until I saw it for myself I never realized how true it is. Since I am currently Sequestered (but not subpoenaed) in Baton Rouge during the weeknights, when I saw that The Hold Steady was playing at a cozy venue like Chelsea's, I could not say no. (To hell with auditors who need info early the next morning.) In the Case of The Hold Steady seeing is believing. These guys have as much fun as any band touring. In fact they have as much fun as their audience.

Chelsea's had to be one of the smaller venues they played on this tour. This intimate college bar located not too far away from the LSU campus proved to have great acoustics and provided a perfect environment. Speaking of the environment, it would not be Louisiana without the humidity, which created another important ingredient to a live Rock N' Roll show, sweat. In fact, Craig Finn paid homage to Louisiana's French heritage by declaring it, "Hotter than a French whorehouse in here." The crowd on hand was dominated by Hold Steady fans who seemed to know the lyrics to every song. They opened with the song "Constructive Summer" from the new album Stay Positive On this song when Finn sang, "Raise a toast to old Joe Strummer. I think he was our only decent teacher." The crowd (myself included) instinctively raised our bottles and toasted along. Which confirmed another statement in that song which declares "our songs are sing-along songs."

Craig Finn interacted well with the audience. Dancing around on stage, he looked like a cross between Steve Martin dancing on the front porch in The Jerk and Pee Wee Herman's "Tequila" dance. It was so quirky and lacking in Rhythm it was cool. The coolest member of the band though was keyboardist Franz Nicolay. He was wearing a fedora and black suit that made him look like a mafia don. His stage presence and facial expression give the band its' panache. Not to mention Franz is an accomplished keyboardist. Just as impressive was Tad Kubler on lead guitar. At one point he played a solo on the 12-string neck of a bad-ass double neck guitar. His guitar solos were an unexpected surprise.

The song that came off the best live was surprisingly "Stay Positive" the title cut off the new record. The set was composed mainly if material off of the new record and Boys and Girls in America. "Massive Nights" from that release really stood out. Not surprisingly, they saved "Stuck Between Stations" for the encore. This crowd pleaser had everyone singing so loud Craig Finn could have let the crowd take over. In my opinion, The Hold Steady represent everything that makes Rock great and their live show only enhanced that opinion.

This cut from Letterman will give you a feel:

This review also appears on Twangville

Friday, August 8, 2008

AWT Back in the Saddle

I apologize to my regular readers. The last few weeks have been abit of a whirwind for me. There was a death in the family. I have been very busy at work. Also, I travel and the Wi-Fi connection in my hotel was inactive for a few days this week. Interestingly, it was due to me being blocked on Monday night. Apparently my Fantasy Football draft was the culprit. I learned that it is frowned upon to keep 5 browser windows open simutaneously researching players during an online draft when on a shared Wi-Fi connection. So ultimately it was my own fault. However I feel pretty good about my team.

Anyway look for me to be back in the saddle with my poison pen in the holster for the Fall.

Todd Snider's Coming Out Delayed

Earlier this week it was announced that Todd Snider's Peace Queer project was delayed until October due to some unforseen production issues. Look for it then.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Todd Snider Coming out on August 19th

Todd Snider is coming out of the closet as a flaming “Peace Queer” on August 19th. He’s loud, he’s proud, he’s here and he’s a “Peace Queer.” Normally when musicians get too political it annoys me. I just want to scream “Shut Up and Sing.” However, somehow Todd Snider pulls it off using his humor and wit as a weapon. It just goes to show that there is no need to stand on a soapbox and pontificate to get a message across. Snider seems to understand that he can deliver the same message with subtlety and still make his point. In fact, sometimes a paper cut hurts worse and lingers more than a deeper wound. With Snider whether you agree or disagree with the message, you can appreciate the delivery. Peace Queer is no exception.

This EP is a brief statement. In fact, it is sort of a side project while he is working on a full length project with producer by Don Was. It starts out with a song of victory albeit a hollow one, “Mission Accomplished.” On this song Snider wonders aloud about Will Rogers famous quote, “He may have liked every man he met that’s true; but he never said he liked every man that he knew.” The album also includes a minimalist cover of CCR’s “Fortunate Son.” The most poignant song is a spoken word song, “Is This Thing Working,” in which a bully is cast as the central character in a parable with obvious implications. The song also has a sung version titled “Is This Thing On” that closes the album. However, it is the spoken word version that proves to be more moving. Snider is joined by guests, Patty Griffin, Kevin Kinney and Will Kimbrough. Snider predicts big things for this project. In an interview with NPR’s Cokie Roberts he feels the album, “will outsell Thriller,” and estimates sales at 6.8 Billion copies. He also said, “(O)n the day that happens, I guarantee America and parts of Canada world Peace.” That should make him bigger than Elvis, The Beatles and even Zam Fir, master of the pan flute.

Catch a Preview of Todd’s Upcoming Full Length:

This review also appears on Twangville

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Signposts: Along the Information Super Highway

Cold War Kids - "Something Is Not Right With Me", the first single off the second album, Loyalty to Loyalty, is streaming now on
MySpace The song will be available as a free download on starting Thursday July 24.

Teddy Thompson, who released his 4th studio album, A Piece Of What You Need, last month, has a new video for his single "In My Arms." Teddy is the son of British folk icons Richard and Linda Thompson. This is a great song!

Check out more songs from the Album on MySpace

The Hold Steady's Craig Finn's Top 10 Pet Peeves on The DL

The Old 97's on The DL


Frrom their publicist:
Athens, Ga. , July 18, 2008 - Widespread Panic will be inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame at the 30th Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards Show on Saturday, September 20th in Atlanta , GA. The show will broadcast live on Georgia Public Broadcasting and will include a special performance from the b and . Past inductees include Georgia musicians including Ray Charles, Gladys Knight, R.E.M., and the Allman Brothers B and as well as industry professionals such as music attorney Joel Katz and record label owner Antonio “L.A.” Reid. "Sharing this honor... with so many of our greatest musical influences, is something I'm sure none of the B and members imagined when we first started making music together. September 20th is going to be a truly special day for the entire Widespread Panic Family," says John Bell, vocalist and founding member of Widespread Panic.

Kelly gives us 2 new genres on Twangville/Gobblers Knob and while you are there check out Tom's Mixtape

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Settin'' the Woods on Fire: This Week's Charts

This is a periodic feature in which I post on AWT the top albums and debuts in the airplay charts from Americana Music Assoc., XM Cross Country and FMQB Non-Commercial Adult Alternative chart. I haven't posted the charts in six weeks because there was not a ton of movement for a while. Now that here have been a rash of Spring releases things are shaken up a bit. Links to all of these charts are found to the right in the AWT favorite links list.

Americana Music Association - Airplay Week of July 7th
1) John Hiatt- Same Old Man
2) Hayes Carll - Trouble in Mind
3) Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal
4) Band of Heathens - Self Titled
5) James McMurtry - Just us Kids
6) Reckless Kelly - Bulletproo
7) Emmylou Harris - All I Intended to Be
8) Old 97's - Blame it on Gravity
9) Eleven Hundred Springs - Country Jam
10) John Mellancamp - Life Death Love and Freedom

29) Hacienda Brothers - Arizona Motel
30) Honeybrowne - Mile by Mile

XM Ch.12 Cross Country - Cross Checking week of July 7th

1) James McMurtry - Just Us Kids
2) Reckless Kelly - Bulletproof
3) Hayes Carll - Trouble In Mind
4) Brendon James Wright & The Wrongs - Self-Titled
5) Band Of Heathens - Self-Titled
6) Pear Ratz - Holier Than Thou
7) Shurman - Waiting For The Sunset
8) Stone Coyotes - VIII
9) Van Morrison - Keep It Simple
10 Jason Ringenberg - Best Tracks & Side Tracks

44) Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal

FMQB AAA Non-Commercial - Airplay Week of July 7th

2 COLDPLAY - Viva La Vida
5 BIG BLUE BALL - Big Blue Ball
6 AIMEE MANN - Smilers
7 AMOS LEE - Last Days At The Lodge
8 DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE - Narrow Stairs
9 FLEET FOXES - Self-Titled
10 R.E.M. - Accelerate

29) Adele - 19

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ralston Bowles - Rally at the Texas Hotel

Ralston Bowles is a songwriters songwriter. His songs have depth and transcendence in the vein of a Bruce Cockburn or Bill Mallonee. His newest album is Rally at the Texas Hotel. After I heard the album I did some internet research on him and found that he has been profoundly influenced by author Phillip Yancey, who is one of my favorite authors. In fact Yancey's book "What's So Amazing about Grace" was the inspriation of his song "Grace" from a previous album (incidentally that book was also an inspiration for a U2 song by the same.) In other words, it is no wonder that I have such a personal connection with this recording.

On Rally he comments on our culture by employing cultural icons in a humorous way. First there is the song "I Saw John Kennedy Today" in which he uses revisionist history by encountering John Kennedy, who is on a permanent road trip after leaving it all behind when his double was shot in Dallas. Hey if you are going to use JFK why stop there. On the song "Velvet Elvis" he inquires "When did he cross that line from a person to a textile shrine." He reflects on modern religion on "Begging the Question." However, unlike most post-modern singers he doesn't end with cynicism. He proposes an answer on the song "Friend of God," which is a call to simplicity and relationship. He also covers the Mark Heard song "Satellite Sky." The songs are well crafted. At times they are humorous and entertaining at others they are thought provoking and inspiring. The album is on Judy Collins' Wildflower Records. The same label that produced Wes Charlton, who I have posted on previously.
The album was produced by Mark Eitzoni (Counting Crows) and he is joined on the album by Gurf Morlix and Charlie Sexton.

Check out his
MySpace page.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis - Two Men with the Blues

It has always amazed me that Willie Nelson will record with anyone no matter their background. This eclecticism is one of Willie's strengths but he has occasionally made questionable partnerships. However, the idea to combine Nelson with Wynton Marsalis was one of genius. These two men are living icons in their respective genres Country and Jazz. However, Willie is no stranger to singing the standards. His recently re-released "Stardust" which was originally recorded in 1978, shocked the Outlaw world when Willie recorded Ballads from the 30s and 40s. As for Marsalis he is a walking encyclopedia of music history, not just Jazz. So this pairing makes perfect sense. Two Men with the Blues was recorded in January of 2007 as part of a special series sponsored by Jazz at the Lincoln Center. It was recorded at the Allen Room on New York's Upper East Side. Joining the two legends were Marsalis' Quartet and Nelson's harmonica player, Mickey Raphael.

The results of the evening are best described in technical terms, un-freakin'-believable! In fact, technically I should probably add two or three more freakin's to aptly describe it. The album starts off with a Swing style rendition of "Bright Lights Big City." Swing Jazz and Blues are the base of most of the songs but the Harmonica gives the album a bit of country soul as well. However, the harmonica sounds natural with Jazz quartet as if it belongs permanently. Not that I think that Harmonica will replace the trumpet or saxophone anytime soon but in this case it adds a cool vibe. Willie's voice sounds great with these songs also. In fact, two of the songs "Stardust" and "Georgia on My Mind" were recorded by Willie on the above mentioned Stardust album. The album does have a bit of twang in it on the lighthearted cover of Hank Williams, "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It." The fact that these two Icons are able to be lighthearted and not tale themselves too seriously is one of the most endearing qualities about this project. For example, the vocal interplay between the two on "Ain't Nobody's Business" is classic. I am certainly glad they decided to release this project as a CD so I can get a feel for what the lucky few who were there got to experience. I suggest you do the same.

This Review also appears on Twangville

Thursday, July 10, 2008

RIYL Reckles Kelly - Try John D. Hale and Austin Collins

For those of you who like their new album as much as I do, read the Austin Chronicle article on Reckless Kelly and the The 9513 review of Bulletproof. However, if you like the new Reckless Kelly I think you will also like two other artists starting to make some noise on the Texas scene. One is Austin Collins out of his Namesake city in the Lone Star State and The other is The John D. Hale band.

The John D. Hale Band is from Iowa but they are gaining notoriety on the Texas and Southwest circuit. In fact Ray Randall says they are practically the House Band at Americana Roots which is high praise indeed. Their album Lost will appeal to fans of the more Rocking side of Reckless Kelly. Although they have more country undertones than Reckless Kelly. John D. Hale's musical pedigree was formed early when his older brother gave him a Robert Earl Keen album when he was just 10 years old. He subsequently immersed himself in REK and his kindred spirits and the rest as they say, is history. He especially took after Keens ability to spin an outlaw tale. On "Pistol in Each Hand," a drug deal gone wrong song he sings "He rolled one while he waited for them to gun him down." Two other songs in this mold involve jealous lovers, "Love Pulled the Trigger" and "LA County." "Stake our Claim Again" (See video below.) is a lament song in the vain of Chris Knight that addresses the plight of the rural farmer, "Should we cash the farm on in. Just move on down the line. Tell 'em all to go to hell and buy us a little more time." The album also has a hilarious hidden track called "The Local First Assembly Church of Crystal Methodists." A church that reads from the Book of Jerry Jeff and has commandment like "Don't covet your neighbors weed and pass it to the left."

Austin Collins will appeal to those who like Reckless Kelly's more country singer-songwriter tunes, of which there aren't many on Bulletproof. Collins has always been interested in songwriting but upon graduation from college he tried to be practical an d became a financial analyst for a while. Being in the Corporate Finance and Accounting field myself, I was glad to here that we all aren't complete bean counter nerds. (Collins had the good sense to get out though.) Collins songwriting is powerful and engaging, and primarily addresses the complexities of relationship on Roses are Black. This songwriter certainly has staying power.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal

Alejandro Escovedo may finally be getting his due on his new album Real Animal. He is touring this Summer with Dave Matthews, he recently shared the stage in Houston with "The Boss" (see video below) and he has a Letterman appearance scheduled for early August. Considering he has been one of the most respected musicians among his peers, he has been in influential bands like Rank & File and True Believers, No Depression named him artist of the decade for the 90's and let's not forget the fact that he almost died a couple of years ago from complications from Hepatitis, it is about damn time. In 2006 he released Boxing Mirror which was a dark reflection on his life and near death experience. On Real Animal he has a new lease on life and is ready to Rock again.

Escovedo's latest release is as reflective as Boxing Mirror but is less dark and celebrates life. In fact, he addresses the subject of enjoying life in "People." However, he does not deny the harsh realities of his past and follows that song up with "Golden Bear" in which he seems to be addressing his recent health issues. The album is a career retrospective covering all of the genres he has crossed in the past. That is a daunting task when your consider that his career covers over 30 years and includes diverse genres like Punk, Post-Punk, Alt-Country, singer-songwriter and string quartet music. To pull this off he enlists the help of former David Bowie producer Tony Visconti. He is also joined on a few tracks by his friend Chick Prophet. Real Animal totally succeeds and even has a potential radio hit in "Always a Friend." It seems Escovedo has been reborn at age 57 and I bet he has a few more great albums in him.

Alejandro and the Boss:

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Waifs and Drew Emmit

Compass Records is on a roll. Earlier this year they put out The Waybacks new release Loaded. More recently, They released The Waifs Sundirtwater. Just so things don't get stale they will be releasing Drew Emmitt's Long Road on July 15th. I have previously posted on The Waybacks. However, equally deserving of praise are The Waifs and Drew Emmitt. Both albums were co-produced by Compass Co-Founder Garry West

The Waifs release is a new direction from their earlier album Up all Night. The new record for this Australian band is more eclectic. From the electric blues of the opener "Pony" to the Jazzy title cut "Sun, Dirt, Water" to the alt-country of "How Many Miles" or even the power-pop of "Goodbye," it seems no stone is left unturned. They seem to be comfortable in so many settings that they should avoid being type cast by industry marketing execs. Sundirtwater is a diverse platform from which to launch future projects. It is also a lot of fun.

Drew Emmitt's solo projects are always all-star affairs and Long Road certainly is no exception. Collaborators include Tim O'brien, John Cowan, Stuart Duncan, Reese Wynans, Darrell Scott, Ronnie McCoury and Billy Nershi of String Cheese Incident. The album will appeal to the New Grass crowd, The Jam Band hula hoop dancers and even traditionalists. Emmitt co-wrote most of the songs on the album, including the title cut co-written with John Cowan. However, there is also one stand out cover of Supertramp's "Take the Long Way Home." On his first solo release , Freedom Ride, Emmitt did the best cover of a Bob Dylan song I have ever heard, "Tangled Up in Blue." The Supertramp cover may not beat that but it is still a great cover. There is a positive energy on this album that really cuts loose at times. The musicianship is amazing and Long Road is extremely well crafted and produced. All of which makes it Drew Emmitt's best solo project.

This review also appears on Twangville

Thursday, June 26, 2008


This is my third list of the year. It is based on releases through June 17th. The Truckers are still number one and it will take a great album to knock them off the pedestal. The highest debut is Old 97's at #4. Other notable debuts are My Morning Jacket at #8, Sonny Landreth at #11 and John Hiatt at #14. Anyway as always leave comments and tell me what an idiot or genius I am. I've been called a lot worse. The list follows:

1) Drive By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark
2) Tift Merrit - Another Country
3) Hayes Carll - Trouble in Mind
4) Old 97's - Blame it on Gravity
5) The Waybacks - Loaded
6) Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
7) Shawn Mullins - Honeydew
8) My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
9) The Whigs - Mission Control
10) Ashton Shepherd - Sounds so Good
11) Sonny Landreth - From the Reach
12) Justin Townes Earle - The Good Life
13) Griffin House - Flying Upside Down
14) John Hiatt - Same Old Man
15) The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
16) The Steeldrivers - The Steeldrivers
17) Band of Heathens - Self-Titled
18) John D. Hale - Lost
19) The Waifs - Sundirtwater
20) Gary Louris - Vagabonds
21) Sierra Hull - Secrets
22) South Austin Jug Band - Strange Invitation
23) Eleven Hundred Springs - Country Jam
24) Jim Lauderdale - Honey Songs
25) Black Crowes - Warpaint
26) Del McCoury Band - Moneyland
27) Chatham County Line - IV
28) Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet - Self-Titled
29) Allison Moorer - Mockingbird
30) R.E.M. - Accelerate
31) Railroad Earth - Amen Corner
32) Widespread Panic - Free Somehow
33) Jeb Loy Nichols - Days are Mighty
34) Stephen Malkmus - Real Emotional Trash
35) Mando Saenz - Bucket
36) The Weepies - Hideaway
37) Shelby Lynne - Just a Little Lovin'
38) North Mississippi All-Stars - Hernando
39) Ralston Bowles - Rally at the Texas Hotel
40) Tim O'brien - Chameleon
41) Paul Thorn - Long Way from Tupelo
42) George Strait - Troubadour
43) American Gun - The Mean and the Machine
44) Wes Charlton - World on Fire
45) Twilight Hotel - Highway Prayer
46) Black Mountain - In the Future
47) Rhonda Vincent - Good Thing Goin'
48) Carlene Carter - Stronger
49) James McMurtry - Just us Kids
50) Jackie Greene - Giving Up the Ghost
51) Willie Nelson - Moment of Forever
52) Austin Collins - Roses are Black
53) Langhorne Slim - Self-Titled
54) The Hollyfelds - Saratoga
55) Malcom Holcombe - Gamblin' House
56) Jason Collett - Here's to Being There
57) Ben Sollee - Learning to Bend
58) Firewater - The Golden Hour
59) Tab Benoit - Night Train to Nashville
60) Marah - Angels of Destruction

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Allow Me to Introduce You

Hang Jones (AKA Stephen Grillos) is a bay area singer-songwriter who has recorded an album based around an outlaw tale. I was hooked by the concept, but the results seem even better. The tale centers around the Outlaw William Bishop. The Ballad of Carlsbad County is the title of his self-released album due out in September. Check out his Website to get the complete tale. Also check out the video below. Based on what I see on his site this seems to be a well crafted project. I hope you agree. Register on his website to be e-mailed as to when you can buy the album.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Tifft Merrit will appear tomorrow Wed. 25th

Fellow Brmingham natives Wild Sweet Orange, who I have posted on previously, will be on Friday June 27th.

Friday, June 20, 2008

We Can't Make it Here Anymore


Del McCoury has put out a compilation project that sings about the plight of rural America. The album enlists a stellar group of artists to tell this story. Moneyland, which is also the name of the title cut, invokes the spirit of FDR and his New Deal to tell this story. The first and last cut on the album are excerpts from a couple of FDR’s famous fireside chats, which makes this the first and likely last album review I will do which includes tracks by a dead president. Speaking of dead presidents, money is really the central subject on this project. Every song is really about either the lust for or lack of money, as the greedy are pushing the less fortunate to the margins, especially in rural America.

The songs and musicianship are as compelling as concept. The Del McCoury Band brings two original songs to the table. The first is the title cut "Moneyland" and the other is the hilarious "40 Acres and a Fool," about a new money poser. Country Music Hall of Famer Merle Haggard supplies the 1973 classic "If We Make It Through December" and the more recent "What Happened?," which appeared on his McCoury Music bluegrass debut of last year. The project also includes Emmylou Harris's and Rodney Crowell's glistening take on his "Mama's Hungry Eyes," Dan Tyminski's 2001 recording of "Carry Me Across The Mountain," based on a true Depression era story and Haggard and Marty Stuart's searing "Farmer's Blues." Chris Knight's "A Train Not Running," a more recent tale of economic devastation, is almost painful to listen to but is too compelling to skip.

The album will release on July 8th. The best way to sum it up is in Del's own words. "It's sad to me that country kids can't stay in their hometowns any more. There's no opportunity, there are no jobs, there's just nothing. And at the other end of life, there are a lot of people losing the pensions they worked for-that happened to my wife, Jean-and there are more people relying on Social Security than ever. You know, we have a little fun on this album with that Beatles song, 'When I'm 64,' but really, it's no joke. It used to seem like 60 was really old, but nowadays, it feels more like middle age, and to have a lot of years ahead of you without being sure that what you spent a lifetime working for, like a pension or Social Security, is going to be there-well, that just doesn't seem right... That hillbilly boy in Appalachia and that farm boy in the midwest and that black kid in the inner city, they're all looking for the same thing: a way out and up. One of these days, those kids are going to start working together on their common problems-and when they do, they'll fix them." I hope so Del.