Thursday, May 29, 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 May 19th
1) Hayes Carll - Trouble in Mind
2) James McMurtry - Just us Kids
3) Van Morrison - Keep it Simple
4) Paul Thorn - A Long Way from Tupelo
5) Old 97's - Blame it on Gravity
6) Tim O'Brien - Chameleon
7) John Hiatt- Same Old Man
8) Kathleen Edwards - Asking for Flowers
9) Justin Townes Earle - The Good Life
10) Waybacks - Loaded

Railroad Earth - Amen Corner

XM Ch.12 Cross Country - Cross Checking week of May 19th
1) James McMurtry - Just Us Kids
2) Waybacks - Loaded
3) Shurman - Waiting For The Sunset
4) Jim Lauderdale & The Dream Players - Honey Songs
5) Carlene Carter - Stronger
6) Stone Coyotes - VIII
7) Matt King - Rube
8) Justin Townes Earle - The Good Life
9) Tim O'Brien - Chameleon
10)Kathleen Edwards - Asking For Flowers

47) Girls, Guns & Glory - Inverted Valentine
48) Guy Forsyth - Calico Girl

FMQB AAA Non-Commercial - Airplay Week of May 19th

1) DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE - Narrow Stairs
2) OLD 97S - Blame It On Gravity
3) R.E.M. - Accelerate
4) ELVIS COSTELLO - Momofuku
5) BLACK KEYS - Magic Potion
6) COLDPLAY - Viva La Vida
7) AIMEE MANN - Smilers
8) JACKIE GREENE - Giving Up The Ghost
9) STEVE WINWOOD - Nine Lives
10) VAN MORRISON - Keep it Simple

24) James Hunter the Hard Way
25) Mason Jennings - In the Ever

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Band of Heathens

The Story of how The Band of Heathens came together is testimony to how music can and often does create community. The buzz from Austin around these guys has grown organically from Wednesday night gigs at MoMo's. As the story goes they orginally started as the three principle songwriters (Colin Brooks, Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist) playing three sets on Wednesdays. Then they started sitting in with each other and eventually started playing as a group. Apparently one night a local paper mistakenly said a band named The Heathens was playing at MoMo's. As a joke that night they referred to themselves as a "Band of Heathens" and it stuck. So a band that wasn't together and had no name is now a band with a name. It is as simple as that.

How much of the above tale has been altered by the folklore of the Austin music scene I have no idea. I do know this. The reason they are together now is because fans showed up and loved their music every Wednesday night. An unsolicited loyal fanbase built them from the ground up. Tht is the music "scene" at its best. They were created on stage in front of a live audience, and not by a major label hype machine in a corner office. Howe popular are they in Austin? They won Best New Band at the 2006 Austin Music Awards, before they even had a studio album out. The new self-titled release was produced by Ray Wilie Hubbard and features appearances by Patty Griffin, Gurf Morlix and Stephen Bruton among others. It was released on May 20th.


Check out Jackson Station and their Website.

This Review also appears on: Twangville

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fresh Thoughts on the New Old 97s

The Old 97s are one of my favorite bands. Maybe even my fovorite. A lot of people are saying the new CD Blame it on Gravity is recapturing their early sound. In fact that has been the tone of most of the reviews I've seen. I don't disagree with that point. However, this album is more than that. It is fresh also. This is no attempt to reproduce early works. What makes Gravity so refreshing to me is that it captures both sides of the band. The first side is the band that made the ground breaking Alt-Country album Too Far to Care. The other side is the band that made one of the best all time Power Pop albums Sattelite Rides. These two sides merge on Gravity and show the OLD 97s are not standing still and certainly are not going backwards. They are reborn and entering a new stage of their career. I for one can't wait to see where it goes.

I would be interested to see what you think. Join the conversation below.

Wes Charlton - World on Fire

Every so often I encounter a new artist that really gets me fired up. Since I entered the blogosphere a little over a year ago, my opportunity to discover these upstart talents has been an unexpected benefit. Nashville’s Wes Charlton is one of those artists. All I can say is watch out. This kid is special. His new album World on Fire was recently released on Judy Collins’ Wildflower records. He is a roots influenced singer-songwriter who is a talented lyricist and composer. He is only 24 years but World on Fire is evocative of more established songwriters like a Ryan Adams. His music has Americana undertones but it is equally contemporary.

The album starts out with the slow, brooding but deeply moving “Daytime Blues.” Then it moves to the more rocking angst ridden “Still Here,” which is reflective on a life Charlton seems to feel is beyond his control. In fact, this is a recurring theme he returns to on other songs like “Red Eyes, Blue Lights.” The uncontrollable circumstances of life is a concept that makes the album very relevant to the listener. In fact, sometimes the circumstances of our life are our on doing. “My heart is broken. I paid the cost. I had to get free but all I got was lost.” (“The Wait.”). He also comments on our failed attempts to break free by invoking Icarus and his wax wings on “Change Will Come.” Musically the album is never stale and even gets adventurous when mixing banjo with electric guitar. Wes Charlton is just getting started and I have a feeling we will be hearing more about him in the future.

This review also appears on Twangville

Friday, May 16, 2008

Wild Sweet Orange Exclusive Video on Spinner

I love to see bands from Alabama go national. So it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to Wild Sweet Orange. I first heard them through Reg's Coffeehouse. They are an Indie Rock band with a Rootsy undertone. They recently filmed their EPK for the forthcoming album "We Have Cause to be Uneasy." They will also be starting a national tour to promote the album. The video introduces you to the band and to their town and mine, Birmingham. Check it out on Spinner:

Wild Sweet Orange, 'Have Cause To Be Uneasy' video premiere on Spinner

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A chance to "Put the O back in Country"

It is time to stop complaining about mainstream Nashville and launch a coup.

GAC is doing there own version of "Nashville Star." I was initially cynical but then I had an epiphany. If some of the underground country acts I hear from daily would enter they could actually win. It would be a victory Root Music. So I am issuing a challenge to all people with talent who read this blog. (Especially since the writer of this blog has absolutely no talent.) Enter this contest and win it for the ghost of Hank Williams. The press release is below:

A National Talent Search for Country Music’s Next Great Artist
Contestants Compete By Submitting Performance Videos Online – Enter Now

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Musicians who love the spotlight and dream of the day when millions of fans will scream their name now have the chance to show their mettle. Television network Great American Country (GAC) is joining the ranks of its sister networks HGTV and Food Network by premiering The Next GAC Star, a nationwide talent search for the next country music star, in a partnership with artist development company Music Nation.

Six finalists will be flown to Nashville to be featured in a final two-part television special on September 3 and 10, with a LIVE elimination in the second show. The winning artist will receive a record deal and a music video, which will air on GAC.

Beginning today and through July 14th, GAC will accept video, mp3s, and photos from hopeful country music enthusiasts looking for their shot at becoming a recording artist at In addition to submitting videos online, some applicants will be able to tape audition videos in-person by visiting the GAC Summer Tour Bus, which hits the road May 1 and will travel to select markets throughout the summer.

“There are two phenomenon currently at play in the music industry: the rise of consumer-generated music content on the Internet and the success of artists participating in national talent competitions. Thanks to our relationship with Music Nation, we’ve incorporated both aspects into one show with The Next GAC Star,” says Sarah Trahern, senior vice president of programming for the network. “Viewers can upload their favorite performances online with the hopes of seeing themselves on the network and possibly winning it all.”

Voting begins May 23rd and will run in three phases. For the first eight weeks, the public will vote on submissions using Music Nation’s head-to-head player, which randomly pits two artists against each other and asks the user to choose a favorite. During this period, there will be two weekly winners: the highest ranked artist from the head-to-head standings and an “Industry Insiders” Pick, an artist collectively chosen by GAC and Music Nation staffers. Select video submissions will also air in the new series, Next GAC Star, which premieres on June 1 and will broadcast every Sunday. During the second phase, the 16 weekly winners will be narrowed down to a field of six by Next GAC Star’s panel of celebrity judges, to be announced next month. Finally, these six finalists will move on to be featured on the two TV specials, where the Next GAC Star will ultimately be determined.

“In the past, we’ve launched a number of successful talent searches for the rock, pop, and urban genres, and this new partnership with GAC allows us to extend our brand into the devoted country music fan base,” says Daniel Klaus, Music Nation CEO. “This competition allows undiscovered artists a real shot at the career they dream of, in addition to having their music played on GAC.”

Interested artists and viewers can get more information on Next GAC Star by visiting .

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Signposts: Along the Information Super Highway

Here is what som of my blogger friends are covering:

Check out the Old 97s Review on Twangville.

Erica Says:
(Blame it in Gravity) merges the big Johnny Cash-guitar twangy feel that was so prevalent in earlier records like my all-time favorite Wreck Your Life as well as the more straight-ahead Brit Pop twangy feel found on Satellite Rides. The 97s finally seem to realize that you can go home again, and by incorporating the person you used to be with the person you have become, the two halves can create a solid whole that endures

Read Americana Roots review of the New Sierra Hull

Sierra Hull is poised to make a huge impact on the modern bluegrass scene. One can only wonder how she can continue to improve with experience. We should all enjoy this.

Matt at The 9513 says of Ashton Shepherd and her song "Sounds So Good"

Sincerity courses and pulsates through this song. Just as Travis described love in the only words that a country boy understands, Shepherd lovingly sings her life’s soundtrack in a voice imbued with honest, lived experiences

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


This is my second list of the year. I'll add to it each month, but eventually I will cap it. How big will the list get? I have no idea but probably not over 60. The list includes releases through April. The Truckers are still number one and it will take a great album to knock them off the pedestal. The highest debut is Hayes Carll at #3. Other notable debuts are Griffin House at #10, South Austin Jug Band at #11 and R.E.M.'s return to excellence at #16. There are also 2 notable jumps. Ashton Shepherd moves up to #8 as I have since purchased the full album and realize how truly great it is. Also, onfurther reflection, The Black Crowes are up to #18. Anyway as always leave comments and tell me what an idiot or genius I am. I've been called a lot worse. I have given my reason for the omission of the Kathleen Edwards previously. However, I keep hearing good songs from that album and may have to give in next month. So here it is:

1) Drive By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark
2) Tift Merrit - Another Country
3) Hayes Carll - Trouble in Mind
4) The Waybacks - Loaded
5) Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
6) Shawn Mullins - Honeydew
7) The Whigs - Mission Control
8) Ashton Shepherd - Sounds so Good
9) Justin Townes Earle - The Good Life
10) Griffin House - Flying Upside Down
11) South Austin Jug Band - Strange Invitation
12) The Steeldrivers - The Steeldrivers
13) Gary Louris - Vagabonds
14) Allison Moorer - Mockingbird
15) The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
16) R.E.M. - Accelerate
17) Jim Lauderdale - Honey Songs
18) Black Crowes - Warpaint
19) Stephen Malkmus - Real Emotional Trash
20) Chatham County Line - IV
21) Mando Saenz - Bucket
22) The Weepies - Hideaway
23) Widespread Panic - Free Somehow
24) Jeb Loy Nichols - Days are Mighty
25) Shelby Lynne - Just a Little Lovin'
26) Carlene Carter - Stronger
27) George Strait - Troubadour
28) American Gun - The Mean and the Machine
29) North Mississippi All-Stars - Hernando
30) Twilight Hotel - Highway Prayer
31) Black Mountain - In the Future
32) Paul Thorn - Long Way from Tupelo
33) Rhonda Vincent - Good Thing Goin'
34) James McMurtry - Just us Kids
35) Jackie Greene - Giving Up the Ghost
36) Willie Nelson - Moment of Forever
37) The Hollyfelds - Saratoga
38) Malcom Holcombe - Gamblin' House
39) Jason Collett - Here's to Being There
40) Marah - Angels of Destruction

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Band of Heathen New Record

The Band of Heathens new record will release on May 20th. I missed this when highlighting new release last week and will make up for it with an MP3 (used as always by permission.)and a video. The buzz from Austin Around these guys has grown organically from Wednesday night gigs at MoMo's. They won Best New Band at the 2006 Austin Music Awards. The self-titled release was produced by Ray Wilie Hubbard and features appearances by Patty Griffin, Gurf Morlix, Stephen Bruton.

Check out Jackson Station and their Website.

AOL Gives Country "The Boot"

The folks ivolved with AOL Music have launched The Boot, a Country Music blog. The success of Spinner gives me hope that it will be successful and do good things for the Genre. Obviously it will have a mainsteam focus but it will also give Americana its' due. Plus they have AWT and Twangville on the Blogroll.

Anyway, check it out! It is on my blogroll also.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hayes Carll the Heir Apparent

There have been a lot of reviews written already about the new Hayes Carll album, Trouble in Mind. It is no doubt an album that fully establishes him as an artist. Exactly what it establishes him as is what I would like to address. A lot of the Texas Troubadours are getting older. Some like Townes Van Zandt and Doug Sahm are no longer with us. When you consider artists like Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, Ray Wilie Hubbard and many more I could name if time allowed, it begs one question. Who is leading the next generation?

It is an interesting question and definitely open for debate. In any case Hayes Carll is in the discussion. In fact, I feel he is the leader of the pack. His body of work is three albums deep now and shows that he has all of the elements to carry the torch of the aforementioned legends. What are these elements? What does Hayes Carll have in common with these legends? What he possesses is more that just geography. In fact, the Texas Music scene has developed to the point that you no longer need to be from Texas. Refugees are now accepted as long as they have talent. Take a guy like Adam Hood. He is a fellow Alabamian who has been adopted by the Red Dirt Scene.

First and foremost Carll can dish out the requisite humor. Why is humor so important? To answer that go to a Guy Clark show and see how many fans request “Texas Cookin.’” The scene will be repeated at other shows by other artists. The humorous lighthearted songs get requested most. There is nothing more important than bringing laughter into the lives of fans. No doubt part of the reason people love music is escape. Humor helps relieve stress better than anything. Another quality Carll has in common with the great troubadours, is that he doesn’t need a full band. His songs stand on there own. An acoustic guitar and maybe a microphone, depending on the venue, is all that is needed. Sure a band helps but is not required.

Hayes Carll is also a great storyteller. The characters in his songs are often as important as the music. This brings to mind Clark, Townes, Ely etc. Moreover, just like his influences and idols, his lyrics and stories reflect perspective on life as it is lived by real people. Some of his characters may be extreme but everyone can relate to them. No esoteric lyrics, cryptic meanings or elitist intellectualism. Just real life as it is lived by real people with real struggles.

There are certainly a lot of good young song-writers out there, but Hayes Carll seems to be carrying the torch for the next generation of the Texas /Americana Troubadours.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Jeb Loy Nichols - Days are Mighty

On his new album Days are Mighty, Jeb Loy Nichols occupies a territory somewhere between the Soul influenced folk of Martin Sexton and a more acoustic singer-songwriter sound. The album starts out with the more soul/R&B leanings of "My Kind" and the title track "Days are Mighty." The title track is a comforting hopeful song. The message seems to be that, even when life's obstacles are daunting, time goes on and heals. Lyrically the song "25 Years Too Late" views time in another way. When you try to heal wounds in relationships time will only result in regret. All of us can relate to this concept based on the scar tissue of our life.

Relationships are touched on in a very real way in this album. No idealistic love can be found on Days. Indeed Nichols says of the way music portrays relationships that "popular music has a lot to answer for - song after song about something that is at best, painfully hard work." That was his motivating principle in writing "Let's Not Fall." The song has a lighthearted beat that covers up its' cynicism. It may be cynical message but the veracity of his sentiments are not to be denied.

Overall Jeb Loy Nichols has given us a group of songs on Days are Mighty that provide an impactful musical and emotional milieu. It will release this Tuesday, May 6th.

Sample at Compass Records

This review also appears on Twangville

Hold Steady Street Date

Paste Magazine reports that The Hold Steady will release their new album Stay Positive on July 15th.

"Written on the road and recorded in New York and New Jersey, the 11 new tracks feature "more dynamics, different instrumentation, more complex arrangements, and not always hiding behind raw volume," lead singer Craig Finn said in a statement. That "different instrumentation" includes doses of banjo, talk box and harpsichord, undoubtedly in addition to the band’s long-beloved sonic combination of accordion, guitars and beer."