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.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

City Stages Video Wrap Up

For all the hype Bonnaroo receives just a few hours south, we had a pretty good festival in Birmingham last weekend. For those whoa Aren't familiar with City Stages, it used to be one of the better festivals around. However, years of bad weather and debt trouble hurt the event and made it a shadow of it's former self. But Stages booked a deal with a national booking agency that also books for Bonnaroo and things turned for the better this year. While still not what it used to be, it had a great lineup this year. Here are some highlights of the weekend:


Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit - I'll let a quote from my son Charlie be the review here. "Daddy this is cool. It is so loud I feel like I have 2 hearts." In other words he rocked. Also, he gave me one of the best memories ever from a music festival. When they played the DBT song "outfit" and Jason dedicated it to his father and all fathers, my son crawled in my lap and said "Daddy I love you. You are a good dad." Folks it doesn't get any better than that.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - ''Grown,'' live at City Stages

Old Crow Medicine Show - It was late and already way past my son's bedtime so we had to miss OCMS but I heard they were good.


I had unavoidable family obligations on Saturday. So I missed my 3rd day of Stages in the 18 years I have lived in Birmingham. I will share some video instead. I heard Grace Potter was the best act on Saturday from a couple of people the following day.

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - live at City Stages

Griffin House at City Stages


Ben Harper on Saturday


The lineup on the Songwriter stage was: Elizabeth Cook, Pieta Brown, Hackensaw Boys, Shooter Jennings and Robert Earl Keen. Not one of those artists disappointed. Elizabeth Cook got it started with her country flair and Keen closed it out as you would expect with his typical Texas showmanship. However, The Hackensaw Boys may have put on the best show and they certainly picked up a bunch of fans in the Magic City.

All that being said the Flaming Lips generated the biggest buzz of the entire weekend. I ran into a couple of freinds after the festival ended and received rave reviews from them.. Amazingly enough thay weren't even that familiar with their music. Howwever, in order to see the Flaming Lips I would have needed to skip Robert Earl and that would have been sacreligious.

The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips - live at City Stages

More Flaming Lips:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Signposts: Along the Information Super Highway

Here is some things being talked about in the Blogger community.

AmericanRoots Ray Randall reports that Jason & the Scorchers will be receiving a Lifetime Achievment Award from the Americana Music Association.

Nine Bullets has posted links to live recordings by Lucero.

The Boot does a great interview with Charlie Daniels who is celebrating 50 years in music.

Hickory Wind doesn't want anyone to tell Hayes Carll about the "death of alt-country."

Twangville's Mayer is the best there is at finding the underground bands. This week he introduces you to The Teenage Prayers.

The Infamous Stringdusters

The Infamous Stringdusters released there self-titled sophomore album on Sugar Hill this week. In a stroke of genius, they brought is Tim O’brien as producer. The Stringdusters like O’brien have a fairly uncommon ability to stand simultaneously in both the Traditional and New Grass camps with no apparent contradiction. Their previous release Fork in the Road was a very good album. However, the production was a bit too sterile. Not unlike jazz, Bluegrass is best when it has spontaneity, which was missing on Fork. What this sextet of virtuosity was missing on Fork is found on this new project. I have no doubt that O’brien is responsible for this.

The album starts out in a very inventive way, with three songs written by three different band members. Each of the songs is sung by their creator. “Won’t Be Coming Back” is sung and written by Bass player Travis Book. “Well, Well” is sung and written by Dobro player Andy Hall. “When Silence is the Only Sound” is sung and written by Fiddler Jeremy Garrett. Other songs of note are the phenomenal instrumental “Glass Elevator,” the more traditional “I Wonder” and the high octane “You Can’t Handle the Truth.” It seems that all the rave reviews bestowed on them has left them more comfortable and relaxed. They no longer need to prove they belong. They just need to relax and jam, which is exactly what they do.

This review also appears on Twangville

Monday, June 9, 2008

City Stages Preview !!!!

For my local Birmingham readers it is City Stages time. Also, it is time to eat some crow. Last year I predicted the death of the festival. I was so wrong. With a new booking agency helping out, this is the best lineup in years! In fact, on Saturday there are multiple times where acts are playing simultaneously and I am going to need to miss some good acts.

The folks at and The Birmingham News have asked me for my recommendations. Many of the acts playing this year are already familiar to Birmingham. Will Hoge, North Mississippi All-Stars, Marc Broussard, Ben Harper and Robert Earl Keen do not require an introduction from anyone. What about the best of the rest? Here are some other bands that I am most excited about:

Carolina Chocolate Drops - Three African-American musicians taking Appalachian music and mixing it with gospel and other traditional styles. Their set will be a musical melting pot. I have a feeling they will be the surprise hit of the festival.

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit - Many are familiar with his work with Drive-By-Truckers, but he has his own band now. His song "Dress Blues" is powerful live.

Old Crow Medicine Show - They have a high energy set of traditional tunes played with Rock n' Roll angst.

Act of Congress - This is a local New Grass band that is not getting the recognition they deserve. Their musicianship is excellent and they put on a really good live show. I hope It will be worth coming out early to see them on Saturday.

The Dexateens - This Tuscaloosa based band boasts an album produced by Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood of Drive-By-Truckers.

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals - This will be show stealer no doubt. A mixture of Blues and Soul delivered with an attitude.

Griffin House - His new album is one of the best singer-songwriter releases of the year.

Elizabeth Cook - Authentic country. She has great personality and a voice as real as Loretta. Her song "It Takes Balls to be a Woman" will be a crowd favorite.

Hackensaw Boys - This bluegrass act is eclectic enough to have shared the stage with Modest Mouse. If you like OCMS on Friday, come see these guys on Sunday.

Shooter Jennings - If you think he is coasting on daddy's name. Think again.


Tim Mac from Boston and Ray.

I have Tim's E-mail and will send yours out in the next couple of days. Ray if you will click on my profile and send me an e-mail I will send yours out also.


Thanks for participating in my first contest.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The New Wave of New Grass - Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet / Ben Sollee

When you talk about the artists taking Bluegrass in new directions you think about musical directions not the directions on a compass. Yes many artists have followings in Europe and the Kreuger Brothers are from Norway, but China is not a country I think of as craving a good banjo tune. Besides can you imagine someone trying to call a Contra dance with Four million participants in Beijing. Well Abigail Washburn (better known for her role in Uncle Earl) has released an album in which sings about China and, on a couple songs, she sings in Chinese. She also toured China and Tibet in 2006 along with the help of three friends. Collectively they are known as the Sparrow Quartet. The people who join her are Casey Driesen (Fiddle), Ben Sollee (Cello) and none other than Bela Fleck on Banjo. Fleck of course has had more success than anyone fusing Bluegrass with World Music, making him a perfect inclusion in the band. This self-titled album is innovative; but more than that it is as beautiful and sincere as any album you will buy this year. It is also evidence of the transcendence of Folk Music. It is music for all folks everywhere. Unlike politics Folk Music does not see borders or color.

Check out the video:

Speaking of the Sparrow Quartet, Ben Sollee will be releasing his excellent solo album Learning to Bend this Tuesday June 10th. Less wordly than the Sparrow Quartet, Sollee mixes Jazz, Classical and Bluegrass to fuse together an eclectic release that will fit nicely in your collection right between The Sparrow Quartet and Uncle Earl. There is a hint of Melancholly in his music and lyrics on this album, especially on the more politically charged songs. But still it has a smooth vibe that makes you want to sit back and listen.

Check out his MySpace Page

and YouTube video below.

This review also appears on Twangville

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Band of Heathens Give Away Contest!!!!

Hi all this is the first contest I have posted here on AWT. The Band of Heathens has been gracious enough to provide me with a couple of copies to give away.

Just leave a comment to this post about the Heathens. Refer to my previous post in which I reviewed the album. If you don't leave me a web link I won't know your e-mail address. So check back on 6-8 when I will choose the winner. I will give the name of the winners. Then they can e-mail with your address to send the CD.

Good Luck Everybody!