Howdy, folks! Here are some reviews of the new country, bluegrass and Americana records that I had the good fortune to listen to in January, 2014. This page gets updated throughout the month, so check back if you can... Also, check out my full Guide To Hick Music for a bazillion more record reviews and artist profiles.
New Stuff: January, 2014
Billie Joe Armstrong & Norah Jones "Foreverly" (Reprise)
Hard Working Americans "Hard Working Americans" (Thirty Tigers-Melvin Records)
Bob King "Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight: Rockin' The Jukebox" (Bear Family)
Jim Lauderdale "Black Roses" (Sky Crunch)
Jim Lauderdale "Blue Moon Junction" (Sky Crunch)
Loretta Lynn "Blue Kentucky Girl/I Like Em Country" (Raven)
Janis Martin "My Boy Elvis" (Jasmine)
Augie Meyers "Loves Lost And Found" (El Sendero)
Augie Meyers & The Fandangos "The Fandangos" (Old Chivo)
Margie Singleton "Jukebox Pearls: Pledging My Love" (Bear Family)
Leona Williams "Yes, Ma'm, He Found Me In A Honky Tonk" (Bear Family)
Windy Hill "Lonesome Garbage Man" (Windy Hill)
Various Artists "THE SUN COUNTRY BOX: 1950-1959" (Bear Family)
Various Artists "THE SUN ROCK BOX: 1950-1959" (Bear Family)
Billie Joe Armstrong & Norah Jones "Foreverly" (Reprise, 2013)
If you asked me, I would have had a pretty hard time coming up with a more unlikely vocal duo than Green Day's Billy Joe Armstrong and roots-jazz chanteuse Norah Jones... And the two of them doing an Everly Brothers tribute album? Oy geyvalt! Maybe Jones is no big surprise here -- she's long since proven herself one of the most eclectic artists in contemporary American pop -- but Billie Joe has always had unexpected depths as well, and I say more power to him for going all roots-twang for a change.
Hard Working Americans "Hard Working Americans" (Thirty Tigers-Melvin Records, 2014)
(Produced by Dave Schools & Todd Snider)
Bob King "Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight: Rockin' The Jukebox" (Bear Family, 2013)
Jim Lauderdale "Black Roses" (Sky Crunch, 2013)
(Produced by Jim Lauderdale)
Jim Lauderdale "Blue Moon Junction" (Sky Crunch, 2013)
(Produced by Jim Lauderdale)
Loretta Lynn "Blue Kentucky Girl/I Like Em Country" (Raven, 2013)
A handy reissue of two classic, vintage Loretta albums, 1965's Blue Kentucky Girl, and I Like Em Country, from 1966. This delicious disc joins Raven's other twofer releases, pure catnip for old-school country fans!
Neal McCoy "Pride: A Tribute To Charley Pride" (Slate Creek, 2013)
Augie Meyers "Loves Lost And Found" (El Sendero, 2013)
Augie Meyers & The Fandangos "The Fandangos" (Old Chivo, 2013)
Buck Owens "Buck 'Em" (Omnivore, 2014)
Margie Singleton "Jukebox Pearls: Pledging My Love" (Bear Family, 2013)
A nice collection of early work by country singer Margie Singleton, who's probably best known for her late '60s/early '70s work with husband Leon Ashley. She had been recorded for a decade or more before that, though, and this 1955-65 retrospective gathers a bunch of her rougher, more hillbilly stuff, recorded when she as still married to record exec Shelby Singleton...
Leona Williams "Yes, Ma'm, He Found Me In A Honky Tonk" (Bear Family, 2013)
Here's another great -- and long overdue -- Bear Family reissue collection. Leona Williams is a little-known and highly underrated country singer, perhaps best remembered for the duets she sang with Merle Haggard in the 1980s. But Williams had been a solo artist for years before that, cutting her first singles in the late '60s and recording a bunch of albums and countless singles. Her major label days ended with after her hits with Haggard, but she's been a mainstay of the Texas indie scene, and continues to be highly respected by singers across the stye. This 3-CD set gathers all of her studio recordings, from her early work on the Hickory label to an entire unreleased album recorded with "outlaw" producer Tompall Glaser. And of course there are a bunch of the soulful duets she's known for... Great stuff!
Windy Hill "Lonesome Garbage Man" (2013)
(Produced by Bart Thurbur & Myles Boisen)
Rock solid modern truegrass from a SF Bay Area quartet (and a few extra guests) who really know their stuff. The album opens with a blistering instrumental ("Pinecone Banjo") showcasing the considerable picking talents of banjoist Ryan Breen, who anchors the band but gets a lot of powerful backup by the other fellas as well, notably fiddler Paul Shelasky who adds a sly, old-timey style into the mix. Then they slip into some vocal numbers where the band reveals an unruly, slightly awkward sensibility -- refreshing, actually, in this era of too-perfect slick professionalism. Honestly, the rough edges give these guys a distinctive sound, and harkens back to the Cheap Suit Serenaders' wilfull imperfectionism... which I definitely mean as a compliment. In addition to the picking talent, this album is notable for the wealth of original material, all of quite high calibre. Heartsongs such as "Just To See Who's In My Place" and "You Cheated Three Times" sound like they are straight out of the golden-era, 1950s playbook, but were in fact written by guitarist Thomas Willie, with guitarist Henry Warde and banjoist Breen contributing other gems. It's hard to overstate just how good this album is... Trust me: if you like old school bluegrass, you gotta check these guys out.
Various Artists "THE SUN COUNTRY BOX: COUNTRY MUSIC RECORDED BY SAM PHILLIPS: 1950-1959" (Bear Family, 2013)
Various Artists "THE SUN ROCK BOX: ROCK'N'ROLL RECORDED BY SAM PHILLIPS: 1950-1959" (Bear Family, 2013)
Hick Music Index