From Scandinavian rockabilly to country legends, it was a strong month for roots music. Here are June’s top titles in alphabetical order — just click on the cover picture to find the original review page (where you can usually listen to the album in full):
Pass the barbecued lutefisk and pour the aquavit! The Kokomo Kings hail from Scandinavia, but their southern-fried roots and rockabilly sound like they just crawled out of the backwoods — or at least the back bar. Sometimes their third platter of authentic old-school fare is like the Sun Records vault come to life — while at other times, Rockpile would also be a solid comparison. Push play anywhere and glue down the repeat button.
Quality is Job #1 for Mattiel. The Georgia-born singer-songwriter — who toiled until recently as art designer for the email company Mailchimp — brilliantly and boldly blurs the line between genres on her sophomore disc. The upshot: A set that sounds like five different retro-roots bands fronted by a powerhouse vocalist somewhere between Wanda Jackson and Neko Case. Except Ion Al. Sorry.
Make yourself at home. Chuck Mead has. The Kansas singer-songwriter and former frontman of Nashville hillbilly rascals BR549 is in his comfort zone on his fourth solo album, enthusiastically celebrating Americana in its many twangy and tangy forms: Old-school country and classic rock ’n’ roll, fuzzy rockabilly and honky-tonk, roots-rock, Tex-Mex, swamp-rock and a couple more for good measure. Bulls-eye.
It’s about damn time. A decade after their last album, married Americana singer-songwriters Buddy and Julie Miller deliver the disc fans have been waiting for — a magical and mesmerizing work that seamlessly joins her poignant melodies and drawled vocals with his swampy settings, thumpy rhythms and hazy production. The only quibble: After making us wait for 10 years, they could have at least made a double album.
The 156th time’s the charm. The Red-Headed Stranger’s zillionth release is the latest essential gem in a recent string of late-career winners. Built from three chords and lyrics telling simple, sincere truths about life, love and growing old, these songs are delivered with relaxed grace and unvarnished beauty by a living legend and musical icon who’s been there, done that, rolled it up and smoked it.