From country legends to roots-rock upstarts and Americana icons, July was a pretty good month for fans of the twang. Here are the best titles I came across, listed in alphabetical order. Click on the cover picture to go to the original review page (where you should also be able to listen to the album in full):
Do you like your roots-rock with plenty of distortion-pedal grit, more than a dash of post-punk intensity, the ramshackle looseness of ’80s indie-rock — and a poetic frontman who sounds like he chews ground glass and gravel before going onstage to pour out his heart with every syllable? Then this Nashville power trio’s emotionally raw, darkly burnished debut album is exactly what you need in your life. If Lucero teamed up with The Replacements and settled on a name that had nothing to do with their sound, this is what it might sound like.
Gulf Coast Sessions
The actual Gulf Coast may be out of reach for the foreseeable future. But you don’t have to wait to get your hands on this party-hearty EP of blues, Zydeco and southern-fried hijinks from rangy Texas twangmaster and one-man-band Jesse Dayton. Crank it up, bust out the tequila, fire up the BBQ and have your own private Mardi Gras. Just remember to throw those beads from a safe distance.
Old Time Feeling
Stunning. Soulful. Spellbinding. Those are the words that spring to mind when you hear S.G. Goodman. Mostly that’s due to the southern singer-songwriter’s fantastic voice, which somehow manages to to be both powerful and vulnerable and warm and shivery all at once. But it’s not the only element of her debut album Old Time Feeling that grabs your attention. You also won’t be able to ignore her plainspoken yet movingly poetic lyrics about the hardscrabble lives of sharecroppers, coal miners and the working poor who live off dreams and “gas station delicacies” — all of which are expertly bolstered and broadened by producer Jim James’ swirling, soaring, spacious post-roots excursions.
Ray Wylie Hubbard
For those who aren’t up to speed, I’ll make this simple: When it comes to singer-songwriters, Ray Wylie Hubbard is the man. The genuine article. The real goddamn McCoy. The dude with the key to the highway. Along with any other euphemistic accolade you might want to pitch his way. But hey, don’t take it from me. Take it from Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh, Chris Robinson, Ashley McBryde, Ronnie Dunn, Don Was, Larkin Poe, Pam Tillis, The Cadillac Three and the other big shots who show up on Co-Starring to help the Oklahoma troubadour with the lazy, dust-covered drawl deliver this deep dark set of wry, rugged swamp-rockers.
First Rose of Spring
You’re never too old for love. Just look at Willie Nelson. He recently turned 87. But his 70th solo studio album First Rose of Spring very definitely finds the Red-Headed Stranger in a decidedly amorous mood, gently crooning a slate of lovestruck and/or lovelorn country ballads — from the floral title cut to Chris Stapleton’s Our Song to the prisoner-of-love lament I’ll Break Out Again Tonight, and plenty more where they came from. Of course, Willie also knows how his bread gets buttered. So for those who aren’t into the mushy stuff, he tosses in the lighthearted honky-tonk of Just Bummin’ Around, the gunslinger ode We Are The Cowboys and the two-stepping Johnny Paycheck classic I’m The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised. What is not to love?
That’s How Rumors Get Started
Ever since Jack White introduced her to the world by releasing her debut album on his Third Man Records label, Margo Price has made it clear that she’s a little bit country and a little bit rock ’n’ roll. With her third album, she continues to edge ever closer to the latter — while continuing to raise the bar and the stakes on her songwriting. Produced by fellow Nashville outlier and iconoclast Sturgill Simpson and supported by an all-star band, these 10 cuts are primarily powered by Price’s unflinchingly honest lyrics about her tumultuous (and occasionally traumatic) past life and unease with fame. But just as importantly, perhaps, they’re set against a musical backdrop that often seems more reminiscent of Tom Petty’s heartland rock (perhaps no surprise, given the presence of Benmont Tench on keys) or Simpson’s own boundary-pushing approach than anything you’d hear at the Ryman. You don’t need to listen to rumors; Price’s reality is more than compelling enough to pique your interest.
Love & Peace
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Love & Peace sees Seasick Steve mixing up all of his much-loved ingredients to deliver a fresh new record that offers the perfect antidote for the troubled times in which we live. Full of hope for the future, it’s a great mix of boogie, blues, rock, Americana and folk — all delivered in Seasick Steve’s unique style. It’s a sizzler of an album. “In these crazy times seems to me there just ain’t enough love and peace to go around,” says Steve. “I ain’t exactly sure what this here record got to do with love and peace, but I figured I’d call it that anyways!”
The Texas Gentlemen
The Texas Gentlemen are one of those bands that you’ve undoubtedly heard — even if you’ve never heard of them. Over the years, the long-serving Lone Star journeymen have backed up everyone from Kris Kristofferson and Joe Ely to Ed Sheeran and Shawn Mendes, both on stage and in the studio. That might help explain why their sophomore solo outing Floor It!!! is such a diverse affair, bobbing and weaving between vintage-sounding pop, rock, blues, folk, country, funk, soul, gospel, prog, psychedelia and anything else that they feel like. And it almost certainly explains how they’re able to pull off all those stylistic shifts and U-turns with tasteful authenticity, laid-back proficiency and earthy sincerity. Sit back and dig the ride; they’re taking the scenic route.