Prinz Grizzley “To My Green Mountains Home” (DoWhWa Records, 2020)

Egg, Austria isn’t someplace that you would expect to be the launchpad for an album that sounds like it was born somewhere exactly halfway between Memphis and Nashville. But geography isn’t the only reason that listeners will find themselves doing a double-take when they listen to the sophomore release from Prinz Grizzley. The album’s twelve tracks are a carousel of musical influences that are polished up with production that will have listeners wondering which decade they’re in (in a good way). Continue reading “Prinz Grizzley “To My Green Mountains Home” (DoWhWa Records, 2020)”

AmericanA to Z: Brittany Howard

There have been some pretty impressive entries in the AmericanA to Z feature under the letter “H” already. We’ve had Ed Hamell and Emmylou Harris. It’s a letter so loaded down with talent that no-less-than Ray Wylie Hubbard had to get in where he fit in under “R” (or was it under “W”?). Continue reading “AmericanA to Z: Brittany Howard”

Kory Quinn & Co. “The Blueroom” (Independent, 2020)

It’s a bit of a challenge to pin down exactly where Kory Quinn is from. Most signs point to Portland, OR but there’s a Twitter account that says Chicago and a Soundcloud page that points to Houston. If it weren’t for the troubles unique to the present moment, he would have spent the past weekend celebrating the release of his new album with a show in Florida. If you didn’t do any outside investigating, you might conclude that Kory is from Oklahoma thanks to a sound that is part Woodie Guthrie and part roughneck. It seems appropriate that it is tough to pin down the singer’s geographical roots because the songs are those of a troubadour, a wanderer, someone who has put in the time and traveled the miles to be able to take the pulse of the nation, deliver a diagnosis, and hazard a prescription. Continue reading “Kory Quinn & Co. “The Blueroom” (Independent, 2020)”

American Aquarium “Lamentations” (New West Records, 2020)

BJ Barham has always been better than average when it comes to delivering hard truths in the form of memorable turns of phrase. Fans of American Aquarium have come to expect songs that are plain-spoken, quick-witted, and sharp-tongued. While the band’s track record up to now has been remarkably consistent in light of line-up changes and other challenges, ‘Lamentations’ is more than another installment of business-as-usual. Even with all of the good music in their catalog, this one sets a new standard. It’s hands-down one of the best cover-to-cover albums of the year and makes a solid argument for Barham’s name to be included in every conversation about the best songwriters putting in work right now. Continue reading “American Aquarium “Lamentations” (New West Records, 2020)”

Watkins Family Hour “Brother Sister” (Thirty Tigers, 2020)

When two-thirds of the Grammy-winning bluegrass outfit Nickel Creek find themselves with time on their hands in their home base of Los Angeles, it makes perfect sense that they set up shop as the house band for a local venue. That’s what Sean and Sara Watkins did back in 2002 during a hiatus and Largo became the place to be for a whole host of LA musicians who wanted to join in on the fun. Continue reading “Watkins Family Hour “Brother Sister” (Thirty Tigers, 2020)”

AUK’s Chain Gang: James McMurtry “Childish Things”

The most obvious connection between last week’s ‘The Town That Killed Kennedy‘ by Otis Gibbs and this week’s link in the chain is the view of the world that one gets through the window of a bus. But the title track from James McMurtry’s 2005 release – which received the AMA’s Album of the Year award in 2006 – connects to the Gibbs track on multiple levels. Both tracks address the complicated exchanges that spur a coming of age. The innocence, optimism, and energy of youth eventually sees too much and gives way to guarded wisdom and reluctant acceptance. From different perspectives and on different levels, both tracks force us to acknowledge that even while we are pursuing life, life is pursuing each of us.

Nathan Kalish “Songs For Nobody” (Independent, 2020)

Nathan Kalish is the kind of songwriter that other songwriters love. He’s a road warrior and his travels fill the pipeline of the songwriting cycle. When you combine that with a band that’s turn-on-a-dime tight and knows how to groove across a variety of styles, the results are more than just okay. The songs on Kalish’s newest album are as sonically and lyrically diverse as the day-to-day life of folks who put in long miles every day just to spend every night in a different town doing the same old one-night stand. Continue reading “Nathan Kalish “Songs For Nobody” (Independent, 2020)”

Michael Doucet “Lâcher Prise” (Compass Records, 2020)

America is big and America is a melting pot. This has important implications for Americana music because, despite centuries of diligent stirring, there are some spots in that melting pot where things have burned just a little too hot and bits have gotten stuck to the bottom. Towns like Nashville, Austin, and Bakersfield jump to mind as shining examples of how this has been a good thing for the musical stew. Continue reading “Michael Doucet “Lâcher Prise” (Compass Records, 2020)”

Nathaniel Rateliff “And It’s Still Alright” (Stax, 2020)

It was no secret that the new album from Nathaniel Rateliff would take on weightier subjects than what you’ll find in his work with the Night Sweats. Rateliff was open about the central role that dealing with the breakup of his marriage and the loss of a close friend played in writing the songs for the album. The singles that were released ahead of the full album certainly lived up to the expectations that the artist had set for the project. Now that the rest of the album has been released, listeners get to experience the work as a whole. Continue reading “Nathaniel Rateliff “And It’s Still Alright” (Stax, 2020)”

Dustbowl Revival “Is It You, Is It Me” (Medium Expectations/Thirty Tigers, 2020)

The new album from Dustbowl Revival isn’t “more of the same” it’s both “more” and “the same”. ‘Is It You, Is It Me’ is full of the interesting arrangements, intelligent lyrics, and stellar vocal harmonies that you would expect. At the same time, this album feels like the band spread their arms wider than they have on previous offerings and brought in an even broader swath of musical influences. Great work from the horns and rhythm section tame and unify all of the parts and pieces into something that flows smoothly from open to close. Continue reading “Dustbowl Revival “Is It You, Is It Me” (Medium Expectations/Thirty Tigers, 2020)”