Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts “OHBAHOY” (Independent, 2019)

Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts have released another solid set of tunes. The album, which came out late last year, carries on their tradition of blending diverse influences into smooth, well-written, and well-produced power pop packages. You’ll hear a lot of the late ’80s, LA-based AOR in the tracks from this set. But there’s a freshness that runs throughout the latest offering—probably due to the broader stylistic pallet that the group draws on. Continue reading “Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts “OHBAHOY” (Independent, 2019)”

AmericanA to Z – Hamell On Trial

I have to admit, as I sit here getting ready to file the latest entry in our ongoing alphabetical exploration of all things Americana—I’m wondering if I might not have finally stretched the boundaries of Americana just a bit too far. They might snap under the strain this time. You’ve been warned. Protective eyewear might not be the worst idea in the world if you choose to continue reading. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Hamell On Trial”

The Hackles “A Dobritch Did As A Dobritch Should” (Jealous Butcher Records, 2019)

The second time around the duo of Kati Claborn and Luke Ydstie took a much more collaborative approach to the musical arrangements that support their still lovely harmonies and vocal interplay. Whereas their debut album was striking for the sparse arrangements that accompanied their voices, this album brought in friends from the Astoria, OR music community to arrive at a fuller sound. Claborn and Ydstie credit producer Adam Selzer with the final shape that the album took, saying that he had a “huge effect on how the album turned out”. Continue reading “The Hackles “A Dobritch Did As A Dobritch Should” (Jealous Butcher Records, 2019)”

The Avett Brothers “Closer Than Together” (American/Republic, 2019)

Prior to its release, Seth Avett laid out a mission statement for the Avett Brothers’ 10th full-length album by way of a four-paragraph letter. In it, he opines that “the last thing the world needs is another piece of sociopolitical commentary,” before going on to explain why some of the tracks on the album seem to break with the band’s tried-and-true formula and veer in that direction. He concludes the letter with the observation that “the Avett Brothers will probably never make a sociopolitical record. But if we did, it might sound something like this”. Continue reading “The Avett Brothers “Closer Than Together” (American/Republic, 2019)”

EG Vines “Family Business” (Independent, 2019)

When his band called it a day in 2015, EG Vines decided to strike out on his own. Last year’s EP ‘Conversation’ put listeners on notice that there was more to come. Vines’ debut LP ‘Family Business’ is out now and it has a lot of good things going for it. The songwriting is intelligent but easy. The arrangements bring Petty, DBT, and the Black Crowes to mind. The production is top-notch, and while it leans Nashville, it doesn’t squelch the songwriter’s swagger that Vines brings to each track. For a debut album, that should be enough . . . but why stop there? Continue reading “EG Vines “Family Business” (Independent, 2019)”

AmericanA to Z – Uncle Tupelo

There’s no way we could make our first trip through the alphabet without a tip of the hat to the band that some folks point to as the start of this thing we call Americana. I’m going to sidestep the industrial-strength spider web of a conversation that inevitably follows any statement to the effect that somebody did or didn’t ‘start’ a movement or a musical style. Feel free to go down that road in the comments section if you’d like. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Uncle Tupelo”

The Lumineers “III” (Decca, 2019)

If you only give the new album ‘III’ by The Lumineers a surface listen, you’ll probably find yourself thinking something along the lines of: “well isn’t that nice, there’s a new Lumineers album”. And on that surface level, you’ll be right. As background music – there’s nothing new here. But there are two points to make following that observation. First, why would you change anything up when you’ve found something that works for you and your fans? Second, the best of what’s on offer in The Lumineers’ music lies beneath the surface. Continue reading “The Lumineers “III” (Decca, 2019)”

Darrin Bradbury “Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs” (ANTI-, 2019)

It takes a keen eye to spot the profound wrapped up inside the everyday. Darrin Bradbury has a very keen eye and he puts it to good use. Others have drawn comparisons between Bradbury’s songwriting and the work of John Prine or Guy Clark. It’s probably worth throwing the likes of Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter S. Thompson, and Warren Zevon into that mix. A keen eye, a dark sense of humour, and a talent for turning a phrase can go a long way. Continue reading “Darrin Bradbury “Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs” (ANTI-, 2019)”

Ana Egge “Is It the Kiss” (StorySound, 2019)

When you’ve shared the stage with the likes of John Prine and James McMurtry; when Steve Earle says that it’s like you’re telling us your “deepest darkest secrets”; When Iris DeMent shows up to help you cover a Diana Jones tune . . . you’ve been doing something right. After twelve years, ten albums, and a sizeable pile of awards and accolades, Ana Egge isn’t hitting her stride – she’s grabbing another gear. The songs on “Is It the Kiss”, her 11th album, exhibit a mastery of the craft even as she continues to push the boundaries of her own abilities as a songwriter.
Continue reading “Ana Egge “Is It the Kiss” (StorySound, 2019)”

The Moon Shells “Seaside Asylum” (Casa de Agua, 2019)

There’s just something special about the combination of fiddle and banjo. When they’re working at the height of their combined powers, they’re able to summon up memories that aren’t even our own. They speak from all of the times and places that have been spoken to, and spoken through, by way of their combined strengths. They pack a powerful punch when they’re put to good use. Of course, the other side of that coin is that they command a certain respect. If the meaning and emotion aren’t there then you’re left with an empty shell . . . an imposter. Continue reading “The Moon Shells “Seaside Asylum” (Casa de Agua, 2019)”