Classic Americana Albums: Courtney Marie Andrews “Honest Life” (Loose, 2017)

Courtney Marie Andrews ‘Honest Life’ beholds some life-affirming writing. The use of confessional and observational writing coupled with the liquid cool backdrop of the band make this album quite simply, an unmissable modern-day classic of Americana. Released in the good company of the Mama Bird Recording Co in 2016 and Loose in 2017, this album put Andrews in good stead for the future, but getting there did not manifest overnight. This makes it one of the most alluring features as it was actually Andrews’ 6th album, shining a light on the fact that dedication and passion will ultimately prevail. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Courtney Marie Andrews “Honest Life” (Loose, 2017)”

Classic Americana Albums: Lucinda Williams “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” (Mercury, 1998)

In 1998 when ‘Car Wheels on a Gravel Road’ was released my musical tastes were much more rock-oriented and my gradual assimilation into all things Americana was really just beginning and I paid it scant attention at the time.  That all changed though in late June of 2002.  I’d bought, and was hugely enjoying Williams’ next album ‘Essence‘ and faced with a 350-mile drive from Chicago, where I lived at the time, to a friend’s summer lake house in northern Wisconsin, I’d splashed out on some more CD’s (for those old enough to remember them) and of course one of them was ‘Car Wheels on a Gravel Road‘. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Lucinda Williams “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” (Mercury, 1998)”

Classic Americana Albums: Jeff Buckley “Grace” (Columbia, 1994)

An ex boyfriend of mine once told me that a friend of his (whom I never met) got to see Jeff Buckley perform once. This was told to me years ago, yet I still sometimes find myself thinking enviously of this person whose name I don’t recall, which is a sure testament to the God-like level of worship Buckley brings when you hear his music. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Jeff Buckley “Grace” (Columbia, 1994)”

Classic Americana Albums: Robbie Fulks ‘”Country Love Songs” (Bloodshot, 1996)

It’s late July 2019 and my latest Bloodshot records update drops through the electronic mailbox. My excitement is palpable. Finally, after 23 years, one of the finest records ever to pass through my CD laser beams was coming out on vinyl and I would be able to hear (and smell!) it in its full glory.  Robbie Fulks’ ‘Country Love Songs’ was about to become only the third album in my entire accumulation deemed so special as to be purchased on more than one format*. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Robbie Fulks ‘”Country Love Songs” (Bloodshot, 1996)”

Classic Americana Compilations: “Tulare Dust – A Songwriter’s Tribute to Merle Haggard” (Hightown Records, 1994)

Merle Haggard has always been categorised as one of the great American Country Singers but, when it comes to songwriting, his talents are often overlooked. So, when a bunch of top Americana singers and songwriters came together, to produce a tribute to Haggard as a writer, it was time to take a proper, in-depth listen to some of the songs that came from his pen. Continue reading “Classic Americana Compilations: “Tulare Dust – A Songwriter’s Tribute to Merle Haggard” (Hightown Records, 1994)”

Classic Americana Albums: Lyle Lovett “Pontiac” (MCA/Curb, 1987)

Lyle Lovett – Pontiac 1987

I am sure it is an apocryphal and familiar story, but it does have a point regarding Lovett’s surprising union with Julia Roberts. There was speculation about how the one might manage to live with the other being such a talented superstar spouse, but it was assumed that Ms Roberts would find a way to come to terms with her situation. The point being that Lovett is something of a Renaissance Man. A graduate in Journalism and German, an actor on both screen and stage and even something of a wiz at reining horses at the highest level being awarded the National Reining Horse Association Lifetime Achievement Award. That’s before you consider his musical, multiple Grammy Award-winning, career. Roberts, of course, was an actress of middling range if superior looks. Let’s be fair, she seems to do a lot of laudable charitable work. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Lyle Lovett “Pontiac” (MCA/Curb, 1987)”

Classic Americana Albums: Chris Stapleton “From A Room: Volume 2” (Mercury Nashville, 2017)

When I was asked to write a review about a classic Americana album, I myself had one main issue. As someone who is only 19 and who really found their way into Americana music through country music, I don’t have the extensive back catalogue that some of my fellow reviewers do when they are tasked with the same thing. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Chris Stapleton “From A Room: Volume 2” (Mercury Nashville, 2017)”

Classic Americana Albums: Woody Guthrie “Dust Bowl Ballads” (Victor Records, 1940)

Celebrating its whopping 80th birthday this year, Dust Bowl Ballads remains a prescient and relevant piece of musical reportage and remarkably unique. Woody Guthrie hailed from Oklahoma, settled in Texas, but made his mark in New York. He is well-known for his travels around the South-West in the 1930s, reinterpreting the blues of the area as a new folk troubadour. In this, his first work, he wrote about the plight of the people affected by the dust bowl, a series of droughts and dust storms that swept across the Southern Plains. It is a comprehensive 14 tracks, each one detailing a different aspect of the troubles. Lung and health ailments, buried tractors, refugeeing, crime, poverty, deaths, it is all laid out quietly and matter-of-factly. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Woody Guthrie “Dust Bowl Ballads” (Victor Records, 1940)”

Classic Americana Albums: Green on Red “Gas Food Lodging” (Zippo Records, 1985)

‘Desert Rock’, ‘Paisley Underground’, Alternative Country-Rock’, ‘Garage-Country’ and ‘Country-Punk’ are all descriptions that have, at various times, been applied to Green on Red. The fact that these and plenty more descriptions can be found with a quick Google search suggests that contemporary commentators struggled to pin the band down, and that perhaps Green on Red actually defy convenient tagging or restrictive pigeon-holing. Moreover, their music was something quite unique and reaffirming, particularly when set into the context of the musical and political landscape of mid-eighties America. In case a reminder is needed, it was the era of electronic pop music, all synths and silly haircuts, and perhaps even more depressingly, the eighties book-ended the Presidency of Ronald Reagan (1981-1989). Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Green on Red “Gas Food Lodging” (Zippo Records, 1985)”

Classic Americana Compilations “UNCUT Presents: Americana 2004”

Magazine cover discs come and cover discs go, sometimes there’s a track or two that sparks an interest – I first encountered The Decemberists via a disc from Word magazine, that was a good find. Just a few, though, are quite literally life-changing.  That may sound like terrible hyperbole but in the case of Uncut’s ‘Americana 2004‘ disc it is quite true. Mainstream popular music in the Nineties had pretty much been a washout for me and I was doing little more than keeping up with the likes of Dylan and Neil Young with the occasional other breakthrough album or artist, but mostly I was back exploring the richer world of folk which was generally finding far more imaginative paths. And this was ok, but I needed some new directions, some new bands, some new voices. And then on a long journey North I picked up at a motorway service station, almost on a whim, the latest issue of Uncut – I can’t really say why, certainly the front cover of The Cure’s Robert Smith was not a big selling point. As the journey went on and the traffic got slower I decided to switch from the radio to the ‘Americana 2004‘ cover disc. And everything changed. Continue reading “Classic Americana Compilations “UNCUT Presents: Americana 2004””