DisClaimer: Americana In The Spotlight

jason isbell southeasternIt’s Americana Music Week in Nashville. During the past few months, DisClaimer has shone its spotlight on such 2013 Americana awards contenders as Rodney Crowell & Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale, and Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison. Today, let’s look at a few other prominent folks this genre boasts as its own. The DisCovery Award this week goes to The Lone Bellow. They’re Georgia natives who are Brooklyn-based and members of the Nashville chapter of the Recording Academy. They are also spectacularly listenable. The Disc of the Day prize is a little more difficult to pin down. All of these writer-artists are so deserving. Guy, Kim, Will and Iris are all familiar names to anyone who follows Nashville music. I love them all immensely, but am tossing the honor to one of our city’s newer residents, Jason Isbell.

THE LONE BELLOW/You Never Need Nobody
Writers: Zach Williams/Sam Ashworth; Producer: Charlie Peacock; Publishers: Zachary Ray Williams/Patron and Profit/ASCAP/BMI; Descendant (track)
-This trio’s Americana fest showcase is at The Mercy Lounge Wednesday night (Sept.18). If you missed The Lone Bellow at the Grammy Block Party earlier this year, go and become a believer. The calling cards here are wondrous harmony singing, superbly soulful songwriting by member Zach Williams and instantly catchy melodies. Unreservedly recommended. This track is from their eponymous titled debut album. Buy it.

SARAH JAROSZ/ 1,000 Things
Writers: none listed; Producers: Gary Paczosa and Sarah Jarosz; Publisher: none listed; Sugar Hill (track)
-Sarah’s Build Me Up From Bones CD and her fall tour both launch next week. This moody track from it finds the singer-songwriter swooning among strings and gentle percussion. Dreamy.

THE CIVIL WARS/The One That Got Away
Writers: Joy Williams/John Paul White/Charlie Peacock; Producer: Charlie Peacock; Publishers: Here’s To Me/Sony-ATV/Shiny Happy/BMG Rights Management/Patron and Profit/BMI; Columbia (track)
-These two — Joy Williams and John Paul White — have made almost as many headlines with their on-again, off-again musical partnership as they have for their actual music. Somehow, they’ve pulled together a second collection. It kicks off with this minor-key, mid-tempo lament about being trapped and lost in a feverish, unwanted, addictive romance. Compelling and captivating.

KIM RICHEY/Angels Share
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Yep Roc (track)
-Kim’s Americana convention show is Friday at 8:00 p.m. at The Rutledge. This achingly slow ballad appears on her current Thorn In My Heart collection. She mourns a lost love under a lonely moon while drowning her sorrow. Produced with languid, eloquent, perfect clarity, this is a brilliant showcase for her lustrous voice. On tracks such as “Come On,” you’ll find Kim in her soaring, ultra-melodic, country-rock mode. This gal should be crowned an Americana Queen.

The Lone Bellow

The Lone Bellow

Writers: Will Hoge/Ashley Gorley/Zach Crowell; Producer: Will Hoge; Publishers: External Combustion Music/Songs of Southside Independent Music/Out of the Taperoom Music/Who Wants to Buy My Publishing/2013 BMG Platinum Songs/ Will Hoge Music; BMI/ASCAP; Cumberland Recordings (track)
-Will’s new CD is titled Never Give In. It comes out next month, but is available for pre-orders now at a discounted price. Meanwhile, he has a video available of its stirring first single, “Strong.” It’s about a salt-of-the-earth guy who’d give you the shirt off his back and who’ll love one woman all his life. I understand that it has been tapped as the 2014 theme song of the Chevy Silverado truck campaign, so get ready to hear it a bunch. Raspy voiced Will has been a rocker and a swamper who now seems to be morphing into a blue-collar country boy. In any guise, he’s a soul man.

Writers: L. Ortega; Producer: Dave Cobb; Publisher: none listed; Last Gang (track)
-Her album doesn’t drop until Oct. 8, but its title tune is already streaming. Its an echoey ballad that’s for every unknown, back-alley singer who dreams of making it big someday. “I wrote this song for those who are like me/Lost in the shining stars of Nashville, Tennessee,” she sings with winning sadness. I remain a fan.

JASON ISBELL/Flying Over Water
Writer: Jason Isbell; Producer: Dave Cobb; Publisher: Songs of Emchant/Fame, BMI; Southeastern
-Jason’s new Southeastern CD has been showcased on NPR, featured on CBS This Morning, performed on Conan and praised in many other media outlets. This urgent ode to love and distance has a rocking, electric track, but elsewhere on the collection he is more in a folk mode with simpler accompaniment. Either way, he’s one helluva poetic communicator. Troubadour triumphant.

Writers: G. Louris/C. Rose; Producers: Jordan Lehning, Caitlin Rose and Skylar Wilson; Publishers: Pearl Tower/Absinthe/Warner-Tamerlane, BMI; ATO (track)
-This snappy country-rocker puts a solid backbeat behind her fragile-rose soprano vocal. It’s one of the many delights to be found on her second album, The Stand-In. The collection is somewhat more fully produced than her debut. Caitlin is the daughter of top Music Row tunesmith Liz Rose. In a just universe, she would be a huge mainstream country success like her mom. As it is, we’ll accept her and cherish her as one of our city’s most literate and lilting alt-country artists.

GUY CLARK/My Favorite Picture of You
Writers: Guy Clark/Gordy Sampson; Producers: Guy Clark, Chris Latham and Shawn Camp; Publishers: EMI April/BMG Chrysalis, ASCAP; Dualtone (track)
-The tender title tune of this master song craftsman’s current CD is about his wife Susanna, who died last year. No one, but no one, can tell a story in song like this man can. His rumpled, well-worn vocal delivery is just as affecting as his extraordinary lyric. Last week, Guy was presented with an ACM Poet’s Award. In 2004, he was named to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. The Americana Music Association gave him a Lifetime Achievement honor in 2005. This collection, his first in four years, presents 11 new reasons why he deserves these and whatever other accolades we can bring him.

IRIS DEMENT/Go On Ahead and Go Home
Writer: Iris Dement; Producers: Bo Ramsey, Richard Bennett and Iris Dement; Publisher: Songs of Iris, ASCAP; Flariella (track)
-Backed by organ, guitar and rippling piano, this gospel anthem welcomes the “homecoming” that belongs to the faithful when they pass on. As usual, she sings with ringing, homespun authority. Produced in Music City, the entire Sing the Delta album will restore your faith in the power of country music. Much of it is informed by meditations on our mortality, but death has never sounded more inspirational.


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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