DISClaimer: Music City’s Americana

Hard Working Americans

Hard Working Americans

It’s high time we took an audio stroll through Music City’s Americana scene. Where have all our female singer-songwriters gone in this town? Evidently right here. Women dominate this stack of platters with worthy discs by Kim Richey, Julie Lee, Greta Gaines and Beth Nielsen Chapman. The other outstanding singer-songwriter platter belongs to Amos Lee. But the bands carried the day. Todd Snider’s new ensemble Hard Working Americans earned our Disc of the Day honor. The sensational The Wild Feathers flew away with the DisCovery Award.

GRETA GAINES/Good Side
Writer: G. Gaines; Producers: Eric Fritsch/Greta Gaines; Publisher: Oh Happy!; BMI; Big Air (track)
-Where to begin? For those not familiar with this Nashville singer-songwriter, she is the 1992 winner of the Women’s Extreme Snowboarding World Championship, the host of MTV’s broadcasts of similar events, the 2001-2004 star of the Oxygen channel series Freeride, a soundtrack composer, an ESPN broadcaster of fly fishing events and a board member of NORML, seeking to reform marijuana laws. All the while, she’s been releasing well-received CDs. Lighthouse & The Impossible Love is her fifth collection. This track departs from her prior country-rock sound in favor of a sultry, soul-inflected, sexy, soft vocal style. Heartily recommended.

BETH NIELSEN CHAPMAN/The Mighty Sky
Writers: Chapman/Alvey; Producers: Beth Nielsen Chapman/Annie Roboff; Publishers: Rock Alvey/Songs of Prismight; BMI/SESAC; BNC (track)
-Chapman is nominated for a Children’s Music Grammy Award this year for a collection of astronomy songs. As always, this Nashville pop stylist is a mistress of lovely melody making, as this celestial title tune so ably illustrates. This truly is music for children of all ages. And I don’t care how old you are, the accompanying booklet will delight you with things you never knew.

JULIE LEE/Till and Mule
Writers: Julie Lee; Producers: Julie Lee/Aaron Roche; Publisher: Still House Road; SESAC; JL (track)
-I have long been a fan of this singer-songwriter. If you’re not, you should be. Her world-class, folk-country soprano is as crystal-clear as an Appalachian brook, and her vivid songwriting is just as stellar. This echoey title ballad of her new album will make your heart tremble.

HARD WORKING AMERICANS/Down To The Well
Writers: Kevin Gordon/Colin Kendall Linden; Producers: Dave Schools/Todd Snider; Publishers: Little Bug/Bug/WB; no performance rights listed; Melvin (track)
-This group is fronted by longtime Americana hero Todd Snider. On this thumpy, hard-times tune, his trademark raspy vocal delivery is given extra potency thanks to extremely tasty guitar work (Neal Casal) and an ultra-tough rhythm section (Duane Trucks, Dave Schools, Chad Staehly). In keeping with the band name, many of the tunes have blue-collar themes.

the wild feathers11KIM RICHEY/Thorn In My Heart
Writers: Kim Richey/Nelson Hubbard; Producer: Nelson Hubbard; Publishers: BMG Chyrsalis/Plastic Bird, BMI/PRS; Yep Rock (Track)
-Richey has returned to Music City. For which we should all shout, “Hallelujah.” The title tune of her current CD reminds you of how completely captivating her sweet-sad, world-weary style is. The harmony vocals by Will Kimbrough are equally soul-tugging. Luscious melody and infinite heartache. Buy this and every other album you see her name on.

AMOS LEE/Mountains of Sorrow
Writers: Amos Lee; Producer: Jay Joyce; Publisher: Soma Eel; BMI; Blue Note (track)
-This Americana fave and his band came to Nashville and put themselves in the capable hands of producer Jay Joyce. The result is a “drop the needle anywhere” album. It doesn’t matter which track you choose, your ears are in for an audio delight. The performances are mostly captured live, but in the case of this loping, engaging, mournful title tune, Patty Griffin was persuaded to add vocal harmony. Other illustrious guests dropping by included Alison Krauss, Jerry Douglas and Mickey Raphael. Amos plays Music City Roots tonight.

FATS KAPLIN AND KRISTI ROSE/Gold
Writers: Rose/Kaplin; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Pulp Country
-This esteemed sideman for Jack White (and many others) has a double CD. One disc is The Fatman Cometh and the other is World of Wonder, and both showcase his dazzling abilities on fiddle, mandolin, percussion, dobro, banjo, theramin and baglama, not to mention his composing skills. Kaplan’s partner Kristi Rose drops by to croon this bluesy love song on the second CD. This man’s music will enthrall you.

THE WILD FEATHERS/The Ceiling
Writers: Joel King/Taylor Burns/Ricky Young; Producer: Jay Joyce; Publishers: Effecter/Evan Taylor Burns/Young Town Mountain; ASCAP/BMI; Warner Bros.
-The thrilling debut album by this Nashville five-piece will restore your faith in the power of roots rock. This single/video showcases the group’s pile-driving rhythm, head-to-the-sky singing, supremely hooky melodic style, ringing instrumental abilities, sublime harmony vocalizing and addictive enthusiasm. It made me spin around the room in delight. Play it again and again and again.

WILL KIMBROUGH/Sideshow Love
Writer: Will Kimbrough; Producers: Will Kimbrough/David Henry; Publishers: Will Kimbrough/Bluewater; BMI; Daphne (track)
-This universally respected Nashville singer-songwriter-guitarist has been moving more and more in an Americana direction in recent years. The title tune to his new collection is a bluesy, stripped-down outing that wryly romps in all the right ways. I remain a big, big fan.

NED VAN GO/Poor White Trash Southern Reputation Blues
Writers: Hill/Webb; Producer: Michael Webb; Publishers: Ned Hill/DoubleKick; SESAC/BMI; NVG (track)
-I’m a little late getting to these drawling Kentuckians, whose Lost in the Trouble CD dropped a few months back. This hilarious, rawking, hillbilly romp tells you everything you need to know about their irreverence, wit and spunk.

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About the Author

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

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