DISClaimer: Americana Serves Up Irresistible Tunes

long night moonThere’s a lot to like in today’s survey of current Americana records. Both of the bands here, The Devil Makes Three and Reckless Kelly, sport terrific graphics on their CD jackets and inserts. Reckless Kelly even includes a tiny flashlight (moonlight?). It is also the Disc of the Day. Of the singer-songwriters, my favorite recordings were by Rod Picott, Jimmy Webb (of course), Jeff Black and our DisCovery Award winner, Dan Cohen.

THE DEVIL MAKES THREE/Stranger
Writers: Pete Bernhard; Producer: Buddy Miller; Publisher: none listed
-This Vermont punk/folk/old-time trio traveled to Music City to record its fourth and best album, I’m a Stranger Here. It kicks off with this echoey, wailing, toe-tapping ditty. It’s like old-time string band music on acid. These three have played festivals from Bonaroo to Lollapalooza, from Newport to Austin, and along the way they’ve opened for stars like Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson and Rodney Crowell. Get on board.

ROD PICOTT/I Might Be Broken Now
Writers: Rod Picott/Amanda Shires; Producer: R.S. Field; Publishers: Welding Rod/Little LambsEatIvy, BMI; Welding Rod
-This former New England welder is now six albums into a widely heralded career as a singer-songwriter. His latest, Hang Your Hopes on a Crooked Nail has yielded this atmospheric track as his latest video offering, plus a free download on his website. Its beautifully produced sound almost obscures how bleak and dark the lyric is. Highly recommended. He writes like no one else: I remain an enormous fan.

Dan Cohen

Dan Cohen

DAN COHEN/Bluebird
Writers: Dan Cohen/Matt King; Producer: Dan Cohen; Publishers: Weston Boys/BME, BMI; Weston Boys
-Cohen has worked as a hotshot guitarist backing folks like Steve Wariner, Tracy Byrd, T. Graham Brown, Andy Griggs and others. But he’s also been making solo records since 2007. This is the title tune of his latest collection. It builds from a hushed, quasi-whispered beginning to a throbbing, bass-heavy shout of exultation. Cohen plays most of the instruments heard in this fabulous mix.

RECKLESS KELLY/Long Night Moon
Writers: Willy Braun; Producers: David Abeyta, Cody Braun, and Willy Braun; Publisher: FAH-Q, BMI; No Big Deal (track)
-Long Night Moon is the eighth album by these longtime Americana favorites and the first Reckless Kelly CD since 2011’s Grammy-nominated Good Luck & True Love. The new record’s title tune is a moody, Texas-drawled saga of traveling homeward while yearning for the touch of a lover. The album’s singles include the airy country-rocker “The Last Goodbye,” the twanging “The Girl I Knew” and the melodic invitation “Be My Friend.” Even if the music wasn’t as spectacular as it is, the record would be worth having for its gorgeous packaging.

KEB’ MO’/Rock Me on the Water
Writers: Jackson Browne; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Music Road (track)
-Nashville’s Keb’ Mo’ joins an all-star lineup on Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne. Others with saluting tracks include Bonnie Raitt, Don Henley, Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams, Bruce Springsteen and J.D. Souther (who is also a Nashvillian). The neo-bluesman’s interpretation of this iconic 1972 hit is taut, simple and punchy. He brings a cool, soul-gospel groove to the familiar classic.

JEFF BLACK/Rider Coming
Writers: Jeff Black; Producer: Jeff Black; Publisher: Lotos Nile, BMI; Lotos Nile (track)
-This Nashville troubadour’s 11th album is his most stripped-down, hence its title, Folklore.The collection begins with this haunting guitar-vocal that has become Black’s latest video. As always, his almost-hoarse, emotionally compelling singing keeps you fully involved and hanging on every line.

JASON EADY/Daylight & Dark
Writers: none listed; Producer: Kevin Welch; Publisher: none listed; 4D2 (track)
-This Texan’s current album title tune is about a laconic loser with no direction home. The loping track follows his downcast, dusty vocal at a respectful distance. Listenable.

WYATT EASTERLING/A Shot in the Dark
Writers: Wyatt Easterling/Robbie Hecht; Producers: Bill McDermott/Wyatt Easterling; Publishers: Considerable/Old Man Henry; ASCAP/SESAC; Phoenix Rising
-Nashville songsmith Easterling has had cuts by Dierks Bentley, Joe Diffie, Neal McCoy, Sons of the Desert and others. His current Goodbye Hello CD contains this ballad about a guy who had no future until a lady took “a shot in the dark” at kindling romance. Its melody meanders somewhat, in a pleasing, almost jazzy way.

still within the sound of my voice222JIMMY WEBB/Still Within The Sound of My Voice
Writers: Jimmy Webb; Producer: Fred Mollin; Publishers: none listed; entertainmentone
-One of my favorite Jimmy Webb songs is the title tune of his current CD. He performs the lilting, soaring song with British female singer Rumer. Other guests on the album include Keith Urban, Carly Simon, Joe Cocker, Amy Grant, Kris Kristofferson and Art Garfunkel.

ROBIN & LINDA WILLIAMS/On and On
Writers: Robin & Linda Williams; Producer: Jim Rooney; Publishers: Songs for Dixie/Southern Melody; BMI; Red House (track)
-These Prairie Home Companion regulars are celebrating 40 years of being on the road together with a new collection titled Back 40. Recorded in Music City, it revives songs that have appeared on their 23 prior albums, many of which are vinyl and out of print. Covers of Hank Williams, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell are interspersed with their original folkie/bluegrass tunes. The new Robin & Linda composition of the album is this jaunty, upbeat ode to the endless roadwork they still do to this day. As ever, their harmony singing is a delight.

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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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