DISClaimer: Americana Offers Overflow of Musical Riches

Rosanne Cash

Rosanne Cash

Americana music is much in the news this month.

Its organization announced its 2014 award nominees two weeks ago. This week, the AMA issued a press release stating that its annual convention has a $5 million impact on Nashville’s economy. Next week, it stages a one-day festival in Franklin that shines a spotlight on some of its greatest artists (see the Parker Millsap review for more details).

And so we turn our attention to Americana platters in this edition of DisClaimer. There’s an awful lot to like. Vying for places of honor are collections by Radney Foster, Leon Russell, Paul Burch and John Oates.

Amid a field of outstanding efforts, endearingly serene Rosanne Cash wins the Disc of the Day award. There’s an embarrassment of riches in today’s list of newcomers. So much so that I’m giving DisCovery Awards to one male, Parker Millsap; one female, Hannah Aldridge and one group, the pop delight that is Johnnyswim.

BLUE MOTHER TUPELO/Only Sunshine
Writers: Micol Davis/Ricky Davis; Producer: Ricky Davis; Publisher: Go Ahead On/Squeeze Me Tight, BMI/ASCAP; Juke Tonk (track)
-The title tune of this Hendersonville based duo’s new CD is a haunting pastiche of their unusual, folk-ish harmonies, electric guitar noodling and shimmering washes of violin. I think “kookie” is the word I’m looking for.

RADNEY FOSTER/Everything I Should Have Said
Writers: Radney Foster/Darrell Brown; Producers: Justin Tocket/Radney Foster; Publishers: Alamo Lounge/Kobalt/BMG Gold/We Jam Writers Group/Black Dragonfly, ASCAP; Devil’s River
-With his awesome songwriting ability and ringing, warm singing voice, this guy should have been a country superstar. As it is, he remains one of Nashville’s finest record makers. This ballad of regret and self recrimination anchors a stunning collection that has a gem around every corner.

HANNAH ALDRIDGE/Howlin’ Bones
Writer: Hannah Aldridge; Producer: none listed; Publishers: Bar, ASCAP; Trodden Black
-Hannah is the daughter of songwriting great Walt Aldridge. Her debut CD is proof of the old adage that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. On this track from her Razor Wire collection, she demonstrates a talent for gripping song craft as well as a searing, soulful vocal style. While electric rock guitar screams, she wails a warning to an intimate. Fantastic listening. Get on board.

JOHN OATES/Stone Cold Love
Writers: John Oates/Ryan Tedder; Producers: Ryan Tedder/John Oates; Publishers: Oates Shui/Primary Wave/Write 2 Live, BMI/ASCAP; Elektra (track)
-This pop great has been coming in and out of Nashville for the past couple of years assembling the three-disc set of tunes that is titled Good Road to Follow. It leads off with this groove-soaked stomper that wouldn’t be out of place on a classic Hall & Oates record. This super catchy thump fest shows you just why he’s a new Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee. The collection includes contributions from such notables as Hot Chelle Rae, Bekka Bramlett, Jim Hoke, Tommy Sims, Vince Gill, Colin Linden, Dan Dugmore and lots of other Music City names you know. Recommended.

PARKER MILLSAP/Truck Stop Gospel
Writers: Parker Millsap; Producer: Wes Sharon; Publishers: Northwentz, BMI; Okrahoma (track)
-I totally dig this guy. Nominated as an Emerging Artist at this year’s upcoming Americana Music Awards, Millsap’s superb, self-titled CD includes this cool fusion of trucker ambiance and gospel revival. His raspy vocal hooks you, and the joyous, country-rock track chugs relentlessly. Millsap is on the bill of the Americana festival taking place on May 31 in Franklin at The Park at Harlinsdale Farm on Franklin Road. Headliners include John Hiatt and Patty Griffin, not to mention Brandy Clark and Ashley Monroe. Sounds good, don’t it?

JOHNNYSWIM/Heart Beats
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Big Picnic (track)
-You’ll find this as the title track of a highly promising seven-song EP. The sound here is loaded with dance-happy shouting, poly rhythms and catchy pop song craftsmanship. Johnnyswim is a strikingly attractive duo comprised of Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano. She is the daughter of the late, great Donna Summer, and he sings with just as much yearning and fire.

LEON RUSSELL/Down in Dixieland
Writers: Leon Russell; Producers: Tommy LiPuma; Publishers: Young Carney, ASCAP; Universal (track)
-The latest from this living legend is titled Life Journey. The repertoire consists of songs that influenced the Master of Space and Time such as “Georgia on My Mind,” “That Lucky Old Sun,” “Fever,” “I Got It Bad and That’s Ain’t Good” and “The Masquerade Is Over.” There are two Leon originals on the album, including this set closing New Orleans piano romp embellished with Dixieland horns. He still sings with more soul than thousands who are half his age.

NIKKI LAKE/All Or Nothin’
Writers: Nikki Lane/Dan Auerbach; Producer: Dan Auerbach; Publishers: Cannily Freeload/BMG Platinum/Iamsound/Hour Box, BMI; New West (track)
-Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys produced this gal’s album. On the title tune, she’s a languid chanteuse with a bluesy lilt fronting a neo-soul track. Kenny Vaughn’s lead guitar work is outstandingly inventive. Elsewhere, MVP’s The McCrary Sisters offer backing vocals.

PAUL BURCH/Sagrada
Writers: Paul Burch; Producers: Paul Burch/Fats Kaplan; Publishers: Borrowed and Broke, BMI; Plowboy (track)
-Paul is one of my perennial favorites. His new CD, titled Fevers, includes this charming, lo-fi, Latin-flavored, bopping ode to fleeting romance in Barcelona. As always, his jaunty tenor veers just this side of jazzy.

ROSANNE CASH/A Feather’s Not A Bird
Writers: Rosanne Cash/John Leventhal; Producer: John Leventhal; Publishers: Chlcait/Measurable Music/Lev-A-Tunes, BMI/ASCAP; Blue Note (track)
-Rosanne is one of the most nominated artists at this year’s Americana Music Awards. Her The River & the Thread is an Album of the Year contender, and this track from it is competing for Song of the Year. It is a swampy evocation of Memphis and the Mississippi River. The rhythmic undertow is as compelling as her poetic lyric. This is one reason why she is also up for Artist of the Year.

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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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