Americana alert: Some of the genre’s top names are in today’s overview of current product — Buddy Miller, The Kennedys, Kate Campbell and Sierra Hull, for instance.
As good as their efforts are, the Disc of the Day unquestionably belongs to the divine Gretchen Peters.
The busker-style, good-time jazz of Woody Pines earns him a DisCovery Award. Cool billing. Cool music.
GRETCHEN PETERS/On A Bus To St. Cloud
Writers: Gretchen Peters; Producers:Doug Lancio, Gretchen Peters & Barry Walsh; Publishers: Sony-ATV Tunes/Purple Crayon, ASCAP: Scarlet Letter
-This Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member simply does not know how to make a sub-par recording. Her new one is even more breathtaking than usual. Titled The Essential Gretchen Peters, it is a double CD that is both a retrospective of her past work and a collection of formerly unreleased performances. The first CD includes this heart-stopping new rendition of a prayer-at-midnight tune previously popularized by Trisha Yearwood. Other highlights include the songwriter’s demo of “The Chill of an Early Fall,” an acoustic arrangement of “Independence Day,” her own versions of “The Secret of Life” and “If Heaven,” a Bryan Adams duet on “When You Love Someone” and a trio rendition of “Wild Horses” featuring Matraca Berg and Suzy Bogguss. Not to mention “When You Are Old,” “Blackbirds,” “Sunday Morning” and “When You Wish Upon a Star.” The woman is a goddess, people.
STONE CUPID/The Cardinal
Writer: Julie Christensen; Producers: Julie Christensen & Jeff Turmes; Publisher: Stone Cupid, BMI; Stone Cupid
-Stone Cupid is a five-piece East Nashville band that’s a vehicle for the songs of its leader, Julie Christensen. The CD’s title tune is a fascinating, dark slab of rock balladry with shuddering electric guitar and vocals that wail and snarl. Her punk roots are showing. Other writers on the collection include David Olney, Kevin Gordon and Leonard Cohen.
DAVID G. SMITH/First Love
Writer: none listed; Producer: Blue Miller; Publisher: none listed; DGS (track)
-This Nashville Americana veteran can always be counted on for excellent song craftsmanship. The new CD’s title tune is a hushed, aching meditation on a dying love. To put it bluntly, it’s a devastating minor masterpiece of grief. Elsewhere on the CD, you’ll find “In the Silence,” a ballad that tackles the tragedy of Alzheimer’s. The album’s cast includes such greats as Keb Mo, Jelly Roll Johnson, Mary Gauthier and Buddy Mondlock. Heartily recommended.
Writers: none listed; Producer: Kate Campbell; Publisher: none listed; Large River (track)
-Campbell’s latest is titled The K.O.A. Tapes (Vol. 1). These are simple, living-room recordings, but her singular talent makes them eloquently listenable. Paul Simon’s “America,” Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee” and Skynyrd’s “Freebird” are here in unvarnished folk arrangements. Of her original songs, this portrait of the Civil Rights era stands out prominently. Lend her your ears, she’ll steal them away. I remain a committed fan.
WOODY PINES/Black Rat Swing
Writer: Ernest Lawlars; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Muddy Roots
-Bopping, boogie swinging, with deft guitar picking, slapped bass and spare percussion. These viper jazzbos are utterly charming, in a jaunty, busker kinda way.
SIERRA HULL/Weighted Mind
Writers: none listed; Producer Bela Fleck; Publishers: none listed; Rounder (track)
-The title tune of the mandolin virtuoso’s new CD has a choppy avant-garde rhythm and an unusual atonal melody. Her straightforward soprano singing keeps the jazzy outing grounded. Adventurous listening.
BUDDY MILLER & NIKKI LANE/Just Someone I Used To Know
Writer: Jack Clement; Producer: Buddy Miller; Publishers: Glad/Songs of PolyGram, BMI, New West (track)
–Cayamo Sessions at Sea is billed as by “Buddy Miller and Friends.” His duet partners on the collection of classic country tunes include Lee Ann Womack, Kacey Musgraves, Lucinda Williams, Elizabeth Cook, Kris Kristofferson and Richard Thompson. He tackles this vintage Porter & Dolly hit with Nikki Lane, but his harmony vocal sounds a little tentative and unconfident to these ears.
TAMMY JONES ROBINETTE & THE DRIVE/To Be A Kid Again
Writer: Tammy Jones Robinette; Producer: Mark Fain; Publishers: MJ&8, BMI; Rural Rhythm
-Enchanting, with a vocal performance straight from Southern Appalachia. The band includes such instrumental luminaries as Sam Bush, Rob Ickes, Ron Block and Aubrey Haynie, and you’ll find vocal support from the likes of Dale Ann Bradley, Jamie Dailey and Jimmy Fortune. Country with a bluegrass bent.
JIMMY AND THE MUSTANGS/Roll The Dice
Writer: Jimmy Haddox; Producers: Jimmy Haddox & Mark Youngersmith; Publishers: Mad Horse, ASCAP; JH (track)
-This roots rock ‘n’ roll band kicks off its Another Round CD with this horn-punctuated blues romp with more than a little rockabilly punch. Jitterbug music.
PETE KENNEDY/Union Square
Writer: Pete Kennedy; Producer: Pete Kennedy; Publisher: Parade of Echoes, BMI; The Kennedys
-Pete and his wife Maura comprise the enduring, 20th-anniversary Americana act The Kennedys. In the past year, they’ve issued a bonanza of music. There’s their group project, West (enthusiastically reviewed in this column last April) plus Maura’s highly recommended solo set titled Villanelle and, most recently, his song-cycle, extended love letter to New York City, Heart of Gotham. Pete leads his collection with this country rocker. It crackles to life with his soulful, hoarse vocal accompanied by jangling electric guitar and driving drumming (Pete plays all the instruments on the CD). By mid-song, you’re completely hooked. This set is a keeper.
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