DISClaimer: Americana Prizes Go To Griffin House, The Roosevelts

Griffin House

Griffin House

As we sample some current Americana music today, we find offerings from old friends and new.

In the “old friends” category, welcome back Josh Kelley, Will Kimbrough, Anthony Crawford, Griffin House, Hayes Carll and Parker Millsap. Also meet my “new friends” Left Arm Tan, The Grahams, The Roosevelts and Andrew Adkins, all of whom are here with their debut CDs.

As it happens, we have award winners from both camps. The always masterful Griffin House claims the Disc of the Day prize. The instantly-charming The Roosevelts earn a DisCovery Award.

Josh KelleyJOSH KELLEY/It’s Your Move
Writers: Josh Kelley/Rachel Thibodeau/Ben Glover; Producer: Josh Kelley; Publisher: none listed; Sugar Hill
-Many of you will remember Josh from his 2011 run at mainstream success with “Georgia Clay” on MCA. He’s producing himself now on Sugar Hill. His New Lane Road collection drops on April 22, but you can sample this as its lead single now. It’s an aching ode to a lover who’s drifting away. He’s Charles Kelley’s brother, and they share a vocal affinity for a lustrous melody delivered with throaty warmth. He might be signed to an Americana label, but this is as polished and commercial as anything on country radio today.

Writer: Griffin House; Producer: Griffin House & Jon Leidersdorff; Publisher: none listed; GHM
-Ten albums into his career, this Nashville troubadour continues to crank out first-rate music. A case in point is this track from his new So On and So Forth collection. The sweetly melodic ode to the City of Light flows as fluidly as the Seine. Even before the album was released this month, CNN invited him to perform it on the air. That’s par for the course, since House’s folk-pop songs have been featured on a number of film and TV soundtracks. His vulnerability tugged at my heartstrings during several of his latest lyric masterpieces. I remain a huge fan.

Writers: James Mason/Jason Kloess; Producer: Dwight Baker; Publisher: Beard Face/J Klo, BMI; In Stereo
-This fully bearded Nashville duo churn up a big, crunchy, rootsy sound on a remarkably assured debut album, The Greatest Thing You’ll Never Learn. The lead-off tracks have terrifically infectious hooks, jaunty energy and hearty good vibrations. I was so smitten, I dove instantly into the whole collection until I got to this smoldering soul stew of bluesy heartache. An A+ from this listener.

Writer: Parker Millsap; Producer: Gary Paczosa & Parker Millsap; Publisher: Northwentz, BMI; Okrahoma
-I was a huge fan of Millsap’s debut album. His new one, The Very Last Day, includes this striking song about a gay son yearning for acceptance from his fundamentalist preacher father. Gripping and essential.

ANDREW ATKINS/May the Stars Fall at Your Door
Writer: Andrew Adkins; Producer: Andrew Adkins; Publisher: Whiskey Begonias, ASCAP; Electranead
-This Music City dude does it all. He writes ‘em, sings ‘em, produces himself and plays most of the instruments on his Glass Castles album. This track from it has a very cool “pulsing” vibe that throbs beneath his clear tenor voice. The poetic lyrics fit the synth-y sound just right.

THE WOOD BROTHERS/Singin’ to Strangers
Writers: C. Wood/O. Wood/J. Rix; Producers: Chris Wood, Oliver Wood & Jano Rix; Publisher: Royal Kook/Wood Sound/Spinach Pitts, BMI/ASCAP; Honey Jar
-This Nashville trio leads off its current Paradise album with this folk-punk outing characterized by slamming beats, manic harmonica, electric-guitar punctuation and bawling vocals. Compulsively listenable.

Hayes Carll. Photo: Jacob Blickenstaff

Hayes Carll. Photo: Jacob Blickenstaff

HAYES CARLL/Love Don’t Let Me Down
Writer: Hayes Carll/Darrell Scott; Producer: Joe Henry; Publisher: Highway 87 Publishing/BMG Firefly/I Imagine Music, ASCAP/SESAC; Hwy87
-Americana fave Carll returns on April 8 with his new Lovers and Leavers collection. This stately, solemn ballad is its first focus track. The deep echo, plaintive delivery, eloquent guitar work and lonely lyric cast a magical spell.

LEFT ARM TAN/Freedom Bus
Writers: Troy Austin/Daniel Hines/Jeff Scroggins/Tim Manders/Brian Lee; Producer: Salim Nourallah; Publisher: none listed; LAT
-This loose-limbed rollicking rocker has good times written all over it. A guaranteed toe tapper. The group’s Lorene album that contains it has a due date of April Fool’s Day. The estimable Walt Wilkins and Ken Bethea from The Old 97’s make guest appearances.

Writer: Will Kimbrough; Producers: Trina Shoemaker & Willie Sugarcapps; Publisher: none listed; BCPR
-This is an “all-star” collective featuring such super talents as Will Kimbrough, Anthony Crawford, Savana Lee, Grayson Capps and Corky Hughes. Based on the first Willie Sugarcapps album, the band became big NPR favorites. The sophomore collection, titled Paradise Right Here, drops on April 15. It contains this drawling, easy-swaying string-band ditty celebrating the joy of relaxation.

THE GRAHAMS/Griggstown
Writer: none listed; Producer: Wes Sharon; Publisher: none listed; Creative/Three
Alyssa Graham has a piercing vocal delivery with a trembling vibrato. Doug Graham’s harmony singing is right on the money. This strummy, catchy, rapidly shuffling track is from an album titled Glory Bound. Guests include Sara Watkins, Sean Watkins, Byron Berline, The Milk Carton Kids and David Garza.


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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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