Americana music covers a whole lot of ground, which today’s stroll through Americanaland proves.
We have everything from the jazz-blues A.J. Croce to the pop of Blue Sky Riders, from the folk of Mary Chapin Carpenter to the rock of Hard Working Americans.
Both of our spotlight records lean toward the country side of things. The Disc of the Day award belongs to the justly heralded Sturgill Simpson.
The Discovery Award goes to Clark Paterson. He has two previous EP’s, and now comes his first full album. He won’t win any prizes as a singer, but he scores big points for songwriting prowess and on-disc raw charisma.
WILD PONIES/Love Is Not A Sin
Writers: Doug & Telisha Williams; Producer: Tres Sasser; Publishers: Bully Goose/American Echo, BMI/SESAC; No Evil (track)
– Fronted by Doug and Telisha Williams, this band has a spare sound dominated by his guitar and her bass. Multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplan adds other textures. The singing—whether it’s her solo or as a duo—is right on the money, and the songs are sturdy and true. Slated for a May 13 release, the new album is titled Radiant. It’s an alt-country ride.
A.J. CROCE/If You Want Me To Stay
Writers: Sylvester Stewart; Producer: Jim Keitner; Publisher: Mijac/Sony-ATV, BMI; Compass (track)
-Croce’s album That’s Me in the Bar launched him into prominence 20 years ago. Compass Records is celebrating its anniversary by reissuing it and adding this bonus track. His natural jazz/blues vocal phrasing suits the 1973 Sly & The Family Stone classic perfectly. The album’s impressive cast includes Billy Payne of Little Feat, Robben Ford, Ry Cooder, Jonell Mosser, Flea of The Red Hot Chili Peppers and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos. By the way, A.J. Croce is the son of the late singer-songwriter Jim Croce.
STURGILL SIMPSON/In Bloom
Writer: Kurt Cobain; Producer: Sturgill Simpson; Publishers: The End of Music/BMG Rights Management/Silver Songs, SESAC; Atlantic (track)
-Simpson’s just-released A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is already a contender for Americana Album of the Year. This echoey, melodic Nirvana cover contrasts his country baritone with strings, steel, horns (by The Dap Kings) and spacey atmospherics. It’s all pretty darn dreamy. Apart from this track, the album is totally solo written and produced by the artist. A home run.
R.J. COMER/Nightly Suicide
Writer: R.J. Comer; Producer: Jef Scott; Publishers: Entered Apprentice, no performance rights listed; AJC (track)
– This is just about as gritty as it gets. The title tune of Los Angeleno Comer’s collection is a barroom lament with drinks lined up for hours and hours. A steady, slamming beat and grinding electric guitar slashes punctuate his dour, doomy baritone vocal drone. The new album’s almost-as-dire “The Moon Ain’t Fallen on Me Yet” has a music video.
MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER/Something Tamed Something Wild
Writers: Mary Chapin Carpenter; Producer: Dave Cobb; Publishers: Why Walk, ASCAP; Lambent Light
– This rippling acoustic track kicks off her new CD The Things That We Are Made Of. Her liquid alto has never sounded more enchanting.
JEFFERSON GRIZZARD/Daydream of Hope
Writer: Jefferson Grizzard; Producer: Ben McRee; Publisher: Back Porch Syndicate, BMI; Back Porch
– The title tune of this Georgia-based troubadour’s latest is pretty slow going, with his nearly naked vocal grappling with existence. Elsewhere on the CD you’ll find a solid group of Music Row session aces backing his rocking ruminations.
BLUE SKY RIDERS/Why Not
Writers: Blue Sky Riders; Producer: Blue Sky Riders; Publishers: Blue Sky Riders/Adave/Slattery Songs, ASCAP/SESAC; 3Dream (track)
-This trio—Kenny Loggins, Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman—had the most refreshing new sound of 2013. Its sophomore CD is just as gorgeous. On the bopping title tune, Georgia takes a sprightly lead vocal. All the tracks are dandy, but the rollicking “I’m Lucky Like That,” led by Kenny, is especially catchy. This is joyous music that will be in my speakers for months and months to come.
CLARK PATERSON/Sweet Baby
Writers: Clark Paterson/Mark Cline Bates; Producers: Eric McConnell/Clark Paterson; Publishers: none listed, ASCAP; CP (track)
– Paterson’s album is titled The Final Tradition. It includes this jaunty, romping ditty with plinky, plunky steel guitar accompaniment and a wildly clever, quasi-spoken, “talking blues” vocal. Guaranteed to make you smile. Also check out “Hillbilly Shit.” That’s Tim Carroll on electric guitar, incidentally. East Nashvillian Paterson plays a 6 p.m. show at Fond Object on Saturday, May 14. Be there or be square.
HARD WORKING AMERICANS/Opening Statement
Writers: Hard Working Americans; Producer: none listed; Publishers: Shad N Froyd A/Ow My Eye/Grand Island/Bavarian Bombshell/Willy Briar/Eyelid Sky, BMI/ASCAP; Melvin/Thirty Tigers (track)
– Todd Snider and company return next month with their Rest In Chaos third CD. But you can get an advance listen to this track from it on the band’s website. It’s a thumping, echo-soaked outing with a dry, conversational vocal about a losing lover’s journey. Neal Casal’s guitar solo is totally cool.
JANE KRAMER/Carnival Of Hopes
Writer: Jane Kramer; Producer: Adam Johnson; Publisher: Famous Brown Boots, ASCAP; JK (track)
– Her soprano has an ache and a break that are appealing. The title tune of her album is “folk” in all the right ways, with light acoustic instrumentation and a charming melody. She hails from Asheville, North Carolina, and you can hear misty mountains in her sound.
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