DISClaimer: Lori McKenna, Josh Farrow Lead Americana Releases

Lori McKenna. Photo: Becky Fluke

Lori McKenna. Photo: Becky Fluke

The Americana festival and convention will be here before we know it, so it’s high time we surveyed what’s in this genre’s review-me pile.

The names to remember today are John Gorka, Chip Taylor and those of our dual Disc of the Day winners, Lori McKenna and Liz Longley.

Today’s newcomers include Angie & The Deserters, Andrew Leahey & The Homestead and our DisCovery Award winner, Josh Farrow. The East Nashville troubadour will be performing at Live on the Green on the Metro Courthouse Square on Sept. 2. Be there or be square.

CHIP TAYLOR/I’ll Carry For You
Writer: Chip Taylor; Producers: Goran Grini/Chip Taylor; Publisher: Back Road, BMI; Train Wreck (track)
– “Wild Thing,” “Angel of the Morning,” “I Can Make It With You,” “Step Out of Your Mind,” “Make Me Belong to You,” “Son of a Rotten Gambler,” “Storybook Children,” “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder),” “I Can’t Let Go,” “Worry,” “Anyway That You Want Me,” and other vintage pop classics earned Chip entry into the national Songwriters Hall of Fame earlier this year. But he is also a very contemporary, engaging and prolific writer-artist in the Americana genre. This title tune to his latest is inspired by his love of golf. More than that, it is a stately ode to sisterly love, perseverance, striving and being brave. Speaking of prolific, he has two current CDs, the other being Little Brothers, which salutes his family. Trivia fact: He’s actor Jon Voight’s brother and Angelina Jolie’s uncle.

LIZ LONGLEY/Rescue My Heart
Writers: Liz Langley/Ian Keaggy/Jodi Marr; Producer: Bill Reynolds; Publishers: Luckelizz/ISK/Little Ruth, ASCAP; Sugar Hill (track)
– I adored this singer-songwriter’s Sugar Hill Records debut disc. Her songs stick in your head long after they end because of their inescapable hooks. Her second album for the label, titled Weightless, drops this week. It finds her recording in Nashville in a more pop/rock direction. She remains a captivating mistress of melody. On this track, the sound is stripped down to just her voice and piano. I remain an enormous fan. Essential listening.


Writer: John Gorka; Producer: Jim Rooney; Publisher: Blues Palace, ASCAP; Blue Chalk (track)
– This Americana veteran recorded the tracks that comprise his new Before Beginning CD in Music City in 1985. At the time, he was a newcomer who had won the songwriting contest at the Kerrville Folk Festival. Nanci Griffith admired his work and recommended he go to Nashville to record with producer Rooney, who assembled an all-star band at Jack Clement’s studio. Gorka was used to playing solo and wasn’t sure what he thought of his resulting debut album. Years later, he listened again. So now, here it is. This is one of his best known early songs, presented with top-flight pickers, just as it originally was recorded 30 years ago. It is a jewel of lilting picking, earnest singing and crisp production. The rest of the CD is too. He was clearly nuts not to put it out, back in the day.

DAVE INSLEY/Just The Way That I Am
Writer: none listed; Producer: Dave Insley; Publishers: none listed; dir (track)
– This solid country vocalist has surrounded himself with a who’s-who of Austin folks on his new CD. The cast includes Kelly Willis, Dale Watson, Rick Shea and Redd Volkaert. The title tune is a plain-spoken ballad that asks for simple acceptance. It’s not in the least flashy, just honest sounding.

LORI McKENNA/Humble and Kind
Writer: Lori McKenna; Producer: Dave Cobb; Publishers: Songs of Universal/Hoodie, BMI; CN/Thirty Tigers
– This divine Massachusetts wife and mom returned to Nashville to craft her latest, The Bird and the Rifle. It includes her own version of this justly revered Tim McGraw hit she wrote. Lori is best known in Nashville as a songwriter of “Stealing Kisses,” “Girl Crush,” “Fireflies,” “God Made Girls” and “I Want Crazy.” But this and the other performances on this collection reveal her as an extraordinarily communicative, warm and womanly vocalist. “Wreck You,” ”If Whiskey Were a Woman,” “Old Men Young Women” and especially “Halfway Home” are particularly recommended. Lend her your ears. Then go get all of her other albums too.


Writers: Andrew Leahey; Producer: Ken Coomer; Publisher: none listed; Skyline/Thirty Tigers
– He’s a roots rocker with country leanings and a Tom Petty kinda vibe. This lead-off track from his debut CD chimes in all the right places. The collection is titled Skyline in Central Time and was recorded in Nashville on either side of the artist’s life-threatening brain surgery. Produced by Wilco’s Ken Coomer, it sounds as hearty as Andrew is today.

Writers: Sara Watkins; Producer: Gabe Witcher; Publishers: Fiddle & Fall, ASCAP; New West (track)
– The fiddler/singer from the former Nickel Creek has shed her progressive-bluegrass roots for an all-out pop band sound on her entirely self-composed Young in All the Wrong Ways collection. On this punchy track, she pushes her soprano to sound harder and more forceful than it has before. Courageous.

JOSH FARROW/Devil Don’t You Fool Me
Writer: Josh Farrow; Producer: Dexter Green; Publisher: Southern Drag; JF (track)
– This drawling, bluesy tenor singer stomps his way through this soulful, rhythmic outing with aplomb. It comes from his Trouble With Me CD, which has a cast that includes The McCrary Sisters, Ruby Amanfu and Elizabeth Cook, among others. On this track, Rebecca Lynn Howard and Ashley Wilcoxson wail in the background.


BRIAN LANGLINAIS/You Can’t Say I Don’t Love You
Writer: none listed; Producers: D.L. Duncan/Brian Langlinais; Publisher: none listed; Patoutville (track)
– Music City stalwart Langlinais recaptures his R&B Louisiana roots on his new Right Hand Road CD. But he proves you don’t have to physically go back there to do it. His Nashville session sidemen, including The Inglewood Horns, put plenty of heat behind him. This opening track is a classic-sounding blues rocker, complete with squalling sax and soul-sister background shouting.

Writers: Angie Bruyere/Guy Griffin/Nigel Mogg; Producer: Jeff Huskins; Publishers: none listed; Topanga Canyon
– Love the band name. The sound on this saucy track is nouveau rockabilly with a throaty alto lead vocal alternating phrases with gritty electric guitar riffs, sizzling fiddle work and organ trills. The act has a slightly raggedy, amateurish sonic vibe, but nothing a little production polish couldn’t improve.


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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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