Americana music is in the news this week, what with the genre announcing its 2017 award nominees.
So what better time to survey some current records of the style?
The stand-out, Disc of the Day here is the new project by Old Crow Medicine Show. It is a blast.
The DISCovery Award goes to Ana Cristina Cash. In addition to our award-winners, don’t miss Tommy Emmanuel, Kelly & Ellis, David Starr and Dion.
ANA CRISTINA CASH/”Tough Love Woman”
Writers: Ana Cristina Cash/Shawn Camp; Publisher: none listed; Producer: John Carter Cash
– This swampy, bluesy track has a very cool retro-rockabilly vibe that is super catchy. Her alto voice is loaded with pent-up power and a confident swagger. A recording artist since age 15, Ana Cristina married John Carter Cash last fall, and her uniformly excellent Tough Love EP is her first Nashville project.
SUSAN ANDERS/”My Parachute”
Writer: Susan Anders; Publisher: none listed; Producer: Susan Anders & Tom Manche
– The forte of this Music City artist is harmony singing, which she teaches and writes books about. This pop-folk track from her Loop De Loop CD is a moody reflection on living with uncertainty. The unusual chords on guitar and piano give the track an appealing off-balance quality.
OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW/”Rainy Day Women #12 & 35″
Writer: Bob Dylan; Publisher: none listed; Producer: none listed
– The new CD by these Opry stars is a rousing, rollicking string-band re-imagining of Bob Dylan’s historic Blonde on Blonde Nashville LP. Recorded live, it kicks off with this terrifically energetic arrangement of the collection’s 1966 hit single. “Everybody must get stoned,” indeed.
DAVID STARR/”The Head and the Heart”
Writer: David Starr; Publisher: David Starr, ASCAP; Producer: John Oates
– Wow. This folkie can really sing. This is classic, acoustic, songwriter/troubadour stuff that harkens back to the best of the James Taylor/Joni Mitchell era. I love the “heart” in his tenor tones. Produced in Nashville by the esteemed John Oates, this is the title tune of a EP that is unreservedly recommended.
ANGIE & THE DESERTERS/”Stay”
Writer: Guy Griffin; Publisher: none listed; Producer: Jeff Huskins
– Very well executed. The mandolin-focused arrangement compliments her teardrop-notes delivery perfectly. Her slight vibrato adds to the intrigue. The group’s six-song EP is titled You.
SON VOLT/”Back Against The Wall”
Writer: Jay Farrar; Publisher: Grain Elevator, BMI; Producer: Jay Farrar
– These longtime Americana favorites continue their roots-rocking ways on the new Notes of Blue CD. This, the collection’s single, has a stripped-down, blue-collar Springsteen-ish vibe. Recorded in St. Louis, which group leader Jay Farrar calls home.
KELLY & ELLIS/”Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight”
Writer: C. Kelly; Publisher: none listed; Producer: Dave Rivers
– The “Kelly” in this duo is Nashville singer-songwriter Casey Kelly, whose hits include Tanya Tucker’s “Soon,” T.G. Sheppard’s “Somewhere Down the Line” and more. He recorded a pair of fine Elektra LPs back in the 1970s. His return to disc finds him still in mightily expressive voice as the duet partner of scintillating singer Leslie Ellis. They reprise his 1978 Kenny & Dottie hit in a lively, almost bluegrassy arrangement. Elsewhere on their acoustic CD The Long Road to You, they revive his 1985 George Strait classic “The Cowboy Rides Away” and the Cats show tune “Memory,” which she performed back in her Broadway days. How Nashville is this? The two met at an in-the-round show at The Bluebird Cafe.
TOMMY EMMANUEL & STEVE WARINER/”Workin’ Man Blues”
Writer: Merle Haggard; Publisher: Sony ATV, BMI; Producer: Tommy Emmanuel
– The 14 tracks on Tommy Emmanuel Live at the Ryman are mostly dazzling guitar instrumentals (”Classical Gas,” “Blood Brother,” “Windy & Warm,” etc.). Steve Wariner provides vocal support on this Haggard cover, but it’s the team’s fleet-fingered guitar workout on it that will melt your mind. Stay tuned for the following track, “Eva Waits,” the only studio recording on the collection. It will haunt you.
DION/”Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound”
Writer: Tom Paxton; Publisher: none listed; Producer: Tom Wilson
– Kickin’ Child is the “lost” album by this Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame member. Recorded in 1965, it falls between his “Runaround Sue” and “Abraham, Martin & John” eras, but was shelved by Columbia because the label didn’t understand the transition he was undertaking. Now released for the first time, it sounds like the classic folk-rock that producer Wilson was creating with Simon & Garfunkel (”Sounds of Silence”) and Bob Dylan (”Like a Rolling Stone”) at the same time. In addition to Dion’s originals, the CD includes this classic Tom Paxton tune, plus an early cover of Dylan’s “It’s All Over Baby Blue.” As a lifelong Dion fan, I consider this an essential record.
NELL ROBINSON & JIM NUNALLY BAND/”Baby Let’s Take The Long Way Home”
Writers: Nell Robinson/James Nunnally; Publisher: Jim Nunnally/Nell Robinson, BMI; Producer: Peter Berkow, Jim Nunally & Nell Robinson
– These folkies harmonize nicely together. The steel-dominated accompaniment is spare and simple. Pleasant, if not exactly life changing.