The Americana genre is bringing out some of its most stellar artists for the spring season.
Impressively, there is also gender parity in today’s overview of the style. Five male and five female acts are vying for your attention.
This week, the gals have the goods. Gretchen Peters and Kim Richey finish in a tie for the Disc of the Day award. Which is especially cool, since they are touring together.
The DisCovery Award goes to the acoustic female trio I’m With Her. Rounder Records strikes again.
KIM RICHEY/Chase Wild Horses
Writers: Kim Richey/Mike Henderson; Producer: Brad Jones; Publishers: BMG/Red Equals Luck/Five Window/Warner-Tamerlane, BMI; Yep Roc (track)
– This rumbling country rocker addresses maturing and adulthood. Her sense of melody is exquisite, and her voice remains a soaring and deeply affecting instrument. An A-plus effort from her new Edgeland album. Buy it.
KYLE FREDERICK/Already November
Writers: Kyle Frederick; Producers: Byron House/Kyle Frederick; Publishers: Melody Chef/Byron House, BMI; Belody Chef
– The title tune of this artist’s new collection raises a glass at a wake for lost youth. He sings in a hoarse, almost strangulated fashion. The backing track features choppy percussion and electric-guitar growls.
BRANDI CARLILE/The Joke
Writers: Brandi Carlile/Phil Hanseroth/Tim Hanseroth/Dave Cobb; Producers: Cobb/Shooter Jennings; Publishers: Southern Oracle/WB/Old No. 7/Warner-Tamerlane, ASCAP/BMI; Elektra (track)
– She has one of those warm, conversational singing voices that’s always welcome. Here, it is bathed in echoey atmosphere and cushioned with lush strings. The ballad is an anthem for outsiders who will ultimately triumph in life. It appears on this Nashvillian’s excellent CD By the Way, I Forgive You.
BILL LLOYD/It’s Happening Now
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Whole In One
-Lloyd’s current release is an acoustic effort. Its romantic, lilting title song finds his still-boyish tenor wafting over jangly guitar and sighed backup vocals. He’s as tuneful as ever.
DULCIE TAYLOR/Halfway To Jesus
Writers: Taylor; Producer: George Nauful; Publishers: Raven in the Window, ASCAP; Black Iris (track)
– This is a dramatic, minor-key, cautionary ode about the damages we have inflicted on our natural world and of the cataclysmic climate that results. Swirling and compelling.
JOHN PRINE/Boundless Love
Writers: John Prine/Dan Auerbach/Pat McLaughlin; Producer: Dave Cobb; Publishers: Tommy Jack/Corn Country/Hour Box, BMI; Oh Boy (track)
– The new Prine CD, The Tree of Forgiveness, is like a warm greeting from an old friend. This tune of acceptance and grace is just one of its many pleasures. His drawling, distinctive folky singing voice still charms. And his lyrics continue to contain delightful gems like, “Sometimes my old heart is like a washing machine/It bounces around ‘til my soul comes clean/And when I’m clean and hung out to dry/I’m gonna make you laugh until you cry.”
GRETCHEN PETERS/Disappearing Act
Writer: Peters; Producers: Doug Lancio, Gretchen Peters & Barry Walsh; Publishers: Circus Girl, ASCAP; Scarlett Letter
– Here, she inhabits the character of a world-weary middle-aged woman whose husband passes away, her babies die and her soldier son’s soul vanishes in Iraq. Her voice is appropriately downtrodden, and the electro-pop production underscores the resigned, defeated mood. You’ll find it on this Americana goddess’s new CD Dancing With the Beast.
Writers: Bob Rea/Erik Stucky; Producer: Steve Daly; Publisher: none listed; Shiny Dime (track)
– The title tune of this singer-songwriter’s album is a breezy, rolling ode to gal who is traveling free and easy. The dobro solo is dandy, as is his drawled delivery. Recommended.
I’M WITH HER/See You Around
Writers: Sara Watkins/Sarah Jarosz/Aoife O’Donovan; Producers: Ethan Johns/I’m With Her; Publishers: Fiddle & Fall/SoRaw/Cosmic Seed, ASCAP/BMI; Rounder (track)
– This female trio’s CD title tune and lead-off track is an airy, soprano-led song about shattered dreams and shards of heartbreak. There’s a lot to like in these picturesque lyrics and flawless vocal harmonies. Jarosz is a Grammy winning Americana solo artist. Watkins is a veteran of Nickel Creek. O’Donovan has a solo career and has collaborated with classical music’s Yo-Yo Ma. All three are accomplished instrumentalists, but their shining vocals together are what you’ll remember. Other gems to admire on the album include the sunny “Ain’t That Fine” and the dazzling single/video “Game to Lose.”
ANDERSON EAST/All On My Mind
Writers: Anderson East/Ed Sheeran/Johnny McDaid/Aaron Raitiere; Producer: Dave Cobb; Publishers: Farmland/Ed Shearan/Sony-ATV/Spirit B Unique/Polar Patrol/Kobalt/Warner-Tamerlane/One Tooth/Super LCS, BMI/PRS; Elektra (track)
– I remain a fan. His ferocious, blue-eyed soul singing pierces through a dark, rock rhythm track, massed strings and keyboard flourishes on this searing, fevered dream of obsession. It can be found on his new album titled Encore.
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