DISClaimer: Americana Music Highlights Blue-Eyed Soul

With its 2018 award-nominations announcement, Americana music is in the news this week.

This roundup of the genre’s current offerings includes such stalwarts as Buffy Sainte-Marie and Riders in the Sky as well as hot newer acts such as Parker Millsap and Old Crow Medicine Show.

Both of today’s award winners are appearing in DisClaimer for the first time. Both of them display outstanding blue-eyed soul. Nathaniel Ratliff & The Night Sweats win the Disc of the Day. While Andrew Duhon is our DisCovery Award winner.

DON GALLARDO/Something I Gotta Learn
Writers: Gaallardo/Carey Ott; Producer: Don Gallardo; Publishers: Second Floor Storey/Long Story Short, SESAC/ASCAP; Rock Ridge (track)
– This punchy country-rocker kicks off this Nashville troubadour’s Still Here CD. He has a plain, rumpled-shirt singing voice and a wily way with words. Recorded in East Nashville, the collection features an esteemed cast of sidemen.

Writers: Ketch Secor; Producer: Dave Cobb; Publishers: Blood Donor/Do Write, BMI; Columbia
– This wildly entertaining Grand Ole Opry string band jumps from lively, old-timey hoedowns to country-rocking toe tappers on its new Volunteer collection. This rolling, easy-going tune is a lilting, highly commercial romance ditty. I remain an immense fan.

LLOYD GREEN & JAY DEE MANESS/You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
Writer: Bob Dylan; Producer: John Macy; Publishers: none listed; Coastal Blend
-Green and Maness have re-imagined The Byrds’ epochal Sweetheart of the Rodeo LP as an instrumental, steel-guitar outing. This signature Dylan tune occurs twice on the CD, once as a jaunty album-opening instrumental and once as an album-closing vocal performance (the only one on the album). This whole project makes sense, you see, because these two steel men appeared on the original 1968 album.

MARK OTIS SELBY/There’s Your Trouble
Writers: Mark Selby/Tia Sillers; Producers: Brent Maher, Mark Selby, Charles Yingling; Publishers: none listed; Naked Sessions
– Nashville singer-songwriter Mark Selby passed away last year. His song demos form the basis of a new album titled Naked Sessions. Frequent collaborator Kenny Wayne Shepherd appears (on the intense, highly recommended “Rise Up’). But as Selby demonstrated so often during his too-brief life, he has solo charisma to spare. This song of his turned out to be the breakthrough hit for the Dixie Chicks. His own version is punctuated with harmonica as well as his able guitar work. The album serves as the first of what is planned to be a series of similar, stripped-down troubadour collections. Heartily endorsed.

PARKER MILLSAP/Other Arrangements
Writer: Millsap; Producers: Shani Gandhi, Parker Millsap & Gary Paczosa; Publishers: Northwentz/Wixen, BMI; Okra Homa/Thirty Tigers
– The title tune of Millsap’s newest album is a choppy, guitar-embellished thumper featuring his always-gripping, soulful, strangulated, searing vocals. I love the way he vaults from gritty low notes to falsetto exclamations. If this man isn’t already on your musical radar, put him there now.

Writers: Doug Green/Hoot Hester; Producer: Joey Miskulin; Publishers: Songs of the Sage/Buck Run, BMI; Riders Radio
– We think of these Opry favorites as cowboy-music revivalists. Their anniversary album, 40 Years the Cowboy Way, certainly bears this out with its reworkings of “Cimarron,” “Big Iron,” “Mule Train,” “Mollie Darling,” “The Blue Juniata,” “Press Along to the Big Corral” and the like. But this lovely ballad shows that the group is equally capable of crafting new songs in the classic manner. Also don’t miss Too Slim’s merry parody “I’ve Cooked Everything.”

Writer: Nathaniel Rateliff; Producer: Richard Swift; Publisher: Born in the Flood, ASCAP; Stax
– This band is my latest passion. Their recipe includes a dash of Van Morrison stirred with flavors of The Band and Muscle Shoals and more than a pinch of cayenne pepper. This moody, relentlessly soulful track builds in intensity and drive as it plays. As far as I’m concerned, it could have kept on doing that forever. It comes from the group’s second Stax album, Tearing at the Seams. Stop what you’re doing right now and buy both it and the act’s eponymously titled Stax debut. You can thank me later. There’s a reason why Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats are nominated as Americana Music’s Group of the Year.

ANDREW DUHON/Comin’ Around
Writer: Andrew Duhon; Producer: Eric Masse; Publisher: none listed; AD (track)
– This New Orleans based artist traveled to Music City to craft his new False River collection. It kicks off with this rippling, swirling, rhythm-soaked fever dream. This is sound to get lost in, effortlessly soulful and jazzy in a breezy kinda way. The record officially drops a week from Friday. Get it.

Writer: Buffy Sainte-Marie; Producers: Chris Birkett/Buffy Sainte-Marie; Publishers: Caleb/Kobalt, ASCAP; True North (track)
– The album that contains this, Medicine Songs, won a Juno Award in Canada in March. The collection includes old favorites such as “Little Wheel Spin and Spin,” “Universal Soldier” and “My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying” (but not her most famous songs “Until It’s Time For You to Go” or “Up Where We Belong”). Its new songs reveal that she is as committed to social justice and political commentary as ever. This stinging rebuke of capitalist violence finds her in a husky-voiced, accusative, quasi-spoken mode. We need more principled artists like her.

Writers: Bob Saporiti/David Ross; Producers: Bob Saporiti, Brett R. Stewart and Chris Tench; Publishers: Songhenge/Songs of BossRoss, SESAC/BMI; Amerikandy (track)
MusicRow Magazine founder David Ross came to town as a songwriter. Now, 40 years later, he has his first cut. It’s a collaboration with the iconoclastic rocker Reckless Johnny Wales. The track features a stirring, dark rhythm track and bright bursts of electric guitar beneath a compelling, passionate lead vocal. The new album is called Runaway Train of Thoughts. Saporiti used to be a WB exec, but he has successfully reinvented himself as an admirable, mighty entertaining roots rocker.


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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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