DISClaimer: An Americana Blend From Richard Dobson, Yola, The Cactus Blossoms

The Cactus Blossoms. Photo Nate Ryan, courtesy of Shorefire Media

Today’s Americana survey covers quite a bit of sonic ground — bluegrass, pop, soul, rockabilly and folk all turned up during the listening session.

There’s so much to like here that we’re dividing the Disc of the Day award into three departments. The Male prize goes to the late, great Richard Dobson. The Female honor goes to Yola. The Group du Jour is The Cactus Blossoms.

And please give a DisCovery Award to Kristina Murray.

Writers: Will Kimbrough; Producer: Will Kimbrough; Publisher: Will Kimbrough, BMI; Daphne (BMI)
– If you’re not already a Will Kinbrough fan, there is something wrong with you. As a collaborator, just ask Shemekia Copeland, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Emmylou Harris, Todd Snider, Kim Richey, Mavis Staples, Billy Joe Shaver, Jimmy Buffett or Josh Rouse about his worth. In Daddy, he was aligned with the esteemed Tommy Womack. Before that, were Will & The Bushmen and The Bis-quits. Will has put his solo recording career back on the front burner with the title tune of his new collection. It’s a bluesy, white-trash anthem that’s maybe a lot true and maybe kinda ironic. Whichever the case, it’s a drawling, slow-burn, Americana delight.

THE CACTUS BLOSSOMS/Please Don’t Call Me Crazy
Writers: none listed; Producers: Page Burkum/Jack Torrey; Publisher: none listed; Walkie Talkie
– Hot stuff. Burkum and Torrey are modern-day Everlys with their sibling harmonies. The track crackles with neo-rockabilly energy. The duo hails from Minneapolis, but did much of the writing for their new Easy Way sophomore CD in Music City. This thrilling thumper of a track is being used as promo music on the TCM channel, and the Blossoms have also appeared on TV’s Twin Peaks. These guys definitely have the goods. Listen immediately.

DELLA MAE/Bourbon Hound
Writers: Celia Woodsmith; Producer: Della Mae; Publishers: Squawkbox, ASCAP; Rounder (track)
– Boston’s loss was Nashville’s gain when this hotshot female foursome relocated. This sizzling track kicks off a new EP titled The Butcher Shoppe. Whether it’s the sassy lead singing, the flawless group harmonies or the blazing fiddle, mandolin and guitar solos, this edgy bluegrass tune is gonna grab you and not let go. Esteemed guest stars Molly Tuttle and Avril Smith are along for the romp. Covers on the EP include Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons,” Lester Flatt’s “Sleep With One Eye Open” and The Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post” (!).

Writer: Bobbie Gentry; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Partison/Bella Union
– The neo-psychedelic pop band Mercury Rev has issued a Bobbie Gentry homage CD with a several female guest vocalists, including Norah Jones, Margo Price and Hope Sandoval. The group’s re-imagining of Gentry’s The Delta Sweete 1968 LP concludes with Lucinda’s soulful, dark, echoey, deep-Dixie rendition of the singer-songwriter’s best-known song (which wasn’t on that particular album). I don’t care how many times you’ve heard the song, you’ll hang on every line of this performance.

Writer: Richard Dobson; Producers: David Bollinger/Peter Uehlinger; Publisher: none listed; Brambus (track)
– This gifted singer-songwriter passed away in December 2017. He’d recorded most of his final album, and producers Bollinger and Uehlinger have now finished the tracks in his honor. Dobson was from the Texas fraternity that also included Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Susanna Clark, Nanci Griffith and Rodney Crowell. Like the others, he migrated to Nashville, but he ended his days as an expat in Switzerland, the site of this posthumous recording. The collection’s title song is a stirring anthem that rejoices in nature, agriculture and freedom. I believe he left us in a blaze of glory, for he has never sounded better.

Writer: Hank Williams; Producers: Tommy Emmanuel/John Knowles; Publisher: Sony-ATV/Acuff Rose, BMI
– Nashville’s Knowles and Australia’s Emmanuel are two of the finest acoustic guitarists on the planet. Their awesome collaboration CD lifts off with this eloquent audio tapestry that plucks at the heartstrings without uttering a single word. Elsewhere on the collection, the duo interprets Don Gibson, Leonard Bernstein, Michael McDonald, Billy Joel and even The Bee Gees. The record is titled Heart Songs. It is divine.

GILLIAN WELCH & DAVID RAWLINGS/When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings
Writers: Welch/Rawlings; Producers: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Acony
– The song earned them an Oscar nomination after Tim Blake Nelson and Willie Watson sang it in the Coen Brothers flick The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. David and Gillian performed it on the Academy Awards telecast, and their version of the tune is also available online. In the movie, the song’s tone was darkly humorous, but this version’s wistful reverie is so much better. Right now, it’s only a single. These two are way, way overdue for an album release.

YOLA/Faraway Look
Writers: Yola/Dan Auerbach/Pat McLaughlin; Producers: Dan Auerbach; Publishers: Downtown/Profit Daniel/Corn Country, BMI
– Don’t let the Black Keys imprint mislead you — this is airy, classy, evocative pop. Her voice is liquid silver, and the production is shimmering gloss. Her phrasing and control are truly impressive. The Nashville-recorded CD is titled Walk Through Fire, and on it you’ll find strings, as well as twang guitar, steel as well as Mellotron. Americana programmers are directed to the r&b title tune.

Writer: Kristina Murray; Producer: Michael Rinne; Publisher: Scoot’s Blues, BMI; Loud Magnolia
– I dig her. This Nashvillian draws upon classic country, folk and acoustic pop to create a drawling, magical mood here. Gorgeous, lilting instrumentation wafts around her gentle Southern drawl. The album is titled Southern Ambrosia, and it is.

TONY LUCCA/Everything’s Changing
Writer: Tony Lucca; Producer: Ken Coomer; Publisher: Off the Record, ASCAP
– This guy has turned a few corners in his career, from being on The Mickey Mouse Club (with Justin and Christina) to competing on The Voice. But he’s found his true niche as a Nashville singer-songwriter. The troubadour displays a hearty vocal ability and a hooky compositional style on this lead track from his new CD Ain’t No Storm. Fans of Jackson Browne or Tom Petty might feel at home here. I know I do.


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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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