DISClaimer: Willie Nelson, Lukas Nelson Offer New Musical Gems

This week, the Americana music winners come two-by-two.

In a DisClaimer first, the tie for the Disc of the Day award is a father and son. That would be Willie Nelson and his boy Lukas Nelson.

There are also two DisCovery Award winners in this stack of Americana platters. They are singer-songwriters Sarah Peacock and Van Darien. Heed them both.

Writer: Lukas Nelson; Producer: John Alga and Promise of the Real; Publisher: none listed; Fantasy
– Audio ecstasy. The band is super tight, rolling along with a steady thump, some echoey atmosphere and high, keening electric and steel notes. Lukas rides atop the enchanting production with a plaintive, spot-on vocal of heart, head and soul. This is a foretaste of the act’s collection Naked Garden, which drops a week from Friday (3/27).

Writer: Chris Stapleton; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Legacy
-This soft, meditative ballad completely envelopes you with its intimacy and warmth. A simple, gentle production, Willie’s guitar and an almost whispered vocal cuddle up next to you like loved ones. I swooned over this. The track comes from his forthcoming 70th (!) album, First Rose of Spring. It is due April 24, and Willie turns 87 five days later. May I remind you that he has won Grammy Awards the past two years in a row? The man is still at the top of his game.

Writers: Laura and Lydia Rogers; Producers: Brandi Carlile, Tim Hanseroth, Phil Hanseroth; Publisher: none listed; New West
– Languid and folkie, this has a certain simple charm. But it is a little too pristine and pretty for my taste.

JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT/What I’ve Done To Help
Writer: Jason Isbell; Producer: Dave Cobb; Publisher: none listed; Southeastern/Thirty Tigers
– Soulful and fiery, with his usual searing honesty. A new highlight in a catalog that’s already full of memorable moments.

Writer: Soderberg; Producers: Darin Alridge/Mark Fain; Publisher: none listed; Rounder
– Brooke possesses one of the most gripping voices in all of country music, and Darin’s harmony work tugs at every heart string. Their little falsetto leaps in this enchanting song tickle the ears at every turn. This lovable couple is marketed as bluegrass, but their appeal is so much broader than that. Every music lover on earth needs to hear the magic that they make. And, yes, I did pen the liner notes for their exquisite current CD.

BOBBY BARE/The Day All The Yes Men Said No
Writers: Shel Silverstein; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; BB
-Let’s face it, the wry, dry Bare and the wry, dry and high Silverstein were made for each other. The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member (1930-1999) wrote hits for Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Dr. Hook, Brenda Lee, Dave & Sugar, Waylon Jennings, The Irish Rovers, Jerry Lee Lewis and more. But his collaborations with Bare have always been special events.

Writers: Sheena Brook/Sarah Peacock; Producer: Shawn Byrne; Publisher: none listed; Road Dog
– The rumbling bass undertow, heartbeat cello and mysterious atmosphere are perfect for her haunting soprano delivery of this poetic, evocative saga. This Music City troubadour is cool and different, and I fell for her at once. Think about the wail and passion of the Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick mixed with the dark, magical swirl of Stevie Nicks and you’ll be in the general vicinity. Elsewhere on her Burn the Witch CD, she’s a folk-pop diva with plenty to say.

WEBB WILDER/Night Without Love
Writer: R.S. Field; Producers: Webb Wilder/George Bradfute; Publisher: Sharp Circle/ASCAP; Landslide
– This great Music City rock showman is back with a romping, thoroughly Americana collection that includes slabs of sound penned by the likes of Russell Smith, Los Lobos and Chip Taylor, not to mention six of his own individualistic concoctions. The title tune is a light-hearted skip through a countrified ditty, complete with steel guitar. Don’s worry, the CD has a bluesy take on “Hi Heel Sneakers,” too.

Writers: Van Darien/Ryan Michael; Producer: Steven Cooper/J.D. Tiner; Publisher: none listed; Mechanical Heart
– I dig her throaty alto as well as her evocative lyrics. This is the atmospheric title tune of a collection that sends repeated waves of liquid sound over you. This Texas-to-Tennessee transplant is essentially an introspective folk-flavored troubadour with a healthy dose of deep soul. Start your welcome-to-Nashville applause right now, because this is one of the most promising debut discs I’ve heard this year.

Writer: traditional; Producer: John Carter Cash; Publisher: public domain; Reviver Legacy
– This fascinating collection came out late last year. It’s titled Across the Generations because it combines voices of this legendary dynasty from first generation (Sara, Maybelle), to second generation (Anita, June, Helen), third generation (Carlene, John Carter Cash, Dale Jett. Lorrie Carter Bennett, David Carter Jones), fourth (Tiffany Anastasia Lowe, AnnaBelle Cash, Tucker Jett) and even fifth (Flo Wolfe, Adrianna Cross, Lux Darling, Jacob Strong). This set-opening track features Sara with descendants Dale and Adrianna. Elsewhere, you’ll hear ear-opening new treatments of such Carter chestnuts as “Gold Watch and Chain,” “Worried Man Blues,” “I Never Will Marry,” “Foggy Mountain Top” and, of course, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” This, my friends, is the definition of American folk music. Not to mention the original foundation of country music.


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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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