Some of the brightest names in Americana music have new sounds to delight your ears.
Steve Earle, Old Crow Medicine Show, Peter Rowan and Gillian Welch & David Rawlings are all here. So is Sheryl Crow, who claims the Disc of the Day award.
Gabe Lee is an a stunningly gifted Nashville creator, as well as the rare roots-music purveyor of Asian descent. One listen to his commanding vocal and instrumental abilities is all you’ll require, to understand why he is the DisCovery Award winner in this edition of DisClaimer.
ELI PAPERBOY REED / “Mama Tried”
Writer: Merle Haggard; Producer: none listed; Label: Yep Roc
— Reed is a white bluesman, but his earliest musical hero was Merle Haggard. His new album is a tribute titled Down Every Road, wherein he applies his style to the Hag’s country classics. His horn-drenched, soul-shriek vocal take on “Mama Tried” is the collection’s first emphasis track, and it is ear opening, to say the least.
STEVE EARLE / “Gettin’ By”
Writer: Jerry Jeff Walker; Producer: Steve Earle; Label: New West
— Steve’s latest is a salute to Jerry Jeff Walker, one of his main musical mentors. Titled Jerry Jeff, it kicks off with this folkie, drawling, Texas-swing outing. The rollicking group sing-along, vocal growls and loosey-goosey ensemble playing are all appropriately rumpled.
GABE LEE / “Honky Tonk Hell”
Writers: Gabe Lee/Marcus King; Producers: David Dorn/Alex Torrez; Label: Torrez Music Group
— This new Americana favorite lays down a solid country-rock groove on the title tune of his current album. His wailing tenor voice and the snarling electric guitars make the track sound wildly entertaining and fierce. And ya gotta love that jab about people in Nashville “writing phony-ass country songs.” By turns a country troubadour and a fire-breathing Southern rocker, this native Nashvillian is frighteningly gifted.
GILLIAN WELCH & DAVID RAWLINGS / “I Just Came Home to Count the Memories”
Writer: Glenn McGuirt; Producers: Dan Auerbach/David Ferguson; Label: Easy Eye
— Something Borrowed, Something Blue will be a tribute album to John Anderson produced by Dan Auerbach & David Ferguson. They’ve lined up a bevy of greats to participate—Jamey Johnson, Sturgill Simpson, Brothers Osborne, Eric Church, Luke Combs, Del McCoury, Ashley McBryde, Tyler Childers and more. The album isn’t due until August, but Gillian & David have an advance taste of what a treat we can expect. It is a haunting, acoustic-guitar-and-strings arrangement of this wonderfully wistful, sad ballad that John introduced back in 1981.
TRAMP / “Back to Tennessee”
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Label: Tramp
— This former Cactus Brothers fiddler is still making music. His charming, slightly strangulated tenor holds up well, as does his sense of hooky melody. He’s like a Dixie-fied Neil Young with acoustic-country trimmings.
SHERYL CROW / “Forever”
Writers: Jeff Trott/Sheryl Crow; Producer: Jeff Trott; Label: Big Machine
— This Nashville treasure is issuing a career-retrospective documentary. Its hit-packed, double-CD soundtrack includes three new songs, including this dreamy ballad. The tune is minor-key and downbeat, but the message is totally uplifting and inspiring. The echoey instrumental swirl of the production is like a comforting cool pool, and it goes without saying that her vocal delivery is stellar. Essential listening.
MARCUS KING / “Hard Working Man”
Writers: Marcus King/Dan Auerbach/Angelo Petraglia; Producer: Dan Auerbach; Label: American/Republic
— Are you hip to this guy? King is a Southern-rocking soulman whose searing electric guitar shredding is matched by a ferocious vocal attack. This blistering live-in-the-studio performance is an advance track from his sophomore solo album, due in August. Turn it up and rock out.
OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW / “Gloryland”
Writers: Critter Fuqua/Ketch Secor; Producers: Matt Ross-Spang/Old Crow Medicine Show; Label: ATO
— On its new Paint This Town album, the group moves beyond old-time-music territory and into a sonic space previously occupied by folks like The Band. This emphasis track has a rousing yet heavy-hearted gospel vibe, punctuated by lamenting harmonica and fiddle, plus backing vocals by The Kyshona Trio. Very cool.
MICHAEL McADAM / “My Little Queenie”
Writer: Michael McAdam; Producers: Michael McAdam/Jack Irwin; Label: Permanent
— He’s a veteran Nashville guitarist who has backed Steve Earle, Radney Foster, Jim Lauderdale, Jack Ingram and Mary Chapin Carpenter, among others. McAdam is stepping into his own singer-songwriter spotlight with an album titled Tremelo. This rolling, jingle-jangle track is practically a definition of Americana music. Lend this man your ears.
BETH NIELSEN CHAPMAN / “Hey Girl”
Writers: Annie Roboff/Beth Nielsen Chapman/Jessica Sweetman; Producer: Ray Kennedy; Label: Cooking Vinyl
— Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Chapman has been a brilliant record maker for decades. Her 15th album, Crazy Town, features this bluesy feminist stomper. The girl-power message is bolstered by downhome harmonica wailing, saucy backing vocals, shimmering organ and thumping percussion. Feisty stuff.
PETER ROWAN & SHAWN CAMP / “The Song That Made Hank Williams Dance”
Writer: Peter Rowan; Producer: none listed; Label: Rebel
— Rowan is a roots-music legend who is adding to his 60+ years of record making with a June album titled Calling You From My Mountain. This advance single fuses bluegrass with honky-tonk. He’s in fine bluesy vocal form, and the always welcome and totally talented Camp trades lines with him expertly while the steady grooving track chugs along. I remain a huge fan.
THE TRAVELIN’ McCOURYS / “I Like Beer”
Writer: Tom T. Hall; Producer: none listed; Label: McCoury
— These multiple bluegrass award winners take Tom T. Hall’s 1975 classic out for a uptempo waltz. Banjo player Rob McCoury’s drawling debut as a lead vocalist is loaded with personality. Hang on for the lickety-split instrumental interlude that sets up the finale drinking sounds. A boatload of merry music making.