WHAT'S TRENDING

THE NEW RELEASE RACK

The Jayhawks (from the album Paging Mr. Proust) - It has been over thirty years since The Jayhawks formed in 1985 Minneapolis, hitting a stride with their American Recordings debut in 1992 (Hollywood Town Hall). Musically, The Jayhawks stayed true to the Country Rock sound they represented with their initial releases. Band break-ups and re-formings occurred over the years, and the current Jayhawks line-up for their recent release, Paging Mr. Proust, contains members of the 1997 touring group.  Founding member Gary Louris still drives The Jayhawks train and he pulls off a sound shift with Paging Mr.Proust that allows the songs of the band to grow and expand, pushing the sonic boundaries (“Ace”) in ways that the soft Country Rock and Americana of previous release could only experience as hints and touches. Paging Mr. Proust honors a sound that The Jayhawks minted and offered as influence to a legion of bands that followed.

Opening track “Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces” fits comfortably into The Jayhawks branded Roots as it takes steps towards a future that cuts sharp edges into the guitar jangle as it delivers with slightly psychedelic wobble. Paging Mr. Proust does not rest on historical laurels as The Jayhawks choose an Indie Rock structure for “Comeback Kids”, stand on thick chords and rhythm for “Lies In Black and White”, surfs a Vintage beach sound for “Loves of the Sun”, and update Country Rock with an assured chord rattle, warm organ and la-la harmonies in “The Devil Is In Her Eyes”. Gary Louris shared in our recent interview that his record deal with Thirty Tigers in Nashville has allowed him to take his songs from pen to production.Paging Mr. Proust successfully presents familiarity expressed in new ways. The Jayhawks use electric guitar slashes carve a path for “Lost the Summer” to pinball its rhythm around the melody line and let determination pound a beat in “Leaving The Monsters Behind” as a rolling sound rises and falls on six string distortion and “I'll Be Your Key” gives love a year-round residency on acoustic guitar strums and weaving guitar leads.

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The Bo-Keys (from the album Heartaches by the Number) - The Soul of The Bo-Keys is a pure one. The band naturally inhabits a sound that is a cottage industry for their base in Memphis, Tennessee. Their recent release, Heartaches by the Number, puts the band behind stories of love and loss as the tracks are surrounded by a Vintage warmth buried deep within the sound. The Bo-Keys recorded Heartaches by the Number onto analog tape at Electraphonic Recording in Memphis.  Produced by bandleader Scott Bomar (bass, percussion), the album is the third release from The Bo-Keys since forming in1998, the group nurtured in a fertile land fed by a Memphis talent pool. Scott Bomar said that “one of the main reasons I started the band is that there were a lot of great musicians from the golden era of Memphis soul who weren’t really getting the work or attention they deserve. Stax, Hi Records, and American Studios all shut down, and the amazing musicians who were part of those studio bands either moved or stayed in Memphis, languishing in obscurity for the most part. I wanted people to know that those players and that sound were still alive and well’. The musicians brought together in The Bo-Keys live and breathe Soul music as they back front man Percy Wiggins at the microphone.

The Bo-Keys count Heartaches by the Number on the title track to open the album, and set the standard musically as a middle ground where Soul gets to show its Country history. Memphis is a musical crossroads, and Country music has long called the state of Tennessee home. The Bo-Keys play a sound on Heartaches by the Number that is a fit for honky tonk or juke joint as they add a blast of horns into the string bending twang of Merle Haggard’s “The Longer You Wait”, back Swamp Dogg’s “Don't Take Her (She's All I Got)” with a Memphis groove, and dip Hank William’s “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry” into a soulful ball of Blue.  The love life of Heartaches by the Number stays true to its album title as The Bo-Keys softly share mistakes (“Threw It All Away”), move in a Tex Mex wind of melodies (“I Hope You Find What You're Looking For”), walk an pronounced strut into the pitfalls (“Learned My Lesson in Love”), and show the fragile line that separates loving and leaving (“Set Me Free”).

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Silver City Bound (from the album Take My Picture) - The members of Silver City Bound came together in New York City under the name The Amigos. The band changed names to better serve the group goal of providing road music, snagging the Silver City Bound moniker from a Lead Belly tune. Their recent E.P., Take My Picture, takes the four piece (Sam Reider –accordion, Justin Poindexter-guitar, Noah G-bass, Willie Clark-drums) and the songs on a trip to satisfy wanderlust. Silver City Bound spin road songs, tracks blasting from speakers, the sound moving at the same speed as the tires hitting the asphalt underneath.

Silver City Bound walk onto Take My Picture with the title track as the guys catch an eye looking back from the audience as the story line speaks to the plight of the musician on stage watching the light of love shine in the camera shot, fading as quickly as the flash.  Silver City Bound stride with an assured gait on the EP as they unfurl feathers for the slightly second line sway in “Peacockin’”, follow a wobbly rhythm that heads for non-city living with “I Wanna Get Drunk”, and slide easily into a warm Country melody to say hello to New York City in “Take It Slow”. Take My Picture hosts originals from Silver City Bound, and a beautifully constructed love letter with “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”, quietly mirroring the Country Rock touches put on the tune by The Flying Burrito Brothers.

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Left Arm Tan (from the album Lorene) - Left Arm Tan open the recent release, Lorene, with an open letter to love, listing what will work over a bright Country rhythm that sways and bends without losing its intention of “Gonna Find Me a Rock”. The band looks for a partner that can roll with the changes rather than someone to nail their collective feet to the ground. Lorene matches the plan with its tunes, providing tracks that stand proud on an confident beats as they wave goodbye to a soldier heading for danger in “Break Even”. Left Arm Tan head down to New Orleans on a funereal marching beat as they quietly watch the parade pass in “Brass on Burgundy”, pick up the pace as love ends on a rode home with “Blacktop Blues”, drift rhythms on the wisp of a prairie wind on “High Plains Drifter”, and flicker the beat like rising flames on “Burnin’ Down”.

Left Arm Tan have a natural rock’n’roll rhythm moving through their songs as the beat welcomes in touches of Southern Soul (“Easy”), quietly rolling Folk Rock (“Hey Rebecca”), Singer/Songwriter Pop (“Take Me Out”), Blues (“Always Gone”), and Country twang (“Wild Wind”). Lorene is a perfect host for variety, letting its songs fall into the welcoming arms of Americana as the album lets its music talk without borders. Left Arm Tan stay in their Rock stance as they seek “Daylight Redemption”, and board “Freedom Bus” on a rhythmic patter that takes to the highway with a beat-fueled bounce.

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Curtis Salgado (from the album The Beautiful Lowdown on Alligator Records) - Curtis Salgado uses a variety of touches and tastes as chief chef on his recent release, The Beautiful Lowdown. The album stirs in true Blues as the mood listens in on ‘the conversation’ of a couple in trouble on “Is There Something I Should Know”, teases on a lyrical flow that spits out boundaries with “My Girlfriend”, strolls on Southern Soul with “Nothing in Particular (Little bit of Everything)”, and gets funky asking for a partner in “Low Down Dirty Shame”. Curtis Salgado smoothly wears chameleon skin, matching groove and rhythm to every color of Blues and Soul that he packs into The Beautiful Lowdown.

Originally from Oregon, Curtis Salgado was twenty-five years old, playing in a lounge band gig close by the filming of the movie Animal House near Eugene, Oregon. A bored John Belushi wandered in and by the end of the night had attached himself to the Blues through Curtis and his musical knowledge. Joliet Jake Blues as a character is credited to Curtis Salgado, and John Belushi cited Curtis as a source for his Blues Brothers skit, live show, and film. The Beautiful Lowdown for the album is that Curtis Salgado has matured into a musician that naturally inserts the Blues into his music without the need to be fenced in by a 12-bar border. Curtis Salgado takes his music for a Caribbean reggae romp as he toasts over Blue(s) Mountain bop for “Simple Enough”. The riffs that snake through “I Know a Good Thing” are determined, rigid while maintaining a rubbery rhythm as Curtis Salgado shakes, rattles, and rolls out on a Kansas City Big Joe Turner beat on “Ring Telephone Ring”, and draws an X through economic expectations when it leads out of integrity with “I'm Not Made That Way”. The Beautiful Lowdown lists reasons for the Blues as it warns that any criticisms need to “Walk a Mile in My Blues”.       

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The Hackensaw Boys (from the album Charismo) - Many changes have followed The Hackensaw Boys over their twenty year history as a band. Founding member David Sickmen still puts his songs at the center of Charismo, the band’s latest release and their first recording in close to a decade. The percussive instrument that has been on the road with The Hackensaw Boys since their maiden tour sixteen years ago is still on stage, and now on album title. Charismo was invented by Justin Neuhardt who played with The Hackensaw Boys in their early days. The charismo, made of recycled wood and scrap such as tin cans, hubcaps, and so on, is constantly broken down and re-assembled as the parts wear out and new ones are found.It has been employed nightly since The Hackensaw Boys birth in Virginia as street buskers.

The joy of a tune from The Hackensaw Boys is in the barely contained juggernaut rhythms they concoct. The force of the live show that has built their career is present on Charismo, as producer Larry Campbell captures the spark, channeling the flame and polishing the sound to give shine without studio sheen. The Hackensaw Boys finger point a love that gets its way in “Content Not Seeking Thrills (Ain't You)” as “You Want Me to Change” wonders just how far it will go to seal a heart deal. The rattle of Charismo percolates underneath the melody of “Flora” as “Limousin Lady” skitters on humility, “Worlds Upside Down” taps out its news, and “Happy for Us in the Down” stutters a beat to kick start a memory. The Hackensaw Boys are a non-stop machine in rhythms that turn like pistons for “By and By” as they walk a Country Folk road watching hard times surface in “The Sweet” while “Don't Bet Against Me” shuffles shyly around a proposal.

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Aoife O’Donovan (from the album In the Magic Hour on Yep Roc Records) - One of the hardest part of songwriting, at times, is going back to something that you have written. The act of editing seems to dampen the initial burst of creation. Aoife O’Donovan cherished the ability to spend time with her words, fine-tuning the songs on the recently released, In the Magic Hour. Aoife recalled that ‘flying, getting the rental car, eating all my meals alone… I just remember sitting with a book in Germany two winters ago, just feeling so happy that after the show I could have a Hefeweizen and read and not talk to anybody. And I think that gave me more time to edit my lyrics and really be more mindful with them’. The recording process for the album differed for Aoife as few of the tracks had been played live before being captured at the Portland, Oregon studio of Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Neko Case). Aoife O’Donovan took the words from her vacation in solitude, going into the studio and remembering that ‘the whole recording process was really Tucker and me taking these songs and building them from the ground up. The result is deliberate but not over-done, the freshness of the material intact’.

Dual themes of flight and loneliness course through In the Magic Hour as the stories take their inspiration from the life of their author as she tours to support her art and take her songs on the road. Aoife O’Donovan used family background for the tales, the death of her grandfather and her childhood summers visiting family in the small Irish coastal town of Clonakilty. Her voice rings out as she breaks free of twenty-nine years in “Hornets” as huge clouds of rolling rhythms break over “Not the Leaving” like the waves in its seaside story line. Sonically, In the Magic Hour drifts on Folk textures touched by soft percussive wing flaps in “Stanley Park”, gets pinned by random notes and rhythms to “Jupiter”, hitches a ride on bicycle handlebars silhouetted by the fast pulse beats of “Porch Light”, and flashes and pops out a snaking melody that snaps at “Magic Hour”. Fascinated by its ability to fly as a flock or solo, Aoife O’Donovan honors the “Magpie” in song, finding inspiration in feathered friends as she states ‘and I really like that they’re these creatures that have the whole sky at their disposal. You can be a loner, or you can be at the front of the V’.

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Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue (from the album Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue) - Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue boasts two guitarist who have carved a name for themselves in the Blues world. Little Charlie Baty led Little Charlie and the Nightcats (Alligator Records) for twenty-five years. Anson Funderburgh has branded himself in Austin Blues legend, starting Anson and the Rockets with Darrell Nullisch in 1978. The guys are equal on guitar, though Anson has the edge for cartoon figures. The creator of Beavis and Butthead, Mike Judge, was a member of the Rockets for three years and used Anson as the inspiration for Beavis. As members of Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue, the guitarists are borders for the band. Fellow Texan Wes Starr (drums) stands with Anson Funderburgh on the Lone Star side while bandleader Mark Hummel (harmonica/vocals) and RW Grigby (bass) join Charlie in calling California home.   

Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue musically drives like a fine-tuned engine. The rhythms purr on “Here’s My Picture”, as the album travels with the windows rolled down for a cool breeze on Mose Allison’s “Stop This World”, steps out on a uptown Saturday night groove in “Prove It to Me”,  and walks proud to back the advice of “Check Yourself”. Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue opens the album by kicking the loneliness out of the night with Clarence Gatemouth Brown’s “Midnight Hour” as they stroll through a version of Lee Allen’s “Walking with Mr. Lee” and rockabilly the Blues dancing to Jimmy McCracklin’s “Georgia Slop”. Mark Hummel leads with a smooth vocal, steering the songs of Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue on his originals as he trades dignity for love in “Cool to be Your Fool”, gets the prize on the pounding beats of “Lucky Kewpie Doll”, and closes the band’s self-titled debut in a noir fog groove of city sounds and cool Blues with “End of the World”.

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Laura Gibson (from the album Empire Builder) - The rail line that carried her decision to move from Portland, Oregon to New York City is the title Laura Gibson pinned to her recent release, Empire Builder. The Amtrak cross-country rail route took Laura from a supportive family and community to a cold, unknown eastern city. She barely left her apartment for two months healing a broken foot and lost everything she owned in March 2015 to an apartment fire. All was gone when the East Village building was destroyed, including her eyeglasses, musical instruments, years of collected notebook writings, and the chronicled trip from Oregon. Laura Gibson sings of her life and its personal cleansing while standing mid-experience on Empire Builder.

Laura Gibson walks up to the barricades on a foot stomp beat in album opener “The Cause” as Empire Builder softly cradles vocals with strings that whisper and soar in “The Search for Dark Lake”, takes a look at changing seasons left behind in “Caldera, Oregon”, seduces on a wiggling percussion swearing “Not Harmless”, and walks its story amid dappled beats and sound swells as “Five and Thirty” marks its age. Laura Gibson moved to NYC for graduate schooling, spending breaks from her fiction studies to record and discovering a life in her songs that she thought she had lost in the fire that took her written past away. Simple acoustic guitar plucks, a bass thump, and errant twang walk arm and arm with Laura Gibson as she proudly declares “Damn Sure”, moves on a shuddering beat with “Two Kids”, and slowly unravels “The Last One” on lush strings and thick notes from an electric guitar.

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Willie Sugarcapps (from the album Paradise Right Here) - Willie Sugarcapps deliver album number two with Paradise Right Here. The band is made up of Roots music players with credentials including Jimmy Buffet, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, and Steve Winwood as well as their own careers. It was in lower Alabama at Blue Moon Farm that Will Kimbrough, Grayson Capps, Sugarcane Jane (Anthony Crawford and Savanna Lee) and Corky Hughes played together at a musical gathering called The Frog Pond. Paradise Right Here was produced by Willie Sugarcapps with Trina Shoemaker (Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, Dixie Chicks) and recorded over three days at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

The second outing for Willie Sugarcapps wears the confidence of touring as a band in its songs. The tracks are unified within the band’s sound brand while the pens of its members walk with more definition. Savanna Lee leads Willie Sugarcapps through a tour of a “Faded Neighborhood” that was once home as Grayson Capps sings a song for back home with “Rosemary and Thyme”. Savanna Lee described the background for the tunes, stating that ‘Willie Sugarcapps is a breath of fresh air in a world that could use a little more positive energy. We sing about our own personal experiences of the life on the road, love, and family…things we care about and want to share with others. It’s not just about the songs but leaving the world with something meaningful’. Paradise Right Here introduces “Mancil Travis” on a dark tale that twists and turns Southern Gothic myths over snaking guitar riffs. The album opens on the bright fiddle and mandolin strums of “Dreamer’s Sky” as “Magnolia Springs” cake walks on a Willie Sugarcapps groove while “The Highway Breaks My Heart” rides a road song for ramblers. 

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The Batture Boys (from the E.P. Muddy Water) - A batture is the strip of land between the Mississippi River and the levees. Tommy Malone (The Subdudes) and Ray Ganucheau (Continental Drifters) stake out musical territory, adopting the name for The Batture Boys, and Muddy Water, the debut E.P. release from the New Orleans, Louisiana-based duo. Tommy Malone brought his guitar work up front for his recent solo releases. He is the voice of The Batture Boys, his Rock’n’Soul vocals riding over the tracks on Muddy Water, with Ray completing with high harmony on the tunes. Tommy Malone and Ray Ganucheau first worked together on The Subdudes 1996 release, Primitive Streak, and come together to play all the instruments on Muddy Water with Jimmy Paxson on drums and percussion.

The E.P. has a powerful current of water theme-ing its tracks. The album starts on a hop as the opening track takes Muddy Water down “Rabbit Hole Blues”. A John Lee Hooker-inspired riff is what shuffles under “The Mighty Flood” on a tune that Ray Ganucheau cites as impressions of the impact, aftermath, recovery, and rebirth of New Orleans post-Katrina. He points to “Deep Water Horizon” for a tale about the BP Gulf Oil Spill and hears history in the title track as Tommy Malone’s vocals channel his youth growing up in the small Louisiana town of Edgard on the Mississippe River Road. The Batture Boys offer “You Had a Problem”, the last tune Tommy wrote with former Subdudes bandmate and Edgard High School friend Johnny Ray Allen.   

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The Steepwater Band (from the album Shake Your Faith) - Based in a Bluesy Southern Rock sound, The Steepwater Band have grown their songs into brands over the course of five albums. The Chicago-based group has released album number six, Shake Your Faith, recording in twelve days, using Arctic blasts of wind off Lake Erie to create a bubble for the band to hone the tracks. The Steepwater Band go from a three-piece to a foursome with the addition of guitars from Eric Saylors. He joins Jeff Massey (vocals/guitar), To Bowers (bass), and Joe Winters (drums) for the band’s first release in four years. Shake Your Faith has an electric edge to the tunes that generates barely contained excitement (“Break”), ferocity  (“Jealous of Your Way”), funky grooves (“Gone Goodbye”), and hit the road rock’n’roll (“Mama Got to Ramble”).

Formed in 1998, The Steepwater Band went to history career building tactics… they toured, then toured some more, playing live to fine-tune a rock that roars. Shake Your Faith cruises in on a Crazy Horse distortion hum as the album opens with the title track. The Steepwater Band slow the rhythm to a forceful heart thump as they demand change with “Bring on the Love”, use a rattle of chord strums to welcome ”Be As It May” in on a bounce, bend twang into a psychedelic guitar echoes in “I Will Never Know”, and fire electric Blues out like lazar shots with “Ain’t Got Love”.

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The Lumineers (from the album Cleopatra on Dualtone Records) - The Lumineers became a Roots music success story with the mega-hit status of their tune “Ho Hey” and healthy chart presence for the following singles. Roots music was in the mainstream, giving The Lumineers a unique position in the Roots music community with a million selling album. Handling success is as much of a challenge as somehow finding the path that gets you there. Cleopatra, the latest release from The Lumineers, stays true to the Roots and Americana that the Denver- Colorado-based trio has honed. The songs were carefully grown and trimmed down to bare essentials, allowing the emotional beauty of the tracks to hold center stage in the words and music. The piano work of Jeremiah Fraites, how also holds down the role of drummer, has a strong presence on Cleopatra. Jeremiah is co-songwriter for The Lumineers, joining music to the words of lead vocalist/guitarist Wesley Schultz. The pair complete the band circle with cellist/vocalist Neyla Pekarek.

The Cleopatra title track found its beginnings in a meeting with a cab driver in the Republic of Georgia who told his dramatic story to Wes without falling into self-pity. Coming out of the success of the previous album, The Lunineers have a birds-eye view of career success, and they talk of how fame corrupts in “Ophelia” while “Sleep on the Floor” looks at success from a pre-fame position that sees bright lights as a way out of a dull life. Cleopatra was recorded at a rural studio in Woodstock, New York with Felice Brother behind the boards as producer. The stark noodling of electric guitar is the foundation for the memories and observations in “Long Way from Home” as “The Gale Song” drifts lazily on plucked notes over heavy piano and drumbeats.  Soft Folk Rock reads an open letter to “Angela” while “Gun Song” fires its stance on personal choices and “In the Light” is buoyed by airy guitar notes and heart thumps as the melody rises up.

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Willie Nile (from the album World War Willie) - Willie Nile pretty much just has to stand in one place with his standard uniform of black leather jacket, sunglasses, and revolutionary stance to let you know his politics. Just in case anyone missed the look or the four decades of Rock’n’Roll testimonials from his pen, Willie Nile paints his persona across the cover of his most recent release, World War Willie. The cover image is of Dresden after bombing in WWII. Willie stands in front the desolation with his guitar, stating that ‘for me rock’n’roll, at its best, helps to make some sense of the world. There can be a redemptive quality to it. I guess it’s me trying to make some sense of the world with rock’n’roll’. The pyramid that is World War Willie has Rock at its pinnacle as waters courses down over Wall Street Crash Blues with “CitiBank Nile” while the album gives a nod to Willie as the grandfather of four with “Grandpa Rocks” and tributes The Band vocalist / drummer Levon Helm with “When Levon Sings”.

World War Willieopens on Rock bombast as a toy piano riff gets teeth in a hurry with electric guitar chord backing claims of “Forever Wild” as Willie Nile adds his own bite over the rush-the-barricades rockabilly riffs of “Hell Yeah”, the unifying marching beat of “Let's All Come Together”, and in the rumble of the title track. Willie Nile honors a fellow fighter and survivor in the New York music scene with fervent take on Lou reed’s “Sweet Jane”.

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Mark Erelli (from the album For a Song) - Mark Erelli gives the answer immediately on the album title for his recent release, For a Song. The questions spring from his touring schedule being a solo musician and recently backing Lori McKenna, playing Royal Albert Hall backing Josh Ritter, and working with Paul Cole. Why do this to the lives you love back home? Where does it end? The questions came from different points and all led to the same answer, For a Song. Mark Erelli remembered ‘that’s been the answer to almost every question I’ve asked myself for quite some time’. He sings out a life with that focus in the title track on a story littered with post cards to young lives back home, warning the ‘road is not your friend, just a means to an end’ as a way of explaining absence.

The album opens with quiet acoustic notes under the tale of a ‘Yankee boy, born and bred in Boston’ as a new moon rises on a Country radio station soundtrack in “Oklahoma”. Mark Erelli introduces ‘a haunted man, lost in the “Netherlands” on a confident bass thump and an “Analog Hero” aka ‘the fix-it man’ while he softly sings a summer night sway in “Moonlit Lullaby”.  For a Song was a different recording from previous nine albums, Mark hearing distinction as ‘I worked harder on these songs than on any previous batch of material. I kept going back over them, revising and rewriting. I took whole verses out of my songs – verses that I loved – and lo and behold, the songs improved. The message was distilled and amplified’. An island rhythm wiggles over declarations of love on “Wayside” as “French King” is crowned with a river song on a lazy Americana flow, and “Magic” sparkles on bright guitar strums that takes a ride down Main Street USA then and now.

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Town Mountain (from the album Southern Crescent on Lo Fi Records) - The recording of Southern Crescent took the sound of Carolina down to Breaux Bridge, Louisiana as Town Mountain set up in producer Dirk Powell’s studio, The Cypress House. The Bluegrass of Town Mountain adds a drum shuffle as they board a train track rhythm and boogie-woogie piano roll on “Comin’ Back to You” as touring takes the tune from the river bank to the road. Bluegrass is easily the most active genre in 2016 as changes and traditions draw lines in the sound. Town Mountain have an ability for presenting the past and the future in an easy playing the blends without breaking. Southern Crescent offers string band tradition (“Tick on a Dog”), tinges of Classic Country (“Whiskey With Tears”), and front porch Folk (“Ain’t Gonna Worry Me”).

Town Mountain take a moment to whisper with their playing as they let the melody cradle the lonely tale of “House with No Windows”. The track gives a spot for tenderness from the band, and they make good use of the peace as an island in the higher energy musical muscle of Southern Crescent. Town Mountain provide a smooth, determined rhythm as a base for “Leroy’s Reel” though the band finds its comfort zone in lightning fast playing as they spin their Bluegrass like a top through “Long Time Comin’” and “Arkansas Gambler”.

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Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones (from the album Little Windows) - Little Windows is the debut of duo Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones. Over a bright Pop handclap beat in “Never Knew You Loved Me Too” their voices mark out territory as Kelly Jones lends a sweet high end to the soulful croon of Teddy Thompson. Teddy claims that the moment he heard Kelly’s harmony with his voice that there was a match. The songs of Little Windows added a third with Nashville-based songsmith Bill DeMain joining the pens of Teddy and Kelly. The sound that tracks the tunes is Vintage, touching on influences such as Country Rock’n’Roll of The Everly Brothers. Teddy Thompson has stated that growing up the son of musicians Richard and Linda Thompson gave him a musical history that ended at 1959.  Teddy did not hear anything contemporary until he was sixteen, and carries hints that are part Sam Cooke and part Hank Williams in his vocals.

Piano runs lead the way through the cha-cha beat of “As We Were”, plucked acoustic guitar notes snap around “You Took My Future”, reverbed electric guitar notes march across “Better at Lying” as the rhythms of “Wondering” rise and fall, coursing under harmonies that stay consistent on their path. Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones are a fit for the Vintage warmth of organ swells, dancing piano, metronome perfect drumming against electric and acoustic rock’n’roll guitars of Little Windows. The songs were captured live, giving the recording a freshness and vulnerability with vocals and playing captured on a 16-track analog machine at the Carriage House in Los Angeles. CA. The vocals were cut live with the band to get back to the origins of what is now Vintage recording as well as the start of the rock’n’roll sound. Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones sway with sass as they cruise along “Only Fooling” while the pair pound the beat down for “Make a Wish on Me”, and toss in some twang as Country love makes demands on “You Can't Call Me Baby” as the track drifts into Little Windows.

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Lizanne Knott  (from the album Excellent Day) - A good hair day, a day of rest, or a day at the beach are all great reasons to celebrate. On her recent release, Excellent Day, Lizanne Knott fills in just how good her 24 hours can be on the title track as she issues an easy warning to ‘don’t mess with my excellent day’. The tracks fills her “Excellent Day” with Absolute as the track winds and loops on a song written by Jef Lee Johnson, a friend of Lizanne. She needed to heal, and Excellent Day became a productive way to honor her friend’s memory. Lizanne shared that ‘the inspiration for these songs came from my long time friend and guitarist, Jef Lee Johnson, who passed away unexpectedly three years ago. It made me dig really deep and go back to my roots in Blues and Jazz flavored Americana, I hear his influence in every song. He had always told me to “Excellent Day”, and I’m so happy I was able to do that’.

The touches of jazz that Lizanne Knott ties to Excellent Day are loose rhythms and strums. She lays the sound across the Folk and Americana she has honed since emerging from the Philadelphia Folk scene. Excellent Day opens on the edge of a rhythm rumble as drums pound to meet the demands, requests, and seductions of Lizanne Knott as she draws wayward moths into the flames of “Come in for the Kill”. She is in love and alone at a corner bar wondering “Why You Wanna Break My Heart” amid thoughts of ‘Coldplay in a strangers bed, wishing it was me instead’ while “Rainbow Crow” flies on a thick wintery beat  and “Someday Love” bounces on bubbles of optimism coming up from the story line. Lizanne Knott collects tales of love, loss, and redemption, tacking them with pins of Americana, Delta Blues, New Orleans Soul, and Vintage Nashville on to Excellent Day. She smolders on a cover of George and Ira Gershwin’s “It Ain't Necessarily So” as she travels on the worn thump of tires in Bruce Springsteen’s “Stolen Car”.  Lizanne Knott blends torch and twang with subtle whispers in the confessions of “Tennessee”.  

Listen and buy the music of Lizanne Knott from CDBaby

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Luke Pruitt  (from the albums Songs of Home, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2) - Part One for Songs of Home centers on the hometown Luke Pruitt knew, and he cruises the streets on six tracks that show the lives of the citizens he passes. Part Two goes a little deeper, following paths through front doors and into the lives of the people of Fort Smith, Arkansas. Part One opens its heart on “3 Words (I Love You)” with classic singer/songwriter sunshine in the melody, begs for love on a Soul beat (“Your Man”), and introduces a Mom and Pop store owned by two Americans born elsewhere (“Eric and Lily”). Luke Pruitt explained the albums and the backgrounds that brought them to life.

Luke Pruitt: I wrote the record in my hometown after moving back from Nashville.  Being in the town I grew up in sort of reconnected me to that kid in the song “County Fair” in “Songs of Home, pt 1”, and I knew I wanted to develop that character in Part 2. He is sort of an archetype for the suburbia raised millennial kid.   He’s the kid that reads Walden in high school and gets a liberal arts degree because it’s what he is passionate about.  It’s the youthful version of him: innocent, ignorant to his privilege, curious about the world beyond his hometown and anxious to leave it.  In part 2 he leaves home after 9/11, and so his story becomes one where he’s seeking answers to all the big questions that we ask in our youth while the world is in chaos.  

Part Two features tales that move from the guitar of a singer/songwriter and into sweeping stories that follow its character back into a tough barrio childhood (“Coyotaje”), hear ire raise up with the beat heading out of town “Born in the Wrong Time as the album echoes twang for tex-mex noir on “Stranger”, lets love take the driving wheel with “Bless the Winds”, and puts world politics into manageable numbers with “Two Kinds of People”. Luke filled in the story on Songs of Home, Part Two.

Luke Pruitt: The idea was to juxtapose that character with the immigrant characters and challenge the idea of what “home” is.  “Eric and Lily” is the song in Songs of Home, Pt. 1 that really got me onto that idea.   In part 2, I interviewed some friends who are immigrants from Mexico and they were proud to share their story.  It sort of became a duty and responsibility to do their story justice.  It’s a view of “home” as this place that you’re forced to abandon and then rebuild from scratch, where this millennial kid has a fairly grounded “home” but is sort of seeking a more abstract version of it.  After 9/11, the immigrant is in a world where people are more paranoid and afraid of people who look different than they do, and the millennial kid is wondering why we’re sending troops into Iraq and is starting to question the system.  

Listen and buy the music of Luke Pruitt Songs of Home pt. 1 from AMAZON or iTunes

Listen and buy the music of Luke Pruitt  Songs of Home pt. 2 from AMAZON or iTunes

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Hayes Carll (from the album Lovers and Leavers) - The voice is still the same. Hayes Carll grabs the notes going low to give edge, breaking a little as the moods bend. His latest album release, Lovers and Leavers, uses voice as an instrument to poke and jab, prying into corners where emotions hide as the pens that script Lovers and Leavers put humanity into their songs. The voices of the characters vary from past releases, however, as they speak their mind with straight-forward lines throughout Lovers and Leavers. Part art/part ease, a songwriter can put imagination into words that do not take a direct path, and can mean all things to all listeners. Emperor Carll has new clothes as he strips the folks walking the stories to expose fears as they pray “Love Don’t Let Me Down” in the Darrell Scott tune as Hayes describes high times in the rear view mirror with “Good While It Lasted” and pushes a confession out in heavy breaths for Alison Moorer’s “The Love That We Need”.

A soft tire thump opens Lover and Leavers as “Drive” steers the story into a traveler’s tale of the road. Hayes Carll brings out “The Magic Kid” out on dramatic percussion with a tale that hints at Hayes’ son Elijah’s own history to deal out its story. Lovers and Leavers marches on a rumbling shuffle as it passes the torch between styles for the “Sake of the Song” while “My Friends” has a smile for each Southern town and friendly face that Hayes has seen from a street corner or stage. “The Love That We Need” gauges the distance between ‘the life that we wanted and the love that we need’ and Hayes Carll bids goodbye to Lovers and Leavers with a sad song shining on the album’s exit under “Jealous Moon”.   

Listen and buy the music of Hayes Carll from AMAZON or iTunes

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NEW VIDEO FROM THE ETHER

ECHO BLOOM - LEAVING CHARLESTON

Echo Bloom had the video camera out and rolling as they capture images of the band on the road in “Leaving Charleston”. The Brooklyn-based band puts jangle and twang into a psychedelic Country kaleidoscope of sound.

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STURGILL SIMPSON - BREAKERS ROAR

Sturgill Simpson offers A Sailor’s Guide to Earth on the recently released album. He feels the mighty pull of the sea on the gently rolling swaths of strings and lightly touched guitar notes as he sings of the “Breakers Roar” from the album.

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TWEED FUNK - LOVE AIN'T EASY

Tweed Funk are funky but smooth Soul operators on their recent release, Come Together. The guys admit, however, that “Love Ain’t Easy” on a video for the album tune.

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NEW AND NOTEWORTHY

AARON LEE TASJAN - IN THE BLAZES

AARON LEE TASJAN - IN THE BLAZES

Aaron Lee Tasjan (from the album In the Blazes) - Aaron Lee Tasjan puts his brand on ALT (Aaron Lee Tasjan) Country with In the Blazes , his recent release. The stories that walk the halls of the album are rock’n’roll tales with the attitude, the empathy, and the ire wrapped up in a way that never comes off as arrogant. In the Blazes is a suitcase of songs that travel DIY, putting the instruments together in a way that the tracks lead to all things for all people. If you are listening for Country, Fol...

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STEVE DAWSON - SOLID STATES AND LOOSE ENDS

STEVE DAWSON - SOLID STATES AND LOOSE ENDS

Steve Dawson (from the album Solid States and Loose Ends) - Steve Dawson has packed a lot into twenty years. His performance and studio work in Vancouver, Canada made him a go-to producer, with Steve logging over eighty album credits in the north before relocating to Nashville, TN. When Steve made his move to Tennessee he packed up completely, bringing his Henhouse Studios with him, where he created Solid States and Loose Ends , his latest release. He gathers personal pieces from a past that played ...

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THE LUMINEERS - CLEOPATRA

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The Lumineers (from the album Cleopatra on Dualtone Records ) - The Lumineers became a Roots music success story with the mega-hit status of their tune “Ho Hey” and healthy chart presence for the following singles. Roots music was in the mainstream, giving The Lumineers a unique position in the Roots music community with a million selling album. Handling success is as much of a challenge as somehow finding the path that gets you there. Cleopatra , the latest release from The Lumineers, stays true to t...

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MAKING THE LIST

TOP 100 ALBUMS FOR 2015 (1 - 25)

TOP 100 ALBUMS FOR 2015 (1 - 25)

The Alternate Root Top 100 Albums of the Year 2015 is ready for viewing. One hundred albums is a large list, though the amount of music and talent in the American Roots community certainly has enough sources to draw from to get to the one hundred mark, and we could have easily gone over.  Drawing from the available American Roots styles, we have gathered music from Folk, Blues, Soul, Americana, Alt Country, Bluegrass, Classic Country as well as any and all hybrids. So yeah, one hundred…no p...

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TOP 100 ALBUMS FOR 2015 (26 - 50)

TOP 100 ALBUMS FOR 2015 (26 - 50)

The Alternate Root Top 100 Albums of the Year 2015 is ready for viewing. One hundred albums is a large list, though the amount of music and talent in the American Roots community certainly has enough sources to draw from to get to the one hundred mark, and we could have easily gone over.  Drawing from the available American Roots styles, we have gathered music from Folk, Blues, Soul, Americana, Alt Country, Bluegrass, Classic Country as well as any and all hybrids. So yeah, one hundred…no p...

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TOP 100 ALBUMS FOR 2015 (51 - 75)

TOP 100 ALBUMS FOR 2015 (51 - 75)

The Alternate Root Top 100 Albums of the Year 2015 is ready for viewing. One hundred albums is a large list, though the amount of music and talent in the American Roots community certainly has enough sources to draw from to get to the one hundred mark, and we could have easily gone over.  Drawing from the available American Roots styles, we have gathered music from Folk, Blues, Soul, Americana, Alt Country, Bluegrass, Classic Country as well as any and all hybrids. So yeah, one hundred…no p...

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FROM THE VAULTS

MARSHALL CHAPMAN - BLAZE OF GLORY

MARSHALL CHAPMAN - BLAZE OF GLORY

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Blaze of...

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WHEELER BROTHERS - GOLD BOOTS GLITTER

WHEELER BROTHERS - GOLD BOOTS GLITTER

The Wheeler Brothers (from the album Gold Boots Glitter) - One of the perks about being a fan of Roots music is that no banner needs to be flown or borders guarded against alien musical forms invading. We are more inclusive than exclusive, and the smart money rides on bands that use everything at their disposal. On that note, enter the Wheeler Brothers.On Gold Boots Glitter , the Wheeler Brothers take full advantage of being a Roots band and sample liberally from Rock, Folk, Americana, Blues and oth...

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WAYFARING STRANGERS: COSMIC AMERICAN MUSIC - VARIOUS ARTISTS

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Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music (from Various Artists on Numero Group ) - Country Rock as a term was a function of the music industry to understand and market the mix of musical styles in bands like The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Poco, The Band, Grateful Dead, Mother Earth, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and host of other groups that saw genres as a buffet where they pick and choose rather than commit to just one choice. Musically, it was that freedom in sound that prompted Gram Parsons...

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MOVERS AND SHAKERS

JANIVA MAGNESS - LOVE WINS AGAIN

JANIVA MAGNESS - LOVE WINS AGAIN

Janiva Magness (from the album Love Wins Again on Blu Elan Records ) - Janiva Magness welcomed the release of her latest album, Love Wins Again , with a day-before party at The Troubadour in West Hollywood, performing and filming the event as well as demonstrating how to successfully walk from the studio to the stage with the same breathlessness as Janiva wonders “Who Will Come for Me” while smoke continued to rise from the smoldering riffs of “Real Slow”, a chill still filled a “Doorway” of promises ...

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MICHAEL DOUCET AND TOM RIGNEY - CAJUN FANDANGO

MICHAEL DOUCET AND TOM RIGNEY - CAJUN FANDANGO

Michael Doucet and Tom Rigney  (from the album Cajun Fandango) - Fiddlers rule on Cajun Fandango as Roots royalty come together to lord over a land of Blues, Cajun Two-Steps, and waltzes. Michael Doucet is a Cajun fiddler who has been an ambassador for the music of Louisiana on worldwide stages as leader of Beausoleil for nearly forty years. Tom Rigney is a Berkeley, California-based Blues and Roots violinist. He was at the helm of The Sundogs (Rounder Records) for fifteen years and has fronted T...

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FRANK VIELE - FALL YOUR WAY

FRANK VIELE - FALL YOUR WAY

Frank Viele (from the album Fall Your Way) - Frank Viele has a street growl. His is the kind of voice you hear on a city corner, some guy with a guitar and a story that grabs you enough to miss crossing with the light. The sort of singing that echoes through subway tunnels competing with the comings and goings of trains. Fall Your Way is the most recent release from Frank Viele. He packs the album with the view from behind a blue collar, wisdom that sits with Frank as he sips bourbon to toast the ca...

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MAKING THE LIST

The Alternate Root Top 100 Albums of the Year 2015 is ready for viewing. One hundred albums is a large list, though the amount of music and talent in the American Roots community certainly has enough sources to draw from to get to the one hundred mark, and we could have easily gone over.  Drawing from the available American Roots styles, we have gathered music from Folk, Blues, Soul, Americana, Alt Country, Bluegrass, Classic Country as well as any and all hybrids. So yeah, one hundred…no problem. Songs and artists from around the country and around the globe, the sound of Roots digs in and reaches out. It is infectious and universal in its moods and melodies. The year 2015 saw new artists and seasoned performers putting out full album listens. Our list for the year honors the album, full albums listens for the artists. Albums signify a record in time for musicians time and art, and we are happy to offer the albums that got our attention, became friends, and are now part of the family.

01 – Kasey Chambers   (from the album Bittersweet on Sugar Hill Records 7-24-16) - Kasey Chambers and producer, Nick DiDia (Bruce Springsteen, The Wallflowers, Pearl Jam), crafted an album that tags heritage with the teasing bite of her characters that brands Kasey Chambers and the Roots instrumentation that surrounds her stories. The album, recorded in seven days, stamps a freshness to the tunes that is present on each listen. Kasey relates that for her, she ‘wanted to have an experience making a record that I have never had before. I wanted to challenge myself and I wanted to be excited’.

Listen and buy the music of Kasey Chambers from AMAZON or iTunes

02 Chris Stapleton (from the album Traveller on Mercury Nashville  5-4-15) - The songs on Traveller crawl up on you like a low slung guitar, bobbing and weaving with footwork that steps to match the moods the stories conjure. A bottle and a wedding ring sit on the table as Chris attaches weight to both, gauging the differences between “Whiskey and You”.  Traveller makes its case the perfect pack for a long road trip as Chris steers the songs swaying to the string strums on “More of You” in harmony with wife Morgane Stapleton, shrugs and lights up “Might As Well Get Stoned” with electric guitar chords that strut into the room like a smoking caterpillar pied piper.

Listen and buy the music of Chris Stapleton from AMAZON or iTunes

03 Glen Hansard (from the album Didn’t He Ramble on Anti- Records 9-18-15) - Didn’t He Ramble enters on a determined whisper as confession becomes commitment as “Grace Beneath the Pines” sets the bar for hurdles that have been jumped. Audio vignettes scroll by on the album as a backdoor Romeo asks the morning birds to grant him one more ‘two step around your front room’ from “Her Mercy”, a scratchy beat tumbles along a get-away path with the “Lowly Deserter”, and quiet to hear the memories rising up , over, and back under “McCormack’s Wall”.   Glen Hansard began busking at the age of thirteen on the street of Dublin, Ireland after he quit high school. Didn’t He Ramble still plays to the passersby, drawing them in with words, melody, and magic of hearing exactly what you needed while waiting for the light to change.

Listen and buy the music of Glen Hansard from AMAZON or iTunes

04 Punch Brothers   (from the album The Phosphorescent Blues on Nonesuch Records  1-27-15) - That style that The Punch Brothers have nurtured is silhouetted against the soft glow of their recent T-Bone Burnett-produced release, The Phosphorescent Blues. The overall sound of the album brings is orchestrated Bluegrass. The magic of The Punch Brothers music is that they can appeal to diverse audiences from mainstream to deep Indie, Bluegrass purists and Americana torch-bearers. They are traditionalist innovators that encompass classical orchestral sweeps the blends with their mountain music on The Phosphorescent Blues.

Listen and buy the music of Punch Brothers from AMAZON or iTunes

05 Jason Isbell  (from the album Something More Than Free  7-17-15) by Michael Verity - Jason Isbell offers ten strong narratives of the common man’s experience of faith, family and the temporal matters of life with which every grownup must contend on Something More Than Free. The middle half dozen songs on this recording -- from the haunting solo piece of time and travel called “Flagship” to the epic song of a family’s history (“Children of Children”) to the closing chapter of another family’s history (“Speed Trap Town”) -- are among the finest six songs to have been recorded this year. By Michael Verity

Listen and buy the music of Jason Isbell from AMAZON or iTunes

06  Steve Earle and the Dukes (from the album Terraplane on New West Records 2-17-05) - Terraplane offers album space to a variety of Blues- based rambles as it shuffles on a front porch rhythm about a New York City woman in “Ain’t Nobody’s Daddy Now”, corrals a Chuck Berry groove for a raga romp in “Acquainted with the Wind” and uses a rock’n’roll blade made of riffs to carve out a return to fashion for “Go Go Boots are Back”. Steve Earle and the Dukes never line up for one style stamp though they manage to infuse every track with the roots grit falling from their collective boots. Soul pumps the harmonica and the rhythm of its Blues on album opener “Baby Baby Baby (Baby)”, stripping any shred of humility away as it heralds the birth of “King of the Blues”.      

Listen and buy the music of Steve Earle and the Dukes from AMAZON or iTunes

07 Kacey Musgraves  (from the album Pageant Material on Mercury Nashville) 6-23-15 - Kacey Musgraves has a knowing for how songs should sound; delivered with a wry sense of humor and a big beating heart gives Kacey the crown of Cool Country.  Pageant Materialchews a hole back fence gossip making “Biscuits” burn with ‘mend your own fences, and own your own crazy, mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy’.  Smart stories stand by the lives they live, and Kacey Musgraves teases the tales with vocals that profess views without preaching positions.

Listen and buy the music of Kacey Musgravesfrom AMAZON or iTunes

08 The Milk Carton Kids (from the album Monterey on Anti- Records 5-19-15) - The Milk Carton Kids maintain a huge amount of warmth and believability as they gently pick and pluck notes from the air, digging through pockets of Folk to find the quiet nestled just a stone’s throw from silence. The hushed delivery compliments the humor of The Milk Carton Kids banter as well as the microscope they use to script emotion in their songs. The Milk Carton Kids seal songs in amber waves of notes and sepia-toned stories under “Asheville Skies” as the trees spread color into the November fall, mournfully asking in a whisper to “Sing, Sparrow, Sing”, and sway with soft ocean breezes lapping against land as the road calls in the title track.

Listen and buy the music of The Milk Carton Kids from AMAZON or iTunes

09 Leon Bridges  (from the album Coming Home on Columbia Records 6-23-15) - Leon Bridges uses Coming Home to masterfully moves Soul back to mainstream, guiding Coming Home with one hand on the wheel and two feet planted firmly on a groove.

Listen and buy the music of Leon Bridges from AMAZON or iTunes

10 The Turnpike Troubadours  (from the album The Turnpike Troubadours 9-18-15) - The musical backing for the Roots of Turnpike Troubadours is a non-stop motion machine. Bobbing and weaving under the stories are teasing fiddles, guitar crunches and a determined rhythm section that give the tunes on The Turnpike Troubadours solid footing. The foundation the band creates make it possible for the stories to ramble, walking to the edge of emotion or reason to find the love left lying on the corner of “Easton and Main” as they provide the only safe spot for the man sinking fast below the poverty line in “The Bird Hunters” while they follow the boy heading down to “Bossier City” to drink and gamble his cares away.  

Listen and buy the music of The Turnpike Troubadours from AMAZON or iTunes

11 Nikki Lane  (from the album All or Nothin’ on New West Records 5-6-15) - Nikki Lane caught the ear of her producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys  enough to get his studio for free. All or Nothin’ is a sweeping soundscape filled with varied styles and takes on Roots music presented from the perspective of kaleidoscope Country singer, Nikki Lane

Listen and buy the music of Nikki Lane from AMAZON or iTunes

12 The Black Lillies (from the album Hard to Please10-2-15) - The Black Lillies open Hard to Please with the title track. It is a tough call whether the song is to a lover, or a higher calling, and it is certainly possible that the band were aiming the title phrase at the music industry that are constantly looking for labels to attach to their artists, or asking them to define themselves in one or two words. Musically, there is no other definition needed than that they are a band making a record, letting the way they hear each song tell the tale of how the music will back the story. On “Hard to Please”, the title track chugs and stomps as a playful twang lightly tags the persistent rhythms that set the pace for its song followers on the recording. “Fade” quietly aids the exit with a love request, bordering album opener with heartfelt pleas.

Listen and buy the music of The Black Lillies from AMAZON or iTunes

13 Dave Rawlings’ Machine (from the album Nashville Obsolete on Acony Records 9-18-15) - Dave Rawlings’ Machine is the driving wheel as they guide Nashville Obsolete gracefully through its stories, introducing characters and wearing a skin that remembers, relates, and exposes their tales. “The Last Pharaoh” is a seeker, possibly tracking down a royal line, or maybe looking a Faro card game, the most popular pastime on an American frontier in the 1800’s that stretched Deadwood to Tijuana, Reno to Natchez, New Orleans to St. Louis. Faro tables were familiar sights and sounds in every saloon and become the stage set for the tale.

Listen and buy the music of Dave Rawlings’ Machine from AMAZON or iTunes

14 Barrence Whitfield and the Savages (from the album Under the Savage Sky on Bloodshot Records 8-21-15) - Barrence Whitfield and the Savages give their latest Bloodshot Records release, Under the Savage Sky, the identical treatment they have offered with their music since 1984…one hundred and ten percent commitment.  Under the Savage Sky is Rock’n’Soul on steroids; Barrence Whitfiled and the Savages a chainsaw to cut through the wall of sound full of the crass representations passing for rock in 2015.

Listen and buy the music of Barrence Whitfield and the Savages from AMAZON or iTunes

15 Anne McCue  (from the album Blue Sky Thinkin’  2-3-15) - Blue Sky Thinkin’, Anne McCue’s 2015 album release, and the seventh in her catalog, is a satisfying sheaf of twelve new original tunes that speak to her love of music from the 20s, 30s and 40s while demonstrating her sizable skills as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. (Michael Verity)

Listen and buy the music of Anne McCue from AMAZON or iTunes

16  Ray Wylie Hubbard   (from the album The Ruffians Misfortune   4-7-15) - Ray Wylie wanted to have a Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood-type of two guitar backing, bringing in Gabe Rhodes and his son, Lucas Hubbard, for The Ruffian’s Misfortune. The twin guitars share space as they propel across a fast-train ride rhythm “Down by the River”, snake underneath “Chicksinger Badass Rockin’”, snap at the white lines trailing below “Bad on Fords”, and drift like six-string ghosts as they tumble with a fiery fiddle calling out “Jessie Mae”. The Ruffian’s Misfortune opens to righteous Blues preaching on “All Loose Things”, as it hums a Kevin Welch tune.

Listen and buy the music of Ray Wylie Hubbard from AMAZON or iTunes

17 Uncle Lucius  (from the album The Light  6-9-15) - Uncle Lucius have always had salvation in their songs, sitting comfortably as a sideman for the electric chords and beats. Uncle Lucius turn on The Light and watch its songs go into dark corners, shadowy hallways, and  travel one lane roads as they search, seek and provide answers for how to walk a little prouder. The hint is that you can feel a little better about yourself by taking control of your own life.

Listen and buy the music of Uncle Lucius from AMAZON or iTunes

18 John Moreland   (from the album High on Tulsa Heat   4-21-15) - John Moreland songs began to form when a ten years old John and his family moved from Kentucky to Tulsa, Oklahoma. He heard his songs against a punk rock back beat throughout high school, ut and pasted on his dad’s Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Young, Tom Petty and Steve Earle records.  John recalls that ‘I think what appealed to me about it was lyrics. In hardcore, there might be great lyrics in a song but you have to read them off a piece of paper to know it. I was 19 in 2004, and Steve Earle had put out ‘The Revolution Starts Now,’ and I remember hearing the song ‘Rich Man’s War’ and totally feeling like somebody just punched me in the chest.’

Listen and buy the music of John Moreland from AMAZON or iTunes

19 Lilly Hiatt    (from the album Royal Blue on New West Records  3-3-15) - Royal Blue moves with a pulse pumping a heart aware that things work out in equal measure, sometimes going belly up. Lilly Hiatt doesn’t drown in the ocean she is swimming as she claims the skin of “Somebody’s Daughter”. She is taking the reins, unsure of the hows and whys yet very clear on the end results working out, knowing ‘I’m gonna be fine’.  Royal Blue keeps a Modern Beat with a 60’s sci-fi rumble as it reads a broken heart note signed “Too Bad”, “Heart Attack” runs on a David Lynch sound track with its dream-induced beat zig zagging on a ghostly groove, bounces off a rock’n’roll jangle trying to “Get This Right”, and uses tight drum beats to corral the wobbly guitars running “Off Track”.

Listen and buy the music of Lilly Hiatt from AMAZON or iTunes

20  The Grahams  (from the album Glory Bound  5-18-15) - If you are looking for a song on Glory Bound to make you feel worse about your day…move along. The Grahams are never far away from waving the banner of the road though they change the mood of their songs like the scenery flying by outside a southbound boxcar. Glory Boundis a light burning bright for taking chances and listening to the voices in your head.

Listen and buy the music of The Grahams from AMAZON or iTunes

21 The Wood Brothers  (from the album Paradise 10-2-15) - Chris Wood uses an electric bass for the first time in Wood Bros. studio recordings on Paradise. The heavier thump grounds tracks like “American Heartache” giving a rock heft to the natural power of The Wood Brothers. Oliver Wood’s voice cries for salvation with the soul-searching of a zealot, as the songs offer inspiration within reach. The ways to plow through the middle of issues is covered in the challenging advice of “Singin’ for Strangers” with additional experiential advice on how to swim upstream on a“River of Gin” to get some kind of ‘amen’ as The Wood Brothers quiet to a hush to sing a “Heartbreak Lullaby” for love sick boys.

Listen and buy the music of The Wood Brothers from AMAZON or iTunes

22   Della Mae  (from the album Della Mae on New Rounder Records 5-12-15) - Della Mae fires its opening salvo with a pro-union and pro-women’s rights song that demands ‘pass me a match and we’ll strike it on the ground, and we’ll head back down to Boston town’. The women of Della Mae stand tall and proud as they challenge workers to take control of their lives and hold on to their dignity.

Listen and buy the music of Della Mae from AMAZON or iTunes

23  Shelby Lynne  (from the album I Can’t Imagine on New Rounder Records  5-4-15) - Shelby Lynne songs sink into your senses with familiarity by the end of the track. “Son of a Gun” slows its pace to save its energy as it ‘walks through the noonday sun’, “Back Door Front Porch” swings with the decisions of its story, and “Better” drifts on clouds of amplifier rings, rising and falling with a delicate grace.    

Listen and buy the music of Shelby Lynne from AMAZON or iTunes

24  Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell  (from the album The Traveling Kind on Nonesuch Records  5-12-15) - Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell are no strangers to being a part of one another’s story line. The add accent and emotion, Continuing that model on The Traveling Kind. There is a beauty to the intimate moments that feels like a new page for the Harris-Crowell songbook. Rodney joins Emmylou as they offer a toast to fellow troubadours in the title track before circling back to just two folks looking for a dance floor as they exit The Traveling Kind on a ‘le bon temps roulé’ with “Le Danse de la Joie”.

Listen and buy the music of Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell from AMAZON or iTunes

25  JD McPherson  (from the album Let the Good Times Roll on New Rounder Records 2-10-15) - Reverbed chords rotate over Let the Good Times Roll like the blades of an oscillating fan. JD McPherson is not claiming purist or avant garde status….he is just playing it as it lays. Let the Good Times Roll sets the guitar sound in line with the upright bass and rattles with layered reverb in “Precious”, double times a rubbery chord strum to tumble “Head Over Heels” and blows breath beats out on a groove primed by a low riding saxophone pumps. Let the Good Times Roll lays Rhythm over its Blues for R&B circa 2015.

Listen and buy the music of JD McPherson from AMAZON or iTunes

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The Alternate Root Top 100 Albums of the Year 2015 is ready for viewing. One hundred albums is a large list, though the amount of music and talent in the American Roots community certainly has enough sources to draw from to get to the one hundred mark, and we could have easily gone over.  Drawing from the available American Roots styles, we have gathered music from Folk, Blues, Soul, Americana, Alt Country, Bluegrass, Classic Country as well as any and all hybrids. So yeah, one hundred…no problem. Songs and artists from around the country and around the globe, the sound of Roots digs in and reaches out. It is infectious and universal in its moods and melodies. The year 2015 saw new artists and seasoned performers putting out full album listens. Our list for the year honors albums, full album listens from artists. Albums signify a record for musician’s time and art, and we are happy to offer the albums that got our attention, became friends, and are now part of the family in 2015.

26 Pilgrim (from the album Easy People on Horton Records 11-6-15) - Motion is a key ingredient on Easy People, the recent release from Pilgrim. It comes from the full album play being a great match for long car trips; its songs possessing the magic that makes outside images part of a soundtrack unique to the journey. Easy People glides with the hum of rubber underneath you, the flow of the songs a road rhythm, speeding up when the exit turns into highway on “Get Me Outta This City”, going to a steady roll that tracks a hundred miles in the space of a song on “Can’t Let Go”, and slowing to feel its own heartbeat quicken on a returns home (“My Heart is Mine”).

Listen and buy the music of Pilgrim from AMAZON or iTunes

27 Ashley Monroe  (from the album The Blade on Warner Music Nashville) 7-24-15- The Blade spends time in baring souls (“Has Somebody Ever Told You”), inspiring (“Weight of the World”), walking away slowly but proud (“I Buried Your Love Alive”), and betting on losing being a sure thing (“Winning Streak”). Ashley Monroe plays songs that are proud to call themselves Country, as they should be. The Blade cuts across through posing and cuts into real emotions, real life that unfolds again and again.

Listen and buy the music of Ashley Monroe from AMAZON or iTunes

28 Joe Louis Walker   (from the album Everybody Wants a Piece on Provogue Records  10-9-16) - There is fluidity to guitar playing of Joe Louis Walker. The notes glide, merging and fading into one another seamlessly. Joe Louis spins a spell with “Witchcraft” over funky chops of guitar chords, softly plays the Blues to his equally lonely four walls as he admits to being “Black and Blue”, matches voice and notes to walk into the light of “One Sunny Day”, and puts a “Buzz on You” as he staggers and struts the tune over a Rock’n’Roll rhythm.  Everybody Wants a Piece preaches without saying a word on the instrumental “Gospel Blues”, surfs choppy waves of guitar chords to “Wade in the Water”, takes “Young Girl Blues” for a date on a Kansas City street circa 1950-something to hear Blues give birth to rock’n’roll, and stands center stage 2015 for the amped-up, lowdown Blues in the title track.

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29 Patty Griffin  (from the album Servant of Love  9-25-15) - Patty Griffin casts a spell with the piano that begins “Servant of Love”, the title track from her most recent album release. The notes become an intricate trance, mingling at some point with a wandering jazz horn and the deep breaths of cello notes. Patty’s poetic lyrics weave as the instruments blend and separate in a loop throughout the track. Servant of Love beds in musical styles ranging through Folk, Jazz, Americana, and Blues. Patty Griffin has an easy vocal approach that she comfortably fits into all the musical styles lucky enough to have her drop by. It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees though if you have to bend, Patty Griffin shows that music is the kind of loving master where commitment pays off with Servant of Love

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30  Rhiannon Giddens  (from the album Tomorrow is My Turn on Nonesuch Records 2-10-15) - Rhiannon Giddens offers cover versions on Tomorrow is My Turn, her 2015 solo release. Rhiannon bends the Blues around the notes Patsy Cline offered in “She’s Got You”, and shares that “Black is the Color” over a skittery garage beat that trip hops on a natural high as the percussion plows along.

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31 Buddy Guy (from the album Born to Play Guitar  7-31-15) - Buddy Guy carved out his own spot on the marquee with his unique playing, becoming the man often credited for being the bridge between Blues and Rock’n’Roll with his electric guitar tuning to tradition as much as innovation. Born to Play Guitar puts Buddy’s sweet vocals alongside the feral tease of his guitar playing. His fingers sound let loose from a starting gate rather than placed between the guitar frets. 

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32 Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin  (from the album Lost Time on Yep Roc Records 9-18-15)Phil Alvin cries “Please Please Please”, laying gospel Blues on the James Brown/Johnny Terry tune while the brothers hop up some Blues boogie for Leroy Carr’s “Papas on the House Top” and strut into Oscar Brown, Jr’s “Mister Kicks” with the scent of brimstone rising up from the blistering guitar notes of brother Dave. The guitar swoons and slashes throughout Lost Time, a true duet between the Alvin’s as the album answers the guitar call as trumpet into the rhythm rattle of “World’s in a Bad Condition”, wrestles a wayward riff into line with a solid beat on Willie Dixon’s “Sit Down Baby”, lightly touches Reverend Thomas A. Dorsey’s “If You See My Savior”, and carries the heavy burden of a life gone wrong with “In New Orleans (Rising Sun Blues)”.

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33  Barnstar! (from the album Sit Down! Get Up! Get Out!! On Signature Sounds 2-3-15) - The idea started in the brain of Zachariah Hickman, musical director for Ray Lamontagne and bass player for Josh Ritter. Snagging A-list New England musicians (Mark Erelli on guitar, Charlie Rose on banjo, Jake Armerding on fiddle and Taylor Armerding on mandolin), Zachariah found some songs, plugged in his bass and took his idea through concept and into fruition with Barnstar! A mix of band originals and covers merge seamlessly within Sit Down! Get Up! Get Out!

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34 Chessboxer  (from the E.P. Apollo  9-25-15) - Listening to the music of Chessboxer is like falling through the looking glass, gazing at an ocean for the first time, or, I would guess, space travel. Chessboxer are a three piece bluegrass-looking outfit. Looks can be deceiving, as we know, and certainly as can be heard on the trio’s E.P., Apollo. The music of Chessboxer cultivates the way that banjo, fiddle, and upright bass interact. The band seems to accomplish this by pretty much ripping apart any how-to manuals, and creating their own craft sound, a small brewery of Bluegrass.

Listen and buy the music of Chessboxer from AMAZON or iTunes

35 Christian Lopez Band  (from the album Onward 5-18-15) - Nineteen year old singer and songwriter Christian Lopez scribes his debut, Onward, with a narratives wise beyond his years. Christian’s  bold emotional vocals steer the album confidently as they cruise through singer/songwriter Country.

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36 Amy Black (from the album The Muscle Shoals Sessions 6-9-15) - The Muscle Shoals Sessions changes the way Amy Black hears herself on record as well as her musical directions. Amy knows that ‘making this music has changed me as an artist. It’s altered my musical course and I’m so glad’. Amy Black showcases her new path on The Muscle Shoals Sessions as a good fit as she delivers a blend of Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, and Rock’n’Soul. She reheats Sam Cooke’s “Bring it on Home to Me” as a Soul stew with the McCrary Sisters helping stir.

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37 James McMurtry (from the album Complicated Game) 2-24-15  by Michael Verity - Sometimes life can be a complicated game and few tell the story as clearly as James McMurtry. His sharp-eyed lyricism and simple delivery are a pleasure to behold, the work of an artist completely at home with his muse. There are three central themes on this record of stories about the human condition, arduous though it may be. First, there’s love or, perhaps more accurately, the ever oscillating energy of love that includes falling in it, wondering where it’s gone and hitting the road to find it. Second, there’s travel, the need of a restless man to see the far corners of the world or, at least, cross the roads and rivers of his own country. In “Ain’t Got A Place,” the skies are taller in Louisiana and wider in New Mexico (and rivers run East out of West Virginia). “Forgotten Coast” is pure escapism but, sometimes, travel includes family, as it does on “Long Island Sound. Finally, there’s man’s complicated relationship with the ever-idiosyncratic Mother Nature, another woman who exerts a powerful force in his life. Delivered in a voice unvarnished and a style simplistic, these are tunes that capture the intricacies of human existence in all their fine and flawed form, a bit like a Steinbeck on a CD. By Michael Verity

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38  Gretchen Peters (from the album Blackbirds  2-10-15) - Blackbirds gathers stories, backing the tales with honest Roots that tip their arrows into a Country touched Folk when a question is shared with Jimmy LaFave on “When You Coming Home” while Folk sticks to its pure singer/songwriter Roots to scribe the plight on “Pretty Things”. Gretchen Peters feathers Blackbirds with emotions that run strong for a desert homecoming as they realize that when ‘“All you Got is a Hammer” everything seems like a nail’ while she damns the realizations that extend beyond today and into forever acknowledging that ‘The Cure for the Pain” is the pain’. 

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39 The White Buffalo  (from the album Love and the Death of Damnation  8-21-16) - The White Buffalo uses the microphone as a pulpit, the growl of his roar guiding Love and the Death of Damnation from the entry rush of Folk Rock (“Dark Days”) to the gospel salvation on the exit track, “Come on Love, Come on In”. He records as a mission, his songs presented by statements on good and evil as choices (“Last Call to Heaven”), topping off his tank with love (“Home in Your Arms”), and telling tales of bad decisions mixed with revenge (“Chico”).

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40 Israel Nash  (from the album Israel Nash’s Silver Season  10-9-15) - Israel Nash is the court bard of medieval times, commemorating a story to song by building long sweeping musical beds to allow the scenes and characters to act against audio movie screens.  The ethereal movement of the music on Israel Nash’s Silver Season never gets too close to the ground due to the musical force behind the songs. Falsetto screams and Country Rock harmonies are held in place by the pounding beat in “Lavendula” as “Mariner’s Ode” falls into a dream staring at the painting of an old school seaman. Israel Nash creates isolated moments in his songs that are best appreciated as full album listens.

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41 Jim Lauderdale  (from the Soul Searching; Memphis, Volume 1, Nashville, Volume 2 9-25-15) - Jim Lauderdale is a natural born singer, managing to put his heart in Soul, and Country with the natural Blues fueled Rock’n’Roll bite in his delivery. Soul Searching, Memphis Volume One is Soul with a Country love as Jim Lauderdale opens the album on thick organ swells, sliced guitar chords, and horn blasts to get the rhythm shaking across a soundscape of Soul with “There's no End to the Sky”.  Soul Searching, Nashville Volume Two is Country that loves its Soul with Jim Lauderdale voicing hope (“Plan B”), slinky rhythm danger (“Black Widow Spider”), slow dance confessions (“What Do I Know About Anything”), and sharp-edged history notes trying to not make the same mistakes (“Timing is Everything”). 

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42 Los Lobos (from the album Gates of Gold on 429 Records 9-25-15) - Los Lobos delivered their first studio recording in the past five years with the recently released, Gates of Gold. The (former) little band from East L.A., has long ago joined the ranks of American bands that play, curate, and advance American Roots music, as Los Lobos put their names alongside the Grateful Dead, The Band, Little Feat, and others as melting pot music. Los Lobos muse is influenced by the breeding ground where Folk, Tex-Mex, Blues, Rock’n’Roll, Country, and all things Roots all hook up. Los Lobos pack a lot of tones and textures into the album as they set up behind the walls of Gates of Gold, letting the title track roll along on notes, beats, chords, and voices tumble over one another with the grace of Olympians while “Mis-Treater Boogie Blues” pulls back, revs up, and fires off a blast of Texas Boogie.

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43 Au Pair (from the album One Armed Candy Bear  11-13-15) - Au Pair is the lovechild of Gary Louris (The Jayhawks) and Django Haskins (The Old Ceremony). The Pair met in Chicago, IL. As part of a celebration for the music of Big Star. They recorded One Armed Candy Bear in Durham, North Carolina. Au Pair create a fractured Folk music, using loops and bleeps as part of a junkyard accumulation of instruments, describing themselves at Everly Brothers meets Pink Floyd on their Facebook website. Like its mystical namesake, there is a fantasy tone to the stories on One Armed Candy Bear that is backed by dreamlike landscapes moving below (“King of the Valley”), dark clouds of eerie sonics (“Night Falls Early”), sounds that rise and fade (“One-Eyed Crier”), and percussive stomps and strums (“New Deal”).

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44 Eilen Jewell   (from the album Sundown Over Ghost Town  5-26-15) - ‘Been around this world, just to come back to you," sings Eilen Jewell on "Worried Mind," the first song on the eighth long player of her career, Sundown over Ghost Town. It's an apt opening line for an album about returning home which, for Eilen, means a trip back to Boise, Idaho, the dusty cowboy town of her birth.

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45 Chuck Hawthorne  (from the album Silver Line  4-28-15) - Chuck Hawthorne has way of translating hours and minutes in a day, offering life in real time, showing troubles in a song. Silver Line is a goal, and a title, for the most recent Chuck Hawthorne release. Silver Line introduces characters that their creator inhabits in a way that makes it difficult to suss out which are the tales and how much of the history fits the steps of Chuck Hawthorne as a solider and a troubadour as the pain of the solider that traces back to his time at “Post 2 Gate” while “The Gospel Hammer” joins the corporate workforce as Chuck follows the trail of smoke from addiction climbing higher, fanned by wings with “Dragon Flies”.

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46 Paul Benjaman Band  (from the album Sneaker on Horton Records 10-30-15) - A sly, slinky, back forty bonfire beat casts a spell with the trance groove of “Black Country Magic”. Sneaker shares the stage with Willie and his Hand Jive as it pounds out a mighty message promising to “Shake Your Tree”. If you are naming names for Sneaker, you can check off guitar riffs, soulful vocal glue, and a beat you can dance to on the album. Sneaker” creeps infectiously up and attaches with something primally familiar.

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47 The Yawpers   (from the album American Man on Bloodshot Records 10-30-16) - The Yawpers are a Denver, Colorado based band that is wound tightly around lead vocals and lead guitar. Jesse Parmet’s guitar has a feral attack matched well with the punk political spit of frontman Nate Cook. The Yawpers link arms with a worldwide community that ‘walk the line between what I want and what’s rightfully mine ’in “Faith and Good Judgment” as they find themselves stranded in Van Nuys (CA) and walking out in the cool Country air while “Burdens” finds a small town exit for a seventeen year old who knows he had better ‘get out while I’m young enough to run’.  

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48  Sugarcane Jane   (from the album Dirt Road’s End   4-28-15) - Dirt Road’s End is a duo with friends as the songs catch a ride on a bass bump that navigates down “Heartbreak Road”,  adds guitar jangle sweetness to the already honey-dripping vocals wrapped in “Sugar”, and sees the beauty of the “San Andreas”, sharing the gossip that ‘if god had a home, she’d be living there’. Sugarcane Jane sonically mirror their environment. The songs are not autobiographical though their ties to home and family dig the tracks roots directly into the earth we share under our feet.

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49 Whitney Rose  (from the album Heartbreaker of the Year  8-21-15) - Whitney Rose recorded her second album, the recently released Heartbreaker of the Year, in four days. Whitney had a ringer in her earphones with veterans, The Mavericks, on board for the album, and the band’s frontman, Raul Malo, producing as well as performing on Heartbreaker of the Year. Raul‘s mighty voice is subtle, supporting Whitney Rose as a BFF as she tries to snag a “Little Piece of You” on a 1950’s rhythm bounce while his vocals are an echo on the Roy Orbison-flavored “Only Just a Dream”, and become an equal partner for the co-leads on the pledge of love in The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”.

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50 Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers  (from the album Loved Wild Lost   4-21-15) - Loved Wild Lost claims territory in the 70’s Pop sound on “Waiting on Love”, moves into classic Country reverbed riff of “Only Always”, carves a strut in the rock of “Heart Gets Tough”, and swirls a lasso as they rope in “Queen of the Rodeo”. Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers are a road band, and every note on Loved Wild Lost benefits from the fan response from constant touring. The album is a group effort, and as guitar strings tangle, Nick Bluhm sings for the boys in the band as much for herself as the highway rolls “Me and Slim” into the next Holiday Inn.

Listen and buy the music of Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers from AMAZON or iTunes

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The Alternate Root Top 100 Albums of the Year 2015 is ready for viewing. One hundred albums is a large list, though the amount of music and talent in the American Roots community certainly has enough sources to draw from to get to the one hundred mark, and we could have easily gone over.  Drawing from the available American Roots styles, we have gathered music from Folk, Blues, Soul, Americana, Alt Country, Bluegrass, Classic Country as well as any and all hybrids. So yeah, one hundred…no problem. Songs and artists from around the country and around the globe, the sound of Roots digs in and reaches out. It is infectious and universal in its moods and melodies. The year 2015 saw new artists and seasoned performers putting out full album listens. Our list for the year honors albums, full album listens from artists. Albums signify a record for musician’s time and art, and we are happy to offer the albums that got our attention, became friends, and are now part of the family in 2015.

51 Allison Moorer  (from the album Down to Believing  3-17-15) - Allison Moorer released her ninth album, Down to Believing, in 2015. For the story line, Allison looks to her own life. As the rhythm rattles for “Mama, Let the Wolf In” she stages the reaction experience when she received her son’s autism diagnosis.

Listen and buy the music of Allison Moorer from AMAZON or iTunes

52 Danielle Nicole  (from the album Wolf Den on Concord Records  9-25-15) - The title track opens Wolf Den with a Vintage groove bending and shaping organ bursts and rubbery distortion as Danielle Nicole struts into the album. Danielle Nicole attacks the tracks on Wolf Den with confidence as she cruises down a city sidewalk with the street lights coming up on “Easin' Into The Night” and covers “I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home” with thick funk as Luther Dickinson joins album producer Anders Osborne on guitar work. 

Listen and buy the music of Danielle Nicole from AMAZON or iTunes

53 Indigo Girls  (from the album One Lost Day on Red House Records 6-2-15) - The production on the Indigo Girls 2015 release, One Lost Day, watched a new hand behind the mixing board with Indigo Girls developing a working relationship with a younger, female perspective when the welcomed multi-instrumentalist Jordan Brooke Hamlin as producer. Darkness gives the album a subtle tone that lets the power of two voices have center stage. Great big balls of rhythm tumble from “Learned It on Me” as the story line suggests that the perfect relationships are the ones that have matching baggage, and “Fishtails” shows red lights trumpeting a warning in the wake of a life where we ‘hug the corners, take the straights, from the cradle to the grave….we all give what we got’.

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54 Otis Taylor (from the album Hey Joe Red Meat Opus 4-30-15) - Otis Taylor talks about the background muse for his writing of Hey Joe Opus Red Meat, explaining that filter was‘about decisions and their consequences. It’s about how decisions and the actions that result can change our lives, the lives of our families and the lives of people we don’t even know. Sometimes you win in life; sometimes you lose. You want the outcome of your decisions to be good, but sometimes its bad. And that’s when you don’t eat the meat. The meat eats you.’

Listen and buy the music of Otis Taylor from AMAZON or iTunes

55  Dwight Yoakam  (from the album Second Hand Heart 4-14-15) - Rushed guitar strums, proud beats and pops of twang surround Dwight Yoakam as he steps into Second Hand Heart over one ongoing, percolating riff with “In Another World”. Dwight Yoakam writes and records with a honky tonk heart that is always on display. It is impossible to separate the man from the sound he owns. “Man of Constant Sorrow” uses the rhythm and Dwight’s own roots to come together as a bio.

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56 Corb Lund    (from the album Things That Can’t Be Undone on New West Records  10-9-15) - Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton) was behind the board as producer at his Nashville-based Low Country Sound studios to record Corb Lund for Things That Can’t Be Undone. The life of a farmer becomes the quickly turned pages of the story branded “S Lazy H” while memories spin the wheels down Main Street in “Left This Town”, guitar jangle mixes with border string bends to sound track the war story in “Sadr City”, and the spotlight shines on former glory in “Washed-Up Rock Star Factory Blues”. Corb Lund subtly puts flesh and blood into his characters as a Country boy heads home to his northern home in “Goodbye Colorado”.

Listen and buy the music of Corb Lund from AMAZON or iTunes

57 T. Hardy Morris   (from the album Drowin’ on a Mountaintop  6-23-15) - Drownin’ on a Mountaintop is the latest project from T. Hardy Morris. T. The album opens with tender pedal steel dueting with snarly electric guitar distortion on “Young Assumptions”. T. Hardy Morris plays garage rock with four walls facing south on Drownin’ on a Mountaintop. Indie Pop gets caught in album’s Country, southern Soul, and electric Blues, clinging like vines to the songs as it does in the music of Big Star, The Replacements, and R.E.M.

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58 The Bottle Rockets  (from the album South Broadway Athletic Club on Bloodshot Records 10-2-15) - The Bottle Rockets have become buddies for Alt Country and Roots fans that hear themselves in the stories. South Broadway  Athletic Club sifts through relationships that weather the storm with “Big Lotsa Love”, those that ‘fade like the flowers’ on “Big Fat Nuthin’, while the kind of love that never wavers, never fails, and gives back more than it takes out is captured lovingly on “Dog”.

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59 The Westies  (from the album West Side Stories   1-20-15) - West Side Stories circles Roots music with a rock’n’roll band behind the wheel as they follow rhythms through the neighborhoods and lives in NYC.  “Hell’s Kitchen” opens West Side Stories on an New York City street as characters change names and share dreams in the ghosts of the past as they work on decisions….’”Hell’s Kitchen” or heaven’s door’.   

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60  The Lonesome Trio  (from the album The Lonesome Trio on Sugar Hill Records  6-16-15) - A knack for song structure separates the Bluegrass of The Lonesome Trio from tradition while the mutual love of craft intuitively adhers an old timey touch and texture to the tunes. The band, Ed Helms (banjo), Ian Riggs (bass), and Jacob Tilove (mandolin), was born twenty-two years ago, with the Trio sticking together through various NYC careers of comedy, architectural history, and continued studies on jazz bass. The Lonesome Trio has benefitted from years of playing together, the songs gaining crucial inner-structure as personal lives allow the musicians to apply humor, tradition, and added musical tones and textures to their self-titled debut.

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61 Los Colognes  (from the album Dos  9-4-15) - The songs on Dos come from the pens of drummer Aaron “Mort” Mortenson and guitarist, vocalist Jay Rutherford as the pair seek to make jam music for fans of songwriters, using the song structure of classic rock. Recorded in hometown Nashville at Bombshelter Studios, Dos is the creation of a six-piece band. “All That You Know” percolates on a caffeine beat showing its expresso love as it tributes Dire Straits lead guitar work as “Hard to Remember” jumps formats for a track that would have been happy riding with AM Country Gold. A dark alley leads a path to “Golden Dragon Hut” on a story line that reads bad news on a rhythmic drive that puts its foot to the floor, never letting up for curves or turns with the engine humming a constant purr.

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62 Don Henley  (from the album Cass County on Capital Records 9-25-15) - Don Henley worked with former Heartbreaker, Stan Lynch, as co-producer, and co-author of eleven tracks on Cass County, recorded primarily in Nashville and Dallas. There is star power on Cass County with Miranda Lambert and Mick Jagger picking “Bramble Rose” to join Don in verse and harmony on the Tift Merritt tune. Dolly Parton is on board in for the Louvin Brothers’ “When I Stop Dreaming” with other guests include Merle Haggard, , Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Jamey Johnson, Alison Krauss, and Vince Gill.

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63 Beth Hart  (from the album Better Than Home  4-15-15) - Beth Hart found a way to use her music as catharsis for her past with Better Than Home, her most recent release, and in the process has created inspiration in her stories through the salvation beacon in her voice. Beth grabs the collar of “Tell ‘Em to Hold On” with piano notes and typewriter keys as a foundation to build on the power of its arrangement to make sense of our search for saviors

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64 Bow Thayer (from the album Sundowser  7-24-15) - On Sundowser, Bow plays the Airline Bojotar that combines a resonator guitar and banjo, adding Humbucker and Piezo pickups that blend together tonally.  Sundowser opens as the rubber hits the road for Bow Thayer, starting up the album with “Burning Miles”. Chords and notes roll like the highway as the story travels from concrete to clay. Sundowser bubbles with warm organ swells (“The Funeral Crasher”), confident Indie Roots fairy tales (“Snow Goose”), self-truth’s (“Drug Lust”), and the sparkle of strings introducing sweeping rock roots theatrics (“Downtrodder”).

Listen and buy the music of Bow Thayer from AMAZON or iTunes

65 Patrick Sweany (from the album Daytime Turned to Nighttime  9-18-15) - East Nashville Soulman, Patrick Sweany, delivers his sixth album with Daytime Turned to Nighttime. Patrick crafts a style based on the sounds he listens to…Vintage Rock and Soul rhythms from the 1960’s and 1970’s, and his younger, first blush influences such as Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, Doug Sahm, Joe Tex, Bobbie Gentry, and Bill Withers. Daytime Turned to Nighttime cuts through the dark with the Blues, Rock, Folk, and Soul lights in its songs.

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66 Leo Bud Welch  (from the album I Don’t Prefer No Blues  3-23-15) - Leo Bud Welch established himself as a player with Sabougla Voices, his debut, the album divining Blues riffs that wiggled and sizzled under the tones of Gospel Blues.  I Don’t Prefer No Blues offers up some of its space to the same devotional songs found on his first album with “Pray On”, though the presentation of the track differs due to the way the Blues hits its tracks. Leo Bud Welch offers another side to his Blues on I Don’t Prefer No Blues.

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67 Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard  (from the album Django and Jimmie  6-2-15) - Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard are voices that speak softly but carry a big stick of smart when they discuss the life around us. A gentle twang stirs a breeze for the rhythm in “Live This Long” as the beat catches fire for the poor boy preachin’ of “It’s Only Money”. Django and Jimmie is not handed down as testament on how to live, it is presented as valued opinions on the familiar (“Unfair Weathered Friends”), the wishes (“Somewhere Between”), and the troubadours (“Driving the Herd”).

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68 Jeffrey Foucault   (from the album Salt as Wolves  10-16-15) - Separating the characters from the singer is at times tough and nearly impossible with Jeffrey Foucault on Salt as Wolves. Guitar pickings are as soft the glow of love in “Hurricane Lamp” as dark clouds of chords roll and rumble through “Slow Talker”, and “Paradise” gently sends out a thank you on slowly unfolding sonics. The slap of tire wheels defines the rhythm as the band sets up in “Des Monies” as Salt as Wolves provides shimmies (“Blues for Jessie Mae”), salvation (“Jesus Will Fix It for You”), strange happenings (“Rico”), and shudders (“Take Your Time”).   

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69 Daniel Romano (from the album If I've Only One Time Askin' on New West Records 7-31-15) - If I’ve only Time for Askin’ sequeways song –to-song, never losing the links of notes that tie the tracks together. The tone is Vintage Country Modern, carefully created soundscapes that flow over the album, peeling back layers of the heart, Daniel admitting, ‘I’ve been known to take some liberties in the sadness department’. Washes of strings lay a path for “I'm Gonna Teach You” to open the album as Daniel Romano becomes the crooner, setting his role for If I’ve Only One Time Askin’.

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70 Joe Ely (from the album Panhandle Rambler  9-18-15) - Joe has been a west Texas songwriter for those nearly forty years of studio work. Panhandle Rambler carries dirt and grit yet there is a more personal tone to the tales, the tracks polished to a sheen rather than covering in a layer of soot. Joe Ely is coming back to the land that he has carried to around the world in song. The lives walking through the stories are not noted as passing glances, Joe Ely is pulling up a chair at a local diner, riding down a backroad that has nothing on the landscape but the trail of dust behind his truck, and sitting down with friends new and old to take a moment and talk.

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71 Whitey Morgan and the 78’s  (from the album Sonic Ranch  5-19-15) - Whitey Morgana and the 78’s are the saints of quick decisions in local watering holes and behind steering wheels looking for a party. Sonic Ranch lets the wind blow down alleys (“Low Down on the Backstreets”) and draws a line of alcohol on the bar, swearing ‘if I go down tonight, I’m going down drinking’ (“Ain't Gonna Take It Anymore”). Whitey Morgan and the 78’s have no apologies for their brand of rock rock’n’roll in “Goin’ Down Rocking”.

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72  Justin Townes Earle  (from the album Absent Fathers   1-13-15) - The characters that register on Absent Fathers talk about their humanity without defending their decisions, using the voices of all those affected by the results. The album is the 2015 companion to Justin Townes Earle Single Mothers release. Absent Fathers is a puzzle piece that fits into Single Mothers, a companion that fills out the story to create a bigger picture.

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73 The Mulligan Brothers   (from the album Via Portland  1-20-15) - Via Portland takes lessons from The Mulligan Brothers self-titled debut and continues to blend imagery in their stories the band easily offers sound as one fluid motion. Ross Newell curls his voice around the words that build his tales, as he gently lets go (“Run on Ahead”), basks in the glow of an evening sky as the Christmas lights sparkle at journeys end (“Road That Leads Me Home”) and sharpens his pen when talking about how the same blood can take different paths (“Not Always What It Seems”).

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74 Kevin Gordon  (from the album Long Gone Time 9-9-15) - Kevin Gordon forms a song rather than piecing it together with words and music. There are well-defined characters in the poetry that puts flesh and blood into the stories of Long Time Gone. The songs are portraits, landscapes of an America that replaces the Southern charm of a Sunday mint julip with the stale beer smell of a small town Sunday morning hangover (“Cajun with a K”). Guitar and voice exist as one on Long Time Gone. They are partners in the songs of Kevin Gordon, his playing linked as support, accent, leader and follower to a lyrical, storyteller vocal.

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75 The Dustbowl Revival  (from the album With A Lampshade On on Signature Sound 7-24-15)by Michael Verity - Aptly titled with the quaintly antiquated expression for “getting your party on,” this collection of fourteen live tunes from their extensive repertoire nicely documents what it’s like to spend a night with The Dustbowl band. Though they read from many chapters in the book of old time music -- bluegrass, R&B, New Orleans jazz -- they never sound peripatetic or in genuine. Is it time to party? Bring this record along for the ride. by Michael Verity

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The Alternate Root Top 100 Albums of the Year 2015 is ready for viewing. One hundred albums is a large list, though the amount of music and talent in the American Roots community certainly has enough sources to draw from to get to the one hundred mark, and we could have easily gone over.  Drawing from the available American Roots styles, we have gathered music from Folk, Blues, Soul, Americana, Alt Country, Bluegrass, Classic Country as well as any and all hybrids. So yeah, one hundred…no problem. Songs and artists from around the country and around the globe, the sound of Roots digs in and reaches out. It is infectious and universal in its moods and melodies. The year 2015 saw new artists and seasoned performers putting out full album listens. Our list for the year honors albums, full album listens from artists. Albums signify a record for musician’s time and art, and we are happy to offer the albums that got our attention, became friends, and are now part of the family in 2015.

76  Ryan Bingham   (from the album Fear and Saturday Night   1-20-15) - Ryan Bingham is a singer/songwriter….a Southwest singer/songwriter…and has a knack for walking a line in song that never points a finger back at the man behind the guitar. The story version of a wink and a smile have been as much of a character for Ryan’s tales, and many of those souls can be found walking the tracks of Fear and Saturday Night, his 2015 release. There is a more personal tone to some of the songs, maybe it is the Blues coloring that Ryan Bingham gives the album’s tunes, his first on his indie imprint, Axster Bingham Records.

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77 The Lone Bellow  (from the album Then Came the Morning   1-27-15) - There is majesty to the music of The Lone Bellow as it surrounds itself with anthemic swells in the sound: horn bursts, soaring strings, and a choir of harmony surrounding a Soul lead vocal that is breaking free of earthly ties. The group has a trio at its heart, Zach Williams, Brian Elmquist, and Kanene Pipkin, who use The Lone Bellow as a vehicle to fulfill the glory of their voices together. The Lone Bellow choose a solid bass bump as the heartbeat that feeds “Fake Roses”.

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78 Wilco (from the Album Star Wars on Anti- Records 7-17-15) - Star Wars, the latest Wilco album release, gives one home to the traditions and extremes that have always a part of the band’s music. Wilco have been held up as torch bearers of Alt Country and champions of Post Rock. Both ends of the sound spectrum can be heard on the band’s album output. Star Wars is a family picnic for the song styles that Wilco has created through eight studio album releases, and two Woody Guthrie tributes co-hosted with Billy Bragg.

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79  Dawes  (from the album All Your Favorite Bands 6-2-15) - Dawes bordered the hills of their California-based debut, North Hills, to Nashville to record at East Nashville’s Woodland Hills Studios for the current, fourth, album release, All Your Favorite Bands. The recording of All Your Favorite Bands keeps their vintage Laurel Canyon sound of west coast folk country that the band always heard in their music, giving it added expansion with Americana  echoes and southern sways. All Your Favorite Bands was produced by Dave Rawlings, who adds guitars, and brings in added power with the vocals of the mighty McCrary Sisters and Gillian Welch.

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80 Robert Earl Keen  (from the album Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions 2-10-15) - Robert Earl Keen gets to check another item off his musical “bucket list” and bluegrass fans get to hear 15 classics, reinterpreted in Keen’s own inimitable style. Taking his cue from Del McCoury, Keen offers an enthusiastic, energetic reading of the Richard Thompson ‘s classic “52 Vincent Black Lightning” then continues the ruckus with a rousing reading of Bill Monroe’s “Footprints In The Snow” (one of the first songs Keen remembers hearing when he turned-on to bluegrass as a kid). (Michael Verity)

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81  The Mavericks  (from the album Mono   2-17-15) - Mono was recorded with few overdubs, Raul Malo’s parts often coming from the tracking vocal recording with no need to go back and re-record.  “The Only Question” enters with confidence, each step taken on solid beats.  Mono gathers tunes under the musical banner that The Mavericks hold aloft, with Raul Malo’s vocal power carefully steering on tracks over light cha-cha rhythms dancing to the sounds of “Summertime (When I’m with You”), skimming over Country Blues with “What am I Supposed to Do”, putting a quarter into the jukebox for the rock’n’roll of “Stories We Could Tell”, and slowly trudge home on road miles for “Pardon”.

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82 Gurf Morlix (from the album Eatin’ at Me   2-3-15) - Gurf Morlix sets a story stage best when he is behind the songs, heading up his own album as producer and player, with Eatin’ At Me ,his 2015 release, being the perfect example. While his voice is the center point in the tunes, Gurf still maintains a distance in the narrator role throughout the stories, sending his characters in search of lost love, or at least a good internet connection (“Grab the Wheel”), walks with giant steps off the grid (“Elephant’s Graveyard”) and slowly switches on the light to find the path between past stumbles and future tripping (“Last Call”).

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83 Homesick Hank   (from the album Beautiful Life 11-6-15) - The songs of Homesick Hank unfold like morning flowers, opening to greet the world with sad melodies and lyric poetry. Homesick Hank find a peace in the quiet of a song, making that presence a goal for their tracks. Beautiful Life welcomes Mary Gauthier into the studio to join the band on the album track, “Believe”, where delicately layered instrumentation moves through the arrangement like summer clouds making their way across the sky with barely perceptible motion.

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84 The Supersuckers (from the album Holdin’ the Bag on Bloodshot Records 10-16-15) - Holdin’ the Bagis the sound track of Punk Country, from the Manhattan’s lower East Side to Nashville’s lower Broadway. The Supersuckers present themselves with decided intentions (“Man on a Mission”), ponder growing old (“All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down”), and let the campfire glow hit the harmonica, busking into a trail saga that sweeps desert winds into the title track. They share a microphone, as well as body fluids issues, with Lydia Loveless on the duet of “I Can’t Cry”. Holdin’ the Bag sways the front porch swings “High and Outside”, backs mountain wisdom with mountain music on “That's How It Gets Done”, and takes a seat beside the history of Billy Joe Shaver on his tune “Georgia on a Fast Train”.

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85 Shemekia Copeland (from the album Outskirts of Love on Alligator Records  9-11-15) - Shemekia Copeland uses the stage as a pulpit, demanding attention like a preacher standing in front of those already converted and ravenous for the message. Her methods shake foundations and rattle the righteous into action. Outskirts of Love testifies to the ability of Shemekia Copeland to reach right down inside to touch spirits needing a little more saving than platitudes and promises can offer. Her motives are not religious in the traditional sense as Shemekia soul shouts salvation, and wrings a hallelujah from the gospel fuel she pours into Country, Rhythm, and Blues. Outskirts of Love presents Shemekia Copeland wearing audio coats of many colors, guiding each tune with a sound force that rises up from deep inside, pushing limits and coloring outside of the lines as she buries the needle in the red zone.

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86 William Elliot Whitmore   (from the album Radium Death on Anti- Records  3-31-15) - There are the rare singers and songwriters like William Elliott Whitmore, a poet who has the maturity and self-assuredness to speak of his life and his world with credibility, gusto and veracity. ‘Civilizations,’ is a stomping Folk blues where William Elliot Whitmore becomes a universal citizen, voicing the words who cannot be heard.

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87 Darlingside (from the album Birds Say 9-18-15) - When Darlingside merge in harmony, it is the anthemic mix of voices that uses Folk music to champion causes, lead protests, and sing inspiration. Birds Say embraces the breadth of sounds available in Indie Folk with banjo strums intersecting on ethereal chords (“Good for You”), to deliver delicate folk tales on echoey strums and freckled notes (“Clay and Cast Iron”) as Darlingside saddle “White Horses” for a choral trail ride bound for Chicago.

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88  Murder by Death  (from the album Big Dark Love   2-3-15 on New West Records) - The conditions of the heart find themselves as a theme in Big Dark Love. Murder by Death tackle topics on the subject that skew outside of Hallmark greeting cards. The combination of strings and synths create colors of black and grey, deep swirling clouds that obscure light without ever dimming to the point of nothingness… thick gauze draped over the shining light of hope.

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89  Girls Guns Glory  (from the album A Tribute to Hank Williams    2-24-15) - It is only fitting that Girls, Guns and Glory chose a New Year’s Eve live setting to tribute Hank Williams. Ward Hayden, lead singer for GGG, recalls that ‘around when I turned 20 and the lyrics started making a whole lot of sense is when it hit me.  If you've never had your heart broken then country music can sound like a bunch of twangy gibberish’, Ward got Hank and with Girls Guns and Glory Presents: A Tribute to Hank Williams, he and the boys get it on with Hank.

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90 The McCrary Sisters   (from the album Let’s Go     3-10-15) - The McCrary Sisters do not lightly share the Let’s Go that they use as an album title and a challenge on their 2015 Buddy Miller-produced album release. The touch that Buddy put on Let’s Go is as subtle as the man himself, yet the results make him an official McSister.  There are moments on Let’s Go that reinvent the way you hear gospel music, and other times when the songs remind of days you missed.

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91 D.L. Marble (from the album Hard to Quit 9-18-15) - In a history that reads like a hard luck song, D.L. Marble was raised by a single mom while dad spent decades in a Texas prison. He picked up a guitar in high school and life suddenly took on meaning. Hard to Quit faces angels and demons with a background of Indie from multiple sources in Rock, Country, and Folk. “Here’s to You” raises an audio glass full of wishes and memories that will never be fulfilled while “Gringo” regrets every toast from the night before as much as its new tattoo. “Drag Me Back” puts its thumb out for a ride back home for a man and guitar while the title track grabs keys, passport and one last cigarette as D.L. tries once more to exit a messy love affair. Hard to Quit revisits “Sombrero Lullaby” from D.L. Marble’s Not the One debut album, giving the story of an overseas soldier more heft as he sinks into the glow of a jukebox and heads to Mexico on an audio memory.

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92 Cicada Rhythm  (from the album Cicada Rhythm on Normaltown Records 10-30-15) - Cicada Rhythm left limitations at home when the Athens, Georgia based duo recorded their self-titled album for Normaltown Records. The mix of acoustic guitar and strum of a bowed bass creates a dreamy background with Folk and Jazz melodies as it floats across the soundscape of “Static in My Dreams”, dodges the “Shadows Before You”, and carries a “Round Yellow Suitcase” on fragile piano and chord defined beats.

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93 Jackie Greene (from the album Back to Birth on Yep Roc Records on Yep Roc Records 8-21-15) - Rock’n’roll rings out in the Roots on Back to Birth. It is in the rattle rhythm that announces “The King is Dead” with anthemic chords putting a flag in the hand of a ‘struggle of existence’, spinning the wheels on “Motorhome” with slow turns as it heads down a swaying blacktop, and clears the clouds away on a determined groove in “Now I Can See for Miles”.   The album is produced by Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), and marks the Yep Roc Records debut for Jackie Greene on his seventh album release.

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94 Randall Bramblett (from the album Devil Music on New West Records  9-18-15) - Randall Bramblett creates Devil Music to channel influences and create melodic soundscapes that drift and dive (“Whiskey-Headed Woman”), and put sharp-angled guitar notes in line with all-consuming percussion and horn lines (“Bottom of the Ocean”). Musically, Devil Music pounds heavy-handed rock into “Strong Love” as the album surfs audio waves of the sticky spiderweb beats backing Derek Trucks’ falsetto in “Angel Child”, lets “Ride” fall like a gentle rain, and carefully picks its way through erratic snatches of sound that fly like the mind weighing ‘you’re a bad girl baby, but you look so fine’ in “Thing for You”.

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95 Nikki Hill (from the album Heavy Hearts, Hard Fists  10-16-15) - Heavy Heart, Hard Fists is never timid, unassuming, or quietly discrete about its love for old school rock’n’roll. The religious calling that took Little Richard from music in his prime circles back to earth as a spiritual infusion needed for the times in the vocals of Nikki Hill. While there is a lot of advice in the stories, Heavy Hearts, Hard Fists is not here to lay a loving hand on your shoulder. The love that Nikki Hill and her band offer is a tough one, with a prescription for their brand of high energy Rock’n’Soul show.

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96 Stacie Collins (from the album Roll the Dice  10-9-15) - Stacie Collins delivers album number five as she shakes, rattles, and roars on her Roll the Dice release. The album features tracks written with husband, bandmate Al Collins (Jason and the Scorchers). Musically, Roll the Dice crackles with electricity. You can feel the heat of the amplifiers hitting Stacie’s back as she grabs the microphone, reaching, and hitting, the back row with her voice and harmonica. Country teases the rock’n’roll hard drive with Stacie blowing harp, bringing a touch of hard-edged Chicago Blues in the styles of James Cotton and Little Walter, and singing with a honky tonk holler.

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96 Lindi Ortega (from the album Faded Gloryville  8-7-15) - Lindi Ortega is the benevolent higher power shining through the clouds on Faded Gloryville. The Canadian singer/songwriters tell tales as she sketches a ghost town landscape, the characters walking around in her songs still flesh, blood, very vulnerable, and never admitting defeat. Lindi Ortega holds a chameleon microphone for Faded Gloryville as she spits out a salty goodbye on “I Ain’t the Girl”, confesses on a heart storm stomp in “When You Ain’t Home”, raises the devil on “Run Amuck” with a rockabilly rhythm, and tenderly whispers her dreams on “Someday Soon”.  

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98 The Damn Quails (from the album Out of the Birdcage  9-4-15) - Out of the Birdcage opens on a one, two punch from its title track as an album opener followed in sequence with the pedal to the floor of “Tough Luck and Cryin' Shame”. Country Rock frames the story of the bands home state on “Oklahoma Blue”, striking the color against a monochrome frozen Detroit street. The Damn Quails offer more Oklahoma pride with one of the state’s heroes in “Woody Guthrie (from the dust)” and hear the echoes in the OK hills that join the harmonies in “Song of Home”.

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99 Have Gun, Will Travel   (from the album Science from an Easy Chair  07-31-15) - Have Gun, Will Travel give Alt Country plenty of breathing room on Science from an Easy Chair. Granting the music liberty to use a more expansive range to roam yet still dig deep with their Roots. The songs on Science from an Easy Chair offer a lot of salvation in verse and chorus, incorporating anthemic guitar leads and trippy soundscapes that roll across the album. The “Spirit of Discovery” takes jangles Alt Country that never stops its shake, “A Call to Arms” sings instrumentally like a seductive siren, and locks into glory on a desert riff that blows Have Gun, Will Travel with a rock’n’roll wind that barely takes a moment to breathe “True Believers”.

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100 The Surreal McCoys   (from the album The Howl and The Growl 9-11-15) - The Surreal McCoys are the guy sitting next to you at a last-call diner who turn and answer questions you never asked (“Blondesided”). They are the snakes crawling through “Turn and Run” on wicked riffs of rules, the pound and scratch beat balancing “God and the Devil”, and the reality show script that uses the local dive bar rock’n’roll scene as the marquee star of “Lust Vigilante”. The Surreal McCoys successfully put Hank Williams into the garage, and stick The Replacements on stage at a honky tonk. The Howl and The Growl goes one step further then their Johnny Clash blend of prison blues and no limit rock as The Surreal McCoys bring Johnny Cash (“Folsom Prison Blues”) onto the same stage as Led Zeppelin (“Whole Lotta Love”) with their mash-up of “Whole Lotta Folsom”.  

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Six months into 2015. Musically, the sound has been coming in with quantity and quality neck and neck in the submission process. We have curated our picks for the Top 50 album of the year….so far. As always, the toughest part of the task was the decision. This list could have easily been 75 artists, and a hundred would not have been a stretch. Images and music are on two pages, breaking the list into Numbers one through twenty-five for Part 1, with number 26 through 50 found in Part 2. Half of 2015 is in the rear view mirror but the soundtrack soundtrack is still playing out the car window as we roll down the highway.

01  The Punch Brothers   (from the album The Phosphorescent Blues   1-27-15 on Nonesuch Records) - That style that The Punch Brothers have nurtured is silhouetted against the soft glow of their recent T-Bone Burnett-produced release, The Phosphorescent Blues. The overall sound of the album brings is orchestrated Bluegrass. The magic of The Punch Brothers music is that they can appeal to diverse audiences from mainstream to deep Indie, Bluegrass purists and Americana torch-bearers. They are traditionalist innovators that encompass classical orchestral sweeps the blends with their mountain music on The Phosphorescent Blues.

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02  Steve Earle and the Dukes (from the album Terraplane  2-17-05 on New West Records) - Terraplane offers album space to a variety of Blues- based rambles as it shuffles on a front porch rhythm about a New York City woman in “Ain’t Nobody’s Daddy Now”, corrals a Chuck Berry groove for a raga romp in “Acquainted with the Wind” and uses a rock’n’roll blade made of riffs to carve out a return to fashion for “Go Go Boots are Back”. Steve Earle and the Dukes never line up for one style stamp though they manage to infuse every track with the roots grit falling from their collective boots. Soul pumps the harmonica and the rhythm of its Blues on album opener “Baby Baby Baby (Baby)”, stripping any shred of humility away as it heralds the birth of “King of the Blues”.      

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03  The Milk Carton Kids  (from the album Monterey  5-19-15 on Anti- Records) - The Milk Carton Kids maintain a huge amount of warmth and believability as they gently pick and pluck notes from the air, digging through pockets of Folk to find the quiet nestled just a stone’s throw from silence. The hushed delivery compliments the humor of The Milk Carton Kids banter as well as the microscope they use to script emotion in their songs. The Milk Carton Kids seal songs in amber waves of notes and sepia-toned stories under “Asheville Skies” as the trees spread color into the November fall, mournfully asking in a whisper to “Sing, Sparrow, Sing”, and sway with soft ocean breezes lapping against land as the road calls in the title track.

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04  Leon Bridges  (from the album Coming Home 6-23-15 on Columbia Records) - Leon Bridges uses Coming Home to masterfully move Soul back to mainstream, guiding Coming Home with one hand on the wheel and two feet planted firmly on a groove. Local (Austin, Texas) Indie Rock musicians backed Leon's voice. Two demos were released in 2014, with "Lisa Sawyer", receiving over 800,000 listens on SoundCloud. Leon Bridges signed to Columbia Records in 2014.

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05  Uncle Lucius  (from the album The Light  6-9-15) - Uncle Lucius have always had salvation in their songs, sitting comfortably as a sideman for the electric chords and beats. Uncle Lucius turn on The Light and watch its songs go into dark corners, shadowy hallways, and  travel one lane roads as they search, seek and provide answers for how to walk a little prouder. The hint is that you can feel a little better about yourself by taking control of your own life.

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06 Anne McCue  (from the album Blue Sky Thinkin’  2-3-15) - Blue Sky Thinkin’, Anne McCue’s 2015 album release, and the seventh in her catalog, is a satisfying sheaf of twelve new original tunes that speak to her love of music from the 20s, 30s and 40s while demonstrating her sizable skills as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. (Michael Verity)

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07  Ray Wylie Hubbard   (from the album The Ruffians Misfortune   4-7-15) - Ray Wylie wanted to have a Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood-type of two guitar backing, bringing in Gabe Rhodes and his son, Lucas Hubbard, for The Ruffian’s Misfortune. The twin guitars share space as they propel across a fast-train ride rhythm “Down by the River”, snake underneath “Chicksinger Badass Rockin’”, snap at the white lines trailing below “Bad on Fords”, and drift like six-string ghosts as they tumble with a fiery fiddle calling out “Jessie Mae”. The Ruffian’s Misfortune opens to righteous Blues preaching on “All Loose Things”, as it hums a Kevin Welch tune.

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08  John Moreland   (from the album High on Tulsa Heat   4-21-15) - John Moreland songs began to form when a ten years old John and his family moved from Kentucky to Tulsa, Oklahoma. He heard his songs against a punk rock back beat throughout high school, ut and pasted on his dad’s Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Young, Tom Petty and Steve Earle records.  John recalls that ‘I think what appealed to me about it was lyrics. In hardcore, there might be great lyrics in a song but you have to read them off a piece of paper to know it. I was 19 in 2004, and Steve Earle had put out ‘The Revolution Starts Now,’ and I remember hearing the song ‘Rich Man’s War’ and totally feeling like somebody just punched me in the chest.’

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09  Lilly Hiatt    (from the album Royal Blue    3-3-15 on New West Records) - Royal Bluemoves with a pulse pumping a heart aware that things work out in equal measure, sometimes going belly up. Lilly Hiatt doesn’t drown in the ocean she is swimming as she claims the skin of “Somebody’s Daughter”. She is taking the reins, unsure of the hows and whys yet very clear on the end results working out, knowing ‘I’m gonna be fine’.  Royal Blue keeps a Modern Beat with a 60’s sci-fi rumble as it reads a broken heart note signed “Too Bad”, “Heart Attack” runs on a David Lynch sound track with its dream-induced beat zig zagging on a ghostly groove, bounces off a rock’n’roll jangle trying to “Get This Right”, and uses tight drum beats to corral the wobbly guitars running “Off Track”.

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10  The Grahams  (from the album Glory Bound  5-18-15) - If you are looking for a song on Glory Bound to make you feel worse about your day…move along. The Grahams are never far away from waving the banner of the road though they change the mood of their songs like the scenery flying by outside a southbound boxcar. Glory Boundis a light burning bright for taking chances and listening to the voices in your head.

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11  Nikki Lane  (from the album All or Nothin’  5-6-15 on New West Records) - Nikki Lane caught the ear of her producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys  enough to get his studio for free. All or Nothin’ is a sweeping soundscape filled with varied styles and takes on Roots music presented from the perspective of kaleidoscope Country singer, Nikki Lane

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12   Della Mae  (from the album Della Mae  5-12-15 on Rounder Records) - Della Mae fires its opening salvo with a pro-union and pro-women’s rights song that demands ‘pass me a match and we’ll strike it on the ground, and we’ll head back down to Boston town’. The women of Della Mae stand tall and proud as they challenge workers to take control of their lives and hold on to their dignity.

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13  Shelby Lynne  (from the album I Can’t Imagine   5-4-15 on Concord Records) - Shelby Lynne songs sink into your senses with familiarity by the end of the track. “Son of a Gun” slows its pace to save its energy as it ‘walks through the noonday sun’, “Back Door Front Porch” swings with the decisions of its story, and “Better” drifts on clouds of amplifier rings, rising and falling with a delicate grace.    

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14  Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell  (from the album The Traveling Kind   5-12-15 on Nonesuch Records) - Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell are no strangers to being a part of one another’s story line. The add accent and emotion, Continuing that model on The Traveling Kind. There is a beauty to the intimate moments that feels like a new page for the Harris-Crowell songbook. Rodney joins Emmylou as they offer a toast to fellow troubadours in the title track before circling back to just two folks looking for a dance floor as they exit The Traveling Kind on a ‘le bon temps roulé’ with “Le Danse de la Joie”.

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15  JD McPherson  (from the album Let the Good Times Roll 2-10-15 on Rounder Records) - Reverbed chords rotate over Let the Good Times Roll like the blades of an oscillating fan. JD McPherson is not claiming purist or avant garde status….he is just playing it as it lays. Let the Good Times Roll sets the guitar sound in line with the upright bass and rattles with layered reverb in “Precious”, double times a rubbery chord strum to tumble “Head Over Heels” and blows breath beats out on a groove primed by a low riding saxophone pumps. Let the Good Times Roll lays Rhythm over its Blues for R&B circa 2015.

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16  Barnstar! (from the album Sit Down! Get Up! Get Out!! 2-3-15 on Signature Sounds) - The idea started in the brain of Zachariah Hickman, musical director for Ray Lamontagne and bass player for Josh Ritter. Snagging A-list New England musicians (Mark Erelli on guitar, Charlie Rose on banjo, Jake Armerding on fiddle and Taylor Armerding on mandolin), Zachariah found some songs, plugged in his bass and took his idea through concept and into fruition with Barnstar! A mix of band originals and covers merge seamlessly within Sit Down! Get Up! Get Out!

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17  Christian Lopez Band  (from the album Onward 5-18-15) - Nineteen year old singer and songwriter Christian Lopez scribes his debut, Onward, with a narratives wise beyond his years. Christian’s  bold emotional vocals steer the album confidently as they cruise through singer/songwriter Country.

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18 Amy Black (from the album The Muscle Shoals Sessions 6-9-15) - The Muscle Shoals Sessions changes the way Amy Black hears herself on record as well as her musical directions. Amy knows that ‘making this music has changed me as an artist. It’s altered my musical course and I’m so glad’. Amy Black showcases her new path on The Muscle Shoals Sessions as a good fit as she delivers a blend of Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, and Rock’n’Soul. She reheats Sam Cooke’s “Bring it on Home to Me” as a Soul stew with the McCrary Sisters helping stir.

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19 Asleep at the Wheel   (Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys  3-3-15 on Bismeaux Records) - Still the King gathers together artists that span the same four decades in the music world that covers the time of Asleep at the Wheel. Wheel hub Ray Benson passed over the original intent of the album, ‘the idea was to get people who were contemporary artists to play the Bob Wills music the way that we play it, which is close to the original. We don’t resurrect it, we play close to it, with our own inspiration’.  Still the King offers a whopping twenty-two tracks on the album, with the list mirroring the sets of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.

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20  Gretchen Peters (from the album Blackbirds  2-10-15) - Blackbirds gathers stories, backing the tales with honest Roots that tip their arrows into a Country touched Folk when a question is shared with Jimmy LaFave on “When You Coming Home” while Folk sticks to its pure singer/songwriter Roots to scribe the plight on “Pretty Things”. Gretchen Peters feathers Blackbirds with emotions that run strong for a desert homecoming as they realize that when ‘“All you Got is a Hammer” everything seems like a nail’ while she damns the realizations that extend beyond today and into forever acknowledging that ‘The Cure for the Pain” is the pain’. 

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21  The Hillbenders  (from the album Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry 6-2-15 on Compass Records) - The Hillbenders bring a new term to musical jargon with their take on ‘whograss’ as they revisit Tommy, A Rock Opera, the 1969 rock opus from The Who that spawned albums, Broadway shows, movies, and albums of covers. The Hillbenders’ Tommy is completely familiar yet different as the band strip Tommy of his ability to hide behind rock bombasts, crescendos and anthemic chords. Tommy, a Bluegrass Opry creates a powerful foundation with its string base, making the story part of the music much like, ya know, bluegrass songs.

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22   Eilen Jewell   (from the album Sundown Over Ghost Town  5-26-15 on Signature Sounds) - ‘Been around this world, just to come back to you," sings Eilen Jewell on "Worried Mind," the first song on the eighth long player of her career, Sundown over Ghost Town. It's an apt opening line for an album about returning home which, for Eilen, means a trip back to Boise, Idaho, the dusty cowboy town of her birth.

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23  Chuck Hawthorne  (from the album Silver Line  4-28-15) - Chuck Hawthorne has way of translating hours and minutes in a day, offering life in real time, showing troubles in a song. Silver Line is a goal, and a title, for the most recent Chuck Hawthorne release. Silver Line introduces characters that their creator inhabits in a way that makes it difficult to suss out which are the tales and how much of the history fits the steps of Chuck Hawthorne as a solider and a troubadour as the pain of the solider that traces back to his time at “Post 2 Gate” while “The Gospel Hammer” joins the corporate workforce as Chuck follows the trail of smoke from addiction climbing higher, fanned by wings with “Dragon Flies”.

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24  Sugarcane Jane   (from the album Dirt Road’s End   4-28-15) - Dirt Road’s End is a duo with friends as the songs catch a ride on a bass bump that navigates down “Heartbreak Road”,  adds guitar jangle sweetness to the already honey-dripping vocals wrapped in “Sugar”, and sees the beauty of the “San Andreas”, sharing the gossip that ‘if god had a home, she’d be living there’. Sugarcane Jane sonically mirror their environment. The songs are not autobiographical though their ties to home and family dig the tracks roots directly into the earth we share under our feet.

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25  Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers  (from the album Loved Wild Lost   4-21-15) - Loved Wild Lost claims territory in the 70’s Pop sound on “Waiting on Love”, moves into classic Country reverbed riff of “Only Always”, carves a strut in the rock of “Heart Gets Tough”, and swirls a lasso as they rope in “Queen of the Rodeo”. Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers are a road band, and every note on Loved Wild Lost benefits from the fan response from constant touring. The album is a group effort, and as guitar strings tangle, Nick Bluhm sings for the boys in the band as much for herself as the highway rolls “Me and Slim” into the next Holiday Inn.

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Six months into 2015. Musically, the sound has been coming in with quantity and quality neck and neck in the submission process. We have curated our picks for the Top 50 album of the year….so far. As always, the toughest part of the task was the decision. This list could have easily been 75 artists, and a hundred would not have been a stretch. Images and music are on two pages, breaking the list into Numbers one through twenty-five for Part 1, with number twenty-six through 50 found in Part 2. Half of 2015 is in the rear view mirror but the soundtrack is still playing out the car windows as we roll down the highway.

26 Allison Moorer  (from the album Down to Believing  3-17-15) - Allison Moorer released her ninth album, Down to Believing, in 2015. For the story line, Allison looks to her own life. As the rhythm rattles for “Mama, Let the Wolf In” she stages the reaction experience when she received her son’s autism diagnosis.

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27  Indigo Girls  (from the album One Lost Day  6-2-15) - The production on the Indigo Girls 2015 release, One Lost Day, watched a new hand behind the mixing board with Indigo Girls developing a working relationship with a younger, female perspective when the welcomed multi-instrumentalist Jordan Brooke Hamlin as producer. Darkness gives the album a subtle tone that lets the power of two voices have center stage. Great big balls of rhythm tumble from “Learned It on Me” as the story line suggests that the perfect relationships are the ones that have matching baggage, and “Fishtails” shows red lights trumpeting a warning in the wake of a life where we ‘hug the corners, take the straights, from the cradle to the grave….we all give what we got’.

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28  Otis Taylor  (from the album Hey Joe Red Meat Opus 4-30-15) - Otis Taylor talks about the background muse for his writing of Hey Joe Opus Red Meat, explaining that filter was‘about decisions and their consequences. It’s about how decisions and the actions that result can change our lives, the lives of our families and the lives of people we don’t even know. Sometimes you win in life; sometimes you lose. You want the outcome of your decisions to be good, but sometimes its bad. And that’s when you don’t eat the meat. The meat eats you.’

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29  Dwight Yoakam  (from the album Second Hand Heart 4-14-15) - Rushed guitar strums, proud beats and pops of twang surround Dwight Yoakam as he steps into Second Hand Heart over one ongoing, percolating riff with “In Another World”. Dwight Yoakam writes and records with a honky tonk heart that is always on display. It is impossible to separate the man from the sound he owns. “Man of Constant Sorrow” uses the rhythm and Dwight’s own roots to come together as a bio.

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30  The Westies  (from the album West Side Stories   1-20-15) - West Side Stories circles Roots music with a rock’n’roll band behind the wheel as they follow rhythms through the neighborhoods and lives in NYC.  “Hell’s Kitchen” opens West Side Stories on an New York City street as characters change names and share dreams in the ghosts of the past as they work on decisions….’”Hell’s Kitchen” or heaven’s door’.   

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31  The Lonesome Trio  (from the album The Lonesome Trio  6-16-15) - A knack for song structure separates the Bluegrass of The Lonesome Trio from tradition while the mutual love of craft intuitively adhers an old timey touch and texture to the tunes. The band, Ed Helms (banjo), Ian Riggs (bass), and Jacob Tilove (mandolin), was born twenty-two years ago, with the Trio sticking together through various NYC careers of comedy, architectural history, and continued studies on jazz bass. The Lonesome Trio has benefitted from years of playing together, the songs gaining crucial inner-structure as personal lives allow the musicians to apply humor, tradition, and added musical tones and textures to their self-titled debut.

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32 Beth Hart  (from the album Better Than Home  4-15-15) - Beth Hart found a way to use her music as catharsis for her past with Better Than Home, her most recent release, and in the process has created inspiration in her stories through the salvation beacon in her voice. Beth grabs the collar of “Tell ‘Em to Hold On” with piano notes and typewriter keys as a foundation to build on the power of its arrangement to make sense of our search for saviors

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33  Leo Bud Welch  (from the album I Don’t Prefer No Blues  3-23-15) - Leo Bud Welch established himself as a player with Sabougla Voices, his debut, the album divining Blues riffs that wiggled and sizzled under the tones of Gospel Blues.  I Don’t Prefer No Blues offers up some of its space to the same devotional songs found on his first album with “Pray On”, though the presentation of the track differs due to the way the Blues hits its tracks. Leo Bud Welch offers another side to his Blues on I Don’t Prefer No Blues.

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34  Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard  (from the album Django and Jimmie  6-2-15) - Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard are voices that speak softly but carry a big stick of smart when they discuss the life around us. A gentle twang stirs a breeze for the rhythm in “Live This Long” as the beat catches fire for the poor boy preachin’ of “It’s Only Money”. Django and Jimmie is not handed down as testament on how to live, it is presented as valued opinions on the familiar (“Unfair Weathered Friends”), the wishes (“Somewhere Between”), and the troubadours (“Driving the Herd”).

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35  Whitey Morgan and the 78’s  (from the album Sonic Ranch  5-19-15) - Whitey Morgana and the 78’s are the saints of quick decisions in local watering holes and behind steering wheels looking for a party. Sonic Ranch lets the wind blow down alleys (“Low Down on the Backstreets”) and draws a line of alcohol on the bar, swearing ‘if I go down tonight, I’m going down drinking’ (“Ain't Gonna Take It Anymore”). Whitey Morgan and the 78’s have no apologies for their brand of rock rock’n’roll in “Goin’ Down Rocking”.

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36  The Mulligan Brothers   (from the album Via Portland  1-20-15) - Via Portland takes lessons from The Mulligan Brothers self-titled debut and continues to blend imagery in their stories the band easily offers sound as one fluid motion. Ross Newell curls his voice around the words that build his tales, as he gently lets go (“Run on Ahead”), basks in the glow of an evening sky as the Christmas lights sparkle at journeys end (“Road That Leads Me Home”) and sharpens his pen when talking about how the same blood can take different paths (“Not Always What It Seems”).

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37  Rhiannon Giddens  (from the album Tomorrow is My Turn  2-10-15) - Rhiannon Giddens offers cover versions on Tomorrow is My Turn, her 2015 solo release. Rhiannon bends the Blues around the notes Patsy Cline offered in “She’s Got You”, and shares that “Black is the Color” over a skittery garage beat that trip hops on a natural high as the percussion plows along.

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38  Justin Townes Earle  (from the album Absent Fathers   1-13-15) - The characters that register on Absent Fathers talk about their humanity without defending their decisions, using the voices of all those affected by the results. The album is the 2015 companion to Justin Townes Earle Single Mothers release. Absent Fathers is a puzzle piece that fits into Single Mothers, a companion that fills out the story to create a bigger picture.

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39  Ryan Bingham   (from the album Fear and Saturday Night   1-20-15) - Ryan Bingham is a singer/songwriter….a Southwest singer/songwriter…and has a knack for walking a line in song that never points a finger back at the man behind the guitar. The story version of a wink and a smile have been as much of a character for Ryan’s tales, and many of those souls can be found walking the tracks of Fear and Saturday Night, his 2015 release. There is a more personal tone to some of the songs, maybe it is the Blues coloring that Ryan Bingham gives the album’s tunes, his first on his indie imprint, Axster Bingham Records.

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40  The Lone Bellow  (from the album Then Came the Morning   1-27-15) - There is majesty to the music of The Lone Bellow as it surrounds itself with anthemic swells in the sound: horn bursts, soaring strings, and a choir of harmony surrounding a Soul lead vocal that is breaking free of earthly ties. The group has a trio at its heart, Zach Williams, Brian Elmquist, and Kanene Pipkin, who use The Lone Bellow as a vehicle to fulfill the glory of their voices together. The Lone Bellow choose a solid bass bump as the heartbeat that feeds “Fake Roses”.

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41  Dawes  (from the album All Your Favorite Bands 6-2-15) - Dawes recordeded their California-based debut, North Hills, heading over to Nashville,landing at East Nashville’s Woodland Hills Studios for the current, fourth, album release, All Your Favorite Bands. The recording of All Your Favorite Bands keeps their vintage Laurel Canyon sound of west coast folk country that the band always heard in their music, giving it added expansion with Americana  echoes and southern sways. All Your Favorite Bands was produced by Dave Rawlings, who adds guitars, and brings in added power with the vocals of the mighty McCrary Sisters and Gillian Welch.

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42  Robert Earl Keen  (from the album Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions 2-10-15) - Robert Earl Keen gets to check another item off his musical “bucket list” and bluegrass fans get to hear 15 classics, reinterpreted in Keen’s own inimitable style. Taking his cue from Del McCoury, Keen offers an enthusiastic, energetic reading of the Richard Thompson ‘s classic “52 Vincent Black Lightning” then continues the ruckus with a rousing reading of Bill Monroe’s “Footprints In The Snow” (one of the first songs Keen remembers hearing when he turned-on to bluegrass as a kid). (Michael Verity)

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43  The Mavericks  (from the album Mono   2-17-15) - Mono was recorded with few overdubs, Raul Malo’s parts often coming from the tracking vocal recording with no need to go back and re-record.  “The Only Question” enters with confidence, each step taken on solid beats.  Mono gathers tunes under the musical banner that The Mavericks hold aloft, with Raul Malo’s vocal power carefully steering on tracks over light cha-cha rhythms dancing to the sounds of “Summertime (When I’m with You”), skimming over Country Blues with “What am I Supposed to Do”, putting a quarter into the jukebox for the rock’n’roll of “Stories We Could Tell”, and slowly trudge home on hard road miles for “Pardon”.

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44 Gurf Morlix (from the album Eatin’ at Me   2-3-15) - Gurf Morlix sets a story stage best when he is behind the songs, heading up his own album as producer and player, with Eatin’ At Me ,his 2015 release, being the perfect example. While his voice is the center point in the tunes, Gurf still maintains a distance in the narrator role throughout the stories, sending his characters in search of lost love, or at least a good internet connection (“Grab the Wheel”), walks with giant steps off the grid (“Elephant’s Graveyard”) and slowly switches on the light to find the path between past stumbles and future tripping (“Last Call”).

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45  William Elliot Whitmore   (from the album Radium Death   3-31-15) - There are the rare singers and songwriters like William Elliott Whitmore, a poet who has the maturity and self-assuredness to speak of his life and his world with credibility, gusto and veracity. ‘Civilizations,’ is a stomping Folk blues where William Elliot Whitmore becomes a universal citizen, voicing the words who cannot be heard.

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46  Murder by Death  (from the album Big Dark Love   2-3-15) - The conditions of the heart find themselves as a theme in Big Dark Love. Murder by Death tackle topics on the subject that skew outside of Hallmark greeting cards. The combination of strings and synths create colors of black and grey, deep swirling clouds that obscure light without ever dimming to the point of nothingness… thick gauze draped over the shining light of hope.

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47  Girls Guns Glory  (from the album A Tribute to Hank Williams    2-24-15) - It is only fitting that Girls, Guns and Glory chose a New Year’s Eve live setting to tribute Hank Williams. Ward Hayden, lead singer for GGG, recalls that ‘around when I turned 20 and the lyrics started making a whole lot of sense is when it hit me.  If you've never had your heart broken then country music can sound like a bunch of twangy gibberish’, Ward got Hank and with Girls Guns and Glory Presents: A Tribute to Hank Williams, he and the boys get it on with Hank.

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48  The McCrary Sisters   (from the album Let’s Go     3-10-15) - The McCrary Sisters do not lightly share the Let’s Go that they use as an album title and a challenge on their 2015 Buddy Miller-produced album release. The touch that Buddy put on Let’s Go is as subtle as the man himself, yet the results make him an official McSister.  There are moments on Let’s Go that reinvent the way you hear gospel music, and other times when the songs remind of days you missed.

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49  Bettye Lavette   (from the album Worthy  1-27-15) - Bettye Lavette reunites with producer Joe Henry after his work on her 20004 album release, I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise. The title track on Worthy re-visits a tune from Mary Gauthier andBeth Neilsen-Chapman, spreading Soul out on the track over echoed piano chords, finely tuned guitar chops and heartbeat pound of drums that make sure the song, and the message, make the light of one more day.

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50  Sonny Landreth   (from the album Bound by the Blues  6-9-15) - Guitar superstar Sonny Landreth slides back to his roots with this ten-spot of dirty blues, an equally apportioned mix of his own originals matched with some catalog classics. Sonny Landreth channels two of the greats -- Johnny Winter and Jimi Hendrix -- through the slow grind of ‘Firebird Blues’ (not so coincidentally dedicated to Winter) and the funky shuffle of Elmore’s ‘Dust My Broom.’ (Michael Verity)

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The Top 100 takes a full year to become a proper list. The number one spot changed hands several times in the past twelve months. Our mid-year list took a listen to albums released between January and June. The list seemed like it was running strong yet the releases in the tail end of the year came on strong. For me, Old Crow Medicine Show was number one when I received their July release, Remedy. Nothing against the other players on the 2014 chart, but band for band, Old Crow will always be in the top spot for their musicianship. Shovels and Rope moved into number one when they released Swimmin’ Time, and stayed there until just about the last minute. Sonically, S’n’R certainly delivered the year’s top album for blending the far edges of sound into songs that easily slip into familiarity. At the last moment, Lucinda Williams grabbed #1. Lucinda delivered an album well into a top shelf career that raised the bar for her own back catalog. Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone is an album that shows dedication by its maker to not be satisfied until the final mixes match her version of rock’n’roll….and then she doubled down with a two disc set.  

Songwriting, stretching limits and honoring tradition in American Roots music was the theme for 2015. Many of the artists on the chart such as Mary Gauthier, Paul Thorn, Rodney Crowell, Janiva Magness and Justin Townes Earle take a seat on the list with each release. The artists take a stand for their own sound as well as firmly planting feet into what they view as their own brand. St. Paul and the Broken Bones gave us a new look at old school Soul, Israel Nash snagged sound textures from early Neil Young solo releases and gave them a wider screen to play on, Steelism were instrumental in displaying music that went for emotions and Chris Smither gave his own songs new sonic life. Nell Robinson collected family correspondence from generations of war, including letters home within her own family, and laid them out in a full album form.

The American Roots community continues to grow in direct relationship to the quality and diversity that its artists are handing over new music for a format where the only requirements are authenticity and  honesty behind the words and music. On the strength of the 2014 releases, life goes on and walks prouder for Classic Country (The Hello Strangers, Moot Davis), Blues Rock (Bob Seger), Funky Soul (Mingo Fishtrap). Rock’n’Soul (The Reigning Sound) and Indie Roots (The Felice Brothers). Pretty much by the magic of music, Hard Working Americans became a band we have known our whole lives. The big names on the chart are here because of the music they released, not because of their name. John Mellencamp, Keb' Mo', Lee Ann Womack and Robert Cray put out albums that threw a curve for what you might expect, which is really what each album release should reflect.

In 2014, artists showed hometown pride while making music that had worldwide appeal; expanding on the community without ever giving up the ghosts sitting in the back row. The Earls of Leicester re-visited the songs of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, The Far West and Calico the band planted flags for California Country while Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin bonded over the music of Big Bill Bronzy. Though not first releases, Parker Milsap, Sturgill Simpson and Shakey Graves put out album that raised their presence. The Evangenitals re-worked the tale of Moby Dick and JP Harris and the Tough Choices took back Country music. Music Road Records gathered together artists such as Shawn Colvin, Paul Thorn, Bonnie Raitt, Ben Harper and Keb’ Mo’ to tribute the songs of Jackson Browne.

The American Roots releases of 2014 listed here could easily be listed as the first one hundred for an pretty amazing year for music. Coming up in 2015, new music is already beginning to appear with defining albums from Jorma Kaukonen and Anne McCue. I really like my job, and I hope you like the numerical list for 2014. This list the artists and albums in numerical order, with links to the Top 100 broken into four parts with images, music and  words for artists.        - Danny McCloskey

1 - Lucinda Williams – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone 

2 -John Fullbright – Songs

3 - Shovels and Rope – Swimmin’ Time 

4 - Girls, Guns & Glory – from the album Good Luck

5 - Robert Ellis – The Lights from the Chemical Plant  

6 - Hard Working Americans  -  Hard Working Americans

7 -Hurray for the Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes

8- Mary Gauthier – Trouble and Love   

9 - Mike Farris – Shine on All the People

10 - Joe Louis Walker – Hornet’s Nest  

11 - Paul Thorn – Too Blessed to Be Stressed 

12 - Justin Townes Earle – Single Mothers  

13 - Old Crow Medicine Show – Remedy 

14 -The Howlin’ Brothers – Trouble

15- Seth Walker – Sky Still Blue

16 – The Earls of Leicester- The Earls of Leicester

17 - JP Harris and the Tough Choices – Home is Where the Hurt Is

18 – Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin – Common Ground: Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin Play and Sing the                                              Songs of Big Bill Bronzy

19 – Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds of Country

20 - Rodney Crowell    - Tarpaper Sky 

21 - Parker Milsap  - Parker Milsap

22 - Janiva Magness – Original

23 – Calico the band – Rancho California

24 -Rosanne Cash   - The River and The Thread

25 -Candi Staton – Life Happens

click for images, music and words on artists # 1 thru #25 of 2014

26 – Steelism – 615 to Fame

27- St. Paul and the Broken Bones – Half the City

28 – John Mellencamp – Plain Spoken

29 – Chuck Mead - Free State Serenade

30 – Israel Nash – Israel Nash’s Rain Plans

31 – Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes 

32 – Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen – Cold Spell

33 -Brent Johnson – Set the World on Fire

34 -Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition - Dark Night of the Soul

35 -Keb’ Mo’ – Bluesamericana

36 -Leftover Salmon – High Country

37 - Carlene Carter – Carter Girl

38- Will Kimbrough – Sideshow Love

39 - Queen Esther – The Other Side

40 -Lake Street Dive – Bad Self Portraits

41 – John Hiatt – The Terms of My Surrender

42 – Dom Flemons – The American Songster Dom Flemons, Prospect Hill

43 – Nell Robinson – The Rose of No-Man’s Land

44 – The Hello Strangers - The Hello Strangers

45- The Holmes Brothers – Brotherhood 

46- Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons   - Hey Kid

47 – Eric Brace & Karl Straub – Hangtown Dancehall

48 – Adam Carroll – Let It Choose You

49 – Bob Seger – Ride Out

50 - Eden Brent – Jigsaw Heart

click for images, music and words on artists # 26 thru #50 of 2014

51 – Doug Seegers – Going Down to the River

52 – The Psycho Sisters – Up on the Chair, Beatrice

53 - The Mastersons -  Good Luck Charm

54 – The Far West – Any Day Now

55 – John Nemeth – Memphis Grease

56 - Amelia White – Old Postcard

57  - Eliza Gilkyson – The Nocturne Diaries

58 - Bobby Rush with Blinddog Smokin’ - Decisions

59 - Lydia Loveless – Somewhere Else

60 – Chris Smither – Still on the Levee

61 – Ruthie Foster – Promise of a Brand New Day

62 – Royal Southern Brotherhood – heartsoulblood 

63 – David Olney – When the Deal Goes Down

64 – Lee Ann Womack – The Way I’m Livin’ 

65 – Ronnie Fauss – Built to Break 

66 – Ellis Paul – Chasing Beauty

67 – The Reigning Sound – Shattered

68 - Jarekus Singleton – Refuse to Lose

69 - Zoe Muth – World of Strangers

70 -Blackie & the Rodeo Kings   South

71 -Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt – For Keeps

72– Billy Joe Shaver – Long in the Tooth 

73 - The New Basement Tapes – Lost on the River

74 –Malcolm Holcombe – Pitiful Blues

75 -Robert Cray – In My Soul

click for images, music and words on artists # 51 thru #75 of 2014

76 – The Apache Relay – The Apache Relay

77 - Shakey Graves – And the War Came

78 – Trampled by Turtles – Wild Animals

79 -Moot Davis – Goin’ in Hot

80 - Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne

81 - Susan Cattaneo  - Haunted Heart

82 - Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans

83- Jamestown Revival – Utah

84 –The Evangenitals – Moby Dick

85 - Amy Black – This Is Home

86 -Mingo Fishtrap – On Time 

87 – Corb Lund – Counterfeit Blues

88 – Cory Branan – The No-Hit Wonder

89 – The Felice Brothers - Favorite Waitress

90 -Matt Andersen  - Weightless

91 - Peter Mulvey – Silver Ladder

92 – Sarah Borges – Radio Sweetheart

93 –  Patrolled by Radar – Cool Your Jets

94 – Nathan Bell – Blood Like a River

95 – Whiskey Shivers – Whiskey Shivers

96 - Devon Allman – Ragged and Dirty 

97 – Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis –  Our Year

98 – Joe Fletcher – Songs for the Working Man

99 – Pieta Brown – Paradise Outlaw

100 - Chip Taylor – The Little Prayers Trilogy

click for images, music and words on artists # 76 thru #100 of 2014

the alternate root top female blues artistsMa Rainey, Bessie Smith, Victoria Spivey, Helen Humes, Sippie Wallace, are names equally as famous in blues music history as Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Muddy Waters or Howlin' Wolf. Women were among the original innovators and performers of the blues. Women blues singers were among the first to be recorded. They hold as important a place in the history of traditional American blues as any men, and today, they are leading the way forward, creating a revival of blues music.

As we say goodbye to March and "Women's History Month," we're closing it out with a list of 30 women who are tearing it up on the blues circuit today and making some of the most electrifying and creative blues music out there. Some have been doing it for decades and some are newcomers that have gathered the souvenirs left on the path by the past and current masters. All of these women can sing with broad ranges of emotion and power. Some of these women are extraordinary guitar players as well, and all of them are consummate performers.

We've included a sampler for this list with the hope that many of you will discover new sounds and reconnect with some old ones you may have forgotten, and go out there and support independent music. It's not a history lesson of the genre. It's the opinion of our staff with help from some musicians we respect and some friends in radio and print media. It's more about today than yesterday. So here it is...The Alternate Root's 30 Women Burning Up the Blues! Enjoy!


rory block in the alternate rootRory Block - Many have been crowned "Queen of the Blues" including our number two on this list, but Rory Block is the true "Matriarch" of the family. Rory Block is the most authentic purveyor of the traditions that are the foundation of American Blues music, and she's a master of most of its forms. She ran away from home at age 15 and landed at the footsteps of the giants, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Bukka White, Skip James, Reverend Gary Davis and Mississippi John Hurt whom she now pays tribute to with a series of albums dedicated to her mentors. A monster guitar player, Rory is in a class by herself as a living legend of the blues.

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shemekia copeland in the alternate rootShemekia Copeland - The daughter of guitar slinger and blues singer Johnny Copeland, Shemekia has the purest "blues" voice on the list, getting her start in her teens as the opening act for her then ailing father. She scored a choice gig for a debut album with Alligator Records in 1998 and has released a continuous flow of award winning and critically acclaimed albums since. Dubbed "Queen of the Blues" to succeed the late KoKo Taylor by Taylor's daughter Cookie, Shemekia's voice is guttural and powerful like the blues belters Koko Taylor, Etta James and Bessie Smith, but she can also reach down range for emotion in the vein of her idol Ruth Brown.  33 1/3 is her most recent release.

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deborah coleman in the alternate rootDeborah Coleman - The female incarnation of Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, Deborah Coleman is one of the most sought-after and highly respected blues performers in the world. Though not as commercially successful or instantly recognizable as Bonnie Raitt, Coleman is the premier female blues guitarist/singer combination. She can tackle Chicago, delta and Texas blues with fluidity and skill both vocally and instrumentally. An incendiary performer, she's a staple at major festivals around the globe.

Listen and buy the music of Deborah Coleman from AMAZON or iTunes

susan tedeschi in the alternate rootSusan Tedeschi - Susan Tedeschi started out in Boston playing the local blues circuit at age 13. After attending Berklee School of Music, she formed her first blues band and released her debut album, 'Just Won't Burn,' in 1998. Vocally she drifts between Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt with boosts of raw power and graceful, smooth soul. After a successful solo career, she teamed up with husband Derek Trucks to form Tedeschi Trucks, one of the top bands in the country. Though an amalgam of Southern Rock and Blues make up the Tedeschi Trucks sound, Susan Tedeschi can still 'bring it' at any given moment.

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tracy nelson in the alternate rootTracy Nelson - Tracy Nelson is still belting it out 49 years after her first release with the same soulful fury. She's shared the stage with Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead and broken bread with Willie Nelson, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Irma Thomas. Through all of that and six albums with her band Mother Earth, Tracy Nelson has never received the full recognition she deserves as one of the great female contributors to the post-war era blues. Her collaboration with Angela Strehli, Dorothy Morrison and Annie Sampson called "Blues Broads" has received global critical acclaim. Victim of the Blues was the last Tracy Nelson studio album.

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bonnie raitt in the alternate rootBonnie Raitt - She's probably the most recognizable female blues artist in the world and well known as a guitar slinger to boot. Bonnie Raitt has been electrifying audiences and influencing young musicians for four decades, and she has the awards and accolades from numerous sources to prove it. Though her career skyrocketed early and ebbed for a period, she came back with a vengeance in 1989 and has been on a solid trajectory ever since. She's been recognized by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 100 greatest singers and 100 greatest guitar players of all time -- the only woman to have that prestigous recognition.

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lou ann barton in the alternate rootLou Ann Barton - Lou Ann Barton was a founding member of Double Trouble along with Stevie Ray Vaughan and revitalized the Texas blues sound in the 1970's along with bands like The Fabulous Thunderbirds and the W.C. Clark Review. Not unlike many blues artists of her caliber, her solo work has always been well received critically while gaining only modest success commercially. Today, she tours as part of Jimmie Vaughan's band Tilt-A-Whirl and she's widely recognized as one of the best live blues singers.

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angela strehli in the alternate rootAngela Strehli - A historian of Texas blues, Angela Strehli is credited with being one of the keystones in the Austin blues scene of the 1980's along with Clifford Antone, the Vaughan Brothers and The Fabulous Thunderbirds founder, Kim Wilson. She's had only a modest recording career in spite of being mentioned in most conversations that include influential blues performers or contributors. Vocally, she glides from the range of Bette Midler to the soul of Tracy Nelson to the grace of Marcia Ball, often in the same song.

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ana popovic in the alternate rootAna Popovic - The heir apparent to Bonnie Raitt or Deborah Coleman as the top female blues guitarist/singer combo, Ana Popovic exploded out of the active European blues scene in the late 1990's and has been collecting awards globally ever since. Born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, Popovic learned the blues through and extensive collection of American blues recordings that her father owned and shared with her. She studied jazz guitar in the Netherlands and applied the elements to her style and tone, winning her instant recognition on the European circuit as one of the best new guitarists. She possesses a deadly combination of smooth, supple vocal delivery and extensive knowledge of traditional blues styles.

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marcia ball in the alternate rootMarcia Ball - Piano master Marcia Ball is one of the grand women of late century blues, enjoying her greatest moments of success in the 1980's and 90's although she continues to perform and record at the top of her game today. She was born in Texas but grew up in Louisiana and gets her greatest influences from the indigenous music of the Gulf Coast; zydeco, cajun, swamp blues and the boogie-woogie sounds that vibrate from Bourbon Street. Her silky smooth vocals are a delight with hints of Roberta Flack and Maria Muldaur.

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sue foley in the alternate rootSue Foley - Another of the major female talents to rise out of the vibrant Austin blues scene, Canadian-born Sue Foley may be best known for her recent work with soul mate Peter Karp, but she has a substantial solo career to look back on as well. She was one of the more successful blues singers on the first Antone's label recordings in the early 1990's. Sue Foley has received high praise as a terrific guitar player with a soulful, passionate voice.

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carolyn wonderland in the alternate rootCarolyn Wonderland - There are guitar "goddesses" and Carolyn Wonderland is one of them. She's also one the most soulful singers on the modern blues circuit, although her music is far from straight on blues. She can go rogue at any moment and often does, drifting into Cajun, country, rock and soul with uncanny ease. A multi-instrumentalist, Carolyn Wonderland is accomplished on accordion, trumpet and keyboards, in addition to her renowned guitar skills. She has credit on some 20 plus recordings, including six critically acclaimed solo albums.

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eden brent in the alternate rootEden Brent - Critics have placed her somewhere between Bessie Smith, Diana Krall and Janis Joplin which is a good place to be if you're Eden Brent. The virtuoso piano player studied under Mississippi delta blues pioneer "Boogaloo" Ames for over 15 years and is single handedly keeping the authentic boogie style blues of the delta alive. Ames would later dub her "Little Boogaloo." As a performer, she wanders through fields of jazz, blues, rock and soul, sometimes as a cool delta breeze and other times like a Tornado Alley twister. Brent's music is infectious and in terms of authenticity, nearly flawless.

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sarah mac in the alternate rootSarah Mac – Sarah Mac’s music is a combination of blues, jazz, and acoustic rock that has been classified as both Americana and Alternative. Sarah, and her backup, the Sarah Mac Band, describe the sound as ‘jazzy, bluesy, rock with a healthy dose of soul’. Sarah’s voice has a nice low end to it. Just when you think she has hit the bottom, she goes a little deeper. Sarah Mac Band’s most recent album release is Static & Signals.

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erin harpe in the alternate rootErin Harpe - Erin Harpe has been hailed as “an authentic blues chanteuse”, earning a reputation for her raw style and her abandonment to the song. Erin grew up around the Washington, D.C. area . She began playing the guitar in her teens, taught by her father, bluesman Neil Harpe. She began performing at folk festivals, coffee houses, bars, and parties where she developed her own style. Relocating to Boston to develop her music career, she met local blues talents such as Paul Rishell and Susan Tedeschi.  She was the 2013 winner of the Boston Music Award for Best Blues band with her mates The Delta Swingers. Erin has released two acoustic blues albums, her debut Blues Roots (2002) and 2008's Delta Blues Duets.

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ruthie foster in the alternate rootRuthie Foster – Ruthie Foster came from humble church choir beginnings in rural Texas, followed by a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy Band, and ended up in New York City with a major-label development deal that soon went sour. She moved back to Texas and resumed her music career in Austin, winning Best Folk Artist in 2004-05 and Best Female Vocalist in 2007-08. She broadened her sound by blending blues and soul aspects into her folk roots. Her most recent release, Let It Burn, features The Funky Meters rhythm section, Ike Stubblefield, William Bell and the Blind Boys of Alabama.

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beth hart in the alternate rootBeth Hart – Beth Hart has been recording since her 1996 Atlantic/Lava Records debut, Immortal. Over the past few years, her career has been in a state of change. A chance meeting with blues great Joe Bonamassa led to an introduction to producer Kevin Shirley.  He would later come on board to produce Beth’s release, Bang, Bang Boom, Boom. Beth was recently asked by Jeff Beck to sing at the 2013 Kennedy Center Honors as a tribute to bluesman Buddy Guy.  Hart admits she might actually be happy. “Often on old records, I wrote about pain and fear. I didn’t write so much about love. I always felt like I didn’t understand it or wasn’t worthy. This is the first album where I have, and it’s such a beautiful feeling. I feel like I’ve gotten to fit into a new pair of shoes, y’know, and I can walk a different walk. Every album is special to me. But with this one, there’s a real specialness about it, because I’m at a different age and in a new head-space.”

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christine santelli in the alternate rootChristine Santelli – The New York City music scene and Christine Santelli have been together for more than two decades. Her most recent release, Dragonfly, came as a result of a personal challenge Christine set out to fulfill. Christine wrote and video taped 100 original songs in 100 consecutive days and shared them on Facebook and You Tube. She chose fifteen of these originals and recorded them for this first solo acoustic album.

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natalia zuckerman in the alternaterootNatalia Zukerman - Natalia Zukerman grew up in New York City, studied art at Oberlin, worked in mural arts in San Francisco, began her songwriting career in Boston, and now resides, writes, plays and paints in Brooklyn, NY. She is the daughter of Classical musicians Eugenia and Pinchas Zukerman, but it was not her mama’s strings that Natalia wanted to get her hands on. Natalia found her muse was leading her in the direction of slide guitar, lap steel, and dobro. The earthiness and honesty of Folk, Bluegrass, Jazz and Blues music was the well from which she drew inspiration, adding in the natural seductiveness of her voice. Gas Station Roses is her most recent release.

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samantha fish in the alternate rootSamantha Fish – Twenty-two year old Samantha Fish got hooked by the blues and immediately started paying her dues in the local Kansas City, Mo. music scene. Her debut album, Runaway, showcases her playing, in her words, “all the sounds I grew up with, with my own spin”. On Runaway, Samantha Fish moves her guitar seamlessly through sharp-edged, riff-driven blues, breakneck boogies,  smokey, late-night jazz and 70’s arena Rock/Blues.

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gina sicilia in the alternate rootGina Sicilia – Philadelphia native, 25-year-old Gina Sicilia, was an out of the box hit with her 2007 debut album, Allow Me to Confess. The songs on her albums that do not have the GS writing credit, manage to fit in seamlessly as Gina gives new life to neglected tunes.  On her most recent release, It Wasn't Real, Gina broadens and stretches her styles, adding Soul and Americana to her keeper influences of Blues and R&B. This album features seven Gina Sicilia compositions, as well as three covers borrowed from Bobby Bland, Stevie Wonder, and Ike & Tina Turner.

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sunday wilde in the alternate rootSunday Wilde - Sunday Wilde is a blues woman. Her album, He Gave Me a Blue Nightgown, has the sound of an album similar to 1920’s/30’s Blues women such as Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. Sunday Wilde made a decision to stay on home turf for the recording process, away from the sterile safety of previous times recording in Toronto studios. He Gave Me a Blue Nightgown was recorded in hunting lodge cabins near her Northern Ontario home-- the results again, harkening back to the scratchy quality that we hear today from the blues greats of the 20’s and 30’s.

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cassie taylor in the alternate rootCassie Taylor - Cassie Taylor comes from Boulder Colorado. Her personality combines a compelling mix of music, theater, fashion and modeling into her repertoire, making her a great candidate as an ambassador of blending the arts. Cassie is the daughter of renowned bluesman Otis Taylor and toured in his band for seven years as bassist and backup vocalist. Cassie serves on the board of directors of The Blues Foundation. Her songwriting is the kind of blues which explores the trials and tribulations of a twenty-something woman. Cassie uses pop vocals and deeply-rooted blues bass lines to deliver her music to the world. Cassie Taylor's most recent release is Out of My Mind..

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26- St. Paul and the Broken Bones – Half the City   (2-18-14) - Paul Janeway grew up in a devout household with little non-religious music being heard at home. Paul’s plan was to become a minister, a goal until he was 18 years old. He was seduced by an open mic night in Birmingham, AL, expanded his musical experiences beyond The Mighty Clouds of Joy and into Tom Waits and Nick Cave. It is Soul that crowned St. Paul, and The Broken Bones became the chariot that carried him and the Birmingham, Alabama sextet to finally release their debut of rock’n’soul, Half the City.

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26 – Steelism – 615 to Fame   (9-16-14) - Steelism play smart instrumentals that are happier making a melody than grandstanding flash and fury in the playing. The band creates a Roots Modern sound that touches on Mod and Spaghetti Western style.

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28 – John Mellencamp – Plain Spoken   (9-22-14) - The is a literary tone to the songs on Plain Spoken. John Mellencamp stages his heartland stories, giving them a wider range of emotion and heft than living inside the borders of a Pop song.

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29 – Chuck Mead - Free State Serenade    (3-4-14) - Chuck Mead opened the Broadway show Million Dollar Quarter as musical director for the performances. On Free State Serenade, Chuck and the boys in the band present an album that could have been an extension of the Sun Records jam session that gave over its story if the players had gotten along and made an album.

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30 – Israel Nash – Israel Nash’s Rain Plans   (8-19-14) - Israel Nash perfectly captured the tone and texture of classic album from Neil Young and Van Morrison with his 2014 release, Israel Nash’s Rain Plans. Live, the band present the album in its entirety and sequentially.

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31 – Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes   (1-14-14) - Bruce Springsteen enlisted E Street Band members, including contributions from departed members Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici as well as Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello for High Hopes. The album is a collection of unfinished tracks and re-worked tunes from his catalog, such as the raw meat version of “The Ghost of Tom Joad”.

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32 – Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen – Cold Spell     (8-12-14) Cold Spell expands on the song catalog of Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen without compromising its intentions. The band have a knack for matching music to pain, desires and longing in Frank Solivan’s vocals with the sonic textures cradle and rock the stories with strong support to get them through troubled times of the heart.

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33 -Brent Johnson – Set the World on Fire   (4-8-14) -  “My sound is rooted in the blues, though I don’t pretend to be a purist, and I don’t want to be. I write music based on my experiences and the sounds I grew up with; I never want to pretend that I had the same experiences as the old bluesmen did, so I’m not going around trying to sound like them. What I do is put the emphasis on the feeling of the music, the passion, the urgency, the directness –that’s the goal.” Brent Johnson introduces himself with short bursts, but it is not the words of the New Orleans-based Blues/Rock guitarist that has you showing up early for the party; it is his playing. Set the World on Fire is kinda the perfect title for his release on Canadian imprint, Justin Time Records….bravado that will immediately get the hackles of true believers raised, and guitar work that will have them saying they saw Brent in some little hole in the wall rock club way before anybody heard of him.

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34 -Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition   - Dark Night of the Soul    (1-18-14) - The songs of Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coliation have a presence; they invade each arrangement making Dark Night of the Soul a majestic album on full listen. The band jumps into each song with a beautiful display of coordinated chaos. Luckily, the folks that roam the tunes halls fit perfectly with music that wears Jimbo’s rock and roll heart on its sleeve. The title track starts life on a scratchy church basement piano, pulling the curtain back slowly behind Jimbo’s stage soul pleas as the boys in the band plug in to back their brother behind the microphone.

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35 -Keb’ Mo’ – Bluesamericana   (4-22-14) - Keb’ Mo’ uses the strength of  a solid groove to suggest that there are times in life when limits are reached and you got to “Move”, a track from his most recent release, BLUESAmericana. The rhythm is a physical thing on the song as Keb Mo’ finger points with his guitar licks, laying down the rule of the house…. ‘you ain’t got to go home but you can’t stay here’. He took his own advice and headed back into the studio to record, though the inspiration for BLUESAmericana came way before the wisdom of the tracks. The album’s nine originals and a cover of a tune Keb’ first heard sung by Mississippi Sheiks Sam Chatmon, “That’s Alright”, began the recording process. Keb’ Mo’ knows himself, and that “I only make albums when I’m inspired to, and these ten songs come from a very honest place”. Since his last album, Keb’ had gone through life challenges as he and his wife persevered tough turns on the marriage road. He touches on the need, and is thankful for the ability to talk things out in “For Better or Worse”. He felt that patch in his marriage forced him to take a look, realizing “I had to learn more about myself and in doing that I felt a personal shift’

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36 – Leftover Salmon – High Country   (12-30-14) - New members and a renewed passion can be heard in the musical continuity of High Country. High Country features LoS playing from a stronger bluegrass center point. The lines thread through folk rock, country rambles, rock, and reggae.   The subtle banjo playing of Andy Thorn runs as an undercurrent as it wraps around the tracks on High Country, like his playing does in the title track, kicking the tune off with a classic banjo opener and maintaining a presence within the constant rhythm machine stoked by his bandmates.

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37 - Carlene Carter – Carter Girl   (4-8-14) - Carlene Carter boards a “Little Black Train” to start off her most recent release, Carter Girl. The locomotive tune is running a full route, making station stops at songs made popular by the forebears of her musical legacy, The Carter Family. Carlene Carter is the daughter of June Carter Cash and country music superstar Carl Smith, and the granddaughter of Maybelle Carter aka Mother Maybelle, original member of The Carter Family formed in 1927 in the Virginia town of Maces Springs. The group was ground zero for Country music, recording several of the genres standards such as “Will the Circle be Unbroken” and “Keep on the Sunny Side”. The Carter Family influenced generations by developing but also integrating Country music with Folk, Bluegrass, Gospel, Rock….and how those styles translated to Pop.

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38- Will Kimbrough – Sideshow Love     (2-18-14) - Will Kimbrough uses his latest release title, Sideshow Love, to focus on matters of the heart. The Love in Will’s Sideshow walks a carnival midway filled with bright lights and dark shadows, strong men and bearded women, exotic beauties and transient roundabouts. Will Kimbrough is the barker standing outside his album’s tent to draw you in with quality songwriting and styles that offer three-ring diversity. The album’s mix of music and moods fits the man behind the song, Will Kimbrough. Songwriter, performer and producer is a good resume, one that gets a hand up the ladder with work as sideman guitarist with Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell and Kim Richey, musical rambles with longtime friends Todd Snider and Tommy Womack and a quarter owner of the Willie Sugarcapps sound.

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39 - Queen Esther – The Other Side  (5-25-14) - Queen Esther is a beneficent ruler of The Other Side, expressing her advice, experience and personal hopes over a sound track of Black Americana, stirring a roux of Blues, Country, Soul, Jazz and Rock to spice her songs. She brands the varied genres as her own as her voice, becoming the sound of a breaking country heart, tough love dressed in dirty blues, and crawling inch by inch over echoey piano notes.

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40 -Lake Street Dive – Bad Self Portraits   (2-18-14) - Lake Street Dive have moved forward and have kept their musical focus pure. They have traveled from up sidewalks, keeping their musical focus leveled on the sparkle of 60’s Pop. The songs on Bad Self Portrait, the band’s recent release, siphon sound from the heydays of 1960’s genre-blending Pop that mattered with nods to Brill Building girl-groups, British invasion bands, R&B, horn-fueled Stax soul and Motown. The bright musical bed softens the blows of the heartbreak and headaches of love in the tales on Bad Self Portrait

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41 – John Hiatt – The Terms of My Surrender   (7-15-14) - John Hiatt recorded (for the most part) ‘off the floor’ as he would in a live setting, which was fitting since the band in the studio was Hiatt’s exceptional touring band, Nathan Gehri, Kenneth Blevins, Brandon Young and Doug Lancio. The music goes back to the Blues yet the story lines maintain John Hiatt’s ability to get to the heart of an emotion and his bedside manner of softening the blow with quick wit and a knowing nod.

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42 – Dom Flemons – The American Songster Dom Flemons, Prospect Hill  (7-28-14) - Dom Flemons is a modern musician, a tour guide for a busload of sound. He hits the Southwest desert at dusk right when the photographer’s ‘magic hour’ is ripe (“Sonorian Church Two-Step”) and walks in muddy water with fast-paced words to make it through Mississippi muck as he revisits a tune from Memphis songster Frank Stokes. Dom Flemons not only plays the music of the past as it was originally presented, he does it with pride for every note, happy to present authentic representations for tunes he penned and the work of others. The American Songster Dom Flemons puts history and tradition, styles and sounds all into a song on Prospect Hill.

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43 – Nell Robinson – The Rose of No-Man’s Land   (11-4-14) - Nell Robinson chooses the vehicle of song to stitch a quilt of lives onThe Rose of No-Man’s Land,integrating the heritage of her own Alabama family during 250 years of war. For the most part, the stories captured in the songs are from archived letters, documents, mementos and generational lore, all centered on war and service. Beginning with Revolutionary War to the present, Nell Robinson weaves national and family history along withproducer Joe Henry and a cast of musical friends lending a hand, including Kris Kristofferson, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and John Doe, performing songs by Nell Robinson, Rodney Crowell (“Scots Irish”, Guy Clark (“Heroes”), Johnny Cash and Bill Monroe.

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44 – The Hello Strangers - The Hello Strangers   (5-23-14) - The Hello Strangers had a slew of tunes written in a cottage off South Congress Street in Austin, Texas that they squeezed into the backseat of a rural Pennsylvania-bound car along with lives, dogs and Larissa’s husband (not necessarily in that order). The result is a self-titled release for The Hello Strangers.

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45- The Holmes Brothers – Brotherhood   (4-1-14) - Family of choice holds men and women closer than blood, and that sentiment has proven true for The Holmes Brothers. Two of the members, Wendell and Sherman Holmes, are attached by ancestry. The third man, Popsy Dixon, is a Holmes Brother because there is just no other place that he could, or should, be. The Holmes Brothers celebrate and define the band, and music, on their recent release, Brotherhood. The album is their fifth album for Alligator Records. Wendell Holmes (guitar, piano, vocals) shares the recipe that has kept The Holmes Brothers cooking for three decades; “Great songs, whether we write them or not, bring great things. And we are all striving to write, find and perform great songs.

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46- Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons   -  Hey Kid   (1-21-14) - Hey Kid might just be the gold standard for roots rock’n’roll as Angela’s voice curls around the power of the playing. She teases in her delivery, waiting a beat, to drop bombs by the way of one-liners, winks and promises. Hey Kid is the first full length album from Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons following four EP’s since forming in 2009. The Howlin’ Moons explode out of the speakers with a barely contained ferocity tamed by Angela Perley’s smoother seduction.

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47 – Eric Brace & Karl Straub – Hangtown Dancehall   (1-21-14) - Hangtown Dancehall features a stunning array of musicians featuring players such as Tim O’Brien, Pat McInherney, Jen Gunderman, Fats Kaplin, Buddy Spicher and Mike Auldrige. Lead vocals come in the form of the musical’s characters as played by Kelly Willis, Eric Brace, Karl Straub, Tim O’Brien, Darrell Scott, Wesley Stace, Jason Ringenberg and Andrea Zohn. A-list players are surrounded by warm melodies and tempos that never get too far from the dancehall.

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48 – Adam Carroll – Let It Choose You   (5-19-14) - There is an art to songwriting that makes its characters so real, so strong, that the singer and the song are in the backseat on the three minute ride that puts the men and women stars of the tale behind the wheel. Adam Carroll is one of those songwriters on his recent release Let It Choose You, a student of the school of Jerry Jeff Walker, Jo-El Sonnier, Todd Snider, John Prine, and Guy Clark (“Wrote It for You”). Adam is a born and raised Texas songwriter  and Let It Choose You picks a Gulf Coast sound that blends folk, Cajun, country and rock’n’roll.

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49 – Bob Seger – Ride Out   (10-14-14) - In a time when rockers are looking to roots music for a career shift and Roots musicains are citing classic rock as inspiration, the most impressive thing about the Bob Seger album, Ride Out, is that he made a Bob Seger album, leaning only on personal influence with a heavy hand and history. Ride Out smokes the competition with ease, and Bob Seger muscles up the Roots Rock that made his name as Detroit-famous as the assembly line heroes that fueled his tunes.

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50 - Eden Brent – Jigsaw Heart   (5-6-14) - It is the lady and her piano that take center stage on any Eden Brent recording or performance. As a solo artist or as a bandleader, Eden is the single cell that gives the music life as much as her Mississippi Delta heritage hardwires the blues into her own playing. Eden Brent and her Blues made the trip north from Mississippi to record her latest release, Jigsaw Heart, in Nashville with guitarist/solo performer and member of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and Bob Dylan’s band, Colin Linden, sitting in the producer’s chair.   Blues blood of broken and bubbling love courses through Jigsaw Heart, the album forming a circle of the lost and found love within the tracks puzzle pieces.  Blues boogie, and Eden’s personal history of learning the 88’s, has garnered the nickname Lil’ Boogaloo. The boogie is present on Jigsaw Heart though its songs stretch out, laying out the album’s tunes out as a musical songbook of Southern styles such as Gospel, Soul, Country and R&B to exist alongside Eden’s natural Blues.

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76 - Shakey Graves – And the War Came   (10-7-14) - And the War Cameis a feral album. It can be called scratchy, raw and stripped-down, but the obvious adjectives cover up the intentions. For his music, Shakey Graves, the alter-ego of Alejandro Rose-Garcia, challenges the way we listen with his chord strums as much as keep the beat. While in Los Angeles pursuing acting work, Alejandro Rose-Garcia saw a performance by a one-man band that clued him to how he could keep audience’s attention by throwing curveballs and changing up delivery.

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77 – The Apache Relay – The Apache Relay   (4-22-14) - The Apache Relay float sounds across the songs on their self-titled 2014 release. The music comes up from out a dream, mixing Indie Rock and Roots, Folk strums with an Americana sheen coating the guitar patterns.

Listen and buy the music of The Apache Relay from Amazon or iTunes

78 – Trampled by Turtles – Wild Animals   (7-15-14) - On Wild Animals, Trampled By Turtles expand on their song catalog by being more inclusive in their rhythms and in their ability to still infuse the tracks with the raggedy roots that makes the music of Trampled by Turtles so damn authentic. These guys are not casting off the music that put them on the bill as they drove to more high-profile gigs since their 2003 birth in Duluth, Minnesota. Wild Animals is Research & Development for a band that has become its own small business and brand. Trampled by Turtles are not changing, they are just investigating all of the corners where they can set up and play.

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79 -Moot Davis – Goin’ in Hot   (4-15-14) - Goin’ in Hot   (4-15-14) - Goin’ in Hot sends its title out as a signal that the latest Moot Davis release is looking for love. The tunes on the album find some heart as Moot shares that he has got one mighty ‘“Love Hangover” and it won’t stop ‘until they turn out the stars’. He warns “better hide your love ‘cause this town was “Made for Blood”’ over a non-stop groove rumble,  goes cantina quiet as the Mexican-tinged chords lay a supportive hand on his shoulder in “Hurtin’ for Real” and sifts through memories for a relationship that “Used to Call It Love”. After three albums of classic country, Moot Davis smartly chose Nashville’s front-of-line clean picking guitar man, Kenny Vaughan, as producer. Kenny tears down the honky tonk walls that surrounded Moot’s material and lets the music rock.

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80 - Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne   (4-1-14) - The semi-self-titled debut, Jackson Browne (Saturate Before Using) gets a diverse tribute with American Roots inspiration from Paul Thorn (“Doctor My Eyes”), eclectic blues-folk-reggae-rock guy Ben Harper (“Jamaica Say You Will”), modern day bluesman Keb’ Mo’ (“Rock Me on the Water”) and another friend from the L.A. country rock days, J.D. Souther (“My Opening Farewell”).  Looking Into You (A Tribute to Jackson Browne) samples the work of Jackson Browne and is a great start to thanking him for years of music. The artists offering their own memories by covering the work of a personal inspiration span the same years that the songs claim. It is in the tender care that the performers take in the recording that softens the blow for the slimmed down gathering of great songs from JB’s catalog. Giving back is good and it is testament to Jackson Browne that the passion he put into his words is just as meaningful, and just as needed, in a 2014 tribute.

Listen and buy the music of Looking Into You (A Tribute to Jackson Browne) from AMAZON or iTunes

81 - Susan Cattaneo  - Haunted Heart   (1-21-14) - Susan Cattaneo uses a hushed voice to greet her characters in Haunted Heart. She handles love with care as she introduces spirits of love past, present, future, with no fear of the dark spots, drawing back the curtains to expose the spins, twirls and missteps that occur in the relationship dance. Susan Cattaneo uses words and sounds to create stories as snapshots, and places them out for full view as songs in Haunted Heart.

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82 - Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans   (3-3-14) - Core writers Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley created wrote songs individually for their new release, yet they naturally matched one another’s tuneson the Drive-By Truckers twelfth album, English Oceans. Patterson Hood was surprised by his bandmate’s involvement in the songs, and happy with the tracks and the beautiful imagery they brought to the album. Mike’s songs have a dual effect. Their tone is an obvious match for the music of Drive-By Truckers and they offer a new way to look at the band’s songs, while creating an unused road for The Truckers without having to re-invent wheels.  Patterson Hood certainly deserves the term songwriter yet the man does not seem to ‘write’ as much as chronicle, point out, compress and stretch his views of the world around him. The Drive-By Truckers sound is the canvas crunch that holds the slash and sweep of Patterson’s words.  The Drive-By Truckers are the songs they play and that is the parting gift they include for listeners on English Oceans.

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83- Jamestown Revival – Utah   (9-23-14) - Jamestown Revival became a band as a natural extension of its member’s lives. Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance grew up together in the small Texas town of Magnolia, finding a haven about an hour north in an abandoned ranch house on some family land. The pair discovered the outdoors in daylight and music through the records that played through old speakers at night. The songs of fellow Texans like Guy Clark, Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan struck a chord as much as Creedence Clearwater Revival. The harmonies of Jamestown Revival can show lineage back to the Everly Brothers records playing at the old ranch house.

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84 –The Evangenitals – Moby Dick (3-18-14) - Moby Dick; or, The Albumopens over a cold dark landscape with two voices blending over pounding drums as airborne sounds float by. The beat and the voices stir up instruments and The Evangenitals slowly begin to add flashes, textures and touches of notes. The community of voices that centers the tune puts you in a stage production, rolling on the deck of a whaling ship with the crew magically breaking out into song. The Evangenitals set the mood and course for the story with mighty sweeps and sways of voice, rhythm and instruments. The drama of the tale of Ahab and his men sees the ill-fated crew set sail to hunt the white whale. The story has been dug into and gone over with a microscope for hidden meanings and mysterious messages since its first printing. On Moby Dick; or, The Album the goal is to let the tale unfold through the feelings of the crew. Not to judge, coax into understanding or further explain motivation. The Evangenitals tell the story, stage the characters and set sail.

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85 - Amy Black – This Is Home    (2-4-14) - Home is where the heart is, and the place where you are with those you love, family of blood or family of choice. Amy Black sings the many facets of life in bloodline base camp on This Is Home. The album is Amy’s second solo release, recording in Nashville with roots music lynchpins, Will Kimbrough and Oliver Wood, stopping by to plug in and play. The songs paint a picture on This Is Home, something to frame and hang over the fireplace in the family room….the sweet, the bitter and everything in between.

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86 -Mingo Fishtrap – On Time   (6-3-14) - If you have never seen Mingo Fishtrap live then please consider On Time for a resume describing what they can offer. Desperate pleas want answers while warm harmonies support (“Where Did You Come From”), dangerous grooves rumble under pulpit pounding hopes (“Silver Linings”) and realization shakes like a caffeine buzz (“Things Ain’t What They Was”). Mingo Fishtrap cook up a new story about an upcoming revelation in “Movin’” as they chop (chords), dice (harmonies) and puree (percussion) one feast of a tune. On Time has a little something for the worlds ills as Mingo Fishtrap open their magic “Mason Jar” for the warmth of some love shine and they put a cool on “Fireproof” to keep the flames from spreading once the “walls come down”.

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87 – Corb Lund – Counterfeit Blues   (7-1-14) - On the new release, Counterfeit Blues, Corb Lund plays to the diverse crowd attracted by the album, folks going beyond the song subject target markets. Counterfeit Blues fully brands the music of Corb Lund. All of his releases showcase an artist that seems to only be satisfied by improving on his own art, while still honoring what has gone before. There is a career point where the way you do what you do has the ability to be presented as what people expect. It is a plateau where everybody knows your name and nobody pays your bills, but that is another story, one that Corb subtly tells on Counterfeit Blues.

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88 – Cory Branan – The No-Hit Wonder    (8-19-14) - The No-Hit Wondersamples Roots music, gathering sounds and styles, delivering the best Cory Branan songs for Americana, Folk, Classic Country and Roots music. Album opener “You Make Me” is Alt Country sunshine, jangly chords as heart on the sleeve ‘I-love-you’s’ thumbs their nose at the album title and kicks off the No-Hit Wonder with a sing-a-long keeper.

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89 – The Felice Brothers - Favorite Waitress   (6-17-14) - Kudos to The Felice Brothers for staying true to intentions; their recent release, Favorite Waitress, keeps the same instrument choices they had passing the hat while busking, and what they lose in volume to the acoustics, they make up for the rock’n’roll raucous in the ragged tales on the album. The Felice Brothers define Indie.

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90 -Matt Andersen  - Weightless     (1-4-14) - Matt Andersen’s home is Perth-Andover, a blue-collar community in New Brunswick, Canada, a town of close to 2,000 residents. From the village resting on the banks of the St, John River, Matt Andersen and his music have logged over two million YouTube views, with close to one million for his version of “Ain’t No Sunshine” alone. Matt received a 2013 European Blues award and the Best Solo Performer award at the Memphis Blues Challenge. Weightless was produced by Los Lobos saxman/producer Steve Berlin and features Neko Case’s right hand man and guitarist Paul Rigby.

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91 - Peter Mulvey – Silver Ladder    (4-1-14) - Peter Mulvey had some good things happen in a recent tough luck stretch. Peter’s latest release, Silver Ladder, is the show and tell used to hear how the bright spots sounded in the turbulent time. It would be limiting to dub his backing for the albumas folk-rock for a sound border. Peter Mulvey, folk singer, delivers Silver Ladder with fullness to the arrangements, and an added emotional layer to his characters, with the added players. Peter Mulvey committed to writing one song a week for the process of recording Silver Ladder. His stories use relationships as window dressing as they sell ways to cope and hint of harbors that welcome those who believe in love enough to let it go.  Silver Ladder samples and sprinkles the music with echoed Americana guitars and constructs “You Shoot at a King You Must Kill Him” to play out on a screen of cinematic sound scratches.

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92 – Sarah Borges – Radio Sweetheart  (6-24-14) - Sarah Borges separated from her long time backing band, The Broken Singles, for her 2014 release, Radio Sweetheart. Roots and Americana drive the music with Sarah’s belter vocals hitting the back rows in each song.

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93 –  Patrolled by Radar – Cool Your Jets    (5-1-14) - Patrolled by Radar fly under an Alt Country flag that rattles and rambles as it flies over Cool Your Jets, their most recent album release.  Lead vocalist, Jay Souza, rolls the words in the songs, tossing out lines like throwing dice as he wears the skin of hard luck characters and hometown heroes.

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94 – Nathan Bell – Blood Like a River   (1-1-14) - Written, recorded and mixed, the album took thirty days to complete in Nathan’s Tennessee mountain home. Saying it is all Nathan Bell is technically correct. Though this is a technological world, the tunes that flow through Blood Like a River are human, not numbers, dots and dashes. The tracks walked by the characters in the tunes are responsible for the outcome of the song as much as their creator.

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95 – Whiskey Shivers – Whiskey Shivers   (9-23-14) - As the fall signals an approaching winter, Whiskey Shivers are wondering whether to stay or go as they watch perfection on the next pillow balance their own dreams of death and destruction, seeing their love manifest as an “Angel in the Snow”.  The issue is common…one partner is bound for glory while the other is hitting a wall. Struggle continues to interests the songs of Whiskey Shivers on their self-titled release. Work, pain, sin, regret and death are the themes that throw pointed darts of words for topic on Whiskey Shivers, produced by Robert Ellis.

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96 - Devon Allman – Ragged and Dirty    (10-14-14) - Devon Allman wants to represent the future of the Blues with Ragged and Dirty, seeing his approach to the album as ‘respecting the framework, respecting the desire. This album is kind of next logical step for me. I had made bluesy albums but I had never made a blues record. The traditional blues thing is an amazing model and that is why I do that blueprint. I think it is our duty to keep it growing, to take the equation and shuffle the deck.

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97 – Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis –  Our Year    (5-27-14) - Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison have been a part of each other’s music for many years, Bruce stating that ‘Kelly has been singing (with me) since the first recording I made and she was the first person who ever recorded one of my songs. We’ve never stopped.’ The Robison family call Austin home, recording their most recent release, Our Year, in Nashville with producer Brad Jones. There is an excitement about Our Year that immediately comes through in the music. Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison share a life and intimacy born of years reaching mutual decisions, plugging up relationship leaks and sharing parenthood has a positive effect on the songs. Our Year reflects ‘a sound’ unique to the pair.

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98 – Joe Fletcher – Songs for the Working Man    (10-7-14) - Joe eats road maps for breakfast on You Got the Wrong Man as he shares that he has ‘lived a selfish life and I feel your evil lie” (“The Promise”) and chronicles the red tape in the police investigation as “The Wilsons” come unglued in the face of tragedy. Electric Folk Blues works as a bed for Joe Fletcher to he ‘tries to interact with that town that ain’t here no more’ as he plays the “Blamegame Blues”. Joe Fletcher sits at the bar and tells the local tavern denizens a Roots music version of alien sightings as he talks about a night meeting with Hank Williams in “Haint Blue Cadillac”.

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99 – Pieta Brown – Paradise Outlaw   (9-30-14) - There is an emotional dust that covers the songs of Pieta Brown on Paradise Outlaw. It is not a sign of age, however. The trails the songs travel from now to the past lead to a time when love and foreplay were more conversational; an intelligent explanation of feelings. Pieta Brown writes and sings with the same pen on the album as she takes on the role of a Paradise Outlaw, letting the soft grace of her vocal balances the raw hearts on display throughout the release.

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100 - Chip Taylor – The Little Prayers Trilogy   (11-7-14) - By no means the last album that makes the list, Chip Taylor sends the Top 100 list off with gentle thoughts and hummed hopes and aspirations. The Little Prayer Trilogy whispers in your ear, calming as Chip’s heart hits your ears.

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