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The White Buffalo  (from the album Love and the Death of Damnation) - Like much of The White Buffalo recorded output, Love and the Death of Damnation, his most recent release, seems a title to theme the stories. The delivery of 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”).

The White Buffalo is a southern California story teller with characters that look a lot of like people he passes on the road, and maybe more than a little like the face staring back from the twin mirrors bordering the handlebars of his motorcycle. The songs on Love and the Death of Damnation are outlaw only as a life style choice leading with confidence in the way we live, and coming from an understanding the clock that count time in our heads is unique and each tick individual. Audra Mae duets on the wishes of “I Got You” while “Where is Your Savior” falls to earth manifesting as the blue-collar man standing in the doorway, and “Radio with No Sound” talks of chains on finely woven strands of notes played on gentle strings. Love and the Death of Damnation stands tall on an assured Roots Rock righteousness that ignores that haters down at the local bar, and gossip in general, to fully focus on the little love bumps that make a day on “Go the Distance”.

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Whitney Rose  (from the album Heartbreaker of the Year) - Whitney Rose recorded her second album, the recently released Heartbreaker of the Year, in four days. A fast turnaround for the Canadian musician, even with the recording taking place on home turf at Toronto’s Revolution Studios. Whitney had a ringer in her earphones, however, with music business 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. Whitney Rose impressed The Mavericks when she toured with the band as opener across Canada in 2014. Heartbreaker of the Year beats with an Americana heart that shows love for Country and Western balladry with Hank Williams’ “There’s a Tear in My Beer”, Alt Country on a rock rhythm with reverbed twang to swing “Lasso”, and pushes the button for Classic Country as a solo dancer sways in the glow of the jukebox with “The Last Party”.

Raul Malo gets extra credit for the placement of his own vocals for background on Heartbreaker of the Year. His 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”. What Raul and his fellow Mavericks heard each night on tour was the force of Whitney Rose. Whitney has a vocal delivery that invites with a mature seduction rather than a teenage tease that the fits with the Vintage sound that Heartbreaker of the Year uses as influence. It is unclear whether to be comforted by the little girl in “My First Rodeo”, or to use the pounding drums as a beat for your feet to move towards an exit. There are lots of curves in the flexible rhythm in “The Devil Borrowed My Boots” as a spotlight dance calls lovers to the floor to fall into the arms of “Ain’t It Wise”.  Heartbreaker of the Year was mixed at Capital Records studios in Hollywood by Niko Bolas (Neil Young, Keith Richards).

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Jackie Greene (from the album Back to Birth on Yep Roc Records) - Rock’n’roll rings out in the Roots on Back to Birth, the most recent release from Jackie Greene. It is in the rattle rhythm that announces “The King is Dead” with anthemic chords that put a flag in the hand of ‘struggle of existence’, spin 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”.  Jackie Greene felt that ‘we live in such a fast-paced, hectic environment, I wanted to make a record that would invite people to step back and take their time to listen. I wanted to make a record that would reward people who are willing to sit down and give it a couple of serious listens’.

To achieve his goals, Jackie Greene adds a lot of Soul (“Where the Downhearted Go”), gentle Folk note patterns (“A Face Among the Crowd”), string band Pop “Light Up Your Window”, and Gospel Blues (“Trust Somebody”) to the recording.  Jackie Greene lets memories lead the story on the title track as the music goes low to hear the whisper that will bring it “Back to Birth”. The album is produced by Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), and marks the Yep Roc Records debut for Jackie Greene on his seventh album release. Salvation is in the storm-the-barricades strut of “You Can't Have Bad Luck All the Time”, better times are bouyed by the pounding beats in “Silver Lining”, and light pours in through the stained glass hues of the piano marching through “Hallelujah”.   

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John Primer and Special Friends (from the album Muddy Waters 100) - John Primer is a Chicago Bluesman. John carries a tradition in his chords that echoes many of the artists John performed alongside since moving to Chicago in 1963 at age eighteen. John Primer started his own bands once he got to the Windy City, and by 1968 he was in the house band for Theresa’s Lounge on the South Side of Chicago. Willie Dixon persuaded John to tour with his band, The Chicago All Stars, prior to John Primer joining Muddy Waters as a bandleader, player and opening act on tour until Muddy’s death in 1983. His time with Muddy, and as an integral piece of the Chicago Blues scene, makes John Primer the perfect guy to host the birthday celebration found in John Primer and Special Friends release, Muddy Waters 100.

The officially sanctioned tribute puts John Primer into songs with other Muddy Waters alumni for the recording.  Muddy Waters’ I’m Ready album gave the Bluesman a career bump when it was recorded in 1978, and produced a Grammy for the album. Special Friends gathered for the one hundreth birthday audio bash include James Cotton, who plays harmonica on the tracks he originally recorded with Muddy Waters. Bob Margolin appears on Muddy Waters 100, as well on the I’m Ready sessions, along with the 1978 album’s producer, Johnny Winter, who plays “I’m Ready” for the 2015 release, recording his parts only a few weeks before Johnny passed in July 2014.

John Primer and Special Friends features musicians obviously happy to give back to their own influences by musical roles on Muddy Waters 100.  Shemekia Copeland kicks off the album, joining John Primer at the microphone for “Got My Mojo Working”. Derek Trucks performs on “Still a Fool” and Gary Clark Jr sits in for “40 Days and 40 Nights”. Whether company is coming for the tunes or John Primer is leading the way, Muddy Waters 100 fires up its Blues with tracks from a long career, including songs that are one with the Blues genre such as “Mannish Boy” and “Trouble No More”, and tunes that showcase the sly way the Blues chews its words so that sexy goes down easy (“Can't Get No Grindin'”), messages get heard (“Why Don't You Love So God Can Use You”), happy gets shouted (“I Feel So Good”), and whispers hush as lights go low for night closing (“Feel Like Going Home”).

Listen and buy the music of John Primer and Special Friends from Muddy Waters 100 website

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Bobby Long   (from the album Ode to Thinking on Compass Records) - Bobby Long returned to his days of performing at London open mic nights for the recording of his third album release, Ode to Thinking. The album was bordered by a two week recording process, captured at producer Mark Hallman’s Congress House Studios in Austin, Texas. The harmonies were a joint effort, with Mark backing the songs on bass, drums, piano, and organ. Ode to Thinking is the result from the ways the album was structured, Bobby Long recalling that ‘it was great to be able to focus completely on the recording and nothing else, no distractions. Mark’s approach to recording is to work on one song from start to finish before moving on to the next one. It was a very efficient process. We worked side by side in dressing the parts. There was one day we completely finished two songs and started to prep a third one. I even wrote one of the songs (“1985”) while in the studio because all I was concentrating on was working. I had musical tunnel vision’.

Immersion into the recording plays out well in the personal stories that character the songs on Ode to Thinking. Bobby Long swears that “I'm Not Going Out Tonight” as a midway organ and rushed rhythm seduce him in the cold light of morning. Sentiment is slowly crushed as the tale on “Something Blue, Something Borrowed” unfolds while “The Dark Won't Get Any Darker” marries dual high and low vocals as one voice, “Kill Someone” hears lies over a stuttering beat, and “Cold Hearted Lover of Mine” pens an open letter to goodbye. Bobby Long sings to the soul of life as he becomes the ears of a man being judged asking “Treat Me Like a Stranger”, and hears his tune played on a Parisian street busker accordion for “The Song the Kids Sing”. The title track is a flurry of acoustics notes that dazzles the air like the thoughts, images and characters coursing electrically through a mind penning an Ode to Thinking.

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Harpeth Rising (from the album Shifted) - Bluegrass is undergoing big changes via the musicians taking the genre forward into new dimensions. There is a more singer/songwriter structure for its tunes, and a lean towards classical and chamber music intentions with its arrangements. Harpeth Rising nicely chronicle what all that sounds like, and hint toward an future audio landscape for a trio of banjo (Rebecca Lunn-Reed), Joanna Greenberg (violin), and cello (Maria di Meglio) with Shifted, their most recent release. Their organic sound fills the album out with touches Folk, Rock, and Classical music purity blending into a brand for Harpeth Rising.

The threesome were classically trained at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. Post-graduation, their education continued through a summer of Folk and Bluegrass festivals and campsite jams. Their musical muse followed a different path by the fall, and they chose a river as a moniker to stay close to the earth textures that serve the music and moods of Harpeth Rising. The new release is album number four for the group, and while it walks a similar path to previous recordings, the way the musicians interact is slightly Shifted, as it titles implies. The album dips in a touch of Folk Blues rumbles on the vocal notes and melody of “Seven Thunders” as gypsy jazz sound tracks today’s headlines in “Well, Hell” and hushes to pass on the secrets with “Proof”. 

The playing of Harpeth Rising is equally Shifted on the album as the trio give their instruments lots of breathing room to take chances within the songs, relying on one another’s abilities intuitively. Shifted seeks “Fortune” with ethereal cello and fiddle notes as the banjo doggedly chugs in a constant motion through the track while sparse notes dot “Providence” as handclap beats keep the rhythm moving. Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me To The End Of Love” glides on a rhythm defined by plucked bass notes and freckles of banjo and fiddle. Harpeth Rising open Shifted with the determined “I am Eve (I am the Reason)”. The song ebbs and flows its rhythm as breathes to champion the natural strengths of the female being.

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Rod Picott (from the album Fortune) - Fortune backs the pen of a singer/songwriter Rod Picott with sepia-toned textures. Rod puts age into the overall sound of the album, less a layer of dust and more like a patina giving the impression of its years as a new skin. The guitar slide reverberates like skeleton bones as a “Drunken Barber’s Hand” shakes with tremors from the troubles of our world. Fortune lives in a sonic landscape that walks between nightmares, and the dreams that feel slightly happier. The jangle of guitar chords and tambourine hold a ragged echo of a 60’s pop as Rod admits that he may not have been broken enough in “I was Not Worth your Love”. He quiets to a whisper to hear his “Secret Heart” beat, and gives lives lost when ‘soldiers don’t come home’ a common name of “Jeremiah” to tell of how memories continue in the minds of family.

Like many of the lives that become characters in his songs, Rod Picott worked a blue-collar job as a sheet rock hanger, putting down a tool belt and picking up a guitar fifteen years ago. Over the course of albums, his stories have dug deeper into the humans they portray, often picturing lives lived in the darker shadows, souls making their collective way over hurdles and watching out for pitfalls in daily steps.  He gathers the past and present tragedies in tune for his upcoming Rod Picott’s Circus of Misery and Heartbreak Tour in support of Fortune.

It may be a glimpse into his early days as Rod Picott advises that being armed with “Elbow Grease” is the number one tool to carve out a place in the world. The track, like many of Rod’s stories, gives support, and history, experiential advice for the masses in the flesh of one human.  Rod checks pockets for “Spare Change”, coming up empty with the exception of ‘two nickels to rub together’, and the hope that ‘someday you might find something better’.  Fortune smiles with “I’m on Your Side” as Rod Picott swears allegiance to a love covered with ‘rubble and dust’, and in an open letter to another time as he cries out for “Alicia” while “Uncle John” introduces a man off the grid, and in the middle of a rumbling rhythm that rattles like the industrial age he is escaping.

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D.L. Marble (from the album Hard to Quit) - D.L. Marble rocks Country without the need to make his music a studio concept, putting guitar sparkle, solid backbeats and a whole lot love into his soulful vocals. He admits to sorrow for shifting gears and pulling out when exiting on a bright guitar jangle in “This Time Next Year”, exports ghosts on a train to Colorado, putting the hammer down with an out-of-control rock’n’roll beat on “Country Love Song”, and stomps on the beat to get across the message that “The One Thing” certain is what is in the heart of D.L. Marble.

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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The Waifs   (from the album Beautiful You on Compass Records) - The Waifs board a tour bus carries them “6000 Miles” in the tale of traveling troubadours, putting flesh to the back story of musicians on the road. The recording of the Australian band’s next album, Beautiful You, began as a reunion, the band gathering after a rest from the last logging of miles in support of their 2011 release (Temptation). The core trio of The Waifs, Vikki Thorn, her sister Donna Simpson, and Josh Cunningham took a different route for the songs on Beautiful You. Twenty years of banding showed that the group wrote their new songs individually, bringing the results to the studio. Vicki recalls that “It was all very exciting. We probably hadn’t sat together in a room like that for fifteen years. We got out pens and paper and guitars. It felt like it should be an easy thing … but it wasn’t. We tried in earnest to jam and shape songs'. Sister Donna adds that ‘I thought, ‘I’m just going to walk outside and write something. It just kind of comes to me that way. It came and just kept rolling’.

The Waifs added bass and drums to their lineup to record Beautiful You at 301 Studios in Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia. A beat rides under the acoustics of The Waifs on the album, coloring the Roots of the band with Indie Rock. Beautiful You comfortably walks the line as producer Nick DiDia (Bruce Springsteen, Rage Against the Machine) allows natural flash and fire to come from instrumental touches rather than polishing the sound to get the same effect. The foundation for “Crooked Arrows” walks a linear rhythm for the song, choosing to not follow the title missiles erratic course by forming a committed line of notes, percussion, and melody. The Waifs lay a quiet hush on “February” that settles like northern hemisphere seasonal snow before springing to life. Beautiful You makes a stop for a hitchhiker exiting a relationship in “Blindly Believing”, lights a “Dark Highway” with soft harmony hums, stiches “Cracks of Dawn” with an assured groove, and steps into the title track on free floating notes and strums.

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The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band  (from the album Lester’s Loafin Lounge) - The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band are the house band at Lester’s Loafin Lounge on their most recent album release, introducing the club, its performers, and the fringe players in the opening title track. Mountain rhythms, and the ways of putting them into song, back track an album that watches the day-to-day life of people in the hills. The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band proudly play out their resume,  listing their likes and life as they proudly take a seat at the table with “Hillbilly Logic”, keeping plenty of room for friends.

Lester’s Loafin Lounge tells tales, providing personal information with a genuine surprise at the way that ‘such a little bitty lady with a dainty hand’ can wield a “Fryin’ Pan”, look into a closet full of troubles to find “One Old Shirt”, seek peace with “Wood and Strings”, and gaze up from the valley floor to see the “Mansion on the Hill”.  The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band romp and roll in Lester’s Loafin Lounge, swaying to the sound of Classic Country (“Count Me Out”), reel-ing around the room (“Grey Eagle”), and give a deep holler history (“I'm My Own Grandpa”). 

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Angela Easterling (from the album Common Law Wife) - Angela Easterling has sworn off marriage, and mentioned it in past albums of her songs. She fesses up on her recent release, admitting that despite breeding and school degrees, life has dealt her the positions of Common Law Wife. She is content as she biographs her time with long term musical collaborator Brandon Turner, happy with the only man that never left her, and too busy changing diapers for any stinkin’ licenses. Angela Easterling offers diary pages for the characters that flesh out Common Law Wife. She tells the tale of a returning soldier with “Isaac Woodard's Eyes”, where the uniform that fought for freedom finds blindness in the justice at home, and tells the tale of shortened life story with “Arkansas Murder Ballad”.

Angela Easterling, musical and life cohort, Brandon, and their son live on a family farm in South Carolina that dates back to 1791. Angela gives motherhood thanks for being a muse, and hints that some lyricscelebrate the arrival of her first child, as Common Law Wife explores the complexities, struggles and joys of her experiences. Angela Easterling strikes “Hammer” with a confident swing in the rhythms that course under the ghosts in its story, strums a Classic Country to fit into the old pair of jeans she finds in the drawer in “Table Rock”, and watches “The Flame” slowly rise in a lost love’s new relationship.

Listen and buy the music of Angela Easterling from her website

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Jon Cleary  (from the album GoGo Juice) - New Orleans keyboard man, Jon Cleary, is serving GoGo Juice on his most recent release, using the title track to spike the concoction with funk, matching beat pops with the horn on the Caribbean ska-influenced album opener “Pump It Up”, and slowly rolls up on “Brother, I’m Hungry” to talk of a modern family affair on a Sly Stone groove. Fellow Crescent City music man, Allen Toussaint, touched the recording of GoGo Juice by adding the chart for the horn parts on the recording, giving a thank you nod to Jon Cleary for his 2012 record of Toussaint tunes, Occapella.

GoGo Juice steps high as it offers a love with no need to “Beg, Steal or Borrow”, ticks time with a heavy hand for “9-5”, slides side to side without spilling a drop on “Getcha GoGo Juice”, and floats on electric piano chord dreams over a rumbling bass line on “Step Into My life”. Jon Cleary has rhythm in his hands, and his fingers love being jammed in funk as he promises “Love on One Condition”, and charms like a pied piper as “Bringing Back the Home” siren calls its storm scattered musical children home to New Orleans.

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Chris Stapleton (from the album Traveller on Mercury Nashville) - Following a consistent career rise, Chris Stapleton debuts as a solo artist with the recently released album, Traveller. Born in Lexington, Kentucky, Chris Stapleton moved  to Nashville, Tennessee in 2001 with a trunkful of tunes to set up as a songwriter. Chris landed numerous tracks, recorded by artists such as Darius Rucker, Adele, Tim McGraw, Dierks Bentley, and George Strait, with one of his authored tunes sticking in the number one spot for five weeks with “Never Wanted Nothing More” recorded by Kenny Chesney. In 2008, he joined The SteelDrivers as lead vocalist, the band garnering three Grammy nominations during his tenure,left in 2010 to be with family, and formed the rock band, The Jompson Brothers. Traveller is Chris Stapleton performing his words and music, combining musical forms in a way that makes the integration of sounds seamless. Chris’ soulful rasp leads the way on tracks influenced by Blues, Rock, and Country, all falling in line to dig their Roots.

Traveller journeys through its songs showcasing Chris Stapleton as a Bluesman on a smokin’ live cut (“Sometimes I Cry”), rolls in on storm clouds of Country spun truths (“Was It 26”), sits for front porch Folk reveries (“Daddy Doesn't Pray Anymore”), and finds a small town exit sign leading to the lights of LA on smoothly jangles of Southern Rock (“When the Stars Come Out”). 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, and burns slow against the Otis Redding smooth vocals with “Tennessee Whiskey”, Chris Stapleton speaks up for his soul in “The Devil Named Music”, and is the best representative for his songs to lead a charge, waving a banner to follow for the men and women living in an “Outlaw State Of Mind”.

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Buddy Guy (from the album Born to Play Guitar) - Buddy Guy has Blues that can trace heritage back to Chicago with elements of the classic Chicago Blues, though his playing is his own feel and form. Born and raised in Lettsworth, Louisiana, Buddy Guy tells the tale of his childhood on the title track of his most recent release, Born to Play Guitar. The title track claims that at age two, Buddy’s mom knew he was a bluesman. Easy to spot when her son made his own two-string diddley bow, an instrument of baling wire stretched between two nails on a board over a glass bottle. The homemade instrument is given credit for helping Blues music grab hold of six strings. Buddy Guy moved to Chicago in 1957, becoming house guitarist at Chess Records, backing Muddy Waters, and recording with Junior Wells on Delmark Records.

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. As Buddy introduces a “Back Up Mama”, his admission to ‘love insurance’ is accented with fiery spits from a 1957 Stratocaster. Tom Hambridge is behind the boards as producer for Born to Play Guitar, welcoming in guests to join Buddy for a Blue Soul spin on “(Baby) You Got What It Takes” with Joss Stone, and a double shot with two tunes with Kim Wilson (The Fabulous Thunderbirds).

Van Morrison and Buddy Guy offer a tribute to influence and friend with “Flesh & Bone [Dedicated to B.B. King]” on Born to Play Guitar. A distorted hum bristles for the opening of “Whiskey, Beer & Wine” as Buddy Guy steps out to look for a neon sign, six string wah-wah’s help him hand over his soul to the Blues with “Turn Me Wild”, staccato beat bursts stir “Thick Like Mississippi Mud” into an uptown Saturday night as Born to Play Guitar exits on an after-hours ramble that whispers “Come Back Muddy”.  

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Have Gun, Will Travel   (from the album Science form an Easy Chair) - Over the course of five albums, Have Gun, Will Travel have gone from a Bradenton, Florida bar band carving out a niche with Alt Country to a band showing what the genre can be if you let your muse go. Touring, performing, and doing it all again and again has created a group with one musical mind. HGWT lab tested commitment results in their most recent release, Science from an Easy Chair, a mirror that reflects SoCal Country Rock (“Good Old Shakespeare”), nautical acoustic dreams (“By Endurance We Conquer”, back road barn birds singing a sad refrain (“Goodnight, Sweet Chariot”),  and electric rock bombast rolling on Roots heartbeat pounds (“Despair and Redemption on Elephant Island”).

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. A lonely beachfront shack scratches out a winter tune with “Surrounded by the Pack” as “The Rescue Party” sets sail on a mission. 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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Lynn Taylor and the Barflies  (from the album Hollow Man on Lamon Records) - The Barflies gather around Lynn Taylor like he was a favorite watering hole. After a musical hiatus to raise a family, Lynn returned to songwriting and performing in 2009 and began playing out with cohorts Sergio Webb, Thom Jutz, and Jim Gray as The Barflies. Lynn Taylor now stands in the middle of fifteen-person circle of The Barflies, and interchangeable Indie Folk and Roots collective. Hollow Man, his most recent release, offers admissions and confessions on the title track where Lynn Taylor makes room for both his angels and devils to board the bus. A solid shuffle stomp helps “All Part of Love” trudge onto Hollow Man while “Champagne and Ice Cream” pops the cork for a night of sweetness by the riverside as firmly plucked notes support the vocal growl looking for freedom in “Stop Knockin’”. Lynn Taylor and the Barflies ramble and rumble through Hollow Man, swaying side to side out a musical background that bounces (“Gonna Be with You”), swoons (“Supposed to Be”), and perks up your day with simple advice (“Get Your Smile On”). 

The Barflies tightened up with a Sunday residency at Nashville’s The Silo, bringing the same line-up to Hollow Man with Sergio Webb (dobro), Jennifer Halenar (fiddle), Will Logsdon (mandolin), and Parker Hawkins (upright bass). The album shows its heart tenderly as Lynn Taylor is backed with band vocals cresting like waves on “Simple Love”, and dueting with male and female love scene heading back to opening day with “Paint Me a Picture”.

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Mr. Sun (from the album The People Need Light on Compass Records) - The line of ‘sing in the sunshine and play in the rain’ works. Whatever the weather predicts Mr. Sun (the band) shines on their most recent release, The People Need Light. It takes a huge amount of talent to sound like you having the kind of good time that Mr. Sun seem to be experiencing on the album. The band’s playing is just that, playful. The interaction between fiddle (Darol Anger), guitar (Grant Gordy), Ethan Jodziewicz (bass) and mandolin (Joe Walsh) is familial, blood brothers of strings, teasing, and poking one another with the surprise of notes.

The People Need Light brings instrumental music out of the shadows to stand tall and cast its own image over the bluegrass instrumentation can sound. Hot wind kicks up desert devils on “Dry and Dusty”, jazz note patterns and shuffle strums sing in “If I Were a Bell” while gentle tones welcome into “Ben’s House”. Mr. Sun put mandolin man Joe Walsh behind the microphone to give the audio finger in “The Likes of You” as the band surrounds the vocals with gypsy jazz in the rendering of “After You’ve Gone”. Mr. Sun puts a Cajun Country and Western rhythm into the title track, and gives “The Fiddler’s Boot” something to dance to on The People Need Light.  

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Eleni Mandell (from the album Dark Lights Up on Yep Roc Records) - Dark Lights Up shines on the ballad side of Country music, beautiful melodies and swaying rhythm. Eleni Mandell co-produced the album with Sheldon Gomberg, recording in his Silver Lake (Los Angeles) studio. The album sticks close to home as it clicks with “Cold Snap”, sailing the track on the same boat beat that took The Four Preps “26 Miles (Santa Catalina)” over to Catalina Island. The musical banner that flies over the album gives the feel of age to the recordings. Dark Lights Up casts a sheen of polish that coats the tones and textures of its songs with the same time period. That works for Eleni Mandell, as she opens the album announcing “I'm Old Fashioned” while she later time trips in her mind to a future where she is the “Old Lady” character who just might be staring at her own reflection.

Musically, Dark Lights Up taps its toe to Jazz-inflected Folk sways, touching on Country standards like the sound of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”, Eddy Arnold, and to keep the family and fans happy, Roger Miller. Love is on the table as Eleni Mandell samples the “China Garden Buffet”, forms rolling chord clouds of rhythms as she searches for “Someone To Love Like You”, and brushes a beat freckled with acoustic guitar and piano notes to don a black velvet dress and a “Magic Pair Of Shoes”. Eleni Mandell carefully curates her songs to lovingly reflect the music that guided her pen for the songs. Floating gently on a lazy summer stream, “Butter Blonde And Chocolate Brown” flows like frosting dripping from a cake. Eleni checks into a “Town Called Heartache”,  saddling up on a swoosh of rhythms, and channels the Everly Brothers harmony and beat so “What Love Can Do” can back its story with the results captured in the Dark Lights Up album title.    

Listen and buy the music of Eleni Mandell from AMAZON or iTunes

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Daniel Romano (from the album If I've Only One Time Askin'on New West Records) - Daniel Romano stages art. He tools leather for custom guitar straps, is a Juno-award winning graphics designer for concert poster art, and on his most recent release, If I've Only One Time Askin', produces for a majestic album with lush strings, lone tambourine skitters, sky diving pedal steel, and thick, reverbed guitar notes that shimmy and shine. 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’. Standing on the shore of the album, Daniel can see “There’s a Hardship” sailing in on a universal wind as he rattles a rhythm to tell the story of “Two Word Joe” and follows a slowly unwinding piano riff that sees departing love with “The One That Got Away (Came Back Today)”. Daniel Romano captures the emotion on the tracks of If I’ve Only Time for Askin’ as he comfortably curves his voice around the words, answering a cold bitter heart with an even colder finality “All the Way Under the Hill”, and taking the blame for love gone wrong in “Old Fires Die”.

Listen and buy the music of Daniel Romano from AMAZON or iTunes

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Ana Egge with The Stray Birds (from the album Bright Shadow) - Ana Egge has always worn the song cloak of Folksinger on her albums. She left the Midwest Plains to ply her song trade in NYC, framing her songs with the fragility of Folk, along with the bare bones of soul and words with just a woman and guitar. Bright Shadow casts the same model in the wake of the songs though the overall sound of the album backdrops a purer Folk delivery. More wisdom of age is given to the songs with the partnering of Yep Roc Records artists, The Stray Birds. Ana shared the simplicity of the pairing, proving that it never hurts to ask, relating that ‘they were fans of my last album (2011’s Steve Earle-produced, Bad Blood) and approached me about backing me up at Folk Alliance in Toronto 2012. There was an immediate affinity between us and the music just flowed’.

Ana Egge produced Bright Shadow, taking the role of story teller as the music of The Stray Birds (Maya De Vitry - fiddle, banjo, vocals, Charles Muench upright bass, vocals, Oliver Craven - mandolin, fiddle, slide guitar, vocals), create a foundation stage. Ana Egge offers up thoughts with a Judy Collins-crystal clear voice as she sways on ”Rock Me (Divine Mother)”, ask tough questions to love overr gentle notes for “Turning Away”, rides the rhythm of a basement bass thump to seduce the “Dreamer” to come alive, and opens Bright Shadow to mountain air sunshine as “Flat Top Guitar” tells its tale. Ana Egge has an ease to her fit as narrator as she outruns nature in Dolly Parton’s “Wildflowers”, searches for fireworks with some bang left on “Fifth of July”, quiets to a chamber music that traces “Maps of the Moon”, and beautifully witnesses the life of poet “Jean Genet”.   

Listen and buy the music of Ana Egge with The Stray Birds from AMAZON or iTunes

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NEW VIDEO FROM THE ETHER

EDWARD DAVID ANDERSON - SENTIMENTAL IN THE MORNING

Setting up and playing as a one-man band, former Backyard Tire Fire member, Edward David Anderson, offers a video for “Sentimental in the Morning”. The audio for the tune is from his upcoming (10-16-15) album release, Lower Alabama: The Loxley Sessions.

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HILLFOLK NOIR - NORTH IDAHO ZOMBIE RAG

Hillfolk Noir offers a new dance in the stop-animation video for a track from the recent release, Pop Songs for Elk. Boise, Idaho graphic designer, Jason Sievers animated the video for “North Idaho Zombie Rag”….Okay, every body dance, and/or run.

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UNCLE LUCIUS - YOU DON'T OWN THE RIGHT

Follow the bouncing band members of Uncle Lucius for the lyric video, "You Don't Own the Right". From the exhumed remains of an abortive South Austin time capsule, hidden-camera footage reveals the secret lives of aristocratic transients living underneath the awning at Uncle Lucius headquarters.

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NEW AND NOTEWORTHY

JASON ISBELL - SOMETHING MORE THAN FREE

JASON ISBELL - SOMETHING MORE THAN FREE

Jason Isbell   (from the album Something More Than Free on Southeastern Records) by Michael Verity - “I keep on showing up, hell bent on growing up” sings Jason Isbell on “If It Takes A Lifetime,” the opening cut of his exceptional second record. It’s not the confession of a teenager but rather of a grown man who doesn’t care for wine or beer, for whom a job with the county keeps him “pissin’ clear,” for whom the notion that “his day will come” is what carries him faithfully through a lifetim...

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THE DUSTBOWL REVIVAL - WITH A LAMPSHADE ON

THE DUSTBOWL REVIVAL - WITH A LAMPSHADE ON

The Dustbowl Revival  (from the album With A Lampshade On  on Continental/Song City)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 Revival. There’s the knee-slappin’ barroom call-and-response of the title cut, a dose of Downchild Blues Band-styled R&B with “Hey Baby” and another spoons-on-the-t...

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ASHLEY MONROE - THE BLADE

ASHLEY MONROE - THE BLADE

Ashley Monroe  (from the album The Blade on Warner Music Nashville ) - Ashley Monroe seems to be everywhere, coming on strong in the Country charts and guesting on daytime TV. Ashley came to our attention on her second album, Like a Rose . The recording featured Ashley Monroe authored tunes, personal for the most part, showcasing a writer who loved Country as much as she had a soft spot for a good song. The deserved part in Ashley Monroe’s current rise, aside from her talent, is in the way that v...

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MAKING THE LIST

TOP 50 ARTISTS FOR 2015 - SO FAR - PART 1

TOP 50 ARTISTS FOR 2015 - SO FAR - PART 1

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 2...

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TOP 50 ARTISTS FOR 2015 - SO FAR - PART 2

TOP 50 ARTISTS FOR 2015 - SO FAR - PART 2

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. H...

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TEN REASONS WE LIKE DUANE ALLMAN

TEN REASONS WE LIKE DUANE ALLMAN

Duane Allman was gone before the music he made took over the world. The brothers Allman, Duane and younger brother Gregg, were from Macon, GA. Gregg got a guitar first but Duane learned quicker. The brothers went to Nashville for summers to visit grandma, seeing B.B. King and soaking up sound. As time went on Duane immersed himself in the guitar, quitting the high school to stay home during the days and learn his instrument. The brothers formed The Allman Joys moving the band to Nashville then S...

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FROM THE VAULTS

YARN -SHINE A LIGHT ON

YARN -SHINE A LIGHT ON

Early Yarn records were a honest variations on the music that made a fan out of a Blake Christiana as a youth, a mix of Gram Parsons, Jerry Garcia and Exile-on-Main-Street era Rolling Stone. The years in between their first 2007 release and today show a band that has grown up on stages around the globe, garnering fans as family, dubbed Yarmy, and logging over 150 dates a year since their inception. Yarn’s recent release, Shine the Light On , stays true to the sound and image the band has maintaine...

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THE DEL-LORDS - FRONTIER DAYS

THE DEL-LORDS - FRONTIER DAYS

The Del-Lords (from the album Frontier Days) - They took their name from Del Lord, director of early Three Stooges short films, and the plan was to create a band with four singers, like an east coast Beach Boys. That model was filtered through lower East Side grit, and backed by a foursome that included The Dictators’ rhythm guitarist Scott Kempner (guitar), Joan Jett and the Blackhearts lead guitar Eric ‘Roscoe’ Ambel (guitar) , Frank Funaro (drums) and Manny Caiati (bass). The Del-Lords may hav...

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THE MEKONS - FEAR AND WHISKEY

THE MEKONS - FEAR AND WHISKEY

The Mekons – Fear and Whiskey - The Mekons became a band while University of Leeds students in 1977, in the same scene that gave birth to Gang of Four. They released their noise punk on album before going on hiatus in 1982. The Mekons came back together in 1984. Punk still informed the band’s storytelling, and the 1984 Miners Strike gave The Mekons political fodder. The big difference in The Mekons sound was the addition of Country twang and mountain instrumentation. Fear and Whiskey was released i...

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MOVERS AND SHAKERS

DANIEL ROMANO - IF I'VE ONLY ONE TIME ASKIN'

DANIEL ROMANO - IF I'VE ONLY ONE TIME ASKIN'

Daniel Romano (from the album If I've Only One Time Askin'on New West Records ) - Daniel Romano stages art. He tools leather for custom guitar straps, is a Juno-award winning graphics designer for concert poster art, and on his most recent release, If I've Only One Time Askin' , produces for a majestic album with lush strings, lone tambourine skitters, sky diving pedal steel, and thick, reverbed guitar notes that shimmy and shine. If I’ve only Time for Askin’ sequeways song –to-song, never losing the li...

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YOUNG ANCIENTS - FISHSTORY

YOUNG ANCIENTS - FISHSTORY

Young Ancients   (from the album Fishstory) - Cary Morin is a master of Native Americana fingerstyle guitar, and has spent years in Colorado honing his Blues take on Roots and World groove music. Cary teams up with former members of The Subdudes in Fort Collins, CO to tell Fishstory , the threesome’s debut as Young Ancients. John Magnie (accordion, keyboards, vocals) and Steve Amedee (drums, percussion, vocals) spread the glory of Roots as major label Atlantic Records artists, sitting down to e...

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BOW THAYER - SUNDOWSER

BOW THAYER - SUNDOWSER

Bow Thayer (from the album Sundowser) - On  Sundowser , Bow plays the  Airline Bojotar  that combines a resonator guitar and banjo, adding Humbucker and Piezo pickups that blend together tonally. Sundowser was recorded in a sustainable, solar-powered studio in Vermont. Bow’s last band release with Perfect Trainwreck ended the band’s run with Eden , the album entirely written on the electric banjo. Sundowser offers the same sonic majesty that Bow Thayer has created as much as he has made h...

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MAKING THE LIST

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.

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

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”.      

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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)

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

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.

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

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.’

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

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”.

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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.    

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

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”.

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

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.

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

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!

Listen and buy the music of Barnstar! from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

Listen and buy the music of Christian Lopez Band from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

Listen and buy the music of Amy Black from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

Listen and buy the music of Asleep at the Wheel from AMAZON or iTunes

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’. 

Listen and buy the music of Gretchen Peters from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

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

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.

Listen and buy the music of Eilen Jewell from AMAZON or iTunes

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”.

Listen and buy the music of Chuck Hawthorne from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

Listen and buy the music of Sugarcane Jane from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

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

{jwplayer}&playlistauto.file=images/mediacenter/artists/l/Lists/Top50_pt1_sofar{/jwplayer}

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.

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

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’.   

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

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.

Listen and buy the music of The Lonesome Trio from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy the music of Beth Hart from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

Listen and buy the music of Leon Bud Welch from AMAZON or iTunes

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”.

Listen and buy the music of Whitey Morgan and the 78’s from AMAZON or iTunes

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)

Listen and buy the music of Robert Earl Keen from AMAZON or iTunes

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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Duane Allman was gone before the music he made took over the world. The brothers Allman, Duane and younger brother Gregg, were from Macon, GA. Gregg got a guitar first but Duane learned quicker. The brothers went to Nashville for summers to visit grandma, seeing B.B. King and soaking up sound. As time went on Duane immersed himself in the guitar, quitting the high school to stay home during the days and learn his instrument. The brothers formed The Allman Joys moving the band to Nashville then St. Louis, MO. The name changed to Hour Glass and the home base moved to Los Angeles, CA in 1967. For Duane’s twenty-second birthday, Gregg brought his big brother a bottle of cold pills for his fever and the new Taj Mahal record. Two hours later, Gregg’s phone rang. Duane had emptied the pills and taken the label off the bottle so he could play slide. Duane had never attempted to play slide guitar before and would be known for that playing it a lot afterwards.

Duane’s work with Hour Glass caught the ears of producers and he was plugged to play a Muscle Shoals recording session with Otis Redding, backing the singer on his rendition of “Hey Jude”. His playing drew attention at Atlantic Records and the guitarist was scheduled for sessions with Clarence Carter, Laura Nyro, King Curtis, Percy Sledge, Herbie Mann, Aretha Franklin, Otis Rush and more. He recorded the lead guitar for Boz Scaggs’ “Loan Me A Dime” shortly after his session for the Otis Redding track. The Allman Brothers Band got off to a clunky start with neither of their first two albums registering with listeners. Success came for Duane Allman in his own band with the release of Live at the Fillmore East and his guitar work for Derek and the Dominoes. Duane Allman passed away on October 29, 1971, several weeks after the release of Live at the Fillmore East and during its initial success. His motorcycle hit a truck that had stopped suddenly in an intersection and he died at the age of twenty-four years old.

Duane Allman lived for the music. When his soul crossed over, his spirit was kindly stayed around to be a part of the music that he cherished. . There are many reasons to appreciate Duane…here are Ten Reasons Why We Like Duane Allman.

1. “Still Want Your Love” – Hour Glass (from the album Power of Love) - Comprised of Duane and Gregg Allman alongside three future Muscle Shoals session men, Hour Glass was a 60’s rhythm and blues band. The power was in the hands of those that did not know how to handle it at Liberty Records and they positioned the group as a Pop act. Duane’s guitar weaves through the song with a psychedelic buzz in its riffs and soul in its step.

Listen and buy “Still Want Your Love” by Hour Glass from AMAZON or iTunes

2. “Games People Play” – King Curtis featuring Duane Allman  (from the album Duane Allman Anthology) - When King Curtis covered Joe South’s “Games People Play” as an instrumental the 1968 hit was still fresh. A jazzy soul in the rhythm is a good complement for Duane Allman’s subdued Leslie-amp distorted note patterns.

Listen and buy “Games People Play” by King Curtis from AMAZON or iTunes

3. “Don’t Want You No More” – The Allman Brothers Band   (from the album The Allman Brothers Band) - The Allman Brothers choose an instrumental to lead the charge on their 1969 debut. “Don’t Want You No More” was a Spencer Davis tune that the band wrestles into shape by putting sharp angles in the arrangement and smoothing them over with the slightly Latin Rock of its guitar notes.

Listen and buy “Don’t Want You No More” by The Allman Brothers Band from AMAZON or iTunes

4.  “The Weight” – Aretha Franklin featuring Duane Allman   (from the album Duane Allman Anthology) - It was Duane’s guitar work for Aretha that gave the band its legendary road man, Red Dog (Joseph L. Campbell). The guitar lead made Red Dog want to see the band live and after the show he stayed around to tell them how much he liked the playing. Before the band broke, Red Dog would hand over his military pension checks to the band to keep them afloat.

Listen and buy “The Weight” by Aretha Franklin from AMAZON or iTunes

5. “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” – The Allman Brothers Band  (from the album Idlewild South) - Duane’s slide is ever-present on this cut from album number two for the Allman Brothers Band. The players seem happy to stay as rhythm while Duane’s guitar bends around the curves and holds the road while leaning way over the edge.

Listen and buy “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” by The Allman Brothers Band from AMAZON or iTunes

6. “Statesboro Blues” – The Allman Brothers Band   (from the album Live at the Fillmore East) - Live at the Fillmore Eastwas the album that broke the Allmans and Blind Willie McTell’s ode to a little town in Georgia, “Statesboro Blues” led the charge as opening cut. After a quiet introduction Duane sets fire to the front row with searing leads that leave skid marks all over the song.

Listen and buy “Statesboro Blues” by The Allman Brothers Band from AMAZON or iTunes

7. “Loan Me A Dime” – Boz Scaggs featuring Duane Allman   (from the album My Time” A Boz Scaggs Anthology) - Coming on slow, “Loan Me A Dime” opens with organ and piano notes playing tag over a simmering drum beat walking through high noon on a hot day. Duane Allman plays all lead guitar on the track, biding his time and entering the song at over the one minute mark and taking charge.

Listen and buy “Loan Me a Dime” by Boz Scaggs from AMAZON or iTunes

8. “Tell the Truth” – Derek and the Dominoes   (from the album Layla and Other Assorted  Love Songs) - Duane Allman felt that it was easy to separate his lead guitar work from that of Eric Clapton on the Derek and the Dominoes project…..Eric played the Fender parts and Duane played the Gibson parts. On “Tell the Truth” it is an easier figure, as Duane slides in and stays on a slippery course with his guitar through the song.

Listen and buy “Tell the Truth” by Derek and the Dominoes from AMAZON or iTunes

9. “Little Martha” – The Allman Brothers Band   (from the album Eat A Peach) - “Little Martha” is the only Allman Brothers track written solely by its then group leader, Duane Allman. The song was recorded in October 1971, just several weeks before Duane’s untimely death.

Listen and buy “Little Martha” by The Allman Brothers Band from AMAZON or iTunes

10. “Duane Allman” – Amy Ray  (from the album Goodnight Tender) - Amy Ray twists and twangs a nod to one of the world’s greatest guitarists, Duane Allman. The story follows a woman with a guitar, up from Waycross as she puts her line in the sand, “Man it ain’t ever gonna be the same… you know I’ll give ‘em a chance but no one can play like Duane”. Duane Allman’s body of work ended with his death in 1971, but his guitar riffs continue to be a part of our lives.

Listen and buy “Duane Allman” by Amy Ray feat. Susan Tedeschi from AMAZON or iTunes

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the american conditionThere are those who will view this as "America Bashing" and nothing could be further from the truth. This is about bashing the things that are tearing this great country apart. America is shackled to racism, sexism, corporate greed, intolerance, corporate fed drug abuse, political gridlock, child abuse and a widening gap between those who "have" and those who "won't ever be privileged enough to get any." We started in 1980 and worked up to today.

These artists are exceptional without hiding behind a charade of false "exceptionalism." Save the No Apology bullshit for Mitt Romney and the Privileged Class. We have problems, lots of them and this list is about the artists who look at America as it really is not as the people in the mansion on the hill tell you it is. These songs aren't pretty and they don't sugar coat. There's country radio for that...perhaps Brad Paisley will need a new home like the Dixie Chicks, Steve Earle and Johnny Cash did. We're here with open arms.


Here is The American Condition in 50 Songs or Less - The Top 50 Songs about the State of Our Union


james mcmurtry in the alternate root1. James McMurtry - We Can't Make it Here - (2007) From the album Just Us Kids. 'We Can't Make it Here' is about corporate greed and how it strangles every aspect of American society. The American 'dream' has been reserved for those who have privilege, power or the cash to purchase it. McMurtry could have half this list but the top spot is his until someone comes up with something better.
Key line:
"Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin,
or the shape of their eyes or the shape I'm in?
Should I hate 'em for having our jobs today?
No I hate the men sent the jobs away.
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams.
All lily white and squeaky clean.
They've never known want, they'll never know need.
Their shit don't stink and their kids won't bleed.
Their kids won't bleed in their damn little war,
And we can't make it here anymore
."

old crow medicine show in the alternate root2. Old Crow Medicine Show - Methamphetamine - (2008) - From the album Tennessee Pusher. The scourge of the heartland is methamphetamine or 'Crystal Meth' as it's known on the block. It's a killer from the moment you try it and unlike cocaine it's cheap and with a little ingenuity you can make it at home. Old Crow Medicine Show tackled a host of social issues but this one hits harder in the places where the band has it's biggest following.
Key line:
"It's gonna rock you like a hurricane.
It's gonna rock you 'til you lose sleep.
It's gonna rock you 'til you're out of a job.
It's gonna rock you 'til you're out on the street.
It's gonna rock you 'til you're down on your knees.
It's gonna have you begging pretty please.
It's gonna rock you like a hurricane.
Methamphetamine."

the white buffalo in the alternate root3. The White Buffalo – Wish It Was True - (2012) - From the album Once Upon A Time in the West. When all the things you thought were true turn out not to be, reality sets in and disillusionment takes it's piece of flesh. The White Buffalo, a.k.a. Jake Smith exposes the darker side of the shiny objects. The entire album is a microcosm of America but this one stands above the rest.
Key line:
"Country, I was a soldier to you.
I did what you asked me to.
It was wrong and you knew.
Country, now I'm just a stranger to you.
A number, a name; it's true.
Throw me away when you're through.
Home of the brave, the free; the red, white and blue.
I wish it was true."


chip taylor in the alternate root4. Chip Taylor - New Song of Freedom - (2008) - From the album - New Songs of Freedom. Chip Taylor writes almost solely about the 'human condition' and not always from a perspective of social or political commentary. The entire album New Songs of Freedom could grace this list but the title track sums up America circa 2008 more succinctly and touches on the right wing nuts, global warming, immigration, freedom, geo-politics and even the disposable way music is treated.
Key line:
"Don't worry 'bout the straddle of the right wing radical, or heed the speed of the vulture.
Don't cross the border for political order and upset the balance of culture.
Just keep your eyes on the ozone and the price of oil.
Don't worry about the stock market, let it fall.

The warming of the seas and the hybrid cars,
was there ever an ocean, up there on Mars?
Oh, a new song of freedom, just let it go, it'll get there on it's own."


UB40 in the alternate root5. UB40 - One in Ten (1980) - From the album Present Arms. UB40 wrote One in Ten about life in Britain in 1980 but the song transfers to any western country and holds true to form some 30 years later. One in Ten is about the forgotten, downtrodden, sick, poor and hungry that become statistical talking points for mindless television newscasters and bloviated politicians. It hit gun violence, suicide, disease, hunger and the plight of the world...sadly, not much has changed for the forgotten.
Key line:
"I'm the murderer and the victim, and I'm licensed with the gun.
I'm a sad and bruised old lady, in an alley in the slum.
I'm the middle aged businessman with chronic heart disease.
I'm another teenage suicide on a street that has no trees.
I am the one in ten, a number on a list.
I am the one in ten, even though I don't exist.

Nobody knows me, but I'm always there.
A
statistical reminder of a world that doesn't care."



american graveyard in the alternate root6. American Graveyard – Common Ones - (2010) - From the album Hallelujahland. Common Ones is about all of us normal, regular folks who are getting shafted by corporations, government, insane laws and greed. American Graveyard is a band that musically shoots from the hip, takes no prisoners and tells you what you ought to know from the perspective of young, intelligent, thinking musicians.
Key line:

"I'm tired of seeing men die for other men's rights,
to have a corporation come in and sweep ‘em all aside.
'Cause there's money to be made, money to be found,
and when the pockets are drilled empty it's on to the next town.
Meanwhile make criminals outta the people left behind,
pimpin' all the women while the men cheat and lie.
All the cameras rush in yes they wanna find out
why I ain't got no food for my baby's mouth."

ellis paul in the alternate root7. Ellis Paul - Nine Months to Fix the World (2008) - From the album The Dragonfly Races. Ellis Paul doesn't do angry. It's not his style. Ellis Paul does cerebral; making you think while you're enjoying yourself and that is a rare gift indeed. Nine Months to Fix the World is about finding out your wife is pregnant and realizing that your child is being born into a complete mess and you now have nine months to fix it. It touches all the bases from religion, to violence, to global warming with typical Ellis Paul brilliance.
Key line:
"I'm gonna whittle down the Scriptures, the Bible, the Koran.
Gonna whittle 'em down to one phrase any fool could understand.

Love your fellow man.
Then we'll fill up all the bombers
with corn, with apple seeds.
A million gallons of clean water,
We'll fill the sky with good deeds,
For the people who're in need."


band of heathens in the alternate root8. Band of Heathens – Golden Calf - (2009) – From the album One Foot in the Ether. Golden Calf symbolizes Wall Street. The song subtly hints around Wall St. greed and the dirty little secrets no one wants to talk about. Band of Heathens has set their own bar pretty high and rank as one of the best bands in the country, bar none. Much of One Foot in the Ether could rank here but Golden Calf is so haunting and filled with mystery we couldn't resist.
Key line:

"Shine my shoes with a dirty flag.
Hide my secrets in a body bag.
Say what you want on my epitaph,
Just give me eight more seconds on the golden calf."

bob dylan in the alternate root9. Bob Dylan - Union Sundown - (1983) From the album Infidels. Union Sundown took on corporate greed before it was chic. In typical Dylan fashion it pointed fingers at corporations that shipped jobs overseas but didn't stop until the finger pointed back at Americans who want cheaper products even if they come from sweat shops in poor countries. Infidels touched on just about everything but in terms of the American downward spiral, this one topped the heap.
Key line:

"Well, my shoes, they comes from Singapore.
My flashlight's from Taiwan.
My tablecloth's from Malaysia.
My belt buckle's from the Amazon.
You know, this shirt I wear comes from the Philippines,
And the car I drive is a Chevrolet.
It was put together down in Argentina
By a guy making thirty cents a day.
Well, it's sundown on the union
And what's made in the USA
Sure was a good idea
'Til greed got in the way.
"

sarah lee guthrie and johnny irion in the alternate root10. Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion - Gervais (2005) - From the album Exploration. Travel south of the Mason-Dixon line and you'll find a lot of people still fighting the Civil War. You'll hear some pretty compelling, albeit, misguided arguments that the Civil War was about states' rights. It wasn't. It was about human rights and the left over symbols from that struggle continue to be paraded under a guise of pride and heritage. Bollocks. Gervais is about the South Carolina State House flying the Confederate flag (Gervais is the street the capital sits on). It's a sore spot with many South Carolinians and most other reasonable people who see it as a symbol for racism.
Key line:
"Gone James Meredith and the the road to sweet Ole Miss.
Years filled with torment and harassment.
I can hear those freedom rides.
You know they were just like suicides but they had to move us down the line.
Still flying the flag upon Gervais?
It was a battle flag, now we can put it away."

steve earle in the alternate root11. Steve Earle - Amerika v 6.0 (The Best We Can Do) - (2002) – From the album Jerusalem. Steve Earle has never been shy about telling the truth regardless of pushback or political trouble. Jerusalem took it all on from war to health care, the American dream, conservatism and greed and Amerika v 6.0 was the icing on a shitty tasting cake. From dirty back room deals on Wall St. to saving the American Dream from the true dreamers, Earle delivered a body blow to the right wing that resonated with the common people and revitalized the liberal class.
Key line:

"Four score and a hundred and fifty years ago,
Our forefathers made us equal as long as we can pay.
Yeah, well maybe that wasn't exactly what they was thinkin'
Version six-point-oh of the American way.
But hey we can just build a great wall around the country club,
To keep the riff-raff out until the slump is through.
Yeah, I realize that ain't exactly democratic, but it's either them or us and
And it's the best we can do.
Yeah, passionately conservative
It's the best we can do."

lucinda williams in the alternate root12. Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road - (1998) – From the album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Child abuse is one of those rare crimes where the death penalty might actually be appropriate. It's been going on since the dawn of time but only recently is it getting the attention and outrage it deserves. Lucinda Williams took it on and so have others. It sucks and whether you're a Catholic priest or a big time football coach there's a special place in hell for those who perpetrate it.
Key line:
"
Broken down shacks engine parts.
Could tell a lie but my heart would know.
Listen to the dogs barkin' in the yard,
Car wheels on a gravel road.
Child in the backseat about four or five years,
Lookin out the window.
Little bit of dirt mixed with tears,
Car wheels on a gravel road
."

mad buffalo in the alternate root13. Mad Buffalo – Red and Blue (2012) – From the album Red and Blue. Randy Reveire can tell you there's a huge corporate interest in keeping Americans divided into red and blue states, red and blue political persuasions and at each others' throats on a daily basis. We're really not all that different and pretty much want the same things but corporate media, talk show hosts and 24 hour "news" stations wouldn't make nearly the jack they make if we all got together. You think any of them give a fuck about who wins elections? They make money when America is divided, period, and that's what Red and Blue is about.
Key line:

"And up on the boulevard,
We got our start with a union card.
And built our houses up with our hands,
Made the iron and filled metal cans.
We took our babies in our arms,
Got some horses and built our farms.
In mountain rain we grew our hay,
Through the floods and drought we stayed.
You can’t deny it,
You can’t deny we’re one."

rodney crowell in the alternate root14. Rodney Crowell - Sex and Gasoline - (2008) – From the album Sex and Gasoline. Sex and Gasoline is about selling the idea that beauty and worth is about what's on the outside. It hits the beauty product, lingerie and porn trade right between the eyes as only Rodney Crowell can do and takes the notion that women are merely sex objects to the task.
Key line:

"So much beauty, abs and tush
Swoop down on you like a burnin' bush.
Pop religion, bullwhip thin,
Says you ain't nothing but the shape you're in.
Come on now girl, genuflect nude magazine.
This mean old world runs on sex and gasoline."

johnny cash in the alternate root15. Johnny Cash - Hurt - (2002) –From the album The Man Comes Around. Hurt is as much about the personal pain of addiction as it is about the pain addiction inflicts upon others who have to witness it. Although a cover of Trent Reznor's song, it was something Johnny felt strongly about recording as it reflects on the lies and the destruction inflicted upon his family as a result of his lifelong struggle with alcoholism and prescription drug abuse. It's powerful, moving and painful to listen to...and a necessary evil for those who crawl on the same ground.
Key line:

"I wear this crown of thorns,
upon my liar's chair.
Full of broken thoughts,
I cannot repair.
Beneath the stains of time,
the feelings disappear.
You are someone else.

I am still right here.
What have I become?
My sweetest friend.
Everyone I know,
goes away in the end.
And you could have it all,
my empire of dirt.
I will let you down.
I will make you hurt."

kevin gordon in the alternate root16. Kevin Gordon - Gloryland - (2012) – From the album Gloryland. Beware of false prophets promising the gates of heaven. They don't hold the key even though they'll take your money, your vote or your life trying to prove to you that they do. Kevin Gordon is a brilliant song writer that tackles a lot of ground on the album Gloryland and in particular the album's title track which goes after politicians, TV preachers and zealot Mullahs and their victims.
Key line:

"You might be a preacher,
Broadcasting on a satellite.
Miss Mamie's looking for an answer,
Watches your program every night.
Diamonds shine from your praying hands,
She sends you all the money she has,
Just to feel a little closer;
A little closer to gloryland."

todd snider in the alternate root17. Todd Snider - Conservative Christian Right-Wing Republican, Straight, White, American Male - (2004) – From the album East Nashville Skyline. If you are one you're gonna hate this song but when you really think about it, Todd Snider covers just about every part of the Republican political platform in the first verse. It's a brilliant attack on intolerance, homophobia, climate change denial, racism, elitism, and too many other things to list here. We're liberal, we admit it.
Key line:

"Conservative Christian, right wing Republican, straight, white, American male.
Gay bashin', black fearin', poor fightin', tree killin', regional leaders of sales.
Frat housin', keg tappin', shirt tuckin', back slappin' haters of hippies like me.
Tree huggin', peace lovin', pot smokin', porn watchin' lazyass hippies like me.
Tree huggin', love makin', pro choicen, gay weddin', widespread diggin' hippies like me.
Skin color-blinded, conspiracy-minded, protestors of corporate greed,
We who have nothing and most likely will 'till we all wind up locked up in jails
By conservative Christian, right wing Republican, straight, white, American males."

jon byrd in the alternate root18. Jon Byrd – Alabama Asphalt - (2011) – From the album Down at the Well of Wishes. Jon Byrd is a son of the south who isn't shy about pointing out the hypocricy and intolerance that permeate his Alabama roots. Alabama Asphalt was written about the reinstatement of the death penalty in Alabama. It's about the love of Alabama's natural beauty and avoiding it's nasty politics.
Key line:
"If your in Alabama, you better watch your ways.
'Cause laying burning tar is the least that you're gonna pay.
Yeah, they'll chain you to your brother and give a shotgun to the other.

There's that Alabama asphalt giving off heat."

patti griffin in the alternate root19. Patti Griffin - Tony - (1998) – From the album Flaming Red. Patti Griffin tackles bullying, and teen suicide as a result, with incredible grace and hard hitting reality in her song Tony. The story of the kid we all know and unfortunately some of us knew. The kid who is a little different. The kid the "beautiful people" pick on. A little overweight; not one of the crowd and the internal pain and torture that goes on inside these kids. It's a sad, sordid existence.
Key line:

"Hey Tony, what's so good about dying?
He said I think I might do a little dying today.
He looked in the mirror and saw
A little faggot starin back at him.
Pulled out a gun and blew himself away.
Hey Tony whats so good about dying, dying?
Hey Tony whats so good about dying, dying?"

mary gauthier in the alternate root20. Mary Gauthier - Drag Queens in Limousines - (1999) – From the album Drag Queens in Limousines. Drag Queens and Limousines is a true biographical piece written by the great Mary Gauthier. It covers runaways, and the turmoil of being gay in a straight world. Gauthier stole her mother's car and ran away at 15. She struggled with addiction and her sexuality and rose up to become one of the great songwriters and singers in the roots Americana world. Stick that!
Key line:

"My dad went to college, and he worked for the state.
He never quit nothing and he wanted me to graduate.
My brother and sister both play in the marching band.
They tell me they miss me, but I know they don't understand.
Sometimes you got do, what you gotta do,
And hope that the people you love, will catch up with you.
Yea Drag Queens in Limousines
Nuns in blue jeans
Dreamers with big dreams
Poets and AWOL marines
Actors and Bar Flys
Writers with Dark Eyes
Drunks that Philosophize."

willie nile in the alternate root21. Willie Nile - One Guitar (2011) – From the album The Innocent Ones. Willie Nile's One Guitar is an anthem to the power of music, the effectiveness of non-violent protest and the change that can come from getting up off your ass and getting involved! It's about rising up, no matter what put you down.
Key line:

"So if you get knocked down, you gotta take a stand.
For all the outcast, dead last who need a helping hand.
So get your tambourines and turn your arms up loud,
And raise your voices, voices up above this crowd.

I'm a soldier marchin' in an army
Got no gun to shoot
But what I got is one guitar
I got this one guitar."

chip taylor in the alternate root22. Chip Taylor - Black and Blue America - (2008) - From the album - New Songs of Freedom. Chip Taylor laments the days when we had heroes and goals that moved us forward as a nation. We rallied around the men who walked on the moon or marched in Selma. We cared about each other and lent a helping hand. America is bruised, black and blue but not out by any means. We're survivors.
Key line:
"It was a ray of light.
It was a wall of sound.
It was a fight for life, until the walls came down.
It was a dream to dream, in any damned old town.
It was a true America.

Red, white, balck and blue America."


uncle tupelo23. Uncle Tupelo - No Depression (1990) – From the album No Depression. An apocalyptic look at the end of days and the hope that something better is on the other side. Uncle Tupelo is largely regarded as the band that launched the Americana movement but that's debatable. They wrote great songs and split into two substantial bands; Wilco and Son Volt when the end of days struck them.
Key line:

"In this dark hour, midnight nearing
The tribulation time will come.
The storms will hurl the midnight fear
And sweep lost millions to their doom.
I'm going where there's no depression
To a better land that's free from care.
I'll leave this world of toil and trouble.
My home's in heaven,
I'm going there
."

otis gibbs in the alternate root24. Otis Gibbs – Preacher Steve - (2008) – From the album Grandpa Walked A Picketline. Otis Gibbs plays down the political and often scathing nature of his songs in order to maintain a neutrality with his audience. It can't be easy when you write like he does and you choose his subject matter. Preacher Steve is a dead on assault of TV Evangelists and the snake oil they peddle. He also lays the blame at the people who feed this nonesense and continue to line up to by the magic elixir.
Key line:
"Preacher Steve or the people who believe in him
and I can't decide which is worse."

john mellencamp in the alternate root25. John Mellencamp – Rain on the Scarecrow - (1985) – From the album Scarecrow. The song that launched Farm Aid and brought the plight of the American farmer to the forefront and dinner tables from coast to coast. Rain on the Scarecrow is in itself about the death of American values in favor of corporate interests and it's one of the best songs on the subject ever written.
Key line:

"Scarecrow on a wooden cross, Blackbird in the barn.
Four hundred empty acres that used to be my farm.
I grew up like my daddy did My grandpa cleared this land.
When I was five I walked the fence while grandpa held my hand.
Rain on the scarecrow, Blood on the plow.
This land fed a nation. This land made me proud.
And Son I'm just sorry there's no legacy for you now.
Rain on the scarecrow Blood on the plow.
Rain on the scarecrow Blood on the plow."

26. Uncle Lucius – Keep the Wolves Away - (2012) – From the album And You Are Me. Lead singer Kevin Galloway says this is a true story of how a man, his father, raised his kids, doing whatever was needed to get done. He had a work related injury that affectecd the rest of his life, and the company turned its back. The next generation takes the torch and keeps it lit, to support the family and keep the wolves away.

Key Line:
"I was barely thirteen when the company man
Tried to dig my Daddy’s grave.
Happened on a French owned tanker ship
Spilling poison into Galveston Bay.
Where the liquid fire filled his lungs and his eyes,
Silenced any mortal cries.
Codeine the grit but death stang in pain,
He fought like hell to keep the wolves away"

27. Will Kimbourgh – Americanitis - (2006) – From the album Americanitis. Marketing is a disease that Americans from which Americans take more than a daily dose. Will Kimbrough's character is not selling out, he is buying in. The promises of advertising are beauty, youth and longevity. What you take for cures may become the disease.

"Assembling lines of hot dog vendors
My funny bone it ain’t so tender
I swear by God I will surrender
Just give me one more day"

28. Slaid Cleaves - I Was Born This Morning - (2008) – From the album Ribbon of Highway   - The song sees that people were born right the first time, no need to do it again. Slaid Cleaves finds the joy and righteous path offered by finding that any sort of god lives within each of us. The light shines from the inside back out, not the other way around

Key LIne:
"This morning I was born again and a light shine on my land
I no longer look for heaven in your deathly distant land
I do not want your pearly gates don’t want your streets of gold
And I do not want your mansion for my heart is never cold"

bruce springsteen in the alternate root29. Bruce Springsteen – Sinaloa Cowboys - (1995) – From the album The Ghost of Tom Joad - Two brothers head north for work and find the most lucrative jobs are the ones that carry danger and heartbreak. In order to win big, you have to gambleon a big lose.

Key Line:
"Word was out some men in from Sinaloa were looking for some hands
Well deep in Fresno county there was a deserted chicken ranch
There in a small tin shack on the edge of a ravine
Miguel and Louis stood cooking methamphetamine.
You could spend a year in the orchards
Or make half as much in one ten-hour shift
Working for the men from Sinaloa
But if you slipped the hydriodic acid
Could burn right through your skin
They'd leave you spittin' up blood in the desert
If you breathed those fumes in"

gretchen peters30. Gretchen Peters - Hello Cruel World  (2012) – From the album Hello Cruel World -Well laid plans do not always follow a straight path. There is inspiration in realizing our limitations. Gretchen Peters manages to see the glass half full and remind us that sometimes the best we can do is just show up

Key Line: 
"haven’t done as well as I thought I would
I’m not dead but I’m damaged goods
And it’s gettin’ late
I’m a rusty hinge, a squeaky wheel
at the bad end of a shaky deal
cursed by the hand of fate
and ooooooh – I’m a very lucky girl
yeah ooooooh – hello cruel world"

bruce cockburn31. Bruce Cockburn – Lovers in a Dangerous Time - (1984) – From the album Stealing Fire - The power of two is strong. Our choice of a partner is personal. We do not allow people to tell us how to dress, what to eat, listen to or watch. Why is it that we pay so much attention when the tell us how to love.

Key Line:
"When you're lovers in a dangerous time
Sometimes you're made to feel as if your love's a crime --
But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight --
Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight
When you're lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time
And we're lovers in a dangerous time"

lone justice32. Lone Justice - Soap, Soup and Salvation (1985) – From the album Lone Justice- Homelessness in America is rampant. The dispossessed at the rescue mission in the song seek, and find, comfort in the little things. Singing for your supper becomes a reality for those waiting for dinner.

Key Line:
"Lonely faces, empty glances
They surround me everywhere
But those sweet angelic voices
Are now rising through the air

"When the roll is called up yonder"
I'll be there with

Soap, soup and salvation
Tired hearts sing in jubilation
Restoration at the rescue mission
Soap, soup and salvation"

nanci griffith33. Nanci Griffith - The Loving Kind - (2010) – From the album The Loving Kind - The case was brought by Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. Their marriage violated the state's anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as "white" and people classified as "colored." The Supreme Court's unanimous decision held this prohibition was unconstitutional,

Key Line:
"They were the loving kind
She was black and he was white
In Virginia, 1958
They found love amongst the hate
Well, the law said they could not wed
They married anyway
The sheriff put them both in jail
Separated till they made their bail
They changed the heart of a nation
With their wedding vows
From the highest court in the land
Their union would lawfully stand"

grant peeples34. Grant Peeples – Nigger Lover - (2012) – From the album Prior Convictions - Grant Peeples sees a word that causes cringing and wovering as a badge of honor. The song points out that the word is not used in its original form, but other words have taken its place. The same meaning, but words that you can hide behind.

Key Line:
"Nigger Lover
Yeah, that’s what they used to call me in the playground at school
But it was a lot of years ago
Those kids have all grown up they’ve all grown up
And they don’t use that word any more….hardly
Nah, these days they use other words

They say things like…you’re a liberal, a socialist, a community activist
You’re gonna see in this next election
‘we gonna snatch this country back again for real Americans"

jim keaveney35. Jim Keaveney – Livin' in a Dream - (2009) - From the album Music Man - The song is about consumerism in America. The dream is that we will always have enoughm and that we can waste. Americans feel that everyone around the world lives like us. A chicken for every pot is not reality and Jim Keaveny reminds us to look outside our borders, and open our eyes.

Key Line:
"Most Americans they don’t get around just maybe over the next big town
Too far in debt, or afraid, or just not curious enough to cross that line into another world into another time
So I’m here to tell you there many peoples and colors out there and respecting the cultures a real good fare
But no matter how far you’re flying on a big jet plane fundamentally all the peoples the same"

paul sachs36. Paul Sachs - Dirty Trucks - (2011) – From the album Oil Town - The American dream. Work hard and build your own business by ownership. The man is the story is a small business owner. He needs to diversify I order to keep food on the table and a roof over his famliy’s head. The decision between right and wrong blurs when your kids are hungry.

Key Line:
"Dirty tucks out on the highway rolling through your state tonight
Dirty trucks out on the highway, rolling fast and never traveling light"

corb lund37. Corb Lund - Getting Down on the Mountain - (2012) - From the album Cabin Fever - Corb Lund speaks the mind of survivalist who see the approaching storm and take whatever measures are necessary to protect themselves, and their families. In an effort to survive, they take to higher ground.

Key Line:
"
There ain’t no heat and the power’s gone out, it’s kerosene lamps and candles
The roads are blocked, it’s all gridlocked, you got a shortwave handle?
Can you track the deer, can you dig the well?
I couldn’t quite hear your answer
I think I see a rip in the social fabric, Brother can you pass the ammo?
I think I see a rip in the social fabric, Brother can you spare some ammo?"

drive by truckers38. Drive-By Truckers - The Southern Thing - (2002) – From the album Southern Rock Opera - Drive-By Truckers speak about the duality of the south in this tune. The band turns the crews a little tighter on Neil Young’s belief that every southern man is the same. Patterson Hood sees that you cannot blanketly judge a people on the actions of a few.

Key Line:
"
Ain't about my pistol
Ain't about my boots
Ain't about no northern drives
Ain't about my southern roots
Ain't about my guitars, ain't about my big old amps
"It ain't rained in weeks, but the weather sure feels damp"
Ain't about excuses or alibis
Ain't about no cotton fields or cotton picking lies
Ain't about the races, the crying shame
To the fucking rich man all poor people look the same"

tracy chapman39. Tracy Chapman - Behind the Wall - (1988) – From the album Tracy Chapman - Domestic violence lives next door. As loud as the screams and yelling can be, the more powerful sound is silence. There is no one to turn to, until you can turn no more and the drama reaches its last and final scene.

Key Line:
"Last night I heard the screaming
Loud voices behind the wall
Another sleepless night for me
It won't do no good to call
The police
Always come late
If they come at all"

jackson browne40. Jackson Browne - Lives in the Balance - (1986) – From the album Lives in the Balance - Jackson Browne has long stood as a voice for people. He talks about the fragile states we live in, and how our decision to question authority should be taught in schools.

Key Line:
"On the radio talk shows and the T.V.

You hear one thing again and again
How the U.S.A. stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend
But who are the ones that we call our friends--
These governments killing their own?
Or the people who finally can't take any more
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire"

otis taylor41. My World Is Gone – Otis Taylor -  (2013) – From the album My World Is Gone - Otis Taylor describes the modern world of the American Indian. Over his trance blues music, Otis delivers one liners that paint the picture of a western landscape that only hangs in museums, and in the memory of a once proud people who cannot find a way back to the old ways.

Key Line:
"If you send me a golden razor……I’ll cut my hair and I’ll bury it where the buffalo used to roam
My World Is Gone"

the neville brothers42. The Neville Brothers – Rosa Parks - (1988) - From the album Yellow Moon - Rosa Parks was tired. She refused to walk one step further when seats were available in the front of the bus. Her decision changed history.

Key Line:
"Thank you Miss Rosa, you are the spark
That started our freedom movement, thank you Sister Rosa Parks"

blackie and the rodeo kings43. Blackie & The Rodeo Kings – Another Free Woman - (2011) – From the album Kings & Queens - Blackie & The Rodeo Kings invited women to guest vocal on their most recent release, Kings & Queens. Sara Watkins guests on this song about getting even by getting out. Not a victim, the heroine in the song knows that there is another path to heaven and she’s got a gun.

Key Line:
"NOW EVERY BAD MARRIAGE... ENDS IT'S TRUE
WHEN THE MAN'S A DRUNK AND HE'S BEATIN' ON YOU
EVERY MORNING THE SUN COMES UP TO STAY
AND ANOTHER FREE WOMAN GETS TO WALK AWAY...
ANOTHER FREE WOMAN GETS TO WALK AWAY...."

tom waits44. Tom Waits – In the Neighborhood - (1983) – From the album Swordfishtrombones - Life has changed in the old neighborhood. Tom Waits points out that the things we tolerate become routine. We need an awareness to walk out our front door. The familiar smell of cooking breakfast and the smell of spilled garbage mingle and become home.

Key Line:
"Well the eggs chase the bacon
round the fryin' pan
and the whinin' dog pidgeons
by the steeple bell rope
and the dogs tipped the garbage pails
over last night
and there's always construction work
bothering you
In the neighborhood
In the neighborhood
In the neighborhood"

d l marble45. D.L. Marble – Sombrero Lullaby - (2012) – From the album Not the One… - The narrator in this song is a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. While sitting at a bar, a song on the jukebox transports the soldier to where he really wants to be, on a beach in Mexico, trying to wash the blood off his hands.

Key Line:
"
One more tequila for my friends and me
And I’ll tell you a tale about a land so far away’
Somebody play me a melody
Solve the world’s problems some other day

These songs keep callin on the radio
And I see my name in the neon
I wanna run away to Mexico
So play me a sombrero lullaby"

dave alvin46. Dave Alvin – Out of Control - (2004) – From the album Ashgrove - Speed, prostitution, weapons….all part of the way to make your daily bread in this tale of characters living on the edge. The speed and whiskey burning brain of the man telling the story understands that wanting to do right is okay, but sometimes you just have a need to go a little further to get the same rush.

Key Line:
"I used to work a little construction
But I never got along with my boss
So I do a little import/export
Makin’ enough just to cover my costs
And I’m losin’ my hair and I’m losin’ my teeth
But I’m tryin’ to keep my grip
And live to see one more day
Without makin’ any stupid slips.

You know I could have played the game man
And just done what I was told
But I guess I was born just a little bit
Out of control"

christine ohlman and rebel montez47. Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez – The Cradle Did Rock - (2009) – From the album The Deep End - The aftermath of Katrina changed New Orleans forever. Christine Ohlman describes what followed the levee breaks in the Crescent City.

Key Line:
"
The cradle did rock, the cradle been broken
It all fell down in the terrible flood, then
Some people came home, some people gave up
The levee went crash and the cradle did rock"

steve earle48. Steve Earle – Jerusalem – (2002) – From the album Jerusalem - On an album made almost entirely of protest songs, this title track from Jerusalem questions who we can accept death and violence simply because it has happened before. It is one more excuse to tolerate oppression, and one more reason to look to the real lessons of love thy brother, rather than demanding some not only worship a god, but worship the god of their understanding.

Key Line:
"I woke up this mornin' and none of the news was good
death machines were rumblin' cross the ground where Jesus stood
and the man on the TV told me that is had always been that way
and there was nothin' anyone could do or say"


justin townes eARLE49. Justin Townes Earle – Workin’ for the MTA – (2010) – From the album Harlem River Blues - Getting up and going to work every day. Doing the same job, expecting the same conditions….every day. Dreams are what happens when you sleep. Waking hours are already carved in stone.

Key Line:
"So, it's cold in them tunnels today
Well, it's cold in them tunnels today
It's cold down in those tunnels today, mama, workin' for the MTA
Yeah, I'm workin' for the MTA"

peter himmelman50. Peter Himmelman - "Untitled" (The Cab Driver Song) - (1992) - From the album Flown This Acid World   - The narrator becomes trapped in a world of angry words that are intolerable and preach hate. It would seem that the tip for this cab driver would be “don’t be so stupid” but like all bullies, their words have more power than what their actions might be, or the actions might be more powerful….you just don’t know.

Key Line:
The driver of the cab he had a pock marked face
He didn't seem too unfriendly, he was just starin' off into space
And he told me that he used to drive a truck
And that right now he was down on his luck


We talked a bit about travelin', told him that I'd been to the USSR
He looked at me in the rear view mirror and said

"Ain't that where the Jews and commies are?"
And I knew I was in for a hell of a ride
My face was calm but I was burnin' up inside, oh yeah"

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We consider these to be the most important roots music recordings of the last 25 years. They are not the "best" albums or biggest selling albums. Some won prestigious awards and many did not. In fact many may have flown under the radar of even the most astute roots music fans.

Roots music has been around since Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie in many of the forms you see and hear today. Alt-Country didn't start with Uncle Tupelo it started in Bakersfield in the late 50's and was continued with artists like Poco, Pure Prarie League in the 70's and on to The Del Lords, The Beat Farmers and Jason and the Scorchers in the 80's. We narrowed it to the last 25 years and maybe some time we'll open up to all-time.

One of the struggles we had will no doubt be a point of contention from the onset. What about Robert Plant and Alison Krauss "Raising Sand?" Oh, what T-Bone Burnett can do with an aging rock legend and a bluegrass singer who happens to also be the most decorated artist in Grammy history. We have a tough time including this roots music but the fact is it made great strides in bringing Americana Music, a genre that was misunderstood, mislabelled and mishandled to the popular concience. It sold gazillions of copies, won a Grammy for Album of the Year and to this day is no more Americana music than Led Zeppelin IV. Many will disagree.

Without further ado, her's our list of the 35 Most Important Roots Albums of the Last 25 Years.


top 35 roots albums in the alternate root1. OMP Soundtrack - Oh Brother, Where Art Thou - (2000) - “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” One of the most if not the most influential roots music albums of the past 25 years, the soundtrack to the film “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” took the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2001 and almost single-handedly placed Americana Music on the map, at least for the general public. Produced by legendary producer T-Bone Burnett, the album featured Allison Krauss, Colin Linden, Gillian Welch, The Fairfield Four and John Hartford among others.
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top 35 roots albums in the alternate root2. Emmylou Harris – Wrecking Ball - (1995) - Wrecking Ball- Flying Burrito Brothers member and Byrds alumni, Chris Hillman, referred Emmylou Harris to Gram Parsons, who had been looking for a female vocalist to back him on his first solo record. History was made and a career was born. Multiple Grammys and a stellar recording career have made Emmylou Harris ground zero for country rock, Americana and roots music of every shape and form. Wrecking Ball was released well into her career and the experimental album was lauded as one of the most important releases of the decade. Country radio ignored her but alternative audiences found what country lost.

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3. Johnny Cash - American Recordings - (1994) - American Recordings - Johnny Cash is one of the most influential musicians of the 20th Century and could have staked a claim on a number of the spots on this list. We reserved his for American Recordings, a stripped down album performed by Cash with a guitar in his living room. The wild card in the equation was producer Rick Rubin who pulled out emotion, inflection and powerful performances by Cash with the end result being the best Johnny Cash album since the late 1960's.

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4. Bob Dylan - Time Out of Mind - (1997) -  Time Out of Mind- We're not much on the significance of Grammy Awards, but Time Out of Mind won 3 of them including Album of the Year in 1998 which almost redeemed the institution for us. Time Out of Mind could easily be at the top of this or any list of influential albums in terms of writing, production and performance. Producer Daniel Lanois along with session players Jim Keltner, Augie Meyers and Duke Robillard created atmospherics not heard before or since in the Dylan collection.

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5. Uncle Tupelo - No Depression - (1990) - No Depression - Uncle Tupelo 'sNo Depressionlaunched a thousand ships, influencing damn near every roots rock, alt-country band that followed, not the least of which are the two spinoff bands Son Volt and Wilco from band members Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy respectively. While Uncle Tupelo is credited by many as being the founder of the "alt-country" genre, we dispute that along with Jay Farrar. Alt-Country music existed before Uncle Tupelo but No Depression is a part of the history that is not in dispute.

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6. The Carolina Chocolate Drops - Genuine Negro Jig - (2010) - Genuine Negro Jig- Three young black virtuoso musicians have the entire world ahead of them musically, but they chose to go back a century and a half to find the lost art of black string band music. Add their breakout album Genuine Negro Jig to the mix along with a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album and you have one of the most important roots bands of the decade. Genuine Negro Jig inspired a host of albums honoring the old-time American music that has long been forgotten.

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7. Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road - (1998) - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road - Though Lucinda Williams had been recording music since the late 1970's, it wasn't until her monumental breakthrough album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road that she garnered the acclaim globally that she so rightly deserved. Known prior as a country artist, Williams infused blues, rock, country and roots together on Car Wheels... and found her signature groove. Time Magazine dubbed her America's Best Songwriter in 2002 based on the album's intense lyrics. She's become an influence to millions of women (and men) since.

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8. James McMurtry - Childish Things - (2005) - Childish Things- His novelist Dad, Larry McMurtry, gave son James a guitar at age seven and his English professor Mom taught him how to play. James McMurtry claims, "My mother taught me three chords and the rest I just stole as I went along. I learned everything by ear or by watching people." Childish Things in 2005 was a breakout for James McMurtry in a recording career that began in 1989. The album generated the song “We Can’t Make It Here” and a timeless anthem was born.

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9. Cowboy Junkies – The Trinity Session - (1988) - The Trinity Sessions- It was mostly a family affair for Cowboy Junkies with siblings Margo, Michael and Peter Timmins counted as band members. Their 1986 recording debut was blues inspired, but the sound culture clash of their 1988 release, The Trinity Session, brought a larger audience from a rock camp. The Trinity Session married classic country covers (“Walking After Midnight”, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”) with classic rock (“Sweet Jane”) all played out of a moody groove and airy arrangements.

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10. Steve Earle - The Revolution Starts Now - (2004) - The Revolution Starts Now - We tossed and turned over The Revolution Starts Now or Jerusalem being the most influential of these two monumental Steve Earle recordings, and the truth is, both could be here. We picked The Revolution Starts Now because of its subsequent influence on popular counter-culture. The album took a hard stand against the war in Iraq, the death penalty, the policies of George W. Bush and became a megaphone for the left, inspiring Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.

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11. Band of Heathens - One Foot in the Ether - (2009) - One Foot in the Ether- A shared bill brought the three core songwriters for Band of Heathens together at Momo’s in their hometown of Austin, TX in the mid-2000’s. After several live albums and a Ray Wylie Hubbard produced self-titled debut, Band of Heathens released One Foot in the Ether in 2009. The album continued to hone a sound that referenced rock, roots, soul and gospel in songs like “Shine a Light”, “L.A. County Blues”, “Somebody Tell the Truth” and “Golden Calf”.

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12. The Jayhawks – Hollywood Town Hall - (1992) - Formed in Minneapolis, MN in 1985, The Jayhawks released albums in their home base until their major label debut, Hollywood Town Hall, in 1992. The Alt Country group it produced had a softer tone than many of their feedback distorted brethren, and stuck to the California Country sound of Poco and the Burrito Brothers -- sounds that added a lot of folk to the twang. Hollywood Town Hall gathered the dual vocals and finely crafted songs of band members Gary Louris and Mark Olson.

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13. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights - (2007) - Former Rikers Island correction officer Sharon Jones was called in for session work as a backup vocalist. Sharon was the only one of the call outs to show up and impressed the production team by performing all three parts herself.  Daptone Records, the Brooklyn label owned by its musicians/producers, released their first recording, Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings in 2002. The grass roots popularity of the band expanded, and their song mix of funk, soul and roots music lined up perfectly with the 2007 release, 100 days, 100 Nights lighting a torch for a Soul revival.

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14. Old Crow Medicine Show – O.C.M.S. - (2004) - Old Crow Medicine Show busked across upper New York State and through Canada before finding themselves on a street corner in Boone, North Carolinapassingthe hat to Doc Watson. The musical statesmen helped Old Crow Medicine Show along and the band moved to Nashville, again finding luck with a Grand Ole’ Opry residency playing between shows. Produced by Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, O.C.M.S. was the band’s first studio recording, containing the song that has become the Old Crow Medicine Show worldwide greeting card, “Wagon Wheel”.

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15. Ryan Adams – Gold - (2001) - GoldRyan Adams moved from punk rock to Alt Country with the formation of Whiskeytown. The band made great music and drew critical acclaim before folding. Musically, Ryan Adams’ first release, Heartbreaker, seemed to follow in Whiskeytown’s critically favored footsteps. With his 2001 release, Gold, Ryan Adams hit mainstream love with songs like “When the Stars Go Blue”, “La Cienega Just Smiled”, “Harder Now That It’s Over” and “New York, New York”, in a video filmed with the NYC skyline in the background, captured four days before 9/11.

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16. The Bottle Rockets - Brooklyn Side - (1994) - The Brooklyn Side- Formed in 1992 with Uncle Tupelo guitar tech, Brian Henneman, leading the charge, The Bottle Rockets hit a good altitude with the Eric ‘Roscoe’ Ambel produced album, The Brooklyn Side, their second release. The Bottle Rockets music chronicles Middle America-- Brian Henneman referring to the band as ‘reporters from the heartland’. “Radar Gun”, from The Brooklyn Side, put The Bottle Rockets on radio charts.

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17. Todd Snider - East Nashville Skyline - (2004) - East Nashville Skyline - Todd Snider has released a continuous string of critically acclaimed albums; perhaps none more well-received than the introspective East Nashville Skyline. The album confronts a trail of poor decisions, addiction, rehab, controversy and a political shot across the bow of "conservatism" for good measure. Picking a "most" anything out of Snider's catalog is tough, but this one stands out for us as his best.

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18. Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More - (2010) - Sigh No More - Mumford and Sons emerged from what is dubbed the "West London Folk Scene" in 2007 and landed on the shores of America after receiving two Grammy nominations in 2010. Their performance at the Grammy's put "roots music" onto the lips of a generation that only thought of roots in the context of different colored hair or possibly cracks in the driveway. Their debut album Sigh No More is influential in that it opened the minds of a lot more people to acoustic based traditional music.

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19. Will Kimbrough - Americanitis - (2006) - Americanitis - Will Kimbrough is probably better known for his guitar skills and, more recently, as a top shelf producer than for his solo work, but that's reserved for those who have yet to discover Americanitis. In darker days, it could have landed him on the McCarthy Un-American List with other artists and musicians who dared to confront the issues America swept under the rug. This is what "patriotism" is all about, and it also places Kimbrough among the craftier lyricists in roots music where he justly belongs.

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20. Rodney Crowell - Fates Right Hand - (2003) - Fate’s Right Hand - Rodney Crowell has been one of Nashville's most prolific writers for over four decades. Considered a staple of country radio for much of his career, Crowell turned to a more roots-driven sound when country radio went down the toilet in the 1990's. He confronted a lifetime of demons on Fate's Right Hand and drove it home with a roots rock onslaught both musically and vocally. Lyrically, it's Crowell's finest hour in a career filled with many fine hours.

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21. Son Volt – Straightaways - (1997) - Straightaways- Formed in 1994, Son Volt was the group relationship that helped frontman Jay Farrar get over his time with Uncle Tupelo. The band caught instantly with their debut, Trace, and the momentum continued to build and percolate on album number two, Straightaways. Jay Farrar’s deep voice resonates and strains at its borders as the band bangs out Alt Country guitar riffs over a solid beat on “Picking up a Signal” and “Caryatid Easy”. 

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22. Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera - (2001) - Southern Rock Opera- Drive-By Truckers released their third studio album in 1991. Southern Rock Opera proudly stood for the duality of the south with the album’s cut, “The Southern Thing”, explaining “ain’t about excuses, or alibis, it ain’t about no cotton fields or cotton picking lies”. Southern Rock Opera took a look at topics from growing up in the south amid 70’s arena rock, race politics and Lynyrd Skynyrd, as Drive-By Truckers use the southern rock powerhouse as a cornerstone from which to build the album.

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23. Dave Alvin - King of California - (1994) - Dave Alvin has had a steady release of albums where the musical mood changes with the album art. Fans come to expect, and enjoy, the path of Dave’s muse in recording. When King of California came out in 1994, the album was the first to change up the pure, unadulterated, unapologetic, rock’n’roll force of his work with The Blasters and his first three solo efforts. King of California showcased acoustic instruments, but it was in no way an acoustic album. Dave Alvin showed that unplugging did not lessen the intensity of his playing. The album may turn down the volume, but it raises the flame on the old (“Border Radio”, “Little Honey”, “4th of July”), the new (“Blue Wing”, “Every Night about This Time”), and offers a classic country style romp with Syd Straw (“What Am I Worth?”).

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24. The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow - (2011) - Barton Hollow- The Civil Wars won both Best Country Duo/Group and Best Folk Album in 2012 with Barton Hollow. They moved the needle for Roots music the week after the Grammy’s with Barton Hollow selling 35,000 units and helping to take the duo to #10 on the Billboard album charts. The album continues to blur musical lines in the Roots genre, as musicians like The Civil Wars play what they hear in their heads, not what the industry decrees. The Civil Wars, comprised of singer/songwriters Joy Williams and John Paul White, met in a songwriters group in Nashville, TN.

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25. Mary Gauthier - Mercy Now - (2005) - Her early life provided Mary Gauthier with experiences for her true tales, fueled by the alienation that life handed her in the form of birth mother abandonment and dealing with her sexuality. Her late teens were spent in drug rehabs and jail followed by schooling and opening a Cajun restaurant in Boston, all before writing her fist song at age 35. Mercy Now (2005) is the fourth in a series of recordings that began in 1997. The album wraps the emotive passion of Mary Gauthier’s songs in the title track’s pleas, the world of non-stop alcohol consumption (“I Drink”), the perspective of a road weary traveler (“Falling out of Love”) and Mardi Gras in New Orleans (“Wheel Inside the Wheel”).

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26. Justin Townes Earle - Midnight at the Movies - (2009) -Midnight at the Movies- Justin Townes Earle hit his stride and album #3 nicely straddles the more roots feel of his earlier releases and the Indie Soul of the current. Midnight at the Movies visits extremes with folk blues (“What I Mean to You”), gospel Soul (“Someday I’ll Be Forgiven for This”), bluegrass (“Dirty Rag”) and Roots Rock (“Mama’s Eyes”).

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27. Blue Rodeo – Diamond Mine - (1989) - Diamond Mine- Formed in 1985 in Toronto, Canadians Blue Rodeo released their first album, Outskirts, in 1987, which would exclude them from our 1988+ list. Luckily, their second album, Diamond Mine (1989), is date friendly and keeps the same intentions of their debut. Blue Rodeo marry rock and country with a true Indie Rock feel and form, with organ swells sharing the sonic space with guitars and rhythm. Diamond Mine balances Indie Rock tunes (“God and Country”) with torchy twang (“How Long”) and a mix of both (“Love and Understanding” and the title track).

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 28. The Old 97’s – Too Far to Care - (1997) - Too Far to Care- The Old 97’s started their engines in Dallas, Texas before taking it on the road as a hard touring band. Too Far to Care was The Old 97’s third album release, the group’s first album for a major label (Elektra). Too Far to Care offered rock and twang together in Alt Country glory with frontman Rhett Miller’s wry humor and smart lyrics. It offered immediate classic status to the world with “Timebomb”, “Barrier Reef”, “Just Like California” and a duet with X/The Knitters vocalist, Exene Cervenka, on “Four Leaf Clover”.

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29. Hayes Carll - Trouble in Mind - (2008) - Trouble in Mind moved well-deserved recognition for Hayes Carll beyond his native Texas fan base. The album registered Hayes Carll as a member of a Texan singer/songwriter club that included artists such as Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker and Willie Nelson. Trouble in Mind gave the real life experiences in his songs a touch of wit and wisdom as evidenced in tracks such as “Bad Liver and A Broken Heart”, “She Left Me for Jesus” and “Drunken Poet’s Dream”.

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30. BR549 - BR5-49 - (1996) - Gary Bennett and Chuck Mead formed BR-549 and became the house band at Robert’s Western Wear in Nashville, TN. The Roots feel of their music and the humorous subject matter did not warm them to country radio, but it did give them an instant fan base. Their debut album, BR-549, gave the world covers of the Moon Mullican song, “Cherokee Boogie” and The Byrds/Gram Parsons “Hickory Wind”, the tunes bookending the band’s sound and influences. 

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31. Various Artists - Things About Coming My Way - A Tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks - (2009) - Things About Coming My Way- A Tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks - (2009) - The brainchild of producer and guitar virtuoso Steve Dawson, the Tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks not only brought the music of America's first "popular band" to the fore, but  it also was a music history lesson and civics lesson rolled into one. The Mississippi Sheiks were the first black musicians to play in the White House and were the first popular band to record and tour. The album was a who's who of Canadian and American roots musicians including John Hammond, Colin Linden, Bruce Cockburn, The North Mississippi All-Stars, Madeleine Peyroux, The Carolina Chocolate Drops and Jim Byrnes.
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32. Roseanne Cash - The List - (2009) - The List- When your dad is Johnny Cash and he hands you a list of 100 songs you should learn if you want to be a country singer...well, you stash that list away until the right moment. After her father's death, Roseanne Cash took out the list, picked twelve of those songs, and recorded them with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Jeff Tweedy, Rufus Wainright and Neko Case. An album of covers might not be influential, but when the songs are hand-picked by Johnny Cash as "must knows", it deserves attention.

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33. Blackie and the Rodeo Kings - Kings and Queens - (2011) - Kings and Queens- The power of three caused a ripple in the solo careers of Colin Linden, Tom Wilson and Stephen Fearing when the trio came together to record a tribute album to Canadian singer/songwriter Willie P. Bennett. Taking their name from one of Bennett’s albums, Blackie & the Rodeo Kings continued after the success of the one-off recording project and released Kings and Queens in 2011. The album paired with Roots singing females such as Rosanne Cash, Exene Cervenka, Janiva Magness, Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless, Lucinda Williams and Patti Scialfa. 

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34. Eilen Jewell - Boundary County - (2005) - Boundary County- Eilen Jewell busked on the street while attending college in Santa Fe, NM and then on Venice Beach when she made the move to California. Massachusetts club work in Cambridge, Boston and Somerville brought her attention and Boundary County let the rest of the world hear Eilen Jewell’s jazzy delivery over Roots and Americana arrangements. Eilen Jewell has a relaxed timbre to her singing that makes her voice memorable and immediately addictive.

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35. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - (2002) -Yankee Hotel Foxtrot- Frontman Jeff Tweedy continues to move Wilco further from the Alt Country of the band’s debut, 3AM (and even farther from his former band, Uncle Tupelo), with each Wilco release. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot remained true to roots with songs like “I AM Trying to Break Your Heart”, “Pot Kettle Black”, “I’m the Man Who Loves You” and stretched the genre on “Ashes of American Flags” and “Kamera”. Wilco became Indie banner wavers when Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was rejected by their Warner Bros. label heads for not having a commercial single. The band took the album from WB and took it on the charts with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot being their biggest selling album to date.

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There is still a lot of summertime and plenty of places to visit in an effort to cram as much into a day/week/life as possible.  We created a short list using Roots music and present the results in an A to Z of Roots Road Trip Songs. Not the tunes that you crank up once the car is running. These are the songs that get you packing. The lyrical bait that hooks you in and entices, whispers in your ear ‘you know you want to be here’ and sings a song to lure you in. Sit back and enjoy. We are not responsible if anyone succumbs to the spell of the songs, though we will take complete responsibility if you have a good time.

A – “Atlantic City” - The Band   (from the album Jericho) - The Jersey Shore has changed only in the obvious ways that it takes money from the masses. Your vacation can be out in the open, or at least your kids and in-laws can be outside on the beach or walking the boardwalk as you head into the casino when the time comes to ‘meet me tonight in Atlantic City’.

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B – “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer” - Old Crow Medicine Show   (from the album Remedy) - Two weeks away from an office job seems about right. Keeping that timeline perspective, and taking the cuts in travel time and accommodations, two hours in the “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer” is just about the perfect getaway for the boys behind bars. This trailer is no tin can… the don’t-blink love nest is a double-wide!

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C – “Sweet Home Chicago” - Robert Johnson   (from the album The Complete Collection) - Robert Johnson voice is pleading to get out of town and his guitar chords accent his words, finger pointing chords just in case the message is missed. His home town has gotten too small and big city Chicago hangs like a fat carrot dangling at the end of the road while California beckons like a siren.

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D – “Dallas” - Joe Ely   (from the album Musta Notta Gotta Lotta) - Joe Ely is smitten. He is flying in to DFW after dark and the lights outside the window look so fine. The beauty of the sight, and the expanse of the spreading city after miles of darkness below, makes the lack of funds in Joe’s pocket a non-issue….he is looking for light.

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E – “East Nashville Skyline” - Todd Snider   (from the album Live: The Storyteller) - East Nashville is very close to Nashville proper, and it could not be further away. Right over the Cumberland River is a magical land where musical styles frolic and the art of songwriting is king. If you are looking for music and a packed house when you go out, put East Nashville into the GPS and make some memories like the ones Todd Snider pastes into his song.

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F – “Deep Down in Florida” - Muddy Waters    (from the album Hard Again) - Even bluesmen need a break. Muddy Waters is putting the Blues down for just a moment so he can head down to Florida ‘where the sun shines damn near ev’ry day.’ Once he hit the sand in Gainesville both Muddy and the Blues had some free time, so they sat on the beach and played.

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G –“Greyhound” - Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats    (from the album On This Very Evening) - Not a specific destination or a direct path between Point A and Point B, the “Greyhound” that carries Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats makes multiple stops once the guys are seated. California is out the front window, and as the guys sit by the side of the road waiting for their chariot to arrive, they plot possible exits from their new lives, deciding that a trail of bread crumbs is the best way to find home again, if needed…..they don’t get out a whole lot.

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H - Humboldt - I See Hawks in L.A.    (from the album Shoulda Been Gold 2001 - 2009) - The physical and spiritual center of the marijuana business in California is Humboldt County. When drivers joke that you can smell your weekend right around the corner, they are not really joking. The Hawks’ story is a little before growing became a cottage industry in California, and the excitement of the illegal drug trade can still be felt in the power chords and Paul Lacques psychedelic riffing.

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I – “Island Song” - Zac Brown Band    (from the album Uncaged) - The rhythms, the ice cold drinks and the sand between your toes tell you it is time to ‘party like a Jamaican’ with Zac Brown and the band. The road goes on forever, and in the case of “Island Song”, can tread water very well.

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J - "Jericho" - John Fullbright    (from the album From the Ground Up) - John Fullbright is spinning the compass dial and following wherever it lands. He tries to find himself, or at least comfort, out east before turning his sights to the west coast. His trip has no rest areas as he searches cities and deserts. There is no peace for John on his journey, and he deals with plans gone off track. It is really bad luck that the one week he picked was when the walls of the city decided to come down….good story for back home but the dust will block out any sun tan.

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K - "Funky Kingston" - Toots and the Maytals     (from the album Time Tough) - Toots Hibbert is the MC over a funky groove as he calls people to come into his song and ‘shake it, shake it’. The Maytals are a rhythm machine as funky guitar chords chop and slice over committed percussion and bass lines.

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L - "Ooh Las Vegas" - Gram Parsons (from the album G.P. / Grievous Angel) - Gram Parsons packed Emmylou Harris into his car back in Baltimore and they are barreling towards Las Vegas. The neon is calling and the cards are whispering your name. The pair know they are doomed going in, admitting that the Crystal City will leave them wrecks, but they cannot stop themselves.

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M - "Mojave" - Hymn For Her    (from the album Lucy and Wayne’s Smokin’ Flames) - Hymn for Her tear up the road to “Mojave” with tar pealing power chords and pounding beats. The pair are driving their Airstream trailer through the ‘shifting sand of the desert’ as visions and images rise up from the desert floor like waves of heat.

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N - "New York City Found" – Yarn     (from the album Come on In) - Blake Christiana and Yarn are hopping on the subway for a day trip away from Brooklyn and into Greenwich Village. The Yarn country in the tune is delivered as fast-paced sunshine with a beat.

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O - "All Over Ohio" - Over the Rhine   (from the album Meet Me at the Edge of the World) - Over the Rhine can hear the trees whispering about the fall and feel the air getting a little chillier. The melody line floats over a single rhythmic thump as the male and female vocals trade center stage, and join together with the atmospheric melody line in flight with their harmonies.

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P - "Portland Oregon" - Loretta Lynn with Jack White    (from the album Van Lear Rose) - Loretta Lynn knows love, and for her it is “Portland, Oregon” and slow gin fizz. The story holds two characters, the roles fitted to Loretta and Van Lear Rose producer, Jack White.  The momentum of the track carries the pair far past the borders of the song. Lucky they got ‘a pitcher to go’.

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Q - "Quivira" - Moreland and Arbuckle     (from the album 7 Cities) - Name dropping “Quivira” around the water cooler could get some envy from fellow employees. There is a touch of romance with Spanish destinations though sending postcards from a mythical land may be slightly challenging. Moreland and Arbuckle are the dirty blues version of Lewis and Clark for the journey as they take you along the Coronado trail in search of the seven cities of gold, with a return address for modern day Kansas.

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R - "Rio Grande" - Dave Alvin     (from the album Ashgrove) - Two people walked into the tale on the banks of the “Rio Grande” though is becomes a solo act quickly into the story. Dave Alvin is not on a road trip as he passes through the Texas towns that border Mexico, the scenery blurs in front of his eyes as he seeks only one image, or some words for direction.

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S - "Stockholm" - Jason Isbell    (from the album Southeastern) - Jason Isbell is having a tough time separating a short getaway from a life choice. Once the vacation ceases to be time off, life comes roaring back in. The longer he is away, the quicker he fades from the memories of the folks back home. Love keeps him from moving and calls him home.

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T - "Texas" - The Band of Heathens      (from the album Sunday Morning Record) - The Band of Heathens spent many years in Austin, Texas, first as solo artists and then building the band career that has offered them options. The group admits that ‘Austin’s been a friend of mine and ”Texas” we had a time’.  Future visits to Austin will be road trips for the guys rather than coming home.

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U - "Urge for Going" - Tom Rush    (from the album The Circle Game) - The heat of summer gets turned off a little quicker in the mountains, and the chill in the air has hit the Vermont. That fast, Tom Rush wakes to frost on the ground. Every year, the highway calls and warm weather acts as a tease as the northern sun ‘turns traitor cold’. For Tom, getting the “Urge for Going” is just another sure sign that the weather is turning.

Listen and buy “Urge for Going” by Tom Rush from AMAZON or iTunes

V - "Ventura" - Lucinda Williams     (from the album World Without Tears) - Lucinda Williams lets the rhythm on “Ventura” match the incoming surf in the scenic shot outside of her car window as she travels north. She hugs the coast and cranks up Neil Young, soaking up the therapy in the beauty of her surroundings and the volume of her car stereo.

Listen and buy “Ventura” by Lucinda Williams from AMAZON or iTunes

W - "That Western Skyline" – Dawes     (from the album Dawes) - Dawes are traveling but not enjoying the journey. Their dreams come apart in California, leaving the band the curse “That Western Skyline” yet they still look to it for finding the stars. The road trip is walked with a sluggish step, marching to a slow paced funeral dirge as the promises of hope continue to fade.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Listen and buy “That Western Skyline” by Dawes from AMAZON or iTunes

X - "X-roads (Crossroads)" - Jonell Mosser     (from the album Boys of the Side) - Jonell Mosser peals he paint off the walls with her version of X-Roads (“Crossroads”),  weighed down with how to move forward, and which direction to take, her desperation mingling with a fear that ‘believes I’m sinking down’.

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Y - Yosemite - Parker Milsap     (from the album Parker Milsap) - Parker Milsap is fantasizing a future exit, a vacation that can be enjoyed by two. A special trip that is right around the bend….’one of these days I’m gonna strike it rich’ and ‘waiting on a winning ticket, waiting on my train to come.’ Until then, he opens his front door to a parking lot, spending his last four dollars on lottery tickets.

Listen and buy “Yosemite” by Parker Milsap from AMAZON or iTunes

Z - At the Zoo - Simon and Garfunkel     (from the album Bookends) - Stay close to home, consider a day trip and listen to the buzz about the zoo. Simon and Garfunkel take a crosstown bus or just walk from the east side to the park. The inner-city trip is short but the world it opens hints at the danger and the mysteries that the world holds.

Listen and buy “At the Zoo” by Simon and Garfunkel from AMAZON or iTunes

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Soul music has long been the territory of cool cats; music, clothes, style…..smooth. Soul music shared more with our feline friends when it grabbed the extra-lifespan package and opted for a new life every time it seemed to be sputtering. In the 1960’s times of Soul Power, the music was a breeding ground for rhythm, rock and blues. Over the years, Soul has not lost its cool though it has not given as much cred to its sources the further it got away from home. In 2014, Soul music is still very much a part of the musical landscape. Nu and neo Soul pop up to help define studio sounds that move away from Soul’s more organic forms. The real Soul comes from inside the multiple musicians packed onto a stage with drums, bass, guitar, horns, keyboards, background singers and a front person who will use every square inch of space not accounted for by other band members. Labels like Alligator Records, Bloodshot Records, Anti- and other Indies are embracing Soul and bands are looking for bigger stages. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are (once again) the bar for Soul in 2014. They have, and continue, to carve the way and make the world a safer place for Soul. JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound (Chicago, IL), St. Paul and the Broken Bones (Birmingham, AL), and Greyhounds (Austin, TX) are three of the younger bands keeping the flame lit for Soul music in an Indie universe. Justin Townes Earle digs deeper into his Country Soul with each album while Peter Karp and Sue Foley come at their Soul stew from the Blues.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – I Learned the Hard Way - Brooklyn’s Daptone label is a home to its artists who, in turn, manage the business of Daptone Records. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings are the band that built a home for the musicians. The title track from the band’s 2010 release, I Learned the Hard Way, stars Ms. Jones in the mini-film, and on the stage, where she is always the star.

Seth Walker - "Lay Dpwn (River of Faith)" - Seth Walker is a blues crooner. His voice can claim dual citizenship in the blues and jazz. Where Seth’s vocals tend to jazz up the blues notes, his playing comes from a different direction and all the ends meet in his Soul. From the filming of his Extended Play sessions, a video from Seth Walker at Alternate Root TV studios.

St. Paul and the Broken Bones – "Call Me" - Like many others, Paul Janeway heard the call for glory later in life. 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, and answered the call. It is Soul that crowned St. Paul, and The Broken Bones became the chariot that carried him and the Birmingham, Alabama sextet into the studio to release their debut of rock’n’soul, Half the City.

JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound – "Rouse Yourself" - On their second album release,Howl, JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound still lead with Soul, and take the sound further, showing all that it can be in a world primed for Indie Soul.  The confidence and bravado of Soul fuels the way the songs are put together and “Rouse Yourself” pulls love in with some shiny lines and heartbeat drumming.

Justin Townes Earle – "Am I That Lonely Tonight" - Justin Townes Earle has always brought an Indie feel and form to his music. On earlier albums, Justin let that Indie rearrange and remake itself amid songs that landed on the Americana side of Roots Rock. On his most recent Bloodshot album, Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now, he trades open Country for Memphis Soul stew.

Greyhounds – “What’s on Your Mind” - As Greyhounds, guitarist Andrew Trube and keyboardist Anthony Farrell have been making music and touring for 15 years, refining and developing a sound Trube calls “Hall and Oates meet ZZ Top.” The band also has long ties to Memphis, home of the soul that inspires them. What’s on Your Mind” is from Greyhounds 2014 release, Accumulator.

Peter Karp and Sue Foley – More than I Bargained For - Peter Karp and Sue Foley’s recent release, Beyond the Crossroads is a loud celebration of triumph over tragedy, optimism over despair and faith over hopelessness. It delivers on the promise of their critically acclaimed 2010 song-cycle, "He Said - She Said"; an inspired and compelling anthology of original songs, adapted from long distance letters and e-mails the two shared over a particularly difficult and dark period in their lives.

the top 20 of the second generationBeing the child of a celebrity can often be a daunting life. Scrutiny is high along with expectations. When the chosen profession is the same as the parent, the expectations are doubled. The obvious opportunities to bypass certain rungs on the ladder to success are both the spoils and the pitfalls. They must be used wisely to avoid the claims that one is just riding on the success that was merely a coincidence of birth. The demons of the parent can surface in the next generation, becoming easy prey for the critics who circle above waiting for that shoe to drop. History is littered with children of celebrities who couldn't  overcome the obstacles or meet unrealistic expectations. History is also full of those who met or exceeded expectations, carved their own paths, used the opportunities and inherent gifts to create their own legacy, and passed it to third or even fourth generations. The more grounded the top level, the better the chances that subsequent generations will be successful at whatever the chosen path.

We've seen many stories and lists like the one we've compiled here. We tip our hat to the grand successes of Jakob Dylan, Roseanne Cash, Norah Jones, Hank Williams Jr., Julian Lennon, Jason Bonham and many others, but frankly, do any of them need any more press than what they receive regularly? We focused here on the next generation that is rising from the Americana Roots music world. This is the music we celebrate and the children of the lesser known celebrities is where we've concentrated our efforts. They are making innovative, forward-thinking music much like their celebrity parents and this is our spotlight on them.

Here is the Alternate Root Top 20 of the Second Generation

justin townes earle in the alternate root1. Justin Townes Earle born in Nashville in 1982, is the son of Steve Earle and Carol-Ann Hunter. He was raised by his mother in East Nashville after his parents split when he was 2. Justin inherited many of the enormous skills of his father and also, many of the demons. Like his father, he has faced addiction and rehabilitation and emerged the better for it. Unlike his father, his writing, at least at this point in his career, leans less on the socio-political side and more on the personal, relational side of the music spectrum. He's a consummate artist, always reaching for something new, challenging himself musically and spiritually. His music bridges soul, blues, country, rock and folk and never stays static from one project to the next, which is what makes him so intriguing and unpredictable.

Listen and buy the music of Justin Townes Earle from AMAZON or iTunes

 
shemekia copeland in the alternate root2. Shemekia Copeland  was born in Harlem, NYC in 1979, the daughter of Texas guitar slinger and blues singer Johnny Copeland. She got her start while 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.

Listen and buy the music of Shemekia Copeland from AMAZON or iTunes

 
sarah lee guthrie in the alternate root3. Sarah Lee Guthrie is both second generation and third. The granddaughter of the great Woody Guthrie and daughter of Arlo Guthrie, Sarah was born in Massachusetts in 1979. She did not seriously pursue music until her late teens when she worked as a tour manager for her father. Her first solo album was released in 2002 although she had already been touring with future husband and musical partner Johnny Irion, and the grandson of Pete Seeger, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger under the name RIG.Together Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion have released a string of critically acclaimed recordings, won numerous awards and have appeared at nearly every notable music festival and venue there is. The two are working with Wilco founder Jeff Tweedy on an album slated for release sometime in 2013.

Listen and buy the music of Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion from AMAZON or iTunes

 
holly williams in the alternate root4. Holly Williams, like Sarah Lee Guthrie, is both second generation and third. She is the granddaughter of Hank Williams and the daughter of Hank Williams Jr. and was born in Nashville in 1981. She did not instantly pursue a career in music despite her "royal" lineage, having a greater interest in modeling than music. Her parents separated when she was very young, but Hank Jr. began taking her to his shows when she was in her teens exposing her to the music business from a lofty plateau. Soon after, she began playing and writing her own music. Musically more attuned to Hank Sr. than her father, she released her finest recording The Highway earlier this year on her own label, Georgiana Records, to rave reviews.

Listen and buy the music of Holly Williams from AMAZON or iTunes

pieta brown in the alternate root5. Pieta Brown is the daughter of folk singer Greg Brown and like so many other offspring of a famous parent, she was raised by the one who wasn't famous. In this case, it was her mother, after her parents split when she was young. She was born in Iowa in 1973. She inherited Greg Brown's penchant for fine songwriting but tends to write from a more poetic, personal perspective than one of a story teller.  Vocally, she has a distinct style that blends a bluesy, jazzy timbre.  Unlike her father's folk style, her music is painted with strokes of blues, jazz and classic melodies.

Listen and buy the music of Pieta Brown from AMAZON or iTunes

ben taylor in the alternate root6. Ben Taylor is the child of not one, but two, monumental musical parents, singer songwriters James Taylor and Carly Simon. Despite that flawless gene pool, Ben Taylor was a latecomer to the music business that would eventually become his profession. A shy and somewhat reserved young man, he spent time traveling the world, gathering spiritual souvenirs that would later become the foundation for strong, confident music. After a couple of nearly non-existent releases on Epic Records and their subsidiary Work Group, Taylor signed with WEA's Iris Records and released Famous Among the Barns in 2003, which essentially brought him to, what is now, international recognition.

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

 
curtis mcmurtry in the alternate root7. Curtis McMurtry, the son of the brilliant singer songwriter James McMurtry, was born in 1991 in Austin, TX. His grandfather is the acclaimed screenwriter and novelist Larry McMurtry, and it takes just a few minutes into his songs to see that he inherited both his father's and grandfather's skill as a writer. Musically, he strays from the path of his father into territory more attuned to Tom Waits with heavy influences of Dixieland and New Orleans jazz and less focused on political posturing. He's a multi-instrumentalist who is currently studying music at Sarah Lawrence College in NYC but takes time to record and perform with his band Curtis McMurtry and the Chosen Ones.

Listen and buy the music of Curtis McMurtry & The Chosen Ones from AMAZON or iTunes

8. Dustin Welch is the son of the acclaimed singer/songwriter Kevin Welch. Born in Nashville in 1981, his beginnings saw him surrounded by musical treasures, songwriters, players, producers and the Nashville scene in general, and those riches would stimulate his musical upbringing and influence his music. Early in his life, he would team with musicians as diverse as Cary Ann Hearst, Justin Townes Earle, Travis Nicholson and Corey Younts in different bands, building a love for old country blues, folk and bluegrass. But it was his exposure to post punk and indie rock with San Diego-based band Scotch Greens that would put it all together. His music today infuses a lifetime of influences into a dizzying diversity of styles exemplified on his latest and best release, Tijuana Bible.

Listen and buy the music of Dustin Welch from AMAZON or iTunes

devon allman in the alternate root9. Devon Allman, the son of Gregg Allman and Shelley Kay Jefts, was born in 1972. Devon grew up in St. Louis, raised by his Mom in a typical suburban household. He didn’t meet Dad Gregg until he was in his teens. The pair bonded, but rebellion kicked in and in his 20’s, Devon's musical path was as far  from his Dad’s as possible. He saw the light in his 30’s and embraced the Blues and Roots Rock…..(can I get an amen here?).  Devon Allman keeps busy as the band leader for Honeytribe and a member of Royal Southern Brotherhood. And he still found time to  release his first solo album, Turquoise. The album samples smooth blues jazz (“Time Machine”, “Into the Darkness”), Southern Roots Rock (“When I Left Home”,  “There’s No Time”) and a country fried cover of Tom Petty’s “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” in a killer duet with Samantha Fish.

Listen and buy the music of Devon Allman at AMAZON or iTunes

jen chapin in the alternate root10. Jen Chapin is the singer/songwriter daughter of Harry and Sandra Chapin. Her folk moves away from her Dad's coffee house beginnings and, in her own words, into "jazz tinged urban folk... incorporating the funk, soul and improvisation of the city". Jen Chapin is Brooklyn-based, where she lives with husband Stephen Crump (who tours as her bass player in the Jen Chapin Trio) and two kids. Jen has four studio albums bearing her name, Ready,Linger, Open Wide and Light of Mine, all on Hybrid Recordings, and the real-time effort, Jen Chapin Live at the Bitter End from 2000. Multi-taskers take note-- Jen raises the bar adding to her Mom and touring musicians duties, by serving as chairwoman for the organization her dad formed, World Hunger Year.

Listen and buy the music of Jen Chapin from AMAZON or iTunes

shooter jennings in the alternate root11. Shooter Jennings is a child of the road. Born Walton Albright “Shooter” Jennings, the only child of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, he grew up on a tour bus surrounded by Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson. Shooter played drums at five, took piano lessons at eight and started playing guitar at fourteen, sometimes playing percussion in his Dad’s band. Shooter headed to Los Angeles from Nashville in 2001, forming Stargunn, a band with music modeled and molded from a hybrid of Skynyrd, Bowie, G’n'R and The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies. He was offered the lead vocalist chair for Velvet Revolver but chose Country, releasing “Put the “o” Back in Country”. He moved into Psychedelia in his music in 2009, deleting nothing but adding in the ability to grow his own in both sound and look. His latest release, The Other Life, is a homerun. It brings together all the notes and styles at his disposal for the business of making music. Rousing country ruckus (“The White Trash Song”), roots rock on an adrenalin rush (“Mama, It’s Just My Medicine”), back porch folk (“Wild & Lonesome”) and a condemnation of posers trying to share in the glory of those who changed country music (“Outlaw You”).

Listen and buy the music of Shooter Jennings from AMAZON or iTunes

amy helm in the alternate root12. Amy Helm was born in 1970 to dad Levon Helm and singer/songwriter mom Libby Titus, whom Levon had met while recording The Band’s second album.  Amy is a past and current member of the Levon Helm Band, the Dirt Farmer Band and the Midnight Ramble Band. She tours under her own banner, Amy Helm & The Handsome Strangers, and also as a member of the group, Ollabelle. Amy was part of  Blues Tribute to the Greateful Dead in 2001. In the late 2000's, with Ollabelle, Amy Helm participated in another Dead tribute as a member of The American Beauty Project, coordinated and released by FestivaLink at the Fine Arts Center, UMass in Amherst Massachusetts.

Listen and buy the music of Amy Helm from AMAZON or iTunes

cassie taylor in the alternate root13. Cassie Taylor is the child of Blues-trance master Otis Taylor and Carol Ellen Bjork, a union that produced two daughters. Cassie is the eldest daughter and is featured on many of her Dad’s releases. At 26, Cassie has spent ten years on stage playing bass and singing with Otis. Having a modern day Blues innovator as a father grants a lot of flexibility in your own music, and Cassie makes use of the Blues in all its forms on Blue, her 2011 release. Cassie Taylor will release Out of My Mind in May, 2013, claiming her own ground as an artist. The album will host a tune for her parents with the love letter, “Lay Your Head On My Pillow”. The track was written for the couple's twenty-third anniversary. Cassie says that “It’s about their commitment to each other. Lasting couples go through so much. Also, when you’re broke and don’t know what to get your parents for a present, but you can write a song like this… It’s going to last a lot longer than a toaster.”

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

big bill morganfield in the alternate root14. Big Bill Morganfield was born in Chicago, Illinois, a town that his dad, Muddy Waters, made as a mecca for the Blues. Born in 1956, son William had little contact with his Dad and was raised in south Florida by his grandmother. Big Bill had about as much contact with music as with his Dad, and he worked as a teacher after earning a bachelors degree in English from Tuskegee University and in Communications from Auburn U. He did not begin playing music seriously until after his father's death in 1983, and then spent six years studying guitar. The recent Big Bill Morganfield release is Blues With A Mood. The album stays true to the styles of the founding fathers of the Blues, and the diverse ways they expressed the genre. Big Bill says of the project, “I wanted to put together a set of tunes with heavy grooves and deep moods which stay close to the musical genre of Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Junior Parker, Robert Johnson and several of my other musical heroes.

Listen and buy the music of Big Bill Morganfield from AMAZON or iTunes

the chapin sisters in the alternate root15. The Chapin Sisters, Abigail and Lily, are the daughters of folk singer, Tom Chapin, and nieces of Harry Chapin. They formed a band that early on included half-sister Jessica Craven. Before they were really even a band, The Chapin Sisters released a slow, acoustic version of Britney Spears' “Toxic” which garnered attention and radio play. They put together songs for an album and released Lake Bottom in 2008. As a duo, The Chapin Sisters have performed residencies of Old Time Country songs and soon will release a collection tribute to the singing brothers with  A Date With The Everly Brothers, the title taken from brothers Phil and Don’s 1961 album release. The Chapin Sisters do a great job on the album covering the well-known (“Cathy’s Clown”, “Crying in the Rain”) and tracks that never crossed The Everly’s over to mainstream (“Sleepless Night”, “Down in the Winter Garden”). Advanced technology puts the Sisters slightly ahead of the Brothers' originals with the chill factor. Their version of “Dream” re-invents the song to fit into a David Lynch film.

Listen and buy the music of The Chapin Sisters from AMAZON

lucy wainwright roche in the alternate root16. Lucy Wainwright-Roche was born in 1981, the daughter of musicians, Loudon Wainwright III and Suzzy Roche. Lucy chose a non-music path for a while, teaching elementary school in New York City. She recorded  two E.P.s, 8 Songs and 8 More, before releasing her debut album, Lucy, in October 2010. Lucy’s Mom, Suzzy, along with her sisters Maggie and Terre, were part of a folk harmony group, The Roches, that had a major influence on artists such as the Indigo Girls. The Athens, Ga.-based group returned the favor when Lucy Wainwright-Roche toured the U.S., opening for the Indigo Girls, who also appear on the Lucy release.

Listen and buy the music of Lucy Wainwright-Roche from AMAZON or iTunes

17. Savannah Welch is the daughter of singer/songwriter Kevin Welch. Her band, The Trishas, was brought together in tribute to her father when Jamie Wilson, Liz Foster, Kelley Mickwee and Savannah Welch first shared a stage in January 2009. Their plan was simply to perform a couple of songs as part of a musical nod to Savannah’s dad; a joint musical future was not where they were headed. They wound up calling themselves The Trishas on a whim-- the name popping into their heads because they were covering a  Kevin Welch-authored Trisha Yearwood hit. The Trishas' first full-length debut is High, Wide and Handsome. The band has made some good friends while touring outside of their Austin, Texas base, opening for Raul Malo and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Co-writes on High, Wide and Handsome include top-shelf names such as Bruce Robison, Jim Lauderdale, and Jason Eady and the guitar work on the album comes courtesy of Kenny Vaughan, Tammy Rogers, Harry Stinson and Viktor Krauss.

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

ivan neville in the alternate root18. Ivan Neville’s career has put him close to the household name of his Neville Brothers Dad, Aaron Neville. Ivan Neville had a Billboard Top 40 hit with his first solo album, If My Ancestors Could See Me Now. In addition to playing and recording with the Neville Brothers, Ivan was a member of Bonnie Raitt’s band from 1985 to 1987, contributed keyboards to The Rolling Stones' Dirty Work and Voodoo Lounge albums, and was a member of both Keith Richards' non-Stones project with Ron Wood, the X-Pensive Winos and The Spin Doctors from 1999 to 2000. 2003 saw Ivan Neville forming his own band, Dumpstaphunk. In 2013, in celebration of the groups' tenth anniversary, they will release Dirty Word in June, showcasing some of the songs at the end of April during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Listen and buy the music of Dumpstaphunk from AMAZON or iTunes

liam finn in the alternate root19. Liam Finn is a New Zealand musician, the son of Split Enz/Crowded House front man, Neil Finn. Liam Finn came to fame as part of the New Zealand group, Betchadupa in 2007. His first solo effort, I’ll Be Lightning, broke Liam Finn into the Indie music world. The album is Liam bending and working sound into song. The album was recorded entirely on analog at his father's studio with the stories drawn from Liam’s time living in London. Live, Liam uses looping of his instruments in playback and performs with multi-instrumentalist Eliza-Jane Barnes.  He recorded a version of The Beatles' “Two of Us” with Dad Neil for the I Am Sam film soundtrack. He released his latest album, Fomo, in 2011.

Listen and buy the music of Liam Finn from AMAZON or iTunes

finley sexton in the alternate root20. Finley Sexton is the teenage daughter of singer and acclaimed songwriter Will Sexton. While not yet fully into a career as a professional musician, she's been raising ears and eyebrows around her hometown of Austin, TX of late at clubs as heralded as Threadgills, The Monkey's Nest, and Maria's. While following in her father's footsteps as a gifted writer and musician, her roots are  grounded in Indie rock, The Smiths, and Jimi Hendrix with a penchant for melody and keen lyrical expression. She may be the youngest performer on this list, but she's got a solid future ahead and a great foundation to build on.

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We consider these to be the most important roots music recordings of the last 25 years. They are not the "best" albums or biggest selling albums. Some won prestigious awards and many did not. In fact many may have flown under the radar of even the most astute roots music fans.

Roots music has been around since Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie in many of the forms you see and hear today. Alt-Country didn't start with Uncle Tupelo it started in Bakersfield in the late 50's and was continued with artists like Poco, Pure Prarie League in the 70's and on to The Del Lords, The Beat Farmers and Jason and the Scorchers in the 80's. We narrowed it to the last 25 years and maybe some time we'll open up to all-time.

One of the struggles we had will no doubt be a point of contention from the onset. What about Robert Plant and Alison Krauss "Raising Sand?" Oh, what T-Bone Burnett can do with an aging rock legend and a bluegrass singer who happens to also be the most decorated artist in Grammy history. We have a tough time including this roots music but the fact is it made great strides in bringing Americana Music, a genre that was misunderstood, mislabelled and mishandled to the popular concience. It sold gazillions of copies, won a Grammy for Album of the Year and to this day is no more Americana music than Led Zeppelin IV. Many will disagree.

Without further ado, her's our list of the 35 Most Important Roots Albums of the Last 25 Years.


top 35 roots albums in the alternate root1. OMP Soundtrack - Oh Brother, Where Art Thou - (2000) - “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” One of the most if not the most influential roots music albums of the past 25 years, the soundtrack to the film “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” took the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2001 and almost single-handedly placed Americana Music on the map, at least for the general public. Produced by legendary producer T-Bone Burnett, the album featured Allison Krauss, Colin Linden, Gillian Welch, The Fairfield Four and John Hartford among others.
Listen and buy the music of Oh Brother, Where Art Thou from AMAZON or iTunes

top 35 roots albums in the alternate root2. Emmylou Harris – Wrecking Ball - (1995) - Wrecking Ball- Flying Burrito Brothers member and Byrds alumni, Chris Hillman, referred Emmylou Harris to Gram Parsons, who had been looking for a female vocalist to back him on his first solo record. History was made and a career was born. Multiple Grammys and a stellar recording career have made Emmylou Harris ground zero for country rock, Americana and roots music of every shape and form. Wrecking Ball was released well into her career and the experimental album was lauded as one of the most important releases of the decade. Country radio ignored her but alternative audiences found what country lost.

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3. Johnny Cash - American Recordings - (1994) - American Recordings - Johnny Cash is one of the most influential musicians of the 20th Century and could have staked a claim on a number of the spots on this list. We reserved his for American Recordings, a stripped down album performed by Cash with a guitar in his living room. The wild card in the equation was producer Rick Rubin who pulled out emotion, inflection and powerful performances by Cash with the end result being the best Johnny Cash album since the late 1960's.

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4. Bob Dylan - Time Out of Mind - (1997) -  Time Out of Mind- We're not much on the significance of Grammy Awards, but Time Out of Mind won 3 of them including Album of the Year in 1998 which almost redeemed the institution for us. Time Out of Mind could easily be at the top of this or any list of influential albums in terms of writing, production and performance. Producer Daniel Lanois along with session players Jim Keltner, Augie Meyers and Duke Robillard created atmospherics not heard before or since in the Dylan collection.

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5. Uncle Tupelo - No Depression - (1990) - No Depression - Uncle Tupelo 'sNo Depressionlaunched a thousand ships, influencing damn near every roots rock, alt-country band that followed, not the least of which are the two spinoff bands Son Volt and Wilco from band members Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy respectively. While Uncle Tupelo is credited by many as being the founder of the "alt-country" genre, we dispute that along with Jay Farrar. Alt-Country music existed before Uncle Tupelo but No Depression is a part of the history that is not in dispute.

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6. The Carolina Chocolate Drops - Genuine Negro Jig - (2010) - Genuine Negro Jig- Three young black virtuoso musicians have the entire world ahead of them musically, but they chose to go back a century and a half to find the lost art of black string band music. Add their breakout album Genuine Negro Jig to the mix along with a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album and you have one of the most important roots bands of the decade. Genuine Negro Jig inspired a host of albums honoring the old-time American music that has long been forgotten.

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7. Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road - (1998) - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road - Though Lucinda Williams had been recording music since the late 1970's, it wasn't until her monumental breakthrough album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road that she garnered the acclaim globally that she so rightly deserved. Known prior as a country artist, Williams infused blues, rock, country and roots together on Car Wheels... and found her signature groove. Time Magazine dubbed her America's Best Songwriter in 2002 based on the album's intense lyrics. She's become an influence to millions of women (and men) since.

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8. James McMurtry - Childish Things - (2005) - Childish Things- His novelist Dad, Larry McMurtry, gave son James a guitar at age seven and his English professor Mom taught him how to play. James McMurtry claims, "My mother taught me three chords and the rest I just stole as I went along. I learned everything by ear or by watching people." Childish Things in 2005 was a breakout for James McMurtry in a recording career that began in 1989. The album generated the song “We Can’t Make It Here” and a timeless anthem was born.

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9. Cowboy Junkies – The Trinity Session - (1988) - The Trinity Sessions- It was mostly a family affair for Cowboy Junkies with siblings Margo, Michael and Peter Timmins counted as band members. Their 1986 recording debut was blues inspired, but the sound culture clash of their 1988 release, The Trinity Session, brought a larger audience from a rock camp. The Trinity Session married classic country covers (“Walking After Midnight”, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”) with classic rock (“Sweet Jane”) all played out of a moody groove and airy arrangements.

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10. Steve Earle - The Revolution Starts Now - (2004) - The Revolution Starts Now - We tossed and turned over The Revolution Starts Now or Jerusalem being the most influential of these two monumental Steve Earle recordings, and the truth is, both could be here. We picked The Revolution Starts Now because of its subsequent influence on popular counter-culture. The album took a hard stand against the war in Iraq, the death penalty, the policies of George W. Bush and became a megaphone for the left, inspiring Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.

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11. Band of Heathens - One Foot in the Ether - (2009) - One Foot in the Ether- A shared bill brought the three core songwriters for Band of Heathens together at Momo’s in their hometown of Austin, TX in the mid-2000’s. After several live albums and a Ray Wylie Hubbard produced self-titled debut, Band of Heathens released One Foot in the Ether in 2009. The album continued to hone a sound that referenced rock, roots, soul and gospel in songs like “Shine a Light”, “L.A. County Blues”, “Somebody Tell the Truth” and “Golden Calf”.

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12. The Jayhawks – Hollywood Town Hall - (1992) - Formed in Minneapolis, MN in 1985, The Jayhawks released albums in their home base until their major label debut, Hollywood Town Hall, in 1992. The Alt Country group it produced had a softer tone than many of their feedback distorted brethren, and stuck to the California Country sound of Poco and the Burrito Brothers -- sounds that added a lot of folk to the twang. Hollywood Town Hall gathered the dual vocals and finely crafted songs of band members Gary Louris and Mark Olson.

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13. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights - (2007) - Former Rikers Island correction officer Sharon Jones was called in for session work as a backup vocalist. Sharon was the only one of the call outs to show up and impressed the production team by performing all three parts herself.  Daptone Records, the Brooklyn label owned by its musicians/producers, released their first recording, Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings in 2002. The grass roots popularity of the band expanded, and their song mix of funk, soul and roots music lined up perfectly with the 2007 release, 100 days, 100 Nights lighting a torch for a Soul revival.

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14. Old Crow Medicine Show – O.C.M.S. - (2004) - Old Crow Medicine Show busked across upper New York State and through Canada before finding themselves on a street corner in Boone, North Carolinapassingthe hat to Doc Watson. The musical statesmen helped Old Crow Medicine Show along and the band moved to Nashville, again finding luck with a Grand Ole’ Opry residency playing between shows. Produced by Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, O.C.M.S. was the band’s first studio recording, containing the song that has become the Old Crow Medicine Show worldwide greeting card, “Wagon Wheel”.

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15. Ryan Adams – Gold - (2001) - GoldRyan Adams moved from punk rock to Alt Country with the formation of Whiskeytown. The band made great music and drew critical acclaim before folding. Musically, Ryan Adams’ first release, Heartbreaker, seemed to follow in Whiskeytown’s critically favored footsteps. With his 2001 release, Gold, Ryan Adams hit mainstream love with songs like “When the Stars Go Blue”, “La Cienega Just Smiled”, “Harder Now That It’s Over” and “New York, New York”, in a video filmed with the NYC skyline in the background, captured four days before 9/11.

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16. The Bottle Rockets - Brooklyn Side - (1994) - The Brooklyn Side- Formed in 1992 with Uncle Tupelo guitar tech, Brian Henneman, leading the charge, The Bottle Rockets hit a good altitude with the Eric ‘Roscoe’ Ambel produced album, The Brooklyn Side, their second release. The Bottle Rockets music chronicles Middle America-- Brian Henneman referring to the band as ‘reporters from the heartland’. “Radar Gun”, from The Brooklyn Side, put The Bottle Rockets on radio charts.

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17. Todd Snider - East Nashville Skyline - (2004) - East Nashville Skyline - Todd Snider has released a continuous string of critically acclaimed albums; perhaps none more well-received than the introspective East Nashville Skyline. The album confronts a trail of poor decisions, addiction, rehab, controversy and a political shot across the bow of "conservatism" for good measure. Picking a "most" anything out of Snider's catalog is tough, but this one stands out for us as his best.

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18. Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More - (2010) - Sigh No More - Mumford and Sons emerged from what is dubbed the "West London Folk Scene" in 2007 and landed on the shores of America after receiving two Grammy nominations in 2010. Their performance at the Grammy's put "roots music" onto the lips of a generation that only thought of roots in the context of different colored hair or possibly cracks in the driveway. Their debut album Sigh No More is influential in that it opened the minds of a lot more people to acoustic based traditional music.

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19. Will Kimbrough - Americanitis - (2006) - Americanitis - Will Kimbrough is probably better known for his guitar skills and, more recently, as a top shelf producer than for his solo work, but that's reserved for those who have yet to discover Americanitis. In darker days, it could have landed him on the McCarthy Un-American List with other artists and musicians who dared to confront the issues America swept under the rug. This is what "patriotism" is all about, and it also places Kimbrough among the craftier lyricists in roots music where he justly belongs.

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20. Rodney Crowell - Fates Right Hand - (2003) - Fate’s Right Hand - Rodney Crowell has been one of Nashville's most prolific writers for over four decades. Considered a staple of country radio for much of his career, Crowell turned to a more roots-driven sound when country radio went down the toilet in the 1990's. He confronted a lifetime of demons on Fate's Right Hand and drove it home with a roots rock onslaught both musically and vocally. Lyrically, it's Crowell's finest hour in a career filled with many fine hours.

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21. Son Volt – Straightaways - (1997) - Straightaways- Formed in 1994, Son Volt was the group relationship that helped frontman Jay Farrar get over his time with Uncle Tupelo. The band caught instantly with their debut, Trace, and the momentum continued to build and percolate on album number two, Straightaways. Jay Farrar’s deep voice resonates and strains at its borders as the band bangs out Alt Country guitar riffs over a solid beat on “Picking up a Signal” and “Caryatid Easy”. 

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22. Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera - (2001) - Southern Rock Opera- Drive-By Truckers released their third studio album in 1991. Southern Rock Opera proudly stood for the duality of the south with the album’s cut, “The Southern Thing”, explaining “ain’t about excuses, or alibis, it ain’t about no cotton fields or cotton picking lies”. Southern Rock Opera took a look at topics from growing up in the south amid 70’s arena rock, race politics and Lynyrd Skynyrd, as Drive-By Truckers use the southern rock powerhouse as a cornerstone from which to build the album.

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23. Dave Alvin - King of California - (1994) - Dave Alvin has had a steady release of albums where the musical mood changes with the album art. Fans come to expect, and enjoy, the path of Dave’s muse in recording. When King of California came out in 1994, the album was the first to change up the pure, unadulterated, unapologetic, rock’n’roll force of his work with The Blasters and his first three solo efforts. King of California showcased acoustic instruments, but it was in no way an acoustic album. Dave Alvin showed that unplugging did not lessen the intensity of his playing. The album may turn down the volume, but it raises the flame on the old (“Border Radio”, “Little Honey”, “4th of July”), the new (“Blue Wing”, “Every Night about This Time”), and offers a classic country style romp with Syd Straw (“What Am I Worth?”).

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24. The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow - (2011) - Barton Hollow- The Civil Wars won both Best Country Duo/Group and Best Folk Album in 2012 with Barton Hollow. They moved the needle for Roots music the week after the Grammy’s with Barton Hollow selling 35,000 units and helping to take the duo to #10 on the Billboard album charts. The album continues to blur musical lines in the Roots genre, as musicians like The Civil Wars play what they hear in their heads, not what the industry decrees. The Civil Wars, comprised of singer/songwriters Joy Williams and John Paul White, met in a songwriters group in Nashville, TN.

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25. Mary Gauthier - Mercy Now - (2005) - Her early life provided Mary Gauthier with experiences for her true tales, fueled by the alienation that life handed her in the form of birth mother abandonment and dealing with her sexuality. Her late teens were spent in drug rehabs and jail followed by schooling and opening a Cajun restaurant in Boston, all before writing her fist song at age 35. Mercy Now (2005) is the fourth in a series of recordings that began in 1997. The album wraps the emotive passion of Mary Gauthier’s songs in the title track’s pleas, the world of non-stop alcohol consumption (“I Drink”), the perspective of a road weary traveler (“Falling out of Love”) and Mardi Gras in New Orleans (“Wheel Inside the Wheel”).

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26. Justin Townes Earle - Midnight at the Movies - (2009) -Midnight at the Movies- Justin Townes Earle hit his stride and album #3 nicely straddles the more roots feel of his earlier releases and the Indie Soul of the current. Midnight at the Movies visits extremes with folk blues (“What I Mean to You”), gospel Soul (“Someday I’ll Be Forgiven for This”), bluegrass (“Dirty Rag”) and Roots Rock (“Mama’s Eyes”).

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27. Blue Rodeo – Diamond Mine - (1989) - Diamond Mine- Formed in 1985 in Toronto, Canadians Blue Rodeo released their first album, Outskirts, in 1987, which would exclude them from our 1988+ list. Luckily, their second album, Diamond Mine (1989), is date friendly and keeps the same intentions of their debut. Blue Rodeo marry rock and country with a true Indie Rock feel and form, with organ swells sharing the sonic space with guitars and rhythm. Diamond Mine balances Indie Rock tunes (“God and Country”) with torchy twang (“How Long”) and a mix of both (“Love and Understanding” and the title track).

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 28. The Old 97’s – Too Far to Care - (1997) - Too Far to Care- The Old 97’s started their engines in Dallas, Texas before taking it on the road as a hard touring band. Too Far to Care was The Old 97’s third album release, the group’s first album for a major label (Elektra). Too Far to Care offered rock and twang together in Alt Country glory with frontman Rhett Miller’s wry humor and smart lyrics. It offered immediate classic status to the world with “Timebomb”, “Barrier Reef”, “Just Like California” and a duet with X/The Knitters vocalist, Exene Cervenka, on “Four Leaf Clover”.

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29. Hayes Carll - Trouble in Mind - (2008) - Trouble in Mind moved well-deserved recognition for Hayes Carll beyond his native Texas fan base. The album registered Hayes Carll as a member of a Texan singer/songwriter club that included artists such as Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker and Willie Nelson. Trouble in Mind gave the real life experiences in his songs a touch of wit and wisdom as evidenced in tracks such as “Bad Liver and A Broken Heart”, “She Left Me for Jesus” and “Drunken Poet’s Dream”.

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30. BR549 - BR5-49 - (1996) - Gary Bennett and Chuck Mead formed BR-549 and became the house band at Robert’s Western Wear in Nashville, TN. The Roots feel of their music and the humorous subject matter did not warm them to country radio, but it did give them an instant fan base. Their debut album, BR-549, gave the world covers of the Moon Mullican song, “Cherokee Boogie” and The Byrds/Gram Parsons “Hickory Wind”, the tunes bookending the band’s sound and influences. 

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31. Various Artists - Things About Coming My Way - A Tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks - (2009) - Things About Coming My Way- A Tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks - (2009) - The brainchild of producer and guitar virtuoso Steve Dawson, the Tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks not only brought the music of America's first "popular band" to the fore, but  it also was a music history lesson and civics lesson rolled into one. The Mississippi Sheiks were the first black musicians to play in the White House and were the first popular band to record and tour. The album was a who's who of Canadian and American roots musicians including John Hammond, Colin Linden, Bruce Cockburn, The North Mississippi All-Stars, Madeleine Peyroux, The Carolina Chocolate Drops and Jim Byrnes.
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32. Roseanne Cash - The List - (2009) - The List- When your dad is Johnny Cash and he hands you a list of 100 songs you should learn if you want to be a country singer...well, you stash that list away until the right moment. After her father's death, Roseanne Cash took out the list, picked twelve of those songs, and recorded them with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Jeff Tweedy, Rufus Wainright and Neko Case. An album of covers might not be influential, but when the songs are hand-picked by Johnny Cash as "must knows", it deserves attention.

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33. Blackie and the Rodeo Kings - Kings and Queens - (2011) - Kings and Queens- The power of three caused a ripple in the solo careers of Colin Linden, Tom Wilson and Stephen Fearing when the trio came together to record a tribute album to Canadian singer/songwriter Willie P. Bennett. Taking their name from one of Bennett’s albums, Blackie & the Rodeo Kings continued after the success of the one-off recording project and released Kings and Queens in 2011. The album paired with Roots singing females such as Rosanne Cash, Exene Cervenka, Janiva Magness, Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless, Lucinda Williams and Patti Scialfa. 

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34. Eilen Jewell - Boundary County - (2005) - Boundary County- Eilen Jewell busked on the street while attending college in Santa Fe, NM and then on Venice Beach when she made the move to California. Massachusetts club work in Cambridge, Boston and Somerville brought her attention and Boundary County let the rest of the world hear Eilen Jewell’s jazzy delivery over Roots and Americana arrangements. Eilen Jewell has a relaxed timbre to her singing that makes her voice memorable and immediately addictive.

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35. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - (2002) -Yankee Hotel Foxtrot- Frontman Jeff Tweedy continues to move Wilco further from the Alt Country of the band’s debut, 3AM (and even farther from his former band, Uncle Tupelo), with each Wilco release. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot remained true to roots with songs like “I AM Trying to Break Your Heart”, “Pot Kettle Black”, “I’m the Man Who Loves You” and stretched the genre on “Ashes of American Flags” and “Kamera”. Wilco became Indie banner wavers when Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was rejected by their Warner Bros. label heads for not having a commercial single. The band took the album from WB and took it on the charts with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot being their biggest selling album to date.

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the alternate root top 30 female vocalistsFrom a list that seemed endless came the tough task of narrowing it down to our Top 30. There is the obvious choices, the new and rising stars, the unexpected and the "who?" You'll have choices that we missed, as always. Ther will be some you've never heard of that you may be inclined to check out on your own and discover something new and exciting. At any rate, here's The Alternate Root Top 30 Female Vocalists...right now!

emmylou harris in the alternate root1. Emmylou Harris - Emmylou Harris probably tops most of the list of top female vocalists, at least in the roots music world. We thought about that. We also tried to think of who would be above her. We couldn't think of anyone either. Her angelic pipes have graced the country and alt-country world for over 40 years and still sounds great.

norah jones in the alternate root2. Norah Jones - A successful solo career as one of the great voices of the last couple of decades, Norah Jones made our list because of her work with The Little Willies and her ability to meld pop, jazz and country elements to create her unique roots sound. The daughter of the late great Ravi Shankar and Sue Jones has used her pedigree well.

carrie rodriguez in the alternate root3. Carrie Rodriguez - She burst onto the scene as sidekick to legendary songwriter Chip Taylor and then launched into an equally compelling and successful solo career. Rodriguez is master on the fiddle as well as having the beautiful voice that places her among the very best singers right now.

alison krauss in the alternate root4. Alison Krauss - Alison Krauss is the most decorated singer and most awarded female artist in Grammy history. Normally Grammy awards don't mean much here but in this case they actually represent something substantial. her work with Robert Plant on the album 'Raising Sand' is fodder for debate but her work with longtime mates Union Station places her near the top of the heap.

5. Bonnie Raitt - A few years ago Bonnie Raitt may have been at or near the top of this list. She still has one of the best and most distinctive voices out there and she hasn't lost much through the years. She's had an effect musically on damn near everyone that's come after her as a singer, writer and guitar player.

patty griffin in the alternate root6. Patty Griffin - Patty Griffin is one of the key players in the Boston folk revival of the 1990's but her career has revealed a singer with a variety of styles and the accompanying accolades for many of them. She can sing rock, gospel, country, folk with amazing range. She's performed with a who's who of the roots music world including Buddy Miller, Robert Plant, Shawn Colvin, Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch and many others.

christine ohlman in the alternate root7. Christine Ohlman - "The Beehive Queen" could easily be at the top of this list just based on her performance on her latest release 'The Deep End.'. She has spent 20 plus years as the front woman for the Saturday Night Live band, performed with Big Brother and The Holding Company in Central Park, performed at Bob Dylan's 40th Anniversary show and seemingly turns up wherever an amazing blue-eyed soul singer is needed. With her band Rebel Montez she has established herself as one of the great voices in American roots/soul music.

shemekia copeland in the alternate root8. Shemekia Copeland - Daughter of the late Johnny Copeland, Shemekia Copeland is now the defacto "Queen of the Blues." Like Koko Taylor, Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, Helen Humes and a host of women who have worn that crown, someone will have to unseat Shemekia. Figure on her being at the top for some time to come. Her voice is the best pure blues voice of the last 30 years.

rebecca loebe in the alternate root9. Rebecca Loebe - If there is a "reality show" with some substance out there it's probably The Voice. Rebecca Loebe  first surfaced to a National audience as a contestant on that show but was already known in and around Boston since 2004. After receiving a degree in recording engineering from Berklee, Loebe concentrated on a music solely as a performer in 2005. Her latest effort, 'Circus Heart,' stands as proof she made the right decision.

eilen jewell in the alternate root10. Eilen Jewell - Eilen Jewell's jazzy, country tinged voice is the most uniquely recognizeable voice on this list. Ever the experimentalist, Jewell's catalog represents her broad range of style and immense ability. Her albums range from gospel, lounge, country, folk and pop with solid performances on each. Eilen Jewell will find more things to play around with out there and you can be sure she'll nail those too.

grace potter in the alternate root11. Grace Potter - Grace Potter has it all. The looks, the voice, the chops and the attitude. The gifted singer and front woman for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals has been compared to everyone from Koko Taylor to Janis Joplin to Aretha Franklin and may actually have long lost genes from all three packed into her powerhouse voice. She's the best thing to come out of Vermont since maple syrup and cheddar cheese, Phish included.

shawn colvin in the alternate root12. Shawn Colvin - Shawn Colvin has been around since the 1970's in a variety of forms from folk to western swing to off-broadway and has been one of the more influential voices in the singer / songwriter movement. She brings a sophistication and grace to her music that has changed the way thousands of singers and songwriters that followed her approach their craft. Her voice has carried her to heights that include Grammy's for Album and Song of the Year in 1998 and Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1991.

sarah maclachlan in the alternate root13. Sarah McLachlan - Canadian singer / songwriter Sarah MacLachlan has kept a low profile over the past few years making her a bit lower on this list than she could be but with a new album due this year she'll be right back at the top before long. The founder of Lilith Fair, a travelling festival that showcases women artists, she's done a lot for female singers both from an influential as well as philanthropical perspective. Her mezzo soprano voice is among the most recognizable in the world.

sarah mac in the alternate root14. Sarah Mac - For a complete unknown (outside of her Florida fanbase) to make this list at number 14, Sarah Mac had to have something really special. She turned up for a taping of Alternate Root TV in East Nashville and we've never looked at female vocalists the same. In the same vein as Adele, Aretha or the late Amy Winehouse, Sarah Mac has a booming voice that feeds on elements of jazz, soul and blues and refreshes like a cool breeze blowing through a hot smokey nightclub.

gretchen peters in the alternate root15. Gretchen Peters - Gretchen Peters has received more critical acclaim as a songwriter than a singer which says something substantial about her songwriting ability. That injustice should be rectified with the release of 'Hello Cruel World,' her latest effort. Peters has a moody, dark tone to her voice which bodes well for her sophisticated lyrics and complex music. She's been a staple in and around the Nashville scene but finds a much more rabid fanbase in London and throughout Europe.

shannon mcnally in the alternate root16. Shannon McNally - Shannon McNally's blues tinted, soulful country vocal style has landed her along side some pretty impressive company including Ryan Adams, John Mellencamp and Dave Alvin and The Guilty Women. She cut her musical teeth busking in Paris in the 1990's and now fronts the successful band Hot Sauce.

rhiannon giddens in the alternate root17. Rhiannon Giddens - The co-founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon Giddens has incredible range and flexibility in her voice. Prowling through libraries for old sheet music and century old recordings to find material to perform might not be the way most of the singers on this list find their groove but Giddens is a special case in more ways than that. She can sing most anything, keeping it traditional with a modern flair.

nanci griffith in the alternate root18. Nanci Griffith - Long considered one of the most beautiful singers on the country / folk music scene or, just about any scene, Nanci Griffith still sounds great even after nearly forty years of recording and performing. There are more than a few people on this list that walked down paths paved by Nanci Griffith. She's probably influenced a million singer / songwriters that have found her music through the years.

sharon jones in the alternate root19. Sharon Jones - Like many great souls singers, Sharon Jones got her start as a singer in church singing gospel. Unlike many great soul singers, however, her path to prominence took a strange twist. While working as a prison guard on Rikers Island in NYC and keeping on foot in the door as a part time backing vocalist, Jones got her career break in 1996 at a session backing Lee Fields. From those sessions the band the Soul Providers were born, later to become Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings.
tift merritt in the alternate root20. Tift Merritt - Tift Merritt has always been an interesting study both as a writer and singer. Her writing reflects a vast, real world experience and knowledge of music resulting in a substantial body of work. Vocally she has become more mature with each critically acclaimed album. Her voice leans more into the traditions of country music than just about anything seeping out of Music Row these days.

gillian welch in the alternate root21. Gillian Welch - Gillian Welch, like Patty Griffin, was part of the Boston folk revival of the 1990's. While attending Berklee School of Music she started performing with fellow student and future partner Dave Rawlings. Preferring the old time sounds of traditional country and bluegrass they took their music on the road and were inadvertantly discovered by legendary producer T-Bone Burnett. The rest, at least for Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, is history. her voice is stark, beautiful and beyond it's years.
aoife o'donovan in the alternate root22. Aoife O'Donovan - Often understated, the voice of Crooked Still lead singer Aoife O'Donovan is what roots music is all about. She has great range in a broad variety of styles. Often jazz tinted, sometimes a sparse folk sound, other times an alt-country, pop feel but always delivered with immaculate tone.
ruthie foster in the alternate root23. Ruthie Foster - Ruthie Foster is a central character on the contemporary blues scene along with Shemekia Copeland and Susan Tedeschi but her smart, sophisticated writing and ability to push the boundaries enables her to create her own folk / blues / soul niche. Her voice, like her art, is powerful, soulful and covers great depth.

jamie wilson in the alternate root24. Jamie Wilson - An original member of the influential Austin based alt-country band The Gougers, Jamie Wilson now spends her time as one of the four outstanding vocalists in The Trishas. A muti-instrumentalist with a great voice in a band with three other multi-instrumentalists with great voices, Jamie Wilson has the most distinctive roots sound but truthfully, any of the other three members of The Trishas could be here.

lucy kaplansky in the alternate root25. Lucy Kaplansky - One of the central figures in the New York / Greenwich Village folk revival of the late 1970's and early 1980's, Lucy Kaplansky might have had a much deeper history had she not left the music world for a time to pursue a career as a clinical psychologist. She spent much of her early career with folk stand-outs John Gorka, Shawn Colvin, Suzanne vega and Richard Shindell. Once a highly sought after backing vocalist, Lucy Kaplansky has developed into one of the top folk singers on the folk circuit.
susan tedeschi in the alternate root26. Susan 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.

bonnie biship in the alternate root27. Bonnie Bishop - Known predominantly as a songwriter, Bonnie Bishop has garnered some high praise for her singing and performing over four solid solo albums. Her voice is raspy and soulful but matches her performance and writing style perfectly. She sings and writes from the heart and while there are imperfections there is no lack of authenticity to anything Bonnie Bishop does.
sarah petite in the alternate root28. Sara Petite - Sarah Petite hails from the bluegrass, country hotbed of San Diege, CA...OK we're kidding, it's not a hotbed of country or bluegrass but it is the home of one of the rising stars of the alt-country, bluegrass world. Sarah Petite has infused the influences of her youth, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, and local San Diego heroes, The Beat Farmers, into her own unique vocal style. She's a strong songwriter and dynamic performer.
amy black in the alternate root29. Amy Black - A newcomer and a late bloomer on the alt-country, roots scene Amy Black is developing a solid following around the country and in her hometown of Boston. her debut album, 'One Time' garnered a huge amount of critical acclaim for it's songwriting and vocal performance and landed Amy Black on opening slots for Rodney Crowell and Chris Isaak.  She is a fabulous performer with a booming voice and a drive that will move her past many of her contemporaries in short order.
sarah lee guthrie in the alternate root30. Sarah Lee Guthrie - The granddaughter of Woody Guthrie and daughter of Arlo Guthrie, Sarah Lee is part of a duo with husband Johnny Irion. Her voice stays true to the folk and country traditions she was raised to understand and her writing stays tru to the familty tradition of challenging social injustice.