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'EP' THE EXTENDED PLAY SESSIONS

adam ezra on the extended play sessionsThe connection between Adam Ezra, his band and whatever audience he happens to be entertaining is matched by few performers on today's music scene. The consummate entertainer, songwriter and band leader has been at the top of the Boston music scene for over a decade and has steadily built a national following through a relentless touring schedule. His sidekick and percussionist, Turtle, has been with him since Adam Ezra first started  with keyboardist Josh Gold joining soon after. A series of successful, critically acclaimed albums under their belt the band continues to electrify their fans with each live performance. Recent additions, Corina Smith on fiddle and Francis Hickey on bass along with stalwart drummer Alex Martin round out the sextet. This is one of the most memorable performances for The Extended Play Sessions and one we're grateful to have had the opportunity to experience.


 

girls guns and glory on alternate root tvThis week's show features Boston alt-country rockers Girls Guns and Glory. The Alternate Root ranked Girls Guns and Glory as one of the Top 5 Bands in Boston and one of the Top 35 Bands in the U.S. Their rise has been meteoric since the arrival of guitar ace Chris Hersch to compliment the unmistakable voice of front man Ward Hayden. Girls Guns and Glory have been significant all along but the tandem of Hayden and Hersch along with the powerhouse rhythm section of Paul Dilley and Josh Kiggens have brought the band to a new level. Their latest album, 'Sweet Nothings' was one of the Top Albums of 2012 receiving a ton of critical acclaim. The band came into Alternate Root TV Studios to open for the Del-Lords.





 

the band of heathens on alternate root tvA lot has gone on in the lives of Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist over the past year. The co-founders of the Band of Heathens went through a near complete line-up change, fatherhood, moving from Austin and a host of other life shifting changes. During that span they wrote the most compelling and musically poignant album in the band's history, Sunday Morning Record. Touring with a new band and a brilliant new record has placed them right back at the top of the most important bands to carry the roots/Americana torch. Taking one of the best and most dynamic live shows and stripping it down to accommodate the small Alternate Root TV Studios was something the band, the audience and we, at Alternate Root TV, thoroughly enjoyed. "It's a great thing you have going on here," Gordy Quist mentioned, "taking this industrial space and turning it into a cool jazz club and inviting us in to play is pretty cool." We agree. The Band of Heathens performed the first side of the new album Sunday Morning Record for a small audience of fans and Alternate Root TV viewers in the very intimate setting of our Boston studio. "This was as close to a musical "religious" experience as I've had in some time." Bill Hurley, Producer, Alternate Root TV.

 

leftover salmon the extended play sessionsFor nearly three decades Leftover Salmon has been creating their own brand of music combining bluegrass, Cajun, country rock, blues and Rocky Mountain soul. There have been many changes in personnel along the way but the core of Vince Herman on guitar and Drew Emmitt on mandolin has remained solid and the addition of Andy Thorn on banjo has brought the Leftover Salmon sound to a new pinnacle. Back on the road after a host of successful side projects, Leftover Salmon has returned with a new-found vengeance and have reclaimed their spot at the top of the jam band circuit. The stopped into Alternate Root TV Studios on September 14 to tape the 'EP' Extended Play Sessions that will air on Monday September 23rd.



 

royal southern brotherhood on alternate root tvRoots, soul supergroup Royal Southern Brotherhood graced the stage at the Alternate Root TV studio in Boston to film this week's edition of 'EP' The Extended Play Sessions in front of a packed room of fans on August 26, 2013. Devon Allman (guitar), Mike Zito (guitar), Cyril Neville (percussion), Charlie Wooton (bass) and Yonrico Scott (drums) are all musicians of distinguished pedigree that bring together elements of blues, jazz, funk, soul and Gulf Coast rhythms to create some of the most sophisticated and complex music on the roots / Americana circuit. This set was one of the best we've ever had the pleasure of filming. This rich, soul and funk infused collection of songs appear on the debut album Royal Southern Brotherhood and the band performed a stripped down, intimate version for Alternate Root TV with some great commentary about music today, songwriting and being in one of the best bands in the world today.



 

peter mulvey on alternate root tvFor over two decades Peter Mulvey has been creating and perfecting a progressive blend of folk and indie rock music. He combines elements of rock, jazz and intelligent pop melodies with profound stories that penetrate the depths of the human condition. His music transcends the "folk" tag assigned as part of the Boston folk revival of the 1990's, foregoing traditions in favor of a more incendiary, percussive style of guitar playing and ethereal song crafting. Peter Mulvey is a master songwriter and musician and a consummate professional. He stopped by Alternate Root TV studios to film this week's edition of 'EP'-The Extended Play Sessions and it's one of the best shows of the year so far.





 

marcia ball extended playFor four decades the Queen of the boogie-woogie piano, Marcia Ball, has been gracing the stage worldwide. She's one the top female blues performers in the world, bringing the New Orleans/Mississippi Delta style to her unique brand of music. "It's what I know," she says, "I've been playing most of my life and I've been very fortunate." Marcia is also an activist, advocating for health care for musicians through the New Orleans Musicians Clinic and a similar program in her adopted hometown of Austin, TX. She also lends her voice to projects to reclaim the Louisiana wetlands and restoring New Orleans. In this week's edition of Extended Play she talks about her music, Irma Thomas, the plight of the wetlands and gives us a fabulous set of New Orleans style blues.



 

shannon mcnally on alternate root tvShannon McNally and her band Hot Sauce stopped by the Alternate Root TV studio in Norwood, MA to perform a set from the recently released album "Small Town Talk" A Tribute to the Music of Bobby Charles. Charles was one of the most prolific purveyors of the New Orleans sound from the 1950's through the last decade and the album, produced by Dr. John and Shannon McNally, is a brilliant tribute to one of the great songwriters of our time. Shannon McNally is one of the top female vocalists on the Americana/Roots music landscape, a great writer and immensely talented performer with an equally powerful backing combo featuring Will Sexton (guitar), Matt Hubbard (keyboards, trombone), Jake Fussell (bass) and Wallace Lester (drums). This four song set and words from Shannon is some of the hottest music we've had on Alternate Root TV this year!

 

gracie curran and the high falutin' bandGracie Curran has been featured on the Alternate Root lists for Top Female American Roots Vocalist, Top Roots Soul Acts and Top Bands in Boston and for good reason...she's a dynamic singer with a powerhouse voice. A blend of soul, blues, gospel and rock, she and her band mates, the High Falutin' Band defy description except for being a band to watch in the future. The sound revolves around Gracie's soulful voice and the solid guitar chops of Tommy Carroll with the strong rhythm section of Geoff Murfitt ion bass and Derek Bergman on drums, round out the quartet. The band ripped through a set of music from their debut album "Proof of Love" for this week's edition of "EP" - Extended Play on Alternate Root TV.




 

luke winslow-king on alternate root tv Call it a New Orleans gumbo of delta blues, traditional jazz, gospel and soul if you need a definition. New Orleans based Luke Winslow-King is a traditionalist that finds his musical soul melding musical styles nearly a century old with a contemporary improvisational approach. A master bottleneck slide guitarist with a vintage voice, his music is fresh, fun and infectious. He's joined on Extended Play by Esther Rose on washboard and harmony vocals and Cassidy Holden on the upright bass. Esther Rose's voice is the perfect compliment to Luke Winslow-King's music with a tone reminiscent of Eilen Jewell. This is a fantastic show with great music and thoughts from Luke Winslow-King.

Listen and buy the music of Luke Winslow-King from AMAZON and iTunes





 

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UPCOMING STUDIO EVENTS

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THE NEW RELEASE RACK

The Burns Sisters  (from the album Looking Back) - The Burns Sisters raise their voices for a tune written by Annie, “Far from My Home”. The track looks back at a life not far removed from the present, and the story line hints towards a special someone missing. Taken in a different context, when Annie and Marie join voices the tale crosses oceans seeking the mists and memories left behind by family in Ireland. Though The Emerald Isle is geographically distant from the Ithaca, New York setting the Burns family chose for a new home, the sisters cover sea miles in the space of a song on Looking Back…Our Irish American Souls, the pair’s most recent album release. The duo present harmonies they have cultivated for over twenty years in the genres of Folk and Pop, as well as time put in as background singers for Arlo Guthrie. Looking Back combines songs from The Burns Sisters individual pens as well as the music of Irish ancestors in music.

Violin and acoustic guitar strings welcome Looking Back…Our Irish American Souls with a song of history in “Mother’s Ode”.  As relatives leave and stay in County Clare. The Burns Sisters greet the track with sibling harmonies that flow like blood, moving gracefully over the sounds of Ireland with whistles, flutes and pipes against a heavy bottom of bass and drums.  “Workhouse” delivers its sad tale of the forced labor of children over a bed of violins and guitar notes, “To Live Again” shoots its arrows of passion and emotion into ‘two ancient souls’, and the sisters sing as daughters of a dreamer in “Fathers Blue Eyes”.  The Burns Sisters balance their originals cuts with songs of heritage found in the traditional Irish tunes “Ned of the Hill” and “Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral” as well as the Frederick Weatherley song “Oh, Danny Boy”. Looking Back sets its sights on the ground from which the Burns clan grew as The Burns Sisters offer Ralph McTell’s “From Clare to Here” and Peter Jones’ “Kilkelly”.

Listen and buy the music of The Burns Sisters from AMAZON or iTunes

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Twists and Bends (various Vermont artists) - Emily Nyman sings of her home state, Vermont, as her words gather a community on the porch, citizens bound together by white-washed steeples, old barns, maple sugar and the cry of the loon. The song is part of Twists and Bends, a compilation offered from Malletts Bay Music to honor the art and artists from the Green Mountain State. Mallett Bay Records uses home court advantage to cherry pick Vermont singer/songwriters who present their music with the sparkle of acoustic instruments leading the way. Twists and Bends hosts seventeen artists and their songs through with the easy strums and diverse styles that make up Americana, with the tracks created specifically for the compilation produced by Colin McCaffrey at Lane Gibson Studios.

Bow Thayer’s advice takes you smiling through traffic jams, bad love days and bright white lights with “15 Ways of Laughing”,  Patrick Fitzsimmons bounces and plucks a high stepping rhythm for “Two Birds”, as Taryn Nicole and Juliet McVicker resurrect “Frankie and Johnny” for one more spin around the decades old murder ballad. Twists and Bends invites world-wide listens for the sound of Vermont as Gregory Paul Douglass tries to stop his train to nowhere, hoping to turn around (“Every Day”), Micah Sanguedolce does his own truckin’ towards mountain water as he looks for fellow travelers to share the journey (“Hey Dude”), Lisa Piccirillo plays cupid (“Tell Her”), and Amber deLaurentis tries to work magic on a Kansas road to turn a car around towards her Vermont home (“Come East”).  Twists and Bends may curve as it hugs the road through the mountains, though all roads lead back home to Vermont. Tom Cleary supports that theory on the title track as he points out that ‘the road’s just one big circle of twists and bends’.

Listen and buy the music of Twists and Bends from AMAZON or iTunes

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Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield  (from the album Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith) by Michael Verity - On a number of counts, Avett and Mayfield do an admirable job of bringing something new to Elliott Smith’s compositions on Seth Avett and Jessica Mayfield sing Elliott Smith. On “Baby Britain,’ they strip away all signs of the original’s poppy posture, delivering the song at a slower tempo with a considerably more pensive vocal approach. Mayfield’s slightly snarky voice on ‘Fond Farewell’ unseats the swirling George Harrison hippieness of the original, giving it an indelibly indie feel, while Smith’s cosmic conversationalism is (quite interestingly) completely AWOL on the Avett/Mayfield version of ‘Somebody I Used To Know.’ Save for their harmonies, there’s little to distinguish one version of ‘The Lost I Lost’ but the piano and fiddle accompaniment on ‘Twilight’ is a nicely executed change of pace.

Diehard Elliott Smith fans will likely find this one a little too indie to swallow while those who’ve never engaged with Smith will find it all fresh and new. In between, the critical conclusion is they’ve done a mostly admirable job of painting Elliott Smith’s songs in a new light. As with the long list of records that try to reimagine Sinatra, there will no doubt be many more albums like this one as Smith becomes more and more important in the context of his time. by Michael Verity

Listen and buy the music of Seth Avett and Jessica Lee Mayfield from AMAZON or iTunes

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Gill Landry  (from the album Gill Landry on ATO Records) by Michael Verity - As a solo artist, Old Crow Medicine Show’s Gill Landry is an average poet with a good sense of melody and a serviceable voice, a songwriter who’s not afraid to crack open his personal diary to speak candidly about what’s on his mind. In this session, it’s mostly heartache and loss that jump from his journal’s pages.

“Everybody’s dressed in black, with chrysanthemums and voodoo dolls, trying to bring you back,” he sings in the brief but touching elegy to lost love, ‘Funeral In My Heart.’ Just “knowing someone like you is alive,” as he sings on ‘Just Like You,’ seems to be enough to salve the pain that comes from a heartless town and the memories of old loves and wedding gowns. Lily Costner brings luscious harmonies to a number of songs, including the airy travelogue ‘Waiting For Your Love,’ while guest singer Laura Marling steals the show on the glorious ‘Take This Body,’ an LA story song that actually doesn’t sound like Tom Waits nor Rickie Lee Jones. ‘Fennario’ is a strong tune, as well, a dose of Robert Earl Keen wit matched with Marty Robbins Mexicali blues.

There are times, however, when Landy’s poetry falls flat. ‘Emily,’ with its opening line about “the altar of (her) body” is a first verse red flag that never quite stops waving and, good song it might be, the line in ‘Just Like You’ about “sitting in the kitchen chair, reading Bukowski in your underwear (and) lookin’ fine” wants to be Leonard Cohen sexy but just comes off as corny.  (by Michael Verity)

Listen and buy the music of Gill Landry from AMAZON or iTunes

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Ryan Bingham   (from the album Fear and Saturday Night) - 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 most recent 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. History has it that Ryan wrote the songs for Fear and Saturday Night alone in airstream trailer in the mountains of California. The seclusion from technology gave him clarity to work out a turbulent past and create songs as personal puzzle pieces in a way that they can fit into the lives of others.

Gentle strums and soft round notes from a Country Blue guitar open Fear and Saturday as “Nobody Knows My Trouble” turns the pages of Ryan Bingham’s daily notebook. The words follow the musician through his life from New Mexico, through addiction and into the life of a songwriter. The Tex-Mex border sound goes on tour with Ryan Bingham in “Adventures of You and Me”, emotion and a gentle arrangement erase the past with a promise by asking “Darlin’” to dance, and a gravelly commitment offers the advice of experience with “Snow Falls in June”. The way Ryan Bingham wraps his voice around the stories on Fear and Saturday Night make it hard to separate the man from the mysteries in the words. Love rides into town on the heavy-footed stomp of the Blues in “Top Shelf Drug” while “Radio” gets tuned by Southern Rock, and the title track drives late night streets as it heads to the lights of downtown on a slow cruise.

Listen and buy the music of Ryan Bingham from AMAZON or iTunes

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Lilly Hiatt (from the album Royal Blue) - East Nashville musician Lilly Hiatt slow dances with melancholy on her recent Normaltown through New West Records release, Royal Blue. The album is her second release, and Lilly feels topics are about ‘accepting the sadder aspects of life and finding some peace in them’. Royal Blue moves with a pulse pumping a heart aware that things work out in equal measure to going belly up. Lilly Hiatt doesn’t drown in the ocean she is seeking 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’.  The sonics that stage Royal Blue use echoey chords, wobbly keyboards and solid strums for the album stories to play out.

Rattling bone percussion edges the question in “Worth It”, a rock’n’roll guitar marks time as “Machine” puts it pedal steel to the metal, and the title track opens its sound to the expanse of a western sky with graceful rhythms and riffs. Lilly Hiatt lets her voice become one with the instruments as she keeps time in the tales with her heart. 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 as a David Lynch sound track with an dream-like beat that zigs zag on a ghostly groove, bounces a rock’n’roll jangle off the solid rhythm of “Get This Right”, and uses tight drum beats to corral the the wobbly guitars running “Off Track”.

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

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Asleep at the Wheel (from the album Still the King) - 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. “Bob Wills is Still the King” is a 1970’s tune written by Waylon Jennings, penning his own tribute to Western Swing’s patron with son, Shooter Jennings, joined by Randy Rogers and Reckless Kelly on the album closer.

There are questions coming from Pokey LaFarge who asks “What’s the Matter with the Mill”, observations from Buddy Miller on “Time Changes Everything”, mental weather reports from Jamey Johnson and Ray Benson with “Brain Cloudy Blues”, poor decisions from The Avett Brothers who mention “The Girl I Left Behind Me”, and warnings from Lyle Lovett in “Trouble in Mind”.  The cast of players is as endless as the hits they are pulling out for tribute. Old Crow Medicine Show (“Tiger Rag”), Carrie Rodriguez (A Good Man is Hard to Find”),  Elizabeth Cook (“I Had Someone Else Before I Had You”), The Devil Makes Three (“Bubbles in My Beer”), and The Time Jumpers (“Faded Love”). Still the King has a heart for the land that gave birth to the music, and the songs, of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, by pointing locations still out the windshield and in the rear view as they travel the Southwest on the “Navajo Trail” with Willie Nelson, cruise “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)” with George Strait and introduce the “Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas” with Robert Earl Keen.

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

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Bob Cheevers ‘fesses up that he can “Sound Just Like Willie”, further admitting that he is ‘a fan of the red-headed stranger’ as he writes Mr. Nelson’s bio in the tune. Bob is ‘Tennessee hillbilly’ with a voice that is a near match his fellow Texas singer/songwriter...maybe it is ‘the weed or the Shiner Bock beer’. The track sits amid a healthy fifteen cuts on the most recent Bob Cheevers album, On Earth as It is in Austin. The title track brings back brother Willie back in a dream sequence that is the center of the story. Bob writes it as he sees it on the album, viewing ‘single bars and happy hour nights’ with past shelf life stickers in “Falling Hard on Easy Street”, stepping between guitar strums and fiddle riffs to tell the story of William Henry McCarty aka William Bonney in “Hey Hey Billy”, shrugs a hard shoulder to wants and needs in “I Don’t Need a Thing” and swings back the slide guitar hammer to hit “One More Nail”.

Bob Cheevers is a master storyteller, handing over a history of sorts, or as Bob sees it ‘I don’t know if these stories are true…but they happened to me”. It is the mark of the best troubadours that the lines between fact and fiction are clearly seen as one and the same from both sides. On Earth as It is in Austin remembers when a night out was not any different from riding a wild bull in “My First Rodeo”, slowly stretches out the rhythm so as not to stiffen “Creaky Old Bones” and watches the delta comes alive in all sensations as heaven and hell face off on “Made in Mississippi”.

Listen and buy music by Bob Cheevers from AMAZON or iTunes

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Allison Moorer   (from the album Down to Believing) - Allison Moorer has released Down to Believing, her ninth studio album. “Thunderstorm and Hurricane” rumbles with the thunder of bass drums and the quiver of cellos, a bombastic confessional, big and bold and aching with pain and strife. Allison Moorer cashes in her crystal ball for a wrecking ball on “I Lost My Crystal Ball,” an 80s-style cowboy rocker that crashes again the wall with tons of guilty Telecasters, another blazing Greenberg solo and gorgeous harmonies (which appear from the liner notes to be Moorer’s own overdubs).

Leaving or staying, whether we do or we don’t -- the prospect of living without someone -- is the central theme of the three-quarter time ballad title track, gorgeously proffered here with lonesome pedal steel guitars and beautiful piano lines. Moorer takes the album in a down and dirty direction on “Mama Let The Wolf In,” a brash and ballsy blend of Creedence Clearwater’s groove and Bobbie Gentry’s badass attitude. Allison’s not whistling in the dark when she says “I’m Doing Fine,” a woman-powered anthem that’ll likely be covered within the next twenty minutes by the next contemporary country starlet to come down the road.

The one song on the record that didn’t come from Moorer’s pen, a cover of CCR’s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain,” is nice enough but, given the remarkable intimacy of this record, it seems slightly shallow and out of place. For it is the remarkable depth of Moorer’s intimate lyrics and the power of her voice -- with no small help from a great band and stellar production -- that make this album tick. It’s a good one, that gets better with every listening session.

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

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Eliza Neals  (from the album Breaking and Entering) - No need for a safe-cracking tools, crowbar or some blasting caps….Eliza Neal is Breaking and Entering on her most recent release with nothing but one big voice to bust things wide open. The Detroit, Michigan-based singer/songwriter blows Blues Rock sky high on the album. Eliza fronts a hometown A-list of musicians including Kid Rock guitarist, Kenny Olsen, who guests on two tracks, providing airy guitar notes that haunt and hint at power in “Southern Comfort Dreams”, and roars against a Blues drone that crawls across “You”. Breaking and Entering picks the lock to on the album with opener “Detroit Drive” with its scratchy back porch Blues that shuffles in on a persistent rhythm.

Eliza Neals coaxes and seduces as she opens a vocal suitcase of hard rock Blues on Breaking and Entering. Her vocals bubble up to the surface of the title track on a slow fire, fan the flames to cook “Goo Goo Glass”, cruise on the metronome arc of “Windshield Wipers”, and holler over the stomp of “Pretty Gritty”. Eliza Neals showcases a natural Blues touch as she ups the ante for Rock on Breaking and Entering as she snake walks with a sweet tease through “Sugar Daddy”, stays on top of the rolling riffs in “Spinning”, and comes knocking to speak her mind with “Jekyll and a Hound”.

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Donald Ray Johnson  (from the album These Blues; The Best of Donald Ray Johnson) - After forty years in the music business, the easiest thing Calgary, Canada-based musician Donald Ray Johnson has probably done is to cherry pick thirteen tracks for a ‘hits’ compilation in the form of his recently released, These Blues; The Best of Donald Ray Johnson. Donald Ray played professionally from the age of fourteen in his native Texas, relocating to Los Angeles in 1971 after a Navy stint. In the life of a working musician, it is those one-off moments that provide resume builders. While in LA, Donald Ray Johnson was looking for a weekend gig, meeting Perry Kibble, who was in the process of developing a group featuring the vocal talents of two young women, (bassist, Janice Marie Johnson & guitarist Carlita Durhan).  The outfit became known as A Taste of Honey, and went on to become the first Afro-American group to grab a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1979.

These Blues present a man who has lived his music for decades. Donald Ray Johnson is on the losing end of love, vocalizing all the Blues that situation brings as he shares that making up just to break up “Ain't No Fun to Me”,  points out that “Thrilling You Killing Me” is what loose third-wheel living takes home, and claims ownership of today’s, tomorrow’s and the future’s Blues in the title track. He plays the part of the guy not trying enough on his cover of “Always on My Mind”, is the loser in a fight with “Me and Jack (Daniels)”, coasts on a sax groove looking to make off with his “Last Two Dollars”, and sings the sad saga of little money, a lack of make-up and a bad hair day on “Working Girl Blues”. The Blues and love have long been a part of each other’s song though Donald Ray Johnson saves his heart for the music, still feeling the hurt long after the music is only in his head with “No Guitar Blues”.

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JJ Grey and Mofro   (from the album Ol’ Glory) - As a primer, a little background on JJ Grey and Mofro. The band was born in Jacksonville, Florida…..home of Lynryd Skynrd and Limp Bizbit. JJ Grey spells his name correctly, and Mofro is Anthony Cole on drums, Andrew Trube on guitar, Anthony Farrell on organ, Todd Smallie on bass, Dennis Marion on trumpet and  Jeff Dazey on saxophone. JJ Grey and Mofro have recently released Ol’ Glory, an album that swears allegiance to the beat, the groove and the rhythm. The words, by default, have no other choice by to get in line and testify.

The title track demands attention from the first electric piano chords. JJ Grey climbs up to a pulpit built by generations of Soul and Funk bands that have come to the realizations that it’s alright to bow down to “Ol’ Glory” while Mofro speaks a funk jazz language that is new yet completely understood as it rises up on chopped guitar chords. When JJ Grey and Mofro make a request it can sometimes grind across a scratchy Blues (“Torn Loose”), toss the curtains open on a sunny day tune sung by a gathering choir of angels (“Everything is a Song”), or huddle around the streetlight to harmonize to the funky thump of the traffic on “A Night to Remember”.  Ol’ Glory never salutes yet the album boasts pride as it bows down to Blues (“Hold on Tight”), Americana rambles (“The Island”), a dusky Folk reverie that defines the future (“The Hurricane”), and a glow from the harmonies that strike a spark to “Light a Candle”.     

Listen and buy the music of JJ Grey and Mofro from AMAZON or iTunes

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The McCrary Sisters (from the album Let’s Go) - I am not an historian yet I am pretty sure that Christianity was built on revolution. The McCrary Sisters, daughters of The Fairfield Four member, Reverend Samuel McCray, are not claiming a new religion or erecting a golden idol. On Let’s Go, The McCrary Sisters recent release (3-10-15), the revolution is not in sound…. the bar is raised, and the walls torn down in the way the music hits your ears, and in the revolutions it creates on the musical device of your choice. Gospel Roots music seduces without proselytizing, gaining attention for its dedication to words and music.

The McCrary Sisters do not lightly share the Let’s Go that they use as an album title and a challenge on their Buddy Miller-produced album. 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. Giving up control of life may be one of those hurdles between you and salvation, though when “Use Me Lord” utters a siren whisper, you may give up, and give in, just a little…..enough to touch a toe in the golden light. Let’s Go opens on a path that leads to ‘the land where milk and honey flows’ with an accapella burst on the opening track, stomps out a beat to dry the sweat from the “Fire” of the Holy Ghost in the Sisters souls, rides a wobbly riff and organ bursts to shout out “I Am Free”, and locks audio arms to walk side by vocal side into biblical glory with “I, John”.  The McCrary Sisters let their voices be the center point on Let’s Go as rise up without instrumentation on “Dr. Watts”, “Don’t You Let Nobody Turn You ‘Round”, “Old Shoes” and closer “Walk in the Wind” while echoey Americana gives The McCrary Sisters a comforting foundation as they cross over in “By the Mark”.  There is sass in The Sisters as they tease for over two-minutes before fulfilling the musical force on “Driving Your Mama Crazy”, and testify for the almighty Father force that has their back with “That’s Enough”.

Listen and buy the music of The McCrary Sisters from AMAZON or iTunes

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The Mavericks (from the album Mono) - There is an adage that hard work brings its own reward. While that is an open topic for discussion, there is little denying that we, as listeners, benefit from the hard work of others.  The Mavericks stand in the front of the line as examples of how touring behind the success of their In Time album created the momentum that gives the world Mono, the band’s most recent release. The Mavericks are a tough love band, so opening track “All Night Long” does not hesitate as it rushes headlong in Mono. The Miami, Florida-based band is naturally surrounded by Latin rhythms, and that base paves the way for the tune to track (in mono). The groove comes on bass bumps, concertina pumps and percussive rattles against a roar of horns gliding smoothly, providing a fertile soundscape for the massive pipes of Raul Malo to rule……and that is only the first song.

A pulp fiction edge outlines “What You Do to Me” as a frenzy of notes fly across its surface while “The Only Question enters with confidence, each step taken on solid beats.  Mono gathers tunes under the diverse musical banner that The Mavericks champino, with Raul Malo’s vocal power carefully steering on tracks with light cha-cha rhythms dancing to the sounds of “Summertime (When I’m with You”), skimming over Country Blues with “What am I Supposed to Do”, putting a quarter into the jukebox for the rock’n’roll of “Stories We Could Tell”, and slowly trudge home on road miles for “Pardon”. The Mavericks pour heart and a natural Soul into every cut on Mono bouncing “Out the Door” on a reggae rhythm, softly strum acoustic to take them home on “Let It Rain (on Me)” and shut the door on Mono with the Doug Sahm-authored closing track “Nitty Gritty”, spitting out horns scratchy guitar licks amid Augie Meyers accordion playing.

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

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Jorma Kaukonen  (from the album Ain’t in No Hurry) - Ain’t in No Hurry opens with man and guitar, Jorma fingerpicking the entry into a depression era realization that “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”. The track adds instruments to become a united march that stretches from the time Jimmy Cox penned the tune in 1923. Bessie Smith brought the song to fame and Jorma Kaukonen adds it to the Ain’t in No Hurry song roster, offering his cover alongside tracks from The Carter Family (“Sweet Fern”) and working with album contributor Larry Campbell to add to Woody Guthrie’s “Suffer Little Children and Come Unto Me” . Another track fitting into the times now as much as when it was written, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” with the bright acoustic notes sparkle of mandolin and guitar shining as the tales dreams lose their light.

On his self-penned tunes, Jorma climbs on a high-stepping beat for a good pace on “The Other Side of the Mountain” while he lightly dapples notes that flicker among the memories in “In My Dreams”. The title track for Ain’t in No Hurry sways like a wagon on a dirt road with its Country Folk arrangement while saw dust covers the floor in “Bar Room Crystal Ball” to cushion the fall of the tales main character. Jorma Kaukonen lets his natural calling as a folk musician divine the music for Ain’t in No Hurry with an easy hand on the strings, taking the album out with a musical look back in “Seasons in the Field”.

Listen and buy the music of Jorma Kaukonen from AMAZON or iTunes

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Girls, Guns and Glory (from the album Girls Guns and Glory Presents: A Tribute to Hank Williams) - It is only fitting that Girls, Guns and Glory chose a New Year’s Eve live setting to tribute Hank Williams. The band has been performing Hank Williams shows, and the recording stamps their presentation of muse moments for GGG. Ward Hayden grew up in a home that loved classic country, so as a teenager, Ward wanted to hear anything but Country music. He 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.

Girls Guns and Glory Presents: A Tribute to Hank Williams does exactly what the marquee promises. “Jambalaya” opens the album on a bass bump and snare shots with no one tapping on the breaks before the show closes out with “I Saw the Light”. Girls, Guns and Glory manage the dual role of fans and players as they rock a version of “Moanin’ the Blues”, go to a hushed acoustic guitar to let Ward’s voice claim “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, duets on“Your Cheatin’ Heart” with Miss Tess (Miss Tess and the Talkbacks) and follow the same model when Cecelia Woodsmith of Della Mae shares the microphone on “Move It on Over”. GGG have “Honky Tonk Blues”, lead a singalong for “Hey Good Lookin’” and count blessings with hard won “Rocking Chair Money” on Girls Guns and Glory Presents: A Tribute to Hank Williams.

Listen and buy the music of Girls, Guns and Glory from AMAZON

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Dan Imhoff and Yvette Holzwarth   (from the album Owl Country) - It was a simple plan. Dan Imhoff and Yvette Holzwarth wanted to make an album that stayed true to the two people creating the music. Owl Country was to be a document of dual harmonies embellished with just guitar and violin playing in unison. For the most part, Owl Country remains in the sights of the original concept. The Owl Country Band uses the push of a bass and mandolin strums to find its way through “Lost and Found”, trample “Sacred Ground” with a full troop of instruments to keep their back and complete the forward motion by adding drums and pedal steel to keep pace with the notion that “I Want to Know You”. The additional players fit the mold of Owl Country nicely, keeping the acoustics bright while the natural charm of the tunes never wavers.

Dan and Yvette do not rely on the magic of guitar and violin to back the sound of Owl Country. Their notes merge and tumble with graceful skips (“Rusted Car”), flow with determination (“Creek”), lightly dapple the air with notes  (“Looking Waiting”), and seek a somber understanding (“Atonement”). Owl Country marks out its ground with Folk music buoyed by touches of Country and Rock while standing tall, proud with the land it has carved with the use of acoustic instruments.  Dan Imhoff and Yvette Holzwarth create a soft glow immediately as they “Light a Candle” to open the album. Owl Country delivers originals from the duo and invites Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” to take a seat on the song list.

Listen and buy the music of Dan Imhoff and Yvette Holzwarth from AMAZON or iTunes

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A sonic milestone is crossed on Terraplane, the most recent release from Steve Earle and the Dukes. To truly feel the album simply give in to the distortion-based accents of raw Blues and Velvet Underground drone as it finds its kinship with a contemporary feral Blues underground that is crawling from the wreckage to once again walk the earth….hallelujah. As a host, Steve Earle never throws the same party for each album release. Terraplane is not exclusive in its use of sharp edges on its tracks, yet the overall feel, from and function is down, dirty, oh-so-sweet Blues of the yeah, that’s it, right there variety. Steve Earle and the Dukes bend but never break as they twist with a Country twang (“The Usual Time”) or ride a rumbling riff all the way through to the end (“You’re the Best lover That I Ever Had”).

Terraplane shares its space with 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 trumpet a fashion return with “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 fromtheir boots. A Texas Swing serenades the guy locked out on “Baby's Just as Mean as Me” in a Steve duet with Eleanor Whitman, trance Blues seduces the tale of “The Tennessee Kid” into life, Soul pumps the harmonica and the rhythm of its Blues on album opener “Baby Baby Baby (Baby)” and strips 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

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Gretchen Peters walks among us. How else could she so carefully recreate our actions as we move our feet, reach out with our hands or live within what we felt were pretty private thoughts? If we were to turn completely away from conspiracy theories, we could hear Gretchen Peters as a bridge between where we are and the prayers we send out to get there. Blackbirds is the album currently in flight for Gretchen Peters. “Jubilee” seeks air as it swears that ‘I have nothing to hold me here’, threatening that ‘it won’t be long now until I fly’. The speech is one of spirit, standing secure in the knowledge that wants are fulfilled as steps are taken towards an unknown future against the note patterned breath that bids goodbye once again to ‘Danny Boy’, if only in melody memory. Gretchen Peters paints words and music to create stage vignettes where lives structured with flesh that show the workings of heart and the ticking of minds.

Dark clouds of chords roll over the story playing on the ground of the title track as Gretchen Peters narrates a tale that holds no other ending, as much as it shows no way out of hard decision. She lets songs drift down to the Gulf, heading into back bayous to build a life that has trouble seeing future from a livelihood cut by “Black Ribbons” spreading the ‘devils burning flows’ on the water. 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

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Changes in life curved Audrey Auld back to the support found in the northern California community of Stinson Beach. Before leaving Nashville to cycle her life with the west coast, Audrey needed to complete a project she was involved in with prison inmates. Hey Warden is the recorded result of a project that goes back eight years, when Audrey Auld played a show in San Quentin Prison in California. The performance led to Audrey hosting writing workshops which continued after her relocation to Nashville in 2007. Her group ranged between those who had never written creatively or shared their writing with anyone to experienced musicians who wrote and played in bands within prison walls. Audrey would initiate the writing session with a song swap, and then propose an idea or a title to explore in writing and after each session she would gather the papers. She would edit the inmate’s words at home, crafting the stories and feelings into a song. Audrey Auld added the melody, staying as true as possible to the words on their pages. An inmate dubbed the session as ‘our words, your voice”. Hey Warden is a collection of songs that opens prison doors for those on the inside to free words and thoughts.

Hey Warden enters on Country Blues footsteps as Audrey Auld walks up to the guy behind the album title and is joined with a chorus of added voices to push the message across to the powers that be. The tune was the first track that materialized out of the writing sessions, Audrey recalling that ‘I hadn’t hosted a songwriting workshop before so I decided to give them the first line of each verse over a simple blues structure and see what happened’. There is inspiration in the undertaking of Hey Warden, and redemption in the words of humans whose entire lives have become judged (often) by one moment in time. One day in a life defining the future; the fact becoming clear within the story that unfolds on “I Am Not What I Have Done”. Kenny Vaughan’s guitar introduces the powerful line ‘if these walls could talk’ that tears down “Walls”. The songs on Hey Warden are all results of the time Audrey Auld spent offering her experience and expertise with the inmates of San Quentin. “Poor Joe” ambles across a jail door rattle beat while “Bread and Roses” honors the organization that set up the writing session, and speaks to the rules that Audrey was given prior to entering the prison…..a long list of ‘no’s’ attached to what she could take when walking behind the walls of San Quentin.

Listen and buy the music of Audrey Auld from AMAZON or iTunes

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NEW VIDEO FROM THE ETHER

MATT ISBELL - MEMPHIS CIGAR BOX

Ever wonder how you would go about making a cigar box guitar? Matt Isbell of Ghost Town Blues Band takes you on a DIY tour of making the Memphis Cigar Box. In the award winning short film, Matt shows how he makes, and plays, his unique cigar box guitars.

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GHOST TOWN BLUES BAND - THE ROAD STILL DRIVES THE SAME (WITHOUT YOU)

The Ghost Town Blues Band are traveling in style for the filming of Live in Amurica. The trio plays “The Road Still Drives the Same (Without You)” with cigar box guitars made by group member, Matt Isbell. The track is from the Ghost Town Blues Band’s upcoming Hard Road to Hoe release (spring 2015).

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THE ROYS - THOSE BOOTS

The Roys premier “Those Boots”, the second single from their most recent album, The View. The footage connects deeply with The Roys’ own Roots as well as footage of military personnel, farmers and firefighters. The video was filmed and produced by Passamano Bros. Productions.

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NEW AND NOTEWORTHY

GRETCHEN PETERS - BLACKBIRDS

GRETCHEN PETERS - BLACKBIRDS

Gretchen Peters walks among us. How else could she so carefully recreate our actions as we move our feet, reach out with our hands or live within what we felt were pretty private thoughts? If we were to turn completely away from conspiracy theories, we could hear Gretchen Peters as a bridge between where we are and the prayers we send out to get there. Blackbirds is the album currently in flight for Gretchen Peters. “Jubilee” seeks air as it swears that ‘I have nothing to hold me here’, threatenin...

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JAMES MCMURTRY - COMPLICATED GAME

JAMES MCMURTRY - COMPLICATED GAME

Sometimes life can be a complicated game and few tell the story as clearly as James McMurtry. His sharp-eyed lyricism and simple delivery are a pleasure to behold, the work of an artist completely at home with his muse. There are three central themes on this record of stories about the human condition, arduous though it may be. First, there’s love or, perhaps more accurately, the ever oscillating energy of love that includes falling in it, wondering where it’s gone and hitting the road to find i...

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DOYLE LAWSON AND QUICKSILVER - IN SESSION

DOYLE LAWSON AND QUICKSILVER - IN SESSION

A lot of attention is given to an artists’ ability to ‘cross-over’. Over the span of forty albums, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver have appealed to diverse nominating committees to find themselves on award’s short lists for the Grammy’s, Dove, ICM, IBMA and SPBGMA Award programs, and are seven-time winners of IBMA’s Vocal Group of the Year. Doyle Lawson is a son of Tennessee and received state honors in 2012 for his contributions to the state, and to America, for his music. The band have accomplish...

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MAKING THE LIST

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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THE ALTERNATE ROOT TOP 40 ROOTS ROCK ALBUMS 1980-89

THE ALTERNATE ROOT TOP 40 ROOTS ROCK ALBUMS 1980-89

The decade of the 1980's can be looked at musically in a number of ways. On the surface it's easy to dismiss the decade as one of the worst in terms of popular music. What wasn't being dominated by the horror of Journey, REO Speedwagon, Survivor, Toto and Styx was being dominated by Duran Duran, Kenny Loggins, Culture Club and Michael Jackson. The rockers had their own mindless decade being fed a steady diet of Def Leppard, Van Halen, Molly Hatchet and Aerosmith.

We noticed that bands moved ...

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TOP 100 ALBUMS OF 2014 (1 THRU 25)

TOP 100 ALBUMS OF 2014 (1 THRU 25)

1 - Lucinda Williams – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone  (9-29-14) - Lucinda Williams secured the top spot by delivering an album that raises the bar for her own career. She upped the ante on her trademark vocals on Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone , dipping, diving and growling in a wider range, comfortably wearing the skin of her characters for both the joys and defeats. The deeper emotion in the vocal leaves no scar closed or dark corners unlit.

Listen and buy the music of Lucinda Wi...

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FROM THE VAULTS

KASEY CHAMBERS - THE CAPTAIN

KASEY CHAMBERS - THE CAPTAIN

Kasey Chambers –  The Captain - Kasey Chambers stuck to her guns as a Country singer in the music she heard, going on to become the only Australian Country singer to top the charts for single and album Down Under. The album that began the momentum was The Captain . The album was recorded over several weeks on Norfolk Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean situated between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. Kasey’s brother, Nash Chambers, produced The Captain , and her dad Bill Chambe...

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GENE CLARK - NO OTHER

GENE CLARK - NO OTHER

Gene Clark – No Other - Gene Clark was no different in his solo career than many American Roots artists in 2015. He created powerful music, marrying mystical lyrics with Country ways of turning a phrase, and guiding the stories over a music mix of Rock, Folk, Country, Soul and Blues. He rarely received a bad review though album sales never matched kudos. Touring was an option, though in order to battle fear of flying, and a dislike of being on the road, large amounts of alcohol became a way of ma...

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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

PATROLLED BY RADAR - COOL YOUR JETS

PATROLLED BY RADAR - COOL YOUR JETS

On their most recent album release, Cool Your Jets , Patrolled by Radar deliver a sound tracked from an Alt Country template that percolates (“Hate Talkin’”), cruises on a determined twanged-riff ramble (“El Norte”) and hops a train track beat to take a sci-fi star ride (“Velocipede”). Frontman Jay Souza steers the songs with a controlled vocal that sings like a conversation, giving each tale a personal touch that benefits the blue-collar pub crawls, sunshine folk rock and soul-bared songs on Cool ...

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6 STRING DRAG - ROOTS ROCK N ROLL

6 STRING DRAG - ROOTS ROCK N ROLL

Arguably one of the coolest rock and roll records of the year so far, Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll is the product of four days of lightning-quick recording sessions, tracked live to 2” tape at the Fidelitorium outside Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It marks the return of one of alt.country’s pioneering bands, a group that knocked out two highly influential albums during the 90s and then disappeared for 20 years. With this record, they’re back and they seem to be having a blast.

Richie meets Fonzie at the dr...

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SHAUN MURPHY - LORETTA

SHAUN MURPHY - LORETTA

Hybrids have become the common ground in a circa 2015 world. Styles, flavors and sound are a melting pot where purity drinks from a well that leaves an aftertaste of multiple sources. Shaun Murphy blends styles and bend sounds, molding music through her voice on Loretta, her most recent release. Rather than a patchwork quilt stitched together with notes and chords, Shaun leads a charge for a big rock that shows influences of Blues, Soul, Funk and Rock’n’Roll. She roars a big rock, digs deep into...

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MAKING THE LIST

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 alternate root magazineThe decade of the 1980's can be looked at musically in a number of ways. On the surface it's easy to dismiss the decade as one of the worst in terms of popular music. What wasn't being dominated by the horror of Journey, REO Speedwagon, Survivor, Toto and Styx was being dominated by Duran Duran, Kenny Loggins, Culture Club and Michael Jackson. The rockers had their own mindless decade being fed a steady diet of Def Leppard, Van Halen, Molly Hatchet and Aerosmith.

We noticed that bands moved the Roots needle further than their album did. It was not a time when artists had the control over their music, or the ability to make music at home. If you were recording, you had someone attached to the project that saw things a different way. There were budgets and every album needed the 'hit single'. The artist development that had existed in the 1960's and 1970's was virtually gone. The major labels were simply showing up and collecting cash. The invention and proliferation of the compact disc started around 1982 when the discs became commercially available. Major labels were more interested in mining the catalogs and reselling hit records in a different format, so radio waves started championing the term 'classic.'

Soul music was either too Pop or too dance. Folk music was still riding high on the success of 1970's singer/songwriters, bluegrass was still traditional. Blues had some artists that were making noise and some were starting to expand with it and have some fun. Rock was the king and the genre took chances. Many of the artists on our list considered themselves to be rock bands but the groundwork laid would have a rippling effect. There were scenes rather than breakout artists. Los Angeles had cow punk and a roots scene that was very much part of punk rock with bands like X, Dwight Yoakam, Lone Justice, The Knitters, The Blasters, Rank and File, Cruzados, Blood on the Saddle and The Long Ryders all fighting for a small piece of ground. The lower east side of Manhattan was still taking pride in its birthing of punk but bands like The Del-Lords, Mike DeVille and Robert Gordon were playing their music and using their influences to create a more roots sound. Athens, GA had the rock of R.E.M., Pylon, The B-52's and Dumptruck. Nashville was set on taking country into modern times and away from the classic sound of Hank Williams. Lefty Frizell and others. The outlaw country was headed in the roots direction with a lot of steam but the music was still more Country than Roots.

As we set out to search for the albums of the 1980's that shaped the Roots Rock movement of today we found that the 80's thrived in terms of great music even though most of the albums we chose as our Top 40 Most Important by and large flew under the radar and we didn't even get into R.E.M., U2, The Alarm, The Clash, The Pretenders or The Psychedlic Furs. We left a ton of great albums off of our list that were in our stack to narrow down from a list of hundreds to a list of 40.

This is not a history lesson about Roots Music in it's purest forms. That music started in the early 1900's and we'll get to it in time. Everyone that followed was influenced by the great masters. These albums and these artists paved the way during the decade previous to our list of the last 25 Years but make no mistake, these albums and these artists were influenced by music from the previous decades and so on. We'll tackle the 70's, 60's and 50's in time and in order.

So here it is. The Alternate Root Top 40 Roots Rock Albums from 1980-89

1. Paul Simon - Graceland (1986) - Graceland brought the indigenous music of South Africa to the world stage and launched the International careers of  more than a few South African musicians. The album combined traditional American elements of pop, a capella, Tex-Mex and zydeco with traditional South African elements of isacathamiya and mbaqanga and the eclectic, critically acclaimed album changed the way the world looked at South Africa at a time when the world wasn't looking at South Africa very favorably. 27 years later this album still stands as a monumental achievement in music and continues to influence musicians around the world.

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2. The Blasters - The Blasters (1980) - The Blasters self titled album caught the music world by surprise...a mix of rock, country, rockabilly, mountain music and early rhythm and blues that burst onto the American music landscape in 1980, ripped your head off and screamed into your soul. It was sweaty, smokey, loud and so original that few people knew what to make of it. Brothers Phil and Dave Alvin along with John Bazz on bass and Bill Bateman on drums comprised the band that had more talent and energy than it should be legal to have in one band. Critics loved it and people associated with the industry shouted about it but the album never found it's way to the masses.

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3. Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska (1982) - Nebraska is a bit of an enigma and marks a turning point in the illustrious career of one of America's greatest musical treasures. Springsteen recorded the tracks as demos for an album that was to be recorded by the E Street band. The entire album was actually recorded with the full band but those recording were never released. Springsteen instead released the demos, recorded at home on a four track with very sparse instrumentation. The album's dark subject matter, centered around everyday American blue-collar characters facing challenges without hope or salvation, is unlike any other in the Springsteen catalog.

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4. Tom Waits - Rain Dogs (1985) - Rain Dogs was sandwiched between two other brilliant Tom Waits albums Swordfishtrombones and Frank's Wild Years forming a trilogy of sorts. Waits wrote the songs for Rain Dogs in a basement in Greenwich Village in 1984. The album documented the malaise and urban depression of New York City through sounds that included recordings of street noise and a wide range of instrumentation from Waits' dark piano to accordion, marimba, trombone, banjo and upright bass. The album was dark, drifting from old blues to New Orleans funeral dirge and a slew of points in between.
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5. Townes Van Zandt - At My Window (1987) - At My Window was the only release by Townes Van Zandt in the 1980's and was his first studio release in nearly a decade. By then his place on the pantheon of great American songwriters was already secure and the album re-affirmed that Townes still had the songwriting chops. At My Window was different in that it was richer musically than most of his previous material which can be attributed to the production of the legendary "Cowboy" Jack Clement. Clement brought in a host of notable session players including Mark O'Connor, Mickey Raphael and Roy Huskey Jr. and the result was a brilliantly crafted and performed album.

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6. Bonnie Raitt - Nick of Time (1989) - The appropriately titled Nick of Time came at a point in Bonnie Raitt's career where she needed a jolt both professionally and personally. She notes that Nick of Time was the first album she had done sober. Raitt's career was sliding backwards after a string of mediocre albums and  was being kept relevant by appearances on a series of political projects including MUSE, Amnesty International, Farm Aid and Sun City. Nick of Time took off after a sweep of the four Grammy's Raitt was nominated for in 1989 and her career has been on an upward trajectory since. The album was more soul than straight on blues and proved that Bonnie Raitt still had it all.

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7. Los Lobos - How Will the Wolf Survive (1984) - East L.A. has a long history of contribution to the American musical landscape with the influences of brown-eyed soul, R&B and Latino rhythms. Artists that rose up from the vibrant East L.A. scene including WAR, El Chicano and Malo combined Latino rhythms with funk, early R&B and blues. Los Lobos took it a step in another direction, combining traditional Mexican music, rock, folk and Latin rhythms together on their major label breakthrough album How Will the Wolf Survive. The album stands as a benchmark for Americana music and helped to usher in a new genre of music.

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8. k.d. lang - Angel With a Lariat (1987) - Though her albums Shadowland and Absolute Torch and Twang would spawn more 'hits' and radio success than Angel with a Lariat we chose it because it was Lang's coming out party for America and the rest of the world outside of her native Canada. Produced by Dave Edmunds, the album was seasoned with hints of rockabilly, country and British pop and mixed with Lang's unmistakable mezzo-soprano vocals to form a vintage that gets better with age. k.d.lang influenced millions of young women not only as singers but as social and cultural activists as well.

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9. Cowboy Junkies -  The Trinity Session (1988) - 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 - Guitar Town (1986) - Steve Earle's breakthrough album Guitar Town topped the country charts and garnered two Grammy nominations in 1987 and it was the first and last time that "country radio" would recognize Steve Earle. It also marks the starting point for one of the most prolific, politically charged and culturally significant careers in American music history. Little of the subsequent Steve Earle catalog even closely resembles Guitar Town musically but the album sparked a new era of country based rock with intelligent lyrics that continues today.

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11. Blue Rodeo Diamond Mine (1989)- Formed in 1985 in Toronto, Canadians Blue Rodeo released their first album, Outskirts, in 1987, which would have excluded them from our 1988+ list. Luckily, their second album, Diamond Mine, 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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12. The Subdudes - The Subdudes (1989) - The Subdudes debut release The Subdudes proved a couple of things. One is that a major label in 1989 couldn't find it's ass with two hands and a flashlight when it came to roots music. Second was that the "music business" wasn't really about music at all. It was about cash registers although that was pretty much agreed upon by most people already. Had a label like Rounder or Sugar Hill had the album, the effect The Subdudes had on the musical landscape might be much different. The Subdudes combined a plethora of innovative musical styles to their music including blues, swamp rock, cajun, funk, soul, R&B, folk, country and just about everything else and their influence resonates still today.

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13. Stevie Ray Vaughan - Texas Flood (1983) - Blues music post WWII has a tendency to ebb and flow with periods of great popularity followed by periods where it searches for a popular voice and becomes seen as a historical genre. Like Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and The Bluesbreakers before him, Stevie Ray Vaughan arrived on the scene when blues needed a shot in the arm and a popular voice. His debut album Texas Flood may not have been well received by critics or blues purists but it resonated with the public and changed the way a million kids felt when they picked up a guitar. Vaughan's influence on blues based rock will be felt for generations.

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14. Danny Gatton - Unfinished Business (1987) - Danny Gatton was a monster guitar player that fused together a variety of styles including jazz, country, rock and blues to create a sound that mesmerized both his followers and his peers. His fans included guitar greats from Les Paul to Roy Buchanan to Eric Clapton and just about everyone in between. His album Unfinished Business never garnered him the commercial success he deserved although it was met with a mass of critical acclaim. His later releases 88 Elmira Street and Cruisin' Dueces put him on the radar screen and captured a legion of fans but depression would overcome Gatton and his life ended with his suicide in 1994. Unfinished Business would prove to be a prophetic title that many before him from Buddy Holly to John Lennon could have used.

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15. The Del-Lords - Based on a True Story (1988) - The Del-Lords rose up from the post-punk, New York City scene of the 1980's and changed a lot of the status-quo at the time. Ex Dictators guitarist Scott Kempner and ex Joan Jett guitarist Eric "Roscoe" Ambel along with bassist Manny Caiati and drummer Frank Funaro created a sound that melded rock, country, blues and a gritty form of garage together and became one of the most important bands of the decade. The Del-Lords would become the main innovators of the roots rock sound that resonated throughout the following decades and on to today. After two stellar openers, their third album, Based on a True Story would prove to be the Del-Lords crowning acheivement although one more album, Lovers Who Wander would follow.

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16. KoKo Taylor - Queen of the Blues (1985) - One of the original female giants to come out of the Chicago blues scene in the 1960's, Koko Taylor learned from the master himself Willie Dixon who discovered her in 1962. Although her music was well received by critics Taylor pinnacled commercially in 1965 with her song 'Wang Dang Doodle.' Queen of the Blues took the Grammy for Best Blues Album in 1985 and put the name KoKo Taylor back on the map of innovative and electrifying blues performers. In the 1980's Blues was again regaining popularity on the heels of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Robert Cray and KoKo Taylor.

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17. The BoDeans - Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams (1986) - The BoDeans emerged from the vibrant Wisconsin music scene that erupted in the 1980's with the Violent Femmes. Their debut Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams was an instant success and pushed the band too fast into territory they had scarcely earned. Jangly guitars, Beatle-esque harmonies, synergy and simple, light hearted lyrics all wrapped in a masterful work of production by T-Bone Burnett made Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams the BoDeans finest moment. Although they would have a long run as a band and amass a solid body of work, the BoDeans never matched the magic of Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams.

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18 (tie). Semi-Twang - Salty Tears - (1988) - Another band that broke out of the  Milwaukee music scene of the 1980's, Semi-Twang released only one record until re-uniting in 2009 resulting in a subsequent album due in 2013. Salty-Tears united an all star cast of producers, (Mitch Froom, Chris Thomas and Jerry Harrison,) a group of outstanding musicians, a budget from Warner Bros. records and a brilliant collection of songs. The result ushered in the alt-country movement and while it was lauded by critics, there was no radio outlet for it and it floundered commercially.

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18. (tie) Georgia Satellites – Georgia Satellites (1986) - Hair metal was king. and radio rocked. Top 40 was synth dance and lots of hair spray. Into this environment came the simple phrase, “I gotta little change in my pocket going jing-aling-aling”. The Georgia Satellites looked and acted like rock stars on holiday. The sound liberally borrowed from the Faces and The Stones. They took “Keep Your Hands to Yourself”, the Roots/Rock version of “if you like it, put a ring on it”, to Number 2 in Billboard and gave Rock’n’Roll another chance on the charts.

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19. The Neville Brothers - Fiyo on the Bayou (1981) - The follow up to the dbut album, The Neville Brothers, Fiyo on the Bayou incorporated more elements of funk, reggae and New Orleans, cajun flavored R&B than it's predecessor. The result resonated with critics and the public and The Neville Brothers have become synomymous with American R&B world wide as a result. It contains the monumental songs, 'Hey Pocky Way,' 'Sitting in Limbo,' and 'The Ten Commandments of Love' that have become 'standards' of the standards.

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20. The Stray Cats - The Stray Cats (1981) - Though the Stray Cats US debut Built for Speed was released in 1982, we chose the debut album and British release Stray Cats for this list. The Long Island band founded by guitar ace Brian Setzer along with upright bass player Lee Rocker and drummer Slim-Jim Phantom had a solid following in the New York City post-punk scene but hit their meteoric stride after re-locating to London in 1981. Stray Cats, both album and band, revitalized the rockabilly movement, created a sub-culture centered around vintage fashion and style and turned millions of American kids on to a forgotten form of American music. 'Rumble in Brighton,' 'Stray Cat Strut,' 'Rock This Town' and 'Runaway Boys,' could have made for a career alone.

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21. Richard and Linda Thompson - Shoot Out the Lights (1982) - After several critically acclaimed albums, Shoot Out the Lights ignited the careers of Richard and Linda Thompson just as the pair were falling apart as a couple. The album stuck with the folk with a strong rock side that Richard Thompson cultivated and shepherded since his first recordings with Fairport Convention. Darkness falls over the songs, like much of the material from Richard Thompson, with love songs taking on an edge in “Don’t Renege on our Love” and “Man in Need”. Richard Thompson can even bring danger to a day in the (amusement) park, with the high climbing tension of “Wall of Death”.

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22. Jason and the Scorchers - Fervor (1983) - Formed in Nashville in 1981, Jason and the Scorchers looked country, played hard rock and crafted songs with the attitude of a punk rocker. Their E.P., Fervor, raised and set the bar for Alt Country earsplitting volumes with six fire-breathing originals, including “Hot Nights in Georgia” and a blistering cover of Bob Dylan’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie”.

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23. The Morells - Shake and Push (1982)The Morells released Shake And Push in 1982 with a sound that relied heavily on good old rock’n’roll riffs, the simplicity of rockabilly and story lines that dug deeper. Based in Springfield, Missouri, The Morells gave the world producer/player Lou Whitney. Shake and Push has become one of those legendary releases, with new copies of the disc selling online for close to $200.

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24. Melissa Ethridge - Melissa Ethridge (1988) - Time magazine announced that ‘She’s the Boss’ when Melissa Etheridge became a contender in the crown formerly worn by Bruce Springsteen. Her self-titled debut showed a woman with spit and snarl to her tales of love gone wrong. She balanced her audio attacks with a teasing emotion that lets you think you just might be able to tame her. Don’t count on it!

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25. The Rave-Ups – Town and Country (1985) - The Rave-Ups began life in Pittsburgh, PA but took hold in a second incarnation that set up roots in Los Angeles. The group successfully took Roots/Rock into Pop without getting any of the Pop smear on itself. All four members were at a major label before any deal was signed. Each member of the group had mailroom jobs at A&M Records, and they rehearsed in the basement at night when the offices were closed. Town and Country met with critical acclaim, The Rave-Up’s were an MTV buzz, and they made their movie debut with an appearance in John Hughes’ film “Pretty in Pink”.

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26. T-Bone Burnett - Trap Door (1982) -  In the days before becoming the man set on moving Americana into the mainstream, the Grammy winning producer (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) was a guitarist for Bob Dylan on Rolling Thunder Revue. Trap Door was an E.P. released on the Warner Brothers label that showed how T-Bone Burnett performed on his own. Trap Door contained an in-your-face version of “Diamonds Are a Girls Best Friend” and the memory of a chance meeting with The Faces/Pink Floyd go-go dancer, Kim English (Kim Boston in England).

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27. Rockpile - Seconds of Pleasure (1980) - As a band, Rockpile made several records before their name appeare on the cover. Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds brought name recognition to the four-piece which also included Billy Bremner (guitar) and Terry Williams (drums). Seconds of Pleasure was the only release from a band that got everything right in music, but could not get past the more human side of group management, ego. “Teacher, Teacher” used old Rock’n’Roll riffs, like many of the Rockpile songs, and let the rhythm tear. Rockpile created great music for a short space in time, but when the wind blows just right, you can still hear the sound hammering away.

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28. Lone Justice - Lone Justice (1985) - Maria McKee and Ryan Hedgecock were playing country covers on the tiny L.A. cow punk scene. Adding in veteran players like bassist/producer Marvin Etzioni helped the band to craft originals. A supporting hand by fan Linda Ronstadt helped them seal a Geffen Record deal, and U2 tapped the band as tour openers. Lone Justice self-titled debut is a roots/rock masterpiece with Maria McKee guiding the songs into Pop (“Sweet, Sweet Baby”), country rock (“After the Flood”) and lunch for the spirit (“Soap, Soup and Salvation”).

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29. Steve Forbert - Streets of this Town (1988) - Steve Forbert returned to recording after a legally imposed six year hiatus with his first release on Geffen Records, Streets of This Town. The album maintained and expanded on the smarts of his lyrics and laid a new found maturity over the story lines. Produced by E-Street bassist Garry Tallent, Streets of This Town further secured Steve Forbert’s  status as a singer/songwriter who would stick around rather than leaving the building when Pop had its fill of the genre.

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30. Joe Ely - Musta Notta Gotta Lotta (1981) - Joe Ely formed The Flatlanders with fellow Lubbock natives Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore in 1970. Following some great album releases in the late 1970’s, the singer/songwriter caught a big break from British punk rock gods, The Clash. The band talked about and championed Joe’s music after meeting during a 1977 U.K visit and tour together. Musta Notta Gotta Lotta received lots of love from underground rock radio due to The Clash thumbs up and became his highest charting album with rock friendly tunes like “Hard Livin’” and the title track.

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31. Beausoliel- Bayou Cadillac (1989) - Beausoleil have become world ambassadors for Cajun music. The band hit a creative groove in the 1980’s, and Bayou Cadillac was album number seven for that decade. Bayou Cadillac kept the French language lyrics in place, and amped up the rock punch, adding in English lyrics for crossover appeal. The album’s title track fused Rock’n’Roll classics “Not Fade Away”, “Bo Diddley” and “Iko Iko” into a zydeco reel.

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32. Lyle Lovett - Lyle Lovett and His Big Band (1989) - On his third recording as Lyle Lovett and His Big Band, Mr. Lovett took home a Grammy for best Country Male Vocal performance for the 1989 release. Lyle Lovett’s slightly hesitant delivery never sounded better and his take on classics such as “The Glory of Love” and the gender-bending “Stand By Your Man” took him to a new audience.

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33. The Paladins - The Paladins (1987) - The Paladins formed in the early 1980’s and set the knobs on their amps for rockabilly and roots. Their first, self-titled album was produced by The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ Kim Wilson and fanned the fires for roots and maintained a heart on for twang. The Paladins stands firm as a statement to the glory of Roots/Rock that the band maintained until Dave Gonsalez left in 2004 to focus on the Hacienda Brothers.

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34. The Del Fuegos - Boston, Mass (1985) - What was an in-house project for the kitchen workers at Boston’s Hoo-Doo BBQ took greater form when Chef Jimmy Ryan handed the microphone over to guitarist/songwriter Dan Zanes. Dan recruited his brother Warren (at Mom’s request) who took on lead guitar chores and the name OrkBoy. A Miller beer commercial gave them a national TV stage and hits from Boston, Mass such as “I Still Want You” and “Don’t Run Wild” from their second Slash Records release put them on the charts.

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35. Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, Robert Cray - Showdown! (1985)  - “Three guitars, no waiting” could have been the sub-title for the 1985 Alligator Records recording of Showdown! by blues guitar men Albert Collins, Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland. Nine tracks and barely a moment of quiet throughout as Blues axes make quick work of everything in their path.

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36. Nanci Griffith - Once in a Very Blue Moon (1983) - Nanci Griffith brought in musical backing for her third album release, Once in a Very Blue Moon. The folk-fed sparseness of her earlier releases was replaced by a fuller sound that contained a little more Country. Guest musicians Bela Fleck (banjo) and Mark O’Connor (fiddle) bring in musical magic as support for the dream texture of “Year Down in New Orleans” and the nod to favorite venues “Spin Around the Red Brick Floor”.

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37. Joan Armatrading - Walk Under Ladders (1981) -  Joan Armatrading came further into the full-on rock world with the Steve Lillywhite produced Walk Under Ladders. The mix of studio personnel was all over the map with new wave representation from Thomas Dolby and Andy Partridge (XTC), Elton John percussionist Ray Cooper, reggae rhythm man Robbie Shakespeare and Orleans’ Peter Gabriel and Hall & Oates alumni, Jerry Marotta.

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38. John Mellencamp - Scarecrow (1985) - Pre-production for Rain on the Scarecrow was simple, and sounds like a lot of fun. John Mellencamp and his band spent a month playing about a hundred Rock’n’Roll songs from the 60’s before heading into the studio to record. The album took a stand in and for the heartland. Without changing the Roots/Rock sound, John Mellencamp brought lyrics that had meaning, talking about good lovin’ in Middle America (“Lonely Ole’ Night”) and touring ala Motown caravans (“R.OC.K. in the U.S.A.”). Rain on the Scarecrow would be the first volley heard for the plight of America’s farmers and for Farm Aid.

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39. Chris Isaak - Silvertone (1985) - Chris Isaak had the snarl and the chops to be the next in line for Elvis Presley comparisons. His band was equally stripped down but the resulting sound was more ethereal and dream like. The tone of the music was a good match for filmmaker David Lynch, whose work in films had the same dreamscape attached. The director’s use of the tune “Gone Ridin’” from Silvertone jettisoned the album to much deserved recognition.

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40. The Beat Farmers - Glad N' Greasy (1985) - The Beat Farmers traveled to England to record Glad N’ Greasy for U.K. label Demon Records. The album, produced by Graham Parker and Rumor keyboardist Bob Andrews continued to put cow punk, Roots/rock, twanging rockabilly and swampy Americana into a blender. Glad ‘N Greasy included a dance hall version of Neil Young’s tune “Powderfinger”, and fellow roots rockers Dave Alvin, Nick Lowe, Gene Taylor and Loudon Wainwright III joined in for the community chorus on “Beat Generation”.

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1 - Lucinda Williams – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone  (9-29-14) - Lucinda Williams secured the top spot by delivering an album that raises the bar for her own career. She upped the ante on her trademark vocals on Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, dipping, diving and growling in a wider range, comfortably wearing the skin of her characters for both the joys and defeats. The deeper emotion in the vocal leaves no scar closed or dark corners unlit.

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2 -John Fullbright – Songs   (5-27-14) - On his second album, John Fullbright is the singer and songwriter for Songs; he is also the director, the set designer, the story editor, always the guy with clear observations, and sometimes the lead character.  He is a one-man production company performing many roles to present a complete piece of art for each of his Songs. Tension and comfort are both accounted for with well-placed notes and gently plucked strings, coaxing texture and tone from ivory keys; John Fullbright is a master craftsmen constructing with notes, words, and heart.

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3 - Shovels and Rope – Swimmin’ Time   (8-25-14) - Shovels and Rope are audio magicians, baring the sharp teeth of Alternative Rock guitar chords that rip back the curtains to show lives on stage that maneuver around some major potholes in the world we live in.

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4 - Girls, Guns & Glory – from the album Good Luck   (1-28-14) - Girls, Guns and Glory have steadily built their music on four solid album releases, each showing a band growing by marking what they were got right to stretch more ‘right’ out with each note. Vocalist Ward Hayden is a smooth crooner who maintains a cool innocence in both his persona and delivery. Guitarist Chris Hersch is no guitar god but he is the guy that those gods secretly watch to knick his riffs. Chris’ guitar, and banjo, work are subtle yet all-consuming.

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5 - Robert Ellis – The Lights from the Chemical Plant   (2-11-14) - Robert Ellis slithers in and proclaims that wrong makes right when you have “Good Intentions”. His personal relationships can work out the truth in his words as much as listeners appreciated the goals he set and achieved on his 2014 release. Robert Ellis blends roots, rock, folk and jazz that shine brilliantly in the songs basking in the glow of The Lights from the Chemical Plant.

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6 - Hard Working Americans  -  Hard Working Americans (1-21-14) - Hard Working Americans is Todd Snider, Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools, Ryan Adams/Chris Robinson guitarist Neal Casal, Great American Taxi keyboardist Chad Staehly and King Lincoln drummer Duane Trucks (brother of guitarist Derek Trucks and nephew of Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks). Hard Working Americans takes on all comers with their smoking version of Hayes Carll’s “Stomp and Holler”, the Salvation Army pound of Randy Newman’s “Mr. President”, and their honest recollection of the Kevn Kinney tune from his band Drivin’ n Cryin’, “Straight to Hell”.

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7 -Hurray for the Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes   (1-11-14) - Alynda Lee Segarra, as Hurray for the Riff Raff, delivers the band’s most recent release, Small Town Heroes. The New Orleans music community gets a high five for creating an environment that allows Alynda’s natural talents to nurture her own musical paths. She uses familiar sounds and presents them as an Indie rock’n’roll stew of folk, blues, Americana music foundations for stories that use sharp edged electric blues to chronicle street life up close (“St. Roch Blues”) and barnstorm the river front (“End of the Line”). 

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8- Mary Gauthier – Trouble and Love    (6-10-14) - Night and day, leather and lace, big and small; all extremes brought together by on little word…and. The same extremities are reached in love. The meeting and the leaving, tied together with another little word…over. It may seem a linear path that goes from beginning to end yet on her latest album release, Trouble and Love, Mary Gauthier offers a completed circle. The album is a personal record, from first kiss to the closing door. It might seem like a second person accounting as the story of Mary Gauthier the human is related by Mary Gauthier the songwriter, yet the emotions stay raw, the lessons so fresh that an outer edge of red can still faintly catch the light. The questions that storm our heads looking for answers when love exits the building all find themselves in the songs on Trouble and Love.

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9 - Mike Farris – Shine on All the People    (9-16-14) - Mike Farris brought the sound of his mission to more ears in 2014. Mike feels it is his calling to expose the music of turn-of-the-century black spirituals into today’s mainstream market. Shine on All the People raises the roof with Gospel Roots, blending spirituals with contemporary sounds of the spirit from Mike Farris and Mary Gauthier.

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10 - Joe Louis Walker – Hornet’s Nest   (1-25-14) - Hornet’s Nestis his latest release for Alligator Records, following his blast of a debut for the label, Hellfire, and joining the ranks of over twenty career albums. Hornet’s Nest carries Blues wisdom, Soul seduction and Rock assaults throughout its dozen tracks. “Ramblin’ Soul” is a good example of the mix, though do not believe the title of the track. This soul never rambles, it is on a mission and as it exits its time on the album, the boys in the band tear a hole in the known universe with one kickass boogie blues jam.

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11 - Paul Thorn – Too Blessed to Be Stressed   (8-19-14) - Paul Thorn has talked about his history as the son of a preacher and the nephew of a pimp. The angel and devil settle on his broad shoulders to take a breather as they follow the album rules on Too Blessed to be Stressed. Joy and inspiration take to the dance floor as the Paul Thorn Band raise a mighty ruckus of Rock ‘n’ Soul.

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12 - Justin Townes Earle – Single Mothers   (9-9-14) - Justin Townes Earle released a Part One for his double album release with Single Mothers, choosing to let the album settle before starting the second act, to be released as Absent Fathers in early 2015. JTE sings form the side of the one being left behind without ever becoming a love lost victim.

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13 - Old Crow Medicine Show – Remedy   (7-1-14) - Old Crow Medicine Show received another partially-written track from Bob Dylan. It must be good for Bob to know he always has alternatives to finishing a tune once his muse has left the building. The album, like the band’s live show, are created for maximum entertainment, brought to you by multiple flashing fingers and one mind for music.

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14 -The Howlin’ Brothers – Trouble   (1-13-14) - The Howlin’ Brothers need no intro for the advanced state of bluegrass that the band serves up. Their recent release, Trouble, follows full studio effort Howl and E.P., the Muscle Shoals Sessions, in a little over twelve months’ time. Trouble opens with the sound of salvation. The Howlin’ Brothers are glory bound, though it is not religion or fear of heaven that fuels “Pour I Down” but a different sort of spirit. The song is the firing gun that opens the gate for thirteen tracks to gallop into Trouble. The album is released on Readymade Records, the imprint of Brendan Benson (solo, The Raconteurs) who handles both production and engineering for The Howlin’ Brothers. Remember when all label heads were completely behind each project.

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15- Seth Walker – Sky Still Blues   (6-10-14) - Seth Walker is a seeker. Like most musicians, he strives to be better and dig deeper into his music. His songs have that fully formed feel though the borders are never structured.  That ease to the playing, the grooves, the interactions of the musicians continues on the recent release, Sky Still Blue.  The recording took place at The Wood Brothers’ Nashville-based Southern Ground Studios. Producer Oliver Wood was joined as a musician on Sky Still Blue by fellow Wood Brothers Jano Rix and Chris Wood (also of Medeski, Martin and Wood). Seth’s longtime bandmates fill out the credits with bassist Steve Mackey and drummer Derek Phillips. Sky Still Blue brought Seth Walker back to Nashville, one of the major music meccas that have been as much a part of his music as personal influences and a natural calling.

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16 – The Earls of Leicester- The Earls of Leicester    (9-16-14) - Jerry Douglas has finally gotten a long lasting with to be a fan and honor the music of Bluegrass heroes (who did not consider themselves a bluegrass band), Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. The Earls of Leicester stay true to songs origins as the open the windows to let fresh air re-energize Opry standards.

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17 - JP Harris and the Tough Choices – Home is Where the Hurt Is   (9-23-14) - JP Harris and the Tough Choices created a sweet spot to nurture Country music back to health with Home is Where the Hurt Is. The band proudly play Country music, as it should be played with a rock’n’roll attitude and straight to the heart Soul.

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18 – Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin – Common Ground  (6-3-14) - Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin - Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy (6-3-14) - It has been close to thirty years since Dave Alvin and brother, Phil Alvin, recorded an album together. One-off songs here and there and the occasional live shows of their shared history with The Blasters have put the brothers together in studio and stage. It was inspiration that took them back in to record for their recent Yep Roc Records release, Common Ground: Dave Alvin + Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy. Friends don’t stay friends in bands, and in shared blood and you have one volatile working environment in studio or stage. Addressing the unspoken question about how the recording process proceeded, brother Dave said it simply, ‘we argue sometimes, but we never argue about Big Bill Broonzy,’

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19 – Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds of Country Music   (5-13-14) - Sturgill Simpson grabs a guitar and storms the walls of Country radio with tunes about turtles and Buddha. One more album of authentic Country music for the future and today’s Country stars better start looking for half-empty bottles and checking the ashtray for roaches ‘cause the party will be over.

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20 - Rodney Crowell    - Tarpaper Sky   (4-15-14) - Tarpaper Skyis a reunion as much as recording experience. The recent release from Rodney Crowell gathers most of the players on hand for Rodney’s break-through 1998 album, Diamonds and Dirt. His first recorded in Nashville, the album is often cited as where Rodney Crowell went country…a defensive term for ‘okay, now we get it’ from reviewers. The release never gives up on the best of the songwriting and performances from the man on the cover; this is Rodney Crowell Country and the music comes with classic arrangements and a Rock’n’Roll heart. That theme follows the musicians back into the studio for the recording of Tarpaper Sky. The players brought their old school training and the tracks were recorded live-to-tape. Ideas were traded and the arrangements of the songs developed as a group effort.

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21 - Parker Milsap  - Parker Milsap   (1-4-14) - Parker Millsap spent his formative years as part of a Pentecostal congregation in his native Oklahoma. He no longer follows a religious life but religion follows Parker in his tales. The church, and its teaching, showed him a people that firmly believed in what they were trying to accomplish. The lesson was to look down a little further into what makes people tick, the motivations that push them to suggest a little too strongly, or condemn too quickly, ways of life that do not fit their own. It is a teaching that allows the characters on Parker Millsap to offer themselves without any edit.

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22 - Janiva Magness – Original   (6-24-14) - Janiva Magness does a great job of showing the many layers of desire and despair set in motion by a single word or action. You feel the love that has gone as something physical while at the same time you can watch spit drip down that unfortunate face that Janiva is in as she asks the last sentence be repeated ‘a little less bitchy please’ in “Who Am I”. The Blues rolls on dark clouds in “With Love” as organ and guitar notes pelt the tune like big fat rain drops and the beat hits the street in “I Need A Man” as Janiva throws off political pressure for pressures of a more personal nature. Janiva Magness has strength and conviction in her delivery, a big part of the appeal of Original.

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23 – Calico the band – Rancho California    (9-2-14) - Calico the band not only waved the flag for California Country, the planted the pole deep enough to not be moved and flying high enough the state’s Golden Bear to be heard roaring Roots around the globe.

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24 -Rosanne Cash   - The River and The Thread    (1-14-14) - “It’s a big wide world with a million shades of modern blue”. Rosanne Cash sings the line, snagging the Modern Blue for the title to her release. Rosanne, and album producer/arranger John Leventhal, wrote songs as memories of a trip through the Southern U.S.  Rosanne Cash still gets an excitement in her voice when speaking about the times she “started going to the south a lot. Re-connecting with people I knew, places I had been, but I started seeing it for the first time, in a strange way; the connection to the soil and the Delta and the music. The veils were taken off something that I thought I knew. It was powerfully inspiring.“ Modern Blue lets musical heritage ride shotgun with Rosanne Cash behind the wheel calling out the sites that pass by the car window.

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25 -Candi Staton – Life Happens   (5-13-14) - Candi Staton has been a cooking in the soul kitchen for nearly fifty years. Candi was recently featured in the documentary film Muscle Shoals, a must-see movie that lets music tell the history of the city of Muscle Shoals, Fame Recording Studio, and the man that put both on the map, Rick Hall. Personal relations with Candi Staton and Rick Hall date back to the early 1970’s when Rick was in the production chair for Candi’s Grammy nominated hits “Stand By Your Man” and “In the Ghetto”. The tune “I Ain’t Easy to Love” is the lead track from Life Happens, the most recent Candi Staton release, and is featured in Muscle Shoals (the movie). The cut features album guests Jason Isbell and John Paul White (The Civil Wars) on background vocals. The Southern Soul of the song and Candi’s delivery set the bar for quality and begin the saga of love that is that unfolds as Life Happens.

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Bob Dylan has been releasing albums for 50 years now. Between studio albums, live albums, compilations and greatest hits and the much coveted bootlegs there are 72 albums in all. His place in the most select pantheon of popular music is rock solid along with the The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and no one else. The amount of space Dylan takes up on my shelf is larger than Sinatra's and that's saying a lot. For the sake of this discussion I'm going to leave the live albums, compilations and bootlegs out. This is just about the studio albums from 1962-2012. 35 albums in all.

There have been long periods where Dylan could do no wrong, releasing one monumental document after another, interrupted by the occasional klunker and there have been some real klunkers. Even with that, the worst Bob Dylan albums always had something on them I found to be a diamond in the rough. The much chastized 1973 album Dylan had some good outtakes and a cool song called "Lily of the West" which I put on almost every Dylan mix tape for years. Even Self Portrait, considered by Dylanologists-in-the-know to be the low point of a stellar career had a countrified version of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer" which I still find tolerable. Those two albums were separated by New Morning and the soundtrack to Pat Garret and Billy the Kid which are both full of memorable moments. Enough of that. Let's move on to ranking Bob Dylan's catalog and feel free to comment, chide or mumble under your breath.

1. Blood on the Tracks (1975) - I often debate whether or not Blood on the Tracks ranks higher than Desire and it really depends on the mood. Today, I rank it higher. Check with me next week. Song for song it's the best album in a career full of noteworthy material.

2. Desire (1976) - Desire was released one year and one day after Blood on the Tracks representing perhaps the greatest two year period in Dylan's illustrious career. The nine songs on Desire are absolutely flawless! If it had had "Tangled Up in Blue" on it it would surely rank as his greatest moment. It didn't, Blood on the Tracks did, hence, number two.

3. Highway 61 Revisited (1965) - "Like A Rolling Stone" was Dylan's highest charting single of his career, reaching Number 2 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1965. Rolling Stone magazine called it the greatest rock and roll song of all time. That album also contained "Desolation Row" and "Ballad of a Thin Man." Nothing more need be said.

4. Infidels (1983) - After the "born-again" nonesense of Shot of Love and Saved, Infidels was a breath of fresh air for those of us who thought Dylan had lost it. The production on Infidels, courtesy of Mark Knopfler, was flawless. Having Mick Taylor, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespear in the band didn't hurt either. Songs about geo-politics, the environment and overall social commentary had returned to the guy who invented it.

5. Time Out of Mind (1997) - I'm 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 me. Time Out of Mind could easily be at the top of this list. 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.

6. Blonde on Blonde (1966) - Songs "Just Like a Woman", "Rainy Day Women #12 and 35", "I Want You", and "Visions of Johanna" aren't enough? Try having Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Levon Helm in the band. Add the entire fourth side of one of rock and roll's first double albums, "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" and you've made music history.

7. The Freewheelin Bob Dylan (1963) - You want a folk movement? You want social change? You want somebody to stand up and say the things everyone is thinking but can't find the words or a platform? This is it. "Masters of War", "A Hard Rains Gonna Fall", "Blowin in the Wind", all timeless anthems that still taste great today. Not to mention "Girl From the North Country" and "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright."

8. Oh Mercy (1989) - It's been said that Dylan wandered aimlessly in the 1980's. The three albums between Infidels in 1983 and Oh Mercy in 1989 might support such a theory but if you can bookend a decade on those two albums it's a stretch to call the decade lost. Oh Mercy contained some of Dylan's best work including "Political World", "Ring Them Bells", "Everything is Broken" and "What Was it You Wanted." Most writers would take that and call it a career.

9. Modern Times (2006) - Part of a trilogy of albums that returned Dylan to prominence along with Time Out of Mind and Love and Theft, Modern Times was Dylan's first number one album since Desire and the album actually entered the Billboard 200 Chart at number one. The album continued Dylan's journey into American Roots music traditions both in style and substance. Those three albums together would stand alone as a brilliant career if they were someone else's.

10. Tempest (2012) - His voice is getting on and his live performances are just a shell of what they once were but this is as strong as Dylan has been in a while. It peaked at #3 on the Billboard chart, no small feat 50 years into a career. It also had conspiracy critics claiming it was his last album based on a theory that Shakespear's last play was called The Tempest but Tempest has some of darkest most poignent lyrics we've heard from Dylan in a decade. It also followed a dreadful Christmas album which may explain the critical sigh of relief that Dylan still has gas in the tank.

11. Love and Theft (2001) - Love and Theft sort of picks up where Time Out of Mind left off (at least sonically) and while it was propbably received more enthusiastically by the critics it was surrounded by  some controversy including allegations of plagiarism. Bollocks. The album ranks as one of the best Roots albums of the last half century and made Rolling Stone's list of the 500 best albums of all time. Some of the criticism sparked some of Bob Dylan's harshest critique of journalists and "Dylan experts" ever.

12. World Gone Wrong (1993) - Although it's an album of cover songs, the selection makes the collection stand alone. Like it's predecessor Good As I Been to You, it was a return to Dylan's folk roots and it was good enough to win the Grammy for Traditional Folk Album 1n 1994. Bob Dylan paying tribute to The Mississippi Shieks, Blind Willie McTell, Willie Brown and Doc Watson is pretty fucking cool.

13. The Times They Are a-Changin (1964) - While Beatlemania and the British Invasion were soaking up the limited airspace in 1964, Bob Dylan released his third album The Times They Are a-Changin to little fanfare. It was panned by critics and struggled commercially. Looking back however, it contained some pretty important music aside from the title track. "The Ballad of Hollis Brown", "With God on Our Side", "One Too Many Mornings" and "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" are significant songs that stand the test of the times we live in today. "Seven people dead on a South Dakota farm..." can you say gun-control?

14. Bringin It All Back Home (1965) - One side acoustic, one side rock may have confused a lot of people and pissed off the folk-nazi's but the acoustic side contained "Mr. Tambourine Man", "Gates of Eden" and "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" and the rock side contained "Subterranean Homesick Blues", "Maggies Farm" and "Love Minus Zero, No Limit." That would place it in the top three on just about everyone else's catalog.

15. Together Through Life (2009) - The second successive Bob Dylan album to debut at number one on the Billboard 200, Together Through Life was a departure from the previous, Modern Times relying on dark, mischievous lyrics and bluesy overtones. It's one of a handful of co-written Dylan albums most of the songs written by Dylan and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. "Beyond Here Lies Nothin" is the albums highlight.

16. Nashville Skyline (1969) - A duet with Johnny Cash on "Girl From the North Country" and "Lay Lady Lay" made Nashville Skyline a commercial success. It also concluded Bob Dylan's dip in the country music pool he started with John Wesley Harding in 1967. The outtakes of Dylan and Cash doing "Ring of Fire" and "I Walk the Line" should have been included however.

17. Slow Train Coming (1979) - While it signified the onset of the "born-again" Christian period, Slow Train Coming wasn't nearly as horrific as the follow ups Saved and Shot of Love. "Gotta Serve Somebody" was a pseudo hit and actually garnered Dylan a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance in 1980 and Slow Train Coming is listed among the 100 Greatest Christian Albums according to the Contemporary Christian Music book. They would know. I, surely, would not. Dylan converted back to his Jewish roots before the release of Infidels in 1989.

18. The Basement Tapes (1975) - This album would certainly rank much higher on the list but for the circumstances surrounding the release and production of the album. It was taken from a collection of songs recorded by Dylan and The Band following Dylan's motorcycle accident and subsequent convalesence. Dylan's vocals were recorded in 1967, eight years prior to the album's release and the overdubs that were added along with tracks by The Band, while monumental in style and influence, make it suspect when calling it an album by Dylan and The Band.

19. Under The Red Sky (1990) - This album wasn't really all that bad but it contained "Wiggle, Wiggle" which ruined the rest of it and caused me to always stop listening at that point. Suffice to say I am a fan of Don Was as a producer, just not that much as Bob Dylan's producer. Was assembled a who's who of contemporary music at the time including Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Elton John, George Harrison, Bruce Hornsby, Waddy Wacthel and Paulinho DaCosta and you would hope they could have done more lasting material. The title track stands out but not much else is memorable.

20. Planet Waves (1974) - During a brief stint on Asylum Records Dylan released two albums, Planet Waves and a live album Before the Flood. This is actually the better studio recording with Dylan and The Band although it rarely gets mentioned as the "true" collaboration it was. "Forever Young", "Tough Mama", Going, Going Gone" and "You Angel You" all rank high on my list of notable achievements during the Dylan/Band era.

21. Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964) - For those who preferred the finger pointing, in your face Bob Dylan that appeared on his previous albums, this wasn't it. Shy of "Chimes of Freedom" it was an album of somewhat candy coated love songs. A lot of the best songs appeared in later years, especially live, with a bit more bite to them. "It Ain't Me Babe" and"I Don't Believe You, She Acts Like We Never Have Met" are among them.

22. Good As I Been To You (1992) - The predecessor to World Gone Wrong, Good As I Been To You was the first all acoustic record Dylan had recorded since Another Side of Bob Dylan in 1964. Like World Gone Wrong it was comprised entirely of folk/blues covers and included outstanding renditions of "Sittin On Top of the World", "Froggy Went a-Courtin", and "Hard Times."

23. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) - The first soundtrack and the acting debut for Dylan as the knife-throwing Alias in the Sam Peckinpah film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, the album was mostly instrumental but debuted the classic "Knockin on Heaven's Door". The musicians included Booker T. and Roger McGuinn. It's a good album for a rainy Sunday morning.

24. Bob Dylan (1962) - Only a career this monumental would put your debut album at number 24 on the list but compared to the body of work it just stands up as a good album. "Song to Woody", and "Talkin New York" are the only originals surrounded by folk standards. "Pretty Peggy-O" is pretty hip though.

25. New Morning (1970) - New Morning followed the release of the dreaded Self Portrait so it stands to reason it got some much needed critical relief. The album is solid and contains some Dylan standards including "If Not for You" and "Went to See the Gypsy" but all in all it's a good album for most and an OK album for Bob Dylan.

26. Empire Burlesque (1985) - In spite of the stellar cast of musicians assembled at different periods during the recording of the songs for Empire Burlesque the album is largely uninspired. The best songs on the album "Tight Connection to My Heart", "Clean Cut Kid", were originally set for the album Infidels. Even Roy Bittan, Steve Van Zandt, Benmont Tench, Mike Campbell, Howie Epstein and Lone Justice couldn't make the album any more than over produced 80's schmaltz.

27. Street Legal (1978) - While I actually like this album it ranks as the point where the catalog begins to slide downward. It also marks as the turning point that started Dylan on the Christianity slide. Religion had appeared throughout Dylan's writing but the apocalyptic overtones on Street Legal were different and certainly less subtle than previous inclusions. "Changing of the Guard", "Where Are You Tonight" and "Is Your Love in Vain" are the highlights for me and I can still listen to them fairly loud.

28. John Wesley Harding (1967) - The beginning of a brief and somewhat commercially fruitful foray into country music at least in terms of singing and playing but Bob Dylan isn't a country music writer now and wasn't then either. The music on both John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline, with some exceptions, sound contrived. "All Along the Watchtower", "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight"  and "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" are the highlights.

29. Christmas in the Heart (2009) - As Christmas albums go this will never get any airplay during my holiday season.

30. Dylan (1973) - "Lily of the West" and not much else.

31. Saved (1980) - Awful

32. Shot of Love (1981) - Even more awful than Saved but at least it was the last of the born again albums...forever.

33. Self Portrait (1970) - Best summed up by Greil Marcus, the great Rolling Stone writer, in the opening sentence of his review, "What is this shit?"

34. Knocked Out Loaded (1986) - Dylan must have been either knocked out, loaded or both.

35. Down in the Groove (1988) - Most of us pleaded for Dylan to "make it stop" after three pretty horrific efforts in the 1980's...a year later Oh Mercy came out. It stopped, Bob listened and he's been back ever since.

BILL HURLEY

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 -John Fullbright – Songs

3 - Shovels and Rope – Swimmin’ Time 

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

5 - Robert Ellis – The Lights from the Chemical Plant  

6 - Hard Working Americans  -  Hard Working Americans

7 -Hurray for the Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes

8- Mary Gauthier – Trouble and Love   

9 - Mike Farris – Shine on All the People

10 - Joe Louis Walker – Hornet’s Nest  

11 - Paul Thorn – Too Blessed to Be Stressed 

12 - Justin Townes Earle – Single Mothers  

13 - Old Crow Medicine Show – Remedy 

14 -The Howlin’ Brothers – Trouble

15- Seth Walker – Sky Still Blue

16 – The Earls of Leicester- The Earls of Leicester

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

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

19 – Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds of Country

20 - Rodney Crowell    - Tarpaper Sky 

21 - Parker Milsap  - Parker Milsap

22 - Janiva Magness – Original

23 – Calico the band – Rancho California

24 -Rosanne Cash   - The River and The Thread

25 -Candi Staton – Life Happens

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

26 – Steelism – 615 to Fame

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

28 – John Mellencamp – Plain Spoken

29 – Chuck Mead - Free State Serenade

30 – Israel Nash – Israel Nash’s Rain Plans

31 – Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes 

32 – Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen – Cold Spell

33 -Brent Johnson – Set the World on Fire

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

35 -Keb’ Mo’ – Bluesamericana

36 -Leftover Salmon – High Country

37 - Carlene Carter – Carter Girl

38- Will Kimbrough – Sideshow Love

39 - Queen Esther – The Other Side

40 -Lake Street Dive – Bad Self Portraits

41 – John Hiatt – The Terms of My Surrender

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

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

44 – The Hello Strangers - The Hello Strangers

45- The Holmes Brothers – Brotherhood 

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

47 – Eric Brace & Karl Straub – Hangtown Dancehall

48 – Adam Carroll – Let It Choose You

49 – Bob Seger – Ride Out

50 - Eden Brent – Jigsaw Heart

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

51 – Doug Seegers – Going Down to the River

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

53 - The Mastersons -  Good Luck Charm

54 – The Far West – Any Day Now

55 – John Nemeth – Memphis Grease

56 - Amelia White – Old Postcard

57  - Eliza Gilkyson – The Nocturne Diaries

58 - Bobby Rush with Blinddog Smokin’ - Decisions

59 - Lydia Loveless – Somewhere Else

60 – Chris Smither – Still on the Levee

61 – Ruthie Foster – Promise of a Brand New Day

62 – Royal Southern Brotherhood – heartsoulblood 

63 – David Olney – When the Deal Goes Down

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

65 – Ronnie Fauss – Built to Break 

66 – Ellis Paul – Chasing Beauty

67 – The Reigning Sound – Shattered

68 - Jarekus Singleton – Refuse to Lose

69 - Zoe Muth – World of Strangers

70 -Blackie & the Rodeo Kings   South

71 -Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt – For Keeps

72– Billy Joe Shaver – Long in the Tooth 

73 - The New Basement Tapes – Lost on the River

74 –Malcolm Holcombe – Pitiful Blues

75 -Robert Cray – In My Soul

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

76 – The Apache Relay – The Apache Relay

77 - Shakey Graves – And the War Came

78 – Trampled by Turtles – Wild Animals

79 -Moot Davis – Goin’ in Hot

80 - Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne

81 - Susan Cattaneo  - Haunted Heart

82 - Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans

83- Jamestown Revival – Utah

84 –The Evangenitals – Moby Dick

85 - Amy Black – This Is Home

86 -Mingo Fishtrap – On Time 

87 – Corb Lund – Counterfeit Blues

88 – Cory Branan – The No-Hit Wonder

89 – The Felice Brothers - Favorite Waitress

90 -Matt Andersen  - Weightless

91 - Peter Mulvey – Silver Ladder

92 – Sarah Borges – Radio Sweetheart

93 –  Patrolled by Radar – Cool Your Jets

94 – Nathan Bell – Blood Like a River

95 – Whiskey Shivers – Whiskey Shivers

96 - Devon Allman – Ragged and Dirty 

97 – Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis –  Our Year

98 – Joe Fletcher – Songs for the Working Man

99 – Pieta Brown – Paradise Outlaw

100 - Chip Taylor – The Little Prayers Trilogy

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

the alternate root top 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.

2012 was a splendid year for music, especially American Roots Music. After careful thought, consideration and some date checking we came up with a list of our favorite 25 Albums of 2012. They are based on our own personal opinions, not who landed highest on fabricated charts or were media darlings. Some may be a surprise and some, of course, are not surprising at all. It was tough to narrow the list to 25 and even harder to list them in order...but, according to us, The Best Albums of 2012 are:

 

 

 



1. Peter Karp and Sue Foley - Beyond the Crossroads
Peter Karp & Sue Foley put music to their letter writing correspondence for 2010’s He Said, She Said. For the second recording as a duo, the pair brought solid songwriting to the studio and deliver Beyond the Crossroads, The Alternate Root favorite album of the year. Beyond the Crossroads breathes is about surviving with a smile and triumphing over what life throws your way.

Listen and buy the music of Peter Karp and Sue Foley from AMAZON or iTunes

2. Paul Thorn - What the Hell is Going On? - Paul Thorn was in a line of one when he got tired of hearing his own voice for What the Hell Is Going On?.  Listening to the words of the man called the Mark Twain of Americana is never an issue on any Paul Thorn album. What the Hell Is Going On puts Paul behind the wheel of the other songwriters material ‘cause he felt” "I wanted to take a break from myself, do something different, and just have fun." Paul Thorn stomps a gritty rock over songs by Buddy Miller, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Foy Vance, Wild Bill Emerson, Buckingham/Nicks and Paul Rodgers/Free.

Listen and buy the music of Paul Thorn from AMAZON or iTunes

3. Justin Townes Earle - Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now - Justin Townes Earle headed to the mountains of North Carolina to record Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now. “I think it’s the job of the artist to be in transition and constantly learning more,” he said of the record “The new record is completely different than my last one. This time I’ve gone in a Memphis-soul direction.” He was absolutely right in the description change up and right to move in a direction that gave his soul time to shine.

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4. Mad Buffalo - Red and Blue

Red and Blue is an angry album because Randy Riviere is angry. He, like many of us, is disheartened by the discourse that permeates throughout the country and threatens the very process of democracy. Riviere, the wildlife biologist, is semi-retired now to focus more on his music but keeps a keen eye on the events that are re-shaping America. Riviere the musician, who records under the soubriquet Mad Buffalo, has just released the follow up to the critically acclaimed ‘Wilderness’ (2008) with the brilliant Red and Blue.

Listen and buy the music of Mad Buffalo from AMAZON or iTunes

5. Corb Lund - Cabin Fever
Alberta-born Canadian Corb Lund went to a Rocky Mountain refuge to craft the songs for his sixth album, Cabin Fever. The words evolved from a combination of introspection and hard traveling. The music comes from as many different directions as the music. Rockabilly, western swing, cowboy ballads and country rock wrap around tales of vampire goths, gravediggers and traveling troubadours depending on the Lord to protect them from southern lawmen. Cabin Fever has Corb Lund backed by his longtime band, The Hurtin’ Albertans. Corb is the recipient of the JUNO Award recipient in his native land and the Canadian Country Music Association has named him Roots Artist of the Year seven consecutive years from 2004 – 2010.

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

6. Carolina Chocolate Drops - Leaving Eden
Leaving Eden is the Carolina Chocolate Drops third full length CD, the follow-up to the group’s 2010 Grammy-winning Genuine Negro Jig which climbed to # 1 on the Billboard Bluegrass Chart. The group brought in Roots music guru Buddy Miller for Leaving Eden. The Drop’s Rhiannon Giddens says of the experience, “We already had a lot of pressure, and it was a lot of change at once and trying to do a record under that. We’ve never traditionally been a band that hooks up together in the studio so that was kind of a new thing, and that was I think where Buddy Miller really shined in suggesting this or that. He didn’t want to push us any way or the other. He didn’t want to put us in this narrow category. He just kinda let the music do it”.

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7. Kevin Gordon - Gloryland
Guitars gather like clouds on the horizon of Gloryland. Kevin Gordon forms chords that rise in black, white, and gray bursts and it is his use of sonics that makes Gloryland so seductive. Distortion weaves through the songs and coils around vocals that acts as a beacon to guide you through varied gusts and swells on his six-strings. There is calm to his voice, more conversational and personal rather than shouting a message or trying to be heard over the rolling headers of sound. Hallelujah, Gloryland!

Listen and buy the music of Kevin Gordon from AMAZON or iTunes

8. Ruthie Foster - Let it Burn
Ruthie Foster blends soul, blues, rock, folk and gospel in her music. Grammy Award-winning producer John Chelew suggested she record an album in New Orleans , handpicking Crescent City' talent  for Let It Burn. The album features special guests The Blind Boys of Alabama, Soul legend William Bell, and the rhythm section of The Funky Meters. Let It Burn was a 2012 GRAMMY Nominee for Best Blues Album.

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9. Shemekia Copeland - 33 1/3
Shemekia Copeland named her album for the vinyl that brought her tunes on 33 1/3. The album features guest appearances by Buddy Guy and J. J. Grey. Shemekia covers “One More Time” by her dad, Johnny Copeland, along with Sam Cooke’s “Ain’t That Good News,” Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” and J. J. Gray’s “A Woman.” “Lemon Pie” is an indictment of politicians who wave from the window of their trains at the rest of us who are eating bitter lemon pie for the poor and “Somebody Else’s Jesus” concerns a preacher full of hate who waves a Bible like a shotgun in the air.

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10. Lucy Kaplansky - Reunion
Lucy Kaplansky saves us the long road trip needed to get together with family and friends with her recent release, Reunion. Reunion acts as a diary for a traveling musician. The Woody Guthrie-worded and Slaid Cleaves-arranged “This Morning I Am Born Again”, gets a rebirth in Lucy’s arrangement and delivery. There is a softness to Lucy’s vocals, though the delivery never comes across as quiet. She has a mastery of words in her singing that allows the punch to be present without you ever seeing an arm drawn back to take the swing.

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11. Old Crow Medicine Show - Carry Me Back
Old Crow Medicine Show deliver Carry Me Back and follow their own advice back in time to the War Between the States for the semi-title track “Carry Me Back to Virginia”. OCMS songs go back decades but their personal history goes back a mere fifteen years. The band started life busking on street corners in New York state and up through Canada, eventually finding themselves in Boone, North Carolina where they caught the attention of folk icon Doc Watson while playing in front of a pharmacy. He immediately invited the band to play at his MerleFest and helped to launch their career. Old Crow Medicine Show relocated to Nashville for a residency at the Grand Ole Opry.

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12. Royal Southern Brotherhood - Royal Southern Brotherhood
Royal Southern Brotherhood counts top players among its members to create a supergroup for Roots with Cyril Neville, Devon Allman, Mike Zito, Charlie Wooten and Yonrico Scott. the name,and album title,  Royal Southern Brotherhood obviously is a reference to Cyril Neville and Devon Allman’s pedigree but there’s more Allman Brothers in this band than there is The Meters or Neville Brothers. That is if The Allmans sounded like The Rolling Stones. Devon Allman sees an opportunity with the name Royal Southern Brotherhood, “Maybe it’s time we took the connotation of “royal” away from the ruling elite and gave it to the musicians that help the masses get through the day with music.”  

Listen and buy the music of Royal Southern Brotherhood from AMAZON or iTunes     
13. Gretchen Peters - Hello Cruel World
Gretchen Peters took photos and laid them out as songs in her latest album, Hello Cruel World. She captures moments in time with her pens eye, snapshots that have a lot more below the surface than what can be seen in the image. Gretchen’s words are the thoughts that go through in a flash but still manage to stuff a whole lot into a small space in time. They are the moments in life that stretch out when on the inside of a daydream, living what could have happened, the better way an answer or question could have been stated. The images take a lot of time playing in your mind but are no more than a wink in real time.

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14. Fred Eaglesmith - 6 Volts
Fred Eaglesmith makes sure that on 6 Volts, that the music and the words are one. The instrumentation has the stories back; both are ragged but not torn. The production on 6 Volts matches the way Fred Eaglesmith stays with a story like a hungry dog going after a bone with a chunk of meat still hanging on. The characters in his tales wear their pain for the world to see and take in. If songs can take spiritual form, Fred’s tales are Buddhist, incorporating the basic principles of Buddhism by transforming spiritual hardship into joy.

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15. Don Gallardo and How Far West - The Art of Troublesome Times
On The Art of Troublesome Times Don Gallardo delivers songs that are visions from a time machine whose odometer is broken. We’re never quite sure where we are in his time line, but wherever it is, Gallardo is able to reduce the clutter of contemporary voices in our head into a quieter, simpler vision. His music references the Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Uncle Tupelo, and Tom Petty. His Americana-styled arrangements are contemporary in their mingling of electric and acoustic blends. The songs are fluid, fully realized and as relaxingly luxuriant as a recliner with a built-in massage unit.

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16. The White Buffalo - Once Upon a Time in the West
Titled Once Upon A Time In The West, the album features songs that remain in the same vein as The White Buffalo's previous works, but perhaps not quite as dark. "Although the songs mostly remain on a darker side, I suppose, I think the themes are a little rounder, broader, and a little more topical, perhaps”. Smith said. "And we're now working with some different time signature stuff as well." The thirteen tracks on Once Upon A Time In The West depict a theme of growing up in suburban California, which can relate to no matter where you land in geography by translating the stories into their own childhood experiences. The songs convey a skewed truthfulness, leaving one to their own devices in deciphering the lyrics and imagery.

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17. The Coal Porters - Find the One
The Coal Portersclaim Alternative Bluegrass for their music and Find The One takes its sound outside to sip Mint Juleps and lose your blues by losing your shoes and dancing “Barefoot on the Courthouse Lawn”. The Alternative side of their music is painted over the bluegrass traditions that The Coal Porter’s hold close to their hearts. As fiddles and banjos pepper the air with notes, Sid Griffin’s lead vocal is joined with harmonies that offer a near ballad on “Ask Me Again”. “Farmer’s Hands” weighs family heritage against the decision of a life in music; “Red Eyed & Blue” sees Country in its delivery; “You Only Miss Her When She's Gone” hits the gas pedal for a fast-paced mountain reel, and “Brand New Home” keeps the speed going and follows road signs down to Tennessee for its story line.

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18. Otis Gibbs - Harder Than Hammered Hell
Harder Than Hammered Hell pushes and pulls. Otis Gibbs’ voice is carved from its surrounding but never polished to soften or curve the edges. His words are sharp, and the well they are drawn from is deep. You can hear the booming resonance coming up from the depths in the full power of Mr. Gibbs vocals. No rants, no bellows, just one big damn voice that uses passion to fuel words and phrases. The truth is given center stage in Harder Than Hammered Hell

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19. The Cash Box Kings - Holler and Stomp
Holler & Stomp does exactly what The Cash Box Kings promise in the album title. There is no hidden agenda, cryptic sub-plots or false advertising. The men of CBK are here to holler and stomp all over Chicago and country blues. The Cash Box Kings have spent ten years honoring the Chicago blues tradition as it could be heard during the 1940 and 1950’s stronghold that the music had on the city. On Holler & Stomp, the band follows the sound back a little further. The Cash Box Kings found country blues by tracing the trail from Chicago back down south to the Mississippi delta to noodle a little country blues into their recording output.

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20. Tommy Womack - Now What?
Tommy Womack sees his life ‘as is’ and offers observations as an opening line on Now What!, his most recent release. Breaking down where we are in the present is an art, one that is aided by Mr. Womack’s natural talent, and confidence in, seeing things as a realist. Tommy Womack is in the drivers seat onNow What!. “Play That Cheap Trick, Cheap Trick Play” is a laundry list of a day in the life, the good and the bad riding on the same roller coaster; “a hundred bucks to play three sets, this is as good as it’s gonna get”. The songs and the man offer a yin/yang look at life. The ups and downs are played as they lay, and that is the reason that Tommy Womack presses buttons on his listener’s lives as much as his own. Tommy has the knack of clearly stating the obvious and delivering the message with humor and pathos.

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21. Mr. Nick and The Dirty Tricks - Oh Wow!
Better pull up the rug ‘cause it will get trashed. Mr. Nick and The Dirty Tricks are having a party on Oh Wow and your name is on the list. A big fat sax and rollicking piano steer the course on the self-titled album opener. The constant on Oh Wow is change and Mr. Nick wears Italian shoes through any of the style stops as The Dirty Crew nod to big bands, rockabilly, and turn on the spotlight for a slow dance. Mr. Nick and The Dirty Tricks play blues of the stomping and swinging version in the vein of Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf and Wynonie Harris, shaking it with original rhumbas, jump blues, and boogies

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22. Girls Guns and Glory - Sweet Nothings
Girls, Guns and Glory offer an full frontal album experience on Sweet Nothings. The sweetest thing on the album is the way the songs slide from one to another. The dead air between the songs is never a jagged edge, the pauses seeming more like a breath being taken before the next words are spoken. Girls, Guns and Glory bring a lot of class to Alt Country.

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23. Steve Forbert - Over With You
Over with You is as much about experiencing loss as it is about overcoming it. In typical Forbert fashion the songs are sometimes sad and oft times the sadness is dashed with humor. Forbert's ability to scathe is at times so understated that the scathing goes unnoticed. Over with You is another solid effort from one of music's most reliable and solid performers...it's about heartache without being lovesick.

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24. Ray Wylie Hubbard - The Grifter's Hymnal
The Grifter’s Hymnal, like A. Enlightenment, B. Endarkenment before it, was co-produced by Ray Wylie Hubbard and George Reiff, with tracks recorded at both Reiff’s home studio in Austin and at The Edythe Bates Old Chapel, located on the scenic grounds of the Round Top Festival Institute halfway between Austin and Houston. Ray Wylie Hubbard says of The Grifters Hymnal “The album really does have a lot of attitude. We made it to play loud, and I think the sonic quality of it is just beautiful. Even if you don’t like the singer or the songs, you’ll like the way it sounds.”

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25. DL Marble - Not the One
The collections of tracks on Not The One have the feel and form of a greatest hits package. The stories do not connect as a theme and the music never quite lands on a consistent style. This leaves an opportunity for each story to stands on its own, and that might just be the plan hatched between D.L. and Roscoe when putting the album together.  The songs on Not The One are a marriage of music that defined by a path the notes follow  set up against D.L.’s vocals, his voice containing the perfection of Pop and the knack of putting emotion into each word, dipping the message into joy and spite and delivering the story with a wink and a sly smile.

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51 – Doug Seegers – Going Down to the River    (10-7-14) - Not a typical Nashville success story but primed for a mini-series plot is the tale of Doug Seegers. Doug was frequently homeless in Music City when he got a gig at a local food pantry. A Swedish country music star stopped in for a bite and ordered superstardom-to-go, trading the streets of Nashville for the top of the charts in a country best known for producing Abba. Doug Seegers wondered ‘who is Abba?’, understandable for a guy who grew up on the hard-country heart of Hank Williams and Cosmic California Country in the heart-first music of Gram Parsons. Doug lived in abandoned buildings in Manhattan where he ‘made a ton of money playing out in the streets’ and ‘ate and breathed everything John Lennon’.  He met Buddy Miller on a move to Austin and his old friend guests on Going Down to the River, the most recent release for Doug Seegers. Marrying his past listening with the current recording, he welcomes Emmylou Harris to duet on Gram Parsons “She”, a track she made famous duetting with the song’s author.

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52 – The Psycho Sisters – Up on the Chair, Beatrice   (8-5-14) - Vicki Peterson (The Bangles) was friends and bandmates with Susan Cowsill before Vicki formally became a Cowsill, marrying brother John in 2003, but the pair were already sisters of sound. They met and teamed up in 1989, touring Europe in the early 1990’s as The Psycho Sisters opening for Giant Sand and Steve Wynn (The Dream Syndicate).  The pair instantly became gotta-get background singers working with Jules Shear, Belinda Carlisle and Hootie and the Blowfish and they joined an all-star cast for the Roots/Americana band, The Continental Drifters. The Psycho Sisters had talked about an album over the years and in 1991 Susan points out that the pair were ‘not doing anything for a minute’ and entered Dockside Studios in Maurice, Louisiana to record their debut, Up on This Chair, Beatrice.

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53 - The Mastersons -  Good Luck Charm   (7-8-14) - The Mastersons, Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore, are together a lot as they share wedding rings and a marital bed as well as stages for a band career and as working members of the Steve Earle backing band.  Good Luck Charm is The Masterson’s second release for New West Records. Eleanor views Good Luck Charm as ‘this is a more purpose-driven album. The first record was kind of his hers, but this one is entirely ours.’ Chris harmonized on that overview seeing time on the road “playing a few hundred shows a year has really solidified us as a band and focused our vision for the new record. Every song is crafted for the two of us.’

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54 – The Far West – Any Day Now   (2-25-14) - Any Day Nowscribbles its songs on an Alt Country canvas. “The Bright Side” hits the gate at a quick clip, as Aaron Bakker’s guitar licks bring light into the dark corners hidden from the tunes rust-colored glasses while “These Arms Will Be Empty” sets a slow pace for The Far West as they move towards the exit door of love.

Listen and buy the music of The Far West from AMAZON or iTunes

55 – John Nemeth – Memphis Grease   (3-25-14) - Since their inception, The Bo-Keys have been a band on the inside of a hot groove in their hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. In the early parts of their careers, members of The Bo-Keys performed in B.B. King’s orchestra and anchored the Hi Rhythm Section. The first referral John Németh for Memphis Grease wasScott Bomar, who had worked with Willie Mitchel and Al Green. Skip Pitts started The Bo-Keys with Scott and laid down the wah-wah guitar intro to ‘The Theme from Shaft” in the 1970’s.  Trumpeter Ben Cauley was with school-kid funk band The Bar-Keys. The group’s hit “Soul Finger” got them a gig as backing band for Otis Redding and put them on board for the plane crash that took his life, leaving Ben as the only survivor of the disaster. Drummer Howard Grimes’ can be heard keeping the beat for recordings by Rufus and Carla Thomas, O.V. Wright and Ann Peebles. Memphis Greaseis the album the John Németh put together with the help of The Bo-Keys.

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56 - Amelia White – Old Postcard   (3-4-14) - When Amelia White left home at eighteen years old, she packed her songs with her. Amelia and her music established an early relationship that soon became at odds with parental guidelines; ‘I knew what I wanted at an early age and their disapproval lit a fire. I listened over and over to my brother's records: Neil Young, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters, and I wanted to know them all, I wanted to be them.’ Amelia White found a sense of family in her East Nashville digs; friends, outcasts, lovers who share the same musical drive, and sensitivity to heartache. The ghosts that take shape on Old Postcard all know Amelia by name, though some of the tunes share the thoughts of others. “Hollow Heart” is wisps of smoke that clear to show the longing of a motherless child, and “Big Blue Sun” rises over an ever-growing tide of incoming normalcy.

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57  - Eliza Gilkyson – The Nocturne Diaries (3-18-14) - The Nocturne Diariesis a meeting ground for Eliza Gilkyson. It is a place where her highest hopes and darkest fears face off. A line from Eliza sums up the stage where her songs to act out their tales, “for me, the challenge today is to remain human when everything around us compels us to shut down”. The strength in Eliza Gilkyson’s voice that makes these songs all feel like first person narratives. She stands beside the definition of the Folk Musician, the traveling troubadour who takes the times from town to town in her stories, lovingly passing on news through her music.

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58 - Bobby Rush with Blinddog Smokin’   (4-15-14) - Decisions celebrates the sound of The King of the Chitlin’ Circuit, as dubbed by Rolling Stone for his 50+ year career. Bobby and Blinddog Smokin’ do a playful tease on “Skinny Little Woman”, strut a steamy slide through “If That’s the Way You Like It” as the story shows belief in asking for what you want. A career of fifty years and Bobby has got the whole tour thing down. He spends time talking about road life in the third person on “Bobby Rush’s Blues”, throws out a challenge to all comers as he proudly wears “Funky Old Man” and puts out his shingle over the bass-boom street beat of “Dr. Rush”. Decisions is an excellent party album and gets you ready for the morning after with “Too Much Weekend” and the laundry lists of alibis it provides, all boiling down to ‘I cannot come to work today’.  

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59 - Lydia Loveless – Somewhere Else   (1-18-14) - Lydia Loveless confidently offers songs that balance the love of classic country and the frank honesty of formative years spent in the ‘punk rules’ environs of Columbus, Ohio. Lydia Loveless could have easily taken the Sunset Strip of the late 80’s Cowpunk days that flew a Black Flag while saluting Hank Williams. Somewhere Else, however, does not need cubbyholes or categories to define it. The tracks lock arms with the same DIY punk attitude found in their stories; twanged flavor, distorted effect, three-chords-and-the-truth on Somewhere Else.

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60 – Chris Smither – Still on the Levee    (7-22-14) - Chris Smither brand of folk has always has the echo of Country Blues in its vocals and riffs.  It is like visiting old friends and family when you hear cover versions of favorite songs. Hearing those tunes recorded by the man that imprinted those songs on your brain raises the ante on audio memory. Cuts from Chris’ first recordings are on board on the double disc as well as more recent tunes,

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61 – Ruthie Foster – Promise of a Brand New Day      (8-19-14) - Ruthie Foster has given the world a great gift with her voice and her songs. Ever wonder what gives Ruthie a reason to get up in the morning? The answer opens Promise of a New Day, the latest release from Ruthie Foster. What lights the lady up is “Singing the Blues”. Diversity in her style is a constant for Ruthie Foster, and her rhythms are her children, with each one getting attention, and she tells of big love for reggae, soul and rock’n’roll in the tune. When she is ‘staring at the mirror” though, and the crowds are gone, the only option for getting high is more than likely Bobby Bland.

Listen and buy the music of Ruthie Foster from AMAZON or iTunes

62 – Royal Southern Brotherhood – heartsoulblood   (6-10-14) - Heartsoulbloodis the sound of a band that intuitively understands its Royal Southern Brotherhood. That is not really a difficult task for these guys. Touring, and being in a band, is a relationship. Heartsoulblood subtly showcases writers who can not only hear their parts but have an intuitive knowledge of their fellow band members well enough to predict the future for their parts. The music, and the songs, of Royal Southern Brotherhood is Blues Rock. The guys are not here to gently lull you, steady your nerves or give release from a tough work week. Those things will occur, of course, but only if your exit from your day-to-day is very real, and very loudly pokes a sharp, well-tuned stick at the status quo.

Listen and buy the music of Royal Southern Brotherhood from AMAZON or iTunes

63 – David Olney – When the Deal Goes Down    (7-8-14) - David Olney has released more than 20 albums over four decades, including six live recordings. His music is featured on television (Nashville) and his songs have been recorded by artists including Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Del McCoury. When the Deal Goes Down shuffles its Blues rambling through variations in of Country, Texas Shuffle, and Lounge styles.

Listen and buy music from Lee Ann Womack from AMAZON or iTunes

64 – Lee Ann Womack – The Way I’m Livin’    (9-23-14) - Lee Ann Womack seasons her traditional take on country music with a Americana, Folk and Bluegrass samples on her most recent release, The Way I’m Livin’. On tunes penned with passion, Lee Ann drifts and drives her voice over the tracks on the album with the emotion needed to flesh out stories of love and loss.

Listen and buy music from Lee Ann Womack from AMAZON or iTunes

65 – Ronnie Fauss – Built to Break   (11-4-14) - Most singer have a song. What separates Singer/Songwriters from the singers and songs is the way they come up to a song. Women and men who believe in the song telling the story, that is the kind of album the Ronnie Fauss made with Built to Break. He sticks to a country backing whether he runs it through its Alt rock relatives, front porch folk, blue twang or full frontal rock’n’roll with Rhett Miller singing the glories of long haul trucking.

Listen and buy music from Ronnie Fauss from AMAZON or iTunes

66 – Ellis Paul – Chasing Beauty - Ellis Paul is Chasing Beauty, using the personal influences of inspiration from his own heroes. The album, produced by Kristian Bush of Sugarland and Brandon Bush of Train, captures tracks a year and half in the making. Among the varied stories of accomplishment, Ellis Paul weaves in a little bit of himself with views on the current state of life in America. He feels Chasing Beauty is an adult-themed record, describing it as ‘a story teller’s record.

Listen and buy music from Ellis Paul from AMAZON or iTunes

67 – The Reigning Sound – Shattered   (7-15-14) - Shatteredpresents The Reigning Sound on the same stage as the early 60’s British bands who played rock’n’roll, but grew up in range of German airwaves carrying American R&B 45’s that the soldiers carried with them around the world. Recording at Daptone Studios gives the group a rock and soul sound, albeit one that rehearses, and sounds real good, in the garage.

Listen and buy the music of The Reigning Sound from AMAZON or iTunes

68 - Jarekus Singleton – Refuse to Lose   (5-6-14) - Refuse to Lose   (5-6-14) - You can hear the Blues in music of Jarekus Singleton and, like all players worth a listen, he makes his own Blues rules. Roots is in his music, and as an influence, one that has the same effect on cultural hotspots as the gospel and hip-hop that add touches to the songs of the twenty-something year-old. Jarekus Singleton may get some ‘young, Robert Cary’ descriptions and if using age and abilities are the qualifiers, sure. What the two more obviously share is an ability to take a heritage strain of music, like the Blues, and not only make it contemporary but also competitive with any other style claiming chart space in 2014.

Listen and buy the music of Jarekus Singleton from Amazon or iTunes

69 - Zoe Muth – World of Strangers   (5-27-14) - Zoe Muth has gotten attention for the details she uses to describe her characters as much as for the natural combination of Soul and Country that sound track the stories. The songs on World of Strangers, her recent release, continue to introduce gentle souls trying to hold on against stiff wind and weather of life.  The twang touch that Zoe Muth has loaded into past recordings is present on World of Strangers with songs like “Too Shiny”. “Make Me Change My Mind” has a percolating twanged groove set on automatic as a fuzz forms over the drumbeat sliding in and out of the arrangement with little fanfare but making for a big difference in the sound. Zoe Muth has a talent for giving her characters an inner glow from the spirits of her delivery. She is a welcoming host and makes sure that she is ready for visitors to stay a while by capably providing a full album listen.

Listen and buy the music of Zoe Muth from Amazon or iTunes

70 -Blackie & the Rodeo Kings   South   (1-14-14) - Blackie and the Rodeo Kings recent release, South, showcases all the possibilities the American Root format can hold by crafting an album with familiar twangs, string twists and rhythms that are take a rotating musical merry-go-round. South opens with dueling compass points. The direction is set in track number one by the song title, the Tom Wilson folk blues “North”, and its number two track in line taps the title track, a Colin Linden tune. A bass line thrust becomes an undertow as the seasons change in “Summertime’s Over”; Colin’s guitar throwing riffs as an entry for Stephen Fearing’s voice to float on the misty organ and slide guitar bends in “I'd Have To Be a Stone”, and an island breeze rhythm sways the curtain aside to two long-time partners who are trying to re-invigorate a relationship by “Reinventing the Wheel of Love”.  Blackie and the Rodeo Kings must light the studio up when they return from their tours and projects. There is a joy in the songs on South that is an obvious extension of the men in BARK.

Listen and buy the music of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings from Amazon or iTunes

71 -Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt – For Keeps    (5-13-14) - For Keeps, the debut album from Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt as a recoding duo, stands as a present reflection of its songwriters lives as it reaches back to times when the pair were tangled up together on tour, unraveling enough of the world to become entwined romantically, then artistically. For Keeps spends a lot of time observing the love passing it by. Given the theme, it seems only right that “Kiss Me Now” makes the track listing. The song was Danny’s marriage proposal to Carrie during the 2013 SXSW festival. For Keeps, and the relationship of Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt, are linked; they share history, and listening is way better than home movies.  

Listen and buy the music of Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkins from Amazon or iTunes

72– Billy Joe Shaver –  Long in the Tooth    (8-5-14) - Getting there was not easy, and took a while. Given that, the title of Billy Joe Shaver’s most recent release, Long in the Tooth, makes perfect sense. Billy Joe claims it is his best album to date. The album comes out through Lightning Rod Records and takes a stand, presenting the man with his name on the cover as an unrepentant outlaw singer/songwriter. Raw riff clear a path to the microphone in the title track for Billy Joe to spit rhymes over a street beat. The songs on Long in the Tooth are branded BJS though the sound heritage varies from track to track.

Listen and buy the music of Billy Joe Shaver from Amazon or iTunes

73 - The New Basement Tapes – Lost on the River    (11-10-14) - It is a late night, and you are sitting around a kitchen table sharing and talking about projects. Hey, what about doing the lost tapes that Dylan probably wrote in the period between his motorcycle accident (July 29, 1966) and the first recordings in the spring of 1967 in the "Red Room" in Dylan's house, where the first recordings of The Basement Tapes took place with The Band. Certainly good subject matter…add in you are sitting at the table with T-Bone Burnett (producer), Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Marcus Mumford (Mumford and Sons).

Listen and buy the music of The New Basement Tapes from Amazon or iTunes

74 –Malcolm Holcombe -  Pitiful Blues  (1-21-14) - Malcolm Holcombe’s voice is captured with all of its nuances up front letting his sighs, groans and shudders accent the words. The rawness that was heard on the early days of the album’s songs is evident on “The Music Plays On” with its feel of a late night jam after the paying customers have gone home with still lots of night left on Lower Broadway.

Listen and buy the music of Malcolm Holcombe from AMAZON or iTunes

75 -Robert Cray – In My Soul   (4-1-14) - Quality is to be expected when Robert Cray puts his name on an album cover. Robert is a 15x nominee, 5x Grammy winner and one of the youngest musicians, at 57 years old, to be inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. In My Soul, the latest release by the Robert Cray Band, is delivered with the same attention to detail, relaxed playing, and smooth vocals found in the man’s previous sixteen studio albums and twelve million records sold.  In My Soul focuses on one influence in the music of Robert Cray and Soul powers the album. As In My Soul watches its needles edge towards the end of the album, the Robert Cray Band go down a little bit further into the blue mood that colors the Soul dance floor on the record. “Deep in My Soul” tingles like a chill up your spine and a cool breeze against your skin.

Listen and buy the music of Robert Cray Band from Amazon or iTunes

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The Top 10 of the Top 10 Songs of the Week for 2015 features only tracks that landed in the Number One spot….and a year of such great releases it is a feat alone to make the #1. It is hard to choose between 48 weeks of #1 so I leveled the field by picking my number one favorites. Many of these artists, like Mike Farris and Rosanne Cash, have garnered Grammy nods for their work. That is a good start for the work of American Roots artists as they make modern in-roads into folk, country, rock, bluegrass and blues. Mike Farris joined the gospel choir looking to rock the house and up the higher ante. Rosanne Cash took a family vacation with husband producer John Leventhal and showed audio home movies that Grammy voters loved enough to nominate in three categories. Sisters in song and through marriage, Susan Cowsill and Vicki Peterson polished roots into 60’s AM gold for their release as The Psycho Sisters, Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers formed a line from Cambridge to Memphis as they trace the step to “The Delta Swing” and Alynda Lee Segarra featured abridged lyrics and simple acoustics for the Hurray for the Riff Raff take on “San Francisco Bay Blues”. East Nashville (Jon Byrd), Austin (Paul Thorn) and Boston, Mass (Ward Hayden of Girls, Guns & Glory and Sarah Borges) all take a spot on the Top 10. Zoe Muth pops in her headphones to relax as she rounds out the Top 10 with “Mama Needs a Maragarita” on The Alternate Root Top 10 of The Alternate Root Top 10 Songs of the Week for 2014. In the review, today’s thoughts start the review and the words of the past are italicized.

01 – “Mercy Now” – Mike Farris   (from the album Shine for All the People( (from September 9, 2014)  -  Mike Farris raised his voice for Roots Gospel in 2014 with Shine for All the People. The tracks reimagined marry Black Spirituals from the early nineteenth century with songs that share sentiments for a modern time, such as Mike’s taking control of Mary Gauthier “Mercy Now with electric guitar wrapped in soft organ chords and grounding bass lines balanced with a heavenly whispers.  Congratulations to Mike Farris for garnering a Grammy nod in the Roots Gospel category.

I wonder how songwriters feel when their tunes grow up? Mike Farris has been performing Mary Gauthier’s “Mercy Now” for several years, branding his version. The style that called to Mike was turn-of-the-century (last century) black spiritual music that he has taken as a mission to give to the world on a larger platform. “Mercy Now” fits perfectly among the traditional songs of spirit on his recent release, Shine for All the People.

Listen and buy “Mercy Now” by Mike Farris from AMAZON or iTunes

02 Etta’s Tune – Rosanne Cash   (from the album The River and The Thread)  (from February 5, 2014) - Rosanne Cash carved a singer/songwriter curve into County music, crossing borders with her Seven Year Itch album release (1981) with 3 Top 10 singles and finishing a three album run with Rhythm and Romance grabbing the top spot with four singles including the Rodney Crowell co-write, “Baby Better Start Turning Them Down” (a Grammy 1985 winner for Country single).  We congratulate Rosanne Cash for three Grammy nominations in the Best Americana album, Best American Roots performance (“A Feather’s Not a Bird”) and Best American Roots song (“A Feather’s Not a Bird”) categories.

Marshall Grant was the upright and electric bassist for Johnny Cash’s back-up band, the Tennessee Two. On the road trip that became an album, Rosanne Cash and husband John Leventhal spent time with Etta Grant, Marshall’s wife. Rosanne shared the story of the song and the relationship; “Etta told me that every morning of their lives, they got up and he (Marshall Grant) said to her, ‘What’s the temperature, darling?’ I thought, that is such a practical, sweet way to start the day. And John said, ‘That’s the first line of a song.’ When Marshall died in 2011 (he was 83) we wrote ‘Etta’s Tune.’ That’s the first one we wrote for the album (The River and The Thread).”

Listen and buy “Etta’s Tune” by Rosanne Cash from AMAZON or iTunes

03 “Timberline” - The Psycho Sisters (from the album Up on the Chair, Beatrice)   (from July 16, 2014) - Susan Cowsill and sister-in-law Vicki Peterson bring The Continental Drifters back in the guitar echoes of The Psycho Sisters. Scratchy rock’n’roll slithers along as the ladies join the voices to rise up the tree levelin “Timberline” as they border Roots with 60’s Pop Rock’n’Roll.

Our formative years follow us.  Susan Cowsill and Vicki Peterson (Cowsill) have been roots women ground zero as Continental Divide and The Psycho Sisters, lending backing vocals for Giant Sand. They have been Indie banner bearers and yet the early time spent shows through. Susan didn’t have a chance to sidestep a natural lean towards Pop in her songs as a member of The Cowsills, and Vicki Peterson was a founding member of The Bangles (nee’ The Bangs), whose Indie Rock cool took on a quick Pop gloss. The overall history of both bands shows artists staying true to rock’n’roll yet crossing over into the Pop supermarket. On a co-write for the upcoming release from The Psycho Sisters, they talk high country but the sweet sound of Pop still manages to rise up the “Timberline”.

Listen and buy “Timberline” by The Psycho Sisters from AMAZON or iTunes

04 The Delta Swing – Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers   (from the album Love Whip Blues) (from November 1, 2014) - Erin Harpe lays down a formation bass line as she slithers along the Emerald Necklace, swinging the blues of the Delta Swingers from home ground in Cambridge and down to JP (Jamaica Plains). She hops a freight car to Memphis without losing a beat as she steps to “The Delta Swing”.

Erin Harpe struts onto Live Whip Blue, her most recent release backed by The Delta Swingers. The tune rolls rhythm as a new dance craze taking over Cambridge, Jamaica Plains and down in Memphis as Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers show you how to do “The Delta Swing”.

Listen and buy “Song in Your Head” by Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers from AMAZON or iTunes

05 “Smile and a Little Skin” – Kelly Willis  (from the album Hangtown Dancehall)  (from April 16, 2014) - A gentle sway takes Kelly Willis’ song onto the floor for a spin.Hangtown Dancehall continues to grab stages nationwide for the Eric Brace and Karl Straub’s string band musical that Tim Rice has called ‘muscular and tuneful,…wordy and gritty’.

The company of the new Eric Brace and Karl Straub musical, Hangtown Dancehall, give up the stage for one of their own as Kelly Willis finds the center spot to tell her tale of life as a dancehall gal. Her routine has become routine….get dressed up pretty, dance around, show “Smile and a Little Skin”, get up early to find another town and repeat.

Listen and buy “Smile and A Little Skin” by Kelly Willis from AMAZON or iTunes

06 “The New SF Bay Blues” – Hurray for the Riff Raff   (from the album Small Town Heroes) (from April 2, 2014) - Hurray for the Riff Raff have traded street corners for major stages worldwide without ever forgetting those patrons that kept their music alive when they were busking New Orleans and selling cassette tapes of the Roots Folk. Alynda Lee Segarra adds lines and heft to a folk tune written by Jesse Fuller in 1954.

Alynda Lee Segarra adds to a classic folk blues track set in the fog rolling in from the mighty Pacific Ocean. As clouds of mist barrel under the Golden Gate Bridge they will find Hurray for the Riff Raff down to woman, guitar and the sadness that comes with great love.

Listen and buy “The New SF Bay Blues” by Hurray for the Riff Raff from AMAZON or iTunes

07 Would You Like to Dance - Jon Byrd  ) (from the album Route 41) (from October 11, 2014) - The vocals of Jon Byrd on his take for “Would You Like to Dance” float over the country sway on the track. Route 41 puts Jon Byrd in the back seat picking as the tracks of other singer/songwriter dive.

Jon Byrd put his pen down for a new release, Route 41. The songs gathered are ones Jon has met across his road and performing years. Jon Byrd sings a smooth country gentleman whose charm might get him a partner on Adam Wright’s “Would You Like to Dance”.

Listen and buy “Would You Like to Dance” by Jon Byrd from Jon’s website

08 Too Blessed to be Stressed - Paul Thorn  (from the album Too Blessed to Be Stressed) (from July 20, 2014) - Paul Thorn spent four weeks on the Top 10 in the #1 spot with different tracks leading up to his album release, and rightfully so. If you feel the spirit in this song think about the tune taking steroids and check out the effect of a Paul Thorn Band live show.

There are many visual aids that pass our eyes during the course of a day. Paul Thorn give three examples to look for; the little things they just might make your smile iron out the speed bumps and fill in the potholes that sometimes litter our path. Please feel free to join Paul and the McCrary Sisters with the chorus of “Too Blessed to be Stressed”.

Listen and buy “Too Blessed to be Stressed” by Paul Thorn from AMAZON or iTunes

09 Get as Gone as Gone Can Get – Girls, Guns and Glory with featuring Sarah Borges (7’ vinyl single) (from July 02, 2014) - A two-sided single featuring “Baby Don’t Go” and “Get as Gone as Gone Can Get” came through last summer. This side grabbed the #1 spot with wobbly rockabilly guitar crunch powered by Roots sirens of the male (Ward Hayden) and female (Sarah Borges) variety.

What do you get when two of Boston's hottest rock and roll singers join forces? You get this song! "Get As Gone Can Get" is a new duet from Sarah Borges and Ward Hayden of Girls Guns And Glory, with the GGG boys backing them. With a kind of 50's feel, like you're at a modern day sock hop, this song just brings the goods! The two Boston based rockers trade vocals around a driving guitar sound that defines HIGH ENERGY! Rock and Roll is NOT dead!!  (JM)  Girls, Guns and Glory teamed up with one of their favorites Ms. Sarah Borges to record a two-sided vinyl 7″ record.

10 “Mama needs A Margaita”  – Zoe Muth   (from the album World of Strangers)  (from May 14, 2014) - Closing out the Top 10 of the Top 10 is a track that took #1 on Mother’s Day week. It takes us home as Mama puts the kids to bed, knocks back a Margarita and plays a tune from her dream jukebox.

A special week for Mom, Moms, Mama’s and Mother’s worldwide as the Top Ten starts off with a tune for Mother’s Day 2014. Zoe Muth takes on the role of American Mother on a track going out to two-steppers and two-timers, as seven sins and one-liners tip glasses back and call out for one more. No need to hunt for a belated Mothers Day gift …”Mama Needs a Margarita”, a slow song and some strong arms to lead her, a pretty red dress and a new pair of shoes, a long straight highway with no cops to get in my way, a Texas road house and a band to play the Blues’....somebody get the lady a drink!

Listen and buy “Mama Needs a Margarita” by Zoe Muth from AMAZON or iTunes

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