littlewolf on alternate root tvThis week's edition of 'EP'-The Extended Play Sessions features Lubbock, TX blues rockers Littlewolf from the Alternate Root TV Studios in Boston, MA. Littlewolf is Steve Lott on lead guitar and vocals, Kristi Clanton on slide guitar and lead vocals, Scotty Monette on bass, Ted Armstrong on keyboards and Billy 7 Frietas on drums. Littlewolf is on tour throughout the Northeast and stopped in to record the 'EP'-Extended Play Sessions prior to returning home to Texas to begin work on a new album due in 2014. Their blend of blues, rock, country and indie roots is a dynamic mix that makes them an unpredictable and incredibly solid live show.


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.


mike zito on alternate root tvMike Zito and the Wheel - The "EP" Extended Play Sessions - Mike Zito and his new band The Wheel play gritty, gulf coast Texas rock and roll colored with blues, funk, country and whatever else they can season the gumbo with to create a vintage, classic sound reminiscent of the hey day of rock and roll. The new album Gone to Texas has just been released to widespread critical acclaim and debuted at number one on the Roots Blues chart. Mike and the band stopped into Alternate Root TV studios on their way to Cleveland from Portland, ME while on tour promoting the album's release. Mike's guitar work has long been recognized as some of the best blues rock guitar around as his work with Royal Southern Brotherhood and a string of solid solo records can attest. Enjoy the words and music of Mike Zito and the Wheel on this edition of "EP" Extended Play from Alternate Root TV.

For Review - Gone to Texas from Mike Zito and the Wheel -

mike zito gone to texasMike Zito & The Wheel open Gone to Texas with a highway song. The album opener snags the recordings title for its own, and “Gone to Texas” as a song grabs the rhythm of the bus wheels carrying Mike as its groove. Gone to Texas, as an album, is a smooth ride that passes by with the riffs and rhythms that are second nature to guitar man Mike Zito.

Gone to Texas has Blues influences throughout its songs and its moods. That does not make it a collection that only lets Blues-based tunes through the door, however. The album offers folk blues (“Death Row”), Bourbon Street Blues (“Subtraction Blues”), breezy slides (“Voices in Dallas”) and slow jam love songs (“I Never Knew A Hurricane”). Mike Zito lets influence guide his songs but does not feel the need to make it obvious. The Blues lives inside the man, it translates into the tunes on Gone to Texas as form rather than structure.

Mike crosses the “Rainbow Bridge” as he moves through Port Arthur heading home from a show in New Orleans. He has company on the song ride with Sonny Landreth and the pair cruise along with southern swamp rock as fuel. Continuing on the asphalt theme, Delbert McClinton becomes Mike’s traveling companion on “The Road Never Ends”. The two duet and Mike adds some mean slides that move like rubber on rain wet streets.  Gone to Texas spends time on the highways but it stays true to heading home. There is a joy in Zito’s playing as he sings of ending the journey in his adopted home.

Mike Zito was born and grew up on the south side of St. Louis. It is no longer his mailing address, he belongs to that huge hunk of land known as the Lone Star state. Texas saved Mike’s life. He explains on the Gone to Texas liner notes that, historically, Texas was the last hope for men in debt or facing legal problems elsewhere. Like many before him, Mike Zito headed to Texas, though for Mike it was drug problems. The state was where he got clean and found a spiritual base that has become part of his core.

Gone to Texas has The Wheel as Mike’s backing band. The group was hand-picked over the years and they lock into each groove as one unit. The potential danger of ‘one more taste’ in “Hell on Me” comes through in the music just as the salvation sparkle of “Let Your Light Shine on Me” is front and center in it’s the gently strummed and picked guitar foundation flows like the love the song requests.

Gone to Texas is album number four for Mike Zito, and his first release for Ruf Records. His solo work is balanced with his role as guitar slinger for the Roots supergoup Royal Southern Brotherhood.

Listen and buy the music of Mike Zito from AMAZON or iTunes



bow thayer extended play sessionsBow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck released their latest album, Eden, in 2013 to resounding critical acclaim including our own at The Alternate Root. That album inspired us to list the 20 bands in the Roots Americana genre that were pushing the envelope and bringing the music to new heights. Never to rest on past laurels, Thayer and his newest configuration of Perfect Trainwreck are again pushing the music into new technical dimensions, incorporating new instrumentation and more complex arrangements around Thayer's signature lyrical intensity. These 5 songs have never been performed or heard publicly prior to this edition of The Extended Play Sessions. The songs are fresh and in most cases just beginnings of what will be more cutting edge final products some time in the spring or summer of 2014. We are all big fans of this group of musicians and are pleased they chose Extended Play to bring the music to fruition.


extended play sessions with mandolin orangeMandolin Orange are a band of extremes. Musically, the North Carolina duo produce music that is pure and calming. Lyrically, their topics take a stand on human rights, environment and other pieces plucked from today’s news. Andrew Marlin (guitar) met Emily Frantz (fiddle) in 2009 at a bluegrass jam in Durham, NC. Andrew had played guitar since he was fourteen, Emily  has been in various bluegass bands around North Carolina. The duo came to Alternate Root TV studios in Boston in May to record The Extended Play Sessions.

Mandolin Orange added players for 'This Side of Jordan,' their label debut album for North Carolina based Yep Roc records. The album was recorded at the Fideltorium in Kernersville, North Carolina with bassist Jeff Crawford and a backing band, Religious faith and fable thread throughout the record with Biblical references that Emily Frantz sees as a way to “convey a different point. In the south especially, we hear the Bible construed in any and every way to justify people’s comforts and discomforts. Here band mate, and group lyricist , Andrew Marlin added, “and it’s so frustrating to watch those stories be used to limit people’s happiness.” This sentiment inspired “Hey Adam,” where Marlin and Frantz urge in unison during the chorus, “Our Father loves you all ways.”

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.


tommy malone in the alternate rootIt's been 12 years since Tommy Malone released an album of his own material. The former  front man and co-founder of the legendary Subdudes has just released "Natural Born Days," a collection of deeply introspective songs that reaffirm his place as one of the best blue-eyed soul singers around. The album was recorded in his hometown of New Orleans and was produced by John Porter. Porter's work with such luminaries as Keb Mo' and Taj Mahal give the album a soulful, bluesy feel that perfectly suited for Malone's voice and allowed him to exercise his skill as a guitarist. He's out on tour promoting the new album and we had a rare glimpse into the music and story behind the album and bring it to you in this edition of "EP" Extended Play. The "EP" sessions were filmed in the Alternate Root TV studio in Boston earlier this month.


xenia dunford on alternate root tvAt just 24 years old, Boston native Xenia Dunford has seen a fair share of the road. "I'm kind of a loner, a nomad," she tells us, "I've traveled around and lived in a lot of different cities." That movement and the experiences gathered along the way have influenced her music; an eclectic blend of jazz, roots and indie pop that centers around her vivid descriptions of the human condition. She's a fine piano player with a voice that resonates within her stories and evokes shades of Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Julie London. Her latest effort, His and Hers, recorded with Eastern Exile bandmates Forrest Pettingill and Scotty Mlodzinski, is a giant leap forward for Xenia, incorporating influences of alt-country, folk and blues.


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




Matt Andersen’s home is Perth-Andover, a blue-collar community in New Brunswick, Canada, a town of close to 2,000 residents. From his village on the banks of the St, John River, Matt Andersen and his music have logged over four million YouTube views, with close to one million for his version of “Ain’t No Sunshine”. Matt received a 2013 European Blues award and the Best Solo Performer award at the Memphis Blues Challenge. Matt Andersen brings the music of Weightless, his recent release, produced by Los Lobos saxman/producer Steve Berlin to Alternate Root TV studios.

The Alternate Root is pleased to host a special night of filming featuring Matt Andersen on Thursday, April 10, 2014. Doors are at 6PM and you can be included by contacting us via e-mail through studioconcertseries@gmail.com.

Located just 25 minutes from downtown Boston and minutes off of I-95 and Rt. 1, Alternate Root TV Studios is a unique place to see top nationally touring artists in an intimate setting. With cabaret style seating for just 44 people, no seat is more than 25 feet from the stage. Food and beverages are complimentary and there is ample free parking just steps from the studio. Seating is reserved for guests on an invitation only, first come first served basis. It is an opportunity to see artists up-close and personal and interact with them. They are here filming our television series and you can be part of it.

Home is where the heart is, and the place where you are with those you love, whether they are family of blood or family of choice. Amy Black sings the many facets of life in base camp on This Is Home, her latest release. The beauty of Amy’s delivery on the album is in her knowing when to blast the back row and when to whisper to get the front row leaning in. Amy Black samples liberally from many roots with a branded sound that hints at country, blues and rock influences.

The Alternate Root is pleased to host a special night of filming featuring Amy Black with guest, Meredith Rose, on Friday, April 18, 2014. Doors are at 6PM and you can be included by contacting us via e-mail through studioconcertseries@gmail.com.

Located just 25 minutes from downtown Boston and minutes off of I-95 and Rt. 1, Alternate Root TV Studios is a unique place to see top nationally touring artists in an intimate setting. With cabaret style seating for just 44 people, no seat is more than 25 feet from the stage. Food and beverages are complimentary and there is ample free parking just steps from the studio. Seating is reserved for guests on an invitation only, first come first served basis. It is an opportunity to see artists up-close and personal and interact with them. They are here filming our television series and you can be part of it.


Roosevelt Dime fly under the flag of Steamboat Soul, the newest niche market soundtracked with a mix of Appalachian string bands, Memphis Soul and New Orleans Dixieland all stirred around in the musical Brooklyn blender of the band’s home base. My Darling Clementine are husband and wife duo, Michael Weston King and Lou Dagleish. The pair inhabit the songs on The Reconciliation? and decorate with their favorite country soul sounds

The Alternate Root is pleased to host a special night of filming featuring Roosevelt Dime and My Darling Clementine on Friday, April 11, 2014. Doors are at 6PM and you can be included on the guest list by contacting us via e-mail through studioconcertseries@gmail.com.

Located just 25 minutes from downtown Boston and minutes off of I-95 and Rt. 1, Alternate Root TV Studios is a unique place to see top nationally touring artists in an intimate setting. With cabaret style seating for just 44 people, no seat is more than 25 feet from the stage. Food and beverages are complimentary and there is ample free parking just steps from the studio. Seating is reserved for guests on an invitation only, first come first served basis. It is an opportunity to see artists up-close and personal and interact with them. They are here filming our television series and you can be part of it.


Jimbo Mathus brings has a mission; to make catfish music for the masses. Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition are heading to Boston to celebrate the release of their new album, Dark night of the Soul. Jimbo Mathus is a southern curator of culture from literature to the almighty beat.  The band will stop by Alternate Root TV studios to film for the Extended Play series.

The Alternate Root is pleased to host a special night of filming celebrating the release of Dark Night of the Soul. Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition will be performing on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Doors are at 7PM and you can be included by contacting us via e-mail through studioconcertseries@gmail.com.

Located just 25 minutes from downtown Boston and minutes off of I-95 and Rt. 1, Alternate Root TV Studios is a unique place to see top nationally touring artists in an intimate setting. With cabaret style seating for just 44 people, no seat is more than 25 feet from the stage. Food and beverages are complimentary and there is ample free parking just steps from the studio. Seating is reserved for guests on an invitation only, first come first served basis. It is an opportunity to see artists up-close and personal and interact with them. They are here filming our television series and you can be part of it.

EXTENDED PLAY FROM ALTERNATE ROOT TVWe are launching a new show for Alternate Root TV called "EP" Extended Play. The show will debut on Boston Network WBIN on January 18th, 2014. The show will air on Saturday evenings at 1AM immediately following Saturday Night Live. It is available in 2.7 million homes throughout New England. 

Our goal is to share the incredible experience of working closely with the artists you love. To fully realize that effort in the future, we will film our 'EP'-Extended Play episodes in front of a live studio audience. Part house concert, part live music venue, but with much more surrounding the event. The shows will be invitation only and limited to 50 audience members. The suggested donations will be announced to cover production costs and artist fees. Audience members will get to see filming in an up close and personal setting. Taping will be no more than two hours and will include audience participation for the questions to the artists for each show. For the lucky 50 in attendance, each audience member will receive a limited edition show poster signed by the artist(s) and will be able to purchase a DVD copy of the event when the show is edited and released, as well as any merchandise the artists offer.

Our facility is located in Norwood, MA and has ample parking and space inside the building. The setting is warm. Every seat is a winner and very close to all the action. It is a fantastic way to see bands and artists you love in a private concert setting. You can bring your own food and refreshments that you can share it with the crowd or keep it all for yourself. Times will be announced as the shows are confirmed. If you wish to receive an email from us with upcoming shows as they are announced you can sign up by contacting us at the e-mail address below. Many of the artists will not be able to annouce shows in the area due to concert commitments so the line-up may be in the form of really good hints. You will receive a Constant Contact email with an image of the poster for every event and all the details including date, time and any other pertinent information. The first 50 responders get through the door and seating or standing space will be determined in the order the email response is received.






Jim Byrnes has taken out his diary to give a better idea about how music, particularly the Blues, has affected, infected and taken him captive with its pull for nearly fifty years. St. Louis Times lets the songs that formed young Jim be the story of growing up in St, Louis, Missouri.  St. Louis Times offers Jim’s own memories in original tracks and covers the work of local artists that were the stars of Jim’s musical upbringing. Jim croons, hollers, sings sweetly and delivers lines that bite and riffs that bleed on the album with tracks associated with Chuck Berry, Stump Johnson, Little Milton and Peetie Wheatstraw. St. Louis Times marks a few anniversaries. The album is done in collaboration with producer/guitar man Steve Dawson and marks ten years that Jim and Steve have been making music together. Additionally, St. Louis Times arrive just in time for the commemoration of 250 years since the founding of St. Louis.

“The Duck's Yas Yas Yas” slips back in time to a summer band shell as Jim Byrnes suggests you high-step down Market St. to dance a little Georgia Rub to the ragtime music playing. The tune offers a chair in the recording studio to Jim’s old buddy, John Hammond, as the two trade verses on the song. John blows mean harp on “Get Evil” and “I Believe That Was a Lie” and plays National Steel on “Cake Alley”, penned for one of St. Louis’ seedier addresses. There is salvation coming in “I Need a Change”, you can hear it in Jim’s words and feel it in the rise of the arrangement.  Jim Byrnes offers his version of his birth city’s anthem and presents “St. Louis Blues”, on the eve of the song’s one hundredth anniversary. While on the bus Jim spots “Nadine” hustling down the street as he calls after the lady, ‘Nadine, honey, is that you?’  and he simmers some slow cooked blues running through the possibilities while changing the rules in “Old Dog, New Tricks”. Vancouver, Canada-based Jim Byrnes never fails to deliver quality, whether with his music or his acting career.

Listen and buy the music of Jim Byrnes from AMAZON or iTunes

Do not believe your eyes or ears when seeing Hillstomp live, or listening to their most recent release, Portland, Ore. The beating heart of Hillstomp features two members, Henry Kammerer and John Johnson. Whether the group brings in additional musicians or simply uses the audience or listener, by the end of one song there is more banging, clanking, pounding or just plain old stomping than when the tune began. Hillstomp are rhythm. Stomp gives an idea of future pounding but it could give the impression that Hillstomp are a one pound group. Nope, if something is not moving quickly enough out of reach it becomes part of the instrumentation for Hillstomp. The sound would be primitive if there was not so much care and order given to the tracks. John Johnson is team leader for rhythm, contributing to the cause on drums, buckets, washboards and the occasional clank or grunt. Henry Kammerer is on guitar, banjo and vocals, his playing providing its own source of rhythm. Hillstomp raise hell and their voices, and invite listeners to join in and do the same on Portland. Ore.

The vocals of Hillstomp are worn yet warm and inviting. The stories, and the vocals, move smoothly over the cacophony of the all-consuming beat. There is familiarity when Hillstomp re-work “The Cuckoo” but past memories fade quickly.  There was always a hint of danger in the song, the edge of fear creeping up from the mystery in the story line. When Hillstomp deliver the track, the fear is surface level and as each verse breaths in your ear, your shoulders hunch in anticipation of realized threats.  Board the “Santé Fe Line” as the track leads the pack to kick off Portland. Ore. Hillstomp are leaving town and ride a rhythm of rails calling out station and stops, happier as each one fades behind. “Down Come Down” begins on a banjo groove of notes as its lead character wonders what is ahead as he sees fewer days in front and is starting to feel desperate while “Life I Want” does not focus on what is coming as much as the needs that are desired. The rattle of “Henry oh my Henry” is a hammered heartbeat, tension rising as the story unfolds. The scene is played out as the two former lovers confront each another, one saying goodbye and making an attempt to walk away, and the other seeing another end to the tale. Hillstomp are the perfect marriage of Indie Rock and deep Delta Blues. The music is open and devoutly honest yet feral in its attack and it’s raw, uncut sound in the vein of artists such as Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside.  “Meet Me at the Bottom” rumbles and chugs along over a groove that draws you in and under, encompassing and pinning you to the story and the beat that is in, under, over and around Portland, Ore. thanks for Hillstomp.

Listen and buy the music of Hillstomp from AMAZON or iTunes

Undefeated was meant for the studio, and the songs arrive fully formed, shiny without too much polish, from the production work. The album is the latest release from Bobby Bare Jr’s Young Criminal’s Starvation League. Undefeated is not an over-produced album, and it is through the intricacies, the nuances, touches and textures of its notes and beats that the tracks step to the front of the musical line. The album is a perfect example of what the musicians of the mid-60’s who considered their sound psychedelic. In its origins, psychedelic music was meant as a common ground where jazz, rock, folk, blues, R&B and other forms of music could exist together in the same song. It is not unlike what the American Roots community does with the well that draws folk, bluegrass, soul, alt country, blues and other organic music forms into a format….and used by the Young Criminal’s Starvation League for this recording.  Bobby Bare incorporates the diverse sounds and styles seamlessly, presenting Undefeated as an album listen that is familiar yet full of surprises that unfold with each playback.

The songs on Undefeated put themselves in front of you as a kaleidoscope of sounds and styles. The audio image is clear and yet a slight turn completely changes what you are seeing/hearing. With its first breath, a strong bass line, “Don’t Wanna Know” brings in its voices with an almost hushed reverence on both lead and harmonies. Guitar notes are an ever-present flurry in the tune as they dance under and around the vocals. The music dips for a warm middle section that follows the opening pattern before shifting gears for a crackling guitar lead. The riffs go from kind companion into attack dog and the distorted guitar notes chew up the scenery at every appearance in the song. A road sign that shouts ‘do not assume anything’ about the music of Bobby Bare Jr’s Young Criminals’ Starvation League. Opening the album with a rumbling tremor, “North of Alabama by Mornin'” is ghostly vocals and a street-worn groove stride and strut and walk Undefeated into the world on a confident step.  The title track puts the spotlight on Bobby as a crooner working the microphone in front of country twang and reverbed guitar echoes. “My Baby Took My Baby Away” is the tale of a lonely dad sitting alone with a sad jug band melody, pining the loss of his love to the little fella in the crib while “If She Cared” shuffles its feet like its mind is elsewhere, just like the guy in the story still waiting to be wanted by a long gone love. Bobby Bare Jr’s Young Criminals’ Starvation League make the songs the stars on Undefeated.

Listen and buy Bobby Bare Jr’s Young Criminals’ Starvation League from AMAZON or iTunes


Salisbury start off their most recent release, Life is a Heartbreak, like any morning by incorporating birds chirping, bees buzzing and roosters crowing, probably like the days Eric Lysaght spent with his grandparents in Salisbury, Missouri, about halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City. Eric pulls his memories out as an audio photo album on Life is a Heartbreak, forging his past stories with the music he makes in the present as Salisbury. The album is fashioned out of childhood perceptions of the world of his grandparents. Eric spoke of the tales that were tugging on his sleeve; “your memories as a kid are so much bigger and grander than when you get old and living in the real world. To me, Salisbury was a magical place when I was a kid. Now I go back there and it’s just a little dying town. It’s something way different from what I remember, and I’m trying to get at that.” Life Is a Heartbreak is an collection of stories that connect to reflect rural Midwestern life in the 1930s and 1940s.

Eric Lsysaght introduces us to his leading lady, “the main character of the record is Mary Alice, and that was my grandmother’s next-door neighbor. She was an old, sick lady that was living in this really nice, old Victorian house. My grandmother was very poor, so she had this tiny place that was next to this gorgeous mansion, and I just tried to tie all these things together and create some stories to go along with it. The main story is of Mary Alice getting out of the town and leaving the field hand, who’s in love with her, waiting at the county fair, and everybody else is floating through.” The songs on the album have the delicate lines of hand-painted antiques, fitting the tunes in the same time period as the stories. “Kingdom City” glides in on fragile guitar notes with vocals whispered as an afterthought in which the past is given air time to try and figure out the present. The brittleness associated with age never cracks the songs of Salisbury. Moments in life have come and gone for these stories though take another breath on Life is a Heartbreak as songs floating in on a fresh breeze coming through an open window in time. “Charlton County” pulls back the curtains to show you a Salisbury, MO morning and lovers experiencing the same sadness of loss present in 2014. “Mary Alice” puts flesh on the album’s heroine, piano and guitar notes sparkling in the afternoon sun as it reflects back a bright day as “Jacob Smiles” and “Down at the Fair” remembers the dog days of summer 1933 and the man that is happy just to stay in the glow of Mary Alice’s smile. Salisbury turn the pages back into history with the songs on Life is a Heartbreak and display their findings with vibrant sound bites of the past. 

Listen and buy the music of Salisbury from AMAZON or iTunes



Undefeated was meant for the studio and the songs arrive shiny without too much polish from the production work. The album is the latest release from Bobby Bare Jr’s Young Criminal’s Starvation League. Undefeated is not an over-produced album and it is through the intricacies, the nuances, touches and textures of its notes and beats that the tracks step to the front of the musical line. The album is a perfect example of what the musicians of the mid-60’s who considered their sound psychedelic. In its origins, psychedelic music was meant as a common ground where jazz, rock, folk, blues, R&B and other forms of music could exist together in the same song. It is not unlike what the American Roots community does with the well that draws folk, bluegrass, soul, alt country, blues and other organic music forms into a format….and used by the Young Criminal’s Starvation League for this recording.  Bobby Bare incorporates the diverse sounds and styles seamlessly, presenting Undefeated as an album listen that is familiar yet full of surprises that unfold with each playback.

The songs on Undefeated put themselves in front of you as a kaleidoscope of sounds and styles. The audio image is clear and yet a slight turn completely changes what you are seeing/hearing. With its first breath a strong bass line, “Don’t Wanna Know” brings in its voices with an almost hushed reverence on both lead and harmonies. Guitar notes are an ever-present flurry in the tune as they dance under and around the vocals. The music dips for a warm middle section that follows the opening pattern before shifting gears for a crackling guitar lead. The riffs go from kind companion into attack dog and the distorted guitar notes chew up the scenery at every appearance in the song. That is a template and a road sign lin the music that shouts ‘do not assume anything’ about the music of Bobby Bare Jr’s Young Criminals’ Starvation League. Opening the album with a rumbling tremor, “North of Alabama by Mornin'” is ghostly vocals and a street worn groove stride and strut that walk Undefeated into the world on a confident step.  The title track puts the spotlight on Bobby as a crooner working the microphone in front of country twang and reverbed guitar echoes. “My Baby Took My Baby Away” is the tale of a lonely dad sitting alone with a sad jug band melody, pining the loss of his love to the little fella in the crib while “If She Cared” shuffles its feet like its mind is elsewhere, just like the guy in the story still waiting to be wanted by a long gone love. Bobby Bare Jr’s Young Criminals’ Starvation League make the songs the stars on Undefeated.

Listen and buy Bobby Bare Jr’s Young Criminals’ Starvation League from AMAZON or iTunes


James "Boogaloo" Bolden has a big voice. He blows his trumpet, on his most recent release, No News “Jus’ the Blues”, but it is his voice that is the instrument joining as one with the horns, organs, guitars and drums in the arrangements. Vocals are shared on the album with Evelyn Rubio on the funkified top-down radio dial spin of “Any Day Getaway” and the slinky slow cool of “I Don’t Know You”. Evelyn pulls double duty twice on “Border Town” as she lends vocals and sax for the album’s Spanish and English versions of the song.  James Bolden starts out the album with the same words of advice that Jimmy Reed took to the top in “Big Boss Man” and he dims the light and drags the pace down to a crawl as he advertises for the type of woman he favors with “Just So and So”. James ‘Boogalo’ Bolden tells you about his days in the title track, braces himself for the daily morning fight on “Don’t Talk to Me” and wonders how he can work long hours, have a “Pocket Full of Money” and still be broke.

James ‘Boogalo’ Bolden was born in 1950, growing up in Houston, Texas. At age 12, James began his musical training while still in high school, was a member of his school band and choir, and had the opportunity to study classical trumpet with Houston's Symphony trumpeter, Richard Shaefer. Balancing band and choir rehearsals, James found the time to be a member of Ambassadors of Soul and Chocolate Glass.  James went on to play with local union bands that performed with a wide array of artists such as Stevie Wonder, Issac Hayes, The Temptations, The Supremes, The Spinners and James Brown. He was then given the opportunity to join the Duke Ellington Orchestra. After performing with the Orchestra for many years, James joined B.B. King’s band where he later became the bandleader. James ‘Boogaloo’ Bolden has been with B.B. King for 31 years.

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There is an assumption that string bands, and folk musicians in general, are a serious lot. Maybe it is the real life drama present in their stories or the obvious dexterity in their fingerpicking. There is amusement happening in the songs from bluegrass and string bands if you pay attention. It is a subtle humor delivered with the same ease as in their playing without the need to grandstand. When The Moonshine sing a story of goodbye in “Solid Gone” the words and tone are heavy---there are tears and talk of dying and the big locomotive that carried love away is the culprit in the crime. The fun in a flash as the group follows one common goal of ‘be-a-train’ and the instruments chug in a good impression of wheel hitting steel. The Moonshine use influential guidance from master folk instrumentalist John Fahey and the hybrid fingerpicking/clawhammer style of banjo players Uncle Dave Macon and Charley Poole.

And Now…is the debut album from Portland, Oregon-based The Moonshine. The music choice is easier to explain by what it is not. The Moonshine have made a conscious decision to include anything anti-Pop, and the current need for studio technology to assume it is a soundtrack to the lives of folks with beating hearts and thinking heads. The band was very successful in their goals. The spirit of community is spread liberally over “Never Know” in the all-together-now playing and front-porch choir harmonies. Dark clouds appear in the music horizon early on “Hard Times” before The Moonshine ever hand over the doom and gloom message, “Flood” keeps feet up to stay dry with some high-stepping to the higher ground and “Shadow Song” takes stock, wondering if the hopes it offered may have been more smoke than substance. Michael Gerard Levasseur, performing as Michael the Blind, applied the traditional string band instrumentation to his songs in 2012 by using strong musicianship to support his songwriting, vocals and guitar and joining it all as one in The Moonshine.

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Nashville, Tennessee proves over and over again that there is a reason that the little map spot on the banks of the Cumberland is called Music City, not Country City. Country music is fine and while it may be the biggest export there are many more styles to choose from for more diverse tastes. Nashville Jazz Orchestra brings musical diversity to the city that gave the band its name, with performances offering renditions of standrads and extended solos, staying authentic in the presentation of their music. Their mission is a simple one and exists under the guidelines that the Nashville Jazz Orchestra seek to preserve, advance, and promotes big band jazz appreciation to our children and our communities through live performances, workshops, and quality recordings. NJO brought in the New Year on the big stage at Nashville’s Third and Lindley and gave hearts what they were looking for by teaming with top shelf Latin lover Raul Malo (The Mavericks) for an evening entitled Valentine Romance.

It Ain’t Necessarily Sois the most recent release from the Nashville Jazz Orchestra. The title aptly hints at jazz standards as for the NJO selected tunes for the album. The band draw from a well of songs deep in the George Gershwin catalog. “Someone to Watch Over Me” was penned as a fast tempo tune but George’s pace was slowed on the advice of his brother, lyricist Ira Gershwin. NJO pick the pace up lightly giving mild hypertension to the track with the frenetic tenor sax solo of Kenny Anderson. “Cuban Overture” gives a spotlight to each of the songs three movements, the distinctions played out by Roy Agee’s trombone, Jim Williamson’s flugelhorn, and pianist Steve Kummer. The lights dim for the clarinet of Don Alquo to define “Prelude No. 2”, the arrangement for “But Not For Me” challenges the players with leap frogs note positioning and the title track immediately shows the piano work pointing away from traditional renditions of the tune as a jazzy blues tease and into a soulful swing that lets the players jam over the solid groove of playful drums and bass. The Nashville Jazz Orchestra mark territory in town by expanding on big band tradition with modern takes on a man who took the music of his own time to a new level, George Gershwin.

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Fertile soil can be found in Oxford, England.  The Folk scene in Oxford is vibrant and very active. That is the environment which cultivated American Roots music in the Knights of Mentis. The band has been together for nearly three years, honing their sound with touring and playing on stage as well as in late night jam sessions with tour mates and openers. Acoustic is the way Knights of Mentis nine members face the world, armed with tunes backlit by Roots styles such as Americana, Folk, and Country music. Fertility notwithstanding, Knights of Mentis clearly share a love of the entire growing process. That is the growth hormone present in the group’s ability to take music with a long shelf date and give the songs a fresh baked taste.

New Pound Coinis Knights of Mentis debut full length; the songs children of multiple parents. The group effort involved shines in the live setting and the recording for New Pound Coin kept the best of the English string band by capturing their recordings live in the studio. Knights of Mentis’ passion fires the music and the three-part harmony of members Peter Graham (guitar), Jed Dale (dobro) and Keith Birnie (banjo) keep the stories hot as they touch listeners. As Simon Baker’s harmonica calls order for the barroom boys in “The Devil’s Backbone” the music and the booze hold sway over the songs lead character. Under a roof raising rhythm the story plays out with the hero in the role of victim of choice. “It Ain’t About You” is a barn dance shuffling to the beat of advice and taking breaths to match the accordion notes of Jeremy Bourgein and mandolin strums of Francis Leneghan, “Red Boards” is set against Matt Walsh’s frenetic drumming percolating like the extra cup of coffee he downed before the red recording light came on and “Maria” is a dry swash of color that stretches out with fiddle (Sally Baden) and molasses slow bass notes (Malachy O’Neill). When Knights of Mentis slow the rhythm to sway, as on the title track album opener, the groove becomes hypnotic as “Your Man” confidently holds on to acoustic guitar chords to keep time and guides the voices until the remaining playing pulls close to the tale for warmth. New Pound Coin is American Roots from an English band, proving that America is where the sound formed at one time but it now belongs out in the world.  it was just the country used as mailing address in its younger years. 

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Peter Mulvey had some good things happen in a recent tough luck stretch. Peter’s latest release, Silver Ladders, is the show and tell used to hear how the bright spots sounded in the turbulent time. You have heard, and maybe even put into play, the notion that talking about the muck pulling you down, asking for help, is useful tool in recovering. Peter Mulvey asked and won the backing band lottery with album producer/musician Chuck Prophet, Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins on violin and vocals, James DePrato (Mission Express) on guitar, Tom Freund on upright bass and Dave Kemper on drums after a five year stint as Bob Dylan’s touring drummer. The talent that shares studio, and album, credits on Silver Ladder with Peter Mulvey rework his music like surgeons. Peter Mulvey is a folk musician; his summer tours are sometimes accomplished on bicycle. A stage is anywhere with enough room to not whack his guitar against the wall. It would be limiting to dub his backing for the albumas folk-rock for a sound border. Peter Mulvey, folk singer, delivers Silver Ladder with fullness to the arrangements, and an added emotional layer to his characters, with the added players.

Leading the dozen tracks of Silver Ladder into the album, “Lies You Forgot You Told”, is alive with the excitement of a committed rock rhythm and flavored with electric guitar distortion and jangle. “Back in the Wind”, co-written with fellow-Milwaukeean, R&B man Paul Cebar, flashes by on a juggernaut beat and “You Don't Have to Tell Me” twangs up the guitar licks and sticks the drums on a flatcar to mime the train’s rail clicks. The stage spot narrows as “Trempealeau” starts life on simple, fragile note patterns and as instrumentation is added, maintains its cool reserve while it flattens all words down to one sentence, ‘why can’t you just say I love you’. Peter Mulvey committed to writing one song a week for the process of recording Silver Ladder. His stories use relationships as window dressing as they sell ways to cope and hint of harbors that welcome those who believe in love enough to let it go. “Josephine” remembers brief heat and mourns the loss of love, using the hat the lead character has lost when the relationship divvied up items. As he shows his resentment and acceptance of what love has become he admits that maybe it was never all that great. Early morning light is spread across “Remember the Milkman? “while slow motion guitar notes and tambourine shutters walk slowly by the sharp notes and spicy beats that spike the sound on “Copenhagen Airport”. Silver Ladder samples and sprinkles the music with echoed Americana guitars and constructs “You Shoot at a King You Must Kill Him” to play out on a screen of cinematic sound scratches.

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Skull Orchard, fronted by Jon Langford, is back with a new album, Here Be Monsters. Medieval mapmakers took the term to signal dangers such as dragons, sea serpents and other mythical creatures that lived in a world just beyond our known universe. As a musician and visual artist, Jon Langford has no time left to be a monster yet shares fantasy’s dictate that the beasts keep to the far borders. Jon’s work at University of Leeds as mentor for Alt Country via The Mekons, and his long line of solo releases and other projects from his current home base of Chicago, through Bloodshot Records, have both been cutting edge without appearing to try too hard. Jon Langford has curated Alt Country for many years, his dedication to the genre is to be applauded, and his uncompromising beliefs for how the sound should, well, sound.     

Here Be Monsters presents Jon Langford as 360 degrees of artist. The physical album hosts Jon’s art with a different piece for each song, lyrics and song chords on the back of the card. Equally, the painter of this work uses the instrumentation of the tracks as a canvas. “What Did You Do In The War?” puts story in the hands of the soldier looking to leave the battles in the past, “Mars” lands in an open heart landscape, describing the pitfalls and hurdles in the alien terrain of love and “Drone Operator” scripts its tale from the true story happening in the mind of the man making body bags with the push of a button, the pull of a lever. Jon Langford broadens the brush strokes for his songs. The stories are not impressionist work; real life is in the frame. Skull Orchard pump life and flesh out the characters with stark strings and one-note-at-a-time guitar leads (“Weightless”), gospel garage (“Lil' Ray O' Light”), Alt Country ballads (“Sugar On Your Tongue”) and  Tex Mex Twang (“Gone Without Trace”).

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

Carlene Carter delivers heritage in a sound she has branded in her own mix of Country and her natural rock’n’roll style since her debut, Carlene Carter (1978), recorded in London with graham Parker’s back-up band, The Rumour.. Willie Nelson accompanies Carlene on her grandmother’s tune “Troublesome Waters” laying the spirit of the song over an abundance of strings supporting with rhythms and riffs. Kris Kristofferson duets on (uncle) A.P. Carter’s song “Black Jack David” and Elizabeth Cook chimes in the stomping story of “Blackie’s Gunman”, a Carter Family tune.  Carter Girl hosts a number of A.P. Carter songs, including the heart tug of “Gold Watch and Chain” and the warm goodbyes of “Give Me the Roses”. Cowboy Jack Clementplayed acoustic guitar on 'Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow. Carlene spoke more on the recording if the song, remembering “we used an old track for that to have Helen, Anita, momma, and me, along with Big John (Johnny Cash), singing background on the chorus. We built a new track around our vocals from the Wildwood Flower album we did back in 1986. Kind of a cool thing to have the technology to bring it as a part of this project." Carlene Carter answers her grandmother’s musical question, showing that the circle remains unbroken in the family with Carter Girl. She brings writes family history with her own pen in a re-working of her 1990’s track, “Me and the Wildwood Rose”, a song about her grandmother and her girls, daughters June, Anita and Helen, and Carlene’s sister, Roseanne, the Wildwood Rose.

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

Brent Johnson walks away from his own words on Albert King’s “As Years Go Passing By”; the sound of the song is pure old school Blues. The emotion of the guitar attaches you as much as the tale. The track is fully in the Blues traditions, and takes a little over thirteen minutes to take home team pride in the schooling of the past. No doubt it is the second line push and pull of “Long Way Back to New Orleans” that leads Brent and the track’s guest, Sonny Landreth, back home.  Brent includes three other covers with the album’s seven originals. The band cooks up a Southern fry on Bob Dylan’s “Meet Me in the Morning”, they pop and snap the beat and the Blues on Howlin’ Wolf’s “Meet Me in the Bottom” and present Paul Williams’ “The Hucklebuck” as an instrumental that goes down smooth with jazz/blues playing that has spent the day back-throating espresso shots.  The words fit the mood and experiences of Brent Johnson but if you really want to hear his story, listen to the man play. There are a lot of notes on Set the World on Fire but none have over-stayed their welcome. Whether he is giving the tune sharp-edged angles cut in with chopped guitar chords (“Don’t Make a Sound”) or the rock’n’roll boogie business that sets up its shingle in “The Ticket”. Brent Johnson is one of those players whose image will never flash back without including the guy and the guitar; his playing has the ease of intuition and the studied presence of a student that has learned by living the lesson.

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Siblings Karen (fiddle), Lorna (accordion), and Joleen McLaughlin (harp) are The Henry Girls. Irish roots and family history fortify the band while sisterly harmonies help the tunes catch air. Louder Than Words is the group’s latest recording, their fifth release. Once again, The Henry Girls rely on their intuitive knack for a Celtic sense of sound over an Americana landscape; the songs becoming the audio patchwork quilt that binds countries and blends styles. There is a sense of family on the recording that goes beyond the harmonies that form as one breath. Years of being a part of one another’s lives, each other’s thoughts…. you can almost hear the sisters sitting at the kitchen table finishing one another sentence. Music is not a contest but The Henry Girls are representatives for generations of musical bloodlines from Scotland, Ireland and the Appalachia those cultures pioneered and settled.

The Inishowen Gospel Choir supports the sister’s powerful three-part harmonies and enter “Here Beside Me” as the organ swells lift the tune up from its acapella opening. The Choir return on an album center point, The Henry Girls rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Reason to Believe”. The original cut appeared against the stark background created by its recording process. In the Louder Than Words version, The Henry Girls warm the song from within with light but persistent rhythms, the glow of acoustic slide riffing, gospel harmonizing, heartbeat percussion and horn notes freckling the air like the light of fireflies. “Home” puts Joleen’s harp playing out front and “Maybe” recites the album title as its mantra on a train-rail beat. The Henry Girls are a force in Folk and Americana music, taking a moment on “It’s Not Easy” to take a stand, “it’s not easy living this way, it’s not easy, so get out of my way….you can’t stop me”.

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The Devil Makes Three began life in Brattleboro, Vermont. The trio have traveled and stayed on the road, a role they take on as an easy decision. As The Devil Makes Three singer/guitar, Pete Bernhard points out, “There’s a road that goes out of every town. All you’ve got to do is get on it.”  Enjoy the sound of The Devil Makes Three, and other bands that make old sound new and genre free. The day is coming when a stamp will brand bands that can pack their gear into the van and still have plenty of room to stretch out and nap. There will soon be a term for electricity-free, authentic music that samples liberally from bluegrass, folk, mountain music, jugband, rockabilly, ragtime, blues, dance hall and other organic music that have grown in the U.S. over the last two centuries. The music of The Devil Makes Three needs no definition but it does need room to move.

I’m a Stranger Hereis the most recent New West Records release from The Devil Makes Three. The album, produced by Buddy Miller at Dan Auerbach’s (The Black Keys) Nashville, Tennessee studio, offers banjo and upright bass rhythms as its foundation as old time music gets a punk rock spit from practicing in the garage rather than the barn. The band were kids together in Vermont, raised by hippies and schooled on the punk rock from Boston, MA music venues like The Rat and the Middle East. That is exactly what I’m a Stranger Here sounds like. It is music made by musicians who follow the notes, not the trends. Two tracks form psychological song book ends for the album. DM3 release “Stranger” as a calling card. Ragged rhythms breathe tension into the arrangement as the seduction of lines like ‘we can get along like a house on fire’ cut edge into the intro. As the album plays out and long-term relationships are made with the band, the bravado that takes its first step into the album is bordered with tender melodies supporting the same tough love as it bids “Goodbye Old Friend” in the album closer. “Forty Days” forecasts weather trouble on a stomping sound bed, “Dead Body Moving” confesses over a beat that stays one step ahead of the demons sparking from the fiddle riffs and “Mr. Midnight” shines the glory light of its soul saving tale on clandestine encounters. The Devil Makes Three use the ruckus of their rhythm as a pulpit for its preaching. I’m a Stranger Here will fast become a friend with songs like the I-am-feeling-alright smiles of “Hallelu” in its audio gift basket.

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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. The Blues has been good to Robert Cray and he has done a good turn for the music. Robert Cray, and the way he crafts a song, have opened doors for the Blues in the Pop marketplace. With the Blues as their core, the songs of Robert Cray have been a blend of the children of the Blues sound; rock, soul and R&B. In My Soul focuses on one influence in the music of Robert Cray and Soul powers the album.

In My Soul was produced by longtime Robert Cray cohort, Steve Jordan. The ten songs pay tribute to the sound and style of Stax and Chess Records. Rather than playing favorite between Memphis Stax and Chicago Chess, Robert Cray uses the goals of the 45’s from the mighty Soul, Blues and R&B music factories of the 50’s and 60’s. The music of Chess Records artists, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter Bo Diddley, and those of Stax Records, Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Sam & Dave, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, was not meant for niche audiences. Both labels considered themselves peers to the Pop of the time and the records were made for Top 40 radio. Robert Cray Band offer an instrumental homage to Booker T. with In My Soul’s “Hi Tight Onions”. The song was a co-write of longtime Cray sideman, Richard Cousins, who also penned the steamy late-night soul ballad of staying together like the vows promise, “Hold On”. The release of In My Soul comes in the year which celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the forming of the Robert Cray Band. Robert takes soul in his hands and delivers top shelf, customized love letters that honor influence and seamlessly fit with the Robert Cray musical catalog. The groove’s go from the sizzling steps of “You Move Me” through the slow sway of “What Would You Say” as it wonders about tomorrow and the legacy we will leave. Robert Cray Band percolates through a version of Otis Redding’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” with horn punches, dirty guitar riffs and a non-stop rhythm section. 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.

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

Brotherhood opens its doors and finds that the house is already rockin’. “Stayed at the Party” welcomes comers into the album with a testifying stomp looking for a way out, and possibly a ride home. Ike Turner’s “You’ve Got to Lose” gets a mighty lift from Popsy Dixon’s otherworldly falsetto. Smooth blues jazz casts a smoky lens over “Soldier of Love” and Sherman Holmes (bass, vocals) offers his tune “Passing Through” set on an auto-pilot groove and heading home. The Holmes Brothers make the songs on Brotherhood a part of the band. Hard Chicago Blues (“Driving in the Drivin’ Rain”), Country Soul (“Gone for Good”), soulful ballads (“Loving You From Afar”), Folk Blues (“I Gave Up All I Had”) and Uptown Saturday night R&B (“Last Man Standing”) have a place at the table and a spot on the liner notes. The guitar work on “Amazing Grace” is as much a choir member as the call and response harmony vocals that take out Brotherhood, setting gathered spirits free from their time in Holmes Brothers heaven.

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Wanna hear a secret? Give a listen to Dex Romweber Trio Images 13. For twenty-five years Dex Romweber has been a buzz among other musicians. Beginning with his band, Flat Duo Jets, and now with Duo, Dex has been proven to be the child of a mixed- musical marriage, receiving parental guidance equally from Punk and Blues. His chops were studied by a crop of up-and-coming teens looking for a sound and his influences claim followers in Neko Case, No Age, The Reigning Sound. Japandroids and The Black Keys. Jack White (White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather) has stated “Dex was and is a huge influence on my music. I owned all of his records as a teenager; he is one of the best kept secrets of the rock’n’roll underground”.

Images 13compiles tracks that hang over your rear view mirror as cultish dolls dressed for a radio ride of surf music, vengeful blues, psychobilly and garage rock. Dex Romweber Duo are brother Dex Romweber  on vocals, guitar, organ, bass and sister Sara Romweber  on drums and all percussion. Recorded at Rick Miller’s (Southern Culture on the Skids) Kudzu Ranch in North Carolina, Images 13 draws back its curtain on a presentation of drama. “Roll On” leaves an electric scorch mark on the opening of the album. The songs deal romance to hands holding darkness on the relationship horizon (“Long Battle Coming”), out-of-balance lovers (“One-Sided Love Affair”) and bruised hearts taking a few final beats (“I Don’t Want to Listen”).  The album shares room among its original with obscure tracks from The Who (“So Sad About Us”) and “We’ll Be Together Again”, written by Sharon Sheeley, the girlfriend of Eddie Cochran and survivor, along with Gene Vincent, of the car crash that killed Eddie. Closing Images 13 is the music of Harry Lubin, who created the theme music for The Outer Limits and One Step Beyond.

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It took a while for Holly Golightly to complete her most recent album release, All Her Fault. Holly has released over twenty albums and on this project, she spent six months in the studio, recalling “it has never taken me that long to get through 12 tracks. I don’t have the patience for endlessly going over things. I want things done quickly and this was like pulling a Dave-shaped log along at times.” The weight she talked of pulling on All Her Fault is Lawyer Dave, her partner as The Brokeoffs and on the rural farm they share outside Athens, Georgia.  Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs are a two person band. The pair built All Her Fault with Dave layering the instruments. For this recording, they received some great, donated equipment as well as stuff that neighbors dug out of their barns that the couple had to clean up. Then, on top of everything else, raging summer thunderstorms deluged them and Holly recalled life as a recording refugee, “we got flooded out a few times and had the power go out. The studio had to be shut down for days at times, so we couldn’t do anything for fear of losing everything if we suddenly lost electricity, which we did, on and off, all summer.”

All Her Faultis an album built by two musicians out in the country. The resulting recording is a city full of sounds from the scratchy dance-hall shuffle story of “Pistol Pete” to the scratchy country rock’n’roll complete with the South’s most tasteful kiss-off phrase “Bless Your Heart”. Notice a theme between songs? All Her Fault contains the same twisted roots and roughhewn authenticity of the previous additions to the Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs catalog. The current release lets Holly drag out a soapbox waltz so she can stand and offer “The Best” she has, uses Sunday morning salvation organ as backing as “Don’t Shed Your Light” takes to the pulpit to point an accusing finger and saves its gossip for the garage to rock out rumors in “Perfect Mess”.  The rattling good time of “SLC” ignores the target on the towns back while Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs venomously condemn with lines like “why you wanna go to Salt Lake City where you can’t say fucked up, can’t say shitty”. The tune gives the impression that the band might have had some personal troubles but that is not the case….they are just having a little fun. Holly explained, “Ha ha, I don't have anything against it. It's an "in family" joke (between Dave and I)... When we've disagreed about something stupid, it's one of our standard joke threats, as in "Right! That's it! We're through, I'm done, and I'm moving to SLC, don't try to contact me" or other times it gets used around here as in "Watch it! I'm dropping you off in SLC if you keep up with that attitude!"

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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”. It is a possibility that we are joining Eliza GIlkyson at her bathroom mirror as she sings to her image, “Eliza Jane”, in front of a medicine cabinet full of bluegrass. Personal themes come up in “All Right Here” and the confession may be more self-analyzing as Eliza studies her actions to hopefully find the intentions she was trying to put into her life. She wears the skin of others as she becomes a lead character crimped from headlines heralding one teenager’s rampage (“An American Boy”) and the prayers of an abused teenage-girl (“Not My Home”). It is 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.

Talking about the collection of songs, Eliza Gilkyson offered a lesson from the pen of a songwriter, “the songs that come in the night are very different then the daylight songs. Usually the big themes crop up in the dark – thoughts of mortality, the state of the world, the plight of mankind, one’s failures, losses and fears – the things we are too distracted to notice during the day. But the backdrop of shadows also can highlight the faces of the loving people who share your life with you, who care about the world, nature and humanity, who keep the fires of hope, humor and hearth burning bright in this time, who make your life meaningful and worthy of your best intentions.” Eliza goes to a folk standard, “Fast Freight”, painting the sound in 1950-era with an Americana brush that adds color to the original tune as done by her father’s band, Terry Gilkyson and the Easy Riders as well as The Kingston Trio, The Brothers Four and Tim Hardin. The Nocturne Diaries shares its secret of mutual affection for all sounds and ways of bringing them to life. “The Ark” takes today on board and places it in a dream fit for the Bible fables, set against traditional mid-eastern instrumentation and the R’n’R grit of “The Red Rose and the Thorn” boasts the first big electric guitar solo for Eliza, capably backed by rock’n’roll royalty with Ian McLagan on Hammond B3.

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Blind Willies is a San Francisco based Roots/Americana rock’n’roll band led by singer/songwriter Alexei Wajchman.  Beginnings at San Francisco’s High School of the Arts as a duo digging into ​​Appalachian folk, New Orleans blues, gospel, jazz, soul, cabaret, and rock 'n roll. Blind Willie’s have added members, played Hardly Strictly, listened to the muses and followed the sound. ​​ "Big City" is from new album schedule for May 2014.

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Roosevelt Dime push forward with their Full Head of Steam by presenting the album as tunes that are a direct extension of the live shows that have been capturing fans. The sound is big and Roosevelt Dime show off exactly how to rattle and roll as a jugband-on-steroids sound machine in the video love letter for “Crazy ‘Bout You”.

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Tammy Wynette vowed to stand by her man in song. In the 1950-60’s, the role is a woman was to quietly accept whatever the man, her husband, said or did. Popular opinion has changed and even Tammy dumped the dude who was treating her like crap. My Darling Clementine sing a more modern response to mental abuse with “No Matter What Tammy Says (I Won’t Stand By Him)”

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Regina Carter is your guide as her fingers map out a musical territory in Alabama where her paternal grandfather worked as a coalminer. On Southern Comfort , Regina explores music her granddad might have heard and expands the project to include other regional folk music fare. The album connects to earlier efforts which featured her mother’s favorite early jazz standards ( I’ll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey ) and a celebration of the tradition of African music re-imagined for violin, accordion...

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Will Kimbrough uses his latest release title, Sideshow Love , to focus on matters of the heart. The Love in Will’s Sideshow walks a carnival midway filled with bright lights and dark shadows, strong men and bearded women, exotic beauties and transient roundabouts. Will Kimbrough is the barker standing outside his album’s tent to draw you in with quality songwriting and styles that offer three-ring diversity. The album’s mix of music and moods fits the man behind the song, Will Kimbrough. Songwrite...

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You can watch a band forming through the magic of the YouTube, not the Science Channel or DIY. Lake Street Dive were fellow students at the New England Conservatory in Boston, Mass. when the group gathered on a street corner in neighboring Brighton. The busking video has garnered a million and half views of Lake Street Dive performing a jazzy roots take on The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” with upright bass, snare, trumpet and a lot of voices. The harmonies of the band are the not-so-secret weap...

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Matt Andersen’s home is Perth-Andover, a blue-collar community in New Brunswick, Canada, a town of close to 2,000 residents. From his village on the banks of the St, John River, Matt Andersen and his music have logged over four million YouTube views, with close to one million for his version of “Ain’t No Sunshine”. Matt received a 2013 European Blues award and the Best Solo Performer award at the Memphis Blues Challenge. Matt Andersen brings the music of Weightless, his recent release, produced by...

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Home is where the heart is, and the place where you are with those you love, whether they are family of blood or family of choice. Amy Black sings the many facets of life in base camp on This Is Home, her latest release. The beauty of Amy’s delivery on the album is in her knowing when to blast the back row and when to whisper to get the front row leaning in. Amy Black samples liberally from many roots with a branded sound that hints at country, blues and rock influences.

The Alternate Root is ...

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Roosevelt Dime fly under the flag of Steamboat Soul, the newest niche market soundtracked with a mix of Appalachian string bands, Memphis Soul and New Orleans Dixieland all stirred around in the musical Brooklyn blender of the band’s home base. My Darling Clementine are husband and wife duo, Michael Weston King and Lou Dagleish. The pair inhabit the songs on The Reconciliation? and decorate with their favorite country soul sounds

The Alternate Root is pleased to host a special night of filming feat...

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

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Emmylou Harris has defied the odds of location, location, location when she paired with Gram Parsons to develop cosmic American Music shortly after being a waitress in a Baltimore diner. She broke industry rules that rock and country could not and would not meet when her first albums were received by both communities, and where her presence still gets attention. Very few times can you mention Emmylou Harris without another chiming in, at least one, with an ‘I love Emmylou’. That is the reason sh...

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

Roots music has been around since Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie in many of the forms you see and hear today. Alt-Country didn't start with Uncle Tupelo it started in Bakersfield in the late 50's and was continued with art...

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The original album artwork featured two versions of a warning label;’WARNING: This album contains country & western music and may cause offence to narrow minded listeners’ or ‘WARNING! This album contains country & western music and may produce radical reaction in narrow minded people’ were the choices. A wink and a nudge were typical tactics with Elvis Costello whose wry humor had put him in the lead of the talent pool rising during the early days of punk and new wave. Joking aside, the...

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Lucinda Williams began her recording career on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Her output for the label was two albums, Ramblin’ (1979) and Happy Woman Blues (1980), both acoustic folk/blues. Lucinda as a tender folkie surrounded by gentle acoustic instrumentation did not catch traction at radio or with fans. When she moved away covering songs traditional to the genre and into writing her own material, the sound joined with the style of other delta musicians that had gone before the Lafayette, ...

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There are many factors that go into forming a band---shared musical tastes and family members becoming official after years of singing and playing together are just two of the many ways.  For Joe Cocker, the impetus behind forming Mad Dogs and Englishmen was contractual obligations…..hey, whatever it takes. From 1966 through 1969, Joe Cocker had released two albums with The Grease Band. After grueling tours in support of the albums, and a stint at Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, Joe and ...

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In the hectic pace of everyday Bostonian life, I find solitude looking into the small terracotta planter placed outside of my apartment window. The planter holds a variety of bright flowers with insects flocking and drinking. The nectar is the sweet, attractive force in which we are seduced- pulled in and put under a spell.

Wendy Colonna puts us under her spell in with her enticing Louisiana vocal style and accompanying ukulele in her new album, Nectar . Her songs reflect the balance of wishful nos...

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James Armstrong is a bluesman, that’s who he is, nothing can change it. What separates James from others is his ability to be a part of the blues without falling victims to its borders or accepting its pre-determined roles. Guitar Angels collects the songs of James Armstrong and acts as guide for his approach. His writing focuses on a contemporary standpoint to keep the music relevant without forsaking its roots. Nine originals on the album keep the present in the stories, seeming to refer right b...

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Lowell Levinger was Banana to the bunch forming The Youngbloods in 1965. He was a bluegrass musician when he was brought into the band, sticking to primarily the piano and guitar while in The Youngbloods. Lowell has returned to the acoustic sounds he made before being picked by a band that scored a defining 1960’s hit with the tune “Get Together” over much of his career. On his recent release, Down to the Roots , Lowell Levinger digs into blues as re-told by acoustic jug band music. In a voice tha...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Emmylou Harris has defied the odds of location, location, location when she paired with Gram Parsons to develop cosmic American Music shortly after being a waitress in a Baltimore diner. She broke industry rules that rock and country could not and would not meet when her first albums were received by both communities, and where her presence still gets attention. Very few times can you mention Emmylou Harris without another chiming in, at least one, with an ‘I love Emmylou’. That is the reason she has spanned forty years since she shared microphone duties with Gram on his solo debut, GP.  She makes everyone feel like she is their artist; their find. Emmylou Harris has developed and groomed musicians and styles throughout her career, with highlights in her work often honored by the Grammy Awards as Best Contemporary Folk Album.  Whether it is folk, country, rock, gospel, classic country, Americana or Roots rock, Emmylou Harris is a confident guiding mother to every song, style and band smart enough to clue her into recording dates. Everyone has a reason for the love of Emmylou…here are Ten Reasons Why We Like Emmylou Harris.

1. “Love Hurts” – Gram Parson and Emmylou Harris (from the album Grievous Angel) - This track was slated for album number two, Grievous Angel. Gram Parsons passed away before the January 1974 release date. Contemporary critics of the time didn’t feel it held up to previous efforts but we are still talking about it in 2014….something must have worked. “Love Hurts” by Gram and Emmylou is intimate. The vocals will walk away with you, stake a spot in your heart and move in after the first date.

Listen and buy “Love Hurts” by Gram Parsons from AMAZON or iTunes

2. Feelin’ Single, Seein’ Double – Emmylou Harris (from the album Elite Hotel) - 1975 closed out the year with a second release in December for Reprise Records new signing Emmylou Harris. Elite Hotel planted one foot in rock’n’roll and one foot in country. “Feelin’ Single, Seein’ Double” carries the added punch of standing up for the girls having the same rights as the boys when it comes to making bad decisions fueled by alcohol, dim lights, thick smoke and loud music. The fuel for this song comes from Emmylou’s Hot Band, featuring recording and touring members of the Elvis Presley’s band (James Burton, Emory Gordy, Glen D. Hardin) and Rodney Crowell.

Listen and buy “Feelin’ Single, Seein’ Double” by Emmylou Harris from AMAZON or iTunes

3. The Ballad of Emmett Till   (from the album Hard Bargain) - No gaps or seams have ever appeared in the recorded output of Emmylou Harris. “The Ballad of Emmett Till” is from her 2011 release, Hard Bargain. The Emmylou Harris-penned tune allows its singer to become another soul, and write another’s pain, from beyond its earthly life. Emmett Till was a young black man from the north visiting southern relatives. His ballad reveals the horror of times past, the song reminding that those times can never be far enough away.

Listen and buy “The Ballad of Emmett Till” by Emmylou Harris from AMAZON or iTunes

4. “Luxury Liner” – Emmylou Harris   (from the album Luxury Liner) - Her 1997 album with the Hot Band, Luxury Liner, has been Emmylou’s bestselling album. Her back-up band was living up to its name in a big way. “Luxury Liner” stretches out for a cruise over a train track beat. Emmylou is out searching for her baby on board ‘40 tons of steel’. She may think about giving the twang in the tune a go as it swears its allegiance throughout the track.

Listen and buy “Luxury Liner” by Emmylou Harris from AMAZON or iTunes

5. “Boulder to Birmingham” – Emmylou Harris    (from the album Spyboy) - The album title is from the touring band that backed Emmylou Harris during this period. Spyboy is a live album and lets the band stretch each song musically. Emmylou duets with American treasure Buddy Miller on this version of her song. Emmylou gets a great deal with Buddy as the match for her vocal comes from both Buddy’s pipes and his guitar.

Listen and buy Spyboy by Emmylou Harris from AMAZON

6. “To Know Him Is to love Him” – Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt  (from the album Trio) - Three of the top vocalists in 1987 joined together to record “To Know Him Is to Love Him” and other tracks as Trio. The tune was originally recorded by The Teddy Bears, written by Phil Spector, and performed  by the only group that Phil ever played in as a member. Even with microphones shared with voices like Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt, it is Emmylou Harris who owns this track.

Listen and buy “To Know Him is to Love Him” by Trio from AMAZON or iTunes

7. “Hanging Up My Heart” – Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell   (from the album Old Yellow Moon) - Emmylou joins up with former Hot Band member Rodney Crowell on a co-headlining gig in the pair’s 2013 release, Old Yellow Moon. Hot Band members James Burton and John Ware guest on HB alumni Hank Devito’s tune, “Hanging Up My Heart”.

Listen and buy “Hanging Up My Heart” by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell from AMAZON or iTunes

8. “Deeper Well” – Emmylou Harris   (from the album Wrecking Ball) - Daniel Lanois produced and U2 drummer Larry Mullin, Jr. guested on Wrecking Ball. The album struck out into new territory for Emmylou Harris as she incorporated the use of sonic’s into her natural roots music without ever sacrificing herself or her songs. Emmylou received a 1996 Grammy (Best Contemporary Folk Recording) for her efforts in developing Americana as its own genre in “Deeper Well”, a co-write with Emmylou, album producer Daniel Lanois and David Olney.

Listen and buy “Deeper Well” by Emmylou Harris from AMAZON or iTunes

9. “This Is Us” – Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris   (from the album All the Roadrunning) - It is not adding Emmylou Harris to a track’s vocals that make it a particular genre. She walks into styles and lets them do their own thing while she sings as Emmylou Harris. “This Is Us”, with Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler, turns the pages on the scrap book pictures of a life together, sprawling out of a caffeinated roots rhythm.

Listen and buy “This Is Us” by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris from AMAZON or iTunes

10. “Two More Bottles of Wine” – Emmylou Harris   (from the album Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town) - The thread that has trailed through the music of Emmylou Harris is made of the joy she brings to the microphone. That is her style. She adds vocals to music that she feels is a part of her voice, comfortably digging Roots through grounds of Classic Country and Rock’n’Roll as she does on this 1978 release with of the Delbert McClinton tune “Two More Bottles of Wine”.

Listen and buy “Two More Bottles of Wine” by Emmylou Harris from AMAZON or iTunes


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Listen and buy the music of Johnny Cash from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

Listen and buy the music of Bob Dylan from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

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

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.

Listen and buy the music of The Carolina Chocolate Drops from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

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

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.

Listen and buy the music of James McMurtry from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

Listen and buy the music of Cowboy Junkies from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

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

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”.

Listen and buy the music of Band of Heathens from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

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

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.

Listen and buy the music of Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings from AMAZON or iTunes


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”.

Listen and buy the music of Old Crow Medicine Show from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

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

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.

Listen and buy the music of The Bottle Rockets from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

Listen and buy the music of Todd Snider from AMAZON or iTunes

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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Roots musicians are as much fans as they are performers. We have had some friends call, write and text from the road with their own lists of songs. These lists will feature musician and friends sharing the must-hears, desert island favorites and songs they have loved since they woke up this morning. This week's special guest is East Nashville bluesman Mark Robinson with his Blues Records You Need to Listen to.....

1. Robert Johnson—“Traveling Riverside Blues” (from the album The Complete Recordings) - Everyone knows the legend of Robert Johnson and his deal with the Devil. This legend was credible in rural Mississippi in the 1920’s because Robert Johnson was an amazing player and singer—with power and subtlety. His playing is more complex and beautiful and his lyrics are more sophisticated than his contemporaries. There is a reason he is called the “King of the Delta Blues Singers”.

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2. Willie Dixon – “29 Ways” (from the album The Legend of Willie Dixon) - Willie Dixon was the most prolific blues songwriter in the original group of Chicago Blues artists. Willie wrote a lot of the songs that we know by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf . He also played bass on, and produced a lot of records at Chess Records in the 50’s and 60’s.  He was not as well known as a singer or artist. “29 Ways” is a prime example of his fine blues songwriting. Willie is one of the great blues poets—using the language of the blues to tell great stories and to paint vivid pictures of the blues lifestyle.  This is an unusual recording- the cool jungle drumbeat and the doo-wop vocal backups are really different than most of what was coming out of Chess Studios at the time.

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3. Muddy Waters — “I Can’t Be Satisfied” (from the album Muddy Waters) -This Chicago recording pairs Muddy Waters with Willie Dixon on upright bass. It is a reworking of an acoustic song Muddy recorded for Alan Lomax called “I Be Bound To Write To You”. This song sits right in the middle—between Muddy as a Delta Bluesman and Muddy as the pioneer of electric Chicago Blues. And it rocks hard with just guitar and bass. Thisis the beginning of the electric Chicago blues sound.

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4. Etta James — “I’d Rather Go Blind”   (from the album Tell Mama) - Etta James was one of the great singers of her time, or of any time. She was able to communicate emotion so completely that everyone hearing her sing could relate to her songs. Her singing on “I’d Rather Go Blind” is understated, but full of pain and emotion.  And it’s beautiful to hear her pain. We love to hear someone really let out their feelings in a song.

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5. Howlin’ Wolf — “Howlin’ For My Darlin’” (from the album The Definitive Collection)  - I could pick any Howlin’ Wolf recording, and it would contain his power, his mystery and a sense that something sinister lurks just below the surface of the lyrics and the voice in every song. The recordings capture the Wolf’s primitive energy—70 years later his voice reaches through the speakers and grabs the listener.  Even on commercials for Viagra…

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6. Tracy Nelson—Down So Low  (from the album Living With The Animals) - In the late 60’s Tracy Nelson was part of a rock band called Mother Earth. Their first album “Living With the Animals” had several members taking turns singing lead on their own songs. The song “Down So Low” by a young Tracy Nelson, was so deep and drenched in emotion that classic blues records paled in comparison. This was raw pain radiating from this young woman. It still stands as one of the most beautiful moments in popular music.  I know Tracy, and I have played music with her, and listening to this recording still stops me in my tracks.  Listen to some deep blues by a young white girl from Wisconsin. Transcendent!

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7. BB King — “Everyday I Have The Blues”  (from the album Live at The Regal) - BB King took the Delta blues uptown. And he took his arrangements, his vocal style, his horn section, and his sharp looking suit with him. He was swinging hard and playing with fire and finesse. He could deliver that fire to a high class white audience and they loved it. He escaped the chittlin’ circuit by classing up his act. But it didn’t diminish the power of his music, his singing or his playing. How many guitar players can be identified by their first note? That’s BB—unique. BB had a number one hit with “The Thrill Is Gone” in 1970 and everybody in America and Europe knew what the blues was about because of him.

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8. Sonny Boy Williamson — “Don’t Start Me Talkin’”   (from the album The Essential Sonny Boy Williamson) - Sonny Boy II (he was the second singer to take the name Sonny Boy Williamson) was a great singer and harp player, and an eccentric storyteller. “Don’t Start Me Talkin’” is a favorite of mine. I can’t follow the entire story, but I get the idea. A fine example of what I call Blues Poetry. Great lyric writing in a very different form than other popular song lyrics.

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9. Blind Willie Johnson – “Dark Was the Night”   (from the album Dark Was the Night (Mojo Workin' - Blues for the Next Generation)) - This is an early recording of Blind Willie Johnson. It is an eerie melody, the beautiful slide guitar echoing and doubling the wordless vocal. One of my favorite early recordings of a bluesman. I think of this as “pre-blues”, almost more of a field holler than a true blues song. Maybe it’s not really a blues song, but I hear the blues in there.

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10. Freddy King  – “I’m Tore Down”   (from the album Blues - 20 Hits) - Freddy King was younger than the other Kings—BB and Albert. He was hipper—wearing bell-bottoms and playing surf rock instrumentals. This caused some blues people to think of him as a rock guitarist. But Freddy was deep and not to be taken lightly. One of the most formidable blues guitar players, ever. His piercing tone and swinging phrasing incorporated rock and jazz licks. His powerful, high voice took the blues to a new, cool place. Freddy lived hard and died fairly young. I often wonder what he would have done if he had lived longer. His ability to incorporate more modern ideas into his music might have taken him to some fantastic places. But we can still enjoy his instrumentals, slow blues moaning and rocking up-tempo shuffles.

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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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American Roots music sets the new standard for holiday songs this year and we have collected 44 songs for a free digital download to fans, friends and family of The Alternate Root. The samplers are broken up into two separate downloads, Part One and Part Two. The music is offered by The Alternate Root but the gift is from the artists who have given their words and music to make stories ripped from real life in December 2013. The stories portray life as-is and all manage to find inspiration in tales from the mountains to the sea to the prairies, from the high rise to the low rent to the no rent. Love is in the air and love is headed for the exit. These songs let their feelings show in many ways.

The Alternate Root 2013 Holiday Sampler, Part One starts off with a Mary Gauthier peak under the Cow Key Bridge into the lives of two homeless comrades in the open air, sleeping with the Southern Cross overhead and enjoying “Christmas in Paradise”. Jon Byrd sends a troubadour’s “Silent Night” to traveling musicians everywhere and Yarn to send a holiday greetings to our troops with “Christmas Song”. There are some reindeer games with Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys, Amelia White softly sings as “Bells Ring” and Brian Ashley Jones lights up like a tree with “Let’s Get Blazed for the Holidays”.  Mike Surber lets some talking blues tell his holiday tale, Joe Jencks spies Christmas past filling in the blank spaces on “Christmas in Mansfield”, the ladies of Underhill Rose chime in to remind of “One Time a Year” and Erika Chambers follows a gypsy fiddle into “Bethlehem”. The Wild Ponies turn out the lights for the season knowing that “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas”, Keith Miles is decorating a “Cactus Christmas Tree”, Loretta Hagen wonders “Santa Are You Listening” and our favorite pirate crew, Tom Mason & The Blue Buccaneers, step to “It’s Christmas Day”.  James Lee Stanley, Reverend Jimmie Bratcher, Laura Zucker, Dave Hogan, James and the Devil, Wink Burcham, Alan and Martin and Jeff Maddox fill in the 22 holiday songs on Part One.

The Alternate Root 2013 Holiday Sampler spins a beautiful winter tale that spreads across the opening of Part Two with a track from Over the Rhine, letting personally hand over their audio gift in "Here It Is".  Julie Christensen reminces about Christmas past, present and future and Steve Everett finds “Love in Snow” and offers the track that he has on the yearly compilations released by Rock By The Sea. The Rock by the Sea benefit album helps the group hosts concerts and festivals, releases CDs and sell other merchandise to raise money for pediatric research and treatment. Calico the Band aren’t expecting much this year, they have been bad, and their song “Santa Have Mercy” is looking to trade unwrapping for something wrapped under the tree while Ireland’s bluegrass crooner Niall Toner goes round the floor for some memories and to spend time “Waltzing at Christmas”. The Habit march in beating the tambourine for a slow hymn hum and an enclosed HabitMark psychedelic holiday greeting, Suisan O'Rourke steels herself against winter “Up to Saginaw Bay” and The Union Revival give “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” a Roots makeover. Deborah Holland joined former Police drummer Stewart Copeland and jazz bassman Stanley Clarke in the indie band Animal Logic in 1988 but where she excels is as a singer/songwriter and she weighs with seasonal pros and cons on “Hannukah Oh Hannukah”. The VooDUDES tune Santa’s sleigh radio for swamp boogie in “Christmas on the Bayou”, BumpKin Pie head out to “Party in the Stable” and Sunday Wilde knows that the love of the season travels miles and will get the message out “No Matter How Far”. Annie Sellick, The Appleseed Collective, The Altar Billies, Todd Wolfe, Pat Lamanna, FunkyJenn, Dean Bastone, Susan Kane, Tokyo Rosenthal, Michael Rank & Stag and Aarn & The Shurman Boys join together to raise a song for the season on Part Two.







The Alternate Root 2013 Holiday Sampler, Part One



The Alternate Root 2013 Holiday Sampler, Part Two


top 20 bands in bostonThe events on Monday April 15th at the Boston Marathon left the Country in shock and Boston with a bit of a bloody nose. Cities around the US were rallying around Boston and watched as the police, FBI, EMT and firefighters and citizens all responded with heroic grace and then tuned in as the perpetrators of the terrorist acts that upended the city were hunted down and captured. Boston responded as it always has; with style and grace and a stiff upper lip. There's a lot to this great city. It's a great sports town, a political and social hub, the top city in the world for education and medicine and Boston is one great music town with a long and storied history.

Our Top 20 Boston Roots artists this week took more time making a decision about what to include rather than whom. The climate in Boston is very music friendly. Roots music in Boston never needs to take hold, it is already there. Celtic Roots brought fiddles, banjos and acoustic guitars as default instruments for the 1960’s Folk scene that took place right across the river in the Harvard Square folk clubs that dotted Cambridge. The artists that have broken out of Boston are extensive. The amount of colleges supports taking a chance with your music as well as giving an audience.James Taylor, Martin Sexton, Ellis Paul, Tracy Chapman, The Del Fuegos , Tom Rush, The J Geils Band, Crooked Still, Morphine, Frank Black, Aimee Mann; the musicians and music that have used Boston as their breeding ground is nearly as endless as the line of future musicians that will continue to utilize the atmosphere of the Boston music scene.

The Boston scene is tough, both to get ahead and to stay fresh. The 20 artists compiled here represent Roots music. Some have been making independent music for decades, some with a recent debut. Boston has taken a stand since the days of the American Revolution. Its citizens are proud and do not like getting punched around. Music is the soundtrack.

adam ezra band in the alternate root1. Adam Ezra Group - After a clean sweep at the 2012 New England Music Awards, and Best band at the 2013 ceremonies it's obvious how the music fans in Boston feel about The Adam Ezra Group. They scooped up the awards for Best Band, Best Album and Best Song. But this band is not just a force in Boston, they sell out shows from coast to coast with relative ease. Ezra's music centers in on  the human condition; provoking their audience to think and motivating them to feel what they're feeling. The band is an absolute monster, combining jazz, rock, roots, funk and soul into marathon concerts that leave the crowd drenched in sweat and filled with passion. Through The RallySound Foundation, the Adam Ezra Group contributes 25% of their earnings on tour to community and global charities. Hands down the best roots rock band to come out of Boston since the Del Fuegos. The Adam Ezra Group was accidentally left off of our Top 50 Roots Bands List where they would have ranked comfortably in the Top 5.

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eilen jewell band in the alternate root2. Eilen Jewell - Eilen Jewell is not originally from Boston but "the Queen of the minor key" makes her home here. She broke onto the national scene playing the local club scene in Boston and Somerville. Now seven records into a stellar career, she is highly regarded as one of the most unique and innovative artists on the Americana Roots circuit based, in part, on her hauntingly beautiful voice and a band comprised of solid, accomplished players that back her up. She's dabbled in traditional country, swing, gospel, and roots music with authenticity and a maturity that belies her years. Eilen and Band walked off with Best Folk/Roots at the 2013 New England Music Awards.

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girls guns and glory in the alternate root3. Girls Guns and Glory - The main cog in the Girls Guns and Glory wheel is front man, singer, founder, songwriter and rhythm guitarist Ward Hayden, whose voice echoes somewhere between Hank Williams, George Jones and Dwight Yoakam, at times, in the same verse. The band has seen a variety of transitions since the first album. Fireworks and Alcohol, in 2006 but has settled on the current and most formidable line-up for the 2012 release Sweet Nothings. The album is centered around Hayden and the blistering twang of guitar slinger Chris Hersch. They've hoisted a number of local music awards over the years, including a surprising win at WBCN's Rock and Roll Rumble and Boston Music Award for Best Americana Act.

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ronnie earl and the broadcasters in the alternate root4. Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters - Ronnie Earl first appeared on the national scene as the replacement for Duke Robillard in the band Roomful of Blues in 1979 and was quickly recognized as a guitarist with immeasurable talent and a signature tone. He went solo in 1986 and formed the first version of the Broadcasters in 1988. The Broadcasters, over the last 25 years, have included a who's who of New England blues staples including Bruce Katz, Jerry Portnoy, Per Hanson, Darrel Nulisch and even a stint with Gregg Allman, but it's the current line-up that tops them all and includes Jimmy Mouradian (bass), Dave Limina (organ), and Lorne Entress (drums). Earl has won 2 Blues Music Association awards for Guitar Player of the Year, and he also spent 5 years as an Associate Professor of Guitar at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

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sugar ray and the bluetones in the alternate root5. Sugar Ray and The Bluetones - It seems all things blues in New England, at some point, owe six degrees of separation back to Roomful of Blues and Duke Robillard. Sugar Ray Norcia was the harp player and front man for Roomful of Blues during the band's highly prolific years in the 1990's, but he's been a blues fixture in Boston and around New England since the 1970's when he and his band The Hound Dogs were backing Big Mama Thornton and other blues greats at the Speakeasy in Cambridge. For decades, his band the Bluetones, formed in 1977, has been another of the important "schools" that dozen's of blues musicians have passed through on their way to other high profile gigs. The current line-up includes guitarist "Monster" Mike Welch, considered to be among the world's top blues guitar players.

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johnny a. in the alternate root6. Johnny A. - It's been a while between "events" for virtuoso guitar player Johnny A., but he's working on a new album for 2013 to follow up the critically acclaimed DVD "One November Night" (2010). Johnny A. is in a class that includes only a few names, but when those names are Les Paul, Chet Atkins, Jeff Beck, B.B. King and Wes Montgomery, well, that's a good class to be in. It's been said that Johnny A. has "one of the best voices in music today and never sings a note," letting his guitar do all of the heavy lifting. He's a master of intonation, melody and technique and with Les Paul and Chet Atkins gone, probably the best "soul" for the instrument that's around today. Few artists have ever been able to garner as much critical and commercial success with instrumental music as Johnny A..

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bow thayer and perfect trainwreck7. Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck - Bow Thayer is originally from the Boston 'burb of Hingham, MA and now makes his coffee in the morning in Vermont, but he and his band Perfect Trainwreck are the "house band" for Boston's innovative and progressive roots Americana music scene. They won the Rock and Roll Rumble (which is a rite of passage for bands that want to be considered among Boston's greats) and they frequently choose Boston for the band's more important events. Rising stars on the national stage, Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck released an ambitious and critically well-received album, Eden, earlier this year. Their music is progressive, forward-thinking and innovative with a keen eye on the world around them and the human condition that exists within it.

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patty larkin in the alternate root8. Patty Larkin - Patty Larkin was born in Iowa, grew up in Milwaukee, went to college in Oregon and then arrived at Berklee College of Music in the mid 1980's, but Patty Larkin now calls Cape Cod home, and Boston calls Cape Cod the summer house, so Patty Larkin is all ours. That and the fact that she, along with other Boston favorites Ellis Paul, Shawn Colvin and Patti Griffin were among the artists that revitalized the Boston music scene, and subsequent folk-revival in the early 1990's. Ellis Paul, Shawn Colvin and Patti Griffin have moved on to other places to reside or we'd be claiming them as well. Her unique brand of urban-folk music, concentration on women's issues and her philanthropic work make her an American as well as Boston treasure. She celebrated 25 years of recording with her album, 25, in 2010.

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kingsley flood in the alternate root9. Kingsley Flood - The Boston Globe described them as "The Rolling Thunder Review with a punk edge." We placed them in our list of 20 Bands Pushing the Roots Americana Envelope. Kingsley Flood meld a variety of influences, both internally and externally, borrowing equal parts Dylan, Stones, Who and The Jam and the powerful musical talent each of the band members brought to the party. The Kingsley Flood star is rising, as evidenced by their invitation to the Newport Folk Festival this summer, a host of Boston Music Awards and an opening slot for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Their latest release, Battles, takes on a lot of sensitive subject matter and leaves little doubt where the band stands on the issues of the day.

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peter parcek 3 in the alternate root10. Peter Parcek 3 - One of the best 'un-sung' guitar players in a city that hosts a multitude of great guitar players, Peter Parcek is a student of the blues, jazz and roots music and combines all of them together to create a spiritual, soulful sound that can't be cornered into anything genre-specific. It's really just outstanding music performed by three outstanding musicians. Peter Parcek is an incendiary player when the song calls for it and also soulful and elegant when it doesn't. His album, Mathematics of Love, was well received critically and landed him a nomination by the Blues Foundation at the 2011 Blues Music Awards in Memphis. He was recently named Best Blues Act at The New England Music Awards and has been nominated for Best Blues Act at the Boston Music Awards.

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sarah borges in the alternate root11. Sarah Borges - Like many coming-of-age girls with guitars, Sarah Borges tried her hand in rock bands. It was a nice fit for her stage show that included high kicks, sassy shakes and buckets of sweat outfitted with red lipstick and six strings.  Sarah made it into her 20’s before Americana and Roots were an option- "I felt like I had spent all of this time trying to couch everything in metaphor, and when I started writing Americana songs. I could finally say it plain.” The ball of energy that is Sarah Borges is alive and well on upcoming album number four, Radio Sweetheart, produced by Los Lobos' Steve Berlin. The new album is just another step in the continual evolution of Sarah Borges.

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gracie curran in the alternate root12. Gracie Curran and the High Falutin' Band - Ms. Curran is possesses an amazing voice. It is the kind of voice that could easily smoke the competition. It is to the credit of the High Falutin’ Band that they can not only be seen but heard beyond the sunspot force of Gracie. Proof of Love, the band’s debut album, rounds out HFB with Geoff Murfitt on bass, Derek John Bergman on drums and the almighty, roof raisin’, can-somebody-get-me-a-glass-of-water guitar work of Tommy Carroll. Tommy is Berklee trained and crossroads bartering good on the guitar. His leads, and funky chord chops, are the perfect foil for Gracie Curran’s voice. Think Aretha Franklin on lead vocal with Stevie Ray Vaughan on guitar…okay, you got the sound of Gracie Curran & the High Falutin’ band.

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erin harpe and the delta swingers13. Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers - Erin Harpe & The Delta Swingers proudly refer to their mix of delta blues, country, Americana, soul, and world music as “Charles River Delta Blues”. It puts their brand in the dirty water that everybody in the city of Boston loves. On album, and in live shows, The Delta Swingers produce an upbeat, danceable sound featuring original tunes and classic blues from 1930’s delta blues and ragtime to the Blues/Folk of the late 60’s/early 70’s. The band features Erin on electric and acoustic guitar and lead vocals, backed by Jim Countryman on bass, Bob Nisi on drums and vocal harmonies, and a revolving cast of Boston’s best blues soloists, including the blistering electrified harmonica of Richard “Rosy” Rosenblatt, slide guitar and barrelhouse piano. Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers are currently hard at work on their debut album, which will be released later this year.

Listen and buy the music of Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers from AMAZON, CDBaby or iTunes

dropkick murphys in the alternate root14. Dropkick Murphys - Dropkick Murphys started life in Quincy, Mass but have become inseparable from big city Boston through yearly St. Patrick’s Day week shows and “I’m Shipping Up to Boston”, their track featured on the Academy-Award winning film, The Departed. The song has become an anthem for Boston-based sports teams. The group stayed Indie through five albums, singing with Warner Brothers in 2007, through their vanity label, Born & Bred. Dropkick Murphys made room on the Billboard charts for American Celtic Punk with both of their last two releases, Going Out of Style (2011) and Signed and Sealed in Blood (2013), finding homes in the chart Top 10.

Listen and buy the music of Dropkick Murphys from AMAZON or iTunes

mr. nick and his dirty tricks15. Mr. Nick and His Dirty Tricks - Nick David's harmonica playing has a swagger - developed over thousands of one-nighters from Massachusetts to Memphis and from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, and all over Europe. Maybe it's a swing, or a little extra hip-shake, just like the grooves generated by the powerhouse band he's formed with four other kingpins of the New England blues scene: Mr. Nick & His Dirty Tricks have jukebox Soul waiting for the coin to drop on Oh Wow!

Listen and buy the music of Mr. Nick and His Dirty Tricks from AMAZON, CDBaby or iTunes

james montgomery in the alternate root16. James Montgomery Band - The James Montgomery Band deliver on From Detroit to the Delta, the band’s recent release. Full frontal horns, courtesy of the Uptown Horns, crisp, clean leads from JM Band member George McCann, guests such as James Cotton on harp, Aerosmith’s Joey Kramer (drums) and Brad Whitfield (guitar), Johnny Winter lending his Firebird slide guitar skills and a rock solid rhythm held down by JM backers, David Hull (bass, producer) and Seth Pappas (drums). The man that holds down the mic, and harmonica, is James Montgomery, a position that he has filled for forty plus years. Whether the tunes honor the Detroit or Delta side of the album title, the music is all Saturday night. There are no quiet mediations, no rambling jams, you have to stay alert and in the pocket of the groove to keep up with From Detroit to the Delta.

Listen and buy the music of James Montgomery Band from AMAZON or iTunes

the bandit kings in the alternate root17. The Bandit Kings - The Bandit Kings have a sunny, singer/songwriter tone to the songs on their recent release, III. The group incorporates an Alt Country jangle and rock rhythms as a foundation for two female lead vocalists, Renee Dupuis (vocals, keys) and Ann Marie (vocals, tambourine). Rounding out The Bandit Kings is Dan King on lead guitar, Dennis Monagle on drums and Joe Cardoza on bass. III offers vocals that snake around the music, weaving in and out of arrangements, playing tag with guitar leads. BK craft smiles into the bright playing, even when the ladies are telling their respective love interests that “I can’t wait for you to throw me away” (“I Can’t Wait”).

Listen and buy the music of The Bandit Kings from AMAZON, CDBaby or iTunes

sarah blacker in the alternate root18. Sarah Blacker - Sarah Blacker adds ukulele and mandolin to the traditional singer/songwriter guitar and mic default accompaniment. Her most recent release, Perfectly Imperfect E.P. (2012) wraps a story about being humor with the ukulele on the title track. The E.P. follows her 2009 debut, The Only Way Out is Through, and Come What May (2010). Sarah Blacker is a full-time, hard-working, touring singer/songwriter who still manages time to give. Sarah is a part-time Music Therapist for children and adults with special needs. Sarah Blacker was named Female Performer of the Year at the 2013 New England Music Awards.

Listen and buy the music of Sarah Blacker from AMAZON, CDBaby or iTunes

jesse dee in the alternate root19. Jesse Dee - Jesse Dee is a Boston-based soul man. He released his debut, On My Mind / In My Heart, his debut recording for Alligator Records in 2013. The album is soul music through and through. Perfectly placed horns, chopped guitar chords as rhythm, a bumping bass that pops out notes like spitballs and drums that never let the beat wander, all create a groove that sticks like glue. All the elements are present but what wraps it all up is the voice of Jesse Dee. On My Mind / In My Heart holds within its border eleven Jesse Dee originals that are equally filled, like Jesse, with hooks of hope. It is the sweet soul music that you have heard about, the kind stuck with a 1960’s stamp and put in the closet with sharkskin suits, beehives and aspirin in soda pop as a go-to high.

Listen and buy the music of Jesse Dee from AMAZON or iTunes

jo henley in the alternate root20. Jo Henley - Putting together a tradition of Roots music with a rock stance and delivery, Jo Henley is the band home to longtime musical collaborators Andy Camplieto and Ben Lee with drummer Mike Dingley. The group released their independent full length, Sad Songs and Alcohol, in 2008. In 2012, Andy lost his Dad, a man who had not only been a supporter but, with son Ben, had handcrafted most of the guitars heard on Jo Henley albums.  Andy and Ben headed to a remote cabin to sing a catharsis for the loss and returned with demos of songs that would become the base of The Fall Comes Early, Jo Henley’s December 2012 release. The album is a deeply personal look at universal themes of life, death, relationships, and time playing out over jangly mid-tempo rock, train-beat folk and classic country and top tappin’ bluegrass.

Listen and buy the music of Jo Henley from AMAZON, CDBaby or iTunes



Not so long ago, the Roots and Americana field was an open playing ground. It was a place where artists could take chances with their music and develop sounds that were outside the borders that corralled music into certain shapes and forms. Like any genre or style, once a bar is set, up and coming artists can choose to follow or lead into the future. Innovators like Buddy Miller, Bela Fleck, The Band, Sam Bush, Ricky Skaggs and Jerry Douglas set the standard. Many bands have gone the easy route of simply sounding like the originals. Luckily, there are many others that avoid falling into the same old ruts and decide not to join the 'band wagons'. Here is a list of artists that are moving the genre forward, taking chances and deciding that is better to lead than follow, better to die on your feet than live on your knees worshipping at the altar of what has gone before.

These artists are the 'progressive' artists of the Roots Americana genre. Pushing the envelope in terms of sound, recording techniques, instrumentation and amplification. They are bringing new influences of Indie rock, swamp, post punk and psychedelic into the indigenous forms of music that lie at the roots of the sound. Risk takers, innovators and definitely worth checking out. Here are The Alternate Root's 20 Bands Pushing the Envelope.

uncle lucius in the alternate root1 - Uncle Lucius

Uncle Lucius is an Indie Rock band out of Austin, Texas that lets the roots of rock shine in its sounds and songs. The band borrows from classic rock, taking influence from The Black Crowes and The Tragically Hip. Lead vocalist Kevin Galloway takes to the mic like he is on a mission to save the world one song at a time. Uncle Lucius makes it all seem easy on their most recent release, And You Are Me.

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

bow thayer in the alternate root2 - Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck

Bow Thayer plays electric banjo, running the instrument through both a bass and guitar amp to get the desired sound. The band’s latest effort, Eden, is a Roots album that follows one story line throughout the entire release with the topic that it’s the economy that kills people, not guns. Thayer writes deep, heavily textured music with complex layers both sonically and lyrically and has the band and the chops to pull it all together.

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

jimbo mathus in the alternate root3 - Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition

Former Squirrel Nut Zipper frontman, Jimbo Mathus, drives Southern Rock, Blues, Soul and Roots sounds as a vehicle for his smart, Southern Gothic-influenced story lines. The music created could receive a Southern Gothic Rock name tag, with The Tri-State Coalition setting fire to notes and beats that send smoke signals to announce the start of something big on the album White Buffalo.

Listen and buy the music of Jimbo Mathus and Tri-State Coalition from AMAZON or iTunes

the wood brothers in the alternate root4-The Wood Brothers

Two brothers decide to form a band, adapting the blues, folk and other roots‐music sounds they grew up with into a sound that is unique. They have that natural lonesome harmony and a blend that could only come from blood. For many years, the brothers took separate musical paths, Oliver brought soul, funk and country elements into the blues that he loved and Chris attended New England Conservatory of Music to study bass at the feet of jazz men. As the Wood Brothers, they bring family back together and create a new sound in the process on Smoke Ring Halo

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

birds of chicago in the alternate root5- Birds of Chicago

Birds of Chicago, is a collective based around JT Nero and Allison Russell. The group tours both as a duo and with the full family band. JT Nero has country soul vocals that fit well with the warm, sun-dappled voice of Allison Russell. Somewhere between street corner doo-wop and folk soul sounds, Birds of Chicago bring the power of voices and play them out over banjo and guitar accompaniment.

Listen and buy the music of Birds of Chicago from AMAZON or iTunes

vintage trouble in the alternate root6 - Vintage Trouble

Los Angeles-based Vintage Trouble have a sound and live show best described as  live-wired, straight-shootin’, dirty-mouth'd, pelvis-pushing juke music. The four-piece bring Soul back into a Rock’n’Roll band format using guitar, bass and drums to fuse songs. Manager Doc McGhee (Bon Jovi) took the band to England where they were honored with Music Weekly’s  “Breakout Artist of the Year” title. Vintage Trouble have released The Bomb Shelter Sessions on home turf to grab the same love.

Listen and buy the music of Vintage Trouble from AMAZON or iTunes

 7- Elephant Revival

Elephant Revival filters their existence as a band through five words, “Where words fail... music speaks”. They believe that we can be moved by a rhythm and soothed by a song. The five souls in Elephant Revival share vocals and play an arrangement of instruments that include banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass, fiddle, washboard, djembe, musical saw, and stompbox. Group member Bonnie Paine delivers additional beats via footstomps on plywood, her stockinged feet doing near jigs as her hands, encased in antique leather gloves, rub silver nickel against corrugated metal you can hear in beatiful scratchings on their most recent E.P., It's Alive.

Listen and buy the music of Elephant Revival from AMAZON or iTunes

8 - The Wild Rumpus

The hills of Fayetteville, West Virginia are home to the three men of The Wild Rumpus. The band owns these mountains due, in part; to their marathon live shows and the pride they show for the hills in their songs. Andrew Adkins’ deep, soulful tones and Allan Sizemore’s playing his guitar like a banjo make for a combination that sets them apart from traditional bluegrass and string bands. The Wild Rumpus are set to release the floow-up to 304.

Listen and buy the music of The WIld Rumpus from AMAZON or iTunes

9 - The Howlin' Brothers

The Howlin’ Brothers sound is as old as the mountains that gave birth to bluegrass. The band honors traditional music and gives it a touch of today by incorporating slide banjo with old time fiddle, harmonica, and upright bass, letting the scratch of dancing feet keep the beat. Produced by the Raconteur’s Brendan Benson, their recent release, Howl, lets out a roar that will shake tradition into something new.

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

10 - Sons of Fathers

Sons of Fathers open their recent release, Burning Days, with a forceful thrust of sound. Moments into the opening track, “Hurt Someone”, that sound drops out to let the soul of the combined vocals and swaying Roots mix with psychedelic guitar licks,  genre-bending folk rock,  and gospel harmonies to create their own Texas rock sound.

Listen and buy the music of Sons of Fathers from AMAZON or iTunes

11 - Over the Rhine

Over The Rhine consist of southern Ohio-based husband-and-wife team of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist. The duo adds humanness to the music that they have been creating since their 1991 debut. Their most recent album, The Long Surrender (produced by Joe Henry), has the feel of a living thing, its senses alert, feet planted firmly on the earth.

Listen and buy the music of Over The Rhine from AMAZON or iTunes

12 - Jonny Fritz

Jonny Fritz is a Nashville-based songwriter set to release an ATO Records’ debut under his real name, dropping the Jonny Corndawg tag he has used for the past ten years of recording and performing. His upcoming release, Dad Country, was produced by Jonny and Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith, recorded at Jackson Browne’s Los Angeles studio and finished up in Music City. The album balances Jonny Fritz humor and unfiltered worldview with a Nashville sound born on a Southern Californian wind.

Listen and buy the music of Jonny Fritz from AMAZON or iTunes

 13 - Kingsley Flood

Kingsley Flood spend their time between two home bases-- Washington, DC and Boston. The band debuted in 2010 with a sound that used the dusty tones of Americana mixed with a punk rock sneer. Their upcoming release, Battles, ups the ante with songs that blend Dylan-esque storytelling, Kinks-inspired melodies, and the urgency of The Clash. The albums songs are inspired by everyone from delusional dictators to spray-tanned politicians to laid-off workers trying to get back on their feet.

Listen and buy the music of Kingsley Flood from AMAZON or iTunes

14 - Pete Ahonen

Pete Ahonen is a San Francisco East Bay area native. Pete is a singer-songwriter that blends Alt Country with Folk/Rock and partners the mix with an incredible knack for storytelling.  There’s never been anything marginal about Pete Ahonen’s commitment to the art of putting words to music to describe life being lived in all its glory and complexity, as evidence on In The Blood.

15 – Henry Wagons

Henry Wagons’ recent solo release, Expecting Company, follows the form and feel of his band’s 2011 album effort, Rumble, Shake and Tumble, with a more personal take on his tunes. The album features duet performances from artists such as Allison Mosshart (The Kills, The Dead Weather), Jenn Grant and Robert Forster among others. As a group, Wagons will use 70’s arena rock bombast for the gut bucket glory of the sound that they create.

Listen and buy the music of Henry Wagons from AMAZON or iTunes

16-Hymn for Her

Hymn for Her may be your local band depending on where they parked their 16 foot, 1961 Bambi Airstream last night. The Airstream comes complete with dog, baby and recording studio. Their latest release, Hymn for Her Present Lucy and Wayne’s Smokin’ Flames, is a gritty, distorted cacophony of sound that bleeds through your speakers and tears a hole in your brain…..sweet!!

Listen and buy the music of Hyman For Her from AMAZON or iTunes

17-Boo City

Boo City formed in Providence, Rhode Island in 2009 by singer/songwriters, and longtime friends, vocalist Tai Awolaju and guitarist Andrew Moon Bain. Boo City is a creative mix of music that goes from Country-blues to Indie Rock, channeled through Soul and Folk. The vocal blend of Awolaju’s smokey, sultry voice and Bain’s deep tones are a foundation for the dual lead voices. Horns and a determined rhythm section cement the sound on their recent E.P. release, Anchortown.

Listen and buy the music of Boo City from AMAZON or iTunes

18 - The Crackling

The Crackling’s debut release, Mary Magdalene, delivers Roots music in a slow motion sound that lets the songs flow over the listener, letting every nuance of emotion seep in.  The Vancouver-based band revolves around the man that set the fire burning, Kenton Loewen, known for his work with Dan Mangan and Mother Mother. Kenton Loewen is a trained jazz musician, best known for his work as a drummer. The Crackling is Kenton’s first project as composer and singer.

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

19 – Spindrift

Spindrift sprinkle psychedelia liberally over their Roots music. The western sound of the Los Angeles band can be viewed through a kaleidoscope of musical colors, channeled and corralled by an electroacoustic backdrop. The most recent release, Classic Soundtracks Volume One featured theme songs to film scores and showcased the band’s music through a diverse mix of genres such as Bollywood, Sci-Fi, Exploitation films, and Film Noir.

Listen and buy the music of Spindrift from AMAZON or iTunes

20- Sam Marine and County

The music of Sam Marine and County contains lots of well-used styles such as straightforward classic rock n' roll, country, blues, and folk. What makes them different is the way the band jumble it all together with the passion of punk rock deliveries over an acoustic force of rhythm.

Not sure about some of the outstanding musicians? Here's a taste of 20 tastemakers...enjoy the ride!



the alternate root top 20 guitar playersHere's our list of The Alternate Root Magazine's Top American Roots Guitar Players. There's probably 100 guitar players that could have been on this list that appear on every "Best Guitar Player List." These are our favorites. The one's we write about; one's we've worked with on Alternate Root TV or we've interviewed here. They're our guys and gals and all of them can play. Chances are we've forgotten a few and we're counting on our readers to remind us of who's supposed to be here.

kenny vaughan in the alternate root1. Kenny Vaughan - Marty Stuart Band, solo - One of the most, if not 'the' most in demand session players in Nashville, Kenny Vaughan is an absolute monster player that is in a league with just a few others on this list. Combining the most eclectic, fringe elements of jazz, punk, rock, country and whatever else into his unique style and combining it with near flawless technique is what sets Vaughan apart from most. 

Listen and buy the music of Kenny Vaughan from AMAZON or iTunes

  will kimbrough in the alternate root2. Will Kimbrough - Emmylou Harris Band, solo - Kimbrough's work with Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris is well documented. His solo work is equally compelling and as one of the top producers in the American Roots music world you can find him on a slew of other really good records. He can play any style from blues to country, rock to soul and everything in between.

Listen and buy the music of Will Kimbrough from AMAZON or iTunes

richard thompson in the alternate root3. Richard Thompson - Fairport Convention, solo - One of the founding members of Fairport Convention, Thompson has spent most of his career in relative public obscurity save guitar heads and critics. Guitar people have known about Richard Thompson for decades and critics have been heaping praise on Richard Thompson for both his playing and his writing for nearly as long. His mark is on more music than most anyone on this list. Probably the best folk guitarist in history.

Listen and buy the music of Buddy Miller from AMAZON or iTunes

buddy miller in the alternate root4. Buddy Miller - Band of Joy, solo - Like Will Kimbrough, Buddy Miller appears on more recordings than can be listed here. He's worked as a guitar player for Steve Earle, Robert Plant, John Fogerty, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Linda Rostadt. His solo work is at times breathtaking and at other time a bit puzzling but never typical. Miller is just downright brilliant.

Listen and buy the music of Colin Linden from AMAZON or iTunes

colin linden in the alternate root5. Colin Linden - Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, solo - One of the true virtuoso players on our list. A scholar of the roots of the guitar, from earliest recordings of blues and jazz to folk and country, Colin Linden was called upon by T-Bone Burnett to help produce the soundtrack for "Oh Brother Where Art Thou." He's one of the top American Roots producers in Canada and the U.S. and has a guitar playing resume that would take up more space than we have here.

Listen and buy the music of Bill Kirchen from AMAZON or iTunes

bill kirchen in the alternate root6. Bill Kirchen -solo - One of the most respected and acclaimed players of the last few decades Kirchen may be best known for work with Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen but his work over the past 30+ years is more impressive. His version of "Hot Rod Lincoln" where he rips into a solo for every guitar god hero is amazing.

Listen and buy the music of Pete Anderson from AMAZON or iTunes

pete anderson in the alternate root7. Pete Anderson - solo - He's a bad-ass player. He's a bad-ass producer who created the sound for Dwight Yoakam, k.d. Lang, Michelle Shocked and even the latter-day Roy Orbison. If you don't know him as a player you don't know the half of it.

Listen and buy the music of Derek Trucks from AMAZON or iTunes

derek trucks in the alternate root8. Derek Trucks - Tedeschi Trucks Band, Allman Brothers Band - The nephew of Allman Brothers great Butch Trucks, Derek Trucks first appeared on stage with Buddy Guy and The Allman Brothers at age 12. One of the best slide players out there right now, Trucks is heavily influenced by Buddy Guy, Elmore James and the like but his style incorporates blues, rock, soul and classic jazz elements.

Listen and buy the music of Derek Trucks from AMAZON or iTunes

traul malo in the alternate root9. Raul Malo - Mavericks, Los Super Seven, solo - Raul Malo may be more well known for his incredible voice than his guitar playing but he should never be overlooked as one of the top American Roots guitar players. His work with the Mavericks, Los Super Seven and as a solo artist contains some incredibly good guitar playing by any standards. See him live playing jazz, blues, country, Tejano, rockabilly and you'll get the picture.

Listen and buy the music of Raul Malo from AMAZON or iTunes

junior brown in the alternate root10. Junior Brown - Junior Brown Band - Junior Brown is so good he needed to have a guitar invented just for him and the "guit-steel" was born. He's incendiary style blends Western Swing, honky-tonk, Bakersfield country and Texas blues often in the same solo.

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

patterson hood in the alternate  root11.  Patterson Hood - Drive By Truckers - The power behind one of the powerhouse American Roots bands Patterson Hood is actually more Clash than Cash. The Drive By Truckers are one of the few roots bands that when it's all said and done, will have done pretty well.

Listen and buy the music of Patterson Hood from AMAZON or iTunes

eric ambel in the alternate root12. Eric “Roscoe” Ambel - The Del-Lords, Steve Earle Band, solo - He's more into producing and engineering now than when he was barnstorming for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, The Del-Lords or Steve Earle but "Roscoe" shows up in rare form on a lot of really cool recordings from bands like the New Heathens, Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition and DL Marble. Ambel is a great guitar player...period.

Listen and buy the music of Eric ‘Roscoe’ Ambel from AMAZON or iTunes

rosie flores in the alternate root13. Rosie Flores - Rosie Flores Band - The "Rockabilly Filly" broke the glass ceiling for female guitar players right along with Bonnie Raitt and Patti Smith, just to a different crowd. She's the "Queen of Twang" and one of the pre-eminent figures in the Austin Alt-Country music scene. She's fun, she's good and she looks great at 63. Her work with Pete Anderson on her debut album drew major critical acclaim.

Listen and buy the music of Rosie Flores from AMAZON or iTunes

mark robinson in the alternate root14. Mark Robinson - Mark Robinson Band - He can shred, pick, bend and slide with the best of them. Robinson has a resonant tone that would fall somewhere between Albert King and Ronnie Earl but has developed into pure Mark Robinson. Only two solo efforts to date but both have garnered high praise for Robinson's guitar work.

Listen and buy the music of Mark Robinson from AMAZON or iTunes

devon allman in the alternate root15. Devon Allman -Royal Southern Brotherhood, Devon Allman's Honeytribe - The son of Gregg Allman and another example of the fruit not falling far from the tree, Devon Allman has the chops of his father and the soul of his uncle. In his case the soul is what makes him great. His blues are hard edged and spacious; making each note count rather than counting how many notes there were. An awful lot of Allman Brothers Band offspring are making great music. Makes you wonder about the effects of sex and srugs.

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

sergio webb in the alternate root16. Sergio Webb - David Olney, solo - Sergio Webb can be seen on a stage in Nashville making someone sound good most any night. He's a great picker of just about anything that has strings on it. Webb is a throwback to the old-style country guitar player like Chet Atkins or Les Paul.

Listen and buy the music of Sergio Webb from AMAZON or iTunes

seth walker in the alternate root17. Seth Walker - solo - Seth Walker started as a cellist at the age of three growing up with classicly trained musicians as parents. His clean soul-jazz-pop sound has garnered some high praise critically both as a skillful player and soulful singer. He's paved the way for a host of blues/soul performers in the Americana Roots movement. His cool west-coast tone is reminiscent of Wes Montgomery.

Listen and buy the music of Seth Walker from AMAZON or iTunes

martin sexton in the alternate root18. Martin Sexton - solo - His playing is a lot studio tricks and loops but since he's playing all of it and putting it together in some sort of predetermined sequences we'll have to call that innovative and highly skilled playing. Not your dad's "folkie," Martin Sexton is a gifted player that experiments outside the lines.

Listen and buy the music of Martin Sexton from AMAZON or iTunes

chris hersch in the alternate root19. Chris Hersch - Girls, Guns and Glory - The lead guitar slot in Girls, Guns and Glory has been a bit of a revolving door and the predecessors to Chris Hersch have all been pretty solid. That said, none of them can stand with the current "lead chair." Hersch's work on "Sweet Nothings," the latest effort from GGG is astounding.

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

garrett lebeau in the alternate root20. Garrett Lebeau - solo - He's a young guy from rural Wyoming that resides in Austin every now and again. An enigma of sorts, Lebeau posesses an almost majestic tone and incendiary improvisational skill. His playing is a combination of bluesey soul and jazz in a gospel wash. Infectious is a good way to describe Garrett Lebeau's music.

Listen and buy the music of Garrett Lebeau from AMAZON or iTunes

colin thompson in the alternate root21. Colin Thompson - Randy Thompson Band - Who? From where? At 15 he had chops it should have taken 40 years to develop. Randy Thompson is a known entity in many Americana/Alt-Country circles especially in Europe but his son Colin might end up as the one who scores it big. Now 19, He's a sponge for style and technique and by the time he hits middle age he could be the best player on this list.

Listen and buy the music of Colin Thompson from his website

the alternate root top 50 bandsHere's the list of the Alternate Root's Top 50 Americana Roots Music  Bands...Right Now!

We took a list of over 150 bands and narrowed the list to the Top 50. We did not consider bands that are put together solely for touring purposes or for studio sessions...Emmylou Harris' band or Band of Joy would have landed on this list otherwise. We tried to keep it to bands that record, tour, fight, eat, sleep and fix vans together
and are currently active in at least some regular form. We know members and line-ups change from album to album and sometimes even show to show but for what it's worth...here's what we think are the top 50. Talk amongst yourselves.

band of heathens in the alternate root1. Band of Heathens The number one spot was the easiest to place. Band of Heathens epitomize Indie, building their band business from the ground up and keeping everything in-house. What began as a songwriters residency at Momo’s in the group’s home base of Austin, the Band of Heathens have grown to release two live early career discs, from Momo’s and Antone’s. Their music combines rock, soul, Americana, alt Country, blues and folk, sometimes within the space off a song. They have three studio albums under their collective belts and recently released the two-disc live DVD of Denver shows.

Listen and buy the music of Band of Heathens from AMAZON or iTunes

old crow medicine show in the alternate root2. Old Crow Medicine Show Old Crow Medicine Show began band life busking on the streets of New York state and up through Canada. A chance meeting with Doc Watson started a path that has led the group through MerleFest, a residency at the Grand Ole Opry, playing stages at Bonnaroo, Coachella, and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, a Platinum single certification for Wagon Wheel and record sales of over 800,000. Old Crow Medicine Show’s latest release, Carry Me Back, showcases the sound of Roots music played by a band that continues to push themselves in new directions.

Listen and buy the music of Old Crow Medicine Show from AMAZON or iTunes

carolina chocolate drops in the alternate root3. Carolina Chocolate Drops In 2005, the future members of Carolina Chocolate Drops attended the first Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, North Carolina. They took to their instruments and went to the traditional music of the Piedmont region of North and South Carolina for inspiration. The lineup has expanded from the original three and The Drops balance the old time feel and form with modern inflections that fit seamlessly into the repertoire.

Listen and buy the music of Carolina Chocolate Drops from AMAZON or iTunes

los lobos in the alternate root4. Los Lobos Thirty years into a recording career and Los Lobos can still use the same liner notes for band members. The music can still brag of East L.A. Roots in its instrumentation, though their sound has become more universal. You can’t take the homeboy out of East L.A. and Los Lobos returned to their original turf to record their first studio album in four years, the recently released Tin Can Trust. Group member/producer Steve Berlin sees their longevity as “We’re long haul guys. If you’re in it for the long haul it makes staying together a lot easier. It’s a challenge, but the thing I’m most proud of is that we’ve never rested on our laurels. We keep trying to make every record feel like the first one and try to do the best we can and not tread on territory we have already trod on. What you hear is exactly what we wanted to do.”

Listen and buy the music of Los Lobos from AMAZON or iTunes

sharon jones in the alternate root5. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings used an old Ampex 8-track to record their latest studio release, I Learned the Hard Way. The album, like the band’s three previous releases, was recorded at Daptone Records House of Soul studios. Their album mix gospel, soul and funk but it the relentless touring of an incredible live show that has earned the group their spot on our Top 50 list. The high power energy, low moans and swagger of soul are alive and present in Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings music and their live show is a celebration of its potential.

Listen and buy the music of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings from AMAZON or iTunes

tedeschi trucks in the alternate root6. Tedeschi-Trucks Band Like their marriage, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks are better as a united force than solo or with Roots founding father, the Allman Brothers. The Tedeschi Trucks Band gather top drawer musicians for a sound that mixes funk, blues, soul and rock into a near jam band form, if jam bands played with the prevision the members of TTB deliver.

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drive by truckers in the alternate root7. Drive-By Truckers Drive-By Truckers once talked about Southern Rock in their songs, crafting a concept album around their love of Lynyrd Skynyrd on the aptly titled “Southern Rock Opera”. Thy have become modern Southern Rock, though the sound is uniquely their own. Sonically, DBT are one big sonic stew that boils up from Muscle Shoals recording studio. Distortion from the bands guitar army floats through every song.


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yarn in the alternate root8. Yarn Yarn has a guru in lead singer/songwriter Blake Christiana who sees Yarn fans, under the banner of Yarmy, as “Our fans are like family. We are so grateful to people that love music and will help support us in creating it. It’s just remarkable. That’s half of my love of the road; we’ve got what feels like family in tons of cities across America.” Based in Brooklyn, New York, Yarn transforms the potential of Americana into something bigger. Blake’s vocals are the voice inside your head and his words are the daily decisions that act as the angel or devil on your shoulder.

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beausoliel in the alternate root9. Beausoleil Beausoleil are the famous sons of Lafayette, Louisiana and world ambassadors of the music of the Cajun and Creole people. The group moves past the traditional folk sound of its instrumentation by incorporating rock ‘n’roll, jazz, blues, calypso, and other genres in original compositions and re-workings of traditional tunes. The band members reference their playing by pointing out that they “take the rich Cajun traditions of Louisiana and artfully blend elements of zydeco, New Orleans jazz, Tex-Mex, country, blues and more into a satisfying musical recipe.”

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alabama shakes in the alternate root10. Alabama Shakes Alabama Shakes originated when lead singer/guitarist Brittany Howard and bassist Zac Cockrell, both attending East Limestone High School in Athens, began meeting after school to write songs. The two played prog rock and other genres but soon found a calling playing roots rock. The duo approached drummer Steve Johnson, who was working at the local music store, to bring it to a trio. Guitarist Heath Fogg joined the band after hearing the demo.

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blind boys of alabama in the alternate root11. Blind Boys of Alabama –  In 2013, the Blind Boys of Alabama are living legends of gospel music on a worldwide level. Formed at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in 1939, the group toiled for almost forty years almost exclusively on the black gospel circuit, playing in churches, auditoriums, and even stadiums across the country. Though they began recording in 2948, the Blind Boys of Alabama achieved a career turning point in 1982 with their Gospel at Colonus release and in the 1990’s received two Grammy nominations and performed at the White House. The band’s most recent release, Take the High Road, draws from traditional country to balance their nearly 70 years of gospel dominance. Founding member, Jimmy Carter, confesses, “All my life, I’ve loved country music. I was raised up around it. Back in the 1940s, I remember listening to Hank Williams and so many others. Their voices were great. The writers were great. And every song had a meaning. I still have loads of country music in my home and I play it all the time.”

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old 97's in the alternate root12. The Old 97's The Dallas band gets kudos for being Alt Country flag bearers for twenty years but the sound of The Old 97’s falls just as much into Cowpunk and Pop. Songwriter/frontman Rhett Miller uses his words to script movie scenes that play out in three and four minutes burst of song. The Old 97’s sizzle on-stage and craft shout out loud sing-along songs that you can carry with you long after the last note is hit.

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reckless kelly in the alternate root13.  Reckless Kelly For fifteen years the music industry has been trying to corner Reckless Kelly. Maybe the suits didn’t pay enough attention to the reckless part of the band’s moniker. Reckless Kelly is a crossover in the Indie acceptance area with immovable feet planted in recording their recent release, Good Luck & True Love, in an old renovated Austin, TX farmhouse and tracking much of the disc live. Reckless Kelly have been carving out a space in music for fifteen years on their terms and guided by the way they hear their muse’s words.

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wilco in the alternate root14. Wilco Wilco was formed in 1994 by the remaining members of Alt Country gurus, Uncle Tupelo. Singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy has maintained guidance of the Chicago-based band over the years. Sonically, Wilco has taken a step through the looking glass for its Americana and Roots based sound of earlier releases. The tones and textures are still organic, and the ability to bring in new directions without polishing or primping the sound with studio gadgetry keeps Wilco in the Roots music world.

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steep canyon rangers in the alternate root15.  Steep Canyon RangersSteep Canyon Rangers may have seen more attention from outside the bluegrass community in their collaboration with Steve Martin. It is a testament to any group when they can exist beyond the attention that star quality brings and be remembered for the reason that star shone on them. North Carolina based Steep Canyon Rangers are one of the many bands that are stretching the boundaries of bluegrass while honoring traditions. Steep Canyon Rangers recent musical dance with Stave Martin, Nobody Knows You, shifts songwriting perspective for a string band.

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the little willies in the alternate root16. The Little Willies - The Little Willies, Lee Alexander (bass), Jim Campilongo (guitar), Norah Jones (piano, vocals), Richard Julian (guitar, vocals) and Dan Rieser (drums), formed in NYC in 2003 as an excuse for the five friends to spend a night playing music together at The Living Room on New York's Lower East Side. The gig proved too fun for both the musicians and audience for it to remain a one-off. Despite hailing from the far corners of the country - California, Massachusetts, Texas, Delaware - the members of band all grew up listening to a certain breed of classic American music, and relished the opportunity to perform some of their favorite country .

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the mavericks in the alternate root17. The Mavericks Raul Malo met bassist Robert Reynolds at a record store in Miami, Florida and discovered they had similar musical tastes such as Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline. Reynolds persuaded his friend Paul Deakin to join them on drums, and by the late 1980s, they had added guitarist Ben Peeler and were performing as the Mavericks. Between 1991 and 2003, they recorded six studio albums, in addition to charting 14 singles on the Billboard country charts. The Mavericks reformed in 2011 to record and headline Stage Coach.

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the steel drivers in the alternate root18. The Steel Drivers Nashville, TN gave birth to The Steel Drivers. The group was formed of seasoned touring and studio musicians and producers. The group have a fan in Adele, who performs one of their tunes in concert and refers to the sound as “a blues, country, bluegrass, swagger band and they are brilliant." The SteelDrivers pound a bluegrass sound but they make sure they leave a lot of meat on the bone to make their music tender and fulfilling. With a brand new release in Hammer Down, The SteelDrivers are mobbing throughout the country and taking no prisoners. They punch a hole in bluegrass and offer no apologies. Their music is in-your-face string band stock and they raise the bar for the future of the genre.  

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the north mississippi all stars in the alternate root19. North Mississippi All Stars Brothers Cody and Luther Dickinson, sons of Memphis legend Jim Dickinson, formed Mississippi All Stars in 1996, releasing their first album in 2000. The sound of the group melds Country Blues with Southern Rock and pushes it through any speaker system strong enough to take the brutal force of power of Mississippi All Stars. Luther and Cody continually expand the tradition of the Mississippi hill country blues that has inspired them from the beginning.

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the bottle rockets in the alternate root20. The Bottle Rockets Brian Henneman, frontman for The Bottle Rockets, cut his teeth in Alt Country as a guitar tech for Uncle Tupelo. The band’s most recent release, Lean Forward, continues with Bottle Rockets songs, a hearty and heady mix of rock and country dueling riffs, smart lyrics that are sealed with a smirk. Slow burn humor keeps on giving grins long after the amp burn from The Bottle Rockets live shows, now fifteen years into their career.

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the black lillies in the alternate root#21 The Black Lillies –  Cruz Contreras co-founded Robinella and the CC String Band with his frontwoman wife. He lost the band with the divorce and returned to the road in Knoxville, TN as a truck driver. The Black Littlies music was first heard in the truck cab mind of its driver. What started as songs of sorrow has morphed into material that suits a full band that has the male/female microphones stage center for Cruz and co-vocalist Trisha Gene Brady. The Black Lillies are songwriters who surround themselves with a music that is a mix of rock, folk and bluegrass.

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hot club of cowtown in the alternate root#22. Hot Club of Cowtown Since their first recording in 1998, Austin-based Hot Club of Cowtown have grown to be the most globe-trotting, hardest-swinging Western swing trio on the planet. The first American band to tour Azerbaijan, they have opened stadiums for such artists as Bob Dylan. Bryan Ferry and Willie Nelson while bringing their brand of western swing to festival audiences all over the world. Guitarist Whit Smith, fiddler Elana James and bassist Jake Erwin believe it is about staying true to their roots. Remaining willfully out of the musical mainstream, Hot Club of Cowtown has created an international cult following for the sonic personification of joy and unique sound they deliver.

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jason isbell in the alternate root#23 Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Former Drive-By Trucker member, Jason Isbell, is an eight generation Alabaman. Here We Rest is Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit’s second album release. The band relies on a guitar attack, fueled by the finger work of lead 400er, Jason Isbell. The "400 Unit" was the former colloquial name of the psychiatric ward of Florence, Alabama's Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital, which is now named the Behavioral Health Center.

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punch brothers in the alternate root#24  The Punch Brothers – Growing up on the road has helped to merge the natural talents of the five members of The Punch Brothers. The players range in age from mid-20’s to early-30’s. With years of asphalt under their tires, The Punch Brothers music has grown looser and more unaffected. With players the caliber of Chris Thile, Noam Pikelny, Chris Eldridge, Gabe Witcher and Paul Kowert the time spent together has made them more of a band rather than five solo performances. Their instrumentation is that of a string band but their sound is classical, with a somber tone that is felt through the bright note patterns of guitar, banjo, violin and mandolin.

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over the rhine in the alternate root#25 Over The Rhine – Over The Rhine is a husband/wife duo based in Southern Ohio. It is a marriage of equality, with both multi-instrumentalist Linton Detweiler and Karin Bergquist sharing vocal work. The most recent album, The Long Surrender, is a beautiful soundscape that floats in colors as much as sound. Karin feels that The Long Surrender “speaks to our ongoing desire to let go of certain expectations (and much of what we are so convinced we know for sure) in favor of remaining open and curious. It seems like many of our friends are currently wrestling with various forms of ‘letting go,’ so hopefully, the ideas conjured by the title feel somewhat universal.”

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christine ohlman in the alternate root#26 Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez –  Christine Ohlman grew up loving equally the sweetness of a Memphis horn line and the raunch of an electric guitar riff, as played by Muddy Waters, Keith Richards, or Pop Staples. She teased her blonde hair into a beehive in honor of Ronnie Spector and never looked back, picking up a guitar and forging a career as a songwriter in the process. She’s the current, long-time vocalist with the Saturday Night Live Band, whose latest CD, 2010’s The Deep End, was honored on five national Top Ten lists and features special guests/duet partners Ian Hunter, Dion DiMucci, and Marshall Crenshaw, plus Levon Helm, GE Smith, Andy York, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, Catherine Russell, Big Al Anderson, and others. Christine’s legendary voice and stage presence have most recently been featured at the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Concert in Cleveland.

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mumford and sons in the alternate root#27 Mumford & Sons – They were up for six awards on 2013 Grammy night and Mumford & Sons wound up taking home the Album of the Year. They are a band the brought the banjo to the Grammy’s and won over audiences. Only two album in to their career, group member Ted Dwayne (string bass, drums, guitar) sees the recording of the award winning Babel as “Very us. When we made the first album it was to be a snapshot of Mumford & Sons in 2009. This is exactly the same — but it’s us now, and there’s a lot of the live energy in there — that was very much what we were trying to capture. Creating the album over the course of a year, going into the studio then back out touring, then back into the studio … it’s almost as if the road has rubbed off on the album.”

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semi twang in the alternate root#28 Semi-Twang - Semi-Twang reunited in 2009 to play the 20th anniversary of Shank Hall, the premier showcase club in their home-town of Milwaukee. The band were playing to help celebrate a venue they played on the night it first opened its doors and nothing else was being discussed. The response was immediate and overwhelming. Semi-Twang did not survive their major label debut and 23 years later, they are recoding on their own terms, with the music being the star. Semi-Twang released Wages of Sin in March of 2011, their first album in 23 years. In 2013 Semi-Twang is back with a new release, The Why and the What For, slated for March 26, 2013. According to the band's Press Release the album "...ups the stakes as it traverses through the musical geography of Memphis, Muscle Shoals and New Orleans with passion and conviction. It's topical and personal with a bit more soul influence..."

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the lumineers in the alternate root#29 The Lumineers – For a three piece, The Lumineers have sharp angles and quick turns embedded into their tunes. The traditional make up of acoustic bands like The Lumineers brings to mind front porch jams, late night campfires and coffeehouse open mics. The Lumineers self-titled Dualtone album effort pumps blood into the heart of each song. That fire and passion has always found good buddies with acoustic back-up. Singer Wesley Shultz has a shaky quaver hard-wired into his delivery. That vocal quality works perfectly with the hard-edged arrangement and those determined beats and concise, to-the-point note patterns.

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crooked still in the alternate root#30 Crooked Still – Classical mixes with traditional bluegrass in the music of Crooked Still. It was the innovation of the group that led to name calling on the part of fans, dubbing the band nu-folk bluegrass. On their Some Strange Country release, the band had been snowed in at the recording studio and the isolation gave distraction little room to take root and brought collaboration to the front of the line. Fiddle player, Brittany Haas, sees the sound of Crooked Still describing it as ““The music is not just ‘alternative bluegrass’ or whatever people used to call it. It’s at another level now: artful, but still grounded in that funky, string band thing.”

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blackie and the rodeo kings in the alternate root#31 Blackie & The Rodeo Kings – What formed as an audio fan club for great Canadian singer/songwriter, Willie P. Bennett, put solo careers on hold and created a group effort that needed a lot more maintenance than that of the outlaw traveling musicians the individual members had enjoyed. Blackie & The Rode Kings, bluesman/producer Colin Linden, rock gold miner Tom Wilson and multiple Juno award folk musician, Stephen Fearing, have created a music hungry monster that showcases their talents and their songwriting as a unit. Their most recent release, Kings & Queens, practices serial monogamy, presenting different lady for each track including performance by Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Exene Cervenka, Lucinda Williams and Patti Scialfa to name only a few.

the trishas in the alternate root#32 The Trishas - When Jamie Wilson, Liz Foster, Kelley Mickwee and Savannah Welch first shared a stage in January 2009, their intention was simply to perform a couple of songs as part of a tribute to Savannah’s father, singer-songwriter Kevin Welch. Savannah Welch sees the all-female band as “It’s not much different than any other women who’s having a career or working a job. The difference is actually that we get to bring them to work with us. We want to help each other be able to play music for a living and still have families. We’ll do what it takes.”

i see hawks in la in the alternate root#33 I See Hawks in L.A. - California Country is the kingdom that I See Hawks in L.A. glide over with Americana and Roots music that is part literature with a toe taping beat that draws you in like a magnet. Two vocalists and songwriters are present  in The Hawks lineup with gentle giant Rob Waller and the world’s mellowest guitar shredder, Paul Lacques.  There is a classic country ringer in bassist/vocalist Paul Marhsall, of Strawberry Alarm Clock and about a million projects as a studio guy. I See Hawks in L.A. have characters that can rarely be found outside of Faulkner and Steinbeck novels. The background story take you to the pot fields of Humboldt, neighborhoods of East L.A. and the hills of Tennessee with a back to nature group of hippies.

the coal porters in the alternate root# 34 The Coal Porters – The Coal Porters grew under the shadow of Sid Griffin, The Long Ryders frontman and focal point for the Paisley underground movement in Los Angeles in the late 80’s. Over the course of recordings, touring and playing, The Coal Porters have become more of a band and Sid has become more of a band member. On their 2012 release, Find the One, The Coal Porters arrive as a full time band. Members share vocal, writing chores and solos, but the overall form and feel is that of an electric band along the lines of Fairport Convention and Lindisfarne.

girls guns and glory in the alternate root#35 Girls, Guns & Glory - Girls Guns and Glory is the brainchild of Ward Hayden. The group formed in the winter of 2005 and within two weeks of the group’s formation they entered the studio to begin a prolific period of recording. GGG released three full-length albums in three years. Ward Hayden’s original compositions conjure the palpable ache of a crushed heart; they touch on themes of love lost and hope found, and their words alone could be published in anthologies of poetry.

blue rodeo in the alternate root#36 Blue Rodeo – To a United States audience, Blue Rodeo as a music entity are like a mixture of Canadian sports traditions, with the mass appeal of hockey coupled with the relatively unknown status of curling. Big sports in Canada but the Lower 48 never really caught on. Blue Rodeo released their debut, Outskirts in 1987 and secured a toehold in history that they have expanded into a footprint on the Canadian Roots music scene. Over the course of their stellar career Blue Rodeo has released 12 studio albums, two live albums, a greatest hits collection and an award-winning DVD, selling in excess of four million copies around the world.

leftover salmon in the alternate root#37 Leftover Salmon – Leftover Salmon is a band from Boulder, Colorado, formed in 1989. Their unique blend of bluegrass, rock, country, and Cajun/Zydeco, which the band calls "Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass", making them jam band favorites. The band left recording and touring in 2004 after being a unit since 1989. They reformed in 2007 to continue their musical work.

uncle lucius in the alternate root#38  Uncle Lucius – Uncle Lucius are an Indie Rock band from Austin. Like a painter that mixes color to make something new, Uncle Lucius dab their brush into soul, rock and country to create songs branded as their own.  The band’s rock does not forget old friends and childhood buddies like Gospel, Soul, Blues and Folk roots for a noise that is nothing short of glorious. It would be easy to rely simply on the salvation bringing gifts of front man Kevin Galloway, but Uncle Lucius is a united force that could not have the batteries include without Hal Vorpahl on bass, Mike Carpenter on lead guitar and vocals, Josh Greco on drums and percussion

trampled by turtles in the alternate root# 39 Trampled by Turtles – Trampled By Turtles was a side project by local Duluth, Minnesota rock musicians. The goal was to make music with acoustic instruments, an experiment. When the plugged in projects lost their collective power, the members of Trampled By Turtles were faced with making a go of unfamiliar music and instruments. As the band felt on more solid ground musically, the way the group recorded changed. The groups Dave Simonett gives the difference between then and now with some history, “In the fall of 2011 we set out to make a new record. From the start we knew that we didn’t want to go back to trying to recreate a live show with our new endeavor. We wanted to make a record that breathes. We wanted it to feel and sound warm and more like one piece of work than several pieces put together. We took our songs, along with engineer Tom Herbers and his tape machine, to Soleil Pines, a log home outside of Duluth and within the gravitational pull of Lake Superior. We moved the furniture, set up some mics, worked, slept, and ate all in the same space.”

blitzen trapper in the alternate root#40 Blitzen Trapper – Blitzen Trapper are a band that is fueled by fans. They stick to the road, recently wrapping up a tour with opener Brandi Carlisle in support of their American Goldwing album. When the band formed in Portland, Oregon in 2000 that musical focus was on experimental country/folk. Blitzen Trapper took off with 2007 release, Wild Mountain Nation and secured success with the 2008 follow-up Furr. Indie is where Blitzen Trapper calls home and when you look closer, their surface face of being a rock band shows roots being at the center of the beat. 

red molly in the alternate root#41 Red Molly – The mixture of three part harmonies is what has continued success for Red Molly since the bands inception in 2004. Laurie MacAllister (bass, banjo), Abbie Gardner (dobro, banjo) and Molly Venter (guitar), balance playing with vocals. The Red Molly 2011 release, Light in the Sky opens with the a capella driven voices only “Dear Someone”, the power of the three ladies vocals rising to take charge, seducing the listener rather than forcing themselves upon them. The trio matches notes for a rocked up version of blues standard “Come on in My Kitchen” and bring darkness to Buddy and Julie Miller’s “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger”

the black keys in the alternate root#42 The Black Keys –  Here is a two man team that brings their brand of blues and rock with a sound big enough to give the listner the full band treatment. Dan Auerbach (guitar, vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums) formed in Akron, Ohio, in 2001. Raw blues and garage rock gets blurred in The Black keys sound. The success of the seventh studio album, El Camino, in 2011 led to the group’s first arena tour. The Black Keys augment their touring sound with additional musician, but the studio side sticks with what brought the duo together, with Patrick holding down all things percussion and Dan multi-tasking between guitar, vocals, bass guitar, piano, organ, keyboards, and synthesizer. In his down time Dan Auerbach has become a go-to producer for other band projects.    

the cash box kings in the alternate root# 43 The Cash Box Kings – The Cash Box Kings 2011 release, Holler & Stomp, did just what it promised. Based in the blues the album wandered down a  country path with soul drenched twangs.  The Cash Box Kings duke it out in the tough Blues environment of Chicago. With a focus on the raw, stripped-down, ensemble playing that was the hallmark of the post-war sound, the Cash Box Kings showcase the music of Chess Records and Sun Records while adding a healthy dose of original music that captures the essence of the Memphis and Chicago blues sounds of the 40’s and 50’s.

the sadies in the alternate root#44 The Sadies – The most recent album by The Sadies, Darker Circles, sis the follow-up to the groups acclaimed album featuring John Doe, Country Club. Guitarist brothers Dallas and Travis Good, drummer Mike Belitsky and bassist Sean Dean again pair with legendary Jayhawk and sought-after producer Gary Louris. The Sadies bring their signature blend of country, psychedelic, rock and surf into their sights on Darker Circles, underscoring their reputations as musicians’ musicians.

the avett brothers in the alternate root#45 The Avett Brothers – Concord, North Carolina-based indie folk-pop group, The Avett Brothers, received rave reviews for their 2009 breakthrough major-label debut, I and Love and You,. The album rose # 16 on the Billboard 200 album chart and resulted in an invitation to perform alongside Bob Dylan and Mumford & Sons at the 2011 Grammy Awards. Much of that sonic success stemmed from brothers Scott and Seth Avett's poignant songwriting, however, producer Rick Rubin played a large part in letting those tracks shine. Rick Rubin returns for the group's seventh studio album, The Carpenter.

brian molnar in the alternate root#46 Brian Molnar & the Naked Hearts –  For nearly a decade Brian Molnar has been carrying his acoustic guitar and wrought melodies back and forth across the United States connecting audiences with a feeling of American tradition and unique thoughtfulness that has been too often diluted in recent memory. With a full band behind him, Brian Molnar & The Naked Hearts deliver Of The Fall, continuing o push the boundaries of what is expected in Americana.

wagons in the alternate root#47  Wagons – Henry Wagons was rehearsing with his band, Wagons, the night we spoke with him about their next album. Wagons debut offered a roots touch to fellow Aussie Nick Cave's work. According to Henry it is “we are very very early into the recoding of the next Wagons album. I got a lot of my darker demons out with my recent solo record. The next Wagons studio album will be a bit more electric, almost sounding a lot more like jam-based boogie. We are using that 70’s rock band mojo as a template for our new album.”

reverend peyton in the alternate root#48 Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band – Brown Country, Indiana is the home to Reverend Peyont’s Big Damn Band.  From the southern Indiana foothills Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band play their own brand of Americana and Blues. Delta blues and hillbilly fervor combine with musical acuity sharp as razor wire. The growl of a good truck engine, the fiercest passion for a country home and family and an uncanny ability to breathe new life into old forms of music give them a pedigree. The Rev. J. Peyton, his wife Breezy and distant cousin Aaron “Cuz” Persinger are a living breathing embodiment of the traditions and hard work ethic native to their Brown County, Indiana home. Their new album Between The Ditches is a chronicle of this lifestyle.

the wild rumpus in the alternate root#49 The Wild Rumpus – Appalachian StompGrass is the music of The Wild Rumpus. Based in Fayetteville, West Virginia. They have a rabid local fan base. There is no real telling on the amount of people in the club, and as guitarist/producer Allan Sizemore state it. “They don’t charge admission to get in, so it is really tough to say how many people are at the shows. I can tell you they run out of beer and wine by 10PM, though.” The Wild Rumpus music is the song of the mountains. There is pride in the words and passion in their music for the place they call home.

los lonely boys in the alternate root#50 Los Lonely Boys – The trademark Los Lonely Boys vocal blend is deep, rich, fluent and confident. The rhythms lock you in with smart syncopation and muscular drive. Los Lonely Boys consists of three Garza brothers, Henry (guitar, vocals), Jojo (bass, vocals), and Ringo (drums, vocals).  Los Lonely Boys is an American Chicano rock power trio from San Angelo, Texas. They play a style of music they call "Texican Rock n' Roll," combining elements of rock and roll, Texas blues, brown eyed soul, country, and Tejano.         Danny McCloskey/RA