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Bow Thayer (from the album Sundowser) - On Sundowser, Bow plays the Airline Bojotar that combines a resonator guitar and banjo, adding Humbucker and Piezo pickups that blend together tonally. Sundowser was recorded in a sustainable, solar-powered studio in Vermont. Bow’s last band release with Perfect Trainwreck ended the band’s run with Eden, the album entirely written on the electric banjo. Sundowser offers the same sonic majesty that Bow Thayer has created as much as he has made his instruments. The songs have a presence as individuals on the album, however, moving away from tracks that lead towards a common goal as on his most recent releases.

Sundowseropens as the rubber hits the road for Bow Thayer, starting up the album with “Burning Miles”. Chords and notes roll like the highway as the story travels from concrete to clay. The instruments on Sundowser lock for a united front, structuring “So We Build” on a classic rock form. Gentle cascading notes dig in their heels like the pair in the story for a “Tug of War”, bright pops of percussion surround Bow and Tracy Bonham (guest vocals) as they “Borrow a Bus”, and a regimented banjo riff and hot breaths of beats pave the way for the confessions of “Guild Talking”.  Sundowser bubbles with warm organ swells (“The Funeral Crasher”), confident Indie Roots fairy tales (“Snow Goose”), self-truth’s (“Drug Lust”), and the sparkle of strings introducing sweeping rock roots theatrics (“Downtrodder”).

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Leon Bridges  (from the album Coming Home on Columbia Records) - The song was the song that hooked the producers, becoming the title track for the Leon Bridges debut There is nothing ‘retro’ about the music on Coming Home. The sound is Vintage, the music is 2015, and represents the need for real Soul’s to be bared over music that is a show in itself. Southern Soul shines brightly from the songs on the album, as the tunes bubble up on Vintage rhythm and Indie charm. The warmth of the music wraps around the voice of Leon Bridges, letting him focus completely on his job….those words that started everything. A heart beats in every story on Coming Home, as Leon suggests ‘swimming the Mississippi River’ to let allows him in one more time to prove he can be a “Better Man”, and shuffles into the title track using love’s embrace as the beacon that calls him back to the nest.

Leon Bridges steers straight and true as “Smooth Sailin’” rises and falls on waves of chords, rhythm and riffs. Whispering angels hush background vocals as strummed notes form chords for Leon to find the exit door to “Pull Away”, organ swells and saxophone blasts help “Shine” send its message higher as “River” floats a tale of travel on stark guitar strums, a lone tambourine shake, and white noise. Leon Bridges uses Coming Home to masterfully moves Soul back to mainstream, and he guides Coming Home with a hand on the wheel and feet planted firmly on the dance floor with a Ninth Ward red dress on “Twistin' & Groovin'”.    

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Old Man Luedecke (from the album Domestic Eccentric on True North Records) - A personal choice approach for the past, present, and future has been found in the songs of Old Man Luedecke throughout his releases. His most recent album, Domestic Eccentric, he keeps tradition driven by a banjo bible as Old Man Luedecke structures his songs with story driven tales that comfortably fit into mountain music forms. The new album, produced by Grammy award winner, Tim O’Brien, backs the clear images of characters with the dazzle of silvery notes. The songs of Domestic Eccentric revolve around home life as love and children grow. The recording took place in a snowbound hand-built cabin in the woods of Chester, Nova Scotia.    

Old Man Luedecke talks about new love as it ages (“Happy Ever After”), celebrates the cooking smells that make a home (“Now We Got a Kitchen”), taps out notes for wishes of travel (“Wait a While”), and values long term love (“Real Wet Wood”). Acoustic notes sparkle on Domestic Eccentric from the strings of Canadian multiple Juno-award winner on the cover. The album opens around a campfire that chants ‘ “Yodelady” of my dreams’ to the other side of the sleeping bag. Modern love moves life through an Old English Folk melody as “The Briar and the Rose” counts days as long term love becomes the trade out for night magic. The rhythms speed up on a fast track for “Brightest on the Heart”, listen to the words of age about youthful moments facing “The Early Days”, and embrace the ability to live “Low on the Hog” with a smile and a dance step.

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Native Harrow (from the album Ghost) - Native Harrow are producers, cast, and stars of their own audio reality show on the duo’s (Devin Tuel and Stephen Harris) most recent release, Ghost. The album shows the progression within a musical life. Traces of ambient sound drift through the recording as sirens and helicopters bleed in through the walls on tracks recorded in the pair’s NYC apartment. Folk music follows many muses. The gentleness of vocals and playing on the songs of Native Harrow surrounds the album with a soft glow. Rounded guitar notes and quiet strums mask the darkness in the dreams in the title track as angled musical patterns make a sharp edge while lowering the past (“Six Feet Under”) as the colors of the night offer tones of compassion for “The Poor Beggar”.

Native Harrow combine the purity of Folk and the DIY of Indie that gives the words and music a determined presence within the dreamlike space of the songs. Ghost was recorded in the travels of Native Harrow as they left their NYC base, moving through Nashville and out to Colorado to complete the recording process. Native Harrow share desires of flight before the story line of “Bird” gives way to lead guitar high wire swings over a net of beat driven Folk Rock. Electric and acoustic guitars rideshare on many of the tracks though when the band head “Out West” the electric chords and riffs lead the way towards the setting sun. Native Harrow let Ghost find the exit light as they mine “Wild Dreams” over jazz-blessed guitar lines and rhythms.

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Blinddog Smokin’   (from the album High Steppin’ on Silver Talon Records) - Carl Gustafson is in role of narrator for his sweeping stories on High Steppin’, the most recent album for the band he fronts, Blinddog Smokin’. The sound of the group is New Orleans Funk first and foremost, delivered with as a funky fiddle slides on the hot grease of the rhythm section in “I Caught Her Lyin”, playfully bounces on rubbery licks that slap at “Big Behind”, forms a conga line of rhythm that jazzes a street beat strutting out “Pimp Shoes”, and slowly send out waves of sad beats that write the obituary for  “If I Died Today” . The music of Blinddog Smokin’, and the tales of Carl Gustafson, come together in bright tones of colors; full red’s, yellow’s, blues, and green’s drawn over characters who take on cartoon form as they walk High Steppin’, though the animation that chases its tail through album is more Fritz the Cat than Tom and Jerry.

Blinddog Smokin’ are as a much a feeling as a sound. Their playing is visceral, digging in to challenge with words, sooth with rhythm, and most of all grab your hand to dance. The advice of “Tell ‘Em Shuffle”is delivered as a united force from the band as Carl Gustafson laundry lists reasons to start right now and shout out to friends, family and folks to ‘tell ‘em you love ‘em’. The stories on High Steppin’ are as real as the rhythm. Microphone man Carl shares how he gets his dose of reality when “we get to a new town, I like to take my bike off the bus and ride backstreets. When you travel the alleys, you learn about people. The front yard is for show, the backyard shows the way they live’. Blinddog Smokin’ spit the words and the music out to women on the sly smirk of “The Lady’s Playin’”  and the swamp groove of “Bayou Lady”. Growling vocals rise up on a bubbling murk that is swizzling down Everclear toasting a ding dong daddy as it suggests to “Don’t Put Your Money on Me”.

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Tiffany Huggins Grant (from the album Jonquil Child) - Many artists use their art to hint at true selves. In some ways, that humility is admirable though listeners are here for help and taking the direct route to show steps that can fix the day-to-day is why they are paying admission. Tiffany Huggins Grant does not slowly reveal her moods and manners on Jonquil Child. She turns over all the cards to show that the hand she is holding is a winner for the confidence needed to get out of bed. “Fighter” introduces a ‘stubborn bitch, a crazy fool, and I don’t believe in luck’ as the lead character sees herself as a survivor rather than a victor …..meet Tiffany Huggins Grant.

Recorded high atop Guido’s Studio South in Nashville, Tennessee by head Guido, Mark Robinson (who doubles on guitar work), Jonquil Child offers A-list Nashville players to back Tiffany Huggins Grant on her debut with Jen Gunderman (keyboards/accordion), Paul Griffith (drums), John Heinrich (steel guitar), Thomas Grant (bass), Vickie Carrico, Michael Black (background vocals). Jonquil Child is a mirror for Tiffany Huggins Grant, who sees the reflection as ‘a direct result of my growth as a person and a songwriter. I’ve wrestled with my demons and discovered how to write songs based on my own life that also speak to the lives of other’.  The darker side of drinking is exposed within its own shadows as “When It Rains’ deals with the losses of addiction while “One Too Many” slowly pours out the many reasons behind a relationship’s dead end. Jonquil Child opens on a bright beat as Tiffany Huggins Grant looks through the window of a new dawn knowing that “Some Days are Dollars”, reads aloud lines of classic Country “Love Letters”, makes promises on slowly unraveling desperation in “If You Only Knew”, and bars the door with Southern Soul to offer the advice of “Ain't Nobody Leaves This Place”.

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Family and Friends (from the album XOXO) - Family and Friends are signing XOXO as a title for their recent release. The motto that could be added, and support heavily on XOXO, is the rhythm is gonna get ya. Family and Friends gather in Athens, Georgia. The seven-piece collective bonded over Indie Folk Rock, the sound that backdrops XOXO. Rock frames the songs amid touches of Folk and an Indie DIY twitch. Acoustics open, and are never far away as big rock breaths huff and skitter across “Vestiges” while “Amadeus” rises up on an assured instrumental surge that sparkles under a few hundred flashes of rhythm hits.

“Wyoming” opens XOXO on a spacious soundscape alive with heavy pounds of percussion, a solid rhythm section, and gentle taps that are there-and-gone like raindrops on hot cement as “Parasites” hisses like a child sing-a-long. Disembodied voices rises up with a haunted choir whispering, encouraging “Howl” to tell its tale. Family and Friends exit the E.P. over waves of rhythm that gently lap against the desires in the story line, cresting to catch air after waiting patiently for a path to appear before “New Eyes”.

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Samantha Fish (from the album Wild Heart on Ruf Records) - The Blues and its players have a unique relationship. Unlike other of music where the style invites artists to expand on their understanding of the form, the Blues and the artist move closer to the center, the spot where the heart lives. That is the place where Samantha Fish stands on her third studio release, Wild Heart. The Ruf Records artist worked with producer Luther Dickinson (The North Mississippi Allstars/ Black Crowes), recording Wild Heart at three southern locales. Samantha and her producer stuck to backroads mojo as they traveled from initial recording at Brady Blake’s (drums- Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan) studio in Shreveport, Louisiana before heading for a Hill Country session at the Dickinson brothers Zebra Ranch Studios in Hernando, Mississippi. Southern music has always found its way to Memphis, and Wild Heart followed the path of previous music to Memphis, putting down finishing touches at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios and Ardent Studios.

Wild Heart looks at all sides of Blues love, spreading it around with the varied textures and hues of its traditions. The album roars to life as Samantha Fish, her voice, and her guitar; a triple threat that opens its Wild Heart telling the tale of a “Roadrunner” that crossed her path. She slows the pace to a soft summer sway, declaring “I’m in Love with You”, kicks open the door with a pounding beat as she stumbles over some flexible advice requesting “Show Me”, and hops a fast rail riff to tease her way through the title track. Samantha Fish is in her mid-twenties, already logging spots on stage with Buddy Guy, Tab Benoit, and Jonny Lang as well as winning the Blues Award for her 2011 debut (Runaway). She wears road burn well with the simple wisdom that ‘boys will be boys, it’s a powerful thing, better learn how to swim or learn how to drink’ in “Bitch on the Run”, fuels up on raw electric Blues to head out with “Highway's Holding Me Now”, tosses and turns on the wide awake rumble of ripples coming from “Blame It On The Moon”, and strums an acoustic campfire lullaby looking to “Go Home”.Calling cards and press kudos are not enough, and so Samantha Fish throws into happiness, letting you know if you want her smile, just “Turn It Up”.

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Rhiannon Giddens  (from the album Tomorrow is My Turn on Nonesuch Records) - Nonesuch Records is hosting a debut for Rhiannon Giddens. The album is a solo effort for the Grammy winner member of Carolina Chocolate Drops. Rhiannon has added her voice to The New Basement Tapes, the collective under the production of T-Bone Burnett that features Jim James, Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, and Ryan Goldsmith, gathering the retold words of Bob Dylan. Rhiannon Giddens had an unannounced role as a song leader at the front lines of Occupy Wall Street as she put her voice out with “We are the 99”.Rhiannon Giddens walks onto the stage claiming Tomorrow is My Turn with her solo release,

Rhiannon Giddens offers cover versions, bending the Blues around the notes Patsy Cline offered in “She’s Got You”, and shares that “Black is the Color” over a skittery garage beat that trip hops on a natural high as the percussion plows along. The drama of her “Water Boy” delivery is what seduced producer T-Bone Burnett when he curated the Another Day, Another Time concert at New York City’s Town Hall to celebrate the early ’60s folk revival. The Odetta original is reproduced as a contemporary Americana mirror that takes the track down to Macon, dreaming of a Jack of diamonds that never shows his cards. There is power in the voice of Rhiannon Giddens, smirking on Tomorrow is My Turn, never poking fun as much as owning the sly smile that claims its seat on the title track as an orchestrated cabaret dose of last call optimism. A soft gathering of rhythmic tones whisper a welcome for the stranger coming in to “Angel City”, ups the back porch temperature while the groove moves to “Shake Sugaree” as Rhiannon Giddens draws a lonely breath to utter “Don't Let It Trouble Your Mind” over an equally lonely bass thump  summoning the beat.

Rhiannon Giddens appear at Celebrate Brooklyn, on Saturday, July 18, 2015. For more information visit at Celebrate Brooklyn!  

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Kaia Kater (from the album Sorrow Bound) - On paper, twenty year-old Canadian, Kaia Kater, stays true to Folk and Old Time Music traditions with the mountains tones of her banjo and vocals. Sonically, the muse that Kaia Kater follows answers to echoes of Otis Taylor’s Trance Blues on her most recent release, Sorrow Bound.  Still a student of her music, Quebec-born, Toronto-resident Kaia spends her time in West Virginia pursuing studies in Appalachian music and culture.

Sorrow Bound picks and plucks notes of darkness as it travels from “Sun to Sun” to ‘spend my money when the work is done’. Kaia Kater spins a reel for “Valley Forge”, relies on the natural echo of the hollers to tell the choral vocal tale of “The Moonshiner”, whispers a warning about “West Virginia Boys”, and scratches out back bayou beauty with the French language “En Filant Ma Quenouille”. Strict borders of sound cover Kaia Kater as she opens Sorrow Bound with “When Sorrows Encompass Me Round”, exiting the album beckoning to “Come and Rest”, with a seductive siren trance from her banjo. 

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The Cedar Shakes  (from the album This Western Road on Whatbang Records) - The Cedar Shakes are right at home on Whatbang Records. The label is an Austin, Texas refuge for independent cosmic american music and experimental country. This Western Road, The Cedar Shakes most recent release, travels a desert trail on lazy honky tonk psychedelia.  The band finds its heart at the bottom as it loses love to big city “Idolatry”, rolls “From the Guts” into a backyard of rounded curves as the rhythm as “Left Bank” offers its observations on fat guitar notes as it plucks ethereal pedal steel guitar that drifts into the song like perfume. The Cedar Shakes present country that spins at a slightly slower rpm than what the Whatbang Records vinyl only rule applies for the 12” 33 1/3 releases.

This Western Road may talk of desperation being on the run in “Sweet Hone on the Lam” yet the rhythms slow as the sun bake rises over heartland while The Cedar Shakes try to bring “Ramblin’ Lips” back to town, watch the taillights fade on “El Dorado”, and undo the handcuffs so true love can wake up early and make some pancakes in “Don’t Always Aim to Please”.

Listen and buy the music of The Cedar Shakes from the Whatbang Records website

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Norma MacDonald    (from the album Burn the Tapes) - Norma MacDonald picks her version of American Roots music in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Like many of us, Norma likes Gram Parsons songs, potato chips, talking to strangers, and swimming in the ocean. On her most recent release, Burn the Tapes, Norma shows a particular joy in making music that floats in on Roots and Americana breezes, gracefully waving with elegant rhythms (“Carrying It Around”), Country Folk (“Daysleeper”), and vibrating on shadowy electric guitar chords (“Before We Say Goodnight”). Norma MacDonald held the production reigns on Burn the Tapes for the first time on her fourth studio release. The album was recorded over thirteen months in rural Upper Musquodoboit, Nova Scotia at Phil Sedore’s Mountain Road Studio.

The emptiness of territory echoes on Burn the Tapes as “To Nebraska” honors the sparseness and beauty of Bruce Springsteen’s own “Nebraska” as it looks for hope in the music. Gabe Minnikin joins Norma in duet as “Lighten Up” rumbles across Burn the Tapes as she welcomes “Company” on a bright beat looking for another drink and tries to get home on simple melody, only to realize it is “Hard to Get Back”. A solid anchor of drumbeats holds “Accidental Guest” on track amid an instrumental swirl, “Blue as a Jay” flies over a scratchy sparkle of notes, and “Old Song” puts leaving on a sturdy rhythm to get its been-there, done-that message out.

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Rickie Lee Jones   (from the album The Other Side of Desire on Other Side of Desire Music / Thirty Tigers) by Michael Verity -Rickie Lee Jones’ seventeenth record since she burst on the scene back in 1979 opens with “Jimmy Choos”, a childlike tickle-of-the-ribs that rolls ‘choos’ and ‘shoes’ around the musical soundscape like a prancing circus pony. ‘J’ai Connais Pas,’ which loosely translate as ‘I don’t know,’ is a rollicking barrelhouse blues number, steeped in Fats Domino and perfumed with the brash swing of a summer dress strutting into a French Quarter bar. ‘Infinity’ is brilliant, the ticking click of the high hat over pensive piano chords a lock-time commentary on the timelessness of the text.

Rickie gets a little groovy on the Rhodes with the sparsely populated blues of ‘Feet On The Ground,’ strikes an eerie chord with ‘Finale: A Spider in the Circus of the Falling Star’ and creates a tune that ranks among her best with the spirited falsetto gospel of ‘Blinded By The Hunt.’ Forty years into her career Rickie’s voice remains remarkably youthful, exuberant and elastic, still a pleasure to behold. This is an adventurous record, one that shows a vital artist still at work creating vital music. By Michael Verity

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Sam Outlaw  (from the album Angeleno on Six Shooter Records / Thirty Tigers) by Michael Verity - This album’s title is tailor made for the music offered within, a set of songs that awakens ideas of Glen Campbell’s Wichita lines, Harry Nilsson’s midnight cowboys and Marty Robbin’s dusty tumbleweeds, all filtered through a glossy sentiment that’s sunnily Southern California. The opening number, ‘Who Do You Think You Are,’ is a slightly buzzy sway in a Cuban cantina that abides with a dignified sexiness. ‘Keep It Interesting’ is a weaving wagon ride north out of Ojai while ‘Love Her For A While’ speaks to the masterful Don Williams with it’s laid back Fender Rhodes-fueled groove.

The much promoted barroom ballad ‘Jesus Take the Wheel (And Drive Me to a Bar)’ is as clever as it sounds while the title track rambles back to the rhythms of the opening song. Outlaw doesn’t hide his influences: he creatively co-ops licks from throughout the popular country songbook (c. ‘75). But, with the help of some A-list players (like members of Punch Brothers) and simply stellar production from Ry Cooder, he never sounds anything but genuine. Fans of those circa ‘75 licks will find this one thoroughly enjoyable. by Michael Verity

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Nikki Lane  (from the album All or Nothin’ on New West Records) - Nikki Lane quit high school in Greenville, South Carolina, and traveled from coast to coast before landing in Nashville, Tennessee. Nikki could be the poster child for the power of positive thinking. She ran out of closet space and opened the clothing boutique, High Class Hillbilly in Nashville. Recently, she interested Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys with her music so much that he created a place for her songs with his production of the recently released, All or Nothin’, on New West Records. She additionally caught the ear of her future producer enough to get his studio for free. All or Nothin’ is a sweeping soundscape filled with varied styles and takes on Roots music presented from the perspective of a Country singer, Nikki Lane

Nikki Lane is a Country singer, not to be confused with Country Star, and there is a difference. From her side of Roots, she keeps the popular characters featured in her Walk of Shame debut, and ladies of wanton ways and wicked smirks strut early and often on All or Nothin’. A vintage studio warmth and beat-driven environment is the foundation for the album as it dives into pleading pearls of wisdom that sample Dusty Springfield as much as the south sea drums and guitar notes to request “Want My Heart Back”.  Nikki Lane spreads the title track out on a Tulsa time rhythm as she weighs right and wrong before watching them run together. She is the “Wild One” on a classic Country strum, and she is the hush that walks into a bar looking for a bad boy to “Sleep with a Stranger”. All or Nothin’ puts its heartbeat out front of the story to call trouble with a pied piper stroll on “Right Time”, stomps notes into submissions to lay rock’n’roll path that swings while swearing “I Don’t Care” with Indie cool, and fires up a desert dry riff rumble to cure the shakes that cascade with “Seein’ Double”. Nikki Lane gracefully builds an twang Wall-of-Sound as she waits at home for the love for another bad boy as she sets the rules for a “Good Man”.

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Brian Ashley Jones    (from the album Out of the City) - Be careful what you ask for. Take a lesson from Brian Ashley Jones as he admits that, not that long ago, getting to the city was all he thought about. Time has passed, and Brian is tipping his hat to Lower Broadway as he says goodbye to gigs, locking his front door, filling up a few mason jars, and heading “Out of the City”, on the title track from his most recent release. Brian Ashley Jones works chameleon magic on his songs as he changes his style to move on a slow current groove (“Meet Me in the River”), recalls a lullaby on a sleepy rhythm (“Would You Come If I Go”), and braces himself with snaking Latin-tinged riffs against evil fairy tale characters (“You Have Set You Free”).

Brian Ashley Jones has been a longtime East Nashville resident, unpacking his bags after a move from Spartansburg, South Carolina. Musically, Brian offers a slow drawl of Soul in his voice, backing the songs with a pastiche of sound from Rock, Blues, Country, and Jazz. Out of the City opens with a roar as BAJ’s electric southern rock guitar riffs forge a course into “See You Wasting Time”. Guests on the album include Suzi Ragsdale, Ike Stubblefield, and Kevin McKendree.   Brian Ashley Jones joins Jonell Mosser to “Fetch a Pail”, goes to his guitar to lay a path that crosses “River Bones”, and sparkles acoustic guitar notes to fill the air as he sinks into “Carolina’s Dream”.

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Underhill Rose (from the album The Great Tomorrow) - Banjo, guitar, and upright bass is the make-up for Underhill Rose, and the female threesome sets up in Asheville, Carolina as a base for their brand of Roots and Americana. The most recent release from the group is The Great Tomorrow, and the album continues the band’s trek across territory that blends their harmonies (“Not Gonna Worry”) with touches of Roots that feature String band Pop (“Our Time is Done”), front porch jams (“When I Die”), and gentle Country Folk with a happy heart (“Love Looks Good on You”). The Great Tomorrow puts Cruz Contreras (The Black Lillies) behind the board as producer; his second production credit with Underhill Rose.

Molly Rose and Eleanor Underhill were in the spot their respective muses designated when the pair had a chance meeting while students at Warren Wilson College. Eleanor and Molly heard enough when they joined together on John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” to play together. Underhill Rose was formed in 2009 with Sally Williamson filling out the sound when she hauled in her upright bass in 2011. The Great Tomorrow checks into the “Whispering Pines Motel” with textures of the Blues that rise up from the track like the heat in the story line.  Underhill Rose pen a barbed farewell to “My Friend” while they up the ante for their musical star and look for arms to hold the band once the glimmer fades on “Rest Easy”, and remake the Paul Abdul 80’s hit, “Straight Up”, as a slow moving reverie that has reached the limits of patience.

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Adam Smith  (from the album So Simple Now) - It was in the Appalachian Mountains in southern Kentucky that Adam Smith got hooked. The piano seduced Adam at an early age, and he remembers that ‘it was surreal to me, when I touched the piano keys, all this sound, and vibration and magic came out. The feeling went right through me like an electrical current, and I became addicted to making sound magic. It still feels that way when I play music to this day.’  He would see ‘sound shapes’ in the music he created when he had access to a piano, and began to develop self-taught song structure. Adam Smith moved to Nashville, TN at twenty-five years old, lived in his car, and played for tips. His gamble worked, providing label support, and his most recent release, So Simple Now, was recorded at his home studio in Arizona. The sound of the album follows Folk textures as they move through Americana with new age tones. Much of the album songs are offered as solo efforts as a way for the recording to remain personal, and he recalls that ‘I wanted to make something for the world that was just from me’.

Adam Smith has fertile voice. The emotion grows as he stretches the notes, tenderly digging for “Fool’s Gold” on a two-note rhythm, uses his voice to be the love song breeze that blows through his native Kentucky in ‘Mountain’s Heart’, and sits down at the piano to find hope, and the wish for being “Brave Enough to Try”. While there is a raw feel to the man-and-guitar base for the songs on So Simple Now, Adam Smith fleshes out tracks with rattling percussion with piano notes, asking for a peaceful outcome over the sway in “This Could Tear Us Apart” as he slowly winds up the chugging groove of “Spare Heart”, and layers voice over sparse guitar notes for the harmonic lull to sleep in “Creatures of the Morning (lullaby for vampires)”.  

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Tom Chapin (from the album 70) - I have a dog who is fifteen years old. I have been convinced that he is not going anywhere because he is sure I cannot take care of myself, and I support that kind of thinking. The dog (Ciro) and I now have a song to commemorate our life together courtesy of Tom Chapin, and his song, “Old Dogs and Old Friends”. Tom, the tune, and many songs are gathered on a celebration in song for Tom Chapin and his birthday with the recent album release, 70.  Tom created an ‘adult’ album of music yet maintained the simplicity that has made his recent works so easily accessible to much younger listeners.

Tom Chapin boards the Greyhound with The Blues in his story as his rhythms asks for favor, and to please “Put a Light in Your Window. Tom stacks 70 years of stories in the album as he goes back to his first blush with music introducing his inner “Guitar Child”, and follows a raggedy banjo plucking through the “Wreckage” of his past. Tom Chapin is a Folk Singer, and he takes his service seriously bouncing on waves of chords to tell the tale of “The Riverkeeper” as she cleans the water from Glens Falls down to Brooklyn. He braces for environmental challenges as he makes a stand in Alaska to “Ride Out Any Storm” as he whispers a “Prayer for Bristol Bay” on an airy Celtic rhythm. Tom Chapin is a teacher with tunes, and he takes time to support art like it has done for him in “Smart without Art”, addressing funding for music in schools, and takes some time for himself to ride the rails in his version of “City of New Orleans”.

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

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Christopher Paul Stelling  (from the album Labor Against Waste on Anti- Records) - Christopher Paul Stelling enjoys a buskers freedom, choosing to wrap himself in a fragile Folk melody against a horseman’s apocalyptic hoove-beat in “Burial Shroud” as he the sweetness of “Revenge” on a free-range rhythm that scatters and scurries without losing the scent. You can see the shadow of a man, guitar and something to stomp out a beat on clearly on the audio walls of his recent release Labor Against Waste. The vision reflects the days when Christopher Paul Stelling and "Brownie," his old nylon string guitar traveled the world. Labor Against Waste has street corner preaching in its delivery and a heart for the humanity passing by in its stories.

Rolling notes support frenetic guitar notes that surge and push onto Labor Against Waste over hand-hewn beats and subtle stabs of orchestral string swings in “Warm Enemy”. Christopher Paul Stelling offers his hand for a night outside the “Castle” walls as he heads for green grass, addresses “Dear Beast” as storm clouds of gypsy chords produce a flurry of notes, and hangs on as “Horse” rushes across open ground putting one foot down after the other on a fast track whirlpool rhythm. Labor Against Waste tells its stories on songs that take a deep breath to push through the doubts in “Scarecrow” as they promote a vacation in purgatory for a little R’n’R and time away from the road as Christopher Paul Stelling wanders “Too Far North”.

Listen and buy the music of Christopher Paul Stelling from AMAZON or iTunes

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NEW VIDEO FROM THE ETHER

THE DUSTBOWL REVIVAL - LAMPSHADE ON

Okay, show of hands…who has worn a lampshade just because? The Dustbowl Revival have gathered LA friends to celebrate the song, and album release (6-30-15), with a title track video. All CA Country sisters and brothers please form a line at Amoeba Records Hollywood as The Dustbowl Revival truck on up from Venice on 7-28-15.

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GALLOWS BOUND - SINK IN THE SOIL

A night of betrayal, backstabbing, and murder deep in the woods of the Shenandoah and a whole bunch of he said, she said, push me, pull me. Album number two for Gallows Bound is a self-titled release featuring the song “Sink in the Soil”, as the band set up for a midnight reel around the headstones.

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THE DESLONDES - THE REAL DEAL

New Orleans rattling Roots comes from The Deslondes. The guys put their collective hearts on their sleeve as they admit that they are searching for “The Real Deal” in love, life and the world of magic.

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NEW AND NOTEWORTHY

SONNY LANDRETH - BOUND BY THE BLUES

SONNY LANDRETH - BOUND BY THE BLUES

Sonny Landreth (from the album Bound By The Blues on Mascot Music Group by Michael Verity) - Guitar superstar Sonny Landreth slides back to his roots with this 10-spot of dirty blues, a equally apportioned mix of his own originals matched with some catalog classics. Backed by longtime bass-playing bandmate and fellow member of John Hiatt’s Goners Dave Ranson and drummer Brian Brignac (Jo-El Sonnier, Bobby Charles), Sonny opens the set with a searing study of Robert Johnson’s ‘Walkin’ Blues,’ scorche...

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LARRY CAMPBELL AND TERESA WILLIAMS - LARRY CAMPBELL AND TERESA WILLIAMS

LARRY CAMPBELL AND TERESA WILLIAMS - LARRY CAMPBELL AND TERESA WILLIAMS

Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams (from the album Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams on Red House Records ) - Larry Campbell is a multi-instrumentalist who has stood by the sides of many performers, both in the studio and on stage, for a few decades, He is a multi-Grammy winner for his work as producer for Levon Helm. Larry worked from 1997 through 2004 as guitarist for Bob Dylan, and played with Judy Collins, Sheryl Crow, B. B. King, Willie Nelson and The Black Crowes as a short list. In addition ...

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THE HILLBENDERS - TOMMY, A BLUEGRASS OPRY

THE HILLBENDERS - TOMMY, A BLUEGRASS OPRY

The Hillbenders    (from the album Tommy, A Bluegrass Opry) - The Hillbenders bring a new term to musical jargon….whograss. The band take on Tommy , A Rock Opera , the 1969 rock opus from The Who that spawned albums, Broadway shows, movies, and albums of covers. Finally comes rolling down The Hillbenders. Their Tommy is completely familiar yet unusual. Like a dream where you are naked and no one else is, nor seems to notice, but you can. The HIllbenders go beyond skin and strip Tommy of his abil...

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MAKING THE LIST

THE 50 TOP SONGS ON THE AMERICAN CONDITION

THE 50 TOP SONGS ON THE AMERICAN CONDITION

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

These artists are exceptional without hiding behin...

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THE TOP 35 MOST IMPORTANT AMERICAN ROOTS ROCK ALBUMS OF LAST 25 YEARS

THE TOP 35 MOST IMPORTANT AMERICAN ROOTS ROCK ALBUMS OF LAST 25 YEARS

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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A TO Z - ROOTS ROAD TRIP SONGS - SUMMER 2014

A TO Z - ROOTS ROAD TRIP SONGS - SUMMER 2014

There is still a lot of summertime and plenty of places to visit in an effort to cram as much into a day/week/life as possible.  We created a short list using Roots music and present the results in an A to Z of Roots Road Trip Songs. Not the tunes that you crank up once the car is running. These are the songs that get you packing. The lyrical bait that hooks you in and entices, whispers in your ear ‘you know you want to be here’ and sings a song to lure you in. Sit back and enjoy. We are no...

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FROM THE VAULTS

CONTINENTAL DRIFTERS - DRIFTED: IN THE BEGINNING AND BEYOND

Continental Drifters    (from the album Drifted: In the Beginning and Beyond on Omnivore Recordings ) - For many years, Continental Drifters could have been considered ‘more a legend than a band’ (thanks to The Flatlanders for their album title). Omnivore Recordings has changed that with the release of Drifted: In the Beginning and Beyond . The band first gathered in Los Angeles (1990) via a yearlong jam residency at Raji’s. Relocation to New Orleans for a decade long career that was brought...

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GRATEFUL DEAD - WORKINGMAN'S DEAD

GRATEFUL DEAD - WORKINGMAN'S DEAD

Grateful Dead - Workingman's Dead - There are influences like The Band, Hank Williams, Joni Mitchell, and Dylan that Roots artists cite as defining musical moments. At the time of creation, many of the artists that are cherished today were the spawns of Satan to purists; Dylan and The Band were famously booed off the stage at Newport. In the San Francisco scene, the Grateful Dead were the barometer of hip psychedelia. Jerry Garcia was less an instrumentalist than an instrument. His forays into di...

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DAVE VAN RONK - DOWN IN WASHINGTON SQUARE

DAVE VAN RONK - DOWN IN WASHINGTON SQUARE

Dave Van Ronk was born in Brooklyn but it was over the bridge in Greenwich Village that he would live his life. For five decades he wore the title of Mayor of MacDougall Street and his ties to the Folk scene are ground into the sidewalks of the Village. Mentoring was a big part of the NYC scene and during his early success as a Washington Square troubadour, Dave Van Ronk lent a helping hand to up-and-comers such as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Tom Paxton. Though...

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MOVERS AND SHAKERS

BALSAM RANGE - FIVE

BALSAM RANGE - FIVE

Balsam Range (from the album Five on Mountain Home Music Company ) - Balsam Range came together as a band in their home county of Haywood, North Carolina, up in the Smoky Mountains. Small town life for many, like me, is hearsay you think of longingly at times, something appealing by far out of reach. You can’t always live it, though you can hear it in the music of Balsam Range. There is a pride that is in the songs, a bond that forges five hearts from five players into one sound, and presents the re...

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JOHN MCCUTCHEON - JOE HILL'S LAST WILL

JOHN MCCUTCHEON - JOE HILL'S LAST WILL

John McCutcheon    (from the album Joe Hill’s Last Will) - John McCutcheon decorated his most recent release, Joe Hill’s Last Will , with a gathering of songs to honor the life of the world’s most famous labor musician and activist. Joan Baez sang at Woodstock that she ‘dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night’…..ever wonder why? John McCutcheon presents the songs of the Swedish-born immigrant with the release. A laborer who faced the challenges of workers in a pre-union era, Joe Hill, and his so...

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SAM LEWIS - WAITING ON YOU

SAM LEWIS - WAITING ON YOU

Sam Lewis    (from the album Waiting on You on Brash Records ) - Sam Lewis moved from Asheville, North Carolina to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he began to craft his songwriting until he felt he was ready for a debut in 2008. Sam moved to Nashville because he felt it was his next move…. ‘I felt its pull, its draw. Some of my favorite people live in Nashville and I thought maybe I could rub up against a few of ‘em.’ He made a fan of Matt Urmy when he played The 5 Spot, and was soon recording...

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MAKING THE LIST

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There's that Alabama asphalt giving off heat."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red, white, balck and blue America."


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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”.

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

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

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”.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen and buy the music of The Civil Wars from AMAZON or iTunes

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”.

Listen and buy the music of The Old 97’s from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

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

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.

Listen and buy the music of Wilco from AMAZON or iTunes

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

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

Listen and buy “Atlantic City” by The Band from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer” by Old Crow Medicine Show from AMAZON or iTunes

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

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

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

Listen and buy “East Nashville Skyline” by Todd Snider from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy “Deep Down in Florida” by Muddy Waters from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy “Greyhound” by Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy “Humboldt” by I See Hawks in L.A. from AMAZON or iTunes

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

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

Listen and buy “Jericho” by John Fullbright from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy “Funky Kingston” by Toots and the Maytals from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy “Ooh Las Vegas” by Gram Parsons from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy “Mojave” by Hymn For Her from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy “New York City Found” by Yarn from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy “All Over Ohio” by Over the Rhine from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy “Portland, Oregon” by Loretta Lynn featuring Jack White from AMAZON

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

Listen and buy “Quivira” by Moreland and Arbuckle from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy “Rio Grande” by Dave Alvin from AMAZON or iTunes

 

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

Listen and buy “Stockholm” by Jason Isbell from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy “Texas” by The Band of Heathens from AMAZON or iTunes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Paul and the Broken Bones – "Call Me" - Like many others, Paul Janeway heard the call for glory later in life. Paul’s plan was to become a minister, a goal until he was 18 years old. He was seduced by an open mic night in Birmingham, AL, expanded his musical experiences beyond The Mighty Clouds of Joy and into Tom Waits and Nick Cave, and answered the call. It is Soul that crowned St. Paul, and The Broken Bones became the chariot that carried him and the Birmingham, Alabama sextet into the studio to release their debut of rock’n’soul, Half the City.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the Alternate Root Top 20 of the Second Generation

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

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

 
shemekia copeland in the alternate root2. Shemekia Copeland  was born in Harlem, NYC in 1979, the daughter of Texas guitar slinger and blues singer Johnny Copeland. She got her start while in her teens as the opening act for her then ailing father. She scored a choice gig for a debut album with Alligator Records in 1998 and has released a continuous flow of award winning and critically acclaimed albums since. Dubbed "Queen of the Blues" to succeed the late KoKo Taylor by Taylor's daughter Cookie, Shemekia's voice is guttural and powerful like the blues belters Koko Taylor, Etta James and Bessie Smith, but she can also reach down range for emotion in the vein of her idol Ruth Brown.   33 1/3 is her most recent release.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen and buy the music of Dumpstaphunk from AMAZON or iTunes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lucy kaplansky in the alternate root25. Lucy Kaplansky - One of the central figures in the New York / Greenwich Village folk revival of the late 1970's and early 1980's, Lucy Kaplansky might have had a much deeper history had she not left the music world for a time to pursue a career as a clinical psychologist. She spent much of her early career with folk stand-outs John Gorka, Shawn Colvin, Suzanne vega and Richard Shindell. Once a highly sought after backing vocalist, Lucy Kaplansky has developed into one of the top folk singers on the folk circuit.
susan tedeschi in the alternate root26. Susan Tedeschi - Susan Tedeschi started out in Boston playing the local blues circuit at age 13. After attending Berklee School of Music she formed her first blues band and released her debut album, 'Just Won't Burn,' in 1998. Vocally she drifts between Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt with boosts of raw power and graceful, smooth soul. After a successful solo career she teamed up with husband Derek Trucks to form Tedeschi Trucks, one of the top bands in the country.

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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4. Mad Buffalo - Red and Blue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Time Out of Mind (1997) - I'm not much on the significance of Grammy Awards but Time Out of Mind won 3 of them including Album of the Year in 1998 which almost redeemed the institution for me. Time Out of Mind could easily be at the top of this list. Producer Daniel Lanois along with session players Jim Keltner, Augie Meyers and Duke Robillard created atmospherics not heard before or since in the Dylan collection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31. Saved (1980) - Awful

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

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

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

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

BILL HURLEY