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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”.

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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,’ scorched with incendiary slide riffs right from note one. Landreth’s title cut co-write with Billy Henderson is a full-on rock stomp, laced with loose acoustic resonator riffs. Landreth leans on Louisiana country on one of the set’s best tracks, the lazy laid back funk of ‘The High Side.’ He sneaks a slinky little original called ‘Where They Will’ in-between Elmore James’ ‘It Hurts Me Too’ and a take on Skip James’ ‘Cherry Ball Blues,’ the latter another ass-whoopin’ blues stomp that shows why everybody wants Sonny in their band. Landreth channels two of the greats -- Johnny Winter and Jimi Hendrix -- through the slow grind of ‘Firebird Blues’ (not so coincidentally dedicated to Winter) and the funky shuffle of Elmore’s ‘Dust My Broom.’

Sonny adds some new ideas to ‘Key To The Highway’ before closing the set with the vivacious instrumental boogie, ‘Simcoe Street.’ Recorded in his hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana with the help of longtime production partner Tony Daigle, this record is both a geographical and musical homecoming for one of the best guitarists on the planet. As a good a guitar record as anything that’s been done this year. by Michael Verity

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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 songs, were leading a charge, politicizing an army of labor and inspiring them on the lines and in the camps with his words.  November of 2015 will be the anniversary of 100 years from the execution of Joe Hill for an out-of-character crime with a quick court run where his claims of innocence were ignored. His tunes were based on Vaudeville songs, British Isle Folk, and church hymns. His words were forged in the fires of revolution, and his songwriting became a model for Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and generations of Folk singers. John McCutcheon is considered a master at the hammered dulcimer, added to his proficiency at guitar, banjo, autoharp, and fiddle. Foregoing the need to count years in the trade, John McCutcheon’s website URL is folkmusic.com.....no math needed.

Joe Hill’s Last Will is read under the careful guidance of John McCutcheon with Joe’s love of brass bands supporting the pulpit prose of “The Preacher and the Slave”, a song that gave birth to the phrase ‘pie in the sky’. The songs on Joe Hill’s Last Will are matches to light the fires of revolution as the tracks are laid for a mighty engine of powerful words and music to roll over greedy bosses. “What We Want” invites workers worldwide to ‘join the fighting band’ as the song envisions a future where ‘for workers we will make upon this earth a paradise when slaves get wise and organize’.  John McCutcheon sings like a man with no home who is forced to keep walking in “The Tramp”, tenderly tells the tale of “The Rebel Girl”, and falls in behind a line of humanity and joins in to sing “It's a Long Way to the Soup Line”. Joe Hill points fingers and has no sympathy for the S&P train wreck that took the life of a scab worker (“Casey Jones”), demands pay for work rather than “Overalls & Snuff-The Connaughtman's Rambles” while suggesting that standing together will make an unbroken chain with “There is Power in a Union”. Joe Hill must have really pissed off the status quo of the early 1900’s…..find out why from John McCutcheon as he reads Joe Hill’s Last Will.

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Rusty Wright Band (from the album Wonder Man) - Maybe it is the water mixing with the (motor) oil. There is a grit to Detroit Rock’n’Roll…a little bit of Blues and a natural show of Soul. In the hands of the Rusty Wright Band, there is never an indicator that anything but the Blues brought them to the show. The surprise is how the quartet can make the Blues morph into arena rock as soon as the amps heat up and hum. The band is Rusty on vocals/guitar with the other Wright on the joint tax return, Laurie Wright, on guitar, Marc Friedman on drums and former Grand Funk Railroad member, Dennis Bellinger, on bass. Wonder Man, their most recent release,  gets its super powers from the rock seeping from the grooves in the songs as the Rusty Wright Band bury the needle in the Blues.

Wonder Man opens with its namesakes, and the title track shimmies on steroids as it the Rusty Wright Band count collective fingers for the ways to make love last while the groove goes low before it locks its track into “Black Hat Boogie”. “Corvette Sunday” is a ride share for the band as the play without vocals\ supervision on the instrumental, “Arms of Another” ex’s out on wedding invite, “Gonna Come a Day” does a Blues crawl across a promise for the ‘fools that love an evil woman’, and RWB puts the hammer down heading into the “Chinfoot Ball”. Guitars snarl as the obvious whispers “You Know I Know” while the Rusty Wright Band puts a comma in the album title scratching heads when a lady love claims that the woman on her arm is her sister…they look as much alike…. and that makes Rusty Wright Band Wonder, Man.

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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 results on their most recent release, Five. Balsam Range were the 2014 Vocal Group and Entertainers of the Year at the IBMA awards, with singer Buddy Melton taking home the Vocalist of the Year trophy. The Bluegrass of Balsam Range stands firmly in tradition as it fine tunes the songs to give a fuller, deeper structure for the tracks on Five.

Balsam Range are men of the mountains, and their songs tell stories of neighbors, maybe friends and family, who are ‘barely breaking even and need a thing or two to believe in’ as they are “Chasin’ Someone Else’s Dream”.  The band light a Bluegrass fire instrumentally and fan it with rapid fire riffing for “Backdraft (You Light It You Fight”, sing string band lost love on “Too High a Price to Pay”, and spin a reel for the dance floor that asks “Don't Watch These Tears”. Balsam Range balance Five with some space saved for Country Folk (“Songs I’ve Sung”), Roots Gospel (“Stacking Up the Rocks”), Folk tales of war (“From A Georgia Battlefield”), and send a Celtic air down to the men in the mines (“Spending My Days Below The Ground). Five rises up on opening track “Moon over Memphis” as notes flash like fireflies and sadly saddles up for the rodeo circuit as a poster becomes a memory in “Everything That Glitters is Not Gold”).

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The Lucky Losers   (from the album A Winning Hand) - The Lucky Losers , Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz, are playing for keeps, and show it with A Winning Hand, their most recent album release. The album deals from the Rock and Soul side of the Blues, backing the tracks with horns and harp to “Change in the Weather”, walking on heavy grooves down a “Long Hard Road”, tickle keys for a lounge feel that forecasts “Suicide by Love”, and sends out a truth as support and strength with “Don’t You Lose It”.  Vocally, The Lucky Losers bring distinct textures to to center the songs. Cathy Lemons crawls up on with a slinky seduction that offers street grit with a sly wink while Phil Berkowitz is the gentleman crooner easing away troubles with a cool reserve to his lounge stylings.

The Lucky Losers stage duets as conversation on A Winning Hand.  The Blues that leads the way on the album samples liberally from Texas to Chicago, St, Louis to Memphis to deliver a mix of styles on funky beats and slow moving jams.  The call and response is loud and clear as The Lucky Losers draw an audio line letting you in on their goals with Isaac Hayes’ “I Take What I Want”, slither on a rubbery rhythm for Allen Toussaint’s “What Is Success”, and trade lines like Brook Benton and Dinah Washington from their original take of “Baby, You Got What It Takes”. A Winning Hand looks at love from all sides as it tries to catch a breath from the beat of new love (“What Have I Done”), scratches its head with a funky guitar lick asking “What Was It That You Wanted”, and revs its motor to leave some skid marks on the “Detroit City Man”.

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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 with Matt as producer and Kenny Vaughan on guitar. Sam Lewis has a new release, Waiting on You, produced by The Wood Brothers’ Oliver Wood, and featuring his own band plus a stellar lineup of Nashville neighbors such as The McCrary Sisters, Will Kimbrough, Darrel Scott, Mickey Raphael, and Gabe Dixon. Sam Lewis did all this in an old-school way. He writes great songs and feels every note he sings, punches up every emotion in his words.

A touch of Soul is a constant in the vocals of Sam Lewis. Waiting on You showcases a voice that hints at Rolling Thunder Revue-era Dylan Soul tones, with a little of Rock Soul vocals that ghost The Band’s Rick Danko. The delivery is all Sam Lewis as he bids goodbye on “Never Again”, snakes dances on island guitar riffs as he waits for the sun to come up in “3/4 Time”, and exits a relationship only to dive into the weekend behind draw the curtains to begin “Reinventing Those Blues”. Sam Lewis delivers a song directly to you, whether on a street corner, a club, or a festival. He draws you into a flame of intimacy. He confides to a friend or a stranger in his stories, beginning at the end to tell the tale in “She’s a Friend”, stirring up dusty clouds of chords with the lightly tapped beats to speak of heading back to “Texas”, asks for some sugar with “Love Me Again”, and walks a hometown street through a Sunday on Main Street down “Virginia Avenue”.

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The Lied To’s (from the album The Lied To’s) - Rainy days, love them or hate them, come and go. The Lied To’s open their self-titled debut with chords of dark clouds that slowly move across the song with booming bass thunder. The pair have traveled and return home to Boston looking at a lonely dollar bill in the tip jar as the water pours down outside the plate glass window in front of the stage. The rain stays with the track, the story line asking for some light to peek through the darkness, and to “Tell Me Something New”. The Lied To’s hosts songs that play on stages created by the music of the duo (Doug Kwartler and Susan Levine). Characters that enter from the Folk side of Rock, Americana, and Country as they walk through varying levels of relationships. Susan and Doug split credit for the ten originals on The Lied To’s, adding in a version of the Peter Wolf/Will Jennings tune, “Always Asking for You”.

Doug Kwartler starts the questions on “Do You Ever Miss the Things You Swore You Never Would” as he tries to work out the missteps in love with a Country heart behind the microphone, his voice close to breaking as Susan chimes in for support. The connection of the voices offers honest emotions to the songs of The Lied To’s. The twosome have the ability to make fun of frustration (“Sleep In”), timeworn intimacy (“You Already Know”), and the brand left by lost love (“Things Aren't Always What They Seem”) while offering advice for the roads of life (“Carry Your Boots”). The Lied To’s grabbed their band name from a line in the Everly Brothers’ tune “When Will I Be Loved”. The songs on The Lied To’s keep the question as a goal, looking at relationships from all sides as they read a letter from “Eulalie”, look for an exit in “Ten”, and see hope in the headlights as they travel the troubadour’s highway through “Tennessee”.

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The Lonesome Trio   (from the album The Lonesome Trio on Sugar Hill Records) - The Lonesome Trio kept it simple for their group moniker. They are a threesome, and the genre they have created as a home for their sound is dubbed ‘kinda lonesome’. The band, Ed Helms (banjo), Ian Riggs (bass), and Jacob Tilove (mandolin), was born twenty-two years ago, nestled in the hills of northern Ohio at Oberlin College. The brotherhood bonded over a love of old time music. The glue used for early years was whiskey and bluegrass, holding the Trio together through various NYC careers of comedy, architectural history, and continued studies on jazz bass. Through the decades The Lonesome Trio would play together, both in home and string band friendly venues, writing and recording consistently if not prolifically. The Lonesome Trio has benefitted from years of playing together, the songs gaining crucial inner-structure as personal lives allow the musicians to apply humor, tradition, and added musical tones and textures to their self-titled debut.

The Lonesome Trio wakes up on an opening track that dreams of “Asheville City Skyline”. The band locks harmonies that push the drive up Route 74, heading into the Carolinas after a quiet entry for the track. The voices of The Lonesome Trio stand their ground yet if you wanna hear a needle buried, give a listen to the intertwined three part harmony to fully understand what has kept these guys together for two decades before a debut. As the notes go higher with layered vocals, The Lonesome Trio find their way up to “Pigeon’s Foot”, Slow strings hint towards hesitation from past circumstances as the band shuffle their feet through “But Tomorrow” while their collective wishes ask “Mr. Fortune” for a little luck as soft strings sparkle notes into the air. A knack for song structure separates the Bluegrass of The Lonesome Trio from tradition while the mutual love of craft intuitively adhers an old time touch and texture to the tunes. A slow pull on “Whiskey Drink” finds more of a smile at the bottom of the glass than it can see in the meager candle glow of the story line. Halfhearted denials join the water coursing down the “River in the Gutter” as The Lonesome Trio ward off the darkness with the happy dreams of “Kerhonkson Blues” and sway against the wagging rhythms and rhymes of “Appalachian Apologia”.

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Voo Davis (from the album Midnight Mist) - Chicago Bluesman Voo Davis headed south to record his latest release, Midnight Mist. Voo returned to Studio in the Country for the analog recording sessions. Midnight Mist pays homage to its birthplace, offering the rambling Blue jam of “Cajun Sun” for the studios hometown of Bogalusa, Louisiana. The track opens on a crisp riff that snakes along, pulling the rhythms into high and low tides of guitars and organ note patterns. Voo Davis played to tones and textures for Midnight Mist, nurturing the sounds from the variety of vintage guitars he used for recording. Part of getting it right was the recording process, and Voo’s goals were set by ‘being able to return to Studio in the Country and expand my guitar sounds was something I really looked forward to on this project. The tones were something that I really wanted to play with, not just get stuck on one sound’.

Midnight Mist seeps over the album and weaves tendrils of into the songs to give touches of darkly mellow, late night Soul (“Void”), Country Blues (“Low Hangin’ Fruit”), ghostly chords creeping on swamp mud (“Howling Out Your Name”), and Blue sunshine Pop (“When I Get back to You”). Voo Davis changed directions for his output with Midnight Mist. He kept the ability to move between genres and styles seamlessly within his sound, though Voo felt that ‘Midnight Mist isn’t like my previous two albums, but I think it’s a mixture of both with a more mature side. The difference between the first two and this one is that on Midnight Mist the song took precedence’.  To challenge the recording process, Voo Davis applied the one-take approach to production, flowing with “Riverside Blues” as it slowly slowly drifts through its travels while “You Wanna Know Why” stutters on guitar strings as its echoes its memories, and the title track immerses itself in thick clouds of pointed guitar distortion to discover home.

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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 to producing Levon Helm, Larry performed at Levon’s Midnight Rambles for seven years, along with Teresa Williams. Teresa and Larry share a life together, and performed outside of their work with The Ramblers as a duo both locally in New York City and on the road. Adding to stage and studio, shelves is the new location shared by Larry and Teresa.

Larry Campbell and Teresa Williamsis the self-titled debut from the couple. While there are no shortages of duos in songs, the sound of the album never tries to be a full band, letting each talent remain individual, coming together in song as a partnership. Funky chords and a tambourine tease lead Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams into a topic their roles as husband and wife have tackled already in marriage with “Surrender to Love”. The musical landscapes shifts throughout the album, the sound backdropping the singer-songwriter story songs of the originals on the recording. Folk Pop cradles hurt pride and helps point a finger of blame in “Down on My Knees”. A slow country waltz leads the question “Did You Love Me at All” around the floor, a road seeking riff bets on a better hand as it leaves a “Bad Luck Charm” back at home, lonesome bones rattle the rhythms on “Ain’t Nobody for Me”, and a street corner sound busks for the barely concealed contempt for “Everybody Loves You”. Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams shares space with its homegrown tracks with versions of The Grateful Dead’s “Attics of My Life” and the traditional Gospel Blues tune “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning”.

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The Bey Paule Band   (from the album Not Goin’ Away) - The Bey Paule Band are back, and map it out as they head home in the title track from their most recent release, promising that they are Not Goin’ Away. Frank Bey and Anthony Paule co-front the eight-piece powerhouse of Blue Soul. Not Goin’ Away sports Soul sounds with hotshots of horn, razor sharp guitar chops, and a solid rhythm section to hold it all together. Mr. Bey handles microphone duties for The Bey Paule Band as he bleeds his heart out with “Don’t Ask Me How I Feel”, writes his words with tears for “Next to My Heart”, and struts on hurt pride as he realizes he is “Someone You Use”.

Anthony Paule slides guitar notes over primitive percussion as The Bey Paule Band introduce the kid from “Black Bottom”. He picks the strings to pop their cork and claim “The Party’s Done”, snakes and sticks guitar notes as a guiding force through “Noel’s Haze” while bending his strings around the request to “Kiss Me Like You Mean It”. The Bey Paule Band move through a Soul show of force on Not Goin’ Away, managing to take the style through its own history as the band  become a united line that stands “Right in Front of You” and sway like beach palms to cool the heels in “Ballad of the Lover Man”.

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Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road   (from the album Country Grass on Pinecastle Records) - Bluegrass grows and expands its sound without ever completely giving up on its instruments to be there for the overall tones and textures of the music. That balance of past and present is what keeps Bluegrass healthy on the musical landscape. The need for change is not always a chosen path however, and you can hear the measure of pride that Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road take for being traditionalists in Bluegrass, with Lorraine dubbed “Lady of Tradition” in the field. The band has cherished the lore of Bluegrass, and kept its history fresh in recorded output….until now.

Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road answer the musical ears seeking more tradition and diversity in their Country music with their most recent release, Country Grass. Carolina Road ups the ante for the album by adding Country’s classic tracks to the album, and inviting the original vocalists to come back into the studio for the recording. Eddie Raven stops for a minute before heading south with his hit “I Got Mexico”. The Kentucky Headhunters race to keep up with “Runnin’ Water”, Crystal Gayle helps look for “Ready for the Times to Get Better”, and Lee Greenwood helps turn off the lights of Los Angeles and head for “Dixie Road”. Lorraine Jordan and Tommy Long are the lead vocalists for Carolina Road, and they lend a voice to their guests’ tracks on Country Grass, with Tommy taking lead on Randy Travis’ hits, “Diggin’ Up Bones”, and everyone gathering around the mic stand to join the “Boogie Grass Band”.

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Jonathan Edwards   (from the album Tomorrow’s Child) - A sign of the times is the billboard that posts Tomorrow’s Child. The album is the most recent release from Jonathan Edwards, currently heading into his fifth decade as a performer. For his initial debut album back in the early 70’s, the course was knocking on doors to get a record label interested. For Tomorrow’s Child, Jonathan went directly to fans looking to support his recording efforts. As the industry pulls away from the long term into disposable entertainment, the fans are proving that they are more equipped to understand the creation of art. Vocally, time put in behind the microphone has not heard any tarnish or rust form on the crystal clear voice of Jonathan Edwards. As promised on his 1971 hit, “Sunshine”, he has made true to‘come on back another day … I promise you I’ll still be singing’.

Tomorrow’s Child gives some marquee presence to Jon’s cohort in song and on stage with “This Old Guitar”. A banjo digs a ragged line for the entry into “Mole in the Ground”, reverie and sparse notes tell the story of “Jonny’s Coming Home”, bight Folk guitars sparkle for “Mamaw”, and then softly sink quietly under the tale of “The Girl from the Canyon”. Keeping the way the songs are recorded in the manner that the author heard them has created an album of beauty and grace for Jonathan Edwards.

The Folk and Americana based rhythms that herald Tomorrow’s Child are a match for the strength of the voice as Jonathan Edwards sound dates the instrumentation where old time stops in “Down in the Woods”, and tries once again to offer a century old request of the haves to look kindly on the have-nots in Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times”.

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The SteelDrivers   (from the album Muscle Shoals Recordings on Rounder Records) - The SteelDrivers allow The Muscle Shoals Recordings to offer open ground for Bluegrass and Soul to set up tents and mingle. The band is genre-blind way beyond the perceived borders of their instrumentation as   they honky tonk their Blues (“Drinkin’ Alone”) while carving an edge into Country (“The Day Before Temptation”). The SteelDrivers honor tradition with “Hangin’ Around”, and show a Bluegrass future that bases its tune on singer-songwriter structure with “Here She Goes”. The Muscle Shoals Recordings shows chips in the credit column for a band that has multiple album releases amid line-up changes without ever letting the inside of the band affect the band brand. The SteelDrivers have planted a banner far into the earth for a sound ten years in the making.

“Brother John” rumbles with bass thunder passing over a mountain murder song while daily headlines burst from the list found in “Too Much”. The SteelDrivers show ink from the mountains where their music was born as the instruments take the lead in “California Chainsaw”, and starkly script mortality buried “Six Feet Away”. The Muscle Shoals Recordings stage a nations dividing lines with a “River Runs Red”, the track speaking history as it sees the blood of dying men becoming one for blue and gray and the streams merge in water. The music exits the track on a Yankee Doodle pony looking away towards Dixieland and humble home to rest.

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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 ability to hide behind rock bombasts, crescendos and anthemic chords. Tommy, a Bluegrass Opry creates a powerful foundation with its string base, making the story part of the music much like, ya know, bluegrass songs.

The opening “Overture” gives itself about thirty seconds to wake on soft petals of notes before flying into a Bluegrass drive that sound checks riffs from throughout the album’s catalog at a lightning fast pace. A proper bandstand presentation welcomes in “1921”, hardened strings fuel “Sparks”, and “Sally Simpson” hears her story from Folk street buskers. Without any change at all, some of the more memorable hits from the original Tommy have openings that stick to the Who rulebook before giving the songs a bed of banjo (“Acid Queen”), seeing sparkling lights of mandolin notes (Pinball Wizard”), and free ride string jams (“I’m Free”). Whether completely unique arrangements or tagging tradition with some bluegrass accents, The Hillbenders have accomplished something big with presenting a different view on works of music that are a part of the culture in which they reside. Tommy, A Bluegrass Opry exits leaving no misunderstanding of its title. “We're Not Gonna take it / See Me Feel Me” is a mountain train ride, hitting the curves at a breakneck speed but the warmth of the rails making you feel safe.

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Beth Hart   (from the album Better Than Home) - We all have demons, and ways of balancing them into our lives. As with any relationship, it is all about finding baggage that matches. Beth Hart found a way to use her music as catharsis for her past with Better Than Home, her most recent release, and in the process has created inspiration in her stories through the salvation beacon in her voice. Beth grabs the collar of “Tell ‘Em to Hold On” with piano notes and typewriter keys as a foundation to build on the power of its arrangement to make sense of our search for saviors. She lets the piano bar backdrop her request from the bartender to ‘pour me a dream’ in “Long as I Have a Song”, winds guitar notes tight before falling into a march funk headed into the war of “Trouble”, and saves the exit on Better Than Home to bid goodbye to the album, and leave a special thought with “Mama (This One’s For You”).   

The Blues power that carries her songs, and brought Beth Hart to perform at the Kennedy Center Honors for Buddy Guy, is in the songs of Better Than Home, though their presence is more a slight accent that becomes more powerful as the emotions rise. The Blues helps Beth take the breath that leads into her torch-bearing take on “Tell Her You Belong to Me”, and casts its light on a one room rental in the home scene for “We’re Still Living in the City”. Beth Hart flies her airplane wings above the stars for the majestic string swoosh of “Mechanical Heart”, struts Southern Soul in with album opener “”Might as Well Smile”, and heads downtown for good time Rock’n’Soul celebrating “The Mood That I’m In”.

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

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Greg Trooper  (from the album Live at the Rock Room) - It is the characters that make a Greg Trooper song. His studio albums play like actors on a stage, the music from the pit giving foundation on the boards with folk rock, swaying acoustic and heart accented notes. On his recent release (number thirteen), Live at the Rock Room, was recorded in a single performance earlier this year (January 2015) in Austin, Texas, featuring Texas players Jack Saunders on upright bass and Chip Dolan on keyboards and accordion. Live at the Rock Room has one new song name on the marquee with “Broken Man”, the remainder of the cuts gathering together for a banquet to celebrate family and old friends.

The album opens with the promises of a longtime lover with “This I Do”, bids goodbye once again with “Good Luck Heart” as Greg loses more than love, dances with Celtic accordions for young love that has grown old in “Mary of the Scots in Queens”, and traces the skating dreams of a child “All the Way to Amsterdam”.  Greg Trooper has the delivery of a midway barker, though his songs play the big top, he is not a sideshow act even as he tells the tale of a hard luck hero in “They Call Me Hank”. Live at the Rock Room welcomes to the stage gospels according to Greg, standing at the Folk pulpit proclaiming “Everything's a Miracle” and heads down to the station hoping his exit vehicle “Might be A Train”.

Listen and buy the music of Greg Trooper from AMAZON or iTunes

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Jaime Wyatt   (from the album From Outer Space) - Jaime Wyatt looks out of the rocket window on the title track of From Outer Space, describing the landscape, or the radio waves, in sepia-toned Americana moon glow. Jaime Wyatt experienced film love on her Pete Droge-produced debut album at seventeen years old, with every track being placed in soundtracks. She chose producer Mark Howard (Bob Dylan, Tom Waits) for From Outer Space. Her producers work with another artist put him on Jaime Wyatt studio bucket list, and she sees ‘“it’s definitely a dream come true. When I heard Lucinda Williams album World Without TearsI knew there was a special environment and energy being curated. There are performances on the album, which are superior. There’s a tamed chaos that Mark was able to pull out of those players, an energy I have long-since desired on my recordings.’

Jaime Wyatt floats vocals over Mark Howard’s trademark in-home environment production, moving like smoke on water over “Heavy Metal Love”, picking some Mendocino wildflowers on a rubber band rhythm with “Marijuana Man”, and falling like thick snowdrops asking “Come Home for December”. Jaime Wyatt dons styles like color she wears to travel From Outer Space, making iridescent flash shines of bad news leaving on a fast train in “Twisted”, swaying across the driving roots rock in the drab lobby of “Stone Hotel”, and swagger as she throws down the gauntlet groove of “I Wanna Be Your Girl”.

Listen and buy the music of Jaime Wyatt from AMAZON or iTunes

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Dale Watson   (from the album Call Me Insane) - If you think there is nothing sweeter than hearing Country music in its classic form then you can use Dale Watson album request Call Me Insane as a reason to make a dentist appointment.  Dale Watson sets up in Austin, Texas to play his brand of honky tonk country and Call Me Insane was guided under the production hand of Lloyd Maines (Robert Earl Keen, Jerry Jeff Walker). Dale Watson has been serving up his own flavor of honky tonk music for two decades, and he uses Call Me Insane to dub and brand his style of Roots, Ameripolitan. Dale Watson croons Country heartache looking for a night out with “I’m Through Hurtin”, swings western style as he promises to “Bug Ya for Love”, cries “Crocodile Tears”, and pops the cork to celebrate having someone to hold with “Hot Dang”.

Dale Watson plays Country slightly outside of tradition, giving him outlaw status as he uses the life of a traveling Texas troubadour to do some Lone Star promo with “Everybody's Somebody in Luckenbach”, hit an interstate white line flying by to count the beat to admit to “Jonesin’ for Jones”, and offer parental guidance with the advice logged into “Mama Don't Let Your Cowboys Grow Up to be Babies.”

Listen and buy the music of Dale Watson from AMAZON or iTunes

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NEW VIDEO FROM THE ETHER

CHRISTOPHER PAUL STELLING - HORSE

Christopher Paul Stelling is a road-tested troubadour (All Music), and heads out from his Brooklyn, NY apartment ttour thourhg September. For his video of “Horse”, Christopher Paul Stelling does some off-roading, reminding us the old west was a B&W world.

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ANDERSON EAST - THE DEVIL IN ME

Anderson East is on holding out a little longer before his July 10, 2015 release of his full-length debut, Delilah. Anderson has southern charm aplenty, however, and graciously provides a video tease. Filmed live at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, “Devil in Me” is from the debut.on Low Country Sound.

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TED DROZDOWSKI'S SCISSORMEN - BEGGIN'

Ted Drozdowski’s Scissormen are seeking salvation in the Blues. As a buffer, they are adding another request to keep them far away from the clutches of Apocalyso, capturing it all on in full color animation in the video for “Beggin’ Jesus’.

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NEW AND NOTEWORTHY

INDIGO GIRLS - ONE LOST DAY

INDIGO GIRLS - ONE LOST DAY

Indigo Girls     (from the album One Lost Day on Vanguard Records ) - In the beginning, there were a Folk duo. During their high school years, Indigo Girls were guitars and a message; delivering a debut that stuck to Folk Roots. As the Indigo Girls star rose, the studio started to be the spot where songs were honed for a Pop market. The Girls were never far from the sentiments and politics that fuel Folk music, though a little more Indie Rock found its way between the acoustics. ...

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AMY BLACK - THE MUSCLE SHOALS SESSIONS

AMY BLACK - THE MUSCLE SHOALS SESSIONS

Amy Black (from the album The Muscle Shoals Sessions) - Amy Black had a taste and couldn’t get enough. She needed more, and the only fix that would work was expanding her recent E.P., The Muscle Shoal Session , into a full album. Amy Black did not grow up in Alabama, though her parents did, and there were so many visits to The Shoals that she felt at home. FAME Recording studio was a building Amy would pass on the main drag without any idea of its history. The Muscle Shoals Sessions gave her a history...

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WILLIE NELSON AND MERLE HAGGARD - DJANGO AND JIMMIE

WILLIE NELSON AND MERLE HAGGARD - DJANGO AND JIMMIE

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard    (from the album Django and Jimmie) - Like ancient Greece, where the art of a musician, painter, poet, or playwright became gospel from years of spoken truths on stage and in song, the Roots community offers our sages with wisdom circa 2015 as Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard proclaim “ It’s All Going to Pot ”; the lead single from their most recent collaboration, Django and Jimmie . The tune brings in song co-writer Jamey Johnson on vocals, and sets the tone f...

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MAKING THE LIST

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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HOW SOUL SOUNDED IN 2014

HOW SOUL SOUNDED IN 2014

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 mu...

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

THE TOP 35 MOST IMPORTANT AMERICAN ROOTS ROCK ALBUMS OF THE 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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FROM THE VAULTS

CARL HALL - YOU DON'T KNOW NOTHING ABOUT LOVE: LOMA RECORDS

CARL HALL - YOU DON'T KNOW NOTHING ABOUT LOVE: LOMA RECORDS

Carl Hall    (from the album You Don’t Know Nothing About Love: The Loma /Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972 on Omnivore Recordings ) - Carl Hall had a multi-level career. He was a vocalist in Gospel, cutting tracks for Vee-Jay and Savoy labels in the 1950’s. Carl hit the Broadway stage with the same Gospel push in Truly Blessed: A Musical Celebration of Mahalia Jackson . Carl Hall immediately saw his name, or at least his character’s name, on a Broadway marquee when he held the role of The Wiz, in...

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THE KINGBEES - THE KINGBEES

THE KINGBEES - THE KINGBEES

The Kingbees    (from the album The Kingbees on Ominivore Recordings ) - Rockabilly roots dug into the 1980’s with the inclusivity of genres like punk rock and new wave. The sound caught gold in the U.S. with the Stray Cats and Dwight Yoakam. There were lots of highlights on the radio with record labels and tours following. The guitars wanted to sound like Link Wray and Bo Diddley, the songs found the path of the originators, aping the good guys (Buddy Holly) and the bad boys (Eddie Cochra...

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JOHN MAYALL'S BLUEBREAKERS - LIVE IN 1967

JOHN MAYALL'S BLUEBREAKERS - LIVE IN 1967

John Mayall 's Bluesbreakers (from the album Live in 1967 on Forty Below Records ) - Many moments in history are chronicled making the what, where, why and how is perfectly clear. A trajectory is seen between point A and point B. There are, of course, no straight lines in musical history, as the paths wiggle and wander within borders that are constantly getting moved and remixed. John Mayall had long been on the British Blues scene. The Bluesbreakers played The Marquee Club in late 1963, with an ear...

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MOVERS AND SHAKERS

THE DESLONDES - THE DESLONDES

THE DESLONDES - THE DESLONDES

The Deslondes    (from the album The Deslondes on New West Records ) - The Deslondes are a New Orleans-based roots band, named after the street in the Holy Cross NOLA neighborhood where the band was formed. The Deslondes use their self-titled New West Records debut to show the cache of sound they have gathered from the waters flowing down the mighty Mississippi River. The album moves the band through Country Blues and Southern Soul from the pens of five singer-songwriters, and gives the trac...

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DANNY SCHMIDT - OWLS

DANNY SCHMIDT - OWLS

Danny Schmidt  (from the album Owls) - Danny Schmidt learned music from musicians. The Austin-born singer/songwriter traced Jimi Hendrix muses and influences back to Lightning Hopkins, Mississippi John Hurt and further. His songwriting skills came from studying the work of Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and John Prine. All studies leave room for improvement, however, usually from the natural talents of the user. Danny Schmidt behind a pen is a force. Fellow songwriter, Jeffrey Foucault, said of Danny th...

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JAIME WYATT - FROM OUTER SPACE

JAIME WYATT - FROM OUTER SPACE

Jaime Wyatt    (from the album From Outer Space) - Jaime Wyatt looks out of the rocket window on the title track of From Outer Space , describing the landscape, or the radio waves, in sepia-toned Americana moon glow. Jaime Wyatt experienced film love on her Pete Droge-produced debut album at seventeen years old, with every track being placed in soundtracks. She chose producer Mark Howard (Bob Dylan, Tom Waits) for From Outer Space . Her producers work with another artist put him on Jaime Wya...

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MAKING THE LIST

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.

Listen and buy “Sweet Home Chicago” by Robert Johnson from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

Listen and buy “Dallas” by Joe Ely from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

Listen and buy “Island Song” by Zac Brown Band from AMAZON or iTunes

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’.

No available

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.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen and buy Spyboy by Emmylou Harris from AMAZON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen and buy the music of Bruce Springsteen from AMAZON or iTunes

4. Tom Waits - Rain Dogs (1985) - Rain Dogs was sandwiched between two other brilliant Tom Waits albums Swordfishtrombones and Frank's Wild Years forming a trilogy of sorts. Waits wrote the songs for Rain Dogs in a basement in Greenwich Village in 1984. The album documented the malaise and urban depression of New York City through sounds that included recordings of street noise and a wide range of instrumentation from Waits' dark piano to accordion, marimba, trombone, banjo and upright bass. The album was dark, drifting from old blues to New Orleans funeral dirge and a slew of points in between.
Listen and buy the music of Tom Waits from AMAZON or iTunes

5. Townes Van Zandt - At My Window (1987) - At My Window was the only release by Townes Van Zandt in the 1980's and was his first studio release in nearly a decade. By then his place on the pantheon of great American songwriters was already secure and the album re-affirmed that Townes still had the songwriting chops. At My Window was different in that it was richer musically than most of his previous material which can be attributed to the production of the legendary "Cowboy" Jack Clement. Clement brought in a host of notable session players including Mark O'Connor, Mickey Raphael and Roy Huskey Jr. and the result was a brilliantly crafted and performed album.

Listen and buy the music of Townes van Zandt  from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy the music of Bonnie Raitt from AMAZON or iTunes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen and buy the music of Mary Gauthier from AMAZON or iTunes

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

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

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

Listen and buy the music of Joe Louis Walker from AMAZON or iTunes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen and buy the music of The Earls of Leicester from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy music from J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy the music of Common Ground: Dave Alvin + Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy music from Sturgill Simpson from AMAZON or iTunes

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

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

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

Listen and buy the music of Parker Millsap from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy the music of Janiva Magness from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy the music of Calico the band from AMAZON or iTunes

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

Listen and buy the music of Rosanne Cash from AMAZON

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

Listen and buy the music of Candi Staton from AMAZON or iTunes

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In her most recent Grammy winning album, The River and The Thread, Rosanne Cash points out that ‘there’s a million shades of Modern Blue’. We agree. The Blues is a genre that is in motion. Blues artists are creating a future for Blues that takes cues from the past in both playing and production of music. Artists are making their own instruments, blending Blues with Country, Folk, and Soul, taking the sound off albums to analog recording days, mixing Rhythm with their Blues. In 2015, there is no common factor for Blues musicians. They are young and old, male and female, and the only color visible is Blue.

We have gathered together 40 artists who have (mostly) released albums in the past year that go beyond what has come to be expected of the Blues. These artists do not go to traditional timing, chord patterns, rhythms, or structure. Blues and Rock have had a long, very public, history together and they gave birth to a 12-Bar Blues standard in song. For out Top 40 Modern Blues list, we have put artists that are challenging themselves by relying on the music they hear in their heads. For musicians, there is not ‘final frontier’, the sound will go on forever, though that will not stop players from playing, and finding new way to express. Here is a sampling of artists that are creating a future for The Blues

MODERN BLUES ARTISTS FOR 2015 #21 THRU #40

21 - Markus James  (form the album Head for the Hills) - Markus James is originally from Virginia and the DC area, where his first musical memory, from the age of four, is of an old, blind blues singer he saw many times playing on a sidewalk. He encountered West African stringed music at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Markus James settled in Northern California, recording Blues influenced album with African musicians. On his recent release, Head for the Hills, he sets his guitar on Mississippi Hill Country blues, recording “Just Say Yes with a son of the Mississippi Hill Country, Kinney Kimbrough (son of Junior Kimbrough)

Listen to more music from Markus James from AMAZON or iTunes

22 - Jarekus Singleton  (from the album Refuse to Lose) - Refuse to Loseis the album title for the Jarekus Singleton’s debut on Alligator Records. As a song, the title track introduces Jarekus as a songwriter and one major player in a guitar world. “Refuse to Lose” is historical; telling the story of a man who will win, whatever it takes. He admits to suffering and tears over the years, being the victim of betrayals and gossip and taken on hard jobs with no regret. Surrender was not an option and the man in the story, and Jarekus Singleton, separated from the pack with will power, discipline and desire.

Listen to more music from Jarekus Singleton from AMAZON or iTunes

23 - Keb’ Mo’   (from the album BLUESAmericana) - Rhythm is a physical thing to Keb Mo’ though the inspiration for BLUESAmericana came way before the wisdom of the tracks. A cover of a tune Keb’ first heard sung by Mississippi Sheiks Sam Chatmon, “That’s Alright”, began the recording process. Keb’ Mo’ knows himself, and that “I only make albums when I’m inspired to, and these ten songs come from a very honest place”

Listen to more music from Keb' Mo' from AMAZON or iTunes

24 - Cassie Taylor  (from the album Out of My Mind) - At age 26, Cassie Taylor was already a veteran musician. She's spent a decade playing bass and singing with her dad, Otis Taylor’s, band. She plays, writes, and produces Out of My Mind, her most recent release. Cassie introduces Ol’Mama Dean over a swamp Blues crawl that will make the old lady feel right at home.

Listen to more music from Cassie Taylor from AMAZON or iTunes

25 - Garrett Lebeau  (from the album Rise to the Grind)  - Garrett Lebeau was born and raised on the Wind River Indian Reservation near Lander, Wyoming, and is an enrolled member of the Shoshone tribe. Garrett recalls, "Growing up we listened to very little music. The Blues spoke to me… the raw unadorned honesty is what still motivates me musically. It spans all styles. When I say soul, I mean "SOUL" you know when music has it. I am not speaking of some narrow definition for a style of music. I speak of music with spirit about life... the trials and tribulations of the working man. Folk music is kin in spirit as is most music that I love. My goal is to connect with other like-minded human beings to keep the tradition of soul music alive. Where you write, play and sing from your own self - Just like the early Blues musicians.. Feeling has no genre".

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26 – Marcia Ball (from the album the Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man) - Over the course of four decades, Marcia Ball has etched her name into the skin of Gulf Coast boogie Blues.  On her recent release, it is her own flesh that is receiving fine lines and tasty textures of color as The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man.  The sound of the album knicks multiple Gulf Coast rhythms  from the songs Marcia Ball heard growing up on the Louisiana-Texas border, and on her relocation to Austin, Texas in the 1970’s, adding to her branded mix of Southern Soul, Zydeco, the syncopated New Orleans style of Professor Longhair, and two-fisted Texas Blues.

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27 - Leo Bud Welch  (from the album I Don’t Prefer No Blues) - Leo Bud Welch introduced himself to a wider musical world with his debut album at age 81in 2013. Born in 1932 in Sabougla, Mississippi, Leo has lived his entire life in that area. Raised with four brothers and seven sisters, his musical ability was first noticed by his family when he and his cousin Alandus Welch took to an older cousin’s guitar quicker than the owner. Soon, Leo was picking out tunes heard on the radio and playing them for family and friends, also picking up the harmonica and fiddle along the way. His second album, I Don’t Prefer No Blues, comes out this spring 2015. He is 83 years old now, and a much wiser man….watch out!

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28 – JeConte  (from the album Down by the Bayou) - JeConte sets the direction for the Blues to Down by the Bayou. JeConte partners with producer Anders Osborne on vocals for the title track and as the song heads home on a back water current, it cruises channels of guitar notes that fly across the surface as sweet fiddle notes steer the groove “Down by the Bayou”.

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29 - Elvin Bishop   (from the album Can’t Even Do Wrong Right) - It sounds like in his seventy-one years that Elvin Bishop never once cleaned up his Blues. In “Everybody's in the Same Boat”, the riffs are dirty as Elvin speaks/sings truisms about his own life that are shared experiences of all humanity. It is the advice of a man who has never left a stage without smiles stamped in place from his set, and you can believe him when his says that now is the time cause ‘you ain’t never seen a hearse with luggage on the top’

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

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31 - Pops Staples   (from the album Don’t Lose This) - At eighty-four years old, Roebuck ‘Pops’ Staples was experiencing poor health. Pops voice was still his strength, so daughters Yvonne, Cleotha and Mavis decided that dad needed to get into a studio and record a final album.  They entered Hinge Recording Studios in Chicago in 1998 and managed to gather ten tracks with considerations for Pops dwindling health. Pops passed and the raw, rough recordings sat for ten years. Daughter Mavis Staples worked with her producer, Jeff Tweedy, to put a final production on the work with Mavis recalling that ‘“I just couldn’t help but cry, you know, because it sounded like Pops was right there in the room with us. Just to hear him singing, and to think back, the memories that each song brought me—how sick he was and how he struggled.”  

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32 - Royal Southern Brotherhood  (from the album Heartsoulblood) - Heartsoulboodsuccessfully recreates and presents the blues, rock, Cajun, soul and swamp grooves that brought the band together as one sound. Yep, it is the sound of Royal Southern Brotherhood yet if you need a name….don’t strain. The music, and the songs, of Royal Southern Brotherhood is labeled Blues Rock. Sure, it is futuristic Blues Rock in its ability to blend R&B, rock’n’roll, Blues and other older backgrounds into its music.

Listen to more music from Royal Southern Brotherhood from AMAZON or iTunes

33 The Mike Henderson Band    (from the album If You Think It’s Hot Here) - The Mike Henderson Band barnstorms the Blues on If You Think It’s Hot Here. They pack “Matchbox” full-to-stuffing of gut bucket rock’n’roll that blurs Blues, Rock and Country in its pedal to the floor forward motion. If You Think It’s Hot in Here doesn’t really have to ask….it knows how ‘hot’ it is, the band is just being polite.

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34 - Smokin’ Joe Kubrik and Bnois King  (from the album Fat Man’s Shine Parlor) - Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King usher a fine guitar riff ramble into the grooves of Fat Man’s Shine Parlor, their most recent release. The album marks the duo’s return to Blind Pig Records, with whom they recorded until the mid-2000’s. The interplay between Smokin’ Joe and Bnois is of one collective mind.

Listen to more music from Smokin' Joe Kubek and Bnois King from AMAZON or iTunes

35 - Liz Mandeville  (from the album Heart ‘o’Chicago) - Liz Mandeville is sassy, slick and sings her Blues Old Style Chicago. Ms. Mandeville brings the tunes up-to-date with the story line crying the Blues about technology.

Listen to more music from Liz Mandeville from AMAZON or iTunes

36 - Cary Morin  (from the album Tiny Town) - The Americana Blues from the finger-picking styles of Native American, Cary Morin, shines on his third album release, Tiny Town. Cary is a member of the Crow nation, and the son of an Air Force officer dad. He grew up in Billings, Montana before relocating and fine-tuning in guitar skills in northern Colorado.

Listen to more music from Cary Morin from AMAZON or iTunes

37 - Stacy Mitchhart  (from the album Live My Life) - Stacy Mitchhart delivers a how-to guide on Live My Life, with a Blues shifting shapes that fast track Funk with Soul as it boasts on a uptown groove. Stacy Mitchhart reinvents The Beatles’ “Come Together” as dirty electric blues.

Listen to more music from Stacy Mitchhart from AMAZON or iTunes

38 - Steve Dawson   (from the album Rattlesnake Cage) - Canadian-based Steve Dawson is a top end producer, player, curator and frontrunner of West Coast Canadian Blues. Rattlesnake Cage lets its focus fall on Steve’s playing and the album shows track after track what a good choice that was to make.

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39 - Jeffrey Halford  (from the album Rainmaker) - Rainmakeris the seventh album for Jeffrey Halford. Emotion has always been a central part of Jeffrey’s guitar playing, and it bleeds over into the cinematic textures of the songs on the album. The Healers take the Farfisa out of deep freeze as they draw a line in the sand, put a quarter on the needle, and set the groove to “Play Some Vinyl”.

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40 - Selwyn Birchwood  (from the album Don’t Call No Ambulance) - On the title track “Don’t Call No Ambulance”, from his recent release, Selwyn Birchwood tells a tale of joy with six strings and lines like “don’t you call no ambulance, I’ll find my own ride home’. Selwyn Birchwood (guitar, lap steel, vocals) is a younger bluesman, yet there is a smoothness to his playing, and a slate of summer festival spots, that will have Selwyn become a major player in the Blues.

Listen to more music from Selwyn Birchwood from AMAZON or iTunes

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