Sarah Jarosz (from the album Undercurrent on Sugar Hill Records) - An album should be a reflection of its artists life in the songs. Sarah Jarosz went into the studio to record Undercurrent with a blank canvas of future. The recording is her fourth release for Sugar Hill Records, and the first since her move to New York City after graduating from New England Conservatory of Music. The album is a time capsule, and like many of our own lives, takes one step forward, one step back, one step forward in its dance of life. Sarah is satisfied with the flow of Undercurrent, seeing the album as ‘this is the first record I've made since being out on my own and experiencing a lot of changes, and I think that that's reflected in the songs. It's also the first record I've ever made that feels to me like a complete thought, with a beginning, a middle and an ending.  It's also the first time I've made an album that doesn't have any covers on it.  I wanted it to feel like the rollercoaster ride that is life, so I put a lot of thought into sequencing the songs.  It was important for me to start with light, and then go through darker times, and stubbornness and strength and weakness, and then end up on a hopeful note’.

Sarah Jarosz stages Undercurrent rather than theme the tracks. She solos on four album cuts as she opens Undercurrent picking in “Early Morning Light” and “Take Another Turn”, on dark chords hushing for the confession in “Everything To Hide”, and fuzzy electric clouds bringing “Jacqueline” back from history. Sarah Jarosz is joined by Sara Watkins (solo. Nickel Creek) and Aoife O’Donovan  (solo. Crooked Still) on  “Still Life”, a co-write with O’Donovan. Other collaborators blend words and music with Sarah on Undercurrent as Parker Millsap is in for a co-write on “Comin’ Undone” and Joey Ryan (Milk Carton Kids) with the soft twang of “Back of My Mind”.  Dark Blues colors the mood for nighttime at the “House of Mercy” as Sarah Jarosz searches for “Lost Dog” on scratchy banjos and bad choices while walking through a memory with “Green Lights” against popping guitar and bass notes.   

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Eric Bibb and North Country Far with Danny Thompson (from the album The Happiest Man in the World on Stony Plain Records) - Eric Bibb has successfully shown that the Roots of music is not geographically set on his recent release, The Happiest Man in the World. Eric is joined on the album by Danny Thompson. Danny’s Bass Roots in English Folk run through his work with Pentangle, Richard Thompson, Donovan, John Martyn, and Alexis Korner. The pair are backed by North Country Far, a trio of musicians that Eric met while living in Helsinki, brothers Janne (drums), and Olli Haavisto (dobro, guitars, pedal steel) along with Petra Hakala (mandolin, mandola, fiddle). The musicians meet in the songs, blending cultures in a Country Blues that stays true throughout on the jellyroll of the title track, the bright Folk of “Blueberry Boy”, and the raw beauty of “On the Porch”

Eric Bibb and North Country Far with Danny Thompson stamps The Happiest Man in the World with an easy mood as much as it touches the tunes with acoustics. The simplicity in the arrangement of “Wish I Could Hold You Now” transcends simple Folk as the track hits hearts with its purity. The Happiest Man in the World was recorded in a few days at a residential studio in Norfolk, England. A summer sway moves the currents coursing under “Tell Ol’ Bill” as a scratchy rattle churns with woes in “Tossin’ and Turnin’” while a slow, smooth  groove steers “Toolin' Down the Road” and The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” gets a swamp ride in Blues Country.

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Kalyn Fay (from the album Bible Belt on Horton Records) - The Oklahoma Room was the hot ticket for Folk Alliance 2016. Kalyn Fay was one of Tulsa talents that played, and played, and played throughout the weekend.  The musicians mixed and mingled, backing one another and stepping to center stage as needed. The sound that Kalyn presents on her recent Horton Records release, Bible Belt, once again showcases the music of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and its family of musicians. Kalyn Fay passes over her stories with an easy vocal, her voice landing on the music bed to tease the tales by stretching out the notes to the edge of the rhythms. Bible Belt whispers secrets in its title track as Kalyn sings of childhood, still calling home a place she has left behind long ago.

The stories are conversations, Kalyn Fay seeming to inhabit both the present and past with the same spirit as she seeks the truth in “The Fight”, finds a fan of Classic Country Kings and Queens in the middle of nowhere in “ Middlegate Station”, seduces tales from a “Spotted Bird” on rumbling beats and freckled notes as she relates “The Plan” on hushed rhythms and quiet fears. The life around her comes alive in the slow sway of her songs. She is the sound track of native soil in “Oklahoma”, as she sings from the perspective of her native heritage in a Cherokee tribe. Kalyn Fay shares her love in the one-on-one requests of “Wherever I Feel Right”, and opens her heart to include for her current home in OK’s Green Country as Bible Belt slows the beat to keep time with “Tulsa”.

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Bonnie Bishop (from the album Ain’t Who I Was) - The career of Bonnie Bishop was stripped down to the skeleton as she left Nashville for her family home in Texas. Friends at Thirty Tigers suggested she get in touch with producer Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson). Dave saw, or more precisely, heard the Soul that was left after Bonnie’s dreams of working in Country music had shut the door. Ain’t Who I Was is the most recent release from Bonnie Bishop, the result of the pairing with Dave Cobb sitting in the producer’s chair. Bonnie’s training in Gospel as the only white in a black choir and her natural ability to dig into the emotional heart of a song, make the Soul transition seamless as Ain’t Who I Was shows the change in words and music. The Country Soul of the title track is subtle with soft strings and warm organ chords as guitar notes weave and wind underneath a vocal with Bonnie Bishop standing tall, owning the past and embracing the future.

A cut from Bonnie’s pen landed on the Nashville television show, and her co-write of “Not Cause I Wanted To” was included on the Bonnie Raitt comeback Slipstream, the track topping the NY Times year-end best-of list. She had been packing the kudos to take on the road for her two hundred dates a year, driving herself from show to show, loading in her own gear, and closing the show to crawl back into the van and go to sleep. After thirteen years of that schedule Bonnie Bishop was broke and the road had reached a dead end. Putting herself in the hands of Dave Cobb, Bonnie knew that ‘I am from Texas, but there’s a lot of Mississippi in me. I definitely got my soul from hanging with all the black girls in choir there. That’s how I learned to sing’.

A really good decision can be heard within Ain’t Who I Was. The album opens with guitar and organ teases as Bonnie Bishop calls for “Mercy”. She slows for Southern Soul in “Poor Man's Melody” as the story rescues her life while Bonnie Bishop admits to being “Broken”, whispering the tune as a prayer.  The hope of Ain’t Who I Was comes through in its songs as Bonnie stops love at the door with the promise of “You Will Be Loved”, with gentle wishes in “Be with You”, and within the soulful bustle in the beat of “Looking for You”. Bonnie Bishop gives “Not Cause I Wanted To” a Soul makeover on Ain’t Who I Was as she proudly states reasons for her actions while offering solace to the love left behind.

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Too Slim and the Taildraggers (from the album Blood Moon) - Tim ‘Too Slim’ Langford sets the tone early on the latest album from Too Slim and the Taildraggers. The release, Blood Moon, gallops along as Too Slim is ready to rock’n’roll all night, getting everybody out the door with the call of ‘c’mon, giddy-up, giddy-up’ in “Get Your Goin' Out On”. Blood Moon is album number twenty in a thirty year career for Too Slim and the Taildraggers, and the guys in the group know that the life of an independent is getting people out of their chairs, into the streets, and through the swinging doors. As enticement, the boys pack Blood Moon with carrots of Blues Rock sizzle to prime the pump as they ground down the beat with hard chords and heavy beats as Too Slim tells the story of love found with “Gypsy”, opens “Letter” with guitar slashes, and sound tracks “Dream” with flash fire notes and the echo of wah-wah guitar.

Too Slim and the Taildraggers carved a reputation as unapologetic Blues Rockers in the Northwest United States, basing in Seattle, Washington before moving to Nashville, Tennessee. Blood Moon was recorded with a three-piece (Robert Kearns-bass, Jeff ‘Shakey’ Fowles-drums), the sound captured in a predominantly live setting at The Switchboard in Music City with Tim Langford in the producers chair. The Blues backs “My Body” with an ethereal roll, letting the music create a wispy shroud cover for the wishes trying to stay above ground. “Good Guys Win” propels across Blood Moon on a scratchy rhythm as Too Slim and the Taildraggers set a determined course on “Twisted Rails”, and slowly peal back clouds of distorted guitar to reveal the title track.

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Charlie Faye and the Fayettes (from the album Charlie Faye and the Fayettes) - The easiest way to explain Charlie Faye and the Fayettes, the self-title release from an Austin-based trio is to talk about the band. The three women of Charlie Faye and the Fayettes put harmony and heart into every song, using a Vintage 1960’s audio glow to warm the sound track. They are samples of a world culture with Jewish, Korean, and African-American heritage, sharing height, standing at 5’1” in pre-heels. Charlie Faye takes the lead, stepping in with more of a crooner role than her previous Roots releases. She is joined in girl-group harmony by two established solo artists and background vocalists, BettySoo and Akina Adderley. Charlie Faye and the Fayettes uses the Vintage sound of 1960’s Pop to seduce with a sonic sweet spot on the recent release. Charlie Faye was drawn to the harmonies in the music from the era, set against a moving rock’n’roll beat that welcomed touches of Soul, and Twang in the music of Darlene Love, Dusty Springfield, The Ronettes, and The Shirelles.

The sound of Charlie Faye and the Fayettes is a mirror image of what Charlie Faye was looking for as her next step. The 60’s era of Love is branded in the stories, though the hearts are in fear of loss (“Carelessly”) as they hope for second chance love (“Coming Round the Bend”), and sway on a spotlight-dance throwing shadows on past mistakes (“One More Chance”). Charlie Faye and the Fayettes update the girl-group gossip with a stance for the modern millennium, not hiding the meaning deep into the lyrics, as they question the pace of a relationship that is clearly giving the “Green Light”. A Western breeze blows the echoes of “Loving Names” for a love lost in the sunset as the trio feels the vibrations, knowing it is not love in the air but the text buzzing in their pockets with “Sweet Little Messages” and open their “Heart” in a private message to the beating in their collective chests. The band pile in the car for a trip to the “Eastside”, spinning the tires on a groove meant for an uptown Saturday night as they cruise a Soul boulevard. Charlie Faye and the Fayettes do not tap into a retro-nostalgia as they sing for the future, not the past, in a real-time revival.

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The Monkees (from the album Good Times on Rhino Records) - Not that long ago I would have said The Monkees were a guilty pleasure. The band’s recent release, Good Times, moves aside any guilt to proudly get in line as a fan. Good Times is the album that The Monkees have put together to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary as a band. The three surviving members, Mike Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz, and Peter Tork, put playing and vocals into the album. The tracks that line Good Times are a mix of band originals added into the template that worked on The Monkees early albums of tunes written specifically for the group. The album goes back to songs recorded during the band’s golden years in the 1960’s, including a tune penned by the team that was behind many of their hits , Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.  The Carole King and Gerry Goffin collaboration of “I Wasn't Born To Follow” is alongside a Neil Diamond track (“Love to Love”) that hosts the vocals of the missing Monkee on the collection, Davy Jones, who passed away in 2012. Mickey Dolenz is featured on a duet with Harry Nillson on the title track with studio technology putting Harry’s original vocals for the demo back at the microphone.

Fans of the band lined up to submit tracks for Good Times, with album producer Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) offering a co-write with Mickey Dolenz on album closer, “I Was There (And I’m Told I Had A Good Time)”. Good Times features a contemporary co-write from Noel Gallagher (Oasis) and Paul Weller (The Jam, Style Council) on the tune "Birth of an Accidental Hipster" joining other Brit writers with Andy Partridge (XTC) offering “You Bring the Summer”. American authors are represented by Rivers Cuomo as the Weezer frontman hands over the buoyant “She Makes Me Laugh” with Mickey Dolnez on the vocals while Mike Nesmith takes on the Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) tune “Me and Magdalena”. Good Times does exactly what the title promises as The Monkees put sunshine into every strum and jangle adding smiles into each tambourine shake.

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Western Centuries (from the album Weight of the World on Free Dirt Records) - Western Centuries began under the name Country Hammer as a back-up band for Cahalen Morrison on his solo projects. They become a core trio of Cahalen (acoustic and electric guitar, drums), Jim Miller (acoustic and electric guitar, vocals), and Ethan Lawson (drums, guitar, vocals) as Western Centuries. Weight of the World follows the band into western sounds as the Seattle Country band sifts through the ashes of love to find “Philosophers and Fools”, slow dances a memory in “Off the Shelf, makes a bet on a fast one with “Double or Nothing”, and struts closer to the flame wondering “What Will They Say About Us Now“.

Smart, well-told stories get a honky tonk backdrop for Weight of the World. Western Centuries puts the dusky vocals of Cahalen Morrison over the slow trudge of rhythm that leads to a tomorrow of “Sadder Days”, gets caught in a slow shuffle moment in “The Old You”, and watches love come back again to a heart that reads closed on “Hallucinations”.  Guitar strums begin Weight of the World with its title track confidently walking into the album. Western Centuries mark miles of bad weather with a sad country tune in “Knocking 'Em Down” and put twang on a rock’n’roll rhythm with “Rock Salt”.

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Andre Williams (from the album I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City on Bloodshot Records) - Andre Williams gives back to a city that his given to him with his Bloodshot Records release, I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City. The title track spins on a tape reel to open the album, becoming a rubbery rhythm that rides underneath Andre Williams’ psychedelic trance Soul. The tune sets the tone for the album as I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City serves up a chopped beat asking “What Now?” as Andre Williams speaks his Blues over snaking strums and a marching snare on “Hall of Fame”, and plugs into guitar electricity to light up with pride on “Detroit (I'm So Glad I Stayed)”.

Andre Williams arrived in Detroit in the 1950’s, entering recording with a doo-wop group before being hired by Berry Gordy for a start-up Motown Records. Andre’s hiring’s and firing’s from Motown were put on a repeat cycle. At Motown, Andre Williams produced Stevie Wonder, Mary Wells, The Contours going on to write songs for Ike and Tina Turner, Parliament, and Edwin Starr. Dennis Coffey of Motown house band, the Funk Brothers helps out on I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City with Jim White and Cat Power lending hands on the Country roll on “Mississippi Sue”. Acoustic Blues guides the kiss off of “I Don’t like You No More” as guitars duel like light sabers marking “Times” while Andre Williams whispers deep secrets as the beat lightly steps into “Meet Me at the Graveyard”.

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Eli Paperboy Reed (from the album My Way Home on Yep Roc Records) - Eli Paperboy Reed was on a rocket ride career path when he made a name in the Boston Soul scene with flash fire live performances, recording with local powerhouse Q Division in 2007 before hopping through major label deals with Capital and Warner Brothers. His trajectory hovered when he lost his major label deal in 2014, turning the switch back on with his recent Yep Roc Records release, My Way Home. The album was tracked in four days, utilizing the analog gear of drummer Loren Humphrey (Guards, Cults), who assembled the collection of in his Brooklyn, New York loft‐turned‐recording studio.  My Way Home puts gospel into its vintage rock’n’roll, salvation into its stories. The songs are infused with spirit, Eli Reed not seeing the subject as for any particular religion or creed. Eli feels that ‘the idea of salvation doesn't have to mean salvation in terms of finding God. My goal is just to make good music that moves people and meets them wherever they are. So for me, salvation in this case is about getting out of a bad situation, about finding yourself in a tough spot and trying to find your way through it. It's about not letting yourself be pulled down by negative influences’.

My Way Home had no plan to play host to themed tracks, Eli never intending to ‘make a Gospel album, just to make a collection of songs that were maybe more serious than the things I’d done before’. The album is exciting, the sound echoey with the vintage textures of early rock’n’roll, the music nodding to bands such as The Dixie Hummingbirds and The Soul Stirrers with Sam Cooke. The enthusiasm is captured in the production as Eli Paperboy Reed shouts salvation to the title track as he ascends a rock’n’soul pulpit warning “Your Sins Will Find You Out” while begging for more time to be a little a better with “A Few More Days”. My Way Home crackles as excitement pops from the band’s playing, matching their licks with Eli Paperboy Reed as he points to a celestial eye-in-the-sky with “Eyes on You”,  hears salvation in a sad Soul with “I'd Rather Be Alone”, and raises a Folk chorus for Mother Earth in “What Have We Done”.

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Roosevelt Dime (from the album Red Shoes) - Roosevelt Dime go back to the coin minted in 1946 for a band name, bringing some of the eras sound back with them in their rhythms, putting the sounds together with the group’s ability to merge Bluegrass, Honky Tonk, and Juke Joint Rhythm and Blues. Red Shoes is the latest E.P. release from the Brooklyn, New York-based band. Roosevelt Dime were born as buskers, fine-tuning the sound of the group to grow with the stages they ascended as Roosevelt Dime took the show on the road. Red Shoes combines originals and covers, like the banjo boogie riffs and a persistent beat on Tom Petty’s “American Girl”.

Roosevelt Dime dances “Red Shoes” on a skittering rhythm as the title track opens the album with an offer to lose the Blues. “Wealth Addict” coughs and sputters a beat as Roosevelt Dime head out to find the good life, as “Funky Monks” (Red Hot Chili Peppers) bounce on a Bourbon Street strut while “Pass It On” (Bob Marley and the Wailers) hitches its gospel groove to a second line bump.

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Daniel Romano  (from the album Mosey on New West Records) - Daniel Romano continues to remind Country music that it is a living, breathing art form. Daniel joins fellow artists (Sturgill Simpson, Kacey Musgraves, Chris Stapleton) who plug in and play Country music as they hear it. Mosey is the sound track for dreamy reveries (“The Collector”), spaghetti western strings (“Sorrow (for Leonard and William”), and Indie jangle (“Maybe Remember Me”). Classic country tugs at the heart of “I’m Alone Now” before the track exits on a funky Surf Soul groove.  Daniel Romano is a prolific performer, his album releases perfectly capturing each mood and theme that he brings into the studio as muse. His work in other mediums requiring attention to details, such as his leather work and graphic design, is brought into his songwriting as each track builds with subtle infusions of emotion and swatches of sound.

Mosey stages songs, performing acts of dramatic work in “One Hundred Regrets Avenue” where the vocals are center stage under one stark light while piano keys reveal a path for the story to travel. Daniel Romano lets his voice relax as he reclines on soft pillows of organ swells in “(Gone Is) All But a Quarry of Stone” as fractured angles of notes and beats back the rhymes in “I Had to Hide Your Poem in a Song”. A confident beat and compact guitar riffs are the foundation for the literary ramblings of “Hunger is a Dream You Die In” while a staggering rhythm puts Daniel Romano into a duet with Rachel McAdams on “Toulouse” while Mosey opens its doors with a Tex-Mex taste flavoring the poor choices of “Valerie Leon”.

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Hard Working Americans (from the album Rest in Chaos) - Dedication to the art of a song plays a major role as Hard Working Americans are on-the-job in their second album release, Rest in Chaos. Hard Working Americans bring together musicians whose careers precede them as songwriter/author/ Todd Snider stands behind the microphone with Dave Schools (Widespread Panic) on bass, and behind the boards as producer. Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Band) is on guitar with additional work on electric and pedal steel guitars from Jesse Aycock, Chris Stahley (Great American Taxi) handles keyboards, and Duane Trucks sits behind the drums. Rest in Chaos welcomes Elizabeth Cook who joins HWA on sweeping rhythms that lazily stretch through a story of broken promises in “Massacre”. The album presents a Guy Clark spoken-intro on a track that he wrote for Hard Working Americans, “The High Price of Inspiration”. The album was recorded by Hard Working Americans while touring behind the band’s self-titled debut.

Rest in Chaos chronicles the first album release from the band of original material. On the first recording, Hard Working Americans wove the songs of other artists into an audio tapestry, using the tales to make a bigger picture for the album theme. The snapshots of life from HWA on Rest In Chaos look into a mother/son relationship that merges different opinions into one decision of “Dope is Dope” while “Half Ass Moses” carves its own religious views into Rock. Hard Working Americans begin the story of Rest in Chaos with an “Opening Statement” that climbs up to a podium of pounding drums with guitar notes flashing like the pop of camera bulbs. A distorted buzz steps aside for the forward thrust and ‘shake’ of “Throwing the Goat” as HWA drop “Acid” on a rhythm rumble, roll out a groove that slowly drips like hot wax in “Roman Candles”, and bounce on the rotating rhythms on “Purple Mountain Jamboree”. Big white fluffy clouds of chords float across Rest In Chaos rising up with “Ascending into Madness” as the audio sky becomes black as dark thunderheads of sound create the foundation for “Something Else”.

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Robert Ellis (from the album Robert Ellis on New West Records) - Robert Ellis asks ‘how can you call it art when you’re sticking to a dotted line’ in “Elephant”. The story speaks to confronting issues within a relationship, hinting at a touring musician on one side of the line. Robert’s question seems a little random within the discussion, though it does speak loudly to the self-titled Robert Ellis release on New West Records. As a singer/songwriter, Robert Ellis seemingly has the ability to not edit his songs to fit format, mainstream or backwoods. Robert Ellis brings twang into the studio with orchestral strings to dance with “Perfect Strangers”, matching ice rink keyboards with post-rock electric guitars in “Couples Skate” alongside front porch pickin’ and highway songs on “Drivin’”.  The album is meeting place for the Folk, Jazz, Country, and Pop music common ground that Robert Ellis deems equal partners for his words, an extension ladder to reach his emotions.

The vocals are the thread that connects the musical patterns and near-physical hold of the stories as Robert Ellis builds drama up note by note, attempting to free the past in “You’re Not the One” as piano chords take a bite out of the beat in “It’s Not OK” while “Amanda Jane’ counts past lovers by the lines on her face. Robert Ellis has a siren voice, drawing the mood west into the sunset with his suggestion of “maybe I’ll go to “California”’.

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Tony Joe White (from the album Rain Crow on Yep Roc Records) - On his nineteenth album release, Rain Crow, Tony Joe White stays to the swamps that have been the home for his music over the past few decades. If Rain Crow differs, it is from the mood that Tony Joe instills within the songs. Swamp lore spins its stories, and gives the tales hope within the deep swamp light that never brightens or dims. Produced by his son, Jody White, the album summons the past and its characters as a welcoming whorl of rhythm tugs Tony Joe White grunting a whispered request for “Tell Me a Swamp Story” as a rapid heartrate of fear pounds the beat into “The Opening of the Box”, and the title track paves its way with a Blues cough for a the stories shadows to cross.

Tony Joe White grew up in northwest Louisiana, near the Arkansas state line. The music has kept his playing in fertile mud since his 1969 debut, Black and White. Rain Crow shows some new sides to Tony Joe White as he gets downright sexy, growling over a potent groove for the “Hoochie Woman”, singing the licks with love from the ‘smoochie man’. Tracks for Rain Crow bear co-writes from Tony Joe’s wife Leeann, and with Billy Bob Thornton as the pair sing of summer in “The Middle of Nowhere”. Rain Crow patters percussion like weather is pouring down on the rhythms as “The Bad Wind” blows death into town while the dark wings of a beat follow hummingbirds and fireflies as they seek warm winters, and “Right Back in the Fire” remembers passion and promises.

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The Relatives (from the album Goodbye World) - The Relatives offer Gospel Funk as a foundation for their music, and expand on the natural electric groove of the band with their recent release, Goodbye World. Doo-Wop harmonies and soft Soul are the background for the falsetto claiming “No Man Is an Island” while “He Never Sleeps” finds its source of power within the voices carrying its story. The Relatives are players and pioneers for the 1970’s Psychedelic Funk that is the bed for their message. Goodbye World channels late-era sounds of The Temptations as The Relatives encourage “You Got to Do Right” on a chugging beat and electric guitar sizzle.

The Relatives lost their mentor and leader just before the recording of Goodbye World was completed. Reverend Gean West had produced two vocals for the album before he became too ill to record, becoming unconscious for twelve days. He rallied to lay down vocals for more tracks on the album, including a spoken word account of his near-depth revelations on the band’s re-working of “Rational Culture/Epiphany”.  The Relatives lay a solid line of rhythm down for the “I Can’t Feel” confessions, percolate asking “What You Say” behind non-stop wah-wah guitar work, and spin late night Soul, stretching out as Goodbye World warning “This World is Moving Too Fast”.

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Al Scorch  (from the album Circle Round the Signs on Bloodshot Records) - Rumor has it the reformed are the most fervent believers, pounding the message as soon as morning feet hit the floor each day. Al Scorch has that fire in his songs though he is no convert. Al is a native son of Chicago, heir to Studs Terkel, Upton Sinclair, and the anarchists in Bughouse Square. Circle Round the Signs is the latest release from Al Scorch, coming out on hometown Alt Country godfathers, Bloodshot Records. Al Scorch is the type of true believer born to hold a guitar. His banners fly on audio waves, his banjo, guitar, accordion, bass, and drums set to punk rock standards, cramming the songs into bursts of glory.

The voice of Al Scorch has a lot Soul, allowing the words to drive slowly over the frenetic highway of rhythms that rush past the exits called out in “Pennsylvania Turnpike” as “Want One” hands over flying fingers that ‘shake, rattle, and roll’ while “Slipnot” tightly winds, and “Everybody Out” dumps the hooch as the excise man makes his way through the front door. Al Scorch preaches with a force that plows through the briars without a scratch as it skims stones over gentle waves with “City Lullaby”, and swims the strong current that threatens to cross borders while “Lost at Sea”. Circle Round the Signs staggers chords walking the long hours of “Insomnia” and watches everyone get picked for the “Poverty Draft”.

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Hot Buttered Rum  (from the album The Kite and The Key) - San Francisco, CA-based string band, Hot Buttered Rum, came up with the concept of playing live while the then high school and college friends were backpacking in the High Sierras. HBR sing their story in “Music’s Been Good to Me” on their recent release, The Kite and The Key. The tune is a bio and way of life using ‘get on up’ as a mantra. Hot Buttered Rum planned their party as a touring band with a menu of up good times by way of reckless abandon for live performances. The Kite and The Key is a gathering point for three E.P. releases from Hot Buttered Rum. The numbered volumes had separate starting points with the studio tracks of The Kite and the Key, Pt. 1, the Stanley Brothers retrospective on The Kite and The Key, Pt. 2, and the late night jams of The Kite and the Key, Pt. 3

Three albums, and three producers, are included on the full version of The Kite and The Key as Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone helms the darker tales of the first E.P. while Hot Buttered Rum look for a little more light in “Weary Ways”, saddle up for a slow sway in “First Rodeo”, and put a band together with two hearts in “You Be the Fiddle”. Sally Van Meter sits in the producers chair for Volume Two as the band tribute the Stanley Brothers with “Pig in a Pen”, “How Mountain Girls Can Love”, and “Red Wicked Wine”. A late night jam echoes the beginnings of Hot Buttered Rum around the campfire as producer Kyle Hollingsworth of String Cheese Incident captures the band’s music on Volume Three as they visit “Cherry Lake” and count “Middle Country Stars”.

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Cave States (from the album True Life) - An understanding of music as a business, and a couple of decades playing in a band has given Chris Grabau, Danny Kathriner, and Todd Schnitzer a vision for Cave States. The trio formed the group as a collaboration of songwriters, bonding and branding under a nickname for the Missouri (St. Louis) base. True Life. Their latest release, is the beneficiary of the coming together of songs as the sound track gives the stories backing from Folk and Americana. The sound of Cave States backs the tracks with the audio version of the wide open spaces and endless sky of the landscape around them as True Life wants love to stay the way it looks today with “Changing on Me”, puts a beat to the requests in “No Words”, and quietly uses the instrumental title track to exit the album.

Folk Rock mixes dreamy Americana as Cave States blend harmony to catch as seat beside pedal steel guitar riffs in “Commuter”, gently lets notes fall like leaves as the melody builds and climbs in “Mountain”, and tenderly bids goodbye to winter on bubbling notes to spin “Lazy Susan”. Cave States offer a cover tune with Badfinger’s “Take It All” and slowly stack a rhythm of jazz guitar chording, twinkling piano notes, a tambourine tap, and ethereal baa-baa-bah’s as a ladder up to “Kingdom Come”.  

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Mudcrutch (from the album 2 on Reprise Records) - Tom Petty has always had a carefully curated knack for natural Roots in his songs, whether from in breakout beginnings with The Heartbreakers, his garage band with buddies Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison in The Traveling Wilburys, or solo work. The rock’n’roll has never left anything that Tom Petty has touched, his heart the quarter on the record arm to make sure the sound stays smooth with few skips to studio beats. Mudcrutch was the band that took Tom Petty from a Gainesville, Florida local band to a Los Angeles record deal with Asylum Records. Multiple recording dates with Leon Russell gave the band only one single before the label went bust, followed soon behind by Mudcrutch as Tom took band members Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench to form The Heartbearkers. Mudcrutch re-formed with original line-up in 2007.

For their 2008 debut, Mudcrutch self-titled an album that stuck to the band’s sonic imprint of Southern and Country Rock 1970 standards. The recently released follow-up, 2, steps into a band sound circa 2016. The album ages the recorded output of Mudcrutch with a freshness of guitar distortion and Farfisa organ bubbles in “Hope” as freckled guitar notes spread across emptiness in “I Forgive It All”, and a jangly kiss-off and got-your-back harmony climb into “Save Your Water”. Mudcrutch serve a double-dose of beauty riding airy streams of Americana up into “Beautiful Blue” while Kings of Leon-era Southern Rock jabs at life on “Beautiful World”.  The band strides with confidence as they musically lock into all the right moves that got them attention in their first incarnation. They open the doors of 2 with a love story packed tightly with memories in “Trailer”. Mudcrutch get over “The Other Side of the Mountain” as a shotgun wedding with band mixes mountain music and rock’n’roll rhythms. Mudcrutch drift a melody, casting it into the strong beat breeze blowing through the tough times of “Hungry No More”, and shift to rockabilly to rip up the red carpet leading to “Welcome to Hell”.

Listen and buy the music of Mudcrutch from AMAZON or iTunes




SUSTO are in a saving mood and mix it up with sand and suds. SUSTO offer a summer tune and all you need to do is watch the video, pour a cold one and get some hot salvation with “Chillin’ On The Beach with My Best Friend Jesus Christ” as you burp your way through the pearly gates.

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Heavy metal animation with a spaghetti western theme, Quaker City Night Hawks offer “Mockingbird” in video form. “Mockingbird” can be found on Quaker City Night Hawks recent album release, El Astronauta.

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Libby Koch recorded in Nashville with Grammy-winning producer Bil VornDick to craft an album of ‘true cryin’ and leavin’ country songs’. Libby talks about her new album, Just Move On where she echoes timeless country classics… the kind that make you feel good about feelin’ bad.

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Yarn (from the album This is the Year) - This is the Year and this is the album for Yarn. Blake Christiana has stitched together comforters for kiss-off goodbyes, bad decisions, and rocky romance since Yarn’s 2007 self-titled debut. The band was Brooklyn-based through five album releases, carving out a name, a fan base with its own flag as Yarmy, and a spot on the Americana bandwagon since it was just a hayride. This is the Year reflects the pen of Blake Christiana, and his characters still have a sm...

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Darrell Scott (from the album Couchville Sessions on Thirty Tigers ) - Darrell Scott has a peaceful presence that translates into audio waves on his most recent release, Couchville Sessions . The songs leave a smile whether uttering bittersweet memories in “Free (This is a Love Song)”, or flying words as banners of triumph on “Love is the Reason”. Darrell Scott has been a constantly moving music machine over the past few years as part of a duo with Tim O’Brien, as a studio and touring member with Robe...

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Wild Ponies (from the album Radiant) - Some words are special, almost magical in the way they present as images in our minds. Radiant , the recent release from Wild Ponies, is one of those words. By definition, Radiant is ‘sending out light; shining or glowing brightly’. Pretty description, and the tunes of Wild Ponies can certainly be beautiful, like the way they let the title track drift on clouds on electric guitar notes before the beat arrives through open the window facing the night sky.  Di...

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

These artists are exceptional without hiding behin...

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Dads on television come in all shapes and sizes. The box options for dad's to check on resumes is vast. Many are the brunt end of the jokes for wives, kids, in-laws, neighbors, family and the world at large. As a tribute to Fathers Day we are celebrating the best and worst in dads. We never see the guys in a mundane world, there is always something happening. Pitfalls to get around and worlds to save. There are very few days when these guys can just be dads, but they do their best, or worst, wee...

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

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RALPH STANLEY (FEBRUARY 25, 1927 – JUNE 23, 2016)

RALPH STANLEY (FEBRUARY 25, 1927 – JUNE 23, 2016)

Ralph Stanley and Ralph Stanley II (from the album Side By Side) - Two (Ralph Stanley II) began stage work in dad Ralph Stanley’s band when he was three, playing a miniature plastic guitar. He continued to make contributions with lead vocals and rhythm guitar in the 1990’s. Father and son had played and toured together with The Clinch Mountain Boys and with the recent release, Side By Side , the pair expand on a family tradition that dates back to Ralph and his brother Carter recording old-time mount...

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John Prine (from the album John Prine on Atlantic Records) - John Prine had never sat on a bale of hay in his entire life, at least up until he needed to take promotional pics for his self-titled, Atlantic Records debut in 1971. John and the bales were centered with a guitar nonchalantly leaning on the three bundles of hay stacked behind him. The image said County though his music was typical of the work of Folk musicians making fledgling steps into the singer/songwriter genre. The words and music...

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

Kasey’s brother, Nash Chambers, produced The Captain , and her dad Bill Chambers...

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Mudcrutch (from the album 2 on Reprise Records ) - Tom Petty has always had a carefully curated knack for natural Roots in his songs, whether from in breakout beginnings with The Heartbreakers, his garage band with buddies Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison in The Traveling Wilburys, or solo work. The rock’n’roll has never left anything that Tom Petty has touched, his heart the quarter on the record arm to make sure the sound stays smooth with few skips to studio beats. Mudcrutc...

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The Two Tracks (from the album The Two Tracks) - Years of songwriting found a home on the self-titled debut of The Two Tracks. Putting together their brand of Americana in Sheridan, Wyoming The Two Tracks record rural warmth into the album as the four-piece, infusing their tunes with a feel for the open spaces of The West. The songs on The Two Tracks are from vocalist/guitarist Julie Szewc. Her words find backing from western breeze rhythms as “Railroading” waits for love’s return, on Folk rambles a...

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Diana Rein (from the album Long Road) - Diana Rein lets her Blues evolve on Long Road , her recent release. It is the form of the genre that tunes her guitar, letting chords carve deep gashes into the emotion of the tracks and setting the notes free to wrap around the guilt of desire (“Wicked”), burn of betrayal (Down Down Down”), and welcome a triumphant return (“Come Back Home”). Born in Romania and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Diana Rein brings history and natural ability into play for Long Road , ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

was there ever an ocean, up there on Mars?
Oh, a new song of freedom, just let it go, it'll get there on it's own."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There's that Alabama asphalt giving off heat."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red, white, balck and blue America."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Line:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the best and worst tv dadsDads on television come in all shapes and sizes. The box options for dad's to check on resumes is vast. Many are the brunt end of the jokes for wives, kids, in-laws, neighbors, family and the world at large. As a tribute to Fathers Day we are celebrating the best and worst in dads. We never see the guys in a mundane world, there is always something happening. Pitfalls to get around and worlds to save. There are very few days when these guys can just be dads, but they do their best, or worst, week after week for as long as you find what they are doing interesting

TV dads represent a little bit of many people. They are pieces of the many, coming together to make the whole. They are champions and sometimes they are an embarrassment. They do right, they do wrong, They make mistakes and the come off like heroes. They are dads.

william h macyFrank Gallagher - (William H. Macy) - Shameless - Not only is Frank Gallagher the WORST TV dad ever, he may be the worst TV person, period. On the show Shameless he is a drunk, narcissist and overall despicable human being and those are his good traits. He games the system for a living and occasionally hangs with his pseudo girlfriend Shiela who also collects disability. Gallagher is the occasional "dad" to six children on the show who have pretty much resigned themselves to the fact that they don't really have a "dad." On a particular show he hooks up with a barfly who is awaiting a heart transplant and has a large life insurance policy. He weasels his way into becoming the beneficiary and while she's in the shower a hospital calls with news of a possible heart for her. He tells the hospital she's dead already...'nuf said.

andy griffithAndy Taylor - (Andy Griffith) - The Andy Griffith Show - Hands down, no argument, the BEST television dad in history was Sheriff Andy Taylor. The show was part "To Kill a Mockingbird" part "Little Rascals" and 100% rural Americana. All the planets were aligned for The Andy Griffith Show and it brought together the genius of Griffith, Don Knotts, Frances Bavier and Ron Howard, who at the age of 6, already showed signs veteran chops as an actor. Opie grew up in front of America's eyes from age 6 to age 14 and America learned most every valuable lesson about life, love, sharing, giving and growing and laughed their asses off while doing it. Ernest T. Bass, Floyd the barber, Emmit's Fix-It-Shop, Gomer Pyle, Goober Pyle, The Darlings, Jubal Foster...we could go on and on.

guy williamsDr. John Robinson - (Guy Williams) - Lost in Space - A cheesy spin on the Swiss Family Robinson story by Johan Wyss, Lost in Space was a story of Dr. John Robinson, an astrophysicist, who took a round airstream trailer with less dashboard controls than a '62 Volkswagon into space with a family of 5, a fellow astrophysicist who is hot for his oldest daughter, a stowaway sociopath named Dr. Smith and a clunky robot, called, well...robot. The rest is television magic as Dr. Robinson guides the fam through adolescence, growing pains, love interests, giant alien monsters and Dr. Smith's repeated attempts to get them all killed...no wonder they call the 60's the golden age of television.

fred flintstoneFred Flintstone - (voice of Alan Reed) - The Flintstones - It would take decades and The Simpsons to unseat The Flintstones as the most successful animated series in history but The Flintstones was still the first "prime time" animated series in history. The show was a dead ringer take off of the successful Honeymooners series of Jackie Gleason. Fred didn't actually become a dad until late in the show's third season and parenthood did nothing to slow down his penchant for trouble, get rich schemes or other stone age mayhem. He does have some great friends including Anne Margrock, Mick Jadestone and the Rolling Boulders, The Beau Brummelstones which makes him a cool dad by any standard. Truth be told, The Flintstones 'jumped the shark' when Pebbles and Bamm Bamm entered the picture.

caroll o'connorArchie Bunker - (Carroll O'Connor) - All in the Family - The man who said the things that too many Americans were thinking and had the common sense, class and decency to keep it to themselves. Gloria, you're dad was a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, blue collar narcissist and one of the funniest bastards to ever grace the small screen. It was television. Yeah it bit a little close to home for most liberal thinkers but if you get past that aspect he was a decent guy who just existed as a victim of his times. Years later the character of Archie Bunker would re-appear as the entire Rebublican leadership in the country with white collars instead.

james gandolfiniTony Soprano - (James Gandolfini) - The Sopranos - He was the dad on the best television series in the history of television and a good chunk of his character development over the course of the six seasons that the show ran was his relationship to his wife and kids. He was a shit-bum for a husband but as a dad, well, he provided for his family by running the North Jersey mafia, hanging out in a strip club full of silicon implanted "Snookies," and killing people. That was cool until daughter Meadow and son Anthony Jr. found out...fatherhood was pretty much downhill from there. Despite their existential issues with the source, the kids never stopped taking and Tony never stopped "providing."

hugh beaumontWard Cleaver - (Hugh Beaumont) - Leave it to Beaver - Being father to Wally and "the Beav" was no easy task and took patience and several trips to the den each evening to drink it off. Looking back, Leave it to Beaver was simultaneously every parent's nightmare and every parent's dream circa. 1960's America. The Beaver was lily white America's version of juvenile delinquency with peanut butter and jelly stains and a milk mustache. He got into all kinds of trouble that kids got into for generations and Ward would teach the lessons while the boys sat in matching pajamas and shared the same fully stocked bedroom. Ahhh the visions of our youth!

john astinGomez Addams - (John Astin) - The Addams Family - Alright here's one of the 'cult classic' dads in television history. I've recently re-visited The Addams Family which, to my delight, has gotten better as I age. The hidden innuendo was far ahead of it's time and the macabre has had a resurgence of sorts. Gomez, father of Pugsley and Wednesday, is eccentric, wealthy, aloof and a damn lot of fun. Who hasn't wanted an exploding train set their entire life? As a dad, well, look at Wednesday who raised killer spiders and carried around a Marie Antoinette doll post guillotine and Pugsley who actually guillotined it! These are well adjusted children who would be at home in any household post "Glee," "Friday Night Lights," and "American Idol" America.

modern family ed o'neilJay Pritchett (Ed O'Neill), Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet)  - Modern Family- Four fathers make up the Modern Family Dads. Ed O’Neill saves his good dad rating as patriarch Jay Pritchett. He also tops the dad list for the hottest wife for his second marital choice. Jay’s son-in-law, Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) wants to be one of the guys, even for his two teenage daughters. He is a big lovable lug that means well. Phil is passive and steps aside to let his wife bulldoze her way through the family affairs. Jay’s son, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), and his partner Cam (Eric Stonestreet) have adopted a Chinese daughter. They make their way through fatherhood but as their daughter ages, you get the impression she will be running the household soon. We would have named them the first gay dad household but just could not buy the whole ‘live-in man’ scenario with Uncle Bill (Brian Keith) and Mr. French (Sebastian Cabot) on Family Affair.

steve buscemiNucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) - Boardwalk Empire - Nucky Thompson is an adopted father on Boardwalk Empire. Sure, he had the birth father killed and dumped in the Atlantic but he loves those kids. Nucky has multiple affairs on wife Margaret, who is no slouch in the extramarital rutting department. Nucky runs the Jersey shore for the purchase or procurement of anything illegal. Nucky Thompson is more comfortable with giving orders to feed more bodies to the fish then he is spending ten minutes as a dad. He can buy love and impress oldest boy, Teddy, and pay for any medical procedures needed by youngest daughter Emily. The parental side of Nucky stops there.

lorne greeneBen Cartwright (Lorne Greene) – Bonanza - A single father on the lone prairie, Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) raised three sons, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe.  The family ranch, The Ponderosa, was a 600,000 acre ranch along the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe, Nevada. At 937 square miles, The Ponderosa was the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe. The west was tough on the women in Ben's life and the Cartwright wives dropped after spawning a son each. Ben was dad to kids that went in all directions emotionally, personally and morally, with  English, Swedish and French Creole bloodlines running in their veins. Through the magic of television, Bonanza chronicled the American west between 1861 and 1867 in its fourteen year series run, from September, 1958 through January 1973.

john amosJames Evans, Sr. - (John Amos) - Good Times - James Evans, Sr. became a father quickly on Good Times. The show was one of the many spin off children of All in the Family. Good Times descended from Maude but when the producers decided to give Maude housekeeper Florida her own show they changed her firefighter husband Henry to struggling husband James, making no mention of Maude and moving the couple from Tuckahoe, New York to inner-city Chicago projects….other than that, not a lot of changes. James Evans was a black, working class dad in an inner-city project, a new concept on television. Mr. Evans Sr. was a pretty straightforward, no nonsense guy. Nothing to challenge or portray an angry black man. All black community politics were handled by eleven year old son Michael (the militant midget) and the carefree, loving living on welfare attitude that much of the audience expected was handled by older teen J.J. “Dy-no-mite” Evans. (James Jr.).

maurice evansMaurice - (Maurice Evans) – Bewitched - There were no last names for the witch/warlock contingent on Bewitched. Samantha’s dad was Maurice (Maurice Evans). Maurice treated every scene and set like an Elizabethan stage. Sweeping Shakespearean gestures and dialogue were taken for granted by daughter Samantha and Endora, who referred to Maurice as ‘my daughter’s father’ and thought of their marriage as ‘informal’. His relationship with son-in-law Darrin (Duncan? Durwood? Dustbin?) was strained. Maurice was a warlock, with hundreds of years under his cape, no need to tolerate fools or mortals.

buddy ebsenJed Clampett - (Buddy Ebsen) - Beverly Hillbillies - What a dad! He not only discovers oil (black gold, texas tea) in the backyard while huntin’ possum but decides to move the family from the hills they called home to the hills called Beverly….movie stars and cement ponds. Jed Clampett was the wise man for family matters and the practical voice of reason for the questionable banking practices Mr. Drysdale threw at him weekly. Jed threatened a lot of ‘tan your hide’ or ‘to get a whoopin’’ but never through with threats. His shock meter never registered more than a ‘well doggies’ as admonishments for daughter Ellie May and nephew Jethro. Jed tried to live with the cash but you can take the dad out of the backwoods but never take backwoods out of the dad. He wore the same clothes in every show proving clothes shopping is an unnecessary evil.

brian kellyPorter Ricks -  (Brian Kelly) – Flipper - Porter Ricks was a single dad with two sons to raise and a park/marine preserve somewhere in the Florida Keys to maintain. Given the heavy work load and family responsibilities, it is no surprise that Porter’s companion became the show’s star and namesake, Flipper. The aquatic Lassie took things space age for the 60’s. Whether the dog wagged the tail or the tail wagged the dog did not matter. Flipper could ride on his (her) tail….backward, and make a lot more noise, both above and below water. Take that pooch. Porter Ricks may have been a dream dad for a lot of youngsters….kids living on the water, riding dolphins and with not a lot of parental supervision... and it was always summer, Forget Neverland and Oz, take me to the Keys!

homer simpsonHomer Simpson - The Simpsons - Homer Jay Simpson lived a Hollywood dream. He went from a bit role on three episodes of the Tracy Ullman show to debuting as head of The Simpson household in December 1989. Homer's character seems mild compared to future toon dad Family Guy’s Peter Griffin. Homer was an everyman dad and factory worker. He was overweight, maybe a little clumsy and landed just this side of inappropriate but dude could hold a burp and get his lips to shake like jello on the fault line. Homer played support dad to son Bart for a few seasons, letting his skateboarding first born get all the attention and the great lines….”eat my shorts”, really, Bart, that coulda been your dad’s catch phrase? Homer played the quiet dad, letting his kid get the cred but started taking a stance for lazy, heavy drinking dads across the land. Homer got away with the stuff that was only a dream to many of us.

jon cryerAlan Harper - (Jon Cryer) - Two and 1/2 Men - You can point fingers and deride Alan Harper for personal choices and severe lack of parental guidance. Alan is the “because-I-said-so” kind of Dad. Alan has a lot of shortcomings but it was his couch surfing at the home of brother Charlie that landed he and his kid, Jake, a Malibu address. Alan does very little, as a house guest, as a contributing member of the household and as a dad. He is available if needed, I guess. Alan is probably the least involved dad on television. It is difficult to put him on the worst or best side, there are very few dad things Alan does that can be measured to decide on his role of a father. He is a dad just because, you know.

bryan cranstonWalter White - (Bryan Cranston) - Breaking Bad - Walter White is there for his son if he can be. Walter's son, Walter, Jr., has cerebral palsy. Big medical issues seems to gallop at a full clip through the White household. Walter, Sr. was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Teaching science at his high school day gig took a backseat to the ‘second job” he took to pay the mounting bills. Walter White became a meth maker, then dealer, then major supplier, getting meaner and colder as each minute and deal passed. Walter does his best as a dad but each day his moral compass spins faster and faster, never pointing in any one direction. His job as a dad suffers the same fate as every other aspect of Walter’s life as he transitions from a sympathetic to an extremely unlikable character on Breaking Bad. Forget about judging him as a dad, you might want to take a look at who you are pulling for.

sherman helmsleyGeorge Jefferson - (Sherman Helmsley) - The Jeffersons - George Jefferson (Sherman Helmsley) successfully moved his family up to the East Side, way uptown. He spent two years en route as a Queens neighbor of Archie Bunker. I am sure a ‘deluxe apartment in the sky’ was more appealing but two years with Archie’s biting words nipping at you could probably bring a little nostalgia even for the ‘hood. George had opinions but he was a good dad. His bark was way louder than his bite, but dad George did have one bad ass strut. George Jefferson spent twelve years as a tv dad, ruling over the family and appearing in all 253 episodes of The Jeffersons. He was a self-made man and an American success story, a small business owner that started and managed a string of dry cleaning stores. George shared more than a street address with neighbor Archie Bunker. The two had the same way of dealing with the world, though George had more street smarts and his schemes for taking care of his family were at the heart of each episode.

ed o'neillAl Bundy - (Ed O'Neill) - Married With Children - Al Bundy got married because he got drunk and asked Peg to marry him. He had children because he got married, Married With Children is where Al was in life when we met him in 1987 and where he stayed for the show’s eleven year run. Things never got better for Al in his life. Wife Peg has a if-it-moves-mount-it attitude, as does daughter Kelly. Son Bud, who proud dad Al named after a beer, would love to be a slut to take care of his perpetual horniness, but can’t ‘cause he’s kind of a geek. The Bundy bunch were a laugh-a –minute, step-by-step guide on what not to do. As a family, they ways to yank the fun out of dysfunctional.

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen and buy the music of The Morells from AMAZON

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!

Listen and buy the music of Melissa Etheridge from AMAZON or iTunes

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”.

Listen and buy the music of The Rave-Ups from AMAZON or iTunes

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).

Listen and buy the music of T Bone Burnett from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

Listen and buy the music of Rockpile from AMAZON or iTunes

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.

Listen and buy the music of Lye Lovett and His Large Band  from AMAZON or iTunes

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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Stagecoach Festival 2016 arrives in Indio, California this weekend (April 29, 30, May 1). The desert festival showcases the talent, sound, and scope of Country music in 2016. The possibilities and potential ofthe artists calling themselves Country is caught in the net that festival organizers Goldenvoice toss over the Coachella Valley in April every year . The idea of putting on a Country music as part of the successful Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival came in 2007, and was fueled by optimism more than experience in the genre. The first festival marketed to farm equipment outlets though Goldenvoice soon discovered that promotions could be in a wider arc as a community of kickers and cowboy angels was drawn to the desert.

As in years past, the main stage (Mane Stage) hosts the Top of the Pops for Country music with 2016 presenting headliners Eric Church, Carrie Underwood, and Luke Bryan. Where Stagecoach differs is in the way it uses the two side stages to host headliners for the Roots music community. In 2016, the Mustang and Palomino Stages play host to Emmylou Harris, John Fogerty, Marty Stuart, Billy Joe Shaver, Rodney Crowell, Lucero, Lee Ann Womack, and a host of other musicians claiming dual citizenship in the Roots and Country music communities. A son of the Roots community begins the charge as Chris Stapleton takes his place on the Mane Stage in 2016.

A good indicator of how Roots music is finding equal footing in the Country marketplace is our list for Stagecoach artists. In the past three years, the list has jumped up to include five more slots each year. Stagecoach 2015 went up to fifteen artist places and in 2016, the number of artists included moves to twenty. The list could easily have gone to twenty-five but we have a festival to catch and will offer a full re-cap of Stagecoach 2016 in May 2016.

So please, find some sand, set up a wind machine, and set the dial for rock’n’roll honky tonk Country music as Stagecoach 2016 roars into the desert for another successful Sold Out festival.

1 – Deeper Well - Emmylou Harris (from the album Wrecking Ball) - The 1995 release of Wrecking Ball gave Emmylou Harris one of her twelve Grammy trophies. The Daniel Lanois-produced album covered Neil Young, and took the “Wrecking Ball” title of his tune for the album name. Neil Young lent harmonies to his song, and Emmylou was joined on the album by Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, and Larry Mullen, Jr (U2).

Listen and buy “Deeper Well” by Emmylou Harris from AMAZON or iTunes on disc and from Nonesuch Records on recently released vinyl

2 - Rockin' All Over The World  - John Fogerty (from the album John Fogerty) - For his second solo release, John Fogerty decided to self-title the 1975 John Fogerty album. The album is out of print, though the track “Rockin’ All Over the World” is still something that John can claim as a real time event.

Find out more about John Fogerty

3 - Outlaw State Of Mind  - Chris Stapleton  (from the album Traveller) - Chris Stapleton puts out a unifying call to the Roots music community and its resident outlaws. Chris weaves a snaggly guitar line through the track that threads ‘people all across the land’ together in an “Outlaw State of Mind”.

Listen and buy “Outlaw State Of Mind” by Chris Stapleton from AMAZON or iTunes

4 – 52 Vincent Black Lightning - Robert Earl Keen  (from the album Happy Prisoner, The Bluegrass Album) - Robert Earl Keen went to a Bluegrass backing for his most recent release, Happy Prisoner, The Bluegrass Album. He borrows some wheels from Richard Thompson as he spins his tune, “52 Vincent Black Lightning”, around the album.

Listen and buy “52 Vincent Black Lightning” by Robert Earl Keen from AMAZON or iTunes

5 - The Way I'm Livin' - Lee Ann Womack   (from the album The Way I’m Livin’) - Lee Ann Womack received the title of progressive traditionalist for her The Way I’m Livin’ album. The 2014 release was her first for Sugar Hill Records.

Listen and buy “The Way I'm Livin'” by Lee Ann Womack from AMAZON or iTunes

6 - I'll Go Stepping Too  - The Earls of Leicester   (from the album The Earls of Leicester) - Jerry Douglas brings the songs of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs to Stagecoach. The Earls of Leicester use string band music to toss off the warning that leaving the boys at home is not an option in “I’ll Go Stepping To”.

Listen and buy “I'll Go Stepping Too” by The Earls of Leicester from AMAZON or iTunes

7 - Down Here  - The Turnpike Troubadours   (from the album Turnpike Troubadours) - The Turnpike Troubadours will take the exit for Stagecoach 2016. The guys shake of Oklahoma red dirt into the California desert as they let you know ‘you’re gonna be all right’ “Down Here”.

Listen and buy The Turnpike Troubadours from AMAZON or iTunes

8 - It's Hard to be an Outlaw  - Billy Joe Shaver  (from the album Long in the Tooth) - Time moves on and Billy Joe Shaver still writes Outlaw Country into each and every line of his songs. In his personal life, he is finding it is hard to get arrested as he is joined by Willie Nelson in “It’s Hard to Be an Outlaw”.

Listen and buy “It's Hard to be an Outlaw” by Billy Joe Shaver from AMAZON or iTunes

9 – “Can't You Hear Them Howl” - Lucero  (from the album All That a Man Should Do) - Heading west on Interstate 40 will take Lucero directly from their Memphis, Tennessee home out to the desert. Most of the journey borders the Route 66 Mother Road as the guys roll down their windows in “Can’t You Hear Them Howl”.

Listen and buy “Can't You Hear Them Howl” by Lucero from AMAZON or iTunes

10 - Famous Last Words of a Fool in Love - Rodney Crowell   (from the album Tarpaper Sky) - Rodney Crowell follows the drum beat as it underscore the “Famous Last Words of a Fool in Love”. Rodney performs a solo set at Stagecoach and a solid bet will be he and Emmylou will join in for duets from their most recent releases.

Listen and buy “Famous Last Words of a Fool in Love” by Rodney Crowell from AMAZON or iTunes

11 - A Day at a Time - Dale Watson  (from the album Call Me Insane) - Dale Waton pulls his rig into the parking lot at Stagecoach, grabs his guitar, and hits the stage with the wisdom of “A Day at a Time”. Dale is playing his Ameripolitan music on a track from his recently released, Call Me Insane.

Listen and buy “A Day at a Time” by Dale Watson  from AMAZON or iTunes

12 - Goin' Down Rocking - Whitey Morgan and the 78's  (from the album Sonic Ranch) - Whitey Morgan rises up out of the guitar haze with the promise that he is “Goin’ Down Rocking”. The track is from his recent release, Sonic Ranch.

Listen and buy “Goin' Down Rocking” by Whitey Morgan and the 78's from AMAZON or iTunes

13 - Bulletproof - Amanda Shires  (from the album Down Fell the Dove) - Amanda Shires tells the story of Tiger Bill and his mysterious bag of goodies. The track is from her last album release, Down Feel the Dove.

Listen and buy “Bulletproof” by Amanda Shires from AMAZON or iTunes

14 – Susto  (EP coming in summer 2016) - Hailing from Charleston, South Carolina, Susto offers a cut from their upcoming EP release and promise a full second album release by late 2016. Susto founder Justin Osborne drew inspiration for the band’s music from discoveries he made while in Cuba along with the homegrown music scene in Charleston.

15 Doin' OK - Cody Jinks (from the album Adobe Sessions) - Cody Jinmks wants mama to know that he is fine in a track from his recently released album,Adobe Sessions.

Listen and buy “Doin' OK” by Cody Jinks from AMAZON or iTunes

16 - Ghost Town - Sam Outlaw  (from the album Angeleno) - California Country is represented by Los Angeles-based Sam Outlaw at Stagecoach 2016. Sam talks of a “Ghost Town” materializing and then disappearing in the desert sand.

Listen and buy “Ghost Town” by Sam Outlaw from AMAZON or iTunes

17 – Bacon - Chessboxer   (from the E.P. Apollo) - Nashville instrumental machine Chessboxer play strings that glides from wild mountain music into the quietly played tones of Chamber music in their most recent E.P. release, Apollo.

Listen and buy “Bacon” by Chessboxer from AMAZON or iTunes

18 Civilizations - William Elliott Whitmore (from the album Radium Death) - William Elliott Whitmore sings for the lost voices of “Civilizations” being eaten alive by industry and technology.  He addresses the message to the world with the opening line, ‘don’t mind me, I’m just living here’.

Listen and buy “Civilizations” by William Elliott Whitmore from AMAZON or iTunes

19 - Less Honkin' More Tonkin'  -The Deslondes   (from the album The Deslondes) - The Deslondes have been scratching an itch all the way from their native New Orleans, Louisiana. They finally got to the desert and can get out of the van to get rid of the “Less Honkin’ More Tonkin’ Blues”.

Listen and buy “Less Honkin' More Tonkin' by The Deslondes from AMAZON or iTunes

20 - Rescue Me - A. Rae and the Rescue Dogs   (from the album Songs About Dogs) - Alexa and Avery Rae were born into a musical family. The Orange County pre-teens shared a love of music as well as big hearts for unwanted pooches. They put together a honky tonk tale from the other side of the bars as A. Rae and the Rescue Dogs ask to “Rescue Me”.

Listen and buy “Rescue Me” by A. Rae and the Resuce Dogs from AMAZON


The Alternate Root Top 100 Albums of the Year 2015 is ready for viewing. One hundred albums is a large list, though the amount of music and talent in the American Roots community certainly has enough sources to draw from to get to the one hundred mark, and we could have easily gone over.  Drawing from the available American Roots styles, we have gathered music from Folk, Blues, Soul, Americana, Alt Country, Bluegrass, Classic Country as well as any and all hybrids. So yeah, one hundred…no problem. Songs and artists from around the country and around the globe, the sound of Roots digs in and reaches out. It is infectious and universal in its moods and melodies. The year 2015 saw new artists and seasoned performers putting out full album listens. Our list for the year honors the album, full albums listens for the artists. Albums signify a record in time for musicians time and art, and we are happy to offer the albums that got our attention, became friends, and are now part of the family.

01 – Kasey Chambers   (from the album Bittersweet on Sugar Hill Records 7-24-16) - Kasey Chambers and producer, Nick DiDia (Bruce Springsteen, The Wallflowers, Pearl Jam), crafted an album that tags heritage with the teasing bite of her characters that brands Kasey Chambers and the Roots instrumentation that surrounds her stories. The album, recorded in seven days, stamps a freshness to the tunes that is present on each listen. Kasey relates that for her, she ‘wanted to have an experience making a record that I have never had before. I wanted to challenge myself and I wanted to be excited’.

Listen and buy the music of Kasey Chambers from AMAZON or iTunes

02 Chris Stapleton (from the album Traveller on Mercury Nashville  5-4-15) - The songs on Traveller crawl up on you like a low slung guitar, bobbing and weaving with footwork that steps to match the moods the stories conjure. A bottle and a wedding ring sit on the table as Chris attaches weight to both, gauging the differences between “Whiskey and You”.  Traveller makes its case the perfect pack for a long road trip as Chris steers the songs swaying to the string strums on “More of You” in harmony with wife Morgane Stapleton, shrugs and lights up “Might As Well Get Stoned” with electric guitar chords that strut into the room like a smoking caterpillar pied piper.

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

03 Glen Hansard (from the album Didn’t He Ramble on Anti- Records 9-18-15) - Didn’t He Ramble enters on a determined whisper as confession becomes commitment as “Grace Beneath the Pines” sets the bar for hurdles that have been jumped. Audio vignettes scroll by on the album as a backdoor Romeo asks the morning birds to grant him one more ‘two step around your front room’ from “Her Mercy”, a scratchy beat tumbles along a get-away path with the “Lowly Deserter”, and quiet to hear the memories rising up , over, and back under “McCormack’s Wall”.   Glen Hansard began busking at the age of thirteen on the street of Dublin, Ireland after he quit high school. Didn’t He Ramble still plays to the passersby, drawing them in with words, melody, and magic of hearing exactly what you needed while waiting for the light to change.

Listen and buy the music of Glen Hansard from AMAZON or iTunes

04 Punch Brothers   (from the album The Phosphorescent Blues on Nonesuch Records  1-27-15) - That style that The Punch Brothers have nurtured is silhouetted against the soft glow of their recent T-Bone Burnett-produced release, The Phosphorescent Blues. The overall sound of the album brings is orchestrated Bluegrass. The magic of The Punch Brothers music is that they can appeal to diverse audiences from mainstream to deep Indie, Bluegrass purists and Americana torch-bearers. They are traditionalist innovators that encompass classical orchestral sweeps the blends with their mountain music on The Phosphorescent Blues.

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05 Jason Isbell  (from the album Something More Than Free  7-17-15) by Michael Verity - Jason Isbell offers ten strong narratives of the common man’s experience of faith, family and the temporal matters of life with which every grownup must contend on Something More Than Free. The middle half dozen songs on this recording -- from the haunting solo piece of time and travel called “Flagship” to the epic song of a family’s history (“Children of Children”) to the closing chapter of another family’s history (“Speed Trap Town”) -- are among the finest six songs to have been recorded this year. By Michael Verity

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06  Steve Earle and the Dukes (from the album Terraplane on New West Records 2-17-05) - Terraplane offers album space to a variety of Blues- based rambles as it shuffles on a front porch rhythm about a New York City woman in “Ain’t Nobody’s Daddy Now”, corrals a Chuck Berry groove for a raga romp in “Acquainted with the Wind” and uses a rock’n’roll blade made of riffs to carve out a return to fashion for “Go Go Boots are Back”. Steve Earle and the Dukes never line up for one style stamp though they manage to infuse every track with the roots grit falling from their collective boots. Soul pumps the harmonica and the rhythm of its Blues on album opener “Baby Baby Baby (Baby)”, stripping any shred of humility away as it heralds the birth of “King of the Blues”.      

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07 Kacey Musgraves  (from the album Pageant Material on Mercury Nashville) 6-23-15 - Kacey Musgraves has a knowing for how songs should sound; delivered with a wry sense of humor and a big beating heart gives Kacey the crown of Cool Country.  Pageant Materialchews a hole back fence gossip making “Biscuits” burn with ‘mend your own fences, and own your own crazy, mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy’.  Smart stories stand by the lives they live, and Kacey Musgraves teases the tales with vocals that profess views without preaching positions.

Listen and buy the music of Kacey Musgravesfrom AMAZON or iTunes

08 The Milk Carton Kids (from the album Monterey on Anti- Records 5-19-15) - The Milk Carton Kids maintain a huge amount of warmth and believability as they gently pick and pluck notes from the air, digging through pockets of Folk to find the quiet nestled just a stone’s throw from silence. The hushed delivery compliments the humor of The Milk Carton Kids banter as well as the microscope they use to script emotion in their songs. The Milk Carton Kids seal songs in amber waves of notes and sepia-toned stories under “Asheville Skies” as the trees spread color into the November fall, mournfully asking in a whisper to “Sing, Sparrow, Sing”, and sway with soft ocean breezes lapping against land as the road calls in the title track.

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09 Leon Bridges  (from the album Coming Home on Columbia Records 6-23-15) - Leon Bridges uses Coming Home to masterfully moves Soul back to mainstream, guiding Coming Home with one hand on the wheel and two feet planted firmly on a groove.

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10 The Turnpike Troubadours  (from the album The Turnpike Troubadours 9-18-15) - The musical backing for the Roots of Turnpike Troubadours is a non-stop motion machine. Bobbing and weaving under the stories are teasing fiddles, guitar crunches and a determined rhythm section that give the tunes on The Turnpike Troubadours solid footing. The foundation the band creates make it possible for the stories to ramble, walking to the edge of emotion or reason to find the love left lying on the corner of “Easton and Main” as they provide the only safe spot for the man sinking fast below the poverty line in “The Bird Hunters” while they follow the boy heading down to “Bossier City” to drink and gamble his cares away.  

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11 Nikki Lane  (from the album All or Nothin’ on New West Records 5-6-15) - Nikki Lane caught the ear of her producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys  enough to get his studio for free. All or Nothin’ is a sweeping soundscape filled with varied styles and takes on Roots music presented from the perspective of kaleidoscope Country singer, Nikki Lane

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

12 The Black Lillies (from the album Hard to Please10-2-15) - The Black Lillies open Hard to Please with the title track. It is a tough call whether the song is to a lover, or a higher calling, and it is certainly possible that the band were aiming the title phrase at the music industry that are constantly looking for labels to attach to their artists, or asking them to define themselves in one or two words. Musically, there is no other definition needed than that they are a band making a record, letting the way they hear each song tell the tale of how the music will back the story. On “Hard to Please”, the title track chugs and stomps as a playful twang lightly tags the persistent rhythms that set the pace for its song followers on the recording. “Fade” quietly aids the exit with a love request, bordering album opener with heartfelt pleas.

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13 Dave Rawlings’ Machine (from the album Nashville Obsolete on Acony Records 9-18-15) - Dave Rawlings’ Machine is the driving wheel as they guide Nashville Obsolete gracefully through its stories, introducing characters and wearing a skin that remembers, relates, and exposes their tales. “The Last Pharaoh” is a seeker, possibly tracking down a royal line, or maybe looking a Faro card game, the most popular pastime on an American frontier in the 1800’s that stretched Deadwood to Tijuana, Reno to Natchez, New Orleans to St. Louis. Faro tables were familiar sights and sounds in every saloon and become the stage set for the tale.

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14 Barrence Whitfield and the Savages (from the album Under the Savage Sky on Bloodshot Records 8-21-15) - Barrence Whitfield and the Savages give their latest Bloodshot Records release, Under the Savage Sky, the identical treatment they have offered with their music since 1984…one hundred and ten percent commitment.  Under the Savage Sky is Rock’n’Soul on steroids; Barrence Whitfiled and the Savages a chainsaw to cut through the wall of sound full of the crass representations passing for rock in 2015.

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15 Anne McCue  (from the album Blue Sky Thinkin’  2-3-15) - Blue Sky Thinkin’, Anne McCue’s 2015 album release, and the seventh in her catalog, is a satisfying sheaf of twelve new original tunes that speak to her love of music from the 20s, 30s and 40s while demonstrating her sizable skills as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. (Michael Verity)

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16  Ray Wylie Hubbard   (from the album The Ruffians Misfortune   4-7-15) - Ray Wylie wanted to have a Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood-type of two guitar backing, bringing in Gabe Rhodes and his son, Lucas Hubbard, for The Ruffian’s Misfortune. The twin guitars share space as they propel across a fast-train ride rhythm “Down by the River”, snake underneath “Chicksinger Badass Rockin’”, snap at the white lines trailing below “Bad on Fords”, and drift like six-string ghosts as they tumble with a fiery fiddle calling out “Jessie Mae”. The Ruffian’s Misfortune opens to righteous Blues preaching on “All Loose Things”, as it hums a Kevin Welch tune.

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17 Uncle Lucius  (from the album The Light  6-9-15) - Uncle Lucius have always had salvation in their songs, sitting comfortably as a sideman for the electric chords and beats. Uncle Lucius turn on The Light and watch its songs go into dark corners, shadowy hallways, and  travel one lane roads as they search, seek and provide answers for how to walk a little prouder. The hint is that you can feel a little better about yourself by taking control of your own life.

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18 John Moreland   (from the album High on Tulsa Heat   4-21-15) - John Moreland songs began to form when a ten years old John and his family moved from Kentucky to Tulsa, Oklahoma. He heard his songs against a punk rock back beat throughout high school, ut and pasted on his dad’s Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Young, Tom Petty and Steve Earle records.  John recalls that ‘I think what appealed to me about it was lyrics. In hardcore, there might be great lyrics in a song but you have to read them off a piece of paper to know it. I was 19 in 2004, and Steve Earle had put out ‘The Revolution Starts Now,’ and I remember hearing the song ‘Rich Man’s War’ and totally feeling like somebody just punched me in the chest.’

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19 Lilly Hiatt    (from the album Royal Blue on New West Records  3-3-15) - Royal Blue moves with a pulse pumping a heart aware that things work out in equal measure, sometimes going belly up. Lilly Hiatt doesn’t drown in the ocean she is swimming as she claims the skin of “Somebody’s Daughter”. She is taking the reins, unsure of the hows and whys yet very clear on the end results working out, knowing ‘I’m gonna be fine’.  Royal Blue keeps a Modern Beat with a 60’s sci-fi rumble as it reads a broken heart note signed “Too Bad”, “Heart Attack” runs on a David Lynch sound track with its dream-induced beat zig zagging on a ghostly groove, bounces off a rock’n’roll jangle trying to “Get This Right”, and uses tight drum beats to corral the wobbly guitars running “Off Track”.

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20  The Grahams  (from the album Glory Bound  5-18-15) - If you are looking for a song on Glory Bound to make you feel worse about your day…move along. The Grahams are never far away from waving the banner of the road though they change the mood of their songs like the scenery flying by outside a southbound boxcar. Glory Boundis a light burning bright for taking chances and listening to the voices in your head.

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21 The Wood Brothers  (from the album Paradise 10-2-15) - Chris Wood uses an electric bass for the first time in Wood Bros. studio recordings on Paradise. The heavier thump grounds tracks like “American Heartache” giving a rock heft to the natural power of The Wood Brothers. Oliver Wood’s voice cries for salvation with the soul-searching of a zealot, as the songs offer inspiration within reach. The ways to plow through the middle of issues is covered in the challenging advice of “Singin’ for Strangers” with additional experiential advice on how to swim upstream on a“River of Gin” to get some kind of ‘amen’ as The Wood Brothers quiet to a hush to sing a “Heartbreak Lullaby” for love sick boys.

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22   Della Mae  (from the album Della Mae on New Rounder Records 5-12-15) - Della Mae fires its opening salvo with a pro-union and pro-women’s rights song that demands ‘pass me a match and we’ll strike it on the ground, and we’ll head back down to Boston town’. The women of Della Mae stand tall and proud as they challenge workers to take control of their lives and hold on to their dignity.

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23  Shelby Lynne  (from the album I Can’t Imagine on New Rounder Records  5-4-15) - Shelby Lynne songs sink into your senses with familiarity by the end of the track. “Son of a Gun” slows its pace to save its energy as it ‘walks through the noonday sun’, “Back Door Front Porch” swings with the decisions of its story, and “Better” drifts on clouds of amplifier rings, rising and falling with a delicate grace.    

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24  Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell  (from the album The Traveling Kind on Nonesuch Records  5-12-15) - Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell are no strangers to being a part of one another’s story line. The add accent and emotion, Continuing that model on The Traveling Kind. There is a beauty to the intimate moments that feels like a new page for the Harris-Crowell songbook. Rodney joins Emmylou as they offer a toast to fellow troubadours in the title track before circling back to just two folks looking for a dance floor as they exit The Traveling Kind on a ‘le bon temps roulé’ with “Le Danse de la Joie”.

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25  JD McPherson  (from the album Let the Good Times Roll on New Rounder Records 2-10-15) - Reverbed chords rotate over Let the Good Times Roll like the blades of an oscillating fan. JD McPherson is not claiming purist or avant garde status….he is just playing it as it lays. Let the Good Times Roll sets the guitar sound in line with the upright bass and rattles with layered reverb in “Precious”, double times a rubbery chord strum to tumble “Head Over Heels” and blows breath beats out on a groove primed by a low riding saxophone pumps. Let the Good Times Roll lays Rhythm over its Blues for R&B circa 2015.

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The Alternate Root Top 100 Albums of the Year 2015 is ready for viewing. One hundred albums is a large list, though the amount of music and talent in the American Roots community certainly has enough sources to draw from to get to the one hundred mark, and we could have easily gone over.  Drawing from the available American Roots styles, we have gathered music from Folk, Blues, Soul, Americana, Alt Country, Bluegrass, Classic Country as well as any and all hybrids. So yeah, one hundred…no problem. Songs and artists from around the country and around the globe, the sound of Roots digs in and reaches out. It is infectious and universal in its moods and melodies. The year 2015 saw new artists and seasoned performers putting out full album listens. Our list for the year honors albums, full album listens from artists. Albums signify a record for musician’s time and art, and we are happy to offer the albums that got our attention, became friends, and are now part of the family in 2015.

26 Pilgrim (from the album Easy People on Horton Records 11-6-15) - Motion is a key ingredient on Easy People, the recent release from Pilgrim. It comes from the full album play being a great match for long car trips; its songs possessing the magic that makes outside images part of a soundtrack unique to the journey. Easy People glides with the hum of rubber underneath you, the flow of the songs a road rhythm, speeding up when the exit turns into highway on “Get Me Outta This City”, going to a steady roll that tracks a hundred miles in the space of a song on “Can’t Let Go”, and slowing to feel its own heartbeat quicken on a returns home (“My Heart is Mine”).

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27 Ashley Monroe  (from the album The Blade on Warner Music Nashville) 7-24-15- The Blade spends time in baring souls (“Has Somebody Ever Told You”), inspiring (“Weight of the World”), walking away slowly but proud (“I Buried Your Love Alive”), and betting on losing being a sure thing (“Winning Streak”). Ashley Monroe plays songs that are proud to call themselves Country, as they should be. The Blade cuts across through posing and cuts into real emotions, real life that unfolds again and again.

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28 Joe Louis Walker   (from the album Everybody Wants a Piece on Provogue Records  10-9-16) - There is fluidity to guitar playing of Joe Louis Walker. The notes glide, merging and fading into one another seamlessly. Joe Louis spins a spell with “Witchcraft” over funky chops of guitar chords, softly plays the Blues to his equally lonely four walls as he admits to being “Black and Blue”, matches voice and notes to walk into the light of “One Sunny Day”, and puts a “Buzz on You” as he staggers and struts the tune over a Rock’n’Roll rhythm.  Everybody Wants a Piece preaches without saying a word on the instrumental “Gospel Blues”, surfs choppy waves of guitar chords to “Wade in the Water”, takes “Young Girl Blues” for a date on a Kansas City street circa 1950-something to hear Blues give birth to rock’n’roll, and stands center stage 2015 for the amped-up, lowdown Blues in the title track.

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29 Patty Griffin  (from the album Servant of Love  9-25-15) - Patty Griffin casts a spell with the piano that begins “Servant of Love”, the title track from her most recent album release. The notes become an intricate trance, mingling at some point with a wandering jazz horn and the deep breaths of cello notes. Patty’s poetic lyrics weave as the instruments blend and separate in a loop throughout the track. Servant of Love beds in musical styles ranging through Folk, Jazz, Americana, and Blues. Patty Griffin has an easy vocal approach that she comfortably fits into all the musical styles lucky enough to have her drop by. It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees though if you have to bend, Patty Griffin shows that music is the kind of loving master where commitment pays off with Servant of Love

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30  Rhiannon Giddens  (from the album Tomorrow is My Turn on Nonesuch Records 2-10-15) - Rhiannon Giddens offers cover versions on Tomorrow is My Turn, her 2015 solo release. Rhiannon bends the Blues around the notes Patsy Cline offered in “She’s Got You”, and shares that “Black is the Color” over a skittery garage beat that trip hops on a natural high as the percussion plows along.

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31 Buddy Guy (from the album Born to Play Guitar  7-31-15) - Buddy Guy carved out his own spot on the marquee with his unique playing, becoming the man often credited for being the bridge between Blues and Rock’n’Roll with his electric guitar tuning to tradition as much as innovation. Born to Play Guitar puts Buddy’s sweet vocals alongside the feral tease of his guitar playing. His fingers sound let loose from a starting gate rather than placed between the guitar frets. 

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32 Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin  (from the album Lost Time on Yep Roc Records 9-18-15)Phil Alvin cries “Please Please Please”, laying gospel Blues on the James Brown/Johnny Terry tune while the brothers hop up some Blues boogie for Leroy Carr’s “Papas on the House Top” and strut into Oscar Brown, Jr’s “Mister Kicks” with the scent of brimstone rising up from the blistering guitar notes of brother Dave. The guitar swoons and slashes throughout Lost Time, a true duet between the Alvin’s as the album answers the guitar call as trumpet into the rhythm rattle of “World’s in a Bad Condition”, wrestles a wayward riff into line with a solid beat on Willie Dixon’s “Sit Down Baby”, lightly touches Reverend Thomas A. Dorsey’s “If You See My Savior”, and carries the heavy burden of a life gone wrong with “In New Orleans (Rising Sun Blues)”.

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33  Barnstar! (from the album Sit Down! Get Up! Get Out!! On Signature Sounds 2-3-15) - The idea started in the brain of Zachariah Hickman, musical director for Ray Lamontagne and bass player for Josh Ritter. Snagging A-list New England musicians (Mark Erelli on guitar, Charlie Rose on banjo, Jake Armerding on fiddle and Taylor Armerding on mandolin), Zachariah found some songs, plugged in his bass and took his idea through concept and into fruition with Barnstar! A mix of band originals and covers merge seamlessly within Sit Down! Get Up! Get Out!

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34 Chessboxer  (from the E.P. Apollo  9-25-15) - Listening to the music of Chessboxer is like falling through the looking glass, gazing at an ocean for the first time, or, I would guess, space travel. Chessboxer are a three piece bluegrass-looking outfit. Looks can be deceiving, as we know, and certainly as can be heard on the trio’s E.P., Apollo. The music of Chessboxer cultivates the way that banjo, fiddle, and upright bass interact. The band seems to accomplish this by pretty much ripping apart any how-to manuals, and creating their own craft sound, a small brewery of Bluegrass.

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35 Christian Lopez Band  (from the album Onward 5-18-15) - Nineteen year old singer and songwriter Christian Lopez scribes his debut, Onward, with a narratives wise beyond his years. Christian’s  bold emotional vocals steer the album confidently as they cruise through singer/songwriter Country.

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36 Amy Black (from the album The Muscle Shoals Sessions 6-9-15) - The Muscle Shoals Sessions changes the way Amy Black hears herself on record as well as her musical directions. Amy knows that ‘making this music has changed me as an artist. It’s altered my musical course and I’m so glad’. Amy Black showcases her new path on The Muscle Shoals Sessions as a good fit as she delivers a blend of Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, and Rock’n’Soul. She reheats Sam Cooke’s “Bring it on Home to Me” as a Soul stew with the McCrary Sisters helping stir.

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37 James McMurtry (from the album Complicated Game) 2-24-15  by Michael Verity - Sometimes life can be a complicated game and few tell the story as clearly as James McMurtry. His sharp-eyed lyricism and simple delivery are a pleasure to behold, the work of an artist completely at home with his muse. There are three central themes on this record of stories about the human condition, arduous though it may be. First, there’s love or, perhaps more accurately, the ever oscillating energy of love that includes falling in it, wondering where it’s gone and hitting the road to find it. Second, there’s travel, the need of a restless man to see the far corners of the world or, at least, cross the roads and rivers of his own country. In “Ain’t Got A Place,” the skies are taller in Louisiana and wider in New Mexico (and rivers run East out of West Virginia). “Forgotten Coast” is pure escapism but, sometimes, travel includes family, as it does on “Long Island Sound. Finally, there’s man’s complicated relationship with the ever-idiosyncratic Mother Nature, another woman who exerts a powerful force in his life. Delivered in a voice unvarnished and a style simplistic, these are tunes that capture the intricacies of human existence in all their fine and flawed form, a bit like a Steinbeck on a CD. By Michael Verity

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38  Gretchen Peters (from the album Blackbirds  2-10-15) - Blackbirds gathers stories, backing the tales with honest Roots that tip their arrows into a Country touched Folk when a question is shared with Jimmy LaFave on “When You Coming Home” while Folk sticks to its pure singer/songwriter Roots to scribe the plight on “Pretty Things”. Gretchen Peters feathers Blackbirds with emotions that run strong for a desert homecoming as they realize that when ‘“All you Got is a Hammer” everything seems like a nail’ while she damns the realizations that extend beyond today and into forever acknowledging that ‘The Cure for the Pain” is the pain’. 

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39 The White Buffalo  (from the album Love and the Death of Damnation  8-21-16) - The White Buffalo uses the microphone as a pulpit, the growl of his roar guiding Love and the Death of Damnation from the entry rush of Folk Rock (“Dark Days”) to the gospel salvation on the exit track, “Come on Love, Come on In”. He records as a mission, his songs presented by statements on good and evil as choices (“Last Call to Heaven”), topping off his tank with love (“Home in Your Arms”), and telling tales of bad decisions mixed with revenge (“Chico”).

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40 Israel Nash  (from the album Israel Nash’s Silver Season  10-9-15) - Israel Nash is the court bard of medieval times, commemorating a story to song by building long sweeping musical beds to allow the scenes and characters to act against audio movie screens.  The ethereal movement of the music on Israel Nash’s Silver Season never gets too close to the ground due to the musical force behind the songs. Falsetto screams and Country Rock harmonies are held in place by the pounding beat in “Lavendula” as “Mariner’s Ode” falls into a dream staring at the painting of an old school seaman. Israel Nash creates isolated moments in his songs that are best appreciated as full album listens.

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41 Jim Lauderdale  (from the Soul Searching; Memphis, Volume 1, Nashville, Volume 2 9-25-15) - Jim Lauderdale is a natural born singer, managing to put his heart in Soul, and Country with the natural Blues fueled Rock’n’Roll bite in his delivery. Soul Searching, Memphis Volume One is Soul with a Country love as Jim Lauderdale opens the album on thick organ swells, sliced guitar chords, and horn blasts to get the rhythm shaking across a soundscape of Soul with “There's no End to the Sky”.  Soul Searching, Nashville Volume Two is Country that loves its Soul with Jim Lauderdale voicing hope (“Plan B”), slinky rhythm danger (“Black Widow Spider”), slow dance confessions (“What Do I Know About Anything”), and sharp-edged history notes trying to not make the same mistakes (“Timing is Everything”). 

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42 Los Lobos (from the album Gates of Gold on 429 Records 9-25-15) - Los Lobos delivered their first studio recording in the past five years with the recently released, Gates of Gold. The (former) little band from East L.A., has long ago joined the ranks of American bands that play, curate, and advance American Roots music, as Los Lobos put their names alongside the Grateful Dead, The Band, Little Feat, and others as melting pot music. Los Lobos muse is influenced by the breeding ground where Folk, Tex-Mex, Blues, Rock’n’Roll, Country, and all things Roots all hook up. Los Lobos pack a lot of tones and textures into the album as they set up behind the walls of Gates of Gold, letting the title track roll along on notes, beats, chords, and voices tumble over one another with the grace of Olympians while “Mis-Treater Boogie Blues” pulls back, revs up, and fires off a blast of Texas Boogie.

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43 Au Pair (from the album One Armed Candy Bear  11-13-15) - Au Pair is the lovechild of Gary Louris (The Jayhawks) and Django Haskins (The Old Ceremony). The Pair met in Chicago, IL. As part of a celebration for the music of Big Star. They recorded One Armed Candy Bear in Durham, North Carolina. Au Pair create a fractured Folk music, using loops and bleeps as part of a junkyard accumulation of instruments, describing themselves at Everly Brothers meets Pink Floyd on their Facebook website. Like its mystical namesake, there is a fantasy tone to the stories on One Armed Candy Bear that is backed by dreamlike landscapes moving below (“King of the Valley”), dark clouds of eerie sonics (“Night Falls Early”), sounds that rise and fade (“One-Eyed Crier”), and percussive stomps and strums (“New Deal”).

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44 Eilen Jewell   (from the album Sundown Over Ghost Town  5-26-15) - ‘Been around this world, just to come back to you," sings Eilen Jewell on "Worried Mind," the first song on the eighth long player of her career, Sundown over Ghost Town. It's an apt opening line for an album about returning home which, for Eilen, means a trip back to Boise, Idaho, the dusty cowboy town of her birth.

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45 Chuck Hawthorne  (from the album Silver Line  4-28-15) - Chuck Hawthorne has way of translating hours and minutes in a day, offering life in real time, showing troubles in a song. Silver Line is a goal, and a title, for the most recent Chuck Hawthorne release. Silver Line introduces characters that their creator inhabits in a way that makes it difficult to suss out which are the tales and how much of the history fits the steps of Chuck Hawthorne as a solider and a troubadour as the pain of the solider that traces back to his time at “Post 2 Gate” while “The Gospel Hammer” joins the corporate workforce as Chuck follows the trail of smoke from addiction climbing higher, fanned by wings with “Dragon Flies”.

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46 Paul Benjaman Band  (from the album Sneaker on Horton Records 10-30-15) - A sly, slinky, back forty bonfire beat casts a spell with the trance groove of “Black Country Magic”. Sneaker shares the stage with Willie and his Hand Jive as it pounds out a mighty message promising to “Shake Your Tree”. If you are naming names for Sneaker, you can check off guitar riffs, soulful vocal glue, and a beat you can dance to on the album. Sneaker” creeps infectiously up and attaches with something primally familiar.

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47 The Yawpers   (from the album American Man on Bloodshot Records 10-30-16) - The Yawpers are a Denver, Colorado based band that is wound tightly around lead vocals and lead guitar. Jesse Parmet’s guitar has a feral attack matched well with the punk political spit of frontman Nate Cook. The Yawpers link arms with a worldwide community that ‘walk the line between what I want and what’s rightfully mine ’in “Faith and Good Judgment” as they find themselves stranded in Van Nuys (CA) and walking out in the cool Country air while “Burdens” finds a small town exit for a seventeen year old who knows he had better ‘get out while I’m young enough to run’.  

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48  Sugarcane Jane   (from the album Dirt Road’s End   4-28-15) - Dirt Road’s End is a duo with friends as the songs catch a ride on a bass bump that navigates down “Heartbreak Road”,  adds guitar jangle sweetness to the already honey-dripping vocals wrapped in “Sugar”, and sees the beauty of the “San Andreas”, sharing the gossip that ‘if god had a home, she’d be living there’. Sugarcane Jane sonically mirror their environment. The songs are not autobiographical though their ties to home and family dig the tracks roots directly into the earth we share under our feet.

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49 Whitney Rose  (from the album Heartbreaker of the Year  8-21-15) - Whitney Rose recorded her second album, the recently released Heartbreaker of the Year, in four days. Whitney had a ringer in her earphones with veterans, The Mavericks, on board for the album, and the band’s frontman, Raul Malo, producing as well as performing on Heartbreaker of the Year. Raul‘s mighty voice is subtle, supporting Whitney Rose as a BFF as she tries to snag a “Little Piece of You” on a 1950’s rhythm bounce while his vocals are an echo on the Roy Orbison-flavored “Only Just a Dream”, and become an equal partner for the co-leads on the pledge of love in The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”.

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50 Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers  (from the album Loved Wild Lost   4-21-15) - Loved Wild Lost claims territory in the 70’s Pop sound on “Waiting on Love”, moves into classic Country reverbed riff of “Only Always”, carves a strut in the rock of “Heart Gets Tough”, and swirls a lasso as they rope in “Queen of the Rodeo”. Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers are a road band, and every note on Loved Wild Lost benefits from the fan response from constant touring. The album is a group effort, and as guitar strings tangle, Nick Bluhm sings for the boys in the band as much for herself as the highway rolls “Me and Slim” into the next Holiday Inn.

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The Alternate Root Top 100 Albums of the Year 2015 is ready for viewing. One hundred albums is a large list, though the amount of music and talent in the American Roots community certainly has enough sources to draw from to get to the one hundred mark, and we could have easily gone over.  Drawing from the available American Roots styles, we have gathered music from Folk, Blues, Soul, Americana, Alt Country, Bluegrass, Classic Country as well as any and all hybrids. So yeah, one hundred…no problem. Songs and artists from around the country and around the globe, the sound of Roots digs in and reaches out. It is infectious and universal in its moods and melodies. The year 2015 saw new artists and seasoned performers putting out full album listens. Our list for the year honors albums, full album listens from artists. Albums signify a record for musician’s time and art, and we are happy to offer the albums that got our attention, became friends, and are now part of the family in 2015.

51 Allison Moorer  (from the album Down to Believing  3-17-15) - Allison Moorer released her ninth album, Down to Believing, in 2015. For the story line, Allison looks to her own life. As the rhythm rattles for “Mama, Let the Wolf In” she stages the reaction experience when she received her son’s autism diagnosis.

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52 Danielle Nicole  (from the album Wolf Den on Concord Records  9-25-15) - The title track opens Wolf Den with a Vintage groove bending and shaping organ bursts and rubbery distortion as Danielle Nicole struts into the album. Danielle Nicole attacks the tracks on Wolf Den with confidence as she cruises down a city sidewalk with the street lights coming up on “Easin' Into The Night” and covers “I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home” with thick funk as Luther Dickinson joins album producer Anders Osborne on guitar work. 

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53 Indigo Girls  (from the album One Lost Day on Red House Records 6-2-15) - The production on the Indigo Girls 2015 release, One Lost Day, watched a new hand behind the mixing board with Indigo Girls developing a working relationship with a younger, female perspective when the welcomed multi-instrumentalist Jordan Brooke Hamlin as producer. Darkness gives the album a subtle tone that lets the power of two voices have center stage. Great big balls of rhythm tumble from “Learned It on Me” as the story line suggests that the perfect relationships are the ones that have matching baggage, and “Fishtails” shows red lights trumpeting a warning in the wake of a life where we ‘hug the corners, take the straights, from the cradle to the grave….we all give what we got’.

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54 Otis Taylor (from the album Hey Joe Red Meat Opus 4-30-15) - Otis Taylor talks about the background muse for his writing of Hey Joe Opus Red Meat, explaining that filter was‘about decisions and their consequences. It’s about how decisions and the actions that result can change our lives, the lives of our families and the lives of people we don’t even know. Sometimes you win in life; sometimes you lose. You want the outcome of your decisions to be good, but sometimes its bad. And that’s when you don’t eat the meat. The meat eats you.’

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55  Dwight Yoakam  (from the album Second Hand Heart 4-14-15) - Rushed guitar strums, proud beats and pops of twang surround Dwight Yoakam as he steps into Second Hand Heart over one ongoing, percolating riff with “In Another World”. Dwight Yoakam writes and records with a honky tonk heart that is always on display. It is impossible to separate the man from the sound he owns. “Man of Constant Sorrow” uses the rhythm and Dwight’s own roots to come together as a bio.

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56 Corb Lund    (from the album Things That Can’t Be Undone on New West Records  10-9-15) - Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton) was behind the board as producer at his Nashville-based Low Country Sound studios to record Corb Lund for Things That Can’t Be Undone. The life of a farmer becomes the quickly turned pages of the story branded “S Lazy H” while memories spin the wheels down Main Street in “Left This Town”, guitar jangle mixes with border string bends to sound track the war story in “Sadr City”, and the spotlight shines on former glory in “Washed-Up Rock Star Factory Blues”. Corb Lund subtly puts flesh and blood into his characters as a Country boy heads home to his northern home in “Goodbye Colorado”.

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57 T. Hardy Morris   (from the album Drowin’ on a Mountaintop  6-23-15) - Drownin’ on a Mountaintop is the latest project from T. Hardy Morris. T. The album opens with tender pedal steel dueting with snarly electric guitar distortion on “Young Assumptions”. T. Hardy Morris plays garage rock with four walls facing south on Drownin’ on a Mountaintop. Indie Pop gets caught in album’s Country, southern Soul, and electric Blues, clinging like vines to the songs as it does in the music of Big Star, The Replacements, and R.E.M.

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58 The Bottle Rockets  (from the album South Broadway Athletic Club on Bloodshot Records 10-2-15) - The Bottle Rockets have become buddies for Alt Country and Roots fans that hear themselves in the stories. South Broadway  Athletic Club sifts through relationships that weather the storm with “Big Lotsa Love”, those that ‘fade like the flowers’ on “Big Fat Nuthin’, while the kind of love that never wavers, never fails, and gives back more than it takes out is captured lovingly on “Dog”.

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59 The Westies  (from the album West Side Stories   1-20-15) - West Side Stories circles Roots music with a rock’n’roll band behind the wheel as they follow rhythms through the neighborhoods and lives in NYC.  “Hell’s Kitchen” opens West Side Stories on an New York City street as characters change names and share dreams in the ghosts of the past as they work on decisions….’”Hell’s Kitchen” or heaven’s door’.   

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60  The Lonesome Trio  (from the album The Lonesome Trio on Sugar Hill Records  6-16-15) - A knack for song structure separates the Bluegrass of The Lonesome Trio from tradition while the mutual love of craft intuitively adhers an old timey touch and texture to the tunes. The band, Ed Helms (banjo), Ian Riggs (bass), and Jacob Tilove (mandolin), was born twenty-two years ago, with the Trio sticking together through various NYC careers of comedy, architectural history, and continued studies on jazz bass. The Lonesome Trio has benefitted from years of playing together, the songs gaining crucial inner-structure as personal lives allow the musicians to apply humor, tradition, and added musical tones and textures to their self-titled debut.

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61 Los Colognes  (from the album Dos  9-4-15) - The songs on Dos come from the pens of drummer Aaron “Mort” Mortenson and guitarist, vocalist Jay Rutherford as the pair seek to make jam music for fans of songwriters, using the song structure of classic rock. Recorded in hometown Nashville at Bombshelter Studios, Dos is the creation of a six-piece band. “All That You Know” percolates on a caffeine beat showing its expresso love as it tributes Dire Straits lead guitar work as “Hard to Remember” jumps formats for a track that would have been happy riding with AM Country Gold. A dark alley leads a path to “Golden Dragon Hut” on a story line that reads bad news on a rhythmic drive that puts its foot to the floor, never letting up for curves or turns with the engine humming a constant purr.

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62 Don Henley  (from the album Cass County on Capital Records 9-25-15) - Don Henley worked with former Heartbreaker, Stan Lynch, as co-producer, and co-author of eleven tracks on Cass County, recorded primarily in Nashville and Dallas. There is star power on Cass County with Miranda Lambert and Mick Jagger picking “Bramble Rose” to join Don in verse and harmony on the Tift Merritt tune. Dolly Parton is on board in for the Louvin Brothers’ “When I Stop Dreaming” with other guests include Merle Haggard, , Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Jamey Johnson, Alison Krauss, and Vince Gill.

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63 Beth Hart  (from the album Better Than Home  4-15-15) - Beth Hart found a way to use her music as catharsis for her past with Better Than Home, her most recent release, and in the process has created inspiration in her stories through the salvation beacon in her voice. Beth grabs the collar of “Tell ‘Em to Hold On” with piano notes and typewriter keys as a foundation to build on the power of its arrangement to make sense of our search for saviors

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64 Bow Thayer (from the album Sundowser  7-24-15) - On Sundowser, Bow plays the Airline Bojotar that combines a resonator guitar and banjo, adding Humbucker and Piezo pickups that blend together tonally.  Sundowser opens as the rubber hits the road for Bow Thayer, starting up the album with “Burning Miles”. Chords and notes roll like the highway as the story travels from concrete to clay. Sundowser bubbles with warm organ swells (“The Funeral Crasher”), confident Indie Roots fairy tales (“Snow Goose”), self-truth’s (“Drug Lust”), and the sparkle of strings introducing sweeping rock roots theatrics (“Downtrodder”).

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65 Patrick Sweany (from the album Daytime Turned to Nighttime  9-18-15) - East Nashville Soulman, Patrick Sweany, delivers his sixth album with Daytime Turned to Nighttime. Patrick crafts a style based on the sounds he listens to…Vintage Rock and Soul rhythms from the 1960’s and 1970’s, and his younger, first blush influences such as Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, Doug Sahm, Joe Tex, Bobbie Gentry, and Bill Withers. Daytime Turned to Nighttime cuts through the dark with the Blues, Rock, Folk, and Soul lights in its songs.

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66 Leo Bud Welch  (from the album I Don’t Prefer No Blues  3-23-15) - Leo Bud Welch established himself as a player with Sabougla Voices, his debut, the album divining Blues riffs that wiggled and sizzled under the tones of Gospel Blues.  I Don’t Prefer No Blues offers up some of its space to the same devotional songs found on his first album with “Pray On”, though the presentation of the track differs due to the way the Blues hits its tracks. Leo Bud Welch offers another side to his Blues on I Don’t Prefer No Blues.

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67 Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard  (from the album Django and Jimmie  6-2-15) - Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard are voices that speak softly but carry a big stick of smart when they discuss the life around us. A gentle twang stirs a breeze for the rhythm in “Live This Long” as the beat catches fire for the poor boy preachin’ of “It’s Only Money”. Django and Jimmie is not handed down as testament on how to live, it is presented as valued opinions on the familiar (“Unfair Weathered Friends”), the wishes (“Somewhere Between”), and the troubadours (“Driving the Herd”).

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68 Jeffrey Foucault   (from the album Salt as Wolves  10-16-15) - Separating the characters from the singer is at times tough and nearly impossible with Jeffrey Foucault on Salt as Wolves. Guitar pickings are as soft the glow of love in “Hurricane Lamp” as dark clouds of chords roll and rumble through “Slow Talker”, and “Paradise” gently sends out a thank you on slowly unfolding sonics. The slap of tire wheels defines the rhythm as the band sets up in “Des Monies” as Salt as Wolves provides shimmies (“Blues for Jessie Mae”), salvation (“Jesus Will Fix It for You”), strange happenings (“Rico”), and shudders (“Take Your Time”).   

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69 Daniel Romano (from the album If I've Only One Time Askin' on New West Records 7-31-15) - If I’ve only Time for Askin’ sequeways song –to-song, never losing the links of notes that tie the tracks together. The tone is Vintage Country Modern, carefully created soundscapes that flow over the album, peeling back layers of the heart, Daniel admitting, ‘I’ve been known to take some liberties in the sadness department’. Washes of strings lay a path for “I'm Gonna Teach You” to open the album as Daniel Romano becomes the crooner, setting his role for If I’ve Only One Time Askin’.

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70 Joe Ely (from the album Panhandle Rambler  9-18-15) - Joe has been a west Texas songwriter for those nearly forty years of studio work. Panhandle Rambler carries dirt and grit yet there is a more personal tone to the tales, the tracks polished to a sheen rather than covering in a layer of soot. Joe Ely is coming back to the land that he has carried to around the world in song. The lives walking through the stories are not noted as passing glances, Joe Ely is pulling up a chair at a local diner, riding down a backroad that has nothing on the landscape but the trail of dust behind his truck, and sitting down with friends new and old to take a moment and talk.

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71 Whitey Morgan and the 78’s  (from the album Sonic Ranch  5-19-15) - Whitey Morgana and the 78’s are the saints of quick decisions in local watering holes and behind steering wheels looking for a party. Sonic Ranch lets the wind blow down alleys (“Low Down on the Backstreets”) and draws a line of alcohol on the bar, swearing ‘if I go down tonight, I’m going down drinking’ (“Ain't Gonna Take It Anymore”). Whitey Morgan and the 78’s have no apologies for their brand of rock rock’n’roll in “Goin’ Down Rocking”.

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72  Justin Townes Earle  (from the album Absent Fathers   1-13-15) - The characters that register on Absent Fathers talk about their humanity without defending their decisions, using the voices of all those affected by the results. The album is the 2015 companion to Justin Townes Earle Single Mothers release. Absent Fathers is a puzzle piece that fits into Single Mothers, a companion that fills out the story to create a bigger picture.

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73 The Mulligan Brothers   (from the album Via Portland  1-20-15) - Via Portland takes lessons from The Mulligan Brothers self-titled debut and continues to blend imagery in their stories the band easily offers sound as one fluid motion. Ross Newell curls his voice around the words that build his tales, as he gently lets go (“Run on Ahead”), basks in the glow of an evening sky as the Christmas lights sparkle at journeys end (“Road That Leads Me Home”) and sharpens his pen when talking about how the same blood can take different paths (“Not Always What It Seems”).

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74 Kevin Gordon  (from the album Long Gone Time 9-9-15) - Kevin Gordon forms a song rather than piecing it together with words and music. There are well-defined characters in the poetry that puts flesh and blood into the stories of Long Time Gone. The songs are portraits, landscapes of an America that replaces the Southern charm of a Sunday mint julip with the stale beer smell of a small town Sunday morning hangover (“Cajun with a K”). Guitar and voice exist as one on Long Time Gone. They are partners in the songs of Kevin Gordon, his playing linked as support, accent, leader and follower to a lyrical, storyteller vocal.

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75 The Dustbowl Revival  (from the album With A Lampshade On on Signature Sound 7-24-15)by Michael Verity - Aptly titled with the quaintly antiquated expression for “getting your party on,” this collection of fourteen live tunes from their extensive repertoire nicely documents what it’s like to spend a night with The Dustbowl band. Though they read from many chapters in the book of old time music -- bluegrass, R&B, New Orleans jazz -- they never sound peripatetic or in genuine. Is it time to party? Bring this record along for the ride. by Michael Verity

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The Alternate Root Top 100 Albums of the Year 2015 is ready for viewing. One hundred albums is a large list, though the amount of music and talent in the American Roots community certainly has enough sources to draw from to get to the one hundred mark, and we could have easily gone over.  Drawing from the available American Roots styles, we have gathered music from Folk, Blues, Soul, Americana, Alt Country, Bluegrass, Classic Country as well as any and all hybrids. So yeah, one hundred…no problem. Songs and artists from around the country and around the globe, the sound of Roots digs in and reaches out. It is infectious and universal in its moods and melodies. The year 2015 saw new artists and seasoned performers putting out full album listens. Our list for the year honors albums, full album listens from artists. Albums signify a record for musician’s time and art, and we are happy to offer the albums that got our attention, became friends, and are now part of the family in 2015.

76  Ryan Bingham   (from the album Fear and Saturday Night   1-20-15) - Ryan Bingham is a singer/songwriter….a Southwest singer/songwriter…and has a knack for walking a line in song that never points a finger back at the man behind the guitar. The story version of a wink and a smile have been as much of a character for Ryan’s tales, and many of those souls can be found walking the tracks of Fear and Saturday Night, his 2015 release. There is a more personal tone to some of the songs, maybe it is the Blues coloring that Ryan Bingham gives the album’s tunes, his first on his indie imprint, Axster Bingham Records.

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77 The Lone Bellow  (from the album Then Came the Morning   1-27-15) - There is majesty to the music of The Lone Bellow as it surrounds itself with anthemic swells in the sound: horn bursts, soaring strings, and a choir of harmony surrounding a Soul lead vocal that is breaking free of earthly ties. The group has a trio at its heart, Zach Williams, Brian Elmquist, and Kanene Pipkin, who use The Lone Bellow as a vehicle to fulfill the glory of their voices together. The Lone Bellow choose a solid bass bump as the heartbeat that feeds “Fake Roses”.

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78 Wilco (from the Album Star Wars on Anti- Records 7-17-15) - Star Wars, the latest Wilco album release, gives one home to the traditions and extremes that have always a part of the band’s music. Wilco have been held up as torch bearers of Alt Country and champions of Post Rock. Both ends of the sound spectrum can be heard on the band’s album output. Star Wars is a family picnic for the song styles that Wilco has created through eight studio album releases, and two Woody Guthrie tributes co-hosted with Billy Bragg.

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79  Dawes  (from the album All Your Favorite Bands 6-2-15) - Dawes bordered the hills of their California-based debut, North Hills, to Nashville to record at East Nashville’s Woodland Hills Studios for the current, fourth, album release, All Your Favorite Bands. The recording of All Your Favorite Bands keeps their vintage Laurel Canyon sound of west coast folk country that the band always heard in their music, giving it added expansion with Americana  echoes and southern sways. All Your Favorite Bands was produced by Dave Rawlings, who adds guitars, and brings in added power with the vocals of the mighty McCrary Sisters and Gillian Welch.

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80 Robert Earl Keen  (from the album Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions 2-10-15) - Robert Earl Keen gets to check another item off his musical “bucket list” and bluegrass fans get to hear 15 classics, reinterpreted in Keen’s own inimitable style. Taking his cue from Del McCoury, Keen offers an enthusiastic, energetic reading of the Richard Thompson ‘s classic “52 Vincent Black Lightning” then continues the ruckus with a rousing reading of Bill Monroe’s “Footprints In The Snow” (one of the first songs Keen remembers hearing when he turned-on to bluegrass as a kid). (Michael Verity)

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81  The Mavericks  (from the album Mono   2-17-15) - Mono was recorded with few overdubs, Raul Malo’s parts often coming from the tracking vocal recording with no need to go back and re-record.  “The Only Question” enters with confidence, each step taken on solid beats.  Mono gathers tunes under the musical banner that The Mavericks hold aloft, with Raul Malo’s vocal power carefully steering on tracks over light cha-cha rhythms dancing to the sounds of “Summertime (When I’m with You”), skimming over Country Blues with “What am I Supposed to Do”, putting a quarter into the jukebox for the rock’n’roll of “Stories We Could Tell”, and slowly trudge home on road miles for “Pardon”.

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82 Gurf Morlix (from the album Eatin’ at Me   2-3-15) - Gurf Morlix sets a story stage best when he is behind the songs, heading up his own album as producer and player, with Eatin’ At Me ,his 2015 release, being the perfect example. While his voice is the center point in the tunes, Gurf still maintains a distance in the narrator role throughout the stories, sending his characters in search of lost love, or at least a good internet connection (“Grab the Wheel”), walks with giant steps off the grid (“Elephant’s Graveyard”) and slowly switches on the light to find the path between past stumbles and future tripping (“Last Call”).

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83 Homesick Hank   (from the album Beautiful Life 11-6-15) - The songs of Homesick Hank unfold like morning flowers, opening to greet the world with sad melodies and lyric poetry. Homesick Hank find a peace in the quiet of a song, making that presence a goal for their tracks. Beautiful Life welcomes Mary Gauthier into the studio to join the band on the album track, “Believe”, where delicately layered instrumentation moves through the arrangement like summer clouds making their way across the sky with barely perceptible motion.

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84 The Supersuckers (from the album Holdin’ the Bag on Bloodshot Records 10-16-15) - Holdin’ the Bagis the sound track of Punk Country, from the Manhattan’s lower East Side to Nashville’s lower Broadway. The Supersuckers present themselves with decided intentions (“Man on a Mission”), ponder growing old (“All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down”), and let the campfire glow hit the harmonica, busking into a trail saga that sweeps desert winds into the title track. They share a microphone, as well as body fluids issues, with Lydia Loveless on the duet of “I Can’t Cry”. Holdin’ the Bag sways the front porch swings “High and Outside”, backs mountain wisdom with mountain music on “That's How It Gets Done”, and takes a seat beside the history of Billy Joe Shaver on his tune “Georgia on a Fast Train”.

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85 Shemekia Copeland (from the album Outskirts of Love on Alligator Records  9-11-15) - Shemekia Copeland uses the stage as a pulpit, demanding attention like a preacher standing in front of those already converted and ravenous for the message. Her methods shake foundations and rattle the righteous into action. Outskirts of Love testifies to the ability of Shemekia Copeland to reach right down inside to touch spirits needing a little more saving than platitudes and promises can offer. Her motives are not religious in the traditional sense as Shemekia soul shouts salvation, and wrings a hallelujah from the gospel fuel she pours into Country, Rhythm, and Blues. Outskirts of Love presents Shemekia Copeland wearing audio coats of many colors, guiding each tune with a sound force that rises up from deep inside, pushing limits and coloring outside of the lines as she buries the needle in the red zone.

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86 William Elliot Whitmore   (from the album Radium Death on Anti- Records  3-31-15) - There are the rare singers and songwriters like William Elliott Whitmore, a poet who has the maturity and self-assuredness to speak of his life and his world with credibility, gusto and veracity. ‘Civilizations,’ is a stomping Folk blues where William Elliot Whitmore becomes a universal citizen, voicing the words who cannot be heard.

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87 Darlingside (from the album Birds Say 9-18-15) - When Darlingside merge in harmony, it is the anthemic mix of voices that uses Folk music to champion causes, lead protests, and sing inspiration. Birds Say embraces the breadth of sounds available in Indie Folk with banjo strums intersecting on ethereal chords (“Good for You”), to deliver delicate folk tales on echoey strums and freckled notes (“Clay and Cast Iron”) as Darlingside saddle “White Horses” for a choral trail ride bound for Chicago.

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88  Murder by Death  (from the album Big Dark Love   2-3-15 on New West Records) - The conditions of the heart find themselves as a theme in Big Dark Love. Murder by Death tackle topics on the subject that skew outside of Hallmark greeting cards. The combination of strings and synths create colors of black and grey, deep swirling clouds that obscure light without ever dimming to the point of nothingness… thick gauze draped over the shining light of hope.

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89  Girls Guns Glory  (from the album A Tribute to Hank Williams    2-24-15) - It is only fitting that Girls, Guns and Glory chose a New Year’s Eve live setting to tribute Hank Williams. Ward Hayden, lead singer for GGG, recalls that ‘around when I turned 20 and the lyrics started making a whole lot of sense is when it hit me.  If you've never had your heart broken then country music can sound like a bunch of twangy gibberish’, Ward got Hank and with Girls Guns and Glory Presents: A Tribute to Hank Williams, he and the boys get it on with Hank.

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90 The McCrary Sisters   (from the album Let’s Go     3-10-15) - The McCrary Sisters do not lightly share the Let’s Go that they use as an album title and a challenge on their 2015 Buddy Miller-produced album release. The touch that Buddy put on Let’s Go is as subtle as the man himself, yet the results make him an official McSister.  There are moments on Let’s Go that reinvent the way you hear gospel music, and other times when the songs remind of days you missed.

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91 D.L. Marble (from the album Hard to Quit 9-18-15) - In a history that reads like a hard luck song, D.L. Marble was raised by a single mom while dad spent decades in a Texas prison. He picked up a guitar in high school and life suddenly took on meaning. Hard to Quit faces angels and demons with a background of Indie from multiple sources in Rock, Country, and Folk. “Here’s to You” raises an audio glass full of wishes and memories that will never be fulfilled while “Gringo” regrets every toast from the night before as much as its new tattoo. “Drag Me Back” puts its thumb out for a ride back home for a man and guitar while the title track grabs keys, passport and one last cigarette as D.L. tries once more to exit a messy love affair. Hard to Quit revisits “Sombrero Lullaby” from D.L. Marble’s Not the One debut album, giving the story of an overseas soldier more heft as he sinks into the glow of a jukebox and heads to Mexico on an audio memory.

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92 Cicada Rhythm  (from the album Cicada Rhythm on Normaltown Records 10-30-15) - Cicada Rhythm left limitations at home when the Athens, Georgia based duo recorded their self-titled album for Normaltown Records. The mix of acoustic guitar and strum of a bowed bass creates a dreamy background with Folk and Jazz melodies as it floats across the soundscape of “Static in My Dreams”, dodges the “Shadows Before You”, and carries a “Round Yellow Suitcase” on fragile piano and chord defined beats.

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93 Jackie Greene (from the album Back to Birth on Yep Roc Records on Yep Roc Records 8-21-15) - Rock’n’roll rings out in the Roots on Back to Birth. It is in the rattle rhythm that announces “The King is Dead” with anthemic chords putting a flag in the hand of a ‘struggle of existence’, spinning the wheels on “Motorhome” with slow turns as it heads down a swaying blacktop, and clears the clouds away on a determined groove in “Now I Can See for Miles”.   The album is produced by Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), and marks the Yep Roc Records debut for Jackie Greene on his seventh album release.

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94 Randall Bramblett (from the album Devil Music on New West Records  9-18-15) - Randall Bramblett creates Devil Music to channel influences and create melodic soundscapes that drift and dive (“Whiskey-Headed Woman”), and put sharp-angled guitar notes in line with all-consuming percussion and horn lines (“Bottom of the Ocean”). Musically, Devil Music pounds heavy-handed rock into “Strong Love” as the album surfs audio waves of the sticky spiderweb beats backing Derek Trucks’ falsetto in “Angel Child”, lets “Ride” fall like a gentle rain, and carefully picks its way through erratic snatches of sound that fly like the mind weighing ‘you’re a bad girl baby, but you look so fine’ in “Thing for You”.

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95 Nikki Hill (from the album Heavy Hearts, Hard Fists  10-16-15) - Heavy Heart, Hard Fists is never timid, unassuming, or quietly discrete about its love for old school rock’n’roll. The religious calling that took Little Richard from music in his prime circles back to earth as a spiritual infusion needed for the times in the vocals of Nikki Hill. While there is a lot of advice in the stories, Heavy Hearts, Hard Fists is not here to lay a loving hand on your shoulder. The love that Nikki Hill and her band offer is a tough one, with a prescription for their brand of high energy Rock’n’Soul show.

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96 Stacie Collins (from the album Roll the Dice  10-9-15) - Stacie Collins delivers album number five as she shakes, rattles, and roars on her Roll the Dice release. The album features tracks written with husband, bandmate Al Collins (Jason and the Scorchers). Musically, Roll the Dice crackles with electricity. You can feel the heat of the amplifiers hitting Stacie’s back as she grabs the microphone, reaching, and hitting, the back row with her voice and harmonica. Country teases the rock’n’roll hard drive with Stacie blowing harp, bringing a touch of hard-edged Chicago Blues in the styles of James Cotton and Little Walter, and singing with a honky tonk holler.

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96 Lindi Ortega (from the album Faded Gloryville  8-7-15) - Lindi Ortega is the benevolent higher power shining through the clouds on Faded Gloryville. The Canadian singer/songwriters tell tales as she sketches a ghost town landscape, the characters walking around in her songs still flesh, blood, very vulnerable, and never admitting defeat. Lindi Ortega holds a chameleon microphone for Faded Gloryville as she spits out a salty goodbye on “I Ain’t the Girl”, confesses on a heart storm stomp in “When You Ain’t Home”, raises the devil on “Run Amuck” with a rockabilly rhythm, and tenderly whispers her dreams on “Someday Soon”.  

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98 The Damn Quails (from the album Out of the Birdcage  9-4-15) - Out of the Birdcage opens on a one, two punch from its title track as an album opener followed in sequence with the pedal to the floor of “Tough Luck and Cryin' Shame”. Country Rock frames the story of the bands home state on “Oklahoma Blue”, striking the color against a monochrome frozen Detroit street. The Damn Quails offer more Oklahoma pride with one of the state’s heroes in “Woody Guthrie (from the dust)” and hear the echoes in the OK hills that join the harmonies in “Song of Home”.

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99 Have Gun, Will Travel   (from the album Science from an Easy Chair  07-31-15) - Have Gun, Will Travel give Alt Country plenty of breathing room on Science from an Easy Chair. Granting the music liberty to use a more expansive range to roam yet still dig deep with their Roots. The songs on Science from an Easy Chair offer a lot of salvation in verse and chorus, incorporating anthemic guitar leads and trippy soundscapes that roll across the album. The “Spirit of Discovery” takes jangles Alt Country that never stops its shake, “A Call to Arms” sings instrumentally like a seductive siren, and locks into glory on a desert riff that blows Have Gun, Will Travel with a rock’n’roll wind that barely takes a moment to breathe “True Believers”.

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100 The Surreal McCoys   (from the album The Howl and The Growl 9-11-15) - The Surreal McCoys are the guy sitting next to you at a last-call diner who turn and answer questions you never asked (“Blondesided”). They are the snakes crawling through “Turn and Run” on wicked riffs of rules, the pound and scratch beat balancing “God and the Devil”, and the reality show script that uses the local dive bar rock’n’roll scene as the marquee star of “Lust Vigilante”. The Surreal McCoys successfully put Hank Williams into the garage, and stick The Replacements on stage at a honky tonk. The Howl and The Growl goes one step further then their Johnny Clash blend of prison blues and no limit rock as The Surreal McCoys bring Johnny Cash (“Folsom Prison Blues”) onto the same stage as Led Zeppelin (“Whole Lotta Love”) with their mash-up of “Whole Lotta Folsom”.  

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