Dan Wolff & The Muddy Crows from the E.P. Straight Crazy available as a self-release (Randy Radic)
Americana roots outfit Dan Wolff & the Muddy Crows recently released the E.P. Straight Crazy. Voted the Best D.C. original band in Washington, D.C.’s Readers Poll three years in a row, taking home trophies from 2015 through 2017. The Muddy Crows are made up of Dan Wolff (vocals, guitar), Eric Grabow (bass), Steve Mead (keyboards), Dan Perriello (drums), and Tom O’Donnell (guitar). Their sound is Modern Folk with radiant harmonies, classic rock energy, and narrative lyricism that twists into contagious concoctions. The band’s distinctive moniker, The Muddy Crows, has given rise to entertaining mispronunciations, like a friend’s grandmother, who called them “The Moldy Crows,” or when they were introduced as “The Muddy Cows” prior to performing at a festival. During their European tour, the translation of their name came across as “The Muddy Birds.” In each case, the band didn’t protest, they just carried on. (‘as long as lips are moving’ ed.)
Straight Crazycomprises four tunes, starting off with the title track, an upbeat roots rock number riding a bouncy groove supplemented by a potent bass line and tight drums. A bright piano drives the melody as drawling vocals tell the tale of a girl who has crossed over to crazy with the lines, ‘Cause your eyes tell me you are crazy / The windows to your soul tell me all I need to know / Cause you’re straight crazy, yea you’re crazy about me’. “Quarter Past Four” features an oozing, bluesy savor, crawling with a darkly wicked flow. The rolling rhythm adds to the ominous feel of the tune. Brimming harmonies infuse the melody with depth, as Dan Wolff’s portentous tones imbue the lyrics with menace…‘the vultures fly circles, to see what’s in store / as the time ticks down to a quarter past four / so board up your windows and lock up your doors / because today's the day, I'm going to even the score’. “Jezebel” is another dark tune, full of heavy guitar riffs and urgent textures. The closing track, “Anywhere but Here”, showcases a pounding piano laden with honky-tonk flavors juxtaposed against Wolff’s imperturbable timbres. The cool tones of a trumpet and keening guitars infuse the harmonics with insistent energy, as Wolff intones his desire to be ‘anywhere but here’. With Straight Crazy, Dan Wolff & the Muddy Crows deliver compelling vibes and catchy lyrics. (by Randy Radic)
Listen and buy the music of The Muddy Crows from AMAZON
The Nell & Jim Band from the album Steel available on Whippoorwill Arts (by Randy Radic)
Northern California’s Nell & Jim Band dropped a new twelve-track album on February 15, 2019. The title of the album is Steel, and it pays tribute to the group’s roots as well as support of the Music Home Project and the Whippoorwill Arts Awards. The Nell and Jim Band began when Jim Nunally co-produced an album for Nell Robinson, followed by the pair recording House & Garden(2013). The duo became a quintet when Jim Kerwin, Jon Arkin, and Rob Reich were added to the lineup. In 2015, the band dropped Baby Let’s Take the Long Way Home, touring in support of the album, while simultaneously working on new material for Steel. Jim Nunally explains the album’s title, saying, ‘it’s a story about a time in my life. Like so many musicians I had a day job - and mine was welding on oil rigs and bridges, working with my hands, welding - but I played my guitar at night at gigs and bars, before I gained success and could dedicate my life to music’.
The first single, “Shady Grove/Matty Groves,” preceded the album, hitting airwaves in late January 2019. An Doc Watson song, “Shady Grove” is an old friend to Jim Nunally, who played the tune alongside David Grisman for sixteen years of performances. Riding a driving groove, the track races ahead, flavored with an infectious accordion, before dropping into “Matty Groves,” featuring Nell Robinson’s drawling tones. “Dime in My Pocket” delivers swampy bluegrass savors as well as Nunally’s tight, reedy tenor. “Red Clay Creek” radiates streaming Alt-Country/Folk hues and delicious vocal harmonies reminiscent of Joan Baez. An old-timey tune called “Man At The Mill” delivers beaucoup twangy vocals and plonking notes from the guitars and banjo. The album’s title track conjures up memories of Bob Dylan covering hoedown songs in a compact, reedy timbres. Jangly guitars infuse the music with buoyant accents, Jim Nunally going a cappella on “Meditation Blues,” accompanied only by ticking clocks, the tune delivering the mood and feel of Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz.” (by Randy Radic)
Listen and buy the music of The Nell and Jim Band from AMAZON
Weldon Henson from the album Texas Made Honky Tonk available on Hillbilly Renegade Records
Putting heartache and hometown lifestyles on the map, Weldon Henson places audio pins to mark territory for dance halls and open roads on his recent release, Texas Made Honky Tonk. Weldon Henson sings of real lives, keeping the conversation one-on-one as he points a finger with the storyline of “Sleep All Day” and two-stepping through an early morning fog, waking up alone in “Hung Up on You” while Texas Made Honky Tonkspeeds up the rhythm when hearts race in “Are You Thinking of Me Too” and realizes that love has gone a little too far in “No Turning Back”. Taking the center spot on stages with his Honky Tonk Frontier band, Weldon Henson stays true to a sound he has taken as his own with Texas Made Honky Tonk.
For anyone keeping score, Weldon Henson is doing just fine, thank you very much, with the exception of lonely nights, the mood swings, and stiches received from falling down, telling the tale of his current day-to-day life in “My State of Mind”. Musically, Texas Made Honky Tonkstays true to its title, Weldon Henson infusing the sound with electricity as his passion for the music spins through the songs like the spinning couples shaking up some sawdust on the dance floor. The beat slows as Weldon Henson’s love boat sinks in “The Heartache’s on Me” while the songman speaks his resume on the Country Folk confessions of “I’ve Got to Be a Rodeo Man” and warns he is “Not the Kind to Hang Around” as the album tags its title with a bounce, celebrating the state and its people with “Texas Made”.
Listen and buy the music of Weldon Henson from AMAZON
Katherine Rondeau from the album An Unfortunate Point of View available as a self-release
Folk music is the main ingredient used when Katherine Rondeau delivers An Unfortunate Point of View, her recent album release. Translating the images her eyes snap makes Katherine Rondeau the observer. While the album title hints towards a possibly disastrous outlook, Katherine Rondeau changes the course of An Unfortunate Point of Viewwith clear observations. Promises are made, and the confident force of her voice stamps all guarantees as truths when Katherine Rondeau opens the album vowing “Coming Soon (If Not Today)”. An Unfortunate Point of View strums somber chords to comfort the difficult life of “Orphan Boy”, picks up the rhythm to run towards the sound of freedom in “That’s What I Hear”, and shares secret wisdoms in its title track.
Honing her style and learning to utilize the power in her voice while growing up in New Jersey, Katherine Rondeau took her first steps into a career by taking stages in the local Philadelphia Folk scene, playing both venues as well as making her presence known performing at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. The Blues backs Katherine Rondeau as the guitar slides and the percussion rattles around her questions in “Why Don’ You Love Me”. The sound softens as the melody whispers under a murderous mountain tale for “Natchez Trace” while Katherine Rondeau mounts the pulpit to declare ‘every man, woman, and child needs a home’ in “Don’t Need No Preacher” and tosses her pennies in a well as she sings of “Wishes”. An Unfortunate Point of Viewwaits patiently for love to find its way into dreams with Bob Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You” and ushers in a rhythmic rumble to claim power in “Let’s Work Together” as Katherine Rondeau tenderly closes exits the album citing similar reasoning as Joni Mitchell with a cover of her tune “Urge for Going”.
Listen and buy the music of Katherine Rondeau from AMAZON
Ryan Bingham from the album American Love Songs available on Axster Bingham Records
A decade into a career that took its first solo steps with a two critically acclaimed albums and multiple awards (Oscar, Grammy, Golden Globe) for “The Weary Kind”, the theme song for the 2009 film, Crazy Heart, Ryan Bingham returns with a suitcase full of tunes in American Love Song,his recent release. Choosing a path that allowed him to embrace his role as songwriter, Ryan Bingham has cultivated a sound, offering diversity as a musical brand for his songs and style, adding Blues to his Country Soul (“Got Damn Blues”), stomping out an adrenaline-infused carnival rhythm shuffle (Jingle and Go”), carving a message with sharp-edged acoustic notes (“”Beautiful and Kind”), and stretching a Bluesy beat over a deadly storyline (“Hot House”). As a songwriter, Ryan Bingham lets the story dictate its rhythm, strumming chords that churn underneath the lyrical guarantee of “Nothin’ Holds Me Down” while “Stones” reverentially rises up to honor loss and “Lover Girl” slides electric Blues into an open heart as a greeting.
Political and personal observations leapfrog across the stories on American Love Song, the album asking a country that stood by its beliefs to once again take a stand for “America”. Zydeco rhythms drive the wheels of “Pontiac” with a ‘low and blue’ beat as “Wolves” shares a story on quick bites of guitar strums while American Love Songcruises south of the border, putting the current administration’s atrocities and hate in the rear-view with “Situation Station”. For his first album in four years, Ryan Bingham sat next to co-producer Charlie Sexton to record American Love Songin Austin, Texas at Public Hi-Fi and Arlyn Studios. Writing out a resume by asking question, Ryan Bingham ponders life with “What Would I’ve Become” and shuffles out a rhythm to deal some mental R&R in “Time for My Mind” as American Love Songexits the album on sweetly simmering Soul singing a song as a goodbye for “Blues Lady”.
Listen and buy the music of Ryan Bingham from AMAZON
Colin Linden and Luther Dickinson with The Tennessee Valentines from the album Amour available on Stony Plains Records
Hearts are the cards dealt by Colin Linden and Luther Dickinson, the pair partnering with guitars in song on the opening cut instrumental of “Careless Love” for the recent release, Amour. The duo co-front The Tennessee Valentines, putting their collective hearts on display and into the album title with Amour. The love that circulates in, around, above, and underneath Amouris the kind the receives its mail in sad songs department. The two men using their guitars to tell tales of love leaning towards longing as guest vocalists take on the stories. Amourseeks dark shadows when the band jumps the beat for “Lover Please” as Billy Swan and Rachael Davis trade vocals, the pair watching hearts get stomped and beaten-up big time while making a plea to hold on tight. Taking a solo slot at the microphone, Rachael Davis walks a slow stroll, begging for love on a trance-beat with “Honest I Do” while Ruby Amanfu provides smoke to the melody fire simmering in “For the Good Times”, both vocalists providing backing for the lead voice in “Don’t Let Go”.
A mutual love of music is what hit the hearts of Colin Linden (Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, TV’s Nashville) and Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi All-Stars, The Black Crowes). The pair have historically curated and produced Roots music sounds on a wide scale, Amourtheir first collaboration. The album celebrates classic Americana love songs when Jonathan Jackson (TV’s Nashville) haunts halls bordered with guitar sonics on “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” while Amourcasts his Nashville TV show alumni, Sam Palladio, as part of the Country and Western sway in “Crazy Arms”. Rachael Davis offers to sing the storyline when “Careless Love” comes back again on Amourwhile Ruby Amanfu pens her pleas with smoldering words asking “What Am I Living For”. (by Danny McCloskey)
Listen and buy the music of Colin Linden and Luther Dickinson with The Tennessee Valentines from AMAZON
Chatham County Line from the album Sharing the Covers available on Yep Roc Records
The latest from Americana/Bluegrass outfit Chatham County Line finds the band dipping into influences and expressing fandom for Sharing the Covers, thirteen tracks from artists such as Wilco, The Rolling Stones, Beck and more. Sharing the Covers collects songs kicked around the Chatham County Line repertoire as soundcheck tests or guilty pleasures. Chatham County Line keep arrangements close to the original versions delivered with the distinct, laidback drawl of vocalist Dave Wilson. A loose version of Wilco’s “I Got You (At the End of the Century)” kicks off Sharing the Covers, followed by UK Indie R&B crooner James Hunter’s “People Gonna Talk”, the Chatham Country Line version leaning towards a gospel vibe. Chandler Holt’s banjo rips through The Ventures’ “Walk Don’t Run” while Dave Wilson and John Teer do right by The Louvin Brothers-style with their own stunning harmonies on “My Baby’s Gone.”
Tom Petty is honored with a straight-shot version of “You Don’t Know How It Feels” and John Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels” is slacker-folk glorious with touches of banjo and mandolin. Leo Kottke’s “Bumblebee” is acoustic Pop and Del Reeves “Girl on the Billboard” is pretty playful. Chatham County Line keep some covers close to home when Chandler Holt takes the vocals on The Stanley Brothers “Think of What You’ve Done” (CCL picking faster than the Ricky Skaggs version). John Hartford’s “Tear Down the Grand Ole Opry” is wrenching and keyboards are brought in for a beautiful version of Alton Delmore’s (recognizable from Doc and Merle Watson) “Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar.” Sharing the Covers provides a listen to what Chatham County Lines spins on the stereo.
Listen and buy the music of Chatham County Line from Amazon
Marley’s Ghost from the album Travelin’ Shoes available on Sage Arts
The big takeaway is that ‘someday always comes to soon’ (“Someday). The message is from a collection of Roots music spirituals delivered by Marley’s Ghost on their recent release, Travelin’ Shoes. The band has their collective ears to the doors of salvation when they sing “Hear Jerusalem Moan” and shuffle alongside a World Music melody for “Run Come See Jerusalem”. Marley’s Ghost face down fears of mortality in the Country and Western ramble of “Judgment Day” and put a rumble underneath the steps that Travelin’ Shoestakes on the title track.
Marley’s Ghost are a musical kaleidoscope of notes, chords, and harmony, the only constant for their playing being change. The melodic landscape of the album stages the spiritual tone of Travelin’ Shoeswith Gospel songs, wrapping the genre with jazzy Blues (”Shadrack”), choral harmonies (“Can’t Stand Up Alone”), Folk (“So Happy I’ll Be”), and Country Swing (“Standing by the Bedside of a Neighbor”). Separating from his duo with wife Teresa Williams, Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm) produced Travelin’ Shoesfor Marley’s Ghost. The Seattle, Washington-based band gathered a hymnal full of traditional gospel tunes for Travelin’ Shoes, infusing the past with a real-time feel, tenderly putting Soul into “Sweet Hour of Prayer”, echoing mountain Sunday mornings with the homespun harmonies of “A Beautiful Life” and standing tall on a forthright rhythmic march to protect family and friends “When Trouble is in My Home”.
Listen and buy the music of Marley’s Ghost on AMAZON
Lee Harvey Osmond from the album Mohawk available on Latent Recordings
For songwriters that use themselves, their lives, and the world that surrounds them as ink to tell tales, releases that follow the songs into a recording studio tend to mirror the day-to-day of the artist on the album cover. That is where Mohawk, the recent release from Lee Harvey Osmond, finds the man behind the musical collective moniker, Tom Wilson, embarking a new mission. In his fifties, Tom discovered his heritage, relating that Mohawk‘is a story of finding your way home. It’s a story of adoption, of growing up thinking you’re a big, sweaty, Irish guy, and finding out at the age of 53 that you’re a Mohawk’. The music of the title track is sleepy from the hum of wheels taking Lee Harvey Osmond to the Kahnawake reserve, just outside of Montreal, Canada, the home of his biological parents. Lee Harvey Osmond glides over Mohawkon a noir mood colored with touches of Jazz, Blues, and Rock, crying “BAM” on a rhythmic current punctuated with piano rambles and wandering horns while the LHO collective slowly exhibit “Magic”, feel the “Burn of Love” with lightly picked guitar notes and count out “Forty Light Years” on a Blue boogie.
A rhythmic bounce enters Mohawkon the first cut, “Colours” bubbling under Tom Wilson’s verbal recital of the story drifting like mist over the melody. Produced by Michael Timmins (“Cowboy Junkies”), Mohawkcovers a tune from the producer’s band with “Common Disaster”. Lee Harvey Osmond readies for the coming night as the collective takes on “Whole Damn World” and confesses “What I Loved About You” on a rhythmic rumble while Mohawkputs a train track beat underneath “Kingdom Come” when the band crawls to heavenly gates through a rock’n’roll dream storyline.
Listen and buy the music of Lee Harvey Osmond from AMAZON
Danny Paisley & The Southern Grass (from the album That’s Why I’m Lonesome available on Patuxent Music)
Bluegrass musician Danny Paisley puts heartache on the menu as a blue-plate special. Heartache has always been a lyrical theme in string bands, and while the genre gets hijacked by jam-bands using its instruments as a base for exploration and improvisation while songwriters use Bluegrass undertones to explore 1970’s AM radio gold, it is high and lonesome musicians like Danny Paisley & The Southern Grass that keep Bill Monroe from tossing harsh vibes the grave. That’s Why I’m Lonesomeis Paisley’s third release for Patuxent Records. The album is another dose of honest bluegrass with the right amount of twang. The title track finds Danny Paisley setting a lyrical base while repeating the line ‘it’s sad but it’s true” as he laments and regrets falling for a pretty girl who quickly made money disappear, followed by “Rainbow of My Dreams” and “Does It Have to End This Way”, both with a classic fiddle intro so recognizable in Bluegrass. “Running Late” then kicks in, a driving instrumental that showcases a equally driven band.
The narrator takes the upper-hand in “Who Do You Think You’re Foolin’”, comfortable on the offensive end of the break-up, followed by a mandolin heavy instrumental in “Mullingar Quickstep.” That’s Why I’m Lonesomeends with “Light at the River” and “Will You Visit Me On Sundays,” a double dose of gospel numbers. Danny Paisley & The Southern Grass get right to the musical point, showcasing efficiency in the same way they exhibit talent. Every song clocks in around or just under three-minutes, each note and every heart-breaking lyric carefully placed. As a repeat listener, you know exactly what is served when it comes to Danny Paisley, and one thing that isn’t messed with on That’s Why I’m Lonesome, or any Paisley record, is tradition. (by Bryant Liggett)
Listen and buy the music of Danny Paisley & The Southern Grass from AMAZON