The Artisanals (from the album The Artisanals available on )
You can call it a coincidence but when the only tree toppled in a passing thunderstorm hits your car, it seems more specific. Johnny Delaware of The Artisanals was an Austin, Texas-based musician when nature chose a path of divine intervention to shine on him, granting his wish to move his base of operations to the music scene in Charleston, South Carolina. His insurance claim had him packing for the move, and once settled, found musical alliances with other musicians that heard the call of Charleston, forming The Artisanals in 2016 with Clay Houle (guitar), Josh Hoover (drums), and Eric Moxin (bass).
A self-titled recent release is the debut for The Artisanals. The sound of the album mirrors like-minded locals in Charleston that are pushing the boundaries of Roots and Rock with an airy sound featured in the rolling clouds of chords whirling through The Artisanals “Drag” while echoed distortion on the guitar gently parts like a curtain for the Folk tale of a South Dakota memory in “Country Roads Town”. A sonics tsunami barrel rolls over “Primitive Style”, and words float freely to recount “First Time” on gently curving notes and beats. The Artisanals strum up Country Folk for “Angel 42” to take flight, form balls of tightly wound guitar notes to toss into “Roll with It”, and open up highway journals to stich into a story of Indie inspiration for “Pound the Rock”.
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Eric Lindell (from the album Revolution in Your Heart available on Alligator Records)
Times are turbulent and unrest is thick in the air we breathe. Eric Lindell responds to the ever-present rebellion, acting as a political advisor on his recent release, Revolution in Your Heart, citing the best solution as ‘start a revolution in your heart’ in the tune “Revolution”. A soulful smooth to his vocals and guitar playing that matches with playful chord chops and easy leads, Eric Lindell guides Revolution in Your Heart as a storyteller with the same calm. He plays tribute to family in “Claudette”, the emotion pouring out like the Country sunshine in the song’s rhythm. Revolution in Your Heart draws a line in album opener “Shot Down”, the guitar spitting out notes as the tale takes aim at the up and down cycle of life.
Southern moods and melodies are draped over Revolution in Your Heart. A memory of an old friend becoming real once again in “Pat West” while Eric Lindell saddles “Big Horse” with funky Blues and rides on constant steps of perfectly rounded notes to journey towards love in “Appaloosa”. Like his adopted city of New Orleans, Eric Lindell mixes styles in his music, boarding a second line beat to take a drive through the past in “Kelly Ridge” while he begins a midnight conversation with stark guitar slashes as a rattling rhythm shakes out an awareness that bad things could get worse in “How Could This Be?”. Revolution in Your Heart dials in rock’n’roll to exit the album on “The Sun Don’t Shine” as Eric Lindell chews on a Blues groove for “Grandpa Jim” and taps out some twang for the tale of “Millie Kay”.
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William Elliott Whitmore (from the album Kilonova available on Bloodshot Records)
William Elliott Whitmore escorts Folk music down a musical rabbit hole on his recent release, Kilonova. The album is slightly different than his previous six full length release, Kilonova the voice and guitar/banjo/drum-stomper of William Elliott Whitmore, the songs culled from the influences that have been a personal soundtrack to the songwriter. Giving credit where due, William Elliott Whitmore recounts in the liner notes that ‘I didn’t write these songs, but I enjoy playing and singing them. I hope you enjoy listening’. Each story is set on its own stage as Kilonova offers a Hunter S. Thompson-style ramble on ragged Woody strums with Bad Religion’s “Don’t Pray on Me”, lets a single voice relate stories of sins in Dock Boggs’ “Country Blues”, uses banjo rhythm to set the pace for Jimmie Driftwood’s “Run Johnny Run”, and sets adrift thunderclouds of psychedelia that burst, raining down on Captain Beefheart’s “Bat Chain Puller”.
The music of Johnny Cash is tributed with “Five Foot High and Rising”, hard times are recalled with Harlan Howard’s ”Busted”, loneliness sits in the dark of Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine”, and a groove rumbles like an engine purr in ZZ Top’s “Hot Blue and Righteous”. Kilonova offers a DIY guide to get rid of heartache in Red Meat’s “One Glass at a Time” while William Elliott Whitmore shares feelings of a knee-jerk reaction to tracks with Magnetic Fields “Fear of Trains”.
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Michigan Rattlers (from the album Evergreen available as a self-release)
The members of Los Angeles-based Michigan Rattlers have a west coast address in their California Country with the band name claim tracing back to Deep North heritage and influence. Michigan Rattlers bandmates, Graham Young (guitar), Adam Reed (upright bass), and Christian Wilder, have been friends since high school in Northern Michigan. Relocation to California seemed like the best option, Michigan Rattlers offering that ‘Petoskey is a small place. Beautiful, but secluded. It’s hard to start a musical career in a place where there are more deer than people’. Evergreen, the recent release from Michigan Rattlers shows ties to the Midwest and Pacific states as it reaches out across the U.S.A. with its take on Cosmic American Music.
The come-on that “Sirens” hears is the call of a honky tonk ramble as piano and guitar chords provide tough love for the story out of imminent danger while Evergreen beckons “Sweet Diane” into the night with whispered guitar strums and possible promises. Michigan Rattlers rush the beat for hurried decisions in “Drinking Song”, take a swing at “Baseball” with Folk Rock rhythms, hope for a breeze in “The Heat”, and erase the years in “I Remember”. Evergreen shakes off daytime doldrums with a rock’n’roll rhythm that cruises underneath “Late Night Cigarette Talks” as Michigan Rattlers describe after-dark dreams with “Didn’t You Know” and pound out a blacktop beat for “Just Good Night”.
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Tennessee Stiffs (from the album Thirty Pieces available on BNC)
Names can be deceiving. Austin, Texas-based Tennessee Stiffs are not from The Volunteer State nor is the sound of their music anywhere near rigid. The soundtrack backing Thirty Pieces, the recent release form Tennessee Stiffs, is a fluid blend of rhythms flowing like mercury through touches of Rock’n’Roll, Country, Blues, Folk, and Americana. Channeling the diverse sounds under a self-proclaimed genre of Death Folk, Tennessee Stiffs ramble through dark honky tonk Country tales (“Broken Down and Blue”), drift like fog over a wandering swamp blues (“The Boogeyman”), scratch out some front porch Folk (“Maggie’s Song”), and set the rhythm to rumble under haunted Rock beats (“Undercurrent”).
Formed in 2011 by piecing together a wide array of influences, musicians turned married couple, Ethan Lee and Cara B, had one goal in mind for Tennessee Stiffs, to create something that colors outside of the borders. Tennessee Stiffs begins with opening track “Backwater Lullaby” pounding out a count into Thirty Pieces. The beat slinks and slithers across “Come Along Easy” as Tennessee Stiffs introduce “Cocaine Lover” while the piano marks time and Thirty Pieces hammers beats like the nails they punch into the title track story line.
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Nobody’s Girl (from the E.P. Waterline available on Lucky Hound Music)
The power of three channels a triple threat of solo artists, Rebecca Loebe, Betty Soo, and Grace Pettis, to create an Austin, Texas-based trio, Nobody’s Girl. Their debut release, the E.P. Waterline, has a heft that suits the singers. The three songwriters back their stories with a hard-hitting rhythm section that offers protection against weather with “Riding Out the Storm” as the album pulse quickens, coming in a dizzying sway to welcome into “Queen City”, tenderly proposes promises on “Bluebonnets’, and stomps against stark guitar slashes for the title track.
The three members of Nobody’s Girl, originally from Texas, Georgia, and Alabama, met as neighbors, heeding the calls of fans to form under a Sirens of South Austin banner. The power of their voices propels the E.P. into existence, confidence and a joy in the harmonies clear as Waterline opens asking “What’ll I Do” on a Country Rock rhythm. Nobody’s Girl hit shuffle to re-work an 80’s hit as a seductive dance floor teaser with Blondie’s “Call Me”.
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The Lucky Losers w/ Cathy Lemons & Phil Berkowitz (from the album Blind Spot available on Dirty Cat Records)
The good, the bad, and the ugly are destinations on the map as San Francisco, California-based The Lucky Losers steer into Blind Spot, their latest album release. Making good use of the NoCal talent pool, Blind Spot was recorded at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios in San Jose, California, the guitarist (Rick Estrin & The Nightcats) acting as engineer and producer alongside Cathy and Phil. The slap of tires becomes the rhythm for “Last Ride” as dark distortion keeps the edge sharp and pounding drums snakedance a path into “Supernatural Blues” while The Lucky Losers charm with words drizzled over a trance-groove for “It’s Never Too Early” and strut on funk-driven steps to warn “Don’t Take Too Much”.
Vintage Rhythm & Blues mixed with Americana are the added ingredients for The Lucky Losers brand of the Modern Blues. Blind Spot spits words over a beat-bound rhythm with “Make A Right Turn”, one of the many suggestions made by The Lucky Losers on the album. Taking their show on the road has afforded The Lucky Losers a chance to view the world first hand, Cathy Lemons adding that ‘Phil and I have traveled some of the loneliest highways in America to bring our music to the people, and in all those travels what we see is a kind of distraction everywhere – almost to the point of madness. I feel so overwhelmed by all of this information pouring in from my phone, the news, from tragic headlines. Now that can be funny or it can be deadly. This album is about a separation from real experience – seeing life through a screen.’ Superfly-style riffs and production shine a light on “Alligator Baptism” as Blind Spot sashays down the sidewalk with “Bulldogs & Angels” and The Lucky Losers throw down a mighty groove for support to the confessions in “Love is Blind”.
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Suzie Vinnick (from the album Shake the Love Around on Factor Records)
A thick bass line seduces rather than warn for the opening of “Danger Zone” as Suzie Vinnick weaves a Blues tale that intimately whispers in your ear of troubling times. The tune, and its equal message of threats and optimistic promises, shares its mood with the tracks lining Shake the Love Around, the recent release from Suzie Vinnick. A rumble percolates under the advice of “The Golden Rule” as Suzie Vinnick teases with a swamp boogie beat in “Watch Me” and tempts on a jazzy Country for “All I Wanna Do”. The rhythms slide and switch as they make their way through Shake the Love Around, wrapping their roots over and under the diverse grooves while Suzie Vinnick guides the tracks with tenderness (“Beautiful Little Fool”) and sass (“Happy as Hell”).
Originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Suzie Vinnick stayed in her Canadian homeland for a base of operations, setting up in Ontario’s Niagara region. Friends helped out on Shake the Love Around with Colin Linden and Kevin Breit on guitar and songman Matt Anderson co-writing “Drift Away”. Sultry vocals match the temperature heat for “A Hundred and Ten in the Shade” as Suzie Vinnick becomes the temptress with seductive invitations in “Lean into the Light” and forms a solid line with community harmonies to march through “Find Some Freedom” while Shake the Love Around channels currents of winding guitar leads in “Crying a River for You”.
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Grand Old Grizzly (from the album Pure Country Pyrite available from Edgewater Music Group)
Kick your album off with a double-dealing bang. Murder ballads shouldn’t be horded by the twang bands, although they seem to be most comfortable underneath the smoking gun and bloody knife umbrella of twang that lives within a stone’s throw of classic country and bluegrass. A murder ballad as an album opener is a charge out of the gate mentality, one that sets the steady pace of bent outlaw and revved up country heard on Pure Country Pyrite, the latest release from Houston, Texas’ Grand Old Grizzly.
“Gundowners” reads like a Bonnie and Clyde tale where a stoner thief partners with a runaway, their relationship of killing ending in a scene of brutal betrayal. “Took a Little Trip” is a mid-tempo tune with the harsh reminder that ‘if rock and roll ain’t killing you, you probably ain’t doing it right’. It’s a revelation that indulgence, often the key to success, is the thing that both helps and hinders your art. ‘I see you dancing, honey, and those aren’t no virgin hips’ comes from “Carmen,” a tale that drives along in jangly glory, a love story with some beautiful pop-sensibilities that resides into Long Ryders territory. This is an album that charges with enough subtle steel and telecaster twang to stable the band comfortably between rock’n’roll and classic country. Grand Old Grizzly slays and the top-notch storytelling of songwriter Will Thomas overflows with glorious and gut-wrenching life. A band like Grand Old Grizzly does more for the world of country music than a parking-lot pick-up truck country band ever will. (by Bryant Liggett)
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Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard (from the album Sing me Back Home: The DC Tapes, 1965-1969 available on Free Dirt Records)
Born to a West Virginia mining family in 1925, Hazel Dickens moved to Baltimore, Maryland in the early 1950’s where she met Mike Seeger, half-brother to Folkie Pete Seeger and founding member of The New Lost City Ramblers. Mike introduced Hazel to the healthy Folk/Bluegrass scene in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore area as well as to his wife, Seattle-born Alice Gerrard. Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard played jam sessions together, the pair noticing the blend of their own voices and instruments. They formed a duo, their debut album coming out on Folkways Records in 1965 with Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard recording another album for Folkways before moving over to Rounder Records for two albums before the band break-up in 1976.
Free Dirt Records releases newly found gems of live recordings from Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard garnered from the duo’s formative years with Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes, 1965-1969. The pair broke ground for Bluegrass music, mixing in traditional string band music from The Carter Family and the Louvin Brothers with contemporary hits such as The Everly Brothers “Bye Bye Love”. While later work would storm the barricades with political content, Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard showcase a mutual love of the old songs from Appalachia as their music carved out a spot for women in the world of Bluegrass music. The recordings on Sing Me Back Home were recorded in Alice’s living room, practice sessions that show the intricate harmony (“This Little Light of Mine”, “No Telephone in Heaven”) and love of mountain Folk music (“Seven Year Blues”, “No One to Welcome Me Home”) as the songs show the influence of the Blues from the delta (“No Hard Times”) and from the country (“James Alley Blues”). Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes 1965-1969 offers previously unheard tracks (with one exception), as Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard find joy in their own singing and playing, working through the songs in the mountain traditions.
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