Category: Reviews

Shadowboxers step into spotlight with new album

By Ken Paulson — Nanci Griffith cancelled her show this afternoon due to illness, giving the Shadowboxers a chance to step up to the 30A Songwriters Festival’s biggest venue. The young Atlanta band charmed the crowd at Gulf Place Amphitheater with a well-paced set fueled by in large part by ’70s era soul and funk. When is the last time…

Review: Mary Chapin Carpenter at the 30A Songwriters Festival

By Ken Paulson — Mary Chapin Carpenter’s first band date of the new year came this afternoon at the 30A Songwriters Festival. She’s still touring in support of Ashes and Roses, an album she described today as being dark and serious in tone. Still, she said, the album does take a hopeful turn midway through.  That said, she proceeded to…

Suzanne Vega at 30A Songwriters Festival

Americana Music News — Suzanne Vega played a brisk set at the Gulf Place Amphitheater today, the first headliner at the 30A Songwriters Festival. It was a career-spanning set and the audience listened attentively under surprisingly dark skies. The sun broke through, along with the hits, at the set’s close. “Luka” and a spirited “Tom’s Diner” (complete with top hat) closed…

Buddy and Jim at #1, Carrie Rodriguez, Colin Linden chart

Americana Music News — The Americana music radio airplay chart is back after a  holiday hiatus, so there’s plenty of new talent on this week’s list. In the top spot is Buddy and Jim, from Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale, followed by Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson’s Wreck & Ruin. Carrie Rodriguez’s Give Me All You Got posts an impressive…

30A Songwriters Festival: Lucinda Williams, Mary Chapin Carpenter

Americana Music News — There’s an impressive line-up booked for this year’s 30A Songwriters Festival in Walton County, Florida. The festival, set for Jan. 18-20, will feature Lucinda Williams, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Nanci Griffith, Will Kimbrough, Jeffrey Steele, Suzanne Vega, Fastball, Tift Merritt, Allison Moorer, Webb Wilder, Eliza Gilkyson, Freedy Johnston, Gretchen Peters, Tommy Womack, Brigitte DeMeyer and many more. Here’s a link to…

In review: A last-minute look at worthy albums

By Ken Paulson —So much music. So little time. At the close of 2012, we find ourselves staring at a stack of albums we intended to write about. Here’s a quick take on some of the best: I first saw the duo of Bright Littlefield in 2010 at Nashville’s Family Wash and was amazed by their ukulele covers of Replacements…

Review: The Steeldrivers’ “Hammer Down”

By Ken Paulson –The Steeldrivers are back with a new line-up, but remarkably consistent sound on Hammer Down, to be released on Feb. 5. Chris Stapleton and Mike Henderson are no longer with the band, though some of their songs show up on the new album. Mandolinist Brent Truitt and guitarist Gary Nichols join core members Tammy Rogers, Mike Fleming…

Ten most-played Americana music albums of the year

Americana Music News —  The Americana Music Association has just released its list of most-played Americana music albums of 2012, based on airplay reports from Nov. 15, 2011 through Nov. 17, 2012. The top 10: 1) JD McPherson, Signs And Signifiers / Rounder 2) Darrell Scott, Long Ride Home / Full Light 3) Rodney Crowell, KIN: Songs By Mary Karr…

Review: Junior Brown’s Vol. 10

By Joe Ross — When Junior Brown’s twangy “Hang Up and Drive” opens his new EP album, Volume Ten, you hear an element of Dave Dudley’s “Six Days on the Road.” However, if you think this six-song project is all retro truck-driving country music, think again. While the opener is a variation of honky tonkin’ country that lyrically captures a…

Review: Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis Christmas Show

By Paul T. Mueller – Houston — When a show opens with “Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas),” it’s a pretty good sign that everyone in the room is in for a good time. Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis made good on that promise December 7 at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck in Houston. The lively 17-song show, part of the…

Review: Artists’ Tribute to Nanci Griffith

By Ken Paulson — Pete and Maura Kennedy have successfully delivered the rarest of artist tribute albums – one that works as a celebration of Nanci Griffith’s songwriting while delivering subtle and skillful reinterpretations of some of her best work. Tribute albums have fallen out of favor over the years, in part because of their sheer volume, and in part…

Intriguing mix among Americana music nominees

Americana Music News– The Grammy nominees for Best Americana album included some surprises and a couple of locks. The Avett Brothers’ The Carpenter and Mumford & Sons’ Babel were heavy favorites, with both critical and commercial success over the past year. The Lumineers came on very strong in the past six months and were even nominated in the overall Best…

Americana music looms large at Grammy nominations show

By Ken Paulson Nashville – For a genre that sometimes struggles to establish itself, Americana Music was very visible at tonight’s Grammy Nominations Concert at Bridgestone Arena. Guest presenters the Lumineers were nominated along with the Alabama Shakes for the Grammy award as best new artist. Mumford & Sons’ Babel was nominated as best album of the year. Throw in…

Dolly Varden’s “For a While”

By Paul T. Mueller– Here’s an interesting collection of intelligent adult pop from Chicago-based Dolly Varden, which is not a person but a five-piece band, anchored by husband and wife singer-songwriters Steve Dawson and Diane Christiansen. The two started Dolly Varden (a variety of trout, and also the name of a Dickens character) in 1994, so it’s not surprising that its…

Review: Donna Ulisse’s “All the Way to Bethlehem”

By Paul T. Mueller — The story of Jesus’ birth is not new, and neither, of course,  is the idea of putting together an album of Christmas songs. But on All the Way to Bethlehem, bluegrass singer-songwriter Donna Ulisse takes a fairly novel and very successful approach – using original songs, she describes the events surrounding the first Christmas from…

Review: Brittany Spriggs’ “Brand New”

By Paul T. Mueller–Brand New is billed as the debut album of Nashville singer Brittany Spriggs. At five tracks some would call it an EP, but maybe that’s just semantics. Either way it’s fair to call it a radio-friendly first outing for an up-and-coming country artist. Country by the current Nashville definition, that is – glossy pop with a bit…

Review: Darrell Scott live in Conroe, Texas

By Paul T. Mueller — It’s always a joy to get to see a great artist perform. It’s even better to witness such a performance in a quiet, intimate setting, surrounded by an audience of real fans who are there to listen. The 75 or so who came to see Darrell Scott in the Houston suburb of Conroe, Texas, on…

’60s pop revisited: Dion and Gary Lewis and the Playboys

  By Ken Paulson — Dion: The Complete Laurie Singles is another revelatory re-issue from Real Gone Music, revisiting Dion’s early career, but also chronicling the transitions of rock ‘n’ roll. This collection covers his late ’50s Doo-Wop origins with the Belmonts, his initial solo success with more ambitious material like “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer” and his 1968 comeback…

Review: David Olney’s “Robbery and Murder”

By Ken Paulson — David Olney , one of the most ambitious and literate artists in Americana music, has just released Robbery and Murder, the third in a series of theme-driven EPs. It’s an 8-song collection that explores two “love stories” that aren’t always so loving. The title of the album is one hint. Olney draws upon Chuck Willis’ “Betty…