Porkchop

Porkchop’s Catch of the Week

 

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July 10, 2024

It is hard to imagine, but for a period of time no record label wanted Johnny Cash. After starting his career in 1954 at Sun Records, Cash signed with Columbia in 1958. In one of the more shocking announcements in country music history, Columbia dropped Cash from the label in 1986. It did not take long before Mercury picked up Cash. He was with Mercury from 1987-1991. From the end of his deal with Mercury until he signed with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings in 1994, Cash was without a label. How could the legendary “Man in Black” be cast aside by the music industry? During that period of musical limbo, it turns out that Cash was busy recording music. That music was recently discovered by John Carter Cash, the only child of Johnny and June Carter Cash, and he decided to take the recordings and finish the productions process. Now we have a new album from Johnny Cash, Songwriter.

As the album’s title implies, Johnny Cash is the sole writer of all of this project’s songs. The original recordings were basically demos. John Carter Cash sought the help of musicians and background vocalists to add to the existing material, including Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, and Dan Auerbach. Those recognizable names adding to the recording left me with the concern that the end result could be a tangled mess of sound. However, my fears were put to rest when I listened to Songwriter. It is obvious that the focus in on the voice of Johnny Cash. Here is the track list for Songwriter:

 

  1. Hello Out There
  2. Spotlight
  3. Drive On
  4. I Love You Tonite
  5. Have You Ever Been to Little Rock?
  6. Well Alright
  7. She Sang Sweet Baby James
  8. Poor Valley Girl
  9. Soldier Boy
  10. Sing It Pretty Sue
  11. Like A Soldier

 

This album is a wonderful bridge between Johnny Cash’s Mercury run and the start of his wonderful relationship with Rick Rubin and American Recordings. These songs echo the early sounds that made Cash a legend. With his American Recordings projects, many of the songs were wonderfully selected and performed covers. This new album serves to remind everyone that not only was Johnny Cash a performer, but he was also a songwriter. I recommend giving Johnny Cash’s Songwriter a listen today.

 

 

 

 

April 17, 2024

It has been many years since I have listened to an instrumental album that was led by a steel guitar player. I guess the last one I heard was one of the many Buddy Emmons LPs. Steel guitar players are not extinct, but they on the endangered list. If you are able to spot a steel guitar player in the wild, many are approaching or already at AARP age. That is why it was so exciting to find a new project from a young steel guitar player.

Hailing from Austin, Texas, Noah Faulker is a 16-year-old pedal steel phenom. His musical journey did not begin with steel guitar. At the age of 9, Faulkner began playing piano, teaching himself the basics. Later he began taking advanced lessons with Bukka Allen. Faulkner was introduced by Allen to legendary Texas musician, Lloyd Maines. After the introduction, Noah became interested in pedal steel guitar. Maines helped him find his first pedal steel and gave him a lesson. It turns out that is the only lesson Noah would take. He taught himself by watching videos of Maines and the aforementioned Buddy Emmons. In 2022, Noah posted his first pedal steel video on Instagram, and he was off to the races.

Noah Faulkner, known professionally as Pedal Steel Noah, has just released his first EP, Texas Madness. The album is comprised of five songs. There are two original PSN compositions on the project: “Cleopatra” and “Lucy and Dixie”. The remaining three tracks are covers, but they are not songs that you would expect a pedal steel player from Texas to cover.  He takes on Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”, and Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels”. You may be shocked by that list of songs. However, it will be more shocking once you listen to the songs. PSN takes the non-country songs and makes them sound like they are country standards. Here is the complete track listing for Texas Madness:

  1. Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division)
  2. Just Like Heaven (The Cure)
  3. Cleopatra (Pedal Steel Noah)
  4. Head Over Heels (Tears For Fears)
  5. Lucy and Dixie (Pedal Steel Noah)

 

Pedal Steel Noah received some backup in the studio from his family on Texas Madness. PSN’s dad, Jay, plays guitar and 13-year-old brother Nate plays bass. If you have watched any of Noah’s videos, you will recognize the family’s dog, Kara, gracing the EP’s cover. PSN plays with the touch of player that has been playing for decades. Who knows what the future holds for Pedal Steel Noah. Whether it is as a studio musician or backing artists at live shows, I have a feeling that we will be hearing a lot his pedal steel work down the road. If you want more information about Pedal Steel Noah, visit https://pedalsteelnoah.com/. I recommend giving Pedal Steel Noah’s Texas Madness a listen today.

 

 

 

April 10, 2024

Over the past few years, there has been resurgence in the popularity of ‘90s country. Many up and coming artists that have been inspired by the likes of Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, and Tracy Lawrence are, to borrow a line from the aforementioned Jackson, “chasin’ that neon rainbow.” You can hear the influence in the new artists’ releases. However, this Catch of the Week does not just pay tribute to the ‘90s country sounds. Zach Top’s Cold Beer & Country Music sounds exactly like it is pulled from that decade.

Zach Top may be a new name to many, but he is not a novice when it comes to performing music. The Sunnyside, Washington native began playing publically in various bluegrass bands. He landed with the group Modern Tradition, and the group was very successful, including having a #1 song (“Like It Ain’t No Thing”). In 2021, Top turned his sights to Nashville and country music.

Zach Top’s Cold Beer and Country Music is comprised of twelve songs, and he co-wrote each of the songs. There is plenty of fiddle, steel guitar, and piano featured throughout the project. Speaking of the instruments, it is refreshing to be able to hear every instrument individually as they are working together. I feel like a lot of today’s music, not just country, is compressed to the point that you cannot hear the important place each instrument holds in helping to paint the mood of the song. I truly enjoyed every track on this album, but some of my favorites include “Use Me”, “Dirt Turns to Gold”, “Lonely for Long”, and the title track. Here is the complete track list for Cold Beer & Country Music:

  1. Sounds Like The Radio
  2. Cold Beer & Country Music
  3. Cowboys Like Me Do
  4. There’s The Sun
  5. Dirt Turns To Gold
  6. The Kinda Woman I Like
  7. Lonely For Long
  8. Bad Luck
  9. Use Me
  10. Ain’t That A Heartbreak
  11. I Never Lie
  12. Things To Do

 

I want to take a moment to recognize the producer of Cold Beer & Country Music, Carson Chamberlain. I am sure his experience helped to inform his work on this album. Chamberlain is the former steel guitar player for the late Keith Whitley, touring manager for Alan Jackson and Clint Black, songwriter for acts like George Strait and Alan Jackson, and producer for the likes of Billy Currington and Easton Corbin.  With his contributions, the expert musical performances and, most importantly, Zach Top’s outstanding vocals, you have the perfect combination to make Cold Beer & Country Music. With Zach Top being only 25-years-old, I feel like we will be hearing him on country radio for many years to come. I recommend giving Zach Top’s Cold Beer & Country Music a listen today.

 

 

 

April 3, 2024

Singer-songwriter Kelly Willis, singer and bassist Melissa Carper, and singer and guitarist Brennen Leigh are successful solo acts. In recent years, each of their individual tour stops would sometimes find the three artists packaged together for a concert date. When those occasions occurred, they not only played their individual sets, but they also would perform songs together. The merging of their powers for those special performances had many concert goers inquiring if the three had any records they had recorded together. The three singers had no such recording that they could direct people towards. However, that got them to think that maybe that it was not a bad idea to pursue a collective venture. Willis, Carper, and Leigh have just released their new project, Wonder Women of Country.

The EP includes six songs, and with the exception of a cover of John Prine’s “I Have Met My Love Today”, each song was written or co-written by Willis, Carper, and Leigh. In addition to providing lead and harmony vocals on the project, each member plays their own instruments, with Brennen Leigh playing lead guitar and mandolin, Kelly Willis on rhythm guitar, and Melissa Carper on bass. The other musicians includes Chris Scruggs on steel guitar, Geoff Queen on Dobro and steel guitar, Ginny Mac on accordion, and Timmy Campbell on drums. The project is a combination of traditional country sounds and a splash of western swing. Some of my favorite tracks include “Hanging on to You”, “Another Broken Heart”, and “I Have Met My Love Today”. Here is the complete track list for Wonder Women of Country:

  1. “Fly Ya to Hawaii”
  2. “Another Broken Heart”
  3. “Won’t Be Worried Long”
  4. “A Thousand Ways”
  5. “Hanging on to You”
  6. “I Have Met My Love Today”

 

Kelly Willis, Melissa Carper, and Brennen Leigh have done an outstanding job on their vocal delivery, musical performances, and songwriting on Wonder Women of Country Music. I also want to give a tip of the hat to the aforementioned additional musicians that also helped to craft the album. I know this collaboration is not going to be Willis, Carper and Leigh’s main gig going forward. They will continue to further their individual solo careers. However, I hope that we are given more projects in the future from this group. I recommend giving Wonder Women of Country a listen today.

 

 

 

March 27, 2024

The origin of Wilson Banjo Co. is interesting and worth mentioning before reviewing their new project. After working in Nashville, TN for the Gibson Custom Art Shop and honing his craft, Steve Wilson decided to start Wilson Banjo Co. and offer customized banjos. In addition to his expert craftsmanship in the workshop, Wilson is an experienced banjo player, too. As a way to feature his custom banjos, Wilson decided to record and release a collection of songs that highlighted his customized banjos. Since that first EP, he decided to release more projects to promote his banjos. In the process of making the subsequent albums, Wilson received request to perform live with the Wilson Banjo Co. band. This has led to various artists filling the roles in the band over the years, both on the album and the stage. Besides Steve Wilson, the other almost constant member in the group is singer and fiddler Sarah Logan. Now that you have a brief background on Wilson Banjo Co., I will get to their latest release, Memory Lane.

The new album is the third full-length project for Wilson Banjo Co. Several singles have been released prior to Memory Lane coming out. The singles have done very well on various charts, including two Number 1’s. As I mentioned earlier, Wilson Banjo Co. calls on many musicians and singers to fill all the roles on a project, and Memory Lane is no exception. In addition to the banjo and vocals of Steve Wilson and the fiddle and lead and harmony vocals of Sarah Logan, the rest of the pieces of this album includes Glen Crain (resonator guitar and vocals), Jaime Carter (bass and vocals), Melanie Wilson & Colton Rudd (vocals), Tony Wray (guitar and bass), Jason Fraley (mandolin) Adam Plott (percussion), Deanie Richardson (fiddle), and Clay Hess, Heather Mabe & Joseph Welborn (guitar). In addition, Josh Raines (guitar) and Milon Williams II (mandolin) each sing lead on a song, “Don’t Forget About Maggie” and “Tomorrow’s Coming Fast” respectively. The two aforementioned tracks, along with “Sadie Danced a Hole in Her Stocking”, “Nightbird”, and “The Gavel”, are some of the album’s standout tracks. Here is the complete track listing for Memory Lane:

 

  1. Sadie Danced A Hole In Her Stocking (written by Jack Shannon, Troy Engle, Rick Lang)
  2. Tomorrow’s Coming Fast (written by Rick Lang, J. Tony Rackley)
  3. Holler (written by Jordan Rainer, Bill Packard)
  4. Don’t Forget About Maggie (written by David Stewart, Brice Long, Bobby Taylor)
  5. Nightbird (written by Jordan Rainer)
  6. The Gavel (written by Jordan Rainer, Lance Carpenter)
  7. Coalmine (written by Richie McDonald, Ron Harbin, Roxie Dean)
  8. Memphis Anymore (written by Karli Chayne, Jessica Lynne Witty)
  9. Our Last Goodbye/Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine (written by Carter Stanley; Bill Monroe, Jack Landers)
  10. Come To Me (written by Barbie Blankenship Owens)

 

As per usual, the song selection from Wilson Banjo Co. is great. In addition, the singers and musicians do a great job interpreting the songs. Kudos to Steve Wilson on giving us another enjoyable project. By the way, Memory Lane by Wilson Banjo Co. is available on Pinecastle Records and available at all of the regular music download sites. I recommend giving it a listen today.

 

 

 

 

March 20, 2024

This week’s Catch is a type of project that I do not review very often: an instrumental album. I actually enjoy instrumental releases. However, I realize that the percentage of people that will take time to listen to that type of album is much less than those that will check out an album that includes singing. Despite that fact, this Catch of the Week deserves to be reviewed.

Wyatt Ellis is the fourteen year-old mandolin prodigy that has grabbed the Music City’s attention. He has shared the stage and jammed with legends, such as Marty Stuart and Vince Gill. Even though he is young and has only been on the radar for a very short time, as soon as folks heard Wyatt Ellis play, people began to ask when he was going to release an album. That question has been answered with Wyatt Ellis’ project, Happy Valley.

The first thing to note about the songs on this album is the fact that Wyatt Ellis wrote them all. He was only twelve years-old when he penned the twelve songs that are included in Happy Valley. On top of that, Ellis invited some of the stars that he has met and played with to help out on the album. The list includes Marty Stuart, Sierra Hull, Sierra Hull, Mike Compton, and Alan Bibey. Wyatt Ellis also had Justin Moses serving as the producer on Happy Valley. Now, let’s get to the songs. It is amazing that Wyatt Ellis composed songs that sound fresh while at the same time familiar. It takes someone with a special talent to pull off such a feat. It is difficult for me to pick a favorite on the project. Each song is outstanding and just as enjoyable as the next. Here’s the complete track list for Happy Valley:

1             Blue Smoke ft. Marty Stuart

2             Happy Valley ft. Dominick Leslie

3             Grassy Cove ft. Sierra Hull

4             Get Lost ft. Jake Workman

5             Little Pigeon ft. Scott Napier

6             Johnson Mtn Blues ft. David McLaughlin

7             Sandy Gap ft. Mike Compton

8             Goin’ to Townsend ft. Alan Bibey

9             Two Rivers ft. Danny Roberts

10           Wildwood ft. Lauren Price Napier

11           Whites Creek ft. Christopher Henry

12           Maryville ft. David Harvey

 

Kudos to Wyatt Ellis, producer Justin Moses, the featured guests, and those that make up the backing band on each track of Happy Valley. Each song is vibrant, alive, and attention grabbing. I have listened to plenty of instrumental albums in my life, and, I must admit, most leave me bored by the third or fourth track. That is not the case with Happy Valley. The sky is the limit for Wyatt Ellis. Give his album, Happy Valley, a listen today.

 

 

 

March 13, 2024

After winning the national TV talent show, Star Search, Sawyer Brown became a mainstay on country radio in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Their hits ranged from the fun “Step That Step” to the serious “All These Years”. Since first hitting the scene in the 1980s, Sawyer Brown has undergone several lineup changes. The current lineup consists of Mark Miller (lead vocals), Gregg “Hobie” Hubbard (keys/piano), Joe Smyth (drums/percussion), and Shayne Hill (lead guitar). The band’s last release of new material was Travelin’ Band in 2011. After a thirteen years Sawyer Brown have just released a project of new material. Their latest album is Desperado Troubadours.

Sawyer Brown’s new project includes ten songs, many of them penned by the group’s Mark Miller and Gregg Hubbard. There are some other notable writers that contributed to the songs on Desperado Troubadours, including Cody Jinks, Tennessee Jet, Mac McAnally and Monty Criswell. As with Sawyer Brown’s earlier releases, the songs on the new album vary from the fun to the thoughtful. Some of my favorite songs on this project include “Nashville Cat”, “Socrates”, and the title track. Here is a complete track listing for Desperado Troubadours:

  1. “Under This Ole Hat” (Mark Miller / Cody Jinks / Tennessee Jet)
  2. “Nashville Cat” (Mark Miller)
  3. “I Wouldn’t Change A Thing” (Mac McAnally / Monty Criswell)
  4. “Socrates” (Mac McAnally)
  5. “The One I’ve Got” (Mark Miller)
  6. “God Bless This Road” (Mark Miller / Gregg Hubbard)
  7. “Goodnight And Good Morning” (Mac McAnally)
  8. “This Side Of The Sky” (Mark Miller / Gregg Hubbard)
  9. “Get Me To The Stage On Time” (Mark Miller)
  10. “Desperado Troubadours” (Mark Miller / Cody Jinks / Tennessee Jet)

Sawyer Brown was one of my favorite groups to listen to as I was growing up. So, I awaited their new album with a great deal of excitement. However, with thirteen years having passed since their last album, I had an equal amount of trepidation. Many groups that have a long hiatus between albums are not able to deliver the new music with the same magic. Once I listened to Sawyer Brown’s new album, I was totally pleased with what I heard. The Sawyer Brown sound is still there. They did not try to reinvent themselves. Instead, the group cranked out new songs in their signature style. It is worth noting that Mark Miller shared producing duties with Blake Shelton, and they deserve a tip of the hat for helping to give us this new Sawyer Brown album, Desperado Troubadours. I recommend giving it a listen today.

 

 

 

March 6, 2024

Last year at this time I reviewed a project from a project from Brit Taylor called Kentucky Blue. Taylor’s vocals and songwriting were very impressive. In fact, the title track from that album received significant airplay on The Breakfast with Porkchop Show. So, when I saw that Brit Taylor was coming out with a new album in early 2024, I was very excited. However, when the new album was released, I thought I had accidentally grabbed Taylor’s last project. Upon further inspection, I discovered that, in fact, I had the new project. The new album from Brit Taylor is Kentucky Bluegrassed.

It is no surprise to see Taylor, a Kentucky native, releasing a bluegrass album. It seems that no matter what type of musical style you currently perform, bluegrass music is in the DNA of every musician and singer from Kentucky. The new album includes five songs from the aforementioned Kentucky Blue that have been bluegrassified. There is also three new songs on the new project (“Married”, “Church Bus”, and “Saint Anthony”), and each one is outstanding. Here is the track listing for Kentucky Bluegrassed:

 

  1. Anything But You
  2. Rich Little Girls
  3. No Cowboys
  4. Married
  5. Church Bus
  6. Kentucky Blue
  7. Saint Anthony
  8. If You Don’t Wanna Love Me

 

Brit Taylor and husband, Adam Chaffins, gathered a band of bluegrass all-stars to help make Kentucky Bluegrassed a reality, including Stewart Duncan, Rob Ikes, Seth Taylor, Dominick Leslie, and Matt Menefee. Taylor and the rest of the musicians have created an album that feels natural. That can be very hard to, even if you have the ingredients of seasoned bluegrass musicians added to the recipe. Not only is Brit Taylor’s songs and delivery hit the bluegrass target. In addition, Brit Taylor’s vocal performance conveys the emotion each song warrants. Whether it is sass, frustration, or vulnerability, Taylor’s delivery fits the songs perfectly. I recommend giving Brit Taylor’s Kentucky Bluegrassed a listen today.

 

 

 

February 28, 2024

I must admit I was a little apprehensive before giving Drake Milligan’s Dallas/Fort Worth album in 2022 it a listen when I first decided to review the project.  With very few exceptions, singers that have done well on talent competition shows do not have great albums out of the gate. Milligan came in third on America’s Got Talent, and that was the reason for my apprehension. However, once I listened to Dallas/Fort Worth all of my fears subsided. The album was a big success for Milligan, and he looks to build on that foundation with the release of his new EP, Jukebox Songs.

Drake Milligan’s baritone voice fits perfectly on each of the four songs on Jukebox Songs. The project starts with “What I Couldn’t Forget”, a song that sounds like it could be from George Strait’s catalog. “I Got a Problem” starts slow with Milligan singing over laid back piano playing. Then, the song increases speed with the full band behind him. “Don’t Leave Me Loving You” is a great country ballad featuring the turn of a phrase that serves as the song’s title. “Jukebox Songs and Barstool Beers” has a ‘90s era sound that will be sure to catch the ears of listeners.

With all of the comparisons I have already made about Jukebox Songs, I want to make it clear that Drake Milligan is not a nostalgia act. He is definitely influenced by his predecessors, but he is making fresh country music. With the momentum that he has gained from his previous album, I hope we will start to hear Drake Milligan’s music added to regular rotation on mainstream country stations. I recommend giving Drake Milligan’s Jukebox Songs a listen today.

 

 

February 21, 2024

It is always an adventure when I am trying to find new albums to review for the Catch of the Week. The most fun I have is when I find an album from an artist that I have never encountered before, give it a listen, and the music is outstanding. That is the case with this week’s Catch, the Castellows. The group is comprised of sisters Ellie, Powell, and Lily. The sisters are Georgia natives that not only sing and play their own instruments, they also write their own songs. The Castellows new EP is entitled  A Little Goes A Long Way.

The Castellows EP contains seven songs. All are originals compositions, except “Hurricane”. You may recognize that song because it has been recorded by several artists, including the hit recording from 1981 by Leon Everette. The other six songs were either written or co-written by members of the Castellows. Each song is enjoyable, but a few of my favorites include “Cowboy Kind of Love” and “No. 7 Road”. Here is the complete track list for A Little Goes a Long Way:

  1. “A Little Goes a Long Way”
  2. “Heartline Hill”
  3. “The Part Where You Break My Heart”
  4. “No. 7 Road”
  5. “Cowboy Kind of Love”
  6. “Hurricane”
  7. “I Know It’ll Never End”

This is a great introduction for me to the Castellows. They are  very talented singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists. Add to their talent the fact that the trio worked with a top notch producer, Trina Shoemaker, who has done projects with likes of Tanya Tucker, Emmylou Harris, and Nancy Griffith, and the result is an outstanding EP. I think we will be hearing more from the Castellows in the future. Be sure to give their new EP, A Little Goes a Long Way, a listen today.

 

 

February 7, 2024

Sister Sadie has put out several albums that I have reviewed. Since the time of those reviews, the group has undergone some member changes. Along with original members Deanie Richardson (fiddle), Gena Britt (banjo & vocals), Sister Sadie have added Jaelee Roberts (guitar & vocals), Dani Flowers (guitar & vocals), and Maddie Dalton (acoustic bass & vocals) to their lineup. The current configuration released their first single in the fall of 2022. Since then, we have had several more singles that left the fans wanting more. Well, the wait is over. Sister Sadie has just released a new album, No Fear.

Sister Sadie starts the album with “Willow”, a song penned by country star Ashley McBryde, that has already performed very well on the bluegrass charts. McBryde shows up later on the album, singing on “Ode to the Ozarks”. “Cannonball” is the one the latest singles from Sister Sadie, and it has also shown up on the bluegrass charts. Some other tracks that stand out include “Blue As My Broken Heart”, “Baby You’re Gone”, and the instrumental “Pad Thai Karaoke”. With that being said, there is not a track on the album that I wanted to skip. Each song is expertly executed, both musically and vocally. Here’s the complete tracklist for No Fear:

  1. Willow
  2. If We Ain’t Drinking Then We’re Fighting
  3. Blue As My Broken Heart
  4. Baby You’re Gone
  5. Mississippi River Long
  6. Pad Thai Karaoke
  7. Cannonball
  8. Lie to Me
  9. Diane
  10. Free
  11. Well
  12. One’s Real Life
  13. Ode to the Ozarks (featuring Ashley McBryde)

It is hard to please everyone’s musical tastes. It is nearly impossible. However, Sister Sadie has gotten pretty close to doing just that on No Fear. They offer straight forward bluegrass tunes, country tinged songs, and just enough modern elements to please the traditionalists, new grass enthusiasts, and fringe bluegrass fans. I recommend giving Sister Sadie’s No Fear a listen today.

 

 

 

 

January 31, 2024

Randall King has been featured in our Catch of the Week segment before, and his music has been played regularly on The Breakfast with Porkchop Show. King’s 2022 album Shot Glass, his first major label release, was a fun album to review. It was fresh and familiar at the same time. The album was full of brand new songs, but they had a sound that was reminiscent of ‘90s country music. Randall King continues with that same formula on his latest project, Into the Neon.

In a time of singles and EP releases, King’s Into the Neon is supersized. You will find eighteen tracks on this album. Randall King co-wrote six of those songs. One of my favorite tracks is the opener, “One Night Dance”. It is the classic story of a boy falling for a girl after sharing a dance. Into the Neon offers a variety of styles among the eighteen songs, and all of them have the steel guitar helping to evoke the mood of each tune. Here is the complete track list for Into the Neon:

 

  1. One Night Dance
  2. Somewhere Over Us
  3. When My Baby’s in Boots
  4. What Doesn’t Kill You
  5. Hang of Hangin’ On
  6. Burns Like Her
  7. Good Feelin’
  8. The One You’re Waiting On
  9. Into The Neon
  10. Tonk ‘Til I Die
  11. But It Ain’t
  12. Coulda Been Love
  13. Damn You Look Good
  14. Hard To Be Humble
  15. Right Things Right
  16. As Far As We Go
  17. I Could Be That Rain
  18. I Don’t Whiskey Anymore

Many people have classified Randall King as a neo-traditionalist. I guess that is a correct description. King seems to have been heavily influenced by the sound of ‘90s country music, especially that of George Strait. Although an identifier, such as neo-traditionalist, is meant to inform the reader about what they are getting ready to listen to. However, Randall King is more than a nostalgia act. As I mentioned earlier, his music sounds familiar, but it is fresh. I recommend giving Randall King’s Into the Neon a listen today.

 

 

 

January 24, 2024

 

We head to the Tar Heel State for this review. Town Mountain is a group from Asheville, North Carolina. They have released multiple projects since 2008. Their early projects were more in a bluegrass vein. Town Mountain’s more recent recordings have incorporated more country and rock sounds. However, those are just descriptions of their music. I am not trying to put their music inside a box. Town Mountain’s new project, Dance Me Down Easy: The Woodstock Sessions, continues to build on their long tradition of outstanding projects.

Town Mountain headed to Woodstock, NY to record this EP. The project was recorded at Levon Helm Studios. Helm was a longtime member of The Band. He moved to Woodstock, NY and set up a recording studio. In addition, Levon Helm’s barn was the sight of his famous Midnight Ramble concerts. Town Mounatin’s Phil Barker said, “I would say Levon Helm is one of, if not, the biggest influences on this band as a whole. He was a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll, but definitely down home.”  Frontman Robert Greer said, “Recording at Levon Helm’s Barn in upstate New York has an instant cool vibe. You don’t have to search for it or pay a speaker to motivate you”.

Town Mountain picked six songs to cover on Dance Me Down Easy: The Woodstock Sessions. The eclectic list of artists that the group chose songs from include the Kinks, Dire Straits, J.J. Cale, the Rolling Stones, and, of course, Levon Helm. I enjoyed each song, but a couple that stood out to me is “Strangers” and the title track. Here’s the complete track list for Dance Me Down Easy: The Woodstock Sessions, including the artists that Town Mountain is covering:

  1. Devil In Disguise (J.J. Cale)
  2. Dance Me Down Easy (Levon Helm)
  3. Flannery’s Reprise (Traditional)
  4. So Far Away (Dire Straits)
  5. Strangers (The Kinks)
  6. Sweet Virginia (Rolling Stones)

 

Even if I did not know that Town Mountain’s new EP was recorded at Levon Helm’s studio, I think I would have picked up on the vibe of The Band. The 6 songs are outstanding recordings and leave me wanting more from Town Mountain. Hopefully, we will get a LP sometime in the near future.  If you are new to the music of Town Mountain, I encourage you to go back and check out their entire catalog. Before you do that, give their latest project, Dance Me Down Easy: The Woodstock Sessions a listen today.

 

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December 20, 2023

If anyone ever embodied the designation of “legend” in music, it is Willie Nelson. The Red Headed Stranger’s singing, songwriting, and guitar playing have been influencing other artists for over six decades. Earlier this year Willie celebrated his 90th birthday with a two-night concert extravaganza at the legendary Hollywood Bowl. That star-studded event was captured on audio and video and now is available for you to enjoy in the comfort of your own abode.

Long Story Short: Willie Nelson 90 Live At The Hollywood Bowl is available in many different formats and configurations:  Deluxe 2CD+Blu-ray, Digital and 2xLP. The digital edition features 13 bonus tracks, to bring the total to 52 performances. The following list may be long, but it worth noting all of the artists that showed up to pay tribute to Willie Nelson at the Hollywood Bowl: Allison Russell, Beck, Billy Strings, Bobby Weir, Booker T. Jones, Buddy Cannon, Charley Crockett, Charlie Sexton, Chris Stapleton, Daniel Lanois, Dave Matthews, Dwight Yoakam, Edie Brickell, Emmylou Harris, Gary Clark Jr., George Strait, Jack Johnson, Jamey Johnson, Keith Richards, Kris Kristofferson, Leon Bridges, Lily Meola, Lukas Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Margo Price, Micah Nelson (Particle Kid), Miranda Lambert, Nathaniel Rateliff, Neil Young, Norah Jones, Orville Peck, Rodney Crowell, Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow, Shooter Jennings, Snoop Dogg, Stephen Stills, The Avett Brothers, The Lumineers, Tom Jones, Tyler Childers, Warren Haynes, Waylon Payne, and Ziggy Marley.

If ever an artist deserved a two-night concert to celebrate his 90th birthday, it is Willie Nelson. The performance by Willie and all of his special guests are outstanding. It feels like each performer was not just going through the motions. They all knew how important it was to properly pay tribute to one of the greatest musical artists of all-time. This would make a great gift for the Willie Nelson fan on your Christmas list. I recommend giving Long Story Short: Willie Nelson 90 Live At The Hollywood Bowl.

 

 

 

December 13, 2023

Balsam Range have been making outstanding music since their founding in 2007. Throughout the group’s history they have collected multiple International Bluegrass Music Association Awards, released 13 albums, and had numerous chart topping songs. This was all done with the original band lineup: Buddy Melton (fiddle, lead and tenor vocals), Dr. Marc Pruett (banjo), Tim Surrett (bass, dobro, baritone and lead vocals), Darren Nicholson (mandolin and vocals), and Caleb Smith (guitar, lead & baritone vocals). In 2022, Nicholson left the group to pursue a solo career. The group welcomed mandolin virtuoso Alan Bibey to their ranks. With the new configuration in place, Balsam Range have just released their much anticipated new album, Kinetic Tone.
The album features 11 songs. 3 singles from the album have already charted for Balsam Range: “That’s What The Years Do” (#1), “Snake Charmer” (#3), and “We’ll All Drink Money” (#2). Some of my favorite tracks on the albums include “Marshall McClain”, the cover of Waylon Jennings’ “Just to Satisfy You”, and the Scruggs style guitar driven “Worry”. Here’s the complete tracklist for Kinetic Tone:

1. Echo Canyon
2. Snake Charmer
3. Evergreen
4. Marshall McClain
5. Just to Satisfy You
6. God Knows
7.Two Lane Highway
8. Running Out of Reasons
9. Worry
10. We’ll All Drink Money
11. What the Years Do (with Reprise)

Balsam Range, as always, delivers high quality bluegrass on Kinetic Tone. The musical performance is outstanding, the singing is top notch, and the song selections are great. I recommend giving Balsam Range’s Kinetic Tone a listen today. By the way, Balsam Range will be in concert at the Walhalla Performing Arts Center on Saturday, December 16th. For more information, visit walhallapac.com.

 

 

November 29, 2023

My musical tastes are eclectic. Whether it is country, bluegrass, gospel, R & B, soul, rock, or pop, if the music is good, I like it. That is one of the reasons I like Jim Lauderdale’s music . He has released more than thirty albums in his career, and he has covered a lot of musical genres on those projects. Most importantly, Lauderdale’s music is always excellent. He is known not only for his varied musical catalog, but for his outstanding songwriting, with his songs being covered by numerous artists, including George Strait (“We Really Shouldn’t Be Doing This”) and Mark Chesnutt (“Gonna Get a Life”). Jim Lauderdale’s latest album, The Long and Lonesome Letting Go, is in the bluegrass genre, and is a collaboration with the Po’ Ramblin’ Boys.

The alliance between Jim Lauderdale and the Po’ Ramblin’ Boys is not a new thing. They have shared stages at various festivals over the years. Their familiarity with each other is evident on The Long and Lonesome Letting Go. It sounds as if you are listening to one act that has been recording albums together for years. Lauderdale co-wrote each of the album’s songs. 6 of the albums songs were co-written by Po’ Ramblin’ Boys guitarist Josh Rinkel. Some other writers on this project includes the award winning Becky Buller, Joe Newberry, Jimmy Ritchey, Logan Ledger, Alex Leach, and Bob Minner. The title track, my favorite on the album, was written by Minner and Lauderdale, and features a guest vocal appearance by the legendary Del McCoury.

The Long And Lonesome Letting Go Tracklist:

1. Long And Lonesome Letting Go
2. She’s On A Different Train
3. I’m Only So Good At Being Good
4. You Fell Off The Face Of The Earth
5. Last Resort
6. Ghost Of A Rose
7. Darkness Is The Other Side of Light
8. If I Could Only Get My Heart To See
9. That Was When We Were Together
10. A Better Place
11. She’s The Light
12. Drop The Hammer Down

 

If you are a fan of traditional bluegrass music, you will love The Long And Lonesome Letting Go. As Jim Lauderdale has done on his previous projects, he approaches whatever genre suits his fancy with an authenticity and gusto that could make you think that is the only style of music that he has ever played. The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys playing and harmonies are steeped in the old time style from the early days of bluegrass. Add Lauderdale’s lead vocals and the great songwriting to PRB’s performances, and you have one of the best traditional bluegrass albums of the year. I recommend giving Jim Lauderdale and The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys’ The Long and Lonesome Letting Go a listen today.

 

 

 

November 22, 2023

I was introduced to Vincent Neil Emerson in 2021 with his self-titled album. I am a big fan of singer-songwriters, and Emerson’s songs were right up my alley. He wrote all of the songs on that album, and there was something about his delivery that just drew me in. The Texan of Choctaw-Apache heritage was the authentic article. Emerson continues in the tradition of songwriters like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, and Rodney Crowell. He adds to his great collection of recordings with his latest album, The Golden Crystal Kingdom.

The album, produced by Shooter Jennings, is full of great songs. Emerson wrote all but 2 of the album’s 12 songs. The two songs he did not write are “Time of the Cottonwood Trees” by Charley Crockett and Buffy Saint-Marie’s “Co’dine”. As expected, all of the songs are outstanding. Some of my favorites include “Time of the Rambler” and “Little Wolf’s Invincible Yellow Medicine Paint”. Here is the complete track list for The Golden Crystal Kingdom:

1. Time of the Rambler
2. The Golden Crystal Kingdom
3. Time of the Cottonwood Trees
4. I’ll Meet You in Montana
5. Hang Your Head Down Low
6. Cod’ine
7. Blackland Prairies
8. On the Banks of the Old Guadalupe
9. The Man From Uvalde
10. Voices (On the Spanish Isle)
11. Clover on the Hillside
12. Little Wolf’s Invincible Yellow Medicine Paint

It is great to see the singer-songwriter tradition continuing in such an outstanding way. Vincent Neil Emerson carries the tradition of Texas songwriters forward into modern times. Also, big kudos to the musicians on this album and producer Shooter Jennings. I cannot recommend enough giving Vincent Neil Emerson’s The Golden Crystal Kingdom a listen today.

 

 

November 15, 2023

Chris Stapleton has been riding high since bursting on the country music scene in 2015 with his breakthrough album, Traveller. That album gained Stapleton acclaim from both fans and critics. His follow up projects, From A Room: Volume 1 & 2 and Starting Over earned Stapleton more adoration from the fans, as well as an armful of awards. His songs from those three albums are still getting airplay on country radio, but we have not had a new Stapleton project since 2020. Well, the wait is over. Chris Stapleton has released a new album, Higher.
The album was produced by Dave Cobb, Chris Stapleton, and his wife Morgane. Stapleton returned to Nashville’s famous RCA Studio A to record Higher. In addition to Chris Stapleton’s outstanding vocals and guitar work, I must take a moment to mention the rest of the performers on Higher. The album features Morgane Stapleton (background vocals, synthesizer, tambourine), Dave Cobb (acoustic guitar, eclectic guitar), J.T. Cure (bass), Derek Mixon (drums), Lee Pardini (organ, piano), and Paul Franklin (pedal steel). Their are 14 songs on the project, all of which Stapleton had a hand in writing. As with previous Chris Stapleton projects, Higher offers a variety of tempos and styles. Many fans will be familiar with “White Horse”. The single has received significant airplay ahead of the album’s release. However, I recommend giving the entire album a listen. Here’s a complete track list for Higher:

1. What Am I Gonna Do (Chris Stapleton, Miranda Lambert)
2. South Dakota (Chris Stapleton, Dave Cobb, Derek Mixon, J.T. Cure)
3. Trust (Chris Stapleton, Steve McEwan)
4. It Takes A Woman (Ronnie Bowman, Jerry Salley)
5. The Fire (Chris Stapleton, Dave Cobb, Morgane Stapleton, Derek Mixon, J.T. Cure)
6. Think I’m In Love With You (Chris Stapleton)
7. Loving You On My Mind (Chris Stapleton, Kendell Marvel, Tim James)
8. White Horse (Chris Stapleton, Dan Wilson)
9. Higher (Chris Stapleton)
10. The Bottom (Chris Stapleton, Lee Miller)
11. The Day I Die (Chris Stapleton, Carolyn Dawn Johnson)
12. Crosswind (Chris Stapleton, Dave Cobb, Derek Mixon, J.T. Cure)
13. Weight Of Your World (Chris Stapleton, Tim Larsson, Tobias Lundgren, Johan Fransson)
14. Mountains Of My Mind (Chris Stapleton)

 

Many artists write, sing, and play their own songs. However, there is something different about Chris Stapleton. When you listen to his albums, you feel like Stapleton is giving you everything he’s got to offer, from the pen, the guitar, and his voice. I believe that is why Stapleton strikes a chord with fans and critics. I recommend giving Chris Stapleton’s Higher a listen today.

 

 

 

November 8, 2023

At the request of some listeners of the Breakfast with Porkchop Show, this review will feature a Christmas album. This is a little earlier than I normally review new holiday releases. However, whether we like it or not, people are getting into the Christmas spirit earlier each year. Although I personally do not listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, I am a man of the people. So, this week I will review Merry Christmas From Jon Pardi with the All-Nighters

Jon Pardi offers a mixture of traditional songs with some original Christmas tunes. Even though I have grown tired of hearing “All I Want for Christmas is You”, it is nice to hear someone other than Mariah Carey sing the song. Pardi also offers “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” as songs you know and can sing along. However, I am always interested in new holiday tunes, and Jon Pardi and the All Nighters offer plenty of new songs, like “Beer for Santa”, “400 Horsepower Sleigh”, the Caribbean themed “Merry Christmas From the Keys” and the western swing of “Swing on Down to Texas”.  An interesting choice, but one I really enjoy, is the choice to cover the Counting Crows’ “A Long December”. Here is a complete album track list:

  1. “Beer for Santa”
    2. “400 Horsepower Sleigh”
    3. “All I Want for Christmas is You”
    4. “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”
    5. “Merry Christmas From the Keys”
    6. “Please Come Home for Christmas”
    7. “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy”
    8. “I’ve Been Bad, Santa” (And Pillbox Patti)
    9. “Reindeer”
    10. “Swing on Down to Texas”
    11. “Winter Wonderland”
    12. “A Long December”

There you have it. One of my earliest Christmas album reviews ever. If you have already had your Christmas decorations up for at least a couple of weeks, listen to this album now. If you are staunchly opposed to consuming Christmas music until after the Thanksgiving leftovers have been put away, this recommendation is here for you whenever you are ready. Whenever you decide to give this album a listen, I think you will enjoy this country Christmas album. Give Merry Christmas from Jon Pardi with the All-Nighters a listen.

 

 

 

November 1, 2023

Texas has a long history of great singers, songwriters, and performers. This tradition continues to nourish the current music scene. Although it is not a prerequisite for getting an album reviewed on the Catch of the Week, it seems the artists that catch my ears quite often have Lone Star State roots. This week’s review calls for a return trip across the Red River. Our spotlight shines on a group called Flatland Cavalry. We have reviewed this group’s past albums.  This week will review their just released album, Wandering Star, their first major label release.

Wandering Star features 13 songs. There are a lot of songwriters that contributed to the songs on this album, including Will Hoge, Jason Nix, Dwight Baker and Ashley Monroe. Several of the band’s members are also listed as songwriters, but the name that shows up on the writing credits for each album’s songs is Flatland Cavalry’s lead singer, Cleto Cordero. You may recognize him as a member of the group the Panhandlers. However, Flatland Cavalry is his primary gig. His lead singing and songwriting are on display throughout Wandering Star.  There is something about the band’s approach and delivery of a song that seems to add a little sunshine to my day, even when the subject matter is less than sunny. Some of my favorite songs on the album include “Let It Roll”, “Oughta See You (The Way I Do)” and “New American Dream” and  “A Thousand Miles An Hour”. Here’s a complete track listing for Wandering Star:

  1. The Provider
  2. The Best Days
  3. Only Thing At All
  4. Last American Summer
  5. Mornings With You
  6. Let It Roll
  7. Spinnin’
  8. Don’t Have To Do This Like That
  9. New American Dream
  10. Oughta See You (The Way I Do)
  11. A Thousand Miles An Hour
  12. Burned Out Flame
  13. Forgotten

 

Flatland Cavalry’s members are Cleto Cordero (lead vocals, guitar), Reid Dillion (electric guitar), Wesley Hall (fiddle), Jonathan Saenz (bass), Jason Albers (percussion), and Adam Gallegos (utility). The group’s musical and vocal performances are great. Add to the equation the aforementioned songwriting, and you are in store for a pleasant listening experience. I recommend giving Flatland Cavalry’s Wandering Star a listen today.

 

 

 

October 25, 2023

There has been an uptick in interest by the listening public in the music of singer-songwriters. Do not misunderstand that statement. The singer-songwriters, with a few exceptions (see Chris Stapleton), do not have mainstream success on country music radio. However, everything, including music, is cyclical. The musical trend we are going through is similar to that of the 1970s, with Willie Nelson achieving mainstream success, which led to a rising interest in other singer-songwriters, like Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark, and Billy Joe Shaver. With that observation being stated, this review will focus on a singer-songwriter outside of the mainstream. His name is John R. Miller, and his new album is Heat Comes Down.

When you make a recommendation to someone, whether it is music or food, they want to know if it is similar to anything they are familiar with. John R. Miller has his own distinctive style, but I will play along for those that are seeking identifiers. Miller’s voice has similar qualities of Jerry Jeff Walker, while his writing is akin to that of Walker, Guy Clark, and John Prine. However, although he may bear resemblance to those artists, Miller is no copycat. Heat Comes Down features 11 songs, and all of them were penned solely by John R. Miller. With the exception of the upbeat “Conspiracies, Cults & UFOs”, every song has a laid back approach. My favorite track on this project is “Smokestacks On The Skyline”, but there is not a song that I wanted to skip. Here is the complete track list for Heat Comes Down:

  1. Nobody Has to Know Your Mind
  2. Insomnia Blues
  3. Harpers Ferry Moon
  4. Ditcher
  5. Crumbling Pie
  6. Smokestacks on the Skyline
  7. Summer Lens
  8. Conspiracies, Cults & UFOs
  9. Basements
  10. Dollar Store Tents
  11. Press On

John R. Miller’s writing on Heat Comes Down is outstanding. It will be an inspiration for any aspiring songwriter. If you are late to the party like me, be sure to check out John R. Miller’s earlier albums. You will be glad you did. Before you do that, check out his latest album, Heat Comes Down. I highly recommend giving it a listen today.

 

 

 

October 11, 2023

When it comes to the Texas music scene, I am a huge fan. It has always been rich with talented singers, songwriters, and instrumentalist. The tradition continues with modern artists like John Baumann. He is not only a notable solo artist, but Baumann is also a member of The Panhandlers. That group features fellow Lone Star artists Josh Abbot, William Clark Green and Cleto Cordero. Whether with The Panhandlers or as a solo artist, John Baumann is a shining example of the quality songwriting and singing that the Texas music scene has to offer, and his talent is in the spotlight on his latest solo album, Border Radio.

As most people know, there is not a state in the union that boasts prouder residents than Texas. Many times the singer-songwriters from the Lone Star state use their residence as the location that their songs takes place. Baumann falls into the category. Even when he does not mention it directly, you get the feeling that the song’s backdrop is Texas. Border Radio includes 9 tracks, and Baumann either wrote or co-wrote each one. Every song is truly a class in storytelling. Some of my favorite tracks on the project include, “Revving Engines, River Street”, “The Day Before the Day of the Dead”, “South Texas Tradition”, and the title track. Here’s the complete track listing for Border Radio:

1). Gold El Camino

2). Revving Engine, River Street

3). South Texas Tradition

4). Border Radio

5). My Heart Belongs to You

6). Saturday Night Comes Once a Week

7). The Night Before the Day of the Dead

8). Turning Gold

9). Boy’s Town

 

There are so many great artists from the Lone Star state that are making music that is listener friendly. However, you have to be an active listener because they have a lot to say. It is easy to be an active listener because John Baumann’s songs draw you in and make you pay attention. You will not be disappointed with John Baumann’s Border Radio. I recommend giving it a listen today.

 

 

 

 

October 4, 2023

Brent Cobb is one of my favorite artists that I have discovered during my never ending search for great music to review on Porkchop’s Catch of the Week. With albums like Keep ‘Em On They ToesShine On Rainy Day,  Providence Canyon, and his gospel album And Now, Let’s Turn To Page…, the Georgia born singer-songwriter has not only won me over, but has gained many other new fans and critical acclaim. His laid back vocal style and songwriting is breath of fresh air. With the aforementioned projects, many were anxiously waiting for Cobb’s new project. The wait is over. Brent Cobb’s new album is Southern Star.

Brent Cobb had a hand in writing 7 of the 10 songs on Southern Star. As expected with a Brent Cobb project, the songwriting is outstanding. The sonic experience the album provides is a mixture of southern sounds: country, soul, blues, and swampy funk. The mixture is appropriate since the album was recorded at the Capricorn Sound Studios in Macon, GA. It is the same studio that the Allman Brothers Band, the Marshall Tucker Band, and the Charlie Daniels Band used to record some of their classic albums. Some of my favorite songs on the album includes “Devil Ain’t Done”, a song about someone who has done a lot of wild stuff in their time, and, even though they are older, they still have a few wild oats to sow. The song is aided by Cobb’s laidback delivery. It makes it sound like he is already making a list of crazy things to do. “Patina” is another of my favorites. It is a beautiful love song with one of my favorite lines from the project: “For worse or for better and all of the weather that comes/We’ve been together so long we put patina on love”.  With that being said, I thoroughly enjoyed each song on Southern Star. Here is the complete track list for the album:

  1. Southern Star
  2. It’s a Start
  3. Livin’ the Dream
  4. Patina
  5. ‘On’t Know When
  6. Kick the Can
  7. Devil Ain’t Done
  8. When Country Came Back to Town
  9. Miss Ater
  10. Shade Tree

There is one more song I want to mention. “When Country Came Back to Town” is a love letter to the independent country music scene. I am normally not a fan of songs that are centered on name dropping. However, this song is not referencing the artists that sometimes do not get the respect of mainstream country radio for some sort of credibility with music fanatics. The lines are delivered with reverence as Cobb mentions Sturgill Simpson, Brandi Carlile, Hayes Carll, Tyler Childers, Jason Isbell, The Turnpike Troubadours, and many others. He also mentions those mainstream artists that have the same spirit as the independent darlings, including Miranda Lambert and Chris Stapleton. Brent Cobb’s name must be included in the list. He always delivers outstanding songwriting, sans trucks on backroads, with his southern molasses laid back vocals that puts him among the aforementioned artists. I recommend giving Brent Cobb’s Southern Star a listen today.

 

 

 

September 27, 2023

 

Since hitting the national scene in 2017, Ashley McBryde has gained critical acclaim and commercial success. I believe one of the reasons for her success is that McBryde’s vocals make her easily recognizable in a landscape of sound alike artists. Another reason is her songwriting talent. McBryde’s songwriting is step above much of what is offered in today’s mainstream country landscape. Those talents are on display again on Ashley McBryde’s latest album is The Devil I Know.

The album features 12 songs, all of which Ashley McBryde had a hand in writing. You get a variety of moods throughout the album, from the rocking opening track “Made For This” to the final tender, yet powerful, “6th of October”. The lead single, “Light On In the Kitchen”, is a great song that has performed very well on the charts. There are so many other great tracks on the album too. However, a few that stood out include “Coldest Beer in Town”, a song full of heartache. “Learned To Lie” is a raw, confessional song that deals with family issues. “Coolest Little Bars” is a loving salute to the unique watering holes everywhere. Here’s the complete track list for The Devil I Know:

  1. Made For This (Ashley McBryde and Travis Meadows)
  2. Coldest Beer in Town (Ashley McBryde, Autumn McEntire and Nicolette Hayford)
  3. Light On In The Kitchen (Ashley McBryde, Jessi Alexander and Connie Harrington)
  4. Women Ain’t Whiskey (Ashley McBryde, Hillary Lindsey, Jon Nite and Chris LaCorte)
  5. Learned To Lie (Ashley McBryde, Nicolette Hayford and Sean McConnell)
  6. The Devil I Know (Ashley McBryde, Jeremy Stover and Bobby Pinson)
  7. Single At The Same Time (Ashley McBryde, Benjy Davis and Andy Albert)
  8. Cool Little Bars (Ashley McBryde, Trick Savage and Lainey Wilson)
  9. Whiskey and Country Music (Ashley McBryde, John Osborne and Lee Thomas Miller)
  10. Blackout Betty (Ashley McBryde, Aaron Raitiere and Nicolette Hayford)
  11. 6th Of October (Ashley McBryde, Blue Foley and CJ Field)

When it comes to McBryde’s songwriting and singing, her talent puts her near the top of the list of country artists today. Listening to her projects, you do not get the feeling that she is releasing songs or albums just to fill a contracted commitment. McBryde takes great care in the crafting and presentation of each song. You can hear and feel that on this album. I recommend giving Ashley McBrydes’s The Devil I Know a listen today.

 

 

 

September 20, 2023

The legendary Willie Nelson’ singing, songwriting, and guitar playing have been influencing artists for over six decades. The Red Headed Stranger has released an unbelievable number of albums during his career. In recent years he has released two or three albums each year. Although mostly closely associated with country music, Nelson has released albums in many different genres. His latest album finds Willie trying his hand at performing his songs in a bluegrass style.

Instead of writing or searching for new songs for this album, Willie takes the same approach that Sturgill Simpson employed on his Cuttin’ Grass albums. Nelson’s Bluegrass album features twelve of his previous songs done in the aforementioned genre. Willie turned to his recent go to producer Buddy Cannon to help him with the song selection. Because I am such a fan of Willie Nelson’s music, it is difficult to pick a favorite track on the album. They all sound great with the bluegrass treatment.  Here is the complete track listing for Willie Nelson’s Bluegrass:

 

  1. No Love Around
  2. Somebody Pick Up My Pieces
  3. Good Hearted Woman
  4. Sad Songs And Waltzes
  5. Home Motel
  6. You Left Me A Long, Long Time Ago
  7. Yesterday’s Wine
  8. Bloody Mary Morning
  9. Slow Down Old World
  10. Still Is Still Moving To Me
  11. On The Road Again
  12. Man With The Blues

 

This album’s success is due in large part to the cast of pickers that serve as Willie’s backing band on Bluegrass.  The all-star lineup includes Aubrey Haynie on fiddle, Rob Ickes on reso-guitar, Ron Block is on banjo, Barry Bales on bass, Dan Tyminski and Seth Taylor on mandolin, Josh Martin and Bob Terry on guitars. Add to that, Mickey Raphael on harmonica, and Buddy and Melanie Cannon singing harmony. As I have said many times before, long live Willie Nelson. Check out his latest album, Bluegrass.

 

 

 

September 13, 2023

With the flurry of albums released in the last few months, plus new albums released each week, it is taking me a while to get to all of the projects that deserve to be reviewed. I am happy to finally getting around to reviewing the new album from Dale Ann Bradley. She is one of the foremost female vocalists in bluegrass music today, and she has been for many years. Bradley has received six IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year awards, and is a member of the Kentucky Hall of Fame. It has been a few years since her last release. Her much anticipated new album, Kentucky For Me, has been released.

As you might suspect by the album’s title, the album is a tribute to Kentucky, Dale Ann Bradley’s home state. There is a Kentucky connection in each track, either through the subject matter of the song or with fellow guest artists who are Kentuckians. There are eleven tracks in all on Kentucky For Me, and, as expected with a Dale Ann Bradley album, she is not afraid to cover songs from other genres in a bluegrass style. Some of my favorite tracks on this project include “The Sun is Going to Shine” featuring JP Pennington of the chart-topping country group Exile, Bradley and Dave Adkins covering the Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers/Stevie Nicks’ collaboration “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”, and the title track (written by Tom T. Hall) which is a duet with Larry Cordle. Here’s a complete track listing for Kentucky For Me:

 

  1. The Sun Is Going To Shine feat. JP Pennington (written by JP Pennington, Amanda Rae Martin)
  2. Kentucky Gold feat. Sam Bush (written by W. Carson, Ronnie Reno)
  3. Kentucky For Me feat. Larry Cordle (written by Tom T. Hall)
  4. Dogwood Winter (written by Steve Gulley, Tim Stafford)
  5. Appalachian Blue feat. John Cowan (written by Donna Anderson, Michael Anderson)
  6. One By One feat. Danny Paisley (written by Jack Anglin, Jim Anglin, Johnnie Wright)
  7. I’m Just An Old Chunk of Coal feat. John Conlee (written by Billy Joe Shaver)
  8. God Already Has (written by Mark Brinkman, David Stewart)
  9. Love Train feat. Rebecca Lynn Howard(written by Kim Fox)
  10. Poor Man’s Pride feat. The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys (written by Catherine Elisabeth Britt, Guy Charles Clark, Jerry Dean, JR Salley)
  11. Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around feat. Dave Adkins (written by Mike Campbell, Tom Petty)

 

Even though I mentioned my favorite tracks, I want to point out that there is not a track I wanted to skip. This is one of those albums I can listen to again and again. In fact, when it comes to Dale Ann Bradley’s projects, this is par for the course. The singing, playing, song selection, and production is outstanding. I recommend giving Dale Ann Bradley’s new album, Kentucky For Me, a listen today.

 

 

 

September 6, 2023

The Turnpike Troubadours have been making music together since 2005. They started releasing albums in 2007 and have steadily gained an ever growing fan base. The Turnpike Troubadours were introduced to a wider audience when their music was included in TV series Yellowstone. The band took a hiatus in 2019, and many fans were devastated, thinking this was the end of one of the more popular Red Dirt Music acts.  Rumors started to swirl in 2021 that the band may be hitting the road and working on an album. They were back to performing together in 2022, and they have just released a new album, A Cat in the Rain.

The Turnpike Troubadours members are the same as you remember: Evan Felker (vocals, guitar), RC Edwards (bass), Hank Early (pedal steel), Kyle Nix (fiddle), Ryan Engleman (electric guitar), and Gabe Pearson (drums). The new project features 10 songs, many written by the group’s lead vocalist, Evan Felker. As usual the Troubadours songs have a quality more akin to Jerry Jeff Walker and Guy Clark than any mainstream country. There is not a track I wanted to skip on this album, but one of my favorite tracks on the album is “Mean Old Sun”. Here is a complete track listing for A Cat in the Rain:

  1. Mean Old Sun
  2. Brought Me
  3. Lucille
  4. Chipping Mill
  5. The Rut
  6. A Cat in the Rain
  7. Black Sky
  8. East Side Love Song (Bottoms Up)
  9. Three More Days
  10. Won’t You Give Me One More Chance

 

The songwriting and song selection on  A Cat in the Rain is outstanding. The musical performances, as always, are soulfully superb. I have to mention Shooter Jennings, the producer of the album. With a group like the Turnpike Troubadours, the wrong producer could destroy the feeling that the group conveys in their musical and vocal delivery. It seems that Jennings set the table for the Troubadours to naturally shine through. I highly recommend giving the Turnpike Troubadours’ A Cat in the Rain a listen today.

 

 

August 30, 2023

Tim O’Brien is a highly regarded singer, songwriter and musician. Whether playing with Hot Rize, touring and recording with other artists, or as a solo artist, his talent is evident through his expansive body of work. Even though he is respected, I do not believe that Tim O’Brien’s genius is truly appreciated. He has always been able to transfer effortlessly from one genre to the next without a hiccup. Most importantly, the transitions are not just for the point of showing off his versatility, as some artists are known to do. Rather, Tim O’Brien’s approach is to give each individual song whatever musical underpinning it needs, and he is an expert at doing just that. Tim O’Brien’s expertise is on display on his latest offering, Cup of Sugar.

Although Tim O’Brien has had a long career, this is the first album he has ever released that he had a hand in writing every one of the project’s songs. I have always enjoyed his unique writing style, and it is on full display on Cup of Sugar. There are songs from the perspective of animals (“Thinkin’ Like a Fish” and “Bear”), a grave digger (“The Pay’s a Lot Better Too”), and even Walter Cronkite (“The Anchor”). It is truly hard for me to choose a favorite song from this album. As soon as I listen to a song and I think I have discovered my favorite tune on this project, the next song comes on, and my mind is changed. Here’s a track listing for Cup of Sugar:

 

  1. Bear
  2. Let the Horses Run
  3. Stuck in the Middle
  4. Thinkin’ Like a Fish
  5. Cup of Sugar
  6. The Pay’s a Lot Better Too
  7. Shout Lulu
  8. The Anchor
  9. She Can’t, He Won’t and They’ll Never
  10. Diddleye Day
  11. Little Lamb Little Lamb
  12. Goodbye Old Friend
  13. Gila Headwaters

 

Although Tim O’Brien is a highly respected artist, I believe he is not fully appreciated. His expert musicianship and that of the other musicians on the album flow effortlessly in various styles from song to song. O’Brien’s ability to write and perform songs that have multiple layers is amazing. He can deliver songs that on the surface are humorous. However, just below the surface the same lyrics can be thought provoking. I highly recommend giving Tim O’Brien’s Cup of Sugar a listen today.

 

 

 

August 23, 2023

There has been a swell of popularity of singer-songwriters in country music circles. Although they are not regulars on country music radio, fans have sought out those songwriters that display gritty authenticity that has not been polished by the Nashville music machine. Some of the artists that have made a mark include Cody Jinks, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, Colter Wall, and Margo Price. It seems that some major labels have realized that there is money to be made with the rising class of singer-songwriters. Many of the labels have moved to sign these artists. This week’s review is from one of the new major label signees.

Colby Acuff’s first major label release, Western White Pines, is out on Sony Music Nashville. The Idaho native is not a novice when it comes to music. He began learning instruments at the age of 5, and he performed for the first time at the age of 12. Acuff has released three independent albums before Western White Pines.  He wrote or co-wrote each of the new album’s 10 tracks. Acuff’s vocals have a laid back approach that puts me in mind of Brent Cobb, although the two have different tones to their voices. Some of the tracks that stand out include “Boy and a Bird Dog”, a song that switches back and forth from the perspective of the aforementioned boy and dog. The title track is so well written that you can almost see the landscape that Acuff describes. “Better Man” propels the outlaw spirit that is interwoven throughout the entire project. Here’s the complete track list for Western White Pines:

 

  1. Western White Pines
  2. One Day At A Time
  3. Playing God Again
  4. Outlaw in Me
  5. Boy And A Bird Dog
  6. Better Man
  7. Hard Livin’ Life
  8. Welcome to Toms
  9. All I Got
  10. Rolling With The Wind

 

Having a major label release will definitely help draw attention to any artist’s music. Colby Acuff might be new to the major label, but he has put in the time as an independent artist and those projects deserves a listen, too. The songwriting, singing, and musical performances on this new project are outstanding. I highly recommend giving Colby Acuff’s Western White Pines a listen today.

 

 

August 16, 2023

In recent years, Ward Davis has become one of my favorite songwriters. I became familiar with him through his 2015 release 15 Years in a 10 Year Town. Whether through his solo work, teaming up with Cody Jinks, or having his songs covered by the likes of Trace Adkins, Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, I have enjoyed Davis’ work. I reviewed his album Black Cats and Crows in 2020, and it was one of that year’s best projects. I must admit that his latest project somehow slipped under my radar. That is why I not only look to the list of albums’ future release dates, but also check to see if I missed anything. Inevitably, I will often find a gem when I take a second look, and I have found another one in Ward Davis’ Sunday Morning.

The project’s title may lead you to think that this is a gospel album. I guess you can say it is, but not in the traditional sense. You will not find covers of well-known hymns or worship songs. Rather, this album is an emotional, raw look at the spiritual and human struggles that people encounter every day. By the way, he tackles the deep subject matter, and nails it, in only 4 songs. It is truly amazing how Davis’ words and vocals draw you into the song. You can almost feel the emotions that he presents in each song. Of the songs, Ward Davis had a hand in writing 3 of the 4 songs: “Day One” (written w/Greg Jones), “Into the River” (written w/the project’s producer Jim “Moose” Brown), and “Goodbye World” (written by Davis). He also includes a soulful version of James Taylor’s “Lo and Behold”. Each song is great, but my favorite is “Day One”. The song is about the struggles of a recovering addict. I think the song will resonate with many listeners who have dealt with addiction personally, or those that have had addicted friends and family members.

Ward Davis is able to deeply touch your emotions in 4 songs in a way that some artists are unable to do on full length album. That speaks to his writing talent. In addition to his expert songwriting, Davis’s delivery conveys emotions that intensify the EP’s impact on the listener. I have been a fan of Ward Davis for many years. This new project has done nothing but strengthen my admiration of his work. I recommend giving Ward Davis’ Sunday Morning a listen today.

 

 

August 9, 2023

On their own, Vince Gill and Paul Franklin are masters at their craft. Gill is known for his tenor vocals and hot guitar licks, while Franklin is one of country music’s greatest steel guitar players. The two combined their forces over 10 years ago on the critically acclaimed album Bakersfield. That album was a tribute to the music of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. Vince Gill and Paul Franklin have teamed up again for another tribute album, Sweet Memories: The Music of Ray Price & The Cherokee Cowboys.

While Bakersfield featured many songs that were easily recognizable, the new album finds Gill and Franklin took a different approach. You will not find Ray Price’s well-known hits, like “Heartaches By The Number”, “Crazy Arms” or “For The Good Times”. Rather, they dive deep into Ray Price’s extensive catalog. To be more accurate, Vince Gill and Paul Franklin searched for the music of not only Ray Price, but of his band, The Cherokee Cowboys. Ray Price’s career is divided into two parts: the 1950s honky tonk style, featuring the 4/4 “Ray Price Shuffle”, and the 1960s string laden tracks that helped push forward what would become known as the “Nashville Sound”. Although this album features songs from both sections of Ray Price’s recording career, you will not find lush string arrangements. This is a honky tonk project, even on the slower songs. Here is the complete track listing for Sweet Memories: The Music of Ray Price & The Cherokee Cowboys:

 

  1. One More Time {written by Mel Tillis}
  2. I’d Fight The World {written by Hank Cochran and Joe Allison}
  3. You Wouldn’t Know Love {written by Hank Cochran and Dave Kirby}
  4. Walkin’ Slow (And Thinking ‘Bout Her) {written by Bobby Bare and Lance Guynes}
  5. The Same Two Lips {written by Marty Robbins}
  6. Weary Blues From Waitin’ {written by Hank Williams Sr.}
  7. Kissing Your Picture (Is So Cold) {written by Mel Tillis, Ray Price and Wayne Walker)
  8. Sweet Memories {written by Mickey Newbury}
  9. Danny Boy {written by Fred E. Weatherly}
  10. Your Old Love Letters {written by Ray Price}
  11. Healing Hands Of Time {written by Willie Nelson}

 

Vince Gill and Paul Franklin have done it again. Their attempt to pay tribute to the legends of country music, first with Merle Haggard & Buck Owens, and now Ray Price & The Cherokee Cowboys, hits the bullseye. Unlike a lot of tribute albums, this album is alive and fresh with Gill and Franklin’s musical interpretations. I hope that every listener, whether longtime Ray Price fans or new country music, will enjoy the album. Then, go back and dig into the catalog of Ray Price & The Cherokee Cowboys, a group that over the years featured many future country superstars, including Johnny Paycheck, Roger Miller, and Willie Nelson.  I know Vince Gill and Paul Franklin have busy schedules, but I hope they will continue to pay tribute to past country stars. I recommend giving Vince Gill and Paul Franklin’s Sweet Memories: The Music of Ray Price & The Cherokee Cowboys a listen today.

 

 

 

August 2, 2023

Molly Tuttle’s music is no stranger to the Catch of the Week. Her albums When You’re Ready and Crooked Tree were both reviewed here. In case you are not familiar with Molly Tuttle, let me give you a quick look at her background. Molly Tuttle has been playing guitar since she was 8 years old, performing on stage for the first time at the age of 11 with her father, Jack. Tuttle’s songwriting skills were evident at an early age, winning the Chris Young songwriting competition at MerleFest.  She also received a scholarship in 2012 to Berklee School of Music. Tuttle also has the distinction of being the first woman to win the International Bluegrass Music Association Guitar Player of the Year Award in 2017. For an encore, she repeated as the 2018 award winner. Molly also won the 2022 IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year Award, and Best Bluegrass Album at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards for Crooked Tree. That album was her first bluegrass style album. Her latest project, City of Gold, continues in the bluegrass vein.

Molly Tuttle not only brought her voice and hot guitar licks to the recording sessions for City of Gold, but she also brought her pen. Tuttle co-wrote all of the albums songs. There are a few other writers on the album, but Ketch Secor (Old Crow Medicine Show) co-wrote every song on the project. All of the tracks on the album are outstanding. A few of my favorites include “El Dorado”, a song that paints a picture of characters involved in the gold rush. I also enjoyed “San Joaquin”, the story of a smuggler on a train. It is high speed bluegrass storytelling at its’ best. “Yosemite”, a duet featuring Dave Matthews, is a well-crafted song about a couple going through some rough patches in their relationship and how they hope to fix the problems. I will mention one more song that stood out on City of Gold.  “Alice in the Bluegrass” is a retelling of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, except in a rural setting. Here is the complete tracklisting for Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway’s City of Gold:

 

  1. El Dorado
  2. Where Did All the Wild Things Go?
  3. San Joaquin
  4. Yosemite (feat. Dave Matthews)
  5. Next Rodeo
  6. When My Race Is Run
  7. Alice in the Bluegrass
  8. Stranger Things
  9. Down Home Dispensary
  10. More Like a River
  11. Goodbye Mary
  12. Evergreen, OK
  13. The First Time I Fell in Love

 

Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway are comprised of top shelf pickers. In addition to Molly Tuttle on guitar, there is Bronwyn Keith-Hynes on fiddle, Dominick Leslie playing mandolin, Kyle Tuttle on banjo, and bassist Shelby Means. Jerry Douglas adds dobro on several tracks. He also serves as co-producer on City of Gold, along with Molly Tuttle. With the great playing, singing, songwriting, and production, City of Gold is one of the most enjoyable listening experiences I have encountered this year. I recommend giving it a listen today.

 

 

 

July 26, 2023

Lori McKenna is a well-known, and respected, as a songwriter. She has written hit songs for many artists, becoming the first woman ever to win the CMA Song of the Year Award two years in a row (2015’s Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” and 2016’s Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind”). In 2017, McKenna also was the first female to be awarded the ACM Songwriter of the year, and she won the 2021 Best Country Song Grammy Award for her hand in writing The Highwomen’s “Crowded Table”. Although she has been recognized as one of the preeminent country music songwriters of our time, she is largely overlooked as performer. Her previous albums, The Bird and The Rifle and The Tree, and The Balladeer are testaments to McKenna’s talents. Those gifts are on display again on Lori McKenna’s latest album, 1988.

As expected, Lori McKenna wrote or co-wrote each of the album’s 10 tracks. Her songwriting is what she is mainly known for. However, as I noted previously, I love to hear her sing. McKenna’s voice sounds great on 1988. The album’s name is a reference to the year she and her husband married. In addition to the nod to her husband, Lori McKenna gets some other family members involved in this project. Her son Chris co-wrote “Happy Children”, while her other son, Brian, co-wrote the title track. Lori McKenna has an ability to write songs in which the listener can connect. Some of my favorite tracks on the album include, “The Old Woman in Me”, “The Town in Your Heart”, and “The Tunnel”. Here is the complete tracklist for Lori McKenna’s 1988:

 

Lori McKenna – 1988

  1. The Old Woman in Me
  2. Happy Children
  3. Killing Me feat. Hillary Lindsey
  4. Days Are Honey
  5. 1988
  6. Growing Up
  7. Wonder Drug
  8. The Town in Your Heart
  9. Letting People Down
  10. The Tunnel

 

Lori McKenna is one of my favorite current singer-songwriters. She is one of Nashville’s favorites, too.  When artists are heading to the studio to begin a new album they turn to Lori McKenna. McKenna’s songs have a way of pulling you in from the first lyrics to the last word. I must mention that Dave Cobb serves as the producer on 1988. He shows again that he has an expert ability to highlight the talents of the artist he is working with. The focus is on McKenna’s voice, and her ability to tell stories through songs that are relatable. I recommend giving 1988 a listen today.

 

 

July 19, 2023

We were introduced to the music of Colter Wall through his 2018 album, Songs of the Plains.  Then, we reviewed his excellent album Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs. The 28 year-old Canadian’s baritone voice sounds much older than his years, and it is one of the most unusual, recognizable voices today. I have never been a cowboy, but hearing Wall’s music made me wish I was a cowpoke, sitting around a campfire, and listening to trail songs after a hard day riding the range. His songs are truly the western in country & western music. In addition to the western songs, Wall does his fair share of honky tonk tunes. Colter Wall is back with a new album that again mixes country and western and honky tonk songs.

Little Songs includes ten songs, nine of which Colter Wall wrote. The lone exception is the Hoyt Axton/Ken Higginbotham song, “Evangelina”. From the opening track, “Prairie Evening/Sage Brush Waltz”, to the final track, “The Last Loving Words”, Colter Wall transports the listener to western settings that most have only seen on TV and in the movies.  Some of my favorite tracks on Little Songs include, “Prairie Evening/Sagebrush Waltz”, “The Coyote & The Cowboy”, “Cow/Calf Blue Yodel”, and “Honky Tonk Nighthawk”. Here’s the complete track listing for Little Songs:

  1. Prairie Evening/Sagebrush Waltz
  2. Standing Here
  3. Corralling The Blues
  4. The Coyote & The Cowboy
  5. Honky Tonk Nighthawk
  6. For a Long While
  7. Cow/Calf Blue Yodel
  8. Little Songs
  9. Evangelina
  10. The Last Loving Words

 

Colter Wall is a DYI artist. He wrote the songs, sang, played guitar, and co-produced Little Songs. The other co-producer on this album was Patrick Lyons. He also played multiple instruments on this project, including pedal steel, mandolin, and dobro, just to name a few. The other musicians on Little Songs include, Doug Moreland (fiddle), Jason Simpson (bass), Jake Groves (harmonica), and Russell Patterson (drums). The instrumental work paired with Wall’s lyrics and vocals were a perfect equation to make Little Songs such an enjoyable album. If you are looking to escape from what is routinely offered on mainstream country radio and want something a little more honest and authentic, give Little Songs a listen.

 

 

July 12, 2023

Brennen Leigh is a respected singer-songwriter. She has achieved success as a songwriter, with her songs having been recorded by Lee Ann Womack, Rodney Crowell, and Sunny Sweeney. It was my pleasure to review her superb 2022 album Obsessed With the West featuring Asleep at the Wheel. It was a wonderful foray into the world of western swing. I would be lying if I did not say I was curious how Brennen Leigh was going to follow such a well-received project. I do not have to wonder any longer because Brennen Leigh’s new album,  Ain’t Through Honky Tonkin’ Yet, has just been released.

The new project features twelve new songs. Brennen Leigh is credited as the writer or co-writer on each of the songs. The music on Ain’t Through Honky Tonkin’ Yet is outstanding. The fiddle, steel guitar, piano, and upright bass capture the sound of 1950s & ‘60s Nashville. Just as I was amazed with Leigh’s ability to write new songs in a western swing style on Obsessed With the West, she does again on the new album. If you did not know better, you would think that Brennen Leigh is covering classic songs. Some of my favorite songs on Ain’t Through Honky Tonkin’ Yet include “Running Out of Hope, Arkansas”, a song that would also sound great as a bluegrass song. I also liked the ode of a truck driving queen, “Carole With An E” and the hilarious “You Turned Into a Dragon”.  “Mississippi Rendezvous” might be the best track on the album. Leigh’s vocals are top notch, as well as the call and response on the chorus between her and the backup singers. Here’s the complete track listing for Ain’t Through Honky Tonkin’ Yet:

 

  1. Running Out of Hope, Arkansas
  2. Somebody’s Drinking About You
  3. The Red Flags You Were Waving
  4. I Ain’t Through Honky Tonkin’ Yet
  5. Mississippi Rendezvous
  6. Carole With An E
  7. The Bar Should Say Thanks
  8. Every Time I Do
  9. Throwing Away a Precious Jewel
  10. I’m Still Looking for You
  11. When Lonely Came to Town
  12. You Turned Into a Dragon

 

Just as Brennen Leigh embraced western swing on Obsessed With the West, she nails the honky tonk sounds of Nashville’s golden era. In addition to Leigh’s outstanding songwriting and singing, Chris Scruggs (Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives) serves as the producer, as well as playing guitar, and provided background vocals. Others that contributed to the album include Marty Stuart (mandolin), Aaron Till (fiddle and acoustic guitar), Tommy Hannum (pedal steel and dobro),  Micah Hulscher (piano),  Alec Newman (upright bass),  and Nate Felty (drums). There are several folks that provided background vocals, including Rodney Crowell. If you need a dose of pure country music, Brennen Leigh has just what you are looking for on Ain’t Through Honky Tonkin’ Yet. I recommend giving it a listen today.

 

 

 

June 28, 2023

Dan Tyminski has been a fixture in bluegrass music since the 1990s, playing with the Lonesome River Band before joining Alison Krauss & Union Station in 1994. He went on to critical and commercial success for his recording of the classic “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” for the ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou’ movie soundtrack, and his collaboration with Avicii on the song “Hey Brother”. Tyminski has also released several solo albums, and created the Dan Tyminski Band to tour in support of his solo projects when AKUS is on hiatus. His incredible vocals and strong rhythm guitar work is emulated by bluegrassers everywhere. In 2022, Tyminski released his tribute to the late Tony Rice, the excellent EP One More Time Before You Go: A Tribute to Tony Rice. With the release of that EP, word came out that he was working on a full length album to be released in 2023. Well, the wait is over. Dan Tyminski’s new album, God Fearing Heathen, is now available.

The new album features 10 songs, and with the exception of a bluegrass rendition of “Hey Brother”, all of the songs are new. Tyminski co-wrote many of the songs on God Fearing Heathen. Some of my favorite tracks include “Hey Brother”, “Occam’s Razor”, “G.O.A.T”, “Keep Your Eyes on Kentucky”, “Silence in the Brandy”, and the title track. Here is the complete track listing for the album:

God Fearing Heathen

  1. Never Comin’ Home
  2. Hey Brother
  3. Keep Your Eye on Kentucky
  4. Never Met a Stranger
  5. Silence in the Brandy
  6. God Fearing Heathen
  7. G.O.A.T
  8. No Song to Sing
  9. Occam’s Razor
  10. Ode to Jimmy

 

It goes without saying that Dan Tyminski is the star of this album. However, the supporting cast, the Dan Tyminski Band, is a huge part of this album’s greatness. The band consists of Jason Davis on banjo, Gaven Largent on dobro, Maddie Denton on fiddle, Harry Clark on mandolin, and Grace Davis on bass. Their expert playing, Tyminski’s powerful vocals and musicianship, along with the outstanding songwriting make God Fearing Heathen a definite keeper. I recommend giving it a listen today.

 

 

June 21, 2023

Marty Stuart has an elite musical pedigree that includes performing and touring with Country Music Hall of Famers Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash, having success as a solo artist in the 1990s, being a member of the Grand Ole Opry for over 30 years, and being inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2020. With that long list of accomplishments, you could not blame Stuart if he leaned back and propped up his cowboy boots and just relaxed. However, that does not seem to be something that is in his DNA.  Marty Stuart has been touring and recording with his group, The Fabulous Superlatives, since 2002, and he is not just going through the motions. Stuart’s voracious desire to create new music seems to be one of his driving forces. Since beginning the Catch of the Week over ten years ago, I have had the pleasure of reviewing several Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives albums. I am happy to say that it is time to review a brand new album from Marty and the guys. The project is called Altitude.

It has been six years since Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives last album, Way Out West, was released. Altitude seems to be a sonic continuation of Way Out West. The best way to describe the sound is cosmic country. Stuart pays tribute to his influences on Altitude, from the Byrds inspired  “Sitting Alone” to the Johnny Cash styled “Tomahawk”. There are also three musical interludes, called “Lost Byrd Space Train”, throughout the album that ties the project together with a certain vibe. Here is a complete track listing for the album –

 

Altitude:

1) Lost Byrd Space Train (Scene 1)

2) Country Star

3) Sitting Alone

4) A Friend Of Mine

5) Space

6) Altitude

7) Vegas

8) The Sun Is Quietly Sleeping

9) Lost Byrd Space Train (Scene 2)

10) Night Riding

11) Tomahawk

12) Time To Dance

13) The Angels Came Down

14) Lost Byrd Space Train (Epilogue)

 

Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives – Kenny Vaughan (guitar), Harry Stinson (drums) and Chris Scruggs (bass and steel guitar) –  have done it again. They are top notch instrumentalists and singers. Like skilled scientists in a lab, Stuart and The Superlatives have taken parts of the Bakersfield Sound, Byrds California country, and Johnny Cash’s Tennessee Three, and made a new musical compound. I highly recommend giving Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives’ album, Altitude, a listen today.

 

 

 

June 14, 2023

Jason Isbell is lauded as one of this generation’s preeminent songwriters. Since his time as a member of The Drive By Truckers, the world has seen Isbell grow as a songwriter and performer. He has been on quite a streak since the release of Southeastern (2013). During that time, Isbell has won multiple Grammy Awards and Americana Music Honors and Awards. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s latest album is Weathervanes.

Jason Isbell wrote all of the albums 13 songs, and, after successfully teaming with producer Dave Cobb on for several of his releases, Isbell dons the producer cap on Weathervanes. This album has a variety of styles (country, folk, and rock). If you have followed Isbell’s career, it is almost expected. The mixture of styles would be a detriment to many artists. However, Jason Isbell seems at home, no matter the style. I will not try to break down the songs here because it would not do justice to the craftsmanship each track displays. I enjoyed each song on the album, but some of my favorite tracks on Weathervanes include, “Strawberry Woman”, “King of Oklahoma”, “Cast Iron Skillet”, “White Beretta”, and his tribute to Justin Townes Earle, “When We Were Close”.  Here’s the complete track list for Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s Weathervanes:

 

1. Death Wish
2. King of Oklahoma
3. Strawberry Woman
4. Middle of the Morning
5. Save the World
6. If You Insist
7. Cast Iron Skillet
8. When We Were Close
9. Volunteer
10. Vestavia Hills
11. White Beretta
12. This Ain’t It
13. Miles

 

I have thoroughly enjoyed Jason Isbell’s music over the years. From his work with the Drive By Truckers, his solo work, and with the 400 Unit, Jason Isbell has released some outstanding records. As far as his work with the 400 Unit, I think Weathervanes is the most complete presentation of what they are able to present musically. It almost goes without saying that Jason Isbell’s songwriting is outstanding. It seems that the producer hat fits him pretty well, too. I recommend giving Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s Weathervanes a listen today.

 

 

 

 

June 7, 2023

When I reviewed Tanya Tucker’s While I’m Livin project in 2019, I said that I have always believed that Tanya Tucker was overlooked in the pantheon of country music legends. I suspect it was because she is a woman. There have been plenty of male country singers that have dealt with their share of bad decisions and battles with demons, and they have rebounded, sometimes with their star shining brighter. She has been making great records since 1972, with 15 reaching #1. However, her While I’m Livin’ received critical acclaim, including winning the Grammy Awards for Best Country Album and Best Country Song for “Bring My Flowers Now” in 2020. The attention that Tanya Tucker garnered due to the success of While I’m Livin’ caused many to reexamine her career, and she was announced as a 2023 inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame. On the heels of her recent success, Tanya Tucker has just released a new album, Sweet Western Sound.

As on While I’m Livin’, Tanya Tucker teams with producers Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings on Sweet Western Sound. Carlile and Jennings also provided their songwriting talents for the project. In addition, Tim and Phil Hanseroth, of Brandi Carlile’s band, along with Bernie Taupin, JT Nero, Billy Don Burns, Craig Dillingham, and Tanya Tucker wrote songs for the album. Some of my favorite songs from Sweet Western Sound include “The List”, “When The Rodeo Is Over (Where Does The Cowboy Go?)”, and Tanya’s tribute to Linda Ronstadt, “Letter To Linda”. Also, there is a haunting a capella rendition of “Tanya” by Tucker’s close friend, Billy Joe Shaver.  Here’s a complete track list for the album:

 

            Sweet Western Sound

  1. Tanya (written by Billy Joe Shaver, Tanya Tucker)
  2. Kindness (written by Tim Hanseroth, Phil Hanseroth)
  3. Breakfast In Birmingham featuring Brandi Carlile (written by Brandi Carlile, Bernie Taupin)
  4. Waltz Across a Moment (written by Shooter Jennings)
  5. Ready As I’ll Never Be (written by Brandi Carlile, Tanya Tucker)
  6. The List (written by Brandi Carlile, Tanya Tucker)
  7. Letter To Linda (written by Tanya Tucker, Shooter Jennings)
  8. City of Gold (written by JT Nero)
  9. That Wasn’t Me (written by Brandi Carlile, Tim Hanseroth, Phil Hanseroth)
  10. When The Rodeo Is Over (Where Do the Cowboys Go?) (written by Billy Don Burns, Craig Dillingham)

 

I am so happy to see Tanya Tucker’s recent success. It is great to have another  new album from Tanya Tucker. This album is fresh and vibrant, but Brandi Carlisle, Shooter Jennings, and all the other folks involved in recording this project have done a great job of making these songs sound like classic Tanya Tucker songs. From the background vocals, to the instrumentation, this album is outstanding. Of course, you could not have that sound without Tanya Tucker. I recommend giving Tanya Tucker’s Sweet Western Sound a listen.

 

 

 

May 31, 2023

Rodney Crowell is a legend. His career includes a three year stint as a member of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band, having 5 number one singles as a solo artist, and, as a songwriter, having his songs covered by the likes of the Oak Ridge Boys, Waylon Jennings, and Keith Urban. In recent years, he has taken on the mantle of the preeminent songwriting sage from some of his biggest songwriting influences, Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. Rodney Crowell’s latest project is The Chicago Sessions.

Rodney Crowell offers 10 songs on The Chicago Sessions. All were written or co-written, save for the Townes Van Zandt penned tune “No Place to Fall”. I recommend to pay attention to the lyrics of each song. It will be a great reminder of just how talented Crowell is as a songwriter. Some of my favorite tracks from this album include “Lucky”, a tune led by a soulful piano riff and laidback drumming.  I also enjoy his interpretation of the aforementioned Townes Van Zandt tune, “No Place to Fall”.  The musical approach of “Oh Miss Claudia” seems to be akin to that of Lightnin’ Hopkins, and that is definitely a good thing. I think my favorite song on this album is “Somebody Loves You”. It almost feels like a gospel song, and the lyrics are outstanding.

Here’s the complete track list for The Chicago Sessions:

 

1)            Lucky

2)            Somebody Loves You

3)            Loving You is the Only Way to Fly

4)            You’re Supposed to be Feeling Good

5)            No Place to Fall

6)            Oh Miss Claudia

7)            Everything at Once (feat. Jeff Tweedy)

8)            Ever the Dark

9)            Making Lovers Out of Friends

10)          Ready to Move On

 

Rodney Crowell has done it again. He has given the world an album full of great songs. His songwriting is outstanding. A big tip of the hat must go to Jeff Tweedy. He served as the producer for The Chicago Sessions. As I have said many times in the past, my favorite producers are those that make the performers feel relaxed and gets out of the way of the artists. On this album, Tweedy seems to have hit a bullseye. I highly recommend giving Rodney Crowell’s The Chicago Sessions a listen today.

 

 

 

 

May 24, 2023

I have been reviewing albums on WLHR since 2014. With that length of time in giving reviews, I have come across the same artists multiple times. It is always a pleasure to listen from album to album to listen performers grow artistically. Whitney Rose is one of those repeat artists. I reviewed her album Heartbreaker of the Year (2015) and the EP South Texas Suite (2017). Her music has an air of classic honky tonk sounds from yesteryear, while at the same time providing fresh, modern lyrics. After dealing with a serious illness that sidelined her for some time, Whitney Rose is back with a new project, Rosie.

Whitney Rose offers 10 songs in a traditional country song. As I mentioned before, although the songs have a traditional sound, the lyrics are fresh. She wrote 9 of the 10 songs. The lone exception is “Can’t Remember Happiness” by Joanne Mackell. Some of my favorite songs on the album include “Minding My Own Pain”, “Honky Tonk in Mexico”, and  “Memphis In My Mind.” Here’s the complete track list for Whitney Rose’s Rosie:

1)            Tell Me a Story, Babe

2)            Can’t Remember Happiness

3)            My Own Jail

4)            Memphis in My Mind

5)            You’re Gonna Get Lonely

6)            Minding My Own Pain

7)            Honky Tonk in Mexico

8)            I Need a Little Shame

9)            Barb Wire Blossom

10)          Mermaid in a Pantsuit

 

I am thankful that we have another album to review from Whitney Rose. Rosie features great songwriting, singing, musicianship, and production. However, more than having the opportunity to review a new album, I am thankful that Whitney Rose has bounced back from dealing with the serious illness that had all of her fans praying for her recovery. I recommend giving Whitney Rose’s Rosie a listen today.

 

 

 

 

May 17, 2023

Megan Moroney seems to come out of nowhere. She grabbed the attention of the country music world with her hit single, “Tennessee Orange”. However, the Savannah, GA native and UGA graduate has been trying to make her mark in the music industry for several years. Moroney began performing several  years ago, and she moved to Nashville after graduating UGA in 2020 to pursue a career as a country music performer. For those that may be wondering what is next for Moroney after “Tennessee Orange”, the answer is a complete album, Lucky.

The first thing to notice on Lucky is just how country the album is. You will find steel guitars throughout the project. Also, the songwriting is outstanding. Megan Moroney co-wrote each of the album’s thirteen songs with some great songwriters, including Lori McKenna and Luke Laird. Some of my favorite songs from Lucky includes, “Kansas Anymore”, “Girl in the Mirror”, “Tennessee Orange”, “Why Johnny”, and “Georgia Girl”. Here’s the complete track list for Lucky:

 

1)            “I’m Not Pretty”

2)            “Lucky”

3)            “Tennessee Orange”

4)            “Kansas Anymore”

5)            “Girl in the Mirror”

6)            “Another on the Way”

7)            “Traitor Joe”

8)            “Why Johnny”

9)            “God Plays A Gibson”

10)          “Georgia Girl”

11)          “Sleep on My Side”

12)          “Mustang or Me”

13)          “Sad Songs For Sad People”

 

Megan Moroney’s vocals are great. She delivers the lyrics with an authenticity that cannot be faked. As I mentioned earlier, the songwriting is very good. Also, I must mention that Kristian Bush serves as producer on Lucky. He does a great job in that role, helping to shape an album that is modern while using elements, such as steel guitar, that many country music fans have been longing for in current country music. If you have only heard “Tennessee Orange” from Megan Moroney, I recommend giving the rest of the songs on her album, Lucky, a listen today.

 

 

 

May 10, 2023

Tina Adair’s name may sound familiar to you. I have mentioned her name as a member of the group Sister Sadie when I have reviewed their albums. Her vocals and mandolin playing have been an integral part of the bands success. Although known recently for the Sister Sadie projects, Adair has been releasing solo records since 1997. Whether with a group or as a solo artist, her artistry always shines. Tina Adair’s latest release is Here Within My Heart.

This album is, as expected, strictly bluegrass. When many people think of bluegrass they assume the songs will be at breakneck speed with hot picking. Indeed, you will find plenty fast paced tunes on Here Within My Heart. However, Tina Adair offers many different tempos on this album.  From ballads like “I Wish I Could Hurt That Way Again” to the lightning speed of “Bridge You’re Gonna Burn”, Adair sounds great on every song. My favorite song on this project is “Bad Intentions”. The song is about someone who has been controlled long enough, and they’re not going to take it anymore. The performance by Adair and the musicians are delivered with an attitude that drives home the feelings of the lyrics. Here is the track listing for Here Within My Heart:

 

1 –          Bridge You’re Gonna Burn

2 –          Some Things You Can’t Undo

3 –          Lonesome Part of Me

4 –          My Baby’s Gone

5 –          Bad Intentions

6 –          I Wish I Could Hurt That Way Again

7 –          Seasons of Love

8 –          As Long as There’s a Shadow

9 –          Walk On

10 –        Lonesome Valley

 

Anytime Tina Adair’s name is attached to an album, you know it is going to be a great project. It is even better when you add producers Glen Duncan and Adam Engelhardt to the mix. The icing on the cake is the great players and singers that perform on Adair’s project: Cody Kilby & Pat McGrath (guitar), Scott Vestal (banjo), Rob Ickes (dobro), Dennis Crouch (bass), Tim Crouch (fiddle), Jesse Brock (mandolin), and Wes Hightower (harmony vocals). The song selection, production, and performances are outstanding. I recommend giving Tina Adair’s Here Within My Heart a listen today.

 

 

 

 

May 3, 2023

For this edition of Porkchop’s Catch of the Week, I am again putting my geography skills to good use. Many of the reviews find me looking towards Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, and, recently with Ian Jones, Seattle. Well, we don’t have to look very far for this review: Charleston, SC and Washington, GA. Matt Chase (SC) and Chris Rogers (GA) make up the duo Southerland. The two met years ago through mutual friends, and they decided to combine their forces to create the duo. Southerland released their Boot EP in 2021. The duo has followed up that release with a new eponymous EP.

Southerland’s new project includes six songs. Each of the songs lists Chase and Rogers as co-writers, along with others, and the songwriting is top notch. The EP is solidly country with plenty of crying steel and lead guitar. There is a range of tempos and styles on Southerland. The overall sound is that of ‘90s and early 2000s country music. However, this is not a nostalgia act. Although the music hearkens back to the sounds of Montgomery Gentry and Jason Aldean, Southerland has their own completely modern sound, fitting alongside current artists on country music radio. Here’s the track list for Southerland:

1)            Down the Road

2)            Underpaid and Overserved

3)            Ice Cold Country Music

4)            World Without You

5)            Ain’t for Me

6)            3 Minutes

 

Southerland offers a little bit of everything, no matter what your mood, on this EP. The duo offers party tunes, love songs, and everything in between. Matt Chase and Chris Rogers have great vocals individually, but, more importantly, they sound fantastic when they sing together. In addition, I must compliment the instrumentalist on this project. There is not a musical weak link anywhere to be found. Also, the production is outstanding. Many modern artists, it seems, have everything (vocals and instruments) at the same level, and I feel like my ears are being pounded with a very large Music City sledge hammer. On Southerland, I can hear the separation between the vocals and each of the instruments, which is a pleasant surprise. I highly recommend giving Southerland a listen today.

 

 

 

 

April 26, 2023

It is hard to believe that this week I will be reviewing an album that is a tribute to one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. However, there is a method to the madness. First, the Rolling Stones are a group that has been influenced by country music. If that thought has never crossed your mind before, just take a listen to their extensive catalog. You will find covers of Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings songs, twangy guitar licks, and country tinged Jagger/Richards compositions. As the group celebrates their 60th anniversary, that is hard to believe, a new album, Stoned Cold Country, has been released. Now the second reason for choosing to review this album is that it is full of country artists paying tribute to the Rolling Stones.

With a catalog as big as that of the Rolling Stones, one of the biggest dilemmas is choosing which songs to cover. It was narrowed down to 14 songs on Stoned Cold Country. The next conundrum is selecting which artists to include. The songs and artists that were picked were very good choices. Each artist did a great job on paying tribute to the Rolling Stones, but some of my favorites include, “Paint it Black” by Zac Brown Band, “Dead Flowers” by Maren Morris, “Wild Horses” by Little Big Town, and “Honky Tonk Women” by Brooks & Dunn. Here’s a complete list of the songs on Stoned Cold Country:

 

1)            “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” – Ashley McBryde

2)            “Honky Tonk Women” – Brooks & Dunn

3)            “Dead Flowers” – Maren Morris

4)            “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It)” – Brothers Osborne & The War And Treaty

5)            “Miss You” – Jimmie Allen

6)            “Tumbling Dice” – Elle King

7)            “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” – Marcus King

8)            “Wild Horses” – Little Big Town

9)            “Paint It Black” – Zac Brown Band

10)          “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – Lainey Wilson

11)          “Sympathy for the Devil” – Elvie Shane

12)          “Angie” – Steve Earle

13)          “Gimme Shelter” – Eric Church

14)          “Shine A Light” – Koe Wetzel

 

Do not be confused by this review. The Rolling Stones are a rock and roll band. However, there are many types of music that have influenced their sound. The Rolling Stones interest in country music was not just a passing fancy. You can hear it over many years on songs like “Sweet Virginia”, “Do You Think I Really Care”, and “We’re Wasting Time”, in addition to songs covered on this project, such as “Wild Horses” and “Dead Flowers”. This is one of the few albums I have recommended in which every song did not hit the target with me. Even though I did not care for every rendition on the album, the performances that did strike a chord with me are strong. I recommend giving Stoned Cold Country a listen today.

 

 

 

April 19, 2023

When you think of country music hotbeds there are certain places on the map that come to mind: the entire south, with the spotlight on Texas, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Well, this review is as far to the west as you can go in the contiguous United States. Ian Jones hails from Washington State. He is a relatively new name in the music field. Jones’ released an EP in 2021, but he has just released his first album, Results Not Typical.

Ian Jones offers music that can be categorized as Americana. However, the canvas that each song is created on is country. There is plenty of steel guitar rides and acoustic guitar strums. Throughout the album you will hear with the gospel sounds of organ and piano, soulful horn sections, and beautiful string arrangements. I thoroughly enjoyed the storytelling of each song. Some of my favorites on Results Not Typical include, “Athens Smiles”, “Lost Highway”, “You’re Gone”, “Have Mercy”, and “Goodbyes are the Hardest Words”.

It is definitely worth noting that Ian Jones wrote or co-wrote all 11 songs on Results Not Typical. His songwriting style and vocal delivery have a conversational quality. When you are listening to the songs, it feels like a friend is telling you a story. The album’s production has a relaxed feel, too. A quote in a press release for Results Not Typical may explain the reason.  Jones said, “None of the guys had heard the songs prior. There was no click track, and we never did more than three takes. And what you hear vocally on the record is what I was singing, beginning to end – no vocal comps, no overdubs, no anything.” That approach can be daunting to many artists today, but some of the greatest recordings of all-time were recorded in the same fashion. This album is the first time many have encountered Ian Jones, but you can bet it will not be the last time. I recommend giving Ian Jones’ Results Not Typical a listen today.

 

 

April 12, 2023

One of my favorite types of songs is those that tell stories. This Catch of the Week is an album full of storytelling songs, and it comes from two experienced songwriting storytellers. Tim Stafford has been writing songs for decades. You may recognize him from his work for over thirty years with Blue Highway, the highly decorated bluegrass group, or from his albums with the late Steve Gulley. An accomplished singer, guitarist, and songwriter, Stafford wrote one of my favorite historical, storytelling songs of all-time, “Wild Bill” (from Blue Highway’s 2005 album Marbletown).  Thomm Jutz is also an accomplished guitarist, singer, and songwriter. His songs have been recorded by John Prine, Nanci Griffith, and Balsam Range, just to name a few. Jutz has released some great projects over the years, including the critically acclaimed collaborative album Riverland with Peter Cooper and Eric Brace. Tim Stafford and Thomm Jutz have now combined their talents for a new album, Lost Voices.

This new album features 14 original songwriting collaborations by Stafford and Jutz. Each song is a prime example of how to tell a story in a song. The writers cover a variety of people and subjects. There are references to Billy the Kid, Robert Johnson, and Bill Monroe in one song, “Take That Shot” and an ode to the minstrels taken down by moving picture in “Vaudeville Blues”. Stafford and Jutz sing about Negro League baseball players in “The Blue Grays”, and tell the story of Navajo WWII heroes in “Code Talkers”. There are also songs dealing with the people of Appalachia in “No Witness in the Laurel But the Leaves” and “High Mountain Rising”. Whatever the subject matter or time period, Tim Stafford and Thomm Jutz paint the lyrical pictures of the America.

Along with Tim Stafford and Thomm Jutz on guitar and vocals, there is a great cast of supporting musicians on Lost Voices. They include Shaun Richardson (mandolin), Ron Block (banjo), Tammy Rogers (fiddle), and Mark Fain (bass). Dale Ann Bradley makes a guest vocal appearance from on “Callie Lou”. I also wanted to make mention that Charley Stefl was a co-writer with Stafford and Jutz on the title track. Tim Stafford and Thomm Jutz have made an important album highlighting some of the overlooked people and places that make up the DNA of America. I recommend giving Lost Voices a listen today.

 

 

 

April 5, 2023

 

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Luke Laird, Lori McKenna, and Barry Dean’s The Songwriter Tapes Vol. 1 & Vol. 2. In case you missed it, let me catch you up on the credentials of the aforementioned Laird, McKenna, and Dean. They are three of the most outstanding songwriters in Nashville today.  Luke Laird has written 24 No. 1 hits, including Sara Evans’ “A Little Bit Stronger”. Lori McKenna won two consecutive Grammys (2016 & 2017) for Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” and Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind”. Barry Dean has written numerous No. 1 hits, including Jon Pardi’s “Heartache Medication”. Now  we will take a look at the final chapter in their collaborative collection, The Songwriter Tapes Vol. 3.

The Songwriter Tapes Vol. 1, 2 & 3 were created to present some of the songs that changed their careers of each of these songwriters performed by the writers themselves. Here is the track listing for the latest EP.

The Songwriter Tapes Vol. 3:

 

1 – “Give Me Back My Hometown” performed by Luke Laird (Luke Laird, Eric Church)

Recorded by Eric Church in 2014

 

2 – “God’s Will” performed by Barry Dean (Barry Dean, Tom Douglas)

Recorded by Martina McBride in 2004

 

3 – “Crowded Table” performed by Lori McKenna (Lori McKenna, Natalie Hemby, Brandi Carlile)

Recorded by The Highwomen in 2019

 

4 – “If I Had Known” performed by Barry Dean  (Lori McKenna, Barry Dean, Michael Pollack)

 

The final track on each EP are new songs. Barry Dean performs “If I Had Known” from this latest EP. It is collaboration between all three writers specifically for this project.

 

 

It is great to see Luke Laird, Lori McKenna, and Barry Dean get some time in the spotlight. Having listeners connect the songwriters with the familiar hit songs is a great way to promote the importance of songwriting to the hit making process. For fans of songwriting, like me, the one thing I wish had been included in this collection is the original demo recordings, even just a few seconds, to pair with the finished products. However, that is not a real complaint. I think any awareness that is brought to the music process is a good thing. I recommend giving Luke Laird, Lori McKenna, and Barry Dean’s The Songwriter Tapes Vol. 1, 2, and 3 a listen today.

 

 

 

March 29, 2023

 

The Panhandlers are a super group consisting of Josh Abbott, Cleto Cordero, John Baumann and William Clark Green. The group’s members have their own careers as performers and songwriters. Three years ago they combined their forces on their self-titled album. Their initial offering was full of great songwriting and performing. That album was straightforward and not overproduced, which was a breath of fresh air compared to the highly polished, sterile sounds that technology allows artists to release nowadays. The Panhandlers return with that same approach on their new album, Tough Country.

On Tough Country The Panhandlers make sure that you know that they are proud to be Texans with songs like “Midland Jamboree”, “Where Cotton is King”, “Moonlight in Marfa”, “Valentine, For Valentines”, and “The Last Gentleman in Southwest Texas”. Although they reference their Lone Star pride, it does not come across as a mean or preachy way. On many of the songs you can almost hear a smile in their voices. Some of my favorite songs on Tough Country include “West Texas is the Best Texas”, “Last Hangover”, “The Chilton Song”, “Santa Fe”, “Moonlight in Marfa”, and the title track. Here’s the complete track listing for Tough Country:

  1. Flat Land
  2. Where Cotton Is King
  3. West Texas is The Best Texas
  4. Midland Jamboree
  5. Tough Country
  6. Moonlight in Marfa
  7. Lajitas
  8. Valentine, For Valentines
  9. Santa Fe
  10. The Chilton Song
  11. The Last Gentleman In Southwest Texas
  12. Last Hangover
  13. The Corner Comedian
  14. I-Got-Your-Back-Dog

Even though Josh Abbott, Cleto Cordero, John Baumann and William Clark Green having their own careers. However, I hope they will continue make time for creating more music with The Panhandlers. Their new album is full of great songwriting, singing, and, as I mentioned earlier, the project is not over produced. I recommend giving The Panhandlers’ Tough Country a listen today. You may want to even make a Chilton to enjoy while listening to the album.

 

 

 

March 22, 2023

I am as much of a fan of songwriters as I am of the singers. There are some songwriters that are wonderful performers of their own songs. Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton are just a couple of names that show up in that category. However, throughout the history there have been more people that specialize in either songwriting or singing. I have always been intrigued by this partnership between writer and performer. This Catch of the Week focuses on a two new projects that highlight three such songwriters: Luke Laird, Lori McKenna, and Barry Dean’s The Songwriter Tapes Vol. 1 & Vol. 2.

Many people may not be familiar with the names of the songwriters. Most people are more familiar with the artists that perform the songs that these writers have penned. So, I want to take a moment to familiarize your with the writers. Luke Laird has had a hand in writing 24 No. 1 hits, including Carrie Underwood’s “Last Name” and Sara Evans’ “A Little Bit Stronger”. Lori McKenna won two consecutive Grammys (2016 & 2017) for Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” and Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind”. Barry Dean has written numerous No. 1 hits, including Jon Pardi’s “Heartache Medication”, and his songs have been recorded by artists like Alison Krauss, Maren Morris, and Eric Church. Now that you know a little about the songwriters, let’s take a look at their new projects.

The Songwriter Tapes Vol. 1 & 2 were created with the idea of presenting some of the songs that changed the career trajectory of each of these songwriters from the writers themselves. Here are the track listings for both EPs.

The Songwriter Tapes Vol. 1:

1 – “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” performed by Barry Dean (Barry Dean, Luke Laird, Jonathan Singleton) (recorded by Tim McGraw, 2014)

2 – “Humble & Kind” performed by Lori McKenna (Lori McKenna) (recorded by Tim McGraw, 2015)

3 – “American Kids” performed by Luke Laird (Luke Laird, Rodney Clawson, Shane McAnally) (recorded by Kenny Chesney, 2014)

4 – “Settling In” performed by Lori McKenna  (Lori McKenna, Barry Dean, Luke Laird)

 

The Songwriter Tapes Vol. 2:

1 – “Girl Crush” performed by Lori McKenna (Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey, Liz Rose) (Recorded by Little Big Town in 2014)

2 – “Heartache Medication” performed by Barry Dean (Barry Dean, Jon Pardi, Natalie Hemby) (Recorded by Jon Pardi in 2019)

3 – “So Small” performed by Luke Laird (Luke Laird, Carrie Underwood, Hillary Lindsey) (Recorded by Carrie Underwood in 2007)

4 – “The Good Parts” Luke Laird  (Luke Laird, Rodney Clawson, Chris Tompkins)

The final track on each EP are new songs. “Settling In” is a collaboration between all three writers specifically for this project. “The Good Parts”, co-written by Laird, is a never before released song from his catalog.

 

Having Laird, McKenna and Dean perform some of the biggest songs that they have penned in their career is akin to Dorothy discovering the man behind the curtain is The Wizard of Oz. These EPs have much more studio production than the stripped down sound of The Marfa Tapes from Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, and Jon Randall. However, I think you can group them all together as a study in songwriting, from newly formed songs to full-fledged hits.  I recommend giving Luke Laird, Lori McKenna, and Barry Dean’s The Songwriter Tapes Vol. 1 & 2 a listen today. By the way, Vol. 3 will be released in the not too distant future.

 

 

 

 

March 15, 2023

 

Michael Cleveland is a name that is well-known in bluegrass and country circles. However, many more people are aware of him because of a recent feature on Cleveland that aired on NBC Nightly News. The feature gave the Grammy winning artist’s background, especially focusing on how he has excelled in music despite being born blind and losing 80% of the hearing in one ear. If you are new to Michael Cleveland’s story, his ability to overcome his physical disabilities is inspiring. However, we are going to focus on his musical expertise.

Michael Cleveland began playing fiddle at the age of 4. Very soon after he began playing, it became evident that he was supremely talented. As a youngster, Cleveland performed at the Grand Ole Opry, as well as with bluegrass legend, Bill Monroe. His notoriety led to stints with Rhonda Vincent, Dale Ann Bradley, and Jeff White. However, Cleveland’s desire was to lead his own band, and since 2006 he has been doing just that with his group Flamekeeper. Michael Cleveland is one of the most decorated artists in the history of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), winning 12 IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year trophies and his group has been named the IBMA Instrumental Group of the Year 7 times. Michael Cleveland displays his fiddle prowess on his latest project, Lovin’ of the Game.

The album features 12 songs, and Michael Cleveland calls upon some musical friends to help him out. The list includes Vince Gill, Billy Strings, Dan Tyminski, Jeff White, The Travelin’ McCourys, Béla Fleck, Bryan Sutton, Charlie Starr, Luke Bulla, Cody Looper, Tim O’Brien, Jerry Douglas, Barry Bales, Cody Kilby, and, of course, Cleveland’s group, Flamekeeper. Some of my favorite tracks on this project include, the Gram Parsons penned “Luxury Liner” w/The Travelin’ McCourys, “For Your Love” w/ Billy Strings & Jeff White, “Sunny Days (Are Comin’ Once Again)” w/Dan Tyminski & Jeff White, and the instrumental barnburner “Contact” w/ Béla Fleck, Cody Kilby, & Barry Bales. Let me say that there is not a track on Lovin’ of the Game that is a letdown. Here’s the complete album listing:

 

Michael Cleveland – Lovin’ of the Game:

1)            Thousand Dollar Holler

2)            Luxury Liner (feat. The Travelin’ McCourys)

3)            Five Points (feat. Cody Looper and Ronnie McCoury)

4)            For Your Love (feat. Billy Strings and Jeff White)

5)            I Wish I Knew Now What I Knew Then (feat. Vince Gill)

6)            Sunny Days (Are Comin’ Once Again) [feat. Jeff White and Dan Tyminski]

7)            Contact (feat. Béla Fleck, Cody Kilby and Barry Bales)

8)            Temperance Reel (feat. Luke Bulla and Tim O’Brien)

9)            Empty Pocket Blues (with Flamekeeper, feat. Bryan Sutton)

10)          Now She’s Gone (with Flamekeeper, feat. Jerry Douglas)

11)          One Horse Town (with Flamekeeper, feat. Charlie Starr)

12)          The Lovin’ Of The Game (feat. Flamekeeper)

 

Michael Cleveland, Flamekeeper, and all of the guests on Lovin’ of the Game are outstanding. Whether on a strictly instrumental tune or backing up the likes of Vince Gill, I am amazed every time I hear Michael Cleveland pull the bow across the strings. With his fiddle, Cleveland is able to emote the feelings required to support a slower song. When the tempo needs to be upbeat, the speed at which he plays fiddle is amazing. However, it is the clarity of the notes he strikes in combination with rapidness of his playing that bends my mind. Cleveland has been the gold standard in fiddle playing for over a decade, and that designation remains with the release of his new album. I recommend giving Michael Cleveland’s Lovin’ of the Game a listen today.

 

 

 

March 8, 2023

If anyone ever embodied the designation of “legend” in music, it is Willie Nelson. The Red Headed Stranger’s singing, songwriting, and guitar playing have been influencing other artists for over six decades. Willie has released an unbelievable number of albums during his career. However, I will never take for granted the announcement of a new Willie Nelson album. I understand this unique situation. It is almost unheard of to have a singer releasing quality albums at the age of 89. However, I thoroughly enjoy Willie’s recent albums, and his new album is no exception. Willie Nelson’s latest project is I Don’t Know a Thing About Love: The Songs of Harlan Howard.

When it comes to songwriters, Willie Nelson is a giant. However, he has always taken time to pay tribute to other musical giants. Harlan Howard wrote over 4,000 songs, many of them became well-known radio and jukebox hits. Howard’s famous quote about songwriting is, “All you need to write a country song is three chords and the truth.” That may be so, but some truth tellers are better than others. Willie Nelson picked ten songs for this tribute to Harlan Howard. You may recognize the songs from the catalogs of Buck Owens, Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Mel Tillis, Little Jimmy Dickens, Ricky Van Shelton, Bobby Bare, Charlie Rich, Patsy Cline, Waylon Jennings, and Brenda Lee. Willie Nelson’s renditions of these classic tunes are excellent. His approach will bring to mind the hit versions, but, as always, when Willie plays and sings a song he puts his own stamp on it. Here is the track list for the album:

Willie Nelson – I Don’t Know A Thing About Love

  1. Tiger By The Tail
  2. The Chokin’ Kind
  3. Excuse Me (I Think I’ve Got A Heartache)
  4. Life Turned Her That Way
  5. I Don’t Know A Thing About Love
  6. Streets Of Baltimore
  7. Busted
  8. She Called Me Baby
  9. Too Many Rivers
  10. Beautiful Annabel Lee

 

 

Willie Nelson has always been quick to heap praise on other singers and songwriters. He is glad to shine the light on others, when, in fact, he is the one deserving of oblations. However, if he were going to pick someone in which to pay respect, Harlan Howard is very deserving. The songs that Willie included on this project does not even the scratch the surface of Howard’s vast library of compositions. I want to mention that Willie Nelson teamed on this album with his longtime musical partner, producer Buddy Cannon. Also, it is worth noting that the album’s cover art, which features Willie as the Man in the Moon that is mentioned in the title track, was created by Willie’s son,  Micah Nelson.

 

As Willie Nelson approaches his 90th birthday on April 29th, he is preparing for a two-night concert extravaganza at the legendary Hollywood Bowl.  I am willing to bet he will include a few of the songs from his new album across the two nights. I recommend giving Willie Nelson’s I Don’t Know A Thing About Love a listen today.

 

 

 

 

March 1, 2023

 

It is hard to believe that Dierks Bentley first hit the national radio airwaves 20 years ago. Since making his debut, Bentley has compiled a long list of hits, such as “What Was I Thinkin'”, “Come a Little Closer”, “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)”, and “I Hold On”. Despite his success, he seems to be down to earth, both in interviews and his songs. Because of that humble approach to stardom, Bentley’s music continues to strike a chord with country music fans. His latest album, Gravel & Gold, should continue his successful run as a fan favorite.

Gravel & Gold is the first time that Dierks Bentley has served as producer of one of his projects. That can be a daunting task, but he has risen to the occasion. The album features 14 songs. You will recognize his single “Gold”. Some of my favorites include the opening track, “Same Ol’ Me”, a reminder that even though it has been 20 years since his arrival he is basically the same guy as back then. “Beer at My Funeral” is a humorous song about life and death. It is a song that any middle-aged or older person can appreciate. Ashley McBryde helps Dierks Bentley on the well-written “Cowboy Boots”. There is another guest appearance on the album’s final track, “High Note”. Billy Strings joins forces with Bentley to sing about their plans on riding out the end of the world: “a big ol’ stack of Flatt & Scruggs, and a bag of Willie’s best”. Dierks Bentley has shown a love for acoustic music, especially bluegrass. So, it is no shock to find him teaming up with Billy Strings. “High Note” left me craving an entire project from them. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Dierks Bentley has done an outstanding job as singer, songwriter, and producer on Gravel & Gold. It is refreshing to see an established artist release new music that is completely them, and not an example of an artist frantically trying to change their sound in order to stay current. Dierks Bentley is current, and he will continue to be current for as long as he stays true to himself. This project holds up with any of the other albums from his catalog. I recommend giving Dierks Bentley’s Gravel & Gold a listen today.

 

 

 

 

February 22, 2023

If you have followed along with Porkchop’s Catch of the Week for any amount of time, it is apparent that a great number of the albums I review are made by artists from Texas. This is not intentional. It just happens that the Lone Star state is a hotbed for singers and songwriters. Another place that has a rich musical history, but is sometimes overshadowed by Texas, is the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The musical lineage includes legends, like Bill Monroe, Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs, and current artists, like Chris Stapleton, Tyler Childers, and Sturgill Simpson. We turn to the Bluegrass State for this week’s Catch from Kentucky native Brit Taylor’s new album, Kentucky Blue.

There are ten songs on Kentucky Blue, and Brit Taylor co-wrote all ten songs. This album features a wide variety of styles, from a song that would have been a perfect fit for Patsy Cline in “Love’s Never Been That Good to Me”, to the groovy and sassy “If You Don’t Wanna Love Me”. The one thread that seems to run through the majority of the songs on Kentucky Blue is the struggles of life and finding love. Some of my favorite songs from Kentucky Blue include “No Cowboys”, “Best We Can Do”, “Love’s Never Been That Good to Me”, and the title track.

Kentucky Blue is an outstanding album. Brit Taylor’s vocal performance conveys the emotion each song warrants. Whether it is sass, frustration, or vulnerability, Taylor’s delivery fits the songs perfectly. Also, It is worth mentioning that Sturgill Simpson and David “Fergie” Ferguson co-produced Kentucky Blue, and they did a great job. I recommend giving Brit Taylor’s Kentucky Blue a listen today.

 

 

 

 

February 15, 2023

Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley’s music has been turning heads since they combined forces in 2014. Both artists are rooted in bluegrass music: Ickes played resophonic guitar for more than 21 years with the award winning Blue Highway, while Hensley made his first public appearance at the age of 11 on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry alongside Earl Scruggs and Marty Stuart. Because of their connection to the genre, the duo’s sound will always have shades of bluegrass included. However, Ickes and Hensley’s musical interest is far more expansive than one genre. That fact is evident on Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley’s new album, Living in a Song.

This album leans heavily towards country. In fact, anytime you hear Hensley sing, on this album or others, it is evident that he was influenced by country singers such as Haggard and Jones. So, it should not be a shock to find Ickes and Hensley effortlessly moving toward the country genre. However, bluegrass fans should not be dismayed. There is plenty of bluegrass underpinning the overall sound of Living in a Song. In fact, their version of Doc Watson’s “Way Downtown” is strictly bluegrass. With the combination of bluegrass and country, I believe many will categorize this album as Americana. However you want to label it is fine with me. I enjoyed the entire 12 song project. Ickes and Hensley had a hand in writing all the songs on the album except 2, the aforementioned Doc Watson tune and A.P. Carter’s “Working on a Building”. Along with Hensley and Ickes songwriting and vocal delivery, you cannot forget their superb playing skills. Some of my favorite tracks on Living in a Song include, “Backstreets of Broadway”, “Louisiana Woman”, “Just Because”, “Moonshine Run”, and “Is The World Still Turning”.

Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley can pick with the best of the hot pickers around. I have been known to enjoy listening to lightning fast licks. However, Ickes and Hensley do not solely rely on their musical prowess to provide the power for this project. The soulful playing is carefully placed alongside the well-crafted lyrics, each highlighting and supporting the other. I recommend giving Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley’s new album, Living in a Song a listen today.

 

 

 

February 8, 2023

Categorizing music into genres can be a dangerous thing to do when offering an album review. I hope once you read my reviews, it is evident that when a particular style of music is mentioned to describe an artist’s album it is not meant to place said artist in a box. I use genres, probably better listed as styles, to describe an album’s flavor. Each artist has a unique approach to their music. I highly encourage you to listen to each of the albums that I review, and draw your own conclusions. I wanted to clarify that because the album I am reviewing this week, JD Clayton’s Long Way From Home, is a musical style buffet.

JD Clayton is an Arkansas singer-songwriter, and Long Way From Home is his full-length debut. The project features ten songs. Of those, Clayton wrote or co-wrote all of the tunes, save one. The songwriting is outstanding! The lines seem to flow effortlessly from one to the next, aided by Clayton’s soulful lilt. As I mentioned earlier, you cannot put JD Clayton’s music in a musical genre box. It seems to be rooted in country, but there are flavors of blues, soul, and rock and roll. Some of my favorite tracks on the album include, “American Millionaire”, “Beauty Queen”, the Beatlesque “Cotton Candy Clouds”,  “Sleepy Night in Nashville”, a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s rendition of “Midnight Special”,  and “Different Kind of Simple Life”.

From the short introduction song, “Hello, Good Mornin’” to the final track, the acoustic sing-along “Sleepy Night in Nashville”, JD Clayton delivers a truly enjoyable album. Clayton’s songwriting and singing are outstanding. He is also unafraid of changing tempos, styles, and moods from song to song.  This is the first time he has popped up on my radar, and I am glad he did. I recommend giving JD Clayton’s Long Way From Home a listen today.

 

 

 

 

February 1, 2023

As I have stated in the past, some of America’s greatest storytellers are from the south. Many scholars debate the reasons, but the fact cannot be denied. Many times when accolades are bestowed on storytellers, songwriters are not given the same respect of other authors. I am going to take this time to focus on songwriters and their place as some of the greatest storytellers the south has ever produced. In particular, I will be shining the spotlight on one such songwriter, Pony Bradshaw.

 

Pony Bradshaw released his first album at the age of 38. That may seem like a late start for a singer-songwriter. However, I think it means he has more life experiences to draw from. I reviewed his earlier album, Calico Jim. I was blown away by his attention to detail in the lyrics. Each line is like an artist’s brush strokes that make up a larger picture of the song. His expertise as a wordsmith continues on Pony Bradshaw’s latest album, North Georgia Rounder. He wrote each of the ten songs on the new project. Some of my favorite songs on North Georgia Rounder include, “Foxfire Wine”, “A Duffel, a Grip, and My D35”, “Kindly Turn the Bed Down, Drusilla”, and the title track.

 

In recent years, there has been a rise in the popularity of singer-songwriters that are able to write about the world around them. Songwriters like Jason Isbell and Tyler Childers are among the leaders in this movement. With his album, Calico Jim, and his latest, North Georgia Rounder, Pony Bradshaw can be added to their ranks. If you have not listened to his previous albums, I would encourage you to check them out. I recommend listening to Pony Bradshaw’s North Georgia Rounder .

 

 

 

January 25, 2023

 

This week I am reviewing an album that features songs that you will recognize. No, it is not a tribute album. Well, at least not in the traditional sense. Instead of paying tribute to a particular artist, the four singers that make up Brothers of the Heart pay tribute to some of their favorite songs. The group consists of Jimmy Fortune (The Statler Brothers), Bradley Walker, Mike Rogers (Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder), and Ben Issacs (The Issacs), and their latest album is Listen to the Music.

This 12-song offering defies genre. You will hear country, rock, pop, and gospel songs. The artists associated with the songs on this album are eclectic: The Doobie Brothers, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Jackson Browne, The Statler Brothers, Wings, Eagles, The Everly Brothers, and Vince Gill. Here is the song list for Brothers of the Heart’s Listen to the Music:

1) Listen To The Music

2) Gentle On My Mind

3) Ring Of Fire

4) These Days

5) I’ll Go To My Grave Loving You

6) Let ’em In

7) Just As I Am

8) Precious Memories

9) Desperado

10) Bye Bye Love

11) God Bless America/America The Beautiful

12) Liza Jane

 

I must admit, this is normally not the type of album I would review. I try to look for projects that feature primarily new songs, with the exception of the aforementioned artists tribute albums. However, there is something about this album that feels comfortable, like putting on your favorite sweater, and invites you to sit back and sing along. It is not just because the songs are familiar; rather it is the way the songs are delivered by Fortune, Walker, Rogers, and Issacs. You can feel the fondness they hold for each tune. The harmonies these four men showcase on this album is outstanding, as is the musical performances, and Ben Issacs’ production prowess. I recommend giving Brothers of the Heart’s Listen to the Music a listen today.

 

 

 

January 18, 2023

Volume Five is one of the most outstanding bands in bluegrass music today. Their string of albums have turned the heads of many bluegrass aficionados, and gained many fans in the process. Volume Five has a history of excellent musicianship, singing, songwriting, and song selection that places them in the top tier of current bluegrass groups. In recent years, Volume Five has gone through some personnel changes, many which may have flown under the radar during the dreaded pandemic shutdown. Resophonic guitarist and bass player Jeff Partin left the group to back Rhonda Vincent as a member of The Rage. In early 2021, banjo player Patton Wages suffered a stroke and at this time is not able to return to the stage.  However, Volume Five already had an album recorded and ready for release. That album, Karma, has just been released.

The Volume Five lineup on Karma is Glen Harrell on lead vocals and fiddle; Jacob Burleson on guitar and harmony vocals; Aaron Ramsey on mandolin, bass, and harmony vocals; Jeff Partin on resophonic guitar, bass and harmony vocals; and Patton Wages on banjo. As you come to expect from a Volume Five project, the song selection is outstanding. There are 11 tracks on Karma, and each song is strong. It is worth noting this album’s guest appearances. You will hear harmony vocals Russell Moore (IIIrd Tyme Out) on “My Love Will Never Fade”, Shawn Lane (Blue Highway) on “Walk Beside Me”, and Josh Shilling (Mountain Heart) on “Losing My Religion”.

With the lineup changes for Volume Five, you do not have to worry about their continuation as a bluegrass music force. Jacob Eller has stepped in as the bass player, and Chris Wade has taken over the banjo duties. I have seen videos of Volume Five’s current lineup and they sound great. I cannot wait to hear what album from this configuration sounds like. I recommend giving this new album, Karma, featuring the Volume Five lineup of Glen Harrell, Jacob Burleson, Aaron Ramsey, Jeff Partin, and Patton Wages, a listen today.

 

 

January 11, 2023

It is time to take a look back at my favorite 2022 Catches of the Week (Part 2: July-December 2022). These are listed in order in which they were reviewed. The full reviews can be seen further down on this page:

 

 

Dan Tyminski – One More Time Before You Go: A Tribute to Tony Rice (reviewed on July 27, 2022)

Dan Tyminski nailed this tribute to Tony Rice. Although there are only five songs on the EP, the Rice songs, plus the original song, that are included seem to be perfect picks. Kudos to Dan and all the special guests for providing a musical tribute worthy of the great Tony Rice. Also, there is a nice tip of the hat, or flash of the wrist watch, if you will, on the cover of this EP, with a picture of an Accutron watch, a passion of Tony’s, front and center.

 

 

Wade Bowen – Somewhere Between the Secret and the Truth (reviewed on August 24, 2022)

Wade Bowen includes so many different styles on Somewhere Between the Secret and the Truth. From the modern sound of “Everything Has Your Memory” to the barroom burner “Honky Tonk Roll”, Bowen’s songs offer such variety that you are bound to find something that is to your liking.

 

 

Bri Bagwell – Corazón y Cabeza (reviewed on September 7, 2022)

Listening to this album, from the first track to the last,  is like walking through an art exhibit, stopping to admire each painting, taking in its’ mood and meaning, before moving on to the next offering and starting the wonderful process all over again.

 

Dailey & Vincent – Let’s Sing Some Country! (reviewed on September 28, 2022)

Dailey & Vincent have done it again! Each project they release is outstanding. When you listen to a Dailey & Vincent project you get the complete package. The song selection is outstanding, the singing is superb, and the musical performances are excellent. In addition, the production quality is always top shelf.

 

 

Drake Milligan – Dallas/Fort Worth (reviewed on October 12, 2022)

This album’s 14 songs were written or co-written by Milligan. The album has a ‘90s country vibe, completely with fiddles and steel guitars. I enjoyed all the songs on this album. Some of my favorites include, “Sounds Like Something I’d Do”, “Over Drinkin’, Under Thinkin’”, the western swing “Goin’ Down Swingin’” featuring Vince Gill, and “Long Haul” featuring James Burton’s killer guitar licks.

 

Gabe Lee – The Hometown Kid (reviewed on November 9, 2022)

Gabe Lee offers songwriting that is beyond his years. Lee has a good singing voice, but there is something about his delivery that almost makes me forget he is singing. It is as if I am sitting in a cafe, drinking a cup of coffee, across from someone telling me a story, and I can’t wait to hear what happened next.

 

 

Billy Strings – Me/And/Dad (reviewed on November 23, 2022)

Billy and his dad Terry Barber, make it feel like you are listening to a jam session, and what a jam session it is. Joining Billy and Terry on this 14 song album are Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), Rob McCoury (banjo), Mike Bub (bass), Jason Carter (fiddle), Michael Cleveland (fiddle), and Jerry Douglas (dobro). You will recognize songs, like  “Long Journey Home”, “Way Downtown”, “Dig a Little Deeper (In the Well)”, and the Larry Sparks classic, “John Deere Tractor”. Billy and Terry sound phenomenal. Hearing them reminds me of listening to the great recordings of Doc & Merle Watson picking and singing together.

 

Live Forever: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver (reviewed November 30, 2022)

 

This album will be a hit with Billy Joe Shaver’s fans. However, I hope that for those that are not familiar with his music will use this project as an introduction to great songwriting of Shaver. The artists featured on this album in all-star lineup: Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, Rodney Crowell, Miranda Lambert, Edie Brickell, Nathaniel Rateliff, George Strait, Amanda Shires, Steve Earle, Margo Price, Joshua Hedley, Allison Russell,  Ryan Bingham, and Nikki Lane.

 

 

 

 

Willie Nelson – Willie Nelson Live At Budokan (reviewed on December 21, 2022)

The album, recorded February 23, 1984 in Tokyo, Japan, was officially released in Japan on LaserDisc, and has been available for years. However, it was not commercially available in the U.S. Now the recording is available digitally, as a  2 CD/1 DVD configuration. The album captures Willie and The Family Band in their full power and glory. In addition to Willie, the band’s configuration that night his sister Bobbie Nelson on piano, Mickey Raphael on harmonica, Paul English on drums, Grady Martin on guitar, Bee Spears on bass, and Jody Payne on vocals and guitar.

 

 

 

January 4, 2023

 

It is time to take a look back at my favorite 2022 Catches of the Week (Part 1: January-June 2022). These are listed in order in which they were reviewed. The full reviews can be seen further down on this page:

 

 

Brent Cobb –  And Now, Let’s Turn to Page… (reviewed on February 9, 2022)

 

Although a gospel album is not what I expected from Brent Cobb, it is a pleasant surprise. He puts his own stamp on gospel standards, but it is done with a reverence that can be felt through Cobb’s delivery. Even if you are not a gospel music fan, if you appreciate the music of Brent Cobb, I recommend giving a listen to And Now, Let’s Turn to Page…

 

 

 

Texas Hill – Heaven Down Here (reviewed on February 16, 2022)

 

The group members are Adam Wakefield, Craig Wayne Boyd, and Casey James. You may know their names as solo artists. Wakefield and Boyd were contestants on The Voice, and Casey James was an American Idol finalist. It is not a given that musical magic will happen when you put talented artists together. There has to be natural chemistry, and that cannot be forced. When singers and musicians click, the end results are amazing. Wakefield, Boyd, and James vocals tightly fit together like a jigsaw puzzle that makes a complete picture.

 

 

 

Bob Minner – From Sulphur Springs to Rising Fawn: The Songs of Norman Blake (reviewed on March 9, 2022)

 

Bob Minner has done an outstanding job in tipping his hat to the music of Norman Blake. You can sense the love and care that Minner has for the songs. It goes without saying that Norman Blake’s songs are very deserving of the adoration. However, I want to tip my hat to Minner for paying tribute to Norman Blake with some of the best picking and singing you will hear this side of heaven.

 

 

 

ERNEST – Flower Shops (reviewed March 16, 2022)

 

ERNEST is a great singer and songwriter, and those talents are on display. Mix that with the musical choices on the album, especially steel guitar, and you have a project that would seem to be in a category that very few find. That category is one in which older and younger country fans will find music that they both enjoy.

 

 

 

Randall King – Shot Glass (reviewed March 23, 2022)

 

This is Randall King’s first major label album release. I do not believe it will be his last. If you need a traditional country music fix, I recommend giving Randall King’s Shot Glass a listen today.

 

 

 

Ned LeDoux – Buckskin (reviewed March 30, 2022)

 

I know that anytime Ned LeDoux’s name is brought up, folks mention his father, Chris. However, I do not believe that he is just imitating his father. Rather, Ned seems to be unapologetically comfortable in his own skin. Ned LeDoux’s Buckskin is country music about cowboys, rodeos, and real life with an honest delivery, sometimes singing, and at others offering a bit of spoken word-like poetry.

 

 

 

Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway – Crooked Tree (reviewed April 6, 2022)

 

Many fans of traditional bluegrass music have been clamoring for Molly Tuttle to release a completely bluegrass style album. Well, the wait is over! Along with her outstanding band, there are guest performances from Margo Price (“Flatland Girl”), Billy Strings (“Dooley’s Farm), Sierra Hull (“Over the Line”), Dan Tyminski (“San Francisco Blues”), and Gillian Welch (“Side Saddle”). I have always enjoyed Molly Tuttle’s projects, and I am sure I will enjoy her future albums. However, this new album is one of my favorites.

 

 

 

Joshua Hedley – Neon Blue (reviewed May 18, 2022)

 

Although many were speculating that Joshua Hedley’s new album would be full of 1950s and 1960s style songs, Neon Blue features songs that are rooted in ‘90s country music. If you did not know better, you would think that he was covering songs from that era. However, all but one of the twelve songs on the album are originals, co-written by Hedley. In addition to the great songwriting, Hedley does an outstanding job of performing these songs as his own, while at the same time bringing to mind the style of the 1990s, with shades and hues of Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Joe Diffie, and Mark Chesnutt.

 

 

 

Brennen Leigh featuring Asleep at the Wheel – Obsessed With the West (reviewed June 1, 2022)

 

Asleep at the Wheel’s legacy is already cemented as a purveyor of western swing. You can add that descriptor to Brennen Leigh. There have been many artists that cover Bob Wills’ tunes. It is a much harder thing to create new music in Wills’ style, but Leigh has done just that. The new album is made up of twelve original songs, all written or co-written by Brennen Leigh.

 

 

 

American Aquarium – Chicamacomico (reviewed June 15, 2022)

 

BJ Barham’s lyrics will definitely hit home with the listeners. He wrote or co-wrote all ten songs. The words of each song are powerful and real. There are no wasted words or phrases. Barham’s singing and the musical performances of American Aquarium are outstanding on this new album.

 

 

 

Mary Gauthier – Dark Enough to See the Stars (reviewed June 22, 2022)

 

Mary Gauthier has a way with words that is seldom matched. She is able to paint a picture that is more than clear. Gauthier is able to make it seem that you are in the picture, either as an observer, or as the subject. The deep feelings that she is able to convey with her lyrics is a songwriting masterwork.

 

 

 

Remember, you can contact me via email at

porkchop@gacaradio.com, by facebook at

https://www.facebook.com/921wlhr or by calling me Monday -Friday from 6-10am at 706-356-WLHR (9547).

 

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