John McCutcheon- Caroline Cotter- Raven and Red
John McCutcheon - Ghost Light
The extremely prolific McCutcheon (Ghost Light is album #39) can generally be called a folk artist but there's no putting the guy in a box; opening cut "A Perfect Day" grooves along to an appropriately bright old school country melody, "She Just Dances" is a fiddle-driven Texas waltz and "Big Day" is a country rocker. It is more McCutcheon's lyrics than his music that put him in the folk category as he sings about the concerns of everyman; marching off to war, the pain of a banker who has to say no to a longtime friend, the scourge of dissipation. A masterful storyteller, McCutcheon even pulls off an imagining of being school pals with Jesus on "Me and Jesus" before wrapping up the album with his embellishment of Woody Guthrie's lyrics on the bluegrass cut "When My Fight for Life is Over." Get it here.
Caroline Cotter - Home on the River
Cotter has a sweet voice and all of the songs here are set to subdued and mostly acoustic arrangements that really highlight her vocal talents, like on the soft country of "1 4 3" where her voice is appropriately tender for a song that has a title that is an alternative way of saying "I love you." One of the album's most striking cuts is "Eternal Light," a slightly foreboding folk tune, and her best vocal turn may be on the haunting "My Washroom" where she accompanies herself with understated guitar playing. The album closes with the brief "My Peace," a Woody and Arlo Guthrie song that Cotter sings acapella. Get it here.
Raven and Red - We Rise Up
A trio with two lead singers, Raven and Red are comfortable in many Americana sub-genres; the bluegrass waltz of "Living and Loving You," featuring vocalist Mitchell Lane, opens the record and the set moves on with the John Denver-informed sound of "Left Me Again" and the weepy country ballad "Wild Roses," both of which also feature Lane. Co-lead singer Brittany Lynn Jones gets a vocal turn on the somber "Mirror to My Soul" and she, like mandolin player Cole King, joins in on harmony vocals throughout. An instrumental reprise of "Wild Roses" gives King, Lane on acoustic guitar and Jones on fiddle a chance to really strut their stuff. Many of the cuts here have philosophical and hopeful lyrics and album closer "We Rise Up," sung by Lane, is no exception. Get it here.