Tami Neilson - Chickaboom!
It's never a good idea to judge a book by its cover, or in this case a CD, but if you determine by looking at the cover photo of a big-haired and mischievous grin-wearing Tami Neilson on Chickaboom! that "this is going to be fun," well happily you are correct. Most of the songs here are self-penned or co-writes with her bassist or lead guitarist and Neilson begins the record with the sassy "Call Your Mama," an eloquent putdown of an irresponsible, recently-dumped flame. "Hey, Bus Driver" is a twangy, Bakersfield-informed country rocker, "Queenie, Queenie" is a surefire singalong about balancing a mother's duties with a life on the road and "You Were Mine" is a soulful diversion into the blues. "Sister Mavis" is a late album homage to Mavis Staples, a rollicking gospel-tinged cut that will have fans of both artists shouting "amen!"
Robert Vincent - In This Town You're Owned
You don't need to be an American to work in the Americana genre and English singer Robert Vincent is one of the latest to make an impressive entry on the roots music scene. His debut album came out in 2013 and his popularity has blossomed ever since. Vincent begins the record with the quiet and Townes Van Zandt-recalling "This Town" but comes out rocking on "My Neighbour's Ghost," a rockabilly-informed country song. "The Kids Don't Dig God Anymore" appropriately plays out at the pace of a dirge; Vincent sounds good taking it slow and many songs here, in particular "The End of the War," play out at a very relaxed rate. You might expect Vincent to get wild on album closer "Cuckoo" but the song is a mid-tempo modern folk rocker and perhaps the effort's most radio-ready cut.
Sideline - Breaks to the Edge
Sideline is a North Carolina-based seven piece bluegrass band with Skip Cherryholmes of the Cherryholmes family band at the helm on acoustic guitar and vocals. Cherryholmes and banjo player Steve Dilling pick up a storm on the speedy barnburner "Digging My Own Grave," slowing down a bit for a take on Steve Wariner's "Crash Course in the Blues" and more still for the melancholy "Someone Like You." Superior musicianship and bright harmonies are on display throughout, and the blended voices sound fantastic in particular on "Your Selfish Heart," which is also a showcase for fiddle player Daniel Greeson. Almost everything here is crafted for dancing; certainly "Square Dance Town" is a barn dance highlight and fans can dance up a tempest to the tornado warning that is "Twister (Devil's Dance)." It's not first and foremost a dance number, but heels can even be kicked up to the slow, sad and reflective "Southern Wind."
Jeremy Garrett - Circles
If you're a fan of the Infamous Stringdusters then you know that Garrett, fondly known as "G-Grass," is the fiddle player for that band. Here he steps out with a solo record to showcase his talent not only as a singer and songwriter, but also as a multi-instrumentalist. With the exception of a bit of clavinet played by pal Josh Shilling on opening cut "I Am Who I Am," Garrett plays all the instruments here: fiddle, guitar and mandolin. The folky "I Can't Lay Your Lovin' Down" showcases Garrett's proficiency on all three instruments while "Travel Light" is fiddle-driven; the somewhat haunting title cut features guitar up front with loops orchestrating behind, and singer Prisca adds harmony vocals. A bit of an oddity, the instrumental "Oracle" shows Garrett knows about psychedelia too, while closing cut "The Highway," as you might expect, is a high lonesome ode to hitting the road.
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