On June 14th, The Plott Hounds released of their sophomore album Thirsty for Something. Recorded in Minneapolis, the project contains six songs all of which were written by band members Noah Alexander (vocals, guitar), Colin Wymore (lead guitar and slide guitar) & Jeff Powell (lead guitar).
Out of the gate, the album comes on strong with the gritty “Get High” which was written about the band’s adopted hometown Anoka, MN. Things continue with that classic southern rock sound The Plott Hounds (which also include Marty Lestock on bass and Tater on drums) have mastered on the title track and the raucous “Dalton.” Things slow done on “Let It Shine” where Alexander’s vocals (which oft recall Eddie Vedder) soften and Alexandra Green’s harmonies add an ethereal feel. The album is rounded out by the swampy blues of “American Dream” and the extended jam of “Night Owls.” And as the record comes to a close, you’ll indeed be thirsty for something…. including another spin.
Jack Klatt says he was hooked on music and performing from when he first stepped on stage. He dropped out of college in 2006 and spent the next half a dozen years on the road both in the US and Europe with “nothing to my name but a backpack and a Martin guitar.” Learning at least one song a day, Klatt taught himself finger style guitar to the tunes of Eddie Cochrane, Woody Guthrie, and Hank Williams. Soon, he began writing his own songs, and recently released his sophomore album Shadows In The Sunset. Produced by Tom Herbers (Trampled by Turtles, The Jayhawks) the ten track collection “holds in its grooves ten thousand miles of asphalt, about eight pairs of good shoes, and the generosity of a thousand strangers.” It’s a collection of straight forward, well-told stories of travel, love, saying goodbye and new beginnings.
Shadows In The Sunset’s ragtime opener “Sweet as Honey” instantly recalls Paul Burch’s Jimmie Rodgers inspired album, Meridian Rising. “So I will hold out my hands and pray for some rain/Life is sweet is honey, all I’ve lost I have gained.” That 1920’s feel continues in “Behind the Eight Ball” which finds him in that familiar place feeling low, yet also slightly optimistic. Pedal steel conveys lost love on “Logwalls and Chainsaws” a similar sentiment which can be found on the jaunty “Forever is Over Today” and the melancholy “The Closer I Get.” Platt’s vocals, earthy and believable pull you into every song, but are especially touching on “Anywhere I Go” a gentle and incredibly stirring tune where he sings, “It don’t matter much when my body turns to dust just let my words echo on.”
The album is rounded out with “Roadrunner” which finds him leaving a lover, but assuring her that “You don’t need me anyway/Love was never meant to be our game….But if you find someone to hold don’t you trade it for silver/No don’t you trade it for gold,” the alcohol inspired “Booze Song” and the bluesy closer “Jacks Blues” an ode to the highway that place that is his “lost and found.”
It’s a word that often gets thrown around, but there’s something truly genuine here. Klatt, influenced by his years of travel, delivers his narratives without pretense, making Shadows In The Sunset a beautifully done album of classic American music.
Listen to "Anywhere I Go" and "Forever Is Over" here
Singer-songwriter Parker McKay began her music career in NYC where she opened for artists such as Rascal Flatts and Sheryl Crow. In 2014, she moved to Nashville where she began to refine her sound and sharpen her songwriting. On June 24th, McKay, who cites Grace Potter, the Rolling Stones, and The Dixie Chicks as influences, released her self-titled EP. The six track collection includes her current single, “Rolling Stone” as well as five other originals that showcase her sultry, assured vocals and stirring melodies.
McKay channels her inner Carrie Underwood on the gritty, feisty “Flip” before effortlessly turning soulful on the bluesy “Call If Off.” The EP is rounded out with three tunes that deal with relationships and love: the sensual “Under The Rug,” the infectious “I Tried” and the stirring “Begin Goodbye” with, which its lush piano-filled melody, closes the album on an emotional note and leaves you going back to listen again.
With a name as unique as Lasers Lasers Birmingham, one might wonder what to expect from an album entitled, Royal Blue, but Ozark native Alex Owen brings to life a short collection of songs that captures present day themes coupled with a 70’s country, laid back California vibe. Available July 22nd, the EP is characterized by plenty of pedal steel, organ and harmonies beginning with the shuffling title track on which Owen laments a lost love, “I’ve got blues running through a monochrome filter I’m not used to.” On the rollicking “Hard Man To Please,” Owen is forthright in his fast living telling a paramour, “If you wanna fly with me you better sprout some wings.” The groovy “Shedd Aquarium” requires close listening to hear a tale of debauchery while the sparse, acoustic closer “Any Way You Slice It” vividly describes the days in the life of an addict, “Every Wednesday I’m on the streets and I’m feeling mean/And any way you slice it is just another routine.” Royal Blue is awash in modern day storytelling that retains true, traditional country sensibilities. Give it a listen.
As the album cover suggests, Tommy Womack is thankful. Thankful for overcoming addiction, for surviving a horrific car accident, and for life itself. Womack conveys that gratitude along with heart and humor on his latest release, Namaste. The personal, eleven track collection starts off with the gentle “Angel” before launching into songs that tackle pursuing your dreams (“End of The Line”), religion (“God Part III”) and the drawbacks and benefits of certain town (the witty, cynical “Nashville”).
While there’s much heft on Namaste, there is also light-hearted, yet insightful, fare including “Hot Flash Woman,” “Comb-Over Blues” (both of which are exactly about what their titles imply) and “When Country Singers Were Ugly” on which Womack provides commentary on the current state of country music, “Willie was nothing to look at/All Waylon inspired was fear/Country singers were tough on the eyes and not so often the ears.”
The album is rounded out with “It’s Been All Over Before” and “I Almost Died,” the alarming account of his brush with death due to drugs, before closing with the hymn of gratitude, “It’s A Beautiful Morning” where Womack sings, “I don’t know what’s coming this afternoon/If I think about it, it’ll get here too soon/Why worry what’s coming, it’ll come any way/It’s a beautiful morning. It’s a beautiful day.” It’s a beautifully fitting ending to an album of insight and reflection on life, death and religion that while about Womack’s life, may have you reflecting on your own.
Based in San Francisco, Katie Garibaldi is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who tours nationally and is known for her engaging live shows and personal connection to her listeners through her music. With eight albums released to date, Garibaldi’s newest, Rooted Clarity showcases her distinctive sound which has been, quite truthfully, described as “ethereal Americana.” Grounded by her folk and roots background, Rooted Clarity takes those roots and grows, branching with elegant arrangements and Garibaldi’s pristine vocals, into a recording that ascends to crystal clear heights.
The opening track, “Delightful,” is a fitting description of the entire five song collection. Garibaldi’s soprano, surrounded by beautifully composed choral arrangements, effortlessly soars in a song of hope: “The more I care what people think the more I am diminishing/But we could be, we could be, we could be….delightful.” Positivity abounds on the string driven, impactful and encouraging “I Am,” and continues on “In My Wildest Dreams” which assures that love will prevail even amid turmoil. The EP is rounded out with “On My Own,” which if you are at a certain place in life, will hit you (mega) hard. “I’ve becoming who I’ve been wanting to be and dare the cliché my whole life’s in front of me…It’s so hard to say goodbye when all your memories sit and watch you leave” and “Bird In A Cage.” On both, Garibaldi’s light as a feather vocals exude a strength that makes you want to believe in yourself and pursue your dreams and most importantly, gives you the courage, and clarity, to be yourself, trust yourself and allow yourself to fly.
Similar to the Cactus Blossoms and Whitney Rose’s latest albums, you’ll need to check the year of issue when you cue up Luke Bell’s self-titled release (June 17th) as what flows from your speakers is an undeniable country record in every sense of the word. Bell captures the essence of the greats (Williams, Haggard) on multiple levels: melodically, lyrically and in his delivery. The collection, which begins with “Sometimes,” includes nine additional songs that are familiar, authentic and instant classics, like the traveling song, “All Blue,” which from its cadence and buoyant harmonica, tells of a wanderer who is melancholy, yet “Can’t say all the reasons that I feel this way” and the earnest “Where Ya Been.”
Throughout, Bell’s rich vocals are warm and incredibly honest – he conveys a somber, yet romantic tone on “Loretta”: “I haven’t felt your breast move under my body in I don’t remember how long,” a bravado on “Bullfighter” where, with that sweet squeezebox, he tells the story of the greatest matador that ever dared to pen and a (lyrical) sadness on the lively “Hold Me” where he sees his ex with another, “Hold me closer I think I just might cry/Well, I’m dustin’ off some memories that are waking up inside.”
The album incorporates a liberated ragtime feel on the jaunty (and appropriately titled), “Ragtime Troubles” which continues on “Glory and the Grace,” while the western-flaired “Workin’ Man’s Dream” extols the blue collar man, “I’m a working man you understand my livings in the dirt” and showcases Bell’s yodeling. The wonderful closing track finds “The Great Pretender" getting his due: “When I awoke she was gone but a note was on the phone/And written down was this message to me/I hope that you remember when our fires turn to ember/That if you find me kind and tender it may hurt when you realize that I am the great pretender"........After listening to this record, however, you’ll realize Bell is anything but.
The acoustic intro to Rich O’Toole’s latest grabs your ears as it leads you into his new single, the heartland roots rocker “American Kid.” The follow-up to his #5 (and climbing) hit on the Texas charts, “Back To Back,” “American Kid” is flush with infectious guitar riffs, frenzied banjo and a bridge that recalls a bit of "We Didn't Start The Fire." Written by O’Toole, along with Evan Gamble, “American Kid,” with it's nod to the past, celebrates love of country and the blue collar working man or woman who strives to find that balance of enjoying life while working hard to fulfill the American dream during these, often difficult, economic times - a sentiment many will find relatable.
“Got red, white, and blue running through my veins
My Grandfather’s dad fought for this land
With bullet holes and fifty stars
Thirteen stripes across my scars
I do as my fathers did
I’m your American kid”
Missouri-based award-winning singer-songwriter Brad Cunningham was introduced to the music of Pat Green & Robert Earl Keen, Jr. while studying at Baylor University. Upon returning to Missouri, he started a band that traveled Missouri's highways for seven years, opening for artists like Jason Boland, Pat Green, Billy Joe Shaver, Stoney LaRue, Zane Williams, and Dwight Yoakam just to name a few.
On June 17th, the Brad Cunningham Band released their debut album, Every Inch of Texas. The ten song collection was written or co-written by Cunningham (a current finalist in the Telluride Bluegrass Festival’s famous Telluride Troubadour Competition), recorded at Oklahoma’s 115 Studio and produced by Grammy-nominated Wes Sharon (John Fullbright).
With Cunningham on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, the band also includes T.J. Klein (lead guitar, pedal steel), Kyle Day (bass), Molly Hayley (fiddle) and Drake Detwiler (drums) whose instrumentations blend to create soulful story songs that kick off with the soft strum of the guitar, airy fiddle and enveloping harmonies of “Long Way Home” - which soon turns into a dance hall ready two-stepper. That’s followed by the Spanish-accented “Slow Down” which easily feels like dancing close with the one you want to lose yourself in (and features Sharon on bass and Ryan Engleman of Turnpike Troubadours on pedal steel).
“Ozark Mountain Blues” brings in a folk-bluegrass vibe while “Whole Lotta Love to Find” is a rockabilly firecracker. The rootsy, warm title track (which recalls a bit of “Kiss Me In The Dark”) tells of resurrecting a love gone wrong while the encouraging “Let’s Dance,” stresses the importance of keeping promises in a relationship. The album is rounded out with the sure to be crowd pleasing first single, “Goin’ To Texas,” and the rip-roaring, propulsive “Another Train Song” where he sings, “Thought she was my type but she been giving rides to every other man in town.”
The Brad Cunningham Band has said that they are “on a mission to share the gospel of Texas Country Music with the Northland.” With their knack for well-written lyrics and melodies, - replete with fiddle and steel - which capture that sound, they are sure to see their followers multiplying quickly.
One of California’s most prolific songwriters, Robert Rex Waller Jr. (of I See Hawks) is releasing a solo album of covers, Fancy Free, due on July 1st.
A bold undertaking, Fancy Free finds Waller’s rich, emotive baritone breathing life into a variety of songs from some quite unexpected artists. The thirteen track collection will instantly have your ear with the beautifully done, moving rendition of “Walking Through Your Town In The Snow” and will continue to keep your ears at attention through the sublime “Albuquerque,” the stunning “Fancy Free” (originally an Oak Ridge Boys’ tune) and violin-laden “Don’t Pay ‘Em No Mind” (Nina Simone). In between are the rockin’ (Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me),” the heavenly (“Amazing Grace”) and the 70’s feel of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances" as well as a scaled back, piano-centered rendition of The Kinks “Waterloo Sunset,” and a traditional take on “Me and Paul” before closing out with a delightful big bass on “Night Owl.”
The songs on Fancy Free will be a joy to discover if you are hearing them for the very first time...and if you are aware of the originals, you'll take pleasure in listening to them being delivered in wonderfully fresh ways.