Children’s author Sandra Boynton penned the 12 country and children’s songs on the new compilation, Frog Trouble, then she gathered several country and rock stars to record them. Among the singers on the album are Allison Krauss, Ryan Adams, Ben Folds, Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, Dwight Yoakam, Fountains of Wayne and Linda Eder. You can download free, legal mp3s of the tracks “Heartache Song” by Kacey Musgraves, “When Pigs Fly” by Ryan Adams and “Broken Piano” by Ben Folds at Noisetrade and buy the entire album at Amazon.
Coles Whalen’s Noisetrade sampler includes 5 free, legal mp3s from her The Whistle Stop Road Record album. Most of the tracks are too bland for my taste, but I do like the bluesy country song “Go Child.” You can download the songs by entering your email address below.
Della Mae’s upcoming album, This World Oft Can Be, is a merry, genteel collection of old-fashioned bluegrass, folk and country that beautifully showcases Della Mae’s all-female harmonies. Highlights include the opener “Letter From Down the Road,” the ballads “Mabeline” and “Heaven’s Gate” and the lilting, string-accented title track. You can download a free, legal mp3 of the track “Empire” by entering your email address into the widget below. This World Oft Can Be will be released on May 28th.
The Steeldrivers will return on February 5, 2013 with their third full-length release, Hammer Down. Unfortunately, the new album lacks the fiery freight train of blues that made their 2008 self-titled debut so brilliant. I suspect the shift in sound is due to the changes in the band’s lineup. Whatever the reason, Hammer Down is a much more mellow collection of old-timey country and bluegrass. It’s a pleasant enough listen, but somewhat of a letdown after such an extraordinary debut. Highlights are “I’ll Be There” and “Cry No Mississippi.”
Hammer Down Tracklist
01. Shallow Grave
02. How Long Have I Been Your Fool
03. When You Don’t Come Home
04. I’ll Be There
05. Burnin’ The Woodshed Down
06. Wearin’ A Hole
07. Lonesome Goodbye
08. Hell On Wheels
09. Cry No Mississippi
10. When I’m Gone
Australian singer-songwriter superduo Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicolson recently released their sophomore collaboration, Wreck & Ruin. Since the couple’s debut, Rattlin’ Bones, made both my Top Albums of 2008 and Best of the Decade lists, I was very excited to hear the new release. Unfortunately, my expectations seem to have been raised too high. I really wanted to love this album but, even after repeated listens, there are only a few tracks that appeal to me.
The haunting acapella duet “‘Til Death Do Us Part” that opens the album is by far the standout track.
The peppy bluegrass title track is more representative of the album’s overall sound.
“Adam & Eve” has a delicously eerie backwoods clang, while “The Quiet Life” is a gentle country ballad.
Otherwise the album’s pleasant, but not nearly as memorable as its predecessor.
Amy LaVere and Shannon McNally have teamed up and will release their debut collaborative EP, Chasing The Ghost Rehearsal Sessions, on October 23rd. Brought together by their mutual mentor to form the band The Wandering, the two female singer-songwriters immediately clicked, jammed and recorded the EP. Says McNally of their chemistry, “We were both instantly struck by our numerous similarities. It’s not your average gal that drinks bourbon neat, walks around with a pocket atlas and a drives a big white gear van. I thought she was charming and awfully funny.” You can stream two songs, “Never Been Sadder” and “If It Were Mine to Keep,” from the EP below. McNally seems to have added some pep to LaVere’s noirish Memphis sound.
The Trishas are an all-female country-folk quartet. None of the band’s four members are named Trisha, rather the name was coined spontaneously for their first performance together – during which they covered a Trisha Yearwood song. That supposedly one-off performance turned into a true career and the haphazardly chosen name stuck. The Trishas’ high lonesome harmonies and catchy country tunes fall somewhere between Dixie Chicks and The Trio.
And I could have told you, darlin’, it would end up like this
When you’re kissed by a fool, you’re fooled by a kiss
And I believed you, baby, and your silver, lying tongue
You were handsome and older, I was foolish and young
The opener “Mother of Invention,” the lyrics of which lend the album its title, showcases The Trishas’ honeyed downhome harmonies and penchant for foot tappin’ Appalachian folk and country.
“Strangers,” “Liars & Fools” and “Looking At Me” are more old-fashioned country ballads with lovely weeping steel, clanging banjo and bittersweet strings.
The standout track “Little Sweet Cigars” is a haunting folk tune with a steady rhythm and a lyrical narrative of Western seduction and betrayal.
With its “set yourself on fire” refrain, “One Down” is a strangely gentle anthem for burning bridges.
“Cold-Blooded Love” is a slinky, sultry torch song by way of Tin Pan Alley.
“Billie Holiday is killing me, like she’s been reading my mind” is a grand way to begin any song, as proven by “Rainin’ Inside.”
The fourteen tracks could’ve done with some trimming, as other songs seem more filler than substance. But it’s a minor gripe about an otherwise excellent recording.
Raul Malo guests on the bonus track “A Far Cry From You,” which comes as an exclusive download with the CD purchase.
The Time Jumpers are a somewhat all-star country band whose revolving lineup is currently led by singer Vince Gill. Their self-titled debut will be released August 21st. The sound is melodic classic country and Western swing – emphasis on the Western as “Texas” is in several song titles. These are old-fashioned cowboy ballads and barn dance numbers. None of the individual tracks really stand out as spectacular and it’s definitely for classic country fans only, but it’s a fun little album reminiscent of the music my parents and grandparents listened to when I was a child.
My interest in bluegrass being whetted by Doyle Lawson, I finally got around to listening to Dierks Bentley’s only Bluegrass outing. Up on the Ridge is the album from which “Senor” (featured on the Bob Dylan tribute album, Chimes of Freedom) was taken. The album’s title track was another pleasant surprise, with a guest appearance by Allison Krauss and The Sidemen. There’s an amazing cover of U2′s “(Pride) In The Name of Love” which benefits from the presence of bluegrass legend Del McCoury and The Punch Brothers, who also guest on several other tracks. Other guests on the album include The Steeldrivers‘s Chris Stapleton, Miranda Lambert, Vince Gill and Kris Kristofferson. The final song, “Down in the Mine,” is a sublime Appalachian anthem co-written by Bentley, capping off a remarkable achievement. You can hear samples from the album here.
New Orleans country-folk band Hurray For the Riff Raff has a unique and exciting sound thanks to their Puerto Rican lead singer, Alynda Lee Segarra. Recorded in Nashville and produced by Alabama Shakes producer Andrija Tokic, their new album, Look Out Mama, gets off to a rollicking start with “Little Black Star.” The title track, already a classic in my mind, follows with a warm, swinging country sound elevated to another level by Segarra’s plaintive, passionate pleas. The Beatles-esque ode to John and Yoko “Born to Win (Part 1)” has an infectious, sing-along chorus. The album concludes with the melancholy lament, “Something’s Wrong.” Segarra’s voice is one for the ages and hopefully one we’ll hear much more of in the future.