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TOP 50 ALBUMS 2016  JAN THRU JUNE - PART 1 #1 THRU #25

TOP 50 ALBUMS 2016 JAN THRU JUNE - PART 1 #1 THRU #25

The selection of always the most difficult for our So Far list, and 2016 is no exception. The artist...

TOP 50 ALBUMS SO FAR 2016 - PART 2 #26 THRU #50

TOP 50 ALBUMS SO FAR 2016 - PART 2 #26 THRU #50

The selection of always the most difficult for our So Far list, and 2016 is no exception. The artist...

CHARLIE FAYE AND THE FAYETTES - CHARLIE FAYE AND THE FAYETTES

CHARLIE FAYE AND THE FAYETTES - CHARLIE FAYE AND THE FAYETTES

Charlie Faye and the Fayettes (from the album Charlie Faye and the Fayettes) - The easiest way to expl...

ELI PAPERBOY REED - MY WAY HOME

ELI PAPERBOY REED - MY WAY HOME

Eli Paperboy Reed (from the album My Way Home on Yep Roc Records ) - Eli Paperboy Reed was on a rocket r...

THE NEW RELEASE RACK

Lydia Loveless (from the album Real) - Done right, the sound of revolution becomes part of the audio fabric of our lives. On first listens to the music of Lydia Loveless, her punk rock words and love of country music maintained their individuality. Lydia returns with a new album on Bloodshot Records, stamping Real on the title, and presenting both sides of her songs as one sound. Lydia Loveless kicks off Real with a ready-to-rock roar in a less than promising relationship, delivering threats as promises on album opener, “Same to You”. The Columbus,Ohio-based musicians pens a tune to hometown boys on the rolling rhythms of “Midwestern Guys”, punctuates with funky percussion for the condemnation of ’paradise is only for the weak’ in ““Heaven”, and uses stark acoustic guitar strums to accent the famous final scene for romance of “Clumps”.

The rhythm guitar is a crucial component to the power of the songs, and the chord slashes are major players on Real. Lydia Loveless guides the twists and turns of the tracks, captaining the album with a firm grip on the wheel. Raised in the small town of Coshocton, Ohio, Lydia Loveless found that making music was the cure for boredom on the family farm. Her dad owned a country music bar, and a constant supply of touring musicians scattered on couches and floors became mentors. Real softens its in-your-face wisdom as the bright lights of reality close the door for the couple in “More Than Ever” while a guitar rattle spits out a jagged path for “Longer” to look for clues at how to heal. Past history and future hopes duke it out on rolling clouds of sound in “Out of Love”.

Listen and buy the music of Lydia Loveless from AMAZON or iTunes

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The Coal Men (from the album Pushed to the Side) - Pushed to the Side is album number five for The Coal Men, and the original plan for three-piece (Dave Coleman – guitars, Dave Ray – drums, Paul Slivka – bass) has stayed true…three musicians trying to make really honest, genuine music. Pushed to the Side was tracked in Key West, Florida at Lance Taylor’s Southernmost Studio. The Coal Men make the trip to the tip of the Florida Keys seven times a year for a week long residency, a pilgrimage that has been in place for the East Nashville-based band for twelve years. The environment gave Pushed to the Side its background, Dave Coleman feeling that ‘we were playing really well together, very much in sync. We were also pretty exhausted from those four-hour sets. I think that helped us settle into these atmospheric and moody tunes’.

While Pushed to the Side is not a collection of linked stories, it’s characters share a common theme. They are not outcasts, merely overlooked; displaced drifters that face a life winding down within the confessions of “Depreciate” as the four wheels of the story’s leading van groove on a Bluesy Jazz riff. The Coal Men give the songs on Pushed to the Side a foundation that cradles “Lily Hurst” as she makes her way through a world set on giving her pain as commitment fortifies the decisions of “A Name”, rumbles to shake out the memories on “Stones River”, and offers a light touch as the heavy hand of fate takes a swing at “Travis”.  Pushed to the Side heads for another show in “Speeding like a Demon” nodding to Nashville Alt Country mentors, Jason and The Scorchers, as The Coal Men tune up to The Scorchers mix of Country with Rock while they take to the stage with cynicism on “The Singer (in Louisville)”.  The Coal Men fist-pump fellow musicians that are breaking through on their own terms in “The Payoff” as they paint a picture a life in Nashville surrounded by players making music for the wrong reasons.

Listen and buy the music of The Coal Men from AMAZON or iTunes

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Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings (from the soundtrack Miss Sharon Jones on Daptone Records) - The original sound track album for Miss Sharon Jones is the audio complement to the story that makes up the film. The documentary follows Sharon Jones as she jumps career and life hurdles. Her music found a home on Daptone Records, a label formed as a fertile ground that nurtured Funk and Soul, helmed by musicians in its roster. When industry doors were slammed in the face of Sharon Jones, told she was ‘too fat, too black, too short, and too old’. Sharon Jones is backed by the Dap Kings with album with songs from the group’s past, the soundtrack including the new cut “I’m Still Here”, the band preforming their own biography within the back story of Miss Sharon Jones.

The soundtrack grabs a 2004 single “Genuine, Pt. 1” with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings hitching onto a ride on a passing James Brown funk as the album presents the title track from the group’s 2007 release with “100 Days, 100 Nights, and their 2010 tell-all tune/album title, “I Learned the Hard Way”. The music is not Retro, it is Vintage, with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings lighting the way for a Soul sound future. Frenetic Soul riffs propel “People Don’t Get What They Deserve”, ground a Soul rap shuffle with “Stranger to My Happiness”, pop out guitar and horn notes with its promises in “I’ll Still Be True”, and slide on a slow stroll through “Mama Don’t like My Man”. Miss Sharon Jones deserves a marquee status whether on stage or movie theatre screen, and a full listing of upcoming debut screenings can be found on the band’s website. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings stay “Longer and Stronger” as they define themselves and their music with each note.

Listen and buy the music of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings from AMAZON or iTunes

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Rod Melancon (from the album LA 14)  - Rod Melancon uses LA 14 as a tease for an upcoming full length due later this year as it turns a musical page for the next chapter in the work of the Delta-born singer/songwriter. Rod is a son of South Louisiana, and his early years sing out on the songs of LA 14 as his words form the characters and the stories. Rod Melancon grew up in the shadow of Angola Prison, walking the same ground and channeling the same raw Blues as Lead Belly, who called the area home. LA 14 is an audio scrap book for Rod Melancon, pasting images of his childhood on the songs, introducing characters he is as proud to call family as he much as he feels the need to chronicle, and learn, from their choices.  

The tales that line the walls of LA 14 do not pull punches. They are graphic reproductions of the events that they reflect. You can meet cousin “Perry” as Rod Melancon shares the brutal story of a lost brother on a bombast of power chords in “Lights of Carencro”, and hangs the melody on a lazy sway as grade school days are relived for “Dwayne and Me”. Brian Whelan is the producer for LA 14, giving natural swampy South Louisiana arrangements an open landscape of California Country echoes. Twang blows in on the breeze from “By Her Side” as Rod Melancon saddles up to ride a Western rhythm to head to the honky tonk with “A Man like Me Shouldn't Own a Gun”.

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Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers (from the album Little Black Heart) - The seductive shake in Ruby Dee’s voice grips around Little Black Heart, the latest release from Roby Dee and the Snakehandlers. Guitar and sax riffs are the entry into Little Black Heart, as the band launch into “Not for Long”, setting the bar for the album’s other tracks with a slither and a shimmy. Little Black Heart introduces “Mean Mean Woman” on a huff and puff of chords, switches out the prison sentence on a jailhouse rock rhythm from all locked up and into “All Knocked Up”, wiggles into the groove of “The Way I Walk”, and pop outs rhythm so that Ruby Dee can swing from the microphone on “Can You Spare a Match?”. Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers wrestle the guitar strings into line to march over a solid beat that asks “Who Do You Think I Am”, hop on the back of a wild horse jangle as jealousy takes the lead role in “I See Green”, and tiptoe in to pull the tale from “Pretty Little Kitty” before the beat jumps up to scratch its back.

Ruby Dee is coming back from a motorbike accident leaving her with a severe head injury that compromised her memory and focus. She is back behind the microphone as she saddles up to ride the western breeze that blows through the title track as shetwitches with the confessions of “When I Steal”, and puts a pin in bravado of the guy in the ‘’54 Chevy and the creeper shoes’ with “You Underwhelm Me”.

Listen and buy the music of Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers from AMAZON or iTunes

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Chris Murphy (from the album Surface to Air) - Think of Chris Murphy as a minstrel, a modern day musician taking his violin into the studio to entertain listeners with Surface to Air, his recent release.  The tracks on the album are balanced between vocals and instrumentals. Chris is the voice of the storyteller in the title track as the riffs lock into place, staying true to their origins as they push forward.  His violin is the emotional heart of Surface to Air, sawing and sweating on the thick Rock beat of “Dead Weight”, plucking a scratchy swamp rhythm from “Bugulussa Blues”, puffing out its chest with “The Hunter and the Fox”, gliding gracefully in circles for “The Oscar Wilde Waltz”, and an taking tastes from the Mideast to flavor “Music for a Feast”.

The music is a fit for Chris Murphy, who never veered away from what he realized was a true life path. Chris knows that ‘in another era, I would have played square dances, and loved it. I would have been a court musician in Versailles in the 17th Century, or a violinist in a circus orchestra’. Family history twirls as it teeters on the edge over “Vernon Tool and Die” while Surface to Air chronicles another time in “Elmira Prison Camp”,   and watches an era pass on a Folk ramble in “Last of the Twickenham Blackbirds”.

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Massy Ferguson (from the album Right It Right into the Wall) - There is a certain rock’n’roll language that Massy Ferguson speak. At its heart, it is three chords and the truth, a couple of minutes that look you in the eye and tell you something about yourself no one else had the guts to spit out. Anthems play to a universal community as Run It Right into the Wall takes confident strides to move “Away from the Devil”, orders a last call against sharp snare hits heading into “Santa Fe”, squints out notes to read hurtful headlines in “Front Page News”, and fires up the engines with rocket blast guitars to “Set the Sun”.  

The sound of Run It Right into the Wall lives on the street. Hanging out in fast food parking lots and city parks before wheels show an exit and it becomes music pouring out of open car windows as it the highway. A sturdy strut sets the pace on album opener “Gallipoli”, continuing the beat as guitar jangle reflects love trouble in “Firewater” as a Bluesy Twang chews “Dogbone”. Chiming guitars chomp down on “Special Meds”, putting the pedal down to the floor and barreling the track through Run It Right into the Wall as Massy Ferguson show a character that can’t stop falling down as he walks on rhythm that never stops moving forward with pride in “Making It”.

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Tomato Tomato (from the album I Go Where You Go) - Tomato Tomato serve up Bluegrass from Canada’s Atlantic coast on their recent release,I Go Where You Go. The album celebrates an anniversary as Tomato Tomato scribe the decades long love affair of Al and Ida in “The Best We'll Ever Know”, strum a sharp-edged lullaby with “Back to Eden”, lend a helping hand with the advice of “Everything You Need”, and let a patter of percussion rise up to bake up “Lemon Pie”. The band is led by husband and wife duo John and Lisa McLaggan, who center the band surrounded by top notch Canadian Bluegrass players.

I Go Where You Go shakes the dust off traditional string band work as Tomato Tomato pick and pluck with an infectious energy, tapping out notes as they search for “Peg Leg Joe”, lift up the beat with the fast footwork of a white collar life in “Running Like Hell”, buzz and hum along with the rails in a train station getaway tale in “Ain’t Dead Yet”. The band tell secrets with the bathtub jazz of “Steal Ya”, and never stop for a breath on a double time rhythm chase through “Rabbit in a Log”. Tenderness slows the pace as Tomato Tomato use memories to miss someone special in “I Never Knew Her Name”.

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The Royal Hounds (from the album Poker All Night Long) - The Royal Hounds collaborate equally on songs and stage tricks, making the music of trio the only thing that does not stay in Sin City as they become rockabilly ambassadors from their homebase of Las Vegas, Nevada. The slap of Scott Hinds upright bass drops like the weather warnings in “Make It Hail” as Glenn McCallum’s guitar shakes along with the spirit of “Elvis Haunting My Bathroom” and Scott ‘Bramblebusch’ Billingsley manically keeps the gypsy beat for “Mema Wants to Dance”. Poker All Night Long, the latest release from The Royal Hounds, plays every hand like it is the last deal as it stretches out the surf sound of “Long Reef”, wraps around Leon Payne’s warped mind for a version of “Psycho”, and dances to the edge of the night with “Apocalypse Boogie”. The Royal Hounds seduce with pounding drums as they open Poker All Night Long with “On the Verge” and stomp out a railway rhythm as they pound the beat of “Train Kept a-Rollin'”.

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Taylor Alexander (from the album Real Good at Saying Goodbye) - Georgia-native Taylor Alexander moved back and forth across the United States as part of touring bands for five years. The Nashville, Tennessee-based musician makes his debut as a solo artist with his recently released Real Good at Saying Goodbye. Taylor’s voice is the perfect fit for the Country honesty of the title track, balancing the exits in the story line with equal amounts of pain and pride in his heartfelt confessions.

Taylor Alexander strums through his own thoughts as he looks at decisions in the rear view mirror of “Wishing My Life Away” as Real Good at Saying Goodbye plays a tune for a honky tonk dance floor as it pours change into the jukebox and the bartender cuts off the drinks for “Break My Heart Tonight”.

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Paul Kelly (from the album Seven Sonnets and a Song) - Over the course of a career that dates back to the 1970’s, Paul Kelly has amassed a collection of fans. For the listeners who rabidly hang on, waiting for each new release, they will be happy to know that Paul Kelly is the same sort of fan. The Australian singer/songwriter is an avid follower of William Shakespeare, and is the proud owner of a forty-four pound, three volume series, Collected Works of William Shakespeare. Paul Kelly uses his guitar to write the music on Seven Sonnets and a Song, his latest release, going to his own library shelves to borrow the words from Shakespeare. Paul does not feel competitive, nodding to the master wordsmith by pointing out that ‘just about anything you want to say, Shakespeare’s said it already’.

Australian vocalist Vika Bull joins Paul Kelly on “My True Love Hath My Heart”, the only tune without the WS stamp on the words, offering lyrics from a contemporary of the English writer, Sir Philip Sidney. Seven Sonnets and a Song was recorded over a period of eighteen months in various studios. The musical base takes varied styles for the words handed down from the Elizabethan Age. Opening track “Sonnet 138” sidles in Jazz noir, the words moving through a fog-like melody line ruled by bass and piano. Sparse piano notes lay down for Paul Kelly to read “Sonnets 44 and 45” as “Sonnet 18” sails on scratchy sea shanty-style tune, darkness rises from a determined guitar strum, and “Sonnet 73” walks down a midway of carnival sounds. Seven Sonnets and a Song exits with tender questions as Paul Kelly addresses “O Mistress Mine” over sparkling string plucks.

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Jonah Tolchin (from the album Thousand Mile Night) - Singing from experience for many musicians becomes taking pages from their tour diaries and putting the words to music. That is the backdrop for the songs on Thousand Mile Night ,the recent Yep Roc Records release from Jonah Tolchin. Produced by Jonah and Marvin Etzioni (solo, Lone Justice), Thousand Mile Night travels along roads that lead from show to show, with Jonah citing that ‘these songs come from the joy, pain, and everything in-between that emerge from this way of life’. The album opens with grace as Jonah Tolchin suggests that it is our own eyes that see “Beauty of the Ugliest of Days”. His voice rises up amid rhythmic echoes wondering “Where the Hell are All My Friends”, and rests within a percussive Folk ramble as loneliness finds itself in Memphis in a “Song About Home”.

Soul and Roots are the musical backdrop for Thousand Mile Night, recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Late night ghosts flicker and fly by in the rhythms of the title track as the story moves from ‘Mobile to Michigan’. A Blues guitar teases and taunts as Jonah Tolchin sings of  “Working Man’s Blues” and whispers over gently rolling rhythms in “Paint My Love” as he rides a Western range of strums and drumbeats for “I Wonder”, and drifts over finger-plucked acoustic Blues in “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues”. Southern Soul and Sunday morning salvation comes together as Jonah Tolchin creates a one-world religion with a simple sermon in “Unless You Got Faith”.

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National Park Radio (from the album The Great Divide) - For such an old soul, National Park Radio’s Stefan Szabo is a late bloomer. Stefan began songwriting at age twenty-seven after marrying at eighteen and fathering two daughters by twenty-one years old. There is a timelessness to his songs on The Great Divide, the debut from National Park Radio. The themes that span The Great Divide could be drawn from any period of history. The stories are of personal exploration, the need of humans to find an exit for adventure, whether the path is through virgin wilderness or a great expanse of space. National Park Radio balance that drive to discover with the love of family and home.  Indie Folk and Americana music backs the tales in The Great Divide as the album addresses “Virginia” over simple notes while “Ghost” is haunted by raspy strums and fiddle swirls, and “The Walking Song” breezes by on banjo chords and twinkling notes.

National Park Radio have a plan to make the world at large a better place to live in by starting the first steps within your own life. Instruments slowly come together in the opening of “There is a Fire” before the playing joins in to put a spark under the flames of freedom rising from the words. The Great Divide preaches perseverance on “I Will Go On”, encourages to “Rise Above” wagging tongues and a path strewn with difficulties as it speaks to hearts, having a talk with young love (“Steady”) and the deep intricacies of relationships (“Monochrome”). The warmth of acoustic Roots music nurtures the songs of National Park Radio, cradling the rhythm with a sway as “Once Upon a Time” tells a story of spirit.

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Colvin & Earle (from the album Colvin & Earle) - A magical chemistry comes from the joined vocals of Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle on the duo’s recent self-named release, Colvin & Earle. The thought of pairing came to Shawn Colvin after a tour with Mary Chapin Carpenter. Shawn recalls that ‘I found I really enjoy sharing the stage with someone for the whole evening. I love being a backup musician, I love singing harmony and being a rhythm guitar player and getting to be entertained by another artist I admire. Touring alone is something I do very well and it's the right thing for me, but it was a nice change to have this camaraderie and repartee with someone onstage, and when I thought about who else I'd like to share that with, I immediately thought of Steve’. What began as a few one-off shows became a studio project that took place in Nashville, in the home studio of Buddy Miller, who produces and plays baritone guitar on the recording as part of a band that includes Wood Brother Chris Wood on bass, Richard Bennett (guitar), and Fred Eltringham (Willie Nelson, Kacey Musgraves).

Folk music rules Colvin & Earle as Shawn and Steve co-pen tunes that could easily fit into the genre’s heyday, particularly when Folk married Rock. The pair’s penned tunes (“Come What May”, “The Way We Do”, “Happy and Free”) fit like puzzle pieces into tracks from the past, such as John D. Loudermilk’s Nashville Teens hit “Tobacco Road” as well as Ian and Sylvia’s “You Were on My Mind”. Colvin & Earle covers other writers as the twosome blend voices on Emmylou Harris’ “Raise the Dead” and The Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday”. A sixties political stance puts a stomp stamp on a gospel tale re-written for modern times as a search for salvation that seeks a land of milk and honey crosses over time to Selma, Alabama and Ferguson, Missouri in “Tell Moses”.   

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Chelle Rose (from the album Blue Ridge Blood) - There are nooses hanging from the family tree of Chelle Rose as she exorcises ghosts on her recent release, Blue Ridge Blood. Chelle sings for the hungry faces gathered around a “Paintsville Table” as a miner does his best to trade coal for food as she digs deep into self-disclosure with “Hidin’ Hole”, takes joy watching a “Mean Grandpappy” dropped into a Knoxville grave, and rattles percussive chains to “Reckon with the Devil”. Blue Ridge Blood proudly tells its truths in the title track with Buddy Miller lending his voice for harmony. The life, times, and songs of Chelle Rose blend together as she reveals the why’s and how’s that make her the woman she is, confessing that it was not necessarily in the same key as the hopes of her mama in “Sing Pretty”.

There is an edge that can cut in the scratchy instrumentation that backs the story in “Dammit Darlin’” as a graveyard stomp rises up to take over the track. Her mother gave Chelle Rose heritage on ‘both sides of the mountain” with East Tennessee and western North Carolina roots though the credit for the chords that back her tunes trace their roots back to her father’s side of the family, a long line of Knoxville, Tennessee musicians. Blue Ridge Blood flows with memories as the past echoes in the train whistle passing through “Southern 4501” as Chelle Rose introduces “Gypsy Rubye” over a distorted psychedelia of deep, dark Country and tears a hole in expectations as she spits out a goodbye in “Not Your Girl”.

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Dear County (from the album Low Country) - California Country Soul resides in Dear County as the Bay Area-based band deliver their debut, Low Country. Arrica Rose (vocals) and Mark W. Lynn (guitar) bonded over a love of Country music to form Dear County, many years after the pair first met in SoCal, both in bands based in the Southern California breeding ground traditions of Punk Rock. Low Country offers Mark’s guitar work as the grounding foundation for the band as the vocals rise, rise a little more, and finally soar over the songs. Arrica Rose plays the one left behind with a force that will shred the skin of her departing lover in “Oh My Darling” as the guitar gently weeps, breaks with a whisper as “Losing Leaves” backdrops against cascading guitar notes, and wraps a tight grip on the story line in “Spun” as Mark W. Lynn’s strings swirl and twist around the melody.  

Crunchy chords rip calendar pages from the seasons as they fall through winter, summer, and spring in “On and On” while Low Country gently watches a mother leaves a family home in “Ain't It Pretty (How a Heart Breaks)” and plays an Alt Country tune for the couples slowly turning in “Baby, Let’s Dance”. Dear County nod to influences as the band puts a twang to Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere”.

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Roland Johnson (from the album Imagine This) - Vocally, Roland Johnson has touches of Otis Redding and James Brown. The secret ingredient in the songs, however, is tasty vocals of the sixty-eight year old, St. Louis-born Soul man. Imagine This is the latest release from Roland Johnson and the sound of sweet soul music puts Roland alongside Renee Smith as the pair search for “Promised Land” while he sings a memory to “Mother” over a smooth groove, bullet points a resume of the heart as he slows the rhythm to simmer with “Aint’ That Loving You”, and follows the strum of an acoustic guitar to bring him out of a dream and into “Someone to Love”. 

Imagine This puts Roland Johnson behind the microphone for Soul struts (“Can't Get Enough”), funky gospel-tinged grooves (“Keep on Dancin”), Bluesy Rock’n’Roll (“The Things You Do”), and uncaps a genie’s bottle to let out a Big Joe Turner rhythm on the title track.

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Mason Porter (from the album Heart of the Mountains) - The music of Mason Porter soars over “Yosemite”, giving wing to free-form string band Roots on the Pennsylvania band’s recent release, Heart of the Mountains. The five-piece meld Bluegrass and Folk Rock into a transcendent symphony of sound on the album as they gently remember a Civil War-era mournful wish for home with “Shenandoah”, wander through dream-like melodies with “You and I”, and open a “Box of Answers” on freckled guitar notes before walking with a confident beat into a generational thank you.

Mason Porter brought their instruments to parties in West Chester, PA to play covers, formally taking on a band name and rising to stages in 2006. Heart of the Mountains celebrates a decade of playing together as Mason Porter board a freight train rhythm heading off on a fast track to “See America”, and spin like a top as they circle around “Heart of the Mountain” on the title tune.

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The Bills (from the album Trail of Tales) - Canadian quintet The Bills mark Trail of Tales (their recent album release) with milestones that the group has collected over their twenty years together. History provides a wide range of Roots for the band to choose from as backing for the tunes. A sea breeze blows in on the lightly plucked notes and gentle sway of “West Bay Crossing” before the wind of an assured fiddle riff takes the track flying on an equally confident current. Trail of Tales harmonizes on mortality with “When the Last Leaf Falls”, marches on the footfall beats of “She Went Up”, dances to the acoustic Funk of “Jungle Doctor”, and rocks on the Country flavor of “What Trouble Is”.

The double decade of playing together has given The Bills and intuition born of the ability to listen to one another as well as playing as a unit. Old English Folk plays the fiddle in “Forgotten Beach Grove” as The Bills whisper notes for a “Lullaby for Elephants”, step lightly over “Pebble Beach”, wander through dreamlike chambers of music in “Wonder”, and fire up the beat for a honky tonk haberdashery window display in “Hittin’ the Do”.

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Boo Ray (from the album Sea of Lights) - Nashville nightclubs, Georgia juke joints, and stages from the Gulf Coast to the shoreline of Los Angeles have been the backdrop for Boo Ray to hone the sound of his branded of Truckstop Rhythm and Blues. Boo Ray returns with a new album, Sea of Lights, a follow-up to his 2010 release, Bad News Travels Fast. The success of the album still surprises Boo Ray, who says that ‘I am shocked that such a hustlers scavenger album is still getting airplay on XM radio’s Outlaw Country and other stations around the country’. Sea of Lights puts producer Noah Shain back into the studio with Boo Ray as the pair offer a beefy bottom to the tracks, providing a city street beat to the natural Country of the songs.

Boo Ray leads with his own likes as he talks about what gives him a smile, opening Sea of Lights with “Redneck Rock'n'Roll” as heads onto the dance floor for a two-stepping hillbilly waltz. He grabs a red eye flight to Los Angeles on the title track as Sea of Lights orders “One More Round” through a thick hazy barroom sway, stomps the beat to the floor on “Keep the Hammer Down”, rustles up a honky tonk rhythm to pass love around to friends with “I Got the Jug”, and goes to church on a farmers holy trinity remedy in “A Melody, Some Guitars, and a Rhyme”. Scratchy guitars throw out wild seeds of notes for “Chicken” as a high hat taps out a message on the wire that “Bad News Travels Fast”. Boo Ray closes the door on Sea of Lights as he opens the door for some ‘honky tonking, juking, and jiving”, taking a seat at the bar to toast the cast of characters that leave their ‘politics and religion at the door’ in “Johnny’s Tavern”.

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NEW VIDEO FROM THE ETHER

SHOVELS AND ROPE - I KNOW

Shovels and Rope will release their highly anticipated new West Records album release, Little Seeds, on October 7, 2016. The pair decorate for the occasion with the video for “I Know”, liberally sprinkling the video with feathers and spangles.

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SHOVELS AND ROPE - ST. ANNE'S PARADE

Rather than getting ready for their upcoming album release (10-07-16) New West Records release of Little Seeds, Shovels and Rope have a more important task at hand. The pair are getting ready to celebrate, and are picking out something special for “St. Anne’s Parade”.

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HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER - TELL HER I'M DANCING

Hiss Golden Messenger set off on a world tour from frontman MC Taylor’s home state of North Carolina. The tour supports the band’s upcoming Merge Records release, Heart like a Levee. Hiss Golden Messenger offer a sneak hear for the album with a video of the track “Tell Her I’m Dancing”.

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NEW AND NOTEWORTHY

QUIERO CREEDENCE - VARIOUS ARTISTS

QUIERO CREEDENCE - VARIOUS ARTISTS

Various Artists (from the album Quiero Creedence on Concord Records ) - Top Latin American musicians push their way to the front of the stage to become fans with Quiero Creedence . North American radios in the 1960’s were not the only speakers blaring the hits of Creedence Clearwater Revival as the swamp music of CCR filtered into the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. Quiero Creedence (I Want Creedence) is a multilingual translation of the songs that have become part of a world musical fabric. Latin artists suc...

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COLVIN & EARLE - COLVIN & EARLE

COLVIN & EARLE - COLVIN & EARLE

Colvin & Earle (from the album Colvin & Earle) - A magical chemistry comes from the joined vocals of Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle on the duo’s recent self-named release, Colvin & Earle . The thought of pairing came to Shawn Colvin after a tour with Mary Chapin Carpenter. Shawn recalls that ‘I found I really enjoy sharing the stage with someone for the whole evening. I love being a backup musician, I love singing harmony and being a rhythm guitar player and getting to be entertained by anot...

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CHIP TAYLOR - LITTLE BROTHERS

CHIP TAYLOR - LITTLE BROTHERS

Chip Taylor (from the album Little Brothers) - Chip Taylor introduced the world to his older brothers in his album Yonkers. NY and welcomes more of the Voight family in with his recently released, Little Brothers . Chip brings next generation voices to the microphone as Riley, Kate, and Samantha Voight-Ennis join him in harmony to bring attention to “Refugee Children”. He pulls out the family photo album, pointing to his older sibling riding with his granddaughter, Alex, who is bringing home the gold ...

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MAKING THE LIST

TOP 50 ALBUMS 2016 JAN THRU JUNE - PART 1 #1 THRU #25

TOP 50 ALBUMS 2016  JAN THRU JUNE - PART 1 #1 THRU #25

The selection of always the most difficult for our So Far list, and 2016 is no exception. The artists in the Roots community continually raise the bar for quality as they redefine the traditions in Country, Folk, Bluegrass. Americana, Blues, and Rock. The Top 50 So Far list is broken into two parts. Take a moment and go back to the music released in January, February, March, April, May, and June as we offer the music of 2016 with our Top 50 So Far lists of the best in American Roots music.

01 Stur...

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TOP 50 ALBUMS SO FAR 2016 - PART 2 #26 THRU #50

TOP 50 ALBUMS SO FAR 2016 - PART 2 #26 THRU #50

The selection of always the most difficult for our So Far list, and 2016 is no exception. The artists in the Roots community continually raise the bar for quality as they redefine the traditions in Country, Folk, Bluegrass. Americana, Blues, and Rock. The Top 50 So Far list is broken into two parts. Take a moment and go back to the music released in January, February, March, April, May, and June as we offer the music of 2016 with our Top 50 So Far lists of the best in American Roots music.

26 Tomm...

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THE ALTERNATE ROOT'S 30 WOMEN BURNING UP THE BLUES

THE ALTERNATE ROOT'S 30 WOMEN BURNING UP THE BLUES

Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Victoria Spivey, Helen Humes, Sippie Wallace, are names equally as famous in blues music history as Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Muddy Waters or Howlin' Wolf. Women were among the original innovators and performers of the blues. Women blues singers were among the first to be recorded. They hold as important a place in the history of traditional American blues as any men, and today, they are leading the way forward, creating a revival of blues music.

As we say go...

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FROM THE VAULTS

JD SOUTHER - BLACK ROSE

JD SOUTHER - BLACK ROSE

JD Souther   (from the album Black Rose on Omnivore Recordings ) - The recording of Black Rose took JD Souther five years to complete. The follow-up to his debut came after a critical success and a collaboration with Chris Hillman (The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers), and Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield, Poco) on the two-album project Souther/Hillman/Furay Band. Beyond notoriety from his first release, JD Souther found his name on the credits for many friends and contemporaries who were taking ...

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PAPA CHARLIE JACKSON - PAPA CHARLIE DONE SUNG THAT SONG

PAPA CHARLIE JACKSON - PAPA CHARLIE DONE SUNG THAT SONG

Papa Charlie Jackson (from the album Papa Charlie Done Sung That Song on Document Records ) - Very little is known about Papa Charlie Jackson. He was born in 1897 and a draft card marked his birthplace as New Orleans, Louisiana. Luckily, his musical history is noted in recordings and credits. Document Records has released Papa Charlie Done Sung That Song to celebrate his music, and give it a digital stamp in 2016. The album is a double disc which offers a unique presentation of music. The U.K.-based l...

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LITTLE RICHARD - DIRECTLY FROM THE HEART

LITTLE RICHARD - DIRECTLY FROM THE HEART

Little Richard    (form the album Little Richard, Directly from the Heart on Specialty Records through Concord Music Group ) - Richard Wayne Penniman was twenty-one years old when Art Rupe signed him to Specialty Records. Being in a family as one of twelve children gave Little Richard Penniman the need for a more attention than Leva Mae and Charles ‘Bud’ Penniman had to go around. Not unusual for kids from big families, though in the case of Little Richard, that desire was on steroids.

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MOVERS AND SHAKERS

MASON PORTER - HEART OF THE MOUNTAINS

MASON PORTER - HEART OF THE MOUNTAINS

Mason Porter (from the album Heart of the Mountains) - The music of Mason Porter soars over “Yosemite”, giving wing to free-form string band Roots on the Pennsylvania band’s recent release, Heart of the Mountains . The five-piece meld Bluegrass and Folk Rock into a transcendent symphony of sound on the album as they gently remember a Civil War-era mournful wish for home with “Shenandoah”, wander through dream-like melodies with “You and I”, and open a “Box of Answers” on freckled guitar notes before...

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CHELLE ROSE - BLUE RIDGE BLOOD

CHELLE ROSE - BLUE RIDGE BLOOD

Chelle Rose (from the album Blue Ridge Blood) - There are nooses hanging from the family tree of Chelle Rose as she exorcises ghosts on her recent release, Blue Ridge Blood . Chelle sings for the hungry faces gathered around a “Paintsville Table” as a miner does his best to trade coal for food as she digs deep into self-disclosure with “Hidin’ Hole”, takes joy watching a “Mean Grandpappy” dropped into a Knoxville grave, and rattles percussive chains to “Reckon with the Devil”. Blue Ridge Blood proudly...

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THE BILLS - TRAILS OF TALES

THE BILLS - TRAILS OF TALES

The Bills (from the album Trail of Tales) - Canadian quintet The Bills mark Trail of Tales (their recent album release) with milestones that the group has collected over their twenty years together. History provides a wide range of Roots for the band to choose from as backing for the tunes. A sea breeze blows in on the lightly plucked notes and gentle sway of “West Bay Crossing” before the wind of an assured fiddle riff takes the track flying on an equally confident current. Trail of Tales harmonizes ...

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MAKING THE LIST

The selection of always the most difficult for our So Far list, and 2016 is no exception. The artists in the Roots community continually raise the bar for quality as they redefine the traditions in Country, Folk, Bluegrass. Americana, Blues, and Rock. The Top 50 So Far list is broken into two parts. Take a moment and go back to the music released in January, February, March, April, May, and June as we offer the music of 2016 with our Top 50 So Far lists of the best in American Roots music.

01 Sturgill Simpson (from the album A Sailors Guide to Earth)  (4-15-16) - Well-deserved adjectives of praise have been heaped onto Sturgill Simpson for his recent release, A Sailors Guide to Earth. As a producer, Sturgill puts his own voice in as an instrument, a compass confidently pointing to the safety of land as Sturgill Simpson navigates a world of adventure hitting foreign shores ‘like a pollywog turning nineteen’ in “Sea Stories”.  Sturgill Simpson has created an immediate desert island disc, wisely including an old world map as part of the booklet on the physical album ‘cause if the water starts to get high, keep A Sailors Guide to Earth handy.

Listen and buy the music of Sturgill Simpson from AMAZON or iTunes

02 Elizabeth Cook (from the album of Exodus of Venus)    (6-17-16) - Emotion pours from Exodus of Venus, the recent release from Elizabeth Cook. The album is her first in six years, and the time between recordings gave Elizabeth plenty of pain and tragedy to stage her stories. A half dozen years of death and divorce, rehab and reconstruction build flesh and bone characters that walk the audio streets on Exodus of Venus. The tales use personal experience to expose their drama.  Elizabeth Cook gets dubbed a Country Outlaw. Given the title, it would seem that living without laws includes telling truths in real time in an effort to circumvent huge holes of hard times and work through life’s crippling challenges.

Listen and buy the music of Elizabeth Cook from AMAZON or iTunes

03 The Record Company (from the album Give It Back to You)    (2-12-16) - A snaking Blues riff is the pied piper drawing anyone within ear shot in to “Off the Ground”, the opening salvo from Give It Back to You, the Concord Records debut from The Record Company. The L.A.-based band are a three piece in the power trio style of Mountain, ZZ Top, and Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. The Blues has been receiving attention in releases honoring the roots of the genre. The Record Company go a different route by bringing The Blues back into Rock’n’Roll. Having only three members does not limit the band as TRC double dip on the talent of its rhythm section.

Listen and buy the music of The Record Company from AMAZON or iTunes

04 Charles Bradley (from the album Changes)  (4-1-16) - Charles Bradley titles his recent third album release Changes. Charles’ life has seen Changes in the past five years, skyrocketing the Daptone Records artist from a bleak existence on the streets of NYC into two triumphant album releases and becoming the subject for the 2012 documentary Charles Bradley: Soul of America. Changes is another step for Charles Bradley as he ascends that ladder of Soul, backing his songs with players from the Daptone Records talent pool, including members of Menahan Street Band, Budos Band, The Dap-Kings, and Charles’ touring band, The Extraordinaires.  

Listen and buy the music of Charles Bradley from AMAZON or iTunes

05 The Avett Brothers (from the album True Sadness)   (6-24-16) - As the career star of The Avett Brothers rises, providing hope and light for Roots and Americana peers, their musical output continues its path of comfort with thought-provoking rambles and easy rhythms. The Avett Brothers expand on their sound with True Sadness, bringing the production into the band’s catalog seamlessly, offering heavier studio touches on an equal footing with their natural take on acoustics.  The Avett Brothers have grown from the original core of two brothers, Seth and Scott Avett, into a larger stage group, expanding on the players and sound, filling out the family and recorded output organically from their base in North Carolina.

Listen and buy the music of The Avett Brothers from AMAZON or iTunes

06 Margo Price (from the album Midwest Famer’s Daughter)  (3-25-16) - On the album opener for Midwest Farmers Daughter, Margo Price goes back to the origins of Country Hardships and heartaches line the walls of Midwest Farmers Daughter though the stories that are framed do not show worn or broken faces. Margo Price’s voice is a trumpet call shouting out trip-up’s and triumphs as her stories battle with bottles and with the men still found floating at the bottom of the glass.  Margo Price left her Nashville mailing address and headed a little further west to record Midwest Farmers Daughter at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.

Listen and buy the music of Margo Price from AMAZON or iTunes

07 Hayes Carll (from the album Lovers and Leavers)  (4-8-16) - The voice is still the same. Hayes Carll grabs the notes going low to give edge, breaking a little as the moods bend. His latest album release, Lovers and Leavers, uses voice as an instrument to poke and jab, prying into corners where emotions hide as the pens that script Lovers and Leavers put humanity into their songs. The voices of the characters vary from past releases, however, as they speak their mind with straight-forward lines throughout Lovers and Leavers.

Listen and buy the music of Hayes Carll from AMAZON or iTunes

08 The Jayhawks (from the album Paging Mr. Proust)   (4-29-16) - It has been over thirty years since The Jayhawks formed in 1985 Minneapolis, hitting a stride with their American Recordings debut in 1992 (Hollywood Town Hall). Musically, The Jayhawks stayed true to the Country Rock sound they represented with their initial releases. Band break-ups and re-formings occurred over the years, and the current Jayhawks line-up for their recent release, Paging Mr. Proust, contains members of the 1997 touring group.  Founding member Gary Louris still drives The Jayhawks train and he pulls off a sound shift with Paging Mr.Proust that allows the songs of the band to grow and expand, pushing the sonic boundaries  in ways that the soft Country Rock and Americana of previous release could only experience as hints and touches. Paging Mr. Proust honors a sound that The Jayhawks minted and offered as influence to a legion of bands that followed.

Listen and buy the music of The Jayhawks from AMAZON or iTunes

09 Parker Millsap (from the album The Very Last Day)   (3-25-16) - With his songwriter status confirmed by NPR and Wall Street Journal acclaim, Parker Millsap uses The Very Last Day to stretch his musical potential, staying true to the Folk music that swept across the Oklahoma of his youth while giving his songs a contemporary feel through the modern observations of his characters. The backdrop for The Very Last Day became the landscape surrounding Parker Millsap as he crafted the stories. He told that he ‘was living in Guthrie (Oklahoma) when I wrote a lot of these songs. Oklahoma in the winter looks post-apocalyptic. We don’t have evergreen trees, and the grass turns brown to the point of colorlessness. Everything looks like skeletons and grayness’.

Listen and buy the music of Parker Millsap from AMAZON or iTunes

10 Robert Ellis (from the album Robert Ellis) (6-3-16) - Robert Ellis asks ‘how can you call it art when you’re sticking to a dotted line’ in “Elephant”. The story speaks to confronting issues within a relationship, hinting at a touring musician on one side of the line. Robert’s question seems a little random within the discussion, though it does speak loudly to the self-titled Robert Ellis release on New West Records. As a singer/songwriter, Robert Ellis seemingly has the ability to not edit his songs to fit format, mainstream or backwoods.  The album is meeting place for the Folk, Jazz, Country, and Pop music common ground that Robert Ellis deems equal partners for his words, an extension ladder to reach his emotions.

Listen and buy the music of Robert Ellis from AMAZON or iTunes

11 Daniel Romano (form the album Mosey)   (5-27-16) - Daniel Romano continues to remind Country music that it is a living, breathing art form. Daniel joins fellow artists (Sturgill Simpson, Kacey Musgraves, Chris Stapleton) who plug in and play Country music as they hear it. Mosey is the sound track for dreamy reveries, spaghetti western strings, and Indie jangle (“Maybe Remember Me”). Daniel Romano is a prolific performer, his album releases perfectly capturing each mood and theme that he brings into the studio as muse. His work in other mediums requiring attention to details, such as his leather work and graphic design, is brought into his songwriting as each track builds with subtle infusions of emotion and swatches of sound.

Listen and buy the music of Daniel Romano from AMAZON or iTunes

12 Paul Burch and the WPA Ballclub (from the album Meridian Rising)  (2-26-16) - The steps taken between an idea and the results can vary. For some, one or two paces is about as far as they get from the kernel of an idea to jumping in and hoping for the best. Paul Burch had an idea form in his mind for a tale, an audio biography of Jimmie Rodgers, the singing superstar of the late 1920’s and one of the first American musician to successfully blend various styles into hybrids. To put flesh to the plan, Paul dug through rare archives at the Country Music Hall of Fame, discussed Rodgers’ life with his biographers, and backed the stories with the music of his lifetime; the sounds and rhythms that came through Meridian, Mississippi, the hometown of Jimmie Rodgers. Paul Burch and the WPA Ballclub take the lead in Meridian Rising, an imagined autobiography of Jimmie Rodgers, the Blue Yodeler, the Singing Breakman.

Listen and buy the music of Paul Burch and the WPA Ballclub from AMAZON or iTunes

13 Eli Paperboy Reed (from the album My Way Home)   (6-10-16) - Eli Paperboy Reed was on a rocket ride career path when he made a name in the Boston Soul scene with flash fire live performances, recording with local powerhouse Q Division in 2007 before hopping through major label deals with Capital and Warner Brothers. His trajectory hovered when he lost his major label deal in 2014, turning the switch back on with his recent Yep Roc Records release, My Way Home. The album was tracked in four days, utilizing the analog gear of drummer Loren Humphrey (Guards, Cults), who assembled the collection of in his Brooklyn, New York loft‐turned‐recording studio.  My Way Home puts gospel into its vintage rock’n’roll, salvation into its stories. The songs are infused with spirit, Eli Reed not seeing the subject as for any particular religion or creed. Eli feels that ‘the idea of salvation doesn't have to mean salvation in terms of finding God. My goal is just to make good music that moves people and meets them wherever they are. So for me, salvation in this case is about getting out of a bad situation, about finding yourself in a tough spot and trying to find your way through it. It's about not letting yourself be pulled down by negative influences’.

Listen and buy the music of Eli Paperboy Reed from AMAZON or iTunes

14 Lucinda Williams (from the album Ghosts of Highway 20)  (2-5-16) - Lucinda Williams first road crush was Highway 20, now Interstate 20, a stretch of road that runs for 1500 miles from South Carolina to Texas. The Ghost of Highway 20 joins the road with the spirits of venerated white lines such as Route 66 and the Pacific Coast Highway. The stories see no borders as they cross from the life of their author and into the lives that line the highway. On the personal side, Lucinda Williams passes by childhood homes, the final resting place of her mother, and the crossroads that became signposts on her further journeys. Lucinda Williams sees the road as ‘it is literally a map of my life in a lot of ways. We were driving between shows and between cities, and I kept seeing things that brought me back to times and places in my past. Like when we played Macon, Georgia, a place I lived when I was five or six years old. I got out of the bus and I was transported back to when I saw this street singer, Blind Pearly Brown. It was like nothing had changed. All these things started percolating in my brain, and the songs just came’.

Listen and buy Lucinda Williams from AMAZON

15 Carrie Rodriquez (from the album Lola)  (2-19-16) - Carrie Rodriguez is building an altar of song on her recent release, Lola. The candles she lights are in honor of Lola Beltran, held by Mexico as their most popular ranchera-style singer. Based in Mexico City, Lola Beltran became known as Lola La Grande (Lola the Great), playing for world leaders from the U.S., performing before presidents from Eisenhower through Nixon, as well as heads of government in Russia, Spain, France, Yugoslavia, and many more. Carrie Rodriguez performs Lola as a bilingual project, and welcomes guests Bill Frissell and Raul Malo in the spots on the album. For an English-only audience, Carrie translates her Spanish language vocals with emotion.

Listen and buy the music of Carrie Rodriguez from AMAZON or iTunes

16 The James Hunter Six (from the album Hold On!)  (2-5-16) - James Hunter has been building a career steadily for the past decade. The mission that James has taken on is Soul music, and over the course of four studio recordings, he has been fine-tuning the songs. The James Hunter Six serve up tracks minted in a Vintage sound for a Modern era, successfully presenting analog warmth for digital times on tunes that wear their cool as a badge of honor. The latest release from The James Hunter Six, Hold On!, is the band’s first on Brooklyn’s Daptone Records. The band went to Daptone in-house producer, Gabriel Roth, to helm the recording which was done live to 8-track tape. It was the second time the band worked with Roth, giving James Hunter a comfort level in the studio, satisfied when he realized that ‘“The great thing about working with Gabe is that he can get our tunes on tape exactly the way I heard them in my head when I was writing them’.

Listen and buy the music of The James Hunter Six from AMAZON or iTunes

17 Penny and Sparrow (from the album Let A Lover Drown You)   (3-11-16) - Lush, gorgeous, luminescent….all words that fit for the vocals of Penny and Sparrow on the duo’s third album release, Let a Lover Drown You. Voices harmonize, blend, weave, and wander together in song as they try hard to fit or somehow line up naturally. Kyle Jahnke and Andy Baxter met as roommates at University of Texas and their vocals found a home in the deep thought Folk of artists such as Bon Iver, Simon and Garfunkel, and The Swell Season. Musically, the pair are surrounded by the sounds of music that blends as well as the harmonies on Let a Lover Drown You, the album produced by John Paul White (The Civil Wars) and Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes). The album title Let a Lover Drown You is a big clue to the more poetic lean to the lyrics of Andy Baxter as Kyle Jahnke matches words to music. Penny and Sparrow offer a listening experience with Let a Lover Drown You, offering moods in its melodies and time for both trouble and triumph in its stories.

Listen and buy the music of Penny and Sparrow from AMAZON or iTunes

18 Toronzo Cannon – The Chicago Way  (2-26-16) - Toronzo Cannon takes a cue from guerilla warfare with his guitar playing. His riffs are quick hits, snake bites of notes, snapping out and back before you can feel the sting. Toronzo’s riffs are like razors accenting his words on The Chicago Way, his recent debut with Alligator Records. His playing is based in the Chicago tradition where he has developed and grown over the past ten years. His stories mirror the lives around him, culled and crafted from working as a bus driver on the West Side where he had a traveling fishbowl view of the life around him. The Chicago Way showcases the force that is Toronzo Cannon. The album (co-produced by Toronzo and Alligator Record head Bruce Iglauer) stacks stories that slash and cut with the same efficiency as the guitar playing.

Listen and buy the music of Toronzo Cannon from AMAZON or iTunes

19 Wild Ponies (from the album Radiant)   (5-13-16) - Some words are special, almost magical in the way they present as images in our minds. Radiant, the recent release from Wild Ponies, is one of those words. By definition, Radiant is ‘sending out light; shining or glowing brightly’. Pretty description, and the tunes of Wild Ponies can certainly be beautiful, like the way they let the title track drift on clouds on electric guitar notes before the beat arrives through open the window facing the night sky.  Digging a little deeper into Radiant defines the word as ‘a point or object from which light or heat radiates, especially a heating element in an electric or gas heater’. That nails it for Radiant as the Wild Ponies play the soundtrack coming directly from venues throughout their East Nashville neighborhood, as the album makes as little distinctions as the bands as to what is Rock’n’Roll, Country, Blues, Folk, Americana, Soul, and their hybrids.

Listen and buy the music of Wild Ponies from AMAZON or iTunes

20 Dave Cobb (from the album Southern Family)   (3-11-16) - Initially, the idea for a concept album left Dave Cobb pretty flat. The Nashville-based producer paid attention when the light bulb went off to give the album a wider scope. Southern Family is a collection of artists that Dave has worked with on production, offering songs they authored or cover for the project.  The album focuses on growing up in the South, times with friends and family.  As a producer, Dave Cobb is as much a part of whatever new sound fans here in the music of Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, Shooter Jennings, and Chris Stapleton. His work on albums such as Traveler (Chris Stapleton), Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (Sturgill Simpson) and Something More Than Free (Jason Isbell) put Dave Cobb at ground zero for a shift in music. He has become family with the artists he works, and they return the favor on Southern Family.

Listen and buy the music of Dave Cobb from AMAZON or iTunes

21 Bonnie Bishop (from the album Ain’t Who I Was)   (5-27-16) - The career of Bonnie Bishop was stripped down to the skeleton as she left Nashville for her family home in Texas. Friends at Thirty Tigers suggested she get in touch with producer Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson). Dave saw, or more precisely, heard the Soul that was left after Bonnie’s dreams of working in Country music had shut the door. Ain’t Who I Was is the most recent release from Bonnie Bishop, the result of the pairing with Dave Cobb sitting in the producer’s chair. Bonnie’s training in Gospel as the only white in a black choir and her natural ability to dig into the emotional heart of a song, make the Soul transition seamless as Ain’t Who I Was shows the change in words and music. The Country Soul of the title track is subtle with soft strings and warm organ chords as guitar notes weave and wind underneath a vocal with Bonnie Bishop standing tall, owning the past and embracing the future.

Listen and buy the music of Bonnie Bishop from AMAZON or iTunes

22 Charlie Faye and the Fayettes (from the album Charlie Faye and the Fayettes)   (6-10-16) - The easiest way to explain Charlie Faye and the Fayettes, the self-title release from an Austin-based trio is to talk about the band. The three women of Charlie Faye and the Fayettes put harmony and heart into every song, using a Vintage 1960’s audio glow to warm the sound track. They are samples of a world culture with Jewish, Korean, and African-American heritage, sharing height, standing at 5’1” in pre-heels. Charlie Faye takes the lead, stepping in with more of a crooner role than her previous Roots releases. She is joined in girl-group harmony by two established solo artists and background vocalists, BettySoo and Akina Adderley. Charlie Faye and the Fayettes uses the Vintage sound of 1960’s Pop to seduce with a sonic sweet spot on the recent release. Charlie Faye was drawn to the harmonies in the music from the era, set against a moving rock’n’roll beat that welcomed touches of Soul, and Twang in the music of Darlene Love, Dusty Springfield, The Ronettes, and The Shirelles.

Listen and buy the music of Charlie Faye and the Fayettes from AMAZON or iTunes

23 Darrell Scott (from the album Couchville Sessions)   (5-13-16) - Darrell Scott has a peaceful presence that translates into audio waves on his most recent release, Couchville Sessions. Being in the middle of a constant music stream could cause less hands-on captains to allow the current to carry them. Darrell Scott steers his personal life with the same care he gives to placing notes and words in songs, building a sustainable lifestyle outside of Nashville on the Cumberland Plateau. Darrell cares for his family by heating with wood, utilizing solar energy, and growing their own food. The tracks on Couchville Sessionsreflect the way Darrell lives; they are a natural product of his unapologetic approach to making music and living life. 

Listen and buy the music of Darrell Scott from AMAZON or iTunes

24 Yarn (from the album This is the Year)   (5-27-16) - This is the Year and this is the album for Yarn. Blake Christiana has stitched together comforters for kiss-off goodbyes, bad decisions, and rocky romance since Yarn’s 2007 self-titled debut. The band was Brooklyn-based through five album releases, carving out a name, a fan base with its own flag as Yarmy, and a spot on the Americana bandwagon since it was just a hayride. This is the Year reflects the pen of Blake Christiana, and his characters still have a smirk and a smile, happy to make a joke of where they land on the ladder to take out the sting of life. There is a change, however, to the mood in the tales that is a new breeze in the songs of Yarn. As they band sets up base in North Carolina, This is the Year reflects an optimism that strides through the title track on a confident beat as a snaggly guitar line waves a flag for new beginnings.

Listen and buy the music of Yarn from AMAZON or iTunes

25 Levi Parham (from the album These American Blues)  (6-24-16) - Levi Parham follows two successful E.P. releases (An Okie Opera, Avalon Drive) with his first full length, the Music Road Records release, These American Blues. Levi strides into the songs with confidence. These American Bluesstays true to Tulsa time with its groove as Levi Parham spreads Soul over the tracks with his vocals.While his voice has a natural Soul delivery, Levi Parham works magic with multiple touches of Folk, Country, and Blues on These American Blues.

Listen and buy the music of Levi Parham from AMAZON or iTunes

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The selection of always the most difficult for our So Far list, and 2016 is no exception. The artists in the Roots community continually raise the bar for quality as they redefine the traditions in Country, Folk, Bluegrass. Americana, Blues, and Rock. The Top 50 So Far list is broken into two parts. Take a moment and go back to the music released in January, February, March, April, May, and June as we offer the music of 2016 with our Top 50 So Far lists of the best in American Roots music.

26 Tommy Womack (from the album Namaste)  (5-20-16) - Tommy Womack is a chameleon through his various musical projects, saving the heart of his stories for solo outings as he presents a life lived on Namaste, his recent album release. Tommy Womack says hello to the world with the ancient Sanskrit greeting, Namaste, as he addresses citizenship in his own world, chronicling life with a happy joy based in the realization that, against all odds, he has made it to 2016.

Listen and buy the music of Tommy Womack from AMAZON or iTunes

27 Brad Armstrong (from the album Empire)   (1-15-16) - Brad Armstrong experiments with sounds on Empire, his latest solo release. The album experiments Roots music, melodically moving in the darker shades as the music rolls and tumble under the stories of Brad Armstrong. Empire strikes chords mostly played from the hand of Brad Armstrong, with Maria Taylor (Azure Ray, solo) backing on harmonies, and Jason Lucia (13Ghosts, Deadstring Brothers) on drums. Empire brings Jason back together with former bandmate  in 13Ghosts, Brad Armstrong.    

Listen and buy the music of Brad Armstrong from AMAZON or iTunes

28 The Monkees (from the album Good Times)   (5-27-16) - Not that long ago I would have said The Monkees were a guilty pleasure. The band’s recent release, Good Times, moves aside any guilt to proudly get in line as a fan. Good Times is the album that The Monkees have put together to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary as a band. The three surviving members, Mike Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz, and Peter Tork, put playing and vocals into the album. The tracks that line Good Times are a mix of band originals added into the template that worked on The Monkees early albums of tunes written specifically for the group.

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29 The Lumineers (from the album Cleopatra)   (4-8-16) - The Lumineers became a Roots music success story with the mega-hit status of their tune “Ho Hey” and healthy chart presence for the following singles. Roots music was in the mainstream, giving The Lumineers a unique position in the Roots music community with a million selling album. Handling success is as much of a challenge as somehow finding the path that gets you there. Cleopatra, the latest release from The Lumineers, stays true to the Roots and Americana that the Denver- Colorado-based trio has honed. The songs were carefully grown and trimmed down to bare essentials, allowing the emotional beauty of the tracks to hold center stage in the words and music. The piano work of Jeremiah Fraites, how also holds down the role of drummer, has a strong presence on Cleopatra. Jeremiah is co-songwriter for The Lumineers, joining music to the words of lead vocalist/guitarist Wesley Schultz. The pair complete the band circle with cellist/vocalist Neyla Pekarek.

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30 Sarah Jarosz (from the album Undercurrent  (6-17-16) - An album should be a reflection of its artists life in the songs. Sarah Jarosz went into the studio to record Undercurrent with a blank canvas of future. The recording is her fourth release for Sugar Hill Records, and the first since her move to New York City after graduating from New England Conservatory of Music. The album is a time capsule, and like maky of our own lives, takes one step forward, one step back, one step forward in its dance of life. Sarah is satisfied with the flow of Undercurrent, seeing the album as ‘this is the first record I've made since being out on my own and experiencing a lot of changes, and I think that that's reflected in the songs. It's also the first record I've ever made that feels to me like a complete thought, with a beginning, a middle and an ending.  It's also the first time I've made an album that doesn't have any covers on it.  I wanted it to feel like the rollercoaster ride that is life, so I put a lot of thought into sequencing the songs.  It was important for me to start with light, and then go through darker times, and stubbornness and strength and weakness, and then end up on a hopeful note’.

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31 Carter Sampson (from the album Wilder Side)  (1-12-16) - The words of Carter Sampson are sharp, scenes clear and characters that seem very familiar to those walking between the devils and angels hanging out on your own shoulders. She delivers her tales on the soft roll of Tulsa rhythms on her recent release, Wilder Side.  Carter Sampson asks for “Holy Mother” to keep an eye out as ‘me and the girls are going out on the town’, asking for help from above to make sure they do not ‘go home with a guitar man, or anyone else in the band’.  Carter Sampson has a knack for penning her words as mirrors, allowing the truths of her life as support within the lives of listeners, particularly those for whom the road is not an option but a default.

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32 The Waco Brothers (from the album Going Down in History)   (2-26-16) - The Waco Brothers play Country music. The venues suitable for touring behind their most recent release, Going Down in History, offer a wider than net than more traditional Country outlets as The Wacos comfortably plug into clubs catering to fans from punks to posers. While their mix of Country and Punk Rock might not seem really revolutionary in 2016, The Waco Brothers have been knocking back shots of their own branded Alt Country for twenty years, and were among the first bands to proudly grab a stool at the bar between Cash and Clash. Going Down in History crackles with intensity, playing that lets you feel the heat from the amps and every drumbeat/bass thump deep inside your chest. The playing is primal, but never feral. The Waco Brothers are gentlemen gamblers as they deal rock’n’roll from the bottom of a Country deck, slapping smirks and guitar chords down as winning hand.

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33 Beth Lee and the Break-Ups (from the album Keep Your Mouth Shut)  (5-5-16) - Beth Lee bites bullets on Keep Your Mouth Shut, firing a tease with teeth into the album. Her pen is dipped in done-wrong ink as The Breakups back tales of treachery with rock’n’rolling Country. She manages to be both worldly and wide-eyed in her characters. Beth Lee is a seductress with a snarl as she draws love into her flame far enough to leave a mark as she steps on the hearts trailing her around.

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34 The Adam Ezra Group (from the album Songs for a Movie)   (5-22-16) - Rhythms rule on Songs for a Movie, the most recent release from The Adam Ezra Group. The album separates from the past for The Group with the use of beats as well as a depth to the story telling and a more intuitive playing from the band, born from touring travel and road performances. While the tracks do not run under any specific films, the tunes open curtains on individual vignettes within the production.

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35 Amelia White (from the album Home Sweet Hotel)   (2-5-16) - Amelia White unlocks the door and checks into Home Sweet Hotel for her most recent album release. Write what you know might be one of the lessons taught for songwriters taking courses on story content for their tunes. The results are songs about life, taking aim at its loves and losers with words of advice based in experience and observation. Like it sounds, those ideals are text book versions of the singer/songwriter lifestyle. The reality for the traveling troubadour is that lovers at home stay in your heart but the beds that wait for you after a show are empty. Amelia White writes what she lives on Home Sweet Hotel.  The tunes on Home Sweet Hotel do not take sides; they are extensions of the issues that roll around in the mind of Amelia White.

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36 Hard Working Americans (from the album Rest in Chaos)  (5-13-16) - Dedication to the art of a song plays a major role as Hard Working Americans are on-the-job in their second album release, Rest in Chaos. Hard Working Americans bring together musicians whose careers precede them as songwriter/author/ Todd Snider stands behind the microphone with Dave Schools (Widespread Panic) on bass, and behind the boards as producer. Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Band) is on guitar with additional work on electric and pedal steel guitars from Jess Aycock, Chris Stahley (Great American Taxi) handles keyboards, and Duane Trucks sits behind the drums.  

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37 Sultans of String (from the album Subcontinental Drift)   (2-5-16) - Sultans of String offer ragas, reels, and rhumbas in a joyful celebration of song as Subcontinental Drift. The Canadian-based band brings in sitar master Anwar Kurshid, creating a bridge for world rhythms to cross freely. The Sultans Chris McKhool (bandleader/violinist) felt that ‘there is something magical about joining the world music rhythms we play, but with pop sensibilities and forms and lengths, and blending that with the music of the East’.  When Chris heard the rumba rhythms in the guitar work of Kevin Laliberté, the Sultans of String were born. Traveling as a duo and band, the group has garnered Juno nominations and Canadian Folk awards with Chris McKhool receiving the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work in creating community through music.

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38 Rebekah Long (from the album Here I Am)    (5-20-16) - One listen to Here I Am, the recent release from Rebekah Long, gives a fast track understanding of her love of Bluegrass and the ability to put that passion into her playing. For any non-believers, she has credentials in the form of a BA in Bluegrass and Music Education garnered from her 2002 studies at the Glenville State College Bluegrass Certificate Program. The title track for Here I Am is authored by the album’s producer, Donna Ulisse, who joins husband/bandmate Rick Stanley and Rebekah as co-writer for many of the cuts included on the release. The LUK Records release keeps Rebekah Long’s co-writers with her at the microphone as Donna and Rick lend vocals, backed by an A-list cast of players, including IBMA banjo player of the year, Scott Vestal, five-time IBMA bass player of the year, Mike Bub, and two-time IBMA mandolin player of the year, Jesse Brock.

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39 The Cactus Blossoms (from the album You’re Dreaming)  (1-22-16) - The Vintage Sound of The Cactus Blossoms provides effects like those ideally presented by a cup of chamomile, a meditative journey inward or an Indica hit of Girl Scout Cookies. Sonically, You’re Dreaming, settles you on a massive audio cloud that tumbles and rolls as it covers the album, successfully capturing analog warmth in a digital world under its canopy. Produced by JD McPherson, You’re Dreaming, frames the harmonies of brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum against a sound that refers to another time in Country music without ever date stamping the tracks.

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40 The Relatives (from the album Goodbye World)  (4-29-16) - The Relatives offer Gospel Funk as a foundation for their music, and expand on the natural electric groove of the band with their recent release, Goodbye World. The Relatives are players and pioneers for the 1970’s Psychedelic Funk that is the bed for their message.  The Relatives lost their mentor and leader just before the recording of Goodbye World was completed. Reverend Gean West had produced two vocals for the album before he became too ill to record, becoming unconscious for twelve days. He rallied to lay down vocals for more tracks on the album.

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41 Kalyn Fay (from the album Bible Belt)   (6-10-16) - The Oklahoma Room was the hot ticket for Folk Alliance 2016. Kalyn Fay was one of Tulsa talents that played, and played, and played throughout the weekend.  The musicians mixed and mingled, backing one another and stepping to center stage as needed. The sound that Kalyn presents on her recent Horton Records release, Bible Belt, once again showcases the music of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and its family of musicians. Kalyn Fay passes over her stories with an easy vocal, her voice landing on the music bed to tease the tales by stretching out the notes to the edge of the rhythms. Bible Belt whispers secrets in its title track as Kalyn sings of childhood, still calling home a place she has left behind long ago.

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42 Whitehorse (from the album The Northern South, Vol 1)   (5-6-16) - Whitehorse define their sound as Intergalactic Blues grooves meet the full force of guitar gravity. That is true, the music is other-worldy, a virtual graveyard sound given birth in a studio. Whitehorse successfully trace a line back in their Blues that honors its southern birth with the latest release from the Canadian husband and wife duo, The Northern South Vol 1. The album spits and snarls, the guitar is feral, biting as much as riffing.

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43 Quaker City Night Hawks (from the album El Astronauta)    (5-20-16) - Coming off tour runs with Chris Stapleton, Lucero, and Leon Bridges, Quaker City Night Hawks update Texas Boogie on their recent release, El Astronauta. Quaker City Night Hawks sparkle notes over the hard drive of “Liberty Bell 7” as they “Beat the Machine” on an assured rhythm, throw feedback across the gentle audio waves lapping against “The Last Great Audit” and funk the fire of “Something to Burn”. A darkness shakes the ground in “Duendes” as Quaker City Night Hawks sink the track in a rabbit hole of fractured sounds and hard hitting beats.

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44 Willie Sugarcapps (from the album Paradise Right Here)  (4-15-16) - Willie Sugarcapps deliver album number two with Paradise Right Here. The band is made up of Roots music players with credentials including Jimmy Buffet, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, and Steve Winwood as well as their own careers. It was in lower Alabama at Blue Moon Farm that Will Kimbrough, Grayson Capps, Sugarcane Jane (Anthony Crawford and Savanna Lee) and Corky Hughes played together at a musical gathering called The Frog Pond. Paradise Right Here was produced by Willie Sugarcapps with Trina Shoemaker (Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, Dixie Chicks) and recorded over three days at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The second outing for Willie Sugarcapps wears the confidence of touring as a band in its songs. The tracks are unified within the band’s sound brand while the pens of its members walk with more definition.

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45 Mark Erelli (from the album For a Song)   (4-8-16) - Mark Erelli gives the answer immediately on the album title for his recent release, For a Song. The questions spring from his touring schedule being a solo musician and recently backing Lori McKenna, playing Royal Albert Hall backing Josh Ritter, and working with Paul Cole. Why do this to the lives you love back home? Where does it end? The questions came from different points and all led to the same answer, For a Song. Mark Erelli remembered ‘that’s been the answer to almost every question I’ve asked myself for quite some time’. He sings out a life with that focus in the title track on a story littered with post cards to young lives back home, warning the ‘road is not your friend, just a means to an end’ as a way of explaining absence.

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46 Derek Hoke (from the album Southern Moon)  (4-22-16) - Derek Hoke took to the road to create the first takes of the songs on Southern Moon. The tunes took their form on late night drives with a voice recorder in the passenger seat.  To complete the pre-recording process, Derek used audience response from his weekly $2 Tuesday residency at East Nashville’s The 5 Spot to fine-tune the tracks. Southern Moon welcomes Elizabeth Cook into a duet with Derek on “Still Got Time”, featuring backing vocals on the album from Chuck Mead and Robyn Hitchcock as well as Mickey Raphael on harmonica.

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47 Willie Nile (from the album World War Willie)   (4-1-16) - Willie Nile pretty much just has to stand in one place with his standard uniform of black leather jacket, sunglasses, and revolutionary stance to let you know his politics. Just in case anyone missed the look or the four decades of Rock’n’Roll testimonials from his pen, Willie Nile paints his persona across the cover of his most recent release, World War Willie. The cover image is of Dresden after bombing in WWII. Willie stands in front the desolation with his guitar, stating that ‘for me rock’n’roll, at its best, helps to make some sense of the world. There can be a redemptive quality to it. I guess it’s me trying to make some sense of the world with rock’n’roll’.

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48 Grant-Lee Phillips (from the album The Narrows)  (3-18-16) - The sound of The Narrows is dusty and wide open. It is the one souvenir that Grant-Lee Phillips took when he left California in 2013, following the worldwide that leads back home to Tennessee. Born in the San Joaquin Valley, Grant-Lee spent time by The Bay in San Francisco and made his home in Los Angeles since the age of nineteen. While the music maintains Grant-Lee Phillips’ Western Roots, his parents claimed southern ties. Nashville felt like a missing piece for his music, and The Narrows goes wide and deep to sink in Roots.

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49 The Bo-Keys (from the album Heartaches by the Number) 4-29-16 - The Soul of The Bo-Keys is a pure one. The band naturally inhabits a sound that is a cottage industry for their base in Memphis, Tennessee. Their recent release, Heartaches by the Number, puts the band behind stories of love and loss as the tracks are surrounded by a Vintage warmth buried deep within the sound. The Bo-Keys recorded Heartaches by the Number onto analog tape at Electraphonic Recording in Memphis.  Produced by bandleader Scott Bomar (bass, percussion), the album is the third release from The Bo-Keys since forming in1998.

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50 Dori Freeman (from the album Dori Freeman)   (2-5-16) - The purity in the vocal of Dori Freeman is a combination of her heritage with a natural confidence in how her voice tells its tale. Dori is a daughter of Appalachia, and the mountains dig roots into her own growth as a singer. Dori Freeman makes use of geography, adding a slow drawl to her delivery that fits well with the natural bends and gentle twang in her voice as it reaches up to call out notes cradled in the arms of the mountains as they climb to their highest peaks.

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the alternate root top female blues artistsMa Rainey, Bessie Smith, Victoria Spivey, Helen Humes, Sippie Wallace, are names equally as famous in blues music history as Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Muddy Waters or Howlin' Wolf. Women were among the original innovators and performers of the blues. Women blues singers were among the first to be recorded. They hold as important a place in the history of traditional American blues as any men, and today, they are leading the way forward, creating a revival of blues music.

As we say goodbye to March and "Women's History Month," we're closing it out with a list of 30 women who are tearing it up on the blues circuit today and making some of the most electrifying and creative blues music out there. Some have been doing it for decades and some are newcomers that have gathered the souvenirs left on the path by the past and current masters. All of these women can sing with broad ranges of emotion and power. Some of these women are extraordinary guitar players as well, and all of them are consummate performers.

We've included a sampler for this list with the hope that many of you will discover new sounds and reconnect with some old ones you may have forgotten, and go out there and support independent music. It's not a history lesson of the genre. It's the opinion of our staff with help from some musicians we respect and some friends in radio and print media. It's more about today than yesterday. So here it is...The Alternate Root's 30 Women Burning Up the Blues! Enjoy!


rory block in the alternate rootRory Block - Many have been crowned "Queen of the Blues" including our number two on this list, but Rory Block is the true "Matriarch" of the family. Rory Block is the most authentic purveyor of the traditions that are the foundation of American Blues music, and she's a master of most of its forms. She ran away from home at age 15 and landed at the footsteps of the giants, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Bukka White, Skip James, Reverend Gary Davis and Mississippi John Hurt whom she now pays tribute to with a series of albums dedicated to her mentors. A monster guitar player, Rory is in a class by herself as a living legend of the blues.

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shemekia copeland in the alternate rootShemekia Copeland - The daughter of guitar slinger and blues singer Johnny Copeland, Shemekia has the purest "blues" voice on the list, getting her start in her teens as the opening act for her then ailing father. She scored a choice gig for a debut album with Alligator Records in 1998 and has released a continuous flow of award winning and critically acclaimed albums since. Dubbed "Queen of the Blues" to succeed the late KoKo Taylor by Taylor's daughter Cookie, Shemekia's voice is guttural and powerful like the blues belters Koko Taylor, Etta James and Bessie Smith, but she can also reach down range for emotion in the vein of her idol Ruth Brown.  33 1/3 is her most recent release.

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deborah coleman in the alternate rootDeborah Coleman - The female incarnation of Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, Deborah Coleman is one of the most sought-after and highly respected blues performers in the world. Though not as commercially successful or instantly recognizable as Bonnie Raitt, Coleman is the premier female blues guitarist/singer combination. She can tackle Chicago, delta and Texas blues with fluidity and skill both vocally and instrumentally. An incendiary performer, she's a staple at major festivals around the globe.

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susan tedeschi in the alternate rootSusan Tedeschi - Susan Tedeschi started out in Boston playing the local blues circuit at age 13. After attending Berklee School of Music, she formed her first blues band and released her debut album, 'Just Won't Burn,' in 1998. Vocally she drifts between Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt with boosts of raw power and graceful, smooth soul. After a successful solo career, she teamed up with husband Derek Trucks to form Tedeschi Trucks, one of the top bands in the country. Though an amalgam of Southern Rock and Blues make up the Tedeschi Trucks sound, Susan Tedeschi can still 'bring it' at any given moment.

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tracy nelson in the alternate rootTracy Nelson - Tracy Nelson is still belting it out 49 years after her first release with the same soulful fury. She's shared the stage with Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead and broken bread with Willie Nelson, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Irma Thomas. Through all of that and six albums with her band Mother Earth, Tracy Nelson has never received the full recognition she deserves as one of the great female contributors to the post-war era blues. Her collaboration with Angela Strehli, Dorothy Morrison and Annie Sampson called "Blues Broads" has received global critical acclaim. Victim of the Blues was the last Tracy Nelson studio album.

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bonnie raitt in the alternate rootBonnie Raitt - She's probably the most recognizable female blues artist in the world and well known as a guitar slinger to boot. Bonnie Raitt has been electrifying audiences and influencing young musicians for four decades, and she has the awards and accolades from numerous sources to prove it. Though her career skyrocketed early and ebbed for a period, she came back with a vengeance in 1989 and has been on a solid trajectory ever since. She's been recognized by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 100 greatest singers and 100 greatest guitar players of all time -- the only woman to have that prestigous recognition.

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lou ann barton in the alternate rootLou Ann Barton - Lou Ann Barton was a founding member of Double Trouble along with Stevie Ray Vaughan and revitalized the Texas blues sound in the 1970's along with bands like The Fabulous Thunderbirds and the W.C. Clark Review. Not unlike many blues artists of her caliber, her solo work has always been well received critically while gaining only modest success commercially. Today, she tours as part of Jimmie Vaughan's band Tilt-A-Whirl and she's widely recognized as one of the best live blues singers.

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angela strehli in the alternate rootAngela Strehli - A historian of Texas blues, Angela Strehli is credited with being one of the keystones in the Austin blues scene of the 1980's along with Clifford Antone, the Vaughan Brothers and The Fabulous Thunderbirds founder, Kim Wilson. She's had only a modest recording career in spite of being mentioned in most conversations that include influential blues performers or contributors. Vocally, she glides from the range of Bette Midler to the soul of Tracy Nelson to the grace of Marcia Ball, often in the same song.

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ana popovic in the alternate rootAna Popovic - The heir apparent to Bonnie Raitt or Deborah Coleman as the top female blues guitarist/singer combo, Ana Popovic exploded out of the active European blues scene in the late 1990's and has been collecting awards globally ever since. Born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, Popovic learned the blues through and extensive collection of American blues recordings that her father owned and shared with her. She studied jazz guitar in the Netherlands and applied the elements to her style and tone, winning her instant recognition on the European circuit as one of the best new guitarists. She possesses a deadly combination of smooth, supple vocal delivery and extensive knowledge of traditional blues styles.

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marcia ball in the alternate rootMarcia Ball - Piano master Marcia Ball is one of the grand women of late century blues, enjoying her greatest moments of success in the 1980's and 90's although she continues to perform and record at the top of her game today. She was born in Texas but grew up in Louisiana and gets her greatest influences from the indigenous music of the Gulf Coast; zydeco, cajun, swamp blues and the boogie-woogie sounds that vibrate from Bourbon Street. Her silky smooth vocals are a delight with hints of Roberta Flack and Maria Muldaur.

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sue foley in the alternate rootSue Foley - Another of the major female talents to rise out of the vibrant Austin blues scene, Canadian-born Sue Foley may be best known for her recent work with soul mate Peter Karp, but she has a substantial solo career to look back on as well. She was one of the more successful blues singers on the first Antone's label recordings in the early 1990's. Sue Foley has received high praise as a terrific guitar player with a soulful, passionate voice.

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carolyn wonderland in the alternate rootCarolyn Wonderland - There are guitar "goddesses" and Carolyn Wonderland is one of them. She's also one the most soulful singers on the modern blues circuit, although her music is far from straight on blues. She can go rogue at any moment and often does, drifting into Cajun, country, rock and soul with uncanny ease. A multi-instrumentalist, Carolyn Wonderland is accomplished on accordion, trumpet and keyboards, in addition to her renowned guitar skills. She has credit on some 20 plus recordings, including six critically acclaimed solo albums.

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eden brent in the alternate rootEden Brent - Critics have placed her somewhere between Bessie Smith, Diana Krall and Janis Joplin which is a good place to be if you're Eden Brent. The virtuoso piano player studied under Mississippi delta blues pioneer "Boogaloo" Ames for over 15 years and is single handedly keeping the authentic boogie style blues of the delta alive. Ames would later dub her "Little Boogaloo." As a performer, she wanders through fields of jazz, blues, rock and soul, sometimes as a cool delta breeze and other times like a Tornado Alley twister. Brent's music is infectious and in terms of authenticity, nearly flawless.

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sarah mac in the alternate rootSarah Mac – Sarah Mac’s music is a combination of blues, jazz, and acoustic rock that has been classified as both Americana and Alternative. Sarah, and her backup, the Sarah Mac Band, describe the sound as ‘jazzy, bluesy, rock with a healthy dose of soul’. Sarah’s voice has a nice low end to it. Just when you think she has hit the bottom, she goes a little deeper. Sarah Mac Band’s most recent album release is Static & Signals.

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erin harpe in the alternate rootErin Harpe - Erin Harpe has been hailed as “an authentic blues chanteuse”, earning a reputation for her raw style and her abandonment to the song. Erin grew up around the Washington, D.C. area . She began playing the guitar in her teens, taught by her father, bluesman Neil Harpe. She began performing at folk festivals, coffee houses, bars, and parties where she developed her own style. Relocating to Boston to develop her music career, she met local blues talents such as Paul Rishell and Susan Tedeschi.  She was the 2013 winner of the Boston Music Award for Best Blues band with her mates The Delta Swingers. Erin has released two acoustic blues albums, her debut Blues Roots (2002) and 2008's Delta Blues Duets.

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ruthie foster in the alternate rootRuthie Foster – Ruthie Foster came from humble church choir beginnings in rural Texas, followed by a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy Band, and ended up in New York City with a major-label development deal that soon went sour. She moved back to Texas and resumed her music career in Austin, winning Best Folk Artist in 2004-05 and Best Female Vocalist in 2007-08. She broadened her sound by blending blues and soul aspects into her folk roots. Her most recent release, Let It Burn, features The Funky Meters rhythm section, Ike Stubblefield, William Bell and the Blind Boys of Alabama.

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beth hart in the alternate rootBeth Hart – Beth Hart has been recording since her 1996 Atlantic/Lava Records debut, Immortal. Over the past few years, her career has been in a state of change. A chance meeting with blues great Joe Bonamassa led to an introduction to producer Kevin Shirley.  He would later come on board to produce Beth’s release, Bang, Bang Boom, Boom. Beth was recently asked by Jeff Beck to sing at the 2013 Kennedy Center Honors as a tribute to bluesman Buddy Guy.  Hart admits she might actually be happy. “Often on old records, I wrote about pain and fear. I didn’t write so much about love. I always felt like I didn’t understand it or wasn’t worthy. This is the first album where I have, and it’s such a beautiful feeling. I feel like I’ve gotten to fit into a new pair of shoes, y’know, and I can walk a different walk. Every album is special to me. But with this one, there’s a real specialness about it, because I’m at a different age and in a new head-space.”

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christine santelli in the alternate rootChristine Santelli – The New York City music scene and Christine Santelli have been together for more than two decades. Her most recent release, Dragonfly, came as a result of a personal challenge Christine set out to fulfill. Christine wrote and video taped 100 original songs in 100 consecutive days and shared them on Facebook and You Tube. She chose fifteen of these originals and recorded them for this first solo acoustic album.

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natalia zuckerman in the alternaterootNatalia Zukerman - Natalia Zukerman grew up in New York City, studied art at Oberlin, worked in mural arts in San Francisco, began her songwriting career in Boston, and now resides, writes, plays and paints in Brooklyn, NY. She is the daughter of Classical musicians Eugenia and Pinchas Zukerman, but it was not her mama’s strings that Natalia wanted to get her hands on. Natalia found her muse was leading her in the direction of slide guitar, lap steel, and dobro. The earthiness and honesty of Folk, Bluegrass, Jazz and Blues music was the well from which she drew inspiration, adding in the natural seductiveness of her voice. Gas Station Roses is her most recent release.

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samantha fish in the alternate rootSamantha Fish – Twenty-two year old Samantha Fish got hooked by the blues and immediately started paying her dues in the local Kansas City, Mo. music scene. Her debut album, Runaway, showcases her playing, in her words, “all the sounds I grew up with, with my own spin”. On Runaway, Samantha Fish moves her guitar seamlessly through sharp-edged, riff-driven blues, breakneck boogies,  smokey, late-night jazz and 70’s arena Rock/Blues.

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gina sicilia in the alternate rootGina Sicilia – Philadelphia native, 25-year-old Gina Sicilia, was an out of the box hit with her 2007 debut album, Allow Me to Confess. The songs on her albums that do not have the GS writing credit, manage to fit in seamlessly as Gina gives new life to neglected tunes.  On her most recent release, It Wasn't Real, Gina broadens and stretches her styles, adding Soul and Americana to her keeper influences of Blues and R&B. This album features seven Gina Sicilia compositions, as well as three covers borrowed from Bobby Bland, Stevie Wonder, and Ike & Tina Turner.

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sunday wilde in the alternate rootSunday Wilde - Sunday Wilde is a blues woman. Her album, He Gave Me a Blue Nightgown, has the sound of an album similar to 1920’s/30’s Blues women such as Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. Sunday Wilde made a decision to stay on home turf for the recording process, away from the sterile safety of previous times recording in Toronto studios. He Gave Me a Blue Nightgown was recorded in hunting lodge cabins near her Northern Ontario home-- the results again, harkening back to the scratchy quality that we hear today from the blues greats of the 20’s and 30’s.

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cassie taylor in the alternate rootCassie Taylor - Cassie Taylor comes from Boulder Colorado. Her personality combines a compelling mix of music, theater, fashion and modeling into her repertoire, making her a great candidate as an ambassador of blending the arts. Cassie is the daughter of renowned bluesman Otis Taylor and toured in his band for seven years as bassist and backup vocalist. Cassie serves on the board of directors of The Blues Foundation. Her songwriting is the kind of blues which explores the trials and tribulations of a twenty-something woman. Cassie uses pop vocals and deeply-rooted blues bass lines to deliver her music to the world. Cassie Taylor's most recent release is Out of My Mind..

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the alternate root magazineThe decade of the 1980's can be looked at musically in a number of ways. On the surface it's easy to dismiss the decade as one of the worst in terms of popular music. What wasn't being dominated by the horror of Journey, REO Speedwagon, Survivor, Toto and Styx was being dominated by Duran Duran, Kenny Loggins, Culture Club and Michael Jackson. The rockers had their own mindless decade being fed a steady diet of Def Leppard, Van Halen, Molly Hatchet and Aerosmith.

We noticed that bands moved the Roots needle further than their album did. It was not a time when artists had the control over their music, or the ability to make music at home. If you were recording, you had someone attached to the project that saw things a different way. There were budgets and every album needed the 'hit single'. The artist development that had existed in the 1960's and 1970's was virtually gone. The major labels were simply showing up and collecting cash. The invention and proliferation of the compact disc started around 1982 when the discs became commercially available. Major labels were more interested in mining the catalogs and reselling hit records in a different format, so radio waves started championing the term 'classic.'

Soul music was either too Pop or too dance. Folk music was still riding high on the success of 1970's singer/songwriters, bluegrass was still traditional. Blues had some artists that were making noise and some were starting to expand with it and have some fun. Rock was the king and the genre took chances. Many of the artists on our list considered themselves to be rock bands but the groundwork laid would have a rippling effect. There were scenes rather than breakout artists. Los Angeles had cow punk and a roots scene that was very much part of punk rock with bands like X, Dwight Yoakam, Lone Justice, The Knitters, The Blasters, Rank and File, Cruzados, Blood on the Saddle and The Long Ryders all fighting for a small piece of ground. The lower east side of Manhattan was still taking pride in its birthing of punk but bands like The Del-Lords, Mike DeVille and Robert Gordon were playing their music and using their influences to create a more roots sound. Athens, GA had the rock of R.E.M., Pylon, The B-52's and Dumptruck. Nashville was set on taking country into modern times and away from the classic sound of Hank Williams. Lefty Frizell and others. The outlaw country was headed in the roots direction with a lot of steam but the music was still more Country than Roots.

As we set out to search for the albums of the 1980's that shaped the Roots Rock movement of today we found that the 80's thrived in terms of great music even though most of the albums we chose as our Top 40 Most Important by and large flew under the radar and we didn't even get into R.E.M., U2, The Alarm, The Clash, The Pretenders or The Psychedlic Furs. We left a ton of great albums off of our list that were in our stack to narrow down from a list of hundreds to a list of 40.

This is not a history lesson about Roots Music in it's purest forms. That music started in the early 1900's and we'll get to it in time. Everyone that followed was influenced by the great masters. These albums and these artists paved the way during the decade previous to our list of the last 25 Years but make no mistake, these albums and these artists were influenced by music from the previous decades and so on. We'll tackle the 70's, 60's and 50's in time and in order.

So here it is. The Alternate Root Top 40 Roots Rock Albums from 1980-89

1. Paul Simon - Graceland (1986) - Graceland brought the indigenous music of South Africa to the world stage and launched the International careers of  more than a few South African musicians. The album combined traditional American elements of pop, a capella, Tex-Mex and zydeco with traditional South African elements of isacathamiya and mbaqanga and the eclectic, critically acclaimed album changed the way the world looked at South Africa at a time when the world wasn't looking at South Africa very favorably. 27 years later this album still stands as a monumental achievement in music and continues to influence musicians around the world.

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2. The Blasters - The Blasters (1980) - The Blasters self titled album caught the music world by surprise...a mix of rock, country, rockabilly, mountain music and early rhythm and blues that burst onto the American music landscape in 1980, ripped your head off and screamed into your soul. It was sweaty, smokey, loud and so original that few people knew what to make of it. Brothers Phil and Dave Alvin along with John Bazz on bass and Bill Bateman on drums comprised the band that had more talent and energy than it should be legal to have in one band. Critics loved it and people associated with the industry shouted about it but the album never found it's way to the masses.

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3. Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska (1982) - Nebraska is a bit of an enigma and marks a turning point in the illustrious career of one of America's greatest musical treasures. Springsteen recorded the tracks as demos for an album that was to be recorded by the E Street band. The entire album was actually recorded with the full band but those recording were never released. Springsteen instead released the demos, recorded at home on a four track with very sparse instrumentation. The album's dark subject matter, centered around everyday American blue-collar characters facing challenges without hope or salvation, is unlike any other in the Springsteen catalog.

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4. Tom Waits - Rain Dogs (1985) - Rain Dogs was sandwiched between two other brilliant Tom Waits albums Swordfishtrombones and Frank's Wild Years forming a trilogy of sorts. Waits wrote the songs for Rain Dogs in a basement in Greenwich Village in 1984. The album documented the malaise and urban depression of New York City through sounds that included recordings of street noise and a wide range of instrumentation from Waits' dark piano to accordion, marimba, trombone, banjo and upright bass. The album was dark, drifting from old blues to New Orleans funeral dirge and a slew of points in between.
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5. Townes Van Zandt - At My Window (1987) - At My Window was the only release by Townes Van Zandt in the 1980's and was his first studio release in nearly a decade. By then his place on the pantheon of great American songwriters was already secure and the album re-affirmed that Townes still had the songwriting chops. At My Window was different in that it was richer musically than most of his previous material which can be attributed to the production of the legendary "Cowboy" Jack Clement. Clement brought in a host of notable session players including Mark O'Connor, Mickey Raphael and Roy Huskey Jr. and the result was a brilliantly crafted and performed album.

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6. Bonnie Raitt - Nick of Time (1989) - The appropriately titled Nick of Time came at a point in Bonnie Raitt's career where she needed a jolt both professionally and personally. She notes that Nick of Time was the first album she had done sober. Raitt's career was sliding backwards after a string of mediocre albums and  was being kept relevant by appearances on a series of political projects including MUSE, Amnesty International, Farm Aid and Sun City. Nick of Time took off after a sweep of the four Grammy's Raitt was nominated for in 1989 and her career has been on an upward trajectory since. The album was more soul than straight on blues and proved that Bonnie Raitt still had it all.

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7. Los Lobos - How Will the Wolf Survive (1984) - East L.A. has a long history of contribution to the American musical landscape with the influences of brown-eyed soul, R&B and Latino rhythms. Artists that rose up from the vibrant East L.A. scene including WAR, El Chicano and Malo combined Latino rhythms with funk, early R&B and blues. Los Lobos took it a step in another direction, combining traditional Mexican music, rock, folk and Latin rhythms together on their major label breakthrough album How Will the Wolf Survive. The album stands as a benchmark for Americana music and helped to usher in a new genre of music.

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8. k.d. lang - Angel With a Lariat (1987) - Though her albums Shadowland and Absolute Torch and Twang would spawn more 'hits' and radio success than Angel with a Lariat we chose it because it was Lang's coming out party for America and the rest of the world outside of her native Canada. Produced by Dave Edmunds, the album was seasoned with hints of rockabilly, country and British pop and mixed with Lang's unmistakable mezzo-soprano vocals to form a vintage that gets better with age. k.d.lang influenced millions of young women not only as singers but as social and cultural activists as well.

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9. Cowboy Junkies -  The Trinity Session (1988) - It was mostly a family affair for Cowboy Junkies with siblings Margo, Michael and Peter Timmins counted as band members. Their 1986 recording debut was blues inspired, but the sound culture clash of their 1988 release, The Trinity Session, brought a larger audience from a rock camp. The Trinity Session married classic country covers (“Walking After Midnight”, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”) with classic rock (“Sweet Jane”) all played out of a moody groove and airy arrangements.

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10. Steve Earle - Guitar Town (1986) - Steve Earle's breakthrough album Guitar Town topped the country charts and garnered two Grammy nominations in 1987 and it was the first and last time that "country radio" would recognize Steve Earle. It also marks the starting point for one of the most prolific, politically charged and culturally significant careers in American music history. Little of the subsequent Steve Earle catalog even closely resembles Guitar Town musically but the album sparked a new era of country based rock with intelligent lyrics that continues today.

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11. Blue Rodeo Diamond Mine (1989)- Formed in 1985 in Toronto, Canadians Blue Rodeo released their first album, Outskirts, in 1987, which would have excluded them from our 1988+ list. Luckily, their second album, Diamond Mine, is date friendly and keeps the same intentions of their debut. Blue Rodeo marry rock and country with a true Indie Rock feel and form, with organ swells sharing the sonic space with guitars and rhythm. Diamond Mine balances Indie Rock tunes (“God and Country”) with torchy twang (“How Long”) and a mix of both (“Love and Understanding” and the title track).

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12. The Subdudes - The Subdudes (1989) - The Subdudes debut release The Subdudes proved a couple of things. One is that a major label in 1989 couldn't find it's ass with two hands and a flashlight when it came to roots music. Second was that the "music business" wasn't really about music at all. It was about cash registers although that was pretty much agreed upon by most people already. Had a label like Rounder or Sugar Hill had the album, the effect The Subdudes had on the musical landscape might be much different. The Subdudes combined a plethora of innovative musical styles to their music including blues, swamp rock, cajun, funk, soul, R&B, folk, country and just about everything else and their influence resonates still today.

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13. Stevie Ray Vaughan - Texas Flood (1983) - Blues music post WWII has a tendency to ebb and flow with periods of great popularity followed by periods where it searches for a popular voice and becomes seen as a historical genre. Like Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and The Bluesbreakers before him, Stevie Ray Vaughan arrived on the scene when blues needed a shot in the arm and a popular voice. His debut album Texas Flood may not have been well received by critics or blues purists but it resonated with the public and changed the way a million kids felt when they picked up a guitar. Vaughan's influence on blues based rock will be felt for generations.

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14. Danny Gatton - Unfinished Business (1987) - Danny Gatton was a monster guitar player that fused together a variety of styles including jazz, country, rock and blues to create a sound that mesmerized both his followers and his peers. His fans included guitar greats from Les Paul to Roy Buchanan to Eric Clapton and just about everyone in between. His album Unfinished Business never garnered him the commercial success he deserved although it was met with a mass of critical acclaim. His later releases 88 Elmira Street and Cruisin' Dueces put him on the radar screen and captured a legion of fans but depression would overcome Gatton and his life ended with his suicide in 1994. Unfinished Business would prove to be a prophetic title that many before him from Buddy Holly to John Lennon could have used.

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15. The Del-Lords - Based on a True Story (1988) - The Del-Lords rose up from the post-punk, New York City scene of the 1980's and changed a lot of the status-quo at the time. Ex Dictators guitarist Scott Kempner and ex Joan Jett guitarist Eric "Roscoe" Ambel along with bassist Manny Caiati and drummer Frank Funaro created a sound that melded rock, country, blues and a gritty form of garage together and became one of the most important bands of the decade. The Del-Lords would become the main innovators of the roots rock sound that resonated throughout the following decades and on to today. After two stellar openers, their third album, Based on a True Story would prove to be the Del-Lords crowning acheivement although one more album, Lovers Who Wander would follow.

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16. KoKo Taylor - Queen of the Blues (1985) - One of the original female giants to come out of the Chicago blues scene in the 1960's, Koko Taylor learned from the master himself Willie Dixon who discovered her in 1962. Although her music was well received by critics Taylor pinnacled commercially in 1965 with her song 'Wang Dang Doodle.' Queen of the Blues took the Grammy for Best Blues Album in 1985 and put the name KoKo Taylor back on the map of innovative and electrifying blues performers. In the 1980's Blues was again regaining popularity on the heels of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Robert Cray and KoKo Taylor.

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17. The BoDeans - Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams (1986) - The BoDeans emerged from the vibrant Wisconsin music scene that erupted in the 1980's with the Violent Femmes. Their debut Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams was an instant success and pushed the band too fast into territory they had scarcely earned. Jangly guitars, Beatle-esque harmonies, synergy and simple, light hearted lyrics all wrapped in a masterful work of production by T-Bone Burnett made Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams the BoDeans finest moment. Although they would have a long run as a band and amass a solid body of work, the BoDeans never matched the magic of Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams.

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18 (tie). Semi-Twang - Salty Tears - (1988) - Another band that broke out of the  Milwaukee music scene of the 1980's, Semi-Twang released only one record until re-uniting in 2009 resulting in a subsequent album due in 2013. Salty-Tears united an all star cast of producers, (Mitch Froom, Chris Thomas and Jerry Harrison,) a group of outstanding musicians, a budget from Warner Bros. records and a brilliant collection of songs. The result ushered in the alt-country movement and while it was lauded by critics, there was no radio outlet for it and it floundered commercially.

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18. (tie) Georgia Satellites – Georgia Satellites (1986) - Hair metal was king. and radio rocked. Top 40 was synth dance and lots of hair spray. Into this environment came the simple phrase, “I gotta little change in my pocket going jing-aling-aling”. The Georgia Satellites looked and acted like rock stars on holiday. The sound liberally borrowed from the Faces and The Stones. They took “Keep Your Hands to Yourself”, the Roots/Rock version of “if you like it, put a ring on it”, to Number 2 in Billboard and gave Rock’n’Roll another chance on the charts.

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19. The Neville Brothers - Fiyo on the Bayou (1981) - The follow up to the dbut album, The Neville Brothers, Fiyo on the Bayou incorporated more elements of funk, reggae and New Orleans, cajun flavored R&B than it's predecessor. The result resonated with critics and the public and The Neville Brothers have become synomymous with American R&B world wide as a result. It contains the monumental songs, 'Hey Pocky Way,' 'Sitting in Limbo,' and 'The Ten Commandments of Love' that have become 'standards' of the standards.

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20. The Stray Cats - The Stray Cats (1981) - Though the Stray Cats US debut Built for Speed was released in 1982, we chose the debut album and British release Stray Cats for this list. The Long Island band founded by guitar ace Brian Setzer along with upright bass player Lee Rocker and drummer Slim-Jim Phantom had a solid following in the New York City post-punk scene but hit their meteoric stride after re-locating to London in 1981. Stray Cats, both album and band, revitalized the rockabilly movement, created a sub-culture centered around vintage fashion and style and turned millions of American kids on to a forgotten form of American music. 'Rumble in Brighton,' 'Stray Cat Strut,' 'Rock This Town' and 'Runaway Boys,' could have made for a career alone.

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21. Richard and Linda Thompson - Shoot Out the Lights (1982) - After several critically acclaimed albums, Shoot Out the Lights ignited the careers of Richard and Linda Thompson just as the pair were falling apart as a couple. The album stuck with the folk with a strong rock side that Richard Thompson cultivated and shepherded since his first recordings with Fairport Convention. Darkness falls over the songs, like much of the material from Richard Thompson, with love songs taking on an edge in “Don’t Renege on our Love” and “Man in Need”. Richard Thompson can even bring danger to a day in the (amusement) park, with the high climbing tension of “Wall of Death”.

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22. Jason and the Scorchers - Fervor (1983) - Formed in Nashville in 1981, Jason and the Scorchers looked country, played hard rock and crafted songs with the attitude of a punk rocker. Their E.P., Fervor, raised and set the bar for Alt Country earsplitting volumes with six fire-breathing originals, including “Hot Nights in Georgia” and a blistering cover of Bob Dylan’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie”.

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23. The Morells - Shake and Push (1982)The Morells released Shake And Push in 1982 with a sound that relied heavily on good old rock’n’roll riffs, the simplicity of rockabilly and story lines that dug deeper. Based in Springfield, Missouri, The Morells gave the world producer/player Lou Whitney. Shake and Push has become one of those legendary releases, with new copies of the disc selling online for close to $200.

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24. Melissa Ethridge - Melissa Ethridge (1988) - Time magazine announced that ‘She’s the Boss’ when Melissa Etheridge became a contender in the crown formerly worn by Bruce Springsteen. Her self-titled debut showed a woman with spit and snarl to her tales of love gone wrong. She balanced her audio attacks with a teasing emotion that lets you think you just might be able to tame her. Don’t count on it!

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25. The Rave-Ups – Town and Country (1985) - The Rave-Ups began life in Pittsburgh, PA but took hold in a second incarnation that set up roots in Los Angeles. The group successfully took Roots/Rock into Pop without getting any of the Pop smear on itself. All four members were at a major label before any deal was signed. Each member of the group had mailroom jobs at A&M Records, and they rehearsed in the basement at night when the offices were closed. Town and Country met with critical acclaim, The Rave-Up’s were an MTV buzz, and they made their movie debut with an appearance in John Hughes’ film “Pretty in Pink”.

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26. T-Bone Burnett - Trap Door (1982) -  In the days before becoming the man set on moving Americana into the mainstream, the Grammy winning producer (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) was a guitarist for Bob Dylan on Rolling Thunder Revue. Trap Door was an E.P. released on the Warner Brothers label that showed how T-Bone Burnett performed on his own. Trap Door contained an in-your-face version of “Diamonds Are a Girls Best Friend” and the memory of a chance meeting with The Faces/Pink Floyd go-go dancer, Kim English (Kim Boston in England).

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27. Rockpile - Seconds of Pleasure (1980) - As a band, Rockpile made several records before their name appeare on the cover. Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds brought name recognition to the four-piece which also included Billy Bremner (guitar) and Terry Williams (drums). Seconds of Pleasure was the only release from a band that got everything right in music, but could not get past the more human side of group management, ego. “Teacher, Teacher” used old Rock’n’Roll riffs, like many of the Rockpile songs, and let the rhythm tear. Rockpile created great music for a short space in time, but when the wind blows just right, you can still hear the sound hammering away.

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28. Lone Justice - Lone Justice (1985) - Maria McKee and Ryan Hedgecock were playing country covers on the tiny L.A. cow punk scene. Adding in veteran players like bassist/producer Marvin Etzioni helped the band to craft originals. A supporting hand by fan Linda Ronstadt helped them seal a Geffen Record deal, and U2 tapped the band as tour openers. Lone Justice self-titled debut is a roots/rock masterpiece with Maria McKee guiding the songs into Pop (“Sweet, Sweet Baby”), country rock (“After the Flood”) and lunch for the spirit (“Soap, Soup and Salvation”).

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29. Steve Forbert - Streets of this Town (1988) - Steve Forbert returned to recording after a legally imposed six year hiatus with his first release on Geffen Records, Streets of This Town. The album maintained and expanded on the smarts of his lyrics and laid a new found maturity over the story lines. Produced by E-Street bassist Garry Tallent, Streets of This Town further secured Steve Forbert’s  status as a singer/songwriter who would stick around rather than leaving the building when Pop had its fill of the genre.

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30. Joe Ely - Musta Notta Gotta Lotta (1981) - Joe Ely formed The Flatlanders with fellow Lubbock natives Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore in 1970. Following some great album releases in the late 1970’s, the singer/songwriter caught a big break from British punk rock gods, The Clash. The band talked about and championed Joe’s music after meeting during a 1977 U.K visit and tour together. Musta Notta Gotta Lotta received lots of love from underground rock radio due to The Clash thumbs up and became his highest charting album with rock friendly tunes like “Hard Livin’” and the title track.

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31. Beausoliel- Bayou Cadillac (1989) - Beausoleil have become world ambassadors for Cajun music. The band hit a creative groove in the 1980’s, and Bayou Cadillac was album number seven for that decade. Bayou Cadillac kept the French language lyrics in place, and amped up the rock punch, adding in English lyrics for crossover appeal. The album’s title track fused Rock’n’Roll classics “Not Fade Away”, “Bo Diddley” and “Iko Iko” into a zydeco reel.

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32. Lyle Lovett - Lyle Lovett and His Big Band (1989) - On his third recording as Lyle Lovett and His Big Band, Mr. Lovett took home a Grammy for best Country Male Vocal performance for the 1989 release. Lyle Lovett’s slightly hesitant delivery never sounded better and his take on classics such as “The Glory of Love” and the gender-bending “Stand By Your Man” took him to a new audience.

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33. The Paladins - The Paladins (1987) - The Paladins formed in the early 1980’s and set the knobs on their amps for rockabilly and roots. Their first, self-titled album was produced by The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ Kim Wilson and fanned the fires for roots and maintained a heart on for twang. The Paladins stands firm as a statement to the glory of Roots/Rock that the band maintained until Dave Gonsalez left in 2004 to focus on the Hacienda Brothers.

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34. The Del Fuegos - Boston, Mass (1985) - What was an in-house project for the kitchen workers at Boston’s Hoo-Doo BBQ took greater form when Chef Jimmy Ryan handed the microphone over to guitarist/songwriter Dan Zanes. Dan recruited his brother Warren (at Mom’s request) who took on lead guitar chores and the name OrkBoy. A Miller beer commercial gave them a national TV stage and hits from Boston, Mass such as “I Still Want You” and “Don’t Run Wild” from their second Slash Records release put them on the charts.

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35. Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, Robert Cray - Showdown! (1985)  - “Three guitars, no waiting” could have been the sub-title for the 1985 Alligator Records recording of Showdown! by blues guitar men Albert Collins, Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland. Nine tracks and barely a moment of quiet throughout as Blues axes make quick work of everything in their path.

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36. Nanci Griffith - Once in a Very Blue Moon (1983) - Nanci Griffith brought in musical backing for her third album release, Once in a Very Blue Moon. The folk-fed sparseness of her earlier releases was replaced by a fuller sound that contained a little more Country. Guest musicians Bela Fleck (banjo) and Mark O’Connor (fiddle) bring in musical magic as support for the dream texture of “Year Down in New Orleans” and the nod to favorite venues “Spin Around the Red Brick Floor”.

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37. Joan Armatrading - Walk Under Ladders (1981) -  Joan Armatrading came further into the full-on rock world with the Steve Lillywhite produced Walk Under Ladders. The mix of studio personnel was all over the map with new wave representation from Thomas Dolby and Andy Partridge (XTC), Elton John percussionist Ray Cooper, reggae rhythm man Robbie Shakespeare and Orleans’ Peter Gabriel and Hall & Oates alumni, Jerry Marotta.

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38. John Mellencamp - Scarecrow (1985) - Pre-production for Rain on the Scarecrow was simple, and sounds like a lot of fun. John Mellencamp and his band spent a month playing about a hundred Rock’n’Roll songs from the 60’s before heading into the studio to record. The album took a stand in and for the heartland. Without changing the Roots/Rock sound, John Mellencamp brought lyrics that had meaning, talking about good lovin’ in Middle America (“Lonely Ole’ Night”) and touring ala Motown caravans (“R.OC.K. in the U.S.A.”). Rain on the Scarecrow would be the first volley heard for the plight of America’s farmers and for Farm Aid.

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39. Chris Isaak - Silvertone (1985) - Chris Isaak had the snarl and the chops to be the next in line for Elvis Presley comparisons. His band was equally stripped down but the resulting sound was more ethereal and dream like. The tone of the music was a good match for filmmaker David Lynch, whose work in films had the same dreamscape attached. The director’s use of the tune “Gone Ridin’” from Silvertone jettisoned the album to much deserved recognition.

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40. The Beat Farmers - Glad N' Greasy (1985) - The Beat Farmers traveled to England to record Glad N’ Greasy for U.K. label Demon Records. The album, produced by Graham Parker and Rumor keyboardist Bob Andrews continued to put cow punk, Roots/rock, twanging rockabilly and swampy Americana into a blender. Glad ‘N Greasy included a dance hall version of Neil Young’s tune “Powderfinger”, and fellow roots rockers Dave Alvin, Nick Lowe, Gene Taylor and Loudon Wainwright III joined in for the community chorus on “Beat Generation”.

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2013 was a great year for American Roots music and putting together a list of the Top 100 was a long and arduous task. We went around and around about who should be on it and then around again when putting them in the order you see them now. The Top 10, truthfully, could go any way you want it but we had to pick an order...and a number one and we couldn't get past that incredible Band of Heathens record. Then there was the Wood Brothers. Equally incredible. And Over The Rhine and well so on and so forth. When you finish one of these  lists and you think you're done...the ones you forgot start popping up. "Holy shit, we forgot Barrence Whitfield!" So it starts again. Where to put the one's we forgot and who gets bumped. We've undoubtedly missed some that you think should be here and you're probably right, but this isn't science it's only our list of the Top 100 Albums of 2013 and here it is.
band of heathens1. The Band of Heathens - Sunday Morning Record -  The Band of Heathens head back to a time when the depth of a Sunday morning was taken apart your favorite song. Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist were keeping a path forward amid personal and career hurdles. They found that space in their songwriting. The tracks are more personal; though quieter, there is sharp clarity to the album. There is no doubt, that this is music from The Band of Heathens brand. Heart and mind are both represented and appealed to in their songs, and Sunday Morning Record continues to deliver smart stories of real lives, with all the bumps, bruises, and smiles left in.

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the wood brothers2. The Wood Brothers - The Muse - Wood Brother Oliver has name recognition on a number of non-in-house albums, helming the production of projects such as Shemekia Copeland and co-writing the recent Tedeschi-Trucks Band album title track. For their recent release, The Muse, The Wood Brothers went outside of blood relations and chose a producer that uses all of his senses to capture the intricate diversity of the band. Buddy Miller turned the knobs behind the board for The Muse, and added baritone guitar work to the production. Buddy does a fine job in transferring the music to song in a way that nods to influence without needing to stamp the tracks with a particular sound style.

Listen and buy the music of The Wood Brothers from AMAZON or iTunes

 

over the rhine3. Over the Rhine - Meet Me At The Edge of the World - Meet Me at the Edge of the World uses the rural Ohio farmhouse of the husband and wife team of Over The Rhine, dubbed Nowhere Farm, as a backdrop for the stories and the music. The band’s previous works have showcased their art, and their ability to craft music that is full and vibrant. Over The Rhine, with producer Joe Henry,  dedicate themselves to making sure that every note and nuance surfaces in the songs for Meet Me at the Edge of the World. The album is the most song friendly effort from Over the Rhine and, luckily, it is a double disc.

Listen and buy the music of Over the Rhine from AMAZON or iTunes

jason isbell4. Jason Isbell – Southeastern - The songs of Jason Isbell on Southeastern are handled with care, and the album announces Jason’s move to top tier songwriter and performer. His heart still beats Roots; he is after all, a son of Muscle Shoals. Jason Isbell comfortably wears the skin of an American songwriting force with Southeastern. He has equal command of his words and the ability to deliver them with all of their emotion intact. He turns heartbreak into the saving face of salvation in the story line of “Traveling Alone” and steers through a decade of memory glimpsed through the light of “Different Days”.

Listen and buy the music of Jason Isbell from AMAZON or iTunes

5. Patty Griffin - American Kid – Patty Griffin has stated that much of her new release, American Kid, was written to honor her father. Musically. Patty uses her past recorded output as influence in creating something familiar emotionally that dwells in a musical future sound. “That Kind of Lonely” lanquishes in a lush sound collage that gathers strings and hard edge acoustic chords, using Patty’s voice as a beacon to lead the song across stark soundscapes. Patty Griffin has a voice that can whisper or soar with an equal presence. There is a subtle power in each note, a secret knowledge in every vocal tease.

Listen and buy the music of Patty Griffin from AMAZON or iTunes

6. The Greencards - Sweetheart of the Sun - The Greencards have broken musical ground and established themselves as major players in the world of Roots music since they came into being in 2003 and on Sweetheart of the Sun, their musicality spreads out over the water-themed release. Their collective talents are not hidden nor kept to the background and kudos go to The Greencards for making Sweetheart of the Sun feel like one thought rather than individual tracks.

Listen and buy the music of The Greencards from AMAZON or iTunes

7. Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell - Old Yellow Moon – Harmony between old friends is what drives Old Yellow Moon. Emmylou Harris had Rodney Crowell at her side for her own early solo work on seminal album such as Luxury Liner and Elite Hotel. The pair join their voices again with Old Yellow Moon.

Listen and buy the music of Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell from AMAZON or iTunes

8. Trampled Under Foot – Badlands - Trampled Under Foot boast not one but two Soul force singers with sister/brother Danielle (bass) and Nick (guitar) Schnebelen. Their parents, Bob and Lisa, were fixtures on the Kansas City Blues scene. Nick describes what the father gave his children, “Our dad was in bar bands but he was also recognized as a great blues guitar player. He’d take us to blues jams where we’d meet some real old school artists and hear a cross section of roots music.” Early training shows through on Badlands. Danielle’s siren voice is a beacon light and a lamp in the window. Danielle fully inhabits her cover of James Brown’s “It's a Man's Man's Man's World” with a testifying claim on the crown that will make anyone within ear range a true believer. Badlands is smoldering Soul and Blues.

Listen and buy the music of Trampled Under Foot from AMAZON or iTunes

9. Delbert McClinton and Glen Clark – Blind, Crippled and Crazy - Delbert McClinton and longtime friend Glen Clark made their last album together in 1973. Forty years on, and the guys decided it was enough fun to do it all over again. The time that has passed has not dulled their roots, and it has given them plenty of fodder for stories, though most of the tales are aimed right back at the two guys behind the microphones. Glen Clark says of the project that they are “a couple of guys who started playing together in ragtag bands around Fort Worth in the '60s,  so we like to poke some fun at ourselves for being older now."

Listen and buy the music of Delbert McClinton and Glen Clark from AMAZON or iTunes

10. Steve Earle & The Dukes (and Duchesses) - The Low Highway - The Low Highway is the fifteenth Steve Earle studio album. The album style samples from a wide sound backing courtesy of The Dukes and Duchesses. The album showcases the songwriting abilities of Mr. Earle in a manner that cannot be heard in his more genre-specific albums. There is breathing room on The Low Highway, and Steve takes full advantage to stretch. “Pocket Full of Rain” dips its sound into Indie Rock; “21st Century Blues” wonders where all the promises went over a full forward rock rhythm; “Love’s Gonna Blow My Way” catches a Cajun fiddle wind that rides into “After Mardi Gras”, where it dips into a more swamp edge. “Calico County” cuts a path with guitars that leave marks like a chem trail across the album and “That All You Got” marries Blues riffs with Zydeco rhythms.

Listen and buy the music of Steve Earle and The Dukes (and Duchesses)  from AMAZON or iTunes

11. Edie Brickell and Steve Martin - Love Has Come for You – The Steve and Edie (for our times) have created beautiful moments of song on Love Has Come for You. Given history and talents, the album’s quality is not a shock. What is surprising is how well the pair get the banjo and voice to interact. The title track mixes banjos notes and chords to give fullness as Edie spins a mountain tale that builds up instrumentally to bloom like spring flowers within the song. The story follows love through a life showing the strength of the emotion and finding joy even when it reaches the end of its time on earth.

Listen and buy the music of Edie Brickell and Steve Martin from AMAZON or iTunes

12. Valerie June - Pushin' Against a Stone – Valerie June refers to her music as Organic Moonshine. She is a major star across that big piece of water east of the US coast; her UK ‘overnight success’ arriving right around the same time as her album debut, Pushin’ Against  A Stone. Vocally, Valerie June can simultaneously give impressions of hurt while assuring that you can climb over anything in your path. Pushin’ Against A Stone crosses sonic borders and comfortably wears folk blues, jazz, rock and soul in its songs without ever having to swear fidelity to any one sound style.

Listen and buy the music of Valerie June from AMAZON or iTunes

13. North Mississippi All-Stars - World Boogie is Coming - Pedigree opened doors but once inside, North Mississippi All Stars needed to rely solely on their music. Luther and Cody Dickinson grew up in North Mississippi alongside bluesmen like R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and the ghost of Mississippi Fred McDowell. The Dickinson Brothers got some advice from their buddy Seasick Steve, who told them they were the link to North Mississippi Blues for the next generation. Steve’s advice was to keep it primitive. The North Mississippi All Stars wanted to make a cultural statement, and to honor Seasick Steve’s request, and that is exactly what they have down with World Boogie Is Coming. Doing the right thing and giving it a beat.

Listen and buy the music of North Mississippi All Stars from AMAZON or iTunes

14. Guy Clark - My Favorite Picture of You - Guy Clark holds a photo up to the camera on the cover of My Favorite Picture of You. The image is Susanna Clark, who passed away in June 2012. Guy vivdly remembers the moment, "Me and Townes are in that house, just drunk on our asses, jerks. And she'd had enough, she walked out that front door. I think it was John Lomax who snapped that picture. I had it pinned on my wall, and Gordon [Sampson] came over. We were writing and he had a list of lines and titles and all that shit that most people carry around. I was going through it and I hit on this line that said, 'My favorite picture of you.' I turned in my chair and it was right there in front of me. The lyrics just poured out because all it boiled down to was describing the picture. We might written it in one day."

Listen and buy the music of Guy Clark from AMAZON or iTunes

15. Slaid Cleaves - Still Fighting The War - Slaid Cleaves is our inner voice and the guide that points us towards the light. His stories use the lives of others to help us make the way over the hurdles in day-to-day existence, and support decisions with the lives of those around us. Slaid starts off Still Fighting the War with its title track. The song follows memories back to Fallujah and addresses the central character in the tale with the observation that “you been home for a couple of years now, buddy, but you’re still fighting the war”.  The song zeroes in on the obvious and makes sure that the truth is present as it sings….”men go off to war for a hundred reasons but they all come home with the same demons”.

Listen and buy the music of Slaid Cleaves from AMAZON or iTunes

16. Anders Osborne – Peace - Anders Osborne is on a Peace mission. Given the subject matter, it might seem that the title is what the man is championing….that is not the case. Anders relates the various stages, transitions, awakenings and pitfalls he has experienced in achieving his own personal Peace. Anders Osborne’s observations are street smart and do not pull punches. To support the realness of his words, Anders fills songs with determined rhythms marinated in the musical stew pot of his New Orleans home.

Listen and buy the music of Anders Osborne from AMAZON or iTunes

17. Mavis Staples - One True Vine - Mavis Staples, and producer Jeff Tweedy, have created the gospel according to Americana with One True Vine. The pair received a Grammy nod and win with their first collaboration, and Ms. Staples wanted to create One True Vine in the same joyous spirit though with an evolution in the music.  The album completely embodies dark and light, both in words and music.

Listen and buy the music of Mavis Staples from AMAZON or iTunes

18. The Milk Carton Kids – The Ash and The Clay - The Ash and Clay lets the guitars have their say, with tones that complement the purity of The Milk Carton Kids vocals. Kenneth Passengale plays a 1954 Martin and Joey Ryan uses a 1951 Gibson, making the guitar sounds sparkle with age in the echo of a thousand notes. The Milk Carton Kids tend to deliver their songs with a quiet power. There is softness to the tunes gathered but they have a bite that safely keeps them out of reach from an easy listening status.

Listen and buy the music of The Milk Carton Kids from AMAZON or iTunes

19. Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line – Carnival - The stories on Carnival have their backdrop go from antebellum south to an old man walking a mountain trail in the present day. Nora Jane Struthers is comfortable in the literary side of her tales. Prior to undertaking a full time career in music, she was an English teacher. Nora Jane Struthers and The Party Line take you on a ride in Carnival that captures a lot in the space of fourteen songs and creating an album that will take them from the sideshow to the big tent.

Listen and buy the music of Nora Jane Struthers and the Party Line from AMAZON or iTunes

20. James Hunter Six – Minute By Minute - The James Hunter Six play hard though the rhythms of the band do not pound as much as penetrate. Double duty is a default for James Hunter in his songs. His voice guides and keeps the music on track with the happiness the narrator finds in getting it right shining through James’ vocals. James Hunter follows the path of great Soul singers like Al Green, Solomon Burke, and Otis Redding by selling the songs with an honest emotion that allows his vocal chameleon to inhabit his characters.

Listen and buy the music of James Hunter Six from AMAZON or iTunes

21. Yarn – Shine It On – Contrary to Yarn yarns, the stories on Shine the Light On see the band traveling towards the warm glow found in the promise of the album title as they voice humble request in an attempt to strive for, and appreciate, a better life. The words of Blake Christiana and the emotional telling of his vocal delivery have found themselves a good home in the music making of Yarn.

Listen and buy the music of Yarn from AMAZON or iTunes

22. The Defibulators – Debt’ll Get ‘Em - Debt’ll Get ‘Em hits the ground over the speed limit with album opener “Holy Roller”, a tongue-in-cheek gut-kick to organized religion. The Defibulators raise a toast to blue-collar brothers and sisters with “Working Class” a soon-to-be jukebox favorite from the coal mines to the farm fields, stopping at every watering hole from the east to west with truck parking.

Listen and buy the music of The Defibulators from AMAZON or iTunes


23. Steep Canyon Rangers – Tell the Ones I Love - The Rangers never toss a riff over for someone to catch; each note volley included in their songs are hand carried from one member to another on Tell the Ones I Love. The mandolin, fiddle, guitar and banjo leads move between instruments with no bumps though there are some serious jumps in the way the band delivers, and we can hear, bluegrass. Steep Canyon Rangers honor traditions but do not view the sounds that have come before as a sentence but musical arrows that point towards a sonic changes for string bands.

Listen and buy the music of Steep Canyon Rangers from AMAZON or iTunes

24. Jonny Fritz - Dad Country – Jonny Fritz went back to his origins, dropping Jonny Corndawg and reclaiming his real name for his ATO Records debut, Dad Country. Jonny paints himself as the outsider in his songs and backs the Southern literary story lines with classic country playing. He understands that his problems lie with the company he keeps (“Wrong Crowd”, “Social Climbers”), last night’s party (“Goodbye Summer”) and the welcome he gets after driving all night to help blow out the candles (“Ain’t It Your Birthday”).

Listen and buy the music of Jonny Fritz from AMAZON or iTunes

25. I See Hawks in L.A. – Mystery Drug – The gentlemen curators of California Country, I See Hawks in L.A. once again confine literary prose into the borders of a three minute song with Mystery Drug.  They are a giving group and help the songs stick with remember-me hooks in the chorus to take home with you. The Hawks turn the pages of real life in the tales and stitch the songs with Paul Laques psychedelic roots riffs.

Listen and buy the music of I See Hawks in L.A. from AMAZON or iTunes

There is still a lot of summertime and plenty of places to visit in an effort to cram as much into a day/week/life as possible.  We created a short list using Roots music and present the results in an A to Z of Roots Road Trip Songs. Not the tunes that you crank up once the car is running. These are the songs that get you packing. The lyrical bait that hooks you in and entices, whispers in your ear ‘you know you want to be here’ and sings a song to lure you in. Sit back and enjoy. We are not responsible if anyone succumbs to the spell of the songs, though we will take complete responsibility if you have a good time.

A – “Atlantic City” - The Band   (from the album Jericho) - The Jersey Shore has changed only in the obvious ways that it takes money from the masses. Your vacation can be out in the open, or at least your kids and in-laws can be outside on the beach or walking the boardwalk as you head into the casino when the time comes to ‘meet me tonight in Atlantic City’.

Listen and buy “Atlantic City” by The Band from AMAZON or iTunes

B – “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer” - Old Crow Medicine Show   (from the album Remedy) - Two weeks away from an office job seems about right. Keeping that timeline perspective, and taking the cuts in travel time and accommodations, two hours in the “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer” is just about the perfect getaway for the boys behind bars. This trailer is no tin can… the don’t-blink love nest is a double-wide!

Listen and buy “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer” by Old Crow Medicine Show from AMAZON or iTunes

C – “Sweet Home Chicago” - Robert Johnson   (from the album The Complete Collection) - Robert Johnson voice is pleading to get out of town and his guitar chords accent his words, finger pointing chords just in case the message is missed. His home town has gotten too small and big city Chicago hangs like a fat carrot dangling at the end of the road while California beckons like a siren.

Listen and buy “Sweet Home Chicago” by Robert Johnson from AMAZON or iTunes

D – “Dallas” - Joe Ely   (from the album Musta Notta Gotta Lotta) - Joe Ely is smitten. He is flying in to DFW after dark and the lights outside the window look so fine. The beauty of the sight, and the expanse of the spreading city after miles of darkness below, makes the lack of funds in Joe’s pocket a non-issue….he is looking for light.

Listen and buy “Dallas” by Joe Ely from AMAZON or iTunes

E – “East Nashville Skyline” - Todd Snider   (from the album Live: The Storyteller) - East Nashville is very close to Nashville proper, and it could not be further away. Right over the Cumberland River is a magical land where musical styles frolic and the art of songwriting is king. If you are looking for music and a packed house when you go out, put East Nashville into the GPS and make some memories like the ones Todd Snider pastes into his song.

Listen and buy “East Nashville Skyline” by Todd Snider from AMAZON or iTunes

F – “Deep Down in Florida” - Muddy Waters    (from the album Hard Again) - Even bluesmen need a break. Muddy Waters is putting the Blues down for just a moment so he can head down to Florida ‘where the sun shines damn near ev’ry day.’ Once he hit the sand in Gainesville both Muddy and the Blues had some free time, so they sat on the beach and played.

Listen and buy “Deep Down in Florida” by Muddy Waters from AMAZON or iTunes

G –“Greyhound” - Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats    (from the album On This Very Evening) - Not a specific destination or a direct path between Point A and Point B, the “Greyhound” that carries Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats makes multiple stops once the guys are seated. California is out the front window, and as the guys sit by the side of the road waiting for their chariot to arrive, they plot possible exits from their new lives, deciding that a trail of bread crumbs is the best way to find home again, if needed…..they don’t get out a whole lot.

Listen and buy “Greyhound” by Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats from AMAZON or iTunes

H - Humboldt - I See Hawks in L.A.    (from the album Shoulda Been Gold 2001 - 2009) - The physical and spiritual center of the marijuana business in California is Humboldt County. When drivers joke that you can smell your weekend right around the corner, they are not really joking. The Hawks’ story is a little before growing became a cottage industry in California, and the excitement of the illegal drug trade can still be felt in the power chords and Paul Lacques psychedelic riffing.

Listen and buy “Humboldt” by I See Hawks in L.A. from AMAZON or iTunes

I – “Island Song” - Zac Brown Band    (from the album Uncaged) - The rhythms, the ice cold drinks and the sand between your toes tell you it is time to ‘party like a Jamaican’ with Zac Brown and the band. The road goes on forever, and in the case of “Island Song”, can tread water very well.

Listen and buy “Island Song” by Zac Brown Band from AMAZON or iTunes

J - "Jericho" - John Fullbright    (from the album From the Ground Up) - John Fullbright is spinning the compass dial and following wherever it lands. He tries to find himself, or at least comfort, out east before turning his sights to the west coast. His trip has no rest areas as he searches cities and deserts. There is no peace for John on his journey, and he deals with plans gone off track. It is really bad luck that the one week he picked was when the walls of the city decided to come down….good story for back home but the dust will block out any sun tan.

Listen and buy “Jericho” by John Fullbright from AMAZON or iTunes

K - "Funky Kingston" - Toots and the Maytals     (from the album Time Tough) - Toots Hibbert is the MC over a funky groove as he calls people to come into his song and ‘shake it, shake it’. The Maytals are a rhythm machine as funky guitar chords chop and slice over committed percussion and bass lines.

Listen and buy “Funky Kingston” by Toots and the Maytals from AMAZON or iTunes

L - "Ooh Las Vegas" - Gram Parsons (from the album G.P. / Grievous Angel) - Gram Parsons packed Emmylou Harris into his car back in Baltimore and they are barreling towards Las Vegas. The neon is calling and the cards are whispering your name. The pair know they are doomed going in, admitting that the Crystal City will leave them wrecks, but they cannot stop themselves.

Listen and buy “Ooh Las Vegas” by Gram Parsons from AMAZON or iTunes

M - "Mojave" - Hymn For Her    (from the album Lucy and Wayne’s Smokin’ Flames) - Hymn for Her tear up the road to “Mojave” with tar pealing power chords and pounding beats. The pair are driving their Airstream trailer through the ‘shifting sand of the desert’ as visions and images rise up from the desert floor like waves of heat.

Listen and buy “Mojave” by Hymn For Her from AMAZON or iTunes

N - "New York City Found" – Yarn     (from the album Come on In) - Blake Christiana and Yarn are hopping on the subway for a day trip away from Brooklyn and into Greenwich Village. The Yarn country in the tune is delivered as fast-paced sunshine with a beat.

Listen and buy “New York City Found” by Yarn from AMAZON or iTunes

O - "All Over Ohio" - Over the Rhine   (from the album Meet Me at the Edge of the World) - Over the Rhine can hear the trees whispering about the fall and feel the air getting a little chillier. The melody line floats over a single rhythmic thump as the male and female vocals trade center stage, and join together with the atmospheric melody line in flight with their harmonies.

Listen and buy “All Over Ohio” by Over the Rhine from AMAZON or iTunes

P - "Portland Oregon" - Loretta Lynn with Jack White    (from the album Van Lear Rose) - Loretta Lynn knows love, and for her it is “Portland, Oregon” and slow gin fizz. The story holds two characters, the roles fitted to Loretta and Van Lear Rose producer, Jack White.  The momentum of the track carries the pair far past the borders of the song. Lucky they got ‘a pitcher to go’.

Listen and buy “Portland, Oregon” by Loretta Lynn featuring Jack White from AMAZON

Q - "Quivira" - Moreland and Arbuckle     (from the album 7 Cities) - Name dropping “Quivira” around the water cooler could get some envy from fellow employees. There is a touch of romance with Spanish destinations though sending postcards from a mythical land may be slightly challenging. Moreland and Arbuckle are the dirty blues version of Lewis and Clark for the journey as they take you along the Coronado trail in search of the seven cities of gold, with a return address for modern day Kansas.

Listen and buy “Quivira” by Moreland and Arbuckle from AMAZON or iTunes

R - "Rio Grande" - Dave Alvin     (from the album Ashgrove) - Two people walked into the tale on the banks of the “Rio Grande” though is becomes a solo act quickly into the story. Dave Alvin is not on a road trip as he passes through the Texas towns that border Mexico, the scenery blurs in front of his eyes as he seeks only one image, or some words for direction.

Listen and buy “Rio Grande” by Dave Alvin from AMAZON or iTunes

 

S - "Stockholm" - Jason Isbell    (from the album Southeastern) - Jason Isbell is having a tough time separating a short getaway from a life choice. Once the vacation ceases to be time off, life comes roaring back in. The longer he is away, the quicker he fades from the memories of the folks back home. Love keeps him from moving and calls him home.

Listen and buy “Stockholm” by Jason Isbell from AMAZON or iTunes

T - "Texas" - The Band of Heathens      (from the album Sunday Morning Record) - The Band of Heathens spent many years in Austin, Texas, first as solo artists and then building the band career that has offered them options. The group admits that ‘Austin’s been a friend of mine and ”Texas” we had a time’.  Future visits to Austin will be road trips for the guys rather than coming home.

Listen and buy “Texas” by The Band of Heathens from AMAZON or iTunes

U - "Urge for Going" - Tom Rush    (from the album The Circle Game) - The heat of summer gets turned off a little quicker in the mountains, and the chill in the air has hit the Vermont. That fast, Tom Rush wakes to frost on the ground. Every year, the highway calls and warm weather acts as a tease as the northern sun ‘turns traitor cold’. For Tom, getting the “Urge for Going” is just another sure sign that the weather is turning.

Listen and buy “Urge for Going” by Tom Rush from AMAZON or iTunes

V - "Ventura" - Lucinda Williams     (from the album World Without Tears) - Lucinda Williams lets the rhythm on “Ventura” match the incoming surf in the scenic shot outside of her car window as she travels north. She hugs the coast and cranks up Neil Young, soaking up the therapy in the beauty of her surroundings and the volume of her car stereo.

Listen and buy “Ventura” by Lucinda Williams from AMAZON or iTunes

W - "That Western Skyline" – Dawes     (from the album Dawes) - Dawes are traveling but not enjoying the journey. Their dreams come apart in California, leaving the band the curse “That Western Skyline” yet they still look to it for finding the stars. The road trip is walked with a sluggish step, marching to a slow paced funeral dirge as the promises of hope continue to fade.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Listen and buy “That Western Skyline” by Dawes from AMAZON or iTunes

X - "X-roads (Crossroads)" - Jonell Mosser     (from the album Boys of the Side) - Jonell Mosser peals he paint off the walls with her version of X-Roads (“Crossroads”),  weighed down with how to move forward, and which direction to take, her desperation mingling with a fear that ‘believes I’m sinking down’.

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Y - Yosemite - Parker Milsap     (from the album Parker Milsap) - Parker Milsap is fantasizing a future exit, a vacation that can be enjoyed by two. A special trip that is right around the bend….’one of these days I’m gonna strike it rich’ and ‘waiting on a winning ticket, waiting on my train to come.’ Until then, he opens his front door to a parking lot, spending his last four dollars on lottery tickets.

Listen and buy “Yosemite” by Parker Milsap from AMAZON or iTunes

Z - At the Zoo - Simon and Garfunkel     (from the album Bookends) - Stay close to home, consider a day trip and listen to the buzz about the zoo. Simon and Garfunkel take a crosstown bus or just walk from the east side to the park. The inner-city trip is short but the world it opens hints at the danger and the mysteries that the world holds.

Listen and buy “At the Zoo” by Simon and Garfunkel from AMAZON or iTunes

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the best and worst tv dadsDads on television come in all shapes and sizes. The box options for dad's to check on resumes is vast. Many are the brunt end of the jokes for wives, kids, in-laws, neighbors, family and the world at large. As a tribute to Fathers Day we are celebrating the best and worst in dads. We never see the guys in a mundane world, there is always something happening. Pitfalls to get around and worlds to save. There are very few days when these guys can just be dads, but they do their best, or worst, week after week for as long as you find what they are doing interesting

TV dads represent a little bit of many people. They are pieces of the many, coming together to make the whole. They are champions and sometimes they are an embarrassment. They do right, they do wrong, They make mistakes and the come off like heroes. They are dads.

william h macyFrank Gallagher - (William H. Macy) - Shameless - Not only is Frank Gallagher the WORST TV dad ever, he may be the worst TV person, period. On the show Shameless he is a drunk, narcissist and overall despicable human being and those are his good traits. He games the system for a living and occasionally hangs with his pseudo girlfriend Shiela who also collects disability. Gallagher is the occasional "dad" to six children on the show who have pretty much resigned themselves to the fact that they don't really have a "dad." On a particular show he hooks up with a barfly who is awaiting a heart transplant and has a large life insurance policy. He weasels his way into becoming the beneficiary and while she's in the shower a hospital calls with news of a possible heart for her. He tells the hospital she's dead already...'nuf said.

andy griffithAndy Taylor - (Andy Griffith) - The Andy Griffith Show - Hands down, no argument, the BEST television dad in history was Sheriff Andy Taylor. The show was part "To Kill a Mockingbird" part "Little Rascals" and 100% rural Americana. All the planets were aligned for The Andy Griffith Show and it brought together the genius of Griffith, Don Knotts, Frances Bavier and Ron Howard, who at the age of 6, already showed signs veteran chops as an actor. Opie grew up in front of America's eyes from age 6 to age 14 and America learned most every valuable lesson about life, love, sharing, giving and growing and laughed their asses off while doing it. Ernest T. Bass, Floyd the barber, Emmit's Fix-It-Shop, Gomer Pyle, Goober Pyle, The Darlings, Jubal Foster...we could go on and on.

guy williamsDr. John Robinson - (Guy Williams) - Lost in Space - A cheesy spin on the Swiss Family Robinson story by Johan Wyss, Lost in Space was a story of Dr. John Robinson, an astrophysicist, who took a round airstream trailer with less dashboard controls than a '62 Volkswagon into space with a family of 5, a fellow astrophysicist who is hot for his oldest daughter, a stowaway sociopath named Dr. Smith and a clunky robot, called, well...robot. The rest is television magic as Dr. Robinson guides the fam through adolescence, growing pains, love interests, giant alien monsters and Dr. Smith's repeated attempts to get them all killed...no wonder they call the 60's the golden age of television.

fred flintstoneFred Flintstone - (voice of Alan Reed) - The Flintstones - It would take decades and The Simpsons to unseat The Flintstones as the most successful animated series in history but The Flintstones was still the first "prime time" animated series in history. The show was a dead ringer take off of the successful Honeymooners series of Jackie Gleason. Fred didn't actually become a dad until late in the show's third season and parenthood did nothing to slow down his penchant for trouble, get rich schemes or other stone age mayhem. He does have some great friends including Anne Margrock, Mick Jadestone and the Rolling Boulders, The Beau Brummelstones which makes him a cool dad by any standard. Truth be told, The Flintstones 'jumped the shark' when Pebbles and Bamm Bamm entered the picture.

caroll o'connorArchie Bunker - (Carroll O'Connor) - All in the Family - The man who said the things that too many Americans were thinking and had the common sense, class and decency to keep it to themselves. Gloria, you're dad was a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, blue collar narcissist and one of the funniest bastards to ever grace the small screen. It was television. Yeah it bit a little close to home for most liberal thinkers but if you get past that aspect he was a decent guy who just existed as a victim of his times. Years later the character of Archie Bunker would re-appear as the entire Rebublican leadership in the country with white collars instead.

james gandolfiniTony Soprano - (James Gandolfini) - The Sopranos - He was the dad on the best television series in the history of television and a good chunk of his character development over the course of the six seasons that the show ran was his relationship to his wife and kids. He was a shit-bum for a husband but as a dad, well, he provided for his family by running the North Jersey mafia, hanging out in a strip club full of silicon implanted "Snookies," and killing people. That was cool until daughter Meadow and son Anthony Jr. found out...fatherhood was pretty much downhill from there. Despite their existential issues with the source, the kids never stopped taking and Tony never stopped "providing."

hugh beaumontWard Cleaver - (Hugh Beaumont) - Leave it to Beaver - Being father to Wally and "the Beav" was no easy task and took patience and several trips to the den each evening to drink it off. Looking back, Leave it to Beaver was simultaneously every parent's nightmare and every parent's dream circa. 1960's America. The Beaver was lily white America's version of juvenile delinquency with peanut butter and jelly stains and a milk mustache. He got into all kinds of trouble that kids got into for generations and Ward would teach the lessons while the boys sat in matching pajamas and shared the same fully stocked bedroom. Ahhh the visions of our youth!

john astinGomez Addams - (John Astin) - The Addams Family - Alright here's one of the 'cult classic' dads in television history. I've recently re-visited The Addams Family which, to my delight, has gotten better as I age. The hidden innuendo was far ahead of it's time and the macabre has had a resurgence of sorts. Gomez, father of Pugsley and Wednesday, is eccentric, wealthy, aloof and a damn lot of fun. Who hasn't wanted an exploding train set their entire life? As a dad, well, look at Wednesday who raised killer spiders and carried around a Marie Antoinette doll post guillotine and Pugsley who actually guillotined it! These are well adjusted children who would be at home in any household post "Glee," "Friday Night Lights," and "American Idol" America.

modern family ed o'neilJay Pritchett (Ed O'Neill), Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet)  - Modern Family- Four fathers make up the Modern Family Dads. Ed O’Neill saves his good dad rating as patriarch Jay Pritchett. He also tops the dad list for the hottest wife for his second marital choice. Jay’s son-in-law, Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) wants to be one of the guys, even for his two teenage daughters. He is a big lovable lug that means well. Phil is passive and steps aside to let his wife bulldoze her way through the family affairs. Jay’s son, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), and his partner Cam (Eric Stonestreet) have adopted a Chinese daughter. They make their way through fatherhood but as their daughter ages, you get the impression she will be running the household soon. We would have named them the first gay dad household but just could not buy the whole ‘live-in man’ scenario with Uncle Bill (Brian Keith) and Mr. French (Sebastian Cabot) on Family Affair.

steve buscemiNucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) - Boardwalk Empire - Nucky Thompson is an adopted father on Boardwalk Empire. Sure, he had the birth father killed and dumped in the Atlantic but he loves those kids. Nucky has multiple affairs on wife Margaret, who is no slouch in the extramarital rutting department. Nucky runs the Jersey shore for the purchase or procurement of anything illegal. Nucky Thompson is more comfortable with giving orders to feed more bodies to the fish then he is spending ten minutes as a dad. He can buy love and impress oldest boy, Teddy, and pay for any medical procedures needed by youngest daughter Emily. The parental side of Nucky stops there.

lorne greeneBen Cartwright (Lorne Greene) – Bonanza - A single father on the lone prairie, Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) raised three sons, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe.  The family ranch, The Ponderosa, was a 600,000 acre ranch along the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe, Nevada. At 937 square miles, The Ponderosa was the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe. The west was tough on the women in Ben's life and the Cartwright wives dropped after spawning a son each. Ben was dad to kids that went in all directions emotionally, personally and morally, with  English, Swedish and French Creole bloodlines running in their veins. Through the magic of television, Bonanza chronicled the American west between 1861 and 1867 in its fourteen year series run, from September, 1958 through January 1973.

john amosJames Evans, Sr. - (John Amos) - Good Times - James Evans, Sr. became a father quickly on Good Times. The show was one of the many spin off children of All in the Family. Good Times descended from Maude but when the producers decided to give Maude housekeeper Florida her own show they changed her firefighter husband Henry to struggling husband James, making no mention of Maude and moving the couple from Tuckahoe, New York to inner-city Chicago projects….other than that, not a lot of changes. James Evans was a black, working class dad in an inner-city project, a new concept on television. Mr. Evans Sr. was a pretty straightforward, no nonsense guy. Nothing to challenge or portray an angry black man. All black community politics were handled by eleven year old son Michael (the militant midget) and the carefree, loving living on welfare attitude that much of the audience expected was handled by older teen J.J. “Dy-no-mite” Evans. (James Jr.).

maurice evansMaurice - (Maurice Evans) – Bewitched - There were no last names for the witch/warlock contingent on Bewitched. Samantha’s dad was Maurice (Maurice Evans). Maurice treated every scene and set like an Elizabethan stage. Sweeping Shakespearean gestures and dialogue were taken for granted by daughter Samantha and Endora, who referred to Maurice as ‘my daughter’s father’ and thought of their marriage as ‘informal’. His relationship with son-in-law Darrin (Duncan? Durwood? Dustbin?) was strained. Maurice was a warlock, with hundreds of years under his cape, no need to tolerate fools or mortals.

buddy ebsenJed Clampett - (Buddy Ebsen) - Beverly Hillbillies - What a dad! He not only discovers oil (black gold, texas tea) in the backyard while huntin’ possum but decides to move the family from the hills they called home to the hills called Beverly….movie stars and cement ponds. Jed Clampett was the wise man for family matters and the practical voice of reason for the questionable banking practices Mr. Drysdale threw at him weekly. Jed threatened a lot of ‘tan your hide’ or ‘to get a whoopin’’ but never through with threats. His shock meter never registered more than a ‘well doggies’ as admonishments for daughter Ellie May and nephew Jethro. Jed tried to live with the cash but you can take the dad out of the backwoods but never take backwoods out of the dad. He wore the same clothes in every show proving clothes shopping is an unnecessary evil.

brian kellyPorter Ricks -  (Brian Kelly) – Flipper - Porter Ricks was a single dad with two sons to raise and a park/marine preserve somewhere in the Florida Keys to maintain. Given the heavy work load and family responsibilities, it is no surprise that Porter’s companion became the show’s star and namesake, Flipper. The aquatic Lassie took things space age for the 60’s. Whether the dog wagged the tail or the tail wagged the dog did not matter. Flipper could ride on his (her) tail….backward, and make a lot more noise, both above and below water. Take that pooch. Porter Ricks may have been a dream dad for a lot of youngsters….kids living on the water, riding dolphins and with not a lot of parental supervision... and it was always summer, Forget Neverland and Oz, take me to the Keys!

homer simpsonHomer Simpson - The Simpsons - Homer Jay Simpson lived a Hollywood dream. He went from a bit role on three episodes of the Tracy Ullman show to debuting as head of The Simpson household in December 1989. Homer's character seems mild compared to future toon dad Family Guy’s Peter Griffin. Homer was an everyman dad and factory worker. He was overweight, maybe a little clumsy and landed just this side of inappropriate but dude could hold a burp and get his lips to shake like jello on the fault line. Homer played support dad to son Bart for a few seasons, letting his skateboarding first born get all the attention and the great lines….”eat my shorts”, really, Bart, that coulda been your dad’s catch phrase? Homer played the quiet dad, letting his kid get the cred but started taking a stance for lazy, heavy drinking dads across the land. Homer got away with the stuff that was only a dream to many of us.

jon cryerAlan Harper - (Jon Cryer) - Two and 1/2 Men - You can point fingers and deride Alan Harper for personal choices and severe lack of parental guidance. Alan is the “because-I-said-so” kind of Dad. Alan has a lot of shortcomings but it was his couch surfing at the home of brother Charlie that landed he and his kid, Jake, a Malibu address. Alan does very little, as a house guest, as a contributing member of the household and as a dad. He is available if needed, I guess. Alan is probably the least involved dad on television. It is difficult to put him on the worst or best side, there are very few dad things Alan does that can be measured to decide on his role of a father. He is a dad just because, you know.

bryan cranstonWalter White - (Bryan Cranston) - Breaking Bad - Walter White is there for his son if he can be. Walter's son, Walter, Jr., has cerebral palsy. Big medical issues seems to gallop at a full clip through the White household. Walter, Sr. was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Teaching science at his high school day gig took a backseat to the ‘second job” he took to pay the mounting bills. Walter White became a meth maker, then dealer, then major supplier, getting meaner and colder as each minute and deal passed. Walter does his best as a dad but each day his moral compass spins faster and faster, never pointing in any one direction. His job as a dad suffers the same fate as every other aspect of Walter’s life as he transitions from a sympathetic to an extremely unlikable character on Breaking Bad. Forget about judging him as a dad, you might want to take a look at who you are pulling for.

sherman helmsleyGeorge Jefferson - (Sherman Helmsley) - The Jeffersons - George Jefferson (Sherman Helmsley) successfully moved his family up to the East Side, way uptown. He spent two years en route as a Queens neighbor of Archie Bunker. I am sure a ‘deluxe apartment in the sky’ was more appealing but two years with Archie’s biting words nipping at you could probably bring a little nostalgia even for the ‘hood. George had opinions but he was a good dad. His bark was way louder than his bite, but dad George did have one bad ass strut. George Jefferson spent twelve years as a tv dad, ruling over the family and appearing in all 253 episodes of The Jeffersons. He was a self-made man and an American success story, a small business owner that started and managed a string of dry cleaning stores. George shared more than a street address with neighbor Archie Bunker. The two had the same way of dealing with the world, though George had more street smarts and his schemes for taking care of his family were at the heart of each episode.

ed o'neillAl Bundy - (Ed O'Neill) - Married With Children - Al Bundy got married because he got drunk and asked Peg to marry him. He had children because he got married, Married With Children is where Al was in life when we met him in 1987 and where he stayed for the show’s eleven year run. Things never got better for Al in his life. Wife Peg has a if-it-moves-mount-it attitude, as does daughter Kelly. Son Bud, who proud dad Al named after a beer, would love to be a slut to take care of his perpetual horniness, but can’t ‘cause he’s kind of a geek. The Bundy bunch were a laugh-a –minute, step-by-step guide on what not to do. As a family, they ways to yank the fun out of dysfunctional.

Emmylou Harris has defied the odds of location, location, location when she paired with Gram Parsons to develop cosmic American Music shortly after being a waitress in a Baltimore diner. She broke industry rules that rock and country could not and would not meet when her first albums were received by both communities, and where her presence still gets attention. Very few times can you mention Emmylou Harris without another chiming in, at least one, with an ‘I love Emmylou’. That is the reason she has spanned forty years since she shared microphone duties with Gram on his solo debut, GP.  She makes everyone feel like she is their artist; their find. Emmylou Harris has developed and groomed musicians and styles throughout her career, with highlights in her work often honored by the Grammy Awards as Best Contemporary Folk Album.  Whether it is folk, country, rock, gospel, classic country, Americana or Roots rock, Emmylou Harris is a confident guiding mother to every song, style and band smart enough to clue her into recording dates. Everyone has a reason for the love of Emmylou…here are Ten Reasons Why We Like Emmylou Harris.

1. “Love Hurts” – Gram Parson and Emmylou Harris (from the album Grievous Angel) - This track was slated for album number two, Grievous Angel. Gram Parsons passed away before the January 1974 release date. Contemporary critics of the time didn’t feel it held up to previous efforts but we are still talking about it in 2014….something must have worked. “Love Hurts” by Gram and Emmylou is intimate. The vocals will walk away with you, stake a spot in your heart and move in after the first date.

Listen and buy “Love Hurts” by Gram Parsons from AMAZON or iTunes

2. Feelin’ Single, Seein’ Double – Emmylou Harris (from the album Elite Hotel) - 1975 closed out the year with a second release in December for Reprise Records new signing Emmylou Harris. Elite Hotel planted one foot in rock’n’roll and one foot in country. “Feelin’ Single, Seein’ Double” carries the added punch of standing up for the girls having the same rights as the boys when it comes to making bad decisions fueled by alcohol, dim lights, thick smoke and loud music. The fuel for this song comes from Emmylou’s Hot Band, featuring recording and touring members of the Elvis Presley’s band (James Burton, Emory Gordy, Glen D. Hardin) and Rodney Crowell.

Listen and buy “Feelin’ Single, Seein’ Double” by Emmylou Harris from AMAZON or iTunes

3. The Ballad of Emmett Till   (from the album Hard Bargain) - No gaps or seams have ever appeared in the recorded output of Emmylou Harris. “The Ballad of Emmett Till” is from her 2011 release, Hard Bargain. The Emmylou Harris-penned tune allows its singer to become another soul, and write another’s pain, from beyond its earthly life. Emmett Till was a young black man from the north visiting southern relatives. His ballad reveals the horror of times past, the song reminding that those times can never be far enough away.

Listen and buy “The Ballad of Emmett Till” by Emmylou Harris from AMAZON or iTunes

4. “Luxury Liner” – Emmylou Harris   (from the album Luxury Liner) - Her 1997 album with the Hot Band, Luxury Liner, has been Emmylou’s bestselling album. Her back-up band was living up to its name in a big way. “Luxury Liner” stretches out for a cruise over a train track beat. Emmylou is out searching for her baby on board ‘40 tons of steel’. She may think about giving the twang in the tune a go as it swears its allegiance throughout the track.

Listen and buy “Luxury Liner” by Emmylou Harris from AMAZON or iTunes

5. “Boulder to Birmingham” – Emmylou Harris    (from the album Spyboy) - The album title is from the touring band that backed Emmylou Harris during this period. Spyboy is a live album and lets the band stretch each song musically. Emmylou duets with American treasure Buddy Miller on this version of her song. Emmylou gets a great deal with Buddy as the match for her vocal comes from both Buddy’s pipes and his guitar.

Listen and buy Spyboy by Emmylou Harris from AMAZON

6. “To Know Him Is to love Him” – Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt  (from the album Trio) - Three of the top vocalists in 1987 joined together to record “To Know Him Is to Love Him” and other tracks as Trio. The tune was originally recorded by The Teddy Bears, written by Phil Spector, and performed  by the only group that Phil ever played in as a member. Even with microphones shared with voices like Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt, it is Emmylou Harris who owns this track.

Listen and buy “To Know Him is to Love Him” by Trio from AMAZON or iTunes

7. “Hanging Up My Heart” – Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell   (from the album Old Yellow Moon) - Emmylou joins up with former Hot Band member Rodney Crowell on a co-headlining gig in the pair’s 2013 release, Old Yellow Moon. Hot Band members James Burton and John Ware guest on HB alumni Hank Devito’s tune, “Hanging Up My Heart”.

Listen and buy “Hanging Up My Heart” by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell from AMAZON or iTunes

8. “Deeper Well” – Emmylou Harris   (from the album Wrecking Ball) - Daniel Lanois produced and U2 drummer Larry Mullin, Jr. guested on Wrecking Ball. The album struck out into new territory for Emmylou Harris as she incorporated the use of sonic’s into her natural roots music without ever sacrificing herself or her songs. Emmylou received a 1996 Grammy (Best Contemporary Folk Recording) for her efforts in developing Americana as its own genre in “Deeper Well”, a co-write with Emmylou, album producer Daniel Lanois and David Olney.

Listen and buy “Deeper Well” by Emmylou Harris from AMAZON or iTunes

9. “This Is Us” – Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris   (from the album All the Roadrunning) - It is not adding Emmylou Harris to a track’s vocals that make it a particular genre. She walks into styles and lets them do their own thing while she sings as Emmylou Harris. “This Is Us”, with Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler, turns the pages on the scrap book pictures of a life together, sprawling out of a caffeinated roots rhythm.

Listen and buy “This Is Us” by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris from AMAZON or iTunes

10. “Two More Bottles of Wine” – Emmylou Harris   (from the album Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town) - The thread that has trailed through the music of Emmylou Harris is made of the joy she brings to the microphone. That is her style. She adds vocals to music that she feels is a part of her voice, comfortably digging Roots through grounds of Classic Country and Rock’n’Roll as she does on this 1978 release with of the Delbert McClinton tune “Two More Bottles of Wine”.

Listen and buy “Two More Bottles of Wine” by Emmylou Harris from AMAZON or iTunes

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Duane Allman was gone before the music he made took over the world. The brothers Allman, Duane and younger brother Gregg, were from Macon, GA. Gregg got a guitar first but Duane learned quicker. The brothers went to Nashville for summers to visit grandma, seeing B.B. King and soaking up sound. As time went on Duane immersed himself in the guitar, quitting the high school to stay home during the days and learn his instrument. The brothers formed The Allman Joys moving the band to Nashville then St. Louis, MO. The name changed to Hour Glass and the home base moved to Los Angeles, CA in 1967. For Duane’s twenty-second birthday, Gregg brought his big brother a bottle of cold pills for his fever and the new Taj Mahal record. Two hours later, Gregg’s phone rang. Duane had emptied the pills and taken the label off the bottle so he could play slide. Duane had never attempted to play slide guitar before and would be known for that playing it a lot afterwards.

Duane’s work with Hour Glass caught the ears of producers and he was plugged to play a Muscle Shoals recording session with Otis Redding, backing the singer on his rendition of “Hey Jude”. His playing drew attention at Atlantic Records and the guitarist was scheduled for sessions with Clarence Carter, Laura Nyro, King Curtis, Percy Sledge, Herbie Mann, Aretha Franklin, Otis Rush and more. He recorded the lead guitar for Boz Scaggs’ “Loan Me A Dime” shortly after his session for the Otis Redding track. The Allman Brothers Band got off to a clunky start with neither of their first two albums registering with listeners. Success came for Duane Allman in his own band with the release of Live at the Fillmore East and his guitar work for Derek and the Dominoes. Duane Allman passed away on October 29, 1971, several weeks after the release of Live at the Fillmore East and during its initial success. His motorcycle hit a truck that had stopped suddenly in an intersection and he died at the age of twenty-four years old.

Duane Allman lived for the music. When his soul crossed over, his spirit was kindly stayed around to be a part of the music that he cherished. . There are many reasons to appreciate Duane…here are Ten Reasons Why We Like Duane Allman.

1. “Still Want Your Love” – Hour Glass (from the album Power of Love) - Comprised of Duane and Gregg Allman alongside three future Muscle Shoals session men, Hour Glass was a 60’s rhythm and blues band. The power was in the hands of those that did not know how to handle it at Liberty Records and they positioned the group as a Pop act. Duane’s guitar weaves through the song with a psychedelic buzz in its riffs and soul in its step.

Listen and buy “Still Want Your Love” by Hour Glass from AMAZON or iTunes

2. “Games People Play” – King Curtis featuring Duane Allman  (from the album Duane Allman Anthology) - When King Curtis covered Joe South’s “Games People Play” as an instrumental the 1968 hit was still fresh. A jazzy soul in the rhythm is a good complement for Duane Allman’s subdued Leslie-amp distorted note patterns.

Listen and buy “Games People Play” by King Curtis from AMAZON or iTunes

3. “Don’t Want You No More” – The Allman Brothers Band   (from the album The Allman Brothers Band) - The Allman Brothers choose an instrumental to lead the charge on their 1969 debut. “Don’t Want You No More” was a Spencer Davis tune that the band wrestles into shape by putting sharp angles in the arrangement and smoothing them over with the slightly Latin Rock of its guitar notes.

Listen and buy “Don’t Want You No More” by The Allman Brothers Band from AMAZON or iTunes

4.  “The Weight” – Aretha Franklin featuring Duane Allman   (from the album Duane Allman Anthology) - It was Duane’s guitar work for Aretha that gave the band its legendary road man, Red Dog (Joseph L. Campbell). The guitar lead made Red Dog want to see the band live and after the show he stayed around to tell them how much he liked the playing. Before the band broke, Red Dog would hand over his military pension checks to the band to keep them afloat.

Listen and buy “The Weight” by Aretha Franklin from AMAZON or iTunes

5. “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” – The Allman Brothers Band  (from the album Idlewild South) - Duane’s slide is ever-present on this cut from album number two for the Allman Brothers Band. The players seem happy to stay as rhythm while Duane’s guitar bends around the curves and holds the road while leaning way over the edge.

Listen and buy “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” by The Allman Brothers Band from AMAZON or iTunes

6. “Statesboro Blues” – The Allman Brothers Band   (from the album Live at the Fillmore East) - Live at the Fillmore Eastwas the album that broke the Allmans and Blind Willie McTell’s ode to a little town in Georgia, “Statesboro Blues” led the charge as opening cut. After a quiet introduction Duane sets fire to the front row with searing leads that leave skid marks all over the song.

Listen and buy “Statesboro Blues” by The Allman Brothers Band from AMAZON or iTunes

7. “Loan Me A Dime” – Boz Scaggs featuring Duane Allman   (from the album My Time” A Boz Scaggs Anthology) - Coming on slow, “Loan Me A Dime” opens with organ and piano notes playing tag over a simmering drum beat walking through high noon on a hot day. Duane Allman plays all lead guitar on the track, biding his time and entering the song at over the one minute mark and taking charge.

Listen and buy “Loan Me a Dime” by Boz Scaggs from AMAZON or iTunes

8. “Tell the Truth” – Derek and the Dominoes   (from the album Layla and Other Assorted  Love Songs) - Duane Allman felt that it was easy to separate his lead guitar work from that of Eric Clapton on the Derek and the Dominoes project…..Eric played the Fender parts and Duane played the Gibson parts. On “Tell the Truth” it is an easier figure, as Duane slides in and stays on a slippery course with his guitar through the song.

Listen and buy “Tell the Truth” by Derek and the Dominoes from AMAZON or iTunes

9. “Little Martha” – The Allman Brothers Band   (from the album Eat A Peach) - “Little Martha” is the only Allman Brothers track written solely by its then group leader, Duane Allman. The song was recorded in October 1971, just several weeks before Duane’s untimely death.

Listen and buy “Little Martha” by The Allman Brothers Band from AMAZON or iTunes

10. “Duane Allman” – Amy Ray  (from the album Goodnight Tender) - Amy Ray twists and twangs a nod to one of the world’s greatest guitarists, Duane Allman. The story follows a woman with a guitar, up from Waycross as she puts her line in the sand, “Man it ain’t ever gonna be the same… you know I’ll give ‘em a chance but no one can play like Duane”. Duane Allman’s body of work ended with his death in 1971, but his guitar riffs continue to be a part of our lives.

Listen and buy “Duane Allman” by Amy Ray feat. Susan Tedeschi from AMAZON or iTunes

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the alternate root magazineThe decade of the 1980's can be looked at musically in a number of ways. On the surface it's easy to dismiss the decade as one of the worst in terms of popular music. What wasn't being dominated by the horror of Journey, REO Speedwagon, Survivor, Toto and Styx was being dominated by Duran Duran, Kenny Loggins, Culture Club and Michael Jackson. The rockers had their own mindless decade being fed a steady diet of Def Leppard, Van Halen, Molly Hatchet and Aerosmith.

We noticed that bands moved the Roots needle further than their album did. It was not a time when artists had the control over their music, or the ability to make music at home. If you were recording, you had someone attached to the project that saw things a different way. There were budgets and every album needed the 'hit single'. The artist development that had existed in the 1960's and 1970's was virtually gone. The major labels were simply showing up and collecting cash. The invention and proliferation of the compact disc started around 1982 when the discs became commercially available. Major labels were more interested in mining the catalogs and reselling hit records in a different format, so radio waves started championing the term 'classic.'

Soul music was either too Pop or too dance. Folk music was still riding high on the success of 1970's singer/songwriters, bluegrass was still traditional. Blues had some artists that were making noise and some were starting to expand with it and have some fun. Rock was the king and the genre took chances. Many of the artists on our list considered themselves to be rock bands but the groundwork laid would have a rippling effect. There were scenes rather than breakout artists. Los Angeles had cow punk and a roots scene that was very much part of punk rock with bands like X, Dwight Yoakam, Lone Justice, The Knitters, The Blasters, Rank and File, Cruzados, Blood on the Saddle and The Long Ryders all fighting for a small piece of ground. The lower east side of Manhattan was still taking pride in its birthing of punk but bands like The Del-Lords, Mike DeVille and Robert Gordon were playing their music and using their influences to create a more roots sound. Athens, GA had the rock of R.E.M., Pylon, The B-52's and Dumptruck. Nashville was set on taking country into modern times and away from the classic sound of Hank Williams. Lefty Frizell and others. The outlaw country was headed in the roots direction with a lot of steam but the music was still more Country than Roots.

As we set out to search for the albums of the 1980's that shaped the Roots Rock movement of today we found that the 80's thrived in terms of great music even though most of the albums we chose as our Top 40 Most Important by and large flew under the radar and we didn't even get into R.E.M., U2, The Alarm, The Clash, The Pretenders or The Psychedlic Furs. We left a ton of great albums off of our list that were in our stack to narrow down from a list of hundreds to a list of 40.

This is not a history lesson about Roots Music in it's purest forms. That music started in the early 1900's and we'll get to it in time. Everyone that followed was influenced by the great masters. These albums and these artists paved the way during the decade previous to our list of the last 25 Years but make no mistake, these albums and these artists were influenced by music from the previous decades and so on. We'll tackle the 70's, 60's and 50's in time and in order.

So here it is. The Alternate Root Top 40 Roots Rock Albums from 1980-89

1. Paul Simon - Graceland (1986) - Graceland brought the indigenous music of South Africa to the world stage and launched the International careers of  more than a few South African musicians. The album combined traditional American elements of pop, a capella, Tex-Mex and zydeco with traditional South African elements of isacathamiya and mbaqanga and the eclectic, critically acclaimed album changed the way the world looked at South Africa at a time when the world wasn't looking at South Africa very favorably. 27 years later this album still stands as a monumental achievement in music and continues to influence musicians around the world.

Listen and buy the music of Paul Simon from AMAZON or iTunes

2. The Blasters - The Blasters (1980) - The Blasters self titled album caught the music world by surprise...a mix of rock, country, rockabilly, mountain music and early rhythm and blues that burst onto the American music landscape in 1980, ripped your head off and screamed into your soul. It was sweaty, smokey, loud and so original that few people knew what to make of it. Brothers Phil and Dave Alvin along with John Bazz on bass and Bill Bateman on drums comprised the band that had more talent and energy than it should be legal to have in one band. Critics loved it and people associated with the industry shouted about it but the album never found it's way to the masses.

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3. Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska (1982) - Nebraska is a bit of an enigma and marks a turning point in the illustrious career of one of America's greatest musical treasures. Springsteen recorded the tracks as demos for an album that was to be recorded by the E Street band. The entire album was actually recorded with the full band but those recording were never released. Springsteen instead released the demos, recorded at home on a four track with very sparse instrumentation. The album's dark subject matter, centered around everyday American blue-collar characters facing challenges without hope or salvation, is unlike any other in the Springsteen catalog.

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4. Tom Waits - Rain Dogs (1985) - Rain Dogs was sandwiched between two other brilliant Tom Waits albums Swordfishtrombones and Frank's Wild Years forming a trilogy of sorts. Waits wrote the songs for Rain Dogs in a basement in Greenwich Village in 1984. The album documented the malaise and urban depression of New York City through sounds that included recordings of street noise and a wide range of instrumentation from Waits' dark piano to accordion, marimba, trombone, banjo and upright bass. The album was dark, drifting from old blues to New Orleans funeral dirge and a slew of points in between.
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5. Townes Van Zandt - At My Window (1987) - At My Window was the only release by Townes Van Zandt in the 1980's and was his first studio release in nearly a decade. By then his place on the pantheon of great American songwriters was already secure and the album re-affirmed that Townes still had the songwriting chops. At My Window was different in that it was richer musically than most of his previous material which can be attributed to the production of the legendary "Cowboy" Jack Clement. Clement brought in a host of notable session players including Mark O'Connor, Mickey Raphael and Roy Huskey Jr. and the result was a brilliantly crafted and performed album.

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6. Bonnie Raitt - Nick of Time (1989) - The appropriately titled Nick of Time came at a point in Bonnie Raitt's career where she needed a jolt both professionally and personally. She notes that Nick of Time was the first album she had done sober. Raitt's career was sliding backwards after a string of mediocre albums and  was being kept relevant by appearances on a series of political projects including MUSE, Amnesty International, Farm Aid and Sun City. Nick of Time took off after a sweep of the four Grammy's Raitt was nominated for in 1989 and her career has been on an upward trajectory since. The album was more soul than straight on blues and proved that Bonnie Raitt still had it all.

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7. Los Lobos - How Will the Wolf Survive (1984) - East L.A. has a long history of contribution to the American musical landscape with the influences of brown-eyed soul, R&B and Latino rhythms. Artists that rose up from the vibrant East L.A. scene including WAR, El Chicano and Malo combined Latino rhythms with funk, early R&B and blues. Los Lobos took it a step in another direction, combining traditional Mexican music, rock, folk and Latin rhythms together on their major label breakthrough album How Will the Wolf Survive. The album stands as a benchmark for Americana music and helped to usher in a new genre of music.

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8. k.d. lang - Angel With a Lariat (1987) - Though her albums Shadowland and Absolute Torch and Twang would spawn more 'hits' and radio success than Angel with a Lariat we chose it because it was Lang's coming out party for America and the rest of the world outside of her native Canada. Produced by Dave Edmunds, the album was seasoned with hints of rockabilly, country and British pop and mixed with Lang's unmistakable mezzo-soprano vocals to form a vintage that gets better with age. k.d.lang influenced millions of young women not only as singers but as social and cultural activists as well.

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9. Cowboy Junkies -  The Trinity Session (1988) - It was mostly a family affair for Cowboy Junkies with siblings Margo, Michael and Peter Timmins counted as band members. Their 1986 recording debut was blues inspired, but the sound culture clash of their 1988 release, The Trinity Session, brought a larger audience from a rock camp. The Trinity Session married classic country covers (“Walking After Midnight”, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”) with classic rock (“Sweet Jane”) all played out of a moody groove and airy arrangements.

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10. Steve Earle - Guitar Town (1986) - Steve Earle's breakthrough album Guitar Town topped the country charts and garnered two Grammy nominations in 1987 and it was the first and last time that "country radio" would recognize Steve Earle. It also marks the starting point for one of the most prolific, politically charged and culturally significant careers in American music history. Little of the subsequent Steve Earle catalog even closely resembles Guitar Town musically but the album sparked a new era of country based rock with intelligent lyrics that continues today.

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11. Blue Rodeo Diamond Mine (1989)- Formed in 1985 in Toronto, Canadians Blue Rodeo released their first album, Outskirts, in 1987, which would have excluded them from our 1988+ list. Luckily, their second album, Diamond Mine, is date friendly and keeps the same intentions of their debut. Blue Rodeo marry rock and country with a true Indie Rock feel and form, with organ swells sharing the sonic space with guitars and rhythm. Diamond Mine balances Indie Rock tunes (“God and Country”) with torchy twang (“How Long”) and a mix of both (“Love and Understanding” and the title track).

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12. The Subdudes - The Subdudes (1989) - The Subdudes debut release The Subdudes proved a couple of things. One is that a major label in 1989 couldn't find it's ass with two hands and a flashlight when it came to roots music. Second was that the "music business" wasn't really about music at all. It was about cash registers although that was pretty much agreed upon by most people already. Had a label like Rounder or Sugar Hill had the album, the effect The Subdudes had on the musical landscape might be much different. The Subdudes combined a plethora of innovative musical styles to their music including blues, swamp rock, cajun, funk, soul, R&B, folk, country and just about everything else and their influence resonates still today.

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13. Stevie Ray Vaughan - Texas Flood (1983) - Blues music post WWII has a tendency to ebb and flow with periods of great popularity followed by periods where it searches for a popular voice and becomes seen as a historical genre. Like Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and The Bluesbreakers before him, Stevie Ray Vaughan arrived on the scene when blues needed a shot in the arm and a popular voice. His debut album Texas Flood may not have been well received by critics or blues purists but it resonated with the public and changed the way a million kids felt when they picked up a guitar. Vaughan's influence on blues based rock will be felt for generations.

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14. Danny Gatton - Unfinished Business (1987) - Danny Gatton was a monster guitar player that fused together a variety of styles including jazz, country, rock and blues to create a sound that mesmerized both his followers and his peers. His fans included guitar greats from Les Paul to Roy Buchanan to Eric Clapton and just about everyone in between. His album Unfinished Business never garnered him the commercial success he deserved although it was met with a mass of critical acclaim. His later releases 88 Elmira Street and Cruisin' Dueces put him on the radar screen and captured a legion of fans but depression would overcome Gatton and his life ended with his suicide in 1994. Unfinished Business would prove to be a prophetic title that many before him from Buddy Holly to John Lennon could have used.

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15. The Del-Lords - Based on a True Story (1988) - The Del-Lords rose up from the post-punk, New York City scene of the 1980's and changed a lot of the status-quo at the time. Ex Dictators guitarist Scott Kempner and ex Joan Jett guitarist Eric "Roscoe" Ambel along with bassist Manny Caiati and drummer Frank Funaro created a sound that melded rock, country, blues and a gritty form of garage together and became one of the most important bands of the decade. The Del-Lords would become the main innovators of the roots rock sound that resonated throughout the following decades and on to today. After two stellar openers, their third album, Based on a True Story would prove to be the Del-Lords crowning acheivement although one more album, Lovers Who Wander would follow.

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16. KoKo Taylor - Queen of the Blues (1985) - One of the original female giants to come out of the Chicago blues scene in the 1960's, Koko Taylor learned from the master himself Willie Dixon who discovered her in 1962. Although her music was well received by critics Taylor pinnacled commercially in 1965 with her song 'Wang Dang Doodle.' Queen of the Blues took the Grammy for Best Blues Album in 1985 and put the name KoKo Taylor back on the map of innovative and electrifying blues performers. In the 1980's Blues was again regaining popularity on the heels of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Robert Cray and KoKo Taylor.

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17. The BoDeans - Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams (1986) - The BoDeans emerged from the vibrant Wisconsin music scene that erupted in the 1980's with the Violent Femmes. Their debut Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams was an instant success and pushed the band too fast into territory they had scarcely earned. Jangly guitars, Beatle-esque harmonies, synergy and simple, light hearted lyrics all wrapped in a masterful work of production by T-Bone Burnett made Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams the BoDeans finest moment. Although they would have a long run as a band and amass a solid body of work, the BoDeans never matched the magic of Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams.

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18 (tie). Semi-Twang - Salty Tears - (1988) - Another band that broke out of the  Milwaukee music scene of the 1980's, Semi-Twang released only one record until re-uniting in 2009 resulting in a subsequent album due in 2013. Salty-Tears united an all star cast of producers, (Mitch Froom, Chris Thomas and Jerry Harrison,) a group of outstanding musicians, a budget from Warner Bros. records and a brilliant collection of songs. The result ushered in the alt-country movement and while it was lauded by critics, there was no radio outlet for it and it floundered commercially.

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18. (tie) Georgia Satellites – Georgia Satellites (1986) - Hair metal was king. and radio rocked. Top 40 was synth dance and lots of hair spray. Into this environment came the simple phrase, “I gotta little change in my pocket going jing-aling-aling”. The Georgia Satellites looked and acted like rock stars on holiday. The sound liberally borrowed from the Faces and The Stones. They took “Keep Your Hands to Yourself”, the Roots/Rock version of “if you like it, put a ring on it”, to Number 2 in Billboard and gave Rock’n’Roll another chance on the charts.

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19. The Neville Brothers - Fiyo on the Bayou (1981) - The follow up to the dbut album, The Neville Brothers, Fiyo on the Bayou incorporated more elements of funk, reggae and New Orleans, cajun flavored R&B than it's predecessor. The result resonated with critics and the public and The Neville Brothers have become synomymous with American R&B world wide as a result. It contains the monumental songs, 'Hey Pocky Way,' 'Sitting in Limbo,' and 'The Ten Commandments of Love' that have become 'standards' of the standards.

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20. The Stray Cats - The Stray Cats (1981) - Though the Stray Cats US debut Built for Speed was released in 1982, we chose the debut album and British release Stray Cats for this list. The Long Island band founded by guitar ace Brian Setzer along with upright bass player Lee Rocker and drummer Slim-Jim Phantom had a solid following in the New York City post-punk scene but hit their meteoric stride after re-locating to London in 1981. Stray Cats, both album and band, revitalized the rockabilly movement, created a sub-culture centered around vintage fashion and style and turned millions of American kids on to a forgotten form of American music. 'Rumble in Brighton,' 'Stray Cat Strut,' 'Rock This Town' and 'Runaway Boys,' could have made for a career alone.

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21. Richard and Linda Thompson - Shoot Out the Lights (1982) - After several critically acclaimed albums, Shoot Out the Lights ignited the careers of Richard and Linda Thompson just as the pair were falling apart as a couple. The album stuck with the folk with a strong rock side that Richard Thompson cultivated and shepherded since his first recordings with Fairport Convention. Darkness falls over the songs, like much of the material from Richard Thompson, with love songs taking on an edge in “Don’t Renege on our Love” and “Man in Need”. Richard Thompson can even bring danger to a day in the (amusement) park, with the high climbing tension of “Wall of Death”.

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22. Jason and the Scorchers - Fervor (1983) - Formed in Nashville in 1981, Jason and the Scorchers looked country, played hard rock and crafted songs with the attitude of a punk rocker. Their E.P., Fervor, raised and set the bar for Alt Country earsplitting volumes with six fire-breathing originals, including “Hot Nights in Georgia” and a blistering cover of Bob Dylan’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie”.

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23. The Morells - Shake and Push (1982)The Morells released Shake And Push in 1982 with a sound that relied heavily on good old rock’n’roll riffs, the simplicity of rockabilly and story lines that dug deeper. Based in Springfield, Missouri, The Morells gave the world producer/player Lou Whitney. Shake and Push has become one of those legendary releases, with new copies of the disc selling online for close to $200.

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24. Melissa Ethridge - Melissa Ethridge (1988) - Time magazine announced that ‘She’s the Boss’ when Melissa Etheridge became a contender in the crown formerly worn by Bruce Springsteen. Her self-titled debut showed a woman with spit and snarl to her tales of love gone wrong. She balanced her audio attacks with a teasing emotion that lets you think you just might be able to tame her. Don’t count on it!

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25. The Rave-Ups – Town and Country (1985) - The Rave-Ups began life in Pittsburgh, PA but took hold in a second incarnation that set up roots in Los Angeles. The group successfully took Roots/Rock into Pop without getting any of the Pop smear on itself. All four members were at a major label before any deal was signed. Each member of the group had mailroom jobs at A&M Records, and they rehearsed in the basement at night when the offices were closed. Town and Country met with critical acclaim, The Rave-Up’s were an MTV buzz, and they made their movie debut with an appearance in John Hughes’ film “Pretty in Pink”.

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26. T-Bone Burnett - Trap Door (1982) -  In the days before becoming the man set on moving Americana into the mainstream, the Grammy winning producer (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) was a guitarist for Bob Dylan on Rolling Thunder Revue. Trap Door was an E.P. released on the Warner Brothers label that showed how T-Bone Burnett performed on his own. Trap Door contained an in-your-face version of “Diamonds Are a Girls Best Friend” and the memory of a chance meeting with The Faces/Pink Floyd go-go dancer, Kim English (Kim Boston in England).

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27. Rockpile - Seconds of Pleasure (1980) - As a band, Rockpile made several records before their name appeare on the cover. Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds brought name recognition to the four-piece which also included Billy Bremner (guitar) and Terry Williams (drums). Seconds of Pleasure was the only release from a band that got everything right in music, but could not get past the more human side of group management, ego. “Teacher, Teacher” used old Rock’n’Roll riffs, like many of the Rockpile songs, and let the rhythm tear. Rockpile created great music for a short space in time, but when the wind blows just right, you can still hear the sound hammering away.

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28. Lone Justice - Lone Justice (1985) - Maria McKee and Ryan Hedgecock were playing country covers on the tiny L.A. cow punk scene. Adding in veteran players like bassist/producer Marvin Etzioni helped the band to craft originals. A supporting hand by fan Linda Ronstadt helped them seal a Geffen Record deal, and U2 tapped the band as tour openers. Lone Justice self-titled debut is a roots/rock masterpiece with Maria McKee guiding the songs into Pop (“Sweet, Sweet Baby”), country rock (“After the Flood”) and lunch for the spirit (“Soap, Soup and Salvation”).

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29. Steve Forbert - Streets of this Town (1988) - Steve Forbert returned to recording after a legally imposed six year hiatus with his first release on Geffen Records, Streets of This Town. The album maintained and expanded on the smarts of his lyrics and laid a new found maturity over the story lines. Produced by E-Street bassist Garry Tallent, Streets of This Town further secured Steve Forbert’s  status as a singer/songwriter who would stick around rather than leaving the building when Pop had its fill of the genre.

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30. Joe Ely - Musta Notta Gotta Lotta (1981) - Joe Ely formed The Flatlanders with fellow Lubbock natives Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore in 1970. Following some great album releases in the late 1970’s, the singer/songwriter caught a big break from British punk rock gods, The Clash. The band talked about and championed Joe’s music after meeting during a 1977 U.K visit and tour together. Musta Notta Gotta Lotta received lots of love from underground rock radio due to The Clash thumbs up and became his highest charting album with rock friendly tunes like “Hard Livin’” and the title track.

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31. Beausoliel- Bayou Cadillac (1989) - Beausoleil have become world ambassadors for Cajun music. The band hit a creative groove in the 1980’s, and Bayou Cadillac was album number seven for that decade. Bayou Cadillac kept the French language lyrics in place, and amped up the rock punch, adding in English lyrics for crossover appeal. The album’s title track fused Rock’n’Roll classics “Not Fade Away”, “Bo Diddley” and “Iko Iko” into a zydeco reel.

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32. Lyle Lovett - Lyle Lovett and His Big Band (1989) - On his third recording as Lyle Lovett and His Big Band, Mr. Lovett took home a Grammy for best Country Male Vocal performance for the 1989 release. Lyle Lovett’s slightly hesitant delivery never sounded better and his take on classics such as “The Glory of Love” and the gender-bending “Stand By Your Man” took him to a new audience.

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33. The Paladins - The Paladins (1987) - The Paladins formed in the early 1980’s and set the knobs on their amps for rockabilly and roots. Their first, self-titled album was produced by The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ Kim Wilson and fanned the fires for roots and maintained a heart on for twang. The Paladins stands firm as a statement to the glory of Roots/Rock that the band maintained until Dave Gonsalez left in 2004 to focus on the Hacienda Brothers.

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34. The Del Fuegos - Boston, Mass (1985) - What was an in-house project for the kitchen workers at Boston’s Hoo-Doo BBQ took greater form when Chef Jimmy Ryan handed the microphone over to guitarist/songwriter Dan Zanes. Dan recruited his brother Warren (at Mom’s request) who took on lead guitar chores and the name OrkBoy. A Miller beer commercial gave them a national TV stage and hits from Boston, Mass such as “I Still Want You” and “Don’t Run Wild” from their second Slash Records release put them on the charts.

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35. Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, Robert Cray - Showdown! (1985)  - “Three guitars, no waiting” could have been the sub-title for the 1985 Alligator Records recording of Showdown! by blues guitar men Albert Collins, Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland. Nine tracks and barely a moment of quiet throughout as Blues axes make quick work of everything in their path.

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36. Nanci Griffith - Once in a Very Blue Moon (1983) - Nanci Griffith brought in musical backing for her third album release, Once in a Very Blue Moon. The folk-fed sparseness of her earlier releases was replaced by a fuller sound that contained a little more Country. Guest musicians Bela Fleck (banjo) and Mark O’Connor (fiddle) bring in musical magic as support for the dream texture of “Year Down in New Orleans” and the nod to favorite venues “Spin Around the Red Brick Floor”.

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37. Joan Armatrading - Walk Under Ladders (1981) -  Joan Armatrading came further into the full-on rock world with the Steve Lillywhite produced Walk Under Ladders. The mix of studio personnel was all over the map with new wave representation from Thomas Dolby and Andy Partridge (XTC), Elton John percussionist Ray Cooper, reggae rhythm man Robbie Shakespeare and Orleans’ Peter Gabriel and Hall & Oates alumni, Jerry Marotta.

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38. John Mellencamp - Scarecrow (1985) - Pre-production for Rain on the Scarecrow was simple, and sounds like a lot of fun. John Mellencamp and his band spent a month playing about a hundred Rock’n’Roll songs from the 60’s before heading into the studio to record. The album took a stand in and for the heartland. Without changing the Roots/Rock sound, John Mellencamp brought lyrics that had meaning, talking about good lovin’ in Middle America (“Lonely Ole’ Night”) and touring ala Motown caravans (“R.OC.K. in the U.S.A.”). Rain on the Scarecrow would be the first volley heard for the plight of America’s farmers and for Farm Aid.

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39. Chris Isaak - Silvertone (1985) - Chris Isaak had the snarl and the chops to be the next in line for Elvis Presley comparisons. His band was equally stripped down but the resulting sound was more ethereal and dream like. The tone of the music was a good match for filmmaker David Lynch, whose work in films had the same dreamscape attached. The director’s use of the tune “Gone Ridin’” from Silvertone jettisoned the album to much deserved recognition.

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40. The Beat Farmers - Glad N' Greasy (1985) - The Beat Farmers traveled to England to record Glad N’ Greasy for U.K. label Demon Records. The album, produced by Graham Parker and Rumor keyboardist Bob Andrews continued to put cow punk, Roots/rock, twanging rockabilly and swampy Americana into a blender. Glad ‘N Greasy included a dance hall version of Neil Young’s tune “Powderfinger”, and fellow roots rockers Dave Alvin, Nick Lowe, Gene Taylor and Loudon Wainwright III joined in for the community chorus on “Beat Generation”.

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