adam ezra on the extended play sessionsThe connection between Adam Ezra, his band and whatever audience he happens to be entertaining is matched by few performers on today's music scene. The consummate entertainer, songwriter and band leader has been at the top of the Boston music scene for over a decade and has steadily built a national following through a relentless touring schedule. His sidekick and percussionist, Turtle, has been with him since Adam Ezra first started  with keyboardist Josh Gold joining soon after. A series of successful, critically acclaimed albums under their belt the band continues to electrify their fans with each live performance. Recent additions, Corina Smith on fiddle and Francis Hickey on bass along with stalwart drummer Alex Martin round out the sextet. This is one of the most memorable performances for The Extended Play Sessions and one we're grateful to have had the opportunity to experience.


girls guns and glory on alternate root tvThis week's show features Boston alt-country rockers Girls Guns and Glory. The Alternate Root ranked Girls Guns and Glory as one of the Top 5 Bands in Boston and one of the Top 35 Bands in the U.S. Their rise has been meteoric since the arrival of guitar ace Chris Hersch to compliment the unmistakable voice of front man Ward Hayden. Girls Guns and Glory have been significant all along but the tandem of Hayden and Hersch along with the powerhouse rhythm section of Paul Dilley and Josh Kiggens have brought the band to a new level. Their latest album, 'Sweet Nothings' was one of the Top Albums of 2012 receiving a ton of critical acclaim. The band came into Alternate Root TV Studios to open for the Del-Lords.


the band of heathens on alternate root tvA lot has gone on in the lives of Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist over the past year. The co-founders of the Band of Heathens went through a near complete line-up change, fatherhood, moving from Austin and a host of other life shifting changes. During that span they wrote the most compelling and musically poignant album in the band's history, Sunday Morning Record. Touring with a new band and a brilliant new record has placed them right back at the top of the most important bands to carry the roots/Americana torch. Taking one of the best and most dynamic live shows and stripping it down to accommodate the small Alternate Root TV Studios was something the band, the audience and we, at Alternate Root TV, thoroughly enjoyed. "It's a great thing you have going on here," Gordy Quist mentioned, "taking this industrial space and turning it into a cool jazz club and inviting us in to play is pretty cool." We agree. The Band of Heathens performed the first side of the new album Sunday Morning Record for a small audience of fans and Alternate Root TV viewers in the very intimate setting of our Boston studio. "This was as close to a musical "religious" experience as I've had in some time." Bill Hurley, Producer, Alternate Root TV.


leftover salmon the extended play sessionsFor nearly three decades Leftover Salmon has been creating their own brand of music combining bluegrass, Cajun, country rock, blues and Rocky Mountain soul. There have been many changes in personnel along the way but the core of Vince Herman on guitar and Drew Emmitt on mandolin has remained solid and the addition of Andy Thorn on banjo has brought the Leftover Salmon sound to a new pinnacle. Back on the road after a host of successful side projects, Leftover Salmon has returned with a new-found vengeance and have reclaimed their spot at the top of the jam band circuit. The stopped into Alternate Root TV Studios on September 14 to tape the 'EP' Extended Play Sessions that will air on Monday September 23rd.


royal southern brotherhood on alternate root tvRoots, soul supergroup Royal Southern Brotherhood graced the stage at the Alternate Root TV studio in Boston to film this week's edition of 'EP' The Extended Play Sessions in front of a packed room of fans on August 26, 2013. Devon Allman (guitar), Mike Zito (guitar), Cyril Neville (percussion), Charlie Wooton (bass) and Yonrico Scott (drums) are all musicians of distinguished pedigree that bring together elements of blues, jazz, funk, soul and Gulf Coast rhythms to create some of the most sophisticated and complex music on the roots / Americana circuit. This set was one of the best we've ever had the pleasure of filming. This rich, soul and funk infused collection of songs appear on the debut album Royal Southern Brotherhood and the band performed a stripped down, intimate version for Alternate Root TV with some great commentary about music today, songwriting and being in one of the best bands in the world today.


peter mulvey on alternate root tvFor over two decades Peter Mulvey has been creating and perfecting a progressive blend of folk and indie rock music. He combines elements of rock, jazz and intelligent pop melodies with profound stories that penetrate the depths of the human condition. His music transcends the "folk" tag assigned as part of the Boston folk revival of the 1990's, foregoing traditions in favor of a more incendiary, percussive style of guitar playing and ethereal song crafting. Peter Mulvey is a master songwriter and musician and a consummate professional. He stopped by Alternate Root TV studios to film this week's edition of 'EP'-The Extended Play Sessions and it's one of the best shows of the year so far.


marcia ball extended playFor four decades the Queen of the boogie-woogie piano, Marcia Ball, has been gracing the stage worldwide. She's one the top female blues performers in the world, bringing the New Orleans/Mississippi Delta style to her unique brand of music. "It's what I know," she says, "I've been playing most of my life and I've been very fortunate." Marcia is also an activist, advocating for health care for musicians through the New Orleans Musicians Clinic and a similar program in her adopted hometown of Austin, TX. She also lends her voice to projects to reclaim the Louisiana wetlands and restoring New Orleans. In this week's edition of Extended Play she talks about her music, Irma Thomas, the plight of the wetlands and gives us a fabulous set of New Orleans style blues.


shannon mcnally on alternate root tvShannon McNally and her band Hot Sauce stopped by the Alternate Root TV studio in Norwood, MA to perform a set from the recently released album "Small Town Talk" A Tribute to the Music of Bobby Charles. Charles was one of the most prolific purveyors of the New Orleans sound from the 1950's through the last decade and the album, produced by Dr. John and Shannon McNally, is a brilliant tribute to one of the great songwriters of our time. Shannon McNally is one of the top female vocalists on the Americana/Roots music landscape, a great writer and immensely talented performer with an equally powerful backing combo featuring Will Sexton (guitar), Matt Hubbard (keyboards, trombone), Jake Fussell (bass) and Wallace Lester (drums). This four song set and words from Shannon is some of the hottest music we've had on Alternate Root TV this year!


gracie curran and the high falutin' bandGracie Curran has been featured on the Alternate Root lists for Top Female American Roots Vocalist, Top Roots Soul Acts and Top Bands in Boston and for good reason...she's a dynamic singer with a powerhouse voice. A blend of soul, blues, gospel and rock, she and her band mates, the High Falutin' Band defy description except for being a band to watch in the future. The sound revolves around Gracie's soulful voice and the solid guitar chops of Tommy Carroll with the strong rhythm section of Geoff Murfitt ion bass and Derek Bergman on drums, round out the quartet. The band ripped through a set of music from their debut album "Proof of Love" for this week's edition of "EP" - Extended Play on Alternate Root TV.


luke winslow-king on alternate root tv Call it a New Orleans gumbo of delta blues, traditional jazz, gospel and soul if you need a definition. New Orleans based Luke Winslow-King is a traditionalist that finds his musical soul melding musical styles nearly a century old with a contemporary improvisational approach. A master bottleneck slide guitarist with a vintage voice, his music is fresh, fun and infectious. He's joined on Extended Play by Esther Rose on washboard and harmony vocals and Cassidy Holden on the upright bass. Esther Rose's voice is the perfect compliment to Luke Winslow-King's music with a tone reminiscent of Eilen Jewell. This is a fantastic show with great music and thoughts from Luke Winslow-King.

Listen and buy the music of Luke Winslow-King from AMAZON and iTunes




Trampled Under Foot saw changes in their all-sibling lineup as a trio in 2014.  When brother Kris announced he was leaving the band, Danielle and Nick solicited long-time friend and fellow KC musician Jan Faircloth to join them on drums. Jan brought with him years of experience as a musician in the Kansas City blues scene and provided a fresh take on the band’s trademark sound. The addition of Jan inspired TUF to make other changes in their line up and the group added keyboardist Mike “Shinetop” Sedovic as an official member, turning the trio in to a 4-piece powerhouse blues band and adding a new dimension to their already stellar live performance that Trampled Under Foot will be bringing to The Alternate Root on Monday, July 21, 2014.

The Alternate Root is pleased to host a special night of filming featuring Trampled Under Foot on Monday, July 21, 2014. Doors are at 6PM and you can be included by contacting us via e-mail through studioconcertseries@gmail.com.

Located just 25 minutes from downtown Boston and minutes off of I-95 and Rt. 1, Alternate Root TV Studios is a unique place to see top nationally touring artists in an intimate setting. With cabaret style seating for just 40 people, no seat is more than 25 feet from the stage. Food and beverages are complimentary and there is ample free parking just steps from the studio. Seating is reserved for guests on an invitation only, first come first served basis. It is an opportunity to see artists up-close and personal and interact with them. They are here filming our television series and you can be part of it.

EXTENDED PLAY FROM ALTERNATE ROOT TVWe are launching a new show for Alternate Root TV called "EP" Extended Play. The show will debut on Boston Network WBIN on January 18th, 2014. The show will air on Saturday evenings at 1AM immediately following Saturday Night Live. It is available in 2.7 million homes throughout New England. 

Our goal is to share the incredible experience of working closely with the artists you love. To fully realize that effort in the future, we will film our 'EP'-Extended Play episodes in front of a live studio audience. Part house concert, part live music venue, but with much more surrounding the event. The shows will be invitation only and limited to 50 audience members. The suggested donations will be announced to cover production costs and artist fees. Audience members will get to see filming in an up close and personal setting. Taping will be no more than two hours and will include audience participation for the questions to the artists for each show. For the lucky 50 in attendance, each audience member will receive a limited edition show poster signed by the artist(s) and will be able to purchase a DVD copy of the event when the show is edited and released, as well as any merchandise the artists offer.

Our facility is located in Norwood, MA and has ample parking and space inside the building. The setting is warm. Every seat is a winner and very close to all the action. It is a fantastic way to see bands and artists you love in a private concert setting. You can bring your own food and refreshments that you can share it with the crowd or keep it all for yourself. Times will be announced as the shows are confirmed. If you wish to receive an email from us with upcoming shows as they are announced you can sign up by contacting us at the e-mail address below. Many of the artists will not be able to annouce shows in the area due to concert commitments so the line-up may be in the form of really good hints. You will receive a Constant Contact email with an image of the poster for every event and all the details including date, time and any other pertinent information. The first 50 responders get through the door and seating or standing space will be determined in the order the email response is received.






Identifying yourself as a singer/songwriter is similar to answering the question ‘what do you play’ with the one word, ‘music’. Arguably, anyone who can sing the song they write can claim membership in the club. The list then runs the gamut from Tin Pan Alley through to some kid and her guitar who wrote a song this morning. There are shining examples of what you can do with words and music if you can get out of your own way. John Fullbright, as that example, is the sweet cream rising to the top, the smoke reaching for the sky from a career on fire. On his second album, the recently released Songs, John defines his work with the album title. John Fullbright is the singer and songwriter for Songs; he is also the director, the set designer, the story editor, always the guy with clear observations, and sometimes the lead character. Each track stands alone on the album. The tales never make changes for happy endings. Standing at the crossroads between the low and “High Road”, Susie and Jack promise forever and as their lives open out over the story they can never seem to keep heads above water. John Fullbright is not soft-coating and try as you might, you can’t turn away, your eyes locked with Susie’s as she watches love die with Jack as the water finally covers him.  

John Fullbright makes the job of the listener really easy. He offers Songs with clear thoughts, sharp one-liners and vocals that are the perfect host, making every guest feel that they are the object of his attention. On the album opener, “Happy”, he asks ‘somebody tell me what’s so bad about happy?’….. don’t be surprised if you feel the word nothing slipping out of your mouth in a whisper. Humans are good at presenting a face for others of how they would like to be viewed. John Fullbright never gives his characters that option. Their motives, decisions and actions are first and foremost honest. As “Never Cry Again” offers a firm hand to hold, simple truths give a better understanding of the self-awareness of the man offering to help with the line ‘there were days I knew we’d be together, but there were nights I knew I’d be alone’. Even with warning signs like ‘truth be told the odds are stacked against us, truth be told they often always are’ a better future burns bright in “The One That Lives Too Far” and as the negative columns grows long it becomes obvious that the ‘only fight that remains is called “Keeping Hope Alive”’. John is a one-man production company performing many roles to bring a present a complete piece of art for each of his Songs. He builds tension and comforts with well-placed notes and gently plucked strings, coaxing texture and tone from ivory keys; John Fullbright is a master craftsmen constructing with notes, words, and heart.

Listen and buy the music of John Fullbright from AMAZON or iTunes


Sure, a songwriter is always better at singing their own material, or they should be. There are a smaller number of songwriters whose Vocals mirror the original words in their heads; the way we hear the singing is exactly what the artist heard while writing. It is that rare moment to hear the point of origin. The pathos and the pain, the laugh that still echoes and shock at the behavior of others still bites. Harry Nillson was like that….certainly Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen. Peter Himmelman is one of those songwriters, a guy who does not wear his heart on his sleeve, his clothes are already full of jotted down notes and phrases. Real time delivery, The Boat Carries Us, the most recent release from Peter Himmleman, sees with the expiration dates on the bottles of song marked today. He feels that his albums are “just chronicles of my life at a given point of time, I’m essentially a journalist. I write as I see things and try to report objectively.” For The Boat Carries Us, the snapshots from his journey are taken on a voyage into the soul of man. For Peter Himmelman, the experience of creating the songs was unique. He wrote many of the songs on cross-country airflights, composing the lyrics first, which he discovered to be extremely liberating… ‘seeing the structure of the words on the page was very visual, almost like drawing the lyrics.

The Boat That Carries Ussets sail with its title track leading onto the album. The moments with the song are simple; a man and an acoustic guitar. The story inspires in snippet of lines, fortune cookie lyrics that draw a lot more meaning than the few words would seem to hold. Peter Himmelman gives a story up for his muse with “33K”, chronicling the story in real time as his body rises with the plane with a Korean couple sitting beside him. The program veers slightly from airline-sponsored as he suddenly realizes the potential doom sitting in a tin can zooming through the sky, seeing ‘breathing engines alive and on fire, pretending to keep us in flight’. Echoed piano notes sound track late night and alone as Peter Himmelman stands just outside the window advising ‘baby don’t you open that bottle, you gonna let out what you can’t put back’ in “Tuck It Away” and the highway turns to night quickly in “Green Mexican Dreams” as the story rides a Dylanesque ‘600 miles in a black El Camino, wrestling the wind just outside of Reno’. Salvation is in the organ notes as Peter takes to the podium to have an ‘I’m sorry’ for just about every annoyance you pass during the course of a day in “For Wednesday at 7PM (I Apologize)”. The music bed for the songs is scraggly rock’n’roll that grew up with a mind for music that knows no borders. “Angels Die” makes a ‘goddamn racket’ in its story and its riffs, “In the Hour of Ebbing Light” heads out of Sioux City on a train track rhythm and “That's What it Looks Like to Me” wakes up early, way before dawn, its heart beating like the morning coffee already kicked in as late night fears prepare for the first rays of life coming fast. Peter Himmelman is certainly a chronicler. The Boat That Carries Us is smart enough to ply Indie waters with American Roots music that happily gathers songs together as it crosses musical borders.

Listen and buy the music of Peter Himmelman from AMAZON or iTunes


I have always thought that Deanna Bogart deserved every bit of the credit she receives for her artistry. Her musicianship on al of her albums is top shelf, garnering her multiple awards for her instrumental talents on piano, saxophone and bandleader. Just a Wish Away stays true to Deanna’s brand of boogie woogie blues, adding in New Orleans rhythm, horns and pedal steel guitar. The music signifies no change in direction yet it points to an artist who has been able to brand her style and sound since putting her own band together in 1988. There is an almost physical sense of excitement coming from the structured jam of the playing. On Just A Wish Away Deanna Bogart involves herself in the songs with more depth. Owning her ability to script and play for a Deanna Bogart alum.

The groove gets under your “Collarbone” as it prances to cool funk lines. The music finds country soul in “If You Have Crying Eyes” , is in a hurry to tell its tale over equally hurried beats in “If It's Gonna Be Like This” and sees the taillights fading on a “Back and Forth Kid” bouncing between family.  Deanna’s words back her stories with characters whose cuts will scar as they walk a “Tightrope” between day and night, they showcase hearts set on making fairy tales come true asking “What Is Love Supposed To Do’” and put a spotlight on the character working the toll both as one life passes and another comes through uttering “Maybe I Won’t”.  History gets African rhythms in “Conversing With Lincoln’” and “Fine By Me Good Bayou” heads for the back Louisiana country where some of the album tracks were recorded.  Deanna Bogart ups the ante on songwriting with Just a Wish Away, gaining an even cooler cred with cover versions. Blue jazz is in the guitar chops and Deanna’s ever-present sax pumps in “Bye Bye Blackbird” and a seasonably warm weather cool jazz settles on Sly Stone’s “Hot Fun in the Summertime”.

Listen and buy the music of Deanna Bogart from AMAZON or iTunes


Trampled by Turtles cast the Wild Animals title track as a sonic net to introduce the album. The track is liquid and acts as an overture, and a musical full disclosure for the songs that follow. Trampled by Turtles created a base, expanded and nurtured fans, and presented themselves as a Indie Rock String Band.  “Wild Animals” has its border set by Folk Rock and dreamy Americana, even after the distorted sweep of guitar chords that announces the track’s exit. There are moments of fast on the album, songs that confidently rely on the bands ability to shred its acoustics. For the most part, the overall sound of the album is a drastic change only in the balance of songs BPM. On Wild Animals, Trampled By Turtles expand on their song catalog by being more inclusive in their rhythms and in their ability to still infuse the tracks with the raggedy roots that makes the music of Trampled by Turtles so damn authentic. These guys are not casting off the music that put them on the bill as they drove to more high-profile gigs since their 2003 birth in Duluth, Minnesota. Wild Animals is Research & Development for a band that has become its own small business and brand. Trampled by Turtles are not changing, they are just investigating all of the corners where they can set up and play.

“Silver Light” shimmers along with violin swoops and a committed chord strums, as an ethereal shudder tries to flesh out “Ghosts” with hints of cataclysmic events occurring as seasons changes. As Wild Animals roams through it songs moods materialize on the sweep and sway of gentle of turbulent grooves. TxT frontman Dave Simonett rarely lets out a note that is not well-rounded and curved so that his vocals fit and flow over the stories. Having consistency in the vocal delivery, and belief in their frontman’s honey-warm voice, has allowed the playing to naturally let itself grow. “Are You Behind the Shooting Star?” has one riff that leads the arrangement into, through and out of the tune. The groove may be simple but the varied use of backing from string sections to the use of a trapped tambourine tap up the interest ante.  One note attaches instruments with its trance-like glue as the band look for “Lucy” while “Hollow” lets fiddles, mandolins and assorted other strings fill in any available space. Trampled by Turtles have done a masterful job of changing without doing anything more than use the Indie DIY playbook for sounds and styles that fit under their banner.

Listen and buy the music of Trampled by Turtles from AMAZON or iTunes


Dual band schizophrenia is abating a little for The Mastersons after serving double duty as core for the husband and wife band that bears their name and their on-going status as members of Steve Earle’s backing band, The Dukes. Steve offered The Mastersons, Chris Masterson (vocals, guitars, percussion) and Eleanor Whitmore (vocals, guitars, violin, string arrangements) the slot of tour openers. Good Luck Charm is the band’s second release for New West Records. Both albums were turning points though Eleanor views Good Luck Charm as ‘this is a more purpose-driven album. The first record was kind of his hers, but this one is entirely ours.’ Chris harmonized on that overview seeing time on the road “playing a few hundred shows a year has really solidified us as a band and focused our vision for the new record. Every song is crafted for the two of us. When we made Birds to Fly (2012), it just seemed like a good idea to do a record. Now we know it is.’

Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore are together a lot as they share wedding rings and a marital bed as well as stages for a band career and as working members of other bands. Toss in writing and recording duties. Who knows the inside a marriage? Probably not even the two who said ‘I Do’. What we do know is how well The Masterson are as a band. Good Luck Charm collects eleven songs that deserve the name. They have warmth in their stories alongside intricate music that flows simply. Aside from musically interacting, The Masterson are a killer example of family values. A shared mindset is the heart of the songs as “I Found You” contributes an opinion that “believes that love will swallow up the blue” and delivers “Time Is Tender” with a whisper that testifies ‘what don’t kill ya, sure does leave you tired’. The stories on Good Luck Charm are very fulfilling. The tales never leave you guessing without hammering a message or point. Rock’n’roll roots strut across “Nobody Knows” heading out the door on a ‘god awful feeling this is the end of a long time comin’’ and rhythm follows lazy Americana as it dons a “Uniform”, making a request for future inspiration as the story fires up its engines claiming ‘ I want to live, I want to love, I want to learn, I want to kiss, I want to smile, are you ready to run? I want to keep, I want to let, I want to give, I want to get, hear me yet? I’m so ready to run’. The Masterson Good Luck Charm show features song-sized movies that stay true to reality, using tough love to carve out harsh optimism in the tracks to bridge the beginning and end of the tales.

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


Our world has long had traditions of storytelling. For centuries, it the re-telling of history, and storytellers were revered. The Texas songmen would be a little uncomfortable to be put on that kind of pedestal but they certainly got people’s ear.  Southern storytellers do not hold tradition, they chronicle it. It is a legacy for the men and women who see daily life as a stageplay, book or song. Jim Mize puts the people of the south in his songs. There are no geographical markers on the tracks but you can see the south in the stories. The stamina, the community and the perseverance from tornado disasters, flooding in West Virginia and the Cumberland River overflowing into Nashville; not part of the national news, the south take care of it, thank you very much…..and bless you. Jim Mize has seen these people at their most resilient and vulnerable. He has spent thirty of his fifty-seven years as insurance adjuster traveling the south and the west, and as a native of Arkansas. Jim has ‘been through nine hurricanes and I don’t know how many tornadoes, and seen way too many car wrecks where people get killed. I saw two guys carrying a rolled up carpet with a pair of legs sticking out of it after Hurricane Andrew in Florida….and all kinds of people pushed to their limit. That’s connected to the songs I write. I always keep my antennae up. All of my tunes boil down to one thing, and that’s observation. I enjoy love songs the most, whether they’re happy or sad. With love, you can never run out of things to write about. But the most important thing is, my songs have to be honest. When I’m out there playing I believe every damn word I’m singing.’

So Jim Mize is a storyteller….well, you’re a storyteller, and you’re a storyteller and she’s a storyteller….bless you but what’s the big deal? The difference is in the way the music matches the words, rides shotgun with the stories and intuitively knows when to rise, and offset a potential ending (“I Won’t Come Back Again”) or be a blanket for the comfort of words (“Drunk Moon Falling”). The characters are eccentric and they walk a path of hypnotic Rock’n’Roll rhythms, as on the road that leads to “Emience Kentucky” and follows the rails back to Baltimore, MD, its pastoral views of dirt roads reflected as surreal images through a kaleidoscope of emotions. “Empty Rooms” is a playing field where there was once a home and is now a place where personal out-of-character acts become the norm… ‘next door neighbor, she keeps looking out from behind the drapes. I’ll stand naked in the window until she pulls the shades’. Jim Mize has Southern backing on the album from Memphis buzz John Paul Keith as he lights the way on “Rabbit Hole” with flash fire notes and regimented chords, and a man who is a Southern tradition in his own right, Jimbo Mathus, who follows a groove out of the swamp and lets his guitar notes sparkle like fireflies on “Bleed”. What Jim sees with his eyes plays on the big screen in his stories. He writes it as he sees it, so there is no favoritism in the extremes of its characters whether they are boozehounds or car parks, love-drunk couples or ever-present bar tenders. On his self-titled release, Jim Mize remains the romantic, seeing the heart in every story, cherishing every beat as much as he holds on to ‘This Moment with You” or suggests simply to find him you can ‘follow the blood trail to my heart’ as he swears “I Won't Come Back Again”.

Listen and buy the music of Jim Mize from AMAZON or iTunes


Ned Crisp and Bottomline have a classic prison song on Taking the Back Roads Home. Classic in its tale, that is. Musically, Ned Crisp is here for bluegrass. That is the heart that beats in the tracks though the wheels are pointed down a road interested more in the ride than the destination. Bluegrass is making moves to expand on a genre that for many years was happy with just being what it was, thank you very much. Ned Crisp is not a mad scientist set on world-domination nor is he a perfectionist that has the changes line up as the next steps for bluegrass. The Bottomline is set very subtly infusing tradition with some new blood lines. When the curtain parts to open Taking the Back Roads Home the band has minor chords set the tone as jealousy leads the actors around the stage by the evil in its emotion. “Danville Prison Grave” begins with the tunes ending over a bluegrass rhythm doing time as a solid rhythm line. It is the subtle touches that show new structure in songs; quick turns in the arrangement, in the staccato hits for slide notes rather than curves, and in the hushed breaths that add edge to the song. Ned Crisp and Bottomline are changing the system from within….seducing listeners with familiar while making sure bluegrass lives to see another millennia.

Taking the Back Roads Homegives the guys plenty of space to experiment. As the band lays a love one to rest in “Sweat of Your Brow” they are sending family to the great beyond carrying the daily brow sweat the man wore like denim and work boots. The band delivers a consistent rhythm, occasionally giving it a shot in the arm with chord punches. Percussion clicks off the miles as the rear view mirror shows that “Yesterday's Gone” while the judicial system that moves so quickly in “I Got Stripes” does not feel as honest as the committed groove that courses through the song like a flash flood. Sleepy bluegrass Americana meanders through “Please Go Slow”, notes wiggle like they hit the slip’n’slide on “Hillbilly Water Park” and a rhythmic rattle gives a Latin texture to the Country Soul of Tim O’Brien’s “Wishin’ Hard” as Ned Crisp and Bottomline take Highway 88 back into the hills in the Dixie Hall and Tom T. Hall title track.

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Delancey Street, Williamsburg Bridge, Alphabet City…romantic landmarks of NYC…names that hold allure only on paper or screen. Any sense of romance, or any of the other emotions that form around and foil youth, were the lessons Paul Sachs received from the streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side Though the area is gentrified today, for kids in the 60’s and 70’s, the streets were a playground pockmarked with landmines in the form of broken bottles and used needles. From a young age, Paul’s eyes were trained first for physical survival, and later for survival, and success, as a folk singer. In 2013, Paul Sachs won the New Folk Songwriters contest at Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. His latest release, Survival is the New Success, continues the development of a folk musician for modern times. No hybrids appear, and no need to claim dual citizenship for cool cred as Folk Rock, the instrumentation on Survival is the New Success gathers around an acoustic guitar and the man whose finger-picking style is as crucial to the songs as his one-line jabs and jeers.

There are probably a finite number of characters that can appear in song. Paul still considers himself a member in “The Junkies” as he says goodbye to a former friend with ‘nothing left to lose’. He shows that for a life on the outer edges of society “Trouble Comes Easy” while “Still Life” uses brush strokes to paint the beauty of bodies coming together. In the pen of Paul Sachs every character is unique, yet not so much that they may not have appeared on the ink and paper of other writers. Odds are good that “Hank Williams Guitar” could have been in another’s tune, though on Survival is the New Success, Paul marries the singer and the song, scribing one star fading and one star rising. Again, it might be possible that “Oswald’s Window” could have been name checked in a song story, the assassination of a president and the place where the shot was fired make for a good fodder. Where Paul Sachs may beat the house odds for a completely unique character is with “Jesse”. Over a country and western story song riff, the tale immediately becomes that of the ‘other brother’, the twin who did not survive birth. The body is gone, yet it is the spirit of the dead brother pulling the strings, he is playing the guitar while the man alive gets the women. The song quotes their mother as having the line that places this particular death in music history, and makes “Jesse” one of a kind in song as he relates that ‘mama said we were bound to one another inside the king of rock’n’roll’.”

Listen and buy the music of Paul Sachs from his website


The American Songster Dom Flemonswalk listeners through lands where Roots run deep though addresses change. Basement folk clubs on Bleeker Street echo in the chords of “Too Long (I've Been Gone)” and the beat heads south with its playing getting anxious on the long trip, like it is caught in a kudzu patch trying to break free; finally finding freedom by the firefly burst of harmonica notes in “Georgia Drumbeat”. Diversity is the common ground on Prospect Hill. A mighty scat calls from the top of Prospect Hill in the opening track, “'Til the Seas Run Dry”. The instrumentation percolates in the opening as it digs into the origins of jazz.

Dom Flemons is a modern musician, a tour guide for a busload of sound. He hits the Southwest desert at dusk right when the photographer’s ‘magic hour’ is ripe, shedding colors on the “Sonorian Church Two-Step”. He walks in muddy water with fast-paced words to make it through Mississippi muck as he revisits a tune from Memphis songster Frank Stokes. Dom barely breathes through the verses, only taking a break when the world slows to admit ‘ain’t it good to have more than one woman’ on “It’s a Good Thing’. Dom Flemons not only plays the music of the past as it was originally presented, he does it with pride for every note, happy to present authentic representations for tunes he penned and the work of others. The American Songster Dom Flemons puts history and tradition, styles and sounds all into a song on Prospect Hill.

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Education, service and entertainment; if Mark O’Connor had been a teacher at my school maybe I would have learned a little more. I found the three and a half minute 7” vinyl record as education; Mark O’Connor followed his passion with the violin. Luckily, this is Mark’s time, so I won’t have to match up against the back story for his current release. In the true style of an American entrepreneur, and small business owner, his latest album, MOC4, offers the traditional audio for his violin arrangements as entertainment. The education and service part of the release has sheet music for the album as well as further educational materials in the O’Connor Method Book IV and ‘Six Violin Duos’. Beyond the obvious way in for violin players of all ages, Mark O’Connor offers a healthy count of twenty-two tracks as ‘A New American School of String Playing’. The songs are classics from both the American tradition of songwriters and classical works from composers such as Bach and Mozart. What connects the music is the common ground shared by the styles in technique, melody, harmony and rhythm. Presenting these classics as personal variations is a page that Mark O’Connor takes from American small town history. Music was the only source of easily accessible entertainment a little over a hundred years ago. Some of these compositions have been rendered on American soil in various incarnations and styles. Mark O’Connor continues the line, and pretty much one-ups all comers.

MOC4 balances the mentioned classic composers with classical takes on more current fare such as “San Antonio Rose” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing”.   “Jole’ Blon” keeps its Cajun though a more formal style that presents the players in the parlor rather than the front porch. “St. Louis Blues” uses various styles, including baroque rhythms, to guide the river current as the Mississippi under its feet makes mighty moves and a piano beat keeper stays true as the violin flies high in “Take Five”. Simplicity (“Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars”), diversity (“Tico-Tico no Fubá’), the expected (“Emily’s Reel”), and the unexpected (“La Bamba”) are available on listening and learning pleasure with MOC4.

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It has been said that giving ourselves verbal carrots can help with our goals. If Corb Lund was planning on spending all four season away from the homestead of a fourth generation rancher he eased his road jones with the title-tease release of Cabin Fever (New West Records – 2012). It worked…Corb Lund and band have been on the road since the album release, recently wrapping their second quarter Spring Thaw tour on a Stagecoach Festival stage. With his last release, Corb Lund sent out a message that addresses itself to Goth girls and survivalists alongside bovines and bible-thumpers while as a hobby, the album collected antique pistols and vintage motorcycles. On the new release, Counterfeit Blues, Corb Lund plays to the diverse crowd attracted by the album, folks going beyond the song subject target markets. Counterfeit Blues fully brands the music of Corb Lund. All of his releases showcase an artist that seems to only be satisfied by improving on his own art, while still honoring what has gone before. There is a career point where the way you do what you do has the ability to be presented as what people expect. It is a plateau where everybody knows your name and nobody pays your bills, but that is another story, one that Corb subtly tells on Counterfeit Blues.

It is the back story of a traveling troubadour circa 2014. “(Gonna) Shine Up My Boots” puts priorities in place and is a very classy vent from a musician that is doing everything right, and then doing it again on his next tour and album. Corb has traded cow herds for cow songs, and the tracks that he drives to market are prime CL. “Big Butch Bass Bull Fiddle” gives the bass man some love, Border Blues takes the stage in “Five Dollar Bill” and Alt Country pulp-fiction headlines tie up in “Good Copenhagen”. A son of Alberta, Canada, Corb Lund gives western swing a wider territory as he drives it up to a northern Rocky Mountain range in “Little Foothills Heaven”. It is country that he came from, and the future of country music that can be found in his arrangements and lyrics. It is in the way he presents the country of his home (“Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland Steer”, “Roughest Neck Around”, “Truck Got Stuck”) that separates Corb Lund from other story-tellers telling stories on a gravelly guitar cries and structured rhythms. “Hurtin' Albertan” finds rock’n’roll on the late night dial as it ‘does its best to do its damnedest’ and the “Truth Comes Out” in the Counterfeit closer  with a tale that uses fire to cleanse and history to define the future. The Counterfeit Bluestitle track shows that the more things change, the better it sounds as Corb Lund delivers distorted Americana that sure sounds like what Dylan and The Band used to amp up the Newport Folk Festival crowd to near riot.

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Individually, Royal Southern Brotherhood are impressive guys. Members include a Neville, an Allman, A-list session men as a jamming, go-to rhythm section and a Blues legend for today’s history. RSB are a super-group, no denying pedigree and resume. Heartsoulblood is the bands second album release. The self-titled debut introduced musicians who felt they shared a passion in the way they delivered the music. The gathering was a pairing of family members….always a little touchy. Cyril Neville, Devon Allman and Mike Zito were clients of manager Rueben Williams, who heard a future sound in the merger. Album number one was a very good introduction for the band in showcasing potential and power. Heartsoulblood is the sound of a band that intuitively understands its brothers. That is not really a difficult task for this band. Touring, and being in a band, is a marriage without the sex (not a requirement but a really good idea).  Heartsoulblood subtly showcases writers who can not only hear their parts but those of their fellow band members well enough to predict the future.

The organic nature of Royal Southern Brotherhood expands beyond the way they play. All three lead songwriters, Cyril Neville, Devon Allman and Mike Zito, have released solo albums through Ruf Records while the rhythm powerhouse of Yonrico Scott (drums) and Charlie Wooton (bass) have continued to be an integral part of other outfits such as Tedeschi-Trucks Band and Zydefunk. Heartsoulbood successfully recreates and presents the blues, rock, Cajun, soul and swamp grooves that brought the band together as one sound. Yep, it is the sound of Royal Southern Brotherhood yet if you need a name….don’t strain. The music, and the songs, of Royal Southern Brotherhood is Blues Rock. Sure, it is futuristic Blues Rock in its ability to blend R&B, rock’n’roll and other older backgrounds into its music. The lights will automatically dim on “She’s My Lady” as if they were handclap sensitive. It is a perfect example of rock dating soul: Chi-Lites meet Chicago Blues. The sonics of Royal Southern Brotherhood is almost too obvious. The guys are not here to gently lull you, steady your nerves or give release from a tough work week. Those things will occur, of course, but only if your exit from your day-to-day is very real, very loud pokes at the status quo.  The song may be “Trapped” but the players got a lot of musical territory to cover and make sure that they pay attention to each square foot. The beat is what gets attention before the stark reading that Cyril Neville gives to the live-blues roll of “Takes a Village” as “Here It Is” makes a stand from the first notes of a bass thump funk prequel. Devon Allman snags a Marlon Brando shout of “I Should Known” as he stands in the street with the rumble of New Orleans R&B clicking to the tracks of A Streetcar Names Desire. The mist of Louisiana swamps has long been real in the music of Coco Robicheaux and Dr. John, and now Royal Southern Brotherhood. They put the groove of the swamp in the driver’s seat as they wear down the “Callous” on their soul, part the thick swamp fog with a foot down on the throttle with wheels spinning in “Let’s Ride” and midnight masses grooves around “Ritual”. Cyril Neville wrote “Rock and Roll” for inclusion on a Neville Brothers record. Blood brothers couldn’t find what Cyril put into the song, so the man gathered his new brothers to give the track the sizzle needed for a band, and their sound, that is the ‘child of rhythm and blues’.

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David Olney arrived in Nashville in 1973. He was a twenty-something songwriter coming into Music City from Rhode Island. He stayed in the South and kept on writing songs. There are things you can plan and plans that form themselves around you. David Olney was not an exact fit for the Music Row hit machine and though there were ‘deals’, commercial success was elusive. David’s songs did not fall in line and tended to mirror real life. After leaving the Bluebird Café one night, he went home to write an answer song to the complacent hits he heard on stage. The result was “Titanic”, a lusty love story from the point of view of the iceberg. There may be a more studied way to describe the effects of distance between the steps we take in life but really, it all comes down to the fact that if you move away from one object you are bound to hit another.  David Olney states facts simply as ‘anonymity allowed me to follow my muse’. His songwriting became the target to top, and his 1988 album release, Deeper Well, started to garner attention for David, with over half the tracks on the album covered. The names behind the cover versions were artists on the level of Emmylou Harris, who covered “Jerusalem Tonight” and David’s title track, which she then took as the title for her album, and Linda Ronstadt with her version of “Women Across the River”.

David Olney shuffles rhythm and roots on his new release, When the Deal Goes Down.  The album, co-produced by David and Nashville bluesman Mark Robinson, comes after a recent themed-trilogy release from David Olney. Though his music has never been prisoner to a particular style, the breathing room created by his taking free sample of the territory of American Roots is well used and colonized on When the Deal Goes Down. David Olney’s wishes see the guy with nothing but love in his pockets as a returning, and hopefully conquering, hero over the jazzy blue rhythm in “Soldier of Misfortune”, add another color to the country and western swing sunset on “Why So Blue?” and puff out their wish-chest to shout out ‘don’t want your help’ on “Roll This Stone” with a Tom Sawyer nod and wink over a blues-bend that may cause some minor dizziness. Mark Robinson co-produces the album with David, and associate producer Daniel Seymour. His worth as a producer can be heard in the subtleties of When the Deal Goes Down, yet Mark is a double whammy on the album with his mixing. David Olney is a many faceted gem of a performer, and his voice chameleons out as he pulls his fedora low for a road-house blues bible lesson in “Servant, Job”, seeks shelter from the elements as “Little Bird (What to Do)” and drifts down a back bayou on the breeze from a lonesome squeezebox as big fat notes dapple like rain hitting water. Offering balance, David Olney gives two very different takes as he suggest that…. you better look out Saturday, ”Mister Stay-At-Home” is going to town’ and heading out into the neon. Not every weekend is a party, and the other side of a night out gets air time in “Sad Saturday Night”.  

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The Pilgrim is the debut album from Owen Campbell in the United States. The album debuted high on the charts in his native territory of Australia and New Zealand, joining two previous albums that remain on the Australian iTunes Top Ten. Like many North American bluesmen and women, Owen Campbell honed his craft by playing, gigging both in Australia and Europe. His dad was a musician, and Owen strummed a guitar at a young age. His influences started at home with his father, adding in blues players from both the U.S. and U.K. New Zealand may not be ground zero for mentorship in his chosen tradition and Owen credits having a guide like his dad  at home with a library of worldwide music for choose from. What was a true lesson for Owen Campbell was that he was not instructed by radio that this should fit here and that there. The Blues all exited under the same heading whether eis was folk blues from the Mississippi delta, electric Chicago Blues or British Blues which created the number eleven on the dial to accommodate its electric blues. That musical background, or lack of, has given Owen Campbell a unique perspective on Blues. In an environment where choices hang like fat ripe fruit from trees, young blues players might find themselves taking one path through one musician or style. Owen Campbell never knew he needed to choose. He looked at the Blues as a buffet rather than a menu item with one selection per person.

Before you get to Owen Campbell playing on The Pilgrim what is the most noticeable on the album is its power. Opening track “Wrecking Ball” starts The Pilgrim with a stomp with as the guitar and bass jumping in to help finish what the drum started.  That is all you can feel as “Wrecking Ball” swings, an all-encompassing, world-devouring boom boom, though unlike Little Walter’s experience, this one will keep the lights on for Owen Campbell. The power on the album is probably all due to a good use of volume in the production, though after the first blast I did kinda turn it up. More than just loud, however, is the force of the playing. Even as “Cried for Yesterday” sits in the summer sun to tell it tales of loss, the mood goes low with the groove yet that ‘force’ is with it, giving the darkness in the song the promise of a storm brewing just beyond the ridge of the pain.  The Far East meets the Deep South on “Bukhu’s Blues”, as bottle-slides blend with Mongolian throat singing from vocalist Bukhu Ganburged on the traditional Mongolian tune. Owen Campbell offers Electric Folk in “It Don't Mean a Thing”, West Coast San Francisco Blues in “You Know I'm Gone” and Chicago Chess-era Blues in“Leave it Alone”. The sonic rip of the beat segues up with your own heartbeat in “Remember to Breath”, and the sound waves drift through like the flowing string and horse hair flute notes that glide over “A Better Place”… all fitting together perfectly in with Owen Campbell’s version of the blues.

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Remedyi s the second album on ATO Records for Old Crow Medicine Show. The people that live in the stories on Remedy pass us by every day, maybe even walk a little closer inside of our skin. Men down in coal mines (“Brave Boys”) and those who have gone (“Dearly Departed Friend”) ride alongside simple mountain wisdom as it white-knuckles a bluegrass rhythm on a hayride fueled by corn whiskey and dirt weed (“8 Dogs 8 Banjos”). Maybe it is the pace of the playing that gives Remedy the sound of live Old Crow Medicine Show performance. The songs are only part of the band appeal… remember, they are buskers and showmen. As they play against a runaway-train rhythm, they are in their element and masters of the strings. They balance high-end playing with big, old hooks that remind where you are, and where you will stay on “Shit Creek”. OCMS has a knack for giving advice, and talking politics, without being obvious about either. “Mean Enough World” finger points a little hate at the same time that it raises its hands to testify, ‘It’s an already a mean enough world, we don’t need no more out of you, so quit your cussin, carryin’ on, and fightin’ that you  do’.

Remedyuses space to suggest that some self-prescribed remedies may not be your best option (“Firewater”), and takes a swipe at all the human axis’ sticking up the butt of the world as it revolves (“Sweet Home”). Lifelong road musicians find sources of happiness that are specific that particular to that choice of life. Doc Watson handed Old Crow Medicine Show a gift and they were smart enough to make last a long time. “Doc’s Day” honors the man, as Old Crow sings about what he has given them and the legions of other musicians who have ‘sold our amps and pawned our drums, and now we’re picking like a couple of native sons’. There is love for Doc, and another shot of love for their adopted home as they give shout out to “O Cumberland River” as it ‘flows through the heart of a guitar town’.

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The story goes that the real magic behind the witches of Avalon was not from spells or incantations. The way of speech was the lesson, and learning how to manipulate voices to conjure, how to hypnotize and seduce with words and phrasing, that was their art. Whether that happened or not, it is a folk tradition that is alive in its music if not its magic. Dave Perron uses his voice as guide, jury and sometimes judge in Foot to the Pedal. A story manifests out of the night, moving through the darkness and the roar of insects and Dave Perron begins spinning tales with “All Saints Day”. He stakes claim with his abilities to tell a tale, grabbing the crown for storyteller in Foot to the Pedal with the song. The ghost of past grievances all come alive in the modern day telling of a tale that never changes its ending through the ages.  Dave Perron brings the plains wisdom of his Wisconsin early years to puts the mountain jams of his adopted Colorado Rocky home to good effect as a bed for the story.  

Dave Perron takes the stage as a singer/songwriter in Foot to the Pedal, stepping away from his Vail Valley, Co-based Alt Country outfit, The Laughing Bones. At its heart, it is the man, the guitar and his stories that are the main ingredients on the album though the songs do seem to enjoy drawing in additional instrumentation as dressing for the songs. The tale of “Black Cove” marches in over a slow military rhythm as the fighting slows and the song/story tries to forget the horror of war by dancing until sunrise. Stop in to a local Tuscaloosa bar to help Dave track down the girls with “Far Away Eyes”, help him shed some light on the “Dark Side of the Glass”, be his back up as fights his way to “Take on the Night” and ride-share as he heads for an pretty obvious hook-up in Dylan’s “North Country Girl”.  Classic Country shines its jukebox glow onto “Truck Stop Love” and Foot to the Pedal sees just two figures appear as the dust clears and it continues its fast forward rush in “Only”.  The Colorado Rockies are a breeding ground and a safe house for jam bands. Dave Perron uses a sweet taste for jam, shape-shifting musical gears through the tunes as he drives Foot to the Pedal.

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If NRBQ were part of a kindergarten class, and Brass Tacks was Arts and Crafts time, the band would be those kids that use of every square inch of available space on blank paper, and then color outside of the lines. Brass Tacks is certainly not the exception to the rule. Terry Adams (piano) started NRBQ in his Louisville, Kentucky home in 1966, playing with guitarist Steve Ferguson since they were both teenagers.  After a 1969 recording debut, Brass Tacks makes it over twenty studio albums in forty-five years sitting beside various compilations and live albums. All of the group members that have passed through NRBQ have shared the same sense of how you hear music, no matter from which direction influences might fly. NRBQ has successfully offered an environment where the musicians could bring whatever they chose to the construction of a song. While that might seem like a place where chaos could thrive, the arrangements of NRBQ exist in such a satisfying manner because of the band’s ability to create without editing, hearing the sound as a place holder in a song and finding the right instrument, or object, in the studio that will work in that particular song. 

Brass Tacks lets it percussion claim ownership  on the album with opener, “Waitin' on My Sweetie Pie”. The song shares what is has to offer with the other tracks gathered on the album by laying the ground work template to use each instrument that passes through the song as a source of rhythm. Whether the beat relies solely on Terry Adam’s piano (“Love This Love We Got”) or follows guitar and tambourine lead into “I'd Like to Know” it is the star of the show on Brass Tacks. Hit the dance floor or shake it where you stand to a country rhythm on “Fightin' Back”, chow down on a Doug Sahm TexMex groove in “I'm Not Here” and spin in the glow of sunshine Pop with “Can't Wait to Kiss You”. Originality is a default with NRBQ, and when the band decides to cover a track, the song will completely be absorbed.  The King and I tune, “Getting to Know You”, proved to be a good import for Brass Tacks. Terry Adams feels that ‘when I hear a song and know that it has some importance in my life, that it’s right for that band. Sometimes it takes a long time to get the arrangement right in my head. I’ve had “Getting to Know You” in the back of my mind for ten or fifteen years. I finally found the right time to do it’.

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It was Lucy Billings’ sister, and her experiences in Africa, that inspired Carry the Water. The title track leads off the recent release, telling the story of how that simple image of gathering goes by in a blink for our western world, yet on another continent the act of taking water back to your family could take an entire day. Lucy Billings has the presence of a folk musician, a natural ability to reveal the flesh and flaws of others without judgment, offering solace in a phrase and inspiration in ideas. Genuine is the word that gives folk musicians careers from Pete Seeger down through Christine Lavin and Ellis Paul…and then beyond. Folk music, and its messengers, are a true source for news and views, relying and catering to the trust of an audience that can smell dishonesty like rain on the wind. Lucy Billings personalizes her twists and turns in an effort to show that we share struggles and face the same questions in life.

A guitar in the backseat and a coffee cup on the dash is the universal touring musician, and Lucy drives the scene for an early morning car ride out of the desert heat into “Wyoming”. She peers through the window at the breakfast table of a recent retiree (“What You Gonna Do?”),  sends a wish out for loving arms to return (“Not Far from Me”) and seeks acceptance to change (“Courage”). Honesty lies in the unedited commitment that Lucy Billings fuses to her words. Her voice is the straight arrow the flies staright down the middle of bouncing rhythms in “The Answer”, it signals the hope left in the last light of sunset in “The Here and Now” and it stands tall against chiming guitar chords to profess “Freedom”. Carry the Water talks of the things in life that we may take for granted, exposes what we think is important and suggests that we may want to look a little closer to see what we are missing.

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How is it that the musicians who embrace American Roots music as a lifestyle can expand on a set guideline of history or tradition? By definition, the past is a fully active component of the Roots music community in 2014 and yet the format grows. Like stories re-told, everything changes a little bit in the re-forming of sound. While there is no one figure head for the Roots music charge, there are many leaders; musicians who pick up the banner and wave a flag for honoring both the pure sounds of Soul, Blue and Rock as the hybrids created by marrying styles. Janiva Magness takes steps forward with her music as she pushes the envelope of Roots music, and flies the sound under the banner of Original, her latest album release. The recording results make it sound like they band walked in and played. There is a ease to the melodies and arrangement, a flow guided by Janiva with her two and a half octave vocal range and her ability to make the characters real as she white-knuckles emotion in her delivery. Produced by Dave Darling (Glen Campbell, Brian Setzer, Stray Cats), who pushed Janiva creatively. Her recollection bears witness to the high production targets, ‘I always wanted to push myself but this album demanded a high-level of vulnerability to tell the absolute truth in every song, holding back nothing. It was frightening, at times, to be so raw in public. Dave drove me and even tricked me when he needed to. This is also an album that couldn’t be made by another record company, because we needed to be able to go wherever we wanted musically to tell its stories’.

Janiva Magness does a great job of showing the many layers of desire and despair set in motion by a single word or action. You feel the love that has gone as something physical while at the same time you can watch spit drip down that unfortunate face that Janiva is in as she asks the last sentence be repeated ‘a little less bitchy please’ in “Who Am I”. The Blues rolls on dark clouds in “With Love” as organ and guitar notes pelt the tune like big fat rain drops and the beat hits the street in “I Need A Man” as Janiva throws off political pressure for pressures of a more personal nature. Janiva Magness has strength and conviction in her delivery, a big part of the appeal of Original. Her all is in the album coming out of a four-year period where her focus was mental survival as she went through the dissolution of a seventeen-year marriage, the death of eight friends and family, and surviving a possible career threatening neck surgery. Add to that a step away from Alligator Records where she grew as an artist and was given a worldwide platform for her music. Original is self-released on many levels. Much is said about the cathartic nature of music on its creators and if you listen closely you can hear the magic work as her cry of “Let Me Breath” stretches from a whisper to a scream and light fills the room in all the dark corners on “Everything Is Alright” with each note and every promise.

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It is not a debut, technically, though not the first album from Austin, Texas’ Madisons. There was another record with a different line-up, nothing like this version of Madisons. Full disclosure, this is the first Madisons album that I have heard, and the recent release, You Can Take Your Sorry Ass Back to West Texas!, is the shit. The band’s bio is simply stated…. ‘we’re a band from Austin Texas. We play music’. Indie Roots drives the music of Madisons though the mix of string band, folk and rock claims a seat at the Americana table more often than not in the songs. Granted the roots of Madisons can still find sound mirrors in full-on Indie Rock A-listers such as The National (“The Hill”), Deer Tick (“In My Pocket Forever”), Calexico (“You’ll Never Know”) and Conor Oberst (“Losing Pictures”).

The music of Madisons is a watering hole that the musicians can share as they travel to the sound from other musical territory such as mariachi (Oscar Gomez – trumpet, percussion), singer/songwriters from Neil Young to Daniel Johnston (Dominic Solis – lead vocals), classical training (Jocelyn White – viola), Misfit cover bands (Nick Kukowski – banjo) and metal (Thomas Damron – upright bass). Rounding out the Madisons line-up are Portalnd, Oregon transplant Cameron Cummings on guitar and Mike Rothschild on drums. Songwriter Dominic Solis brings the country to the city as he trains the sad tales of The Carter Family and Louvin Brothers to take their licks in a big city that can dole out the same misery. Mountain music gets remade Indie in Take Your Sorry Ass Back to West Texas! over a runaway freight rhythm as the band whispers “The Misadventures of Shea Grant” so that even the ghosts can have a listen and  they understand the need to work out issues… they are just saying the right spot might not be “A Long Slow Death in San Marcos Texas”.  True to Indie, many of the players in Madisons are investigating new sounds with new instruments, and the excitement that feeling of conquest it gives to a musician can be clearly heard in the songs on You Take Your Sorry Ass Back to West Texas!.

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The Infamous Stringdusters will release a new video for its latest single "Summercamp" on July 29, 2014. The video was filmed in New York City on the eve of the band's current Summer Tour 2014 during an exclusive private show at Eleven Madison Park. The band was invited to play the restaurant's private party, held during the popular Big Apple Barbecue Block Party.

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On his new release, South Holston, Jerry Castle felt that “we spend so much of our lives being controlled by fear. Having the courage to do what’s in your heart and the wherewithal to allow things to ‘just be’ seems to be the real key as well the real struggle for most of us. That’s what this record is about.”

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There are moments in this Julie Roberts video that will have your moral compass spinning. Her honesty ups the ante in her come-on (over) and if there are any doubts about what she is suggesting then you may want to brush up on the English language. Before you cast stones, however, let’s see a show of hand that have not spent a night with “Good Wine and Bad Decisions”.

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Candi Staton has been a cooking in the soul kitchen for nearly fifty years. She was recently featured in the documentary film Muscle Shoals , a must-see movie that lets music tell the history of the city of Muscle Shoals, Fame Recording Studio, and the man that put both on the map, Rick Hall. Personal relations with Candi Staton and Rick Hall date back to the early 1970’s when Rick was in the production chair for Candi’s Grammy nominated hits “Stand By Your Man” and “In the Ghetto”. The tune “I Ai...

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The Howlin’ Brothers need no intro for the advanced state of bluegrass that the band serves up. Their recent release, Trouble , follows full studio effort Howl and E.P., the Sun Studio Sessions , in a little over twelve months’ time. Trouble opens with the sound of salvation. The Howlin’ Brothers are glory bound, though it is not religion or fear of heaven that fuels “Pour It Down” but a different sort of spirit. The song is the firing gun that opens the gate for the thirteen tracks to gallop into Troubl...

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A lot goes into the creation of all song characters. As their stories play out over swaying Americana, Zoe Muth gives the people the live in her songs common ground amid all of their differences. The men and women form only two lines….one for the leaving, the other for the left behind. Zoe Muth has gotten attention for her songs particularly for the detail she uses to describe her characters as much as for the natural combination of Soul and Country that flesh out their story through her vocals....

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Trampled Under Foot saw changes in their all-sibling lineup as a trio in 2014.  When brother Kris announced he was leaving the band, Danielle and Nick solicited long-time friend and fellow KC musician Jan Faircloth to join them on drums. Jan brought with him years of experience as a musician in the Kansas City blues scene and provided a fresh take on the band’s trademark sound. The addition of Jan inspired TUF to make other changes in their line up and the group added keyboardist Mike “Shin...

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We are launching a new show for Alternate Root TV called "EP" Extended Play. The show will debut on Boston Network WBIN on January 18th, 2014. The show will air on Saturday evenings at 1AM immediately following Saturday Night Live. It is available in 2.7 million homes throughout New England. 

Our goal is to share the incredible experience of working closely with the artists you love. To fully realize that effort in the future, we will film our 'EP'-Extended Play episodes in front of a live s...

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There are those who will view this as "America Bashing" and nothing could be further from the truth. This is about bashing the things that are tearing this great country apart. America is shackled to racism, sexism, corporate greed, intolerance, corporate fed drug abuse, political gridlock, child abuse and a widening gap between those who "have" and those who "won't ever be privileged enough to get any." We started in 1980 and worked up to today.

These artists are exceptional without hiding behin...

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Here's our list of The Alternate Root Magazine's Top American Roots Guitar Players. There's probably 100 guitar players that could have been on this list that appear on every "Best Guitar Player List." These are our favorites. The one's we write about; one's we've worked with on Alternate Root TV or we've interviewed here. They're our guys and gals and all of them can play. Chances are we've forgotten a few and we're counting on our readers to remind us of who's ...

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Welcome to the first installment of what will be a regular feature here at The Alternate Root. It’s an old fashioned Top 10 list.My name is Scott Kempner, and for most of my forty years here in the business of Show, I have also answered to the nickname, Top 10. Top 10’s Top 10 Countdown is the name. The subjects will vary - sometimes wildly. They may or may not even all be music related, or at least not necessarily be about music per se. I just don’t know. As if this needs to be said, there is n...

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In band years, 20 is a lifetime. Great Big Sea have been singing, playing and charting music in their Canadian homeland for two decades. GBS member Alan Doyle has written tracks with his buddy Russell Crowe, with whom Alan appeared in Robin Hood, playing the role of Merry Man Allan A’Dayle. The key, as Alan Doyle sees it, is intention; “the way to be in a band for a lifetime is to want to be in a band for a lifetime.. not to have the greatest summer of your life or to have a No.1 single and then...

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The U.S. title was England’s Newest Hit Makers when The Rolling Stones debuted in the American market on April 17, 1964. The band had a successful series of single hits and an E.P of material that spent fifteen weeks on the English Pop charts. Eight months into their career, and the Rolling Stones  would release their first full studio recording. The group had signed with Decca Records at a time when the company was still kicking itself for passing on The Beatles. The Rolling Stones’ deal was...

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Garland Jeffreys has played us a song by song soundtrack to the past forty years in his recordings.  It is words meeting music inside a sonic snapshot of contemporary life, as seen from the eyes of New York City native son.  Growing up in the Sheepshead Bay area, named for the body of water that separates the mainland of Brooklyn from Coney Island, Garland Jeffreys had a 360 degree view of sights in the thriving metropolis of New York City, and the more noticeable ups and downs of his ...

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Joe Rollin Porter is a delta blues man, specializing in a finger-picking style that, like the originators, has become his own individual variation on the style in his playing. Joe left music, one of the many (do I see some hands raised?) who have put music on the other side of a life decision. Maybe someone should do a study about the percentages of folks that put down the guitar, sell the drums in a yard sale or for some reason she will never figure out, five your harp to your niece.  Joe ...

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Many artists believe that an unspoken benefit from albums is in the individual tracks’ ability to mark a special place in the lives of the musicians writing, performing and living with the songs. For Keeps , the debut album from Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt as a recoding duo, not only stands as a very present reflection of its songwriters lives, it reaches back to times when the pair were tangled up together on tour, unraveling enough of the world to become entwined romantically, then artistical...

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Razor Wire is the title of the most recent Hannah Aldridge album, though the image the name creates is just the first cut for the marks the record will leave.  Razor Wire cuts to the bone, evidenced by the title track as we watch its lead character shed tears as she sits outside a pawnshop holding a wedding ring. The present becomes immediately clear and the back story is filled in by the lines ‘I try with all my goddamn might but sometimes that just ain’t enough’. Hannah Aldridge fleshes out ...

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the american conditionThere are those who will view this as "America Bashing" and nothing could be further from the truth. This is about bashing the things that are tearing this great country apart. America is shackled to racism, sexism, corporate greed, intolerance, corporate fed drug abuse, political gridlock, child abuse and a widening gap between those who "have" and those who "won't ever be privileged enough to get any." We started in 1980 and worked up to today.

These artists are exceptional without hiding behind a charade of false "exceptionalism." Save the No Apology bullshit for Mitt Romney and the Privileged Class. We have problems, lots of them and this list is about the artists who look at America as it really is not as the people in the mansion on the hill tell you it is. These songs aren't pretty and they don't sugar coat. There's country radio for that...perhaps Brad Paisley will need a new home like the Dixie Chicks, Steve Earle and Johnny Cash did. We're here with open arms.

Here is The American Condition in 50 Songs or Less - The Top 50 Songs about the State of Our Union

james mcmurtry in the alternate root1. James McMurtry - We Can't Make it Here - (2007) From the album Just Us Kids. 'We Can't Make it Here' is about corporate greed and how it strangles every aspect of American society. The American 'dream' has been reserved for those who have privilege, power or the cash to purchase it. McMurtry could have half this list but the top spot is his until someone comes up with something better.
Key line:
"Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin,
or the shape of their eyes or the shape I'm in?
Should I hate 'em for having our jobs today?
No I hate the men sent the jobs away.
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams.
All lily white and squeaky clean.
They've never known want, they'll never know need.
Their shit don't stink and their kids won't bleed.
Their kids won't bleed in their damn little war,
And we can't make it here anymore

old crow medicine show in the alternate root2. Old Crow Medicine Show - Methamphetamine - (2008) - From the album Tennessee Pusher. The scourge of the heartland is methamphetamine or 'Crystal Meth' as it's known on the block. It's a killer from the moment you try it and unlike cocaine it's cheap and with a little ingenuity you can make it at home. Old Crow Medicine Show tackled a host of social issues but this one hits harder in the places where the band has it's biggest following.
Key line:
"It's gonna rock you like a hurricane.
It's gonna rock you 'til you lose sleep.
It's gonna rock you 'til you're out of a job.
It's gonna rock you 'til you're out on the street.
It's gonna rock you 'til you're down on your knees.
It's gonna have you begging pretty please.
It's gonna rock you like a hurricane.

the white buffalo in the alternate root3. The White Buffalo – Wish It Was True - (2012) - From the album Once Upon A Time in the West. When all the things you thought were true turn out not to be, reality sets in and disillusionment takes it's piece of flesh. The White Buffalo, a.k.a. Jake Smith exposes the darker side of the shiny objects. The entire album is a microcosm of America but this one stands above the rest.
Key line:
"Country, I was a soldier to you.
I did what you asked me to.
It was wrong and you knew.
Country, now I'm just a stranger to you.
A number, a name; it's true.
Throw me away when you're through.
Home of the brave, the free; the red, white and blue.
I wish it was true."

chip taylor in the alternate root4. Chip Taylor - New Song of Freedom - (2008) - From the album - New Songs of Freedom. Chip Taylor writes almost solely about the 'human condition' and not always from a perspective of social or political commentary. The entire album New Songs of Freedom could grace this list but the title track sums up America circa 2008 more succinctly and touches on the right wing nuts, global warming, immigration, freedom, geo-politics and even the disposable way music is treated.
Key line:
"Don't worry 'bout the straddle of the right wing radical, or heed the speed of the vulture.
Don't cross the border for political order and upset the balance of culture.
Just keep your eyes on the ozone and the price of oil.
Don't worry about the stock market, let it fall.

The warming of the seas and the hybrid cars,
was there ever an ocean, up there on Mars?
Oh, a new song of freedom, just let it go, it'll get there on it's own."

UB40 in the alternate root5. UB40 - One in Ten (1980) - From the album Present Arms. UB40 wrote One in Ten about life in Britain in 1980 but the song transfers to any western country and holds true to form some 30 years later. One in Ten is about the forgotten, downtrodden, sick, poor and hungry that become statistical talking points for mindless television newscasters and bloviated politicians. It hit gun violence, suicide, disease, hunger and the plight of the world...sadly, not much has changed for the forgotten.
Key line:
"I'm the murderer and the victim, and I'm licensed with the gun.
I'm a sad and bruised old lady, in an alley in the slum.
I'm the middle aged businessman with chronic heart disease.
I'm another teenage suicide on a street that has no trees.
I am the one in ten, a number on a list.
I am the one in ten, even though I don't exist.

Nobody knows me, but I'm always there.
statistical reminder of a world that doesn't care."

american graveyard in the alternate root6. American Graveyard – Common Ones - (2010) - From the album Hallelujahland. Common Ones is about all of us normal, regular folks who are getting shafted by corporations, government, insane laws and greed. American Graveyard is a band that musically shoots from the hip, takes no prisoners and tells you what you ought to know from the perspective of young, intelligent, thinking musicians.
Key line:

"I'm tired of seeing men die for other men's rights,
to have a corporation come in and sweep ‘em all aside.
'Cause there's money to be made, money to be found,
and when the pockets are drilled empty it's on to the next town.
Meanwhile make criminals outta the people left behind,
pimpin' all the women while the men cheat and lie.
All the cameras rush in yes they wanna find out
why I ain't got no food for my baby's mouth."

ellis paul in the alternate root7. Ellis Paul - Nine Months to Fix the World (2008) - From the album The Dragonfly Races. Ellis Paul doesn't do angry. It's not his style. Ellis Paul does cerebral; making you think while you're enjoying yourself and that is a rare gift indeed. Nine Months to Fix the World is about finding out your wife is pregnant and realizing that your child is being born into a complete mess and you now have nine months to fix it. It touches all the bases from religion, to violence, to global warming with typical Ellis Paul brilliance.
Key line:
"I'm gonna whittle down the Scriptures, the Bible, the Koran.
Gonna whittle 'em down to one phrase any fool could understand.

Love your fellow man.
Then we'll fill up all the bombers
with corn, with apple seeds.
A million gallons of clean water,
We'll fill the sky with good deeds,
For the people who're in need."

band of heathens in the alternate root8. Band of Heathens – Golden Calf - (2009) – From the album One Foot in the Ether. Golden Calf symbolizes Wall Street. The song subtly hints around Wall St. greed and the dirty little secrets no one wants to talk about. Band of Heathens has set their own bar pretty high and rank as one of the best bands in the country, bar none. Much of One Foot in the Ether could rank here but Golden Calf is so haunting and filled with mystery we couldn't resist.
Key line:

"Shine my shoes with a dirty flag.
Hide my secrets in a body bag.
Say what you want on my epitaph,
Just give me eight more seconds on the golden calf."

bob dylan in the alternate root9. Bob Dylan - Union Sundown - (1983) From the album Infidels. Union Sundown took on corporate greed before it was chic. In typical Dylan fashion it pointed fingers at corporations that shipped jobs overseas but didn't stop until the finger pointed back at Americans who want cheaper products even if they come from sweat shops in poor countries. Infidels touched on just about everything but in terms of the American downward spiral, this one topped the heap.
Key line:

"Well, my shoes, they comes from Singapore.
My flashlight's from Taiwan.
My tablecloth's from Malaysia.
My belt buckle's from the Amazon.
You know, this shirt I wear comes from the Philippines,
And the car I drive is a Chevrolet.
It was put together down in Argentina
By a guy making thirty cents a day.
Well, it's sundown on the union
And what's made in the USA
Sure was a good idea
'Til greed got in the way.

sarah lee guthrie and johnny irion in the alternate root10. Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion - Gervais (2005) - From the album Exploration. Travel south of the Mason-Dixon line and you'll find a lot of people still fighting the Civil War. You'll hear some pretty compelling, albeit, misguided arguments that the Civil War was about states' rights. It wasn't. It was about human rights and the left over symbols from that struggle continue to be paraded under a guise of pride and heritage. Bollocks. Gervais is about the South Carolina State House flying the Confederate flag (Gervais is the street the capital sits on). It's a sore spot with many South Carolinians and most other reasonable people who see it as a symbol for racism.
Key line:
"Gone James Meredith and the the road to sweet Ole Miss.
Years filled with torment and harassment.
I can hear those freedom rides.
You know they were just like suicides but they had to move us down the line.
Still flying the flag upon Gervais?
It was a battle flag, now we can put it away."

steve earle in the alternate root11. Steve Earle - Amerika v 6.0 (The Best We Can Do) - (2002) – From the album Jerusalem. Steve Earle has never been shy about telling the truth regardless of pushback or political trouble. Jerusalem took it all on from war to health care, the American dream, conservatism and greed and Amerika v 6.0 was the icing on a shitty tasting cake. From dirty back room deals on Wall St. to saving the American Dream from the true dreamers, Earle delivered a body blow to the right wing that resonated with the common people and revitalized the liberal class.
Key line:

"Four score and a hundred and fifty years ago,
Our forefathers made us equal as long as we can pay.
Yeah, well maybe that wasn't exactly what they was thinkin'
Version six-point-oh of the American way.
But hey we can just build a great wall around the country club,
To keep the riff-raff out until the slump is through.
Yeah, I realize that ain't exactly democratic, but it's either them or us and
And it's the best we can do.
Yeah, passionately conservative
It's the best we can do."

lucinda williams in the alternate root12. Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road - (1998) – From the album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Child abuse is one of those rare crimes where the death penalty might actually be appropriate. It's been going on since the dawn of time but only recently is it getting the attention and outrage it deserves. Lucinda Williams took it on and so have others. It sucks and whether you're a Catholic priest or a big time football coach there's a special place in hell for those who perpetrate it.
Key line:
Broken down shacks engine parts.
Could tell a lie but my heart would know.
Listen to the dogs barkin' in the yard,
Car wheels on a gravel road.
Child in the backseat about four or five years,
Lookin out the window.
Little bit of dirt mixed with tears,
Car wheels on a gravel road

mad buffalo in the alternate root13. Mad Buffalo – Red and Blue (2012) – From the album Red and Blue. Randy Reveire can tell you there's a huge corporate interest in keeping Americans divided into red and blue states, red and blue political persuasions and at each others' throats on a daily basis. We're really not all that different and pretty much want the same things but corporate media, talk show hosts and 24 hour "news" stations wouldn't make nearly the jack they make if we all got together. You think any of them give a fuck about who wins elections? They make money when America is divided, period, and that's what Red and Blue is about.
Key line:

"And up on the boulevard,
We got our start with a union card.
And built our houses up with our hands,
Made the iron and filled metal cans.
We took our babies in our arms,
Got some horses and built our farms.
In mountain rain we grew our hay,
Through the floods and drought we stayed.
You can’t deny it,
You can’t deny we’re one."

rodney crowell in the alternate root14. Rodney Crowell - Sex and Gasoline - (2008) – From the album Sex and Gasoline. Sex and Gasoline is about selling the idea that beauty and worth is about what's on the outside. It hits the beauty product, lingerie and porn trade right between the eyes as only Rodney Crowell can do and takes the notion that women are merely sex objects to the task.
Key line:

"So much beauty, abs and tush
Swoop down on you like a burnin' bush.
Pop religion, bullwhip thin,
Says you ain't nothing but the shape you're in.
Come on now girl, genuflect nude magazine.
This mean old world runs on sex and gasoline."

johnny cash in the alternate root15. Johnny Cash - Hurt - (2002) –From the album The Man Comes Around. Hurt is as much about the personal pain of addiction as it is about the pain addiction inflicts upon others who have to witness it. Although a cover of Trent Reznor's song, it was something Johnny felt strongly about recording as it reflects on the lies and the destruction inflicted upon his family as a result of his lifelong struggle with alcoholism and prescription drug abuse. It's powerful, moving and painful to listen to...and a necessary evil for those who crawl on the same ground.
Key line:

"I wear this crown of thorns,
upon my liar's chair.
Full of broken thoughts,
I cannot repair.
Beneath the stains of time,
the feelings disappear.
You are someone else.

I am still right here.
What have I become?
My sweetest friend.
Everyone I know,
goes away in the end.
And you could have it all,
my empire of dirt.
I will let you down.
I will make you hurt."

kevin gordon in the alternate root16. Kevin Gordon - Gloryland - (2012) – From the album Gloryland. Beware of false prophets promising the gates of heaven. They don't hold the key even though they'll take your money, your vote or your life trying to prove to you that they do. Kevin Gordon is a brilliant song writer that tackles a lot of ground on the album Gloryland and in particular the album's title track which goes after politicians, TV preachers and zealot Mullahs and their victims.
Key line:

"You might be a preacher,
Broadcasting on a satellite.
Miss Mamie's looking for an answer,
Watches your program every night.
Diamonds shine from your praying hands,
She sends you all the money she has,
Just to feel a little closer;
A little closer to gloryland."

todd snider in the alternate root17. Todd Snider - Conservative Christian Right-Wing Republican, Straight, White, American Male - (2004) – From the album East Nashville Skyline. If you are one you're gonna hate this song but when you really think about it, Todd Snider covers just about every part of the Republican political platform in the first verse. It's a brilliant attack on intolerance, homophobia, climate change denial, racism, elitism, and too many other things to list here. We're liberal, we admit it.
Key line:

"Conservative Christian, right wing Republican, straight, white, American male.
Gay bashin', black fearin', poor fightin', tree killin', regional leaders of sales.
Frat housin', keg tappin', shirt tuckin', back slappin' haters of hippies like me.
Tree huggin', peace lovin', pot smokin', porn watchin' lazyass hippies like me.
Tree huggin', love makin', pro choicen, gay weddin', widespread diggin' hippies like me.
Skin color-blinded, conspiracy-minded, protestors of corporate greed,
We who have nothing and most likely will 'till we all wind up locked up in jails
By conservative Christian, right wing Republican, straight, white, American males."

jon byrd in the alternate root18. Jon Byrd – Alabama Asphalt - (2011) – From the album Down at the Well of Wishes. Jon Byrd is a son of the south who isn't shy about pointing out the hypocricy and intolerance that permeate his Alabama roots. Alabama Asphalt was written about the reinstatement of the death penalty in Alabama. It's about the love of Alabama's natural beauty and avoiding it's nasty politics.
Key line:
"If your in Alabama, you better watch your ways.
'Cause laying burning tar is the least that you're gonna pay.
Yeah, they'll chain you to your brother and give a shotgun to the other.

There's that Alabama asphalt giving off heat."

patti griffin in the alternate root19. Patti Griffin - Tony - (1998) – From the album Flaming Red. Patti Griffin tackles bullying, and teen suicide as a result, with incredible grace and hard hitting reality in her song Tony. The story of the kid we all know and unfortunately some of us knew. The kid who is a little different. The kid the "beautiful people" pick on. A little overweight; not one of the crowd and the internal pain and torture that goes on inside these kids. It's a sad, sordid existence.
Key line:

"Hey Tony, what's so good about dying?
He said I think I might do a little dying today.
He looked in the mirror and saw
A little faggot starin back at him.
Pulled out a gun and blew himself away.
Hey Tony whats so good about dying, dying?
Hey Tony whats so good about dying, dying?"

mary gauthier in the alternate root20. Mary Gauthier - Drag Queens in Limousines - (1999) – From the album Drag Queens in Limousines. Drag Queens and Limousines is a true biographical piece written by the great Mary Gauthier. It covers runaways, and the turmoil of being gay in a straight world. Gauthier stole her mother's car and ran away at 15. She struggled with addiction and her sexuality and rose up to become one of the great songwriters and singers in the roots Americana world. Stick that!
Key line:

"My dad went to college, and he worked for the state.
He never quit nothing and he wanted me to graduate.
My brother and sister both play in the marching band.
They tell me they miss me, but I know they don't understand.
Sometimes you got do, what you gotta do,
And hope that the people you love, will catch up with you.
Yea Drag Queens in Limousines
Nuns in blue jeans
Dreamers with big dreams
Poets and AWOL marines
Actors and Bar Flys
Writers with Dark Eyes
Drunks that Philosophize."

willie nile in the alternate root21. Willie Nile - One Guitar (2011) – From the album The Innocent Ones. Willie Nile's One Guitar is an anthem to the power of music, the effectiveness of non-violent protest and the change that can come from getting up off your ass and getting involved! It's about rising up, no matter what put you down.
Key line:

"So if you get knocked down, you gotta take a stand.
For all the outcast, dead last who need a helping hand.
So get your tambourines and turn your arms up loud,
And raise your voices, voices up above this crowd.

I'm a soldier marchin' in an army
Got no gun to shoot
But what I got is one guitar
I got this one guitar."

chip taylor in the alternate root22. Chip Taylor - Black and Blue America - (2008) - From the album - New Songs of Freedom. Chip Taylor laments the days when we had heroes and goals that moved us forward as a nation. We rallied around the men who walked on the moon or marched in Selma. We cared about each other and lent a helping hand. America is bruised, black and blue but not out by any means. We're survivors.
Key line:
"It was a ray of light.
It was a wall of sound.
It was a fight for life, until the walls came down.
It was a dream to dream, in any damned old town.
It was a true America.

Red, white, balck and blue America."

uncle tupelo23. Uncle Tupelo - No Depression (1990) – From the album No Depression. An apocalyptic look at the end of days and the hope that something better is on the other side. Uncle Tupelo is largely regarded as the band that launched the Americana movement but that's debatable. They wrote great songs and split into two substantial bands; Wilco and Son Volt when the end of days struck them.
Key line:

"In this dark hour, midnight nearing
The tribulation time will come.
The storms will hurl the midnight fear
And sweep lost millions to their doom.
I'm going where there's no depression
To a better land that's free from care.
I'll leave this world of toil and trouble.
My home's in heaven,
I'm going there

otis gibbs in the alternate root24. Otis Gibbs – Preacher Steve - (2008) – From the album Grandpa Walked A Picketline. Otis Gibbs plays down the political and often scathing nature of his songs in order to maintain a neutrality with his audience. It can't be easy when you write like he does and you choose his subject matter. Preacher Steve is a dead on assault of TV Evangelists and the snake oil they peddle. He also lays the blame at the people who feed this nonesense and continue to line up to by the magic elixir.
Key line:
"Preacher Steve or the people who believe in him
and I can't decide which is worse."

john mellencamp in the alternate root25. John Mellencamp – Rain on the Scarecrow - (1985) – From the album Scarecrow. The song that launched Farm Aid and brought the plight of the American farmer to the forefront and dinner tables from coast to coast. Rain on the Scarecrow is in itself about the death of American values in favor of corporate interests and it's one of the best songs on the subject ever written.
Key line:

"Scarecrow on a wooden cross, Blackbird in the barn.
Four hundred empty acres that used to be my farm.
I grew up like my daddy did My grandpa cleared this land.
When I was five I walked the fence while grandpa held my hand.
Rain on the scarecrow, Blood on the plow.
This land fed a nation. This land made me proud.
And Son I'm just sorry there's no legacy for you now.
Rain on the scarecrow Blood on the plow.
Rain on the scarecrow Blood on the plow."

26. Uncle Lucius – Keep the Wolves Away - (2012) – From the album And You Are Me. Lead singer Kevin Galloway says this is a true story of how a man, his father, raised his kids, doing whatever was needed to get done. He had a work related injury that affectecd the rest of his life, and the company turned its back. The next generation takes the torch and keeps it lit, to support the family and keep the wolves away.

Key Line:
"I was barely thirteen when the company man
Tried to dig my Daddy’s grave.
Happened on a French owned tanker ship
Spilling poison into Galveston Bay.
Where the liquid fire filled his lungs and his eyes,
Silenced any mortal cries.
Codeine the grit but death stang in pain,
He fought like hell to keep the wolves away"

27. Will Kimbourgh – Americanitis - (2006) – From the album Americanitis. Marketing is a disease that Americans from which Americans take more than a daily dose. Will Kimbrough's character is not selling out, he is buying in. The promises of advertising are beauty, youth and longevity. What you take for cures may become the disease.

"Assembling lines of hot dog vendors
My funny bone it ain’t so tender
I swear by God I will surrender
Just give me one more day"

28. Slaid Cleaves - I Was Born This Morning - (2008) – From the album Ribbon of Highway   - The song sees that people were born right the first time, no need to do it again. Slaid Cleaves finds the joy and righteous path offered by finding that any sort of god lives within each of us. The light shines from the inside back out, not the other way around

Key LIne:
"This morning I was born again and a light shine on my land
I no longer look for heaven in your deathly distant land
I do not want your pearly gates don’t want your streets of gold
And I do not want your mansion for my heart is never cold"

bruce springsteen in the alternate root29. Bruce Springsteen – Sinaloa Cowboys - (1995) – From the album The Ghost of Tom Joad - Two brothers head north for work and find the most lucrative jobs are the ones that carry danger and heartbreak. In order to win big, you have to gambleon a big lose.

Key Line:
"Word was out some men in from Sinaloa were looking for some hands
Well deep in Fresno county there was a deserted chicken ranch
There in a small tin shack on the edge of a ravine
Miguel and Louis stood cooking methamphetamine.
You could spend a year in the orchards
Or make half as much in one ten-hour shift
Working for the men from Sinaloa
But if you slipped the hydriodic acid
Could burn right through your skin
They'd leave you spittin' up blood in the desert
If you breathed those fumes in"

gretchen peters30. Gretchen Peters - Hello Cruel World  (2012) – From the album Hello Cruel World -Well laid plans do not always follow a straight path. There is inspiration in realizing our limitations. Gretchen Peters manages to see the glass half full and remind us that sometimes the best we can do is just show up

Key Line: 
"haven’t done as well as I thought I would
I’m not dead but I’m damaged goods
And it’s gettin’ late
I’m a rusty hinge, a squeaky wheel
at the bad end of a shaky deal
cursed by the hand of fate
and ooooooh – I’m a very lucky girl
yeah ooooooh – hello cruel world"

bruce cockburn31. Bruce Cockburn – Lovers in a Dangerous Time - (1984) – From the album Stealing Fire - The power of two is strong. Our choice of a partner is personal. We do not allow people to tell us how to dress, what to eat, listen to or watch. Why is it that we pay so much attention when the tell us how to love.

Key Line:
"When you're lovers in a dangerous time
Sometimes you're made to feel as if your love's a crime --
But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight --
Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight
When you're lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time
And we're lovers in a dangerous time"

lone justice32. Lone Justice - Soap, Soup and Salvation (1985) – From the album Lone Justice- Homelessness in America is rampant. The dispossessed at the rescue mission in the song seek, and find, comfort in the little things. Singing for your supper becomes a reality for those waiting for dinner.

Key Line:
"Lonely faces, empty glances
They surround me everywhere
But those sweet angelic voices
Are now rising through the air

"When the roll is called up yonder"
I'll be there with

Soap, soup and salvation
Tired hearts sing in jubilation
Restoration at the rescue mission
Soap, soup and salvation"

nanci griffith33. Nanci Griffith - The Loving Kind - (2010) – From the album The Loving Kind - The case was brought by Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. Their marriage violated the state's anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as "white" and people classified as "colored." The Supreme Court's unanimous decision held this prohibition was unconstitutional,

Key Line:
"They were the loving kind
She was black and he was white
In Virginia, 1958
They found love amongst the hate
Well, the law said they could not wed
They married anyway
The sheriff put them both in jail
Separated till they made their bail
They changed the heart of a nation
With their wedding vows
From the highest court in the land
Their union would lawfully stand"

grant peeples34. Grant Peeples – Nigger Lover - (2012) – From the album Prior Convictions - Grant Peeples sees a word that causes cringing and wovering as a badge of honor. The song points out that the word is not used in its original form, but other words have taken its place. The same meaning, but words that you can hide behind.

Key Line:
"Nigger Lover
Yeah, that’s what they used to call me in the playground at school
But it was a lot of years ago
Those kids have all grown up they’ve all grown up
And they don’t use that word any more….hardly
Nah, these days they use other words

They say things like…you’re a liberal, a socialist, a community activist
You’re gonna see in this next election
‘we gonna snatch this country back again for real Americans"

jim keaveney35. Jim Keaveney – Livin' in a Dream - (2009) - From the album Music Man - The song is about consumerism in America. The dream is that we will always have enoughm and that we can waste. Americans feel that everyone around the world lives like us. A chicken for every pot is not reality and Jim Keaveny reminds us to look outside our borders, and open our eyes.

Key Line:
"Most Americans they don’t get around just maybe over the next big town
Too far in debt, or afraid, or just not curious enough to cross that line into another world into another time
So I’m here to tell you there many peoples and colors out there and respecting the cultures a real good fare
But no matter how far you’re flying on a big jet plane fundamentally all the peoples the same"

paul sachs36. Paul Sachs - Dirty Trucks - (2011) – From the album Oil Town - The American dream. Work hard and build your own business by ownership. The man is the story is a small business owner. He needs to diversify I order to keep food on the table and a roof over his famliy’s head. The decision between right and wrong blurs when your kids are hungry.

Key Line:
"Dirty tucks out on the highway rolling through your state tonight
Dirty trucks out on the highway, rolling fast and never traveling light"

corb lund37. Corb Lund - Getting Down on the Mountain - (2012) - From the album Cabin Fever - Corb Lund speaks the mind of survivalist who see the approaching storm and take whatever measures are necessary to protect themselves, and their families. In an effort to survive, they take to higher ground.

Key Line:
There ain’t no heat and the power’s gone out, it’s kerosene lamps and candles
The roads are blocked, it’s all gridlocked, you got a shortwave handle?
Can you track the deer, can you dig the well?
I couldn’t quite hear your answer
I think I see a rip in the social fabric, Brother can you pass the ammo?
I think I see a rip in the social fabric, Brother can you spare some ammo?"

drive by truckers38. Drive-By Truckers - The Southern Thing - (2002) – From the album Southern Rock Opera - Drive-By Truckers speak about the duality of the south in this tune. The band turns the crews a little tighter on Neil Young’s belief that every southern man is the same. Patterson Hood sees that you cannot blanketly judge a people on the actions of a few.

Key Line:
Ain't about my pistol
Ain't about my boots
Ain't about no northern drives
Ain't about my southern roots
Ain't about my guitars, ain't about my big old amps
"It ain't rained in weeks, but the weather sure feels damp"
Ain't about excuses or alibis
Ain't about no cotton fields or cotton picking lies
Ain't about the races, the crying shame
To the fucking rich man all poor people look the same"

tracy chapman39. Tracy Chapman - Behind the Wall - (1988) – From the album Tracy Chapman - Domestic violence lives next door. As loud as the screams and yelling can be, the more powerful sound is silence. There is no one to turn to, until you can turn no more and the drama reaches its last and final scene.

Key Line:
"Last night I heard the screaming
Loud voices behind the wall
Another sleepless night for me
It won't do no good to call
The police
Always come late
If they come at all"

jackson browne40. Jackson Browne - Lives in the Balance - (1986) – From the album Lives in the Balance - Jackson Browne has long stood as a voice for people. He talks about the fragile states we live in, and how our decision to question authority should be taught in schools.

Key Line:
"On the radio talk shows and the T.V.

You hear one thing again and again
How the U.S.A. stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend
But who are the ones that we call our friends--
These governments killing their own?
Or the people who finally can't take any more
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire"

otis taylor41. My World Is Gone – Otis Taylor -  (2013) – From the album My World Is Gone - Otis Taylor describes the modern world of the American Indian. Over his trance blues music, Otis delivers one liners that paint the picture of a western landscape that only hangs in museums, and in the memory of a once proud people who cannot find a way back to the old ways.

Key Line:
"If you send me a golden razor……I’ll cut my hair and I’ll bury it where the buffalo used to roam
My World Is Gone"

the neville brothers42. The Neville Brothers – Rosa Parks - (1988) - From the album Yellow Moon - Rosa Parks was tired. She refused to walk one step further when seats were available in the front of the bus. Her decision changed history.

Key Line:
"Thank you Miss Rosa, you are the spark
That started our freedom movement, thank you Sister Rosa Parks"

blackie and the rodeo kings43. Blackie & The Rodeo Kings – Another Free Woman - (2011) – From the album Kings & Queens - Blackie & The Rodeo Kings invited women to guest vocal on their most recent release, Kings & Queens. Sara Watkins guests on this song about getting even by getting out. Not a victim, the heroine in the song knows that there is another path to heaven and she’s got a gun.

Key Line:

tom waits44. Tom Waits – In the Neighborhood - (1983) – From the album Swordfishtrombones - Life has changed in the old neighborhood. Tom Waits points out that the things we tolerate become routine. We need an awareness to walk out our front door. The familiar smell of cooking breakfast and the smell of spilled garbage mingle and become home.

Key Line:
"Well the eggs chase the bacon
round the fryin' pan
and the whinin' dog pidgeons
by the steeple bell rope
and the dogs tipped the garbage pails
over last night
and there's always construction work
bothering you
In the neighborhood
In the neighborhood
In the neighborhood"

d l marble45. D.L. Marble – Sombrero Lullaby - (2012) – From the album Not the One… - The narrator in this song is a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. While sitting at a bar, a song on the jukebox transports the soldier to where he really wants to be, on a beach in Mexico, trying to wash the blood off his hands.

Key Line:
One more tequila for my friends and me
And I’ll tell you a tale about a land so far away’
Somebody play me a melody
Solve the world’s problems some other day

These songs keep callin on the radio
And I see my name in the neon
I wanna run away to Mexico
So play me a sombrero lullaby"

dave alvin46. Dave Alvin – Out of Control - (2004) – From the album Ashgrove - Speed, prostitution, weapons….all part of the way to make your daily bread in this tale of characters living on the edge. The speed and whiskey burning brain of the man telling the story understands that wanting to do right is okay, but sometimes you just have a need to go a little further to get the same rush.

Key Line:
"I used to work a little construction
But I never got along with my boss
So I do a little import/export
Makin’ enough just to cover my costs
And I’m losin’ my hair and I’m losin’ my teeth
But I’m tryin’ to keep my grip
And live to see one more day
Without makin’ any stupid slips.

You know I could have played the game man
And just done what I was told
But I guess I was born just a little bit
Out of control"

christine ohlman and rebel montez47. Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez – The Cradle Did Rock - (2009) – From the album The Deep End - The aftermath of Katrina changed New Orleans forever. Christine Ohlman describes what followed the levee breaks in the Crescent City.

Key Line:
The cradle did rock, the cradle been broken
It all fell down in the terrible flood, then
Some people came home, some people gave up
The levee went crash and the cradle did rock"

steve earle48. Steve Earle – Jerusalem – (2002) – From the album Jerusalem - On an album made almost entirely of protest songs, this title track from Jerusalem questions who we can accept death and violence simply because it has happened before. It is one more excuse to tolerate oppression, and one more reason to look to the real lessons of love thy brother, rather than demanding some not only worship a god, but worship the god of their understanding.

Key Line:
"I woke up this mornin' and none of the news was good
death machines were rumblin' cross the ground where Jesus stood
and the man on the TV told me that is had always been that way
and there was nothin' anyone could do or say"

justin townes eARLE49. Justin Townes Earle – Workin’ for the MTA – (2010) – From the album Harlem River Blues - Getting up and going to work every day. Doing the same job, expecting the same conditions….every day. Dreams are what happens when you sleep. Waking hours are already carved in stone.

Key Line:
"So, it's cold in them tunnels today
Well, it's cold in them tunnels today
It's cold down in those tunnels today, mama, workin' for the MTA
Yeah, I'm workin' for the MTA"

peter himmelman50. Peter Himmelman - "Untitled" (The Cab Driver Song) - (1992) - From the album Flown This Acid World   - The narrator becomes trapped in a world of angry words that are intolerable and preach hate. It would seem that the tip for this cab driver would be “don’t be so stupid” but like all bullies, their words have more power than what their actions might be, or the actions might be more powerful….you just don’t know.

Key Line:
The driver of the cab he had a pock marked face
He didn't seem too unfriendly, he was just starin' off into space
And he told me that he used to drive a truck
And that right now he was down on his luck

We talked a bit about travelin', told him that I'd been to the USSR
He looked at me in the rear view mirror and said

"Ain't that where the Jews and commies are?"
And I knew I was in for a hell of a ride
My face was calm but I was burnin' up inside, oh yeah"


the alternate root top 20 guitar playersHere's our list of The Alternate Root Magazine's Top American Roots Guitar Players. There's probably 100 guitar players that could have been on this list that appear on every "Best Guitar Player List." These are our favorites. The one's we write about; one's we've worked with on Alternate Root TV or we've interviewed here. They're our guys and gals and all of them can play. Chances are we've forgotten a few and we're counting on our readers to remind us of who's supposed to be here.

kenny vaughan in the alternate root1. Kenny Vaughan - Marty Stuart Band, solo - One of the most, if not 'the' most in demand session players in Nashville, Kenny Vaughan is an absolute monster player that is in a league with just a few others on this list. Combining the most eclectic, fringe elements of jazz, punk, rock, country and whatever else into his unique style and combining it with near flawless technique is what sets Vaughan apart from most. 

Listen and buy the music of Kenny Vaughan from AMAZON or iTunes

  will kimbrough in the alternate root2. Will Kimbrough - Emmylou Harris Band, solo - Kimbrough's work with Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris is well documented. His solo work is equally compelling and as one of the top producers in the American Roots music world you can find him on a slew of other really good records. He can play any style from blues to country, rock to soul and everything in between.

Listen and buy the music of Will Kimbrough from AMAZON or iTunes

richard thompson in the alternate root3. Richard Thompson - Fairport Convention, solo - One of the founding members of Fairport Convention, Thompson has spent most of his career in relative public obscurity save guitar heads and critics. Guitar people have known about Richard Thompson for decades and critics have been heaping praise on Richard Thompson for both his playing and his writing for nearly as long. His mark is on more music than most anyone on this list. Probably the best folk guitarist in history.

Listen and buy the music of Buddy Miller from AMAZON or iTunes

buddy miller in the alternate root4. Buddy Miller - Band of Joy, solo - Like Will Kimbrough, Buddy Miller appears on more recordings than can be listed here. He's worked as a guitar player for Steve Earle, Robert Plant, John Fogerty, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Linda Rostadt. His solo work is at times breathtaking and at other time a bit puzzling but never typical. Miller is just downright brilliant.

Listen and buy the music of Colin Linden from AMAZON or iTunes

colin linden in the alternate root5. Colin Linden - Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, solo - One of the true virtuoso players on our list. A scholar of the roots of the guitar, from earliest recordings of blues and jazz to folk and country, Colin Linden was called upon by T-Bone Burnett to help produce the soundtrack for "Oh Brother Where Art Thou." He's one of the top American Roots producers in Canada and the U.S. and has a guitar playing resume that would take up more space than we have here.

Listen and buy the music of Bill Kirchen from AMAZON or iTunes

bill kirchen in the alternate root6. Bill Kirchen -solo - One of the most respected and acclaimed players of the last few decades Kirchen may be best known for work with Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen but his work over the past 30+ years is more impressive. His version of "Hot Rod Lincoln" where he rips into a solo for every guitar god hero is amazing.

Listen and buy the music of Pete Anderson from AMAZON or iTunes

pete anderson in the alternate root7. Pete Anderson - solo - He's a bad-ass player. He's a bad-ass producer who created the sound for Dwight Yoakam, k.d. Lang, Michelle Shocked and even the latter-day Roy Orbison. If you don't know him as a player you don't know the half of it.

Listen and buy the music of Derek Trucks from AMAZON or iTunes

derek trucks in the alternate root8. Derek Trucks - Tedeschi Trucks Band, Allman Brothers Band - The nephew of Allman Brothers great Butch Trucks, Derek Trucks first appeared on stage with Buddy Guy and The Allman Brothers at age 12. One of the best slide players out there right now, Trucks is heavily influenced by Buddy Guy, Elmore James and the like but his style incorporates blues, rock, soul and classic jazz elements.

Listen and buy the music of Derek Trucks from AMAZON or iTunes

traul malo in the alternate root9. Raul Malo - Mavericks, Los Super Seven, solo - Raul Malo may be more well known for his incredible voice than his guitar playing but he should never be overlooked as one of the top American Roots guitar players. His work with the Mavericks, Los Super Seven and as a solo artist contains some incredibly good guitar playing by any standards. See him live playing jazz, blues, country, Tejano, rockabilly and you'll get the picture.

Listen and buy the music of Raul Malo from AMAZON or iTunes

junior brown in the alternate root10. Junior Brown - Junior Brown Band - Junior Brown is so good he needed to have a guitar invented just for him and the "guit-steel" was born. He's incendiary style blends Western Swing, honky-tonk, Bakersfield country and Texas blues often in the same solo.

Listen and buy the music of Junior Brown from AMAZON or iTunes

patterson hood in the alternate  root11.  Patterson Hood - Drive By Truckers - The power behind one of the powerhouse American Roots bands Patterson Hood is actually more Clash than Cash. The Drive By Truckers are one of the few roots bands that when it's all said and done, will have done pretty well.

Listen and buy the music of Patterson Hood from AMAZON or iTunes

eric ambel in the alternate root12. Eric “Roscoe” Ambel - The Del-Lords, Steve Earle Band, solo - He's more into producing and engineering now than when he was barnstorming for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, The Del-Lords or Steve Earle but "Roscoe" shows up in rare form on a lot of really cool recordings from bands like the New Heathens, Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition and DL Marble. Ambel is a great guitar player...period.

Listen and buy the music of Eric ‘Roscoe’ Ambel from AMAZON or iTunes

rosie flores in the alternate root13. Rosie Flores - Rosie Flores Band - The "Rockabilly Filly" broke the glass ceiling for female guitar players right along with Bonnie Raitt and Patti Smith, just to a different crowd. She's the "Queen of Twang" and one of the pre-eminent figures in the Austin Alt-Country music scene. She's fun, she's good and she looks great at 63. Her work with Pete Anderson on her debut album drew major critical acclaim.

Listen and buy the music of Rosie Flores from AMAZON or iTunes

mark robinson in the alternate root14. Mark Robinson - Mark Robinson Band - He can shred, pick, bend and slide with the best of them. Robinson has a resonant tone that would fall somewhere between Albert King and Ronnie Earl but has developed into pure Mark Robinson. Only two solo efforts to date but both have garnered high praise for Robinson's guitar work.

Listen and buy the music of Mark Robinson from AMAZON or iTunes

devon allman in the alternate root15. Devon Allman -Royal Southern Brotherhood, Devon Allman's Honeytribe - The son of Gregg Allman and another example of the fruit not falling far from the tree, Devon Allman has the chops of his father and the soul of his uncle. In his case the soul is what makes him great. His blues are hard edged and spacious; making each note count rather than counting how many notes there were. An awful lot of Allman Brothers Band offspring are making great music. Makes you wonder about the effects of sex and srugs.

Listen and buy the music of Devon Allman from AMAZON or iTunes

sergio webb in the alternate root16. Sergio Webb - David Olney, solo - Sergio Webb can be seen on a stage in Nashville making someone sound good most any night. He's a great picker of just about anything that has strings on it. Webb is a throwback to the old-style country guitar player like Chet Atkins or Les Paul.

Listen and buy the music of Sergio Webb from AMAZON or iTunes

seth walker in the alternate root17. Seth Walker - solo - Seth Walker started as a cellist at the age of three growing up with classicly trained musicians as parents. His clean soul-jazz-pop sound has garnered some high praise critically both as a skillful player and soulful singer. He's paved the way for a host of blues/soul performers in the Americana Roots movement. His cool west-coast tone is reminiscent of Wes Montgomery.

Listen and buy the music of Seth Walker from AMAZON or iTunes

martin sexton in the alternate root18. Martin Sexton - solo - His playing is a lot studio tricks and loops but since he's playing all of it and putting it together in some sort of predetermined sequences we'll have to call that innovative and highly skilled playing. Not your dad's "folkie," Martin Sexton is a gifted player that experiments outside the lines.

Listen and buy the music of Martin Sexton from AMAZON or iTunes

chris hersch in the alternate root19. Chris Hersch - Girls, Guns and Glory - The lead guitar slot in Girls, Guns and Glory has been a bit of a revolving door and the predecessors to Chris Hersch have all been pretty solid. That said, none of them can stand with the current "lead chair." Hersch's work on "Sweet Nothings," the latest effort from GGG is astounding.

Listen and buy the music of Chris Hersch from AMAZON or iTunes

garrett lebeau in the alternate root20. Garrett Lebeau - solo - He's a young guy from rural Wyoming that resides in Austin every now and again. An enigma of sorts, Lebeau posesses an almost majestic tone and incendiary improvisational skill. His playing is a combination of bluesey soul and jazz in a gospel wash. Infectious is a good way to describe Garrett Lebeau's music.

Listen and buy the music of Garrett Lebeau from AMAZON or iTunes

colin thompson in the alternate root21. Colin Thompson - Randy Thompson Band - Who? From where? At 15 he had chops it should have taken 40 years to develop. Randy Thompson is a known entity in many Americana/Alt-Country circles especially in Europe but his son Colin might end up as the one who scores it big. Now 19, He's a sponge for style and technique and by the time he hits middle age he could be the best player on this list.

Listen and buy the music of Colin Thompson from his website

Welcome to the first installment of what will be a regular feature here at The Alternate Root. It’s an old fashioned Top 10 list.My name is Scott Kempner, and for most of my forty years here in the business of Show, I have also answered to the nickname, Top 10. Top 10’s Top 10 Countdown is the name. The subjects will vary - sometimes wildly. They may or may not even all be music related, or at least not necessarily be about music per se. I just don’t know. As if this needs to be said, there is nothing scientific, Etched In Stone, didactic, going on here. This will be only marginally objective. It will be opinions (uh, mine), subjective as they come, out the yin-yang. We can discuss, argue a bit, have some fun with it, and maybe have some MORE fun with it. Please folks, no wagering. So, have fun, please check out some of these records.

TOP 10’S TOP 10 GARAGE ROCK RECORDS - (this one goes to eleven!)




1. PSYCHOTIC REACTION - THE COUNT FIVE - Numero uno. My very favorite Garage Rock classic. Here is the Yardbirds side of the YBirds/Stones Garage Rock mid-60’s scene) paradigm in full glory. First, the lead guitar & kick drum enter, then the harmonica, then the rhythm guitar, then the bass, & THEN THE DRUMS, the Godhead moment when Garage Rock Heaven cracks open and reveals itself to us mortals back on Earth. From San Jose to the Top 10. And yes, to the top of Top 10’s personal Top 10, too!!

Listen and buy “Psychotic Reaction” by The Count Five from AMAZON or iTunes

2. WHO DO YOU LOVE - THE PREACHERS - I dig this maniacal version of Bo Diddley’s oft-covered classic even more than Bo’s original. (Fairly) Crazed, (pretty much) out of control, and (positively) meant to freak out the neighbors. Play loud, although be warned – it could get you kicked out of your apartment!  Everybody scream along!


Listen and buy “Who Do You Love” by The Preachers from AMAZON or iTunes




3. THIRTEEN WOMEN - THE UK RENEGADES - A super-charged, freakbeat cover of what was actually the A-side to the B-side of Bill Haley and the Comets’ Rock Around the Clock. From Sweden, no less. Yes, The UK Renegades were from Sweden?!!?

4. I CAN ONLY GIVE YOU EVERYTHING- THEM - Van Morrison rides a three-note fuzz guitar lick into Garage Rock nirvana in what remains my favorite track he has ever recorded. My pal Little Steven’s fave Garage record of all time.


Listen and buy “I Can Only Give You Everything” by Them from AMAZON

5. RUMBLE - LINK WRAY - A little early in the game, as it was released back in 1958. Link Wray worked his voodoo guitar violence despite being one lung short of a set. He became a fixture on the CBGB scene in the 70’s, when he played with Robert Gordon. Rumble remains the only instrumental ever banned for obscenity. Howzabout THAT??!!


Listen and buy “Rumble” by Link Wray from AMAZON or iTunes

6. LEANING ON YOU -  THE SWINGIN’ YO-YOS - Not a Yardbirds/Stones paradigm here, but a rare Stones/Beatles collision. Could only have come from Memphis. British Invasion meets Memphis Soul. I never knew of this minor masterpiece until it came with the sampler cd from a special Southern Music issue of American Oxford magazine back in the late 90s.

7. 96 TEARS - ? AND THE MYSTERIANS - From the great year of 1966, this is the ultimate in Monotony-as-Godhead. Top to bottom genius, no, make that GENIUS!! Question Mark (Earth name: Rudy Martinez) was from Mars, you know, or was it Jupiter? I forget. The band, however, was from Michigan.

Listen and buy “96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians from AMAZON or iTunes

8. PSYCHO - THE SONICS - A typical, ferocious, throat ripping, corrosive Jerry Roslie vocal and a song whose title says it all. An everythinglouder-than-everything-else mix that will knock your speakers right off the wall. Something hard to digest was obviously in the water in the Pacific Northwest in 1965. This went from being the B-side to The Witch to being an A-side later that year.

Listen and buy “Psycho” by The Sonics from AMAZON or iTunes

9. TALK TALK - THE MUSIC MACHINE - I love their look – the one-gloved hand on each member of this great and underrated West Coast band, fronted by Sean Bonniwell. The Yardbirds/Stones Garage Rock paradigm in full effect.

Listen and buy “Talk Talk” by Music Machine from AMAZON or iTunes

10. 7 & 7 IS - LOVE - Before the classic Forever Changes, and after their assault on Burt Bachrach & Hal David’s My Little Red Book, Arthur Lee and Love let rip with this firestorm of a minor hit single about, well, who the hell knows what it’s about??!!. It’s the only hit single I can think of that features the recording of a major explosion.  Let’s take a poll as to what it is at the end that combusts.

Listen and buy “7 and 7 is” by Love from AMAZON or iTunes

11. ARE YOU A BOY OR ARE YOU A GIRL? - THE BARBARIANS - From the Boston area, these guys asked the musical question that was still on everybody’s mind in 1965 after the double whammy of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones first appearances on American TV back in 1964. Their drummer, Moulty, had a hook for a hand, too. He tells us all the tale on their follow-up called, yes, MOULTY (which they perform in the great Rock movie of all time, The T.A.M.I. Show).

Listen and buy “Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?” by The Barbarians from AMAZON or iTunes


We consider these to be the most important roots music recordings of the last 25 years. They are not the "best" albums or biggest selling albums. Some won prestigious awards and many did not. In fact many may have flown under the radar of even the most astute roots music fans.

Roots music has been around since Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie in many of the forms you see and hear today. Alt-Country didn't start with Uncle Tupelo it started in Bakersfield in the late 50's and was continued with artists like Poco, Pure Prarie League in the 70's and on to The Del Lords, The Beat Farmers and Jason and the Scorchers in the 80's. We narrowed it to the last 25 years and maybe some time we'll open up to all-time.

One of the struggles we had will no doubt be a point of contention from the onset. What about Robert Plant and Alison Krauss "Raising Sand?" Oh, what T-Bone Burnett can do with an aging rock legend and a bluegrass singer who happens to also be the most decorated artist in Grammy history. We have a tough time including this roots music but the fact is it made great strides in bringing Americana Music, a genre that was misunderstood, mislabelled and mishandled to the popular concience. It sold gazillions of copies, won a Grammy for Album of the Year and to this day is no more Americana music than Led Zeppelin IV. Many will disagree.

Without further ado, her's our list of the 35 Most Important Roots Albums of the Last 25 Years.

top 35 roots albums in the alternate root1. OMP Soundtrack - Oh Brother, Where Art Thou - (2000) - “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” One of the most if not the most influential roots music albums of the past 25 years, the soundtrack to the film “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” took the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2001 and almost single-handedly placed Americana Music on the map, at least for the general public. Produced by legendary producer T-Bone Burnett, the album featured Allison Krauss, Colin Linden, Gillian Welch, The Fairfield Four and John Hartford among others.
Listen and buy the music of Oh Brother, Where Art Thou from AMAZON or iTunes

top 35 roots albums in the alternate root2. Emmylou Harris – Wrecking Ball - (1995) - Wrecking Ball- Flying Burrito Brothers member and Byrds alumni, Chris Hillman, referred Emmylou Harris to Gram Parsons, who had been looking for a female vocalist to back him on his first solo record. History was made and a career was born. Multiple Grammys and a stellar recording career have made Emmylou Harris ground zero for country rock, Americana and roots music of every shape and form. Wrecking Ball was released well into her career and the experimental album was lauded as one of the most important releases of the decade. Country radio ignored her but alternative audiences found what country lost.

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

3. Johnny Cash - American Recordings - (1994) - American Recordings - Johnny Cash is one of the most influential musicians of the 20th Century and could have staked a claim on a number of the spots on this list. We reserved his for American Recordings, a stripped down album performed by Cash with a guitar in his living room. The wild card in the equation was producer Rick Rubin who pulled out emotion, inflection and powerful performances by Cash with the end result being the best Johnny Cash album since the late 1960's.

Listen and buy the music of Johnny Cash from AMAZON or iTunes

4. Bob Dylan - Time Out of Mind - (1997) -  Time Out of Mind- We're not much on the significance of Grammy Awards, but Time Out of Mind won 3 of them including Album of the Year in 1998 which almost redeemed the institution for us. Time Out of Mind could easily be at the top of this or any list of influential albums in terms of writing, production and performance. Producer Daniel Lanois along with session players Jim Keltner, Augie Meyers and Duke Robillard created atmospherics not heard before or since in the Dylan collection.

Listen and buy the music of Bob Dylan from AMAZON or iTunes

5. Uncle Tupelo - No Depression - (1990) - No Depression - Uncle Tupelo 'sNo Depressionlaunched a thousand ships, influencing damn near every roots rock, alt-country band that followed, not the least of which are the two spinoff bands Son Volt and Wilco from band members Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy respectively. While Uncle Tupelo is credited by many as being the founder of the "alt-country" genre, we dispute that along with Jay Farrar. Alt-Country music existed before Uncle Tupelo but No Depression is a part of the history that is not in dispute.

Listen and buy the music of Uncle Tupelo from AMAZON or iTunes

6. The Carolina Chocolate Drops - Genuine Negro Jig - (2010) - Genuine Negro Jig- Three young black virtuoso musicians have the entire world ahead of them musically, but they chose to go back a century and a half to find the lost art of black string band music. Add their breakout album Genuine Negro Jig to the mix along with a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album and you have one of the most important roots bands of the decade. Genuine Negro Jig inspired a host of albums honoring the old-time American music that has long been forgotten.

Listen and buy the music of The Carolina Chocolate Drops from AMAZON or iTunes

7. Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road - (1998) - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road - Though Lucinda Williams had been recording music since the late 1970's, it wasn't until her monumental breakthrough album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road that she garnered the acclaim globally that she so rightly deserved. Known prior as a country artist, Williams infused blues, rock, country and roots together on Car Wheels... and found her signature groove. Time Magazine dubbed her America's Best Songwriter in 2002 based on the album's intense lyrics. She's become an influence to millions of women (and men) since.

Listen and buy the music of Lucinda Williams from AMAZON or iTunes

8. James McMurtry - Childish Things - (2005) - Childish Things- His novelist Dad, Larry McMurtry, gave son James a guitar at age seven and his English professor Mom taught him how to play. James McMurtry claims, "My mother taught me three chords and the rest I just stole as I went along. I learned everything by ear or by watching people." Childish Things in 2005 was a breakout for James McMurtry in a recording career that began in 1989. The album generated the song “We Can’t Make It Here” and a timeless anthem was born.

Listen and buy the music of James McMurtry from AMAZON or iTunes

9. Cowboy Junkies – The Trinity Session - (1988) - The Trinity Sessions- 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 - The Revolution Starts Now - (2004) - The Revolution Starts Now - We tossed and turned over The Revolution Starts Now or Jerusalem being the most influential of these two monumental Steve Earle recordings, and the truth is, both could be here. We picked The Revolution Starts Now because of its subsequent influence on popular counter-culture. The album took a hard stand against the war in Iraq, the death penalty, the policies of George W. Bush and became a megaphone for the left, inspiring Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.

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11. Band of Heathens - One Foot in the Ether - (2009) - One Foot in the Ether- A shared bill brought the three core songwriters for Band of Heathens together at Momo’s in their hometown of Austin, TX in the mid-2000’s. After several live albums and a Ray Wylie Hubbard produced self-titled debut, Band of Heathens released One Foot in the Ether in 2009. The album continued to hone a sound that referenced rock, roots, soul and gospel in songs like “Shine a Light”, “L.A. County Blues”, “Somebody Tell the Truth” and “Golden Calf”.

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12. The Jayhawks – Hollywood Town Hall - (1992) - Formed in Minneapolis, MN in 1985, The Jayhawks released albums in their home base until their major label debut, Hollywood Town Hall, in 1992. The Alt Country group it produced had a softer tone than many of their feedback distorted brethren, and stuck to the California Country sound of Poco and the Burrito Brothers -- sounds that added a lot of folk to the twang. Hollywood Town Hall gathered the dual vocals and finely crafted songs of band members Gary Louris and Mark Olson.

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13. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights - (2007) - Former Rikers Island correction officer Sharon Jones was called in for session work as a backup vocalist. Sharon was the only one of the call outs to show up and impressed the production team by performing all three parts herself.  Daptone Records, the Brooklyn label owned by its musicians/producers, released their first recording, Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings in 2002. The grass roots popularity of the band expanded, and their song mix of funk, soul and roots music lined up perfectly with the 2007 release, 100 days, 100 Nights lighting a torch for a Soul revival.

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14. Old Crow Medicine Show – O.C.M.S. - (2004) - Old Crow Medicine Show busked across upper New York State and through Canada before finding themselves on a street corner in Boone, North Carolinapassingthe hat to Doc Watson. The musical statesmen helped Old Crow Medicine Show along and the band moved to Nashville, again finding luck with a Grand Ole’ Opry residency playing between shows. Produced by Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, O.C.M.S. was the band’s first studio recording, containing the song that has become the Old Crow Medicine Show worldwide greeting card, “Wagon Wheel”.

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15. Ryan Adams – Gold - (2001) - GoldRyan Adams moved from punk rock to Alt Country with the formation of Whiskeytown. The band made great music and drew critical acclaim before folding. Musically, Ryan Adams’ first release, Heartbreaker, seemed to follow in Whiskeytown’s critically favored footsteps. With his 2001 release, Gold, Ryan Adams hit mainstream love with songs like “When the Stars Go Blue”, “La Cienega Just Smiled”, “Harder Now That It’s Over” and “New York, New York”, in a video filmed with the NYC skyline in the background, captured four days before 9/11.

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16. The Bottle Rockets - Brooklyn Side - (1994) - The Brooklyn Side- Formed in 1992 with Uncle Tupelo guitar tech, Brian Henneman, leading the charge, The Bottle Rockets hit a good altitude with the Eric ‘Roscoe’ Ambel produced album, The Brooklyn Side, their second release. The Bottle Rockets music chronicles Middle America-- Brian Henneman referring to the band as ‘reporters from the heartland’. “Radar Gun”, from The Brooklyn Side, put The Bottle Rockets on radio charts.

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17. Todd Snider - East Nashville Skyline - (2004) - East Nashville Skyline - Todd Snider has released a continuous string of critically acclaimed albums; perhaps none more well-received than the introspective East Nashville Skyline. The album confronts a trail of poor decisions, addiction, rehab, controversy and a political shot across the bow of "conservatism" for good measure. Picking a "most" anything out of Snider's catalog is tough, but this one stands out for us as his best.

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18. Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More - (2010) - Sigh No More - Mumford and Sons emerged from what is dubbed the "West London Folk Scene" in 2007 and landed on the shores of America after receiving two Grammy nominations in 2010. Their performance at the Grammy's put "roots music" onto the lips of a generation that only thought of roots in the context of different colored hair or possibly cracks in the driveway. Their debut album Sigh No More is influential in that it opened the minds of a lot more people to acoustic based traditional music.

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19. Will Kimbrough - Americanitis - (2006) - Americanitis - Will Kimbrough is probably better known for his guitar skills and, more recently, as a top shelf producer than for his solo work, but that's reserved for those who have yet to discover Americanitis. In darker days, it could have landed him on the McCarthy Un-American List with other artists and musicians who dared to confront the issues America swept under the rug. This is what "patriotism" is all about, and it also places Kimbrough among the craftier lyricists in roots music where he justly belongs.

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20. Rodney Crowell - Fates Right Hand - (2003) - Fate’s Right Hand - Rodney Crowell has been one of Nashville's most prolific writers for over four decades. Considered a staple of country radio for much of his career, Crowell turned to a more roots-driven sound when country radio went down the toilet in the 1990's. He confronted a lifetime of demons on Fate's Right Hand and drove it home with a roots rock onslaught both musically and vocally. Lyrically, it's Crowell's finest hour in a career filled with many fine hours.

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21. Son Volt – Straightaways - (1997) - Straightaways- Formed in 1994, Son Volt was the group relationship that helped frontman Jay Farrar get over his time with Uncle Tupelo. The band caught instantly with their debut, Trace, and the momentum continued to build and percolate on album number two, Straightaways. Jay Farrar’s deep voice resonates and strains at its borders as the band bangs out Alt Country guitar riffs over a solid beat on “Picking up a Signal” and “Caryatid Easy”. 

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22. Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera - (2001) - Southern Rock Opera- Drive-By Truckers released their third studio album in 1991. Southern Rock Opera proudly stood for the duality of the south with the album’s cut, “The Southern Thing”, explaining “ain’t about excuses, or alibis, it ain’t about no cotton fields or cotton picking lies”. Southern Rock Opera took a look at topics from growing up in the south amid 70’s arena rock, race politics and Lynyrd Skynyrd, as Drive-By Truckers use the southern rock powerhouse as a cornerstone from which to build the album.

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23. Dave Alvin - King of California - (1994) - Dave Alvin has had a steady release of albums where the musical mood changes with the album art. Fans come to expect, and enjoy, the path of Dave’s muse in recording. When King of California came out in 1994, the album was the first to change up the pure, unadulterated, unapologetic, rock’n’roll force of his work with The Blasters and his first three solo efforts. King of California showcased acoustic instruments, but it was in no way an acoustic album. Dave Alvin showed that unplugging did not lessen the intensity of his playing. The album may turn down the volume, but it raises the flame on the old (“Border Radio”, “Little Honey”, “4th of July”), the new (“Blue Wing”, “Every Night about This Time”), and offers a classic country style romp with Syd Straw (“What Am I Worth?”).

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24. The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow - (2011) - Barton Hollow- The Civil Wars won both Best Country Duo/Group and Best Folk Album in 2012 with Barton Hollow. They moved the needle for Roots music the week after the Grammy’s with Barton Hollow selling 35,000 units and helping to take the duo to #10 on the Billboard album charts. The album continues to blur musical lines in the Roots genre, as musicians like The Civil Wars play what they hear in their heads, not what the industry decrees. The Civil Wars, comprised of singer/songwriters Joy Williams and John Paul White, met in a songwriters group in Nashville, TN.

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25. Mary Gauthier - Mercy Now - (2005) - Her early life provided Mary Gauthier with experiences for her true tales, fueled by the alienation that life handed her in the form of birth mother abandonment and dealing with her sexuality. Her late teens were spent in drug rehabs and jail followed by schooling and opening a Cajun restaurant in Boston, all before writing her fist song at age 35. Mercy Now (2005) is the fourth in a series of recordings that began in 1997. The album wraps the emotive passion of Mary Gauthier’s songs in the title track’s pleas, the world of non-stop alcohol consumption (“I Drink”), the perspective of a road weary traveler (“Falling out of Love”) and Mardi Gras in New Orleans (“Wheel Inside the Wheel”).

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26. Justin Townes Earle - Midnight at the Movies - (2009) -Midnight at the Movies- Justin Townes Earle hit his stride and album #3 nicely straddles the more roots feel of his earlier releases and the Indie Soul of the current. Midnight at the Movies visits extremes with folk blues (“What I Mean to You”), gospel Soul (“Someday I’ll Be Forgiven for This”), bluegrass (“Dirty Rag”) and Roots Rock (“Mama’s Eyes”).

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27. Blue Rodeo – Diamond Mine - (1989) - Diamond Mine- Formed in 1985 in Toronto, Canadians Blue Rodeo released their first album, Outskirts, in 1987, which would exclude them from our 1988+ list. Luckily, their second album, Diamond Mine (1989), 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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 28. The Old 97’s – Too Far to Care - (1997) - Too Far to Care- The Old 97’s started their engines in Dallas, Texas before taking it on the road as a hard touring band. Too Far to Care was The Old 97’s third album release, the group’s first album for a major label (Elektra). Too Far to Care offered rock and twang together in Alt Country glory with frontman Rhett Miller’s wry humor and smart lyrics. It offered immediate classic status to the world with “Timebomb”, “Barrier Reef”, “Just Like California” and a duet with X/The Knitters vocalist, Exene Cervenka, on “Four Leaf Clover”.

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29. Hayes Carll - Trouble in Mind - (2008) - Trouble in Mind moved well-deserved recognition for Hayes Carll beyond his native Texas fan base. The album registered Hayes Carll as a member of a Texan singer/songwriter club that included artists such as Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker and Willie Nelson. Trouble in Mind gave the real life experiences in his songs a touch of wit and wisdom as evidenced in tracks such as “Bad Liver and A Broken Heart”, “She Left Me for Jesus” and “Drunken Poet’s Dream”.

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30. BR549 - BR5-49 - (1996) - Gary Bennett and Chuck Mead formed BR-549 and became the house band at Robert’s Western Wear in Nashville, TN. The Roots feel of their music and the humorous subject matter did not warm them to country radio, but it did give them an instant fan base. Their debut album, BR-549, gave the world covers of the Moon Mullican song, “Cherokee Boogie” and The Byrds/Gram Parsons “Hickory Wind”, the tunes bookending the band’s sound and influences. 

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31. Various Artists - Things About Coming My Way - A Tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks - (2009) - Things About Coming My Way- A Tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks - (2009) - The brainchild of producer and guitar virtuoso Steve Dawson, the Tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks not only brought the music of America's first "popular band" to the fore, but  it also was a music history lesson and civics lesson rolled into one. The Mississippi Sheiks were the first black musicians to play in the White House and were the first popular band to record and tour. The album was a who's who of Canadian and American roots musicians including John Hammond, Colin Linden, Bruce Cockburn, The North Mississippi All-Stars, Madeleine Peyroux, The Carolina Chocolate Drops and Jim Byrnes.
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32. Roseanne Cash - The List - (2009) - The List- When your dad is Johnny Cash and he hands you a list of 100 songs you should learn if you want to be a country singer...well, you stash that list away until the right moment. After her father's death, Roseanne Cash took out the list, picked twelve of those songs, and recorded them with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Jeff Tweedy, Rufus Wainright and Neko Case. An album of covers might not be influential, but when the songs are hand-picked by Johnny Cash as "must knows", it deserves attention.

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33. Blackie and the Rodeo Kings - Kings and Queens - (2011) - Kings and Queens- The power of three caused a ripple in the solo careers of Colin Linden, Tom Wilson and Stephen Fearing when the trio came together to record a tribute album to Canadian singer/songwriter Willie P. Bennett. Taking their name from one of Bennett’s albums, Blackie & the Rodeo Kings continued after the success of the one-off recording project and released Kings and Queens in 2011. The album paired with Roots singing females such as Rosanne Cash, Exene Cervenka, Janiva Magness, Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless, Lucinda Williams and Patti Scialfa. 

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34. Eilen Jewell - Boundary County - (2005) - Boundary County- Eilen Jewell busked on the street while attending college in Santa Fe, NM and then on Venice Beach when she made the move to California. Massachusetts club work in Cambridge, Boston and Somerville brought her attention and Boundary County let the rest of the world hear Eilen Jewell’s jazzy delivery over Roots and Americana arrangements. Eilen Jewell has a relaxed timbre to her singing that makes her voice memorable and immediately addictive.

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35. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - (2002) -Yankee Hotel Foxtrot- Frontman Jeff Tweedy continues to move Wilco further from the Alt Country of the band’s debut, 3AM (and even farther from his former band, Uncle Tupelo), with each Wilco release. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot remained true to roots with songs like “I AM Trying to Break Your Heart”, “Pot Kettle Black”, “I’m the Man Who Loves You” and stretched the genre on “Ashes of American Flags” and “Kamera”. Wilco became Indie banner wavers when Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was rejected by their Warner Bros. label heads for not having a commercial single. The band took the album from WB and took it on the charts with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot being their biggest selling album to date.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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Roots musicians are as much fans as they are performers. We have had some friends call, write and text from the road with their own lists of songs. These lists will feature musician and friends sharing the must-hears, desert island favorites and songs they have loved since they woke up this morning. This week's special guest is East Nashville bluesman Mark Robinson with his Blues Records You Need to Listen to.....

1. Robert Johnson—“Traveling Riverside Blues” (from the album The Complete Recordings) - Everyone knows the legend of Robert Johnson and his deal with the Devil. This legend was credible in rural Mississippi in the 1920’s because Robert Johnson was an amazing player and singer—with power and subtlety. His playing is more complex and beautiful and his lyrics are more sophisticated than his contemporaries. There is a reason he is called the “King of the Delta Blues Singers”.

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2. Willie Dixon – “29 Ways” (from the album The Legend of Willie Dixon) - Willie Dixon was the most prolific blues songwriter in the original group of Chicago Blues artists. Willie wrote a lot of the songs that we know by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf . He also played bass on, and produced a lot of records at Chess Records in the 50’s and 60’s.  He was not as well known as a singer or artist. “29 Ways” is a prime example of his fine blues songwriting. Willie is one of the great blues poets—using the language of the blues to tell great stories and to paint vivid pictures of the blues lifestyle.  This is an unusual recording- the cool jungle drumbeat and the doo-wop vocal backups are really different than most of what was coming out of Chess Studios at the time.

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3. Muddy Waters — “I Can’t Be Satisfied” (from the album Muddy Waters) -This Chicago recording pairs Muddy Waters with Willie Dixon on upright bass. It is a reworking of an acoustic song Muddy recorded for Alan Lomax called “I Be Bound To Write To You”. This song sits right in the middle—between Muddy as a Delta Bluesman and Muddy as the pioneer of electric Chicago Blues. And it rocks hard with just guitar and bass. Thisis the beginning of the electric Chicago blues sound.

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4. Etta James — “I’d Rather Go Blind”   (from the album Tell Mama) - Etta James was one of the great singers of her time, or of any time. She was able to communicate emotion so completely that everyone hearing her sing could relate to her songs. Her singing on “I’d Rather Go Blind” is understated, but full of pain and emotion.  And it’s beautiful to hear her pain. We love to hear someone really let out their feelings in a song.

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5. Howlin’ Wolf — “Howlin’ For My Darlin’” (from the album The Definitive Collection)  - I could pick any Howlin’ Wolf recording, and it would contain his power, his mystery and a sense that something sinister lurks just below the surface of the lyrics and the voice in every song. The recordings capture the Wolf’s primitive energy—70 years later his voice reaches through the speakers and grabs the listener.  Even on commercials for Viagra…

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6. Tracy Nelson—Down So Low  (from the album Living With The Animals) - In the late 60’s Tracy Nelson was part of a rock band called Mother Earth. Their first album “Living With the Animals” had several members taking turns singing lead on their own songs. The song “Down So Low” by a young Tracy Nelson, was so deep and drenched in emotion that classic blues records paled in comparison. This was raw pain radiating from this young woman. It still stands as one of the most beautiful moments in popular music.  I know Tracy, and I have played music with her, and listening to this recording still stops me in my tracks.  Listen to some deep blues by a young white girl from Wisconsin. Transcendent!

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7. BB King — “Everyday I Have The Blues”  (from the album Live at The Regal) - BB King took the Delta blues uptown. And he took his arrangements, his vocal style, his horn section, and his sharp looking suit with him. He was swinging hard and playing with fire and finesse. He could deliver that fire to a high class white audience and they loved it. He escaped the chittlin’ circuit by classing up his act. But it didn’t diminish the power of his music, his singing or his playing. How many guitar players can be identified by their first note? That’s BB—unique. BB had a number one hit with “The Thrill Is Gone” in 1970 and everybody in America and Europe knew what the blues was about because of him.

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8. Sonny Boy Williamson — “Don’t Start Me Talkin’”   (from the album The Essential Sonny Boy Williamson) - Sonny Boy II (he was the second singer to take the name Sonny Boy Williamson) was a great singer and harp player, and an eccentric storyteller. “Don’t Start Me Talkin’” is a favorite of mine. I can’t follow the entire story, but I get the idea. A fine example of what I call Blues Poetry. Great lyric writing in a very different form than other popular song lyrics.

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9. Blind Willie Johnson – “Dark Was the Night”   (from the album Dark Was the Night (Mojo Workin' - Blues for the Next Generation)) - This is an early recording of Blind Willie Johnson. It is an eerie melody, the beautiful slide guitar echoing and doubling the wordless vocal. One of my favorite early recordings of a bluesman. I think of this as “pre-blues”, almost more of a field holler than a true blues song. Maybe it’s not really a blues song, but I hear the blues in there.

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10. Freddy King  – “I’m Tore Down”   (from the album Blues - 20 Hits) - Freddy King was younger than the other Kings—BB and Albert. He was hipper—wearing bell-bottoms and playing surf rock instrumentals. This caused some blues people to think of him as a rock guitarist. But Freddy was deep and not to be taken lightly. One of the most formidable blues guitar players, ever. His piercing tone and swinging phrasing incorporated rock and jazz licks. His powerful, high voice took the blues to a new, cool place. Freddy lived hard and died fairly young. I often wonder what he would have done if he had lived longer. His ability to incorporate more modern ideas into his music might have taken him to some fantastic places. But we can still enjoy his instrumentals, slow blues moaning and rocking up-tempo shuffles.

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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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American Roots music sets the new standard for holiday songs this year and we have collected 44 songs for a free digital download to fans, friends and family of The Alternate Root. The samplers are broken up into two separate downloads, Part One and Part Two. The music is offered by The Alternate Root but the gift is from the artists who have given their words and music to make stories ripped from real life in December 2013. The stories portray life as-is and all manage to find inspiration in tales from the mountains to the sea to the prairies, from the high rise to the low rent to the no rent. Love is in the air and love is headed for the exit. These songs let their feelings show in many ways.

The Alternate Root 2013 Holiday Sampler, Part One starts off with a Mary Gauthier peak under the Cow Key Bridge into the lives of two homeless comrades in the open air, sleeping with the Southern Cross overhead and enjoying “Christmas in Paradise”. Jon Byrd sends a troubadour’s “Silent Night” to traveling musicians everywhere and Yarn to send a holiday greetings to our troops with “Christmas Song”. There are some reindeer games with Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys, Amelia White softly sings as “Bells Ring” and Brian Ashley Jones lights up like a tree with “Let’s Get Blazed for the Holidays”.  Mike Surber lets some talking blues tell his holiday tale, Joe Jencks spies Christmas past filling in the blank spaces on “Christmas in Mansfield”, the ladies of Underhill Rose chime in to remind of “One Time a Year” and Erika Chambers follows a gypsy fiddle into “Bethlehem”. The Wild Ponies turn out the lights for the season knowing that “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas”, Keith Miles is decorating a “Cactus Christmas Tree”, Loretta Hagen wonders “Santa Are You Listening” and our favorite pirate crew, Tom Mason & The Blue Buccaneers, step to “It’s Christmas Day”.  James Lee Stanley, Reverend Jimmie Bratcher, Laura Zucker, Dave Hogan, James and the Devil, Wink Burcham, Alan and Martin and Jeff Maddox fill in the 22 holiday songs on Part One.

The Alternate Root 2013 Holiday Sampler spins a beautiful winter tale that spreads across the opening of Part Two with a track from Over the Rhine, letting personally hand over their audio gift in "Here It Is".  Julie Christensen reminces about Christmas past, present and future and Steve Everett finds “Love in Snow” and offers the track that he has on the yearly compilations released by Rock By The Sea. The Rock by the Sea benefit album helps the group hosts concerts and festivals, releases CDs and sell other merchandise to raise money for pediatric research and treatment. Calico the Band aren’t expecting much this year, they have been bad, and their song “Santa Have Mercy” is looking to trade unwrapping for something wrapped under the tree while Ireland’s bluegrass crooner Niall Toner goes round the floor for some memories and to spend time “Waltzing at Christmas”. The Habit march in beating the tambourine for a slow hymn hum and an enclosed HabitMark psychedelic holiday greeting, Suisan O'Rourke steels herself against winter “Up to Saginaw Bay” and The Union Revival give “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” a Roots makeover. Deborah Holland joined former Police drummer Stewart Copeland and jazz bassman Stanley Clarke in the indie band Animal Logic in 1988 but where she excels is as a singer/songwriter and she weighs with seasonal pros and cons on “Hannukah Oh Hannukah”. The VooDUDES tune Santa’s sleigh radio for swamp boogie in “Christmas on the Bayou”, BumpKin Pie head out to “Party in the Stable” and Sunday Wilde knows that the love of the season travels miles and will get the message out “No Matter How Far”. Annie Sellick, The Appleseed Collective, The Altar Billies, Todd Wolfe, Pat Lamanna, FunkyJenn, Dean Bastone, Susan Kane, Tokyo Rosenthal, Michael Rank & Stag and Aarn & The Shurman Boys join together to raise a song for the season on Part Two.







The Alternate Root 2013 Holiday Sampler, Part One



The Alternate Root 2013 Holiday Sampler, Part Two


top 20 bands in bostonThe events on Monday April 15th at the Boston Marathon left the Country in shock and Boston with a bit of a bloody nose. Cities around the US were rallying around Boston and watched as the police, FBI, EMT and firefighters and citizens all responded with heroic grace and then tuned in as the perpetrators of the terrorist acts that upended the city were hunted down and captured. Boston responded as it always has; with style and grace and a stiff upper lip. There's a lot to this great city. It's a great sports town, a political and social hub, the top city in the world for education and medicine and Boston is one great music town with a long and storied history.

Our Top 20 Boston Roots artists this week took more time making a decision about what to include rather than whom. The climate in Boston is very music friendly. Roots music in Boston never needs to take hold, it is already there. Celtic Roots brought fiddles, banjos and acoustic guitars as default instruments for the 1960’s Folk scene that took place right across the river in the Harvard Square folk clubs that dotted Cambridge. The artists that have broken out of Boston are extensive. The amount of colleges supports taking a chance with your music as well as giving an audience.James Taylor, Martin Sexton, Ellis Paul, Tracy Chapman, The Del Fuegos , Tom Rush, The J Geils Band, Crooked Still, Morphine, Frank Black, Aimee Mann; the musicians and music that have used Boston as their breeding ground is nearly as endless as the line of future musicians that will continue to utilize the atmosphere of the Boston music scene.

The Boston scene is tough, both to get ahead and to stay fresh. The 20 artists compiled here represent Roots music. Some have been making independent music for decades, some with a recent debut. Boston has taken a stand since the days of the American Revolution. Its citizens are proud and do not like getting punched around. Music is the soundtrack.

adam ezra band in the alternate root1. Adam Ezra Group - After a clean sweep at the 2012 New England Music Awards, and Best band at the 2013 ceremonies it's obvious how the music fans in Boston feel about The Adam Ezra Group. They scooped up the awards for Best Band, Best Album and Best Song. But this band is not just a force in Boston, they sell out shows from coast to coast with relative ease. Ezra's music centers in on  the human condition; provoking their audience to think and motivating them to feel what they're feeling. The band is an absolute monster, combining jazz, rock, roots, funk and soul into marathon concerts that leave the crowd drenched in sweat and filled with passion. Through The RallySound Foundation, the Adam Ezra Group contributes 25% of their earnings on tour to community and global charities. Hands down the best roots rock band to come out of Boston since the Del Fuegos. The Adam Ezra Group was accidentally left off of our Top 50 Roots Bands List where they would have ranked comfortably in the Top 5.

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eilen jewell band in the alternate root2. Eilen Jewell - Eilen Jewell is not originally from Boston but "the Queen of the minor key" makes her home here. She broke onto the national scene playing the local club scene in Boston and Somerville. Now seven records into a stellar career, she is highly regarded as one of the most unique and innovative artists on the Americana Roots circuit based, in part, on her hauntingly beautiful voice and a band comprised of solid, accomplished players that back her up. She's dabbled in traditional country, swing, gospel, and roots music with authenticity and a maturity that belies her years. Eilen and Band walked off with Best Folk/Roots at the 2013 New England Music Awards.

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girls guns and glory in the alternate root3. Girls Guns and Glory - The main cog in the Girls Guns and Glory wheel is front man, singer, founder, songwriter and rhythm guitarist Ward Hayden, whose voice echoes somewhere between Hank Williams, George Jones and Dwight Yoakam, at times, in the same verse. The band has seen a variety of transitions since the first album. Fireworks and Alcohol, in 2006 but has settled on the current and most formidable line-up for the 2012 release Sweet Nothings. The album is centered around Hayden and the blistering twang of guitar slinger Chris Hersch. They've hoisted a number of local music awards over the years, including a surprising win at WBCN's Rock and Roll Rumble and Boston Music Award for Best Americana Act.

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ronnie earl and the broadcasters in the alternate root4. Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters - Ronnie Earl first appeared on the national scene as the replacement for Duke Robillard in the band Roomful of Blues in 1979 and was quickly recognized as a guitarist with immeasurable talent and a signature tone. He went solo in 1986 and formed the first version of the Broadcasters in 1988. The Broadcasters, over the last 25 years, have included a who's who of New England blues staples including Bruce Katz, Jerry Portnoy, Per Hanson, Darrel Nulisch and even a stint with Gregg Allman, but it's the current line-up that tops them all and includes Jimmy Mouradian (bass), Dave Limina (organ), and Lorne Entress (drums). Earl has won 2 Blues Music Association awards for Guitar Player of the Year, and he also spent 5 years as an Associate Professor of Guitar at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

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sugar ray and the bluetones in the alternate root5. Sugar Ray and The Bluetones - It seems all things blues in New England, at some point, owe six degrees of separation back to Roomful of Blues and Duke Robillard. Sugar Ray Norcia was the harp player and front man for Roomful of Blues during the band's highly prolific years in the 1990's, but he's been a blues fixture in Boston and around New England since the 1970's when he and his band The Hound Dogs were backing Big Mama Thornton and other blues greats at the Speakeasy in Cambridge. For decades, his band the Bluetones, formed in 1977, has been another of the important "schools" that dozen's of blues musicians have passed through on their way to other high profile gigs. The current line-up includes guitarist "Monster" Mike Welch, considered to be among the world's top blues guitar players.

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johnny a. in the alternate root6. Johnny A. - It's been a while between "events" for virtuoso guitar player Johnny A., but he's working on a new album for 2013 to follow up the critically acclaimed DVD "One November Night" (2010). Johnny A. is in a class that includes only a few names, but when those names are Les Paul, Chet Atkins, Jeff Beck, B.B. King and Wes Montgomery, well, that's a good class to be in. It's been said that Johnny A. has "one of the best voices in music today and never sings a note," letting his guitar do all of the heavy lifting. He's a master of intonation, melody and technique and with Les Paul and Chet Atkins gone, probably the best "soul" for the instrument that's around today. Few artists have ever been able to garner as much critical and commercial success with instrumental music as Johnny A..

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bow thayer and perfect trainwreck7. Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck - Bow Thayer is originally from the Boston 'burb of Hingham, MA and now makes his coffee in the morning in Vermont, but he and his band Perfect Trainwreck are the "house band" for Boston's innovative and progressive roots Americana music scene. They won the Rock and Roll Rumble (which is a rite of passage for bands that want to be considered among Boston's greats) and they frequently choose Boston for the band's more important events. Rising stars on the national stage, Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck released an ambitious and critically well-received album, Eden, earlier this year. Their music is progressive, forward-thinking and innovative with a keen eye on the world around them and the human condition that exists within it.

Listen and buy the music of Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck from AMAZON, CDBaby or iTunes

patty larkin in the alternate root8. Patty Larkin - Patty Larkin was born in Iowa, grew up in Milwaukee, went to college in Oregon and then arrived at Berklee College of Music in the mid 1980's, but Patty Larkin now calls Cape Cod home, and Boston calls Cape Cod the summer house, so Patty Larkin is all ours. That and the fact that she, along with other Boston favorites Ellis Paul, Shawn Colvin and Patti Griffin were among the artists that revitalized the Boston music scene, and subsequent folk-revival in the early 1990's. Ellis Paul, Shawn Colvin and Patti Griffin have moved on to other places to reside or we'd be claiming them as well. Her unique brand of urban-folk music, concentration on women's issues and her philanthropic work make her an American as well as Boston treasure. She celebrated 25 years of recording with her album, 25, in 2010.

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kingsley flood in the alternate root9. Kingsley Flood - The Boston Globe described them as "The Rolling Thunder Review with a punk edge." We placed them in our list of 20 Bands Pushing the Roots Americana Envelope. Kingsley Flood meld a variety of influences, both internally and externally, borrowing equal parts Dylan, Stones, Who and The Jam and the powerful musical talent each of the band members brought to the party. The Kingsley Flood star is rising, as evidenced by their invitation to the Newport Folk Festival this summer, a host of Boston Music Awards and an opening slot for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Their latest release, Battles, takes on a lot of sensitive subject matter and leaves little doubt where the band stands on the issues of the day.

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peter parcek 3 in the alternate root10. Peter Parcek 3 - One of the best 'un-sung' guitar players in a city that hosts a multitude of great guitar players, Peter Parcek is a student of the blues, jazz and roots music and combines all of them together to create a spiritual, soulful sound that can't be cornered into anything genre-specific. It's really just outstanding music performed by three outstanding musicians. Peter Parcek is an incendiary player when the song calls for it and also soulful and elegant when it doesn't. His album, Mathematics of Love, was well received critically and landed him a nomination by the Blues Foundation at the 2011 Blues Music Awards in Memphis. He was recently named Best Blues Act at The New England Music Awards and has been nominated for Best Blues Act at the Boston Music Awards.

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sarah borges in the alternate root11. Sarah Borges - Like many coming-of-age girls with guitars, Sarah Borges tried her hand in rock bands. It was a nice fit for her stage show that included high kicks, sassy shakes and buckets of sweat outfitted with red lipstick and six strings.  Sarah made it into her 20’s before Americana and Roots were an option- "I felt like I had spent all of this time trying to couch everything in metaphor, and when I started writing Americana songs. I could finally say it plain.” The ball of energy that is Sarah Borges is alive and well on upcoming album number four, Radio Sweetheart, produced by Los Lobos' Steve Berlin. The new album is just another step in the continual evolution of Sarah Borges.

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gracie curran in the alternate root12. Gracie Curran and the High Falutin' Band - Ms. Curran is possesses an amazing voice. It is the kind of voice that could easily smoke the competition. It is to the credit of the High Falutin’ Band that they can not only be seen but heard beyond the sunspot force of Gracie. Proof of Love, the band’s debut album, rounds out HFB with Geoff Murfitt on bass, Derek John Bergman on drums and the almighty, roof raisin’, can-somebody-get-me-a-glass-of-water guitar work of Tommy Carroll. Tommy is Berklee trained and crossroads bartering good on the guitar. His leads, and funky chord chops, are the perfect foil for Gracie Curran’s voice. Think Aretha Franklin on lead vocal with Stevie Ray Vaughan on guitar…okay, you got the sound of Gracie Curran & the High Falutin’ band.

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erin harpe and the delta swingers13. Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers - Erin Harpe & The Delta Swingers proudly refer to their mix of delta blues, country, Americana, soul, and world music as “Charles River Delta Blues”. It puts their brand in the dirty water that everybody in the city of Boston loves. On album, and in live shows, The Delta Swingers produce an upbeat, danceable sound featuring original tunes and classic blues from 1930’s delta blues and ragtime to the Blues/Folk of the late 60’s/early 70’s. The band features Erin on electric and acoustic guitar and lead vocals, backed by Jim Countryman on bass, Bob Nisi on drums and vocal harmonies, and a revolving cast of Boston’s best blues soloists, including the blistering electrified harmonica of Richard “Rosy” Rosenblatt, slide guitar and barrelhouse piano. Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers are currently hard at work on their debut album, which will be released later this year.

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dropkick murphys in the alternate root14. Dropkick Murphys - Dropkick Murphys started life in Quincy, Mass but have become inseparable from big city Boston through yearly St. Patrick’s Day week shows and “I’m Shipping Up to Boston”, their track featured on the Academy-Award winning film, The Departed. The song has become an anthem for Boston-based sports teams. The group stayed Indie through five albums, singing with Warner Brothers in 2007, through their vanity label, Born & Bred. Dropkick Murphys made room on the Billboard charts for American Celtic Punk with both of their last two releases, Going Out of Style (2011) and Signed and Sealed in Blood (2013), finding homes in the chart Top 10.

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mr. nick and his dirty tricks15. Mr. Nick and His Dirty Tricks - Nick David's harmonica playing has a swagger - developed over thousands of one-nighters from Massachusetts to Memphis and from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, and all over Europe. Maybe it's a swing, or a little extra hip-shake, just like the grooves generated by the powerhouse band he's formed with four other kingpins of the New England blues scene: Mr. Nick & His Dirty Tricks have jukebox Soul waiting for the coin to drop on Oh Wow!

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james montgomery in the alternate root16. James Montgomery Band - The James Montgomery Band deliver on From Detroit to the Delta, the band’s recent release. Full frontal horns, courtesy of the Uptown Horns, crisp, clean leads from JM Band member George McCann, guests such as James Cotton on harp, Aerosmith’s Joey Kramer (drums) and Brad Whitfield (guitar), Johnny Winter lending his Firebird slide guitar skills and a rock solid rhythm held down by JM backers, David Hull (bass, producer) and Seth Pappas (drums). The man that holds down the mic, and harmonica, is James Montgomery, a position that he has filled for forty plus years. Whether the tunes honor the Detroit or Delta side of the album title, the music is all Saturday night. There are no quiet mediations, no rambling jams, you have to stay alert and in the pocket of the groove to keep up with From Detroit to the Delta.

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the bandit kings in the alternate root17. The Bandit Kings - The Bandit Kings have a sunny, singer/songwriter tone to the songs on their recent release, III. The group incorporates an Alt Country jangle and rock rhythms as a foundation for two female lead vocalists, Renee Dupuis (vocals, keys) and Ann Marie (vocals, tambourine). Rounding out The Bandit Kings is Dan King on lead guitar, Dennis Monagle on drums and Joe Cardoza on bass. III offers vocals that snake around the music, weaving in and out of arrangements, playing tag with guitar leads. BK craft smiles into the bright playing, even when the ladies are telling their respective love interests that “I can’t wait for you to throw me away” (“I Can’t Wait”).

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sarah blacker in the alternate root18. Sarah Blacker - Sarah Blacker adds ukulele and mandolin to the traditional singer/songwriter guitar and mic default accompaniment. Her most recent release, Perfectly Imperfect E.P. (2012) wraps a story about being humor with the ukulele on the title track. The E.P. follows her 2009 debut, The Only Way Out is Through, and Come What May (2010). Sarah Blacker is a full-time, hard-working, touring singer/songwriter who still manages time to give. Sarah is a part-time Music Therapist for children and adults with special needs. Sarah Blacker was named Female Performer of the Year at the 2013 New England Music Awards.

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jesse dee in the alternate root19. Jesse Dee - Jesse Dee is a Boston-based soul man. He released his debut, On My Mind / In My Heart, his debut recording for Alligator Records in 2013. The album is soul music through and through. Perfectly placed horns, chopped guitar chords as rhythm, a bumping bass that pops out notes like spitballs and drums that never let the beat wander, all create a groove that sticks like glue. All the elements are present but what wraps it all up is the voice of Jesse Dee. On My Mind / In My Heart holds within its border eleven Jesse Dee originals that are equally filled, like Jesse, with hooks of hope. It is the sweet soul music that you have heard about, the kind stuck with a 1960’s stamp and put in the closet with sharkskin suits, beehives and aspirin in soda pop as a go-to high.

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jo henley in the alternate root20. Jo Henley - Putting together a tradition of Roots music with a rock stance and delivery, Jo Henley is the band home to longtime musical collaborators Andy Camplieto and Ben Lee with drummer Mike Dingley. The group released their independent full length, Sad Songs and Alcohol, in 2008. In 2012, Andy lost his Dad, a man who had not only been a supporter but, with son Ben, had handcrafted most of the guitars heard on Jo Henley albums.  Andy and Ben headed to a remote cabin to sing a catharsis for the loss and returned with demos of songs that would become the base of The Fall Comes Early, Jo Henley’s December 2012 release. The album is a deeply personal look at universal themes of life, death, relationships, and time playing out over jangly mid-tempo rock, train-beat folk and classic country and top tappin’ bluegrass.

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