Nellie Clay and the Lucky Dogs (from the album Never Did What I Shoulda Done) - The Last Frontier that became the breeding ground for the songs of Nellie Clay was not made of stars or outer spaces. Quick summers, and long winters filed with ice and snow created the solitude on what might have sometimes seemed like the end of civilization. The environment provided the turmoil and triumphs that gave Nellie the stories for Never Did What I Shoulda Done. The album was produced by James Frazee, with recordings taking place in Anchorage, Alaska at Studio 2200. Nellie Clay was born in Oklahoma, spending eight years in Alaska, a time she credits with her musical rebirth, with songs stacking up in the corners of a small rustic cabin with no utilities that was often her home.

Nellie Clay and the Lucky Dogs stay warm as Nellie puts flames to the snow in “Burning Fires”, wonders on reasons as she utters a late warning to “Sweet Elizabeth”, rides a hard beat “Into the City”, quietly beds down in tougher times with “Sleeping on Floors”, and taps out the message “That Cookin’ Up That Love” sets the kitchen to dancing. The album opens using rhythms as soft breezes that blow through “Oklahoma”. Nellie Clay and the Lucky Dogs presents tales that show spirt bending though no breaks fracture the resolve Nellie venomously spits at a sister-in-law in “9 Kinds of Hell” while she boards the bus with the band vowing “Ain’t Dead Yet”. 

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Sultans of String  (from the album Subcontinental Drift) - Sultans of String offer ragas, reels, and rhumbas in a joyful celebration of song as Subcontinental Drift. The Canadian-based band brings in sitar master Anwar Kurshid, creating a bridge for world rhythms to cross freely. The Sultans Chris McKhool (bandleader/violinist) felt that ‘there is something magical about joining the world music rhythms we play, but with pop sensibilities and forms and lengths, and blending that with the music of the East’.  The music of Sultans of String is a melting pot of cultures, and within the space of a song melodies shift and re-form ranging from the soft rhythms that cradle the man looking for “A Place to Call Home”, gentle sighs over bubbling notes with “Parchan Shaal Panhwar”, creating a trance calling “Ho Jamalo”, and merging airy Celtic tones over Indian percussion with “Rakes Of Mallow - Rouge River Valley”. 

When Chris heard the rumba rhythms in the guitar work of Kevin Laliberté, the Sultans of String were born. Traveling as a duo and band, the group has garnered Juno nominations and Canadian Folk awards with Chris McKhool receiving the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work in creating community through music. Subcontinental Drift opens its doors with a first track welcome of “Enter the Gate” as the notes slowly rise and blend, as the album re-envisions Bob Dylan’s “Blowin' In The Wind”, and travels on a cut from the pens of both Sultans of String and guest Anwar Kurshid with “Journey to Freedom”, the story telling of the sitar player’s trip from Pakistan to a new home in Canada.

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

A touch of dirty Glam Blues ala T Rex runs as a strong current under the songs of Going Down in History. The beat pounds down on the “Lucky Fool” as his vision blurs watching love walk out the door while rubbery chords and notes ground a nursery rhyme beneath their heels in “Building My Own Prison”, and sliced chords and machine gun beats stomp out “Had Enough”. Going Down in History is the first album The Wacos released since they lost their friend Ian McLagan, and they tribute the musician by covering his track with The Small Faces “All or Nothing”. Going Down in History begins with a link to the last Wacos album through  the opening lines of opening track “DIYBOB” as the “Receiver” dials in wobbly new wave, and the title track takes a bite out of the hand that feeds you as it learns ‘to walk before you fall down on your face’. The Waco Brothers give a Celtic tone to open Jon Dee Graham’s “Orphan Song” as the boys in the band offer a familial hand in harmony, promising to be ‘your Waco brother for the night’.

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Tony Joe White (from the album Rain Crow on Yep Roc Records) - On his nineteenth album release, Rain Crow, Tony Joe White stays to the swamps that have been the home for his music over the past few decades. If Rain Crow differs, it is from the mood that Tony Joe instills within the songs. Swamp lore spins its stories, and gives the tales hope within the deep swamp light that never brightens or dims. Produced by his son, Jody White, the album summons the past and its characters as a welcoming whorl of rhythm tugs Tony Joe White grunting a whispered request for “Tell Me a Swamp Story” as a rapid heartrate of fear pounds the beat into “The Opening of the Box”, and the title track paves its way with a Blues cough for a the stories shadows to cross.

Tony Joe White grew up in northwest Louisiana, near the Arkansas state line. The music has kept his playing in fertile mud since his 1969 debut, Black and White. Rain Crow shows some new sides to Tony Joe White as he gets downright sexy, growling over a potent groove for the “Hoochie Woman”, singing the licks with love from the ‘smoochie man’. Tracks for Rain Crow bear co-writes from Tony Joe’s wife Leeann, and with Billy Bob Thornton as the pair sing of summer in “The Middle of Nowhere”. Rain Crow patters percussion like weather is pouring down on the rhythms as “The Bad Wind” blows death into town while the dark wings of a beat follow hummingbirds and fireflies as they seek warm winters, and “Right Back in the Fire” remembers passion and promises.

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Red Hot (from the album Red Hot, A Memphis Celebration of Sun Records)

Sun Records, and the man that made the label’s name, Sam Philips, are tributed and honored on the recent release, Red Hot, A Memphis Celebration of Sun Records. Luther Dickinson co-produced the album alongside Tamara Saviano, with all proceeds from the Americana Music Society release benefitting St. Jude’s Children Research Center. Luther and his guitar, along with brother and fellow North Mississippi Allstars member, Cody Dickinson (drums), are part of a seasoned house band on Red Hot that includes Amy Lavere on bass, John Paul Keith on guitar, and Rick Steff (Lucero, Cat Power, Dexys Midnight Runners) on keyboards. Red Hot was recorded at the two studios created and captained by Sam Philips, the original Sun Studio (1950), and the Sam Philips Recording Service (1959). The studios were home to artists whose work became the backbone of musical history in Blues and R&B (Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Parker, B.B. King), Country (Johnny Cash, Charlie Rich), and Rock’n’Roll (Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison).

The title track for Red Hot, A Memphis Celebration of Sun Records is headed by Chuck Mead backed by the Million Dollar Quartet with Valerie June handling “Sure to Fall”, originally recorded by Carl Perkins, Charlie Rich’s “Lonely Weekends” re-worked by Shawn Camp, Bobby Rush on “Tough Titty”, and Jimbo Mathus taking on Jerry Lee Lewis’ “High School Confidential”. Howlin’ Wolf’s “Moanin’ at Midnight” is revisited with Luther Dickinson on vocals and Alvin Youngblood Hart delivers Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”.

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