Album Review: Blake Shelton – Startin’ Fires

Blake Shelton - Startin Fires

This review was originally published at the late, great The 9513 in December 2008, before Shelton had joined the Opry, married Miranda Lambert, become a perennial CMA Male Vocalist winner, or found wider pop culture stardom as a personality on NBC's The Voice. Savvy observers of mainstream country recognize Blake Shelton as one of the format's finest interpreters of a song. On his fifth studio album, the Oklahoma native and beau of firecracker Miranda Lambert (a connection alluded to by the … [Read more...]

Album Review: Cale Tyson – Cheater’s Wine

Cheaters Wine cover

Sounding like a young graduate of the Gary Stewart School of Honky Tonk Heartache, Cale Tyson offers up a potent 21 minutes of the good stuff on his six-song Cheater's Wine EP. Texas-born and Nashville-based, the singer-songwriter - who also produces - easily masters the '70s country aesthetic suggested by his album cover, with a studio band highlighted by rising star Robert Ellis on guitar and liberal application of Brett Resnick's pedal steel. As a songwriter, Tyson favors emotional directness … [Read more...]

Album Review: Ashley Ray – Ashley Ray EP

Ashley Ray

Originally published at The 9513 in May 2010. As best I can tell, Ray is now without a record deal but still playing around town. She has yet to release a full album. Someday, someone will let Ashley Ray release a full album. The Kansas-bred singer-songwriter first appeared with a four-song digital EP on Capitol Nashville in 2007. At some point, she moved over to Universal South, then survived the merger with Show Dog to release this new five-song EP on Show Dog Universal. Soundwise, it's … [Read more...]

Album Review: Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash – New Old Story

Bastard Sons New Old Story

Mark Stuart and his Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash cannot be accused of false advertising. New Old Story abounds with likable new approaches to well-trod subject matter. The main 'story' here seems to be the allure and excitement of the rambling musical life on one hand and its costs back at home on the other. If you're not familiar with the band (formed in 1995) yet, their name might deceive you. They don't sound much like Cash, nor do they have the punk or Americana leanings suggested by the … [Read more...]

Album Review: Kelsey Waldon – The Goldmine

Kelsey Waldon Goldmine

The first full-length collection from Kelsey Waldon (who hails from Monkey's Eyebrow, Kentucky) blisters with the realities of working-class twentysomething life: Full of lessons in heartbreak and resilience learned in the oppressive glare of small-town gossips and fellow barflies. This is the sort of hard country album where Mama appears as a touchstone of strength and good sense on at least five tracks; Daddy's either kind of a jerk or - more likely, in Waldon's gray-shaded world - simply too … [Read more...]

Album Review: Corb Lund – Counterfeit Blues

Corb Lund Counterfeit Blues

Not just a stopgap release between albums of new material, Counterfeit Blues is an ideal American introduction to the work of Corb Lund. For one thing, it's recorded live on the floor at Sun Studio in Memphis, the singer and his three-piece ensemble crackling with the spirit of rockabilly heroes past and daring to get as low down and dirty as anything you'll hear this year. For another, the track list is pulled entirely from what might be called Lund's breakout albums in Canada, Five Dollar Bill … [Read more...]

Album Review: Jim Lauderdale – I’m a Song

Lauderdale album cover

Jim Lauderdale is the very picture of a restless creative: In the past 25 years, he has released 26 albums ranging in style from modern and traditional country to pop, rock, folk, and bluegrass, often mashing and distilling it all into something that can only really be called Americana, Lauderdale style. I'm a Song joins The Other Sessions (2001) and Country Super Hits Vol. 1 (2006) as one of the prolific singer-songwriter's richest new millennium offerings for down-the-middle traditional … [Read more...]