You remember April, right? Kind of a short month, typically includes some pranks and some showers…
Well, as part of our ongoing campaign to get you caught up on the best new music of 2012, here are the finest country album tracks April had to offer.
As usual, you can sample all of our picks using the Amazon player below. If you set it playing right now, you can even multitask by listening while you read.
You can also, for the very first time, hear our entire playlist (whole songs!) on Spotify. If you appreciate having the Spotify option, speak up; I’m a MOG man myself, so your enjoyment is the only reason I’d bother publishing playlists to a service I don’t actually use.
As usual, your comments and song recommendations are welcome.
Jason Eady – “Longer Walk in the Rain” (unavailable on Spotify)
from AM Country Heaven
Eady is really, honestly, devastatingly good, here and everywhere else on AM Country Heaven. I’ve deliberately chosen one of the album’s less-heralded tracks to drive home the point.
Josh Abbott Band – “I’ll Sing About Mine”
from Small Town Family Dream
Anthemic Texas country with some well-considered bite to it, as Abbott objects to mainstream radio’s cartoonish portrayal of rural living: “Because tractors ain’t sexy and workin’ is hard / For small town people like me / And the radio’s full of rich folks singing / About places they’ve never seen.”
Bradley Gaskin – “Satan Knew My Grandma Well”
from Bradley Gaskin EP
“Mr. Bartender” is finally out with his first EP, which includes the single of that title and a couple songs attentive fans might recognize from recent albums by Dierks Bentley (“Diamonds Make Babies”) and The Grascals (“Satan Knew My Grandma Well”). Thankfully, Gaskin’s a good enough vocalist to make them his own. The only real throwaway here is “I’m All About It.”
Nanci Griffith – “High on a Mountain Top”
If you don’t like jaunty country-bluegrass covers of Loretta Lynn songs, we can’t be friends.
Carrie Hassler – “Luxury Liner”
from The Distance
A bluegrass cover of Gram/Emmylou ain’t too shabby, either.
Marty Stuart w/ Hank III – “Picture from Life’s Other Side”
from Nashville, Vol. 1: Tear the Woodpile Down
Marty Stuart has filled his recent albums with more than the rip-roaring traditional country music played by his Fabulous Superlatives, though that in itself would be enough. Like the musical curator he is, he has also been including history-making moments such as the late Ralph Mooney picking “Crazy Arms” and, this time around, Hank III singing on an old Luke the Drifter classic. And for that, Mr. Stuart, we thank you.
Kip Moore – “Reckless (Still Growin’ Up)”
from Up All Night
Though he spends much of his debut album on seemingly Springsteen-inspired rockers, the most charming thing on Up All Night is this catchy talker in the Currington/Chesney man-child mold.
Cindy Morgan w/ Phil Madeira – “Leaning On You”
from Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us
You needn’t be religious to appreciate a country hymn this elementally lovely.
Lee Brice – “That Way Again”
from Hard 2 Love
Sawyer Brown’s “All These Years” did it better lyrically – curse that bearded wizard, Mac McAnally – but it’s still nice to hear a singer like Brice tear into a good ballad of marriage turned stale.
O’Brien Party of 7 — “As Long As There’s a Shadow”
from Reincarnation: The Songs of Roger Miller
Folk/bluegrass superhero Tim O’Brien rounded up the family for a joyful tear through the Roger Miller songbook, focusing mostly on lesser-known tracks like this 1965 chestnut before concluding with an admirably aggressive reworking of “King of the Road.” Great fun, whether you’re already familiar with the O’Briens (or the songs of Roger Miller) or not.
Loudon Wainwright III – “No Tomorrow”
from Older Than My Old Man Now
Call it madcap folk, maybe? Before there was Todd Snider, there was Loudon Wainwright III. This track was omitted from the CD version of the album, but it’s worth the extra buck to pick up separately.
Steep Canyon Rangers – “Ungrateful One”
from Nobody Knows You
It gets complicated, sometimes, between fathers and sons…
Marty Raybon – “Ghost in This House”
from Southern Roots and Branches (Yesterday and Today)
Not sure if this is a new solo recording or the same one that was on Full Circle in 2003, but I might as well use the opportunity of its (re)release to remind you that “Ghost in This House” is one peach of a song. Raybon originally sang it with Shenandoah in the ’90s. Alison Krauss has a version, too.
Rascal Flatts – “Next to You, Next to Me” (unavailable on Spotify)
from Changed (Deluxe Edition)
Speaking of which… If you’d like to know what Rascal Flatts might sound like as a country band, this Shenandoah cover (offered as a bonus track) gives some indication.
Lou Reid & Carolina – “Big Old Red Guitar”
from Callin’ Me Back Home
The allure of the musical life, summarized in one alluring country-bluegrass track.
Johnny and June Carter Cash – “I’ll Have a New Life”
from Bootleg Vol. IV: The Soul of Truth
Call me sentimental, but I like to imagine that they were right.