One piece of reader feedback I’ve received consistently in 2012 is that people miss Prime Cuts, the monthly song recommendation feature that came off the rails sometime in the second half of last year.
Ironically, the thing that makes the series a particular challenge to maintain – there’s an overwhelming amount of new music coming out all the time – is precisely what makes it, from your perspective, so necessary. You don’t have time to listen to everything. You rely on filters – people to listen widely and steer you toward stuff you might like. I get it.
So, at considerable risk to my own sanity, today marks the return of Prime Cuts. I’ll spend May getting you up to speed on the good stuff released in 2012 so far, then resume the regular monthly schedule from there. For as long as it proves sustainable.
You can help keep the ball rolling by chatting about anything you hear – or naming some of your own picks – in the comments. This is one area where your input and discussion will make a big difference, so you’re encouraged to speak up if these posts are useful to you.
The Little Willies – “If You’ve Got the Money (I’ve Got the Time)”
from For the Good Times
In Norah Jones’ laconic Come Away With Me days, I never would have foreseen the possibility of her being described (accurately!) as a “spitfire.” Classic country covers bring out the spunk in her.
Stetson & Cia – “I’m Not the One”
from Stetson & Cia
For anyone who feared that the dissolution of the Cherryholmes family bluegrass band might be the last we’d hear of the talented Cherryholmes siblings, fear not. They’ve all kept busy musically, and oldest daughter Cia is sounding as great as ever in her new roots duo with Stetson Adkisson
Bill Emerson & Sweet Dixie – “Today I Turned Your Picture to the Wall”
from The Touch of Time
Nimble picking, nice harmony, good old-fashioned heartache. Nothing too fancy. It doesn’t have to be.
The Stellas – “I Can’t Listen to Love Songs”
from The Stellas EP
Remember when I was excited about Can You Duet contenders The Stellas? Well, I still am, and they finally have a bit of new music available here in the States.
Gretchen Peters – “Five Minutes”
from Hello Cruel World
The extraordinary complexity of everyday life summarized in “Five Minutes.” Gretchen Peters’ gift of storytelling has never been more richly on display.
Darrell Scott – “You’re Everything I Wanted Love to Be”
from Long Ride Home
The whole album’s full of great country songwriting, so I went with what I judge to be the most accessible track melodically. Great driving music.
Rodney Hayden – “The Real Thing”
from Live from the Phoenix Saloon
Big-voiced traditionalist revisits the Chip Taylor song with which he introduced himself to music listeners ten years ago, a fetching plea for musical authenticity. “It would take more than the crew cuts and Pat Boone to take me home,” Hayden drawls believably.
Kellie Pickler – “Long As I Never See You Again”
from 100 Proof
As many listeners discovered for the first time with the release of 100 Proof, Pickler can be pretty dang convincing when she lays into a good country heartbreak ballad.
Janie Fricke – “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Easy”
from Country Side of Bluegrass
Rerelease of an obscure 2004 collection features many of Fricke’s big ’80s hits reimagined in an acoustic, if not exactly bluegrass, style. For those averse to dated ’80s pop-country production styles, a great way to experience her music.
Tony Rice – “Stoney Lonesome”
from The Bill Monroe Collection
Great instrumental track from new compilation of famed bluegrass guitarist’s previously-released Bill Monroe covers. Get that? Not a new recording, but only Rice completists will notice or mind. Good stuff.