Prime Cuts: January 2012

Darrell Scott - Long Ride HomeOne 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.

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About C.M. Wilcox

A freelance writer and humorist with an abiding love of country music, C.M. Wilcox's cutting, clear-eyed take on the genre has drawn the attention of Country Weekly, The Washington Post, and The Tennessean in the years since this site began. C.M. lives near Sacramento and can be reached by email at CMW (at)

Things People Are Saying

  1. Ben Foster says:

    I’m thrilled to see this feature back. I hope it stays! I can imagine the demand it must put on your time to listen to and pick favorites from so many new albums, but your efforts are well appreciated. When I and the other Country Universe writers were compiling our Best of 2011 lists back in December, I know several of us scoured the past Prime Cuts for ideas.

    Of the albums on this list that I was able to get a hold of, your picks often turned out to be exactly what mine would have been, specifically The Little Willies, Gretchen Peters, and Bill Emerson & Sweet Dixie. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite track on Pickler’s 100 Proof, as I like each of the songs in very different ways, but somehow the one I come back to most is “Rockaway (The Rockin’ Chair Song).” The melody and the fiddle-y production just totally hits my sweet spot. I will make a point to give a listen to the albums on this list that I haven’t already heard.

    No pick from Emotional Traffic?? I’m reeling from shock.

    • C.M. Wilcox says:

      Come to think of it, I used Prime Cuts as the starting point for my Best of 2011 lists as well. Glad they came in handy for you.

      “Better Than I Used to Be” was on my rough list for January, but it got culled out in the editing process. Good enough as a single, but nothing too spectacular. And I figure Emotional Traffic has already received way more attention than it ever deserved.

  2. Andrew says:

    I love this feature. I’ve discovered quite a bit of great music because of it.

  3. Brody says:

    Shoot, I’d recommend some stuff but I haven’t really kept track of which month different albums were released. I keep going back to the Darrell Scott album though.


  1. [...] that we’re all up to speed on January’s best new country album tracks, it’s time to delve into February. Check out our recommendations below, then discuss whatever [...]

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