Prime Cuts: July 2011

Suzy Bogguss album coverYou might not guess it from listening to your local country station, but there’s a huge amount of good new music coming out all the time. All year long, we’ve been doing our best to help you find it. Here are our favorite songs appearing on new albums released in the month of July. Of course, we’d love to have you add some of your own favorites in the comments.

If you’re good at multitasking, here’s a player for listening to samples while you read.

Rodney Hayden – “Sonora’s Death Row”
from Rodney Hayden
Hayden adds his name to the long list of guys who’ve covered this Kevin ‘Blackie’ Farrell story song: Robert Earl Keen, Michael Martin Murphey, Tom Russell, Dave Alvin, etc. Good thing it never gets old.

Ashton Shepherd – “That All Leads to One Thing”
from Where Country Grows
Think Reba McEntire or Bobbie Gentry.

Chris Young – “Neon”
from Neon
There’s never been any question that dude can sing, but it’s still a surprise every time he finds material worthy of his voice. See also: “Flashlight.”

Kasey Chambers – “Bring Back My Heart”
from Little Bird (US release)
The Australian wonder’s 2010 album finally hits the States, reminding us on songs like this and the title track that Taylor Swift doesn’t have any kind of monopoly on smartly-crafted country-pop.

Ronnie Milsap – “Cry Cry Darling'”
from Country Again
The king of country-soul tries on some bluegrass-style harmonies. They fit well.

Blake Shelton – “Red River Blue”
from Red River Blue
Miranda backs Blake up on a killer Ray Stephenson/Buddy Owens song of romantic longing, making for an indisputable album highlight.

David Bromberg w/ Levon Helm – “Bring It With You When You Come”
from Use Me
His second album in 20 years – the first, 2007’s Try Me One More Time, was Grammy-nominated – finds musician’s musician Bromberg collaborating with a host of talented friends, including Levon Helm on this funky jug band tune.

William Elliott Whitmore – “Lift My Jug”
from Field Songs (Deluxe Edition)
The backstory of an alcoholic bum shouldn’t sound this catchy.

Suzy Bogguss – “Shenandoah”
from American Folk Songbook
If you like beautiful things, grab the whole album.

Ricky Skaggs – “Lovin’ Only Me”
from Country Hits Bluegrass Style
The album title is a bit of misnomer – the differences between these and the original hit versions aren’t as pronounced as you’d expect – but we can’t pass up an opportunity to recommend a slightly rootsier rerecording of Skaggs’ final country chart-topper, 1989’s “Lovin’ Only Me.” It’s a good’un.

Dirt Drifters – “Married Men and Motel Rooms”
from This Is My Blood
They have so much faith in the album that they’re literally giving it away at shows, betting on the music’s ability to speak for itself and grow their following organically. One listen to “Married Men and Motel Rooms” and you won’t doubt the intelligence of that promotional strategy.

Angela Easterling – “Pocket”
from Beguiler
History and politics are obviously of considerable importance to her, but Easterling also writes a damn fine love song. Sample lyrics: “I may act like I know where I’m headed/Well, I don’t really even have a clue/I trap myself in secrets, then I give too much away/Oh, I wrestle with my darkness and my truth.” That’s solid.

Eric Church – “Jack Daniels”
from Chief
One of those times when Eric Church lives up to his own hype. See also: “Over When It’s Over.”

Terri Clark – “Lonesome’s Last Call”
from Roots and Wings
True to the first part of her album title, she wrote this one when she was 22. It’s country.

Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three – “Head to Toe”
from Middle of Everywhere
If you like Bob Wills and Jimmie Rodgers, you like Pokey LaFarge. Even if you don’t know it yet. Need an entry point? This fetching little call-and-response love song should do the trick.

Randy Montana w/ Emmylou Harris – “Last Horse”
from Randy Montana
Song of the year? It’s possible, especially with the gravitas added by those pluperfect Emmylou harmonies.

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  1. says

    Great picks. I definitely can’t recommend Suzy’s American Folk Songbook enough. Beautiful from start to finish, with Shenenhoah definitely being a highlight. “Sweet Betsy from Pike” would probably be high on my list as well. Also loved “Lonesome’s Last Call” – definitely one of the best tracks from Terri Clark’s new album. And yes, it’s country!

  2. Rick says

    Have to agree on Kasey Chambers’ delightful Polynesian style ukelele strumming “Bring Back My Heart”. Just a simply wonderful song in its entirety.

    “Loving Only Me” is one of my favorite songs on Ricky Skaggs’ “Kentucky Thunder” album and can’t really see a need for a slightly modified version.

    I might check out a few of the other tracks mentioned here just to see how they measure up…

    PS – Although Suzy Bogguss has a silky smooth voice, I find it usually lacks passion and emotional involvement. I bought a “Greatest Hits” CD of hers a few years ago and it bores me to tears.


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