Prime Cuts: June 2011

You didn’t really think we’d let July come to an end without filling you in on our favorite new songs released in the month of June, did you?

Well, here it comes… a big ol’ roundup of good stuff. A couple of the June selections actually date back into May, but we’re betting they’re obscure enough that they’ll be new to most of you anyway.

I’ll put the player up here so that you can hit ‘Play’ now and read along while you listen. That ought to help you plow through pretty quickly and identify the stuff that best fits your own tastes. Though, of course, I recommend giving all of it a chance.

Donna Ulisse – “Hand Me Down Home”
from An Easy Climb
Like an acoustic, bluegrassy spin on the “The House That Built Me” for those who never left their family homesteads in Appalachia.

Jeremy Steding – “Paint the Town Red When They’re Blue”
from I Keep On Livin’, But I Don’t Learn
This young Austin singer-songwriter raised an impressive $11,000 toward the recording of his third album through fan donations on Kickstarter, and it’s not difficult see why his music inspires such passion. Check out “Paint the Town Red When They’re Blue,” which sounds like a lost Don Williams hit. The Gentle Giant himself couldn’t have sung it any better.

Eilen Jewell – “Home to Me”
from Queen of the Minor Key
Patsy Cline meets surf guitar, to devastating (in a good way) effect.

Randy Travis w/ Jamey Johnson – “A Few Ole Country Boys”
from Anniversary Celebration
With Randy Travis stepping into the veteran part originally sung by George Jones, Jamey Johnson matches him with an authoritative vocal that ably demonstrates why he’s the right guy – and very possibly the only right guy – to receive the torch. Welcome to country music nirvana.

Cody Canada & the Departed – “A Little Rain Will Do”
from This Is Indian Land
Not sure if songs about farmers waiting on rain are always great or if I just have a particular soft spot for them, but this one from Cody Canada’s new band sounds pretty darn good to me.

David Adam Byrnes – “She Only Wanted Flowers”
from Premium Country
Like countless country protagonists before him, he didn’t realize what really mattered until it was too late. This is definitely at the more mainstream end of stuff you’ll find featured here, but it sounds like the arrival of a talent worth watching. And since Byrnes is a commercial country act on an upstart indie label, he’s not getting much attention from big media or too-cool alternative outlets. So, now you’ve heard of him.

Gary Nicholson – “A Woman in Texas, A Woman in Tennessee”
from Texas Songbook
Two-timing is a dangerous balancing act, even for a guy as smooth as Gary Nicholson sounds. Technically, though, he’s the voice of reason to a two-timing friend in this jaunty cautionary tune.

Dave Alvin – “Two Lucky Bums”
from Eleven Eleven
Situated cruelly at the end of the California roots hero’s new album, this sweet, jazzy duet with the late Chris Gaffney will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Or week.

Dolly Parton – “Better Day”
from Better Day
Bluesy, gospel reassurance from country’s still-reigning queen of ebullient optimism.

The Greencards – “Adelaide”
from The Brick Album
Our lone instrumental selection, a Celtic jig that somehow evokes the Old West.

Jim Lauderdale – “Reason and Rhyme”
from Reason and Rhyme
Lauderdale joins forces with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter for a third time, bringing his own distinctive melodic sensibilities to bear on Hunter’s equally quirky lyrical ones. At their best, as on this title track, the results of the collaboration sound oddly timeless.

Gene Watson & Rhonda Vincent – “Gone for Good”
from Your Money and My Good Looks
Gene Watson plus Rhonda Vincent on the precipice of a break-up is a ‘can’t miss’ formula for classic country duet goodness. The whole album is well worth checking out.

Joe Ely – “Not That Much Has Changed”
from Satisfied at Last
Sounding vital as ever in his 60s, Ely ably evokes the feel of seeing your hometown again after years away: “The grass is a little drier/The trees are a little higher/But the dust still blows on the range/The schoolyard seems smaller/The church steeple seems taller/But not that much has changed.

Justin Haigh – “In Jail”
from People Like Me
The rare story song that’s as musically enjoyable as it is narratively compelling. The whole album is reviewed here… but to summarize, it’s pretty darn excellent.

Lindi Ortega – “Dying of Another Broken Heart”
from Little Red Boots
The Canadian singer-songwriter tends toward elaborate, clamorous arrangements, but this stripped-down gem of a heartbreak song makes it clear that those stylistic choices are built on a core of serious lyrical and vocal talent. Comparisons to Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris aren’t completely out of order.

Nick 13 – “Restless Moon”
from Nick 13
The frontman of California psychobilly band Tiger Army is stunningly sincere in his solo country outing, enlisting Lloyd Green and Greg Leisz on steel and Sara Watkins on fiddle and drawing inspiration from decades of country music history (namely, the 40s through 60s) all but ignored by recent generations of the genre’s own stars. Why does it so often take an outsider to show us what we’ve forgotten of our own legacy?

Ronnie Dunn – “Cost of Livin’”
from Ronnie Dunn

Grayson Capps – “Highway 42″
from The Lost Cause Minstrels
If you’re thinking of bailing on a bad relationship, you’ll need a cool leaving song. This’ll do the trick.

John Howie Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff – “Back to Basics”
from Leavin’ Yesterday
Burly-voiced Two Dollar Pistols frontman John Howie Jr. picks up right where he left off with his new band The Rosewood Bluff, laying into a slice of Bakersfield honky tonk so good it’d curl Buck’s toes.

Erin Enderlin – “You Don’t Know Jack”
from Erin Enderlin EP
I’m going to have to write more about this talented gal soon, but if you like Jamey Johnson or Lee Ann Womack you should do yourself a favor and get a head start by grabbing her whole eight-song EP (including acoustic versions of Enderlin originals “Monday Morning Church” and “Last Call”) right now. Up there with Justin Haigh as one of my favorite discoveries of the year.

Sweetback Sisters – “Don’t Put Her Down, You Helped Put Her There”
from Looking for a Fight
Emily Miller and Zara Bode aren’t actually sisters, except in the way that Alice Gerrard and Hazel Dickens – whose cutting “Don’t Put Her Down, You Helped Put Her There” they cover here – were sisters. But as the two lead voices of Brooklyn country-swing outfit The Sweetback Sisters, they sure do sound fine together.

Gillian Welch – “Down Along the Dixie Line”
from The Harrow & the Harvest
Gillian Welch and David Rawlings provide a typically timeless-sounding endnote.

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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. He lives near Sacramento and can be reached by email at CMW (at)

Things People Are Saying

  1. Talk about mental / sensory overload! Crikey, mate! Danger Will Robinson! Danger Will Robinson!…(lol)

    I’ve seen the music video for the Justin Haigh song and its a winner. I tried listening to some of Lindi Ortega’s new album and the production on the few track snippets I endured was off-putting to say the least! I love The Sweetback Sisters, so I’ve already sampled that album and found some real keepers. I heard Nick 13 sing Restless Moon live, so now I guess its time to listen to the album track version. Will definitely have to check out the Donna Ulisse track and possibly Eilen Jewel although her Loretta Lynn covers didn’t do a whole lot for me. I’ll have to compare Erin Enderlin’s “You Don’t Know Jack” to Yvette Landry’s awesome, rompin’ bluegrass death ballad “Jack” and see how it stands up! (lol)

  2. Via Twitter, Jeremy Steding has made “Paint the Town Red When They’re Blue” free on CD Baby for this week only:

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