Since Prime Cuts, even at its most timely, never runs until the month after the month covered, getting June in right under the wire of July means that we are officially caught up. And they said it couldn’t be done!
A whole mess of great new music in this edition, so we’ll keep the chatter to a minimum. Here’s your Amazon player for song samples while you read:
And, of course, the Spotify-savvy among you can hear all the full tracks – really, every last one is actually available this time – using the player at the bottom of the post. (If you’re reading by email or RSS, you might have to click through to the site to see it.) Loan me an hour of your time and I’ll show you some good stuff you didn’t even know existed.
As always, your reactions and personal picks are quite welcome.
Brandi Carlile – “Hard Way Home”
from Bear Creek
Carlile’s countriest album to date leads with this hand-clapping ode to a life lived restlessly, which wouldn’t sound out of place on an album by Kasey Chambers or Miranda Lambert.
Rod Melancon – “Lord Knows”
from My Family Name
At 23, Louisiana-born Rod Melancon has released a debut album that’s more quietly self-assured than some mid-career efforts by men twice his age. In texture and style, the nearest recent point of comparison is probably Jason Eady’s AM Country Heaven. “Lord Knows” is a dark six-minute epic that’ll have you hanging on every word.
Alan Jackson – “When I Saw You Leaving (For Nisey)”
from Thirty Miles West
As fine a song as anyone has written about watching a spouse face cancer, delivered with Jackson’s trademark plainspoken sincerity.
Elizabeth Cook – “If I Had My Way, I’d Tear This Building Down”
from Gospel Plow
More hand-clapping, but this time it’s for Jesus.
Mindy Smith – “When You’re Walking on My Grave”
from Mindy Smith
Just another vengeful, done-me-wrong ghost song. Even in the context of Smith’s own album, the sort of thing that makes you stop and wonder “Where’d that come from?” And then haunts you for the rest of the day.
Jerry Douglas w/ Marc Cohn – “Right on Time”
Douglas gets “Walking in Memphis” singer Marc Cohn to tackle this nice Sharon Vaughn/Al Anderson tune, previously recorded by Randy Travis on Passing Through. Thank you, Mr. Douglas.
Don Williams w/ Alison Krauss – “I Just Come Here for the Music”
from And So It Goes
An unresolved encounter between two fragile souls isn’t much to hang a song on, but the combination of two of music’s sweetest, most unaffectedly beautiful voices doesn’t need a whole lot of twists and turns to sustain it. Your ears will thank you.
Chris Smither – “Place in Line”
from Hundred Dollar Valentine
Pretty much a whole life philosophy in one folky country-blues song.
Edens Edge – “Swingin’ Door”
from Edens Edge
Since Too Far Gone was inexplicably not Catherine Britt’s American breakthrough, it’s nice to see “Swingin’ Door” resurface on the debut from Edens Edge. In fact, here and elsewhere on the album, lead vocalist Hannah Blaylock even sounds a bit like one of the song’s writers, Ashley Monroe. Dean Berner and Cherrill Green contribute picking and harmony, with their bluegrass backgrounds making the trio’s sound a good deal rootsier than your average Big Machine Records release.
Walt Wilkins – “Hang On To Your Soul”
He’s basically the Zen master of Texas country.
Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart – “If You Change Your Mind”
To be honest, I can’t resist anything recorded in this tempo. Not sure why.
Kenny Chesney – “Sing ‘Em Good My Friend”
from Welcome to the Fishbowl
For all his reputation as keg-in-the-closet manchild, Chesney has often been a pretty savvy selector of ballads. Sample lyrics here: “This old guitar case has been a million miles / Been a fool’s disciple, missed dance recitals, and the birth of every child / Honestly honesty never goes out of style / So sing the pain, my friend.”
Davidson Hart Kingsbery – “Stay Outa My Dreams”
from 2 Horses
Raspy-voiced alt honky tonk out of Washington state. Check out “Nyquil & Wine,” too.
Lee Ann Womack – “Momma’s on a Roll”
from KIN: Songs by Mary Karr & Rodney Crowell
Lee Ann Womack and Rodney Crowell, with a memoirist’s eye for detail. Outstanding.
The Honey Dewdrops – “It’s Hard to Pray”
from Silver Lining
If this Virginia duo isn’t (yet) as well-known as Gillian Welch & David Rawlings or The Civil Wars, it’s not for lack of quality. If you like either of the aforementioned, check ’em out.
Jana Kramer – “King of Apology”
from Jana Kramer
Stick with me here. It’s true that Jana Kramer found her way to Elektra Nashville via an acting role on One Tree Hill, but she actually could have gotten to that same point on the basis of singing ability alone. “King of Apology” is shamelessly catchy pop-country with enough meat on its bones to avoid being insipid.
The Bankesters – “Where I Am”
from Looking Forward
The time has come in our program for a happy-go-lucky duet by a family bluegrass band. Here’s a good one.
Josh Turner – “Pallbearer”
from Punching Bag
As close as Turner has come – as songwriter and singer – to recapturing the timeless quality of “Long Black Train.” Add some Marty Stuart mandolin and harmony vocals by Iris DeMent and you can’t lose.
Kelly Hogan – “I Like to Keep Myself in Pain”
from I Like to Keep Myself in Pain
Kelly Hogan goes all Patsy Cline on your ass.
Marley’s Ghost – “It’s All Over Now”
A wild, harmonica-laced kiss-off on which the 25-year roots collective is joined by Cowboy Jack Clement (who also produced) and Old Crow Medicine Show. The cut of “Unwed Fathers” with Emmylou Harris is another favorite. As it happens, both are available as free downloads to those who ‘like’ the band’s Facebook page. The rest of the album’s pretty excellent, too.