This is already a couple weeks late, so I’ll keep my comments brief so as not to delay it any further. Here are Country California’s favorite tracks (mostly) appearing on new albums released in March.
Josh Kelley – “Baby Blue Eyes”
from Georgia Clay
Not the best song on Kelley’s country debut (that’s “Naleigh Moon”), but probably the best showcase of his falsetto. Who doesn’t enjoy a good falsetto?
Charley Pride – “Maybe Love Will Save the Day”
All these decades later, pairing Charley Pride with a solid classic country song like “Maybe Love Will Save the Day” is still a ‘can’t lose’ proposition. This sounds like something he could’ve had a big ol’ hit with in his heyday.
Sara Evans – “What That Drink Cost Me”
Sara Evans never sounds better than when she lays into a good heartbreak song. This is one of the best she has found in years, a definite career highlight.
Buddy Miller – “I Want to Be With You Always” (with Patty Griffin)
from The Majestic Silver Strings
Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin harmonize their way through an old Lefty Frizzell gem. Also from the Lefty songbook, the album includes Shawn Colvin’s fine take on “That’s the Way Love Goes.”
The Roys – “My Oh My How Time Flies”
from Lonesome Whistle
A rollicking up-tempo from the bluegrass sibling duo, who are backed on their Rural Rhythm Records debut by Randy Kohrs, Steve Brewster and members of Kentucky Thunder. Nothing like keeping good company.
Tommy Shaw – “The Great Divide” (with Alison Krauss)
from The Great Divide
Before you let out an exasperated sigh upon hearing that Tommy Shaw (of Styx) has released a bluegrass album, check out just how nicely he acquits himself on this duet with Alison Krauss. In fact, the whole album feels sincere, even as Shaw’s manic enthusiasm leads him to reach for the odd high lonesome note he can’t quite hit vocally. Some of the faster tracks sound like if Robbie Fulks tackled bluegrass.
Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers – “Jubilation Day”
from Rare Bird Alert
Parting is such sweet sorrow? Not if you’ve been dating the woman in this Steve Martin composition.
Ben Hall – “King of the Road”
from Ben Hall!
Merle Travis-style picking from a young guitar prodigy discovered by Charlie Louvin, with whom he subsequently toured and recorded. “King of the Road” is one of my favorite melodies.
Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis – “Cryin’ Time” (with Norah Jones)
from Here We Go Again: Celebrating the Genius of Ray Charles
Willie has sung with everyone, but he’s never sounded better than he does with Norah Jones.
Brian Wright – “Maria Sugarcane”
from House on Fire
In the Texas folk-country tradition, a great story song about two brothers loving one gal.
Eric Church – “Faster Than My Angels Can Fly”
from Caldwell County EP
Just when you think Eric Church has gone to the “I’m a hell-raising tough guy” well one (or several) too many times, he comes up with one of his catchiest spins on the theme yet. The guy’s got talent.
Sierra Hull – “Best Buy”
If you had asked me a few months ago, I wouldn’t have guessed that one of my favorite tracks of 2011 would be written by a teenager in a Best Buy parking lot. But angel-voiced mandolin prodigy Sierra Hull isn’t just any teenager, and this western swing kiss-off isn’t just any song inspired by a retail chain.
Sample ‘em below, and let me know of your own favorites in the comments.