I have been meaning to write about various songs, acts, and CDs that have caught my attention so far this year. So before even more time elapses, here is, at least, some of the terrific music that has been exciting me (in no particular order).
Escondido (www.thebandescondido.com) – one of my favorite albums overall this year is The Ghost of Escondido, the debut disc from this Nashville duo. Jessica Maros and Tyler James craft a wonderful retro-twangy sound that grabbed from the first notes. It’s hard to recommend just one tune but I’ll say “Special Enough” and “Could October” are especially strong tracks.
The Belle Sounds (www.thebellesounds.com)– Here’s another of the duos that are so popular nowadays. This one pairs husband & wife Andre Moran and Noelle Hampton. The Austin-based couple’s music is more poppy than twangy but always marvelously melodic. “Bourbon” is the song I would order firsts off of their Neilson Hubbard-produced eponymous debut (which doesn’t come out until April 30).
Kenny Roby (www.kennyroby.net) – Roby’s name might be familiar to fans of the No Depression music scene as he led 6-String Drag during the Nineties. His new solo outing Memories & Birds is an excellent album, from start to finish. At times it sounds like Elvis Costello doing Americana with a laconic lyrical touch. He crafts the title track so perfectly that everything fits effortlessly into place.
Phil Lee (www.philleeone.com)– is one of those cool, crazy Nashville cats whose ramshackle rootsy (and often humorously twisted) sound is in the Steve Forbert/Peter Case vein. On his new disc, The Fall and Further Decline of the Mighty King of Love (which was released in Feb.), I was particularly taken with one of his more poignant tunes, “Cold Ground.”
The Futurebirds (www.futurebirdsmusic.com) – While their name made me think of a cartoon show or, worse, some generic rock band, this Athens, GA outfit adeptly blends indie rock drone and cosmic Americana into a dream state desert-scape that could be described as “sandal-gazing” rock. “Felix Helix” and “Dig” are two tunes to dig into off of their upcoming Baba Yaga disc (due April 16) on Fat Possum.
Kacey Musgraves (www.kaseymusgraves.com) – She hits her new album, Same Trailer Different Park right out of the park (no pun intended). It’s a Major Label country release that even those who avoid Music Row releases will love. Since it’s been getting a lot of praise and attention already, I will move on….
The Mavericks (www.themavericksband.com) – These former Major Label stars have reunited and the result – In Time – is chockful of classic Mavericks music. While there is a plenty of gorgeous music here, the tune that really slays me is “That’s Not My Name,” an original that sounds like you’ve heard it on the jukebox for years.
Holly Williams (www.hollywilliams.com) and Lizanne Knott (www.lizanneknotts.com) – Here are two sisters in twang whose songs are etched with life’s scars. Like the Mavericks, Williams has gone the indie route on her latest, The Highway, which she loads with tunes that ring true. The tough talkin’ “Drinkin’” kicks the disc off in fine fashion. Knott, on the other had, isn’t as well known as Williams but new CD Standing In The English Rain should change that. Not only does she deliver an impressively rendition of Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today” (that Judy Collins memorably covered years ago) but her own “Little Sky Town” stands out a big-time tune about small town life.
Diana Darby (http://dianadarby.blogspot.com) – makes spare, fragile folk music that sometimes feels all too close to the bone. The songs on her new album IV (Intravenous) can sound like they are bleeding out of her. “Heaven,” for example, suggests the musical equivalent of an American Horror Story episode (and that’s a compliment).
To end this list on some lighter notes, let me mention BOY’s “Little Numbers” and Ash Reiter’s “I’ve Got Something I Can Laugh About.” The former is not necessarily new nor unknown. The Swiss/German girl duo BOY (www.listentoboy.com) released it in Europe last year but got its US release this year. The Bay Area’s Ash Reiter (www.ashreiter.com) have crafted a great little pop gem with “I’ve Got Something” – it’s one of those joyful tunes you won’t get tired of listening to.