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Pennington, Eddie – “Walks The Strings… and Even Sings” – [Smithsonian Folkways]

This is a true treat: 20 tracks, mostly instrumental, by the stunning guitarist, Eddie Pennington. Hailing from Kentucky, he plays in the parlor movement style of Kentucky thumbpicking. (Read the booklet for an in depth explanation.) His skills are ever apparent. The notes float by ever so delicately, with intricate twists and turns that captivate the listener. His playing in so smooth, so perfect it is almost unreal. You can just see him sitting on a porch, picking away, telling stories, singing, and playing for hours. A joyful listen.

  • Reviewed by Naysayer on July 30, 2017 at 10:57 pm
  • Filed as CD,Country
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  • Devil Makes Three, The – “Redemption & Ruin” – [New West Records]

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    This is simply spiffy music organized into “Ruin” songs (such as “I Gotta Get Drunk” and “I’m Gonna Get High”) followed by “Redemption” songs (“There’ll Be a Jubilee” and “Down in the Valley”). Pete Bernhard sings lead vocal and acoustic guitar, with Cooper McBean on electric guitar and background vocals and Lucia Turino on upright bass and background vocals. There are also spoons, banjos, and other instruments involved in these mostly upbeat songs.

  • Reviewed by humana on September 7, 2016 at 9:20 pm
  • Filed as CD,Country
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  • Dezurik Sisters – “Yodel and Sing Their Greatest Hits” – [Mississippi Records]

    Minnesota weirdos yip-cackling their way through these 26 selections. these farm girls hit their stride in the late 1930′s, buck-bucking their yodels to urbanites, radio listeners (WLS-AM’s National Barn Dance), and other audiences who had cut ties with their rural upbringings.

    yodel yer scrotal; bock-buck yer flock, Chuck; chip-chiperry, Marie; try to sing with the birds.

  • Reviewed by mouthbreather on May 24, 2016 at 12:13 am
  • Filed as 12-inch,Country
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  • Hillbillies In Hell [coll] – [Omni Recording Corporation]

    You know how someone is always yet again discovering some lost tapes of some unknown garage band that becomes touted as THE new missing link to punk and suddenly everybody says, “Oh yeah that group was so important to me”? I proclaim that the sub-genre of country music on “Hillbillies In Hell” is THE missing link to what would become death metal and now you can get a jump start on proclaiming how important these songs were to you. Eighteen songs by eighteen different artists playing and singing about suicide, drug addiction, satan, murder, serial killers, satan, satan and satan definitely have a sentiment and feel for all the darkness infused in some sounds today. This hillbilly country recorded from 1957 to 1970, most of it in the late ’60′s, has that glorious twang that is the beauty of this period of country music. The tales are sad, desperate, woeful and so full of longing…. and full of Satan. The liner notes wonderfully tell the stories of these mostly small time performers. Their tales are sad, desperate, woeful and so full of longing. It’s like Outsider Country music. Omni Recording Corporation has come up again with another instant hit for those twisted enough to find songs such as “Jesus Is My Pusher” and “Satan’s Chauffeur” giddily entertaining. Go to Hell.

  • Reviewed by Naysayer on February 23, 2016 at 11:07 pm
  • Filed as 12-inch,Country
  • 1 comment
  • Gentry, Bobbie – “Ode to Billie Joe” – [Capitol Records]

    The commercial success and subsequent mystery over Billie Joe and his death caught the imagination of listeners worldwide when the song “Ode to Billie Joe” was recorded in 1967. Almost taking on mythic status, it often outshines the other nine tracks on Bobbie Gentry’s first album of the same name. Bobbie Gentry’s disappearance from the entertainment industry in the mid 1970′s had the same sort of effect at the time. Though now fairly obscure to listeners, Gentry is still viable for a book written about “Ode” on the 33 1/3 series and commented by people in the know as highly influential.

    -Born Roberta Lee Streeter in Chickasaw County, Mississippi.
    -Initially self taught multi-instrumentalist.
    -Philosophy major at UCLA.
    -One of the first females to write and produce her own music.
    - Release of “Ode” knocked The Beatles out of number one place for four weeks.
    - First female country artist to be awarded a Grammy for best new artist.
    - Designed, produced, choreographed, etc. her stage shows including her major stays in Vegas.
    - Left performing and whereabouts is basically unknown.

    The album is usually a quietly produced series of songs with Gentry playing acoustic guitar, finger picking each track in the familiar plunk plunka plunka beat. Background strings arranged by Jimmie Haskell and Shorty Rodgers fill out the sounds that accompany the tales of young country women and their exploits and desires while dealing with life in the backwoods and deltas of the deep south. The instrumentation mixed with her singing often gives you the feeling of that slowed down southern life. Gentry’s rich voice, which really takes on a solid level of quality in the song “Hurry, Tuesday Child”, moves throughout the compositions and never feels forced. Sonorous is the word to describe it. The songs are so enjoyable you just want to eat some poke salad annie with her while shooting the breeze, sitting on the porch. And then there is “Mississippi Delta” which may be one of the top underground club dance LOOSE IT songs from my twenties. It is one of the true definitive examples of country swamp rock. You’ll pull some muscles dancing to it. BOBBIE GENTRY RULES!!!!!!!!

  • Reviewed by Naysayer on February 5, 2016 at 10:19 pm
  • Filed as 12-inch,Country
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  • Shook, Sarah & Disamers, The – “Sidelong” – [Self Release]

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    These are gritty tunes in the country style of telling woes that can be met with strong, hard liquor. The track titles pull you in, as do the lyrics. This isn’t feel-good country, but rather tell-it-like-it-is, warts and all. You come out from the catharsis feeling like you’ve grown a backbone.

  • Reviewed by humana on January 11, 2016 at 2:58 pm
  • Filed as CD,Country
  • 1 comment
  • Wainright Sisters, The – “Songs In The Dark” – [PIAS]

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    This album is a family affair, with Martha and Lucy, daughters of Loudon Wainwright, joining voices and guitar strums to bring you lullabies sung to them by their mothers (they are half-sisters) and written by their papa and their mamas. Other family members and friends join them in the music production. It’s haunting country folk in a minor, nostalgic key, beautiful and evocative. The feeling is akin to that you get when you listen to Marissa Nadler.

  • Reviewed by humana on December 7, 2015 at 1:35 pm
  • Filed as CD,Country
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  • McLeod, Andy – “Forge The Valley” – [Dying For Bad Music]

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    by way of German label, Appalachian folk music from Andy McLeod: seasonal farm hand, musician and visual artist. inspired by Jack Rose, John Fahey and others, and especially by his home landscape of Chester County, Pennsylvania, these warm fingerpicked melodies (guitar/banjo) are all original (except for one Carter Family tune – with vocals) and incorporate field recordings (3-5), spoken word (4) and drone (6,7,10). the tracks get more spacious as the album progresses, with the brief Lost track at the end losing all trace of country for foggy introspection. collaborations from friends and an homage to the late Robbie Basho, this beautiful album can find its way onto any show, and deserves just that.

  • Reviewed by abacus on August 12, 2015 at 11:49 am
  • Filed as CD,Country
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  • Romano, Daniel – “If I’ve Only One Time Askin’” – [New West Records]

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    Steel guitar, smooth country, songs written by Romano himself. His lyrics are included in the CD insert, as is his take on how “to create a song from the ashes of humanity.” The music goes down easy, and the topics range from love that’s died down to embers, to a guy so wronged by his exes that he’s only able to utter two words at a time, to, well, just read the track titles and you’ll know.

  • Reviewed by humana on July 27, 2015 at 12:16 am
  • Filed as CD,Country
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  • Rock Ridge – “Drifter’s Prayer” [Self-produced]

    Rock Ridge is a 4-piece bluegrass band – guitar, bass, banjo, and mandolin, based in the Chico area. This is their debut album, from 2011, which is self-produced. It includes traditional and contemporary bluegrass, gospel, and some originals. The singing and playing are good; it is well produced. The female lead is especially good.?? Reviewed by Sally Goodin
    Faves: 4 5 9 11

  • Reviewed by Sally Goodin on April 2, 2015 at 9:53 am
  • Filed as Format,CD,Country
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  • Gunn, Steve and Black Twig Pickers – “Seasonal Hire” – [Thrill Jockey Records]

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    Steve Gunn leads the Black Twig Pickers through some old-time traditional tunes carrying forward into a modern colloquial. initially staying true to form with the opener jamming on a simple tune, letting the different players take turns in front. Sally Ann Morgan really carryies that country twang on fiddle and vocals whereas when Steve takes over singing on Trailways the mood shifts to that of some sort of Appalachian raga, Mike Gangloff on the jaw harp and tanpura giving it a more esoteric flavor. the side-long title track really lays in and spaces out into an expansive rustic drone, drifting like a heavy fog through the narrow hollows. true music to lay back and drink moonshine to while smoking cigarettes on empty mountain roads (don’t try this at home).

  • Reviewed by abacus on March 15, 2015 at 9:51 pm
  • Filed as CD,Country
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  • Three Thirds – “Buffalo Skinner: a Tribute to Woody Guthrie” – [Self Released]

    Sweet harmonies, sour tales…four people make up Three Thirds, living
    in the Woody Guthrie songbook and working in Southern California.
    Cowboys and outlaws dot the landscape, along with the bleached bones
    of a crooked drover. The chamber saloon approach works exceptionally
    here, Alex Wand while at the forefront with guitar and his innocent
    man’s vocals in a guilty world, truly needs his accomplices. Claire
    Chenette may be the secret weapon with oboe and english horn, one
    can sputter with blood, the other shine like an angel’s halo.
    Similarly, Heather Lockie’s viola can careen like a getaway car
    on “Pretty Boy Floyd” or skip blythely through the willows to
    her jilted lover’s grave. Both ladies pitch in singing with campfire
    purity. Jake Rosenzweig is forbidden from singing on this, but
    gets some whooping in and his bass is a backbone that brooks no
    shivers. Listen to him bow open “Ranger’s Command.” The title
    track will given Cormac McCarthy night terrors, it’s a hauntingly
    beautiful cautionary tale. Thoroughly enjoyable listen, and best
    of all it artfully illuminates Woody Guthrie’s genius. High
    praises at noon, or anytime. This band is your band.

    -Thurston Hunger

  • Reviewed by Thurston Hunger on March 27, 2014 at 6:16 pm
  • Filed as CD,Country
  • 1 comment
  • 78 Project – Volume 1, The [coll] – [78 Project, The]

    What makes a musical project really exceptional and surprising is a lack of smarminess, a lack, or at least a reduction of, ego, and a level of sincerity and care that is not overblown, but meets the right balance. This is a difficult place to arrive at but when it’s done—- wow!
    So along comes “The 78 Project – Volume 1″, a collection of artists large and small who are covering traditional songs. Sounds good. But the real draw is that “with just one microphone, one authentic 1930???s Presto direct-to-acetate disk recorder, and one blank lacquer disc, musicians are given one take to cut a record anywhere they choose.”
    Hmmm…. My initial reaction was split- half ready to embrace, half ready to toss. Is it all just a little too charming? Well I hunkered down to listen and, boy, was I surprised. I was smiling by the first 30 seconds and continued throughout the whole two sides. What we have here are artists, professionals who understand music, the making of it and the recording and production of it, but who have tossed aside the contemporary experience for a basic, old time recording. Being faced with the technological limitations of using this old style 78 recording system, the musicians must stretch themselves to let go to get to the heart of what they do. It is a superb project and process to listen to. The recordings are strong in their simplicity. Acoustic instrumentation makes for a warm sound. Vocals shimmer. It is all so rich. The Presto recorder makes the music and vocals sound distant, like playing with memory. The noises of street sounds, animals barking, background noises, as well as the scratches and skips in the recording make it like a time machine listening party and the Presto recorder is that machine. Bravo for this project. Just pick a song and listen and think and feel and enjoy.

  • Reviewed by Naysayer on March 11, 2014 at 11:51 pm
  • Filed as 12-inch,Country
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  • Wanderer’s Swing: Texas Dance Hall Music [coll] – [Krazy Kat]

    Reading the impressive liner notes for each of these songs is a must! The lowdown is that these 25 songs were recorded in the 40s and 50s primarily in Texas dancehalls, which were the sites of entertainment and music post-WWII and pre-TV and other distractions. Some dancehalls still feature this Western Swing, which is upbeat and downhome fun, mixed with polkas, rags, two-steps, and other types of folk music. The lyrics are entertaining, and you need only look to the titles for some inspiration.

  • Reviewed by humana on December 4, 2013 at 2:34 pm
  • Filed as CD,Country
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  • Bellows, John – “Traveller’s Shoes” – [Permanent Records]

    Hailed by some as Chicago’s current most important underground star, John Bellows is a unique voice in a dynamic music scene. Reading that he comes from parents of Kentucky pig farmers made my ears prick up. An interesting journey it was from pig farm to current musical hailed position. He has a number of limited pressing releases which vary somewhat in style, from punkypoppythrashytrash to a grungy children’s album, to psychish garage, to folk country but all have several things in common: a low to no fi quality which I love, really good sometimes twisted lyrics, and a dynamic power and energy. On this two song 45, Bellows goes to the land of trashy thrash country. Less produced than the Geraldine Fibbers, it’s got that pained, stripped down feel with twangy guitars and slightly misguided drums. All good. “Traveller’s Shoes” is a slowish lament about a troubled man. A sad one it is. “Second Nature” is co-written and co-sung with Lee Relvas (of a number of other Chicago bands). Their sweet and sour harmonies, accompanied by the slide guitar that sounds like it’s gonna slide right off the neck of the guitar, sing of an off kilter relationship between one person and one alien visitor. This song was written for the no budget film “On A Clear Day You Can See For Shit.” (Watch it on Youtube!!!!) This is a wonderful piece of alt-country which deserves your attention. Put it on the turntable.

  • Reviewed by Naysayer on September 23, 2013 at 12:40 am
  • Filed as 7-inch,Country
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  • Le Percolateur – “Pop Manouche” – [Chicago Sessions]

    I absolutely love this! The vocals remind me of Elana James, and the combination of guitar strumming, violin and bass picking, and horns (mucho awesome trumpet on 2) make for a truly enlivening, percolating experience (earning the band its name). It’s bouncy, upbeat country with jazz elements that are irresistible. Have fun listening to this one!

  • Reviewed by humana on September 16, 2013 at 5:00 pm
  • Filed as CD,Country
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  • Kirchen, Bill – “Seeds and Stems” – [Proper Records]

    This release finds Kirchen working primarily with his road trio and a few friends. Nearly all of these songs have appeared on various earlier releases by Kirchen, or with the Lost Planet Airmen back in the ’70s, but these stripped-down renditions are pretty representative of how they sound at Kirchen’s current shows — a sort of a “greatest hits live in the studio” approach, easy on the overdubbing. This results in a perfect show souvenir for the merch table and a confirmation of what this group does well: truck driving songs, country weepers, substance abuse anthems, and in the case of “Hot Rod Lincoln”, the history of guitar as Kirchen salutes a parade of heroic axe-slingers both living and dead. Anyone who has seen Kirchen’s live show over the last 15 years or so has heard this routine, but it’s evolved over time to include a few piano players as well, with Austin DeLone adding the requisite riffs. Some may quibble with the recycling of so much old material, but these performances are tight and well-recorded. ((( crimes )))

  • Reviewed by Art Crimes on August 6, 2013 at 1:51 pm
  • Filed as CD,Country
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  • Hurley, Michael – “Back Home With Driting Woods” – [Mississippi Records]

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    Old timey folks songs from Michael Hurley, cohort of the Holy Modal Rounders. Originally recorded in 1965 as part of “First Sessions,” his freshman release. These are tracks released for the first time from the same session recorded by Fred Ramsey Jr. (same as the one who recorded Leadbelly’s last session, used the same reel to reel to record Hurley, too)

    Feels like old time, early sixties folk music, solo acoustic, sweet and soft vocals at times. A little yodelling on Intersoular Blues. I guess The Tea Song, was one of his hits. Mississippi Records love….

  • Reviewed by mickeyslim on May 8, 2013 at 10:02 pm
  • Filed as 12-inch,Country
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  • Cogan, Ora – “Ribbon Vine” – [Hairy Spider Legs]

    A storm builds yonder, looming over hillsides on the horizon; a dark brooding yet delicate storm that seems to gently brush over in its ferocity. This is the sound of Ora Cogan’s haunting and ethereal brand of post-americana. Her somber, expansive style places her somewhere between Grouper and Gillian Welch though she grazes the same pastures as The Be Good Tanyas, even covering one of their songs (5). The back up band of bass, drums and bowed guitar provide a full backdrop for her songs to thrive without getting in the way, even helping build the songs into almost rock ballads. The Way??showcases especially her painfully beautiful vocal styling, singing so perfectly off-key that it tears at the gut and guts out tears while tracks like Summer Wine??allow her to show off her songwriting expertise without the band. She disappeared in the Canadian wilderness for two years after recording this, I kinda want to do that after just listening to it…

  • Reviewed by abacus on April 3, 2013 at 11:27 am
  • Filed as CD,Country
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  • Civil War Naval Songs [coll] – [Smithsonian Folkways]

    The subtitle of this release is “Period Ballads from the Union and Confederate Navies, and the Home Front,” and it is the baby of Dan Milner of Irish Pirate Ballads fame. The authentic flavor of this CD shines through in each of the songs, which feature vocals, concertina, piano, fife, drum, fiddle, dulcimer, banjo, and other instruments. The extensive liner notes detail Civil War naval history, as well as the story behind each song. 2 and 13 are my favorites.

  • Reviewed by humana on January 14, 2013 at 6:04 pm
  • Filed as CD,Country
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