Merle Haggard Looks Back
So many complex emotions in a single song. This is a quality that set Merle Haggard apart. And a big reason why his songs resonate so strongly, even many decades past when they were written and first released. My favorite Haggard album is Someday We'll Look Back. His 14th studio album, he released it in... Read More
Steve Young Remembered, from ‘Montgomery in the Rain’ to ‘Seven Bridges Road’
This week we lost of my all-time favorite country singer-songwriters, Steve Young. The writer of several classic songs made famous by some of the era's biggest stars, Young was also a superb singer in his own right, and he has a string of excellent solo albums to prove it. On top of that, by many... Read More
Al Scorch’s Winter Slumber
Have you ever seen a bluegrass band that includes cello? How about a French horn? If that concept catches your attention, you've got to check out the music of Al Scorch. Al and his band played an afternoon gig last Sunday at the Empty Bottle in Chicago, a monthly winter series dubbed Al Scorch's' Winter... Read More
New Discoveries: Woodkid’s ‘The Golden Age’
I just spent several hours going through a list of this year's GRAMMY nominees, finding videos, for each nominated song, a task associated with my day job at It was at times tedious but also, in many cases, fun and eye-opening. There's a lot of, shall we say, less-than-inspirational music on the list, especially... Read More
Mavis Staples Tribute
Last night (Nov. 19) I was lucky enough to attend a special concert in Chicago celebrating the 75th birthday of Mavis Staples. Man, that was an experience—one that was unique to Chicago and showcased a huge range of American music from the past 50 or 60 years. The show was being taped for a DVD... Read More
Sturgill Simpson’s ‘Metamodern’ Country
With his new album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, Sturgill Simpson has put out what's currently my favorite album of the year. This is country music that is meaty and fun but also thoughtful and rich. It's 'metamodern,' as he describes it -- a play on the classic Ray Charles collection Modern Sounds in Country... Read More
Jason Eady shows country is alive and well in 2014
Say what you will about the directions mainstream country is taking these days, but outside the Top 40 there's plenty of honky tonk to go around. Top of the heap right now is Jason Eady, a Mississippi native (and Texas transplant) whose new album Daylight and Dark lays down some of the strongest country music I've... Read More
Robert Ellis follows ‘Photographs’ with ‘Lights from the Chemical Plant’
To call the music of Robert Ellis 'country' isn't wrong, but it does miss the complexity of sounds and styles he regularly brings to his music. The title track of his previous album Photographs stood out for its weepy melody and Ellis's aching voice. This year, though, Ellis has emerged with a new album... Read More
Mickey Newbury, “She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye”
One of my all-time favorite artists, Mickey Newbury had a knack for sad, slow, soulful songs that cut deep -- but do so gently and thoughtfully. Newbury also had one of the finest voices in country music -- a whole different style from someone like George Jones, but I would argue he was up there... Read More