Howdy, neighbors!

Howdy, folks! Here are some reviews of the new country, bluegrass and Americana records that I had the good fortune to listen to in November, 2014. This page gets updated throughout the month, so check back if you can... Also, check out my full Guide To Hick Music for a bazillion more record reviews and artist profiles.

New Stuff: November, 2014
Mike Audridge/Jerry Douglas/Rob Ickes "Three Bells" (Rounder)
Terri Clark "Some Songs" (Bare Tracks)
John Denver "All Of My Memories: The John Denver Collection" (Sony Legacy)
Bob Dylan & The Band "The Basement Tapes Complete" (Sony Legacy)
Bob Dylan & The Band "The Basement Tapes Raw" (Sony Legacy)
The Earls Of Leicester "The Earls Of Leicester" (Rounder)
Sara Evans "At Christmas" (RCA Nashville)
Ronnie Fauss "Built To Break" (Normaltown)
Florida Georgia Line "Anything Goes" (Big Machine)
Hot Rize "When I'm Free" (Ten In Hand)
Alan Jackson "Let It Be Christmas" (ACR)
Little Big Town "Pain Killer" (Capitol Nashville)
Christian Lopez "Pilot" (EP) (Blaster Records)
Ronnie Milsap "The RCA Albums Collection" (Sony Legacy)
LeAnn Rimes "One Christmas -- Chapter One" (Iconic Entertainment)
Ricky Skaggs & Sharon White "Hearts Like Ours" (Skaggs Family)
Ralph Stanley "My Life & Legacy" (Rebel)
Sunny Sweeney "Provoked" (Aunt Daddy)
B. J. Thomas "O Holy Night" (Wrinkled Records)
Mac Wiseman "Songs From My Mother's Hand" (Wrinkled Records)

New Stuff: November, 2014

Mike Audridge/Jerry Douglas/Rob Ickes "Three Bells" (Rounder, 2014)

Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes "Black Coffee" (WJO, 2013)
(Produced by Lachlan Bryan & Rod McCormack)

Terri Clark "Some Songs" (Bare Track Records, 2014)
(Produced by Michael Knox)

Canadian-born singer Terri Clark made a career as a tough-talkin', bad-girl country star with a strong affinity for old-fashioned honkytonk themes. While other gals in Nashville topped the charts with elaborate pop-soul arrangements, Clark preferred leather chaps to evening gowns and mostly stuck to twangy tunes about drinkin' and cheatin', sounding like "one of the boys" while sticking to a remarkably rootsy sound. Like many 1990s stars, she found that the doors to the Top 40 closed to her, and going indie was a better way to reach her fans... This is her second self-released album...

John Denver "All Of My Memories: The John Denver Collection" (Sony Legacy, 2014)
A 4-CD set profiling the career of folk-pop superstar John Denver from the early 1960s to his tragic death in the late '90s... If the intensive reissue campaign of pretty much all of his original albums is a little too overwhelming for you, this more selective set might be more your speed... There are familiar favorites and well-known hits, to be sure, but also a healthy selection of album tracks, rarities and later recordings that slipped past the attention of all but his most devoted fans. The inclusion of a few tracks from his independently-released first album (recorded around the time he was in the Chad Mitchell Trio) is particularly welcome, as are all the singalong classics, as well as an untypically overt political song such as "The '68 Nixon (This Year's Model)," recorded by the Denver, Boise & Johnson trio. A good chance to reevaluate or just plain enjoy the music of a 1970s icon.

Bob Dylan & The Band "The Bootleg Series, v.11: The Basement Tapes Complete" (Box Set) (Sony Legacy, 2014)
In 1967, poet-rock star Bob Dylan reached out to the musicians in the group that would become known as The Band -- Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Levon Helm -- and invited them come jam with him in a basement studio in upstate New York. At the time, Dylan was still recuperating from a 1966 motorcycle accident which had sidelined his career and caused him to reevaluate his personal and musical priorities. This stunning 6-CD box set documents the entire "basement tapes" jam session, a collaboration which redefined Dylan's creative path and established The Band as part of the hippie rock elite. This beautifully packaged collection includes every salvageable recording from the sessions, presented in chronological order (according to the production notes taken by Garth Hudson) and is a revelatory goldmine for Dylanologists. The chronological presentation is particularly cool, as it shows not just the creative process but also how the musicians came to know one another and how The Band developed their near-telepathic connection with Dylan. On the first few discs, particularly the initial sessions, they are noticeably tentative, unsure of what direction Dylan was headed in, and it takes a while to find their groove. But every once in a while they hit it, and the tentative rehearsal vibe gives way to some remarkably cool, groundbreaking acoustic jams. This artistic connection slowly gels and intensifies until their new sound emerges -- an innovative, forward-thinking acousto-electric style that dips deep into folk and country tradition while creating a new, contemporary musical vocabulary, the prototype for what would later become known as "Americana" music. The Basement Tapes have been released piecemeal over the years -- countless bootlegs such as the "Great White Wonder" LP were smuggled onto the market, as well as the officially sanctioned 1975 "Basement Tapes" album, which only included a fraction of the '67 recordings. Hearing it all together in one place, with the best modern sound restoration available, is an extraordinary experience -- along with the expanded version of Dylan's "Self Portrait" (Sony's Bootleg Series, Volume 10) we are given amazing insight into Dylan's creative process, particularly the calm, generous way in which he guides the musicians he works with, presenting his unique, unpredictable musical vision in a way that ultimately translates into the unruly and oddly-shaped gems that have enchanted generations of fans. Admittedly, the entire six-disc collection may be too much for even devoted fans to navigate -- wisely, the folks at Sony have also provided the edited-down two-disc "Raw" version, which highlights the more accessible tracks. Either way, this is pure gold for fans of Dylan and The Band.

Bob Dylan & The Band "The Bootleg Series, v.11: The Basement Tapes Raw" (Sony Legacy, 2014)

The Earls Of Leicester "The Earls Of Leicester" (Rounder, 2014)
A bunch of modern-day bluegrass heavyweights pay homage to the music of Flatt & Scruggs -- dobro giant Jerry Douglas and fiddler Johnny Warren form the core of the band, with plent of hot and sweet picking from the likes of Shawn Camp, Tim O'Brien and others. A truegrass lover's delight!

Sara Evans "At Christmas" (RCA-Nashville, 2014)
Ho-ho-ho!! It's that time of year again...!!

Ronnie Fauss "Built To Break" (Normaltown, 2014)
(Produced by Sigurdur Birkis & Ronnie Fauss)

Florida Georgia Line "Anything Goes" (Big Machine, 2014)
(Produced by Joey Moi)

Hot Rize "When I'm Free" (Ten In Hand, 2014)

Alan Jackson "Let It Be Christmas" (ACR, 2014)
Ho-ho-ho!! It's that time of year again...!!

Little Big Town "Pain Killer" (Capitol Nashville, 2014)
(Produced by Jay Joyce)

Christian Lopez "Pilot" (EP) (Blaster Records, 2014)
(Produced by Dave Cobb)

A nice, straightforward set of tuneful, anthemic alt-rock Americana, reminiscent of Whiskeytown and early Ryan Adams, very listenable and likely to catch the attention of many fans... This five-song EP of all-original material establishes this West Virginian newcomer as a strong presence on the alt-twang scene. Plus, he's kind of a hottie, all of which adds up to the strong probability that we'll be hearing more from this young man in years to come. Welcome to the fold, Mr/ Lopez - we're looking forward to hearing more from you soon!

Ronnie Milsap "The RCA Albums Collection" (Sony Legacy, 2014)
Just in time to coincide with his 2014 induction to the Country Music Hall Of Fame comes this massive, 21-CD box set, reissuing all of Ronnie Milsap's albums on RCA Records... This includes old, chart-busting classics from the 'Seventies and 'Eighties, retro sets and holiday music, and a ton of lesser-known album tracks that are often neglected in favor of Milsap's countless chart hits. Albums include his 1973 debut, Where My Heart Is, Pure Love (1974) A Legend In My Time (1975), Night Things (1975), 20/20 Vision (1976), Ronnie Milsap Live (1976), It Was Almost Like A Song (1977), Only One Love In My Life (1978), Images (1979), Milsap Magic (1980), Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing (1981), There s No Gettin Over Me (1981), Inside (1982), Keyed Up (1983), One More Try For Love (1984), Lost In The Fifties Tonight (1985), Christmas With Ronnie Milsap (1986), Heart & Soul (1987), Stranger Things Have Happened (1989), Back To The Grindstone (1991), and My Life, from 2006. Whew! That's a lot of music for Milsap's most devoted fans to soak up...!

LeAnn Rimes "One Christmas -- Chapter One" (Iconic Entertainment Group, 2014)
Ho-ho-ho!! It's that time of year again...!!

Ricky Skaggs & Sharon White "Hearts Like Ours" (Skaggs Family, 2014)

Ralph Stanley "My Life & Legacy: Very Best Of Ralph Stanley" (Rebel, 2014)

Sunny Sweeney "Provoked" (Aunt Daddy Records, 2014)

B. J. Thomas "O Holy Night" (Wrinkled Records, 2014)

Mac Wiseman "Songs From My Mother's Hand" (Wrinkled Records, 2014)
(Produced by Peter Cooper)

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