This week has a nice mixture of mainstream, folksy, Rootsy, Americana and other sounds in the New Release report. See what we think of this week's new crop of releases from the likes of Blackberry Smoke, Love and Theft and more below!
The Vespers - Sisters And Brothers (Black Suit Records)
This quartet's new album comes to its title honestly as it features the Cryar sisters (Phoebe and Callie) and Jones Brothers (Bruno and Taylor). The youthful record blends punk-like attitudes with rootsy musical instruments and production and showcases the Cryar sisters quite well. "New Kids" and "We Win" are clear standouts on the diverse album (the band's third). Paul Moak provides strong production and the band sounds tight as any band possibly could. "Brothers and Sisters" is a great focus track as are "The Curtain," "Cynical Soul" and "You Leave Me." It's a strong indie country/rock album well worth the time to seek out on iTunes or Spotify.
Blackberry Smoke - Holding All The Roses (Rounder)
Holding All The Roses serves as the band’s first recording with both Rounder Records and producer Brendan O’Brien, a producer more well-known for his work with artists like Pearl Jam and AC/DC than Country Rockers like Blackberry Smoke. But it’s a pairing that works as Holding All The Roses is easily the best record the band’s put out to date, which is saying something given how special The Whippoorwill was when issued via Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Artists label. Holding All The Roses is spirited, concise southern rock and O’Brien’s production adds to the band’s edgy sensibilities. Standouts include “Living In The Song,” the spirited “Rock and Roll Again,” “No Way Back To Eden,” “Woman in the Moon,” “Let Me Help You (Find the Door)” and “Wish In One Hand.”
Gretchen Peters - Blackbirds (Scarlet Letter Records)
One of country music’s best songwriters (Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” for which she won a CMA award among them) continues to make records that somehow go under the radar but are consistently packed with both brilliant songwriting and strong vocals. Peters latest, Blackbirds, showcases her penchant for singing about themes and things in life that usually only get explored when one reaches a certain age. The lyrics are oft poetic and metaphoric as she touches on life and death and things like fires of houses, floods of cities (“Pretty Things”) and even social awareness songs. It’s all here from one of the most thoughtful singer/songwriters on the planet, an artist who should earn more awareness than she actually does get (even if musicians around the world are well aware of her sturdy work). There are plenty stand out tracks but this is really a record that needs to be heard from beginning to end as a cohesive body of work.
Love and Theft - Whiskey On My Breath (Hate and Purchase Music)
After releasing their first two projects via major labels, Love and Theft goes the indie route with Whiskey On My Breath and showcases a rootsy side that was only hinted at previously. Even “Cant Wait For The Weekend” is a song that one might assume to be “bro” in approach and while lyrically it might be, the song is far from that with tight harmonies and a soulful, southern rock vibe to it. The title track, “Whiskey On My Breath,” showcases Eric and Stephen’s ability to write and sing the kind of timeless country story songs that have long been the standards of the format. Their harmonies throughout the record are once-again the duo’s best calling card, showcasing a band who is right there with Little Big Town and Zac Brown Band as the best of country music’s harmony-driven vocal bands. Fun tunes like “Tan Lines” and “Anytime, Anywhere” keep the duo contemporary and fresh but clearly Whiskey On My Breath was a record that the duo needed to make. Other standouts “Everybody Drives Drunk,” “Easy,” and “Wrong Baby Wrong.”
Dave Barnes - Hymns For Her EP (50 Year Plan Records).
The follow-up to Barnes 2013 release Golden Days, finds the singer/songwriter singing six tracks which are all about love and romance (in other words, perfect for Valentine’s Day). Fans of Zac Brown Band will probably enjoy the steel guitar laden “Darlin’” while “Headlights” is quite possibly the most-romantic song with that title to ever be written. “Good Day For Marrying You” feels like a southern gospel rave up and certainly works as a great EP closer. Dave Barnes may be more known for writing the huge Blake Shelton hit “God Gave Me You” or Billy Currington’s “Until You” but he’s a hell of a singer and artist in his own right and he writes songs that are human and relatable. Hymns for Her is a strong collection of romantically inclined songs that is waiting to be discovered by country A&R executives around town.
Olivia Lane - Steal Me Away EP (Big Spark Music Group)
The talented vocalist (who recalls Jennifer Nettles at times and Sara Evans at others) showcases more of her musical side with her hit single "Steal Me Away" in two versions and the stunning "Mama Raised Hell." These join Love Thing, her first EP released last fall. They're only the start to the talented singer/writer's career (we've heard other tracks that suggest this).