Roots Music Recap – The Latest In Roots Music (June 2012)

There are many good and great albums coming out every week and sometimes it’s hard to cover them all. That’s where This Roots Music Recap feature comes in. We cover some albums that we loved but may have not had time to do proper full-length reviews of. Read on to learn about some great music here!

Sometimes some albums can miss coverage from publications and most of the time those items miss entirely because we don’t have enough time in the day to cover every record that crosses our desks. Rather than let some of these great ones slip by, we’ve included some in this latest edition of our Roots Music Recap, a look at some albums that aren’t necessarily mainstream but are still worthy of your attention.

Six Market Blvd. – Shake It Down

With Shake It Down Texas country band Six Market Blvd. arrives on our radar with a record that is downright fantastic. From the rocking’ openers “Say It” and “White Goose” to the closing “Hey Mr. Indian Man,” the band showcases a sound that reminds me of The Mavericks, a band who has long covered various parts of rootsy music and country music and blended them into an emotional mix of greatness. Other standouts are “Getting Older,” “The Painter” and “In The Name of Us.” Six Market Blvd. has crafted a winning stew of musical influences that are married to strong lyrical stories and raw emotive power. Shake It Down showcases a band ready to take the world by storm.” – Matt Bjorke

Elizabeth Cook – Gospel Plow EP

Sometimes the best gospel music comes from the most unlikely places. Whereas Christian singers many times sound like they’re singing gospel music just because it’s their job, there’s something refreshing about an artist singing gospel music simply because they want to. That’s how Gospel Plow comes off. This music has no obvious commercial aspirations. It also doesn’t sound as though Cook is somehow attempting to weasel her way into the Christian music marketplace. Instead, she’s singing some fairly familiar songs with true feeling. Best of all, she’s retained her individuality throughout on this collection, as these covers don’t sound all that different from Elizabeth Cook originals. Therefore, Elizabeth can cook up a gospel stew for us any time she wants. – Dan MacIntosh

Seth Walker – Time Can Change

Americana is often considered synonymous with the old fashioned, twangy style of country, but the actual genre is far more expansive. In its purest form it is the place where the roots of American music exist, away from the polish and sheen of mainstream production. That is not to say, it has not evolved to include more production. Certainly artists like Iron and Wine have embraced loops at computer altered as the most auto-tuned pop princess. However, at its most basic, Americana is still the genre of unburnished roots music. Seth Walker embraces a bluesy, dirt-rutted, back road kind of jazz. His latest album, Time Can Change, is a clean and raw production that circles around that central theme of change. It is markedly more stripped and personal than his debut album, reflecting a near nakedness in both lyrics and production. Its straightforward approach to writing and playing mark it as one of the most enjoyable jazz albums of the year. – Stormy Lewis

Marley’s Ghost – Jubilee

Marley’s Ghost is one of those unfortunate missed chances that occur so frequently in country music. They are a band that nearly every country music fan should have heard of, but most probably have not. This is a shame, because they make exactly the kind of country music that many country fans have been clamoring for. That is to say they make country music that has twang, steel, mandolin and fiddle, but country music that still sounds contemporary. Country music that has its roots in Don Williams and The Oak Ridge Boys as well as Hank Williams and Merle Haggard. Jubilee is a simple, straight forward country album. And its one of the best country albums of the year. – Stormy Lewis

The Mavericks – Suited Up and Ready EP

One of my favorite phrases of this year so far was “The Mavericks have reunited” and with that I’ve got one of my favorite and most influential bands back with new music for the first time since 2005. Raul Malo still has one of the best and purest voices and showcases this on “Back In Your Arms Again” while Robert Reynolds provide steady harmonies and grooves with his bass joined by back line band member Paul Deakin. Add in Eddie Lopez’s guitar and it’s a masterclass on classic sounding rockabilly and country. They’re joyously non-mainstream artists yet they are able to release music on mainstream labels like their label The Valory Music Company. “Born To Be Blue” is the fantastic lead single and this EP serves as but a taste of the band’s upcoming full-length album. I. Can’t. Wait. – Matt Bjorke

Billy Joe Shaver – Live at Billy Bobs Texas

Outside of a very few places, Billy Joe Shaver is best known as that guy who shot that other guy. A few people know him for the songs he as written for other people, songs like Old Chunk of Coal, Honky Tonk Heroes and Old Five and Dimers. On Nashville’s Music Row he is what is known as a singers singer. He is one of those people that other singers listen to, who somehow never quite manage to trickle down to their fans. But for most people outside of Texas, his high profile shooting seems to get all of the attention. Inside of Texas, however, he is something more akin to a demigod. He is more than Willie Nelson. He is everyone’s favorite irascible and irreverent uncle. He is the man that new comers to the country scene turn to for help and advice. He is the artist that fans of country music reliably turn to when they want a fun night of magical storytelling. Billy Bob’s is marginally better known than Shaver, if only because their live album are so ubiquitous. However, behind all of those album is one of the oldest and most respected Honky Tonks in Texas. It is, therefore, fitting that one of the most famous Honky Tonks has released a live recording from the original Honky Tonk Hero. Billy Joe Shaver: Live at Billy Bob’s Texas is less a live album and more a tiny slice of the magic that makes Texas music so legendary. – Stormy Lewis

K Phillips – American Girls

K Phillips does not cover any ground that has not been covered many time before. Phillips is far from the first musician in the world to earn comparisons to Stevie Ray Vaughn and he will likely not be the last. That being said, American Girls is a pretty good album. It balances a timeless theme in such a way that it reminds us all of what it is timeless. For the most part the songs are well written, playing with humor and pathos in a manner that keeps the material fresh and interesting. While there are a few forgettable tracks, they are, for the most part, enjoyable in the moment. And there are a few striking songs that will linger long after the album is over. American Girls is an enjoyable debut album and a solid harbinger for the future. – Stormy Lewis

Jimbo Mathus – Blue Light

The Squirrel Nut Zippers were a staple of the mid-nineties swing revival, fueled by their theatrical songs, the sardonic style of Katherine Whalen and the unearthly growl of Jimbo Mathus. As his band and his marriage began to break down, Mathus retreated back into his home state of Mississippi and returned to his musical roots. Working closely with Buddy Guy, he honed his blues style into something stronger, sparser and infinitely more Southern. His new EP, Blue Light, Mathus pulls from his blues, R&B and country roots. It is a common enough mixture, but Blue Light feels both fresh and classic, like the coolest album in a vintage record bin. – Stormy Lewis

Rodney Crowell and Mary Karr – Kin

Everyone has hard times, but some people have harder times than everyone else. A few of these people are able to write about them with grace, humor and empathy for nearly everyone involved. Mary Karr is the kind of woman who titled the story of her late adolescence Cherry. When Mary Karr penned her 1995 memoir The Liars’ Club, she wrote in in the kind of searing, high octane tone that gave readers new insight into their relationship with language. It was no surprise to her fans when Rodney Crowell name checked her in “Earthbound,” adding her to the list of things that made her want to stick around. Rodney Crowell is well known as a poet in his own right, only marginally less acerbic than Karr. His first memoir was an album simple titled The Houston Kid. Both Crowell and Karr blend the tragic moments of their rather brutal childhoods with equal parts pathos, bravado and humor. When rumors of a album co-written by the pair began to circulate, fans of both sat up and took notice. But the album became something more than a Karr/Crowell collaboration. Featuring such singers a Lucinda Williams, Vince Gill, Lee Ann Womack and Norah Jones, Kin is a meditation on life, death, memory and the true meaning of family. Stormy Lewis

Phil Hamilton – Renegade Rock N Roll

This Texas-based artists recently scored a #1 hit on the Regional Radio Report and other Texas music charts. There’s a fresh, raw, and real vibe to the songs on this album. The musical performances on the record rank up there from B3 and twangy guitar on “Bad” to fiddle and percussive fills on tracks like album opener “Willie’s Bus,” “Back of a ’73,” “Back To Mobile” and “Working Man’s Son.” It’s a strong heartland country/rock record that gets better with each successive listen and leaves you wanting for more.