Country

Songs Of The Plains (CD)

Old school Canadian cowboy singer Colter Wall’s Songs of the Plains sounds like a long-lost find from the earliest era of country music. The album is a blend of original tunes penned by Wall plus covers and traditional songs. Wall’s work fits nicely into the evocative, now distant world of backroads honky-tonks and depression era deals with the devil but what makes his oeuvre unique is his focus on the experience of life on the wide open plains of Canada, perhaps most evident in his earnest “Plain to See Plainsman.” Fans of classic country will find this sparse, homespun LP irresistible.

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Desperate Man (CD)

One of country music's new crop of favorite outlaws is back with another batch of southern rock and blues tinged foot stompers. Having admitted to being stuck in a creative stalemate after dealing with near death and devastation in the time since his last album in 2015, Church comes back stronger than before with hook-filled songs that will appeal to both country and classic rock fans alike. Highlights include "Sympathy For The Devil"-inspired first single "Desperate Man" and the gospel inflected "Heart Like A Wheel."

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Cry Pretty (CD)
Coming back from a terrible injury, Carrie Underwood comes out on top with her most wide-ranging album yet. From powerful calls for unity in divisive times (“Love Wins”) to a sports-ready collab with Ludacris (“The Champion”) to good ol’ fashioned emotional outpouring (the title track is a real tearjerker), it’s a thrill to hear one of country pop’s biggest stars this raw and ready to tackle nearly anything. Read more
Mr. Jukebox (CD)

With his debut album, Joshua Hedley embraces the role he was born to play: this generation’s classic country champion. The heartbreaking, distilled, defiantly classic country that poured out of him became Mr. Jukebox, a salve and beacon for '60s honky-tonk devotees everywhere.

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Golden Hour (CD)

For Kacey Musgraves' new record, Golden Hour, she subverts her charmingly rebellious and cynical persona by revealing softer vulnerability and experimenting with arrangements that include vocoders and even disco beats. Emotional ballads like the title track and “Space Cowboy” are more frequent here than clever retorts like “High Horse,” alternating between blissful and melancholy, distrust of true love, and worried introspection. The songwriting and her disarming vocals hold strong throughout.

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Dying Star (CD)

Rustin Kelly's debut LP, Dying Star, showcases the range of this edgy Jackson Browne/Ryan Adams-influenced singer-songwriter with sharp and witty lyrics (as on his stand-alone single “Asshole”). The record includes vocals from his wife Kacey Musgraves on the sincere ballad, “Jericho,” and expertly swerves from alt-rock to twangy country to folk. The melodic “Faceplant” shows him hard-partying and remorseful, while “Mockingbird” opens with soaring harmonica that brings Tom Petty to mind.

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Hell-On (CD)

Neko Case has the type of rich, “seen it all” voice that puts her in a class with some of the greatest female country singers but she eschews the twang on Hell-On, instead opting for a more melancholic version of her work with The New Pornographers. It’s her first solo album in five years but the list of her collaborators is as dazzling as their time together was fruitful. Laura Veirs, k.d. lang, Kelly Hogan, Eric Bachmann, A.C. Newman, Beth Ditto, and Mark Lanegan each contribute to this vulnerable, searching collection of songs. Hell-On is a slow burn all the way.

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