2011’s Under the Radar Records
Even the most dedicated music listener can miss a few albums. Here are ten up-and-coming artists whose albums may have slipped beneath your radar this past year.
This acoustic string band out of Austin starts Road From Home off right, with murder ballad “Dry Creek Inn.” Many of the tracks on their debut studio album are jazz-influenced instrumentals, like “Changa Chang,” that show off the band’s insane picking prowess (before they were a band, the individual MilkDrive members toured with acts like Asleep at the Wheel, Bruce Robison, and Jason Boland & The Stragglers). Fans of David Grisman and The Infamous Stringdusters should give these guys a listen, and if they ever come to your town, it’s a show you won’t want to miss.
If Kathleen Edwards were a Texan, she might sound a whole lot like Bonnie Whitmore, whose Embers to Ashes is a must-listen for fans of Edwards and the Pistol Annies. Don’t be fooled by sweetly sung ballads like “Cowboy Lullaby,” though: this album has a body count. One unlucky guy winds up on the wrong end of a knife that slipped, while on the roots rock title track, Whitmore matter of factly sings about burning a cheating ex alive.
The oldtime-influenced trio, led by husband and wife team J.D. (of Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers) and Jessica Wilkes, delivers high octane versions of standards like “Wayfaring Stranger” and “Say, Darlin’, Say” along with a number of footstomping, fire-and-brimstone originals on their album, Wake Up, Sinners!
Wright, a troubadour whose songs recall Townes Van Zandt, has delivered some of the best songwriting you’ll hear all year on his third album House on Fire (technically HoF was first self-released in 2010, but Sugar Hill picked it up this year for national distribution). Wright played every instrument on every song on this album, from the roots rock “Striking Matches” to the sparse closer, “Friend.” There isn’t a bum song on the record, but if there’s one you definitely need to listen to, it’s the Guy Clarkesque “Maria Sugarcane.”
The Fort Worth quartet’s sophomore album Rich Man is bursting at the seams with highly danceable Tejano-country tunes that’ll appeal to anyone who digs The Mavericks. Frontman Dave Perez mans the accordion and has a voice reminiscent of former Derailers singer Tony Villanueva.
I have no clue what these guys are singing about most of the time on The Right Combination, but it sure sounds good. Accordion master and Cajun Music Hall of Famer Lége, fiddle whiz Joel Savoy and the always excellent Foghorn Trio (Caleb Klauder, Nadine Landry, and Sammy Lind), make a stellar band that sounds as though they just stepped out of a Louisiana dancehall.
“My Name is Money” didn’t crack the Top 40, but don’t let that dissuade you from giving album 1978 December (released on Zac Brown’s Southern Ground label) a listen. The raspy-voiced Leigh covers a fair amount of stylistic ground on this album, from the catchy alt-country of “Ain’t Dead Yet” to the beachy, reggae-lite song “Roaming,” a solid duet which features Zac Brown.
This Seattle country singer’s second album, Starlight Hotel, should be on everyone’s wish list this holiday season. Full of deliciously sad songs and pedal steel, it’s an album that brings to mind early releases from Laura Cantrell. Muth is a songwriting talent to keep an eye on, especially considering the record’s standout track, where she asks the all-important question about a suitor’s dubious jukebox tastes: “If I Can’t Trust You with a Quarter (How Can I Trust You with My Heart?)”
- Leeann Ward: Way to go to David Cantwell for getting a name drop! Great interview, Juli! Womack's new album is awesome! I've not always …
- Jonathan Pappalardo: Great interview as always, Juli! The new album is fantastic. "Same Kind of Different" is my favorite cut although "Fly" is …
- Dave D.: Good interview. Looking forward to the new record, and particularly interested in hearing her version of Brennen Leigh's "Sleeping with …
- nm: I guess it's not surprising that a singer who gets her songs all over the place, the way Womack does, …
- SunsetPark: As a Pennsylvanian to this day, thanks for the list. I haven't heard the Quecreek song and so can't …
- Paul W Dennis: I would urge readers to check out the Billy Edd Wheeler salute on October 18, 2014. Billy Edd Wheeler is …
- Leeann Ward: I'm really liking Pink's folk duo song! I'm looking forward to the album!
- Donald: LOS, you made me giggle. Thank you.
- luckyoldsun: An in related news, an E.P.A. inspector is preparing to slap the cuffs on Nancy Jones tomorrow.
- luckyoldsun: Looks like old Lynn is not done saying "I beg your pardon..."