Pick Six: June 2012
June was a superbly good month for music, with Alan Jackson, Don Williams, and Elizabeth Cook all releasing albums. Here are a few of my favorite releases from the past month that we haven’t reviewed. What albums were in heavy rotation on your stereo this June?
This bluegrass family band is back with a strong follow-up to last year’s self-titled album (which, you’ll remember, made our Best of Bluegrass list). Sweetly sung harmonies abound on this collection thanks to daughters Emily, Alysha, and Melissa, who sings lead on what’s arguably the best song on the album, the Battle of Gettysburg story-song “First Minnesota.” Parental units Phil and Dorene deliver another high point with the jaunty “Where I Am,” written by Chris Jones with Tom T. and Dixie Hall.
Like Sara Watkins and mandolin prodigy Sarah Jarosz, teenage fiddler Ruby Jane has serious country and bluegrass music chops, and, also like Watkins and Jarosz, she uses those skills to deliver a supremely enjoyable roots-influenced pop record with Celebrity (Empire of Emptiness). Jane, who wrote or co-wrote ten of the album’s eleven songs (the lone cover is a delicate version of Wilco’s “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”) including the fantastic, genre-melding closing instrumental “Intrepid,” delivers her lyrics with an airy voice that, like her fiddling and writing, is mature beyond her years.
Plenty, a collection of sparse country songs by one of the most talented writers out there, is the perfect soundtrack for watching a summer rainstorm roll in. “Ain’t It Just Like Love” is an irresistible toe-tapper, but the rest of the album is more understated, with the pensive “Between Midnight and Day” finding the self-proclaimed “soul survivor, a Sunday driver, and a tiger on Saturday night” Wilkins reflecting on a noteworthy career: “This life that I live is mostly a gift/From these songs I play/They’ve been fine companions between midnight and day.”
Alejandro Escovedo is the embodiment of rock ‘n’ roll. On Big Station, he once more collaborates with co-writer Chuck Prophet and producer Tony Visconti to deliver a a fierce record that draws upon a variety of influences, from the Eddie Cochran-tinged sounds of opener “Man of the World” to alt-country ballad “San Antonio Rain” to the album closer, a tender version of “Sabor a Mi,” which is Escovedo’s first Spanish recording.
A star-studded roster of artists including Norah Jones, Vince Gill, Lee Ann Womack, and Emmylou Harris lend their golden voices to songs written over a period of several years by Crowell and fellow East Texan Mary Karr, a noted poet and memoirist whose work has been on The New York Times’ Best Sellers list. “My Father’s Advice,” featuring Kris Kristofferson, is one of the best story-songs you’ll hear this year, but all the songs on the album are above average. Here’s hoping this partnership isn’t just a one-off.
Jerry Douglas, the world’s best Dobro player and a highly in-demand session musician who’s appeared on over 2000 recordings over the course of his career, can cover a lot of musical ground. Most of it is present on his newest solo record, which ranges from the bluesy Lead Belly cover “On a Monday” to the Bourbon Street sounds of “High Blood Pressure” (on which Keb’ Mo’ sings lead) to the breakneck bluegrassy instrumental, “King Silkie.” A gorgeous cover of “The Boxer,” featuring guest stars Paul Simon and Mumford & Sons, rounds out one of the year’s best albums. If you only bought one album last month, hopefully this was it.
- Scooter: I agree Holly Williams can do no wrong in my eyes. Such a good album and great to see live …
- Carrie Mclaughlin: Your my Hero Mr. Jim Lauderdale!!! Come to Alaska Please? hehehehe
- Jeremy Dylan: You should check it out Dave D. It's from the first (and strongest) season.
- Leeann: Wow! I love that Holly William's cover of "No Surrender"! She's gotten to be so good.
- luckyoldsun: I made it through a minute of that "Girl In a Country Song Video." Man, that sucks.
- lindsay thomas: Wife and I saw these guys last Thursday night, (7-24-14) at the Ryman in Nashville. What a show. …
- Donald: I'm guessing that is meant to read 're-release' Detroit to Wheeling, as the double album originally appeared on Pinecastle in …
- Michael A.: Has anyone else had a difficult time trying to get the free download from the Reba site?
- Dave D.: I can't believe that I never saw the Willie Nelson Monk episode - and it was a Sharona episode, as …
- nm: Taylor Swift was on CSI once. Not only was Steve Earle on The Wire, in one episode Omar quoted him about …