Pick Six: June 2012

Juli Thanki | July 3rd, 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?

bankesters6. The Bankesters – Looking Forward

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.

3.5 Stars

 

rubyjane5. Ruby Jane – Celebrity (Empire of Emptiness)

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.

3.5 Stars

 

waltwilkinsplenty4. Walt Wilkins – Plenty

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.”

3.5 Stars

 

alejandroescovedo3. Alejandro Escovedo – Big Station

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.

4 Stars

 

kinmaryrodney2. Various Artists – Kin: Songs by Mary Karr and Rodney Crowell

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.

4.5 Stars

 

jerrydouglastraveler1. Jerry Douglas – Traveler

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.

4.5 Stars

  1. Jeremy Dylan
    July 3, 2012 at 9:26 am

    I’m gonna call it and say this is Jerry’s best solo record. A dynamite album that really swims around the range of his playing.

    ‘Something You Got’, a Ray Charles style groove with him and Clapton trading solos, deserves special mention too.

    • Juli Thanki
      July 3, 2012 at 9:33 am

      It’s also, to my knowledge, the first one he didn’t self-produce. I’m wondering if being able to concentrate solely on playing is part of what makes this one so good. And props to Russ Titelman, definitely, for producing such a fine album.

  2. Arlene
    July 3, 2012 at 9:55 am

    “Here’s hoping this partnership isn’t just a one-off.”

    I suspect that Rodney Crowell And Mary Karr may well write more songs together in the future but I’d be surprised if they collaborat again anytime soon on a full album. His next project is a duets album with Emmylou Harris that is being produced by Brian Ahern. The recording of it has been completed. Backing musicians include original Hot Band members.

    Another new June album I’m enjoying is Antje Duvecot’s “New Siberia,” which won’t “officially” be released until September 18th but is currently available for download at her website, http://www.AntjeDuvekot.com. It was produced by Richard Shindell and features him, along with John Gorka, Lucy Kaplansky and Mark Erelli.

  3. Adam Sheets
    July 3, 2012 at 10:31 am

    The Rodney Crowell album is indeed a great one which I may review myself sometime. I think at times it’s more poetry than music, but that’s not a big deal for me. My favorite track on it is probably Lee Ann Womack’s.

  4. Adam Sheets
    July 3, 2012 at 10:34 am

    As for the duets album with Emmylou, that sounds great. Especially with Brian Ahern at the helm. Don’t get me wrong. I love Rodney and Emmylou’s more recent material, but I would love to hear both of them make another record like “Pieces of the Sky” or “Ain’t Living Long Like This.” Sounds like I may get my wish soon.

    • Juli Thanki
      July 3, 2012 at 10:42 am

      When I interviewed Crowell a couple months ago, this is what he had to say about the new album with Emmylou: A lot of the songs that we’re doing are from our early travels together when I was touring with her, songs we used to sing to warm up before we went onstage. Some songs I wrote when we were kids that we always said we should do. 35 years later, we’re doing it.

      Yeah, I’m pretty excited to hear this one. Since it’s a record 35 years in the works, a few more months of waiting won’t be too bad…

  5. Leeann Ward
    July 3, 2012 at 11:11 am

    The album that I keep playing is Brandi Carlile’s Bear Creek. I’d heard about her before, of course, but I never really paid attention until this album and now I’m hooked and have bought her previous albums as well. The whole album is great, but it’s hard for me to get past the first track, “Hard Way Home”, without just hitting repeat over and over again.

  6. Leeann Ward
    July 3, 2012 at 11:12 am

    And, yes, I’m ready to hear the Rodney Crowell/Emmylou Harris album. The Rodney/Mary Carr album is great and Lee Ann Womack’s track is probably my favorite too.

  7. Leeann Ward
    July 3, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Back again to say thanks for mentioning the Walt Wilkins album, as it reminded me to check it out. Great stuff.

  8. Arlene
    July 3, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Leeann- There are a bunch of Music Fog videos of Walt Wilkins that you also might want to check out available on You Tube- like so many artists, he’s one I prefer to see and hear live. For example:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39yeQliCpYw

  9. Ben Foster
    July 3, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    I have so many albums I need to catch up on, with Jerry Douglas’ Traveler being foremost among them. Of the ones I’ve heard so far, Don Williams’ And So It Goes really hits my sweet spot, and I enjoyed the Edens Edge debut album as well. Thanks for the recos, as always, Juli. I will try to listen to each of them soon (I have heard KIN, and I agree – It’s wonderful).

  10. Leeann Ward
    July 3, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    I just listened to the Edens Edge album last night and it actually is quite good.

  11. Rick
    July 4, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Leeann, I also just listened through the new Eden’s Edge full album and was a tad bit disappointed by the usual overly slick Nashville production approach. I’ve seen Eden’s Edge live a couple of times (thankfully without an electric guitar present) and they just shine as a live acoustic act. I was actually hoping their album would sound more like their live sets. Oh well, you can’t have everything. I wonder what their album would have sounded like if they were recording for Rounder instead? Hmm…

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