It's been way too long since I've done a music wrap-up. Here goes.
The new "it band" for 2012, this quartet hails from northern Alabama and actually lives up to the hype of music hipsters everywhere. The old-school soul grooves are indeed cool, but it's the pipes of vocalist Brittany Howard that really makes the group radioactive. Hell, there's really nothing I can say that hasn't been said, so I'll leave it to one of their tweets from earlier today: "Remembering when we had less than 100 facebook fans and didn't know what twitter was.. 8 mths later.. we are releasing our first album! So blessed." Long live the Internet.
Now this was a bit of a surprise. Eady, a Mississippi native, was known (by me at least) as more of a swampy, Delta blues sort of guy, and he does it well. But from the first note of AM Country Heaven, Eady establishes himself as a bona-fide country music star -- circa 1973. Produced by Kevin Welch, AM is rife with Waylon Jennings bass lines, pedal steel from Lloyd Maines, and a killer duet with Patty Loveless. Eady manages to tie it all together with an easygoing Don Williams baritone. There's a lot going on, but it all works, and works very well.
After what felt like a couple of uneven efforts, the original Redneck Mother is back, and man is he a badass. Hubbard has always been a man comfortable in exploring spirituality, while keeping one beat-up cowboy boot planted firmly in the hedonistic, hell-raising side of life. To wit: what other musician do you know that can name check Lazarus and Neil Young in a matter of ten minutes? If you've never listened to RWH, this is a great place to start. If you're a longtime fan, you'll recognize this as the culmination of 40-some-odd years living as a rough and tumble troubadour. Stop reading, and start downloading.
No question about it, this is perfect roll-down-the-windows-and-crank-up-the-stereo music -- and what better time of year to do so? It's a shame these guys aren't more recognized. They're gritty, loud, and a hell of a lot of fun. They lyrics are well constructed and thoughtful, but in truth, these guys could read an eTrade prospectus and still make it rock. They put on one hell of a live show, too.
This one isn't even out yet, but I've already heard it, and it is on constant rotation at Casa Scampwalker. Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis are shining Americana stars in their own right, but despite (or maybe because of) 15 years of marriage and four children, they've never cut an album before. About six months ago, they started up a Kickstarter campaign, and we helped fund their project. The results speak for themselves. In addition to a handful of original tunes, they do a great cover of Dave Alvin's Border Radio and Robert Earl Keen's No Kinda Dancer. The final album is set to drop in June, so mark your calendars -- it's worth it.