CD Reviews

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Scissormen – Big Shoes: Walking And Talking The Blues

“You know the blues ain’t dipped in amber/I wanna fill my own big shoes.” So sings Ted Drozdowski, guitar-slinging frontman of Scissormen, the edgy blues duo based in Nashville, on the title track of their fifth and latest album, “Big Shoes: Walking and Talking The Blues” on Vizztone. The award-winning music journalist by day/hypnotic slide player by night, along with R.L. “Rob” Hulsman on drums, pay homage to hill country heroes, such as R.L. Burnside and Jessie Mae Hemphill, blending the primal juke-joint, North ...
 
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The Pa’s Fiddle Project - Pa’s Fiddle: Charles Ingalls, American Fiddler

One of the most revered authors of all time was Laura Ingalls Wilder, who detailed her growing up experiences in a classic series of books that inspired the 1970s TV series “Little House On The Prairie.” One aspect of her growing up experiences that didn’t get as much exposure in television as the books was the musical ability of her father Charles on the fiddle. This disc is an attempt to showcase some of those...
 
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Marty Raybon – Southern Roots & Branches (Yesterday and Today)

Since the group Shenandoah first charted with “Stop The Rain” some twenty-five years ago, Marty Raybon has become one of the most respected male vocalists in Country, Gospel, or Bluegrass music. Ask Rascal Flatts, who just covered the group’s “Next To You, Next To Me” on their CD Changed. Ask Josh Turner, who long has credited Raybon for being one of his influences. The great thing about this disc is that nothing has changed. Marty Raybon still makes singing look as simple as waking...
 
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Cory Branan – Mutt

Mississippi born and bred singer / songwriter Cory Branan definitely has a unique sound. There’s some blues, some Texas sounds, and a lot of stylistic influences that come to light when listening to this very diverse collection. Vocally, there’s a rough-hewn Kristofferson-like sound to his voice. Take a listen to a song such as “The Corner” or “There,There, Little Heartbreaker,” and tell me that you don’t hear it. You might be able to spot the musical influences of one Jerry Jeff Walker on “Jericho,” as...
 
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A Lovely Crisis “Back Then” - Long Live Rock

People have been saying for years that “Rock is Dead.” In fact, it’s been said that punk rock died the first time a kid said, “Punk’s not dead.” Well, I’m here to witness to you about the resurrection of post-punk, anthemic rock, at its snarling and raucous best. Behold, A Lovely Crisis, a band of Guitar Hero-generation rockers from Pittsburgh, who are leading the charge for the return of all things distorted and driving with their self-released debut album, Back Then. From the four-click count-off on the rambunctious...
 
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Steep Canyon Rangers – Nobody Knows You

It’s been a whirlwind of the past three years for the Steep Canyon Rangers. Having worked with Steve Martin on his CD The Crow, as well as for their collaboration Rare Bird Alert, the band has yielded some major attention from the mainstream musical world. Now, they return with their first project since then, and one thing that is apparent is that their confidence has grown to a level like never before. Taking nothing away from their prior excellent recordings, but one listen to the harmony on cuts like “As I...
 
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Red June – Beauty Will Come

Founded in Asheville, NC, the trio of Red June blends Bluegrass and Folk with a dash of Pop sounds, and does it very, very well. Will Straughan, John Cloyd Miller, and Natalya Weinstein possess a airtight harmony that will impress even the toughest critic. Listen to their vocal blend on “I’m Willing To Try,” and you may need to have your jaw surgically removed from the floor – they are that good! You can also say that for the astonishing sounds of “Red Sky Of Morn.” They are also just as good when taking...
 
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Sauce Boss – Live At The Green Parrot

This is a novel concept. Bill Wharton, aka “Sauce Boss,” plays great music that has entertained fans at his shows for years, as evidenced by this fun and lively disc. At the end of the show, everyone eats authentic gumbo prepared by – guess who? You got it, the “Sauce Boss.” Now, I haven’t sampled the gumbo, but the music is entirely first rate on this disc. There is a exhilarating vocal approach and confidence that comes across on the first cut, “Killer Tone.” He keeps up the fun sounds on “Smuggler’s...
 
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Del Castillo – Infinitas Rapsodias

“Outstanding” is an adjective that shouldn’t be thrown around lightly, but at every turn on the new album by Del Castillo, “Infinitas Rapsodias,” that word keeps popping up in my mind. This ambitious, two-disc set on Smilin’ Castle Records by the award-winning Austin band is their fifth release to date, showcasing the collective energy of the del Castillo brothers – guitarists Mark and Rick – and their accomplished fellow musicians: lead singer Alex Ruiz; bassist Albert Besteiro; drummer Mike Zeoli; percussionist Jason...
 
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Stella Parton - Tell It Sister, Tell It

Stella Parton has enjoyed some major career successes over the years. As a recording artist, she has hit with such classics as “The Danger Of A Stranger” and “Standard Lie Number One.” She also has enjoyed success with acting and writing. It’s the latter that gets the showcase here. While Stella has always been a very impressive vocalist, her work as a tunesmith has never been stronger. This disc, a companion piece to her latest book by the same title, has some of the deepest and most personal...
 
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HoneyHoney – Billy Jack

The duo of Suzanne Santo and Ben Jaffe definitely has quite a bit of chemistry together. That is apparent from the opening riffs of “Angel Of Death.” For such an ominous sounding song lyrically, the track has a very dream-like arrangement balanced with a Bobbie Gentry-type murkiness. That mysterious sound continues on “Glad I’ve Done What I Did,” which also benefits from some nice steel sounds from Raymond Richards. Along the way, instrumentally, is some fine fiddle work via the hands of Santo. At the...
 
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Doug Briney – It’s All Country

Who says singing covers is something to shy away from? Not Anchorage, Alaska country music singer Doug Briney. On his debut full-length album, he performs four hit songs by other artists that turn out to be his most solid tracks. He sure does know how to pick ‘em. The pastor/singer takes on the unlikely persona of a convicted wife murderer, and gives up one classy rendition of Blake Shelton’s swampy “Ol’ Red.” The self-described baritone has a striking upper range, and Chris Young dandies “The Man I Want...
 
Robert Kinsler & TJR

Music Worth Buying: Ringo Starr and Le Voyage Dans La Lune

Orange County Register (CA) music critic Robert Kinsler and his co-host, TJR review new CDs. This week Robert discusses "2012" The new album by Ringo Starr and TJ talks about "Le Voyage Dans La Lune", The electronic film score for film of the same name by the French Electronica Duo Air.
 
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Carrie Hassler - The Distance

Over the past few years, Carrie Hassler has went about carving out a spot as one of the most respected female vocalists in Bluegrass music. With this new eight-song collection, I think it’s safe to assume that what she has done so far is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Hassler has put together quite the project with her latest Rural Rhythm release, and it shows on each cut. Kicking off with a fiery version of Gram Parsons’ classic “Luxury Liner,” Hassler delivers a winning performance from the...
 
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Mad Buffalo – Red And Blue

The big sky country of Montana is where singer/songwriter Randy Riviere composes melodies and sharpens lyrics. This one-time wildlife biologist records under the moniker Mad Buffalo, which is made up of Riviere plus a configuration of backing musicians. His fourth album, “Red And Blue,” was released earlier this year, and is an eight-song effort recorded in Primm Springs, Tennessee, produced by the artist along with Chad Cromwell. Riviere has found his writer’s voice through use of poetic lyrics awash in imagery ...